So I decided to pull the trigger on the new Garmin Approach S1 golf watch. After tearing open the packaging I grabbed the watch and immediately placed it on my wrist. It is remarkably light (less than 2oz), and barely noticeable on the wrist as a casual watch. The Approach S1 appears to be single construction made out of a rubber compound. The “all one piece” adds to the water resistance and over all look. I took it off to let it charge overnight and flipped through the small booklet that came with it. Nothing to note here other than everything is super self explanatory. The charger is a cool stand, which looks like a wide clothes pin with a USB plug on the other end. That USB attaches to a wall plug adaptor. The “wide clothes pin” stand has 4 small metal nipples which line up with the slots on the back of the watch, which are the contacts for charging.
After a full charge I decided to fire it up. I pressed the “light/power” button and walked outside and in about 20 seconds the satellites were acquired and the time and date were displayed. The black numbers are large and very easy to read against the grey background even in the bright sunlight. The two buttons on each side are easy to push, but they are placed so the wrist will not cause accidental pushes. The buttons to the right side (the wrist side for me as I wear a watch on my left arm) are covered with the same rubber compound as the rest of the watch.
The menu button will cycle through a menu allowing setting changes, such as language, meters/yards and a 12hr or 24hr clock. This watch also has an odometer (which I turned off since it uses battery power).
Now to why you all are here. I headed to the golf course to try the Approach S1 and see just how accurate it is. After checking in at the pro shop I pressed the menu button and highlighted “Start Round” within 20 seconds the course was found (over 15,000 courses) and I made my way to the first tee. The hole number displayed as well as the number of strokes to par. Showing the par is sort of neat, but not needed in my opinion
On the tee box I stood on the marker and looked at the S1. The S1 was one yard shorter than the tee box marker. Excellent!! I hit my drive and went to locate it via the cart. The yardage changed on the fly and settled as I walked to my ball (course was cart path only). After hitting my approach shot, I walked to the sprinkler head and checked the accuracy. The center reading was dead on, although the front and back were off by one and two yards respectively. Not a big deal for me as a high handicapper, but could be for some of you. Hole two is a par 3 and it matched up again no issues. Hole three I decided to try the “shot measure” feature. Under “menu” select “shot measure” and go to the ball. Again sort of neat to have, but a bit of math does the same thing. Not sure I will use it again, unless I really crush one. Back to the readings. The Garmin Approach S1 did a fantastic job, most holes were right on, but occasionally they would differ by one yard or so.
The Garmin Approach S1 is a great piece if you are like me and hate having to keep up with things on the golf course. A rangefinder or GPS device is not my thing. I either leave it in the cart or have it in my pocket and that drives me nuts. If you do not mind having them around, they give you more information, but if you are like me and want minimalism and want just yardage to the green… this is it. If you have not worn a watch while golfing before, even with its light weight it takes a bit of getting used to (after two rounds with it now I do not notice it).
Where I found the S1 to be super helpful was off the fairway. Yes, I admit that I am not the best golfer. When off in the trees or in another fairway it gives a good reading (good luck finding a sprinkler head reading in those areas). The other spots were on par 5s when the sprinkler heads are either blank or have some “cute” remark like “just hit it” or “who do you think you are?” The S1 allows me to know where I want to place the ball or near the 100 marker or where ever I choose to lay up.
Retail price on the Garmin Approach S1 is $249.99. I bought mine for $199.99 from an internet dealer, and at the time of this review the average price from US online dealers is $239.99. With that price point the Approach S1 is just a little cheaper than the handheld units which show a lot more data. If that data is what you are looking for than the S1 is not for you. All the Approach S1 does is give you the distance to the front/middle/back of the green, as well as show what hole you are on and what par is on the hole. The S1 does not keep stats or anything either. No big deal there, again I am a minimalist. I have a scorecard for that.
After taking the Approach S1 off the charger at 6:30am and teeing off at 9am, playing 18 holes, I still have better than half a battery left (according to the battery meter). While in my opinion that is pretty nice, only time will tell if the battery life decreases over time. Garmin claims that the S1 has over 8 hours of GPS and 3 weeks of watch mode between charges. Again, only time will tell. A car charger could be a good investment. My biggest question mark for this piece is the durability of the watch itself. While it does appear to be as water resistant as possible and well built, the strap is the issue. I understand why Garmin had it built the way they did. It was all about making it as light as possible. But with so many buckle slot grooves, I cannot help but wonder how much wear and tear the strap can take. This would not be that big of a deal if the S1 did not appear to be all one piece construction. I say appear because there are small screws on the case back of the watch, but I have no intention of taking the S1 apart.
So Double Bogey, in your opinion is it worth $250. In a word, Yes. I have spent more money or much worse things, but I am assuming in that answer that the watch band will not break and the battery life continues to allow more than 18 holes of golf to be played without dying. If you have the extra dough lying around want all the “extras” that come with the Approach G5 or want a Laser Finder your money might be better spent elsewhere. Although we all know how technology is… wait a year and things can be had for half price :)