American course goes ‘ball-less’

Alistair Dunsmuir
By Alistair Dunsmuir April 1, 2014 04:01

American course goes ‘ball-less’

A golf course in the USA has become the first club in the world to go ‘ball-less’.

Screen shot 2014-03-31 at 14.56.01

Golfers still see the balls through optical computer headsets. Image from iCaddy.com

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.

  • Ball-less golf still involves the same techniques as with a ball - including even making divots.
  • How the previous image looks through an optical computer headset - which includes a ball superimposed onto the landscape and places it exactly where it should be.
  • Golfers require optical computer headsets that look like a pair of glasses to see the balls, but can play the game without them, using either a smartphone or tablet computer device.
  • Several people have trialed the technology in the UK now. Trick shot specialist Jeremy Dale is not a fan. "Spectators lost interest quickly," he said. "It was just some chap waving a club around."
  • Golf Club Management's Alistair Dunsmuir has had a round of ball-less golf at Wentworth. "Very suspicious about it at first - but loved it in the end. It was accurate too - I still didn't break 90!"
  • The world's first professional tournament is due to take place on the LPGA tour this summer, but some golfers have expressed concern that spectators will find ball-less golf harder to follow.
  • Zac Wilkinson joined Columbia Golf Club due to ball-less golf. "Putting is more fun without the ball - you know straight away that it's going in because you hear a small beep."
  • Michael Townley tried the game recently - but walked off after just four holes. "It's not the same," he said. "I like the feel of making contact with the ball and refused to wear the headset."
  • Helen Shoehorn has now played four rounds of ball-less golf at her local club in Kent. "I love it and so do all the ladies," she said. "It's the fun of golf without the worry of killing someone."
  • Seven-year old Jack Harper putted for 45 minutes without a ball and then asked his father if he could play the game every day!
  • Will missing simple putts be the same without the ball?
  • invisiBALL director Ian Beecham: "People will look back and laugh that we even had analogue balls in 20 years' time."

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.

 

Alistair Dunsmuir
By Alistair Dunsmuir April 1, 2014 04:01
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5 Comments

  1. James Robinson April 1, 06:14

    great – something else health and safety is going to completely ruin

    Reply to this comment
  2. @golf_balls April 1, 06:39

    #golfballs

    Reply to this comment
  3. iSpyGolf (@ispygolfpro) April 1, 08:06

    Boom, there’s one… #AprilFoolsDay

    Reply to this comment
  4. Stuart Herd April 3, 11:51

    Must be a late April fools joke

    Reply to this comment
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