Golf GPS Devices and Laser Rangefinders: Pros & Cons

From being a sport that only the rich and famous can afford, golf has now become one of the most highly competitive and most sophisticated sports in the world. It still does not come cheap and is definitely not for everyone but it has become within the reach of anyone who has the passion for it.

Have you always idolized Tiger Woods and dreams of one day competing professionally? What is holding you back? Or have you already started playing but think that you totally do not have a chance at it?

Before you throw that club away and give up on your golfing dreams, have you tried using GPS devices and/or golf laser rangefinders? If not, then you are definitely missing a lot. With all the advancements in sports today, more and more golfers (even the professional ones) are slowly beginning to see and recognize the various benefits of golf GPS devices and golf rangefinders.

The Functions of Golf GPS Watches and Golf Laser Rangefinders

Bushnell Neo Xs Golf GPS Watch - distance made simpleBasically, golf GPS devices make use of global positioning satellites to accurately measure distances specifically from the point of where a golfer is standing to the area where he is aiming for. Through knowing this measurement, a golfer gets a better estimate on how hard he needs to hit the ball. However, GPS devices are not at all perfect. GPS devices come as a watch and as a separate electronic device. Which one is the best for you, is up to you.

Remember that they are based on satellites and therefore, you need a good GPS signal to have an accurate and reliable measurement. This becomes more confusing on golf course with a lot of high trees where GPS signals might not be at its best.

Laser rangefinders, on the other hand, uses a laser beam in order to determine one’s distance to the goal. Since this uses laser beams and does not depend on signals, this is considered the more accurate one. Precision is determined by how long or how short it takes for the laser pulse to reach the target. It is suitable even for long ranges though atmospheric distortions may cause a problem.

Bushnell Tour Z6 Golf Laser Rangefinder with JOLT technologyTo educate you more, here are some of the well-established differences of golf GPS devices and golf laser rangefinders:

  • GPS has always been the more popular choice because of its availability, price, and function.
  • Laser rangefinders measures any distance regardless of preselected points while GPS devices make use of preloaded maps and/or downloadable maps to know the common course features.
  • GPS devices are just a bit smaller than laser rangefinders but both are compact and can easily fit into pockets.
  • Laser rangefinders need sophisticated optics and an efficient laser source while GPS devices need a stable GPS signal throughout.
  • Laser rangefinders are more like a point-and-shoot camera. It is extremely easy to use while GPS systems need the preloaded map or downloadable map to navigate appropriately.
  • You need clear view to the flagstick with laser rangefinders for ultimate performance while with GPS systems, once you have downloaded the map, the system automatically gives you measurements.
  • Both GPS devices and rangefinders have similar accuracy of plus or minus one yard.
  • GPS devices give a clear overview and quick distances but laser rangefinders are more versatile.

The Debate: To Use Or Not To Use

Bushnell Tour X Laser Golf Rangefinder - dual display technologyThis is a bit tricky. Beginners tend to stay away from golf GPS devices and laser rangefinders because they are not exactly in for the accuracy and competition but simply want the ball to stay on the golf course. While this is great, some experts think that beginners are missing a lot of opportunity by skipping this.

There also are some experts who say that once you have hit a shot and made the ball landed exactly where you want it to be, then it is about the right time for you to check out a GPS device and/or a laser rangefinder to up your game.

Critics today find these helpful devices to improve a golfer’s chances on making his shots count. By having such gadget, a golfer is pushed to be more decisive. Compared to a golfer without a GPS device and/or a laser rangefinder who mind calculates and executes right away, a golfer with either of these devices are more cautious without slowing things down. In fact, these are known to make for faster players on the green.

Finally the USGA have approved the use of electronic devices as well. This was long expected and it’s great to have an organisation like the USGA take these devices seriously.

Let’s Talk About The Pros

Garmin Approach G8 Golf Course GPSWhether you choose a golf GPS device or a golf laser rangefinder, you are bound to get loads of benefits especially if to be compared to not using one. They are created to be of great help to golfers so skipping up on these only means you are letting go of a great opportunity to expand your options and improve your skills.

While some say that golfers would learn more from the traditional way than relying on some device to improve their game, more and more experts are voicing out their opinions based on first-hand experiences. Golf GPS devices and golf laser rangefinders are not for beginners (literally) who just made their first step to the course. These are meant for people who already know the basics of golf by heart but would like to improve more.

To give you a better idea of the pros of investing in a good golf GPS and/or laser rangefinders, here is a quick list that we have put together:

  1. Accuracy

Bushnell Tour Z6 golf rangefinderThis is a no-brainer. Which do you think is more accurate? GPS and laser beams or your gut feeling? Naturally, the scientific way of measuring and calculating things are more reliable. We are not talking about cooking here where you can go depending on how it tastes. We are talking about golf where a failed shot could put you out of the boards in a competition.

But between GPS devices and laser rangefinders, the latter is said to be more accurate and versatile in measuring distances. Golf GPS devices are famous for giving a rough estimate of the distance. All golfers should know this difference so that they will know how to adjust and what to do depending on which device they will use.

For experts, these devices answer the simplest question that most golfers (even the professional ones) ask up until now, which is how far the target is.

  1. Ease of Use

Bushnell neo+ Golf GPS Watch on wristGiven that golf GPS devices and laser rangefinders have been created with the golfer in mind. Therefore, everyone can expect ease of use with just about any model. Well, some will be easier to operate than others but they are all basically easy to use. They are absolutely convenient and make you think faster because of the measurements it gives almost instantly.

However, GPS devices might have problems with this if the course selected happens to be missing from the map list. This is where laser rangefinders enter because they can instantly give a measurement without the need for a map. The chance is not very big since most golf watches have over 20,000 golf courses mapped.

Another one that proves ease of use is the elimination of the need for aiming. With a golf GPS watch, you would never have to worry if your target is not in your line of site and even if you have unsteady hands. But if you have a golf rangefinder, you first have to walk around and get yardages.

  1. Practicality

Price varies depending on the brand, model, and specifications of a golf GPS device and/or golf laser rangefinder. All these would actually depend on the golfer’s specifications and preferences.

Here are some of the things that you would have to ask yourself:

  • Do you want a monocular or binocular unit?
  • Do you play on the same course over and over again?
  • Do you plan to explore other courses that might not be on the preloaded maps?
  • Do you want more features than just the ordinary point-and-measure devices?
  • Do you want downloadable maps or would you go for versatility?
  • Is budget of concern?

By answering these questions, you can point yourself towards the right direction on which device to get.

  1. Builds Confidence

Given that there are professional competitions where certain models of golf GPS devices and golf laser rangefinders are allowed, the more every single golfer wants to get hold of these. Regardless if you are a beginner or a pro, it is very easy to get confused on which club to use especially without a reliable measurement.

With these devices, a golfer is able to build confidence because of the accurate measurements. You probably have a golfer friend who owns one, try it once and you will be amazed of how easier things are with an accurate measurement.

Experts even say that using these devices could very well be a golfer’s first step into thinking like a pro. This is based on the fact that golf GPS units and laser rangefinders are all about smart golf. It gives the very basic knowledge of the target’s accurate location yet it does wonders.

And Now for the Downsides

Golf GPS devices and golf laser rangefinders do have their own advantages and disadvantages just like any other gadget in the market today. They are not perfect and they do not claim to be but nevertheless they are extremely helpful in the golf course.

But just to educate you and fill you more on the important facts, here are several issues commonly encountered with these devices:

  • Flagsticks are highly important in laser rangefinders. Without being able to shoot them properly, you might not get the most accurate measurement. Especially with the cheaper rangefinders, it can be difficult to stabilise the device in order to shoot the flagsticks.
  • Laser rangefinders do not give a bird’s view of the course.
  • Rangefinders you have to take from your bag and shoot the target, compared to looking at your golf watch with a quick movement of your wrist.
  • You need to download maps (lots of them) if you plan to use GPS devices. Sometimes, updating new golf courses comes with a price tag.
  • GPS devices would not work at driving ranges simply because they are not mapped.

At the end, no device is perfect whether it be for golfing or for other sports. Each invented device has its ups and downs and one would have to settle down with which device he thinks suits his needs and preferences the best.