The first thing Ido 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 bombardsme with information about distance, lunch specials and where to find areputable real estate agent ("The Most Trusted Name in Sales!").
I don't want tosell my home. What I want is a distraction-free round of golf. So I take therain cover out of my bag and enshroud the perky little screen. This usuallyworks, unless my cart partner complains, in which case the cover comes off andthe GPS rises from the dead.
Of all theunnecessary services that add costs to greens fees, the GPS (Global PositioningSystem) is the most insidious. Sure, it can speed play by sparing golfers thetedium of pacing off their yardages, but are there that many of us who reallyneed to know if the flagstick is 162 or 163 yards away? In any case, thatmission has been corrupted by the system's nimble ability to includeadvertisements about weight loss, scores from teams I don't care about andurgent news bulletins about train wrecks--information that's bound to derail myswing thoughts.
A recent trip tothe PGA Merchandise Show in Orlando revealed that the situation is about to getworse. The next wave of GPS will feature multiple screens (on the wheel and bythe bag), Big Brother--like location monitoring and Internet access that allowsyou to track stock holdings. Will my score go up the instant I learn that myshare prices have gone down?
I played a spiffynew Orlando resort course with carts boasting GPS screens that displayedremarkably lifelike depictions of the layout. They were welcome because the12-by-7-inch screen obscured the real thing.
That wasn't theonly problem. Beginning on the 1st green, the device chided us for being twominutes behind pace, a lapse that never deviated. It's not that we didn't tryto catch up, but whenever we did, the GPS nagged us about exceeding the 15-mphspeed limit.
It made me long fora companionable caddie, or even a surly one. The sassiest looper is preferableto the mechanized indifference of a GPS. After all, a GPS doesn't let out asatisfying yelp when you reach the green using the club chosen according to itsguidance, nor will it entertain you with a stream of colorful language afteryou insult it with a bad tip.
It's time to slaythis beast in the fabled manner of folklore: by driving a wooden stake throughits heart--or in this case, right in the middle of the fairway. Sadly, thehumble and efficient 150-yard marker is disappearing from golf's landscape.These solitary sentries have been gradually replaced by hard-to-find sprinklerheads, cart-path paintings and, finally, the infernal GPS.
We need to raisethese stakes now, before the next breathtaking technological advance intendedto convey distance winds up putting even more of it between us and the game welove.
by JIM GORANT
Marrying Tiger Woods and D.C. demonstrates Tim Finchem'spower.
Tiger Woods and Tim Finchem lead the Tour back toWashington, D.C.
THE TOUR -
THE INTERNATIONAL +
THE MAN +
MONUMENTAL CITY +
DAVID WALBERG (GPS)
COURTESY OF PGA TOUR (FEDEX CUP LOGO)
CORBIS (MOUNTAIN, WASHINGTON MONUMENT)
ROBERT BECK (WOODS)
ERICK W. RASCO (TV)
DAVID WALBERG (FINCHEM)