The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Sports

October 28, 2006

Clair Goodwin: GPS devices help golfers determine distance

By Clair Goodwin

Chip Shots

Want a great gift for your golfer at Christmas?

How about a pocket GPS designed specifically to provide him or her accurate yardage on a golf course.

The devices may become the next golf wave now that the USGA has relaxed rules against the use of rangefinders.

One of the latest, according to Garry Lee of Garry's Golf Center, is the SkyCaddie, which doesn't require finding a target in the lens or having a clear a line-of-sight. All you have to do is press a button and it will provide accurate measurements not only to the green, but to bunkers, water or even trees.

And you can have it programmed for your favorite local courses, says Lee.

Right now the only golf course in the immediate area that has been programmed is Twin Hills Golf and Country Club. But Loma Linda, Briarbrook and Neosho are in the process of being completed by the company.

How long does it take to program a golf course? "They say it takes 10 seconds per green," said Lee. "The programming is done by a SkyCaddie representative at the course."

Getting yardage to a point on the green is only one of the advantages of such a device. You can also find out how far you hit your drive, your 5-iron or your wedge on any particular hole. Or on every hole, for that matter.

What is really intriguing is that GPS systems can tell you the distance to a stream, to the last trap protecting a green or to an out-of-bounds line behind the putting surface.

In the old days, the USGA frowned on instruments that provided yardage: Let the caddies do their own work in stepping off distances from this bush to that rock and keep their books. Let each golfer depend on his depth perception to figure out what iron to hit on an approach or what club to use in laying up short of a pond. Or let golf courses attach yardage markers on their irrigation systems or put distance-discs in the fairways.

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