Slope Vs No Slope – Is There An Advantage?


Slope angles to the pin

Whether professional or not, many golfers know the importance of elements like distance and slope in golfing. It is difficult to perform to your best on the course without such knowledge. Today, golf laser rangefinder technology is available to automatically make such calculations. Here we look at the importance of slope, it’s performance in rangefinder tech and whether to pay for it as a buyer.

What Is Slope In A Golf Rangefinder?

In a golf rangefinder, the word ‘slope’ has a specific meaning. Basically, it is the change in elevation between two specific points on the course. For example, tee to green or rough lie to flag etc.

As a result, the different points from beginning to end of any golf shot will often vary in height. Calculating the distance from the ball to green or pin must include such height variations to provide a correct measurement. To combat this, the concept of slope was introduced to rangefinders. Most of the time, the difference in distance (slope and no slope calculation) isn’t significant. it will have a small effect on calculating the shot and probably none on the club needed.

At other times, the change is very significant and the shot selection impact more critical. In these situations, rangefinder slope capabilities are important. They can give a golf player with slope facilities a competitive edge during practice or course familiarisation.

Why Does It Matter (Slope Vs No Slope)?

Slope is a very important aspect that any golfer (professional or not) should consider. When I started playing I calculated the distance between myself and the flag in a straight line. of course,  I didn’t hit the ball in a straight line, the ball is hit in an arc. It is also hit with a trajectory that has an impact on how far the ball goes.

What happens is that after a shot hits its peak, it begins to fall while still moving forward. This action greatly depends on the contouring of the land. The contour could, therefore, affect the distance you calculate or your rangefinder tells you, for your shot. The effect can be worth between 20 and 50 yards.

The Importance Of Slope In A Golf Rangefinder

Having a rangefinder that also calculates this parameter is important. There are several reasons, among which are;

  • Having rangefinder slope (or lack of it) can influence your choice of the best club for every hit.
  • It will also help you determine how hard you need to hit golf balls each time (the velocity).
  • It will also help you determine the most accurate spin, which is impossible to do with the naked eye.
  • A rangefinder with slope is the key to hitting a good/better shot every time because it does all the calculation for you effortlessly.

AS a potential buyer you ought to choose a rangefinder device with slope – if budget permits.

The Difference Between A Rangefinder With Slope And One Without.

The major difference between the two device types is that the one with slope takes the changes in elevation into account when calculating the distance between you and your target. Lack of a slope capability means elevation is not factored in.

On the face of it then, it looks a fairly straightforward choice. However, other factors can apply.

When To Choose A Golf Rangefinder Without Slope.

While a golf rangefinder with slope may be beneficial in several ways, sometimes it can work against you. It all depends on where you are playing and the rules of your club and/or competition. The United States Golf Association (USGA) rules say using a rangefinder whose slope function is ENABLED in a competition is illegal. If discovered, it would generally mean immediate disqualification. Therefore, Pro golfers don’t use rangefinders with this slope calculating ability when playing in tournaments.

They may, of course, use one when practising. They may also use one when familiarising themselves with the tournament course before a competition. Note also that rules can vary in different countries and different levels of tournament so it pays to check the rules at whatever course a game is played.

It’s also worth noting that, although a rangefinder without slope may not perform a lot of useful calculations, it is still useful. Slope-less rangefinders can still give fairly accurate measurements of the distance. So, the choice is yours but the budget and level of play are obvious factors.

How A Rangefinder Calculates Slope.

A laser ranging device uses a laser to calculate the distance between you and the target. The laser is ‘fired’ when the trigger or range button is pulled/pressed The laser will, therefore, bounce off the target and back to the rangefinder where it is received.

The device from there calculates the distance from a user to the target. If the slope function is activated, while calculations are being made by the device, it will also calculate and adjusted slope difference. You will, therefore, receive two distance measurements. The first will be the actual linear straight line distance to the target often the pin).

The second is the distance plus an adjustment based on slope calculations. This can help in choosing the right club or judging how much club swing will be needed.

Can You Calculate Slope Without A Rangefinder?

Yes, you can but do you want to? The slope is calculated by dividing the Rise (change in distance up and down on a Y-axis) by the Run (change in horizontal distance left to right on an X-axis).

Ok, let’s all do that in our head or get out a calculator! Possible but really!? bear in mind also that the people you are playing with won’t appreciate you spending extra time to calculate. They will want their turn.

You will also need a pen, paper, and calculator to do the calculations….on the fairway! This is where a rangefinder with slope calculation comes in handy. It will speedily help you with all the mathematical calculations.

Can Slope Be Switched Off?

A slope-capable rangefinder is generally a good investment overall. Why? It’s because the function can always be switched off if needed. Most of the time, the device comes with a button or trigger that turns the facility on and off. For this reason, even professional golfers often get rangefinders with slope – even though they can’t use the tech during tournaments.

Having a slope-enabled device during a tournament may still raise some eyebrows from fellow players and officials if noticed. To help make it easy, some companies have manufactured their rangefinders with a faceplate. This provides a clear indicator of whether the slope function is enabled or disabled. This may be an attractive enhancement you want to consider if choosing an on-course distance measuring device.

Can Slope Give False Readings If Not Held Still?

Note that the slope adjustment calculates from the angle at which the rangefinder is held. When getting a reading from the flag or other course location, this factor will apply. This means that the calculations to find the slope depend on the angle and the adjusted distance.

Therefore, holding the rangefinder at an inaccurate angle can affect the reading accuracy. A degree of stability is also required. A round after a great liquid lunch in the clubhouse could produce problems with measurement. Unless you have technology to compensate.

Golf Rangefinders With Pin Seeker And JOLT Technology.

A rangefinder with pin seeker or range technology is one that ensures accurate target acquisition. This is achieved by isolating the target against the background. The technology shuts out the extraneous objects (trees for example) in the background. This allows a steady and reliable acquisition of the target. A rangefinder with this kind of capability does not usually give false readings, even if it is not held especially still (within limits of course).

JOLT capabilities are used by some range finding equipment. It is a method of confirming the rangefinder has accurately acquired the pin. This involves a series of confirmatory vibrations (like a mobile phone). these tell the user the pin has been successfully acquired. Hence the term ‘Jolt’

Is Slope Calculation Affected By Weather?

The only way weather would affect slope calculation is if the visibility of the flag is obscured. However, this is resolved fairly easily. Using a range finder with JOLT technology or one with significant magnification improves pin acquisition in poor weather.

Of course, a more direct effect of the weather is in obscuring the LCD readout of a range-finding device, slope or otherwise.

Is Slope Worth The Extra Money?

I certainly think it is, providing the buyer has the budget to include it. Such capabilities can add a considerable sum to a typical rangefinder. For this reason, golfers sometimes consider whether, at their level of play, it is worthwhile.

So, if budgeting is a factor then ask yourself the following questions in relation to your need for slope facilities.

Do You Play In Golf Tournaments?

If you’re a professional golfer that plays in tournaments, getting a rangefinder with slope may not be worth the extra cash. this is because you will not generally be able to use the facility in tournaments. You can, however, use it during practice and when walking the course.

Where Do You Play?

If you often play golf courses that have significant elevation changes, you may want to invest in a rangefinder with slope. On a strongly undulating course, slope will help you hit better and more accurate shots with the right choice of club.

What To Consider When Buying A Golf Rangefinder With Slope


Golf ball and club

There are a number of features to look for if considering a golf distance measurement device with slope built-in.

Adaptive Slope

This helps to make the capability more versatile for any play and any course. The feature aims to compensate for the elevation distance. You want a product usable in any situation (where it is permitted) making both uphill and downhill shots.


Most of the rangefinders in the market have a magnification feature. However, the best rangefinders in the market are those with a magnification of 6X. The magnification feature helps to allow for better vision with flags that are close and at distance. By doing so, the feature allows you to have clear and swift target acquisition.

Dual Display Technology

This feature allows you to select the best display (LCD or LED). This means that you can choose the visual display presentation. This can be very useful, depending on the weather, lighting levels and personal preferences.

Pin Seeking Technology/JOLT

As previously noted, this rangefinder capability features short pulse vibration that makes it quick to confirm the correct location of the flag. It also lets you know the moment you have locked on the location of the flag. This feature improves the accuracy of the rangefinder in any situation as it discounts course clutter such as from trees or other obstacles.

Other Slope Buying Considerations

  • Cost – Slope-capable ranging devices are costlier than their counterparts. The price is driven by the brand and the feature range of the device. For instance, if you are looking for one with the features mentioned above, you could well have to pay extra. You can always choose to forgo features that you don’t need to better match the size of your budget. It’s important to work out the priority capabilities that you feel you absolutely need.
  • Durability – it is always wise to get a product that you can use for the long run. This is especially important if the product is costly.
  • Ease of use – you also need to get technology with a shallow learning curve and that you can use effortlessly.

Are Golf Rangefinders With Slope Legal?

For years it was considered illegal to use a rangefinder with slope during a tournament. This was the case even if the player did not plan to enable the feature. The US and UK authorities for golf tournaments recently allowed the use of rangefinders with slope in certain tournaments. However, players can only use a device if the slope feature is disabled. This means that if a player is seen to have enabled the slope feature at any point in a tournament, he or she can be disqualified. Slope reading, according to officials both in the UK and US golf tournaments is considered cheating.


Slope is a very, very useful facility in modern rangefinders. There are tournament limitations, extra cost and a variable range of facilities and enhancements. Also, factor in the level and competitiveness of golf played. Do your golfing commitments justify it – are you into tournament play?.  Careful consideration as a buyer is essential.

However, my own view is that if there are no budget considerations then the inclusion of a robust switchable slope capability on a rangefinder is a must buy.


Range The Drive