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Garmin Approach S3 Hands-On Review 


Garmin Approach S3 GPSGarmin Approach S3 White

Garmin S3

Retail: $349.95

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Garmin Approach S3 is the follow up to the hugely popular S1. The S1 was the first golf gps watch. Let's take an in-depth look at the ins and outs of the S3. This is not so much a summary as a reference guide.  What you need to try and take away from this is if this unit has the features and functionality that will mesh with your golf game.  Let's take a look now.


-----Quick Facts----- 

Pre-Loaded with over 27,000 Courses Worldwide

See Available Courses

No Charge for Future Course Additions and Updates

Distances for Front, Middle, and Back of Green, Layups, Doglegs, and Customizable Yardage Points

Green View will display for you the shape and layout of the green. If you know the location of the pin you will be able to manually drag the flag with your finger to that point. The S3 will then show you the exact distance to the pin.

1" Hi-Resolution Touchscreen Monochrome LCD

Rechargeable Lithium-ion Battery (Last 4 weeks (watch mode) or 8 hours (GPS mode))

Weighs 2.06 oz. -- Waterproof -- Touchscreen is glove friendly -- USB interface


 Garmin Approach S3 Front of Box     Garmin Approach S3 Back of Box

 Front and Back pictures of the S3 before it is opened


Unboxing the Garmin Approach S3

The S3 is well packaged in a strong and sturdy box. Everything in plastic bags except for the watch which had a thick piece of foam behind it and a form fitting plastic on top. The contents include the watch, USB charging cable, AC adapter, and manual. The USB charging cable can plug either in to your computer or the AC adapter.

Garmin Approach S3 Unboxing

The Garmin Approach S3 Unboxed




 Garmin Approach S3 USB Cable    Garmin Approach S3 AC Adapter


  Garmin Approach S3 on Wrist  Garmin Approach S3 Wrist Band


Garmin Approach S3 Side View   Garmin Approach S3 Side View on Wrist


The watch is easy to put on and it is quite comfortable. It is a little thicker than most watches but it doesn't feel overly big on my wrist. The wrist band is very flexible and easy to get the right size. There is plenty of extra room if playing in cold weather should the need arise to put the watch over a long sleeve shirt. Another note on playing in cold weather. I own a Garmin Forerunner 210 running watch and once it locks on to the satellites I am able to run with my jacket covering it and the watch stays locked on the satellites. The S3 should be the same, but we'll need to test it to see.


Garmin Approach S3 Bottom of Watch While Charging   Garmin Approach S3 Charging from AC Adapter



Charging Your Garmin Watch

When you have your S3 unpacked the next step will be to fully charge it. Plug the USB charger either in the computer or AC adapter. The charger is magnetic and will easily attach itself to the bottom of the watch. The charger will basically be cradling the watch. There is only one way that will connect properly. Make sure that the connectors on the watch line up with the connectors on the charger. The first time you connect it the display should list the different languages available. Scroll through the screens until you find your language, then select it. The language can also be changed in the setup screen. The watch screen now displays the time and date. The unit should now be charging. If it is charging properly the status bar in the upper right should be blinking. If the bar is not displayed and blinking, then adjust the charger so that the connectors are properly in place.



The screen has been designed to work with both your finger tip and with a golf glove. It is responsive but you will need to apply pressure for it to accept. This is to prevent accidental touches which can easily occur on the course.

 Garmin Approach S3 Main Screen

Start a Round

To begin a round you simply press the three bar symbol on the watch to go to the main menu. From there you select Start Round. The gps will then locate the satellites to lock in your position. Once the S3 has locked in the satellites, it will display the closest courses to your current location. Select the course that you will be playing. Once the course is loaded it will display the 1st hole. On your display will be the distances to the front, middle, and back of the green. Garmin has enlarged the display of the middle of the green distance to be the most prominent. To the left will be the hole # and par for that hole. The watch features automatic hole advance but you can also manually change holes forward or backward by tapping the arrow at the top or bottom of the screen. You may just want to look ahead to see what's coming.Garmin Approach S3 Layups Doglegs and Custom Distances

After your drive, you proceed to your ball and the numbers will recalculate in real time. Once at your ball the Approach S3 will simply and quickly provide you with the numbers you need to make your next shot. On the main screen you will still have the newly calculated distances for the front, middle, and back of hole. Just tap the middle of the screen and screen with layups and doglegs will display.  Depending on the length and type of hole, will determine how many distances for layups, doglegs, and custom locations are displayed. For example, a par 5 will show you any doglegs plus layups for 100, 150, 200, and 250. Three distances show up for screen, if additional ones are available just use the arrows at the top and bottom of screen or flick your finger up or down.  In addition, you can save up to 5 custom locations per hole. These custom locations can be for any point you would like to mark, simply stand at the location and mark it. Press the return button and you are back at the main screen.

From the main menu you can press the three bar symbol for the menu list which include End Round, Green View, Odometer, Save Location, and Lock Screen.

Let's look at the Green View screen. Press the Green View and you will be shown an imageGarmin Approach S3 Green View with the actual shape of the green with the pin in the middle. With your finger you can manually move the pin to the location it actually is. When you do this the new distance to the pin will show up on the screen. Also, when you hit the return button to the main screen the distances to the front, middle, and back of the green will reflect the adjusted distances based on the new location of the pin.




Shot Measure

On the right side of the S3 there are 2 dedicated buttons with top right used for measuring your shots. It's really quite simple, you press the Measure button when you are at your starting point. When you get to your ball the watch will be showing you the distance. Hold the button down to reset. It will also reset when you go to the next hole.  Use this to measure shots for all your clubs.  Once you learn how far you hit each club, course management and club decisions will be much easier.



The built in odometer measures both time and distance. It will automatically start when you begin a round. It will stop when you end the round. You can also start and stop it manually, which means it can be used outside of golf for walking/running.


Digital Scorecard and MoreGarmin Approach S3 Digital Scorecard

The Approach S3 has a digital scorecard that can track scores for the 1 player. To enter your score make sure you are on the hole view screen. Press the dedicated button on the lower right side of the golf watch. The scoring screen will then display. It will show you the hole # and the par for that hole. To enter your score, press the + or - at the bottom of the screen and the par # will increase or decrease. At the top of the screen you will be shown a running total of your score as either over or under par. Press and hold the score button and you will be displayed a list of the holes with your scores. If needed, you can choose a hole and edit the score.

Your golf watch can be setup for 2 types of scoring methods. You can choose either Stroke play or Stableford. The Stableford method uses points instead of strokes. See the chart below for the strokes to points conversion.

Points Strokes Taken Relative to Par


2 or more over


1 over




1 under


2 under


3 under


When you end your round your digital scorecard will be saved for you to view it on your computer.


View Saved Scorecards on Your Computer


Garmin Approach S3 File List as Viewed on My Computer in Windows

Connect your S3 to the usb cable. Open up Windows Explorer. The unit will be listed as a removeable device. Double click on it and when it opens, the files above should be displayed. When you double click on the ScorecardViewer file it will open up your internet browser and display your saved scorecards.


Garmin Approach S3 Scorecards Online

This is a list of all the saved scorecards. Click on your course of choose to view the scorecard. See example below.


Garmin Approach S3 Digital Scorecard Online


Customize Your Golf Watch

When you go to the settings in your S3 watch you will have quite a few different settings to customize the unit to your likings.

Tones - Audible tones can be turned on and off

Display - There are 2 display options: White Background w/Black Text or Black Background w/White Text

Scoring - Set scoring method to Stroke or Stableford

Time - Set time to automatic or manual

Format - 12- or 24-hour time format

Language - Set desired language

Units - Set to measure in yards or meters


Approach S3 Watch Course and Firmware Updates

Updating your watch is very important. Garmin has an update software that you can download to your computer to accomplish the updating task. This will not only update the courses on your watch but will also keep the firmware current. Even though your S3 comes pre-loaded with courses from around the world, using the update software will not only add new courses but will include any changes to current courses in the database. Most watches will not ship with the most current firmware and course database. At the end of your update the last screen will give you the opportunity to submit your email address to Garmin so that they can notify you when new updates are available. The following is not only a step by step on how to update your watch for the first time, but also to show you how easy it is. There are a number of sceens below but take it one screen at a time and most of the processes are automated.

Garmin Course View Updater Web Shot

Go to to download the Course Updater for your Approach S3. It is available in Windows and Mac versions. And of course it is free.


Garmin Course Updater Initial Screen

 After downloading the Updater file from the Garmin website, find the file on your computer and double click it to install and the screen above will appear.


Garmin Course Updater Device Connected

Now connect your watch to the USB cable. Once the device drivers are loaded the program should find your device and list it like you see above. If everything loads and it doesn't show up, then click the search for device.


Garmin Course Updater Restart Device

 If a firmware update was required then this screen will appear after the update is downloaded. From here you need to disconnect the watch from the usb cable. The watch will then automatically begin the update process. Once updated your will see the main watch screen with Date/Time. You can now reconnect the watch to the usb cable to continue the course update process.


 Garmin Course Updater Available Updates

If course updates are available then this screen will display and have a check mark on the regions available. Click Update.


Garmin Course Updater Downloading Courses

The courses are then downloaded.


Garmin Course Updater Installing Courses

 The software will then automatically begin installing each update by region after it is downloaded.


Garmin Course Updater Completed

When the updates are complete you will see the above screen with the optional notification service.


 Garmin Approach S3     Garmin Approach S3 White




Garmin Approach S3 GPS

Garmin Approach S3 WhiteGarmin S3

Retail: $349.95

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Now Shipping!

Canadian Price Click Here

U.K. Price Click Here

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