Garmin Approach S1 GPS golf watch hands-on

Did you watch the European golfers take on and tame the Americans at Celtic Manor in October and rush out to buy yourself a set of clubs, thinking that golf-malarkey couldn't be all that hard?

Did you crash back down to earth (or rather, a bunker) when you realised it is bloomin' difficult, and that it's not that easy measuring your distances when you're out on the course?

Well, there's no getting around the first problem - you'll need years of practice to master the game - but there is help on hand for the second issue, and no, we don't mean hiring Fanny Sunesson to walk around the course with you.

The Garmin Approach S1 is a GPS equipped wristwatch with the details of almost 5000 courses throughout Europe loaded onto it, with the data provided without the need for a subscription.

When you're about to tee-off, simply set the watch to golf mode (it acts as a regular watch too) and select the course that you're playing. It will give you the matches of courses that it recognises within your vicinity and we had no problems picking up all of our favourite local haunts.

You're then given hole info including the par-score and, most importantly, the distance to the green - front, middle and back - all displayed on one screen. When you walk on to the next hole, it will automatically reset itself for that as well - so no need to keep pushing buttons.

Now, there's plenty of golfing GPS gadgets and gizmos out there that can do far more than this, but within the S1's simplicity lies its brilliance. There's no need to keep getting a device out of your pocket, and being presented with complex info. You simply take a peek at your watch and you're given the info you need to choose your club and make your shot.

With the cold snap we've been enjoying as of late as well, and the resulting concrete-like greens, it's very handy to know the distance to the front of the green - as anything hitting the dance floor is most likely to roll on quite a few extra yards than you might have liked.

It can also measure your shot distances and measure how far you've walked on your round using the built-in odometer - you simply need to select these options in the easy-to-use menu system which is controlled by the rubber covered buttons.

Rugged and waterproof, the S1 is a nice-looking sports watch and you'll get about 8 hours of battery in GPS mode with the re-chargeable lithium-ion battery. So plenty to play 36 holes, with some left in the tank to use as a regular watch for a few days (the battery drain is very minimal with GPS switched off). Just remember to charge it (using the USB lead and clip-charger) before a big golfing day.

We love the S1 for its simplicity and the fact that it just works. There's no fiddling about, you simply put it on, start it up, and away you go. It's also brilliant because your buddies can make use of it too - just by you standing by their balls it can also measure their distances to the pin.

The Garmin Approach S1 is out now with an RRP of £179 (although a quick peek at Google's shopping results reveals you could get it for a few quid less than this).

It won't make you a better golfer, but it will shave shots off of your scorecard by giving you a better understanding. And as any golfer knows, those few shots saved could make all the difference - especially to your wallet when it comes to tallying up at the 19th hole.



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