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How To Use A Golf Rangefinder – Tips For Scoring & Speed

A laser rangefinder gives you accurate data that you can translate into accurate golf shots. There are, however, a few problems that golfers run into with using rangefinders, like how to avoid inaccurate yardage, how to steady your hand, how to get measurements more quickly, and how to make it easier to see the pin. We’ll show you how to use a golf rangefinder, like the pros, and start to really benefit from the technology you have with you on the course.

How to use a golf rangefinder

To use a golf rangefinder stand next to your golf ball (not 1-2 yards behind or in front). Hold the rangefinder steady; using two hands is recommended. Press down and hold the laser button and wave the crosshair back and forth over your target until you feel a vibration and see it lock onto your target.

How to use a rangefinder like a pro

More elite players don’t just scan the flag with a rangefinder, they also target bunkers at the front of the green to work out their margins. They work out key distances off the tee and write down slope numbers (elevation changes up and down) in practice rounds for competitions, so they can use these to work out better distances in competition.

Let’s dive into a few tips.

Rangefinder Yardages From The Tee

When on the tee box, get a yardage to the front edge of any bunkers that are within driving distance. In addition, see if there are hazards like trees or even water that you need to avoid. Give yourself a clear indication of where you want your shot to land.

If playing a golf course that you have not played in the past, you can also use the optical rangefinder to just get a look at the layout and whether the left or right side of the fairway will be best for your approach.

Try to work out how far you will leave yourself into the green if you hit it a given distance. You may not always need to take out your driver.

Another tip is to work out the distance where the fairway is widest and select a club to hit it this distance off the tee.

Approach Shots

Approach shots are typically even more precise than the tee shots. Use the rangefinder to get yardage to the pin, but also use it to get yardage to the front and back of the green.

A GPS rangefinder, like the Garmin Z82, will automatically pull the front, middle, and back yardages for you, but a basic laser rangefinder will have you shooting a few different yardages yourself. Sometimes, using scan mode to get a range of yardages all at once is a good feature to consider.

Short Game

I’ll use a golf rangefinder for shorter distances as well. In the 40 to 100-yard range, it’s really important to get accuracy in yardage. Golf courses typically have the 100-yard marker and then maybe a 75 or 50, but there is a lot of difference in hitting a 60-yard shot and an 80-yard shot. Even guessing a 42-yard shot is 46 yards would add an extra 12 foot onto any shot you hit.

Feedback and learning is key

Using the rangefinder from shorter distances may not have immediate benefits but after a few rounds of attempting shots from different distances, you will find yourself having a better understanding of how far to swing for short game shots.

Zoom Feature

Most golfers are unaware that laser rangefinders have a zoom feature to help make it easier to see landing areas. You can use this for the approach shots and determining what tier a pin is on and also to investigate landing zones.

How to use a golf rangefinder monocular

Your laser rangefinder likely has an adjustable eyepiece to make it easier to focus on your target. On the first tee box, go ahead and look through the rangefinder to ensure it is not blurry, and make adjustments to the eyepiece so that you can clearly see your target.

When the rangefinder is steady, and the viewing window is clear, you can take the crosshairs in the viewing window and hit your target clearly.

Do you aim a range finder at the flag or the hole?

Aim a range finger at the flag. Most golf courses have reflectors on their flags that make it even easier for you to pick up the yardage and get a more accurate idea of the number. Not all golf rangefinders have pin lock mode, but you will still want to go right for the flag when shooting your yardage.

How to hold a rangefinder steady

The best way to hold a rangefinder steady is to use both hands. Make sure your feet are flat on the ground, and you are not holding your golf club under your arm while you are trying to hold the rangefinder steady.

Rangefinder technology has gotten much better through the years, and holding the unit steady enough to hit the pin is not overly difficult. If you are worried about your hand or your vision with a rangefinder, it makes sense to purchase a better (more expensive unit).

The better the rangefinder, the easier it is to lock into the pin and get a yardage you can trust.

What is slope mode on a rangefinder?

Slope mode on a rangefinder tells you how much elevation change there is between you and the pin. When a target is lower than you from an elevation standpoint, the yardage can be adjusted a bit to take away a few yards.

When a golf hole is elevated, you need just a little extra carry to get it there. Great players make these adjustments, but golf rangefinders can do it for you.

Are slope rangefinders legal?

Slope rangefinders are not legal for tournament play, but can be used in practice rounds. If you have slope mode on your rangefinder during practice, you will learn a lot about how to choose the right clubs and determine the proper distance measurement. However, make sure to purchase a rangefinder that you can use both in tournaments and out of tournaments by turning the slope switch on and off.

How to change a rangefinder between meters and yards?

Most golf rangefinders have a button that you will use to trigger it to measure the distance. If you hold that button down or double-click the button quickly, you may see a settings menu come up that allows you to switch from meters to yards. Check the manufacturer’s recommendations if this suggestion does not work.

How to speed up your planning and rangefinder use?

Golfers who love quick play get a little nervous about distance measurement devices and the way they can slow down the pace of play. There is no denying the fact that golf technology can slow things down if you are not careful.

If you want to speed up your shot planning and rangefinder use, here are a few things you can do to get it done.

  • Look for a magnetic rangefinder that you can put on the golf cart; grabbing this is quick and easy, and the magnets hold strong to prevent damage for golfers.
  • If you carry your bag or use a trolley, have a tottle loop as opposed to a zip carry bag that you must open and close each time
  • Think about a rangefinder that you can keep in your pocket for easy access, like the GolfBuddy Aim Quantum
  • Choose the correct mode when playing golf with your rangefinder so that you can lock in on the pin within just a second

Buying a Rangefinder?

Thinking about purchasing a rangefinder? We did a complete review of the best golf rangefinders. Look for things like optics, different modes, stability, magnetic features, distance reading accuracy, and more.


Golf rangefinders are a great way to have an exact yardage to a pin or a hazard and make more informed decisions about which club you should be hitting. However, you have to know how to use your rangefinder to make it a more valuable tool. Play around with the features, use it on the driving range to get better at getting your distances faster, and make sure you have the display screen optimized to accurately see your numbers.

Happy golfing.

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Will Shaw, PhD, MSc, PGA Pro

Will is a PGA golf professional, with a PhD in Biomedical Science and MSc in Sports Biomechanics & Psychology. He spent 10 years lecturing part-time at Leeds Beckett University and the University of Leeds in Biomechanics and Motor Control before becoming the Head of Golf for the University of Exeter. He currently runs Golf Insider UK, Sport Science Insider around wider consulting and academic roles in sport performance and motor control.

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