Mixed Reviews as Rangefinders Debut at PGA Championship

Published on May 20, 2021

By Nick Heidelberger

Brad Marek lasers Kiawah's 7th hole

Nothing screams recreational golf like pulling out the old rangefinder, and nothing screams elite golf like a major championship. Those two worlds collided for the first time during the first round of the PGA Championship on Thursday. 

While rangefinders are forbidden on the PGA Tour and in all other major championships, they are legal within the Rules of Golf. The PGA of America announced in February that it would allow the use of distance-measuring devices in the PGA Championship beginning this year, becoming the first major championship to permit their use. The stated intent is to improve pace of play, but the announcement and implementation has come with mixed reviews. Some players are optimistic, some are skeptical, and others are just confused.

Strictly in Favor

Steve Stricker, team USA’s caption for the upcoming Ryder Cup, which is also administered by the PGA of America, is among those in favor of the move.

“It's a step in the right direction for sure,” Stricker said. “So Nicki, who is on my bag this week, we have been testing it out, and obviously the rangefinders are all spot-on for the most part, but I'm going to pace it off on a sprinkler head and just coordinate with her that we're getting the same number, but I think it's exciting for golf and the casual fan to see us using the lasers like they normally do when they go out and play.”

Not for Scott

Former world No. 1 Adam Scott doesn’t see the value in using a rangefinder, noting the use can create confusion if a discrepancy appears between range finder yardages and those in the yardage book of caddie John Limanti.

“I don't intend on using it,” the 2013 Masters champion said. “I'd be surprised if John uses the rangefinder. But we'll see. I think if the book says one thing and the rangefinder says another thing, which one should you go with? I think you've got to go with one or the other, and unless John has changed all his routines in the last couple weeks to use the rangefinder, I think we'll be out of the book.”

Finau’s Confusion

Speaking of creating confusion, that’s exactly what resulted when Tony Finau was asked whether he’d employ a distance-measuring device during the PGA Championship, or stick to the traditional yardage book.

“Yeah, you mean like during the tournament we're able to use a -- we really are? I didn't know,” a confused Finau responded. “We can use our rangefinders during competition?”

Finau’s surprise sparked some good-natured back-and-forth with the media.

Reporter: “Did you know you guys get to scoop away all the two-footers this week?” 

Finau: “Three-footers you said? I'm in.”

First but not Last

While the PGA Championship is the first major to allow distance-measuring devices, it won’t be the last. The PGA of America also conducts majors on the women’s and senior circuits, the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship and the Kitchenaid Senior PGA Championship, which will also permit rangefinders. The KPMG Women’s PGA Championship is set for June 24-27 while the Kitchenaid Senior PGA Championship is May 25-30.

Image: Maddie Meyer/PGA of America via Getty Images

About The Author

Nick Heidelberger is the editor of GolfLink. He has a degree in journalism from the University of Idaho and has been navigating his way around the golf course for more than 10 years. He previously worked for the New England Section of the PGA of America.

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