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

Every hole must have individuality and be sound. Often it is necessary to get from one section to another over ground which is not suited to the easiest construction, but that troublesome hole must be made to stand right up in meeting with the others, and if it has not got anything about it that might make it respectable, it has got to have quality knocked into it until it can hold its head up in polite society.  A.W. TILLINGHAST




Video You'll Want To See: Longest Usable Golf Club Strikes A Ball

Jugglin Josh Horton is a man of many talents, but hitting a golf ball with a 30 foot long driver gives new meaning to big stick!



President Trump Tees It Up With Tiger, DJ And Someone Else

Oh how quickly they forget!

Having 280 characters at his disposal still didn't encourage the President to get a mention in of the fourth today:

Brad Faron!:

The President is a Taylor Made man!

We did get some Tiger swing video too...


Shark Talks Weakness Of Today's Players Inside 150, Why The Masters Can Make Players Use Anything They'd Like

We forget that when Greg Norman is not hawking golf carts and posting shirtless Instagram images, he can be a keen observer of the game.

In an interview with an unbylined Gant News writer filing for the CNN affiliate, Norman touches on Patrick Reed knowing so little about his clubs, LPGA players being more accurate with their drivers and many other topics.

But the two getting my attention involved what he sees as a big change in the prowess of today's players with a wedge approach (inside, gulp, 150 yards).

“If you look at today’s top players, their distance control inside 150 yards with a wedge is quite amazingly poor,” he said.

“These guys are 20ft short, 30ft left, 20ft long, their distance control is not consistent. It could just be the way they play — when it works, it works and when it doesn’t, it doesn’t.

“In our era, every time you’d put a pitching wedge in your hand, if you didn’t think you’d get the ball inside 10ft every time, or seven out of 10 times, you weren’t having any control over your golf game.”

I do see this in watching many of today's players compared to Norman's era and wonder what the exact cause is that makes Phil Mickelson and Zach Johnson such standouts in this distance.

On the topic of distance, Norman agrees with others that this is about sustainability and Augusta National could be the solution.

“I remember the eighth hole at Augusta was nearly impossible to reach in two and now these guys are hitting irons in there,” said Norman who finished second three times at The Masters, perhaps most notably in 1996 when he blew a six-shot lead and Nick Faldo took the green jacket.

“Augusta can’t lengthen itself anymore but the tech is going to allow these players to keep hitting it longer year after year.

“If they sent out an invitation to the players and said ‘you’re going to use a gutter percha ball and a hickory shafted golf club, go get them worked out, practice before you get there, the best player will still win that week.

“The best players have that ability to make that adjustment no matter what they’re using.”


Ogilvy Talks Rollback: "Seems Like It's Going To Happen"

Geoff Ogilvy was in fine form on many topics in his pre-Emirates Australian Open press conference, but it was his commentary on distance that earned the most social media buzz.

His comments on that come at the 15:50 mark in response to a question from Mark Hayes. Ogilvy believes a "rollback" can be achieved in a way that slows down distance for his ilk, while not harming the recreational golfer. But he concedes that should bifurcation of the rules be the only way, then "it's the way we need to go."

He goes on to discuss how this is a complicated thing but that based on the players, manufacturers and influencers talking, that a rollback of some kind "seems like it’s going to happen."

Ogilvy's stances is to take action "purely so we don’t have to change our stadiums," noting that when he started playing major events 300 yards "was a massive hit" and is now "legitimately short. Mostly, he reiterates how the distance gains have "changed the way we play the great courses" and how it has made "Augusta not function" as it was intended, reminding us that "Brooks Koepka didn’t hit more than 7-iron on the longest course in history" when winning the 2017 U.S. Open.

But he also--Wally take note--points out the opportunity in this for manufacturers to sell more product and solidify their market position by making a great ball under specs different than the current rules. Though as he notes, "the implementation is going to be interesting."

Ogilvy was also asked about Brandel Chamblee's assertion this week that 8,500 yard courses are a must in golf to properly test today's players with strategic decisions (he still has not outlined who will pay for this expansion of major venues). Ogilvy agree that is the yardage to test players, but no with the idea of changing courses to fit today's player and equipment.

The full pre-Australian Open interview:


Pinehurst's Dormie Club Bought, Faces Upgrades

The Pinehurst area's Dormie Club, a Bill Coore-Ben Crenshaw design on extraordinary ground but sidetracked by unfinished features, financial woes and an ownership change, has been purchased by a golf course network of the same name. Plans call for Dormie Club to eventually revert to a private model as part of the Dormie Network.

It all sounds promising and, at the very least, gets the course away from the current ownership group best known for extremely high-priced golf course construction that has operated it with favorable-enough reviews.

For Immediate Release:

LINCOLN, Nebraska (November 22, 2017) — Dormie Club in Pinehurst, North Carolina has been purchased by Nebraska-based golf investment company Hainoa, LLC, making it the latest addition to the Dormie Network—a network of destination golf clubs. Under new ownership, the renowned Coore-Crenshaw club will see a number of immediate renovations and upgrades (including the construction of a new clubhouse, halfway house, and on-site lodging accommodations) as it gradually returns to its original status as a private course.

Dormie Club is a short drive from the Village of Pinehurst, an area widely known as the Home of American Golf. Though not far removed from area conveniences, the club’s size and layout seclude its golfers from roadways and residential real estate, providing an unadulterated pure golf experience.


The highly anticipated 2010 opening of Dormie Club was met by rave reviews, including a No. 3 ranking in Golfweek’s list of best new courses. Designed by Bill Coore and two-time Masters champion Ben Crenshaw—who form one of the most renowned golf course architecture teams in the world—the 18-hole course features 110-foot elevation changes, three natural lakes, and an aesthetic that draws inspiration from the Scottish Highlands. “Dormie Club stretches across a massive 1,020-acre expanse of absolutely stunning land,” says Dormie Club’s Membership Director Mike Phillips. “It features a mix of pine trees and hardwoods and the beautiful 55-acre Coles Mill Lake that dates back to the early 1900s.”

Its Old World-design includes a number of reachable par fours, wind tunnels, bunkers positioned to stimulate creative strategy, and a 241-yard reverse Redan par three. The course features Bermuda fairways and tees with bent grass greens; it has five sets of tees and measures up to 6,883 yards with a rating of 73.7 and a slope of 138. It is currently ranked No.3 among the best courses you can play in North Carolina by both Golf Magazine and Golfweek and the 12th best course in North Carolina by Golf Digest. 

Straying from its original concept, Dormie Club extended play to non-members almost immediately after opening and today remains a public course. As part of the Dormie Network, it will transition immediately from public to semi-private and eventually to private status with invitation-only membership by 2020. 

Now under the management of Landscapes Unlimited, LLC, Dormie Club will see a number of critical course enhancements, as well as several large-scale renovations and improvements. Plans to construct a full-service clubhouse and halfway house are already underway. Landscapes Unlimited will also oversee the addition of lodging accommodations, including on-site cottages and executive suites. 

“Dormie Club is a truly exceptional club that was conceptualized as and designed to be a high-end private course,” explains Zach Peed of Dormie Network. “Our vision is to make it one of the finest pure golf destination courses in the region.” 

With the acquisition, Dormie Club joins the ranks of Briggs Ranch Golf Club in San Antonio, Texas; ArborLinks in Nebraska City, Nebraska; and Ballyhack Golf Club in Roanoke, Virginia as part of the Dormie Network. Corporate and national memberships include access to and full member privileges at all courses within the network—each of which is currently ranked among the top 10 in its respective state.

“Dormie Club is a renowned course,” says Peed. “It’s already a tremendous value to our current and future members, but the club’s incredible potential and the vision we have for what it can be make it an ideal addition to the Dormie Network.” 


Golfweek Wrap: 2017 In Amateur Golf

We were priviliged to have the U.S. Amateur(s) and Walker Cup come to California and all three produced historic weeks with unforgettable moments.

I was blessed to get to cover the U.S. Amateur at Riviera and Walker Cup at Los Angeles Country Club for Golfweek and reflect on where 2017 fits among the great years in amateur golf.


Vegas Will Give You 20-1 On Tiger Winning 2018 Major

Love the optimism but it's just not a tempting bet even as Jason Day reported to Australian Open scribblers that Tiger says he's feeling great.

Bill Speros explains for


Shark Instagram Files: The Living Brand's "Feeling Horny" 

Verizon is paying him for years to come to upset the apple cart, shatter the cast iron with fancy golf cart speakers the caption, if you must.

Feeling horny today!!!

A post shared by Greg Norman (@shark_gregnorman) on Nov 21, 2017 at 9:44am PST


Jarrod Lyle Update: Working Television This Week, Stem Cell Transplant Next Month, A Book In Works

Mark Hayes catches up with Jarrod Lyle at this week's Australian Open, and the pro golfer battling cancer for the third time is working the event for Australia's Channel 7 (and therefore we should hear him on Golf Channel) before receiving a stem cell transplant in December.

From Hayes' story for Golf Australia:

“I’m great now, feeling really good actually,” said Lyle, who will spend time this week as an analyst of Channel 7’s coverage of the national championship.

“But I’ve got a big month coming. I’m back into hospital for some really heavy-duty treatment that’s really going to determine how things pan out for me.

“It’s pretty hard work at the moment, but that’s the reality of the situation. It’s very serious and I’m going to have to fight … thankfully I have the three girls as inspiration and I’ll do whatever I can to get back out and be a father and a husband and live as a family afterwards.”

A video interview with Lyle:


Video: Chief Executive Pelley On State Of The European Tour

Nothing groundbreaking is revealed in this sitdown with Golf Channel's Todd Lewis, but after watching it I think you have to give European Tour Chief Executive Keith Pelley credit for doing a lot to re-position the European Tour.

Now, some of the ideas might be excessive and the Rolex Series' long-term ramifications unclear, but he has people talking about the tour and viewing it as a true rival to the PGA Tour.


Ogilvy On Pro Golf: "We’ve completely outgrown the stadiums."

Add Geoff Ogilvy (again) to the onslaught calling for professionals to be regulated.The timing now, however, adds to the sense the game's best thinkers have finally conceded something needs to change.

Martin Blake, reporting from the Australian Open, on Ogilvy's comments in response to recent remarks of the USGA Executive Director.

“Major league baseball in America they use wooden bats, and everywhere else in baseball they use aluminium bats,’’ he said. “And when the major leaguers use aluminium bats they don’t even have to touch it and it completely destroys their stadiums. It’s just comedy.

“That’s kind of what’s happened to us at least with the drivers of these big hitters. We’ve completely outgrown the stadiums. So do you rebuild every stadium in the world? That’s expensive. Or make the ball go shorter? It seems relatively simple from that perspective.’’


Video: 19 Months Old And Already A Great Swing


Wally Uihlein Shifts To The Get-Off-My-Lawn Phase Of His Career: USGA Has No Evidence Of Escalating Costs

In a letter to the editor, Acushnet CEO Wally Uihlein railed against the USGA claims of cost increases in golf due to distance advances. Be careful what you wish for Wally!

Dylan Dethier at reports on the response to Brian Costa's story Saturday.

"Is there any evidence to support this canard…the trickle down cost argument?” Uihlein wrote. “Where is the evidence to support the argument that golf course operating costs nationwide are being escalated due to advances in equipment technology?"

Let's see, off the top of my head there are studies underway on multiple fronts, golf course operators who can point to increased insurance costs due to safety issues and the simple common sense wave realizing the absurdity of an expanding footprint.

"The only people that seem to be grappling with advances in technology and physical fitness are the short-sighted golf course developers and the supporting golf course architectural community who built too many golf courses where the notion of a 'championship golf course' was brought on line primarily to sell real estate," he wrote.

Easy there Wally, short-sighted developers sell golf balls too.

And his jab at Bridgestone did not note the irony of his letter's intent, which would be a similar commercial motive, no?

"Given Bridgestone’s very small worldwide market share and paltry presence in professional golf, it would seem logical they would have a commercial motive making the case for a reduced distance golf ball," Uihlein wrote.

BTW watched this the other night and really is a special film. Warning, bad language! Racially insensitive comments!


Mergers & Acquisitions Watch: Time Inc.'s Sale Of Golf Magazine; Comcast Eyes Fox Sports Assets

A whole bunch of lawyers are going to have busy Thanksgiving weeks as a mergers and acquisitions possibly come to a head. Two in particular could have profound impacts on the golf industry.

Most notably, Golf Magazine's possible sale is thought to be coming to a conclusion, with bids due from prospective buyers last Friday. My sources say therea are at least two interested and legitimate parties remaining in wanting to acquire the publication and URL currently part of Time, Inc.

However, that impending sale could be complicated by the Koch Brothers' backing Meredith Corporation's latest effort to purchase Time, Inc.

From Sydney Ember and Kenneth Vogel's New York Times story:

According to people involved in the talks, Meredith has also lined up $3 billion in financing from four banks: Citibank, Barclays, Credit Suisse and Royal Bank of Canada. Meredith has been busy lately reviewing Time Inc.’s financials, which have become somewhat complicated, because the company had been in the process of selling several magazines including Sunset and Golf and a stake in Essence.

Meredith has indicated that it would acquire all of Time Inc.’s properties, but was still seeking clarification about the status of those sales, these people said.

However, Vanity Fair's Joe Pompeo suggested the sales are going forward separately.

It’s also not clear if Time Inc.’s weekly news titles would reside with Meredith long term should the Koch-backed deal go through. Part of the reason the 2013 sale fell apart was because Meredith didn’t want Time, Fortune, and Sports Illustrated. The current negotiations are believed to be for the entire portfolio, minus several divestitures that are already in the works (Sunset, Golf, Time Inc. U.K.), which has led to speculation that Meredith might decide to unload the newsweeklies after acquiring them. (Perhaps to the Kochs as a play thing?, some of my sources wondered.)

How Golf and Sports Illustrated co-exist going forward is of the most interest to golfers, as is having a major source for news with several important writers on the mastheads.

A longer shot to watch for M&A fans: Comcast's possible purchase of select Fox assets. As longtime LA Times business writer Meg James notes in explaining what Golf Channel owner Comcast would want from Fox, film studios and sports networks appear to be the focus.

Universal is ranked third with 16% of the domestic box office market this year, and 20th Century Fox fourth with 12.6%, behind Warner Bros. and Disney, according to Box Office Mojo. Sony Pictures (including its Columbia Pictures brand) ranks fifth with 9% of the market.

Comcast has its eye on even more assets than Disney because it is interested in the sports channels. (Disney owns ESPN and probably planned to stay clear of the sports channels to avoid antitrust concerns).

The obvious impact for golf on the chance that Fox sells some or all of its sports broadcasting empire: Fox holds the rights to USGA coverage through 2026.


Lexi Thompson Is A Million Dollars Richer Tonight, Mercifully

We know golf is cruel but few have experienced a year like Lexi Thompson, who dealt with an ugly rules infraction at the ANA Inspiration and costing her a major. Then her mother battled cancer and, with the season ending CME Group Tour Championship in her sights, Thompson missed one of the shorter putts you'll ever see. And she wasn't close.

But there is great news! She won the season-long Race To the CME Globe in spite of the miss and world No. 5 Ariya Jutanagarn capitalized with a clutch last hole birdie for the tournament win. As Beth Ann Nichols notes in her Golfweek game story, the LPGA season ended as it essentially started: with Thompson heartbreak.

Bill Fields, filing for, sets up the scene:

Thompson went to No. 18 leading by one and was on the green of the 425-yard par 4 in regulation. From 60 feet after reading the putt with caddie Kevin McAlpine, she lagged beautifully, cozying her ball two feet left of the hole. So little was left that if Thompson hadn't been worried about stepping in the lines of fellow competitors Austin Ernst and Jessica Korda, she said she would have putted instead of marking.

When it was time, to finish off a tournament and end a trying season in style, there was no reason to call McAlpine over for his opinion. "I just mentioned to her, 'You've got it,' and my job's done," said McAlpine, who didn't watch what happened next.

And it's best.

Kevin Casey at Golfweek with the roundup of Tweets and other Thompson comments after the ghastly miss. Kids, cover your eyes, this is not a stroke to emulate:

Because the event was telecast on ABC, there do not appear to be any packaged highlights available for embed or reference. So Lexi has that going for her. And $1 million well earned after a long, but consistently good 2017 season.


Lydia Ko Wraps Winless Season After Equipment, Teacher And Caddie Changes

I post this not to pick on Ko, who is still playing very nice golf, but merely as a follow-up to many posts last year at this time related to the superstar's restlessness.

Perhaps a year from now we'll be talking about her multi-win season, but for now, the multitude of changes did not pay off in a great 2017.

Randall Mell with a assessment featuring quotes from a mildly defensive Lydia Ko.

“Ever since Indy [in early September], I played really good and put myself in good positions,” Ko said. “I felt like the confidence factor was definitely higher than during the middle of the year. I had some opportunities, looks for wins.”

Sunday marked the end of Ko’s first winless season since she began playing LPGA events at 15 years old.
Let the record show, she left with a smile, eager to travel to South Korea to spend the next month with family after playing a charity event in Bradenton, Fla., on Monday.

She saw her run of 85 consecutive weeks at No. 1 end in June. She arrived in Naples holding on to the No. 8 ranking. She ends the year 13th on the LPGA money list with $1,177,450 in earnings.


USGA's Davis: Distance Explosion Impact Has Been "Horrible"

In what's increasingly smelling, sounding and feeling like a buildup to a serious product-driven discussion about how to deal with the distance chase, the Wall Street Journal's Brian Costa talks to several about where we are headed.

The Saturday WSJ piece (thanks reader JB) is titled "Golf Weighs Big Shift To Reduced-Distance Golf Balls" and says golf's governing bodies are discussing "different balls for different levels of the game."

This is similar to something the USGA's Mike Davis floated in March and now Costa reports:

“I don’t care how far Tiger Woods hits it,” Davis said. “The reality is this is affecting all golfers and affecting them in a bad way. All it’s doing is increasing the cost of the game.”

For those of you more recent readers, you may not know it, but these may be the strongest comments yet from a governing body figure related to the distance explosion's impact.

The concept Davis is floating would leave it to other groups, from the PGA Tour all the way down to private clubs, to decide which category of balls is permitted on any given course. It could also create new options on the lower end of the sport.

“What if we said to get more little kids into the game, we’re going to come up with a conforming golf ball that’s the size of a tennis ball, to help them hit it up in the air?” Davis said. “We are really trying to think outside the box.”

One question to be answered is which groups would mandate the use of reduced-distance balls. PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan declined to comment. Until someone requires golfers to use something other than the best-performing balls they can find, manufacturers will have little reason to bring reduced-distance balls to market.

Unless of course their favorite pros are playing them to play courses as they were meant to be played.

But as Davis notes, there are potential options to that also help kids, beginners or seniors potentially enjoy the game more as part of this solution.

“You can’t say you don’t care about distance, because guess what? These courses are expanding and are predicted to continue to expand,” Davis said. “The impact it has had has been horrible.”

Every party involved has some incentive not to force the issue. If the governing bodies tried to mandate a more restrictive ball for all golfers, they would face a massive fight from equipment companies. Those companies thrive by making a hard game easier, not harder. The PGA Tour relies on eye-popping distance numbers to highlight the skill and athleticism of its stars, which isn’t always apparent to the naked eye.

Brian Mahoney, head of the New York-based Metropolitan Golf Association, said elite amateur events like the ones his group organizes would be receptive to a reduced-distance ball. But for the idea to be more than an option presented by the governing bodies, some influential club would need to be the first to adopt it.

Costa floats the concept of a Masters ball and Fred Ridley's recent statement that they would prefer not to go that route. Which is why the mandate to play such a ball will come from a classic that is dealing with safety issues and other questions about its integrity brought on by the distance chase.

As to the timing of this, the comments of Davis follow March's first mention of variable distance balls, Martin Slumbers bringing up the distance "movements" at The Open, Tiger's pointed comments to Coach Geno and Bridgestone's CEO endorsing a tournament ball.


Why Spieth Is Returning To Australia Again

Jim Tucker talks to Jordan Spieth instructor and Australian Cameron McCormick about why his pupil is returning again to this week's Australian Open golf.

In a nutshell, Spieth has taken to the area as a great place to kick off his season and enjoy the land Down under while pursuing a title with a fantastic history.

“The tournament is not getting a top player on a holiday because we’re talking about a kid who loves golf history.

“With those names, Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player, Arnold Palmer, Greg Norman and others, on the trophy it’s definitely not just another event for Jordan. He doesn’t come here for second.”

McCormick gave an insight into Spieth lapping up Australia away from the spotlight with restaurant visits on Sydney Harbour, tackling a rip at Bondi Beach and slipping away for some bucket list golf.

“I’ve got to say the funniest afternoon on the 2015 trip was Jordan and (caddie) Michael (Greller) bodysurfing at Bondi and being shocked at the extent of the rip when slightly outside the flags,” McCormick said with a chuckle.

McCormick will also be on the bag as regular Spieth looper Michael Greller celebrates a new addition to his life:

Spieth's title defense starts Thursday (Wednesday in the U.S.) at The Australian Golf Club with Golf Channel coverage commencing at 8 pm ET.


Video: 2-Yard-Wide Fairway Gives Us Glimpse Into The Future

The European Tour's social stunts are always well-produced, if increasingly desperate in their bids to go viral. That said, this scene outside of Dubai not only shows some of the lovely countryside available for golf development, but also gives us a glimpse into the future should we never actually regulate distance. After all, the thinking goes, if we just narrow the fairways then the boys will not the ball so far.

This is what two-yard-wide fairway golf will look like should we be so lucky. Nicolas Colsaerts, Ross Fisher, Richie Ramsay and Søren Kjeldsen are the lucky participants, or the players who did not say no depending on your view of these things:


NPR On Dip In Japan's Number Of Golfers, Cultural Changes

NPR's Elise Hu looks at golf in Japan following the recent high profile round between Donald Trump and Shinzo Abe. Even with the Olympics coming in 2020, Hu explains how private clubs are dying, a few courses have even abandoned, the business culture is changing and young people see golf as "your dad's" sport.

The full report is embedded below, but the key lines...

Back in the 1980s, when golf was booming, Japanese clubs regularly required a deposit of $400,000 or more for a membership, according to industry analysts at Rakuten, the Japanese Internet giant.

The deposit was supposed to be returned after a decade. But when the Japanese economy went bust after 1989, many private golf courses were unable to honor their commitment. Since then, dozens of courses have been bought out; others have been redeveloped, and some have closed down entirely.

"They're just abandoned," says Tomita Shoko, who covers the golf industry for the Tokyo Kezai, Japan's oldest business magazine.