Will distance measuring devices matter?

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2021 PGA Championship / The Ocean Course
Posted on
May 20, 2021
M. James Ward in
Estimated reading time: 3 minutes

KIAWAH ISLAND, SC. This year's PGA Championship will mark the first major championship that permits distance measuring devices in an actual competition. Over the last few years, the PGA of America has taken steps to include different elements for its flagship event. One of those inclusions has been permitting competitors the option to wear shorts during practice rounds.


Will distance measuring devices matter?
Courtesy Premier Aerials

While distance measuring devices have been permitted in other professional and amateur events -- they have not been approved for actual PGA Tour competitions or the other three major championships.

The rationale given by the PGA of America leadership is that distance measuring devices will help the overall pace of play. Such a conclusion is debatable as others have claimed using such devices will only add to the overall time between shots.

PGA of America president Jim Richardson said, "We're always interested in methods that may help improve the flow of play during our Championships," with the idea that players and caddies can find their yardages faster, thus speeding up the pace of play."


Players and their caddies can derive yardage from such devices but those devices cannot provide such additional information concerning elevation and wind speed -- "using a device to get a recommended line of play or club selection."

The specific section of the Rules of Golf falls under Rule 4.3a(1).

Pace of play has been an ongoing item of concern -- especially for the PGA Championship, U.S. Open and The Open Championship since they involve larger size fields -- 150+ players. The Masters does not have such a large field of competitors - usually under 100 for the event.

The Ocean Course is renowned for major wind involvements generally picking up pace during the afternoon period.

Gauging club selection is a major concern for players but the issue of whether the usage of such devices will actually pick up overall pace of play is debatable since extensive time is generally spent on assessing putts and other short shots on or near the putting surfaces.

Undoubtedly, the usage of such devices will be measured to determine if actual pace of play was different with them being included versus time frames when not permitted. During the PGA Championship pace of play guidelines will be enforced -- regardless of whether players use them or not.

For purists -- seeing a Jack Nicklaus or Ben Hogan using such a device makes them wince. For younger players, who came of age to golf when such devices were always on the scene, the inclusion is of far less concern. 

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About M. James Ward

A GWAA and MGWA member, the 66-year-old from the USA has covered golf in all facets since 1980, notably the major championships and other high level events. He has played over 2,000 courses globally and has competed in USGA Championships.

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