Leica Pinmaster II golf flag finder hands-on

Pro camera and sports optics firm Leica has already dabbled in the golf rangefinder market before, with the Pinmaster, but has made big improvements to its sequel, the Pinmaster II. For starters, the internal LED screen is clearer, offering a more legible read-out, has an ultra-waterproof lens coating, and can be set to read distances in yards or metres.

Aesthetically, it's identical to its predecessor; all matt white and sexy, with an eyepiece at one end, and the exit pupil/laser lens at the other. There are two buttons on the top, and that's about it.

In use it's the same too: focus the eyepiece, point the device at the golf pin and press the larger of the two buttons twice - once to set the target, the other to send out the (eye safe class 1) laser to measure its exact distance. The result is then presented in number form under the target. Job done.

There's some cunning technology involved to ensure that it's spot on too, and that it is the pin's distance that's measured, rather than some errant trees, squirrels or suchlike. Its proprietary First Target Logic tech looks for the target within the viewfinder that's nearest and reports on that. It helps when the green is clearly visible, and we found that a steady hand is a must as the further the pin is, the more it tends to wobble in the sights.

To help refine measurement to smaller objects over greater distances, the Pinmaster II also features a scan mode, which will continually scan the terrain as you hold down the button. It uses up more juice (from the solitary CR2 battery needed for power), but will give you a result every time.

Thankfully, for use in the British weather, the device is waterproof for up to 1m in depth, so is fine to use in rainy conditions, and it comes with a carry case to protect it when stored in a golf bag, for example.

To test the Leica Pinmaster II ourselves, we took it out for a round at Muswell Hill Golf Club in north London and found it to be unerringly accurate. As most on-course yardage markers are measured to the centre of the green rather than the pin, the flag finder proved to give us more accurate readings of genuine distance.

Whether it has improved our game, however, is debatable. After all, knowing the correct distance is only half the battle, getting there in a clean, straight line is a constant struggle for all amateur golfers.

Of course, that's not the Leica's fault, and should our game get better, we could see a definite advantage to having such a device. If there's just one criticism, it's that it can add time to the preparation for each shot - at least while you're getting used to the rangefinder - and on a busy day at the club, you could find yourself shoo-ed along by irate members behind you.

Perhaps, initially, you should practice with it on quieter days. Then, as it is authorised for competition under R&A rule 14.3 (unlike golf GPS devices), you can take it out for more serious use.

You'll certainly look the part.

The Leica Pinmaster II is available from plenty of golf retailers, both online and in stores, for around £495.

What's your favourite golfing gadget? Let us know in the comments below...