Recently I had the good fortune of attending the US Open at Pinehurst. A friend of mine from Boston flew down and we purchased gallery tickets for Saturday and Sunday. I was hoping for another epic 2nd place finish from Phil Mickelson and my buddy was just happy to get out of the city. The event was spectacular – the USGA really knows how to put on an event. The logistics of parking and getting bussed to the course and then through the gates was seamless and the volunteers and staff were friendly and efficient. That being said, I feel the USGA dropped the ball with the all-out ban on cellphones at Pinehurst.
Let me begin by saying I am more or less a traditionalist when it comes to golf. The belly putter is the worst invention of all time and deserves to be banned and I hate the idiot that yells mashed potatoes after every Bubba Watson drive. Nonetheless, I feel that the decision by the USGA to not allow cell phones onto the course at Pinehurst was a foolish one.
The PGA Tour has already allowed them into tournaments with few problems. With golf struggling to grow, especially with the younger generations, the USGA missed a huge opportunity to gain exposure through social media. The entire day, I kept sticking my hand in my pocket to grab my phone and take a picture of the newly re-designed course, tweet about Martin Kaymer’s machine like consistency or check the scoreboard and where my favorite players were at.
Don’t get me wrong, I had a great time and there are leaderboards and tee sheets out there so you can figure out all the details. Even still, we live in a digital age where instant gratification is everything.
When I told a coworker about the ban on cell phones, he immediately said, “That’s why all I ever saw were pictures of tickets on facebook and Instagram not pictures of the actual course.” Naturally we all have to brag about going to an event such as the US Open, but taking a picture of a couple gallery tickets isn’t nearly as cool as Instagraming the 18th, or taking a Snapchat while in the grandstand behind 10.
I know part of the rationale is - What if a phone rings in someone’s backswing? This is a legitimate concern; however, if this happened ONE time it would not happen again. The public shaming of the person whose phone went off would be more than enough to prompt everyone to check their phone to make sure it was on silent. No one wants to be that guy.
Basically, I wanted to be able to share my experience with all my friends not fortunate enough to be there and I couldn’t do that. It’s not even like I could post pictures to my facebook after the fact since cameras aren’t allowed either. How does the USGA expect to gain exposure for such a great event without even considering less traditional forms of media?
Too be fair, the PGA Tour cell phone policy needs to be revised in my opinion as well. While they allow phones on the course, you are only supposed to use them in designated areas. In some cases, you can have your phone confiscated after being given a warning for improper use. The current policy is a decent first step, but a cell phone camera doesn’t have to make any noise or have a flash and as long as people aren’t leaning over the ropes trying to take selfies (which is probably inevitable), I really can’t think of a major downside.
Oh and one final complaint. On Sunday I spent 45 minutes wandering the merchandise tent looking for my friend that I was with. This may sound ridiculous but the place was a mad house. If I had had a phone, I would have had forty-five more minutes of watching and enjoying world class golf.
**Do you agree with Paul Robinson? Shoot him a tweet @ptrobinson91 and let him know!