In a rather surprising announcement, the PGA of America announced on Tuesday that it would now allow distance-measuring devices in its three professional major championships. This decision specifically pertains to the PGA Championship, May 20-23 at Kiawah Island in South Carolina. The KPMG Women’s PGA Championship and KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship will also allow the aid of the devices.
The PGA of America is now the game’s first major body to allow this aid in its premier professional events. The USGA’s Rules of Golf have allowed laser-equipped rangefinders and GPS-equipped devices in casual play and tournaments since 2006, but with the distinction that professional tournament committees can ban such devices, which has always occurred. Since 2014, they have been allowed in the annual U.S. Amateur.
A key takeaway is that the devices will not be allowed any PGA Tour competition rounds or at the U.S. Open, British Open or Master’s Tournament. The PGA Championship will be the ONLY major to allow rangefinders and other pro PGA events will still have the ban in place.
Additionally, the devices are only allowed to report on distance and direction. Many state-of-the-art devices can calculate wind speeds and elevation changes and can suggest a club based on the input of player data. All of the latter features are forbidden during professional play.
Essentially, the only time we will see professionals using these devices is during the PGA Championship. However, this could signal a shift in thinking and perhaps other events follow suit. Also, these devices have been permitted during practice rounds for over a decade.
The main reasoning for the move is to save time. Generally, players or caddies will walk off the distance from their ball to a sprinkler head or other feature. A rangefinder can obviously lock in on the green or pin and provide an exact number instantly.
“We’re always interested in methods that may help improve the flow of play during our Championships,” said Jim Richerson, President of the PGA of America in a press release. “The use of distance-measuring devices is already common within the game and is now a part of the Rules of Golf. Players and caddies have long used them during practice rounds to gather relevant yardages.”
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The MDG staff was split, leading to a fierce debate in the office.
“Get with the times, it’s about time they allowed this,” Mike Sullivan said. “I have zero issue with this. It makes it better for the players and the viewers at home.”
Fellow MDG co-founder Kyle Bogenschutz disagreed.
“If you give a golfer a number, it’s way too easy,” Bogenschutz replied. “These rangefinders nowadays get it down to mere inches. It will make it entirely too easy for the best in the game.”
Timothy Pontzer provided the office tiebreaker.
“I get not allowing golfers the use of carts. Walking is part of a professional round of golf,” Pontzer remarked. “But, like we talked about previously with the topic of limiting the clubs and balls that pros can use, I don’t see why a professional golfer can’t have access to the very best equipment that I can during a random Saturday morning round. Plus, if this can speed up a round, that will help the sport immensely with all the new fans that have come onboard recently.”
Do you side with Sullivan and Pontzer? Or do you prefer things to be the way they were like Bogey?
Let us know!
(written by Timothy Pontzer)
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