Golf, the Weather and Your Smartphone: 'You've Got Game!'

By Peter Bernstein July 06, 2012

If you are a golfer, along with the usual things in your bag that can be viewed as “tools of the trade” or “weapons of mass destruction” that assure your passion will live up to advanced billing as “a good walk ruined,” you likely bring along a few additional necessities. These used to include extra balls and tees, a divot tool and marker, sun screen, foul weather gear, and possibly a scoop for retrieving errant shots that find non-weather related water hazards. Now it includes a GPS system for getting an accurate read on yardage, and I will add to the list your smartphone. 

Why is a smartphone essential? It is not for the obvious reasons of staying in touch while out and about — reasons and whereabouts not necessarily to be explained to employers, friends and family. In fact, many private clubs still outlaw the use of smartphones because of the threat to serenity they pose. Indeed, for those courses that adhere to phone bans, I have three words to consider, “get over it!”  The real reason to tote along that smartphone is the weather.

Aha! you say. Don’t you look at the forecast before you go? Doesn’t every golf course in the world now have radar and a warning system if lightening is in the area? The answer to the latter is yes, with a big BUT. 

Weather and golf have this nasty habit of not being perfect together. For those of you who like me enjoy a tour of the local public links, there is likely a cancellation policy, i.e., you cannot cancel a round that you have booked on a weekend or holiday literally “come hell or high water.” This makes knowing about the weather an obsession before you book. However, it is once you are on the course that having access to local radar, just like the guys in the pro shop or the starter’s cabin, that becomes critical.

On the Fourth of July a friend and I went out on my local municipal course. We knew from the forecast we were in for a possible round of thunderstorms prior to our ability to finish. Sure enough on the 15th hole the skies darkened, the wind picked up, thunder was heard but no lightening was seen. In other words the horn to clear the course was not sounded. 

Having almost been hit by lightning twice in my life -- including having my hair singed -- I will admit to an obsession with inclement weather soon as I hear thunder. I do not need to see lightning. In fact, the goal is not to see it. I had been using the free Swing by Swing app as my preferred inexpensive alternative to a sophisticated and dedicated golf GPS device (it works great, by the way), and clicked on my favorite weather site. Radar showed lightening too close to comfort. We were far from safe cover, which in my mind does not include sitting in a metal golf cart with no grounding. 

I looked at my partner and implored him to go in. He responded that the famous golfer Lee Trevino had been hit a few times and found it to be no big deal. I said that I did not have Trevino’s golf skills or his death wish. We drove for cover, passing a course ranger who advised us to step on it based on his local knowledge. We did and made it just in time, finally hearing the get off the course alert as we drove. 

This is not to admonish the local guys for a belated warning. They happen to do a fabulous job. However, I believe there is a lesson here about always having a backup. 

As all of the articles coming out about the horrible damage done in the U.S. in the Northern Virginia area that is home to huge data centers for the likes of Amazon, Instagram, Quora, Heroku, Pinterest, Hootsuite, and Netflix and others highlighted, weather can still cause significant outages. And, in an increasingly cloudy world you’d better have alternatives. Amazon in particular had its EC2 go down, which irritated a number of companies whose services it hosts who went off-line and has caused them to look elsewhere. Diversity in collocation is important.   In fact, check out an item on gigacom, about AOL building refrigerator-sized data centers to put resources for a host of reasons closer to their customers.     

For me I just am glad that where I play I can carry my phone, and that accuweather and provide great real-time and real close information. My advice is to heck with the rules, take you smartphone and make sure it is fully charged. It is not nice to fool Mother Nature. 

Edited by Rich Steeves
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