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Phones on the Golf Course? NO

Folks who talk loudly on cell phones on bus-

ses, in airports and all too many other public places are already one of the more obnoxious aspects of modern society. To- tally self-absorbed, they frequently inflict inane conversation upon the innocent who’d rather not be forced to listen. And now, these ever-connected Twitter twits see no problem with unrestricted cell phone use on fairways and greens. The boundaries that once defined

civility are eroding faster than that infa- mous Pacifica cliff. We’re talking about cell phones on

a golf course here, not in a Starbucks. What’s next? Laptop connections built into Club Cars? Music broad- cast throughout the course? Second- amendment activists who openly carry pistols strapped to one of those ugly white golf belts? Good lord. Not to sound stuffy, but golf is

ostensibly a quiet game. Most golfers enjoy the sport because we’re on a green sward of tranquility, a place calming and quite different from the office and its noise of phones and urgent discussions. What’s more, playing well requires

a great deal of concentration. By eti- quette and tradition, players hit shots and stroke putts without fearing an aural interruption. There’s a reason that marshals at tournaments hold up “Qui- et” signs when the pros are about to hit. Even friends and casual acquaintances know enough to stop talking when a buddy addresses a ball. A ringing cell phone—especially those with the tone that sounds like the alarm on a nuclear sub with a radiation leak—can startle one into full-metal shank and maybe even a permanent case of the yips. I totally understand today’s work-

force and the fact of 24-7 connectivity, thanks to PDAs, Wi-Fi and the expectations of employers and col- leagues. In the middle of the night and on holidays I’ve answered my share of

during dinner, in the parking lot and on the course. He’d fall behind and wave us off if he could make a sale instead of a putt. While a nice enough individual, his distracting behavior threw off the entire rhythm of the rounds and he was not invited again. Granted, the golf course is a great place to do business—but only in person with another player. Taking a phone onto a golf course is also an open invitation to receiving a Bad Call, another way to have a round completely ruined. The Bad Call could come from a mechanic informing you that a new transmission is needed on the old Buick. Or it could come from an adult child in some wretched bit of self-

questions sent from the other side of the world to a Blackberry, simply because I felt it was my job responsibility. But on the golf course, I also have a respon- sibility to fellow players on either side of my group, in the locker room and clubhouse, since being around someone wholly engaged with a cell phone is a certified drag. On a golf trip several years ago a

small group of friends included a fellow who was working hard on his business, taking and making calls and e-mails

inflicted trouble and needing money, a request often followed by a largely imag- ined but argumentative grievance that throws emotions into turmoil. I’ve seen this happen a couple dozen times and in each case the issue could be handled sev- eral hours later. Instead, the player gets a psychological DQ simply from answering the darn phone. Cell phones are, of course, useful.

Increasingly there are free and paid-for systems that enable them to be used as GPS devices that show range and other course variables, which are of course legal. Then again, who wants a range-finder that will let a telemarketer get in touch just as you’re try- ing to loft a soft pitch over a bunker? Some clubs totally

ban all cell phones from the premises and will eject members who violate the policy, while others recommend put- ting them on vibrate. For all my dislike of golf course cell phone use, I think every golfer ought to carry one in

the bag, albeit turned off or put into air- plane mode. For outside emergencies— like if a doctor is suddenly needed at the hospital—a call to the pro shop will have an assistant out there with a cart hauling the physician to the parking lot within minutes. But if someone in a group has a myocardial infarction or gets hit the head by a wayward drive—perhaps caused by a ringing cell phone—the phone means real help is but 911 away. Otherwise keep that phone unloaded

and holstered, partner, and we’ll all enjoy a peaceable visit with the golf course. Jay Stuller is an author, journalist,

corporate speechwriter and frequent contributor to this magazine.

SUMMER 2010 / NCGA.ORG / 23

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