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Why distance-measuring devices aren't needed at the professional level

By Geoff Shackelford

With the USGA joining the R&A in allowing distance-measuring devices to be used for the purpose of gathering yardages during amateur competitions, only major professional tours and the majors are free of the information gathering tools. And this almost assuredly will remain the state of affairs going forward.

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Setting aside the assertion that the use of these devices will speed up play -- both organizations sounded lukewarm to the suggestion because they know better -- distance-measuring devices remain virtually useless for a professional golfer on a course with even a semblance of thought required to navigate its hazards.

Yes, caddies will use them to double check yardages during practice rounds and if a player blows a drive into an adjoining fairway, the devices certainly would come in handy to zap a yardage from a spot not covered by a yardage book. That's assuming there's a clear view of the flagstick or a hazard that could be picked up by the device.

However, left unsaid in the mysterious urgency to introduce the devices to big time golf is just how meaningless yardages are to the flagstick compared to more nuanced information such as the distance to carry key features, or to certain slopes in greens or to the fronts of greens -- especially, if there is any firmness to the ground at all.

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Sure, there are mechanical golfers who don't take much into consideration when assessing the shot before them, but unless they are facing a featureless, flat design, the direct yardage to the hole falls short of telling the full story before them. The next time a television sound technician picks up an intense player-caddie conversation in the fairway, note how little attention is paid to the yardage to the hole. Their discussion invariably centers on the type of shot to play over, around or near a place other than the hole. And that is why distance-measuring devices will never be needed at the professional level.

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