The Landings golf community near Savannah, GA, justifiably showed up on two lists generated by artificial intelligence after we plugged in specific criteria.

In Hollywood, the striking screen writers have anointed ChatGPT as their bête noire -- the technology that will ruin their careers and their lives. Yet, any of the strikers who take the time to compare one of their scripts to the details of the assignment they were given to produce that script may consider that they have little to worry about. (Their whining could be more a smart negotiation ploy than a real concern.)

ChatGPT – the GPT is for “generative pre-training transformer” -- is the artificial intelligence program that has been lighting up the Internet with equal cascades of praise and concern since it was introduced to the world late last year. ChatGPT ingests simple instructions and spits out copy in seconds. Its supporters consider the copy so reasonably written and researched that they believe it will replace marketing and other forms of commercial communication (screenwriting among them). High school students, typically early adopters of new technologies, are already using ChatGPT to produce the essays required with their college applications. College admissions officers, who also use the Internet and social media, are wise to those efforts; some, like at Yale, have labeled the efforts “cheating” and have put in place detection protocols.

Given the cheesy quality of the ChatGPT-generated copy I’ve reviewed, the admissions offices won’t have to work too hard at detection. Although ChatGPT delivers grammatically correct copy most of the time, the stilted language and torrent of adjectives it disgorges is a dead giveaway for the lack of humanity behind the lack of creativity. College admissions offices are not looking for candidates who answer an essay question with dispassionate and soulless prose. Ditto Hollywood directors and producers. Still, when I recoiled at an  friend’s suggestion that ChatGPT will learn enough to delete most “commercial” writers like me, I decided to test it out on something I know very well: Golf communities and, specifically, a couple’s search for the golf community that best matches their lifestyle and budget.

I developed a specific description of what my imaginary couple was looking for, and I used an app called AIChat, which I had downloaded to my iPad. Here was my input for the exercise:

My wife and I are looking to move to a golf community home in one of these states: North Carolina, South Carolina or Georgia. The golf community must have at least one private golf course inside its gates; the initiation fee must not exceed $10,000 and monthly dues not exceed $1,000. We can spend up to $750,000 for a single family home and require a minimum of three bedrooms and two and a half bathrooms. The golf community must be located within eight miles of a hospital with a minimum of 50 beds and both a cardiac care unit and orthopedic care unit; within five miles of at least two supermarkets; and less than ten miles from a public beach on the Atlantic Ocean. Homeowner association dues must not exceed $8,000 annually. Please list 10 golf communities that we should consider.

And here was the AI bot’s response:

“Based on your criteria, here are 10 golf communities across North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia that you should consider:

1. Sea Pines Resort - Hilton Head Island, South Carolina

2. Reynolds Lake Oconee - Greensboro, Georgia

3. Wachesaw Plantation East - Murrells Inlet, South Carolina

4. Dataw Island - St. Helena Island, South Carolina

5. The Landings - Savannah, Georgia

6. St. James Plantation - Southport, North Carolina

7. Harbor Club on Lake Oconee - Greensboro, Georgia

8. Palmetto Dunes - Hilton Head Island, South Carolina

9. Keowee Key - Salem, South Carolina

10. Brunswick Forest - Leland, North Carolina

These communities meet your desired criteria of having a private golf course, initiation fees and monthly dues within your specified limits, single-family homes within your budget, minimum bedrooms and bathrooms, proximity to hospitals, supermarkets, and public beach access, as well as homeowner association dues under your specified limit.”

For the record, AI Chat is quick; the list was generated within 15 seconds or so and includes high-quality golf communities, all of which I have visited personally. Yet its misses are way too big to ignore and potentially injurious to a couple’s search for their dream golf home. First of all, three of the communities (Reynolds, Harbor Club and Keowee Key) are located adjacent to lakes, hours from the Atlantic Ocean; #3 on the list, Wachesaw Plantation East, is a golf community but with a public golf course (the AI program confused it with a separate private community a mile away that is named Wachesaw Plantation); #1, the Sea Pines Resort, offers three courses, none of them private; and as for my limit on golf fees, I know that golf at Reynolds Lake Oconee and The Landings, though both are terrific golf venues, is considerably more expensive.

In short, the recommended list is accurate for just four of the 10 communities it generated. Couples searching for a golf home should not have to rely on 40% accuracy. (Shameless plug: Instead, consider purchasing my human-produced book, Glorious Back Nine: How to Find Your Dream Golf Home, available at Amazon. It will save you time and, probably, money and based on 20 years of research, there is nothing “artificial” about it.) The list had enough errors to cause me to question whether I had downloaded a bad app. Therefore, I decided to plug the same criteria into the original ChatGPT website.

The list that was generated included these 10 communities, in order: Pinehurst (NC) Resort, Country Club of Hilton Head, The Landings (Savannah), Berkeley Hall (Bluffton, SC), Club at 12 Oaks (Holly Springs, NC), Sea Island (GA), Hampton Hall (Bluffton), Sea Trail Plantation (Sunset Beach, NC), Reynolds Lake Oconee, and The Reserve at Pawleys Island (SC).

Although the ChatGPT website had generated a somewhat different list, three of the communities were nowhere near the Atlantic Ocean. (Holly Springs, NC, just south of Raleigh, is more than a 2 ½-hour drive to the ocean.) Again, like the app I first used, ChatGPT ignored not only my distance to the ocean requirement but also the limit on golf fees and that my couple was looking for a private golf course. (Sea Trail’s three golf courses north of Myrtle Beach are open to the public, Reynolds and Pinehurst courses are available to resort guests and Hampton Hall’s website indicates that some tee times are available to the public.) The #1 choice of Pinehurst as the top community for my mythical ocean-seeking couple was especially silly; Pinehurst is more than a four-hour drive to the nearest Atlantic beach on the Outer Banks, and its golf courses are almost all open to the public.

Generating a list of golf communities based on specific criteria should be a no-brainer for an artificial intelligence program that allegedly will put researchers and writers out of work across many disciplines. Yet if artificial intelligence cannot produce a simple list that is more than 40% accurate, how will it create the more nuanced persuasive writing we rely on from human intelligence?

Color me not worried.

The drive is slow going on the Blue Ridge Parkway, but the views are worth the time and patience.

Almost heaven, west Virginia,

Blue Ridge Mountains,

Shenandoah Valley

– Bill Danoff, Taffy Nivert, John Denver

On our way to and from a family vacation in North Carolina, my wife and I stopped in Harrisonburg, VA, just off Interstate 81 that runs beside the Blue Ridge Mountains and through the heart of Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley. As interstates go, it is a beautiful drive – if you ignore all the huge trucks, which is hard to do. (You have the option of traveling on the Blue Ridge Parkway, if you are not in a hurry, since the road is windy and the drop-dead gorgeous views are distracting.)

But Harrisonburg, home to James Madison University, was a revelation, and it left me thinking that it could make for a fine retirement location, even with a few snowy days in January. Full disclosure: I have never played golf in or near Harrisonburg. My son attended university 60 miles down the interstate in Lexington, at Washington & Lee, and I played a few rounds there and an hour south in Roanoke, but Harrisonburg was a mystery to me. No more.

Since the town was about halfway between our Connecticut home and our vacation destination on Lake Lure in North Carolina, we stopped in Harrisonburg for the night. We had an early dinner at Jimmy Madison’s, a downtown tavern slash barbecue joint, and the ‘cue was excellent, as good as anything I am used to in the Carolinas, although a slightly different style (more Texas-style). Before dinner, we had ducked into a storefront that houses 25 shops with items ranging from exotic margarita mixes to fragrant smelling candles and soaps, all made locally, to kids clothing and a coffee bar called Broad Porch where I picked up a bag of beans to bring to Lake Lure. (The coffee was so good that I signed up later to have a few bags shipped to our home in Connecticut.)

On our way back north, we arrived in Harrisonburg during dinner hours. I had made a reservation at Rocktown Kitchen; “Rocktown” is Harrisonburg’s nickname for a predecessor town whose foundation was limestone-rich soil. Our dinner was, again, terrific, this time more mainstream American. Prime rib was a Saturday night special, and I couldn’t resist. (I know, Mom, I eat too much red meat.) It was about the best-prepared quality piece of meat I’ve had in recent years. My wife enjoyed her NY strip steak, and the apps we shared – fried green tomatoes and fried oysters – were great starters. (Okay, so the cheesecake dessert was a little too sweet for my taste, but not close to a pleasure killer.)

Harrisonburg must be a summertime magnet for students and alumni of James Madison because all our servers in the restaurants and at the coffee bar appeared to be in their early 20s. They provide a jolt of vibrancy -- and commercial success -- to the downtown area. We tried to have brunch on Sunday at the Magpie Diner just north of downtown, but the wait was 40 minutes and we were eager to get on the road. But, conveniently next door, were a bakery and separate tiny coffee shop – no seating except outside on a concrete wall -- where the young barista had three carafes lined up and was doing pour overs. The pastries and coffees were exceptional and more than neutralized our disappointment at missing out on a full brunch.

I can’t yet vouch for the golf in the area, but I plan to stay at the Shenvalee Resort in September, about 20 minutes north of Harrisonburg, and play its semi-private course. I’m especially excited because I am slated to play the round with Jefferson Burgess, a native to the area who recently started a print magazine called Bo Birdie, the “Bo” referring to bogey and, well, you get the rest. His is a courageous undertaking, a print publication in a digital age that regales the golfing lifestyle in the Shenandoah Valley. His aim is apparently to put local golf on the map, and the fact that the magazine was available for free at the Virginia Welcome Center shows he is serious. I can’t wait to talk with him about his bold venture – and to report back to you, dear reader.