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Critical Golf: Unbiased Golf Equipment Reviews

Garmin Approach G6

The Garmin Approach G6, Garmin’s latest in its series of golf GPS devices, shows that the old adage understates things – sometimes GREAT things come in small packages. The Approach G6 is a completely different form factor than its G3 and G5 predecessors , and exemplifies the trend of putting all of the best features of previous devices into progressively more compact designs. The G6 maintains the same size color touchscreen of the previous generation of Garmin golf handhelds (2.6″ diagonal) in a sleeker design (0.8″ thick) that weighs in at a mere 3.4 ounces. The G6 is the smallest GPS device with a color screen on the market as of Spring 2012. As with the rest of the Garmin Approach line, the G6 provides preloaded courses with no additional yearly or per course fees.

The brightly colored maps include a high level of course image detail and are augmented with colored layup arcs that provide context on the hole’s layout. Touch any point on the map and the G6 will tell you the distance to that point, and the distance from that point to the middle of the green. The device also features a scorecard with multiple scoring options, statistics and club distance averages. The G6 adds two new buttons for quick access to the green view, the shot measuring function, and the digital scorecard. The rechargeable battery has a claimed life of up to 15 hours.

There are a few things we would change, the most notable being the arbitrary nature of when distances to mapped targets are displayed, the fact that the distance readings are positioned in a way that they may be blocked by your finger when you’re trying to tap a point on the touchscreen, and the inability to view your saved scores and statistics on a computer (they are only accessible on the device itself). In addition, the software had a few bugs, crashing when we tried to access data on our previous rounds.

That being said, Garmin keeps improving the Approach line of golf GPS devices in both form and function – we love how the G6 provides a tremendous feature set in a device that we can easily keep in a pocket during play. To quote that incredibly annoying ubiquitous song for a couple of years ago, “Now I’m feelin’ so fly like a G6…Like a G6, like a G6.”

SCORE
93
GRADE
A-
Setup/Syncing
97
Course Availability
99
Ease of Use
94
Course Details
90
Features
94
Accuracy
93
Cost/Value
93
Pros:

  • Smallest and lightest device tested that provides full hole views
  • Full set of features, including statistics tracking and ability to determine club distance averages
  • No fee for access to the course database

Cons:

  • Arbitrary nature of when distances are displayed to mapped targets
  • When touching the screen to determine a target distance, the distance to the targeted point may be difficult to see
  • We experienced minor bugs and crashes when trying to view scorecards on the device.

Retail price: $249.99 (reduced from $299.99 at initial release)
Three-year total cost: $249.99
Amazon.com: Check price now
Golfsmith.com: Check price now


97 / A+

SETUP/SYNCING

The Good: The Garmin Approach G6 is an exceptionally easy device to setup and sync, even when downloading the latest course updates. If only syncing every golf GPS device worked this smoothly!

The Bad: You don’t have the ability to select individual courses for updates, but instead must update all of them, which can take up to 20 minutes.

Details:

  • Required Steps. Though courses come pre-loaded on the G6, you’ll also want to download the Garmin “CourseView Updater” software to ensure you have the latest course maps. This process takes but a minute, as users don’t have to create a Garmin account – simply download the software, plug the device into your computer with the USB cable, look to see if Garmin indicates that course updates are available, select region(s) to update (Europe, Australia/New Zealand, and US/Canada) and start. We didn’t experience a single hiccup during this process – excellent!

    As an aside, you may still find references to the old WebUpdater software on the Garmin site. These references can be ignored – WebUpdater is the old software no longer used on any of the Approach family of GPS devices.

  • Time Required for Setup. It took us under a minute to get the software installed. Course updates took up to 20 minutes when we needed to install a large number of map updates across multiple regions.

What’s in the Box: The Garmin Approach G6 comes with:

  • USB cable
  • AC adapter
  • Manual
  • Belt Clip (actually, buyers in Europe, Australia and New Zealand get a carbiner clip instead – which raises the question – did Sansabelt slacks somehow get traction in those countries?)

Downloads:


99 / A+

COURSE AVAILABILITY

Critical Golf Test: Garmin continues to improve the number of courses it has mapped, and the G6’s is exceptional in our course coverage test, placing among the top devices. Good stuff, Garmin!

Manufacturer’s Claims: The Garmin G6 works worldwide, and the company claims to have 26,600 courses available around the globe, which places it in the middle of the pack in our course coverage comparison test. Within the United States and Canada, Garmin claims to have 18,000 courses in its database, which puts it at the top of the list.


94 / A

EASE OF USE

The Good: Wonderfully small and light form factor. Simple interface, including buttons and touchscreen, allows the user to easily access different features and enter information. Courses are all stored on the device.

The Bad: When using the touchscreen to target a desired point, your finger may block the view of the cross-hair and distance to the target. Garmin has lots of points pre-mapped, but there is no way to display them when you want.

Garmin Approach G6 Golf GPS Device
Click for more images

Details:

  • Buttons. The Garmin Approach G6 has three buttons. A power button on the left side of the device, and a Score/Measure button and a Green button on the front of the device below the screen. All other 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 touchscreen is reasonably bright so long as the backlighting is kept at a relatively high setting.
  • Touchscreen Sensitivity. We liked the Garmin touchscreen, and had no issues targeting points, entering scores or navigating menus. Placing the flagstick on the green is much smoother than on the Approach G3 or G5. We did still have the occasional issue with the device accidentally advancing to new screens or new holes when jostled around in a pocket. You can avoid this by locking the screen, but the hassle of hitting the required 2-button sequence each time you want to lock or unlock it wasn’t worth the trouble.
  • Form Factor. Perfectly palm sized. We love this form factor! The G6 weighs a mere 3.4 ounces and enters the market as the smallest devices with color screen and full hole views (the Callaway upro mx is lighter, but as of Spring 2012 has still not been re-released). You won’t even notice it in your pocket.
  • Starting a Round. After powering up the G6 and waiting for satellites to be acquired (there is a chart that will show if they are not locked on yet), the user needs to 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 – you will need to manually advance to the appropriate starting hole if you are playing the back nine or in a shotgun tournament.
  • Battery Life. The internal rechargeable battery is marketed as providing up to 15 hours of life, though how users decide to set the background and timeout will obviously impact the battery life. With no timeout and on full brightness, we were able to still get a full round in with juice to spare.

For more details, check out the Critical Golf comparison of golf GPS ease of use.


90 / A-

COURSE DETAIL AND MAPPING

The Good: Both pre-mapped targets and the ability to determine the distance to any point on the course. Users can also add their own custom points to a course. The view to the green will rotate based upon player position.

The Bad: Users don’t have the ability to determine when distances to mapped targets are displayed – Garmin decides this based on some combination of level of zoom and distance from the target – so while the targets are mapped, you can’t force the screen to display the distance to the targets.

Garmin Approach G6 Golf GPS Device
Click for more views

Details:

  • Views. The Garmin Approach G6 provides two main views during play: a “Hole View” that shows an overhead graphic of the hole, and a “Green View” that displays the green and surrounding area. The “Green” button toggles between the two views. The Green View is also accessible by tapping on the distance in the top right while in Hole View (this is a vestigial function from the prior Garmin devices that didn’t have a dedicated Green View button). Unfortunately, you can’t just swipe on the touchscreen to move around to see different parts of the hole.
    • Hole View – This view shows a graphic of the hole, and on par 4s and 5s, will display colored layup arcs at 100, 150, 200 and 250 yards (par 5s only) from the pin. Any user modification to the flagstick position in Green View (see below) will be reflected in the Hole View screen as well.

      The Approach G6 will automatically zoom, continuing to show the remainder of the hole through the green, as the user walks closer to the green, with up to 9 different levels of zoom. Distances to mapped points will continue to be shown until they are within approximately 10-20 yards. Curiously, the only way the user can manually zoom is by touching the screen, moving the cross-hair to the desired area, and then touching the “zoom” button, and there is only one level of zoom available when manually zooming. When zoomed in, distances to mapped targets and distance arcs are not displayed.

      When targeting a point with the cross-hair, the cross-hair and distance to the targeted point may be blocked by your finger. However, when you lift your finger from the screen both the cross-hair and distance will remain displayed until you push the “back” button to return to the original hole view. Note that you can avoid the problem in its entirety if you use a tee on the touchscreen instead of a finger.

      Initially, the distance displayed at the top right corner of the screen is to the center of the green, or, if you have moved the flagstick’s position within “Green View” (see below), to the flagstick. Once you’ve selected a target point, the number displayed in the top right will be updated to the total distance from your current location to the selected point plus the distance from that point to the flagstick.

      One of the biggest negatives of the Garmin G6 is the seeming randomness of when distances to mapped targets are displayed. Many times when we wanted distances to specific mapped target points (such as the yardage to clear a hazard, or to a point we had mapped in an earlier round) the G6 wouldn’t display them until we had advanced to a point where the distance to the target was no longer relevant. The solution is to use the touchscreen (and zoom, if necessary) to determine the distances on your own, but this seems unnecessary for points that are already mapped.

      Curiously, while the device is advertised as providing maps with tree coverage, there were times when we would be approaching a tree and it would simply disappear from the display. One moment it was there, and the next it was gone. It seems that the device is using the same logic (whatever that is!) to decide whether to show trees that it uses to decide whether to display target distances.

    • Green View – Shows the green and surrounding hazards, and allows the user to touch any point on the green to modify the flagstick position. Once the user changes the flagstick position it will continue to keep the new position when switching screens. If the user returns to the Hole View the distances will be relative to this updated flagstick location. Green View also shows the distance from the user to mapped points on and around the green. Once the user selects Green View, the view to the hole will not continue to rotate on-screen based on player position.
  • Hole Information. The hole number and par are visible on the Hole View screen. Hole handicap is available on the screen when entering hole scores.
  • Custom Mapping. With the Garmin Approach G6, users can save additional target points to an existing course map. These saved points will always be shown in Hole View as small red squares, though as with Garmin’s pre-mapped targets, distances to them will not always be displayed but rather shown at Garmin’s discretion. As mentioned above, as with pre-mapped targets, distances to user-mapped targets won’t be shown when the user gets within 10-20 yards of the target.

94 / A

FEATURES

The Good: All the features and personalized settings most players will ever need, in easy-to-access menus. And feel free to play in the rain – the Garmin G6 is waterproof!

The Bad: While the Garmin Approach G6 can record most of the statistics we really care about, and the individual scorecards are stored and viewable on the device or through the computer, we wish there was PC or web-based software to compile the data and track our progress (or lack thereof).

Garmin Approach G6 Golf GPS Device
Click for more images

Details:

  • Shot Tracking. The Garmin Approach G6 has a button that allows the player to quickly measure shot distances (and also enter scores and statistics). 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. Players can also save their shot measurement data to calculate club averages, which are viewable during the round. Club averages update during the round as more shots are measured and saved.
  • Score and Statistics. The Garmin Approach G6 can hold all of the basics: score, putts, fairways hit and greens in regulation. One statistic we missed was sand saves (allow us to celebrate!). Users can view past rounds from the device itself or view on a computer, but there is no PC or web-based software to help show averages and trends. The Garmin can track scores for four players.
  • Auto-advance. The user can choose whether the G6 will automatically advance to the next hole or require the user to manually advance.
  • Course Storage. All courses come pre-loaded on the Approach G6, so there’s no need to worry if you forgot to download the course you are headed out to play. As mentioned before, you’ll still want to sync the device on occasion to ensure you have the latest course maps.
  • Preferences. The Garmin Approach G6 has a basic set of adjustable preferences: measurement unit (yards vs. meters), clubs in the bag (for use in tracking average club distances), and backlighting preferences. Preferences can be modified during the round.

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


93 / A-

ACCURACY

Device Accuracy: We tested the Garmin Approach G6 on a variety of courses and found readings to be within 3-4 yards of sprinkler head markings and our laser readings. We appreciate that the Garmin G6 continues to show distance readings all the way to the green in Green View, which can provide an additional level of comfort in the accuracy of the device.

Mapping Accuracy: Though the maps are generally accurate, we found that the courses aren’t updated quite as often as we would like. And even if the Garmin website says that a course is “Updated”, it still may contain old map information from years ago (tsk tsk, we are docking points for this!). We saw examples of this for a number of courses renovated between 3 and 5 years ago.


93 / A-

COST/VALUE

Retail Price: The Garmin Approach G6 has a retail price of $249.99, coming it at the low end of price points for devices featuring full hole views, and down from its $299.99 price at time of initial release.

Fees for Access to Course Database: As with the other products in the Approach line, the Garmin G6 has no fees for access to Garmin’s course database. Good times, good times.

Three-Year Total Cost of Ownership: With no cost for access to the course database or updates, the three-year total cost of ownership of the Garmin Approach G6 remains at $249.99 (the cost of the device itself), making it one of the least expensive devices featuring full hole graphics in our cost comparison of golf GPS devices.

Value: The Garmin Approach G6 comes in at a reasonable price point, and with no additional fees it remains very competitively priced. Its size, color screen, full hole graphics, and ability to determine distances to any point on the course make it a compelling value, and will undoubtedly make this a popular device.



  • NEVance

    I’m happy overall so far. Couple complaints. 1. The  device randomly moves to different holes. You can be playing #5 for example and the next time you look at it, it could be on #12, a little disappointing. I called Garmin about the issue and was told that certain courses might experience this and to try it on another course; as yet, haven’t had a chance to play another track. Also, he suggested updating the courses, which I did; didn’t help at my home course at least. Another thing, it doesn’t seem like you can adjust the scoring screen to keep track of only 1 player. Always seems to want to track a foursome. Don’t see any preference where you can set it for only 1 player.

    • johneb

      It does track four players, but you can delete the players’ names, so at least it just shows blanks instead of “player 2,” etc.  Not ideal but better.

  • reef

    Hello, thanks for the review. One question –  I plan to have it in my pocket at all times, does it lose signal in there? I’m debating between the neo+ and this, obviously very different but ability to hold a signal is super impt to me. I don’t want to have to stand over my shot waiting for a satellite.

    Thanks.

    • http://criticalgolf.com Critical Golf

      We haven’t had issues with the satellites needing to re-acquire when taking out of our pockets. Good news yes-

  • Teleios

    I just got my G6 and love it. I have a couple of comments to share. In the review it states that you can’t view scores and stats on a PC when connected by USB. Not true! You can view scores and club distances. When you connect the G6, open it in Windows like you would a drive. You’ll find 2 html files on the device: one to view scores on your PC and one view club distances. The manual is also on the device as a PDF in many languages.

    Another note: there IS a view where you can see the state of the battery charge. If it is attached to a PC, its usually the screen that is visible. If it is plugged into a wall outlet, you’ll need to navigate to one of the menus (sorry I forget which one) and it will show the battery percent.It was not easy to find and that is one thing I’d think would be right on the main screen when charging.

    I’ve only used it on one round but I think the review is right on. This is a great device and I am very happy with it. Reef – It worked well in my pocket and even indoors. I mostly kept it clipped to my belt. It’s so light I forgot I had it on. I haven’t seen the issue with the G6 having trouble recognizing  holes. There are couple of holes on the course I played today where the tee boxes are right next to each other and the G6 picked the right one each time. The results could differ based in weather and other things that might affect GPS devices in general. We’ll see how it goes as I continue to use it. I looked at every alternative and settled on the G6. I think I made a good choice.

    • http://criticalgolf.com Critical Golf

      Thanks for the comments.
      The battery charge level does indeed now appear – this wasn’t available on the first versions of the device, and has been included with a software update (we have updated our review accordingly).
      Regarding reviewing stats, we should have mentioned we are having difficulties particular to a Mac. We have contacted tech support and are waiting for their response. We will update again with any answers they have.

  • LarryMcJ

    I don’t write many reviews, and that’s probably because if something works really well, I feel it should.  Or if it fails my expectations, it doesn’t surprise me anymore.

    That said, The Garmin Approach G6 is simply one of those products that so greatly exceeds my expectations, I have to write a review on it.  For several years I’ve primarily used a laser rangefinder, though for convenience sake I keep trying every new GPS that comes along…hoping I’ll find the Holy Grail of yardages in an easy-to-use GPS product.

    In the past decade I’ve tried every model of SkyCaddie ever manufactured, including the latest SGXw.  I’ve tried the Golf Buddy Platinum, a Bushnell, GPS watches, but nothing holds a candle to the Garmin G6…nothing!  All the others found their way to eBay or Craig’s List at a great loss of money!

    One of the inherent features of the G6 is its simplicity.  The obvious front, middle and back yardages are always present, but if you desire a distance from you to a water hazard, or sand trap, etc., the touchscreen is so responsive and easy to use I still can’t believe it.  If you want layup distances, you can drag the cursor to the distance you want, or simply look at the screen and see they are also automatically displayed at 100, 150, 200 and 250 yard arcs from the center of the green.

    At any time, you can press one of two buttons (more simplicity) on the G6 and see an expanded view of the green, or press it again and go back to the hole view.  That might seem like a minor point, but so many of the other devices make this action more difficult.

    My last point about the Garmin G6 is the most important…to me, anyway.  It is SO VISIBLE…even in bright sunlight.  In fact, because of how the screen is made, it’s even more visible in the sunlight.  I had mine set for the backlight to go off after 15 seconds, yet every time I looked at it on the course, the screen was very bright and readable.  I thought there was something wrong with it and the backlight was staying on, but in fact, the backlight was actually going off as it should, but having it on simply made no difference.  The display was as easy to read with the backlight on or off.  On a cloudy or overcast day, the backlight does come into play and makes a marked difference.

    If you’re on the fence about a GPS unit, please do yourself a favor and give the Garmin G6 a try.  If you don’t like it you can always return it, but I’m betting that will not happen.  And don’t forget, it has over 27,000 courses pre-loaded and there are no fees at all.  You can also update the courses easily online with it hooked up to your computer (Mac or Windows).

    One more thing: a couple of reviews I’ve read said the Garmin G6 was slow acquiring courses before you started play.  I have not found that to be true at all.  In all cases my unit acquires the satellite in less than a minute or two.

    • http://criticalgolf.com Critical Golf

       Thanks for the comments Larry. Glad to hear the G6 is serving you well!

  • http://criticalgolf.com Critical Golf

     On our device with the latest software (as of mid-July 2012), club distance averages do update during the round. Curious that would differ from the G5, but this is what we see on the current G6.

  • Denis

    I bought the G6 3 weeks ago and it has lived up to the reviews below. The yardages have been accurate to within 2 yards when standing on the course markers. And I can see the screen even when dimmed with my sunglasses on. The movement of the pin on the green is easy (better when touching with the end of a tee) and has been within 1 yard of my buddies with the lasers.
    I play at a course that has 27 holes, so I play any combination of two courses to make up the 18 hole game. I can’t determine how to set a front and back nine combo for ease of transitions or 18 hole score. Any advice. All three 9 courses are listed separately.

  • Jet

    Thinking about creating a GPS Golf app for Smartphone….Anybody know a source where I can license WW Golf Course Data (inclusive of long/lat for each hole on each course). Can’t imagine that the other Smartphone Apps out there mapped out 20K courses by hand. Thinking they must have a source this data. Any input would be greatly appreciated.

    • http://criticalgolf.com Critical Golf

      You might want to contact L1 Technologies (they operate iGolf). Not sure what they offer in the way of licensing relationships, but they do partner with others to provide “Powered by iGolf” products, including Bushnell:
      http://www.igolf.com/about_us/

      • http://criticalgolf.com Critical Golf

        Oh, and if you have a chance, let us know what other companies you find that license course GPS information.

  • Munkman

    Love the reviews! Question…what device would you recommend..price being equal between the Sgxw, Garmin g6, and Callaway Upro. Point of note…My home course has all features available for SGXW

    • http://criticalgolf.com Critical Golf

      Hmm, that is a tough one, Munkman! The real answer is probably “it depends”. If the prices were equal (and NO annual fees for the SGXw), we would tell users to give that device serious consideration, provided their courses are all mapped with full detail (as yours are). But it is a much larger device, syncing issues can cause headaches, and our optical mouse never seemed to work perfectly through a round (which is maybe why they have ditched it on the newer Breeze). The G6 and uPro mx+ are of course much smaller, so if that is a key consideration the G6 may be the one (we’ve never had syncing issues – it actually works like it should, and has fewer bugs than the SGXw). We like the screens of the SGXw and G6, though obviously the SGXw can provide much more detail at any given time, which if you love it, can be a boon. The Callaway device always seems to be a “what could be” device – if they just put some $ and efforts into it, it really could be great. But the company doesn’t seem to want to, and basic features seem to forever be missing. I would give the nod to the G6 over the uPro mx+.

  • Greg

    picked up a garmin g6, it doesn’t have my home course. sent my home course score card exc. and 9 months later it’s still not there. have a 300$ paper weight…THANKS GARMIN.

  • rob

    I live in a rual area with a bunch of 9 hole courses not pre maped by any of these gps units what is the best unit if you have to manually map the course using a golf buddy, g6 or sky caddie?

  • str8teeth

    Taking price out of the equation entirely, does the G6 measure up to the SGX or SGXw? It seems that everyone is critical of skycaddie because of the annual fee, but I never see a review that just says which unit is the best golf GPS unit functionally, without the cost biasing the final conclusion.

    • Roy D

      I bought an SGX last week & played on a very familiar course on Sunday 4/28/13 alongside a Garmin user. BOTH yardages were identical !! Course & distance accuracy used to be SkyCaddie’s biggest pluses but the newer units from other makers are now just as good, IMO. Satellite mapping has come a very long way over the last 8 years. SGX has a little more leeway in the way targets are displayed & user selected. But it also doesn’t track club distances either as a G6, which I really like, nor is it waterproof — a real hassle around here. Here’s the biggest deal to me: SKyCaddie has a feature called IntelliGreen PRO that will provide yardages to distinct green contours. BEWARE THAT FEATURE IS NOT AVAILABLE FOR THE VERY HIGH MAJORITY OF COURSES. If it were on mine I would keep the unit but i didn’t find out till after purchase the feature wasn’t available and finding out beforehand is tricky. (There is one very slight difference to an icon on their website listing of courses and no instructions to find out.) 80% of the courses I play have not been updated in years despite some changes in tees / greens. That did it for me and I’ve used an SC unit for many years. I’m done and returning the SGX today for a Garmin G6. Hope this helps.

      • str8teeth

        Thanks for the response! That information helps a lot. I prefer the graphics of the SC units to the “cartoonish” graphics of the G6 but I guess I can get over that. Thanks again!

  • jorge

    I am delighted with the device, and can use it in Argentina where I live.

    It happened a couple of times that the G6 looses power and cannot switch it on.

    After several tries it came back but not clear why it becomes death or comes back to life, last time battery was at 98% charge and came back after plugging it to a laptop….

    Any advice about this?

    Thanks

    Jorge

  • sylvia munson

    My husband seems to think that the Garmin must be charged before putting it away for the season… I say WHY??? someone help me with this as it makes no sense to me? Thanks Sylvia

  • Peter Metham

    Anyone thinking of buying a Garmin G6….think again. They are years behind in updating their courses judging by the readings I get on the device I bought recently & used on my home course at Nelson Bay. Worse than this is their attitude if you have a complaint as I do …..they try to ignore you or send you off on wild goose chases. A firm that apparently cares little about their customers and providing after purchase support.

    Appalling Garmin.