Best GPS Golf Watches of 2023: 9 Great Rangefinder Alternatives
Updated May 2023 to add the Garmin Approach S70, Garmin MARQ 2 Golfer, and to ensure accurate pricing.
Everywhere you shop for anything having to do with golf nowadays, rangefinders jump front and center.
But there is, of course, another option for getting your distances. And we’re not talking sprinkler heads.
Golf watches are the stealthy, practical alternative to rangefinders, and many golfers find them to be preferable.
The best golf watches include comfort, performance, simplicity and even style, all at an average price below that of a rangefinder.
And for some golfers, GPS golf watches beat the cumbersome and time-consuming routine of pulling out a rangefinder each time you want a distance.
Just as smartwatches are becoming more prevalent among an ever-increasing range of lifestyles, golf watches have evolved to incorporate features that may appeal to a wider range of golfers.
We’ve scoped them out, separated the pretenders from the contenders and have come up with our 9 best golf watches for 2023.
If you’re looking to put something around your wrist that will give you the information you need quickly and reliably all while you add a little something to your on-course style, these are your best options.
What to Look for in the Best GPS Golf Watches
First of all, you’ve got to settle the internal debate you’re likely having about whether to go laser (as in rangefinder) or watch.
We could throw hand-held GPS devices into this conversation. But based on what I’m seeing on the courses I’m playing, rangefinders and watches far exceed hand-helds in popularity.
The best golf rangefinders are going to give you that seeing-is-believing, pinpoint accuracy. For some golfers, there’s no substitute for looking through a telescopic lens, seeing their actual live target and getting the exact distance.
But let’s face it, you’re not a good enough golfer to need an exact, down-to-the-tenth-of-a-yard distance to the pin.
A modern GPS golf watch will also give you accurate yardages, but typically with tolerances of plus/minus a few yards.
With a watch, you’re getting your yardages based on GPS that does not factor in that day’s specific pin locations. So instead of an exact number to the pin, like you can get with a rangefinder, you get yardages to the front, middle and back parts of the green.
Another area where rangefinders shine is battery life. While with a rangefinder, you may only change the battery once a year (if that), with a golf watch you’ll usually need to recharge after every couple of rounds.
But what a lot of rangefinder users might not realize is that golf watches have evolved to the point that they can do things – a lot of things! – that a rangefinder cannot.
When you’re searching for a golf watch or comparing them to a rangefinder, consider which of these readily available golf watch features are most important to you:
- Wind speed and direction
- A compass
- Swing speed
- Stats about your distances with each club
- A shot-by-shot breakdown of your round
- A 3D flyover of each hole
- Distances to multiple hazards
- A virtual caddie to recommend club selection based on your shot data
- Touchscreen technology
- Step and calorie-burning counters
- A heart rate monitor
- Ability to receive and send email and text messages
- Ability to pay for transactions
The best golf watches today are absolutely loaded with technology and features. They are far more versatile and offer so much more data than a rangefinder.
But are you cool with wearing a watch while you play golf? Some people find it to be uncomfortable or distracting. Think of how it might feel when you’re sweating. And what about the sweet tan lines you’ll get?
You might want to play a round with a different athletic watch that you already own to see if you find wearing a watch while you play to be a problem for you.
On the flip side, a number of golfers look at a watch as an additional fashion accessory to complement their on-course style. If that’s important to you, there are a wide range of different sizes and looks to consider when shopping.
Of course, you’ll also need to consider your budget. The good news is that you can get good functionality for very reasonable prices. However, it can be tough to resist some of the slick features that come as you ratchet up the price list.
No matter your budget or what features are tops on your list, there is a perfect golf watch option for you. With this list, we give you our top picks for some of the most common consideration factors.
Best Overall Golf Watch: Garmin Approach S70
For the last two years our “Best Overall” recommendation went to the excellent Garmin Approach S62.
But with the release of the new Approach S70, everything changes.
The S70 is quite simply, the best golf GPS watch ever made.
It solves two of the biggest problems facing nearly every other watch on this list:
Screen resolution and lifestyle features.
The super bright AMOLED screen is a joy to look at, and is miles better than any other Approach series watch from Garmin.
But almost more importantly, they’ve finally packed in all of the health and fitness features that Garmin is known for into a reasonably priced golf watch.
Body battery, stress levels, sleep tracking – it’s got it all.
This makes the best choice out there for people who want a watch they can wear all day, every day.
And when it comes to golf? It’s the most advanced GPS golf watch to date.
It has built-in shot tracking, advanced “plays like” distances, compatibility with Garmin’s CT10 shot tracking system, green contour data and more.
Normally, in these “best of” posts I try and spread the love around to different products based on what different people are looking for.
But in this case, I’m a bit more adamant. If the Approach S70 is within your budget? Buy it. It’s the best-dedicated golf watch on the market, and it’s not even close.
Let's make this very clear: the Garmin Approach S70 is the best overall GPS golf watch ever made. Period. If you're in the market for a watch, and this is in budget? Just buy it.
Best Golf Watch Under $350: Voice Caddie T9
The Voice Caddie T9 is an excellent GPS watch that has a few features that most other watches on this list don’t have.
The most notable of which is its green heatmap feature.
Want to know exactly where all the breaks are in every single green? Want to know where the major undulations are so that you can hit your approach to the best spot?
The Voice Caddie T9 will tell you.
The watch is also smart.
It recognizes your swings and where you are on the golf course, and shows you the most important screen for that moment (this works surprisingly well).
To throw in one more cool feature, it also has “Tempo Mode.”
When you swing it will tell you what the ratio is for your backswing to downswing. The goal is to get it between 2:1 and 3:1. This makes this a good practice tool as well.
Overall this is one of the most enjoyable watches I’ve used, and would be my pick under $350.
The T9 has a ton of cool features that truly make it unique in this space. It has a reasonable price point and is among the most enjoyable golf watches I've tested.
Best GPS Golf Watch Under $200: Bushnell ION Elite
Bushnell is most well-known for it’s rangefinders, but they also have some very accurate and GPS golf devices as well.
And their best golf watch? The ION Elite.
It’s not as feature heavy as some of Garmin’s higher-end models, but it’s one of the few sub-$200 golf watches that has a color screen.
Throw in full GPS course maps, and an easy to use interface and you’ve got a great GPS watch value.
It pairs with the Bushnell golf app, which I’ve continued to be impressed by.
If you’re in the market for a reliable GPS watch that will easily give you distances and allow you to keep score – I’m not sure there’s a better option in this price range.
The Busnell ION Elite is a full color GPS golf watch with some great features for the price. It's not as robust as more expensive Garmin models, but is an excellent watch for the money.
Best GPS Golf Watch Display: SkyCaddie LX5
For a lot of players, the display might be the most important feature of a golf watch. Nobody wants to have to strain their eyes to get their yardages.
The SkyCaddie LX5 easily delivers the highest resolution display. This watch comes with a large screen, multiple brightness settings and a very crisp overall screen.
This is a large watch. If you’ve got small wrists, you might find it to be too large. However, at only 2.3 ounces, it’s extremely light.
The watch also features a very high-quality fit, finish and feel. And it’s among the better-looking watches on the market.
What you don’t get with this watch is shot data. The LX5 won’t keep track of how far you’re hitting your clubs. It does have scorekeeping features, but so do pretty much all golf watches.
You also do not get wind speed or direction with this watch.
The SkyCaddie LX5 features touchscreen technology that is simple to navigate. You get a nice overview of each hole, and you can touch and then drag your finger around the screen to figure out distances to ideal layup targets or hazards.
This watch includes a nice green view for each hole including some slope and contour information. I prefer the slope reading functionality of the GolfBuddy Aim 11, but the LX5 does provide some useful information.
The watch also includes a step counter and heart rate monitor.
But really this watch is all about the quality of the display. That’s what sets it apart. You can find the rest of the same features for less than $299.95, and you can certainly find more features with other watches. But for display quality, it’s the SkyCaddie LX5 all day.
Looking for the absolute best and most detailed display on your golf watch? Then the Sky Caddie LX5 is likely going to be the watch for you!
Best GPS Golf Watch Value: GolfBuddy Aim W11
The GolfBuddy Aim W11 brings smokin’ hot value. This watch packs a lot of features for $199.98.
The full-color touchscreen display, including low-light mode, is very nice, and the watch is waterproof.
The Aim 11 includes a very effective and helpful green-reading feature that color codes the green’s undulations. Dark blue shows the lowest point on the surface while bright red marks the highest spot. Considering many Greenbooks can cost $30-50 for that kind of information, this is a pretty killer feature.
This watch has the standard distance-measuring features as well as slope-adjusted yardages and in-depth hole reviews.
It comes preloaded with more than 40,000 courses.
You get two silicone bands – one black and one red, white and blue.
And the GolfBuddy Aim W11 can be paired with a smartphone to compile and display shot data.
That gets you pretty deep into the golf watch game for right at $200.
Between the full-color screen and green heatmaps, this watch is a fantastic value at under $200. If you want a full-featured watch, but don't want to break the bank. This is a great option.
Best Golf Watch Solution for Apple Watch Wearers: Arccos Caddie + Apple Watch
If you already own an Apple Watch, our recommendation is simple: Get Arccos Caddie, pair it with your Apple Watch and thank me later.
Arccos Golf just gets better and better.
The biggest drawback to the product used to be that you had to have your cell phone in your pocket to accurately track your shots. That’s no longer an issue if you’re an Apple Watch user.
And with the release of the Apple Watch Ultra? Battery life and GPS reliability are the best they’ve ever been. The Apple Watch Ultra is hands down my personal go to for a Golf GPS Watch in 2023.
As you’ve read on this site before, Arccos gives you an incredible amount of useful information about your golf game.
Arccos Caddie gives you two sensor options. You can screw small tags into the butt end of each of your grips, or you can replace the grips themselves with Lamkin Crossline grips that have Arccos sensors built-in.
On the course, you’ll get all the most pertinent golf watch information, like front/middle/back and hazard yardages.
But you’ll also get a virtual caddie that recommends club selection based on your shot data and even current weather conditions (it works surprisingly well).
And after the round, using the Arccos app, you’ll have a complete picture of how you played; distances you hit with each club, a shot-by-shot visual breakdown for each hole, driving stats, short game stats, putting stats, how you did out of the rough or fairway or sand and on and on.
The Apple Watch integration with Arccos has also recently gotten even better, as you can now start a round directly from your watch. This means you don’t need a phone at all for your round if you don’t want one.
This has the potential to be a game-changer for a lot of golfers. If you’re someone who could benefit from actual hard data showing you what you’re doing out on the course, the Arccos/Apple Watch combo deserves your serious attention.
Best All-In-One Shot Tracking Watch: Shot Scope X5
So let’s say you like the idea of shot tracking, but you also want a dedicated GPS watch.
That rules out Arccos.
And for a Garmin watch and CT10 sensors, you’re starting to get up there in price.
The new Shot Scope X5 is likely the best bet for you.
At $299, this is the latest device in Shot Scope’s lineup and represents a big step up from the older V3.
There is a little bit of a learning curve when it comes to using the watch and editing your rounds in the app after you finish. But even in just the first few weeks of it’s release, they’ve already been rolling out firmware updates to enhance usability. Which makes me feel great about the long term potential of the system.
So to have an accurate GPS watch with shot tracking, and no annual subscription? That’s a pretty compelling package.
The X5 represents a huge step up from the previous V3 model. If you're looking for a combo smart watch, shot tracking, and no subscription? This is the way to go. Use code "BREAKINGEIGHTY" to save 15%.
Best Entry-Level Golf Watch: TecTecTec Ult-G
Let’s face it. A lot of golfers don’t need all of the features that a lot of expensive golf watches or rangefinders offer.
They really just need to know how far it is to the green without having to pace off distances from the nearest marker.
If that’s you, there’s no need to spend more than $99.99.
The TecTecTec Ult-G gives you everything you need – distances to the front, middle and back of the green and distances to various hazards.
And that’s about it.
But do you really need anything more?
If not, save some money and pick up this solid, reliable option.
Looking for a no-frills GPS golf watch that just works? The Ult-G from TecTecTec is just that. Accurate distances. Easy to use. Less than $100. What more do you need?
Best Luxury Golf Watch: Garmin MARQ 2 Golfer
Over $2k for a Garmin watch? Seems steep. And honestly? It is.
But the MARQ 2 golfer is more than just a smartwatch, it truly is a luxury timepiece. And it both looks and feels like one.
But the benefit of this, over say the luxury golf watch from Tag Heuer is that Garmin has been perfecting not just its golf watches, but its fitness watches for years now.
So you get the wonderful Garmin Golf eco-system, plus all of the health and fitness benefits that Garmin has become known for over the years.
Better yet, in the coming months it’ll get software updates that roll out all of the latest features currently only present in the brand new Approach S70 from Garmin.
If you’re looking for a smart watch that looks just as good in the board room as it does on the course? Look no further.
The Best Golf Watches of 2023: Final Thoughts
Alright, hopefully by now you have a good idea of what type of golf watch might fit your game, style and budget.
We’ve picked out 9 surefire winners, ranging in price from $100 to $2,000+.
If all you need is yardage, grab the TecTecTec Ult-G.
If you want a top-of-the line experience and a classy look, go with the Garmin Marq 2 Golfer
Are you an Apple Watch devotee? If you add Arccos Caddie to the mix, you’ll have one of my personal favorite golf watch setups.
Are you anti-IOS? You can still get great shot-tracking functionality with the Shot Scope X5.
If you want the sharpest-looking display, you’ve got to have the SkyCaddie LX5.
If you want a little bit of everything at a price you won’t regret paying, check out the GolfBuddy Aim W11.
And if you truly just want the best and most well-rounded golf watch available? Get the Garmin Approach S70.
Whatever you choose, realize that golf watches offer an unbelievable array of features. If you’ve only considered rangefinders to date, you might want to stop to consider what this alternative option might bring to your game.
And if you’re still set on a rangefinder, don’t miss our top picks for 2023.
Where do you come down on the golf watch vs. rangefinder debate? Do you have experience using both? Let us know in the comments.
Looking for More Best of 2023 Reviews?
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- Best Golf Push Carts – Are you ready to take a load off?
- Best Golf Balls – You owe it to yourself to play the ball that best suits your game.
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