Garmin is one of the leaders in the use of GPS technology to direct you between pints and accurately estimate distances.
After a few iterations of their GPS golf watches, they released the Garmin Approach S6 golf watch with a touch screen that can provide distances between two points anywhere on the preloaded golf course.
Although it is a huge amount of information on a small display carried on your wrist, Garmin devised a stylish solution implementing automatic zoom.
Garmin allows you to capture some information at setup time that is used when you are on the tee box to provide you with a zoomed-in view of the possible landing area where you can expect your tee shot to end up. If required, you can simply zoom out from this view and pick another landing area or view of the entire hole.
The Garmin Approach S6 offers an excellent set of features that will be discussed in more detail later in this piece.
These features include:
- Full scoring and statistics tracking.
- Distances to hazards.
- Stats Tracking – Sync the scoring and statistics from your Approach S6 to your Garmin Connect account analyze accumulated data across all saved rounds.
- Measure distance of shots played.
- Layup Distances.
- Handicap scoring.
- Smartphone Notifications.
- Pair your phone and golf watch via Bluetooth to enable notifications of calls and messages to your watch.
- An odometer to measure the distance you cover during your round.
- PinPointer technology provides you with direction to the flag when you cannot see the flag.
- SwingStrength measures the strength and tempo of your swing.
- TempoTraining guides you to achieve the optimal tempo for your swing.
- Garmin Approach S6 Review
The Garmin Approach S6 has a legible 1-inch color display comparable with an ordinary watch. Visibility in bright sunshine is not a problem with the S6.
Navigating the touchscreen color display can be done whether you have a glove on or not. Generally, right-handed golfers wear the watch on the same hand as they wear their glove.
In addition to the touch screen, you will find four buttons to aid you in navigating your Approach S6. These buttons toggle between the Course View map of each hole to a Green View for a more detailed look at the putting surface.
The rubber and plastic body are available 3 color combinations:
- Black/White-black body, a band with black exterior and white interior
- Black/Orange – black body, band with black exterior and orange interior
- White/Black-white body, a band with white exterior and black interior
Tapping on a layup position will provide you with a distance to the layup removing uncertainty if you don’t want to attack a well-guarded green.
Garmin Approach S6 Review
Garmin Approach S6 GPS Golf Watch
- Overhead hole maps
- Loads of statistical analysis available on your Garmin Connect account
- 38,000 plus courses available
- Handicap scoring available
- Swing improvement features
- Smart Notifications
- No annual fees
- Slender profile
- Vibrant color touch-screen display
- The entire scorecard only available until after your round
- Less affordable than some other GPS watches
Although the Garmin Approach S6 has been discontinued by Garmin in 2020 and replaced by the Approach S60 it is still available for purchase at a competitive price.
- Measures 1.8 inches long x 1.8 inches wide x 0.56 inches high and weighs in at 1.6 ounces
- 1-inch color screen display
- High-Resolution Color Touchscreen
- Measures in yards or meters
- 5ATM Waterproof up to 50 meters
Could be used in tournaments depending on local regulations
In addition to providing distance information, the Garmin Approach S6 track and provides the following during the round:
- Your score.
- The number of fairways hit.
- Automatically track total putts per round.
- Your score is relative to par.
- S6 will adjust your score based on your handicap index.
- Your score is relative to the slope rating.
After the round, you can
- Sync the watch to your computer and use the Garmin Express software to further analyze your performance.
- Sync it to your smartphone via Bluetooth.
There are 2 features added to help you improve your game. These features are based on 3:1 ratio that professional golfers use based on the relative duration of the backswing to follow-through. You will benefit more from these features by using them on the practice range rather than on the golf course during your round.
Swing Training Apps
Two training aids are included standard on the Garmin Approach S6 that can be used on the practice range to tweak your swing for better golf.
TempoTraining is aimed at teaching you a consistent tempo throughout all the clubs in your bag. The duration and length of your swing may vary between clubs, but the ratio of backswing vs downswing remains the same. The best ratio is that the backswing takes 3 times longer than the downswing (3:1 ratio)
The S6 uses an accelerometer that measures the beginning and end of your backswing and downswing and then represents this graphically highlighting where your tempo is fast or slow in each segment. Tones are emitted at the end of the backswing/start of the downswing and at the end of the downswing.
To make the best use of this app you swing until you have found a swing that suits your strength the best and set that as the baseline swing.
Future swings will be measured against your baseline swing and provide feedback on the percentage power compared to the baseline swing. You can calibrate a wood, a long iron, and a short iron.
The setup process is straightforward and can be completed in approximately 10 minutes. All steps are well-designed, clearly defined, and set out in the instruction menu.
Charge it on your computer using the USB cable provided, turn it on, select your language, input your driver distance, whether you play golf left-handed or right-handed, and create your Garmin account.
A simple to use charging clip powered by a USB cable snaps onto the watch for a snug connection. No wall charger is provided or required.
On the watch you select
- Language (English or one of several European languages).
- Unit of measurement (Yards / Meters).
- Capture your typical driver distance which can be modified at a later stage.
- Whether you’re right or left-handed.
- Log onto the Garmin website to download the Garmin Express program (PC and /Mac compatible).
- Launch Garmin Express and create a Garmin Connect account online. The program will inform you if course maps and/or software updates are required.
- Updates or synching of the watch can be done but is optional.
- Downloading a new set of maps can take approximately 15 additional minutes.
You do not have to monitor the whole process as Garmin lets you know when it is safe to walk away from that process provided you don’t disconnect the device.
A full charge of your watch after the setup is highly recommended.
Ease Of Use
For easy access to historical information, you can sync completed rounds to your Garmin Connect account using Garmin Express or by downloading the Garmin Connect Mobile app to your smartphone and pairing the S6 to your mobile phone via Bluetooth.
The Garmin Approach S6 cannot differentiate between actual scores entered and when you are reviewing a course. The score will be uploaded to your Garmin Connect account once you end the round. Fortunately, you can delete unwanted scores from your Garmin Connect account on the website.
Using your mobile phone on the golf course to take calls or read message are frequently frowned upon. The Garmin Approach S6 will display notifications of incoming calls, detailed text messages, information related to calendar reminders, and any other notifications that you receive on your phone.
These notifications can be announced using an optional audible chime, but this may be inopportune and affect your golfing partners’ swing and distract them.
The integrated combination of the touchscreen and the four physical buttons makes navigating the Approach S6 user interface more of a learned process than an intuitive one.
Garmin has a database of more than 38,000 global golf courses available to all their devices. Innovative implementation of overhead hole maps on the Garmin Approach S6 display combined with the use of an automatic zoom function ensures that you can view critical areas on your watch.
Standing on the tee, the watch shows the Map View and defaults to the overhead map of the hole, and zoomed in on the predefined distance that you typically hit your driver.
When you touch any point on the zoomed view the S6 draws an arc on the screen to that point and displays the distance to reach that arc and refresh to the center on the point that you touched.
The small display makes it difficult to touch a point on the screen as your finger may obstruct your view.
The S6 displays hazards but unlike some other Garmin devices, it does not indicate the location of trees.
Map view sows detail related to:
- Hole number
- Par of the hole
- Distance to the center of the green in a larger font than the distance to the front and the back of the green
- Handicap scoring, if you have a handicap index, will be shown with a number of dots. If you do not have a handicap index, it will display the par of the hole in a number of dots.
Touch the flag icon on the Map View to zoom in on the green and display the “Green View” while touching the Hole View screen will advance you to the Layup View.
The layup view does not display any graphics and it is purely a text screen displaying the distance to layups in increments of 50 yards between a 100-yard layup to a 250 layup. It also the distance to any doglegs on the hole.
To add up to 5 locations on your Layup View you press the “Save Location” button when standing at the location you want to add. Predefined labels can such as bunker, water, fairway, tree, hazard, or layup be used to identify a location.
The distance does not offer many contexts to where the layups are on the hole.
Touching the Layup View screen activates the PinPointer feature.
The purpose of PinPointer is to provide you with an indication of the direction to the pin when you have no visibility of the green or the hole.
The reliability of this function is slightly suspect, and you will be well-advised to get visibility of the green before placing all your trust in this feature.
Once you touch the flag icon on the Map View you are directed to the Green View which provides a graphic display of the shape of the green and any surrounding hazards and a pin position.
On this view, you can move the position of the pin for new distance measurements to the relocated pin.
By pressing the bottom right button you will navigate to the scoring and statistics mode.
You can choose between Stroke play or Stableford scoring.
This allows you to enter your score, the number of putts, whether the ball ended in the fairway or whether it was to the left or right of the fairway.
Your cumulative score relative to par for the round is displayed on these screens, but not a view of your overall scorecard or the statistics for the round.
The S6 can only track scores for one individual but not for any of your playing partners.
Hole View with your handicap index activated will display the number of strokes you receive on that hole.
This view is activated when you press the “Mark Ball” button and displays the distance away from where the “Mark Ball” button was pressed.
You can reset the distance measurement by holding down the “Mark Ball” button or the Garmin S6 will automatically reset the measuring point when you advance to the next hole.
This view will not display the Hole handicap information since this is not a scoring feature.
Time view offers standard watch features such as time and the date.
The default setting for the auto-advance feature is set to on and cannot be switched off. It can be activated manually when it fails through the up/down buttons.
The Garmin Approach S6 offers an extensive range of modifiable settings including:
- Audible tones on/off,
- Display (black on white or white on black, and the color of the accent lines),
- Scoring method (Stroke play or Stableford)
- Handicap determination (Manually/ Index and course’s slope rating)
- Statistic tracking Enabled/Disabled
- Time display in 12 or 24-hour format
- Unit of measurement Meters / Yards
- Auto screen lock On/Off
Garmin indicates that you can expect the battery to last up to 8 hours in energy-hungry GPS mode or 4 months in Time mode only. Bluetooth notifications turned on will reduce the Time mode to a mere 15 hours.
As with most GPS devices you can expect accuracy within 4 yards due to the algorithms used for calculations.
The small 1-inch display may require some time to get used to and the combination of a touch screen and four buttons could be more intuitive. It provides ample features for what you can expect from a GPS watch.
1. Bushnell ION 2 GPS Watch
- Bluetooth Allows for Wireless Course Updates
- Long battery life – play 3 rounds before charging
- Preloaded with 36,000+ courses in 30 countries
- Easy-to-Read Front/Center/Back Distances
- Up to 4 hazard distances per hole can be displayed
- Auto course recognition & Auto hole advance
- Shot distance calculator
- Calculates distance covered during the round
Bushnell’s ION 2 GPS watch is a sleek, comfortable design with a reversible band covering approximately 36,000 of the most used golf courses covering more than 30 countries around the globe. These courses can be updated without having to link to a computer.
The battery life will enable you to play approximately 3 rounds before it requires a recharge.
2. Golf Buddy Aim Golf GPS Watch
Golf Buddy Aim Advanced Smart Golf GPS Watch has a 1. 3” Full-color LCD display with a touch screen
Battery life expectancy is around 10 hours which should allow for 2 rounds of golf before it needs a recharge via the USB.
There are approximately 40, 000 courses in over 170 countries preloaded that can be uploaded using Bluetooth. A notable feature of the Golf Buddy is the Green Undulation feature that shows the undulations on up to 51% of the greens in the USA.
3. SkyCaddie LX5 GPS Golf Watch
SkyCaddie LX5 GPS Golf Watch offers the largest and brightest color touchscreen measuring 1.39″ and full HD graphics.
You can zoom in for extra detail and slide the cursor for precision targeting of hazards or layups
SkyCaddie’s IntelliGreen feature shows the exact shape of the green rotated to your position. The distance is shown to front, center, and back is based on the direction you are approaching the green from.
You can move the pin on the map for more accurate distances.
Golf GPS watches continue to offer better technology and have shown vast improvement since the early days of only showing basic numbers and distances.
Garmin’s Approach S6 GPS watch with its user-friendly graphical interface and access to your playing history makes analyzing your weaker areas a breeze.
Once you have identified the weak areas, the TempoTraining, and SwingStrength apps will help you fixing your weak areas on the practice range.
Your experience and thoughts on GPS watches, especially the features on the Garmin Approach S6, 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.