Golf Rangefinder or GPS Watch: How to Choose

Louis Pringle
Jan 07, 2020
5 minutes
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Knowledge is key for anyone looking to have success on the golf course. Knowing your game (distance per club, habits, strengths, and weaknesses) and the course will be essential to a solid day out on the field.

Most courses will help you out with distance using yardage markers along the fairways. Others will even go as far as setting up a layout of the hole next to the tee box to give the players a better idea of what is ahead.

Unfortunately, not all golf courses will go the extra mile to offer you such comfort. This is why you need to be prepared for all situations with the best tool possible for you, whether it'd be a Range Finder or a GPS Watch.

This guide will answer the following questions:

  • What's a Range Finder?
  • What's a GPS Watch?
  • Range finder or GPS Watch - What's best?

What’s a Range Finder?

As the name suggests, the main goal of this tool is to inform you of the distance left to cover from where you are standing to where you want to send your shot.

A quality range finder will give you more than just the distance to the flagstick. Take the Bushnell Tour V5 Jolt Range Finder as an example which also shows the ascent or descent from the fairway to the hole. It can also be used as binoculars to help you anticipate the risk areas of the course.

The range finder's long view will also help you determine whether to hit your ball to the front or back of the green with your approach shot. Hitting an approach to the front of an uphill green can become a real problem, but hitting too long of an approach on a downhill green will become an even bigger problem.

Shop The Bushnell Tour V5 Jolt Range Finder

How Does It Work?

A good range finder will give you much more than distance. Some of the top products on the market will also show you the descent or ascent of the fairway towards the hole. It can also serve as binoculars helping you to look ahead for any hazards or strange patterns in the course’s layout. Lucky for you, it's very easy to use.

  • First, place the lens of the range finder over your eye, just like you would do with a pair of binoculars;
  • Then, aim the sightline inside the range finder's lens towards the target;
  • Once you've picked your target, hold down the power button for a few seconds;
  • Release it once the information you're looking for appears in the range finder's lens.

This way, you'll never miss your target again.

Use it for practice

A range finder will come in handy for any golfer looking to better their game. Its ability to measure distance will help you learn your true hitting distance when practicing at the driving range.

There’s simply nothing worse than flying 20 yards past the flag or landing your approach 10 yards shy of the green and having to take an extra shot to reach the cup. Use it wisely and you’ll cut down on extra shots.

Related | Pro's Tips To Keeping Up The Swing in The Off-Season

What's a GPS Watch?

Although knowing your distance is an essential tool for improving your game on the course, some tools will provide you with even more details that could help you better your game. 

For those looking for that extra push while out on the course, your best option will be a GPS watch. Garmin and Bushnell have created an apparatus that will guide you on the course providing distances to the front, middle, and back of the green. These tools are also there to keep score for you, eliminating the need for paper. 

Shop The Bushnell Ion Edge GPS Watch

Similar options

If you’re looking to make the most out of your purchase, that is having the most perks for the price paid, Bushnell has got you covered with their voice golf GPS. The greatest perk of the Bushnell Wingman GPS is the vocal component. The GPS will give you vocal feedback regarding your next shot as if you had an actual caddie by your side! On top of that, the Wingman allows you to play your favorite tunes when you’re on the course and magnetically sticks to your golf cart.

Shop The Bushnell Wingman GPS Watch

Range finder or GPS Watch - what's best?

Range finder

As all of these products are in a comparable price range, it is important to consider your needs. If you are simply looking for a reliable tool capable of providing you with precise distances, the range finder is the solution for you.

Perks of range finders

  • Shows the exact distance between you and your target
  • Allows you to aim directly for the target of your choice
  • Some models can even account for the slope of the course

GPS Watch

On the other hand, if you are not able to see your target from where you are on the field, you will not be able to use the range finder's laser sight. However, your GPS watch will tell you how far you are from the green, regardless of your position on the course.

Perks of GPS watches

  • Provides you with distances to the front, back and middle of the green
  • Some models will allow you to keep count of your shots directly on the watch
  • Eliminates the need for a paper scorecard

By recognizing your needs and habits as a golfer, you will be able to decide which option is best for you.

Are you simply looking to have the right distance on each of your shots? The range finder will allow you to obtain this information with precision.

Do you want to maximize your investment in your distance measuring tool? The GPS watch will tell you the distance that separates you from the green as well as its dimensions. In addition, you will be able to keep track of your shots with certain models.

Until next time,

The Golf Avenue Team

Further reading

In this article, we break down what you should be carrying in your golf bag at all times, so that you'll always be prepared for what might come at you.

Our in-house PGA of Canada professional, Nicolas Drozdoski-Richardson, offers insightful tips to help you avoid that early season rust.