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If memory serves, I was 16-years-old when I got my first mobile phone. It was a Philips Savvy that I bought for £40 on a pay-as-you-go deal with BT Cellnet.

It came with a free plastic rain cover and had voice activation, which, to my pubescent self, was the essence of sophistication. Nothing made the girls swoon quite like seeing me say “PHONE MUM” into this unwieldy brick.

That handset reminds me of a simpler time, a time of polyphonic ringtones and Snake, when Apples were for eating and Androids were paranoid little fellas called Marvin. Halcyon days.

Things have changed, of course. Nowadays, mobiles are as ubiquitous as they are versatile. They’re the Swiss Army knife of telecommunications. Sure, they can place calls and receive texts. But they also double-up as sat-navs, laptops, games consoles, radios, TVs, heart-rate monitors, banks and, of course, hi-res cameras. There’s little they can’t do.

Whilst undoubtedly great for inter-connectivity and convenience, such technology comes at a price, both literal and figurative. I’m reminded of this every time I watch a golf event.

Tiger Woods’ return to the PGA Tour at the Genesis Invitational in February was particularly illustrative. As the 15-time major champ limped round Riviera, he was watched by a throng of fascinated onlookers, the majority of whom were documenting the action on their smartphones.

Call me old-fashioned, call me a curmudgeon, call me a boomer – that’s behaviour I just cannot comprehend. Tickets for the final round at Riviera sold out, with the cheapest briefs on the re-sale market going for roughly $200 a pop.

Why, in the name of all things holy, would you spend that amount of money only to watch the action unfold through your mobile? Tiger Woods is right there, only a few paces in front of you… and you’re watching him through an iPhone? I don’t get it.

More to the point, to what end do you this? What are you doing with that footage? I can’t think of any occasion where I’d pause what I was doing to look at somebody’s shaky, grainy, out of focus footage of Tiger lining up a putt. That’s why I have a 49-inch HD television. Maybe it’s just me but I’d much sooner hear somebody articulate what an experience was like and how it made them feel than look at poorly framed photos or videos.

There are knock-on effects on the ground, too. For instance, it’s hard to applaud when you’re holding a phone in your hands. Consequently, the atmosphere is less.

People have become so conditioned to capturing a moment that they’ve forgotten to live in it. Our growing dependence on technology and ‘likes’ has resulted in mediocre videos supplanting ticket stubs as proof that ‘I was there’.

There are exceptions, of course. Who can forget the ‘Michelob Ultra Guy’ watching Woods at last year’s US PGA, or Nike founder Phil Knight, the only person not holding a phone as LeBron James broke the NBA scoring record in February.

Thank God for The Masters. Augusta National prohibits mobile phones and enforces the rule with militant inflexibility. If you get busted with one, you’ll be drop-kicked onto Washington Road. Nobody dares risk it. And guess what? The experience is far better as a result. So, too, is the atmosphere. There’s a reason people talk about the “Augusta roars”. It is, in part, because nobody is fiddling with a phone when they should be celebrating.

In much the same way that golf is a simple game made complex by human behaviour, so too is life. Fortunately, there’s an equally straightforward solution. Put the phone away and live a little.

You might just enjoy it.


author headshot

Michael McEwan is the Deputy Editor of bunkered and has been part of the team since 2004. In that time, he has interviewed almost every major figure within the sport, from Jack Nicklaus, to Rory McIlroy, to Donald Trump. The host of the multi award-winning bunkered Podcast and a member of Balfron Golfing Society, Michael is the author of three books and is the 2023 PPA Scotland 'Writer of the Year' and 'Columnist of the Year'. Dislikes white belts, yellow balls and iron headcovers. Likes being drawn out of the media ballot to play Augusta National.

Deputy Editor

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