News From Terre Haute, Indiana

On & Off the Course

May 10, 2008

On & Off the Course: Distance devices have a place for golfers but old-fashioned practice is best

There are many factors that a golfer must consider when determining which club to use for a shot; lie of the ball, wind direction, objects or hazards that should be cleared, and, oh yeah, distance to the intended spot.

There was a time when a good caddie could tell you all of that information. With the many ways we have now of giving us distance to the green or a lay up area, you’d think figuring out distance wouldn’t be a problem. We have markers at 150 or 100 yards, and usually sprinkler heads marked with the distance to the center of the green. We also have new-fangled GPS devices, such as the Sky Caddie or scopes made by Bushnell or others. Many people are using these range-finding devices on the golf course, particularly as more and more courses become “Sky Courses,” meaning all of their GPS information is available to a Sky Caddie user.

There are two questions about the use of such range finders: 1. How accurate are they? 2. are they legal under USGA and R&A; rules?

As to accuracy, most people are perfectly satisfied with the accuracy of their artificial range finding devices. I think they believe that since they are the newest technology they must be right! The newest models can measure up to 40 different targets per hole, which can be just as useful as asking ‘Old Sam MacGregor what club you’d need to clear that wee burn up ahead (small creek in Scottish caddy language).

Even the older devices gave you distances to the front, middle and back of the greens. If, however, you’re standing by a sprinkler head that tells you it’s 125 yards to the middle of the green, and your GPS device says it’s 130, I’d believe the sprinkler head in most cases. They were made by a professional surveyor, and a GPS device can be affected by clouds, sun spots, or satellite location.

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