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Rangefinder vs. GPS

Golf is a sport that requires precision and accuracy, and technology has played a significant role in helping golfers improve their game. One of the most important pieces of technology in golf is distance measuring devices. There are two main types of distance measuring devices used in golf: rangefinders and GPS devices, which help golfers determine how far they are from their target. Some GPS devices only require you to download an app to your phone and it can easily be paired with a smartwatch.


Range finders are handheld devices that use lasers to measure the distance from the device to a target. They are commonly used by golfers to determine the distance to the flag, other objects, or hazards on the course.

  • Pros

    • Accuracy: Rangefinders are extremely accurate and can provide golfers with precise distance measurements.

    • Ease of use: Rangefinders are easy to use and can be operated with just one hand. They are also lightweight and portable.

  • Cons

    • Cost: Rangefinders can be expensive, with some models costing several hundred dollars.

    • Limitations: Rangefinders require a clear line of sight to the target, which can be a problem if the golfer is playing in hilly or wooded terrain.

GPS Devices

GPS devices use satellite technology to provide golfers with accurate distance measurements. They are typically worn on the wrist like a watch and provide golfers with information on distances to hazards, greens, and other objects on the course. Some GPS devices also provide information on wind speed and direction.

  • Pros

    • Ease of use: GPS devices are easy to use and can be worn like a watch. They are also lightweight and portable.

    • Coverage: GPS devices provide golfers with information on distances to hazards and other objects on the course, regardless of the terrain.

    • Cost: Some apps can be downloaded to your phone and paired with a smartwatch. There are several apps that can be downloaded for free and have basic use or can be upgraded to a premium version for an annual fee.

  • Cons

    • Accuracy: GPS devices are not as accurate as range finders, and can sometimes provide incorrect distance measurements.

Both rangefinders and GPS devices can be valuable tools for golfers looking to improve their game. If you are a casual golfer who is just out on the course for a good time but want to know your distances, a simple app like 18 Birdies works well and has the capability to track your score, too. Is it as accurate as a top of the line rangefinder? No. Does being off by a couple of yards matter to most of us? No. If you are looking for specific distances to hazards or pin locations to help you with club selection, being off by a few yards is a big deal. For you, it might be worth trying a rangefinder. As with just about everything with this game, knowing what your abilities are is step one!

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