The Golf GPS Or Rangefinder | What Is Better?

For even the most experienced golfers, the answer to the question is still vague, so you are not alone in the confusion of choosing between getting a good golf rangefinder or whether to stick to the conventional golf GPS while on golf courses. I found it quite challenging to make this choice at some point, I admit.

what is better a golf GPS or rangefinder

Golf rangefinders have tons of advantages over GPS, the same way a golf GPS possesses some unique benefits that a rangefinder may never acquire, even if it is further improved upon currently.

The Best Golf Laser Rangefinders ‘ HERE . Check out my review of ‘ The Best Golf GPS Watches ‘ HERE . Disclaimer:

Therefore, choosing between these two excellent devices for your golf courses can be pretty tricky, especially if you are new to golf.

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What about a GPS rangefinder?

Before I continue, I have to mention that you can now find the best of both worlds in one device with a GPS laser rangefinder, but they are expensive. So for the purpose of this post, I’ll be focussing on the lower cost of regular rangefinders.

So why should one of these golf devices be chosen over the other? What can be termed the best choice in selecting a golf device? Which should I go with; one of the best golf laser rangefinders or a GPS unit fitted with the latest GPS technology? This article will answer questions and solve your problems of making a good choice for your golf games.

Ultimately the decision between a GPS unit and a laser rangefinder comes down to personal preferences.

A man stands with a garmin approach g80 gps launch monitor in his hand

Golf GPS or rangefinder – the quick answer

A golf laser rangefinder would be my first choice when deciding between a rangefinder or GPS device. While golfing, I like to fully understand the distance between bunkers and fairways, flagsticks, caddies, and target holes, as I do my rounds on the golf yard at pinpoint accuracy.

In addition, I have come to understand how accuracy affects shots us, and golfers, especially if there’s a depth or uphill I should be concerned about. For these reasons and more, golf rangefinders are my first choice. Ideally with slope, but only when allowed.

While modern GPS units are a massive improvement over the originals, there are still those times when accuracy goes for a wander and that is when you begin to wish for a laser rangefinder.

GPS Pros One of the things which makes GPS devices so attractive to the majority of golfers is the wide array of forms it can take. For instance, you could get yardages on your phone, watch or even hat clip. That’s without mentioning the original and still very much popular handheld units.

Why the golf laser rangefinder?

A man is measuring distances with a golf laser rangefinder

Just because the term sounds unfamiliar, people think that rangefinders are a recent innovation exclusive for just golf games. The modern units of golf laser range finders may be a recent improvement for the typical rangefinder, but rangefinders have existed for many years.

This golf device has significantly been explored in other fields, hunting, and military journeys. Rangefinders are necessary inclusions for long and adventurous activities and are not restricted to old or new courses.

Rangefinders are handheld units that help golfers precisely ascertain the distance of yardages. These devices are super helpful in focusing on targets and increasing your golfing accuracy as distractions are limited.

You just need to hold onto the rangefinder and focus on the eyepiece provided. Once you have done this, you can now tap the laser button on the device.

Rangefinders differ from each other, but I would explain how the golf rangefinder works for what is currently in vogue. At the hit of the button, laser beams are emitted from the golf laser rangefinder towards the direction of your focus, and the beams are reflected in an instant.

A detector picks up the reflected beam in the device. The rangefinder records the time at which the laser is reflected and, with this time, calculates the distance traveled and shows the record on the screen of the laser rangefinder.

Once you fully understand the reach of your target, you become conditioned to golf the right distances. Yes, it is that easy to use.

I’ve used rangefinders long enough to confess how under-credited these gadgets are. Your perception of distances as a golfer can change instantly when you employ the use of a laser rangefinder. It

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  • Rangefinders provide accurate yardages between you and your focus for shots that require accuracy. They provide pinpoint accuracy.
  • They can tell the exact distance between you and any object, as long as the laser beam can pick the object up from wherever it is.
  • A good rangefinder will show you the degree of elevation and help with your target object’s slope compensation.
  • No preprogramming to a database is required.
  • They show the distance between golfers and hazards, if there is any.
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  • Not thoroughly efficient in navigating hazards.
  • Not ideal on a golf course with many blind holes

How about a golf GPS?

Golf GPS Or Rangefinder

One standard golf device with GPS systems is the golf GPS watch. How golf GPS watches or other GPS rangefinders work is complicated, so I would rather not bore you with details. However, you should know that they use a system of connected satellites that, with your position on the golf course, form a triangle with your focus of interest, measuring the distance between you and the point you are interested in.

Golf GPS is the first option people will pick over any other golf equipment, as they seem more relatable and regular. In addition, many will pick the golf GPS if they are regularly trying out new or unfamiliar courses because of its characteristics.

You can also find other Golf GPS devices, such as handheld units. The big benefit of these over the golf watches is the larger screen that is so much easier to use, but, it is less convenient as you have to keep on getting it out and putting it away in its case. This can leave them prone to damage. 

Some devices reinforced with this GPS info may not look as elegant as laser rangefinders do. Still, they’ve proven to be a highly competitive option to laser rangefinders and maybe the choice of most professional golfers over a common rangefinder.

Which golfer wouldn’t prefer the ease of the distance between you and your target becoming visible and saving their golf shots? I bet everyone does.

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  • The advantages of golf GPS are;
  • Accurate tracking of your shots to give you a detailed analysis of your performance on the game
  • The cheaper alternative to laser rangefinders
  • Show the yardage between you and your supposed target, so you can make precise shots
  • Show potential hazards that may be out of your focus point, and present position
  • It can be used to show time, as any regular wristwatch will do. The good thing is, it isn’t only tailored for golf game courses
  • Manual tuning of location can be turned on
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  • Localized distancing
  • Accuracy is reduced, so you need to be precisely familiar with your golf club yardages

Side by side comparison

The abilities of both products are distinct, as they were created for different purposes to meet the needs of golfers. Though they both calculate distance, the mechanism by which they go about this task differs.

What key characteristics do both share?

Information about the golf course

No GPS rangefinder will be helpful in the sport if they don’t serve their primary purpose of giving information about the golf course. Though the degree of information provided by the two because of the mechanism of operations may differ, they produce a similar result.

Golf GPS watches, such as the Golf Buddy Aim W10, give a broader view of the shape of the green and notice water hazards or other hazards you can’t see from your position. Laser rangefinders will provide a good overview of the golf course, as far as you can see.

Yardage and distancing

One of the primary reasons golfers employ these gadgets is the ability of these devices to estimate distances between the golfer’s position and their target points to almost the exact distance. Knowing the distance of your target from your stance will help you make a better swing as you golf.


A very important feature they both possess, which even PGA tour players often overlook, is that they are both easy to carry, so there is little to no difficulty in carrying any of them. GPS watches can simply be worn on your wrist like a normal wristwatch.

Other GPS devices can transmit your yardage to your smartphone, a handheld unit, or whatever is convenient for you to use and easily carry around on the golf course. All range finders, be it GPS rangefinders or laser rangefinders, have the advantage of portability.

These are not the only similarities that exist, but I believe these are primarily the similarities of considerations if you are an average golfer who wants an overview of both gadgets.

Golf GPS Or Rangefinder

Key Differences

If you are looking out to get one of these gadgets, you have to be familiar with the important characteristics of both. Some key differences exist between these two products, and that is the first thing you should know about right before making a choice. Differences you should take note of include:

Accuracy and precision

Laser rangefinders give you accurate details of your shot from your position. Although GPS rangefinders allow manual adjustments to your location, the golf GPS watch can only give you a more localized distance to the front, middle, or back of the green on the golf course.


Rangefinders are bigger than most GPS devices, and usually more expensive. An average rangefinder cost roughly $200. A more efficient rangefinder, especially one of excellent quality and superior features, costs times two of what the normal rangefinder costs or even more.

Golf GPS, on the other hand, is relatively cheaper. You can get a reliable device at a little more than $100. Better quality products cost more.

Usage on golf courses

Both devices possess some features which make them relevant on golf courses. Rangefinders are more effective if you have a focus point, an object, or a pin you are focusing on, and then the distance to the object or pin is calculated. Golf GPS, however, does not need a focus object to function. A good range finder will show you the exact yardages between you and anything on the golf course. Golf GPS does not have this ability.

Hazard navigation

Golf GPS shows you the exact distance between you and potential hazards or between you and the green. It usually won’t focus on targets. In cases where water hazards or adverse weather conditions may be a stumbling block to your shot gaining speed and becoming accurate, GPS rangefinders have a view of everything on the golf course and will reveal it.

Laser rangefinders have a narrower view, so they cannot navigate or notice hazards as much.

Playing pace

While golf GPS watches will give you a response immediately after you get to your golf ball, laser rangefinders will require you to focus on flags to get the exact yardage.

This is usually not a problem, except for players with shaky hands. And with the idea that laser rangefinders are known to miss flags, this challenge poses a problem for these golf players.

Golf GPS Or Rangefinder


Can professional golfers use GPS?

Every golfer, amateur or professional, needs to have an accurate idea of yardages, to make an excellent shot at target pins or objects. Whatever gadget employed for this purpose is left to the discretion of the golf  laser rangefinder user, based on convenience.

This may be different in golf competitions nevertheless. The rules of competition pros are enrolled in also determine the usage of GPS devices. Most times, the use of these gadgets is restricted to practice.
Having distance-measuring devices like a golf GPS data and a rangefinder can significantly improve your game.

Are golf laser rangefinders safe?

If you ask this because the damages you may have heard are associated with using lasers, your concern is well understood. Laser rangefinders available for golfing are rated as eye-safe. However, eye contact with the laser beams should be avoided.

How do golf rangefinders work?

Gold rangefinders work differently based primarily on the laser beams emitted from the rangefinder for golf laser rangefinders. First, I explained the technique it utilizes above.

How far can a laser rangefinder work?

A laser rangefinder can work as far as you can focus, or best put, as far as the laser can focus on pins, flags, or other objects. So wherever the laser beam hits and focuses is the distance to which it can work.

What kind of laser rangefinder should I look out for?

If you seek a laser rangefinder, the primary criterion that may stand in the way is the cost. As you make your choice, search for laser rangefinders with great quality at a price you can afford. You can look out for trusted brands from your colleagues so you can get the right value for your money.

Is golf GPS worth it?

Yes. They serve the purpose for which they were created. That is, giving a view of the total layout of golf courses at a perfect launch angle with accurate mapping of the arena.

Final thoughts

Now that you understand the most important tech gadgets employed in golfing, I believe this knowledge will guide your choice as an avid golfer. In addition, it is necessary to also know that some GPS rangefinders are now being produced, combining the wonderful qualities of both the golf GPS and laser rangefinders. I believe with this information gained, you can now go a-golfing.

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