Best Golf Distance Measuring Devices 2021 - Golf Sidekick

Best Golf Distance Measuring Devices 2021

If you're serious about improving your golf game, you need to know how far you are hitting the ball.  This is even more ESSENTIAL if you're trying to break 90 or 80. Under or over clubbing could be the difference between a par, bogey or double and I believe with a distance measuring device, you can remove these unforced errors. 

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 could  improve your game. 

GPS, Rangefinder or GPS 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. Are they to the front, middle or back? Some courses make this clear but in my experience they are few and far between. Also, if you are way offline, which lets face it, we all are during a round, these markers are pretty useless. 

Modern technology now allows us to know how far the green, pin, trap or water hazard is down to the yard. There are pros and cons to all devices. Here’s what to look out for. 

Handheld GPS

Positives

  • Can be stored in or attached to your bag. 
  • Bigger screen
  • Excellent battery life
  • Good price points 
  • Nearly unlimited selection of downloadable courses

Negatives

  • Limited to use for golf 
  • Can be a bit clunky to use 

GPS Golf watch

Positives

  • Highly portable 
  • Many models are multi-functional 
  • Automatic shot tracking on some models 

Negatives

  • Limited battery life
  • Some screens can be fiddly 
  • Not everyone likes wearing a watch while playing

Rangefinder

Positives

  • Unrivalled accuracy
  • Ability to pick any target (some models vibrate on acquisition) 
  • Lightweight 
  • Long battery life
  • Slope adjustment option
  • Hybrid GPS/Laser options are now available
     

Negatives

  • Pricey for a single use piece of kit 
  • Slope function isn’t allowed for tournament play

The Best Budget Golf Rangefinders

  1. Bushnell Phantom 2 Handheld Golf GPS (best all round option)
  2. Garmin Approach S40 (best golf watch)
  3. Shot Scope PRO L1 Laser Rangefinder (best quality budget rangefinder)
  4. Callaway Hybrid Laser GPS/Range Finder (best hybrid distance device)
  5. Bushnell Tour V5 Shift (best rangefinder on the market)

Improved screen on this impressive device

If you’ve been around golf for any decent length of time, you will have heard of Bushnell. They are considered to be the number 1 manufacturer when it comes to distance measuring devices, and the Bushnell Phantom 2 Handheld GPS proves why they keep coming out on top.

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, works really well. Another great 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.

One of my favourite things about this device is the high powered magnet which lets you stick it to your bag or buggy - you just need to remember you put it there before leaving the course!

Overall an excellent little package! 

Pros
  • Easy to use
  • 38,000 preloaded courses
  • Excellent battery life
  • Big readable screen even in bright sunshine
  • Accurate data

Far and away the best golf GPS watch on the market today 

I have to admit, I used to think that golf GPS watches were a bit rubbish. How could they be as accurate as my rangefinder and how would you see all of the information you needed on that tiny screen?

Then I got a Garmin Approach S40 and everything began to make sense. This is such a cool piece of kit and it has genuinely changed my game. The interface is really easy to use, and the partner Garmin Golf App for smartphones makes loading courses and analysing your post round stats a total breeze.

You get front, middle and back measurements to green and the option to pick a pin placement. Distances to hazards are also on offer as is wind direction. 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. After your round, you will see every shot you played in perfect detail on the app. This is such a useful tool to see your club distances and also to see where you can improve specific parts of your game.

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. 

Pros
  • Understated styling 
  • Clear easy to read screen 
  • Amazing shot tracking functionality 
  • Excellent battery life
  • Includes step/sleep tracking and multisport functions

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 retails at a price point which is significantly lower than some of the other manufacturers yet offers features found on many premium models. Does it stand up?

I found this rangefinder to be very solid. It's pretty basic in its design and build, but was very reliable when providing distances on the course. The Target-Lock Vibration feature was very helpful as it let you know you had got a read on your desired target and the slope feature appeared to give accurate numbers. The red/blacks optics switch worked well, but I didn’t really need to use it.

This is a very light rangefinder, weighing in nearly 100 grams less than my Bushnell. This might suggest the build quality is cheaper, but I didn't find this to be the case and at the end of the day it’s a little less weight to carry around.

This is perfect for a golfer who wants a rangefinder but doesn’t want to stump up the $$$ for a premium model. 

Pros
  • Excellent price point for the features included 
  • Target-Lock Vibration
  • Slope distance adjustment
  • Lightweight design
  • Nice accessories 

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 shot tracking capabilities of my watch. When I saw this hybrid rangefinder I thought it could be the best of both worlds, 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 30000 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. 

Pros
  • Lots of features in one package
  • Easy to use both features 
  • Good battery life on GPS 
  • 30,000 preloaded courses 

Probably the best rangefinder 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 feels like a quality piece of kit and justifies its higher price point. All of the buttons and sliders are easily accessible and robust. I personally found the yards to metres button to be a great addition as it saved any messing about with numbers out on the course. The slope feature worked excellently and the target acquisition on this model is simple second to none. 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 $$$, this is definitely worth getting, it’s that good. 

Pros
  • Rapid target acquisition
  • Premium construction and design 
  • Excellent accessories 
  • Strong BITE magnet