If you're serious about improving your golf game, you need to know how far you hit the ball.
It's MOST ESSENTIAL if you're trying to break 90 or 80. Under or over clubbing could be the difference between a par, bogey or double. You know what it's like. Great drive, nice five because you landed in the deep deep bunker short of the green with no chance of parole with only 130 yards into the green.
So what are the best golf distance measuring devices? I’ve chosen a mix of options to cover all bases. Let’s take a look at what distance measuring device will improve your game. Personally the best in this category are the Bushnell Tour v5 Shift and Garmin Approach S40
Best Golf Distance Measuring Devices 2021
Why even use a GPS, Rangefinder or GPS golf watch?
It used to be that the only way to work out your distances was from the markers on the course. These are OK to a point, but they are based on specific lines to the green from specific points in the fairway, from specific locations on the course.
Then how far is the pin from the front or middle of the green? The scorecard states the hole is a certain distance but you hit a mediocre drive and the markers are telling you that it's a 290 yarder!
The scorecard states one distance of the entire hole. The tees change regularly so you never know the exact length of a hole. The hole is then measured up the middle of the fairway from the tee to the green - a dog leg will be measured up the center of the entire fairway, not over the dogleg. Sometimes the measurement is to the front of the green, sometimes it's to the middle of the green.
A lot of people are walking around not knowing how far they really hit the ball. Distance measuring devices help you dial in your true distance, and help you select the club and shot type for that distance.
You can use a touch screen, shoot a laser or have an accurate measurement to just the front, middle or the back of the green for max enjoyment.
Handheld Golf GPS Device
Handheld GPS devices are a bit old school but are designed specifically for golf. I mention this because phones have taken over a lot of peoples golfing measurement device needs.
The reasons I don't use a phone are: battery life (short), need for cell phone signal, multiple apps not just for golf and my biggest pet peeve is having to unlock them with a swipe/password/passcode.
I've tried with cell phones but I find they just do not cut the mustard. A handheld golf specific GPS device will bring infinitely more pleasure.
GPS Golf watch
Golf GPS watches are more compact and wearable versions of the GPS handheld devices above. I like both but the watches have a feature that make them one of the best options for calculating your shot distances.
They come with technology that can feel when you've hit a golf shot. This allows the watch to track your entire round and ask you to input your club immediately after the shot. After 20 rounds, you'll have a great estimate of how far you hit your clubs within a very tight range.
I compare the Garmin S40 and S60 to help you figure out which is best.
Golf Laser Rangefinders
The golf rangefinder is a staple in my bag. I use everything, but nothing is as quick and easy as shooting a distance to a hazard, pin or green as a rangefinder.
As long as you have a line of sight to the object you're measuring, you have full confidence that that distance is accurate to within 1 yard. More expensive models are quicker and more accurate while mid range models are as accurate but not as quick. Lower priced models, and I mean really low, are usually trash.
You get what you pay for in optics, and the investment will last you years. One of the big problems people have with rangefinders is the color and how they get lost on a cart seat or left on a cart strap. Always pack away your rangefinder first after your round!
Improved screen on this impressive device
If you’ve been around golf for any decent length of time, you know Bushnell. They are considered to be the number 1 manufacturer when it comes to distance measuring devices in golf, and the Bushnell Phantom 2 Handheld GPS is another device that proves their effectiveness time and again.
The Phantom 2 is a neat little package and is easy to use for golfers of all skill levels. This version has 40% bigger text on the screen than the previous model making it easy to read, and with 38,000 courses preloaded, it’s ready to go right out of the box.
The new GreenView technology, with movable pin placements for super accurate distances to the flag helps to get more accurate readings so you can hit the correct club.
Another usefull feature is the 'Dynamic Green Mapping' which provides measurements to the front, middle and back of the green regardless of which angle you are approaching from. Wherever you are on the course, you can see how much you need to reach the green, and if there is trouble long, know how far it is to the back edge etc.
One of my favorite things about this device is the high powered magnet which lets you stick it to your bag or buggy - you just need to remember to take it off and take it home with you after the round!
Far and away the best golf GPS watch on the market today
I thought watches were a bit gimmicky. How could they be as accurate as my rangefinder? I have used a rangefinder for years and never thought I would buy a watch.
But then I got a Garmin Approach S40 to track my changes in distance with a swing change I made. This is such a cool piece of gear and helped me not only to track how far I am hitting the ball with every club, but when i don't feel like pulling out the rangefinder, I just check middle of the green distance and hit.
The interface is really easy to use, and the partner Garmin Golf App for smartphones makes loading courses and analyzing your post round stats very easy. Check out the comparison with the S60 here. And my full review of the S40 here.
You get front, middle and back measurements to green and the option to pick a pin placement on the touch screen. Distances to hazards - both carry and reach - are on th watch. It just takes a little bit of scrolling on the touch screen.
The best feature however, is the auto shot tracking.
This is AMAZING. The watch detects when you hit a shot and you then quickly note which club you used by telling the watch after it prompts you. After your round, you will see every shot you played in perfect detail on the app after you sync up with your phone and watch. This is such a useful tool to see your club distances and also to see where you can improve specific parts of your game. It tracks fairways missed and which side, greens missed and putts.
You can further enhance this feature with trackers which you can attach to your clubs. I haven’t seen the need to do this yet as the data I’m getting from the watch is so good. An excellent piece of kit which you can get for very reasonable prices.
Solid rangefinder from a respected golf watch brand
Shot Scope are best known for their golf watches, so does their expertise in that area transfer to the rangefinder market? The Shot Scope PRO L1 offers features of the premium models but at a slightly nicer price.
I find this rangefinder to be a solid build which is always a giveaway. I've bought rangefinders from all sorts of manufacturers, and the first thing you notice is always the build quality. Any rattling, weird empty feeling etc and I'm turned off.
The L1 is pretty basic in its design and build, but it's very reliable when providing distances on the course. The Target-Lock Vibration feature is very helpful to let you know it's locked onto a target and the slope feature gives accurate numbers. The red/blacks optics switch worked well, but red is not my style as I have a slight color blindness.
This is a very light rangefinder, weighing in nearly 100 grams less than my Bushnell. You may think it suggests the build quality is cheaper, but I didn't find this to be the case.
This is perfect for a golfer who wants a rangefinder but doesn’t want to blow a stash of cash for a premium model.
The complete package, but is it worth it?
When I play golf, I use a laser rangefinder and a GPS golf watch. I like the accuracy and freedom that a rangefinder gives me and now can’t live without the rangefinder - I feel naked without it on the course.
The GPS features on the Callaway seem like a good idea. But does having two sets of features create a better product?
The Callaway Hybrid Laser GPS/Range Finder has a small 18mm by 18mm screen below the viewfinder which displays GPS tracked front, middle and back distances to the green. The GPS has 30,000 preloaded courses which are picked up automatically when you switch the device on.
I found having two different sets of yardages to work from positive in some situations. For example, when a flag is tucked away or the wind won’t allow you to get at it easily, I reverted to GPS middle of the green number automatically. It was really convenient to have the number right there and it removed analysis paralysis.
The screen is easy to read and the rangefinder operates as expected. The GPS gives you hazard information but it’s quicker to just use the rangefinder to work out those distances. The USB battery performed well for the GPS, giving you a round and change from a full charge, while the rangefinder is powered by a long life CR2 battery.
It’s a cool little device which will attract Callaway loyalists and techie types. I have tried these types of rangefinders before but didn't like the display on the left of the device. The placement on the Callaway is more intuitive than other models.
One of the best rangefinders on the market today
The Bushnell “Tour V” range is the rangefinder equivalent of the Pro V1 to the golf ball market. Bushnell are always looking for ways to optimize their flagship product and the Tour V5 Shift model is focused on the speed that a target is acquired and confirmed on the course.
This rangefinder is sturdy and robust in your hands. It justifies its higher price point. All of the buttons and sliders are easily accessible and solid.
The yards to meters button helps a lot for me between altitude and sea level as I use yards at sea level and meters at altitude. The slope feature works excellently and the target acquisition on this model is simply the best in class. Not other rangefinder comes close to speed and accuracy of the pin pointing of the target.
A small ring appears on the screen to confirm you have locked on and a little vibration acts as secondary confirmation.
Like all of the Bushnell’s products, the accessories that come with this device are premium and the case is particularly eye-catching. I’m a big fan of the BITE magnetic cart mount as it means your beautiful rangefinder isn’t sliding about in the buggy, potentially getting lost or scratched!
If you have the resources, this is definitely worth getting, it’s that good.
Which distance measuring devices should I avoid?
Avoid the ones that seem too good to be true.
In optics, whether binoculars, scopes or rangefinders, you get what you pay for I promise.
Golf rangefinders have been specifically designs to see targets IN FRONT of the general bush or backdrop. Hunting rangefinders have been designs to pick up targets with a lot of backdrop or foreground - in other words, animals walking around.
Why short-change yourself by going cheap? I have tried a lot of distance finding devices and you will be disappointed with the following items due to inaccuracy, defective production and unsuitable utility for golf:
1. Milessey Rangefinder - I tried 3 models and they all showed distance differences on the same measurement of +7 and -7 yards. Total trash.
2. Tectectec Rangefinder - I don't know how this thing has so many amazing reviews? For similar money, Precision Pro is a much better option.
3. Any hunting rangefinder - there is no point purchasing something ill suited to the task you need it for, just because it may be cheaper. Get a golf rangefinder and you will not regret it. Buyers remorse sucks!
You only have to decide what your priority is. From there, the selection is easy and with the above choices, you can't go wrong. Watches are for convenience and quick glance distances. Rangefinders are for specific distances to specific targets. Handheld devices are for those who want a bigger screen and don't want to use their phone.