Can You Use Rangefinders in Golf Competitions?

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One of the first and most frequently asked questions by people interested in purchasing a rangefinder is whether they can be used in golf competitions or not, and the answer is both yes and no, depending on the provisional rules of the tournament you’re playing in.

If you’ve found the perfect rangefinder and are held back by the question, “Can you use rangefinders in golf competitions?” it’s important to know the ins and outs of golfing etiquette as well as the rules and regulations surrounding tournament and casual play.

Quick NavigationUsing a Rangefinder for Casual PlayUsing a Rangefinder for CompetitionsWhat is a Rangefinder With Slope?Is it Illegal to Use a Slope Rangefinder in a Competition?Carefully Reading Rules and RegulationsFINAL VERDICTUsing a Rangefinder for Casual Play

Using a Rangefinder for Casual Play

If you’re heading out on the greens with friends, family, or even on your own, using a rangefinder is fine, as long as the other players are okay with it as well. Considering that rangefinders are commonly known to be a golfing handicap, it can be against golfing etiquette to use one if the other players in your group don’t have one as well. With that being said, you can always share the same one while playing, but if the other people don’t want to, it’s advised that you don’t as well.Also, when it comes to using a rangefinder on a particularly popular golf course, it’s important to note that you must only use it if it’s not interfering with other people playing the same hole as you. Ideally, you’re going to need to stand out of the tee box so that other people can progress with their game as you’re taking your measurements. The last thing you’ll want to do is impede everyone else’s progress as you wait for the rangefinder to calculate the distance between you and your target.

Using a Rangefinder for Competitions

This is where all of the rules and regulations come into play, more than golfing etiquette, as there are rules that explain why using particular types of rangefinders are prohibited, especially for professional and competitive play.

If you are signed up for a tournament, you will more than likely be prohibited from using a rangefinder that calculates slope, as this gives you even more of an advantage than just a regular rangefinder. However, the tournament officials have the ability overturn this rule, even though it is rarely (if ever) done.

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What is a Rangefinder With Slope?

When you ask whether you can use rangefinders in golf competitions, you need to know whether your rangefinder can calculate slope or not. Calculating slope helps you to get an idea of the difference in elevation between you and your objective, most often the flag, so you can account for any differences in distance. With this information, you’ll be able to know exactly how hard to swing, what angle to go for, and even the type of club that you should be using for a particular swing.It takes all of the guesswork out of golfing and gives you factual evidence to help you customize your abilities to the particular hole you’re working toward, which leads us to the next question, is it legal to use golf rangefinders with a slope function in a competitive setting?

Is it Illegal to Use a Slope Rangefinder in a Competition?

The simple answer is yes, using a rangefinder that calculates slope in a tournament or competition is against the rules and regulations set by the USGA (United States Golf Association). It is seen as a substantial handicap that can set players far above others, and in order to maintain the competitive nature of golf, using a rangefinder with slope calculations must be prohibited.However, you might be able to use a traditional rangefinder without slope. In March 2017, the PGA announced that they would begin allowing players to use rangefinders (without slope) in select events throughout the year. This truly marked a precedent for competitive play as it took away the stigma of using traditional rangefinders in a professional setting. With that being said, the rangefinders that were allowed could not calculate slope, wind, or elevation—just purely distance.The USGA followed suit by announcing that they would allow players to use rangefinders during competitions starting in 2019; however, professional tour organizations will still have the opportunity to continue disallowing all rangefinders based on their preference.

Carefully Reading Rules and Regulations

If you’re unsure as to whether you can use a traditional rangefinder during a competition, it’s advised that you read the rules and regulations for each player before heading out on the green. If all else fails, you can always contact the administration to determine whether they are allowing the use of measuring devices or not.

If so, it’s recommended that you purchase a unit that either doesn’t have a slope-measuring function at all or that allows you to switch the slope function on or off.


There are many advantages to using a rangefinder for both casual and professional play, especially if you’re the type of person who is looking to improve their game by cutting back on the number of shots needed to make a hole.

If you’re wondering if you can use rangefinders in golf competitions, you can in most cases, but it all depends on the governing body that is sponsoring the competition and it’s always best to check the printed rules prior to deciding to purchase one.

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