News From Terre Haute, Indiana

May 10, 2008

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

By Jennifer Myers

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.

They are though, for the most part, reliable and quick. I believe their biggest advantage is the time they save the typical golfer from hunting down a sprinkler head, stepping off distance, taking into effect wind, temperature, amount of roll the ball will take, and finally making a club selection. For a practice round, particularly at an unfamiliar course, they are a great time saver.

Are range finders legal to be used though, under USGA and R&A; Rules? Rule 14-3b in The Rules of Golf, states, “Except as provided in the Rules, during a stipulated round the player must not use any artificial device or unusual equipment: b. For the purpose of gauging or measuring distance or conditions that might affect his play … ” Therefore range finders are not legal for tournament play unless their use is covered by a local rule, which must be stated in the rules of the tournament before play. (The exact language is given in the Decisions On the Rules of Golf .) A breach of rule 14-3 is disqualification, so it would be wise to make certain that a range finder is covered under a local rule before using one in a tournament.

There was a time when golfers didn’t have any artificial markers to help them estimate distance. When the U.S. Open was held at Colonial in 1941, they removed any trees that were at 150 yards. Harvey Penick noticed this, and because he was thinking of planting trees at the Austin Country Club, he asked the USGA about it. The USGA wrote back and told him 150-yard markers weren’t illegal, but that no USGA tournament would be played where they were used! (Harvey Penick’s Little Red Book, Simon & Schuster, 1992, pg. 150)

Ben Hogan would have scoffed at the use of a range finder. He could estimate distances so well, he didn’t need one. Also according to Harvey Penick’s Little Red Book, one time Ben looked at a score card for distance on a par-three during a filming of Shell’s Wonderful World of Golf. The card said the distance was 152 yards to the center of the green. Ben proclaimed the card to be wrong stating that “It’s 148 yards to the middle.” It was measured, and Ben was right!

Maybe if we all practiced for hours on end like Ben Hogan used to we wouldn’t need measuring devices. On the other hand, most pros don’t practice that much, much less amateurs, so for today’s player, technology is a wonderful thing.

te of the day: “Golf is not, on the whole, a game for realists. By its exactitudes of measurement it invites the attention of perfectionists.” — Heywood Hale Brown, writer

Vigo County Golf Leagues

Ft. Harrison Ladies 9-hole — Low gross: Mary Shake. Low net: Lucille Merrill. Low putts: Mary Silvers. Play of the day: Lucy James. Chip-ins: Mona Herrington, Silvers, Carolyn Sweeting.

Rea Park First Financial Bank Ladies 9-hole — Standings: Bratt 48, VFW No. 1 and VFW No. 2 32, Shepard’s Gas and Baesler’s Market 28, Tabco 12. Low gross: Barb Kelley. Low net: Anne Foster. Chip-in: Hoy (2), DeLauter (7), Stone, Handley (8), Kelley (9). Play of the day: Piepenbrink.

Paitson’s Roofing Eastside Ladies — Standings: Daphne’s Beauty Salon 55, Baesler’s Market 54, Coaches Corner 51, Advanced Chiropractic 48, Turner Coach 32, Deckmasters 29, Sandy’s Touch of Magic 26, Page’s Market 25. Low gross: Ann Sanders 41. Low net: Karen Cox 26. Play of the day: Cox.

Mark’s Par Three Senior Men — Standings: Don Mattingly Collision 67, Old National Trust 58, Tabco 52, Dew Drop Inn 50, Vigo Bowl 38, Don Wills Cash Register 36, Fuson Cadillac 31, Midwest Gas 30. Low gross: Bill Turner and Herb Gosnell 41. Low net: Gosnell and Bill Morley 33. Closest to pin: Herb Schaffer (12). Longest drive: Schaffer (18). Longest putt: Bob Stiller (17).

Idle Creek Home Builders — Low gross: Terry Day 41, Brian Cottom 43, Jim Panky 44. Low net: Len Isles 28, Jim Lowe 32, Dave Earley 33, Gary Stout 33. Longest drive: Fred Lamb (No. 11). Longest putt: Isles (No. 18). Closest to pin: Stout (No. 12).

Ladies Tuesday Morning — Low gross: Mary Brannen, Jane Anderson, Carolyn Taylor 43. Longest putt: Taylor (No. 9).

Terre Haute Savings Bank Men’s Senior — National Division: Fore Seasons Golf Complex 112, Complete Kitchen & Bath 92, Lough Brothers 89, Terre Haute Savings Bank 86, SMC 84, Paitson Brothers 84, Page’s Market No. 1 73, Pizza Hut 54. Low gross: Larry Pair 40, Frank Hoffman 40. Low net: Pair 35, Hoffman 35, Bob Johnson 35. American Division: Poplar Flower Shop 117, Page’s Market No. 2 114, Salt of the Earth 94, VFW No. 972 93, Pabst Painting 88, Spring Clean Car Wash 79, Gurman Containers 66, Callahan Funeral Home 44. Low gross: Alex Maxwell 40. Low net: Maxwell 29.

Upcoming event

• The Terre Haute Women’s Golf Association’s first event of the year will be a Partner Scramble, on Saturday, May 17th at Rea Park. For more information call Candy McCord at (812) 230-1090 or visit the THWGA Web site at