armin approach z80 laser rangefinder with gps review

Garmin Approach Z80 Laser Rangefinder Review


The long awaited Garmin Approach Z80 laser rangefinder has finally arrived. With its beautiful, sleek design and modern lines. The Garmin Z80 combines the best in golf GPS technology with the most accurate golf laser range finder to date. The Z80 is certainly an exciting bit of tech.

Hi, my name is Ian Allen and in my quest to find the best laser rangefinders, today I am reviewing the fabulous looking Garmin Approach Z80 rangefinder with GPS. Let’s tee off.

So why buy a golf rangefinder / golf GPS crossover?

That’s a great question. Have you ever found yourself on the Tee and wondering how far that hazard is? Or you’re standing on the fairway and can’t quite get comfortable guessing the carry distance. Yep, that was me too.

When playing a new course, I would always grab a course guide. You know the ones, the nicely bound little booklets with the different yardages to hazards and greens, as well as the ‘Pro Tips’ on how best to play the hole.

But, I don’t play golf like a professional. My tee shots are not always arrow straight and my approaches not always the right distance. So whilst I used to enjoy carrying the golf course guides around with me, more often than not, I would generally find myself playing my shot from where there was no distance indicated.

So I started using a Golf GPS watch. In fact my first one was a TomTom Golfer. And in my recent article The Best Golf GPS Watches of 2018, I listed the ones that are simply among the best in the world. Yet whilst these are a great addition to improving your game, they aren’t flawless.

A golf GPS watch will pick out all the standard hazards, such as the bunkers and ditches. Yet there are times where you have no way of knowing the specific distance should you want to layup, or place your approach shot in a specific part of the fairway.

So for me, I went out and purchased a Golf Laser Rangefinder. With any affordable rangefinder you can get a distance to anything you fancy. And if you’re in the market for a cheap rangefinder, you’re really spoilt for choice. 

Budget Rangefinders start at just £62 with the likes of TOMSHOO, EYOYO and SUAOKI. Midrange models such as the TecTecTec VPRO500, Nikon COOLSHOT and Precision Pro Nexus, come in at around the £150 mark. Then you have the best golf rangefinders starting at almost £250. Such as the BUSHNELL TOUR V4, and TOUR V4 SHIFT and the COOLSHOT 40i and the Precision Pro NX7

Then at the very top of the list, you have the best of the best. The BUSHNELL Pro X2 and Pro X7 Tournament. 

Many of the models above can be found among the golf rangefinder reviews on this site. 

Yet the ‘achilles heal’ of the golf distance finder, is that you have to actually be able to see what you want to measure to. So even if you spend over £400 on the best golf distance finder. You still may be in the dark as to your next shot.

But all that is behind us with the invention of the Garmin Approach Z80 rangefinder with GPS. 

Yes that’s right. Garmin golf have married the two technologies together and come up with something that is literally game changing, and not just for your golf.

My Definitive Garmin Z80 Review

The Garmin Z80 is Garmin’s first laser rangefinder and marks a shift in the technology available to golfers of all abilities. And, If like me, you’re a tech head. You can imagine the excitement I felt when I ripped open the box and got my sweaty mitts on this iconic device.

Although the Garmin Z80 has a huge range of fantastic features, it’s still easy to operate. Using just three buttons on the top of the device, you can easily navigate through the various menus, make selections as well as simply identify yardages to the pin.

At just 123mm x 80mm x 42mm, and weighing in at 226g (a little more than 5 golf balls) the Z80 is very compact yet has a robust and durable feel when in your hands. What’s more it’s body is moulded with a grippy texture so it won’t slip out of your grasp when used in inclimate weather. Useful for the UK!

And when it does get wet outside, the Garmin Z80 has an IPX7 waterproof rating, so it’s safe down to a depth of 1m for a max of 30 minutes. Plenty of time to recover both it and your ball from a watery ditch!

Onboard you have a rechargeable lithium-ion battery, that from fully charged, will give you up to 15 hours of use. Now that is more than enough for 3 rounds of golf, even when played by me. And if you’re ever in doubt as to the level of charge, the Z80 has a status indicator on the front, just below the eyepiece. 

This status LED also informs you of everything from if the device is charging, in standby mode, in active mode or if it is updating its software when connected to a PC/Mac via the Micro-USB port.

Garmin Approach Z80 Features

With all the information that the Z80 has to offer, being displayed within the viewfinder. It is no wonder that the viewfinder has a diopter adjustment to ensure you receive crystal clear views of the screen inside. If like me you wear glasses, you can be assured you are catered for by its adjustment.

What’s more, with a 6x magnification the high-quality viewfinder ensures you can easily pick out objects in the far distance and get a lock on them.

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As I said before. Although the Garmin Z80 has a huge range of fantastic features, it still remains easy to operate using the three buttons on the top of the device.

The first button (Button 1), nearest the eyepiece is used to select the menus on the screen. It is also the main button used to ‘range’ to a target using the laser. 

The Next button forward (Button 2), is used to turn the Z80 on and off. It is also used to access the menus and scroll through the options.

Finally, the most forward button (Button 3), is used to simply scroll through the menus and select options.

Whilst it sounds complicated, I found that you quickly get used to the setup and can happily navigate through using just your index finger.

Once the device is turned on for the first time you will be able to quickly set the language and the units of measure, either meters or yards. 

Another helpful addition by Garmin, comes through the ability to set the distance of your average Drive. When set, the Z80 will show you a Yellow Arc on the hole overview within the viewfinder. This arc represents the distance of your drive and will help your course management for sure. I found it really useful, if not a touch depressing! I really need to learn to hit my driver better.

Also within the settings is ‘Tournament Mode’. The Garmin Approach Z80 is fitted with PinPointer and PlaysLike distance features. These features are not allowed during sanctioned tournaments. So a quick trip into the settings, and you can turn these off. 

If you are a serious, competitive player and would like all the advantage you can get without cheating. The Garmin Z80 is certainly the tool for you. And in my view, you will see it replace the Bushnell Tour V4 as the preferred choice among professional golfers during practice rounds.

What’s the Approach Z80 Like on the Course?

As with all the Garmin Golf GPS devices. The Z80 Rangefinder comes pre-loaded with over 41,000 courses. The device will automatically select the course you are on, along with the hole you’re playing. Yet if there is more than one course at your club, you can easily select the track you’re on via the menu in the viewfinder.

At my club we have a choice of either a 9 hole or an 18 hole golf course. And I managed to select the right course with just two button presses.

The first hole on the course I was playing, is a 425yd Par 4 from the White Tees. It is a dogleg right with a sneaky fairway bunker tucked up on the right handside of the corner. 

Stepping out onto the 1st Tee with the Z80 in hand. I was instantly blown away by the information I received when looking through the eyepiece. I ranged a distance to the path that crosses the fairway. This distance instantly came up as a Red line on the hole overview. As I changed to different objects, this Red arc also followed suit.

As with other Golf GPS devices, the Z80 also showed my the fairway bunker. And as I had set my driver distance, the Z80 included that as a yellow arc on the hole overview. 

Immediately I could quickly plan out the best Tee shot options. Make my club selection and consequently, land my ball on the fairway and away from any trouble.

And approaching the green was even easier!

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Sighting the Z80 towards the flag, it instantly picked it out using the onboard Flag Finder feature. As soon as it recognised the flag, the Flag Icon appeared in the viewfinder and the hole overview map changed to a close up of the green.

Distances to the front, centre and back of the green are clearly presented to you, with the addition in yellow, of the exact distance to the pin. Once again the hole overview clearly shows any bunkers or hazards which may otherwise have been out of sight from where you are playing.

The Garmin Z80 can measure distances between 5 and 350 yds and is also very accurate. In Fact it is the most accurate rangefinder on the market and can measure to within 25cm of its sighted target.

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If you do manage to miss the fairway and get yourself into trouble, the Garmin Approach Z80 will help you out.

Using the onboard PinPointer feature. The Z80 would easily give you the direction of the green. This along with the hole overview, certainly helps to plan your way back to the short stuff without losing anymore unnecessary strokes.

Personally I found this and the flag finder features simply fantastic!

Is the Garmin Approach Z80 Waterproof?

Garmin golf rigorously test their devices to make sure they’ll survive the activities for which they were designed. 

So whilst it’s GPS watches have a rating of 5 ATM. The Garmin Z80 has a water rating of IPX7. I know, I had to look that up too. Basically it means that the Z80 will withstand exposure to water of upto 1 meter, for a maximum duration of 30 minutes. 

So no, you can’t take it diving, then again why would you? But if you should drop it in a ditch full of water whilst retrieving your ball. At least you’re safe in the knowledge that it will be fine.

What are the Garmin Approach Z80 Key Features?

General features

  • Unit dimensions: 122.9 x 80.0 x 42.1 mm
  • Weight: 226 g
  • Battery type: rechargeable lithium-ion (non-replaceable)
  • Battery life: Up to 15 hours
  • Water rating: IPX7
  • Interface: USB
  • Full colour OLED display
  • Diopter adjustment (+/- 4)
  • Tournament mode (disables non-conforming features)

Laser range finder features

  • Laser range to flag: 350 yards/320 metres
  • Laser accuracy: +/- 10″ (25 cm)
  • Magnification: 6x
  • Flag Finder with visual confirmation laser has locked onto the flag
  • Image stabilisation
  • Laser range arc (displayed on map)
  • PlaysLike Distance (slope correction)

GPS and Map Features

  • More than 41,000 preloaded course maps
  • 2-D course maps displayed in viewfinder
  • Green View (automatic when laser ranging the flag)
  • Distances to hazards and layups
  • Distances to front, centre and back of green
  • Drive distance arc
  • Free course updates
  • Auto hole transition
  • Par information for each hole
  • Auto zoom
  • PinPointer (for lining up blind shots)
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How does the Garmin Z80 Compare to the Bushnell Hybrid V2?

The only other comparable device to the Garmin Z80 range finder, is the Bushnell Hybrid V2. And there are some differences to be highlighted.

The first and most notable difference is that the Bushnell Hybrid V2 appears to be a drunken afterthought. It’s side is littered with extra buttons and the quality, whilst good, is lacking when directly placed beside the Garmin.

The second difference comes to light when you pick the two of them up. The Bushnell Hybrid V2 is 50% heavier than the Garmin Z80. This extra 114g is mainly due to the two CR2 batteries it carries. One for the rangefinder and the other for the GPS. It’s a little odd given how technology is nowadays.

Included with the Bushnell is both PinSeeker and JOLT technology. These are Bushnells equivalent to Garmin’s PinPointer and FlagFinder features. They are both basically the same although I would like the JOLT tech on the Z80. But that’s just me being picky.

The bushnell is a variant of their shooting rangefinders and as such it can read distances up to 1000 yds. Yet whilst this is impressive and far more than the Garmin, I have never seen the advantage of needing to know a distance further than I can hit a golf ball.

And whilst the Bushnell beats the Garmin for distance, the Garmin certainly has the edge when it comes to accuracy. The Bushnell is only accurate to 3 feet whereas the Garmin is accurate to 10 inches. Now I don’t claim to be able to take advantage of that, and I’m sure it doesn’t make too much of a difference in the real world. Yet it does say something about the quality of the Garmins Optics and Software.

And whilst the Bushnell Hybrid V2 is retailing at around £399. I know that for me the Garmin Approach Z80 is worth the extra money!

So What Did I Think of the Garmin Approach Z80?

As I have said before in the reviews of the Garmin Approach X40, Garmin X10 and Garmin Approach S60, I don’t really like wearing watches. I usually find them bulky and uncomfortable. And the Garmin Approach G30 Golf GPS at £249 is great value for money, but I feel the Z80 just has the edge.

Like all Garmin Golf products, the Approach Z80 is really well made and has that feeling of durability about it. The quality of the casing, optics and software, create a device that is simply above the rest in its market.

All in all if you want a mix of Golf GPS device with rangefinder, that’s reliable, robust and delivers. I would definitely give the Garmin Approach Z80 serious consideration. After all, I would imagine that for a few months yet, you will perhaps be the only guy in your club to own one. And we all know that bragging rights are priceless!!

To get yours, simple click on the links below.

Thank you for reading this review of the Garmin Approach Z80 Golf Laser Rangefinder. I hope it has answered some if not all of your questions, but please do feel free to leave a comment below if you would like to know more about it….

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