Why a GPS or laser rangefinder should be the 15th club in your golf bag

The way we play golf has changed forever.

If you play on any golf course, chances are your fellow players have a device that tells them how far they are from the hole.

I recently returned to golf after a long injury layoff and still use the 150-yard markers to estimate my distance – but I'll be the first to admit that I'm a dinosaur and, like every other man and woman I play the game with, I need to move into the 2020s. I find myself asking my playing partners for the exact distance more and more often – and more often than not, that results in me picking up one more club than I had in my hand.

There are all sorts of devices on the market. Some simply tell you how far you have to hit the ball, while others allow you to record exactly how far you hit it with each club in your bag. Honestly, I think using a GPS device or a laser rangefinder is an absolute no-brainer.

And it is clear that most of you agree with that.

Could this be the golf tool you need to improve your handicap?

In our recent survey, we wanted to find out what apps, services and devices you use for golf. With technology playing such an important role in our everyday lives today, it was no surprise that the data showed its benefits when it comes to golf.

The use of GPS devices on the golf course continues to increase, according to our research 80% of golfers own a GPS deviceThis figure is up from around 60% seven years ago, underscoring the continued importance of technology in golf. In addition, 45% said they own a golf laser rangefinder. These are staggering numbers and they underline the different way we approach the game today.

When further analyzing the data, it becomes apparent which golfers use a DMD (distance measuring device). 85% of medium handicap golfers own a GPS and 78% of low handicap golfers, compared to only 70% of high handicap golfers. In addition, only 13% of high handicap golfers own a laser rangefinder, compared to 37% of mid-handicap golfers and more than two in three – 64% of low handicap golfers own a laser rangefinder.

Golf GPS Survey Data

Can all these golfers be wrong? I don't think so.

One of the great advantages of these devices is that they not only tell you how far it is to the hole, but also how far you have to hit the ball to get over the lake in front of you.

While one could argue that high handicap players are probably new to golf and may spend their money elsewhere or wait until they get the hang of it, the data suggests that if you want to improve, you may want to consider purchasing a golf distance measuring device.

Age doesn't really matter, but younger golfers are more likely to own a laser rangefinder.

Golf GPS Survey Data

What GPS devices do golfers use?

The survey results further underlined the importance of technology, and the internet in particular. 33% of respondents said that reading online reviews helped them make a purchase decision. For one in four respondents, being a previous customer of the brand was crucial. When we find a brand we like, we are more likely to remain loyal to it.

But GPS devices are no longer just physical standalone devices. The survey found that more and more golfers are getting GPS data from their electric golf trolleys. Motocaddy and Powakaddy now both offer premium models with built-in GPS functionality. In addition, 33% of respondents over 45 said they use a GPS app on their phone – this figure rose to 53% among those under 45.

Which device you use depends on your personal preference. Whether it's a GPS on your phone, built into an electric trolley, a small device you can attach to your golf trolley or put in your pocket, a large handheld device with detailed hole mapping, or a golf watch that serves multiple purposes, the choices for golfers are endless, with a huge range of products and a price to suit every budget.

Our research clearly shows that there is a clear market leader in the GPS device sector.

59% of those who reported owning a golf GPS device reported owning a Garmin device. The closest competitor was Bushnell with 15% and then the relatively new entrant Shotscope with 14%. It was also interesting to see some of the lesser known brands with lower prices mentioned, such as Izzo and TecTecTec.

Should you get a GPS or laser rangefinder?

So should you go out and buy a golf GPS instead of a laser rangefinder? It depends on your personal preferences: what you want to use the device for, how much you're willing to pay, the level of accuracy you need, and whether you need any additional features. In my own experience, almost all of the people I play with use a wrist-mounted GPS device.

Advantages – Golf GPS

  • Visual representation of the course – Most devices have some sort of visual representation with details of the hole, hazards, green shape and possibly a map/route of the course.
  • Distance Options – GPS devices not only provide basic data like front, middle and back of the green, but often distances to hazards as well. In addition, you may even be able to use the positioning feature to locate any position on a hole.
  • Ease of use – In general, GPS devices only need access to GPS satellite data to provide data.
  • Advanced features – Many GPS devices integrate with smartwatches and phones and offer additional features for tracking results and statistics.
  • Portability – GPS devices come in all shapes and sizes: wearable watches, mini devices that fit in your pocket, or portable devices with large screens.

Disadvantages – Golf GPS

  • Battery – You will need to remember to keep the device charged, but most last several hours and will easily last for a 36-hole day of golf.
  • Software – The device may require software updates or golf course downloads. Don't be caught off guard when playing at a new golf course or taking a golf trip abroad.
  • Subscription fees – Be aware of additional services that require a paid subscription or annual updates.

Advantages – Laser Rangefinder

  • Accuracy: Highest accuracy of location determination, usually within one yard.
  • Ease of use – No software to download or update.
  • One-time cost – No additional subscription fees.

Disadvantages – Laser Rangefinder

  • Battery – Laser rangefinders often require a battery to operate, but newer devices usually have a rechargeable battery.
  • Accuracy – You can only take a measurement if you can see it.

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