Is Rangefinder Legal In Golf: What You Need to Know in 2023

Are Rangefinders are legal in golf?

Rangefinders offer accurate distance measurements, but is rangefinder legal in golf? Here are all the latest updates about the legality of rangefinders. 

Rangefinders are now legal in golf tournaments. However, the use of rangefinders in golf has been a topic of much debate and discussion among players and officials alike. While some golfers swear by the accuracy and convenience of these devices, others argue that they undermine the traditional spirit of the game.

Let us explore the legality of rangefinders in golf tournaments, the reasons behind the rule changes by organizations, and examine the pros and cons of using rangefinders on the golf course.

I. Current stance: Is rangefinder legal in golf tournaments?

Golf rangefinder devices are allowed for competition play in golf tournaments. Currently, golfers can use a rangefinder in three professional major championships:

  • PGA Championship
  • KPG Women’s PGA Championship
  • KitchenAid Senior PGA championship.

II. What makes Rangefinder illegal in golf tournaments? 

However, there are certain restrictions on the features they can have. Here is a breakdown of what is not allowed during tournament play:

  1. Slope Reading: Rangefinders that provide slope readings, which indicate the degree of elevation and “plays like” yardage, are not permitted during tournament play. These features give you additional information about the shot you’re playing and are considered to provide an unfair advantage.
  2. Weather Conditions: While you are allowed to check for thunderstorms or extreme weather conditions using your rangefinder, features that provide real-time wind speed or other weather-related information are not allowed.
  3. Contacting a Coach/Trainer: During a round of tournament play, you cannot use your rangefinder or any other device to contact a coach or trainer for assistance or advice.
  4. Swing Analysis Software: Reviewing swing analysis software or any kind of swing path technology during play is prohibited. This includes video swing analysis and other similar features that provide detailed swing analysis during a round.
  5. Suggestions features: Some rangefinders and GPS devices collect your swing data to provide club suggestions based on your swing history. Rangefinders with these features are not allowed during tournament play as they offer an unfair advantage in club selection.

III. What you can measure with rangefinders in golf tournaments?

During golf tournaments, rangefinders can be used to measure various yardages on the course. Here are the key measurements that can be obtained using rangefinders in tournaments:

  • Determine the distance to greens, hazards, trees, and other key points on the course.
  • Document information related to the round, such as scores and distances.
  • Share distance details with fellow players.
  • Monitor weather conditions, including rain forecasts and upcoming storms (although wind speed measurements are not permitted).

Quick Glimpse

Are Rangefinders legal in golf?

iV. Why were rangefinders banned in golf competitions? 

Rangefinders were initially banned from competitive golf tournaments because they removed the skill of estimating distances, which could influence the competition’s results. 

There was also concern that allowing rangefinders might give an unfair advantage to players who owned them and disadvantage those who didn’t. 

v. Why did the USGA change the rule on rangefinders?

The USGA’s decision to reverse the rule on rangefinders in competitive golf was primarily driven by the desire to improve the pace of play.

With rangefinders already commonly used in non-competitive golf and linked to faster rounds, allowing the use of distance measuring devices in competitive play eliminates the time players spend calculating yardages. This change aims to streamline the game and enhance the overall golfing experience. 

However, according to the USGA, devices that calculate elevation changes, wind speeds, suggest clubs, or provide additional data are still not permitted. 

VI. When did PGA allow rangefinders?

The PGA Tour allowed the use of laser rangefinder devices alongside golf GPS devices in 2019, becoming the first major body to permit them in all premier professional events. 

Prior to this, the use of rangefinders was allowed in casual play and tournaments since 2006, but a local rule could still ban them in certain competitions. 

The elite professional levels of play had not fully embraced laser rangefinders for competition rounds, although they were allowed in the U.S. Amateur since 2014. 

However, devices that calculate elevation changes, wind speeds, suggest clubs, or provide additional data are still not permitted. 

VII. Can pro golfers use a rangefinder?

Laser rangefinders are permitted in competitive PGA championships, according to the Rules of Golf, allowing professional golfers to use them. 

However, despite this allowance by the PGA of America, some pros still prefer traditional methods to measure distance due to their extensive experience and comfort with these techniques.

VIII. Other information about rangefinder’s legality

Currently, the use of rangefinders in golf tournaments is limited. While discussions about expanding their usage are ongoing, their use is only permitted in specific tournaments. However, there is more information to consider:

1. Are GPS watches legal in golf?

Golf GPS watches are legal for use in golf as long as certain features, such as slope readings, plays like information, wind data, and swing metrics, are not utilized. It is important to adhere to these restrictions when using GPS watches on the golf course to ensure compliance with the rules and regulations.

2. Sharing rangefinder with other players

According to the USGA, it is allowed to share a rangefinder with another player in the group. While the Rules of Golf prohibit sharing clubs between opponents during a match, there are no specific rules that prohibit sharing other equipment, such as a rangefinder, with an opponent on the course.

3. Using rangefinder app on smartphone

Yes, you can use a rangefinder app that you have downloaded on your smartphone or tablet for competition use in golf. These devices, equipped with golf gps apps, are generally allowed in tournaments. 

Always review and adhere to the guidelines provided by the organizers to ensure that the use of the rangefinder app is permitted during competition play.

4. Using a rangefinder in a local qualifier

Utilizing a rangefinder in a local qualifier is generally allowed, provided it’s used strictly for measuring distances and not for gauging other factors like wind speed or slope gradient.

5. Using a rangefinder in college tournaments

Rangefinders are allowed while playing golf in college tournaments, including practice rounds, as long as the “slope” and “gradient” settings are disabled. 

If these settings cannot be turned off, the device will be considered illegal and not permitted for use in the tournament. It is important to ensure compliance with these regulations to adhere to the rules of fair play in college tournaments.


Rangefinders have become increasingly popular in professional and amateur golf, offering quicker and more accurate measurements than traditional methods. While rangefinders are permitted in some golf tournaments, it’s essential to ensure that any prohibited features are disabled to comply with the rules and regulations of fair play. 

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