Few sports exist where knowing the distance to your target is more important than in golf. Sure, range is important in hunting, but being 10 yards or so off on your estimated distance on a 100-yard rifle shot at a big buck generally isn’t a deal breaker. However, 10 yards might as well be a mile if it involves the distance over a nearby water hazard or to a green surrounded by trouble. Fortunately, a good golf rangefinder can tell you exactly how far you are from your target—down to within a yard—helping you make better decisions about what club to use and what kind of shot to hit.

Great Accuracy

With 5x magnification, you’ll be able to pinpoint your shot from afar. Bushnell

Laser rangefinders—whether golf-specific models or not—are complex units that work in a simple way. Laser rangefinders use light beams to calculate the distance to your target. When you push the button, usually located on top of the rangefinder, it sends out a light beam to the target, which is then reflected back to the rangefinder. The rangefinder calculates the time it took the beam to get to the target and back, then calculates the total distance based on that time. While it’s a fairly complicated formula that uses the speed of light and other such intricacies, you don’t really need to know that. All you need to know is the exact distance to the pin, and good rangefinders give you that calculation within a yard or less.

Long Range

Thanks to pin acquisition technology, you’ll be able to snap right onto the pin. Callaway

Some rangefinders are capable of measuring the distance to much farther objects than others. While your approach shot in golf typically isn’t going to be more than about 200 yards, it’s still good to have a rangefinder that measures well beyond that distance. You never know when you might need to range a far-off green on a par 5 hole to decide what route you want to take there and what club to hit first. Rangefinders with at least 600 yards maximum range are the most useful for most tasks. As far as accuracy is concerned, most are accurate within a couple of yards. Many top-quality models are advertised to be accurate within less than a yard, which is pretty impressive from several hundred yards away.

High Precision

Accurate to within a single yard, so you’ll always be on track for a birdie. TecTecTec

Additional features are what separate good golf rangefinders from great ones. Slope technology is one feature that some rangefinders have that many golfers find desirable. It helps golfers get a more accurate distance reading on slopes by automatically adjusting to compensate for the gradient. Pin-seeker or pen-sensor technology is another desirable feature that allows you to zoom in on your specific target even if other objects are nearby or in the foreground. Magnification is also a factor to be considered. Rangefinders with high magnification—in the 5x to 7x range—help bring the pin into better focus so you can be sure you are getting a precise distance to exactly the target you want to hit.