QA Carts vs Walking GPS Systems

By Frank ThomasJuly 31, 2007, 4:00 pm
Editor's Note: This is the latest in a weekly Q&A feature from GOLF CHANNEL's Chief Technical Advisor Frank Thomas. To submit a question for possible use in this column, email
Riding or walking, the amount of time it takes to actually hit the same number of shots is the same. A foursome of walkers can play a round in about the same time as a foursome of riders. But the golf cart travels much faster than a person walks. The extra time taken by the riders comes mostly from driving back and forth between each players ball positions, as well as some unnecessary chatter. I guess my point is, since most players ride, wouldn't it be a better idea to give each golfer his own cart and shorten the amount of time a round takes?

Allen Doyle
Allen Doyle quizzes Frank on whether or not tees can increase driving distance on 'Ask Frank,' Monday, Aug. 6 at 11:00 p.m. ET on GC. (WireImages)
I suppose this is in a sense an equipment question, if not it doesn't matter, because I feel reasonably passionate about it, so it gives me an opportunity to vent a little.
First, I do think that carts have some place in golf. Without them, how could we have the cart girls who enable us to have an endless supply of goodies during the round? More seriously though, there are those who genuinely need a cart, and would not be able to play the game without one. For these golfers, the cart is wonderful.
Unfortunately, the sad thing about carts is that they have changed the way courses are being designed (100+ yards between the green and the next tee, passing five homes on the way),making it difficult to walk to the next tee and get there on time. As a result, such courses have made it mandatory to use a cart; if per chance you thought of walking, you would be told it is not permitted. The truth of the matter is that the carts are here to stay, and the income derived from the rental fees will assure their existence forever.
Walking a course using a trolley or carrying your bag is not only the way golf is meant to be played, but it also enhances the experience and as a side benefit is equivalent to an average 45-minute workout in the gym. If we walked periodically it would improve our quality of life in general as well as allow us to develop enough stamina to finish our rounds with some gas to spare.
Fred, I am sure that we can speed up play if everybody takes his own cart, but we can also speed up play if we carry our own bags or take a caddie. Golf has changed and carts haven't made it any better. Yes, in many cases carts make the game more accessible to people who really need these aids, but they have also contributed to a 'physique' that today requires us to use the very thing that helped make it that way. Besides, when you use a cart you forfeit the excuse that youre just out for the exercise.
Carts and cart paths are only one example of how we have allowed the game to be exploited and how course design has changed for the worse. I hope the cart has not irrevocably debilitated our game.
Sorry, but I do have an opinion about this piece of equipment.
Let me preface this question by saying that, being the golf fanatic, techie and equipment freak that I am, I look forward to your emails. The one question I have is, Why has the tour not allowed handheld GPS's in tournament play? I notice that the yardage books they use seem like novels, probably having hand written notes such as slope of greens, best place to put the ball depending on pin position, elevation difference for club selection and where to miss the green. They probably wouldn't go to a GPS system instead, but if it was allowed on tour then for the most part any USGA/RCGA sanctioned event we play as amateurs would have a tough time not allowing them, and it would help, be it for lay-ups, distance to the front and back of the green, etc. Until they have one that can pull the trigger' for us, I don't see what the objection could be. What's your opinion on this?
Regards, and thanks again for the column,

In my June 07 Frankly newsletter (click to view), I discussed this very issue and asked our readers for their opinion. Of those who voted, 83% agreed with you, i.e., that EMDs (Electronic Measuring Devices) should be permitted on the PGA TOUR and in major championships.
As you know, use of these devices is not a violation of the rules for most of us. A recent change allows for them under a local rule, which as far as I am concerned means everyday playing conditions. Officially the local rule has to be adopted by the club or course, but this is implied when the cart you ride in has a GPS, or the flags have laser reflectors, etc. The exact wording from the USGA is as follows:
New Decision 14-3/0.5 allows a Committee to permit the use of distance-measuring devices by Local Rule. This applies to devices that measure distance only, not any other conditions that might affect a players play (e.g., wind or gradient). In the absence of such a Local Rule, the use of a distance-measuring device remains contrary to the Rules.
This means that unless the PGA TOUR and other committees in charge of Championships or Tournaments adopt the local rule, these devices are not permitted. I cant imagine why they havent adopted it, and I have to believe that will change in the future.
As you say, it doesnt make sense, but it sometimes takes time for us to get over some traditions. I suggested 14 years ago that this rule 14-3 be amended, because I saw no logic to it. The USGA and others provide hole location sheets for each day of a championship, they allow yardage booklets and the printing of sprinkler heads with exact distances to the green (center, or front, or both plus the back), so theres no reason why an electronic device couldnt be used to provide the same information, only quicker. Nonetheless, the rule didnt change because of logic, but because millions of golfers were ignoring a rule that made no intuitive or common sense. When millions of golfers ignore a rule, it is time to consider how meaningful it is.
I must admit that I am a traditionalist and would like to hold on to as many traditions in the game as possible, but not to the games detriment. We used to wear ties and knickers, even on hot summer days. Some things do change; of this I am as sure as God made little green apples.
Thanks for your very good and logical question.
Click to purchase the Frog PutterFrank Thomas, inventor of the graphite shaft, is founder of Frankly Golf, a company dedicated to Helping Golfers. Frank is Chief Technical Advisor to The Golf Channel and Golf Digest. He served as Technical Director of the USGA for 26 years and directed the development of the GHIN System and introduced the Stimpmeter to the world of golf. To email a question for possible use in an upcoming Let's Be Frank column, please email
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G-Mac has Ryder Cup on mind with Genesis in grasp

By Rex HoggardFebruary 18, 2018, 2:12 am

LOS ANGELES – Graeme McDowell is four years removed from his last start in a Ryder Cup and golf is more than seven months away from this year’s matches, but then it’s never too early to start daydreaming.

Following a third-round 70 that left him tied for third place and just two strokes off the lead at the Genesis Open, McDowell was asked if the matches are on his mind.

“I feel like I've got a lot of things to do between now and getting on that team,” he said. “Standing here right now it's probably not a realistic goal, but if I continue to play the way I'm playing for the next few months, it may start to become a realistic goal.”

Full-field scores from the Genesis Open

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McDowell began his week at Riviera Country Club fresh off four consecutive missed cuts and has drifted to 219th in the Official World Golf Ranking. But his play this week has been encouraging and the Northern Irishman has always relished the opportunity to play for Europe.

“Deep down I know I'm good enough, but I've got to show, I've got to put some results on the board, I've got to take care of my business,” he said. “The greatest experience of my career bar none, and I would love to play another couple Ryder Cup matches before it's all said and done.”

McDowell does have a potential advantage this year having won the French Open twice at Le Golf National, site of this year’s matches.

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Bubba on McGrady block: 'Just trying not to get hurt'

By Will GrayFebruary 18, 2018, 1:56 am

LOS ANGELES – A detour to the NBA Celebrity All-Star Game didn’t keep Bubba Watson from leading this week’s Genesis Open, although an on-court brush with Hall of Famer Tracy McGrady nearly derailed his chances for a third tournament win.

Watson enters the final round at Riviera with a one-shot lead over Patrick Cantlay after firing a 6-under 65 in the third round. The day before, the southpaw left the course around lunch time and headed across town to participate in the All-Star festivities, where during the celebrity game he tried to score 1-on-1 over McGrady.

Watson’s move into the lane went about as well as you’d expect given their five-inch height disparity, with McGrady easily blocking the ball into the stands. According to Watson, he had only one thought as McGrady came barreling towards him across the lane.

“When I saw him, all I saw was, ‘This is my moment to get hurt,’” Watson said. “This big tank is about to hit me, and I was like, ‘Just knock it into the stands. Just don’t touch me.’ So it worked out, he didn’t touch me so it was good.”

Full-field scores from the Genesis Open

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Watson’s attempt went against his wife Angie’s advice to avoid the paint area, but it provided a fun moment for a player used to carving up fairways and greens – not to mention the guy who played 15 seasons in the NBA.

“Well, he’s got like just under 800 blocks for his career, so I gave him one more, you know?” Watson said. “It was just, it was a blast. I wanted to see how good he was, see if he could miss it. He hasn’t played in a while.”

Watson took some heat on Twitter from his PGA Tour peers for the rejection, but few were still laughing as he rocketed up the leaderboard Saturday with five birdies and an eagle. Now he has a chance to win this event for the third time since 2014 – even if he doesn’t plan to go toe-to-toe with McGrady again anytime soon.

“Some guys wanted to try to win MVP, so I was trying to pass it and let them have their fun and their moment,” Watson said. “I was just trying not to get hurt.”

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Spieth on third-round 69: 'Putter saved me'

By Rex HoggardFebruary 18, 2018, 1:37 am

LOS ANGELES – Jordan Spieth has spent the last few weeks talking about his putting for all the wrong reasons.

Two weeks ago when he missed the cut at the Waste Management Phoenix Open he lost 3.76 shots to the field in strokes-gained putting, and last week he wasn’t much better.

It looked like more of the same at the Genesis Open when he lost about a half stroke to the field on Day 1 with 29 putts, but since then his fortunes on the greens have gotten progressively better.

“I thought each day last week I progressed,” said Spieth, who needed just 24 putts on Friday and moved into a tie for 20th after taking 26 putts on Day 3.

Full-field scores from the Genesis Open

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Spieth said he started to feel things turn around at Pebble Beach after working with his swing coach Cameron McCormick and Steve Stricker, who has become something of a putting sounding board for players on Tour.

“I got set up really nice. I got really comfortable on the greens even though they were very difficult to putt last week and this week,” said Spieth, who rolled in a birdie putt of 14 feet at No. 12 and a par putt of 35 feet at No. 14. “Any putt, I either made it or I left it just short today. It was one of those days that with the way I struck the ball, it was an off day, but that putter saved me and allowed me to shoot the lowest score so far this week.”

Spieth’s third-round 69 is his best of the week and moved him to within seven strokes of the lead, which is held by Bubba Watson.

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Bouncing back: Watson seeks a third Riviera win

By Rex HoggardFebruary 18, 2018, 1:25 am

LOS ANGELES – Yeah, but can Tracy McGrady smoke a 7-iron from 203 yards to kick-in range for eagle on Riviera Country Club’s opening hole?

The way Bubba Watson’s mind drifts there’s no telling if, as he began his day at the Genesis Open, he revisited his play from Friday night at the NBA All-Star Celebrity Game. If he did, it would have been an apropos conclusion after McGrady sent his weak floater into the cheap seats midway through the second quarter.

Either way, Watson made it clear playtime was over on Saturday. The eagle at the opening par 4 ½ sent Watson on his way to a third-round 65 and the outright lead at the Left Coast event that’s starting to feel like a second home for the lefthander.

In 11 starts at Riviera, Watson already has two victories. A third on Sunday could get folks talking about renaming the layout Bubba’s Alley. Or not.

What is certain is that Watson has emerged from a funk that sent him tumbling outside the top 100 in the world ranking and he’s done it in quintessential Bubba style.

If Friday’s detour to the celebrity game received worldwide attention it was only a snapshot of Watson’s Tinseltown itinerary. He taped a segment for Jay Leno’s Garage show, visited with Ellen DeGeneres and watched a taping of The Big Bang Theory. You know, L.A. stuff.

Oh, and he’s curved and carved his way around Riviera with signature abandon.

“You've got to hit shots from every different angle, you've got to move it right to left and left to right, so it's just fun,” said Watson, who also led by one stroke when he won here in 2016, his last victory on the PGA Tour. “Then the greens are the equalizer so it makes me look like I putt as good as the other guys.”

Full-field scores from the Genesis Open

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He “hammered” a 7-iron from 203 yards at the first to 1 ½ feet for his opening eagle, chipped in at the sixth to begin a run of four birdies in five holes and played the three par 5s in 3 under to move into a familiar spot after enduring his worst season on Tour in 2017 when he failed to advance past the second playoff event.

That he’s turned the tide in Los Angeles is as predictable as it is peculiar. Despite Watson’s record at the Genesis Open, Riviera wouldn’t seem to be the tonic for all that ails Bubba.

Ask a player - any player will do - the keys to playing Riviera and the answers range wildly from it being a bomber’s course to the need for ball-striking precision. But the word that comes up with regularity is "patience."

“Patience and pretty much just not being stupid, to be honest,” Justin Thomas said when asked the key to his third-round 67 that left him tied for eighth place. “Just stop trying to hit at pins with 5-irons and 6-irons, and when I hit in the rough, realize just try to make a par. When I get in places, when I'm out of position, realize that sometimes even bogey is what I need to make.”

While that thought dovetails with conventional wisdom, Watson’s not exactly known for his patience.

“Oh, for sure I do. Haven't you seen me in the last 12 years?” Watson laughed when asked if he had patience on the course. “The tougher the golf course, the more focus I have. The tougher the shot, I've been able to focus better. When I get my mind on something, I can focus and do pretty well at the game of golf.”

While Bubba drifts between artist and antagonist with ease, both on and off the golf course, his primary challenge on Sunday is the picture of thoughtful composure.

Patrick Cantlay, who returned to the Tour last season after struggling with back issues for years, began the third round with a share of the lead but quickly faded on the front nine. He rallied on the closing loop with birdies at Nos. 10, 11 and 18, where he capped his day with a 54-footer that assured him a spot in Sunday’s final threesome. Although he’s just 25 and playing his first full season on Tour, Cantlay’s approach to the game is patently different from Watson’s.

“I feel like if I can just engage and not worry about where I am on a particular hole or what's going on and I just engage and stay present in whatever I'm doing at that particular time, it all turns out better than what you would expect,” explained Cantlay, who attended nearby UCLA and played dozens of practice rounds at Riviera. “Making sure you stay present and having that confidence in yourself that if you just click in and focus, it all will be good and that's kind of the head space I'm in.”

It will be a clash of wildly contrasting styles on Sunday – Watson, who admitted he “(doesn’t) focus very well,” and Cantlay, whose approach to the mental side of the game borders on the clinical.

One player relishes the challenge of hyper-focus, the other is Bubba, but that’s not to say Watson is void of patience, only that he needs to be properly motivated.

“Like last night when Tracy McGrady was coming at me, I was focused on not getting hurt and I didn't, so it worked out,” Watson smiled.

And besides, T-Mac can’t bomb it like Bubba.