Critical Golf: Unbiased Golf Equipment Reviews

Garmin Approach G3

OVERALL RATING: 92. GRADE: A-. The Garmin Approach G3 is the latest Garmin-branded golf GPS device, and delivers everything that the predecessor Garmin Approach G5 unit does, in a smaller package and with a lower price. “Breathtaking. I shall call him…Mini-Me.”

The Garmin Approach G3 is a solid unit (maybe a little too solid when you slip it into your pocket, since despite its small size, it’s still relatively heavy at 5.35 ounces – compare this to the Callaway uPro at 3.1 ounces). Like the G5, it suffers from one of the problems inherent with touchscreens, which is that it can be difficult to accurately pinpoint your desired targets (particularly if you have large fingers), but the touchscreen also makes navigating among the G3’s different features simple and intuitive. Garmin’s use of illustrations of holes, as opposed to actual satellite photographs, is really starting to grow on us – the illustrations are much brighter than photographs, and are thus viewable in all light conditions. An added bonus is that the Gamin Approach G3 requires absolutely no set-up time at all, with all courses pre-loaded on the device.

One of our few complaints is that we wish the device had the ability to track statistics – an unfortunate oversight for a premium device. And while we’re nit-picking, the combination of the G3’s bulky shape and weight make it a bit of a brick in your pocket. A 20% smaller and lighter brick than the G5, but a brick nonetheless. As a note, since the G3 is so similar to the G5, we borrowed liberally from the text of our earlier review for the G5 in writing this one…We’re not lazy…just efficient!

SCORE
92
GRADE
A-
Setup/Syncing
100
Course Availability
97
Ease of Use
95
Course Details
94
Features
92
Accuracy
93
Cost/Value
92
Pros:

  • Matches the G5 with the best user interface we tested
  • Can determine the distance to any point on a hole
  • No set-up required – courses are all pre-loaded
  • No fee for access to the course database

Cons:

  • No tracking of any statistics (fairways hit, GIR, putts, sand saves, et al)
  • When the user touches the screen to determine a custom point, the pre-marked points are not viewable
  • Short battery life

Availability: Discontinued. Replaced by the Garmin Approach G6
Retail price: $269.99
Three year total cost: $269.99
Amazon.com: Check price now
Golfsmith: Check price now


100 / A+

SETUP/SYNCING

The Good: The Garmin Approach G3 scores a perfect 100 for setup – all the user does is install a pair of AA batteries (not included) and turn on the device. Courses are pre-loaded so no downloads are necessary.

The Bad: Absolutely nothing.

Details:

  • Required Steps. None – there isn’t anything that the user needs to do. Garmin’s web site provides a free application (the WebUpdater) that can be downloaded to the user’s computer – once the Garmin Approach G3 is connected to the computer with a USB cable, WebUpdater should automatically find the latest software and sync it to the device. In addition, Garmin has promised to make periodic updates to the course database available for free from its web site.
  • Time Required for Setup. None, other than the time it takes you to find a pair of batteries.

What’s in the Box: The Garmin Approach G3 comes with:

  • USB cable
  • Quick Start Guide
  • Belt Clip

Required Downloads:

  • None

Optional Downloads:


97 / A+

COURSE AVAILABILITY

Critical Golf Test: Garmin keeps adding courses to its database, now scoring 97% in our course coverage test, which places it among the top devices in overall coverage.

Manufacturer’s Claims: Garmin claims to have 17,000 courses in the United States and Canada in its database, which currently places the Approach G3 near the tops of our course coverage comparison test for the region. Unlike other manufacturers, however, the Garmin Approach G3 is a North America-specific device. So if you are looking for one device to use in other continents, you’ll want to look elsewhere.


95 / A

EASE OF USE

The Good: Nice simple interface to access different features. Courses are all stored on the device, so the user doesn’t have to decide which ones to swap on or off of the device’s memory. The touchscreen makes finding distances to a targeted point (as well as the distance from that point to the middle of the green) as easy as touching the screen and moving a cross-hair over the desired point.

The Bad: Pre-marked distances are not viewable while the user is using the touchscreen to determine a custom distance. While targeting a desired point your finger may block the view of the cross-hair and distance. Two words of advice to Garmin Approach G3 purchasers: rechargeable batteries. We kept getting a warning screen that the battery power was “too low for full backlight”, even when the battery meter was showing between 1/2 and 3/4 of a charge remaining.

Garmin Approach G3 Golf GPS Device
Click for more images

Details:

  • Buttons. The Garmin Approach G3 only has a single button, the power button, which powers the device on/off if held for a few seconds, or if pressed briefly when the device is on, will display a screen showing the date/time, a battery meter, and a button to touch to lock the screen. All other information and controls are accessed through the touchscreen. The interface on the touchscreen is intuitive, and the ways to access different functions are clearly labeled.
  • Screen. The color screen is bright, and we had no problem viewing it in sunny conditions. The G3’s screen size is about 20% smaller than the G5, but we didn’t notice any difference in usability.
  • Touchscreen Sensitivity. We had a bit more of a problem with the touchscreen of the Garmin Approach G3 than we did with the G5 – on occasion, we had to push a button multiple times before it would activate. This is more of a minor annoyance than a tragic flaw. We note that we still had the occasional issue with the device accidentally advancing to new screens or new holes when jostled around in a pocket. You can solve this by clicking on the power button to move to the “standby” screen, but that then necessitates hitting a button when you want to get back to the display of the hole.
  • Form Factor. The device comes in at 5.35 ounces, making the G3 one of the heavier GPS devices we tested. The length and width of the Garmin Approach G3 are actually quite compact. Unfortunately, it’s a thick little sucker – while its length and width are comparable to a Callaway uPro, it is basically twice as thick.
  • Starting a Round. After powering up the G3, the user needs to manually select the desired course. Courses are listed in order of proximity to the current location. Once a course is selected, the device defaults to displaying the first hole of the course – if you are playing just the back nine or in a shotgun start, you have to manually press the “>>” button multiple times to advance to the relevant starting hole.
  • Battery Life. Battery life is relatively short, though we were able to make it through two rounds before the batteries died. The device does automatically reduce the brightness of the screen after one minute of inactivity to conserve battery life . One really annoying glitch – when the G3 batteries are near the threshold charge level for triggering a warning screen that battery power is insufficient for full backlighting, the device seems to frequently change its mind about whether there actually is sufficient power or not…and thus, it will re-display the warning screen 2 seconds after it just showed it to you and then again…and again. Once the charge level drops comfortably below that threshold, the problem seems to go away.

For more details, check out the Critical Golf comparison of golf GPS device features.


94 / A

COURSE DETAIL AND MAPPING

The Good: The ability to determine the distance to any point and to pinpoint the precise position of a target on the green provides tremendous flexibility, and Garmin complements this with pre-marked distances to many relevant hazards and targets. The view of the green rotates based upon where the user is standing in hole view.

The Bad: Fairly random as to when distances to hazards are displayed – distances to points may appear and then disappear as you approach them, or may only appear once you are so close to them that the distance is irrelevant.

Garmin Approach G3 Golf GPS Device
Click for more views

Details:

  • Views. The Garmin Approach G3 provides two main views – a “hole view” that shows an overhead illustration of the hole, and a “green view” focused on the green and surrounding area.
    • Hole view – The Garmin will automatically zoom in on the hole view as the user marches closer to the green. There are a number of “levels” of zoom on the hole view – ranging from the entire hole when users are on the tee box, to just the green and surroundings. The user can also manually zoom by touching the screen, moving the cross-hair to the desired area, and then touching the “zoom” button (there is only one level of zoom available when manually zooming). When targeting a point with the cross-hair, the cross-hair and distance to the targeted point will most likely be blocked by your finger. However, when you lift your finger from the screen both the cross-hair and distance will still be displayed (until you select “Done”).

      The distance displayed at the top of the screen is to the center of the green or wherever the user has placed the flagstick within the “green view”, below. When you select a point the distance will be updated to be the total distance from your current location to the selected point plus the distance from that point to the flagstick. The distance at the top of the screen is not, as it is with some golf GPS devices, either the distance to the targeted point or the distance as the crow flies to the center of the green.

      Garmin has pre-marked the distances to some hazards and targets, but in hole view it is sometimes difficult to determine what point the distance refers – whether the distance displayed is the distance to reach a bunker or the distance to clear the bunker. Thankfully, in some of the zoomed views, the hazards are enlarged enough that both distances to reach a hazard and to clear a hazard are displayed. We can’t figure out Garmin’s philosophy on displaying distances – Garmin has already marked the key hole targets, so why not show the distances to more of them? The graphics of the hazards are nicely detailed, though there are some minor issues, as bunkers were often shown as overlapping in graphics when in reality they had gaps of approximately 5 feet between them. The view of the hole and green will continue to rotate based on the player’s position to the green, which is a nice feature.
      The hole view always displays the hole number and par.

    • Green view – Shows the shape of the green, and allows the user to touch any point on the green to indicate the flagstick position. Once the user modifies the flagstick position it will keep this position for the hole, so if the user returns to the hole view the distances will be relative to this updated flagstick location. This view also shows the distance from the user to distances on and around the green (the view will not continue to rotate based on player position once the user has moved to green view). One of the most thoughtful features of Garmin’s devices is that their green views show enough of the surrounding area (bunkers, et al) that users can easily determine where they are relative to the green. This may sound simple, but the challenge of many of the devices is that when the user is standing at the side of the green, and sees a picture of just the green (out of context), with distances to the “bottom” of the green and the “top” of the green, it often isn’t clear if the “bottom” reading is the point on the green closest to the user, or to the tee box. Furthermore, many times the only way the user knows that the green has been rotated is if they know the shape of the green extremely well – which is generally not the case on a course that a user is playing for the first time. Our last comment, which parallels those regarding the hole view, is that the device isn’t consistent in which points it will show – the near and far points of the green are not always what is displayed (we presume that Garmin chooses to only plot a limited number of points around the perimeter of the green).
  • Hole Information. The hole number and par are visible on the “hole view” screen. Hole handicap is not available.
  • Custom Mapping. Garmin Approach G3 users cannot add and save their own points to the map. This isn’t a huge issue since location to any point can be determined, but as mentioned above, it would be nice to have greater information on distances to certain hazards in the overhead view.

Suggestion Box:

  • The hole view is an artist’s rendition of the hole, rather than a photograph. The benefit of this is that the image is much brighter than a satellite photo. But it does leave some doubt as to whether every relevant hazard is displayed – particularly trees. Garmin lists some courses as showing “tree cover”, but we would like to see this become standard on their course maps.
  • It would also be helpful if Garmin provided more distances to pre-mapped points in hole view. We encountered a large number of holes where distances either to hazards or to clear hazards from the tee box were not provided, and some pre-marked distances only appeared long after the information was useful (in one case once we were within 20 yards of the point).
  • Finally, while we liked the flexibility in the green view to move the flagstick to any point on the green (and receive distances to that repositioned flagstick), we sometimes found ourselves pulling out the G3 and finding that while it was jostled about in our pocket, it had bumbled along into the green view and repositioned the flagstick. When that happened, we couldn’t find any way to restore the flagstick to the default position in the center of the green (other than by exiting the round, which will erase all of your scores). We were left needing to manually nudge it back to the center of the green on our own.

92 / A-

FEATURES

The Good: A solid grouping of useful features that are executed well. Plus it’s waterproof!

The Bad: There is no ability to record statistics, nor can the user modify any settings during the course of their round.

Garmin Approach G3 Golf GPS Device

Click for more images

Details:

  • Shot Tracking. The Garmin Approach G3 has a simple interface for tracking shots. The touchscreen really shines on these types of features, since very specific buttons can be created and changed depending on the screen that is displayed. Also, the user can leave the shot tracking screen to utilize a different feature and then return – the device will still continue tracking the shot distance. Note that users cannot indicate which clubs were used for a given shot, which some devices allow so they can calculate average club distances.
  • Score and Statistics. Again, the Garmin Approach G3 succeeds in presenting a basic interface for keeping score. The user goes to the scorecard, touches a column next to the relevant hole, and is presented a keypad with multiple numbers – the user just touches the relevant number. The device allows the user to enter names (which are also easy to type in with the touchscreen) to track the scoring of everyone in the foursome. The scoring screen will show each player’s current score relative to par, and the user can touch the name of a player to scroll through their scorecard. The Garmin Approach G3 will always save your scorecard from your last round of golf – when you start a new round it replaces the previous scorecard.
    One nice feature is that by touching the par listed for a hole, the user can edit the par – handy on courses where there are different scores for par depending on which tee box is utilized. Unfortunately, the device does not track statistics for fairways hit, greens hit in regulation, or putts.
  • Auto-advance. The user can choose whether the device will automatically advance to the next hole or require the user to manually advance.
  • Course Storage. All courses come pre-loaded on the Approach G3, so users never have to worry about whether they’ve loaded the correct courses on to the device before leaving the house.
  • Preferences. The Garmin Approach G3 has a limited set of adjustable preferences: measurement unit (yards vs. meters); battery type (alkaline, lithium or rechargeable NiMH) and auto-advance (automatic vs. manual). These preferences can only be viewed or modified prior to starting the round – the user otherwise must quit the current round, which will erase any scores that were recorded during play.

For more details, check out the Critical Golf comparison of golf GPS device features.


93 / A-

ACCURACY

We tested the Garmin Approach G3 on a variety of courses and found the accuracy readings to be within 3-4 yards of sprinkler head markings and our laser readings. This was a bit better than we experienced with the G5, but we suspect that we just had lousy satellite reception on the days we were testing the G5, since we presume that the two devices share exactly the same course maps and GPS chipset. One thing we liked is that the G3 continues to provide distance readings no matter how close the user is to the target, unlike some competing devices.


92 / A-

COST/VALUE

Retail Price: At a retail price of $269.99, the Garmin Approach G3 comes in below the typical price point for competitive devices with hole views, such as the GolfBuddy series, SkyCaddie SGX, and Golf Guru 4.

Fees for Access to Course Database: An additional bonus for the G3 is that there are no fees for access to Garmin’s course database.

Three-Year Total Cost of Ownership: Since there is no cost for access to the course database, the three-year total cost of ownership of the Garmin Approach G3 is $269.99 (the cost of the device itself), which makes it one of the least expensive devices featuring full hole graphics in our cost comparison of golf GPS devices.

Value: The Garmin Approach G3 gets a strong value rating, delivering the wealth of features that we loved in its big brother, the Approach G5, but for $80 less. Our definition of “value” is getting the most for your money – with the G3, you get a premium golf GPS device with a rich feature set at an attractive price, and with no fees for access to the course database. Go to the head of the class!



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  • hank

    thank you so much very helpful,

  • Rclark

    Found the accuracy to poor and support from Garmin is terrible. Reported a mapping error in first week of year and still wrong. Garmin is very good in boats and car but not golf.
    R Clark

    • http://criticalgolf.com Critical Golf

      Curious what specific issues you have seen as we haven’t experienced any.
      Were the issues mostly with incorrect graphics? Or distances that were not accurate? Or something else?
      Thanks for the feedback!

  • Chief Iduna

    I’ve owned my Garmin G3 for six months now and believe this review is 100% Accurate !!!  Great unit !!!!

  • Fsteffler

    Thanks for an in depth review, the best I’ve read to date on this product.

    • http://criticalgolf.com Critical Golf

      Thanks for the compliment! If there are other reviews you would like to see, please let us know!

  • Ron

    I’ve played about 8 rounds and am very pleased with this product.  Other than one course it did not recognize and, with the exception of a few holes where it gave some strange yardages, it has performed as advertised.  It readily locates the courses and has the yardages indicated instantly and pretty accurate.  A fellow golfer uses a bushnell and he was impressed with the G3 accuracy.  It gives yardages to the center of the green which is close enough for me.  (It does have the capability to relocate the pin.) I would highly recommend it.  

  • Trcrockett

    If you live in central and northern Maine not the unit for you………

    • Ejdel78

      I plan on playing at the Samoset resort and Bar Harbor Maine this summer, are you telling my garmin  will not work?

  • Kerry

    I have had the g3 from christmas 2010 and have tried using it in Spain England and Ireland,and can honestly say the 3 courses i tried in Spain did not come up even though 2 of them appeared to be in the list supposedly available,and in ireland I would say 75% of the courses i have played have been unavailable .
    My advice is look elsewhere even when i contact garmin i just get palmed off

    • http://criticalgolf.com Critical Golf

      Good feedback to hear – we haven’t used this device outside of the United States. Would be interesting to know if you were using the new Garmin CourseView Updater, or the original mapping software released with the G3.

  • Iz4tyler

    I have used the g3 in several states and accuracy is good.  I would prefer distances to front middle and back of the green since adjusting the cross hair is cumbersome with my medium sized fingers.  As a result, I used the garmin golflogix for 20 local courses I usually play. 

  • Bogibird

    All I have is problems.  Keep getting a red x on the left side and cannot clear it so I can continue useing it.  Have reset the Garmin and still have the red x.  Bummer.

  • Alex

    I’ve had my G3 for about 18 months. Works great. Have not had any problems with the unit at all. I use the Sanyo analoop rechargeable batteries. I get 2 1/2 to 3 rounds per charge. My only frustration is the frequency of updates. Garmin is very slow to map new courses compared to the competition. Took Garmin several months to map a new course in our area while my friends with GPS’s by Golf Buddy were able to use their units at least 3 months before the course was available on my Garmin unit. Contact with Garmin made no difference. They didn’t seem to care. They told me they map quarterly only and only a fixed number of courses per quarter. I’m still not happy with Garmin, but my GPS works well once Garmin does what most of us would expect the manufacturer of a GPS, ie: update their maps. If they don’t update on a regular basis, then their GPS units aren’t of much value while you are waiting for them to catch with the competition.

    • mick

      having no luck when trying to re charge batteries do I leave it on or off .How long do I need to charge batteries from start

  • Joshua Johnson

    I’ve experienced an issue that I can’t believe is standard. When the battery life gets down to 2 out of the 3 bars a screen pops up saying the battery life is too low to use the backlight. I click OK and it goes back to the regular view but then the alert screen pops up again in 1-2 seconds. It makes it impossible to use. Any recommendations out there?