Laser Range Finder

Golf GPS Device Reviews - How to Choose the Best Golf GPS Device

Golf GPS devices have entered the mainstream, as prices have come down and the user interfaces of the devices have improved.  Still, there are a number of questions surrounding the devices and their use.  CriticalGolf.com offers you insights on these devices and how to choose one.

Are They Legal? 

With the USGA's ruling in Decision 14-3/0.5, golf GPS devices that measure distance only (as opposed to other conditions such as the slope of the ground) may now be permitted by a Local Rule.  Most courses have adopted such a rule, but if you are competing in a tournament, you should check to see if a golf GPS device (or for that matter, a laser rangefinder) may be used.  Note that the USGA Handicap system requires players to post scores when a GPS device (that measures distance only) has been used, regardless of whether or not a Local Rule has been adopted permitting the use of such devices (Rule 14-3 and Decision 5-1f/2 of "The USGA Handicap System" manual).

CriticalGolf.com followed up with the USGA on the question of devices that use shot tracking functions and calculate the average distance per club. The response we received stated that these devices are permitted if they only provide analyses of information collected during prior rounds. A device is not permitted if it provides a player with analysis of data that is collected during the current round (such as the OnPar, which determines the average club distance and the percentage of times the drive lands in certain parts of the fairway or rough) - and use of such a prohibited device is a breach of Rule 14-3. [Editor's Note: OnPar's web site now states that they've received a decision from the USGA that the device is permitted under the Rules of Golf.]

What are the Advantages of Golf GPS Devices Versus Laser Rangefinders?

There are inherent limitations of golf GPS devices, and in comparison to laser rangefinders there are both advantages and disadvantages. Listed below are some pros and cons of golf GPS  devices - the advantages of the golf GPS devices are generally disadvantages of laser rangefinders.

Pros of Golf GPS Devices

* Don't need to be able to see target to obtain the distance

* Some models include additional features such as scorecards and statistics tracking

* Quick and easy distance readings

* Readings not affected by light conditions at dawn and dusk

Cons of Golf GPS Devices

* Number of distances provided and accuracy of mapping is dependent on manufacturer

* Not as accurate as laser rangefinders (+/- 3 to 4 yards for GPS, +/- 1 yard for laser rangefinders)

* Possible additional lifetime, yearly, or per-course fees

* Setup and download of courses is required in most cases

Keep in mind that distance readings provided by the devices are as the crow flies, and thus will differ from sprinkler heads or other on-course markings if there is elevation change between the player and target.

How Should I Evaluate Golf GPS Devices?

A golf GPS device is highly addictive, and once you try one, you'll feel lost on a golf course without it.  But the individual devices can be very different.  So what's important to know before you invest money in a device?

CriticalGolf.com reviews golf GPS devices on 7 different categories. 

  1. Setup:  Many devices require the installation of software on a PC or Mac, downloading desired golf course maps to the computer, and then syncing of the device with the computer. Others are ready to go right out of the box.
  2. Course Availability:  What good is the device if the courses that you want to play aren't available?  Manufacturers that have been in the game longer have larger course databases.
  3. Ease of Use:  How intuitive is the device to use?  
  4. Course Detail and Mapping:  How many different points are measured on each hole?  All devices will show you the distances to the front, middle and back of the green.  Does the device show you the distance to the hazards that are relevant to you?  And does it show both the distance to reach the hazard and the distance to clear it?   In addition, does the device allow you to map the course on your own?
  5. Features:  What kind of nifty gizmos does the device offer?  Color screens, maps that rotate based on where the golfer is, electronic scorecards, statistic tracking...the list goes on.
  6. Accuracy:  GPS devices are only as good as their course mapping accuracy, which we found could vary wildly between devices.
  7. Cost/Value:  Price alone isn't an indicator of value - does the device provide good bang for the buck?

Where Can I Find Reviews of Golf GPS Devices? We're biased, but we would suggest going to http://criticalgolf.com to see reviews of the Callaway uPro, Garmin Approach G5, GolfBuddy Tour, Skycaddie SG5, OnPar and more. There are also a number of forums like GolfWRX.com where individual users post their experiences with specific devices.

what would be something cool to buy?

I want to buy something unusual, like night vision binoculars or a range finder, a laser pointer that can go like100 feet or something like that for under $200 The quality is not a big issue

Harbor Freight Tools (among others) sells laser levels that even go around corners for far less than a hundred. They will go much farther than 100 ft. at night.

laser range finder




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