Twitter: GeoffShac
Writing And Videos

The object of inventors is to reduce the skill required for golf. If it were not for the counterskill of architects, the game would be emasculated.
JOHN LOW


    

Tuesday
Aug192008

"The 41-year relationship between the PGA Tour and Westchester Country Club was like a good marriage gone bad."

While Bill Pennington celebrates the elegance of Tillinghast's Ridgewood, Sam Weinman files a compelling dissection of the messy decision to leave former Barclay's host Westchester. He writes for golf.com:

The 41-year relationship between the PGA Tour and Westchester Country Club was like a good marriage gone bad. There was the innocent beginning, the complacent middle years and then, finally, when the Tour's wandering eye led it to Ridgewood Country Club in Paramus, N.J., the bitter, dish-throwing end.
And this does make any rational soul understand why the Tour had had enough:
Among the membership's longstanding agreements with the Tour was that during tournament week members could still play the adjacent South course, still play tennis on the courts that bordered the par-3 1st hole and still have access to the sports house that included the pros' locker room and a fitness center.

The uneasy coexistence was best encapsulated by an incident at last summer's Barclays, during which Tour player Aaron Baddeley was kicked out of the fitness center by a Westchester member who said Baddeley didn't belong there. (Westchester president Phil Halpern confirmed that an "older member" mistakenly thought the room was for members only.)

"I think what happened is that the Tour and its tournaments evolved, and what was acceptable and overlooked in the 1970s and '80s was no longer the case," says a PGA Tour official who requested anonymity. "Every host venue has evolved or been replaced, but they simply weren't of the mindset to evolve. You won't find another venue on Tour where they play tennis off the 1st hole or play the other course when the tournament's going on. I guarantee you there's not another locker room on Tour shared with members."
Tuesday
Aug192008

Van Sickle Words Hard For The Sonny

More importantly, while the SI golf writer loops for son Mike in the U.S. Amateur, he's able to deliver a solid metaphor for Dave Shedloski, but I'm not sure about the matching outfits.

Van Sickle, ranked 14th in the Golfweek Scratch Players World Amateur Rankings – and sixth among Americans – won both the Pennsylvania Open and the Pennsylvania Amateur, making him just the second man to turn the double in one year, joining Jay Sigel, who won back-to-back U.S. Amateur crowns in 1982-83. A resident of Wexford, Pa., Van Sickle also became the first amateur to win consecutive state open titles and just the third to successfully defend.

He wasn’t shabby on the national stage, either. Van Sickle birdied the final hole at the Southern Amateur at Lake Nona Country Club in Orlando to force a playoff before losing on the first extra hole to 2007 Walker Cupper Kyle Stanley of Gig Harbor, Wash. He also finished third at the Porter Cup at Niagara Falls Country Club.

Iwas fighting my swing a little bit," said Mike, 21, who enters his senior year at Marquette University. "I guess I ran out of gas."

"He was like Kenny Perry at the tail end of his hot streak," said Gary, 54, who for nearly 12 years has been a senior writer covering the PGA Tour for Sports Illustrated. "He played real well for a month or two, but it ended sort of as the Amateur began. Just no way to explain that."
Tuesday
Aug192008

The Great Playoff Debate

Via email and not appearing for all the world to see, the PGA Tour's Steve Dennis and I debate the best possible format for the pPlayoffs.

Essentially, I'm arguing for a true playoff that lets someone get hot, get to East Lake and maybe pull off a big upset. Steve wants to protect the season points leaders and crunch numbers right up to the end.

Monday
Aug182008

Sergio Will Have Two Caddies At Valhalla In Case One Just Can't Stand Him Any Longer

How about this neurotic little arrangement...

Sergio Garcia appears to want to leave nothing to chance at the Ryder Cup. Both the caddies he has been using this season could be there.
"This may well be the case," said Europe's Ryder Cup Director Richard Hills of the possibility of England's Billy Foster and South African Glen Murray both being at Valhalla. "But it is not completely signed off yet,"
The two have been job-sharing this season and splitting their slice of Garcia's earnings regardless of which caddie is on the bag.
The arrangement has worked out very well for Foster, who was at home both when the Spaniard won the Players Championship last spring and again when he was runner-up to Padraig Harrington at the PGA Championship.

Monday
Aug182008

“A more conservative approach to setups, for example, with lower rough or hole locations six steps away from the (green’s) edge rather than four."

In the August 16th Golfweek, Jim Achenbach presents a Q&A analysis of the USGA/R&A groove rule change. On the question of dissenters who question the ruling, Achenbach offers this:

Tom Wishon, founder of Tom Wishon Golf Techology, questioned the effect on big hitters. "The bomb and gougers are still going to spin it more out of the rough," he said. If the goal is to increase the penalty for being in the rough, this isn't going to do it. Two to 2 1/2 inch rough is nothing to a guy who can swing an iron at 90 to 95 m.p.h."

In the same issue and also online, Bradley Klein talks to Rees Jones (he's elated rough will be rough), Tom Fazio (as usual, has no insights) and Mike Davis about the impact of the rule change:

One thing that may change is the severity of course setups. Mike Davis, USGA senior director for rules and competitions, anticipates that in the face of the new rule, national championships probably would consider “a more conservative approach to setups, for example, with lower rough or hole locations six steps away from the (green’s) edge rather than four,” he said.

Monday
Aug182008

Playoff Eliminations Begin!

I like this new FedEx Cup volatility. We're already down to 136 players and it's only Monday.

Tim Rosaforte reports that playoff fever got the best of Lee Westwood, who listed "holiday" as his reasing for pulling out. And to show just how much the playoffs meant to him, Bob Estes...

who finished 124th in the final FedEx Cup standings, scheduled his wedding for this week and is not on the tee sheet.

Monday
Aug182008

NY Times Flash: Golf Made Easier When You Can Hear and See

Bill Pennington offers another instruction piece in Monday's editions. Because the world needs more golf instruction stories and what better place to read about them than the paper of record?

Ah but Pennington isn't serving up only "it's-all-about-you" fluff. He shares this interesting bit from a USGA test center visit with

Dick Rugge.“It’s all about how much water is channeled away by the grooves,” Rugge said. “Deeper grooves get rid of more water more quickly.”
This month, the U.S.G.A. announced new restrictions on the size and edge sharpness of grooves for clubs manufactured after Jan 1, 2010. The U.S.G.A. said the new rules were aimed at professional golfers who have had an advantage hitting out of the rough with modern U-shaped grooves in their clubs. With more control in higher grass, the pros haven’t had to worry as much about keeping the ball in the fairway, an accuracy challenge the U.S.G.A. hopes to restore on some level.

No worries mate!

But the scientific research behind the groove debate is fascinating, especially as seen in super-slow motion video. At the U.S.G.A., Rugge showed me that when a club cuts through heavy rough, grass squeezed against the face of the club actually releases water. This microscopic bed of water is what reduces spin on the ball. Larger, deeper grooves whisk away the water, like treads on a car tire, and allow for crisper contact with the ball. And in expert hands, more imparted spin.
Back in March, Rugge didn’t tell me what the U.S.G.A. might do about the more efficient U-shaped grooves in golf clubs. But playing that video back and forth, and watching clubs in thick grass putting spin on golf balls, I had an inkling. It’s all about the water.

So, shouldn't the USGA and R&A just advocate putting less water on courses instead of changing the grooves?

Sunday
Aug172008

"If there are a lot of different thoughts and questions that can occur on the tee box, that, in my mind, is a great hole."

Steve Adamek previews the Barclay's at A.W. Tillinghast's 27-hole Ridgewood Country Club design, and focuses on the driveable par-4 fifth hole, talking to the USGA's Mike Davis and consulting course architect Gil Hanse.

"I'm big fan of introducing more risk-reward into all golf setups," said Mike Davis, who as the USGA's senior director of rules and competitions shortened the 435-yard 14th hole to 277 yards for the final round and playoff of this year's U.S. Open at Torrey Pines.
"It gives the players options and I'm a huge fan of that."
"I think driveable par-4s really tax these guys mentally and ultimately as an architect in this day and age, there's only so much you can do to tax them physically," said Gil Hanse, whose Penn sylvania-based design firm retooled Ridgewood following the 2001 Senior PGA.
"If there are a lot of different thoughts and questions that can occur on the tee box, that, in my mind, is a great hole."
Phil Mickelson agrees.
Since becoming involved in course architecture, he said he's noticed that with par-3s stretching to 250 yards and beyond, and some par-4s now exceeding 500, short-4s have gotten lost in the shuffle.
So he loves the five-and-dime, which he tried to reach with both a driver and 3-wood during a June sponsor's outing.
"That's such a fun hole to play," he said. "The green is so narrow. If you miss it in the wrong spot, you can't make a 3, you're fighting to make 4. Yet, if you hit a great shot, you can make a 2."
Sunday
Aug172008

FedEx Cup Playoffs Arrive, Several People Take Notice

It's hard to describe how excited I am at the prospect of points permutations only to find out that a dozen guys who've already made a lot of dough this year are the only ones who could win the PGA Tour pPlayoffs. But hey, at least we get to watch two really good courses (Ridgewood, TPC Boston), out of the three playoff sites.

Helen Ross reports on five who earned the right to be almost automatically eliminated from the pPlayoffs this week at Ridgewood, including the charismatic Lee Janzen. The Barclay's Classic box office had better brace for a mad rush of fans clamoring to see the two-time U.S. Open Champion.

Sunday
Aug172008

Faldo: I Need More Time!

Brian Hewitt reports that Captain Nick Faldo is considering asking for a one-day extension for points and captain's selections to take into account the Monday-finishing Deutsche Bank in Boston.

Who said the PGA Tour pPlayoffs aren't making an impact?

Friday
Aug152008

Oakland Hills: 2008 PGA vs. 1996 U.S. Open

In the post PGA coverage, Brett Avery offers a rather astounding chart in the Golf World stat package (PDF).

Now I'm in favor of the groove rule change because it has the potential to restore the importance of firm greens, but will only be meaningful if an increase in fairway width comes with it.

However, the USGA and R&A continue to contend that armed with V-grooves, the world's best will be forced to respect rough and therefore they will have to throttle back in an attempt to hit more fairways. In other words, it's a backdoor way of rolling back distance increases. I still believe it's pure fantasy, but hey, if it makes them happy and leads to other positives, so be it.

Yet no study has determined how much fairway narrowing has played a role in the driving accuracy decreases so regularly cited as the cause for regulating grooves.

So here we have Oakland Hills, host to the 1996 U.S. Open and on the cusp of the distance explosion, and again host to the 2008 PGA where a remodel narrowed fairways and rough was farmed and coifed.

The 2008 field median was 30 yards longer off the tee than in 1996 while the fairway's hit median dropped 8 fairways.

The governing bodies would like us to believe that these dramatic increases in distance and decreases in accuracy are a result of players finding themselves armed with U-grooves that persuades them to flog drives with reckless disregard for the awful fairway contours crafted to take driver out of their bag.

Seems in the case of Oakland Hills that the radically improved driver/ball combination (oh and of course, the increased athleticism!) along with a further reduction in width since 1996 was likely much more significant than the grooves in fostering such radical differences in distance and accuracy.

Thursday
Aug142008

Barkley Hits New Low: To Appear In Golf Channel Reality Show

Reid Cherner & Tom Weir report the sad state of affairs for the TNT analyst, who will be joined by Hank Haney and Golf Channel executives pray twice daily for an appearance by Tiger Woods. Shoot, they'll take a phone call. Anything Tiger.

The Hall of Fame basketball player and TNT analyst tells USA TODAY’s Jon Saraceno that he met with Hank Haney, who is Tiger Woods’ swing coach, to discuss a show to be televised by the Golf Channel. Filming, he says, begins in a couple of weeks in Dallas. (Photo by Ethan Miller, Getty Images)
The goal: “Fix Charles Barkley’s swing,’’ says Sir Charles, who took Woods’ suggestion and called Haney. “It’s some ugly (stuff), isn’t it? It’s not only terrible, it’s embarrassing.’’
“I was telling Hank (Tuesday) that when I’m standing over the ball, I’m (expletive deleted) terrified. I have no idea what’s going to happen. He told me he used to have the yips, but not as bad as me. That’s what makes me think he can fix what’s wrong.’’


Thursday
Aug142008

PGA Tour Offering Contest To Design Hole That Has Already Been Designed

What can I say but, wow, what a canvas!

Surrounded by wetlands and already measuring 226 yards before you even put pen to paper, the PGA Tour is nonetheless offering you the opportunity to design with in parameters that offers limited possibilities. The winner gets to spend a day with Pete Dye and a video crew from PGA Tour Productions pointing at dirt, with Pete listening intently to your thoughts.

The TOUR is inviting aspiring golf course designers to submit an original, hand-sketched design of the 13th hole on the AT&T Canyons Course at TPC San Antonio, which is being designed by renowned architect Pete Dye. Entries will be judged by Dye and Steve Wenzloff, Vice President of PGA TOUR Design Services, Inc. One winner will be selected from all entries received to have his or her design integrated into the project, and will also receive a trip to TPC San Antonio to tour the course with Dye prior to the club's grand opening.
"I'm excited about the opportunity to showcase the TPC San Antonio project through this unique contest," said Dye, who will be inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in St. Augustine, FL in November. "It will be interesting to see the creations and select a winner to spend a day with me on the project site. I always enjoy sharing my thoughts and suggestions with others on golf course design."
That sounded just like Pete.

Oh wait, there's a problem. They've already started construction and your hole roughed out. Does this mean you have to pay for the change order if you win?
Construction crews have broken ground on TPC San Antonio's AT&T Canyons Course as well as the adjacent AT&T Oaks Course, which is being designed by World Golf Hall of Fame member Greg Norman. A rough design of the 13th hole on the AT&T Canyons Course already has been completed, but there is plenty of room for creativity by contestants. The hole is a 226-yard par-3 with a slight downhill slope.
"With the goal of crafting a course that fits harmoniously with its surroundings, we took full advantage of the dramatic vistas, indigenous flora and beautiful rolling terrain to create a memorable golf experience for members and resort guests," Dye said.
That's definitely Pete talking!


Here's the PDF download should you have nothing to do.

Thursday
Aug142008

"The event will air 32 times."

Tommy Snell reports on the Captain's Challenge made-to-plug-a-resort made-for-TV match and notes...

Beau Rivage public relations director Mary Cracchiolo realized the importance of such an event for the Coast.

"This is such a wonderful opportunity to have players of this caliber on the Mississippi Gulf Coast," she said. "I hope everyone has a chance to watch this amazing challenge when it airs on The Golf Channel."

The event will air 32 times.
Guess we don't need to worry about recording it!
Thursday
Aug142008

"So, then, are major setups getting harder?"

Steve Ellling posts his annual analysis of players making all four major cuts, with Padraig Harrington easily taking the low medalist honors. And Elling shares this from Robert Allenby:

Last weekend, the veteran Australian was grousing about the difficult playing conditions at the 90th PGA Championship at Oakland Hills, comparing the unusually harsh and critically panned setup to another major championship once known for its punitive traditions.

"Everybody is trying to be like the U.S. Open, except for the U.S. Open, which was the best major setup we had all year," Allenby observed.

And...
So, then, are major setups getting harder? Allenby might have a point about their general difficulty, though there were some dire weather issues at times in 2008. The number of players who finished under par after playing in all 16 major-championship rounds has fallen from six to one to zero over the past three years.
Thursday
Aug142008

The IOC And PGA of America Present...

Scott Michaux pitches his suggestion for handling golf in the Olympics. It's creative, bold and just nutty enough to be worth considering. Even the PGA of America's Joe Steranka didn't completely shoot it down, even though it would mean taking the PGA every four years and making it, oh, eons more exciting and worldly than it is now.

Wednesday
Aug132008

"Tour pros can be crybabies from time to time when it comes to how they earn their living, but once in a while their tears are justified."

Bill Fields listens to all sides in the Oakland Hills course setup debate and draws his own conclusion, but in the process he notes a few things that require consideration.

This first item doesn't shock me so much as put into perspective how much more refined and sophisticated the USGA's approach to course setup has become in just the last three years.

The collegians in the 2002 Amateur tore up the South course in qualifying, averaging 71.5 strokes. Bill Haas, an All-American at Wake Forest at the time, drove it so far on the 462-yard 18th hole that he had a 9-iron to the green in his qualifying round, which he hit to four feet and made the birdie putt to be the medalist at five-under 135. Haas shot a front-nine 28 in his quarterfinal match, and Oakland Hills members and USGA officials--who said they had set up the course as a U.S. Open and believed 12- to 15-under would have won--were aghast. "It's very frustrating," Tom Meeks, then the USGA senior director of rules and competitions, told Golf World amid the birdie barrage. "All we can do is narrow the fairways and add fairway bunkers."
Yikes.

I'm not sure I buy this from Rees Jones, but either way, it speaks to the absurdity of 25-yard wide landing areas on a course with such fascinating and strategic green complexes.
"What Oakland Hills is doing, because the green complexes are so challenging, is putting the driver in their hands because they have to get as close to the green [as they can] to access the hole location," Jones said. "They know if they lay up off the tee and they have a 40-foot putt, there is a good chance they are going to three-putt. It's putting a little more pressure on them off the tee. The fairways are probably averaging 25 or 26 yards wide. For the Ryder Cup [in 2004], they averaged 32 yards wide. They're trying to reward accuracy and take away the bombers' advantage."
Rewarding accuracy or the ability to hit it the straightest down an imaginary center line? There is a huge difference.

Fields quotes Kerry Haigh on the subject of the course baking out in the sunny, dry conditions:
"The greens were 11½ to 12 [on the Stimpmeter] in the morning. They were actually slower than they were in the [2004] Ryder Cup. The winds and the dry air are what [affected them]. We syringed the greens and put a little bit [of water] on, and the aim was to make the course play similar both days, as it always is. You don't want to go too far the other way [watering the greens]. It's always a bit of a dicey game. Once everyone has had a morning and afternoon tee time, you can make an adjustment, which is more reasonable and fair than between Thursday and Friday."
Haigh has received many compliments during his tenure about how fair his setups are, but last week the critiques were not all so friendly. "You try and do what you think is right, and sometimes it doesn't always work out," he said Sunday evening. "It's not through lack of trying or the aim of how you wanted it to play. Mother Nature usually has an effect on that."
Here's what I'm still struggling with: something is wrong when a golf course goes over the edge in somewhat dry, somewhat warm breezes with healthy turf. It usually means the green speeds were too fast for the contours before the weather changed, and also likely means the fairway widths were too narrow for any wind at all.

Thankfully though, the rains came and as Fields concludes:
It sure was more fun to watch Harrington and Garcia stuff their tee shots tight on No. 17 Sunday than to see Vijay Singh putt his ball off the ninth green Friday afternoon. Tour pros can be crybabies from time to time when it comes to how they earn their living, but once in a while their tears are justified.

Wednesday
Aug132008

"After missing and putting out, Garcia gave Harrington the quickest of handshakes, Woods/Mickelson style..."

Golf World's Jaime Diaz dissects Sergio's PGA Championship mistakes and offers this observation of note:

Garcia's profound disappointment was probably best registered by a complete lack of acknowledgement for the putt that beat him. As Harrington celebrated, the Spaniard stayed in a crouch ostensibly reading the green. After missing and putting out, Garcia gave Harrington the quickest of handshakes, Woods/Mickelson style, telling because Garcia would later give fellow runner-up Ben Curtis a warm hug. The two Europeans clearly have a cool relationship, chilled considerably by the desperate hours at Carnoustie. There, after Harrington hit his drive on the 72nd into the Barry Burn, he passed a perhaps inappropriately smiling Garcia (who was playing the 71st hole) on a bridge. "I was in no mood to smile," Harrington said later. Then on the final hole of the playoff -- again the trouble-laden 18th -- Harrington was preparing to address his tee shot with a two-stroke lead when he found it necessary to ask Garcia to give him more room.
Let's hope the warm chemistry continues at Valhalla!
Wednesday
Aug132008

"I think I get red-flagged by the the USGA because I'm always trying to walk that fine line."

I'm not sure if this is an appeal to the putter collectors and a way to get attention, but PGATour.com's Mike McCallister talks to Scotty Cameron about his putters and gets these two interesting quotes:

"I think I get red-flagged by the the USGA because I'm always trying to walk that fine line. I think if you're to buy my products, you want me to be on the edge, you want me to be barely legal. But if I'm well within the zone, then it's like we're not stretching the limits enough."
And...
"People say there's no arc in the putter stroke. Well, is there an arc in a golf swing? Of course there is. ... There is an arc in the putter stroke. I wish there wasn't. But there is -- it comes from the lie angle of the shaft. The USGA says its must be at least 10 percent, not straight up and down. With that angle, there must be an arc. ... I wish we could putt between our legs, 90 degrees, square to square. But the USGA says we can't putt between our legs, so I design putters to fit those arcs so that it becomes almost effortless for the putter."
Tuesday
Aug122008

"There's just so much going for us here, and it starts with the course."

Great to see the positive early reviews on Sedgefield, new host of the Greensboro event and a Donald Ross design restored by Kris Spence.

Even more remarkable was Robert Bell getting Lee Janzen to talk. I had heard the two-time U.S. Open champion was an architecture aficionado from Rocco Mediate. So Tuesday of U.S. Open week I went up to him while he was cleaning a club during a practice range session, introduced myself, and asked if I could ask him a couple of quick questions about the setup for a Golf World story. I was told simply, no and he went back to cleaning his grooves. Then I asked nicely if perhaps I could get him after his practice session, and was told no again. Back to cleaning that club.  I don't know, maybe Grounds For Golf offended him?

Anyway, congrats Robert Bell for getting all of this. Then again, it was a Monday pro-am, but still, most admirable.

"A lot of old courses are modified where they take out the mowing patterns and let the bunkers grow over through the years, but this ... this is something different," Janzen said. "It's like I took a step back in time and I'm seeing what Donald Ross saw all those years back."

Such high praise is exactly what Wyndham officials were hoping to hear when they rolled the dice earlier this year and moved Greensboro's golf tournament from Forest Oaks to Sedgefield. Greensboro businessman Bobby Long, chairman of the foundation that runs the Wyndham, is hoping the move across town will help the struggling tournament gain some clout on the PGA Tour.

"We're really counting on the word getting out about this place," said Long, who, along with Jim Melvin, Wyndham CEO Steve Holmes, and Sedgefield president Joe DePasquale, played with Daly on Monday.

"There's just so much going for us here, and it starts with the course." Janzen said.

The course, designed by Ross in 1925 and built a year later, is not like the typical tour site.

"The green complexes are amazing," said Janzen, referring to the heavily undulated greens surrounded by the shaved collection areas. There's not one hole out here that's like another. You go to a lot of modern courses and play a hole and it reminds you of a hole earlier on the course. Here, each hole is unique."