Garmin Approach Z80, Golf Laser Range Finder with 2D Course OverlaysI’ve used a number of rangefiders over the years and when I’m looking for a new one, there’s always that nagging question in the back of my mind – should I get a rangefinder or a GPS? Ok, I admit it, I sometimes start looking at golf watches too.

The Garmin Z80 solves this problem and it does so in a neat way. It doesn’t tell the time and it’s too big to strap to my wrist, but what a great bit of kit it is. The Z80 is simply outstanding, but then most of what Garmin produces is hard to fault.

It’s worth saying that the Z80 shines when you’re playing unfamiliar courses because it takes much of the guesswork out of the equation. In effect, you’ll have the ability to play a course like a local, the first time you play.

But if you only ever play your home course, the Z80 isn’t neccessary. Something like the Bushnell Phantom will be of much more use to you at a way lower price point.

Launched in June 2018 some months after Bushnell brought out the Hybrid, the Z80 combines the traditional laser angefinder with 2D course view mapping integrated in the viewfinder display.

It has a all the other features that you’d want, (and at this price, you want them all) so let’s walk through them to help you decide if this is the rangefinder for you.

Garmin Approach Z80 at a Glance

The Z80 has a different operating system from other rangefinders. That’s why you may need some instructions to use it for the first few times.

The very first time you turn it on there’s a short setup sequence where you select your language, default yards ormetres setting and your driver distance.

For play, once you turn the device on and select ‘Play Golf’, you’ll be asked to choose the course. The GPS will then present you with the key yardages that based on your position during your round.

While other rangefinders use a magnifying lens, the Garmin Approach shows you a digital view of the hole. You may find it slightly difficult to locate the pin at first. You’ll likely lock on to the wrong distance on your first time you use it.

Thankfully, the GPS yardages that appear on the screen will help you realize it’s a mistake. You’ll see the measurements for the entire hole. This feature is invaluable if you’re on the tee. You only need to look through the lens at the 2D map to see where the trouble is and the distances to it.

Because you input your driving distance at setup, it will also show you detalis of your drive landing area. That’s useful becuase it gives you more information about what your “safe” miss is.

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Overview of Features

The Garmin Approach Z80 includes a lot of impressive features. The Pinpointer and the Plays Like modes have especially gained attention for their functionality. Let’s see what else the Garmin device can do.

Setup & Assembly

The Garmin Approach Z80 is user-friendly; the interface is pretty easy to get used to. Three main buttons control the device. The down arrow button will turn the Garmin on. Once you press it, you’ll need to input some information for the first use only. This information includes driver distance, language, and units.

The large button that’s next to the viewfinder is used for target ranging, and the up and down arrows are connected to the ones on top. You’ll find it easy to grow accustomed to the buttons’ functionality once you use the Z80 a few times.

The “Play Golf” setting will find you the nearest course. Once you confirm where you’re palying, the device will identify the closest hole and display it on the screen in vibrant color.

Laser Range Arc

This feature allows you to create the ideal approach shot strategy. The device displays an arc on the 2D view map that allows you to see everything in play at the distance. You can avoid a lot of difficulties using this.

It also eliminates the need for yardage books and cart GPS.

That’s the thing about the Garmin Approach Z80. You won’t need any additional devices to play well; it has everything you need!

Laser Functionality

The laser functionality on this device is impressive. When you lock on to the pin, you’ll have all the information you need to be displayed through the viewfinder. They flash in a dashing red color for clarity.

GPS Technology

Garmin manufacturers are masters when it comes to GPS technology. Since they created the Garmin Approach S60 GPS watch, they have been gaining more popularity for their golfing devices. The watch’s purpose is to provide you with distances from any site on the field to the point you want your ball to reach.

The Garmin Approach Z80 displays a virtual course map on the left side of the viewfinder. Live GPS distances also appear in the view, overlapping with the distance targeting feature.

The Z80 will give you complete confidence to hit at any target. You won’t need to worry about accuracy.

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Viewfinder’s Display

The viewfinder will show you the GPS distances to greens, hazards, and water on the holes’ map. You’ll also see a fully-colored virtual map of the hole you’re targeting at that time; it’ll be on the left side of the OLED screen. When you activate the Green View feature, you’ll get a fully detailed vision of the green shape and the yardages to its front and back.

Image stabilization is on point
+/- 25cm laser accuracy
The Pinpointer mode shows precise distance and direction
The red target arc makes it easier to hit exact spots

The Garmin Approach Z80 is tricky to get out of the pouch
It needs a cable to charge instead of a battery
The digitized screens take time to get used to
You have to look in the viewfinder all the time

Why the Garmin Approach Z80?

There are dozens of rangefinders to pick from with several innovative features. Why would you choose this device in particular? It primarily depends on your usage, but three main things set the Garmin apart from similar products.

Its Precise Performance

Garmin Approach Z80, Golf Laser Range Finder with 2D Course OverlaysThe Z80’s precision is unmatched. When you enter your driving distance, the device displays a black arc that visualizes the hazards from the tee box. The GPS also allows distances to change according to the actual tee location.

When you lock on the flag, the device produces the exact distance from the front, center, and back of the green. Additionally, it displays a yellow arc that shows anything lurking in the distance.

The Z80 displays the green view when you move closer to the green; it stays accurate even when you go behind the hole. After you’ve sunk your put and are moving on, the device makes an automatic transition to the next hole.

The image stabilization in this rangefinder will help you get the range to the flag effortlessly. Besides, the field of vision of the rangefinder is 6-times magnified. The Garmin Approach Z80 doesn’t leave a chance for guessing, you’ll get accurate views of everything!

The “Plays-Like” Mode

This mode clears the elevation changes up and provides an advanced green view. It also tells you when the number changes. On top of that, it adjusts the slope and yardages for all shots, uphill or downhill.

It works by calculating the change in elevation from your position to the location displayed on the map, so you can easily figure out which club to use.

The live view that the device shows is video-based. You may notice a minimal lag while panning, but the image stabilization gets in motion and fixes the issue instantly.

Slope reading and play-like suggestions are illegal in official tournaments; this feature has both of them. It can be disabled if you’d rather play without it.

The “PinPointer” Mode

The PinPointer mode doesn’t only direct you towards the pin, but it also provides you with yardage. The large red arrow that’s displayed will easily orient you towards your target.

This feature can be especially useful on courses you’re not familiar with.

Moreover, there’s a pin stabilizer that’s ideal for you if your hands aren’t as steady as they once were. It’ll give you an accurate reading for the pin.

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Because it’s different from regular rangefinders, there are a few things that can be challenging to deal with in the Z80.

For example, it fits on the pouch with difficulty, making it hard to get it in and out. You may need to try a few times before succeeding. But that’s a minor gripe really. I only use the pouch for storage. On the course the z80 just sits in the cart ready for use.

Another challenge is the fact that it recharges by cable. A battery is usually easier to deal with if you’re a forgetful person. However, it’s more expensive to buy. So a cable is not that bad.

While every other laser rangefinder gives clear, telescopic visibility of the target, the Z80 gives a digital view instead. It can take some time to get used to if you’ve been using an old rangefinder.

To Sum Up

Garmin didn’t hold back on this one. They outdid themselves in the Z80’s features.

As a golfer, you want to know all your yardages without guessing and doing the math. The Garmin Approach Z80 will do everything for you.

It’s easy to handle because of its lightweight. Furthermore, you won’t need to buy any batteries since it’s rechargeable. While that can be a downside for some users, it saves you a lot of money, nevertheless.

You won’t regret getting this device; it’s highly functional and user-friendly.