The two most popular golf gps range finders commonly used are the laser range finder and the gps range finder. Both incredibly accurate and both technology that would have been unthinkable just ten years ago.
How times have changed…
How to Golf Rangefinders Work? The Ups and the Downs…
The laser range finders bounce a beam of light off the golf ball or object you’re measuring. A low power bean is sent from the laser range finder and the time it takes for it to return is measured. Using the time taken, the distance to the object can be calculated.
Many popular range finders also have inbuilt slope detection. Using an internal ‘inclinometer’ (is that really a word?) the level of the slope is determined by measuring how far the reflection is from ‘level’ upon its return.
Models like the Bushnell have designed their own ‘PinSeeker’ technology to sense and focus on targets (eg. the flag) ignoring objects in the background you may accidentally focus on.
Since you have to physically find and see the target golf rangefinders come with up to 5x magnification for easy viewing.
Range finders have the advantage of versatility. You can use them on the driving range or measure the distance to any target you point it at. All you need is the reflection of the laser to come back.
The downside is you have to be able to see the target. If you’re looking for the pin and it’s around some trees you intend to go over (or over the brow of a hill) then good luck!
Plus they tend to be twice the price of a GPS system — ouch!
How to Golf GPS Devices Work? The Pro’s and the Con’s…
GPS (Global Position Systems) on the other hand work using a network of satellites. We’re all more likely to be familiar with it from our iPhone apps and the navigation in the car.
The satellite network transmits signals to a GPS receiver (eg. your watch or device) and once upon a time you had to be well clear of tall buildings to get an uninterrupted signal. Not so handy if you’re ball is stuck in the trees.
Improved sensitivity has removed many of the earlier barriers (including the original restriction on public GPS systems to be more accurate than 100 meters) has opened many doors for the system.
Your GPS system locates four or more satellites and figures out the distance to each. A series of calculations lets the device work out exactly where on the planet it is.
All very clever stuff that comes contained in a pocket or watch sized device!
GPS devices on the other hand lack the versatility of a range finder. Since they only tell you where you are right now, you have to rely on satellite imaging and courses that have already been mapped by the manufacturer. The golf gps records where you are now and from pre-programmed data of the course can calculate your distance to the front, middle or back of the green. Depending on the model, maybe even the hazards.
The advantage is you know the distance even if you cannot see the green and of course, the convenience of knowing at a glance. There is nothing to measure, since it’s already been done for you using your current location and the pre-mapped course.
Heard about Hybrid Golf GPS Rangefinders?
Like the Bushnell Hybrid Pinseeker bring the strengths of both, GPS and laser together. You have the versatility of the laser with the convenience of the GPS which is always updating as you move through the course.
If you’re a professional player you have the added accuracy of the range finder (often as +- 1 yard). The only downside to be seen is that a range finder that normally has a lifespan amounting to weeks or months, the GPS system is heavily power dependent (constantly communicating with several satellites) and shortens it to a handful of rounds. Often just two or three before needing a recharge.
Summary, which is better?!
When it comes to GPS devices and Range Finders, players tend to love one… or the other.
GPS watches in particular have the added advantage of convenience; you glance at your wrist, and then pick the right club. We didn’t talk about the range of GPS apps available for SMART phones but you have to be careful, some are illegal due to apps on the phone that help with the weather, wind and direction!
Rangefinders are harder work. You have to stop, get it out, look at the target and measure the distance. More accurate yes, good enough for the pros when they evaluate a course, yes… but a little more cumbersome and expensive.