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How Do Rangefinders Work?

Editorial Team
Editorial Team
how do rangefinders work

Rangefinders are devices that measure the distance between two objects. Golfers use them to determine how far away their target is so they can choose the right club to use on their shot. Rangefinders come in many forms, such as laser, optical, and GPS-based rangefinders. All three types of rangefinders work similarly but have some essential differences that must be considered when selecting which device is best suited for your needs.

This article discusses different types of rangefinders and how they work.

Types of Rangefinders in Golf Explained

Rangefinders allow golfers to accurately identify distances between them and any objects on a course, allowing for a more precise selection of clubs and whether or not one should elect to hit full shots, three-quarter shots, and so forth.

Laser Rangefinders

Laser rangefinders measure the distance from your location to an object accurately. To use one, point it toward what you're trying to find the range for. They shoot a beam of light that will reflect off any reflective material placed in potential target areas by golf courses, giving back its precise data instantly.

Laser rangefinders are so widespread that they have become ubiquitous in golf. Course managers now put reflective material on pins and other targets so that golfers can use their rangefinders more accurately.

These rangefinders boast an impressively precise accuracy rate of up to 1/10th of a yard, making them more accurate than GPS-based models. In addition to regular short-game practice, laser rangefinders can make a huge difference in your game. 

To further enhance your short game, consider practicing with an indoor putting mat. These mats offer a convenient way to refine your putting skills, regardless of the weather or access to a golf course.

GPS Rangefinders

Many golf courses have provided Google with topographical maps of their layouts so that golfers may use GPS rangefinders. Something like Google Maps would be unable to measure the distance between objects on a golf course because it generally renders golf courses as green spaces without any remarkable features.

With a GPS rangefinder, you can easily access the distance between your spot and any target on the course. Some of these devices already have thousands of maps on them, while others need to be downloaded from the website of the golf course first.

An advantage of this type of rangefinder is that it automatically calculates the distance to targets on each hole in the course. You no longer have to worry about making sure the device is level and pointed in the right direction, which makes it a more reliable choice.

It's important to note that not all courses have GPS-accessible course maps, but many do.

Optical Rangefinders

If you're looking for an alternative to battery power or GPS and don't feel confident using a laser rangefinder, then an optical rangefinder is perfect.

Optical rangefinders, the oldest kind of their type, are analog by design. This device is constructed similarly to binoculars, divided into two parts: a tube with an eyepiece on one side and lenses on the other. The science behind this tool's functionality involves parallax, which allows height measurements to be converted into distances when images from both lenses blend to create the picture.

Even though they aren't as accurate, they are usually cheaper and give results that are close enough for the average golfer.

How to Aim a Golf Rangefinder

To begin, you can test the accuracy of your rangefinder by pointing it toward the ground and activating it. If it gives you a number close to your height, you know it works properly.

After the test, point it toward the pin, flag, or target you want to aim at. Keep your hands as steady as possible. You also want to make sure you use the same eye each time to keep your numbers consistent. Most rangefinders come with a button or some type of activation switch to turn them on and get the estimated distance.

How to Choose the Right Rangefinder for You

There are several factors to consider when choosing the right rangefinder.


Rangefinders can cost anywhere from $50 to several hundred dollars, depending on the type and features you're looking for. Consider your budget and decide how much makes sense for your golf game. Just because something is more expensive doesn't mean it's necessarily the best one for you.


Accuracy is the most important factor when choosing a rangefinder. Laser rangefinders are typically more accurate than GPS or optical models. Even though they tend to cost more, they may be the best option if you want the most accurate data on every shot.


Another critical factor is how easy the rangefinder is to use. Laser rangefinders are usually the most user-friendly and will provide instant feedback. GPS models tend to require a bit more setup but can be very helpful once you get them going.


Some rangefinders come with special features like slope mode. The slope mode can help you understand how an incline or decline will affect the terrain of a particular shot. This feature can be very helpful for golfers who are familiar with the course and want to plan their shots accordingly.

Finally, consider your personal style and preferences when selecting a rangefinder. Some models may have features that appeal to you, while others may not. Consider all of these factors when choosing the best rangefinder for your golf game!

Final Thoughts

Rangefinders are invaluable for golfers, especially recreational golfers who don't play the same courses regularly. Knowing the proper distance can make the difference between a shot that falls short or goes way over your target and one that lands where you want it.

By understanding the differences and how they work, you can pick the proper rangefinder for you and your game. To improve your putting, you should grab an indoor putting mat. These mats come in all different sizes and shapes that lay flat right out of the box and fit whatever space you have available at home.

While rangefinders can drastically enhance your long game, it's equally crucial to refine your short game. To elevate your practice, opt for a premium indoor putting mat, offering a realistic feel and top-notch quality. These mats mimic the feel of a true golf green, providing a perfect platform to practice and perfect your putt. Whatever your space limitations, there's a mat that fits, offering a simple, practical solution to improving your performance on the greens. Just as the rangefinder gives you the confidence to swing, the best putting mats help deliver that decisive stroke when the cup is just a breath away.

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