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k14

Cell Phone GPS Apps Legal or Not?

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According to this guy's blog here an iphone (an most smartphones for that matter) are illegal to use as a distance measuring device because they have a compass. Now this is news to me and even though the guys argument does have a little bit of merit I disagree with his interpretation of the rules. Also the fact that thousands of us are using their Iphone for distance measuring I am surprised it has taken so long for someone to work out they are illegal. Over here in New Zealand the golfing body (from what I have been told) has ruled gps devices legal on all courses and even in amateur tournaments I believe.


So what do the rules gurus on here reckon?

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I think he's probably correct.  The compass is a bit of a red herring, since as far as I know most smart phones don't have compasses (except for GPS-derived velocity heading type display).  However, they do typically give you weather reports, can be used as inclinometers, could potentially be used to measure wind speed (can be done with a microphone to reasonable accuracy), etc, so there are plenty of things they can do that are not permitted.

If I were playing in a competition where GPS were allowed, I'd use a dedicated GPS so there would be no question.

It's a bit tricky to interpret that rule, since what a device is capable of is not well-defined.  Does not having an installed application to perform a particular illegal measurement take away the capability?  Someone could download the app in the middle of the round, so even that is hard to check.  Personally, I think the rule should not allow them.

As for normal rounds, I wouldn't sweat it.  It falls into the set of rules that I don't care to enforce.  I use an iPod Touch for scorekeeping and I know I don't use anything else, that's good enough for me.  In competition, though, I'd put it away and use a scorecard and a pencil.

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I actually never thought of this but I haven't seen anybody in a tourney using a smart phone for a gps. I would have to agree though with the amount of apps that apple has out there I'd have to assume that some would technically help. Then again I'm not sure weather reading, wind reading, or a compass would really help anyone that much but rules are rules. I'm sure the usga will probably be more clear about this rule in the near future since smart phones seem to be a popular gps now days.

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I think he's just a bitter OLD GUY that doesn't have an iPhone or know how to use one… Hahaha

Seriously though, I just used one at my match play tournament yesterday. I figured if the course has GPS on the carts why can't I use a handheld gps device? I honestly don't see the issue with them…

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It is as easy as can be, just prohibit the use of phones at the course (it is not "done").

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No different than not allowing rangefinders that can give you elevation changes in my eyes. It's just your poor luck that the phone got so many features.

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Originally Posted by SVTGolfer

I think he's just a bitter OLD GUY that doesn't have an iPhone or know how to use one… Hahaha

Seriously though, I just used one at my match play tournament yesterday. I figured if the course has GPS on the carts why can't I use a handheld gps device? I honestly don't see the issue with them…


Yeah the thing I can't compute (and it is in the comments of the blog) is why is the player trusted to report a breach if they touch their club in the sand, or the ball moves when it's addressed but if they use a device with a compass function then it doesn't matter if they actually use it they are straight away assumed to have used it. Just seems bizarre to me. But I will keep using my Iphone till someone can convince an official to disqualify me.

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I think this is an issue of inertia.  Rules does not keep up with times.  I am sure if this is illegal, someone somewhere will still use it.  So the bottom line is:  does this iPhone and it's App makes the guy play better during the tournament?  If it does, then it should not be used.  I see the same deal with new equipment vs. old equipment.  So should we make new equipment illegal just because we are not comfortable with their "technology"?



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Originally Posted by GolfFans

So should we make new equipment illegal just because we are not comfortable with their "technology"?



There are lots of rules that golf clubs has to conform to. Like the trampoline drivers that got banned. This is not something new.

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Originally Posted by SVTGolfer

Seriously though, I just used one at my match play tournament yesterday. I figured if the course has GPS on the carts why can't I use a handheld gps device? I honestly don't see the issue with them…

The issue with them is that it's against the rules. Pretty simple, really.

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Originally Posted by Gerald

It is as easy as can be, just prohibit the use of phones at the course (it is not "done").


or relegate their use to cart paths only (for emergency purposes)

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I've known of competitions which allowed the use of electronic rangefinders (both GPS and laser) but prohibited cell phones, because the many additional but disallowed features are too hard to regulate.  It would be difficult to impossible to tell if a player was using it in an improper way unless you were looking right over his shoulder.  We have disqualified a couple of players in the past for using an illegal laser with slope, and the players didn't even know that it was against the rules (at least that's what they said ) .  No telling what sort of excuses you'd get from the smart phone users.

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That's the same I have been told from our state association when I was looking for clarification for our high school matches. The skycaddie and similar devices are perfectly fine but iphones/androids/etc are not allowable because you can get other information which can help your game that you can not get on the golf specific gps rangefinders. On the iphones you could get wind speed, direction was one of the examples I was given. I know there are also some apps to help you with your aim for putting and things like that. That's what I was told.

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If it's a casual round or whatever than I don't see an issue with using a phone as your gps... you know exactly what you are doing on it and during a casual round that is all that really matters.  In a tournament however, I wouldn't even think of using one.

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Might as well just carry a 15th club then.  If you know it's a rule then you're willfully breaking a rule.  It might be silly, but there's no inherent right to use a smartphone during competition.  Not your fault that smartphones are basically computers, but they are, and it would too difficult to formulate rules that allowed smartphone/GPS applications but banned all features that are against the rules.

Originally Posted by k14

Yeah the thing I can't compute (and it is in the comments of the blog) is why is the player trusted to report a breach if they touch their club in the sand, or the ball moves when it's addressed but if they use a device with a compass function then it doesn't matter if they actually use it they are straight away assumed to have used it. Just seems bizarre to me. But I will keep using my Iphone till someone can convince an official to disqualify me.



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Originally Posted by clubchamp

I actually never thought of this but I haven't seen anybody in a tourney using a smart phone for a gps. I would have to agree though with the amount of apps that apple has out there I'd have to assume that some would technically help. Then again I'm not sure weather reading, wind reading, or a compass would really help anyone that much but rules are rules. I'm sure the usga will probably be more clear about this rule in the near future since smart phones seem to be a popular gps now days.


I agree, I think they should make some sort of announcement about it, just to avoid people getting into trouble through ignorance.  While everyone should know the rules, this sort of falls into one of the categories where I'm a little sympathetic to people not having put two and two together.  I'm sure the app-writers for the smart phones are hoping they won't make noise about it, though...

It occurred to me just now that making or answering a call on your GPS-capable smart phone might be against the rules, too.  This one is a bit less clear, but in a legalese sense, you are "using" a position-measuring device even if you never use it to measure a position.  That's something that I think certainly deserves clarification.  One can (separately) debate whether phones should be allowed at all, of course...

Originally Posted by SVTGolfer

I think he's just a bitter OLD GUY that doesn't have an iPhone or know how to use one… Hahaha

Seriously though, I just used one at my match play tournament yesterday. I figured if the course has GPS on the carts why can't I use a handheld gps device? I honestly don't see the issue with them…

It's not an issue with a handheld GPS device, it's an issue with a handheld GPS device that also measures things other than your horizontal position.

Originally Posted by k14

Yeah the thing I can't compute (and it is in the comments of the blog) is why is the player trusted to report a breach if they touch their club in the sand, or the ball moves when it's addressed but if they use a device with a compass function then it doesn't matter if they actually use it they are straight away assumed to have used it. Just seems bizarre to me. But I will keep using my Iphone till someone can convince an official to disqualify me.

An observer could, in principle, determine whether almost any other rule were violated.  Since the displays on most of these devices are small enough to be private, the same is not true.  That's a small, but I think significant difference.  It's easier to cheat when you know nobody can possibly know.

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Originally Posted by tristanhilton85

If it's a casual round or whatever than I don't see an issue with using a phone as your gps... you know exactly what you are doing on it and during a casual round that is all that really matters.  In a tournament however, I wouldn't even think of using one.


I agree with this.

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What I don't get is the guy's edit and clarification at the end:

Quote:

* Edit: Following correspondence with other Rules experts I now believe that the situation regarding the use of iPhones during competitions is at follows;
1. If there is a Local Rule permitting the use of distance measuring devices a player may not use an iPhone 3GS for measuring distances because it has a compass feature that cannot be removed. However, it may be used for any non-golfing purpose.
2. If there is not a Local Rule permitting distance measuring devices then a player may take an iPhone 3GS onto the course, providing they do not access any feature that might assist them in their play.

None of this makes any sense to me. You can use the phone for non-golfing purposes even though all of the features that supposedly make it illegal to use as a GPS are just as accessible, if not MORESO than if you are using a GPS APP?  That makes absolutely no sense.  And if you are allowed to take the phone on to the course "providing [you] do not access any freature that might assist...in [your] play", why on EARTH woudln't you be able to use the GPS APP under the same restrictions???

If the rule says the device is illegal to use as a distance measuring device because it can do other things, then it's illegal, period.  The above rationalizations do nothing but muddy the water even further.

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