Pros weigh in on R&A decision to allow rangefinders for its amateur events
By Stephanie Wei under Amateur Golf
Lasers approved!
The R&A, one of golf’s governing bodies, announced on Monday the approval of distance measuring devices — or most commonly known as rangefinders or lasers, etc. — for their amateur championships in 2014, including the British Amateur. Your move, USGA! 

However, it was stressed that this new decision will not be applied to its professional championships.

“It will not be introduced for The Open Championship or any qualifying event for The Open Championship,” the R&A said in a statement.

They added that it was not advocating other organizations apply the same rule.

Luke Donald was among the first pro to react to the news on Twitter.


On Wednesday at the Waste Management Phoenix Open, seven pros shared their opinions on the R&A’s announcement. I also asked for their take on whether they thought the DMDs should be allowed in the professional game. Here’s what they said…

*“I think in a setting where there’s professional caddies, you don’t need (distance measuring devices), but (amateurs) can’t afford caddies and the travel and all that stuff, so it makes sense. It speeds up play and guys aren’t looking around. I don’t think it makes them any better because I think Chris (my caddie) is more accurate. He gives me the information I want rather than generic information, but for that level of play, I think it’s a good idea.

“I wouldn’t care if (it became legal for the pros). I think relying on it would be a mistake. I think Chris gives me much better information than a machine is going to give me. Another thing, you would have to relearn in a sense — this is going to sound funny, but Mark Long makes the (yardage) books and I know how far I hit it in Mark Long yards. He might be off by 1/10th or 1%, I don’t know, but (all the pros) are off by that much. I’d have to learn new things maybe. I’d be OK with it, but I don’t know if it’d make a big deal out here.

“I have a lot of funny things I want to know. Let’s say I’m hitting a shot to the green and the pin is back left, I want to know the (distance to) cover on the left bunker — it might be more than the front for depth perception; it might not be in play; it might be 20 yards behind it, but it gives me an idea of how far it is. I want to know how far it is in terms of behind the flag, left of the flag, between the bunker and the flag, between the swale and the flag — maybe there’s a downslope — I want to know how far it is from that slope.

“There are a lot of things that would be difficult to get with a laser that my caddie can give me. If you look at his books, they’re crazy. Another thing my caddie does, two years ago, I hit a 6-iron on this hole and it went this far. If you look at his yardage book, he’s going to have every shot I hit on every hole in the book. Now I have a history that’s something a laser is going to give me.

“But again, back from a pure pace of play, we live in a modern world, I think this is probably a good idea.”


*“I don’t think it’d be a bad thing to have lasers. It’d make it a lot faster…The caddie is so much more than just the guy who gets a number. Jon (Yarbrough) and I have been together for two weeks now and his ability to get yardages is the least of my worries. I’d rather him be good at other things than be less worried about how he gets a number.”


*“If measuring devices help speed up the pace of play, then it’s a great idea. I personally think they should be allowed throughout the game of golf, especially if it helps speed up play.

“I guess the argument against it would be that learning a golf course and maybe being wrong on numbers is part of the game, as well, and I understand that, but my opinion is if it helps move us along, then just do it.

“The numbers we use are lasered during the practice rounds. Technically, we are using lasers. The only days we don’t use lasers when we play golf is in PGA Tour events.”


*It’s fine for amateurs, but I don’t think it should be approved in professional events… it’s just the tradition of the game and it also takes out the err of judging the distances or the angles of distances when you’re out of position.”


*“I disagree with lasers for pros. It’s fine for amateurs because they don’t have caddies and it speeds up play. I like the fact we have a caddie, we have to get a number, we have to get it right. We have to judge stuff. We use the range finders in the practice rounds to get the numbers over the bunkers and to flight the greens and stuff, but I like the fact we get our own numbers.

“The only thing is it would speed up play. Sometimes we go to a sprinkler head and there’s no number. Then my caddie has to walk over and double check another sprinkler head or (calculate) it off the bunker. That just cost us a minute. Or if we hit it *way* off line? You can see the pin, but the sprinkler is over there, so he’s gotta walk over to the middle of the fairway, pace it off, then you lose another three minutes.”


*”Sure, it’ll improve the pace of play a little bit, but people won’t learn how to play the game the way they’re supposed to play, so I think it’ll have a negative effect on golf itself, but it’ll do what they want it to do. It’ll improve the pace of play, but not that much — maybe five to ten minutes.

“I don’t think they’ll approve the lasers for the pros and I don’t think the pros will want to use it anyway. Because there’s so much more to hitting a golf shot than just the yardage and that’s what the pro game is about. It’s not just clicking a laser and saying 152, you’re hitting 152. Pros worry about bunker carries, how firm the greens are, how far the ball is going to bounce, how much the ball is going to spin — lasers aren’t going to help that. We might use the laser, but we’d also calculate the yardages using our yardage books. So for the pro game, it’s not going to improve anything.

“To be honest, I think the whole place of play thing is a non-issue for the pro game. If we improve 10 minutes, what’s that going to do to make the fans happy?”


*”Amateurs can do whatever — they can have mulligans, they can have gimmes. If they want to use measuring devices, then that’s fine. They’re amateurs, so they’re not getting paid. Once you cross that line, then it’s different and I don’t think pros should be allowed to use them.

“Horrible idea (to legalize for pros). It’s part of the game. It doesn’t improve speed of play. If you want to improve speed of play, just cut down the allotted amount of time you give someone to hit a shot. It takes less than 10-15 seconds to get your yardages, but I’ve played with some guys who take two minutes to line up a shot, figure out what club to hit, and go through their whole routine, so it doesn’t improve their speed of play and I think their main focus is to improve the speed of play.

“Pre-shot routine, calculating the wind, calculating where to hit it, where to miss it, where the best area to hit it on a certain part of the green. You get so caught up in trying to play the smartest shot and playing your percentages that it takes a minute, a minute and a half to figure out what club you want to hit and then where you want to aim.

“Getting the yardages is a natural part of the game. It goes with the preparation of the golf course. If you’re going to allow measuring devices, you might as well allow carts because that speeds up play. If you want to speed up play, let’s speed up play. I think they’re looking in the wrong area for that.

“They need to focus on how much time they’re giving a player to hit a shot and if it’s 40 seconds, then you start timing them as soon as they get to the first tee box and might as well have everybody get an official warning before they tee off — if you’re out of position, you’re going to get penalized. I think that would help more because if you penalize someone a stroke, now you’re in their pocket.”