Oops, we need a mulligan!
After gaining a clearer interpretation on the use of certain applications on smartphones, the following applies to the latest Know the Rules column in FORE Magazine:
The mere presence of a level application on a smartphone that is being used as a distance measuring device is not a breach of the rules. Even if the level application is open, the player has still not violated the Rules of Golf (specifically Rule 14-3). The level would have to be put to use in a way that would violate Rule 14-3, such as by placing the level on the putting green to determine the slope of the green. The same logic applies to other similar applications on smartphones that are being used as distance measuring devices.
Conversely, an application that gauges or measures conditions in breach of Rule 14-3 the second it’s opened (such as an altimeter or anemometer) remains a breach of the rules. If such applications are installed on a player’s smartphone, the smartphone may not be used as a distance measuring device – even if the non-conforming applications are never opened.