The right to bear clubs


(This Dave Barry column was originally published May 24, 1998.)

Every now and then somebody thinks up a new idea that is so totally revolutionary that it just totally revolutionizes everything.

For example, in 1905 Albert Einstein stunned the scientific community when he announced that ''e'' is equal to ''mc squared.'' Until that point, scientists had no idea what ''e'' was equal to. Oh, sure, they had known since the days of the ancient Egyptians that ''e'' came after ''i,'' except when both letters were preceded by a ''c.'' But nobody had ever even considered the possibility that ''e'' might have anything to do with ''m.'' We will never know what other amazing things would have been revealed about the alphabet if Einstein had lived longer. We do know that, just before he died, he told friends that he was working on ''something really big involving 'k.' ''

Albert is gone, but fortunately for humanity in general there are still great minds at work, coming up with breakthrough ideas that a normal person could never even imagine without ingesting fantastic quantities of gin. One such idea was brought to my attention recently by an alert reader named (really) Dwain Vanderhoof, who sent me a brochure for a new type of golf club, which I absolutely swear I am not making up, called the Ballistic Driver.

The Ballistic Driver is a ''swing-less'' golf club. You grip it as usual, and you position the head of the club next to the golf ball. But instead of swinging the club, you press an ''Activator Button'' on the grip; this detonates a small explosive charge inside the club head, which causes a metal plate to shoot out the side of the club a distance of 1.5 inches at a speed of 200 miles per hour. The plate hits the golf ball, which then, according to the brochure, goes ''250 yards, every time . . . down the middle, exactly where you aimed it, drive after drive.''

Is that a great idea, or what? Now you can play golf WITHOUT HAVING TO MANUALLY HIT THE BALL! Talk about a breakthrough! I mean, for me, the worst part of playing golf, by far, has always been hitting the ball. I love standing around on the golf course; I love driving the golf cart; I love saying the word ''bogey.'' But I hate swinging the club at the stupid ball, and, on those rare occasions when I actually hit the ball, I hate watching it take off in some totally random direction and disappear, usually forever, into a lake, or the woods, or the body of an innocent bystander.

So I called the company that makes the Ballistic Driver, GPower Inc. of Sunnyvale, Calif. I spoke with one of the partners, Elizabeth Poggi, a serious person who confirmed that the Ballistic Driver is a serious product aimed at people who, for various reasons, cannot swing golf clubs, as well as for people like me who would simply prefer not to.

Poggi stressed that the Ballistic Driver, which will sell for around $800, has safety features that prevent it from going off accidentally, as well as (I am still not making this up) a silencer. These features are important: Just imagine what it would be like if golf clubs were randomly detonating with loud bangs on golf courses, not to mention in airports, hotel elevators, etc. It would be a lot of fun! But it would also be wrong, which is why I am urging everybody to remember this basic rule of golf: Always assume your club is loaded.

I think the Ballistic Driver could transform the game. Poggi told me that if the club were fitted with a titanium strike plate, ''it could theoretically propel the ball 500 yards.'' This means that a pathetic schlump like me could propel the ball farther than Tiger Woods Inc. hits it on those rare occasions when he is not filming American Express commercials.

And who knows what lies down the road? I mean, if we can make a club that can hit the ball 500 yards, why not 1,000? Why not 1,500? Why not a mile? We have the technology, darn it! Maybe we will see the day, in our lifetimes, when golfers using a descendant of the Ballistic Driver, perhaps powered by a small quantity of plutonium, are stepping up to the tee and driving the ball into another time zone . Of course, we'll need to develop a technologically advanced golf ball that contained some kind of transmitter, so it could radio its position back to the golfer (''YOUR TEE SHOT LANDED 18 YARDS FROM THE HOLE. IN PAKISTAN.'')

Wouldn't that be great? Of course, as with any technology, there's always the danger that it will fall into the wrong hands. You could have street gangs converting these clubs to Fully Automatic mode and driving in their low-rider carts to rival golf courses, where they'd spray out hundreds of balls per minute in vicious ''drive-by'' tee-offs. Or you could turn on the TV news one morning to see Saddam Hussein wearing lime-green pants and standing next to a golf club the size of the Washington Monument, threatening to hit a massive chemical and/or biological Golf Ball Of Doom smack into the fairway of middle America.

So there will be those who will try to ban the Ballistic Driver. To them I say: Forget it. The U.S. Constitution guarantees us -- not in so many words, but the intent is clear -- the right to keep and bear golf clubs. This precious right was fought for in the Revolutionary War by our courageous foreparents, the Minutepersons, who stood up for it on the green at Lexington. Although they did bogey that particular hole.

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