BY THE RULES
The use of distance-measuring devices has been covered by an optional Local Rule, which has been available under the Rules of Golf since 2006 (see Note to Rule 14-3 of the Rules of Golf), and the USGA Championship Committee’s vote adopts this optional Condition for all USGA amateur championships in 2014.
Neil Spitalny and Georgia McCravey walked off golf-course yardages from sprinkler heads or markers for decades.
Then distance-measuring devices arrived on the market and they began using them at first in casual rounds about 2006, then in local events and later state championships.
They'll be using laser rangefinders for the first time in United States Golf Association events and preceding qualifiers this years after the USGA adopted a local rule earlier this allowing for the devices in its amateur tournaments.
"I don't think it's going to be that different for me," said McCravey, who hopes to qualify for the U.S. Senior Women's Amateur. "We all got used to playing USGA events without rangefinders. Out of the 50 years that I've played golf, 40 were without a rangefinder.
"The difference is that you won't have to do a bunch of math."
Spitalny has qualified for the U.S. Senior Amateur the last five years and is one of the best senior players in the Chattanooga area.
"I think it's an excellent idea and probably a couple years delayed from when it should have been adopted," he said. "In all of the top amateur events, you've been allowed to use them.
"I think it speeds up play and makes golf more equitable and more enjoyable for the average golfer."
The decision by the USGA is ringing through the ranks of golf and athletic associations all the way down to high school associations. The Georgia High School Association had outlawed such devices until this past spring season but fell in line with the USGA rules.
"I thought it worked great," LaFayette boys' coach Tom Langford said. "I think it sped things up a little bit. They seemed to get themselves around the course a little quicker. It seemed that we didn't have as many problems with issues about daylight running out this year.
"Every tournament seemed to roll a little smoother."
The Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association will fall in line beginning with its competitions this fall.
"We follow the USGA rule book, so this is a decision by the USGA that affects us," said TSSAA assistant executive director Matthew Gillespie. "We go with whatever change they have in their book."
The rule limits acceptable devices to those that measure only distance from one spot to another -- from where a player stands in relation to a flagstick. Devices that measure wind distance, wind direction or elevation changes are prohibited.
"We have seen progressive developments in technologies available to golfers who seek to improve their playing performance and enjoyment that also maintain the essential elements of the game," Thomas J. O'Toole Jr., USGA vice president and chairman of the Championship Committee, said in a release. "It is in this spirit that we are allowing the use of distance-measuring devices in our amateur competitions."
As Langford said, it was welcomed by high school coaches and players in Georgia. He added that if one player in a group did not have a device, the rules stipulated that they could ask someone in the group with a device what number they received from where they last took a measurement so help increase the pace of play.
Polk County golf coach Jason Adams is looking forward to his players and opponents being able to shoot flags for distance and shave minutes off their rounds.
"I think it's going to be a big benefit at courses that aren't marked very well," Adams said. "Some high school matches can take a long time, especially when golfers want to step off every yard. Instead of doing that, just shoot and bang -- ready to go."
Contact David Uchiyama at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6484. Follow him at twitter.com/UchiyamaCTFP.
David Uchiyama is a sports writer at the Chattanooga Times Free Press who began his tenure here in May 2001. His primary beats are UTC athletics — specifically men’s basketball and athletic department administration — and golf, which includes coverage from the PGA Tour to youth events. He also covers other high school sports, outdoor adventures, and contributes to other sections of the newspaper when necessary. David grew up in Salinas, Calif., and began working ...