Are rangefinders legal in golf? USGA Yardage Finder Rules for Competition

Last Updated on June 2, 2023 by Kristen Ellis

Are rangefinders legal in golf? This is a common question for players. Let’s find out features that make it legal and features that can make rangefinders illegal.

A rangefinder is a distance-measuring device that measures the distance from the observer to a target. This process is called ranging. There are two types of rangefinders that many golfers use to improve their games:

  1. GPS Rangefinder
  2. Laser Rangefinder 
are rangefinder legal in golf

GPS rangefinders take less time to measure the distance from the hole or any other golf course point. Simultaneously, laser rangefinders use exact laser technology to measure the distance between the observer and the target. 

USGA Rangefinder Rules

In earlier times, electronic items weren’t allowed in golfing. But with technological advancement, the rules of playing golf have changed. The rules are mentioned in Rule 14-3, which talks about artificial devices and equipment and the technology’s misuse. It discusses the law prohibiting players from using any measuring device while playing golf. It helps the players utilize their skills, experiences, and abilities without unfair means. Any measuring device, like a GPS device, would breach the rule and result in a penalty. 

After developing different technologies, the rules of golf became lenient, and the use of rangefinders became permissible. But some conditions need to be considered. Other devices that are allowed in the tournament are as follows:

Can you use rangefinders in golf competitions?

Many people often think about the same question; while playing golf, many golfers require the measurement of the distance on the shots they play. Some people use a caddie, while most use a GPS or laser rangefinder to measure the distance. But under the Rules of Golf, golfers aren’t allowed to use any rangefinders to play.

According to the United States Golf Association (USGA), they consider GPS units to provide information regarding the competitor as they are distance measuring devices. The USGA charges a penalty to players who use rangefinders in the game.  

Later in 2016, the USGA revised Rule 14-3, which allowed golfers to use rangefinders in a tournament. However, the match’s corporate body creates specific rules for the particular game. These rules can prohibit measuring certain things like slope and wind direction. They aren’t allowed to give tips as the caddie does.

Many golfers don’t like to compete in such tournaments and want to play; however, they like using rangefinders and different phone applications.

Some features are allowed, and some are not permissible in the golf tournament. The United States Golf Association has allowed using two types of distance measuring devices under Rule 14-3 to enable electronic devices. These devices are: 

Stand-alone Devices

These devices include a laser or GPS yardage finder. They can be either a watch or a handheld device. 

Multi-functional Devices

These devices include other devices like phones that can download applications that use a distance-measuring device. 

Features of USGA Approved range finders

The features that are allowed in golf are as follows.

Measures distance to trees and hazards

The rangefinder can measure the distance to trees and other hazards. However, the use of any other feature would result in a penalty. 

Sharing data with other competitors

You can share different data and details with other players but not with your trainer. 

Record round data

You are permitted to record data like distance and scores in the game. However, the data should not give you a competitive advantage against the other players. 

Check weather conditions

You are allowed to use the device to gain access to information like rain or storm. But you are not allowed to use the feature of measuring wind speed and directions.

Some other features are allowed in the golf tournament. These features are:

  • Share the GPS devices among other players.
  • Calculate the distance to your target.
  • Calculate and record the distances of the shots you make. 
  • Use the device for other simple features like a clock, calendar, and scorecard information.
  • You are allowed the accessibility to calls, texts, emails, and weather checks. 

Features of rangefinders not allowed in golf

Some features are not permissible under the rules of golf. These features are as follows:

Slope Readings

This feature was the first to get banned because it gives the player a competitive edge. It allows the player to reach the readings for the degree of elevation. It also helps them detect the vertical distance from different surfaces and the observer’s distance to the target. 

Measuring wind speed

It is another banned feature in golf games because you can quickly determine how hard you hit the ball by measuring wind speed. This feature will also help tell about the direction of the wind and the expected resistance, which gives an inequitable perk to the user. However, you can use this feature to be wary of a storm on the tournament day. 

Contacting the Trainer

The golf tournament prioritizes a fair game. You cannot take any help or tips from your coach or trainer during the match. 

Swing Analysis Software

Swing analysis software is an upgraded program that many golfers use to determine the swing’s strength by its tool. It captures the video from your camera phone, and you can check it on your computer. 

You cannot use the swing analysis software program in the game as it comes under cheating. 

Club Suggestion Features

This feature gives the user an unfair advantage over their competitors, allowing them to record their data and performance and review it later. It can help you determine how hard you hit the ball the last time. In this way, you can improve your shot or remember the skills that you lack. For example, a GPS device can recommend club suggestions based on your previous hit. 

It would be best if you deactivated all of the above features at the time of the tournament. You can use the device during the competition if you can do so.

Are Rangefinder legal in golf info


To conclude and clear the question “Are rangefinders legal in golf” rangefinders have become legal after 2016 with the amendments in Rule 14-3. However, some devices and features are allowed in the game, and some are banned. Using such elements can result in penalties or disqualification from the competition. Some golfers play just for fun and can use all the devices with different features. While some play in matches, they must be wary of their features to be safe from penalties.