The Rules regarding Distance Measuring Devices

by David Rickman, Director of Rules and Equipment Standards

From the days when selecting a club was done by “eye”, we have progressed through yardage books, a development often attributed to Jack Nicklaus, distance markers at the sides of fairways and distances on sprinkler heads, to a point where electronic distance-measuring devices, have become quite common in certain areas of the world.

In November 2009, The R&A and the USGA issued a ‘Joint Statement’ on electronic devices, including distance-measuring devices, to clarify how the Rules are applied in relation to these devices. See the full Joint Statement here.  

Most of the questions that we receive in connection with the Joint Statement relate to distance measuring devices, and some of the most common questions, along with the answers, are provided below.

 

Q. Can I use a distance measuring device in a competition?

A. The use of distance measuring devices during a stipulated round remains contrary to the Rules of Golf – the penalty being disqualification under Rule 14-3 (Artificial Devices, Unusual Equipment and Unusual Use of Equipment). However, since January 2006, a Committee can permit the use of some such devices via a Local Rule.

 

Q. What kind of distance measuring devices are allowed by Local Rule?

A. GPS, laser, any really; however, it is important that the device only measures distance. The use of a distance-measuring device that is designed to gauge or measure other conditions that might affect a player's play, like gradient, wind speed or temperature, is not permitted, regardless of whether such an additional function is used or not, and even if that function is disabled.

 

Q. What about multi-functional devices, such as a mobile phone, with a distance measuring application?

A. On the course, subject to any club or course regulations, a multi-functional device may be used to phone, text or email – provided the purpose is not a breach of the Rules,