Electronic Distance Measuring Devices

Frank and Valerie, love you guys and thanks for the frequent frankness. Please tell me why distance range finders are not allowed at the U.S. Open?


Thanks for your greetings and support.

The ban on electronic measuring devices (EMDs) in championship play is a question many of us have.
All I can say is that “tradition” is sometimes hard to define or understand in this instance.

I very much agree with some traditions – maybe just basic manners my father taught me – such as removing your hat when shaking hands with someone after a round — or any other time of greeting — or whenever greeting a lady. Also don’t wear your hat (cap) in the club house, or any house.

Perhaps I am just old fashioned but we play an old-fashioned, mannerly game.

When it comes to permitting the use of EMDs in championship play my feeling is that we parted with the tradition — of not allowing distance-measuring devices — a long time ago.

Hundreds of years ago, a good caddie was the first ‘distance measuring device’. This then followed a natural progression, of 150 yard markers, to sprinkler head markings, to “Stroke saver” yardage booklets etc. – even on the Old Course at St Andrews — and now EMDs to provide the same information that was available from a good caddie, and still is, if you can find one and afford his/her services.

We now allow the Open competitor all the information necessary to obtain the exact measurements to the flagstick including a “pin-sheet” or hole location sheet for every green – provided to every competitor by the championship committee on the first tee, every day of a championship.

If we are not concerned about providing the information, why would we possibly be concerned about HOW to get it?
This is, I suppose “tradition,” which may not make sense if we think about it. So let’s not think about it.

There are some genuine advantages to getting the distance information a little faster but speed is certainly not of sufficient importance to influence the decision. How you get this information is important from a “traditional” point of view.

If we go back in time to the days of Old Tom Morris, he didn’t have the advantage of reading — on the sprinkler head — the distance to the front of the 18th green, because they didn’t have sprinkler heads, or even sprinklers in his day.

What would Old Tom have done if he had an EMD available to him today? I suggest he would endorse its use, if it stopped all the dithering around and slowing play to look for a marked sprinkler head or a march stone in the yardage booklet etc.

Let me know if you think the Major championships should allow EMDs during play, and if so when?

23 thoughts on “Electronic Distance Measuring Devices

  1. Use them immediately. Then put a clock on the player when it is his time to play. Phil Mickleson is my favorite player on tour, but he and Bones wear me out with their decision making discussions. Everyone should get to their ball, decide what they are going to do and be ready to play when it is their time to play. If sharing a cart, when you get to the first ball, the other player should walk to his ball and be getting his measurements while the first player plays and drives to the second players ball. Then, if not in a tournament, everyone should play “ready golf”.

  2. Make them legal!

    Since it is already allowed to walk off the exact distance for any shot what difference if a laser or satelite provide the same data? Even the pros pace off distances. They do not have every distance in their books, but they do have exact distances from sprinklers, etc., and they walk off those. As such, even the pro gamemwill speed up. I see Phil pacing off shots all the time.

  3. I am not so sure about these devices speeding up play. My usual Saturday 4some seems to spend far more time peering at their GPS and through their range finders than they used to take estimating the distance based on the course markers. These devices haven’t made any appreciable difference in their scores, either.

  4. Frank good to see your supporting this speed improving device for the game. Please help the “powers to be” on getting this tested and in use worldwide on all levels ASAP!

  5. The line of sight laser range finders can help a bit. I have one but I prefer the Sky Caddie. I use Sky Caddie because as other have noted…sometimes we don’t have a clear line of sight from the adjacent fairway! When I arrive at my ball, I quickly scan the sky caddie, select my club and then miss it quick!

  6. We’ve got golf’s “silly season” coming up. Why not use these devices in some of these competitions and see how it goes.

  7. For the pro players who already have yardage info in their books, I don’t see that it would make any difference. For hackers who can’t hit 2 consecutive 9 irons within 30 yards of each other, it’s a double edged sword, often getting them to spend too much time thinking about which club to hit short, long, or wide of the target.

    • The hacker you mention is more a product a good number of golfers have no idea how far they hit their irons. Measuring devices speed up the game, ill informed people slow it down.

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