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Virtual Caddy Allowed? Not so Fast, Golf Digest


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https://www.golfdigest.com/story/this-latest-usga-equipment-decision-might-bring-artificial-intelligence-closer-to-competition

The title is "This latest USGA equipment decision might bring artificial intelligence closer to competition"

Arccos (and eventually, GAME GOLF) has a "virtual caddy" system that can tell you what club to hit and where to hit it. I don't think the USGA is saying that's allowed. If I read the Golf Digest story, it reads to me that the ability to tell you the yardage is allowed (it's the same as a GPS app)… but the article is written very confusingly.

I don't understand how the recommendation "off the tee" is legal (but for an approach shot, it's not?) because "those recommendations can be made before a round begins." What about on the second tee? The round has already begun.

It then goes on to say:

Quote

"Please note that if a player could access certain information through the Arccos mobile application during the stipulated round that might assist him in his play, such as current round shot information (e.g., shot distance, individually or included in the club averages, or club selection during the round) or certain statistics, the player could be in breach of Rule 14-3a of the Rules of Golf. This is because the player could be deemed to have used an artificial device to access information that might assist him in his play."

But that's what the caddy does: offer club selection information/advice. It later adds:

Quote

In an August 2017 piece in Golf Digest, USGA senior director of rules and amateur status Thomas Pagel made it clear that any live recommendations of the Arccos Caddie, which was launched in May as part of a partnership with Microsoft and their Azure Cloud, would violate Rule 14-3.

Okay… so that means it can't say "you're hitting your clubs shorter today, so instead of a 7-iron here, hit a 6-iron." Fine. That's easy enough.

So…

Is the "ruling" basically saying the Virtual Caddie, before you begin your round, can make a recommendation for what you should hit off each of the 18 tees before your round? I.e. it can't use information "live" from that round, and it's basically published "before" your round and doesn't change.

If so, big whoop. Who cares about that? That's not a "virtual caddy." That's just a tiny bit of pre-planning, and for all you know the course is playing softer or firmer or the wind is in a different direction that day.


Am I reading that right? Or did I miss something? The headline and the writeup are not very well done, IMO.

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  • iacas changed the title to Virtual Caddy Allowed? Not so Fast, Golf Digest

I agree that it's poorly written. It sounds like they're trying to make it say more than the USGA has said.  Based on the limitation of the article, the important part of what the USGA said might be:

Quote

the use of the Arccos Caddie application is permitted under the Rules of Golf when a Committee establishes a Local Rule permitting the use of distance measuring devices (see Decision 14-3/0.5). 

So as I read it, the use of the app is allowed, but only as a distance measuring device.  When they later give the warning that "if a player could access certain information through the Arccos mobile application during the stipulated round that might assist him in his play ..." it seems to mean that club recommendations aren't allowed.  So it appears that they must have a "tournament mode" that conforms.

Perhaps more important in the article was:

Quote

The USGA did not immediately return a request for comment.

Poor form of golfdigest not to link to the USGA decision.  I went to usga.org and tried various search words without finding it.

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28 minutes ago, Missouri Swede said:

I agree that it's poorly written. It sounds like they're trying to make it say more than the USGA has said.  Based on the limitation of the article, the important part of what the USGA said might be:

So as I read it, the use of the app is allowed, but only as a distance measuring device.

Right. I think that's all it's saying.

28 minutes ago, Missouri Swede said:

Poor form of golfdigest not to link to the USGA decision.  I went to usga.org and tried various search words without finding it.

It's likely in an email or a letter to Arccos, not a post online.

It's not a "Decision" with a capital-D, like the Rules and Decisions.

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From Arccos website:

Quote

Can I use the app in a tournament?

Yes, you can turn on Tournament Mode. This will show you only the features of Arccos Caddie that conform to the Rules of Golf – including display of your optimal strategy, wind speed and wind direction. Make sure to turn off Tournament Mode after the competition.

What is Tournament Mode and how do I activate it?

Tournament mode disables certain features of Arccos Caddie that do not conform to the Rules of Golf. These include displays of elevation and Plays Like distances (which factor in elevation data). This can be activated via a simple toggle on the Player -> Settings tab.

"Display of your optimal strategy" is listed as an element of Tournament Mode.  Perhaps it just means off the tee?

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9 hours ago, Hardspoon said:

From Arccos website:

"Display of your optimal strategy" is listed as an element of Tournament Mode.  Perhaps it just means off the tee?

Yeah, but I think that’s still lame. It tells you what club to hit and where to aim? I know it can’t use any updates from the current round and has to base it on your history.

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I am still a bit confused, but I don't own Arccos so it shouldn't affect me. On a slightly different note, the USGA is trying to "modernize or simplify" the rules of golf in 2019. Why wouldn't they look at allowing a virtual caddy? You can use a human being to help you pull clubs, etc, but you cannot have an app tell you what club to hit? So in 2019 you can benefit like crazy dropping your ball from a millimeter above the ground but an app telling you to hit a 7 iron is too much? I guess I just don't understand where they are drawing the line.

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11 hours ago, Hardspoon said:

From Arccos website:

  Quote

Can I use the app in a tournament?

Yes, you can turn on Tournament Mode. This will show you only the features of Arccos Caddie that conform to the Rules of Golf – including display of your optimal strategy, wind speed and wind direction. Make sure to turn off Tournament Mode after the competition.

I'd say that Arccos is not entirely correct here, you're not allowed to have a device indicate wind speed or direction:

Quote

14-3/0.5

Local Rule Permitting Use of Distance-Measuring Device

Q.May a Committee, by Local Rule, permit the use of distance-measuring devices?

A.Yes. A Committee may establish a Local Rule allowing players to use a device to measure or gauge distance only (see the Note to Rule 14-3). However, if a distance-measuring device has additional functionality that can gauge or measure other conditions that might affect a player’s play (e.g., elevation change, wind speed, etc.), the use of any such additional function would be a breach of Rule 14-3.

 

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2 hours ago, DaveP043 said:

I'd say that Arccos is not entirely correct here, you're not allowed to have a device indicate wind speed or direction:

It's not measuring or gauging wind speed or direction. It's simply telling you what the weather report is from a station x miles away says.

That rule was changed in 2016, I think. I can look up a weather report during a round because that doesn't actually measure the conditions where I am standing.

http://www.usga.org/rules-hub/distance-measuring-devices/use-of-weather-data.html

Elevation change is where you are (geography doesn't change very rapidly), so it's still illegal.

So the best this can do is tell you what club to hit off each of the 18 tees based on the information it had prior to starting your round.

Meh. Big whoop.

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25 minutes ago, iacas said:

It's not measuring or gauging wind speed or direction. It's simply telling you what the weather report is from a station x miles away says.

That rule was changed in 2016, I think. I can look up a weather report during a round because that doesn't actually measure the conditions where I am standing.

Thanks, I understand the distinction.

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18 hours ago, iacas said:

That rule was changed in 2016, I think. I can look up a weather report during a round because that doesn't actually measure the conditions where I am standing.

http://www.usga.org/rules-hub/distance-measuring-devices/use-of-weather-data.html

 

It wasn't a rule change really but a clarification of the wording.

I had a response to that effect from the R&A in 2012, prior to my writing a briefing report for England Golf.

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Had no clue Game Golf was developing the "virtual caddy" albet I dont know if I need it based on knowing my stats off my user website.

Like you said, if its just before the round stats and cant be used after, than yeah, its just automated pre-planning to me.

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Thinking about it and reading more....did this rule allow only for the Arccos app to be used for yardage? Or are all GPS yardage apps on smartphones now allowed, so long as they have a mode to enable only yardages?

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2 hours ago, cutchemist42 said:

Had no clue Game Golf was developing the "virtual caddy" albet I dont know if I need it based on knowing my stats off my user website.

Like you said, if its just before the round stats and cant be used after, than yeah, its just automated pre-planning to me.

Well you can use it if you don't want to post your score in a tournament…

1 hour ago, cutchemist42 said:

Thinking about it and reading more....did this rule allow only for the Arccos app to be used for yardage? Or are all GPS yardage apps on smartphones now allowed, so long as they have a mode to enable only yardages?

That's not what it's about. It's about that PLUS it can tell you what shots to hit off the tee (what club, where to aim). It can't tell you any more than that and the information can't be updated based on how you're playing the round. It has to come from information before you started playing.

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