Saturday, May 11, 2013

Four-Ball and the GX-4

Earlier this year the USGA announced that it will run national Four-Ball Championships for men and women amateurs starting next year, and the Amateur Public Links championships for men and women will cease in 2015.  The NCGA has been running its Four-Ball Championship for 47 years now.  In its current form it is a three day championship with a cut after two rounds.  There are 92 teams in this year’s championship held at the infamous and wondrous Spyglass Hill Golf Course in Pebble Beach, California.

The NCGA has run so many of its championships at Spyglass over the years (having had a large hand in the creation of the course itself), that we have the Local Rules situations down nearly to a science and we are only rarely blind-sided by confounding Rules situations out here as a result. 

So when a DQ went up on the board yesterday many players came in to ask what had happened.  Unfortunately, this was not a rare Rules situation, nor was it an advantageous breach nor did the player know he was in breach of a Rule.  So this article is more a warning to tournament players across the globe.

The DQ was for the use of an illegal distance-measuring device.  We should all know that when distance-measuring devices are permitted by local Rule, the device itself must not have the capability to measure anything that could affect the player’s play of a hole except for distance.  This applies to devices that can turn this capability off (See Decision 14-3/0.5 and Specimen Local Rule at App. I-B-9). 

Last year, Leupold introduced a DMD with a yellow face plate.  When the yellow face plate is on the device, it could measure distances factoring in slope/gradient which is against the Rules.  When the yellow face plate is not attached, the device turns off that capability.  The player in question had actually lost his device on the course and had returned to scoring to give me his number to contact him if someone turned in the device.  On the card he had written that it was a Leupold and the alarm bell started ringing in my head.  I asked him if it was the GX-4 and he said he didn’t know the model, and I asked if it had a yellow face plate.  He said it did, but he left the face plate at home because he knew that the device could not measure slope during the event. 

I wasn’t 100% this was the illegal device yet, because it was plausible that another device with a yellow face plate had been introduced that did not have slope capabilities, but the situation didn’t look good.  Sure enough, players had found the device and returned in a cart with it in hand as we were speaking with the player.  It was the GX-4.  I explained to him that because he had used a distance-measuring device that has the capability of measuring slope he was disqualified under Rule 14-3.  Even worse, is that under Rule 31-7, a breach of Rule 14-3 is a disqualification penalty that takes the whole side down and not just one player.  So because of the misunderstanding about the Rules regarding this specific device, his whole team was disqualified.

I give this example more as a warning to all players because this device is not always advertised correctly.  Leupold has posted on its site that the device is not approved for tournament play, but if you try and buy it online at, the description still claims that it is a legal device.  You could potentially purchase the device and use it without ever knowing its use is a breach of the Rules regardless of whether the face plate is on or off. 

There is nothing wrong with the device itself and Leupold makes great products, but if you do purchase the GX-4 or any device that has slope capabilities that can be turned off, know that the device is not approved for tournament play.

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