Are you one of those golfers who really wants to get better but have been reluctant to spend a few hundred dollars on a yardage measuring device?
It's an investment to be sure, but it's also an investment in your game, which -- ultimately -- is an investment in lower scores.
While the yardage markers and sprinkler heads on golf courses and the marked targets on driving ranges are nice, how accurate are they? The on-course markers (think red for 100 yards, white for 150 yards and blue for 200 yards) and sprinkler heads only measure to the middle of the green. What if you have a front or back pin position?
When it comes to the range, the teeing area isn't always in the same spot. They're always moving forward and backward so that grass can grow in.
Despite what you may have thought, measuring devices in golf are for everybody.
"The technology is huge," said PGA Professional Rob Labritz, who competed in his fifth PGA Championship two weeks ago at Baltusrol. "The GPS watch is probably the easiest and best to use for most golfers because it's right there on your wrist. Along with being incredibly helpful, the measuring devices also speed up play because you're not having to walk-off yardages."
GPS watches, in case you aren't familiar with them, come in a wide variety of sophistication. Most come preloaded with 10s of thousands of golf courses. You simply turn it on when you get to your course, it finds the GPS signal and you're ready to go.
Some will just give you the basic front, middle and back yardages. Others will also provide a overhead graphic of the hole, yardages to hazards, a digital scorecard, heart-rate tracking and more. Paired with a smartphone app, you can also keep track of all your stats online.
That's one reason Labritz is a big proponent of the Game Golf device (starting at $149). Game Golf provides real-time shot-tracking stats -- where and how far your ball traveled from where you hit it last, fairways hit, greens in regulation, number of putts, etc. -- that you can analyze at home after your round.
"It might seem like a lot of information, but that's the kind of data you want to track," Labritz said. "You'll discover your tendencies and you can work to correct the bad ones. It's one thing to track that information throughout the round in your head, but to see it on your computer screen or phone after a round can really put it in perspective."
For better players looking for more precise yardages, laser rangefinders are invaluable tools. They're typically between $250-$500 with some offering a "slope" option which factors in elevation changes on the course. The rangefinder will give you both the actual yardage and the yardage while factoring slope. For instance, you may have a 145 yard shot, but if it's uphill, the device will factor in a 10-yard elevation change and tell you that the shot is 155 yards. That's a one-club difference.
"If you're really wanting to dial in to the flag," Labritz said, "the laser rangefinder is the route to take. You eliminate any gray area. That's the exact yardage you need to hit it."
It's important to note that the "slope" option is not permitted for tournament play.
The benefits of these measuring devices are pretty obvious -- if you know the exact yardage, chances are even your mishits are going to be closer to the hole. There's no guesswork.
Laser rangefinders and personal launch monitors (check out the SC100 Swing Caddie for around $270. It's about the size of an iPhone and -- while Trackman is excellent -- it sure beats the $30,000+ expense) are also great for practice on the range.
As mentioned earlier, while there are marked targets on the range, they're not always accurate. Hit those targets with the rangefinder -- and anything else on the range, like trees, etc. -- to get the precise yardage.
The SC100 Swing Caddie measures carry distance, swing/ball speed and smash factor.
"If people can get their hands on a personal launch monitor, I recommend taking them out on the course to practice too," Labritz said. "Use it on every shot. People tend to get more tense on the golf course and don't swing as hard as they do on the range where they really unleash it. Compare those numbers and understand what your bag of clubs do for you."
Most of these devices offer a 30-day money-back guarantee. If you've been skeptical or reluctant about these tools before, isn't that reason enough to give them a try?
"There are so many technological tools at our disposal today and that goes beyond just equipment," Labritz said. "Take advantage of it. It will make you a better player."
Rob Labritz, who has played in four PGA Championships (he was low-Club Professional in 2010 at Whistling Straits), is currently the Director of Golf at GlenArbor Golf Club in BedFord Hills, N.Y. He was also the PGA Met Section Player of the Year in 2008 and 2013, as well as the Westchester Golf Association's Player of the Year in 2002, 2003, 2008, 2013 and 2015. You can learn more about Labritz at www.RobLabritz.com and you can follow him on Twitter, @Rlabritz.