Range Finders Being Tried Out on Pro-Am Day – Too Much Technology?
I’ve been around long enough to see one fight after another over the introduction of technology on the various golf tours. When I was a kid, it was the British ball versus the American ball. How many dimples, precisely what size, etc. I’ve seen grousing about stiff shaft, loose shaft, big block head drivers, small heads, croquet putters, pendulum putters, and all manner of crises that came along. I’m almost old enough to remember the transition from wood shafts to metal – at least, it feels like that sometimes. Metal spikes, plastic spikes, fashion choices – it’s all humdrum now. But lately, we’ve ventured into the space age. Star Trek of the 1960s has come true in many ways, and before long, I won’;t be surprised to hear someone say “4-iron on stun” or “Take us out of here, Mr. Woods.”
What is happening today is, according to the powers that be, a mere test, to see what both fans and players think of binocular-style range finders. I don’t think it would be a deal-breaker for me, but the pictures I’ve seen of it remind me of some general from the past two centuries looking over the battlefield, reconoitering, getting the lay of the land. And that’s precisely what the players are doing, getting the lay of the land. I read that modern range-finders have several functions that can provide pinpoint accuracy, that is if the golfer’s body is willing to chime in correctly. On the Web.com Tour, these little gizmos are popping out regularly from the player’s bag or being handed over by a caddie. Even if they are not allowed to use the slope or what is called the ‘elevation’ function, some aspect of good judgment will be taken out of the game, in my opinion. I say that because my own memories of playing golf as a young person involved gauging distance, and it seemed just as inherent to the shot as the shot itself. My technology was my eyes and their interpretations of the terrain,. Lets see, 4-iron – well now, I hit that aabout x number of yards, but there’s a downslope before the green, so maybe a 5-iron this time. Although, you know, it’s quite a slope. Maybe it’s a two-club swing. That hill up to the green is pretty steep. I’d better go a club stronger, or should it be two. Should I hit it high, soft, or sting it for the bounce? My other responsibility was to keep track of how my yardage per club changed throughout the years. Some machine telling me the distance doesn’t mean I know which club to hit – and it shouldn’t. I should make sure that I know that.
I remember when Jack Nicklaus came out against the use of golf carts as a support technology, and there was a good question there. Did it change the physical endurance of one player over another? I personally didn’t feel very invested over such a question, but something that could tell me my distance just as clearly as it could a professional player? I’m more willing to have weekend munis use it rather than tour pros. They should bear the responsibility of lining up their shot as best they can, more than anyone. And what’s next? Are we going to have laster attachments on putters that produce a graph for the break, or give us the distance and a firmness marking for the grass, humidity, and wind?
Technology has become a big part of our modern lives, and we’ve talked a lot about making the game easier. But, I didn’t know we were talking about making it easier for the people who play it for a living. So far as I’m concerned, make them keep sweating.