Best Garmin Watch for Golf and Running 2023

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Garmin has been delivering top-notch GPS solutions for quite some time now, more than three decades, to be precise. For many serious hunters, the Garmin brand became a proprietary eponym for GPS units, while sports enthusiasts and professionals swear by Garmin smartwatches, and it’s not for no reason. Pushed by never-ending competition with smart technology giants, the company doesn’t rest on its oars and seeks ways to meet the needs of its customers in the most elegant way.

Garmin smartwatches can be classified into watches intended for specific activities (running, cycling, golf, fitness, diving, and so on) and multi-sports watches that combine many different applications (like Fenix 7 and the Epix Gen2). In this article, we conduct a comparison of Garmin running and golf watches.

Garmin Running Watches – Forerunner 55 vs. 255 vs. 955

The Forerunner series was created mainly for running, and its models hold everything an avid runner may need. In 2022, the series was enlarged to include the new Forerunner 255 and 955 lineups intended as the upgraded versions of the older “40” models.

The main difference between the new Forerunners is the price, of course. The FR 55 costs around $200, the FR 255 costs almost twice as much, $350 ($400 for the Music version), while the Forerunner flagship model strikes $500 ($600 for the solar version). This considerable difference in value can already become a decisive factor for many people because not everyone is ready to spend half a thousand bucks on smartwatches, and this approach has its colors of reason.

Build and Design

All models are relatively lightweight compared to the Garmin all-sports watches, with 55g for the FR 955 and 37g for the FR 55. The case size of the watches ascends from the lowest to the highest model, being 42mm for the FR 55 and 46.5mm for the FR 955. However, the FR 255 offers size flexibility – the original model has a case of 45.6mm, while the FR 255S has a case diameter of 41mm.

All Forerunners have a plastic bezel, but in the FR 255 and FR 955, it’s fiber-reinforced. The strap is made of bendy silicone that doesn’t require much breaking-in.

Best Garmin Watch for Golf and Running 2023
Best Garmin Watch for Golf and Running 2023 6

Screen and Display

As for the screen, the FR 55 comes with a basic chemically strengthened glass, while the higher models feature Corning Gorilla Glass 3, which is inherently tougher and more damage- and scratch-resistant.

The display resolution between the Garmin running watches differs heavily, and it’s clearly visible when comparing the FR 55 and FR 255S with higher models. In the smaller watches, you can see pixels, which makes the screen a bit harder to read. The colors and brightness are also better in bigger models. The FR 955 series features a touchscreen along with the buttons, while the other Forerunners have only buttons to navigate.

Memory and Battery Life

When choosing a higher Forerunner over the lower, you naturally get more battery power and memory. The FR 55 can store 200 hours of activity data. Its battery lasts 14 hours in smartwatch mode and 20 hours in GPS mode. 

The FR 255 has 4GB of memory and a battery lasting 14 hours in smartwatch mode, 30 hours in GPS-only mode, and 25 hours in all-systems mode. The FR 255 Music can play back your favorite tracks in all-systems mode for 6.5 hours. The battery of FR 255S is inferior to the original model by 3 days in smartwatch mode and 3-4 hours in other modes.

The flagship FR 955 boasts an impressive memory of 32GB and works for 15 days in smartwatch mode, 42 hours in GPS mode, 20 hours in all-systems mode, and 8.5 hours in music mode. Thanks to the solar charging lens, the battery life of the FR 955 Solar increases up to 49 hours in GPS mode.


All the Forerunners have a full set of clock, health monitoring, and activity tracking features, except that the FR 55 lacks the Pulse Ox sensor for blood oxygen saturation monitoring and can’t make a health snapshot. The model also lacks a barometric altimeter, compass, and thermometer essential for trail running and, consequently, doesn’t have the trail running profile. As a beginner’s watch, the FR 55 doesn’t calculate running dynamics, vertical oscillation and ratio, ground contact time and balance, stride length, running power, performance condition, lactate threshold, and course- and weather-specific race predictor. All the mentioned features, modes, and sensors are present in the FR 255 and FR 955. 

The FR 55 is also heavily stripped down in terms of available training, planning, and analysis features, having only the essential ones. In this respect, the FR 255 is close to the FR 955 but doesn’t display real-time stamina and lacks the training readiness feature that provides a score based on which you can determine whether your body is OK for loads. 

Both the FR 255 and the FR 955 enable you to create and find courses via the Garmin Connect App. Unlike the FR 255, which doesn’t have maps but provides a breadcrumb trail of your outdoor activity, the FR 955 features detailed full-color topographic and road/trail maps.

Unlike the FR 55, the higher models have multiple outdoor recreation profiles (hiking, skiing, and so on) and numerous cycling features. All Forerunners have the essential pool swimming features, but the FR 255 and 955 also offer an open water swimming profile.

What distinguishes the FR 955 from the other mentioned Forerunners is that it’s pairable with the Garmin Golf app, has 42,000 preloaded courses, and provides you with all the necessary golfing data.

Best Garmin Watch for Golf and Running 2023
Best Garmin Watch for Golf and Running 2023 7

Which Forerunner

So, what is the best Garmin running watch? It depends on what you need. The Forerunner 55 will suit beginners and runners that want only the basic features and modes. Though it lacks the trail running profile, the model is great for track and treadmill running. Besides, it’s the cheapest one in our Garmin running watch comparison.

The Forerunner 255 is a great middle-class running watch with nearly all flagship features. The screen is bright and easy to read, and the glass is tough to endure your extensive trail running sessions. If you love to listen to music while running but don’t want to bring your phone, you can choose the Forerunner 255 Music, which can store up to 500 songs from Amazon Music, Spotify, or Deezer accounts.

The Forerunner 955 is considered the best Garmin running watch due to the numerous running and other sports features, full-color detailed maps, touchscreen, long battery life, and the ability to store up to 2,000 songs. The Forerunner 955 Solar can increase the battery life even more.

The mentioned Forerunners are also great Garmin women’s running watches since they allow you to track menstrual cycles or pregnancy.

Best Garmin Watch for Golf and Running 2023
Best Garmin Watch for Golf and Running 2023 8

Garmin Golf Watches – Approach S12 vs. S42 vs. S62

The Approach is a Garmin series of smartwatches primarily intended for golf. The three models are very different from one another in hardware and software. The price range is similar to the Forerunner series – around $200 for the S12, $300 for the S42, and $500 for the Garmin S62 golf watch.

Build and Design Golf Watches

As with the Forerunners, the middle model offers something unique that falls out of the series logic when you expect everything to become bigger with each model. The S42 has a case diameter of 43.4mm, that’s slightly less than the lower S12 with a case size of 43.7mm. The thickness of these two models is almost equal – 11.7 in the S42 vs. 11.4 in the S12. The S62, on the other hand, is quite a big watch with a case size of 47mm and a case thickness of 14.8mm.

The bezel material is different for different watches. The S12 has a matte plastic bezel, while the S42 and S62 feature metal or ceramic bezels for more durability. The straps are silicone.

Screen and Display Golf Watches

We’ve noted the similarity in physical dimensions of the S12 and the S42. However, their display sizes are quite dissimilar – 23mm and 30.4mm. The difference in display resolution between these two models is clearly visible at first glance. The S12 has a comparatively low resolution of 176×176 pixels, while the S42 has 240×240 pixels. The S62 has a screen diameter of 33mm and a resolution of 260×260 pixels.

The glass on the S62 is Gorilla Glass 3, while the lower models have simple chemically strengthened glass.

The S12 doesn’t feature a color display to the edges and a touchscreen, while the higher models do. For that reason, it has four navigation buttons. The S42 has only one button shifted out of the central axis so as not to interfere with swinging the club, and the S62 also has three buttons on one side.

The screens of the S42 and S62 have 18 sections representing the holes.

Best Garmin Watch for Golf and Running 2023
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The black-and-white screen and non-smart nature of the S12 allow the battery to last the longest – 10 weeks in watch mode and 30 hours in GPS mode. The S42 and S62 work for 10 or 14 days in smartwatch mode and 15 or 20 hours in GPS mode, respectively.


The S12 is marketed as a stripped-down Garmin GPS golf watch for those who want to keep it simple. It has only prime-necessity features providing yardage to the front, middle, and back or green, distance to layups, a digital scorecard, and stat tracking (putts per round, strokes, and greens and fairway hit). The shot distance is measured manually. The S42 and S62 have all these features, plus the AutoShot for automatic tracking of shot yardages.

The S42 and S62 feature handicap scoring, while the S62 also offers several advanced features, such as swing tempo, tempo training, wind speed and direction detection, and a virtual caddie that processes the data from your previous rounds and suggests clubs.

All the Approaches have 42,000 preloaded courses. However, with the S12 and S42, you won’t get a full overview of the course with a detailed map as you will with the S62. Instead, these models provide you with the shape of the green, the line representing the distance to the green, and the hash marks representing the hazards. The only difference is that the S12 has these graphs in black-and-white, while the S42 offers color graphs.

As for sensors, the S12 has only GPS, and the S42 also has a gyroscope and accelerometer. The S62, on the other hand, has those plus the heart rate, compass, and blood oxygen saturation sensors that open the field for more health monitoring and activity tracking features. If you’re into other sports, the S62 also provides you with pool swim metrics and rest time for swimmers and alerts for cyclists. It also has a few outdoor recreation profiles.

Which Approach

If you want to keep it simple, choose the Approach S12. It has everything you need to play golf and comes at a fantastic price. The S42 is a beautifully designed mid-class Garmin golf watch that you can actually wear off-course thanks to several basic clock, activity tracking, and health monitoring features. A higher-resolution color display is easy to read. The Approach S62 is a superior golf watch with some extra features that not only ease your time at the course but make you a better golfer.

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