October 13, 2006
Cell phones are remarkably handy. They also help illustrate a basic point about technology and etiquette.
Just because you can make or receive a phone call from just about anywhere doesn’t mean you should.
Golf courses have contended with the now ubiquitous communication devices for several years. There’s no common approach to dealing with the apparently pressing need to reach out and touch someone.
Winged Foot Golf Club, home of this year’s United States Open, follows a straightforward policy regarding cell phones on the golf course—it’s just not going to happen. As they diplomatically put it, “Cell phones are not to be used anywhere except inside of a car.” Since no cars are ever on the golf course, except as a prize for a hole-in-one contest, they consider the problem solved.
Rehoboth Beach Country Club also prohibits cell phones on the golf course. Other Cape Region courses are more forgiving, with no prohibitions but with the occasional reminder to use common courtesy.
At Kings Creek Country Club or Shawnee Country Club, for example, it’s not that unusual to see a member with his cell-phone resting in a waistband holster, or in a golf cart’s storage space in front of the driver’s seat.
Most golfers with cell phones that I’ve played with respect the desires of their playing partners to not become unwilling listeners in a business or family drama being played out over the airwaves. They don’t usually initiate any telephone calls, but reserve its use for those trying to reach them.
They often set their phones to vibrate or silent signal. If a call comes in during a playing partner’s shot, they don’t rush to answer it and disrupt the other’s game. If it’s their turn and a call comes in that they have to take, they don’t make a fuss if someone else decides to go out of turn during the short delay.
Not everyone is quite as considerate, especially when they forget to change the ring tone to silent or vibrate.
I recently was a playing guest of a local golfer at a local course, all of which shall remain nameless. We were joined by another unnamed club member, a pleasant middle-aged fellow. He rode in a cart, while my host and I shared another one.
After a few holes, I heard a musical ring tone that sounded semi-Hawaiian, or like something Jimmy Buffet would play for his Parrotheads. Our playing companion quietly excused himself, answered his phone, and quickly rejoined us.
I sometimes think a cell phone ring tone provides a clue to the user’s personality, so I asked him if he had picked it out. He said that the song was what came with the phone when he got it, and from his general demeanor it was hard to dispute him.
Let’s just say that a loud Hawaiian shirt is not an obviously missing part of his wardrobe.
His cell phone rang a few more times during the round. Each time the golfer would quickly excuse himself, answer it, and return to the game as soon as possible.
Except for the fact that I’m no fan of Jimmy Buffet-like music, this really wasn’t a problem for me.
It became his problem, however.
He had just hit a decent drive and a good second shot on the last par 5 of the day, and his cart stood just a few feet away from the stance he took for his approach shot to the green.
Just as he finished his slow, careful backswing, his cell phone began ringing once again. The timing could not have been more perfect, at the very apex of his move.
He quickly stopped his swing and rushed to answer the phone. It wasn’t a long conversation, and we quietly stood by to watch him start again.
The break in his concentration didn’t help.
My partner and I just looked at each other.
Saying anything at that moment would have been needlessly cruel.