The Best Golf Rangefinders and GPS Devices
Finding a great new driver or putter can be exciting, but the best gear purchase of the year in golf might actually be a distance-measuring device. These sporty gizmos come in a variety of shapes and sizes and are packed with technology that can really help change your game. Each one gives precise, instantaneous readings to the green, water hazards, fairway bunkers, trees and other obstacles, helping golfers decide what club to pull for every shot they face in a round.
There are two primary types of measuring devices—GPS units and hand-held laser rangefinders. With GPS devices, you only need to step up to your ball and look at the device to see the yardages you have left to the front, middle and back of the green, as well as to hazards you may face along the way. What you won’t see is the exact yardage to the intended target, such as the flag or a specific tree. If that’s your preference, you’re better off getting a laser rangefinder.
The biggest difference among rangefinders is that some of them include the popular “slope” feature, which calculates elevation change for uphill or downhill shots and adds that into the equation when giving you a yardage, while others don’t. The Rules of Golf, as governed by the United States Golf Association (USGA), state that rangefinders are legal during tournaments provided the slope setting is turned off, which was the case during the 2021 PGA Championship at Kiawah Island’s Ocean Course. Switching in and out of the slope mode is as simple as pressing a button or flipping a small switch. To be clear, there are also other distinguishing features to set apart the GPS units and laser rangefinders. You can learn more in the reviews below.
Most importantly, adding a GPS device or laser rangefinder to your golf-gear arsenal can boost your confidence, speed up play (no need to walk off yardages to the 150-yard marker, sprinkler heads, etc.) and help you shoot lower scores. Whether you’re in the market for your own device or want to get one for the favorite golfer in your life (they make great presents), you can find all the best options—including those listed here—at Golf Galaxy stores and at golfgalaxy.com.
Bushnell, a leader and innovator in the laser rangefinder category, debuted slope technology in 2005, and the company’s newest algorithm delivers even more precise distances when factoring in elevation changes. The eight-ounce device calculates distances to objects as far away as 1,300 yards and is accurate to within one yard. Players can also zoom in on the flag up to 400 yards away. Two tell-tale signs the device is locked onto a target: the unit vibrates in your hand and a red ring appears around the perimeter of the screen. A strong, built-in magnetic strip makes it easy to mount the product on any metal surface (i.e., cart bars) when not in use, and the bright LCD display has clear black numerals and 6x magnification, so objects appear six-times closer than they are. (The Tour V5 Shift can be used in tournaments when the Slope mode is off.) A two-year limited warranty from date of purchase covers defects in materials and workmanship.
Years ago, rangefinders weren’t as consistent or dependable as many would’ve preferred, because players couldn’t know for sure if they were getting yardages to the pin or a tree behind the green. Bushnell rectified that situation in 2013 when it unveiled JOLT, a technology that’s once again upgraded in these new models that causes the hand-held unit to vibrate when the laser locks on to its target. A second built-in sensory indicator—a flashing red ring encircles the display—adds further confirmation. Storing the 4.5-inch device during the round is a snap, and a large, embedded magnet allows you to attach the device to your golf cart, pushcart, etc. The Tour V5 doesn’t come with the slope mode (whereas the Tour V5 Shift does have it). Comes with a two-year limited warranty from purchase date for defects in materials and workmanship.
This top-of-the-line rangefinder is loaded with innovative features. Its slope function calculates the distance based on elevation change, temperature and barometric pressure, and tabulates it all for very precise readings, and it’s easy to switch in and out of the slope mode for tournament play (or otherwise). Similar to the company’s Tour V5 series, there are visual (red ring) and physical confirmations (vibration) to let you know the laser has nailed its target. The Pro XE can be magnetically mounted on the cart during the round for easy access, and the waterproof, 11-ounce unit can shoot distances up to 1,300 yards and read flags from 450 yards. It provides great clarity and has 7x magnification, so landmarks appear seven times closer than they are. As with the other Bushnell devices, a two-year limited warranty covers defects in materials and workmanship.
Ever had a round that went from complete sunshine to gray skies, then back to sunshine? It can be challenging to make out the numbers in the viewfinder of your range finder as lighting conditions change, but thanks to “Auto Ambient Display” technology, the 3 Max allows you to see black numbers on bright sunny days and red numbers in cloudy (darker) weather conditions. The S3 Max also vibrates in your hand when it locks on to a target, and the unit features slope technology (which should be turned off during tournaments) and built-in magnetic plates so you can stick the device to the cart. In scan mode, the product lets you survey the entire hole for yardages. The S3 Max zeroes in on targets up to 900 yards and runs on a CR-2 3V battery (three batteries come in the original packaging). The device has a 60-day money back guarantee and two-year manufacturer warranty from purchase date.
The Tour Trek gives measurements up to 1,000 yards and can shoot the pin from 450 yards. It offers several features found in high-end laser rangefinders but at a lower price—for instance, the device’s “signal slope” technology makes it vibrate to indicate the laser is fixed on the target. The slope function also factors uphill or downhill into the distance equation but doesn’t calculate for wind. Another cool feature: players can hold down the on/off button to scan the landscape for continuous yardage readings, and you can use it in tournaments as long as the slope feature is turned off. This water-resistant rangefinder has legible black numerals, 6x magnification and a replaceable 3-volt battery, and it comes with a one-year warranty from initial date of purchase.
This model has four settings: Normal, scan, pin seeker and pin seeker with slope. In the normal mode, simply point and shoot at the target for best results. Use the scan mode when checking terrain around the green but not aiming at the pin. With pin seeker and pin seeker with slope, the power button must be held down while panning across the pin (from left to right or right to left), then you release the button to read the shot distance. The unit doesn’t vibrate when it locks on the target (the higher-end model, ULT-X, will shake), but a feature called “first target priority” gives the yardage to the closest object (i.e., a tree). With VPRO500S, you can shoot objects up to 540 yards away within one yard of accuracy. The 6.5-ounce unit has 6x magnification, lithium 3-volt battery, a one-year limited warranty from date of purchase, and 30-day, full money-back guarantee.
The water-resistant NX9 Slope can shoot targets up to 400 yards away and is accurate to within one yard. The device shakes in your hand to indicate the laser is zeroed on the pin, and the adaptive-slope function considers elevation (uphill or downhill) before displaying both the measured distance (no slope) and yardage the shot will play. You can keep the rangefinder in your bag or cart during the round or take advantage of the built-in magnetic strip by attaching it to the metal cart bars. The LCD display has clear optics and 6x magnification, and the device comes with free lifetime CR-2 replacement batteries, a 90-day money-back guarantee, and a two-year warranty from purchase date on manufacturer defects.
The Wingman is a GPS device and so much more—its overall design is meant to make time spent on the course more enjoyable. To get started, pair the 1.5-pound speaker to your music source and the Bushnell Golf App (free). Once connected, you can listen to tunes through the speaker. When it’s time to play your shot, press the button on the remote and hear the distances to the front, middle and back of the green. The Wingman attaches to the cart bar so you know where it is at all times during the round. It’s powered by a rechargeable lithium-ion battery that can go up to 10 hours, and a built-in USB port provides the flexibility to charge another device while using the Wingman. There are 36,000 courses loaded in the Bushnell GPS system, so you’ll likely never encounter a course it hasn’t mapped perfectly. A one-year limited warranty from date of purchase covers defects in materials and workmanship.
The Approach S62 is no ordinary golf watch. After you play five rounds with it, the built-in “virtual caddie” uses shot data to suggest club selection and aim based on your previous play. It takes into account wind direction and speed, adjusts for uphill or downhill shots, and can be used in tournaments when set to “Tournament Mode.” The device also suggests three ways to play the hole, which is useful when making decisions on an unfamiliar course (it’s pre-loaded with maps of 42,000 courses). The bright, colorful 1.3-inch touchscreen shows the direction of the pin on blind shots, as well as the green shape from where you’re hitting from. Tap or swipe the touchscreen to zoom in or out of certain areas of the hole. The S62 records swing tempo, includes a stat tracker for in-depth shot data and can pair with a smartphone to receive texts or emails. A one-year limited warranty for defects in materials and workmanship is in place from the day you purchase the device.
This no-frills, 1.23-ounce GPS golf watch gives yardages to the front, middle and back of the green. You can even select a list of dogleg and layup distances to the 100-, 150-, 200- or 250-yard marker. With 42,000 courses pre-loaded into the device, you’ll always have proper distances at your fingertips, and the watch has a 1-inch LCD screen with white type against black background that’s readable in bright light. All navigation (such as moving the pin location) is done with buttons on the side of the watch rather than a touchscreen, and a comfortable, flexible silicone wristband makes it wearable off the course. The rechargeable battery lasts up to 12 hours in GPS mode or 14 weeks when used only as a watch. The watch comes with a one-year limited warranty from date of purchase covers defects in materials and workmanship.