TESTED BY: Jimmy Emanuel, Golf Australia Writer (GA Handicap 9.4)

COST: $849.

FIRST IMPRESSIONS: Range finder technology has come a long way in a short period of time, and the Approach Z80 is a great example of this progression as an all-in-one laser and GPS.

I instantly took note of the compact size of the unit, with the box containing the laser, carry case, charging cable and instructions almost the size of some of the original lasers on the market.

The unit fit perfectly in one hand, with the three buttons, which make navigating in the menu easy, in perfect position. While the view through the eyepiece was bright and extremely clear.

HOW IT PERFORMED: When watching professional golf, it is interesting to hear how much information caddies give players. The Z80 delivers this type of experience, unfortunately without carrying your bag, through its laser and GPS distances.

It did take me a little while to get used to just how much information the Z80 delivers, but the combination of laser measured distances to whatever point I chose and GPS numbers to landmarks, including handy layup distances, allowed me to pick the correct club more often than not and with more confidence.

Although not the quickest to find the flag, the laser isn’t slow by any means and once locked on, the distance changes colour, which is a nice confidence boost to know you have hit your target. This fact is reinforced by having the front and back green distances and a close up view of the green overlaid in the viewfinder, which also enhances your ability to judge club selection, especially on new courses.

Beyond the obvious benefits of combining GPS and laser distances, which was enough to have me wondering how I would ever go back to using just one, the Approach Z80’s numerous other technologies took its performance to another level.

The ‘PlaysLike’ distance, which factors in up and downhill slopes took out much of the guesswork on courses with plenty of elevation changes, while the ‘PinPointer’ showing the direction to the centre of the green on blind shots is a nice feature when playing somewhere new.

The ‘Arc’ feature that draws a line on the map at your average driver distance and where the laser is measuring to sounds simple, but gave me an extremely clear picture of what hazards where in play with each shot. When faced with the information that your best 8-iron can reach the flag but also bring surrounding bunkers into play, it becomes extremely easy to take a little more club and play safe.

Overall, the Approach Z80’s combination of laser and GPS numbers were outstanding. And the easy to understand and clear display combined with the GPS’s ability to automatically locate the hole you are playing means even non-tech savvy golfers will get along fine with the unit.

Despite initially being a little overwhelmed by all the information the Z80 delivers, I am confident this additional information helped me make better course management decisions that saved a shot or two during my testing, and the slightly tight and fiddly case was the only aspect of the Z80 I could fault.

FACTS AND FIGURES                    

GARMIN SAYS: A full-featured integrated laser range finder, with GPS for distances to the flag from up to 320 metres and accurate to +/- 10 inches, the Approach Z80 contains additional innovative graphical features overlaid on the viewfinder so players can see distances to hazards, layup markers and the shape of the green for over 41,000 courses worldwide.

With a simple press of the ‘Range’ button, the unique flag finder feature will lock onto the flag and give precise distances, and the map will automatically zoom in to show distances to the front and back of the green. The laser range ‘Arc’ will be drawn on the green at the distance ranged to the flag, so the golfer can see if the pin is in the front, middle, or back of the green.

The ‘PlaysLike Distance’ feature adjusts distances based on an uphill or downhill slope. When a golfer finds themselves with a blind shot, the device will give the direction and distance to the centre of the green through its ‘Pin Pointer’ technology. Both of which can be switched off to make the device tournament legal.

For more information and to purchase, visit www.garmin.com.au