The world's best players are banned from using rangefinders. Seriously?

The world’s best players are banned from using rangefinders. Seriously?

Dear USGA,

First, let me say thank you for your good work as guardian of the game. If not for your quick reaction in the 1970s, metal woods might have ruined the game and made 300-yard drives on the PGA Tour as common as halter tops at the Colonial. You stopped long-shafted putters in their tracks too. Well done. The last thing we would want is a bunch of old guys with the yips still playing golf. Big-headed drivers? You were all over that like drool on a baby. Balls that fly farther and straighter? Not on your watch. Square grooves? Hah! You nipped that in the bud.

Anyway, I’m writing to make sure that you’re not going to drop the ball now and allow the use of laser rangefinders or GPS devices in real competitions such as the U.S. Open or on the Tour. Think about it. During practice rounds, every Tour player and his caddie use a rangefinder to measure yardages from every conceivable angle. The lasers are universal. Obviously, that’s why they should continue to be banned.

I know you had to cave to politics a few years ago and approve rangefinders by local rule. (FYI, they were allowed in 49 of 50 state amateur competitions last year—Maryland was the lone holdout.) However, you cleverly disallow them for your serious competitions. I love it that the best golfers in the world, the ones who most need a precise yardage, are the only players who can’t use a rangefinder. That makes perfect sense.

Plus, these intolerable gadgets speed up play, and nobody wants that. Last summer I went to Battle Creek, Mich., to play in a qualifier for the U.S. Mid-Amateur Championship. One of your tournament officials warned my threesome on the 1st tee about slow play. When I asked if we could use rangefinders, he barked, “No!” So our group spent the day at this public track looking for sunken 150- and 200-yard plates, some of which Indiana Jones would’ve had a tough time finding, and then pacing off the distance back to our balls. Instead of getting a laser yardage in three seconds, we ate up precious time. It made me smile.

Last week I talked to a guy who runs a laser rangefinder company, and he said PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem told him that the Tour will never allow rangefinders because, he said, the Tour is in the entertainment business and doesn’t like the way the contraptions look.

I second that emotion. Looks totally matter. If you let pros use lasers, some Facebooking teenager may look up from Call of Duty and see a Tour player on TV wielding a high-tech electronic yardage device. The kid might ­actually get interested in golf, a game he had previously thought of as ­bassackwards, low-tech dumb. That’s exactly what we don’t want, some digitally savvy geeks taking up our game. We have too many golfers already—especially the hacks playing in front of me.

We all know that golf is emerging from an economic slump, but I know why. A few years ago, when the PGA Tour allowed caddies to wear shorts, the golf industry went in the crapper. Coincidence? I think not.

I urge you to stay strong and just say no to rangefinders and GPS devices. I want to play slower. I want inaccurate yardages when I compete on poorly marked courses. I don’t want anything to change in our perfect, technology-free game. Our future is in your hands.

Yours in long pants,

Gary Van Sickle