Garmin Approach S20 GPS golf watch: Review

Review by Brian O’Hare.

I’VE got to state right at the outset that after six weeks of using the Garmin Approach S20 I’m totally won over by the option of using a GPS golf watch as my main on course distance measuring device.

For a very long while I used a hand held GPS from a major brand and also for some time used my smartphone with a couple of different golf GPS apps.

Both those options are mostly well and good but the sheer convenience of just glancing down to your wrist for all your golfing information needs just can’t be beaten.

Probably the ideal would be also to have a laser rangefinder in the bag just for those  odd occasions when you want to be absolutely certain of a pin placement or other distance measurement – and your life depends on that inch or two of accuracy.

But for the everyday golfer a watch like the Garmin Approach S20 GPS should be all they need.

The Approach S20 is marketed as “the ideal golfing partner that doubles as your everyday watch” and that has proved to be very much the case for me.

The Approach is at the “entry level” to mid level end of the market so doesn’t have some of the higher end features like a touch screen (which I actually don’t see as a disadvantage in this case) or a heart rate monitor but for around $250 probably has more features and bells and whistles than you will ever use.

I was a little concerned at the large size of some of these new watches but the Garmin turned out to be surprisingly lightweight on the wrist, is very comfortable to wear long-term and has a surprisingly long battery life.

The makers claim around 15 hours used as a GPS and up to 8 weeks on everyday watch mode – which I hadn’t originally intended but the Garmin has now become my everyday watch after banishing the former incumbent to the reserves bench.

I thought there would be more charging involved but I started out giving it a full charge on a Friday night (via a small cable that clamps on the back of the device with a USB at the other end); use it as a GPS in the Saturday golf comp, wear it during the week as a watch, activity tracker and with smartphone notifications on, use it again as a GPS in the Wednesday comp – and still have something like 67% battery charge showing. So you maybe you have to charge it just once a week to be safe.

The Garmin comes with some 41,000 worldwide courses pre-loaded, updates maps and software automatically, has a very easy to read display on course, and is relatively easy to operate with a four button system.

As I mentioned, it doesn’t have a touch screen but having seen some fellow golfers tapping, tapping, tapping at a higher end touchscreen GPS model trying to get a response I’ll take the button system anytime. Rainy days, sweaty days, gloved hands … the buttons don’t care.

The GPS distance measuring itself proved to be very quick and accurate. I checked it at every distance maker I passed over several courses and there was never a discrepancy of more than a metre or so. It was mainly just spot on.

As well as distance to the middle of greens, there is also a way of digitally moving the flagstick on greens to front, centre or back, and the watch also measures hazard distances as well as layups.

You can quickly bring up distances to – and over – hazards. In this case a creek. See that tine little circle feature before the 180 figure? That’s not some watch feature but actually an air bubble operator error I added while applying a screen saver

Arriving at a course, the Garmin quickly locates your course and keeps check of where you are and automatically changes holes.

You can get as technical as you want with the Garmin: it gives you the option of keeping score, keeping track of individual club use and, paired with the Garmin Connect app, after a round you can go through a colour map of the course tracking every shot.

The activity tracker can give you a summary of distance walked, number of steps, calories burned, overall round time and other stats.

Pairing the Garmin with a smartphone by Bluetooth will also give you notifications, including incoming call alerts, texts, emails etc – again if you want.


If you just want an accurate, lightweight, easy to use and read golf GPS watch the Garmin Approach S20 is a great value option. An added bonus is you can get as complicated as you want with the golf statistics tracking, day to day activity tracking, smartphone notifications etc. The relatively long battery life is another plus.





  • Combines elegant watchband design with high-resolution display and activity tracking
  • AutoShot round analyzer measures and auto-records shot distances
  • Pairs with Garmin TruSwing™ sensor for metrics to improve your swing consistency
  • CourseView feature automatically updates frequently played courses for free
  • Receive smart notifications for incoming calls, texts and other alerts
  • Battery life: up to 15 hours in GPS mode; up to 8 weeks in activity tracking mode

AutoShot Round Analyzer

On the course, the Approach S20’s AutoShot round analyzer tracks shots3, measures distance and records shot locations for post-round analysis on Garmin Connect™.

Green View Display

The Green View feature on your Approach S20 shows you the true shape and layout of the green, even if you’re behind it. You can manually reposition the pin to today’s location for accurate shot selection.

Keep a Digital Scorecard

Approach S20 golf watch easily keeps track of your score throughout your round. When you’re done, you can save, review and even use the Garmin Connect™ Mobile fitness app with your smartphone to upload and share that great round with your golfing buddies online.

Smartphone Notifications

Never miss another important text, email or alert just because your smartphone is tucked away somewhere in your bag. Approach S20 acts as a wireless extension of your compatible smart device, displaying smart notifications, right on your watch². Now, via Bluetooth® technology, you can read that email or text you’ve been waiting for — even in the middle of the fairway.

Extra-long Battery Life

Your Approach S20 features a long-running lithium-ion battery to carry you through long rounds or those extra holes. You can easily get in a whole weekend of golf with up to 15 hours in full GPS mode before the battery needs to be recharged. For daily use in activity tracking mode, you can expect the battery to go up to 8 weeks between recharges.


At time of publication listed at $249 with free delivery. (We get a small commission.) Or check out the other Golf GPS products available  through that link.



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Brian is an award winning golf writer and is the founder and editor of Australian Senior Golfer. He is a former Sydney journalist who had little interest in golf till he hit his first ball at the age of 49 (and a half). Since then golf has just about overtaken his life. Brian founded ASG in April 2008 and has since covered every Australian Open, Presidents Cups, World Cups and numerous other big men’s and women’s tournaments, spending days inside the ropes with the likes of Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, Tom Watson, Fred Couples, Greg Norman, Adam Scott, Jason Day, Karrie Webb, and many others. He has also played in, and reported on, numerous amateur tournaments, particularly senior and veteran events, around the country. Brian is a member of the Australian Golf Media Association and won the award for Best News Report for 2016 - 2017

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