How Does A Golf Rangefinder Work?

A golf rangefinder allows you to measure the distance to objects on the golf course. This should allow you to greatly improve your club selection and therefore shoot lower scores. At the end of the day, that’s what we are all looking for!

In order to decide whether buying a rangefinder is the right decision, you might want to know how they work first.

How Does A Golf Rangefinder Work

How Do Rangefinders Work?

In my opinion distance measuring devices (DMDs) fall into two separate categories. Rangefinders and GPS devices. GPS units calculate their position using satellites originally intended for military applications and will give you distances based on maps that are loaded onto the device.

Rangefinders in contrast can be used to measure the distance to any target on the golf course as long as you have a clear line of sight.

You will also find an increasing number of models that have additional functions such as “slope”. This means they can adjust the distance based on how far up or downhill the target is.

Are There Different Types Of Rangefinders?

There are two main technologies used by rangefinders. The more accurate technology is a laser rangefinder. This works by firing a laser beam at the intended target which is then reflected and the device can calculate the distance to the target.

An optical golf rangefinder tends to be less accurate as it is usually measuring the height of the flag and using that apparent height to judge how far away you are.

Straightaway this is going to cause problems if you can’t see the whole of the flag and therefore a laser rangefinder would definitely be a better choice.

The majority of models these days tend to use laser technology.

Are Laser Rangefinders Better Than Optical Rangefinders?

Laser rangefinders will be more accurate than optical ones and they are also more flexible in that you should be able to measure distances to a wide variety of objects.

How Accurate Are Laser Rangefinders?

Top-quality models will usually be accurate within a yard. This should be sufficient even for top professional golfers!

Are Golf Rangefinders Worth It?

It really depends on the sort of golfer you are. If you are really consistent with your distances then a rangefinder would probably suit you better than a GPS it is giving you an exact distance to the target. If you are more inconsistent then a GPS is likely to be a better choice.

Bushnell Tour V5 v Tour V5 Shift

Is A Rangefinder Better Than A GPS Rangefinder?

Both devices have advantages and disadvantages.

A golf GPS will often have a screen that can show you a map of the hole. Some of the newest models come preloaded with the majority of golf courses. Older devices have to be updated when you visit a new course since they only have limited storage capacity. In contrast, a laser rangefinder doesn’t require any updating you merely point it at the flag and press the button.

A GPS device will often require you to pay a monthly subscription fee while laser rangefinders will only cost you the purchase price.

A laser rangefinder will give you the exact yardage to the flag while a GPS generally gives you the distance to the front, middle and back of the green.

A GPS is less hassle once you are actually on the course. Particularly on a windy day, it might be difficult to accurately lock on to the flag when you want to know the distance.

Probably the biggest advantage that GPS technology has over a rangefinder is that it doesn’t require you to have a line of sight to the flag. There are many, many courses where this could be quite important!

For me personally, that one is the dealbreaker!

laser rangefinder
Laser rangefinder

Who Makes The Best Rangefinders?

The market leader in rangefinders is Bushnell. According to the Darrell Survey, Bushnell is the leading choice for tour players and caddies.

Do Professionals Use Rangefinders?

They certainly do in practice rounds but currently, they still aren’t generally allowed in competitive play. The PGA of America did allow the use of rangefinders for the first time at the 2021 PGA championship in an attempt to speed up play although I don’t recall being wowed by around suddenly taking 3.5 hours!

Can I Use A Rangefinder In A Tournament?

Ordinary amateur golfers can generally use distance measuring devices (DMDs) in competitive play with certain stipulations. For example, rangefinders with a “slope” function could only be used if that function were disabled.

How Does A Golf Rangefinder Work: Conclusion

So now you know how one works you should be able to make a decision on whether to buy a rangefinder or a GPS. Perhaps you are just as happy pacing out from the 150-yard markers! Personally, I don’t see the point in using a rangefinder unless you are a very low handicapper. A GPS giving front, middle and back distances should be sufficient for the vast majority of golfers.

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