How To Use A Golf Rangefinder The Right Way

Golfing, for me, has been a lifelong passion. Ever since I first hit the course with my dad way back in the day, I’ve been a fan.

As I started on my golfing journey as an adult, I began to understand the various points where I needed to up the ante on my game. I even took my friend (and golfing partner) George’s advice and started to use rangefinders.

The trouble was, I didn’t know how to use a golf rangefinder when I first began. Being an architect by profession, I have never shied away from measurements. But the rangefinder thing stumped me in the beginning. It was only after some practice that I got the hang of it. And today, I am here to make sure that you do too.

Hi everyone! I’m Joshua Bennes, and today I’m going to let you in on all my experience with using golf rangefinders. After going through this guide, you’ll be able to handle any rangefinder on the course with ease and confidence.

So let’s begin.

Types of rangefinders

Rangefinders come in multiple models and makes, and over so many years, I’ve had the opportunity to experiment with quite a few variants. Broadly, rangefinders can be divided into the following two categories: Laser rangefinders and golf GPS. Both rely on different technologies, and so we’ll dedicate sections to look at each separately.

1. Golf LASER rangefinders

These are rangefinders that rely on LASER technology to calculate the distance between the player and the target. The player has to aim the rangefinder steadily, and once the target is locked on, the rangefinder usually gives a mild tactile jolt to indicate the same.

As the speed of light varies with weather conditions, LASER rangefinders can even take atmospheric conditions into account while making the measurements. This makes them particularly accurate devices for calculating distances.

2. Golf GPS

I’ve found GPS rangefinders to be accurate but not as much as the laser ones. However, as they are not easily affected by the weather, they can be used in any condition. They use the Global Positioning System to find the distance between the target flag and the player. This allows the players to improve their games and concentrate on the swing.

These are the two major types of rangefinders that I have used. There is a third type, known as an optical rangefinder, which entirely depends on lenses to calculate the distance between the player and the target. But as I prefer laser ones to the other types, I won’t usually advocate for them. But if you want, you can check ’em out.

Be advised though, with the advent of GPS and LASER, optical rangefinders have become virtually extinct. So you might find it difficult to get hold of one.

3. Optical golf rangefinder

An optical golf rangefinder is the first rangefinder device made for golfers. You might find some people who still use this device. It is used by golfers to measure the distance on the field. You can still fund these devices and use them to get accurate results. Along with the Golf Laser rangefinder and Golf GPS rangefinder, it is one of the most popular rangefinder devices. If you are budget-friendly, you can get this type of golf rangefinders. They are cheap and doesn’t require additional maintenance cost. You don’t have to utilize batteries for this device. However, the results are not as reliable as of the latest rangefinder devices, you can still use it for short ranges.

How to use a golf rangefinder

If there’s one thing I’ve learned over all my years of golfing, it’s that rangefinders are unique devices, and each one has particular functionalities. As such, there can be no “one size fits all” solution to using golf rangefinders, and every device comes with a learning curve.

However, there are some general steps that you can follow while using a rangefinder on the course. Whether you are using a rangefinder with slope or without, these steps still apply. Most of these are drawn from my experience, and I’d like to share them with you.

How to use a laser rangefinder

Using a golf laser rangefinder is a straightforward task, once you get the hang of it. Most rangefinders have varying features, so I can’t go into specifics. All you need to do is turn on the device, make the adjustments that are required, and then just view the target and click. Just like a camera!

As golf laser rangefinders are based upon the principles of light reflectivity, they perform better when used with reflective surfaces. For this reason, golf courses around the world have taken up the practice of attaching reflective targets with the hole flags around the course. This makes rangefinding easier and better.

Using a GPS rangefinder

Using a GPS rangefinder requires a bit of elaborate preparation as compared to the Point-and-Click philosophy of LASER rangefinders. Here you first need to load the map of the golf course onto the device. This is relatively easy as most golf courses have their maps on the internet.

Once you have the map, you need to turn on GPS and let the rangefinder connect with the positioning system. Know that the accuracy of the device depends on your location on the course. And also on the number of satellites that your device communicates with at the given moment.

Finally, you need to select the target location (usually the hole), and then the GPS will do the rest of the work and determine the required distance. GPS rangefinders need a bit of getting used to, but once you get the hang of it, they can be pretty accurate. You only need to be sure that you are using the latest maps for the best results.

I would like to repeat a word of caution at this point: the above was only the general steps regarding how to use a rangefinder. For specifics, it’s best to refer to the device’s user manual. That can help out a lot in the long run.

How to use an optical rangefinder

To know how it works, you must know how it looks and all its components. Optical golf rangefinders have two lenses. These lenses are on opposite ends. There is a focusing knob as well. You can also find an in-build scale inside the device. As per the scale, this knob converts the scale-reading into the distance. Pretty complicated, right? Let’s divide the working into parts.


It is a monocular device, i.e. it only has one eyepiece. You have to use one eye to focus on the pin. Inside this device, there is a built-in scale for measuring distance. There is also a preloaded chart. You have to focus the eyepiece lens on the height of the pin. Once the height of the pin is measured through the scale, the optical rangefinder uses the height measurement and converts it into distance using the preloaded charts.


To get an accurate distance, you have to focus the rangefinder on the center of the pin. Make sure you keep the pin in center focus to get the height captured. You have to use steady hands.


Optical golf rangefinder works on the principle of parallax. It is used to measure long-distance objects. Astronomers mostly use it. This rangefinder uses this principle to measure the distance. Let’s see how it works. It works by using a form of triangulation. As we have discussed, it consists of two lenses. These lenses are on opposite ends of the rangefinder. This rangefinder is focusing on the pin. You can clearly see a triangle forming. The pin is the focal point, and it has two lenses on the opposite side. If you focus this on the pin, it will form a triangle. Now you can see the pin through one lens while the other is also focusing on it. From two lens two images are created. The focusing knob then makes these images combine with each other. The knob then moves the scale to cover the reading into the distance.

Top golf rangefinder tips to live by

Golf rangefinders appear to be simple devices, but there’s more to them than meets the eye. While you should get acquainted with the instruction manual, nothing beats a bit of real practice on the course. So, to make sure you don’t take the device out to play and find yourself entirely at a loss, I’ve compiled a set of tips that can be leveraged for best results.

Get the one for golf

I remember when I thought that golfing and hunting rangefinders were the same. Experience has taught me better, and now I would like you to know the truth as well.

Both rangefinders work by measuring the distance between the user location and the target. But the difference is that while hunting rangefinders are designed to seek out distant objects, the purpose of golf rangefinders is to target nearby objects, such as hole-flags.

Hence for golfing purposes, you should get a rangefinder that is specifically manufactured for use in the game. However, some rangefinders contain multiple modes and can be used for hunting and golfing with equal ease. But if you are going for these models, be ready to shell out some extra money, as they are on the costly side of the spectrum.

Keep it handy

I remember when rangefinders used to be clunky devices. Now, due to advances in technology, the devices are getting sleeker and more portable by the day. So you should have no trouble keeping the device handy where you can easily reach it.

Most rangefinders are small enough to fit in your trouser pockets. If required, you can even keep the device in a carry case that’s attached to your belt. Some more advanced GPS models come in the form of wristwatches that can be worn and used easily.

Whichever way you choose to carry your rangefinder, just make sure of two things. One – it should be kept where it can be quickly taken out and used. Two – the device should not interfere with your ability to make the hole. Keep these things in mind, and you’re good to go.

Give it time

One of the rookie mistakes that I made the first time I was using a rangefinder was to think that I’d get it right in the first go. How very wrong I was!

Using a rangefinder is just like any other instrument; you need to get used to it. Despite the simple point and shoot principle behind the device, it takes some patience, and a whole lot of practice, to get the best results.

So if you’re starting with a rangefinder, then remember to practice with it every time you get the opportunity. Even if you’re not at the course, you can use it for measuring distances of nearby objects anywhere. The main objective is to put in as much practice as possible. That’ll help you in the long run.

Don’t ignore the instructions
Very few people pay any attention to the instruction manual, and I counted myself among that lot. I’ve realized my mistake! Instruction manuals are the one place where you can get detailed directions about how to use your device.

Yeah, yeah, I get it. These manuals are not exactly effortless to read, and often come with cryptic terms that don’t seem to make sense. Nevertheless, you need to make time and go through it, at least the quick start guide that’ll give you the basics.

Follow YouTube

YouTube is not merely a place to watch music videos; you can even get a ton of educational content from the platform. And when it comes to rangefinders, YouTube is a veritable treasure trove. With its extensive collection of rangefinder videos, you can be sure to find something that meets your requirements.

Whatever the make and model of your rangefinder, YouTube is sure to have something that pertains to it. Spend some time to go through these videos and understand the finer points of your device. Not only can these videos allow you to understand the rangefinder’s capabilities better, but they can also contribute towards improving your game.

Be independent

One of the worst mistakes I’ve noticed people making with a rangefinder is depending on it to the point of addiction. This is not healthy for your game. Granted, they make the game more relaxing, fun, and easy but remember that rangefinders are not allowed in certain tournaments.

If that is the case with the one you’re playing in, then be ready to play without the use of rangefinders. Further, rangefinders are not a magical thing that’ll help you win the game. They are machines that have limitations. So being dependent on them for playing can do you more harm than good. By all means, use rangefinders, but keep in mind that you’re the one operating the device and not the other way around.


I hope you’ve all enjoyed this guide, and got something of value that can augment your rangefinder skills. As a fellow golfer, that’s something I wish for everyone reading this piece.

Before I leave, however, I’d like to share some food for thought: rangefinders make the game more relaxed, but there was a time before them. Back then, golfers used to rely on instinct and manual measurements for calculating distances.

So what do you think? Should you continue to use rangefinders, or do you need to go back to the basics and forego their use? Whichever way you lean, be sure to let me know. I’m always eager to hear how your games are going with my advice.

On that note, I’ll take my leave for the time being. Till then, keep the clubs swingin’.

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