As golfers, we’re familiar with having to account for variable factors that may affect our swing. Some things we don’t have control over, like the weather or placement of obstacles, whilst others, like the club we use and angle in which we swing, we are in complete control.
One of the major things we must do is understand the ground we are playing on. Previously, this was done by the way of manual sums to work out the yardage, slope etc. But there is now another, more accurate way.
Rangefinders have their place in history, but their use in golf is relatively new and has become more popular in recent years due to improving technology and their ability to accurately measure distances and determine hazards. They can also help you choose the right club and improve game playtime, which even an inexpensive rangefinder can assist in.
There are many, many rangefinders available, each bragging to be the best for a particular purpose. Therefore, this article aims to provide you detailed information on golf rangefinders, including golf laser rangefinder reviews, giving an unbiased perspective of the pros and cons of the top golf rangefinders. Below you will find the best golf rangefinders for sale, including rangefinder reviews so that you can find the best rangefinder for the money that you are willing to spend.
What is a golf rangefinder?
Every golfer will know the necessity of knowing the course that they plan to play on. This goes beyond simply mapping out the field, but having knowledge of every variable to ensure that you play the best game possible. This is where rangefinders come in.
Rangefinders are an alternative to a traditional yardage book, with the best laser golf rangefinder giving you a clear idea of distances, slopes and other variables within your trajectory so that you can play to the conditions of the course. Because of this, rangefinders are one of the most essential accessories for any avid golfer looking to improve their skill or speed up their game play.
Golf is a slowly played game, and this is often made worse by manual calculations with yardage books. A golf rangefinder, simply put, will take the pain out of this, saving you game time and giving you a better idea of which club to use in which particular circumstance. On average, game play can be shortened by 30 minutes just by the use of a rangefinder.
When looking for rangefinders for sale, it is easy to be overwhelmed by the many different types and features that the top rated golf rangefinders offer. Ultimately, it is the price that will determine the features that differ between a cheap golf rangefinder and the best laser rangefinder available.
Although it can be tempting to want the best golf laser rangefinder, think carefully about your needs and compare rangefinders in the table above, paying particular attention to the golf rangefinder ratings to help you select the best laser golf rangefinder.
How do golf rangefinders work?
Golf rangefinders not only save time by doing calculations that you would otherwise do yourself, but they also predict things that you otherwise would not know. But how exactly do they do this? The answer to this is based on the rangefinders design.
Of the best golf tracking systems, the most commonly used rangefinders in golf are GPS and Laser. Laser rangefinders are usually a binocular rangefinder design, and GPS rangefinders use GPS technology in either a handheld device, or a watch.
Laser rangefinders work by directing a laser beam in a direction and measuring the distance by determining how fast the beam takes to reflect back to the device. Therefore, a laser rangefinder with a higher quality laser will return speed at a faster rate, and will be able to reach a further distance than rangefinders with a lower quality laser.
Due to the way they work, the most accurate rangefinder is laser. Golf laser rangefinders may also feature software that seeks out the flag, as this is usually the furthest point. Learning how to use a laser golf rangefinder is usually as easy as directing the rangefinder towards the object and as pressing a button.
In contract, a GPS rangefinder uses a preloaded map of the course and GPS technology to determine distances. GPS rangefinders generally have the best idea of the course without taking into consideration other variables. GPS rangefinders can be a little more complex to navigate, as they load up a particular course, require manual inputs and often have other features. Some GPS rangefinders include auto-recognition software so that no manual input is required.
Weather can affect how well both laser rangefinders and GPS rangefinders work. Warm weather can cause objects to be less apparent to the laser rangefinder, and objects such as branches or other people can return an inaccurate reading, whereas GPS rangefinders may not take the weather into consideration at all.
It is important to read reviews of golf rangefinders to see the benefits of each type to determine which one is best for you, whether that be the best inexpensive rangefinder or simply a compact rangefinder.
Advantages and disadvantages of GPS and laser golf rangefinders
GPS rangefinders can be more or less advanced than a laser rangefinder depending on the brand. The cheaper options will give you distance guides but may be limited by their usability and range, as they are only suitable to particular courses.
The more advanced GPS units will list specific course hazards so that you can adjust your swing accordingly. Due to this, the GPS unit will usually need software that updates and changes with the course.
- Usually includes a large number of preloaded golf courses
- Can be a more affordable option
- Not always as accurate
- May require a monthly sign up fee
There are clear advantages for the most seasoned player of knowing the precise yardage, and laser rangefinders will give you that. As a laser rangefinder does not depend on GPS navigation, they are nearly always reliable and are by far the best long range rangefinder to use in golf.
- The best precision
- Can be used for other purposes
- More expensive
- Can be affected by other objects
- Strong laser beams can be a hazard to your eyes, however most rangefinders used in golf are not capable of damage
What to look for when buying the best rangefinder
To find the best rangefinder for golf, I suggest sticking to what I consider the be the most important things. This includes the features and readability of the rangefinder, whether it works vertically or horizontally and whether it is a rangefinder with magnification.
You should also consider the rangefinders overall range (including to flag), and of course, the price, to ensure you get the best affordable rangefinder. This will ensure that you can find the best rangefinder for the money that you are willing to spend, with the features that you require.
Features and readability
A rangefinder can be most easily assessed by both its features and readability. These can differ greatly from rangefinder to rangefinder, and can be what differentiates the top golf rangefinders from mediocre ones. As rangefinders can also be used for other purposes, a rangefinder with suitable features for golf is superior.
Readability is a broad term which takes into consideration how easy the rangefinder is to make sense of. As golf is a game primarily played during the daytime, readability in daylight is crucial. A high quality rangefinder will feature a clear LED light display. The readability also concerns angled slopes and reflective surfaces, and this is where a rangefinders features come in. Some of the best golf rangefinders will include slope to accurately measure the slope and gauge of the course.
Other features worth noting include cameras, GPS (added to laser rangefinders) and other technologies. However, if this rangefinder is primarily for golf, these extras can cost more than they are really worth.
A golf rangefinder will use either a vertical or horizontal locator, and the best rangefinders may even use both. Most golf rangefinders for sale are vertical, as the ease of using one hand is beneficial in golf. Horizontal locators may benefit for longer distances but this is not always essential for golf and depends on the ground you plan to play on.
Needless to say, the decision comes down to whether the rangefinder is used exclusively for golf. If so, you may be best to stick with a simple vertical locator.
Magnification is for some a nice feature, however, for me it is essential. Not only are golf coursers unpredictable but the last thing I want to be doing is walking around to get a better viewing point just to lose my bearings. This is why I think that the best rangefinder for golf should include magnification.
Magnification can be found on an affordable rangefinder, as most also consider this to be standard. Most laser rangefinders can be magnified by up to 5x (so that the object appears to be 5 times closer), and is well worth paying a little extra for.
In regards to rangefinders for golf, range can be more important for some golfers and less important for others. For me, however, it remains to be one of the defining factors in finding the best golf rangefinder to buy.
In golf, the better the range of the rangefinder is not always the best indicator of the quality of that rangefinder. This is due to how golf rangefinders locate the flag, and the overall range will differ to the range from the flag. Distance to the flag will always be less than the overall range, but in general increased range over a certain amount is only an advantage on level ground.
The overall range can better considered if you decide what the rangefinder is for. As rangefinders can also be used for other activities outside of golf, if you were looking for the best rangefinder for hunting, you may require a wider range so that the one rangefinder could be used for both. If it is only for golf, a lower range is appropriate.
Generally, most cheap rangefinders will have a range around 500 yards. A good quality 1000 yard rangefinder can be pricey and not always necessary for golf.
For most people, cost will be the major decision point when they compare golf rangefinders. After all, we all want the best value rangefinder that we can get for a price that we are willing to pay.
Rangefinders can vary greatly in their cost. This is partly due to their expert design and a lack of trusted brands selling rangefinders. A rangefinder within a low budget is definitely obtainable, however once you improve it may limit your ability to continue to improve. Investing in a quality rangefinder can assist you to continually develop and upgrade your skills. It is also worth noting that people use rangefinders for other purposes too, and if this will be your “all rounder” then you may want to consider investing wisely.
A quality rangefinder that is very low in price is rare and often lacks some essential features, but that does not mean good quality cheap rangefinders can not be found. It does mean however that if you are willing to spend a little more, you will find a great deal of difference in quality.
Are golf rangefinders legal in golfing competitions?
Yes. And No. This is a tricky one.
Golfs governing bodies, USGA and R&A, have approved the use of rangefinders. However, at a competition level such as Open Championships, they are frequently not allowed. People can give as many reasons for this as there are stars in the sky, but there is one simple reason. There is a resistance to keep up to date with changing technologies.
Pro golfers would all be aware of the advantages of rangefinders, including more accurately measuring distance, improving play and speeding up the game. Despite awareness of the nature of the slow pace of golf and a campaign aimed at speeding it up, these devices can still be shunned.
One of the major issues with rangefinders appears to be when they include slope, and as such I have not seen any legal rangefinder with slope as standard.
I have no doubt that these devices will be widely used competitively in the future. Their use improves play, improves accuracy, improves competition and speeds up the game. We are lucky to have such technology, and our willingness to use it can only improve a great game. You can read what the USGA has to say about rangefinders here.
Reviews of the top golf rangefinders
The best hybrid golf GPS rangefinder
Starting with one of the most trusted brands in rangefinders, when pro golfers think of the best laser golf rangefinder, they often think of Bushnell. And if there ever were a rangefinder that had it all, it would be the Bushnell Hybrid Laser-GPS Rangefinder.
This Bushnell golf rangefinder has combined GPS technology with Laser in the one device, creating a device that can be used under almost any conditions. A theme in other Bushnell golf rangefinder reviews is recognition of their clarity and accuracy thanks to their famous PinSeeker technology, whereby the laser locks the object into place, with a fantastic range of over 1000 yards in total and 300 yards to flag. Combining the device with a GPS also allows the rangefinder to automatically recognize the golf course, and includes around 30,000 preloaded courses. This means that the device is ready to use straight out of the box.
There is no shortage of extras with this rangefinder, where you are provided with a premium quality case, carrying straps, a wall plug with a USB charger and a cleaning cloth. The newest model includes a longer lasting battery, and other than the expected occasional GPS accuracy issues, I had no trouble using this device, and found it to work wonderfully.
Bushnell has continued to show that they are the kings when it comes to crafting top rated golf rangefinders, and this certainly is the best hybrid rangefinder you will find.
The best compact rangefinder for golf
For many of us golf is a game that demands a lot of accessories, and so reducing the space taken by them is essential. Nikon must have listened to this, as the Nikon 8397 Rangefinder delivers, and as the most compact rangefinder on the market, it is equally one of the most powerful.
First, the basics. This Nikon Rangefinder works like most rangefinders, where the distance reading is given by the push of a button. The advantage of the Nikon laser rangefinder is that it can fit easily into the palm of your hand, so everything can be completed with a single hand.
The reading is delivered fast when compared to other Nikon golf rangefinders due to a multi-layer outer coating, which allows for a stronger laser beam to be used, resulting in a powerful rangefinder with a range of up to 550 yards, measuring for up to 20 seconds. The device is also waterproof and includes 6x magnification. Nikon have also included a case and carrying straps, and the device features a battery life indicator for you to keep watch of the battery life.
Perhaps the best feature of this rangefinder is its simplicity. It does what it’s meant to do. Reading through other Nikon rangefinder reviews, there are complaints about the devices lack of slope readings and its lack of others bells and whistles. But for such a compact and solid device, I believe this is well worth the money at the sacrifice of slope.
The best golf rangefinder with slope
For some golfers, the best rangefinder golf could be played with needs to have slope as standard. At times, I must say I agree. This is why the Bushnell Pro X7 Rangefinder needs to be mentioned… It truly is the best digital rangefinder with slope that I have used.
As with all Bushnell rangefinders, this is a high quality device. The rangefinder includes the expertly endorsed PinSeeker technology, up to 7x magnification, and is known as one of the most powerful golf rangefinders in the world. This particular rangefinder works by sending short bursts in the direction of a target to lock it into sight.
Now, the slope readings. This Bushnell rangefinder includes technology that compensates for the slope in degrees, allowing for even more accuracy towards targets and information on hazards. However, this comes at a cost. Due to this slope technology, it is not legal in tournament use. This does not stop is being endorsed as one of the best in the world.
The display is extremely easy to read, the device is fully waterproof and can be used from any point, in any weather. The only downside is that it is slightly bulkier than others, but this is to be expected with the added features.
If you are serious at improving your game play, then this rangefinder can offer you excellent features that could be just what you require.
The best cheap golf rangefinder
I am a firm believer in the idea that you get what you pay for. In my experience, this principle holds true for rangefinders and it can be worth paying a bit more and investing in a quality product. However, if we are speaking about the best value rangefinder, the TecTecTec VPRO500 comes to mind. This golf rangefinder is cheap, but does not lack in features or build quality.
This rangefinder features technology that seeks out the pin, making it exclusively good for golf. The monocular rangefinder shows sharp images with 6x magnification, and reads clear, perfect at a distance of about 150 yards from the flag. The rangefinder is durable and resists both water and dust (however I wouldn’t try immersing it into a bath).
Cheap rangefinders for golf will always result in some loss of features, and unfortunately this rangefinder does not include a USB port. However, the rangefinder works well and is still surprisingly fast and accurate, making is one of the best cheap rangefinders for sale.
The best 1000 yard laser rangefinder
Ahh, that name again. It’s fair to say that a Bushnell golf rangefinder is always safe, and this is another outstanding product from Bushnell. This professionally certified rangefinder combines both PinSeeker and Jolt technology to give accurate readings of up to 1000 yards, which results in around 400 yards to flag.
Why is this important? Because the readings are clear. Although many of the best laser golf rangefinders claim to reach a distance of 1000 yards, their readings are often misguided and better suited for shorter distances, but not this one. The Bushnell Tour V4 combination of PinSeeker and Jolt technology accurately measures distances from as short as 5 yards to a maximum of 1000 yards clearly.
Other great thing about this Bushnell rangefinder for golf is that it is legal at tournament level, includes 5x magnification, which delivers readings that are incredibly clear and fast. Bushnell has also thrown in a high quality carrying case and strap, and the rangefinder itself is actually quite compact for its features.
As the rangefinder is legal for tournament play, it does not include slope as standard. However, as the need can often arise, Bushnell has included a space for a slope reading attachment to be placed, making the rangefinder both flexible and adaptable.
Reading through other Bushnell golf rangefinder reviews, I found my views were shared. This is an incredible rangefinder, and one of the best value golf rangefinders out there.
Leupold rangefinders are another name that are known for their quality products. As would be expected of a rangefinder in this class, the Leupold Gx-4i2 Rangefinder is a quality product that offers clear and focused readings.
As one of the most accurate rangefinders, the Leupold Rangefinder uses pinseeker technology to lock the flag in sight, and to keep it locked. The Leupold golf rangefinder is completely waterproof and incredibly sturdy, and works via a touchscan mode where you can see a range of up to 700 yards (around 400 yards to pin).
The Leupold Laser Rangefinder has a LED light display that is incredibly clear, and the clarity of this rangefinder is immediately apparent. However, some Leupold Golf rangefinder reviews report at times experiencing difficult focusing on less obvious flags, but this is something that can happen with all rangefinders at distance, and certainly not isolated to the Leupold rangefinder.
To reinforce its quality, the rangefinder also includes a lifetime warranty, which should leave you feeling confident in its quality. All in all, this is an exceptional piece of craftsmanship for a truly inspired golfer.
As a major advantage of rangefinders is often their ability to speed up game play, the Nikon COOLSHOT 40 offers an advantage. This Nikon golf laser rangefinder can deliver measurements fast, often in under 0.5 of a second!
The COOLSHOT 40 delivers fast and accurate measurements via Nikon’s Hyper Read technology, and features of range of up to 650 yards moving in increments of a half a yard, delivering both quick and accurate measurements. The device features up to 6x magnification, and allows for a total of 8 seconds scanning time. The scanning time is not amazing, but decent.
It is also worth noting that the COOLSHOT 40 is one of the most powerful rangefinders that is compliant with the USGA and legal for tournament play. As such, the device does not include slope.
Over the older COOLSHOT 20, the COOLSHOT 40 rangefinder is slightly more compact and gives a clearer reading. The rangefinder is reinforced as an already quality product, and is definitely one for both the range and course.
For a simple, affordable and versatile rangefinder, the Simmons LRF 600 is proof that you don’t have to spend big. The Simmons LRF 600 rangefinder is all that and more, and is one of the most affordable rangefinders available.
Another trusted brand, the Simmons rangefinder features a range of up to 600 yards, with good visibility up to 300 yards from the flag. The rangefinder also includes 4x magnification, is compact and features a simple display.
The Simmons LRF is yet another rangefinder that’s primary use is not for golf, but due to its affordability and range, I believe it is a great option. The rangefinder works quickly and accurately, and is best suited for a use on a relatively flat surface. At this low price, you will forgo added features, and therefore this particular Simmons golf rangefinder is best for beginners.
To save money for beginners, this simple rangefinder will get the job done. It is most suitable for flat, less challenging surfaces and offers a good introduction into the world of rangefinders.
It’s obvious that you can spend a lot on a good quality golf rangefinder, but if you don’t need a top rated rangefinder with the highest specs, what do you need?
One of the best rangefinders for the money is by TOMSHOO. This rangefinder includes everything you need such as quality optics with good magnification, 656 yard measurements and solid, compact waterproof design for a super low price.
It’s best use is as a beginner rangefinder for people who don’t need a lot of high specs and ideal for stitching between use as a golfing or hunting rangefinder.
The main advantage is that it costs for less than it’s competitors. It’s also got a great looking camo design, basic and easy to use controls and a small frame which is lightweight and easy to carry with you.
Of course it’s not without it’s disadvantages. It goes without saying you are forgoing some key features that some people would see as standard in a rangefinder – this includes golf specific features like hazard perception and other less important but nice to have features such as a pedometer.
But it certainly does the job as an entry level rangefinder.
Because rangefinders can be used for more than just golf, several of the best rangefinders for sale are multipurpose devices, and if you are looking to combine your golf and hunting rangefinder in one, this could be it. However, my interest is in the best golf rangefinders, and I believe this is the best long range rangefinder that can be used in golf.
A truly top of the range rangefinder, the Leica rangefinder offers more than what meets the eye. The build quality of this rangefinder is phenomenal, using the highest quality glass resulting in incredible optics; the Leica laser rangefinder can reach a maximum range of 1600 yards.
The rangefinder includes angle of inclination to suit the dimensions of the course you play on, and delivers one of the fastest rangefinder readings I’ve seen at long range.
Other Leica rangefinder reviews have noted that the battery life could be improved, however, for use in golf, it does just fine, and a lowered battery life is acceptable at this level of features. This rangefinder is designed for long-term use, and is my pick if you are looking for the best optics available.