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Golf from its own peculiar character of sport requires a large variety of implements called clubs to move, by devious and dextrous hits, a very small ball through an adventurous journey, over undulating ground, from a starting place called the "tee" into a hole of irritatingly small dimensions cut in the turf.  ROBERT HARRIS



"It's like being inside a great big pinball machine"

players_header_logo.gifThanks to reader WF for this fun Laury Livsey story on on the first tee shot ever hit in the Tournament Players Championship THE PLAYERS and what's happened to the fellow who hit it (you would never guess who it is or what he does now, unless you live in Cleveland!).

The story also weaves in some of the early history of the course and includes some great old lines, including the Weiskopf line featured above. 


Irwin To Put Colorado Grads Through One Last Boring Lecture

It seems the folks in Boulder ran out of speaking options, because they signed up one of the mast famous alums to put the grads through one more boring lecture. Kirk Bohls in the Austin American-Statesman reports:

"Does anybody listen at commencement speeches?" said Tom Purtzer, who left Arizona State eight hours shy of a degree. "They're kids. It's not like they're paying attention. You're so excited to just get out."

Irwin gets it. As he puts it, "they get a piece of paper and good friends. You don't know what you take away until you look back years later when you have to ask, 'Did I apply myself?' "

He did, and he still is.

Following the advice he received from former Supreme Court associate justice Sandra Day O'Connor, Irwin plans to follow his heart and say what he really feels. So he'll get something off his chest to the cap-and-gown crowd.

His message?

Respect your elders.

"I'm going to talk about respect," he said. "That's something young people don't do very often."

Oh how I have missed Scott Hoch:

Hoch applauded Irwin for the high honor of joining the elite company of those who give commencement addresses, a list as diverse as Steve Jobs and Billie Jean King. Hoch graduated as well — "I'm one of the few" — completing his communications degree at Wake Forest in 4 1/2 years when the dean convinced him to give up the notion of an economics major because of the demands of travel with college golf.

He takes mild exception to the fact that Arnold Palmer gave the headliner speech at Wake Forest in 2005. Arnie had an army but no diploma.

"My feeling is you shouldn't give it unless you graduate," the candid Hoch said. "But Arnold's Arnold. People probably would get more out of his speech."  

Emailing With Retief

James Corrigan e-interviews Retief Goosen and the chat is surprisingly engaging. Maybe Retief should conduct his post round Q&A's on a laptop in a chat room?

On the distance issue...

There is a growing argument about the ball travelling too far, turning courses into "pitch-and-putts" and forcing the authorities to lengthen and "trick up" layouts. What should be done about it?

People always go on about the equipment and the new balls, but I think 60 per cent of the reason for players hitting it so far is down to them being fitter and stronger. It's become an athlete's sport. It's not just sitting at the bar and going out to play any more; it's regular trips to the gym and protein milkshakes. No more beer. Even the caddies are working out. There's fitness trainers and physios everywhere. It's been an amazing transformation.

Only 60 percent? What about the 40 Retief!? 

I know which percentage is easier to change. 


The TiVo Test's Travis Hill says the Wachovia didn't pass the TiVo test, and offers other notes worth reading.


"He's melting down like Phil Mickelson at Winged Foot"

piven%20blog.bmpOne can only hope Phil and Amy didn't put the kids to bed, settle in on the couch for Entourage, only to hear Ari Gold say that.


"It appeared the boys were stinking up the gym. That speaks of one thing..."

I only watched a few minutes of the sixth major (love the blue jacket for the original!).

However I noticed on the Tour blog that the real genius of Quail Hollow was picked up by Jeff Rude:

The top two Wachovia Championship finishers both made double bogeys coming in. And high finisher Vijay Singh made two bogeys and a triple coming in. It appeared the boys were stinking up the gym.

That speaks of one thing: Quail Hollow is one of the best courses on the Tour. You might say it deserves the strong field and favorable date it received.

It's one thing for a newcomer to the game evaluating a course based on its difficulty, but after all of the great stuff Dr. Klein has penned in Golfweek about what actually merits architectural legitimacy, you'd like to think we could something a tad more nuanced than the course's ability to churn out doubles and triples. Right?



Opposing The Donald

Jeremy Watson reports that opposition is building against The Donald's Scottish development. Frankly I'm shocked.

Both the Ramblers Association Scotland and the Scottish Wildlife Trust (SWT) will today lodge formal objections with Aberdeenshire Council, claiming the proposed Trump International Golf Links at Menie Links will seriously damage an ancient sand-dune system.

Frankly, the name alone should be enough for most people to object.

The Ramblers say the huge development - which includes two championship golf courses, a 500-bedroom hotel and hundreds of new luxury homes - will destroy the rural character of the area and be in breach of local and national planning guidelines.

It also argues that by increasing the number of golf tourists flying into north-east Scotland from destinations across the world the development will add to global warming. The SWT says Trump's plans to "stabilise" the sand dunes will destroy their value as a wildlife habitat.

So far the majority of the 60 responses to the scheme from local environmental organisations and individuals have also come out against the project



"And that's all you can do."

Deane Beman is featured in a interview and handles the dreaded fifth major question well (in other words, he's proud of what's become and admires the operation and leaves it at that...) Now, the major question. Is it or isn't it?

Beman: It's the best tournament that can be put on -- in every respect. From the standpoint of -- the golf course and the fairness of the challenge of it, the volunteers, the organization, the field, the financial reward, the clubhouse facility -- now it's the highest standard in the world. It's the standard by which all facilities will be judged in the future. And we can't do anymore than that. I consider it the best tournament in the world. The moniker the press puts on up ... it's up to them. We did all we could do to make it the best event in the world. And we did it. I did that for the 21 years I was there and Tim Finchem and his crew have done a fabulous just of taking it to a new level. And that's all you can do.


"The fans want to see a car wreck, and that's what it is."

sawgrass.219.jpgMartin Blake, quoting Mike Clayton on TPC Sawgrass's 17th:

"It's American golf," says Mike Clayton, the renowned Melbourne golf course architect. "It's entertainment. The fans want to see a car wreck, and that's what it is."

The placement of the hole in the rota at No. 17 is significant, too, for no player is safe in the lead until he gets past the island green at the penultimate hole.

Clayton remembers Tom Doak, the great American designer, having a dim view. "He (Doak) called it the germ that started the plague," says Clayton. "It's been copied too often, fortunately not in Australia, but mainly in Asia where they think that everything American is great.

"It's a decent-sized green. You have to hit a good shot. At the 71st hole, you find out who's in control and who's not. The history of that tournament is that the leader's always hit a great shot."

Blake also has a note on the health problems of several players that started at the Masters. 


"That's just ridiculous, in twosomes"

An unbylined story on Tiger fuming about slow play at golf's sixth major where it's all right in front of you...

Woods, playing with Vijay Singh in the final pairing, finished the 18th hole in semi-darkness, a few minutes past 8pm local time at Quail Hollow.

The start of play was delayed by two hours due to nearby lightning, so Woods and Singh did not tee off until 3.40pm.

He could not understand why it took more than four hours, 20 minutes to play 18 holes, especially on a course well designed for walking, without many long distances between holes.

"That's just ridiculous, in twosomes," said the world number one, who bogeyed the last two holes to finish a shot behind leader Rory Sabbatini of South Africa.

"I didn't think we were going to finish and Vijay didn't either, but we got it in somehow.

"It's like playing under caution all day. No-one ever gave us a green to go. That was the way it was and we had to deal with it."


"The teaching of golf is a bitchy business."

John Huggan uses his Inverness On Sunday Scotland On Sunday column to highlight the drama queen antics of golf instructors and players...
Especially at the top level, the teaching of golf is a bitchy business. Typical was the vitriolic reception that Hank Haney received from many of his peers in the wake of his assuming the role of coach to Tiger Woods, replacing the aforementioned Harmon. For a while there, things were neither hunky nor dory.

The last word in that particular skirmish, however, belonged to Haney. In the immediate aftermath of the 2005 Masters Tournament - Woods's first of four major victories under the tutelage of his new coach - the Dallas-based instructor lifted a leaf out of Harvey Penick's Little Red Book, and took dead aim at one of his biggest critics, wannabe star teacher Jim McLean, describing him as "the biggest asshole I have ever met" - a label that left little room for misinterpretation.

"As for other teachers who have been critical [most notably and ironically, Harmon and Smith], it was obvious where they were coming from," Haney declared. "I viewed them speaking out as a form of pre-emptive strike. They wanted Tiger to lose patience with me before we even got started, so I wasn't surprised by the crap they were talking. Those other instructors never wanted to give us a chance. The result was never going to make them look better."


"In case you haven't noticed, Mr. Ross isn't building any more courses"

Thanks to reader Trevor for this Robert Bell story on the debate breaking out over the Greensboro course of the future and the possibility of moving to Donald Ross's Sedgefield. You know, the one that no one famous will play because it's scheduled the week before the playoffs starting.

"That would be cool, that would be really cool," said tour player Rocco Mediate, who slipped away from Forest Oaks during last year's tournament in Greensboro to play a round at Sedgefield.

Mediate said many tour players who annually skip Greensboro's tour stop would reconsider if the tournament moved to Sedgefield's Donald Ross course.

"In case you haven't noticed, Mr. Ross isn't building any more courses," Mediate said. "Getting an old course like Sedgefield as a regular stop would be a brilliant move, and I think players would respond to that."

Five years ago, the Greensboro Jaycees signed a 20-year agreement to play the tournament at Forest Oaks through 2022. But sources at Sedgefield and Forest Oaks say Greensboro businessman Bobby Long, director of the charitable foundation that runs the Wyndham, is negotiating a buyout with the Japanese company that owns Forest Oaks.
Jerry Kelly said Sedgefield would do for the Wyndham what Quail Hollow Club has done for the Wachovia.

"There's a reason (27) of the world's top 30 golfers are here and it's not the courtesy cars," the tour player said, referring to the Mercedes automobiles.

Does that mean it could become the seventh major?

Many players have not embraced fellow tour player Davis Love III's 2003 redesign of Forest Oaks.

Robert Gamez said Love took out all the curves of Forest Oaks.

"It was always one of the best courses we played, but now you don't have to maneuver the ball at all," Gamez said. "Just hit it straight and hard and don't worry about working the ball. Sedgefield is different. It makes you have to think."

Kelly said Love "tried to make Forest Oaks a little more Pinehurst-ish. I just don't know if the land and routing was there to turn it into what he wanted."

And this from the ever jovial Charles Warren, who I would expect to say something like this:

"Just being a Ross course doesn't make it a good course," Warren said. "It's hard to find a lot of (Pinehurst) No. 2s around the country. I'd like to see it stay" at Forest Oaks. "They always seem to get good crowds, and the atmosphere is always high."

"Watch the start of golf's 5th Major on the The Golf Channel."

Even as they were televising golf's sixth major, according to reader JT, the Golf Channel GOLF CHANNEL's "own commercial for THE PLAYERS says 'Watch the start of golf's 5th Major on the The Golf Channel.'"

It's official, The Players Championship  THE PLAYERS   The PLAYERS  The Players is golf's fifth of four majors.

After all, they say it on TV, it must be true. 


"A Masters-like aura"

PT-AF353_Golf1_20070504204023.jpgThe WSJ's John Paul Newport visits the home of the fifth of four majors, gets a personal tour from Commissioner Finchem, and uncovers some real nuggets. Where to start?

How about yet another variation on the tournament's name.

The tournament formally known as the Players Championship, played in March and viewed by the pros as a kind of warm up for the Masters, will henceforth be known simply as "the Players" and anchor its own month on the calendar, May. The first one is next week.

Any similarity between the new name and "the Masters" is purely intentional. And the PGA Tour, which owns and runs the tournament, will probably not object if, in an undisciplined moment, you happen to say something like, "Gee, it's almost like a fifth major."

Oooh, a slightly sarcastic fifth major reference. But more importantly, are we now not capitalizing the T in the? That's probably just a WSJ thing. Weakens the brand if I may say so myself.
Tim Finchem, the Tour's commissioner, knows he cannot simply wave a wand and decree that the Players is a major, but he and his compadres are doing everything they can to give the tournament, in his words, "a Masters-like aura."
And to do that... 
The primary design goal of the new, 77,000-square-foot Mediterranean Revival-style structure, one of Mr. Finchem's vice presidents explained, was to create a sense of "instant tradition." During the tournament, bagpipers will play at dusk every day from the two faux bell towers.

Okay everyone on, two, three...Oy Vey!

In fact, there's a Disneyfied, made-for-TV quality to every aspect of the project, from the balustraded "presentation lawn" where the winner will receive his huge cardboard check to the "master storytellers" who will be stationed in the clubhouse lobby during the other 51 weeks of the year and regale visitors with tales of the tournament's legacy.

Those Jodie Mudd, Craig Perks and Stephen Ames stories ought to knock 'em dead.

One foursome at the course each day will be allowed to pay extra for a "PGA Tour experience." Its members can change shoes in the small locker room reserved, Augusta-like, for past Players champions, lunch in a PGA Tour members-only dining room called Pub 17 and stride down the fairways alongside white-bibbed caddies bearing the players' names on their backs.

Yes, I can really see the connection with Augusta and the Masters.

This isn't the way other tournaments became majors, but that's the world we live in today, and Mr. Finchem and his recently beefed-up corps of vice presidents are no slouches.

If the top pros in the world keep coming to the Players (it has traditionally attracted the best field in golf) and fans get used to seeing high drama play out in front of the clubhouse edifice, who knows? Maybe some other major, such as the PGA Championship, will begin to lose luster by comparison, and our children or grandchildren will come to think of the Players in the same hallowed way we think of the Masters. Majors come and go. Remember the Western Open, anyone?

I think it's the bagpipes that will really put it over 


"We want them to feel it is fair and that they can score well on it."

Lawrence Donegan reports on Open Championship media day and you can almost envision Peter Dawson rehearsing this Sandy Tatum-lite mantra in front of the mirror all morning.

"We are not seeking carnage," said the R&A's chief executive, Peter Dawson. "We are seeking an arena where the players can display their skills to the best effect."

The biggest changes, however, will be in the rough, which will not be as thick as it was in 1999, and in the width of the fairways, at least one of which was only 12 yards wide back then.

12 yards! Can't imagine why things went awry.

The course's head greenskeeper, John Philp, was accused by some players of being determined to make them suffer and of toughening up the course by adding fertiliser to the rough - claims which he dismissed yesterday as "utter baloney".

"That was just players whinging because they didn't play so well," he said. "What was never mentioned in all the criticism was how well the course was presented in the fairways and on the greens, where they were supposed to hit the ball."

That's right, and those Titanic passengers never dared to mention how good the food was either!

"If the players want to think Carnoustie is a monster just because they haven't done so well, then so be it," he said. "But we don't want them to feel like the course is a monster and that it has been tricked up. We want them to feel it is fair and that they can score well on it."

So the players were just whining because they didn't play so well, yet they are going to make sure it's not tricked up just in case?

Why do they let this man do interviews? No one learned the last time around?


"It is a very right-brain course."

The Chicago Tribune's Ed Sherman looks at Erin Hills, and features this Ron Whitten rebuttal to Brad Klein's criticism of the course.

While most of the reviews have celebrated the quirks, one harsh critique stood out. Under the headline "Errant Hills Award," Bradley Klein of Golfweek called the routing a mess and accused the designers, particularly Whitten, of taking "trendy minimalism to its absurd extreme." Klein concluded, "They should have thought 'inside the bun' on this one."

Whitten, who said he is friends with Klein, suspected he was getting payback for a Connecticut course he criticized in which Klein had a hand designing.

"It's just one opinion," Whitten said. "I always said the course isn't for everybody. It is a very right-brain course. If you don't like blind shots and quirky bounces, it isn't the course for you."



"I told myself there ain't but one way to get them out of there, and I reckoned I was gonna have to do it the manly way."

boo2.jpgYes, there are actually people who speak like that. Boo Weekley to be exact.

Golf World's John Hawkins profiles Weekley and shares this among several classic anecdotes:

By October the bumpkin had turned back into a pumpkin. Perhaps the lowest point came when Boo used a Port-a-Pottie at a tournament and dropped his courtesy-car keys in the toilet about two hours before a flight. The good news was the airport was only 20 minutes away. The bad news was Weekley didn't have a fishing rod. "I told myself there ain't but one way to get them out of there, and I reckoned I was gonna have to do it the manly way," Boo says. "So I put some snuff up my nose to cut down the smell, stuck my arm in there and reached around until I found 'em."



"I just hope they never host an (U.S.) Open on it. The USGA would screw it up.โ€

I saw the Golf Channel's nauseating opening to the sixth major today via TiVo, but when Kelly Tilghman breathlessly called Quail Hollow a "work of art," I deleted the telecast and went back to the Mavericks-Warrior's first half.

The lovefest continues with this Golfweek blog post from Rex Hoggard, which is forgiven since it includes a reminder of just how admired the USGA is these days:

How good is the Quail Hollow layout, stage for this week’s mid-major PGA Tour gathering? As one player said last night, “It is incredible . . . I just hope they never host an (U.S.) Open on it. The USGA would screw it up.”

All of which makes us wonder what to expect next week at TPC Sawgrass. Hard, dry conditions combined with thick rough could turn The Players into a U.S. Open Lite.



TPC...Clubhouse Reviews In

conway.200b.jpgGolfweek's Brad Klein reviews the new TPC clubhouse architecture, giving him a chance to use words like variegated.

The structure offers an expansive, wide-angle view of the course. The building follows the Spanish Mediterranean vernacular tradition of historic St. Augustine, Fla., replete with rope-style columns, clay tile roof, Moorish loggia and numerous Mediterranean arched spaces that offer unrestricted views. The variegated roofline, however, doesn’t have the massive, undifferentiated presence of the previous building and its graceful design can be spotted from most holes on the course.

Meanwhile offers a few pictures and a tour with locker room attendant Conway Murchison. 


New Site Search Feature

Note the new feature in the lefthand column called "Site Search" that lets you search any of my past insults, lame predictions or even your own brilliant insights (by using the advanced search and only searching Journal Comments). And of course you can also still search past posts using the "Journal Topics" link.