Best GPS Golf Watches of 2021: 7 Great Rangefinder Alternatives
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 sseven best golf watches for 2021.
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 S62
If you’re ready to throw down and go for a top-of-the-line, luxury golf watch, the Garmin Approach S62 gives you all the bells and whistles along with some style.
For starters, this is to my eyes one of the best-looking golf watches out there. It’s robust and the quality is obvious even at a glance.
It’s also a perfect size – not too big or small – and just the right weight at 2.2 ounces. And the high-quality band makes for a comfortable wear.
This is seriously a watch you could consider wearing beyond just on the golf course.
But does it do the job of a GPS golf watch?
Man, does it ever.
The S62 is loaded with features.
You’ve got your basic front/middle/back distances plus yardages to layup spots and hazards, all on a color, touchscreen display.
There are maps and green views for every hole.
This watch shows you the wind direction and speed, which is incredibly useful information.
You also get a pinpointer arrow, so that you know where to aim even on blind shots.
Then you’ve got a full array of fitness tracking metrics. Things like heart rate, steps and calories burned.
You can even pay for transactions using the watch.
But coolest of all is the shot data collection capability of this watch. You can get all of the critical information about your game.
That said, you’ve got to manually input what club you hit in order to specify your results for each individual club. Same thing with putts – you’ve got to manually enter the number of putts after each hole.
The watch does make entering the club and putting information quick and simple. Still, that may be a turn-off for some.
If you do enter your information, after five rounds of data the watch will start to recommend club selections based on your performances to date.
All in all, this is a feature-rich, slick-looking watch. At $499.99, it’s probably not an option for the infrequent, casual golfer. But if you play a lot, this is one of the best choices out there.
Do you want a GPS golf watch that can do just about everything? Look no further. This is the watch for you.
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 us 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.
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.
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.
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Best Shot-Tracking Golf Watch If You Don’t Wear An Apple Watch: Shot Scope V3
An alternative to the Apple Watch/Arccos combination is the Shot Scope V3.
Like with Arccos, you screw tracking tags into the butt of your golf clubs, and after that, the watch takes care of the rest.
You get loads of data, which should give you some insight into your game and maybe where you should commit more of your practice time.
Shot Scope has an online portal that gives you a detailed analysis of your round, so that you can review all of your stats more comfortably than on the small interface of a watch.
Beyond the shot tracking – which is the real differentiator for this watch – you get front/center/back yardages as well as distances to hazards.
Another nice thing is that there are no subscription fees. You buy the watch one time (which comes with 16 tags), and from there you’re set. It comes with more than 36,000 courses preloaded.
For $219.99, the Shot Scope V3 delivers pretty unbelievable value. That is if you’re going to use the feedback/data that it gives you.
Don't own an Apple Watch but want a GPS watch that provides shot-by-shot statistics and analytics? Then Shot Scope V3 is the best option on the market.
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: Tag Heuer Connected Golf Edition
I’ll be honest with you, I love watches. There’s something about a nice mechanical watch that just makes you feel good when you wear it.
But what happens with tradition meets tech? You get the Tag Heuer Connected Golf Edition. It’s a $2k+ smartwatch, that has all of the high-end GPS features you expect to see on a golf watch.
I’m conflicted here. Because on the one hand, this is a REALLY cool-looking smartwatch. You’ve got classic Tag faces, and this is a watch you could easily wear day-in-day-out and get supercharged features on the golf course.
But…it’s still a $2500 smartwatch – that will likely be obsolete in five years.
But for those five years? You’re riding in style.
So if you’re a fan of the Swiss brands and want a watch where form and function meet? Maybe this is the one for you.
Want a luxury switch watch? And smartwatch features? AND the features of a dedicated golf watch? The Tag Heuer Connected Golf Edition does it all. At a price. A very high price.
The Best Golf Watches of 2021: 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 six surefire winners, ranging in price from $100 to $500.
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 Approach S62.
Are you an Apple Watch devotee? If you add Arccos Caddie to the mix, you’ll have what we think is the best overall golf watch solution.
Are you anti IOS? You can still get great shot-tracking functionality with the Shot Scope V3.
If you want the sharpest-looking display, you’ve got to have the SkyCaddie LX5.
And if you want a little bit of everything at a price you won’t regret paying, check out the GolfBuddy Aim W11.
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 2021.
Where do you come down on the golf watch vs. rangefinder debate? Do you have experience using both? Let us know in the comments.
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