Golf Rangefinder Vs Smartphone App — (Which Distance Accessory Is Better?)

golf rangefinder vs smartphone app and the features of quality golf applications and distances

Golfers have more technology today than ever before to help them navigate around the golf course. They can choose between the accuracy of golf rangefinders or smartphone apps with GPS on them to give them distance over hazards and to the green.

In the battle of golf rangefinder vs smartphone app, is there a clear winner?

The pros at Tell Me More Golf are going to look at both golf rangefinders and smartphone apps to help you decide which is the best technology for your golf game.

golf rangefinder vs smartphone app and the features of quality golf applications and distances

Which Distance Accessory Is Better?

golf rangefinder vs smartphone app which distance accessory is better

It’s up to the golfer to decide which distance accessory is better for their golf game. It depends on what the golfer is looking for and needs when they are out on the golf course.

A golf rangefinder is just that. It gives you accurate yardages to targets you select on the golf course. If all you need is the ability to select targets and find out how far away they are:

… then a good golf rangefinder is all you need.

However, while a smartphone app is not as pinpoint accurate as a golf rangefinder, it has a lot more options that can help you during and after the round.

Features of Quality Golf Smartphone Apps

  • Distances to Hazards
  • Distances to Front-Middle-Back of Green
  • Lay Up Distances
  • Course Map / Flyover
  • Scorecard
  • Golf Games
  • Shot Tracking
  • Club Tracking/Shot Distance
  • Course Statistics
    • Fairways Hit
    • Greens in Regulation
    • Number of Putts
    • Strokes Gained

As you can see, where a golf rangefinder is a great tool to have with you on the golf course, a golf smartphone app can give you a suite of tools that can help you not only play better during a round, but can give you statistics to guide you in areas where your game needs improvement after it.


A high-quality golf rangefinder like a Bushnell will provide you with the ability to point and shoot at targets and get readings accurate to within a yard. Quality rangefinders have technology like Pinseeker that allows you to choose the correct target quickly and will vibrate or chirp to let you know when the laser has gained the target.

Even with stabilization and Pinseeker technology, people who don’t have steady hands might have problems getting the laser to lock onto a target.

This can give the golfer incorrect yardage and can be very frustrating. Weather such as fog or mist can also make it hard for golf rangefinders to lock onto the target.

Golf smartphone apps are also really easy to use on the golf course. Once you have downloaded the course you are playing on and start the round, the GPS golf app will run more or less automatically on a shot by shot basis. After you enter your score and stats for the whole, they will automatically move on to the next hole.

However, the GPS data on golf smartphone apps can also have issues with accuracy. The information on the golf course can be outdated if they have recently renovated the course. GPS sometimes loses sync in rural areas, or areas with lots of trees.

Golfers can easily use either a rangefinder or a golf smartphone app on the golf course. A rangefinder is great for golfers looking to point and shoot accurate distances quickly. Golf smartphone apps can give you less accurate yardages at a glance.


Golf Rangefinder Pros And Cons

Golf laser rangefinders offer golfers the ability to pick and lock onto a target quickly and get pinpoint accurate yardage reading. Many golf rangefinders also can calculate slope, or how much above or below where the person is shooting from, to account for elevation changes.


  • Ease of Use – Point at Target and Click
  • Accurate to Within One Yard
  • Slope Feature Helps With Club Selection –  Elevation Changes
  • Cost – 1-Time Fee, No Monthly Subscription
  • Long Battery Life 


  • Need to Hold Steady Shooting a Target
  • Must Be in Line of Sight to Shoot Target
  • Hard to Lock on Target in Low Light, Fog, and Mist
  • Upfront Cost Can Be Expensive 

Golf rangefinders are the best way to get the most accurate yardage of targets in the line of sight quickly during a round of golf. Their slope feature can also calculate elevation changes to help golfers choose the right club for uphill or downhill shots.

They are also great to have on the driving range because you can get accurate yardage for specific targets which can assist you with distance control.

Golf GPS rangefinders are new on the market and combine the precision of a laser rangefinder with the convenience of GPS yardage as well in the viewfinder. This is great for those times when you’re not sure that you are locking on the proper target.

Smartphone App Pros And Cons

There are many golf smartphone apps available either in iOS the App Store or in Android on Google Play.

Popular Golf Smartphone Apps Available

  • Skycaddie
  • 18Birdies
  • Golflogix
  • GolfShot App
  • Garmin
  • Golfbuddy
  • Hole19
  • Scorecard

Smartphone golf apps take advantage of GPS technology to provide accurate information to golfers when playing a round of golf.


  • Ease of Use – Download Course and Play
  • Golf Course Flyover/Map – Satellite Images
  • Golf Stat Tracking
  • Scorecard – Handicap Index Tracking
  • Distance to Front, Middle, Back of Green
  • Distances to Layup Yardages
  • Show Wind Speed
  • Shot Distances – Club Tracking
  • Distances to Hazards – Seen and Hidden


  • Not as Accurate as Golf Rangefinders
  • Can Drain Battery on Phone
  • Cost – Premium Apps Require Subscription
  • May Need to Unlock Phone to See App
  • Course Information Needs to be Updated
  • Location, Weather, and Terrain Can Affect GPS Signal Strength and Accuracy 

There are a lot of pros and only a few cons when considering using a golf smartphone app during a round of golf. While you don’t get exact yardage to a target, you get accurate yardage to hazards, the front of the green, the middle of the green, or the back of the green.

GPS signals can weaken, affecting accuracy in certain weather, location and terrain.

Free apps offer very basic information, while premium access can unlock advanced features and tracking for a subscription. – Frequently Asked Questions

How accurate are golf GPS apps?

While not as accurate as laser rangefinders, golf GPS apps are still accurate. According to, “GPS-enabled smartphones are typically accurate to within a 4.9 m (16 ft.) radius under open sky.” That’s much more accurate than using traditional methods on a golf course such as painted yardage markers, or yardages on sprinkler heads.

While you don’t have exact yardage, knowing a good yardage to the front of the green, the back of the green, and the center of the green for each hole is extremely helpful.

These approximate yardages allow for golfers to play an extra club to a center pin that is uphill, or if the wind is in their face. Likewise, if it is downhill, or the wind is behind you, you can play the front yardage to a center pin placement.

Can you use your phone as a rangefinder?

You can use your phone as a rangefinder in a couple of different ways. There are apps that can use the camera on your phone to determine the distance from an object to the phone. However, these apps can be costly and difficult to use when playing golf.

There are many golf apps available that use the GPS technology on your phone to give you accurate, real time distances to hazards and greens, as well as yardages to lay up on the course that you are playing.

Are phone GPS golf accurate?

Yes, golf GPS apps are accurate to within a yard or two (16ft. radius) in relation to the position of the target on a golf course. While not as precise as a laser golf rangefinder, it is still much more accurate and faster than guessing yardages based on yardage markers on the golf course.

However, the GPS information is only accurate if the course information is up to date. Weather, terrain, and location can also affect the strength and accuracy of GPS signals.

Which is better a rangefinder or GPS?

For line-of-sight distances, you can’t be any more accurate than with a rangefinder which can give you pinpoint yardages.

However, golf GPS, while not as accurate, can provide you much more information on the golf course and can track not only your score, but critical statistics on your game like fairways hit, greens hit in regulation, and number of putts hit in a round.

Do golf rangefinder apps work?

Yes, golf rangefinder apps work. From free apps up to premium golf apps, they provide the golfer with detailed course information, including hazards and front, back, and middle pin distances.Golf rangefinder apps also can track the distances you hit your clubs and other on-course statistics that can help you find the areas in your game that need improvement.

Conclusion: Research by

black tell me more golf compressed logo with mottled background information for golfers

Both golf rangefinders and golf GPS smartphone apps are incredible tools available for golfers to get accurate yardages to targets when they are playing a round of golf.

A laser rangefinder is perfect if what you’re looking for is pinpoint yardages, with slope calculations, to specific targets on the golf course. However, you need a direct line of sight to the target to lock into the target to get an accurate reading.

What golf GPS smartphone apps lack in accuracy, they make up for in additional features. GPS devices can give you a wide range of yardages, data, and statistics before and after your round. Having a course overlay and being able to “see” around doglegs can help you navigate around a course and avoid hazards more easily.

Many golfers use both technologies when they play a round of golf as they can get the accuracy they want with the laser rangefinder, and still get the statistics and data from the smartphone app. Both can give you the information you need to go out and shoot more birdies and get lower scores.


Patrick Corley Tell Me More Golf Instructor and Coach
Patrick Corley
From a golf scholarship to a Southern California University, to a private golf coaching career and an instructor position at a nonprofit organization, I’m here to help you get better at golf! With my 50+ years of golf experience; I bring you Tell Me More Golf. A golf coaching website that helps your game with instructional golfing content that’s ultimately geared toward making you a better golfer and having more fun!
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