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Garmin Approach G12 Golf GPS Review

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The Garmin Approach G12 Golf GPS is a great affordable GPS device.  Very small and light.  Quick and accurate.  Smart array of extra features.


Top of the line golf GPS units have become truly amazing with high definition screens and loads of course info.  However, with all those features comes a steep price.  For golfers aiming to save money for green fees and golf balls, Garmin offers the Approach G12, an affordable golf GPS that doesn’t skimp on the important features that will help you score better.

Set Up & Ease of Use

The Garmin Approach G12 comes with the device, a proprietary charging cable, and a user manual.  As someone who’s slightly old school, I appreciate the inclusion of a proper paper manual.

You can charge your G12 with any USB port, and it’s a good idea to do so before your first round.  You can also sync it to the Garmin app for course updates.  Garmin’s app is excellent, and the syncing takes less than a minute.

As you can see, the Approach G12 is tiny.  It’s barely 2″ tall and less than 1/2″ wide, even with the belt clip.  There are four buttons around the edge, and each one’s function is clearly labeled.  The size is a mixed bag.  It’s barely noticeable on your hip, which is great.  The downside is that those with larger hands may find the buttons tough to operate.  The buttons are solid and have a good, clear press, but getting your fingers situated on the device can be a challenge.

The user interface of the G12 is very good.  The menus are clearly laid out, and the options are sufficient but not overwhelming.

Accuracy & Features

The first time I took the Garmin Approach G12 to the course, I was shocked at how fast it got rolling.  Most GPS devices take a minute or two to find the satellites.  The G12 took seconds.  If you’re the type who’s running from the parking lot to the first tee, this could be a big plus for you.

While on the course, the Approach G12 automatically changes holes and updates yardages almost in real time.  Not only are the yardages updated quickly, they were consistently accurate when compared to course markings or a rangefinder.

One of the things that elevates the G12 above many other budget GPS devices is the hazard display.  First, the G12 gives you distances to numerous hazards on each hole.  It also shows the “to” and “carry” numbers for each bunker.  Finally, it scrolls through the hazards in order which makes it easier to know which bunker the G12 is highlighting.  This is a major point of frustration with other small screen GPS units.

In addition to the hazards, the Approach G12 has several smart “bonus” features.  There’s a digital scorecard which can sync with the Garmin app.  You can measure your shot distances with a couple button pushes.  It also shows you the times for sunrise and sunset.  Finally, there’s a green view that allows you to move the pin to get better yardages.  The pin can’t go anywhere – it rotates among several set locations – but it’s a nice way to see the green shape and perhaps chase that elusive ace.

Garmin also reports that the Approach G12 is IPX7 water-rated.  This means that it, “Withstands incidental exposure to water of up to 1 meter for up to 30 minutes.”  In short, don’t take this device swimming but don’t fear a little drizzle, either.

Finally, the Approach G12 boasts an amazing battery life of up to 30 hours.  This is nearly double the nearest competitor that I’m aware of.  For players who leave their clubs in the car or just forget to charge their devices, this will be a life saver.  One charge might get you through seven rounds or more!


The Garmin Approach G12 GPS retails for $150.  Please consider supporting Plugged In Golf sponsor PlayBetter and buying it HERE.

For only $20 more than the Bushnell Phantom, the Approach G12 is a much better device.  The display is better, the battery life is longer, and the user interface is better.

The only device that is equal or superior to the Approach G12 is the Shot Scope H4 [review HERE].  The H4 is $130, has a color display, and includes the best shot tracking available.  You must buy Garmin’s CT10 sensors ($300) to shot track with the Approach G12.  If you don’t want shot tracking, I can see opting for the G12 for the superior battery life.


If you’re looking for a small, easy to use, budget friendly GPS to carry on your hip while you play, the Garmin Approach G12 is one of the two best devices available.  The display is crisp, it’s accurate, and the battery life is far and away the best available.

Buy the Garmin Approach G12 HERE

Visit Garmin HERE

Matt Saternus
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  1. Honestly, the best GPS is Shot Scope H4. More features and best bang for your buck.

  2. I’ve been thinking about getting something new as I’m not completely thrilled with my S20 watch and this product sounds like it could be a good choice. I’m not sure I want all the shot tracking, but I do want my GPS to start working quicker (the S20 can take a good 10 minutes) and showing more hazards would be great. This unit looks like they should just offer a wrist strap with it as well!

  3. Bonjour, c’est quoi ces prises de vue? Merci.

  4. Gerald Barton

    I don’t understand where the market is. Unless you are young with 20/20 vision these don’t offer much. I think the fastly disappearing hand held gps’s were much superior.

    I feel these manufacturers are loosing me, “a retired golfer of several decades ” is being left behind for inferior products.

  5. Louis Lalonde

    I miss the previous feature when you could find out the distance remaining between where your ball lies to the flag.

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