As I have said before (and more than once!) a rangefinder might just be the easiest way to shave a couple of shots off a round and is certainly a pretty good way of reducing frustration and having more fun on the course. It is also a time saver which is (or should be) a consideration for all golfers. Tech is improving all the time and things have already moved on since the last time we tested. So what are the best options for a new rangefinder in 2018? Is it worth shelling out for a new model? Here are the top contenders in 2018.
First things first, why bother with a range finder at all? We have talked about this quite a bit on fairwayfirstgolf.com, for example here and here. Personally, the more I play, the more I appreciate what it can do for any golfer. Of course, it can’t guarantee a pure strike, but it takes a huge element of uncertainty out of the game. You know for absolute certain just how far you need to hit it. This is very liberating and lets you concentrate on putting your best swing on the ball.
So all you need to do is go out and pick up a rangefinder and you are good to go on the golf course, right? Not so fast.
[thrive_text_block color=”blue” headline=””]Not all rangefinders are equal-everyone’s needs are different [/thrive_text_block]
Whilst it is a good buy for any golfer to invest in a laser range finder, not everyone should buy the same one. Especially today in 2018, there are excellent choices for everyone from beginner to professional, as well as something for most budgets. With the big players like, Nikon, Leupold and Bushnell bringing out new models, it is worth having a look at all the options to see which one is going to be the best for you.
So just what should you be looking at in order to choose? A few things to think about would be price, is it water resistant, build quality, magnification, pin-seeking, jolt, scan mode, size, battery life and slope. Not bad for starters!
If you are looking for a quick breakdown of the top ten performers for 2017, here they are.
[table id=1 /]
Our number One Choice for 2018
Nikon Golf Coolshot 80i VR Golf Slope Laser Rangefinder
[one_half_first]This beauty from Nikon has already got golf gear enthusiasts salivating despite only just being released and nt having seen a golf course in anger. If you haven’t had chance to try one of the earlier versions of the Coolshot range, you might just be wondering why. I am always a bit hesitant to say that a piece of golf equipment has it all, but this does get very close to ticking all the boxes.[/one_half_first][one_half_last]
The original Coolshot 20 (and then the forty) were so popular because they combined a simple design, small size and ease of use. It was the sort of thing that didn’t need a twenty page instruction manual and to me that is perfect! It was also small enough to be tucked quickly away in a pocket between shots. Pretty much and rangefinder review is going to name this as a solid choice.
Nikon is no babe in the woods when it comes to photographic equipment, so the new Coolshot 80i VR has been built on a whole lot of experience both in the golf field and outside. So just what can it do?
Perhaps the 2 biggest upgrades are solutions to perennial bugbears for rangefinder users, namely fixing the wrong target and keeping a steady hand.
We have probably all airmailed a green because we accidentally zapped the tree behind rather than the flagstick. This new version is claiming that it can pick out the flag among a group of targets. This ‘locked on’ technology, as it is called, should be a big step forward and a genuine shot saver for everyone.
The other thing we really like is their ‘VR (vibration reduction)’ technology. It can be tough to keep a steady hand when fixing the flag and Nikon is claiming an 80% reduction here. This should make the 80i both one of the easiest to use and most accurate units out there.
Virtually every other option that you might care to have is present here too. you can scan for eight seconds and get a fix on different objects as you sweep from one side to the other. This is perfect for getting an overall impression of the hole as you stand on the tee for example as well as getting an idea of whether to take on a tucked pin or play for the fat of the green. The maximum range is going to be enough for anyone, however far you are hitting it.
Another important aspect is the integrated slope feature. This gives an actual playing yardage taking into account differences in elevation. This can be 2/3 clubs in some situations, so always good to know.
As always, build quality is up to Nikon’s usual standards and matches the ease of use for this range finder.
[thrive_text_block color=”red” headline=””] There really aren’t a lot of downsides here if you are looking for the best. Of course, this comes with a price tag that is going to be beyond a more basic, budget model. [/thrive_text_block]
Overall, this has to be the top pick out of all the 2018 rangefinders. Lots of features, genuine innovation and ease of use are going to make this hard to beat and golfers should be eager to get there hands on it this year.
Optical Vibration Reduction Technology
Continuous Ranging Feature
Locked on Technology[/one_half_first][one_half_last]Cons
Not Quite as Intuitive as Previous models[/one_half_last]
[thrive_text_block color=”red” headline=””]EDIT FOR 2018: I currently have this rangefinder in the bag and am struggling to find something I don’t like about it. [/thrive_text_block]
The Best Budget Option in 2017
[one_half_first]When I look for a new rangefinder, I will start my search with Leupold, Bushnell and Nikon. These are the names I trust and they make great products, year on year. The thing is, these products come with a price. The price is, in my opinion, perfectly reasonable for the quality, but it isn’t the cheapest option on the market. [/one_half_first][one_half_last]
So what do you do if you really want one of the big players’ toys but don’t have the budget? First option would be to go second hand. There is nothing wrong with this, but if it were me, I would want to be sure that the model I’m buying hasn’t been mistreated. The second choice might be to buy the most basic model in a range. Again, not necessarily a bad choice at all.
The third option is choosing something from a lesser-known brand. The Breaking 80 model shown here would fit into this category. No, it isn’t a Leupold, but it has a few fairly convincing arguments that might make you think twice.
The first one, surprisingly enough, doesn’t actually concern the tech at all. Breaking 80 offer a lifetime replacement offer! Yes, you did read that right. Even after the end of the warranty,you can get a replacement unit for less than the original purchase price, no questions asked.
To me this says that the company is confident in its product and judging by the customer feedback and reviews, they have every right to be.
So what else do get? In the basic model you will have to do without slope or a rechargeable battery, but you do have 550 yard maximum range, decent battery life and pinseeker mode. That is really going to fine for most of us. If you are likely to get annoyed because it takes an extra second or two to fix on the flag, you might want to have a look at something a little more high-end, but if not, this should be a good fit.
[thrive_text_block color=”red” headline=””] Budget and cheap aren’t always the same. You can get a solid , basic unit that will give you an accurate distance and won’t fall apart in no time.[/thrive_text_block]
If you are looking for a cheaper option, the Breaking 80 500i is probably as good as anything. Clearly it won’t compete against something twice (or even 4 times) the price, but then it isn’t trying to. Simple enough to use, reliable and gives you the essential information-certainly worth looking at for most of us.
Decent maximum range
30 second automatic shut off
Optics aren’t up to Leupold/Nikon quality (but aren’t bad)
No vibration for pinseeking[/one_half_last]
The Best Hybrid Option in 2017
Bushnell White Hybrid GPS/Laser Rangefinder
[one_half_first]Choosing between a GPS device and a rangefinder can be tough. The best golf gps out there can give a range finder a run for its money in may people’s opinions. As we have said before, they do different jobs and both have advantages and disadvantages. This is why many golfers choose to use both or maybe flip from one to the other depending on situation, whether that is playing on an unknown course for the first time, playing a course with a lot of blind shots where it is impossible to get a fix on targets or playing in a competitive round when a couple of yards can make all the difference.
But what if you didn’t have to choose? Actually, with a hybrid unit you can really get the two-in-one option that you might have been looking for. The Bushnell hybrid device is good choice simply because Bushnell do both laser and GPS devices so well. With 30,000 courses here and 1000 yard laser range as well as pin seeker technology, you really can have your cake and eat it.
All this comes in a package that is slightly larger than some rangefinders, but nothing really noticeable and it still fits comfortably in the hand.
[thrive_text_block color=”red” headline=””] A hybrid model means you can used both flag/hazard finding with a laser and get an idea of distances in general with the GPS. This might be too much for some but certainly covers all the bases.[/thrive_text_block]
If you want hybrid, the Bushnell is probably going to be top of anyone’s list, simply because it has it all and doesn’t really sacrifice anything. Obviously you are going to measure distance in a slightly different way, but this is a bit like having the best golf gps watch you can find along with a Bushnell tour in one unit and that can’t be bad if you want the ultimate in accurate reading.
30 000 pre-loaded courses
Bushnell build quality
Bulky if you rely mainly on GPS
Combining gps and laser from shot to shot can take time[/one_half_last]
The Best Model from a Year or Two Ago
Nikon Golf Coolshot 40 Golf Slope Laser Rangefinder
[one_half_first]Of course, not everyone wants the latest and greatest tech. In all honesty, the golf industry rarely goes through a revolutionary change and this is as true in rangefinders as it is in club tech. Of course, there are some nice step forward that really do make a difference, but you can find some solid options that will be a fine job in the 2016 or even 2015 ranges.
Of course, you aren’t going to have all the bells and whistles of the 2017 new releases. This might mean a little less functionality or reduced battery life, but if you make the right choice, you can still get something that will be useful, especially for the occasional golfer, whether you are looking for scan mode, a pinseeker with jolt or something else.
My personal pick would be the Nikon Coolshot 40i, but even the original coolshot 20 is fine and you can still find it new for a great price. All the coolshots are small, functional and accurate to measure distance on the golf course, as you can see from our in-depth reviews here. For example, the 40i has slope, 650 yard maximum distance and continuous scanning.
The scanning function is actually very useful to give an accurate reading if you are as bad as I am at fixing flags. I often airmail greens as I happily zap the trees in the background. When I scan, I simply sweep slowly from background to flag and get a number on the nearest target (hopefully the pin!) You can actually use this backwards as well. If you are looking for the flag through tree branches, you can set to fix the furthest object rather than the closest.
[thrive_text_block color=”red” headline=””] Don’t necessarily want the absolute newest model out there? In that case, you could do a lot worse than checking out a Coolshot. Nikon is legendary in the world of optics and with good reason.[/thrive_text_block]
Simple, solid and functional as you would expect from Nikon, this is a fine option and an excellent choice if you are picking your first rangefinder. In fact, many golfers don’t even think of upgrading which is a pretty good seal of approval. One (professional) golfing friend who has access to pretty much anything he wants, still has the very first Coolshot in his bag which says a lot abut both performance and durability.
Is it the only option out there to look at? Of course not. You could certainly get hold of something like a Bushnell tour V3 too which is going to be one of the best of the Bushnell rangefinder models too.
Simple to use
Lightweight means it works better with a steady hand[/one_half_last]
The High End Rangefinder Choice
[one_half_first] if you are looking for the ultimate in quality, the latest from Leupold might be the choice for you. The Leupold GX-5i3 is only just hitting the now and it is still quite hard to actually get your hands on one.
However, judging by the specs on the Leupold site, this is going to be an absolute must-have for anyone how wants the top of the range option and can afford to pay the price. Leupold is synonymous with quality in the world of multi-coated optics and photography and this little beauty will doubtless have exactly the same level of design and build as its everything else from the manufacturer. It would be a travesty to miss this one off the list of the best golf rangefinder reviews for 2017 given how popular we would guess it is going to be. How about this for a list of features?
- Accuracy displayed to 1/10 yard (yes, that is less than 4 inches!)
- Club recommendations
- Fog Mode
- OLED display
And the list goes on. Essentially anything that you might look for in a rangefinder is going to be here.
[thrive_text_block color=”red” headline=””]Some people want the best and are prepared to invest in it. If this is you, you probably don’t need to look any further[/thrive_text_block]
I am struggling to think of anything that I won’t like in the Leupold GX 5i3. Whether it is features, optics or build quality, this is going to have everything. It certainly isn’t the cheapest, but it will cost less than a new set of irons and almost certainly do more to improve your score.
Leupold optical quality
Packed full of features
Won’t be the cheapest option
Still not available everywhere[/one_half_last]
The Ultimate in Optics and Magnification
Bushnell Pro X7 Jolt Slope Rangefinder
[one_half_first] The Bushnell Pro X7 has been around for a while and continues to do a great job. Although it isn’t going to fit in the palm of your hand like a Coolshot or have every possible feature (although there are plenty) it does have a big avantage:optics.
Some golfers just want absolutely the best view of whatever it is they are zapping, especially if that is the flagstick and the green. The x7 does this. How about a range of a mile and 550 yards to a flag? Basically, any flag you can see, you can laser. If you are standing on the tee on a par five and the flag is visible, you can zap it right there (as well as the distance to any lay ups, bunkers etc.)
All this is actually easy to do as well with 7 times magnification and HD image as well as advanced tech which improves display. It feels like you are zooming onto the green! There is also a version with slope available.
[thrive_text_block color=”red” headline=””]The Bushnell pro X7 is all about the image. No, not looking good on the course, seeing in as much detail as possible your target. Given the popularity of the Bushnell Tour X, this latest addition can really be anything but good, can it?[/thrive_text_block]
If you tend to ride in a cart when you play or you use a staff bag with large pockets on a powercaddy, you aren’t going to give a second thought to size. This unit certainly isn’t huge, but isn’t ‘slip it in your pants pocket’ small. Better to put it in the glove compartment of a buggy. However if you want a Bushnell Pinseeker with jolt and all the trimmings, this will probably be the one for you.
Optical Vibration Reduction Technology
Continuous Ranging Feature
Locked on Technology[/one_half_first][one_half_last]Cons
The Amazon Bestseller
TecTecTec VPRO 500 Rangefinder
[one_half_first] Although the big names like Nikon and Bushnell make great products, doing a little bit of research can turn up some other interesting options. How about a rangefinder with over 1000 positive reviews on Amazon? Certainly worth including in any best golf rangefinder review in our opinion!
Actually, the TEcTecTec Vpro 500 is something we have seen quite a lot, but never really taken the time to look at in detail. After all, it can’t be as good a a Coolshot, can it? Looking at the specs and customer feedback, we might have been a bit hasty in making our mind up and it looks like this is something that could do a job on the golf course.
Look, nobody is saying that this is the best option out there, but it doesn’t look bad at all. It isn’t a Bushnell Tour V3 slope laser rangefinder but, with all due respect, it isn’t really competing in the same league (and certainly not at the same price point!) How’s this for starters:
- over 500 yards range
- Pinseeker mode
- Water resistant case
- continuous scan
All these are options we often find on higher-end (or at least better-known) products. Sure, there are other units with much greater range, but in practice 500 yards is going to be fine for almost everyone. With 6x magnification too, this is actually better than a lot of models out there!
[thrive_text_block color=”red” headline=””] Can over 1000 reviewers all be wrong? I don’t think so, but at this price it almost seems worthwhile taking a risk.[/thrive_text_block]
If you are prepared to venture away from the traditional manufacturers, yo could do a lot worse than taking a gamble on the TecTecTec.
great value for money
not a well-known brand[/one_half_last]
The top non-rangefinder option in 2017
Garmin Approach G8 Handheld touchscreen GPS
[one_half_first] Of course, finding distance isn’t just about laser optics. Many people prefer to have a gps option, at least some of the time. Gps makes it easy to get all sorts of distances as well as a feel for the overall shape of the hole and often how to play it.
Actually, I often to prefer to take a gps out on the course, especially in a friendly round when a couple of yards don’t really matter. Something that gives me distances to front, middle and back as well as hazards/lay ups is fine most of the time, especially with my hot and cold ball-striking!
Garmin was something of a pre-cursor in golf GPS units, especially watches. The early S1 and S2 models are easy to find on still today because they do a good job of giving the basic front/middle/back of the green yardages at a glance. This is fine for many golfers.
The latest Garmin G8 takes all this up several steps. Firstly, this is a totally connected device. It can be set to update course information automatically through wifi and you can even get things like email alerts through the smart notification system if you really should be at the office rather than on the course!
The device will give you club recommendations based on your past distances (rather than your internet bragging distances!) One really cool feature is that the G8 effectively has slope included. It can calculate the shot distance taking into account elevation, something that was previously the reserve of lasers.
There are a host of other options too. Green view lets you home in on the putting surface, the screen can be set to display just the big numbers and you can set lay up distances too which will are handily marked with an arc.
All this tech is wrapped up in a compact 4.4 inch handheld waterproof unit with a 3 inch multi-color, glove-friendly touchscreen.
[thrive_text_block color=”red” headline=””]The right GPS device will actually help you plot your way around any course, even hen you can’t see where you are hitting.[/thrive_text_block]
This is as good as it gets in a gps in my opinion. Even for the diehard laser fan, there is enough information here to make you think twice. the only thing better than this would be combining this with a rangefinder for the perfect on course solution!
Automatically updates from hole to hole
Not a rangefinder (obviously!)
Slightly less accurate than a laser[/one_half_last]
A Solid Mid-Range all Around Rangefinder for 2017
[one_half_first] There are so many models and versions out now that it can be tough to choose. Should you go for better optics at a higher price point? Maybe slope instead of GPS? Maybe what you really need is something that will do a bit of everything without breaking the bank. The Bushnell Tour V4 should be right up your street.
The V4 is yet another great golf rangefinder from Bushnell. If you go for the slope version, you really have everything you need to get distance. Firstly, the range is 1000 yards which is huge (and means that you can actually fix the flagstick from around 400 yards, which means from the teebox on most par 4s.)
Pinseeker technology is great for making sure that you have really got the flag in your sites. This is what Bushnell calls their ‘jolt’ technology. Basically , the unit vibrates in your hand when it has got the flag. It feels a little strange at first, but you will quickly find it very reassuring.
This is a slightly smaller package too and will fit comfortably in the palm of your hand, much like Nikon’s Coolshot series. In fact, the reduced size is perhaps the most noticeable difference from the previous V3.
The slope function is useful and can be disabled by clipping or unclipping a faceplate to make this legal in all tournament conditions.
[thrive_text_block color=”red” headline=””]When you buy a Bushnell, you really aren’t taking a huge risk. You know that you are getting recent tech and a proven track-record.[/thrive_text_block]
For a great all-rounder, you do have a few choices, but the Bushnell V4 Jolt with slope is going to be as competitive as anything out there. Lots of features, great optics and a compact size meake this one a winner in our book.
Slope function can be disabled for tournament play
5 power magnification isn’t as much as the top of the range options[/one_half_last]
The Left-field Option-Hunting Optics
Leica CRF 1000-R 40535 7×24 Laser Rangemaster
[one_half_first] With so many great choices out there, it might seem strange to look even further afield, but hold on one second. Laser rangefinders are used in a few other areas besides golf. One of these is hunting. Now I know next to nothing about hunting ( if you want to know more about hunting optics, have a look here) , but I do know that there are some really good laser optics that do basically the same thing as a golf laser:give you exact distances to objects.
The Leica CRF 1000-R 40535 7×24 Laser Rangemaster is considered an entry-level model in the world of hunting but has a couple of unique features that make it an interesting choice on the course. For example, it can be easily operated with 1 hand. It is also extremely compact and will slip comfortably into your pocket or side pocket on your bag.
The real advantage here though is the optical performance. As you might know, not all rangefinders are equal and some can actually be a real pain to use. If you do make a bad choice, visibility is poor and magnification almost non-existent. Add in a low-quality screen and you are all set for four hours of on-course frustration.
Fortunately, this isn’t the case here and when you think who makes it, that shouldn’t be much of a surprise. Leica is legendary in the photography world and using this particular unit will give you a taste of exactly why.
For a start, you have 7 times magnification-that is better that almost anything you will find in the golf sphere.There is also integrated diopter compensation which means that it corrects different prescriptions in the left and right eyes. The autoregulation of brightness on the screen means that information is easy to read, whatever the conditions.
Talking of conditions, hunters are often out in all sorts of weather and the CRF 1000-R is built to resist. Leica have special lens covering called AquaDura. This is what is known as an aquaphobic lens and works to actually repel water (and dirt!)
The build quality is solid too and should stand up to being tossed in your bag or buggy.
[thrive_text_block color=”red” headline=””]Although it might seem a little strange, you can actually do a lot worse than use a hunting rangefinder.[/thrive_text_block]
Before dismissing a this one out of hand, have a think about what it brings to the table. This will do distance as well as anything else we have mentioned here (and they are all great options with quality performance) as well as having some truly practical features for life on the course.
World-class optical performance
Intuitive, one button operation
Excellent build quality
Not intended for golf (does this matter?)[/one_half_last]
[thrive_text_block color=”green” headline=””] There you have it, our golf rangefinder review for 2017. There should be something here for every golfer and every budget. If you haven’t yet seen what a laser can do for your golf game, why not give it a try in 2017 and turn your on-course enjoyment up a notch?
As you can see the answer to the question “what is the best golf laser rangefinder this year?” isn’t quite so simple. Taking stock of what you really need (or want) in terms of features and build quality and just what your budget is should help you pick the best option for your game. These ten models above will cover just about any combination of golf range finder, whatever your particular situation. [/thrive_text_block]