Now someone else’s eye is on the ball
This issue discusses location technologies, including Global Positioning System (GPS) applications. I confess that recent experience makes me empathize with those fleet drivers and public safety officers who resist this technology. Although GPS is great for managing loss prevention, driver safety and efficient dispersal of resources (read, "vehicles") in the real world, it is also about to thoroughly permeate sports and leisure activities.
In short, it has come to golf.
A recent post-APCO golfing expedition to the north woods of Minnesota culminated at a fine resort with a new course by a renowned designer. (I'll stick to the communications aspects; if you want turf details, I'm sure they will turn up eventually in Intertec's Grounds Maintenance magazine.)
Each electric cart on the course comes fully equipped with ball washer, club washer and a full-color, notebook-sized LCD that gives real-time ground-based GPS information on the tee, the pin position and (the cart's) relative location in the vast scheme of things.
Admittedly, the system is captivating. The availability, at a finger-touch, of terrain indications for the hole and precise distances to bunkers, ideal lay-up shot locations and green slope factors gives you slightly better intelligence than Patton had when he went against Rommel. There's even a data-radio link back to the clubhouse so you can order up lunch and beverages ahead of time, saving precious minutes at the turn. Meanwhile, an on-screen countdown clock advises how many minutes ahead of schedule (or behind) you are for completing your round. This will discourage 20-minute searches for lost balls that become ball-hawking expeditions into the woods.
However, with the advantages such technology offers come certain sacrifices, namely anonymity and privacy. It's not to hard to imagine the amusement in the course dispatch center as all the little cart icons traverse the course and yours pauses at regular 30-yard intervals and stops for a protracted period next to the lake. In the old days, "How was your round?" was an honest question. Now, the club pro knows that you know that he knows. Ouch.
So, the last great refuge for four hours of tranquil nature observation and honing of locker-room vocabulary has been thoroughly invaded. The beachhead was established by pagers and cellphones, and now GPS has secured the perimeter. The good news is that if I get bitten by a snake while chasing a Titleist through the underbrush, my partner can signal them to have the ambulance ready when we get back. -email@example.com