GPS, Laser Or Both? Golfers Have Their Say...

What do you like to rely on to get your yardages?

montage image of a gps watch and a laser rangefinder
(Image credit: Future)

Once upon a time we all used yardage books and paced things off to get our essential distances. Now we’re spoilt for choice and the decision whether to go down the GPS route or the laser rangefinder one continues to divide opinion. 

There is the pinpoint flag accuracy of the rangefinder where it takes seconds to zap what you want or the convenience and speed of the GPS watch. Or, these days, there is the best of both worlds option to make sure that you have all the numbers and that every eventuality is covered. We asked our online community where they stand on the subject.

All in favour of the GPS.. 

garmin approach s60 watch

(Image credit: Golf Monthly)

I’m probably more likely to go with a GPS watch and a pretty simple one at that. Have been tempted by the Approach S12 as it seems to be on sale in most places. babylonsinger

I would strongly recommend GPS over rangefinder. Once I got a GPS, it was just so much quicker and convenient, the rangefinder is slower. I never like to see a playing partner with one, putting it in and out of its pouch, pointing and finding a few times. GPS is literally just a glance. I would like lasers banned on the grounds of slow play. GPS not as accurate, but more than accurate enough for any handicap golfer. Backsticks

Related: Best Golf GPS Watches

When I had a rangefinder for a while it probably did me more harm than good. So often I would zap the flag, find out it's a touch closer than I thought, go down a club, and then hit it 15 yards short of the front. Getting such an exact yardage is pointless unless you're very, very good at golf. Not to mention the times when you think you've zapped the flag but it's actually picked up a tree 20 yards behind. I use the free Hole 19 app for GPS. It gives me front, middle and back of the greens, and 90% of the time I club for somewhere between middle and back to give me more chance of landing it on the green. My home club has colour coded flags for front middle and back as well anyway. In addition the GPS can show you how far it is to lay up before a water hazard, or a ditch, which is a bit tricky with a rangefinder. And you can still get your yardage even on a blind shot, rangefinder you can't. Orikoru

Any time I’m playing in a group where a rangefinder is being used it really seems to slow things down. I asked a pro about buying one and he steered me away from wasting my money on it as I had a GPS watch with front, middle and back. I generally just use middle unless it’s a huge green. Boomy

With a rangefinder you get to stand there doing your "Lord Nelson pose" for several minutes, whereas a quick glance of the GPS watch goes virtually unseen. On links courses, the exact distance to the top of the dune is dead handy too! My mate Phil is notorious for measuring the tree behind the green, or the ball washer on the next tee too! IanM

All in favour of the rangefinder..

Nikon Coolshot 50i Laser Rangefinder

(Image credit: Future)

The beauty of a rangefinder is you can measure to other things like backstops or bunkers/lakes to clear. I love my Bushnell, years of experience in hunting optics. They have great views with important tech like vibrating when you hit the flag and slope reading when you are not in comps. I started with a cheap one, which was fine but they just don’t hit the flag as quick and easy. The newer ones worked great for shaky hands too. Jigger

Prefer a laser. I picked up a cheap version off Amazon. I will use it for all approach shots but for me it is only around 130 yards and in that it has a real effect. I am simply not accurate enough from further out to worry. Even from that range I can still spray it with the best but at least I know I had the right club to miss it with. HomerJSimpson

Related: Best Golf Rangefinders

I prefer the rangefinder to the GPS watch - can’t be bothered putting my glasses on to read it. Yes it might take a bit longer to use but if you then get closer to the flag you’ll save more time around the green. For the blind shots try zapping back to the tee. If you’re on a 400-yard hole and can’t see the flag but the tee is zapped at 260yds you’ve got 140yds to the green. Hobbit

When I played other courses a lot I would prefer a GPS because it showed the layout as well as distances. Now I only play my own course which I have played for 30+ years the GPS has gone in to storage and the laser only comes out occasionally. My laser is a fairly cheap unit but it does the job. jim8flog

Or both

A GPS device and laser rangefinder pictured next to each other on grass

(Image credit: Future)

I carry both but only use the rangefinder from 120 yards and in. Rangefinder is also worse than useless for blind shots of which we have a few. GPS is also great for yardages to reach or carry bunkers, to downslopes etc at a glance. saving_par

I use both. An example of why happened recently – our 17th green is up a hill and, from where my ball was you could barely see the flag ( 110 yards out as it happens). Playing partner was 180 away and could see all of the flag. While waiting for him to play, I zapped the flag and made a mental note of the difference my GPS showed to the middle of the green. When I came to play my shot I already had the yardage without being able to see the pin.

Downside of a laser is they don't work in mist or poor light and sometimes rain.....and you need direct line of sight. Imurg

There are pros and cons for each. My rangefinder was a Callaway branded unit but was relatively cheap (about £100 I seem to recall) and has worked faultlessly. I now combine this with a Garmin watch. The watch is quick and also gives other advantages such as measuring the last shot (very helpful if your ball can't be seen and is in rough - assuming you know your yardages).

Another benefit of the watch is that, as I play a links course, distance to the flag is often irrelevant, and distance to the front is more important, as if you land it on the green/near the flag, it might roll through in summer. However, when the situation is right, the laser is a great asset. So my advice is to have both. SteveJay

Having owned a plethora of both I prefer a rangefinder for no other reason than I really like the idea of knowing the precise distance to the target, even though I know I cannot hit it exactly 137.4 yards, it makes me feel more confident with my club selection.

The negative is days when I’m playing in a pea-souper which, even with fog mode, rendered the laser useless at anything over 130 yards.

Keep it simple. I have owned all of the hybrids at one point, Callaway, Bushnell and Garmin with the Garmin Z80 being the most advanced, but the problem is that it does so much you find yourself stood over your ball going through a myriad of motions conscious that your playing partners are all stood waiting for you, wondering what I’m doing?

Cheap or expensive? Many people will tell you that the cheap ones will give an almost as accurate distance as the top of the range models, perfectly true. However, the main difference between them will tend to be how quickly they pick out and lock on the flag and how confident you can be that it is the flag you are reading and not the tree behind. My current weapon of choice is the Leupold GX-2i3 which is as rare as hen’s teeth in this country and generally on the expensive end of the spectrum, but it is the best one I have ever owned. Golfnut1957

I would recommend having both. GPS is great for getting at-a-glance yardages and when there is no line of sight for a laser, but for any kind of serious golf, a laser is needed for accuracy. GPS simply cannot be trusted on its own due to a combination of the accuracy of the devices themselves and the sometimes dubious quality of the course mapping. There are numerous occasions when I've seen a whole club (>8 yards) variance between different GPS devices, especially when comparing those from different manufacturers. wjemather

Do you use a laser, GPS or both? Let us know on social media

Mark Townsend
Mark Townsend

Mark has worked in golf for over 20 years having started off his journalistic life at the Press Association and BBC Sport before moving to Sky Sports where he became their golf editor on skysports.com. He then worked at National Club Golfer and Lady Golfer where he was the deputy editor and he has interviewed many of the leading names in the game, both male and female, ghosted columns for the likes of Robert Rock, Charley Hull and Dame Laura Davies, as well as playing the vast majority of our Top 100 GB&I courses. He loves links golf with a particular love of Royal Dornoch and Kingsbarns. He is now a freelance, also working for the PGA and Robert Rock. Loves tour golf, both men and women and he remains the long-standing owner of an horrific short game. He plays at Moortown with a handicap of 6.