Garmin Approach S12 GPS Watch

Neil Tappin takes the Garmin Approach S12 GPS watch out onto the golf course at Essendon GC to see how well it performs and how accurate it is.

Garmin Approach S12 GPS watch
(Image credit: Tom Miles)
Golf Monthly Verdict

When it comes to wearable tech on the golf course there is often a trade off between functionality and ease of use. If you are looking for something very simple that works well from the off, the Garmin Approach S12 ticks the box. The yardages are accurate and well-displayed albeit on a fairly basic, black and white screen.

Reasons to buy
  • +

    Accurate and easy to use

  • +

    Lightweight strap allows you to swing freely without it getting in the way

  • +

    Looks great

Reasons to avoid
  • -

    Limited off-course functionality

  • -

    Less easy to navigate through options versus touch screen watches

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Garmin Approach S12 GPS Watch Review

The Approach S12 is Garmin’s entry level GPS watch and you get something that’s easy to use and provides accurate distance information throughout the round. The display is clear and updates automatically as you play. 

We had no problems locating the course on arrival at Essendon GC and were able to get the correct yardages within a minute or two of starting the set up. The black and white screen of the S12 is slightly smaller than some of the other, more expensive Garmin options (opens in new tab). This gives it a basic, inexpensive look but from a purely golfing perspective, it didn’t detract from how effective it was at providing yardages.

Garmin Approach S12 watch putting green

(Image credit: Tom Miles)

We liked how readily the standard front, middle and back yardages were available. For the most part, this was all we needed but yardages to layup areas and hazards were also available which was very handy. You can also manually move the pin position to get a more precise number when hitting into the greens. It is because of features like these that we included this model in our comprehensive best golf watches (opens in new tab) guide.

Where this watch did suffer in comparison to more expensive models like the S42 (opens in new tab) and S62 (opens in new tab) is with the lack of touch screen functionality. To scroll through the different yardage information on each hole you need to press the buttons on the side of the watch. Sounds simple and it is but we found it more fiddly than when using touchscreen watches. It also takes a little getting used to to know which button to press as you search for different information or settings.

garmin approach s12 golf watch

(Image credit: Golf Monthly)

One thing we loved about this watch was how lightweight and sleek the strap was. This means you can swing the club without it catching on your clothes or your other wrist. In fact, you would barely know you were wearing it. 

For those who sometimes struggle to see the information, the Garmin Approach S12 GPS Watch has a ‘Big Numbers’ mode. By changing the format of the display, it makes the key information a little bigger and easy to see. In all, this is an excellent, if fairly basic GPS watch. It is easy to use and the yardages it provided during our test round were accurate and reliable. As it comes in at such a low price point, it is undeniably one of the best value golf watches (opens in new tab) on the market at the moment.