Garmin Approach G8

Garmin Approach G8

The Garmin Approach G8 retains the sleek design of the prior generation Garmin G6, providing distances to the front/center/back of the green, selected hazards and doglegs and the ability to pinpoint the distance to any target on the course. To help plan your attack, the G8 can display layup arcs at 100, 150, 200 and 250 yards.

The most novel feature on the Approach G8 (and its sibling, the Garmin Approach G7) is slope-adjusted distances (wow!). The Garmin G7 and G8 are the only golf GPS devices to provide this information – slope-adjusted distances were previously only available on selected rangefinders. The G8 also offers club recommendations and the ability to receive email, text and call alerts (we’ll pass – we’ve left the office for a reason). And that’s not all – features not found on the Garmin Approach G7 (and Garmin Approach G6) are the ability to point you to the center of the green if you have a blind shot, and the ability to download course updates via Wi-Fi.

The Approach G8 has the same battery life as the rest of the family (an estimated 15 hours), multiple scoring options for up to four players, and the ability to track statistics such as fairways hit and putts. Relatively new is the Garmin Connect online portal to upload scores and track progress over time. Oh, and it’s waterproof to boot.

At a retail price of $350, the Approach G8 is $100 more than the Garmin Approach G7, which is a hefty price for additional functionality that we don’t value all that much. To us the primary benefit of the G8 is the larger 3″ screen, but if you frequently get stuck behind trees with a blind shot or like the ease of Wi-Fi for updating courses, perhaps you’ll find the extra dollars worth it.

Course Availability
Ease of Use
Course Details

  • Shows slope-adjusted distances for uphill and downhill shots
  • Ability to quickly target any point on the course via touchscreen
  • No annual fees for either device or online portal
  • Garmin Connect portal can save scores and track progress (though it needs some refinements…)


  • Fewer mapped targets than competing devices
  • A sequence of seven buttons is required to view your scorecard
  • Have to back out of the scoring screen after each hole in order to auto-advance to the next hole
  • Connection via Bluetooth to mobile device (iPhone) was spotty

Retail price: $349.99
Three-year total cost: $349.99 Check price now
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95 / A


At startup, you select the language and unit of distance (yards/meters) for the device, and can also enter estimates on how far you hit each club (which the device will then use to provide you with club recommendations). At a minimum you need to enter distances for three clubs – the G8 can extrapolate the rest if you like. Then, since all of the course maps are preloaded and there’s no need to make payment for an initial or yearly fee, you are ready to hit the course.

Though courses are pre-loaded on the device, you’ll want to check-in periodically to make sure you have the latest updates. Software and map updates repeatedly took less time than Garmin’s initial estimates, taking at most 25 minutes in total.

The desktop software is user-friendly, with the ability to get additional device info, help and manuals, and to reinstall maps. Connecting to a Wi-Fi network to download course maps and software is an easy process. We didn’t experience any of the software crashes that we have in the past – well done, Garmin!

Syncs of statistics and scoring from a round went smoothly when we connected through the USB cord. One hiccup is that we were often prompted to update map information on the device, which rerouted us to another Garmin page to download map information for hiking, etc. that was ultimately a dead end. We were unable, however, to get the Approach G8 to sync statistics and scoring data either via Wi-Fi or via Bluetooth through the use of our iPhone and the Garmin Connect mobile app. Ah who cares, this wireless technology will never catch on anyway, right?

What’s in the Box: The Garmin Approach G8 comes with:

  • USB cable
  • AC adapter
  • Belt Clip
  • Quick Start Manual
  • Safety and Product Information


99 / A+


The Garmin Approach G8, like the rest of the Garmin golf GPS device family, comes pre-loaded with courses. For Garmin, that’s a claimed 39,000 courses worldwide. As far as our course coverage comparison test goes, Garmin comes in at an exceptional 99%. What more is there to say?

93 / A-


The Approach G8 is nice and slim, 2.1″ x 4.4″ x 0.6″, and at under 4 ounces is one of the lightest handheld golf GPS devices. The 3″ and 240 x 400 pixel color touchscreen is fine in sunlight and under clouds, though we generally kept it at the highest brightness settings to make it easier to read, even at the expense of some battery life. The device is so small, that we actually wouldn’t mind if the body, and screen, was a bit larger.

Using the device is straightforward, including utilizing the touchscreen to target points and enter scores. There are a number of user interface elements, however, that drove us batty, including an inability to easily access your scorecard, the need to manually exit the scoring screen and return to the hole view in order for the device to auto-advance to the next hole, and the requirement to type in a new player name if you (accidentally) select the player on a certain screen. These aren’t deal breakers, but they make the device a bit more annoying to use than it needs to be.

Garmin Approach G8 Golf GPS Device

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  • Buttons. The Garmin Approach G8 has three physical buttons: a power/menu button on the left side of the device, and, just below the screen, a Score/Measure button and a Green/Pin Pointer button. All other controls are accessed through soft buttons on the touchscreen. The interface on the touchscreen is intuitive, and the ways to access different functions are clearly labeled. In addition to the soft buttons that appear on screen, certain views also enable scrolling between menus, something we didn’t expect but were glad to have. We had some issues with the device freezing when we were scrolling through menus, but overall the device worked very well.
  • Touchscreen Sensitivity. We found the Garmin G8 is extremely touch-sensitive, for better or for worse. This sensitivity is helpful when you’re targeting points, placing the flagstick, entering scores, and otherwise interacting with the screen. All too often, however, we found ourselves on a screen we didn’t expect when we pulled the device out of a pocket – whether it was another hole, a different view, on a screen to rename a player, or once, in a different language. If you keep the device attached to your belt or on a cart, you won’t have these issues. You can also lock the screen to minimize these issues, but the additional effort required to lock and unlock the screen with each shot didn’t seem worth it.
  • Starting a Round. After powering up, you simply select the desired course from a scrollable list based on proximity to your current location. The G8 will then default to starting on the 1st Hole, from which you can manually advance if needed, such as when you’re playing the back 9 or in a shotgun start.
  • Battery Life. The internal rechargeable lithium polymer battery is marketed as providing up to 15 hours of life, although our usage was generally around 9-10 hours. The backlight setting and time to sleep will certainly impact the battery life, though you can expect to make it through at least one round even on full brightness and with the device always on.

For more details, check out the Critical Golf comparison of golf GPS ease of use.

92 / A-


The Garmin Approach G8 uses bright graphic maps for course image details. With the ability to touch any point to receive distance information, selected hazards and doglegs, and layup arcs, you’ll have most of what you need to create a game plan for the hole. “PlaysLike” distances, the slope-adjusted yardages, are also displayed next to all distances unless otherwise indicated, but you can turn these off at any time.

One key item we would change is the somewhat random nature of when distances to mapped targets are displayed, and where distances are positioned relative to the point where you are touching the screen (these should be moved a bit to make them easier to read and not be obscured by your finger). We also wouldn’t mind a text-only view of hazard and layup information – hey, there is a text view of green information, why not take advantage of other Garmin data?

Garmin Approach G8 Golf GPS Device

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  • Views. The Garmin Approach G8 provides a “Hole View” with an image of the hole, and a “Green View” that displays the green and immediate surrounding area. The device allows smooth placement of target points and the flagstick.
    • Hole View. This view shows a graphic of the hole, and on par 4s and 5s, will display colored layup arcs at 100, 150, 200 and, for par 5s only, 250 yards from the pin. Any user modification to the flagstick position in Green View (see below) will be reflected in the Hole View screen as well. Select hazard distances will be shown, though they will not include “PlaysLike” distances. Distances, with the exception of to the flagstick, will start to drop off the screen when you either pass that point on the hole or are within 10-15 yards of a particular point.The top right of the view will display the distance to the flagstick and, after selecting another point, the total distance to that point and then to the flagstick. A tap on the distance indicated on the top right will toggle the view to a simple text-only (“Big Numbers”) view showing near-center-far points on the green. Depending on the hole, there ,may be distances shown to selected hazards and doglegs.

      When starting the hole we had usability issues in targeting a point, with the device rarely recognizing our initial press. Regardless of whether you have selected a point, as you advance closer to the hole, the view will continue to zoom in on the remaining hole until you are at the green. In order to manually zoom, you need to select a point and then touch a “zoom” button. There is only one level of manual zoom available, and in this view distances to mapped targets will not be shown (though yardage arcs will). If you want to zoom in to a different point, you need to step back to the full hole view, pick a new point, and then zoom again. The hole view will rotate based on player position so you are always advancing from the bottom of the screen to the top.

      When targeting a point on the course, the point and distance may both be obscured by your finger. However, when you lift your finger from the screen both the cross-hair and distance will remain displayed until you push the “back” button to return to the original hole view. Ideally, the yardages while targeting would appear farther below where you are touching the screen, as well as to the left (for those using the device with their right hand) so you could actually see them.

      As you touch to select a point, in addition to receiving updated distances to that point and from the point to the hole, club advice at the bottom of the screen will continuously update to provide the suggested club and distance, along with a distance arc. Having club recommendations readily available and the associated distance arc seemed pretty cool to us!

      Unfortunately, while there may be pre-mapped or user mapped points for a hole, those distances aren’t shown consistently, either when starting the hole or in a zoomed in view. There is no way to toggle these distances to remain on or off, and they may not appear when you would like to know the distance and not have to use the touchscreen.

    • Green View. Shows the green and surrounding hazards if appropriate, and enables you to touch any point on the green to modify the flagstick position. Distances are shown to the flagstick position, plus the near and far points in line with the flagstick. Once you change the flagstick position the G8 will continue to keep the new position regardless of view, and distances in other views will be to this updated flagstick position. After you select the Green View, the view to the hole will not continue to rotate based on player position.
  • Hole Information. The hole number and par are visible on the Hole View screen. Par is shown as a portion of a row of dots, but the number of dots wasn’t always easy to read.
  • Custom Mapping. You can save additional target points to an existing course map, which will be shown in Hole View as small red squares. These points can be set either using your current position or using touch targeting on the screen.As with Garmin’s pre-mapped targets, these custom distances will not always be displayed – rather the G8 will only show them when it thinks you need to know them. As you might suspect, this doesn’t always jibe with what you actually want.

The main menu screen has the time, GPS signal strength, Bluetooth indicator, battery life, and adjustable brightness bar. You can also access notifications, save a new target point, lock the device or access other preferences.

95 / A

The main feature that separates the G8 from other golf GPS devices (the exception being the Garmin Approach G7), is the new “PlaysLike Distance”, which provides the slope-adjusted distance. Combine this with most of the features that you could ever need, and you have a useful device.

Most of the main features listed below can be turned on and off through the main screen.


  • “PlaysLike” Distance. The Garmin Approach G8 features slope-adjusted distance information to assist when you’re playing uphill or downhill. PlaysLike distances are shown just below or to the side of the line-of-sight distance, depending on the screen view. Even though you can turn this feature off, this makes the G8 a non-conforming device in the USGA’s eyes, so if you’re going to be playing tournaments, this isn’t the golf GPS device for you. We found this feature to be interesting, though we can’t tell you that it is completely accurate. The device often told us we were slightly up or downhill when the opposite was true. Our best guess is this because the device knows the elevations for a somewhat limited number of points on the course – if you’re on a particularly hilly course, these inaccuracies may become more apparent. We found the feature more helpful on shots between defined tiers or where there were significant elevation changes.
  • Club Advice.. By entering your club distances, or tracking them over time using the Shot Measurement feature (see below), you enable the G8 to recommend clubs. This may be handy, but again, is non-conforming for the USGA. We didn’t really take advantage of this feature, but you may find it helpful as a quick way to know what club to pull. And if it keeps round times down, we are all for it!
  • PinPointer. Lost in the woods? This is for you. Well, it also applies to those courses that have blind shots (our least favorite course design feature). With a press of one of the physical buttons below the screen, a compass is displayed showing the direction of the center of the green. Well, at least that’s the intention. It provides a reasonable direction indication, though we have seen it off by up to approximately 20 degrees. As a result, we only used this feature when we really had no idea where the green was.
  • Shot Measurement. A press of another physical button allows you to begin tracking shot distances. You can then assign the distance to a club in order to calculate club averages.
  • Auto Hole Recognition/Auto Advance. The G8 will automatically recognize the course you’re on and start you on the 1st Hole. You can select whether there are automatic or manual hole transitions, though note that if you also want to track your score during the round, you’ll need to manually exit the scoring screens in order to have auto-advance work. It’s not perfect – it didn’t advance on all holes, got lost on one course repeatedly, and sometimes asked us if we were ready to quit our round when we were on the 18th tee (maybe it could tell that our round was going so poorly that we had no interest in playing the last hole).
  • Score and Statistics. The Garmin Approach G8 continues along the line of previous Garmin devices in enabling the tracking of relatively basic stats for each hole: score, putts, and fairways hit for you, and score only for up to three other players. No sand saves or penalty strokes. One of our pet peeves is that if you want to see your scorecard (or stats) while playing, you need to press a sequence of 7…yes SEVEN…buttons in order to get to it. Bad, bad, bad.You can view round history from the device itself or through one of two different ways on a computer: either through a very simple “Scorecard Viewer” app that is launched from the GARMIN drive when it is plugged in, or via the online Garmin Connect portal. You have the option to select what type of scoring and also whether to track stats.

    And while we were able to get the Garmin G8 to pair with our iPhone to provide messages (see below), we were unable to get the Garmin G8 to pass data to the Garmin Connect Mobile App on our iPhone to then be uploaded to Garmin Connect. Not ideal, but minor enough that we don’t mind.

  • Garmin Connect online portal. The Garmin Connect portal is okay, but not great. You can see device settings, history, and stats easily. The charts, however, were lacking in things such as a labeled x-axis (the latest stats are at the left and older at right). The charts also include 18 and 9 hole scores relative to par (or stats such as GIR), which renders the charts useless if you are a regular 9-hole player. Oh, and it asks us every time we log in if we want a tour. We don’t.
  • Notifications. Connecting via Bluethooth worked some of the time, and not others. When it was working it was fairly easy to access the notifications – though note that you won’t be able to read the full text of your emails.
  • Preferences. The Garmin Approach G8 has a wide range of adjustable preferences: player names, measurement unit (yards vs. meters), clubs in the bag and average yardages, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, calibrate Pinpointer, backlight timeout, and brightness. Preferences can be modified during the round.

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

92 / A-


The Garmin G8 conforms to the standard GPS accuracy of being within a few yards of sprinkler heads and other distance markers. We did see some issues with hazards in particular – for example, the G8 would show us in a bunker when we were still a good 10 yards to the side. We also saw some courses with key points missing, such as cart paths and a number of trees, including those that were well in play, and in some cases, located in the fairway. We didn’t find any accuracy issues in terms of GPS location, but rather only in terms of mapping.

The only significant issue we found was with one out-of-date map for a course in a small town in the Midwest that was updated a number of years ago. So even through the device may indicate a course is “Updated”, keep in mind this refers to the device having Garmin’s latest maps, even if those maps are out-of-date.

89 / B+


The Garmin Approach G8 retails for $349.99 and has no additional fees, putting it on par with other golf GPS handhelds that offer solid feature sets in our cost comparison of golf GPS devices.

The device that players will most often compare to the Garmin G8 is its little brother, the Garmin Approach G7, which retails for $100 less. The key benefits of the G8 over the G7 are, in order of importance to us, a larger screen (3.0″ v 2.6″ diagonal), higher display resolution (240×400 v 160×240), Wi-Fi and PinPointer. The other differences are a slightly larger body and a bit more weight with the Approach G8, though we consider these to be minor.

We are fans of the Garmin Approach G8’s form factor, lack of additional fees, and ability to easily determine distances, though have some concern around ease of use and the relatively small number of pre-mapped hazards displayed. The device and Garmin Connect online portal could both use some polish, but all in all, it is a good device. The additional cost for features such as PlaysLike or Wi-Fi aren’t really worth the price to us, but the value of these will undoubtedly depend on the player.

Retail price: $349.99
Three-year total cost: $349.99 Check price now
Golfsmith: Check price now