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Gamechanger? USGA allows smartphone use for distance information during competition

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Good news, competitive golfers, you can now use your smartphone for distance information.

That’s right. The USGA, responding directly to Arccos’ request that its 360 app be permissible during competition, had this to say (per Golf Digest)

“Based on the information provided and our understanding that the Arccos 360 is incapable of gauging or measuring any parameter other than distance, use of the Arccos Caddie application in conjunction with the Arccos 360 application, as submitted, has been evaluated and it has been determined that the use of the Arccos Caddie application is permitted under the Rules of Golf when a Committee establishes a Local Rule permitting the use of distance measuring devices (see Decision 14-3/0.5). However, please note that in the absence of such a Local Rule, use of the Arccos System during a stipulated round is contrary to Rule 14-3.”

Because any information (namely, yardages) garnered from the app would theoretically be available prior to play, the USGA doesn’t have a problem with the use of the device.

“Golf is still a game of skill and judgment, and anything that can give a player an advantage and diminish that judgment is a problem,” USGA senior director of rules and amateur status Thomas Pagel told Golf Digest’s Mike Stachura. “The compilation of two or more data points to provide some recommendation that takes that judgment away from the player, that’s where the issue comes in.”

Thus, the use Arccos Caddie, which provides club recommendations and “plays like” distances to a user, is not permissible from the “two or more data points” perspective.

Needless to say, Arccos is happy.

“Everything in golf is sort of an evolutionary process,” Tom Williams, Arccos vice president of sales and marketing, told Golf Digest. “We think this is a really important step in a process that’s going to speed up, not slow down. We certainly feel the product breaks new ground, but this decision does, as well. You never know what’s going to happen when you’re pushing the boundaries, but we’re just super pleased that this is the outcome of many months of our process.”

Beyond Arccos in particular, however, and as Tom Williams rightly says, the decision builds on the 2016 allowance of rangefinder use during tournament play (Rule 14-3a), further opening the doors for the use of technology on course. 18Birdies, for example, another popular app that, among its capabilities, offers distance information, has a “USGA Tournament Mode” setting.

Certainly, the determination is good for the golf industry. Perhaps, the ripple effect is minimal, but there is at least potential both in terms of opening the door to app development, and doing something concrete about the great bugaboo of slow play at the competitive level.

Undoubtedly, some observers would go so far as to suggest the full capabilities of Arccos Caddie should be permissible for a player during competition.

From the “all or nothing” standpoint, there’s a logic to this position, which goes something like this: The USGA draws the line at information accessed during the round or using multiple data points. So, you can’t use a wind-measuring device, for example, but you can access projections of wind speed prior to your round.

Likewise (and uneasily, for the USGA), a player can have detailed green and slope maps in a yardage book, but he cannot access information projecting how his putt will break from an app during the round.

There’s a strangeness to the current climate. Don’t let players use yardage books or any devices, or let them use all available resources, lines in the sand that keep golf “a game of skill” are arbitrary, the “unrestrained technology” position holds.

Regardless, drawing lines in the sand is the order of the day, and in this case, the USGA has drawn correctly.

What do you think, WRX members?

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3 Comments

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  1. Joe Perez

    Dec 11, 2017 at 11:33 am

    OK, I’m a bit confused. Did the author, or USGA make a slip-up in the use of the descriptions Arccos APP and Arccos CADDIE? The first part of the article quotes the USGA in Golf Digest as saying the CADDIE feature of the Arccos app is now legal…

    “use of the Arccos Caddie application in conjunction with the Arccos 360 application, as submitted, has been evaluated and it has been determined that the use of the Arccos Caddie application is permitted under the Rules of Golf when a Committee…”

    But later in the article the author writes that the CADDIE feature is not allowed…

    “Thus, the use Arccos Caddie, which provides club recommendations and “plays like” distances to a user, is not permissible from the “two or more data points” perspective.”

    Please explain what I’m not understanding. I have Arccos, use it and like it, but do not pay the extra “subscription” fee to use the CADDIE feature, which I wouldn’t use anyway if it were free.

  2. Bert

    Dec 9, 2017 at 5:40 pm

    Use your eyes, it’s supposed to be part of the game, just like walking. I use a distance measurement device, and I know we;ll never go back, but I would support no measurement devices of any type, even the physical yardages markers, and labeled integration heads. I remember thinking, it’s a seven iron, only to see my well struck shot come up way short. As mentioned, being able to “judge” distance was part of the game.

  3. Rich

    Dec 8, 2017 at 7:15 pm

    THIS IS A BAD MOVE .tHIS IS OPENING PANDORA’S BOX ….

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19th Hole

GolfWRX members weigh in on the best swings on the PGA Tour

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Who has the best swing on the PGA Tour? On the one hand, the answer is Dustin Johnson, as he’s the No. 1 player in the world, right? Of course, golf fans banter about the “best” swing on the PGA Tour over beers in the grill room, they’re usually talking about technical soundness and aesthetics more than results.

It’s in this vein that GolfWRX members schley started a thread asking the forum faithful for their picks for the three best swings on Tour. For his part, shcley says Ernie Els, Adam Scott, and Louis Oosthuizen.

GatorMD says: Tiger Woods, Justin Rose, Louis Oosthuizen

SASSpeeder says: Louis Oosthuizen, Luke List, Ernie Els

Bladehunter says: Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Dustin Johnson

Oz dee cee says: Rory McIlroy, Jason Day, Louis Oosthuizen

Bye says: Charl Schwartzel, Adam Scott, Justin Thomas

What do you think of these responses, GolfWRX members? Just a sample from the first 20 or so, obviously, and there are plenty more perspectives in the thread.

Who are your top three, GolfWRXers?

 

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Study: Amateur golfers are actually hitting it shorter than they were 3 years ago

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While the USGA’s distance report found a “concerning” increase in driving distances at the professional level, a new report from Arccos Golf — Mike Stachura of Golf Digest got the exclusive on its study —  identifies a very different trend at the amateur level. The golf GPS and statistics-tracking app found that the average golfer’s average drive decreased from 220.6 yards in 2015 to 217.1 yards in 2018.

Before we go crazy, however, it’s worth pointing out that we’re only four months into 2018 and the golf season hasn’t even started in much of the country. Thus, it probably makes more sense to look at the average golfers’ average drives from 2017, which measured 220.0 yards — a difference of a little more than half of a yard since 2015, rather than more than three yards, as the 2018 number suggests.

Again, maybe the trend for 2018 will continue, but it seems inappropriate to draw far reaching conclusions based on the “220.6” number.

Nevertheless, if we assume Arccos’ data is representative and statistically significant, then it would be, at the very least, a bold check in the “yes” column for bifurcation/not limiting the golf ball at the amateur level.

However (again, assuming data derived from Arccos users is representative of all golfers), the findings beget another question: Why are amateurs, equipped with the latest and greatest technologies that Iron Byron and his robotic colleagues are crushing past previous years’ models, stagnant in the distance department?

Stachura points to a Club Champion study showing that an average increase of 11 yards after fitting, that the drivers of 2018 go an average of six yards farther than the drivers of 2012.

Nick Clearwater, Director of Instruction for Golftec, strikes a similar tone

“It’s likely that many golfers used in the data are still using five-plus-year-old drivers as well and most don’t get fit for their equipment to benefit from the advancements. The average golfer uses too much spin loft with all of their clubs, so increases in tech still show minimal improvement in the quality of the shot. The shots still start to the right, spin too much and are mishit.”

This may be true, but for distances to decrease, golfers would have to be hitting new equipment that’s ill-suited for them, not merely sticking with the same drivers they were hitting in 2015.

Those with skeptical inclinations toward the benefits of new equipment, particularly $400 drivers, will assuredly have a field day with this data, and OEMs will be keen to emphasize the importance of fitting. They’ll also be quick to point out we have no idea what drivers the Arccos sample set is/was playing.

If, again, we assume the data to be accurate and representative, the USGA would look foolish if they advise a rollback of the golf ball for amateurs.

The amateur golfers in question will want to visit a qualified fitter or take part in a demo day with a buffet of options before shelling out for a new big stick, which is the advice we give in conjunction with Gear Trials (and the same reccomendation we’ve offered for years).

What do you think about this data, GolfWRX members?

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Meet Faaaabel the goat: unofficial mascot of the Valero Texas Open

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The Valero Texas Open this week has a new unofficial mascot. And really, let’s just make this official. Two ½-month-old pygmy goat mix  named Faaaabel is the official mascot of the Valero Texas Open. You heard it here first.

While there’s nothing funny about Faaaabel’s range of very important duties, she arrived at the VTO as part of a practical joke. Per Roxanna Scott of USA Today, Ted Kneale, the senior manager of operations for the Valero Texas Open, and Mark Mellgren, a tournament volunteer, wanted to wind PGA Tour rules official Brad Fabel up.

Naturally, they bought a goat on Craigslist, named it after him, and brought it to the tournament. Yes, this is a real thing that actually happened.

No word on how Fabel feels about Faaaabel, but everyone else rightly loves this miniature domestic goat.

“I’m kind of surprised at how fast this took off,” Kneale said. “We had her for about a week out here leading up to the event. Some of our staff knew about her and she was friendly with the staff. Before we knew it, people just started asking about the goat. We heard you had a goat, and it snowballed. I think she enjoys all the attention.”

This good girl does some very important jobs and has quickly become a vital part of the tournament operation. Obviously, she has a Twitter account as well.

Reportedly, Faaaabel is considering branching out into acting. As you can see from this PGA Tour video, she’s a natural on screen.

How do you feel about animals as tournament mascots, GolfWRX members? Should, say, Tripod formally be awarded Zurich Classic mascot duties?

 

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