Peering across a sea of green grass as I approach the 1st tee at the Westin Kierland Resort course in Scottsdale, Ariz., I feel a little like Christopher Columbus on the verge of discovering a new world. Unlike the explorer, I'm not that excited about the idea. I am perched on a Segway, the two-wheeled people mover introduced four years ago. At that time it was billed as a groundbreaking invention that would change the world. To date, that hasn't happened, but that doesn't mean Segway has stopped trying.
But can Segway really work for golf? A golfer traverses miles of bumpy terrain while hauling about 30 pounds of equipment. A sturdy mode of transportation is required, preferably one with air conditioning and lots of drink holders, not a motorized shopping cart with a specially designed holster for a bag of clubs.
My early efforts to drive the rig did not allay my fears. I wounded a good friend when I ran up his leg because I couldn't stop the thing--for which I am still very sorry. I also witnessed another prospective Segway user quit before even making it to the 1st tee. Most frightening, all this occurred without a drop of alcohol introduced into the equation. Yet this spring Kierland plans to make the Segway available for rental to the beer-swilling golf public. I can already hear the conversation in the pro shop: "Here's your receipt, your keys and your 14-page liability release form." Actually, I caught a glimpse of the real release form Kierland will use, and it's not 14 pages, but it is long.
Legal issues aside, I had agreed to approach the Segway with an open mind. The problem was that my mind was so preoccupied with the details of operating the Segway, I couldn't focus on golf. After smashing my first drive down the middle (a case of Segway fear blocking out damaging swing thoughts), I climbed on, shifted my weight forward and moved down the fairway. When I got to my ball, I leveled the machine by bringing it perpendicular to the ground and calmly stepped off the back. When I remounted, I waited for the green smiley-face light to come on, then shifted my weight forward again. Where was my ball? I had no idea.
Once I got the hang of it, it really was an amazingly intuitive machine. Of course if I followed my intuition, I never would've taken up golf. Still, by the 9th hole I felt I had pretty much figured it out. As I came up the fairway, I saw my instructor standing in the rough. Going by, I bent toward him to say, "Look at me now!" But in my enthusiasm I leaned too far, and the Segway creaked a little, then fell straight over on its side. As it skittered around in the dirt, wheels still spinning, I thought, Golf is not ready for this, but at least Kierland will have a great shot at hosting the next Association of Trial Lawyers convention.