Are Golf Rangefinders with Slope Legal?

by Simon Daniels

Are golf rangefinders with slope legal? This is a question a lot of people ask when looking for golf rangefinders in the market. Many of the rangefinder units available in the market right now are non-slope versions. However, may big brands offer a variety of options for golfers to choose from. Whether or not rangefinders with slope are legal depends on different factors.

Important Questions to Ask Yourself

Before you go ahead and buy a golf rangefinder with slope, you should first stop and ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Do you participate in golf tournaments?
  2. When you play, do you take time to post your results to the Golf Handicap and Information Network (GHIN)?
  3. Do the golf courses you frequently play in have significant elevation changes?

These three questions will go a long way in guiding your golf rangefinder purchase decision. This only helps to decipher whether the golf rangefinder you are about to purchase conform t the rules of the sport.

How Much Does a Slope Matter?

if you always play in a relatively flat golf course, may not know what it means to play on elevated courses. You may barely know how slopes affect a golfer’s play. The truth of the matter is that slopes make a huge difference when playing golf. That is why some players would rather spend a few more coins on purchasing a rangefinder for playing in courses with where the elevation significantly changes.

The Local Rule in the USA

The USA’s Professional Golfers’ Association doesn’t permit players to use any form of artificial distance measuring equipment during any pro tour, the Champions, Nationwide and PGA tours included. However, they don’t prohibit caddies or players to use rangefinders on their courses when practising because they can help golfers modify or create a yardage book. Since yardage books are not seen as artificial, players are allowed to use them for reference when playing in the actual tournaments.

If you are playing in the USGA and R&A, there is a local rule that you have to abide. The rule gives a provision for the use of distance measuring equipment. However, if the rangefinder, either GPS rangefinder, smartphone or laser rangefinder has the capability of measuring other conditions like wind speed and slope, you have to make sure that these features are turned off.

It is important to understand that if your device doesn’t allow you to disable or turn off these features, then it will not be legal. Nonetheless, turning or disabling them when playing is very much legal.

Before, Rule 14/3b did not permit a player to use any artificial distance measuring device to measure or gauge the conditions that might be affecting his gameplay. This alone was reason enough to make using rangefinders illegal. It would even lead to disqualification.

in 2006, however, things changed. The USGA and R&A gave the go-ahead to tournament committees of implementing a local rule that could allow the use of distance measuring equipment. This rule only allows using these devices to ONLY measure distance. Before 2016, it was not possible to use these rangefinders even when other features were turned off. Afterwards, the rule was revised and equipment that could disable such features while playing were allowed, provided that players turn off these features.

What is allowed and what is not

 The USGA only permits the use of two types of equipment for measuring distances on the courses. Golfers can either user stand-alone devices like the rangefinders or the multi-functional devices. Stand-alone devices may include smartwatches or hand-held devices. Multi-functional devices may include tablets and smartphones.

Here are some of the things a golfer is allowed:

  • Measuring and gauging the distances to targets.
  • Sharing the GPS device among golfers.
  • Accessing their phone and checking emails, weather and texts.
  • Accessing record swings after a round.
  • Measuring and recording distances of shots.
  • A GPS having other features like a scorecard, calendar and clock.

Some of the things that are not allowed include :

  • Swing measuring features.
  • Measuring and gauging calculated distances for slopes.
  • Club suggestion features.
  • Calling, texting or emailing swing coaches during a round.
  • Recording and reviewing videos or images of the swings taken during a round.
  • Actively measuring the weather conditions like humidity and wind speed using the devices.

Using Golf Rangefinders in the UK

Just like in the USA, golfers in the UK need to know the yardage while taking their shots. Some use the data from sprinkler heads, while some use their caddies. However, most of them would rather use their rangefinders to get data.

However, in as much as these golfers use these artificial distance-measuring devices, some technicalities would prevent them from using these devices on tours and tournaments. Since the PGA in the UK complies with the same rules as the USA, they may limit the use of some features, including using rangefinders to calculate the slope of the course. It is not allowed to get calculations of elevation changes using these devices. Therefore, if a pro golfer uses these features in competitions, he would be essentially breaking the rules and would be liable for disqualification.

The Truth of the Matter

Although pro golfers, be it in the USA or the UK are required to abide by these rules when using distance-measuring devices (DMDs), not so many golfers actually take part in these tournaments or competitions. Most of them just play for fun and as a pastime sport. For such players, using a rangefinder with slope is not illegal. Go ahead and grab you ranger finder, phone app or GPS when going to the golf course. Furthermore, if your rangefinder comes with features that allow you to gauge weather conditions like humidity and wind speed, you should feel free to use them if it will make you play better and faster. If you want to enjoy playing golf more, then go for it.


Golf purists would rather disapprove the use of range finders, believing that they give an unfair advantage to players. They also believe that using these DMDs is not in the spirit of golfing and dilutes the skill of players. However, using or not using rangefinders comes down to what your golfing needs are. If you are playing in a pro tournament or keeping a handicap on GHIN, ensure that you turn off the slope feature. Nonetheless, using a rangefinder is acceptable, especially on courses with many elevation changes.

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