One of the most important devices on the golf course is a rangefinder. It helps you calculate your distance to a target, like a flagstick or a pinhole. This allows you to make more informed decisions about how to play the ball. At the same time, many golf rangefinders also come with angle compensation (or slope calculation). This allows you to know the true yardage between the ball and the target which might be uphill or downhill. With that information, you can not only decide how to play the ball but also which club to use.
In a nutshell, a rangefinder is extremely useful. So, how do you use one? It’s pretty simple.
THE BASIC MECHANISM
Any rangefinder you get for your golfing needs is going have a simple working method: a viewfinder to learn the distance.
In the case of laser rangefinders, you peep into the viewfinder after turning on the rangefinder and then pinpoint the target. You might need to focus on the target. After that’s done, you can pull the trigger. Once done, the viewfinder will display the yardage on the screen. And that’s it. Repeat before taking each shot or for measuring general distances to obstacles, etc.
To understand it more fully, you need to know how does a rangefinder work.
There are two kinds of rangefinders: GPS and laser types. They both work differently. Let’s look into each of the cases.
How do GPS rangefinders work?
GPS rangefinders come preloaded with golf course data. Many models cover hundreds of thousands of golf courses and you’ll almost always find the one you’re looking for. You need to download the data before you head into the course.
Once you’re inside the golf course, the device picks up your location through GPS technology. Now, it already has every other detail, like the boundaries, area, flags, pins, and so on. Once turned on, it tells you your distance from the sides, rear, front, etc.
However, you cannot use a GPS rangefinder to calculate your distance from your point to any random target. It only tells you the distance between you and a target that’s been pre-programmed.
A lot of things like obstacles (big trees, for example) or tricky pins are not programmed into these devices. So, it’s easy to be left hanging when using a GPS rangefinder.
How does a laser rangefinder work?
A laser rangefinder is a more basic piece of tech. Laser rangefinders work by shooting a narrow pulse of light towards a target and calculating the amount of time it takes to get back.
There’s a built-in receiver component inside laser rangefinders. The faster it is and the sharper the pulse, the more accurate the reading will be.
With a laser rangefinder, you’re not limited to a particular selection of targets. You can measure your distance to anything with a laser rangefinder if it falls within its range. So, naturally, laser rangefinders are multi-purpose. From construction sites to military work and from golfing to bowhunting – they’re used everywhere.
Usually, the laser rangefinders we use for hunting can also be used on a golf course, but there are certain difference that might cause problems (for example, when you’re hunting elk or deer in the woods, you need a rangefinder with proper internal illumination so that you can read the yardage despite the dark backgrounds).
BASICS OF USING A RANGEFINDER ON THE GOLF COURSE
A laser rangefinder is like a small camcorder. GPS rangefinders can come in many forms, for example, as watches or as small boxes that even have voice-support. You can read more about the best rangefinders here.
In the GPS rangefinders, your main usage is limited to seeing the screen. With the laser ones, you need to hold them close to your eyes and look through them. We’ll be focusing on laser rangefinders largely, simply because they’re more accessible, practical and popular.
First, you should find the target without the rangefinder as the region of vision through the viewfinder is pretty limited to search or scan for anything you don’t know the whereabouts of. Once you’ve seen your target with your eyes, you can put on the rangefinder.
To get control of the entire course, you need to map your distance to common hazards and obstacles as well. Some higher-end rangefinders allow you to “scan” for hazards and additional obstacles around you, marking their distance and notifying you when one is flagged.
If possible, you look through the viewfinder using one eye only. Sometimes, you might need to keep your eye a little far from the viewfinder to get a clearer view.
THE IMPORTANCE OF STEADY HANDS IN USING A RANGEFINDER
When you’re holding a rangefinder, it’s very important to have steady hands.
If your hands shake, there will be trouble in focusing on the target. In that case, I’d recommend pressing it hard or holding your breath too, at the time of focusing.
If your hands are not steady, the calculation will keep varying and that sort of defeats the entire purpose of having an accurate reading of a target’s distance.
AND THAT’S PRETTY MUCH ALL YOU NEED TO KNOW
Using a rangefinder is easy. Also, you’ll be getting a user manual with your product, which will simplify things further.
A lot of rangefinders come with additional features. Some of them will vibrate on finding a flag while others can lock on flagsticks and pins. Some can sense pinholes while several of the high-end models provide stabilization that helps you in focusing. You can also choose from a wide selection of waterproof rangefinders if you feel the need.
All in all, golfing rangefinders might not be using rocket science, but their usage shouldn’t be handled in a carefree way. You need proper knowledge and guidelines to have a good experience in calculating the range.
With practice, you’ll become accustomed to the nuts and bolts of your particular rangefinder. It takes around a week or slightly more than that to become familiar with a rangefinder for the very first time before you can start professionally measuring distances and improving your game by a great deal.
So, give it some time and you’ll have a much better time playing your shots.