Freeway drivers have become accustomed to the info and guidance they receive via their car's global position satellite systems. Now golfers can use them for their drives, too.
Once the domain of only the most tech-savvy golfers, the systems are now showing up on carts being bought by operators of public courses in the Los Angeles area.
They don't feature the soothing or smarmy, depending on your perspective voices many of the car systems have. But golfers can read such things as exactly how far they've driven the ball, how many yards it is to the pin, how far away water and sand hazards are, and how to hit the ball with topspin.
OK, they won't give you the spin on topspin.
While the technology behind the systems could become more advanced and detailed in the future theoretically offering advice on club selection or technique it's not currently part of the package. The systems are being designed, though, to give golfers a leg up on the game and to speed up play.
"The real purpose is for you to know how far your yardage is and where you are in relation to the center," says Bob Thomas, senior director of communications for Southern California Golf Association. "Some of them are systems that show each hole while you're playing it, the yardage at each point. The more sophisticated systems track where the golf cart is in relation to the hole."
An estimated 20 percent of the 300 public courses in Southern California now have GPS systems in their carts. Some of the systems, which are made by about a dozen companies, even have the capacity to post messages to the carts' systems, advertising a lunch special at the clubhouse, for example.
The systems are replacing the traditional method for assisting golfers in estimating distance and selecting clubs. For decades, trees, colored sprinklers or signs, marked the yardage on courses. Many had small, planted trees at the 200-, 150- and 100-yard markers.
"Many people, including me, believe that red, white and blue posts for 100 and 200 yards are more than adequate," said the Thomas. "Then there was usage of sprinkler heads. But clearly having it in the cart eliminates all of that issue."
Courses are amortizing the costs of these systems between $1,500 and $2,000 per cart for installation and service into their fee structure. But Thomas believes golfers have accepted the hikes because they appreciate the speedier play the GPS-equipped carts allow.
Albert Cheang, pro-shop director for the Oak Quarry Golf Club in Riverside, agreed that GPS systems clearly move golfers through his course faster even when it's rainy.
"They're very accurate and they don't break down. They help the golfers know the distance and it speeds up play," he said.
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