Golf Watch vs Rangefinder: Which is Best for Your Game?

Photo of author
Last Update:

Our website is supported by our readers. We may receive commissions when you click our links and make purchases. For more details see our disclaimers page.

Between golf watches, GPS units, and rangefinders, there are many options for obtaining accurate yardage on the golf course. Some golfers still pace off their yardages, which is something I don’t recommend at this point. 

The golf watch vs rangefinder debate comes down to what type of player you are, what matters to you on the golf course, and where you play golf. I’ll show you everything you should know about the golf watch vs rangefinder and which one is worth investing in. 

What is a Golf Watch?

A golf watch is a golf GPS unit that you wear while playing a round of golf. Depending on the golf watch that you invest in, there is an option to keep score, track strokes gained and stats, and even preview what each hole is going to look like. 

If you have ever played golf with a GPS, or even a golf GPS app on your phone, you can expect the same functionality from a golf watch; it just stays on your wrist the entire time you play. 

Golfers like the watch because they don’t have to remember to carry another piece of equipment around. Most golf watches have fairly large faces so that you can see the hole and the information displayed clearly. 

PROS

  • A large amount of information provided on a small unit
  • Don’t have to carry an external unit around with you 
  • Highly interactive with score and stat tracking 
  • Visual previews and aspects, in addition to yardages being displayed 
  • It can work as a step counter or exercise watch and to tell the time 
  • It will give you accurate yardage even if your hand is shaky 

CONS

  • Large face to be able to read yardage sometimes gets in the way for day to day wear 
  • Harder to see the hole than it is with a traditional GPS unit 
  • Some require a subscription to be able to access the data and functionality (additional costs) 
  • Yardages are front center and back of the green, have to estimate for the pin 

What is a Rangefinder?

golf watch vs rangefinder showing a senior golfer using a rangefinder with his golf ball near his feet.

A golf rangefinder is a distance-measuring device that keeps things quite simple on the golf course. With a golf rangefinder, you look through the scope, point it at your target, and get the reading. 

A rangefinder equipped with slope technology will inform you that the hole may play shorter or longer based on elevation. Rangefinders like the Bushnell Pro XE can be more involved and even incorporate wind into the yardage it provides. 

However, for the most part, a rangefinder gives you a basic reading/number, and from there, you make your decision. Golf rangefinders (the better ones) also allow you to shoot a distance to a target or hazard so you can plan shots accordingly. 

PROS

  • Simple number reading keeps the game quicker and easier 
  • No annual subscription 
  • Gives you a number directly to the pin 
  • Even some cheaper rangefinders have good accuracy 
  • Very low-tech for senior golfers that enjoy that 

CONS

  • You don’t get a lot of visual imagery for course management and hole planning
  • No ability to keep score or track strokes gained 
  • Slope mode is not legal in tournament play 
  • It can be tough for seniors with shaky hands to narrow down the pin location 

Comparison of Golf Watch and Rangefinder

Now that we have established the differences between a golf watch and a rangefinder let’s look at which one could be good for you. I’ve heard a lot of misinformation lately regarding this topic. Some people have said, “well, rangefinders are not good for seniors because it’s hard to shoot the pin.” I’ve also heard that golf GPS watches are too complicated for senior players, which is untrue. 

Accuracy

Every GPS unit you try (golf GPS watches included) pulls information from the same place. Therefore when comparing one golf watch to the next, you really don’t need to worry so much about overall accuracy. 

The front, middle, and back of the green pin locations are almost always going to be accurate and will help you with your golf club selection. 

Rangefinders, on the other hand, vary in accuracy. I have found that the unfortunate truth here is that you have to spend a decent amount of money on a rangefinder for it to be accurate. 

High-end laser rangefinders pick up the pin (and not the tree behind it) and leave you with a number you can trust. 

Cheap rangefinders struggle with accuracy, especially outside of 150 yards. That magic price point for accuracy in rangefinders is hard to narrow down, but I would say anywhere around $199 is where you start to see good, reliable accuracy, regardless of your hand’s ability to hold still. 

Ease of Use

If you purchase a good golf rangefinder and have a decently steady hand, the rangefinder is easier to use than the golf watch. When you use a rangefinder, there just isn’t much to do. Point it, shoot it, get your number, and hit your shot. 

A golf watch takes a good amount of setup, you will have to learn the navigation and functionality, and you have to do updates on the unit over time. 

It’s not that a golf watch is hard to use because you will get the hang of it. It’s that a rangefinder is typically easier to use. 

Cost

You can get a great rangefinder for around $300 and a golf watch for about the same price. This is about standards across the market. In the grand scheme of things, most distance measuring golf devices that have good quality will be in the same general price range. 

I did notice that it’s easier to find a cheap rangefinder than it is to find a cheap golf watch. However, when comparing products of similar quality, the pricing is about the same. 

Durability Comparison

Golfers, senior golfers especially, seem to have an easier time keeping their watch in great shape than they do their rangefinder. The problem with rangefinders, especially those without magnetic technology, is that they fall off the cart. 

You may store it in the cupholder and have it fall out, or keep it in your golf bag and forget to zip the pocket. The bottom line is these things get beat up because there is so much handling of the rangefinder. 

With a watch, you may have issues with the screen or software over time, but these usually take a long time to come up. 

Features

In the end, I think the feature difference between the golf watch and rangefinder is really where senior golfers need to make their decision. I would ask yourself a few things regarding features that can help guide you one way or another. 

  • Do you care about stats or score tracking when on the golf course? 
  • How important is a visual representation of each hole? 

The golf watch (more advanced ones) that gives you a bird’s eye view of a hole can help with shot planning and displaying new golf courses. You won’t get that with a rangefinder. 

I hate to over-simplify this, but if you are a data-seeking tech friendly senior golfer, the golf watch will be worth the price you pay. 

If you are done with pacing your yardages and ready for accuracy and quick play, the lack of features on a rangefinder will probably not bother you. 

One more tip here about slope features on golf distance measuring devices; some senior golfers think that slope technology is only available on a rangefinder, but you can find slope on a golf watch as well. 

When to Use a Golf Watch vs Rangefinder

African American golfer hitting his iron

In tournament play, a rangefinder with the slope turned off can be beneficial. Why is this? A lot is going through your mind when you play in a golf tournament, and getting lost in too much information can cause a problem. 

When playing a new golf course, a golf watch with GPS technology and hole flyovers is a much better solution. You won’t feel so lost wondering what is around the corner on the next par 4. 

I also find that when golfers are learning to track their rounds and lower their handicaps, a golf watch helps keep things neat and organized. You can log in to the app associated with your watch and check on your progress. 

What is Better: Rangefinder or Golf Watch?

All of this information boils down to which of these units is worth investing in. Here is my opinion, based on experience with senior golfers who have both the golf watch and the rangefinder. 

Budget 

I was surprised that some of the golf watch pricing has come down. The watch and the rangefinder are close in price. If you are on a strict budget, a cheap rangefinder like the Profey Golf Rangefinder could be a good solution. 

Skill Level 

I find that the better a player, the less information they need or want. Granted, it takes some time to get there, and you can use various tools. However, at some point, having a number and a golf club you trust may be all that is necessary. 

That being said, many better players just want to use the rangefinder. 

Golf Courses You Play 

If you play the same course every time you go out to play, you won’t use many of the features on your golf watch. Things like a flyover of the hole or distances to hazards you probably don’t need because you have them memorized. 

However, if you travel a lot and play a variety of courses, the watch could be a better tool. 

Tech Savvy

two senior golfers using a rangefinder on the fairway

There is no question that golf rangefinders are better for senior golfers who find themselves less tech-savvy. Of course, I always get the question about shaky hands and poor eyesight, but a quality rangefinder nearly does all of the work for you. 

Every once in a while (especially with a cheap rangefinder), you will get inaccurate yardage, but for the most part, it’s so inaccurate that you will quickly realize it and measure again. 

Take, for instance, an approach shot on a par 5, and you know you have about 100 yards into the pin. If you shoot and it says 140, it’s probably picking up the tree behind the green. Shoot it two or three times, and you will get the right number. I think the worry about inaccuracy is played up more than it should be. 

The bottom line here: if you are a senior golfer who doesn’t love tech, the rangefinder is a great solution. 

Best Golf Watches vs Rangefinders

Think you made up your mind as to which would be better for you? Here are a few of my favorite golf gps watches and golf laser rangefinders.

Garmin Approach S12 Golf Watch

$149.99 Amazon Prime

Updated on 2024-05-29

Best Value

Garmin Approach S12 Golf Watch in black

The Garmin Approach S12 is a stylish round watch with a sunlight-readable high-resolution display. Offering Bluetooth connectivity, this GPS golf watch boasts a robust battery life of up to 30 hours in GPS mode. It provides precise yardages to various parts of the golf course, including the front, back, and middle of the green, hazards, and doglegs.

With the ability to keep score on the watch, golfers can upload their data directly to the Garmin Golf app via a compatible smartphone, enabling participation in weekly leaderboards.

The Garmin watch can also automatically record your score and club distances when paired with the optional Approach CT10 club tracking sensors. Preloaded with over 42,000 global golf courses, the Garmin Approach S12 watch makes a comprehensive companion for golf enthusiasts.

PROS

  • Very accurate on yardage
  • Excellent battery life
  • Easy to use
  • Basic essentials for a simple design

CONS

  • Make sure to read the instructions carefully
  • Watch band could be better

We may earn a commission, at no additional cost to you.

Precision Pro NX7 Rangefinder

Price not available

Updated on 2024-05-29

Best Value

Precision Pro NX7

The Precision Pro NX7 Pro Golf Rangefinder features a tournament-legal slope switch and a rapid laser, for quick and accurate distance measurements. Easy to use and reliable, it includes Pro Slope technology, delivering an adjusted “play as” distance to facilitate straightforward club selection. The slope function can also be effortlessly deactivated for tournament-compliant use.

Equipped with clear optics and 6X magnification, this rangefinder presents accurate technology to swiftly ascertain the distance between a golf ball and the hole, making it suitable even for users with less steady hands.

With a range capacity extending up to 650 yards, the golf laser rangefinder is water-resistant, presents measurements within a yard’s accuracy, and can be set for both meters and yards. It also gives a brief vibration as a signal when a target is successfully targeted.

It includes a 90-day no-questions-asked return policy, a 2-year warranty, a guaranteed trade-in allowance, along with speedy and superior customer service.

PROS

  • Sturdy materials with a solid case
  • Easy to use
  • Budget, but of the best golf laser rangefinders

CONS

  • Ideally suited for beginner to mid handicap golfers

We may earn a commission, at no additional cost to you.

Garmin Approach S10 Golf GPS Watch

$149.99

Updated on 2024-05-29

Lightweight

Garmin Approach S10 Golf GPS Watch

If you’re looking for lightweight design, you’ll want to check out the Garmin Approach S10 GPS Golf Watch. It’s an ideal combination of simplicity and cutting-edge technology specifically tailored for avid golfers.

This sleek, lightweight watch is designed for comfort, making it ideal for long days on the course. Its high-resolution display is easily readable, even under direct sunlight, ensuring you never lose sight of vital information during your game.

Stay a step ahead with yardages provided to the front, back, and middle of the green, as well as hazards and doglegs. Preloaded with data from over 41,000 courses worldwide, it’s your versatile companion, whether you’re playing at your local course or exploring new greens across the globe.

Featuring a rechargeable battery, this golf watch is crafted for endurance. It offers up to 12 hours of playtime in GPS golf mode, letting you focus on perfecting your golf stance rather than worrying about battery life.

PROS

  • Ideal for average golfers
  • Long battery life
  • Reasonable price
  • Lightweight golf watch design

CONS

  • Directions could be clearer

We may earn a commission, at no additional cost to you.

Bushnell Golf Tour V5 Rangefinder

$224.99 Amazon Prime

Updated on 2024-05-29

Best for Shaky Hands

Bushnell Golf Tour V5 Rangefinder

The Bushnell Golf Tour V5 Rangefinder is a tool designed to make your golf game straightforward and enjoyable.

One of the key features of the Tour V5 is its Visual Jolt and PinSeeker technology. This gives you tactile and visual confirmation when you’ve successfully targeted the pin, thanks to the vibrating pulses and a flashing red ring. It takes the guesswork out of your game and provides clear feedback.

The Tour V5 also delivers excellent optical clarity. With 6x magnification and multi-coated lenses, you’ll get clear and bright views. This could help you make more informed decisions on the course, potentially improving your overall performance.

The Bushnell Tour V5 offers impressive yardage capabilities from 5 to 1,300 yards, with options to measure in yards or meters. Lastly, it provides 1-yard accuracy and can pick out the flag up to 400 yards away.

PROS

  • Excellent tool for eye relief
  • One of the best rangefinders for shaky hands
  • Provides exact yardages which help with club selection

CONS

  • Pricey

We may earn a commission, at no additional cost to you.

TecTecTec ULT-G Golf Watch

$99.99 Amazon Prime

Updated on 2024-05-29

Budget Golf Watch

TecTecTec ULT-G Golf Watch

TecTecTec Ult-G Golf GPS Watch is our top choice when it comes to a budget GPS golf watch.

One of the key highlights is its Bluetooth connectivity, enabling you to pair it with your smartphone for free course updates, without any excessive features that might drain your phone’s battery quickly.

Using the ULT-G watch is as straightforward as it gets. With just four buttons for navigation, learning to operate the device is a breeze. Once the initial watch setup is done, a single button press is all it takes for the device to connect to the satellite and start showing course information.

Offering a no-risk, 30-day money-back guarantee, you can return it and get your money back. When you buy the ULT-G, the purchase price is all you pay – no pesky subscription fees for continued service or updates. Crafted with a durable design, this golf GPS watch is ready to be your trusted companion on many a golfing journey.

PROS

  • Battery lasts longer than 18 holes
  • Good quality for price point
  • 30-day money back guarantee

CONS

  • Does not have all the bells and whistles

We may earn a commission, at no additional cost to you.

Blue Tees Golf Series 2 Golf Rangefinder

$159.99 Amazon Prime

Updated on 2024-05-29

Easy to Use

Blue Tees Golf Series 2 Golf Rangefinder

The Blue Tees Golf Series 2 Laser Rangefinder is a game-enhancing device specifically tailored for those that want a more straightforward tech experience. This rangefinder sports an HD display that provides a generous 6x magnification, simplifying your club selection and optimizing your game strategy.

The Series 2 embraces continuous arc technology. This innovative feature adjusts for variations in terrain incline and decline, delivering the genuine distance to your target. With its quick and easy slope switch, you can instantly toggle the slope function on and off, ensuring this device abides by tournament regulations.

Blue Tees Series 2 is water-resistant and comes with a sturdy exterior casing. Whether you’re battling the rain or the scorching sun, it can pinpoint targets up to 800 yards away.

Blue Tees Rangefinder comes with a comprehensive 2-year manufacturer’s warranty and a 60-day money-back guarantee.

PROS

  • Comes with an extra battery and cleaning cloth
  • Hits the target easily for exact yardages
  • Easy to use with vibrating pulses to confirm you’re on target.
  • 2-year warranty

CONS

  • Elevation feature could be more helpful

We may earn a commission, at no additional cost to you.

Garmin Approach S62 Premium Golf GPS Watch

$454.99 Amazon Prime

Updated on 2024-05-29

Premium Golf Watch

Garmin Approach S62 Premium Golf GPS Watch in white

Designed for golfers looking for a blend of convenience and technology, the Garmin Approach S62 Golf GPS Watch elevates your game to new heights. This advanced watch, suitable for both men and women, offers a wealth of features, including a virtual caddie, full-color mapping, golf performance stats, and an impressive 20-hour battery life in GPS mode.

The Approach S62 Watch is preloaded with detailed distance maps of more than 41,000 golf courses worldwide, a hazard view, and also provides wind speed and direction details. All this information is beautifully displayed on its 13% larger touchscreen for easy navigation.

In addition to golf, this watch helps keep track of your overall fitness by monitoring your heart rate during other activities like running, cycling, and swimming. It’s not just a golfing tool but a comprehensive sports companion. The Approach S62 also keeps you connected off the course by sending important notifications and providing access to Garmin Pay for contactless payments.

PROS

  • Comes in white or black color options
  • Comes with USB Wall Charging Adapter
  • Large touchscreen for easy use
  • Lots of additional features including heart rate monitor

CONS

  • Expensive golf GPS Watch

We may earn a commission, at no additional cost to you.

Bushnell Golf Pro X3 Rangefinder

$599.99 Amazon Prime

Updated on 2024-05-29

Luxury Rangefinder

Bushnell Golf Pro X3 Rangefinder

Step up your game with the Bushnell Golf Pro X3 Golf Laser Rangefinder, a luxury golf rangefinder that comes with a complete suite of advanced features. Incorporating temperature and altitude calculations, Bushnell’s patented Slope technology takes precision to a new level, providing golfers with the most accurate compensation distances ever.

Ease-of-use is a standout feature of the Pro X3 ideal for senior golfers. The rangefinder’s Slope-Switch technology allows you to effortlessly switch in and out of Slope mode, ensuring it’s tournament-legal when the Slope feature is turned off. For personalized viewing, you can toggle between a bright red or black display based on your personal preference.

The Pro X3 comes with Bushnell’s integrated magnetic mount, letting you conveniently attach the rangefinder to your golf cart. With the Bushnell Golf Pro X3, every round becomes a journey towards improved accuracy and an elevated golfing experience.

PROS

  • Enhanced feedback with JOLT’s vibrating pulses
  • Super strong magnet
  • Exact yardages
  • Crystal clear screen display

CONS

  • Very expensive golf rangefinder

We may earn a commission, at no additional cost to you.

Final Thoughts: Golf Watch vs Rangefinder

In the end, I had to go with the golf rangefinder being a better solution for senior golfers. As great as the techy golf watch can be, I often find it to be more information than necessary. I like getting yardage, planning the shot, and focusing on the feel more than all the numbers. 

Of course, this is my opinion, and you will have to match the distance-measuring device you choose with your personality, golfing ability, and goals for your golf game. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are a few of the most commonly asked questions on golf watch vs rangefinder. 

How accurate are golf GPS watches?

Golf GPS watches are very accurate. Sometimes the watch can take a few minutes to calibrate and update, but the numbers you are getting are accurate. Remember, you will only get front, middle, and back, not a direct pin location. 

What is the best fitness and golf watch?

The Garmin Approach S62 is the best fitness and golf watch. You get all the benefits of slope and non-slope golf GPS, stat tracking, and at the same time, step counter and heart rate monitor. 

What is the easiest golf watch to use?

The Garmin golf watches are easy to use after you have gotten through the initial learning stages. Garmin training is easy to work with, and there is a slight learning curve, but then you will find the watches easy to work with. 

Related Golf Articles to Read Next

Photo of author

AUTHOR

Brittany Olizarowicz is a Class A PGA Professional Golfer with nearly 30 years of experience. Many of her teaching years were spent training senior golfers. In recent years, Britt's career has moved to golf writing, where she shares her knowledge with a global audience. Britt is still a scratch golfer and enjoys playing golf with her husband and two young children several times a week.

LinkedIn | Facebook

Leave a Comment