Garmin GPS watches put yardages on wrist

The Approach S2 by Garmin.

The Approach S2 by Garmin.

ORLANDO, Fla. – Considering the short amount of time Garmin has been in the golf industry – just four years – its effect on the game is marked. Yardages now can be found on a golfer’s wrist, which might be a good thing for pace of play.

“We’ve kind of changed the way the world thinks about the golf watch,” said Bryan Yalowitz, director of outdoor sales and marketing for Garmin.

Garmin debuted its golf-specific GPS watch in 2009 and currently has three models available: the S1, S2 and S3. These join Garmin watches designed for running, swimming and cycling, plus a multisport watch. Yalowitz says the golf version stemmed from the technology featured in the rest of the company’s fitness market and a push from Garmin’s engineering team, which is made up of avid golfers.

“We’re all about technology and how much we can put in the watch,” Yalowitz said.

So far that technology includes an odometer and a timer, so players can tell how far they walked and how long a round took. The watch also measures the distance of shots hit and gives the distance to the front, middle and back of a green. The S3 model, the most expensive at $349, also displays the outline of the green.

As the watch evolves, Yalowitz said the most important thing to consumers is long battery life without increasing the size of the watch. Other Garmin sport watches include a calorie counter, but the S-models for golf don’t yet.

“We’ve had a couple of requests for it; we might add it some day,” he said.

Garmin’s S2 golf watch, which retails for $249, is the newest model, and the company will begin to phase out the previous base model. The S1 model retails for $179.

All three models feature rechargeable lithium-ion batteries and a USB interface. All are waterproof and weigh less than 3 ounces, and the S3 model features a touchscreen, green map and manual pin positioning. Players also can keep their own score and print off a scorecard when they connect to a computer.

Yalowitz said the watches operate off a golf course database that is updated four times a year. There is no fee to update the watch, and the database recently passed 30,000 golf courses worldwide.

“Just being able to look down quick and get the yardages really fast, people typically know what club they’re going to hit based on the yardage,” Yalowitz said. “It’s just really convenient.”

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