Stop the guessing game when it comes to deciding which golf club to use by learning how to use the latest must-have golf gadget, a rangefinder. Although golf is an extremely old game, with origins that can be traced back to 15th century Scotland, for the last several decades it has become a fairly high-tech sport. In addition to clubs, balls, and apparel meticulously designed for optimal play, now you can use the power of lasers and satellites to improve your game. Depending on the model you choose, you can use golf rangefinders to determine the distance to the pin or any other location as well as identify hazards and determine slopes. Here’s a rundown of how rangefinders work, how to use them, and the pros and cons of each type.
Laser rangefinders look like a cross between binoculars and a camcorder and work by shooting a laser at a target. When the laser is bounced back, the distance between your location and your target is measured and you can use this information to choose the correct club.
Turn the rangefinder on. Look through the lens, which is magnified to make finding your target easier. Line up the visible indicator with your target and pull the trigger. Finally, use the readout to decide which club will give you the best shot.
Knowing the accurate distance between yourself and your target is invaluable information when making a club choice, and some rangefinders, like the Bushnell Pin Seeker 1500 with Slope, will also measure variations in elevation through the use of a laser level. Others, like the Leopold GX Golf Rangefinder, can also suggest a club based on distance, temperature, altitude, and a player’s swing strength. To use any laser rangefinder, however, you’ll need to be able to see your target from your location, so steep upgrades, trees, or other obstacles can interfere with its usefulness.
GPS rangefinders, on the other hand, look like cell phones and measure distances based on preloaded maps and satellite signals rather than measuring the distance with a laser. The device determines your exact location via satellite and calculates the distance between you and the selected location on a course map that has been pre-loaded onto the rangefinder.
Before you even step onto the course, be sure to load the course you intend to play onto the GPS rangefinder. Once you’ve arrived, turn on the rangefinder and allow it to connect with the satellite. Select the hole or target available on your map and you’ll get your distance reading. Most GPS rangefinders will automatically move to the next hole once you’ve finished the one you’re playing, but you can manually choose holes out of sequence if necessary.
Unlike laser rangefinders, you won’t need to be able to see your target to know the distance, so trees and other obstacles aren't an issue. Because the course is pre-mapped, the results are quick, always accurate and not affected by user error. Many also allow measurements to several locations on the green rather than just the pin. In order to have access to course maps, however, you may have to sign up for subscription service. Additionally, every target you might want may not be available on the map. Check out GPS rangefinders made from well-known brands like Gamin, golf, and Sky Golf.