American course goes ‘ball-less’
A golf course in the USA has become the first club in the world to go ‘ball-less’.
Golfers at Columbia Golf Club in California, which has more than 1,200 members, play usual rounds on the course, but instead of hitting a physical or ‘analogue’ ball, they hit a virtual ‘e-ball’ that is invisible to the naked eye, using electronic golf clubs that can look exactly the same as typical golf clubs.
The clubs, financed by crowd funding, have on-board sensors which detect the player’s location and swing. The player locates the e-ball using an optical computer headset that looks like a pair of glasses and hits it like a normal physical ball. The clubs even have speakers on them which mimic the sound of the club-head striking the ball.
Columbia began trialing the technology, made by invisiBALL, last summer when a neighbouring course closed down after it was fined more than one million dollars when a golfer was killed by a ball that hit him on the head.
Its manager said the trial period has been so successful – golf-related injuries have been reduced to nearly zero while interest in the game has meant that membership has increased – that the club will only offer ball-less golf from May 1.
Columbia’s manager Drew Callmore said: “When we were first offered a trial with invisiBALL we were unsure if it would take off but members love them, so much so that we have decided to go completely ball-less.
“Really, the product is a no-brainer. Physical balls cause more divots, get lost in lakes and can cost clubs hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees when they hit people. E-balls are definitely the future – in 10 years’ time I think we will only see the old fashioned physical golf ball in museums.”
invisiBALL director Ian Beecham said that the product will save lives.
“I was appalled to read that 49 people were killed by golf balls in the last decade alone and many thousands more suffered serious injury,” he said.
“This didn’t rest well with me, I felt that all of us, all golfers had blood on our hands, so I decided to do something about it. When I first heard about invisiBALL I thought this is what golf needs to offer a safe and modern version of the game – particularly if we want to get more kids to play it.“
A number of clubs in the UK have trialed the game this year – but none have so far followed Columbia and said they will go completely ball-less.
One golfer who played a nine-hole round at The Suffolk Golf Club, using the technology, said: “Nothing beats the feeling of hitting a physical ball. Who is going to pay to stand on a piece of grass waving a bloody stick around for two hours like a mad man?”
The R&A has said it is watching developments at Columbia closely and will update its rules in due course. It is thought that a professional tournament on the LPGA Tour will take place as soon as this summer – in which the viewing public on television will see what the spectators, who will all be loaned the headsets, will see – effectively golf balls super-imposed onto screens, so that they will be able to easily track how good individual shots have been.