All of the attention paid the past few months to the Apple Watch has brought along sudden interest in golf GPS watches, as well. Perfect timing: The latest models are convenient, comfortable and technologically superior to their predecessors. It’s not like toting a handheld GPS unit is a hassle, mind you. But with a watch, you just quickly check your wrist for instant distances. There’s no whipping it out of your pocket and then shoving it back in, before every shot. Don’t underestimate the comfort factor, either: Golfers tend to wear the latest models as everyday watches. The bands fit much more comfortably than early versions. And due to advanced mapping techniques in many cases, yardages are amazingly accurate: You’ll see distances update in real time with each step you take. Until they include built-in solar chargers that eliminate manual charging, and accelerometers that measure swing data, these are more than ample. Oh, they also tell time.
Bluetooth capability on SkyCaddie’s LINX ($199) extends battery life and allows you to digitally sync your score to an online account right on-course, so you don’t have to physically connect the watch to your home computer. The unit requires no annual subscription — although advanced features are unlocked if you do subscribe — and features a pedometer, calorie counter and alarm clock. Courses are ground-mapped, for pinpoint accuracy.
GolfBuddy’s BB5 ($249) is a futuristic model that sports an LED screen across the lightweight, rubber band — clearly displaying under the brightest sunlight distances to the green’s front, center and back; shot distance; and a pedometer. With just four buttons for simplicity, it includes 37,000 pre-loaded courses that have all been walked for accuracy. It instantly recognizes the very hole you’re on. There are no subscriptions to buy. In GPS mode, the battery lasts 10 hours; and as a watch, 20-plus days.
The lightweight, sleek, black-and-neon-green TomTom Golfer ($250) features one-button control, allowing you to easily navigate through menus without touching the screen nor leaving smudges. It displays precise shot distances, plus unique green and hazard graphics. The rechargeable battery lasts 10 hours in GPS mode. When you get to the course, the watch recognizes its location within 20 seconds. It has 34,000 course maps built in, as well as a pedometer and calorie counter. Plus, it works in the rain.
Working in concert with a smartphone app, Magellan’s Echo Fit ($179) detects which hole you’re on; displays distances; tracks shot length; and keeps your stats. Its replaceable coin cell battery lasts about eight months — no need to recharge it. And because the watch works only when you’re using the app, it doesn’t deplete battery life. It also tracks step count, distance covered, calories burned and even sleep activity (hopefully not between shots).