Whether it’s the Open or a social knock, we can’t seem to stay off our mobiles. Steve Carroll argues the obsession has now gone too far
You won’t need to see me hit a shot to know when things aren’t going to plan on the course. Once a round has hit the buffers, along with my chances of rescuing the dreaded .1 for the day, you can find me a largely disinterested figure – and likely with my head buried in a phone.
I admit it. It’s terrible. I hate myself for doing it. It’s horrendously anti-social for a start, not to mention potentially distracting for playing partners.
I just can’t help it. My hand’s drawn to the bag pocket like a moth to a flame. And here’s the thing, we’re all at it.
Whether it’s the text beep that still goes off during a backswing (how is that still a thing by the way, just turn it to silent) or that call we’ve just got to take, a round is no different to any other parts of our lives. We just can’t do without our phones.
I had an epiphany, though, at the US Open. Here I was at Pebble Beach, one of the most beautiful places on earth, and I wasn’t lost in the Pacific but in a sea of clicking cameras.
Putting your phone on silent.
— The European Tour (@EuropeanTour) June 21, 2019
No-one needed to look at a tee sheet to know when Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy or Brooks Koepka were approaching, you could judge the calibre of player simply by the numbers of people stretching their hands high into the air trying to get a blurry, zoomed-in, shot of a swing from 100 yards away.
I understand the urge to record your presence at such an event is almost intoxicating and I was definitely in favour of the relaxing of rules that allowed people to use their phones.
I’ve not suddenly become some sort of born again Christian. I’ve little problem with anyone having a scan in the clubhouse, even though that sends some clubs climbing up the walls.
And no-one stops you snapping away at the football, or most other sports for that matter, so it seemed a nonsense that golf largely stood alone.
If you’re at a place like Monterey Peninsula, it’s only natural to get a few images of the wondrous landscape around you.
But when it comes to capturing a moment of action, there’s a flow to a football match that means it’s not a distraction.
There are not hundreds of people in a confined space around a green all trying to take a picture of that one shot all at the same time.
It just doesn’t work.
If you’ve paid $145 for a ticket, which were the US Open prices, if you’ve invested time and effort to get there – and getting to and from a big tournament is never entirely straightforward – then you don’t want to spend your day dodging a never-ending bank of phones to catch a glimpse.
At Pebble’s short 7th, an iconic hole with amazing views which naturally made it a magnet for spectators, I ended up watching a succession of shots through the prism of someone’s screen.
There was little chance of actually seeing anything in the flesh if you didn’t have a precious spot in the bleachers.
Not only was the crowd banked seven or eight deep, and not only am I not the tallest, but even if you did manage to grab a few precious inches the impenetrable wall of Galaxys and iPhones was impossible to breach.
There are signs everywhere at tournaments – and Pebble was no exception – ordering people not to take pictures of play but it was a pointless exhortation and the marshals were powerless.
How do you stop it when everyone around you are all pulling for their phones at the same time?
Now we have this unedifying spectacle where each close-up TV shot is pitched against a cellular background, and every round at home is marked by a texting, calling, roaming, scrolling interruption that seems incredulous when we’re all arguing about how slow the game is getting.
So I’ve pledged from now on to leave my phone in the car. I’m going to resist the urge to find out who has said what on Love Island, or to post that hazy shot of a green in a bid to get a solitary Twitter like.
I’m going to try and enjoy a round for the social experience it should be. I am going to gaze at my surroundings when I’d otherwise be checking out the scores and I’m going to watch a tournament without worrying how much battery time I’ve got left.
Why not come and join me? I reckon you’ll be much the happier if you did.