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Rangefinder vs GPS for Golf: What to Use and Why?

Rangefinder vs GPS for Golf
Written by Erik Himmel

The introduction of technology into golf has made the game much enjoyable to interested parties. Gone are the days when you had to pay caddies to analyze distance and select the right clubs. Modern innovations have taken over those duties and simple gadgets can now give accurate calculation. This assures reduced number of strokes.

For a golfer, amateur or professional, finding the right gadget is paramount. It could mean the difference between hitting the green and trimming the hedge with a 5-iron. Of the many devices developed, rangefinders and Golf GPS devices are the most popular.

A golf rangefinder is a portable device, like a mini camcorder. You look through the lens to get accurate measurement of distance from the flagpole. In some versions, slope indicators are included. These take into account the elevations and depressions along the target line.

A golf GPS device employs satellite imaging to give a mapping of the course. It provides aerial imagery of the entire course. The player’s location is indicated, as well as his distance from the hole. Other factors such as hazards, distances and even scores are also highlighted.

Originally, the technology behind these devices was not made for golfing. GPS was created for location services while laser tech was meant for distance reading. This does not in any way underemphasize how much both have changed the game of golf.

Adding both GPS devices and laser rangefinders to the sport revolutionized play. Efficiency, game time, skill development and overall satisfaction significantly improved. Now, more people are interested in playing than watching.

Both devices are effective game changers. With any of these gadgets, an amateur can up his game in a short while. However, they each have their unique distinctions and trump cards. Eventually, picking either the best golf GPS or best golf rangefinder rests on your style of play.

Now, let us see what we come up with when we set up rangefinder vs GPS for golf.

Rangefinder vs GPS for Golf : Which Is Better for You?

Laser rangefinders use laser beams to generate measurement of distance between two points. This technology has proven to be most reliable under such requirements. This is why it is heavily used in military, forestry, 3-D modeling and industrial production.

Application of laser rangefinders to golf ensures accuracy of distance and yardage. It also goes a long way in helping players choose the right club. This is mostly because it depends on calculating target distances by bouncing a laser beam off it.

Rangefinder for Golf

To read a distance, players look for the flagpole or pin through the viewfinder. Then, a button is pressed and/or held, sending the laser to the target. The result is an accurate reading of distance.

Laser rangefinders also includes magnification features that allow user to see the target clearly. This capability can be a huge confidence booster as it sets targets to seem closer. With morale like that, an average golfer could become a pro in no time.

Laser rangefinders are also able to pinpoint the exact distance of the pin from the player. Knowing this, a player can easily decide how heavy a swing he needs.

Golf GPS, on the other hand provides pictorial details of the yard. It takes into account the elements that might hinder the game. It also measures distance between player and target. This is possible through satellite imagery.

The imaging features that come with golf GPS gives a player detailed information about the course. You can tell where the green is, as well as the hedges, ponds and valleys. It works like a personal photographer from above.

 GPS for Golf

Avoiding obstacles, as well as building familiarity with the course are general objectives achievable with GPS devices. As they allow tracking capabilities, keeping up with the ball becomes easier through location features.

With it, players can also view scorecards, analyze games statistically and even, in some cases, keep track with betting costs.

Constant update from a satellite feed enables precision of details on the course, keeping golfers in the know. This automatically takes golfing to another level.

1. Design and Shape

Laser rangefinders are generally compact in design and shape. Sizes may range from the equivalent of a digital camera to that of a compact binocular. They are also built for easy handling as they need to be raised like telescopes. This accounts for the lightweight feature.

Golf GPS are more versatile in design and shape. They may come as wrist-watches, handheld rangefinders or sensors attachable to belts or clothes. There may also be screen or voice-interactive interface, depending on the player’s choice of preference.

2. Functional Features

Generally, laser rangefinders come in two modes; one that scans the whole environment, and the other, the closest target. However, there are certain extra features that set each models apart from the other. Technical features of laser rangefinders include;

  • Slope units to detect and account for elevations
  • Pin seeker and Jolt technology to focus on the pin only
  • Scorecard display
  • Waterproof and water-resistance
  • User-friendly

Golf GPS however, vary with modes, as they may feature screen view or voice options. The combination depends on the type, cost or manufacturer. Some common technical features of most golf GPS devices are;

  • Colored or black and white screens.
  • Graphical imagery of the green.
  • Mapping and pinpointing capabilities.
  • Course point selection options.
  • Shot distance tracking.
  • Scorecard display.
  • Waterproof and water-resistance.
Callaway 300 Pro Slope Laser Golf Rangefinder Enhanced 2021 Model - Now With Added Features
  • Precise Slope Measurement: Our highly accurate laser rangefinder accounts for elevation changes and measures the angle of incline/decline, then calculates the slope adjusted distance
  • Maximum Magnification: Equipped with 6x magnification, our rangefinders for golfing feature a range of 5-1000 yards with +/- 1 yard accuracy and even measure in both yards and meters
  • Pin-Locking Technology: Our precise laser measure with Pin Acquisition Technology (P.A.T.) allows you to lock onto a pin up to 300 yards away
  • Pulse Confirmation: Our range finder will emit a short vibrating "burst" when the laser locks onto the pin to confirm you have the correct distance
  • External Slope On/Off Switch: Legal for tournament play

3. Accuracy and Distance Reading

Laser rangefinders are well-known for their line-of-sight accuracy. The technology allows easy reading of the distance between the golfer and the pin. The jolt technology in many modes also ensures the readings are precise with just hold or click the button.

In the case of golf GPS devices, the satellite support provides pinpoint location on the course. It also helps that satellites are well designed for reading distances. This enables users to tell the distance between the ball and the centre of the green.

4. Golf Rangefinder vs GPS: Advantages

Laser rangefinders possess some benefits which make them appealing to users. These include;

  • Easy to use
  • Portable sizes
  • Fast-focus optics
  • Target precision
  • Accurate measurement of distance
  • Allows easy selection of clubs for shots
  • Long-lasting battery life

Of course, golf GPS devices boast some qualities over the former as well. Some of these are;

  • Detailed information on courses
  • Colorful display
  • Improves understanding of golf club ranges
  • Variety in sizes and designs
  • Location accuracy
  • Reduction of handicap
  • Impressive out-of-sight shot assistance
  • Reduced game time
  • Portable sizes

5. Golf GPS vs Laser Rangefinder: Limitations

Of course, when considering rangefinder vs GPS for golf, there are certain drawbacks to using one or the other. Laser rangefinders are limited to certain situations, such as;

  • Readings might be tough to detect without a line of sight
  • Very far targets might be inaccurately measured
  • An unsteady grip might influence reading
  • Only distance to pin is measured. Precise locations or positions are not

In the case of golf GPS devices;

  • Weak satellite feed disrupts reading accuracy
  • Only provides details of mapped courses
  • Accuracy of readings are not always precise
  • Smartphone versions heavily drain battery life

6. Expenses

Laser rangefinders are relatively expensive. The average purchase range spans from $350 to about $800 though the average warranty period reaches 2 years. However, the compact nature reduces the need for constant maintenance. Water-resistance also reduces chances of damage.

In the case of golf GPS devices, the price ranges depends on the type purchased. They could go from as cheap as $97 to a steep $600! The cost variation depends on yearly update of course maps from satellite feeds as well as membership fees from GPS service providers.

So, Golf GPS or Rangefinder?

How does on decide which wins in golf rangefinder vs GPS?  Perhaps, a quick overview on both devices will help us see what they have over each other;

  Laser Rangefinder Golf GPS
Technology Laser GPS
Operation Eye-to-lens interaction Eye-to-screen; voice interaction
Ease of Use Yes Yes
Lowest Purchase Cost Above $300 Below $300
Additional Costs Rarely Mostly
Average Weight 6 ounces 6-10 ounces
Average Readout 500-600 yards Above 600 yards

The decision to pick between a laser rangefinder and golf GPS rests on the user’s level of interest, style of play and budget. So, it is most advisable to go for what suits you both in functionality and cost.

Pitting rangefinder vs GPS for golf seems unfair as both devices are amazing additions to the golfer kit. Whichever direction you choose to go is sure to satisfy your needs. Both devices are hardy and easy to use and maintain.

Applying any of these devices to your game will surely bring satisfaction and improve your efficiency. It is also guaranteed to help you enjoy your time in the course, be you a beginner or an aspiring PGA athlete.

About the author

Erik Himmel

A Part-Time Firearm Instructor

Hi, this is Erik. We all know firearms are dangerous, but only when one doesn’t know how to use and care for them. I have 15+ years of experience with different types of guns and for the last 10 years, I have taught numerous people how to hold and shoot a gun while staying safe and keeping the surroundings unharmed. My neighbors are some of my biggest admirers who enjoy talking to me about their guns, firearms safety and maintenance.

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