State Of The Game Podcast 65: 2016 Masters Preview

Rod Morri, Mike Clayton and yours truly kick around the Masters and more, from Horse Courses to Austin to the demise of the other "Masters."

As always you can listen via the embedded player below. Or get the MP3 here, check out the SOTG homepage here, or get it on iTunes here.

Meanwhile, ShackHouse Episode 2 with Joe House is alive and well and still an iTunes Top 15 show, including #1 in Sports!

iTunes users can get ShackHouse here, or specifically, Episode 2 here.

Or for Soundclouders, the show's page is here. Sticher just needs to approve and so you'll be able to get it there soon!

House Q&A, ShackHouse Podcast Episode 1 From The Ringer

John Ourand at SBJ beat me to the earth-shattering reveal: The Ringer is getting into golf and to host the latest addition to their podcast network they've enlisted longtime Bill Simmons podcast confidante Joe House and yours truly.

You can subscribe by going to the usual spots: Soundcloud, iTunes or if you'are an Overcast app user, just search for ShackHouse. (And I have to say this while I can, the show is current #1 on iTunes in Sports/Recreation and 15th overall.)

Simmons discussed the new podcast at the 33:00 minute mark of this week's Rollin' With House episode and noted the golf podcast world lacking any standout shows. That may be true, but as with most things, golf is late to the podcast game but there are some folks building followings and helping the sport catch up with the times.

As for ShackHouse, 21 episodes are scheduled around most of golf's biggest events, though we won't shy away from tackling topics outside of the pro golf realm. Mostly we just hope to add some fun, informed conversation to your golf media consumption menus.

The best thing so far with the show? All of House's fans getting over the shock that he not only plays golf, but follows golf religiously.

A few questions with House, who kindly answered even though he's enjoying a family vacation in Jamaica.

GS: Why a golf pod for your 1st as co-host?

JH: I have been pestering Simmons for a full decade now to get back into the game so we can tackle middle-age in the most cliched way possible. Aside from a 6 month stint where he caught the bug - and then promptly lost it again - no luck. It's a true fact that we have never played a single round of golf together in our 25 years of being pals. Though I did kick his ass in an epic 36 hole putt-putt match down in Orlando Florida that also included Rembert Browne and David Jacoby (that's a story for another day...) Anyhow, I believe this podcast was his clever way of getting me to shut up and stop bothering him about golf.

GS: You're a big consumer of all things media and golf is going through a similar transition to the digital era that other sports have dealt with. So what do you watch/read? What is different about golf media vs. other sports?

JH: I am an avid and fervent consumer of all golf media. Obviously the Golf Channel is in heavy rotation. I read Golf Digest, Golf Magazine, Golf Illustrated, Golf WRX, Golf World and Golf Playboy. I may be mis-remembering one or two of those. I enjoy very much the Twitter-feed of the dude(s) behind @NoLayingUp. I visit Pat Mayo and Geoff Fienberg's weekly picks:gambling angles and YouTube chat. The Instagram feed of GolfProTracer is a rabbit hole I go down for about an hour a week. And GeoffShackelford.com, duh. One thing I have been on the lookout for - that seems to be easier to find in other sports media - is a person or place that is regularly synthesizing the incredible data on the performance of the pros each week.  And breaking it down into digestible bites for a dummy like me. It's easy to get nuggets on the accuracy of the dudes who win each week, but I'm also interested in some analytics that help explain/provide context for where the guys that didn't win came up short.

GS: Your favorite Course in the DC area?

JH: This is an easy one, there is nothing like the East Potomac Golf Course in East Potomac Park. I wish I could write this up in a way that doesn't sound like I'm shilling for them, but it's one of the two courses where I've bested 80 so lovefest. The facility is owned and maintained by the federal government and situated on a tiny piece of land that juts into the Potomac River barely 10 minutes from downtown DC. There is an 18 hole course and two other 9s (one executive, one par-3) that get up to 90,000 rounds a year according to the folks who run the joint and the whole track sits at or below sea-level so conditions are never what anyone would call pristine. Two things make it special (not including my 78): it is a place where you can potentially play golf with someone from anywhere on planet earth. I have played there with Brits, Germans, Japanese, Australians, Africans and the rarest of all - native Washingtonians. Secondly, the views and experience are pure DC. On no less than 5 holes, the Washington Monument is a good aiming point. The Marine Barracks are across the river so if you are playing at the right time, you can catch the afternoon bugle call. And I have had the President's trio of helicopters pass overhead at least a half-dozen times.

GS: You're a renowned foodie, your best golf course food?

JH: Again, have to rep the DMV here a little bit.  Breakfast is served all day long at the historical Langston Golf Course in NE DC (opened in 1939, first non-segregated course in the DC area) and the breakfast sandwiches are extraordinary. Do not be afraid to ask for jelly on the egg & cheese. I have also had the good fortune to play the golf course at Piedmont Driving Club outside of Atlanta a couple times.  The cup of 'cue at the turn (a Dixie cup filled with five bites of pulled pork) is quite brilliant and quite delicious and I have never been through there with just one cup.

And 2015 Ends...And Happy New Year!

The Best Year Ever? Who is to say?

Actually, Cameron Morfit did at Golf.com. While it's a good read and I agree with his take and that of Iain Carter, who wrote that we witnessed a professional golf season for the ages, the declarations of 2015 as best golf year ever speaks as much to the historic performances as golf's desperation to be as loved.

After several post-recession years amidst Tiger's downfall, the prospects were dimming. Yet the emergence of star players and some better economic news should have folks bullish. But there are too many worrying signs, too much hostility toward the sport and too many societal pressures that even eternal optimists must know dim the prospects for "growth." These doubts undoubtedly prompt the occasional Buzzfeed-style headlines designed to assure us that we're fans of something loved and popular. Golf, as a pasttime or as entertainment, finds itself right about where it has always been and always will be on the international radar.

Which is why the focus of this site will continue to be on the best stories, the most critical news worth analyzing and on all things design. Visiting and soaking up the St. Andrews scene this year reinforced just how important all elements of design were vital to the growth of golf and how enjoyable those elements--courses, clubs, clubhouses, clothes, etc...--are to scrutinize.

After a decade of a pretty straightforward blog format, I hope to gradually make a few significant changes to the appearance and energy of the site in 2016, keeping the general sense of a blog only with more short posts guiding you to great reads, more imagery, increased audio listening and video content. And of course, finally making it all mobile friendly without a sense that reading the site on a mobile device is less fulfilling than on a desktop (a sense I get with too many websites). I'm finishing up a survey to help crystalize a few ideas and hope to post it soon. Your input will be much appreciated.

These refinements will hopefully allow me to continue to enlighten and entertain the incredibly loyal reader of this site--78% of visits this year are from bookmarks and direct visits. In the mean time, my favorite time of year arrives with the west coast swing and Masters run-up, so as the site refinements get ironed out, we should be in for a continuation of 2015's theatrics. The best year ever? Who knows. But it was a very special one.

My continued gratitude for reading the site and contributing your thoughts, for clicking on the links posted and for supporting the efforts of my media partners to cover the sport.

Happy New Year!

Nine Days Of Christmas: Mac Daddy PM Grind

While longtime readers know how much discussing clubs gets my juices flowing (it's more like a slow leaky faucet drip), I do have a new addition to the bag that is great fun to play around with: Callaway's Mac Daddy PM Grind wedge. In particular, I'd point you to the 60 degree, but only if you have the stomach for a certain era of wedge design.

We're living in a Golden Age of wedge construction and engineering, you can't go wrong with Vokey's, Clevelands, Mizuno's etc... Walk into any store or golf shop and they all look pretty sensational.

But for those of us whose golf skills peaked during the Bush I years, PING made the wedges we adored putting back into our Jones bags. The Eye2 had a thick sole that made bunker shots (almost) a joy. Then they mysteriously abandoned that for a sole and soulless design which did have one positive feature: a huge face.

I'm guessing a combination of those two elements, along with other ideas inspired Roger Cleveland and Phil Mickelson to design this 2015-debuting wedge (you can hear them talk about the clubs here). While all of the Mac Daddy line wedges feel and look great, it's the 60-degree PM grind I'd highly recommend if you're one of those people who misses the old PING's.

Edwin Watts is having a 20% off sale on the SS line (here and here), though only some discounted shipping options right now for other purchases there.

You can view the full lineup here, but this is the one I love. Especially when my drop kick flop shots hit about 2.5 inches up the face and there are still some grooves.

Video: Year End Roundtable On The Youth Movement

I continue to be confounded by the number of pro golfers who are so good at what they do at such a young age. Male or female, players are blossoming earlier in life than ever before, and in this digital-only segment taped after the year-end roundtable, Tim Rosaforte, Matt Adams and I discuss the kids.

The actual shows air Saturday and Sunday at 6, 6:30, 11 and 11:30 p.m. ET. 


Video: 2016 Award Nominees, Redan, Doak's Reversible Course

In the spirit of movie awards season, Gary Williams, Matt Ginella and I kick around who we see grabbing the year-end awards next year as a harmless way to preview some of 2016's starring courses.


Matt Ginella's visit to Tom Doak's reversible course under construction.

Ginella and I discuss the Redan.

Video & Reminder: Architecture Week, Ogilvy-Clayton Friday

The four man team behind Ogilvy-Clayton-Cocking-Mead will be in studio to talk design as Morning Drive's Architecture Week continues. Jack Nicklaus checks in from the PNC Father-Son, and we'll talk about his design influences, plus some other fun features.

In case you missed it today, we talked about the legacy of Pete Dye, defined the Penal Design school, discussed some Keiser/USGA and ASGCA news and covered the re-opening of Innisbrook. Wednesday we had a fun segment with John Cook on the simulator taking us through Old Course strategy.

The fun starts at 7:30 am ET.

Forward Press: The Squeeze, Mexico & Water Week

In the latest installment of the Forward Press, I marvel at and preview The Squeeze, supplanting Tin Cup on the Golf Channel schedule this week.

It's noteworthy that Golf Channel is the first landing spot for a theatrical release and that Tin Cup gets a break, even though a nice sized audience watches every time it airs (or a Nielsen family just really likes Ron Shelton's work).

On a serious note, Morning Drive is tackling the totally unsexy but utterly vital topic of water and golf. As I note in the Forward Press, Matt Ginella's visit to Goat Hill on Friday is what I'm most anticipating, but there are some really solid, meaty topics on tap for Tuesday through Thursday.

The rundown of topics and guests discussing the most important issue in the game.

While our segment was shortened because the Commish took his sweet time sharing his exciting news of a venue-less new Champions Tour stop, Matt Ginella and I only briefly discussed this most vital topic on Morning Drive.

Podcasts! Scottish Golf Travel On North Berwick, Old Course

There's really only one way to plan a trip to Scotland and that's by listening to Ru Macdonald's Scottish Golf Podcast. Last week's episode with listener Stuart Stein is a perfect example of why you can't do any better in preparing for those once-in-a-lifetime trips.

On episode 74 we discuss (what else) North Berwick, the Old Course, The Glen Club and Crail, as well as some tips born out of my most recent voyage to the Home of Golf (ship those clubs please, Luggage Forward and ShipSticks are your friends!). 

And yes, Ru asks me what my one must-have piece of equipment was and it was my--no paid endorsement--my Linksoul water resistant jacket. (The XL is still on sale at half off.) The fall version is not on sale and has gone up in price, but as someone who hates playing in rain gear and rarely has ever found a jacket that works for swinging a club in less-than-ideal weather, this was a keeper!

Also on the By-the-Minute-Golf Podcast last week, don't miss Lawrence Donegan and John Huggan talking to Mark Canizzaro of the New York Post.

Forward Press: Looking Ahead To Golf's Light Labor Day Week

We do a lot of looking back on the web, so with that in mind check out my column at GolfDigest.com looking ahead to the week.

Granted, it doesn't seem like the best week to preview tournaments and other goings on, but as you'll see the lack of Thursday PGA Tour, LPGA Tour, Web.com or Champions Tour golf means some fun Golf Channel programming.

And how to find Patriot Golf Day-friendly golf. That, and more in the Forward press.

(BTW this is the first of hopefully many, so the themes and content will vary, but I'm open to suggestions and tips for this early week table-setting-minded column.)

State Of The Game 59: The 2015 Open And UK Golf

It's just Rod Morri asking Mike Clayton (still in the UK) and myself questions about The Open at St. Andrews, links golf and more. But there's just so much to talk about!

As always you can get it on iTunes or wherever podcasts are distributed.

Or get the MP3 here.

Check out past shows here. Or listen below:

 

Video: Taking Your Golf Pilgrimage To East Lothian

Two years ago I filed this piece for Golf Digest about the importance of making East Lothian ("Scotland's Golf Coast") the sight of your golf pilgrimage. Not only does the area afford several of the most important places that shaped the game's history, but the opportunity to set up shop in one general area to enjoy a more centrally located golf vacation beckons.

After playing Glen Golf Club this evening (aka North Berwick East Links), I'm more convinced than ever that this is the planet's most idyllic place to experience the links game at its purest and most diversified. What a perfect, breathtaking and endearingly bizarre set of holes. (More on Glen tomorrow).

In the meantime, here's an UnShackled video to encapsulate my feelings for this special place. Check it out...