What is Slope in Golf Rangefinder? A Detailed Analysis

A boy wearing shirt using a golf rangefinder

When I used to putt on the green golf course near my house, I often had trouble selecting the right clubs and shots for the uneven terrain on which I played.

There was the fact that a golf rangefinder helped me calculate the distance and force it would take to throw that little golf ball all the way to the hole so far from me. Yet, when it came to an uphill incline, I found that without a slope in a golf rangefinder and a slope function, I couldn’t hit the ball properly against the force of gravity.

While the number on the rangefinder would tell me that it was 175 yards, due to an incline, it would actually be 185 yards which only a slope could possibly tell me. And while it was not allowed in tournaments (see my article titled: The 90-Degree Rule in Golf) this slope in golf rangefinder could prove really handy for the practicing newbie. It could polish up your game as it did mine. 

Introduction to Slope Function 

You see, the golf architect who designed your course probably had in mind the fact that the more difficult the layout of your playing ground, the better it would function to sharpen your skills. While he probably never planned to trick you with this golfer dilemma, it turns out he was light years ahead of the amateurs who put away with utter futility on the links. So that is what a rangefinder slope does.

It eases your job with accuracy and precision. And while this electronic laser device cannot be used in a professional tournament no matter what, in normal practice, it can tell you the elevation angle and distance with the utmost speed and remarkable, pinpointed focus. 

Various Types of Golf Rangefinders

6 different models of golf rangefinders

There are basically two types of golf rangefinders. There are those with slope functions. Then there are those without it. A third kind also exists and while this one is rare, it is the best one to buy provided you have extra cash in your hands.

This one is the kind that has a button that allows and inactivates the slope function. While using such a rangefinder at a tournament may be allowed, it will cause quite a number of quizzical glances to appear on the faces of the other players. So it is best to proceed with caution. 

How to Use a Golf Rangefinder with Slope and Without Slope

a person using a golf rangefinder

You can peruse the online pages on the web, especially Amazon, and find the perfect choice that will suit you. The thing is this: to use a rangefinder with a slope is rather like using illegal drugs in athletics.

This will automatically get you disqualified. Yet even if you employ its services in private, that does not mean that you will not have to put in the personal effort. It is your skills plus the device and its technological ability that will determine how much you improve on the green course. Of course, that is not to say that using a slope function won’t improve your sharpness.

In simple words, it will. But you will have to put in the extra hard work too, if you want to excel at the game. It is not a case of lying back and allowing technology to take over the whole playing field. Without a slope function, you can become adept but in the beginning, you will have to calculate and do some guesswork as far as the angle, shot, and trajectory of your delivery are concerned. 

Summary of How to Use a Rangefinder

There is the distance from your hitting area to the hole and that is a straight line. A rangefinder without a slope can tell you that in a matter of seconds. Yet that is not the whole story.

The path your golf ball takes is in an arc and it actually forms a sort of trajectory or parabola. What that means is that not only the club you use but also the strength with which you hit the ball and the spin rate, matter in the final outcome.

What a laser rangefinder with slope adjustment does is send out a laser light to the target as your focus by looking into it at the hole-in-one. The laser signal goes and hits the goal and comes back to its point of origin.

However, this is not just a horizontal distance. There is uneven terrain and the bushes, lakes, and trees all get in the way. And the hilly nature of the terrain means that if it is an incline, it will take greater force while hitting. If it is a decline, it will conversely take lesser putting force.

The slope function will give a slope reading by subtracting the time between when the laser signal goes to the target and when it returns to its original source. 

What Exactly is Slope?

Image showing the concept of slope function.

Tournament play means that some of the most balanced minds with the most secure skills are together at a function to practice against each other in the form of healthy competition. Keeping the slope in view is a must for the best golf player at such a time.

The whole landscape is a queer thing since no one has the power or ability to calculate slope, distance, and force in his or her head at the time. It is a part guesstimate and part good old horse sense that comes in handy on such an occasion.

No one can do the math for the slope and only your previous slope study in the form of a rangefinder will come in useful at the competition grounds.  

How a Rangefinder with Slope Improves Distance Calculation

As previously said, the distance is not as simple as a line from point A to point B. It is actually a smooth hill-like movement that the golf ball goes through to reach the hole with the flag on it.

There are obstacles in the way and there are a host of factors such as the weather (wind condition) and golf handicap of the player that enter the equation as factors. The changes in elevation between the golf tee and the goal create a large number of complex hurdles in the way of even the most seasoned golfer.

So while on TV, it may look like just a matter of hitting the ball with a club, allow me to reassure you that it is much more complicated and difficult than that. 

Slope vs No Slope

The USGA (United States Golf Association) has put a strict ban on rangefinders with slope technology. That is because it would be unfair to those who are not using such a device. So to enter such a tournament that is under the aegis of the USGA, you would have to use a rangefinder with no slope function. However, as explained elsewhere, a slope function could be used in private practice which is informal and not a matter of competition with the pros.  

Technology in Rangefinder for Golf with Slope

The laser light in the rangefinder will work with precision. It will give you, the golfer, accurate and correct readings regarding the slope and how you are to overcome the obstacles in your way.

You can then choose the right clubs based on weight and hit the sweet spot when it comes to your stroke. The elevation between two points, where you stand and where the ball is supposed to go, will determine your skills and whether they are up to the mark or not. 

Sensors help Calculate the Distance

A women calculating the distance with the help of sensor

Some rangefinders have not only a button to activate and deactivate the slope function but another technological wizardry in their makeup. This includes pin finder and JOLT technology.

They will further augment the already sophisticated rangefinder. A GPS device is also not a bad idea when it comes to predicting distance. Yet, it cannot match the calculation of the difference in elevation on hilly courses that only measuring devices as a golf rangefinder slope can.

Accuracy if You Want to Calculate Slope

It would take a math genius of the stature of the one shown in the movie “A Beautiful Mind” to do the calculations in case of slope measurement. The way the laser technology will bounce off the target and find its way home is the ideal way for slope calculation.

To say that the ball in a straight line reaches its target is naive at best. You have to take decline and elevation into account if you want the larger picture. So many extraneous factors affect the distance that a distance-measuring device is a must for the amateur and even for the pro who is facing difficulties.  

Uphill & Downhill Putting Golf Rules

difference between uphill golf shot and downhill golf shot

There are basically two situations that a golfer will face depending on the slope. One is the uphill golf shot and the other one is the downhill shot.

As mentioned previously, the former will require more force while the latter will require less force. Once you use your rangefinder with slope and the slope function is enabled, you can easily find the figure that represents the complex distance. Otherwise, the slope is calculated by dividing the rise by the run.

This cannot be done in the human mind alone while you have a long line of golf players in a line waiting to take their turn after you. So it is here where a golf rangefinder that calculates slope difference is crucial to honing your skills to the most accurate level.   

Get a Rangefinder with Precision Technology

Rangefinders that will calculate the distance to the hole and earn you extra points on the course come in a wide variety of brands each one excelling the other ones in one area or another. Everybody knows that the use of rangefinders will improve your yardage by a greater margin.

After all, once you turn pro, the distance to the flag will be worth the extra cash you earn in competition. And although you won’t be able to use a slope golf rangefinder in a tournament, it can definitely prepare you for the tough times ahead like a baby walker will allow a toddler to ultimately leave it behind and walk on his or her own. 

Choice of Club using a Range Finder

The clubs you employ will be differentiated in accordance with weight. They could hit hard or fast or swiftly depending upon the club selection criteria you hold dearly to.

The ball after all will not reach the flag in a straight line. After the shot hits its peak, it will start going downwards yet it will still go a certain distance.

The force with which you hit the ball with the club, its velocity through the air, and the spin rate are all co-factors that have to be kept in mind. The only difference is you can now, thanks to the latest gizmos and gadgets, leave it to science and technology.  

Activation of Slope Mode

With a press of a single button, some rangefinders allow you to activate slope mode. Then with another press of the same button, you can turn it off. That is as easy as apple pie. 

Employment of a Rangefinder on the Golf Course 

Since a rangefinder with slope mode is illegal for tournament play, if you take it to a professional competition, the result will be your disqualification. Yet the fact of the matter is that even if you turn off the slope function on it and take it with you, it will still raise some eyebrows since you are there to practice in the raw and not use any supplements. 


So there you have it. A golf rangefinder will be able to calculate the distance of your shot and the change in elevation between two points. Many golfers starting out on their journey think it is just about how the ball is hit. Yet go a little deeper and you will realize that it is much more intricate than that.

The exact distance also requires that you calculate the angle at which you will putt on the links. A rangefinder with slope function is a must as your start out on your own. 

A Couple of Tips & Pieces of Advice

A Bushnell rangefinder

A Bushnell rangefinder is the standard one that may do the job for you. Yet there are several others that can also do the job for you and some are more sophisticated and pretty beautiful masterpieces of technology. Choose one in accordance with your budget. Don’t splurge but also don’t be stingy. That is my last bit of advice for you. 

Walk this Way Please.

As an energetic and enthusiastic golfer worth his salt, you will hopefully use a golf rangefinder with slope function in your salad days and later on discard it.

However, there are many pros who still use it in private. They don’t let anybody know about it though. When they go on their professional golf tours, they obviously don’t take it with them.

It could thus be a supplement and an amateur aid or it could also conversely be a lifelong partner that upgrades your golf skills in secret. Choose the right one and you just cannot lose. 

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Golf Improvement,guide,Qestions
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