So, the PGA Tour is going to trial the use of DMDs in upcoming tournaments on the Web.com Tour, the PGA Tour Latinoamerica and the Mackenzie PGA Tour Canada.
Andy Pazder, the tour’s tournaments and competitions officer, said that, amongst other things, they would use the experiment to monitor the impact of the devices on pace of play.
The implication appears to be that the tour expects rangefinders and the like to speed things up. Call me cynical but I'm not convinced it's going to be that straightforward.
The best players in the world play for high stakes and big money. The difference between a good approach and a half-decent approach could, quite feasibly, be worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. It’s only reasonable, then, to assume that they want as much information as possible and that they’ll exhaust all data available to them before hitting their shots.
They’ll consult with their caddies, their yardage books and then start lasering. But they won’t just laser the pin. They’ll laser to the front of the green, the back of the green, the lip of that bunker at the front edge, and so on. These guys are so damn good that they can hit exact numbers on demand. And that’s what they need those numbers to be: exact. Like Justin Rose, below, said earlier this week: “We don’t play ‘one number’ golf.”
I've used rangefinders plenty of times and I'd be lying if I said I don't like them. They're brilliant gadgets when they're used properly. Thing is, I've seen too many examples of people using them improperly. They zap and they zap and they zap, to check, double-check and triple-check the data they're given as if, somehow, the device is going to intuitively correct the 'wrong' info it gave them previously. Clearly, that's not the fault of the device but, instead, of those using it.
That's why the PGA Tour will need to support the introduction of DMDs with robust usage guidlines and, likewise, more diligently surveil the pace of its players.
Yet given the organisation's lax attitude towards slow play - its new commissioner Jay Monahan recently said he doesn't see a problem with "rounds on our tour taking four hours, 45 minutes" - I won't hold my breath for that to happen.
Traditionalists will also argue that DMDs remove an important layer of skill and judgement from the game. They contend that giving players a number - particularly extremely talented ball-strikers - makes the game unnecessarily more straightforward. I can see their point. Whilst the shot itself still needs to be exactly executed, golf at its best has always been more 'art' than 'science'. Anything that discourages players to be less creative and play less by instinct is always going to hard to sell to the purists.
Incindentally, In the 1947 Masters, Gene Sarazen, above, and George Fazio shot 70 and 76 respectively, completing their two-ball inside two hours. Three minutes inside to be precise.
Low-scoring quick rounds are, therefore, perfectly possible and without the need for innovation as a solution - but only if it's underpinned by a will and a desire to speed up. I'm not sure the PGA Tour has that.
In these times of #indyref2, it’s only natural to cast a glance southwards in the direction of our English neighbours. In the context of professional golf, they are outperforming us and handsomely so. The field for next week’s Masters demonstrates this quite starkly.
Whilst they are sending no fewer than 11 players to Augusta National, including the defending champion Danny Willett, above, we will be represented by two, one of whom will only be there in what amounts to an honorary capacity. Were it not for his win almost 30 years ago, Sandy Lyle would likely be sitting at home watching the year’s first major on the telly like the rest of us.
Whilst I don’t subscribe to the view seemingly held by others that, as the home of golf, we have a right to be better represented at the top of the game than we are, it’s hard not to feel a pang of envy at the outstanding performances of England’s top golfers. Most of them, it's worth adding, are products of the England Golf domestic coaching programme and not, as is the case for Scotland’s current top two players Knox and Martin Laird, graduates of the American college golf set-up. Perhaps we could learn from the success of our Woodhall Spa-based cousins.
This week, I have been… saddened by the news that Hazel Irvine will stand down as the lead anchor of the BBC’s golf coverage (such as it is) after the Masters. Hazel is a consummate pro and has consistently delivered a touch of class to a television production that now operates well beneath its potential. She’ll be a huge loss. I wonder if she can be persuaded to take Peter Alliss and Ken Brown with her…
This weekend, we’ll bid farewell to another Scottish course, with Vogrie, just a few miles outside of Edinburgh, slated for closure tomorrow. Midlothian Council has plans to lease out the land to caravan park developers. The sad thing is, Vogrie is precisely the type of course we ought to be protecting. The loudest voices in golf governance routinely talk of the need for more nine-hole courses and more beginner-friendly courses – yet here is one such place that is being allowed to close without much in the way of fight or protest. So disappointing.
And finally… I quite like the fact that Bubba Watson has decided to play a green ball at Augusta National next week. So what if it’s a bit gimmicky or a bit cheesy? That’s what I like about Bubba – he’s always entertaining. People say he takes himself too seriously. I say how can you possibly think that when he uses a pink driver and plays a green ball? Give the guy a break.