PGA Tour's new mobile-phone rules ease restrictions

April 21, 2011 

Blair Smith makes a call from his cellphone Thursday in one of the designated cellphone-use areas during the first round of the Heritage golf tournament.

JONATHAN DYER / THE ISLAND PACKET AND BEAUFORT GAZETTE

  • All mobile devices must be silenced.

  • Calls are only permitted in designated areas at the Michelob Ultra 19th hole; inside the clubhouse; concessions stands at Expo Village; holes 10, 13, 15 and 18; and neighborhood roads.

  • No video recording is permitted anytime, and no photographs are permitted during official competition rounds. Any device with a lens is considered a camera, whether it makes calls or not

  • Violations may result in confiscation of the mobile device or removal from the tournament. (Neither the Heritage nor the PGA Tour is responsible for damage to or loss of any confiscated devices.)

  • No more ducking behind trees to text and tweet or covering your cellphone with your hat for a quick chat at the Heritage golf tournament. Mobile devices have long been banned at PGA Tour events, drawing complaints from fans and vendors unable to check in with the office and family from the course. Now, mobile devices may be used in designated areas. Fans, players and vendors can make calls, check and send emails, text and tweet without worry, so long as their devices are in silent mode.

    The PGA Tour changed its policy on cellphone use earlier this year after testing at tournaments last year and the beginning of this season. The policy was enacted tourwide starting at the Honda Classic, according to assistant tournament director Morgan Hyde.

    "The PGA Tour is trying to accommodate its fans. You've got husbands and wives at the tournament and the kids are with the baby-sitter. You've got doctors who are on call who may need to go back to the office," Hyde said. "The tournaments have made suggestions and asked about having this done for years because of comments from spectators, and the tour has come up with a policy that strikes a good balance of respecting the player, not being a distraction and allowing fans to stay in contact with family and their business."

    The tournament, however, still has a zero-tolerance policy if a phone rings or is used to take photos or video, Hyde said. In that event, the device may be confiscated, he said.

    Those using cellphones outside designated areas or taking photos, but not causing a distraction, will receive a warning. A second offense will result in the device's confiscation, Hyde said. Those who have devices confiscated will receive a claim ticket and can retrieve the device at the ticket office next to the clubhouse as they leave, he said.

    As of Thursday afternoon, tournament officials said they've had no problems with people violating the policy. Every ticket mailing and the daily pairings pamphlet explained the policy. Signs also are posted around the course and parking lots, and announcements are made at all tee boxes and some greens reminding spectators. Volunteers also remind people to head to designated areas.

    Angela McSwain, tournament marketing director, said most tournament fans are knowledgeable about proper cellphone use and golf etiquette.

    "The photo and the video is a big priority because it is a distraction, and the tour owns all the photo and video rights for tournament play," McSwain said. "That's been the hardest thing for the tour because people don't think of their phone as being a camera."

    Fans were supportive of the new policy, even if some had difficulty complying.

    Ethan Ware of Columbia, an attorney with the McNair Law Firm, held his hat in front of his face in an attempt to conceal his phone as he whispered into it during a call near the 18th tee Thursday morning. No one was at the tee at the time.

    Ware was participating in a conference call involving expert witnesses.

    "It's a little bit hard to follow as the designated areas are not clearly marked as I may have liked," Ware said. "But no one has been offensive or inappropriate in asking me to move to those areas. ...

    "There's a lot of business that can be done on the phone ... without disturbing the players or the crowd."

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