Rangefinders have helped to modernize the game of golf. In a world driven by technology and science, golf was undoubtedly falling behind. The introduction of the rangefinder has greatly benefited individual golf games and the speed of play. As helpful as these devices can be, they sometimes can be too beneficial. This leaves many golfers wondering if their rangefinder is legal for tournament play.
The USGA has strict guidelines regarding the use of rangefinders in tournaments. The good news is that rangefinders are legal in tournament play, as long as they meet certain conditions. Getting disqualified from a competition based on a completely avoidable rules infraction is a heartbreaking moment. Read on to find out everything you need to make sure you play this game as legally as possible!
The USGA Rule 14.3
The USGA Rule 14.3 is titled Artificial Devices and Unusual Equipment; Abnormal Use of Equipment. This rule is in place to make the playing field as even as possible. Giving one player an advantage over another would not make a match fair.
In 2006 the USGA decided that they would allow distance measuring devices in tournament play as long as the local golf course was accepting of this. This left county and state golf associations to make their own decisions regarding distance measuring devices.
In 2014 the general rule was adopted to allow the distance measuring devices in all amateur tournament play and events. This simply states that you can measure distance. Many rangefinders also have slope and wind speed capabilities; these are not legal in tournament play.
More information on Rule 14.3 can be found here.
Features That Are Prohibited During A Golf Tournament
As we mentioned earlier, rangefinders often come with the ability to check both slope and wind speed and direction. Some new players can be confused as to how the slope would help them. If you are standing 150 yards away from an elevated green, it can be hard to tell exactly how many yards you need to add in for elevation. The slope feature will give you that information.
This type of information, the part that makes the golf game so unpredictable and hard, is not something the USGA is ready to share in tournament play. All slope and wind features must be turned off for tournament play. Although there have been several devices made through the years where competitors could ensure that your slope was turned off, today, this is done via the honor system. When you check in to play, you state that your slope and wind features are turned off, and you can use the device in tournament play.
Rangefinders with slope are typically more expensive than those that do not offer this feature. If you are playing a lot of tournament golf and you don’t feel as though slope would help you in a practice round or during your tournament preparations, then it may be best to go with the more simple, less expensive option. We find that when players reach a certain level in their game, they have an excellent feel for how an elevated game or a windy day will impact their golf shot. Beginners and mid to high-level handicappers seem to benefit the most from the slope readings on their devices.
Related read: Do I need a golf rangefinder with slope?
Best golf rangefinders with slope that can be used in tournaments
As long as you turn the Slope feature off for your competition these rangefinders can be a great addition to your game.
- Callaway 300 Pro Golf Laser Rangefinder with Slope Measurement
- Bushnell Tour V4 Shift (Slope) Golf Laser Rangefinder
- Bozily Golf Rangefinder, 6X Laser Range Finder 1000 Yards with Slope ON/Off Technology
- Nikon Coolshot 20i GII Golf Laser Slope Rangefinder
- Callaway Tour S Laser Rangefinder 2019
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: What is the Local Rule, and do all tournaments utilize it?
The local rule is that distance measuring devices are legal in tournament play. All amateur events will use this local rule because it has been adopted by the USGA. Slope and wind measuring capabilities must be turned off.
Q: Can I use a golf rangefinder app that I downloaded on my phone?
Yes absolutely. Phones, tablets, and GPS units are all accepted types of rangefinders and distance measuring devices.
Q: Can I use a golf GPS watch?
You can use a GPS watch as long as it is just a distance measuring device. Keep in mind that slope and wind measurements are legal in friendly non-tournament play. The information that slope and wind provide will help newer players learn how these factors will affect their ball flight.
Q: Can I use a golf rangefinder for a college tournament?
Yes, range finders are allowed in college golf tournaments. The USGA allows this, and the NCAA has adopted the policy as well. Again, no slope or wind speed can be measured on the devices.
Q: Are PGA pro golfers allowed to use golf rangefinders during rounds?
PGA Tour pros are not allowed to use golf rangefinders during rounds. Despite several tests being done and a few Web.com tour events where they allowed rangefinders, the decision to allow them permanently has not been made.
Q: As a newbie golfer, do I really need to be bothered about these restrictions?
No. Unless you are playing in tournaments, you do not need to worry about slope and wind restrictions. Feel free to use all of the features that your rangefinder has and use them to better your golf game.
The most important thing to remember when choosing the correct rangefinder for your game is to make sure that slope and wind features can be turned off. When you have the ability to turn these options off, you have the best of both worlds. You can use the slope when not in tournament play to better develop your feel and visual depth perception. When in tournament golf, you will still get your distance without having to pace around the entire golf course.