Golf Rangefinder vs Hunting Rangefinder: Which is More Effective?

This article will explain the difference between golf rangefinder vs hunting rangefinder - from their working principles to main factors that show which is superior
James Harper
James Harper
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Being a professional journalist, James knows how to turn any topic into a comprehensive, easy-to-digest text. Even if you've never dealt with telescopes before, rest assured read more
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Charles Goebel
Charles Goebel
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Charles holds a Master’s degree in Physics Engineering (optics and photonics specialization), has been teaching physics at school for almost 15 years and recently has star read more
Last updated: August 09, 2023
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You want to know how far away an object is, so does it really matter what tool you pick up? The introduction of rangefinders has allowed outdoor and sporty people the chance to better see what is around them. Within this category of tools, there may be a lot of questions around the differences between a golf rangefinder vs hunting rangefinder.

While both tools are used to track distances, they are actually quite different in their anatomy. You want to use each for their specific purposes; otherwise you’ll become pretty frustrated. We’ll break down the differences between golf rangefinders and hunting rangefinders so you know exactly how they work and why they are meant for different purposes. 

Golf Rangefinder Anatomy

When out on the golf course, you are given a particular yardage at the start of each hole. But after that initial shot, you’re on your own at computing the remaining distance to the whole. Those that are unsure just what iron to turn to will do much better with a golf rangefinder. In fact, even the PGA is allowing golf rangefinders Trusted Source PGA of America to allow distance-measuring devices in its major events Starting in 2021, players can user laser rangefinders and GPS devices at PGA of America majors, including the PGA Championship. in some of their tournaments. 

Main parts

Golf Rangefinder vs Hunting Rangefinder: Which is More Effective?
While there are different types of golf rangefinders, most have similar parts. You will have an eye piece to scope out where you want to view. Then there will be a screen which tells you more information such as the distance. 


  • Laser – In order to measure the distance, a laser golf rangefinder will use a light beam that stretches towards the target. Once it hits the target, the light beam returns, and this distance is measured based on timing. You can only use a laser rangefinder on a clear day, as rain and fog will impair the path of the light beam. A laser rangefinder, such as the Nikon COOLSHOT 20i GII, can take into account different slopes on the course, giving you a much more accurate reading. 
  • Optical – A bit easier to understand for low-tech people, to use an optical golf rangefinder you simply look through the viewing area. On the lens, you will see a distance scale which will tell you how far away the hole is. 
  • GPS – While this type of golf ranger typically only measures up to 150 yards, it is still useful on a golf course. To use it, preloaded points must be in the device and the rangefinder then uses GPS to determine your current location and the distance to the golf hole. 

How it works

When you use a golf rangefinder, your biggest concern is where the flag for the hole is. This is typically close, at only a few hundred yards away. The “First Target Mode” is what a golf rangefinder is concerned with and therefore it won’t pick up on different, farther away targets. 

Hunting Rangefinder Anatomy

Accuracy when hunting all comes down to how far away your target is. If you think it is much closer, you won’t shoot well enough, and that elusive animal will quickly be frightened away. A hunting rangefinder allows you to easily determine the target’s distance and allow you to set up your shot appropriately. 

Main parts

Similar with golf rangefinders, hunting rangefinders will have an eyepiece and a display screen. For more intricate types of hunting rangefinders, you may have an area where you can enter information about the gun you are using. 


Archery – when out bow hunting, you don’t have to worry about distant horizons and instead angles are more important. An archery rangefinder will help you with distance readings and far-away targets. 

Rifle hunting – With a typical range of 500 to 1,000 yards, a rifle hunting rangefinder will help you with your ideal distance. You will want to enter your rifle caliber into your rangefinder, which will help with your overall accuracy. 

Precision shooting – There are some hunters who love long distance shooting and need a unit that can accommodate these distances. One important note is that because of the long distance, the rangefinder should be set up in a sturdy manner. Because of this, many use tripods to accommodate the balance. 

How it works

Hunting rangefinders are all about distance. They track a farther, “Distant Target Mode.” This is because you won’t be able to sneak up on an animal and instead will have to be far enough away from it so it doesn’t smell you. 

How They Differ?

Now that we know just what a gold rangefinder and a hunting rangefinder is, let’s see how the two compare. 


Prices will vary greatly with both types of rangefinders. If you want a longer distance ability in either type, expect to pay more. Likewise if you want a rangefinder that gives you extra information. On average, base models of both kinds start around $100 and more advanced models can reach the $300 to $400 mark. 

If you are on a budget, or aren’t quite sure what to get, there are some rangefinders under the $100 level. They are still worth considerations that will allow you to get used to the technology. 


If you want a simple golf rangefinder, especially one that may be used by a kid, then go for an optical model. With these you simply look through the rangefinder and see the distance on the lens. But really, if you want more technology, the sky is the limit.

For example, precision shooting rangefinders allow you to input the caliber of your rifle which will provide more precise information about your target.



Most rangefinders, no matter how sophisticated they are, are quite portable. While an optical version will be the smallest, even more high-tech versions will be easily placed inside a carrying bag. Some are so compact you can even put them in a pocket. 

One caveat is with a precision shooting rangefinder. While it isn’t large on its own, it will need the help of a tripod in order to keep it stable and secure.
Golf Rangefinder vs Hunting Rangefinder: Which is More Effective?

Target priority

When you are on the golf course, your only concern is the hole at the end. You want your rangefinder to lock onto that little flag and not anything else. 

With hunting, however, you will have multiple targets. You may want to set yourself beforehand and use a tall rock formation as a landmark. Then, of course, you may need to lock on a majestic deer way in the distance. Hunting rangefinders are meant to secure long-distance targets of different descriptions. 

Weatherproof or not?

While you can find waterproof golf rangefinders, there will be many that are not. This is because not many people play golf in the rain. 

On the other hand, most hunting rangefinders should be waterproof and it is definitely a feature you should look for before purchase. When out hunting, you have no control over the weather. You don’t want to stop you pursuit of the hunt just because there is a light downpour.

If you’re not sure where to start, the Bushnell G-Force Rangefinder 202461 is an impressive hunting rangefinder. Fully waterproof, it is highly accurate and even has a built-in tripod mount.  

Visibility level

The farther your rangefinder can operate, the more expensive it will be. Similarly, the better it is able to maneuver through fog and rain, the higher the price tag. You need to decide what your behavior is, whether when hunting or playing golf. If you are a fair-weather golfer who will gladly sit at home if it is the least bit wet, then you don’t have to worry about the visibility level. 

However, if you are a hunter who loves the thrill of a long-distant chase and is perfectly at home in the rain, then this will impact your rangefinder choice. 

Other features

We know it may not be an issue to some, but the outside design of a rangefinder might be a consideration. While most golf rangefinders are either black or white, many hunting rangefinders are black or camo. Although you could bring a black golf rangefinder out with you while hunting, the white construction might be too bright in a forest setting. 

Final thoughts

Now that there are new technological advances, why not take advantage of them and make your experience that much better. Golf can be a tedious sport. You may try as hard as you can to hit that little ball but if you don’t have an accurate understanding of how far away the hole is, you might never get it in. Even pros are now seeing the value in rangefinders Trusted Source After experimenting with rangefinders at the PGA, what do pros think of its future? | Golf Channel After using rangefinders at the PGA Championship, players weighed in on how they view its future in the game. , echoing their rising popularity. If you’re out hunting and finally have a target in sight, it’s imperative that you know exactly how far away it is, or else you may go home empty handed. While all rangefinders work to measure distance, there are enough differences between a golf rangefinder vs hunting rangefinder that you should not mix and match the two. Keep a golf rangefinder for when you’re out on the course and a hunting rangefinder for when you’re working to bring home dinner. 


PGA of America to allow distance-measuring devices in its major events
Starting in 2021, players can user laser rangefinders and GPS devices at PGA of America majors, including the PGA Championship.
After experimenting with rangefinders at the PGA, what do pros think of its future? | Golf Channel
After using rangefinders at the PGA Championship, players weighed in on how they view its future in the game.
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