Bushnell is, in my opinion, the market leaders of laser rangefinders in golf. In terms of their design, accuracy and technological advancements, they have consistently been ranked as the 'Rolls Royce' of the golf laser market.
With quality comes a price, but it was a shock even by their standards to see that the new Pro XE rangefinder was priced at £449. This is a huge price to pay for something which is a golf accessory, and even more expensive than most clubs...
However, Bushnell are touting this as 'simply the best golf laser ever made', and with a couple of new features added since the Tour V4 was released a couple of years ago, it certainly seems an interesting prospect.
I've been lucky enough to get my hands on the new device, and so I wanted to give it a thorough test to see whether it really can distance itself from the rest of the pack as the best laser on offer, and justify that big price tag.
What's It All About?
The key piece of new technology in the Pro XE is the 'Slope with Elements' system, which Bushnell suggest can produce the most precise compensated distances ever from a laser rangefinder.
This method also factors in temperature and barometric pressure, along with any slope, to its algorithm when calculating the 'play as' distance. In theory, this then should help you to judge true distances when playing in different temperatures or courses which experience varying levels of air pressure.
For example, you may have an approach shot which is 150 yards to the flag in the middle of the green. A GPS device would give you a yardage to the middle, of around 150 yards. A laser would tell you it was 150 yards exactly to the flag, and those with the slope function could work out that the shot actually plays 5 yards less as its downhill, so the reading would be 145 yards.
But with the Elements feature, if the barometric pressure at that course is particularly high, it may end up that your actual playing yardage is around 155 yards, even more than the original non-measured distance.
The Slope system, which has been around in Bushnell's lasers since the Tour X Jolt, is now accessible through a simple switch on the side of the device. As this feature is not tournament legal, make sure you turn it off before you tee off for a Saturday morning competition!
The Jolt feature, which gives a little vibration when you lock onto a target, has now been improved with a 'Visual' jolt too, with the edge of the screen flashing red to ensure confidence for the golfer.
For those golfers who use a buggy whilst they play golf, the Pro XE comes ready-equipped with new Bite technology which is essentially a magnet built in to the side of the unit. This allows it to be stuck to anything metal, such as the side bars holding the windscreen in place.
7x magnification gives the device a total range of 1,300 yards, and it is able to pick up a flag from over 500 yards away. The Pro XE is fully waterproof and has a rubber housing which should guard against any drops or bumps, and comes complete with an excellent carry case which can be clipped to your bag.
One of the usual arguments given against these type of laser rangefinders, apart from the price, is that they can only provide a yardage for one target. Bushnell aim to counter this, however, by suggesting that you use the laser in conjunction with their revamped Bushnell Golf app.
You can pair your devices, such as the Phantom GPS or Excel Watch, so that text messages and weather forecasts come through, and it matches up with the course you are playing to provide corresponding yardages wherever you are on the course.
Bushnell Golf Managing Director Andrew Grose said:
The Pro XE sets a new standard in laser rangefinders. From improved optics and longer ranging, to convenience features like Visual Jolt and Bite, Pro XE offers features that golfers at all skill levels can appreciate. Updating our proprietary slope algorithm and adding 'elements' brings unmatched precision to the rangefinder industry, making it the clear choice for Tour and elite amateur players.
So could the combination of the laser and the Bushnell Golf app provide me with all the information I need to make the correct club selection out on the course? To find out, I ventured out to Bramall Park Golf Club, Manchester and played a full round of golf using the two products.
Teeing off at 8:00am, I was interested to see whether the Elements feature would show visible adjustments to yardages as the day went on and the air started to warm up.
Bushnell Pro XE Rangefinder Review
The quality of this product is instantly noticeable as soon as you take it out of the box. With a £449 price tag you'd expect to be impressed, and I was. It looked and felt substantial and premium, whilst also being comfortable to hold.
In terms of size, the Pro XE was bigger than the GolfBuddy laser which I last reviewed, but it wasn't necessarily a bad thing because it gave the feeling that this was a powerful device and probably added to my overall opinion.
The grey and black finish was sleek and modern, and the magnetic Bite feature looked smart too. The buttons seemed easy to use and the slope switch was a nice improvement on previous models - making it very clear if somebody was trying to gain an extra advantage by leaving slope mode on during a competition!
Bushnell carry cases are always amongst the best and this one was no different, with the elastic string a nice added bonus from having to unzip every time you want to measure something.
On the Course
The first thing that I noticed when I got to the first tee with the laser is just how good the sight is. There is a 7x magnification which is the most clear and powerful I have seen. I was easily able to spot and then measure the pin on the 1st from over 410 yards away. Bushnell say that you should be able to get a flag from 500 yards out and I have no issues believing that. Very impressive.
The use of the bright red display was also a good move from Bushnell too as it was so easy to read, even in the early morning with a low sun and plenty of glare from the dewy fairways and greens.
Having used the slope feature a number of times now, it certainly is an advantage to have on your laser during non-competition rounds. You'd be surprised how often approaches play 3-4 yards different than you may imagine, which can really make a difference on your end result. There's nothing more annoying than thinking your approach shot is all over the flag, only for it to come up short of the green right on line.
The new Elements technology definitely worked well, and it was noticeable that yardages played a little longer in general during the morning when the weather was colder. On certain parts of the course I was getting different yardages, even when the approach was flat. For example on the par 5 14th hole I left myself a wedge approach into the relatively flat green. This area of the course sits at the bottom of a large slope and often feels colder than the rest, and sure enough my yardage was at 122 yards instead of the 117 measured yardage because of this change in pressure.
Although you can't use this feature during your competitions, it can still be a very worthwhile addition to your overall game because you can take note of approach shots at your home course which play further or shorter than you'd imagine. Therefore having the ability to begin to working out how much of a factor the temperature and weather can play on your shots.
There's a handy focus dial on the viewfinder which can be adjusted to your liking depending on how far away you are measuring. I didn't encounter any need to adjust it during my round, but it is a nice touch regardless if you find yourself struggling to pick up targets.
One disappointing feature I found with the Pro XE was the consistency of the new Visual Jolt. Said to vibrate and flash red when you lock onto the pin, I would say this only really worked about a third of the time when I found the flag.
I was surprised by this issue, as it was one of Bushnell's key selling points. But it didn't seem to impact the overall competence of the laser, which was quick to pick up the pin throughout the round. So although it wasn't a massive issue for the overall performance, it was certainly a shame to have such intermittent results, once again considering the price tag.
The Bite magnet mount is sensitive and can cling to the side of your buggy for quick usage if you favour that mode of transport whilst you play. The magnet didn't work on my trolley when I tested it, but it's worth checking yours anyway as it could be another handy option.
Perhaps the most pleasant surprise of the review was the chance to use the revamped Bushnell Golf App, which was good enough to be a worthy standalone product due to its design and ease of use.
For the Pro XE, it is a handy accompaniment as it allows you to get yardages to points such as bunkers and the back edge of the green, before you use the laser to get the exact yardage to the flag, giving you more information before you make a club selection.
Would I Use It?
Yes, thanks to the quality of the rangefinder which really is as good as it gets. Bushnell has described the Pro XE as the 'best laser ever made' and I have to say I think you'll struggle to find one which is better.
If it was my money however, I'm not sure whether I would go for a slightly cheaper option. The fact that you're essentially paying £100 more than most other lasers, for two features which aren't competition-legal is a bit of a sticking point for me.
Having used the Slope feature on lasers for a while now I don't think I would ever switch back to one which didn't have this, as it really can transform your perception of certain shots and once you begin to learn these patterns it can benefit your game.
Bushnell Pro XE Rangefinder Verdict
In terms of overall usability the Pro XE was fantastic, and the laser itself was the best I have ever used. As always with Bushnell you get a product which looks and feels premium, and performed well with quick, easy and precise yardages.
Add in the new app too and you should have pretty much everything you need to plan your strategy out on the golf course.
I was a bit disappointed in the Visual Jolt technology as consistently as I had expected, but it didn't detract from my overall experience of using the laser.
The main qualm I have with the Pro XE though, as mentioned earlier, is that £450 is a lot of money to spend on an accessory to go with your golf, especially when the main bits of technology that you're paying for can't be used when you're in competition.
But, if you're willing to spend that money and you want the best rangefinder that money can buy, and especially if you play plenty of social golf where the added features are permitted, then the Bushnell Pro XE could be right on target for you.
- Looks and feels like a premium product
- Industry leading power and quality
- Magnification was great
- Screen and text incredibly clear
- Slope with Elements excellent
- Too expensive for a device with 2 features - which can't be used in competitions - especially when compared with other similar products
- Jolt feature didn't work every single time, especially closer to the green
- Device was quite bulky