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Every golfer knows that the key to lowering your scores lies in course management.
This involves knowing the distance to the front, back and center of the green as well as the yardages for other key locations on the course.
At the same time, improving your golf game can be a very lengthy and difficult task. Fortunately, the evolution of technology has done a great deal to streamline this process.
Having access to golf GPS trackers is something that golfers may sometimes take for granted, but these instruments can really be invaluable for your rounds.
Many golfers prefer to use golf GPS handhelds instead of watches because of their larger displays, longer battery lives, and affordable prices, among other things. But choosing the ideal GPS handheld can seem like a daunting task because of all the different options.
If you’re looking to buy a GPS handheld for golf, you’ve come to the right place. In this guide, we’ll review and compare our picks for the best golf GPS handhelds across a range of different budgets.
Note: Golfstead has tested and/or conducted in-depth research into all of the products featured in this guide. Our editorial process for these rankings takes into account a mix of many factors which may include performance, reliability, usability, value for money, cost, and the general consensus from other users of the product. The list that follows may be reassessed or updated over time.
Our Top Picks For Golf GPS Handhelds
Based on our own testing, research, and experience, here are our top selections:
- Bushnell Phantom 2 Golf GPS
- SkyCaddie SX550 Tourbook Golf GPS
- Izzo Swami 6000 Golf GPS
- Garmin Approach G80 GPS & Launch Monitor
- Garmin Approach G30 Handheld Golf GPS
- TecTecTec ULT-G Ultra-Light Handheld GPS
- Garmin Approach G12 Golf GPS Rangefinder
- GOLFBUDDY Voice 2S+ GPS Rangefinder
The Phantom 2 is arguably Bushnell’s best golf GPS handheld. It earns the #1 spot on our list because:
- it’s affordable and a red hot seller
- it has a sleek, pocket-sized design
- it has all the essential features one would expect from a golf GPS unit
The no-frills Phantom 2 is marked by a large display (larger than previous generations) that is transflective, allowing it to be easily read even in direct sunlight.
The GPS gives you distances to the front, center and back of the green. It also has a GreenView feature that shows you the shape of the green and lets you cycle through various pin positions to get a more accurate distance reading to the hole.
With the Phantom 2, you can connect to the highly rated Bushnell Golf app to unlock round and statistics tracking, wireless updates, and additional yardage information. The app also gives you the layout of each hole.
Other features of the Phantom 2 include:
- up to six hazard and layup distances per hole
- an integrated BITE magnetic mount that easily attaches to a cart frame
- automatic course location
- automatic hole advancement
- shot distance measurement
- an extended 18-hour battery life
Compared to previous Bushnell models, the BITE mount has more surface area and better texture in order to achieve a stronger hold. A clip and carabiner are included.
Based on our own experience and the experiences of others, the Phantom 2 GPS is very reliable, has great accuracy, and locates courses quickly.
The SkyCaddie SX550 Tourbook is a beautiful and powerful smartphone-like golf GPS that packs advanced features.
The SkyCaddie SX550 sports a large 5.5″ colour touch display that outputs 720×1440 resolution. The GPS comes preloaded with over 35,000 courses, each of which are rendered in HD-quality, vivid graphics for a truly premium experience.
The SX550 contains an ultra-fast processor and can do pretty much anything. Not only can you view distances to hazards and to the edges of the green, but you can also manually position the cursor to get custom distances to any point on the course.
What helps make this possible is the fact that SkyCaddie actually walks each course loaded in their system, giving you sub-meter precision and unparalleled accuracy.
Features of the SkyCaddie SX550 include (but are not limited to):
- Dynamic HoleVue: automatically re-orients the golf hole from your position to the green as you progress from the tee.
- HoleVue with Integrated Targets: delivers distances to up to forty geo-referenced targets per hole, including hazards, layups and carries.
- IntelliGreen Technology: automatically rotates the view of the green to match your angle of approach. The exact shape of the green with distances to the front, back, and any other custom point are displayed, as well as the green depth.
- SkyCaddie PinPoint Technology: allows you to get distances to the flag without using a laser rangefinder (after inputting green zone information).
- IntelliGreen Pro: enables the ability to display contours, false fronts, tiers and mounds from your angle of approach to the green on certain courses.
The battery life is 14 hours, which is impressive considering how powerful the device is. The water-resistant SX550 also allows for scorekeeping, statistics, auto course detection and auto-zoom.
There are other features we haven’t covered. For full details, visit this page.
The SX550 is a little more pricey than your typical golf GPS handheld, but if you have the budget, it’s totally worth it.
The Swami 6000 by Izzo Golf has a lot going for it. It has the classic handheld look with a 2-inch easy-to-read colour display, it’s quite affordable, and it has pretty high ratings.
Labelled as being “simple, fast and accurate”, the Swami 6000 gives you distances to the front and back of hazards and doglegs as well as distances to the front, back and center of the green.
There are four modes: green, hazards, score card, and shot distance. The GPS handheld unit comes preloaded with 38,000 golf courses worldwide and auto-locates your course upon startup. Other features include:
- automatic hole advancement with digital scorecard
- shot distance measurement
- GIR (greens in regulation) and PPR (putts per round) tracking
- Magnahold internal magnets that allow for easy and secure mounting to a cart frame
The Swami 6000 is water-resistant and uses a rechargeable lithium-ion battery that runs for 16 hours at a time.
What we like about the Swami 6000 is that it’s easy to use, very accurate, and has a long battery life. It doesn’t show overhead views of the holes and lacks some advanced features, but nevertheless, it’s excellent value for the money.
The highly rated Garmin Approach G80 is unique.
Not only is it a full-featured handheld golf GPS, but it also integrates a launch monitor. This means that in addition to being able to view top-down colour maps and get GPS yardages to any point on the golf course, you can view essential shot parameters including ball speed and smash factor.
The pocket-sized G80 is perfect for when you’re playing a round of golf, but because of its launch monitor capabilities, it can also be used on the range or at home.
The Approach G80 is a powerful golf GPS preloaded with over 41,000 courses.
Equipped with an easily viewable 3.5″ sunlight-readable touchscreen, it provides distances to the front, back and middle of the green, hazards and layups, and you can touch any point on the map to get the yardage to that. You also have access to:
- Green View which gives you a closeup look of the green’s true shape, along with a drag-and-drop pin for precise yardages into greens
- PinPointer which indicates the direction of the pin for blind shots
- PlaysLike Distances which account for elevation changes
- green contour data on select courses (with a Garmin Golf app membership)
- a digital scorecard
By pressing the quick-access radar button, you can set up the G80 to measure club head speed, ball speed, smash factor, tempo and estimated carry after each shot. Enhancing the launch monitor experience are:
- a practice mode which evaluates your swing and provides feedback to help improve your accuracy and consistency
- the ability to play virtual rounds on any course against friends or other players around the world
- a tempo training mode which helps you determine the backswing and downswing times that are best for you
The G80 can be paired with the powerful Garmin Golf app for community stats comparisons, weekly leaderboards, performance stats reviews, and more. The battery life is up to 15 hours in GPS mode.
If you want one of the most feature-rich handheld golf GPS units on the market and appreciate launch monitor functionality, the Approach G80 is a must-have.
The Approach G30 can be thought of as a lesser but more affordable version of the Approach G80.
This compact handheld golf GPS offers full colour mapping on a 2.3″ touchscreen colour display that is readable in sunlight. It can be dropped into your pocket or mounted to your belt, bag or cart.
One of the G30’s most powerful features is Touch Targeting. This allows you to touch any point on the full-colour course map and get an accurate yardage to that spot.
Another great feature is Green View, which shows you a close-up of the green and lets you manually place the pin for an accurate yardage. The green orients to match your own vantage point.
The G30 has full access to Garmin’s library of over 40,000 courses around the world, with CourseView for each. The GPS is highly sensitive and obtains satellite data quickly; yardages to the front, middle and back of the green, hazards, doglegs and layups are all there.
Other features include:
- digital scorecard (works with up to four players)
- automatic syncing to Garmin Connect
- statistics such as fairways hit, GIR and PPR
- smart notifications for your phone
- green contour data (with a Garmin Golf app membership)
You can also pair the G30 with the Garmin TruSwing golf swing analyzer (separate purchase) to give you insight into swing metrics such as speed and club path angle.
Battery life is 15 hours. Note that the touchscreen can be a bit fiddly to use, especially if you have large fingers. Make sure the belt clip is properly secured to avoid the unit accidentally dropping.
TecTecTec is a family-owned business behind some of the most successful rangefinders and GPS watches ever released onto the market.
Their handheld model, the ULT-G Ultra-Light, weighs just 31 grams. It’s pretty bare-bones in terms of features, but it’s very accurate and easy to use. There’s no need to sync it with anything; just fire it up when you get to the course and go.
The ULT-G Ultra-Light handheld GPS pairs a five-button navigation with a retro, gameboy-style display. It has a clip-on design that allows you to attach it to a belt or golf bag, but you can also just put it in your pocket.
The main functions of this handheld GPS are:
- gives you the distance to the front, back, and middle of the green (accurate to pin placements)
- gives you distances to hazards such as bunkers
- measures the distance of your shots
Hole progression is automatic and there’s a built-in clock to keep track of the time. After an initial setup, it just takes one button press for the GPS to connect to the satellite and start displaying course info.
Water and dust-resistant, the ULT-G Ultra-Light comes pre-loaded with over 38,000 golf courses. Its battery lasts roughly two and a half rounds on a full charge.
The ULT-G Ultra-Light handheld GPS is an excellent supplement to a rangefinder and will get the job done on a small budget. With this particular model, you’re also getting access to high-quality, knowledgeable customer service.
The Approach G12 is another terrific golf GPS unit from Garmin, this one with a built-in clip and lanyard loop for mounting the device anywhere.
The G12 provides the basic (and essential) information which is yardages to the front, middle and back of the green, hazards and doglegs.
In addition, like other Garmin golf GPS units, this one has a Green View feature which gives you the green’s true shape and allows you to drag-and-drop the pin for increased accuracy.
The G12 Rangefinder is preloaded with more than 42,000 CourseView maps, and you can download course updates wirelessly by pairing the GPS with the Garmin Golf app on your smartphone. Through the app, and with an active Garmin Golf app membership, you can view green contour data on select courses.
Other features of the Approach G12 include:
- a Big Numbers Mode that increases the type size of yardages for easier reading
- a digital scorecard that can be uploaded to the Garmin Golf app for participation in weekly tournaments
- club tracking when paired with the Approach CT10 sensors (sold separately)
- strokes gained analysis through the Garmin Golf app
The battery of the G12 handheld provides up to 30 hours of battery life (wow!) in GPS mode. It has an IPX7 water resistance rating. The screen size is 0.9 inches and the display is sunlight-readable.
The Approach G12 is fantastic and we think it looks really sharp. Just make sure that if you’re using the clip, it’s secure, because you don’t want it falling off without you noticing.
What if you don’t want to have to squint down at a screen every time you need a yardage?
In that case, the highly-rated GOLFBUDDY Voice 2S+ GPS might be just what you need. It’s a talking GPS that reads out the distances to the front, middle and back of the green with the push of a button.
Compared to the previous Voice 2 SE model, the 2S+ adds hazard information, togglable slope-adjusted distances, and additional pre-loaded voices.
The Voice 2S+ has four primary modes:
- Green Distances: displays the distances to the front, center and back of the green, with optional voice readout and green view.
- Hazard Information: displays information related to each hazard on a hole.
- Shot Distance Measurement: measures how far you hit your shot.
- Time Mode: displays course info alongside the current time in digital format.
You can generate audio for the center green yardage by pressing the OK button, and the front/back yardages by pressing and holding the OK button. Buttons on the left and right sides of the unit are used for volume adjustment and mode switching.
The Voice 2S+ is preloaded with not just 40,000+ courses across 170 countries, but also 10 additional languages in addition to English. You can set a male or female voice based on your preference.
The battery lasts up to 18 hours on a single charge which is good for at least four rounds. The GPS unit is water-resistant and has a built-in clip that can be used for attaching to hats, bags, and belts.
The golfers who tend to love the Voice 2S+ GPS the most are those that just want a grab-and-go device that gives simple yardage readouts to the green. The handheld is simple, effective, and does its job reliably.
There are many golf GPS handhelds on the market, and knowing which one to choose isn’t necessarily easy, especially if you’re not sure what to look for. This guide will provide you with the GPS handheld education you need in that regard.
The most essential purpose of a golf GPS is being able to conveniently get distances to the front, back and center of the green. Other functionality such as mapping and hazard information can be considered a bonus.
If you want to find the right golf GPS handheld, here are the most important factors to consider:
1. Added Features
This is probably the main factor that will determine which model you choose. Ask yourself what you want to get out of a golf GPS handheld. Do you want to:
- get yardages to the front, middle and back of the green?
- get distances to various hazards?
- see an overhead map of every hole you play?
- use the GPS to keep score and organize your data?
- get distances to different pin locations or even to any location on the course?
- be able to measure your shot distances?
Virtually every golf GPS handheld gives you distances to the front, middle and back of the green, and most give you distances to hazards as well. Basic units like the TecTecTec ULT-G are great for this, but watch out for models like the GOLFBUDDY Voice 2 SE which do not provide hazard or layup info.
If you want more advanced features like a colour touchscreen, overhead maps, zoom, custom pin placement, green contours, and even a launch monitor, you’ll need to cough up extra money for something like the SkyCaddie SX550 or Garmin Approach G80.
At the end of the day, consider models that have the features you want and that fall within your budget.
This is really the name of the game when it comes to golf GPS units. If the readings are off by 10+ yards consistently, you’re honestly better off not having one at all.
At the same time, one important thing to realize with golf GPS handhelds is that even the best models will tend to be off by a yard or two. This is normal, and it is why it’s a good idea to also have a rangefinder on hand in case you need a precise distance down to the yard.
For the average golfer, accuracy can be considered acceptable if it’s within about seven yards of the correct reading. You’ll find that most GPS handhelds have similar accuracy, since they use the same satellites to calculate distance.
Make sure to keep your maps up-to-date (e.g. by connecting to a companion app), as this will give you the best chance of getting the most accurate readings possible on your device. At the end of the day, high accuracy will remove guesswork from your game and improve your club selection.
3. Mounting Options
Unlike golf GPS watches which are worn on the wrist, handheld units can either be carried in your pocket or attached or mounted to an object.
For the purposes of mounting, golf GPS handhelds may come with clips, lanyards, and other mechanisms. Some units like the Izzo Swami 6000 and Bushnell Phantom 2 will include a magnetic mounting system for affixing to a metal surface like a golf cart frame.
Every golfer will have their preferred way of securely carrying a golf GPS handheld — some will want to clip it to their belt, some will want to clip it to their bag, and some will be content with just keeping it in their pocket. It’s even possible to secure it to a wristband and wear it as a watch if desired.
Whatever you have in mind, make sure that the model you’re considering can accommodate it. You might also consider separate accessories such as a carabiner which is very versatile.
4. Battery Life
Practically all modern golf GPS handhelds use rechargeable lithium-ion batteries.
When it comes to battery life, it’s critical that a single charge can last for at least one full round of golf (18 holes). Being able to get out a couple more rounds beyond that before needing to recharge it is a bonus.
Fortunately, a GPS handheld tends to have longer battery life than a watch. A good golf GPS handheld should have a battery life of 14-30 hours, depending on the mode. We don’t recommend getting a model with a battery life that is much lower than this range.
There are two main types of golf GPS displays: touchscreen, and non-touchscreen with side buttons.
As you might suspect, touchscreen golf GPS handhelds tend to be more expensive, and they also tend to have more features such as coloured hole maps and true green views.
Conversely, non-touchscreen displays tend to be in black and white with a minimal amount of graphics. Often, these displays will not show course maps and just provide yardage numbers.
We find that touchscreen displays aren’t necessarily easier to work with; it’s just a matter of getting used to the design. The size and shakiness of your hands are will also affect how well you use a touchscreen.
Neither of the display types are strictly “better” than the other because they are both functional and get the job done. It’s up to you to determine how important the display type is relative to other factors.
6. Ease Of Use
Perhaps one of the most overlooked factors when considering a golf GPS is ease of use.
One element is feel. Does the device feel comfortable in the hand? Is it sufficiently light?
Another element is operation. If the golf GPS handheld has button navigation, are the buttons easy to press? If the GPS has a touchscreen, is it responsive or is it fiddly? Is the unit designed in such a way that it’s easy for people with large fingers to use?
Another element is speed. How quickly does the GPS unit start up when powered on? How long does it take to access the satellites and detect your course?
All of these kinds of things will influence the quality of a golfer’s experience with a particular model of golf GPS handheld. Keep an eye out for usability complaints when reading customer reviews.
Your budget ties in with everything else and, of course, is very important when shopping for a golf GPS handheld.
For example, you might not want to spend more than $150 on a GPS. That’s okay — you have several great options.
High-end GPS handhelds can cost upwards of $400 on their own, or even more if purchased with powerful tracking systems like the Garmin Approach CT10.
With that said, cheaper golf GPS handhelds may be less accurate, have slower operation, have a more primitive display, or lack features such as manual pin placement or hazard/layup yardages.
In this guide, we’ve tried to include quality golf GPS handhelds over a range of budgets that golfers might have.
Merely estimating the distance to the green, hazards and other locations on the golf course will only get you so far.
If you’re serious about lowering your scores, at some point you need to be able to obtain accurate information about each hole you play including distances to the green and hazards. This is what a golf GPS is able to do.
A golf GPS handheld can be a big asset for your golfing toolkit. And all it really takes to choose a good one is a little bit of research.
With features such as distance measurements, visual aids, and post-game analytics, these devices are revolutionizing the world of golf, making it easier for golfers to hone and refine their game.
Each of the GPS handheld models listed above deliver exceptional performance. We’ve given you the information you need; now it’s up to you to go the rest of the way.
It’s also very beneficial to read customer reviews to acquire some useful insights as to how GPS handhelds actually perform. This will help you a great deal in the decision-making process.
Thanks for reading this guide. Which golf GPS handheld are you interested in? Do you have any questions? Feel free to drop a comment down below.