Golf GPS vs Rangefinder

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Sick of losing the weekend sweepstake? Or just tired of your golfing pal striding up to the green while you have buried it in the front bunker? When you want to up your game, you could always get a couple of lessons, spend more time at the range or buy some shiny new tailored clubs. But have you ever thought of adding a touch of technology to your game?

Fairways across the country are dotted with weekend players using the latest technology to avoid another bogey. They are using GPS devices and a similar type of laser device to get accurate information on distances to greens, bunkers and more – so they always choose the right club.

However, a golf GPS and a laser rangefinder device are not the same. They have some subtle and obvious differences that divide opinion. This post is to help you choose what type of device you prefer and the differences between them. There are even some top recommendations at the end!

🤔Considerations Before Purchasing

Knowing the distance to the green, the pin an even the hazards is important if you want to score well. Choosing one club too little or too much can be the difference between a par and a triple bogey in some cases, especially if your short game is weak. Unfortunately, our intuition and the club markers can be misleading which brings us to our first consideration.

⛳️Regular Course vs. Different Courses

If you’re a member at a club and play the same course week in week out, you may be content with basic yardages. You know the course inside out so will most likely benefit from more accurate distances to the pin.

A GPS watch which gives you yardages to the front, middle and back of the greens may be best for you, or a laser rangefinder that can give you exact distances to the pin. With these you’re not over-complicating things but will have confidence that you have the right club.

However, if you regularly play new courses you may want to consider your options. Sometimes we cannot calculate the real distance when considering big downhill or uphill slopes. Fairway markers are not always a good indication either, especially if you are playing somewhere different and you’re not sure whether they go to the front, middle or back of the green.

A GPS device will eliminate all that for you with accurate distances to the greens. And if you’re a little more competitive, you can upgrade to a device that measures distances to bunkers, ponds and any other hazards on the course. Also, make sure the device has data for all the areas you typically play. some manufactures offer worldwide databases, some European, whilst some only offer UK – not ideal if you go on an annual golf trip abroad.

What a golf GPS won’t tell you though is the distance to the flag…

If you prefer to just zone in on the flag and hit it, a rangefinder will be best suited for you. You can also point them at bunkers, hazard stakes, trees etc. to get accurate readings to other obstacles. Some courses however aren’t that straightforward and you can’t always see the flag or danger on a hole. Also if its raining heavily, super windy or a little foggy it’s also going to be pretty difficult to zap the flag which is the only downside to these when playing new courses.

Before you make your mind up, you should also consider some of the below…

🤳Ease of Use

Both types of devices are designed to be used easily whilst out on the course.

Most Golf GPS devices are simple enough and include pre-set and updated course information, as well as performance tracking on occasions. Generally these will update themselves to the correct hole based on your location meaning you don’t have to do anything. There are different options such as watch straps, hat clips and arms to fix to golf trollies that make them easily accessible on the course.

The laser rangefinder devices are a little more fiddly do require more human input, but they have a few features that help, with powerful magnifying lenses, different ways of scanning for the pin and light ergonomic designs. They do take a little bit of getting used to, but after a couple of rounds you should get the hand of it.

🎯Pin-Point Accuracy

The GPS devices are only as accurate as how the courses have been mapped. That’s because they provide readings based on pre-set course information and your location.

If courses have been updated without any updates to the GPS software, then it’s likely that your yardages will be out. Most manufactures are pretty good at keeping on top of this, just make sure you go with a reputable brand and ensure the software is up to date.

Compare this to the rangefinders where you need to laser your location to the flag. This tends to be a little more accurate but sometimes human error can occur, and you can easily lock onto a tree just behind the green unknowingly and be surprised when you have hit your shot onto the following tee box. The best rangefinders, like the ones below, counter this with magnifying lenses and a vibration feature that lets you find the pin easier – even in strong winds.

When both devices are used correctly, they are equally accurate and impressively so. Some of the best devices have margins of error of less than one yard!

🔋Battery Life

If you’re the type of person who forgets to charge their phone at night or you play multiple rounds a day, you might be best off opting for a laser where the battery should last north of 20 or so rounds. You can carry some spare batteries in your golf bag which are easily replaced out on the course meaning you’ll always have your yardages.

GPS devices on the other hand tend to rely heavier on being charged by cable overnight. The batteries on these devices have advanced somewhat over the past few years so most should last at least a couple of rounds on one charge. However, if you forget to plug them in, they’ll be no use to you out on the course.

Golf GPS Summary

Here is a snapshot of what you need to know about golf GPS devices.


  • Many are light smartwatch-type designs
  • Less prone to human errors
  • Offer visual course details
  • Can track performance stats
  • High levels of accuracy


  • May be limited to certain courses
  • May not accommodate slopes and gradients
  • Need to be charged regularly

Laser Rangefinder Summary

Here is the average laser rangefinder in a nutshell.


  • Can be used on any course
  • Incredibly accurate
  • May offer 2D course layouts
  • Some models can track performance too
  • Factors in slopes (can’t use in competitions)


  • Potential errors when locating the flag
  • Bulkier and heavier to carry

Top 5 Golf GPS Devices

1. Shot Scope V2 Tracker


  • Distances to front, middle and back of green
  • Distances to hazards
  • Automatically records each shot for post round analysis, with over 100 tour level statistics available
  • 40,000+ courses available worldwide
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Know where the bunker is and where the pin has been set with the Shot Scope V2 Tracker. It’s one of the best Golf GPS devices that works without the need to have a smartphone to hand. However, the product is not just about feet and club selection; it’s also about tracking your performance so you can reflect on your round.

Read our full Shot Scope V2 review here.

2. Garmin GPS S10 Approach Golf Watch


  • 41,000 golf courses pre-programmed
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Watches have gotten smarter but now they have personalities too. This stellar Garmin GPS device is a fan of the fairways and will help you make your way to the green by providing accurate yardages. With over 41,000 golf courses programmed into the watch, the most well-travelled golfing gang will be accommodated.

Read our full Garmin Approach S10 review here.

3. SkyCaddie Linx GT GPS Golfing Watch


  • Readings to hazards and greens
  • Activity and calorie tracker
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Another option for those that prefer the GPS watch design over a bulkier device is this SkyCaddie creation. It will give you accurate readings to water, sand traps, fairway edges on those tricky dogleg holes and more. Yet, it will also let you access other information to do with your round such as calories burned, steps taken and much more!

4. TomTom Golfer 2 GPS Watch

TomTom is a household name when it comes to GPS systems and you will be sure of the right club selection with this lightweight GPS golfing watch on your wrist. Aside from helping you shave strokes off your scorecard, it will also let you review your game so you can identify areas of improvement. Consider TomTom as one of the best caddies around – but you still have to carry your own bag.

5. Garmin Approach S60 GPS Golf Watch


  • Virtual hole layout previews
  • Touchscreen watch
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If you were impressed by the previous Garmin watch this one will certainly have your attention. Not only does this watch provide you with detailed course information to help you win the sweepstake, but it gives it to you with helpful visuals. You can see the whole layout from your watch, making it ideal for courses that you have never or infrequently played. Oh, and it’s a touchscreen watch too!

Top 5 Rangefinders

1. Bushnell Golf 2019 Tour V4 Shift Laser RangeFinder


  • Distances up to 400 yards
  • Slope compensation feature
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This rangefinder made by Bushnell is one of the top picks available. It can seek out pins from distances over 400 yards away using the item’s magnification lens. Even from these distances, the product is accurate up with a degree of error of just a single yard. Don’t worry about those slopes either! With the rangefinder’s slope compensation feature, you will never be fooled by the course.

2. Garmin Approach Z80 Golf Laser Range Finder

If you preferred the Garmin GPS watches above, you may prefer their rangefinders too. It has a lot of talking points including a phenomenal 10-inch range of error from as far away as 350 yards, 2D course maps of over 41,000 courses and it’s also water-resistant for those damper days on the greens. Use has also been made seamless with an automated flag-finding feature that saves you time.

3. Nikon Coolshot 40 Rangefinder

Another fantastic option is the Nikon model, equipped to find the distance of any target from eight to a staggering 650 yards. You’ll never have the fourball behind you complaining that you’re going slow either. The Nikon rangefinder has a stable and super-fast reader that takes less than a second to locate the pin and give you the important yardage information.

4. GolfBuddy L10 Laser Rangefinder

This ergonomically designed rangefinder has more features than standard, which puts it up there with the best. It includes a vibration sensor to let you know when you have found the pin and finding it will be easier with a wider lens, three targeting modes and even six magnification settings. It also has a feature to ensure you account for uphill and downhill slopes. Be club perfect with this rangefinder!

5. Easy Green Golf Rangefinder

The Easy Green Rangefinder will do exactly that – make getting to the green easy. Just like the previous model it will lock onto the pin with a vibrating setting which is perfect for those windy days on the course. Splash-proof and effective from over 1000 yards away, not to forget multiple magnification settings and a long-life battery, this is the dream partner for any golfer.

Final Verdict

There certainly are a lot of excellent GPS and rangefinder options out there. Those playing the same course may benefit more from a GPS device because they will be aware of slopes. Yet, those who play many courses are probably going to have more luck with a rangefinder. Which team are you on?