Can toggle between slope and non-slope modes, all of which are USGA-legal. Accuracy within 1 yard. Waterproof features deal with tough course conditions. 6x magnification level. Uses vibration to indicate it has locked in on the target.
Reaction time of rangefinder is a little slow at times. Struggles occasionally with hazard measurements.
Accuracy within 1 yard. 5x magnification level. Extremely accurate when used on relatively flat terrain. Design is easy to use. Vibrations let you know you've locked a target. Bushnell name is well-trusted. Good price point for Bushnell.
Limited improvements over older Bushnell models. Does not provide slope measurements.
Lightweight and easy to carry while you're playing. Price is far lower than most rangefinders. 6x magnification. Accurate to within 1 yard. Better battery life than other low-priced golf rangefinders.
Easier to focus in on the flag than on hazards. No vibration feature to let you know you've hit the target.
Slope tech adjusts distance measurements to account for terrain changes. Vibrating burst lets you know when you've locked the target. 5x magnification. Accurate settings to plus/minus 1 yard of target.
Price is higher than average. Sometimes struggles to zero in on the flag when trees are nearby.
Accurate measurements within 1 yard. Durable design survives tough course conditions. 6x magnification setting. Lightweight model fits in a pocket. Ships w/carrying case for easy transport.
Can take a long time to dial in the distance. Sometimes struggles with providing accurate distance.
We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.
We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.
Calculating distances on the golf course can be a bit hit and miss – but not with a laser rangefinder. These compact, portable devices offer both ease of use and unbeatable accuracy. Of course, there are many different models on the market, and making the right choice can be challenging.
BestReviews is here to help by explaining the technology and how each feature impacts usability.
The following golf rangefinder shopping guide separates the facts from the hype and gives you the details you need to make an informed decision.
Every laser rangefinder (LRF) works in the same way. In theory, an LRF doesn't need an eyepiece, but to be of practical use to golfers (and others) some kind of viewing or targeting apparatus is required. An eyepiece/screen combination is mounted above the laser projector/receiver in the same compact, handheld unit.
Look through the eyepiece and line up the reticle (crosshairs or circle) with the target.
Press a button to project a tightly focused beam of light toward the target.
The laser light travels in a perfectly straight line, hits the target, and bounces back.
A digital clock inside the LRF records the time.
Software in the LRF calculates the distance.
Tough, compact, and feature packed
Golf course targeting doesn't get more comprehensive than this. Inside the smart, ruggedly built body there's technology that provides measurement to 1/10 yard, target acquisition, pulse vibration, and slope calculation that can be turned off. At 400 yards, it's accurate to half a yard, and the 6x magnification enhances target clarity. The NX7 delivers tremendous precision – the rest is up to you.
The lasers in golf rangefinders are all very similar, with almost identical power outputs. What differentiates models are the following features.
The two considerations here are magnification and lens quality.
Magnification should be between 5x and 7x (from five to seven times as large as the eye normally sees). Less than that and you're probably not getting the focus you need down range.
Lens quality is difficult to judge. Coated lenses are generally better than uncoated, though there are many different coating possibilities and not all manufacturers make this clear. Good optics are expensive, so it's reasonable to assume that one of the major factors that differentiates a cheap golf rangefinder from the premium brands is the lens quality.
It's important to be careful when checking range information. Some rangefinders claim 1,000 yards or more, but then give a much-reduced distance for actual pin measurement. The headline figure is an indication of how far the laser will travel, the actual pin measurement is how far it can maintain accuracy. One professional we consulted was of the opinion that no golf rangefinder was really accurate beyond about 300 yards, but that's actually plenty. How far can you hit the ball?
Even cheap golf laser rangefinders are usually accurate to within one yard. Good ones are accurate to within half a yard.
Slope and elevation
There are two golf-specific features in particular that are available in better rangefinders. There's considerable difference between an uphill or downhill target, so better rangefinders offer the additional benefit of slope and elevation calculations. However, these features aren’t allowed in tournament play, so it's important to be able to switch them off.
Most rangefinder displays are either LCD, LED, or OLED. If you’re playing in poor light conditions, OLED displays are brighter and therefore easier to read by virtue of the fact that each individual pixel is lit rather than using a backlit array.
Target acquisition or target lock technology uses terms like “pinseeker,” “flag lock,” “jolt,” or “pulse” to describe enhancements that help you focus on the target more quickly and then receive physical feedback through the device to let you know you're successful.
Although the power consumption of these devices is relatively low, we prefer lithium batteries over alkaline counterparts because of their longevity.
Several golf rangefinders we looked at claimed to be waterproof and shockproof. It sounds good, and may be true, but without an actual Ingress Protection (IP) rating – the international standard for water and dust protection – there's no way to tell how well protected they are or make comparisons between one model and another.
Golf rangefinders cope well in low-light conditions, but struggle if the weather deteriorates. Some will compensate to an extent, but water droplets – particularly fog – will deflect the beam and cause random readings. As a general rule, if you struggle to see the pin, so will your rangefinder!
Protective case: This is a must in our opinion.
Replacement batteries: All golf rangefinders require batteries, and they’re often supplied, but not always, so you need to check. One company will supply you with a free battery every year for the life of the unit.
Lanyard: A lanyard is occasionally provided to enable you to attach your rangefinder to the outside of your golf bag.
Warranty: We would expect a two-year warranty, which is fairly standard with these devices.
Some laser golf rangefinders need reflectors designed to enhance the beam. Although more courses are installing these, at present, it's likely to restrict where you can use this type of device.
If your golf rangefinder calculates uphill or downhill slope, it could be illegal for use in competition. Better models enable you to turn off the function so you can use it for normal and tournament play.
Better rangefinders have “target lock” technology. The device vibrates or pulses to let you know you've “hit” the flag.
You can expect to pay between $70 and $300 for a golf rangefinder.
Inexpensive: The cheapest golf rangefinder we looked at costs around $70, but it isn’t a device that we would recommend. While any laser is more or less infallible in terms of projection, optics, and digital circuitry (which interpret the beam), some aren't of sufficient quality to give a high degree of accuracy.
Mid-range: Fortunately, you don't have to pay a great deal more for a good-quality model, somewhere between $150 and $170, though you could pay considerably less.
Expensive: High-end, fully featured models cost between $250 and $300. It’s an investment in first-class optics, a terrific feature set, and unparalleled accuracy.
Latest golfing tech at a bargain price
The specification for the SereneLife Pro reads like a golfer’s wish list: a claimed range of over 500 yards combined with pinseeker and slope technology to deliver remarkable performance for the money. The 6x optics and +/-1 yard accuracy are a match for far more expensive models. It's everything the budget-conscious golf enthusiast is looking for.
Practice with your rangefinder. Just like your swing or your putting, using a golf rangefinder takes practice. You can pick any target at first (in a field or parking lot, for example), so you get used to the trigger action and holding the unit steady. Try it on the driving range where distances are already known. On the course, use yard markers as you did before, and compare with your laser readings. It doesn't take long to get the hang of it. Unless you have a defective unit, which is unlikely, your rangefinder is an extremely accurate device. Most bad readings are caused by operator error.
Always choose a golf-specific laser rangefinder for golf. These prioritize the “first target” – the flag. This is often called “pinseeker” technology. Hunting rangefinders prioritize a distance target, though if you participate in both sports, switchable dual-mode rangefinders are available.
Protect your rangefinder. A laser rangefinder has sensitive optics. In most cases, scratched lenses can’t be replaced. Keep it in its case when not in use. If a cleaning cloth isn’t supplied, camera cleaning materials are usually recommended, but always check the manual. Never use abrasive household cleaners.
Q. I can get a GPS golf rangefinder app for my phone. Is there any reason I shouldn't?
A. GPS rangefinders are available as stand-alone devices, for phones, and even smart watches. They can certainly be convenient. The problem is the level of accuracy. They will give you the yardage to the green, but they can't “see” the flagstick. These often require updating (because courses change), and many demand a regular subscription payment. If you want a gadget that can make calls, tell the time, and give you reasonable yardage calculations, GPS is fine. If you want to know exactly how far it is from where you're standing to the pin, you need a laser rangefinder.
Q. Can I use a laser rangefinder in competition?
A. Unfortunately, the answer to this question keeps changing! For almost a decade, golf rangefinders have been allowed for normal play if permitted by local rule. In 2016, the USGA extended this to include amateur competitions. The next step was to include PGA practice rounds but not tournament play proper. Recently, rangefinders have been allowed on a trial basis in several PGA-backed tours, but only for calculating distance, not wind, slope, or elevation. For the moment, you'll need to check rules on a case-by-case basis.
Q. Are golf lasers safe?
A. All golf rangefinders use a Class 1 device, as specified by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. This means it's safe "under all conditions of normal use." It also states that these devices are "not an eye hazard." The only stipulation is that you shouldn't look into the beam using optical instruments (magnifiers or telescopes), but why would you do that?