If you’ve watched the Disc Golf Pro Tour this year you’ll see that Bushnell rangefinders are everywhere. Pros are using them in practice rounds, and even during competition. Bushnell partnered with the DGPT and it’s working out well. They sponsored the DGPT bracket for fans during the finals, with the winner of MPO and FPO brackets receiving an amazing rangefinder. They also held a competition for some of the top pros to throw 100, 200, 300, 400, and 500 feet. Whoever got closest won $500. Here you can see Simon Lizotte in his attempt. Full disclosure, while I own a rangefinder, it is not from Bushnell and they didn’t pay/compensate me to write this blog.
Some business partnerships don’t make sense, but Bushnell and the Disc Golf Pro Tour seem to fit well together. One thing about disc golf is, I’ve found signage to be misleading over the years. Some courses have baskets that are …well ... very different in distance from the numbers on the signs. That’s because sometimes baskets get moved, or a new line is created once trees fall, and sometimes they measure the distance straight to the pin, not the path you have to take to the pin. It’s not usually the course designers fault. Now, with rangefinders, I don’t have to rely on the signs; I just take about 30 seconds to use the rangefinder and pick my disc. Bushnell has even made a rangefinder that’s in feet instead of yards which is great for disc golfers. I just personally just divide by 3 in my head, but this feature is actually pretty cool for the community; it shows that Bushnell is committed in the long run. Disc golf needs outside sponsors to grow and Bushnell is making the smart move getting in early. I mean, I don’t know if I could have named a rangefinder company until this year, but now I remember Bushnell.
Now let’s say you’ve got a rangefinder and you’re out there on Hole 3 of your home course. You’ve thrown off the tee of a 507 foot hole, you’re in the fairway and you pull out your rangefinder to see that you’re 189 feet away, and that there’s a 4 degree incline so it’s actually more like 204 feet away. What does that mean, what disc should you pull out of your bag here?
Rangefinders only give you data points, they can’t tell you which disc to throw. That’s going to come from you doing some *sigh* field work.
Things to bring with you for field work:
1. Your bag with discs.
3. Notebook & Pencil.
4. Large object like camp a chair.
Yes sadly you won’t magically get better when you buy a rangefinder. You’ll need to put some hours in practicing. But now you should bring your phone and a notepad with you. Take your disc that you’re going to throw, and once you’ve warmed up, you can throw that disc 5 times. Say you want to learn about the distance on your forehand with your Innova Gregg Barsby Eagle. Go throw that disc like you normally would. Don’t really lay into it, you’re trying to get your average distance here. If you have a bad throw, don’t count it. Once you’ve thrown and recorded the 5 throws (205’, 215’, 218’, 204’, 216’), add the distances up (1060’) and divide by 5 (212’). Now make sure you mark your average distance in your notebook. You may have the energy to do a few discs a day, once you’ve got your whole bag marked it becomes time to use the rangefinder. So the next time you’re out on a hole and it’s 240 feet, you know to disc up to another disc. Or if you use your rangefinder and find that you’re at 212 feet away, a perfect throw will give you a tap in.
When you’ve thrown your disc, don’t get out your rangefinder and try to spot it. It’s impossible to spot a disc in the field, you need a larger object. Your bag may not be large enough to focus on, so I suggest after you’ve thrown, that you move the camping chair to where you threw the disc from. Then grab your notepad and rangefinder, go out to your disc and sight in on the chair. That will give you an accurate reading.
One thing that I love about my rangefinder, and the Sportfinder 850 from Bushnell offers as well, is the slope feature. It calculates the slope to the basket and then shows you not only the distance, but calculates the distance based on slope. I have a long hill behind my house where I enjoy practicing. One thing I know is that when I’m throwing 200 feet downhill it’s actually much closer. That’s why I’m able to sometimes jump putt on the way down, then crank my putter on the way back up the hill. Showing the “true” distance makes things easier for when I’m deciding which disc to choose.
Now I’ve mentioned sighting in the basket, but don’t forget there’s other things on the course to avoid, such as trees, sand traps, or obstacles. Whip that rangefinder out and you’ll see that you only have to throw your disc 100 feet straight
Another advantage to the rangefinder is that it’s going to slow you down. Now if you’re playing on a hole that’s 250 feet and you are 20’ away from the basket, don’t pull out your rangefinder. But if you’re at a distance where you aren’t sure, grab it and take your time. One of my biggest flaws in disc golf is my “ready to go” playstyle. I usually have my bag on my shoulder ready to go all the time. This forces me to slow down, and as long as I don’t lose my rhythm, I have better rounds when I play slow. I’m guessing the same is true of many other people here. I know that it can be frustrating to play behind a slow group. I don’t do this on every hole I assure you, only on important shots during a round where I’m not sure how far away I am.
If you don’t have a rangefinder you can find your distance another way. Go to a football field if you can, they’ve already been nice enough to provide you with yardage. You can run the same test flights out on your discs there. The downside is that while you have the information, you’ll have no way to judge distance other than relying on tee signs.
So Andrew, is a rangefinder worth it?
That depends on you, a rangefinder is about $150, and they’re a tool that requires you to do some fieldwork. If you’re willing to put in the investment of money and time, you will get better with a rangefinder in your bag. There’s a reason that top pros are using them at courses, they work. $150 is about the same price as a basket, which is also something that you should have, and is more important in my opinion. My suggestion is, if you’re practicing at least twice a week doing field work and putting practice, then yes. A rangefinder will help you immensely out on the course. If you don’t see yourself practicing that frequently, spend your money on something else that will affect your game more positively. Snag a couple putters, or a sweatshirt to keep warm now that it’s November. People have been getting along fine without rangefinders for decades, Climo won 12 World Championships without them, don’t worry.
I foresee disc golf pros continuing to use rangefinders on tour for a long time. Bushnell makes a great rangefinder and has invested in the DGPT, so if you decide to get one, give Bushnell a look. Show other sponsors that disc golfers reward investments, and you’ll help grow the sport with other outside sponsorship.
May your discs miss all the trees,
Andrew Streeter #70397