I Used My Awesome New Laser Rangefinder to Watch a Chipmunk Eating a Mouse

had an issue with the rubber eyepiece on my previous laser rangefinder. But my current rangefinder, a Bushnell Tour X, is great. It’s the same one Rickie Fowler uses:

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It’s accurate and fast, it’s easy to focus, and the eyepiece is firmly attached. I can set the LED display to either black or red—a useful feature as light conditions change:

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It gives my hand a satisfying “jolt” of haptic feedback when it locks onto a flagstick. And the battery life is seemingly measured in years. That fact alone makes it better than any GPS rangefinder, in my opinion. The Tour X comes with a hard zippered case that attaches to a golf bag and works pretty well, between shots, as a rangefinder holster:

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The Tour X is little too big to fit easily into my pants pocket—the only negative I can think of. I usually carry it in the compartment in the handle of my push cart, into which it just fits:

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The Tour X has a slope-reading feature. When you aim it at a target that’s higher or lower than you are and shoot the yardage, it tells you how much the change in elevation increases or decreases the effective distance. You can’t legally use that feature (or use a rangefinder that has that feature) in events that allow rangefinders. But you can disable it, making the Tour X legal, by changing the face plate. The red one turns the slope feature on; the black one turns it off:

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I’d always thought that measuring slope was kind of dorky, but my friend Ray, whose handicap is 3, told me that it’s actually very helpful. He uses during practice rounds, and says it’s quite accurate:

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Just remember to switch face plates before you play in a tournament. Ray forgot to do that before our Professional’s Cup, and he had to disqualify himself.

A Tour X is also useful for looking at stuff that’s too far away to see clearly with just your eyes. I’ve used mine to identify birds and distant golfers whose swings I didn’t recognize, and the other day I used it to get a closer look at a chipmunk that was sitting on a stone wall near our practice green and doing something I’d never seen a chipmunk doing before: eating a mouse:

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Six Surprising Golf-related Uses for Your Camera, Phone, Rangefinder, and Bifocals

During a recent Golf Digest assignment in Florida (at Streamsong Resort—see “Buddy This!”, in the January issue), my foursome was seated so far from the TV above the bar in the grillroom that no one at our table could follow what was happening in the World Series:

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To deal with that problem, I periodically took a zoomed picture of the screen and enlarged the image until we could read the score in the lower left-hand corner:

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The same trick works at golf tournaments, if you’re standing too far from a leaderboard to see what it says. And you can use it when you yourself are playing golf and can’t quite tell where the flag is on that green way up there.

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You can also use it around the house — when (for example) you need to read the serial number on a light fixture on the ceiling but don’t feel like going all the way downstairs to get the stepladder:

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I discovered this trick on my brother’s father-in-law’s boat, in Maine, on a day several years ago when we wanted to land at a dock on a small island but couldn’t get close enough to the shore to read the phone number we were supposed to call to ask permission:

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Somewhat similarly, if you wear bifocals you can turn them upside down when you need to take a close look at something above your head. (I mentioned this trick to an electrician friend, who told me that he owns a pair of trifocals in which the top and bottom sections are both for looking at things close-up.) And then there’s this, when you’re too old to get out of bed anymore, even for golf:

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A laser rangefinder can function as a low-power telescope (mine is 6X). Quite possibly, that’s strong enough to identify the idiot driving his cart along the edge of a greenside bunker two holes away, so that you can call the golf shop and report him. A rangefinder is good for on-course bird-watching, too. A few winters ago, at Lyman Orchards, we noticed a pileated woodpecker demolishing a dead tree directly above the tee on which we were standing. We passed around my rangefinder, and watched.

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