QA Carts vs Walking GPS Systems

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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 letsbefrank@franklygolf.com
 
Frank,
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?
 
Thanks,
--Fred

 
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)
Fred,
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.
 
Frank
 
Frank,
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,
--Les

 
Les,
 
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.
 
Frank
 
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 letsbefrank@franklygolf.com