I really love golf, but I don’t love it nearly as much when it requires a lot of technical work. I’m not out on the field to do use spatial reasoning or guesstimate distances – particularly because if I’m wrong, then I don’t get to enjoy the game as much.
That’s exactly why I decided I needed to find the superior GPS for golf. It’s not really cheating – it just saves a lot of the speculative work. I don’t have to spend two hours exploring and attempting to create a workable mental map of the course in my head, and then hope that I’m right after I’ve been distracted by all of the gameplay and conversations with my buddies.
I’ve used a few golf GPS units that were more functional as trendy gadgets than game enhancers. Out of all of the golf GPS units I’ve tried, I’d be happy to call any of these the top golf GPS for someone with a serious love for the sport. The right golf GPS will change your game.
Top-notch GPS Devices for Golf in 2018
|3” Color||Multi-touch||Uphill/downhill distance|
|<1" Mono||No||Audio distance info|
35.000+ Pre-Loaded courses
|Skygolf||3” Color||Yes||Patented Eagle's view|
Trueground target display
|Bushnell||<1" Mono||No||Auto course recognition|
Auto hole advance distances
|Swami||1.8” Color||No||Front/center/back distances|
No subscription/ fees for updates
Garmin – Top GPS for Golf
That’s why I was so happy to see that Garmin had a golf GPS. It was a brand I already had experience with and knew that I could trust.
The Garmin Approach is much smaller and more portable than a car GPS without sacrificing accuracy or precision. The screen is very detailed.
It captures all of the facets of a course in a way that’s easy to understand at a glance – I don’t have to stare at the information forever to determine what it means. All of the visuals make it so that you barely need a brain to determine what’s going on.
You can up your game based on the measurable results that the GPS provides for you. I almost always take the recommendations it gives me, and other variables permitting, they usually work out perfectly.
There’s also the PlaysLike Distance feature. It takes the level of the terrain into account.
If you don’t know whether you’re going to hit a downhill or uphill slope at some point along the journey, the GPS does. That little heads up comes with some info and suggestions about how you should make your next move.
You don’t have to guess about anything – the GPS knows what you want to know, and it tells you without even being asked.
It comes loaded with over 30,000 courses from all over the world, and it’s easy to make the device even smarter than it already is. You don’t even need to pay to do it – there’s no subscription service with this GPS so you can use it as often as you like, wherever you’d like to use it.
This is my tried and true golf GPS. If I could only ever use one, I would pick this one.
It’s worth every penny. I love all of the smart features. They make me feel like I got a great deal.
It’s not a brick that calculates distances and generates maps – it’s a multifunctional tool that enhances almost every aspect of the sport. It’s helped me become a better golfer, and everyone from beginners to experts will be able to make the most of this golf GPS.
GolfBuddy – Best for the Money
The audio incorporated into the device will announce the distance for me. I don’t have to take it out of my front pocket to look at it if I don’t want to. I can just grab my stuff and move.
This is a great GPS for simple courses. If I’m tackling a basic 18 holes at my local country club, this little guy is a great companion.
Between how simple this is to use and the way it announces important information without the need to verify it on the screen, I noticed something very important about this golf GPS. My dad loves it.
It’s perfect for him because he doesn’t like to fool around with technology. He’s a very old school kind of guy. He doesn’t care much about the high tech features that come with a lot of other golf GPS devices or rangefinders.
That’s where the appeal of this unit comes in. I let my dad keep mine because I’m really good at taking a hint.
He brings it when he goes to golf with his friends. They love it, and a few of them have picked up their own.
This means that the GolfBuddy was not only well received by me, but by a whole group of seasoned golfers with decades of experience.
This golf GPS scores really big points with golfing dads. If you don’t want to pay a lot of money for features you don’t have a massive interest in using, this is going to be the perfect golf GPS for you.
It does its job very well, and you’re not wasting the device’s battery life on unnecessary calculations or suggestions. If you’re looking for an improvement over an old school laser rangefinder, this golf GPS really hits the mark.
Skycaddie – Reliable GPS Unit
The short answer is a brief comparison: If Garmin were Android, Skycaddie would be Apple.
They take two different approaches to the same purpose, and which one you prefer largely depends on the way you like to interact with technology. Personally, I believe they’re both great.
The Skycaddie excels in the visual mapping department. I’m one of those people who needs a lot of visual cues to fully understand something.
I don’t do well with plain roadmaps or basic black and white maps because there are no landmarks to spot. Skycaddie fills in all of the blanks for me, and that makes it easier for me to make quick judgment calls about what my next move should be.
You don’t need to plug the thing into a computer if you want to refresh its memory or give it something new to work out. The Skycaddie even comes with an app you can use as a digital scorecard and a statistics tracker.
It can show you your strengths and weaknesses through analysis.
I’m really into the features that allow me to keep track and do a little analysis. If I want to get better than my golfing buddies, it’s a good idea for me to look at the numbers and patterns that the Skycaddie spits out.
It does take a few minutes to set the Skycaddie up, but once you do, it really delivers in all of its features. I had to be a little patient at first when I was learning to use it, but it wasn’t anything that made me feel like the process was too difficult for what it was worth.
Once you learn how to use this device, you won’t leave home without it.
This is the perfect golf GPS for the golf enthusiast who is also a tech lover at heart. If you like the math, the beauty of numbers, and calculating the perfect game, the Skycaddie was specifically designed with you in mind.
It makes me feel smarter just using it. Left-brained people will get a real kick out of the variables the Skycaddie charts, especially when it comes time to make heads and tails of your golfing strategy.
Bushnell – Golf Watch
This basically is a smartwatch, but it’s specifically dedicated to golf. It’s a golf GPS you wear on your wrist, and a lot of people swear by the convenience of being able to wear the technology.
All it gives you is the numbers you need, so you aren’t getting a sneak peek of what’s to come on a course you’re visiting for the first time.
I was really surprised by the battery life. Allegedly, it can go up to 16 hours on a single charge. I’m not so lucky to get enough time off of work to play golf for 16 hours, but I can tell you that it’s never died on me while I was playing.
It also integrates a step counter, which is great. It kind of replaces a pedometer or a FitBit in that respect, so I also wear this watch when I’m out moving around.
It’s a nifty little bonus that helps me make sure I’m getting enough light exercise.
The GPS watch is comfortable to wear. It’s made of a flexible silicone, and it’s not very heavy.
I don’t feel like it’s weighing my arm down when I’m trying to golf. It’s convenient, because a quick glance of my wrist gives me all the relevant information I need to know at any given moment, and I don’t need to fuss with the device to get what I want.
This is the kind of golf GPS that an expert would use. If you’re looking into competing as a golfer, you’re actually allowed to use it during a competition.
It’s well worth the money because of its dual purpose as a step tracker, which makes it two useful pieces of wearable tech in one lightweight watch. It even comes in different colors, so you can pick a golf GPS watch that matches your personal style.
I highly recommend this for people who like wearable tech and golf pros who want to be taken seriously.
Swami – GPS Rangefinder
It’s mostly because labels, tables, and information are all displayed in different colors.
When I became familiar with the device, I found that I was able to get what I needed from the screen in about two seconds before going directly back to the game.
Since this one has actual tactile buttons, I’m less likely to get distracted and switch screens when I didn’t actually mean to. It keeps itself right where you left it, and it’s easy to switch to different screens with just a simple press.
The website for the GPS has a course library that’s constantly updated. Even though it comes preloaded with over 30,000, the library constantly updates.
You can take the accurate maps from their website as soon as they become available, which is exactly what I had to do. I went to a destination wedding and a new golf course had recently opened nearby.
I was able to easily retrieve the info I needed to play with the other groomsmen.
The interface is clear and easy to use. There’s no mess of confusing numbers without labels to sift through.
The neat little tables break everything up into bite-sized pieces. I love the simple little icons and the way the GPS is organized.
This golf GPS is the midpoint between the basic models that only give you relevant numbers and the deluxe models that show you topical maps. It sits right in that coveted sweet spot for people who want a little extra, but not something over the top.
It’s a great midpoint golf GPS at a reasonable price.
A golf GPS is a specialty piece of equipment, and since it isn’t something that you would use every day, it can be difficult to determine exactly what kind of golf GPS you would need. There are a lot of features to choose from, and depending on your style of play, some will be more useful than others. It’s important to go over all of the differences before you lay your hard earned cash on the line. A little bit of research will take you a long way.
Why Do I Need a Golf GPS?
You don’t technically need a golf GPS, but you’ll be very thankful if you have one. If you’re trying to golf a great game, you probably explore the course before you start.
You want to know the difference between terrains, and where things go uphill or downhill. You want to be aware of where all the water is, and exactly where you’re aiming. Scouting out locations is nothing new, and it takes a long time.
When you have a golf GPS, you might not need to do that anymore. A great golf GPS will give you distances and tip you off to all sorts of hazards.
The short answer is that a golf GPS makes you a much more efficient golfer. It can’t play the game for you, but it can tell you what you need to know in order to play to your highest potential.
Is a Golf GPS Better Than a Laser Rangefinder?
Golf experts are split on whether a GPS or a laser rangefinder is the best course companion. Laser rangefinders have been around for a while, and they have some distinct advantages.
You can get exact measurements from wherever you’re standing. They’re quick to use and they don’t need to be updated the same way a GPS would.
There are some areas where rangefinders fall short. They can’t exactly give you much more useful data than yardage.
I’ve used a laser rangefinder before, and while it did help, it didn’t help as much as it really could have. I prefer the GPS method much more, for a variety of different reasons.
For one, the GPS is going to tell me absolutely everything. If it has visual maps, I won’t have any questions left unanswered.
Laser rangefinders are more of a general piece of equipment with limited applications, whereas a golf GPS is overflowing with valuable information.
It also doesn’t slow down my game. I don’t have to fool around with a GPS – it’s already doing the work.
All I need to do is glance at it to know what’s going on, and all of the manual aspects are completely handled for me.
The laser rangefinder just does one job really well, even though it takes longer. I much prefer the fast convenience I get from the golf GPS.
What Kind of Golf GPS Should I Use?
Whether you prefer a wearable or handheld GPS is a matter of personal preference. What should really influence your decision is the way the GPS works.
Like smartphones, golf GPS devices range from very basic to absolutely deluxe.
Some golf GPS devices only give you distances – nothing more, nothing less. They’re rudimentary, but they’re great for people who don’t care about all of the other metrics.
If all you want to know is where you’re at and where you’re going, a basic model is all you need. They’re also less expensive than more complicated models.
As they scale up, golf GPS devices begin to offer even better features. Some of them feature accurate topographical maps that tell you where everything, from trees to ponds, are located.
You can use them to get a bird’s eye view of the course, which might help you strategize.
Some of them incorporate scorekeepers. Others can offer you recommendations as to which clubs you should use to make the best possible shot.
The most deluxe models will record all of the data from your game, compile it, and give you your statistics. Some of them even use these statistics to offer you the advice you can use to become a better golfer, effectively acting like a virtual golf coach.
It’s just great to know you have the option. Basic models, in my opinion, just don’t do enough to justify the price.
If I’m going to pay for this kind of technology, I want to be able to utilize it in a dynamic way.
My dad, as I mentioned, prefers the simpler ones. If you’re purchasing a golf GPS for someone who isn’t especially comfortable with technology, a basic model is probably the right way to go.
All of those features become less great when they confuse the person using the device. It’s better to play it safe if the recipient is someone who isn’t good with computers, smartphones, or other handheld electronics.
What’s the Difference Between Watch GPS Devices and Regular GPS Devices?
Golfers who use GPS devices are split on whether the watch style GPS devices or the handheld devices are better.
I’ve used both, and I can see both sides of the argument.
The watch GPS devices are super quick and easy to use. All you need to do is glance at your wrist to find your distances.
You don’t need to take anything out of your pocket. A fast look gets you everything.
A lot of golf GPS watches are also equipped with pedometers, kind of like those fitness tracking bracelets. This is a great benefit for anyone who wants to measure the amount of physical activity they’re getting.
You can wear the watch every day, as long as you charge it. I think that’s the coolest bonus feature, and it’s something you’re definitely not going to get with a regular golf GPS.
The biggest downside to watch style golf GPS devices it that the screen is really small, and you don’t get a lot of visuals. Some people don’t care that much about the visuals, so they find that what a GPS watch has to offer is satisfactory for their needs.
I want to see everything and know everything. I’m a visual person and I like to get a lot of information.
Can I Use a Golf GPS in a Golf Tournament?
It depends on the golf GPS. The ones that are heavy on the info they give aren’t generally allowed in golf tournaments.
A lot of the watch style GPS devices, or the ones that are basically glorified laser rangefinders, are perfectly acceptable by tournament rules.
Since tech loaded golf GPS devices show obstacles and terrain changes, someone who doesn’t have one wouldn’t be privy to that information. The playing field is kept even when only numerical based devices are used.
Do Golf GPS Devices Cost Money To Use?
In the early days of almost any GPS tech device, users needed to pay a monthly fee to use them. Things have changed a lot since then.
As other technologies grew, it rendered monthly subscription services obsolete for anything other than a home internet connection or a cell phone service.
Most golf GPS devices on the market come preloaded with tens of thousands of courses in their internal memories. If there’s an update to the maps or a new course is built, they can connect via WiFi, Bluetooth, or USB cable to fetch updates off of the internet.
This means you won’t need to pay a monthly rate or incur any other charges when you use your golf GPS. Some of the outdated ones (especially the ones that were created before WiFi and Bluetooth were everywhere) did require a monthly payment.
Those models have all been phased out, so just about everything you buy now is free to use whenever you want.
Golf GPS devices come in about a million different styles and configurations of features. No two people enjoy golf exactly the same way, which is why so many versions exist.
Whether you’re an amateur golfer or you’re backed by decades of experience, any of these golf GPS devices will enhance your ability to play and enjoy the game. I’ve tried them all, and I love them.