In 2005, the two designed and patented the Windage, an inexpensive, simple device to help golfers determine which way the wind is blowing, important to know when lining up a shot.Unlike a rangefinder, which is so organic.
The design is simplicity itself. It is a golf-ball-sized bulb that, when squeezed, blows a small cloud of talc into the air and lets the user see where the wind is blowing.
In a game where new improve-your-score gadgets come along every week, Healy believed they'd hit on something useful. "It's something that everybody can use," he said. "It's a lowbrow and simple tool, but it's affordable."
Then they ran into Rule 14-3(b) of the Rules of Golf, published by the United States Golf Association, the game's governing body.
When the two men submitted the Windage to the USGA for approval, the organization rejected it. The USGA, which allows the use of pricey laser range finders and GPS devices, branded the $6 tool an "artificial device" to gauge or measure conditions affecting play.
This week, Trachsel and Healy, co-owners of Rochester-based Windage LLC, took their complaint to federal court. The two sued the USGA and "unnamed co-conspirators" they claim have schemed to keep the Windage off the market and off golf courses.
"As a result of the USGA's arbitrary, inconsistent, unfair, unreasonable and unjustified actions in refusing to approve the Windage product, retail stores, pro shops and other golf retailers have refused to stock the product specifically because it is not USGA-approved, and the lack of approval is a major sales obstacle for retailers and manufacturers," the men claim in the suit, filed in U.S. District Court in Minneapolis.But at least the USGA was ready for a spirited defense.
Called for comment, the USGA's media office referred questions to Carter Rich, the organization's manager of equipment standards. Rich declined to comment, saying such questions should be handled by the media office, which did not return subsequent messages.Where's Marty Parkes when you need him?
Got to say, the gents have a pretty strong case:
Reaching down and tearing off a few blades of grass, then letting them go is one way golfers gauge wind direction and speed. Players - or caddies - who smoke do the same thing by exhaling a puff of smoke and watching how it moves in the wind.Okay, that's a bit of a stretch, but this isn't:
Both methods have their drawbacks, the lawsuit alleges:
-- Pulling grass damages the course "and forces the player to come into contact with potentially harmful fertilizers, pesticides, etc."
-- Puffing smoke is "dangerous in and of itself and a competitive advantage to those who smoke over those who do not."And...
The men submitted Windage to the USGA for approval in July 2006, and less than a month later, the association rejected it as being an artificial device for "gauging or measuring distances or conditions that might affect ... play."
The men appealed, and less than two weeks later, the USGA rejected the appeal. Undaunted, Trachsel and Healy took the matter to the USGA's executive committee, which upheld the earlier decisions.
That's because none of them were Windage investors! Get with the times guys!
Healy said the reasoning behind the association's rejection makes little sense.
"Coming from a bunch of retired lawyers, it was kind of a joke, their responses," he said. "The reason they came back with why a laser range finder or GPS is approved is it speeds up play and it's readily available information. We argued that wind condition is also readily available information.
"Our product was invented to speed up the game. Slow play is sucking the life out of the game. Who has five hours to play these days?"