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Golf gadgets and trends for 2007

John Gardner
Vail CO, Colorado
Lakota Canyon Ranch
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Advancing technologies are always making things better and more enjoyable. In golf, club shafts fashioned from graphite and club heads made of titanium are all too familiar nowadays instead of the clubs of yesteryear that were made from steel and wood.

There is a reason drivers were once called woods, and it’s not because of Tiger.

Caddies, too, may become a thing of the past. The PGA will continue to use caddies because it’s part of the traditional game, but most public courses have turned to new technologies that dare say do a better job than the bag-carrying guy with local knowledge.



Not your father’s caddy

Global Positioning Systems (GPS) have spread far and wide with a plethora of uses for hikers and hunters to Search and Rescue teams. More and more public courses are on par with many private golf clubs in hopes of making the leisurely round a little more enjoyable for customers.



“GPS have been around for probably the past 12 to 15 years,” said Lakota Canyon Ranch Golf Club’s director of golf Tom Underwood. “But they are so much more advanced now and they can do so many different things to make the golfing experience more enjoyable.”

Lakota Canyon in New Castle, Colorado ” about 10 minutes west of Glenwood Springs ” has had GPS on every golf cart since it opened in 2004. And according to Underwood, the system has been a real asset to the club for multiple reasons.

“It’s an electronic caddy,” Underwood said. “It gives details of the course the same way an actual caddy would.”



And when the golfer pulls the cart next to his ball the yardage is displayed on the screen of how far it is to the front, middle and back of the green. No more pacing off steps from yardage markers.

The GPS adds a whole new dimension to the game for golfers that are unfamiliar with a course, Underwood said. Someone new to the course now has accurate data of the hole layout, hazard whereabouts and distances all accurate within a couple of feet.

Each Lakota Canyon golf cart is equipped with a display screen attached to the front underside of the cart’s roof.

Yardages come in a couple of different ways. As the golfers tee up, the yardages

from the tees to the green and hazards are displayed. Helpful hints also come across the screen as to where a golfer should aim their tee shot for good ball placement to set up the best approach shot to the green.

As golfers make their way down the fairway to the ball, the yardage on the screen changes, second by second, giving the actual yardage again to the hazards and green. If a hazard is in play, messages will display advising where to aim and how far to hit over, or short of, the particular hazard.

“We still have yardage markers,” said John Underwood, Tom’s brother and an assistant golf professional at Lakota Canyon Ranch. “Yardage markers are still there for those who like to walk.”

But with this new system, who would want to walk?

A new ranger on the course

Tom and John Underwood are thrilled with the GPS at Lakota Canyon Ranch. Not only for what it does for the game and the golfers, but what it does for them in the clubhouse too.

“I don’t need a ranger out on the course bugging people,” Tom said.

Along with its caddy duties the GPS allows the pros in the golf shop to be the rangers on the course as well without stepping out of the clubhouse.

“We’re able to track carts on the course from the computer,” John said. “We can literally zoom in on the cart and see where they are and it keeps track of where they’ve been.”

That comes in handy if parts of the course are closed due to unfavorable conditions where carts could cause damage. They can see if people are on a closed part of the course and send them a message immediately instructing them to return to the cart path. Or during the early and later parts of the season when carts are restricted to the path, the system can be programmed to shut a cart down on the spot if it ventures off the path.

“Even if some kids are fooling around on the course,” John said. “We now have the ability to shut the cart down completely right from the clubhouse.”

Rangers are also infamous for telling groups to speed up play if they are playing too slow. John indicated that the system keeps track of time, starting when a cart passes the first tee. From the clubhouse, staff can see data that tracks times of each group on the course at that moment and determines if any groups are playing ahead or behind schedule.

“If a group is playing slow we’ll send them a message to speed things up,” John said.

Added safety and security

A few years ago, Lakota Canyon fell victim to some vandalism. John said that vandals got onto the course and drove 19 golf carts off a cliff causing over $100,000 in damage. But now, the system allows for the carts to be shut off in the clubhouse during the night.

“All the carts use a universal key,” John said. “If someone gets a hold of one, it will start any of the carts.”

The added security feature allows all carts to be shut down and rendered useless until turned back on by someone in the clubhouse, keeping vandalism to a minimum.

The use of the message system works both ways, too. If the clubhouse needs to get a message out to every golfer on the course, for something like a lightning warning, that’s possible as well. And each screen has an emergency call button in the top left corner to alert the clubhouse that emergency attention is required.

But if for some reason they just need to contact Joe Public on cart 45, they can send a custom message to him specifically.

“Sure,” John said. “If a wife calls the clubhouse looking for her husband, we can get a message to them anywhere on the course.”

Got refreshments?

No more waiting for the beer cart to come to you. In the new era of golf the golfer is in control. And when a beer or snack is needed, simply send a message to the snack bar requesting the beer and snack cart to come to where they are. The snack bar personnel can see exactly where

the group is at and send someone on the way with refreshments within minutes.

“The whole idea of the system is to make the game more enjoyable for the customers,” Tom said. “It allows us to do that and speed up the game as well.”

Who thought golf could get any more enjoyable? †


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