In the sport of golf, whether you play seriously or just for fun, you’ll often see bits of technology out on the course. One of the most popular technological helpers come in the form of GPS watches and rangefinders.

Being able to identify distances is important to the sport of golf. Some people are pretty good at eyeballing it, but most people need some help from a range-finding tool.

That is where rangefinders and GPS watches come into play. These tools are made to help you strategize and figure out distances so you can come up with the perfect plan for success. So which one is better? Let’s go through both and find out.

Golf Rangefinder

Rangefinders are, shockingly enough, a tool used to find ranges. They calculate the distance between point A and point B, allowing you to see very far away. They use a simple laser to measure, it’s some pretty neat technology actually.

One of the main benefits of using a rangefinder is that it can help you visualize. Since it can determine the range of almost anything in sight, you can physically see a landmark and go “ok, that’s 200 yards away”. This is a huge benefit, being able to know the distances of anything in sight. When you’re trying to aim and line up your shots, the advantages of these rangefinders are fairly clear.

GPS watches

GPS watches also calculate distances for you, but there are a couple of key differences. First of all, it’s wearable, so already that’s pretty convenient. Instead of determining distance based on what the watch sees, it determines it based on your position on a map of the area. In other words, it maps out your shots for you and lets you see the distance of things that are out of sight for you.

The great thing about the GPS watches is that it is quick, easy to use, and perfect for planning out your swings, plus it can keep track of your score for you.

With the GPS watch, you can plan ahead and meticulously map out your routes from the beginning to the end of the game.

Comparing the two

Now is the time to compare the strengths and weaknesses of both.


The rangefinder’s strength is in its ability to help you visualize where the ball is going to go and what the distances look like to your naked eye. In that regard, you can often use it to know the exact yardage, allowing you to aim with absolute precision. So precise yardage and aim is the biggest benefit to having a rangefinder.

Rangefinders can also be used anywhere, in any context, which makes them quite handy, especially for those lesser known courses that may not be mapped out for your GPS watch.

The downside is that a rangefinder can only tell you the range of what it can see, which means if there’s a hill or literally anything else in the way, you’re out of luck. It also means you have to stop and measure multiple times with every single swing. This can mean that the game’s pacing slows to a crawl. That may not matter to some players since many people play golf leisurely, but to others, it can be a real problem.

Laser rangefinders tend to also be quite expensive. Cheaper ones are available, but on average, you’re likely to pay more for a rangefinder than you would for a GPS watch of comparable quality.

GPS Watches

GPS watches are great because of the sheer volume of information they provide for you. At the touch of a finger, you’re instantly aware not only of the distance measurements but the layout, the obstacles, the hazards, everything. It’s like having a tactical map of the entire field available to you.

These neat little devices aren’t too expensive and they come will all sorts of neat extras. There are some that can keep track of the game for you, for example. These things shine when it comes to helping you plan ahead and see every facet of the game before you’ve even played it through.

The main problem with this unit is it is imprecise. That’s not to say that the measurements are inaccurate because they’re not, but lacking the ability to physically see the distance with your eyes is a massive nerf to these products.

The other problem is that if the golf course’s map isn’t available on your GPS watch, it’s useless, and you might as well leave it in the car for all the good it’s going to do you. Without a map, it won’t be able to do anything.

So which one is superior?

Well, you could just use both.

If you have to choose just one, it all comes down to personal preference. Both devices have their merits. It’s convenient to have the GPS watch because it’s out of the way, you don’t have to think about it unless you need it, and it gives you the opportunity to strategize before you’ve even touched the ball. If that’s what is important to you as the player, then this is the product you’ll want to try and get.

If you value precision, meticulously planning each shot individually, then you’ll likely prefer the rangefinder, because it excels at delivering accurate data that you can visualize. It’s a tool that helps you aim and line up your swings to perfection.

To put it simply, you’re choosing between the versatility of the GPS watch and the reliability of the Rangefinder.

Here’s the thing though. You could just get both and use either one for when they are needed. If you have the money for it, you could have the best of both worlds. These tools complement each other well, making up for the shortcomings of the other, and highlighting each other’s strengths. They make a good pairing.

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