The National Golf Clubs‘ Advisory Association (NGCAA) is advising that course mapping without permission for use on new golfing GPS devices is lawful, but clubs should be aware that manufacturers appear willing to negotiate fees for the privilege.
Since the launch of the new devices, concern has risen that club revenue generated through the sale of yardage books and course guide booklets may be significantly reduced and eventually, lost altogether. Michael Shaw, national secretary at the NGCAA, comments, “The satellite measuring technology is relatively new and still has a period of trial and error to go through.
“During this time, manufacturers will be keen to ensure that their technology evolves to offer the greatest accuracy possible. This can be achieved by working closely with clubs and sharing their knowledge.
Taking this approach could provide clubs with an alternative source of income to compensate that lost through reduced stroke saver booklet sales.”
Growing in popularity, the new GPS measuring devices have provoked mixed response across UK courses. Shaw comments, “The Royal and Ancient has approved the use of GPS devices, however it is subject to appropriate local rule being made permitting their use. There has been much speculation as to whether the gadgets infringe any rights protected by law.
“In particular, clubs where the course has been mapped and made available to users of the GPS devices are questioning whether their rights have been violated. Argument has been made, that similar to unauthorised photography, measurements of a course cannot be taken without the owner/club’s permission.
“There is now no law to prohibit the taking of aerial photographs of property and therefore, taking the measurements of a course from an aerial photograph falls into the same category.”
There are approximately 1,266 UK GPS course maps now available and claims that the technology can help improve a golfers‘ game and speed up play. Shaw continues, “It is early days and the devices have attracted mixed reviews. Golfers have criticised the accuracy, speed and price of the technology, whilst others are questioning how the devices will affect the grassroots skills and professionalism of the game.
“Clubs do have the right to impose local rule banning or restricting the use of GPS devices. However, before taking any such action, we recommend that clubs consider member opinion and balance their views with how a ban or restriction may impact on revenues.”