Customer Reviews: Garmin Approach S3 GPS Golf Watch (Black)
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Edition: black|Change
Price:$159.00+ Free shipping
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on July 24, 2012
Let me begin by saying I am not a scratch golfer. I typically shoot in the high 80's. I've owned a skycaddie and utilized the golfshot app on my iphone. The sky-caddie was ok....I would regularly forget to bring it with me and became annoyed with the subscription model. I also grew tired of it's bulkiness. The golfshot app was cool but it was murder on my iphone battery. I also didn't particularly like exposing my Iphone to the elements. I had a few close calls when it bounced out the golf cart and fortunately landed on grass.

So I made my mind up to invest in another yardage aide. I spent a week researching and weighing the pros and cons of gps vs. laser. It came down to a few key points. First, as I mentioned previously, I am not a scratch golfer. I like exact distances but do not hit my clubs consistently enough for +/- 5 yards to make that much of a difference. Second, I know me. The idea of taking a laser rangefinder out every time I need a distance is unappealing. It'll end up staying in my bag after the novelty of it wore off. The exact distance a laser rangefinder provides is appealing but overkill for the vast majority of golfers including me. Most of us only need a fairly accurate distance. Third, I wanted something that was portable enough to ensure I would use it frequently.

Admittedly, handheld gps units are good but cannot match the accuracy of a good laser unit. That's not the point. GPS units allow you to enjoy the game by giving you fairly accurate distances to hazards and greens. They also serve to speed up the game. If you've ever golfed a public course on a Saturday you know what I mean (people searching for yardage markers, etc.).

So here's my take on the Approach S3 after two rounds. Set-up was fairly easy with the exception of the language issue others have mentioned. I followed the instructions of one of the other reviewers and it worked. The first time at the course it took about 4 minutes to acquire the satellites. The second round (at a different course) it took less than a minute. The yardages seemed to be spot on 50 yards or more from the green. Inside of 50 yards I became skeptical of the yardage the S3 was giving. Fortunately, I rely mostly on feel at that distance anyway so it wasn't a deal breaker for me. I think this issue is endemic to most GPS units.

The "measure" feature is pretty cool and easy to use. There is a dedicated button on the upper left hand side of the unit and was helpful in enabling me to check my club distances frequently. The scoring feature inaccurately showed my score in each round but I later found that either I failed to enter in my score on one of the holes or it didn't register. Either way, I was able to go back and update for the missing hole and it correctly calculated the score. I'll keep an eye on this and update accordingly.

Battery life is acceptable. I had about 70% of battery life left after a three and a half hour round. It should be able to get through a two round day.

I love the portability of the unit....being able to look down at your wrist and get a distance is great. My buddy, who has a Sky Caddie SGX, started asking me for distances when he saw the Approach was mirroring the distances he got from his Sky Caddie. You just can't beat the convenience.

My one complaint is the "green view". Moving the flag pin on the watch can be frustrating at times due to the size of the's just not conducive to that type of feature. Each time it took more than one try to position the flag stick correctly but not annoying enough to be a deal breaker.

In conclusion, I don't think you will be disappointed with the S3 if you're expectations for accuracy are grounded. Remember, it will not be as accurate as a laser rangefinder (given you use the laser correctly...they have their own set of issues).
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on July 17, 2012
I absolutely love this thing. I have used a Skycaddy and a uPro in the past and this blows them away. It is very accurate, and keeps score well(Just remember to go to the score card on each hole). The biggest plus for me is it is ALWAYS on. I don't have to push a button to see my yardage, I just glance at my wrist. It has also had every course I've played so far(although that's only 6 courses so far).
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on May 27, 2013
I previously owned the S-1. It was 'Rock Solid' and easy to work, aside from the poor battery life (which is my only complaint on the S-1). I recently 'upgraded' to the S-3, and finally took it back after 2 weeks. It required 'rebooting' it 2 or 3 times (each time I played golf) in order to obtain a Menu which would look for local golf courses - this occurred repeatedly - each and every time I'd play golf. I did not find it's operation or touchscreen intuitive, so I took the time to re-read the instruction booklet, and also watched a YouTube instruction video. Believing that I now 'understood' it's operation, it was used (twice) after that, with the exact same result - It would need to be 'rebooted' 2-3 times in order to bring up the Menu to search for courses, and would intermittently become locked on one hole, and not advance to any subsequent holes. I finally took it back to the Pro Shop and watched a Golf Professional, who claimed to be familiar with the S-3, experience the same frustrations! (The Golf Pro also admitted that he had other customers experiencing similar difficulties with the S-3.)

The S-2 is 'Rock Solid' with dedicated external buttons allowing the user to easily access the desired features. Unfortunately, the S-3 did not prove to be user-friendly - to myself or 2 others I know who also purchased it.

Maybe Garmin is attempting to incorporate too many technical features into a touch-screen with the S-3; I am not sure. But I can state unequivocally that you can spend more time attempting to get the S-3 to 'work' than it's worth. Moreover, it can become a real distraction when playing golf.

One more reason I would not recommend the S-3.......the charging adapter for the S-1 & S-2 (while different in how they clip on) are compatible. In fact, Garmin made a real improvement with the charging 'clip' for the S-2. However, the S-3 charging adapter is completely different and is not interchangeable or useable on the S-1 or S-2......the S-3 charging clip is also magnetized, so you'll need to ensure that it is not placed in proximity of any other digital devices according to the S-3 Instruction Booklet. (I'd call that "Three Steps Forward - And 2 Steps Backward")

Recommendation: Go with the S-2 (or the older S-1) if you want dependable & dedicated button access in operating the watch.
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on August 16, 2012
This watch is an absolute delight for a 16 handicap golfer. For years I have used a Golf Buddy and valued it. But the Approach S3 makes the Golf Buddy obsolete. Some of the reviewers had programming and Garmin support problems, but I never had any problems so I never called support. I recently went to half a dozen northeast Iowa golf courses (yes-it's good golf in Iowa in the rolling NE part), and the S3 contained all the obscure little courses and my Golf Buddy had none. Glancing at the wrist is much easier than digging a hand unit out of your pocket. And no one knows you are checking the distance rather than time, so it's seamless.

Small problems which don't override the 5 Star rating are these: (1) It is difficult to get the watch unlocked with the "easy glove or finger sweep" across the face, and I always need to make multiple hard swipes across the watch to get into golf course mode. (2) The battery gets drained quickly. I found after 34 holes it went blank. If you play no more than 27 holes, it's fine. (3) The wrist strap has a notch which the end of the strap fits into--that makes it harder to put on and remove the watch and I wonder how long the strap will last. (4) I couldn't get it to show an actual shot of the hole, so other competitors are better for that. If you're a scratch golfer you may need more hole layout information. Us 16 handicappers get along fine with it. Would an S1 work as well? Maybe so, but I am a fish with a big mouth for golf toy lures.

UPDATE on 10-1-12: Recently my watch just died and wouldn't take a charge. I called customer support and talked to Dean. Great help. He assisted me (patiently) with updating the software, and it cured not only the "go blank" problem but also the difficulty I had getting the watch to course mode from the watch. I am still giving the watch five stars--I love the convenience of wearing it and now I am a 14.2--down from 16.4, maybe thanks a little to the S3. I'd buy it again if it dropped in a water hazard. And if you are having problems, call customer support and update your software. Great toys are worthless when they don't work. And heaven when they do.
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on June 24, 2012
***UPDATE/3Sept12***Problem with wrong language? Read instructions below.

The S3 does not post the par scores of previous holes by holding down the scoring button if they were not previously posted as gpscity states on youtube in their Keeping Score video. I also have found that the S3 will change holes too soon sometimes, which can lead to scoring errors if you haven't noticed that it has advanced to the next hole before scoring. What I do now as a work around is, I press the scoring button as I get onto the green so it can't move to the next hole before I score the current hole. It doesn't happen often, but messes the scoring up when it does and you don't notice. I've suggested to Garmin that they need to do a firmware upgrade that requires the S3 to look and see if the hole was scored before it moves to the next hole...This would solve my biggest complaint with this GPS watch...Otherwise its been great so far with about 10 rds played with it.


The best way to move the pin in "Green View" is to touch your finger dead center of the green(vertical/horizontal cross lines will appear). While still touching the screen, ROLL your finger in the direction of the current pin location. As you roll your finger, watch the cross lines to estimate the new location. This works pretty good in getting the pin location where you need it....This should be in Garmins instructions.

***Language Fix***

For people that have a problem with a foreign language being displayed...Which I did, do this:

1) Touch to go to the menu screen at the right side of the S3. You will need to unlock the display.
2) Tap the up arrow 2 times. This will put the Setup selection in the middle section of the display.
3) Select Setup in the middle of the display, then tap the up arrow 2 times. This will put the Language selection in the middle section of the display.
4) Select Language in the middle of the display and then tap the Up/Down arrows to find English language. Tap English to select it.

Have used the S3 twice. I think there may be a minor glitch with the scoring. I'm not sure about this and will verify what's going on during my next few rounds. It sometimes does not score if you have a par and go to scoring the hole...Don't touch anything, as it is already scored at par and then go back to yardage screen...I will try touching the screen for pars and not touching the screen before I move back to the yardage screen and move on to the next hole. Again, I need to verify this and I understand that if you get a par on one hole...2,3 or 4 holes in a row (without scoring them) and then get a...SNOWMAN. When you get the Snowman and change the score for the hole to 8 you will need to hold the score button down to post the previous par's. If you don't do this, they will not get posted on the score card. The instructions say nothing about this. I got that from here: ([...])

I didn't do any updates so I don't know about that problem that someone had.

Looks like 4 hours of play leaves the battery at 50% level from my experience.

Great little Golf GPS/Watch...I wear it loosely on my left wrist...which works out, as my glove stops the S3 from sliding down my wrist. After 2 rounds I don't think about it anymore. I just hope the battery can be replaced as there is no mention of this anywhere in the manual.
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on July 21, 2013
First let me say that I really enjoy the functionality especially on courses that I am unfamiliar with.

I have yet to find a course that is not pre-loaded in the watch.

The watch face is easy to read in the direct sun light. Very good to know where you are on long par 5s and on any blind shots that you happen to experience. The yardage is immediate and is always spot-on, so you can trust it to select the correct club. Not only are you confident in your club selection, but it also helps you keep up a good pace as you are not manually calculating distances. I use it in conjunction with a range finder when I am within 200 yds. of the hole.

The battery will last for 27 holes...if you turn it on right as you start your round.

Now for the HUGE disappointment.

I purchased the white and red version of this watch. I have had it for a complete season and it has yellowed to the point where it is embarrassing to wear. It looks like a plastic lawn chair that was left in the sun for 15 yrs.

Garmin knows that this is a product that will be worn in the sun...all the is it that they use a material that does not fade, but it YELLOWS?

For a watch at this price point, it is inexcusable.
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on August 8, 2012
This is by far the most unobtrusive and straightforward GPS device I have used on the course. I have used numerous GPS devices all have worked as expected but my issue with all of them is that they are too large to not be unobtrusive in a pocket and then I am constantly leaving them in the cart. Once you charge this Garmin fully and set it up, which is really straight forward if you follow the instructions, it works flawlessly. It takes a while to learn how the navigate the device but that is true with any GPS gadget. Distances are accurate, the score keeping is simple. It moves from hole to hole much faster than my previous gadgets did. All in all I am very satisfied.
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on August 29, 2012
I read all the reviews and had some trepidations but this turned out to be a fanastic little gadget. Its very accurate (as compared to course markings), extremely convient, very intuitive to use and has great features - I particularly like the score keeping and measuremet features. I was concerned about some of the issues people had written about as follows: Language issues - no issue as my Garmin was already set to English; software updating issues - true, the website they specified in the manual does not exist but I just clicked on the help/support button on the Garmin site and very quickly found the software update information (note that I'm pretty much a computer illiterate). Updating was a snap, literally; freezing up - if this was an issue they fixed it with updated software as I have not experienced any such issue; charging problems - absolutely no issue; slow to access satelite - mine accesses in less than a minute.

There are a couple of minor things they probably could have done better: you do have to swipe the unlock feature more than a couple of times to unlock the watch. It does not provide hazard information (but there is a save location feature that's pretty neat). Battery life will last for 36 holes only if you're playing quickly, otherwise, count on 27 holes. These are the only cons I can think of and none would cause me to give less than a 5 star rating.

This little gem may not improve my swing but its a joy to use and I'm sure I'll be refining my club distance knowledge to improve my overall game now that I have a convient measurement tool at the tip of fingers (or on my wrist).
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on June 19, 2012
I get what you all are saying about getting the S3 into English. I figured that out finally. But as a previous S1 user my home courses were all accurate. However with the S3 - one course is wrong - a par 3 is a par 5 and a par 4 is a par 3 and etc. When I contacted Garmin the update time given was six months. By then it will be winter. Problems with new products I get - but six months is too long for corrections for a device used predominately in the summer. Keep you S1 or buy an S1 for now and wait on the S3.
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on July 13, 2014
I've been playing golf for nearly 20 years and have never had any sort of ranger finder. I always relied on markers and such and mostly was pretty spot on. However, THIS WATCH HAS CHANGED MY GAME.

First time out:
-The night prior I charged the watch, too easy. The charging cradle is MAGNETIC and is dummy-proof. The next day I put it on and headed to the course.
FEEL: I wear an "oversized" TIMEX watch (I have small wrists as well) and this fit like a brand new golf glove, AMAZING. It didn't get in the way of my swing nor my glove.

DURABILITY: So far I've worn it once on the course for 18 holes and around town. There were some complaints on the durability of the band but this seems SOLID. I wouldn't wear this watch on any sort of endurance race or through the woods (unless you hit your ball there) but for the course and normal wear, this watch is as high of quality as I would have expected from Garmin.

INTERFACE: As soon as I walked outside the time synced with GPS, NO PROGRAMMING NEEDED! The touch screen is great and EASILY navigable. I didn't notice the buttons on the side. They're nice if you use it to keep score (I haven't yet as I use Nike Golf 360 app) and the "distance" button (top right) is great for measuring shots, you push it from where you hit to where the ball landed, TOO EASY. Now I was able to actually see real-world number of my shots. AWESOME!

USE DURING PLAY: I drove to the course and several courses around me came up, with the one I was at on top. I selected it and it started at hole one and gave me the distance to the pin, front, and back (as you see in most photos of the watch). Whenever I moved around the tee box, the numbers changed accordingly, and VERY QUICKLY. You can also use the distance to doglegs and the 150/200 yard markers. Finally knowing the distance to dog legs was GREAT! I was able to change up my teeing options and nail the doglegs instead of hitting a driver or 3 wood and wondering if they would stay on the fairway. GREAT TOOL!
-After the tee shot, this watch was ABSOLUTE MONEY. I was able to stick a few greens and change my club options by knowing the EXACT distance to the pin. You can even physically move the pin on the "green view" which was also pretty amazing.
-At one point the watch switched to another hole (as noted by another reviewer) but all I did was literally press UP or DOWN on the screen (top or bottom) and it switched to the hole that I was on and was accurate to the pin (I may have bumped or accidentally touched the screen). This ONLY HAPPENED ONCE and rest assured that it doesn't register wayward motions or touches, at least it didn't for me during the rest of the course. I'm not sure of the "downtime" between presses but you'll find yourself having to "swipe" across the screen to make changes. It's not a pain at all and I like the design.

ODOMETER: I didn't realize until before I started that I could use the odometer to track my overall walking distance. It also keeps time via a timer and lets you see how fast you're playing as well. Pretty great! I finished walking 18 holes and also ran a 3 mile course afterward by MAPPING IT OUT with the watch. Too cool! I've never had a GPS watch before and this was great!

UPDATING: When I returned home I plugged it into my computer with the included USB cable. On the watch face it gave me the website to go to (again, dummy proof!) I went there and had to download a small program (Garmin Express) and it quickly recognized my watch. There were 5 updates (2 watch software) to include map updates! Again, too easy. I had to restart the watch (top left button) and turn it back on for the updates to apply. Simple, fast, and easy.

BOTTOM LINE: I haven't worn watches when golfing up until a few weeks ago (knowing that I wanted a GPS watch). It doesn't hinder my play or throw my swing off whatsoever. I personally believe that this is WAY BETTER than using a laser distance range finder (beats carrying it around!). Knowing distance to the hole (for me anyhow) allows me to also know the distances to any hazards (which the watch DOES NOT give you distances to). This IS NOT a deal breaker for me!
-Having been jammed up after the 10th hole and falling out of rhythm, I nailed a +8, not bad given the windy conditions. Do I think that I was able to take strokes off with the watch? Absolutely. Before checking distance a couple of times I chose what club I thought I should use and then checked distance. A few times I changed clubs and stuck it right on the green; I was ecstatic!

WHY I CHOSE THE S3: I was torn between the less expensive S1/2 and the more-expensive-with-more-features S6. For me I don't need anymore features than what the S3 has (I don't need the smartphone notification, color maps, swing tempo, etc). Here is a link to the comparison on the Garmin website (scroll down): [...] .These all seemed more than what I actually needed a distance finder for. If you want DISTANCE, GREEN VIEWS, ODOMETER, etc, this watch is perfect for you. If you want to keep track of phone calls and want color maps on your wrist, then get the more expensive watch (Me personally I don't care to know who is calling and the score cards and signs on the course ALREADY give you the course layout!) Also, for less than $199 this was a GREAT INVESTMENT and price point for me. Want SIMPLICITY but also some STYLE? Then this watch is for you. My girlfriend and a few buddies even commented on how nice it looked.

The best in making your decision and I hope that this review was able to help out!
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