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  • 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

The true links have an intimacy with the waves; they are much on the same level, in close relation, almost cousins and part of the ocean if you can imagine sea turned into land or the land suffering sea change into something rich and rare.  H.N. WETHERED

 

    

Wednesday
Mar052008

"Why has no one been assessed a one-stroke penalty in 16 years?"

Doug Ferguson tackles the recent slow play grumblings and offers a few very interesting points:

As slow as it can get on the PGA TOUR, why has no one been assessed a one-stroke penalty in 16 years?
 
Or been disqualified?
 
“We’re more intelligent than people think we are,” the ever-sarcastic Paul Goydos said.
 
By that, he means slow players tend to play faster when told they are on the clock. Fulton Allem once compared this to a state trooper who pulls over a motorist for going 100 mph. Instead of writing a ticket, the trooper says he will follow the driver for the next five miles to make sure he doesn’t speed.
 
“You have to be crazy to get two bad times,” chief rules official Mark Russell said. “People don’t get one bad time.”
And this...

Drug testing starts in July. How will anyone believe the tour will suspend someone for one year and fine him $500,000 for a doping offense when it won’t assess a one-shot penalty for taking too long with a 5-iron to the green?

Tuesday
Mar042008

Game Before The Game: Random Thoughts

230136-1389284-thumbnail.jpg
John Mutch rolls balls to possible 3rd round hole locations at Riviera's 10th (click to enlarge)
I began working on this story for Golf World back in December at the Target World Challenge. The tour kindly granted me access to tournament director Mark Russell who then introduced me to John Mutch, the unlucky chap who would be stuck with me tagging around with him for three days at Sherwood, and then again at Torrey Pines and Riviera

The idea was not to do the typical story we see a few times a year where a writer tags along with an official and explains the official's every move, from the cherry Danish he ate to the time his bowels typically move. Instead, I hoped to better understand the big picture approach to tour course setup in the face of technology advances and in light of player frustration boiling over at Firestone. While I'm not sure the story ever settles the direct question of who is advocating an increase in rough, narrowed landing areas and tucked pins (because it doesn't appear to be in response to any specific directive), I hopefully convey the sense that surprised me somewhat: the amount of pressure the field staff faces from host courses.230136-1389292-thumbnail.jpg
Mutch charts out hole locations and refers to last year's selections in a constant quest for balance and variety (click to enlarge)

Easily the No. 1 player gripe surrounded the increase in new back tees and the use of all too many, no matter how silly the tee seems to be. The rules officials are clearly expected to embrace those tees (as well as silly other little pressures like having to lock in a tee placement for ventures such as the tour's new Trackman thingy). I saw the pressure (subliminal and up front) both at Sherwood and Riviera, where the host courses were asking whether new tees recently constructed would be in use. At Riviera, there were questions directed at the staff about not using the two new hole locations (and the staffers are too gentlemanly to simply say, they stink!).

230136-1389317-thumbnail.jpg
Mutch sets a tee at Sherwood. The PVC alignment tool to the left is his own homemade device to ensure the tees are properly aimed. (Click to enlarge)
The most surprising player beef, and one I wholeheartedly agree with, revolved around par-3s and the lack of variety in yardages from day to day on specific holes. The players also pointed out that there is often not enough variety within a round. Mutch did his best to vary the numbers, but sometimes they can't use an interesting forward tee because it's too beat up with divots (and we know how the players would react to that!). Other times it would be nice to see some outside-the-box thinking that really throws the player a curve by playing a hole at 210 one day and 150 the next.

Also surprising were the number of players who now connect course setup tactics with the technology revolution. Compared to a few years ago when they would defend the use of setup to offset distance gains, most I talked to seemed to have soured on using rough and tucked pins to offset distance. Even more amazing, every player I spoke to was in favor of regulating grooves. Nearly all brought it up without prompting. Now, the rationale's varied. Some want to see rough take on more meaning. Some buy the USGA's idea that it will make guys throttle back off the tee. Most (thankfully) want to see firm greens and preferred sides of fairways mean something again. They all hope it leads to fewer absurdly tucked hole locations and less injury inducing rough, and as I noted in a sidebar to the story, Russell says eliminating U-grooves would influence his thinking on rough. 230136-1389332-thumbnail.jpg
Tee Square and Paint: Mutch's two most important tools. (Click to enlarge)

I can't convey enough how devoted the field staff is to equity and running a great event. Few people realize the hours they put in, and while the course setup part of their job is arguably the most interesting aspect, it's disturbing how many babysitting tasks they have which potentially get in the way of doing their course setup work. I never saw it with Mutch, and the guys I spoke to downplay that they would ever get distracted, but you just don't see officials in other sports having to tend to some of the things the field staff handles. Considering how much their thinking influences what we see on television, it's an unusual situation.

It's also difficult to put into words just how good the players and their equipment are these days. I saw some incredibly firm greens at Sherwood and Riviera, yet saw scores I could not have imagined based on what I knew firsthand about that day's setup.

230136-1389335-thumbnail.jpg
Mutch paints a ball drop for the ages, Sherwood's 18th (click to enlarge)
Actually, someone I spoke to for the piece summed it up best.

David Eger, who was widely respected for his setup work during 14 years with the tour and praised by several of the rules officials for his work, offered this line. Due to space constraints it couldn't make it into the final piece:

"I watch on TV and see some of those hole placements on the regular tour and I think I wouldn’t have put it within 5 yards of that thing when I setup the course. And then the next thing you know, not only Tiger, but half-a dozen other guys are hitting it in there 5 feet and I’m thinking, how in the hell did he do that?"

Tuesday
Mar042008

The Wie Files: Stanford Dorm Edition

Steve Elling offers the latest and most frightening example yet that Michelle Wie's parents need serious help.


Tuesday
Mar042008

Mac Qualifies! Mac Qualifies!

I've been searching my email box for a PGA Tour press release celebrating Mac O'Grady's first ever Champions Tour appearance (he played in the U.S. Senior Open in '05, but come on, that's not the CHAMPIONS TOUR).  

Thankfully, the good folks at Brener-Zwikel delivered the news on the eve of...two shotgun pro-am starts, with Toshiba Classic play starting Friday at Newport Beach Country Club:

2008 Toshiba Classic Qualifying Tournament
At Goose Creek Golf Club (Par 71, 6,676 yards)
Mira Loma, Calif.
Tuesday, March 4
(Top 7 players qualify to play in the Toshiba Classic Friday-Sunday at Newport Beach CC)

Pos.    Player  Hometown                    Score
1.      Jim Ahern       Phoenix, AZ     64
T2.     Phil Blackmar   Corpus Christi, TX      65
T2.     Boonchu Ruangkit        Bangkok, Thailand       65
T2.     Mitch Adcock    Apopka, FL      65
T5.     Mac O’Grady     Palm Springs, CA        66
T5.     Mike Goodes     Reidsville, NC  66
T7.     Kenny Knox      Monticello, FL  67
(NOTE: Knox won the final qualifying spot with a par on the first playoff hole.)
Alternates
T7.     Jimmy Powell    La Quinta, CA   67
T7.     Mark Morrison   Holualoa, HI    67
T10.    Dick Mast       Forest, VA      68
T10.    Gary Trivisonno Aurora, OH      68

Tuesday
Mar042008

Ted Robinson, R.I.P.

tedrobinson.jpgThe prolific Californian passed away at the age of 84. Here's the ASGCA news release.


Tuesday
Mar042008

"I mean, it's fixed for the tournament."

Steve Elling reports on what is sure to be a much discussed and revolutionary sounding last minute greens fix at Bay Hill, where an unidentified fungus took hold:
The root structure of the greens was so meager and the surface grass was so sparse, club officials three weeks ago elected to remove the sod in the affected sections, replace the sand base, then re-seed the greens with winter rye grass, a PGA Tour official said Tuesday.

The root of the crisis, if you will, remains unclear. The tournament begins March 13.

"It stumped a lot of people," said tour rules official Jon Brendle, who took a first-hand look at the ailing Bay Hill Club & Lodge greens on Monday. "They brought in a lot of people to look at the problem and they didn’t have a clue."

Emergency surgery or not, Brendle said the greens have grown in nicely and should present better surfaces than those seen at some of the West Coast stops, like ever-bumpy Pebble Beach, he said.

"I can tell you they have come a long way in 2 1/2 weeks," he said. "I mean, it's fixed for the tournament."

Tuesday
Mar042008

The Game Before The Game

gwar01_080307setup.jpgMy Golf World story on PGA Tour course setup has been posted.

Tomorrow I'll post some further reflections (because I know you can't wait) on the time I spent with the rules officials and players that I spoke to for this, as well as some photos to supplement the images captured by J.D. Cuban.

Tuesday
Mar042008

"They don't do comedy at the Masters. The Masters, for me, is like holding onto a really big collection of gas for a week."

350066.binCam Cole in the National Post ably documented David Feherty's  appearance at the PGA of British Columbia's breakfast at the Vancouver Trade and Convention Centre. Thanks to reader Tony for this:

-On the 14 years since CBS colleague Gary McCord was banned from the Masters: "They don't do comedy at the Masters. The Masters, for me, is like holding onto a really big collection of gas for a week. It's like having my buttocks surgically clenched at Augusta General Hospital on Wednesday, and surgically unclenched on Monday on the way to Hilton Head."
And...
-On McCord's recent revelation, at the annual JCC Sports Awards banquet in Vancouver, that Tiger Woods' caddy Steve Williams and Feherty often try to outdo one another on the course in the area of flatulence, Feherty said Tiger is no slouch himself: "He can lay 'em down like a crop duster."

-On Gary Player's unsubstantiated suggestion last year about use of performance-enhancing drugs in pro golf: "Gary thinks he invented fitness because he used to do pushups on the airplane. He's just upset because you can't win a major any more with a low, flat hook and a Napoleon complex."

Ouch.

-On the poor life advice Michelle Wie's parents have given the teenage phenom: "She could be adopted by Britney Spears and be better off. I want my 16-year-old daughter to have an enormous phone bill, a case of the giggles and to be pissed off at me for killing her first three boyfriends. I do not want her out on Tour under that kind of pressure."

-On Phil Mickelson: "Phil is brilliant, but he's nuts. There's something not quite right about that boy. Phil is watching a movie that only Phil can see.  His mother told me, 'Phil was so clumsy as a little boy, we had to put a football helmet on him until he was four because he kept bumping into things.' I told her, 'Mary,

Mary, I'm a writer, you can't keep handing me material like this.' So the next time I saw Phil I said, 'You didn't really wear a football helmet in the house until you were four, did you?' He said, 'It was more like five.' "

-On televised golf 's obsession with Tiger: "I've had people say to me, 'It's amazing Tiger Woods can make a swing with you hanging out of his [butt].' "

-The first time he ever watched Woods play, Feherty examined the lie Tiger had in the trees, where he'd hit the ball into deep rough alongside a large root, and said on-air that the only available play was to wedge out sideways. Tiger promptly hit a towering 200-plus-yard, sweeping slice with a 2-iron that rolled to within 12 feet of the flag.

"I just stood there watching him walk past," Feherty said, "and thinking, 'I don't know what that is, but I know there weren't two of them on Noah's Ark.' "
And I know this one has appeared elsewhere, but it's still a good one. 
-As an example of an expert opinion on just how great Woods is, Feherty recalled a shot Tiger hit several years ago at Firestone, out of high rough just off the 18th fairway, when he was paired with Ernie Els.

Feherty and Els had looked at the horrible lie Woods had drawn as they walked past en route to Els' tee shot. Tiger's ball was not visible from directly above.-As an example of an expert opinion on just how great Woods is, Feherty recalled a shot Tiger hit several years ago at Firestone, out of high rough just off the 18th fairway, when he was paired with Ernie Els.

Feherty and Els had looked at the horrible lie Woods had drawn as they walked past en route to Els' tee shot. Tiger's ball was not visible from directly above.

"Shame," dead-panned the big South African.

Standing side by side in the fairway, Feherty and Els saw Williams hand Tiger a wedge, then watched as Woods took a violent swing that removed a divot "like a bag of Donald Trump heads" and launched the ball nearly 200 yards, over a pair of trees and onto the green, landing eight feet behind the flag.

Feherty, after a bout of speechlessness, had just opened his microphone to comment on the shot when Els, not aware that the mic was live, turned and said, quite audibly on-air: "F---me!"

"Was that Ernie?" the CBS producer said into Feherty's earpiece.

"Yes, it was," he said. Pause.

"Fair enough," said the producer.

 

Monday
Mar032008

Slow Play Bandwagon Starts Rolling...

0,5001,5918672,00.jpg...Adam Scott joins in:

"People play way, way too slow," the Australian said at the Johnnie Walker Classic in India.

"They need to hurry up. They should start penalising people. Just penalise them."

Monday
Mar032008

“We don’t need to grow for growth’s sake, only if it’s good for the portfolio and the brand.”

Gene Yasuda and Scott Hamilton look for an explanation about the recent TPC naming deal to the game's master of inane doublespeak (is that repetitive?), the PGA Tour's David Pillsbury:

“Every TPC we will do going forward is either built or operated with the idea that ultimately it’s going to host competitive golf on one of (our) three tours,” Pillsbury said. “That’s the core purpose of the brand.”
That's good to know what the core purpose is. 
The AT&T contract complements the Tour’s recent mission to upgrade its TPC network. According to Pillsbury, typical naming-rights deals will run for five to 10 years. The majority of the proceeds will be earmarked to improve the sponsor’s property, but some funds may be allocated to aid other facilities within the TPC network.

 Is that a nice way of saying to redo the other dogs in the network?

The Tour owns 17 TPC locations and is developing three others: San Antonio, TPC Treviso Bay in Naples, Fla., and TPC Cancun in Cancun, Mexico.

“We’re focused on growing with the right assets,” Pillsbury said. “We don’t need to grow for growth’s sake, only if it’s good for the portfolio and the brand.”

And don't forget the share price! 

Monday
Mar032008

"But does that make it fun? No. It makes it a kind of algebra.”

Tom Mackin catches up with architect David Kidd for the NY Times Play Magazine. I enjoyed this:
“As human beings and golf-course designers, we want perfection. And because of equipment and technology, we can go in and create that. On the perfect golf hole, I would have framing mounds everywhere and bunkers that set up the perfect strategy and line of sight, all making it conform to every single rule of thumb ever written about course design. But does that make it fun? No. It makes it a kind of algebra.”

Monday
Mar032008

UAE Dubai Prepping Bids For Future Open, Ryder Cup Venues

Thanks to reader Edward for the story, broken by The Observer's Richard Wachman:

United Arab Emirate Dubai is teeing up bids worth at least £400m for three premier Scottish golf courses: Turnberry, Gleneagles and Loch Lomond.

It is understood that Dubai World, a state-owned business with interests in leisure, property, financial services and container ports, is in advanced talks to acquire the Turnberry course and adjacent luxury hotel from its US owner, Starwood Hotels and Resorts.

Turnberry, which is hosting the Open Championship in 2009, was put up for sale at the end of last year. Starwood is selling on condition it retains the right to manage the resort after a sale is agreed.
And...
A source in the Gulf says: 'Dubai is seeking trophy sporting assets. It wants to be behind leading golfing tournaments, which would help it to promote its own Dubai Desert Classic competition.'
Oh this ought to be fun.

 

Monday
Mar032008

"And Monty’s chums in the media have, it must be said, been doing their level best for their man."

Monty79895715.jpgGolfobserver's John Huggan catches up on the state of Monty. Buried deep was this...

Elsewhere, Monty’s propensity for self-promotion has seen him looking further into the future, first to this year’s European Ryder cup side and then to 2014 when the biennial contest with the Americans will make only its second ever visit to Scotland, at Gleneagles. Monty, not surprisingly, has been talking himself up as a possible wild-card pick for later this year – given his current form, he is unlikely to qualify directly - and then non-playing captain for 2014, when the event will take place just down the road from his soon-to-be marital home in leafy Perthshire.

On the face of it, that second scenario would seem to represent a perfect fit: In Scotland, with a proud nation’s finest-ever Ryder Cup player leading the European hordes into battle. And Monty’s chums in the media have, it must be said, been doing their level best for their man. Over the last few months, a procession of pro-Monty pieces has appeared in friendly publications (not coincidentally, at least two golf correspondents, both with right-wing English newspapers, have been invited to the upcoming Monty nuptials) openly and rather blatantly promoting just such an eventuality.

Significantly, few if any of those glowing articles have included quotes from Monty’s fast-depleting band of chums on the European Tour. Yet again, the spectre of Indonesia - and that dodgy replacement of his ball in a spot barely reminiscent of where he should have played from - hangs over the Scot’s rapidly greying head of hair. Call him ‘Colin No-mates.’

They don't forgive or forget. 

Sunday
Mar022008

Els Wins Honda; NBC Announcers Slip In Only Two Million "Bear Trap" References

1927184.jpgHow about that Bear Trap, the work of PR gurus!

You know I still get trapped trying to figure out which is No. 15 and which is No. 17, but that's another story.

Mercifully, Greg Stoda in the Palm Beach Post explains why some of us spent most of our time watching UCLA-Arizona and the Lakers-Mavs:

Hey, it's as rugged track as re-designer Jack Nicklaus intended it to be. The 15th through 17th holes aren't called the Bear Trap for no reason. And it gets windy in these parts. But what would have been wrong with a couple of more accommodating pin positions late in the test? There simply was never a sense someone would, or could, do something sensational.

And...

There just wasn't an opportunity make a closing rush under pressure. Green's birdies at the 16th and 18th holes don't qualify, and neither does Robert Allenby's finishing birdie that got him a quiet share of fourth place with Jones and Calcavecchia.

They weren't contenders.

The 77-player field managed all of 30 birdies across the final five holes in the fourth round. The field made 25 double- or triple-bogeys across the same stretch. The finishing five holes, in order, ranked as the sixth, third, fourth, first and seventh toughest statistically in the final round.

"You're just trying to make pars," Jones said.

Without question, the most pitiful element of it all is No. 18, potentially a compelling risk-reward hole that is mostly a whole bunch of risk. Would it have killed them to play the tee up today at least? Or has the old tee been bulldozed?
 

Sunday
Mar022008

Aronimink In AT&T Mix

Joe Logan reports that Aronimink is a strong candidate to fill in for Congressional when the 2011 U.S. Open is played in the D.C. area. This caught my eye:

This much is known: There is enough interest that representatives from the tournament visited Aronimink several months ago to scope out the course.

The club also brought in one of course designer Tom Fazio's top guys to determine how much the 7,152-yard, par-70 layout could be stretched, if needed. (Answer: 7,500 yards).

Then, in December, representatives from Aronimink flew to the Target World Challenge in California, another Woods event, where they met with AT&T National officials and Woods himself.

Wouldn't it be refreshing if Tiger, hot off his slow play concerns going public in a bigger way, told them not to add the length because the walks to those new back tees just add to the length of rounds? I can dream can't I?

Sunday
Mar022008

East Lake Changes

Thanks to readers Rob and Patrick for Stan Awtrey's story on the planned changes to East Lake.

Six holes will undergo changes, the result being a course that will play 7,300 yards to par 70 from the championship tees.

• No. 3: A new fairway bunker is being added to the left side, about 310 yards away from the tee.

• No. 7: An additional bunker is being placed on the left side, about 310 yards away from the tee. The green is also being moved about 40 yards up the hill, lengthening the par 4 to 440 yards.

• No. 8: The championship tee box is being moved back 20 yards, stretching the par 4 to 435 yards.

• No. 15: A new championship tee is being built 35 yards further back, making the easy par 5 to a bit testier 525 yards.

• No. 16: The fairway bunker complex is being 30 yards farther down the fairway.

• No. 17: This hole features the most significant change. The trees along East Lake on the left of the fairway have been taken out and the fairway moved 8-10 yards toward the water. The green will be moved about 20 feet to the left, giving errant shots a better chance to get wet.

I know from talking to some folks involved with the work that the new No. 7 caused a lot of consternation and disappointment with the USGA's lousy job regulating technology. But that was most offset by their excitement surrounding the new No. 17, which figures to be a promising upgrade for both tournament and member play.

Saturday
Mar012008

Brand Lady: We Love Asian Women!

196427.jpgThanks to LPGA Fan for noticing Commissioner Carolyn Bivens's response to concerns that the LPGA Tour has been invaded by Asians. It's good to see her command of the English language still stinks:

"Yes, there is a huge number (of Asian players), but if the LPGA Tour is going to remain home to the best women's golf in the world, the last thing you want to do is put quotas on it," Bivens told reporters during Thursday's opening round of the $2 million HSBC Women's Champions championship in Singapore.
"I am not concerned about Americans getting squeezed out.
"Do you want to have the best tour, do you want to have the most competition, do you want to have the highest level of performance? Or do you want to protect a nationality? We think we are doing both."
Wait, so you are protecting a nationality? Would that be, like, the Oscar party thing?
"I don't think there are any Americans out there today who wouldn't say that Asians have made this tour better and more competitive," she added.

Bivans said the LPGA was working hard to overcome the challenges of limited exposure and media coverage, but she said she was convinced this could be achieved by attracting the world's best to the tour.

"If we have the most competitive tour in the world, we'll draw the best sponsors, we'll draw the most rabid fans and our media challenges will be lessened," she insisted.

"Performance is the very first standard that we have to uphold."

Wow, not one mention of branding. This is disturbing.

Saturday
Mar012008

"The concept of opening the premises up to local youngsters is something that is not only frowned upon, it is never actually considered by club committees whose next original thought will be their first."

After reading the New York Times cover story on dwindling U.S. participation, John Huggan sees many of the same issues afflicting golf in Scotland.

Of course, increasing participant numbers is never really going to happen, no matter how many schemes golf's alphabet-soup organisations come up with to justify their increasingly pointless existences. As long as the golf club system itself is in place, the game is doomed to stagnate. Clubs, after all, are by their very nature exclusionary and exclusive. Especially at the so-called 'high-end' establishments, wonderful golf courses sit all but empty on far too many beautiful summer evenings. The concept of opening the premises up to local youngsters is something that is not only frowned upon, it is never actually considered by club committees whose next original thought will be their first.

Is it any wonder then that Scotland's best golfer is a rapidly ageing 44-year-old whose best days are very much behind him? Is there a less-welcoming environment for young people than the typically rule-ridden and grey-haired golf club? No you can't wear your jeans or your trainers. No you can't play before 4pm in the winter months. No you can't play off the back tees even if you can beat 99% of the members (who should be playing off what are still archaically referred to as the 'ladies tees'). No. No. No, no, no.

And what is being done to arrest this decline in Scotland? Well, take a look around at all these lovely new golf courses being built. What do you mean, you can't? They won't let you in the gate, you say? They're not looking for people like you? All they want are the affluent minority who will buy a gaudy home in the expensive housing estates surrounding these high-end clubs? And they cost the earth to play anyway?

Oh well, there are other less time-consuming games where the equipment is cheaper and you can actually play with the kids. Anyone for tennis?

 

Saturday
Mar012008

A 61 At Bel-Air!

tom_glissmeyer.jpegRyan Herrington reports that USC's Tom Glissmeyer fired a 28-33-61 at Bel-Air Country Club, needing only 20 putts. Having just been at Bel-Air recently, I can safely say the greens are running about 12. And these are not exactly flat greens.

The really good news is that unlike at some classic courses, the club can't go and destroy more of the original Thomas design in a knee jerk reaction to such a low round! It's already been done...in spades 

Friday
Feb292008

"Golf, especially with the chronic amount of time it takes to play a round these days, can be pretty boring most of the time, which is why it needs characters as well as just good players."

It's Martin Johnson writing on golf, need I say more?  Just in case The Telegraph web site disappears some day:

They clamoured around Paul Casey after the Englishman won his second-round match, not to ask Casey anything much about himself, but about Colin Montgomerie. "Tell us Paul, just what is it with Monty?" referring to a character who convinces many of us that global warming can be traced back to Scotland's only active volcano.

American golfers, in general, have the ability to put you into a hypnotic trance as they drone on about their sand saves, or how they're hitting it "real solid", but when Monty is heading for the interview tent people get knocked over in the rush. He knows it, too, and when they were still pouring in to hear his pre-tournament thoughts before last year's Open at Carnoustie, the great man beamed with delight. "Come on," said Monty. "Come along. There's still a bit of room at the back." For many of us, the thrill of attending a golf tournament is not to watch Woods thumping a drive 350 yards, or firing a three-iron to six inches, but being able to say "I was there" when a photographer triggers his lens on the top of Monty's backswing, or a spectator jangles his change on his putting stroke.

Golf, especially with the chronic amount of time it takes to play a round these days, can be pretty boring most of the time, which is why it needs characters as well as just good players. So fingers crossed for Monty qualifying for next month's US Masters. If Woods will not be quaking at seeing Monty's name on the starting sheet, the Augusta National head greenkeeper certainly will be. One bad round and he could see his entire azalea collection reduced to a smouldering heap of garden compost.