Six innovative uses for GPS during your business day

With a very broad definition of a business day, John Brandon puts GPS devices to use on the golf course, fishing spot, bike and more

"You're never going to make that shot."

"Care to make a bet on that?" I countered.

I was playing golf at the Lincoln Park Golf Club near the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco with my friend Erik. It was a cool mid-May morning with only a slight breeze coming off the ocean.

I was out to prove that technology can give you an edge over simple intuition, especially when your golf game is slightly less than spectacular (like mine).

Eventually, I decided on a three iron and lined up the shot. Thwack. With a low but powerful arc, my thunderous drive split the fairway and landed softly just a few yards from the green.

As any trainer can tell you, golf requires good fundamentals and sound judgment. If you know how far you can hit each driver or iron, you can easily shave a few strokes off each round. And yet, my trick is not that mysterious … and it's legal for even a touring pro -- per a PGA ruling from early last year.

I use a Magellan eXplorist XL to check the exact distance to the pin. The GPS device is accurate within a meter or so, the screen is big enough to see course maps, and it's ruggedized with side grips and a thick plastic shell. I've dropped it many times -- on the golf course, during hiking trips with my kids and even over the side of a fishing boat -- but it keeps right on working.

For corporate events, business trips, or just a daily commute through rush-hour traffic, a GPS device is an indispensable ally. The GPS uses 24 satellites that follow precise orbiting patterns about 12,000 miles up in the sky. The handheld device typically locks onto three or four satellites at one time to find your exact position.

Once you have found an easy route through traffic -- thanks to clear and accurate voice prompts -- or hiked from one campsite to another without getting lost, there's no going back to maps or handwritten directions.

Here are six innovative uses for a GPS device during your business day. Well, maybe somewhat related to your business day; most of them would work well for corporate events and team-building activities, or just to blow off steam after a long day at the office.

Golfing with a GPS allows you to choose clubs much more accurately, and in some cases, see hazards on a handheld device before you see them in person.
Golfing with a GPS allows you to choose clubs much more accurately, and in some cases, see hazards on a handheld device before you see them in person.

1. Track your distance to the tee

I rarely golf without a GPS because it allows me to choose clubs more accurately. You can first "map" the fairway manually by walking the course and setting waypoints. On most GPS devices, you just click a button that looks like a flag near each tee box and hole. Then, when you play the course, the GPS shows you your current location and the distance to the next hole.

An easier approach is to use the GolfLogix handheld device, which not only shows you pin distances, but bunker locations and other hazards to avoid -- such as lakes and even the best lay-up positions -- all automatically for many popular courses.

You just pick the hole you are about to play and the GPS feeds you all of the relevant information. It takes all of the guesswork out of finding the flag. You can download the software for free and load it on many Garmin models (such as the eTrex Legend). The receiver comes with one free course; other courses cost just a few dollars each, and you can buy an unlimited course package for $30.

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