THE RULES REGARDING DISTANCE-MEASURING DEVICES
In November 2009, the USGA and The R&A
issued a ‘Joint Statement’ on electronic devices, including distance-measuring
devices, to clarify how the Rules are applied in relation to these devices. See
the full Joint Statement Here.
In 2012, the USGA and The R&A added the
language of the ‘Joint Statement’ to Appendix IV,
Section 5 of the Rules of Golf.
On January 1, 2014, Decision 14-3/18 was
introduced to clarify how the Rules apply to various weather related functions
and applications on multi-functional devices, whether or not the device is used
to measure distance.
Most of the questions we receive in connection
with the Joint Statement relate to distance-measuring devices and some of the
most common questions are addressed below.
While the Rules for distance-measuring devices
are applied consistently between stand-alone devices (e.g., handheld Lasers or
GPS devices) and mobile applications on a multi-function device (e.g., a mobile
phone), users of multi-functional devices should also familiarize themselves
with other potential breaches that can occur while using their multi-functional
device, some of which are clarified in these Frequently Asked Questions.
In addition to the information within this
document, we have also created a flowchart to help individuals determine if
their device conforms. You can find the flowchart Here.
Q. When can I use a distance-measuring device?
A. The use of distance-measuring devices during
a stipulated round is contrary to the Rules of Golf – the penalty being disqualification
under Rule 14-3 (Artificial
Devices, Unusual Equipment and Unusual Use of Equipment). However, since
January 2006, a Committee can permit the use of devices that measure distance
only via a Local Rule. Before using your device, you should always check
to see if the Local Rule is in effect.
Q. What kind of distance-measuring
devices are allowed by Local Rule?
A. Stand-alone distance-measuring devices, such
as GPS and handheld lasers, are allowed by Local Rule if they can measure
distance only. The use of a distance-measuring device that is designed to
gauge or measure other conditions that might affect a player’s play, such as
gradient (slope), wind speed or temperature, is not permitted, regardless of
whether such an additional function is used or not - even if that function is
disabled. For multi-functional devices, such as mobile phones, see the
guidance in the question below.
To help golfers and/or officials determine the
status of a particular device, the USGA has produced a flowchart explaining
what is allowed when the Local Rule is in place. You can find the
Q. What about multi-functional devices, such as
a mobile phone, with a distance-measuring application?
A. On the course, subject to any club or course
regulations, a multi-functional device may be used to phone, text, access the
Internet or e-mail – provided the purpose is not a breach of the Rules (e.g.,
you are not asking for advice or accessing an application which gauges or
measures conditions or other information that might affect a player’s play).
Using the device for any prohibited function would result in disqualification
for a breach of Rule 14-3. This concept is explained further in Decision 14-3/16.
When a distance-measuring application installed
on the device is used, the application must be restricted to measuring or
gauging only distance information in order to conform to the Local Rule. The
application itself may not provide information that would be prohibited in a
stand-alone distance-measuring device.
If the distance-measuring application is used,
and there are any other features or applications installed on the device that
gauge or measure other conditions that might affect a player’s play (e.g., a
thermometer or anemometer), regardless of whether these other features or
applications are used, the device is considered non-conforming and use of the
device to measure distance would result in disqualification.. However, the
device could still be used for other permitted purposes as explained in
Decision 14-3/18 clarifies the difference between an application or function
which measures or gauges local weather information and one that merely reports
that information. Applications that merely report the weather are
permitted and can be used independently or alongside a conforming
distance-measuring application, so long as the device does not contain other
Our flowchart also covers the use of
multi-functional devices and should be of assistance in determining whether a
particular device is permissible or not. You can find the flowchart Here.
Q. What should the Local Rule permitting
distance-measuring devices say?
A. The wording of the recommended Local Rule (Appendix I,
Part B, 9) reads as follows:
[Specify as appropriate, e.g., In this
competition, or For all play at this course, etc.], a player may obtain
distance information by using a device that measures distance only. If, during
a stipulated round, a player uses a distance-measuring device that is designed
to gauge or measure other conditions that might affect his play (e.g.,
gradient, wind speed, temperature, etc.), the player is in breach of Rule 14-3,
for which the penalty is disqualification, regardless of whether any such
additional function is actually used.”
Q. If a club has in place the Local Rule
permitting distance-measuring devices and an external body (the national golf
association, for example) is running an event there, does that mean that
distance-measuring devices are automatically allowed in that national event?
A. No. It is the responsibility of the external body running the event to establish the Local Rules for the event. Those Local Rules supersede what the club has in place on a day-to-day basis.
Q. Does the USGA permit distance-measuring
devices at events like the U.S. Open Championship or the U.S. Amateur
A. Beginning in 2014, the USGA has approved the
use of distance-measuring devices in all USGA amateur championships and their
respective qualifying events. However, the Local Rule will not be adopted for
the U.S. Open, U.S. Women’s Open and U.S. Senior Open championships or their
respective qualifying events.
Q. If the Local Rule allowing distance-measuring
devices is in place, may players share a distance-measuring device?
A. Yes. The Definition of “Advice” and Decision 8-1/2 clarify that the distance between objects is a matter of public information and therefore not advice…although it is important that players sharing devices do not unduly delay play.
Q. Are Scores Made Using Information Generated
From a Distance-Measuring Device Acceptable for Handicap Purposes?
A. In certain situations, yes. If the
Distance-Measuring Device measures distance only, the score is acceptable for
handicap purposes, regardless of whether the Committee has established a Local
Rule allowing the use of a distance-measuring device. However, the use of a
device that gauges or measures other conditions that might affect a player's
play (e.g., wind or gradient) is not permitted and makes the score unacceptable
for handicap purposes, even if these capabilities are disabled or not used.