When it comes to figuring out distances to targets and hazards on the golf course, I’ve been relying on GPS whenever and wherever it’s available. Oh sure, handheld rangefinders are superior to GPS devices, when it comes to exact distances. After all, GPS devices built into on-cart screens often provide distances typically to the middle, front and back of greens — as opposed to precise pin locations — and they’re only usable when you can drive the cart directly to your ball.
Yeah, you can download golf GPS apps to your smartphone that will relay distances, too. But they tend to quickly wear down the phone’s battery life out on the course. And they still suffer from not being able to provide exact distances.
So why do I use GPS and not handheld rangfinders? Because I shake. Badly. If you’ve ever tried holding up a handheld rangefinder to your eye and have even the slightest tremor, you know the device is pretty useless.
But my entire approach and outlook changed this week. I got my trembling hands on Nikon’s new COOLSHOT 80i VR golf laser rangefinder that features optical vibration reduction technology. The elevator pitch: It compensates for the human body’s physical inability to be completely still. And boy does it work well.
I took it out and tested it against objects as thin as a flagstick and as wide as a stop sign — from hundreds of yards away. It locks in the distance within half of a second. And I found the yardages to be thoroughly accurate. The company says that’s because the optical VR kicks in instantly when the laser rangefinder is on, so there’s no extra time spent trying to toggle between settings. Holding down the button allows you to continuously scan for eight seconds. The device — which weighs just 5.6 ounces, but has enough substance that you can thankfully feel it — carries an effective measurement range of between 8 and 1,000 yards, displaying measurements in .1-yard increments.
The scope also has an image stabilization effect, so that even while I’m shaking, it appears through the lens to me that everything is perfectly still. Don’t underestimate this feature, as it means I can maintain better alignment and find my target quicker and easier.
Other useful features: LOCKED ON Technology and First Target priority mode. When you’re measuring overlapping subjects — think of a flagstick with trees behind it — the device flashes a “LOCKED ON” sign to let you know it’s reading the distance of the target closer to you.
The displayed distance also compensates for uphill and downhill slopes, for truer playable yardages. According to USGA rules, this feature has to be disabled during tournament play. And it can be easily.
The unit is compact and features textured rubber armored gripping that feels very comfortable to the touch. And it’s waterproof, to boot. Plus it comes with a case that can easily stow inside a golf bag. The unit sells for $450. As the holidays approach, I believe it makes for a great present for golfers. Especially those that shake even a little.