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Accessing vs. Determining Weather Data

Posted: 2/11/2014

What is the acceptable use of a Multi-Functional Device under the Rules of Golf to obtain knowledge about weather conditions?

When the first written code of golf Rules appeared in 1744, the authors could not have imagined the technological advancements to come and how they would influence many aspects of the game. Whether the issue is equipment, turf management, or the use of high-tech devices to assist the player, the Rules of Golf must address the introduction of new technologies to the game. The Rules of Golf allow a player to use a multi-functional device, such as a smartphone or tablet, to make a phone call, send a text message or check football scores between holes. With the introduction on Jan. 1, 2014 of Decision 14-3/18 - Weather Information Accessed on Multi-Functional Device, accessing local weather information such as temperature, wind speed and direction, humidity, and radar on such a device is also permissible.

Decision 14-3/18 uses precise language to make clear the distinction between accessing weather information and measuring/gauging weather information. Therefore, while a player may access weather reports provided by a weather station through an application (e.g., The Weather Channel, Weather Underground) or Internet browser, the player himself may not take measurements or gauge those same conditions. As an example, if the player has a function on their device which would measure the current temperature or wind speed at their specific location (e.g., a thermometer or anemometer), using such a function would be a breach of Rule 14-3. Additionally, if a multi-functional device has an installed application capable of measuring current temperature or wind speed, that device cannot be used as a distance-measuring device (DMD).

Another change related to artificial devices is the newly permitted use of compasses by revised Decision 14-3/4 Use of Compass During Round. With this change, a player may use a compass during his round (including on a multi-functional device) as it provides only directional information and does not actively gauge or measure variable conditions.

Keep in mind whenever using a multi-functional device that you must still comply with other Rules and Decisions. While you may make a phone call, you may not make a phone call to your swing coach for quick tips to fix your slice. While you may send a text message, you may not send a text message before you play a par-3 hole to ask another competitor which club he used on the hole earlier that day. And while you may check the radar to see if a storm is approaching, to do so before every stroke would unnecessarily delay play. Therefore, while using certain functions of a device may be permissible under Rule 14-3, the player could still be subject to penalty under Rule 14-3 for using the device to breach another Rule, such as Advice (Rule 8-1) or Undue Delay; Slow Play (Rule 6-7).

An additional implication of new Decision 14-3/18 and revised Decision 14-3/4 is that the qualifications that make a multi-functional device acceptable to be used as a distance-measuring device have changed. Please see the updated flowchart “Can I Use My Distance-MeasuringDevice (DMD)?” to determine whether your multi-functional device may be used as a DMD if the committee permits their use by local rule.

The USGA will provide up to two Rules of Golf books for a minimal shipping and handling charge. Contact the USGA Order Department at 1-800-336-4446, Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. (ET) or go to the USGA Shop on usga.org.

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