How Do Golf GPS Watches Work

The advent of GPS technology has affected motorists worldwide for the better and, since its admission into the game of golf, has taken a lot of the distance-to-hole guesswork out of the game, some say to the detriment of the game.

How Do Golf GPS Watches Work – Satellite Signals

Golf GPS watches work using a network of satellites and an antenna built into the watch and maps of the golf course to pinpoint your location on each course. These GPS devices give the hole length of each hole you play and gives you the accurate distance to the flag from your position.

Wearing a Garmin Approach S40 Golf Watch
Wearing a Garmin Approach S40 Golf Watch

While many prefer the old ways of calculating distance, there is no denying that a golf GPS watch has made the game easier for many players by giving more accurate distances at their fingertips now. Let’s examine how these modern golf GPS marvels work.

The Golf Watch GPS System

The golf watch has a data set of the golf course maps built-in, and some can download additional maps when connected to the internet to update existing maps and add new courses as they become available.

Like vehicle SATNAV systems, the receiver or antenna is contained inside the watch housing. As the watch acquires the satellite signal, relays pinpoint your location between the antenna and the satellite.

Overlaid with the golf course map, the GPS golf watch can place your location on the specific golf course and give you the distance from your location to the flag on the hole you are playing.

Golf gps watch provide exact location

One of the great features of the modern GPS golf watch is they have most if not all of the golf courses in the world loaded on them, and so you can travel anywhere and play without ever having to worry about the correct distances on the course you are playing.

These units utilize 32 gps satellites to pinpoint your location anywhere on the globe, and originally this technology came from military application and then found its way to domestic use.

How Accurate Are Golf GPS Watches

With any technology, some products are better than others. Still, for the most part, vast improvements in GPS technology in both size, accuracy, and efficiency have led to the evolution of the golf watch to a point where they are accurate to between 5 and 8 yards.

golf watches for all golf courses

The original handheld GPS devices were systems that were bulky and cumbersome. Still, the development of better networks and antennae has led to more and more compact devices and greater accuracy, and in the game of golf, that has been a godsend.

The Golf GPS Watch – A Caddie On Your Wrist

One of the biggest issues for amateur weekend golfers and others not playing the professional circuit is that before golf GPS, distances on golf courses were marked on the course (and they still are) with markers giving distances to the hole from around 300 yards closer.

Your golf watch can act like a caddy on your wrist.
Your golf watch can act like a caddy on your wrist.

While these were often reasonably accurate, issues around elevation and windage were difficult to determine accurately. As a result, created elements of doubt in the golfer’s mind over club choice and shot type.

While weekend warriors and high handicap players struggled with their technique, better players looked for ways to improve distance calculation by any means possible.

Before the arrival of this gps golf technology, distances were paced out by caddies, and these included the distance from tee to green, with points in the fairways and bunkers carefully noted and marked down.

Wind and course conditions were also noted, so the player had an accurate ‘map’ of the course at his disposal during competitive play. Of course, now, the use of rangefinders has been permitted by the R&A to the delight of some and the disdain of others.

These days, the golf GPS watch will give you the distance from anywhere depending on the level of features, and of course, some expensive models do everything except hitting the shot for you!

Golf GPS Watch Features

Most Golf GPS watches have standard features such as golf course data and location functions. The more expensive models offer wind direction and strength measurement and elevation and even atmospheric pressure data. So not all golf watches provide this level of data.

gps golf watches for your golf game

While this is overkill for the average player, for a single figure and better, the ability to accurately know the distance for the approach shot and any influencing conditions greatly improves their ability to hit accurate scoring shots and thereby achieve better scores.

Able to connect to your phone, some golf GPS watches can track the wind in real time, suggest clubbing options, and even utilize past rounds and shots for a strategy on the golf course!

They have full-color touch screens showing the hole layout with distance markers to various points on the fairway and details on bunkers and hazards! They also have green undulation data and distances adjusted for slope reading on the greens!

With the emphasis on fitness tracking and performance, many golf GPS watches have heart rate monitors and pedometers that can record and then download data for analysis after the round.

Some will even track and record drives and create a map of scores based on shots played to identify the optimum strategic points on each hole that would offer the best chance of scoring.

Are Golf Watches Good For The Game

There is no question that this technology can help all amateur golfers with more accurate distances on the holes they are playing and reduce the number of wasted shots played during a round.

But all of this begs the question as to whether this is simply the evolution of the game or whether it is damaging the core traditions of the sport by taking out a critical skill element.

gps watch for best club selection with accurate information

As we have seen with club and golf ball technology, allowing players to hit a ball over distances that were inconceivable just two decades ago, with this now becoming a problem in the modern game as course, get overwhelmed by the power and distances players can generate.

One wonders what players like Jones & Hagen would have said to all this and even more recent players like Nicklaus, Player, and Norman? Would they have seen the merit and value that these watches offer and use them to their gain?

Or would they have balked at the idea and preferred to play it as they learned it with the distance estimation done with a mix of game intelligence and instinct?

Garmin Golf Watch

There are so many different golf watches in the gps market, and Garmin is the leading company when looking for that amazing golf watch. They have many golf watches that provide all the data we have covered already.

Garmin Golf watches in their packaging
Garmin Golf watches in their packaging

The golf functions of many of their gps watches are vital to players all around the world. With great battery life and tens of thousands of courses loaded on each gps watch. Their golf GPS watch are the go to options. And we cover two of their top distance measuring devices in our Garmin S40 vs S42 post, helping you determine if either of this fits your game.


Regardless of your stance on the use of golf GPS watches, one cannot help but gravitate toward buying and using one as anything that can help you shoot lower scores by whatever means, belongs in your bag – or on your wrist in this case – as this is the goal of every player.

One thing is certain: as this technology improves, the golf GPS watch will become more affordable and continue to find favor with amateurs and professionals alike, and perhaps now is the time to consider investing in one.

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