The first thing I
do at a growing number of pricey clubs around the country is slay a monster,
one that seeks to suck the serenity out of my golfing experience. It bombards
me with information about distance, lunch specials and where to find a
reputable real estate agent ("The Most Trusted Name in Sales!").
I don't want to
sell my home. What I want is a distraction-free round of golf. So I take the
rain cover out of my bag and enshroud the perky little screen. This usually
works, unless my cart partner complains, in which case the cover comes off and
the GPS rises from the dead.
Of all the
unnecessary services that add costs to greens fees, the GPS (Global Positioning
System) is the most insidious. Sure, it can speed play by sparing golfers the
tedium of pacing off their yardages, but are there that many of us who really
need to know if the flagstick is 162 or 163 yards away? In any case, that
mission has been corrupted by the system's nimble ability to include
advertisements about weight loss, scores from teams I don't care about and
urgent news bulletins about train wrecks--information that's bound to derail my
A recent trip to
the PGA Merchandise Show in Orlando revealed that the situation is about to get
worse. The next wave of GPS will feature multiple screens (on the wheel and by
the bag), Big Brother--like location monitoring and Internet access that allows
you to track stock holdings. Will my score go up the instant I learn that my
share prices have gone down?
I played a spiffy
new Orlando resort course with carts boasting GPS screens that displayed
remarkably lifelike depictions of the layout. They were welcome because the
12-by-7-inch screen obscured the real thing.
That wasn't the
only problem. Beginning on the 1st green, the device chided us for being two
minutes behind pace, a lapse that never deviated. It's not that we didn't try
to catch up, but whenever we did, the GPS nagged us about exceeding the 15-mph
It made me long for
a companionable caddie, or even a surly one. The sassiest looper is preferable
to the mechanized indifference of a GPS. After all, a GPS doesn't let out a
satisfying yelp when you reach the green using the club chosen according to its
guidance, nor will it entertain you with a stream of colorful language after
you insult it with a bad tip.
It's time to slay
this beast in the fabled manner of folklore: by driving a wooden stake through
its heart--or in this case, right in the middle of the fairway. Sadly, the
humble and efficient 150-yard marker is disappearing from golf's landscape.
These solitary sentries have been gradually replaced by hard-to-find sprinkler
heads, cart-path paintings and, finally, the infernal GPS.
We need to raise
these stakes now, before the next breathtaking technological advance intended
to convey distance winds up putting even more of it between us and the game we