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

As each year goes by I fear the true sporting spirit of match play is less and less in evidence. We find a growing disposition for play to concentrate on the figures that are registered at a hole rather than on the question of whether the hole is lost or won in a purely friendly match. TOM SIMPSON

 

  

Wednesday
Sep232009

"Without the win-or-go-home scenario that defines playoff competition in team sports, the FedEx Cup will never generate widespread public interest or earn critical acclaim."

Some prominent writers have very different takes on the FedEx Cup.

First, John Hawkins nails it in this Golf World column:

Pro golf does not lend itself to a playoff format. The current model is flawed both inherently and procedurally and, thus, has virtually no chance of succeeding. Without the win-or-go-home scenario that defines playoff competition in team sports, the FedEx Cup will never generate widespread public interest or earn critical acclaim.

Jim McCabe takes the view that because we've gotten great fields and some nice finishes at a time of year when stars would not normally play, we should look past the fatal flaws which prevent the FedEx Cup from actually becoming a great sporting event and buzz-generating moment for the game.

I think that reasoning is more flawed than ever simply because Tiger Woods and other starts will NEVER play all four playoff events again when they learn this, which I picked up in Tweets today from Doug Ferguson:

Steve Elling picked up on Commissioner Finchem's remarks Wednesday, tabulates Woods as having been the 3 seed if he'd taken three weeks off, and notes this:

Woods could have skipped the first three FedEx events and been seeded No. 3 this week, which means he could still have claimed the $10 million bonus with a victory at East Lake on Sunday. When he learned that fact from a reporter on Wednesday, he muttered disgustedly to himself.

Hey, we know the feeling.

And here's where Finchem was asked about it:

Q. Not to get into details, but are you aware that Tiger could have sat out the first three playoff events and still been seeded as high as No. 3?

COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: No, and I'm glad he didn't.

Q. Are you comfortable with that?

COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: Tiger is pretty adept at this. Tiger's view was his best chance of winning was to play them all and make sure he was the No. 1 seed. I think the No. 1 seed has an advantage this week. It's like I've always characterized as kind of a home field advantage. You can still get beat, but you've got an advantage. Tiger usually plays to have an advantage.

Wednesday
Sep232009

Finchem: BCS Is "Blessed"

I've never actually seen someone label college football's BCS "blessed" for all of the controversy it generates. (You know, the relentless bashing, the congressional hearings, the President saying it needs to go, etc...). Only Tim Finchem could like the BCS, but it tells you how doomed the FedEx Cup is when its architect envies the most reviled and integrity-challenged championship structure in all of sport.

First, a few other comments from today's gathering worth noting...

I think that as we look at this part of the FedExCup season, the Playoffs, we're certainly pleased with -- we'll see how it plays out this week, but we're certainly pleased with the way it's come along during the course of the year. I think gradually fans have gotten their arms around this sort of three-tiered system where we have a base amount of points to be earned during the regular season portion and then increased number during the first three Playoff events, and then resetting for a more open competition among the players who have played well enough during the first two stages to get here to Atlanta.

Oh yes, the fans have really gotten their arms around it alright. They just happent to be in straitjackets trying to figure it out. So technically their arms would be around something.

Q. A couple completely unrelated questions. Since you made the ruling on the grooves in D.C. a few weeks ago, some of the manufacturers have had some prototype clubs shot down by the USGA, so I was wondering whether there was any reason to rethink the January 1st start date?

And the second part is I'm wondering whether the Wal-Mart news on the senior circuit has any effect on the sponsorship at Disney at all.

COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: On Disney? Yeah, it could. Right now we're working on filling that bit of a hole, and we're optimistic that that will be done.

As far as grooves go, no, we don't anticipate any reason to postpone at this point in time.

At this time...

COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: I'll give you a candid answer to that. I don't want to be flippant, but I think it depends on the fan's level of interest in detail. Some people say, well, wouldn't it be easier if you just took the Money List. Well, yeah, but then if you ask somebody, well, should a major championship count more than another event, you'd say yes. Well, the major championships don't have the highest purses. So then you say, well, let's double the money or something.

So there isn't any perfect way. It really depends on -- if you're only interested in, say, who has the most points, who's going to move from that position as you get in the Playoffs, given that there are more points available, and this seems to me it's pretty simple this week. That fan is probably saved. If you want to delve into the details and say why did a major championship get this many points and the player get this many points versus any other week, because we make the arbitrary view that it's worth more.

We just have to keep explaining it, I think, and gradually people will want to spend more time, go on line and study it and evaluate the different point configurations in tournaments, three different sections of the season.

See what I mean about straitjackets? Because anyone who goes online to "spend more time" studying the FedEx Cup points series should be strapped into one ASAP.

Asked about how a season long race has any credibility with all of the points resets, here's where the dreaded BCS came up:

All you're doing from day one until today is positioning yourself to have the best possible chance against 29 other guys who had to work that hard to get there. That's what we find exciting about the system. That's what we want; we want fans talking about the system. We want fans talking about the competition, and we want them watching it on television. That's what we're after.

We're not after a system that answers all these kind of questions. That's not what we're about. You could argue that until the cows come home, and I think that's great; I think you should. I think the BCS is blessed to have the kind of controversy they have. Everybody talks about it. I hope we get talked about as much and people are strong-willed on both sides and very vocal about it and write blogs about it, talk about it, go on TV shows, and argue about it. It's great. That's what we want.

The arguments haven't been over points as much as they've been about whether the third system in three years is any better than the previous version. Not exactly the kind of controversy that'll sell tickets.

This was an interesting clarification:

Q. I just want to be sure I understand you. When you first broached the subject of sponsorships, you said it was possible to lose a couple of events. Now, you could lose a couple of sponsors without losing a couple of events.

COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: Yeah, it's two different things. I think it's possible we could lose a couple of events. It's probable that we're going to lose some sponsors. They're two different things, really. You lose a title sponsor to an event and you can't replace -- you can't keep that particular tournament going -- well, Buick Open going to the Greenbrier is a good example. In losing the Buick Open sponsorship, we also lost a tournament, and we replaced it with a new tournament. There may be some more of that ahead, I don't know, but it most likely will be some more sponsorship loss.

Wednesday
Sep232009

"I probably shouldn't say this, but if I had played in the [Greg] Norman-[Nick] Faldo era, instead of winning 25 times with two majors, I probably would have won 40 times and had six majors."

Monte Burke talks to Johnny Miller, his usual humble self, offering a few thoughts worth checking out there. Highlights:

Forbes: Give us an idea of the preparation you go through before covering an event.

Johnny Miller: I don't want to brag, but I do more homework on the course than any other announcer.

More than Gary McCord?

I chart the greens to get all the breaks. I walk down into the greenside bunkers. I walk into the fairway bunkers to see whether a player can reach the green from them. My goal is to get to know the course as [well] or better than the players.

That doesn't take much these days!

Forbes: What's your take on the overall state of the game?

Johnny Miller: They've got it really good. The Tour is a fantastic place to be right now. I don't look back and say I got hosed. I think our era, if you don't count money, was maybe the most exciting era. You had Palmer, Nicklaus, Player, Trevino, [Raymond] Floyd, [Hale] Irwin, [Tom] Weiskopf, myself and Hubert Green. It was a golden age of golf from 1970 to 1980. I don't know if there will ever be one quite like it. Every era has two or three great golfers. Our era had six to 10. I probably shouldn't say this, but if I had played in the [Greg] Norman-[Nick] Faldo era, instead of winning 25 times with two majors, I probably would have won 40 times and had six majors. That era had [Fred] Couples, Norman, Faldo and [Curtis] Strange, but it didn't really have guys who could play on Sunday. We had the great era of Sunday players. There's a lot to be said for that.

That's great Johnny, but it was a state of the game question, not the state of your game had you been in your prime during the 90s (wait...didn't you win a tour event in the 90s?).

Now this was interesting:

Will Tiger break Jack Nicklaus' record of 18 career major wins?

Everybody has a choke point. Nicklaus' was winning the Grand Slam. All of Tiger's life ever since he was kid, he's wanted to get to 19 majors. It's probably going to get a lot harder with these last five. Let's put it this way: He doesn't want to go next year without winning any majors, because he'll probably start second-guessing himself.

Tiger is a pretty old 33. He's been going at it for an awful long time. Maybe he's one of those guys like Tom Kite or Gary Player, one of those guys who never lost the love of competition and traveling and living out of a suitcase in a motel room. They just couldn't get enough. Maybe Tiger will be that way, but maybe if he has more children, he'll play just eight tourneys a year. It's not a guarantee that he'll win five more. There are plenty of guys who played great golf, had great careers and only won a few majors. If I had to guess, I'd say that he will beat the record, but it will be a struggle.

Wednesday
Sep232009

Golf World Survey Responders Clearly Like To Be Tortured

Uh, something's wrong with this list of readers favorite private courses but I'm not sure exactly what it is. Help anyone?

Oak Hill
Augusta
Pine Valley
Kinloch
Oakmont
Robert Trent Jones Golf Club
Inverness
The Ridge at Back Brook
Aronimink
Cypress Point
Firestone
Shinnecock Hills

I've always said that The Ridge at Back Brook or Robert Trent Jones Golf Club should be mentioned in the same breath as Cypress Point or Shinnecock Hills. And you know how I adore Firestone. But Oak Hill No. 1 on a list other than Best Private Courses Mangled By Jones' AND Fazio's? That's a stunner.

Ryan Herrington was charged with the task of explaining the inexplicable responses. You can also find links to the other lists including web-only state-by-state compilations.

Tuesday
Sep222009

Have You Set Your DVR's Yet?

After the second points reset brought Tiger back to the field for the FedEx finale, I completely lost interest in this contrived silliness called a "cup chase." Anyone else have the same reaction?

Even if they have a wild shootout at East Lake but with what little integrity the process had totally undermined by the latest attempt to create excitement without-eliminating-stars-before-Sunday-because-TV-wants-it-that-way, the Tour Championship seems as uninspired as ever.

But I am anxious to see a golf course played that has taken, gulp, 11.3 inches of rain in seven days, including four on Monday, according to Helen Ross. It's just unfathomable that they could make it playable. Hats off to the crew!

Tuesday
Sep222009

"The search committee has had scores of excellent candidates, both people who have been self-referred and people recommended by others."

Garry Smits talks to the Rear Admiral about life as LPGA Tour interim commish and we learn a few things about what has been a remarkably quiet effort to salvage sponsorships and land a new leader.

What has been the key in renewing the most recent sponsorship contracts and working toward renewing others?

Communicating. It's getting to know people on a face-to-face basis, be there on the scene, converse with them and understand what their issues are.

I guess the old boss didn't really do that, did she?

The team we have knows what their job is, they're self-starters with great capabilities and we're letting them get the job done. It's in the movies where you see a Patton-type leader barking out the orders. In the real world, it's a little different.

Ahhh jeese, this has to change! I can't work with this.

Three of your players will pose nude for an upcoming issue of ESPN Magazine. How do you feel about that?

Let me ask you: Have you asked [NBA commissioner] David Stern about one of his players doing the same thing? We encourage our players to market themselves in ways they feel are appropriate. We weren't consulted but frankly, if it's tastefully done - and I'm told it was - I don't have a problem.

Tasteful is in ESPN The Magazine's mission statement!

Are there any circumstances under which you would accept the LPGA commissioner's job permanently?

No. I just don't want the final selection to be made too soon, because I love the job.
How is the search going?

The search committee has had scores of excellent candidates, both people who have been self-referred and people recommended by others. The committee is meeting on a regular basis and have begun some interviews.

I've self-referred myself for many things, but not a commissionership.

Meanwhile Beth Ann Baldry reports that Zayra Calderon is giving hints of a possibly larger LPGA schedule in 2010 than we might have expected.

Tuesday
Sep222009

"LOCAL QUALIFYING FOR 2010 U.S. OPEN EXEMPT FROM CONDITION OF COMPETITION FOR NEW GROOVE RULES"

I think they've mentioned this in past descriptions of the groove transition. Is this merely a matter of now wanting to try and deal with the enforcement headache at the local qualifying level?

LOCAL QUALIFYING FOR 2010 U.S. OPEN EXEMPT FROM CONDITION OF COMPETITION FOR NEW GROOVE RULES

Far Hills, N.J. (Sept. 22) – The United States Golf Association will adopt the new groove rules as a condition of competition for the 2010 U.S. Open, U.S. Women’s Open and U.S. Senior Open starting with the sectional (final stage) qualifying events for each of the three championships. The condition of competition regarding grooves will not be in effect at local (first stage) qualifying events for the 2010 U.S. Open Championship.

The USGA will adopt the condition of competition for U.S. Open local qualifying beginning in 2011 and for the national championships and team competitions it conducts for amateur players no later than 2014, as originally indicated.

“We plan to adopt the condition of competition for all stages of Open qualifying in 2011, but 2010 will be a transitional year for the 9,000 players who typically try to qualify for the U.S. Open,” said Mike Davis, USGA senior director of Rules and Competitions. “The important point is that any player who is one step from making it into any of the three Open championships will be playing with clubs that conform to this new condition of competition.” 

Announced by the USGA and R&A in August 2008, the revisions to the Rules of Golf, which place new restrictions on golf club grooves, will go into effect starting Jan. 1, 2010. The regulations control the cross-sectional area of grooves on all clubs, with the exception of drivers and putters, and limit groove edge sharpness on clubs with lofts equal to or greater than 25 degrees (generally a standard 5-iron and above). The rules apply to clubs submitted to the USGA for conformance evaluation on or after Jan. 1, 2010.

Tuesday
Sep222009

"We have been assured that our agreement is proceeding substantially as planned."

While John Hopkins thinks the prize money cut for the Race to Dubai could have been a lot worse because of Dubai's fall, Mark Reason and Lawrence Donegan sound much more suspicious about the short term future of the European Tour's big gamble, both pouncing on word that the Euro Tour does not even have a firm commitment for next year. Reason writes:

Those bones are now virtual dust. The European Tour will stage a cut-price 'Dubai World Championship' in November that presently lacks even a one-year guarantee.

Donegan on George O'Grady's quote:

"We have been assured that our agreement is proceeding substantially as planned."

That quote jarred with me.

Perhaps, I am reading too much into all of this (I usually do) but it seems to me that O'Grady is covering his back a little. Why on earth would he do that? Could it be that he was been "assured" of things in the past by his friends in Dubai only to find that an assurance is not always assured? If so, it would be hard to blame him.

Does this mean we can safely scratch Dubai off the future-Ryder Cup venue list?

Tuesday
Sep222009

"We were putting all our eggs in one basket with this tournament"

Did anyone else find this statement justifying Anheuser-Busch's pullout of the Kingsmill event a bit curious?

"We were putting all our eggs in one basket with this tournament," said Dan McHugh, A-B vice president of media, sponsorship and activation. "We want to widen our footprint and hit a few more tournaments. By no means are we walking away from the LPGA."

At a news conference Monday, McHugh said Anheuser-Busch planned to be an "associate sponsor" of other tournaments but conceded that "we're not sure what associate sponsor means yet."

Anheuser-Busch putting all of its eggs in one basket sponsoring an LPGA event? They probably spend more on Superbowl pre-game advertising that the Kingsmill event!

Monday
Sep212009

RTJ On Nicklaus: It's Almost As If He Never Said A Thing!

On the post where Robert Trent Jones Jr. analyzes (accurately in my view) Jack Nicklaus's design work, reader E noted, "I don't see the comments about Jack in the link, have they been removed?"

Sure enough, it appears the comments were removed.

And now you know why I copy and paste so much!

Monday
Sep212009

Pushback On Pull Carts

I finally got the time today to really digest the many enjoyable comments on push carts, caddying and walking. Naturally, only topics like Obama in cargos and push carts draw so many comments, which speaks to our priorities! (It's also a head-turner when so many comment here but no one comments on the WSJ site where the column appeared.)

While some people might laugh off these debates, they really do get to some core issues related to the health of the sport. And in that light, I'm wondering a few things after reading John Paul Newport's column again.  He writes:

In the mid-1980s, college teams initially resisted the move to the then-new stand bags as ungolferly, but then suddenly, for some indeterminate reason having to do with what was cool and what wasn't, everyone started using them.

Is the emergence of the "push" cart a product of simple coolness? After all, these are sexier looking devices than the old pull cart.

More importantly, do you think if more high profile clubs allow golfers to use push carts and more public courses rent these deluxe versions, will we see more people walking in the future?

Monday
Sep212009

God Really Must Not Care For FedEx Cup 3.0

Atlantans have been Tweeting and emailing about the torrential rains all weekend and Anne Szeker points out that the forecast for the rest of the week stinks. You know if they just played an ADT-like shootout finish, this wouldn't be happening!

Monday
Sep212009

“I’m kind of ready to go to the next level. The best players in the world (line themselves up).”

It's not Christie Kerr's first quote about taking her game to the next level by not having her caddie line her up in this Beth Ann Baldry post that made me laugh. No, it was this:

Kerr feels her rhythm has been better since making the change in her routine. Her mind is more quiet, and she’s actually playing faster.

“The reality is (caddies) never pull you off (a shot),” Kerr said.

So why bother with the extra step?

Good question.

Sunday
Sep202009

Hot, Flat And Not Crowded: Obama Tees It Up With Friedman

They played the course at Andrews Air Force Base. This ought to be an interesting column. Wednesday I suspect? 

Word is Obama was not lobbying for Friedman's support of health care or climate change legislation. Sources tell me that Renegade is hoping Golf Digest brings back the gone-but-not-forgotten Buddies issue and he figured Friedman might have some sway.

Sunday
Sep202009

"Until gambling on golf becomes part of the mainstream betting action, like college and pro football, the PGA Tour will never have a real chance to make a mark in the fall."

The SI golf group contemplates the positive ramifications of the LPGA playing a well known tournament course in Torrey Pines (I have to agree, they should do it more often if at all possible). However, this was a more interesting debate related to the FedEx Cup finale:

Bamberger: Until gambling on golf becomes part of the mainstream betting action, like college and pro football, the PGA Tour will never have a real chance to make a mark in the fall. When you have your own money on the line, or your alma mater is playing, you connect with the pictures on your tube in a totally different way. And I don't think the wise heads in Ponta Vedra Beach would want the Tour to turn into a haven for gamblers anyhow, although a Tiger-Phil-Heath trifecta sounds pretty good.

Van Sickle: Great point by Bamberger. The NFL was huge before, with lots of betting, and fantasy football has put it way over the top as the national past time. Golf can't compete with that. Baseball might even be in tough shape if not for fantasy leagues.

Joe Ogilvie has said many times that golf should find ways to become more gambling friendly if it wants to grow. And what could be more fun to bet on than a four day shootout at East Lake with daily eliminations leading up to a final day free-for-all with 4 or eight guys?

What do you all think about the importance of being gambling friendly in driving your interest in watching golf versus other sports?

Saturday
Sep192009

"So in a sense, the banning of push carts at high-end courses is another price Americans pay for our lavish style of golf."

Hear, hear to John Paul Newport for trying to understand why American golfers and courses have shunned the push cart.

Trolleys—what we call pull carts or push carts in the U.S.—are de rigueur in the British Isles, where golf as we know it began. Even at the poshest private clubs over there, members happily use the contraptions to trundle their bags down the fairways, thus playing the game as it was originally intended, on foot.

In the U.S., by contrast, walking carts historically have been relegated mostly to lower-end public and municipal courses. The vast majority of upscale clubs, resorts and daily-fee courses ban them entirely, thus denying many who might enjoy walking the course from time to time the opportunity to do so. On many of these courses, only motorized carts are allowed. On others, only golfers who are fit enough to carry their own bags—a full set of clubs with bag weighs 20 pounds or more—can walk, and even then usually only during stipulated hours. Fewer than 1% of the nearly 500 million rounds played annually in the U.S. involve caddies, according to the National Golf Foundation.

But there's good news as he lists some of the prestigious clubs now allowing push carts and the advent of a cooler looking cart:

Since 1999, however, when Sun Mountain introduced its three-wheel Speed Cart, pull carts have evolved into push carts, which are a different thing altogether. These high-tech vehicles, some now with four wheels, glide easily over the terrain with the slightest touch and roll down slopes entertainingly all by themselves.

Friday
Sep182009

"He said he did it because he wanted to honor all the golfers who had died"

David Kelly with a bizarro story of 57-year-old Douglas Jones, who probably won't have his job working at a golf course much longer after it was discovered he was depositing golf balls--among other things--in the Joshua Tree National Park...as a tribute to dead golfers:

"He said he did it because he wanted to honor all the golfers who had died," Zarki said. "He left the cans of fruit and vegetables supposedly for the assistance of stranded hikers."

And the park permits and literature?

"He wanted to leave his mark," Zarki said.

Contrary to what rangers originally thought, Jones wasn't chipping golf balls into the desert with a club. He was hurling them from his car.

The balls, numbering between 2,000 and 3,000, were unlikely to pose a threat unless a hapless animal mistook one for an egg and tried to swallow it, Zarki said. But the cleanup was a different story.

"We estimate we spent about 373 staff hours or about $9,000 on this case," he said.

Friday
Sep182009

"Nicklaus’s courses are all predictable. He's myopic. He looks straight forward."

Connell Barrett quotes Robert Trent Jones Jr. putting down Bandon Dunes (compared to its neighbor) and has this to say about Jack Nicklaus courses:

Nicklaus’s courses are all predictable. He's myopic. He looks straight forward. All of his greens and his [design] thoughts are very, very generic. His courses are beautiful and highly competent but predictable. The great courses are not by golf professionals, who tend to design courses that suit their games. A great course can't be for one particular level. It has to be for all players: left-handers, right-handers, Tour pros, amateurs. The courses that stand the test of time are by designers who didn't play: MacKenzie, Tillinghast, Fazio, my father, myself, my brother [Rees]. Those courses last because they're for all types of players. And they last because the idea of them woke the designer up in the middle of the night, like a muse."

It was going so well until he lumped Rees and Fazio in with MacKenzie and Tillinghast. Just having a hard time seeing them waking up in the night with design solutions on their mind.

Friday
Sep182009

"Reservations are limited, so call today and secure your spot for this special weekend!"

This is what you're missing if you aren't a USGA Member...

Coming November 6 - 8, 2009, we're pleased to introduce the USGA Member Education Series, a unique opportunity for USGA Members to interact with the USGA staff and personalities who impact the game and the championships we love so dearly.

Package Includes:

    •    2 nights accommodations in the Carolina Hotel
    •    Clinic with LPGA Tour Pro Morgan Pressel
    •    Round on Pinehurst No. 2
    •    Round on Pinehurst No. 4
    •    Interaction and Panel Discussions with USGA Officials
    •    Breakfast, dinner daily

Rate:  $899* per person   (Non golfer $499*)

Well at least Dick Rugge has an excuse now for the ball study heading into year six: he's on the USGA Educational Series junket and there's no time to finish the research.

Thursday
Sep172009

Hey Llama...

Thanks to so much to reader Bill for this NBC story on llamas caddying at Sherwood Forest in North Carolina.

Because of their soft, padded feet, llamas do not make marks on the green and actually leave the courses with less damage than golf carts.

This is only one of the characteristics that prompted Sherwood Golf Course manager Brian Lautenschlager and his superintendent, Great Smoky Mountains Greenskeepers Inc. owner Mark English, to bring 11 llamas (with four more on the way) from the latter’s farm to the Brevard, N.C., country club. The animals, all boys ranging from 1 to 4 years, are English’s pets, and a long-held dream to bring them into this unique role has taken off “like wildfire,” Lautenschlager tells PEOPLE Pets.

For the past few months, he and English have trained the llamas to become caddy extraordinaires through a series of acclimation exercises, first allowing them to get used to golf swings, and then to become harnessed with saddles that carry two clubs.

"They go at the speed of a golf cart,” says Lautenschlager, a professional golfer, who feels no hindrance from having a llama caddy vs. a human one. Even better, llamas are what he calls natural “communal pottyers,” meaning they don’t go to the bathroom on the green anytime they feel like it but will rather line up rear to rear and go together in one spot. “It’s the funniest thing,” Lautenschlager says.