The USGA's 2011 Herbert Warren Wind Book Award winner
It was so hot in Washington that summer that even eyeballs fogged up but Ken Venturi went out with 14 clubs and a letter from his parish priest in his pocket and won the most important tournament any golfer can ever win, the one that certifies you as the heavyweight champ of all golf.
First there were tees to supplement all of that improved athleticism allowing for distance increases, now we have shoes to add to the list of reasons guys are hitting it longer.
The shoes have increased my ball speed from 166 mph to 173 mph. Each mile per hour is equivalent to about 2 1/2 yards, so that's an additional 15 yards on my drives. This has taken me from the top 100 in driving distance in Europe to being in the top 10 in the space of a year, which is amazing.
They've also taken his voice down two octaves and made his blond highlights almost look natural.
Thanks to reader Tuco for this.
Lorne Rubenstein gets to the essence of what we love about some tournaments, and why all of these no-cut, rich-get-richer affairs aren't doing the Tour much good.
Real tour golf should be intelligently designed, then. Only then are golfers forced to be strong and to see if they have what it takes to survive.
The game has always been about getting it done without the security blanket of a guaranteed cheque. Little by little, that's changing, sure. Anybody who wins a tour card will make at least a couple of hundred thousand dollars from equipment contracts and other endorsements. But that disappears if the player doesn't keep the card.
Five-year-old Barona Creek (No. 78 in Golfweek's Top 100 Modern) has overcome its dated back tee yardage to earn the right to host two Nationwide Tour Championships. Tod Leonard writes:
With a hotel/casino on site and plenty of room for corporate hospitality and the expected 5,000 spectators, Barona's only obstacle to getting a top-level event was its length. At 7,088 yards from the championship tees, it was deemed short for today's big hitters with high-tech clubs. In October's Collegiate Cup, for example, Denver's James Love shot a 10-under-par 62 in the first round and went on to card 15-under in three rounds.
But the club has made extensive renovations this fall, adding 12 new tees to lengthen the course to about 7,500 yards. Several jagged-edged bunkers – among the course's standout design traits – were added.
Here's a story on Mark Hensby refusing to apologize for his controversial views expressed at last week's wild and wacky Australian Open. But this is what I found interesting:
Stuart Appleby yesterday joined the list of players fined by the PGA Tour for a rules breach in publicly criticising aspects of the Australian Open, he revealed errors had been made by AGU officials in measuring pin placements.Appleby said players had been notified mid-round that incorrect distances were shown on official pin placement sheets.
Boy this Australia Golf Union really knows how to put on a tournament. Top notch, top notch.
Check out Ran Morrissett's interview with Alfie Ward, creator of the Arbory Brae course and world class traditionalist. I suppose this could be viewed as good news for those going to Scotland hoping to play lesser known gems without seeing Americans, but otherwise, it's pretty sad:
13. As technology goes unchecked, what is the future of the numerous sub-6000 yard courses around Scotland (and the UK & Ireland for that matter)? Is their appeal in any way lessened?
Excellent question, and one which gives the greatest concern of all (IMO). You know, history does repeat itself – maybe because life itself is a cycle of fashion and trends ? It can be argued that these fashions and trends were the death knell for numerous courses and their respective clubs circa 1930 – 50’s in Scotland, and most probably, elsewhere in the UK ? At this time, golfers became more selective in the courses they played because they had the advantage of travelling far greater distances than they could have previously! Support for the smaller courses dwindled as visitors travelled further afield and in pursuit of superior challenges at the longer courses. So too, and still do, are those seeking membership to a club. Who’s to say that the same scenario isn’t about to be repeated in the next few years ? I reckon it’s happening already, and so too, I think, does the Scottish Golf Union ! Of Scotland’s 500 plus courses, there’s probably about 300 (minimum) that don’t meet the 'must play' expectations of the modern tourism golfer ! Why ? Because they’re instantly deemed much too short from the yardage stats in the first instance of course selection. So the appeal factor is diminished from the outset, and so long as technology in golf goes unchecked – then life isn’t going to get any better for the vast majority of courses (worldwide) that are lagging in this mad distance race !
In response to reports of serious concerns over the state of Scottish golf and falling club membership numbers (Nov 2004) I undertook a little research on Scotland’s golf courses. Of 503 registered in the 2003 Golf Guide I found that 155 (31%) were sub 5500 yard layouts ; 113 (22%) 5501 – 6000 yards ; 185 (37%) 6001 – 6500 yards ; and 50 (10%) 6501 yards and over. In direct relation to the question you ask Ran, and if my personal concerns are justified – then that puts over 50% of Scottish courses under the 'at risk' umbrella ? That is, if fashion and trends and unchecked technology has anything to do with it ? I believe it has !
TGC's George White dares to go where few others will: he remembers that Tiger said the Tour schedule is too long, and he's wondering why Tiger is so much playing fall golf.
They're here...a U.S. Open preview, even beating the Masters. Sam Weinman previews preparations at Winged Foot.
"To get an event of this scope ready is hard to convey," said Danny Sink, the manager of the 2006 Open who has been on site at the club for some 18 months. "It's a massive undertaking with a lot of moving parts."
So prevalent are these tents, a common criticism lodged at the USGA is that the Open has become more a vehicle for profits than anything else. As a defense, the USGA says those profits are essential to the organization's overall mission. While the Winged Foot Open likely won't rival the record $13 million netted at the 2002 Open at Bethpage Black, it will be profitable enough to underwrite other parts of the USGA budget.
"Obviously, the U.S. Open makes a profit, but that's money we use to help grow the game," Sink said.
Oh it's growing.
Jeff Silverman takes an in-depth look at the most recent estate courses and their creators. Unfortunately the online version does no include the photos that ran with the print version.
My latest Golfobserver.com column. An email to the Commissioner about PGA Tour Fantasy (the game, not his dream of a $1 billion TV contract).
While going through some of the quotes left out of Lines of Charm (note that shamless plug as the Christmas shopping season gets underway), I found this beauty from Bobby Jones:
I never have been convinced that a so-called one-shot hole of 240 or 250 yards is a forthright golfing problem.
Now, you may recall Mr. Jones's name and writings have recently been invoked (and will be many more times between now and April) to justify the lengthening of Augusta National's fourth hole to 240 yards. Just thought I'd share this so that some of you out there can understand why us architecture junkies want to scream when we read that Jones would approve of the new-look course.
Matthew Rudy pens an excellent and downright stunning Golf World feature analyzing the possibility of steroids in golf. Stunning, in part because of the certainty experts have that players are using steroids, but mostly it's a jaw-dropper because of the ho-hum, naive and downright bizarre responses from certain governing body.
It's easy to peg the explosive distance gains in professional golf to a familiar set of theories: supercharged modern equipment, improved agronomy and sophisticated workouts by dedicated athletes. No one in the preservation-of-the-game versus unfettered-technology debate disputes these factors. But could golfers also be getting an assist from something else?Yes, and why is the door open to steroid usage? Could lax rules on modern equipment fitting offer ususually juicy benefits for those with certain clubhead speeds? Could fault equipment regulation have shifted the playing focus from players developing a balanced game to a power-focused style?
After six months of research, Golf World has not turned up a documented case of steroid abuse on golf's major tours.
Research reportedly entailed photo analysis of LPGAers once known for their peach-fuzzed lips suddenly requiring shaving, and a thorough search of PGA Tour lockers for Clearasil and bras (or Manzeers?). John Daly and Phil Mickelson's lockers were skipped for obvious reasons.
Sorry, just trying to keep it light.
Still, the rampant use of steroids in other sports and the insistence of medical experts that steroids can enhance performance lead some to believe steroids will inevitably encroach upon pro golf, probably first among young amateurs and developmental pros. Those concerned about the matter suggested that golf's governing bodies address such a possibility by enacting more clear rules and drug testing now.
"I haven't heard any talk about steroids in golf, but no sport is immune to it," says Dr. Gary Wadler, a clinical associate professor of medicine at NYU and a member of the World Anti-Doping Agency. "Any component of strength is going to be enhanced by taking them. If a golfer can benefit from added strength, steroids are going to be a benefit in that regard."
Naturally, statements like that mean golf will need at least a 3-year study to disprove an expert like Wadler.
The average driving distance on the men's tour has increased almost 30 yards since 1980, but that gain has been attributed mostly to equipment advances, not chemistry.
Get Rudy some talking points! They're working out more, Matthew. Oh, and there's lots more roll than the old days when before three-row irrigation systems.
Run the numbers, though, and it's easy to see why a chemical "helper" might be enticing for a player who has hit the wall in terms of adding distance conventionally, through a combination of exercise and finely tuned equipment. On a launch monitor, each additional mile per hour of clubhead speed is worth roughly two yards of carry. If the average male tour player swinging 118 miles per hour with the driver added 10 percent more speed, he could carry the ball nearly 25 more yards. For an LPGA player swinging at 95 mph, that means a gain of almost 20 yards.
Here's where it starts to get scary, or sad, or just plain pathetic:
And why is this message being sent? Ah yes, right, so that grown men can continue their equipment shopping addiction unfettered by silly rules.
"If I had 5 percent more clubhead speed, I'd still be playing 30 tournaments," says [Nick] Price, who averaged 282.6 yards in 2005. "Let's face it. Unless you can hit the ball 310 yards now, you will never be No. 1 in the world, and that's a sad state of affairs. If I'm playing with a college kid and he's hitting it 280, I tell him he has to find more. But what if he's maxed out his power? The message we're sending him leaves the door open for him to try something else to find the power he needs."
In golf, the risk of detection is almost zero. No professional tour -- or the USGA -- has specific language in its rules prohibiting performance-enhancing substances.
But surely the USGA, which this year made a big fuss about updating its gender reassignment policy to keep up with the International Olympic Committee, is on top of this to remain IOC-consistent, right?
USGA executive director David Fay says he not only has no comment about the USGA's position on steroids, but he won't comment on whether the subject has even come up in the organization's policy meetings.
That's our David. Inconsistent as ever.
PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem says the tour's conduct rules -- and the tradition of players policing themselves when it comes to those rules -- have been a sufficient deterrent to this point, but the tour would not hesitate to incorporate a random drug-testing program if it had evidence of a pattern of use by players. "I don't think it is naive to think our players follow the rules," says Finchem.
I do! Self-policing on steroids? What are guys supposed to do, stick a cup in front of a player when he's at the urinal?
"Maybe there are doctors who would say that steroids would help a player hit a golf ball farther. We could debate that, and we could debate that the side effects might hurt a player other ways. I don't go there. We have a rule, and we expect players to follow it.
Uh, no, you don't have a rule or testing.
"If we have credible evidence to think that a player was taking them, we would consider taking other measures. Players have been fined and suspended for other conduct that was unbecoming a professional, and we wouldn't hesitate to do that in this case."
Oh, so conduct unbecoming a professional. But there's no testing, so what are they unbecoming of if you can't prove they're unbecoming?
You know, you wouldn't be in this mess if they hadn't scrapped the optimization...ah, forget it.
Come on you Golf Digest panelists, write up your thoughts, observations and memories of the first-ever panelist summit. Email them in, post in the comments here, we want to hear about it! And no more of these phone calls and cryptic emails informing me that my Golfobserver column was not far off.
Over on Golf Club Atlas, panelist attendee Bill Schulz writes about Jack Nicklaus's comments on Augusta (an identical description was shared to me by another panelist):
Nicklaus received a loud applause from the group when he criticized the recent changes at Augusta National. He said that he does not recognize the current course and that the original design features of the wide fairways with strategic angles of attack are being deleted. I think he cited the extremely narrow 7th hole as one such example.
Nicklaus made these criticisms of Augusta National and the earlier comments I repeated regarding Shadow Creek with the architect of these projects, Tom Fazio, standing in the back of the room. But I do not feel Nickalus was being disrespectful, just speaking his mind.
This sounds familiar (thanks to reader Michael for this):
The Australian PGA Tour has fined its own chairman, Wayne Grady, as the fallout over Moonah Links continued yesterday on the final day of the Australian Open.
Grady was fined an undisclosed sum over his verbal spray directed at Australian Golf Union executive director Colin Phillips on Friday. At least three other players — Stephen Leaney, Stuart Appleby and Craig Parry — are also to be fined for their criticisms of the course and the AGU, which runs the Open.
The fines come from the tour's tournament director Andrew Langford-Jones.
"Obviously 'Grades' committed a breach of our code of conduct," said the tour's general manager, Gus Seebeck, yesterday. "As our chairman he knows he carries extra responsibility to stay within that code. The comments that were made were not meant for public consumption, but they were overheard by certain people, unfortunately, and they were of a personal nature.
"Grades knows this, but it's a closed shop now, and it's between Wayne and Colin to patch up their personal issues."
Grady's attack came during the furore over the state of the 12th green on Friday, when Peter O'Malley's ball blew off the green in high winds. Phillips was the tournament director, and this was his last assignment after 27 years in charge of the AGU.
Doesn't this boil down to the same thing? Today's players are not eloquent when it comes to explaining why setups are over-the-top, and governing bodies either (A) don't have much idea what they are doing when it comes to course preparation in inclement weather, or (B) are trying to produce a "respectable" winning score in the face of major changes in the sport?
Moonah course architect Peter Thomson responded to the player complaints, and it leaves me wondering if the golfing great has spent just a bit too much time sitting around the Royal and Ancient clubhouse listening to clueless administrators commiserating about the spoiled modern pro. From Martin Blake's story:
Thomson responded wryly when I asked: "Do you think some of these players spend so much time in the U.S., where they are pampered and looked after so much with course preparation and everything else, that when they come home and it gets a bit tough they don't react well?
"I'm impressed with your opinion . . . I know that is what everybody else thinks," he replied.
"But, as a side issue, it has struck me that it would be a very sad day if the players were able to select the courses on which they wanted to play.
"The R&A would not have a bar of that, nor would the USGA. In fact, for the last 50 years of my lifetime, the USGA has been responsible for making courses so difficult that people take three irons off the tee.
"But neither the R&A nor the USGA buckle when they get a bit of criticism. I would like to think our championship joins that category.
"In order to convince the world that we have a championship that matches the big two, we have to have a comparable course. That's what this is."
Trying to mimic the USGA and R&A course setup strategies probably isn't the wisest thing to do these days. But based on the player feedback, I'd say the AGU succeeded in one respect.
Remember, I merely copy and paste this stuff:
Jumeirah Golf Estates is set to become one of the world’s most prestigious golfing and residential communities. Located in the Jebel Ali district on the south side of Emirates Highway, opposite Jumeirah Village, it lies approximately 22km south west of Dubai city centre.
Jumeirah Golf Estates will boast four environmentally themed 18-hole courses - Fire, Earth, Water and Wind - that mirror the elements of nature and integrate with distinct gated communities, featuring a variety of investment opportunities, world class amenities and premier services. Jumeirah Golf Estates draws on the remarkable talents of some of the game’s most famous names – among them, Greg Norman, the legendary ‘Great White Shark’, and the 2004 world number one, Vijay Singh.
As part of Phase A of the project, Greg Norman will personally be involved in the creation of two Eco-Signature courses, which focus on eco-friendly principles and practices and feature flora and fauna that are indigenous to the region. These two courses, Fire and Earth, will be the first two Eco-Signature courses ever designed by Greg Norman Golf Course Design exclusively for Nakheel.
This summer Lawrence Donegan wrote about a rolled back ball that a manufacturer distributed to certain people. As you may recall, it was stamped "R.I.P. Distance" on one side and "This is the ball Jack wants you to hit" on the other.
Now, the manufacturers haven't submitted the requested rolled balls to the USGA for their ball study, but one of them was able to make this ball and stamp it facetiously? Go figure.
Since those of us in the States did not get to see the Australian Open this year on The Golf Channel, it's hard to tell from accounts whether the players just don't like playing in wind, or the Moonah Links was poorly set up. Or a bit of both.
He also warned against allowing the players to dictate where the tournament is played, saying the R&A (controller of the British Open) and USGA (in charge of US Open) would never bow to the wishes of its competitors.
"I don't think they need any sympathy," Thomson said. "In real championship circumstances it ought to put them to their highest possible test of skill.
"One of the side issues of the criticism, it struck me, is that it would be a very sad day when the players are able to select the course on which they want to play. The R&A wouldn't have a bar of that, nor would the USGA.
"The USGA doesn't buckle when it gets a bit of criticism nor does the R&A. I would like to think our championship joins that category of championship. They are the ultimate, the big two.
But as usual, it appears the design was not the problem.
But as usual, it appears the design was not the problem.
"I don't have a problem with the course, I don't think it is bad or anything," [Peter] Lonard said.
"I don't know whether it is set up perfectly. But if you compare it to the Open courses we play, very few of them have greens where (the ball) will run off the edge and run 40 yards away."
From one of my favorites, the Sunday Indian Express:
Q: Let’s talk a little bit about what’s changing with your game. Is technology doing something to your game like it’s doing to tennis, or with cricket — what’s happening with golf?
ARJUN ATWAL: Well, with golf, you know, they’re actually going a little overboard with the distance. Distance meaning the golf ball is going a lot longer when you hit it than it did 20 years ago, or maybe even 10 years ago. What that does is make old-style golf courses like the RCGC obsolete. They’ve become too short, not challenging enough. Anyway, today’s players work out a lot; they’re much, much stronger than players before. And you’ve got equipment which is far superior. But they can only go so far with the golf ball. I think Jack Nicklaus, who is the greatest player that ever played, has put up a point to the USGA and the RNA, which are the governing boards of golf around the world, that you must now put a limit. And I think he’s right. Otherwise they’ll be building 8,000 yard golf-courses and only the long hitters will survive. Shot-making ability will go from the game.
Sounds like the Golf 20/20 summit was so thrilling that they are going to make it a biannual meeting. Actually, everyone's just sick of playing The Slammer and the Squire Course once a year.
This, from Ron Sirak's report in Golf World, was a shocker:
In a separate report, Frank Thomas of Frankly Consulting released results of a survey of 14,420 U.S. golfers that showed most want to play shorter courses and that the average male overestimates how far he hits his tee shots by 30 yards. The study also indicated time, cost and difficulty were the most common reasons people don't play more golf.