Golf GPS vs Rangefinder

Image of Golf GPS ans Laser RangefinderOccasionally, I get a question from someone wondering which is better, a golf GPS or laser rangefinder. If the question had to do only with accuracy, then the clear answer would always be the laser rangefinder. Lasers are always accurate to within a couple of yards of whatever target you hit. Although golf GPS devices are generally fairly accurate, they’re going to let you down once in awhile. Besides that, they can’t give you distance to a flag, only to set points that do not move.

Does that make a laser rangefinder “better” than a golf GPS? Not entirely. Laser cannot measure a target that can’t be seen. If you have an elevated green and can’t see the flag, you’re out of luck. GPS on the other hand, will be able to give you distance to the front, middle and back of the green and maybe additional hazards and layups as well.

Besides that, there is less opportunity for human error with GPS. Some people really struggle to hold a laser rangefinder steady enough to acquire an accurate distance. If you hit the wrong target, you’ll get the wrong distance. Today’s rangefinders do a good job of locking onto the flag, but I know plenty of people who haven’t had much success with using a laser.

So in the battle of Golf GPS vs Rangefinder, well it depends on your needs and ability. If you have fairly steady hands, I would recommend laser over GPS. Even better though – the best of both worlds can be found in the Bushnell Hybrid. It’s a laser and GPS all built into a single unit and it’s still tournament legal when distance measuring devices are allowed.

If your not confident in your ability to hit the right target with a laser and the Bushnell Hybrid isn’t in your budget, then let us help you choose the best GPS for your style of play.

GPS or Laser, either way is definitely better than no distance measuring device at all.

Can You Use a Hunting Rangefinder for Golf?

One question we hear occasionally is “Can you use a hunting rangefinder for golf?”.

Yes No Maybe you can use a hunting rangefinder for golf!The quick answer is yes, but it’s not always as easy as using a rangefinder designed specifically for golf. Almost all name brand golf rangefinders are designed to pick out the pin from background objects by locking onto the object that is the closest to you. Bushnell calls it Pinseeker, Leupold calls it PinHunter and Callaway/Nikon refers to it as First Target Priority Mode. These technologies definitely make it easier and faster to get a reading about which you’ll feel confident.

Many hunting rangefinders are designed to do the opposite. They easily pick up the more distant objects, rather than closer objects. That eliminates the problem of leaves and brush in the foreground for hunters.

“GolfBuddy LR7”




Recently though GolfBuddy has been touting the GolfBuddy LR7 is good for hunting because it has three different modes. The Standard Mode which is a single button press that returns a single distance. It also has Pin Mode that scans for 10 seconds and settles on the closest target which is what you get with most laser rangefinders designed for golf. Scan Mode on the GolfBuddy, scans for 10 seconds, displaying the distance to any target that it hits. It doesn’t stop on the closest target, which should work best for hunters.

There’s no question that plenty of people use hunting rangefinders for golf and golf rangefinders for hunting. The results are often mixed, probably depending on the distance to the target and steadiness of the person using it.

Have you ever tried a laser rangefinder for golf and hunting? We would love to hear what worked or didn’t work for you. Leave us a comment below!

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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Best Golf Rangefinder for the Money

What’s the best golf rangefinder for the money? Even though prices in this market bounce up and down, we can narrow it down for you very quickly.

Best Laser Rangefinder for Your Money
Precision Pro NX7 Pro - Read Full Review

Our initial hands-on experience with the Precision Pro Golf NX7 Pro has been excellent. It locks onto the flag very quickly and the unit vibrates immediately when it locks. It offers two modes, one with Slope and one without Slope. When in non-Slope mode, the unit is legal in events where rangefinders are permitted. It's simple to switch between the two modes, but not so simple that you're likely to do so accidentally. The price on this is much less than the Bushnell Tour V4 Shift, but the features and performance are very similar. The only thing missing on the NX7 Pro is the ability to check which mode you are in by looking at the side of the rangefinder. The NX7 Pro may also be slightly more difficult to use on hitting targets on the ground for layups, but the difference in price may make this easy to overlook.

Rating: 4.54 (3043 ratings)  Magnification: 6x  Slope: both
Weight: 5.45 oz.   Legal: Yes, with Slope Mode turned OFF.
Precision Pro NX7 Pro
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Price Last Seen:
$179xx
Gogogo Sport Vpro GS03 - Read Full Review

The Gogogo Sport VPro GS03 offers several extremely affordable options and the reviews are excellent. Of course, the price is even better! If you're a hunter and a golfer, this model should work just fine for both sports. Make sure to put it into Golf mode when hit the links. If you tend to be rough on your equipment or you play in the rain, you may want to check out Bushnell. The Gogogo VPro GS03 isn't water-resistant and the hardware doesn't seem quite as durable. Still, at this price point and a 30-day return policy, we're giving the Gogogo GS03 a thumbs up!

Rating: 4.55 (3782 ratings)  Magnification: 6x  Slope: Yes
Weight: 6.49 oz.   Legal: Yes
Gogogo Sport Vpro GS03
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Price Last Seen:
$80xx
TecTecTec VPRO500 - Read Full Review

It's the combination of price and performance that puts the TecTecTec VPRO500 in our list of top rangefinders. It used to be that it felt safer to go with a well-known brand when you bought a golf rangefinder. However, when there are over 800 hundred reviews for a product and over 75% of them are 5 Stars, those concerns can be easily dismissed. Well, actually we had to see it to believe it. We purchased it from Amazon and put it to the test. We were not disappointed. It was super easy to lock on the flag, even from long distances. The unit was compact, but the numbers were large and easy to read. It was also easy to range other targets, including bunkers and the ground. The only performance issue we noticed is that it sometimes varies 3-4 yards when ranging the same target multiple times. For most golfers, that's not really a big issue, but other rangefinders in our top picks are typically more consistent. However, they are also more expensive. If that issue is a concern for you, check out our Best Laser Golf Rangefinders.

Rating: 4.50 (848 ratings)  Magnification: 6x  Slope: No
Weight: 6.6 oz.   Legal: Yes
TecTecTec VPRO500
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Price Last Seen:
$129xx
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