There is one simple fix for what is likely to be a controversial decision to allow players to use rangefinders and GPS devices at this week’s PGA at Kiawah Island: make them ‘either/or.’
By that, I mean players have to choose to EITHER take their caddie for each round OR take a rangefinder or GPS. But not both.
I would bet London to a brick you wouldn’t see a single rangefinder for the week if this was the rule, a fact which tells you everything you need to know about the value of the electronic devices at this level of the game.
The PGA of America announced in February they would allow use of rangefinders and GPS at their three flagship events this season with Kiawah Island being the first.
"There is zero chance that adding more information to what players already have at their fingertips is going to make play faster." - Rod Morri.
According to PGA President Jim Richardson at the time, the move is seen as a way to potentially speed up play.
“We’re always interested in methods that may help improve the flow of play during our Championships,” he said in a media 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.”
All of which is true except that at PGA Tour level, there is zero chance that adding more information to what players already have at their fingertips is going to make play faster.
As it stands, the viewing experience can be akin to watching paint dry as caddies and players thumb though yardage books, pace off distances and – most infuriating – consult those ridiculous green reading books before playing a shot.
Rather than replace any of these actions, the rangefinder will simply be added to the list thus completely negating any potential time saving.
About the only situation where one could make a case for their use is when a player is so far off line that existing yardage markers are of little help.
But at this level of the game is there enough of those misses to warrant adding an electronic aid to the assistance swag bag? I would argue not.
Like many, I would prefer to see authorities reduce the amount of information players have access to by banning green reading books.
The green mapping charts go against the spirit of the game in the eyes of many (this writer included) and the time they add to rounds is indefensible.
It’s not yet clear how many players will take advantage of the new rangefinder rule this week and it will be intriguing to see the effect.
I would be happy to be proved wrong but I can’t see how this move achieves anything other than making a game that is already too slow even slower.
And in the entertainment business that can’t be seen as a good move.