The U.S. Golf Association has made a major change to the Rules of Golf, for the first time ever, electronic rangefinders will be permitted to be used during tournament play. These GPS- or laser-powered devices measure the precise distance to the pin from any location on the field. While rangefinders have been used for years by amateurs, the new “local rule” will let individual clubs and courses decide whether or not they can be used in a tournament.
The Texas-based Tight Lies Tour will be the first-ever professional golf tour to allow players to use an electronic device to get yardages during competition. The tour has partnered with SkyGolf GPS and its SG2 rangefinder, which uses satellite-based technologies to measure the distance to the green, to carry a bunker or to lay up short of a water hazard.
The USGA and R&A have discussed allowing such devices under the rules. In the United States, rounds played with the aid of electronic rangefinders can be posted for handicap purposes. The majority was finding yardages and going through the routine. With this move, the USGA will be breaking away from the canons of the Royal & Ancient Golf Club of Scotland, which sets the rules for golf everywhere else in the world. The next time the rules can be changed is 2008, but the R&A is in no rush to allow electronic assistance.
Though the USGA has greenlighted the revolutionary move, traditionalists are pushing for a ban on the device contending that the system essentially amounts to cheating. Traditional caddies are worried the device will put them out of business, as they make a living from their in depth knowledge of the local courses. But golf’s governing bodies don’t have any control over amateurs.