Golf Buddy LR5 Laser Range Finder
I think one measure of genius (or at least smarter than average) is the ability to go from step 1 to step 10 without hitting every number in between. Unfortunately, that puts me more in the Average Joe range rather than the Elon Musk circle of trust. Perfect example of my plodding learning process is how I finally arrived at realizing Laser Range Finders are by far the best method for getting distance on the golf course. Rather than simply purchasing one 5 years ago, I went through every product, including early Sky Caddie models to iPhone Apps to GPS watches. I guess I figured Laser Range finders were too slow, too bulky, and just too much accuracy for a 10 handicapper. I mean, who am I to think I can dial in a 143 yard shot?
Alas, I got my first crack at a range finder a few months ago when I reviewed the Eagle Eye Range finder, which touts its product as good as the big boys with a smaller price tag. While I quickly fell in love with the idea of a laser range finder I was frustrated by Eagle Eye’s inability to quickly pick up the pin (especially when it was surrounded by trees).
Having reviewed a number of Golf Buddy products I was confident that the Golf Buddy LR5 would not only be of high quality but also have above average design. Ah, design, the new widget that companies need to conquer thanks to another genius by the name of Steve Jobs. No longer can a product just work great, it has to look and feel great too. This is where Golf Buddy has an advantage over many other companies. Whether it was a hand held GPS, talking GPS or wrist worn GPS, Golf Buddy has always been slightly more modern than other companies. The question was would the design be able to match the quality required to compete with companies who have been making laser range finders for many years.
My home course does not have reflective flag sticks and has trees everywhere, making it a challenge for some lasers to lock in. After 10 rounds with the Golf Buddy LR5, I have had exactly zero problems getting a distance within a few seconds (most times barely a second). Now I still play regularly with a guy who thinks any type of range finder is a waste of time and bad for karma for the game, but I whole heartlessly disagree. In fact I have 4 reasons why a laser range finder should be in every golfer’s bag.
1) Laser range finders take the guesswork out of distance. Why estimate when you can know exactly how far the pin or other objects are. Knowing the distance eliminates one variable from the equation and lets your mind lock on to a number and go.
2) It speeds up play. No more looking for markers or hemming and hawing about front, middle and back distances. You have an exact number.
3) It is always in your bag and never needs recharging. As much as I liked the GPS watch, I would still forget to charge it. I love the fact that the Golf Buddy LR5 is always in my bag and I never have to charge it (but I will have to buy a new battery every so often).
4) It helps you understand your club distances. After playing lots of rounds you just start to learn your distances. If you shoot a pin at 165 and come up 10 yards short with your 7 iron then guess what…you don’t hit your 7 iron 165 yards. Over time you will be forced to actually learn how far you hit each club.
Now that I am on the record about why I will never use any range finder except a laser range finder, let me tell you why I think the Golf Buddy LR5 should be in your basket of consideration.
As I mentioned, Golf Buddy does a really nice job with design. The LR5 has a great shape with soft rounded corners that allows the unit to fit very nicely in your hand. The two buttons on top are extremely easy to use and the inside viewer is clear, concise and logical. However, one of the most useful design features is actually the case. Because a range finder is too big for your pocket you are going to have to put it down either in your cart or somewhere on your bag if you walk or push. Additionally, you are going to have to take it in and out maybe 40 times per round. Therefore, it is really important that the case both protects the Golf Buddy LR5 and allows for easy opening and closing.
For those that walk for push, the Golf Buddy LR5 case provides a carabiner that you can clip to your bag (so it won’t get lost). The case itself is a sturdy box that zips up. The best part however, is that you can unzip the case and use the stretchy cord that will hook on a little knob to keep it closed. This makes it super easy to take the LR5 in and out of the case and never fear it will fall out.
The other design feature I like is the weight (or lack thereof). The Golf Buddy LR5 only weighs 8oz so it is very minimal. Not a huge deal, but I have noticed it is much smaller than some other brands.
I tested the Golf Buddy LR5 against a number of other high end laser range finders and found it to match exactly almost every time. Frankly, I don’t think getting a distance to a single yard is that important because just having the confidence that you know the distance is at least half of the battle. In terms of usability, the Golf Buddy LR5 comes with three modes: Standard, Scan and Pin. Frankly, I use the Pin Mode 95% of the time. Simply find the pin, hold down the button, wait for the square to show up then the distance is revealed. Super easy, super fast and super accurate.
The Standard and Scan mode can be used to find distance to lakes, bunkers or the cart girl (who is quickly driving away from me), but I find that I can use the Pin mode to do the same thing. Switching between modes is done by clicking the mode button which is also located on top of the unit. This part is a little tricky because it only switches modes when the square is not visible. Once you get used to it is fine, but for the first few times out I could not figure out why it would not switch modes – it was because it had already locked into a distance. Like I said though, I don’t see much of a reason to use anything but Pin mode as I find it will give me a distance to a sand trap as well.
For those who like to play golf with sunglasses on (like me), it is important to know that using the Golf Buddy LR5 will not require you to take them off. The eye piece and display are totally functional even with polarized sunglasses.
Price / Value
The Golf Buddy LR5 runs $249 which is still cheaper than most laser range finders. This model does not have slope on it, so that is part of the reason it is cheaper but frankly it is a heck of a value even without the slope feature. After 10 rounds I have had zero issues getting distance to any object. The tag line for the product is “Accuracy Matters” and they seem to have nailed it. Plus, if you walk or push your bag you are going to LOVE the case . . . no more zipping and unzipping. It’s amazing how a simple feature such as adding a stretch cord can make the experience so much better, but that is the magic and power of design.
You can check out the all the specs and purchase your own on the Golf Buddy website.