“Dumbing Down” Golf to Level the Playing Field

I am mystified by the USGA’s decision to disallow the use of an elementary compass by any golfer. This simple device (the bane of many middle schoolers’ lives) is a fundamental tool used when studying geometry. There are no major secrets to its use and in the hands of a skilled mathematician, can produce amazing information. However, for most of us it is a simple tool and, in my opinion, there is nothing unusual about it. So why has the USGA decided to ban the compass from the game of golf after Bryson DeChambeau used one at the Travelers Championship?

Many great players use whatever is available to make their best golf shot. Whether it is a long iron, approach shot or putt, the amount of data available to the professional golfer and their caddie far exceeds what an amateur could comprehend. Now, suddenly using an elementary compass offers an advantage that is limited to only a few players. I think that is a bit of a stretch!

The following is a short excerpt from an article written in 2013 by the Augusta Chronicle. It highlights how much information a caddie has at their fingertips with respect to the green and fairways. “PGA Tour caddie Paul Tesori has gleaned detailed information in his Augusta National yardage books that he accumulated in 10 years of caddying in the Masters Tournament.”

“The arrows indicate the direction putts will break, based on Tesori’s past experience at Augusta National Golf Club.”

“Tesori marks the percent of the slope on the 18th green in three areas: 5 percent, 6.5 percent and 4.8 percent.”

“At the bottom right of the green, “R.C.” stands for Rae’s Creek and what Tesori calls the Rae’s Creek Influence on putts at Augusta National. Putts will break toward the portion of Rae’s Creek behind the 11th green, the lowest point on the course.”

Just by looking at the picture, I can tell that the amount of data collected by Tesori is astounding (if you want all the details of the article you can drop by their website). I can see that the USGA would want to ban the elementary compass because of the advantage gained by applying a bit of physics.

The USGA cited Rule 14-3 as the reason DeChambeau or any other golfer cannot use an elementary compass. Golfworld sums up the situation as follows: “The law ostensibly in play is Rule 14-3, which bans the use of any artificial device or unusual equipment for the purpose of gauging or measuring distance or conditions that might affect his play.” So, if this is the case, then it is possible that caddie yardage books would fail the same Rule 14-3 test. The amount of information in the books is far greater than anything an elementary compass can create in a few short minutes.

My take is that the USGA does not really understand how DeChambeau actually uses the compass and how he, because of his physics background, has an advantage over the other professionals. Additionally, I think they are telling all the other professional golfers that they are not bright enough to use a compass, so “We got your back – we banned it”.

The USGA is sending the wrong message to the golfing world. They are “dumbing down” golf in an attempt to level the playing field. This is akin to telling the top professional sprinters to slow down a bit to let the field catch up so they all finish at the same time. From my point of view, the USGA failed and if Bryson DeChambeau can use an elementary compass to ensure the pin sheet is correct, then I say all the power too him!

What do you think? Did Bryson DeChambeau break Rule 14-3 by using an elementary compass at the Travelers Champioship?

I am a grateful golfer! See you on the links!

6 thoughts on ““Dumbing Down” Golf to Level the Playing Field

  1. I think they should ban it all personally. Part of playing the game in the past was being able to judge those things with your eyes, feet, etc.. It’s all a cheat on the origin of the game.
    By the way, I got some bad news this week. I ran out to get a quick round in and found my home course had closed. For good. It seems it has been sold to build condo’s on. Now I have to go learn all the details, all the twists and turns, nooks and crannies of another course so I can maybe shoot a par round someday. It really depressed me. I was getting so close. I did go to another course and got my round in, but I just wasn’t into it after finding that out and my game showed it.


    • Kevin

      That is sad news about you home course. Hopefully you will be able to find a new place to play that offers the same amenities and opportunities to play as often as you do. Maybe this change will take your game to a new level.

      We are going to have to agree to disagree regarding your first statement. The ability to judge is a dieing art. Give the detail of the yardage books, slope sheets for the green, and personal caddie books, very little is left to chance. The elementary compass forces the player to use their brain and figure things out, I feel it follows the spirit of the game.

      Thanks for weighing in. I enjoy the conversation.

      Cheers Jim


      • Your statement, “The ability to judge is a dieing art” is exactly why I think all that help provided by yardage books, etc should be dropped. And dropped now. Technology could 3d map every inch of a course and one likely will if we continue down this path. It’s the “art” in the game we loose with each change that makes the game easier. And I just don’t see that as a good thing.


      • We actually agree, but unfortunately golf has gone down a road of no return. So, if they are going to let other technologies in, why ban a compass. It just does not make sense to me. Hope you play well next time out.

        Cheers Jim


  2. Jim, this is the USGA at its dumbest. DeChambeau can do the exact same thing with a small 6 inch ruler. Are they going to ban that as well? At the end of the day, there is nothing to prevent him from using the compass during practice rounds or marking up his pin sheet before the round starts so I don’t think it will have an affect at all. DeChambeau is a bright guy, he’ll solve for this in some other way.


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