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

The history of every artificial appearing golf course is one of continual change…golf architecture can only be rendered permanent by art. Art is usually associated in the mind with the aesthetic, but if we comprehend it in a larger sense, it will be seen that only by art is every walk of life rendered stable and enduring. MAX BEHR



Tiger Out Of Rehab...

...says Radaronline.


"There doesn't seem to be a groove - 
or people - at the Northern Trust Open" **

Jill Painter in the L.A. Daily News on Thursday's crowd at Riviera:

With the grooves controversy seemingly on hold now that Mickelson has taken the Ping Eye2 wedge out of his bag, not many people seemed to care anymore.

Mickelson had a nice gallery, obviously, and so did Ryo Ishikawa and a couple of others.

Ishikawa, decked out in an all-turquoise outfit from visor to sweater to pants, might have had more folks in his large media contingent, however.

Otherwise, Riviera was a ghost town.

Diane Pucin of the LA Times also noticed the tiny crowds and followed up on something you'll recall I was noted recently: the absurd ticket pricing.

A year ago a golf fan could buy a single-day grounds pass for the Northern Trust Open for $30. Some first-day attendees this year noted a marked increase. The single-day pass bought at the gate this year is $50, though if it had been bought in advance it would have been $35.

According to Mike Bone, tournament general manager, "The raised price reflects the PGA Tour's desire to elevate the event for all constituencies involved -- from fans to charities -- and helps to provide general fan enhancements that are debuting this year."

Bone cited a new food court called the Grove and extra bleachers as some of the enhancements.

"The price is still moderate enough compared to other Los Angeles sporting events," he said.

Anything looks moderate next to the price of a Lakers ticket.

Now, I point this pricing increase disaster out (and will continue to) for a couple of reasons.

A) In the hope that writers not present at the event but noticing the tiny crowds on television avoid the temptation to blame this on Tiger or the "post-Tiger" world of golf. 

B) To prevent bashing of LA sports fans. The LA Open used to be a wonderfully attended event. People would love to come out here but a $20 increase and $50 ticket is excessive. I mean, the PLAYERS is $65 and it's a major (it also recently included an option to pay $45 if you bought before the New Year).

C) To show what happens when the PGA Tour takes over an event and executives paid large sums of money try to decide what a tolerable price point is for the average person.


Rugge: "I'm not going to get into a response to Phil Mickelson on that. He's entitled to his own opinion."

Garry Smits tracks down Dick Rugge for his reaction to Phil Mickelson's continued criticism of the USGA.

Rugge said the process is hardly "one man."

"I have a staff of 16 people, including six engineers with PHDs," Rugge said. "We get about 2,500 clubs submitted to us every year and we approve about 80 percent of them as conforming. And the 20 percent have an appeal process. They can go to the USGA executive committee, so there's 15 more people involved. We can't please everyone but I think we do the best we can."

Rugge wouldn't criticize players who use the Ping Eye2 irons in competition and didn't have an opinion of whether the use of the clubs violates the sprit of the USGA ban on U-groove clubs.

"They're conforming clubs," he said of the Ping Eye2s. "I have no problem with a player who uses them."


"From Hepburn to Mickelson, Riviera Embraces Hollywood and Golf"

Larry Dorman writes about Riviera's lore.

A riveting celebrity photo outside the men’s locker room shows Dean Martin, Jerry Lewis, Bob Hope and Bing Crosby.

“These walls have seen the biggest stars from every era,” said Michael Yamaki, the club’s corporate officer. “They have seen it all. There was a report once about W. C. Fields getting arrested here for debauchery.”

It had something to do with Fields taking liberties with the daughter of a Los Angeles police officer and is a true story, said Yamaki, who was once a member of the Los Angeles Police Commission.

Fact and fiction have a way of blending together at places where the combustible mystique of show business and golf mix, but at Riviera the facts are good enough.


A Few Shots From Round 1

Adam Scott approaches the par-4 second hole.

Phil tees off on No. 11.

The revamped 8th.


Anatomy Of The Tenth Hole, Vol. 1

Round 1, 2010 Northern Trust Open, morning play. All three players laid up (a rarity in the era of improved workout programs).

Based on the lay-up position, see if you can guess which player made a 9 footer for birdie, which missed his 14 footer for birdie and which player had to get up and down from the left bunker for par? (And no ShotTracker cheating, please.)

Luke Donald's approach shot:

Rocco Mediate's approach angle:

Jason Dufner's approach angle:

For more on No. 10, enjoy some of Doug Ferguson's morning Tweets from the scene.


"Top" Drivable Par-4s On The PGA Tour

More like "most" drivable par-4s, but either way a nice use of ShotLink by the staff and a fine warm up to the annual 10th at Riviera watch. I'll do my best to hang out there this week and share what I see. And for those of you watching at home, NBC has installed a "speed shot" tower about halfway down the hole (see photo for angle), so figure on seeing bonus coverage of the hole.


“Every 10 minutes, I change my mind.”

Padraig Harrington chose to keep the non-conforming/conforming PING wedges in his Riviera locker. Though as he explains to Steve Elling, it wasn't without giving serious thought to the matter.


"Tiger Should Go Back To The Drawing Board"

This awful, horrible, embarrassing grooves debate has been so terrible that it took Tiger off the radar. So maybe it's not so bad after all.

That said, I wrote a column for Golf World's "Architecture Issue" with some design-career advice directed at Tiger. 


The PGA Tour/USGA v. Solheim

Has such a retro vibe to it, no? Deane Beman must be so nostalgic. Or fired up. Or not answering his phone!

Anyway, I have no idea what's going on behind closed doors, but after having some time to reflect on today's events and the filings of three writers on site who talked to the various folks involved, it's just hard to envision this groove/PING/USGA/PGA Tour saga coming to a swift conclusion.

For starters, as Steve Elling notes, the power is in John Solheim's hands and as Elling lays out, it's hard to see the PING CEO folding too quickly.

If you want a nice primer on where things stand, Jeff Rude lays out the three primary ways this could play out and based on post-presser quotes from Tim Finchem, the various sides here are not as close in their interpretation of the situation as Finchem laid out in his rosy press conference version.

And as E. Michael Johnson lays out, the worse case committee option instigated by the tour (for the first time ever) could only make the mess...messier.

The purpose of the committee is to consider whether a special rule relating to balls or equipment is necessary for PGA Tour competitions. The committee would not recommend such a rule unless, based on the results of its investigation, specific criteria are satisfied. Among the requirements: the committee concludes the equipment under consideration "significantly affects the nature of the game" at the PGA Tour level; the current USGA Rules of Golf are not adequate to address their concerns; the legitimate interests of tour players, manufacturers and others have been considered; the recommendation is considered to be the most reasonable means of addressing the problem; and a majority of the committee is in favor of the recommendation.

Although that seems like a substantial burden for the committee to overcome, Finchem feels differently. "I think the chances are reasonably good, perhaps more than reasonably good, that the committee would say yes," said Finchem, who added the committee had never been used since its inception.

Solheim, however, had a different take. "PGA Tour Commissioner Finchem and I had a brief discussion [Tuesday afternoon] and he shared his belief that the 1993 settlement agreement allowed his organization to utilize the protocol to consider a special rule that would ban Ping Eye 2 irons and wedges," Solheim said. "While we strongly disagree with their interpretation of the agreement, we agreed further dialogue on the topic was healthy. We hope to speak again in the next week or so. I've also been in contact with the USGA and expect to meet with them as well."


"This rule change is great for me."

Phil Mickelson came out very assertive in his press conference today and while I believe the tone is justified in one sense (toward the USGA for making the club conformity subjective), as you'll see I think he's got to work on his case when it comes to the idea of regulation and the intent of the rule.

First, some housekeeping. As Doug Ferguson writes, he's dropping the PING wedge, acknowledging "My point has been made." Oh and by the way, overlooked in all of this: he's going for three straight wins at Riviera, which would have to go down as one of his great career feats if he pulls it off. Hogan didn't do it. Neither did Snead

Now to the press conference highlights. Phil, let it rip:

In regards to the groove and playing the club and whatnot, I have been very upset over the way the entire groove rule has come about and its total lack of transparency. I'm very upset with the way the rule came about, the way one man essentially can approve or not approve a golf club based on his own personal decision regardless of what the rule says. This has got to change. To come out and change a rule like this that has a loophole has got to change. It's ridiculous. It hurts the game, and you cannot put the players in a position to interpret what the rule has meant. That's why we have a decisions book, to decide this stuff.

This should have been decided well before this came out. It put me and it put all players in a bad spot, and it needs to be changed. This rule-making process needs to be changed.

So the background on that is here. Phil's right, and the USGA's subjective approach is a problem.

Here's where Phil's case begins to weaken a bit. Jaime Diaz asks:

Q. In a perfect world would you have preferred the rule was left alone so that the new grooves out there in 1990 were the ones instituted, or would you have liked a roll-back?

PHIL MICKELSON: I think it was a ridiculous rule change and even worse timing. It's cost manufacturers millions of dollars. It continues to cost them money as we now have to hire people to scan, document and store data of every club of every groove on every single club. It was unnecessary. It was an attempt to show power. And the arbitrary judgment of one man can take a conforming club and rule it non-conforming based on his emotion, this type of lack of transparency has got to change. It's killing the sport. It's killing the manufacturers, the players. We don't understand the rule, and it needs to be changed.

I'm hoping and believing now that the pressure has been put on by the Commissioner, by the PGA TOUR, by the manufacturers that this won't be tolerated anymore.

Q. So even if it had been a really efficiently-run rule change, you still don't think it was necessary, that there was no need to go back to V-grooves so to speak?

PHIL MICKELSON: Not only was it not necessary, the timing of it was terrible.

And here's where I chimed in:

Q. Do you understand the USGA's position that they're trying to put an emphasis back on skill in doing that through this groove rule change or perhaps some other modification? Are you opposed to any kind of effort on their part to protect skill?

PHIL MICKELSON: This rule change is great for me. It's great for me. But that doesn't mean it's right. You have to remove yourself as a player and decide is this good for the game, not is this good for me.

Q. How so? Elaborate. How is it good for you?

PHIL MICKELSON: Because first of all, I grew up with V-grooves, I have played V-grooves these last however many years. My clubs from last year are legal. It's no change for me, other than a wedge, but even that's nominal. It's no change. Guys who have never played them have a big adjustment to make. Reading lies, deciding how the ball is going to come out could take a long time to learn that, and being an older player and growing up with those clubs and not having to change those clubs in my bag, I have a huge advantage. But it doesn't mean it's right.

Q. All those things you listed, though, add interesting elements to the game and are all skill related, emphasize experience, a lot of different elements. So in a sense you are being rewarded for your skill, so can't you see why the USGA was trying to do what they were doing?

PHIL MICKELSON: Just because it was good for me doesn't mean it was good or it's right. 

So Phil's admitting that as an incredibly skilled player, he stands to benefit from this rule change. Which then would seem to validate what the USGA was trying to do. That doesn't mean their execution was perfect, but based on what Mickelson is saying, they will have an impact in preserving the role of skill. Yet, he seems opposed to that for reasons he won't fully elaborate on.


The Road Warrior Tour Truck

Guess they are going for an edgier branding at Taylor Made these days...


"The reaction was stronger than it could have been, had we more intensely last year got in front of players with the details of this rule."

Tim Finchem (click to enlarge)Fighting off of a profusely bleeding paper cut, Tim Finchem joined us in the Northern Trust Open press center at 10:30 with a Mickelson presser set for 11, so naturally he kept that in mind with his opening remarks.

COMMISSIONER FINCHEM:  Thank you, Laura.  Good morning, everyone.  Laura tells me we're on a hard stop here at 11:00, so I'm going to make some brief remarks and see if I can answer your questions.

18 minutes and the entire history of groove squabbles in golf later...

 During these first four weeks, we have had five players  we've had 218 different players play those four tournaments.  Of those 218 players, five different players have actually used a Ping Eye 2 manufactured before 1990; not a huge amount of usage, but a number that was sufficient to create a fair amount of interest, particularly when one of the best players in the world in the short game area chose to use it, which he was fully entitled to do.

And that focus on the rule has led to a couple of things.  One is that there was some unfortunate commentary by other players in the media in the last week or so, and let me just pause there and restate, as I issued my statement last week, these are the rules of golf.  Any player is entitled under these rules to play a Ping Eye 2 wedge designed before 1990 if he so chooses.  There is nothing wrong with that.  There is nothing that violates the rule.  There is no hidden direction to players or side direction not to play that club, so there is absolutely no basis to criticize a player for doing so.  None.  And to do so in our view is inappropriate.

No grey area there. Makes me wonder if McCarron faced a possible suspension?

With respect to a particular player that used a particularly unfortunate choice of words, I would say that there is perhaps a mitigating factor to the amount of reaction.  There is no justification for certain language being used, but the reaction was stronger than it could have been, had we more intensely last year got in front of players with the details of this rule.

Now, what do I mean by that?

We screwed up?

Well, two years ago when we instituted our drug policy, we made sure that we were in front of every single player in dialogue on the ramifications of drug testing, on the reality that you could be suspended if you violated the drug testing rules, and the dos and don'ts of staying in compliance.  Players paid attention.  They came out and performed, and we haven't had drug issues on this TOUR.  That's not to say we haven't had a violation; that's been reported.  But we haven't had issues.

We didn't act with that level of intensity.  In my view, had we, the reaction to the use of these clubs might have been lesser.  But that is what it is, and I think we're about to close the chapter on that part of the history of this.

Well there you have it, an admission of error, Finchem style.

In this particular case, the most striking thing about the difference between the groove discussion in 1989 and '90, which was based on some tests and led to a lack of confidence on the part of the PGA TOUR or the USGA that you could win a lawsuit, in this case there have been years and years of very careful measurement of data, of the lack of correlation of hitting the ball in the fairway and performing well on the PGA TOUR, so it's a very strong case, and I think that's one of the reasons you didn't see a lawsuit amongst manufacturers here, because there is a strong case.

But the byproduct  I know I've read some people say this is a backdoor attempt to create softer balls.  I'm not aware of anybody that believes that. 

Uh Tim, that's Dick Rugge, USGA for starters.

But I do think that with this rule we really could relax a little bit about the need to fool around with the ball and the driver for an extended period of time.  That's my only view. 

Well good to know that after five weeks you were able to draw a conclusion from the data.


Okay, Phil Is Really, Really Not A Fan Of The USGA And Here Is Why

I just sat through Phil Mickelson's tense news conference where he really let the USGA have it. Because my lunch takes priority, here's what you need to read before we get into his comments which were both incredibly valid and oddly inconsistent.

The story is by E. Michael Johnson and Mike Stachura from last August. It details a late-in-the-game clarification by the USGA and Dick Rugge.

"Manufacturers are reminded of the intent of the new groove regulations as stated in the February 27, 2007 Notice to Manufacturers: The objective of this change is to limit the effectiveness of grooves on shots from the rough to the effect of a traditional V-groove design."

In other words, it doesn't matter if your grooves conform to the written specs, if you create something that makes the ball spin out of the rough more than we like, it's non-conforming.

"We are trying to make it crystal clear that the rule was intended to return the grooves' effectiveness on shots from the rough to that of traditional V-grooves," says Dick Rugge, senior technical director of the USGA. "That's an important factor. It was our clear intent. We developed a number of helpful provisions in the rule for manufacturers. These provisions are not meant to be ways to get around the intent of the rule. If we chose to look the other way in these areas, we wouldn't be upholding our responsibility."

But while Rugge sees it as upholding the USGA's responsibility, some manufacturers view it as something entirely else.

"It's like moving the goal line just as someone is about to score a touchdown," says Michele Szynal, spokeswoman for Callaway Golf, who added the company had products ready to show its tour players starting in August so they could be ready for their January 2010 deadline. "It's our job to maximize golf club performance within the written rules. That's pretty tough to do when the rules change monthly."

And this from Benoit Vincent of Taylor Made:

"It is not a rule, it is a process to control the future," says Benoit Vincent, chief technical officer for TaylorMade. "It's like the adjustability rule. The USGA said submit your adjustability and we will tell you if it's OK. I said 'That's not a rule. That's submit your stuff and if we see something we don't like we will rule even further.' If it's outside what they have studied and what they know, then they will rule against it. So what they are doing here with grooves is typical of what they do."

Okay, that's a table setting, now I'm off to lunch to chew on the Finchem and Mickelson prss conferences. Appetizing!


"I think he needs to clean up his act and show the respect for the game that other people before him have shown.”

More tough words from Tom Watson about Tiger Woods:

“I feel that he has not carried the same stature that other great players that have come along like Jack (Nicklaus), Arnold (Palmer), Byron Nelson, the Hogans, in the sense that there was language and club throwing on the golf course,” said Watson, a playoff loser to Stewart Cink at last year’s British Open.

“You can grant that of a young person that has not been out here for a while. But I think he needs to clean up his act and show the respect for the game that other people before him have shown.”


"It seems like a heavy burden of proof for the Tour to satisfy."

Alex Miceli does some bang-up reporting, confirming that the Tour and PING's John Solheim have talked and that a local rule banning the groovier wedges requires the formation of a committee to push through, and even then it's a reach that the tour can work around the USGA-PING settlement.

The Tour Policy Board triggers the committee’s investigation into the issue. It’s not clear whether the committee has been seated or not. Once it were to be in place, the committee would have a reasonable time to investigate any request.

After an investigation, the committee must reasonably conclude:

1) The equipment significantly affects the nature of the game of golf on the PGA Tour level;

2) The current USGA rules are not adequate to satisfy the Tour Policy Board’s concerns;

3) Legitimate interests of PGA Tour players, manufacturers and other interested persons have been considered;

4) The recommendation of the committee is considered the most reasonable in addressing the problem; and

5) A majority of the committee is in favor of the recommendation.

It seems like a heavy burden of proof for the Tour to satisfy. The grooves rule is here to stay. The question: Are the old Ping Eye2s?


Remembering What The Tour Is Dealing With, John Solheim Edition

It's been suggested by PING that they warned the USGA and PGA Tour of the potential for a groove rule debacle on several occasions. Those were private letters, but in CEO John Solheim's lengthy, rambling and at times bizarre June, 2009 statement voicing opposition to the grooves, he did not warn of any potential oddities with interpretation of the rules.

He did, however, offer some really strange excuses for shelving the groove rules and they are worth reading to better understand how complicated the USGA and PGA Tour's negotiation over the 20-year-old settlement with PING could become.

Oh, and in light of the ebay sale of PING wedges, Solheim certainly got it wrong about resale value:

7. What happens to hundreds of millions of "Used" golf clubs - which have always been an important asset in golf. I believe it is important to many golfers, particularly PING customers, that their used clubs maintain a great trade-in value, often for twenty or more years. I am concerned that declaring that hundreds of millions of previously approved clubs will later be non-conforming will impact the resale value of those clubs. It is wrong to diminish the value of these previously approved clubs purchased by hardworking men and women simply because a few Tour pros (who get their clubs for free) seem to complain that "golfers today have it too easy."


Now That's A Tree!

The PGA Tour, FedEx, The First Tee and Audubon International hosted a photo-op today to launch a new initiative to announce the addition of Anthony Kim to their list of ambassadors (it was probably news to him too) and to plant a tree at Riviera. Not only did Kim get really dressed up, but the PGA Tour spent big money to find a specimen that would give the kids something to look forward to in 2093 when the tree is pushing 15 feet in height.

First, Kim...oh, and I know you'll be shocked to learn that's his IMG agent trailing just inches behind.


And the tree. Look hard, it's that weedy looking thing at their feet.


A Different Take On Riviera's 10th

I used my unique leaping and mid-air suspension abilities to capture this shot of Riviera's famous 10th hole today. Anything for the betterment of the blogosphere, I say.

Click on the image to enlarge...



"Provided that the audience for golf is an older demographic, it can be nothing but good for publications like Golf Digest and SI's Golf Magazine"

Ryan Ballengee reviews Golf Digest's PGA Show unveiling of a digital publication suitable for tablet devices and manages to obtain a video clip of the presentation.