Are you considering buying a golf range finder? In this article, we have compiled a list of features we consider most relevant when you are looking to buy a golf rangefinder. We cover some basic requirement first then look at more refined targeting modes and their purpose.
Then we show you the results of our market survey and produce a selection of recommended golf rangefinders from different manufacturers and price points.
Finally, we point out some common questions about golf rangefinders that golfers often talk about and we give you our answers.
To improve as a golfer you more accuracy in your estimated range to target and in the yardage you can deliver in your shots. A rangefinder, when used correctly, delivers much more accuracy than we as golfers can eyeball. This is the number one criteria we rely on in a golf range finder. Almost all modern quality rangefinders are more accurate than we are in accessing ranges.
What’s the realistic maximum distance it can range reliably? Some manufacturers claim rangefinder can range roughly twice as far as would be practical in normal use. This is because they normally calibrate them on a large highly reflective target at maximum range. In practice, you’re trying to range a Flagstaff at a few hundred yards. Golf rangefinders typically have a magnification of 5x -6x which is practical up to 400 – 500 yards. Having a 400+ yard functional range is good enough for all practical purposes.
Magnification helps to see targets at long range. So it is essential to have the correct magnification. Poor magnification is worthless if you can’t see the target from where you are. Be sure to have a large enough magnification (at least 5x) to see far-distant targets. As mentioned earlier most golf rangefinders typically have a magnification of 5x -6x which is practical up to 400 – 500 yards
Ease of Use
In this day and age, we are all used to carrying around mobile phones and interacting with them. A golf range finder is just another box of electronics that should be easy to use and give quick and accurate answers. We want to know whether you’re able to grab the device from your bag, easily find the target and quickly display a range reading before shooting. Pressing the range button and getting a reading back should take a second or less.
Once you have ranged a target whether in scan mode or using pin-seeker technology the display reading is almost immediate in most modern rangefinders. Due to the evolution of modern processor chips in mobile phones, the modern golf range finder has benefited as well by the use of this borrowed technology. Lasers pulses pass at the speed of light so the only real time expended is the time for the processor to calculate range once the target is locked on. Speeds are really fast across all major models now resolving range in one second or less.
Most laser rangefinder batteries will last a most, if not all, of your golf season. But it will be wise to carry a spare battery with you when you see that battery indicator blinking of down to low bars reading. GPS devices including watches have to recharge much more frequently because of the GPS use. If you are playing an extended round you need to ensure you have enough battery charge to compete.
Water and electronics simply don’t mix well. Many rangefinders now employ rigid plastic and rubber composites to make rangefinder bodies. These have gotten much better over the years making them more resistant to water damage. You naturally want to know if a rangefinder will withstand any sudden rain or if you drop it into a puddle will it survive? The Bushnell X2 Pro, Pro X7 and Z6 Jolt are waterproof models while the V2, V3 and V4 are not. The Leupold’s GX series is also waterproof range.
Durable, shockproof and rugged construction is the thing to look for. Will it survive if you drop it or if it falls out of your cart on a path? To protect your investment, durable construction ensures you’re not going have to replace it with a new rangefinder.
A good quality hard case can protect your investment and also help you access it more easily while on the course. Belt and carbenes attachment can help in portability. A good case can be a real factor in your choice.
Rangefinders tend to fall within the $140-$599 range. The $140 rangefinders are pretty solid and offer great for that price. The most comfortable price point is around $250 where you get the most desirable features for that money. Some higher-end branded models while more expensive have some useful extra features, waterproofing, better optics, dual display, fog modes, slope calculation, better pin seeking technology and longer warranties.
Golf Range Finder Target Modes
All rangefinders provide the very basic and simple line of sight distance to your target which is usually the hole. To improve measurement accuracy in laser rangefinders, you can also have different target modes that can help you zero into the flagstick, ignore water droplets, and can even adjust for inclines and declines that can affect your distance to the hole.
First Target Priority Mode
A golf range finder uses a first target priority mode system to get the most accurate distance to the target. It ignores background objects like trees, mounds, or anything in the distance that can serve as a distraction to successful target acquisition. By firing the laser in first target priority mode, it will search for the nearest target and provide you with the nearest distance. In golf, this is the most helpful target mode since that nearest distance is usually the flagstick.
Pin Seeking Mode
Most of the different golf rangefinder manufacturers refined their first target priority mode to have specialized Pin seeking abilities. Each brand has their own name for this technology, such as Bushnell’s “PinSeeker”, and Leupold’s “PinHunter” modes. These pin seeking modes are are really helpful and well worth investing in because they can make ranging a flag so much faster and more accurate than before.
They’re designed to specifically to seek the flagstick while ignoring potential background targets like trees etc. Furthermore, sometimes these modes can be enhanced to provide a confirmation that it’s locked onto the flag, such as a vibration like Bushnell’s Jolt series. This gives the golfer extra confidence in the distance readings displayed while ranging.
Distant Target Priority Mode
This is sometimes referred to as last target priority mode. Hunting rangefinders use this mode as the standard default target mode. It works by ignoring all foreground distractions to acquire the last target distance. When playing golf, the idea is to get the distance to the hole, and this is usually the closest distance, not the furthest. But, it sometimes helps to have this feature so that you can range out to any target you want, making it a versatile device for dual use in hunting or golf. The Nikon COOLSHOT AS is an example of a dual purpose rangefinder that has Tru-Target Technology. It allows you to toggle between First and Last target priority modes.
This mode is super convenient and you shouldn’t be without it if you’re going to have a rangefinder at all. While hunting, you’re more likely going to use it for a continuous update of distances on a moving target like a deer.
If you want to quickly evaluate relative distances of objects in a target area of the course, there’s no need to press the range button for each target or landmark one at a time. Scan mode is normally achieved by holding down the range button as you pass over stationary or moving targets. It continuously sends out laser pulses 3 or 4 times per second constantly updating distances in the viewfinder.
Is Scan Mode Useful For Golf
While this rangefinder feature is arguably better suited to hunting rangefinders it can also be useful for golf rangefinders too. Bushnell’s latest golf rangefinders have no longer have dedicated automatic scan mode. But the excellent and affordable GOLF LASER RANGEFINDER VPRO500 has a scan mode if this is important to you. In scan mode, the VPRO500 continuously provides range readings for up to 10 seconds. This golf range finder also has an adjustable eyepiece for easy focus and offers enough eye relief. The display has a battery saving time out of 30-seconds if not in use.
Angle/Slope Compensation Mode
Like the other modes, it acquires a distance to the hole, but it will also take into consideration the degree of any incline or decline on the course that can affect that true horizontal distance to the hole. This feature is considered an “illegal” feature by the USGA to use in tournament games. With the ability to switch between normal and slope compensation mode, it is possible to use the same golf range finder in a practice round to gauge angle compensation readings for later use in tournament play with slope mode turned off.
The Precision Pro Golf NX7 Pro Laser Range Finder uses an angle compensation feature called “Adaptive Slope Technology”. This is a similar feature to Bushnell’s slope technology employed in the Tour V4. The Precision Pro Golf NX7 Pro golf rangefinder is a direct competitor to the Bushnell Tour V4 Shift Golf Laser Rangefinder but is considerably cheaper.
The NX7 Pro’s slope mode will display angle compensated distances helping you select the right club on uphill and downhill shots. There could be a 5 to 20-yard difference in shot length using the NX7 Pro’s slope measurement feature.
Fog or Rain Mode
If you are a keen golfer you will take the wet or foggy weather in your stride. However, rain particles can interfere with the quality of ranging since water droplets can refract the laser emissions from the golf rangefinder. This scattering can affect the golf range finder preventing it from acquiring accurate distances. Not all manufacturers provide such rain of fog compensation features. The Popular Leupold GX-3i2 features a Fog Mode to accurately range through such weather conditions. Similarly, Bushnell has their Rain Mode, Leupold has their smart Fog Mode, and Simmons has their built-in rain and reflector targeting mode
Getting the Most Out of Your Golf Range Finder
Stick With Golf-Designed Rangefinders
In this article, we are concentrating on laser rangefinders. But Golf GPS rangefinders exist and use pre-loaded GPS points to give you the distance from predefined course information which can be downloaded and installed in such a device. We are concentrating on laser golf rangefinders that use pin seeking technology in first target priority mode as the standard for their design. Golf rangefinders seek out the closest flagstick target first.
People are often confused when they think a hunting rangefinder can easily be used as a golf rangefinder. Hunting rangefinders operate in the last target mode, the exact opposite of whats required in a “golf range finder”. So unless the rangefinder is for dual use and has a priority mode switch you are unlikely to get the best results for golf from a hunting rangefinder. So stick to Golf specifically designed rangefinder. The Bushnell Tour V4 is a golf-specific laser rangefinder that utilizes PinSeeker Technology.
GPS rangefinders require that you first have the course preloaded and updated for the most recent map, hazard, and pin locations. The GolfBuddy Voice 2 is a GPS device preloaded with over 38,000 courses worldwide. To avoid concerns about lack of up to date golf course information this rangefinder solves this issue as a brand new device. While this is a useful device It can never be as useful as a laser rangefinder which does not depend on keeping a world map of databases up to date. It is vulnerable to local hazard changes or even local courses which have not been added to the database.
The GolfBuddy Voice 2 Specification
- Distances to front/center/back of the green
- Up to 14-hour battery life (2+ rounds per charge)
- Shot distance measurement
- Dynamic Green View technology with distance readings from the golfer’s perspective
- Water resistant
- Automatic course and hole recognition
- Male/Female voice options through free GolfBuddy Manager Program
- Detachable unit to provide versatility
- Multilingual (up to 11 languages, 8 preloaded)
- Legal for tournament play
Remember also, that some clubs don’t participate in providing their course mapping. So you should double check with your local club or other GPS rangefinder users first before committing to purchase. These devices also need charging time with its rechargeable battery, which could be annoying if it dies during a game.
Laser Range Finders
How do Laser Rangefinders Work?
You might have heard some users complain how temperamental they can be to use. But It’s important to understand how your laser rangefinder works. Inconsistent readings, not reaching maximum yard range, and poor accuracy are all common complaints you might hear about them. But most rangefinder errors result from the user’s expectations being unreal?
A laser rangefinder uses a laser diode to reflect off a target and back to the device. The light produced by the laser diode is pulsed at a wavelength of light that’s invisible to the human eye.
With a push of the range button, a laser beam pulses are emitted from the device to a reflective target. Depending on the amount of ambient light available and the target’s reflectivity, shape, size, density, and colour will affect how much light is reflected back to the rangefinder. The unit measures how much time it takes for this process to happen and converts it to display distance. In spite of the technology involved good rangefinders can resolve distances in a second or less.
A lot of the reason inconsistencies occur is because of the user. Many people don’t understand that a laser beam actually increases in size the further your ranging distance. For example, a laser diode measured in mils (an angular measurement) that is approximately two mils wide and four mils high would expand to be about two yards wide and four yards high at a range of 1000 yards.
To get the most accurate reading, the target size should be less than or equal to the beam size for the target distance. To avoid errors; ranging small sized targets is best for close range distances and larger targets are best to range for longer distances. Not understanding the way a laser beam changes in size can cause your device to not generate a reading, fail target acquisition, or worse range an unintended target instead.
Ensure your rangefinder can work on average reflective surfaces is important. The more the reflective the target the better the chance of target acquisition and the more accurate a reading you’ll get. Some laser range finders rely on prism-mounted reflectors to enhance laser efficiency on flagsticks. We don’t recommend these, the TecTecTec VPRO500, on the other hand, can zone in on flags without reflective prisms (up-to 540 yards). However, more and more clubs are installing reflectors of some sort since laser rangefinders use is becoming more common.
How Using A Laser Rangefinders Will Benefit A Golfer
Rangefinders are much more accurate than any other practical means of measuring the range of your shots or targets. Imagine that you finally know the actual distance to all of your targets. Also, you finally know the actual distance of your shots. A rangefinder can really help improve your golf score. Knowing the correct distance to your target can mean the difference between dropping your ball in the water hazard and getting a chance for a birdie.
Laser rangefinders enable you to aim directly at a target and know the exact distance, within fractions of a yard. This margin of error is much less the error margin in your shotmaking. This means using a golf range finder is always going to be better than your own guesswork. Improve your game by having your club distances clearly set-out and by knowing the exact distance to the target for every shot. This is what the pros do with their caddies.
Rangefinders help you to eliminate unrealistic expectations
Rangefinders help you to eliminate unrealistic expectations in the actual range of your shots. They can give you the actual yardage of your shot and not some imaginary number you plucked out your mind that you thought right from experience or simply guessed. Knowing your shot and target data will prevent you from failure on nearly every shot.
Also, picking 2 or 3 targets close to your intended landing area gives you a better feel for the club you select. If you only picked just one target, say at 170 yards while your safe landing area is 170-190 yards range you could under club. In fact knowing the safe range you’re likely to want to take a longer club than you might have picked for the 170-yard shot. Pick your targets before you arrive at your ball so you can shoot quickly and avoid slowing up the play for others.
Also, by noting on your actual shot distance compared to your target distance you could be playing about 1 club short. Start compensating on the course immediately by taking that extra club instead. Play the game you have, not the game you want. You should play rounds with realistic expectations and strategy. So the sooner in the round, you identify your shot tendencies, the better to make adjustments.
Best Golf Range Finder Reviews
We set out to find the best golf rangefinder in 2017 to help you make better decisions on the golf course. We selected on the basis of segregating them into the following categories..
- best overall golf rangefinder
- best value
- best new
- best budget
We conducted a survey of golf rangefinders from different manufacturers and compared features, performance and price. After considering every quality rangefinder in detail, we selected the best golf rangefinders as:
- Bushnell Pro X2 – Best Overall Rangefinder with Slope
- Bushnell V4 Laser Rangefinder with Jolt – Best Value Rangefinder
- Precision Pro NX7 Rangefinder – Best New Rangefinder
- TecTecTec PRO500 Rangefinder – Best Budget Rangefinder
The rest we considered:
Best Value Rangefinder – Bushnell Tour V4 Golf Laser Rangefinder with JOLT and slope
Precision Pro NX7 Pro Laser Rangefinder – Best New Rangefinder
The NX7 Pro TAG system
Best Budget Golf Range Finder – Golf Laser Rangefinder VPRO500
Some Q & A’s Regarding Buying or Using a Golf Range Finder
Do You Have To Be A Good Player To Use A Golf Range Finder?
Not at all. We all aim to hit consistent distances with our shots. We can use a rangefinder to record and improve our shot consistency. By recording your shots on different parts of a course its beneficial to be able to check your actual on-course distances from fairways, rough and hazards and make course notes about it. You will certainly get to know your ranges by club choice and get to know what distance you actually shoot consistently.
Doesn’t the course give you the distances already?
Golf courses do try to help the golfer by showing distances on scorecards, signage on the tee and markers on fairways. However, they give you the distance to the middle of the green from that position. Now green locations and flag positions change on a green to allow grass regrowth. In addition, a fairway marker can be accurate if your ball is close by. In the end, you are left to make an estimate of the distance to the hole because in general, most golfers don’t consistently drive down the centre of the fairway. Permanent markers may not be updated when holes are redesigned.
Does The Use Of Rangefinders Slow Down Play?
Some golf purists tend to disapprove of golf rangefinders in golf, believing that the technology dilutes the level of skill needed to play the game well without aids. However, golf range finder enthusiasts argue they improve their enjoyment of the game and engages those who like their gadgets. They have also been shown to improve the pace of play with one study. Bushnell and the National University Golf Academy completed a study which showed that the use of rangefinders by mid-handicapped players sped up rounds by up to 30 minutes. That’s over 10% of a typical round.
In general, keep your rangefinder in reach so it’s easy to grab and get some readings. When walking use scan mode to estimate the range a number of targets close to your intended one to get an approximate range in advance. The relative difference in these readings can help to decide when to lay up and when to go for it. As golf is a game of calculated risk the importance of knowing your distances cannot be overstated to minimise the risks involved. Studies on human depth perception have shown estimating distances to targets, even at close range is not good. An accurate laser golf range finder can help us fix that weakness.
PGA Tour Players Don’t Seem To Use Them, Why should I?
In fact, most professional PGA players and their cadies use rangefinders during practice rounds. They collect large amounts of range and target data that they note in their yardage books. They then use this data during tournament play without the need for the rangefinder to be in employed.
Is it legal to use a golf range finder during a golf round?
The short answer is Yes if they only measure distance. Most rangefinders are USGA legal if they only measure distance.
In 2006, the USGA and R&A introduced a change to Rule 14-3 which had prohibited the use of distance measuring devices. The new rule permits the use of distance measuring devices (not slope, or wind speed or direction) as a local rule – meaning that local course rules would determine whether allowed or not. In 2014, distance measuring devices were allowed for use in all amateur events. While new slope-measuring technology is great to have, it looks like the current rules are not going to change soon.
I understand the penalty for breaching the rule was revised in the USGA Rules of Golf in 2016 to two strokes in stroke play or the loss of hole in match play. A second breach would call for disqualification. These rules are in effect for a 4-year period through 2020.
Should I get a GPS or Laser Rangefinder?
A laser rangefinder is, in the end, more flexible. It can be targeted at any arbitrary target. This could be any hazard, trees or obstacle that would not be in a predefined map data in a GPS rangefinder. GPS systems rely on a database of fixed data which has to continually updated but in the end, you’re just getting green and hazard numbers.
Do I need a Golf Range Finder with slope mode feature?
It all depends on your intended use. If you play on a hillside course you could well do worse than buy a slope feature rangefinder. Now that the USGA has clarified rangefinder rules (USGA rule 14-3/.05) which allows rangefinders with slope technology to be used by local rule in tournament play providing its slope compensation function is turned off.
Do I Need Pin Seeking Technology?
Laser rangefinders can be difficult to use on a target like a flagstaff at distance. At 200-300 yard distance and with shaky hands, it can be difficult to lock onto a pin especially with big trees behind it. Manufacturers have developed their first priority targeting technology to lock onto the pin more easily. As a golfer, we would not buy a golf range finder without some kind of pin seeker feature. Bushnell version of this is called “PinSeeker” and Leupold calls it system “Pinhunter”.
What is the Downside To laser rangefinders?
Lasers need a clear path to travel to the target and back. Weather conditions like rain and fog can scatter the laser possibly leading to inaccurate readings. The Popular Leupold GX-3i2 model features a Fog Mode to account for such conditions. However, if you’re playing in the rain or fog you’re unlikely to be playing your best golf anyway. Furthermore, we would definitely not let this issue stop you from buying one.
Which Golf Range Finder?
Here are the key players in the golf range finder industry:
Bushnell is the most well-known company in the golf rangefinder market. It is the market leader and claims 99 percent of all PGA Tour players as its users. Bushnell is based in Overland Park, Kansas, USA.
Leupold is another established outdoor hunting optics company which has made the move into golf optics. Their GX series rangefinders cover most golfing needs and it also includes the entry-level Pincaddie rangefinder. Leupold is based in Beaverton, OR, USA.
TecTecTec is a newcomer to the rangefinder world. There is little company information available but lots of users swear by their products and excellent customer support. We voted the VPro500 golf range finder our best budget and entry-level rangefinder on the market.
Nikon, is a company famous for its cameras and optics. They began marketing their own line of rangefinders after producing Callaway products for several years. Nikon’s current product line is the COOLSHOT with 20, 40 and 40i models.
Summing It Up
In this detailed article, we have shown the benefits of rangefinders and how they can help improve your shotmaking and golf course game strategy. Also, they are a huge help to train your estimation skills and expectations. Golfers who are converted to use them, never look back and continue to use their golf range finder on a regular basis.