If you enjoy playing golf, but hate the amount of time it takes to calculate the distances between you and your next hazard or hole, you might be considering investing in a rangefinder.  A rangefinder designed for golfers can be a great way to save time and improve your chances of choosing your best swing, both of which can make your game more enjoyable, and maybe even more successful.


Before going any further, it’s important to mention that not all courses allow rangefinders for tournament play.  Most will allow basic distance-only rangefinders.  Very few allow models that also calculate slope.  If tournament play is important to you, make sure you know any applicable rules concerning rangefinder use.

There are two types of golf rangefinders.  The first is laser-driven.  As suggested by the name, these devices use lasers to measure the distance between the rangefinders and whatever targets they’re pointed at.  Laser rangefinders offer better accuracy than GPS models (which we’ll discuss below).  Naturally, better laser models are more accurate than lesser models.  Many golfers prefer laser models because of their higher degree of accuracy and because, unlike GPS models, they don’t rely on preloaded course info to generate calculations.  The biggest drawback to laser rangefinders is that they can only “see” what’s in front of them.  If you don’t have an unobstructed view of your target, a laser rangefinder cannot tell you how far away that target is.  It will only be able to tell you how far away you are from the nearest thing in its line of sight.

The other type of rangefinder designed for golfers is the GPS version.  As you might guess, GPS rangefinders use real-time satellite info to determine where in the world you are and combine that with preloaded golf course information to tell you how far away you are from the next hole.  Some models also include information on hazards.  Because GPS rangefinders use satellite intel, you can get reasonably accurate readings regardless of any obstacles between you and the hole, something many golfers prefer to the clear line of sight needed for laser models.  One of the biggest advantages to a GPS model is that they are available as wristwatches.  A simple wrist flick gets you the information you need.  A laser model, on the other hand, has to be fished out of a pocket or bag, pointed at the target, then put away again.  Some find this an aggravating time killer, not to mention that this back and forth increases the chances of the rangefinder being dropped and damaged.  Because GPS units use satellite imagery, they do tend to be less accurate than their laser counterparts.  They also tend to cost quite a bit less than laser models.  

When it comes to GPS models, be sure to look for a new, more sensitive model, as older and lesser-quality versions can have a hard time calculating if the area is surrounded by too many tall buildings or trees.  You also need to understand how a prospective GPS model gets updated.  Unlike laser rangefinders that can simply “point and shoot,” GPS units rely on preloaded satellite info.  As long as your favorite course is included and never undergoes any type of major renovation, you’ll be fine.  But, if you like visiting different courses and have to be among the first at any new course, you’ll need a rangefinder that can keep up.  Some models require a subscription to guarantee current data.  There are many quality models that do not require this recurring expense, so be sure to understand how prospective GPS models get their updates.

If you want a rangefinder that can accurately calculate slope, you’ll probably want a laser model, as even the best GPS models can only offer very rough calculations.  Not all laser models offer slope calculation, but the ones that do far outperform GPS units in this regard.

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