Best Golf Rangefinder 2012

At the end of the year, here were our top picks for “Best Golf Rangefinder 2012”. These are tried and true laser and GPS golf rangefinders, but be sure to also check out our current Best Golf Rangefinder picks.

Below is a list of our favorites in each category based on performance, price and customer reviews. If you know your category, start here or check out Laser and GPS Selection Tools. If you’re not sure of your category, take a look at our Laser Golf Rangefinder vs GPS article or our quick and easy Buyer’s Guide.

Category:   Laser       Laser w/ Slope       Full-featured GPS       Basic GPS (including watches)       New

Best Overall

  1. Bushnell Hybrid – Read Full Review
    If you want the best of both worlds (GPS & Laser), here it is. If you can remember to charge it every few rounds, this is the ticket!

Best LASER Golf Rangefinder

  1. Callaway Diablo Octane – Read Full Review
    The price has dropped on Callaway’s newest laser rangefinder and the early ratings are terrific.
  2. Leupold GX-1 – Read Full Review
    Great price on a highly rated laser rangefinder.
  3. Bushnell Tour Z6 – Read Full Review
    New in 2012, Bushnell’s new Z6 is fast and easy to read.

Best LASER with Slope

  1. Bushnell Pro 1600 with Slope – Read Full Review
    With the recent price drop, we give the edge to the tried and true Bushnell 1600.
  2. Leupold GX-2 – Read Full Review
    For price and features, we think this is an excellent value. Since you’re breaking the rules anyway, you might as well get the extra bells and whistles offered only by Leupold.

Best GPS Golf Rangefinder:
(Full-featured: Yardages + Hole View Graphics)

  1. Garmin Approach G6 – Read Full Review
    Pre-loaded with 25,000 golf courses. No annual fees and excellent user reviews.
  2. Garmin Approach G5 – Read Full Review
    If you are looking for something more budget-friendly, the G5 is a good choice. Not as many courses at the G6 and quite a bit larger. Our top pick for a full-featured golf GPS.

Best GPS Golf Rangefinder:
(Basic: Yardages/Numbers Only)

  1. Golf Buddy Voice – Read Full Review
    Small and simple, but the ratings are outstanding!
  2. Garmin S1 GPS Golf Watch – Read Full Review
    The ultimate in convenience – GPS on a wrist watch!
  3. Bushnell neo+ – Read Full Review
    May be all you need in a GPS. No fancy graphics, but plenty of information.

New in 2012

2012 LASER Rangefinders

  1. Callaway RAZR Laser – Read Preview
    Picks up yardages even faster and more accurately than previous Callaway rangefinders and has adjustable backlight settings.
  2. Laser Link Switch – Read Preview
    Laser Link’s newest laser rangefinder may finally be the answer for players who want to use laser, but have trouble holding it steady.
  3. Leupold GX-4i – Read Preview
    Laser rangefinder with slope. Picks up yardages even faster and more accurately than its predecessor.
  4. Leupold GX-3i – Read Preview
    Picks up yardages even faster and more accurately than its predecessor
  5. Bushnell Tour Z6 – Read Preview
    Faster, easier to read Vivid Display Indicators, 6x magnifcation and improved battery life.
  6. Bushnell Pro 1M – Read Preview
    7x magnifcation, easy to read Vivid Display indicators and improved battery life.

2012 Golf GPS Rangefinders

  1. Golf Buddy Platinum – Read Preview
    Golf Buddy tries to make some minor improvements to previous models.
  2. SkyCaddie BREEZE – Read Preview
    Big, bright display, but still some typical and new SkyCaddie drawbacks.
  3. Izzo Swami Watch – Read Preview
    The lowest price we’ve seen in a golf GPS watch.
  4. Izzo Swami 4000 – Read Preview
    Big, bright display with front, middle and back yardages at a very low price point!
  5. Callaway uPro MX+ – Read Preview
    Like previous models, the new Callaway golf GPS just doesn seem to measure up.
  6. Garmin Approach S3 Golf Watch – Read Preview
    Garmin has an answer to its new competitors. This year’s golf watch offers several more features than its predecessor. It’s definitely more expensive, but Garmin’s reputation and experience have to be worth something.
  7. Garmin Approach G6 – Read Preview
    Pre-loaded with more courses, smaller and lighter with longer battery life than its predecessor.
  8. Expresso WR62 Golf Watch – Read Preview
    If this lives up to its promise, it will replace the Garmin S1 golf watch as the leader in Basic GPS models.
  9. Expresso AG50 Navigation and Golf Watch Combo – Read Preview
    A reasonably priced multi-function device that will help you navigate your way to the golf course and then give you distances to front-middle-back and hazards. It can also be used as a media player.
  10. Golf Buddy Voice – Read Preview
    Golf Buddy puts its huge database of golf courses into the smallest golf GPS we’ve seen. This basic unit provides voice and on-screen distances to the front, middle and back of every green. The reviews are excellent!
  11. MOTOACTV Golf Watch – Read Preview
    If you’re a multi-sport athlete, this may be the golf watch for you. It boasts plenty of features for golf, as well as other sports.
  12. Bushnell neo+ Golf Watch – Read Preview
    Similar to the Garmin S1, but with longer battery life.

Best GPS for Golf

What is the best GPS for golf? (drum roll please)….. well, that all depends on the type of golfer who will be using it. We’ll break it down for you here or just head on over to our Personalized Golf GPS Quiz. Golf watches are not included in our recommendations below.

Recommendations by Golfer Description:

  • The Course and Game Manager: Knows enough about golf to engage in some course management. Appreciates detailed information as long as it’s easy to come by.
  • The Typical Golfer: Interested in distances to the green and to hazards.
  • “Speedy”:: Plays fast, likes things quick and convenient, doesn’t obsess over details.
  • Big Numbers, Please!: Has difficulty seeing the scorecard or a normal GPS screen.
  • The Hybrid: Desires accuracy, but not satisfied with yardages to only visible targets, which is all that you can get from a traditional laser rangefinder.


The Course and Game Manager
Garmin Approach S60 - Read Full Review

Garmin's newest golf watch looks to be a sophisticated golf watch, fitness watch, and smartwatch. It will be released in the summer of 2017 and we look forward to exploring all the features here very soon!

Rating: 3.86  
Weight: 1.8* oz.   Legal: Yes
Garmin Approach S60
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Garmin Approach G30 - Read Full Review

This full-featured little golf GPS unit comes preloaded with over 40,000 golf courses. You'll get full hole views of every hole and touch targeting to anywhere on a hole. When you bring up Green View, you can even adjust the pin placement for more precise distance. Although the G30 drops the "Plays Like" feature found on the Garmin Approach G8 that adjusts for elevation, it does connect with your smartphone to display, text messages, emails, etc. It is small enough to carry in a pocket but also comes with a clip and a lanyard for your belt or golf bag. This model also has 'Big Numbers' mode for distances to the front, middle, and back of the greens.

Rating: 4.38  
Weight: 2.5 oz.   Legal: Yes
Garmin Approach G30
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The Typical Golfer
Bushnell Phantom 2 - Read Full Review

The Bushnell Phantom 2 is ready to go right out of the box. It has everything you need with no fuss. You turn it on and it finds the course and the hole and is typically ready for play in less than a minute. The large font and transreflective display make it easy to see in all conditions. The new stronger and larger BITE magnet holds firmly to your cart. If you’re walking, the included belt clip or carabiner will make it easy to find distances when you need them. It also has a new GreenView feature that allows you to get a more precise distance to the pin location. It has up to 18 hours of battery life and charges in less than three hours. And, by the way, it's fully waterproof so you can leave it up on those rainy days!

Rating: 4.55  
Weight: 2.75 oz.   Legal: Yes
Bushnell Phantom 2
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Garmin Approach G12 - Read Full Review

As expected, Garmin impressed us with this feature-pack golf GPS device. The most exciting thing about the Garmin G12 is the 30-hour battery life! That doubles the battery life of the Garmin G10 and it's 10 hours more than the Bushnell Phantom 2. At this price point, this will be the deciding factor for many golfers. Others will choose this model to use with the Garmin Approach CT10 Club Tracking System. The Garmin Approach G12 matches or exceeds the features of other golf GPS units in the same category. The price is a little bit higher, but if it's in your budget, the battery life, stat tracking, and analysis tools, make this worthy of your shortlist!

Rating: 4.48  
Weight: .9 oz.   Legal: Yes
Garmin Approach G12
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Izzo Swami 6000 - Read Full Review

This is one of our favorite golf GPS devices to look at. The screen is bright and colorful and the numbers are large and easy to read. It's also at a price point that we love! Even with the large bright screen, the battery life is still up to 16 hours. Although it has a scorecard, we don't think it's user-friendly and would not recommend this model to anyone looking for a scorecard feature. In truth, most users don't use their golf GPS devices for scorekeeping. If that is important to you, we suggest checking out models from Garmin. The Swami 6000 comes with a strong magnet for easy mounting to your cart or the included belt clip. It has distances to hazards and doglegs, and it has an IPX3 rating which should be good enough for most rainy weather conditions.

Rating: 4.42  
Weight: 3.4 oz.   Legal: Yes
Izzo Swami 6000
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Garmin Approach G10 - Read Full Review

The Garmin Approach G10 packs a lot into a very small package. Besides the expected distances to the front, middle, and back of every green, you'll get the shape of the green and manual pin positioning. There's also a scorecard with stats that can be uploaded to your Garmin Connect account, providing you with historical data and game analysis. We love the price and overall, user reviews are quite favorable.

Rating: 4.42  
Weight: 1 oz.   Legal: Yes
Garmin Approach G10
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Speedy
Bushnell Phantom 2 - Read Full Review

The Bushnell Phantom 2 is ready to go right out of the box. It has everything you need with no fuss. You turn it on and it finds the course and the hole and is typically ready for play in less than a minute. The large font and transreflective display make it easy to see in all conditions. The new stronger and larger BITE magnet holds firmly to your cart. If you’re walking, the included belt clip or carabiner will make it easy to find distances when you need them. It also has a new GreenView feature that allows you to get a more precise distance to the pin location. It has up to 18 hours of battery life and charges in less than three hours. And, by the way, it's fully waterproof so you can leave it up on those rainy days!

Rating: 4.55  
Weight: 2.75 oz.   Legal: Yes
Bushnell Phantom 2
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GolfBuddy Voice 2 SE - Read Full Review

GolfBuddy increased the battery life in the GB Voice 2 SE to 20 hours. That's six more than the previous model and we are thrilled! Its ease of use is what makes it so popular. This compact, lightweight model has an LCD screen with distances to the front, middle, and back of every green. You can also switch to see the green shape. There are over 40,000 courses preloaded and you can update it with new courses anytime using the GolfBuddy GB Manager.

Rating: 4.41  
Weight: 1.1 oz.   Legal: Yes
GolfBuddy Voice 2 SE
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Garmin Approach G10 - Read Full Review

The Garmin Approach G10 packs a lot into a very small package. Besides the expected distances to the front, middle, and back of every green, you'll get the shape of the green and manual pin positioning. There's also a scorecard with stats that can be uploaded to your Garmin Connect account, providing you with historical data and game analysis. We love the price and overall, user reviews are quite favorable.

Rating: 4.42  
Weight: 1 oz.   Legal: Yes
Garmin Approach G10
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GolfBuddy Voice 2 - Read Full Review

Every time GolfBuddy comes out with a new Voice model, it seems to get a little bit better. The GolfBuddy Voice 2 makes a huge leap with extended battery life. It boasts 14 hours which makes it the first one to be able to make it thru three 18-hole rounds. They've also added a choice of male and female voices. It's water resistant, has distances to the front, middle, and back of each green, and a shot measuring feature. The watch band can be ordered separately on Amazon.

Rating: 4.40  
Weight: 1.02 oz.   Legal: Yes
GolfBuddy Voice 2
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Big Numbers, Please!
Izzo Swami 6000 - Read Full Review

This is one of our favorite golf GPS devices to look at. The screen is bright and colorful and the numbers are large and easy to read. It's also at a price point that we love! Even with the large bright screen, the battery life is still up to 16 hours. Although it has a scorecard, we don't think it's user-friendly and would not recommend this model to anyone looking for a scorecard feature. In truth, most users don't use their golf GPS devices for scorekeeping. If that is important to you, we suggest checking out models from Garmin. The Swami 6000 comes with a strong magnet for easy mounting to your cart or the included belt clip. It has distances to hazards and doglegs, and it has an IPX3 rating which should be good enough for most rainy weather conditions.

Rating: 4.42  
Weight: 3.4 oz.   Legal: Yes
Izzo Swami 6000
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Garmin Approach G30 - Read Full Review

This full-featured little golf GPS unit comes preloaded with over 40,000 golf courses. You'll get full hole views of every hole and touch targeting to anywhere on a hole. When you bring up Green View, you can even adjust the pin placement for more precise distance. Although the G30 drops the "Plays Like" feature found on the Garmin Approach G8 that adjusts for elevation, it does connect with your smartphone to display, text messages, emails, etc. It is small enough to carry in a pocket but also comes with a clip and a lanyard for your belt or golf bag. This model also has 'Big Numbers' mode for distances to the front, middle, and back of the greens.

Rating: 4.38  
Weight: 2.5 oz.   Legal: Yes
Garmin Approach G30
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The Hybrid
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Laser Golf Rangefinder vs GPS

The laser golf rangefinder vs GPS question can only be resolved by looking at the needs and abilities of the person who will be using it. There are advantages to each and we’ll try to break those down for you here. If you want the best of both worlds, check our Best Hybrid Golf Rangefinder page.

Advantages of Laser:
Laser Golf Rangefinder Review booklet graphic

  • Accuracy – A laser rangefinder will give you near exact yardage to any target you can see (within several hundred yards). It’s going to be more consistent and more accurate than GPS. It also will give the yardage to the actual flag, wherever it is on the green.
  • Learning Curve – There isn’t much to learn about a laser golf rangefinder. The directions won’t take long to read and a few minutes of playing with it and you should have it down.
  • Battery Life – The battery on a laser rangefinder will last many, many rounds. For most users, a year or more.
  • # of Courses – laser rangefinders will work on every golf course and never need to be updated.
  • Magnification – We find it surprising that laser rangefinders are allowed to have magnification. Sometimes just having binoculars on the golf course can be handy for seeing what lies ahead and with a laser, it’s built right into the device. When making a purchase, pay attention to the level of magnification. Not only do you get a better view with a higher level, it’s also easier to hit your target.

Disadvantages of Laser:

  • Hills and trees – If you can’t see a target, your laser binoculars won’t help a bit. Experience tells us that this is an infrequent problem, but when it is a problem, it’s a big one. (That’s when a hybrid rangefinder would come in really handy.)
  • Hitting the wrong target – Today’s laser rangefinders are very good about picking up the flagstick instead of targets behind the green, but it’s still a possibility that you could accidentally get the yardage to the wrong target. The closer you get to your target, the less likely this will happen. Most users will be able to manage this without much difficulty after a little experience.
  • Steadiness issues – Using a laser golf rangefinder does require moderate steadiness when shooting the target. For most people, this isn’t an issue, but for some users, it’s a deal breaker. See our 7 Tips for Using a Laser Rangefinder.
  • No front, middle and back of green distance – Although you’re getting exact distance to the pin, unless you can see it, you have no way of knowing where on the green the pin is located. Again, a hybrid would come in handy for this, but most golf courses provide some indication of where on the green the pins are located.

Advantages of GPS:
Golf GPS Comparison graphic

  • Distance to the front, middle and back of every green – Every golf GPS provides this basic information and it can be extremely valuable. Most golfers however, will do just fine aiming for the middle of every green.
  • No steadiness required – A GPS device will give you yardages without you having to aim it or even touch it.
  • Distances to targets you cannot see – All GPS devices can give you yardage to targets that you cannot see. Most of them include hazards as well as green yardages, but pay attention because some basic models only include distances to the front, middle and back of the green.
  • Hole layouts – We refer to GPS devices that offer hole layout views as “full-featured”. If you’re on a course that is unfamiliar, it’s often nice to be able to take a look at the hole layout before you play it. It’s important to note however, that these types of units have more of a learning curve and can slow you down during your round. There are some “basic” models that don’t include the layouts and in truth, that’s not always a disadvantage. On the golf course, we think it’s important to get information quickly, rather than trying to figure out your device.
  • Bonus Features – Many golf GPS devices have shot-measuring features, scorecards, statistics and more. These features can be fun and useful, but it’s important to make sure they don’t consume too much of your time and attention.

Disadvantages of GPS:

  • Accuracy – Although all GPS devices do a pretty good job with accuracy, they’re not likely to ever be as good as laser. Clouds, trees and whatever else can happen to interfere with satellites will be a factor. It’s not always ‘right on’ vs laser which will be right every time.
  • Distance to the pin – Although some of the full-featured models allow you to tap or move the pin position, it’s still only your best guess unless you have a printed pin location sheet provided by the course or tournament committee.
  • Computers – Although most GPS devices now come “preloaded” with courses, many require hookup to a computer for updates and/or newly added golf courses. Some even require hookup and online registration before they will work. This is the area where we usually find the most complaints from users.
  • Learning Curve – the more features available, the more learning required.
  • Battery Life – With any golf GPS, you’ll need to make sure it’s charged up every few rounds.

Hybrid – the best of both worlds

Although we love the idea of a hybrid rangefinder that does both laser and GPS, they haven’t become very popular. Check out the current models. If you can’t find a hybrid that’s in your budget, consider getting a budget-friendly GPS and a budget-friendly laser rangefinder

You may also want to take a look at our top golf rangefinders sorted by category.

Is Your Golf Rangefinder ‘Legal’?

Photo of Man using golf rangefinderOf course what I mean by asking “Is your golf rangefinder ‘legal’?”, is does it conform to the rules of golf?

For those of you looking for the quick answer…
The USGA and R&A provide a “local rule” that with the exception of most major professional tours (PGA, LPGA etc), is adopted for almost all competitions. So unless you’re a high level professional golfer, this most likely applies to the events you play.

The local rule allows the use of distance measuring devices. If your device (laser rangefinder, smartphone, or GPS rangefinder) measures other conditions such as Slope or wind speed, those features must be turned off or disabled. If you can’t turn off those features, then it’s not legal, but if you can and do turn them off, it is legal.
See our Best Legal Golf Rangefinders if you are looking for recommendations for laser golf rangefinders. All of the GPS devices on this site would be “legal”, so check out our Best Golf GPS page to find the one that is right for you.

For those of you who are interested in getting a full understanding of how the rule has evolved, let’s explore the joint USGA / R&A rule and decision that allows or disallows GPS and laser rangefinders to be used.

Rule 14/3b prohibits a player from using any artificial device or unusual equipment for the purpose of gauging or measuring distance or conditions that might affect his play. That alone would make all golf GPS and laser rangefinders against the rules and the penalty for the breach is disqualification. However…

In 2006, the USGA and R&A decided to allow tournament committees to have the option of adding a local rule that allows “distance-measuring devices”.

If this local rule is in effect, artificial devices that measure distance ONLY, are permitted. Prior to 2016, devices that measured slope or provided other prohibited information were not allowed even if the features were turned off.

In 2016, the USGA and the R&A revised the rule (see Appendix IV-5) to allow devices with the capability of measuring conditions other than distance, as long as those features were turned off.

The exceptions to the earlier rule were the now retired Bushnell Tour X and the the Leupold GX-4i2. Both of these laser rangefinders had gotten special approval from the USGA by using a brightly colored faceplate to turn on the Slope feature, thus indicating to anyone paying attention that the device was not legal. When the bright faceplate was removed, the devices were (and still are) legal.

With the new rule, it’s more of an honor system. Faceplates are not required, and manufacturers have implemented a simple ON/OFF switch rather than the faceplate system. The player will simply switch the device out of Slope mode to make it legal.

As far as golf GPS devices go, most have been legal in competition since 2006. However, this new rule change did affect a few devices that were previously not allowed in competition. The Garmin Approach G7 and the Approach G8 both have a “Plays Like” feature and a “Club Advice” feature that are not allowed in competition, but those features can be turned off, which means that as of 2016, these devices can be used in competition.

Smartphone golf GPS apps also benefitted from the rule change. They may now be used in competition as long as no prohibited features are being used within the app OR on otherwise on the device.

Most organized golf tournaments utilize the local rule, but it’s always a good idea to read the rules sheet or check with the tournament organizer before using your golf rangefinder or GPS. Elite professional events and some high-level amateur events do not adopt the local rule. You won’t find these devices being used during a PGA or LPGA tournaments, but if you’re out there during the practice rounds, caddies and players will be using laser rangefinders and taking notes diligently.

So if you know that your golf tournament or golf group has adopted the local rule, then there is only one question remaining. Did you buy a GPS or laser that measures ONLY distance or has an on/off mode for prohibited features? If your laser binoculars measure “slope” or provide other prohibited information and those features cannot be turned off, your rangefinder won’t be allowed.

If you’re playing a friendly game, just make sure your group is in agreement about what rules are in effect. With regards to posting scores for your handicap, the local rule is in effect. You should post all scores when using your distance-only measuring device. See the USGA Rules FAQ.

Below are our top picks for legal laser golf rangefinders. If you have any questions, please leave us a message in the comments at the bottom of the page.


Best Legal Laser Golf Rangefinders
Bushnell Pro X2 - Read Full Review

We're very excited about the Bushnell Pro X2! Bushnell was quick to adapt to the 2016 rule modification that made rangefinders with Slope legal as long as the slope mode could be turned off for competitive rounds. The sophisticated faceplate hardware change is no longer required, so Bushnell put a simple toggle switch on the side of the unit. The Pro X2 utilizes Dual Display technology that allows the user to choose standard black or red VDT for displaying distance information. Just press the logo on the side of the rangefinder while ranging to switch modes. This unit also features 6x magnification, is fully waterproof, has Jolt technology that vibrates when it locks the pin, and it ranges accurately to within a half yard.

Rating: 4.77 (112 ratings)  Magnification: 6x  Slope: both
Weight: 8 oz.   Legal: Yes* When Slope Switch is turned off.
Bushnell Pro X2
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Bushnell Tour V5 - Read Full Review

Size, speed, and accuracy evolved with a new generation of tech — featuring PinSeeker with Visual JOLT, BITE Magnetic Mount, and next-level clarity and brightness.

Rating: 4.74 (510 ratings)  Magnification: 6x  Slope: No
Weight: 8 oz.   Legal: Yes
Bushnell Tour V5
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Bushnell Hybrid - Read Full Review

We are so excited to see Bushnell bring back a Laser/GPS Hybrid Rangefinder to its lineup. They've added all the features we could have hoped for on this 2018 hybrid rangefinder. This time you have Pinseeker with Jolt, making it fast and easy to know when you're locked on to the flag, but better than that, you'll also see the GPS distance to the front and the back of the green right in the laser display! Besides that, the GPS displays on the side of the unit and has distances to hazards available there. We love that there is one battery for GPS and one battery for laser and we love that you can update the courses wirelessly via Bluetooth and an app. The app also has full holeview and distances, as well as flyover views. We think Bushnell has knocked this one out of the park!

Rating: 4.51 (519 ratings)  Magnification: 5x  Slope: No
Weight: 6.1 oz.   Legal: Yes
Bushnell Hybrid
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Bushnell Tour V4 Shift - Read Full Review

The Bushnell Tour V4 Shift replaces the Tour V4 Slope model. Both are legal in USGA competitions that allow rangefinder as long as the Slope feature is disabled. The difference is that the V4 Shift has a slider switch on the side that is simple to use and displays on the outside of the unit when it is in Slope mode. We like this improvement from the Bushnell V4 Slope that gave no indication of the mode until you looked into it. This model will likely become the best-selling laser golf rangefinder with Slope on the market. It has Pinseeker, Jolt, and 5x magnification.

Rating: 4.48 (90 ratings)  Magnification: 5x  Slope: both
Weight: 5.6 oz.   Legal: Yes, if Slope Switch is Down (Off).
Bushnell Tour V4 Shift
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Bushnell Tour V4 Jolt - Read Full Review

The Bushnell Tour V4 replaced the extremely popular Bushnell Tour V3. This model is a little bit smaller and had an easy to use focus ring. Although we think the Tour V4 is a terrific rangefinder with Jolt and Pinseeker, we think its popularity will be shared with the Bushnell Tour V4 Shift. The Shift version has Slope, but also allows you to turn it off to make it legal for most competitive events as of the 2016 rule change. If you have not interested in Slope, the Bushnell Tour V4 is an excellent choice.

Rating: 4.64 (176 ratings)  Magnification: 5x  Slope: No
Weight: 6.6 oz.   Legal: Yes
Bushnell Tour V4 Jolt
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Where are the Best Deals on Golf Rangefinders?

One of the questions we get asked the most is “Where are the best deals on golf rangefinders?”. That’s a hard one to answer since the prices are jumping around all the time. Here are a few places to check.

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