The USGA vs The Little Guy

imageA pair of Minnesota entrepreneurs are suing the USGA after that organization rejected their invention, accusing it of a conspiracy to keep their brainchild off the courses and off the market.

The device in question is called the Windage. Designed as a golf ball sized bulb, when pressed it blows a cloud of talc into the air, showing the golfer the direction and speed of the wind.

It’s the gadget equivalent of tossing a few blades of grass in the air—or for smokers, of blowing a puff—and watching the results. And that’s why Brian Trachsel and David Healy thought the USGA would give Windage their seal of approval.

But golf’s self-proclaimed governing body rejected the device, saying that it violates Rule 14-3(b), which prohibits artificial devices to gauge or measure conditions affecting play.

Trachsel and Healy now have taken the case to federal court, suing the USGA and “unnamed co-conspirators”.

I am of course, not a lawyer; nor did I recently sleep at a Holiday Inn Express. But it looks to me as though they have a case. The USGA has, after all, approved such things as laser range finders and GPS units, which absolutely are artificial devices that measure conditions (distance) during play. I’ll bet a jury would have a hard time drawing distinctions.

But if there are few distinctions between a GPS and the Windage, why is the one rejected? The cynic in me says that the laser finders and gps units were approved because those companies have deep pockets and could potentially have caused the USGA legal difficulties. The Windage guys are, on the other hand, relatively small potatoes. A Windage sells for just six bucks.

So now the USGA has a lawsuit on its hands. Again. They have in recent years been sued over several rulings—most recently over the Bionic Glove. That one ended in an out-of-court settlement.

And I’m betting the Windage lawsuit also will be settled out of court. The USGA doesn’t want to go to court over these issues because the potential is that it could lose the power to dictate golf equipment.

I have in the past compared the situation to the War Powers Act passed by Congress back in the 1970s. It’s never been challenged, because neither side wants to find the answer. If the President won a challenge to the Act, he would gain tremendously. And if the Congress won, the President’s power in other areas would be seriously curtailed. Neither side can afford to take a chance on losing. So they sidestep the problem by coming to an agreement every time.

I think that the same tenuous agreement exists between the manufacturers and the USGA. The USGA can’t take a chance on finding out that it doesn’t have the power to dictate equipment. And the manufacturers don’t want to find out that it does.

You can read more about the case here.


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