Twitter: GeoffShac
  • Playing Through: Modern Golf's Most Iconic Players and Moments
    Playing Through: Modern Golf's Most Iconic Players and Moments
    by Jim Moriarty
  • 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
  • The Captain Myth: The Ryder Cup and Sport's Great Leadership Delusion
    The Captain Myth: The Ryder Cup and Sport's Great Leadership Delusion
    by Richard Gillis
  • The Ryder Cup: Golf's Grandest Event – A Complete History
    The Ryder Cup: Golf's Grandest Event – A Complete History
    by Martin Davis
  • A Life Well Played: My Stories
    A Life Well Played: My Stories
    by Arnold Palmer
  • Harvey Penick: The Life and Wisdom of the Man Who Wrote the Book on Golf
    Harvey Penick: The Life and Wisdom of the Man Who Wrote the Book on Golf
    by Kevin Robbins
  • Teeing Off: Players, Techniques, Characters, and Reflections from a Lifetime Inside the Game
    Teeing Off: Players, Techniques, Characters, and Reflections from a Lifetime Inside the Game
    by Ken Bowden

On two-shot holes it is highly desirable in many cases to compel the player to place his tee shot so that his shot to the green may be clear, and if not properly placed, the shot to the green may to some extent be blind. DONALD ROSS

 

  

Wednesday
Jan112006

Distance Measuring Device Follow Up

The USGA has posted the proper wording for local rules related to distance measuring devices.

Also seems that they don't like being affiliated with these devices.

In establishing these usage guidelines, the USGA does not endorse or approve any brand of distance-measuring devices. Manufacturers are not permitted to use the terms “USGA approved” or the like in any product advertising. 

Then they might not want to go to this home page, where they are talking about the "official sanctioning" of the devices.

Wednesday
Jan112006

New TV Deal at 2 EST

The Commissioner explains at 2 why they will be just fine without ABC and ESPN.

**Update: "We couldn't be more pleased with the outcome of these discussion." -Finchem

Parameters:

-6 year deal with networks, CBS increases to 19 events, NBC from 5 to 10

-Golf Channel handles all early round coverage and the Mercedes/Sony/Bob Hope kick off to the season. 

-TGC also handles all post-FedEx Cup events, and is signed for 15 years(!?) to "fully accomplish" the objectives of getting TGC on more than its curren 70 million homes

-15 year deal to continue Champions and Nationwide coverage on TGC 

-World Cup of Golf, R.I.P.

Tuesday
Jan102006

Otto Confirms Magic Ball Project

Lawrence Donegan in The Guardian profiles the R&A's Steve Otto. You may recall that it was revealed a few weeks ago by Douglas Lowe that Otto has embarked on a R&A research project into flogging.

"My job, and the job of the people I work with, is to evaluate equipment and produce data," the man in charge of the R&A's research and testing says. "Larger philosophical questions about the impact that technology has on the game and what measures are required to keep everything in balance are taken at a much higher level than the one I operate at. I am merely a scientist."

Otto the scientist has some interesting things to say about distance.

Like every other senior member of the R&A hierarchy, Otto is unconvinced by the arguments that the modern ball goes too far. "There are many factors involved here," he says. "If there has been any increase in distance - and I don't necessarily accept that there has been - then I would say it is down to the greater athleticism of the players; then there is the ball and then there are the clubs. There is also the question of more efficient matching of the player and their clubs. Plus, we are also doing a study in the effect of course conditions," he says, adding the unnecessary qualification: "It is not as straightforward as people think."

No increase in distance? Perhaps he should look at these numbers, or these numbers for another point of view.

And , the efficient matching of the player and their clubs? Optimization? Perhaps Otto knows why the USGA and R&A were ahead of the curve on that issue, and chose to shelve their interest in that subject, giving us the mess we now have?

Oh no, he does better.

Unlike other R&A blazers, however, he is not coy about discussing the work that both his organisation and its American counterpart, the United States Golf Association, has put in on this issue of the golf ball. Last year the governing bodies admitted they had a "research project" into a ball that wouldn't go as far as those currently in use, although the details were sketchy. No longer.

"We wanted to see if there was a magic ball out there," Otto says. "We looked at a bigger ball, and a lighter ball; we looked at balls made from different rubbers and at balls with different dimple patterns."

The project ran into many difficulties, the most significant being that a ball that was 10% shorter for one type of player might be 20% shorter for another, and therefore intrinsically unfair. "People thought there might be a solution that would keep the game the same but also address this question of distance," Otto says. "There wasn't. The problem is there is no single definition of a magic ball."

As for the current location of those intriguing, if less than magical, balls, Otto laughs. "They are in a cupboard somewhere, under lock and key." Never to be seen again? "Exactly."
You may recall that former USGA Executive Director Frank Hannigan wrote about a "miracle ball" that the USGA was attempting to develop back in February, 2004. He was not taken seriously.
 

It's not clear where Otto's remarks on the ball project leave the current USGA/R&A request for manufacturers to submit "rolled back" balls for testing. 

Though no companies had submitted balls as of November, Titleist said last summer that they cooperated.
 

Tuesday
Jan102006

Preferred, Corporate Sponsor, Partner

Various distance measuring device companies have been circling the Golf Coaches Association of America, eager to profit off of college athletes. 

So eager is the GCAA administration to speed up play in golf, they've announced a partnership, a preferred device and a corporate sponsor. Amazingly, that covers all three makers of golf related distance measuring devices!

Bear with me. 

First, LaserLink announced yesterday that they were "partnering" with the GCAA, making official what was first posted here a few weeks ago.

“We are extremely excited to be partnered with the GCAA, and we look forward to doing our part to help to speed the pace of play at collegiate tournaments around the country,” said Rob O’Loughlin, President, Laser Link Golf. 

“The leaders in collegiate golf are making the right decision,” said O’Loughlin. “Distance measurement technology can only help these young competitors play faster and better rounds.  Gathering distance information is a time consuming process, and a process that every player goes through before every stroke.  Golf tournaments at every level could benefit from a quicker pace, and the Laser Link Distance System is the quickest and easiest way to calculate distance to the flagstick.”

And at just $250 per thing-a-ma-jig, why wouldn't he want to be a partner?

“The GCAA is excited about the impact range-finding devices will have on college golf and the options that players and coaches have to potentially speed up the pace of play,” said GCAA Executive Director Gregg Grost.  “Laser Link Golf’s system will be a great tool on the course.” 

In December SkyGolf announced they were the "preferred" rangefinder of the GCAA.

...SkyGolf, makers of the SkyCaddie "next-generation" GPS rangefinder, has been chosen by the Golf Coaches Association of America (GCAA) as the organization's preferred GPS rangefinder. This means any of approximately 9,000 men's NCAA Division I, II or III, NAIA or junior college golfers could be some of the first to employ SkyCaddie for critical distances during competition once the new ruling takes effect in January 2006 

And then a letter from Bushnell went out to college coaches this week. A couple of coaches forwarded it with cranky comments grumbling about now there's "even more money I have to raise" and "why do I have to use my already thin budget on this?"

Anti-capitalist technophobic agenda types are in the coaching ranks too!

From Bushnell:

Dear: GCAA Member/Coach  

We are pleased to announce that Bushnell Yardage Pro Laser rangefinders are back as a corporate sponsor of the GCAA. 

Pardon the interruption. Yes, the triple crown: a partner, a preferred and a corporate sponsor. But no official supplier yet.

Gosh, you'd think if they were really concerned about pace of play they would be handing these out for free. More Bushnell:

Currently a website is in its final stages of construction and it will be dedicated for use by GCAA members only; however, we wanted to provide you with the 2006 Bushnell Collegiate Program right away.

Key Points to remember before making your decision: (Please see attached comparison sheet)

-Bushnell is used by over 95% of the players on the PGA, LPGA, Champions, and Nationwide Tours for a REASON. 

The REASONS are: 
-Accuracy (+/- 9 inches, also Bushnell laser will give your players exact distance to the flag and not to a quadrant or generalized pin location on the green, which can be up to 5 yards off) 

-Ability to range to any target on the golf course (flag, lip of a bunker, trees, etc)
Reliability (you don’t need to worry if the course has been mapped or if it has reflectors)

Pricing Program: PinSeeker Tournament Edition (SKU # 205102): Approved for tournament play!

-This model features PinSeeker technology which allows for easy acquisition of the flag without inadvertently getting distances to background targets.  When more than one object has been acquired, the closer of the two objects will be displayed and made known to the user via the LCD display.

-This model also features SCAN which allows you to scan across the landscape while viewing a continuously updated LCD display of the distances between you and the targets acquired.

Golf Market Price $299
GCAA Price $287
Buy 9 units and get the 10th model at 50% off

Wow, what a deal! They're knocking $12 whole dollars off each model, not even 5%! The savings might cover the cost to insure these. Oh but there's more to buy...

PinSeeker Slope Edition (SKU # 205103):

-This model features PinSeeker technology, SCAN, and Slope +/-

-Slope provides the golfer with a compensated distance based upon the amount of incline or decline in a particular shot.

-This model is only legal for practice rounds and turning in scores for handicap purposes, it is NOT legal for tournament play.

Golf Market Price $339
GCAA Price $322
Buy 9 units and get the 10th model at 50% off

Yes, so if you are Oklahoma State and you have a $165 million, naturally you buy both models to show recruits how much money you have. The rest, you're on your own.

Ordering Information:

Bushnell will be at the GCAA show in Daytona Beach; however, due to very limited quantities of our New Tournament Edition, we ask that you place your orders ASAP to ensure delivery before your first event.  We are committed to you and your success with our product line and will do whatever is necessary to make you completely satisfied with your purchase.

Bushnell accepts Visa, MC, AMEX, and Discover credit cards.  If possible we urge you to please use a credit card as it will expedite your order.  If you have any questions or concerns please feel free to email/call Margi or myself.  I look forward to meeting you and working with you in Daytona Beach.

And taking your money. 

Monday
Jan092006

Perry: Might Not Come Back To Kapalua

Doug Ferguson does a nice job summing up the different views on toughened-up and trade-windy Kapalua.

The debate is the same old deal: some players whine when the wind is up and the greens freakish, but they are not able to explain why their whining is legit. And others embrace it as ideal golf. Sadly, there aren't too many who fall somewhere in between, able to explain why the architecture was designed to play a certain way, and how the new green speeds perhaps weren't meant for the trade-winds.

(And it would be nice to hear from just one player about the noticeably soft approaches contrasting with the firm greens...a chintzy setup element that I don't remember being an issue in previous years, especially since the approaches are so vital to the Plantation Course's design).

But as usual, the guys who might have a legitimate gripe come off sounding like big complainers.

"I think they've blown it," Kenny Perry huffed after a 77 in the third round. "It's a little unfair. Everyone has to play it, but I don't think it's golf, in my opinion. Who wants to shoot 75 or 76 when that's the average score? I tell you what, it's shot my confidence."

Perry was so flustered that he said he would consider not returning next year if he was eligible. Mark Calcavecchia thought that was a little severe. After all, they're in Hawaii being treated like royalty. Last place paid $70,000. Every player got a free room at the Ritz-Carlton.

Whew...bet the Mercedes and Kapalua people will be biting their nails all season long, wondering if charismatic Kenny will win again and grace them with his presence.  On the other side...

"I think it's great," said Brad Faxon, who opened with an 82, closed with a 74 and tied for 23rd at 17 over. "A lot of people thought this course was too easy. I would think Mercedes would be a competitive tournament, not a 30-under romp. If 2 or 3 under is leading, you can have a handful of guys who can win." 

Judging by the number of times my grandmother nodded off because we made her watch the final nine holes, I'm going to say the tough setup put more people to sleep instead of bringing in new fans.

Because as much as they want to wheel out words like "integrity" and "challenge," it's just entertainment folks. David Toms seemed to understand:

"I walked off the second green and told people they need to go watch football," said Toms, who was one shot out of the lead going into the weekend until rounds of 79-75 left him in a tie for 13th. "Obviously, some guys are playing good. But to see pros in the teens over par starting the season? That's not a lot of fun." 

 

Monday
Jan092006

Tough = Fun, Vol. 9,231

Thanks to readers Josh and Scott for the heads up on Chris Baldwin's excellent rant on the impossible=fun mentality in modern day golf. 

Especially fascinating (well, depressing) are the quotes from Barrie McWha about 6,600 yards becoming the new minimum yardage that he sees many golfers perceiving to be the line in the sand for course legitimacy.

Monday
Jan092006

PGA Tour Driving Distance Watch Vol. 1.5

Just a follow up on the driving distance item: the 2005 Mercedes produced an average drive of 276.4 yards according to the PGA Tour. That's a 21.5 yard drop.

And if you were wondering (I'm sure you were not), Michael Campbell was not included among the driving distance stat leaders because of his Tour (non) status.

Sheesh, it's not like he crossed a picket line.

Monday
Jan092006

PGA Tour Driving Distance Watch, Vol. 1 (2006 Edition)

pgatour.jpgMaybe they used meters on the two driving distance holes last week?

The Kapalua field averaged 254.9 yards off the tee, nearly 35 yards below the 2005 average.

But if you go to the Tour's "Longest Drive" stat page, more than half the drives from Kapalua are listed.

There were 238 tee shots over 350 yards for the week, and 565 over 300 yards.

And of the 999 drives listed, the average was 314.6 yards.

With a field of 28 having 15 driver chances per round, there were 1680 possible drives, with 1/3 of those 45 or more yards over the week's "average."  

Kind of makes you wonder which two holes were used for measuring.

 

Sunday
Jan082006

Augusta National : Torrey Pines

I bet when Hootie Johnson and Tom Fazio started tinkering with Augusta National they never thought they'd be lumped in with Torrey Pines...and actually have someone be complimenting them at the same time:

"Now, I like these changes," [Charles] Howell said. "The reason I do is because if you look at other golf courses we play, like Torrey Pines, golf courses that are 74- or 75-hundred yards are becoming fairly customary and normal. I don't think you want to play a major championship on a golf course that is not in keeping with other courses we play on tour in terms of length."

"Any time you take a golf course and completely overhaul it, you're going to get some mixed feelings," Howell said of the evolution of his opinions. "But now I think it's fine. I really do. There isn't one thing I saw at Augusta National that I haven't seen done everywhere else."

But aren't we drawn to Augusta/The Masters because they didn't do things like everywhere else? Sorry, I interrupted again. Looks like Scott Michaux--author of the story where Howell's comments appeared--was thinking the same thing:

Purists will argue that Augusta National isn't everywhere else and should be above trying to keep up with the Joneses or Woodses or whoever. Being held to a different standard is part of the unique fascination with Augusta's evolution.

"It's a change for Augusta National," Howell said, "but if you forget how the golf course used to be, it's fine. If this is your first year coming and playing the Masters, you won't think any big deal of it. The problem is that everybody has watched the Masters since they were old enough to watch TV and everybody knows that golf course better than they know any other golf course in the world."

Michaux also writes:

And the eye-popping new measurement for the par-4 No. 11 (505 yards) only begins to tell how much harder that hole has become.

"The shortest 11 can play is 505," Howell said, saying the yardage marker is situated at the extreme front of the tee box instead of the customary center. "I walked it to the back and it was 513, which puts it longer than No. 13."

Now that's more like the old time-Clifford Roberts run Augusta we all love and know.

The biggest impact of all the recent changes might be forcing many of the older champions to give up playing in the Masters much sooner than expected. The latest changes almost guarantee that Jack Nicklaus will not change his mind and return to play one more Masters on the 20th anniversary of his epic 1986 victory.

Other past champions like Tom Watson and Ben Crenshaw might be forced to retire far sooner than their predecessors or risk embarrassing themselves on a course now built for younger players.

"I think it will keep a lot of guys from coming back," Howell said, lamenting the potential loss of a unique aspect of the tournament which allowed him to play in his first Masters with Gary Player.

Now that's less like the old time-Clifford Roberts run Augusta we all love and know.

Sunday
Jan082006

Dear Media Member...

This landed in my email box...name, email and phone number deleted to protect the innocent.

Dear media member,
 
We appreciate your consideration to join us on an upcoming media trip to experience first-hand two heralded destinations in Florida's Great Northwest.

This trip ­taking place February 28-March 4, 2006 will showcase the varied offerings of SouthWood in the state capital of Tallahassee, and the WaterColor Inn & Spa, a Small Luxury Hotel of the World member located on the Gulf of Mexico in Seagrove Beach.

Our itinerary includes 36 holes of golf at both SouthWood Golf Club and Camp Creek Golf Club, luxury lodgings, spa treatments, fine dining and VIP box tickets to the Florida State Seminoles vs. Duke Blue Devils basketball game on March 1.

Space for this trip is limited, so please contact us as soon as possible if you are interested.
 
Thank you and best regards,
 
xxxxx xxxxx
XXXXXXX Communications

St. Joe Towns & Resorts
Winter 2006 LUXURY GOLF FAM TRIP, February 28 – March 4
 
SouthWood Golf Club, Tallahassee, FL
www.southwoodflorida.com
Camp Creek Golf Club, Seagrove Beach, FL
www.campcreekflorida.com
The WaterColor Inn & Resort, Seagrove Beach, FL
www.watercolorinn.com
 
About the Courses

 
SouthWood Golf Club -- Opened in Nov. 2002 and located at the heart of the SouthWood development in historic Tallahassee, the Fred Couples/Gene Bates designed SouthWood Golf Club was named one of “America’s Best New Courses” by Golf Digest Magazine. Chosen from more than 500 courses, SouthWood was the only course in Florida to be named in the “Best New Upscale Public” category. Framed by towering live oaks draped in Spanish moss, the course was also named to GOLF Magazine’s prestigious “Top Ten You Can Play” list in 2003.
 
Camp Creek Golf Club/Water Color Inn -- The Tom Fazio-designed Camp Creek Golf Club offers a link-style, “dunescape” experience where rolling fairways, plenty of water and abundant bunkering make for challenging-yet-fun rounds. A member of the elite “Small Luxury Hotels of the World, the luxurious St. Joe’s WaterColor Inn & Spa includes the renowned Fish Out of Water restaurant, a private beach club, extensive exercise facilities, dune walkovers and boardwalks, a lakefront park and the recently opened WaterColor Spa. Camp Creek is rated the no. 8 course you can play in all of Florida by Golfweek and was named the “No. 1 Florida course of the new millennium by T+L Golf.
 

Sunday
Jan082006

Defending Roy

A very minor quibble. Adam Barr writes in a New Year's rules resolution column:

DRIVER ENVY. A player shall do his best to strike a decent tee ball without delay occasioned by bragging about the new war stick he or she received for Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa or Boxing Day. Enforcement of this rule may be waived by the committee, unless the offender uses terms such as “Linda Ronstadt (Blew By You)” or announces loudly that his drive is a monster, even as it lands in ankle-high Kikuyu.

Recently Butch Harmon evoked the eye-roll inducing "Linda Ronstadt (Blew By You)" on the Natalie Gulbis Show (yes, yes I watched the show).

Besides the fact that it's not funny (as Barr is kindly trying to point out without offending his readership), the citation is not accurate.

But if you must use it, that's Blue Bayou, and Roy Orbison wrote the song along with Joe Melson in 1963, and also recorded it to major acclaim. Linda Ronstadt covered it in 1977.

I believe Tim McCarver started this "Blue Bayou" nonsense a few years ago during a baseball telecast.  And I know your day wouldn't be complete without this kind of important insight and clarification.

Saturday
Jan072006

Ranting Killjoy Gone (Wonderfully) Mad

John Huggan darts way past yours truly to the top of the subversive, technophobic evildoer list with this 2006 non-preview preview that must be read (because Lord knows you won't get anything like it here in the good 'ole US of A). And I don't want to hear any nonsense about how you have to register for The Scotsman...

Because even Monty might like this one, since he only takes a minor drumming compared to others.

So as James Taylor sang, line 'em up:

Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Retief Goosen and Padraig Harrington - haven't yet come out to play, as the wee souls are apparently in need of a break from first-class travel and all that arduous walking round courses with someone else carrying the bag...

It snowballs from there. 

Paired on the first day of the Bay Hill Invitational, old chums Rory Sabbatini and Ben Crane begin to reminisce about their previous rounds together. Unfortunately, the conversation remains in limbo when the duo become separated somewhere around the sixth hole. Still, in a gesture of friendship and goodwill, Sabbatini doesn't leave without saying goodbye. The South African eats lunch, hits balls for an hour, then has a massage as he waits for Crane to finish. 

 And....

The latest "new" Augusta National is unveiled at the Masters. Measuring 15,500 yards, the course is said by officials to be a throwback to the strategic, St Andrews-like golfing values extolled by Bobby Jones back in the 1930s. An eerie laughter is heard from somewhere up in the clouds. Tiger Woods wins by 25 shots, shooting four rounds of 82, 32 under par for the par-90 layout.

Mickelson makes his first appearance of the year at the tournament he won in 2004, but withdraws after 18 holes. "I'm missing my cousins back in California," he says.  

And that's just the first third. 

 

Saturday
Jan072006

Wi' O' Wi'

From the Desert Sun:

Tribal leaders of Cabazon Band of Mission Indians on Friday chipped onto the first green of what will become an 18-hole, championship Ka´ Wé aH´ Golf Course at Fantasy Springs Casino Resort in an elaborate ground-breaking ceremony.
Renowned golf course architect Clive Clark will design the $10 million project. With carvings that look like alluvial fans already etched into the desert landscape of the 150-acre course, tribal chairman John James called the moment precedent-setting.

Huh? The desert already has a hundred other overbuilt, forgettable layouts. What's the precedent?

He is also the designer of the "Clive" Course at The Hideaway Golf Club in La Quinta and the new West Course at The Golf Resort of Indian Wells. Clark said he keeps getting asked how he'll fashion a course out of a flat piece of land.

"I believe that has advantages,'' as it can be shaped to fit the backdrop of the mountains.

Shaped to fit the backdrop of the mountains? People actually bought that?  

Clark said the Cabazon course will sport roughly 1,500 trees, and include lakes and waterfalls. The 18th hole will also include a water design element that Clark believes has yet to be tried in America, a tumbling water feature with a 30-foot drop. It has been designed in such a way golfers in their carts will roll along a path taking them out onto a lake and through a cave, emerging with a spectacular back view of a massive water fall.

Cutting edge, I tell you. Sad to break the bad news to Clark, but the Donald has "tried" the tumbling waterfall with cart cave at Trump Trails:

1_waterfall.jpg 

 



Friday
Jan062006

Week In Review Jan 1-7: ABC Out

WeekInReview2.jpgA lot of bloggers recap the week and I'm not really sure why. Therefore, I'm joining the week-in-review club.

Besides looking back at posts from the week, I'll sometimes highlight discussion threads and user comments of the week (just in case you missed them). 

Which reminds me, I've started a thread on the Discuss Tournaments page about Kapalua and the new look greens. Curious what you all think.

Since Sunday:

  • Lonard and Campbell had some interesting comments about the Mercedes no-shows.
  • I previewed the year in tournament courses while Steve Elling looked at possible stories for 2006.
  • Stu Schneider had the first scoop on the TV deal. The big news of the wee was not pretty for fans or the Tour: ABC is out.  Others weighed in. I asked a question.  John Steinbreder reported later in the week that ESPN had walked away from the negotiating table. And Larry Bohannon wrote what many are sensing: that ego is may be getting in the way of common sense.
  • Jerry Potter interviewed Tim Finchem, who had little of interest to say, though he did slip on the subject of the USGA "experimenting" with rolled back balls. 
  • I rambled on about lack of truly thrilling do-or-die situations in golf that leads to thought provoking Monday-morning quarterbacking.
  • And Dan G. started a thread on what people are watching this year.

There were plenty of fine reader comments this week, highlighted by this from Mark Smolens on the news that the Tour was cutting its purse subsidies by 12%:

So the Western Golf Association, whose entire reason for existence is to provide college educations for kids who caddy, is supposed to come up with an additional 12% for its purse? Kinda makes that Drive for a Billion seem like nothing more than words doesn't it?
Friday
Jan062006

Golfers Prefer Well-Conditioned Courses...

How about that newsflash from the city!

At the sixth annual Golf 20/20 Conference last fall, attendees heard a variety of presentations on how to deepen the connection between the game and its best customers, as well as how to further golf among the corporate community...Among the presentations was a detailed look at a survey of avid golfers presented by Jon Last, vice president of research and development for the Golf Digest Companies. According to Last, there are a number of key factors that affect participation by golf's best customers – those defined as avid and core golfers. (Avid golfers play 25 or more rounds a year, core golfers play 8 to 24 rounds.)   Among those factors, the work of golf course superintendents ranked right at the top. When these groups were asked, "Do you generally prefer to play a course that is very challenging, not top condition" or one that is "challenging but in very good condition," 88 percent of them said they'd choose the course in very good condition.   

Really? You don't say? So hard-and-lousy condition lost out to not-as-hard and in great shape. Okay.

They were also asked to rank conditioning against course design in a decision to pay 25 percent higher green fees. The two key groups selected "better course conditioning" twice as often as "better architectures and layout." 

Better architectures? 

Finally, golf's best customers ranked the factors that drive their enjoyment of the game on a scale from 1 to 7. The conditions, people and their own performance received the following mean scores:   

Well maintained greens & bunkers - 6.34
Well maintained fairways & tees - 6.28
The people you play with - 6.24
Playing well on the course - 5.84
Availability of practice facilities - 5.68
Beautiful surroundings and scenery - 5.74
Scoring well - 5.65
Challenging course - 5.65
Fast pace of play - 5.39
Knowledgeable marshals and starters - 5.38

And they forgot to ask about the design of the course...score another one for architecture(s).  

So conditioning is why everyone is going to Bandon? We know it's not because of the weather.

Thanks to reader Josh for this. 

Friday
Jan062006

Chase For That Kind Of Money

Larry Bohannan in the Desert Sun:

But as the current negotiations drag on, and as players such as ABC and USA walk away, the questions of how the tour is dealing with the networks and sponsors grow. The final six or so weeks of the 2007 season are being sacrificed to cable to avoid the NFL.

If the tour is negotiating to maintain current revenue levels, it's now clear that won't work. If in the chase for that kind of money the tour is alienating sponsors, television networks and even its individual tournaments, the tour might be doing a remarkable disservice to the fans and the game. 

Thursday
Jan052006

To Go Or Not To Go?

Listening to LA sports talk radio shows slam Pete Carroll over the decision to go for it on fourth down of yesterday's national title game, I got to thinking how rare it is in modern golf to have those essential do-or-die moments that are debated for days, weeks, or even years after. 

It should happen every few weeks. We're lucky if it happens once a year.

A reader told me today about watching Jack Nicklaus at Pebble Beach during the 1982 U.S. Open final round. Nicklaus was debating whether to go for No. 6 in two, concerned that he could not get the ball high enough to clear the hill that bisects the par-5. After an agonizing few minutes, Nicklaus finally decided to go for it. When he pulled his 3-wood headcover off, the crowd went wild.

How rare have those moments become when the player stands in the fairway, actually fretting and debating between a lay-up or go-for-broke shot as we fans debate the situation. How unusual are those memorable events (Curtis Strange at Augusta in 1985 and Chip Beck in 1993 come to mind) when the anticipation is so great that there is an emotional release from the crowd when a decision is made to go-for-broke?

It should happen a lot more in tournament golf, but sadly seems relegated to the times someone drives a par-4. 

Bland architecture is part of the problem, but mostly, the game is just played differently. With trajectory and questions of having enough distance so rarely part of the equation for today's player, we rarely see the golfing elite placed in that tempting, awkward, annoying but possibly rewarding situation that can make golf viewing so captivating.

Well, this rambling rant is just something to remember when you wonder why all of the questions here about the wonders of technology. Or if you wonder why television networks have trouble justifying an investment in televised golf, which just isn't the "product" it could be if the sport was in balance.

Thursday
Jan052006

ESPN Taking A Break

Golfweek's John Steinbreder reports that ESPN has walked away from the PGA Tour TV contract negotiating table. He says it's likely a ploy. Or they ran the numbers again and remembered that reruns of rodeo and poker would outdraw golf.

Thursday
Jan052006

Elling Previews 2006

Boy, you just can't pick up a newspaper these days without these technophobes spreading the message of the devil! In spite his extremist views on technology, Steve Elling delivers an entertaining read. This time he previews 2006. (I love the "dump-and-chase" hockey metaphor for what has become of PGA Tour golf, and I don't even follow hockey).

What's it going to take for someone in a position of authority to take a real stance on runaway technology?

Driving distances are up a whopping 16 yards since 2000 on the PGA Tour, a massive increase that has rendered the game into a one-dimensional display of dump-and-chase hockey. The tour's driving leader averaged 319 yards -- and the first third of the season was played on slow, sloppy tracks because of rain.

Courses such as Augusta National have been forced to stretch (read: desecrate) their storied courses repeatedly, because the USGA is afraid of the equipment companies, and the PGA Tour won't get tougher with its course set-up.

And this on the USGA and PGA of America. Such cynicism. ;)

Place your bets. Which organization will screw up their major championship worse, the U.S. Golf Association or the PGA of America?

The USGA is the safer wager, having ruined so many U.S. Opens over the past decade that it was a huge surprise when absolutely nobody complained last year at Pinehurst.

The PGA, however, capitulated to the broadcasting whims of television and failed to react when rainy weather was in the forecast at the PGA Championship. Because tee times weren't moved up, rain delays pushed the end of the final round to Monday morning, robbing ticket-holders and weekend viewers of a terrific ending when Mickelson birdied the 72nd hole to win by a shot.

Whatever happened to common sense, guys?

Wednesday
Jan042006

Potter Interviews Finchem

The USA Today's Jerry Potter interviews Tim Finchem about the state of the Tour and the game. It's pretty dull, except this bit on technology.

Q: A question now about technology. It's a big issue. I know you guys have done a lot of research on that through ShotLink. There are people saying they should roll back the golf ball, make other changes. Do you have any information now that will give you a better idea about how you should react to this?

A: I think we're not ready to pull the trigger on that decision just yet. The USGA is experimenting with some new golf balls that actually do that, or are intended to do that, to curb distance a little bit. We'll see where they go with that work.

Now, if I'm not mistaken, the USGA scoffed at the accuracy of Frank Hannigan's 2004 "Miracle Ball" exclusive. The USGA/R&A have said they were collecting balls for study, yet Dick Rugge has said that the USGA does not believe the ball should be rolled back. And the USGA has said that they nor the R&A have received rolled back balls from manufacturers for study.

Yet the commissioner says they are experimenting? Encouraging if true. Continue...

The other changes that have been made to revise the overall distance standard, and put a limit on what happens with the configuration of the face of the golf club, and things of that nature we think have had a good effect. I do think that we need to continue to look at distance. We're meeting with the other elements of the industry — the USGA, the R&A, Augusta National, the PGA — on a regular basis. And we recognize that regardless of what you do with limits on equipment, the players continue to get bigger and stronger. ... And even if you don't do anything at all with equipment to enhance it further, which I don't think will happen, that athleticism that's coming into the sport is going to continue to create a situation that these golf courses are challenged in ways that they haven't been in the past. It forces us to set them up in different ways, which in some cases may not be advantageous. So it's something we've got to look carefully at. 

Not sure what you all think, but Finchem was much more clear two years ago:

"There is some point -- nobody knows where it is -- when the amateur player feels divorced and really doesn't appreciate the game at this level, just because it's so different that it doesn't become particularly relevant," Finchem told the Palm Beach Post. "The second thing is, if everybody is driving every par 4, it's not particularly interesting to watch.

"We are anxious, because we are continuing to see some distance enhancements in a short period of time. Unless something happens, we may have to move toward bifurcating the equipment specs for amateurs and professionals. In that case, we would be more involved."