Vivoactive 3 vs Approach S20 vs Approach S40 (Golf Watches Compared)

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If you’re looking for a new golf watch there are a bunch of different options to pick from. In this post, I’m going to be comparing the Garmin Vivoactive 3 to the Garmin Approach S20 as well as the Garmin Approach S40 and talking about which one will be best for golfers.

All three watches are solid devices and I don’t think you can go wrong with any of them. They are all very similar when it comes to what golf features they have and that’s why I’d recommend the Vivoactive 3 or Garmin S40 for most people.

The Vivoactive is the cheapest watch on this list and it comes with a bunch of additional (non-golf) features. It does 95% of what the S20 can do and that’s what makes it one of the best-valued watches on the market.

If you want the most golf features, the S40 is one of our favorite golf-specific watches. You can see the rest of our favorites here.

Garmin Vivoactive 3

Vivoactive 3 has been one of my favorite multisport watches on the market and since the newer Vivoactive 4 has come out, the price of the 3 has dropped a lot. I still think it’s an awesome device and is one of the best “bang for your buck” units out there.

It’s going to come with all the essential golf features you’d be looking for and it also has tracking options for other sports as well. You could use it at the gym, when you’re trail running, rock climbing, or whatever else you’re up to. You’ll also be able to keep track of your heart rate and see how well you’re sleeping (this feature isn’t the best).

This watch is actually the cheapest on this list which is going to be a big deal for a lot of people. It’ll show you how far you hit each shot, how far you are from hazards, and how far you are from the green. And yes, it’ll keep score.

It’s not going to give you every single golf feature you’d want (like some of the more expensive watches) but it’ll give you about 80% of what you’d need. All the essentials are covered.

Read review: Garmin Vivoactive 3

Pros

  • It’s an awesome watch if you do multiple sports.
  • The price can’t be beaten.
  • It has most of the golf features you’d need.
  • It’s one of the more comfortable watches I’ve used.

Cons

  • It doesn’t have quite as many golf features as the other two.
  • It’s quite a bit harder to use compared to the other two.
  • The sleep monitoring feature isn’t that great.

Garmin Approach S20

Garmin S20 has been my favorite entry-level golf-specific watch and was always the go-to before the price of the Vivo dropped. It has all the essential golf features and the price won’t break the bank. The main downside to it is that it doesn’t have as many additional features as the Vivo.

The S20 has all of the same golf features as the Vivo but it does have a few extra. The first is that it comes loaded with over 40,000 courses from around the world. The Vivo has access to those courses but you have to download them one at a time (easy but inconvenient).

The second difference is that the S20 is compatible with Garmin Truswing and CT10. Those are trackers you can buy that will give you additional swing info (ball speed, club speed, etc). For whatever reason, the Vivo 3 isn’t compatible.

The third difference is that the S20 is more compact than the other two. Some people don’t like watches (like me) and the smaller option might be better.

The S20 will give you the distance to the front, middle, and back of the green and will show you the distance to hazard and doglegs. Unfortunately, you can’t select any point on the course and get those distances.

NOTE. It looks like they’ve focused their efforts on the Garmin S10 instead. I don’t see the S20 available very often but the S10 is pretty much the same.

Pros

  • It comes loaded with the courses already and has auto-updates.
  • It’s the most compact watch on this list.
  • It’s just as accurate as of the other two watches.
  • It has some fitness tracking features.

Cons

  • It’s not as comfortable as the other two watches.
  • It’s not as durable as the Vivo.
  • It doesn’t have as many additional features as the Vivo.

Garmin Approach S40

Garmin S40 is pretty similar to the S20 but it does have a few more features. It’s around $150 more expensive but the additions could be worth it for you. I’d probably recommend this watch to someone who golfs multiple times per week and wants the most data.

The first thing the S40 does that the S20 doesn’t is that it has quick-release straps. You can quickly take them off and customize them however you want. This is really nice to have in case you break one of your straps.

The second difference is the size. The S40 is going to be a bit bigger and will have a wider screen. This is something that could be better for you if you have big fingers. It’ll also be able to tell you the weather (if you care) and you can set your calendar.

The main difference between the S40 and S20 is that the 40 has the ability to give you custom targets on the course. The S20 can only tell you the distance to the green and hazards. You can get more specific yardages on the S40, which can definitely come in handy. This is the biggest selling point, in my opinion.

Read review: Garmin Approach S40

Pros

  • It has a few more features than the S20 and Vivo.
  • The touchscreen is super responsive.
  • It has interchangeable straps.
  • It’s waterproof.

Cons

  • It has the highest price point of the three.
  • There is no heart rate monitor.
  • It doesn’t have as many features as the Vivo.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q. How long do the batteries last?

A. The Vivoactive will last around 12 hours in GPS mode. The S20 and S40 will last a little longer. All of them will last over a week in smartwatch mode.

Q. Can you play music through the watches?

A. You can control the music on your phone with the Vivoactive.

Q. Can you view messages and incoming calls?

A. Yes, all three of them have smart notifications.

S20, S40, Or Vivoactive 3?

Overall, all three watches are solid devices and I would recommend any of them. They all have the essential golf features and they’re all slightly different. If you want to use it for other activities, Vivoactive is the best choice. It has all the main golf features, it has more tracking capabilities, and it’s cheaper than the other two.

If you’re someone who only plays golf and wants the most features then you should probably get the Garmin S40. You probably don’t care about the other sports and will get more out of it.

If you’re looking to keep track of your swing stats such as club/ball speed, how high your shots are going, smash factor, and more things like that, you might want to get the S20 or S40. They’ll only be able to do that if you purchase the Garmin CT10 or the Garmin Truswing.

Jon Webber

Just an average golfer trying to take my game to the next level. Was shooting around 100 not that long ago but have now been in the 80s consistently. Best round to date was 12 over. Best 9 holes were 4 over.

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