Twitter: GeoffShac
Writing And Videos

Just as one can see and appreciate beautiful paintings without being able himself to paint, so can one play and appreciate hundreds of golf courses without being able to develop that natural aptitude and artistic sense which, to my mind, contribute so largely to the successful and outstanding accomplishments of a golf architect. CHARLES BANKS


    

Friday
Oct242008

"Everybody almost looks like somebody who can play."

Jim Moriarty files an entertaining GolfDigest.com column on the unusual gathering that is Q-School first stage:

If you're the kind of person who enjoys wandering through cemeteries reading inscriptions on mausoleums, the first stage of the PGA Tour's qualifying school is for you. It's quiet, respectful, sometimes surprising but mostly populated by, if not the walking wounded, at least the walking depressed.

Friday
Oct242008

"Now it's a survival hole"

Teddy Greenstein loves the Rees-ification of Cog Hill, and I must say, it sounds like a good thing that it's next BMW Championship will be a playoff event, otherwise the boys would stay home. Thanks to reader Nick for the story, which includes this item on the new-look finishing hole:

The par 4 at Cog Hill's signature course was difficult, playing to a 4.135 average during the 2007 BMW Championship, but still lacked a certain fear factor.

The greenside pond looked good on TV but was barely visible to the pros. They made only eight double bogeys in the event's 260 rounds played.

"Now it's a survival hole," touring pro Garrett Chaussard said.

On a recent cool, windy day, Chaussard marched back to a new tee box that stretches the hole to a sinister 501 yards. He flushed a drive and still needed his 2-hybrid to reach the green from 220 yards out.

Chaussard, a University of Illinois product whose 2008 highlight was qualifying for the U.S. Open — though his 80-82 missed the cut by 13 shots — said the hole's new design makes it far more intimidating.

As part of Rees Jones' $5 million redesign, the tee box at No. 18 was moved back and to the left, making the pin visible — if you have 20/20 vision.

The green was lowered, thinned out and brought within spitting distance of the pond, leaving two bad options for the long approach: short (water) and long (deep bunker).

Jones' brilliant redesign is aimed in helping Cog Hill land a U.S. Open. Numerous bunkers have been added, deepened or reshaped to add ferocity to the layout, which could play at more than 7,600 yards.

Sounds so creative and inspired!

Thursday
Oct232008

Enjoy Golfweek's Best New Courses While You Can

At the pace we're on, there won't be enough new courses in the coming years to do these awards issues. Well, that won't stop them from trying. Maybe they'll go with "where are they now" issues trying to figure out what they were thinking in selecting some of these gems!

You have two options. There is the online version of the print edition with all of Brad Klein's musings, or the online photo slideshow backed by some of the finest copyright-free Muzak you'll ever want to not hear.

 

Thursday
Oct232008

Australian Masters To Great Sandbelt Courses?

The best thing about the Victorian Government rescuing the Australian Masters is that it's leaving longtime site Huntingdale, and according to word on the street as posted at GCA by Chris Kane, may be heading to Kingston Heath in 2009 and Victoria in 2010. Perfect opportunities for Tiger to go study his favorite type of golf!

Thursday
Oct232008

Annika Hints At Return From Retirement As Retirement Beckons

Gee, you think she could have gotten bored around the house for a few hours before growing restless about returning. Stephen Wade reports from China.

“If I get the urge to come back, I have a chance,” Sorenstam said. “That’s why I have never said this is the end. But we’ll see.

“There are new challenges ahead,” she added. “Getting married and starting a family. Who knows? I might come out on tour sooner than later. It might be tougher than I think it is.”

Thursday
Oct232008

Golf's A Bargain!

At least when you read how much the auto manufacturers pour into NASCAR, though not for much longer as Liz Clarke writes. But in light of $10 million sponsorships for one car, PGA Tour and LPGA Tour deals look pretty good. And of course with golf you get those added value streams, especially that b-to-b interaction for the C-Levels. 

Thursday
Oct232008

Seve Going In For More Surgery

Ben Harding reports on the latest complications with a diagnosis on his tumor. No good news.

Thursday
Oct232008

Tiger-The-Caddy Photo Caption Fun

I passed on all of the "news" about Tiger's caddying gig as part of a Buick campaign. The more interesting news comes in this Michael Buteau piece where Tiger's agent and Buick's advertising man are letting the world know they are considering an extension on his deal, pending a few minor details like, say, the survival of the company!

Meanwhile, something about the body language of contest winner John Abel needs to be captured in a caption (thanks to reader Al for the link)...

Wednesday
Oct222008

"Phil [Mickelson] isn't going to come up (onstage) and try to do karaoke while I'm doing my show."

JT managed to lure both John Hawkins and Alan Shipnuck to Vegas for game stories in their respective publications, and in the same press center! A Nobel peace prize may be next.

Hawkins notes this about the Las Vegas event:

Still, this was a marked improvement over recent gatherings in Vegas. Timberlake wisely ditched the three-course rotation that made this tournament so needlessly complicated -- it wasn't like the venues were within a 7-iron of each other -- and centralized everything at TPC Summerlin. Formerly a 72-hole pro-am, J.T. removed the chopper factor from the competitive arena, saying, "Phil [Mickelson] isn't going to come up (onstage) and try to do karaoke while I'm doing my show."

Shipnuck focuses on the overall economic state of the tour after praising Timberlake's turnaround of the moribund event. He offers this about the tax implications of an Obama presidency:

Paul Azinger estimated last week that his colleagues are 99% Republican (and that may be a conservative number) primarily because the players vote their pocketbooks. An analysis by the Tax Policy Center, recently cited in Rolling Stone, estimated that for those who make more than $1 million a year — which, including endorsements, is pretty much the entire Tour — the out-of-pocket difference between the tax plans of Barack Obama and John McCain is nearly $270,000. If Obama rides his lead in the polls to victory next month, Tour players will be feeling pain that is more than ideological.

Wednesday
Oct222008

You Can't Say Bomb On An Airplane!

Seems U.S. Amateur champion Danny Lee didn't have the best showing at the Eisenhower Trophy, earning an oer-the-top dressing down from Peter Williams who is never shy about making a fuss, and then made some sort of brilliant comment overheard by airport security. Not his best week.

Wednesday
Oct222008

Just Wondering...

A few of you complained that I didn't focus on the substance in Tim Finchem's spellbinding SF Chronicle interview. Which of course, is a victory for the Commish. After all, doublespeak is a distraction tool and I fell for it!

Alright, here goes:

Q: The PGA Tour has a reserve of money it can call on in tough times. Would you tap that if you did have a decrease in sponsorships?

A: It's pretty simple. Through team sports and alliances, a big percentage of our revenue is derived from the communications side - broadcasts, etc. When we do our longer-term arrangements with television, and to some extent new media, we project out of that period so that right now we are in a six-year term with our network partners.

Our strategy is to grow our operating reserve during those years so we can withstand some negativity in the next cycle. We've done that for 20 years and it's worked well. We've grown in all those years. The question now is can we grow that reserve a little bit more aggressively to protect against what we were just talking about, namely retrenchment.

Anyone care to guess just how much is in the PGA Tour's rainy-day retrenchment fund?

Wednesday
Oct222008

Villegas Puts Out Euro Tour Option Feeler...

...so I guess it wasn't just IMG looking for a reaction. Norman Dabell reports

Tuesday
Oct212008

Shocker: Van de Velde Quits Full Time Play, World Is Stunned To Learn He Was Still Playing Full Time

Norman Dabell reports:

"It's not like I'm going to stop playing completely but I'm definitely going to slow down a lot," Van de Velde told Reuters in a telephone interview on Tuesday.

"My career I can compare to a good bottle of wine. You take a glass and enjoy it; you take a second glass and really enjoy it; a third, then the bottle is getting empty.

"I've been going around the world for so many years and at the end of the day you can only do so much. Next year I will only play the tournaments I really enjoy.

"I don't know exactly how many I will play but the maximum will be a dozen," added the popular Frenchman who was struck down in 2007 by a virus which at one stage looked likely to end his career then.

Tuesday
Oct212008

"Ultimately, he said, charities might receive less financial support throughout golf."

John Davis does a nice job assessing the state of pro tour events in Arizona in light of the economy, and while the news is pretty good, there is this one comment from Tom Maletis, president of Tournament Golf Foundation, Inc., which owns the Valley's LPGA event about who will take the biggest hit:

Ultimately, he said, charities might receive less financial support throughout golf.

"Tournaments typically tighten their belts anyway so they can give more to charity," Maletis said, "but now we will have to look at things in a different light because there are only so many apples in the box."
Tuesday
Oct212008

Juli Inkster For Commissioner!

When the LPGA inevitably cans Carolyn Bivens, I'd nominate Juli Inkster for the Commish job. Or at least a board seat.

From Doug Ferguson's AP notes column comes this wisdom that might have prevented the learn-English-or-your-outta-here disaster:

“The Asian players ... it’s kind of a respect thing, a pecking order thing,” Inkster said. “They are brought up to really honor their roots and their grandparents, and the people before them, and the higher-ups. So all of a sudden, you put an 18- or 19-year-old girl that’s maybe not really comfortable with her English.
“Playing with four CEOs — men or women — she is not going to feel comfortable going up there and making small talk. That’s not the way they are brought up.”

Tuesday
Oct212008

"The changes certainly will help."

Brad Klein returns to Erin Hills--the course he originally dubbed "Errant Hills" and a comment that Golf Digest's Ron Whitten countered was payback for a lousy Wintonbury Hills review--and doesn't sound any more enthusiastic about what he sees in the fall reworking that the course hopes will usher in a U.S. Open bid.

And Open there makes complete sense when you can bypass a proven cash cow and weather wonder like Torrey Pines in 2017 and head straight to the middle of no where in Wisconsin! Don't worry scribblers, there's a Marriott just 45 minutes away...more points and you'll love the highway billboards.

Klein writes:

But for a golf course that touts a links sensibility, there’s actually little integration at Erin Hills between approach shots and contours into and around greens. Every recovery shot from around and behind putting surfaces is a lobbed shot, not a bump and run. And there are so many holes where the natural slopes leading into the green deflect the ball away from the putting surface rather than allowing you to feed the ball in. The contours might all be entirely natural, but they defy thoughtful shotmaking and end up requiring an aerial brand of golf in which everything is simply flown to the target. As for the bunkers, there’s nothing natural about any of their shapes; they are scraped out in such contrived, undersized pockets that they make you feel as if you’ve been lowered into jagged tea cups.
The changes certainly will help. A postage-stamp style, domed green on the short par-4 second hole will be expanded by 50 percent. The wild Biarritz green on the long par-5 10th hole will be flattened front and back so that it will be far more pin-able and playable. A ridge in the 15th green also will be modified. Awkward deflection slopes on the first and 17th fairways will be softened, making both far more receptive.
Tuesday
Oct212008

"Where other players such as Ben Crenshaw and Geoff Ogilvy enjoy deconstructing the playing field, Woods has channeled his energy into taking it apart."

Jaime Diaz does a nice job analyzing Tiger's press conference from last week. He's trying to put Tiger's design career in perspective, and like a lot of us, is not entirely sure what to make of it. Of course, he quotes me about the incredible number of oceanfront holes Tiger managed to grab from the development. But I thought this was a more interesting observation from Diaz because it could very well speak to the quality of designs Woods produces:

Still, even with his injury, his career as an architect holds more unknowns than his return as a golfer. As a player Woods never has appeared particularly passionate about design. His highest praise for courses tended to be sound bites such as "It fits my eye" or "It's all right there in front of you." Those he didn't like were dismissed with the all-purpose, "It is what it is." Where other players such as Ben Crenshaw and Geoff Ogilvy enjoy deconstructing the playing field, Woods has channeled his energy into taking it apart.
Tuesday
Oct212008

Compton Starts Play Today

Randell Mell reports that Erik Compton's Q-school quest begins today. You can follow his play here.

Monday
Oct202008

"Some of the industry sectors that gravitate to our platform have imploded, some of them are struggling and some are actually doing OK."

I've always thought it would be fun to see what happens when Tim Finchem goes into doublespeak mode in front of non-golf folks. Well, courtesy of reader Kevin, my dream came true last week when it seems the Commish sat down with some editorial types at the San Francisco Chronicle. The poor bastards In attendance were Chronicle Editor Ward Bushee, Deputy Managing Editor Stephen Proctor, Business Editor Al Saracevic, Sports Editor Glenn Schwarz, reporter Ron Kroichick and editorial assistant Steve Corder.

Brace yourselves...we're going to get some oldies-but-goodies and a couple of new, convoluted thoughts.

Q: The economic downturn definitely poses some issues for the PGA Tour and the golf industry. Recently, you discussed sponsorships with companies like Wachovia and Morgan Stanley, which find themselves in the middle of the mess on Wall Street. How is that impacting the PGA and is that a serious concern for you?
A: It's certainly a concern. It's too early to tell about the impact, though. Some of the industry sectors that gravitate to our platform have imploded, some of them are struggling and some are actually doing OK.
I just feel privileged to be watching a master at work. Some of the industry sectors that gravitate to our platform have imploded. Poetry I tell you.
Thus far, the ones that are doing OK and the ones that are reorganizing and merging tend to be on our list (of partners). The ones that have imploded are not on our list. We sort of dodged the bullet thus far.
 That said, there is an awful lot of stress on some of our key industry sectors - financial services and autos, etc. We'll see how that plays out over the next couple of years.
It's not like GM will go belly...oh wait, I better not write that.
A lot of these companies are enlightened sponsors.
Translation: big suckers!
By that, I mean they take advantage of what we tend to refer to as the three major value streams, one of which is branding. Barclays and Deutsche Bank get a lot of mileage out of our demographic.
Secondly, they can take advantage of business-to-business activity on-site during tournaments. Third, and increasingly, companies are taking advantage of the relationship between our charitable focus and its impacts. That's what we call our qualitative branding.
Please Tim, we all know about qualitative branding! Why do you insist on talking down to us? Everyone knows about qualitative branding.
From a broader perspective, if you look back over the last 20 years at other downturns, companies challenge their cost structure much more aggressively than they do when times are good. That impacts the way they evaluate sports marketing sponsorships.
We've typically come out of these things better off than we were going in. Now that remains to be seen this time around.
If this thing doesn't last too much longer, I think we can weather the storm without any retrenchment of our overall delivery to players and fans.
Whoa Nellie! Say what? I think that may be the all-time classic. I think this is a man who has sat in on one too many FedEx meetings.
Q: You've used that word - "retrenchment" - in a few recent interviews. What do you mean by retrenchment?

A: Whether it's good news or bad news, at a moment like this, we've grown in output in major areas of our business, which is generating financial benefits to players, raising money for charity and helping to grow the game. The first two are the major focus of the PGA Tour. We've grown every year for years. When I say retrenchment, a dead flat-line (in growth) would not be something we are used to. If we go down, that would be unique.
Got that?
Q: The PGA Tour has a reserve of money it can call on in tough times. Would you tap that if you did have a decrease in sponsorships?

A
: It's pretty simple. Through team sports and alliances, a big percentage of our revenue is derived from the communications side - broadcasts, etc. When we do our longer-term arrangements with television, and to some extent new media, we project out of that period so that right now we are in a six-year term with our network partners.

Our strategy is to grow our operating reserve during those years so we can withstand some negativity in the next cycle. We've done that for 20 years and it's worked well. We've grown in all those years. The question now is can we grow that reserve a little bit more aggressively to protect against what we were just talking about, namely retrenchment.
This really a painfully longwinded way of saying, we have a nest egg.
Q: Would you grow that through investment vehicles?
A: We need to try to find more revenue with a reduced cost structure. We don't have a lot of flexibility on the cost-structure side because we like to think we're pretty efficient.
That's right, just this year all of the VP's are only leasing 5 series' instead of 7 series'.
Q: In this country, is the demographic getting younger or older in terms of golf play?
A: I think it's flat. I think it's going to be another 10 years before we'll start to see movement. When we talk about overall golf play, you have Baby Boomers coming into the population in post-retirement numbers in the tens of millions. That fuels a lot of growth at that end of the age spectrum. It's good news in the sense that those are people that will have more time to spend and that will help fuel growth in rounds.
Didn't know a demo could be flat?
Q: Sounds like the time commitment has really held back participation. I've read some stories where writers talk about dividing a course into three six-hole segments. Someone could then play in 1 1/2 hours if so inclined. Is that a viable option?

A: I don't know how viable that is. There are a number of factors, one of which is the golf course itself. Is it a golf course that the average player can get around and play? Harding Park is a golf course that you can go out here and you're not going to lose a golf ball. There are golf courses that don't fit that model. They take longer to play.

In Europe, if you go to Scotland and Ireland in the summertime, people go out after dinner and they play alternate shot, they play in two hours, they play nine holes in an hour and 20 minutes. I think the mind-set needs to be changed a little bit in the U.S. so that people understand why you can enjoy the game without the need to post this 18-hole score and compare it to the other 20 times you played last year.

Maybe if the lugs on the PGA Tour could play in under 5 hours on Thursday and Friday, it would set a nice example? Sorry...
Q: How much did it cost to have Tiger Woods out of action this year with his leg injuries?

A: A day or two after the announcement, I stated that we were going to lose television ratings in the weeks that he played last year versus not playing this year, and we did. He brings a lot of soft viewers - people that don't watch our product all the time, but they do watch him.

The good news is it created this window for everybody to see our other players. Today, Anthony Kim and Camilo Villegas are very different in the psyche of our fans than they were when Tiger stepped out, and I guarantee you they could have played exactly the same, but if Tiger was out there, they would have had significantly reduced exposure.

Going forward, we know there's going to be this speculation. Can he play? Is the leg going to hold up? Can he turn on it? Can he win?

You also have a whole different story: How is Tiger going to fare against these guys? They are really good. It's a short-term negative and a long-term positive. I would not have wished this to happen, by any means. Tiger is phenomenally impactful. Given the situation, we were hoping we would get something out of it, and I think we have.

He's phenomenally impactful, that's for sure.
Monday
Oct202008

I Know How I'm Getting To Australia!

Only in LA would they promote the arrival of a new aircraft with street pole banners.  But since I was in the neighborhood and I still have fond memories of seeing the Spruce Goose on display in Long Beach, I couldn't resist taking a few photos even though they don't do it justice. Either way, now I know why I've been waiting to see Royal Melbourne. I had to fly there in style!

Besides the massive size, the lack of engine noise may be most startling.

Here's a little on the A380 and a cool comparison to the 747 and the Spruce Goose. That little 707 you see in the images to the left of the Qantas belongs to John Travolta, who was on hand for today's festivities.


(click to enlarge)

 


(click to enlarge)


(click to enlarge)