GPS vs. laser rangefinders

In the world of competitive golf, there is a huge debate on the topic of rangefinders; not their utility, because every pro knows what difference they can make, but on their type. There are two options that you can choose from, laser or GPS and the choice can influence your performance. There is a hybrid option that aims to combine both benefits of laser and GPS, but that category is still poorly developed, so you will have to pick one of the two. Here are the main characteristics and features of each category, as well as their benefits and drawbacks.


Starting out with GPS devices, they are very well represented on the market, with products such as the Bushnell Neo XS ranking among golfers’ top preferences. Devices built on this technology have an integrated GPS, which means that the device knows the golf course by heart and provide readings even if the weather conditions or obstacles wouldn’t normally allow it. In addition, GPS rangefinders are sturdy gadgets that do not require aiming or touching. If you have shaky hands, they are the go-to option. Aside from these selling points, there are several complaints from users as well, one of the biggest being that they have low battery life and the integration with GPS software means they require updates, a computer with Internet connection and, obviously, a learning time. This can be a bit annoying for beginners, who already have to spend a lot of time picking up golfing rules and wouldn’t want to spend some more on learning how to operate a device that in theory should make their job easier. Technically, they are also less accurate than lasers, but the margin of error should not put you off unless you plan on going to tournaments.


The main benefit of laser technology is that it provides maximum accuracy without requiring a set of maps. This means that you can use them successfully even if you’re playing on an unregistered or outdated course. In addition, they are very easy to use and if you’re a beginner you can just use it out of the box, without going through tutorials and complicated learning curves. Most modern devices, such as the latest ones by Bushnell, have great magnification, so you won’t be needing binoculars. Lastly, the battery can last you up to one year, which is very convenient. However, laser rangefinders manufacturers had to cut corners somewhere to provide all these benefits. More specifically, their gadgets only work if they see the target, so you cannot rely on them in bad weather conditions or when there are trees near your target. Also, they require a steady hand to operate, which is a problem for some users. Last, but not least, laser devices tend to be more expensive, up to $500, but note that this is the final price. For GPS devices, you may have to pay for applications and updates from time to time. The bottom line is that there is no universally preferred choice, otherwise there wouldn’t be a debate. It’s all up to your requirements as a golfer, so always keep them in mind when picking your gizmo.

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