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Johnson column: The Winter gadget hunt

martin johnson bananaby Martin Johnson

I’ve always been a carrier – of a golf bag, that is, as opposed to some nasty disease – mostly because I’ve never got the hang of those battery-driven things, or, more precisely, the stop-start button. On the rare occasions I’ve tried one, the same thing happens. I touch the knob, the trolley goes from nought to 60 in about the same time as a Maserati, and I end the round with one arm about two feet longer than the other.

The push-it-yourself version has also been given the heave-ho, as attempting to get it up anything more severe than a minor upslope required the services of a Tibetan Sherpa. Besides, which trolley pushers are not often able to take the crow’s flight mode of travel, and based on, say, 100 rounds a year, I reckon that the extra annual mileage adds up to something in the region of a couple of London Marathons.

Now, though, my carrying days are over. I’ve been converted. Puffing and panting my way round in a winter league pairs game recently – clubs slung over my back as usual – one of our opponents invited me to give his own trolley a push, and while it would be an exaggeration to say it moved effortlessly away with a gentle nudge from the right-hand index finger, it wouldn’t be by much. So I bought one.

New technology is the key of course, and modern equipment has made every sport – not just golf – that much easier. The Tour de France is nothing if not arduous, but just imagine if the competitors were all issued with the same kind of bike 19th century midwives used to get around on.

And I’d like to see that Messi bloke swerve one around the wall and into the net with one of those old-style leather cannonballs.

Nowadays you can lift up a bike (an expensive one at any rate) with your little finger, and you can head a football without having the imprint of a lace on your forehead for a fortnight. It’s the same with golf trollies.

The new-fangled ones even come with seats attached if you want to eliminate any semblance of exercise from a round of golf, although if you’re stuck behind one of those fourballs who’ve been watching how the pros do it, taking about half an hour pacing out a putt, plumb bobbing it from all sides, and insisting on holing out for a ‘nine net eight’ and nil points in the midweek stableford, watching it all with your bum on a saddle makes it marginally more bearable.

A brand new piece of kit is also a nice way to mark the arrival of what you might call proper golf, after months of preferred lies, temporary greens, and not being able to find your ball because the white one you teed off with has been transformed into a Malteser upon landing, and made itself totally invisible.

However, most of us have limited budgets, and in my case I spent quite a few sleepless nights trying to decide between a sparkling new lightweight trolley or the Greenstick pitchmark repair tool, which somehow managed to evade the Spam folder on my email, and turned up in the Inbox trying to seduce me into buying one.

I initially ruled it out on the grounds that the only way to get hold of one appeared to be by visiting ‘booth #5546’ at the Golf Industry Show in San Diego, which, when factoring in the airfare and hotel costs, rather took it beyond my price range. But closer examination revealed that it could be bought online, and for the bargain price of $219.

At today’s exchange rate, that works out to roughly £151 and 96p, which might strike you as a trifle on the pricey side for a tool which repairs pitch marks. But hang on! The Greenstick happens to be 48 inches long, which makes it not a whole lot shorter than Ian Woosnam, and thus, as the advert eruditely puts it, puts an end to all that tiresome bending over. No wonder I tossed and turned for several nights before finally deciding that a pitch repairer costing the same as one-and-half superlight trollies – not to mention one which required strapping to your back rather than slipping into a trouser pocket – might be a tad over the top.

Golfers emerging from winter hibernation do not, of course, need new kit to put a spring in their step. It’s enough for most of us simply to bring the clubs out of the garage and into the sunshine for a good old polish. Although some of the pleasure might not survive wondering what that strange smell is, before reaching in the bowels of your bag and plunging your hand into the black and gooey remains of the banana you packed in readiness for December’s cancelled midweek fur and feather… and then forgot all about.

One of my regular partners has managed to avoid this ghastly fate by buying himself a gadget even more exciting than a new trolley (not to mention a good deal cheaper) namely, a bright yellow plastic banana holder. It looks like something from an Ann Summers adult shop, and maybe not ideal for a mixed foursome, but it appears to keep the mildew at bay.

Personally, I’m a Mars bar man, which is not quite so unpleasant when you’re groping around in the bag and come across an old one, which in my case the other day turned out to have an eat-by date of Feb 13. Not this Feb just gone, but February 2013. It tasted alright though, and joy became unconfined when I discovered that it was a perfect fit for the compartment designed to hold a pencil and scorecard on the new trolley.

Oh, and another clever feature of the three-wheeled dragster is the manual number counter attached to the aforementioned compartment. Ergo, when you hit a shot, you turn the dial and it goes from ‘0’ to ‘1’. Then when you hit another shot, it goes from ‘1’ to ‘2’. Clever or what?

It’s not quite so good, though, if you’re having a bit of an off-day, as there’s no facility for turning the dial past ‘9’.

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