Looking for ways to improve your game that don’t involve shelling out thousands of dollars on a golf tutor? Perhaps you haven’t played in a good few years and you’re surprised at the sudden rise and popularity of technology and accessories.
Walking off distances used to be the only way to calculate your distances, but these days, distance measuring devices (DMDs) are all the rage, letting you figure out the correct range and angle to apply to a shot without leaving your ball.
Whilst it’s possible to get a simple device made for working out your range, GPS units don’t need to manually perform measurements - they simply use nearby satellites to measure how far away you are from any point on the course
We’ve gathered, in our opinion, the top five handheld GPS systems on the market right now, making your decision even easier. Our buyer’s guide clearly outlines the characteristics you should be looking out for in a good GPS generally, too.
Still got a question? A handy Frequently Asked Questions section collates some of the most common queries regarding Golf GPS systems, which should help allay any last-minute niggles you might have.
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Best Handheld Golf GPS Devices - Reviews
More than 38,000 worldwide course maps are pre-programmed into the Swami GPS system from Izzo, with free regular updates allowing you access to countless potential matches without the need for subscription fees, all directly to your palm.
Four different modes offer accurate measurements from all key locations, including the front, center and back of the green, as well as calculating layup and carry distances to potential hazards or doglegs.Auto-course recognition is integrated into the device’s startup, with auto hole advancement as you play, there’s no need to keep updating your location information as everything is refreshed for you.
Internal magnets offer a hands-free solution, allowing you to secure the device to your golf cart’s frame for easy access. You can also keep it in your pocket or clip it to your belt, if you’d prefer to keep it close at hand.
Forget those tiny pads and pencils, your score, GIR and PPR, as well as your shot distance, are all noted down and counted for; one click can bring this information onto your screen, there are no confusing menus to navigate.
Small, water-resistant and stylish with a two-inch, full-color display, you’ll have no trouble reading the screen, even in direct sunlight. It’s lightweight and portable, and the lithium-ion battery lasts up to sixteen hours - that’s four games of golf!
Over 36,000 courses from more than thirty countries await you with the Phantom GPS from Bushnell. Suited for a golfer in his prime, a clear black and greyscale screen displays front, center and back distances in a large, easy to read font.
Small enough to rest in the palm of your hand, it’s conveniently portable. Available in four bright colors - green, blue, black and red - you can get one for each of your golfing buddies, or keep score for four of you on one device.
Bite Magnetic Mount technology is embedded within the device, allowing you to mount the Phantom right onto your golf cart, or any other metal service - also included is a clip holder for attaching to a bag or belt, should you prefer.
Bluetooth capabilities are pre-installed, enabling wireless course updates straight to your device without the need for plugging in to a computer - you can even download them on the go, as you need them!
Access to the Bushnell golfing app is included for free as part of your purchase, connecting your Phantom up with your phone to access full-color, 3D imagery, demonstrating flyovers from the front, center and back of the green.
The GolfBuddy GPS Rangefinder is unique to say the least, because it talks! Reading your distances aloud to you at the press of a button, in one of eight preloaded languages, with both a male and female voice to suit your preference.
Simultaneously displaying real distances to the front, back and center of the green on a clear, easy to read screen, you’ll be thrilled by its automatic golf club, course and hole recognition - simply switch it on and go!A dynamic green view technology creates a golfer’s perspective distance reading, and with up to fourteen hours of battery life, you’ll be able to fit in a good two or three rounds before it needs a charge.
Forty thousand courses from over a hundred and seventy countries are preloaded for your immediate enjoyment, and if that’s not enough for you, free updates are available regularly via USB sync on any computer.
Whether used hands-free or clipped on to your bag or belt, it’s a nifty and compact device; once you start using it, you’ll wonder how you ever played a round of golf without it! Impress your friends with detailed information about every course you visit.
An Approach G30 boasts full-color maps of the entire course on its 2.3 inch touchscreen display, all wrapped up in a sleek, handheld design. Small but powerful, you’ll be able to stash it in your pocket on your way to the course no problem.
Displaying smart notifications alongside performing normal duties, you’ll be able to leave your phone in your bag and only check out the alerts for calls, texts and emails that matter - no more outside distractions!
Layup arcs from between a hundred and two hundred and fifty yards show you just how far you need to hit, whilst touch targeting allows you to select any point on the display for an accurate yardage to that exact spot.
Whether it’s fairway, hazards, landing areas or the front, center and back of the green, information about over 40,000 worldwide courses is preloaded and ready to play. Green View keeps you orientated no matter where you are on the course.
Paired with the TruSwing golf swing analyzer (also from Garmin, sold separately), you can truly train yourself to improve with industry-standard metrics, measuring your speed, club path angles and grip. You’ll be a pro in no time!
Arguably the largest device on the golf GPS market with five inches of HD color touchscreen, SkyCaddie’s SX500 is their best and brightest system yet, able to perform a measurement to any distance, no matter how far away.
Patented IntelliGreen Pro technology recreates the exact shape and size of the green you’re playing and its surroundings, automatically rotating depending on your angle of approach to provide front, center and back distances at each shot.
On top of a tremendous amount of information about the shot you’re about to make, you can also use the built in scoring and statistic tracker to note your score, putts and fairway hits for every round, and the same for anyone you’re playing with too!
‘Big Number Mode’ allows for ultra large displays of the distance measurements, so you won’t even need your glasses to see them - perfect for when you want to mount the GPS to your cart and play a round but still be able to read the screen.
Over thirty five thousand ground-verified, error-corrected maps are preloaded, allowing you unmatched accuracy, and twelve to fourteen hours of continuous use per charge, which is over three rounds of golf in total!
With wi-fi capabilities the process of registering, updating and downloading courses is as simple as a few taps, with no need to be connected to a computer - get new maps on demand, wherever you are, at no extra cost.
Best Handheld Golf GPS Devices - Buyers Guide
Whether it’s black and white pixels or colorfulprioritize LCD displays, these are essential for providing the most accurate overview of any given hole. The more complex and high-tech, however, the quicker your battery will drain.It’s worth weighing up how much having a visual representation of what you need to do and where to aim for matters as opposed to picking up a GPS that is less advanced but remains powered for twice the time.
If you find yourself playing on multiple courses a year, you’ll likely stumble across courses with unfamiliar layouts, so a GPS with a big, clear screen is more helpful when it comes to navigation, especially if your eyes are getting older.
Touch screen capability is also useful, as though it doesn’t impact too much on the actual quality of the GP, being able to simply navigate pages at the swipe of a finger is much quicker than manually pressing buttons to scroll through screens.
Assessing the quality of any electronic device means examining the battery life - nobody wants to reach the ninth hole only for their GPS to die and limit their ability to calculate shot distances.
A standard GPS has a battery life of around four hours, which is adequate when you consider that the average eighteen hole course can take anywhere between three and four and a half hours, especially if you’re a group of amateurs.
Better products can offer eight or twelve hours of battery, which is ideal if you’re going to be playing a lot of golf without much time in between games for charging your GPS up ready to go again.
You don’t want a GPS that’s heavy and a pain in the butt to lug around the green; a well-made device will be small and sleek, without sacrificing too much of a screen, allowing for a handheld machine that’s portable but still packs a punch visually.
Many golfers will tell you that rainfall usually doesn’t get in the way of a good game.To keep your GPS protected from water (and, on hotter days, sweat) a lot of them are built from waterproof materials
How accurate and detailed your GPS’ distancing information is will strongly impact how it functions, and the best work as though they’re a digital golfing assistant or caddy. As standard, a GPS should show you distances from the green’s front, back and center, but the more advanced iterations will offer you yardage information for any potential hazards or shot disruptions around each hole.
Originally, when golf GPS was in its early stages, you had to manually download information about the courses; nowadays, they’re pre-loaded, and the best units can include thousands of courses globally, not just in the US.
Whilst not strictly necessary for playing a good game of golf, many modern GPS’ are packed full of additional functions and abilities that may tickle your fancy, especially if you have some extra spending money to play with.
Whilst every GPS on the market will promise to have the most accurate predictions and calculations - don’t sweat it. All products utilise the same satellites for working things out so there’s actually a minimal difference between brands.
Readings will usually differ between readers by only a yard or two, so you should prioritise the other functionalities of the devices you’re choosing between and make a decision based on those, instead.
Swing Analytics / Tracking
Ask someone if they’re interested in improving their swing and your answer will undoubtedly be, “Yes!”- some GPS devices are capable of analyzing your swing speed, path, ball speed and angle amongst other metrics and measurements.
Allowing you to quickly see where you’re going wrong and make more direct corrections to your technique, these additional features might also further improve your technique or at least help you brush up your skills a little.
Much like Fitbits, Apple Watches and other smart devices, some GPS products also offer tracking of statistics like counting your steps, walking speed, how many calories you burn and your heart rate.
Of course, these bonus features aren’t necessary for playing a good game of golf, but if you’re interested in monitoring those and don’t want to invest in two separate products, buying one that combines GPS and stats might be sensible.
Sick of using that tiny pencil and paper to keep track of scores, usually forgetting to update it after every hole? It’s possible to pick a GPS device that has an inbuilt, automatic scorecard function.
Allowing to you log your own scores, with some software having the capacity to track up to four players’ games at once, with an automated score-keeping system you can focus on the task at hand, and still enjoy the smug feeling of victory.
Pin Dropping / Mapping
Have you ever wondered how far away a specific spot on the golf course is, that has nothing to do with the actual game itself, or is part of a wider plan?
The fanciest GPS systems let you manually choose a pin’s location on your green and find out the distance between you and there - this might also help with picking out a club appropriate for that shot or getting to the green.
Some even allow you to see the green’s layout before you play your game, which can be especially useful if you’ve never visited a course and you’re unfamiliar with the area - you’ll be able to find out how wide and deep the green is, too.
Handheld GPS devices can be cumbersome and tricky to use at worst, and lightweight and simplistic at best.
These days, a lot come attached to a watch strap for the ultimate hands-free experience, but others are perfectly suited to your palm.
Frequently Asked Questions
Which is better, a GPS or a rangefinder?
Rangefinders are simple devices that require less power, as they utilize lasers to calculate your distances instead of bouncing signals between satellites. They don’t require any programming or updates, and their battery life is much longer.
A GPS offers more reliable results based on facts as opposed to performing a manual measurement yourself. Though they have fewer features, rangefinders can detect more obscure obstructions, so it depends on your golfing style.
Should you desire a product more comparable to a smartwatch, then a GPS style distancing device is more what you’re after, and if simplicity is your preference, a laser rangefinder is just fine.