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

I remember that I was a very young man when I first played East Lake, my home course, in 63. Afterward, I confided to my father that I had mastered the secret of the game and that I should never go above 70 again. Next day I had to work my head off to get around in 77.




Clayton on "Championship" Issues

Mike Clayton, writing for The Age (thanks to reader Graeme):

In Australia, we have nearly always played our best events on our best courses, but in America and Europe, commercial considerations usually win out over the quality of the golf course.

How dare he! Of course, it's true.  And my favorite line:

Rough is a curse that clever design should be able to do without and we should take no notice of what we see from America on our televisions. It is moronic and one-dimensional to think the game is better when it is played from long green grass.


The Benefits of (Non) Membership

USGAtearoom.jpgAs a former USGA member, not only do I receive golf-themed address labels at least three times a year, now I get the USGA Annual!

At this pace of non-membership, next I'll get the sharehol..err...the newsletter and, what else? Oh yes, first opportunity to volunteer.


Lewis On Ratings

SI's Chris Lewis does an excellent job analyzing the PGA Tour's television ratings to help us understand why the "FedEx Cup" has been born.


Kostis On Lack Of Young American Talent

Peter Kostis explains why he believes there are so few burgeoning American stars compared to the rest of the world.

He doesn't mention the sense of entitlement guiding most American youth. Nor does he bring up the lack of diversity in playing conditions they face, particularly firm ground and thought-provoking designs. Nor does he mention the overall lack of imagination that American golf presents, thus failing to provide our kids with the kind of experience that European and Australian golfers are exposed to.

Mostly he blames the state of American college golf programs. (Actually, after reading about coaches endorsing a brand of rangefinder, maybe he's on to something.) He also believes the Tour school structure is an issue too.

Collegiate golfers who do turn pro are often met with the harsh reality of Q-school, where changes are needed as well. Exemptions past certain stages of Q-school should be abolished. Everyone should go through three stages, thus evening the playing field for the younger players (only 10 of 32 Tour cards earned this year went to players who survived all three stages). 


Jones, Roberts and MacKenzie No Doubt Would Approve!

Not sure about you, but I'm detecting some trends here. This is the fourth article by someone who has seen the changes at Augusta National, and by golly, the similarities are striking. Potential talking points here? Links to the previous three are here, here and here. You be the judge.

Actually, this unbylined piece takes the analysis in new directions compared to the previous stories, serving up some real headscratchers. Thanks to reader Pete for the heads up.

Augusta National officials, who declined to be quoted, deferring to the “Big Three” or chairman Hootie Johnson, say the changes will restore the course’s “rhythm and shot values” as designed by Jones and Mackenzie.

The fourth hole is longer now (though hardly the longest par-3; Oakmont will have a 285-yard par-3 for the 2007 U.S. Open), but carving the new tee out of the woods created an expanded area for spectators. The real benefit? Making Tour players have to decide which of their four wedges to ditch from their bags in order to carry a 2-iron or 3-iron for the tee shot.

It would be interesting to know the unbylined writer concocted that one or if that came from the club. It's so pathetic on so many levels, I don't know where to begin. Oh let's begin. First, the 2-iron is just about gone from most Tour bags, replaced by the hybrid. Even Tiger shelved his. Second, how many people really carry four wedges, and even if they do, is it really the place a tournament committee to change holes in order to create 14-club decision predicaments?

The most dramatic change is at the 450-yard par-4 seventh, where 90 yards have been added since 2002. An old maintenance building was removed for the new tee, 40 yards back. Fans now can stand behind the tee and see the length of the funnel-like fairway, which “can be classified as narrow,” Roberts wrote in splendid understatement.

Yes, splendid. Wasn't Cliff Roberts the one who turned No. 8 into that hideous flying saucer green that had to be rebuilt by Byron Nelson and Joe Lee? Same guy, right?

Players can bomb a drive into the narrowest part of the fairway and risk being in the right-hand trees, or lay back to 175 yards, where the fairway is flat and wider, and hit a longer approach to an elevated green, guarded by five bunkers. Changes to the green created new pin positions in the back left and back right, bringing those bunkers into play.

Yes, just as Jones and MacKenzie envisioned it.

By reworking the 11th hole, Fazio brought the leftside pond back into play on approaches. Players in the past “bailed out” right, then played approaches into the length of the green. That likely won’t happen now.

And what genius it takes to eliminate options. Here I was thinking it took genius to create options and now I realize my thinking was all wrong.

I don't know about you, but with the Masters on the line, I'd much rather hit over the pond from the leftside with short grass beyond for the over-struck shot, than try to hit into the length of the green from a hanging lie.

The bottom line? Augusta National took steps to stay current, and appears to have succeeded. Players today are better than in 1934, and so is the golf course. Jones, Roberts and Mackenzie no doubt would approve.

Or, no doubt Jones and MacKenzie are spinning in their graves.



D'Amato On Steroids in Golf

Gary D'Amato looks at the possibility of steroids and other performance enhancing drugs in golf.


Sherwood Shallow

TargetWorldLogo05.gifStrolling around Sherwood on a cloudy, cool (gosh it never hit 70!) day, I took in some of the Target World Challenge. This is the first time in six years I've seen tournament play at Sherwood after never missing the 11 Shark Shootouts played there.

The late 80s Nicklaus-designed greens, while generally reflective of the dreadfully overdone stuff he built in that era, feature some interesting backslopes, tiers and other banked features that allow the player to play away from the flag to funnel a shot down to corner hole locations.

While not exactly a stellar example of architecture (and certainly not conditioned like it used to be), Sherwood has always been a fun spectator course thanks to the greens. Players have traditionally used the supporting features to work balls down to the hole, allowing the crowd to root balls down a slope and to see players occasionally show flashes of creativity.

Several hole locations today provided fine opportunities for the creative shotmaker to throw a ball to a safe spot away from the hole, and then let it find it's way toward the cup. And every time a player had the opportunity to use these features, they passed.

The most painful example came when Padraig Harrington missed it right of the par-5 fifth green in two, and then he attempted to lob it next to the hole. He ran his third shot right past the hole and off the green. If he had played ten yards right of the hole, a backstop would have slowed his ball down and then sent it toward the hole, leaving him a 10-footer for birdie.

Afterwords, I asked a veteran writer if the players just weren't as creative as they used to be, or if it's a lack of local knowledge. He believes the players are just used to playing shots straight at holes and having them hold. They don't know any other way of playing anymore.

So there you go architects. Are you hoping to separate shotmakers from the rest?  Then create wing and peninsula hole locations that require the placement of a shot landing in a certain spot away from the hole.

Brian Silva suggested that he'd love to see more of this concept on TPC for a Links story, and his observation is looking wiser by the day.



Tiger On Augusta Lengthening, Vol ?

Not the last time he'll be asked this between now and April:

Q. They've changed Augusta again. Does that take care of you? Have you talked about that at all, had any reaction to the lengthening of the golf course?

TIGER WOODS: They're lengthening the golf course every other year it seems like. I can understand why they lengthen it. Also, then again, they want us to hit the same clubs that we used to hit to the holes. Then if that's the case, make the greens as slow as they used to be. The greens are running 12 and 13. They never ran 12 or 13 back in the '60s, '70s, '80s. It just wasn't that way. But hey, we've all got to play it, that's the thing.

Since 2002 when they made the big change, we have yet to see it dry for a tournament. We played the practice rounds this year with it lightning and then all of a sudden it dumped rain again. It'll be interesting to see if we can break par if it stays dry the entire week.

Q. Do you think that's what they want? Are they in the business of protecting par now?

TIGER WOODS: I don't think so, no. They're actually interested in making not just the greens a challenge at Augusta but overall play. Now you have to position your drive, drive it out there with some length, and they brought that back into the game.

Position? Ugh...I can just imagine Hootie reading that and congratulating himself for making guys drive into a 20-25-yard wide area, selected by he and Tom Fazio.


College Coaches Select Their Rangefinder


RIDGELAND, Miss., -- Only weeks after the USGA and R&A's decision to allow the use of rangefinders as a condition of competition, 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.

Hey coaches, how about helping us by selecting a preferred driver, ball, wedge, and political persuasion too?

"The Golf Coaches Association of America is comprised of some the most respected teachers in the game today," said SkyGolf CEO Richard Edmonson. "These individuals do a tremendous job preparing talented young athletes for competition at the collegiate level, as well as life after college. We're delighted to have the opportunity to help support this organization and its members, and believe our product can play a key role in helping them best position their athletes to succeed."
It's all about positioning. I wonder what they get for this positioning?
Edmonson said SkyCaddie's technology provides instant access to the vital course information golfers need to play their best golf. Now golfers have at their fingertips information that was previously unavailable, without slowing down the game by pacing and calculating, allowing them to spend more time focusing on their next shot. According to RankMark, an independent golf equipment testing company, SkyCaddie improved scores of test participants on average by 5 strokes per round and saved them up to 25 minutes per 9-holes.
Wow, no kidding?
"The GCAA is excited about the impact range-finding devices will have on college golf and potentially the pace of play," said GCAA Executive Director Gregg Grost. "We believe SkyGolf's innovative SkyCaddie GPS range-finding system will be beneficial to college players and coaches at all levels."

It's a wonder that the game survived the pre-GPS era.


Hold The Commissioner's Calls Today

Nascar's new TV deal: $4.5 billion for 8 years.

"The bottom line is, Nascar is a national sport with very large ratings," George Bodenheimer, ESPN and ABC Sports president, said yesterday in a conference call with reporters. "Secondly, obviously the sport is extremely fan-friendly and sponsor-friendly. We're very bullish on the sales prospects of this property."


"We at Fox believed in it, the folks at Nascar preached it and it was just a matter of Madison Avenue catching up, and it was really in black and white," said Ed Goren, the president of Fox Sports. "All they had to do was see the ratings that Nascar was generating on Fox."

No mention of demographics. Just ratings.


Questions for 2006

Alan Shipnuck poses 10 questions and answers for 2006. All are spot-on (well, I'm not sure how many of us are wondering if Jay Haas is tough enough to rule the Champions Tour). This is his final question:

10. Will there be a throttled-back ball for pro competition? A definite maybe. Woods has been talking as if such a ball is inevitable, and he always seems to be the first to know. 

If you want to see where Tiger talks if such a ball is inevitable, here's the link to the interview. 


Monty: Hoylake Very Good...And I Haven't Been There

From Wednesday's Target World Challenge softball session

Q. Have you played much at Hoylake?

COLIN MONTGOMERIE: I haven't played there at all. I haven't played the course at all at Hoylake. As an Open venue I think it will be very, very good. Obviously there's been some changes since they've played any other tournament there. There are some new tees, as there has to be with an Open. Even St. Andrews had four new tees. So if they can change that, they can change anywhere.

There will be some new tees that the members haven't seen before, and I think it will be a good Open venue. It's been a great course for 100 years, we just haven't used it. I think it will be a super venue. As regards to playing the course, I haven't played there. I haven't been there.


"New Look" Remodel of Another Best New

Just in case you were on the fence about booking a trip to Doral, this press release might help:

Norman’s Use of Coquina As Primary Design Element Makes Great White Only Course Of Its Kind In The Southeast; One of Five Championship Golf Courses On-Site At Famed Doral Resort
Miami, Fl. – December 6, 2005 – Doral Golf Resort & Spa, A Marriott Resort, home of the famed Blue Monster Golf Course and the PGA TOUR’s Ford Championship at Doral, today unveiled the “New Look” Great White Golf Course, one of five championship golf courses on property at the luxury resort.   A Greg Norman design, the refined Great White Golf Course was officially re-opened on December 6, as Norman, Marriott executives, VIPs and media all participated in an inaugural round in South Florida.

Didn't they just redo this course a few years ago, say 2000?  Sorry, I interrupted before the best part.

The 7,171-yard, par-72 Great White, a Greg Norman Signature Course, is the only golf course of its kind in the Southeastern United States that utilizes coquina -- crushed shells -- as the primary design element on every hole.  In creating the Great White, Norman blended strategically demanding fairways with hundreds of palm trees and sporadic Scottish-style bunkers.  He then laid out the course in a manner where water comes into play on 14 of the 18 holes, which makes for a challenging, but picturesque Great White Golf Course.

Coquina? Sounds like Tony Montana's little friend.

On the heels of Marriott International assuming management of the property in August 2004, the Great White has undergone a series of refinements designed to further enhance the course, which was rated as The Best New Golf Course when it opened in 2000, according to the National Golf Foundation. 

The National Golf Foundation has a ranking? There's a news flash from the city. Oh, and another Best New goes under the knife. What is it with these Best New's lately?

“With increased areas of turfgrass and the liberal use of crushed coquina shells, we have enhanced both the challenge and the playability of this golf course,” Norman said. “It’s a departure that complements the other four courses at Doral very well.”

Oh, this must have been the one that was too hard. Well maybe they got it right this time.


Tiger On Target

TargetWorldLogo05.gifTiger Woods met with some of the games great scribblers on Tuesday to kick off the Target World Challenge week. Beforehand, he bombed drives out of the Sherwood Country Club range despite a headwind. More impressively, he then hit slice and draw wedges on the range for a handful of lucky folks, including his mom who had endure some annoying instructor telling her his life story. She's a saint. 

Anyway, I've never seen anyone draw or slice a wedge. These were not gently falling cuts or slight right-to-lefters helped by the wind. Draws and slices to a target 80 yards away. Amazing stuff.

The relaxed press conference took place in the claustrophobic Sherwood cart barn, where yours truly was on hand to take in the proceedings. The highlights:

Q. When did you know you wanted to open the learning center? How old were you and why is it so important to you?

TIGER WOODS: I really wanted to do it once I got out here. I wanted to have something tangible that kids could touch, kids could feel, they could be inside of. I thought what we were doing by going around the country and trying to inspire youth was great. We're just starting. We're in infancy stages. But I didn't think we were doing enough. We were kind of a circus, coming in for one week and we're gone. What about the other 51 weeks?

I wanted to do something that was going to be there permanently, something we could call home as a foundation for kids to come in, for kids to learn and grow, and I wanted them to create their own programs. The entire curriculum is based on their wants, their desires and their needs.

Now, some of us have been a bit skeptical about the learning center because of its cost ($25 million). Listening to Tiger talk about it in person and hearing his passion for the project, it is clear he has genuine pride in the Learning Center and how it has a chance to impact young people.

So yes, I feel like a jerk.

Later, a few questions were asked about the bomb-it-out-there-and-worry-about-the-consequences-later approach to golf, better known as flogging.

TIGER WOODS: It's how the game has changed. It's evolved. In essence, it's evolved in the fact that we're able to hit the ball greater distances. But again, the long hitters are still able to carry bunkers that the average guy can't carry. And that's how it used to be anyway.

I think technology now has spread out the guys a little bit more with the added physical strength of guys, too, guys getting to the gym and really working on becoming stronger and more flexible, are able to get a lot more speed. Add to that technology, in the shaft and heads. And more importantly, be able to marry up the shaft, the head, and the ball, because that was never the case. We all had persimmon drivers and let's just go play and hopefully we can get it out there.

After a few more questions about turning 30...

Q. There was a story in Golf World last week about performance enhancing drugs and steroids in golf and the possibility of it. Do you think there is a possibility that players are using anything and should there be perhaps a Tour policy or testing on that, either steroids or any kind of enhancing drug?

TIGER WOODS: There's always a possibility. Unless you're tested, there's always going to be a shadow of doubt on any sport. I don't see anyone out there who I would think would have finds of it, but who's to say there aren't. We don't know. We don't see any guys out there, 6 5, 240, 250, in shape, cut up, all ripped up. We don't have guys out there like that.

Q. Are you in favor of testing or do you think that's something that should be treated with a little more study?

TIGER WOODS: I think we should study it a little bit more before we get into something like that. Obviously it's a path that where do you draw the line? Do you do it on the PGA Tour nationwide but don't do it on any other tours leading up to that, or all professional golf.

Obviously there is a lot to it than just, okay, there's mandatory testing. Where does it start? Who does it? Who is in control of it? What are the substances that you're looking for. In the Olympics you can't take aspirin. A lot of guys live on aspirin out here.


Couples of Hard Holes

From Doug Ferguson's AP notes column:

Former Masters champion Fred Couples played Augusta National in late October and offered what should be a familiar scouting report on the par-3 fourth, which now plays about 240 yards.

"It's hard," Couples said. "It's very hard."

The club altered six holes during the summer, although the two likely to get the most attention are No. 4 and No. 7, both of which were lengthened by 40 yards. The seventh hole had been a 3-wood and a sand wedge. Couples hit a driver and a 7-iron during his latest trip.

"But No. 4, I just felt like under the wrong circumstances, it's just going to be awfully hard," said Couples, who hit a 2-iron. "But everyone's got to do it. Stronger players can maybe hit a 3-iron up high and stop it. But with the utility clubs, those go just as high and soft. There will be a bit of club changing."


Passov on Rankings

Brad King talks to Joe Passov about the rankings process and his thoughts as the new head of Golf Magazine's Top 100 course ranking. Thanks to reader Josh for this.


Christmas Book Reviews Vol. 1

I'll be reviewing some superb new titles next week at Golfobserver (I'm sure you are setting you icalendar alarms). But in the mean time, Fritz Schank reviews several at (starting off with Lines of Charm), while Gary Van Sickle weighs in on a few new books at


Tour School Wrap Up

The final leaderboard from Q-School where 11-under grabbed a PGA Tour card. The poor souls who missed by one included some very likable players: Briny Baird, Jeff Burns, Bob Heintz, Parker McLachlin, Andrew McLardy, Richard Johnson, Tom Johnson, Grant Waite, Dan Forsman.

The AP story summing up the week.

Golfweek's Eric Soderstrom offers notes and quotes.

Damon Hack has a story in the New York Times. 

And here's Brian Wacker's final diary entry.


Must Cringe TV

Uh yes, I've watched the first two episodes of Natalie Gulbis's "reality" show after someone suggested I inflict this form of self-torture to help heal my acid reflux. Shoot, I even  TiVo'd it. That's how sick I am.

But won't you be watching Tuesday night when after reading about last week's episode:

Natalie plays a practice round at the Michelob Ultra Open at Kingsmill with Danielle, the winner of The Golf Channel's Big Break 3. [Hey, she's resurfaced!] Natalie & Se Ri Pak shoot the LPGA's new print campaign, "These Girls Rock!" [As captivating as it sounds.] Natalie & fellow LPGA beauty Cristie Kerr spend a day at the spa. [Uh, not as captivating as it sounds.] Natalie, Kelli Kuehne, and Paula Creamer spend the rain delay at Kingsmill playing poker. [Apocalyptic.] Natalie finishes the Michelob Ultra Open T-3, her best finish ever, which still isn't good enough for her father. [A real peach.]

I wonder what Ozzy, err, dad is going to do? 

Do watch the Gulbis show at least once just to see what kind of intense dialogue and layered plots you're missing. Natalie does look amazing in a bathing suit, unfortunately we barely saw her in it during episode two. The cold Malibu wind required her to parade around in robe. If she had done the calendar shoot today, it was 71 and clear, with a light breeze...oh sorry. Remember you East Coasters, you get to enjoy the seasons.


Golf Magazine Online Focus Group