Laser Rangefinder vs. GPS Watch: Which Should You Buy?

When it comes to improving your golf game, having the right equipment can make a significant difference. Two popular tools that many golfers consider essential are laser rangefinders and GPS watches. Both devices offer distinct advantages, but which one is right for you? In this article, we’ll break down the features and benefits of each to help you make an informed decision.

Laser Rangefinder

What is a Laser Rangefinder?
A laser rangefinder is a handheld device that uses a laser beam to measure the distance between you and a specific target on the golf course, such as the flagstick or a hazard.


Pinpoint Accuracy: Laser rangefinders provide precise distance measurements, usually accurate to within a yard or less. This accuracy can be invaluable for selecting the right club and making confident swings.

Versatility: Laser rangefinders can be used on any golf course, regardless of whether it is pre-mapped or not. You can also measure distances to any point on the course, not just predetermined targets.

No Subscription Fees: Once you purchase a laser rangefinder, there are no additional costs or subscription fees. It’s a one-time investment that provides long-term value.

Ease of Use: Modern laser rangefinders are user-friendly and offer simple point-and-shoot operation. With a little practice, you can quickly and easily determine distances to any target on the course.


Line of Sight Required: Laser rangefinders require a clear line of sight to the target. If your view is obstructed by trees, hills, or other obstacles, you may not be able to get an accurate reading.

Manual Operation: Unlike GPS watches, laser rangefinders require manual operation to aim and shoot at the target. This can be a bit cumbersome and may slow down your pace of play.

GPS Watch

What is a GPS Watch?
A GPS watch is a wearable device that uses satellite technology to provide real-time distance information to various points on the golf course.


Convenience: GPS watches offer hands-free operation, allowing you to quickly glance at your wrist to see distances to the front, middle, and back of the green, as well as hazards and other key points on the course.

Pre-Mapped Courses: Many GPS watches come pre-loaded with thousands of golf courses worldwide, providing accurate distance information without the need for manual input.

Multifunctional: In addition to golf features, GPS watches often include fitness tracking, smartphone notifications, and other useful functions, making them a versatile accessory both on and off the course.

No Line of Sight Required: Unlike laser rangefinders, GPS watches do not require a clear line of sight to the target. This can be particularly beneficial on courses with many blind shots or obscured views.


Subscription Fees: Some GPS watches require a paid subscription to access advanced features or updates to the course database. This can add to the overall cost of ownership over time.

Less Precision: While GPS watches are generally accurate, they may not provide the same level of precision as laser rangefinders, especially on courses with complex layouts or multiple hazards close together.

Which Should You Buy?

The decision between a laser rangefinder and a GPS watch ultimately comes down to your personal preferences and playing style.

Choose a Laser Rangefinder If:

You prioritize pinpoint accuracy and don’t mind manually aiming at targets.
You play on a variety of courses and want a versatile device that can measure distances to any point on the course.
You prefer a one-time investment without ongoing subscription fees.

Choose a GPS Watch If:

You value convenience and prefer hands-free operation on the course.
You play mainly on pre-mapped courses and want a device that automatically provides distance information.
You’re looking for a multifunctional device that offers additional features like fitness tracking and smartphone notifications.
Both laser rangefinders and GPS watches have their strengths and weaknesses, and the best choice for you will depend on your individual needs and preferences. If you prioritize accuracy and versatility, a laser rangefinder may be the right choice. On the other hand, if you value convenience and prefer a hands-free approach, a GPS watch could be the better option.

Regardless of which device you choose, investing in a reliable distance-measuring tool can help you make more informed decisions on the course, leading to better shot selection and ultimately, lower scores.

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