What Is a Rangefinder in Golf? [The 3 Types!]

“How far away is that sand trap, anyway?”

Judging distance on the golf course is something you do all the time! So, rather than having to guess – and find out you were totally off-base – wouldn’t it be cool if you actually had a way to determine the distance between you and important targets on a course? 

Well, that’s where a golf rangefinder comes in handy! In this post, I’m going to reveal what a rangefinder in golf is, including the 3 primary types, plus a few recommendations so you can own a rangefinder that helps you take your golf game to the next level.

Let’s do it!

What is a Rangefinder in Golf?

The golf rangefinder is a tool for golfers designed to accurately measure the distance from the player to various targets on the course, such as the flag or hazards. These devices employ cutting-edge technologies like lasers, GPS, and optics – and they can significantly improve your decision-making when choosing a club, as well as your shot accuracy!

Golf rangefinders vary in types and features. Laser rangefinders are renowned for their precision, GPS rangefinders offer convenience with pre-loaded course data, and optical rangefinders provide basic distance estimates through lens systems. This post will explore these variations, their benefits, and how to use them effectively to improve your golfing experience.

Whether you're a beginner tracking your ball's flight distance or an advanced player strategizing your next shot, a rangefinder can be a significant tool in your golfing toolkit!

The 3 Types of Golf Rangefinders

Golf rangefinders are broadly classified into three types: laser, GPS, and optical, each with its own set of advantages and drawbacks. Let’s take a look at each one!

Laser Rangefinders

  • High Accuracy: Laser rangefinders are known for their precise distance measurements, making them a favorite among serious golfers.
  • Versatility: They can be used on any golf course without the need for pre-loaded maps.
  • No Subscription Fees: Unlike some GPS models, laser rangefinders do not require ongoing costs.
  • Line of Sight Required: They need a clear path to the target, which can be challenging in courses with many obstacles.
  • Weather Limitations: Performance may be affected in rain or fog.
  • Steady Hands Needed: Accurate targeting requires a stable hand, which might be challenging for some users.

GPS Rangefinders

  • Pre-loaded Courses: These devices often come with thousands of golf courses already loaded, offering convenience and ease of use.
  • Additional Features: Many GPS rangefinders provide detailed maps and track shot distances, enhancing game analysis.
  • User-Friendly: They usually feature a straightforward, intuitive interface.
  • Accuracy Concerns: GPS rangefinders may not be as accurate as laser models, especially in measuring specific points like the flag.
  • Subscription Fees: Some models require subscription fees for full access to course databases and updates.
  • Battery Dependency: They rely heavily on battery life, which can be a limitation during extended play.

Optical Rangefinders

  • Simple: These are straightforward, using lenses to estimate distances, and do not rely on technology or batteries.
  • Cost-Effective: Optical rangefinders are generally more affordable than laser or GPS models.
  • Limited Accuracy: They are not as accurate as laser rangefinders, often providing approximate distances within a few yards.
  • Cumbersome: These rangefinders can be bulkier and less convenient to carry compared to their modern counterparts.

Each type of rangefinder has its own unique features and applications, making it crucial for golfers to choose based on their specific needs, playing style, and budget. Whether it's the precision of a laser, the convenience of a GPS, or the simplicity of an optical rangefinder, understanding these differences can help you significantly enhance your game!

How to Use a Golf Rangefinder: Best Practices

Using a golf rangefinder effectively can greatly enhance your performance on the course. Here are some key steps and best practices for using both laser and GPS rangefinders:

Stabilizing the Device: For laser rangefinders, it's crucial to stabilize the device for accurate readings. Begin by resting your elbow on your chest to create a solid base, aim at the ground first, then lift to eye level and target the flag or object. For GPS rangefinders, ensure the device has loaded the correct course map before starting.

Targeting and Readings: With laser rangefinders, aim directly at your target, such as the flagstick or a hazard, and wait for the device to provide a reading. In contrast, GPS rangefinders will display the distance based on pre-loaded course data. Analyze these readings to plan your shot accordingly.

When to Use Rangefinders: Rangefinders are especially useful in various scenarios on the course:

From the Tee: Use your rangefinder to gauge distances to hazards or landmarks, particularly on unfamiliar courses. This helps in avoiding obstacles and planning your shot, even when the pin is out of range.

Approach Shots: When you're closer to the green, a rangefinder can help you determine the precise distance to the pin, aiding in club selection and shot precision.

Understanding Course Layout: A rangefinder can be invaluable for learning the layout of a new course, helping you understand distances and features like bunkers, water hazards, and the shape of greens.

Accuracy and Limitations: Remember, while rangefinders significantly improve distance measurement, they are tools to assist, not replace, your judgment. Factors like wind, elevation changes, and personal skill should also be considered in your strategy.

What is a Golf Rangefinder Wrap-up

Ultimately, a rangefinder can be a game-changer for golfers at all levels. It provides valuable distance data, aids in course navigation, and helps refine strategies for various shots. 

If you're looking for the right golf rangefinder for you, I highly recommend checking out the MGS Eagle Eye Rangefinder. You can find out more about it in my MGS Rangefinder review or click below to learn more about how this Rangefinder can take 7 strokes off anyone's game!

Whether you're using a laser or GPS model, understanding how to effectively use your rangefinder will enhance your experience and performance on the golf course – and most importantly, impress your friends.