If you’ve landed on this article you’re probably considering buying the Garmin Z82, or you’re in between buying a rangefinder and GPS watch and are wondering if this offers the best of both worlds. Here we review the Garmin Z82 and give you the insights you need to decide if it is worth the price tag, or if you’re better off with just a simple rangefinder or GPS watch.
When the Garmin Z82 rangefinder arrived I was heading off with the university team to prepare for an R&A Tour Finals at St Andrews – a big event to test out this piece of kit.
In this article we are going to review:
The Garmin Z82 is a combination of a rangefinder and a GPS unit packed into one handheld unit. There are more than 41,000 preloaded courses in the Garmin Z82, so you won’t have to worry about your home course not being included (all 7 St Andrews courses were on there).
When you use a traditional rangefinder and get a number to the pin, it’s incredibly helpful. However, having GPS data also gives you yardages to the green front, back, center, and hazards off the tee such as bunkers and water.
Essentially the Garmin Z82 is like having a golf GPS device and a rangefinder all within the same scope. When you look through the scope, you are bombarded with information and this does take a little while to get used to.
On top of the classic GPS and rangefinder features the Z82 also offers:
- Flag finder- locks in with a buzz (best for under 200 yards)
- Wind direction and wind speed information
- Tournament mode for tournament legal play (with visible indicator light)
- Find my Garmin technology if you misplace your Z82
- Hazard view to scroll through your layup distances and options
- Plays like distance for slope and elevation
- On blind shots, the pin pointer technology allows you to see the pin location
- Green contour data on the Garmin app
- Laser range arc that allows you to see any trouble in your line
This all sounds very impressive, but how accurate is the laser rangefinder compared to other premium rangefinders on the market? We tested the Garmin Z82 and another premium rangefinder at pre-measured distances between 40 and 200 yards. Below are the results:
The table above shows that the rangefinder aspect of the Garmin Z82 is accurate within 1 yard of the target distance and has a total accuracy measurement of 99.6%, good enough for most golfers on the planet.
The only area we noticed it struggled a bit was with picking up the pin (with the flag lock technology) around that 200-yard mark. Sometimes it had no issues; other times, it would not lock into the pin. It still gives you the correct yardage, but it doesn’t buzz and lock in. It is a minor point but worth mentioning if you are shelling out this much money.
The GPS accuracy is a little tougher to measure out on the course, we lasered obstacles on the course with a separate rangefinder and compared them to the GPS display. The numbers were always within 2 yards which is good enough when considering how you define the ‘front of a bunker’ or water hazard that may grow or shrink depending on the rainfall.
The Garmin Approach Z82 is a little slow. Not slow enough that I would tell you not to purchase the unit, but slow enough to mention and slower than other rangefinders in this price range. When you think about the features that the Garmin Approach Z82 has to offer, it’s really no wonder that it takes a few milliseconds longer to load up.
I think this is in part due to the calculations and combining the GPS and rangefinder data, but also the fancy screen overlay that has graphics augmented over your rangefinder image.
The Garmin Z82 defaults to the full GPS, rangefinder and slope modes set to on. However, there is a tournament mode with the Garmin Approach Z82 that makes it easy to use in a more formal setting on the course. There is also a green external indicator light on the outside of the unit that ensures you and others can see when it is in a tournament legal mode.
I’ll get into this a bit more, but one of the best uses of the Garmin Approach Z82 is the ability to prep for a golf tournament or event. So the fact that this has the tournament mode built-in is a major positive.
Given the host of possible features to turn on and off, I feel the Z82 might benefit from more modes, like a simple GPS-only mode.
Visuals & optics
One of the key features of the Garmin Z82 is how much information it has to offer. There is a lot to display between course maps, hole maps, actual distance, wind direction, and more compared to other rangefinders.
I found it to be really busy when looking through the scope. In fact, at first, it was overwhelming.
I’m not sure how this can be fixed because, with cutting-edge technology, the entire point is that you get all the information you need. As far as golf gadgets go, this one takes a little time to get used to.
Once you know where all the information is (and the information you want to see the most, it becomes a little easier to use), Don’t forget that these golf rangefinders also come equipped with the Garmin app that allows for things like the advanced green view with contour maps.
So if the view through the scope becomes overwhelming at times, you can also use your phone to get the data you need. To me, this is a little pointless; I would rather have everything when I look through the scope, but for those prepping for golf tournament play, the combination can be helpful.
The optics on this rangefinder are different from any other we’ve tested. There is a slight graininess to the picture as the graphic overlay is projected onto the viewfinder image. It isn’t as crisp or clear as premium rangefinders, but again, this is a different beast.
Another small pain point is the size of bunkers on the GPS display, they are really small to see. This was a particular challenge at St Andrew’s when trying to scope out the 112 bunkers they have across The Old Course.
If there is a new version I’d love to see them refine the optics and visuals to match the brilliant amount of data this pulls in.
If you have ever used a premium rangefinder like a Bushnell, you know that you can take it out of the box; it has almost all the same features you would expect. You point it at the target, and you get your number. There is likely a very simple way to turn the slope on and off, and this simplicity has become the standard in the golf industry.
The Garmin Approach Z82 has a slightly steeper learning curve. It can be a lot when you have to learn, from downloading the courses initially, to interpreting the GPS data along with the range finder data. In addition, if you pay this much money for a rangefinder, you may as well use all the features that you have at your fingertips.
With a 10-hour battery life, the Garmin Approach Z82 gives you plenty of time to get used to what the tool offers. Although I may be a little harsh on the Garmin Z82 when it comes to the learning curve and usability, I think it’s more about matching this product to the right person.
Not all people who play golf want this much data and would be better suited with a GPS golf watch or a standard rangefinder.
The Garmin Z82 rangefinder is built well. It has a solid outer casing, and it also comes with a nice carrying case, but there is no magnetic connection to the golf cart.
As you would expect from a Garmin product, the entire unit and casing come with a sense of quality and premium feel. I refrained from throwing this 40 yards down the fairway on The Old Course, but I feel this will survive some drops and slips over the course of time playing golf.
The question you have likely been waiting for – is the Garmin Z82 worth all that money?
I think Garmin has every right to charge the amount they do for the Approach Z82 simply because of all that it offers. However, I think the majority of golfers likely don’t need to spend this much money on a measuring device.
For a beginner, or even a mid handicapper, out for a casual round of golf, you probably will have a hard time justifying the price of a piece of golf equipment like this, unless you just LOVE data. In which case ignore all of the use cases below and go buy a new toy…
Who Is It For?
The more I used the Garmin Approach Z82 and let my playing partners experiment with it, the more it became clear that this is a model for two very specific players. The first is a tech-savvy golfer who loves data; the other is a tournament golfer.
The real benefit of the Garmin Z82 is helping you prepare and play courses they have never played before. When I got into the swing of using this at St Andrews it was evident how useful this could be.
Knowing the pin was 164, but the carry to the front of the green was 146 and the back of the green was 180 was a lot to take in at first, but if you play a lot of tournament golf you can quickly learn to make much smarter decisions.
In the same vein, seeing how far bunkers and hazards are off the tee from different tee boxes is so much quicker than calculating them from a course planner.
If you travel and play a lot of different golf courses you’ll find the Garmin Z82 soon earns it money back.
Tech Savvy Golfer
If you love to have numbers, stats, data, and everything else in your head while out on the golf course, this is the distance-measuring device for you. With so many great features, you will have cutting-edge technology that others around you don’t have.
I feel the value is there more for single-figure golfers and below, but that’s not to say you won’t find this of use if you are a higher handicapper.
Golf Insider verdict
The Garmin Approach Z82 rangefinder is highly accurate and offers more data about courses than anything else on the market. There is a learning curve when you first pick this up, and aspects like the optics aren’t as good as other rangefinders in the same price bracket.
This is the ultimate tool for serious golfers wanting to prepare for competitions and golfers who travel and play lots of different courses. Higher handicap golfers who just love data will also enjoy this, but we’d suggest for golfing performance gains, you might be best to spend your money on golf lessons.
The Garmin Z82 offers all the data from a rangefinder and GPS combined, but the trade-off is that it is far less simple to use than a straightforward GPS watch or rangefinder.
After much testing, I’m really impressed with what the Garmin Z82 tries to achieve, but I feel it is one version away from being a truly great product for golfers.
Alternatives to the Garmin Z82
If you are really set on the idea of the golf rangefinder plus GPS, then there are other options out there for you. I can tell you that the accuracy of the data and the image stabilization won’t be quite as good as what you get with the Garmin Z82 rangefinder.
Shot Scope Pro LX
Instead of looking through the scope and getting the data from GPS satellites filtered into the viewing window, the Shot Scope Pro LX displays everything on the outside. The unit features lots of stat tracking capability and an option to switch from red and black optics.
There are 36,000 preloaded golf courses, so a few less than Garmin, but still likely enough. In addition, the 7X magnification makes it easy to see the target.
We’re lining up testing for this one, so we’ll report back when we have some hands-on data.
Cobalt Q6 Rangefinder
If you’re after a great rangefinder that usually flies under the radar, check out the Cobalt Q6 rangefinder. It is the most accurate rangefinder we’ve ever tested, it is super simple, quick and well-built. None of the fancy GPS data with the models above, but one of the best in class for pre.
GolfBuddy W12 GPS Watch
If you are after a watch that offers a lot of the GPS and green mapping data contained in the Garmin Z82 go check out the GolfBuddy W12 GPS watch. We’ve just finished testing it (so fresh the review isn’t live yet). It is so simple and so effective at giving you great distances on the golf course and it’s very affordable.
Frequently asked questions
To wrap up we’ll answer some of the most common questions from golfers looking to buy the Garmin Z82 rangefinder,
Does the Garmin Approach Z82 have slope?
The Garmin Z82 does have slope functionality that can be toggled on/off to make it tournament-legal.
Is Garmin Z82 tournament legal?
Yes the Garmin Z82 is tournament legal, to switch between modes:
- Select the up/down arrows to open the menu.
- Select Settings > Tournament Mode.
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