GAP allows laser measuring devices

Posted: January 10, 2006

In what it believes is a nod toward the future of the game, the Golf Association of Philadelphia has approved the use of laser distance-measuring devices in its competitions this year.

"Our view is, since these devices are now allowed under the rules of golf and they're likely to become more prevalent in the future, players should be able to use them in GAP events," Mark Peterson, the association's executive director, said yesterday.

Although many of the 115 state and local golf associations across the country have banned the devices or are taking a wait-and-see attitude, the GAP's executive committee saw no reason to wait, voting by 17-1 in favor of permitting them in its 56 competitions.

"The Golf Association of Philadelphia has always led the way in issues important to the game, and we feel this is just another opportunity for us to do so," GAP president Dan Burton said.

In recent years, the devices have become common during practice rounds, especially on the PGA Tour. They cost from $150 to $500, resemble binoculars, and give exact yardages by bouncing a laser beam off a flagstick, bunker or hazard. But once a tournament started, the devices were illegal.

That changed beginning Jan. 1, when the U.S. Golf Association gave associations and tournament committees the discretion to allow the devices under a "local rule."

Ironically, the USGA will not permit the devices in its own events, nor will the PGA Tour, the American Junior Golf Association, or the PGA of America competitions, including the Philadelphia Section.

Part of the GAP's rationale, Peterson said, is that competitors in its events often do not have practice rounds. Often, they find themselves on a strange course, without benefit of a yardage book or a local caddie.

At USGA headquarters in Far Hills, N.J., yesterday, officials could offer no tally of associations across the country, saying the rule was too new. At the GAP, Peterson said his informal poll of golf associations indicated the following: yes in Southern California, Georgia and the Carolinas; no in New Jersey, Western Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts and Arizona. New York is among the golf associations that plan to permit the devices in some of its lesser events, but not its championships.

Most likely, Peterson said, every association, including the GAP, will assess the situation as the season wears on. He doesn't expect problems, however.

"They can only help so much," he said. "Ultimately, you've got to hit the shot."

Contact staff writer Joe Logan at 215-854-5604 or jlogan@phillynews.com.

Read his recent work at http://go.philly.com/joelogan.

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