The Garmin Approach X40 is a fitness tracker that incorporates the golf activity tracking that we first saw in the Garmin Vivoactive watch in a GPS band
In the golf GPS category you have two camps. Companies with a golf & technology background and GPS companies that apply their skills to golf and Garmin comes into the latter.
Therefore what you get is a high quality GPS band that is stylish, easy to use and contains all the usual heart rate, steps, calorie counters and various other means of checking you are still alive.
It does this very well across all manner of physical activity such as running, cycling, swimming and more cerebral activities such as my personal favourites of watching golf on TV and sleeping. Oh, and it tells the time too.
The 31g unit is light to wear and the strap is softer and more comfortable than most GPS watch straps. I am not sure 'limelight' is my thing, but there are three other more restrained colours to choose from.
The rechargeable unit has its own mini USB charging cable that clips into place on the underside of the unit by the wrist sensor and it charges pretty quickly and will last a claimed 5 days in normal operation mode.
However it is the golf element of the Garmin Approach X40 that I am focussing on for I know that is what you are interested in too.
Garmin claim a database of 40,000 courses and the Approach X40 found the right one within about 20 seconds of being asked to.
What you then get is the front, middle and back distances in yards or metres to the green shown clearly in nice big numbers on the 11 by 25 mm screen.
The auto advance between holes works well and there is also a green view where you can scroll through a variety of pre-set hole positions to change the middle yardage to wherever the flag is that day. I am not convinced how useful this is in reality, as if you really want the flag yardage then a pin sheet or a laser would be a better option to complement the X40.
There is also a hazard screen that shows all the pitfalls on the hole and while the graphics are a bit odd, the type of hazard, plus reach and carry distances are shown clearly and is about as good as you can do on this size of screen.
If you like laying up then the distance to each of 100, 150 and 200 yards to the green is a useful screen, but this does not take account of any hazards in the way.
Enable the scoring mode and after each hole you will be prompted to put in the score which helpfully defaults to the par of the hole to minimise scrolling.
The touch screen itself is very sensitive, maybe a little too much sometimes and combines with the button on the strap below to navigate through the menus in an organised and slick way.
The Approach X40 can also use AutoShot tracking to record the GPS points where you make a swing and it did a good job of picking up real shots and avoiding practice swings without me having to touch or tap anything. If you set up the club selection menu then you can also record which club you used at each point.
At the end of the round you get a summary of your activity and score, but the real value comes from uploading the shot data from the Approach X40 to your Garmin Connect account via Bluetooth and the related app on your smartphone.
Once paired, the process happens very quickly and easily so you can do this in the bar as you are crying into your post round pint before poring over what you did wrong.
Click on the score screen and you can see the scorecard and the number of greens in regulation (GIR) and putts per hole. I did hit some fairways but nothing was shown and to be honest I could not find out how to do this so I don't think recording fairways is an option on this Garmin product.
You can edit the scores and add the clubs used later, but only through the Garmin Connect website and not the app, which is a bit of a pain.
Scroll down and you can click on any hole and it will bring up a map of the hole and use your AutoShot data to show how you played it visually. There is no way to edit this, but in a couple of rounds it recorded every full shot accurately, even if occasionally it said I missed a fairway when I hit one.
As a one round analysis tool the maps don't really add much, but if you play the same course regularly then over time you will build up a scatter pattern of all your shots on each hole and that may help you improve your course management, but this is again only available through the website and not the app.
If you have a Garmin TruSwing club sensor then the data from this can be displayed on the X40 as well as the Connect app to show a summary of how your last swing went. This could be of use on the range or the course if you are tracking your driver swings for example and it is commendable that all the Garmin tech talks to each other, even if the TruSwing has its own limitations.
In summary, the Approach X40 appeal is based on what you want from a device on your wrist. If you are a health fiend who wants a fitness tracker that links to your phone to get message notifications or control the music volume, then again this is Garmin's area of expertise as the functionality and data syncing is slick.
The AutoShot system works well to track your shots, but what they do with the data and the lack of editing and analysis tools is not its strong point, so if you are looking for a game tracker then one of the dedicated systems from a golf technology company would offer more in this area.
However, if you are a golfer who wants a quality GPS watch that you can wear off the course, does distances and keeps score then the Garmin Approach X40 is a worthy choice.