Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Garmin Approach S2 GPS Watch - a short and simple review by a first time user

Garmin Approach S2 - GPS Watch  ( more photos of features at bottom of article)

I play golf for over 25 years now. Some professional and some amateur golf and I did so using all the basic tools. Golf clubs, balls, clothes and whatever the course offered. That most likely was some distance markers, sprinkler heads with distances and yardage books. Later on I started using satellite imaging to prepare my rounds and then added google earth.

I must say I played well and made my way around the course  in a confident way . playing good scores without caddy.  It was not until 2011 that I decided I will give some technology a shot. So I got myself a range finder A great addition to my game and I  was able to improve my game and learn about my  true club distances. So with  45 I almost got back to where I was in terms of handicap and ability some 20 years ago.

Over the past 2 almost 3 years I was playing well with my gadget and never had any desire to add yet another one. What was interesting to me though, is that most players I was on the course with had a GPS or both  a rangefinder and a GPS . I am talking
about low handicappers mostly. While I was working with pin sheets provided  by tournament organizers most of them seem to use the two gadgets to find their way safely to and on the green. I observed that when in trouble , like trees or similar, those golfers were ready much faster than I was and  seemed to have better results with their shots.

So a couple weeks ago I tried a GPS app on my phone. Free trial. Amazing. Together with my rangefinder I actually played the second best round of the year and that without any practice for 2 months because of a back injury I had to cure.

From there on I checked out GPS products  in stores and online . Funny , but  from the day I had interest in it it seemed to me that on TV they showed nothing but rangefinders The one I saw most often by far, Garmin Approach S 2.  I did not think much about it  and never really got going. 1 week ago though I was sitting with my sponsor talking about how we proceed and what can help me to progress. I  told the story about the GPS golf round after my injury and explained that it seems like that having a GPS in addition to a rangefinder, the yardage book and the pin sheet,  feels like having your own caddie on hand and that not only my confidence goes up when I have better information , but also  I am learning more about my distances with my clubs on the course.

That same evening I looked online for the Garmin  Approach S 2. Found some good reviews and compared to other GPS watches, it came out way ahead.  Checking for prices I found a good offer at Dick’s Sporting Goods online. So we  actually went there right away since I had a tournament round the  next day anyway.

Entering the store, the store professional ,  an old friend of mine, already was at the entrance and he actually had a coupon in hand for exactly what I was looking for. On top of that  the price was reduced another 50 $ . So I ended up getting the  Garmin Approach S 2 for 149  $ plus tax after 50 $ mail in  rebate  and instance store rebate. What a deal . I would have paid 299 $ without even asking and now I paid half.

I was excited to get it ready  to use. The rest of the evening I spend preparing and learning.  It was really easy to go through the manual and learn how the  product works. I charged it  all the way , which took a couple hours or so and then started to check it out. I would say it took me about 15 minutes and I had my new gadget under control .

So, in terms of getting started I have to say, it is easy  and anybody can do it.  Next morning I was scheduled to play a skins game  tournament and  was pretty excited to give this GPS  watch a try. My biggest concern was if I can  handle something  on  my  arm/wrist while playing golf. After all I stopped wearing a watch about 7 years ago  and I  never considered  to wear one again especially while golfing.

So I put it on very early to give it some time. similar to shoes.  Amazingly  I hardly felt it on my wrist or arm. The Garmin Approach S 2 is so light and sits nicely on my  wrist. Felt good  even just wearing it as a watch, which I will do  more often now.

Of I was to the course to give it a shot.  First I thought I might not be able to handle  all the buttons, but I did not have anything to lose.  After all it was a test run.

Coming to the first tee I started my round. It took 30 seconds to  find the satellite and then my course showed up. I selected it and  I was ready to go.   I had absolutely no problem   wearing it. It does not hinder me in any way. Also I had no  trouble  using all the features.

I was able to get all  distances and even checked them with markers and  range finder and they were all very accurate. I used the lay up option  and it is super accurate  and a nice feature to have. It is nice to  know how far you have to move the ball forward to have a 100 yard shot into a par 5 green and it is also nice to know how far you need to move the ball to not overshoot any dogleg. Using the scorecard was easy and actually is kind of convenient. You can even save it on the watch and then print it at home.  I am always skeptical of those things because they mostly distract your game. But this one is so easy to operate, that it had no impact.

One thing which you have to pay attention to is that  the GPS sometimes jumps to a different hole. That is because some of the tee boxes are so close together with greens and other boxes, that the GPS needs to pick one. and at times picks a different one.   But, if you are paying attention  before  you start playing teach hole or each shot this is not a problem. Check the hole and if necessary scroll down or up to the hole you are on.  Not a big deal.

I have to say , it is so easy to use and so  practical, that even after the first round I was  very excited about my new GPS watch. There were several situations I was not able to use a rangefinder and was far away from any distance marker. The GPS told me how far to the front , middle and back and I was able to get the ball to or even on the green even out of trees. Nice.

I did not use the shot measure feature yet.  Just did not want to focus on that.  My focus was more on the game itself. But I will do so this coming  Friday  and I am sure it will work fine and give me some good idea about the true distances of my drives. Also I did not use the Odometer. Again, no doubt it works great and I will try to use it  this coming Friday or Sunday.

When I came home I checked the battery status and found that I used about 50 % of my power. So I think , I can play about 2 rounds with it. That is close to what I have read in reviews about that matter before. Some writers even said you might be able to play 3  rounds. Not sure about that, but I will try it in the  near future.  

So I have to say, the Garmin Approach S 2 lived up to  all my expectations and does exactly what the website tells you it will .You still need to play your ball, but the info you get  can help  you to make better decisions.

Meanwhile I played another round and  this time it was even  better.  Love  this  product.
The fact that I have it on my wrist is actually super positive. I can not lose it, I can  not leave it behind in the cart while going  to my ball and  it is very safe in that place.

In my mind, most amateur players should have a GPS. It would make their round more pleasant and would help regulate speed of play. No more  distance marker searching, yelling, guessing and so on.

A GPS can be bought for as low as 129 $. Prices vary and there is differences  between models. But one thing they all tell is front , middle and back of the green and that is  the most important.

The Garmin Approach S 2 comes in a nice box with manuals in many languages. It
also comes with a USB charging cable which is easy to operate and also  serves as connection to your computer to transfer data. I was a little disappointed that they  did not include a outlet adapter so I would not have to charge it on my computer. But I can live with that and just buy one along the way. It is extremely easy to get started with this GPS  and you are ready  to go  after you charged it all the way.
The numbers are easy to read and  it even has a light feature ( which I will not use much because of power usage). The buttons are easy to press and of good size. The watch sits light on your arm and after a little while I  did not even notice that it was there any more.
The wristband is soft and looks good.  The Garmin Approach S 2 has all the features you really need.

This GPS watch is easy to handle and will help you to  learn about your distances , make better decisions and ultimately play better scores. With over 30000 courses pre loaded and no monthly or annual fee or upgrade fee, the Garmin Approach S2 is simply an incredible machine.

The way it looks I even will wear it as a watch.

I love this GPS watch and think it makes a great gift for any golfer in any handicap bracket.

Hole view giving you hole number, front, middle, back and the little dots show you what is par.

Dogleg lay up view. Shows the end of fairway and a layup distance.

Par 5 lay up view. Gives you different options for laying up a ball to a distance you like. Goes down while you are moving forward.

Score card view. Gives you hole #, par and a box for your score which you can easily move up or down.

Time view. Nice big numbers. Indicator for GPS running and odometer running.

The Garmin Approach S 2 comes in some nice colors. I think there is a color for everyone and I think you can actually buy different wrist bands. But for that you need to go to the official website.

Let me know if you have a GPS watch or GPS and what you think. Always good to hear different stories and opinions.