The number of variables that plague the common golfer’s scorecard is alarmingly high – wind, rain, swing mechanics, course conditions, psychology, bad bounces – the list goes on and on. All of these variables must be navigated and their effects minimized to produce a good score on a given day.
Estimating distance to the pin and the effect of elevation are no longer on that list of variables, thanks to modern technology, and Madison-based Laser Link is among the manufacturers that have launched new versions of rangefinders that incorporate the benefit of slope assistance.
Starting in the 1990’s, rangefinder technology, previously only used for activities like surveillance and hunting, was adapted for use in golf, providing a precise estimate of the distance to the pin and other targets. Gone were the days of using sprinkler heads and pacing off yardages, and using rules-of-thumb that could lead to a wildly poor club choice.
First-generation rangefinders simply provided one metric – distance. Usually that meant aiming the laser at the pin and hoping that the club had installed reflectors to make the readings more accurate. However, that left one crucial variable up to the golfer’s (often poor) judgment – the effect of elevation. As the below metric illustrates, elevation can have a severe effect on the distance the ball travels, and must be taken into account in club selection.
In this extreme example, without factoring in slope, the shot would come up about 30 yards, or as many as three clubs, short of the target. In my experience, guestimating the slope effect would usually result in hitting one fewer club than needed on uphill shots. It’s psychologically challenging to commit to taking more than one extra or one fewer club on a shot without the benefit of additional data.
Laser Link is a longtime industry leader in rangefinder products, and has a large line of models spanning the past couple decades of technological innovation. I’ve been a user of the Laser Link RH2 model, a pistol grip design, for eight years. This earlier-generation model has worked very well and has been reliable over this long timeframe, but it was time for an upgrade.
The new pistol grip RH Fore model looks and feels the same as the RH2, but it incorporates a “slope” feature that allows for elevation to be factored in. It was the perfect upgrade for me, as I love the feel of the pistol grip design, and the addition of the slope feature provided a welcomed confidence boost for my club selection.
The RH Fore comes with three modes that can be easily switched at the top of the grip.
The “QS” or “QuickShot” mode is an original RH feature that only allows measurements to a reflector on a pin. While this won’t work on every target, and not every course will have reflectors installed, it does provide a very accurate yardage to the pin and ensures that nearby targets aren’t accidentally hit.
The “RH” or “Red Hot” mode will pick up any target very quickly. This mode has the advantage of providing distance to non-pin targets, such as trees or bunker faces through the fairway or yardage posts.
The “Slope” mode sets this model apart from its predecessors. It allows any target to be hit (like the RH mode) while providing slope information. The angle of elevation and number of yards or meters to add or subtract from the base distance are displayed on the screen.
The RH Fore also allows for “Rapid Fire” where a new reading can be initiated before the previous measurement clears the LCD screen.
The RH Fore also provides an array of customizable features that allows the golfer to dial in the settings they like the most.
- Vibrate mode will cause the model to vibrate when the target has been hit. This is a helpful cue that the reading has been completed.
- Voice mode will audibly tell you the distance to the target once the reading is complete
- Distances can be presented either in terms of yards or meters
The settings can be easily switched by holding down the trigger for 20 seconds and then cycling though each possible combination of settings. As shown in the picture above, each active setting is reflected on the display (performance mode in top bar, audio in near upper-right will display if turned on, vibrate in far upper-right). The battery charge level is also displayed on the lower-lefthand portion of the screen.
The model comes in a standard sleek black, white and red camouflage pattern and with a carrying case that will fit snugly and can be attached to a bag. Its magnetic handle can attach to a cart or other metallic surface. It is rechargeable via a USB port and is water-resistant.
To test accuracy, I first compared measurements from the RH Fore to the RH2 model in the schoolyard behind my house to targets at a variety of distances, ranging from 65 to 310 yards. In all cases, the RH Fore and RH2 were within one or two yards of each other. The RH mode also matched the Slope mode distances to within one yard in all cases, and both modes were easily able to pick up non-flagstick targets such as soccer goalposts and flagpoles.
Next, I took the RH Fore to my home course and tested out all of the features. I found the readings to be very accurate, and the slope data came in subtly different than my intuition suggested on downhill and uphill shots. The RH and Slope modes frequently picked up background objects, however, making multiple readings necessary to hone in on the pin more often than I’d like.
I also compared readings from the RH Fore to my buddy’s Bushnell Pro XE model. The distances and slopes we tested all came in within one or two yards between the two models, further corroborating the accuracy of the RH Fore. However, the Bushnell model seemed to pick up the pin more reliably. That said, it is about twice as expensive as the RH Fore, and has other features like temperature-adjusted distances, so it’s not the most apples-to-apples comparison.
While my 7-handicap skill level leads to significant natural variation in distances, I found my solidly-hit iron shots getting close to pin-high more often than usual, even on the more uphill or downhill shots. This gave me newfound confidence in my iron play, and I’m confident I can enjoy some improvement in scoring as a result of the technology boost. Not having to worry about accurate club selection should allow me to focus more on improving other crucial aspects of my swing.
I found the speed of the readings to be a little better than the RH2 model, and the rapid fire functionality allows for prompt corroboration of readings. I enjoy using the vibrate mode to provide affirmation that a reading is complete.
The RH Fore has a retail price of $239, which seems to be on the high end of the mid-tier rangefinder market. That said, there are not many comparable pistol grip designs in the market, and the strong features, usability and performance make this a high-value model with the price point justified.
After upgrading to the Laser Link RH Fore, my golf game is now free of one extra variable that used to wreak havoc on the scorecard. Its slope feature is easy to use and accurate, and the other features of the model are very nice, as well. For golfers who are still using distance-only rangefinders, and particularly for those who like the feel of the pistol grip design, the RH Fore may be exactly the right model for you.
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