Can I use a GPS, like the Golf Pad app, in a golf tournament? 

Does my GPS, DMD, or Rangefinder conform for tournament use? 

What does the USGA rule 4.3a say?


The USGA’s stance on Distance-Measuring Devices



For the longest time USGA rule 14.3 deemed it illegal to use laser or GPS rangefinders during tournament play or rounds posted to your handicap. There were a few revisions throughout the years that allowed devices under certain conditions or local rules. In 2006 the rule was adjusted to allow for distance devices only. In 2016 the device in addition to distance could measure slope, wind speed, and other plays like features. These additional features must be disabled or turned off during competition play. This rule still holds true today.


What does the current USGA rule say?


In 2019 the USGA rules allow the use of Distance Measuring Devices (DMD's) under rule 4.3a.


According to the latest published USGA rules on DMD’s, USGA rule 4.3a allows the use of distance-measuring devices so long as the golfer does not access any information that is prohibited under this Rule (details below). The first breach of this rule means the player receives a loss of hole penalty in match play or a two-stroke penalty in stroke play. A second breach of USGA rule 4.3 during the same round results in disqualification. NOTE: A golf course or the committee in charge of a competition does have the option to prohibit the use of distance-measuring devices by Local Rule. 


The types of devices allowed are both standalone devices (laser rangefinder, GPS watch, handheld GPS) and multi-functional devices (mobile phones, tablets).


USGA rule 4.3 states a player may use a device that is capable of operating a prohibited function, provided these specific functions are not accessed by the player during the round. "Access" is interpreted to mean that the player has viewed or otherwise used the information generated by a prohibited function, or the player uses a device where such out put is displayed.


What is allowed per USGA:

  • Distance between two points (can be shared with other golfers)
  • Pre-published information (swing tips, or advice on playing the hole)
  • Scorecard
  • Local weather information
  • Chart showing average club distances, obtained from prior rounds, for a wide range of clubs.

What is prohibited per USGA:

  • Displays of effective playing distances (slope, elevation, or other plays-like distance information)
  • Club recommendations
  • Processed or analyzed cub distances from current round
  • Gauges or measured environmental conditions, such as wind speed or altitude.
  • Analysis or display of swing, set-up or other swing mechanics


Golf Pad GPS app and USGA rule 4.3a?


The Golf Pad GPS app provides a number of informative features beyond those that conform to tournament play. These features provide golfers with valuable game enhancing feedback and data. If you're playing in a tournament or posting a round, the Golf Pad GPS app features that do not conform to the USGA rules can be turned off using Golf Pad's Regulation mode. 


DMD's and GPS have become widespread in the years since they we're introduced; they are allowed at most golf club competitions and golf tournaments throughout the country. However, some tournament committees may chose not to allow electronics devices, DMD's and GPS at their course or events, and can still prohibit their use under local rule. It is always best to check the local rule prior to an event or tournament, or ask your local golf professional.


NOTE: To begin improving your golf game, visit Golf Pad GPS to download the app for free.