IHSA says 'no' to range finders on golf courseGlenbrook North freshman Nick Hardy was able to use his distance range finder over the summer in Illinois Junior Golf Association events, but the device is banned for IHSA play.
Updated: March 22, 2011 4:30PM
It didn't help Nick Hardy win the Chick Evans
Junior Amateur Championship, but there was rarely a hole during the
match play final July 30 when the Glenbrook North freshman golfer didn't use
a distance range finder.
At 5-feet, 100-pounds, Hardy gave up as much as 20 yards a drive to
his opponent, fellow freshman Doug Ghim from Buffalo Grove. But Hardy
made up for it with dead-on approach shots and solid putting. Ghim
defeated Hardy on the final hole of match play at Steeple Chase Golf
Course in Mundelein.
Both players took advantage of the Illinois Junior Golf Association's
new rule over the summer that allowed range finders, a hand-held
telescopic device that measures the distance from one point to the
viewer. Hardy stands behind his ball, places the flag stick in the
range finder's cross hairs and presses a button twice to get a reading
inside the device, such as "125.2 yd."
IJGA officials discovered that many of their members were already
using range finders during practice rounds. A poll indicated that
nearly 50 percent of the association's members owned a range finder in
"We talked about it for one year and went to the junior golf summit as
part of the PGA's merchandise show," IJGA Executive Director Carrie
Williams said. "We have estimated that there are five state
associations that do it."
The IJGA provided a discount to its members who did not own a range
finder, offering a $249 Callaway-Nikon model normally priced at $299.
One of the reasons behind the decision was to speed up the pace of
play. One IJGA official claimed this summer's average round has been
reduced by as much as 15 minutes to 4 hours, 30 minutes, although
there is no determination how much that can be attributed to range
finders or more efficient staff members running the tournament.
Is there an unfair advantage for players who own range finders
compared to those that don't?
"(Players) can share the range finder. It's the same (information) as
a sprinkler head or tree, as far as yardage," Williams said.
Range finders are becoming part of the mandatory equipment for college
golfers and the IJGA features serious-minded, elite golfers that are
among the best in the state. It is more likely that IJGA members would
make the investment to buy the expensive range finders.
"If we put the technology in their hands, that will create an even
playing field," Williams said.
The IHSA currently bans range finders although boys golf administrator
Kurt Gibson was unaware of the IJGA's use of them.
"We don't allow them, although I have not heard of a lot of talk from
coaches saying this is something they wanted to allow high school
golfers to use," Gibson said.
Hardy, who shot a 1-over-par 72 for second place in his first high
school meet, is back to measuring yardage by looking at markers on the
course. He purchased a used range finder on eBay for $125.
He predicts the IHSA will follow the IJGA's decision in the future.
"Maybe one day. The IJGA did it and (the IHSA) could do it," Hardy
said. "I think it speeds up play. You don't take extra time to walk
off 30 yards. The yard markers are not the right distances
Jack Halpin, coach of three-time defending Class 3A state champion St.
Viator, is an at-large member to the IJGA board and the board's only
high school head coach. He helped approve range finders for IJGA play,
but does not believe the IHSA will allow them.
"It would be hard for the IHSA," Halpin said. "We don't have people
all over the state (to afford it). You have to realize how difficult
economic conditions are."
But Halpin's Lions use a range finder during practice rounds. He
teaches his players to measure yardage accurately by pacing off their
range. The players then use the battery-powered range finder to
determine how close they were to their predicted mark.
"It's a great way to train them," Halpin said.
Range finders aren't even the latest in technology to determine
yardage. The Ridgeland, Miss.-based SkyGolf company produces the
SkyCaddie, billed as the "#1 Rangefinder in Golf" on its website.
The company used lasers to measure the distances and features on over
700 golf courses in the state. The company, which started in 2001,
claims a database of 26,000 golf courses worldwide. Golfers can use a
hand-held device with a Global Positioning System to gauge distances
to the hole, green, bunkers and water. Top-of-the-line models can give
you an aerial view of the hole in relation to your shot.
Golfers go to the SkyGolf website to download the information on each
course. The website advertises devices between $249.95-$399.95.
SkyCaddie information can be downloaded for The Glen Club, Glenview
Park and Sportsmans Country Club, and even nine hole courses such as
Antesberger, Glenview National and Willow Hill.
An elite course, such as Eagle Ridge Resort in Galena, does not use
GPS technology on its golf carts like many other courses, but sells
the hand-held device for $500 at its pro shop.
Eagle Ridge Director of Golf Erin Strieck was also unaware that the
IJGA has allowed range finders.
"I think it's sad they let junior golfers use them," Strieck said.
"I'm a club professional and I don't even own one."
One of Glenbrook South's top golfers, junior Quinlan Prchal, played in
only one IJGA event and competed in other summer tournaments that did
not allow range finders. He walked off his yardage in American Junior
Golf Association events and relied on pin sheets, which display the
length and depth of greens.
"I have (a range finder), but I don't always use it," Prchal said.
"Range finders do not get the ball in the hole. In the grand scheme of
things, it does not make a difference."