A Technological Research Project

Anyone who is a follower of golf has heard countless stories and quotes about the ever changing technological advances in the equipment we use to help us try to shoot lower scores. Drivers are now made of some of the most extremely light weight, strong materials found anywhere on the planet, the balls are now so advanced you can get one that won’t spin much with your driver but will bite like a rabid dog on the greens. How in the world can that be? Remember when we had to choose feel versus distance in our golf balls, it was either a “top rock” or a tour balata and there was really very little middle ground. So technology has indeed changed the game of golf, most will say for the better, but there are some old fuddy duddy’s out there who hate every second of it. Like it or not, golf is not the same game our grand dads played, but guess what? This article is about none of that! The last thing you want to read is another article talking about all the equipment advances and all the changes to the sport that stuff has been written everywhere! This article is in fact about a big technological boom that is taking place everywhere you play these days, that boom I’m talking about is GPS technology. I’m not going to uncover anything you probably haven’t already read about GPS, what I’m going to do is share with you my own experience in a venture to find out if I would benefit from having this technology in my bag.

It hasn’t been all that long since GPS and laser range finders were actually against the rules of golf, now here are to the point that you are more surprised if you go to a course that does not offer a great full color GPS on their carts than you are if they do. It goes way beyond just the rental carts too, seems every other player today has their Sky Caddie or any of the seemingly hundreds of offerings available to golfers out there. This whole GPS phenomenon really kind of snuck up on us too, I remember when they first came out and thought, “huh, that would be neat” but because of the prices and various other reasons never really went much beyond that. As I said above, now they are literally everywhere!! My club has GPS in their carts, but I always walk, so do I need one? Well that is something I had been recently mulling over and decided that if I’m going to seriously consider investing in this technology I want to do a little bit of leg work to see how badly I really need one.

The question at hand: Do I need a GPS device? To help me figure this out I decided that a little bit of research was needed. Here’s the breakdown of my study, over a three week period I would play 10 rounds, 5 with GPS and 5 without, like I normally do, and compare some vital stats and see if I could justify the purchase. I felt that crucial information that will help me in my decision will be Score, Greens in Regulation (GIR), and O.B./Hazards hit. These categories were selected because obviously score is the bottom line, GIR stats will help to figure out if GPS will help me get more birdie putts, and O.B./Hazards was selected because many GPS devices offer yardages to water, O.B. and bunkers. I could probably have gotten even more technical if I wanted to, but I hated Stats class in college, so I try not to go overboard. Now here comes the disclaimer….From this point forward I am offering you full disclosure of my study, this means that every score, every missed green, every water ball, all of it is going to be out there in plain view for the world to see. This is going to expose every bad swing and bad round I’ve had lately, ultimately this will show you that you certainly do not have to be a scratch golfer to get a gig writing for a golf website; hopefully I don’t get fired for this!!!

My course has sprinkler heads marked with yardage to the center of the green, there are no indicators anywhere that offer yards to various water hazards that come into play throughout the golf course.

Round 1: 9 hole league round with extra holes up till darkness for a total of 14 holes played. GIR: 7 of 14 O.B: 0 Hazards: 2–1 water hazard/1 bunker. Score: +9 thru 14 holes.
Round 2: 18 hole round. (Low Net/Low Gross Men’s Club event) GIR: 6 of 18 O.B. 1 Hazards: 5–3 water balls/2 bunkers. Score: 93 (+22) Even GPS couldn’t have saved me on this day….UGH!
Round 3: 18 hole round. (tournament) *at a different course* GIR: 10 of 18 O.B: 0 Hazards: 1 bunker. Score: 81 (+9)
Round 4: 9 hole round. GIR: 6 of 9 O.B./Hazards: 0 Score: 39 (+4)
Round 5: 9 hole round. (league) GIR: 5 of 9 O.B./Hazards: 0 Score 40 (+5)

Totals: Holes played 68. GIR: 34 of 68(50%) Cumulative score +49 Total O.B. 1 Water Hazards: 4 Bunkers: 4

1 really bad round (round 2) 1 pretty good round (round 4) and the rest were pretty much right around what seems to be the norm for me right now. 50% GIR is probably a pretty low average, but then again I’m a 12 handicap player so 50% is probably pretty close to average. Let’s see if GPS technology can bring some of these stats up any shall we?

All GPS rounds were played at my home course using the in cart GPS systems.

Round 1: 18 hole round. GIR: 8 of 18 O.B. 0 Hazards: 4–2 water balls/2 bunkers. Score: 87 (+16)
Round 2: 9 hole round. (league) GIR: 6 of 9 O.B. 0 Hazards: 1 bunker Score: 42 (+6)
Round 3: 18 hole round. GIR: 5 of 18 O.B. 0 Hazards: 2 water balls. Score: 84 (+13)
Round 4: 9 hole round. (league) GIR: 6 of 9 O.B. 0 Hazards: 2–1 water ball/1 bunker Score: 40 (+4)
Round 5: 9 hole round. GIR 1 of 9 O.B. 0 Hazards: 2 water balls Score: 54 (+18) OUCH!!!

Totals: Holes played 63. GIR: 26 of 63 (41%) Cumulative score +57 Total O.B. 0 Water Hazards 7 Bunkers: 4

Conclusion: 1 good round (round 4) 1 decent round (round 2) and the rest were pretty bad, take particular notice of round 5, how can I still love this game after that round? There’s not a piece of technology in the world that would help that round get any better, GPS or nothing, c’mon now!

Comparing the two sets of rounds I was able to come to the conclusion that (1.) I stink at golf, and (2.) having GPS technology did not lead to lower scores in my case. Now, I should also disclose that by and large I am a walker when I play the bulk of my golf, in this case study I rode a cart for the GPS rounds and walked for the Non-GPS rounds, I cannot say with any certainty of that would lead to any large amounts of differences in scores, but perhaps a stroke here or there. Familiarity of the golf course also lends a helping hand to the Non-GPS group because of the fact that by and large having played there as much as I have I have a pretty good idea of the yardages over certain hazards etc. There is still another element to the decision of GPS or no GPS and that is speed of play.

It seems at times when I play I can become rather inundated with the exact distance I need to hit my shot. On many occasions I’ll find myself searching around for several seconds and beyond, in search of a sprinkler head or a yardage indicator while playing without a GPS. This was never more apparent to me than in round #3 of the Non-GPS rounds I played. It was a tournament at a club that I’m not overly familiar with and I found it very daunting to have to always search out yardage markers, often times I’d just end up spotting the 150 yd stick and giving my best guess from there as to my distance. This round in particular is one that I know if I had GPS technology I could have shaved a stroke or two off that score, ultimately that might have helped me shoot in the 70’s in that event. Yardage markers are handy indeed, I can just about spot out every single sprinkler head with my eyes closed at my home course, but if I were to play at several different courses I can see where a GPS device would be extremely useful, not only to cut down on the time spent searching out yardage indicators, but also to increase your likelihood of accuracy when attacking the greens.

So in the end, after three and a half weeks and ten rounds golf, I think I have the information I need to be able to make a smart decision as to whether or not I need to invest in a GPS device. I really wanted to be able to say I needed one of these neat little pieces of technology, but in the end I think the numbers I’ve provided have shown me that I’m not likely to see any real added benefit in my scores or other vital statistics. I think that because I play almost all of my golf at the club I belong to and know like the back of my hand, a GPS device will not benefit me as much as it would if I were a golfer who likes to get out and experience other courses. The fact that well over half of the courses in my area have GPS devices installed on their carts makes me feel that for as much as I venture outside of my little home away from home, I can just fork over the $15 or so and take a cart if I think I’m going to need GPS. I can’t speak for you, but if you’re in a similar boat as I was and are wondering if you need to jump on this latest technology boom, do yourself a favor and do a little research. You might be surprised at the results!!!

Here’s to keeping it in the short grass

Jason K.

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Jason Kunze
Jason is a busy husband and father of 2 daughters who are both just starting to take up the game that he has loved for years. Golf is his passion, when Jason is not playing golf and testing equipment he's hanging out with all his friends on the THP forum discussing every aspect of this great game.
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