Every year, new golf products that are “guaranteed to improve your game,” come onto the golf market as sure as the seasons change and the sun rises and sets each day. When I see some of these products, often at the annual PGA Merchandise Show in Orlando, I scratch my head and wonder why a new golf tee or a new, more absorbent towel or another, new and improved divot tool? Many of these items are brought to market by private “inventors” who have mortgaged their homes and kids in their pursuit of gaining financial success from their product. However, every now and then, a golf product comes along that might not necessarily be new technology but takes existing technology to a whole new level.

Distance or range finders and GPS technology have had an enormous effect on amateur golf. The inital object of these devices was to speed up play. This purpose has been the topic of many heated debates as to whether they actually do speed up play which I believe they do when used properly. What I mean is, some of these devices actually “backfire” due to the amount of time golfers spend reviewing the information provided on the devices which can result in the pace of play actually slowing down! For this reason, I have always preferred the Range Finder due to its ability to point and shoot in order to obtain the distance to my target. It’s quick, simple, and accurate. However, my world was recently  turned upside down with a device that will definitely speed up play, guaranteed, no arguments allowed, end of discussion!

Garmin recently introduced the  Approach S1 GPS Watch. In a nutshell, this device measures the distance from where you are standing, anywhere on the hole or in the rough or even on another fairway, to the Front, Middle, and Back of the green you are hitting to. It provides you with the same information as yardage markers with the exception that you no longer have to find a yardage marker and then pace off the distance from that marker to your ball. This time consuming activity is exactly why distance measuring devices were invented and permitted during amateur play. However, as I mentioned before, the debate continues as to whether they actually do speed up play. Well, the Approach S1 GPS Watch is answer!

The Approach S1 GPS Watch comes pre-loaded with over 14,000 (and growing) golf courses. There are no annual subscriptions or downloads required. all you have to do is select, “Start Round,” choose your course and you are ready to tee off. It will actually find which hole you are on and changing to another hole is as easy as pushing the “Up” button. The Approach S1 displays the hole number and par, and it automatically transitions from one hole to the next. Once you begin a round in golf mode, you can easily switch between the time of day and distances to green. The Approach S1 gives you the ability to measure the distance of your shots to improve your game or to shore up your bragging rights with your playing partners. For golfers who prefer to walk, the GPS-enabled odometer, in the Approach S1, can track the total distance you’ve walked during the round.

The Approach S1 is no bigger than your typical digital watch, is extremely light weight (1.8 ounces) and has a rechargeable lithium-ion battery that lasts for up to 8 hours in GPS mode and up to 3 weeks in the watch mode. If you wear a watch when you play, (and I do), you will never know you have it on!

I had the opportunity to try out the Approach S1 GPS Watch during 5 rounds I recently played in Florida. Up until then, I was a die hard Range Finder user. I also own a top of the line GPS handheld device, but always preferred the Range Finder (see GGM 2010 Issue 3 Publisher’s Picks). My first round was at Trump International in West Palm Beach. During my product test, I compared the distances on the Approach S1 GPS Watch with the distances my caddy was shooting with his range finder as well as with the course’s yardage markers. The Approach S1 was accurate enough for me to feel confident with the information it was providing when I was making my club selections. What it doesn’t do is measure the distance from your shot to a hazard or fairway bunker. That was when I would pull out my range finder which I referred to only a few times during each of the rounds. The Approach S1 GPS Watch made myself feel much more relaxed and I ended up shooting one of my lowest rounds in years!

The Bottomline: BUY THIS PRODUCT! It retails for $249.99 but Amazon sells it for $235.39. By the way, two golfers that played with me during separate rounds were so impressed that they purchased an Approach S1 GPS Watch right after they played. Get one. You will be glad you did!

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