There are two truths about rangefinders that most golfers know: they help you be more precise on approach, and they’re traditionally pretty damn expensive. It used to be the case that you couldn’t get a decent golf rangefinder for less than $300, making the technology something that only very serious golfers would consider. Nowadays, there are quite a few budget rangefinders on the market- they’re cheap enough that a weekend golfer can justify buying one, and there’s minimal sacrifice in functionality.
We’ve taken a look at some of the best budget golf rangefinders out there for 2021- check out our findings below.
Best Budget Golf Rangefinders in 2021: Reviewed
Golf Buddy is a pretty big player in the rangefinder space, making rangefinders that go up to about $500. As cheap rangefinders go, the Golf Buddy GB Laser 1 is a great choice, offering lots of features and great value. The large and easy to read LCD display, combined with simple operation, makes it intuitive and easy to use. As far as functionality goes, we compared this to a
The standout feature of the Golf Buddy rangefinder is its multi-mode selection. There is a ‘standard’ mode setting. This is the simplest to use. The rangefinder will pick up the distance to whatever you have selected in the reticule, whether it be the pin, a bunker, or a tree you’re targeting.
When attacking the flag, the ‘pin finder’ mode ensures that you get an accurate distance to the pin and not the surroundings in front or behind it. It does this by automatically taking several shots in front and behind the flag before ‘locking on’ to the pin itself. So you’ll know you’ve got the distance to the flag and not the tee box behind the green.
The final mode is a ‘scan’ mode. This is useful when assessing multiple distances, particularly when dealing with doglegs or other on-course hazards, such as bunkers.
This budget golf rangefinder’s magnification is 6X, giving a clear view of features out on the course. The Golf Buddy Laser 1 also comes with a replaceable CR2 battery, a carry case, and a cleaning cloth, making the bundle a pretty great value for the price. This is a sleek looking rangefinder, carrying all the basic functionality you’d want. We found it to be pretty accurate, and one of the best cheap(ish) rangefinders you can find.
- Great Value
- Multiple Modes
- Lots of Included Extras
Best Value: Callaway 300s
An ultra-compact and lightweight rangefinder, the Callaway 300s offers an exceptional mix between quality and affordability. With a maximum range of 1000 yards and accuracy to within +/- 1 yard, you’ll be covered on the course in any situation. The Callaway 300s has previously been what I’d consider a “mid tier” rangefinder, but luckily the technology has dropped by about $100, now being very much in the “affordable rangefinder” category.
The Callaway 300s in an upgraded, higher performing rangefinder than it’s predecessor the Callaway 200s. The 200s has minor issues with locking onto the pin, which have been addressed in the 300s. The 300s features a Pin Acquisition Technology (P.A.T.), which is meant to quickly lock onto the pin as long as it’s within 300 yards. Once locked onto the pin, the 300s sounds a birdie “chirp” to alert you that it’s locked on. The 300s laser rangefinder also features 6X magnification, which is more or less standard in this category.
The standout feature of this cheap rangefinder is distance and slope compensation. As a player, you’ll know that hitting 150 yards uphill requires a different shot carry than the same shot downhill. This Callaway rangefinder will tell you the pin’s actual distance, followed by a ‘play as’ distance. This will allow you to select the exact club to be pin-perfect in your shots.
Durability is another key feature. If you are more than a fair-weather golfer, you’ll need weather resistance. Fortunately, the Callaway 300s is both water and fog-resistant. Because this rangefinder has a bit more sophisticated technology, we think this is the best value you can find in a budget golf rangefinder.
- Trusted Brand
- Slope Compensation
- Weather Resistant
For great value and simplicity, I find the Leupold PinCaddie 2 a joy to use. It’s features match those of much more ‘premium’ rangefinders, but at a much lower price point. The PinCaddie 2 is waterproof, which is something that’s pretty rare among the lower priced rangefinders.
Using the simple, one-button system, you’ll be able to select from a variety of modes. Utilizing the PinHunter2 technology, this budget golf rangefinder will scan the area surrounding the pin, and discount ‘irrelevant’ obstructions such as trees and bushes and return a yard perfect value for you to aim at, with no false readings.
Leupold gives this rangefinder a range of up to 650 yards. With that said, we found it to be most accurate inside of 200 yards. Beyond that point, the measurements do start to become less accurate, especially compared to a more expensive rangefinder.
I really like this range finder because of the high contrast LCD display. On cloudy days or when playing early or late, some rangefinders can be difficult to read. The display on this rangefinder is pin-sharp and super accurate. If you want the best contrast display, we think this is your pick.
- One-Button Activation
- Auto-Off Battery Saving
- Easy Read Display
Our Top Pick: Nikon Coolshot 20 GII
Nikon is somewhat of a dark horse in the golf rangefinder game, but do not sleep on them. Nikon’s rangefinder lineup is surprisingly impressive, and this is one of the best budget golf rangefinders that I have seen.
As with some premium-priced rangefinders, the Nikon Coolshot 20 GII features 2 different modes, depending on what you are trying to achieve.
Target priority mode is useful for identifying the distance to the pin, which it will do after taking several shots of multiple objects. The continuous measurement mode tracks several distances over 8 seconds at the touch of a button. Handy for navigating your way among obstacles such as trees or judging the range to bunkers.
One really nice feature is the ‘visual’ lock once the Nikon rangefinder captures the flag. The LCD reticule will change color, telling you that you’ve ‘selected’ the feature you are trying to hit (or maybe avoid).
The lens quality of the Nikon golf rangefinder is A1. It also features a diopter adjustment and long eye relief, great for those golfers who wear glasses or have corrective contact lenses.
This is a rainproof rangefinder, backed by Nikons deep expertise in optics and lenses technology. This rangefinder is legal for tournament play, and is one of the top selling rangefinders on the market. The Nikon Coolshot GII is definitely our pick for the best budget rangefinder in 2021.
- Premium Quality Lenses
- Visual Target Acquisition
- Multiple Modes
Precision Pro Golf are notorious for penetrating the affordable rangefinder market, and for good reason. They have a few excellent rangefinders on the market, well below the premium price tag you may expect. The Precision Pro Nexus golf rangefinder is an excellent option with a very low price tag. Its standout feature, considering its price, is the level of accuracy you can achieve. You’ll be able to identify and range any features to around 1/10th of a yard.
As with any good golf rangefinder, the Nexus allows you to ‘lock’ your target. This feature filters out unwanted data from the area surrounding the pin. The target acquisition function makes this budget golf range finder very easy to use. You needn’t worry about shaky hands giving an inaccurate reading. Just get the pin in the crosshairs, press the button, and read the distance. Simple.
The low price point may come at a small cost. This range finder has a 400-yard range, but is best used inside 180 yards. If you want to shoot longer distances, this could become a small problem. Overall, this is a great cheap rangefinder for anyone who has a tight budget.
- Superb Value
- Highly Accurate Readings
- Easy Target Identification
Premium Pick: BUSHNELL GOLF Tour V5 Patriot
If you are working towards a budget golf range finder’s upper price bracket, then the Bushnell V5 is a strong choice. This golf rangefinder is packed with features that make it a great choice as the only rangefinder you’ll ever need. It isn’t the cheapest golf rangefinder on this list, but it is really great value considering all that it offers.
The Bushnell V5 is easy to grip and sturdy in hand. The rubberized cover adds durability and a great feel, not always found in some budget golf rangefinders. Speaking of feel, the Bushnell V5 gives tactile prompts along with the visual. It makes a short vibrating ‘jolt’ when it has acquired a target, along with a blinking indication on the reticule.
It’s other features point toward it being the premium end of the scale. You can easily mount it on a golf push cart handle using the integrated BITE magnet technology.
It offers a very impressive range. It will give readings up to 1,300 yards and is accurate when identifying pins up to 400 yards away. Most rangefinders on this list are truly accurate within 200 yards, so this is definitely the most accurate rangefinder on this list for us.
This golf rangefinder isn’t quite as light as some other models. But this is not a bad thing. For those with a slight tremor, this device’s reassuring weight will reduce vibration, especially when ranging longer distances. If you want a premium rangefinder under that $350 range, this is easily our top pick for the category.
- Superb Quality
- Tactile ‘Lock On’
- Colossal Range
If you liked the Bushnell but find it too ambitious as a budget golf rangefinder, this offering from Peakpulse is a worthy pick. Even with the low price, it shares some of the same features that the Bushnell V5 offered.
As with some higher-end rangefinders, the Peakpulse will give a tactile ‘buzz’ as it locks onto the pin. While it is possible to lock onto and ‘buzz’ the flag, the Peakpulse model isn’t quite as accurate in its target selection as others on our list.
The Peakpulse golf laser range finder will give accurate readings from 6 yards all the way up to 400 yards, but is best used within 250 yards.
Because of the lower price point, it doesn’t have multiple modes, but as a simple point and shoot, line of sight range finder, this will do the job well. One thing I really like about this cheap rangefinder is the color and design. The bright white makes it really easy to see if you were to misplace it or inadvertently drop it on the fairway.
For a relatively small investment, you get quite a lot of bang for your buck. It comes with a carry case, cleaning cloth, lanyard, and rechargeable battery as standard.
- Simple Operation
- Bright Color
Buyers Guide: What to Look for in a Golf Rangefinder
When looking at the best budget golf rangefinder, you will undoubtedly have lots of options. I’m going to run through a few areas that should help you make the best decision when choosing.
This quality should be the prime overriding factor when making your decision. Accuracy is the sole reason why you should be aiming to buy a golf rangefinder. If you are not going to get precision information, then the rangefinder is not doing its job. As a rule of thumb, you want the best possible accuracy from the furthest possible distance. If the rangefinder you pick is deadly accurate outside 250 yards, you’ve got a clear winner.
When it comes to accuracy, look for rangefinders that offer a minimum accuracy of +/- 1 yard. Some offer greater than that, with displays giving data down to the nearest 1/10th of a yard. While it might be hard to hit it that accurately, at least you can be confident about the fidelity of the information. While many of the rangefinders claim to shoot distances up to 1000 yards, we find that claim to be a bit misleading. You should be looking for something that shoots somewhere between 400-600 yards, not much more than that.
Functionality and Modes
Several other features can greatly improve reading accuracy. I like to see multiple modes that allow you to ‘filter’ out unwanted obstructions. I also like dedicated modes independent from just finding the pin position. In some instances, you may want to know how far down the fairway you need to be to set up your next shot into the green or how far right you can go without landing in a water hazard.
Augmentation and Slope
One really nice feature is the inclusion of slope compensation. With a target on an uphill slope, you get less carry, so your distance may actually be cut short. The reverse is true for downhill lies. A rangefinder that gives you slope measurement and “plays like” distances is great and extremely useful, but it’s important to know you can’t use these functions in tournament play.
This mode should be the minimum that you look for. By being able to ‘pick’ your target, you can ensure that you are given an accurate distance. Even the most basic budget models should have this feature. If you are ever in doubt, you can take multiple readings to get a good accurate average.
When it comes to range finders, a splash of color isn’t just about cool aesthetics. It does serve a purpose. Even cheap golf range finders are expensive as one-off pieces of golf equipment. By choosing one that is highly visible, you will minimize the risk of losing it.
If your range finder isn’t brightly colored, a highly visible case is good as a backup option. You’ll find most of the suggestions above feature one or the other.
To accurately measure the distance to your target, you will need to be able to see it. When hitting over any substantial distance, above 100 yards, making sure you select the pin is important.
The easiest way to aid this is by using magnification. You’ll notice that all of my suggestions feature a magnification of 6X. This is a great ‘middle ground’. You’ll easily be able to see features to range. However, you won’t have the problems associated with greater magnifications, such as an amplified hand shake, making it difficult to designate your chosen target. We find that 7-8x magnification is a bit extreme and overall not necessary for a great golf rangefinder.
Ease of use
While I love features, I also want an easy to use golf rangefinder. The simplest solutions are always the best. A rangefinder should be something that you pick up, aim, point and shoot with the minimum of effort, leaving you more time to focus on what is important: your actual shot.
Number of buttons
Look for ‘single press’ rangefinders or those without masses of buttons. We like two as a maximum.
Regarding ease of use, in an ideal world, you’ll want to be able to take the rangefinder out and hold it to your eye with minimal, if any, adjustment. Anti-fog and coated lenses go a long way to making this possible. The same can be said of easy to locate focus rings.
Those with corrective lenses look for features such as diopter adjustments, allowing you to keep your corrective eyewear in place as you play.
Here are some commonly asked questions about budget golf rangefinders
How Does a Golf Laser Rangefinder Work?
The principle behind laser range finders is really straightforward. They work in precisely the same way as sonar on a submarine.
When you select a target and press the button, a short laser ‘pulse’ is sent towards the target. This pulse hits the target and bounces back. Using some very clever technology, the rangefinder can measure the time this ‘pulse’ took to go to the target and return. By measuring this time, it can very accurately work out the distance.
How Accurate are Laser Rangefinders?
Even cheap rangefinders are highly accurate with a certain range. Provided you can easily select your target, you can expect to see a degree of accuracy within +/- 1 yard. Some range finders will even give you an accurate reading to within 1/10th of a yard. With all this said, most rangefinders are most accurate within 300 yards. Some rangefinders struggle to remain accurate outside 200 yards.
The best budget golf rangefinders all easily satisfy the requirements for accuracy. All that is left for you to do is to be able to hit the ball accurately.
What is the Best Golf Rangefinder for the Money?
This is a question with a few answers, and it depends on what you consider most important. If you are looking for something packed with features and want a rangefinder at the higher end of ‘budget’, the Bushnell V5 Patriot offers absolutely everything you could want.
A great all-around choice is the Callaway 300s. It has an impressive range of features and ticks practically every box in our above buying guide. We particularly love the slope compensation function.
After the cheapest golf range finder? The Nexus golf rangefinder is a solid choice. It is supremely accurate with easy target acquisition.
Is a Golf Rangefinder Worth It?
In a word? Absolutely.
While an 8-yard ‘gap’ between irons might not seem all that much consider this…
You hit two ‘good’ shots into the green using a 7 iron and an 8 iron based on your best guess of the distance to the pin… The difference is only 8 yards. What does it matter? Well, that is an extra 24 feet to putt! By using a laser range finder, you could have saved yourself at least one stroke, maybe even two! If the above happens only twice in around, that is a saving of four strokes!
After I started using a rangefinder more frequently, I immediately noticed an improvement in my scores. A rangefinder is a bit of an investment in your golf game, but it can make a massive difference in your score.
Are Laser Rangefinders Legal in Golf?
Yes, they are. Distance measuring devices such as laser rangefinders and GPS systems are entirely legal. With that said, you cannot use any slope functionality in a golf tournament. Utilizing slope readings is considered cheating, as it gives you an unfair advantage against your opponent. That’s not to say you can’t buy a golf rangefinder with slope readings; just toggle that off in a serious match. Other than that, they’re perfectly legal.
Golf can be a hard game. Anything that gives you even the slightest advantage or makes it easier can only be a good thing. This is certainly true of our list of the best budget golf rangefinders. Whether you want a really cheap rangefinder or something packed with features, you should be able to find something perfect for helping your game.
Out of the bunch, our top pick is the Nikon Coolshot 20 GII– we love the functionality and attractive price point of this rangefinder. If you want a slightly more premium option, go for the Bushnell V5 Patriot; this is a true investment into your game, but it does have more features than any other cheap rangefinder you can find.
Thanks for reading!