50 Words or Less
The Garmin Approach Z80 laser range finder with integrated GPS presents incredible data in a simple to use unit. Biggest WOW factor of the year.
Garmin has become a household name as a global leader in GPS navigation. Utilizing that expertise, Garmin products have expanded into every technology segment you can imagine – including golf. Their GPS watches and hand held devices have been category leaders for years, but always competed with range finders. The new Garmin Approach Z80 brings the best of both technologies into one remarkable package.
Setup & Ease of Use
The Garmin Approach Z80 comes pre-charged and ready for use right out of the box. Three buttons on top provide all the controls. The down arrow button turns the device on and a few screens ask for input the first time: language, units, and driver distance. The up and down arrows on the screen correspond to the buttons on top. The larger button closest to the eyepiece functions as enter and for target ranging. It took me a few minutes to get used to the functionality of the buttons and various modes, but it’s intuitive overall.
Selecting PLAY GOLF engages satellites that find the nearest course(s) and asks you to confirm the one you are playing. After that, the unit automatically identifies the closest hole and displays it on the left side of the screen in stunning color. Getting distance to an object is as simple as holding down one button.
Accuracy & Performance
Testing the Garmin Approach Z80 on my home course I was mesmerized at the precision of the hole graphics. The driving distance I entered at setup is now a black arc across the hole providing a visual for what hazards are in play from the tee box. Being GPS based, distances changed based on actual tee locations.
As you get closer to the green, the display changes to GREEN VIEW with Front, Center, and Back figures populated across the bottom. Locking on the flag (easier than shooting the stick) not only produced exact distance to the hole, but also a yellow arc provided a visual of what lurked at that distance. I tested distances against my old trusty Leupold and values were identical – except the Z80 displayed a decimal.
Transition to the next hole is automatic. I tried to trick the unit by doubling back to replay a hole and the Z80 knew exactly what hole it was. I was also impressed that the GREEN VIEW stayed accurate even when I went behind the hole.
One other feature that pegs the cool meter is PinPointer mode. This displays a large red compass arrow that not only orients you towards the pin but provides a yardage. I tested this behind some tall hedges on a severe dogleg, and it was spot on. This could be an invaluable feature at a course you aren’t familiar with.
The Garmin Approach Z80 also includes a PlaysLike mode that accounts for elevation changes. I really like that the graphic next to the values alerted me that the number had been adjusted up, down, or not at all. A Tournament Play mode turns off both the elevation and compass features.
Something worth noting is that the live view is video based, not pure optics. The lag is miniscule when panning, and the image stabilizes almost instantly. I encountered a few white out instances coming out of shade to bright sun, but the unit compensated quickly. And I was in heavy test mode, frequently driving with the unit to my eye.
With its retail price of $600, value is not the first word that comes to mind when evaluating the Garmin Approach Z80. But the more I enjoyed all the features and the more WOWs I got from buddies, the more rational the price became. Plus it’s rechargeable, so there are no batteries to purchase.
If you’re going to buy a Z80, support PIG and buy it HERE.
There’s a ton of technology inside the Garmin Approach Z80, yet the unit weighs a mere 8 oz. Even the simple function of waking up from standby mode by wrapping your thumb around the bottom groove exceeds expectations. The ergonomic shape fit my cadet medium size hand nicely, and the unit feels solid. Having both accurate details of the hole and the ability to laser distances in one unit is a technological gem.