It’s not long since yardage books and marker posts were the only help golfers got plotting their way around a course.
Things have changed massively over the last five years and now distance measuring devices feature in most golfers’ bags. But with the increasing choice, how do you decide which best suits you and your game? Handheld GPS, laser rangefinder or a GPS watch, all have their benefits – but they also have their drawbacks, and our test gets to the bottom of this.
It also addresses another major issue; ease of use. We live in an age when we buy an iPhone and use it straight out the box – so is it too much to expect similar intuitiveness from a GPS system?
In answering these questions, our test will help you whittle down your best options – and pick your perfect distance measuring device.
How we did the test
We asked manufacturers to send us their most recent GPS watches, handhelds and rangefinders. We divided them among the TG team and asked everyone to use them over at least five rounds.
Equipment Editor Simon Daddow also spent a day walking a course comparing measurements to gauge accuracy and ensure each device passed through the same pair of hands for direct comparison.
Finally we asked you, the TG reader, for your recommendations. By putting all of our thoughts together we came up with the devices we felt you should be considering in 2015.
Which type is best for you?
To choose your best DMD you need to be honest about how and where you play. For example, during testing we played the Castle Course at St Andrews where blind tee shots are a feature. A rangefinder would have made it really difficult to plot our way around having not played the course before. A GPS handheld came into its own, giving accurate yardages to hazards and runout areas we couldn't actually see from the tee. Here's the benefits and drawbacks of each device:
PRO: Accurate, easy to use and could not be simpler to set up.
CON: Less useful if you spend a lot of time in the trees or play courses with a lot of blind shots.
PRO: Automatically gives all yardages to the front, middle and back of the green, plus distances to hazards. Really useful on blind shots and great for away golf.
CON: You’re reliant upon how the course has been mapped. Some have annual fees for accessing updated course maps; others take a while to set up. Some only give distances to the front, middle and back of the green.
PRO: Small, lightweight and easily accessible. Some give more information like text and email. Can be worn every day.
CON: Not everyone likes to wear a watch when they play, so for these would not be an option. Some take a while to set up.