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GolfWRX Best Rangefinders: A Buyer’s Guide

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What are the best rangefinders in golf? Like most things golf equipment, it depends on your needs.

Laser rangefinders, a category that is dominated by Bushnell and Leupold, are great for golfers who are looking for the most accurate distances. GPS models, on the other hand, are the top choice for golfers more concerned with a fuller picture — distances to water hazards, bunkers, doglegs, etc. They also allow golfers to track their stats and keep their score, if they’re into that.

This list of the best rangefinders was created with the assistance of Laser and GPS rangefinder expert Nick Wallace of Morton’s Golf. It will help you make the best choice, whether you’re buying for yourself or that special golfer in your life.

For golfers on a budget, we’ve also included a value section at the bottom of the page that will get you the best yardages for the money.

Best Premium Rangefinders

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Bushnell Tour Z6 Jolt

  • Type: GPS
  • Suggested Price: $399
  • Weight: About 8 ounces
  • Coolest Feature: JOLT technology vibrates when you hit the flag

The Tour Z6 Jolt is barely bigger than a deck of cards, but it houses all the technology of Bushnell’s larger, slightly more powerful Pro X7 rangefinder. It’s accurate to 0.5 yards and its JOLT technology vibrates when a golfer locks onto a flag — not the stuff behind the green. That gives golfers peace of mind that they’ve got the right yardage.

Its VDT display is extremely bright, even in low-light conditions, and its 6X magnification gets golfers close enough to dial-in yardages to the corners of hazards and doglegs.

Wallace says lasers like the Tour Z6 Jolt are a great choice for golfers seeking simplicity.

“There’s not a lot of training involved and you don’t have to be computer savvy,” Wallace says. “If you’re looking to dial in your yardage to 1 yard, or a 1/10 of a yard in some cases, lasers are the best bet.”

[button color=”red” rel=”norewrite” link=”http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00HQE9DA6/ref=as_li_qf_sp_asin_il_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=B00HQE9DA6&linkCode=as2&tag=golfwrxcom-20&linkId=D3LRJWO4K3LCNW5Z”]Buy the Bushnell Tour Z6 Jolt[/button]

Garmin Approach G8

Garmin Approach G8

  • Type: GPS
  • Suggested Price: $399
  • Weight: About 4 ounces
  • Coolest Feature: Smart Notifications sync with your smartphone

The Garmin Approach G8 has a battery life of 15 hours and boasts a 3-inch color touchscreen with large, bright maps that recommend layup positions. It also comes preloaded with 38,000 courses that automatically update through Wi-Fi.

There are no subscriptions or fees, and the G8’s PlaysLike Distance feature gives golfers the ability to adjust yardages to precise targets and accounts for uphill and downhill yardages. While that makes it non-conforming for tournament play, it’s still pretty cool. And the G8’s PinPointer gives you the direction to the middle of the green or your selected area of the green, even if you can’t see it.

Not into having two devices in your cart: your GPS and your iPhone? If you have an iPhone 4 or later, the G8’s Smart Notifications allows you to receive email and text alerts on its screen so you can leave your phone in your bag.

If you’re into keeping score and tracking stats on a GPS, the G8 does that too, and it allows you to enter your club information so it can recommend different clubs based on different yardages. You can also download the information after the round and upload it to your computer.

[button color=”red” link=”http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00I053PLS/ref=as_li_qf_sp_asin_il_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=B00I053PLS&linkCode=as2&tag=golfwrxcom-20&linkId=MEM3MVIIYJT37DPX”]Buy the Garmin Approach G8[/button]

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Leupold GX-4i2

  • Type: Laser
  • Suggested Price: $624.99
  • Weight: About 8 ounces
  • Coolest Feature: Measures slope and atmospheric conditions, but can be made USGA conforming with a removable face plate

The most advanced laser rangefinders are made by Leupold, Wallace says, and if you want the most tricked-out laser rangefinder money can buy then you need Leupold’s GX-4i2.

Like the more affordable GX-3i2 ($399), the GX-4i2 is accurate to 1/10th of a yard. You might not need that much accuracy, by why wouldn’t you want it? What the GX-3i2 or any other rangefinder can’t do, however, is offer distances based on slopes and atmospheric conditions. That’s where the TRG (True Range Golf) technology in the GX-4i2 comes into play.

TRG allows the GX-4i2 to function as a training aid during practice rounds, giving golfers accurate yardages based on a course’s topography and weather conditions. When tournament time comes, however, all golfers have to do is disable TRG by installing the provided chrome faceplate and go about the distance-only measurements that conform with the rules of golf.

The GX-4i2 also has what the company calls Prism Lock technology, which beeps when golfs locks onto the prisms that are installed on many course’s flagsticks.

[button color=”red” link=”http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00HWH5GH6/ref=as_li_qf_sp_asin_il_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=B00HWH5GH6&linkCode=as2&tag=golfwrxcom-20&linkId=TJWPXWH74SR6QLHL”]Buy the Leupold GX-4i2 [/button]

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Garmin Approach S6 Watch

  • Type: GPS
  • Suggested Price: $399
  • Weight: About 2 ounces.
  • Coolest Feature: Built-in SwingTempo trainer.

If you’re used to wearing a watch on the course, why not wear a golf-specific watch? That was Garmin’s approach with the S6, which has a color touchscreen that allows it to do everything most GPS units do from the comfort of your wrist.

Like the G8, the S6 comes preloaded with 38,000 courses and has no fees or subscription. It updates through Wi-Fi, will sync with your iPhone (4 or later) to display notifications through Bluetooth and shows full-color maps that preview doglegs, traps, water hazards and the green.

There’s more, but the coolest feature for many gearheads will be its SwingTempo trainer, which like a metronome gives golfers audible tones to tune their swing to different tempos when practicing.

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Best Value Rangefinders

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 Bushnell Tour V3 JOLT

  • Type: Laser
  • Suggested Price: $299
  • Weight: About 7 ounces.
  • Coolest Feature: Affordability

Bushnell’s Tour V3 Jolt has all the cool technology of the company’s Tour Z6 Jolt and Pro X7 Jolt, yet it costs much less.

Compact? Check. Lightweight? Check. Accurate to 1 yard? Check. JOLT? Check.

Who really needs anything else?

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Golf Buddy Voice

  • Type: GPS
  • Suggested Price: $119.99
  • Weight: About 1 ounce
  • Coolest Feature: It talks to you!

No GPS is less intrusive than the Golf Buddy Voice, which weighs less than 1 ounce and easily clips to your hat or belt for yardages to the front, center or back of the green at the touch of a button.

The Voice comes pre-loaded with 40,000 courses and requires no fees or subscriptions. It has volume control (your playing partners will thank you) and automatically recognizes what course and hole you’re on. The latest version, Golf Buddy’s Voice VS4, sells for $149.99.

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41 Comments

41 Comments

  1. James

    Sep 16, 2015 at 11:47 pm

    just buy Bushnell Tour Z6 Jolt. This is the best range finder I used

  2. Ray

    Apr 30, 2015 at 11:07 pm

    I have Golf Buddy Voice and it is really good with the price under $100.

  3. Frank

    Jan 10, 2015 at 1:58 am

    I tried the leupold GX-4i2 of a fellow in my foursome while on vacation after the battery died in my Bushnell (no battery meter) . It was love on the first aim, fire and beep. Not cheap! But you could feel the quality by just holding it .

  4. michael p

    Dec 9, 2014 at 10:40 am

    I have never used one and probably never will I do pretty good just by the yardage markers on the course. I adjust yardage for wind and how i am hitting the ball that day i am with in a couple of yards. I usually take one more club just to make sure and hit is smooth. don

    • adam

      Feb 25, 2015 at 3:42 pm

      Been researching “rangefinders” not GPS units from various sites, magazines, proshops etc. Only Leupold and Bushnell units are critiqued here.

      Bushnell: products with jolt are best at finding the flag and accuracy/quickness is great. Terrible customer service and return time for most. Pricey as most rangefinders are. Bushnell 1500 – a great buy for discounted pricing on a used unit, 1600 has a 9V battery which is great but the door for the battery does not stay closed. Some users reported poor battery life (batteries are $10 for 2 so when the unit itself is north of $300 who really minds paying that for a 3V battery once per year). V2/V3/Z6/x7 all come with 2 yr warranty which is decent enough. Waterproof units make my life less stressful which is a great feature for the V3 and above.
      Leupold: fantastic for customer service and fixes/returns. Unit is smaller and some users have reported the units themselves are built much more durable than Bushnell. Pincaddie ($250) technology is decent enough, but some still have issues fixing to the flag, unless the prism is located on the flags. Leupold tends to be quite pricey as the GX1i is north of $300 and the newer GX3i 2 is well north of $400 and works its way up from there. Models are waterproof as well and some users have reported having their units stop working after 2 or 3 years and Leupold sent them a brand new unit. Pretty incredible. The units sometimes will last for up to 6000 actuations in some cases.
      I am more of a range golfer and tend to only play 20-25 rounds/year but almost 100 range sessions and a rangefinder, I believe, is an invaluable tool to help scoring and practicing. From research there are many other units out there (Nikon, laserlink, callaway, etc) but for the amount of range time I put in I want to spend the money to get a decent warranty.
      These reviews aren’t set in stone but I have spent many hours doing research and this is what I came up with. I have heard many different opinions that are both positive and negative about all the companies rangefinders, but the above were the most consistent and reputable answers from actual users I was able to come up with.
      Hope this helps some as I always do research when spending cash on bigger items. Ended up with the Bushnell V3 with jolt because of a bargain ($279CAD plus tax from GolfTown). Will be sure to update with actual use of this model.

  5. Mat

    Nov 24, 2014 at 1:52 pm

    “Best Rangefinders” – yet you leave off the value option of $0-$30 phone apps that work as well or better than these GPS devices. I don’t get it. I love my laser, and use it a lot, but for those who want GPS numbers, a) phone apps are cheaper by 80-100% and work exactly as well. They also have updated maps and better scorekeeping.

    As for “non-conforming”, I’ve never seen a GPS, Phone App, or any other common NCD that has saved anyone a shot. All it has done is speed up the game. It’s time for the USGA to come out and allow phones and watches to be acceptable for handicap purposes. Sure; if it’s a local tournament, then you can say ‘no slope’ or whatever. However, making this sort of thing ‘illegal’ is stupid and violates the spirit of the game. If you have a caddy with a book, you get this information and more… what is the USGA scared of? Not to mention, PGA caddies should be allowed to carry lasers to speed that thing up, as well.

    • Mat

      Nov 24, 2014 at 1:52 pm

      and b) they work exactly as well. Damn it, I hate when I do that.

    • adam

      Feb 25, 2015 at 3:43 pm

      Keyword “rangefinder” not GPS.

  6. Pingback: Rangefinder Ringers - The Golf Shop Online Blog

  7. ChiefKeef

    Nov 1, 2014 at 10:48 am

    Pinsensor on ebay. $100+ CHEAPER than anything else and does the exact same thing as Bushnell, Nikon, etc.

    I have compared it with everything.

    http://www.ebay.com/itm/NEW-GOLF-LASER-RANGE-FINDER-WITH-PINSENSOR-PINSEEKER-450-YARD-PS-605XD-WHITE-/171490031874?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item27ed9a3902

  8. MFB

    Nov 1, 2014 at 10:38 am

    I have both GPS and a Laser Range finder.
    I have the Original Upro From Callaway and the Upro MX, which I go for $40.
    I also have the Free Caddie Pro Gps app on my phone.
    Both Callaway Upro’s work fine for me and the Free Caddie app is also good and since it is on my phone has a much bigger display.
    The range finder I use is a Pinseeker I bought off of ebay for a third of the price of a Bushnell. It has the same pin seeking feature as the Bushnell my buddy has and reads the yardages just as quick and as accurately.
    GPS for me is fine off the tee or for lay ups but where the laser has the advantage is the exact yardage to the pin.

  9. Mark

    Oct 31, 2014 at 10:29 am

    I own a Laser Link. I have compared it, on the course, to other brands of laser range finders. Never different by more than 1 yard. If the flag has a prism, it will beep when it measures it. If not there is a vibration. It will shoot any target. Costs about half the price of Bushnell. Drawbacks: must have a clear line of sight to the target or it will register closer targets (ie. trees, branches, hills, etc…). Doesn’t have any magnification in the eyepiece.

  10. mtn1414

    Oct 31, 2014 at 12:41 am

    Or, just learn to judge distances. I played a couple days ago and got paired up with a guy who had a rangefinder. On one par 5 he said he’d give me a distance for my second shot. I said, “I’m good, it’s about 230.” He used his rangefinder and it was 232. He seemed shocked I was so close. I hate to see technology take every aspect of the game out play. Let’s actually reward people for their skill, rather than the ability to buy the best new tool.

    • Mark

      Oct 31, 2014 at 10:34 am

      Good for you that you can judge distances. I have been playing for decades and have never been very good at judging distances outside of 50 yards. Some of us will never have that kind of ability.

      • Philip

        Nov 1, 2014 at 6:50 pm

        Very likely some people are not good at judging distances. I am at the point where I guess it and then confirm with my range finder. The differences I have are now 5 yards or less after 3 years of golfing (gave it up for 30 years).

        One thing I notice people don’t do is add yardage when they are farther from the centre of the fairway where the 100/150/200 yard markers are located. Thus always being short if they do not have electronic help. They forget that once they leave the centre of the fairway that they are now on the longer side of a 90 degree triangle.

  11. myron miller

    Oct 29, 2014 at 12:51 pm

    The non-conforming units are worse than not being legal for tournaments of any kind (including your local club weekly tournament). They are also illegal to use for any GHIN or other official handicap posting as well. So if you want to have an official handicap and play by the rules you can’t use these units at all.

    And I’ve found that many of the Slope adjustment features seriously depend upon your hitting a specific type of shot otherwise the yardage provided can be grossly wrong. A low shot will require more club than the provided yardage almost always.

    Plus besides the elevation non-conformity, the recommendation of clubs by the Garmin G8 is also non-conforming.

  12. Lou Eichler

    Oct 29, 2014 at 12:15 pm

    Have used an older model Bushnell for three years. The battery only lasts a year and gets used only three times a week. Recently purchased the Golf Buddy VS4. Turn off the voice as it is annoying. t gets used three times a week and will find out how long that battery lasts. It is very handy when approaching a green with a towel and three clubs and don’t want the hassle of lugging the “Bush”. Love ’em both for different reasons. Had a model with a famous club maker name that showed a flyover with distances, etc. that was so useless that it was thrown in the trash. Decided it should not be given to friend or foe.

  13. Don

    Oct 29, 2014 at 12:13 pm

    I have the GX-3i (1st generation) and it’s a great range finder. The red LED display inside is a big plus in low light conditions and the accuracy and target acquisition are very good. (not as fast as my old Nikon though). It’s a very compact unit (especially compared to Bushnell)

    That being said, the strap for the case has broken twice, which will cause much panic if you discover it’s no longer on your belt or has fallen onto the concrete. 

    The LED display had faded out (common issue on 1st gen) and had to be replaced. 

    Leopold customer service was friendly but useless (I’m in Canada). 

    The Canadian distributer did replace my unit free of charge through Golf town tho. 

    • mantan

      Nov 1, 2014 at 5:40 pm

      I had a Bushnell for 8 years before the optics finally failed.

      I got a GX-3i largely because the red display looked great. But I was extremely disappointed at the inconsistent target acquisition. My old Bushnell got the target much faster.

  14. Darren

    Oct 29, 2014 at 12:12 pm

    This list of Rangefinders is bogus. They don’t even have any Laser Link Products listed and clearly they are they #1 rangefinder in golf. I have used Laser Link products for the better part of 10 years and there is no faster, more accurate way to play golf. I would suggest Laser Link Golf products for your next purchase of any rangefinder. http://www.laserlinkgolf.com

    • Jeff Powell

      Oct 30, 2014 at 11:34 pm

      “Laser Link Products listed and clearly they are they #1 rangefinder in golf”

      Really? I play 3-5 times a well, all over the country and couldn’t tell you the last time I came across one of these actually on a golf course. What’s the stats behind this being the #1 rangefinder in golf because if it’s true, I’d like to know more.

      • Ken

        Nov 1, 2014 at 1:15 pm

        Ha! Sounds like Darren may have some skin in the game at Laserlink.

  15. David Ford

    Oct 29, 2014 at 11:56 am

    I have the distinct feeling that this whole list is rigged! Last year I was looking for a replacement laser range finder after I broke my Bushnell unit. I came across an inexpensive unit called “Kick Butt” on the internet and bought one. It works well and yardages are accurate when compared with friends who paid much more for “big name brands.” The cost was less than half of those you recommended.

  16. Jonny B

    Oct 29, 2014 at 7:55 am

    I’ve owned a few different GPS’s over the years, all of which were pretty underwhelming. This year I finally decided to go with a laser – and I’m glad I did. Got the new Leupold GX-2. It’s small compact and lightweight, has awesome True Golf Range – calculates distances using laser, plus slope, temperature, humidity, etc. And it even recommends what club to hit once you program in your yardages. It’s like having your own caddy!

    I couldn’t be more satisfied and will never be going back to a GPS. I can get yardages to the pin, as well as hazards around the green, forced carries, etc… all by using the scan feature on the laser. You should seriously try one out.

    The only downfall is that when it is raining or very foggy the laser is not as accurate.

  17. Kris

    Oct 28, 2014 at 8:15 pm

    The Garmin Approach s6 is Non-Conforming

  18. Gary hacker

    Oct 28, 2014 at 6:37 pm

    I’ve got the nikon from 2014 I think it’s the coolshot and it’s pretty awesome. Almost exactly the same as the v3.

  19. Dylan T

    Oct 28, 2014 at 4:31 pm

    I own the Bushnell Tour V3 with Jolt and I love it. My only complaint is that they don’t have the 9 Volt anymore like they did in the other models and battery life is noticeably shorter with the new battery type.

  20. Golfraven

    Oct 28, 2014 at 2:57 pm

    I have the Leupold GX-4i2 and very satisfied. Use normally the slope feature when not in turnament but it happened once to twice that I forgot to remove it when in competition. Tested the Z6 but found the button hard to press. With the GX-4i2 I have to shoot at the flag 2-3 times occasionally if the flag is not prism one but its maybe just me. Otherwise find the display and handling excellent.

  21. Pn

    Oct 28, 2014 at 2:53 pm

    I have a Leupold Gx-3i and it is waterproof. I’d be surprised if the other Leupold models aren’t as well.

  22. Jeremy

    Oct 28, 2014 at 2:33 pm

    Played a few rounds with the Golf Buddy before I lost it when it was clipped to my side pocket. I was never a fan of getting audible yardages. It’s either too loud and irritates other players, or when you’re playing next to an airport it’s not loud enough. Constantly adjusting the volume was an undesirable chore. Now I have a SkyCaddie watch, and I think that’s the way to go. It’d be nice if it had layup and hazard yardages as well as the distance to the flag, but more expensive models do and I have a couple apps for my iPhone for that when I really want it. Overall I love being able to just glance down at my wrist for an approximate yardage, and I love being able to track my driving distances with the push of a button.

  23. Kyle

    Oct 28, 2014 at 12:45 pm

    Leupold makes the best range finders in my opinion. I have used both Bushnell and Leupold, and Leupold has far superior customer service, and I believe the units are quicker to read the yardage. The only reason I would look at a Z6, is because it is waterproof.

    • adolfo

      Oct 28, 2014 at 2:16 pm

      See that’s where I’m torn bc I’ve heard good things about both but as you said the Z6 is waterproof.

      • Kyle

        Oct 28, 2014 at 9:01 pm

        100% honest I’d go leupold any day. If something did go wrong with it, Bushnell makes you send the whole unit in, and it’s a long process to be without something $400 and up. Leupold has far superior customer service to Bushnell and is a much better company to deal with if you have issues.

        • DolphLundgrenade

          Oct 29, 2014 at 4:57 pm

          I agree. Leopold is best. I hate my z6. Optics aren’t as good and button is hard to press. Plus, the rubber eye cushion is falling apart.

          At any rate, $600 is stupid expensive. All these prices for old tech are insane. Finders and GPS units units should range from $150 – $300…. Unless they are a phone as well, and can fit in my pocket.

          …Can I at least play games on them?

          • Ron burgundy

            Nov 2, 2014 at 8:40 pm

            I just bought a brand new leupold gx-4i2 on eBay for $375. There are a bunch on there at that price.

  24. Ponjo

    Oct 28, 2014 at 12:28 pm

    Cannot fault the Bushnell Viewfinders. It is a neat idea to have a jolt feature when the flag is in the cross-hairs.

    • Allen

      Oct 29, 2014 at 12:21 pm

      The jolt technology I find is not reliable. Doesn’t work half the time. Also, the Leupold optics is far superior to Bushnell.

      The Garmin G8 gps is not legal in most all competitition because it has a slope reading feature.

      • Allen

        Oct 29, 2014 at 12:22 pm

        For a GPS touch screen that is legal, you can’t beat the Golf Buddy PT4. It’s every bit as good as the G8 but legal in competition.

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Whats in the Bag

Jimmy Walker WITB 2020

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  • Equipment accurate as of the Farmers Insurance Open

Driver: Titleist TS3 (8.5 degrees @ 7.75, C1 SureFit setting)
Shaft: Fujikura Ventus Blue 6 X

Fairway wood: Titleist TS3 (18 degrees @ 17.25, C1 SureFit setting)
Shaft: Mitsubishi Tensei CK Pro Blue 90 TX

Irons: Titleist 620 CB (3), Titleist 620 MB (4-PW)
Shafts: True Temper AMT Tour White X100

Wedges: Titleist Vokey Design SM8 WedgeWorks (54-M, 60-04L), Titleist Vokey Design SM8 (64 degrees)
Shafts: True Temper Dynamic Gold Tour Issue X100

Putter: L.A.B. Directed Force 2.1T

Grips: Golf Pride Tour Velvet

Ball: Titleist Pro V1x

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Equipment

What It’s Like: TaylorMade Golf’s “The Kingdom”

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One of the best parts of this job, beyond the people we get to meet, is the facilities. All of the core OEMs have a “place” that is exclusive, away from anything normal, and you gotta know someone to get a ticket in.

That’s what the “What It’s Like” series is about. Those certain OEM places with no doors open to the public. Those places that if you happened to sneak in, there is no way you can Fletch your way around into two steak sandwiches and a bloody mary.

I never admit this, but I used to manage a night club in Los Angeles called Les Deux (it was cool for a minute). It was a fun although soul-sucking endeavor but the thing that made the experience stick out was the exclusivity of it. If you got in by knowing someone, greased the door guy (me), or got invited, it was four hours of awesome. Yes, it’s a lame example, but there is, unfortunately, something about getting to the other side of a closed door that is just awesome.

TaylorMade Golf’s Kingdom is location No. 1, and as you would expect, it’s nothing short of pure golf ecstasy.

My Experience

I have been to TaylorMade HQ quite a number of times, and typically those visits involve time at what I call the gear junkie mecca (short of Tiger Woods’ garage or the Nike Oven graveyard now called Artisan) AKA The Kingdom.

The coolest thing about it is how subtle the location is. Located just steps away from the front door of TM HQ (and a very random corporate basketball hoop) sits a small-yet-elegant building that if you didn’t know was there, you would fly past it. Once you pull into the side parking lot, unload your sticks, and head to the door, there is still that feeling of “will they actually let me in?”

Here’s the thing. The best (all of them) have been in here. To test, practice, hang out, get fit, get wowed to potentially be on staff and everything in-between. A schmuck like me should get nervous, but then it happens, the door opens and you are not only let in but you are greeted by the master of ceremonies and a man I truly adore Tom “TK” Kroll.

With the passion to match not only yours but anyone else who walks in, he makes sure every nuance is seen and experienced. From the lobby with current TM athletes on the wall to the locker room with your custom locker that sits next to an exact replica of Tiger’s bag. There are snacks, extras shoes, gloves, swag, coffee, beer, and all your wildest dreams…and we are barely in the facility.

From a 35,000 foot view, The Kingdom has everything a golfer would ever want, need, or wish for. Starting with Duane Anderson’s putter studio that has tested thousands of strokes from players ranging from a 20 handicap to Rory McIlroy. The data compiled in this room is staggering. We did a video (link below) that gives you the full rundown.

There are three (one with an Iron Byron for testing) main inside hitting bays with all the bells and whistles you would assume. TrackMans, cameras, big screens, fresh gloves hanging on the wall, and a club fitting matrix with every TM combination you could think of.

The outside hitting area is heaven on earth. There is no other way to describe. Huge hitting area with multiple styles of grass, lies, pins, etc. Any shot you would need to hit can be recreated here on grass with a ball flying into the air and not into a screen. My favorite area is the Flick Tee. In honor of the great teacher and longtime TM staffer Jim Flick. Its tucked up high and privately in the corner of the range under a tree and this may sound ridiculous but you can almost feel Mr. Flick standing there with you as you look out onto the facility. I get goosebumps just thinking about it.

As mentioned, the man who manages your experience is Tom Kroll. He’s about as respected and beloved as anyone in the industry and for good reason. You combine passion with service you get an awesome human to hang out with. Everyone that has been through these doors has a TK story, which includes a chuckle and a smile.

I chatted with him recently about The Kingdom, and this is what he had to say.

JW: Walk me through how The Kingdom came to be what it is now? Basically origin to current day…

TK: Back in 1994, I was in R&D, running player testing, and we needed to find our own testing range. We built our headquarters in Carlsbad in the 1990s and added the range in 1998. Only robot, cannon and player testing were done at the start. Once in a while, a tour or staff pro would come out and test, but it was all operated from one building. At the time, what’s currently the clubhouse at The Kingdom was actually a maintenance building. But in 2010, The Kingdom was reimagined to the layout we have now.

Over the last three years I’ve been at The Kingdom, we’ve added GEARS, Quintic high-speed cameras, and a Foresight simulator bay. We transformed the putting lab with a Perfection Platforms articulating floor and SAM technology. Last year we resurfaced the main tee, redesigned and dedicated the Flick Tee, underwent a complete renovation of the short game area with new bunker complexes, redesigned the targeting downrange, and developed a par-3 routing. We partnered with Kurt Bowman Design, a longtime designer under Jack Nicklaus.

Our superintendent Mark Warren and his crew have done incredible work with our current maintenance equipment, and I can’t wait to see the conditions after we deliver a brand new fleet of brand new Toro equipment. We structured a long-term partnership with Toro and Turf Star Western.

JW: What is the simple function of The Kingdom? 

TK: We still have the robot bay and R&D does development work almost every day. We are mostly a resource for the entire company: Global Sports Marketing (Tour), developmental pros and ams, AJGA standouts, our Crusaders (club professionals), and commercial teams. We host pre-lines to introduce new product to our at-large teams and training events. We’re even a PR resource, hosting media, social influencers, celebrities, and professional athletes.

We also act as a hub for our Crusaders. They send their members to us, and we wholesale back to the staff account. I’ll do a significant amount of corporate events, charity events and have had “Flicks at The Kingdom” where we set up a giant projector and our employees bring their kids, beach chairs and blankets to watch a movie out on the range. Really a fun and cool event.

JW: Give me three awesome stories or experiences from your time there that you are cool sharing.

TK: It’s tough to only pick three! From Reggie Jackson stopping by to Matt Ryan, Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers, Albert Pujols, Mike Trout, Jake Arrieta, Zack Greinke, President Bush. Those may be the most haughty name drops of all time! What can I say, it is beyond the coolest job I have ever had! It’s truly tough to pick, but here are my three…

Story 1: Tiger was preparing to make his first PGA Tour start after fusion surgery and he just spends the day grinding out here. He was testing an early proto of the TW irons and to see how much speed he still had. There’s a sound that only he and maybe two or three others make when they center it up. That sound is something that goes through your body, I can still hear it. It sticks with you.

He’s playing old school lofts, which are three degrees weaker than any other tour pro, but the carry distances were still there, the windows he hits it through, holding it against the wind, flighting a 6-iron even ripping a 5-wood 275 yards. His feedback and ability to discern the most minute details working with the advanced teams developing the irons was fantastic to witness.

To come full circle, I played with him in the Southern Cal Amateur when he was 16-years-old and had a front-row to his 62 at Hacienda, I was keeping his scorecard so he has my autograph. To again be standing three feet from him while he goes through the process is just special.

Story 2: I’m going to put two guys in the same bucket (because The Kingdom is so magical, I hope the golf gods are okay with it). Rory now spends a day out here the week of Farmers–he has for the last two years, and with the U.S. Open there 2021, I think he’s a lock for the next few. He went through two sets of irons in a wind quartering off the right at 20-25 mph. The consistency of launch, speed and spin were shockingly close! It was one of the greatest ball-striking exhibitions I’ve ever witnessed. We handpicked the range after his day, it took us 10 minutes He’s also the most gracious, down to earth person.

Jon Rahm stops by five or six times a year. To watch his sessions in the putting lab, to see Duane show him what’s changing and getting Jon back to baseline and see his confidence, to the 4-iron flop shots after we tell our Seve stories. Jon is part of the family. His brother and dad came out before Jon and Kelly’s wedding. He’s one of the two or three others where the sound goes through you.

Story 3: Has to be Operation Game On (OGO). We have partnered with  Tony Perez for over 15 years, we are the cherry on top of a 6-10 week program where wounded veterans take lessons and the graduation is a fitting at The Kingdom. I had a dear friend, Joe Horowitz, who’s a golfer and a musician, here late one day and I mentioned the OGO guys were coming the next day. It’s Veteran’s Day and the Marine Corps Birthday. Not to mention Jon Rahm would be here for a last tweak before he left for Dubai. Joe shows me a video of him singing the national anthem at the Jaguars game a few weeks before, and we both say let’s do that for the OGO guys. I get in early and send an email to all employees to be on the tee at 9 a.m. sharp. We have the OGO guys arrive and Jon is hanging in the locker room. I’m stalling to get all the employees onto the tee through the side gate, I walk the boys into the bay and hit the roll up door. Outside are 250 employees cheering these guys on! Joe sings the anthem (goose bumps every time), then happy birthday to Jon and the marine corps. There’s fittings, a pizza truck, Jon Rahm signed U.S. Open staff bags for the OGO boys. Then, get this, Jon goes on and wins that week in Dubai!

JW: If you could change anything about the property or the experience what would it be?

TK: At TaylorMade, the relentless pursuit of improving is in our DNA. The Kingdom is no different. We’re constantly innovating and reimagining the downrange experience. From targeting, to conditions and turf types, we’re always nuancing and squeaking out ways to be better. One example, we’re designing each of our targets with a specific purpose. When players are testing at The Kingdom, we want them to feel that every shot has a consequence. So, we want to deliver a real-world experience in every testing situation. We went through a massive redesign last fall and are currently still working with the advanced research team on new ways to enhance our testing and fitting experiences to meet the way that players perform in competition.

When it comes to the overall experience, The Kingdom has transformed from a predominantly R&D and fitting facility to the most capable environment to test, measure and understand how equipment performs and how golfers interact with their equipment. I call it the ultimate truth machine. We help golfers at every level uncover the insights they need to improve. After each session, we’re going to know everything about the club, the player and the ball flight.

So we came from a place where we were mainly focused on research, fitting, and selling. Our goals have changed. Now we obsess over how to help golfers get better.

What would I change? If you’re curious and passionate about making change, the answers are out there. The first thing we do is listen. We’re going to change everything that needs to be changed in order to meet our goals. I have an incredible focus group to bounce ideas off of. To ask our tour pros, club professionals, and teachers for feedback on the design ideas and what they like and prefer is fortunate. We’re constantly learning, we’re constantly improving, and if there’s a better way do something, then we’re going to figure it out and do it.

JW: What does the kingdom look like in 10 years?

TK: We have a lot of incredible plans for new targeting, bunker complexes, and refining the purposeful design of the range and short game area. Beyond that, we have designs for new teeing areas, a new short game complex, adding another GEARS system and Foresight Simulator, along with other new technologies. I can’t disclose all we do, since the R&D guys get a bit jumpy when I start going on about all the cool stuff and high science! I don’t know exactly what The Kingdom looks like in 10 years as technologies and our understanding continue to improve, but I do know give me six months, and we’ll have done something new. Always grinding to get better!

JW: Tell me a little bit about your career at TaylorMade.

TK: 31 years is hard to do in a “little bit” but I’ll try to give you the Clif Notes! Bob Vokey ran our Tour department and had me running his repair shop in Vista after George Willett took a job driving the Tour truck for TaylorMade. I was refinishing wooden clubs and repairing clubs for the local country clubs. I told Bob I was going broke making $4.50 an hour and driving all over San Diego. I asked if he could get me a job at TaylorMade and I started on the custom line with Wade Liles! Get to work at 2 p.m., off at 1 a.m. and golf in the morning. It was the life! Not to mention, I was lucky enough to meet my wife who worked for the company.

I started our player testing and worked for the great Dr. Benoit Vincent–the smartest man I know. I was a pretty good player, and I played a bunch of USGA and national amateur events. But when I did a TV commercial, I lost my amateur status and made the decision to turn pro. I quit my job and started that journey. Our CEO wanted me to take a leavem and I said: “I need to be all-in on this.” I had two children, a mortgage, car payments and had to buy health insurance while getting through all three stages of Q School. I realized I was a better amateur than a tour pro. We had our third child, and then I got the sales rep job in San Diego. After 10 years of sales, I moved inside the building and the ran innovations department before taking over our metalwoods category when we hit our highest market share in history. I spent a few years in product creation, ran global experiential for a few years and then got the best gig in all of golf here at The Kingdom. Been here for three years, and we’re just getting started!

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Puma Golf teams up with Ernie Els in support of Autism Awareness Month

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Puma X Els Autism

April is National Autism Awareness Month, and Puma Golf has teamed up with ambassador Ernie Els in support of the Els for Autism Foundation.

Throughout April, Puma will donate a portion of every individual sale of the brand’s Ignite Pwradapt Caged shoes with the proceeds going towards the Els for Autism Foundation.

Puma X Els Autism

Every pair of Caged shoes sold this month will include a blue Els for Autism shoe bag and puzzle piece ribbon lapel pin – with the color blue and the puzzle pieces representing Autism Awareness.

Puma X Els Autism

The Els for Autism Foundation helps deliver and facilitate programs designed to serve individuals with autism spectrum disorder. You can purchase the shoes here.

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