Before you buy the best golf GPS or rangefinder, it’s good to first understand what these devices are.
Both rangefinder and golf GPS are distance measuring devices. Each one will help you with course management, boost your confidence and make your game more enjoyable. No more guessing the distances.
But nothing is perfect, and each device comes with its pros and cons. The first thing you should do before buying one of them is to think what do you want and what is most important for you.
First main difference between them is what distance they measure. Golf GPS shows you where the green is, sometimes it also shows hazards. Rangefinder allows you to take measurement of every point on the course.
With golf GPS you first must check whether course you want to play is available. It can be preloaded, but if it’s not, you have to download it. Some manufacturers require a membership fee for ability to download courses. After you have your course ready, it’s time to go golfing!
Golf GPS uses satellite technology to determine your location and show you distance to the back, front and middle of green relative to your position. More advanced models have distances to other preselected points such as hazards and doglegs. This can be very useful when playing on unfamiliar course.
Other useful features of golf GPS are digital scorecard, course preview and tracking stats such as driving distances.
On the other hand, with rangefinder you don’t have to download any courses. It uses laser to measure the exact distance to any object on the course, like flagstick, trees, hills, bunkers. Some models offer a measurement of elevation, doing all the calculations for you. However such rangefinders are forbidden in competitions, because they are not complaint with USGA Rule 14-3.
The drawback of rangefinders is that their range is limited to about 300-400 yards in some models. Also the performance may be degraded in rain or fog, though some devices have features to prevent unwanted rain reflections.
Both devices are very easy to use. However with rangefinder you need line of sight, because the distance is calculated on time in which laser is bounced off the distant target. You just press the button and immediately you have the right distances shown on your screen.
Each type has its pros and cons. If you want just minimum information and don’t want to target flagstick every time – golf GPS is for you. But if you want better accuracy, and distances to every point on course – choose golf rangefinder. For more information read our guides to choosing the Best Golf GPS and golf rangefinder.