Twitter: GeoffShac
Writing And Videos

Ever since golf began--Scottish historians have settled on the year 1100 as a reasonable date of birth--the game has been an enigma.



"Los mejores deseos para el futuro, amigo."

Doctors have said Seve had a "partial epileptic fit" and are awaiting more test results. Meanwhile, John Huggan reflects on the great champion's career and like so many others, hopes for the best.

Hopefully that legendary desire to succeed, along with the good wishes of millions of golf fans around the globe, will be enough to sustain Ballesteros as he awaits the results of tests that may or may not confirm the presence of a brain tumour. Los mejores deseos para el futuro, amigo.


"But just a step lower, the market is vulnerable."

The Wall Street Journal's John Paul Newport says the news isn't all bad for golf. There are still a lot of rich people!

In North America alone, there are more than 40,000 families with investable assets of $30 million or more, according to the CapGemini/Merrill Lynch World Wealth Report, and approximately 300,000 U.S. taxpayers with reported annual incomes greater than $1 million, according to the IRS. Among them are many golf nuts. To say nothing of the huddled masses of superrich abroad.
New residential golf developments in the U.S. are few and far between, leading to a net standstill in golf-course openings generally. More courses closed than opened in both 2006 and 2007, according to the National Golf Foundation, a sharp contrast to the course-building boom that started in the 1990s.

Even top-drawer designers are feeling the pinch. "I've got quite a few projects in the U.S.," Mr. Nicklaus told me recently, "but they have all kind of slowed down or are on hold or are kind of waiting until the economy turns a little bit." Tom Doak, the celebrated designer of Pacific Dunes in Oregon and Cape Kidnappers in New Zealand, doesn't lack for work but in recent months has seen two of the courses he designed struggle: St. Andrews Beach in Australia is closed and for sale, and Beechtree in Maryland will shut down in December.

"The people I really worry about are the young designers and apprentices coming up, and the talented course superintendents and club pros who are suddenly out of a job," Mr. Doak said.
Now this is interesting...
For golfers still clinging to jobs, there is an upside. Less demand and more supply equals bargains. But even many seemingly successful clubs and golf communities aren't filled to capacity, which often means higher fees and assessments for members and, in some cases, extreme difficultly leaving without taking a bath.
Could this be the moment that private clubs in the U.S. start going semi-private like our friends in Scotland? Or will they go down in flames before taking a little outside play?

Meanwhile, there's still Tiger's project for the super wealthy, which prompted Newport's column. Now, those of us invited to the press conference launching Punta Brava were forbidden from asking personal life questions. Perhaps because he'd filled his quota for the month in this Today Show interview?


Phil On Entourage

Tod Leonard reminds us that Phil Mickelson's Entourage cameo is Sunday night.


Latest On Seve

Graham Keeley in The Times reports that Seve has a brain tumor, but the hospital won't confirm. Say it ain't so.


“What we are hearing puts everything into perspective in a heartbeat,” said Montgomerie, who played under Ballesteros at Valderrama.

“Seve has this fighting spirit, this never-say-die approach. He has come back from four down with nine to play to defeat both Paul Azinger and Raymond Floyd and he has done much the same against me a couple of times. His great attitude and his passion should serve him well now.”


"Yep, we've been looking."

Alan Bastable asks Tiger a few different questions about his course design work, including this...

Q: All three of your courses will be private and ultra high-end. What about Joe Public?

A: When it's all said and done, I will have a whole portfolio of golf courses — not just high-end private courses.

Q: Are you currently looking to develop a public course?

A: Yep, we've been looking.

There are plenty of millitary courses that could use some love and care. If Tiger ever wants to do some different charity work that is consistent with his family history, he could do some really great things for our nation's servicemen and women.

Just a thought.


Guardian: Seve "Grave"

I sure don't like the sound of this Giles Tremlett report in the Guardian. I hope this optimistic Scotsman item is the more accurate take.


Re-routing Harding?!

The PGA Tour re-routed Robert Trent Jones Golf Club to accomodate luxury boxes but I don't recall it really helping, yet they've done the same with Harding Park for the President's Cup as Ron Kroichick reports:

PGA Tour officials plan only one physical change to the course for next year's event: They will build a new tee on what the public knows as No. 9 (it will be No. 18 for the Presidents Cup), stretching it to 535 yards. That hole will play as a par-5 next October; it played as a par-4 (at less than 500 yards) for the American Express Championship in 2005.

Tour officials also will "re-route" the course, so the customary closing holes - Nos. 16, 17 and 18 - will become Nos. 13, 14 and 15. (This makes it more likely matches will reach those holes.) The holes that are normally Nos. 1, 7 and 9 will become Nos. 16, 17 and 18, respectively.

Those new finishers may be the least interesting holes on the course. Something to not look forward to.


"There are a number of ideas on the table"

Steve Elling says that Tim Finchem is going before the PAC board in Vegas to lay out FedEx Cup possibilities. SInce he's gotten it wrong so far, why not let him fix this problem.

Even by Vegas standards, where chaos is a nightly and desired occurrence, that sounds like a potentially frenetic panel discussion, eh? Let's see, that's 20 golfers arguing over a half-dozen completely different points plans, which sounds like an exchange of flying elbows and opinions not seen since the tour last served free sushi at the media buffet table.
Interestingly, I was incorrect in guessing that the best case alternative was being quietly pushed by the Tour's media folks. I should not have given them so much credit for (A) a good idea, and (B) having the ability to sway writers into reporting it as a likely alternative. Elling reveals the source:
The Chamblee model: First espoused by Golf Channel analyst and former tour player Brandel Chamblee, his spin calls for the 72-hole stroke-play event to be staged to end on Saturday, with an 18-hole shootout for the $10 million held the following day featuring a handful of the top points earners. This plan ensures that the 72-hole tournament isn't diminished and creates additional drama Sunday, although if one player goes low, it risks being a runaway no matter what the tour does. Moreover, if a player finishes eighth in each of the four FedEx events and qualifies for the Sunday shootout, then fires a 65 and wins, does that player truly deserve the $10 million? If four players make the Sunday final, the difference between first and fourth could be a couple of shots -- and a difference of $8.5 million in bonus money. Is that fair? "Do we really want to go that route?" Dennis asked. "I don't know."

The Chamblee model is the Tour's best alternative at this point because it (A) guarantees a must see Sunday, which has always been a must, (B) allows them to do something different than the LPGA even though the ADT Championship model would be far more rivetting and memorable, and (C) did I mention that this allows them to do something different than what the LPGA does to end their season?

Naturally, Finchem in a room with mostly guys who are good at their job because they dont' think too much could be dangerous. Still, it'd be fun to listen in!


Azinger Regrets Not Being There To Tell Boo and J.B. To Avoid The Big Lake On 18

Apparently his boys were so stupid focused on the job at hand that they needed to be told to hit the fairway?

Brian Hewitt reports:

“There’s only one thing I would have done differently at Valhalla,” Azinger said. “And that would have been making sure I was on the tee box on the 18th hole in the Friday afternoon fourballs match when Boo Weekley and J.B. Holmes both hit their balls in the water. If I had been, I would have made sure they knew where their tee balls needed to be.”

Holmes and Weekley had a 1-up lead at the time over Lee Westwood and Soren Hansen and wound up halving their match as a result of the wayward drives.

“I was really kicking myself Friday night,” Azinger told FM104.3 The Fan, a Denver-based sports talk radio show hosted by Jerry Walters and Jon Lawrence. “I was by the 17th green and I couldn’t get my cart to the 18th tee because of a TV tower. I should have gotten off the cart and just walked through the tower. Fortunately for me, that was my only regret for the week.”

"We're just happy to be coming back to a great golf course."

In Leonard Shapiro's story on Tiger's tournament moving to Aronimink for two years, I couldn't help but wonder after reading this what they'll do if the players inevitably fall in love with Aronimink and dread returning to dreary Congressional.

McLaughlin said he was "thrilled" that the tournament will return to Congressional after 2011, despite the close vote. "It gives us clarity that we know we will be back in Washington at Congressional from 2012 to 2014. It's difficult to speculate on why the vote was so close this time. We're just happy to be coming back to a great golf course."


"The club has made alterations that will help the course assume some of its former personality."

Thanks to reader Don for catching this in Lorne Rubenstein's column on Mike Weir's interest in course design:

Tournament chairman Billy Payne told Weir during the Tour Championship in Atlanta two weeks ago that the club has made alterations that will help the course assume some of its former personality.

"They've moved the tee up on 7 and changed the green contours there," Weir said of the tight par-4. "There are other changes also, at 11 where the tee's been moved up a bit, and maybe at 18, too."

Punta Brava Press Conference

I had the good fortune of attending the press conference today announcing Tiger Woods' new Mexico project, a Red McCombs-backed real estate and golf development that was originally set to be a Tom Fazio design.

Looking at the site photos, routing and descriptions, it appears Tiger held his ground and landed some truly stunning seaside holes. In fact, based on the awkward chuckling amongst Woods, McCombs and the principals over the decision to use seaside land for golf instead of lots, there surely were battles that Tiger ultimately won.  I can't think of any other architect who would have the clout to pull off such a feat (you'll see what I mean when you look at the routing). Certainly Tiger is the only player architect other than Ben Crenshaw who would put up such a fight. (Sorry Jack, but I've seen El Dorado!)

You can check out the site photos and all of the other over-the-top press stuff here (hit the Play link and then the Tiger Woods link in the upper right to see the video we saw today, which looks like a Ridley Scott film).

There is also this press release encapsulating all of the details, and this Christina Lewis interview in the Wall Street Journal.

The event itself was oddly tense, and not because it was poorly planned or executed. Quite the opposite. The Hotel Bel-Air was the site and the invitation list kept very strict (I know, that doesn't explain how I got in). Those in attendance knew almost nothing about the project before the booming video and suits took their seats.

But considering what's going on in the world markets and based on the paucity of the usual butt-kissing enthusiasm during the Q&A, I sensed the media present were not too excited to cheer on a high-end project being built for the kind of people who have just milked our system and will be retiring on their golden parachutes. Obviously bad luck timing-wise for the Punta Brava people.

That said, unlike Tiger's first two design projects which look like real-estate driven deals on weak sites, this is one I can't wait to see. It's also going to raise the stakes for Tiger, as the pressure to produce will be great on such a dramatic site.


"Does the PGA Tour suffer? Not necessarily."

Doug Ferguson offers this strong counterpoint to the euphoria over the European Tour's "Race to Dubai" and talk of player defections:

Tiger Woods does not plan to join. What the last four months have shown is that if Woods doesn't play, does anyone care?

And while $20 million sounds like a lot in Europe, the FedExCup pays $35 million in bonus money, with four $7 million tournaments leading up to that. It still pays to play on the PGA Tour, which is why so many Europeans do.

"$6,939 was spent on golf."

It's not all gloom and doom for the game, just consider this Fox Business story on the AIG shindig in Laguna that occurred after the federal bailout.

The committee on Oversight and Government Reform held a hearing on Tuesday at 10:00 a.m. Eastern time. to address and examine downfall of AIG, the world’s largest insurance company. The committee planned to discuss the financial excesses and regulatory mistakes that led to AIG’s government bailout.

One of the items discussed was AIG’s expenditure of $440,000 for a corporate retreat at the St. Regis Monarch Beach resort in Los Angeles, Calif. These funds were spent on Sept. 22, a week after the Federal Reserve extended an $85 billion emergency loan to AIG to keep it from going bankrupt due to insurance liabilities.

According to the receipt from the St. Regis, the eight-day company retreat was a lavish one -- $139,000 was spent on hotel rooms, while even more money -- $147,301 -- was spent on banquets. Another $23,380 was spent on undisclosed spa treatments and another $6,939 was spent on golf. A full $9,980 was spent on room service and food and cocktails at the hotel lounge.

The golf was less than the room service. A bargain!


"How to fix the FedEx Cup playoffs and ensure drama at the playoff finale?"

This concept has popped up again, meaning someone at the PGA Tour is doing a good job peddling it. Jeff Rude writes:

The best plan: Play the Tour Championship on Wednesday-Saturday and award the tournament winner the trophy and $1.26 million check. Then the top four players in FedEx Cup points at that point start from scratch and play 18 holes Sunday for the current mega-bonuses, including $10 million for first.


"We're so heavily involved in the project, whereas in some others we've been hired guns."

Thomas Bonk talks to Jack Nicklaus about Quivira Los Cabos, "a branded Nicklaus oceanfront community, two Nicklaus golf courses and a Nicklaus golf club in Los Cabos, Mexico."

Apparently this will be like the Bear's Club, whatever that means.

This one is special, Nicklaus said. "We're so heavily involved in the project, whereas in some others we've been hired guns."


Stevie To Make Commentating Debut; Looks To Rebrand Image As Gallery-Eating, Camera-Heaving Lunatic

From our friends at Brener-Zwikel:

Famed caddie for Tiger Woods will join NBC team for Nov. 15-16 telecast of Challenge Season event featuring Kim, Scott, Snedeker and Mahan

NEW YORK (Oct. 6, 2008) – Steve Williams, who is accustomed to being in front of the camera toting Tiger Woods’ golf bag, will find himself in front of the camera toting an NBC microphone across two golf courses in his native New Zealand.

The Wellington-born Williams will make his TV commentator debut at the inaugural Kiwi Challenge, which will be televised in HDTV on NBC Saturday, Nov. 15 and Sunday, Nov. 16 in the United States.

In New Zealand, the Kiwi Challenge will air on Sky TV Thursday, Nov. 26 and Friday, Nov. 27 from 8:30-10:30 p.m. (NZ time).

One of the most famous caddies in the world, Williams will serve as an on-course commentator for the event, which features United States Ryder Cup heroes Anthony Kim and Hunter Mahan joining Adam Scott and Brandt Snedeker in a 36-hole, stroke-play event that offers one of the largest winner’s checks in golf -- $1.5 million -- out of the $2.6 million purse.

“This is my first experience at this,” Williams said. “I’m doing this because the Kiwi Challenge will bring great exposure for New Zealand and give New Zealanders the opportunity to see four of the world’s best players in one group. Seldom would we have four players of this quality at a tournament.”
Country first!
Walton plans to use Williams as a way to bring the beauty of New Zealand in general and the two courses in particular to a worldwide viewing audience. Williams will not only discuss his native land’s points of interest along with noteworthy elements of the two courses and what they mean to the players, but he’ll provide insight on what golf means to New Zealanders.

"The telecast will weave vignettes about both properties and shots of other points of interest in New Zealand in with the golf competition. And Steve will be a big part of that,” Walton said.
Boy, I can't wait for those insights.  

Sarah Visits The Villages!

Sounds like a great scene when the Republican Vice Presidential candidate spoke at the home of the PGA Tour's most consistent advertiser!

At one point while signing autographs for the sweltering crowd, a surprised Palin laughed when a supporter reached over and handed her a giant, plastic lipstick replica -- an obvious reference to a joke delivered by Palin at the Republican National Convention. Palin's comment about the only difference between a pit bull and a hockey mom being lipstick has since inspired a volley of campaign rhetoric. As the crowd cheered, a smiling Palin autographed the novelty before moving on for more autographs and handshakes.

The line to see Palin passed the Old Mill Playhouse with the marquee that said "The Villages Welcome Governor Palin." It went by the 2-for-1 beer tents and passed the vendors that sold $20 baby-girl pink T-shirts and buttons -- 3 for $10 -- that said, "I'm Proud to Be Voting for the Hot Chick."

“It is all becoming a bit old hat"

I couldn't find this mentioned anywhere else, but you can see where Neil Squires of the Daily Express is basing these comments regarding the Euro Tour's "Race to Dubai":

The billionaire backers behind the European Tour’s Race to Dubai are considering everything from floodlit tournaments and new team events to numbers on the back of shirts as part of their drive to make the sport more relevant to the next generation.

There is a price to pay for accepting £50 million of oil money and the European Tour’s decision to get into bed with Leisurecorp, the sporting arm of the Dubai government, could well have ramifications beyond merely side-stepping the credit crunch. The kaleidoscope will be shaken when the first Race to Dubai begins at the HSBC Champions tournament in Shanghai in a month’s time. The pieces may take some time to settle but when they do golf’s landscape could be changed markedly.

“Our ambition is not necessarily to change the format of golf but to enhance it and make it more relevant to the next generation,” said David Spencer, the chief executive of Leisurecorp. “It is all becoming a bit old hat – there have to be new things to make it more colourful. You have to chase the dream. You have to believe anything is possible.
Naturally, he is right that golf needs some new formats. But numbers on the back of shirts? Maybe that's why Seve passed out?

Meanwhile this Scotsman story buries one observation of note regarding venues on the newly announced schedule:
Ten events have still to confirm venues, including the British Masters. However, O'Grady insisted that in spite of the financial downturn 98 per cent of the 2009 schedule was rock solid.
Here is the schedule.

"Any tweaks are in the hands of the R&A."

In this Mike Aitken story on Turnberry closing November 1st to prepare for the Open Championship, he quotes LeisureCorp head man David Spencer on what changes to expect.

"We plan to increase the number of holes at Turnberry from 45 to 54 and to build a new golf academy with Taylor Made, which will still be supported by Colin Montgomerie. Our relationship with Greg Norman, an Open winner at Turnberry, is fairly well publicised.
"Several weeks ago, Greg, Peter Dawson, the chief executive of the R&A, and myself, walked the course. But Greg will not be doing any design changes to the Ailsa. Any tweaks are in the hands of the R&A. But as far as the Kintyre and the Arran are concerned, we would like to see Greg Norman involved."

Great to get that clarified. If you don't like the new look Turnberry, you know it wasn't our fault!