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For their own good
Fifty years ago, they were screwed-up kids sent to the Florida School for Boys to be straightened out. But now they are screwed-up men, scarred by the whippings they endured. Read the story and see a video and portrait gallery.
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Home in on the range
Range finders that use lasers to measure golf shot distance are hot.
By KELLIE DIXON, Times Staff Writer
Published December 5, 2007
Frank Bland, foreground, and Dave Wolcott, members at Fox Hollow Golf Club in Trinity, use their range finders at the second hole tee. The devices give the distance to the hole from wherever the golfer stands, which helps in club selection.
[Kellie Dixon | Times]
[Kellie Dixon | Times]
Golfers just hook the range finder to their golf cart.
"It's very good for club selection." Mark Mathews, optometrist who owns a range finder.
Dave Wolcott and Frank Bland, both members at Fox Hollow Golf Course in Trinity, can't imagine showing up for one of their frequent golf rounds without their range finders.
Whether they're teeing off, or hitting from the fairway, they take a moment to glance through the finder, which calculates the exact distance from where they are to the pin.
They tack the trusty gadgets to the golf cart and take off.
Bland even takes his device when he goes deer hunting. Of course, he admits, that's how he convinced his wife he needed one.
Wolcott got hooked on the gadget several years ago when a golfing buddy started carrying one. Every now and again Wolcott would ask him what the gadget said.
"'It says you can buy one at the pro shop,'" Wolcott recalled his friend saying. "So I had to get one."
Golfers love gadgets - especially the range finders, which are legal with the Florida State Golf Association. The device, which resembles a small pair of binoculars, gives golfers the exact yardage to the flag.
Here's how it works: Just aim at the flag, mash the button and voila.
The device uses lasers to home in on a target and calculate its distance. Dan Martino, the director of golf at Beacon Woods, likes it better than the GPS units, which stick strictly to a course map, because it takes into account pin placement rather than giving an approximation to the front, center or back of the green.
The only drawback, it seems, is the price tag which can range from $200 to $500.
But what about the human element? Not to worry, pros say. Good golf courses have sprinkler heads with yardage markers anyway. Having the device simply saves you the trouble of hunting down the yardage and pacing off the difference.
"It just helps the pace of play and it's not really giving you an advantage over not having one," said Vince Buelk, golf pro at Brooksville Country Club. "You still have to perform the shot."
Pros can't use them during tournament play, but their caddies do the homework ahead of time and keep notes on yardages.
Tiger Woods isn't guessing when he strikes the ball from the fairway.
Having the exact measurement helps with club selection.
Local golfer and optometrist Mark Mathews of Port Richey knows which club to use after he peeks through the lens and gets the reading.
"It's very good for club selection," Mathews said.
And once a golfer has the right club, he also has an idea of how hard to swing it. It gives a golfer that confidence.
"It removes doubt because you know exactly how far it is," said Matt Cote, golf pro at Fox Hollow Golf Course. "One of the biggest killers of a good swing is doubt."
The Florida State Golf Association started allowing golfers in 2007 the use of distance measuring devices, like range finders and GPS systems, in FSGA Championships, FSGA qualifying for championships and winter series events. To be legal, the device cannot measure slope. Golfers in junior championships or USGA qualifiers cannot use the devices.
The FSGA Winter series cranks up this weekend with a four-ball team event at Lake Jovita Golf and Country Club. Registration has closed on the event, but for future individual and team events, visit www.fsga.org
Gotta have one?
The devices are sold at sporting goods stores, but also can be ordered from some pro shops. Expect to spend anywhere from $200 to $500.