A budget Friendly Laser Rangefinder?

(Written by Golfspy_Dave)  Golf is expensive, and cash is tight these days.  Not a great combination for the golfer.  As such, many of us consider ourselves ballers on a budget.  I know that I want to play as much golf as possible this season, with the best gear that I can afford.  Regrettably, until PowerBall gets my numbers right1, I play golf with a finite pool of money.  I’m sure you are in a similar situation.  You carry your bag to save the $15 cart fee and say “it’s for exercise”.  You frequently play a muni with questionable conditions because you know that you can get two rounds there for the price of one at the “nice” course.  Kudos to our wealthy, posh home course readers.  I’ll admit my envy.

Anyway, regardless2 of our current fiscal situation, we want to buy and use the gear that best helps us to go low on the course.  One of the tools that I truly think aids in the number dropping is the golf rangefinder, be it GPS or laser.  On the GPS side, we can go budget with the free apps available for our fancy phones.  Although shooting lasers out of my iPhone may be the coolest thing I have pondered in weeks, alas, there is not an app for that (yet).  If you want to range your distances via laser, you need the hardware, and these, albeit cool, pieces of hardware are not typically billed as budget friendly.

That is until the recent release of Leupold’s PinCaddie Laser RangefinderRather than designing a unit to displace the lasers at the top of the line, Leupold has positioned the PinCaddie at the lower end. This definitely makes the price more attractive, but what we need to know is if Leupold was able to keep the excellent features of their higher-end lasers in this entry-level unit.  So let’s fire the laser3.

Looks + Feel

The Leupold PinCaddie is all business in its appearance.  The dark colors of the plastic body and rubberized top work well together, with the only hint of bright color coming from the logo on the side.  Obviously, style is not really the point of a laser rangefinder.  But style is what gets us in the door.  Design is the key component.

The PinCaddie does have a spot where you can attach a lanyard, but it still wont be replacing the bling of your usual medallion any time soon.  It’s built for performance, not aesthetics.  Let’s wander from the laser for a moment to its case.  The case for the unit is also not much in terms of eye candy, but is amazingly well designed in terms of utility.  The top is easy to open via a bungee/hook closure.  There are slots for the cleaning cloth (included) and an extra battery (just one battery is included).  The back has a nice hook to attach the case to your bag, as well as a loop to attach the case to your belt.  It’s a cool case4

Feel for the lasers rangefinder units always comes down to texture and hand fit/ergonomics.  The Leupold PinCaddie scores well in both of these areas.  The textures of the surfaces are comfortable on the hand, with ample tack for keeping the unit still during use.  Button position and the size of the button both fall in the excellent column.  Once you grip the unit, the button is exactly where you think it should be located and is easy to find by feel.  Though I am not sure of the comparable diameters, the Leupold PinCaddie’s eyepiece seems a bit larger than other lasers that I have used in the past, and as such, is very comfortable to use.  Overall, comfort is spot on.

Looks + Feel Score: 18/20 Points

Performance

Here are the Leupold PinCaddie Specs:

  • 6x Magnification
  • 23mm objective aperture
  • Line of Sight Distance
  • Pin Hunter Targeting
  • Yards/Meters
  • Weatherproof
  • USGA Legal
  • Black LCD Display
  • 600 yard range to reflective target
  • 250 yard range on non-reflective target
  • 1 year warranty
  • Battery good for >7K Actuations

Ease of Use

Very easy to use.  Press once for on, once to target, and hold to hit multiple targets.  There is nothing complicated in the use of the PinCaddie.  Even the switch from yards to meters and the darkening or lightening of the LCD display is very straightforward.

On the Course

So does the less-fancy Leupold PinCaddie hold it’s own on the course?  Overall, I definitely feel that it does.  Here are some of the specific details:

High Points for the PinCaddie:

  • It’s fast:  Quick to fire up and quick to range.
  • A+ Case: The well-designed case really does make it easy to quickly get the unit and to put it away.  You can take readings without slowing down play at all.
  • Ranges Non-Flags: The PinCaddie does a good job of ranging trees, hazards, and other non-flag objects5.
  • Deep Battery Life: Did you see that it said >7K Actuations under the specs.  I had to look up the word actuation6.  That means that you can shoot over 7,000 distances on one battery.  How many rounds of golf is that?  Let’s go with a lot of rounds!

Low Points for the PinCaddie

  • Range:  Most of the time, 250 yards to a non-reflective pin is sufficient, but there were a few par 5’s where I wanted the 400+ yard range that is found on Leupold’s other units.  It’s not that I’m going to hit my second shot 250+ yards7, but I do need to know total to the hole to plan how to play my two shots in.  That second shot usually required some math or lasing of non-flag objects to get the distance.
  • Targeting:  The PinCaddie did struggle targeting in certain situations.  This occurred when I was shooting a non-reflective flag when there were objects in the background.  In these situations, I would get a number for the object past the pin, and then with a bit of targeting shift, I could get the pin number.  It was not really an issue; because I knew that I was closer say to 150 yards out than 250 yards8.  The PinCaddie just didn’t initially lock quite as hard to target as some of the other lasers I have tested.  In reviewing it’s specs, it does lack the DNA (Digitally Enhanced Accuracy) feature found in the other Leupold units.  The lack of DNA may be the issue here.

Overall, I found the on-course experiences with the Leupold PinCaddie to be very satisfying.  There were some situations where I wanted a bit longer range, or where the targeting precision dropped off and made getting the correct reading a bit slower.  However, these issues were more than offset by the ease of use and accuracy under the majority of play situations.  In the multiple rounds that I used the Leupold PinCaddie, never once did I wish that I had brought something different with me to measure distances.

Performance Score: 55/60

Value

While most of the laser rangefinders out there come in closer to the $400-$500 price range, the Leupold PinCaddie retails for $314.99 on the Leupold site.  A quick search for it at Amazon shows a common price of $249.99.  That is an amazing price for this laser, placing it at almost 50% lower than some of the units in the marketplace.  Assuming that the unit holds up well under prolonged usage, the PinCaddie may be the best value laser rangefinder on the market today.

Value Score: 20/20 Points

Summary

Take heed my budget-golfing brethren (and sistheren9), if you are looking for a high-quality laser rangefinder that will still allow you to retain some ducats, you need to look into the Leupold PinCaddie.  There’s no slope, or fancy colored display, but there are clear optics combined with steady, accurate measuring.  Leupold has designed the PinCaddie to be an entry-level laser, as opposed to a low-end unit.  Happy lasing!

Overall Score: 93/100


1.  Seriously PowerBall.  How hard is it for you to pick 8, 12, 17, 21, 23, & 5?  Get that done already!
2.  Not to be confused with the ever-painful “anyways” and “irregardless”.
3.  No Scott, I do not think that I can write a laser review without referencing Dr. Evil.
4.  Not to be confused with a “cold case” of course.  That’s something totally different and you would look very silly trying to attach a cold case to your belt…
5.  You should not be shooting lasers at other golfers, hawks, turkeys, gophers, cart-girls, marshals, restrooms, and so on, but I understand that sometimes you need this information.
6.  ac-tu-ate (ak-choo-eyt)  1.  to put into motion or action; activate.  2. To move to action.  You’re welcome.
7.  Probably not hitting my first shot 250+ these days either…
8.  I can tell that distance difference laser-free.  Skills, I haz ’em.
9.  I don’t even know if that’s the right word, but no red squiggly line so I’m going with it.  It does make me think of Harry Potter though.