The use of DMDs in competition by local rule has been in place since 2006. Although DMDs have become standard equipment for average golfers at state amateur events and even USGA competitions, they are still currently banned from PGA Tournaments.
Last month, the USGA and R&A announced that it would allow DMDs during competition beginning in 2019. Yet, professional tours could adopt a local rule that banned their use.
So how did the PGA Tour come to the decision to test DMDs during tournaments this year?
“It’s been a subject of discussion for the past ten years as we are always looking at innovations. In fact, the Policy Board has reviewed it twice before with the last one being over five years ago. Every year we look at various innovations that would make our players more relatable to the average fan and this was one of those.”
Andy Pazder, Chief Tournaments and Competitions Officer, PGA Tours
Three select tournaments will begin testing of DMDs this year—the Web.com Tour, Mackenzie Tour-PGA TOUR Canada, and PGA TOUR Latinoamérica.
Each tournament will allow use of the devices by players and caddies at four consecutive tournaments. For these events, the PGA TOUR will enact a Local Rule under Decision 14-3/0.5 of The R&A/USGA Rules of Golf. The rule stipulates the device can only be used to measure distance. The use of functions to measure slope, elevation, or wind will not be allowed.
During testing, they will be evaluating from a television broadcast standpoint, from a sponsor’s standpoint, and what impact it might have on pace of play. As with any kind of testing they will also be looking into any logistical concerns as well as those unforeseen that might arise.
There are many PGA Tour players and caddies who have already expressed doubt that DMDs will improve the pace of play. Some even contend lasers will take away some of the “human ability” during competition.
And there are also those who claim that DMDs increase the pace of play. Derek Schuman, spokesman for Bushnell, told a reporter in an on-line article that he knew this for a fact.
“We have conducted a couple of studies to prove rangefinders actually increase the pace of play and we applaud the PGA Tour for exploring new avenues to make the game of golf more efficient and enjoyable at the most elite level,” Schuman said.
After testing and comprehensive evaluation of DMDs, the PGA Tour will share its results with all the Player Advisory Councils for further review and discussion.
The PGA has no defined timeline in making their decisions. Once testing is completed they will revert back to the current policy of not allowing DMDs.
As it stands today, it’s unknown whether we’ll see DMDs used at any PGA Tour events next season.
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