Review: Garmin Approach G8 golf GPS
May 29, 2014 – I always thought that for a big technologic company like Garmin, global leader in satellite navigation, long established in areas of business like the automotive industry, outdoor activities, boating, aviation and fitness, golf must be one of its smaller divisions. So I find its emphasis on golf surprising, and the level of sophistication it has reached with its GPS devices to serve our sport. So we’ve reviewed one of its latest devices, the Garmin Approach G8, which comes with the Approach G7, its lesser brother.
On opening the box, what do we find? The Approach G8, a cradle with a carabiner clip for hanging it on your golf bag or belt, an ingenious adaptable charger with three different plugs, a cable and the quick start guide in different languages. Once charged and on, it proved to be very light and elegant. You hold it in your hand like a mobile phone, with a touch screen, allowing you to make lots of selections with the simple flick of a thumb.
You select ‘Play’ and then ‘Course’. The Approach G8 searches for the golf courses nearby. You also can find them by typing in your town or the name of the club, and it automatically tells you how many miles they are from your location. It’s really interesting to explore the courses that it has around the worldwide (over 30,000 preloaded), and realize that its contents range from the biggest resort to the smallest pitch & putts.
In my case, being in Barcelona (Spain), I can go from the PGA Catalunya Resort to RCG El Prat or Lumine Golf, each with their different layouts, to Golf Montjuïc (p&p) inside the city, to name just a few courses. It’s great that you can access the information about the holes in each course without having to be physically within the boundaries of course itself.
In the ‘Preview’ mode, it’s very useful to be able to see and study each of the holes before you get to the course, and it’ll be particularly so for those who prefer to prepare the weekend tournament in advance, and don’t want to leave their strategy or strokes to improvisation. The colour display of the holes is bright and pleasant.
In the ‘Setup’ mode you can put in the distance you hit with each of your golf clubs, because later on the course the Approach G8 will advise you on what club to play according to the distance you are from the flag, as if it were a real caddy.
We’ve carried out our test at the CG Sant Cugat (Barcelona, Spain), accompanied by one of the club professionals, Carlos Vivas, who got familiar with the device at once. Just by touching the yards box, we get the distances, in big numbers, to the front, the center and the back of the green. Then on the drawing of each hole, the curved lines are your main references for the approximate distance you’ll hit, for example, with the driver.
We have used the ‘Touch’ function quite a lot to measure the distance to any point on the map. Then with the target you adjust the spot where you intend to put the ball, which gives you the two distances (from tee to the spot, and from the spot to green) and thus lets you predict how far you will then need to hit in order to reach the centre of the green in the next shot.
Pressing + you can expand the fairway or the green, and see the position of the bunkers and water hazards in more detail. This option clarifies the target for you, as it reduces your risk of falling into the nearby traps, and here you can also find out the exact distance to the obstacles of each hole. Furthermore, with the ‘Green View’ you can move the flag within the green to place it in today’s position.
And if you want more accuracy, you can set the ‘PlaysLike’ function, which helps you when a hole has an uphill or downhill slope, as it calculates the distances adjusted to the slope of the fairway until the green. The ‘PinPointer’ function is like a compass that helps you find out the direction of your shot from a lie when you can’t see the location of the flag.
And another interesting feature is the distance measurement of a shot. From the execution point, you walk to your ball and the Approach G8 will tell you the yards of your shot in a straight line. This is data which you can save and apply to the average distance of the club, to refine the club advice that the you are given by the device on every shot.
At the end of the round you can save your individual digital card, and if you wish, those of your colleagues. As you set up the scoring option (for Handicap, Stableford, by Holes or Skins), you are creating a real database of your golf.
The ‘History’ mode is useful for storing the information, where you can then consult your results, with the date and course where you played. It also gives you the time played, distance, etc. And by connecting the Approach G8 to the computer with a USB cable, you can display the cards in your computer.
Good customizable options
Playing like this is a fantastic experience, as you control your game by managing almost all the information a golfer could want, first on the course, when you don’t have a live caddy, and in the computer afterwards, when you want to analyse and organise the information.
Personally, I really like the Approach G8 for its customizable options. I find it intelligent to be able to set up the scoring option, the golf clubs of your bag and how long you hit with each of them, or to receive precise distances according to the slopes of the course, along with other common tuning functions such as defining the screen resolution, the automatic or manual transition between holes, language, meters or yards, Bluetooth and Wi-Fi.
All this makes the Garmin Approach G8 golf GPS sophisticated, appealing and pleasant to use. However, it gives you even more, such as the extra social possibilities of sharing and comparing results with your friends through the ‘Garmin Connect’, or linking it with your mobile phone to display mail, although we haven’t had time to try that.
If you are already familiar with a GPS wristwatch and want to take another step, the G7 or G8 will relieve you of the headaches that many users suffer when they choose a mobile golf GPS. It’ll cost a bit more, and you have to be more agile to maintain the pace of play, but the course you want will be up to date at all times, without having to pay additional fees, and you’ll enjoy all the benefits we just explained.
The new G7 and G8 Garmin models will probably not be your best choice for tournaments regulated by the R&A and USGA. So the pros and their caddies are not going to be supporters of assistance devices of this kind, some of which are not authorized on Tour. But you’re not playing in the Tour, are you? Then there is the issue of the budget (RRP: G7, 329 €; and G8, 429 €). Premium goes with high price. In this case bear in mind the Approach G6, which is more economical and has no functions unapproved by the golf authorities.