A new Approach: The Garmin Z30 laser rangefinder Review

By , Golf Equipment Writer
  • At a glance

  • TG Rating 4.5 out of 5
  • Owner Rating Not yet rated
  • Pros
    • Simple easy directions for set-up
    • Connectivity to other Garmin products is outstanding
    • Works as well on it's own as it does when paired
  • Cons
    • Possibly too lightweight for some
  • RRP £389.99

What we say...

The rangefinder market has been full of models offering either laser-found pinpoint accuracy or the use-me-anywhere utility of a GPS. Rarely though, is there an option for an all-in-one

Garmin Golf are no strangers to combination models with the releases of the Approach Z80 in 2018, and the current generation follow-up from 2022, the Approach Z82. The Z-series has been designed to offer maximized functionality of both the best GPS watches and the best Laser Rangefinders inside one well-designed package.

The one shortcoming of the Z82 is that if you’ve invested in another Garmin product, like the Approach S70 watch, it feels like quite a high price to justify the additional range-finding option when you have one-half of the selling point on your wrist already.

This is where the new Approach Z30 looks to break the mold.

Garmin Approach Z30 in box

Technology

On the surface this is like several other lasers on the market; precision accuracy from 400 yards away in an aiming optic that delivers 6x magnification of the golfer’s immediate target.

The PlaysLike Distance feature helps to offer options to anyone playing on a golf course that wasn’t built on a disused Ikea car park. This can, of course, be turned off using the ‘Tournament Mode’ on top of the unit and your playing partners can be safe in the knowledge you aren’t breaking any rules by looking for the blue light display to confirm it’s conforming in competitions.

Garmin Approach Z30 with Tournament mode feature

Where the new Approach Z30 sets itself apart, however, is that it has been manufactured with family compatibility in mind. As we said, without another Garmin product on your person this is exactly as above. If you already own one of the top-performing watches on the market, this is where it gets interesting for you.

When connected to one of the Approach watches, such as the S12, S42, S62, or S70, or the Garmin Golf app, the Z30 makes use of what Garmin refers to as True Distance. This means the targets you zap out on the course with the laser will now also display the target line front-of-green and rear-of-green distances within the optic, in a clear and bright red heads-up display.

The reverse is also true, with any yardages picked up by the Z30 also displaying on your paired smartphone or watch to give real-time accurate feedback if you prefer to play with another device in your typical round and need a laser to check you’re lining up to the correct target.

Features

Depending on which Garmin product you already have, PlaysLike distances will also take into account real-time local data. This even includes air density – which factors in air pressure, temperature, and humidity – with the Approach S70 to give one of the most accurate readings of yardage you’ll ever find.

Garmin Approach Z30 Front/Rear View

The complimentary features on offer are the magnetic cart mount, allowing you to conveniently attach the Z30 to the side of a golf cart or trolley. Garmin also offer Find My Garmin through the Garmin Golf app in case you do happen to misplace your new laser rangefinder (or it’s been ‘borrowed’ by my father, in my case).

With an RRP of $399.99/£389.99, the Z30 is within the cost range of most high-quality, basic rangefinders but the added functionality certainly sets it apart. As someone who is always skeptical of cross-connectivity and the promise of seamless interaction, I was interested to see how this new product would work.

Would I see complete ease of use, as described, or would I be spending more time getting frustrated than actually using the tech? Armed with my new Approach Z30, combo-ed with an Approach S70 watch, I went to the course to see how much difference it could make versus my normal Bushnell Tour V6 laser.

Garmin Approach Z30 profiles and case

Review and Verdict

My first round with the Garmin Approach Z30 has been a revelation. As I said, normally my Bushnell will take the reigns for any yardage outside of shots inside 100 yards but from the first hole I knew the Tour V6 was living on borrowed time.

It took moments to pair the Approach Z30 to my Approach S70 watch and I was straight onto the first tee box to check what I had in. At the top of the display, when turned on, was a small Bluetooth symbol. This symbol flashed for two seconds or so before solidifying to let me know the devices were working together.

When highlighting the flag in the target you get a small vibration, subtler than the ‘Jolt’ tech in the Bushnell, and down the left side you have a visualization that shows the distance of the pin from the front and back of the green. There’s also the ‘PlaysLike’ yardage listed below which took in wind, barometric readings, and slope in conjunction with my watch. This is a game-changer for me.

Garmin Approach Z30 displays shows different green readings and PlaysLike distances

No longer do I still have to guess how I can approach each shot with a single piece of the puzzle. I now have the knowledge to judge if I need to take more, or less, club; whether I need to use a higher trajectory because there’s less space to land the ball; or whether I can let the ball run in some more; or if a particular shot shape would help me access the pin more easily.

The bonus of this joint interaction between rangefinder and watch is that, where I occasionally would forget my yardage while choosing between clubs, a quick glance at my wrist gave me the updated pin position on the green as well as the lasered distance – an incredible convenience of speed in my round.

I think my conclusion with the Garmin Approach Z30 is this.

If you’re uninvested in any current distance-measuring technology, this is not the rangefinder for you. You absolutely will be better off with the full package in the Approach Z82. But if you do already enjoy a Garmin device and want to unlock more options in your golf game, this laser option cannot be beaten in 2024.

About the author

Lewis Daff

Lewis Daff

Lewis Daff joined the Today’s Golfer digital team in 2024, having spent more than a decade in both big box golf retail and independent stores, working as a club fitter and builder.

Experienced with every level of golfer, from beginner to professional, he has achieved Master Fitter and Builder status with most major manufacturers, including Mizuno, Taylormade, and Callaway, helping him to cement both a wide and deep knowledge base. Lewis specializes in Clubs, Shafts, Training Aids, Launch Monitors and Grips.

In Lewis’ bag is Taylormade Qi10 Driver, Taylormade SIM Max Fairway Woods (3-15, 5-18), Wilson Staff D9 Forged 3-iron, Srixon ZX7 MKii Irons (4-PW), Titleist SM9 Wedges (52*, 60*), Toulon San Diego Putter, and Callaway Chrome Tour Ball.

Talk to Lewis about why steel shafts are now dead and graphite is the only way forward or any other equipment you’d like to debate via his email.

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