Golf's Pantactile Structure

A few years ago, I played a round of golf at The Ranch Golf Club in Edmonton. It was a pretty nice course, but what was unique for me was that it was the first time I had ever played a round using GPS-enabled golf carts.

These systems are pretty neat: they will give you an overview of the hole at the beginning; the distance to the pin when you drive up next to your ball; the ability to electronically keep your score; and the ability to receive weather warnings from the pro shop.

Courtesy of ParView

Of course, the system also keeps you informed as to how far ahead or behind a "normal" pace you are, and conveniently pops up a menu at the 8th tee so you can order food and have it waiting for you by the time you get to the clubhouse at the turn. As ParView, the makers of the GPS system that The Ranch uses, notes on their web site:

ProLink solutions empower you to dramatically increase your profitability. Reduce average round time by twenty minutes, for two additional tee-times daily. Grow Food and Beverage revenues by 30-40%. Enhance the perceived value of your facility while actually reducing the number of personnel required to operate it. With so many advantages built-in, it?s no wonder that our systems quickly become our customers? third largest revenue source after green fees and car rentals.

At the time, I never posted to sportsBabel about my experiences at The Ranch, but with my recent work on information technology and flow optimization in sport, it suddenly came back to me as if slapped by an invisible hand.

Narrowing Gulf and Non-Linear Golf

A case of permeable membrane and turntablism from CBS's coverage of last week's MCI Heritage Classic (via SportsFilter, emphasis mine):

The television coverage ended as controversy swirled regarding a possible Rules infraction by Cink. For the next half hour, PGA Tour officials received numerous phone calls from television viewers who were stunned when Cink brushed aside lose pebbles behind his ball. Because the hazard was a waste area and not a sand bunker, Cink was allowed to move loose impediments. However, some thought he had improved his lie. Tour official Slugger White disagreed. After reviewing the videotape, White ruled that it wasn't a penalty, thus giving Cink the championship title after an anxious 30-minute wait.

A Passing Age

While "Remembering the Golden Bear," the Sports Guy writes:

Here's the best way I can describe it. Imagine Dad winning the Masters. And since that can't happen, imagine the next-best thing. Like Ali and McEnroe, Jack belonged to another era, a time when individual athletes resonated with people.

Heroes emerge only from team sports today — sometimes too soon, as Griffey Jr. and Kobe proved — with boxers and tennis players unable to inspire any sense of collective attachment. Among current golfers, only Tiger matters, and he's always been more machine than man, as if he emerged from the womb wearing a Nike hat and drilling five-woods. Nobody can identify with him, and nobody seems interested in trying.

Do we know too much about these guys now? Do they make too much money? Are we stuck in a personality drought? Have we gravitated toward team sports for that sense of belonging, the chance to share a common rooting interest with an extended group of people? Whatever the reason, men's tennis and boxing have become second-tier sports. And golf seems to be headed that way.

Only Tiger can change that. But it will take a few years. Imagine him in 2024, balder than Phil Martelli, still wearing that Nike cap, struggling to find the remnants of his game, one more miracle lurking inside him. Then, and only then, will he finally seem human. Just like Nicklaus in '86. I just wonder if we'll care.

I hope so.

Digestable Cookies

The World Championship of Golden Tee is held in Orlando:

Steve estimated he's made more than a quarter of a million dollars playing the game over the course of his Golden Tee career. Every year, through the Incredible Technologies website (which keeps stats for all its registered players), Steve prints out his stats and earnings and then sends that print-out to the IRS. That way, he's able to declare the money he puts into Golden Tee as a tax write-off.

And Steve doesn't let injuries hinder his game. Many players suffer cuts on their hands from how violently they swing forward on the game console's trackball to get power on their shots. Players have even broken hands playing Golden Tee.

"I'm usually the one bleeding," Steve said. "But I just say, 'Patch me up so I can keep playing!' I even learned to play left-handed. Nothing's gonna stop me. I'll take the pain, if that's what it takes to win."

EA Sports strikes a deal with Nike and other shoe manufacturers to have the authentic shoes worn by players appear on their virtual counterparts:

Not only does the game boast a store, where gamers can use points they rack up to purchase a host of items including shoes the Nike Shox Supremacy, the Air Max and, of course the most expensive, the first Air Jordan, but Nike and EA plan to release 50 cheat codes throughout the year to allow players to unlock old retro favorites or shoes that are hitting the market.

"When making the games, we not only look at the rulebook to make sure we have everything right, but seek to touch on relevant cultural hot points," Chin said. "And shoes definitely fall into that category."

So far, three codes have been released — for the Nike Shox BB4's (the shoe Carter was wearing when he dunked over poor Frederick Weis in the 2000 Olympics), the famous Air Jordan III's (the first Jordan's featuring the now very recognizable Jumpman logo) and the LeBron James' Air Zoom Generations, which became unlockable on the night James plays his first game on Oct. 29.

Courtesy of EA Games

EA Games releases the Quidditch World Cup, featuring the fantasy Harry Potter and friends with real-life nationalism:

Starting with any one of the four Hogwarts house teams — including Harry Potter's Gryffindor — players learn Quidditch basics with five original challenges and the Hogwarts House Cup competition. Once completed, players can enter the Quidditch World Cup, choosing from a range of international teams including the USA, England, France, Germany, the Nordic Team, Japan, Spain, Australia, and Bulgaria - featuring Viktor Krum. Each national team sports its own Quidditch gear, has a unique stadium environment, and different strengths that lend depth and strategy, especially when two gamers face off in two-player competition for the first time ever in a Harry Potter video game.

Random Voices

  • I disagree with Rebecca Lock: in an uncertain athletic situation during a sporting contest, an ideal docile body WILL HAVE NO IDEA WHAT TO DO!! And after coaching basketball for the highly-disciplined Acadia basketball team, I have ethnographic "evidence" to support this statement.

  • Upon retirement, golf becomes the new work.
  • Will energy-producing cybernetic couplings between human and bike/stairmaster/ergometer become the new form of civic duty?
  • Linds and I are here watching the Knicks-Magic game on TV, in which Rogers Sportsnet is relaying the live feed from the Sunshine Network broadcast. It took a few moments for us to realize why the game was so boring (beyond the fact that it was NY vs. Orlando!): there was temporarily no live play-by-play audio feed. Linds summarized this nicely: "This seems old-school … the audio really does make the game."

A Gendered Cyborg?

Golf, one of the last bastions of men, is under siege — and the movement has been underway since long before Martha Burk arrived on the scene.

In many sports with a high degree of male bonding, one of the strongest unifying factors is the proverbial swinging dick, and so it is in golf. The driver in golf is nothing more than the extension of the male phallus, shooting Balatajaculate hundreds of yards in all directions (preferably straight) while onlookers go slackjawed or nod approvingly. Even with drivers made out of graphite or titanium or moonrock, or whatever, the man's always got the Number One Wood in his hands.

There's even a class of "golfers" out there who do nothing but hit long drives, evoking comparisons to the disembodied circus schlongs of the porn industry. Preying on our insecurities, both groups can sell our fears back to us, either as equipment to lengthen us on the tee, or in the sack.

If you can't grip it and rip it, then you're not a man at all — or so the subtext reads.

But this is where it gets confusing, yet interesting. Many women are gripping it and ripping it right along with the men. Now maybe they aren't as dick-swinging as the male pros, but the top 25 female players are averaging over 260 yards per drive, which is much further than most Joe Titleists out there. The female golf pro is hermaphroditic in the vast ecosphere of sport.

Or maybe not. Golf is indeed a sport with a high K/L ratio (which shall hereafter be known on sportsBabel as the cyborg ratio so as to differentiate it — and the individual it represents — from the capital-labor ratio of the firm found in classical economics). Golf is a cyborg sport. And as Donna Haraway notes in A Cyborg Manifesto:

The cyborg is a creature in a post-gender world; it has no truck with bisexuality, pre-oedipal symbiosis, unalienated labour, or other seductions to organic wholeness through a final appropriation of all the powers of the parts into a higher unity.

So perhaps the female golfer isn't hermaphroditic, after all. Perhaps the golfer — any golfer — carries with them the withering remnants of a phallocentric Western culture as they enter the posthuman cyborg state of tomorrow.