Range Finder or GPS unit, which one is the better distance measuring device?

Basics of Golf Equipment

Range Finder or GPS unit, which one is the better distance measuring device?

Range finders and GPS units are golf gadgets that measure the distance from the spot where your ball lies to the pin. They have been around for several years but have only recently been legalized by golf's governing bodies. This article looks at some issues that prompted this change of mind, and we will also look at the different type of devices that are now available. Are they really giving golfers an advantage, or are they just some new toys for gadget lovers? More below...



Bushnell Medalist PinSeeker Range Finder

Bushnell Medalist PinSeeker Range Finder

The new Bushnell Medalist Laser Rangefinder with Pinseeker Technology is legal for tournament play and employs Pinseeker technology for better shot making and course management on any course, to virtually any object anywhere, any time of day.

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Bushnell Pinseeker 1500 With Slope

Bushnell Pinseeker 1500 With Slope

The Pinseeker 1500 is accurate to +/- one yard from 5 to 1,500 yards away, is able to measure slope and will range directly to the flag, not the objects behind it. With three Selective Targeting modes, you will get the information you need to make your best shot.

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Sky Golf SG4 GPS SkyCaddie Unit

Sky Golf SG4 GPS SkyCaddie Unit

The SkyCaddie SG4 is for Avid Golfers who require a SkyCaddie with advanced features, a larger display and a long-lasting rechargeable battery. The SG4 includes SkyGolf s patented IntelliGreen technology enabling golfers to measure the full depth of the green from any angle of approach and shows distances for all targets and hazards on any of SkyGolf s 11,000 professionally mapped courses.

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iGolf Gps Caddie II

iGolf GPS Caddie

The L1 Technologies GPS Caddie II is an affordable GPS handheld device that provides golfers with precise distance measurements to key points from any golf course in the world. The GPS Caddie II features a new user interface, which has been enhanced and revamped since the release of the orignal GPS Caddie. The iGolf GPS Caddie II allows golfers to instantly access remaining distance to the front, center and back of a green on any golf course in the world. Golfers can map up to 11 different points per hole, or subscribe to iGolf.com to download their favorite courses. The GPS Caddie is an affordable GPS solution for golfers of all abilities. The GPS Caddie is ready to use out of the box without the requirement of any additional software or hardware if you want to map your own golf course. A computer and internet access are required if you would like to download pre-mapped golf courses from iGolf.com.

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Garmin GolfLogix GPS device

Garmin GolfLogix GPS device

Without ever having to push a button, GolfLogix GPS continually displays the distance to every target and hazard. All you do is check the distance, select your club and take your shot. GolfLogix GPS even scrolls automatically to the next hole. Accurate distance is key for every golfer on every shot. Knowing the exact distances to hazards and the hole increases your shot confidence and enhances your overall experience. GolfLogix GPS takes the guesswork out of determining the yardage.

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In January 2008, the United States Golf Association (USGA) and the Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews (R&A) announced the change of Rule 14-3b, also known as the range finder rule. The amended rule now states "The Committee may make a Local Rule allowing players to use devices that measure or gauge distance only". The general trend has since been that local committees allow the use of range finders for amateur golfers on regular golfing days, and sometimes even for local golf tournaments. To the best of my knowledge no major tournament has allowed the use of artificial distance measuring devices.

So, for everyday play, what advantages can a distance measuring device bring? Let's step back for a moment and look at some other recent advances in golf equipment: the new woods and irons hit farther than last years models, and the new golf balls fly longer than ever. But, despite all the improved equipment, a round of golf played 10 years ago may have taken less than four hours to play, while it is often five hours or more today. How come?

With all the improved golf clubs and golf balls better course management becomes a major issue. Unless your ball lies directly besides a yardage marker it takes some guess work to determine the distance to the pin, which obviously directly affects the choice of club to use. Proper distance estimation becomes an even bigger issue inside say 100 yards or so. I have seen many golfers who, from 80 yards out, count steps by walking from their ball to the pin, walk back to their ball, decide which club to use and only then play their ball. This is slow play in it's worst form! So, a device that can measure the distance from the ball to the pin would take away the guess work and thus speed up play considerably. This is believed to be the USGA's and R&A's main reason for allowing the devices for amateur golfers.

Besides speeding up play these devices will also help mid- to high handicappers to lower their scores. By knowing the exact distance to the pin they just have to properly dial in their irons for better approach shots.

However, not everybody thinks that this is a good development. I spoke to some golfers who complained that distance measuring devices "remove the purity of the game" and are "non-traditional". However, these guys also played with the latest weight-adjustable drivers and three-piece balls, not really as pure as the old hickory shafted clubs and gutta percha balls either.

Distance measuring devices for golf come in two main types: range finders and GPS units. Both are quite similar in their accuracy which is definitely sufficient even for better amateur golfers.

Range finders look a bit like binoculars. You look thru it and aim at the target like a sharp shooter, and the unit will measure the distance by sending a laser beam to that particular spot. This requires a direct line of sight to the flag as well as steady hands (especially for longer distances). If the flag is around a dogleg or you have shaky hands a range finder will not help much. However, you can easily determine the distance to a bunker or other hazards that you are trying to avoid, simply aim at them and the range finder will tell you the distance. This way you can decide to either lay up or go for it. Range finders work on every course.

GPS units are a bit more complicated: a map of the course has to be loaded into the device, and your position on the course relative to the pin is determined via a satellite signal. The usability of a GPS unit depends heavily on the quality of the map. Some GPS maps only showing the distance to the front, middle and back of the green and may not show any hazards at all. Depending on the model, maps have to be purchased individually or via a subscription which adds to the cost of the device. Better GPS units offer touch screens which, combined with a good map, allows you to obtain the distance to any spot on the course. However, before buying a GPS unit you need to make sure that a map of your course is available for this model. If you play many different courses you will need all the different maps, too. Also, if the weather is cloudy or you have many tall trees around than the unit may not be able to connect to the satellite, so you won't get a reading at all. On the other hand, if the conditions are good you just walk up to your ball, look at the unit and choose your club, no need for aiming.

Some Range Finder Features

A. Targeting Modes

 

Scan
The Scan mode allows you to pan across the landscape while viewing a continuously updated LCD display of the distances between you and the targets you scan with the viewfinder.

 

Rain
This feature compensates for precipitation to guarantee an accurate distance measurement through rain or snow.

 

Zip
Zip allows you to accurately measure longer ranges (beyond 150 yards) when looking through foreground clutter like brush or branches.

 

Reflector
This feature increases the maximum measurement range for most highly reflective objects.

Some Range Finder Features

Laser Rangefinder Features:

B. Meters/Yards
You can quickly choose between these standard measuring units with a simple press of a button.

C. Reticle
The distance to objects targeted in these crosshairs will be displayed on the Distance Readout with the press of a button.

D. Battery Indictor
Flashes when battery power is low.

E. Target Quality Gauge
Gauge indicating amount of energy pulses being received back from the target.


 

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