Garmin Approach s42

Garmin Approach S42 GPS Golf Watch Review: A Worthy Golf Watch?

This Garmin Approach S42 review was updated in April 2023 to reflect current pricing and to review compatibility with Garmin CT10 sensors.

Over the course of the last few years I’ve worn my Apple Watch for nearly every round of golf I’ve played.

More often than not, I’m also using Arccos Caddie in conjunction with my watch.

I’m a huge fan of Arccos in general, but I’ve often wondered: am I missing out by not having a dedicated golf watch?

Is there functionality I’m missing? How does it compare to the Apple Watch? How does it compare to just using a rangefinder?

And what about competing products like the Shot Scope X5 or Swing Caddie T9? Is it better than those?

Recently I got my hands on a Garmin Approach S42 GPS watch, and was very excited to get it out on the course for a few rounds and see if it would change the way I experienced the game.

Now the question is: did it?

Let’s jump in and find out.

First Impressions of the Garmin Approach S42 GPS Golf Watch

Upon first getting your hands on the Garmin packaging and taking the watch out, you notice it’s very well done. Some tech gadgets clearly go over the top with their packaging, to really try and exude tech and luxury.

The packaging of the Garmin Approach S42.

The packaging of the Garmin Approach S42.

The Garmin products I’ve tested don’t do this, but it’s still well done nonetheless. 

Taking the watch out of the box, it looks great. It has a nice rubber watch band that is very easy to adjust to your wrist width, and the watch itself looks great.

The model I tested was white, and if I were picking one up for myself I’d definitely choose black. 1) Because it fits my personal style much better, and 2) because it won’t get dirty as easily.

What you see upon opening the box.

Either way, the watch looks very good and is befitting of its $300 price point.

The watch is featured front and center when you open the box, and inside you’ll also find the charger and instruction book.

I was a little disappointed to see that the charger uses a proprietary connection.

I’ve found over the years that I use products less when I have to have a specialized charger for it, as opposed to what would ideally be a USB-C port these days.

Garmin Approach S42 GPS Watch

The back of the Approach S42, where you can see the proprietary charging port.

I have USB cords everywhere, but if I only have one Garmin charging cord, it can be tough to juice it up in a pinch if I realize it’s dead on the way out to the course, for instance.

Not a deal-breaker by any means, but the easier a company makes things on you, the more enjoyable the experience is.

Setting Up the Garmin Approach S42

Setting up the Garmin Approach S42 was a breeze. I downloaded the compatible Garmin app, paired it to my iPhone, and immediately started getting notifications on the watch.

I don’t know why, but I was surprised to see how well the phone integration and notifications worked. I guess I’ve always been in the Apple Watch ecosystem, so I failed to realize just how well an iPhone can integrate with non-Apple products as well.

You can use the watch just fine without the app, but for some of the more advanced features, like shot tracking, you’ll want the app paired.

Nice touch with the Garmin logo on the bracelet.

Worth noting, Garmin has their own shot tracking sensors similar to Arccos Caddie or Shot Scope, called the CT10. We’ll talk more about those in a bit.

Also at $299 for a set, they’re quite a bit more expensive than their competitors.

Check out: The Best GPS Golf Watches of the Year.

Using the Garmin Approach S42

Flat out, the Garmin Approach S42 is a fantastic golf watch. It took me the better part of a round to get used to how it works and how to access the different functions, just because I’m so ingrained in the Apple universe.

But once I did, I was impressed with how quickly I was able to get so much data about my round.

When it comes to accuracy, the S42 is spot on. Bottom line, it’s a Garmin. When it comes to GPS technology they’re the leaders in the market, so you can trust the course was mapped very well and you’re getting accurate numbers.

With a quick swipe I was able to easily get not only distances to the green, but also to various hazards throughout each hole.

The green view was especially helpful to get more specific pin numbers. You’re able to move the pin around based on the location for the day – to help you get an even more useful reading. 

I also love the 18-hole bezel, so you can easily track which hole you’re on.

Other smartwatch features like the step counter and weather updates were also well done, and welcome additions to the watch.

Garmin Approach S42 GPS Golf Watch

The Garmin Approach S42 is a fantastic golf watch, with accurate distances and a nice array of features. Definitely worth looking into if you're in the market for a golf watch.

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10/02/2023 01:20 am GMT

The Garmin S42 as a General Smart Watch

The Garmin S42 finds itself in a little bit of an awkward position in the Garmin lineup, behind the Approach S62 and ahead of the S12. The S12 will give you the basics for what you need in a golf watch. The S42 gives a bit more, but in terms of practical functionality – they both do mostly the same thing.

The S62 on the other hand has a virtual caddie, the most detailed distances and GPS data in the Garmin lineup, but more importantly, it features all of the lifestyle features that make this a feasible day-in-day-out smartwatch.

Garmin S42 vs. G12

The S42 compared to the wearable GPS the Garmin G12.

Things like a heart rate monitor, the ability to change watch faces, and a slightly larger screen.

This places the S42 in a weird middle ground, where it gets a handful of the features of the Approach S62, but not enough to transform it into a watch you’re likely to wear all the time. 

And if you’re just looking for an affordable watch for GPS distances on the course, the S12 will do much of what the S42 does, but for less money.

A Couple S42 Downsides

Honestly, if you’re looking at this watch on its own (not compared to the S62), there’s very little not to like! 

It’s a great golf watch, that does everything you want it to do on the course.

You can keep score, get distances, stay up to date with notifications, and even track your steps.

But that doesn’t mean it’s perfect.

I had two main gripes about this watch.

The first, I already mentioned: the proprietary charger.

For a lot of people, this won’t matter. But as someone who has lots of tech gadgets, routinely forgets to charge things, and has cables strewn about all over the place – something more standard would have been preferred.

The second is the screen.

The color screen is….fine. 

For instance, I didn’t have much difficulty seeing it in bright sunlight out on the course.

But again, coming from the Apple Watch universe, it pales in comparison to that OLED screen. Both in terms of brightness and resolution.

If you weren’t coming from that world, I don’t think you’d have any complaints. But switching from one to the other, I noticed a pretty stark difference that was a little disappointing.

Fortunately, this doesn’t do much to affect the usability of the watch – but is more a minor detractor to the overall experience.

Using the Garmin S42 with CT10 Sensors

One of the biggest appeals for the S42 is for people who are interested in getting into the Garmin CT10 shot tracking Universe.

For about the same price as an S62, you can get an S42 with a complete set of CT10 sensors.

You screw these sensors into each of your clubs, and then when paired with a Garmin watch, it gives you detailed information about every single aspect of your round of golf.

It will know exactly how far you hit each shot, FIR and GIR numbers, and so much more.

The system works very well, and the Garmin system in my experience is a definite step up in terms of quality and usability than the more budget Shot Scope X5 system.

It’s not quite on par in terms of shot tracking usability, as Arccos however. But Arccos doesn’t come with a GPS watch…

This is where I think the S42 finds it’s sweet spot.

It’s a much nicer watch to use than the budget S12, but it’s much more affordable than the S62. 

So if you want a high quality GPS watch from a reputable brand, and you want a great shot tracking system? I think the Garmin S42 may be exactly the product for you.

Who is the Garmin S42 For?

The Approach S42 is a good fit for the golfer who wants a lot of data for their rounds, but doesn’t necessarily want to wear their watch off the course.

If all you care about is easily getting distances to the front, center, and back of the green – then go for the Garmin S12. It doesn’t have the full-color screen but has nearly everything the S42 does, and is just as accurate.

If you want a watch with all of the GPS golf features you need, plus the flexibility and features to wear as your daily driver smartwatch? Spend a bit more and go for the Garmin S62.

The biggest reason I see to go for the S42 over the S12 is if you’re a golfer who wants a color screen, all of the most practical GPS features, and compatibility with your phone and/or Garmin’s CT10 club sensors.

It looks good, the distances are great, and there are enough features to keep you happy on the course. But maybe not enough features to keep you happy off it as well.

Final Thoughts on the S42

Overall the Garmin Approach S42 is a solid GPS golf watch. 

It’s relatively affordable at $299, and is a good middle ground if you want something more feature-heavy than the base S12, but you’re not looking for all of the day-to-day features of the S62. Also check prices online, as of April 2023, I’ve pretty consistently seen certain colorways going for $249 – making this an even better deal.

I’ve always been impressed by Garmin as a brand, and the S42 is no different.

So if you’ve been considering the S42 as your golf watch of choice, and you understand what it offers (and what it doesn’t) – then I think you’ll be really pleased with the watch.

However, if you’re looking for a watch to wear both on the course and off? I might give the S62 a shot, as for the extra $200 – you get a lot more in the way of customizability and features.

Garmin Approach S42 GPS Golf Watch

The Garmin Approach S42 is a fantastic golf watch, with accurate distances and a nice array of features. Definitely worth looking into if you're in the market for a golf watch.

Buy on Amazon Buy from
We earn a commission if you click this link and make a purchase at no additional cost to you.
10/02/2023 01:20 am GMT

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Other Garmin Golf Reviews

Buy it!

Good Things

  • Very accurate
  • Nice feature set
  • Comfortable
  • Easy to use on the course

Bad Things

  • Proprietary charger not ideal
  • Screen isn't as high resolution as other watches

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