Twitter: GeoffShac
  • Playing Through: Modern Golf's Most Iconic Players and Moments
    Playing Through: Modern Golf's Most Iconic Players and Moments
    by Jim Moriarty
  • 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
  • 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
  • A Life Well Played: My Stories
    A Life Well Played: My Stories
    by Arnold Palmer
  • 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
  • Teeing Off: Players, Techniques, Characters, and Reflections from a Lifetime Inside the Game
    Teeing Off: Players, Techniques, Characters, and Reflections from a Lifetime Inside the Game
    by Ken Bowden

Obviously the objection to the stymie originated in the conception that each player must be permitted to play his own game free of any interference of his opponent. Why this should be an essential when the contest is man-to-man and head-to-head, I have never been able to see.   BOBBY JONES

 

  

Thursday
Oct192017

Video Roundup: Stymies Versus Backstopping

In this week's Golfweek digital and now posted online, Brentley Romine and I debate the men's pro golf backstopping practice.

On Twitter, I've gotten a very frequent reply that goes like this: you want the stymie back but you are offended when players leave a ball down (in a form of silent, possibly creepy collusion that does not protect the field.)

Yes. I am offended by backstopping and hope we return the stymie to match play.

Because in match play, golf would be faster and far more confrontational if players could clean their ball, then leave it down the rest of the way to the hole. Foursomes, four-balls, individual matches, you name it would all have occasional moments of social-media-friendly drama. Virality, baby!

But backstopping suggests an element of rule-bending and collusion that can only damage perceptions of a clubby sport that is generally very honest, but does strike some as too fraternal at times.

The stymie is only interesting in match play, where we never see backstopping occur. Furthermore, a ball stymied by a match play opponent is an overtly hostile gesture, while backstopping is a mysteriously complacent act of notifying the competition that you are willing to assist them, free of charge.

For those who are not familiar with the stymie's place in the game and not owners of Bobby Jones' Golf Is My Game (1960), I can at least steer you to some video thanks to the wonders of YouTube.

Graphic viewing warning: these clips are all in black and white while involving evidence of people playing the game (well) prior to the year 2000.

First up, check out Sam Snead beating Johnny Palmer in the 1949 PGA at Belmont. At the :28 second mark watch how Snead tries to stymie Palmer, to no avail. The complete opposite of backstopping. 


Next, check out Charles Coe vs Nick Chapman at the :20 mark for a fantastic stymie and one that would freak out today's backstoppers in the 1951 British Amateur final, one of the last played with stymies in effect:

Also in 1951, the USA retained the Walker Cup in spite of a delicious stymie situation viewable at the 1:22 mark. The sun has continued to rise in the east since. 

At the :15 second mark of this 1948 PGA Championship highlight reel--when the event was still contested at match play--Ben Hogan is stymied and you can just feel Hogan’s enthusiasm as he pulls out wedge on a green. But what great entertainment and competitive edge this brought to the proceedings!

And at the 1933 Ryder Cup highlights, go to the 1:28 mark for a delicious reminder that the stymie was once part of the Ryder Cup, and dream of the possibilities today before remembering that we live in a golf culture where the players seek to help their friends, not clash competitive with them.

Wednesday
Oct182017

Royal Birkdale Gets Jordan Spieth's Driving Iron

Because of course there is no club that better recalls Jordan Spieth's epic 2017 Open Championship win, even if he was not satisfied with his shot from Birkdale's range. It was the driving iron that took center stage and no one who watched the scene unfold will ever forget it.

Since it's the club he used to hit the recovery setting up an epic unplayable lie-bogey and eventual win over Matt Kuchar, Spieth admirably donated it to Royal Birkdale. They received the club today, to go with their incredible clubhouse collection of memorabilia from past champions.

(Todd Lewis took us on a rare tour during this year's Open and I can concur after a tour from former club champion Ethan Davies that it's as good a display of historic clubs as any in golf.)

The question remains, does Spieth's drop warrant a plaque? I say yes, even if only the driving range attendants will be the only ones who see it!

Wednesday
Oct182017

NPR Questions Trump National LA's $5 Million To Charity

National Public Radio reporter Tom Dreisbach and the "Embedded" team explained his inquiry into Trump National LA's website claim that it has given $5 million to charitable causes (thanks reader Carl).

Now, the $800,000 that NPR was able to account for is a pretty nice number compared to many golf courses and should be admired.

But, when your course namesake is President of the United States and the claim is highlighted in bright lights, with a link explaining how to request charitable contributions from the course, the scrutiny is understandable.

Apparently much of the discrepancy involves the claiming of Trump National LA's range as open space.

DREISBACH: What we were able to account for is about $800,000 in donations - far short of that $5 million number. Now, the Trump Organization did not make any contact with us. They refused to answer any phone calls, emails. And one possibility is that they are claiming a conservation easement, which is a sort of controversial tax break that you can take. Basically, The Trump Organization said that their driving range, they were going to preserve it as open space in perpetuity. It's sort of a way of preserving open space and habitat, but in fact, as one charity expert told me, the driving range is still a driving range, so it doesn't really pass the smell test in terms of a charitable gift.

Wednesday
Oct182017

They're Back...Sort Of, The Costco Kirkland Is Back In Some Form

Thanks to all who sent the GolfWRX post identifying the latest Costco "Kirkland" ball to be offered for sale, just as the CEO promised in January. The original drew great attention and reviews and after selling out, has become a much-demanded cult classic.

While they are billing it as the same ball with "Hot List" branding, the current iteration is only for sale to Costco members, with a 2-order-per-membership limit and no certainty the latest ball is the same as the last (given that it was likely a one-off production run of old Taylor Made cores).

Nonetheless, it spices up discussions about the ball, adds more intrigue to the lawsuits and whether this is a legitimate contender in the golf ball market, as some originals proved to be, or just an occasional stunt.

Here they are Costco members...

Wednesday
Oct182017

Firefighting Mid-Am Champ's Masters Dream: A Practice Round With Tiger Woods

Not that Tiger ever sets goals for injury return on such things, but the older, maybe more sentimental and "making progress" Woods might just relish the chance to fulfill the dream of U.S. Mid-Amateur Champion Matt Parziale. After all, it would mean Woods was even well enough to play The Masters.

From Doug Ferguson's story on the Massachusetts firefighter who won the U.S. Mid-Amateur last week, earning him berths into the Masters and U.S. Open:

Parziale was 9 when he watched the Masters for the first time and saw Woods break 20 records on his way to a 12-shot victory. He was 16 when Woods won a World Golf Championship at Capital City Club, the very place where Parziale realized so many of his golf dreams.

So when asked if he could play a practice round at the Masters with one person, Parziale didn’t hesitate.

“Tiger, and there’s not even a close second,” he said. “I play golf because of Tiger Woods. I was the perfect age to see him.”

Wednesday
Oct182017

Bones Will Eventually Work A Mickelson Grouping

Golf World's John Strege catches up with Jim "Bones" Mackay about his first summer working for NBC/Golf Channel and gets rave reviews from producer Tommy Roy.

Besides sharing some insights into surprises about the on-course reporting gig, Bones addresses Strege's question that many have asked: will Bones cover his old boss, Phil Mickelson?

Mackay has not yet been assigned a grouping with Mickelson in it, notwithstanding the fact that from a golf fan’s viewpoint, it would qualify as must-see TV, to resurrect an old NBC slogan. Roy has not ruled it out in the future. “I think the day will come when enough time has passed to do it,” Roy said.

His concern in the near term is the potential for a distraction caused by the vocal few in a crowd who consider “mashed potatoes” imperative to a tournament sound track and might be inspired to weigh in on the Mickelson-Mackay parting.

“One thing we want to be cognizant of is that we don’t want to put anybody in a bad spot,” Mackay said.

Wednesday
Oct182017

BFF As Caddies More Than A Trend Now

After seeing Tyrell Hatton win two European Tour events in a row with best friend forever Jonathan Bell, Tim Rosaforte says the BFF on the bag movement is "more of a trend." Hatton follows Tommy Fleetwood, Rory McIlroy and Jason Day as a top player moving to a BFF.

The players also have a consistent reply for questions about the move.

It’s more of a trend than a coincidence that three top-20 players, all in their 20s, parted ways with their caddies this year and put one of their BFFs on the bag. Rory McIlroy was the first, trading out J.P. Fitzgerald for childhood mate Harry Diamond at the WGC-Bridgestone in August, saying “sometimes to preserve a personal relationship you have to sacrifice a professional one.”

Remember, it's about being able to talk music...

That’s an understatement. As Hatton noted after winning the Dunhill, “It’s good fun having Jonathan on the bag.” Sometimes that’s all it takes, having somebody the same age who you can relate to, somebody that listens to the same music and somebody who simply represents a change."

Tuesday
Oct172017

Ridley: "We will take whatever action, whatever course of action is necessary to protect the integrity of Augusta National.”

Brentley Romine reports on a media call with new Masters chairman Fred Ridley was asked about the golf course in the face of most distance gains since the last round of changes.

After saying something vague about the Jones design philsophy ("strategy and skill were equal components in how the golf course should be played"), he issued this strong statement:

“We will take whatever action, whatever course of action is necessary to protect the integrity of Augusta National golf course,” Ridley said.

Now that could mean many things. Given that the club has planted trees, introduced longer fairway cuts pushed toward tees and added numerous back tees, more lengthening is about all the club can turn to without further damaging the Jones approach.

Jones and MacKenzie's very clearly stated design goals for Augusta National are already hanging by a thread, and with a consulting architect who doesn't practice strategic design or even the art of respecting those who practiced the art before him, it appears there is only one course of action that will work: restricting driving distance.

Restoring width and removing recently planted trees, as Michael Bamberger wrote in this suggestion list piece, would also be nice but they won't addres the simple fact that the strategy has been rendered less interesting by modern driving distances.

Tuesday
Oct172017

Drone Flyover Of The Horse Course At The Prairie Club

It's been a few years since Gil Hanse, Jim Wagner, myself and a fun cast of characters created the Horse Course at The Prairie Club, so it was nice to see the 10-hole par-3 course finally get the drone treatment its setting deserves. Especially now as the game opens its very closed mind to par-3 courses, the concept of H-O-R-S-E golf will hopefully get a little more attention.

And given the difficulty of maintaining prairie bunkers, it's especially neat to see how well they've evolved. Thanks Patrick Koenig for the great shots.

Tuesday
Oct172017

Happy Birthday: The Open Turns 157

The day consisted of 36 holes, three trips around the 12-hole Prestwick designed by Old Tom Morris. The Earl of Eglinton sponsored the event featuring eight professional golfers, including Willie Park Sr., Andrew Strath, Robert Andrew, George Brown, Charlie Hunter, Alexander Smith, William Steel and of course, Old Tom. Some competitors seen in identical lumberjack shirts given to some to mask what might have been deemed inappropriate attire. Apparently lumberjack was the new tweed.

Josh Morris summarizes the event for Golf History Today and Kevin Cook's Tommy's Honour re-created the events quite nicely. But in a nutshell, Park Sr. edged Old Tom by two strokes in a nail biter and professional tournament golf was born!

Sheila Walker on Old Tom kicking off the proceedings...

And while there is no film, we do at least have this final Open at Prestwick in 1925 to sense what Prestwick means to the game and what a golf tournament looked like long ago--warning, people walk in lines and the sacred through lines!

The anniversary is a nice reminder that tournament golf owes much to the efforts of those first eight who teed it up sixty-five years prior to this:

The plaque commemorating the old first hole...

And so it began...157 years ago today - The Open Championship!

A post shared by Travelling the Fairways (@travellingthefairways) on

Monday
Oct162017

Hank Likes What He Sees In Tiger's Swing

Tiger shares a swing video featuring driver and his old instructor, Hank Haney, chimed in with a positive review.

That’s a swing he could win with, it’s not across the line and stuck inside coming down, a little stiff looking but it’s good enough

The Tweet in case you don't believe me:


Even better, the cautious approach from agent Mark Steinberg sounds like Team Tiger has learned from past mistakes, offering just enough reason to be optimistic but not committing to a comeback timetable.

From Bob Harig's ESPN.com exclusive on Tiger getting the go-ahead to be a full time golfer again.

"He got a nice report and is allowed to proceed," Steinberg said. "He can do as much as he needs to do. Tiger is going to take this very, very slowly. This is good, but he plans to do it the right way."

We discussed on Morning Drive that the signs point to all positives, but I understand, we've seen this movie before. However, the rhythm and audacity to post clips suggests this is a different.

Monday
Oct162017

Wanda Group Courses Declared Illegal By Chinese Government

Gabriel Wildau reports for the Financial Times on the Chinese government has declared "illegal" two golf courses owned by the powerful Dalian Wanda Group.

The FT storys says this is part of "a campaign against luxury and waste ahead of a Communist party gathering that begins in Beijing this week" and continues the trend of high profile attacks on golf in China. Given the Wanda Group's international standing, even if the move is targeting the group for non-golf reasons, it appears to be yet another blow for the game in China.

The move is a blow to Wanda’s tourism and entertainment ambitions as the group seeks to diversify from shopping malls. The government of Fusong county in China’s northeastern province of Jilin has revoked permission for the two courses there, according to a notice dated October 1 seen by the Financial Times.

Wanda is one of a group of privately owned conglomerates, including HNA Group, Anbang Insurance Group, and Fosun International, that have come under scrutiny in recent months, with a particular focus on their overseas acquisitions. Wanda chairman Wang Jianlin tumbled from his position as China’s richest man, according to the country’s best-known rich list released last week, falling to fifth place in this year’s Hurun ranking.

The ChangBaishan International Resort facilities cited include one 18-hole Jack Nicklaus course and 36-holes of Robert Trent Jones designed golf. Also on site are several thousand hotel rooms, including a Sheraton, Hyatt, Westin and Holiday Inn(s).

Golf photographer Patrick Lim kindly shared some images he shot of the courses and facilities, which I think better illustrates the significance of the closures.




Monday
Oct162017

U.S. Women's Mid-Am Needs Volunteers At Champions GC

With the U.S. Women's Mid-Amateur moved to Champions in Houston after hurricane Irma caused damage at the original venue (Quail Creek in Florida), the short-notice move requires volunteers.

For those in the Houston area, it's a great chance to hang out at legendary facility and help an amateur event and the Texas Golf Association, which is helping take on some of the responsibilities for the event November 9-16th could use volunteers.

Here is their Tweet and the link to their registration page.

Monday
Oct162017

Chairman Ridley On Distance: “We’re interested in that issue"

While not kicking the door wide open or sharing his views, it sounds like new Augusta National Chairman Fred Ridley isn't quite shying away from the issue either.

From Doug Ferguson's AP interview with Ridley discussing several topics related to The Masters.

He also was reserved about how the club felt about the distance the modern professional is hitting the golf ball, referring only to a good relationship with golf’s two governing bodies, the USGA and the Royal & Ancient.

“We’re interested in that issue,” he said. “It’s not my place to talk about what’s good and not good for the game. I might have opinions, but I’m not the person to talk about it. What I can talk about is what’s good for Augusta National and our golf course. Going back to the guiding principles, again, I believe that the philosophies that Jones and (Alister) MacKenzie established here are timeless.”

His predecessor, now-Chairman Emeritus Billy Payne, never seemed entirely comfortable talking about the impact on the course. It seems reasonable to surmise, however, that no one at Augusta National is pleased to have fairways mown toward tees and to be spending more money on possible back tees locations. But what will they do?

I also thought this was of note (and admirable) related to the 2004 U.S. Open at Shinnecock...

He was not directly in charge of the golf course, but “I was the president, so the buck stops there.”

Monday
Oct162017

Welcome Statement From New Masters Chairman Ridley

A new era in Augusta begins today as Fred Ridley becomes seventh chairman of Augusta National Golf Club and The Masters:

Sunday
Oct152017

Tiger Up To The Driver: "Making Progress"

Someone is feeling pretty good about himself these days! The swing rhythm is especially nice, as is the length of the backswing. Even better, someone has the itch again!

Great to see:

Making Progress

A post shared by Tiger Woods (@tigerwoods) on

Sunday
Oct152017

Tillie's Belmont Design Could Be A Gem, Quick-Fix Renovation Needs To Be Reconsidered

Excellent work by Andy Johnson at TheFriedEgg.com for shining a light on the potential to restore an affordable A.W. Tillinghast design in Richmond, Virginia that hosted the 1949 PGA Championship.

While it's hard to know all of the particulars of the current plans, existing design bones and operational details, the County of Henrico appears to have money to spend and to do so by a deadline. Architect Jerry Lemons will be supervising this work, and while there are no doubt many improvements that would come from the money spent at a course not getting kind reviews for its bunkers, the success of so many restorations makes it hard not to wonder if a Tillinghast deserves more attention to detail?

The scope accoring to an Request For Proposal that went out in August:

1. Remove and renovate the existing seventy-two (72) sand bunkers on the 18-Hole golf course.
2. Reconstruct fifty-eight (58) of the existing sand bunkers throughout the course including removal of existing materials, reshaping of all bunker cavities, the replacement of all materials and grassing.
3. Add one (1) bunker on hole #16.
4. Remove fourteen (14) existing bunkers including removal of existing materials, filling in existing cavity, grading and shaping, and grassing.
5. Installing sub-surface drain lines in all sand bunker cavities.
6. Supporting construction activities required to complete the Work to include: demolition work, tree removal, earthwork/excess dirt removal, and compliance with the erosion and sediment control requirements.

The County's RFP also contained a specified bunkering lining product even there there are many out there. This is not typically a sign of going into a project with an open mind:

The Contractor may subcontract with a qualified, licensed Better Billy Bunker certified installer who will be responsible for the application of the Better Billy Bunker manufactured Bunker Liner ST410 Polymer.

Again, there are many elements here with cost and timing and red tape we need to learn more about, but as Johnson passionately argues, this is an incredible opportunity to give public golfers access to great architecture and to create a more valuable, important piece of design in the greater Richmond area.

Reader Andy from Richmond shared this view upon seeing Johnson's post:

I play Belmont a few times a year and have dreamt many times about its resurrection. And the history....this golf course is historically important to golf not only in VA but in US.

If you would like to see the County take more time and spending their money to bring back more Tillinghast, you can voice your views here: recandparks@henrico.us

Saturday
Oct142017

Change Of Policy? Grayson Murray Tantrum Shared On PGA Tour Social

Unlike other sports leagues the PGA Tour has resisted sharing absurd athlete behavior for obvious reasons: theirs is a business built on players behaving like gentleman.

So whether this is a change in policy or just a share because it involves the troublesome Grayson Murray or was simply the posting of a bored overnight shift stuck trying to find the CIMB Classic, is yet to be determined.

But the post was a nice tie-in to the baseball playoffs...not so nice for the green where Grayson dug in his shoe soles:

If the @yankees, @astrosbaseball, @cubs or @dodgers need another arm in the bullpen...

A post shared by PGA TOUR (@pgatour) on




Saturday
Oct142017

Mid-Am Winner Back At The Fire Station Within Hours Of Win

Nice work by Golf.com's Dylan Dethier to interview and report on 30-year-old U.S. Mid-Amateur Champion Matt Parziale just hours after arriving home following a win that will send him to the Masters and U.S. Open.

Detheier writes:

Parziale, 30, had taken time off from his full-time job in the Brockton, Massachusetts Fire Department to play this week's U.S. Mid-Am. He'd played in the event three times before, but had never won a match. This time, he won them all.

"Oh, gosh, that'll be a good problem to have, I think," Parziale said when asked how he might work major championships in among his regular shifts. "None of that has sunk in, and everything is such a blur right now. I was trying to go through my phone, and everyone has just been so supportive, reaching out, following along, it's really been incredible."

This will also be fun come Masters and U.S. Open time:

Parziale's father, Vic, is a member of the Brockton Fire Department, too. But he was in Atlanta caddying for his son. He, too, may need to find some time in his schedule for bigger gigs next season.

Friday
Oct132017

Flashback, Tiger On Distance: "There's different ways you can get around it so that we're all playing under certain speed limits."

In Sunday's Irish Independent, Dermot Gilleece took an entertaining look at the golf ball, considering its role in the game as a precious piece of equipment compared to other sports.

He was inspired by comments from Rory McIlroy during last week's Alfred Dunhill Championship at St. Andrews to revisit the idea of a tournament ball and recounted this exchange with Tiger Woods.

The comments were from the 2004 American Express Championship at Mount Juliet.

DG: "Would you be prepared to play with an official tournament ball designated for each event?"

TW: "What do you mean by 'tournament ball'? Do you mean with the same spin rate, same launch angle, hover, same speed of core?"

DG: "I mean a uniform golf ball that would be the same for everybody."

TW: "So everybody plays with the same spinning golf ball?"

DG: "Same golf ball."

TW: "I don't think that would be right because there's too many guys have different games and different types of swing. But I think you should put a limit on the speed of a golf ball, the spin-rate of a golf ball. You can increase the spin of the golf ball and make it so that we don't hit the ball as far. You can decrease the speed of the core. There's different ways you can get around it so that we're all playing under certain speed limits. Hopefully that will be the answer to a lot of the problems that we're having with golf course design around the world."

That was 2004!

As an aside to the speed limit comment, check out the shift in LPGA Tour leading driving distances from 2002 to 2017. While about a 10 yard limit, there is nothing going on like we're seeing in the men's game where optimization of launch conditions suggests gains are being made by top men that are out of proportion with gains the rest of the sport has enjoyed:

2002:

2017: