One of the most common questions on the golf course besides, “Did you see where it went?” is “How far am I?” When I first started playing, I was what you could call a guesser. There a lots of guessers out there. Their answer to the question above would be something like, “I’m thinking 7 iron.” Then there are the yardage marker guys. I was that guy for awhile too. Not a bad system, but yardage markers can be hard to find and they aren’t really made to mark hazards or lay-up spots. Next up on my distance measuring journey was the GPS, which is really one of the most useful tools a golfer can have. The only real shortcoming they have is that you can’t always get exact distances to points of interest and they provide readings for the front, back, or middle of the green rather than the precise distance to the flag. The laser rangefinder was created for those of us that want exact distances to objects. For those folks carrying one, the days of pacing off distances or just plain guessing are gone. Leupold Golf, one of the worldwide leaders in optics and distance measuring technology, sent one of their latest products, the GX-3, to THP for a review and I had a chance to put it to use for our readers. Take a look at how it performed.
Technical Information from Leupold
Featuring an incredibly compact body formed by a solid block of aluminum, the GX-3 defines rugged. Add the bright OLED display to the standard Fog Mode and Prism Lock™ and this rangefinder will play along in any weather. The GX-3 is tournament legal, offering line-of-sight distance measurement only.
The GX-3 is a small handheld unit that comes in a carrying case with a magnetic flap and a belt loop. The flap stays closed quite well, while remaining pretty simple to open. I would much prefer a belt clip to a loop so I didn’t have to thread the carrying case on my belt, but that is a minor complaint. The unit itself is very compact and easily fits in one hand. The outer shell is a hard rubber that has dimples where the user’s hands go to prevent slipping. In all, the GX-3 is very cool looking and a good conversations starter. The metal portion of the outside was bright, shiny, and quite reflective. It is definitely a neat little package.
Features and Performance
One thing I love about laser range finders is their ability to measure flags at driving ranges. We all know that the 100 yard flag doesn’t move, but the area where we hit the ball often does. Granted, the range isn’t the best place to learn your distances, but I’ve been known to throw a few of my own spare golf balls down and hit them instead of the range balls. More than anything, I’m an inquisitive guy and it’s nice to know exactly what distance I’m trying to hit at the range. This is where I first used the GX-3.
The first thing I noticed was the incredibly bright red OLED reticle that is used to pinpoint the spot you are trying to measure. The red color is very intense and makes focusing on the target a quick and simple task. When you press the power button on top of the GX-3 twice, a set of bars appears under the reticle, which indicates you are currently taking a distance measurement. The measured distance pops up very quickly in the same bright red. There is no mistaking when you are actively measuring the distance to your target due to the visual indicator and I appreciated that. Sometimes I’m not sure if I hit the button all the way or not and the GX-3 takes that bit of doubt away.
For the most part, I had no issues with acquiring my target while looking in the GX-3’s viewfinder. The view through the eyepiece is very bright and vibrant. However, I did have a bit of trouble seeing darkly colored flags in the distance while wearing sunglasses. One example I can specifically remember was a time that I was wearing my sunglasses and attempting to laser a blue flag in the 180 yard range. I did have a hard time finding it right away. Nothing that slowed me down too much, but I definitely experienced better results when I wasn’t wearing my shades.
One thing that can be difficult for those new to laser range finders is keeping them steady enough to get a good measurement. I never realized exactly how much my hands move until I started using one. It appears that I may need to consider laying off the caffeine. Surprisingly, I was still able to get quick and accurate readings from the GX-3 with my somewhat shaky hands. It seems that it was built with human imperfection in mind and was good at getting a read when I wasn’t completely still. I did find that standing in a well balanced position and holding the unit with both hands greatly increased my ability to get a quick measurement. Oddly, sitting in a golf cart proved to be the most difficult position for me to reduce shakiness. Regardless of my over-caffeinated tremors, the GX-3 was very adept at locking on to a target and getting a quick and accurate reading. Speaking of accuracy, during my testing I measured the GX-3 against another brand’s rangefinder numerous times and always found it to be within one yard or exactly the same.
One very cool feature of the GX-3 is the scan mode. You can actually hold a button down and move the unit around to get the distance to a few objects. There’s a bit more to it than that, though. Those of you that have used a range finder may know the frustration of attempting to get the distance to a flag that is far away and has a tree or other large object right behind it. My experience has shown that I often end up getting the distance to the other object quite well, but not so much when it comes to the flag. The GX-3’s scan mode is designed to allow you to scan an area, so you can grab that flag from the background. For example, the tree will show a distance of 250 yard, but when it locks onto the flag, you will get the correct reading of 220 yards. This is an awesome feature that really sold me on this unit.
I should mention that along with the GX-3, Leupold also released the GX-4. This unit is an upgrade to the GX-3 and has a few extra features. For one, it has a removable attachment that calculates slope into the distance measurement. So, if you are 20 feet above the hole you can get a better picture of exactly which club will get you on the green. This feature is not legal for many tournaments, which makes the fact that is removable all that much better. Other features included with the GX-4 are Club Selector, Temperature Input, and Altitude Input. Both the GX-3 and GX-4 have a few reticles to choose from, feature a fog mode, and are weatherproof.
I’m struggling to say anything other than I came away very impressed with the GX-3. It does the job it was designed do very well, looks great, and has some features that really impressed me. The only complaint I can really muster up is that I’d like to see a belt clip instead of a belt loop attachment. The GX-3 has a MSRP of $400.00 and the GX-4’s is $500.00. I suspect a little shopping could surely find a lower price such as www.Blind9Golf.com, but this is definitely a device that you could have for years and years. The extras included with the GX-4 are nice, but I was very happy with the standard options that came with the GX-3. For more information, please check out Leupold’s website at www.leupold.com. As always, thanks for taking the time to read and best of luck out on the course this year.