Garmin S20 vs S40 [Which One Is For You?]

Garmin is one of the more respected providers of Golf GPS watches, and the two in question, the S20, and S40 come packed with features for all levels of golf. When looking at the two golf watches side by side, they have a lot in common, but the S40 comes with more advanced features.

The Garmin S20 is a great entry-level watch full of fantastic features, as you would expect from one of the world’s leading brands. The Garmin watch S40 takes the features of the S20 and lifts it to the next level along with the price, but both are well worth the investment.

We will look at the same features of each one and see how the S40 brings that much more to the table, while the S20 remains a very good option for players that need the standard features but don’t need the whole package for now.

GPS mode with course map
tee box showing distance traveled

Garmin S20 Vs S40 – Price

The first port of call with this comparison is the price, as some golfers are budget restricted and need something functional and accurate that won’t break the bank.

The Garmin Approach S20 Golf GPS Watch Price – Low

The S20 has many features you would normally find in more expensive products; the Garmin S10 replaced this watch.

Approach S40 giving front, middle and back distances to the green
Approach S40 giving front, middle and back distances to the green

The Garmin Approach S40 Golf GPS Watch Price – Mid

The S40 is the upgraded version of the S20 and, besides the standard features, brings a lot more to the table for the extra investment.

Pre-Loaded Golf Courses

Both the Garmin Approach S20 and the S40 come pre-loaded with 40 000 courses worldwide and will automatically determine which course you are on, and the added courses and updates are free – both the S40 and S20 have this feature in common.

Garmin Approach with green view

So, no matter where you are playing golf in the world, your S20 and S40 will know where you are and give you the distance information you need if you are on a golf course.

One of the key features of both watches is that they don’t have the slope adjustment features; you can use them for tournaments, provided the local rules allow GPS watches.

The more advanced S62, which has the slope feature, would not be allowed for competition play under the rules that govern the use of Distance Measuring Devices. Any device with slope adjustment and green undulation features may not be used in tournaments unless those features are disabled.

highly accurate for approach shots

Failure to abide results in disqualification, but with the S20 and Garmin S40, you are safe to use them in tournaments without fear of penalty. So looking at the S20 or S40 vs S62 that is a main difference.

Garmin S20 Vs. S40 Golf Watches – On Course Features

The evolution of golf watches and the technology that powers it has vastly improved, and many watches, even the entry-level ones, offer the modern golfer features and functions that, in the past, were served by caddies and distance books!

Standard golf mode on the S40 golf watch
Standard golf mode on the S40 golf watch

From the standard distance to the target, to automatic hole progression, scorecard functions, distances to layup and front, back, and middle, plus various fitness features and all this at your fingertips, the modern GPS watch is a caddy, golf, and fitness coach on your wrist.

Auto Shot And Auto Hole Progression

Both watches offer these convenient features that many smartphone apps don’t, which is the auto hole progression. As you finish one hole and move to the next, both the S20 and S40 will automatically progress you to the next hole.

garmin golf app with all the features

The autoshot feature tracks how far you hit each shot and builds this up as an information database over time for the courses that you play. This will give you good data and feedback on how you play each course and the individual holes, with shot distances and finishing positions for reference.

These two features are great for beginners and advanced players alike as you can measure and track your progress with accuracy and distance- and see if those golf lessons are working out!

One drawback with the S20 is that it can sometimes miss shots, leaving a gap in the shot analysis data; the S40 does not have that issue.

Golf modes on the Approach S40
Golf modes on the Approach S40

Golf Course Distance To Target & Accuracy

Both the Garmin Approach S20 and Garmin S40 watch offer shot distances with green view to the front, middle, and back of the green, so from that perspective, these critical features are presented in both models. They will also display the distances to hazards and the carry distance to the hazard from where you are standing.

Each Garmin Approach watch will also provide other relevant information on the hole, like layup distances on dog-legs, par 4’s, and par 5’s, so you have that little bit more to work with on shot selection.

free garmin app with garmin approach s20

Remember that under the rules of golf, no device may be used that offers club selection options on any hole, and they can only provide distance data.

As far as accuracy goes, if you compare any GPS watch to a rangefinder, you the rangefinders will always be more accurate and consistently so. This slight inconsistency is mainly due to the distance between the GPS satellites and your position on the course. Considering those satellites are in orbit, slight variance is more than acceptable.

However, the Garmin S20 and S40 are within 5-8 yards. Unless you are playing at a single figure or better where super-accurate yardage is a must, this level of accuracy is more accurate for the average player than sufficient.

Custom Shot Tracking With The S40

One last point here is that the S40 will give you the GPS based distance to any point on the hole with a feature called custom shot tracking, and it will also tell you how far you are from the 150 yards and 100-yard markers, which is another bonus bit of info on the course.

This has to be done manually, and while it may take a little time, the effort is worth it as you start to gather data on where you hit shots on each hole and the result achieved – i.e., whether the strategy was effective.

manual pin positioning garmin watches

If you want automatic club tracking, you need to look at the Garmin S60. The S40, when linked with the Garmin GT-10, will also allow you to keep track of your club stats as well.

The Garmin Approach S40 has another useful feature that the S20 doesn’t, and that is it will give you the shape of the green on it’s colour touch screen from various perspectives and sides. You can move the pin around on the full-color screen, and that alone makes the S40 desirable!

Remember that this function may not be allowed in competition, so check the local rules to confirm.

The S20 will provide you with the distances to hazards and greens, so if accuracy to other hole points is a critical aspect of your game, then the S40 GPS devices would take the lead on that one.

Golf Garmin Approach GPS Watches Digital Scorecard

Another very handy feature that saves you trying to decode and decipher those scrappy scorecards is the built-in scorecard feature that will allow you to input your scores and all the other details like your handicap index and course index (which would be automatically added) to keep your score during play and total it afterward.

S40 with a grey wrist band
S40 with a grey wrist band

This feature will also record fairways hit and greens hit as well as putts made per round and will give you (and your coach) valuable insight as to where your game needs work – although you should already know that!

So now you only need the watch on your wrist, and you can finally eliminate that need to scramble to find a pencil and make sure your scorecard doesn’t blow away while you’re playing!

Fitness & Connectivity Features

Aside from the golf features, both watches offer features for tracking fitness like the pedometer and odometer to track fitness, calories burned. As a better model, the Garmin Approach S40 provides profiles of other fitness activities like indoor running, cycling, indoor biking and pool swim metrics.

golf products with manual pin position

Each watch offers Bluetooth connectivity to allow you to receive push messages, emails, and phone calls from the watch when connected to your smartphone.

It should be noted that neither watch has a heart rate monitor function, and so if you need to keep track of your cardiovascular data, then neither of these will be a viable heart rate monitor option.

Just in case you end up in the water trying to fish your ball out, both golf GPS watches are waterproof with a rating of 5 atmospheres or up to 165 feet of water, and you shouldn’t be playing golf anywhere near that depth on a course!

But should you get caught in a storm while on the course, you can focus on keeping your clubs and yourself dry and let the watch fend for itself!

Battery Life And Screen Functions

The S20 does not have the full-color touch screen as the S40 does, so the Garmin Approach S40 will be the option for you if you prefer the full-color with transflective memory in pixel option. From a playing perspective, this does not affect the watch’s performance in any way, and the S40 screen can sometimes freeze, which can be frustrating.

Remember that the full color display touch screen will use more battery life, which is evident when we look at the comparative operational life of the watches between charges.

The S20 will last 8-12 days in watch mode and play at least 2 rounds before needing charging, while Garmin recommends the S40 be charged after each round, so that tells you something about the touch-screen and extra features – they use more battery life.

The one benefit here with the S20 is that should you forget to charge your watch overnight and you’ve only used it in watch mode since your last round, you have a good chance that it will survive the next game, while you may find you have to charge the S40 on the way to the course to get it’s battery life through that round!

Garmin S20 – Rugged, Reliable Performance

GPS golf watches do more than provide distance, scoring, and fitness data for many golfers, they also have an element of style and timekeeping, and here the S40 earns its money.

digital scorecard with long battery life

The S20 is rugged and functional and is not by any means the worst-looking GPS watch on, but don’t expect your mates ( or girlfriend) to gasp in awe at its appearance on your wrist.

The S20 is more suited to its designed role and not so much as an elegant timepiece that will elicit ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’ from your playing companions or date. It is rectangularly shaped and mono-color with a contrasting screen that provides an easy-to-read display, and for an entry-level GPS golf watch, that is all you need.

The Garmin S40- Stylish And Functional

The Garmin S40 brings an element of sophistication and style with its appearance, and from the outset, you have some truly top-class features for a mid-level priced product.

It has a circular face rather than rectangular. This alone already says that this watch is a better quality product reminiscent of top-level players’ high-quality personal performance watches and akin to other expensive Garmin sports watches.

For starters, the Garmin Approach S40 has easily interchangeable straps with several variations so you can mix and match your S40 watch strap to your outfit – not that this will improve your game- but it certainly will add a stylish touch to your appearance.

Another great feature of the Garmin S40 is the option to select a custom interface for the watch, which is downloaded so you can essentially have a different look every time you step out of the house and onto the course for a business meeting or dinner.

As a multifunctional timepiece and golf GPS watch, the S40 brings that extra level of elegance and functionality to your wrist. It will certainly elicit those ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’ from your playing partners and your date!

Many players and reviewers alike believe that the S40 is one of the best-looking watches from Garmin, and it is rated highly on its looks and style. It certainly does add an element of status, and for that extra $100 over the S20, it’s not much to have one of the best-looking GPS watches adorn your wrist.

Garmin S20 Vs S40 Golf GPS Watch – Conclusion

Both of these watched are superbly functional as Golf GPS products and are accurate, reliable, robust, and packed with features that will hopefully work to bring your scores down with the data and functionality they offer the modern player.

Remember that with any GPS mode device that offers this type of information, you need to be sure that you can use it under the local rules and be clear as to which functions may or may not be active during play, so you can enjoy your round and not fall foul of the rules.

Still not sure if these are for you?  Then maybe you need to compare the Garmin S40 vs S60 to see how it stacks up against the next version.

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