Garmin continues to add to its family of golf GPS watches with the introduction of the Approach S2. Garmin has made the curious decision to have three models with relatively slight feature differences. Unfortunately for the Approach S2, it takes the spot of the awkward middle child in the family, without the advanced features found on the S3, but priced at $70 above the S1.

Each model builds on the feature set of the previous model, starting with the entry-level S1. The S2 adds the ability to keep score on the watch and obtain distance information to layups and doglegs, but does not have the S3‘s touchscreen, ability to position the flagstick on the green for a precise distance, or ability to add custom target points.
Unfortunately, we’ll have to hold our breath and wait for future model to get statistics tracking, distances to pre-mapped hazards, or syncing of scores to an online golf portal.

The Garmin Approach S2 is a good-looking watch (although we could do without the “S2” logo emblazoned under the face in a font which may have been stolen from 80s hair band S1 and the S3 (why else would the product names have evolved in the way they did), but the launch of the S2 is concurrent with the introduction of a number of lower-priced watches with similar (though not identical) feature sets, such as the Skycaddie WATCH, the IZZO Swami Watch and the Bushnell NEO-X watch. The fact that we ultimately rated the S2 lower than the S1 isn’t a statement on the quality of the device, but rather is reflective of its pricing among an increasingly crowded and competitive field.

SCORE
89
GRADE
B+
Setup/Syncing
98
Course Availability
99
Ease of Use
98
Course Details
75
Features
80
Accuracy
92
Cost/Value
87

Pros:

Cons:

Retail price: $179.99 (down from $199.99 at launch)
Three year total cost: $179.99
Availability: No longer manufactured but still available; replaced by the Garmin Approach S3 watch
Amazon.com: Check price now
Golfsmith: Check price now


98 / A+

SETUP/SYNCING

The Good: Courses worldwide preloaded. Charging clip is easy to use (it shares the same charging clip as the S3, which is much better than the one for the S1). The entire process from download and installation of syncing software to updating course maps went perfectly.

The Bad: If we want to be picky, the time to install the courses is a bit long.

Details:

What’s in the Box: The Garmin Approach S2 comes with:

Recommended Downloads:


99 / A+

COURSE AVAILABILITY

Critical Golf Test: The Garmin Approach S2 golf GPS watch uses the same map database as the rest of the Garmin Approach family of devices, with near perfect 99% coverage in our course coverage test.

Manufacturer’s Claims: The S2 watch comes preloaded with 30,000 courses worldwide, placing it above average among GPS devices tested.


98 / A+

EASE OF USE

The Good: The watch form factor is very useful, and navigating through the device’s screens is easy.

The Bad: When all layups/doglegs drop from view as players near the green, the watch defaults to “time view” instead of “hole view”

Garmin Approach S2 GPS Watch

Click to enlarge

Details:

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


75 / C

COURSE DETAIL AND MAPPING

The Good: The Garmin Approach S2 provides distances to near, center and far points of the green (“near” and “far” points being relative to player position), rather than being limited to fixed front and back points.

The Bad: Though the Approach S2 provides layup and dogleg distances on par 4s and 5s, these aren’t nearly as helpful as pre-mapped hazard and other target information would be. No ability to add custom mapped targets on each hole, as you can with the Garmin Approach S3 watch.

Garmin Approach S2 GPS Watch

Click for views

Details:

Suggestion Box: Garmin already has a large number of targets pre-mapped in their course database, and should leverage this by including hazard information, either in addition to or replacing their existing Layup/Dogleg View.


80 / B-

FEATURES

The Good: Scoring is available (although we have our quibbles about its implementation). The watch is waterproof! Go on out and play in that thunderstorm! I don’t think the heavy stuff’s gonna come down for quite awhile…

The Bad: Still no online portal to save scores and track performance over time. Players can’t modify settings without exiting their current round.

Details:

Suggestion Box: Garmin offers online portals for GPS devices that it offers in non-golf categories, so we hope they leverage this work and offer one to Approach owners, along the lines of those from Callaway, Motorola and SkyGolf (though note that SkyCaddie WATCH owners can’t sync their watch with the SkyCaddie portal…odd!).

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


92 / A-

ACCURACY

The Garmin S2 returned distances to green points within our expected range of 4 yards, as accurate as other dedicated devices. Comparison to green front and back were compared to marked on-course points in the center of the fairway, as the watch no longer displays distances to near and far green points once the player is within 30-40 yards of the point (this varies slightly depending on the hole). The center of the green distance continues to be displayed throughout the hole, regardless of distance.

We were unable to confirm the accuracy of distances to layup points or doglegs, as these distances will no longer be displayed once the user is within 30-40 yards as well, but estimating visually they appeared to be within the same range of accuracy as green points.

Head-to-head against other Garmin devices, distances were all within the standard range of several yards of error.


87 / B+

COST/VALUE

Retail Price: Garmin is keeping their price points on the high side, and at $179.99 (though down from $199.99 at launch) its price is higher than the SkyCaddie WATCH, and at the level of many of the more full-featured handheld golf GPS devices.

Fees for Access to Course Database: As with other devices in the Garmin family, the Approach S2 carries no additional fees for course map updates. So take those savings to the Encore Resort in Las Vegas!

Three-Year Total Cost of Ownership: With no additional yearly fees to download the latest course information, the three-year total cost for the Garmin Approach S2 remains $179.99, still above average in overall cost over three years across all golf GPS devices.

Value: The Garmin Approach S2 is one of the most expensive golf GPS watches in our tests, and also one of the priciest GPS devices overall that lacks pre-mapped hazards. Sure you get the convenience of having information available on your wrist and a user-friendly device, but you’re paying a premium for the Garmin name and near-center-far green points. At this price we now expect a bit more – hazard information, ability to track statistics, or an online portal to track progress over time.