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The Garmin Approach Z30 golf rangefinder on it's side, showing front lenses (photo by Ryan at PlayBetter)

Garmin Approach Z30 Review: Is This Now the Best Mid-Priced Golf Rangefinder?

Is this the new top mid-range golf rangefinder? PlayBetter golf reviewer Marc tells you what's unique about the Garmin Approach Z30 — and why you might choose it over the Bushnell Tour V6 Shift for the same price!

Move over, Bushnell. Garmin’s new Approach Z30 rangefinder just might be the laser that challenges for the throne.

All it takes is a quick glance at the prices and features of the just-released Garmin Approach Z30 and the year-old Bushnell Tour V6 Shift to see that these two rangefinders are now in direct competition.

The Garmin Approach Z30 laying next to Bushnell Tour V6 Shift

Each retails for $399.99, features 6x magnification, slope-adjusted yardages, target lock vibration, and a cart magnet. In other words, Garmin, with their Approach Z30, is gunning for Bushnell’s perch as the kings of the hill. We’ve now got a direct-comparison shootout in the golf rangefinder mid range class.

Or do we?

The Z30 throws in a few extra goodies that the V6 Shift can’t match. Mostly those have to do with pairing the rangefinder with other Garmin devices for a comprehensive Garmin ecosystem experience. With Bushnell, you have to step up to their flagship $599.99 Pro X3+ to realize some of those benefits.

Does that mean the Garmin Approach Z30 is the obvious better choice than the Bushnell Tour V6 Shift?

Let’s find out!

I’ve pitted these two lasers directly against each other out on the golf course. As always, I’ll give you my honest take on how I think you’d be best off spending your money. It’s just one guy’s opinion, granted, but do you know anyone else who’s used both of these rangefinders side-by-side? If not and you want to get my thoughts, read on for my Garmin Approach Z30 review!

Packaging and Presentation: Unboxing the Garmin Approach Z30 Golf Rangefinder

Garmin Approach Z30 case and Bushnell Tour V6 rangefinder case laying next to each other

Each of Garmin’s Approach-series products come in the same style box. It’s gray with a picture of the enclosed device on the front of the box and the word “GARMIN” in all-caps block lettering running down the side. The box itself is a bit “chunky.” It’s definitely not a refined feeling, at least not to me. But it seems to do the job of protecting the product. My Approach Z30 box actually had a bit of damage when it arrived to me, but there were zero issues with the product within, so the packaging did the job of protecting the contents.

Overall, I’d rate the Garmin packaging as… fine. Honestly, I think Bushnell does a better job with their first impressions. Then again, who really cares? We’re not choosing a rangefinder because we like the box.

Now, for something that does matter at least a little bit: The look and feel of the device itself. And for that, I’ve got to say the Approach Z30 is quite handsome. If the box is bulky and somewhat uninspiring, the rangefinder itself is sleek, modern-looking, and has a very attractive design.

But where it really caught my attention was with the hand feel. The reason I bring that up is because I’ve always thought that Bushnell lasers feel great in the hand. They’ve always seemed to have the perfect size, grip, and heft that just feels good and inspires the confidence that you’re holding a well-built, high-quality product. Well, I don’t know that Garmin has upped the ante, but they’ve definitely called it. The Approach Z30 is very nice-feeling!

A lot of golf rangefinders feel kind of cheap. They’re too light, and they can kind of give the impression of holding a plastic toy. That’s never been the case with Bushnell, and that’s not the case at all with the Garmin Approach Z30. Before even firing it up, I said to myself, “I like this thing.”

But for as cool as it is to have a nice-looking, great-feeling golf rangefinder, it doesn’t amount to much (certainly not $399.99) if it doesn’t get the job done. 

Before we take the Z30 out onto the golf course, let’s look at its most interesting features.

Garmin Approach Z30 Review: Innovative Features or Useless Gimmicks?

The black and white Garmin Approach Z30 golf rangefinder in the hand of golf reviewer Marc at the golf course 

Let me start by describing the features that have me most excited. The first is what Garmin calls "Range Relay." The way it works is that you pair the Garmin golf rangefinder to another Garmin device or to the Garmin Golf app. After you do that, you're essentially able to sync and share information.

So take my situation for example. I have a Garmin Approach S70 golf watch that I wear daily and use for most of my rounds of golf. Here’s where Range Relay comes into play. When I have both my Z30 and S70 paired to the Garmin app, I can get a bit of the best of the golf watch information in my rangefinder viewfinder, and I can get a bit of the best of the rangefinder information on my golf watch.

That means that I can shoot a pin using the rangefinder and then see that pinpoint precise distance on my golf watch or in the app.

Initially, I didn’t see how that would be of any benefit. It felt like a gimmick that wouldn’t really be useful. But then I realized that once I shoot a distance, the golf watch will keep track of it for the remainder of the hole.

It’s a tad tricky to understand, so stay with me.

Say I’m in the fairway, and my S70 golf watch tells me that I’ve got 156 yards to the middle of the green. But that distance is in between clubs for me, so I really want to know the exact distance to that day’s pin location. Using the Z30 rangefinder, I find out that the precise distance to the pin is 149 yards. Cool. I’ll hit the club that I think will roll out to 150. But then, of course as I’m apt to do, I chunk my shot and also pull it a bit. I’m nowhere near the green. But now for the remainder of the hole, I don’t have to pull out the rangefinder anymore. Instead, when I arrive in the trees where my ball came to rest, I can look at my S70 and get that exact distance to the pin. The information from the rangefinder works in tandem with the GPS on the app and golf watch to track where I am on the hole in relation to the exact pin location I shot earlier.

PlayBetter golf reviewer Marc with the Garmin Approach Z30 rangefinder viewfinder to his eye on the golf course

Pretty cool, right? Like I said, a bit of the best of the rangefinder information available on my golf watch. We all know that the advantage of a rangefinder is that you can get an exact, pinpoint distance to a target. With a golf watch, even though some like the S70 allow you to manually drag the pin on the watch face to what you estimate is it’s exact location, you’re never really sure it’s to-the-yard correct. Golf watches are better for giving you distances to the front, middle, and back of the green.

Conversely, non-GPS golf rangefinders won’t show you front/middle/back distances. But that information, as any golfer knows, can be very useful. For example, if there’s trouble just beyond the green, you may want to know how far it is to conservatively land on the front of the green to stay well short of the problem area. Golf watches are perfect for that, and that’s one aspect where they have an advantage over a rangefinder.

With my Z30 and S70 paired to the app, I can actually get yardages from the pin to the front of the green and to the back of the green, all in the viewfinder. So I can look in the reticle, shoot the flag, and then see that I’ve got 10 yards from the front of the green to the flag and another 17 yards beyond that to the back of the green. Like I said, a bit of the best of the golf watch information available on my rangefinder.

I gotta say, I think this Range Relay feature is pretty slick. I’m the kind of golfer who likes to employ both a golf watch and rangefinder when I play. They each have their advantages and I find that one is better than the other in certain situations. Now, with the Z30 and my S70, I can do that dance much more seamlessly and without taking as much time. It’s pretty awesome.

Another useful feature on the Approach Z30 rangefinder is “Find My Garmin.” Using the Garmin Golf app, you can track down your Z30 if you ever misplace it. Because the Z30 includes a cart mount magnet, we know what will inevitably happen: Eventually we’re gonna leave the thing stuck to the cart, only to realize it after we’ve left the golf course. That’s a common scenario for anyone who owns a rangefinder like this, which is why a means of tracking your rangefinder’s location is so beneficial.

Beyond those really cool features, the Z30 comes with some of the standards you might expect in a $399.99 best golf rangefinder candidate, including:

  • A 400-yard range
  • 6x magnification
  • Slope-adjusted yardages
  • External indicator light to announce when you’re in tournament mode with slope disengaged
  • Magnetic cart mount
  • Expected replaceable CR2 battery life of 1 year

On the Course With the Garmin Approach Z30 Golf Rangefinder

The Garmin Approach Z30 rangefinder magnet mount side up on some golf turf

I don’t have too much to say in this Garmin Approach Z30 review section beyond that, yeah, all the features I just described above totally work. I found the Approach Z30 to be reliable, accurate, and simple to operate. No real surprises.

Ergonomically, the Approach Z30 is fantastic. It weighs 7.4 ounces, and to my feel, that’s about perfect. It’s heavy enough that it’s easy to stabilize in your hand while you’re shooting a target, but light enough that there’s nothing cumbersome about holding it.

Performance-wise, as I said, it absolutely gets the job done. It’s quick to lock onto a target, and I didn’t find any issues or discrepancies with yardages. I never had any reason to distrust the information the Z30 gave me.

I think the ultimate use case for this golf rangefinder is if you have an accompanying Garmin product, like I do with the Approach S70 golf watch. That’s where you’re really going to realize the benefits of what makes this laser unique. In other words, it’s the Range Relay feature that makes this product special. That said, this is a perfectly good, high quality rangefinder even if you’re just using it on its own without pairing it to the Garmin Golf app.

The question now is, how does it compare to its direct competitor, the Bushnell Tour V6 Shift?

Garmin Approach Z30 vs Bushnell Tour V6 Shift

Marc on the golf course facing the camera with both the Garmin Approach Z30 and Bushnell Tour V6 Shift up to his eyes

I’ve got to say that the Approach Z30 compares quite favorably to the Tour V6 Shift. Mostly, that is.

Optically, I’m calling this one a tie, which is great news for Garmin. Bushnell’s optics have always been crystal clear, and the Tour V6 Shift is no exception. But the Approach Z30 is just as sharp. For 6x magnification, as opposed to the 7x you get with the highest-end rangefinders, both of these lasers are exceptional for their displays.

I will say that while I find the Approach Z30’s target lock jolt to be totally sufficient, the Tour V6 Shift’s is just a bit stronger or more pronounced, which I like. Also, with the Tour V6 Shift, when you lock onto a target, a red ring appears in the viewfinder for visual confirmation to accompany the strong vibration jolt. With the Approach Z30, the visual confirmation is more subtle. The target circle in the viewfinder flashes when you’re locked on. It’s fine, but Bushnell’s solution is better.

Accuracy-wise, I found the Z30 and Tour V6 Shift to be identical. Literally. I was repeatedly getting the exact same distances with both devices. When I shot exceptionally long targets, say something more than 250 yards away, I would occasionally get a couple of yards discrepancy between the two rangefinders, but I really couldn’t tell you which one was more correct than the other.

These two devices are also similar in size and weight, though the Z30 is about a half-inch shorter and an ounce lighter than the V6 Shift. Those differences are pretty imperceptible when using the rangefinders, in my experience.

Each of these products also feature the same style of golf rangefinder case. Bushnell kind of set the standard for the most functional cases, and the rest of the market seems to be copying them, including Garmin with the Z30. It’s a fantastic carrying case that includes a carabiner for easy clipping onto your golf bag. 

As I noted earlier, the Bushnell Tour V6 Shift can’t touch the Garmin Approach Z30 when it comes to innovation. With the Bushnell, you’re getting a really nice rangefinder. With the Garmin, you’re getting more.

Garmin Approach Z30: Best Golf Rangefinder for the Money?

The Garmin Approach Z30 golf rangefinder on its side half in the shadows (photo by Ryan at PlayBetter)

Before the Garmin Approach Z30 came along, I thought that the Bushnell Tour V6 Shift was undisputedly the best $400-ish golf rangefinder.

Now?

Here’s where I’m at: If you’re someone who is in the Garmin camp already, meaning you own a Garmin golf watch or already interact with the Garmin Golf app, the Garmin Approach Z30 is the best golf rangefinder for the money. I feel strongly about that. The Range Relay feature is awesome and useful enough that I think you’d enjoy playing with the Approach Z30 more than any other laser.

However, if you don’t plan to sync your rangefinder with an app, the decision is a lot more murky. In that scenario, I might prefer the Bushnell if only for the better jolt vibration and far superior visual target lock confirmation.

So, are you all in on Garmin? If so, it’s simple. Get the Approach Z30. And even if you’re not a Garmin devotee, I’d still highly recommend this golf laser rangefinder. It’s just that I’d also highly recommend the Bushnell Tour V6 Shift.

The good news? Now you’ve got two excellent choices for best golf rangefinder for the money in the mid-price tier. It will be fun to watch these brands battle it out with subsequent product generations.

About PlayBetter Golf Reviewer Marc Sheforgen

Marc Sheforgen is a golf writer whose passion for the game far exceeds his ability to play it well. Marc covers all things golf, from product reviews and equipment recommendations to event coverage and tournament analysis. When he’s not playing, watching, or writing about golf, he enjoys traveling (often golf-related), youth sports coaching, volunteering, and record collecting.

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