Bryson DeChambeau finds himself in the middle of another rules controversy. But unlike last year’s side-saddle situation, this time there isn’t a clear precedent.
The PGA Tour released a statement Monday after DeChambeau was spotted using a compass – not the directional device but rather the technical drawing instrument used for making circles or arcs – during Saturday’s third round of the Travelers Championship.
“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 statement reads. “The USGA is reviewing the matter, with our feedback, and is expected to make a ruling on its conformity with the Rules soon.”
When asked about the tool last weekend, DeChambeau said he uses it to find exact hole locations – tournament pin sheets aren’t always 100-percent accurate, he said – and he’s been doing it on Tour for a “long, long time,” or since October 2016.
Tour officials met with DeChambeau after the round to discuss the issue.
“People are saying it’s an unusual device, that’s at least what the Tour’s saying,” DeChambeau told reporters at TPC River Highlands, where he ended up T-9.
“It’s funny people take notice when you start playing well.”
The rule in question is Rule 14-3, which bans any artificial device or unusual equipment – or use any equipment in an abnormal manner – that might assist a player in making a stroke or in their play; or for the purpose of gauging or measuring distance or conditions that might affect their play.
Appendix IV adds that such artificial devices must not provide “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).”
There is a decision that directly addresses the directional compass – those are legal, by the way – but not the drawing tool.
The USGA said it wouldn’t comment specifically on the matter until a decision has been reached. But last year, the governing body, in a joint statement with the R&A, announced that it would be looking into green-reading materials.
“We are concerned about the rapid development of increasingly detailed materials that players are using to help with reading greens during a round,” that statement said. “We are reviewing the use of these materials to assess whether any actions need to be taken to protect this important part of the game.”
But as one rules official pointed out, DeChambeau is using information available to every player: “I don’t see how it is assisting his play. He is using info already publicly available and fine-tuning his book. Making perfect circles is all he is doing as far as I can see.”
The USGA did not give a timetable for when it would make a decision on DeChambeau’s compass. If it allows it, then DeChambeau is free to continue using the device. If not, then it is another blow to a golfer who desires to find new and creative ways to play the game.