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.

Neil Tappin
Digital Editor

In his current role, Neil is responsible for testing drivers and golf balls. Having been a part of the Golf Monthly team for over 15 years and playing off a handicap of 3, he has the experience to compare performance between models, brands and generations. For 2022 he thinks the main trend in drivers is: "In a word, consistency. Whilst all the brands are talking about ball speed (and the new drivers are certainly long), my biggest finding has been how much more consistent the ball flights are. Mishits don't seem to be causing the same level of drop-off or increase in the spin numbers. This means that more shots seem to be flying the way you want them to!" As far as golf balls are concerned the biggest development is in the, "three piece, non-Tour, urethane-covered section. For regular golfers, these models offer superb performance at both ends of the bag without denting your wallet quite as much as the premium Tour-played options."


Originally working with the best coaches in the UK to produce instruction content, he is now the brand's Digital Editor and covers everything from Tour player interviews to gear reviews. In his time at Golf Monthly, he has covered equipment launches that date back well over a decade. He clearly remembers the launch of the Callaway and Nike square drivers as well as the white TaylorMade driver families, such as the RocketBallz! If you take a look at the Golf Monthly YouTube channel, you'll see his equipment videos dating back over a decade! He has also conducted 'What's In The Bag' interviews with many of the game's best players like Rory McIlroy, Dustin Johnson and Jon Rahm. Over the years, Neil has tested a vast array of products in each category and at drastically different price-points. 

Neil is currently playing: Driver: TaylorMade Stealth Plus Fairway Wood: Titleist TSR2 Hybrid: Titleist TS3 Irons (4-9): Mizuno JPX 919 Forged Wedges: Titleist Vokey SM7 46˚, 50˚, 54˚, 60˚ Putter: Odyssey Triple Track Ten Ball: Titleist Pro V1X