If you have shopped around at all for a rangefinder, you probably have noticed that some are advertised as golf rangefinders while others are known as hunting rangefinders. Maybe you even own of the two types already and are curious about the other kind.
You don’t have to be both a golfer and a hunter to want to know the answer to the question: Are there really any differences between a golf rangefinder and a hunting rangefinder?
In what follows below, I’ll try to make clear why some rangefinders are specifically intended for golfing while others are used for hunting. This should help you decide if you’ll prefer one over the other or whether you want to have one of each.
What Is a Golf Rangefinder?
A golfer’s main task is to get the golf ball into the hole. To help the golfer see where the hole is, course owners put a “pin”, which is a narrow pole with a flag on top, into the hole.
That’s probably more than obvious to everyone, but it’s important here. It is that narrow pole that a golf rangefinder needs to locate. At a distance of 100 yards or more, that can be quite the trick.
A golf rangefinder needs to zero in on the pin and only the pin to do its job for the golfer properly. It has to ignore anything else in the area, like trees, bushes, and possibly even animals.
The software built into a golf rangefinder “knows” how to do this for you. Different rangefinder manufacturers will give you different terminology for this features, but they all mean the same thing. For example, Callaway (which is Nikon) calls it First Target Priority Mode; Leupold names it PinHunter; Bushnell calls it Pinseeker.
Even the lowest-priced golf rangefinder should be able to do this for you.
What Is a Hunting Rangefinder?
For our purposes here, we will speak of a hunter as someone who is using a rifle, as opposed to a bow and arrow or a crossbow.
A hunter wants to see a target that may be hundreds of yards away and that may be moving. The animal may not be the closest object in the field of view. In fact, it may be trying to hide amongst the trees, bushes, and ground cover.
As a hunter, you want a rangefinder that has Distant Target Priority, which is also known as Zip Mode or Brush Mode by various manufacturers.
Just as with lower cost golf rangefinders, low-end hunting rangefinders should be up to this task.
One negative to getting a model aimed at hunters is that it is not likely to have software that will suggest which golf club you should use to get to the hole. Many golf-specific rangefinders do have this feature.
Can I Use One Rangefinder for Both Golfing and Hunting?
The short answer to this question is a qualified “yes”.
You can find a rangefinder that will give you both the First Target Priority (FTP) and Distant Target Priority (DTP) modes, but you will probably have to pay more than bottom of the barrel to get both features. And that makes sense.
Many midrange rangefinders have FTP and DTP, and all high-end rangefinders should too. You should always check the specifications though before making your purchase. You don’t want to be unpleasantly surprised later and have to go through the process of returning the rangefinder so you can get a model you really want.
While such a rangefinder will be more expensive, it will still almost certainly be cheaper than buying two separate – one golf, one hunting – rangefinders.
Most of the time you will find it useful to start looking for a rangefinder designated for hunting. These will often have both modes, but they may be described with labels that don’t at first sound like what you need for golfing.
If you see something called Bullseye Mode, know that this is the same thing as FTP (PinHunter, Pinseeker) on a golf rangefinder. Some models have a Bow Mode that will also give you elevation change.
What Features Should I Look for Besides Modes in a Rangefinder?
Most additional features will probably be most useful while hunting. For example, a waterproof model shouldn’t matter much to a golfer. You shouldn’t be golfing in the rain, and you aren’t likely to take your rangefinder anywhere near a water hazard.
Some hunters may prefer a camouflaged rangefinder. While this might look a little unusual on a golf course, it would be easily explainable to your golfing partners.
Which Rangefinder Models Are the Best for Both Golf and Hunting?
I mentioned earlier that starting with a hunting rangefinder might be the best way to go. That does not mean that there aren’t golf rangefinders that are up to both tasks.
Here is just a sampling of what is available.
If you are more of a golfer than a hunter, you could just as easily start by looking at golf rangefinders. For instance, the Bushnell Scout DX 1000 ARC Laser Rangefinder offers both required modes. It is also waterproof.
If you are primarily a hunter, you might consider the Nikon Team RealTree Laser 1200. It too has both FTP and DTP via Nikon’s Tru-Target ranging system.
Whichever path you decide to take, I’m sure you will find a rangefinder to suit your abilities, your desires, and your style.
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