How Do Golf Rangefinders Work?

James Harper
James Harper
Research Writer
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
Expert Consultant
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 27, 2023
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If by chance it has ever crossed your inquisitive mind how golfers pick the appropriate club for every shot to cover the vital distance, it might have occurred to you that maybe the answer is based solely on their experience since that factor has played and plays a key part. However, if you are an ardent fan of the sport, you must have seen with most golfers at any stage of the match a binocular-looking device they hold up to one eye, and this is known as a rangefinder. But what is it and how do gold rangefinders work?

To this end, a golf rangefinder is a gadget used to calculate the distance between the golfer and the hole or between the golfer or any other point within the golf course. Quite needless to say, a golf rangefinder’s essential function will be to help a player ascertain the distance to an object on the course.

Since its inception, the game of golf has grown as time passes, and though the spirit of the sport is still the same, the gear, equipment, devices, and tools for playing have upgraded at a high progression. Golf rangefinders are great tools for both actual gaming and for practice. There are many models that come with amazing specifications and extra features that help you stay ahead of your game.

You are here because you want to find a definite answer to the questions: “how do golf range finders work?” and “can it give you an edge on the course?” after you have hustled through many articles. This discourse will prove to be different by catching you up to speed on how this device truly works. Pay attention!

The Basics of Golf Rangefinders 

Good riddance to the old age question “how far is it?” since rangefinders have reformed the way the game of golf is being played. It will be a gross miscarriage of knowledge if we are to talk about the basics of golf rangefinders and how they work without talking about the basics and types. Because in the end, the answer to the question is hooked on the type of golf rangefinder you choose. If you are looking for a new rangefinder, consider the Vortex Impact 6×15

Categorically, there are two major types of golf rangefinders (GPS and laser rangefinders), with the third one (optical rangefinders) not being so widely used. The following paragraphs will open your eyes to understanding how the different types of rangefinders work.

GPS Rangefinder

How Do Golf Rangefinders Work?You are most likely familiar with GPS use in your everyday activities. The GPS is the acronym for Global Positioning System rangefinder engages the use of a network satellite to launch the distance to a certain place on the course from the device. This is dependent on the GPS rangefinder getting signals from different satellites, which in turn makes a calculation of the location of the device and infers the distance of the location to the target.

This is the most progressive of technologies as it gives you precise and exact measurements. It is important to note that before you can access the GPS rangefinder on a specific course, you must see to it that you have the course mapping on your gadget. This satellite mapping is to help you overview the course layout.

When you load a course, which can either come pre-installed with numerous courses or demand you to download from their website, and this will provide you the specific distances to the pin on each hole. When you want to measure the distance to the next hole, all you need to do is pick up your rangefinder, point at the target, and press the trigger. Because this type of rangefinder stores the maps of golf courses, it is faster and easier to use due to the fact that it already has the distance information from hole to hole. There are other sophisticated courses that provide you with the luxury of detailing, like how closer or farther you are to hazards, landmarks on the course, and letting you specify the particular location you want to know the distance on the course.

GPS models are accessible in a couple of style selections. They are the handheld rangefinder, which is more common, and the GPS watch, which is easier to take from hole to hole due to its compactness and portability. They also have the feature of being weather-resistant.


  • In contrast to its counterpart, the laser rangefinder, you have no need to aim at the target.
  • The GPS rangefinder is not subdued to obstructions in the way.
  • It calculates the distance from the golfer to the flag at a faster rate.
  • Doesn’t require focusing on an object.


  • You might encounter some restrictions due to the terms and conditions of the device manufacturer.
  • They are a bit expensive.

In summary, this is how GPS rangefinders works:

  • Load the course and targets into your electronic device, which might be your smartphone or personal computer.
  • Switch on the electronic device when you get to the golf course, and you are ready to make use of your GPS rangefinder.
  • Make a connection with the satellite feeds on the location before proceeding.
  • Select the target hole, and the distance value pops on the screen of your e-device.
  • Ensure you use it where you can easily be detected by the GPS location.
  • Finally, you can get the coordinates as it pleases you.

Laser Rangefinder 

How Do Golf Rangefinders Work?This type of rangefinder is exceptional, which determines distances with the use of an innovative laser beam technology. The technology it makes use of is similar to that of an autofocus camera.

The laser golf rangefinder allows you to survey critical shots, and this positively enhances your accuracy by using a laser beam aimed at the target, like a pin which reflects back to the rangefinder to determine and calculate the distance.

There are some advanced brands and models of laser rangefinders Trusted Source Laser rangefinder - Wikipedia A laser rangefinder, also known as a laser telemeter, is a rangefinder that uses a laser beam to determine the distance to an object. that come with what is called a pin-seeker ability which helps the device place a focus on the pin and not the background objects. Others come an inbuilt inclinometer (a device used for measuring the angle of inclination of something, especially from the horizontal) which helps you regulate the slope of your target area. Many laser rangefinders on the market are furnished with lenses that magnify up to 5 times. Some others also come with a variety of extra features like sleek, shock-resistant, and weatherproof constructions. For those on a budget, we highly recommend the TecTecTec ProWild.

The use of a laser rangefinder requires no technological know-how. Just point the handheld device to the target and squeeze the trigger. After a laser beam is sent to the intended target, a distance reading will be made available in few seconds.


  • It possesses flexibility which allows a golfer to pinpoint any object on the golf course.
  • You need not download course maps and pay for a subscription monthly.
  • They’ve been reviewed to be more accurate than GPS rangefinders.


  • Measuring might become tedious if you come in contact with an obstacle.

In summary, this is how laser rangefinders work:

  • Switch on the rangefinder and position your eye to the viewfinder.
  • Press down the button as described in the manual you must have studied previously until you find the flagstick.
  • Make sure that the focus is steady on the flagstick, then release your hand from the button so you can pin-lock the target.
  • After this, the measurement would pop up on the screen.

Optical Rangefinder 

How Do Golf Rangefinders Work?This is the third major type of golf rangefinders, but it isn’t as popular as GPS or laser rangefinder. Their unpopularity, however, does not mean that they do not offer a solid performance too.

They are monocular devices, and at one end of the rangefinder, they have a couple of lenses that zoom in on the target to find the height of a pin and convert it to the distance by using an inbuilt scale. Optical golf rangefinders employ the use of a form of triangulation called parallax, and they are the most economical option. They require no batteries, subscriptions, or course mapping downloads since they convert the size of objects to distances using the pre-loaded scales. How well you focus the device on the target object will determine how accurate or inaccurate it will turn out to be, and for this reason, you should carefully point your optical rangefinder at the pin and stay steady throughout.


  • They are really affordableThey do not pose the risk of focusing on background objects like the rest of the golf rangefinders.
  • Just like rangefinder binoculars, they give decently accurate measurements.
  • They are lightweight and portable.


  • A slight unsteady operation will lead to inaccurate data.
  • They make an assumption that golf pins come in a standard and fixed height, and this is a misconception.

In summary, this is how optical rangefinders work:

  • Since it is like a monocular, use an eye to focus on the target to capture the distance,
  • The device measures the height of the pin then changes it to distance on the inbuild pre-loaded scale.
  • Use the focus button to zoom in.


One of the most asked questions by prospective purchasers of laser golf rangefinders is: “how accurate is a laser rangefinder?”

Like it was stated earlier, a laser rangefinder uses the technology an autofocus camera uses and determines the distance from hole to hole. The reason why a laser rangefinder is superfast is that the laser beam travels at the speed of light, and you will get a distance reading at a snap of your fingers. It is statistically proven that even low-end laser rangefinders without luxurious specifications have an accuracy rating within one yard. However, other models that are high-end compared to others will be a good bang for your bucks because they tend to be more accurate than the others.

It should be noted that there is a category of golf rangefinder which incorporates the best technologies of both GPS and laser rangefinder called the hybrid rangefinders. This type of rangefinder provides the golfer with GPS satellite course mapping and also laser sight targeting.


It should be borne in mind that devices with a higher range rating don’t necessarily mean that they’re more powerful, but this can mean that they have a high quality components the device makes use of. Higher-priced rangefinders will come with top-notch technology. For instance, an average laser rangefinder will have a range of 400-500 yards, while the higher-priced models have a range of 800-1,000 yards. This quality means the sensors and chips that offer a more accurate performance with the capability to evade complications and obstructions in the golfer’s path. Still, you can find some decent models for under $200 or even under $100 that will impress you with their performance.

Extra Tips 

How Do Golf Rangefinders Work?After spending that much cash on your golf rangefinder, it is only fair for you to get the best out of it. This section exclusively concentrates on tricks and tips to get the best out of your rangefinder!

  • Prior to your purchase of a golf rangefinder, ensure you check out the specifications, and this encompasses the magnification, range, and increment. When thinking of magnification, consider going for one that offers different degrees of magnification because you will enjoy your device more if your target object is unobstructed.
  • Since we have the concern of beginners in mind, this tip will help your game, and that is focusing on a particular spot on the course then immediately discarding it before your swing.
  • Another trick to staying ahead of your game and enjoying premium comfort with your rangefinder is adjusting the eyehole.
  • Expect to be teleported into the world between miracles and magic if you stand outside the tee box while using your golf rangefinder. This gives you a clearer view of the entire golf course and the target object.
  • Apart from the fact that cleaning your rangefinder elongates its life, this has been a usual practice for both learners and professionals. After each use, clean the lens and eye hole before placing it back to the case.
  • Carry an extra battery to avoid uninterrupted golfing if your golf rangefinder is a laser or GPS rangefinder.


The following are frequently asked questions about rangefinder.

Where should I aim my golf rangefinder?

First, it is recommended to aim your rangefinder at the ground, then give a quick press on the button to start measuring the distance. You can then aim right at the target and push the button after your rangefinder brings up a reticle on display.

How do I use a rangefinder when there is a slope?

You need a rangefinder with a slope setting that will help you calculate the slope between you and your target if you want to adjust the distances for elevation changes.

You can watch the video below to have a better understanding of how to use a golf rangefinder on slopes.

Should I use a golf rangefinder?

It is advisable to use a rangefinder when you are not sure about the distance and obstacles in the way.

Final Thoughts 

There are a lot of tricks to play golf like a pro, but still, it gets better with the help of a perfect golf rangefinder which awards you the opportunity to gather brilliant knacks on golf. It is also not enough to just buy a golf rangefinder, but it is pertinent to also know the right and appropriate use of it by knowing how a golf rangefinder works and having a nice grasp of the tips to give you a better performance.


Laser rangefinder - Wikipedia
A laser rangefinder, also known as a laser telemeter, is a rangefinder that uses a laser beam to determine the distance to an object.
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