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Golf Rangefinder vs Hunting Rangefinder – Which One to Choose?

golf rangefinder vs hunting rangefinder
Written by Marc Niad
Last Update: January 9, 2023

Optical aids have been an integral part of modern outdoor adventures, from hunting, golfing, archery, and wildlife observation to hiking, mountaineering, and even fishing.

Hence, binoculars, rangefinders, and similar devices are more than an option for even the most indifferent hunters or outdoor devotees.

While most gadgets can be clearly distinguished from others, rangefinders are not like that.

Both golfers and hunters see these devices as their priority possessions.

But, there are underlying differences that set them apart. Today we’re exploring those differences.

Now, I’ll be trying to explain these two categories so that you can easily determine what exactly you need/want.

Golf Rangefinder vs Hunting Rangefinder – Key Differences

Over the past decade, laser technology has been made remarkably faster and simpler with advanced ranging modes.

Although the hunting and golf rangefinders appear to be functionally similar, there’s more difference between golf rangefinders and hunting rangefinders than you already know.

Let’s get an overview of the differences in detail.

Functional Differences

Even if you can use a single rangefinder for golfing and hunting, they’re functionally significantly different even amid the presence of the same laser technology.

Golf rangefinders incorporate “First Target Mode” to detect close objects in the golf course like a flag or a pin on where the hole is.

Hunting rangefinders use “Distant Target Mode” which avoids close objects to focus on the target in the distant wilderness.

Golf rangefinders don’t require the precise targeting as the hunting ones.

So they’re focused on delivering quick inspection while the hunting rangefinders aim at being precise at all costs.

The magnification system in hunting rangefinders comes in updated technicality unlike that in golf rangefinders.

Golfing rangefinders cover around 400 yards which is enough for golfers and bow hunters.

But, in cases of hunting with rifles or other long-distance shooting, you’ll need hunting rangefinders which usually cover 1000-1500 yards.

Golf Rangefinders: Types, Functions & Uses

Golf Rangefinder

A golf rangefinder measures the distance between the golfer and the pinhole.

These devices may vary in terms of usability and features. Some basic models lack what the advanced ones boast.

I’ll give you an explanatory note on the functions and uses, so you can get things clear effortlessly.


Golfers depend mostly on two types of rangefinders, such as GPS and laser rangefinders which differ from each other in their working principles.

While the GPS rangefinders use the GPS navigation system for guiding the user to their desired courses, their laser counterparts use modern laser technology to measure the distance.

Now, I’m going to talk about three common types of golf rangefinders separately.

1. Laser

Laser rangefinders function with light beams that provide an authentic reading of the target area.

  • The speed of the laser light differs from one temperature condition to another. This isn’t a problem since golf is usually played only on clear days
  • The light’s beams hit the target and return. The clock in the rangefinder measure this duration
  • The rangefinder keeps a record of the distance covered by the beams and uses it to calculate the traveled distance
  • The distance is displayed on the screen of the device
  • Takes time to function properly

How to Use a Laser Rangefinder?

  • Locate the target.
  • Point the laser rangefinder straight at the target object/location.
  • When you actually see the target through the device, release the laser beam by pulling the trigger. Point exactly at the target.
  • Check for the distance on the display.
  • If it delivers a negative output, keep the device steady and do the whole thing again for optimum accuracy.

The device features a tilt angle that helps you get correct measurements on hilly golf courses.

It assists you in locating the different angles produced by the difference in elevation.

When you’re aiming for a flag from a hill, follow these steps:

  • Don’t go directly for the flag and aim for the object closer to it that’s larger in size
  • Keep the device steady as you zoom in on the flag
  • Level your eye with the target object
  • Aim for the distance between you and the flag

2. Optical

This is another option for you to fix your target with a rangefinder that hasn’t been mentioned before. That’s an optical rangefinder.

How to use it?

  • Focus on the target by using one eye and measure the distance by using a built-in scale inside the optical rangefinder.
  • When the device finds the peak of the target, the built-in scale inside the device converts it to a distance reading.
  • The optical rangefinder uses two lenses on each of the sides for zooming in on the target.

3. GPS

GPS rangefinders offer distance readings of the target for up to 150 meters to the target.

This device comes in the shape of a wearable gadget to be put on the wrist or attached to a clip/belt or a golf bag.

The GPS works by comparing the pre-loaded objects on the golf course and measuring the distances that lead you to the target.

  • The device locates your position by the preloaded points.
  • The device determines the distance by using the different parts of the course.

How to Use Gps Rangefinders?

  • Preload the targets of the course on your pc or smartphone before going to the course.
  • Turn the GPS rangefinder on after reaching the course.
  • Allow the device to connect to the satellite feed and provide the location.
  • Select the target on the device, and it will give you readings on it.
  • By now, you have a good estimation of your target
  • You can now plan your route using the coordinates on the GPS map.

Hunting Rangefinders: Types, Functions & Uses

Hunting Rangefinder

Hunting rangefinders function with Distant Target Priority.

This laser technology avoids any close objects so that the hunting isn’t obstructed by them. The device fully focuses on distant objects.


Choosing the right rangefinder for hunting is essential since bow hunting, rifle hunting, precision shooting, and other outdoor activities require different rangefinders.

The three main types of hunting rangefinders work differently while maintaining fundamentally similar principles. However, you may benefit from learning their mechanisms.

1. Archery Rangefinders

Bow hunting or archery doesn’t require measurements of distant horizons.

Even with one of the top archery rangefinders in hand, you need to ensure that the right software is installed on them.

This rangefinder provides the angle that the shooter misses with the naked eye.

  • The device works on far-target priority mode.
  • The rangefinder reports multiple distance readings.
  • The device is very useful during rain or in the mist with an accurate sensitivity for close-target.
  • It has a red LED display which makes it easier to see through it in a dark atmosphere.
  • The rangefinder accurately delivers accurate readings up to 800-1000 yards depending on the technology and the level of workmanship it comes with.

2. Rifle-Hunting Rangefinders

These rangefinders detect the target accurately within 1000 yards. This is more than enough since a hunter usually gets his shooting covered within 500 yards.

The best rifle-hunting rangefinders have ballistics software, and you can match your rifle caliber and load with it.

The ballistics software applications have caliber groupings with identical traits, such as bullet trajectory, muzzle velocity, and ballistic coefficient.

The standard ballistics won’t apply if you’re shooting a strange caliber and ballistic combination.

You may use one of these devices on different targets like rocks or bushes to check its ability to deliver consistently accurate readings.

High-end rifle-hunting rangefinders typically have a 7x magnification, a mode for angle-compensation, and a mode forfast-scanning and tracking down moving animals.

3. Precision-Shooting Units

Precision shooters are meant for those with a love for long-distance hunting/shooting.

These activities require optimum precision, the right amount of sensitivity, and the capability to identify the target from a distant landscape.

The precise rangefinders emit a laser pulse and this laser technology offers an improved rangefinder.

So, these devices recognize small targets from a great distance with precision.

Another critical thing to remember about these units is stability. You can use tripods for this purpose.

Long-range hunting rangefinder

In practice, you can shoot at 1000 yards or further with these shooters. So, integrated ballistics software isn’t a priority for them.

Climate conditions such as wind, humidity, elevation, or harsh temperature affect the course of the bullet.

So, the devices that have environmental sensors with which they can calculate these holds are very useful for these shooters.

Look out for the ones with a 7X – 8X magnification range and an LED display with bright lights.

Golf vs Hunting Rangefinder

Contrast of Features

Golf Rangefinders Hunting Rangefinders
Operate on First Target Distance mode which gives readings on the closest object Feature angle compensation
Use vibration when the target (ex: the flag) is confirmed and locked Include Scan Mode for targeting the moving objects
Feature slope compensation which can give accounts of the trajectory to take on a slope angle and the golf club to use Feature a rugged, waterproof design, and thus work in any weather condition
Include high-quality lenses through which you can literally see the next flag Provide exactly accurate horizontal distance
Include high magnification strength Incorporate multiple targeting modes for hunters of all skill levels


The prices of the two types of rangefinders vary due to their methods of targeting objects. The price for a golf rangefinder is not very high.

Even a lower-priced golf rangefinder has the closest target priority installed in it which is all you need in a rangefinder for golfing.

The usual price range for a golf rangefinder is $100- $400. The mid-range products are the most commonly used by golfers.

The cost of good hunting rangefinders ranges from below $100 but can be significantly higher than the golfing rangefinder.

This is because the hunting rangefinders come with multiple focuses, multiple lenses, and lots of different functions apart from the ones provided by the golfing rangefinders.

The best hunting rangefinders can be found within $300.

Similarities Between Hunting and Golf Rangefinders

Despite the many differences, golf and hunting rangefinders have their similarities too.

Some people even use one rangefinder for both golfing and hunting purposes.

But it doesn’t mean that all the rangefinders are usable for both purposes.

Even if you intend to buy one single rangefinder for both purposes, it will cost you more.

You can look out for those rangefinders that have versatile features and are not just designed to cater to both golfing and hunting, and get to cut short your expense.

The midrange laser rangefinders usually both operate on FTP and DTP and so do some high-end ones.

To get the appropriate laser rangefinder that aids in both golfing and hunting, it’s wise to look out for the rangefinder in the hunting section since the hunting rangefinders are the ones that usually feature two modes of focusing.

  • The Bullseye Mode in the hunting rangefinders is actually FTP in golfing rangefinders
  • If you’re mainly a golfer and occasionally a hunter, you can go for a golfing rangefinder that serves both purposes
  • Both golfing and hunting feature angle compensation

So, you see both hunters and golfers have something in common when it comes to their preferences.

I understand you cannot become a hunter/golfer overnight.

More importantly, you don’t want to alter your pursuit. But you can always find what best suits your purposes, and the above discussion will help you.

Feel free to ask me anything about golf rangefinders and hunting rangefinders, and I promise to offer some help.

About the author

Marc Niad

It’s been several years that Marc, a retired teacher and a proud dad, has silently been piling up mature bucks down the South. This humble hunter began his hunting journey at quite an early age and since then, he spent countless hours in the woods and learned good lessons in terms of woodsmanship. Along the way, he also made money sharing his skill with his followers and well-wishers.

The Ranger Expert is the brainchild of this veteran hunter who loves hunting the swamps and the hills around the Mississippi and Homochitto rivers. His most favorite hunting technique is taking his climbing gear and going to the top of pines with a 25.06 – the old-fashioned way!

He gets most of his games during late December through mid-January – his favorite hunting time. Marc strongly believes that hard work, passion, and a bit of luck can bring you success in the wild.

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