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  • Lines of Charm: Brilliant And Irreverent Quotes, Notes, And Anecdotes from Golf's Golden Age Architects
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    by Geoff Shackelford
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  • The Art of Golf Design
    The Art of Golf Design
    by Michael Miller, Geoff Shackelford
  • Alister MacKenzie's Cypress Point Club
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    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
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  • 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

I may be wrong, but I believe that the golfers of today want originality. Even those who are not particularly analytical sense the difference between a purely natural hole and one which suggests the artificial.  A.W. TILLINGHAST




A Battlefield Defection

Thanks to Four-putt for that header. You shoulda been a writer. Oh wait, you are.

So, does everyone see what I'm reading here, no International in 2007, either? Wow.




"It would be cool if Mickelson touched a club every once in a during the offseason"

From the Not's side of Alan Shipnuck's Hot/Not column, which also includes nice jabs at Walter Driver and NBC.

2. Phil Mickelson  Hey, I love Italy, too, and it sounds like fun to renew your wedding vows in Bora Bora, and who wouldn't want to hang out in Cabo overseeing the construction of a golf course? But in between all the goofing off and myriad corporate diversions, it would be cool if Mickelson touched a club every once in a during the offseason, thus sparing us having to watch him treat the West Coast swing like spring training for the apathetic.



Payne: Bringing Back "Win-and-you're in" (Maybe)

Doug Ferguson sits down with new Augusta National Chairman Billy Payne and manages to wrestle one bit of news out of him:

Payne wants to restore starting in 2008 the eligibility criteria that PGA Tour winners receive an automatic invitation to the Masters. Johnson did away with the category after the '99 Masters when the Tour began scheduling events – usually with weak fields – the same week as the World Golf Championships and the Ryder Cup or Presidents Cup.

But bringing back the "win-and-you're in'' category is not that simple.
Should the Masters recognize winners from opposite-field events in Mexico, Milwaukee and Reno, not to mention the seven events after the FedEx Cup?

Hey, what about PGA Tour events played against European Tour events with much better fields? Oh, sorry. Continue... 

And does it continue to take the top 40 on the PGA Tour money list or the top 30 in the FedEx Cup? Or both?

"There's a lot of arithmetic in this,'' Payne said. "What you don't want is all of a sudden to have 100 playing participants, and we have arguably eroded the quality of the tournament. Notwithstanding folks' opinion of how the best way to get there is, we're going to do the best we can.''
His goal is to keep the field around 90 players, and "anything that puts that number at significant threat has got an uphill battle.''

The International, R.I.P.

John Hawkins says the Denver event is ending after this year. Tim Finchem and Jack Vickers will be doing a joint press conference. That ought to be fun!


Woods Skipping Nissan


"When a smart person...sees what we've done"

I'm a bit behind on my reading, but yesterday's beach weather afforded the chance to finally power flip through the Golf Digest Hot List as a seal frollicked before me. I managed to weed through the Hot List spread in 7 seconds, but before I got to Belt and Gulag's must flip-through project, I did enjoy the laughs from Jaime Diaz's Golf Digest piece on the FedEx Cup.

First, here's a solid entry for the corporatespeak file...

The shortened schedule, says Sean McManus, president of CBS Sports and CBS News, "takes a fair amount of inventory out of the network marketplace, which is healthy for CBS and NBC.

Healthy for ABC too, apparently.

And this was nice from the Commissioner:

"When a smart person--whether it's a player, a sponsor, a television executive or a fan--sees what we've done," Finchem says, "they nod their head and say, ‘This makes sense.'"

Translation: only dumb people fail to get the FedEx Cup.

And less funny but quite astute was this from Larry Thiel, the International's director who was talking about the FedEx Cup overshadowing individual tournament sponsors.

Through just a few weeks, he's looking prophetic:

"The other thing is that when we sell a sponsor, that sponsor is to receive all the branding and all the positive reinforcement of being a part of the event," Thiel says. "I think that when it's all said and done, all we're ever going to hear about is the FedEx Cup. So I would be fearful if I were one of those three tournaments that my title sponsor would get lost in the shuffle."

Golf Digest 50 Toughest...

...Courses For Couples To Play Without Bickering?

No, they haven't gone that far yet in Wilton. This time, it's a retro list of the toughest 50 courses, so says Jerry Tarde.

According to the story:

This is not a scientific or even definitive ranking. It's our list of layouts that have battered and bruised us, ruined our scorecards and made us want to weep.

Translation: we editors decided not to use the "Resistance To Scoring" category because our panel is clueless.  

Here's the list, starting with Kiawah in the #1 spot.  


USGA, The Corporation

Well now that the USGA has officially gone all corporate on us, (treat yourself here and here for great lessons in business 101), this raises a few of those pesky questions that shareholders like to ask.

Because looking at the latest annual report a few things jump out about the uh, "business model" in 2006. And since I can't find a message from Treasurer Missy Crisp explaining the red ink, I guess we'll have to draw some conclusions here.

As Frank Hannigan first reported on this web site (and as the golf publications have not even apparently noticed), the USGA lost an unprecedented $6.1 million in 2006 after netting $2.3 million in '05, so we're looking at an $8.4 million turnaround in the wrong direction. A few of the culprits:

  • There was a $32 million 2006 increase in the cost of running its championships.
  • The $16 million museum project is up to $19.4 million (and counting).
  • There was a $2.3 million increase in the cost of growing the membership program. That's right, $4.6 million was spent last year trying to add members. I seem to remember that David Fay cited Golf Journal's pricey $3.5 million a year price tag as one of the reasons for dropping it, along with the usual nonsense about a 24/7 world, the Internet, yada, yada, yada.

So I'm curious what those of you in the corporate world would make of this? It would seem such massive expenditures and losses would require a change at the top? Or at least, more explicit explanation beyond the usual stuff about platform restructuring or leveraged cross polination and revaluation of liquid assets.

Well, there is this message from the shareholders in the annual report.

In 2002 they reported 720,000 members with $18.2 million in contributions. In 2006 they reported "about" 900,000 members, with revenue of $19.1 million. With a USGA membership costing $25, that should show an increase of around $5 million between in '02 and '06.

So either they are giving away a whole bunch of memberships, or the contributions aren't coming in like they used to.


Clock Builders and Time Tellers

From Marty Parkes's USGA annual meeting blog, talking about Walter Driver's vision for the governing body of North American golf:

I found the most noteworthy part to be near the end.  He said it was crucial for non-profits like the USGA not to become “clock builders” and become too cozy and comfortable and “tell time” without accomplishing much.
Are you writing these metaphors down?
Instead, the trick is for an established organization like the USGA to “preserve the core but change the process.”  To put this concept simply, we need to remain absolutely dedicated to serving the needs of our game (the core) but be willing and able to change the way we operate (the process). 

 Wow, to have been there when Driver delivered this brilliance. I wonder if they gave the original copy of this historic address to Rand Jerris for storage in the museum archives?

That means adapting to things like new equipment technology for clubs and balls and using the Internet well...

Oh yeah right!


Someone Thinks Wie Will Win Soon...

Got to love the LPGA, they still have confidence in Michelle Wie. Announcing eligibility changes for the season ending ADT Championship that the PGA Tour ought to emulate, note this little change...

For the first-time ever, a non-LPGA Tour member has the opportunity to compete in the ADT Championship. If a non-LPGA Tour member wins one of the four majors, she is eligible to compete in the season-ending ADT Championship and is not required to become a member to do so. Furthermore, if she needs a note to get out of her classes at Stanford, the LPGA Commissioner will personally write and sign it.

Oh there I go again adding on sentences to perfectly good press releases. Sorry.


"You'll Get Nothing And Like It"

David Feherty pens a classic piece on John Barmon, the dude who played Spaulding in Caddyshack.


The New FedEx Cup Leader... John Rollins.

Thanks to reader Charlie for noticing, because I forgot to check. 

And for those of you media members searching for a "storyline" on this?

If the FedEx Cup playoffs started today, Matt Hendrix and Stephen Leaney would just miss out on being eligible for the 144-man field at Westchester. Ponder the ramifications.


The Future of Bandon

Peter Sleeth offers the most in depth look I've read into Mike Keiser's future plans for Bandon.

The Chicago greeting card magnate who turned a stretch of isolated coastal dunes into one of the most highly rated golf complexes in the world has been quietly buying up nearly 1,000 more acres of land on the Southern Oregon coast, according to land records in Curry and Coos counties.

Michael Keiser also has taken the unusual step of helping finance a proposed 90-foot dam just two miles outside this coastal town -- an attempt to help local cranberry farmers flood their bogs, which will provide more capacity to an expanding Bandon and, potentially, to water new golf courses.


Keiser said last week that he is considering building at least one more golf course on his property south of Bandon -- in addition to the four, 18-hole courses he owns north of the city. Further, another golf course owned by a Eugene couple is under construction south of Bandon.

The rest of Keiser's land, including more than 300 acres on the Pistol River in Curry County, will mostly be used as conservation areas to preserve the beauty of the south Coast, he said. The multiple purchases range from 10 acres to 235 acres in Coos County, and are primarily farms.

The news of another golf course brings mixed feelings to local residents. With another course south of town, Bandon could easily become a new golf destination, "probably like no other place in the nation, or the world," Winkel said.


Keiser said he bought into a 15 percent share of the Johnson Creek dam out of both altruism and investment savvy. The cranberry farmers who first conceived the dam were short of the expected $9 million to $12 million the dam would cost.

"Water's the new resource everybody wants," Keiser said.

The story goes on to talk about some local opposition to the dam.

"This is yet another example of continued evolution of the USGA’s business model."

Mercifully, the USGA only posted an excerpt from Walter Driver's shareholders annual meeting address.

Now, I'm not making this up (Honestly, check the link, if nothing else to see the bizarre underlining of certain key words):

We intend to (1) improve the platform of the USGA so that the USGA is organized to meet present and future golf and economic challenges and (2) build the best staff and volunteer team. We believe you will see the USGA is getting better at everything it does. You will see more evolution to meet current needs.
Classic empty corporatespeak. Fine, I'm sure the groupthinkers in attendance ate it up. 
We have recently announced corporate partnerships with American Express and Lexus. The corporate partners program will allow the USGA to reach more golfers and educate them on our programs and initiatives. This will strengthen the USGA Members program as part of the golf community and improve our communication with the golfing population.

Translation: since we dropped Golf Journal and started that tacky newsletter, our membership numbers are plummeting and we had to sell out so we could pad the numbers. 

Both companies share many of our values, beliefs and high standards.

I bet those companies hope they don't shre the USGA's values, at least, not with the USGA that lost $6.1 million last year.  

With American Express, the USGA can help AMEX add value to millions of cardholders while allowing the USGA the opportunity to educate them about our Association and its programs. Lexus will become the official car of the U.S. Open, U.S. Women’s Open, U.S. Senior Open and U.S. Amateur, alleviating a huge operational issue of our needing 10,000-12,000 "car nights" throughout championship season. These partnerships will benefit both partners and, ultimately, golfers as well.


Okay, I repeat, I am NOT making this up:

We are also exploring new ways to use the Internet and better communicate to USGA members, volunteers, players, fans and the golf community. Golf has become increasingly global. In 2006, the U.S. Open television broadcast was seen in excess of 150 nations. received 117 million page views and provided streaming video during the week of the championship. The ideas are unlimited and very exciting – the harder part will be prioritization and implementation. This is yet another example of continued evolution of the USGA’s business model.

Yep, he just said business model. This business just spent $30 million more than it did last year running the U.S. Open and is bleeding red. What a model!

Oh, and I know, you were thinking this was a non-profit, not a business. Get with it people!

You may ask "why are we doing this?" And the answer is Built to Last.

Built to Last is the leading business management "bible" and has been on the New York Times Best Seller list for years.

Yes the USGA, once run by volunteer captains of law, business and medicine now has a President citing a New York Times bestseller as the organization's guiding source of light!

The keys to building a lasting, effective institution include:

# Preserve the core and change the process – Absolute dedication to the game but keep up with distribution and media challenges and equipment technology

Answer: sell out to a foreign auto maker, start a boring blog and ban those pesky U-grooves!

# Big, audacious goals – best championships in golf, superior volunteers, great player experience, make the game more affordable and accessible

Yeah, those are pretty audacious goals for an organization that has trouble keeping those pesky mowers from undertaking middle of the night green rollings.

# Cult-like cultures – boy, have we got that!

Wait, did Walter just crack a joke that was actually funny? Well, he is an outgoing president.

# Try a lot of things and keep what works – this is what we are doing, open-minded, determined to constantly improve

Boy this is some book! Whoa, try a lot of things and keep what works. Why didn't I think of that?!

And you say you don't learn things on this blog? 


"Money was not the big motive for Tiger"

Yes and if you believe that, I have some land in Dubai for a golf...oh wait. Wrong joke.

Anyway, John Garrity offers a few gems in a Dubai-filed column. Writing about Al Ruwaya, home to the first Tiger Woods design... 
The golf course deal had been in the works for a couple of years, and local sources say that Sheikh Mohammed had to fend off a strong bid from Chinese interests, who were equally determined to land Tiger's first course design. ("Money was not the big motive for Tiger," says businessman and seven-time UAE golf champion Ismail Sharif. "There were other countries that would offer one more zero to get him.")
I guess I would tell myself that too if I was writing a check for $45 million.
Woods was coy when asked if he planned to spend much of his week in the desert, stepping off yardages and planting little red flags. ("I'll probably go out to the site and take a look.") His nascent design team, however, met with the Tatweer staff and got the ball rolling. Tiger's man on the ground was his childhood friend and high school teammate, Bryon Bell, who caddied for Woods on occasion before going to work at the Tiger Woods Foundation. Bell will reportedly manage Tiger Woods Design from an office in Orlando, Fla.

"Sadly, he doesn't pay much attention to that, and never has."

In his Scotland on Sunday column, John Huggan lets Greg Norman rant about the usual stuff. I still enjoy reading it even if he's made many of these points before. Well, he's taken it up a notch on the topic of his good buddy, Tim Finchem.

"I can't fault Finchem in some respects," said the two-times Open champion in Dubai. "You have to say he has done a good job in getting prize- money up in America, so that players from all over the world are going there to play. But when you are the leader of the free world, as the United States is, you have responsibilities beyond that. President Bush has global responsibilities on his shoulders, whether he likes it or not, because of the power of the position he is in. It is the same for Finchem.
Ouch, a Bush-Finchem analogy. Has Greg turned on 43 too?
"He has a responsibility not to forget the rest of the world. He must support the likes of the European Tour, the Australian Tour and the South African Tour. Which has not been happening. Finchem has to be aware that every decision he makes has an impact around the world. Sadly, he doesn't pay much attention to that, and never has."
Now now, he $ee$ great potential in China!
On the subject of the world No.1, Norman is just one of a growing number of informed observers despairing of the fact that, Woods and one or two others apart, the sharp end of the professional game is populated by an ever-growing number of golfing robots devoted to hitting basically the same shot, time after tedious time.

"Because I grew up in an era when we could manoeuvre the ball maybe 60 feet in the air either way, I wonder at the game today," he sighed. "You don't see that any more. There were a lot of shot-makers in my day. And now, even though the very best players still come through, technology has bunched the players up. Tiger, of course, is the exception that proves the rule.

"I see so many players making a lot of prize-money without ever winning a tournament. In my day, you could make the cut, and still not win any money. You had to play hard to get anywhere. I realise people don't like hearing the old war stories about what we went through, but the powers that be in golf - the USGA, the R&A and the PGA Tour - should put some restrictions on the equipment used by the best players in the world."
They should, but that would require an ounce of integrity!
"I would rule the golf ball back to 1996 specifications, number one," he declared. "It's a crying shame that so many of the world's great courses have been lengthened by 400-500 yards for one week a year. The cost of that is just ridiculous, especially when you multiply it 30 or 40 times. That money could be better spent elsewhere. Golf is too expensive, and getting more expensive.

"I look at the Open at St Andrews two years ago. There were four tees there not even on the golf course. And I think of golf courses like Merion or Inverness. There is a long list: Royal Melbourne and Royal Sydney in Australia. The men who designed those great courses must be rolling over in their graves. I know I would be, in their position."



USGA Clears Monday of Women's Open For Most Important People: AmEx and Lexus Customers?

The USGA reduces the U.S. Women's Open playoff from an 18-holer on Monday to 3-holes at the completion of play Sunday.

"This makes sense for the players, fans, volunteers, vendors, the general media and our broadcast partners regarding the Women’s Open," said USGA President Walter Driver. "And if you use the Marquis Jet Card like I do, you know how difficult it can be to book time on a Sunday night only to have to reschedule it."

Oops, don't know how the second part of that quote got in there!

Seriously, will Monday's now be Lexus and AmEx outting days (well...that is, after the Executive Committee has played)?

Ah the cost of corporate partnership: priceless.  


Tiger at Riviera?

My interest in Tiger Woods playing at Riviera is purely selfish (it's pretty boring without him!).

Over at, the boys are debating their usual FACT or FICTION topics and they all say he's going to play.

Obviously, they don't remember that Tiger got caught in two hours of about the most hideous Friday afternoon traffic I've ever seen while battling the flu and Stevie's brilliant decision to leave the umbrella in the locker with a slim rain chance.

But in this suck up piece, Tim Rosaforte starts laying out all of the excuses for why Tiger's not playing, most of which the scribblers in San Diego were fed last week in the pre-planning for a likely no-show at Riviera.

Right now Tiger's playing with a three-club wind at his back -- but to quote Bob Seger, it's all about deadlines and commitments. After the Desert Classic, he's hanging around to check out his $25 million golf course project, and then jetting back to a short week in California after flying back through 12 time zones. What to leave in, what to leave out?

Hmmm, I don't know, the ones that don't pay big appearance fees?

Of course, while we're doing the whole Seger Against the Wind metaphor...

And I found myself alone
Surrounded by strangers I thought were my friends
Found myself further and further from my home and I
Guess I lost my way
There were oh so many roads
I was livin to run and runnin to live
Never worried about payin or even how much I owe

Okay, well maybe not the part about how much he owes.


Warning: USGA Annual Meeting Blog

It's always scary when the USGA dares to be hip, which is why a click on the USGA Annual Meeting blog link is taken at your own risk.

To spice up USGA spinman Marty Parkes's posts, I first tried to plug his eloquence into the Ali G Tranzlata.

da usga is organized dig a lot of non-profit organitazions. dat is, it is an association of a crew of people and/or facilities involved in a particular industry or business. in our case, da usga is legally an organitazion of memba golf courses. dey come in all shapes and sizes: some is wealthy and private, udders is public and poa.

Ah, but why resort to that when the humor is found in plain old English? 

The USGA is organized like a lot of non-profit organizations. That is, it is an association of a bunch of people and/or facilities involved in a particular industry or business. In our case, the USGA is legally an organization of member golf courses. They come in all shapes and sizes: some are wealthy and private, others are public and poor.

Most are poor because they've spent so much money making changes to accomodate technology we failed to regulate.

Oh wait, how did that last sentence get in there?

We have nearly 10,000 such member facilities that legally comprise the Association. Each one of them – regardless of whether they are public or private; nine or 18 or 36 or 54 holes; or a driving range or “short course” where you can take lessons and hit balls -- receives a ballot each year that they can cast toward the election of USGA officers for the next calendar year. Many courses receive this ballot, fill it out, and mail it back. Representatives from each facility can also attend the Annual Meeting, if they so choose. Our courses also receive a copy of the Association’s Annual Report at the meeting or in the mail afterwards.

This situation isn’t much different than what you see in the private or corporate world. Most companies have stockholders. These shareholders receive an annual report each year along with a ballot to cast concerning the election of members of the board of directors as well as other governance issues that may be out there (such as whether to merge with another company). Shareholders can choose whether or not to attend the meeting, who to vote for, and express their opinions about the general state of things.

Oh I see. We're like corporate people, you know?

So this means any USGA member or media member can come to the meeting, right?

Most of the folks who attend our Annual Meeting come from member facilities located near the site of the meeting (San Francisco in this case). Certain USGA staffers like me attend, as do many USGA committee volunteers. We invite certain members of the media (especially local ones) to come. Officials from many state and regional golf associations (again mostly local ones) come as well. And, by the way, the folks who attend are one and the same with our invited list of guests. We have few, if any, gatecrashers…

Oh, so really you make sure to only invite likeminded shareholders and the media you invite? Huh. 

The Annual Meeting is held on a Saturday each year. Its main purpose is for election of incoming members of our Executive Committee (better known as XC around Golf House). This XC has the final say on all USGA matters, great and small. During the meeting, we also recognize those who are retiring from the Committee and thank them for all their hard work and sacrifice of time and money. This year, for example, we have three people retiring from the XC and three new folks joining.

The retiring members had trouble getting along with the president and disagreed with him on many points, which, as in the corporate world, is strongly discouraged.

There I go again! 

This is humorous, and like the rest of the blog, was not intended to be:

In the interests of full disclosure, I should mention that most staffers and several volunteers arrive a few days before Saturday. We are sequestered in various committee meetings during those days, conducting discussions and deciding upon policy for the future.

Why would that be a full disclosure deal? Here I thought he was going to mention that they arrive early to analyze the halfway house burger at Olympic Club or sample those cookies laid out in the San Francisco Golf Club locker room. 

Several years ago, my boss and our executive director, David Fay, asked me to take the minutes of our XC meetings. That is, to be blunt, hardly a coveted post at the USGA. To my utter amazement, I retain this duty to this day. I’m not sure whether it’s because I’ve done a good job or David just can’t find anyone else that he feels deserving of being saddled with this task. He once told me, in fact, that even if I leave the Association, I will still be required to return to take XC minutes.

Hahahahahaha. That jokester! 

Since the curtain is about to rise on our Annual Meeting tomorrow, I will wrap it up for today. I will drop back for a few minutes late tomorrow night after our meeting held in the City by the Bay…

Wow, can't wait. Maybe a Gavin Newsom post might liven up this affair?  Oops, bad pun, I'm sorry. 


Not Available In Stores!

Catching up here a bit, so forgive this being a few days late but reader John sent this WSJ story on the Orlimar infomercial scam success.

For starters, the storyline tends to be very simple and repetitive because viewers can't be expected to start watching from the beginning or sit through an entire spot. Mr. Bernhard focuses on thorough, frequent product demonstrations that solve some sort of problem.

At a minimum, he advises, there should be at least three "calls to action," industry lingo for getting customers up off the couch to order the product. Credit-card orders, rather than cash-on-delivery, are imperative to cash flow, Mr. Bernhard adds, noting that it is a selling bonus if customers hear they can't get the product anywhere else -- the classic "not available in any store" line. "That's maybe a cliché, but it's very important," he says. "You want to have a product that's specially-devised for television."

What is more, customer testimonials -- even ones by vaguely recognizable names -- paired with a charismatic host can add an extra punch.

For instance, Richard Karn, the next-door neighbor Al from the situation comedy "Home Improvement," is currently hosting a successful infomercial selling a collapsible ladder by Wing Enterprises, a small company based in Springville, Utah. Chuck Norris hawking the Total Gym exercise machine is another popular product.

For his part, Mr. Ortiz, 54, has been through building a brand -- and selling it in front of the camera -- before. As a teenager, he helped develop his father's company, Orlimar (a compilation of letters from his family's last name and two of their first partners). The business, based in northern California, didn't take off until the late 1990s when Mr. Ortiz developed the TriMetal Fairway Wood.

To advertise the club, now well-received by professionals and civilians, Orlimar executives designed the company's first infomercial.

They spent about $200,000 to create a 30-minute infomercial and around $150,000 in January 1998 for the first month of air time on the Golf Channel. Simultaneously, they conducted a limited print-advertising campaign. Up against industry giants Callaway and Titleist, the company couldn't interest retailers.

The return on the infomercial investment was visible from the start, Mr. Ortiz says. On a microlevel, he could see that the time sales orders were placed over the Internet or telephone coincided with the time the infomercial aired. The company reinvested their earnings of $300,000 from the first month to buy air time for another 30 days.

Before long, the company was spending upward of $1 million a month. Sales exploded as a result of the infomercial -- rising to $105 million in 1999 from $1 million in 1997. In all, Orlimar spent about $12 million on air time, and customers began seeking out the club at retail outlets, prompting chains to place large orders.