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Garmin is known for making premium GPS products in many industries. I have discussed many of their golf products and they always create innovations that allow golfers to make smarter strategic decisions about the course. Recently I got the details about the Garmin Approach G80 and was very surprised by its functions. It is a handheld GPS and a launch monitor – something that has never been done before
I was able to test the unit and my main goal was to determine whether the launch monitor function was correct or not. Although I was certain that the GPS functionality would be top class, I also wanted to see how it piled up against other products.
The Garmin Approach G80 comes with a hefty price tag of $ 499. So my main question was whether the dual functionality makes it a bargain, or is it too expensive?
Is The Launch Monitor Actually Good?
When I first heard the announcement about the Approach G80, I found the features incredibly cool, but I was worried that the functionality of the launch monitor would fall short. I assumed that Garmin nailed the GPS function (this is their bread and butter), but it could not resist the competition as a launcher.
The Garmin Approach G80 shows the following statistics during your practice sessions:
Club Head Speed
Estimated carry distance & roll
I asked the Garmin team which measurements they are directly measuring versus what is being estimated. They told me that ball speed, club speed, backswing time and downswing time are directly measured. The swing tempo, smash factor and yardages will be calculated from this.
I've tested almost every single device on the market, from the $ 300 models all the way up to the most expensive ones like Trackman and Foresight. None of them is perfect and has several weak spots. In general, the more you pay, the more accuracy and functions you get.
At $ 500, the Garmin Approach G80 offers dual functionality that has never been performed before. But to make the value proposition work, each side of the product had to do well.
Test It It Out
You can not expect too much for a launch monitor with a price of $ 500 or lower. In my opinion, if you can get reasonably accurate carry yardages and the unit is easy to use, then it is worth the money. If you want additional features such as spinning speeds, launch angle and full-ball flight simulation, you should focus on products such as SkyTrak and commercial launch monitors starting at $ 2000.
I measured the Garmin Approach G80 against my SkyTrak launch monitor. If you read my full review on SkyTrak, you know that I am a big fan of the product. Using high-speed cameras, it provides very accurate measurements of what your golf ball does and acts as a simulator. Although SkyTrak is not perfect, it is an excellent tool to use as a control in this experiment, because I know the data is comparable to more expensive brands such as Trackman and Foresight.
In addition, I have mapped all my distances for every club in my bag, so I know fairly quickly whether I get accurate results.
I took several swings with different clubs in my bag with each launch monitor at the same time, and here are my averages for carrying distance:
Club SkyTrak YardageGarmin G80% difference
Pitch Shot (LW) 220.127.116.11
Overall, I was very impressed with what I saw. The results were almost identical on short irons. I thought that the Approach G80 underwent a little undergrading of my terrains on medium and long irons, but they are still in the stadium. That led me to believe that it would be difficult to read my driver's fluctuations, but to my surprise it did an excellent job, which gave me comparable numbers that I see with SkyTrak and on the track.
The Garmin Approach G80 is not perfect, but in this category of launch monitors these are very reasonable results.
Fast, easy to use and great functions
One of the most important units of measurement that I use to evaluate an exercise instrument is ease of use. If it takes too long to set up and the technology itself is complicated to work with, the product will probably start collecting dust sooner than later.
The Garmin Approach G80 excelled in this area. You just put it in the practice mode, place it within a foot of your golf ball and you get your shot immediately. You do not have to tell the unit which club you hit (other products at this price level do that), which is a huge plus.
In addition, they have a number of fun exercise functions built into the launch monitor. You can use it in the warm-up mode, which allows you to hit every club in your bag.
My favorite feature is the target mode. You can select one or two players and go to a series of yardages that you choose. You will then receive scores based on how accurate you are. I love features like these that will give your practice sessions a bit more structure and purpose.
With the Approach G80 you can also play a virtual round. You can load the GPS map from virtually any golf course in the world. You are then able to hit your tee shots and take photos while the device "simulates" where you would land. Admittedly, it is not very luxurious or detailed, but it helps you to randomly go through your bag and give each photo more meaning.
The first hole at Augusta National (OK, it can be anywhere)
Finally, another feature that I liked was swing pace training. Anyone who has read my article on swing pace knows that I am a big believer in working on your swing rate during training.
Overall, Garmin has done a great job by making a practice partner. The Approach G80 can maintain its own versus the competition with accuracy. I also think it offers the best mix of practice functions at this price level.
Let's not forget about the GPS
The Garmin Approach G80 is also a handy GPS unit. It comes preinstalled with 41,000 jobs and the battery can accommodate up to 15 hours.
I am a big fan of GPS devices that offer you card functionality. As a price manager you want to know your distances at the most important distances on every hole and I am convinced that it can help golfers make smarter decisions.
Garmin has an excellent track record in this field, as they are one of the best GPS companies in the world. I have tested a lot of their golf products, especially the Approach S60 watch, which I think is still the best GPS golf watch on the market.
The Approach G80 does an excellent job by showing maps of each hole and allows you to select specific places to view yardages with zoom functionality. Usually it is a larger version of what the Approach S60 watch features. The screen is very bright even in sunlight, so you do not have problems with creating maps.
Here are some examples of map views
You can move pin positions on any green, mark photos to see how far you've hit them, and estimate the distances based on elevation changes (which can be disabled in tournament mode). In addition, you can continue to score up to four players, taking into account handicap and score formats such as Stableford or match play.
The device is relatively small, so you can fit it in your pocket, but it is best to attach it to your push cart, carrying bag or an electric car (it comes with a mounting kit).
The GPS functionality is excellent. The most important competition at this price level is the newly released SkyCaddie SX500, which I wrote about in this review. I would give the edge of the SX500 performance because the device is more robust and has improved card functionality and screen resolution. SkyGolf, however, calculates an annual fee for access to their cards and it works only as a GPS, while the Garmin Approach G80 has the value of the built-in launch monitor.
Do you have to buy the Garmin Approach G80?
I give Garmin two big thumbs for the Approach G80. They have done something unique and have managed to make a product with dual functionality that does not sacrifice performance on both sides. I did not think a product like this was possible, but every year the technology is pushed further and further.
However, $ 500 is a lot to spend. If you only purchase the Approach G80 for the GPS functionality, the price tag may be a bit too high. If you wanted to use it just like a launch monitor, I would say the same thing. The Voice Caddy SC200 is $ 200 less and offers similar features and accuracy.
The value proposition is if you do not have a GPS or a start monitor, but you want both. The Garmin Approach G80 can be a great exercise buddy during your sessions at home or on the driving range. In addition, the GPS offers a lot of functionality that you would expect from other premium products out there. It is more of a bundle deal and it eliminates the need to have two separate units. The Garmin Approach G80 is for sale here.
If you want to read other reviews for products in this space, here are some related articles that I have written:
The guide for launching monitors
FlightScope mevo review
SkyCaddie SX500 review
Voice Caddy SC200 review
SkyTrak Launch Monitor Review
Garmin Approach S60 Review