The R&A - Working for Golf

Distance Measuring Devices

Since the days when selecting a club was done purely by “eye”, there has been development of aids available to players to help gauge distance. Initially, there was the introduction of course yardage charts, distance markers at the sides of fairways and distances on sprinkler heads. More recently, technological advancements have resulted in devices, often referred to as Distance Measuring Devices (DMDs), which can accurately measure distance using a variety of technologies. 

Since 2006 the use of such devices has been allowed, but only under a Local Rule put in place by the relevant Club or Competition Committee.  Now, the 2019 Rules of Golf allow the use of DMDs without the need for a Local Rule.  But, in the situation when an Committee wants to restrict the use of such devices, it can put a Local Rule in place prohibiting the use of DMDs 

Although the Rules of Golf allow the use of DMDs, players must ensure that the device they use complies with the restrictions in Rule 4.3a(1) . For additional guidance on distance measuring devices, please see the information below. 

Do’s and Don’ts

Even when the Local Rule is in place permitting the use of distance-measuring devices there are certain do’s and don’ts that golfers need to be aware of:


You may use a device to:

  • Measure straight line distance between two points;
  • Access a club yardage chart based off historical information;
  • Enter your hole scores;
  • Enter shot information – for later analysis (e.g. club used and location);
  • Access a local weather forecast.


You may not use a device to:

  • Measure elevation changes;
  • Calculate effective distance based on elevation changes or other conditions affecting shot distance (often called the plays like feature).
  • Measure other conditions that might affect play (e.g., wind speed or direction);
  • Interpret distance or directional information (such as using a device to get a recommended line of play or club selection.

Your Distance Measuring Device Questions Answered

Most of the questions that The R&A receives in connection with distance-measuring devices along with the answers, are provided below and in the document linked to below.

Q. Can I use a distance-measuring device in a competition?

A. The use of a distance-measuring device during a stipulated round remains contrary to the Rules of Golf – the penalty being two strokes in stroke play or loss of hole in match play for the first breach and disqualification for any subsequent breach.  This is as per Rule 14-3 (Artificial Devices, Unusual Equipment and Unusual Use of Equipment). However, since January 2006, a Committee can permit the use of some such devices via a Local Rule.

Q. What kind of distance-measuring devices are allowed by Local Rule?

A. A GPS, laser, smart phone, any really – provided the device meets certain guidelines and recommendations. The important thing to remember is that the device must only be used to access permitted information. The player would be in breach of the Rules if the device is used to access prohibited information, such as elevation changes and club recommendation features.

Q. What about multi-functional devices, such as a mobile phone, with a distance-measuring application?

A. Subject to any club or course regulations, a multi-functional device may be used, provided it is not to access information that, if used, would cause the player to be in breach of the Rules.

For a full list of Q’s and A’s in relation to distance measuring devices, please click here.