• Time for high tech

    We'd all swing it like Ben Hogan

    The driverless golf club might be just around the corner …

    The driverless car is already with us, and after losing to my neighbour for the third time in a row, it struck me that the driverless golf club might be just around the corner.

    My thought pattern went thus: My neighbour has a basic rangefinder attached to his bag. Essentially, it measures the distance from where you are to the middle of the green. At our level of play this is really all you need. Don’t let anyone tell you different.

    But I recently played with a couple of pros who never go anywhere without the binocular-type rangefinder, which zooms in on the flag and gives you an exact reading, to the centimetre. Apparently the latest technology will gauge wind speed and direction at the same time, and will calculate how the ground slopes. The major Tours regard this as cheating, but there is no fighting an idea whose time has come.

    When I was in matric, for instance, pocket calculators had just become affordable for the masses. They were banned for my maths final, which didn’t matter, since only the son of the owner of the local Chinese takeaway owned one. But within three years, if you didn’t have one, the examiner gave you one!

    As for rangefinders, in golfing terms they are a natural extension of the yardage book, a player and caddie aid that didn’t exist before the swinging Sixties.

    Denis Hutchinson once told me he felt sorry for the generations that followed him, because they looked at the book instead of the scenery. Denis’ generation had no sprinkler heads with numbers on them, they used their eye and feel for the game.

    And yet, like the pocket calculator, the yardage book went from being a novelty to an essential within five years. And yes, there were those who felt it was cheating. Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose, as the French have it.

    So I am willing to bet that before 2020, the major Tours will have approved the use of rangefinders and the next generation will wonder what all the fuss was about. After all, is there anything in sport quite as annoying as watching a caddie pace 87 metres to the green and back again, just to assure his employer that the yardage book is not lying?

    And let’s not forget that all the pre-knowledge in the world is worthless if you put a bad swing on it. And how well we talentless chasers of the dimpled ball know the feeling of playing against someone who spends five minutes gauging wind speed, ground conditions and yardage, and then tops it 10m into the dam.

    But it struck me that the Luddites kicking against the pricks of technology are trying to save us from ourselves. For in the age of the driverless car, who is to say that one day we will not walk the fairways as mere spectators, with golf clubs that swing themselves. It would reduce a round of golf to little more than a 3D computer game.

    Imagine a time when we can all swing like Ben Hogan and putt like Gary Player, thanks to the virtual reality Golf-Club-Swingmatic™ – all you have to do is hold on.

    Speaking as a traditionalist and a bad golfer, I can’t wait.

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