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 you may access weather reports provided by a weather station through an application (e.g., The Weather Channel, Weather Underground) or Internet browser, you may not use a device to take measurements or gauge wind speed and direction. As an example, if you have a function on your device that could measure the current wind speed at your specific location (e.g., an anemometer), using such a function would be a breach of Rule 14-3.
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 may unnecessarily delay play. Therefore, while using certain functions of a device may be permissible under Rule 14-3, you 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).
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 at USGAShop.com.