Golf GPS Vs. Laser Rangefinder

Golfers have long relied on accurate distance measurements to make informed decisions on the course. Two popular tools for this purpose are Golf GPS devices and Laser Rangefinders. In this comparison, we’ll delve into the characteristics, pros, and cons of each, helping you decide which one suits your needs best.

Golf GPS Devices


Golf GPS devices use satellite technology to provide golfers with precise distance data. They are typically worn as watches or attached to golf carts.


  1. Ease of Use: Golf GPS devices are user-friendly and require minimal effort to operate. They display distances to the front, middle, and back of the green, as well as hazards, on a screen.
  2. Course Mapping: Most GPS devices come preloaded with thousands of golf courses worldwide, ensuring you have course-specific data at your fingertips.
  3. Continuous Updates: These devices receive automatic updates, ensuring accuracy as golf course layouts change over time.
  4. No Line-of-Sight Needed: Unlike rangefinders, GPS devices do not require a clear line of sight to the target, making them suitable for blind shots or when obstructed by trees or other obstacles.
  5. Shot Tracking: Some GPS devices offer shot tracking features, allowing you to analyze your game and improve over time.


  1. Limited Precision: Golf GPS devices provide distances to predetermined points on the course (e.g., front, middle, back of the green) but may not give you precise measurements to specific targets or hazards.
  2. Dependent on Satellite Signal: They rely on a strong satellite signal, which can be affected by weather conditions or tree cover, potentially leading to inaccuracies.
  3. Battery Life: Battery life varies among models, but most GPS devices need recharging or changing batteries after a few rounds.

Laser Rangefinders


Laser rangefinders use laser technology to measure the exact distance between the device and the target. Golfers aim the rangefinder at a flagstick or hazard to get a precise yardage reading.


  1. Pinpoint Accuracy: Laser rangefinders offer precise distance measurements to any object you can target, such as bunkers, trees, or the flagstick.
  2. Quick Measurements: They provide instant readings, allowing for faster decision-making on the course.
  3. No Subscription Costs: Unlike some GPS devices that require annual subscriptions for course updates, rangefinders have no ongoing costs.
  4. Multi-Purpose: Rangefinders can be used for hunting or other outdoor activities, making them versatile tools.


  1. Line of Sight Required: Rangefinders require an unobstructed line of sight to the target, making them less useful for blind shots or when trees and other obstacles are in the way.
  2. Manual Input: Golfers need to manually target objects, which can be tricky for shaky hands or when trying to focus on small or distant targets.
  3. Course Mapping: Rangefinders do not provide detailed course maps or hole layouts like GPS devices, so you may need to rely on your course knowledge more.

Factors to Consider When Choosing

Before making your decision, consider the following factors to ensure you select the device that aligns best with your golfing preferences:

1. Budget

  • Golf GPS devices and laser rangefinders come in various price ranges. Determine how much you’re willing to invest in your distance-measuring device.

2. Course Familiarity

  • If you frequently play on unfamiliar courses, a GPS device with course mapping may be advantageous. It provides a visual layout of the hole, helping you make strategic decisions.

3. Precision Requirements

  • Evaluate how precise you need your distance measurements to be. If you’re a competitive player or demand exact yardages to hazards, a laser rangefinder may be the better choice.

4. Ease of Use

  • Consider your comfort level with technology and your willingness to learn a new device. GPS devices are generally more user-friendly, while rangefinders may require some practice for precise targeting.

5. Speed of Play

  • Think about your pace of play preferences. Laser rangefinders offer quick, on-the-spot measurements, which can speed up your game. GPS devices might require a bit more time to access distance information.

6. Battery Life

  • Check the battery life of the device you’re interested in. It can be frustrating to have your device run out of power mid-round, especially if you forget to charge it.

7. Weather and Environmental Conditions

  • Consider the typical weather conditions at the courses you play. GPS devices may struggle in heavy rain or under tree cover, while laser rangefinders are less affected by these factors.

8. Size and Weight

  • Think about portability and comfort. GPS watches are lightweight and easy to carry, while laser rangefinders are often small and fit easily in a pocket or golf bag.

9. Additional Features

  • Explore any extra features that each device offers. Some GPS devices provide hazard information, shot tracking, and scorekeeping. Some rangefinders have slope-adjustment capabilities for elevation changes.

10. Personal Preference

  • Ultimately, it’s crucial to go with what feels right for you. Some golfers have a strong preference for one type of device over the other due to comfort and confidence.

Features Comparison

FeatureGolf GPSLaser Rangefinder
Accuracy+/- 3-5 yards+/- 1 yard
Distance MeasurementAutomaticManual
Slope MeasurementYes (some models)Yes (some models)
Battery Life10-20 hoursLong-lasting
Price Range$100 – $500$150 – $600+

Pros and Cons

AspectGolf GPSLaser Rangefinder
Pros– Easy to use– Highly accurate
– No need for line of sight– No ongoing subscription fees
– Preloaded course maps– Simple point-and-shoot operation
Cons– May require subscription fees– Requires line of sight
– Less accurate than rangefinders– Limited in poor weather

Popular Brands

BrandGolf GPS BrandsLaser Rangefinder Brands
ExamplesGarmin, Bushnell, SkyCaddieBushnell, Nikon, Leupold
TomTom, GolfBuddyCallaway, Precision Pro
IZZO, Shot NaviTecTecTec, Vortex Optics

Key Functions

FunctionGolf GPSLaser Rangefinder
Distance to GreenYesYes
Hazard AlertsYes (some models)No
Score TrackingYesNo
Course MappingYesNo
Tournament LegalSome modelsYes (with slope disabled)

User Experience

AspectGolf GPSLaser Rangefinder
Ease of SetupGenerally easyQuick and straightforward
Display QualityColor screens, easy to readClear optics, no screen
Learning CurveLow, user-friendly interfacesMinimal, point and shoot
DurabilityModerate durabilityRobust, built to last
User ReviewsMixed, depends on the modelGenerally positive


In summary, both Golf GPS devices and Laser Rangefinders have their merits and drawbacks. Your choice should depend on your specific needs, preferences, and the type of golfing experience you desire. Ultimately, whichever device helps you improve your game and enjoy your time on the course is the right one for you.


Golf GPS Vs. Laser Rangefinder


  • Anglo Carson

    Anglo Carson, a Certified Golf Instructor, embarked on a remarkable journey, driven by his unwavering love for golf. He founded The Golf Mine with a singular mission - to create a golfing haven where passion knows no boundaries. His lifelong love affair with golf, combined with his expertise as a Certified Golf Instructor, turned into a vision to share his extensive knowledge, inspire, and promote the game he holds dear.

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