Is a Golf Rangefinder Worth It? (Do I Really Need One?)

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Rangefinders are a relatively new piece of golf technology but have been adopted at every level of the game from beginner players to professionals playing in sanctioned tournaments.

A rangefinder is worth it because they are easy to use, provide real-time data on precise yardage distance so you can accurately predict what type of club to use on each shot. A rangefinder eliminates guesswork on the course so you can focus on your swing and other technical areas of your game.

This is why most golfers use rangefinders when playing golf.

Below we discuss if a rangefinder is really worth it, how much rangefinders cost, and the pros and cons of using one.

Do I Really Need a Rangefinder for Golf?

You need a rangefinder to play golf. Golf is a hard sport to master and a rangefinder makes it more manageable. An experienced golfer can use a rangefinder to decide what club to use on any given shot and they help a novice golfer by monitoring how much yardage they are getting from their clubs.

They are easy to acquire and boost your golf game by acting as an electronic caddy helping you to determine yardages and the correct club to use.

Are Golf Rangefinders any Good?

Golf rangefinder technology has evolved immensely since its first release in 1995 and today, rangefinders are extremely good at accurately reading yardage distances in even the toughest terrain. The best models can even take into account line of sight objects like trees and buses.

Did you know: The first type of Rangefinder was invented in Scotland (how ironic) in the late 1880s.

They were used first as an instrument of conflict during World War II. Like most great technologies that make their way to the public, it started with the military.

The design that most militaries settled on was called a ‘coincidence rangefinder’ and heavily influenced the first rangefinders used in golf.

Influence came in the way of a ‘one eye’ viewing design that continues to be the leader in golf rangefinders.

Golf has taken range finding technology past the military-style designs and into the twenty-first century.

Golf companies have developed range finders in the form of electronic monitors that attach to your golf bag, applications that monitor your progress using your cell phone, and even wearable devices that double as a watch.

Electronic monitors tap into global networks that most (if not all) golf courses belong to.

Courses upload their course data, tee box locations, pin locations, and other information to these networks and share them with users.

The same networks are used to power smartphone applications and wearable devices.

Does a Beginner Need a Rangefinder?

Yes, a beginner needs a range finder. A range finder will save a novice player a significant amount of time with club selection because they accurately read the distance between the ball position and the total distance to the pin.

Many people use rangefinders to judge how far away they are from the pin and to decide the clubs needed on their next shot.

This is not the only application for rangefinders. Beginner players benefit from using a rangefinder to help determine how far they are hitting the ball.

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You can use a rangefinder while practicing on a driving range to verify the flag placements and distances.

It is typical for a driving range to place flags at 50, 100, 150, 200, and 250 yards.

All Driving Ranges are Not Created Equally.

Use a rangefinder to verify how far the distance markers are from the tee box area.

Golf courses have a tendency to move tee-off locations, move flags while mowing our collecting balls, and even moving the tee box altogether.

This is a quick way to verify that you’re hitting the ball as far as the distance markers indicate.

Beginner golfers should also use a rangefinder while they are playing.

It doesn’t take long to get a distance on how far you hit your ball. This helps track your progress and truly see your day-to-day performance.

Rangefinders also help you brag about how far you hit the ball to your friends!

Do Most Golfers Use Rangefinders?

Most golfers that have made it past the beginner stage uses a rangefinder. It is an easily accessible piece of technology that is available in almost every golf shop. Using a rangefinder makes the game of golf more enjoyable by determining the yardage of the next shot.

Golf courses are marked with yardage signs like a driving range is. Similar to driving ranges, those yardage signs are not always accurate for a variety of reasons.

They can vary depending on pin placements and even major course renovations.

Rangefinders are easy to use, withstand the wear and tear of an outdoor sport and don’t break the bank. This is why most golfers use rangefinders when playing golf.

Traditional rangefinders work by sending a beam to an object (in our case, the flag) and measuring how much time it takes to return to the device.

It performs some quick calculations and determines the yardage by displaying it in the eyepiece.

More modern rangefinders work by using a network of golf course information and coordinating using satellite technology.

It uses the same concepts that your GPS unit on your cell phone or vehicle deploys.

Is a Golf Rangefinder Cheating?

Using a rangefinder in golf is not cheating. Every experienced golfer will tell you that a rangefinder is not only allowed but it is also encouraged. There are many benefits to using a rangefinder like but the main use is to determine how far away your next shot is and what club to use.

However, the PGA and other semi-professional and professional golf leagues like the LPGA, Pro Golf Tour, Golf Premier League, Senior Tour, and the Kornferry Tour have long banned the use of rangefinders during tournament play.

This has changed in recent history and it is an assumption to think that all golf minor leagues may allow the use of rangefinders in the future.

The PGA of America began experimenting with the use of rangefinders in professional tournaments with three major championships.

The KPMG Women’s PGA Championship, KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship and PGA Championship allowed both rangefinders and GPS devices to be used.

2021 PGA Championship winner Phil Mickelson and his caddie used a rangefinder on almost every hole of the tournament.

This doesn’t guarantee success by any means and the PGA did restrict the use of slope readings (the rise or decline in elevation from you to the target).

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Additionally, there are a lot more factors to consider than the distance to the pin for professional golfers.

Are Cheap Rangefinders Any Good?

An economical (cheap) rangefinder provides the same basic functions as a costly expensive rangefinder and is a good option for any level of golfer.

Golf companies have made rangefinding equipment for all levels of buyers.

Similar to other equipment in golf, you can enter the game at a low-cost entry point or the sky is the limit for the technology.

Rangefinders are also similar to golf clubs, bags, balls, training devices, and apparel that are readily available on the secondary market.

It is a common trope in golf that all players think a different club or piece of equipment is going to make their game better (sidenote: it doesn’t).

One major difference from other golf equipment is that a rangefinder actually does improve the quality of your game.

Knowing what yardage your shot helps decide the correct club to use.

You can purchase a brand new traditional handheld rangefinder for around $60-$100.

This rangefinder provides the most basic rangefinding feature: yardage.

Rangefinders in this range do not provide slope readings.

The next class runs anywhere from $150 up to $400 for brand new name brand models.

These rangefinders can connect to your smartphone to record statistics, provide slope readings and show you what the ‘modified’ yardage is for your next shot.

Rangefinders on the secondary market are available for less than $50. Monitor your local Facebook Marketplace or ask your pro shop – a used rangefinder will pop up eventually.

How Long Do Golf Rangefinders Last?

Rangefinders last a very long time. A rangefinder will last as long as you can hold on to it. They are designed to be water and weather-resistant as well as resistant to being dropped on a cart path. The most common reason for a rangefinder to quit working is, well, because you lose it. 

Most golfers that use rangefinders have dropped and lost their device somewhere on the course.

The lucky ones are able to backtrack and find their rangefinder or hope that a generous soul picks the unit up and turns it into the pro shop.

In this golfer’s experience: that does not happen all the time!

Rangefinders are now built with strong magnets in their shells that you can use to attach to your golf cart.

This has helped with people losing their rangefinders on the course but has skyrocketed the number of rangefinders left in carts at the end of a round.

Almost every pro shop has a collection of rangefinders that their personnel has found while cleaning out golf carts.

The recent advent of GPS-powered rangefinders that you attach to your golf bag or wear as a wristwatch has also extended the life of a rangefinder.

Time to Try out a Rangefinder?

All in all, obtaining and using a rangefinder is a good idea for a golfer. All golfers from the novice stage to professionals on the PGA tour benefit from using rangefinders. They are easy to obtain, simple to use, and last a long time.

There are options for all levels of use and rangefinders are designed for different levels of players.

Some are intended for traditional walking golf and others for cart players although they all provide the same assistance with yardage.