Twitter: GeoffShac
Writing And Videos
  • 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

In late May came the Colonial in Forth Worth, already entrenched as a premier event on the tour--"the Masters of the Southwest." Old Colonial, back then, was one of the narrowest and most brutal courses around. This was before architect Dick Wilson, various storms, and the Corps of Engineers defanged it. Ben won the '53 Colonial in a glide, by five strokes, with a score of 282. His finishing three-under 67 was sculpted in a high wind and gleamed as the tournament's low round. It was Ben's fourth victory in the tournament's eight years.
DAN JENKINS on Ben Hogan in 1953




Thompson Papers

The University of Guelph has received a donation of papers and other items from Stanley Thompson's collection.


Solheim Cup Previews

SolheimCup05.gifJohn Huggan: "There is something about selecting or captaining golf teams that brings out the absolute worst in men and women."

Lawrence Donegan is less interested in captain boondoggling. Instead,he anticipates plenty of lousy sportsmanship.

The biennial match between Europe's best women players and their American counterparts, begins today at Crooked Stick Golf Club in Indiana, which is good news for both golfing purists and for those who prefer their sport liberally spiced with personal animosity and downright bad manners.


Rubenstein Talks To Ogilvie

PGA Tour logo.jpgIn the Globe and Mail, Lorne Rubenstein, focused his column on Joe Ogilvie's thoughts about the state of architecture on the Tour. While Ogilvie wasn't too excited about the " blast flop" shots around the Shaughnessy greens, he did have some positive things to say about architecture and politics.

"First, it’s a novel concept to walk off a green and see a tee," Ogilvie said, comparing Shaughnessy’s walkability to sprawling modern courses that require players to use carts. "The greens are extremely small too, probably smaller than Harbour Town’s (the course in Hilton Head Island, S.C., where the PGA Tour plays every spring). I like that. Why do you need a 50-yard by 50 yard green?

"With new courses these days a developer carries a rope and stretches it 35 yards one way and 35 yards another, and then cuts a swath with no regard for the trees," Ogilvie said.

Asked what else charged him up about the course, Ogilvie had a simple and straightforward response. He’s a thinker, able to distil his ideas into cogent remarks. He’s concerned about matters beyond golf, such as the role of government—he believes the Bush administration should be raising taxes, not lowering them, a view that’s probably not popular among his fellow PGA Tour players--and he’s concerned with the vast amounts of energy we consume. Ogilvie, who referred to himself a "fiscal Republican" and a "social Democrat," drives a Toyota Prius, the hybrid car of the moment.

But back to golf, and Shaughnessy.
"What I’m getting charged up about is wondering why we haven’t been here before. I think you’ll have the highest score relative to par on tour this year, with the exception of the U.S. Open," Ogilvie said.

He also spoke about taking up his position next year on the tour’s policy board. It’s a three-year appointment. He’ll serve with Davis Love III, Scott McCarron and Joe Durant.

"I’m no shrinking violet in the boardroom," he said. "I think we can have an influence on who builds our courses. Tom Doak is talking to the tour about building a course in Milwaukee, and I’d like to see guys like David McKay Kidd (he designed the highly-acclaimed first course at Bandon Dunes in Bend, Oregon), and [Bill] Coore and [Ben] Crenshaw
design courses we play. The days of [Tom] Fazio and [Pete] Dye are ending.
"You hear from players every day that they love playing courses like this," Ogilvie continued. "But now the tour is starting to listen."


Shaughnessy Lovefest Continues

Canadianlogo05.gif Ken Fidlin in the Toronto Sun talks to a few players and gets some great quotes.

"I love this," Jesper Parnevik said. "It just shows you that today's architects are pretty sad. They're building golf courses that are approaching 8,000 yards and it takes 15-under to win. Then we get these old traditional courses and no one can break par."

Well, that wasn’t quite the case in round 1.

"I wish we could play a course like this every week," John Cook said. "So much of the game has been lost because kids get up today and just bomb it.

Now, is that the fault of architects? That the kids bomb it? I don’t think so! 

The reaction of virtually all the players in the field should be food for thought for the one-track minds who can't seem to come up with any fresh answers to the problems that technology has created for many golf courses.

Instead of just creating more and more monster courses, architects should take a long, hard look at many of the traditional layouts that demand shotmaking, not just length.

Or, someone could actually govern the game so that the courses don’t continue to be asked to mask a job not well done.


Mr. Titleist Speaks

An unnamed interviewer at Travel and Leisure Golf lobs softballs to Acushnet CEO Wally Uihlein in their September issue. It’s interesting to see how Uihlein's message has evolved compared to two years ago. From T&L:

The paradigm shift to the power game has resulted from six contributing variables: 1) the introduction of lower-spinning high-performance golf balls; 2) the introduction of oversize, thin-face titanium drivers; 3) improved golf course conditioning and agronomy; 4) player physiology—they're bigger and stronger; 5) improved techniques and instruction; and 6) launch monitors and the customization of equipment. Five of these six variables have often been overlooked by the media and antitechnology pundits in the search for a cause to the industry's so-called "problem." To identify the golf ball as the sole contributor and "solution" is an oversimplification.

Anyone have an idea which of the six has not been overlooked by the media and "antitechnology pundits"? Oh, right, the widget he just happens to be selling, 1) the ball.

Actually, the media has overlooked #6 (launch monitors). And In April, 2003, Uihlein himself overlooked launch monitors and optimization of launch conditions. Is that because it was a more recent phenomenon that has since piled on to the already serious shifts in distance from 2000-2003?

Uihlein's 2003 message and the then variables:

Okay, but 'something' is going on... Fair enough, but 'something' has been going on to increase driving distance for a few years...Recently, professional golf has seen changes with (a) player fitness and conditioning, (b) course conditions, (c) golf clubs and (d) golf balls. In the hierarchy of contributions to improved performance on the golf course, the available evidence suggests the following sequence:

Most Influential Variable The Player.
Second Most Influential Variable The Golf Club.
Third Most Influential Variable The Golf Ball.

This hierarchy of variables has often been overlooked in the search for a 'cause' and a 'solution,' as have golf course and weather conditions which significantly impact the fluctuation in driving distance from week to week.

No mention of optimization in 2003, and of course, no acknowledgment still that the $16 billion golf course industry is bearing or passing down the costs (safety, liability, architectural, etc...) of this "paradigm" shift so that the $5 billion manufacturing industry can market Tour players using clubs that the average golfer can't even buy or get the same benefits from.

Did you notice that for Mr. Uihlein, "the ball" went from #3 of 3 in 2003 to #1 of 6 in 2005? Hmmm...

Since 2003, optimization has become commonplace and has allowed players with faster clubhead speeds to blow right by the Overall Distance Standard without the test knowing it. Minor detail, I know. That's why we have a new test that has the very same loophole, only this time Byron is using titanium instead of persimmon.

But if Uihlein wants to strengthen his legitimate argument that the ball gets blamed too much, it's a mystery why he doesn't point out the role of optimization. Unless of course, he opposed the optimization testing that was scrapped by the USGA in the late 90s?  So what's he worried about then, the USGA calling him a hypocrite? They can't because(A) they have no public relations savvy whatsoever, and (B) they're the ones who dropped the test and thus, the ball (sorry).

T&L's mystery interviewer asked about bifurcation in the 2005 interview. Uihlein answers:

We have never supported the position of bifurcation. Playing by one set of rules, playing the same game, playing the same course and playing the same equipment is what makes golf different. It is the essence of the game. Two sets of rules involving the golf ball, or the golf ball and golf clubs, would result in 1) the longer players on Tour only getting longer in comparison to those who are less long,

Sorry to interrupt here. The players who have the special (natural) talent to hit the ball a long way would regain an advantage that they've lost to players who gained distance merely by embracing technology? Sounds sort of un-free market-like to encourage parity and to complain about an advantage gained skillfully, as opposed to one gained via technology?

Anyway, Mr. Uihlein continues…

and 2) the opening of a Pandora's box with regard to the regulation of equipment at the local, state, sectional and national levels. Golf is not so cleanly a professional game and an amateur game. That is the great thing about golf. That is why our national championship is an Open Championship administered by the USGA. Bifurcation is only seriously advanced by those who think that the game is on some edge of ruination and who thus, as a result of their narrow and biased thinking, feel some form of radical surgery is required.

That biased thinking again. As opposed to financially biased thinking, which is oh so pure. I have no idea what the whole regional association thing is about since we're talking about a Tour ball. This would have been a nice chance for a follow up from T&L and whoever did the interview. Anyway, we continue in the 2005 T&L interview. Mr Uihlein: 

The line in the sand has already been drawn. However, if the regulatory bodies determine that a rollback is necessary and seek to change the controllable variables of ball and club, we strongly believe that you cannot roll back the incremental distance of the past twenty years by focusing on the ball alone or the club alone. Based upon our research, the contributions of ball and club are equally weighted. It is both unfair and impractical to focus on one without the other. The ruling bodies have always been fair and practical, and we expect them to be no different this time around.

Hey, at least Uihlein is now open to the governing bodies looking into the matter and possibly determining a necessary rollback. In 2003 Uihlein wasn’t so open:

What we do see is the delicate balance between Tradition and Technology being preserved without unnecessary intervention.

It was also nice to see that in the current T&L interview Uihlein didn’t rehash his tired and kind of embarrassing technophobic media is to blame schtick. After all, players like Tiger Woods and Ernie Els have made comments on the issue. They've indicated that they feel technology has created some issues. And we know they weren't influenced by the inkslingers of the world.


Golf Industry Show

The Golf Industry Show scheduled for New Orleans in 2006 will be moving to Houston.


They Love Shaughnessy

From the Brad Ziemer of the Vancouver Sun:

Jerry Kelly was not in the mood for chit-chat, so the PGA Tour veteran was succinct and to the point when asked for his opinion on Shaughnessy Golf & Country Club.

"It's a great golf course and I don't think we play any better on Tour, period," Kelly said after his pro-am round on Wednesday.

And this:

"This is one of the top-five golf courses on the PGA Tour already after just one practice round," said Andrew Magee. "You hear all the rumblings in the locker room and on the driving range and the players are saying this is the kind of golf course we all think we should be playing every week on Tour. This is just fabulous.

"It's just got long holes, short holes, views, trees, dogleg rights, dogleg lefts, it's got a real versatile mix of holes. It's just a beautiful place."

"It seems like you are going to have to have all of your wits about you here," said former PGA champion Jeff Sluman. "It's a shotmaker's golf course, for sure. It's not one of those courses where you can smash it and grab it. If we could play something like this every week, it would be unbelievable."

The premium this week will be on keeping the ball in fairways that have been pinched to an average of 26 to 28 yards wide. Once finding the short grass, players must then hit approach shots to greens that are tiny by PGA Tour standards.

"You have to really drive your ball straight here," said Magee. "Nobody who hits it off the fairway is going to play well this week. You have to hit it straight, you have to hit it below the hole. The greens are fast and it's just a classic golf course. It's a very fair course, but it's just tough."

"You hit it in the rough and I would say from any more than 150 yards out you are not going to be able to get to the greens," added DiMarco. "Fairway is premium this week. The greens are sneaky quick. You get on the wrong side and they can be really fast. It's playing tough."

Now, I don’t want to pick on these guys because they’ve really only seen the horribly shallow modern form of narrow fairway and high rough golf. You know, tightrope walking golf. The kind that's supposed to put a premium on ball striking and ends up turning things into a putting contest.

Anyway, wouldn’t it be neat to hear of just one course where the players say something like this:

"Placement off the tee is at a premium this week. The greens really ask you to place your tee shot depending on the hole location. There isn't much rough, but because the bunkers are such nasty hazards, you don't know what kind of lie you might get. So you really have to be careful flirting with the hazards."


No Balls Yet

Thomas Bonk writes in the LA Times that after the USGA sent letters to 35 golf ball manufacturers for shorter-flying prototype balls, the early results are in.

Here's an update: Nothing.

That's right. Nothing has happened. Nearly five months later, not one ball from a single company has shown up at the doorstep of Dick Rugge, senior technical director of the U.S. Golf Assn.

Rugge, who said "eight or nine" of the companies said they would honor the USGA's request and that he expected the rest to do the same, isn't shocked that the needle has failed to move even an inch.

"It takes a while," he said of the process. "It doesn't surprise me. They said they would [submit prototypes], so I believe they will."

Huh. It was widely reported in July that Titleist "complied with a request by the USGA and submitted balls that travel shorter distances than current models."

Since all the manufacturers who said they would cooperate apparently haven’t submitted balls yet, perhaps they've lost the USGA's address? (That’s Box 708, Far Hills, NJ, 07931, attn: Dick Rugge).

Well, the USGA can always test some of the "Distance R.I.P." balls that "Jack wants you to play." I just can't imagine which company made those.


Struggling Champions

Golfweek's Jeff Rude looks at the struggles of recent U.S. Amateur champions and talks to Ricky Barnes.


Solheim Cup Hype

Ron Sirak writes about all of the scenarios and potential glory for the European's at this week's Solheim Cup. Bet this is the first time you heard the Solheim Cup was being played this week.


Spyglass: The Best Venue In All Of Pebble Beach

Ken Ottmar in the Monterey County Herald apparently wants to turn those First Tee kids into former golfers. Why do I know this?. Because he says they should play Spyglass Hill instead of Old Del Monte for the First Tee Open. Sadly, some of the Champions Tour geezers agreed with him.

Bayonet was too hard. Del Monte, too easy.

So here's my suggestion to the Monterey Peninsula Foundation, which runs the First Tee Open of Pebble Beach: Next year, rotate not with either one of those courses but instead choose what is truly the best venue in all of Pebble Beach.

Spyglass Hill.

Stop laughing and think about this for a minute. Truly the best venue in all of Pebble Beach?  Wish I could say I make this stuff up. But I merely copy and paste.

Maybe he meant it's the best venue that's not Pebble Beach, Cypress Point, Monterey Peninsula Country Club, Poppy Hills, Peter Hay...oh sorry.

Here's the case for Spyglass... 

The numbers don't exactly tell the whole story. After the first round of the First Tee Open, Del Monte played slightly tougher than Pebble Beach -- 71.538 to 71.359. It relinquished 10 rounds under 70, but also had two rounds over 80.

In a complete reversal, Del Monte became easier in the second round, playing to a 71.487 with zero rounds over 80.



Ranking Rock Bottom

It's official. They've run out of rankings. Golf Digest ranks the best golfers in Washington D.C. Warning to small children or those with a low tolerance for &*%^$##@: way too many photos of politicians in shorts, straw hats and anklet socks talking about how politics would be more efficient if our fine Congressmen and women were able to play more golf.


Ballyneal Article

Thanks to reader Joe for this David Holland article on Rupert O'Neal's Ballyneal, a Tom Doak design 3 hours outside of Denver on the way to the Sand Hills of Nebraska. I think I'm touring the course in October and hope it is as promising as it looks. The long predicted "Prairie Trail" of courses in the Sand Hills region is finally happening.


Canadian Open Blues

Jeff Mingay points out that (yet again) a governing body has not placed enough importance on architecture, thus undermining their event.


Fans Perception of Technology

Rick Arnett at received an "avalanche of e-mails dared to oppose my stance on golf being the most honest sport.” He writes that “the responses made me wonder if I'm completely unaware of the public sentiment regarding the game” because many “mirrored this comment":

You dummy! Golf's cheating is embedded in the sport like no other. It lies in the "technology." All the cheaters race to get the next "edge" in equipment others do not possess. The cheating has gotten so extreme that venerable golf courses are rendered obsolete. You are too close to the sport, dummy!

Arnett goes on to recite the usual there’s no going back and so be it if some courses are as obsolete as old Stadiums argument. Fortunately, the USGA, R&A and PGA of America believe their overall credibility, ratings and championship results are greatly improved by going to classically designed venues. And the PGA Tour does not have nearly as many course options as people think, so the "we'll just go to the 8,000 yard courses" argument isn't feasible.

Anyway, here’s the interesting thing to note. A majority of Arnett’s readers perceive that an excessive embrace of technology is viewed as cheating.

Remember what Tim Finchem warned in 2003 should this perception become reality.

"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. 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 to-ward bifurcating the equipment specs for amateurs and professionals. In that case, we would be more involved."

Looking at the driving distance increases in recent weeks along with plenty of behind-the-scenes feedback via ShotLink, you wonder if Finchem will act. Or perhaps he just has too much on his plate with the TV negotiations. But isn't fan perception key to the negotiations? 

To his credit, Arnett does go on to suggest that the Tour needs to have a drug policy. It’s almost unthinkable that they don’t have one.


This Week's Driving Distance Jump

We're now at 20 players averaging over 300 yards for the PGA Tour season. That's up from 17 last week. 15 the week before. 


Fo shizzle, I-ka-zizzle

woodland hills 8.jpgFor those watching the various golf events of late, you might be wondering after the 3 millionth airing of the Snoop Dogg-Lee Iaccoca Chrysler ad, that the course they are playing is Woodland Hills Country Club in (where else) Woodland Hills, California.

You know the ad by now. It's sandwiched between those 60 second Greatest Piano Solo spots that remind Tim Finchem he has a lot of work to do on the new TV deal. The punchline of the ad:

You know, I'm not too sure what you just said. Now everybody gets a great deal," Iacocca says in the spot.

"Fo shizzle, I-ka-zizzle," Snoop Dog replies.

Were you like me, thinking Iacocca couldn’t possibly need the money and yet Snoops to this level?

Well, don't I feel like a jerk after reading an article about it:

Iacocca is donating the money Chrysler is paying him to do these spots to a foundation he set up to battle diabetes, the disease which killed his wife. USA Today reports that Snoop Dogg told Iacocca during the filming that he has a brother with diabetes, and said he admired what Iacocca is doing.

"He's just a good kid," Iacocca told USA Today about his co-star. "I didn't understand half the things he was telling me, but it was fun."


Newport Awaiting Wie...Already

2006logo.gifChris Baldwin at Travelgolf writes that they're already excited about the arrival of Michelle Wie in Newport...for the 2006 U.S. Women's Open. Though her expected appearance can't be promoted because she is currently an amateur.

Yes, the biggest reason for all this fuss is not included in the advertising blitz. With Wie still holding onto her amateur status, she's not used in any United States Golf Association promotions. Instead, the signs tout Annika Sorenstam, Grace Park and even virtually forgotten oldies Meg Mallon and Juli Inkster. So Wie is unseen, but definitely not unspoken about in Newport.

That'll change in October.  


Norman Lends His Chopper

Greg Norman lends his helicopter to support the New Orleans relief effort.


Hannigan on Amateur Status

golfobserver copy.jpgFrank Hannigan's latest column looks at the recent USGA/R&A Amateur Status change:

The recently announced liberalization of the Rules of Amateur Status is a classic example of the kind of thinking you get when people in power lust to exercise their power but don't know what they are doing.

Oh but this is more than a USGA bashing column, Hannigan points out something rather shocking, even when you think you've seen every USGA boondoggle.

The method of administering golf's version of affirmative action is a typical USGA cop-out in that the Association will neither pay for anything (even though it has a quarter billion dollar surplus) nor manage anything.

Instead, the burden has been lateraled over to the state and regional golf Associations, entities such as the Chicago District Golf Association and the Florida Golf Association.

According to the USGA's solemn press release, any amateur golfer can accept expenses to any golf competition provided the money is laundered through one of the associations.

As of Monday, the USGA had not issued any guidelines to the associations. It has not told them what to expect and what to do and whether they, the local bodies, have any role other than as accountants.

You would think they might run this by the local associations before announcing it. You know, in case they didn't want to do the USGA's dirty (paper) work.

Hannigan, who has long believed college golfers on scholarships should not be eligible for USGA amateur events, makes this suggestion:

The Amateur Public Links championship could again mean something other than being a means of entry into the Masters by a simple if dramatic step: deny entry to anybody who has played on a college golf team during the prior year. It would also be desirable to ban juniors — or at least those who attend or advertise "golf academies" linked to secondary schools.