Golf courses are genteel battlegrounds for watch brands desperate to appeal to the well-stuffed patrons and athletic professionals that play the game. Garmin has always been a major player with range finders and its Approach touchscreen smartwatches, and this year introduced a more luxury titanium and ceramic collection under the MARQ Golfer name. WatchPro’s Daniel Malins (not pictured above), a keen amateur, took to the course to see if the MARQ could improve his round.
Anyone that’s ever played golf before will know what I’m talking about. You’ve hit a perfect drive off the tee, which bisects the fairway and leaves you with an eminently makeable approach to the green. The question is: which club to use? In my case, I know that I hit my pitching wedge about 140 yards, and I then add roughly 10 yards for each club up from there (i.e. 150 yards for my 9 iron, 160 yards for my 8 iron, etc.). But when the differences between lengths of shot are so small, there’s not much margin for error, especially if there’s trouble in front of or behind the green.
It’s in exactly this situation, as well as several others, that the Garmin MARQ Golfer distinguishes itself. With over 41,000 golf courses from around the world pre-loaded onto it, the watch uses its GPS technology to tell you exactly where you are on any given hole on any given golf course. Crucially, this allows it to tell you what yardage you have left between your ball and the front/back of the green, as well as the pin itself.
Regrettably, the watch doesn’t actually play the shot for you, but it’s given you all the information that you could possibly need in order to make the right judgement on which club to use. All being well, and with a nice strike on your next swing, you’ll be on the green with a spring in your step in no time.
Indeed, the one time that I thought the watch had failed me and the map on its face wasn’t updating and providing the information I needed, I felt totally lost. Just as I thought that the Garmin servers were down, I realised that I was playing the wrong hole. Human error!
It’s not just distance where the MARQ is so useful. Among others, the functions that I found most useful were: keeping the score, wind tracking, and the ability to assess my round in phenomenal detail afterwards when I synced the watch with the Garmin Golf app on my phone.
This last element is a dream for any golfer. Tracking your ongoing handicap, seeing which part of your game needs the most improvement and how far you’ve hit every shot, the data available via the app really is comprehensive.
Indeed, it’s no exaggeration to say that I could only find one issue with the watch, and it is an extremely nitpicky one. Occasionally, because the ‘back’ button is placed at about 4 o’clock, I would inadvertently be taken off the golf screen and back to the home screen because I’d pressed the button with my wrist. Even this involved just one press of a different button to correct straight away.
The impressive battery life (you can get multiple rounds of golf in before you’d have to even think about charging) is worth mentioning too, as this is seen as a major drawback of smartwatches in the eyes of consumers and retailers alike. It simply wasn’t even slightly an issue for me.
After using the MARQ Golfer, I don’t want to go back. Before, I relied on using the ‘150 yard’ markers that a lot of courses have, and then using my naked eye to guess what distance was remaining on a given hole. The alternative was to purchase a rangefinder, which can be hundreds of pounds in their own right and far more cumbersome to use compared to glancing at your wrist, or to use an app on a phone, which again was nowhere near as convenient as using the Garmin watch.
In fact, this leads me to maybe the most fundamental benefit of the MARQ Golfer. One of the reasons that the smartwatch sector (with the notable exception of the Apple Watch) hasn’t pulled up any trees yet is because you can do almost everything better and often more conveniently on your phone. Reading messages and replying to them is a much better experience on a phone, as is navigation. But it’s the field of fitness where smartwatches make sense, and this is demonstrated perfectly with the Marq Golfer. It genuinely gives me an experience that other technology (including smartphones) can’t give me.
Is it expensive? Relatively, yes. A £1,699 price tag puts it in competition with some heavy hitting watch brands. But bear in mind that you’re not just getting a computer on your wrist. You’re getting a choice of two high quality straps, with one of the quickest and easiest-to-use release mechanisms I’ve ever come across, and you’re getting a beautiful titanium case with a domed sapphire lens, meaning that you could happily wear it to the boardroom (when post-Covid normality returns) as well as to the first tee.
A big part of the obsessive nature of watch collectors is being able to ‘geek out’ on the inner workings of a timepiece and the impossibly complicated way that so many intricate moving parts work in harmony. The MARQ Golfer may not be haute horology in the traditional sense, but if you’re into golf and like attractive watches, its myriad functions (I’ve barely scratched the surface of l all the things you can do here) and constantly updating data and stats deliver the ultimate blend of usefulness and looks. Fore!