Players react to distance-measuring device trial
March 31, 2017
By Kevin Prise, PGATOUR.COM
- Anders Albertson used rangefinders throughout college and looks forward to the results of the four-event trial. (Ryan Young/PGA TOUR)
Adam Long takes pride in how he prepares for a golf tournament, meticulously mapping the course in practice rounds to ensure that he has the right information for when competition begins – not only traditional yardages to the hole, but carry numbers over bunkers and hazards, slope information and so on.
Even the most well-prepared professional still has opportunity for error, though. Yardages are most accurate from the center of the fairway to the center of the green, in a straight line, and when angles are involved, yardage calculation has the potential to go a hare astray.
As you get closer to the green, Long said, the one- or two-yard discrepancy can make all the difference.
“We’re all wrong more often than we’d like to admit,” says Long of calculating yardages when angles are involved. “When you’re 200 yards away, who cares (on a one-yard difference), but on a shorter approach, that can be the difference between a 6-footer and a 9-footer.
“Plenty of times in practice rounds, I’ll grab the (rangefinder) and shoot the distance, and it will be one or two yards off (from my calculation based on the yardage book). It depends on the angle of attack.”
This summer, Long and his Web.com Tour peers will have the chance to compete without worrying about the potential for these types of errors.
The Tour has announced a four-event trial period in May and June where distance-measuring devices will be allowed in competition as well as in Monday qualifiers: the BMW Charity Pro-Am presented by SYNNEX Corporation; Rex Hospital Open; Rust-Oleum Championship; and Air Capital Classic.Adam Long admits that players err on yardages more often than they'd like to think. (Steve Dykes/Getty Images)
During the four-week trial period, the PGA TOUR’s evaluation will consider the impact on pace of play, optics and any other effects the devices might have on the competition, said Andy Pazder, Chief Tournaments and Competitions Officer of the PGA TOUR, in a release.
Web.com Tour pros aren’t quite sure whether distance-measuring devices will influence pace of play, but look forward to the experiment and are curious as to what the results will show.
“That’s what’s exciting, is that the TOUR is open to new ideas and new things, and growing the game the best way possible,” said veteran Rob Oppenheim, who anticipates using a rangefinder on ‘every single approach shot’ during the trial.
“I’m excited to see how it shakes out,” Long added. “It’s an experiment, and it’s hard to predict. We’ll all know more at the end.”
PGA TOUR Digital talked with eight Web.com Tour pros about the potential ways that rangefinders could speed up pace of play, and two major areas were identified: when a player hits a shot well off-line to the point where a distance isn’t available in the yardage book (such as a different fairway, or acquiring a yardage for a punch-out shot); or a shot in the 40- to 60-yard range where a player might be inclined to pace off the entire distance to the pin.
In these instances, players can use the distance-measuring device to obtain a distance quickly without needing to spend time pacing off the yardage.
“It probably won’t speed up play on a standard shot from the fairway, but it will quicken up the process when you hit it off-line,” said University of Illinois alum Luke Guthrie.
“In the middle of the fairway, you can get your number quick, your cover numbers quick. But the time you’re off-line, in the rough, a different angle, you walk back to the fairway and you’re kind of guessing on the angle. You’re working the angles now … the pin’s 20 yards on, five yards from the right edge, and you’re in the right rough by a ways, and all of a sudden the pin isn’t 20 yards on anymore, because the book is measured to the front of the green, so it’s a different angle.”
Guthrie admits to not being the fastest player on Tour, and he imagines that utilizing a distance-measuring device in competition can only help him play quicker.Luke Guthrie anticipates rangefinders speeding up play when obtaining yardage after off-line tee shots. (Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)
The majority of players polled imagine using a distance-measuring device on most approach shots, and occasionally on tee boxes when checking a yardage to a bunker or hazard.
Second-year Web.com Tour pro Anders Albertson was excited to hear the news of the trial. Having been able to use rangefinders throughout college, it’s something the 2015 Georgia Tech graduate is used to in competitive golf.
Albertson can’t say for sure how much time it will save over the course of a round, but provides an estimate of 10 seconds per shot, utilizing the rangefinder 30 times per round, for a potential five-minute savings, per player, per round.
“Having to step off yardages and do math, then double-check that math, it does add some time,” Albertson said. “So being able to quickly shoot the flag at my ball, no matter where my location is, will definitely save at least a few seconds each shot for me.”Being able to quickly shoot the flag at my ball, no matter where my location is, will definitely save at least a few seconds each shot.
The majority of players polled said they frequently use rangefinders during Tuesday practice rounds, for pace-of-play and to double-check the numbers listed in yardage books, and imagine that implementing one in competition shouldn’t change the routine much.
Not all players are ready to go all-in, though. Kentucky native Josh Teater commends the Tour for implementing the initiative to ‘see if it can make a difference,’ but doesn’t want to fully integrate a rangefinder into his Thursday-Sunday workflow before it has been decided whether the policy will remain intact moving forward.
“I don’t want to change what I’m doing, 90 percent of the time,” Teater said. “I’ll have the laser in the bag, and if I don’t have a clear-cut yardage, I’ll pull it out. But I don’t want to change my routine too much, just for these four events.”
Players also noted that the implementation of distance-measuring devices in open qualifiers could have a more pronounced impact on speeding up play, as generally speaking, yardage books at qualifying courses are not as detailed as those at Tour host venues.
As qualifiers frequently feature fields of several hundred players and can be time-crunched to finish before darkness, the policy could serve to limit Tuesday finishes at Monday qualifiers, players opined.
“The fact that guys can use it on courses that aren’t marked as well, and when they might not have gotten a practice round in, I think that’s where they can be really beneficial,” Oppenheim said.
Considering that rangefinders have been allowed in college golf for a few years, perhaps the next step is integrating the devices into the highest levels of professional golf. Whether the initiative will or won’t make a difference, players can’t say for sure – but once the data is analyzed, we’ll start to find out.
“We’ve debated for years whether lasers would speed up play,” said veteran Kyle Thompson. “And now we’ll finally get some answers.”