The modern era of golf has come a long way since its conception in the blustery Scottish Highlands during the 15th Century. Until recently though, it has always been a game between the player, club and ball. Practise and education were the crucial keys to improvement. But the 21st Century has introduced a new way of aiding anyone’s golf: Wearables.
Wearables can range from watches to belt clips, and are pieces of technology designed to measure your vital golfing stats, provide a course overview or even let you know about that tricky dogleg on the third hole. But which one to choose? There are plenty of options, so we’re rounded up the best ones on the market, just for you.
Garmin Approach S6 – £270 RRP
The gold standard that every GPS watch or wearable is held to, and we can see why. First released in August 2014, the S6 effortlessly combines a colourful if occasionally blocky touchscreen with 39,000 pre-programmed courses, plus a GPS monitor that tracks you and your shot from tee to pin. Throw in swing analysis sensors, and it’s a hard combination to beat.
Ironically enough, it’s the Approach’s price-tag that highlights the best and worst of the device. That the price has barely dropped £50 in two years gives some sense of the esteem it is held in, but it is clearly a big investment to spend the same amount as a high-end club on a GPS watch.
Verdict: One for the hardcore (or well-paid) golfer.
TomTom Golfer 2 – £149 RRP
Another from the “Sat Nav-turned-golf wearable” bracket, Tom Tom’s Golfer 2 watch is a welcome upgrade to their super-popular Tom Tom Golfer. The original Golfer gained a lot of credit for being closer to a FitBit than a traditional GPS watch, adding in traditional exercise elements to the golf information. For instance, its monochrome screen provided the standard course contouring, flag position and score-keeping, but also tracked distance walked and calories burnt.
The Golfer 2 does everything the original Golfer did, but with a few new tricks. The biggest is what’s known as ‘automatic shot detection’, which uses a new built-in gyroscope to record your swing. Once your round is over, sync the data to your phone or computer for a detailed breakdown to see where you can make improvements. With hazard warnings and a waterproof casing to boot, there’s a lot to recommend here.
What’s more, the Golfer 2 has been kept to an affordable price, with most outlets offering it for between £120 and £160. With regular practise, it could help make a difference to your game.
Verdict: Affordable and uncomplicated.
Microsoft Band 2 – £199 RRP
The Microsoft Band itself has been around for a while now, first released back in October 2014 as a simple smartwatch and fitness tracker. But for golfing fans, it suddenly became much more interesting a year later during the 2015 US Open, when Microsoft announced their partnership with Taylor Made to create the Microsoft Band Golf.
Rather than release a new device, golf tracking software was simply updated to the band – giving distance estimates, tracking your score from your swings – covering plenty of the bases that other golf watches provided.
It was only with the release of the Microsoft Band 2 that the full potential of the slim wearable for golfers became apparent. Thanks to the upgraded tracking software, syncing with the Microsoft Health app provides a much better hole-by-hole or full round breakdown of play-style than the Golfer 2 or other shot detectors.
The battery life is the one worry, its small frame needing far more charging than most. But if you want a small, lightweight and multi-purpose wearable, Microsoft are the big-name brand to have on your wrist.
Verdict: Bright and durable, but questionable battery life.
Game Golf – £225 RRP
What do Graeme McDowell, Lee Westwood, Jim Furyk and Barak Obama all have in common? They’re all fans of a very different kind of golf wearable, known as Game Golf.
Designed by Yves Behar, the man behind best-selling fitness tracker Jawbone, the Game Golf comes in two parts. The first is a clip-on device for your belt, while the second consists of several light, attachable sensors that slot into the top of your clubs. Then, before each shot, simply touch the sensor on the club to the belt device and it will register your subsequent swing and shot.
But that’s exactly what the rest of the wearables do, I hear you cry. They also have performance data and swing analysis too. But not in real-time. That’s where Game Golf LIVE comes in.
LIVE, the most recent update to the system, creates real-time performance analysis, so when you reach the next hole, the smartphone or smartwatch app can not only give you an inch-perfect distance to the pin as you’re stood over the ball, but also advise how best to approach it based on your round so far.
The Game Golf isn’t cheap, so is the inconvenience of a belt clip, club sensors and smartphone app worth it? Well, what you lose in convenience, you gain in accuracy. The Game Golf has far better feedback and closer measurements than the majority of golf watches and wearables. If you’re serious about improving your handicap, then it’s worth a try, hence why so many golf pros are a fan.
Verdict: One for the professional or extremely dedicated
Golfers are well-served in the wearables market, so there’s plenty of choice depending on your budget and demand for analysis.
If you’re an occasional golfer, we’d probably recommend the Microsoft Band. It’s lightweight and multi-purpose, so you can use it for tracking the rest of your week’s activity as well as your round at the weekend.
If, however, you’re determined to shave a few points off your handicap, then you can’t go wrong with the Garmin Approach. Shot count, course view and swing tracking. It’s the market leader for a reason. The Game Golf comes close, but its fiddly impracticality works against it overall.