As with most people who love golf, I don’t feel that I get to play as much as I would like, so when a golf getaway with a group of buddies presented itself this past weekend I leapt at the opportunity! The weekend came complete with a Friday night pairings party where the teams were divided up and the format was selected.
It was during this get together that our host for the one private course that we were playing announced, in what can only be described as an emphasized whisper, that everyone needs to remember to not bring their cell phones out on the golf course. Now, as I have stated many times before in this space, I’m no dummy. I didn’t raise a question at the time of the announcement nor did I during any portion of the trip. I was a guest and acted accordingly … and I have to tell you I am glad that I did, the course was awesome!
It did get me thinking privately, however, whether or not those types of rules make practical sense in the day and age of the smart phone.
Ten years ago? Sure, especially at private golf courses where individual reputations tend to be on the line with each round played, and being the guy who yakked away on his tele while it was his turn to putt was an easy way to find yourself hanging around the shop looking for a game. But as I longed to get scores for my favorite basketball team while I was finishing up my 36 holes for that day it just seemed, well, unnecessary.
I don’t think I need to go into full detail all the things that our phones can now do, but I do think that I can best illustrate country club cell phone rules best through a simple time:
Old Tom Morris – 1995: No real need for any policy, though caddying as a kid I can remember the “box” cell phone being dragged out on the course by doctors (very much warranted) and important business folk (not so much). Good thing those went on a cart, they were the size of a defibrillator!
1996 -1999: These things are starting to show up everywhere, and I can remember working at a private club and this beginning to be an issue that was brought up at Board meetings.
2000-2004: Everyone has a cell phone and we are all yakking away on them. Many country clubs -mostly private and resort- have policies against talking on cell phones on the golf course and I can tell you that fellow golfers/members were indeed policing their own. These were the really contentious years.
2005-2008: Somewhere in here most of us starting texting and/or taking pictures of stuff with our phones. Quieter? Sure. Less distracting to others in the group? Maybe. Maybe not.
2009-Present: iPhones. Apps. Blackberries. Android networks. These things have become such an integral part of our lives, that spending 5 hours without your phone seems like an eternity. Outside of airplane flights I think the 2008 US Open at Torrey was the last time I went that long without my phone before Saturday’s round. (Speaking of Torrey, the fact that they now allow you to bring your phone onto the golf course but strongly discouraged texting tells you that the PGA Tour is still trying to figure out how to balance the quiet and serenity of the golf course with the realism of today. I mean if you can’t text someone that you are meeting to tell them where you are on the golf course, what the heck else would you be able to do with the phone anyway?)
I hope I haven’t been misunderstood here, I love the silence and peace that a round of golf brings, I just think that we as a society have gotten over the freedom and excitement of running our gums on our cellular phones, and to be able to check a sports score or to be prepared for a fairly vital text by looking at your phone when its not your turn to play seems like an adult decision that can be made independently.
After my trip I asked JC Golf’s Director of Golf Sales and Marketing, and my good bud, Erik Johnson what his take on cell phone policies is and I thought he said it best, “I’ve got no problem with someone taking a cell phone out on the golf course, I just expect that they will put the golfing first and treat their usage with the same etiquette they would treat their playing partners and the golf course with.”
Perfect. Would he have had the same response in 2001?
Who cares, its 2011.