Twitter: GeoffShac
  • The 1997 Masters: My Story
    The 1997 Masters: My Story
    by Tiger Woods
  • The First Major: The Inside Story of the 2016 Ryder Cup
    The First Major: The Inside Story of the 2016 Ryder Cup
    by John Feinstein
  • Tommy's Honor: The Story of Old Tom Morris and Young Tom Morris, Golf's Founding Father and Son
    Tommy's Honor: The Story of Old Tom Morris and Young Tom Morris, Golf's Founding Father and Son
    by Kevin Cook
  • Playing Through: Modern Golf's Most Iconic Players and Moments
    Playing Through: Modern Golf's Most Iconic Players and Moments
    by Jim Moriarty
  • His Ownself: A Semi-Memoir (Anchor Sports)
    His Ownself: A Semi-Memoir (Anchor Sports)
    by Dan Jenkins
  • The Captain Myth: The Ryder Cup and Sport's Great Leadership Delusion
    The Captain Myth: The Ryder Cup and Sport's Great Leadership Delusion
    by Richard Gillis
  • The Ryder Cup: Golf's Grandest Event – A Complete History
    The Ryder Cup: Golf's Grandest Event – A Complete History
    by Martin Davis
  • Harvey Penick: The Life and Wisdom of the Man Who Wrote the Book on Golf
    Harvey Penick: The Life and Wisdom of the Man Who Wrote the Book on Golf
    by Kevin Robbins
  • Grounds for Golf: The History and Fundamentals of Golf Course Design
    Grounds for Golf: The History and Fundamentals of Golf Course Design
    by Geoff Shackelford
  • The Art of Golf Design
    The Art of Golf Design
    by Michael Miller, Geoff Shackelford
  • The Future of Golf: How Golf Lost Its Way and How to Get It Back
    The Future of Golf: How Golf Lost Its Way and How to Get It Back
    by Geoff Shackelford
  • Lines of Charm: Brilliant and Irreverent Quotes, Notes, and Anecdotes from Golf's Golden Age Architects
    Lines of Charm: Brilliant and Irreverent Quotes, Notes, and Anecdotes from Golf's Golden Age Architects
    Sports Media Group
  • Alister MacKenzie's Cypress Point Club
    Alister MacKenzie's Cypress Point Club
    by Geoff Shackelford
  • The Golden Age of Golf Design
    The Golden Age of Golf Design
    by Geoff Shackelford
  • Masters of the Links: Essays on the Art of Golf and Course Design
    Masters of the Links: Essays on the Art of Golf and Course Design
    Sleeping Bear Press
  • The Good Doctor Returns: A Novel
    The Good Doctor Returns: A Novel
    by Geoff Shackelford
  • The Captain: George C. Thomas Jr. and His Golf Architecture
    The Captain: George C. Thomas Jr. and His Golf Architecture
    by Geoff Shackelford

Finchem On Board

I know you haven’t made it in the corporate world until you have at least one raging conflict of interest, but still, Tim Finchem joining the board of KB Homes will definitely raise some eyebrows. Particularly since the Tour pays him a $3.8 million salary and a hefty bonus. Does he really need the side gig? Or have time?

"Tim brings a fresh perspective and a unique set of skills to our board," said KB Home Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Bruce Karatz. "He has driven the professional golf industry to all-time highs in popularity, earnings and partnerships. In addition, as KB Home continues to expand our leadership positions in markets we build and broaden the diversification we offer our homebuyers, his experience in developing land and creating world-renown golf course communities will be extremely valuable."


PGA Notebook

Steve Pike’s notes column has another Pinehurst scouting report (lots of sodding around greens) and a note about Davis Love helping his 11-year-old son with a science experiment.

Love III recently pulled his old persimmons driver out of the closet, not out of curiosity, but as the guinea pig for his 11-year-old son's science project. The hypothesis was which driver -- wooden or titanium -- hits the new golf balls farther. Love used the MacGregor driver he hit in college.

"Downwind, it was OK,'' Love said. "But anything into the wind, or any crosswind, it was a joke. You couldn't put any spin on it, and it would just nosedive. You had to hit hard and put spin on it. These balls don't spin.''

The last time Love used a wooden driver, he had the Titleist 384, a wound ball. The long hitters generated plenty of spin, which enabled the ball to rise and carry. With titanium drivers and multilayer balls that don't spin as much, the idea is to launch the ball higher.

"If you took Lanny Wadkins' ball shape, and Vijay Singh's, it would make an egg shape,'' Love said.

He didn't disclose the results, but it sounds as though he helped his son with a dynamite graphic.


Rugge Speaks

Carlos Monarrez writes about a recent presentation by the USGA’s Dick Rugge. Sadly, the inconsistencies and contradictions speak for themselves.

But last week, Rugge referred to the "Joint Statement of Principles" published by the USGA and the Royal & Ancient, Europe's governing body for rules. As far as balls go, he said, "Our official position is no change is necessary."

Whew! For now. Rugge said the USGA would prefer to be proactive, rather than reactive. For that reason, he asked ball manufacturers to develop and send a "limited ball" to the USGA for testing.

Rugge said all eight manufacturers contacted have agreed to do this. There's also no timetable for coming to any conclusions through testing.

Rugge also indicated that there probably wouldn't be a rollback of rules concerning technology.

"Clubs are capped, balls are capped," he said. "We didn't roll it back. That says we're in for a period of stability."

The USGA's mission is simple.

"Our challenge is to keep the game healthy," Rugge said.

According to Rugge's information, in 1997 there were 525 million rounds played in this country. In 2004, 500 million rounds were played. Yet, in 1991 the average handicap for men was 16.5 and 29.5 for women, compared to 15.0 for men and 28.0 for women this year.

So 25 million rounds less is healthy in USGA doublespeak?


If He's Good Enough For Borrego Springs...

Marc Figueroa in the North County Times writes about the redesign of Rams Hills, and quotes redevelopment agency head Michael Wiles about the $80 million project that will include a Tom Fazio redesign of the existing course. This quote is a keeper:

"We got the best in Tom Fazio," Wiles said. "If he's good enough for Augusta National, he's good enough for Borrego Springs."


Accuracy, Schmaccuracy

Paul Kedrosky on his Infectious Greed blog, uses a graph to show how awful Excel is, but the pay off for the rest of us is his analysis of Tiger’s driving accuracy and distance from 2000-2005.

He concludes that “Tiger's driving accuracy has fallen off much more than his driving distance has increased. At the same time, the gap between Woods and the mass of his professional competitors is much smaller than it was five years ago -- the animation shows this nicely, with a great splotch of competitors all closing in on Woods over the period.”

This is a product of all those guys working out of course! And the better instruction too. Anyway, for Windows Users, right click on your mouse and you can stop the animation in 2000 or 2005, run it backwards and do a bunch of other things. In the loop setting that looks like Doppler radar, it’s great fun to watch the entire Tour get longer and wilder over the five years. Makes you just want to run out to the gym. Or the nearest launch monitor?


Torrey Pines Clubhouse and Office Suites

Tod Leonard of the San Diego Union-Tribune (reg. required) writes about the proposed $12-13 million clubhouse for Torrey Pines, which sounds as if it has little chance to be approved and built in time for the 2008 Open. It’s still planned for the 18th green of the North Course and sounds as if the entire design is working one centerpiece tree and the need to create Century Club office space. You know, those things that are more important than the everyday golfers.

Speaking of excess, Lawrence Donegan in The Guardian looks at the wave of high-end clubs popping up in the UK.


Books of Spring


More on Pinehurst Setup

John Dell in the Winston Salem paper has more on Pinehurst and the forthcoming Open setup. He reprints a few more comments from USGA Ex. Director David Fay from last week’s media day.

Dell reports that Fay says the goal is to make a course play "to that mythical edge, but we sometimes fall over that edge."

Dell also writes, but unfortunately does not quote Fay, “They'll [SP.] be three inches of Bermuda rough, just like in '99, but the fairways will be taken in about five more yards. Fay said that this is being done to combat technology. Yes, equipment and golf balls have improved a great deal in six years.”

This would seem to contradict USGA President Fred Ridley’s recent insistence that the players are just working out so, so much. And it’s been said here before but really must be repeated: Pinehurst was setup up with 25-30 yard wide fairways in 1999. Taking four to five yards off of that brings it to the 20-25 range.


Make It A Stroke Tougher

Richard Durrett writes in the Dallas Morning News (reg. required) writes about the TPC Four Seasons changing over the last few years, with more alterations on the way.

"Paul Earnest, director of golf at TPC Four Seasons at Las Colinas, may be hazy on the details of a 1998 meeting with PGA Tour officials. But he's clear on the message that was sent that day: Make the course tougher."

"They wanted the course one stroke tougher per round," Earnest said. "And we agreed with them that it needed to be a stiffer test. So we immediately started making some changes."

That’s not a good sign when the Tour’s main suggestion is to make it a stroke tougher. Not more interesting or more strategic? And regarding plans to add a big lake to the 18th hole, Durrett writes, “The TPC would like to add a pond in front of the green on the left to challenge players on the second shot, but that's pending PGA Tour approval, and officials aren't sure when construction might begin on it.”

Do they have to run a ShotLink prospectus on the lake's impact? And you wonder why no one likes TPC’s anymore.


CBC On Power In Sports

Canadian Broadcasting's Radio 1 "The Current" featured a interesting discussion on power in sports today. Listen long enough to the 30 minute segment #2 and you'll hear yours truly commenting late in the show on power in golf. Featured guests were Jeff Z. Klein, an editor with the New York Times Magazine and Mary Ormsby, a sportswriter with the Toronto Star.

Besides interesting hockey, basketball and baseball talk, there were some great comments from Mary Carillo on how power and surfaces have made men’s tennis unwatchable. Most of the discussion centered around regulation of equipment in various sports to restore strategy and creativity.


Tour Schedule Suggestion, Vol. 1

SI’s Gary Van Sickle writes about what the PGA Tour should do with its schedule starting in 2007. Van Sickle says they should disappear in January and move the key west coast events to March.


Huggan and Els

John Huggan talks to “mental coach” Jos Vanstiphout and has an exclusive chat with Ernie Els about the state of his game, his future, and the state of pro golf. Just some of the comments from Els in this must read story for Els fans:

"All it would take now is for the European Tour to start playing for $4 million. That would lead to serious problems for the PGA Tour. You’d see a lot of the leading non-Americans outside the States more. I think that (PGA Tour commissioner) Tim Finchem has cause to be mildly concerned at the moment."

"I’ve never been a fan of the way too many courses are set up on the PGA Tour," he contends. "They need more courses that play firmer and faster, especially around the greens. You don’t need all that rough close to the edges. Let’s get the ball to run away from the putting surfaces. That would force the guys to really play shots and not just mindlessly lob the ball up in the air all the time. So I want to see more firm, fast conditions. If we did, the scores would go up a little. Not ridiculous like Shinnecock Hills was in last year’s US Open, but just a little firmer so that when you hit a 7-iron to the green you have to hit a solid shot and get a little grip on the ball. That allows you to hit a greater variety of shots too. You can make up your own mind. Too often these days the hole tells you what shot to hit rather than you telling the hole. It’s backward.

"Unfortunately - and I don’t want to sound too critical - the PGA Tour is about to negotiate new television contracts. The network people want the game to look ‘attractive’; they want it to be all nice and green for the viewers; they want the guys to make a lot of birdies. For them, that’s entertainment. But for real golfers, the purists, the traditionalists, conditions need to be a little firmer, a little faster.

"The bottom line is that I’m bored watching so many guys playing the exact same shots all the time. The game has lost some of its imagination. Too often these days it’s all about brute force and throwing darts. You can be drawing a 5-iron to the green and catch it a bit thin and it will still stay on the green. But if that green had been firm instead of soft that ball would run 20 yards over the green. That’s what real golf is all about."

"I want it to be more than just hammering away from the tee. I want it to be more interesting than it has been lately. I’m not a basher or a banger. I want to play proper golf.

The ball is where it is, as is technology. But as a spokesman for Titleist, I can’t say that technology is bad. It has been good for my game. I use what I think is the best equipment. The ball is brilliant. I’m flying the ball almost 300 yards now and that is all down to equipment and technology. So it has really helped me. I do see the USGA and the R&A talking more about the implications of it all. That is good. I don’t think we will be making the big leaps we have seen over the last ten years or so. I can’t see the ball going more than a couple more yards. We’re nearly at the limit now. That’s what I think anyway.

Els discloses his relationship with Titleist, voices an opinion (it's "all down to equipment and technology" ), and doesn't lose credibility because of his honesty. What a concept.


Dan O’Neill On The Ball

With a column on the ball/distance/USGA, Dan O’Neill of the St. Louis Post Dispatch shows his liberal technophobic bias, citing recent talk at Bellerive about blowing the place up to modernize a course opened in the 60s. O’Neill says a competition ball or rolled back ball would make a huge difference.

“The difference is that places such as Bellerive wouldn't have to re-invent themselves. The difference is that historic layouts like The Country Club in Brookline, Mass., or St. Louis Country Club (site of the 1947 U.S. Open) become championship-viable again. Finally, the USGA seems to be getting the message, a message driven more loudly in recent months by influential types such as PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem and Augusta National chairman Hootie Johnson, a message suggesting these entities might take action if the USGA does not. It is golf's version of a congressional hearing.”

He also refutes those, like the USGA’s Executive Director, who say golf has never gone “backwards” with equipment. He also reminds us that these are the same people who were testing balls with wood drivers up until last year.

The game went through similar palpitations over distance control in the late 1920s. In 1931, the USGA mandated a bigger, lighter ball, from 1.62 inches in diameter to 1.68 inches, and from 1.62 ounces in weight to 1.55 ounces. The "balloon ball" proved unpopular and after a year the allowed weight was increased to 1.62 ounces, keeping the size at 1.68 inches. The organization has been out of step, not out of character. Until last year, the USGA was testing balls with a laminated wooden driver swung mechanically at a speed of 109 mph. The top players today are using titanium-faced drivers and swinging at speeds of 120 mph or more. The USGA is a day late here, but hopefully it will take a serious look at where this is headed and what it is doing to the game's great playing surfaces. Hopefully, it will draw a line in the sand; that is, before the sand has to be dug up and replaced by a series of extravagant pot bunkers.


Highway 111 Robbery?

Akilah Seecharan in the Desert Sun looks at the The Golf Resort at Indian Wells and the city -- which has a $13 million operating budget -- embarking on a planned $45 million renovation. Seecharan writes that "some changes in store for the public golf resort are an $18 million course expansion that will add six new holes to the existing 18-hole course. The rest of the $45 million will be used on a new clubhouse and colorful landscaping, such as wildflowers and tumbling waterfalls."

"We're no longer the best golf course in the valley," says City Council member Rob Bernheimer, apparently unaware that neither course was ever even one of the best in Indian Wells.

"I think this course will certainly have more length, personality, color and water features, such as tumbling water streams. Our vision is to make this a world-class golf resort," architect Clive Clark said.


Whitten on Tierra Verde's Ron Whitten continues his crusade for more common sense values in golf with a great write-up on Tierra Verde in Texas and its superintendent, Mark Claburn. Perhaps owning his own course has given Whitten a new perspective. Great stuff. You go Ron!

Meanwhile this story on Padraig Harrington's first design paints a picture of an entirely different golf architecture universe, noting that "now Harrington's esteem in the golfing world has been recognised by the oil-rich sheiks of the Persian Gulf." Gee, next thing you know, Donald Trump will be after him. And then, and only then, will Padraig have made it. Oh, and does this mean Padraig will do a photo op where he's holding hands with the sheiks?


Tiger: 370, Ho Hum


Tiger Woods stood on the 16th tee Wednesday, where flaws in his swing were exposed last year during the Wachovia Championship, and ripped a driver that showed how much his game has turned around. For starters, it was relatively straight and landed in the fairway.

“I don’t know how far I hit it,” Woods said after his pro-am round at Quail Hollow. “I don’t know long the hole is, but I had 118 yards to the hole.”

Told the par 4 measured 486 yards, Woods didn’t bother doing the math.

“There you go,” he said. “I hit it good.”

And after the Wachovia first round :

Q. You hit a 3-wood 321 at one point. Why are you hitting the ball so long?

TIGER WOODS: I guess I'm in decent shape, and I'm hitting the ball solid for once, that helps. You know, these fairways are a little like landing on trampolines. You get the ball lying on the correct knob, you can run this ball out there a long way. A couple times if you land the ball on the downslope you're going to get 60 yards of roll, but if you don't, you're stuck way back there. That's the advantage of having a little bit of length. You can land the ball on the downslopes and run the ball out there.

Q. (Inaudible).

TIGER WOODS: Well, it's fair. It's a golf course that is fair and then on top of that it's one of those old, traditional golf courses. We don't get a chance to play these type of golf courses anymore. We keep going to stadium courses every week. It's nice to play an old, traditional golf course where it looks like they just put a golf course on top of the land. They didn't bulldoze and a whole bunch of different things to create a golf course, like this was meant to be here.

Q. (Inaudible).

TIGER WOODS: You'd have to lengthen this golf course a lot. It's too short for a U.S. Open. We're going out there and playing right now, even with firm and fast, as I'm sure U.S. Open time will be firm and fast, hitting driver and wedges too many times. The USGA wouldn't accept that. They want us hitting 5-irons and 4-irons into greens, so they would have to lengthen this place.


Kostis On The Ball

Titleist "golf products design consultant" Peter Kostis writes about how everyone has to stop blaming the ball, merely noting for the record that he's "played Titleist balls and clubs for nearly 20 years."

Uh, played? You mean paid to play? Kostis says the ball is not to blame, and repeats the recent Titleist talking points. Though I'm not sure what this one means.

“Firm, straight fairways that encourage players to bomb away off the tee" are one of the distance culprits according to Kostis.

Firm is not always what you find at a PGA Tour stop, especially compared to previous eras, but we'll give that to Kostis. However, straight? What does a straight fairway do to allow players to hit it longer? As opposed to say, a dogleg or a jagged edged one?

Kostis surely knows by now that PGA Tour roughs could be laced with rattlesnakes, and Vijay, Tiger, Phil and Ernie would still to flog it out there.

"I’m by no means arguing that the golf ball hasn’t had an effect on driving distance," Kostis says, because after all, downplaying the ball would negate the golfer's need to spend $50 and up on a dozen of the latest balls. "Manufacturers today can combine the best elements of the old Top-Flite and Pinnacle distance balls with the soft feel of a balata cover, and it’s a technological marvel that all players enjoy. But it is only one of several variables at play. Don’t believe everything you hear about the 'hot' ball, because cocktail party conversation between golf’s power brokers does not equate to facts."

Haven’t we heard this argument before? It seems to be popping up in all sorts of places.

Kostis does seem to be acknowledging that there are negative repercussions from the many “variables in play.” Which is the point. He does not seem to be denying that. This week anyway.


Distance Down On Tour…

For those pointing to the drop in Tour driving distance this year as a sign that everything is A-OK (like E. Michael Johnson did in Golf World, see post below), there a few points to consider before building a case around this stat.

The primary pro-technology contention has said that improved athleticism, better instruction and the ball/club combination have boosted driving distances. So if you don't want to believe that persistent rain has been the culprit in lowering distance averages, then this year’s drop would mean that the equipment is not working as advertised (guess we shouldn’t buy it then, eh?), the players are working out less and instructors are losing their touch.

Or maybe it’s just been raining unprecedented amounts on the PGA Tour?


Misc. Reads Thursday takes on the conditions at two Las Vegas courses and wonders why hotels are still sending people to pay $155 to play on what sound like your basic cow pastures. Doug Ferguson summarizes Annika's dominance and previews her run at a sixth win in-a-row, which will be much more interesting than watching the Quail Hollow event. Finally, I received the Society of Australian Architects Journal #8 today and its safe to say this is the best one yet production-wise. Barnbougle Dunes looks amazing. The content I’ve read so far is outstanding. Here’s the online subscription info. This is a non-profit publication done by the Australian architects to contribute something unique to the game.

State of the Valiant Competitors Tour reports that Senior, err Champions Tour President Rick George "recently took time out from his busy schedule to talk with PGATOUR.COM." Busy begging sponsors to stay on board? Well, he couldn’t have been too thrilled with the opening question about the growth of the Tour, which is actually shrinking.

PGATOUR.COM: I know you haven’t been with the Champions Tour for all 25 years, but obviously as a person involved in golf, you have observed it. How have you seen it grow?

GEORGE: Well, I think, it’s kind of been through a cycle. It was at 40 tournaments at one point, then we were at 38 and now I think where we are at with the Tour is that it is really on a upward trend. I think that started prior to my run. In 2002, when the Tour decided to change or re-brand the Tour as the Champions Tour, I think that was the start of a new day.

It's a cycle! Yes that re-branding has really worked.