This column originally appeared in the Chicago Tribune November 14, 2017
Once again, it appears one of MY great ideas has been brought to fruition — by somebody who, unlike me, knows how to create an app.
Was it nine years ago, maybe 10, that I was aimlessly driving around a congested mall parking lot, thinking how cool it would be if somehow, I could be alerted to the closest empty spot? Darn you, companies like INRIX and Streetline, who have developed apps to do just that. Enjoy your yachts, company executives, but remember, I thought of it first!
At a restaurant, many years ago, my wife and I locked horns with some snooty sommelier who, in his most patronizing tone, told us our wine selection was “grossly inappropriate” for our entree choices. Why, we wondered, after I had dismissed him with an equally patronizing, “we’ll just have water,” couldn’t we be better informed about wine pairings, eliminating the need for tableside attitude?
Today, just whip out your phone, ask apps like Hello Vino or Pair It! to choose a wine for you, and enjoy dinner humiliation-free. The inventors of those apps are probably enjoying glasses of wine right now, overlooking their own vineyards.
And from the moment I first hit a golf ball, I found myself thinking how enjoyable it would be if I could quickly locate errant shots that landed in waist-high rough, pine tree clusters and backyards owned by retirees dumb enough to build residences adjoining public golf courses. True, most golfers probably share my brainchild; I only know that if I created a golf ball locator, I may have never experienced chance encounters with poison ivy, beehives and snakes.
Now it appears I’ve been beaten to the punch again.
OnCore Golf, a Buffalo, New York-based golf ball manufacturer, is currently developing, and seeking funding for, the appropriately-named Genius Ball. Embedded with chipset technologies that remain intact when struck repeatedly with a golf club, the ball will give its owner countless information available, naturally, via a smart phone app.
For advanced golfers, we’re talking spin rate, ball velocity and time and distance of carry. For hackers, myself included, the ball contains the only feature we care about: GPS!
Samuels, leader of the Genius Ball development initiative, emphasized golfers can choose which information appeals to them and program their apps accordingly. “Otherwise you’d have golfers walking into trees, looking at their phones all the time,” he said.
But, Samuels added, it’s high time the technology we use to locate our cars and our teenagers should be available to find that shiny new golf ball we just removed from our bags. Currently OnCore’s crowdfunding campaign has raised about one third of its $100,000 goal, money that will be used to complete development and get the ball to market. The company is hoping for a Father’s Day 2018 launch.
Samuels admits the Genius Ball may generate pushback from golf purists who already feel existing high tech golf tools — such as range finders, and drivers with adjustable loft sleeves — should be tossed into the nearest greenside creek. He also does not expect the ball to be approved by the United States Golf Association for play during professional tour events, due to myriad information it would provide.
“We didn’t build this to be a tour ball. We built it for the average player,” he said.
That’s music to my ears, particularly after a frustrating summer of golf, one that put my “average player” status in jeopardy due to a persistent hook resulting in numerous lost balls. So, I’m happy to cede my idea for a self-tracking ball to companies like OnCore and its team of knowledgeable engineers.
Perhaps those same engineers could invent a ball that, when hit in water, floats to the surface and retreats to the bank for easy retrieval.
If they do, remember, I thought of it first.