Ben Crane and His Two-Stroke Penalty for Technology Beyond Our Understanding
It used to be that technology was largely confined to the development of clubs and balls, a long slow evolution that brought us our metal woods, sure-fire putters, and mega Titleist ‘watcha-call-its.’ It used to be that the worst thing that could happen, in terms of penalties, was an out-of-bounds ball, or a water shot. Try as I might, even I could never manage 8 strokes worth of penalties on two holes, none of which had to do with the direction I hit a golf ball. Perhaps I need correction on this. After all, I am old school, and have never even heard of launch data and monitoring technology, including whatever it was that got Ben Crane – ‘stickers.’ As I understand it, there were two little dot stickers on two of his clubs that assist in data collection in gizmos that good amateurs and pros seem to be buying. I read that these things tell you everything you want to know about the response of the ball to the way you hit it, and a War and Peace-length document on your swing, with all its ins-and-outs…or outs-and-ins if you’re that sort of player.
There seem to be two types of these machines. One uses Doppler Radar technology, and the other, camera technology. The stickers, as I am struggling to further understand it, made the two clubs in Crane’s bag “non-conforming” according to USGA rules. However, what burned me was a description that sounded as if Crane should be dressed in prison stripes serving twenty years at St. Andrews Prison somewhere. Crane did nothing wrong that I can see. In fact, he did everything right and with integrity for pointing out the stickers on his two clubs. I also gather that this technology, despite being described as a lesson from a pro, was not in use despite the stickers not being removed, and that the little gizmos by themselves do nothing for one’s current game, and weigh just a little bit more than air. Every pro, they say, should buy one, and Trackman, Foresight, and Flightscope are just a few of the best available.
And then came the penalties. Crane reported one of the club stickers at the Boise Open this week, because he thought he should, after the first hole. Wham! Four strokes right off the bat. Then it was decided that he carried it, and another one, between 10 and 11. Double Wham! That’s two more two-shot penalties. I think that shooting a 76 while really shooting a 68 was fairly impressive, but that’s from someone who would be happy with the 76. But as the old saying goes, “But wait, there’s more!” After all of that, marshalls decided that Crane had never told the right people about the two clubs. Since he did not, he was immediately disqualified. He could have told a member of the committee, or he could have, and should have, told his playing partners. No matter how wondrous a technology is, why would one need to tell his playing partners that two of his clubs are out of play? Why would they care? His golf game is not of any interest to them unless he’s beating them. Their concentration is on scoring, unless of course they catch Crane foot-wedging it away from a tree or lake – which they did not and would not. His partners were far down the fairway when the problem was addressed, anyway.
It all leaves me wondering if the USGA rule book was originally written in Sanskrit, ancient Phoenician, or Atlantean. This sort of technology is new to the modern game (power word, “modern”) If it doesn’t improve or affect the way you’re playing, ergo the score, or is even being used at all, why are range finders all right? What Crane used was a peripheral dot accompanying technology that was not present. It looks like we need a panel of clear-thinking under-thirty-something professional wordsmiths to bring this game into the 21st century. They’re already trying to add speed and noise, anathemas to the game. Why not chisel out some of the archaic, meaningless tropes from prehistoric golf.