How to Use Range Finders in College Golf

By NathanH
Range finders are allowed in college golf if they measure only distance.
Range finders are allowed in college golf if they measure only distance.

Range finders have become standard equipment for many golfers, including top-level players competing in college golf. A range finder allows a player to determine precise distance to reach a target, thereby aiding in the selection of the proper club. The technology typically uses laser and global positioning system readings to pinpoint a distance. Rules established by the National Collegiate Athletic Association and the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics address the use of range finders by collegiate golfers.

Adhere to USGA Rule 14-3 Note and Decision 14-3/0.5 by selecting a range finder that measures nothing other than distance.

The USGA’s original Rule 14-3 banned the use of a distance-measuring device such as a range finder, stating that a player “shall not use any artificial device or unusual equipment for the purpose of gauging or measuring distance or conditions which might affect his play.” The USGA later modified the rule -- with Rule 14-3 Note and Decision 14-3/0.5 -- to allow use of such devices in accordance with local rules if they measure distance only. That means a golfer may use a range finder if it is allowed on the course on which he is playing, or in any tournament competition sanctioned by local officials. However, a device that is capable of measuring other conditions, such as wind speed or slope of the ground, is illegal, even if the other measuring functions are disabled.

Read and comply with the guidance issued by the National Collegiate Athletic Association.

The NCAA addresses the use of range finders in -- for example -- its handbook for women's golf championships in Division III. In the “Instructions to Participants” section under the “Equipment” heading, it specifies, “Range finders that measure distance only may be used during practice and competition rounds.” The penalty for use of a “nonconforming” range finder is disqualification for that round.

Refer to and follow the rules established by other organizations that govern intercollegiate competition.

The NAIA and NJCAA websites note that their golf competition is conducted in accordance with the USGA Rules of Golf. The NAIA says, “The official United States Golf Association rules are followed for all regular and postseason play with NAIA-Men's Golf Coaches Association modifications.” The NJCAA says that it uses the USGA rulebook for golf competition.

Appendix C of the NAIA's golf coaches manual for 2011 and 2012 notes that golfers "may obtain distance information by using a device that measures distance only." It adds, "If, during a stipulated round, a player uses a distance-measuring device that is designed to gauge or measure other conditions that might affect his play (e.g., gradient, wind speed, temperature, etc.), the player is in breach of Rule 14 – 3, for which the penalty is disqualification, regardless of whether any such additional function is actually used."

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