The Garmin Vivoactive 3 golf GPS watch is a multisport device with the potential to extend its measurement and analysis abilities to more than the pre-loaded sports. It has the golf-keeping abilities of Garmin’s flagship multisport watch, Fenix 5 and the simplicity of operation offered by its predecessor, Garmin Vivoactive HR. The result is a golf GPS watch with relevant features at a relatively affordable price tag. It debuts the newest feature of Garmin, the Garmin Pay, along with some of the top features of Fenix 5.
The most apparent change in the Vivoactive 3 compared to Vivoactive HR is the round display with a permanent analog face. It resembles the Fenix 5 more closely in functions and build.
Garmin Fenix 5 is quite advanced in terms of features. But Vivoactive 3 is up to speed with the same 15 default sports and all the golf features that Fenix has. The HR has limited golf features compared to it. Only Vivoactive 3 carries the Garmin Pay function of these three. Equipped with both GPS and GLONASS, it makes a good travel companion. It is also much lighter than the gargantuan Fenix 5 and 5g lighter compared to the HR. Out of the 3 devices, Vivoactive 3 offers the best value for money.
- Multisport features
- Comprehensive golf features
- Lightweight and round
- Garmin Pay
- Connects to ANT+ sensors
- Reasonably priced
- Phone notifications
- Weak vibration alert
- Inconsistent performance between pieces possibly due to software glitches
If you are looking for the best golf GPS watches purely with golf capabilities, you should check out our best golf GPS watch and handhelds post here.
Features & Benefits of Vívoactive 3 GPS Smartwatch
Since this is a versatile watch, we have broken down our in-depth study of the Garmin Vivoactive 3 golf GPS watch into three sections: golf-specific features, physical features, and other advanced features
1. Golf-specific features
The distances to the center, front and back of the greens is available on the main screen. The center yardage is the one in bold large number with the rest two in readable formats above and below this figure.
- Hazards and Doglegs:
The Garmin Vivoactive 3 golf GPS watches gives you the yardages to the hazards and doglegs. The uncertainty in distance reporting is within 2-3 yards.
- Course Coverage:
Through the Garmin Connect smartphone app you have access to a database of 40,000 golf courses.
- Scorecard and Tracking:
The Vivoactive 3 has extended digital scorecard feature which maintains your score at every hole. The tracking function maintains the number of strokes, greens and fairway hits and putts per round.
- Green View:
In this view, you see the graphic representation of the greens and the hazards close to you. A movable flag can be positioned at any point for distance to that particular point on the greens. The touchscreen display allows you to move the flag manually.
- Shot Distance:
The Garmin Vivoactive 3 can measure shot distances and help you map how far you hit each club. By assigning the club distances, you can figure out which club to use for which shot.
- PinPointer View:
This feature of the Garmin Vivoactive 3 golf GPS watch rescues you when you are stranded in the middle of tree cover and don’t know which way the pin is. The PinPointer feature gives you a rough direction of the pin so that you can shoot the ball out of the blind.
2. Physical Features
In a drastic change from the Vivoactive HR, the Vivoactive 3 has a round polymer case. At 1.75-inch diameter, it is much smaller than the Fenix 5. It weighs only 43g compared to the Vivoactive HR at around 48g. The dial is surrounded by a round bezel made of stainless steel. The body is 0.46 inches thick. It is waterproof up to 50m of water. The underside of the dial has the heart rate sensor marked by three LED lights.
There’s only one button on the right side. The rest is handled by a Side-swipe control on the left side of the dial. The display is a touchscreen which is quite easy to operate with a gloved finger. The sensitivity is just right such that it responds to the normal finger pressure.
The body of Garmin Vivoactive 3 is attached to 20mm silicone straps. It operates with a quick-release mechanism which makes it easy to slap on in a hurry. There are multiple holes for fastening it and it easily fits wrists with circumference anywhere between 107-204mm.
The Garmin Vivoactive 3 golf GPS watch has a high-resolution Chroma touchscreen display. At 240x240 pixels, it has the same resolution as the Fenix5 and a higher resolution than the Vivoactive HR. The display is protected by the latest Gorilla Glass 3 screen. It is three times more damage-resistant than the previous version of Gorilla glass. Additionally, it also offers improved scratch-resistance, reduced scratch visibility, and better life even if it gets scratched. There’s a backlight that allows readability in any light supported by gesture activation.
The Vivoactive 3 golf GPS watch is much dressier-looking than the HR and much less bulky than the Fenix 5. You can easily wear it in a corporate version. The white version with grey/rose gold bezel is simply gorgeous for women. It is also available in black stainless and black slate versions.
The weight and size of the body of this golf watch makes it quite comfortable. It is also relatively thin so the top of your wrist is not choked by the dial. The band is well-ventilated through the holes for the quick-release system.
- Battery Life:
The battery of the Garmin Vivoactive 3 lasts through 13 hours on GPS mode and up to 7 days in the smartwatch mode. This includes 24/7 heart rate monitoring. Many users have reported abrupt changes in battery behavior and quick battery draining. The possible problem could be that the apps you download additionally from the Garmin store might not be customized to use on this device causing heavy battery drain. With the factory apps, these battery drain is almost exactly as advertised by Garmin.
3. Other Features
- Garmin Pay:
Garmin Vivoactive 3 golf GPS watch is the first Garmin wearable to feature Garmin Pay, a contactless payment system. This your on-the-go wallet and you don’t need to carry your cards with you. Just save the card on the watch, hold the watch near the card reader, enter a passcode, select the card to pay with and you are on. We think feature is game-changing when you want to go for a run in spandex and don’t want to carry a card.
- Pre-loaded sports:
The Garmin Vivoactive 3 comes loaded with 15 sports apps including running, biking, swimming, snowboarding, skiing, golfing, stand-up paddle boarding, walking, elliptical training, strength and cardio training etc..You can take it to the gym where it keeps track of reps, heart rate variability and calories burned with indoor fitness machines. There are a number of presets for each sport, although there are no swimming and running exercises. You can also connect it to ANT+ sensors for monitoring heart rate during swimming. The runtimes are more accurate with both GPS and GLONASS enabled. Yes, Vivoactive 3 has both.
- Fitness tracking:
The data provided by Vivoactive 3 includes heart rate monitoring, heart rate averages, calories, weight, floors climbed. It also gets into detailed analysis of VO2 max, lactate threshold and %HF max. It keeps a tab on fitness age and monitors the stress level. In case you are too stressed, it gives you an alert to cool off. If you have been sedentary too long, it alerts you to get moving.
- Connect IQ:
The Garmin Vivoactive 3 golf GPS watch works in conjunction with the Garmin Connect and Connect IQ app store to bring you wider access to your stats over more applications. It lives up to the true smartwatch status with widgets and apps to tracks your cab, check the weather etc. You can even change the watch face using the app store. But beware, newly downloaded apps seem to drain battery too quickly.
- Smart Notifications:
The Garmin Vivoactive 3 connects you to your smartphones via active notifications about texts, email and other alerts. You can stay updated through notifications from your social media profiles. You can even reply to the texts right from the watch.
- Garmin Connect:
The Garmin Connect app has long been used by the golf GPS devices from this brand. Syncing the Vivoactive 3 golf GPS watch to Garmin Connect automatically uploads your tracking data for further analytics. In Golf, it brings you access to leaderboards. You can share you activity with other players, athletes and track your progress over time.
Garmin Vívoactive 3 GPS Smartwatch manual
The Garmin Vivoactive golf GPS watch latches on to GPS in less than a minute, though Apple Watch Series 3 is slightly faster. The other main competition is Fitbit Ionic which has the unique ability to store songs. Vivoactive 3 does not have song memory but it can control the music app on your phone. Most of the pre-loaded apps and the downloadable apps on this watch are fitness or sports-related. It is a much more thorough fitness tracker than the other two watches.
However, the one area that Vivoactive 3 lags behind is the smartwatch part. There are just not enough popular smartwatch apps in the Connect IQ store. But as a fitness-tracker, it is pretty much unbeatable at the price if it weren’t for the paltry vibration alert. There are a lot of settings and minimal controls through button, swipe and touchscreen. The app settings and compatibility is also evolving. So you are bound to see some hitches like battery draining too quickly or sleep tracker being inconsistent. Setting the right timezone and being mindful of the downloaded apps can help avert these issues.
The true connoisseurs of fitness watches welcomed the Garmin Vivoactive 3 golf GPS as a largely refreshing device. It helps that it’s smaller and lighter than most fitness trackers. Although it cuts some corners in measuring running distance and the vibration alerts were weak, the distances are fairly accurate. The golf performance is at par with the Garmin S6 in terms of accuracy and features. Most users complained about the battery power which has the simple explanation that downloaded apps drain more battery. Hopefully the app design will deal with this issue.
As a fitness tracker with extended golf GPS abilities, we found the Garmin Vivoactive 3 excellent value for money. While it excels at sports tracking, it is not as accurate as the much costlier Garmin Forerunner FR935 but as accurate as Apple Watch series 3 and Fitbit Ionic. It is the most effective device for a sports-enthusiast at this price bracket. It has the most palatable and comfortable design. Garmin stepped up the game with Garmin Pay too. While some of the features are still in development, the changes can be pushed via the Garmin Connect and Connect IQ watch. As a sports watch, it is extremely versatile. As a smartwatch, it is amongst the top but not the best.
Last updated on June 23rd, 2018 at 01:08 pm