The best GPS watches, handhelds, lasers and micro GPS devices
Getting a shot distance on the course used to involve yardage books and pacing out from a 150-yard marker. It was time-consuming, and not exactly accurate. How times have changed. Now there's a plethora of ways to get your yardages (plus a ton of other information), from high-tech handhelds to really basic micro units.
Some cost an arm and a leg, some involve annual subscriptions and others are completely free, as long as you don't mind using a phone on the course. With New Year sales just around the corner, we thought it was an ideal time to highlight our favourites.
Our favourite... GPS handhelds
Handhelds tend to be bigger, with larger screens that display full colour hole layouts, giving an idea of the shape and design before teeing off. Because the information is more detailed, costs are often higher and for ease of use golfers tend to mount handheld GPS units on a trolley handle.
➤ Skycaddie SX500 - RRP £379.95
Golf's biggest screen GPS (pictured above). The 5in SX500 is packed full of features you won't find on an ordinary GPS unit. Skycaddie say it's so intelligent it rotates the green to your angle of attack for extremely precise yardages. And because it works perfectly for blind shots it could be argued it's more useful than a laser rangefinder. Not cheap, but a very good option for serious golfers.
➤ Garmin Approach G8 - RRP £359.99
A compact 3in handheld which gives "plays like" yardages adjusted for uphill or downhill shots (not legal for comps). A touch screen makes it easy to scroll around a hole and see trouble before hitting a shot. It also remembers how far you hit each club. For better accuracy you can position the flag on the greens.
➤ Garmin Approach G30 - RRP £269.99
A powerful compact unit with a 2.3in screen. Thanks to the size, the G30 is brilliant for those who want to keep a GPS in their pocket. It's full colour, touch screen lets you scroll around a hole, it records scores for up to four players and will show you text, email and incoming call notifications from your phone, too.
➤ Golf Buddy VTX - RRP £249.99
A slimline, lightweight talking handheld GPS, which reads out yardages for you. A 2.7in touch screen display lets you track yardages to any hazard or feature on the hole; distances are measured from a golfer's perspective for maximum accuracy. Simple yet powerful and there are no subscription charges.
Our favourite... GPS watches
The most popular form of golf GPS. It doesn't matter how wayward you are, yardages are constantly updated on your wrist. The more expensive models tend to have touch screens and display full-colour maps. Less expensive models give basic front, centre and back of green information with some showing hazard and dog-leg information, too.
➤ Bushnell iON2 - RRP £149
Upgraded from the original iON for 2018, the Bushnell is so much more than just a golf GPS1. A shot distance calculator is really useful for working out yardages for each club in your bag, and a step counter helps keep track of your daily activity. A reversible strap means you can change the look, too.
➤ Garmin Approach S60 - RRP £399.99
The S60s touch screen allows you to drag and drop the pin into any position on the green, improving accuracy, which is incredible considering the 1.2in size. Autoshot tracking means you can analyse your game after a round. A sleek, stylish watch which is much more powerful than a traditional front-centre-back GPS unit, but it comes at extra cost. www.garmin.com
➤ Garmin S10 - RRP £139.99
Garmin refer to the S10 as an entry-level GPS watch, but unlike some, along with all the usual front, centre back yardages it displays distances to dog-legs, lay ups and hazards. You can also keep score on it so no need to worry if you don't have a pencil.
➤ Shot Scope V2 S60 - RRP £225
Excellent value as a golf GPS watch, when you consider the V2 comes with 14 tags (to be inserted into the grips of each of your clubs) so you can track where you hit every shot on the golf course and analyse the data. Shot tracking experts reckon golfers who use this tech improve 46 times faster than those who don't.
➤ Golf Buddy WTX Plus - RRP £199
A whole new level of GPS watch. The touch screen lets you explore the hole before hitting your shot. That can be a real benefit if you play lots of golf away from your home track. The tech comes at a cost, but this stylish watch is seriously multi-functional. www.golfbuddyglobal.com
➤ SkyCaddie LINX GT - RRP £149.95
SkyCaddie's yardages are walked and measured, rather than taken from aerial photography. To get access to all that knowledge in a compact, light watch for £149.95 looks like decent value to us. Skycaddie says its Truepoint GPS is more accurate than your phone's GPS, too. www.skygolf.com
➤ Golf Buddy WT6 - RRP £159.99
Specifically aimed at those wanting simple distances. Yardage info is limited to front, centre and back and distances to hazards, which for many is all they need. It keeps track of how far you've walked and you can measure shot distances for the all-important bragging rights at the bar.
Our favourite... Lasers
Perfect when you want an exact yardage to the flag, and particularly useful inside 125 yards. Not so great for blind shots, or if you find your ball well off the beaten track and don't have a sight of the flag. We've heard of quite a few golfers combining a laser with a simple GPS watch for the best of both worlds. Most Tour caddies use a laser to map courses.
➤ Golf Buddy LR7 - RRP £269
If, like most golfers, you primarily use a rangefinder inside 150 yards, you don't have to spend a fortune to get your distances. The LR7 is a simple no-nonsense affair. It's water resistant, legal for tournament play (as there's no slope function) and its soft ergonomic body is designed to provide a stable grip.
➤ Garmin Approach Z80 - RRP £579.99
Combining a laser with a GPS has been done a couple of times before, but never quite like Garmin's new Approach Z80. GPS yardages and 2D course and green maps are brought up in the viewfinder as you laser the flag. Tech as advanced as this doesn't come cheap, but it does mean you get all the info you will ever need in a single unit.
➤ Bushnell Hybrid - RRP £399
Combining a laser with simple GPS (front, centre and back) measurements is the ultimate distance set-up. Bushnell has cracked it with its new Hybrid Rangefinder. It has two independent batteries powering each technology, so you won't get caught out for juice on the golf course either.
➤ Nikon Coolshot Pro Stabilized - RRP £499
Stabilisation tech reduces hand shake, so you can lock onto your target quicker and more easily. The Pro is streamlined and ergonomic, so sits beautifully in the hand. It's also waterproof. Automatic brightness adjustment means you'll always be able to see yardages in the viewfinder no matter what the light conditions.
➤ Bushnell Pro X2 - RRP £449
Waterproofing isn't the first thing most golfers think about when buying a rangefinder... until you pull yours from its case after a downpour and its viewfinder is unusable. Bushnell says the X2's metal casing is completely waterproof, and it's capable of toggling between slope adjusted and standard distances.
➤ Nikon Coolshot 40 - RRP £219
A simple and lightweight rangefinder that won't break the bank. First Target Priority mode is useful when measuring distances to a flag with trees as a background. This unit is also rainproof so expect fog-free images, even when it's damp on the golf course or after you leave it in a wet bag.
➤ Bushnell Tour V4 Shift - RRP £339
Tech moves at a slower pace when it comes to rangefinders, but Bushnell insists the Tour Shift is a giant leap forward as it produces slope adjusted distances at the flick of a switch. With the slope function turned off it's legal for competition use. It's also 30% smaller and faster than the previous Tour V3.
Our favourite... Micro GPS
As it says on the tin these units are smaller, more compact devices which often just give the basic front, centre and back of green information which lots of golfers say they only really want. Most don't offer a map. They can be attached to a bag, cap or belt, or left in your pocket between shots.
➤ Golf Buddy Voice X - RRP £149.99
In our book micro GPS units are changing how golfers get yardages on the course, especially for anyone who's not a fan of wearing a watch as they play. VoiceX takes the tech to the next level, relaying yardages by voice, just like a car's sat nav. A handy clip on the back means it can be attached to a belt, cap or golf bag.
➤ Garmin Approach G10 - RRP £129.99
Distances are limited to front, back and middle of greens, along with hazards, but there is a view to show the shape of the green and you can position the pin manually. An odometer means you can track how far you've walked and there's a digital scorecard function, too. www.garmin.com
➤ Bushnell Phantom - RRP £99
Bushnell's new Phantom has a high-powered magnet inside, which means it attaches easily to a belt buckle, electric trolley or any metal surface. You get all the usual front, centre and back yardages for each green, along with four hazard/ lay-up yardages per hole. Great value.
➤ Golf Buddy CT2 - RRP £129.95
Designed to be clipped on to almost anything. You get all the usual distances, plus lay-up and hazard yardages, an odometer and clock. The CT2 comes with a lanyard so it can be secured to the towel ring on your bag, too. Access 40,000 measured courses for free. www.golfbuddyglobal.com