In the raging battle of using a golf GPS or a laser rangefinder to measure distances on the golf course, I come down on the side of laser rangefinders. Almost every time.
However, there is a downside to using laser rangefinders. If it's windy or your hand shakes -- for any variety of reasons, including drinking a few while playing -- then you can have a tough time steadying the laser rangefinder unit to hit your target. That user error and the inaccuracy it creates can be frustrating and time consuming to make sure you double and triple check to get the right number.
Now there's a new line of rangefinders on the market that can automatically correct for our imperfections.
Nikon has come out with the Coolshot 80i and 80 VR line of laser rangefinders that does something we haven't previously seen in the category. Using the company's VR (vibration reduction) technology, the Coolshot 80i and 80 VR reduces the effect of vibrations, for any reason, on the accuracy of the reading. That means that the image seen through the viewfinder is more stable, and so is the laser that returns the measurement.
The obvious positive here is that you can feel more confident you're hitting your intended measurement target, be it the flag, a bunker or somewhere else on the course you might use as a landmark. That creates confidence, and it speeds up the process.
The Coolshot 80i and 80 VR also have range-scanning mode for 8 seconds of distance measurement across a spectrum seen through the viewfinder. The 6x monocular helps a user lock in on targets with clarity.
Objects can be measured up to 1,000 yards away, meaning any shot can be covered with a clear view. In addition, the Locked On feature -- as you might see in a Bushnell with Jolt -- gives a visible signal when the rangefinder hits the target in the foreground as opposed to a tree or other object in the background.
The difference between the 80i and 80 units is the use of technology that compensates for slope in the distance calculation. The functionality that comes with the 80i unit can be disabled so it is compliant in competition.
Using the unit is easy. It's lightweight, and the stability functionality is really cool to see and hear work. You'll know it's working for you when you hear what sounds like a digital camera focusing in on a target, which is effectively what the rangefinder is doing. The clarity of the image creates an even better contrast with the black reading over top what's seen in the rangefinder.
The unit's rubber grip makes it a particularly comfortable piece of equipment, and it's waterproof, which is good to know if you're going to be playing in a driving rain.
The Nikon Coolshot 80i VR retails for $450, while the 80 VR retails for $400.