Fore! Duck, Golf Is Becoming an Indoor Sport

The latest buzz is Virtual Reality, an electronic sleight-of-mind that makes you think you're places you're not.

Tim Leary likes the far-out possibilities. The medical community (defined more precisely as La Jolla-Del Mar) likes the curative-diagnostic potential.

With due respect to Tim and the docs, the real purpose for Virtual Reality is now among us: Indoor golf.

I know, indoor golf has been around awhile. But the chip-chipper folks at Wintriss Engineering Corp. in Kearny Mesa say we ain't seen nothin' yet, simulation-wise.

Under contract to Full Swing Golf Inc. of Poway, they've developed the Lamborghini of golf simulators.

You hit from Astroturf into a canvas screen upon which the golf course of your choice is displayed. Electronic gizmos determine how well your ball travels. You see the ball land and roll on the screen.

I could tell you it's done with a digital signal processor (DSP) development environment based on Texas Instruments' TMS320C30 40 MHz floating-point DSP and utilizing the TI compiler, assembler, linker and debug software. But you probably know that already.

The Wintriss model aims to have sharper images, more accurate calculations and a bigger dose of golfing verisimilitude than existing models.

"With some of the competitors, you can go blazing through all obstacles," said design engineer Bill Norgren.

Not so with the Wintriss. If your ball "hits" a tree, it bounces back. If it hits water, you see a splash. In sand, you need a wedge.

The computer plugs in weather conditions and your ball reacts accordingly. Bird noises, too.

Eight real courses are being programmed, including Torrey Pines South. Every tree, bush and hazard.

At $42,000 per, the Wintriss-Full Swing Virtual Reality Golf Simulator is not destined for the rumpus room in your home. The more likely markets are resort hotels and the indoor golf emporiums in cold-weather spots and the golf-crazy, land-short Far East.

Floyd Arnold, president of Full Swing, invited me to play a round. Off the first tee, I hit the ball 137 yards, a slice into the rough.

Under oath, I'd have to say the reality was virtual.

BLAM! Now Do You Feel Better?

If you've got a court beef against the government, BLAM! wants to hear from you.

That's the Bivens Legal Action Movement!, started by San Diego attorney Jim McMillan and named after a landmark 1971 court case, Bivens v. Six Unknown Agents, that established the right of citizens to sue the bejeebers out of government.

McMillan started BLAM! a year ago after his son, Scott, an importer, had a run-in at the Mexican border with U.S. Customs agents over his crocodile-skin wallet.

BLAM! meets monthly, averaging 20 people thirsting to tell their tales to a warm and unthreatening audience.

"You can spot a government victim by the obsessive look in their eye," said McMillan pere .

"It becomes a minor form of insanity. They can't believe it happened to them, and they're trying to convince everybody it really happened."

In Your Face

Words, words, words (and music).

* Do people with sports cars enjoy jabbing the rest of us or what?

Seen on its way to Rancho Santa Fe: A Jaguar with the license frame, "This Is My Other Car."

And in Hillcrest, the vanity plate USA ONLY. On a Porsche.

* Transient holding sign near Belmont Park in Mission Beach: "Thirsty. Need Beer."

* If you liked the Democratic convention on television, you should like Pia Zadora's "Too Short to Be a Rockette!" which opens Friday at the Spreckels Theatre.

The two have the same producer: TV's Gary Smith, who's won 21 Emmys (although he has yet to elect a president).

* I could live without those Wild Animal Park radio commercials with the surfer-dude saying the park is "a major radical trip."

* Former Councilwoman Celia Ballesteros says Peter Navarro sticks to his coterie of look-alike advisers and treats everyone else as "disposable people."

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