Garmin recently released the Approach Z80 rangefinder and it is quite the game changer in the distance-measuring world. In the past, golfers had to choose between getting yardages on a GPS device to various points on the hole or getting exact distances to the pin with a rangefinder. Well, now you can have your cake and eat it too!
The Garmin Approach Z80 is the first rangefinder to allow you to measure distances with a laser and be shown an overlaid 2D image of the hole with GPS distances mapped out. It is jam-packed with features, and I recently got a chance to try it out on the course.
In this review I’ll give you an overview of the strengths, weaknesses, and whether or not it is worth the $599 price tag.
All Of The Info You Need In One Place
I’ve written a lot about GPS devices and Rangefinders on this site because I believe knowing key distances on the course can save you strokes. Part of being a smart course manager is knowing your yardages and making smart decisions based on that info.
Typically, I have encouraged most golfers to use GPS devices because I think the breadth of info they provide is more useful. Garmin has traditionally built their brand by developing premium GPS devices. I think their Approach S60 watch is still the best GPS device on the market (you can read my full review here).
The Approach Z80 takes all of their GPS functionality and incorporates it into a rangefinder. Viewing through the lens gives you an augmented reality of the golf course.
You are presented with the distances to the front, center, and back of the green. When you shoot the pin it will give you an exact distance that takes into account an uphill or downhill slope (which can be disabled for tournament play).
If that wasn’t enough, on the left side of your screen you are given a virtual map of the entire hole.
Wherever the laser locks onto, it will display exactly where that target is on the map, and show all of the key yardages around it. The Approach Z80 is not only useful on approach shots but your tee shots as well. This is an incredible amount of information, and it’s all useful.
It’s difficult to show you what it’s like to use since everything is seen through the lens of the rangefinder, but this video from Garmin shows a bit more:
How Does It Work?
I found the Approach Z80 to be very useful during my rounds. Golfers who are torn between choosing a GPS watch or a rangefinder now have everything packed into one device.
Using the product is fairly simple. When you get to the course, simply turn it on and select to play golf. The GPS usually locks in within about 30 seconds and will ask you to choose the course. Once that’s done it will display all of the key GPS yardages based on your position during the round.
One major difference from traditional rangefinders is that you are displayed a digital representation of the hole. Every other rangefinder is using a magnified lens. At first, it takes a little getting used to. I had slight difficulty locating the pin and locking on compared to my other rangefinder. At times it might lock on to a distance behind the green because the image isn’t as clear. But you can quickly tell it’s a mistake because all of the GPS yardages to the front, center, and back are displayed below.
That being said, by my second round those issues started to go away. The pin stabilizer feature works very well if you have shaky hands and I would say that I am now getting accurate readings of the pin almost every time.
Additionally, having the yardages on the entire hole is extremely valuable. If you’re on the tee you can shoot a few distances to see where they factor in relation to the trouble. Or, you can simply just look through the lens and take a look at the 2D map. One nice feature is that you can input your average driving distance and it will automatically display where your landing area will be.
A Few Flaws (But Not Dealbreakers)
I am all for technology on the golf course – just as long as it doesn’t interfere with your round. Part of the reason I love GPS watches is that they are passive devices. You simply gaze down at your wrist, and you have your yardages. Using the Garmin Approach Z80 does require a little more time because you have to take it out of its case, wait a few seconds for it to automatically turn on, and then you see your distances.
Keep in mind, it’s not an eternity. You are taking maybe 10-30 seconds more at most.
As I mentioned earlier, golfers who are used to using traditional rangefinders will find the image a little blurrier because it is a digital representation. I also think this is not a huge issue because you will get used to it.
Lastly, because it takes more power to have a digital display and use GPS, this is another device that you will have to charge. The battery can last up to 15 hours depending on whether or not you are using GPS in your round. I easily got 2 rounds of use out of it, and possibly a third. Golfers that have GPS devices are used to having to deal with charging, but rangefinders typically only need their batteries changed 2-3 times a year. So if you forget to charge the Garmin Approach Z80, it won’t work at all.
That being said, I think the benefits of this product far outweigh the negatives. Garmin has done an incredible job here and golfers are going to love this product.
Is It Worth The Steep Price Tag?
If you want to be an early adopter of the hottest tech, you also have to be prepared to pay for it. The Garmin Approach Z80 is debuting at $599, which is a very steep price.
There are two ways of looking at this. If you were to purchase one of the premium rangefinders like the Bushnell X2 and a high-end GPS device like the Approach S60, it would total more than $599. The separate functionality would match the high-end features of the Approach Z80.
On the other hand, you could get yourself a budget GPS like the GolfBuddy Voice 2 and Precision Pro Nexus for under $250 combined. It won’t have all of the bells and whistles, but you will get distances to the pin and around the green.
Both of those scenarios would mean you would have to use two devices in tandem to get the same functionality as the Approach Z80. Therein lies the value of the product – you get everything neatly packaged in one device.
I can’t tell you whether or not it is worth paying that much because everyone has different budgets. What I can tell you is that if you’re a golfer that wants it all, you will have a hard time finding a better product on the market right now.
It is also worth mentioning that Bushnell has introduced their Hybrid Rangefinder device at $399. It only gives you yardages to the front, center, and back of the green so there’s less information total, but $200 makes a difference.
Wrapping It Up: Garmin Has Set The Bar High With the Approach Z80
Overall, this is an excellent product. Garmin outdid themselves in the GPS category with the Approach S60 watch, and now they’ve done it with this rangefinder. As it stands right now, I don’t think you’ll find a better combination of features for a golfer who wants to know all of their yardages. How long that will last is up for debate – as you know technology quickly changes and prices can go down.
You can purchase the Garmin Approach Z80 for $599 here.
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