Frequently Asked Questions: 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. Selected
language from this statement has since been added to Appendix IV,
Section 5 of the Rules of Golf.
While Rule 14-3
IV govern the general use of electronic devices and, specifically the
use of distance-measuring devices, this document answers a number of common questions
including: use of the Local Rule; what types of devices can be used to measure
distance; and the general use of multi-functional devices during a round of
Throughout this document DMD will be used as an abbreviation
for Distance-Measuring Device. Additionally, in all cases where an answer
states that use of a DMD is conforming, it is implied the DMD conforms to the
Rules of Golf only when the Committee
has also permitted the use of a DMD through the Local Rule. If the Local Rule
has not been adopted, use of a DMD or a multi-functional device to measure distance
is a breach of Rule 14-3,
even if the device only measures distance.
The bullets below are provided to help readers better
understand the terminology used in this document:
Two types of conforming DMDs are permitted under
the Local Rule:
Devices are devices designed to measure distance and, while the device may
have additional features, the primary function of the device is to measure
distance. Common devices include Lasers, and handheld and watch style GPS
Devices are devices such as mobile phones and tablets that are designed for
general use yet it is also possible to install an application or program which would
allow the device to function as a DMD.
Playing Distance is used to describe the use of measured data other than
distance (e.g. elevation, temperature, shot trajectory, humidity, or wind) to
calculate a distance other than the actual distance from the device to the
In addition to the information in this document, individuals
can also access a flow
chart to help determine if a device conforms
Application of the
Q1. Does the USGA
permit DMDs at events like the U.S. Open Championship or the U.S. Amateur
A1. Beginning in 2014, the USGA has approved the use of conforming
DMDs 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
and their respective qualifying events.
Q2. If a club uses the
Local Rule permitting DMDs and an external body (e.g., the local golf
association) is running an event there, does that mean DMDs are automatically
allowed in the event?
A2. No. It is the responsibility of the Committee in charge
of 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.
Q3. What should the
Local Rule permitting DMDs state?
A3. 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.”
Q4. If the Local Rule
allowing DMDs is in place, may players share the device?
A4. Yes. The Definition of “Advice”
8-1/2 clarify that the distance between objects is a matter of public
information and therefore not advice.
Q5. What restrictions
apply to stand-alone devices?
A5. Stand-alone devices can only be capable of measuring or
gauging distance. However, it is OK for the device to have other conforming
features such as weather/lightning alerts, clocks, calendars, or a basic
Q6. Can a stand-alone
device include a club recommendation feature?
A6. No, a device cannot recommend a club. However, you are
permitted to reference a chart of estimated distances you hit each club based
on data processed from prior rounds. As a result, a device can include a similar
function (e.g., display the average distances you hit each club), which still
requires the player to make a decision in selecting a club. The device must not
use data collected from the stipulated round to recalculate the average
Q7. Can a device
measure and record the distance I hit my clubs?
A7. Yes, so long as the device is measuring distance only and
any data collected is not used during the stipulated round in a manner that is
not permitted (e.g., updating average club distances, displaying yardages hit
during the stipulated round other than on the hole currently being played).
Q8. Some stand-alone
devices have a removable part that, when installed or attached, allow the device to measure effective playing
distance or display other non-conforming information, yet, when the removable
part is not installed or attached, the device can only measure distance. Do ALL
such devices conform?
A8. No. Whether or not this type of device conforms will depend
on how the device was manufactured and questions regarding these types of
devices should be directed to USGA Equipment Standards.
The following questions provide guidance only to
Multi-Functional Devices, such as a smart phone or a tablet.
By design, these devices are capable of performing many
different functions during a stipulated round, only one of which is the ability
to measure distance. It is important to recognize the interactions of the
multiple Rules regulating what is generally permitted and those that apply only
if the device is used to measure distance.
Though it is outside of
the scope of the Rules of Golf, all players should abide by any club or
organization policies related to the use of these multi-functional devices.
Q9. Is it OK to use a
multi-functional device to measure distance?
A9. Yes, however additional care should be taken to ensure
that using a multi-functional device to measure distance is not in breach of
the Rules. Multi-functional devices may contain other features or applications
that would render use of the device non-conforming, even though the application
being used to measure distance is itself conforming.
Q10. What types of
features or capabilities can be included as part of an application that
A10. Any feature or capability permitted on a conforming stand-alone
device is also permitted within a distance-measuring application. Generally, if
an application is capable of measuring anything, other than distance, that
might assist the player in his play, use of the application would be a breach
Q11. When a
multi-functional device is being used to measure distance and the specific application
being used to measure distance is conforming, what other installed features or
applications are prohibited, even if these additional applications are not
A11. While not a comprehensive list, if a multi-functional
device is being used as a DMD, the following features must not be present on
the device or the application must not be installed on the device, regardless
of whether they are used:
Any application or feature that can measure or
gauge variable conditions that might assist the player in his play (e.g., thermometer,
anemometer, humidity, pressure, etc.) or
Any application designed to analyze the golf
Q12. In follow-up to
Q11, would it be OK to have these features or applications on a
multi-functional device if the device is not being used to measure
A12. Yes, provided they are not used during the stipulated
Q13. While Q11
indicates that a player cannot measure or gauge weather conditions, can a
player use an internet browser or application installed on a multi-functional
device to access weather related information, which was measured, through a
local weather station (e.g., temperature, wind speed, nearby lightning strikes,
A13. Yes, accessing weather information reported by another
source is permitted. Whereas actively measuring or gauge these conditions is
Q14. There are many
features and applications available for multi-functional devices that could be
used in a way that might assist the player in his play. Are there general
guidelines that should be followed to ensure that, if used, they are only used
in a way that does not breach Rule 14-3?
A14. The following examples are provided to help clarify how
a variety of common features and applications can be used in such a way that is
not a breach the Rules and how these same features or applications, when used
in a different way, would result in a disqualification penalty under Rule 14-3.
Phone, text messaging, email, internet: OK to call home, respond or send a business email, or check the weather; not OK to call a swing coach and discuss your swing.
Camera (still photos and videos): OK to capture your swing and review it after the round; not OK to review an image or video that was recorded during the round.
Spirit Level: Use of a spirit level is a breach only if the level is used in such a way that might assist the player (e.g., measure the slope on the green).
Note these features or applications can be present or
installed on a multi-functional device regardless of whether the device is
being used to measure distance. See Decision
Distance-Measuring Devices and Handicapping/Score Posting:
For questions related to the acceptability of scores made
when the player uses a DMD, see the USGA Handicap System Manual, Rule 5-1
and related Decision