If you have tired of fumbling around in your pocket or tugging at a plastic belt clip for the latest GPS-enabled golf device, Garmin has solved your problem. The Garmin GS resembles any number of sports wristwatch devices with a thick rubberized band, a backlit screen that is easily readable in the sunlight, and numerals large enough to see without glasses, if your eyesight isn't what it used to be.
But this is a gadget that can do what Dick Tracy might have wanted his wristwatch phone to do—had he been a golfer and not a detective. It uses GPS signals to make precise estimates of the ball's distance from the pin on any of the 15,000—and counting—courses for which it carries stats. Oh yeah, it tells time too.
Once you reach the first tee, you go through a quick and easy menu to start the round, and from that point, it takes less than a minute for the watch to lock on to the satellite signal. It offers up the course you are on, or if there are multiple courses in the area, it will let you choose one.
The device then displays distances to the front, middle and back of the green. You can also choose to measure the distance of each shot you take, although that requires you to tap the buttons on the side of the face after each shot. The buttons allow you to advance to specific holes in case you have skipped using it on certain holes.
Design issues include a charging device with a slightly awkward claw of small poles that must fit into a seat of four small circular contact points on the back of the watch; if the charging icon doesn't appear on the face, it isn't charging. Regular users also report that the watch may lock up on the course, forcing you to restart it. However, the watch seems to avoid a common problem with larger GPS range finders: the lack of a sufficient charge to last 18 holes, which can force you to switch to power-saver mode while playing or risk running out of juice.
If you haven't worn a watch while playing, the device may take some getting used to. However, don't get so comfortable with it that you wear it during the club championship—that's a no-no as the USGA continues to prohibit the use of any kind of range finder in tournaments or official events.