Golf Rangefinder Buying Guide: How to Choose a Rangefinder

Golf rangefinders. They may not grab the attention of the beginners by a lot, but rangefinders are quite essential for seasoned players.

A proper device can measure the distance accurately within a yard or two. Knowing the exact distance of your target is crucial when you’re trying to take out the perfect golf club from your bag or trying to determine the swing speed.

In this post, we’re going to explore different types of golf rangefinders. At the end of this post, you’ll know exactly what they are and how you can choose the right one for yourself.

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What is a Golf Rangefinder?

A golf rangefinder does what any other rangefinder would do. It measures the distance from you to your target accurately. If you have the knowledge of how different golf clubs work, you would know that there are 5 main types of clubs that go into a player’s bag.

All 5 types have their purpose. They cover different distances. So, to accurately determine which one to choose to lower your score, you need an accurate device that can tell you the exact distance.

A typical rangefinder looks like a binocular. You may have seen veteran players at the golf course looking through a device toward their target. That’s a rangefinder right there.

Different Types of Rangefinders

Just as it is with golf clubs, you cannot go into a golf supply shop and buy the first rangefinder you see on the shelf. There are different types. Here is a short introduction to each type.

GPS Rangefinder

These are quite advanced trackers. They depend on the GPS satellite triangulation to show you the distance. In terms of accuracy, you can expect to get within 5 yards of your target.

These are less commonly used among golfers due to the relatively lower accuracy and the high price of acquisition.

Typically, a GPS rangefinder device will have an onboard map with the precise locations on the golf course. Reputed manufacturers work closely with course authorities to keep the devices updated.

When you turn on the rangefinder, it will connect to any of the available GPS satellites to show you an accurate position of the green.

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Laser Rangefinders

These are probably the most commonly used and a favorite among seasoned players. A laser rangefinder uses a laser beam to measure the distance from yourself to your target accurately.

In general, there is a reflective surface placed on your target. Luckily, you don’t have to do it yourself. There are many golf courses out there that place the surfaces for you!

These are very accurate and can get you up to 1/10th of a yard closer to your target. Remember, this much precision is pointless in most cases because only a handful of golfers in the world can hit the ball to such precise distances. You should target up to 1 yard of accuracy and save some money.

One of the great things about laser rangefinders is that there is no need for downloading any map or connecting the device to the internet. The accurate beam of laser travels at the speed of light to generate accurate results within a fraction of seconds.

One drawback of a laser golf rangefinder is that you need a direct line of sight. If the laser beam cannot find the reflective surface, it won’t show any results.

Also, if the course you play at doesn’t have the reflective surfaces, you’re out of luck.

Optical Rangefinders

This is more or less a binocular. Instead of advanced technologies like laser or GPS, optical rangefinders use lenses to measure the distance.

You can zoom in to your target and convert the height to measure the distance.

Most veteran golfers would suggest you to stay away from these. These are quite clunky and aren’t nearly as accurate as of the laser rangefinders! But they can still get into the 5-yard mark.

When you don’t have a direct line of sight to your target or your course doesn’t have reflective surfaces, you can use an optical rangefinder to somewhat accurately measure the distance.

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Which One to Choose?

It’s quite obvious. Whenever you have the chance, you should always opt for a laser rangefinder. They are the most accurate of the bunch. The higher cost associated with them is justified.

However, if you’re reading this golf rangefinder buying guide for competition purposes, it’s always better to learn about the tournament regulations. The regulations will clearly state about which type of rangefinder you are allowed to use.

Different Features to Look for in a Rangefinder

Now that you know the different types, we can move forward to teaching you how to choose one for yourself. Before deciding on any particular one, you need to consider the following aspects of a rangefinder.

Your Budget

It’s not a feature per se but budget is almost always our first recommendation whenever we’re creating a buying guide. We want you to get the best value for your money.

If you have an extremely low budget, you may have to stick to optical rangefinders. You can even turn your phone into one if you’re not yet willing to spend money on something you can’t hit the ball with.

But we always recommend using a proper laser rangefinder. They are quite expensive, but they offer tremendous value for money as well.


Probably the most crucial aspect of any rangefinder. Whether you’re a sniper in the army or an average golfer at your local golf course, you need to accurately measure the distance of your target.

The distance will determine whether you should use a fairway wood, a hybrid, or a short iron. Your shot selection also depends heavily on how well you’ve determined your target.

So, your instinct should always be to find the most accurate rangefinder in your budget. You may have to compromise on features like aesthetics or digital readings, but you cannot compromise with the accuracy.

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Needless to say, we all want our things to last for a long time. When you’re investing in an expensive golf rangefinder, it’s only normal for you to ask for a longer lifespan.

You should focus on the construction of the device when durability is your concern. A strong metal casing is always better than a generic plastic casing.

Most of the rangefinders you can find on the market come with a protective casing to keep them safe from natural hazards. We recommend that you replace the casing every time you use the rangefinder. It will ensure that your equipment is in spectacular shape.

Moreover, you can look for waterproof or water-resistant models if the area you live in sees sudden snowfall or rain. Or, you may invest in a waterproof casing for your rangefinder to keep it safe from harm’s way.

Display Visibility

Have you ever played golf at night? You haven’t, because you can’t.

What happens if the display on your rangefinder is not bright enough for the daylight? You’ll be spending a lot of time determining what the screen is saying rather than focusing on your gameplay.

So, when you’re learning how to choose a golf rangefinder, keep the display aspect in mind. The display must be bright enough so that you can easily read the distance off of your screen. Usually, red numbers on a screen are easier to read under direct sunlight.

Battery Life

Most GPS and laser rangefinders are battery operated. So, the battery life is a valid concern if you plan to spend a long session at the course.

The standard battery standard for most rangefinders on today’s market is CR2. They last more or less 6 months. So, we always recommend having spare batteries in your bag.

Also, if you’ve been using the same battery for over 6 months, it may be ideal to change it before you hit the course. It’s especially true for competition scenarios. Remember, you’re not allowed to change the battery once you start your hole.

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What good can a golf rangefinder buying guide bring if we don’t discuss the range? The usual spectrum of how far a golfer can hit a ball is about 250 yards. So, having a rangefinder that can cover this distance is more than enough.

What are you going to do by looking at the hole from the tee? Rather, focus on magnification and the accuracy of the range. The rangefinder should penetrate the magical 1-yard mark in terms of accuracy. And it should remain consistent when you magnify the distance as well.

Slope Measurement

No golf course is at the same elevation throughout. There are uphill shots and downhill shots. So, having a slope measuring feature on your rangefinder can prove to be tremendously helpful.

When a slope comes in the way of your distance measurement, the elevation can throw off the calculation. So, if you want 100% accuracy on your results, you should definitely invest in a rangefinder that has this feature.

Final Words

In the modern golf culture, a rangefinder has become a necessity for most players. Even if you’re just starting out with your golfing adventures, you can benefit a lot from a good-quality rangefinder.

And now, you know what features to look at when buying your very first golf rangefinder.

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