Review: Leupold GX-1 and GX 2 Rangefinder

Watch out Bushnell!!
Over the past 3 years since the acceptance of rangefinders by the USGA as legal for play, Bushnell has dominated the market.  Everyone I have ever seen with a rangefinder had a Bushnell model of some sort.  Their marketing and users have dominated both the PGA circuit and local courses.  Watch out Bushnell!  Things are changing!  Leupold, using their 100-year history of excellent optic products to offer something for golfers, is about to emerge as a rival fit to compete with Bushnell. 
I got the opportunity to use both models, the USGA conforming GXI and the model with all the bells and whistles the GXII.  Optically, they are the same model, both use 6x magnification for zooming in on pins, both have seven different aiming reticles, both have a battery life meter, both can display yards or meters, both are small and compact in size, both weigh 6.8 oz. and both are weatherproof.  I like how it fits so well in the glove box of my Clicgear cart.  It still leaves room for 3 golf balls and a pen.

I got to use the GXI and GXII on multiple rounds.  They were extremely fast and easy to pick up the pin, it didn’t seem to matter if it was cloudy or sunny.  I only had a little difficulty on one hole being out around 220 yards, I kept missing the flag.  But this may have been due to my unsteady hand, because on other holes I got it right away even beyond 220 yards.   Pinhunter technology worked very well even on some holes up to 400+ yards.  They say it is supposed to read up to 750 yards, but I haven’t met anyone that needs to worry about that kind of distance.

The GXI is a great rangefinder for tournaments and posting handicap scores.  It conforms to all USGA rules.  I found it to be faster than my Bushnell Tour V2 and easier to use.  In many ways it is very similar, size, shape and function, I think it just works better.  It was faster and easier to pick up pins.  I also like the case it came with a little better.  It has space to hold an extra battery, just in case the one you are using runs out and it offers just a bit more protection.  I think it compares to the Bushnell 1500 very well, and being a bit smaller, it is my model of choice.

The GXII is the coolest rangefinder on the market.  It packs a boatload of technology into such a little package.  It does everything the GXI does, and then adds True Golf Range Technology (TGR).  The unfortunate part of TGR is that it is not USGA conforming.  I’m not sure why, but then again, many things the USGA does has me wondering what goes on there.  Regardless of what the USGA thinks about such a range finder, I love it.  TGR measures the line of sight distance like any other rangefinder, but also takes into account, slope, temperature, and altitude.  The only condition not accounted for is wind speed.  After calculating all such factors it suggests the proper club for such distance.  Even though line of sight might be 150, because of elevation, temperature and altitude it may tell you to go up 2 clubs or down 2 clubs or somewhere in between.   

This is how the process works: First you must make some permanent settings.  You input typical yardages for 4, 6, and 8 irons.   Also accounting for temperature and altitude for those distances.  At the beginning of each round you can input the temperature for the day and current altitude. Once that is all set, aim at any given target, depress button and the eyepiece suddenly fills with information; Line of Sight distance, adjusted or true distance and then which club to hit.  I was skeptical at first how accurate it would be, but shot after shot it was right on.  I guess when you think about it, it is all mathematical how much distance to add or subtract based on slope, altitude, and temperature.  The courses I played had some elevation changes, but I look forward to trying it out in the spring on a course that was built on an old downhill ski resort to see how it works.  I can say with confidence if you are playing anything with pretty good elevation changes, this thing is right every time.

My only issue with the Leupold rangefinder is minor to almost insignificant.  I found from time to time the yardage numbers were a bit on the thin side visually in the eyepiece.  In the picture above, 1 and 2 are yardage displays, 1 is TGR(adjusted distance) and 2 is LOS(line of sight).  Both were just a little thin.  I would prefer to see them just a bit bolder.  I didn’t really have any problems reading them; it just might have been nicer to have them stand out just a little bit more.

There is no doubt in my mind that the Leupold rangefinders will improve your scores, compared to no rangefinder.  They are easy to use, extremely accurate, and depending on the model, can even tell you which club to hit.  All in all, you will never worry again about knowing the distance, now you just need to step up and hit the shot.

If you can make use of all the added features of the GXII, it is worth it, but if you play many tournaments and need to keep an official USGA score, then the GXI is as good as it gets.  Watch out Bushnell, Leupold rangefinders are going to give you a run for you money! 

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Review: Leupold GX-3 and Gx-4 Rangefinder
Great Just Got Even Better
I reviewed the GX-1 and GX-2 about 2 years ago.  I have been using the GX-2 and my dad has been using the GX-1 ever since.  At that time I thought they were the best rangefinders on the market.  The optics are awesome, their ability to get accurate distances to the pin are outstanding and all of this in a compact size.  So where would the GX-3 and GX-4 improve?  I think they did in just about everyway.  This takes nothing away from the GX-1 and GX-2 models they are still outstanding, but the GX-3 and GX-4 are even better.  I dare say the best on the market right now.

The GX-3 and GX-4 are the exact same laser ranger finder if the GX-4 had the silver faceplate on.  So here is what makes them even better than previous models.  The first thing I noticed is that they are a little heavier, which is a good thing for steadying.  It can be tricky to keep your hands steady when trying to acquire the distance to a pin, but a little extra weight takes some of the shake out of my hands.  Even though they are heavier, the are just a little smaller.  Not much, but noticeable in my Clicgear glove box.  There was just a little more room in there now.

A new feature of the Leupold GX-3 and GX-4 is the polarized or tinted lenses.  They tend to diffuse the light a little and make certain colors pop a little better for excellent contrast.  The clarity seemed just a touch better on the new models. This is coupled with an OLED display for distances.  It is a bright vibrant red color that really pops on everything.  It is clear, big and easy to read.  You also have the choice of three different reticles for aiming, a plus point, a bracket circle or the bracket circle duplex. The only drawback I could see might be for the colorblind, but even then, the way it lights up, I would think they could still see the numbers.  There is also a fog mode to make sure that you acquire the pin and not bounce off the fog, as well as a scan mode to get a variety of objects just by holding down the button.

They continue to have PinHunter technology, but an added new feature that adds confidence is prism lock technology.  We’ve all shot pins before only to have some doubt if we got the pin or the trees behind the pin.  Prisms obviously reduce that likelihood, but still there might be doubt.  The new prism lock technology beeps when a prism is acquired and locked.  So if you play a course with prisms on the pin, you will never, ever, again wonder if you got the proper reading.

So if you just want the basic, best rangefinder around the GX-3 is for you.  If you want to be able to add the bells and whistles, the GX-4 also has a yellow faceplate that clips on after removing the silver one, called the Smart Key.  It has a chip in it that activates the TGR (True Golf Range).  This now calculates slope and club selection based on your entered specs.  The change is now that you can see both the Line Of Sight distance and the calculated adjustments.  When you release the button, it tells you what club to hit.  Before with the GX-2 that was all on the screen at once, making it a bit busy to look at.  Just like the GX-2, I found the GX-4 calculations to be right on.  Adding distance on the uphill was right on, as well as club selection.  The down hills were almost perfect.  There was only one hole that was extremely down hill that seemed a bit off, but then again it could have been the wind or my swing that were actually off.

The only negative with the new GX-3 and GX-4 would be the redesigned cases.  They still fit and hold the rangefinders nicely, and the GX-4 case has an extra zippered part for the extra faceplate.  One nice feature of the redesign is the magnetic flap vs. the bungee hook to hold down the main flap, which is now easier to get in and out of.   But the biggest dissapointment is that there isn’t a big plastic clip anymore  for attaching the case to a towel ring, now they only have a belt loop.  This is kind of a let down, because the clip was really handy on all my bags, and the belt strap only option has made it more difficult to attach it to my bag for carrying.  Most the time it is not a big deal since I take it out of the case and put it in my Clicgear glove box, but that change I didn’t feel was for the better.

While currently the GX-4 is not tournament legal with or without the yellow faceplate, it seems to me in the near future the yellow faceplate will be deemed non-conforming, but the silver one will be, since it disables the slope.  If someone wanted to quickly change out the faceplate to get slope and then change it back I’m sure they could, but if they are going to cheat, changing faceplates is actually the least of our concerns.

So if you want a great rangefinder, any one of the four Leupold models are excellent options.  I do believe that the newest ones, The GX-3 and GX-4 are the best laser rangefinders on the market.

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