Golf Laser Rangefinders Vs Golf GPS Devices

by Simon Daniels

It first occurred to me after a few early games watching my friends stride onto the next green as I remained buried in front of a bunker. I then decided to add a touch of technology to my game. But how could technology help?  I could see the potential for turning on the money tap so took a step back.

More research was needed but after spending a bit (a lot!) of time looking at the benefits of technology for golf the best route was clear. I decided to look at using the power of laser rangefinders and GPS devices to refine my golfing skills and up my game.

So first, let’s differentiate between golf laser rangefinders vs Golf GPS devices to help determine which one works great for you.

How Are Rangefinders Used In Golf

Rangefinders help you determine the distance to the hole and other points in a course to help you make that precise short. After doing my research before purchase, I noticed that there are two types of rangefinders available. The GPS and laser range finders differ in technology. Keep reading to gain more insight.

Laser Rangefinder

It works like binoculars whereby you look through an eyepiece to focus on a specific spot in the green. You then press the button, and the range finder’s laser will help determine the distance to a particular object.

However, you need to hold it firmly to lock in the area the laser will be measuring, and once you sight the target precisely, you can now read the distance displayed. If you fail to lock into a valid destination, you might receive an error display, which requires you to focus again.

It gives accurate yardage of any object that you can see within several yards or meters. I find it more reliable, working in any conditions, and the battery lasts several rounds.

GPS Rangefinder

The GPS devices help display the distance to the front, middle, or back of the green. It features improved technology and features, and they can indicate the distance to a bunker and clearly show you the yardage you require to avoid the obstacles.

With this type of device, you need to load the course you are playing on before the game to acquire a GPS satellite of the course when you turn it on.

It features a touchscreen where you can select the hole you intend to play and target to provide the yardage. With some, you can also adjust the hole location from the screen to improve accuracy. After completing a particular hole, most devices will then automatically shift to the next.

As a golfing enthusiast, I like to explore various technologies to help fine-tune my skills. I use the two rangefinders alternatively based on the course. Although I find my laser exceptionality accurate in measuring the distance, I find it quite challenging to obtain precise yardage without walking around and applying some little guessing when playing in the trees.

Well, does this sound familiar? Well, never mind because I have just the right solution for you!

Golf Laser Rangefinders

As a beginner, it often pained me every time I made a misplaced shot, and I kept thinking that I could probably have made a great shot if I had a tech-savvy gadget. When I finally purchased a golf laser rangefinder, it helped expand my vision, so I never have to miss another shot.

However, you need to understand the fundamentals of a gadget before heading out to the course. So let’s dig into the basics of a golf laser rangefinder, shall we?

What Is A Laser Rangefinder?

It’s merely a device with a laser used to measure the distance to an object to help you make an accurate shot. It features a magnification element to offer you a better look at your target for better accuracy.

In the market, you will find different quality rangefinders with readings ranging from 400 yards to a kilometre or more.

Laser rangefinders also contain a viewpoint that allows you to direct the laser beam precisely to an object of interest to help you choose the right swing.

On Course Distance Measurements

I discovered that the best way to learn how to use a device is by consistently practising. So you have your device, but how do you use it on the course to measure distance?

First, hold it on your hands, turn it on and look through the viewpoint to spot your target. Aim the gadget to the object then activate to get the distance.

After making the necessary adjustments, simply lift the sight to your eye’s level, view your target then press the button.

Are Laser Rangefinders Accurate?

Nearly all brands in the market claim to be extremely accurate. But is that true? Let’s find out.

Most models boast accuracy plus or minus one yard of the target’s exact distance. However, this type of precision is only possible on days when there is no rain, fog, or extreme sunlight.

Still, you need a better understanding of your device. No matter how perfect the gadget may be, if you can’t operate it right, it will affect the accuracy. You also need to invest in a quality build to achieve more accurate measurements.

How Does A Laser Rangefinder Work?

The device works like an autofocus camera. You may be asking how this translates to a laser rangefinder. Well, just like the camera, the rangefinder emits invisible laser beams to your target. Once projected to the object, the beam then reflects on the gadget.

A computer processor in the rangefinder calculates the time taken by the light to travel the distance. You will then have an accurate measurement of how far an object is from you. Although it might sound like a lot of work, it takes seconds. Pretty impressive, right?

How Far Can A Laser Rangefinder See?

Most Laser rangefinders can measure a distance accurately up to 400 yards. For highly reflective surfaces, you can find a device that measures up to 1000 yards.

The range varies from one brand to the other. However, I find it challenging to achieve the maximum distance in most cases since, for this, you need optimum conditions.

What Is Slope On A Laser Rangefinder?

The slope function in a Laser rangefinder helps in the uphill and downhill trajectory of a shot. It assists in determining the degree of elevation to a target and measures the distance to the pin.

It will help establish how elevation change can affect a shot. You will thus understand different approaches to counteract varying slopes. Further, it assists in calculating the right club for a strike based on the distance and incline to help avoid rough edges that can lower your scores.

Should I Get A Slope Laser Rangefinder

With several rangefinders with slopes in the market today, you are probably asking, do I need the slope function in my next device? Well, it ultimately depends on your need.

Ask yourself whether you are playing golf for tournaments or whether your courses have significant elevation changes. You can use it for practice to refine your shots before heading for matches. It will help you address the best angles to strike, enabling you to make well-calculated shots even on new elevated grounds.

As a beginner, the scope function helped me get the exact distance and the slope in the course. Also, it aids in gauging possible distances between handicaps before teeing off, which has dramatically improved my winning chances.

How Important Is Angle Compensation?

I love to explore varying course terrains, and I, therefore, find it necessary to have a rangefinder with the angle compensation features, which helps ascertain the accurate horizontal distance.

When you and the target are on different levels, the right laser rangefinder with the angle compensation feature will help you factor in the elevation difference. You can then adjust your shot to match the readings to help shoot the right yardage.

Different Types Of Laser Rangefinder

Laser rangefinders have numerous applications, and you need to choose one that best suits your needs. The golfing model aims at locating the thin flagstick to give a golfer a precise measurement of a particular target to improve their golfing skills.

The forestry rangefinder operates in forest surveying, to determine the tree’s distances and length. The hunting model features a longer distance range to improve hunting skills.

The ballistic rangefinders help military personals pursue different objectives over longer distances together with firearms for reconnaissance purposes.

How Can A Laser Rangefinder Help Me?

After investing in a laser rangefinder, I could now figure out the distances between me and the flag, making my gaming quite easier. It will help you get accurate measurements to help you make an informed decision regarding the club to use and how to shoot.

Further, it gives you a unique look at the course, which puts you in an advantageous position to make better shots. The device will help boost your power and swing accordingly to improve your play.

Is A Laser Rangefinder Worth It?

You are probably thinking of buying a rangefinder due to its popularity among golfers. But is it worth your money?

When I started playing golf, I made all shots by my eyes without knowing how far to hit. At times, I could get lucky, but most times, I lost. I then decided to upgrade to a laser rangefinder, and I immediately noticed a great improvement in my games.

The gadget will help you get more strategic in making shots and club selection. Using the device regularly will help improve your skills to become a better golfer.

Are Laser Rangefinders Legal In Golf?

You can use your laser rangefinder in many tournament events to measure distance if the organising body allows it. Please remember to turn off prohibited features like the slope measurement during tournaments and other high-level amateur events.

Most golfers don’t participate in these events, and you, therefore, don’t need to worry about the local rules. You can just go ahead and use your laser golf finder even with the slope function to make your game faster and more enjoyable.

Do Pros Use Laser Rangefinders?

During practice, most professional players use Laser rangefinders to find exact yardage in various courses. Annotating the yardages ahead of the tournament makes them feel more confident that they can hit the right club on every shot.

You probably won’t see pros using the devices during competitions, but they use them as training tools to boost their distance gauging skills.

Quick Introduction To Using A Laser Rangefinder

With some simple tips and constant practice, you should gauge the accurate distance to the flag using the device within a short period.

Simply, point out the gadget to your target then use the viewing feature to direct the laser beam. Ensure that you hold the rangefinder with one hand while resting your elbow on the chest, to stabilise your arm.

Orient your device such that your target appears at the centre of the viewed image, and then squeeze the trigger. You should have your readings within no time. Check out this great article on using a rangefinder for more in-depth info.

What Is A Golf GPS?

Image of GPS and GPS Watch

It’s a device used by golfers to determine yardage. It may also contain some additional features to help you further in the course management. While using the gadget, you can determine the yardage to the back, centre, and front of the green.

Some advanced models provide information on hazards on each hole. Besides helping you navigate the course, they can help record your golfing scores and statistics to help you make adjustments. Other devices even provide satellite images of the green.

Most GPS devices avail information on various courses, but you can also download additional greens data. Some manufacturers offer free access, but please check in case of any charges.

How Does Golf GPS Work?

The gadget relies on a network of satellites that sends signals to its GPS receiver.

You simply need to let the device know where you want to shoot the ball. It will show you the distance indicating any object on your way to help you choose the right club and minimise the number of strokes needed to get to the hole.

The device contains pre-programmed data of your green, your specific location on the course, and the precise distance between you, the ball, and the hole. It will then automatically give you the exact layout of the green to help you make better judgments that will result in a better score.

How Does GPS Help A Golfer?

For all golfers, we understand that it isn’t all about who hits the farthest but who reaches the hole in the least amount of strokes. Well, the GPS device helps to give you a bird’s eye view of the course to improve your strategies.

It will prevent undershooting, thus speeding up the game. Still, it shows you the exact distance to help you determine the best club for each hit. GPS eliminates unnecessary guesswork that can be time-consuming to make your game more satisfying. The device keeps records of all your scores to help improve your game.

Are Handheld Golf GPS Devices Worth It?

Regardless of your skills, the handheld golf GPS device is an essential tool that gives quick and accurate distances to help choose the right club to commit to shots easily. It will help guide your strategies and boost your confidence, especially when in a new course or on blind holes.

Further, it provides additional information to help determine the best way to play each hole. I feel that it’s worth the investment thanks to the standard features that will help transform your gaming experience.

How Accurate Are Handheld Golf GPS Devices?

In a short answer, I find the device very accurate! However, let’s dive deeper to understand what makes the gadget that precise.

First of all, it’s good to note that the level of accuracy depends on the preciseness of the GPS technology in the device. The good news is, most regulations ensure that GPS signals transmitted meet specific standards.

Besides, the handheld golf GPS devices feature quality receivers, which are entirely accurate under normal conditions.

To determine the level of accuracy in your device, check the number or position of satellites in range as the device searches for sources to gauge distance. A device that displays various well visible and spread-out satellites in distinct directions guarantees high accuracy.

However, signal blockage and atmospheric conditions can affect the accuracy of the figures displayed.

Is A Subscription Needed For A Golf GPS?

Some golf GPS devices manufacturer avails free downloads of the updated course information. Others choose to offer basic modes for free and require a payment to upgrade to the pro model. Some provide a monthly or annual subscription fee for the GPS update.

If you play once or twice in your local courses, then the annual payment may not be worthwhile. However, if you travel extensively in different greens opting for a subscription may earn you impressive dividends.

Assess the monthly or annual membership fee required since some devices have lower upfront costs and charge highly to access to golf course maps. Also, ensure that the device can let you opt-out of the subscription when need be.

What Types Of Golf GPS Are There

There are several golf GPS devices to choose from, depending on your personal preferences.

Besides yardage, a GPS watch will help measure the distance you have covered on the course and allows you to receive calls or texts. It’s convenient since you simply get your reading by glancing at your writs.

Besides sizeable displays making it easier to interpret distances. They aren’t wearable, but you can get a slim design that fits your pocket or golf bag perfectly.

Wristbands are similar to the watch, but they feature a sleeker design.

A hybrid device creates a superb way to change your game by giving you both GPS-based distance measurements and a line of sight capabilities.

Are Each Of These GPS Types Worth It

It’s worth buying a GPS golf watch, especially if you wish to learn more about swings and tendencies to make the necessary improvements.

On the other hand, if you struggle to swing with a watch on, then, a handheld device is worth considerations.

For those who value simplicity, it’s worth investing in a wristband that provides basic golfing functionalities without having to bother about extra features.

If you love to explore various courses, then it would be wise to invest in a hybrid GPS device to gain enough strategies to determine the right club.

Which GPS Type Is Most Useful And Why

The usefulness of a device varies based on personal opinions. However, if you are just after simple yardage, a watch can be an ideal option.

On the other hand, for a serious golfer looking forward to improving their game, a handheld device will offer what you need. They come with screens that can incorporate a complete hole preview to give you extra distances to other points.

Further, there is always a hybrid GPS option that combines both versatility and convenience of the GPS feature to help you get through blind spots with ease.

Is A Golf GPS Legal In Play?

Golf GPS devices are legal to use during tournaments provided that you disable some restricted features.

During a competition, you shouldn’t use the slope feature, check for wind speed, contact your trainer, review swing analysis, or check club suggestions based on swing history.

You can, however, use your device to determine the yardage to hazards or greens, share yardage information with a playing partner, record your score information, and even check for incoming storms or rain.

<p”>While practising for the game or if you don’t participate in any tournaments, you are free to use the devices and explore all the features.</p”>

Golf GPS Watches And App Requirements

Depending on the type of golf watch you buy, you will need additional apps for efficient operations. They give you access to useful data, more tools, and resources to make your game even better. Keep reading to find out about various applications compatible with your wearable device.

Hole 19

It’s a stand-alone application for your device that will help you get accurate GPS distances and track your scores on a digital scorecard.

Still, it gives you a chance to discover various golf course layouts. On upgrading to hole19 premium at a fee, you will enjoy auto-change hole, higher resolution course map, distance tracker, and real-time club recommendations to immerse you into a completely different experience.


I love the app since it helps provide a long term glimpse of my game. It enables me to see when I’m wasting strokes and provides yardage information to help develop a macro view.

It offers a complete overview of the hole, and you can zoom in for better views. Still, it allows you to share real-time invites with friends to set up a match.

Fun Golf GPS

The app will help add some excellent visuals of various crucial elements in the green. It features an improved map that delivers a more detailed rendering with some 3D qualities.

It thus allows you to track each shot as you view your real-time location and distance to hazards or positions in the green. It helps keep your scores, and it has a useful sync function.

Golf Swing Analyser

The app aims at giving you relevant information to help you make a more consistent swing. It records your moves and provides vital data like your golf swing power.

It also offers a 3D visual for your swing path or plane so that you can see it from various angles to help you understand how well you are hitting.

Comparing Golf Laser Rangefinders And GPS

You are probably wondering what device to buy to sharpen your golfing skills. Well, let’s first compare Golf laser rangefinders vs golf GPS devices since they have different features to help you make an informed decision.

First, the laser rangefinder will help focus on an individual target to give the distance and number of yards to the object. On the other hand, the golf GPS device uses your GPS location to provide the interspace to the front, centre, or back of the course.

Therefore, if you love playing on a local course, you will probably feel contented with yards. You know your green in and out, and you only need to determine the distance to the pin. In this case, a laser rangefinder is a great option.

On the other hand, if you like to try out new courses regularly, you might have to go with GPS devices. It will help calculate the real distance in varying slopes to bankers or any hazards to have more confidence in your game.

Both devices are easy to use, but some GPS devices may include preset and other course update information. It means that the gadget can adjust itself to the right hole based on your location, and even track your performances.

The laser rangefinder does require a little more human input. However, it still has various helpful features like the magnification lenses, and with a bit of practice, you can effortlessly operate the device.

When using both devices under optimum conditions, I find them impressively accurate.

With the GPS devices, the precision depends on the green’s mapping since they avail readings based on your preset location data. If the course undergoes some changes, without updating the software, you might experience some errors.

In this case, the Laser rangefinder appears more accurate since you only need to focus your location and the laser to the flag. Still, some human errors like vibrations can affect your accuracy.

I easily forget to charge my devices after multiple rounds, and I, therefore, find the laser a better option thanks to its better battery life. However, the GPS device tends to rely on adequate charging.

Laser Rangefinders

Strengths Of Laser Rangefinders

  • They can be incredibly accurate.

The most common reason why most people opt for a laser range finder is accuracy.

How about this, you see the exact information instead of relying on GPS data, provided that you lock in your target appropriately.

  • You can use it on any course.

Another thumb up for this device is that almost all greens accommodate it, and you don’t have to worry about downloading data before playing.

  • It gives quicker yardage.

The device is also great in range, and it will give you the distance to hazards provided that you can see them.

Weaknesses Of Laser Rangefinders

  • It requires a line of sight for yardage.

The device only gives you yardage for items that you can see and hit.

  • It’s expensive.

They appear quite expensive since GPS devices offer lower or comparable prices for more advanced features.

  • It’s prone to potential errors.

The device doesn’t work well for individuals with shaky hands and in rainy or foggy conditions.

Golf GPS

Strengths Of Golf GPS

  • They appear in a wide array of forms.

You can either buy the device as a wristband, watch, or handheld device, which gives you the chance to pick more convenient options.

  • They provide the most information.

Especially when playing on a course for the first time, it gives you the distance to various spots, the size of the green and hazards necessary for course management.

  • It’s quick to use.

The devices use your location to give automatic information to avoid delays.

Weaknesses Of Golf GPS

  • It must be programmed.

You only use them if they have pre-programmed GPS data of the green.

  • Doesn’t give precise yardage

If you wish to fire at flags, it can be challenging to get the correct data.

  • It may not accommodate all slopes and gradients.

It doesn’t give the distance to everything on the course as some holes may have discrepancies.


Your choice of device will depend on your budget, needs, and your type of game. Did you know that 23% of professional golfers are female? It’s a gender-friendly sport that helps burn excess calories and promotes great muscle mass. Luckily, you will find several unisex devices today that suit the diverse gender needs of all golfing enthusiasts.

Range The Drive