Twitter: GeoffShac
Writing And Videos

For what Hogan meant, it's the old story. For those who know golf, no explanation is necessary. For those who don't, no explanation is possible.
JIM MURRAY


    

Wednesday
Jan072009

"The result is a startling transformation that makes the California Golf Club of San Francisco arguably one of the golf-rich state’s five finest courses for the first time in its history."

Ran Morrissett profiles the dramatic restoration of California Country Club, explains the role of various team members in this post, and contends that the project transcends the typical restoration, realizing something greater by combining the best of modern agronomic and architectural practices with MacKenzie's original redesign vision.

Some of the greatest designs ever seen in the United States- Lakeside, Bel-Air, and Los Angeles - were radically changed for the worse prior to World War II. Other designs like Pasatiempo were compromised by the subsequent residential component that was built too close to the playing corridors. Only a few clubs like the Valley Club of Montecito have retained and/or returned the best playing attributes ofthe course'soriginal design.

Yet, there is one club that has returned the best Golden Age design features to its course and taken full advantage of the finest aspects of modern golf architecture and agronomy. The result is a startling transformation that makes the California Golf Club of San Francisco arguably one of the golf-rich state’s five finest courses for the first time in its history.

 

Wednesday
Jan072009

"I really thought he had won about eight majors, and he told me he won 14."

Anthony Kim, on Tiger's return just before the start of play at Kapalua:

Q. What are you expecting out of him when he gets back?

ANTHONY KIM: I guess the same guy. He's obviously played very well.

It's like I said at the clinic. I'm not a huge golf fan, so I don't know all the stats. I thought he -- I really thought he had won about eight majors, and he told me he won 14 (laughter). I didn't know that.

Wednesday
Jan072009

"But I'm more a man for a Coke."

Tim Carroll talks to Padraig Harrington about his wrist, the Ryder Cup, Sergio, the chances of a Paddy slam and clarifies this little bit for the media that always assumes every Irishman bathes in Guinness:

WSJ: Which tasted better: Guinness in the first Claret Jug or the second?

Mr. Harrington: Oh, I'm not a Guinness man at all. John Smith's Smooth Bitters was the first drink out of the jug, which is a drink that my manager drinks. It wouldn't be my cup of tea at all. It would be down to the Irish whiskeys for me. I don't have the most acquired taste for beer. But I'm more a man for a Coke. 

Tuesday
Jan062009

Say Goodbye To Those Grants: USGA Nest Egg Down 30%

Michael Bamberger reports that all is well at Golf House where almost nobody has been layed off lately. As for the nest egg...

The USGA endowment, invested in a wide-range of stocks and bonds, has taken a significant hit in the past year, down roughly 30 percent and hovering at around the $200 million mark.

Hey, it could have been worse.

But now for your buried lede...

For the past decade or so, because of the robust returns on Wall Street, the USGA has become a major participant in golf philanthropy, giving away as much as $10 million some years to programs including The First Tee and Play Golf America. (Fay noted that the USGA gives more to The First Tee than the PGA Tour.) With the downturn in the market, Fay said the USGA's ability to support various organizations would be curtailed, maybe significantly. He could not say to what degree.

 

Tuesday
Jan062009

Un-American Obama: Hasn't Bought New Clubs In At Least Five Years!

Now I know what I like about him: he doesn't believe in planned obsolescence.

From Jerry Tarde's editor's letter in February's Golf Digest:

We asked a highly placed source what clubs the president-elect plays. "The P.E. uses Callaway irons and Titleist woods," came the e-mailed reply. "They're at least five years old, or more." 

Tuesday
Jan062009

"You're going to see some pretty phenomenal things from Tiger Woods the next three years."

Steve DiMeglio considers the state of Tiger's game upon his return and shares this from Mark O'Meara:

Mark O'Meara has seen Woods hitting golf balls on the Isleworth range. He liked what he saw.

"I'm not always right, but a lot of times I seem to be right about him, and he'll come back better than he has ever been," he said. "You're going to see some pretty phenomenal things from Tiger Woods the next three years."

The next three years? Does Mark know something we don't?

Meanwhile, The Tiger Return Watch has begun. Jason Sobel picks apart the tournament schedule and lands on Doral, while Alex Miceli likes the match play.

Monday
Jan052009

"Then, on the end credits, you see the film was produced by IMG."

Responding to the thread on Golf Channel's excellent U.S. Open re-broadcast of NBC's live feed, reader Dan adds this note about a less admirable editing effort:

Caught the PGA Championship highlight film/video on the Golf Channel a couple of weeks back. Focused on the back nine battle between Harrington and Garcia. But somehow, they edit out Garcia's ball in the water on 16. Gloss over it completely. Just say he made a bogey and that's it. Incredible. Then, on the end credits, you see the film was produced by IMG. Of course, Sergio is a client. Are the egos of today's professionals really so big and/or fragile? He knocked it in the water, right? That happened, right? Ridiculous. And I'm a Garcia fan.

He did indeed hit it in the water on 16 and it was, oh, kind of the pivotal moment of the day prior to Harrington's winning putt on 18.

Monday
Jan052009

"The Masters is always pandemonium, and there are all sorts of rumors about what's going on with the golf course."

Cameron Morfit files a short but typically enjoyable Geoff Ogilvy Q&A. Topics include contending in last year's U.S. Open, lessons from Tiger's effort and this about the Masters:

What tournament are you most looking forward to this year?

Well, I've never really been in contention at the Masters. On Saturday in '07, that really horrendous, cold, windy day, I was two back, and I spun two wedges into the water on 15. The Masters is always pandemonium, and there are all sorts of rumors about what's going on with the golf course. I look forward to the next Masters from the moment I leave the course on Sunday. It's such a cool place.

And in a PGATour.com writer roundtable previewing major storylines they expect in 2009, Stan Awtrey writes:

The buzz will return to Augusta National. The Gods of the Green Jackets wanted to stay relevant when they put the course on steroids three years ago. Instead they doused the excitement that made the Masters the greatest tournament in the world. Chairman Billy Payne is a bright guy who understands the correlation between excitement and ratings. Look for the roars to return to Rae's Creek and the hollers to return to the hollars this spring. There will be enough excitement this spring to make up for the last two borefests. And if this happens to be the week that Tiger Woods decides to return from the disabled list, the excitement -- and the ratings -- may be Super Bowlian

I'm wondering how much the rumors (which I keep hearing too), or the hopes expressed by folks like Awtrey,  are mostly a case of wishful thinking and not really based on anything folks have seen or heard. After all, the golf course has been off-kilter and out of balance for a decade now and none of the glaring deficiencies have been remedied.

I keep hearing from knowledgable folks that the club's top officials realize they went way too far and it's a matter of time before they swallow their pride or stop worrying about Hootie Johnson's fragile ego or whatever the excuse is, to get this thing turned around. But adding a few yards on the front of some tees and chopping a couple of trees down just doesn't strike me as being what the Good Doctor and Bobby Jones would have prescribed to repair Augusta National. Not that they would have created the problem in the first place.

Monday
Jan052009

"A bankruptcy judge on Monday said a golf course at Lake Las Vegas that cost $30 million to build a few years ago has become similar to a 'toxic dump' that nobody wants."

Thanks to reader Jim for this John G. Edwards story in the Las Vegas Review-Journal about the demise of Lake Las Vegas' "The Falls" course, a Tom Weiskopf design.

Bankruptcy Judge Linda Riegle took one step toward letting a lender take possession of the Falls, but she didn't make her final ruling.

The judge authorized Texas-based Carmel Land & Cattle Co., which holds a $15 million loan secured by the golf course, to foreclose on it Jan. 30. She delayed action on a request by Lake Las Vegas to abandon the property because she was concerned that the property includes half of a water pumping station needed at the resort community.

Riegle said she will consider whether to grant permission for Lake Las Vegas to abandon the golf course at a Jan. 15 hearing.

Foreclosure of the golf course could cost Ron Boeddeker, the previous owner of Lake Las Vegas, several million dollars because he signed a personal guaranty on the $15 million loan.

The golf course is worth less than half the $15 million owed on the loan, said Frederick Chin, president of Lake Las Vegas Joint Venture and affiliated companies.

David Stern, an attorney for Lake Las Vegas, said the golf course meets two key requirements for abandonment: It's of inconsequential value to the bankrupt companies, and keeping the course creates a financial burden on the debtors.

Other than that, they just love it.

Here's the course's website and links to tee time booking if you were hoping to tee it up before it disappears.

Monday
Jan052009

"The tour season opens: auto, electronics, auto, financial, auto."

Seems like we've had quite a few of these economic crisis-impact stories, but Ron Sirak's is one of the better ones at clarifying a few of the important dates and possibilities. Mercifully for the PGA Tour, Buick has a car to promote

And how can you not love this bit:

The most important spin, at least for the first part of the season, won't be on the golf ball but rather on the economic reality. There are 15 events the first 13 weeks of 2009, and 12 have sponsors from the most distressed areas of the economy. Forget the tournament names and think of it this way: The tour season opens: auto, electronics, auto, financial, auto. All are industries that have suffered deep and painful layoffs.

Monday
Jan052009

Lloyd Cole On Melbourne Golf

Don't miss Lloyd Cole's entertaining T&L Golf story on his Melbourne golf trip, complete with a tour of the essential MacKenzie designs and golf with Mike Clayton. There is also a sidebar with the courses listed and other suggestions.

That afternoon, Clayton drops me off at Kingston Heath Golf Club, where I’m joined by my Internet buddy, Rich. We “met” at an online golf forum, so I know he knows his architecture, but as for his game, I have no idea—we’re meeting in person for the first time. I’m one of those people who believes you can tell a lot about an unfamiliar playing partner by looking at the clubs in his bag. Rich’s are new, high-tech and very clean. If he had used iron covers I would have suggested a wager right then and there. He addresses his first tee shot looking stiff and tense. His backswing is overly long and his right elbow flies out, but somehow he returns the clubhead to the ball with considerable force and precision, sending it some three hundred yards down the middle. My weak, heeled fade is barely within sight of it. “We should have a match, don’t you think?” I squeak. “What’s your handicap?”

Monday
Jan052009

Gulbis Joins Twitter To Share Her Most Profound Promotional Tidbits

Noam Cohen looks at the sports stars Twittering or Tweeting or whatever you call the Twitter.com social networking tool that allows people to offer short messages on your whereabouts or, if you are an LPGA Tour star with a sordid history of really bad marketing ideas, your carefully cultivated branding messages.

First, though, there had to be a meeting between her media consultant, Kathleen Hessert, and other advisers.

“I had to talk her management team into it,” recalls Ms. Hessert, whose company, Sports Media Challenge, represents athletes and professional teams.

Deciding to join a service devoted to spontaneous, often spectacularly mundane updates throughout the day apparently was something to be thought out carefully. Ms. Gulbis and her team were concerned about who would be reading what she writes on Twitter and what they would do with the information.

“There is a risk,” Ms. Hessert conceded. “Whenever you open yourself to the public there is risk. The way I convinced her to do it, is to say that people see you one way and there is so much more.”

Ms. Gulbis agreed to use Twitter, but she said she wasn’t simply following Ms. Hessert’s lead. “When I decided to do Twitter, I had a plan — there is information I wanted to get out,” she said in a telephone interview last week from a yacht in the Caribbean. And she established clear parameters. “I don’t think I would ever Twitter about my personal life, who I was dating, who I was going out with. That is something I would be very protective of,” she said.

Instead, Ms. Gulbis’s tweets thus far tend to be circumscribed and have a clear point to make, whether it relates to her work on behalf of the Boys and Girls Clubs, or a sponsor, TaylorMade, or even the broad outlines of her oceangoing vacation. 

Lucky us!

Monday
Jan052009

"A family can add a nanny to the membership for $50 a year."

The Boston Globe's Stephanie Ebbert looks at changes New England area clubs are making to attract new members and keep old ones around in light of the economic crisis. Many are waiving initiation fees and trying to become more family friendly. Though I'm not quite sure about this...

As a result, some clubs are doing more to market themselves as family destinations. At Spring Valley Country Club in Sharon, a family can add a nanny to the membership for $50 a year. Spring Valley is offering new, lower-cost social memberships that lock in rates and guarantee no surprise assessments for three years.

"This allows you to bring in newer, younger families that want to utilize all aspects of the club - pool, food. That's a good thing," said membership director Jo Ann Parks. "The club is certainly reacting to what's going on with the economy, but I think we would eventually have come to this anyway. People's interests change."

Life is tough when you can't send the kids to the club because the nanny was not a member!

Sunday
Jan042009

Scientists: Golfers Could Go Deaf And Broke From Titanium Drivers

Actually, these "scientists" only mentioned the deaf part as Jonathan Brocklebank (he was a character in a Wodehouse novel, no?) reports in the Daily Mail:

Modern titanium clubs create a 'sonic boom' when they connect with the ball, say scientists.

The risk of going deaf is so great that doctors are advising golfers to wear earplugs while they play their tee shots.

I smell a class-action suit on behalf of all employees subjected to indoor hitting bay noise. Or maybe all Golf Digest Hot List judges?

Tests were carried out on six titanium clubs and six thickerfaced stainless steel models and sound levels measured.

While the steel clubs produced the agreeable 'tink' of a well-hit shot, the titanium ones were much louder, described by some as similar to a gun being fired.

Dr Malcolm Buchanan, an Edinburgh-trained ear, nose and throat specialist - and a keen golfer - said: 'Our results show that thin-faced titanium drivers may produce sufficient sound to induce temporary or even permanent cochlear damage in susceptible individuals.

'Players should be careful when playing with these thin-faced clubs as they make a lot more noise.'

Dr Buchanan, one of the authors of the report which appears in the latest edition of the British Medical Journal, added: 'Wearing earplugs is a possibility, although it might be a bit too radical for some.'

And in case you were wondering who the real offenders were:

They recruited a professional golfer to hit shots with six titanium clubs from manufacturers such as King Cobra, Callaway, Nike and Mizuno. All produced a louder noise than the stainless steel clubs. The worst offender was the Ping G10.

Sunday
Jan042009

Golf Channel's 2008 U.S. Open Rebroadcast

I don't know who at Golf Channel deserves the credit, but over the holidays its 2-hour edited rebroadcast of NBC's Sunday and Monday telecasts from Torrey Pines has been a pure delight to watch. Unlike the over-packaged one-hour highlight shows, we're getting the original announce feed and camera work, along with the occasional comments from GC's team of Kann-Chamblee and Nobilo taped from Torrey with the dramatic canyons as a backdrop.

Whoever at the USGA, NBC and Golf Channel engineered this deserves major kudos (and based on the calls I've gotten, the rebroadcasts are being watched pretty heavily).

I do remember that not to long ago, GC used to air classic PGA Tour events affording us the chance to hear the likes of Vin Scully and Lee Trevino. Wouldn't it be fun to watch more classic tournaments this way?

Sunday
Jan042009

Greenbrier For Sale

Thanks to reader John for this WSJ report that says Goldman Sachs has been brought into explain why you should buy a beautiful old place that lost $35 million last year.

Saturday
Jan032009

"These people are crazy, eh?"

Thanks to reader Peter for Bill Elliott's anecdote-rich tribute to Seve Ballesteros.

The first of those Masters wins came the following spring. By now he was an acknowledged phenomenon. He played golf like we all did, spraying the ball hither and thither, but, unlike us, he then recovered brilliantly. We loved him for his vulnerability. He brought a passion to golf that it never had before and has not enjoyed since. He made this stuffy old game seem sexy and exciting, so that men yearned to be him and women simply wanted to be with him. He was the godfather of the modern European Tour, moving the interest from golf lovers to general sports fans and non-sports-fans alike, and encouraging serious money into the game.

Before that 1980 Masters began I watched from the clubhouse at Augusta as he finished a practice round, several thousand fans embroidering the scene. It took him ages to make his way through the punters to the clubhouse and when he finally made it he looked at me and gave a huge grin. He held out his hand and when I held out mine he dropped several scraps of paper into it and laughed. Each contained a girl's name and a phone number. 'These people are crazy, eh?' he said. His English was much better by then.

Saturday
Jan032009

"A fair way from reality in year ahead"

As weird as 2008 was, I won't say that John Huggan's satirical preview of 2009 will be that far off. Especially that Billy Foster replacing Stevie part!

Friday
Jan022009

Golf As It Should Be Files: Santa Anita GC

The San Gabriel Mountains and just some of the clever man-made undulations at Santa Anita Golf Course (click image to enlarge)As much as travel, luck and effort will allow, I'm going to try and highlight more of the places in golf that define (for me) what the game is all about. This week I had the pleasure of teeing it up at Santa Anita Golf Course in Arcadia. It was the first time I had played there in over 20 years and while I knew it was a marvelous public golf course by including it in this L.A. Times piece of SoCal architectural gems, but I really never imagined just how idyllic it is as a model for what a golf course should be.

Not just a public course. A golf course of any kind.

Photos won't do the 6,400 yard course full justice. And I can only rave so much about the $23 green fee, excellent maintenance or the construction genius of the undulations before you start scrolling to the next post. So here goes.Wild undulations on the par-5 13th (click on image to enlarge)

A product of Works Progress Administration finances and crews, Santa Anita reopened in October of 1938 as a full length golf course next to the famed race track of the same name. According to an LA Times story, finances were apparently too lean to hire an architect, so a young county engineer named James Harrison Smith was given the task of designing the holes. He devoted a year to studying great holes and accumulating information. Assuming this was his only project, what transpired is one of the great one-hit wonders in golf architecture history.

The 14th fairway and elevated green. Wonderful contours make the short second shot to the elevated green that much trickier (click on image to enlarge)Crafted out of dead flat land, Santa Anita offers some of the wildest but most artfully constructed man-made undulations imaginable. Yet with Smith's engineering eye for drainage, they all work to also surface-drain the course. There isn't a catch basin to be found and when we played the golf course it had only a handful of wet spots just a few days after heavy rains. The bold, elevated green complexes had drained perfectly and rolled a stout 10 on the Stimpmeter.  Most modern architects accustomed to littering land with catch basins should study Santa Anita for the combination of clever contouring that affects strategy and function.

Smith's replica holes and homages are fresh but still respectful. He put his own stamp on each and named them (the names remain on the scorecard and tee signs). There's a Redan, a "Maiden, a "Thomas" (the boomerang first green in honor of George C.'s old 9th at Griffith Park-Harding) and assorted other themes.The wacky undulations under the 434-yard 18th fairway. The tee is to the right of this view and tee shots try to land over the mounding. Local legend suggests old trolley cars sit underneath, but no evidence confirms that (click to enlarge image)

While the course is short and over-landscaped for today's game, the undulating fairways and elevated, cleverly crafted greens expose poor shots to give the elite player plenty of trouble while still letting the average hack get it around. Old photos show that the course once had more hazards with great flair in their presentation, though the grandeur and funkiness of the contouring is actually highlighted by their depature.

Still, it would be fun to see the course with the kind of dramatic bunkering that it deserves both to heighten the experience and to attract more attention to this model of what a golf course should be about: fun, fun, fun.

Historica aerial viiew of the 9th, 18th and 10th fairways shows dramatic bunkering and fewer trees! (click on image to enlarge)In a grand southern California tradition, Santa Anita is largely unnoticed and unappreciated by the area's golfing elite. Perhaps it's the lack of wild hazards or a high-end fee burning a hole in their pocket or just the general SoCal ignorance of interesting architecture and history (btw, Lloyd Mangrum won the first two Santa Anita Opens).

Either way, don't despair. The combination of a smooth operation, low prices, excellent maintenance (no rough!) and the course's subtle charm has developed a loyal following and profits for all involved. I just wish there were many more Santa Anita's in the world of golf.

Friday
Jan022009

"Augusta is now one of the purest majors we play."

SI Golf Plus's excellent year-end issue featured a roundtable with scribes Garrity, Van Sickle, Bamberger and Shipnuck joining the "anonymous tour pro" for a discussion about 2009.

It's all quite entertaining in an pared-down sort of way, but one comment from Mr. Anonymous made me hurl my magazine across the room.

ABOUT THE MAJORS

Bamberger: Augusta National sets up for some semiobscure guy — like Zach Johnson or Brandt Snedeker — to have a great driving and putting week. To me, they have taken the emotion out of the tournament by toughening the course so much.

Van Sickle: The course negates ability because now you make birdies only by accident. They pushed the course to the brink of difficulty, and weather conditions can push it over the edge.

Garrity: If they fix the course the way we want, they may be left, once again, with ridiculously fast greens as the course's only defense. I didn't like that, either. Ease back on the course, and a Masters-regulated ball may be the only solution.

Anonymous Pro: I hate to say this, but Augusta is now one of the purest majors we play. With the length, the rough and especially the trees, it's less of a bomber's paradise. The trees have changed the course. They have Tiger-proofed it. They've taken a lot of the risk out of the course. You have to plod along and play to point A and B and C.

So let me get this right. It's the purest major they play, yet it takes away risk and you have to plod along and play to committee-dictated points of interest?

That's what a pure major does? Yikes.