Loaded question that needs clarification. In the age where technology continuously trumps humans, golf is not untouched by the phenomenon. What follows is the advent of golf GPS devices and that ties a neat bow over your golf course management method. At the click of a button before teeing off, you can automate the whole process of distance measurement in golf using golf GPS DMDs. With automatic hole advance, voice clip-ons, shot replays, advanced stat tracking and constant improvement in GPS receivers, they are revolutionizing the details of golf like never before. It is too good to be true. And whatever is too good to be true is probable too good to be legal, right? Well, not in this case.
For the longest time the USGA/R&A rule 14/3b prohibited players from using any distance measuring device or using any other device for gauging other conditions of the play. This kept the rangefinders at bay. But in 2006, golf finally caught up with technology and invited Decision 14-3/0.5 that allowed tournament authorities to add a local rule that would legalize distance measurement devices subject to some restrictions. So as per this decision, in a golf tournament, if a local rule is applied then devices that measure distance only, are allowed to be used.
However major tournaments like PGA or LPGA do not pay heed to this small allowance and can disqualify players for using rangefinders. Even if the caddies are found using the rangefinders during the tournament, the players will be disqualified as in the case of Jerry Rice who learned this the hard way.
But it is okay to use the golf GPS or laser rangefinder devices during practice in these tournaments.
The use of a distance-measuring device is a breach of Rule 14-3, which states that during a stipulated round, the player shall not use any artificial device or unusual equipment for the purpose of gauging or measuring distance or conditions which might affect his play (Rule 14-3).
The USGA Handicap System requires players to post scores made when a device which measures distance only has been used (regardless of whether the Committee has adopted the Local Rule described below). Scores made while using a device which measures other conditions which might affect play (e.g., wind speed or the slope of the ground) are not acceptable for Handicapping purposes. Please refer to Section 5-1 of the USGA Handicap System Manual regarding acceptable scores.
The Committee may, by Local Rule, permit the use of devices that measure distance only (i.e., the device may not be used to measure other conditions such as wind-speed or the slope of the ground). (Rule 14-3 Note and Decision 14-3/0.5)
The recommended language for such a Local Rule can be found in Appendix I; Part B; Section 9.
If the Committee has adopted a Local Rule permitting the use of distance-measuring devices, these devices may be shared by players (see analogous Decision 5-1/5 regarding the sharing of equipment other than clubs)
The exact wording of Rule14-3 is given below (courtesy www.usga.org/rulesfaq)
If you are comfortable with it, you can even share the golf GPS devices and rangefinders during a casual round of golf. All the rules apply for gauging score on your handicap as it is serious business.
And therein lies the complexity of the Local Rule that defines golf’s big jump into the 21st century of artificial intelligence. Does it mar the thrill of the game? For some of the veterans, sure! But for the young talent who have grown up nestled in the information age, using golf GPS systems is a natural answer to yardage musing. Using these GPS enabled golf apps brings a noticeable change in the pace of game. These devices provide an instant reading reducing the delay of spotting sprinklers and what-not.
The question is whether you are ready to take your game to the 21st century.