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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
  • The Early Days of Pinehurst
    The Early Days of Pinehurst
    by Chris Buie
  • 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
  • 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
  • His Ownself: A Semi-Memoir
    His Ownself: A Semi-Memoir
    by Dan Jenkins
  • Professional Golf 2014: The Complete Media, Fan and Fantasy Guide
    Professional Golf 2014: The Complete Media, Fan and Fantasy Guide
    by Daniel Wexler
  • 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 best way to whet the appetite and improve the game of any golfer is to offer an incentive and provide a reward for high class play, and by high class play is meant simply the best of which each individual is capable. Placing a premium on accuracy with due consideration for length should be the aim of all men who design courses, for accuracy in the play signifies skill, and skill is generally the master of brute force. WILLIAM FLYNN




Letter From Dunbar

Golf World and Scotland on Sunday correspondent John Huggan shares this dispatch on the Richie Ramsay situation that precluded the reigning U.S. Amateur Champion from playing Bay Hill this week.

Dear Arnold (or can I call you ‘your majesty?’),

Greetings from sunny Scotland.

Over the course of your long career in professional golf, I’m sure you will agree that the land that gave the game to the world has been especially generous to you. Even on the many occasions when you couldn’t be bothered to come and play in the Open Championship – 13 times between your first and last appearance - we Scots did our bit to keep up the myth that the biggest event on the planet today owes its very existence to the fuss and bother caused by your first visit back in 1960. We even provided you with Tip Anderson, the best caddie you ever had. I hear you like our whisky too.

Anyway, less than a year ago one of our own ventured across the big water hazard to our left and your right and emulated your good self by winning the US Amateur Championship. That, as you can imagine, was a big deal back here in the land that gave golf to the world and amongst the people that perpetuate the aforementioned myth re yourself and the Open. We are very proud of Richie Ramsay and his achievement.

As a result of his victory our Richie has received many invitations to take part in events across the globe. One of them very kindly came from you and I know first hand that Richie was very much looking forward to competing in the “Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by Mastercard” at Bay Hill.

Well, he was until he arrived in Florida to find that he was being denied entry to ‘your’ event because of a stupid and pointless PGA Tour rule that should apply only to professional golfers. Besides, would it have killed you or your office to have reminded Richie that officially “committing” – an apt word in this context – to the tournament was a necessary part of his schedule? Surely not.

When this nonsense came to light, I am perplexed by your apparent indifference to the plight of young Richie. Would it have killed you to take time away from those sycophants on the Golf Channel long enough to tell the PGA Tour pedants that at ‘your’ tournament amateurs who are no threat to anyone’s prize money and who are not taking up anyone’s precious spot in what is not even a full-field event will be allowed to tee it up even if they haven’t been told that they must officially confirm their presence? Surely not.

One last thing. You may not be aware that Richie’s month-long trip to America – during which he will take on Amateur champion Julian Guerrier for the Georgia Cup, compete in the Masters and then the Heritage tournament at Hilton Head – is being paid for by the Scottish Golf Union. The SGU, as you may not be aware, is largely funded by a levy taken from every golf club member in Scotland. In other words, me.

Arnie, can I have my money back please?

Yours in sport,
John Huggan

PS. I hear Richie is switching from Mastercard to Visa. So there.


"Irrational and illogical"

Former USGA Technical Director Frank Thomas weighs in on the proposed U-groove change...

Based on the USGA’s approach to equipment regulation over the last several years, and assuming the manufacturers don’t mount a concerted effort to object, I’d say the proposal for a rule change on grooves is very likely to be adopted.  I’d also say such a rule is irrational and illogical – and, sadly, it’s in keeping with the USGA’s recent actions I first discussed this topic in my November 2006 Frankly Friends Newsletter.


The concern that has been cited as the impetus for the proposal revolves, first around .001% of the golfing population and secondly and more importantly the problem which is trying to be resolved has not been adequately defined. Also there is no evidence that the game (on the tour or elsewhere) will benefit from the change. It will certainly be different and may be costly to implement and difficult to monitor.

I've heard from several local golf association officials already that they would like to know how this is going to be monitored, on top of the questions that Thomas is raising.

The USGA explains this proposal by saying that the rough is not enough of a penalty for the long and wayward golfers using U-shaped grooves on the professional Tours. What they haven’t said is that this problem – if it is a problem – applies only to light rough (1 to 2 inches thick).  If it’s any longer, there’s no performance difference between any types of grooves; the grass is too long for it to matter. 

Would this last point be the reason that the USGA study seems to avoids defining rough heights in their field study?


“If I really wanted to use raw power..."

From Rich Lerner at

A quick perusal revealed that on the subject of “inferior equipment” Phil was joking, suggesting that Tiger dominates without having gone to the super high tech gear most players had already put in their bags---the longer drivers, lighter shafts and monster heads. He wasn’t bashing Nike, but people took the ball and ran with it anyway like Steve Nash and the Suns.
In any event, in the parking lot after his pro-am round, Tiger did open up to a small circle of reporters and while talking about power in the modern game unintentionally exonerated Phil on the long ago inferior equipment comment. “I don’t use raw power,” said Tiger. “If I really wanted to use raw power I’d go to a spinnier ball and a lighter shafted driver like most of the guys and get an extra 20 yards.” So the verdict’s finally been rendered: Phil Mickelson, innocent on all counts on the charge of defamation of a manufacturer’s character.

Well let's not go that far. 



Why Tiger Hates Coming To The Press Tent, Vol. 301

After his opening round 64 at Bay Hill...

Q. Does Elin still cook pasta?
TIGER WOODS: She does.

Q. Do you still eat it?
TIGER WOODS: Of course. (Laughter).

That's great, remind him of the food poisoning his wife gave him!  


Palmer As An Honorary Starter

In reading yesterday that Arnold Palmer was considering the club's invitation to serve as the Masters Honorary Starter, I noticed that he's sounding more likely to reprise one of the tournament's great traditions.

While reading Scott Michaux's piece on it today, I wondered about this quote from Palmer:

"I'm giving it some careful consideration now that I have stopped playing competitively.  And you know Augusta is one of my very favorite places, and of course Bill Payne is a good friend and I think he is a great guy to have as the chairman.

"So as of this day, I am really giving that some serious consideration. It isn't that I have anything against doing it. I just want it to be the right time when I decide to do it. That's all."

Is he giving his more careful consideration because of the timing, or because Billy Payne is the chairman (and you-know-who is not running the show). 


Sharp Park In Different Hands?

Thanks to reader Mike for this latest story in the San Francisco city golf course saga. This time it's Alister MacKenzie's Sharp Park and Pacifica's interest in operating the facility.


"To make the golf course a little more competitive to par"

Doug Ferguson looks at the utter meaninglessness of par as a barometer of a successful championship, and why everyone still clings to it's value even though they know better.

"We can get caught up too much in numbers," Ben Crenshaw said Monday. "You still add up your score at the end of the round. And they're still going to give the trophy away to the guy with the lowest score."

That's worth noting because twice in the last three weeks on the Florida swing, the courses have played as a par 70. Mark Wilson won the four-man playoff at the Honda Classic after finishing at 5-under 275 at PGA National, which sounds like a more grueling week than if they had finished at 13-under 275.

Now, Palmer has converted Nos. 4 and 16 at Bay Hill into par-4s, and it will play as a par 70 for the first time in the Arnold Palmer Invitational Thursday through Sunday.

"I did it just to make the golf course a little more competitive to par," Palmer said.

Oh joy! Thank God the NCAA tournament will be on at the same time.

A couple of players earn big points for these comments...

Todd Hamilton might have the best solution. The former British Open champion would like to see only one number on the signs at every tee, and that would be to identify what hole you're playing.

"Get rid of the par. Get rid of the yardage," he said. "Go play the course."


If a player was trailing by one shot coming down the stretch, the last reasonable place to make up ground was the 16th. Find the fairway and you would have a shot at reaching in two and make birdie at worst.

"I thought 16 was a great swing hole," Trevor Immelman said. "You have to hit the fairway, and then you might have a mid-iron to the green. And if you miss the fairway and lay up, you could spin the ball off the green and then you could make bogey. I felt like it was such a great hole coming to the end of the tournament."

And, in lieu of one of his snappy baseball metaphors, David Fay at least hovered on the verge of a Yogi-ism:

"I do think there's a school of thought out there that the USGA is fixated on par," Fay said. "We're not fixated on par, but we like the idea that par is a good score."

Not fixated, but we really fixate on the idea of as a good score.


FedEx Cup (Not) On Their Minds

Damon Hack (here) and Doug Ferguson (here) both cover the Washington D.C.-reduced field story, with not a single player expressing concern about the limited field eliminating a key week for some to pick up valuable FedEx Cup points.

Just amazes me how these players fail to grasp the real meaning of tour golf.


What Tree Management Can Do For You...

Bradley Klein on Augusta National's drop in the Golfweek Top 100 Classic Course ranking :
 The biggest news this year is that the country's most prominent championship venue has lost valuable ground. After years of renovation and modernization designed to keep Augusta National a fresh test for the Masters, the storied 1933 co-design by Alister MacKenzie and Robert Tyre "Bobby" Jones today clings to a spot among the very elite, having fallen seven spots in the last year to No. 10.

It's a rating that folks at most courses would die for. But for students of architecture (including our team of 410 raters), the slide is what happens when a prominent course stretches and narrows itself contrary to its original design intent. In an era when virtually every other championship course is removing trees to recapture interesting angles of play, Augusta National in Augusta, Ga., (joined only by Atlanta's East Lake Golf Club, which dropped from No. 48 to No. 52) is that rare classic layout that's still planting them.

The two newcomers to the Classic list, No. 82 Eastward Ho! Country Club in Chatham, Mass. and No. 83 Engineers Club in Roslyn, N.Y., both got there through sustained restoration programs that included greens recapture, putting back lost bunkers and sustained tree management.


"The secret to getting Tiger to play in an event, by the way, is to hire him."

Gary Van Sickle won't please Tiger with this column essentially outlining his playing schedule for the next few years:

The secret to getting Tiger to play in an event, by the way, is to hire him. Vickers never tumbled onto that fact or wasn't able to get it done. Woods explained his absence from the International, which he played twice and never returned, by saying he simply didn't like the golf course at Castle Rock, Colo.

The smartest operators were Buick, which signed Woods to an endorsement deal, with Tiger subsequently making the Buick Invitational at Torrey Pines and the Buick Open in Grand Blanc, Mich., regular stops on his schedule while also also appearing at the Buick Classic at Westchester; and American Express, which guaranteed Tiger's presence in its World Golf Championship events by inking an endorsement deal.

Looking ahead, the fallout from Tiger's commitment to play regularly in the new Washington event means one less tournament he's going to play the rest of the year. Unless he's going to add to his schedule -- which seems unlikely -- adding a Tiger here means taking a Tiger away from somebody else.




So let's do the math: that's four majors, a Players, two Buicks, three WGCs and possibly four FedEx Cups. That's 14 tournaments. He has won four times at Bay Hill and lives only a few miles from the course. That's 15, the Tour minimum, and the same number he played last year.



Congressional's Share

Leonard Shapiro reports that $2.5 million is being offered to Congressional's members for a week of golf this July two weeks of golf this July and next.* Shoot, that's more than many of the U.S. Open sites are netting these days, and Congressional doesn't have to emasculate their other courses with tent villages. Well, not until 2011.


"It's not the grooves. It's the ball."

Jennifer Gardner reports on Mark Calcavecchia's stance on the ball versus grooves.
In the late 1980s, PODS Championship winner Mark Calcavecchia was at the top of his game. He was so good, in fact, that some competitors started to complain about his equipment.

That may have been one reason why the U.S. Golf Association looked at square grooves for the first time.

"Pretty ridiculous, actually," said Calcavecchia when the issue came up at his PODS Championship press conference last week. "That actually was a shot I hit at the Honda Classic that Jack [Nicklaus] and Tom Watson and a few other guys went berserk over when I gashed it out of the right hay and sucked it back on the 16th green."

The USGA recently released guidelines for phasing out square, or U, grooves in irons and wedges. Critics have complained that the grooves help players get the ball out of rough more easily, thus losing the half-stroke penalty that an inaccurate hit into the thick stuff is supposed to cause.

"It's a non-issue to me now," Calcavecchia said. "Everybody's grooves are pretty much the same, blades, or Pings or Callaways, whatever.

"It's not the grooves. It's the ball. You hit a slice out there and it starts dropping to the left, not like the old days with the woods and balls went everywhere. Duck hooks ... guys used to hit it all over the place. Now it's bombs away and straight and far."


"The player testing fell a bit flat"

I had a chance to re-read E. Michael Johnson's fine overview of the USGA's groove smokescreen and discovered that I had stopped reading the online version prematurely. There was more!

And after having read most of the USGA's Second Report On Spin Generation, I was left with questions about the science behind the conclusions. Now, maybe I missed it, so please help me if I did.

First, from Johnson's piece:

"They made a brilliant lab study, but the player testing fell a bit flat," said Dr. Benoit Vincent, chief technical officer for TaylorMade. "I think there was a bit of a rush to conclusion about what actually happens out on the course. In some areas they have made an emotional conclusion based on a global macro-assessment of the data."

Translation: Vincent has some issues with the test protocol and the proposal itself. For starters, he would prefer a larger sample for the player test and a firmer definition of what constitutes "light rough."

I was wondering if I was the only one who couldn't find a definition for rough or light rough. Since this groove stuff is all about the rough and grass moisture levels within the rough grass blades, the rought height would seem like key information in understanding the player testing and how that relates to championship golf.

It's also important considering Frank Thomas's comments on the lack of influence U-grooves have on hay over 4 inches. 


Oh and while quiblling, about that field testing.  From what I have read in the report, six developmental tour players and 9 PGA Tour players (unnamed) conducted this elaborate field study.

Does that sound like a skimpy sample size to you?


"The FedEx Cup hasn’t changed anything yet."

Peter Kostis really needs to pick up, oh I don't know, say, a book on the power of positive thinking.

I mean, how can one be so cynical:

The FedEx Cup hasn’t changed anything yet. Okay, maybe it's still a little too soon for this, but I don’t see how the much-hyped FedEx Cup has changed anything on the PGA Tour so far. The stars have not committed to playing a lot more events and TV ratings are not exactly surging upward.

As the Tour season plays out and we get into June and July the points race will likely take on more meaning, but right now, it’s business as usual out there. And please—quit telling the winner each week in the press room that his most important accomplishment was gaining 4,500 FedEx points! His most important accomplishment was beating 143 other players!

Peter, think positively. It's The Secret!  


Changing Groove Spec Means Higher Prices!?'s Blubber and Gorge actually mock some of the equipment manufacturers for claiming in this Jerry Potter USA Today piece that a groove spec change will raise iron prices.

To Solheim that means a return to V-grooves, because he doubts clubs can be cast to the "aerospace specs" that would be required.

"No doubt we'd have to redesign every groove," he says, echoing Vincent's opinion.

Grooves might have to be milled into the face and then buffed to meet the USGA's guidelines. Solheim says that would add another expense to the manufacturing process.

Vincent estimates the changes could add 10% to the suggested retail of TaylorMade's premium irons, priced at $1,299 for a set of eight.

Further, Solheim says, the manufacturing process might require softer metal, which would degrade quicker and limit durability.



"I pray that it doesn't come to that."

There have been several stories like this Mark Gillespie piece that quote Ping Golf Chairman and CEO John Solheim complaining about the USGA's proposed groove rule change.

"It's straight back to where we were before," Solheim said.
 "Will the average player get the same enjoyment they get out of shots now?" Solheim asked. "The average golfer likes to see a little spin on the green and feel they've accomplished something."

Solheim said Ping will submit comments to the USGA and will weigh its options.

Asked if that could mean more litigation, Solheim said, "I pray that it doesn't come to that."

What am I missing here?

Won't this rule change be a Godsend for equipment manufacturers, who can now sell new irons to all those wannabe "elite golfers" by 2009? 


"The question stands: Tiger, are you listening?"

Garry Smits should be receiving a scolding lecture from one of Tiger's stenographers after this column suggesting that appearances in some other cities would only add to his credibility when talking about growing the game:
Woods has frequently said he wants to bring golf to kids and minorities. Wouldn't a great way be entering, just once per five years or so, Tour events he has never or rarely played? Wouldn't that be great for the charities of those events?

What if Woods played Tour events in Houston, Los Angeles and Tampa, cities with large African-American and Hispanic populations? What about the Zurich Classic and the shot in the arm he would give the New Orleans area?

Right now, the events with Woods in the field are healthy. Too many that don't get him are struggling.

Perhaps it's unfair to Woods that he makes or breaks events, but there it is.

The question stands: Tiger, are you listening?

"Mr. Brand commissioned architect Robert Trent Jones to plant more than 3,500 trees..."

Thanks to reader Edward for sending the link to Gerry Dulac's definitive piece on the Oakmont tree removal program, which appeared around Nissan Open time and when I was preoccupied with that.

This is one you'll want to print out, assuming you are a member of a club debating tree removal. I know, a longshot, but just thought I'd put it out there.

The decision to remove trees, sometimes without the consent of the membership, led to one of the most contentious periods in club history, pitting members who liked shaded fairways against those who sought to restore Oakmont to its original design and, by doing so, improve the health of its turf.

But, with the U.S. Open looming four months away, most Oakmont members appear to have embraced the new look. Trees have been replaced with high fescue grasses that sway in the wind, creating a Scottish look.

"If it's not 100 percent, I don't know who is on the other side," said Oakmont golf professional Bob Ford. "There is no grumbling at all. Everybody is very upbeat about it."

But that look began to change in the 1960s when Mr. Brand took umbrage with a comment made by writer Herbert Warren Wind in The New Yorker magazine. Mr. Wind wrote that the U.S. Open was returning to Oakmont, and referred to the course as "that ugly, old brute."

"Well, I got to thinking, why can't it be a beautiful old brute," Mr. Brand was quoted as saying in "Oakmont 100 Years," a book detailing the club's history.

And so began a makeover in which Mr. Brand commissioned architect Robert Trent Jones to plant more than 3,500 trees -- pin oak, crab apple, flowering cherry, blue spruce -- around the property. It was known as the beautification of Oakmont, a program designed to enhance the appearance of the course but one that would ultimately lead to an unsettling era in the club's rich history.

It changed Oakmont from the links-style course that Mr. Fownes had embraced to a parkland-style course like New York's Winged Foot, site of last year's Open, and Merion, a legendary course near Philadelphia. It was a look that likely would have had Mr. Fownes spinning in his grave.

"They were beautiful trees," said Mr. Smith, who started the tree removals. "It went from a links-type course to a very pretty, shaded Western Pennsylvania-type of course. But it wasn't unique."


Rough Matters?

Now posted is my latest column on the "value" of rough in light of the USGA's decision on grooves.


USGA Book Award 2007

Jim Finegan wins the USGA Book Award for his beautiful effort, Where Golf Is Great.