Garmin Approach S3 Golf GPS Watch Review
- Easy access to distances
- Excellent course coverage
- No subscription fees to access the course database
- Easy to read display
- The glove-friendly screen
- Accurate layup and dogleg distances
- No pre-mapped hazards
- Battery life could be longer
- Production discontinued and replaced by the Garmin Approach S4 Watch
Garmin released a few earlier versions of the Approach GPS wearable technology watches before releasing the Garmin Approach S3 in 2012.
Improvements on the earlier version include a glove-friendly touch screen, a higher resolution display, and some additional upgrades.
GPS technology is power-hungry, and the batteries are unlikely to compete with the battery life of a normal watch or a laser.
What’s in the Box?
The Garmin Approach S3 comes with:
- Approach S3 watch
- USB/Charging cable (with a charging clip to link to the watch
- AC Power Adapter for wall outlet charging
- Owner’s Manual
- Quickstart Guide
The Garmin Approach S3 GPS Golf Watch comes in a black rubber exterior and a grey interior strap or alternatively a white rubber with a white interior strap.
The 3 buttons, (1 on the left and 2 on the right) have a red stripe on the inside of the button while the LCD has a red circle identifying the boundaries between the rounded face of the watch and the strap.
The rounded face smoothly transitions into the strap with no bulky area standing out that could interfere with your swing.
Measuring 1.8 inches wide, 2.7 inches high, and 0.6 inches deep while weighing in at a mere 2.1 ounces you will not notice the watch during your swing phase while it provides optimal information to lower your scores.
The 128 x 128 pixels on the 1” monochrome LCD touchscreen provides legible information even in bright sunshine.
The design allows for shot measurements to be taken, scoring to be tracked, preloaded course, and a rechargeable lithium-ion battery. Unfortunately, it does not measure altitude which may have a minimal effect on the accuracy of the distances provide.
A waterproof rating of IPX7 (1 meter) enables you to confidently use the Approach S3 in inclement weather.
The setup process is quick and simple that should not take much longer than 20 minutes if you have to download more courses onto a fully charged battery.
The first step is to confirm the battery has a full charge. If not, you should charge it using the supplied /Charging cable (with a charging clip to link to the watch) or AC Power Adapter for wall outlet charging. A full charge could take up to 3 hours.
While the battery is charging you should download Garmin’s “CourseView Updater” to enable you to download all updates to the database of approximately 40,000 courses. This requires no registration or subscription fees.
The preloaded 40,000 courses from around the globe cover the most frequently played courses. Some remote courses may not be preloaded, and you are advised to check your most played courses before going to the course.
Ease Of Use
Once you have switched the GPS mode on and selected the course, the instruction on using the watch is rather intuitive and easy to follow for the duration of your round.
Starting a Round
To start your round you have to activate the GPS acquisition whereafter you have to choose a course from the list of nearby courses. Garmin is quite accurate in showing the course that you are at on top of the list.
The hole selection will display the hole that you are on when you are ready to tee off and the auto-forward to the next hole once you have captured the score for the completed hole.
GPS technology is renowned for its power usage and limited battery life. The Garmin Approach S3 lithium-ion battery is expected to last for approximately 7.5 hours. This will make it difficult to play 2 rounds of 18 holes without a recharge.
Using the Garmin Approach S3 exclusively in Time mode should give you approximately 4 weeks of battery life.
A valuable feature is that the Garmin Approach S3 displays a low battery warning when the power level reaches 7% or less.
Multiple views are available that can be accessed either by the extremely sensitive touchscreen LCD or the 3 buttons on the side of the watch.
You can select between a black background with white numbers or white background with black numbers. For ease of use, the backlight can be set to remain on for up to 8 seconds after screen activation.
Views provided by the Garmin Approach S3:
- Hole View
- Green View,
- Layup/Dogleg View
- Shot Distance Measurement
- Time mode
Accessing the Green View is only possible by pressing the Menu button and then selecting the Green View.
Other views such as the Hole View, Layup/Dogleg View, and Time View can be accessed by simply tapping on the touch screen.
The information displayed on this view include:
- Hole number
- Distances to the front, center, and back of the green
Distance to the center of the green is measured on a direct line, even if there is a dogleg on the hole. This may affect the accuracy but is mitigated by the Layup/dogleg View.
This option provides a basic graphic view of the true shape and layout of the green.
The flagstick location can be changed to accommodate the actual position of the flagstick on the day. Distances are remeasured and displayed to the new location of the flagstick.
The flagstick will remain in the updated location even when you navigate between the various views.
To accommodate the odd mishit leaving you in a position off the fairway, the Green View will rotate the view of the green to display what it actually looks like from your position and provide distances from your position to the green.
To enhance your golfing experience it is crucial that you understand the layout of the course/hole and manage your shot selection accordingly.
To enable this Garmin Approach S3 provides you with layup and dogleg distances. This will aid you in selecting the right club and avoid over clubbing.
Unfortunately, layup distances do not include distances to hazards.
It is possible though to store up to five custom locations on each hole for future reference whereby you can identify distances up to and over hazards.
Pre-mapped layup and dogleg distances are removed from this view as you come within 35-45 yards of them while user-mapped distances drop off once you are approximately 25 yards past them.
Knowing how far you hit every club assists you in future club selection. There is no better place to measure actual distances than on the golf course.
The measurement view is used for measuring the distance of your last shot, but you can toggle back to the Hole View while walking to your ball.
Unfortunately, the distances cannot be stored on the S3 for continuous evaluation.
Upon completion of the hole, whether it is by entering a score or the auto-advance feature, the measurement will be reset.
The Time View provides you with normal time display functionality that can be found on any digital watch.
In addition to the hour of day and date, it can show the duration of your current round and the distance covered during the current round.
The Garmin Approach S3 has three fixed (i.e. non-touchscreen) buttons:
- Backlight/power (Top left)
- Measure (for shot distances) (Bottom right)
- Scoring (Top Right)
All actions including the “Back” and “Menu” buttons are always accessible on the touchscreen.
The “Menu” button provides access to a variety of options, including ending a round, saving hazard/target points, checking the battery level, and so forth.
Navigating through these options is made simple by scrolling on the LCD touch screen.
Users move up and down the listing by tapping at the top or bottom of the screen.
Score and Statistics
Basic scoring for stroke play and Stableford scoring is available on the S3.
Capturing your score is a simple process started by pressing the “score” button on the bottom right. This will display the hole number and the par score for the hole. To adjust your score upwards you tap on the “+” or “-“ to adjust your score downwards.
It will display your overall score and your score relative to the par score for the completed holes.
For detailed information on all holes, you depress and hold the score button until a list of scores for all holes appears.
Changes to your scorecard after the completion of the round will not be stored on your computer.
Digital scorecards can be stored, reviewed, and printed from a computer.
Minimizing the human interaction allows for the Garmin S3 to provide accurate information on every hole. The Auto-advance feature automatically advances the GPS watch when you move to the next hole. Unfortunately, you cannot disable this feature.
However, you can return to a previous hole by manually adjusting the hole number that you want to enquire about.
Garmin Approach S3 golf watch allows you to set a wide range of preferences that will make it easier to use and may add some battery life.
You cannot turn off the Auto-Advance feature in your preference settings.
- Measurement unit (yards/meters)
- Preferred language
- Screen background (white or black)
- time and date format
GPS devices are generally accurate to approximately 4 yards based on the technology provided and the complex algorithms using the GPS coordinates.
Garmin is a leader in the GPS technology world and provides accurate information that you can use to base your decisions upon.
Garmin supplies quality GPS devices whether it be GPS watches or handheld devices.
Although the Garmin approach S3 GPS golf watch is no longer sold as new, it provides accurate information and features that will enhance your golfing experience and lead to lower scores.
The combination of a monochrome LCD touch screen and buttons makes it an easy system to navigate precisely and quickly.
There are more than ample preloaded golf courses but may require you to download, free of charge, any golf courses that are located in remote areas.
Your feedback on using the Garmin Approach S3 GPS golf watch and GPS functionality, in general, will be highly appreciated in the comments section below.
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Nick Lomas is the founder of GolfSpan, an avid golfer, not quite a pro but has over 15-years of experience playing and coaching golfers from all over the world. His mission is to bring the golfing community a better experience then it comes to choosing the right golf gear, and finding the right set up for your game.