I’ll be the first to admit, I love a gadget. Make an electronic gadget for golf and I’m sold. I can’t help it. I think it has something to do with my generation. I use my iPhone for almost everything in my digital life; email, text, surfing, managing my websites, business contacts, golf training, score keeping and obviously gps, (on course and off). But, if you are like me, juggling an iPhone mid-round, or running your battery out is a major pain. Enter the Garmin S6 GPS watch. With it’s small, wearable form factor, stylish good looks, loads of features and ease of use, it’s really a must have for any golfer.
The Garmin Approach S6 has a dizzying list of features.
If you’re looking for a quick review of the S6, good luck. I don’t think it exists. The feature list is just too long and overall versatility is too great to cover in a short review. So, for those of you like myself, who are attention challenged and don’t want to read some lengthy review, I will do my best to make it a quick read. The S6 by Garmin is as versatile and full featured as most any iPhone app I can think of. Not only does it have an amazingly complete list of courses, it is also very accurate in it’s yardages. The Garmin Approach S6 gives you layup yardages, (100,150,200,250), yardages to hazards,(via the course view feature), yardages to front, back and center of green and the ability to change pin placement. It also has an onboard scorecard feature that you can enter your statistics,(putts per green, gir, driver accuracy), for each hole as you play. Now all of that would be enough to make the S6 a really nice asset given the fact it’s on you’re arm not in your pocket, but like Billy Mays says, “wait, theres more”, ( and no, it won’t make mounds of julienne fries). Alongside all of the GPS features, the Garmin Approach S6 has two training modes, Swing Tempo and Swing Strength. The cherry on top is the web interface and iPhone/android app. Both the app and the web interface are pretty good,giving you access to scorecards, score summaries and shot statistics . I had heard the app and web interface were a bit chinky, but I have to disagree. I found both to be fairly easy to use and have a decent amount of information. I would like to see more emphasis put on the shot statistics. I really like having access to numbers and graphics telling me just how poorly I am performing at any given time, or over some historical period. More importantly, and in all seriousness, I like tracking where I need to focus my attention when at the range. My available time for practice is limited, so focusing on my trouble areas is important to me.
All of the features of the Garmin Approach S6 GPS watch are fairly easy to get to. You can take the unit out of the box, put it on your wrist and within the first two holes you will have probably figured out the basics of how to use the GPS portion. What will most likely slow you down is the Course View feature. It took me a bit to get the gist of what they are offering. Once you figure out wherever you put your finger on the course, an “arc” line will appear. Your distance to that line is then displayed. What I haven’t figured out
is how to make it give me the distance from the arc line to the green. You can certainly figure it out by doing the math, but it would be nice to have it displayed. I realize, however, there is only so much room on the screen to display information, so if something had to go I can see remaining distance being it. All you have to do is look at your layup yardages the S6 supplies and figure out the rest. For proper understanding of the remaining features of the Garmin Approach S6, I strongly recommend using the little manual it comes with. While the unit is fairly intuitive for the most basic features, the correct manipulation of the user options, advanced training features, and statistic tracking are best referenced through the user manual. It only takes a few minutes to go through and no one will deduct man points if they don’t see you.
The yardage features are pretty much the same thing we’ve come to expect from Garmin. With just a few presses of the button, or back arrow, you can get layup yardages from 100 to 250 yards, and distance to front,center and back of the green. There is also this great feature that looks like a little ruler on the right hand side of the watch. After you have hit your ball, you press the ruler button, go to your ball, and the S6 will give you your ball flight distance. Pretty sweet when you want give your buddies the business when you fly their drive.
The training features of the Approach S6 are outstanding. The swing tempo trainer and the swing strength meter are accessible through the menu system. The temp trainer gives you several tones to “swing,set,and through” to use the Tour Tempo terminology. There are several settings from amateur,(relatively slow), to tour pro,(un-Godly fast). The swing strength meter allows you to set a “100%” swing. The watch will then show you how hard you are swinging relative to the saved swing. This is great for learning half shots with low irons and wedges as well as figuring out how swinging out of your shoes vs. a smooth swing affects distance on full shots. Both of these are truly great additions to the S6 GPS watch.
Overall the Garmin Approach S6 is a well thought out, well implemented piece of wearable golf tech.
There are loads of personilsation options available in the Approach S6. The screen can go from black to white while the divider lines have several options to choose from. The black to white thing is nice depending on how visually challenged you are. I have found over the last three months, my vision is not what it used to be. I seem to like the dark background with light numbers better. The graphics are everything you need and nothing you don’t. The Course view feature could use a bit of tweaking to allow more of a pinch and zoom feature, but again, that’s being pretty picky on my part.
The notifications feature is not something I was really keen to use. I rarely answer my phone or texts on the course and never considered having constant access to either during a round. For those of you who fear constant contact withdrawals, the Garmin S6 is capable of text, email, calendar and phone call notifications, right on your wrist. Now it is true, when the notification comes in you have a choice to respond or not. My problem is I don’t have that choice. If I see a text or email I am somehow compelled to answer in the shortest time frame possible. It’s like some sort of psychological issue I have. The notifications feature works very well as long as you are in Bluetooth range. Obviously, turning on the notifications has the added effect of lessening the battery life of the Approach S6.
I think the Approach S6 GPS watch by Garmin hits high on two marks; actual usability and potential uses down the road. As wearable tech becomes more and more pervasive in the market and given Garmin’s’ status as a world class provider of these items, I look for them to start wrapping more and more lifestyle options in their Golf lineup. Garmin has a ton of experience in the sports, (running,biking,swimming etc), technology area. I would be surprised if they didn’t start integrating more and more cross over features into their GPS line of watches giving access to heart rate, sleep cycles, blood O2 content, the list goes on and on. The possibilities are almost endless. With the Apple Watch on the horizon, I hope Garmin takes a cue and uses the Approach S6 as a launching point to bring all of the sports/health related applications to the masses.
If you are in the market for a GPS and are tired of killing the battery on your smartphone, the Garmin Approach S6 might just be for you.
With it’s long list of features, ease of use, and accuracy I don’t think you will be disappointed. The relatively small form factor and the fact it sits on your wrist, not in your pocket, is a real plus. You have a tendency to forget it’s on your arm as it becomes a part of your game. The S6 is not allowed in tournament use, but Garmin has an answer for that little issue, the Garmin Approach S5. The S5 has all the same features and accuracy of the S6, minus the training features.
I hope this helps in making a decision about a GPS unit. If you have any questions or comments, we would love to hear from you. Yeah, I know. I lied when I said I would keep it short.