From smartphones to rangefinders to fitness bands, most of us carry more megabytes than golf balls when we play. But what’s allowed by the Rules of Golf? During the past decade, rule makers have had to adjust the do’s and don’ts of Rule 14-3 (Use of Artificial Devices and Unusual Equipment/Abnormal Use of Equipment) multiple times to stay current with technological advances. This includes significant changes that were enacted in January. Given the prolific use of electronics on the golf course today, you’re no longer automatically disqualified if you violate Rule 14-3. Instead, you’re charged with a two-stroke penalty in strokeplay, or a loss of hole in matchplay, for your first violation during a round. Break the rule again, and you’re disqualified.
For an update of Rule 14-3 as it pertains to using tech gadgets during a round, read on.
You can use a phone to make or receive a call, as long as you’re not getting advice about your swing or the round. You may check a weather app, especially if a storm is approaching. Provided a Local Rule is in effect allowing for distance-measuring devices, you may use a GPS app for yardages, to check the leaderboard of a US PGA Tour event, or to follow your own tournament with real-time scoring.
What you can’t do is use your phone to assist you in your play. Examples include apps that monitor wind speed or direction, calculate playing statistics and club selections or regulate the tempo/rhythm of your swing. Furthermore, you can’t listen to music or a broadcast such as the US PGA Tour event. The rule says that the music or broadcast would have to be intentionally listened to during a stroke, or for a “prolonged” period when not making a stroke, to be a violation of Rule 14-3. In other words, if the ringtone on your phone accidentally played as you were hitting a shot, there is no penalty.
The only exceptions to using a phone to assist your play would be if you watch, read or listen to any golf instruction produced before the round. For example: If you dictated your “swing keys” for the day before you teed off, it’s OK to review them.
Contrary to popular belief, it’s still a violation to use a rangefinder or any other distance-measuring device during a round unless a Local Rule permits them. Even in those cases, features that measure wind speed, slope or offer club-selection advice are not permitted. If your device has those features, you can use the device, but only to access the basic distance-measuring function.
You can monitor how many kilometres you’ve walked and how many calories you’ve burned while you play, but you can’t monitor your heart rate or any other data that might assist you in your game.
Your opponent repeatedly whips out a pair of binoculars and a compass during the round and uses them. Penalty?
No. But be a good samaritan and make sure he gets home OK.