Golf GPS or Laser rangefinders: Which is the best for you?

Golf GPS or Laser rangefinders: Which is the best for you?

by Dominic J. Leon

In the hot debate of golf GPS vs. laser rangefinders, we forget the days we looked for sprinklers and counted steps on the golf course. Walking in a weird imitation of Egyptian dance we measured incorrect meters and wrote off bad shots to luck. Fortunately, we have come a long way. Both the GPS and laser rangefinding devices have made leaps of development towards accuracy and speed. We explain how they fare against each other so you can sort your priorities as a golfer and choose the right device. Golf rangefinders are like your caddies, important to your comfort and game strategy.

Laser sharp?

Golf laser rangefinders are laser guns that shoot a ray towards the intended target and receive the reflected ray. Based on the velocity of the laser and the time taken for the ray to travel, the distance is calculated. You need to point the laser at a visible target to get distances.


Accuracy: Accuracy is one area where laser rangefinders are hard to beat. They give you the correct distance up to one yard or less. The best golf rangefinders will give you distances down to millimeters in the 500-yard distance provided you aim at the correct object.

Tournament Legality: This is one of their biggest advantages. There’s no doubt anywhere that laser rangefinders are legal in tournaments. Some of the newer products like Bushnell Tour X have a removable faceplate. One faceplate gives you slope-adjusted distances. Switching to the regular faceplate will give you tournament-legal distances.

Anytime use: Laser rangefinder does not depend on GPS or any external factor. You can whip it out at any course, aim and get the distance. And since you are getting the current distance, there’s no room for error even if the course has been modified.

No cost of use: Laser rangefinders give you the accurate current distances on all golf courses without any subscription fee or tedious registration process.

Instant use: You can use the laser rangefinder right out of the bag as soon as you arrive at the course. You don’t have to worry about the wrong course being recognized or wait for GPS satellites to lock.


Cost: Lasers apparatus is not cheap. A good laser rangefinder will cost you more than $200. There are high-performing cheaper rangefinders like TecTecTec VPRO 500 which are cheaper. But you have to be careful about their durability.

User error: If you have butter fingers, holding the laser rangefinders straight long enough to get the distances right may be difficult. And you have to aim at the correct object which might have distractions behind it. Thankfully, the best laser rangefinders are swift today and they have modes to pinpoint target from the object behind them.

Line of Sight(LOS): The target has to be line-of-sight to find the distance using laser rangefinders. Some hazards may be out of sight.

Size: These are more cumbersome compared to the golf GPS. You have to carry them in their separate bags. The newer models are lightweight and compact but not as much GPS handhelds.

Handling: The laser apparatus of laser rangefinders and the lens are fragile. You need to be careful not to damage them.

Golf GPS conundrum

Golf GPS devices use the GPS technology to find the distance between your current location and the greens, hazards or other points. They either come pre-loaded with the golf course maps or they have to be updated for receiving these distances.


Ease of operation: If the golf course is loaded on the golf GPS, you need only look at the screen for distances. There’s no aiming and no possibility of error by the golfer. Most of the best golf GPS come with 30,000+ worldwide courses pre-loaded.

Instant distances:  You don’t need to wait around for the distances. As you move to the next hole, auto hole recognition feature advances your position on the virtual course and updates the distances.

Variety: Gold GPS rangefinders come as handhelds, watches and voice clip-ons. You even have smartphone GPS apps that work free of cost to give you distances on the course.

Size: Although golf GPS comes in all shapes and sizes, even the golf GPS handhelds are very handy. Golf watches are as small as normal watches and can be worn on your wrist. Modern golf handhelds resemble smartphones. Golf voice devices weigh only 1-2ounces and can be clipped to your hat or belt.

No LOS: Line of Sight is not required to measure distances. Golf GPS finds the yardage based on pinpointing your current GPS location on its stored course maps and calculating distance. But the GPS devices  must have the feature to measure any distance or hazard distances.

Price: Golf GPS rangefinders are available in a wide price range from the simple Garmin S2 to weapon-grade Garmin G8. They pack more features than laser rangefinders for the price.

Features: Golf GPS devices don’t just tell the distances. They have training aids, shot tracking feature, timers, odometers, club selection tools, distances to hazards/doglegs, alarms and any number of such features.


Tournament-legality: This is the thorn in the side of golf GPS enthusiasts. They are allowed only in the tournaments where the Local Rule applies. The popularity of golf GPS have made them more acceptable around tournaments but they are not nearly as legal as the laser rangefinders.

Course maps: You need the course map of your golf course to be stored in the GPS device for yardages. You cannot use them otherwise. Laser rangefinders can be whipped out and used anywhere. If the course is modified and the course map is not updated in the database, this also could be an issue.

Electronic errors: Golf GPS performance is sometimes marred by electronic errors. Course recognition might not work, holes may not be updated, distances may be incorrect out of turn. Usually, an update solves the issue but it can be annoying.

Subscription: Some golf GPS brands demand subscription fees to update your course maps or expand the course database.



Author Bio

I am Dominic J.Leon.  At my website, we provide holistic literature towards the development of your golf career. We have all the information you need to bring your A-game to the golf course. We will arm you with comprehensive knowledge about all things golf, from the Best golf GPS watches to All about Indoor golf. We specialize in buying guides, reviews, how-to tips and golf nutrition tips. If you would like to learn and grow with us as a golfer, do follow us on our website.




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