The Rangefinder Debate From A Pro's Perspective

‘Rangefinders are great but they’re not going to speed up play or replace caddies’

Bunker ambassador Paul Streeter on how being able to use rangefinders works on tour

We’ve used rangefinders since I’ve been on the Legends Tour. The guys from SkyCaddie plot all the courses and we then sync them. It works great and some guys don’t use a book any more – I still like a book as you will make notes and draw some slopes on the greens in a practice round.

All our courses are mapped out so there will be red, yellow and white dots on the fairway and you can easily pace it off them and get your yardage. I’ll also have the yardage to the front with the SkyCaddie and then look at the pin sheet to see what we’ve got to the flag. Then we’ll laser it to confirm. Sometimes the pin might be just a few yards from the back of the green so I want every bit of information to tell me that two yards past is dead when it might seem like a good shot.

My wife caddies for me a lot and she usually has the laser and I will have done the book and SkyCaddie and then we’ll double check. I will occasionally have paced it out wrong or added it on rather than taken it away but we’ll always check with the laser and it’s a nice insurance to have.

One thing that doesn’t make much sense is that we can use a laser but not one that measures slope. But we have a yardage book which has the slope on it! So it’s there in my book, which has been done with a laser, but you’re not allowed to have the slope rating on it. In the Seychelles there’s a hole that is so downhill that my laser couldn’t calculate how far downhill it was. It actually played about 60 yards, one day in practice I actually threw it on the green.

For the amateur golfer your SkyCaddie is a no-brainer as you don’t have yardage books, it’s there on your bag and, as soon as you’re at your ball, you have the three yardages that you need and most clubs have different flags for front, middle and back. They have also helped amateurs to know how far they really hit the ball and they probably won’t hit it as far as they think they do. They’re great for speed of play but they won’t necessarily speed up play on tours.
We all know, on any tour, who the slow players are and, whether you have lasers or not, that’s not the stumbling block. It’s quite simple, however you do it you will get your yardage in around 10 seconds and then it will be a choice of three clubs maximum, usually two. If you look at the top players, like Rory, DJ and Koepka, they’re all quick, they get on with it and that is good for the game.

Youngsters watch that and you soon realise that there’s no need for long chats about the wind or temperature. The only way rangefinders will speed up play is when you are a long way off line. It might not have changed things much with Jordan Spieth but a laser would have speeded things up a bit but otherwise it won’t make a blind bit of difference to the pace. Slow players aren’t struggling to get the yardage, it’s what comes after that takes up the time. If you’re playing on a links and you’ve got blind shot in then a rangefinder isn’t going to speed things up as you will have to walk up to the hill and then laser back to your bag.

They are also allowed on the EuroPro Tour but not many other tours. In time I think they will let tour players use them but I don’t think it will make any difference about the pace of play. I’ve read comments about getting rid of caddies but that will never happen. Caddies will always be a part of the game and, for me, they are almost psychologists as much as anything and it’s only when you’ve had a caddy for a while that they know what you’re like. My wife is great as she knows me really well and she’ll tell me when I’m being an idiot and when to leave me alone. That’s a big skill in knowing when to get involved.

I like all the recent technology. Before Woodhall Spa was sold to England Golf Neil Hotchkin, who used to own the course, wouldn’t let them do a yardage book and you played it by eye. When I first started playing at Sleaford, before lasers, you would get used to knowing what club to hit and when I went back there with a laser I found it a bit off-putting as I was seeing a different club from what I would normally play. We used to have books with 150 yards from an oak tree and, if you weren’t great with your trees or there are a lot of them, then that was never much help!