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R&A To Allow Distance Measuring Devices For Amateurs

by Lewine Mair - January 27, 2014

The R&A Championship Committee has decided to allow the use of distance measuring devices in their amateur events in 2014. But the ban will continue when it comes to the Open and the various qualifying events for the championship.

As is well known, there has been an optional local rule available under the Rules of Golf since 2006 and, say the R&A, “the Championship Committee is simply taking up this option for 2014.”

The governing body has stressed that their move is not a recommendation for others to follow suit – and that it remains a matter for individual committees and clubs to decide whether or not they want to allow the use of such devices in their competitions.

The Ladies’ Golf Union came to their decision to allow DMDs in their amateur events in December but not in the Ricoh Women’s British Open: “We decided were fighting against the tide by not allowing them,” said Shona Malcolm, the CEO of the LGU.

As much as anything, the LGU were concerned at the confusion arising from a situation in which no two amateur bodies seemed to be taking the same stance.

As is well known, there has been an optional local rule available under the Rules of Golf since 2006 and, say the R&A, "the Championship Committee is simply taking up this option for 2014."

In which connection, Malcolm cited last year’s Vagliano Trophy in which GB&I played their European counterparts at Chantilly. Since the European Golf Association had decided some time before that the devices were legal, their officials suggested it made sense for the GB&I side to follow suit for the week.

Not so, said Malcolm. Since she believed that this was a matter that should have been discussed in advance, the upshot was that the gadgets were banned for both parties.

The LGU were also influenced by what happened at the ’13 British Ladies’ Amateur championship on the Machynys Peninsula in Wales. That week, two useful Irish players, Marie Dunne and Aedin Murphy, were disqualified from the championship for using their measuring devices in the first of the qualifying rounds.

Though the girls reasoned that they were permitted in Irish championships, the LGU pointed to a rules card that had been handed out at the time of registration. On it, they had made plain that DMDs could be used in practice but not in the event proper.

The only lighter side to this sorry tale came when someone got in touch with the club to say that the Irish girls had been the victims of racism. And that had they come from anywhere else in the world other than Ireland, no one would have been complaining.

Andrew Coltart, the Ryder Cup Scot who nowadays works with Scotland’s amateur squads, is just one to think that up-and-coming players are getting just too much help for their own good on virtually every front.

At last year’s Lytham Trophy, for instance, he raised his eyebrows at the way in which so many of UK players who had been sent for winter training in warmer climes were shivering wrecks when they teed up in the early-season tournaments back home.

“It would be better,” he said, and he was speaking only half in jest, “if they had been dispatched to some wintery links up north.”

In the case of such things as Strokesaver booklets and DMDs, Coltart suspected that they should be working things out for themselves in the first instance: “The wrong people are doing the preparation.”

There are plenty to say that the best use of DMDs is to regard them as training aids. By making his own assessment of a shot and checking to see if it marries with the figures on the DMD, a player can sharpen his judgement and be better placed to cope should the device go haywire.

All of which is not too different to how the best of the professionals’ caddies go about their business. They will all buy the yardage books available at the start of a tournament week and they will similarly make good use of DMDs. However, the top-notch bagmen will still go out on the course and introduce their own homework to the equation.

Fanny Sunesson, who helped Nick Faldo to his cluster of majors, was just one who would be up and about at first light to check out things for herself.

When it comes to the professionals, there is nothing more illuminating than watching the 50-year-old Miguel Ángel Jiménez at work. The last of the Spaniards to come up via the caddie ranks, Jiménez went totally by feel in his early days as caddie and player. He used yardage books when they became available, while he has never scoffed at the use of DMDs or failed to listen to his caddie.

However, this great competitor has always prided himself on being able to bring an extra dimension to bear, one which has him feeling one up on his rivals.

“I feel the wind on my face and I think about the temperature. Is it hot, is it cold? And then I go with my instincts.”

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