Cigar Aficionado

Sport: Nikon LaserCaddy

Golf is a diabolical game. Just about the time you think you have mastered a repeatable swing that lets you keep the ball in the fairway, someone comes up with a new goal. One of those next levels is knowing the exact distance you can hit each club with a full, three-quarters and half swing. But the only way that skill can contribute to better scores is if you know exactly how far you are from your target. Unless you’re a fanatic about finding sprinkler heads, pacing off the distance and squinting hard to see precisely where the flag is positioned, it can be pretty much a guessing game to determine just what that distance is.

Nikon, the maker of some of the finest cameras and lenses in the world, has taken the guesswork out of judging distances. The Japanese firm has entered the golf range finder market with a bang. Not only is the new Nikon LaserCaddy golf range finder compact, but the Nikon optics offer an extremely crisp, clear view of the object you are trying to measure.

The range finder is not much bigger than a pack of cigarettes, has a comfortable eyepiece and displays the distance on your screen with ease. You depress the button once, which brings up the aiming device on the internal screen, and then you push it again to activate the laser measurement beam. In a couple of seconds you have your distance—within half a yard.

According to the strict rules of golf, however, these devices should not be used in any formal tournament sanctioned by the U.S. Golf Association. But in that regular Saturday match with your buddies, or when you’re out for a fun round on a weekend, there’s no crime in using a range finder. In fact, during practice rounds at pro tournaments, you’ll see caddies with range finders locking in exact distances for use later. It’s also a great method to accurately judge if you really can hit a 9-iron 150 yards. And, of course, there’s always that even greater benefit of knowing if that water hazard is 120 yards away or only 100 yards.

At $299, the Nikon LaserCaddy competes with similar devices from Bushnell, which has dominated the category for years. One caveat: like all range finders, it’s not the easiest thing to use after a long night out drinking with your buddies; any shaking can move the aiming crosshair off your desired target.