Have you ever stopped to think about how much you spend per shot on the golf course? Check this out...
You use your driver on 12 shots per round and it's the most expensive club in the bag:
$600 over 50 rounds is $12 per round, and you hit your driver 12 times: $1 per shot!
But the most helpful yet overlooked piece of equipment to use on every single shot is a trusty rangefinder!
A $200 rangefinder over 50 rounds is $4 per round. $4 per round divided by 50 shots tee to green and you're paying 8 cents per shot for a private caddie, in your pocket.
The Game Changer: Hanging a Caddie on your Bag
I turned my nose up at rangefinders. I was one of THOSE guys who thought you should pace it out or rely on caddies. Until I just stopped being that guy. I had enough of walking and guessing and calculating to the center and +8 yards for a back pin and blah blah blah.
Forget that! A rangefinder eliminates all the guesswork and frustration of finding distances to the hole, to carry hazards or reach targets. Imagine the confidence and commitment to your shots if you KNEW the distance to anything instead of wondering if your guess is good.
While the top brands like Bushnell are very expensive and come with all the bells and whistles, there are cheaper yet high quality options and in this article I hope to guide you to the best golf rangefinder without breaking your wallet. Please also check out the bottom of the page to see which 2 rangefinders to avoid!
I like a good bargain myself. But when it comes to rangefinders, you get what you pay for. If you're going too low on price, you are going to lose on accuracy. The discrepancies may be 1-3 yards but they could be as big as 7 or 8 yards in which case, it might affect club choices. The more well-known and pricier the rangefinder, generally, the better the optics. This means superior accuracy. I cannot in good faith recommend some brands in this guide that I know are junk so you will find the good ones here only.
The Best Budget Golf Rangefinders
Precision Pro Nexus
Nikon Coolshot 20 GII
Precision Golf NX9
Shot Scope PRO L1
Yes with vibration
Yes with vibration
Kind of, with FPT technology
Yes with vibration
1/10 of a yard
1/10 of a yard
1/10 of a yard
1/10 of a yard
Most popular budget golf rangefinder
A bit unstable and feels a little cheaply made
USGA Legal Lifetime replacement batteries
Compact 4.4 oz.
8 second continuous scan mode
Sometimes a bit slow picking up targets
Support email back quickly and follow up with phone calls
Lifetime battery replacements
Can I use a hunting rangefinder?
I really don't recommend buying a cheap hunting rangefinder with all the well-priced golf-specific rangefinders available. Having a golf-specific one gives you so much peace of mind knowing you’ve got something that will work immediately out of the box.
Hunting and golf rangefinders work the same way and a hunting rangefinder CAN be used for golf, BUT…
- Golf rangefinders have software to give preference to a target closer to you rather than further from you. For example, if the pin is 50 yards in front of bushes, the golf rangefinder has been designed to give preference to the closer object (the pin). This technology has a few names like First Target Priority Mode(Callaway/Nikon), PinHunter (Leupold), Pinseeker (Bushnell).
The hunting rangefinders generally give preference to the more distant object like a deer behind a tree. Golf rangefinders have been designed for golf-specific purposes.
- Golf rangefinders also have pin seeking technology that recognizes the pin and can zero in on it easily. Some have technology which makes the device vibrate to let you know once it’s found the pin.
With a hunting rangefinder you are going to have trouble picking up the pin and it will only be effective for larger targets like hills, slopes and bunkers. It can be very frustrating to pin point exact distances to precise spots on the golf course. It takes many readings to eventually get a distance to a flagstick.
Ultimate budget beater
Wosports have created a rangefinder that is unfathomably well-priced. Of course, the immediate reaction is to doubt the quality of such a product.
There are differences between a model that costs 25% of the top models though but they are not significant. A big one you would like to know is that the Wosports is really most accurate and useable inside 200 yards. For most amateurs, that is going to be absolutely passable.
What you may notice when comparing the readings between a Wosports and a Bushnell (the top rangefinders), there may be a 1% difference in yardage readings. For example, the Bushnell may say 250 yards, while the Wosports would say 252 yards or 248 yards. That difference is negligible and to be expected in the budget range. It's difficult to escape from the lower price bracket unfortunately.
If your club has the reflectors on the pins, then the Wosports will lock on quite easily to them and vibrate once it locks on. If there are no reflectors on the pin, the distances can be out by up to 3 yards inside the 150-200 yard range. The basic question is, will the 2-3 yard difference change your club selection?
Is it Any Good?
For this price, there is no contest. You'll get yardages. That is the main point of the rangefinder. At a quarter of the price of the big boys, you'll notice build quality differences of course. But if you are looking just at the yardage information, this one gives it to you. You may be out by 1-2 yards compared to Bushnells, but is that going to change your club choice? NOPE!
Premium quality in a budget package
Shot Scope PRO L1 Golf rangefinder a pretty small sized rangefinder and can fit in your pocket between shots. A favorite feature is the scanning mode where by holding down a button, the device will give you readings to multiple targets as you move around, scanning the area you're aiming at.
Despite being a budget model, there is a pulse vibration when the rangefinder thinks it has found the the flag. The range is stated at 875 yards which is extreme but will be perfect for distances inside 220 yards. The inflated 875 yard or 600 yard claims mean nothing. The longest I have ever needed to get a reading on is probably 340 yards, to know how close to lay up to.
With flag lock technology, as well as slope it's a great deal. The styling is just so much better than the really cheap models as well. It's quick, comfortable in the hand, accurate and comes with a hardcase. Good value.
Reliable right in the sweet spot of the budget
The Precision Pro range most budget option. It has a scanning mode where you can scan constantly while depressing the button and it will tell you distances to the different objects as you move over them. Despite being a budget golf rangefinder, the pin lock feature is present in the Nexus.
Even better, with the flag lock feature, Precision Pro have included the vibration pulse when the target has been locked on. For those who haven't used a rangefinder, it really does make a difference.
The carry bag is a big crap and is hard to get your rangefinder in and out of but there are enough generic ones out there to replace it. The accuracy on this device is equal to the Bushnells but the big difference is the speed of getting the reading.
We have to compare apples to apples and Bushnell of course is triple or quadruple the price. In the budget range, the Precision Pro items are top of the pile.
Best overall budget rangefinder
The Precision Pro NX9 is just as the name says, precise. It's also really easy to use. Precision Pro Golf keep your wallet in mind when creating their rangefinders. The devices are fantastic and don't cost you your children's' college funds. Plus you get free lifetime batteries!
You'll get readings within a yard of the very expensive Bushnells and with good consistency. The distances if you check and recheck won't change more than a yard or so which eliminates a lot of confusion and frustration. On top of that, the funky green and black make this a very good looking model.
If you drive a golf cart when you play, there is a magnet in the rangefinder so you can just stick it on the cart roof supports and have quick access any time.
There is a little issue with the viewfinder is the wide crosshairs. This means sometimes, it gets frustrating as you try to lock onto a pin with tree trunks in the background. The crosshairs take in too much of the surroundings.
The company behind this lovely device is responsive and you'll hear back from them rapidly when you have questions or issues and are known for calling you on the phone as a follow up.
Nikon optics for durability and reliable distances
Finding decent budget rangefinders can be a challenge, not knowing the quality level, but when you see the name Nikon, your eyes just settle on it. The Coolshot 20 GII is a very simple to use point-and-shoot no frills rangefinder. Put it up to your eye, find the target, press the button, done.
What makes it even more appealing is the small size. It fits snugly in the palm of your hand and could even by put in your pocket. Picking up targets inside 200 yards is a breeze but beyond that and you need to try a few times like that girl your dad told you was bad for you.
Because it is so light, you need slightly steady hand. The battery lasts for a year and to have Nikon optics in your bag at this price is a steal and comes in as one of the best budget golf rangefinders.
Golf Rangefinders to avoid in this price range
These are made for hunting and aren't suitable for golf. Best to avoid them to avoid disappointment.
Simmons 801600 Volt
Nikon 8397 Aculon AL11
Why don't you recommend the "best sellers"?
I've had a few of these best sellers either sent to me or I've bought them to try and I can say so far, nothing is worth putting on my site to recommend to honest people like you. I cannot in good faith accept and promote products from some of these companies with thousands of glowing reviews, when the items they send me, just plain suck.
I've used four of these brands and devices and compared to my Inesis and Bushnell rangefinders, they fail. And they fail hard. Sometimes the differences are up to 6 yards each way. one reading will say 145, then 153, then 141, then 152 on the same spot.
Now if that reading is 1-2 yards in variance I can accept that, but when you use a rangefinder, you're not just buying a distance measurer. you're buying peace of mind and commitment to your shots. You want the correct number first time with trust.
How do you use a golf rangefinder?
It's really simple to use one of these things. You put it up to your eye, look through the monocular and center the bulls eye onto your target and click the button. But the art of using a rangefinder is something you'll develop at your own speed. Here are a couple of examples of how I use mine on the course.
I was between a pitching wedge and a gap wedge on this shot if listening to my caddie and pacing off the distance from the markers. But in the end it was an easy choice to pull my pitching wedge and hit with confidence after I took the exact distance with the rangefinder.
Off the tee
Off the tee, I always like to see how far to carry bunkers and it's really easy because you can lock onto the rear lip of the bunker quickly. I also like to shoot distances to further bunkers in case I can roll into them. On this shot, it was easy to put the 4 wood away and hit the 3 iron as hard as I could, knowing I wouldn't hit it in the far bunker.
Should I use a rangefinder or a golf GPS watch?
At this price point, there is the option of using a golf GPS watch. There are pros and cons to both. I suggest the rangefinder if you want to know the carry to many spots on a hole while I suggest a GPS watch if all you want to know is the distance to the front, back and middle of the greens.
There's no need to go for the very expensive rangefinders when any of the above best budget golf rangefinders will do. I like the Precision Golf NX9 as the top pick for it's overall quality and design. The Wosports is hard to beat on price though!