Garmin Approach S42 Watch: An HONEST Review

One of the easiest ways I’ve been able to become more consistent is by getting a GPS or rangefinder to give me yardage on the course. I’m sure you know all about blasting the ball 20 yards over the green or chipping it well short.

We’ve reviewed many golf watches in the past, some have been a lot better than others. Garmin makes some of the most popular GPS watches, for all activities, and in this post, we’ll cover the pros and cons of the S42.

Our Testing Process: Our goal is to help you find the right product. We continue to use each product over time and will keep our reviews updated. Learn more here.

Out Of Bounds Golf Verdict

Although it doesn’t have all the features you might want, it’s a quality watch that offers 90% of what you’d want on the course. Overall, it’s absolutely worth considering and is one of our favorite GPS units.

If you’re more than an average weekend player who wants to improve their game, the S42 is one of the best solutions. I’d recommend this to someone that wants a watch they can wear on and off the golf course.

The Pros

➕ Has a live scorecard

➕ Comes with the most courses

➕ The quality is high

➕ Very simple to use

The Cons

➖ A little expensive

➖ No slope

➖ You have to manually select the club you hit and what side of the fairway you hit

The Breakdown

  • Quality: 5
  • Comfort: 5
  • Features: 4
  • Accuracy: 5
  • Value/Price: 4
  • Our Rating: 4 Stars

Where To Buy

Check the current price at Playbetter or on Amazon

In This Review

Product Details | What Is The S42 | Setup | Start A Round | Quality & Design | On-Course Features | Off-Course Features | App | Accuracy | Battery | Comparisons | FAQ | Bottom Line

Garmin S42 Product Details

What is The Garmin Approach S42?

The Garmin Approach S42 is a GPS golf watch that you can also use as a smartwatch. With the watch, you’ll be able to see the distance to every part of the green as well as the distance to doglegs and hazards. Plus, you can track stats about your game.

I don’t know about you, but I used to just guess how far away things were on the course. Sure, the red, white, and blue markers are on the fairway, but I still ended up hitting a lot of shots long and short.

This is the reason you’d want to use some sort of yardage finder, whether it’s a laser rangefinder or GPS watch/handheld. You’ll quickly be able to see the distance to the green, bunkers, ponds, and layup spots.

If you were to ask me, I’d say the most convenient is a golf watch. Garmin makes some of the best units and their most popular model is the S42, which comes with the following:

  • GPS golf watch
  • Charging cable

The watch is what you’ll use to see the distance to different parts of the course. It’ll give you the distance to the front and back of each hazard as well as the center of the green.

You can also use the watch to see how far you hit each shot. It’ll store that data so you’ll be able to tell how far you actually hit each club. You’ll also know additional stats about your game that can be super useful.

Garmin S42 Setup

Before you get to the course, you’ll want to make sure the watch is set up and ready to go. It’s a really easy process, but if you want a more in-depth tutorial, you can read the user guide here.

Here are the steps you’ll need to take to get everything set up:

  1. Make sure the watch is charged
  2. Download the Garmin app
  3. Connect the app to your phone
  4. Download your courses (optional)

Charge watch: The first thing you’ll want to do is charge your watch. When I got mine, the battery was about half charged, but it’ll take about an hour when charging from 0%. The charging process is super simple, but if you’re unsure, check out the demo video below or the user guide above.

Download app: After the watch is charged, you’ll want to download the app on your phone. All you have to do is go to the app store on your phone, search for “Garmin Golf”, and download the app. You can then put in your info, create your account, and then it’ll walk you through connecting your watch.

Download courses: This step is optional, but if you’re playing a course with not the best connection, it might be worthwhile. This just makes sure you’ll be able to get the GPS data when you don’t have a signal or internet on your phone.

Starting A Round With The Garmin S42

Before you step up to the first tee to take your shot I’d recommend making sure the watch is connected and ready to go. You’ll want to do this 5-10 minutes before you start because it can sometimes take a little while to connect.

Here’s how to start your round on the Garmin S42:

  1. Press the side button
  2. Touch Play Golf
  3. Wait for the watch to locate courses near you
  4. Find your course
  5. Select if you want to keep score and the tees you’re playing from

Sometimes it takes a while to locate the satellites around you. If this happens, try hitting “skip” in step #3 to see if your course shows up. You might not need to locate the satellites if you already have the course downloaded.

Garmin S42: Build Quality & Design

I’ve tried a number of different watches over the years, with some of them not being that comfortable. Some just don’t fit my wrist that well while others are a bit too big and bulky.

That being said, comfort is the main thing I’d look for in a watch, especially if I’m paying a few hundred bucks. The second factor is quality since there’s no reason to buy something that’ll fall apart.

In terms of comfort, the watch wasn’t the most comfortable one I’ve tried but it was a lot better than some. I don’t have the biggest wrists, so the square design of the Shot Scope V3 fits a little bit better. If you have bigger wrists, I think the round design of the S42 would be perfect.

For the strap, Garmin makes the best ones, in my opinion, and was super comfortable. If you’re familiar with the previous Garmin S40, the watch size is exactly the same. It’s a bit smaller than the more advanced Garmin S60.

In terms of quality, nothing beats Garmin. Everything from the strap to the buckle to the glass on the screen seems to be of higher quality than any other brand. With that, you’ll pay a higher price.

The buckle on the strap is also metal, which makes it even more rugged. Some of the others had a plastic buckle, but it’s not a huge deal because you can buy replacement straps for not that much.

I also like the fact that the touchscreen is snappy and responsive. Other watches I’ve tried in the past were a bit glitchy, but that wasn’t an issue here.

Garmin S42: On-Course Features

I’m sure the main reason you’d get a watch like this is that you want to use it on the golf course. You might be looking for a number of different features, most of which will be there but some might not.

Courses: What I like about Garmin is that they have the largest database of courses around the world. If your local course isn’t available then there’s really no point in buying the watch. If it’s not, you can always request that they map it (do that here).

What I was glad to see was that all the courses in my area were already mapped and ready to go, even the somewhat overgrown pitch and putt across the street. With some of the other brands, I’d have to request that they map one of the courses I play out of town, but I didn’t have to do that with the S42.

Distances: This is probably the main reason you’d get a golf GPS. Pretty much all watches will tell you the distance to the front, middle, and back of the green (below). What the S42 has that some don’t is that you can manually select a point on the green and it’ll tell you the distance.

You can also use the watch to see the distance to doglegs, which you can’t on some of the watches. You can also see the distance to the 100, 150, and 200-yard layup spots (below).

The final thing that’s pretty cool is that you can set your own custom targets. If there’s a certain part of the course you want to mark for next time, simply create your own custom target and the distance will be remembered.

Shot distance: Everyone wants to know how far they’ve bombed the ball down the fairway, which is something you can do with the S42 (below). A lot of people actually overestimate how far they hit the ball, so knowing your average yardage is really important.

Club distances: Not only will you be able to see the distance of your shots, you’ll also get averages across multiple hits. The watch will record all of your shots and will calculate the average distance for each club (also the longest you’ve ever hit).

The main downside is that you have to select the club you hit after each shot. It’s a bit of a pain, but it becomes a habit after a while. If you want the watch to do this automatically, you can pair the S42 with the Garmin CT10 or get the Shot Scope V3 or Arccos Caddie Sensors instead.

Scorecard: If you don’t want to worry about carrying a pencil and card around with you, the good news is that you can keep score directly on the watch. Press a couple of buttons and you’ll get a live scorecard of your round.

Stat tracking: What’s really cool is that you’ll be able to see stats about your game to see where you need to improve the most. You’ll be able to see what percent of greens and fairways you hit and where your common misses were.

The one annoying thing was that when you hit your tee shot it would ask you whether you hit the fairway, missed left, or missed right. I always end up forgetting to do this, but it’s not the end of the world.

You can also see an overhead view of each hole, where your shots went, and how far you hit each shot. We’ll jump more into this when we talk about the Garmin App.

Manual pin placement: Certain watches will only tell you the distance to the front, middle, and back of the green (not where the pin is). The S42 does that too but it also lets you move the pin around to get a more accurate distance.

Slope/elevation: Have you ever had a simple 150-yard shot but ended up blowing it 15 yards long or leaving it well short? Chances are, you were hitting a shot that was up or downhill.

Some GPS units will actually take into account elevation and give you updated yardages. Some even take into account wind. Instead of a 150-yard shot, it might tell you it’s 130 yards. Unfortunately, the S42 doesn’t come with this feature.

Garmin S42: Off-Course Features

In my opinion, the main reason you’d get this watch is that you also want to use it off the course. It’s a nice-looking watch that also offers a bunch of features for everyday life.

Some of the GPS units on the market have additional features, but they’re golf-specific. You can’t really use them off the course, the quality isn’t as high, and they’re not as comfortable.

I won’t talk too much about the features that come with it, but here are the main features you might be interested in:

  • Alarm clock
  • Timer/stopwatch
  • Sunrise/sunset
  • Sleep/hydration tracking (with Garmin Connect)
  • Phone notifications
  • Weather
  • Step counter
  • Running distance, time, and pace
  • Cycling profiles

Garmin Golf App

Having an app that collects and sorts your data is one of the main reasons you’d want a watch like this. Some of the other models on the market do this as well, but some of them don’t come with it.

Here are just a few of the features of the app:

  • Round overview
  • Fairway & greens in regulation
  • Hole overview
  • Club distances
  • Tee and approach stats

Let’s start with the round overview. Once you’ve finished a round of golf, you’ll be able to go to the app and see your scorecard (left image below) and an overview of each hole (right image below).

The scorecard will show you your overall score, how much over/under par you ended up, how many fairways you hit, your green in regulation numbers, and how many putts you hit.

The hole overview will show you where each of your shots ended up, what club you hit, and the distance of the shot. I like to have a look at this to see where my common misses were so I could work on it at the range.

You can also use the app to get the average and max distances for each club (left image below). I never actually knew how far each of my clubs went, so I was always guessing. Knowing these numbers is so important if you want to get better.

Just in case you were wondering, the numbers below aren’t exactly accurate because the sample size of shots is so low. Only one round of data is showing, and my pitching wedge, for example, was used for a short chip.

Everyone likes to know (and maybe even brag) about how far they drive the ball. The app will show you the longest drive you’ve ever hit on the course (right image above), where it was, and the hole number.

Another cool feature is the shot overview section. Knowing what percent of shots hit the fairway and what percent missed left or right (left image below) can give you a good idea of where you need to improve.

You can also see your shot data on approach shots. It’ll show your GIR percent as well as what percent of shots missed the green to the left or right and how many missed long or short (right image above).

The final thing you might use the app for is to know your performance stats. After you play 10 rounds or so, you’ll be able to see your handicap number, best score, and average score (right image below). I haven’t played 10 rounds yet so the numbers aren’t showing up.

Also, you can see how you’re performing compared to other Garmin users (left image above). You can see how you compare to all golfers or narrow it down to people with the same handicap as you.

How Accurate Is The Garmin S42?

In my experience, the Garmin S42 was always within 5 yards of course markers and my laser rangefinder. However, the yardages were much more accurate than that on average.

Garmin has been making the leading GPS units for a long time now, so you can be sure that they make some of the most accurate watches on the market.

The courses aren’t mapped in person, so there’s always a chance that the yardage could be slightly off. As long as you know that they won’t be 100% accurate, I don’t think it’ll make a difference to you.

The furthest it was off was somewhere around 5 yards. I walked to the 150-yard layup marker and the numbers weren’t quite the same. It could have been the watch or it could have been the marker.

Other than that, the numbers were usually much closer. 1 or 2 yards don’t make a difference to me, and I think the same would go for you. Overall, I was pleased with the accuracy.

Garmin S42 Battery Life

On average, the Garmin S42 will last close to 15 hours in GPS mode. After playing 9 holes (2 hours) with a full charge, the S42 had 86% of its battery life left.

This means that you could easily finish 3 rounds of golf without having to charge the watch. I don’t know about you, but that’s more than enough for me. I always charge the watch after I play, so there has never been an issue.

I’ve been able to use a number of different GPS units and the S42 falls somewhere in the middle. There are units that have a better battery life (fewer features or more money) and there have been units that had worse battery life.

Garmin S42 vs Garmin S62

The Garmin S62 is $200 more than the S42 and has a slightly more rugged design with additional features. Advanced health monitoring and golf features are the main difference between them.

Compared to the S42, the S62 is slightly bigger and comes with a more durable screen. The overall size of the screen is very close and the battery life will last around 5 hours more.

The main difference between them is that the S62 comes with more advanced health monitoring. Things like a heart rate monitor, calories burned, and heart rate stats are what it offers.

When it comes to golf features, most of them are exactly the same. That being said, the S62 comes with Pinpointer (where the flag is), PlaysLike (slope), touch targeting (distance to any point), swing tempo, wind speed, and virtual caddie.

Garmin S42 vs Garmin S40

The Garmin S40 and S42 are essentially the same watches with the same features and the same price tag. Whichever watch is currently cheaper is the one you should purchase.

I was actually really surprised when I compared the specs of each watch. I really have no idea why they needed to make a new one when the stats were essentially the same. The good news is that the prices are the same.

Garmin S42 vs Garmin S12

The Garmin S42 is $100 more than the S12 and comes with a slightly bigger screen and a better screen and battery. It also comes with a few additional golf features as well as more features for off the course.

On the course, the S42 will automatically tell you your shot distance. It’s way more convenient and is something I’d like to have. It also has handicap scoring and comes with the Autoshot feature, which tracks your shots and records them in the app.

Off the course, you’ll have an alarm, timer, and stopwatch. Not super useful if you ask me, but you might want those. It also has smart notifications, activity tracking, and can tell you the weather (cool, right?).

Frequently Asked Questions

Does the Garmin S42 track heart rate? The S42 does not have a built-in heart rate tracker. If you want that then you’d be better off going with the Garmin S62.

Does the Garmin S42 have a touchscreen? The Garmin S42 has a 1.2-inch touchscreen display, which also comes with strengthened glass.

Is The Garmin S42 Worth It?

Garmin makes some of the most popular golf watches and the S42 is a model that offers a lot of features for a reasonable price. I wouldn’t say it’s for everyone, but it does offer a lot of value.

If you’re looking for a watch that you can use on and off the course for a reasonable price, the S42 could be a perfect option for you. It’s one of my favorites that are currently on the market.

That being said, if you don’t like to wear watches (like me for a while), there are better options out there. Also, if you’re really wanting to track your game or swing stats, there could also be a better option.

If you’re still unsure about whether or not the S42 is right for you, I’d recommend you check out our best golf GPS article here. It’ll give you some of our favorite units as well as which one will be perfect for you.

If you have any questions or want to share your experience with the S42, make sure to leave a comment below.

Where To Buy

Check the current price at Playbetter or on Amazon

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Hey, I'm Jon. I started Out Of Bounds Golf to share my findings after testing golf gear for the past 10+ years. My goal is to make the game a little easier to understand, whether that's with finding the right product or answering common questions.

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