I’ve reviewed a lot of golf gadgets over the years for MyGolfSpy: GPS and laser range finders, swing trainers, electronic gadgets and general fitness sensors. In just the past year, I tried the Lagshot, Tag Heuer’s Connected smart watch, the Oura ring and, most recently, the Whoop 4.0 strap.
While conducting the reviews, I started wondering if there wasn’t a better way to accomplish all these goals with one single piece of technology. Do I really need all of these separate apps or are Apple Watch a better does-it-all solution?
I’ll admit that I’m late to the Apple Watch party. In fact, I kept calling it the iWatch for the longest time. But maybe this unfamiliarity is exactly why the Apple Watch kept jumping into my head. Obviously, I knew the Apple Watch existed. I just hadn’t spent time with one. That said, it kept sliding across my mind as the gadget that could accomplish nearly everything a golfer would need.
So, in the spirit of exploration, I ordered an Apple Watch. It was time to find out once and for all if this watch was the must-have piece of golf technology.
Best Golf Apps for the Apple Watch
Let’s jump right into the “for golf” discussion. Obviously, how the Apple Watch works as a golf watch is going to come down to the apps. One search through the Apple App Store and you’ll see there are a whole bunch of Apple Watch golf apps available. Maybe not as many golf apps as there are for the iPhone but there is a whack of Apple Watch apps. What’s cool is that many of the golf apps that you are using currently also have expanded functionality once you add an Apple Watch to the mix.
I was interested in two main categories of apps. First, I wanted to see what was available to use during play. Second, are there apps that could help me play better? Out of the overwhelming number of Apple Watch golf apps available, here are a few that I can see myself using consistently.
TheGrint’s Apple Watch app does exactly what an Apple Watch app should do. It moves the “during play” functionality and interface from the iPhone to the watch. This is not unique to TheGrint but I’m using their app as an example since I have used it on my phone to track rounds played for the past year.
Shifting functionality to the watch makes using the app so much better. It is easier to check yardages and enter scores from your wrist than is from your phone. It really allows you to keep your phone in the cart or in your bag while you play.
The watch app doesn’t do everything that the phone app does. You’ll still need your phone to post scores and to upload scorecard pictures after the round. However, during the round, the Apple Watch has your needs covered, including those looking to play drink-a-hole rounds.
Arccos Caddie Golf
My previous experience using the Arccos Caddie app was bittersweet. I loved their sensor design and shot tracking but just couldn’t play with my phone in my pocket. The last time I used the Arccos sensors, I had an iPhone 8 Plus and keeping that beast in my pocket when I played was a non-starter. As much as I liked the Arccos shot tracking, especially with the sensors integrated in the grips, the phone-in-pocket requirement made me stop using them.
With the Arccos Caddie Apple Watch app, the iPhone now stays inside the golf bag rather than in the pocket. This setup is way more comfortable and could provide more authentic swing data. Having that big phone in my pocket may not have had a physical influence on my swing but the mental impact was significant.
Using Arccos Caddie with an Apple Watch also removes the need to purchase the Arccos Caddie Link unit if you were thinking about using that to remove your phone from the process.
For those of you looking for a free option, I’d suggest looking into the TaylorMade MyRoundPro app. MyRoundPro gives you GPS and shot tracking, all from your Apple Watch. This app was a new find for me so I’ve not yet had a chance to try it extensively. That said, for the low, low price of “free”, it seems like one of the better options out there.
Tag Heuer Golf
The price of the Tag Heuer Connected Watch is a huge barrier for many golfers. While an Apple Watch may not bring the same construction and status to your wrist, it will run the Tag Heuer Golf app. This app is not free but you get quite a bit of value for $40 annually. (Yes, I did just lump “value” and “Tag Heuer” together.) Their app brings great features and a solid on-wrist interface for $3.33 a month.
I must admit I was more than a little bit excited to see the Zepp name when I was searching for swing apps. Back in 2015, swing analyzers were a big deal in the golf industry. Most of the gadgets attached directly to the golf club, either to the shaft or the grip. The Zepp sensor was unique in the group in that it attached to the back of the golf glove. It did pretty well, too, placing second overall in MyGolfSpy’s Most Wanted swing analyzer competition for that year.
Six years later, the Apple Watch takes the place of the sensor and the Zepp Golf app takes care of the data.
Track My Golf GPS
The Track My Golf GPS app does it all. It gives you on-course data and collects swing data for analysis. This app also can run completely from your Apple Watch. No phone required. I think this is the kind of app that really shows the potential for the extent of golf data collection on the Apple Watch. You play your round and the app collects data in the background that could help you improve your next round.
Other Apple Watch Apps
Obviously, golf is not the only activity that interfaces with the Apple Watch. There are numerous apps for numerous activities. Let’s take a look at the bigger Apple offering and discuss a bit how the Apple Watch could fit your workout plan.
Apple Fitness+ is the latest subscription-based Apple fitness platform. It should come as no surprise that this platform has an intimate relationship with the Apple Watch. The platform converts a connected device with a screen (iPhone, iPad, Smart TV, etc.) into a fitness class. The Apple Watch integrates your fitness measurements into that class as well as into the fitness app on your phone.
The value for this aspect of the Apple Watch will really depend upon your personal fitness plan. I really appreciate how the fitness app pushes me to close goal rings on the watch but am not really interested in the whole Fitness+ program. My Peloton fits that need for me. A side note of irritation: the Apple Watch will not pair with my older Peloton bike for live heartrate measurements. It will with a Bike+ but my older bike is out of luck.
Other Apple Watch Fitness Apps
Like the Apple Fitness+ platform, the value of the available Apple Watch fitness apps will vary from person to person. Personally, I love the PocketYoga app shown above. There really are apps out there for seemingly everything but, for some, the physical nature of the watch may limit the usefulness of the app.
The app store contains numerous sleep tracking apps for the Apple Watch, such as the Sleep Cycle app shown below. On the surface, they look like they will give you all kinds of useful data about your sleep. The problem is that they all require you to sleep while wearing your watch. For me, this is a no-go. The Apple Watch is much larger and heavier than the Oura ring and Whoop sensors. I could not sleep with it on. I also prefer waking up to a charged watch on the nightstand rather than a mostly depleted battery on my wrist.
While the sleep apps on the Apple Watch will give you information about your sleep, it just doesn’t seem like a comfortable, long-term wearable tracker. For this, I think the Oura ring and Whoop strap do a better job.
Keep Your Phone in Your Pocket
One of the best things about the Apple Watch is that it allows me to keep my iPhone in my pocket. And by “pocket”, I mean in my golf bag pocket, in my work bag, in the car or even at home when I go out for a walk. I initially viewed the Apple Watch as a way to control my iPhone, having no idea that it could actually replace my phone for many of my daily activities. My Apple Watch 7 has both GPS and cellular connectivity. I went with this upgrade primarily thinking that cell service would allow me to have better access to GPS numbers while playing golf.
What I didn’t realize was the fact that the Apple Watch acts like a mini cellphone. When I leave the house to exercise, I no longer need to take my phone for music since my Apple Watch is synced to my music library. The fitness app is also self-contained on the phone, recording all my exercise data without needing the phone at all.
If you are playing music on the course, the Apple Watch can control the playback. It can do this by pairing with your cellphone that’s playing the music or by directly pairing with the Bluetooth speaker. Having these audio controls on your wrist makes it much easier to skip songs you don’t like or to turn down the volume of your speaker when you come close to other golfers
The watch can also take care of all texting and other messaging. Sure, the screen and keyboard are tiny but for quick responses, it is fantastic. It also removes any phone sounds from your environment. A simple vibration lets you know that something needs attention. Naturally, you can turn this off when needed.
The Apple Watch also works as a full-blown cellphone. Yes, it will be a speakerphone situation and the sound is not THX quality but for quick conversations or hands-free conversations in the car, it’s more than sufficient. Add AirPods and it works even better.
It’s an Apple Watch But It’s Also a Watch
One obvious element of the Apple Watch that can’t be overlooked is the fact that it’s a watch. Again, I said “obvious” but I don’t think that I even thought about it being a watch until I started wearing it. Though not a horologist by any stretch, I do appreciate a nice timepiece. Wearing the Apple Watch helped me to remember that I like wearing a watch.
Watches are in a weird space these days since everyone carries a time-telling phone. Why do you need something on your wrist to tell you the time if you already have the phone in your pocket? First, it is way quicker to look at your wrist than dig into your pocket. Second, watches are solid fashion accessories.
You know what is not a solid fashion accessory? A GPS golf watch. Never once have I considered wearing my golf watch as a daily driver. Even the best looking, most expensive golf GPS watches look gaudy when paired with business or even casual attire. For me, wearing the golf watch in a non-golf setting feels like rocking white New Balance sneakers with white socks and jorts. It may be functional but it is not a look I’m going for.
Same Watch, Lots of Looks
While you may be locked into a single body with the Apple Watch, the versatility of straps and faces is endless. Apple gets this. When you order an Apple Watch, you have a whole bunch of band options. Other companies get this as well. The gallery above features bands from Nomad Goods.
When you combine the ability to customize the face of the Apple Watch with a new band, you essentially end up with a new watch. Those of you who are Apple Watch veterans already knew this but I was honestly overwhelmed by the options and the impact. Swap the face, add a classy Shell Cordovan leather band and you have a classic watch look. Maybe you want something more modern like a black titanium link look. Even casual options have options. Feel free to construct a design that is a homage to your boss as well.
I just didn’t realize how versatile the Apple Watch could be as a fashion accessory until I had one in hand. Or on wrist. Whatever.
So, Do Golfers Need an Apple Watch?
While the word “need” is subject to debate, I believe golfers will find great value in the Apple Watch. The functionality of the phone-based golf GPS apps jumps dramatically when you can see the data on your wrist and keep the phone in the bag. You’ll play faster as you no longer need to take the phone from your bag, unlock it and open the app to see the data.
With the Apple Watch, you lift your arm, look at the numbers and hit your shot.
The cost of the Apple Watch is in the wheelhouse for most golfers. I went with the pricier Apple Watch 7 with cellular but you can still get most of the functionality with less expensive Apple Watch such as the Apple Watch SE, or even the cheapest Apple Watch 3. All of these options are well below new driver prices. Granted, caviar and Dom Perignon are also below new driver pricing these days.
Is the Apple Watch better than a dedicated golf GPS watch? I’m saying yes. The watch does so much more than your standard one-trick golf watch. The golf watch has a similar price to the Apple Watch and it sits unused when you leave the course. Maybe you wear your golf watch all the time as a regular watch. Do as you wish but I’d much rather be wearing a watch that interfaces more with my daily activities and whose appearance I can to match social situations. Your golf watch gives you solid approach numbers but it doesn’t give you a classy look paired with your suit and tie.
When I started this, I really didn’t know if the Apple Watch would suit my golf routine. As it turns out, it not only fits my golf routine but my daily routine as well. Expect to see it on my wrist for the foreseeable future.
*We may earn a commission when you buy through links on our site.