I tried it: Garmin Approach S70 golf smartwatch
For the last month and a half, I’ve done something that might seem silly to those of a certain age.
I remember once, an older friend of mine, to prove a point, asked me to give him the time. I reached into my pocket to pull out his phone. He simply flicked his wrist to glance at his watch.
The watch has become a bit of a vanity accessory for Millenials and Gen Z, but thanks to a number of high-tech features, smartwatches are now more useful than ever, especially on the golf course.
Garmin Approach S70 Golf Smartwatch
For the sake of science, I decided I would try the new Garmin Approach S70 golf watch to see if wearing a watch was even possible after 26+ years without one. More importantly, I wanted to know if it would help my golf game.
In this review, we’ll look at a few factors: How the S70 performs as a Golf GPS rangefinder, how useful the smart functions are to a golfer, and lastly, what it’s like to wear and play golf with a watch after never wearing one before.
Use for golf
In the age-old (read: 20 years) question of laser rangefinder vs. GPS, I’ve always leaned more Team Rangefinder since I can get yardages directly to pins, and then calculate front of the green and back of the green using a pin sheet.
However, most golf courses don’t have daily pin sheets, nor do some tournaments. And rangefinders are far less accurate at giving you the carry over a bunker or water hazard.
Most golf GPSs these days require using your phone, which I try to avoid while on the course. While I knew GPS watches were an option in the center of this Venn diagram, I never considered them as an alternative.
The first test I needed the watch to overcome was comfort, which I will detail more below, but at just 56 grams, the Garmin Approach S70 was barely noticeable on my wrist during my swing.
I went with the 47 mm size, which seemed big the first time I wore it, but got better the longer I wore it. That said, I don’t think I would have been upset going with the smaller 42 mm model.
Never did I feel like the size of the watch impacted my wrist movement.
I also loved how I was able to customize the watch’s face with colors and to display as much or as little data as I wanted. I went with one that showed my heart rate, watch battery, Body Battery and sunrise/sunset, in addition to the time.
The next test: could I quickly find the information I needed?
When you switch the S70 into golf mode, you’ll see a diagram of the hole along with the distances to the front, middle and back of the green. You can also input your approximate carry distance for a driver, and when you’re on the tee, a line will be drawn across the hole at that distance.
Need a specific distance to a bunker or other penalty area? No problem, just tap your screen and the watch zooms in to the spot and gives you carry distance.
Additionally, the S70 offers three adjustments for wind, slope and weather conditions. These adjustments can be turned off when in the Tournament Mode, which the watch prompts you to activate before starting every round. For a frequent competitor such as myself, this was reassuring.
Need a little more? You can subscribe to the Garmin Golf membership (starting at $9.99 a month) and get green contour maps for select courses.
Ease of use
The last tick for me was whether I could easily take advantage of the watch’s features without changing much of my regular routine.
Thanks to a super bright and clear AMOLED display, all I had to do was flick my wrist, take a glance at the numbers, and be on my way. If I needed a specific pin distance, I could supplement it with my rangefinder or pin sheet, but most of the time, the center is good for me.
You can even use the S70 to keep your score with barely any effort. After the first hole, the watch will ask if you like it to keep score and after that, it will simply buzz your wrist as you walk off a green.
This activates some shot tracking that can be viewed in the Garmin Golf app after your round and enhanced further with the addition of CT10 tracking sensors. Although I was able to get pretty good results without having to do anything.
I’ve always debated getting some sort of fitness wearable to start accurately tracking my step count and more importantly, my sleep. The Approach S70 has the same advanced sleep tracking as some of Garmin’s other top-of-the-line smartwatches.
Each morning — provided I wear the watch to bed, which I do most of the time — I am given a sleep score, along with the duration of each of my four sleep cycles.
This also factors into Garmin’s Body Battery energy monitor. As I am active (or not) throughout the day, my Body Battery goes down. When I sleep well, I find my Body Battery is at or nearly back to 100. If I don’t sleep well, the watch will actually suggest to me that critical thinking and problem-solving may be challenging for that day.
Just like other smartwatches, the S70 also features a heart rate monitor, stress indicator, respiration tracker, Pulse Ox indicator, barometer and compass. There are also preloaded activities for strength including yoga, HIIT, and running that can be personalized using Garmin Coach on the Garmin Connect app. The watch will even advise you on a sleep schedule to avoid jet lag before a trip.
In my time with the S70, I’ve barely scratched the surface with it.
(Small note for friends in the pushcart mafia: if you want an accurate step count, push your cart with the hand you’re not wearing your watch on)
The battery life is also tremendous, lasting up to 16 days. Although, I’ve rarely gotten close as I find the best time to charge my watch is during my 20-minute morning routine. I hardly ever see my battery drop below 80% simply by charging it then.
That’s not to say I can’t wear it in the shower because it is rated 5 ATM, meaning it is waterproof down to 50 meters.
Notes from a first-time watch wearer
Being able to separate from my phone and still know the time has been way more useful than I thought.
For those who can’t be away from their phone for too long, the S70 can give you notifications. I found this feature distracting, especially when looking to disconnect from my phone for a bit.
However, the intimidating task of wearing a watch (or anything around my wrist for that matter) proved easy to overcome. There was maybe one or two nights of adjustment to sleeping with it, but simply loosening the strap seems to be a comfortable strategy.
I’ve also customized my S70 with a different band that prioritizes comfort. Garmin offers a ton of options to fit whatever you need. You can even opt for a metal or leather one to make your watch a showpiece when the occasion calls for it.
But when you ask me what time it is, I now have no problem telling you the time. I can tell you a lot more too.