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Choosing and Using the Right Distance-Measuring Device

Distance-measuring devices can help you play better and faster

Golf is full of technology – not just for equipment and golf balls – but also when it comes to distance-measuring devies. Let's figure out which distance-measuring device is right for you and how you  can use it to your advantage on the golf course. 

According to the Rules of Golf, the use of distance-measuring devices (DMDs) – also known as golf rangefinders – has been allowed for use during a round since 2006 only when an optional Local Rule is introduced by a golf course or the committee in charge of a specific competition.  In 2014, the USGA and R&A allowed the use of conforming DMDs in all USGA amateur qualifying events and championships.  This has made the use and popularity of golf rangefinders more common. 

There are two basic types of golf rangefinders – laser and GPS (using global positioning satellites).  There are many types and brands of rangefinders on the market – from handheld GPS and laser units to watches and even units that clip on a hat, golf bag or belt.  Basic units offer distance readings to the front, middle and back of the green.  More advanced units show the entire hole graphic and allow for exact distances to water hazards, bunkers and other landmarks on the golf course.  Your use of technology and level of details are two things to consider when purchasing or using a rangefinder. 

If you enjoy technology, the features on some GPS units show the hole graphics.  Many units require you to download courses that you plan to play.  These types of rangefinders are great if you play multiple courses or pre-load courses you plan to play on a golf trip.  They often times require a subscription to download the courses, but if you like details and don’t mind downloading and syncing to a computer, these units are extremely helpful when playing.  If technology isn’t something you enjoy, go with a unit that has basic course information pre-loaded and doesn’t require downloading. 

GPS units are great to use when you can’t see the hole or need lay-up distances to specific hazards (something most laser units can’t determine).  Some GPS units have the ability to measure your drive (or other shots) which help you determine how far you hit specific clubs.

If you enjoy playing fast and want just basic information, you may prefer laser rangefinders – where you just “point and shoot” to get the yardage.   One advantage laser rangefinders have over GPS units is they typically don’t require charging after every two or three rounds.  Laser rangefinders are very accurate but require a steady hand to hold when looking for the yardage.  They are easier to use since they don’t require downloading a course and purchasing a subscription service.

Many golfers prefer to download various rangefinder apps for use on smartphones.  These provide a great solution to buying a separate golf rangefinder, however, are known to accelerate the battery use on the phone, plus require buying the app to download,  then sometimes not all courses are available.

Regardless of which type of rangefinder you select, take advantage of the technology to help you determine accurate distances.  You will find it helps with pace of play (you won’t be walking around looking for distances on sprinkler-heads) and you will save a few strokes on your score.