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

These Guys Are Well Paid!

"PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem made enough money in 2003 to be eighth on the money list, earning $3.8 million in Golf Digest's annual list of highest-paid nonprofit executives in the golf industry," says an AP story.

"Golf Digest used the most recent tax filings to compile the list for its June edition. The top five came from the PGA Tour, with Finchem followed by co-chief operating officers Charlie Zink ($1,156,308) and Ed Moorhouse ($1,156,291). It wasn't clear why Zink made $17 more than Moorhouse in 2003."

It also wasn't clear why they earn 7-digit salaries! Yikes.

"Jim Awtrey, outgoing CEO of the PGA of America, was No. 6 on the list at $662,751, while USGA executive director David Fay checked in at No. 8 with a 2003 salary of $563,348."

Incidentally, reader Blue Blazer notes that Mr. Fay had $78,348 in allowances and expenses reported in 2003 (according to the form 990 for what is actually his 2002 salary). Blue Blazer points out that Mr. Fay’s recent salary bumps are impressive: $302,000 in 1997 to $360,000 in 1999 to $385,000 in 2000 to $479,000 in 2001 to $563,348 in 2002. Those are some hefty raises the last three years. Does he get bonuses for drops in the USGA membership total and course setup boondoggles?


The Ranting of “Distance Killjoys”

In the April 29 Golf World (story not posted), E. Michael Johnson writes about “distance killjoys ranting about how the hi-tech ball is ruining the game at the elite level.” I wonder if Jack Nicklaus, Ernie Els, Tiger Woods, Arnold Palmer, Gary Player, oh, and a bunch of others think of themselves as distance killjoys ranting?

Anyway, Johnson states that the “emerging conventional wisdom” on distance changes in the game “is rarely challenged” and says the numbers don’t back up the panic.

He writes that PGA Tour driving distance averages are down 7 yards this year, but fails to note that the Tour has played on courses ranging from soaking wet to flash flooded almost every week. He cites the drop in scoring average (remember, it’s adjusted by the Tour with some wacky secret formula) as .02 shots lower than 1994. He doesn’t mention that fairway widths have shrunk 10-15 yards in that the last decade, while roughs have often been harvested at silly lengths.

Johnson then writes that 34 of the 50 courses on the Tour in ’94 are on the ‘05 schedule (apparently believing quality of course actually has something to do with selecting a Tour site these days). And he cites a ShotLink stat that says in 2004, “approximately a third of all shots were played from 175 yards and beyond while only some 20 percent were from 125 yards and closer.”

Um, so doesn’t that mean that 2/3’s of approach shots were played from 175 yards and in? Which, with today’s ball and irons, is a 7-iron and in for most. Which, renders most long par-4’s and par-3’s much different than they were ten years ago.

He sums the piece up by writing that if the USGA is “true to its word” and looks at factual information such as the number laid out above, “then don’t expect a rollback anytime soon.” Since when is the USGA true to its word?

***Update: A reader who wished to remain anonymous says further scrutiny is in order. In Johnson’s defense, he’s given a very small amount of space to make his case, however...

Regarding the use of the “one-third of approaches from 175 and out,” the reader wanted to know if this includes second shots to reach par-5 holes (that would certainly bolster by figure by a large amount), and why is this statistic stated as a generalization (one-third, two-thirds) when the other numbers are precise? Is “approximately one-third” actually a bit below one-third but fudged? It’s not a big leap from “approximately one-third” to “approximately one-fourth.” And the reader also pointed out that 175 in 1994 meant a 5 or 6-iron then, today it's a 7 or 8 iron.

And on the topic of 34 courses still on the 2005 schedule that were on the ’94 schedule, the reader asks that Johnson look at how many of those courses have been lengthened since ’94. Just a cursory glance here tells me all but two or three have been extended or renovated significantly. Of course, the pro-technology gang believes it's a golf courses obligation to cover the cost to expand or cover increased liability insurance so that quarterly earnings can grow. So considerate of them!


Links TPC Story

My Links magazine cover story on the state of the TPC concept is now posted at their site. The print edition includes some excellent photos and a sidebar.


Retaining a Sense Of Something On Technical Advances

Peter Dawson is interviewed by John Hopkins of the Times (London).

“Some people are calling for a reining back,” he said of technology. “That is unprecedented in golf and pretty much in human endeavour. I think they have reined the javelin back because they were throwing it into the crowd and Concorde has disappeared. Those are the only two instances I can think of."

Dawson was asked why so many people in golf felt the ball was going farther if it was not. “A lot of evidence is anecdotal,” he said. “Anecdotal evidence is no good. Shotlink (a measuring system developed in the United States and used on the US tour) gives us wonderful information and since it was introduced at the start of 2003 we are seeing an increase of half a yard to a yard each year. It brings a science to the subject. So far, on that evidence, the joint statement has not been breached. But the prospect of 20 years of half a yard a year is very undesirable.”

“This is my biggest issue. We are far from putting our head in the sand. I believe we have the thing surrounded. If that proves to be wrong, steps will be taken to protect the game.”

I think he's earned an honorary doctorate in CYA studies at St. Andrews with that range of comments!


Misc. Reads Tuesday

SI's Gary Van Sickle asks a very good question...where's the Champions Tour buzz and why can't it even buy a headline? I guess the recent changes to make the tour more youthful and cool haven't worked. And as Van Sickle points out, it can't be good when players like Kite, Haas, Stadler and Jacobsen seem like they'd rather play the regular Tour. Golf World has the scoop on the TPC Stadium course redo. Sounds like Pete Dye will be heavily involved. Here's a local take on the new TPC in New Orleans. Golf is definitely not this guy's regular gig. This is one of those it’s so bad it’s funny reads. Oh and in that category, check out this press release for the latest PGA Tour lifestyle show, this time hosted by Matt Lauer. Sounds like one big circle...err, I'll stop now.

Misc. Weekend Reads

Now posted is Ron Whitten’s article about buying your way onto the Golf Digest list, which sets out to remind us you can’t buy your way on and basically reminds us that you can. This story has the scoop on the LPGA Tour caddy who is claiming to have been seduced by Jackie Gallagher-Smith and is the father of her child. The LPGA couldn't dream publicity like this! Travel and Leisure’s Thomas Dunne previews Bandon Trails. And this Sunday Herald column by Alan Campbell explains why most are laughing off the R&A announcement on women in the British Open.


Shivas Journal 2

This press release announces the publication of the second Shivas Irons Journal . I’ve contributed an essay on links golf and I'm described by the release writer as “iconoclast and golf architecture writer." Well, it beats blogging for a golf manufacturer.

More on the Journal can be found at .


Misc. Weekend Reads

R.J. King in the Detroit News has the depressing details on Michigan’s golf woes. Some of the new mystery bloggers proclaiming that all is well in the golf industry might want to read this one closely. Meanwhile, on, Ron Garl has some excellent ideas for growing the game . He focuses on the Me Generat…err…baby boomers and ways to get them playing more often in their retirement years.

Golf Digest salutes their own Dan Jenkins with an article by Sally Jenkins and they also offer some excerpts of his best work, followed by a re-posting of his interview with Guy Yocum. If you missed it, here’s my recent Q&A with Jenkins . John Huggan writes about Hank Haney and Tiger. And Tim Rosaforte looks at how the 16th hole played at Augusta.


Digest on USGA Proposal

Golf Digest's Mike Stachura offers some fresh details on the USGA rollback ball letter (email actually).

Included is this solution offered by Taylor Made's Dean Snell, who thankfully does not design or set up golf courses.

"The concern is that the courses are going to be made obsolete," says Snell. "It is very easy to not have to move tees back 70 yards. Instead, give them some challenges by cutting the fairways different in that 290-320 range. If you want to try to hit it 340, you can do that, but if you don't hit it straight, then you could be in some trouble. To make a change to the golf ball and everything that would have to happen to make that work, well, that part of it is very, very tough. It's a lot easier to grow some rough."


More Ball Fallout***

The Golf Channel reported Tuesday that Acushnet chairman and CEO Wally Uihlein was "strongly opposed" to the USGA’s letter asking for golf ball research assistance. And in this mess from Golfserv’s Jack O’Leary , he complains about Jack Nicklaus’s annual rant on the golf ball and claims that any change in the ball would be counteracted by better shafts.

Veteran clubmaker Ray Hess tells O’ Leary that "the shaft can regain the distance for those guys. In fact, there really isn't anything that these guys can't overcome equipment-wise. If the Masters really wants to slow them down, they can do it with the lawnmower. Grow some real rough."

Oh good one. Why not just eliminate the fairway so that the game revolves around the needs of all manufacturers? O’Leary offers this gem on top of Hess's comment.

“Or, they could do what they did a few years ago and cut the grass with the grain growing back to the tee. It actually worked. Besides, if they have a uniform ball, it sets a nasty precedent. What's next? Uniform drivers? Uniform putters? Where does it stop, or does it?”

O’Leary then poses this question, which I’m sure Hootie Johnson will lose about 3 minutes of sleep over.

”What happens to the endorsement contracts players have to play a certain ball? You can believe the players will put up with anything but having their money withheld. “

Isn’t this a free market society? The players have the option of skipping the Masters if they chose not to play by the club's rules, correct?

O’Leary ends by saying, “Unfortunately, this year was probably the last time this Passion play will be played out. Nicklaus has strongly hinted that he's done playing at the Masters and thus we'll be spared another issue of Jack's Plea.”

Presumably he meant “fortunately,” or maybe not.

***Update: Reader Glyn wonders if O’ Leary would also have us believe that the pros are not using the best equipment and shafts now but if a “standard” ball is introduced, that they would then go and use the best shafts. Then and only then? Good question Glyn.


Gulp-bis Files, Vol. 2

Remember Alan Shipnuck’s SI story about Natalie Gulbis pitching her reality show? They found a sucker according to the Las Vegas Sun. Hint, this will fill the vast hole left by the conclusion of the Big Break III.

"The show also promises plenty of good-time footage for the guys, including a look inside Gulbis' photo shoot for her 2006 swimsuit calendar and some form of coverage of her selection to the FHM Magazine 100 Sexiest Women in the World list.

The list of appearances goes on to include "ever-present and very demanding father" John Gulbis; "fellow LPGA beauty" Cristie Kerr partying with Natalie in Las Vegas; and "famed instructor" Butch Harmon. Gulbis first moved to Las Vegas
more than two years ago in part to work with Harmon at his golf school based at Rio Secco.



Chip Alexander in the Raleigh paper looks at Pinehurst and the 2005 U.S. Open. Duke grad Joe Olgivie is quoted.

"It'll be a great test if it doesn't get USGA'ed too bad," Ogilvie said.

Meaning? "If they don't take a great golf course and ruin it."


USGA Solicits Scaled-Back Golf Balls

If I were Matt Drudge, this would get the siren treatment. Dave Seanor reports on that a USGA letter dated April 11 invites companies “to design and make prototype golf balls that comply with modified rules that would reduce maximum ball distance by 15 or 25 yards.”

"We have identified multiple parameters that can be altered to affect ball distance," the USGA’s Dick Rugge said in the letter. "We believe that it is now appropriate to give golf ball manufacturers an opportunity to participate in the research project and thereby become involved in the rule change process if that becomes necessary. We believe that the best way to do that is to invite ball manufacturers to make prototype golf balls of their own design and construction that comply with modified Rules."

The story goes on to quote Bob Thurman of Wilson Golf, who believes the USGA is “setting themselves up to develop specifications for a tournament ball based on a condition of competition that could be adapted by any entity interested in doing so. I think it is probably a preemptive move to some degree, to make sure all the ball manufacturers are buying into this from the beginning, and to show that the USGA has been trying to work with manufacturers along the way."

Then there’s this interesting bit: "Rugge's letter stressed that ‘the USGA and the R&A continue to believe that no rule changes are needed under current conditions,’ thus adhering to their Joint Statement of Principles issued in May 2002. But it was clearly a warning to manufacturers that the ruling bodies are listening to the drumbeat of traditionalists who believe ball distance has gotten out of hand."

Seanor writes that “the letter noted that the ruling bodies had considered issuing specific design parameters for the prototypes, but decided ‘it is better to allow manufacturers to use designs of their own choosing. Therefore, we would like to evaluate balls at two different reduced distances: 15 and 25 yards.'"

He also says that "the prototype balls will be measured using modified Overall Distance Standard limits, not including the current three-yard test tolerance. Thus the current ODS limit of 317 yards would be reduced to 302 and 292 yards for prototype testing."


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