April - 2012

Because technology changes so quickly, the Rules of Golf need to stay as current as possible. The Decisions on the Rules of Golf are re-visited and brought up to date every two years, allowing for the R&A and the USGA to keep up with any and all outside changes affecting the consistent governing of the game.

Under Appendix IV Devices And Other Equipment, the need to stay on top of technology is very important. Section 5. Distance-Measuring Devices, covers the proliferation of this new multi-functional device everyone has (hey - your smart phone!).

The apps that are available to help your golf game at this point in time are quite remarkable. Think back where we were 10 years ago as compared to now-wow!

This is a tough area for the Rules to stay current and fair, and I think the USGA has done a very good job outlining how technology can be used during a stipulated round of golf.

Please read this section on Distance-Measuring Devices. Being aware of what you can and can't do on the course is in everyone's best interest.

5. Distance-Measuring Devices (Rule 14-3)
During a stipulated round, the use of any distance measuring device is not permitted unless the Committee has introduced a Local Rule to that effect (see Note to Rule 14-3 and Appendix I; Part B; Section 9).

Even when the Local Rule is in effect, the device must be limited to measuring distance only. Features that would render use of the device contrary to the Local Rule include, but are not limited to:

o the gauging or measuring of slope;
o the gauging or measuring of other conditions that might affect play (e.g., wind speed or direction, or other climate-based information such as temperature, humidity, etc.);
o recommendations that might assist the player in making a stroke or in his play (e.g., club selection, type of shot to be played, green reading or any other advice related matter); or
o calculating the effective distance between two points based on slope or other conditions affecting shot distance.

Such non-conforming features render use of the device contrary to the Rules, irrespective of whether or not:

o the features can be switched off or disengaged; and
o the features are switched off or disengaged.

A multi-functional device, such as a smartphone or PDA, may be used as a distance measuring device provided it contains a distance measuring application that meets all of the above limitations (i.e., it must measure distance only). In addition, when the distance measuring application is being used, there must be no other features or applications installed on the device that, if used, would be in breach of the Rules, whether or not they are actually used.

Derek Duesler