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Review: Garmin Approach S1 GPS golf watch

by Tarinder Sandhu on 16 June 2011, 17:00 4.0

Tags: Garmin

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Hole-y moly

Three likely lads teeing off on the first at Newbold Comyn Golf Club. Wending my way to the tee, the approach S1, once dialled in, displays five nuggets of information. The central portion highlights the line-of-sight distance to the back, centre and front of the green, given here in yards but user-configurable for metres. The hole number is displayed on the left-hand side and, just below, a line of pips denote the par rating: four for this hole.

However, there's no on-screen hole graphic or any means by which scores, clubs used or hazards can be recorded. What's more, the low-resolution, non-touchscreen nature of the display means the exact pin position cannot be replicated; you need to invest in the Approach G3 or G5 for that. The S1 is, above all, a shot-measuring device.

Move closer to the hole and the distance to the pin decreases, obviously. The high-sensitivity GPS receiver's pretty consistent at reducing the yardage as one gets closer to the putting dance floor. Get within 40 yards of the green and the to-front distance disappears. Within 25 yards the only information presented is the distance to the centre of the green, making implicit sense. Standing in the middle of six greens indicates the S1's measurement is, on average, correct to within two metres.

Interestingly, irrespective of where you are on the course, the distance can be plotted to any hole by clicking the right-hand buttons. The 14th green is 741 yards away from the middle of the first, if you find that sort of thing interesting, but the real boon here is one of providing an accurate yardage if you happen to go wildly off-course with an errant drive. The unit is clever enough to automatically move on to the next hole once you arrive at the tee, too.

Knowing that you're, say, exactly 125 yards from the centre of the green is a definite bonus: I generally hit an eight-iron that distance. Comparing the GPS data to the 150-yard course markers - also measured to the centre of the green, supposedly - shows discrepancies by up to 10 per cent on some holes, indicating that players may well play a seemingly good shot that's eaten by a greenside bunker.

The S1 also comes in handy when the tees are moved up or back, as it measures from where you're standing to the green rather than quote a scorecard yardage. Again, on some holes the disparity between the GPS and scorecard can be close to 10 per cent, putting club selection to the test.

Making golf simpler

The GPS unit also provides a function that can measure the distance of a particular shot, handy for the long-hitting show-offs. On a more prosaic level the feature is useful for when practicing and gauging overall hitting distances for particular clubs, and it doesn't need to be dialled into a course or hole for it to work. The S1 also has a built-in odometer that tracks overall mileage covered, though, understandably, it misses out on the bells and whistles found on the Forerunner range.

Understanding just how far to hit a particular golf shot is important in becoming a consistent golfer. It makes club selection simpler and gives better insight into true yardages. The Garmin S1, while basic, tells you all the important information from an easy-to-use GPS watch. Practice 70-yard pitches and you'll have more confidence the next time you have to play the same-distance shot in a match. And using GPS isn't cheating; the S1's use is sanctioned by the USGA and R&A.

£170 is a considerable outlay for a basic golf-orientated GPS watch, especially when feature-rich smartphone apps, which offer significantly more information, are available for £20. But the Garmin Approach S1's raison d'etre lies in its simplicity; there's no extraneous information to cloud the judgment of the golfer and information is, quite literally, to hand at all times. Incredibly easy to use and rather stylish for a GPS device, the Approach S1 is recommended for its ease of use, especially if judging distances isn't your forte.

The Good

Super-easy to use
Encourages you to practice
Practically all European courses covered
No post-purchase charges

The Bad

GPS-enabled smartphones offer more for less

HEXUS Rating

Garmin Approach S1 golf GPS watch

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Garmin Approach S1 golf GPS watch

HEXUS Where2Buy

The Garmin Approach S1 golf GPS watch is available from Amazon.co.uk.

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At HEXUS, we invite the companies whose products we test to comment on our articles. If any company representatives for the products reviewed choose to respond, we'll publish their commentary here verbatim.

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Nice review, considering buying one of these for a little while now. i5 SB or S1??