How Does a Golf Rangefinder Work? Must Read For Golf Funs

How does a golf rangefinder work

Are you looking for a distance-measuring device? Well, your GPS tracker and smart phone apps might do the trick but they fall short on locking the target and analyzing slope. Fortunately, a golf range finder determines the distances or the range of your targets on the golf course more precisely, especially those with a built in slope technology. However, note that you can’t use slope function in a tournament play, so you must turn it off.

Most golf range finders are also compact and light in weight so you can toss them in your golf bag after practice. But are they really necessary? Absolutely, yes! Once you are attached to one, you’ll never play golf without it. So which type should you choose?

The Categories of golf range finders

They are available in 3 main categories:

  1. Laser Rangefinder
  2. GPS Rangefinder
  3. Optical Rangefinder

Interestingly, they all accomplish similar functions however different they are. We will discuss each category in detail below. But first, below are a few tips and tricks to get the best results when using a golf range finder:

  • Always ensure you check the magnification, range and increment before you buy a rangefinder. Most importantly, choose one that has a variety of magnification levels. You need this specification in case you would like to have a view of the whole golf course or focus on a certain target.
  • You tend to achieve a more unobstructed visibility of the target when you use a rangefinder while standing off the tee.
  • Golfing and tidiness always go together. Clean the eyehole and the lens before returning the rangefinder back to its case. This is standard procedure for professionals as well as learners.
  • It is important to carry an extra battery in case you are using a laser rangefinder. This guarantees you of uninterrupted golf sessions.
  • Purchase a rangefinder with the maximum level passing the longest hole. Ensure it is adjustable to the very end.
  • Always focus on a particular target on the golf course before you swing. Your eyes need to be comfortable in the process.
  • Ensure the eyehole is adjustable on the hole that comes first on the gadget. This will create your comfort during the entire round.

In case of unobstructed view

  • Grasp the scope steady to the eye and place yourself in the fairway besides the ball holding a clear view of the hole.
  • Put the flagstick’s bottom in line the view finder’s green.
  • Read carefully the figures in line with the top of the flagstick to obtain your yardage. Afterwards, choose the next golf club and pan it off.

For obstructed view

  • Ensure golf scope’s bottom line and the flagstick’s low stripe are in line.
  • Line up the number with flagstick’s top.
  • Obtain the distance by multiplying the number of the stripe flagstick’s top number then divide the number by eight.

The Laser Rangefinder and how it works

The Laser Rangefinder and how it works

This device employs a laser beam technology (red lights) that is advanced. It is mostly for the purpose of determining distance. It works by projection of the laser beam in the direction of the target at the beginning. Automatically, you get a reflection from the target to the device’s laser beam. Calculation of distance is achieved by determining the time the beam takes to return to the rangefinder.

In as much as the technology has become popular among golfers, it has its share of downsides. For example, it is not easy to determine a slope using this rangefinder. Luckily, you will come across some advanced models that have an inbuilt inclinometer, which plays a great role in slope calculation within a specific area.

Some models may also provide inaccurate data obtained by focusing on background objects. As a solution to this, the recent technology contains a pin seeker whose main role is to focus on the pin. As a result, it disregards all unnecessary objects and obtains accurate information. In Short, the laser rangefinder works by:-

  • Pinning the target.
  • Aiming the Rangefinder at that specified target.
  • Pulling the trigger and releasing the beam immediately in view of target.
  • Checking the screen’s calculated distance.
  • Repeating the process after steadying the device if at all an error is found.

Hilly Grounds

Note that the dynamics totally differ on instances where you are playing on hilly surfaces. In such a scenario, it is important that you take note of key aspects such as maximum ranges and tilted angles. The tilt angles help you find the exact location of an object that is brought about by the elevation difference.

Unfortunately, there is one drawback that has not been resolved as of now. The laser rangefinder gives a calculation of the distance horizontally as opposed to the sloppy terrain distance. As a result, you find that the distance appears shorter as compared to the actual distance on the ground.

You could ask, how best can you target a flag from the view of a hill using the laser rangefinder? Here are the steps to do that successfully:

  1. Aim at a larger object you will identify near the flag.
  2. Steady the rangefinder while zooming in for a clear view of the flag.
  3. Maintain your view at the horizontal distance towards the larger object’s edge.
  4. Finally, target the distance between you and the flag.

One of the most celebrated benefits of the laser rangefinder is that it holds a magnification capacity of up to X5. With this magnification, you have the advantage of obtaining a target view that is better and clearer. The accuracy this device comes with in terms of determining distance at any point of the golf course even without downloading maps is gratifying.

The Optical Rangefinder and how it works

The Optical Rangefinder and how it works

This device is known for its accuracy when it comes to measuring of distance in the golf course. It is a monocular gadget with inbuilt scales features. It employs the tactic of picking the height of the pin in the eyepiece and afterwards converting it to distance by using the already figured scales.

The Optical rangefinder is affordable and does not require any map downloads, batteries or subscriptions. The reason for this is its capacity to use the pre-loaded scales to convert heights of objects. However, the model offers a slight inaccuracy when it comes to measurement. The device ranks lowest in price and accuracy. Golfers as well as hunters use this device.

Basically, the optical range finder works in the following steps.

  1. It builds a focus on the target in order to obtain distance with the help of the in-built pre-loaded scale.
  2. By gauging the pin’s height it changes it to the distance on the scale.
  3. In order to zoom in, make use of the focus button that brings the objects closer.
  4. The focus button utilizes the in-built scale to determine the approximate distance.

The concept used by these devices is known as parallax, a type of triangulation. You will find dual lenses that focus on a similar target on the opposite sides of the optical rangefinder. The knob imposes the images from the dual lenses against each other. The calibrations therein then convert the readings to a specific distance.

You are the sole determinant on how accurate your image will be depending on how keen you will focus on the target. Therefore, it is important to remain steady throughout as you carefully target the pin using the device.


  • They go at an affordable price as much as they are versatile.
  • Their compact size allows you to carry easily.
  • The measurements obtained are slightly accurate.
  • You don’t have to worry about the risk posed by the focus of background objects.


  • Once you become unsteady, you will obtain inaccurate data.
  • The assumption that golf pins always have a standard height is wrong.
  • As compared to their counterparts, they give the least accurate measurements.

GPS rangefinder and how it works

GPS rangefinder and how it works

This technology employs satellites to obtain a golf course’s distance. It is highly recognized among the best technologies that offer accurate measurements. The GPS obtains information from many satellites thus determining distance. Once the signal is received, the device gives an estimation of distance to a specific target.

As a matter of fact, some models make use of satellite mapping to give a proper layout of the course. Loading of the map is necessary before using the device for easier calculations. Some models already have the pre-loaded courses.

Others however need you to download certain courses. In fact, other GPS rangefinders require you to pay a membership fee in order to access their maps. Once you input your course, you are given a precise measurement of the interval to the pin hole. Moreover, some models go the extra mile of giving user’s information like hazardous locations and black spots. Some even provide you with the outlook of the green or another landmark. Basically,

  • Download the course on your computer or phone before going to the golf course.
  • Switch on the gadget once you arrive.
  • Give it time to get a connection with the satellite waves on the location.
  • Find the target hole and confirm the rangefinder’s reading.
  • Obtain the co-ordinates.

Once you pre-load a course, most GPS models move to the target that follows without having to operate manually. However, other GPS devices do not have this functionality so you will need to do a manual selection.

In case you come across front and back edges,

  • The gadget automatically captures position.
  • It takes note of a line cutting across the pin.
  • The rangefinder obtains the points of intersection within the edges of the course.
  • You should push the power knob to find the distance in between the object and the rangefinder.
  • The device should automatically obtain the measurements at this point

Some of the benefits the GPS rangefinders offer its users are:-

  • They are the most accurate as compared to the other counterparts.
  • There is no need to be steady and focus on the object, thanks to the satellite mapping feature.
  • Obstructions such as trees don’t matter with these rangefinders as you can still easily obtain the measurement of distance.

The flaws include:-

  • You could experience a restriction to the database of the manufacturer. This is due to the fact that the rangefinders have a high dependency on the satellite imaging of the whole course. Therefore, you get limited chances of exploring other courses.
  • They come at a higher cost.

Besides the three rangefinders, you will also find hybrids that employ technologies of the laser and GPS. Each compliments the other in their specific qualities. As much as they are costly, the hybrids are highly recommended. They get the best sides of the two models as well as overcome their drawbacks.

Golf Rangefinder Buying Guide

Golf Rangefinder Buying Guide

Now that you understand how each category works, let us discuss some important factors to consider when buying a golf range finder. I should also mention that all golf range finders are accurate to certain distances. If yours is not, return it because it might be faulty.


As mentioned earlier, a golf range finder with inbuilt slope is your best bet. These measure any changes in elevation hence estimate more accurate distances. However, you can only use the slope feature in friendly matches or during your private practice but never in an actual golf tournament.

Ease of UseFor those who have had previous experience with range finders, any model will be a walk in the park. However, for beginners, you need a model that is user friendly. One that you can quickly lock your targets accurately each time you play.

The Lens Modification

Most rangefinders have 0 to 7x magnification. The higher the magnification, the easier it is for you to lock your targets.


You see the more expensive golf rangefinders have red numbers which are more legible. If you have eyesight problems, you might need to consider investing in such.

Waterproofing and Size 

If you play on natural grass outside, you need a range finder with a waterproof casing to take care of the wet mornings, or rainy afternoons. Similarly, you need a range finder that can easily fit in the palm of your hands to keep it steady.


The ability to focus on a specific target and get a precise reading is the exact purpose of a rangefinder. As much as you need to buy a suitable rangefinder to become a pro in the game, you also need to master the art of using it properly. However, certain aspects such as obstructions and temperature would naturally affect you if you were using say for example a laser gadget because it affects the sharp pulse of the travelling speed. Other than that, we hope the tips given here will equally help you achieve your goals in beating the best in the golfing industry.

4 thoughts on “How Does a Golf Rangefinder Work? Must Read For Golf Funs”

  1. I am glad I came across your article as I have not been using a rangefinder and needed some good advice. I really think that the GPS model sounds like it would fit what I think I need. But as your article says, it comes at a cost, to include a possible membership fee. Maybe I should go with the optical. For an amateur like me that probably isn’t going to get that close to the hole anyway, is there really that big of a yardage difference between the optical and the GPS?

    • Hello, Shawn D, and thank you.

      Thank you for your kind words.

      Great to hear about your benefit of the article too.

      Yes, there is some difference between these types, so it is good to have it mind when choosing a golf rangefinder. Even so, it is excellent and fun to use it and will help your golf too.

      Don’t hesitate to contact me if I can help you with anything else or if you have any questions.

  2. It’s nice to read through this article, I’m not really a golf person, but I find it always interesting to read about it because it is a very tactical game, I believe, and it requires you to know about how to get across your game plan wisely. This article about golf rangefinder will help golfers a lot; I’ll share this with my friends who are into golf.

    • Hello, BJaYbOLt, and thank you.

      Thank you for your kind words.

      Great to hear about your benefit of the article too.

      Don’t hesitate to contact me if I can help you with anything else or if you have any questions.


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