Garmin MARQ Golfer review: Virtual caddie contained in a luxurious and powerful GPS sports watch

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  • Editors' rating
    9.5 Spectacular

Pros

  • Stunning design with green ceramic/titanium bezel and jacquard weave band
  • Domed sapphire crystal lens
  • Full-featured virtual caddie & advanced golf features
  • More than a week long battery life
  • Outstanding software providing all the data you could ever want
  • Support for a vast number of sports and activities

Cons

  • Display resolution could be higher
  • Expensive
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Image: Garmin

Many people use their smartphone as a clock, but even though I am blessed to try most modern smartphones as part of my role here at ZDNET, I continue to wear a watch daily. In March 2019, just happened to be on my 50th birthday, I saw the release of the Garmin MARQ series and almost purchased one of these amazing high end luxury watches as a gift for myself.

While I did not splurge for one of these in 2019, Garmin sent along the newest Garmin MARQ Golfer modern tool watch to evaluate for a few weeks and it's going to be a sad day when I send it back. I appreciated the opportunity to spend time with one of the MARQ watches and if you want something that looks fantastic at work, helps improve and track the details of your golf game, serves as your daily activity tracker, and coaches you to success with your workouts then the MARQ Golfer may be perfect for you.

Also: Best GPS sports watches in 2020: Coros, Garmin, Polar, and other smartwatches

People spend thousands of dollars on luxury watches and the Garmin MARQ series competes in this high end watch market. It is not an alternative to an Apple Watch, Fitbit, or other $500 smart or sports watch. The MARQ Golfer has internal specifications similar to the Fenix 5 Plus, but with newer elements and features of the Fenix 6 Plus. Garmin spent years making the MARQ collection and they are the ultimate wearable for the Garmin fan.

Specifications

  • Display: 1.2 inch (30.4mm) 240x240-pixel resolution transflective memory-in-pixel color sapphire crystal glass
  • Storage: 32GB of internal storage for up to 2,000 songs and loads of topo maps and activity data
  • Water resistance: 10 ATM
  • Connectivity and sensors: WiFi, Bluetooth LE, ANT+, GPS, GLONASS, GALILEO, optical HR, barometer, compass, thermometer, Pulse Ox
  • Bands: 22mm QuickFit replaceable strap
  • Battery: 48 hours in UltraTrac mode, 28 hours in GPS golf or training mode, 9 hours with GPS and music streaming, and 12 days in smartwatch mode with 24/7 HR monitoring
  • Dimensions: 46 x 46 x 14.7mm and 88 grams

The MARQ Golfer is priced at $1,850 and the high-quality fit, finish, and materials make it feel worthy of that price. However, I would have preferred a slightly higher resolution display (the Fenix 6X has 280 x 280 pixels) and more Approach CT10 club sensors (three are provided with the MARQ Golfer).

Box contents

When you spend $1,850 on a watch, you expect a worthy unboxing experience and Garmin delivers with the MARQ Golfer. I was surprised by how heavy the small package was after taking it out of the shipping box.

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Sliding off the simple gray sleeve reveals a plastic storage box with a magnetically attached lid. Pop the lid off and the lovely MARQ Golfer rests in foam material with three CT10 sensors embedded in the foam below the watch.

Remove the watch and sensors to reveal a MARQ Golfer heavy paper guide and a black container with the charging cable/clip and extra silicone watch band. There is also a small manual in the black box.

Hardware

The beautiful green ceramic bezel and surrounding titanium material are stunning. The green bezel has 18 holes etched into it and as you play golf a red indicator lights up on the display in line with the hole you are playing. The top right Start/Stop button also has a green band around it. The traditional five buttons present on most Garmin watches are present here too.

Out of the box the green jacquard band is secured to the watch via the QuickFit mechanism. The retail package also includes a pine green silicone watch strap that creates a bit tighter fit with the watch. For this price, I was hoping to see a green leather band appropriate for more formal events.

The back of the watch contains the heart rate sensor and four charging pins. The charging cable has a clip on the end to securely attach to the back and side of the MARQ Golfer.

The Garmin MARQ series of watches are large and a bit heavy, but not nearly as massive as many high-end luxury watches I have seen in jewelry stores, on cruise ships, and on wrists. I have rather large wrists so the MARQ Golfer fits me well and doesn't bother me at all wearing it 24/7. It doesn't look too big on my wrist and honestly, I forget it is even being worn most of the time, especially with the soft green jacquard band.

I'm pleased to see that the MARQ Golfer has the traditional five-button design with no touchscreen capability -- three on the left and two on the right. When you run in the rain, sweat a lot, and want to switch screens or interact with your device the ability to control things with buttons is preferred.

The buttons are used for the following, moving from the top right and going clockwise: Start/stop/select, back/lap, down, up, and light. The software associated with these button presses is described in detail in the watch software section of the review below. Similar to the Garmin Forerunner 945 (and other modern Garmin watches), you can also press and hold on the light button to access options to launch the music controller, open the wallet, launch the timer, add an alarm, save your location, view alternate time zones, find your phone, toggle do not disturb, and power down. Pressing and holding in on the up button provides access to watch faces, clock, history, and settings. Pressing and holding in on the down button launches the music controller interface.

There are four charging pins recessed on the side of the back. A proprietary USB charging cable is included with the watch. Unlike other recent Garmin watches I tested that just plug in directly to the connector, the cable for the MARQ Golfer is a clamp that touches the display and squeezes the charger onto the watch. The advertised battery life in various situations matches my experiences. I love that the watch shows the remaining battery capacity in days, rather than percentage or hours.

Watch software

If you have used Garmin GPS sports watches before then it will be quick and easy for you to pick up and use the MARQ Golfer. Even if you are new to using the five buttons to navigate, it should only take you a short period of pressing the different buttons to figure out how to navigate around and find everything.

The main watch faces that are provided by default are focused on the golf experience with green as the default color in most watch faces. Your last round, and other golf data, can be selected to appear on the watch face. Not sure it's a good thing to have my terrible golf scores appearing on the watch face to see regularly.

You can also go to the Connect IQ store and install other watch faces. There are a ton of options available, but with the elegant hardware design it helps the overall look to have a watch face that syncs with the watch.

While the MARQ Golfer is focused on tracking your golf game, you can choose from a large number of activities. These include running, biking, walking, hiking, strength, cardio, pool swim, skiing, snowboard, trail run, treadmill, indoor track, mountain biking, triathlon, yoga, pilates, elliptical, boatings, kayak, bouldering, surfing, and others. You can get more applications and data fields from the Connect IQ Store, so I installed the 7-minute workout, too, since I like to perform body-weight exercises.

While the watch face appears all the time, pressing the up or down button moves to the widget glance screen. This is the first time I have seen this option that shows all of your selected widgets in a couple of lines each with up to three widgets appearing on the display at once. You can turn off this glance function and go back to full screen widget views. By default you can see your steps, performance, weather, notifications, golf performance, last golf activity, heart rate, last sport, music controls, and calendar. You can reorder these and also download more widgets on the Connect IQ store.

Like most recent Garmin devices, the MARQ Golfer has an integrated Wi-Fi radio so you can have your activity data synced to your Garmin Connect account when you return to a Wi-Fi zone previously established. It's great to enter my house after working out and have my data synced automatically to my Garmin account.

With a focus on golf, settings available include a toggle for keeping score, scoring method selector (stroke play or Stableford), handicap scoring option, stat tracking toggle, driver distance entry, PlaysLike toggle, big numbers toggle, tournament mode toggle, golf distance in yards or meters, and club prompt toggle. The more you play golf while wearing your Garmin MARQ Golfer watch then the more data will be captured and fed to you so that your watch turns into a caddie. Even during the first round of golf I found the watch extremely useful for playing on an unfamiliar course.

Smartphone software and website

Collecting the data is important, but using that data for tracking trends, improving performance, challenging friends, and identifying problem areas is also very important. Garmin offers the Garmin Connect app for iOS and Android and it is a powerful and capabile application that closely matches the Connect website experience.

When you first launch the smartphone app you will see a screen called My Day. This is a dashboard and completely customizable to your preferences. Simply scroll to the bottom and choose to Edit My Day. Here you can choose from the following cards: Heart rate, steps, intensity minutes, floors, sleep, stress score, weight, and calories. There are also toggles to see yesterday's stats and the last 7 days of stats. In addition, when you record an activity (run, bike ride, etc.) on that day a box appears up top with that card. Tapping any card takes you into much more fine detail for that measurement.

Other tabs in the smartphone software include challenges, calendar, news feed, and notifications. Tap on the tab icon to see more details for each of these.

You can also tap the upper left menu icon to jump to insights, activity stats, health stats, workouts, course, segments, gear, connections, groups, LiveTrack, download golf courses, Connect IQ store, Garmin devices, settings, and help. This menu and user interface matches what you see on the website as well. You can view data over different time frames, see your records, view the badges you earned, see totals and averages, and much more.

There are options to control phone notifications during your activity and at all other times when you are not recording data as part of activity. If you are connected to an Android smartphone, you can go to Settings>Smart Notifications in the Garmin phone app to customize exactly which apps provide notifications to the Forerunner 645 Music. You do not have this per app control when connected to an iPhone.

With a paired Android phone, you can also select to reply to messages with text you have already setup in advance on your phone. This includes customized text responses.

Once you select the Garmin MARQ Golfer in the devices list, you can then access all of the specific settings that will appear on the watch. Through this utility you can organize which apps, widgets, and watch faces appear and in what order. You still need to work directly on the watch to customize data fields and such, but this helps you control the Connect IQ part of the experience.

The Garmin Connect website experience is very similar to what you see in the smartphone application, with even more capability to generate reports, import or export data, setup connections to other applications (such as Strava, RunKeeper, and MyFitnessPal), and more. Similar to the snapshots interface on the phone, you have a dashboard on Garmin Connect that you can customize.

The MARQ Golfer watch is obviously focused on the game of golf so to get the most out of the watch and CT10 club sensors you need to download and install the Garmin Golf application on your iPhone or Android smartphone. You can choose courses and start a new round of golf right from the application on your phone.

The Garmin Golf app contains a leaderboard, scorecards, performance stats, course stats, club performance, and more. The more you play, the more meaningful the data will be as it captures trends and helps you define your performance. I enjoyed browsing through the scorecards where course maps show every shot in a very accurate manner.

Pricing and competition

You can purchase the Garmin MARQ Golfer now for $1,850. MARQ watches range in price from $1,500 to $2,500 so in comparison the Golfer is fairly priced.

A three-pack of the CT 10 club sensors are included in the package. These three have a value of $79.99. A full set of 14 sensors is priced at $299.99.

Daily usage experiences and conclusion

While I try to run three times a week, I also enjoy swinging my clubs on the golf course and was pleased when local courses opened back up after being shut down for coronavirus. The Garmin MARQ Golfer supports more than 41,000 courses and it performed flawlessly.

To test out the capability and performance of the MARQ Golfer, I had a Galaxy Watch Active 2 Golf Edition on my other wrist with connected Archos 360 golf club sensors. The Galaxy Watch let me down (disconnected for no reason) while the MARQ Golfer captured every shot perfectly. I had a physical scorecard in my pocket, but was very pleased to only have it as a backup.

I checked the Garmin Golf app a couple of times on my phone, but relied on the MARQ Golfer and its display for all of my golfing strategy. It was a sunny day and the MARQ Golfer display looked fantastic outside. A GPS signal was acquired quickly and I was impressed by the accuracy of tracking each shot and my location on the course through the rounds that I played. It frankly was a massive relief to let the MARQ Golfer keep score as I could just focus on my gameplay and walk the course in confidence.

After each round of golf, I opened the Garmin Golf app on my smartphone and was impressed by the accuracy of my jouney. The MARQ Golfer tracked perfectly and captured each of my shots. Not sure if it was the weight of the watch on my left wrist or what, but I also hit my longest drive ever at a distance of 233 yards on a solid shot off the 7th tee. It felt awesome and went exactly where I intended with the MARQ Golfer tracking it perfectly. Now if I could just improve my short game.

Three CT10 club sensors are provided in the package. I attached them to my pitching wedge, putter, and 7 iron since they are used quite a bit and with my poor putting I would probably lose count if I didn't have a sensor attached. The sensors worked well and I am seriously considering buying the full pack to connect with a Garmin Forerunner 945 that I own.

The Garmin MARQ Golfer is extremely well built, looks fantastic, and lifted a serious load while out on the course. It may be the perfect accessory for the serious golfer who also wants a luxury watch on the wrist. It's too expensive for my personal needs, but it is a lovely addition to the Garmin MARQ lineup and won't disappoint.

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