Finding your way on the course today takes everything you’ve got.

Taking a break from indecision sure would help a lot.

Wouldn’t you like to know how far it is from here to there?

And the carry in the air?

All right, all right. Enough of that. I’ve been watching WAY too much old TV during this pandemic.

Let’s get serious: Is there any question asked more often on a golf course than, “What’s the yardage?” Or some version thereof?

Take a walk with me through the range of ways to answer this recurrent query in today’s game, using technology that’ll suit technophobes and technophiles alike.

Old-school yardage calculation

Nothing much to say here: Find a sprinkler head, or stake, or bush, and guess. Or, if you’re really anal, pace it off. If your preference is the latter, be prepared for your playing partners to play out of turn and walk ahead. Many years ago and someone growled at a kid in our group what we all were thinking: “If you pace off another pitch, Woody, I’ll hit every ball in your bag into the effing woods.”

Retro Cool: GolfLogix Greens Books

Depending on your perspective, when pros pull those greens books from their back pockets, it’s either ultra-cool or utterly infuriating. Now YOU can be one of these polarizing figures on your own home course. How can you get a taste of that sweet, sweet data for your local links? GolfLogix offers green maps and yardage books of nearly any course you can think of. These books run $40 each, include hole maps on 50-yard scales and green break maps and heat maps on 5-yard grids. We’re talking serious data here. The hole maps are excellent, but the stars of the show are the exquisite green maps, with break arrows and heat maps for judging both direction AND amount of break. Since getting one of these for my home course, I have discovered flat spots on the greens I didn’t know existed and had always over-read. So now I can enlighten (or bore) my buddies, “It’s a little-known fact that that part of the green actually doesn’t break.”

 

Laser focus: TecTecTec! ULT-X Rangefinder

Rangefinders have really grown on me over the years. I used to love the old-school guess, but now I enjoy verifying the yardage with laser precision. If you’re only a slight technophobe, the laser rangefinder is probably your top choice: just aim press a button. One of the more advanced rangefinders on the market is the ULT-X by TecTecTec! ($250). It’s lightweight, uber-precise, and has an elevation mode that is easy to turn on and off. Doing so is accomplished by pulling the lens housing out or pushing it in. When the elevation mode is engaged, a bright yellow band is revealed, so players like my son, who play in tournaments in which measuring elevation is not allowed, will be less likely to forget to turn it off. There is a vibration confirmation when the target is locked in, too (though it’s a bit slower than some higher-priced competitors). I’ve also recently found that another handy use of the ULT-X is keeping an eye on other golfers around the course to maintain social distancing. You can ID friends from 100+ yards away and wave – “Hey, Norm!”

Sleek, stylish, and hi-tech: SkyCaddie LX5 GPS Smart Watch

If you don’t normally wear a watch while playing, it might take some getting used to, but a GPS watch can be the easiest way to know the yardage wherever you are. And if you want more than just yardages—like hole maps, yardages to hazards, score-keeping and game stats, step-counter, heartrate monitor and more—you will want to consider the new SkyCaddie LX5 ($350). I’ve been testing one of these beauties for a couple of months now, and it does practically everything – and I feel like I’ve barely scratched the surface of its functionality.

The LX5 has a ceramic touch-screen bezel that measures 1.39 inches, with hi-def resolution so even old(er) guys like me can read the numbers on the screen. Although its price tag is substantial, it comes with a 3-year SkyCaddie Premium membership and is pre-loaded with 35,000 courses around the world. I’ve actually learned to enjoy entering my scores and basic stats into the watch after each hole. The membership allows you to sync data with a laptop or phone, and then you can access stats from all your rounds on the SkyGolf360.com website.

Added benefits are a step-counter, so I can show my wife that my morning rounds include 14,000 steps (6+ miles) and a battery that lasts for two full rounds. The only feature I am not fully enamored of is the LX5’s habit of asking “Are you done with Hole X?” It asks this dumb question sort of a lot, and it vibrates on your wrist when it does. I don’t play slowly, but a few times, this buzzing has happened in the middle of my backswing in a bunker or on a putt, with deleterious effects. No one likes a know-it-all, Diane.

Bushnell Wingman: Swing your swing and play your music

If you’ve gone all-in on technology and all the ways it’s changing golf, the Bushnell Wingman ($150) is for you. Essentially the Wingman is a top-notch stereo speaker combined with one of the best GPS systems in golf. Integrated into the speaker is a powerful magnet so you can stick it on your golf cart (or on your pushcart), and there’s a detachable remote control you can keep in your pocket to click for audible yardages to the front, middle, and back of the green.

But wait – there’s more!

Pair the Wingman with your phone to play music from your own library or streaming service, if the gentle strains of birdsong and the breeze in the leaves are too old-fashioned for you. Then download the Bushnell app onto your smartphone to display detailed maps and yardages of 36,000 courses, keep score, and more all on your phone. I’m not a big phone-fan on the course, but there’s so much functionality with the Wingman—all accessible without subscription or membership—that I discover more features every time I use it. Smoothest wingman since Sam Malone.

So cheers to all you golfers, no matter how you decide to make your way in the world today. It’s not easy out there, but it’s a little better when everybody knows your name—and you know your yardages.