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  • Golf Rangefinder and GPS Watch Buying Guide

    Pro Tip: Golf Rangefinder and GPS Watch Buying Guide

    We live in a world where the most unimaginable tech is at our fingertips (or on our wrist); from golf rangefinders to golf watches, it’s almost impossible to not lock in on your exact distance on the golf course.

    We’ve come a long way from guessing by sight and feel or even using yardage markers. While those 100-, 150- and 200-yard markers can certainly help give you a general idea of how far it is to the middle of the green, maybe you want to hit it short and let it roll up or maybe you want to hit to the back of the green to avoid a large false front. That’s where golf tech comes in.

    Today, most avid golfers rely on technology to provide precise distances. If you’re playing without a handheld golf laser rangefinder, a GPS watch or handheld GPS device, then you’re simply at a disadvantage.

    These products entered the market in the 1990s and steadily gained popularity over the next decade before exploding in recent years. Major non-golf companies, including Bushnell and Garmin, rank among the biggest makers of these must-have accessories.

    You’ll find a wide selection of new golf rangefinders and GPS units here at GlobalGolf. Let’s review the different product types and what you should look for when purchasing.


    Golf Rangefinders (Featuring Bushnell)

    Bushnell Tour V5 Shift Patriot Pack

    First, a word on how these technological marvels work.

    Basically, the golf rangefinder shoots a laser beam toward your target of choice – for example, a flagstick – which reflects the beam back to the device. The rangefinder uses the reflection time to determine the distance between you and the object.

    If it’s been a while since you’ve used a rangefinder, there’s good news: They no longer require special prisms affixed to flagsticks in order to gauge the distance. The stick itself provides an ample reflective surface.

    The industry leader in laser rangefinders, by a fair margin, is Bushnell. Long known for its rifle scopes, binoculars and other optical equipment, the company entered the golf game in 1995 and has dominated ever since.

    Bushnell Golf enjoys a solid reputation for quality and innovation. While neither PGA Tour golfers nor their caddies are allowed to use rangefinders during tournament play, they can use them during practice rounds – and according to the company, 99% of pros choose Bushnell rangefinders.

    Other top brands of golf laser rangefinders include Garmin, Blue Tees, Nikon, Golf Buddy, Precision Pro, Leupold and Callaway.

    What to Look for in a Golf Laser Rangefinder

    Blue Tees Series 2 Pro Slope

    If a rangefinder gives you bad yardages, it can do more harm than good – so the No. 1 quality to look for is accuracy. Fortunately, laser rangefinders excel in this department, with many claiming accuracy to within +/- 1 yard of the target from several hundred yards away.

    Today’s rangefinders also acquire the target much more easily than earlier models. The best can quickly filter out background clutter (such as trees or fence posts) and focus on your actual aiming point. Speed is important, of course, because a slow rangefinder can bog down your group.

    If you’re looking for extra features in a rangefinder, you may be interested in a device that accounts for uphill and downhill slope in its measurements. (For instance, it adds yards for an uphill shot and subtracts them for a downhill shot.) Just be aware that the slope feature must be turned off if you’re competing in a tournament played under USGA rules.

    How far can these devices measure, you ask? Much farther than you’ll ever need on the course. The lowest maximum range is around 400 yards, with most around 800 and some claiming a range of more than 1,000 yards.

    A golf rangefinder’s display – what you see when looking into the device – can also make or break its usefulness. Simplicity and clarity are crucial, since too much info can get confusing and a lack of sharpness is tough on the eyes. The major rangefinder brands feature LCD readouts, which typically show yardage to the chosen target and, in devices which measure hills, slope-compensated distance.

    Garmin rangefinders offer a particularly sharp display which combines both laser-measured distance and GPS points, such as yardage to the front, back and center of a green. Bushnell Golf also makes hybrid laser rangefinder-GPS units for golfers who want the best of both worlds.

    An often overlooked but important feature is water resistance or waterproofing. Most laser rangefinders offer some level of water resistance, meaning a bit of moisture won’t hurt them, but a good drenching could penetrate the casing and damage electronic components. Top-of-the-line models are more likely to be completely waterproof, so they can be fully submerged (at least for a short time) without harm.

    Speaking of damage, make sure you choose a rangefinder with a limited warranty – preferably two years or more. This protects you against any factory defect that comes up within the specified time.

    Last but not least, consider the look and feel of any laser rangefinder before buying. Colors and styles vary, as do weights and sizes. Rangefinders have gotten more compact as the technology develops; most fit easily inside a pocket and weigh well under a pound.


    Golf GPS Watches(Featuring Garmin)

    Garmin Approach S62 Watch
    Garmin Approach S42 Watch

    Handheld golf GPS units were all the rage – until GPS watches came along. Now, many golfers prefer the convenience of carrying their GPS right on their wrist, with no worry about misplacing it, leaving it in the cart after a round, dropping it into a water hazard or other common mishaps.

    Golf GPS watches also double as regular watches, so you can simply wear one on an everyday basis. Many will track your steps, your sleeping patterns, your heart rate and your performances in other sports. You can even integrate a golf GPS watch with your other devices and receive notifications via text or email.

    Top brands include GPS giant Garmin, along with SkyGolf, Golf Buddy, Izzo and many others. These companies also make handheld GPS units.

    Garmin golf watches have savvy technology that can not only give you accurate distances to the pin, but also to layup points before hazards and past tree lines to get you past the dogleg. Garmin certainly offers some of the best golf watches on the market. As a bonus, the best ladies golf GPS watch also falls under the Garmin umbrella, as they have several stylish options that are still packed with technology.

    What to Look for in a Golf GPS Watch

    SkyGolf SkyCaddie LX2 Watch

    As with laser rangefinders, accuracy is the most important quality in a GPS device. This has become a virtual non-issue in recent years, though, as GPS accuracy is generally reliable to within a yard or two.

    The screen itself is another key factor. You want a screen that’s large enough to easily read, but not so big as to be bulky on your wrist; the typical screen for a golf GPS watch is 1.0” – 1.4” across. Higher-end models feature full-color, LCD touch-screen displays with graphical depictions of the hole you’re playing. You’ll want to check out a GPS watch’s clarity, brightness and ease of use in high sunlight or darker conditions.

    Like their handheld counterparts, golf GPS watches come with thousands of course maps preloaded for easy access. How many courses? Anywhere from 35,000 to 40,000-plus – representing every corner of the globe.

    The more reference points a GPS watch offers, the better. For example, all units provide yardages from your location to the front, back and middle of the green. Most devices display distances to hazards, such as water and bunkers. Best of all are GPS watches that serve up yardages to any place you choose, such as a specific spot on the green or in the fairway.

    If you really want to go all-out, look for a golf GPS watch that provides “plays like” distances, which factor in uphill and downhill slopes; wind speed and direction; a “virtual caddie” function to aid in club selection; and green maps showing undulations on the putting surface.

    (As with a laser rangefinder, some of these functions must be disabled for tournament use.)

    Many golf GPS watches will track not only your stats, such as driving distance and greens in regulation, but they’ll also clock your swing speed, clubhead path, impact angles and other analytical metrics.

    Golf GPS watches are powered by rechargeable lithium batteries. Fully charged, there’s plenty of juice to get you through a couple of 18-hole rounds or more using the GPS function. Battery time is considerably longer with GPS turned off if you want to double your GPS as a smartwatch during the week.

    A final factor to consider when shopping for a golf GPS watch: some companies charge an annual subscription fee to access their course database, use swing analysis functions and store statistical info.


    Golf Laser Rangefinder vs. GPS Watch: Which is Right for You?

    When wondering if you should go the golf GPS watch or rangefinder route, GlobalGolf is here to help you figure out the best golf tech for you. Different golfers value different things, so ask yourself which of these are most important:

    1. Exact yardage to the pin

    For this, a rangefinder is best. Most GPS units only give you distances to the front, back and middle of the green, so there’s some guesswork involved in figuring out the actual distance to the flag.

    2. Ease of use

    While a golf GPS watch isn’t hard to operate, it does have a lot more going on than a rangefinder – so it can take longer to get the exact info you want. With a golf rangefinder, it’s as simple as point and shoot.

    3. Extra features (e.g., stat tracking, swing speed, health data, etc.)

    Hands-down, a golf GPS watch is the pick here. The information available in high-end models is almost dizzying.

    4. Price

    Laser rangefinders and golf GPS watches are comparably priced on both the low and high ends. This doesn’t include any subscription fees associated with a GPS unit. (Some charge fees, others don’t.)

    Can’t decide whether a rangefinder or GPS fits you best? Consider a hybrid unit that combines the two.

    GlobalGolf’s Exclusive UTry® Program

    Buying a rangefinder or GPS unit can be tricky – and we want you to feel 100% confident in your purchase.

    That’s why GlobalGolf’s UTry® program makes so much sense. For just $25, you can test any new device - like the latest Bushnell golf rangefinder - for 14 days where, when and how you want. If you don’t like it, send it back for free. If you want to keep it, we’ll bill you for the total price minus your $25 trial fee.


    Pay Over Time with GlobalGolf and Affirm

    Prefer to spread out payments for a new product? We’ve partnered with Affirm to let you do just that. At checkout, simply choose “Affirm,” answer a handful of basic questions, then review and confirm your financing offer.

    Affirm offers three-, six- and 12-month payoff terms with interest rates of 0% – 30%, depending on your qualifications.

    With so much golf tech out there, there’s no reason to not have a golf rangefinder from Bushnell or another brand in your bag; the same goes for a Garmin golf watch on your wrist. Take advantage of all the options available and put that tech to use to improve your score.