The R&A - Working for Golf

Distance Measuring Devices

From the days when selecting a club was done by “eye”, there has been a progression of aids available to player to help gauge distance. Initially, there was the introduction of course yardage charts (a development often attributed to Jack Nicklaus), distance markers at the sides of fairways and distances on sprinkler heads. More recently, we have reached a point where it has become quite common for Committees in certain areas of the world to put a Local Rule in place to permit competitors in their events to use electronic distance-measuring devices.  (See Appendix I, Part A, Section 7 for the recommended wording).

Where such a Local Rule is in place, competitors must ensure that the Device they are using complies with the restrictions of this Local Rule and that they do not access other information which would cause them to be in breach of the Rules. For further information on the issues relating to distance measuring devices, please see the information below.

Understanding the Rules on DMDs

Rule 14-3 does not permit the use of any artificial device or unusual equipment for the purpose of gauging or measuring distance.

However, a Local Rule may allow the use of a distance-measuring device during a round of golf, to measure distance and distance alone.

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:

  • gauge or measure slope;
  • gauge or measure other conditions that might affect play (e.g., wind speed or direction);
  • access recommendations that might assist the player in making a stroke or in his play (e.g. club selection, type of shot to be played, green reading or other advice related matters)
  • calculate effective distance based on elevation changes or other conditions affecting shot distance.

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.