Can I use a hunting rangefinder for golf?

I’m often asked whether or not you can I use a hunting rangefinder for golf. This is a bit of a loaded question. The short answer is probably. In our ultimate rangefinder test we took a look a few hunting specific rangefinders, and a few non-golf specific rangefinders. They did work, but some of their results were lacking a bit when compared to golf rangefinders.

hunter and golfer side by side

What is the difference between golf and hunting rangefinders?

When you think about the purpose of a golf rangefinder, it is to find the closest object in the viewfinder. That is because the user is pointing the rangefinder at the flag, and wants to pick it up instead of the trees in the background. When it comes to a hunting rangefinder, the goal could be a bit different. When sitting in a tree stand or hidden area a hunter might need to find an object that isn’t the nearest thing in the viewfinder. Because of this a hunting rangefinder will typically have different options for what it is supposed to pick up. If you try to use a hunting rangefinder that is looking for the wrong thing, you will have a terrible time using it for golf.

Do hunting rangefinders have Pinseeker technology?

While most hunting rangefinders don’t have a specific golf feature, they usually have a “nearest object” feature. This is essentially the same thing. By making sure your hunting rangefinder is set on the right mode, it will likely work just fine for golf. If you are trying to use a hunting rangefinder that doesn’t have a nearest object setting, or you have the rangefinder on the wrong setting, you will have a hard time picking up a flagstick if there is anything in the background.

Does a hunting rangefinder have a long enough range for golf?

A hunting rangefinder typically has a much longer range than a golf rangefinder. For this reason, it is much more appropriate to use a hunting rangefinder for golf than it is to use a golf rangefinder for hunting. When on the golf course it’s rare you’ll ever need a to-the-pin reading over 250 yards, or 350 yards if you’re a reddit r/golf member. Some hunting rangefinders advertise they can pick up distances of 1300+ yards. A golf rangefinder will usually have a target range of around 600 yards.

Can I use a golf rangefinder for hunting?

I think it is better to use a hunting rangefinder for golf than the opposite. Most golf rangefinders have specific features that make them work well on the golf course. They are lacking features that make them good for hunting. With golf you usually have a clear shot to the pin (unless you like hanging out in the woods, like me). While hunting you are often in a hidden spot that may have trees or cover in-between you and your trophy buck. Because of this, hunting rangefinders let you select a mode that finds the target that is farthest away in your viewfinder vs the closest object. It is rare to find a golf rangefinder with this option. So, if you’re in a spot that you need a dual-purpose rangefinder, I would suggest picking up a hunting rangefinder that has a nearest object setting.

What are the multipurpose rangefinders you would suggest?

I haven’t done a lot of hands on test of hunting specific rangefinders. If you are needing to find a unit for both uses, I would suggest to go with one of the name brand units. From my testing the cheaper units did not perform well on the course, and I wouldn’t expect them to do too well for hunting either. Both Nikon & Bushnell have some great hunting rangefinders that would be likely to work well on the course. Here are a couple of suggestions:

Nikon Coolshot Rangefinder

Nikon Prostaff 3i
Hunting version of the Coolshot 40i
Read 40i Review

Bushnell Hunting Rangefinder

Bushnell Engage
Similar to my go-to golf rangefinder, but without the GPS. Read Review of my go-to Bushnell.


So, can I really use a hunting rangefinder for golf?

As long as the rangefinder has a “nearest object” feature, you should be able to use it for golf. In my testing I have found that golf specific rangefinders are a bit better at picking up a flag. The hunting rangefinders do the trick, just a bit slower. I’ve also noticed more “missed” readings with the hunting rangefinders. It is more likely they will pick up an object in the background ignoring the flagstick. Even with golf rangefinders you will get missed distance from time to time, so it’s a good idea to have a general idea of your distance so you can second guess anything that doesn’t add up. You need to be a bit more vigilant with this if you are using a hunting rangefinder for golf.

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