Bushnell Ion 2 vs Garmin S20

Two of the biggest brands in golf go head-to-head as we look at the Bushnell Ion 2 vs Garmin S20 and evaluate them on the accuracy, battery life, on-course features, and price.

From the get-go, the Garmin Approach S20 gps golf watch brings more to the table with more on-course and off-course features such as green view, automatic shot detection, digital scorecard, shot distance calculation, round analyzer, and fitness tracking and smartphone notifications.

While it may seem that the Garmin Approach S20 GPS device already has this little battle won, don’t count out the Ion 2 as it’s made by one of the best in the business and does have one significant advantage that the Garmin S20 does not…so read on and find out what it is.

Yes, both these golf GPS watches are legal as neither of them features a slope adjustment option that would not be permitted in competitive play under USGA and local rules when activated.

You would also need to check with the course rules as to whether Distance Measuring Devices are allowed for competitions as the clubs have the option to either allow or disallow DMD’s during competition.

Bushnell Vs Garmin S20 Screen & Battery Life

Neither of these golf watch is a touch screen, so if you are looking for a touch screen device, these are not for you. The monochrome screens both work well in sunlight and can be easily read and helps with battery life.

As far as battery life goes, the Bushnell wins that round as it can run for three rounds of golf or more in GPS mode, while the Garmin Approach S20 would last about two rounds, but then because the S20 does have a lot more functional features on-course, this is not a surprise.

Another consideration is the charging ability, and both watches charge up reasonably quickly using the supplied USB charging cable.

Ion 2 Vs S20 – Price

You cannot discuss golf GPS watch without the price being included, as depending on your level of play and what you need to achieve, using a GPS device will significantly influence what you are prepared to pay for one.

gps golf watches for the golf course that measures shot distance

The Bushnell Ion 2 and the Garmin Approach S20 are extremely similar in price.

So, in this category, we’ll call it even.

Bushnell Ion 2 Vs S20 – On-Course Features

When deciding between two GPS watches, the on-course features play a significant role in that decision. You may only consider a gps golf watch that doesn’t have all the bells and whistles when the price is excellent.

In many cases, those bargains are reserved for the cheaper brands that often suffer from operational issues and accuracy, leading to frustration and a trip back to the store to return it or an online refund.

With either gps golf watch, you have peace of mind knowing that the on-course features will deliver the results you invested in.

When it comes to the golf features themselves, Garmin has a lot more of them, plus some additional ones that the Bushnell simply doesn’t. But let’s look first at the features they do share.

Bushnell Ion 2 Vs Garmin S20 – Accuracy

It’s worth remembering that a golf gps watch will never be entirely as accurate as a laser rangefinder with exact yardage, but with both of these devices, they are surprisingly accurate for shot distance calculator and well under the usual 3-5 yard margin that is considered acceptable for most golfers.

accurate yardage with the garmin approach s20

Of course, if you are playing at the single figure level, scratch, semi-pro, or pro, those kinds of numbers won’t be attractive at all, and chances are you’d be looking at a laser rangefinder anyway.

A Word On Waterproofing

Most Garmin GPS watches are rated waterproof to a depth of 50m or 165 ft, and this is consistent with models from the S10 to the S60 and higher, but the Bushnell Ion 2 is not waterproof only water-resistant.

If you aren’t planning on swimming with your watch, then this is much of a muchness and has no bearing either way, but for the money you are paying for this device, even if you get it for less, you want to be sure that your device isn’t going to die if you get caught in the rain.

With the Garmin S20, you have no fear of that happening, and the Ion 2 will resist rain and exposure to moisture with no ill effects. Since each has a two-year warranty, should it get water-infused during play, you can always return it for a new one under warranty.

Pre-Loaded Courses

Garmin has a universal standard with their GPS watches, with 41 000 courses pre-loaded to the database, while it seems that Bushnell only has 36 000 by default, which seems to be the case for most of their GPS devices.

long battery life and the bushnell golf app

If you are a globetrotter, then the 5000 courses the Bushnell may not have could be an issue, but both the Garmin and the Bushnell recognize the course you are on and load it immediately, so there is no genuine issue there.

But, head-to-head, the Garmin wins out on this one.

Ion 2 Vs S20 – Common Yardage Features

Ultimately, golfers choose golf GPS devices that measures distance to get more accurate and consistent yardages on the course, and both the S20 and the Ion 2 provide that.

You get all the necessary distances you need while playing from the front, back, and middle of the green and distances to hazards, lay-ups, and doglegs, and they will both automatically records shot locations and advance you through the holes you play.

But here is where these two GPS units part company.

Garmin S20 – Additional Features

The S20 takes the on-course features to another level with some advanced features that you may think belong to more expensive devices; the Bushnell Ion 2 does not offer any of the features listed below.

Hazard And Lay Up Distance Lists

For starters, the S20 displays a list of the lay up and carry distances to the front and back of ll water hazards and sand traps on the par 4 and par 5 holes on the course and a list of the dogleg and lay up marker distances as well.

Garmin S20- Scorecard Feature

Another feature that Bushnell doesn’t have is the digital scorecard, although this is available through the app, which we will discuss a little later on. The Bushnell also doesn’t do stat tracking as the Garmin S 20 does on the device.

Stat Tracking Feature

So putts per round and fairways and greens hit can be done as analysis without connecting to the app, as you would need to do with the Bushnell Neo Ion 2. This is an advantage as many players don’t want to carry their phone with them during play; this is why they bought a GPS watch.

golf gps watches for shot distance calculator helping you play your best golf

So post-round analysis can be done with the watch itself, and you can then connect to Garmin Connect and upload the data from the round for deeper insights using the app at a later stage, perhaps with your coach.

Auto-Shot Round Analyser & TruSwing

This feature records shot distances, tracks shots, and locations for online analysis through Garmin Connect.

The S20 can connect with Garmin TruSwing, and this is a well-known application that assists with improving swing technique by recording shots and subsequent analysis.

Green View Display

This feature gives you the shape and looks of the green, plus you can move the pin manually to position it so you can get more accurate yardage to target. This feature is handy when you have an obstructed green view on approach, and you need to know where to aim.

Neo Ion 2 Vs. Garmin S20 – Fitness Tracking

The Garmin S20 and Bushnell Neo Ion 2 offer some fitness tracking features, but the Garmin simply has more of them. Each has a pedometer, but the Garmin has an odometer to track steps and distance and the time of the round for data and analysis.

It also offers sleep monitoring and a move bar and calories burned to add to the on-course features. Since many golfers don’t necessarily want to have a second independent fitness tracker, the Garmin Approach S20 (like the Garmin S40) provides some essential fitness functionality.

bushnell neo ion 2 for accurate distances to manual pin placement

Garmin has made a global name for itself in the fitness device market, and incorporating those into a golf GPS watch makes the S20 much more attractive to golfers who want that extra little bit more out of their golf watch.

With all the extra features that the Garmin S20 offers, you may be already leaning toward it as your choice here, but the Bushnell Ion 2 also has a few tricks, and one of those is the Bushnell app.

Ion 2 Vs. Garmin S20 – Smartphone Notifications

Here is another area where Garmin has elected to add more to their S20, and you can receive message, email, and call notifications through the S20, while Bushnell does not offer any of these.

Both watches provide essential timekeeping and date functions as expected, but the question is, do you want or need to have those notifications going off while you are playing?

While you might think that Bushnell has skimped a little by not having those features, some would argue that their focus is on golf, and many golfers would not like to have the outside world intruding on their game and distracting them during play.

It would undoubtedly invoke the ire of your playing partners if your watch were consistently informing you that you had received messages or missed calls during your round, and even though some of those may be linked to business, indeed the point of being on the course is NOT to be connected to the office?

This may be a masterstroke from Bushnell and intentionally NOT having smartphone connectivity allows the player to focus on their game without that niggling back-of-the-mind irritation that you now need to look at a message on your way to look at a birdie putt!

auto course recognition with hazard distances and shot tracking

And should that message be lousy news like your better half giving you a hard time, it could put a damper on your round, and such negativity could surely wait until you got home or finished your game.

The Bushnell Ion 2 And The Bushnell App

While Garmin has the Connect app, the Bushnell Neo Ion 2 has its app, and it’s free for download when you buy the device. Connecting your Ion 2 to the Bushnell app opens up a whole new universe for you while playing.

Using the full-color screen of your smartphone while connected to the Ion 2 gives you the kind of overviews and distances you’d find on a top-of-the-range touch screen device with 3D flyovers, full-color views of the hole and hazards, and you also get course updates wirelessly through the app as well.

Now, while you may not necessarily want to have your phone with you as well, the information and visual representation of the hole is phenomenal, and many golfers that have elected to opt for the Bushnell devices over others have been mightily impressed with the app’s amazing graphics and the information it provides.

Before you decide that the Garmin has more, stop and look at the Bushnell app. You can see how it looks and works on the Bushnell site, and there are countless videos of it with various Bushnell devices on review; it may just change your mind here.

Bushnell Vs. Garmin – Head To Head

Bushnell has been making high-quality optics since 1948, and their expansion into this vast golf device market has been met with great success, especially with their range finders which have found great favor with tour pros around the world.

Garmin made their name with GPS and SATNAV devices before applying that technology and experience to golf and expanding into the fitness market with equally significant levels of success.


The Bushnell Ion 2 expresses that singular focus on the game and provides the golfer with the necessary data required in the modern game. At the same time, the Garmin Approach S20 positions itself as a multifunctional device with its primary focus on golf.

Whether you opt for the Bushnell Neo Ion 2 or the S20, you can rest assured that your choice will be well rewarded with many rounds of accurate and consistent yardages on the course and hopefully bring your scores down over time.

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