Tuesday, August 29

Which Are Better: Laser Rangerfinders or Golf GPS?

This article is sponsored by ubergolf.net.

By Dominic J. Leon

This is a difficult question indeed. Given the number of enthusiastic fans on the sides of golf GPS and laser rangefinders, I expect a verbal war anytime. But here I am getting into the fray with facts.

These straight points will help you decide which rangefinder is best for YOU. That's the key word since everybody has their own preferences and strengths. I'll go into the major markers of a good rangefinder and see how both types live up to the standards. Based on which features you prioritize over others, you can settle your personal debate of golf GPS versus laser rangefinders.

Accuracy: When using a golf rangefinder, your top requirement is accurate yardage. Although both golf GPS and laser rangefinders are quite close in this regard, the latter still win the game. The best laser rangefinders can tell the distance within 0.5 yards accuracy.

Golf GPS devices average 2-3 yards uncertainty. Most golfers report that 1-2 yards difference is not a big problem. But if you are fussy down to millimeters, go laser!

Operation: The basic distances to the front, center and back of the greens are instantly available on golf GPS devices. They determine your GPS location and use it to automatically calculate all the distances. Meanwhile, with your laser rangefinder, you have to aim at the exact target. Some of the modern laser rangefinders like Bushnell Tour Jolt have the technology to pinpoint and alert you when the target is locked. Still, if you have a sloth grip on the rangefinder you might not be able to get distances correctly.

With golf GPS, operation gets a little complicated only for advanced features like scorecard or green view. But the best golf GPS devices still have a user-friendly interface. 

Tournament legality: Laser rangefinders are always tournament-legal. Some modern ones like Bushnell Tour X have a removable faceplate which gives you slope-adjusted distances. These are forbidden in tournaments, so Bushnell provides a spare faceplate for normal distances.

Golf GPS devices are subjected to the Local Rule. You need to confirm from the tournament committee or your club whether golf GPS is allowed. They are gradually gaining acceptance. Golf GPS devices that give slope-adjusted distances are not allowed in most tournaments. 

Value for money: A good laser rangefinder will cost you north of $200. Even then it will only have distance-measuring function and features to speed up the process. This is not a great value for money. 

But golf GPS devices bang big for the bucks. Even the simplest golf watch will have an odometer, shot tracking feature and will work as a normal watch with an alarm. Bigger handheld GPS rangefinders have better specs like training aid, green view, performance stats, club recommendation, digital scorecard for multiple players, WiFi connectivity, smart notifications etc. Golf GPS is a well-rounded investment. They have cheaper options too, right down to free Android/Apple GPS apps. 

Versatility: The main advantage of laser rangefinders is that they are aim-and-measure devices. You can go to any course and point at the target for distance. They can also be used for hunting and other outdoor activities where distances are needed.

Golf GPS requires that you have the course map loaded on to it. The best golf GPS rangefinders today come preloaded with 30,000-plus courses. You can always add more. Plus the other features like odometer, alarm, timer, etc. may come into use beyond the golf course. 

Size: Laser rangefinders need to store the laser mechanism so they tend to be a little bulky. Even the lightest ones would come up to five to six ounces. Golf GPS are available in all sizes and shapes. The golf watch can be worn on the wrist. They are as small as regular sports watches. Golf handhelds are the size of a smartphone. Golf voice clip-ons usually weigh only one or two ounces and can be attached to your visor or belt loop.

Error potential: Laser rangefinders are only as good as their owner. If you don't have a steady hand, you might have some problems aiming the laser. The best ones today help you in every way to aim correctly but it's still difficult for some golfers.

Golf GPS devices don't require you to aim. But this is electronics after all. If you get a bad piece or forget to update them, you might start seeing errors. It is annoying because there isn't much you can do about it. Quality control is strict enough that such bugs are rare. 

Line of sight: Laser rangefinders can only aim at visible targets for distance. Golf GPS can tell you distances to points that are not visible to you on the course. So you get a fair warning of upcoming hazards, provided hazard distances are a feature of the device. 

Subscription fee: Laser rangefinders are pretty much a single-time investment. Once bought, they can be directly used until they break. Some golf GPS manufacturers levy a subscription fee to update your course database. This adds to the cost of ownership. At the minimum, you might have to register at the website of the device to get access to some features and updates. 

Durability: Laser rangefinders pack a fragile laser apparatus and lens. You have to be careful not to damage it. Golf GPS devices are more durable. But I still suggest exercising some caution before mistreating them. 

Author Bio

I am Dominic J. Leon. At my website ubergolf.net, we provide holistic literature towards the development of your golf career. We have all the information you need to bring your A-game to the golf course. We will arm you with comprehensive knowledge about all things golf, from the best golf GPS watches to all about indoor golf. We specialize in buying guides, reviews, how-to tips and golf nutrition tips. If you would like to learn and grow with us as a golfer, do follow us on our website.

1 comment:

Brian said...

Very nice summary of the features of GPS and rangefinders.

I have evolved to a process where I use both devices. As I drive up to my golf ball, it typically will look at the GPS to get a distance to the front of the green and middle. Then I will use the rangefinder to get an exact distance to the flag. Especially when I have a wedge into the green, I want an exact distance. I have used 3 different rangefinders over the last few years and they all work well. My biggest concern has been with the available GPS devices. I had been using an older Garmin device (G3 I think) that required AAA batteries every two rounds. I probably spent more in batteries over the years than I did the actual unit. I was hoping to replace it two years ago and I wanted to get the latest Garmin G8. Unfortunately, because it provided elevation data, it was not tournament legal. I play in quite a few tournaments so that wouldn't work. Now I primarily use smartphone apps for the GPS data.