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Dur­ing last month's TV cov­er­age

of the Trav­el­ers Cham­pi­onship, cam­eras pic­tured Bryson DeChambeau em­ploy­ing a com­pass dur­ing his round at TPC River High­lands. DeChambeau is renowned for his an­a­lyt­i­cal ap­proach to the game but ap­par­ently, the PGA Tour had a dif­fer­ent take: It might be against the rules of golf.

At least, that's what's been at­trib­uted to DeChambeau, who told reporters fol­low­ing his fi­nal round in Cromwell that the tour was con­cerned about the in­stru­ment's use.

“They said we just want to let you know we're in­ves­ti­gat­ing this de­vice and see­ing if it's al­low­able or not,” DeChambeau said fol­low­ing a two-un­der 68 on the fi­nal day. “It wouldn't be the first time this has hap­pened.”

DeChambeau stated he uses the com­pass to de­ter­mine "true pin lo­ca­tions," not­ing that they are off ev­ery so often. The 24-year-old re­marked he's been us­ing the tool in tour events since 2016

“It's been used for a long, long time,” DeChambeau said. “Peo­ple are say­ing it's an un­usual de­vice, that's at least what the tour's say­ing.

“It's funny peo­ple take no­tice when you start playing well.”

So, the ques­tion has to be asked: What rule is DeChambeau pos­si­bly break­ing?

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. This pro­hibits play­ers from us­ing items like rangefind­ers that have ac­ti­vated a fea­ture that cal­cu­lates the ef­fect of slope on dis­tance. Also, out­lined in Ap­pendix IV, un­der Rule 14-3, an ar­ti­fi­cial de­vice is not al­lowed if it pro­vides “rec­om­men­da­tions that might as­sist the player in mak­ing a stroke or in his play [e.g., club se­lec­tion, type of shot to be played, green read­ing or any other ad­vice re­lated mat­ter]."

In that re­gard, DeChambeau is in vi­o­la­tion, right?

Not nec­es­sar­ily.

The Rules of Golf specif­i­cally ad­dresses com­pass use, as the guide­lines al­low their use:

14-3/4 Use of Com­pass Dur­ing Round


A player uses a com­pass dur­ing a stip­u­lated round to help de­ter­mine the di­rec­tion of the wind or the di­rec­tion of the grain in the greens. Is the player in breach of Rule 14-3?


No. A com­pass only pro­vides di­rec­tional in­for­ma­tion and does not gauge or mea­sure vari­able con­di­tions or as­sist the player in his play.

How­ever, that cov­ers the nav­i­ga­tional in­stru­ment and not the ge­om­e­try de­vice, if there can be a dif­fer­ence! A call to the USGA didn't pro­vide much clar­ity, as the tour­na­ment didn't fall un­der its ju­ris­dic­tion and thus did not want to com­ment on the mat­ter.

Some rule ex­perts have said: "Read 14-3. It's not help­ing him choose a club or do any­thing that is against the rules," the of­fi­cial said. "He is try­ing to find the ex­act spot in the book the hole is lo­cated. That would not be a breach of 14–3.

"We can't see that he's get­ting any sort of in­for­ma­tion that isn't pub­licly avail­able."

So why the in­ter­est in DeChambeau's com­pass? Per­haps it has to do with the height­ened fo­cus on green­read­ing ma­te­ri­als. Last May, the USGA and R&A re­leased a joint state­ment that the en­ti­ties would be in­ves­ti­gat­ing the le­gal­ity of such ma­te­ri­als. Though a change was not re­flected in the re­vised Rules of Golf set to go into ef­fect in 2019, it re­mains an is­sue the bod­ies want to ad­dress. DeChambeau sim­ply could have fallen into this cross­fire.

The end to this came when the tour ad­vised the fol­low­ing re­gard­ing its in­ves­ti­ga­tion:

"Bryson DeChambeau's use of a com­pass to make no­ta­tions on ex­act hole lo­ca­tion in his greens book came to light dur­ing Satur­day's round at the Trav­el­ers Cham­pi­onship, and PGA Tour Rules Of­fi­cials met with Bryson af­ter the round. Af­ter con­sult­ing with the USGA, there is no clear prece­dent on the use of a com­pass in this man­ner and it is not cur­rently pro­hib­ited un­der the Rules of Golf. The USGA is re­view­ing the mat­ter, with our feedback, and is ex­pected to make a rul­ing on its con­form­ity with the Rules soon."

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