What should you buy? 1 – A Laser Rangefinder or 2 – A GPS Watch?

What should you buy? 1 – A Laser Rangefinder or 2 – A GPS Watch?

20 November 2019

GPS watches and lasers are both great products for any golfer. They are two very different products to use, but both provide the golfer with distances to certain features of a golf course/hole.

A laser provides one distance to the exact location of the pin. Whereas a GPS watch provides distances to the front, middle and back of the green – not the pin itself. Neither is better than the other, it simply depends on what you are looking for from a distance device.

The combination of using a laser and a GPS watch ensures you have every distance you could possibly need on the golf course.

shot Scope Laser and V3
Shot Scope Pro L1 Laser and Shot Scope V3 GPS Watch

Lasers / Rangefinders

Laser rangefinders offer you the exact yardage to the pin, opposed to front, middle and back distances like a GPS watch. A laser can be used to ‘zap’ the top of a bunker, trees or other points on the course, helping you decide on a lay up yardage on a dogleg or when getting out of trouble. Effectively, a rangefinder can provide you with a distance to anything you can see. Lasers are compact and come in a case which can be attached to your bag or placed in a pocket in your bag.

However all lasers are impractical on blind holes. The only solution to this is to go to the top of the hill, ‘zap’ the pin, turn around and ‘zap’ your golf bag, then do the math. Whilst this is not ideal, it is still possible to use a one on a blind hole by doing this. Just make sure your mental maths is correct or you could be left with an incorrect distance.

Using a laser can take a bit of getting used to. While most top range lasers come with magnification and pin vibration features, they still require a steady hand to hit the target.

While you don’t need to charge a laser, the battery required is tricky to find, even in some main retail stores. Additionally, some will struggle to function in poor weather conditions such as rain or fog.

Brands of lasers: Shot Scope, Bushnell, Nikon, Precision Pro

GPS Watches

A GPS watch provides front, middle and back distances to the pin. It also includes the distances to all hazards on every hole and their location on the hole. The distances shown are going to be more exact than if you were to try ‘zap’ a bunker with a laser. You get distances to the front and back of every hazard on most devices and they are usually only one button press away.

A laser can be easy to misplace on the golf course, they can be left in all sorts of places. A GPS watch on the other hand, is pretty impossible to lose as it is physically attached to you, around your wrist. Being on your wrist makes it extremely quick and easy to get the distances you require, simply glance down at your wrist and they are there.

The displays are generally large and easy to read. The watches are often light and not intrusive to the swing.

golf buddy, shot scope, garmin and skycaddie
Golf Buddy WTX, Shot Scope V3, Skycaddie LX5, Garmin S10 GPS Watches

Sometimes the mapping of a course might not be up to date on a watch, particularly if, for example a new bunker has been added recently. Shot Scope are industry leading in this area and map all golf courses in-house (rather than using 3rd parties like competitors). This means that if a new bunker is added they can turn it around and have the course updated for the golfer within 48 hours.

While a GPS watch is easy to use, if you are looking for a distance to the pin, then this is not the device for you. A laser does this but not a GPS watch. Additionally, GPS watches need to charged, compared to a battery replacement in a laser. Another downside for some people is that they may not like having to wear a watch whilst playing golf.

Brands of GPS watches: Garmin, Shot Scope, Golf Buddy

gps or rangefinder
Garmin S10, Shot Scope PRO L1 and V3, Bushnell PRO XE and watch


With a laser it is difficult to identify the front, middle and back of greens. It is also not as easy to understand the hazard positions, whereas GPS watches provide these distances automatically.

However, GPS watches don’t tell you the exact location of the flag, and some have no lay up point option. So it really depends what you are looking for. Do you want to know the distance to the flag or the course hazard information and green info?

Regardless of what you choose, a GPS watch or laser is the best thing a golfer can buy to help improve their game immediately. Combined they are a formidable duo.


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