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No, thanks: I prefer to remain unplugged while playing golf
By Chris Rodell
Sports Illustrated
March 2007

The first thing I do upon approaching my designated cart at a growing number of posh clubs around the country is slay a persistent enemy of my concentration. It sucks the blood out of my serenity by bombarding me with information about distance, scores (not just golf), lunch specials and where to find a reputable real estate agent -- "For more than 25 years, the most trusted name in real estate!"

I do not want to sell my home. What I do want is a distraction free round of golf. That’s why I always begin my round by gearing up as if it’s about to storm. I take my vinyl bag cover out and entomb the GPS in a thick vinyl skin. I want to render it invisible. But it’s often in vain. If my cart mate insists, the cover is removed and the GPS rises from the dead.

Of all the unnecessary services that add cost to green fees without enhancing the round, the GPS is the most insidious. It purports to assist golfers, at least those with swings so deft they need to know precisely if the flagstick is 162 or 163 yards away. But 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 bound to derail my swing thoughts.

And a recent trip to the PGA show in Orlando reveals it’s about to get immeasurably worse. The next wave of GPS features multiple screens (on the wheel and by the bag), Big Brother 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 that boasted GPS screens that depicted pictures of the course that were remarkably vivid. That was helpful because the 12-by-7 inch, roof-mounted screen obscured the real thing. It was the GPS equivalent of watching golf on a large screen TV inside a sports bar. The size wasn’t the only problem. It nagged us from the first green that we were two minutes behind pace, a time that never deviated. Perhaps the cart was two minutes ahead of the actual pace. And we couldn’t speed up because the GPS warned that the speed limit was 15 mph. Of course, we couldn’t tell how fast we were going because the GPS doesn’t have a speedometer. Yet.

It made me long for a companionable caddie, or even a surly one. Even the sassiest looper is preferable to such mechanized indifference because a GPS doesn’t let out a satisfying yelp when you whack it with a club, and it won’t entertain you with a stream of colorful profanity after you insult it with a really cheap tip.

It’s time to slay these bloodsucking beasts the only way folklore suggests it can be properly done: Drive a wooden stake through its heart. Or perhaps right in the middle of the fairway.

The humble and efficient 150-yard marker is sadly disappearing from golf’s landscape. These solitary soldiers 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 love.

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