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Books
  • 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
  • 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
  • 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
  • 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
  • The Good Doctor Returns: A Novel
    The Good Doctor Returns: A Novel
    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
  • The Captain: George C. Thomas Jr. and His Golf Architecture
    The Captain: George C. Thomas Jr. and His Golf Architecture
    by Geoff Shackelford
Current Reading
  • Men in Green
    Men in Green
    by Michael Bamberger
  • Unplayable Lies: (The Only Golf Book You'll Ever Need)
    Unplayable Lies: (The Only Golf Book You'll Ever Need)
    by Dan Jenkins
  • Professional Golf 2015: The Complete Media, Fan and Fantasy Guide
    Professional Golf 2015: The Complete Media, Fan and Fantasy Guide
    by Daniel Wexler
  • The Forbidden Game: Golf and the Chinese Dream
    The Forbidden Game: Golf and the Chinese Dream
    by Dan Washburn
  • Arnie, Seve, and a Fleck of Golf History: Heroes, Underdogs, Courses, and Championships
    Arnie, Seve, and a Fleck of Golf History: Heroes, Underdogs, Courses, and Championships
    by Bill Fields
  • Unplayable Lies: (The Only Golf Book You'll Ever Need)
    Unplayable Lies: (The Only Golf Book You'll Ever Need)
    by Dan Jenkins

    Kindle Edition

  • The Magnificent Masters: Jack Nicklaus, Johnny Miller, Tom Weiskopf, and the 1975 Cliffhanger at Augusta
    The Magnificent Masters: Jack Nicklaus, Johnny Miller, Tom Weiskopf, and the 1975 Cliffhanger at Augusta
    by Gil Capps
Classics
  • Golf Architecture in America: Its Strategy and Construction
    Golf Architecture in America: Its Strategy and Construction
    by Geo. C. Thomas
  • The Course Beautiful : A Collection of Original Articles and Photographs on Golf Course Design
    The Course Beautiful : A Collection of Original Articles and Photographs on Golf Course Design
    Treewolf Prod
  • Reminiscences Of The Links
    Reminiscences Of The Links
    by Albert Warren Tillinghast, Richard C. Wolffe, Robert S. Trebus, Stuart F. Wolffe
  • Gleanings from the Wayside
    Gleanings from the Wayside
    by Albert Warren Tillinghast
  • Planet Golf USA: The Definitive Reference to Great Golf Courses in America
    Planet Golf USA: The Definitive Reference to Great Golf Courses in America
    by Darius Oliver
  • Planet Golf: The Definitive Reference to Great Golf Courses Outside the United States of America
    Planet Golf: The Definitive Reference to Great Golf Courses Outside the United States of America
    by Darius Oliver
Writing And Videos

One must take time to know the Old Course in all its moods. One must study the subtleties of its terrain and its curiously shifting winds. One must find its hidden snares and one must approach it without preconceptions of what a golf course should be. To be down the middle may mean nothing there; that may be quite the wrong place. To be long may mean nothing in less length is shrewdly used. To be able to play a few shots perfectly is not always enough; one must at times have the full repertoire.  ROBERT HUNTER


    

Wednesday
Feb132008

"It's about unchaining from a relationship but in a broader sense, the feel, the rhythm is kind of airy feeling."

Commissioner Tim Finchem for a Golf Channel roundtable with Tim Rosaforte, Rich Lerner and New York Times correspondent Larry Dorman as part of a what media tenters said is an intentional "rebranding." Oddly, it did not include an exclusive to GeoffShackelford.com's reporter on the property, but I'll keep trying.

roundtable_450.jpgWhile Golf Channel hasn't posted the interview online (and scheduled to air this weekend on Golf Central), we have a few hints of what to look for. Note the photo from PGATour.com, where Larry Dorman looks like he's just sat through one of the Commish's mind numbingly wordy answers.

Helen Ross at PGATour.com sat in on the chat and shares some of the stunning revelations we can look forward to.

Finchem talked about drug-testing, the success of the FedExCup and the TOUR's new cut policy, which is currently being reviewed. The most interesting part of the wide-ranging, 45-minute discussion, though, may have been about the commissioner himself.

Like his prowess in the kitchen, which is as considerable as Finchem's solid 5 handicap on the relatively rare occasions he gets to play golf. While it's been written that he's a gourmet cook, Finchem stopped well short of calling himself a chef.

"I follow recipes -- there's a big difference between that and being a chef," a relaxed Finchem said with a smile. "I find cooking to be therapeutic. I don't know if I am a single digit handicap as a cook, though. It depends on what I'm cooking."

And what would a Finchem rebranding be without a mention of that Steel Wheels tour, back when Charlie Watts had dark hair and people still bought CD's.

Finchem, as the father of three teenaged daughters, is marginally acquainted with hip-hop and rap. His tastes, though, run more toward classic rock and roll, most specifically the Rolling Stones and the Eagles.

"Steel Wheels, was in '89, '90," Finchem said, "flexing his rock and roll chops," Lerner interjected. "In '94 when the Stones were in San Francisco during THE TOUR Championship, that was a pretty good show.

"(I like) the Eagles, too. I went with Peter Jacobsen in '96 to see the Eagles, and of course, Glenn Frey is a big (golfer). They're probably the best band of all time. I've seen them twice since. They put on a phenomenal show."

You don't think Freud would have something to say about Finchem's favorite song?

Among his favorite Eagles songs is Already Gone. "The song just makes you feel freedom," Finchem said. "Just personal freedom. It's about unchaining from a relationship but in a broader sense, the feel, the rhythm is kind of airy feeling."

Already gone? Hmmm...wonder if that's what he cranks up on those days when John Daly is being John Daly?  

Wednesday
Feb132008

Northern Trust Open Photo Caption Fun, Vol. 1

Tim Rosaforte, Tim Finchem at Riviera after the Commish's appearance to settle the Rule 78 issue. What is being said?

RosaforteFinchem.jpg 

Tuesday
Feb122008

Greetings From Los Angeles, Vol. 1, 2008 Edition

greetingsfromLA.jpegGreetings from the  Los Angeles Open  Glen Campell Los Angeles Open  Los Angeles Open Presented by Nissan  Nissan Los Angeles Open  Nissan Open Northern Trust Open. The new sponsors clearly have money to burn along with the PGA Tour's best championship management folks whispering in their ears. The signage and presentation has been classed up (except for one tacky decision you can see in the photo below). More importantly, the media center upgraded significantly (I know that's just the news you were waiting to hear).

I toured the back nine today with John Mutch of the PGA Tour field staff and watched him prepare his plans for hole locations and tee placement. The excellent greens seem soft to the foot but balls are taking a nice first bounce before checking, so it should be a lot like last year's excellent event where you'll see plenty of good rounds rewarding accurate play and yet a nice dispersion of scores. The way it should be.  

Who it favors? I have no idea. Go with Daniel Wexler's preview and his listing of the betting odds for a better idea.  

Sadly, the pre-tournament talk is not about green firmness but instead, about rough, which is very benign. Just once it would be refreshing to read a pre-tournament article about how they are hoping to firm things up, not about rough heights and density. With today's grooves, it really is pointless to worry about rough when it's firmness that tests the players.

As always, the highlight included watching guys play No. 10. Steve Marino missed a hole in one by two inches, but even more fun was talking to Zach Johnson about his strategy depending on the hole location. Laying up all four days is not in the cards.

Tiger's absense certainly can be felt in the size of the crowd, which was tiny. However, I haven't yet to hear anyone say they really miss him. Which is good since I don't think he'll be back anytime soon. Still, with 17 of the top 20 in the world on a great layout with a solid weather forecast, the "Northern Trust" is doing just fine.

Riviera10NorthernTrustLogo.jpg 

 

Tuesday
Feb122008

"Steve Lowery looks like he might do 10 minutes of breathing exercises or something."

On his CBSSports.com blog, Steve Elling shares this from Fred Funk:

"Not everybody’s in great shape on the Champions Tour or the regular tour," said Fred Funk, appearing at media day Monday for the Ginn Championship in Palm Coast, Fla. "I’m going to throw Steve Lowery under the bus. Yesterday, I came back from practicing, and I got home just in time for the playoff, and here’s Vijay Singh, who works out who knows how many hours a day plus hitting balls how many hours a day – 12 hours of his day is some sort of working out or practicing.

"Steve Lowery looks like he might do 10 minutes of breathing exercises or something. Steve is a great player, but it just doesn’t mean a whole hill of beans all the time."

Here was Steve at Riviera today. Fred might be onto something:

LoweryGut.jpg 

 

Tuesday
Feb122008

"Gearing Up for Northern Trust"

Golf Channel is doing the ESPN thing by airing a show celebrating themselves and their construction of an on-site studio to host their various shows this week. However, they promise a segment on Riviera's history, which I talked to them about. Not sure if I'll make the final edit, but just in case there are small children watching, I thought you should be warned.

Air times are Wednesday, February 13th from 7:30 PM - 8:00 PM EST and 1:00-1:30 A.M EST.

Tuesday
Feb122008

"Don't let them just stick a peg in the ground and bomb it."

gwar03_080215chambers.jpgA couple of interesting bits over on GolfDigest.com flesh out the Chambers Bay-2015 U.S. Open story, starting with this hunch-confirming item from Ron Sirak that indeed, the USGA was hoping to not prevent a repeat of Whistling Straits.

When Whistling Straits opened to raves in 1998, the PGA of America acted quickly and in January 2000 awarded the Wisconsin course the 2004 PGA Championship, essentially planting its flag on the property. Whistling Straits performed so well it was given the PGA in 2010 and 2015 as well as the 2020 Ryder Cup. The USGA made certain it did not miss out on Chambers Bay.

"I think that is a fair representation," USGA president James F. Vernon said when asked if Whistling Straits provided a lesson. "We thought we had found something special [in Chambers Bay], and we wanted to, not stake a claim, but we really did want to make it clear that we wanted to have an opportunity to have a championship on it."
Meanwhile Ron Whitten does an amazing job on short notice (or did he have advance warning!?) filling us in on details about Chambers and the quest to get an Open. One of the more interesting things we learn is this note on the tees:
There is hardly a flat spot on the premises, and that includes the tee boxes. In what may be the first truly original design idea of the 21st century, Charlton convinced his colleagues to abandon traditional tee pads in favor of long, skinny, free-flowing ribbons of teeing space. Many are not much wider than walking paths; many are recessed rather than elevated; most are gently contoured with a variety of flats spots just the size of throw rugs. The idea is to pick the lie that might best help shape a shot off the tee: sidehill lies if you wish to fade or draw the ball, a slightly uphill lie if you need help getting airborne, a downhill lie if you want to keep it under the wind, or a flat lie. It's too early to know whether USGA officials will accept those unorthodox teeing areas for the U.S. Open. Jones hopes they will.

"We'll probably address that after the [2010] U.S. Amateur," he says. "But it's not like there are no flat spots out there. We have dozens of 'batter's boxes' within the undulations. I would hope they'd position the markers far apart and let golfers chose their particular lies. Our goal was to get into the players' minds, even on the tee, and to put some integrity back into tee shots. Don't let them just stick a peg in the ground and bomb it."

Wouldn't it be great if they USGA embraced this and sent a message that tees do not have to be perfectly level? Or is that just too retro for you? 

Tuesday
Feb122008

"You've gotta love it when Camp Ponte Vedra pledges to do what's best for the players, then drops its crown jewel of the West Coast swing in the middle of a cactus farm."

In John Hawkins' latest edition of the Aristocratic Golfer, he vents about the poor venue choice for next week's WGC Accenture Match Play.  He somehow manages to make a lousy point that leads directly to an excellent point that often seems to go overlooked in Ponte Vedra when selecting new venues:

Forgive me for trying to make sense, but why not move the Match Play north to the TPC Scottsdale? Pro golf's largest galleries would totally invigorate this feeble gathering -- it's hard to imagine those crowds getting any smaller if they were given a field full of top-50s.

Okay, so that makes no sense. You don't break up the Phoenix Open/FBR at TPC Scottsdale for the WGC match play. However, the thinking was sound: 

Because of the format, which comes with a higher risk in terms of holding TV viewers, no week on the schedule relies more on peripheral factors to make it a success.

On-site buzz ranks first, second and third on the periphery. Of course, it's easy for me to say. I wasn't in the board room when the tour agreed to transfer the elephants to a petting zoo.

A case could be made that on-site buzz is fueled in part by compelling architecture that excites fans. And playing within 15 miles a population base helps too. 

Tuesday
Feb122008

Danny Gans Helps Fuel AT&T Pro-Am Ratings Slide

After all, he's no Phil Harris.

From the Sports Media Watch blog:

2.6/5: PGA Tour on CBS, AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, Final Round (3 PM Sunday)
1.9/5: PGA Tour on CBS, AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, Third Round (3 PM Saturday)

    * While the Pro Bowl and NASCAR saw their ratings increase, the PGA saw major declines for the Pebble Beach Pro-Am. Third round coverage drew a 1.9 on Saturday, down 24% from last year, and final round coverage drew a 2.6 on Sunday, down 16%.
Tuesday
Feb122008

Bush Denounces Use Of "Lynch"; "Back Alley" Left Open To Interpretation

Certainly not timely, George Bush seems to have Kelly Tilghman on his mind:

"The noose is not a symbol of prairie justice, but of gross injustice," the president said. "Displaying one is not a harmless prank, and lynching is not a word to be mentioned in jest."

As a civil society, Americans should agree that noose displays and lynching jokes are "deeply offensive," Bush said.

"They are wrong. And they have no place in America today."

 

Sunday
Feb102008

The Power Of Short Grass

For my recent Golf World story on short par-4s, the PGA Tour's communications department provided me all sorts of fascinating stats and "scatter charts" produced from its ShotLink system. There were so many interesting little details that popped up, but one of my favorite was this clear demonstration of how a change at Riviera's 10th impacted play in 2007.Riviear10_2007.jpg

From about 1993 to 2006, a short grass chipping area had been cut on the front left of the green and was one of the reasons the hole vaulted to its place as the world's best short par-4. As I noted in the Golf World sidebar on No. 10, this was the work of Jim McPhilomy, Peter Oosterhuis and consulting architects Ben Crenshaw and Bill Coore.

In 2007, apparently having not gotten the memo that the 10th hole was cited as one of the best holes in the universe, architect Tom Marzolf jacked around with the bunkers, adding several tacky capes and bays while expanding the lay up aiming bunker. But worst of all, he eliminated the short grass area next to the green that had added so much intrigue (see above photo).

I believe it's one reason why there was a 20% increase in players driving the green in 2007. Having longer grass near the green meant balls would stay closer to the putting surface and provide a simpler recovery shot.

So check out the 2006 "scatter chart" with the short grass area (blue means pars made from that tee shot location, red means birdie, blue means par, black means bogey and yellow means eagle).

 Riviera10th2006.jpg

 

 

 

 

 
And now look at the 2007 chart, with the cluster of birdies congregating in the front left area that used to be tightly mown. A fine example how short grass makes a hole more difficult...in a good way:

Riviera10th2007.jpg 

 

Sunday
Feb102008

Chambers Bay Aftermath

628630462_0dae26229f.jpgThe cynical interpretation of the USGA's decision to award the 2015 U.S. Open to Chambers Bay is that this was a money grab designed to prevent the PGA of America from moving in. And what's not to love? It's a muni in the Northwest market where they can structure a favorable contract, erect tents galore and host a concert at the amphitheater currently under construction next to the course.

The optimistic take (the only way I read these things) says this is a victory for architecture and USGA course setup man Mike Davis who is trying to shake things up. Chambers Bay is an all-fescue course, meaning the USGA's usual bowling alley corridor concept simply won't happen in 2014. It's also a Robert Trent Jones Jr. design (well, Bruce Charlton and Jay Blasi), marking a break from the stifling litany of Rees Jones renovated courses fueled in part by David Fay and the Executive Committee's lousy eye for architecture. Most of Rees' work severely limits a creative course setup man like Davis. Couple this with deteriorating relationships at Winged Foot and Shinnecock, and Chambers Bay may be ushering in an era of surprising U.S. Open venue selections.

Now, if the USGA sells a reality show to NBC where Rees is named the Chambers Bay Open Doctor and we get to sit on conversations between he and Bobby over a Rees-jigging of the course, then we know it's a cash grab. But in the meantime, I like the move and look forward to seeing a new course injected into the rotation.

Though I'm curious what you all think of the concern raised by Tom Doak who wrote on GolfClubAtlas.com:

Nothing against Chambers Bay in particular, but I think it's a bad thing -- only because it will make everybody developing a new public course drool unrealistically about hosting a U.S. Open themselves.

We don't need architects to create more potential U.S. Open venues.  We need the USGA to do something about preserving the ones we've got.

He does have a point, no? 

Sunday
Feb102008

Vernon Delivers Acceptance Speech, Manages To Remain On Podium Throughout

Vernon_home.jpgUnlike his predecessor who demonstrated that he was a man of the people by leaving the podium to explain how he planned to become the most maligned president in USGA history, new head man Jim Vernon opted to remain on the stage as he delivered his acceptance speech.

Ken Klavon reports on some of the speech's key lines. This one ought to be news to someone's ears, though I'm not entirely sure who. 

“We are committed to basing the rules on scientifically supported facts and not anecdotes,” said Vernon.


Sunday
Feb102008

"Unbelievable, this guy."

perez021008-183x256.jpgThanks to reader Jeremy for this AP story on Pat Perez pondering the possibility of playing Tiger Woods in the match play. Definitely a much better answer than Stephen Ames gave:

The more Perez thought about the prospects of facing Woods, however, the better it sounded. Last year, those who lost in the first round still earned $40,000.

"It would be a free show for me, watch him play," he said. "Unbelievable, this guy. I can't lose either way. If I beat him, I'm a hero. If I don't, I'm not supposed to win. If I beat him, I may quit, just pack in it. If anybody asks, 'When was the last time you played? Aw, I beat Tiger. I'm done.'"

According to this Doug Ferguson story filed after the completion of AT&T Pro-Am play Perez will get Woods in the opening round.

Sunday
Feb102008

Lowery Win Could Pave Way For Razor Purchase Sometime This Week

lowery_trophy_t1.jpgGritty and Steve Lowery normally wouldn't register with me, but hey, he just beat Vijay in a playoff as the former No. 305th ranked player in the world. 

Doug Ferguson reports, including a hint that perhaps he's not sold on Vijay's revamped swing. Not that Vijay was ready to talk about it, since I don't see a transcript for him on the ASAP page. Now posted are his comments. Short and sweet!

Meanwhile several readers wrote to make sure that Bill Walters win with Frederic Jacobsen was noted for it's ridiculousness.

Jacobson finished -4 (T-14) for the event and considering the team finished -38, that would mean Mr. Walters contributed a healthy -34 to the team.

Anyone know who this fine 11 is?

He's not Bill Walters of "Billy Walters" fame is he? 

Sunday
Feb102008

Charismatic Hoch Wins His Second Champions Event; Could Be Just The Final Nail Tour Needs

hoch.jpgThen again, Allianz winner Hoch is an entertaining interview so maybe I'm misjudging his potential to elevate the Valiant Competitors Tour.
Saturday
Feb092008

Meet The New President

08Vernon_Headshot.jpgUSGA.org has full coverage of the USGA Annual Meeting in Houston, with this story on Jim Vernon taking the reins as President, this Q&A with him, the 2007 annual report (come on numbers junkies, parse that baby and post your findings!), and finally, emotionally, upsettingly, depressingly, Walter Driver's final president's letter.

Saturday
Feb092008

Ernie's Final Rounds

I skimmed this week's columns on Ernie Els's final round difficulties. Chris Lewis links them here with some of his own thoughts.

Well apparently a closer read of the pieces got John Huggan worked up because he thinks Ernie lost his edge in 2004.

Then again, it has been easy for Els' growing band of critics – most of whom seem to be located in the United States – to portray his lofty ambition as mere bravado, designed to deflect attention from the fact that Tiger 'owns' Ernie when it comes to competing late on Sunday afternoons. Ever since 1998, when Woods made up a yawning seven-shot deficit over the closing nine holes before beating Els in a play-off for the Johnnie Walker Classic, the world's best golfer has not yielded once to the man who – it says here – is still the second most talented player in the professional game.

There were, for example, the US Open and Open of 2000. Both were comfortably won by Woods and both times Els was the distant runner-up, a man who could easily be forgiven the thought, "I can't beat this guy".

But, despite the pile of pompous psychobabble spouted by various columnists over the last week or so, it is not Tiger who has cut deepest into Els' confidence over the last few years. In truth, the 24-time European Tour winner has not looked quite the same golfer since 2004, when he suffered two crushing blows at the very highest level. First, Phil Mickelson birdied the final hole to pip Els to the Masters at Augusta. Then, three months later, the unlikely Todd Hamilton took him out in a four-hole play-off for the Open at Royal Troon.

Look closely at the photographs of Els in the immediate aftermath of both defeats. On the practice green at Augusta and on the 18th green at Troon he has the same glassy-eyed gaze into the middle distance. Each time, he seems to be saying to his suddenly disembodied self, "I can't believe this".

Saturday
Feb092008

How To Keep Courses Fun

PT-AH628_Golf1_20080208164102.jpgJohn Paul Newport uses his Wall Street Journal column to question Gil Hanse about what he thinks is fun, and uses the example of Soule Park in Ojai to illustrate the difficulties of being an architect in a world full of entitled idiots golfers armed with opinions.
Golf courses need hazards and obstacles the way good needs evil. Research done for the PGA of America suggests that what golfers love most about the game are the one or two great shots they manage to hit every round. But architects will tell you that the thrill of those shots is immeasurably greater in the context of risk. What fun is a course with 100-yard-wide fairways and no bunkers, ponds, trees or other hazards? You might as well stay at the range.

"When you think back to your most memorable shots, they aren't just the times you flushed a five-iron. They are when you hit that great shot in the face of some adversity," Mr. Hanse says. "Even less-accomplished players want to have to hit the ball over something sometimes, like a bunker or a stream. To take that challenge away is to water down design to the point where golf almost becomes bowling."

So architects try to scatter obstacles around the course in just the right mix to fulfill designer Alister MacKenzie's oft-cited definition of the ideal golf hole: "One that affords the greatest pleasure to the greatest number." But given the varying skill levels of golfers, it's not an easy formula to perfect.

One problem is that many golfers are so focused on the immediate task at hand -- getting the ball airborne -- that they don't think about strategy. Then, when they get off their best shot of the day, and helplessly watch it roll into a bunker, they aren't inclined to view that bunker as a catalyst for pleasure the way architects do. They see it as an abomination.

Mr. Hanse is unapologetic. His bunkers at Soule Park received many complaints for being too deep. But in his view, hazards need to pose "real penalties" or they lose their effect. "Where's the joy in avoiding a bunker if you know that, if you'd gone in, it would have been easy to get out of?" he asks.
Saturday
Feb092008

Bandon Crossings Review

asset_upload_file287_4329.jpgJohn Kirk provides the most extensive review yet of Bandon Crossings in the latest Links. Sounds like it's a worthy addition to a Bandon itinerary, particularly if you are looking to save a few bucks.

Friday
Feb082008

"Networks should put course architecture on the agenda"

Lorne Rubenstein wonders why televised golf doesn't pay more attention to architecture, and he talks to yours truly to help figure out why.