How To Choose Binoculars For Golf (Best UK Guide)
Whether you are a keen golfer or you just like going along to tournaments to spectate, a good pair of binoculars will enhance your pleasure. There are a few features that will be more suitable for spectating at a golf tournament and to make your choice an easy one we’ve listed the top features you’ll need to get the most from your day at the tour.
Table of Contents
What Magnification Is The Best For Watching Golf Tournaments?
This is the first consideration for any hobby when it comes to buying binoculars, and it’s often the place where most people go wrong. It’s in our nature to assume that more is better than less, and while this might be true for ice cream or beer, when it comes to the magnification size on binoculars it’s not always right.
In our opinion 8x or 10x will be perfect for watching golf tournaments. Anything above 10x magnification will emphasise the natural slight shake we all have when holding an object out in front of us for any length of time. If you’re looking through a pair of binoculars with 12x that shake is 12 times more noticeable.
How Do You Know What Magnification A Particular Pair Of Binoculars Are?
All binoculars have a series of numbers stamped onto the body, they will look something like this;7×25, 8×32, or 10×42. The first number plus the x indicate the level of magnification so 7x is 7 times magnification and so on. The second set of numbers indicate the diameter of the objective lens in millimeters.
What’s An Objective Lens?
The objective lens is the lens nearest to the object you’re looking at. The bigger the objective lens, the more light is allowed to enter into the binoculars, and the brighter the image will appear. However, the larger the objective lens, the heavier the binoculars will be.
What Type Of Binoculars Do You Want?
There are two types of binoculars differentiated by their design. They are;
- Porro Prism Binoculars
- Roof Prism Binoculars
They both magnify objects, have similar objective lens sizes and both come in all three sizes. So what’s the difference between them?
Porro Prism Binoculars
These are the classic M shaped binoculars with the smallish eye piece leading onto the bulging middle section and then onto the larger objective lens. They’ve been around since the 1850s and the design hasn’t really changed too much since then. They work by reflecting the image between two offset prisms to magnify and then right the image (otherwise you would see an upside down image).
The offset prism arrangement is housed in the bulging middle section. Porro prisms are usually far less expensive than roof prisms (more on this later) but due to the way they’re set up it is relatively easy to knock them out of alignment. If the prisms do get misaligned, you’re likely to experience eye strains and headaches and even migraines.
Roof Prism Binoculars
These are shaped more like a capital H with two straight tubes separated and joined by the central focusing knob. The prisms on this type of binoculars are set in the roof of the lenses which allows them to be so compact. They are also far less likely to get knocked out of alignment like Porro Prisms. The technology and skill set needed to produce roof prism binoculars doesn’t come cheap and that cost is shared by us, the customers.
The roof prism binocular type dominates the market nowadays and with good reason, they are far superior in quality than Porro prisms. However, they are at both ends of the price spectrum, so they’re either very good or totally useless. The expression “you get what you pay for” has never been more accurate than with binoculars.
Binoculars come in three sizes, which are determined by the objective lens diameter. They are;
- Full Size
Full size binoculars have an objective lens diameter of more than 42 millimeters
Mid-size binoculars have an objective lens diameter of between 30 to 40mm
Compact binoculars have an objective lens diameter of anything less than 30mm
This can cause some confusion because the sizings on binoculars have very little to do with the actual size of the binoculars. It’s all about the objective lens diameter size. Due to modern design and technology methods all binoculars are smaller and less bulky than they were, say, 20 years ago.
But you still need to be aware of the weight. You’re going to hold those things up to your eyes for hours, and walk the length of the golf course carrying them. 74 acres is 358160 yards which is around the same size as 53 football fields. That’s a lot of walking, so you definitely don’t want to hump a pair of heavy binoculars that far. So you’re going to have to compromise a bit on size and weight.
What Size Binoculars Do We Need For Watching Golf?
As we just found out, there’s a lot of walking involved with the game of golf, and that means a lot of carrying too. So whether you’re playing or spectating, you’re not going to want too heavy a pair of binoculars. As we established earlier, if the magnification is too high, the image will be blurry due to our natural shake when holding objects up in front of the face for too long.
Plus higher magnification gives you a narrower field of vision (FoV). So what we need is to be able to see the game pretty clearly, and we need to feel close to the action. To get this balance right, you need a lower magnification 7x, 8x or 10x. In our opinion the magnification needed to watch a golf tournament should not be higher than 10x.
So you need lightweight binoculars, with no more than 10x magnification and they must have a wide field of view.
What Is FoV? And Is It Important For Watching Golf?
FoV is the abbreviated form of Field of View which simply means how much can you see through binoculars to the left and the right when looking straight through the binocular lens. There are two ways of stating the FoV and different manufacturers express it in different ways. You will either have something like 6 degrees or 315 feet per 1,000 yards – These two figures are both the same (6 degrees equates to 315 feet per 1,000 yards).
We think that feet per 1,000 yards is easier to work with than degrees, because unless you’re a mathematician degrees don’t mean too much. So if the binoculars you’re looking at state the FoV in degrees, here’s an easy way to work it out in feet per 1,000 yards.
All you need is this formula 1 degree equals 52.5 feet per 1,000 yards. So in our earlier example of 6 degrees it would look like this to work it out;
Which tells us that 6 degrees is the same as 315 feet per 1,000 yards. So a pair of binoculars with a FoV of 6 degrees means you will be able to see 315 feet across at 1,000 yards.
Why Is FoV Important When Watching Golf?
Having a wide field of view allows you to see what’s going on without having to go through the hassle of changing your view. For golfing 6 degrees is OK but if possible try to get closer to 7.5 degrees.
315 feet per 1,000 yards or 6 degrees is an OK FoV but the higher the numbers are, the better the FoV is and the easier watching experience you will have. 7.5 degrees is the same as slightly less than 394 feet per 1,000 yards.
Is It Necessary To Protect Binoculars?
This is a personal preference and not a necessity, but having a strong, thick rubber coating covering your investment will be worth it. The rubber will protect your binoculars from knocks , scratches and scrapes. Plus if you go for Porro prism binoculars the slight cushioning effect when they hit the floor might prevent the prisms becoming misaligned.
What About Waterproofing?
The planet is 71% water or thereabouts. We live in the UK, where rain happens often. It has been said that the only way to tell British Summertime is because the rain gets warmer. What we’re saying is, at some point you and your binoculars are going to get wet. So in our opinion it makes sense to get a waterproof pair.
To stop all the confusion of “water-resistent” or “weather-proof”, the industry introduced its own coding system designed to take the guesswork out of the level of waterproofing. The thing is, that code makes for a confusing read too. But suffice it to say, as long as the pair you choose has an IPX code of 6 or above they will work well in whatever weather the UK can throw at you.
Fog proofing is a useful feature on binoculars especially for golfing. Leaving a warm car, and travelling around a cold golf course can cause untreated binoculars to fog up, making them useless until the fogging clears. You could miss the first four or five holes completely.
To fog proof binoculars they purge the lens tubes of air and replace it with either nitrogen or argon. As these gasses contain no moisture, they will not react to sudden temperature fluctuations. Which means no fogging up. As an added bonus, as no gas can escape, no dust, debris or mould spores can enter either.
This can be another minefield to the uninitiated, as some companies claim to have coated the lens but it disappears after the second or third use. You need to look for fully multi-coated lenses. This means that all of the lens (inside and out) have multiple coatings to reduce glare, improve light transmission, brightness and colour.
How Much Can You Expect To Pay For Golfing Binoculars?
A decent pair of binoculars for use as a spectator or even as a player at golfing tournaments will cost you an average of £200 to £300. You can pay more and you can certainly pay less, but this is one of those occasions when you really do get what you pay for.
Best Binoculars For Watching Golf Checklist
We know it’s a lot to take in, especially when all you want is a decent pair of binoculars to watch your favourite players on the golf course. So here’s the shortened version with just the salient points to get you on your way. You will need to decide on the following;
- Magnification And Objective Lens Diameter
Binoculars for golf should be no greater than 10x magnification and have a relatively large objective lens diameter. In our opinion 8×32 are the perfect size.
- Porro Prism Or Roof Prism
The choice is yours but Porros will weigh more, be larger, heavier and more likely to get damaged. But they will also be less expensive compared to a similar size roof prism.
Roof prisms will be lighter, more compact, easier to carry and are far more robust. But they will cost more than a porro prism of similar quality. Roof prisms dominate both ends of the market, from the cheap and not too good to the expensive but brilliant.
Even full size binoculars are fairly compact, for long term use we would recommend a mid-size pair of around 8×32 these will give images that are 8 times closer and an objective lens of 32 mm diameter will allow plenty of light in whilst keeping the overall weight down.
You need to decide just how much weight you’re prepared to carry over 74 acres. Remember it’s a golf course so it’s not flat ground either.
- Field Of View
The wider the field of view, the higher your enjoyment of the day. No less than 315 feet per 1000 yards (or 6 degrees).
- Rubber Protective Coating
You’re going to invest quite a large sum of money on your once in a lifetime purchase of binoculars, it makes sense to give them as much protection as possible.
British weather- need we say more? IPX6 or above is best.
- Fog Proofing
Well worth considering for early starts, cold snaps and the added protection against dust debris and mould.
- Lens Coatings
Always go for fully multi-coated lens these will give you glare protection, improved brightness, brilliant contrast and amazing light transmission.
There are binoculars available on some online sites offering all the whistles and bangs for less than £16 but in all honesty they’re OK for a child’s toy and not much more. A decent pair that will last you a lifetime will set you back between £200 and £300. If you really want to go mad, you could pay more than £1000 but we’d be too scared to take those out…
Frequently Asked Questions
You can use binoculars when playing golf but in tournaments the PGA has banned rangefinders during match play. They can be used during practise rounds but not in match play. A decent pair of binoculars will help improve your game. You will be playing over a large area, and that small ball could be anywhere, you’ll find it so much faster using a good pair of binoculars.
Over 90% of PGA golfers use Bushnell rangefinders. Bushnell also make great binoculars, so if you want to play like the pros, use Bushnell binoculars.