With the Approach S1, Garmin has leveraged their background in making watches and combined it with their golf GPS expertise. But whether Garmin will be able to win over consumers where others have failed (some will recall the Finnish Suunto G9) remains to be seen.

The Approach S1 covers just the basics: distances to the near, middle and far points on the green relative to the player’s position, all available at the twist of the wrist. The Approach S1 lacks hazard distances, course images, and any ability to track stats or record scores. It can, however, measure shot distances, and provides basic watch functionality.

As with its big siblings the Garmin Approach G3 and Approach G5, the S1 comes with over 16,500 preloaded courses in North America. While it doesn’t require an annual subscription, at $250 retail, the Garmin Approach S1 approaches and even surpasses the cost of a number of full-featured golf GPS devices with color screens and statistics capability. While it may seem like an incremental difference from devices clipped to your bag or belt, we were truly surprised by how much more convenient it is to have the GPS information right on your wrist.

Course Availability
Ease of Use
Course Details

  • Access to information with a twist of the wrist
  • Excellent course coverage
  • No fees to access course database


  • Distance information limited to near, center and far points on the green
  • Battery life on the short side…for a watch. Just don’t forget to recharge after every couple of rounds!
  • Finicky charging clip

Retail price: $179.99
Three year total cost: $179.99
Availability: Discontinued. Replaced by the Garmin Approach S3 watch
Amazon.com: Check price now
Golfsmith: Check price now
The retail price was reduced from its original $249.99 with the introduction of the Garmin Approach S2

97 / A+


The Good: The Garmin Approach S1 merely requires charging the included rechargeable battery before hitting the course. This is done through a cable that is clipped to the device, as opposed to using a more common USB or mini-USB plug. With courses pre-loaded, no downloads are necessary to get started.

The Bad: Users are limited to downloading maps for one region only (either the United States or Canada “and the Coastal US” for our North American device). The charging clip can be extremely finicky, so before walking away, make absolutely sure you actually see the battery charge symbol on the screen when you attach the clip, and make sure that it continues to appears on the screen. More than once we thought we had hooked up the charging clip properly (it feels like it is clipped in fine), only to return hours later to find that the S1 wasn’t charging. And if you happen to lose the clip, remember you’re locked in to re-purchasing the proprietary Garmin cable, as opposed to grabbing a generic mini-USB cable as you can with other GPS devices. We’ll keep our fingers crossed for a mini-USB plug in the next revision.


  • Required Steps. The user only needs to confirm the battery is charged in order to get started. For future course updates, users will need to download an application (“WebUpdater”) from Garmin’s web site.
  • Time Required for Setup. Charging the battery takes around 3 hours, and the Approach S1 will indicate a full charge on its screen when it’s ready to go (it won’t provide the percent charged during the process, however).

What’s in the Box: The Garmin Approach S1 comes with:

  • Cable (USB-to-charging clip)
  • Power Adapter
  • Owner’s Manual

Required Downloads:

  • WebUpdater (for future course updates). While an update using the WebUpdater software isn’t required before hitting the course, players will want to periodically check for additional course updates using the software. When the Garmin Approach S1 is connected to the computer via the USB-to-clip cable, the WebUpdater will automatically recognize the device, look for updated software and/or course information and sync it to the device. We checked for an update prior to our initial use and found one available. The process went extremely smoothly, and the S1 had the updated software within minutes. Well done!

99 / A+


Critical Golf Test: The Garmin Approach S1 benefits from leveraging Garmin’s existing course database. The course coverage is excellent, although we’ve come to expect that from devices that offer only basic distance information.

Manufacturer’s Claims: Garmin claims to have 16,600 courses in the United States in its database, which currently places the Approach S1 about average in our course coverage comparison test for the region. Like the other devices in the Approach series, however, the Garmin Approach S1 is a region-specific device (we purchased the North American version, a Canadian version is also available). So if you are looking use the same device in the US and on the Old Course, you’ll want to look elsewhere.

98 / A+


The Good: Garmin has created a very easy to use device – something that other companies often fail to achieve even with devices with similarly limited feature sets. Garmin has made it simple to access and navigate menus, depress buttons, and manually move through holes if necessary. And most importantly, the information you are seeking is available with a simple twist of the wrist. The Approach S1’s performance doesn’t suffer due to its small size – the S1 acquires satellites and updates distance just as quickly as the other golf GPS devices we’ve tested.

The Bad: Not quite as comfortable as a standard watch due to its thickness, but easily tolerable through the course of a round. There is no way to access the rechargeable battery – it is not accessible to owners (without attempting to remove the case).

Garmin Approach S1 Golf GPS Watch - Course Selection


  • Buttons. The Garmin Approach S1 has four buttons: a backlight/power button, up and down buttons for scrolling through menus/holes, and an OK/menu button for selecting options and accessing the menu.
  • Screen. The black and white screen is easy to view under both cloudy and sunny skies. The screen viewing area is 1 square inch, not surprisingly making it the one of the smallest golf GPS screens available. There is a backlight available for the screen, which will remain on for approximately 8 seconds after activation. There is no ability to modify the default time the screen remains backlit.
  • Form Factor. Wonder Twin powers activate! Form of….a watch! The device has a smooth black rubber exterior, and weighs in at a mere 1.8 ounces, making it the lightest device in our test. It’s slightly thicker than an average watch, and though it didn’t cause any issues during our swing, it’s occasionally noticeable such as when digging deep into your pockets for more tees. The watch-style design provides the great advantage of quick access to distance readings – there are no delays while you remove a device from a carrying case or your pocket before each shot, or worries about whether it’s going to come unclipped from your push cart. The rubber exterior of the body and wrist strap appears well-made and durable, and the wrist strap can be adjusted in small increments to insure the appropriate fit.
  • Starting a Round. From the time view (hey, it IS a watch), users start a round through accessing the menu, and then selecting the desired course from a scrollable list (surprisingly, the watch displays enough text to easily identify the course). Ten courses are listed in order of proximity to current location. Once a course is selected, the device will default to the hole closest to your position – handy for a back nine or shotgun start.
  • Battery Life. Battery life is relatively short when the GPS functionality is running continuously – we have found in the range of 6 to 8 hours. The device will go into Power Save mode after a certain period of inactivity, after which the time and date are displayed, but not GPS information. Pressing the OK button will restart the GPS. The S1 never went into Power Save mode during our testing, and we weren’t able to complete two rounds without needing to recharge the Approach S1. If the device is used simply as a watch it will run for an estimated 3 weeks.

For more details, check out the Critical Golf comparison of golf GPS device features.

70 / C-


The Good: The Garmin Approach S1 only provides three distances for each hole. However, unlike the relatively simple IZZO SWAMI and Bushnell neo+, the Approach S1 provides distances to near, center and far points on the green relative to the player’s position, as opposed to fixed front, center and back green points, a feature we much appreciate.

The Bad: The Approach S1 only provides mapping of the near, center and far points on the green. Nothing more. While there are players that only care about this limited information, some of our editors would prefer to have hazard information available, particularly when playing new or unfamiliar courses.

Yardage Display


  • Views. The Garmin Approach S1 provides a primary “hole view,” which displays distance information for each hole, and secondary screens with distance measurement and time.
    • Hole view – This screen displays the hole number, par, and distances to the near and far (in slightly smaller text at the top and bottom of the screen) points and center of the green (the largest text in the middle of the screen). All of which is simple to read at a glance.
    • Measurement view – Shows only the measurement of either a particular shot or the total distance walked, depending on what is selected from the menu button. Users can toggle between these views and the Hole view while continuing to measure distances. Neither shot distances nor total distance walked are saved for later viewing or analysis.
    • Time view – Uh, it shows the time of day. It is a watch, after all! The S1 shows the time (hours, minutes, seconds, and AM/PM) and the date (month and day). The S1 also has the ability to set an alarm – useful to ensure that you don’t lose track of time at the 19th hole.
  • Hole Information. The hole number and par (indicated by the number of “dots” shown on screen) are always visible on the “hole view” screen. Hole handicap is not available.
  • Custom Mapping. Users cannot add custom points to the course maps, nor can they modify any existing map data.

Suggestion Box: We wonder whether it would be possible to add hazard information to the Garmin Approach S1, though with such limited screen space this might be a challenge. Perhaps users could scroll through screens where hazard distances are available (much like scrolling through golf courses)? Something to consider…

80 / B-


The Good: The Garmin Approach S1 is a very basic device. The intention isn’t to provide a barrage of features in a watch ala Inspector Gadget, but rather the bare bones. It is waterproof, and though not intended to be used while swimming, can withstand immersion in 1 meter of water for 30 minutes. So go ahead and reach into that nasty blue-dyed pond…there are golf balls in there free for the takin’! Ooooh, is that a Pro V1 next to that turtle? While doing this, however, take a moment to consider what “reclaimed water” is.

The Bad: With this level of simplicity, there may be features that you wish were available, such as scoring. Didn’t the Finnish Suunto G9 offer more? Then again, using a failed device as a measuring stick probably isn’t the best idea.


  • Shot Tracking. The S1 can measure the distance of a shot, though this data cannot be saved. There is also a built-in odometer, so with some basic conversion (how many calories do we burn per mile when carrying our bag anyways?), you can figure out if you gained or lost weight net of the hot dog and fries you devoured at the turn.
  • Score and Statistics. We will keep this short and sweet: not available.
  • Auto-advance. The Garmin Approach S1 will automatically transition when you move to the next hole – users do not have an option to disable this feature. You can, however, return to previous holes (or advance) if you, for example, slice your ball onto the tee box of the next hole (and the watches advances to the next hole). Not that we have ever done that. We are just saying that we heard about someone who is an editor of an unbiased golf equipment review site who slices a lot and tested this watch, and was able to easily return to the correct hole through the intuitive S1 buttons.
  • Course Storage. Though small and light, users won’t suffer from limited course availability. With storage for all courses in the Garmin database available on the S1, you don’t have to worry about remembering to load the appropriate course before heading off to play.
  • Preferences. The Garmin Approach S1 has a limited set of adjustable preferences: measurement unit (yards vs. meters), language, tones. And as a watch, users can of course modify time and time format (though there is also the option to have the time automatically set by the watch as it acquires satellites).

Suggestion Box: Even with the relatively small screen size, adding the ability to track your score would be a nice plus.

For more details, check out the Critical Golf comparison of golf GPS device features.

92 / A-


Our tests found the Garmin Approach S1 to be as accurate as other dedicated golf GPS devices, consistently providing readings within 3-5 yards of the actual distance. We have only experienced one case where a distance was more than 4 yards off from a marked sprinkler head, and that was by 7 yards. Stacked head to head against the Garmin Approach G3 and G5, yardages varied only up to 4 yards.

The distances to the near and far green points drop off the screen when the player is within 30 yards. The distance to the center of the green continues to be shown throughout the hole, however, which gave us confidence in the accuracy of the readings.

92 / A-


Retail Price: Garmin has reduced the Garmin Approach S1 retail price to $179.99 with the introduction of the Garmin Approach S2, and now is one of the less expensive golf GPS watches on the market and cost competitive across all devices.

Fees for Access to Course Database: As with the rest of the Approach series, the Approach S1 does not charge fees for access their course database.

Three-Year Total Cost of Ownership: With no cost for access to the course database, the three-year total cost of ownership for the Garmin Approach S1 is a reasonable $179.99. This makes the Approach S1 one of the lowest priced golf GPS devices over three years, and about average for devices providing limited distance information.

Value: The Garmin Approach S1 is one of the least expensive golf GPS devices. It doesn’t feature full color screens with hole maps nor does it have distances to hazards, but the convenience of having basic green distance information right on your wrist can’t be beat. As testers of a ridiculous number of GPS devices, we’re pretty tough customers, but the simplicity and ease of use of the S1 has won us over.

63 Responses

  1. Played my first round with the S1. Also matched info with my GPS. The S1 was within a few yards of the GPS on long distances – about the same within 100 yrds. The S1 was flawless and relatively quick to get data while playing – a little slower loading courses. Display is outstanding. It is a 5 star product with only one annoying problem. The way it hooks up to the charger is a pain. Must be PERFECT and never moved while charging or the connectors get out of line and charging stops. Ease of operation is also outstanding.

  2. Played my first round with the S1. Also matched info with my GPS. The S1 was within a few yards of the GPS on long distances – about the same within 100 yrds. The S1 was flawless and relatively quick to get data while playing – a little slower loading courses. Display is outstanding. It is a 5 star product with only one annoying problem. The way it hooks up to the charger is a pain. Must be PERFECT and never moved while charging or the connectors get out of line and charging stops. Ease of operation is also outstanding.

    1. I bought the S1 about three weeks ago and used it on a variety of golf courses.  I love the form factor.  It is light and comfortable.  Unfortunately I found it to be inaccurate.  I am returning it tomorrow.  I tested it versus my Callaway uPro and a Sky Caddie SGX as well as the yardage markers around the various courses I played on.  It was sometimes out by 15 yards.  I just lost confidence in it and stopped trusting it.  I also walked to the center of many of the greens to see what the S1 would say.  Sometimes it would say “12 yards” when it should say 0 Yards (or at least under 3-4 yards).  It seems that Garmin has some mapping issues.  I going to return it and wait for someone else to make a more accurate unit.  I’m sorry I can’t recommend it.

  3. The chart in the comparison of golf GPS devices mistakenly has a “No” for the Garmin Approach S1 in ability to measure shot distances. The above review indicates that it can measure shot distances.

  4. Are you going to do a full review and evaluation of accuracy ? Will the number of courses be updated after you purchase the watch? Thanks

    1. We will indeed have a full review up in the near future (we have an Approach S1 and are testing now). As with all GPS reviews, when a new product is added to our list we update course scoring for *all* devices to keep the information up-to-date.

  5. Tried the approach its ok but for almost the same money you can get a top of the line laser range finder that is much more accurate thanx but no thanx garmin

    1. your dumb, the cheapest quality laser ranger finder is $300. the s1 is $150 now $250 when this review was done.

      1. If my course is not listed, is the S1 useless for me? Also, what is the overall preference in color by most of the population, black or white?

        1. If your home course is not listed, it won’t have either course maps or even the basic green points (front/center/back) mapped, so it would indeed be useless. We haven’t gone through the process of requesting a course to be added by Garmin, so can’t comment on whether this is possible and, if so, how long it would take for them to have the mapping available as a software update. We will update our comments here if we receive additional information from Garmin.

          Regarding color preference:
          Black was initially the only color available, with the white Garmin S1 a more recent addition. We prefer the black (and actually it is the only color we have seen in local retail stores to date), though if you are partial to attire including white belts and flashy clothes, the white S1 as an accessory could certainly work!

  6. Have used our new unit on two rounds thus far and found it to be off approx. 3 yards at startup and gradually increased to a 7 yard error during the round. Can the unit be re-calibrated? Our units battery lasted approx. 6 hours or about 1/2 rounds of golf.

    1. To our knowledge, the device essentially “re-calibrates” when acquiring satellites upon powering on. Difficult to say why the error may have increased during the round, though a 7 yard error from actual distances could certainly be caused by inaccurate mapping of particular holes or poor satellite connection (due to terrain or weather). Would be interesting to see if you have the same results when you next play the course – if so, we recommend emailing Garmin support to report the error.

      1. I too have been having some consistent inconsistent readings on my S1. I love this device conceptually. Have used a Sky Caddie since its inception and don’t need all the bells and whistles. I do need the yardage to be more accurate however. I’m really interested to find out if this is a more widespread issue or not. Being off anywhere from 5 – 15 yards renders the watch unusable.

        1. Played my first round with the S1 yesterday. I love wearing the device as opposed to having it my pocket or golf bag. As with most reviewers, I’d give it high marks for ease of use. Accuracy was a problem. I played with a friend of mine using a range finder and the golf cart also had a gps system. The range finder and cart system were in agreement but the Garmin product was consistently 10+ yards different. I’m returning it today.

          1. I agree Bod mine was out by 10 to 25 metres here in Australia, tried to find out how to remap course but was way to hard when you don’t get a response. Back it went so dont buy Aussies!

    2. Well Sher ( great name )   the center of the green white flag  is the center  they don’t put the flag actally  in center,   thus difference in yardage.   what is important  what is important is front to middle and middle to back so as to be above the hole or below the hole.
                 I simply love it John  F 

  7. Hey I watched a video test of the S1 and the guy doing the video made a comment that you have to know you own distance from the tee box. That does not make sense to me, doesn’t the device give you a distance from the tee? I confused can someone let me know what’s up with that?

    1.  Not sure what this meant. The S1, like other devices, does not require you to know the distances to the tee or any fixed points. The device will provide the distances to the front, center and back of the green for each hole without any calculations required.

  8. Has anyone experienced moisture building up inside the dial on humid days which makes the yardages difficult to read?

  9. I own an Approach S1, and discovered a fact that to my knowledge has not yet been reported:
    There ia a North American and a European version. You can freely download updates to the course material, but NOT the courses of the other models. So, US owners can’t use their model when golfing in Europe and vice versa. Garmin support told me, that there is no way to overcomr this.

    By the way, I like the S1 very much. It’s handy and accurate.

  10. I have owned the S1 now for about 6 months and it is greatest golf related product I have ever purchased. I have played approximately 60 rounds with it and it has worked great and has been extremely accurate. In fact, 5 other guys in the large group I play with also purchased the S1 based on my recommendation……they all love it too! I normally do not wear watches and particularly could not imagine wearing a watch while golfing, but it is very flexible and lightweight……you can’t even feel it on your arm. Go get one! You will not be disappointed!

  11. Please, please launch the Approach S1 in SE Asia !
    There is a huge golf community here ( Malaysia, Thailand, Singapore, Japan etc.) thus a very good market. I am sure the Approch S1 would sell like hot cake here…

    1. Don’t buy while the watch strap is an integral part as they are prone to break and then you are stuffed.

  12. I played about 6 rounds with my S1 with no problems but after 3 holes in round 7 it lost satellite reception and could not get it back. Is there a reset option I’m missing or any other ideas?

    1. To reset, hold the Power button until the screen goes blank, wait a moment, and then press and hold power until the screen turns on – this will reset the device. Hope that helps!

  13. found it accurate, easy to use.  only negative is waiting 10 weeks for rebate….still waiting after 12 weeks I hope they don’t think I have forgotten.

  14. The S1 is useless.  Do not waste your money or your time. Synching is not the simple process described, and they have NO support.  Unless you have all day to wait around for a technician.  Wait times always exceed 30 minutes.  FAQ support is worse than useless, and covers none of the problems encountered.  If you email a question, you get no response. Buyer beware.  This is a complete rip-off.

    1. Golf Digest is useless….  Not a waste of money since they can barely give it away and the only thing you get out of it is execise carrying it to the recycle bin. Been trying to get rid of subscription for years and they won’t stop sending. They give this rag away free if you buy a bag of tees and it has less value. As you can seen from the majority of reviews their opinion is worth the price….


  16. I am looking at the list of courses available and nearly every one has an alert that says “Tree cover” with a little icon next to it. Thus far I have not been able to find a reference to it and apparently lack to cognitive function to deduce the actual meaning…  Can you provide some enlightenment?

    1. Garmin’s uses their course list page not only for the S1, but also for their Approach G3 and G5 devices (which can make it a bit confusing). The G3 and G5 device both have started to include tree images on their hole views, so players can further adjust how they wish to play based on appropriate tree line.  The “Tree Cover” (with icon) applies to courses that have this additional information that is accessible on the Approach G3 and G5 devices.

  17. Made my first comment prior to purchase since I was unsure of some of the terminology.
    Other comments provided were very useful especially concerning the attachment to the charger… MAKE SURE you see the animated battery charging logo before you head off to bed.
    I bought the S1 on black friday at Dick’s for $169 and it’s still marked down considerably from the list of $249. I would happily pay the MSRP based on my experience with it, so saving $80 was sweet.
    I am a single digit player and I get about 120 rounds a year in. I have played 3 different courses in the last week and am delighted  with the performance. The guys that are critical that it’s off 7 yards must be superb golfers cause if I could hit a golf ball within 10 feet of my target one way or another I wouldn’t be punching a clock to pay off my upside down mortgage…
    I have compared distances to the other types of GPS devices my playing partners carry as well as from USGA markers and they have all been very consistent (most of the time plus or minus 2 yards difference max).
    This is the first golf GPS I have owned and can’t think of any style or format that could be any better until they market sunglasses with these readouts on the lenses.
    Anyway, contrary to what Golf Digest thinks, if you are a die hard golfer and have the visual acuity to spot a 40 foot tree or a 2 acre lake this is the quinessential golf aide providing all the information you should need. On the other hand if you crush the ball 160 yards down the heart of the fairway and wait 10 minutes for the green to clear 300 yards away, buy a theodolite… 

  18. If you play a slow round of 5 hours, the battery will die.  Charging device is finicky and while you think it is charging, it is not.  Garmin needs a better battery, longer life and a new type of connector.  Otherwise, it is a great device.

    1. Thanks for the comment. We haven’t experienced any issues yet with the device running out of juice within the round (and we have the misfortune of playing some loooong rounds…and yes we are talking about you, Santa Clara Golf!). You may wish to check with Garmin to see if there is an issue with the watch itself (they also have a one-year warranty which you may wish to look info).
      We agree completely on the connector…certainly something for them to work on.

  19. Any idea if and when the Garmin S2 approach will be coming out? I’m assuming they are going to have to now complete with the Expresso WR62 and provide hazard info and hopefully more than 8 hours of battery life like their current s1.

    1. Who would have thought a couple years ago that there would be two golf watches available for consumers?
      No word on when/if there will be an S2, though new golf products are generally released at the PGA Merchandise Show each January, so a rev of the watch would likely not happen until January 2013, if at all. It is a great question you raise – how will the Garmin compete with a device that provides hazard information (and more)? We have a WR62 on order, and are looking forward to seeing how the two stack up. Stay tuned…

  20. I’ve had the S1 now for over 6 months and have found it a wonderful tool, especially when your course requires ‘cart path only’. Our club GPS system in the carts is great but when you are cart path only the S1 really come in handy. The ease of use when playing at other course is terrific. Just press the menu button and it automatically finds the course your playing. I love it!! Even though I own a pin seeker I find the S1 more convenient for all around course management for quick yardage.

  21. I just bought S1 a few days ago. I am confused that whether there are Asia golf course software such as Thai golf course. If there is thai golf course software, how can I download and where can I get the software? Thank you very much

  22. I received the white S1 for Christmas from my husband.  I have sent it back twice because it doesn’t automatically advance like it claims to do and the first two watches would not sync with my computer.  I have spent several hours on the phone with Garmin trying to get the product corrected.  My new watch I just received is just the same won’t automatically advance but will sync with my Mac .  Two of my fellow golfers have the same trouble and my 3rd partner sent hers back before she even opened it.  Even with the problems I love it.  I will just have to advance the product myself and find looking at my wrist much easier than having to point and shoot something.  I am not recommending the watch to my club members.  My husband’s friends who have the black version don’t seem to have the same problems?

    1. Interesting indeed…
      We tested using the “original” black S1 and didn’t experience issues in either syncing (tested with both Mac and PC) and advancing.
      Anyone else out there with the white version having trouble?

  23. Garmin Approach SW! ( white) purchased in March.2012. worked for sev weeks.
    Now, when push button for “START ROUND” the system does not advance, returns to time setting. Happens repeatedly.
    will not advance to Hole 1, despite assuring that Golf Course is loaded via satellite.
    Full Battery charge. Totally disgusted to pay this much $$ and not have Garmin
    Approach work properly. Sent watch back to Garmin.  Will they Repair???

  24. I got my S-1 in April and I love it, it works great and it FAST to pick up courses, I have ran into a few courses in the United Stated that the courses was not on it and that sucked but O well. But I need to have distances to hazards too. I recommend the S-1 to any golfer that plays more local golf at their home courses rather than a person that travels a lot. It helped me find the green quicker,but now upgrading to the S-3 for layup capability. Wish I could sell my S-1,,,

    1. My watch strap broke after 17 months and Garmin claim there are no known faults despite so many posts on the net which suggest Garmin watch straps are rubbish. AVOID GARMIN S1 at all costs unless you have money to burn.

  25. Planned obsolescence has set in after 2 years. Two months ago the charging clip broke. Today the wrist band broke.

    1. Gerry you are lucky, mine split after 17 months. Garmin burying their heads in the sand about the problem. £60 to replace strap-what a RIP OFF

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