Sunday, January 5, 2014

Bushnell's Slow Play Experiment

The argument over golf range finders is definitely swinging in favour of the range finder. Or at least that's what a recent experiment by Bushnell would have you believe.

Send out a bunch of guys to play a round of golf without rangefinders one day and time their round.

Send them out the next day, this time with Bushnell Laser Rangefinders, and time their round again.

Then analyse the results.

Using the laser rangefinder saved the golfers almost 30 minutes.

Watch the three minute-plus video (click here), listen to the comments (golfers were divided up by handicap) and read the difference in the time of the rounds... 4 hours 45 minutes (approx.) vs. 4 hours 15 minutes for handicaps 6-13. It sounds convincing and perhaps it is. Perhaps this really is the future of golf... golfers unable to use their eye, their gut, their natural instinct. Perhaps it now has to be supplemented by looking at a watch, a phone, a rangefinder/GPS gizmo and being told 142 yards to the pin, rather than using the best rangefinder of all... your eyes.

The long wait.
At the moment I am still not that enamored with them. I like looking at the yardage stick or the fairway marker and figuring it out for myself. Because whether it's 145 or 155 yards, I'm still hitting the same club. After that I look at the elevation of the green, the bunkers/water and assess the wind. Then I'll go up or down a club. The green is a big landing area and as long as I put my ball on it, I'm happy.

Oh sure, one day this blog will come back to bite me in the ass when I'm enthralled to the Rangefinder or whatever. It'll be difficult lasting another 30-35 years of golf (if I'm lucky) without succumbing to a future that is so technologically driven. But for now I like playing "naked", using what the course has laid out for me. I get a greater sense of satisfaction playing that way.

As for Bushnell's speed claims, I'll accept what they say... with a pinch of salt. I'll also point out that the guinea pigs were playing in buggies and they were American golfers who play at a different pace to Irish/UK golfers. Given that you don't get a real feel for a golf course by riding in a buggy, I can see the attraction of a Rangefinder/GPS device. When you're walking, you get to assess your shot before you reach the ball. You've looked at the distance markers and you're already formulating the shot in your head before you arrive (or at least you should be). In buggies that simply doesn't happen... so yes, I can easily see why the round was so much faster.

And lest we forget, at the end of the day, you're only ever going to go as fast as the group in front of you, so clubs and golfers need to learn how to speed up play themselves before relying on distance-measuring technology to do it for us.


  1. Kevin,
    I can see the argument from both sides myself to be honest. I believe that they do speed up play which can only be a good thing in todays dragged out rounds. There's nothing worse than 4.5hrs+ rounds of golf, these lengthy rounds take the fun out of it and that’s what out there for.

    Another way to speed up play is to have 3 balls instead of 4 balls which happen most weeks for me. I know a lot of courses can’t opt for this as membership numbers are so high and everyone has to be accommodated.

    On the flip side it's rewarding hitting a ball stiff when you've gone to the trouble of working out the yardage, allowing for camber and wind. I have to be honest with you Kevin, I have succumbed to the GPS device myself not that it's much use on my home course as they are prohibited. But when playing on other courses that I may not have played they are very helpful.

    I see the R&A are now allowing the use of phone apps now as well. New Decision 14-3/18 confirms that players can access reports on weather conditions on a smartphone during a round without breaching the Rules. Importantly, this new decision also clarifies that players are permitted to access information on the threat of an impending storm in order to protect their own safety. Whereas before you could not use a golf GPS app on your phone because your phone has the ability to access weather forecast etc.

    This may have a wee impact on the likes of Sky Caddie, Golfshot etc.

    Interesting times ahead on the GPS & rangefinders front.


  2. Be careful in relation to the statement above regarding the use of distance measurement devices. There are a number of factors that render a device non conforming other than just weather.. A device that has a built in compass is non conforming thereby all iphones are not permissible. I attach below an extract from GUI website in regard to this discussion. Be careful usiƱg any phone app, practically vertically particularly in any GUI cups & Shields matches.

    Q. What about multi-functional devices, such as a mobile phone, with a distance measuring application?

    A. On the course, subject to any club or course regulations, a multi-functional device may be used to phone, text or email – provided the purpose is not a breach of the Rules, e.g. you are not asking for advice. 

    When an application that measures distance has been downloaded to the device, the application must be restricted to providing only distance information in order to conform to the Local Rule.  If there are any other features or applications on the phone that gauge or measure other conditions that might affect a player’s play, such as a temperature gauge, compass or anemometer, this would render the device non-conforming regardless of whether these other features or applications are used or not. 

    1. nonsense read the R&A 14.3 rule revision as from Jan 2014

  3. Kevin,
    I'm all in favor of anything that can speed up play, but lets be honest: this is a Bushnell study. Phillip Morris could come up with a study to show that smoking is good for you!