Rangefinders make major debut at PGA Championship

·4 min read
Four-time major winner Rory McIlroy uses a rangefinder on the practice range at a charity golf event, the same sort that will be allowed at a major for the first time at next week's PGA Championship

Rangefinders will make their major debut at next week's PGA Championship, aimed at speeding the pace of play even as several top golfers worry it will do nothing or cause slowdowns instead.

The golf tech distance-measuring devices, using lasers or GPS systems, were approved last February for majors sanctioned by the PGA of America but remain banned for US PGA Tour rounds.

"We're always interested in methods that may help improve the flow of play during our championships," PGA of America president Jim Richerson said.

World number two Justin Thomas, the 2017 PGA Championship winner, doubts it's going to make a great change.

"I certainly don't think it's going to speed pace of play up," Thomas said. "Unless you hit it on another hole or some kind of crazy angle where it would take you a long time to get a yardage."

Fellow American Webb Simpson, the 2012 US Open champion, says many players will continue to have caddies walk off distances relative to fixed-position landmarks such as sprinkler heads.

"I don't think it will really make a difference," ninth-ranked Simpson said.

"It's not going to speed up play because everybody I know and have talked to, we still want front numbers, and the rangefinder, you can't always get the accurate front number.

"So you'll probably have the player shoot the pin, the caddie walk off the number because I'm going to want what's front, what's the pin."

Reigning US Open champion Bryson DeChambeau won't check it in routine situations.

"It's going to help me when I hit it offline. We're not going to have to go to a sprinkler head and walk 40, 50 yards away," he said.

"If players use it in a way that allows them to speed up play that's great. If they're always double checking, it could slow play down a little bit, which I'm not a fan of at all."

Players are not allowed to use a rangefinder slope feature to measure elevation changes and can't use rangefinders to judge wind speeds or obtain recommended club selections.

Thomas sees rangefinders as taking away the benefits of a great caddie.

"I don't think we'll use them," he said. "I don't really like them. I think it takes away an advantage of having a good caddie that goes out there and does the work beforehand.

"Kiawah Island isn't some course where the greens are going to be really soft and you just see pin, hit pin. You're still going to need to get all that information, but then it's just going to add another element that's going to add time to the rounds in terms of shooting it with the rangefinder.

"I enjoy that process... but if an opportunity arises where I hit it offline then yeah, I might use it."

Some players have used them in practice rounds and while in the amateur ranks, including defending champion Collin Morikawa.

"In college I pulled out a rangefinder for every shot that I hit," Morikawa said.

"It'll definitely give you accurate numbers, but so many caddies are used to walking everything off, adding their numbers. Will guys do both? I could definitely see that.

"Will some guys want to stay the way they are and not change anything? Absolutely. It's a routine. We're so used to it."

- 'Won't know until we try' -

Morikawa, who won his first major title last August at Harding Park in San Francisco, does see the move helping certain players pick up the pace.

"Will you see pace of play improve like 10 or 15 minutes? I don't think so. But will it help certain players pick up speed? I think it'll be tremendous in that sense," Morikawa said.

"It's going to be interesting to test it out at a major championship. Is it going to solve anything? We won't know until we try it."

Australian Jason Day, the 2015 PGA winner, doesn't plan to use rangefinders.

"I don't mind the idea. Golf is always evolving and changing," Day said. "It'll be interesting to see how many guys will do it. I'm not going to do it."

Mexico's Abraham Ancer sees the devices helping after woefully off-target shots.

"It will be nice when you're way off line," he said. "That's where it will come in very handy. But when you're on a tee box, I feel like everybody's going to use it but also double check, so I don't know if it's going to help (pace) that much."

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