In Japan many a crack golfer may never see a course in his life. There's?
In Japan many a crack golfer may never see a course in his life. There's so little available land on its crowded islands that the odds are against it. Instead, golfers play their 18 holes in front of an electronic screen -- which calculates their drive length, direction and spin.
The game has taken the country by storm. With public courses bursting, and private courses expensive, players have turned to artificial golf -- with netted driving ranges, miniature putting greens, and complete electronic courses. Some of the latter are replicas of famous United States' courses.
In typical course in a building totally devoted to the game, a foursome will tee off by driving into a picture of a fairway projected onto plastic tapes. The ball passes through the tapes and hits a metal screen which registers its direction, speed and spin on a computer -- which instantly projects an imaginary ball onto the screen. The ball diminishes in size as it flies down the "fairway" and eventually lands.
The ball image then shifts onto a smaller picture, which shows a top view of the course -- and where the ball has landed in one of the numbered squares. The golfer then dials the number on another machine, and the fairway is projected onto the screen from that exact spot. And by alternately driving and dialling numbers, the golfer plays his way through the 18 holes -- carefully selecting correct irons for each shot. Once he reaches a green or green bunker, however, he moves to a full-size green of artificial turf in a separate room. The shape of the green is altered by hydraulic jacks for each hole.
Computerised golf, which began in Tokyo late last year (1970), is expensive -- but not nearly as costly as a real course. And if he doesn't feel like a full 18 holes, the golfer can always practice his drive on an "old-fashioned" driving range, where a net collects his ball, or he can have some light-hearted sport on a miniature putting course. To date, driving ranges are the most popular -- with 2,000 throughout the country. And for those who enjoy 18 holes but aren't as fit as they should be -- just think of all the walking an electronic course saves.