We did our on-course testing under optimal laser rangefinder conditions – clear days with no rain, fog or overly bright light, all items that can adversely impact distance accuracy.

All manufacturers claim that their lasers are accurate to at least +/- 1 yard (or meter) under optimal conditions, and in 2012 some manufacturers were able to reduce that to +/- 0.5 yard (see Table 1, below). During our tests we found that all of the devices were essentially equal when it came to accuracy. Meaning that when we were able to lock on to a target, the distance that came back was accurate across all devices tested. Some devices will display distances in increments of 0.1 yards, although the manufacturers do not indicate that the device is accurate to +/- 0.1 yards (thus you can have a reading, for example, of 153.2 yards, and have accuracy of +/- 0.5 yards).

Where the units are differentiated is in the ability to lock on to a target. This is affected by both technical factors (the quality and magnification of the optics and the device’s software algorithms) and user interface factors (how heavy the device is, whether it is held by two hands). It’s a different issue from accuracy, and we address it in Ease of Obtaining Readings.

When there is significant elevation change, don’t be surprised if your laser rangefinder is showing a different distance reading from your partner’s GPS device. GPS devices measure distance based upon a bird’s-eye view of the hole, and thus do not account for elevation differences between the player and the target. Laser rangefinders, on the other hand, provide distance to the target in a straight line, regardless of elevation change. So if you sketch this out with point A being where the user is standing, point B being where the target is (at a different elevation than the user), and point C being where the target would be if it was at the same elevation as the user, you’ll realize that you’ve drawn a right triangle. The GPS determines the length of line AC. But that isn’t the actual length! The laser rangefinder determines the length of line AB, which is the hypotenuse of the triangle. Your math teacher will be happy if you remembered that the length of the hypotenuse is greater than the either of the sides of the triangle, and your golf pro would be thrilled if you apply this knowledge to your play.

For those who don’t mind bending the rules, there are laser rangefinders that provide the user with the slope compensated distance to targets. Is this cheating? Yes. But it is an excellent learning tool. By playing a few rounds on your favorite courses with a slope-compensating rangefinder, you will learn to compensate for elevation changes on approach shots. This should mean more greens hit in regulation when you hit the course without the device.

Table 1. Manufacturer Claimed Accuracy

Laser Rangefinder Accuracy
Bushnell Hybrid Laser GPS +/- 1 yard
Bushnell Tour V3 +/- 1 yard
Bushnell Tour V3 Slope +/- 1 yard
Bushnell Tour Z6 Up to +/- 0.5 yard
Bushnell Pro 1M +/- 1 yard
Bushnell Pro 1M Slope +/- 1 yard
Callaway iQ* Up to +/- 0.1 yard
Callaway RAZR* Up to +/- 0.1 yard
Laser Link QuickShot +/- 1%
Laser Link Red Hot +/- 1%
Laser Link Switch +/- 1 yard
Leica Pinmaster 2 +/- 1 yard/meter to 400 yards
+/- 2 yards/meters to 825 yards
+/- 0.5% over 825 yards
Leupold PinCaddie +/- 1 yard/meter
Leupold GX-1i +/- 1 yard/meter
Leupold GX-2i +/- 1 yard/meter
Leupold GX-3i +/- 0.5 yard/meter
Leupold GX-4i +/- 0.5 yard/meter
Opti-Logic InSight GL +/- 1 yard/meter
Opti-Logic InSight GT +/- 1 yard/meter

* Notes:
Callaway does not indicate the accuracy of these devices, rather these are the distance increments shown on the display.