If it takes a lot of balls to golf the way you do, it might be time to consider investing in a golf rangefinder. Everyone knows that accurately determining the distance to the flag is one of the most important aspects of golfing. However, it is surprising how bad most golfers (and non golfers) are at correctly judging distance. Enter golf rangefinders, these devices send out an invisible laser pulse and then record the amount of time the laser takes to return to the unit and then calculate the distance, usually within a yard or less. Golf range finders have come along way since the first units hit the market. These devices are now smaller, more accurate, affordable, and feature technology unavailable on previous modles.
What to Look For
Scan Mode: Most golf laser rangefinders have this feature which allows the user to hold the ranging button down and move from target to target while the screen is constantly updated with the yardage readings. This feature is particularly useful when you are trying to range a thin flag stick against a background of other objects. You just hold the ranging button down and “scan” across the area with the flag and when you hit the flag a yardage distance much closer than the background objects will appear. For example your scan readings might be something like this: 157, 152, 153, 162, 95, 156, 160, here the 95 would represent the flag reading.
Target Priority: As mentioned above, the flag stick is a pretty small target and often has objects in the background. When trying to read such a target the rangefinder will often range two objects at once like the flag and a tree behind it. A good golf laser rangefinder will report the closer of the two objects, so make sure it is set for, or capable of being set to, the nearest target priority. Nikon calls this First Target Priority mode, Bushnell calls it Pinseeker mode, and Leupold’s is called PinHunter.
Design: Rangefinders come in two styles horizontal and vertical. The horizontal style units are the flatter design and are gripped like binoculars, this style is generally easier to hold steady which makes ranging the flag easier. However, the down side is they are generally significantly larger than their vertical style counterparts. So if you are going to mount the unit on your golf cart or make room for a rangefinder in your bag, then the horizontal style is a good choice. However, if you want to carry it in your pocket the slimmer, lighter vertical models are the way to go. These vertical style units are also very effective but may require a little more practice to consistently read the flag.
Magnification: Here is the dilemma with golf rangefinders, you are trying to range a small target often at a great distance so this would favor a high magnification rangefinder; however you will often be ranging offhand (without a rest) which favors a low magnification device, because high magnification rangefinders also “magnify” the unsteadiness of your hands. While there are no hard and fast rules here, a good general rule might be no more than 6x magnification for vertical style rangefinders and no more than 7x for horizontally held rangefinders as they can generally be held a little steadier.
Tournament Legal: If you are looking for a golf rangefinder that is tournament legal be sure you model can be used in tournament play. The general rule of thumb is that models that have a slope feature, which takes the angle of the shot into account, or a club selector feature then they are not legal for tournament play. However, always check to make sure the individual golf laser range finder you are looking at is tournament legal, as this can be a tricky subject. Of course if you don’t play tournaments this won’t be an issue.