Golf Laser Rangefinders

The alternative distance-measuring to GPS

Posted: 18 August 2009
by Bob Warters

golf rangefinders
Sergio Garcia uses the Bushnell rangefinder

  SINCE the R&A has effectively turned a blind eye to GPS distance-measuring devices, insisting that golf courses make up their own mind whether they accept their use in competitions for handicap purposes, this golf equipment sector has become probably the fastest growing in the golf industry.

Even pros can use them in competition - though not as yet in the world's leading professional golf Tours, where they are still allowed merely as a practice [round] aid.

During the explosion of this satellite-assisted technology, the humble laser range-finder, used by many professional players and caddies because of its simplicity,non-reliance on satellite signals and avoiding computer downloads, has tended to be neglected, although holding them steady, aimed at the target, in windy conditions is a real problem.

Maybe the manufacturers should invent a universal device to clip on to the butt end of the longest club in your bag to use as a monopod?

Here's a sample of some of the best range-finders currently available:

golf rangefinders
Nikon Laser 350G

NIKON LASER 350G

Price: £219.99

Contact: 0800 230220 for stockists

Key Features: Small and compact, it weighs only 180 gms and not much bigger than mobile phone. Depressing the power button secures 8-second continuous measurement through high-quality 6x monocular lens with multi-layer coating for bright images. First Target Priority mode enables easy measurement of the distance to the target even against a background of trees or buildings. Waterproof and power by 1 CR2 lithium battery it measures from 11 to 550 yards with an accuracy of within a yard.

A Nikon Laser 550AS version (£299) is available to measure elevation as well as horizontally distances. But this ability to measure how far a shot will carry if the pin is above or below you makes it illegal (even if the facility is switched off) in competition play. For example, if the pin is elevated 25ft from your ball position, it will add the extra yardage to give a precise distance needed to reach the target.

Summary: Handy-size and easy to use. The Laser 350G will not only measure distance to the flag - as long as it can be clearly identified - it will also measure from tee to, for instance, the angle of a dogleg or a hazard to give a precise lay-up distance.

golf rangefinders
Leica Pinmaster

LEICA PINMASTER

Price: £469

Contact: www.leica-camera.co.uk

Key features: Offers 7x magnification and 347 field of view at a distance of 1,000 yards. Adjustable dioptre eye-piece, which enables the user to select the best setting for their eyesight, and especially suitable for golfers who wear spectacles. LED display automatically adjusts its brightness to suit the ambient lighting conditions of the day, being bright in strong sunlight whilst dimming down in low light. Measures upto 820 yards, accurate to within a yard upto 300 yards.

Summary: Simple to operate - the first press of the button brings up the LED aiming square a second press triggers the metering system. Tough and durable with carbon reinforced body and watertight to a depth of one metre just in case you drop it in a water hazard! Most expensive of those we investigated but with a strong lens pedigree within in the hunting and shooting fraternity.

golf rangefinders
Bushnell V2 Tour rangefinder

BUSHNELL V2 TOUR Price: £250

Contact: www.bushnellgolf.com (Tel: 0208 391 4700)

Features: LCD displays 5x magnification. Has adjustable eye-piece and multi-coated optics. The Tour V2 model includes slope function - a built-in inclinometeer to provide the player with a compensated distance-based reading taking into consideration the exact distance to uphill or downhill targets. Capable of ranging upto 300 yards to the flag stick and 700 to trees, accurate to within a yard. In Scan mode it allows the golfer to pan across the landscape while viewing a continuously updated LCD display of the distances between him and the targets he scans with the viewfinder.

Summary: Bushnell rangefinders, according to the Darrell Survey, are used by more US Tour golfers than any other brand (87% ). With the addition of the slope function the V2 Tour is similar to the Bushnell Pinseeker 1500 (£330) used by many players and caddies on Tour, including Sergio Garcia.

golf rangefinders
Leupold GX-1 digital rangefinder

LEUPOLD GX-1 DIGITAL

Price: £299.99

Contact: Available through leading Scope retailers

Features: The flagship model created for golf and incorporates Leupold’s exclusive PinHunter technology; weighs in at 6.8 ozs. Works by firing an infrared laser at the target and displaying a reading (in yards or metres) Two clicks of a button gets your reading.

Summary: If you’re going to shell out £200- £400 on a rangefinder, you need to know it’s good quality and Leupold have an excellent reputation. Among non-GPS legal devices is is one of the best

Overall Verdict

One aspect where Rangefinders have a clear advantage over many GPS systems is that they don't require pre-mapping which has to be downloaded from your computer or involve any extra cost to register. They can be used straight from the box, point and press and are very accurate. What you see is what you get.

However, they are more susceptible to an unsteady hand on a windy day, they can't see round corners, of which there are many on golf courses; it's harder to get a reading on foggy or frosty days; they can be susceptible to lens scratches and tend to be bulkier and generally more expensive than GPS.


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Are you among those taking up the latest craze for distance-measuring devices? Do you use GPS or a Range-finder? Perhaps all you need is your instincts.

Posted: 18/08/2009 at 11:07

And a prize for the first SkyCaddie employee / director to pose as a new member, using their first and only post on GolfMagic to praise the virtues of this device.

Posted: 18/08/2009 at 11:15

I can't comment then, as I've recently become a stockist for Bushnell

Posted: 18/08/2009 at 14:02

I have not, but if I had the money, I'd certainly consider buying a laser rangefinder. I played with the club professional and his son (off about +2/3) last week and both of them had a Bushnell, using it to great effect.

I think that it is possible to gauge distances yourself if you know the course well, but it seemed to be effective for those tough pin positions you cannot see whether they are front/back of the green etc.

GPS would be nice too, did anyone win one for their course reviews last month, Bob?

Posted: 18/08/2009 at 14:03

Greenfly wrote (see)
I can't comment then, as I've recently become a stockist for Bushnell

Aaahhh, good, we need to talk!!!

Posted: 18/08/2009 at 14:18

Pasty Pm'd

Posted: 18/08/2009 at 14:29

Laser range finders are fine for mid to low h/cap plyers who can nail the pin every time, or at least get pin high (and get the ball to stay there).

But as a mid to high h/cap player, I prefer the GPS skycaddie where it lets me know the distance to front/back of green as well as the pin distance.

 The last pro-am I played in the pro used a rangefinder for pin distance, but still kept asking me the distance to bunkers and hazards.

Posted: 18/08/2009 at 18:03

Trialed a Laser range finder and works great for most hazards, bunkers, trees, stakes by water and players in front, dont think many GPS units allow that

Posted: 18/08/2009 at 18:08

Excellent idea for a thread this.... we have only had 7 this week.  But it is only Tuesday!

...my laser device also works round corners and over sand dunes/hills!  

Posted: 18/08/2009 at 18:24

Golfsmith started selling these this year, will have to see how much i can get em for....

Posted: 19/08/2009 at 08:17

Ive used a Nikon 500G rangefinder for four years and its the best golf product I have ever bought. Not even the glimmer of temptation to get a GPS, the laser does what I want, when I want.

Posted: 19/08/2009 at 09:55

Also got a Nikon 500G. In my second season and still using orginal battery. Play most of my golf with our works society on courses in and around the M25 and it never ceases to amaze me how poorly some of the holes are marked up for distances.

Posted: 19/08/2009 at 12:27

Ian wrote (see)

Excellent idea for a thread this.... we have only had 7 this week.  But it is only Tuesday!

...my laser device also works round corners and over sand dunes/hills!  


I can see into the future with mine

Posted: 19/08/2009 at 12:55

I am pondering the idea of something like this. To be honest though... i think i would rather go with a GPS. Seems alot less hassle.

Find Ball.

Glance at yardage.

Pick Club.

Hit Club.

Posted: 19/08/2009 at 15:18

As per Nick GT comment,

added for a mid teen handicapper, all i need to know is front middle and back.

I have no doubts of the accuracy of the laser range finder, I only doubt the user.

Many times i have played and compared and the GPS has said 180 and the range finder 240y as they havent picked up the flag.

Posted: 19/08/2009 at 15:56

I've been using a Bushnell laser for about 5 years in practice, luckily we can also use them in comps now.

The biggest benefit I find is getting an exact yardage to the pin, many yardage markers are way out on a lot of courses, and who needs a 150 marker when you've got about 70-90 yards to go?   Added to the fact that we don't always know how far on the green the pin is, the laser is invaluable.

The only times when the laser isn't perfect is when it can't pick up the pin and when you have lay-ups on par 5's.   Sometimes if the flag is limp and there are trees behind the green, the laser has nothing to reflect off except the trees so you get a false yardage, but that's easy to work out because you just laser the trees on purpose to compare.   On the rare occasion that this happens, just point the laser at the green or bunker and get a distance there, and in any case the GPS can't give you a distance to the pin in this instance anyway so it has no advantage.

On par 5's the GPS can have an advantage as it can give you a distance to a hazard, or lay up area, that's the only time when i think the GPS is sometimes better.

And how about this one:   How about banning GPS but only allowing laser rangefinders?   Why should you be able to get given a perfect distance to the centre of the green when you are miles from your own fairway with loads of trees in the way?   If only laser was allowed, you would only be able to get a distance from something you could actually see with the naked eye, hence a little bit of working out and common sense would also sometimes be required.

Awaits abuse.

Posted: 19/08/2009 at 16:16

I bought a bushnell recently. Main reason was started to play league matches on new courses. It's great.

As Pasty said I've got into the habit of taking a couple of readings to make sure it's picked up the flag. Or on windless days I aim it at the people in front when they replace the pin! 

Only issue is now to work out how far I hit each club...

Personally from an idealists point of view I don't think they should be legal and nor should there be any distance markers anywhere, but since they are I'm not throwing away an advantage.

Posted: 19/08/2009 at 21:05

GPS for show, Pin Seeker for a Pro. And lets face it, how many course planners can you buy for the price of a decent GPS

Posted: 20/08/2009 at 09:40

I prefer the Ernst Stavro Blofeld Mark #5 unit.

Sure it's bulky, but if I have a tree between myself and the pin, I get an exact yardage to the tree..................no more tree!

Posted: 20/08/2009 at 19:00

Had gps on the golf carts at my old club and then bought a T2green for when walking.  Worked okay but after a while it was always flat when it got to the course, and also locking up.  Plus as some one said, it only gives distance to middle of the green. 

I ordered up a Bushnel V2 this week.  I practice a lot at the range and hopfully will get more accurate distances for my short game.  Then its just a case of changing the batteries.  Moved to Australia, so still playing loads of new courses, till i find my favorite.

Posted: 21/08/2009 at 00:25

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