If you’re a golfer, then you know how important accuracy is. Falling short or overhitting a shot can up your stroke numbers in a flash. Properly estimating the distance to the flag and using the right club for each shot along the way is vital to making par and below.
One of the best ways to improve your accuracy on the course is to use a laser golf rangefinder. But with all the different brands, models, and features out there, how do you pick the right one?
This guide covers everything you need to know about rangefinders and how to choose the best golf rangefinder to improve your game.
What is a Golf Rangefinder?
Have you ever been on the golf course trying to figure out exactly how far away that flagstick is? Sure, you can guess, or pace it off, but those are far from scientific approaches.
A golf rangefinder is an invaluable tool for golfers of any skill level who want to quickly and accurately gauge the distances between their ball and the golf course’s fairways, hazards, greens, and other key locations. These nifty devices can help remove the guesswork and improve the accuracy of each shot.
Designed with intuitive controls that make it easy for players to measure precise distances in seconds, a golf rangefinder helps you figure out how far away your target is, and which club to use for even the trickiest of shots!
Portable and small enough to fit into a golf bag, this tool can be easily be one of your golf course essentials.
How Does a Golf Rangefinder Work?
A rangefinder works by sending a laser beam into a targeted area which then reflects back and gives an exact measurement in yards of how far away the object is. This allows a golfer to accurately measure distances between them and their target on the course.
While the ultimate target is the hole, located by its flag pin, there may be many other targets along the way. For example, distances to things like bunkers, fairways and hazards are all of interest to the golfer trying to make the most accurate shots possible.
Some models of rangefinders also take into account elevation changes on the course, as well as make slope adjustments. These types of features further help golfers choose the right club for their desired shot and stay one step ahead of their game.
Earlier versions of rangefinders didn’t have laser technology, leading to issues with accuracy. Laser rangefinders have changed that, and are superior when it comes to accurate measurements. For this reason, this article focuses on laser rangefinders only, as we highly recommend choosing one with this technology.
Ultimately, used right, a laser rangefinder can greatly improve accuracy on the golf course.
What are the Features of a Rangefinder?
You may have looked at rangefinders only to see that there are many features involved. Things like slope technology and 6x optics are part of many models, but what does that actually mean?
Before we unpack individual features, let’s just say that we can organize rangefinders into two categories: Standard and Advanced.
Standard laser rangefinders
In this category, you’ll find models that offer accurate readings for distance, but lack function for more nuanced details of the game, like taking into account slopes, elevation and weather.
Advanced laser rangefinders
These are for the golfer who wants to improve their game and lower their handicap. This level of rangefinder is where you’ll find a bunch of enhanced measurement features like slope technology.
It’s important to note you can find some of the advanced features in rangefinders at most price points. So even though more expensive models are likely to include most of these enhanced features, you can also find some of them in budget models as well.
If your main goal is to accurately measure your distance to the hole, then a standard rangefinder may be right for you.
However, if your focus is on getting to a lower handicap, then you’ll want more advanced measurements. In this case, look for a laser rangefinder that is has both slope and elements technologies. These features will read the distance from your ball to the target and adjust for terrain and weather.
More accurate distance readings lead to better distance control.
Let’s decipher the features available in the best golf rangefinders.
Magnification Power in Optics
Magnification in rangefinders is a key feature that allows you to measure distance and see up close. Most of the best rangefinders currently available have 6x magnification (one Bushnell actually has 7x) which brings objects closer to you than ever before in great detail. That flagstick that’s 450 yards away can easily be spotted within the magnification of a rangefinder.
The higher the magnification number, the bigger objects will appear.
With this feature, your optics experience on the golf course will be much more enjoyable. 6x or 7x magnification optics is superior over lower magnifications since it provides a sharper, clear view due to its high resolution optics.
Buying tip: Consider a model with at least 6x magnification for the clearest optics.
Slope Switch Technology
If you’re serious about improving your golf game, we strongly recommend a rangefinder with slope-switch technology. Also known as slope-adjusted distance or slope compensation, this tech found in newer rangefinders takes into account the hills of the course when it gives readings.
Slope mode compensates for inclines and declines to provide more accurate yardages on courses where terrain may change considerably from one shot to the next. With slope mode, your rangefinder is an even more helpful tool to have on hand when calculating distances to pins or hazards.
Buying Tip: For maximum flexibility in course play, choose a rangefinder model that has a “switch” to turn the slope function on or off.
A slope switch will help navigate the strict rules of the US Golf Association (USGA) for the use of rangefinders in tournaments, which includes disabling the slope function. Buying a model that is “tournament legal” means that slope function and other features that aren’t permitted can be turned off as needed.
Pin lock technology is an innovative feature found in golf rangefinders that enables golfers to know they have found their target by bouncing pulse signals off the pin.
The pulse waves allow the rangefinder to identify and focus on the pin with greater clarity than ever before. Once the pin is located and “locked in,” the rangefinder will vibrate, pulsate, or make an audible sound and provide an accurate distance to the flag.
Since standard rangefinders without this feature typically struggle with identifying pins obscured by tall grass or other visual barriers, pin lock technology targets objects further away with great precision.
Golfers no longer need to guess where their target is – they can simply rely on pulse vibration technology powered by pin lock technology to get the most accurate results.
Buying Tip: Different brands have slight variations in how they refer to pin lock technology, but the feature is basically the same concept for each.
Image stabilization is a newer feature in golf rangefinders. This function keeps the image seen through the viewing lens of the device stable, making this an attractive feature for those golfers with shaky hands.
Fog Mode and Weather Compensations
Fog, humidity, rain, snow and bright light can all impact the performance of a laser rangefinder. This is because the laser beam that projects out from the device to the target can be interrupted in these conditions.
Take a rainy day, for example. You’re out on the course using a rangefinder to plan your approach to the hole. But instead of honing in on the flagstick, the rangefinder laser beam intercepts a rain drop first. This can trigger the rangefinder to zero in on the rain drop and not the flagstick, leading to inaccurate measurements.
To minimize weather impacts, some rangefinder manufacturers incorporate modes into the device that aid in calculations based on weather condition. This is advertised as fog mode, rain mode, weather mode or some variation.
Based on your weather at the time of play, if your rangefinder has these modes, you can set one and the device will adapt its calculations based on the programming for that function.
A built in magnet is a nifty feature that many golfers like in a rangefinder. The magnet allows golfers to “stick” the device on the frame of the golf cart. This allows for quick access during a game, plus keeps the device secure while the cart is moving.
Buying Tip: All features considered, choose a rangefinder color that isn’t solid black if you intend to magnetically stick the device to your golf cart frame during a round.
Black rangefinders can be forgotten at the end of a game because they blend in so well with the frame of the golf cart. Color isn’t the main factor in deciding on a rangefinder, but choosing one that stands out can be an added bonus.
How Much Does a Golf Rangefinder Cost?
The cost of a golf rangefinder ranges from around $50 for the most basic budget model to $600 for a top of the line loaded with advanced features.
The rangefinder market has a strong middle, with a number of feature rich models in the $175-$300 range.
The cost of a golf rangefinder depends on your budget and how much you want out of it – if you want cheap then there is something out there for you, but if you want technology packed with features then be prepared to pay a bit more.
How Do I Pick the Best Golf Rangefinder for My Game?
There are several quality golf rangefinders that make an excellent companion on the course. With so many features available, it really comes down to your goals and must-haves.
Are you looking to play casual rounds of golf mostly to socialize? If so, a budget rangefinder with accurate distance readings and few bells and whistles may be right for you.
Or, is your main focus to lower your handicap and you’re looking for all the help you can get? In that case, increasing your budget to purchase an advanced model may cost little more than the equivalent of a few rounds of golf – surely worth the investment.
Brands like Blue Tees, Bushnell, and Callaway produce some of the best golf rangefinders on the market today. All of those manufactures have produced very popular models that rate well with all levels of golfers.
However, there are many other companies in the rangefinder space, with models that can compete in terms of features and reliability.
For ideas on the best budget rangefinder available on the market, check out our list of 5 Best Budget Golf Rangefinders (Under $200).
All in all, a laser rangefinder is an excellent addition to any golfer’s toolkit. They are an effective and reliable way of measuring distances on the course with great accuracy.
When it comes to finding the best golf rangefinder, there are so many great options out there to choose from. With this guide, you now have the tools and information needed to make an informed choice when it comes to purchasing this piece of quality golf equipment.
With laser rangefinders taking on the golf course, handicaps will soon be lowered, scores dropped and rounds enjoyed more than ever before!