Twitter: GeoffShac
Writing And Videos
  • Tommy's Honor: The Story of Old Tom Morris and Young Tom Morris, Golf's Founding Father and Son
    Tommy's Honor: The Story of Old Tom Morris and Young Tom Morris, Golf's Founding Father and Son
    by Kevin Cook
  • His Ownself: A Semi-Memoir (Anchor Sports)
    His Ownself: A Semi-Memoir (Anchor Sports)
    by Dan Jenkins
  • Players: The Story of Sports and Money, and the Visionaries Who Fought to Create a Revolution
    Players: The Story of Sports and Money, and the Visionaries Who Fought to Create a Revolution
    by Matthew Futterman

I may be wrong, but I believe that the golfers of today want originality. Even those who are not particularly analytical sense the difference between a purely natural hole and one which suggests the artificial.  A.W. TILLINGHAST



“There's 18 of them.”

Tod Leonard takes a closer look at Ritz Carlton Golf Club's greens and notes that the course is signed through 2014 to host the Accenture Match Play. And we know, PGA Tour contracts are ironclad. Well, unless the course starts scaring players away. Something to watch in this case.

It was clear from Woods' comments about the tricked-up greens designed by Jack Nicklaus that the world's top player was not a fan. “If they had them at normal tour speed, they would be unplayable,” Woods said.

That's Tiger-speak for “I hate 'em.”

He wasn't the only one.

Asked to talk about the greens, Love said, “There's 18 of them.”

Said Camilo Villegas: “I probably don't want to compare this to any other golf course. I got to say it's unique. It's different. The greens are very severe.”

Nicklaus designed the course specifically to host the Match Play, but it is supposed to be played by resort golfers at all other times, and yet it looks like three-putt city for anybody with a handicap in the double digits. Hardly a relaxing experience.

“Unfortunately, whenever a golf course is designed with a golf tournament in mind, I don't think they take the other 51 weeks into mind really,” Ogilvy said. “I've got the feeling maybe some adjustments will be made in the next few months.


Q&A With George Kirsch

George Kirsch is the author of an important new book: Golf In America. A literate and entertaining read, Kirsch's meticulously researched study of the American game offers a timely perspective. Obviously, anyone with an interest in seeing how golf reinvents itself during these lean times will value the information gleaned from Golf In America.

A history professor at Manhattan College, Mr. Kirsch answered a few questions via email.

GS: What motivated you to undertake such a daunting topic?

GK: After writing two books about early baseball and editing several volumes of sports documents and one ethnic sports encyclopedia, I was looking for a new subject. I have played golf since I was fourteen, so golf history was a natural topic for me. Also, when I began my research I was surprised to discover that no one had written a social history of golf that covered social class, gender, racial and ethnic aspects of the sport.

GS: In looking at the history of golf in America, you reveal in many ways that its place in American life goes beyond the country club world. Yet the sport is facing a backlash these days because it is viewed as a game for the corporate elite. Can we get past this perception?

GK: In American culture it is very hard to change the public’s perception of any topic which has been reinforced by the media for a long time. This is true even when the facts clearly refute the prevailing myths. After all, many people still believe that Abner Doubleday invented baseball at Cooperstown, New York. Golf commentators on television and golf writers focus on tournaments held at private clubs, and showcase country club life and the best players. One of my main goals in writing Golf in America was to prove that the democratization of golf in the United States began as early as the 1890s with the first municipal courses in New York City, Boston, Chicago, and other cities. Sportscasters and newspaper and magazine writers need to remind the public that there are millions of working class and middle class golfers of both sexes and all races and ethnic groups who play the game on municipal and semiprivate daily fee courses.

GS: You explain how golf was viewed as important back then because it was a vital recreational sport and now we hear less about its benefits to health and fitness. Would you blame this on the emergence of the cart?

GK: I agree that although the advent of the motorized cart in the 1950s enabled many elderly and infirm men and women to enjoy playing golf for many more years, it also drastically reduced the health and exercise benefits for many people who were perfectly capable of walking for eighteen holes. In the early 1900s proponents of golf recommended it as an ideal sport for men past the age of thirty who could no longer play active team sports such as football, basketball, or even baseball. Today jogging and fitness training have become more popular than golf and even tennis for physical fitness. But it is still true that one of the major attractions of golf as a recreational pastime is that it provides people with the opportunity to spend four or five hours in a beautiful country setting, which is a welcome relief for city dwellers and even suburbanites and good for their mental health.

GS: You feature an excellent chapter on golf during the Great Depression. Do you see parallels to today's economic crisis and ways that golf will survive as it did during the Depression?

GK: Yes, there are many parallels. Many country clubs including several very upscale associations have already responded to declining membership by waiving pricey admission fees for new members. Other clubs have offered trial one-year memberships or delayed or extended payment of dues. If the hard times continue, many country clubs will have to resort to other remedies applied during the 1930s, including admitting classes of people who would have been denied entrance during more flush times and creating less expensive “house” or “associate” categories of membership. Officers will also be hard pressed to maintain balanced budgets. During the Depression golfers who could no longer afford club dues patronized semiprivate and public facilities, which were generally in a sorry state of neglect. Under the Franklin D. Roosevelt administration between 1935 and 1937 the Works Progress Administration spent more than ten million dollars on 368 public courses nationwide, including sixty-two new facilities. Today’s municipal courses are in better shape, but some no doubt could benefit from improvements. But the recent federal stimulus legislation does not seem to include funds for renovation of municipal links. Another difference today is that now many real estate developments that feature golf courses are in financial trouble, and their management cannot maintain them in good condition. That was not a major problem in the 1930s.

GS: In the book you look at the role Presidents have played both in things like the WPA, and also just by their very participation in the game, or in John Kennedy's case, closeted participation. How do you see Barack Obama's affinity for the sport comparing to past Presidents and perhaps influencing golf's image?

GK: Barack Obama’s combination of basketball and golf as favorite pastimes is unusual for Presidents. I don’t think he will have as much impact on golf as did William Howard Taft and Woodrow Wilson, who really played a critical role in the democratization of the game early in the twentieth century, or especially Dwight Eisenhower, whose influence was so important during the 1950s. If he plays a few rounds with Tiger Woods that might further enhance golf’s growing popularity among middle class and affluent African Americans. If he counts every stroke it would be an improvement over Bill Clinton.

GS: In light of your research and perspective, how do you see the next few years playing out?

GK: History suggests that golf in the United States has weathered previous hard times of depression and war quite well. The game still seems to remain popular among tens of millions of participants. The key for the near future is the cost of playing on municipal and semiprivate courses. Many of the daily fee facilities are now charging high green fees, so I expect that the cheaper public links will be even more crowded in the largest cities. It remains to be seen whether further rounds of suburbanization will also result in more golf courses. The various minority and youth programs sponsored by the PGA, USGA, and Tiger Woods should help. Changing family trends will make it more difficult for fathers to spend four or five hours away from their families on weekends. Women will gain more equal treatment at country clubs.


"Here’s all anyone needs to know about a most peculiar West Coast Swing: PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem played more rounds than Tiger Woods."

Doug Ferguson sums up what he sees as a lackluster West Coast Swing and reports that the Commish is working the phones trying to find sponsors. I don't think it was quite as week as Ferguson says when you consider the quality of winners and the absence of Tiger. After we watch Florida golf the next month this year's West Coast will look brilliant.

Of course, he has a point when the entire thing was set against this ominous backdrop:

In a video message to players last December, Finchem encouraged them to show support by adding an event they don’t normally play.

Four players competed in every tournament for which they were eligible – Pat Perez, Alex Cejka, Brendon de Jonge and Dean Wilson. Those probably weren’t the players Finchem had in mind.

For his part, Finchem showed up at every tournament on the West Coast except for Phoenix and Mexico.

This is a critical year for the commissioner as he works to extend title sponsorship at some 20 tournaments that expire in 2010. Results have been mixed. Accenture and Travelers (Hartford) have renewed through 2014, but FBR (Phoenix), U.S. Bank (Milwaukee) and Ginn Resorts (Fall Series in Florida) already are out.

“I’m losing my voice and people ask me if I’m sick,” Finchem said. “It’s because I’m on the phone all the time.”


Callaway Sues Titleist...Again

E. Michael Johnson reports that these lovebirds can't get enough of each other in court. This time it's over the 2009 version of the Pro V1.


"Right before our eyes, the American poster boy turns into the American idiot."

Derek Lawrenson throws in this gem at the end of his weekly column about the next great American hope. Now, I know that to play the game at a high level requires a quiet mind, but this is getting to be a bit much.

Anthony Kim, America's savior:

"Oh, really? I didn't know Colin had been made captain. I don't follow golf that much." Anthony Kim, when asked about Monty being made Europe's Ryder Cup skipper. Right before our eyes, the American poster boy turns into the American idiot.


Are Top Players Playing More?

In attempt to determine whether players listened to Tim Finchem's plea for more appearances, John Strege takes a look at the West Coast Swing appearances of top players, subtracts Vijay and Tiger because of their injuries, and offers this:

Of the other 28 players, 11 played fewer PGA Tour events through the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship in 2009 than they did through the same event in 2008; eight played more events; and nine played the same number. 


"Membership Without Privileges"

Thanks to reader Scott for catching Dave Andrews' nice bit of reporting on some Duramed Futures Tour players having almost no LPGA Tour status, despite tour press releases to the contrary.


"Modern equipment has played a large part in this rush of young blood."

While Ron Sirak attributes the emergence of teens Rory, Ryo and Danny to Tiger, John Huggan says their success at a young age may be thanks to equipment changes.

Such a phenomenon is relatively new in men's professional golf, certainly in terms of so many new and unshaven faces arriving at once. Where the women's game has long seen wee lassies in their mid-to-late teens capable of contending in the biggest events, it has traditionally taken longer for physically less mature laddies to achieve similar heights.


So it is that, where the separation between good and great used to have much to do with the aesthetically pleasing art form that was shot-making, today the game is more about raw power. Very early – much earlier than before – young players armed with the requisite talent and nerve to survive with the very best begin playing basically the same muscle-bound game favoured by their supposed superiors. Accompanied by squeals of anger and disappointment from purists everywhere, draw, fade and feather have been replaced by crash, bang and wallop.

Which is not to say that there is not a lot of fun to be had from watching this new generation of stars in action

True, but will the quality of play ultimately be impacted the way a rush of youth in the NBA has affected play, or is this just a natural progression of the sport?



“Evidence is also mounting that the assets of the estate will be only a fraction of the amount needed to satisfy the anticipated claims against the estate"

Not a huge shock here, but it looks like Stanford Financial has few assets to pay off investors or "Eagles for St. Jude."

Speaking of that program, it appears that primary sponsor Stanford has been erased from the program website already, even though it had been announced at one time. At least, I can't find their logo anywhere. Not counting Vijay's shirt (left).


"Arguments for a 36-hole final dry up pretty quickly -- especially when this option offers the potential of more compelling, star-studded action deeper into the week."

John Maginnes weighs the pros and cons of the WGC match play's 36-hole final and can't find any good reasons to keep playing two rounds for the finale.

His piece appears on the Mothership's own website, so maybe this idea is gaining momentum? (Or, for conspiracy theorists, the decision has been made and the idea was merely started in Ponte Vedra and NBC...either way, Sunday semi's followed by an 18-hole final match would be a wise switch for everyone involved.)


"So you feel for Jack a little bit because you're not allowed to do it any more."

I thought Geoff Ogilvy was kind (and insightful) on the subject of what appears to be another Jack Nicklaus design players don't care for. Geoff's typically original analysis:

Q. Tiger earlier in the week said these greens were quite severe. What's the difference between big curvaceous greens like these and big curvy greens like at Augusta National?

GEOFF OGILVY: The greens at Augusta look like they're supposed to -- they look like -- they look right. Most of them are built on the hill that they're on, their natural looking slopes, it doesn't look like people moved too much dirt to make those greens.

These ones look a little contrived. And they're a bit -- Augusta has the bigger sweeping kind of more natural looking hills. These ones have a few little steep things and such.

But it's probably almost genius greens. I mean, all the best golf courses in the world have really slopey greens. So you can see what he's trying to do. Greens are getting too flat probably because greens are getting too fast. You couldn't design Augusta right now, every player would walk off if we walked into Augusta the first time we had ever seen it, played a brand new golf course, we would all quit after nine holes. We would all say, "I can't play this, it's ridiculous."

So you feel for Jack a little bit because you're not allowed to do it any more. But they look -- I don't mind big slopes. I just don't -- they just don't look as natural as Oakmont or Saint Andrews or Augusta like the truly natural slopey ones.

So he's really saying that an architect can still pull off big, sloping greens if the contours are built properly.

Now, the three courses cited by Ogilvy all had one thing in common at the time of their creation: they were not constrained by USGA spec greens.  Augusta has since gone to USGA greens and according to the people I trust who played them before and after, have lost a great deal of their character in the way of neat little bumps and rolls.

Not that this is a legitimate defense of poor green design, but it is something to keep in mind as the players pile on The Ritz Carlton Golf Club at Dove Mountain. (And if they were lukewarm while at the tournament, it only gets worse when they get off property! Playing PGA National this week won't help.)


"In match play Sunday, it's a pairing sheet -- as in singular."

After reading Steve Elling's lament of the match play format and its impact on attendance, the SI guys suggestion of Sunday morning semi's followed by a Sunday afternoon final really is a great idea.

Last year, Woods played in the Accenture final against fellow Ryder Cupper Stewart Cink and the day drew an announced crowd of 7,500 fans. The tour's turnstile count for Sunday's Casey-Ogilvy tilt was 6,270. Setting aside the meaningless consolation match, for fans, it's essentially an all-or-nothing proposition on Sundays. There are only two players to watch over the course of an entire day, whereas a stroke-play format would have 70 or more guys to eyeball on the weekend.

In match play Sunday, it's a pairing sheet -- as in singular.

The 6,000 are clogged up, all walking on the same hole or two, making sightlines more challenging, too. Match play is a square peg on a round golf hole. That's probably why it's best left for quirky events like the Ryder and Presidents cups. Once a year is plenty.


Ogilvy Over The Final 36

From Derek Lawrenson's WGC Match Play game story:

But all credit needs to be given to the prodigiously gifted Ogilvy, who had no bogeys and was 12 under for the holes played, a marvellous feat at the end of such a draining tournament.

From Helen Ross at

Over Ogilvy's last 56 holes, the numbers were even more eye-popping with 22 birdies, two eagles and just one bogey. He mowed down Kevin Sutherland, Shingo Katayama, Camilo Villegas, Rory McIlroy, Stewart Cink and Casey as he ran his record to 17-2.

And breaks all of the numbers down here, including the scorecard.


"Johnny at least could have stuck around Saturday night when the golf ran long and NBC gave way to Golf Channel."

In the latest edition of the weekly epic known as the SI Golf Plus/ Magazine/Fortune/Time Inc/AOL "PGA Tour Confidential," the guys and gals kick around poor old Johnny Miller, who apparently had a big dinner date Saturday in Tucson that precluded him from staying on when coverage went to Golf Channel.

It seemed even more bizarre to me that the NBC lead man was trying so hard figure out why Jack Nicklaus scattered bunkers all over the Ritz Carlton GC at Dove Mountain's 4th fairway instead of pinching down the landing area like Johnny on his many wonderful, timeless designs.

After the SI gang seems to decide that the 36-hole final needs to go (I would agree, the morning 18 was the best part and only five spectators saw it), the group debates the merits of Johnny:

David Dusek, deputy editor, Sorry, but I think a big part of the problem was not only 36 holes, but Johnny Miller too. It kills me to listen to him answer his own questions when he is tossing to Maltbie or Koch. He has opinions, and that's refreshing, but it's All Johnny, All The Time, and it gets old fast.

Gorant: Disagree. It's definitely Johnny and the Johnettes, but he still works for me. Koch on the other hand is not my favorite. Hate the "that's a good lesson for you folks at home" tips he's always throwing in. If you see it, describe it. If I can glean something from that, great; if not, OK, but stop talking down to me.

Hack: Johnny at least could have stuck around Saturday night when the golf ran long and NBC gave way to Golf Channel. Johnny was out of that booth at 6:01 p.m. Eastern.

Herre: I'm a Johnny guy. Even after 20 years, he has an unpolished quality that I like. You can tell he's going with the gut. Yes, Koch and Maltbie come off as sycophants, but I don't know if that's Johnny's fault.

For some reason I thought Johnny's lack of genuine passion for golf architecture really shined this week on a new course that needed explaining. One example: The ninth hole appeared to have a really neat bit of strategy where a safe drive left gave the players a blind second shot while a longer, riskier line opened up a view of the green. Nothing original mind you, but great to see Nicklaus at least trying to do something interesting. And Johnny just couldn't get past the blind second shot or the aforementioned swarm of bunkers on the par-4 4th, where Jack actually dared to break up the center line.

I'm not saying the holes worked, but at least there were signs Nicklaus was trying to do something that warranted further explanation beyond the required raves about a new place that players clearly didn't care for.



Barkley Censored Twice In The Tiny Portion Of Promo Telling Us The Show Is Uncensored!

Having now committed The Haney Project with Charles Barkley spot that Golf Channel aired relentelessly over four days of the Accenture Match Play, I chuckled each time they mentioned "uncensored" and then bleeped out whatever obscenity came from Barkley's mouth.

Yet even after airing number 416, I still missed what a reader picked up when Barkley's driver head flies off and he utters the dreaded profanity: Golf Channel blurs out his headcover to protect the innocent maker of some crappily crafted $500 pile of junk!

A double censoring. But the show is uncensored!

And no, that is not a giant fingerprint on my widescreen:

Totally censored! (click to enlarge)



Ogilvy Vows To Keep Shaving Until He Loses

Sporting a clean shaven face to the delight of the PGA Tour Fines and Overall Appearance staff which tired of writing Kapalua-week emails to the Australian, Geoff Ogilvy polished off the impressive but grooming-challenged Rory McIlroy in the morning's fourth round, then knocked off pace-of-play outlier Stewart Cink in the afternoon semi-final to setup a Sunday showdown with Paul Casey.

Doug Ferguson on the rather astounding match play records of both finalists:

A tournament that no longer has Tiger Woods instead has the best two golfers in match play over the last three years.

Ogilvy is 17-2 in match play dating to his 2006 victory at the Accenture Match Play Championship, the final year it was held at La Costa. That includes a singles victory in the Presidents Cup.

Casey is 16-3-1 in match play around the world, including his 2006 victory at the HSBC World Match Play Championship at Wentworth, when he never trailed over the final 71 holes of that event. 



Nothing That A Depression Won't Fix, Vol. 34

Bloomberg's Michael Buteau looked at golf fallout from the economic crisis and something tells me that this falls into the "needed to happen" category:

Maintenance crews at Atlanta Athletic, where golfing legend Bobby Jones grew up playing the game, will soon start cutting the fairways in a back-and-forth pattern, instead of the more decorative crisscross. The adjustment will save about 100 gallons of diesel fuel a month, or about $2,300 a year, said Ken Mangum, the grounds superintendent.

“You’re looking at every little thing you can to save a dollar,” Mangum said. Fewer flowers will be planted, something “spoiled” golfers will have to get used to, he said.


"It's not the clients and company executives who suffer if companies cancel their events. They'll find other fun things to do that weekend."

The WSJ's John Paul Newport on the PGA Tour sponsorship issues from this week:

Golf, with its traditional fat-cat image, is an easy target for abuse, some of it deserved. I'm one who has long believed the game skews too fancy for its own good. But the trouble with this week's rabble-rousing, apart from whatever damage it does to the effective business practices of banks and other troubled companies, such as the automakers, is the chill it casts over the entire microeconomy of golf, and of sports in general.

A few weeks ago I wrote about how the drying up of corporate outings to golf resorts, mostly for fear of projecting the wrong image in the current economic environment, was creating travel bargains for the rest of us. But it is also devastating the golf resort and hospitality industry. The same holds true for the drying up of client entertainment at golf and other sports events.

"It's not the clients and company executives who suffer if companies cancel their events. They'll find other fun things to do that weekend. It's the 20 guys who valet-park cars for minimum wage plus tips, the 15 cooks in the kitchen, the six dishwashers, the rigging guys who put up the stage, the housekeepers who make up the hotel rooms where people stay," said David Israel, a TV producer who is involved in the sports economy as vice chairman of the California Horse Racing Commission and past president of the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum Commission.


"It seems to me that if the goal is to get the financial system working normally again, you've got to let businesses do what they know how to do best to make money," Mr. Israel said.


Northern Trust Hostage Crisis Day Four: Resolution Could Be Near! 

Tom Petruno reports that Northern Trust is laying the ground work to possibly pay back their TARP money and to quiet their critics.

The bank hasn't said so directly, but it most likely didn't need the capital infusion, and went along with it because the government wanted participation by healthy and unhealthy banks alike.

In his letter to Frank, Waddell said: "We understand this is a time of great anxiety and financial distress, and your question regarding our support of an event such as the Northern Trust Open is legitimate.

"We deeply regret that some of the events associated with the Northern Trust Open have distracted from the positive nature of an event that has raised more than $50 million for charity since its inception."

As for repaying the $1.6 billion, which now is earning a 5% annual dividend yield for the Treasury, it isn't clear how easy that will be.

One key question is whether the government will require the bank to raise the same amount in private capital to replace the federal money, a task that could take some time.

Meanwhile SportsMediaWatch reports that the Northern Trust Open was the highest rated golf broadcast since the 2008 U.S. Open.

Highest rated golf events since Tiger Woods' injury.
3.3: Northern Trust Open, Final Round (Sun., 2/22/09, 3 PM CBS)
3.3: British Open, Final Round (Sun., 7/20/08, 8 AM ABC)
2.9: Ryder Cup, Singles Matches (Sun., 9/21/08, 12:30 PM NBC)
2.8: PGA Championship, Final Round (Sun., 8/10/08, 2:30 PM CBS)
2.4: British Open, Third Round (Sat., 7/19/08, 9 AM ABC)
2.4: Ryder Cup, Foursomes/Fourball Matches (Sat., 9/20/08, 9:30 AM NBC)


House Un-American Activities Committee May Be Reconvened To Study Vagaries Of Match Play

I can't wait to read the "vagaries" of match play excuses for the latest example of American inferiority at the WGC (well, Phil and Tiger losing before the here for Sean, Justin and Stewart!). So far  the coverage has focused on Rory McIlroy and his match-up with Geoff Ogilvy Saturday morning.

Lawrence Donegan shares this observation from Ernie Els:

"You are probably looking at the next world No1," said Els when asked to assess McIlroy. He should know what is required to climb the summit, having spent a lifetime in pursuit of the game's ultimate accolade.

And this on the American performance:

Even the American audience, dazed that Woods is no longer among them, was forced to take notice of McIlroy's achievement and it says something of his impact on this side of the Atlantic that he featured prominently during American television coverage of yesterday's play.

American attention was tweaked, too, by the efforts of a quartet of English players on the other side of the draw. "British No-Names Take Course By Storm" declared the morning edition of the local newspaper in Tucson. It was not exactly complimentary, and by the close of play last night it was not entirely accurate.

Of the four, Ross Fisher, who defeated Jim Furyk 4&3, and Paul Casey, who edged out Peter Hanson by a margin of 3&2, progressed into today's quarter- finals, while Ian Poulter went down to Sean O'Hair and Oliver Wilson finally fell to Justin Leonard at the first extra hole. Not so much a British storm, more of a stiff English breeze.