Golf Datatech produced a 2012 study of the distance-measuring-device marketplace and DMD manufacturers were more than happy to publicize the results. The results of the Golf Datatech research show that more than 850,000 DMD’s were sold in the United States a year ago. Domestic sales passed $200 million, giving this product category a higher dollar total than putters, wedges, hybrids or gloves.
According to Scott Peterson, laser rangefinder product manager at optical sport manufacturer Bushnell, about 5 million of the estimated 25 million golfers in the U.S. have purchased at least one distance-measuring device.
Such sales are divided into two segments: laser rangefinders and GPS units. Laser rangefinders are precise instruments having accuracy within one-half yard at distances greater than 200 yards. However, laser rangefinders require a direct line of sight to a golf flagstick. By comparison, GPS units-using global-positioning satellites-can provide yardages across doglegs or through trees. The GPS units may provide accurate distances to the middle, front and back of any green, but cannot measure the exact location of a flagstick.
New technologies have evolved with products such as GPS golf watches that have been a hit for Garmin and other manufacturers.
In 2006, the U.S. Golf Association and R&A pronounced that individual tournaments could sanction the use of DMDs (for measuring distance, but not for wind or slope of the ground). As a result, these devices are now allowed in all college golf competition, all American Junior Golf Association tournaments, some mini-tour events, every state amateur championship and most meaningful amateur tournaments in the U.S.
The notable exceptions are the championships conducted by the USGA and R&A, and high-profile circuits, including the PGA Tour and European Tour.