Twitter: GeoffShac
Writing And Videos
  • Tommy's Honor: The Story of Old Tom Morris and Young Tom Morris, Golf's Founding Father and Son
    Tommy's Honor: The Story of Old Tom Morris and Young Tom Morris, Golf's Founding Father and Son
    by Kevin Cook
  • His Ownself: A Semi-Memoir (Anchor Sports)
    His Ownself: A Semi-Memoir (Anchor Sports)
    by Dan Jenkins
  • Players: The Story of Sports and Money, and the Visionaries Who Fought to Create a Revolution
    Players: The Story of Sports and Money, and the Visionaries Who Fought to Create a Revolution
    by Matthew Futterman

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



2016 Open Championship Third Round This, That & Clippings

It's a bleak forecast for the players, a potentially captivating one for us watching the 145th Open Championship's third round at Royal Troon.

Your third round tee times.

The leaderboard.

For American audiences, your Golf Channel/NBC telecast times. also features live coverage.

Friday's Birdies and Bogeys.

John Huggan says 36-hole leader Phil Mickelson was “drookit” after a wet 18-holes over Royal Troon.

Michael Bamberger feels a Mickelson win would be epic in further defining his sensational career.

The 36 holes he has played at Troon, completed in a mere 132 shots, is just the latest. Like Fred Couples before him, he will be a factor at Augusta, at least now and again, for the next 10 years or more. Why? Because he is what he has always been, a golfer with a unique skill set and outsized desire. The thrill of competition just means too much too him. Tiger Woods burned out. Surely, his fade is rooted in an uncooperative body.

Ryan Lavner on the third round setup adjustments.

After the setup staff reviewed the course and forecast early Saturday morning, certain hole locations and tees were also moved before the 81 players began their day at Royal Troon.

The greens were rolling at about 9 1/2 on the Stimpmeter.

Here was the weather update greeting us at our work stations today, suggesting the R&A has no desire for a play stoppage should the wind kick up.

Lavner also explains what Mickelson did with Dave Pelz to make himself a better links player.

Jim McCabe ponders the luck of the draw and Steve Stricker says players have to resist the urge to throw themselves a pity party.

There were 52 games sent out Friday, and of the 26 players in red numbers heading to the weekend, 22 of them had earlier tee times on Friday. The only players who played late and finished under par were Patrick Reed (74), Byeong Hun An (70) and Rory McIlroy (71), all at 2 under, and Rickie Fowler (72) at 1 under.

Rory McIlroy also got the wrong side of the draw but he’s not getting down about his luck. Paul Weaver reports for The Guardian.

Jason Day
played a miraculous round in the afternoon wave to get to +1 and hopes there is more of it Saturday, if he can dry his stuff out. Mark Tallentire reports.

Billy Horschel
found a way to move the needle for the first time in ages. Alex Myers reports.

I wrote about Matthew Southgate for What an inspirational story.

Jaime Diaz on short par-3s after watching some golf at the Postage Stamp.

I wrote for about how the double-breasted's from the R&A (of all groups) are doing quality grow-the-game work by presenting a fun, relaxed Spectator Village which also accomplishes the goal of giving some exposure to their corporate partners.

And finally, Phil Mickelson's binder clip/hat adjustment is drawing plenty of scrutiny, reports Alex Myers.


2016 Open Championship Second Round This, That & Clippings

The rain has come and the players going out early in round two finally experienced inclement conditions (as expected). Phil Mickelson managed his way around until a bogey at 12, but he nearly aced the Postage Stamp.

A few notes as you watch the Golf Channel telecast in the States.

Your second round tee times.

The leaderboard.

For American audiences, your Golf Channel/NBC telecast times. also features live coverage.

Thursday's Birdies and Bogies.

Players are wearing ribbons in honor of the victims from the Nice tragedy, Ryan Herrington reports.

Jordan Spieth, Rickie Fowler, Jason Dufner, Jimmy Walker
and Zach Johnson are sharing a house and having a jolly time at The Open. Steve Hennessy explains. For a UK take, Jonathan Liew of the Telegraph reports.

Alex Myers walks out to the Postage Stamp to take in the wee hole. You forget how far out this course goes before turning back to the clubhouse.

The Railway hole was a beast in round one, my take for and Richard Bath's look for the Telegraph.

The Postage Stamp didn't play favorites either. Ryan Lavner with the lowdown on the struggles there.

Which reminds me, The Open's app is a must download for featured 6-7-8th hole coverage. If you're on site or coming this weekend, it will even map you through the course to get to a preferred spot or group.

Jim McCabe looks at the early dominance of Americans and says we should not be surprised given the history here.

The latest odds have Phil 15/8.


Stinger! 63 Again: Mickelson's Heartbreaker At Troon

There really wasn't a 62 in the air for Phil Mickelson until the birdie putt on 17 went in, and as I noted for based on my observations from the course, even Mickelson wasn't thinking it until late. But once he did, the heartbreak of such a lipout was evident.

Tiger still thinks about his putt at Southern Hills in 2008 and Phil will remember this one for the rest of his life. And 62 remains safe, as does the legacy of the Golf Gods.

That said, it's still a 63 in The Open, the last tournament Phil has won since 2013.

Where does it rank on the list of 28 previous 63's? Jaime Diaz, who wrote a definitive piece recently on 63s, says this one makes the top 5

After the round, Ernie Els lamented the missed chance at history but spoke of his pleasure in watching it unfold. Alex Myers reports.


2016 Open Championship First Round This, That & Clips

Under sunny skies and mild temperatures, the 145th Open Championship kicked off 156 years after the first playing at nearby Prestwick.

Your first round tee times.

The leaderboard.

For American audiences, your Golf Channel/NBC telecast times. also features live coverage.

The Guardian is doing one of their signature live blogs.

For a little TV table side reading, starting with the New York Times' Christopher Clarey taking a nice definitive look at the Postage Stamp.

The telecast started with a grand opening set to Yanni's "In Celebration of Man," with bagpipes. Alex Myers at says NBC's major championship theme is as glorious as ever.

Dustin Johnson didn't want to join the Anna Nordqvist penalty fray, reports Mercer Baggs.

Nick Faldo thinks Rory's gone soft at the knees, reports Derek Lawrenson.

Matthew Southgate learned he had testicular cancer exactly one year ago. Today hes teeing off at 3:21 in The Open. Ryan Lavner with Southgate's amazing story for

It takes two men to replace first tee announcer Ivor Robson, reports Ged Scott.

It wasn't that long ago Troon last hosted The Open, but it seems like ages ago when you think of some things going on in golf then. Ryan Herrington explains.

Tom Doak with other courses in the Prestwick/Troon area worth seeing.

And I took at look out the Spectator Village at The Open for Morning Drive. Check it out here.


Natalie Gulbis On Donald Trump's Convention Speaker List!

Night three!

Jeremy Peters reports for the New York Times on the Trump campaign's Republican National Convention speaker list and LPGA star Natalie Gulbis has been slected for a prime night three slot(!?) when Newt Gingrich, Ted Cruz, Eric Trump and the vice presidential nominee are speaking.


Today In Not Really Zika Virus: IOC Evaluating, Player Slams WDs, Rory At Peace, Coke To Silhouette Jordan

Could male golfers get themselves DQ'd from future Olympics while the women show off in Tokyo?

The chances are slim, but after reading Steven Wilson's AP story, all of the players who mentioned looking forward to future Olympic opportunities may look silly.

Wilson spoke to top IOC man Thomas Bach, and under Wilson's scenario, option is on the table to drop the men but not the women, though Bach did not say that.

The IOC will meet after the Rio Games to evaluate golf and all other sports and events on the program.

"One of the main categories of the evaluation is, of course, the question of participation of the best players," Bach said. "Let us wait then for this evaluation. Then, of course, we will also speak with the International Golf Federation once this is available."

By evaluating events within each sport, the IOC could look separately at the men's and women's tournaments. As it has been almost exclusively male players who have been withdrawing from Rio, the IOC could potentially consider whether to drop the men's event and keep the women's tournament for Tokyo.

Brian Keogh of the Irish Golf Desk quotes Rory McIlroy at length, who says he feels even more peace of mind than ever not going.

Explaing his Olympics decision in detail, he said: “Zika is a risk but there are other risks attached to going to Rio from political unrest to security issues. So there is more to it that that.

“There were enough people around me, members of my team and my family who weren’t comfortable and I wasn’t comfortable going down there so I felt that the best decision for me was to pull the plug."

And he presumes Tokyo will be there for him in four years.

“We have golf in the Olympics in Tokyo in four years’ time and if I really feel the need to get that Olympic experience hopefully, I can go there and do that.  

“I have no regrets. I have made my stance pretty clear and golf in the Olympics. I play for other things.

“Golf in the Olympics is great for golf and to grow the game. There is no question about that. But with the number of top professionals have decided not to go, that shows where it stands in our minds."

Hopefully Thomas Bach didn't see that last line!

Speaking to Morning Drive's Cara Robinson, Gary Player took his criticism of the Olympic WD's to a new level.

"I'm bitterly disappointed," said Player, the team captain for South Africa. "In America today, their plus-minus combined with car accidents and guns, 100,000 people killed a year, and you're going to go and play in a golf tournament where Zika is the great word. I think there's a greater chance of that happening to you in America than getting Zika. I was just in Zambia, where you have Malaria, and it didn't concern me at all.

"I'm really amazed," he added. "I just hope that it doesn't hurt golf. I hope we stay in the Olympics. I do believe we should have it for amateurs and not for professionals."

And Coca-Cola has coverted planned packaging featuring Jordan Spieth to a silhouette of a golfer, reports SBJ's Ben Fischer (H/T John Strege who has other details on the change in marketing approach).


R&A: Our Chief Referee Is Always Ready To Rule On Video

Shane Bacon proposes that we have three-person review centers at the major championships ready to review possible rules infractions, and while it makes sense on paper, it's also depressing to think it's come to this.

Of course, new R&A Chief Executive Martin Slumbers didn't take long to get asked about 18-2 and video reviews during his first press conference as head man.

Slumbers made clear the R&A has been ready to review and decide on such scenarios for a decade.

MARTIN SLUMBERS: Yeah, this is just throughout the process, the team here have been thinking about how to respond and monitor any sort of chain of command around rules for over ten years now. And about ten years ago a fundamental change was made by the team here, which I think makes a big difference in the way we would deal with any situation that arises in the next four days, which is that the chief referee doesn't leave this compound here. He has access to video replays in his office, and in addition to that, either Peter or I are also always here.

So we are very focused on -- rules are complex. This is a big, big animal out there being played on. All sorts of things can happen, we know that, and generally do happen in this game. It is the speed and the clarity with which we respond, which is something that we're very focused on, have been for a number of years. And I think it's that function of us sitting here, just about 50 yards away, being able to respond and provide instructions back to the referees, is the difference in how we would deal with it.


Sadly, that was about as good as it got.

This was a First Team, All-Conference non-answer:

Q. Martin, what is your take on Rory McIlroy's comments regarding not feeling a special need to give back to the game?

MARTIN SLUMBERS: Well, I think everybody has a right to their own opinions, and from our perspective I think we have three fundamental roles in the game: One is what's going to happen over the next few days in the Open Championship, two is governance, and three is about how we develop the game. It's part of our DNA to focus on developing the game. I think you have to look to the future always. I think it's great to celebrate wonderful talent out there today, whether it's in the professional game or the amateur game, but it's equally important to look to the future for us, and that's something we're focused on.

Still, Slumbers did make a good impression by sounding engaged and with a little less of the attitude brought by his predecessor.


145th Open: A Few Picks And Thoughts On Royal Troon 

Looking at Troon after spending time at far more beautiful links like Cruden Bay, Royal Dornoch, Brora, Prestwick and Turnberry is, admittedly, a let down. But within the corridors there are some sensational par-4s and par-5s, but beyond of the Postage Stamp, forgettable one-shotters.

Having not been here in over two decades, I forgot just how difficult the 10th and 11th holes look from the tee. While the Postage Stamp looms with its difficult (flat floored) bunkers, the gorse at Sandhills and The Railway must keep a few players up at night, particularly if the rain and cold come as forecast for Friday through Sunday.

Below are some embedded scenes from the course that hopefully give a little perspective what players face on those key holes. And here we talk on Morning Drive about the ebb and flow of the course.

As for picks, Jason Day is my choice over Dustin Johnson despite Day having something "pop" yesterday, but they are both so good right now that it will certainly come down to luck of the draw. Day goes late Friday, which has the potential to be an issue according to forecasters.

Damon Hack and I discussed the fun of wagering a few quid on The Open today.

My current wagering centers around value plays with top 7 finishes in mind, and will likely be rounded out by a few prop bets and perhaps some each way money on Mickelson and Knox (as long as I can get Phil at 45-1) and paying out the top seven spots. My current wagers include Ernie Els each way at 125-1, Graeme McDowell at 80-1, Padraig Harrington at 100-1, Danny Lee at 125-1 and Jim Furyk at 80-1.

**Late add: Greg Chalmers at 500-1! Winner of the recent Barracuda Championship. Go Aussie!

The course is soft and green, as we explained on Morning Drive, but the forecast has me liking "mudders" who know how to handle such conditions, which accounts for my interest in three former major champions who have been showing signs of

Nice spelling by the Tweeter here...trains, planes, eh...





Forward Press: Golf Channel Does Its First Major

For this week's Forward Press, I preview some of the things you can expect with NBC/Golf Channel's first Open Championship, plus offer some information on the long programming windows.

Their neatest sounding new production element to show off bump-and-run approach shots may not get much use if Troon remains soft.

I do not, however, have the bootleg yet of Yanni's re-imagined theme, with bagpipes. Something tells me you can wait.


Rio 2016: Spieth, McIlroy Fumble The Torch

It's a day that won't be looked on with much affection by those who admire the skill, passion and leadership roles Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy have been carrying for golf.

Inheriting and running with the torch handed to them in recent years--and enjoying the perks that come with the gig--these popular and impressive athletes have inspired young people. They've reminded the world that golf is a sport played by passionate figures.  And they have done their part when called upon to spread the gospel of golf to new lands. But after passing on the 2016 Rio games for reasons that seem less than their normally honest feelings, they've fumbled the torch each seemed so proud to have taken from golf's revered champions of the past.

Golf in the Olympics, while flawed due to the format and crowded schedule, is still one week out of their lives that could have cemented them as ambassadors, world-class sportsman willing to eat Olympic Village food for a week, and all around gents who love golf so much they'll show up in Rio for four whole days of potentially exciting golf.

However, the lads have stumbled in passing on Rio for an undisclosed health reason (Spieth), and altogether dismissing Olympic golf in a petty manner (McIlroy).

Spieth, who had called this a fifth major, signed with Olympic presenting sponsor Coca Cola to be part of its campaign, and who genuinely seems determined to become a sporting legend, could never quite disclose the reason he waffled right up to the inopportune moment of announcing his decision at a major championship (Alex Myers with Spieth's comments here.)

More disconcerting was the assertion that this was the hardest decision of his life, paramount to a college choice. While many around the world would envy someone who has never faced a decision more difficult than deciding to play in the first Olympic golf competition in 104 years or whether to go to UT or USC, the gravity suggests Spieth isn't quite prepared for the modern limelight that is so harsh. Trying to crack a joke about carrying the torch didn't help.

But at least Spieth seems to have genuinely agonized over this. McIlroy, however, went a disappointing path in belittling the competition by suggesting it is not one that matters. While John Huggan rightly notes the brutal honesty of McIlroy is, in part, why he is beloved and paid handsomely to be a global brand ambassador, McIlroy didn't have to put Olympic golf down because he's decided not to go.

The key quote from James Corrigan's Telegraph story:

“But, look, I get where different people come from and different people have different opinions. But I'm very happy with the decision that I've made and I have no regrets about it. I'll probably watch the Olympics, but I'm not sure golf will be one of the events I watch.”

When pressed which events these would be, he replied: “Probably the events like track and field, swimming, diving, the stuff that matters.”

As Jason Sobel wrote of the surreal at

Unlike Spieth's delicate attempt to convey golf's relevance in the Olympics without his participation, McIlroy stuck a knife in the back of the event and twisted it. Hard.

Ultimately golf is an individual sport played successfully by those who think very hard about themselves, their goals and their needs. Spieth and McIlroy confirmed they are no different than many past champions in putting their needs first. The difference, however, is that while past champions were often selfish and inconsistent at times, they were never handed a torch resembling this Olympic opportunity.


Peter Willett Finally Has Answers About Brother Danny

The brother of Masters Champion Danny Willett, who rose to fame thanks to his Masters final round Tweets, has finally got answers to the questions he's gotten on nearly every interview given.

Regarding "Did you ever think he could win The Masters?" Writing in The Telegraph:

2. Did you ever think he could win The Masters?

No – I never thought he’d win The Masters. I never thought he’d become a professional golfer. I thought he would end up selling plus-fours



Dawson Cracks: Zika "Over-reaction" By Male Golfers

James Corrigan of The Telegraph sums up the first sign of irritation by International Golf Federation officials at male golfers who are passing on Rio.

He writes:

Dawson offered his “understanding”, but his frustration was clear. More than anyone, the former R&A chief executive made golf’s case to the International Olympic Committee and it is interesting that the 2009 bid was backed by all the top players of the day, including Tiger Woods. Each of the current top four had earlier expressed their support to this Olympic tournament with Spieth declaring he was going to treat it “like a fifth major”. However, despite the Zika danger, those words seem extremely hollow now with the game fighting for its credibility as an Olympic sport.

Frankly I'm amazed it took this long for some pushback or skepticism from the top Olympic golf officials, particularly those who have spent so much time backing the bid, vision and effort to globalize the sport.

Ewan Murray of The Guardian noted Dawson's punchier line.

In response to a subsequent question over how susceptible golfers may be to Zika, which is transmitted via mosquitos, Dawson replied with more than a touch of sarcasm: “I take great heart from the fact we haven’t lost a greenkeeper yet.”


ShackHouse Episode 13: The Open Preview & Mike Tirico

House and I kick around that wacky U.S. Women's Open finish, set the table for Troon and of course, give the first names we like price-wise in the (legal) wagering over here. House digs out a beauty of a betting angle that is growing on me by the minute.

We will take to Twitter on Wednesday with a few fun prop bets and a better sense of what side of the draw is setting up better weather-wise.

But best of all we are joined by the venerable, versatile and beloved Mike Tirico, who is at home calling any sport and like his mentor Jim McKay, a calming presense that will make NBC Sports that much stronger. He is covering his 20th straight Open and will serve as host of NBC's first year-coverage.

Tirico discussed a variety of topics with me in the NBC compound just off the 18th fairway.

As always, you can subscribe on iTunes and or just refresh your device subscription page.

Same deal with Soundcloud for the show, and Episode 12 is here.

And the ShackHouse Stitcher page.

Here is Episode 12 that included Henrik Stenson, referenced multiple times in today's show.

Special thank you to sponsor Callaway, who enjoyed Alex Noren (80-1) winning with the Chrome Soft at Castle Stuart.

Don't forget to sign up for the Callaway Community and if you're a frequent consumer of their gear, the Rewards program.

Also many thanks to my favorite tequila for both price and smoothness, Avion!

Framebridge joined us this week and is offering a discount for ShackHouse listeners. Frame those Instagram photos for $39, then use the ShackHouse code HOUSE.

Same with MeUndies, work that promo code House for your first order!

And while they are not an advertiser, I mentioned shipping my clubs here. Luggage Forward is your friend, and mine.

Thanks as always for listening, making us the #1 golf podcast on iTunes and for supporting our sponsors.


Scottish Open v. Irish Open? And Other Fun Power Plays

While the headline notes that the Scottish Open is considering a Saturday finish to avoid the Wimbledon final--wise since it was totally lost in the news cycle here after Andy Murray's win--Martin Dempster also looks at the future of this championship through the eyes of Aberdeen Asset Management's Martin Gilbert.

Besides some of the courses being considered (Kingsbarns, Gullane, Royal Aberdeen but no Trump International), this was fun and may explain why we wont' see Rory at the Scottish for some time.

With Rory McIlroy as its host and Dubai Duty Free as sponsor, the Irish Open is eyeing a prime summer slot, but Gilbert, who has been instrumental in Aberdeen Asset Management pumping more than £10 million into Scottish golf over the past few years, is adamant that won’t be the one before the Open Championship for the foreseeable future.

“I’m sure he would,” he replied to being told that McIlroy had his eye on the Scottish Open slot. “But, as Keith Pelley said, we are tied in to this date until 2020, so no matter what Rory says...and this is a better tournament than the Irish Open, I can tell you.”

Fighting words!


2016 Olympic Golf Fields Set, Spieth Is Out

Jordan Spieth will be addressing his reasons Tuesday at Troon, but in the IGF press conference

The men's list is here. The top 15 here:

The women's field is here. The top 15:


Deja Vu All Over Again Files: Penalty Talk Overtakes U.S. Women's Open; USGA Prez Botches Another Trophy Ceremony

We watched late here into the night in the de-United Kingdom and it was surreal watching players notified on the fairway about Anna Nordqvist's barely discernable brushing of the sand, adding two strokes to her aggregate playoff score.

Ron Sirak on Brittany Lang's U.S. Women Open victory and the cloud hanging over the rules once again as HD cameras picked up something the naked eye could not have detected.

Sure to be second-guessed will be the fact TV was used to detect the violation and that Nordqvist was informed of the penalty after she hit her third shot into No. 18 while Lang found out before she played her third over a water hazard, timing that could have affected how boldly she played the shot.

“We got the information out to the players as soon as we could,” the USGA said in a statement.

After Johnson was told on No. 12 tee that he might be assessed a penalty for his ball moving on No. 5 the USGA said it would expedite such decisions. In that case, Dustin played the last seven holes not exactly certain if he would be penalized.

Well they expedited the notification, but isn't that the least of the issues? Thoughts and reactions?

There was also some less than speedy play, with Lydia Ko fessing up that she deserved to be put on the clock Sunday. Keely Levins reports.

And finally, there was USGA President Diana Murphy botching a second straight U.S.G.A. trophy ceremony, making everyone excited about what she'll do next at the Senior Open!


Q&A With Golf Architect Martin Ebert

The firm of Mackenzie & Ebert, founded in 2005, has been entrusted with some of the world's most important links. The former staff members of Donald Steel's firm have proven up to the task of addressing difficult issues while leaving behind architectural touches that restore and embellish.

I was fearful that any Cruden Bay tinkering could be problematic, but Tom Mackenzie made the 9th hole significantly better, injecting several new elements to form a more dramatic hole befitting the epic location of that short par-5. A new tee angle at the 10th improved the look and feel of the tee shot, while addressing a safety matter brought on by modern technology.

Mackenzie's design partner, Martin Ebert, kindly took time to give us insights into three links he has worked at and which are very much on the minds of golfers: Turnberry, Royal Portrush and Royal Troon.

As The Open gets underway at Troon, Ebert fills us in on the work done at these three landmark courses. I'll be posting a ful Turnberry review after an evening round in the rain. In short, the transformation is magnificent. But in the meantime, please enjoy his thoughts as well as links to Mackenzie and Ebert's groundbreaking use of presentation graphics.

GS: What would be the best description for the work at Turnberry: redesign, modernization, restoration, renovation or some combination of all?

ME: That is an excellent question as there is a combination of all of the descriptions which could apply.

'Redesign' can definitely be applied as we have, I would say, 5 completely new holes within the layout. The 6th is really a new par 3, having new tees and a new green in different locations and the hole is a much shorter par 3 than it was before. The 9th is a new par 3, albeit played from the same general teeing area as the old, hog's back par 4. The 10th has been extended to a par 5 with new back tees and a new green so I would claim that this is really a new hole. The 11th is a new par 3 occupying a different piece of ground than the old hole. Finally the 14th is routed into completely new land from tees in a similar location to the old hole and the hole is now a par 5 rather than a par 4. A case could even be made for the 1st being a new hole as well as the tees and green have both been extended backwards and the landing area bunkering has been reconfigured. So I think that the changes would constitute redesign.

'Modernization' also applies as I believe that we have made the course fit to test the greatest players in the world and the way that they play the game from a range of new tees and green locations. Some of the changes would not have been possible in years gone by. The players would not have carried the ball far enough to take on the new tee shots at the 9th and 10th holes for instance. However, the course needs to meet the modern demands of average club member and visitor play as this will be the use of The Ailsa for 99% of its time.

In pursuit of that, I believe that we have made the course more 'fit for purpose' as it should now be more enjoyable for the vast majority of golfers. They now have five par 3s to play and almost all golfers love playing par 3s, and we have added two par 5s to the front nine, leading to four in total, which makes the 5th and the 7th holes, previously par 4s, much more playable. In another way we have modernized the course by providing more flag positions on many of the greens. Higher green speeds have meant, as with all courses, that some areas of greens which used to be suitable for flag positions no longer are. That was especially the case at Turnberry where many of the greens had a 'bowl' like shape with the edges of the greens just too sloping to be useable. We have softened some of these areas to provide some exciting new flag locations which will use the edge features of bunkers, links banks and swales much more than before. An example is the par 3 15th hole where the flag can now be located much closer to the dangerous bank to the right of the green.

As far as 'Restoration' is concerned, my advice to Mr Trump when we embarked upon the project was that we should conduct as thorough a study as possible of the evolution of the course and especially following its reincarnation immediately after the Second World War. This proved to be a fascinating exercise when we compared the aerial photographs from just before Philip Mackenzie Ross carried out his work to just after it was completed. The photographs showed completely different bunker shapes and it was also clear that the bunkers had rough edges rather than revetted edges. In fact, the rough edges survived until the 1980s. Hence our recommendation was to restore the shapes of the bunkers where appropriate and to restore the rough edged character to the fairway bunkers. The greenside bunkers have new plan shapes to reflect the old forms but are revetted which was preferred by The R&A. Now that the project is completed I think that the two styles sit well with one another.

Finally, 'Renovation' also applies as every tee, green and bunker has been reconstructed. The greens have been built with a much sandier root zone created by mixing the old green root zone with dune sand to provide much more free draining surfaces which will be easier to manage in the long term to produce firmer and finer greens. The tees have been formed using the old green root zone and the bunker drainage as well as general fairway drainage has been improved.

(A full study and the rationale behind the changes can be viewed in this booklet and video.)

GS: Turnberry has produced some of golf's most thrilling finishes, did this put any added pressure on you in approaching how to re-imagine the links?

ME: I am not sure this added any pressure but we did want to respect those wonderful Open finishes as far as possible. For instance, we chose to retain the 18th green surface exactly as it was before the work started given the historic moments of the Duel in the Sun in 1977 and the sad events of 2009 although the green surrounds have had a little more feature added.

There were some misgivings about changing the 17th green. I imagine that Nick Price will be a little disappointed that the scene of his great eagle putt is no longer. However, hopefully he will understand that the greater cause of the major layout change to produce a straightened 18th hole for championship play justifies this.

One of the key changes to the course has been that straightening of the 18th hole for championship play. Previously the hole was a sharp and rather unnatural dogleg. The spectators in the 18th green grandstands would only get a view of the players at the corner of the dogleg. Now they will see the players silhouetted on the tee located on the dune bank with the ocean as the backdrop. The golfers will be taking aim on some part of the iconic hotel. So hopefully we will have set an even better scene for more thrilling finishes. However, that did mean shortening the 17th hole to a par 4 but it also had the knock on effect of requiring a new par 5 at the 14th hole and the new, shortened par 3 6th hole.

GS: Tell us about what has happened with the pitch-and-putt course, The Wee Links?

ME: The pitch and putt course has been completely rebuilt and now provides the hotel with a real links like setting immediately below it. The pitch and putt course used to have more of a garden feel to it and the greens were tiny. You had to be a good player to have any chance of hitting the greens. There was also a tennis court within the area which detracted from the view from the hotel. We imported a lot of on site fill material and shaped this up into what could be described as a large scale Himalayas (St Andrews) landscape with some bunkers included. Apart from recovery from the bunkers, a complete non golfer can now play the course with a putter. There are no set tee positions so the tee markers can be placed wherever suits. There are 18 greens (two are double greens) but the course could be played as 18 holes, 12 holes, 9 holes or even 6 holes by simply removing some of the flags and hence creating longer or shorter holes.

GS: The Arran Course is also slated for a redesign, what can you tell us about the plans?

ME: I assume that you mean the Kintyre Course although the second course used to be called the Arran. There is a lot of change here too to the extent that the course will be renamed. We are currently working on the changes. Mr Trump is currently considering some alternatives for this. The jewel in the crown of the landform is Bains Hill at the furthest point from the hotel and clubhouse. This coastal hillside will have its three holes reversed in direction to make maximum use of the views to the ocean and the existing 11th will be extended to a par 5 with an aiming point directly upon the Lighthouse. The direct coastal stretch will be the home of an incredible new hole with one of the most stunning greensites perched high above the waves as one could imagine.

Along with the changes at Bains Hill, there are new back tees for the 1st, 7th, 17th and 18th holes and a redesigned green for the 18th which sits just below the clubhouse. The 1st hole has had the artificial burn which used to cross it replaced with central bunkers giving more options to play the hole and the gorse lined nature of the course will be lessened with the creation of a large wetland feature between the 5th and 13th holes. The fairway bunkers are being converted into marram grass fringed hazards much like some of the bunkers at Royal County Down. All in all a considerable makeover.

GS: How are things going at Royal Portrush?

ME: The changes at Portrush are coming along very well. The new Valley Course came into play in May and have been well received. There are also a couple of new holes for the par 3 Skerries Course which have stunning views. These changes were necessary to give enough ground for the two new holes of the Dunluce Course.

The changes within the existing Dunluce Course have all opened for play in May. This includes the new 2nd green (adding length to the par 5), the new 3rd green (rebuilt to improve its condition) and the new 10th green (existing 8th green which was not an original Harry Colt green so it has been reshaped to give it more of a 'Colt' character) and various fairway bunkers and new tees.

The two new holes have been completed. The tees, greens and surrounds were turfed (sodded) and could  be played already. The fairway areas are being established by spreading hollow cores and overseeding. They are coming on well. The plan is to open them in the early summer of next year but they may be ready by the end of this year.

GS: How will the new holes fit in with the original course?

ME: I think they will fit in really well to the rest of the course both in terms of location and their character. There was a possibility of the Club playing them on the back nine but The R&A were adamant that they be part of the front nine for spectator movement reasons principally and the Club are likely to adopt the same routing. This sees the holes slot in between the 6th and 7th holes. The landscape for both holes is stunning with the 7th running down into and gently up a valley in the dunes and the 8th demanding a spectacular tee shot with a carry over a steep dune bank which will require a real decision about how much to bite off from the tee.

A permanent players' tunnel is being constructed to provide access for players during The Open between the 8th and 9th holes and between the 10th and 11th holes with the spectators able to move freely above.

(Here is the Portrush booklet and a video).

GS: You've also consulted at Royal Troon, what has happened in advance of this Open?

ME: A long time has passed since the last Open at Royal Troon in 2004. There have been two tranches of changes carried out in that time although a number of the changes might be described more as restoration of old features than changes.

We removed trees and created new dunes behind the 9th green, really to help improve the light and airflow to the green and we added new back tees and the restored a huge bunker in the carry of the 10th hole originally designed by Willie Fernie and which Dr. Alister MacKenzie provided input upon in the 1920s.

The other major change was to the position of the tees and the first half of the 15th fairway well to the left of the previous line. Again this is a restoration of the hole alignment which was played during The Open in 1923. This became clear following the discovery of a wonderful illustration of the course for the event which was published prior to that Open in the Illustrated London News. Plans were already afoot to take the hole away from the Old Course's boundary road to the right of the hole for this year's Open. Any unease felt by the members about such a change was dispelled by the discovery of the illustration. Quite incredibly, it showed that the chosen alignment was exactly the same as that played in 1923.

In the intervening years the tees and fairway had been moved to the right, possibly due to low areas of the old fairway lying wet during the winter months. In order to ensure dry conditions for the restored fairway, levels have been raised considerably. Hence the new fairway has been shaped from where it starts to where it joins up with the wonderful undulations of the second part of the hole.

The other changes included some fairway bunker adjustments and the addition of an approach bunker at the par-5 4th, plus we reconfigured the tees on 5, reshaped green surrounds at 6, restored an old bunker at 7, softened the green contours at 8 which had become more severe from bunker sand splash and constructed dunes along the fairway by the burn at 16. Many of the greens have been mown out larger including the front of the Postage Stamp to bring the front bunker into play more. We also enlarged many of the championship tees and removed scrub and gorse vegetation in various places. We took those areas down to bare sand as recommended by The R&A's ecologist which has helped return the course to more of its look from years gone by.

(Here is the Troon assessment.)

GS: Besides the Postage Stamp, what holes would you say are most worth of study at Royal Troon?

ME: I believe that the Old Course at Troon is generally underrated. I believe it to be one of the best of The Open venues. It has some superb views, has tees which could not be closer to the coastline on the front nine, some great individual holes including the incomparable Postage Stamp and one of the toughest back nines in championship golf. In terms of other notable holes, the 5th is a wonderful par 3 on its elevated ridge by the sea, the dogleg 7th asks questions from the tee if conditions are favourable, the 11th must have the most intimidating tee shot on The Open rota being played over a sea of gorse with no view of the fairway, the 13th has the most magical undulations and shows that bunkerless holes can be the very best, the 15th, in its new guise has great shape to its fairway line and, of course, the 18th is the ultimate test with the clubhouse and out of bounds so close behind the green.

GS: You will be working as a referee at The Open, correct?  What do you enjoy about that role, since it's so different than the work of a golf architect?

ME: I will be refereeing at The Open this year. I am possibly one of the most nervous referees! However, we are well briefed and have great back up for any awkward situations. It is a real privilege to walk inside the ropes and be so close to the players and it does help give me an insight into how the modern elite golfers play the game which is very useful when it comes to making changes to Open venues.

Overall though, the sheer experience of being part of the greatest championship of them all is incredible and, last year, I had the opportunity to walk up the 18th at St Andrews as referee with my son carrying the scoreboard. A truly special occasion.


Video: Sarazen At Troon, 1923 To 1973

We'll hear about Gene Sarazen's Postage Stamp ace in 1971 no doubt, but thanks to British Pathe we get to see the legend at Troon in 1923 when he failed to qualify for the first Open played at the course.



Other films posted on YouTube from the 1923 Open Championship: here and here.


Olympics: Rickie To Make Pre-Tournament Statement At Troon

While whapping it around the Old Course Saturday defending his Scottish Open title, American Olympic hopeful Rickie Fowler was followed for a few holes by IGF President Peter Dawson.

The former R&A chief apparently made his last minute case for Fowler to show up in Rio, Alex Miceli reports for

After his round, Fowler confirmed that he talked with Dawson about the Olympics but did not commit to the games. He intends to make a pre-tournament statement in the coming days at Royal Troon.

The world awaits...


Video: The 1973 Open Championship, Anchorman Style

It's that time to start soaking up just enough history to be excited about a return to Troon and the times we live, which include multiple replays, Yanni theme music (with bagpipes!), Protracers and Johnny.

Speaking of Johnny, check out his hat early on in this 33 minute highlights package from the 1973 Open Championship at Royal Troon. While deep diving YouTube for some pre-tournament appetizers, this was the keeper of all films. We're all in on the 70s, from the attire to the music to the graphics. I kept expecting Ron Burgundy to pop in at some point.

Hope you didn't have much to do at the office Monday! Here goes:

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