How To Use A Golf Rangefinder

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Last updatedLast updated: October 26, 2021
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The rangefinder is a very important device on the golf course. It functions to calculate the distance of the shooter from a target, such as a flagpole or pinhole. This allows you to make more informed decisions about how to play the ball. At the same time, many golf rangefinders also come with angle compensation (or slope calculation). This allows you to know the actual distance between the ball and the target, which can be uphill or downhill. With that information, you can not only decide how to play the ball, but also which club to use.

Simply put, a rangefinder is extremely useful. So how do you use one? It is quite simple.

What is a Golf Rangefinder?

How To Use A Golf Rangefinder

A rangefinder is a device that allows for remote measurement of distances. The rangefinder is the most accurate and simplest measuring device on a golf course. Using it for a visual distance measurement, it then allows you to choose the ideal golf club (driver, wood, iron, etc.) to play the shot. Some rangefinders make it possible for example to be able to measure the slopes of the terrain (adjustment of the distance with the difference in height) but this feature can only be used in training (prohibited in competition).

Why use a Golf Pathfinder?

Golf is a sport for the meticulous, in constant search of better performance and improvement. When we think of golf, we imagine golf clubs, balls and bags. But there is technology that can improve the score but also offer you a new experience.

The laser rangefinder has recently made its appearance for professional golfers as well as amateurs. Allowing distances to be measured, the rangefinder accurately measures the distance between the golfer and a chosen point on the course.

Types of Rangefinders

There are three types of rangefinders: laser rangefinder, optical rangefinder and GPS rangefinder.

Laser Range Finder

How To Use A Golf Rangefinder

The laser rangefinder is quite accurate and very versatile with application in different fields. It works by calculating the time it takes for a laser beam of light to hit at target.

Why laser light? Laser light is an electromagnetic wave that travels as an entity without getting dispersed. It is able to travel to a distant object and travel back to the emitting body, which in this case is the rangefinder.

Our team of experts recommend this BUSHNELL GOLF Tour V5 with adjustable slope technology (i.e. permissible in competitions where slope technology is disabled).

GPS Rangefinder

The GPS rangefinder uses Global positioning system (GPS) technology to verify a hole’s distance. It is a premium service which requires a subscription fee, the fee paid is dependent on the type of service subscribed to. They have high accuracy due to its use of GPS technology and it does not require much stability to operate. However, it requires regular software upgrade and its battery requires charging, making it more challenging to use than laser rangefinders. You can check out the best GPS rangefinder which has an extended battery life that can last 2 rounds before a recharge is required.

GPS Watches

GPS watches are modifications of the GPS rangefinder; it uses the same technology but different form. They are more convenient as they can be worn in everyday life and does not come with the challenge of stability. When on the golf course, it helps to triangulate the distance between the players and the intended target, providing the data necessary to make a better player. However, its results are less accurate than those of rangefinders but for someone who isn’t a beginner in the game of golf, this is less of a challenge. You can check out the best GPS watch here.

Optical Rangefinder

Optical rangefinder is the foremost rangefinder in the sports of golf, although it is less frequented these days, it can still be found with very few golfers who would rather stick to the old school way. It applies mechanical and optical principles to calculate the distance between the user and the target. There are different types, one of the easiest to use is the coincidence range finder. This device finds its application in both golf and hunting but as was said earlier, it is almost extinct in the world of golf. It is more of historical relevance as it has been replaced by modern GPS rangefinders, Laser rangefinders and GPS golf watch.

How Does a Golf Rangefinder Work?

Irrespective of its type, all rangefinders have a similar mechanism of action – it uses a scope to measure the distance. We will consider the two main types of rangefinders: GPS and laser, that golfers still use actively. As explained above they have the same mechanism of action but they achieve this purpose using different means based on their make. Let us simplify the process and get you started on how these “magical devices” really work.

How Do GPS Rangefinders Work?

They have been programmed with golf course data. Many models cover hundreds of thousands of golf course, more often than not your course is already programmed on the device. However, you should have downloaded the data while you are outside the course.

If you are inside the golf course, your location is automatically detected through GPS technology. Now, you have all the other details, such as area of the course, location of flags, boundaries, pins, etc. Once activated, you can read the distance to the back, front, sides, etc.

The GPS rangefinder has a limitation, you cannot use it to detect the distance between your location and a random target. The target you intend to measure must have been preprogrammed, it is impossible to measure any random target using this rangefinder.

Most of the time, obstacles are not preprogrammed in while the courses are being mapped, it is therefore impossible to calculate the distance between these obstacles and your spot, making your strategy creation process a lot more difficult.

How Does a Laser Rangefinder Work?

A laser rangefinder is a more basic piece of technology. The mechanism of action of laser rangefinders is as follows, it fires a beam of light to a target at constant speed, it then approximates how long it takes to return.

There is a receiver component built into the laser rangefinders. The accuracy of the reading from a laser rangefinder depends on the speed and the sharpness of the pulse of light.

Laser rangefinders are not pre-programmed, there is therefore no limitation to particular selection of targets. You can measure your distance to anything with a laser rangefinder if it is within its range. So, naturally, laser rangefinders are versatile. They can be applied in the military, in golf and archery hunting. Due to their versatility, they can easily be applied everywhere.

However, there are differences between the types of laser rangefinders used for different purposes, using the one intended for one purpose for another will be challenging and may cause errors. For example, lightning is a requirement for rangefinders used in hunting, meanwhile this is not the case for those used in golf, it might therefore be difficult to use rangefinders used in golfing for hunting.

Using a rangefinder is fairly easy and your mastery of it improves with consistent use. Additionally, it is supplied with a user manual which provides guidance as you start to use the device.

In order to distinguish their products, different manufacturers add extra features to their products, some of which includes; vibration on spotting a flag, getting stuck when poles and pins are detected. Other features include: hole detecting properties, stability and focus and waterproof properties.

Though simple to use, golf rangefinders should not be taken for granted and handled carelessly. You need to be informed and be knowledgeable about the guidelines achieve your goals and calculate your range accurately.

With practice, you will get used to the details of your rangefinder. Mastering this process takes time, it might take up to a week or two to become used to your model of rangefinder if you are a first-time user. Irrespective of how long it takes, once you get used to it, you can measure distances professionally and enhance the quality of your game.

So, be patient with the process and you will be more equipped to play your shots.

Where Do I Aim My Rangefinder?

For a beginner, you can start to practice aiming by targeting the flags. Newly produced rangefinders are sensor enabled, they vibrate when a flag is detected. However, not all range finders have this feature. As you master the process of targeting flags, you can start to aim at the farthest distance possible with your rangefinder.

There are two locations where you should aim your rangefinder from:

  1. The Tees: Aiming your rangefinder from the tees gives you a broad overview of the golf course and enable the rangefinder learn the environment you are playing in, figuring where the water hazards, trees, bunkers and doglegs are located. Having this overview of your course will enable you develop an informed strategy for playing your game.
  2. On Approach Shots: You should assess the landscape of your approach shots, so as to avoid all potential pitfalls. Use the rangefinder to note the distance of water and the bunkers to the limits of the green and plan your shot using this information.

How Do I Use My Rangefinder if There Is a Slope?

How To Use A Golf Rangefinder

Some rangefinders have slope functions, although these rangefinders are disallowed in many tournaments, they can enhance your practice. If you are using a range finder without this function however, you can use it on a slope by following these steps:

  1. Get a location parallel to the target
  2. Get a good vision by setting your sights
  3. Direct your device to the ground, then focus on your target, the range finder will process the results and display the angle of return.


How do I hold my rangefinder steady?

A rangefinder requires a lot of stability when it is in use, this can only be achieved if it is held steady. Using the GPS smartwatch on one hand will reduce the need for stability through this mechanical means however this might come at the cost of sacrificing the accuracy that rangefinders give the golfer.

To hold the range finder steady, there are two options:

  1. Grasp the device between the palm of both hands, this provides the device as much stability as possible and rest your arms on your chest, this provides a lot of stability for your device.
  2. Use a Tripod: A tripod will provide a better stability than the palm would, and is the preferred option. As much as possible, try to get the tripod that fits your rangefinder device.

Irrespective of your choice, you need to practice consistently to become steadier with the use of your rangefinder.

What rangefinder do pro golfers use?

Professional golfers use either laser rangefinder, GPS rangefinder or GPS smartwatch because of the accuracy of their results. The final choice however depends on what each player requires to elevate their games. It’s an individual decision. You can check out the best golf rangefinders under $100 here.

Final Thoughts

In this article, we have provided information on what rangefinders are, how they work, and how you can use your rangefinders to enhance your performance as you play your golf sports. Operating rangefinders is very easy and it gets better as you use them.

The improvements on rangefinders technology have made getting the accurate distance of uphill, slopes, and downhills easier and more accurate. Laser rangefinders are the latest rangefinders but the GPS rangefinders and optical rangefinders are also great to have. After using the range finders to determine the actual distance, it will make it easier for you to know the right club to do the job extremely well.

Golf rangefinders are gadgets designed to make golfing easier and more enjoyable for golfers. This in turn might result in making them dependent on the gadgets and making the game more mechanical.

The use of rangefinders is limited in competitions, which means you also have to improve on actualizing accurate distances on your own. Rangefinders are of great help and assistance but when it’s absent it should not stop you from enjoying the game and performing well.

As much as you enjoy using rangefinders to get accurate distance also make sure you are building yourself against when you left home without it or you do not have access to them. Be good on your own.

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