Garmin Approach G8 Review

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'Garmin Approach G8'

Garmin Approach G8
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Here’s our Garmin Approach G8 review based on weeks of testing as well as feedback from users.

The Garmin G8 full-featured handheld golf GPS unit scored high in almost every category that we typically rate. We give it a big thumbs up and highly recommend it but suggest you take a look at our comments on each feature (below) before making your final decision.

Garmin Approach G8 User Rating: 4.18 Stars 4.18 out of 5 (113 reviews)

Score compiled from multiple sources.

What we consistently see in full-featured golf GPS devices vs. more basic models, are slightly lower ratings from users. Inevitably many users will run into one issue or another in trying to use all the bells and whistles. That definitely holds true with the G8, BUT…

after spending several weeks testing the G8, we think taking the time to set it up and learn your way around it, is well worth the effort. In fact, it’s quite intuitive for all of the basic features, so you really can take it right out to the course to play and should have little trouble getting distances to just about any target.

It’s important to note, that the Garmin 8 is now legal for tournament play with some of its features turned off. It is the first GPS to use course elevations so that it can give a “plays like” distance. This is a really cool feature that you can use in practice rounds and fun rounds, but you will have to turn it off for tournament play. In several instances we were surprised that our confident guesses of green elevation were pretty far off, so we think this could improve our scores on hilly courses!
Here’s our take on most of the features of the Garmin Approach G8:

  • Wifi – Jump on any Wifi and you can update the database and/or the firmware very quickly. This will save many users the headaches that come with computer compatibility issues and software glitches. We recommend doing this a couple of times each season.
  • No Fees Ever – Always a thumbs up for Garmin on this point.
  • Screen Size – 3 inches from corner to corner. It’s that middle of the road that allows for a small unit, but still full hole views.
  • Screen Readability – the G8 does not use actual aerial photos, which we think immensely helps readability. The distance to the middle is in a fairly large font in the top right corner. If you need even larger fonts or distance to the front and back of the green, you can just tap that number and get BIG numbers! If you tap on the screen to get a distance to layup targets, the numbers are fairly large and on par 4s and 5s, there is even a zoom feature. Of course, there is also the green view button that uses very large fonts for front, middle and back distance, plus you can move the pin for more precise distance on this screen.
  • Green View – nice to have a dedicated button to get to the up-close view of the green. Very easy to touch the area of the green where you believe the pin to be and get updated distances. Also very nice to see the green shape.
  • Touch Screen – We like the touchscreen, but we’ve heard from many users who carry the device in their pockets, who are not happy with it. As the device is always on, inadvertent bumps to the screen can cause some problems. It’s fairly easy to lock the screen so this doesn’t happen, but it is an extra step to unlock it when you need a yardage quickly. Garmin made the touchscreen on their watches a little less sensitive and that might be a good idea for the handheld units as well.
  • Targets – Although some people prefer aerial photos, we felt the representation of targets was good and also found the layup arcs useful. The layup arcs are red, white and blue representing 100, 150 and 200 yards from the middle of the green.
  • # of Golf Courses – 38,000 international courses.
  • Plays Like Distance – Very useful but must be turned off in tournaments using the USGA local rule on distance measuring devices. The Garmin G8 uses elevation to tell how far a shot plays up or downhill. This number displays just below the actual distance.
  • Club Advice – You have to enter your club distances to set this up and then the unit will display a club suggestion for each shot. We are indifferent about this, but some users seem to really like it. This feature would also need to be turned off in tournament play.
  • PinPointer – If you have a blind shot, this gives you an indication of where to aim, which can come in handy.
  • Scorecard & Stats – a dedicated button takes you to the scorecard and we found it easy to navigate back and forth to different holes. Entering stats is quick and easy and getting a summary of your game is definitely beneficial. Stats include fairways (left, center or right), greens in regulation and putts. The Garmin stores your rounds for later viewing.
  • Smart Notifications – allows you to receive email, texts and alerts on your G8. We seriously don’t see too many people using this feature. We were able to get text messages from our iPhone to display on it, but not email. We also had problems with the unit getting disconnected, but are hoping a new firmware update will improve this.
  • Battery Life – We didn’t get the 15 hours that Garmin advertises, but we used it at full brightness with Bluetooth turned on. We never played 36 holes in a day with it, but it probably could go the distance. Users are reporting 2-2 1/2 rounds.
  • Garmin Connect – We had trouble logging into our Garmin Connect account with Garmin Express and after we did that, we still had to disconnect the G8 from the computer and then reconnect it to get it to sync the data. If you’re a stats geek, or simply want to keep track of your rounds, this is a pretty cool site. There is a problem with the Best Score stat if you happen to have an incomplete round. Although we could delete the round, it somehow left the score in for this stat. Maybe we’re missing something here.
  • Customer Service – we sent a question to Garmin by the E-mail form on the website and they have promised an answer within 3 days. They also have support telephone numbers on the Garmin website.
  • Price – The nearest competitor with regards to features to the G8 is the Garmin Approach G7. The G7 does not have Wifi or PinPointer and has a smaller screen than the G8, but it also runs $100 less. In the end, we think it’s worth the extra money if you’ve got it, but the G7 is a great value.
Garmin Approach G8 Features and Specifications
Garmin Approach G8
Course Download Fees No
Pre-loaded with Courses Yes
Full Hole Views Yes
Slope / Elevation both
Battery Life up to 15 hrs.
Battery Rechargeable Li-Poly
Size (Width x Height x Depth) 4.4 in. x 2.1 in. x .6 in.
Measure Shot Distance Yes
Screen Size 1.5 x 2.6
Resolution 240x400px
Display Type Transreflec ColorTFT
Weight 3.97 oz.
Rainproof Yes IPX7
Touch Screen Yes
Touch Targeting Yes
Manual Pin Positioning Yes
Stat Tracker Yes
Digital Scorecard Yes
Computer Analysis Tools Yes
Ground Verified N/A
Alternate Targets Yes
Green Rotates to your shot angle Yes
USGA Compliant (local rule) Yes, when Plays Like distance and Club Advice are turned off.
Notes Has Wifi for updating courses. "Plays Like" distance adjusts for elevation, recommends a club based on how far you hit the ball, displays texts, emails and notifications from your iPhone and has Big Number mode.
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User Manual for Garmin Approach G8


  1. Janet Franklin says

    Garmin Approach G8
    Did they rush this too production and are there quality checks? Two units and both froze up. No more returns for me. In the market for something more reliable. Has anyone had experience with their older models or if the new Sky Caddies have comparable features that reliably work. Thanks, Jan.

    • Golf Rangefinder Shop says

      Hi Janet. The Garmin G6 has very good reviews – better than any other full-featured golf GPS devices. Let us know what you end up using.

  2. David Mason says

    I used the Garmin Approach G8 for the first time yesterday, it appeared to be very accurate as far as distances are concerned and was very simple to use. My only problem was that I played 18 holes at a golf club which gives you the choice of playing two of three 9-hole layouts and I was unable to work out how to combine the two layouts into one round of golf. All in all, quite impressed with the device

    • Golf Rangefinder Shop says

      Hi David. Thanks for your feedback. I’m not sure why some 27-hole courses are only entered as three separate nines, but probably worth reporting to Garmin. They might be able to change it, especially if it’s a course you play regularly. The 27-hole course I played was set up as three separate 18-hole courses (1-18, 10-27, 19-9) or something like that. That way, I was able to keep scoring going for the entire round.

  3. Dave Shannon says

    Looking at buying a device as seen so many guys with them now and fed up getting my distance wrong. I play in Bulgaria a lot as bought a house there and started to get used to meters, I take it this can be changed easily, meter / yard? Also can’t make my mind up between a watch or devise and looking at Garmin S6 or Garmin G8 although the legal issue bothers me as would hate for someone to complain in any small competition I played in, 14 handicapper and don’t enter any serious golf competitions but are medals and club comps included?

    • Golf Rangefinder Shop says

      Hi Dave. Yes they can be easily switched between meters and yards. Neither the Garmin S6 nor the G8 will be legal for most competition, so if I were you, I would look at the Garmin S3 or the Garmin G6.

  4. I play in a women’s league and we start off on different holes. How can I set my garmin up to start play on a hole different than #1? Everything I tried kept taking me back to the first hole.

  5. I have just ordered two Garmin G8 Approach Rangefinders for myself and my wife.
    I see above that this unit is illegal in local Club Competitions. Is this true??
    What is the problem on this device which makes it illegal and can the feature be turned off manually. If it is illegal then why are Garmin selling this “feature” ? I don’t want to waste £600.

  6. john roper says

    My SG8 never time out.

    • Golf Rangefinder Shop says

      Hi John. Are you referring to the backlight timeout on the Garmin Approach G8? I know there is a setting for that, but can’t remember if it had an “always on” option. If there is a timeout set, and it’s not working, I would try contacting Garmin at (913) 397-8200.

      To change the backlight timeout:
      1. Press Setup from Main menu
      2. Touch Display
      3. Touch Backlight Timeout
      4. Choose the preferred setting

  7. Peter Caballes says

    Does it auto update with each hole? Or do you have to manually change hole as you play?


  8. Don Gunderson says

    Can you get a case for the g8. Thank

    • Golf Rangefinder Shop says

      Hi Don. There are some available on Amazon.

  9. Anthony Schrouf says

    Why can I NOT get the Approach G8 to get/maintain GPS signal? It has been occuring for just under 2 years.
    What can I do aside from resetting to default; running off wifi; running off bluetooth(connect)?

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