Golf GPS Watch vs Handheld

Golf GPS Watch vs Handheld: The War of Range Finding Tech

Buying your first golf rangefinder can be an exciting experience, especially once you’ve learned how does a golf rangefinder work and the many ways these devices can help improve your golf game. But if you’ve done your research then you know there are both laser rangefinders and GPS rangefinders. To confuse matters even more, there are also golf GPS watches and handheld GPS rangefinders to choose from. In regard to golf GPS watch vs. handheld, there aren’t many differences between the two styles of devices, however, learning how each type differs can help you decide which device will work the best for your golf game.

Golf GPS watch vs. handheld: It can be hard to really determine which type is the better option. This usually depends on the type of golfer you are. Do you want a device that can measure the number of steps you’ve taken on the course and allow you to receive texts and phone calls? If so, then the watch is the better option for you. However, aside from the fact that the watches are often much more expensive than the handheld devices, they also don’t come with many of the same features that serious golfers love, such as the slope feature. Handheld rangefinders also have a significantly longer battery life compared to the GPS golf watch.

In the end, the choice is yours, but if you want a golfing device that comes with all the bells and whistles you need to improve your game, then we would recommend a handheld device.

Now that you know about the main differences between the Golf GPS watch and the handheld GPS rangefinder, keep on reading to find out what each type of device has to offer, the other ways they differ and check out many of the features they share.

A More Convenient Range Finding Experience

With the introduction of the smartwatch, the golf GPS watches have seen a rise in popularity. But in reality, they really aren’t much different from their handheld counterpart.

These watches are designed for golfers who are looking to improve their golf game and they really can help, allowing the player to analyze their performance on a deeper level in order to improve in the future. Not only will they tell you how far your last shot went, but they can also clue you in on your swing speed and average distance, in addition to other important golfing stats.

These devices are also often used as a means to train the golfer to learn how to determine the distance to the next hole. and many golfers have found that they are able to gauge the distance to the next hole more accurately, after regularly using a golf GPS watch.

But when it comes to any type of wearable tech, the design is probably the biggest issue. Do you want to deal with a bulky GPS watch that can negatively impact your swing or distract you? Some golfers won’t mind the extra weight, while for others, it’s clearly a drawback.

GPS watch

Many golfers choose the GPS watch over the handheld option because they’re more convenient to use. You don’t have to worry about leaving your rangefinder at home, in the car, or at the country club’s bar. Instead, you’ll have it constantly in clear view and on hand when you need it the most.

If you want a device that’s easier to keep track of and transport, then the GPS watch is the better option.

Winner: The GPS watch

Battery Life

The battery life for the watch and handheld devices is vastly different. Obviously, battery life can vary from model to model, but because the handheld devices come equipped with more powerful batteries, they offer a battery life of six to twelve months. Whereas the GPS golf watch has an average battery life of four to eight hours before it needs a charge. This can also depend on whether you use certain features that can drain the battery even faster.

In terms of battery life, the handheld rangefinder is the clear winner for this round.

Winner: Handheld golf rangefinder


These days, a smaller device doesn’t exactly equal a lower price tag. In fact, it’s usually the opposite. And it’s no different for golf GPS tech either. On average, the price of a GPS golf watch can range from $120 up to $400.

With handheld GPS golf rangefinders, the price seems to be much more reasonable, coming in as low as $89 up to $250.

Winner: Handheld GPS golf rangefinder


If you don’t already know, the GPS rangefinder works based on preloaded maps of golf courses. So, which device is able to store more maps? Both devices offer a comparable amount of storage. Users are also able to download additional maps if they’re playing in a new location. On average both types of devices will come with twenty to forty thousand preloaded maps. As we mentioned, you also have the option of downloading additional maps, however, there have been many reports that some models are not able to download maps for European countries which can be a huge drawback if you want to take your rangefinder overseas on your next vacation.

Winner: Draw

Service Fees

The monthly service fees for both types of range finding devices are relatively the same, as is the cost to download more golf course maps.

Winner: Draw

Extra Features

Some handheld rangefinders will come with a slope compensation feature. This feature will allow the device to more accurately measure a distance by taking the slope of the terrain into account. Others now include both GPS and laser technology, which provides impressively accurate distance readings, easily blowing a GPS watch out of the water. These new hybrid models can be pretty pricing, but they’re definitely an exciting new addition to the golf world and a device that can be a total game changer for the golfer who needs more of an edge on the course.

On the other hand, the GPS watch can come with some other features fitness enthusiasts will appreciate such as a pedometer, and Bluetooth integration. The addition of Bluetooth will allow the user to receive texts and incoming calls, as well as calendar reminders.

So, which features are better for the golfer?

For those of you who want to stay in close contact with the outside world while you play golf or fitness enthusiasts who want to keep track of the steps they’ve taken while they play, then the GPS watch is a better option.

However, the serious golfer will appreciate what the handheld GPS golf rangefinder has to offer in terms of features designed to improve gameplay.

Winner: Handheld GPS golf rangefinder

And the Winner Is

We now know that the handheld golf rangefinder and the GPS watch share many of the same features. But we also know that one of these devices is more limited than the other.

While each type does have its own drawbacks, we have found that the older crowd and more serious golfers prefer to use a device that’s more durable and reliable overall.

In terms of price, extra features, and battery life, and usability, hands down, the handheld GPS golf rangefinder can be a much better choice for the serious golfer. The addition of the new hybrid GPS golf rangefinders which come equipped with an infrared laser scan tech have also changed the playing field significantly by offering the golfer the best of both worlds and the type of impressive accuracy that a standard GPS watch just can’t compete with.

gps watch for golf

The handheld rangefinders can also be a better choice for the user who is on a tight budget. While the GPS watch is more convenient to use, the initial cost is not exactly affordable for the golfer on a budget.

The GPS golf watch is a great buy if you want a rangefinder that’s more portable and convenient to use and one with some basic rangefinder features and extra features that allow you to take calls or texts when you’re on the course, but they simply can’t compete with a handheld device.

Related Questions

What is a Rangefinder in Golf?

The golf rangefinder is designed to give the golfer a little edge on the course by allowing them to determine the exact distance to the next hole. Some golfers may see this as a way of cheating, but, in fact, it can be a great way to train yourself to gauge distances. Some models will come with some impressive techy features, such as the ability to determine the precise distance, even if there are obstacles in the way such as people, trees, or brush. Top of the line models like the Precision Pro Golf NX7 Pro Laser Rangefinder uses infrared laser technology to measure distance, providing highly accurate readings that are invaluable to the avid golfer.

To learn more about rangefinders and other leading models, click here to check out our buyer’s guide.

How Do GPS Rangefinders Measure Up Against Laser Rangefinders?

Golf rangefinder technology continues to advance every year. Considering how popular golf is, there won’t be any shortage of rangefinders any time soon. But how can you choose from laser technology and GPS technology? Which type of rangefinder is better?

There are pros and cons to each type of rangefinder. As you already know, the GPS models rely on a satellite and preloaded maps to measure distance, while the laser rangefinders use an invisible infrared laser to gauge distance. Many golfers feel that GPS models are more accurate and faster, however, a major drawback to this type of rangefinder is the fact that you have to pay a monthly fee to use them and if the rangefinder doesn’t come preloaded with the map of a course you’re playing on, you have to pay an additional fee to download the map. Another problem is using this style of rangefinder overseas. Most models of GPS rangefinders don’t come loaded with golf course maps for European countries and may not even have said maps in their database, making the rangefinder totally useless. Since the laser rangefinder utilizes a totally different technology, they can easily be used on any course in the world.

Apple Watch Vs. Golf GPS Watch

Apple has their hand in everything, so it comes as no surprise that you can now download golf range finding apps on your Apple Smartwatch. But how do these apps measure up to the real deal, or can they? In reality, these apps don’t stand a chance. Sure, you can get a rough idea of the distance to the next hole, but most of these apps, which you have to pay for, don’t offer anywhere near the type of accuracy that you’ll get from using a dedicated GPS golf rangefinder. Maybe someday in the future app developers will get it right, but for now, we don’t recommend going with an app on an Apple watch over using a dedicated golf GPS watch.

Can a Rangefinder Help me With my Golf Swing?

Not exactly. These devices aren’t designed to improve your form. However, they can clue you in on your swing speed, which can have a major impact on your golfing performance. Overall, these devices are designed to improve your golf game by telling you how hard and how far you have to hit the ball. They can’t do much to improve your game if you’re not using the correct mechanics or you have issues on your downswing, but they can make you a total pro when it comes to gauging the correct distance to the next hole.

Final Thoughts

So, which is better: golf GPS watch vs handheld? While the handheld model definitely has more features to offer that a serious golfer will appreciate, both styles have something to offer golfers of every skill level. If you don’t mind recharging your watch after every game, then the shorter battery life probably won’t even be an issue. But serious golfers are often looking for devices that really can have a major impact on their performance, which is exactly what handheld devices focus on and offer.

Golf GPS Watch vs Handheld: The War of Range Finding Tech
Article Name
Golf GPS Watch vs Handheld: The War of Range Finding Tech
Learn which rangefinder device offers the best and most accurate performance-the watch or the handheld device, and see what features each type has to offer.

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