Distance Measuring Devices: should they be encouraged or banned?

Each week we ask our panel of writers, PGA members and golf industry experts to weigh in with their views on the hot topics of the day.

As a follow up to one of last week’s questions, Jordan Spieth was nearly the answer. The 27-year-old Texan almost broke out of his 4-year slump to win at Pebble Beach. After holding his second 54-hole lead in as many weeks, Spieth had to settle for a third-place tie. For many players two consecutive top 5’s would be cause for celebration and perhaps even a career milestone, but for Spieth there’s no celebration, just a mix of hope and frustration, at least until he wins again. Are expectations for Spieth unreasonably high?

Jim Deeks, Fairways Magazine (@jimdeeks): I guess the prudent answer would be to say that Jordan’s a work in progress.  Expectations may well be too high.  Who knows whether he’ll regain his old superstar form, or simply turn into a top-level player with only occasional flashes of greatness (like a Justin Rose or Jason Day), or gradually fade into the middle or bottom of the pack?  One thing is certain: the golf world would be unanimous in wanting to see a return to old glory.

Craig Loughry, Golf Ontario (@craigloughry): Spieth does have somewhat unreasonable expectations when it comes to winning. This “slump” he’s been in since his last win includes earning some $10M+ and a bunch of top 25’s, 10’s and a handful of top 5’s. That’s a great career in itself. I’ll cut him some slack. He’s trending in the right direction but please look at how he got there the last few weeks, holing out for Eagles from the fairway, etc. He’s doing extraordinary things to get into a winning position. That’s hard to sustain. Just like in his couple of year run, he was a noticeable outlier putting outside 20 feet (making way more than his fair share). It simply caught up. He’s a fine player, and I hope we see him around the lead more frequently going forward.

Michael Schurman, Master Professional / Hall of Fame Member, PGA of Canada: As I said last week, Jordan seems like a decent person, but I wouldn’t place a bet on him. His current success comes from holing putts from 40+ feet and chipping in. He even holed out on the 15th on Saturday, but he still can’t hit a fairway. He is too focused on his swing and not enough on either the ball flight and/or the target. He might win again but only when the ‘stars line-up’. Two things don’t last, dogs who chase cars and Pros who…………..

TJ Rule, Golf Away Tours (@GolfAwayTJ): I think that expectations have dropped considerably during his recent struggles on Tour, but perhaps they will be increasing again as he continues to get himself in contention.  You can tell his game still isn’t where it needs to be to close things out, as he struggled off the tee on Sunday.  But he’s certainly getting closer, and thus the expectations of a win in the near future will continue to rise.

Peter Mumford, Fairways Magazine (@FairwaysMag): Spieth set the bar himself with his exceptional play from 2015-17, so he knows his capabilities. He obviously has a legion of fans and media members hoping and expecting he can get back there again. I imagine Spieth’s expectations for himself are every bit as high as those held by fans and the media.

Daniel Berger posted a final round 65 to win the AT&T but not before viewers were treated to his lengthy and unorthodox pre-shot routine on the greens. It seemed that the greater the pressure, the longer he took to pull the trigger. Over the years, we’ve seen some truly weird pre-shot routines. Who holds top spot in this category and where does Berger rank? 

Deeks: Well, the worst had to have been Sergio Garcia about 20 years ago, when he would freeze over the ball and re-grip about 20 times before swinging at it.  I can also remember when the young Jack Nicklaus (pre-1967) would take hours to line up his putts.  And Bruce Crampton used to annoy players and fans for walking off measurements as long as 80 yards.  But the worst is playing with or behind someone — anyone — with higher than a 5 handicap who insists on studying their line from four different directions, then three-putting.

Loughry: That was bloody hard to watch, in fact I sort of started tuning Berger out. Odd pre-shot routines, lots of weird gripping and regripping by Garcia back in the day. And the sneak up rocking by Keegan Bradley was unbearable. It was borderline OCD. Was glad to see that he shed that.

Schurman: At this level, the pre-shot routine is the secret to success. One very large missing piece in the top golfers of today is the ‘waggle’. It is the connection between the visualization of the shot, the correct body involvement and the target. Without it, every swing is a 100M dash …. a standing ‘start’, the gun fires, there is a rush of blood and a race to the finish line. Nothing is fluid. Nothing is effortless and nothing is connected to the target. No waggle: you are robotic. Apply a waggle: you are an athlete.

Rule: It was painful to watch for sure.  I hate how mechanical the game has become, instead of it being a feel game. When I think of strange pre-shot routines, I always think of that stretch of time when Sergio couldn’t pull the trigger. He would wiggle and waggle 20 or 30 times before finally letting go.  It was frustrating to watch, and tough for TV producers because you couldn’t just tune in when he was done his routine, like you could with Berger and his putting.  You never knew when Sergio was going to swing!

Mumford: I’ll agree with the majority here that Sergio holds top spot in this category for his interminable regripping. The most annoying perhaps was Keegan Bradley who snuck up on the ball in stops and starts. Jim Furyk too had an annoying routine where it looked like he was ready to hit a putt, then he’d step away. There should be a balk rule in golf like baseball. Michael talks about a waggle as part of a pre-shot routine. Is that what Matthew Wolff does? Try that yourself and you could break a hip!

Last week, the PGA of America announced that they would allow Distance Measuring Devices (DMD’s) during their own major championships. Some PGA Tour players thought it might help improve the pace of play, but many other players and caddies thought just the opposite. Do you think DMD’s help speed up play at the professional level? How about for amateurs?   

Deeks: I don’t see DMD’s speeding up play for professionals, since they’re studying their yardage books today anyway.  I don’t think it’s a bad thing to allow them to use devices, though.  As for amateurs, I think they slow the game down a bit.  I have one, but rarely use it, deeming that even my limited arithmetic skills enable me to subtract, say, 16 yards from the 150-yard marker in the middle of the fairway.  And, somewhat in line with my previous answer, I find it both humorous and annoying when a playing partner pulls out his Bushnell, measures a precise 134 yards to the pin, then tops, skulls, shanks, chunks or whiffs.  As if the guy could hit a 134-yard shot within 10 yards in the first place.

Loughry: We won’t see any significant difference in pace at the PGA Championship with DMD’s being used in competition. In fact, this is a sad and silly decision. Here’s what I don’t like; I don’t like the fact an errant shot a fairway or two over doesn’t have as much consequence. The player/caddie can zap the flag and they have an accurate distance for a recovery shot. And sure, they could pace it, but that could lead to a slow time and potential penalty, which is an important part of the game too. DMD’s don’t significantly help/hurt with Amateur pace either. The books these guys have on Tour are insanely detailed and accurate for reference. Toss those out the window with DMD use too.

Schurman: The TOUR players already know the exact yardages. The use of a DMD should prove to be quicker. For players shooting above the mid to high 70s, they cost themselves 90% of their poor scoring on shots within 50 yards of the hole. In fact, the same is true of the lower handicapped guys too but they realize some benefit in knowing the correct distance. As for the other 95% of all golfers, they would shoot much lower using a 9-club set and get rid of their DMD. BTW They would enjoy the game far more too!

Rule: At levels like the PGA Tour where caddies are full-time employees, I don’t like the idea of using lasers.  It takes away from part of the game in my opinion.  However, at the amateur level, I do think that DMD’s can speed up play if the player uses it properly.  Personally, I like to know carry distances over hazards, to reach trees, etcetera, so, a laser comes in handy instead of having to do all of the head calculations after looking at your yardage book.  Somehow Bryson will find a way to make things slower by using it though.  More numbers for him to compute.

Mumford: The PGA of America seems to be on a deserted island on this issue. The other golf associations don’t want DMD’s used in their tournaments for a very good reason: They slow down the pace of play, plus they’re contrary to the spirit and essence of golf. What’s next? You get to phone a friend who can calculate the precise yardage using satellite technology, GPS mapping and a tide chart? Ban them. At the amateur level, it’s even worse. DMD’s provide a level of precision that can rarely be matched by the talent available. And wasting time to find out the pin is 147 yards away when you can clearly see the 150-yard marker behind you is abominable.


The Round Table
The Round Table is a panel of golf writers, PGA members and industry experts.

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