Golf GPS vs Laser Rangefinders
What is Best for My Game?
Dear fellow eBayer and golfer
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Are you a good golfer? Do you want to be a great golfer? Would you like to improve your golfing skills? There are products on the market now that can help you improve your game, lessen your handicap, save you time and not break your bank account.
The dawn of satellite technology has made this possible. For those of you who don't know, GPS, or Global Positioning System is a worldwide radio-navigation system that uses orbiting satellites to accurately calculate one’s position anywhere on Earth. In addition to military purposes it has been widely used in marine, terrestrial navigation and location based services. You can see the uses of this revolutionary technology now first hand with car navigation systems and in mobile phone tracking devices. But now finally this technology has been introduced into our much loved sport and been incorporated into small hand held gadgets to help you play to a smaller handicap and accurately give you the distance to the green. And guess what... it’s legal and allowed in competition! The major and renowned manufacturer's for designing Golf GPS's are IGolf , SkyCaddie, Sureshot, Golf Guru, Golf Buddy or Golflogix.
Golf GPS makes life for golfers easier. Knowing how far the green is can eliminate the need for other time consuming information gathering techniques. You won't have to refer to any books, brochures or look for markers for the distance; it is all done for you. You can simply play faster and more efficiently, while still maintaining the quality of your game. This is a must have for any golfer trying to improve their game.
This emerging market brings two types of rangefinders, laser rangefinders and Golf GPS. Laser rangefinders are devices which use a laser beam in order to determine the distance to a reflective object. This in turn makes laser rangefinders very accurate. They are made in monocular and binocular models, thus needing a little more care and attention than GPS's. In order to determine distances to object you must line the sights up of your laser rangefinder to the target. The major brands of laser range finders are Nikon, Bushnell, Leupold, Newcon, Swarovski, Opti-logic, Osprey and Simmons.
There has been much debate on which device is the best overall device, with 13% of golfers using golf GPS, 12% using laser rangefinders, 16% don't have either but want a golf GPS, 18% don't own either but want a laser rangefinder and 2% having both. Leaving 40% being satisfied with markers.
From my experience and on-the-road testing at local courses, I would like to share my thoughts on the advantages and disadvantages of laser rangefinders vs. golf GPS systems.
Golf GPS and laser rangefinders are both convenient, hand held, bag friendly and usually incorporate similar features. They allow to accurately determine your distance without relying on scattered markers, which unfortunately aren’t always visible or in good condition. Like many of my friends, my eye sight is not up to scratch and having to peer into the distance for a marker and read the difference between a "96" or "69" can be a frustrating situation. But now, thanks to these handy devices, I can now relax and enjoy my game without my eye sight interfering.
However, I find golf GPS units are more user friendly because it gives you consistent and updated data instantly. Just a glance at the golf GPS and, barring occasional distance malfunction, it will provide an accurate reading (+/- 1 metre) that will be in the ballpark of where you are. With a golf GPS, unlike the laser rangefinders, you need to download the coordinate file for a course or manually map it out before you play that course. This is very easy to do and user friendly from children to grandparents. A few quick clicks on your home pc and you’ll be tech savvy in no time.
On the other hand, some people find laser rangefinders more convenient. You just whip it out of your bag, aim and get a good reading on your target. And that’s all to it (unless you have reason to doubt that you hit the target… and that’s more often the case). With a laser rangefinder, you do not need to download anything in advance. Just take the laser to the course, the range, or the park and you can find the distance to any target with enough vertical surface to reflect the beam.
The golf GPS Drift vs. Laser Rangefinder Shaky Hands Syndrome
Both systems, the golf GPS and the laser rangefinders have their disadvantages, but which one is best? My team and I go undercover to discover the truth.
As you approach your ball, you can watch your golf GPS count down, providing shorter and shorter distances to the green. The thing is, even when you stop moving the golf GPS will continue to tick down for a few seconds, most likely telling you where you were a second or two ago. Normally, you get an accurate reading after a beat or two. But on occasion I gave my golf partner a distance, then realized just as he's at the top of his swing that the reading had changed by about 2 metres. This doesn't happen often, but it can if you don’t give the device a second or two to pinpoint your location. However, some units such as the iGolf Neo GPS combat this issue by incorporating new technology that stops taking readings when you stop moving. Thus, the readings stop fluctuating and you get a solid reading. This is due to today's GPS receivers becoming extremely accurate, thanks to their parallel multi-channel design. I’ve found iGolf’s GPS channel receivers are quick to lock onto satellites when first turned on and they maintain strong locks, only to falter on occasion with cloudy days.
Laser rangefinders on the other hand are largely susceptible to human error. One has to look, aim and fire at a target to get a distance. Given its accurate and your aim is true to the target, you will get a result that you can work with. They generally provide accurate readings given the user "hits" the right target, if they can (isn’t as easy as it looks). I have seen playing partners struggle to hit the flag on moderately windy days. Other folks claim to never have a problem hitting their target. Common sense dictates that weather and distance complicate targeting with a laser.
Hitting the wrong target can be even worse when there are trees or a slope just beyond the flag, blocking the green. You may find that the laser gives you 10 or 20 metres longer than the actual distance to the flag. Another major short fall of laser rangefinders is that every time you would like to know the distance to something, you need to aim and fire at the target again.
However with the golf GPS, all the work is done for you. No work needs to be done on your part, all you will you have to is flick it on and let it find your location. Simple. Plus it works in all weather conditions and gives constant readings. Perfect.
One place that laser rangefinders have a clear advantage over golf GPS devices is that they don’t require maps. Plus if you go with a golf GPS company, that has a limitation on the amount of courses you can get access to, you are obviously at another disadvantage. Just be wary of who you buy your golf GPS from and what they included in terms of courses. However, iGolf, one the leading companies in golf GPS systems is my favourite. IGolf hosts the largest collection of golf courses in the world. They eliminate the inconvenience of the golf GPS systems and I have never looked back.
Though laser rangefinder technology is useful, I as other golfers have found it can be troublesome for a number of reasons.
• It takes substantial time and effort to make them operational. Complicated manuals and safety instructions.
• Large Human Error - You need very steady hands, I found this quite frustrating. The laser rangefinder is trying to get an accurate read on the distance and during this time you need to be dead still and if you make a slight move, you'll get a wrong reading. Often I have to aim to a nearby larger object to get an approximate reading. I don't have the steadiest hands, but it's just not as user friendly as golf GPS units.
• Sometimes laser rangefinder readings are questionable, often not reliable in cheaper models and frequently cannot reach long distances. Often need to buy the expensive units to get a decent model.
• Sometimes you don’t have the line of sight required or there are doglegs in your course. Unfortunately there’s no giant mirror on every corner to bounce your laser around and therefore you cannot tell how far to the green and other hazards. Simply, if you cannot see your target, you cannot hit it with the laser rangefinder. Ground elevation has also been known to put your distances off.
• There has been feedback noted on laser rangefinders that it’s hard to get a reading on foggy days, long grass and frosted surfaces.
• Need to be careful not to scratch lens of the rangefinder.
• Fragile and need to be handled with care in comparison to golf GPS systems.
• Have to aim every time you want to know a distance, unlike the golf GPS which will continually give you a reading of where you are and how much further to go.
• Most models are more cumbersome and don't fit in your pocket like golf GPS’s.
• Generally more expensive than golf GPS’s.
But Laser rangefinders have their advantages as well.
• Flexible in use as you can readily find the distance on any target.
• Very accurate.
• No downloading of courses or manually inserting them needed.
• No continual yearly subscription needed. However, I found iGolf allows you to download up to 100 maps a year and keep them with no ongoing subscription fees unlike its competition.
We have found golf GPS systems in comparison to laser rangefinders a much easier unit to use and far more reliable. The distances to the green and other markers are triangulated between 3 satellites and sent to your device. The golf GPS units are generally accurate to within a metre whereas some laser finders are accurate to within a few inches, but unless you’re Tiger Woods I think you’re wasting your time with a laser. You’re not playing golf inch by inch so why do you need to know the distance to that accuracy? If you can control the distance you can hit the ball to the inch, then great laser may be for you and I’ll look forward to seeing you play against Tiger Woods on TV. Otherwise, unless you’re a professional golfer, you are simply wasting your hard earned money on these devices.
Golf GPS systems are not as accurate as laser rangefinders (within the meter) but they carry a treasure chest of features that generally laser don't. I personally own an iGolf Neo GPS and it carries an enormous amount of features that have lessened my handicap and reduced my time on the course. It gets you a great bang for your buck and does everything I could possibly ask for in a golf GPS or laser rangefinder device.
My favourite features on the iGolf Neo GPS are as following:
• Shot distance feature - Allows you to know how far you've hit with each club and recommends an appropriate club.
• Tells you the distance to the front, back and centre of the green.
• Simple to Operate - Simple button operation allows you to control your iGolf Neo GPS without any confusion or hassle.
• Insert Custom Waypoints - This feature allows you to automatically access your distance to custom key points on any course. Hills, trees, obstacles etc.
• Large easy to read LCD screen with Back Light feature.
• iGolf is made Tough, Weather-Resistant and Lightweight.
• Stores up to 10 courses on the device. I store all my courses on my laptop and just transfer them across when I want to play a new set of courses, so so easy.
• Access to the largest Golf course map collection in the world.
• Uses an internal Lithium-ion battery that lasts up to 16 hours so you don't have to last money on AA batteries.
• Players can upload their own courses to the database.
• Saves me up to an hour per round.
• No aiming or line of sight required.
• Doesn't require any continual subscription. Download the maps you want or map them yourself, and then they’re yours for life.
• Tells you your distance instantly and accurately.
Most golf GPS systems involve downloading your favourite course from a huge database of course maps or mapping your own. Once you have the data on your device you will never have to use measuring devices or distance markers again. This just makes golf that much easier! The golf GPS will eliminate the guessing involved in golf. No more wondering exactly how hard to hit the ball, or which club to use!
Put most simply: I find golf GPS more convenient, affordable, user friendly and accurate. The laser rangefinders are very precise, and easier on the non- technological savvy. But for value for money with endless features and with flexibility like you wouldn’t believe, the golf GPS is the way to go.
Unless you’re a pro golfer, go golf GPS, and if you’re a pro golfer, you probably have both!
Discover for yourself how a golf GPS can improve your game you'll wonder why you never thought of getting one before. To learn more about golf GPS units and how they can improve your game and the best units available, please visit out listings under iGolf_Australia in eBay Australia.
This guide has been written with credit to George Promenschenkel, a reknowned golfing expert on golf GPS units and a mad keen golfer.
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