After going back and forth on my decision as to whether getting a golf watch would help me, I decided to just pull the trigger and go for it. I am generally of the type that makes purchases based on what people say, and not so much of what I can research or compare online. Comparisons are rather simplistic for me. For a price range give and take 10-15%, what are the products out there? You have a whole bunch, and I mean a WHOLE bunch of Garmin watches – dedicated to Golf as well as the watches that are multi-sport and golf enabled. But look at the pricing – You have the Fenix Garmin at around 3k+ and even up to 4k+, S62 golf watch, Instinct Solar (RM2.5k), you go down to the next level of Vivoactive (1.6kRM), which is still hefty. Down lower still are the older versions of S62 – the S40 or S42 which you can get around 1.4k – 1.5k.
Still lower in the band (I targeted a watch under RM1k), you will get the cheaper ones like S12, S10 – which depending on your risk appetite, you could find some as low as RM500+ on Shoppee. I wouldn’t trust that too much though – probably in the region of RM700 for S10 or RM800 for S12 or RM1000 for S20. These were the ones in general I was comparing the W11 to. But W11 comes with touch screen, which the cheaper Garmin models did not have. In fact the probable comparison of the W11 would be with the S40, which I think the cheapest I could get to was around is probably 1.4k. Anything cheaper than that right now, I’d probably think twice.
So the competitor of the W11 Golf Buddy basically comes down to the S10 or S12 from Garmin, and that’s pretty much it. Without touch screen or color display, the choice is pretty obvious. For a while there was this colorless but touch-screen enabled Bushnell ION Edge that was selling for around RM700 in Lazada but now it has shot up to 1.4k, so no thanks.
The W11 comes at around RM990 or so, or if you can get it below RM890 on occasions where there is a promotion. Either way, it’s good value for money.
This isn’t a review of the watch – other people do a whole lot heck better than me in these reviews. A very good walkthrough would be here:
Using the W11, the primary worry was whether it would interfere with my swing. Obviously, if I was swinging like Rory McIlroy and everything is balanced to perfection, this concern would be very well worth the weight. However, because I generally swing like a giant gibbon, it doesn’t actually matter much. In fact, after the initial discomfort, once golf started and the hacking begun, I could be wearing handcuffs on my wrist and I wouldn’t even notice.
The interface is very simple. And that’s saying a lot as I am a very simple person by nature. I don’t like too many things happening, so for W11, you basically turn it on, go to the hole, feel it buzz and you are good to go. Whack it, walk to your ball look at the primary screen to see FRONT, MIDDLE and BACK distances of the green. It doesn’t tell you the flag, so you basically have to just look at the actual flag itself and make your own decisions. However, even with this basic information, I found myself getting somewhat better in my approach shots. There is no wind calculation or elevation taken into account here, so again, you need to be slightly experienced in golf to address these things.
Other than that, it does a few other items like measuring your shot distance (but you need to remember to turn it on), putting in your scores (and putts) but strangely, nothing else. It also has a rather convoluted way to measure the hole lay up distances and also hazard, which annoys the crap out of me. After looking at what the S40 does, I begin to see why this W11 cost so much lesser, the interface isn’t that intuitive after all.
During the game, I found myself using it a lot – in fact, almost every stroke except chipping and putting. The simple distance to green is primarily used 95% of the time. I hardly tinker around with the other features, except for after the whole to input my score and the number of putts I did.
What are some of the issues?
Let’s drill down to it.
a) GPS takes a LONG time to detect the course
While this may sound like a problem with all GPS watches, it annoyed me when I teed off at KGNS first hole and the damn watch was still searching for the GPS. It was a cloudy day, yes, so it’s probably the reason. I was halfway through my par 5 when the watch sorted out it’s GPS and told me to go to the tee box to start the game. Not cool.
b) The software is completely crap
Golfbuddy didn’t put a lot of effort into making a good software. One – the mobile app is absolutely garbage. It didn’t do anything and as of today, I was put on notice that they were dumping the old app and created a new one called One Caddie which looked a lot better. BUT. You need to pay for it. Like RM14 per month. Isn’t the whole point of getting this damn watch is to NOT pay for caddies, virtual or human otherwise?
So, screw the mobile app.
Golf buddy comes also with a clunky Golf buddy course manager, which is an application installed on your laptop, designed to update courses and what not. The interface isn’t pretty and looked like it was developed back in the early 2000s, which it probably was. However, it does a few things – one, it can update courses for your device. So you need to plug the watch into the USB using the charging dock and press “Connect to GB Manager” on the watch screen.
Sometimes, it doesn’t trace the watch so you just need to restart it again.
Aside from doing a course update, it also allows you to automatically update the score of your rounds. However, we come to the next issue:
c) The software requires manual input
Because the watch itself only tracks your score and also number of putts, you need to have a few things in mind:
- Remembering whether you hit the fairway or not, and if you missed, whether you miss left or right
- Remembering if you were playing from the bunker or not on each hole
Now, this obviously is annoying because I generally have very low recollection of what the heck is happening in the round. I mean who remembers every shot they hit anyway? So you generally just end up randomly keying in stuff that doesn’t really reflect anything. I am sure the Garmin has ways of actually tracking where on earth you are in the golf course and is able to take into account whether you are playing off the fairway or from the bunker.
d) I don’t like the hole layouts
Aside from the basic distance to the green, the other two areas we should easily be able to check is – distance to hazards (and basically layup / crossing distance) and also distance to any part of the course (in general, to the 100 meter mark for instance). Often in golf, we aren’t hitting the green on a par 5 on our second shot. Instead we also do not want to hit the 3 wood to somewhere 40-50 meters for the awkward approach. We want to reach the 100 meter marker so we can take a full approach wedge into the green. I think the W11 can do it but it does so in a very confusing manner.
Once you swap right, you are faced with this nice looking illustration. They call it the dual arch method or whatever. In the above illustration, we can see around 150 we are reaching the water (red arch). The blue arch is basically the distance from the green. So the question here is – how far should I hit the ball in order to get to the 150 marker?
There are some mental gymnastics needed here but overall, it’s just annoying that it’s not so easy to do like the Garmin. The Garmin just says, if you want to hit to 100 meters, you need to hit 162 meters. That’s it. None of this graphical bullshit that looks nice but can’t give you what you need without going through mathematics.
To give it credit though, the Hazard interface is a lot better – it gives good information to the front of the hazard, the back of the hazard and whether its on the left or right of the hole (in case there are multiple bunkers).
e) Shot distance is not great
I don’t get how difficult it is to implement an automatic shot distance count. When you have hit the shot – just track that we are now walking to the ball. That’s it, and then give an automatic distance on it and ask if we want to save it as a drive. After all, that’s all there is to it. Instead, W11 requires us to navigate to the ‘shot distance counter’, turn it on, and then start walking to the ball. How many times will we even remember doing this at all? It’s voted the most useless feature, because you can’t even store the distance to your scorecard. At least, provide us with a way to input drive distances on fairways so we can brag about our average drives!
I think overall, at under RM1k, it’s probably the best option out there for you. If you don’t mind coughing up a few hundred more, the S40/S42 of Garmin is probably a better product out there. The W11 tries pretty hard to give the features more expensive watches are giving and for the most part, it does deliver. Distances are fairly accurate and matches the distance we see in our range finders. While the software is clunky, it does its job in a fair manner. The tri-color straps are pretty ugly but at least they recognise it and provide you with a plain black strap.
Looks wise – it’s actually quite functional. I like the single button concept (although in a year or two, I would imagine this button completely broken and the watch non-functional). The different faces of the watch is also something you can change – all aren’t pretty but at least it gives you something to alter. And the watch itself actually looks reasonably nice – and not bulky like a typical sports watch. It’s something certainly wearable for occasions like a casual dinner or even more formal meetings.
Battery wise it’s quite durable – without playing golf, it can last for days, and for golf, I think around 2 rounds is easily possible.
A note on the charger. Plugging the charger into a random charging port or adapter sometimes will cause the watch to complain it has stopped charging due to it overheating. The adapter I found works is AC Input 100-240v ~ 200mA and output 5v – 1A.
Do I recommend the watch? Yes, if you are looking at anything sub 1k for golf, I don’t think there is a better option out there. But if you have some cash to spend, I think the Garmin s40 onwards is probably a better purchase, based on other reviews I am seeing.