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Something that appeared in 2013 and likely will continue into 2014 is pace of play. The USGA has made it a point of emphasis and time (pun intended) will tell whether it morphs into something that reduces the amount of time required to play a round. However, it appears some of the range finder companies are looking for some respect in terms of lending a helping hand in getting players to pick up the pace of their round.

Bushnell Golf reported it teamed up with California-based National University Golf Academy to conduct a speed of play study. The results of the study concluded that laser rangefinders (quite likely its own product) improved speed of play by nearly 30 minutes for mid- to high-index players. The study took place at the Santaluz Club in San Diego, Calif., over the course of two days and little information was shared other than the results. For example, the speed (recurring theme!) of the putting surfaces wasn’t revealed. If surfaces are fast, players tend to slow down and struggle when it comes to putting. Technically, half a player’s shots occur on the greens, which imply not only the importance but the time potentially required (good or bad). Missing a green only adds to the time spent in and around the putting surface as players attempt to salvage their score.

In the never-ending public relations battle, rival Laser Link heralded the study as music to its ear with one caveat. “The study was fantastic, save for one detail that was understandably omitted,” said Rob O’Loughlin, president of Laser Link Golf.  “The club where the study was conducted uses Smarty reflectors to increase the effectiveness of laser rangefinders. These reflectors play a huge role in making things faster and more accurate. The study proves what everyone has known all along – a laser rangefinder plus a quality reflector will have a significant effect on pace of play!”

O’Loughlin believes that with the release of this independent study, golf’s governing bodies have received the information they need to promote (i.e. validate) the use of laser rangefinders as a way to speed up play. “For years the USGA and R&A have sought independent data, and now they have it,” said O’Loughlin.  “They have purposely omitted the promotion of distance measurement tools in their “While We’re Young” campaign, but it is something they can no longer ignore. Laser rangefinders have a better chance to make a meaningful impact than any other initiative that has been set forth. If pace of play truly is a priority for the governing bodies, it’s time for them to make these devices part of the solution, instead of continuing to view them as part of the problem.”

Whether it’s the ultimate solution or simply a cog in the wheel to move people around a course faster is open for a healthy debate. Clearly, the Bushnell and Laser Links of the world have a vested interest in seeing more and more players adopt a distance-measuring device for the sake of lifting sales. However, if a player doesn’t believe they are part of the problem (with or without distance measuring device) there isn’t anything on the market that will see a marked change. After all rangefinder and reflector products are well known in golf for more than 10 years and yet we find ourselves where we are in the matter. All that said, it’s hard to believe the game was once played under three hours by the Scots before any of these technologies invaded the world!