Twitter: GeoffShac
  • Playing Through: Modern Golf's Most Iconic Players and Moments
    Playing Through: Modern Golf's Most Iconic Players and Moments
    by Jim Moriarty
  • 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
  • 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
  • A Life Well Played: My Stories
    A Life Well Played: My Stories
    by Arnold Palmer
  • 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
  • Teeing Off: Players, Techniques, Characters, and Reflections from a Lifetime Inside the Game
    Teeing Off: Players, Techniques, Characters, and Reflections from a Lifetime Inside the Game
    by Ken Bowden

The audience in the theatre, looking over the footlights, view the play as do most of the gallery following the experts of golf. However, back-stage, there are a few eyes critically regarding the play from an entirely different angle. For many years I have preferred to observe golf shots from backstage, as it were. Seeing a man whack a golf ball is of little interest to me, and frequently it is a performance that had better be missed. That which concerns me most is where the ball lands and what it does after. A.W. TILLINGHAST




"My dad was like, 'You want to go and try to qualify for this event?'"

Not to take anything away from the incredible 14-year-old Alexis Thompson, who shot a 7-under 65 to trail Janice Moody by one in the Navistar LPGA Classic, but this was odd:

Thompson made a late decision to travel to Alabama to attempt to qualify. Event officials canceled a Tuesday qualifier when enough spots opened up to add all qualifier participants. "My dad was like, 'You want to go and try to qualify for this event?'" Thompson said. "I was like, 'Yeah, sure, why not?'"

Not enough qualifiers for a sanctioned LPGA Tour event that includes Lorena and Michelle Wie in the field? I know it's Alabama, but still...


"Let 'em shoot what they shoot"

Steve Elling follows up on the Bay Hill redo and features glowing quotes from tour official Jon Brendle. There's also this:

Oh, for those who think the Palmer, now a great-grandfather, has perhaps gone soft in his advancing years, fret not. The course changes include the addition of 100 new oak, cypress and magnolia trees, which helped visually frame certain shots here and there. One of Palmer's architects said the King, a blue-collar guy who has always known the value of a buck -- if not how to squeeze one -- worked a deal where Bay Hill bought $150,000 worth of trees for $50,000.

So he hasn't lost his touch. Indeed, the new awakening might prove to be a boon for Bay Hill across the board, because, as many tour players had muttered over the past few years, "hard" is not a synonym for "good."

"What we'd really like is for the course to get back into the top 50 [rankings]," Larsen said. "It's kind of fallen down [the list] over the years."

Would that be top 50 in...Florida? America?

There are some before/after photos in this thread.


"When you roll it back, it will not only prejudice the performance of the players, it will also prejudice the patent portfolios of one company over another."

John Huggan's recently surfaced April chat with Wally Uihlein continues with part two and more ball talk.

What can the rules makers do that would not provoke litigation?    

WU: You would have to go in and buy up all the patents and put them into the public domain so that everyone can practice them on a paid-up license. Then, whatever specification changes they came up with, no one would have any legal downside consequences. That’s the reality. And that is the element of the discourse that has never been acknowledged by anyone in the media.

This is not about private sector versus public sector. It is not about private sector versus regulatory bodies. When you roll it back, it will not only prejudice the performance of the players, it will also prejudice the patent portfolios of one company over another.

Hmmm...this couldn't be related to a certain bit of litigation, could it?

We are dealing with multi-million dollar investments. So it’s not just about the sensibilities of those who profess to care about the game and them questioning why we wouldn’t support that view. It’s not that simple. It’s almost like it is beyond our control. When I get into a court—and they have little to do with truth, justice, and reason—they are 80 percent about theater. It comes down to who has the best trial lawyer.

Unless the regulatory bodies are prepared to create a super-fund, buy up all those patents, and tell us all what balls we can make, nothing is going to change. 

So the courts and trial lawyers are the ones we should be blaming, not the personal trainers who made the guys longer?

How did the groove rule change slip by everyone then?

I watched Geoff Ogilvy using an old Toney Penna 3-wood at Kingston Heath last year. He hit it beautifully and I asked him if he would consider using it in a tournament. His reaction was, “Wally may not like that.”  

No one likes to be singled out as the whipping post. 

JH: He only used your name because he is contracted to Cobra.  

WU: But I’m the whipping post of technology. But I only adopt that role because the equipment can’t speak for itself.  

Someone has to speak for the vulnerable...pieces of synthetic materials sitting on store shelves. You go Wally!

Another leading question: who does the best job of running golf—the R&A, the USGA, the PGA of America, or the PGA Tour? Or are you running golf? I’ve accused you of that before.  

I know you have. And when you do that, you hit on a key issue. There is no global czar. Unfortunately, golf is lacking that. Which is good and bad. The good part is that we have a number of parties who should be working together to protect the game. You’ll notice I said “protect” rather than “grow” or whatever. 
I don’t think the manufacturers are running the game. I do think the professional game has become golf’s chamber of commerce. We have to be careful not to confuse the professional game—which is entertainment—with the game that we all play. 
There is a big gap between the amateur and professional games.

Then let's bifurcate! Oh're against that too. Sorry, continue...

But the latter is an entertainment. Which is why we pitch our advertising the way we do. We don’t have players saying, “I play this, you should too.” We’re not saying you should use our equipment just because the professionals do. But we want you to take note of the fact that so many do. 
Now, that may make us a little anachronistic.

Anachronistic wasn't quite the word I had in mind...

But we take the view that their using Titleist is a pretty good endorsement of the quality of our products. Professionals don’t use stuff that isn’t going to make them play better. 
Marketing approaches can go into one of two buckets: the “how many” or the “who?” Most companies employ a “who” strategy. We go the other way. They are different messages. “How many” is more subliminal and sophisticated. 
But you are never going to get me to agree that the manufacturers are running the industry. Not when I’ve just sat with the ruling bodies today and told them I am out $1 million in capital expenses, and $400- to 500,000 per year, because we are coming out of the most activist phase in the history of the regulatory landscape. 

You know I look at Dick Rugge, Jim Vernon, Jim Hyler or Jay Rains and think, "activist."

JH: Will the players all go to higher-spinning balls in the wake of this change?

WU: Take it to the bank. As I said, their first request will be that we get back half the spin they have lost with a softer ball, leaving them free to determine how much distance they are prepared to lose. It’s a balancing act. 
Their next stop, of course, will be to the driver guy. They’ll be asking how much of that distance they can get back with longer shafts or whatever. Don’t worry though. This game will never be mastered, even if it beguiles us into thinking it can be. Which is where we come in. 

Hey, instead of looking to some tech guy for improvement, how about a little love for the beleaguered instructors of the world? Like your good buddy Kostis!


"Do not change your shoes in the parking lot. (Perfectly OK at a public course, but the locker room at private clubs is preserved as the last bastion of golfing ablutions.)"

Jerry Tarde's "Golf's 5 Sacred Rules" comes at an interesting time considering that the American country club is dying in part because it holds things like the five rules sacred.

You know I'm all for tradition, but I'm finding it tougher and tougher to savor some of these "sacred" traditions when the fundamentals have been stampeded over for reasons that usually relate to someone's bottom line and almost never in the name of advancing the sport. 

Tarde's plea is both timely and also perhaps evidence of where the country club set's priorities lie. He notes these five no-nos at the country club to set up a key point about budging on cell phone rules.

1. The most important: Never throw a club in anger.

Tiger's out!

2. Do not change your shoes in the parking lot. (Perfectly OK at a public course, but the locker room at private clubs is preserved as the last bastion of golfing ablutions.)

3. No blue jeans, even the expensive kind.

4. Take off your hat when you go indoors or when sitting down to eat.

5. No cell phones on the course or in the clubhouse. (One club I know is very tough on this: Mobile phones are only permissible sitting in your car in the parking lot with the windows rolled shut. A friend of mine adheres to this rule with his convertible top down.)

Tarde goes on to suggest that the first four remain sacred but that "golf clubs have an opportunity to set the standards for good behavior with these devices" and "putting our heads in the sand and hoping they go away is just not a realistic answer."

I don't disagree, but I do have to wonder if preserving the sacred rule of hats-off in the grill or where we change our shoes constitute sacred private club values?  Your thoughts?


Norman Has Shoulder Surgery; Insists His Prez Cup Lineup Cards Will Not Be Affected

Do I smell a sympathy sling in International Captain Greg Norman's future after today's procedure?

After experiencing ongoing discomfort in his right shoulder, Greg Norman underwent an arthroscopic procedure Wednesday at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. The procedure was scheduled to allow adequate time for rehabilitation, meaning Norman's December playing schedule should not be interrupted.

"It was imperative that I take care of this because it was keeping me from performing at a level that suits my standards," Norman said. "The procedure will in no way impact my responsibilities at The Presidents Cup, and I very much look forward to captaining the International Team next week."


Rory Letting Them Down Slowly... he drops the first hint that he'll be playing the PGA Tour next year. He has until December 1st to let everyone know his mind was made up a while back.

It wasn't so long ago we were hearing that the European Tour was going to overtake the PGA Tour. And now?


FedEx Cup Puts Tiger Over $1 Billion According To Forbes...

...and here I thought it was going to be the third installment check from The Cliffs for those grading plans he finished up and overnighted after winning the FedEx Cup. Oh well, I guess it's a bit sexier this way. Kurt Badenhausen reports that Earl Woods was right.


No Column Out Of Obama Round?

He's had three New York Times columns since teeing it up with President Obama, and I'm beginning to think that a condition of getting to play with the President, Thomas Friedman was not allowed to write about the day. Not surprising but it is disappointing.

And speaking of the President, I think we can safely pencil the honorary chairman in for some Presidents Cup viewing...from the White House, now that he's heading to Copenhagen to lobby the IOC for Chicago. It's a potential victory for golf long term. The first Olympic golf event since 1904 would be best received in Chicago and it seems his presence could make the difference.


"The grounds for litigation would only be absence of due process. It wouldn’t be the result."

An interview of Acushnet CEO Wally Uihlein by John Huggan has surfaced on, which means you'll get some snazzy early 90s Photoshopping and plenty of Titleist-supplied shots of site sponsor Uihlein. But that's where the fluff ends.

For those of us who think the technology debate is important, this is the must read of all must reads.

I'm taken by what seems to be a softening of Acushnet's position and can only wonder if the Fairhaven-based manufacturer's mostly conservative, old school, traditionalist customer base that somehow still buys Foot Joy Classics has let it be known that they weren't wild with the company position. You know, the one that says technology was sacred and if great golf courses existed to be altered in the chase for maximized margins over the values of the game.

Anyway, the highlights from Part I. Uihlein on the governing bodies and regulating:

There has been an imbalance there. Anecdotally, we used to dread the last round of the U.S. Open. The president of the USGA would walk with the leading group, which frequently contained an outspoken player like Jack Nicklaus, and so we could confidently predict the content of the commentary for the next 60-90 days.

Uh reader Wally, Jack Nicklaus in the last group of the U.S. Open? Let's at least try to find an anti-technology anarchist who contended in the Open during the later years of the Reagan administration.

Now this was funny, and based on Peter Dawson's propensity to say strange things, totally believable:

This morning we met with Peter Dawson [chief executive of the R&A] on the groove issue. I asked Peter which players he talks to for feedback. His response was, “just Tiger.” Anyone else? “Sometimes Vijay.”

The end result is that there is no balance, with voices from a number of constituencies represented: young, old, high-skilled, low-skilled,

Alright, alright, you're all about democracy.

JH: I’ve never understood why you care about the R&A and the USGA knocking, say, 30 yards off the ball for the elite players when the average guy would lose maybe two or three yards and not even notice. I don’t see that affecting your bottom line.

WU: That’s a fair assumption. We’re actually more comfortable dealing with percentages. Let’s say they wanted to reduce drives by 10 percent. The leading driver on the PGA Tour is something like 312 yards on average. And last year Trevor Immelman was 150th in driving at 274 yards. So Bubba Watson goes to (around) 280 yards and Trevor goes to (around) 240.

Works for me! And definitely works better for most golf courses. So...

JH: But what difference does that make to your bottom line?

WU: It’s a fair question. But there is no instance in any sport where there has been a rollback of the instruments used.

Oops! That was April, this is now and we have new groove rules. That's a rollback. Oh and it's bifurcation too.

Track and field isn’t going back to bamboo poles for the pole vault. So there is no precedent.

Let's not forget tennis, where Wimbledon has slowed down the ball and insiders whisper that the ball has been tweaked in other tournament play, though no one will admit to it.

JH: I’m speaking as a life-long golfer here. None of what you have said so far is going to make any difference to the ball I buy and play with. I’m still going to buy a Titleist.

WU: I can’t say I disagree with you. We’re not that intransigent.

JH: So what’s the problem then? If the R&A and the USGA knocked 15 percent off the ball tomorrow, would you sue them?

WU: The grounds for litigation would only be absence of due process. It wouldn’t be the result. It would be a why are you doing that? Which would leave the burden on us to prove that by doing that they were affecting our business. 
There is a fine line between the rulers and those who are ruled upon. We are prepared to be ruled upon as long as there is due process and as long as those rules do not influence the commercial landscape.

So the "commercial landscape" is part of due process!

JH: So whatever they do, someone will get hurt?

WU: Yes. And they will sue. And that is the untold story. Trust me, it boggles the minds of our shareholders.

Those poor shareholders, having to deal with people who don't put profit above all else!

It boggles my mind as a businessman that the golf ball category—which is only $1 billion in wholesale—has 2,000 patents in this decade. It makes no sense. We’re talking about a regulated product category. We’re talking about a category where weight, size, velocity, and distance are already capped and there are 2,000 new golf ball patents in less than 10 years? It makes no sense.

True. It makes no sense to go through all of that patenting and categorizing when we could just firm up those specs and save everyone the headache!


Arnold Restores Bay Hill As He Intended It Before He Changed It

Jeff Babineau reports on the seemingly bi-annual "philosophical change" at Bay Hill, where protecting par is out and fun is in. Maybe some of the big names who sat on the sidelines due to Bay Hill's silly rough were able to get  through to The King? Or maybe it was the awful pace of play? Either way, good to hear they are getting away from the all-risk-no-reward nonsense:

Palmer and the folks at Bay Hill have undergone a philosophical change when it comes to the tournament as well. Mainly, let the players shoot what they’re going to shoot in relation to par. In the past, the fourth and 16th holes, which play as par 5s for members, have been transformed into somewhat awkward par 4s during tournament week, making Bay Hill a par 70.

Thus, when Tiger Woods made a dramatic, curling birdie putt at 18 to capture his sixth Bay Hill title last March and shoot 275, he was listed at only 5 under.

“Our purpose has changed a little,” Palmer said. “Par 4s to par 5s, we’re going to rethink that ... with the thinking that the galleries enjoy seeing the players make birdies. We’re going to par 72 and give them an opportunity to make birdies.”

This was also encouraging:

Roughs around the greens have been cut to shorter lengths, allowing more chipping (and possibly putting) options for players, and the new greens feature not only many more possible hole locations, but many more runoff areas.


"MacKenzie’s Sharp Park Under Siege"

Richard Harris and Bo Links pen a In My Opinion piece analyzing the history and evolution of Alister MacKenzie's endangered Sharp Park. And for more of the past coverage here on the Sharp saga, check out the archives.



"Mention of Woods and Mickelson will no doubt prompt the PGA Tour's marketing gurus to point that the involvement of the game's two most compelling figures rendered all objections inconsequential."

I'm surprised at the short-sightedness of so many otherwise intelligent writers who see Phil and Tiger in a photo together and declare the FedEx Cup format a resounding success. Sure, it's grown tiresome to debate points permutations, but how about a little big picture and consideration for the long-term potential of the FedEx Cup. You know, to actually make early fall golf compelling are good reasons to keep exposing its flaws. Or, say, when Tiger and Phil aren't batting it around any longer.

Thankfully, Lawrence Donegan isn't close to sold on the latest version:

Mention of Woods and Mickelson will no doubt prompt the PGA Tour's marketing gurus to point that the involvement of the game's two most compelling figures rendered all objections inconsequential. In the bad old days, before the FedEx Cup, the Californian twosome were seldom seen after the PGA Championship in August. Now they were playing golf in September, and for four successive events.

This is a fair point. But it shouldn't be allowed to pass without someone asking why did Woods and Mickelson play all four "play-off" events this year? Not for the $10m (according to this report Tiger's PGA Tour pension will one day be valued at $1bn) and not for the prestige (Tiger and Phil like to win on any Sunday but they like to win most of all on major championship Sundays). No, the reason they played all four "play-off" events is that Finchem asked them earlier in the year to give extra support to the PGA Tour's efforts to keep its sponsors happy.


"In addition to their equipment, players may also need to spend considerable time changing their course strategy and technique."

I was poking around Stan Utley's new website and he posts a few thoughts on how he sees the groove rule change impacting the sport.

He also links to Titleist's groove report, which I had never read. Naturally I enjoyed a warm chuckle reading this alarming revelation:

The magnitude of these changes is far greater than most players anticipate. All players will be required to make time and resource consuming changes to their game to address the impact of these performance differences. Beyond wedge and iron changes, players will likely consider other equipment changes such as their golf ball, driver and set composition. In addition to their equipment, players may also need to spend considerable time changing their course strategy and technique.

Brain cells might move around, forehead wrinkles could develop and players are likely to use their arms to support their chin to ease the burden of extra brain activity. Now you see why we need universal health care in this country. It's all the USGA's fault. Always is!


Hyler Nomination Reaction

There's not a whole lot to say about Jim Hyler's nomination to be the next USGA President, and that's about the highest compliment you can pay the USGA these days!

Hyler figures to maintain the even-keeled style of Jim Vernon. And as perhaps the most influential proponent of Mike Davis's efforts to get more out of course setups in hopes of producing exciting championships and worthy champions, he will likely maintain and even expand on the best thing of today's USGA.



Golf As It Should Be Files: Marion

I visited George Thomas's first design many years ago now and it's fun to read a new review of Marion, as posted by Tom Dunne on his Out and Back blog.

The door was locked, a sign informing visitors to pay their green fee to the employee working somewhere out on the course. Marion is the closest thing I’ve seen in this country to the much-loved “honesty-box” courses one encounters in rural Scotland.


"It's a golf tournament, not a swap meet."

In an especially lively Up and Down column, Steve Elling shares this anecdote from last week's telecast which I did not see. Several have mentioned it though:

Every week, the CEO of whatever company sponsors that week's tour event gets a few moments of blather time during the broadcast to toot their corporate horn and spout clichés about what a great week it was. In Atlanta, the top dog at Coca-Cola used his TV opportunity to hoist a bottle of Coke during his live interview with NBC's Dan Hicks. Then the guy showed up for the awards ceremony with Mickelson and Woods on the 18th green drinking from yet another bottle of the company's product. Times may be tough, but this is way beyond gauche and bordering on crass. It's a golf tournament, not a swap meet.

I do wonder if this rather desperate move speaks to Coca-Cola feeling like it's been lost in the shuffle at East Lake? Most of the event is focused on the FedEx Cup and if it weren't for the Coke bottle sets as tee markers, I would not have any sense of Coca-Cola's presence as Tour Championship sponsor.


"Confused NASCAR Driver Runs Over 30 Golfers During Attempt To Win FedEx Cup"

Thanks to reader thusgone for catching this Onion story on the FedEx Cup. Just the kind of brand recognition the golf playoffs were looking for.


Road Hole Still Unsafe For Passage

Trevor Immelman posted a photo on Twitter from his Old Course Hotel room. Besides showing us the awesome view, it's quite apparent that even with new groove rules that are going to make players throttle back and use softer balls, this delivering a backdoor ball rollback, the R&A still refuses to open up the Road hole fairway. Instead they've retained the dreadful path-width corridor we saw at the last Open and apparently will see again. It's just so tacky.



McIlroy Demonstrates Team-Player Cred By Showing Up To 7:30 A.M Meetings...Early!

Seems young Rory has shed the label as an anti-Ryder Cup villain and is now aligned to not only star at Celtic Manor next year, but just moved ahead of Monty in the 2036 Ryder Cup captaincy race. Iain Carter blogs:

The 20-year-old did so while praising his captain Paul McGinley - the real star of the four sun-blessed days at Saint-Nom-La-Breteche. "Every team meeting was at half-seven this week and I actually looked forward to being in those team meetings," McIlroy said.

"I was usually turning up at quarter-past seven because there was such a buzz about them. You had all the lads in there with their ideas and Paul has a load of great ideas, especially with the team format, the foursomes and the four-balls."

It was interesting to see Mark Reason display a slight fissure in the all-things-Rory coverage:

Fourteen under par for 34 holes of better ball would be pretty fancy golf, but McDowell and McIlroy were playing greensomes and foursomes – phenomenal. The Northern Irish boys relish playing in the top match and they headed what is turning into an annihilation. GB&I take a seven-point lead over Europe into the final day of the Vivendi Trophy.

The pom-poms will be out for McIlroy again, but give some respect to McDowell. The older of the Northern Irishmen is proving himself a formidable match player. He doesn't make many mistakes and he holes a bucketful of momentum-building putts.


2009 Tour Championship Photo Caption Fun

What's on Phil's mind? What's the Commissioner saying to Tiger? From Rob Matre's final round photo gallery: