Do Golf Watches Work On Every Course

Since the release by Bill Clinton of US GPS satellite data for commercial use in 2000, many American golfers have jumped at the opportunity to use GPS technology to give them better and more accurate distance measurement on the golf course, and the golf GPS watch is one of the devices that provide this service.

laser range finders with golf apps

Golf gps watches work on every course as they would have the ability to recognize where you are playing, and where the course is not loaded as part of the data chipset, the watch can update itself without the need to connect to a PC and download the course data.

Using a system of satellites in orbit, the golf gps watch works the same way as the SATNAV system in your car or on your smartphone. It uses telemetry to find your location anywhere on the planet, and this allows you, the golfer, to use your gps golf watch on any course around the world.

How Does The Golf GPS Watch Work

Even though there are around 32 GPS satellites in orbit, the GPS devices on your golf gps watch only really needs four, well, three actually, but the fourth is used to verify data received by the other three, and it also provides the altitude of the device as well.

As you turn on your GPS device, it ‘tunes’ into the GPS satellite signals, and provided there is clear signal and atmospheric conditions, your golf watch will give you a range of data and information in real-time.

You only need three components for the golf watch to work on any course: the GPS receiver in your watch, the satellite signal, and the algorithms that interpret the GPS data like time, location, and velocity.

Using that data, the GPS can pinpoint your location on the course and hole you are playing to within 10 yards or closer and then relay information from the loaded course data to determine your distance to target.

How Many Courses Do Golf GPS Watches Have

These days, many golf gps watches have every single golf course in the world loaded to the data chipset, and this is a staggering 41 000 individual courses, tens of thousands! And most of them have more than one map loaded.

various courses with full range of distances

This is so that the golf course data is hyper-accurate for the players, these golf gps watches work by providing accurate distances to pins, bunkers, water, and other hazards.

Not only that but many of the modern golf GPS watches, like the Garmin Approach S62, have auto-location capabilities meaning that regardless of where you are in the world, they can provide you with the golf courses nearest you or in the country you are in.

What Is Differential GPS And Why Do Golf Courses Use It

When it comes to distance accuracy, the best golf GPS devices would be able to triangulate your exact location within about 8-10 yards of your actual position. Now for many weekend players, this variance is not enough to make a difference, but this is a club-length or half a club-length distance difference for some players when striking their golf ball.

Golf courses that want to provide pinpoint distance accuracy will have a stationary ground unit that broadcasts on-site and sends out an additional time signal integrated into the data received.

Courses do this to bypass obstacles that can hinder GPS signals like mountains, trees, buildings, and atmospheric disturbances, including solar storms and bad weather , artificial interference, and possible device miscalculations.

By having the differential GPS, golf courses worldwide can ensure that players using golf watches can use their device on their course and indeed on any course without struggle.

Course info for the average player on a large display

How Is The Golf Course Data Accuracy Achieved

For you to use your golf gps watch on any one of the 41 000 courses worldwide, the golf course mapping data has to be measured, recorded, and then converted into usable GPS data.

This is done by the manufacturer or an appointed third party that goes and plays and measures the course thoroughly and records that data to be uploaded to the GPS data chipset in the watch.

Sometimes, the course itself can commission this work to be done. If there have been alterations done to any of the holes, that data would need to be updated and sent to the manufacturers to update their databases, respectively.

As mentioned before, golf course data chipsets may have more than one map of each course loaded, so the data outputted on that golf course is super-accurate, and this is what makes the golf watch a ‘must-have’ for many players.

Most golf gps watches today will automatically receive updates when they are online, so you don’t need to manually update your golf watch by connecting to a PC or Laptop as you had to do with the early SATNAV devices.

A Quick Word On The Golf Watch And The Rules Of Golf

While you can use your golf gps watches on every course you play, you may be limited by the local rules that govern the watch features you can use in play or competition. The use of Distance Measuring Devices or DMD’s was allowed from 2006 by the USGA, and in 2016, that rule was amended to allow the use of watches that had other features like slope and elevation.

Remember that you need to check the course rules regarding whether you may or may not use your golf watches or range finders during competition and whether certain features like elevation, automatically detect wind direction and green undulation may not be activated during play.

Good battery life even in direct sunlight

Professional golfers are not permitted to use a gps watch at the elite level, and even though the US PGA Tour did trial their use earlier this year at three selected events (The Men’s, Ladies, and Senior PGA Championships), they are not allowed at the US Open or Open events at this time.

Garmin Golf Watches

Garmin has a full line of the best golf watches with their Garmin Approach category. With their best golf watch being the afore mentioned Garmin Approach S62. All of their watches com with the basic features, excellent battery life and fashionable style.

These watches are great for getting the distance for club selection, water hazards and are basically a virtual caddie on your wrist!  And they have lots of options to choose from.  We have a variety of comparison posts to help you sort them out, like this S40 vs S42 post.

using the right club has it's own benefits for an approach shot

Not all golf watches do, but many golf watches, like the Garmin series, also have fitness tracking abilities.


The modern GPS golf watches will work on every course you play and will be a valuable asset to your game, provided they are allowed for use under the rules. Check out the Garmin Approach S62, it is one of the best golf watches in the market for amateur golfers wanting to improve their golf game. Grab this best golf watch for your next round!

Now that you know that golf gps watches work and a little about how they work, you can pack your golf bag for that round-the-world tour, knowing that your golf watch is on your side no matter where you play.

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