An Expert Review of the Garmin Approach R10Published on 06/06/2023 · 11 min readGolf Expert Michael C. deep dives into Garmin's new personal launch monitor, the Approach R10. He explains how it works, along with the highlights and drawbacks.
Photo via Garmin
Over the past couple of years, the personal launch monitor space has exploded, which I think is partly related to lockdowns and stay-at-home orders. With more people staying at home, or even some courses being closed, golfers wanted a way to practice, improve shot consistency, carry distance accuracy, or even be a home tee hero hitting the top of the leaderboards playing virtual rounds and virtual courses in their garages on a golf simulator.
Golf simulator software and launch monitors help bring that course experience with the benefit of improving one's scorecards and swing to the home in a lightweight device with premium content, graphics, and hours of battery life. The challenge to most people is the cost and a location to set it up. Generally, the price ranges have varied greatly—but the low-end is around $400-$500, while the higher-end ones are upwards of $20,000. Most golfers understand “you get what you pay for,” which applies to features and accuracy. That said, almost every review of the lower-cost launch monitors questions the accuracy. In addition, many of these devices are developed by companies that are strictly focused on their devices and are not household names—enter Garmin with their Approach G80.
The Garmin Approach G80 was mostly an on-course GPS unit with additional bells and whistles. The Garmin Approach G80 also had a tiny radar system that functioned like a personal launch monitor providing real stats on ball speed, club head speed, and total distance in real-time. It had some training games to get you to hit within a specific distance and awarded points based on how close to the correct distance you were, but the big part was that you could switch to game mode, grab a golf club, and play virtual golf with better viewing on any of the courses Garmin has mapped—so around 42,000+. The downside of the G80 was that it could only be used on the tiny built-in screen, and there wasn’t a measurement for ball flight other than distance. Nevertheless, it was still impressive for the first outing from Garmin. I wondered at the time if there was something bigger coming soon.
In late 2021, Garmin released the Garmin R10 Approach, a considerable upgrade from the G80. The R10 was listed to include additional information on the shot to track more metrics, including launch angle, face angle, launch direction, shot shape/direction, clubhead speed and mph, spin rate, spin axis, and club path and club face angle.
I was initially skeptical because I wanted to know that my numbers with real golf balls would be accurate, and the R10 felt like a similar system that didn't address any of the accuracy issues from the G80. However, after I looked into it more, I realized that Garmin did make some changes that allowed the system to work more efficiently and collect more data points for improved accuracy. The improvements—and the link and compatibility to the Garmin Golf app, which can be projected on a screen and provide easier interaction with numbers including smash factor, swing tempo, carry distance, apex height, and metrics of that swing—started to change my mind. Plus, system updates for improved swing capture accuracy and features are just a simple update away from being addressed.
My desire to get into radar-based launch monitors, virtual golfing, and checking out a personal, portable launch monitor happened as a result of my newborn child. With my first child, I was barely able to get that next trip to the golf course in for almost 18 months, and I expect to see it be a little longer before getting back out on the course regularly to play some awesome golf. So I wanted something I could set up quickly with the tripod or phone mount, grab my golf bag, and (with an active subscription) connect to a library of content and test-drive photorealistic courses and worldwide courses, while also not worrying about the time of year, if there are weekly tournaments on the home course, any bad weather, club data, or the time of day. Also, I really wanted to be able to switch the mode and analyze video clips of my golf swing.
I’m also a big Garmin golf product fan with a Garmin golf membership—I use the Garmin Approach S40 Watch GPS device and the Approach CT10 sensors on my clubs and am used to using smartphone, iPhone, Android, iPad, and PC-compatible portable launch monitors. I also have experience with Trackman, Foresight, Skytrak, Flightscope Mevo, Mevo Plus, and Flightscope applications.
Another bonus of every Garmin product, beyond a free trial, manufacturer's warranty, convenient carrying case, and included phone mount clips, is that a large community of people can help with issues or challenges. The Garmin Approach R10 launch monitor has a couple of Discord channels and Facebook groups to use the E6 connect software.
The general feedback on the Garmin R10 has been that the distance yardages are off, ball flight is not accurate, and other numbers like spin are not correct. Many people are saying that it is almost the same as the units costing several thousand dollars. However, some setups are not as favorable, and finding the most accurate setup is essential. Everyone agrees that the longer the ball flight, the better accuracy. There may be another reason for some issues, especially with distance, like players do not actually know the correct distances they hit the ball. I would believe this is because golfers tend to remember the best shots and ignore the times it wasn’t. I’m as guilty as anyone else at this. I remember every 300+ yard shot I’ve hit, but my driver average runs around 265; on off days, my drives are around 250, and on good days they’re 275. But when the conditions are perfect, I can get to 300+.
For the past five years, I’ve used either Arccos Golf or the Garmin Approach CT10 to track my on-course shots and distances, working also towards a shot dispersion chart. Both programs give me my distance in numbers. The Arccos system uses Smart Distances, which calculates what you generally hit with the club rather than an exact average, but Garmin only gives the average.
A Couple of Notes:
- The Garmin CT10 does not rule out any hits, so everything is averaged, but Arccos does ignore if I use a GW to chip or a 3 iron to punch out from trees.
- I’ve recently switched to the Gramin CT10, so fewer rounds are tracked.
- With Garmin, I’ve played more resort courses that have steep elevation changes, so my max distances are odd vs. average.
- Arccos data has a different driver that was changed shortly after switching to Garmin CT10. Also, some of the other irons and wedges were changed through the five-year span.
- Arccos was used for three and a half years, while Garmin has been for the past year and a half.
My Current Clubs Being Used:
- Driver: Cobra Speedzone Xtreme Pars and Stripes
- 3 Wood: Cobra Rad Speed
- Driving Iron: Titleist U510 2 Iron
- 3 Iron: Cobra Pro Black (2016) CB
- 4 - GW: Cobra Speedzone One Length Irons
- 52 & 56 Wedges: Taylormade Milled Grind 2
I took the R10 to the driving range on driving range mode for the initial testing to compare the actual ball flight vs. the R10 software. This testing would also give me a good idea of how close the distance is between real life and the R10.
The first range session with the portable golf launch monitor was at a local golf course. I hit 75 balls off the grass during the session. The R10 was very easy to set up. I read that alignment and distance to the ball could impact accuracy by changing the data parameters. The recommended distance from the ball to R10 is 6 feet. I paced off about 6 feet from the general area where I would be hitting and then did my best to aim the R10 at where I planned to hit.
The first couple of swings showed my rust from not playing in a couple of months—a fat shot and then a duffed shot. The R10 picked up both shots and showed the differences. Throughout the range sessions, I was surprised by how accurate the R10 was vs. what I saw. There was one instance where I hit a draw, and a fade showed up on the Garmin software. Other than that one, the others were generally the same ball flight. I noticed that the draw or fade was stronger on the R10 than in real life, but not to the point where I was concerned. I assume it may have more to do with the alignment not being perfect or maybe the range’s balls themselves.
Once you’re finished practicing, you’re able to go back and review the session.
The default for reviewing the session is a map with all of your shots on it. The top of the screen allows me to turn off certain clubs or look at a club individually.
I can also review the clubs in a summary version. A couple of notes on the club list. Garmin limits what clubs can be called, so the 1i is the Titleist U510 Driving Iron and the top GW is the GW that comes with the Cobra Speedzone One Length, and the bottom GW is the 52° Taylormade Milled Grind 2. When I’m looking at it on the app, it gives me the name of the club so I can tell them apart, but this screen does not show that.
Beyond these two screens, I can review each shot with a ton of detail. My personal favorite is the ball flight path screens. It gives me the basic info that I am the most curious about, which is distance and the shot shape. There are two views for this one how you would see standing at the ball and the overhead shot pattern.
If you swipe left on the screen, you can get access to the screens that show you spin rates, angle of attack, club path, face at impact, and launch angle.
An absolute ton of data can be used depending on what you’re looking for and how you want to improve. The accuracy of the numbers may not be perfect, but it is consistent per club and the shots.
After the success of the first test, I went out to the driving range again with the idea that if I set up with better alignment and distance from the ball to R10, my numbers would be more accurate. I attempted to set up using my alignment sticks as guides, but every ball flight seemed to be off. After about five shots, I realized that there was a pattern in the ball flight—everything went more right than it actually did. I adjusted the R10’s direction, and everything started matching up well. I was a little frustrated by this because I attempted to do it perfectly and somehow it was worse. During the session, I hit 62 shots and saw similar numbers, but they felt short for my normal distances and also for what I was seeing.
Beyond feeling short, the distances made odd jumps or kept my clubs closer together in distances than usual. I noticed the short distance issue during the session, but the odd grouping of distances didn’t stand out until I reviewed it afterward. I also spent so much time worrying about the ball flight not being right that I didn’t focus as much on my actual hitting. I also had 3 shots register that the ball flight was the complete opposite of reality.
The second session was definitely disappointing considering how well the first session went. I started to wonder if the wind on the second day was playing a factor at all. I had seen some shots that didn’t draw but stayed straight because of the crosswind. But that couldn’t account for all of it, so I started to think about the environment as a whole. The first session was in the morning with the sun behind me and the second session was toward the end of the day with the sun in my face. This seems odd considering the R10 is radar-based, but maybe that was a factor. I think the biggest factor was the actual golf ball at the range. The first session was at a local course with white range balls and the second was a different local course with yellow range balls. While the color of the ball shouldn’t matter, it would be the major difference to explain the increase in wrong flights vs. the first range session along with very inconsistent distances.
This is only the first part of my Garmin Approach R10 review. The next section will cover a few more range sessions focusing on if the ball color is actually a factor or if the time of day matters. I will also be looking at how the distances match on course vs simulation software. Along with that, how do the swing metrics numbers change when hitting into a net in a backyard or inside. Finally, I will wrap up a piece looking at the various software packages available for the R10 and which one has realistic numbers and the best features.
For questions or to get a Garmin Approach R10 for yourself, reach out to a Golf Expert here on Curated, and we’d be happy to get you set up!