Tiger At Carnoustie: "This is how the game should be played."

Screen Shot 2018-07-20 at 10.34.33 AM.png

Tiger's opening 71 at Carnoustie would have looked at lot better had he taken advantage of 8-irons into both par-5s, but with afternoon conditions turning fierce and fast, Woods displayed many positive signs. 

And while he's not the first player to say this in the history of golf, it's still great to read:

I haven't played this championship for a few years now, and I've always loved playing over here. This is -- to me, this is where I got introduced to links golf. I played here in '95, and then follow that up with St. Andrews. That was my introduction to links golf. It doesn't get much better than that.

And I've always loved playing this championship. I've been able to win it a few times. I've just always enjoyed -- this is how the game should be played. It should be creative. It should be played on the ground. You can utilize the ground as an ally. When we play home in the States, that's not the case. Everything is going straight up in the air, but this is very different. It's amazing the shot -- the creativity. I mean, you can roll the ball 100 yards if you wanted to, or you can throw it straight up in the air. I like having those shot options.

Instagram Monday Course Edition: Rory's Excited For Ballyliffin, C&C To Remodel Sheep Ranch, Chicago Golf Club Teaser

Links season is upon us, with the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open kicking off at Ballyliffin. Paul McGinley is hosting next year at Lahinch and has nice things to say about this year's venue where Rory McIlroy hosts one more time. Rory posted this photo:

Matt Ginella says developer Mike Keiser has tapped Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw to remodel Tom Doak's mysterious Sheep Ranch course at Bandon, Oregon. It's a project previously suggested as a possible Gil Hanse redesign by Keiser.

Andy Johnson took his drone out to Chicago Golf Club, host of the U.S. Senior Women's Open next week and gave us a sneak preview of the magnificent course getting a huge spotlight. Expect more at friedegg.co

Coul Links Plans Passed, Coore And Crenshaw Design Near Dornoch To Proceed

Coul Links site, courtesy of  Instagram

Coul Links site, courtesy of Instagram

Great news from Scotland! For Immediate Release:

COUL LINKS PLANS PASSED BY COUNCILLORS

Plans for a world class golf course which will give a major economic stimulus to the north of Scotland have been given the go-ahead after councillors reiterated their overwhelming support for the project today.

The Coul Links development, proposed for a site near Embo in Sutherland, was passed at a special meeting of Highland Council’s North Planning Applications Committee. 

At a previous hearing on 5 June councillors spoke in favour of the project but deferred a final decision to allow the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) to comment on a last-minute objection.

However, SEPA maintained its previous position not to object to the application. Scottish Natural Heritage had previously indicated it had withdrawn all but one narrow objection to the plan.

In making their decision, the committee recognised the significant economic benefits the course will bring to east Sutherland and that extensive mitigation measures will be put in place to protect the environment.

Links developer Todd Warnock said after today’s meeting: “After more than three years of thorough consideration of the project, we are excited to win such overwhelming support from the committee.

“The development has been comprehensively and fairly assessed by the two statutory bodies as well as the competent planning authority and we now look forward to bringing to Scotland the economic benefits of such a prestigious golf course.

“This major investment in a relatively remote part of the country has the significant support of local people and we thank them again for their help and encouragement.

“I would also encourage opponents of the golf course to now work with us to make the project a huge success. The evidence is compelling that Coul Links will improve the site ecologically, particularly with regard to bird life, and we will continue to strive to ensure the development progresses with environmental integrity at its heart.

“In summary, its seems there are four conclusions that are undeniable. First, a world class links course near Dornoch would prove economically transformational, perhaps creating the Highlands as the third major golf destination in Scotland.

“Second, Coul Links is an extraordinary site ecologically and our plans will improve it. We will disturb 13.4 hectares of dune habitat, but we will improve 20 hectares and provide a site management plan in perpetuity.

“The people in the community of Embo have spoken confidently with their outstanding support. We are humbled and thankful to be their neighbours and partners.

“Third, after three exhaustive years, virtually everyone in the Highlands wants this project completed. Yes, there are objectors with legitimate concerns, and we respect them but make no doubt the voice of the people has been heard.

“Finally, there is a process by which these decisions are made in a democracy. Statutory bodies with unbiased expertise are empowered to protect our collective interest. Other than a single narrow objection from SNH, they are not opposed.

“The elected competent authority, Highland Council’s planning committee, represent the people. We are humbled, thankful and honoured by their thoughtful deliberation and considered approval today.

“It’s now time to build a golf course.” 

Shinnecock's 7th: When Is A Redan Not A Redan?

Dom Furore's Golf Digest image of the Redan makes it easier to visualize how much better the hole would play from the left.

Dom Furore's Golf Digest image of the Redan makes it easier to visualize how much better the hole would play from the left.

Since the last U.S. Open here, the Redan has become a household name. A brand.  The children of North Berwick's original and still very much alive 15th hole has developed a cult following. There are even reverse Redans. 

Labeled a Redan, Shinnecock Hills' 7th is a step-child at best. The hole shares almost none of the attributes making the original or the offshoots so much fun to play. (Ron Whitten does a nice job in this piece for GolfDigest.com getting into the Redan's background, its history at Shinnecock and the ideal playability. An accompanying Dom Furore photo also beautifully shows how some faults of the Redan could be remedied by a move of the tee toward the left.)

It's been some time since I've seen the 7th and while it's probably great fun to play at certain green speeds or for late afternoon giggles, the controversial par-3 just doesn't quite match the rest of this stupendously sound work of architecture.

Since the 2004 U.S. Open, more short grass has been installed around the putting surface, which was also expanded by Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw. Yet walking around the green again and getting reacquainted, I find it difficult to see how the hole is a good test of skill or a fun one to play. 

I raise all of this on the U.S. Open eve not to call out the hole in advance apology for the inevitable shenanigans, but to make sure after this week we are not lumping all other Redans in with the problem child. 

Video: Shinnecock Hills 16th, 17th And 18th Holes

Here it is, the big finishing stretch and also two playoff holes should we get that far.

The par-5 16th has been lengthened by 74 yards due to climate change and maybe the optimization of launch conditions. At 616 yards this beautifully bunkered three-shotter features one of Shinnecock's most confounding greens. 

The 180-yard 17th features a light-bulb shaped green pleasing to a right-to-left shot, offset by prevailing winds from the left. There is a juicy new back left hole location since the last time the US Open visited here.

The closing hole is 485 yards with and uphill approach shot. Take a close look at the flyover when it pauses at the 18th green and you can see a small circle showing the previous green dimensions.

Golfweek's Best Ranking Of All U.S. Open Host Venues

Screen Shot 2018-06-08 at 2.41.28 PM.png

Shinnecock Hills lands in the top spot and poor Northwood brings up the rear, though the votes are based on the course prior to a recent rejuvenation.

More fascinating is how kind the panel is to Chambers Bay and Erin Hills given how much those two are criticized as U.S. Open venues. But the panel's job is to rate architecture, not tournament venue success.

Check out the list here.

Video: Shinnecock's Fifth Hole And Trying To Restore The Intended Landing Area

Fifth tee at the bottom, very close to the members' 18th tee.  The landing area of this double Fairway Par-5 is in the upper right center of the image.

Fifth tee at the bottom, very close to the members' 18th tee.  The landing area of this double Fairway Par-5 is in the upper right center of the image.

Lengthened to 589, the first par-5 at Shinnecock Hills is a niftily designed double fairway hole with a cool decision installed by architect William Flynn. When the hole was envisioned, Flynn was thinking of risk-reward dynamics that made the lay-up easier.

Unfortunately, even with the hole 54 yards longer than it was in 1986, 1995 and 2004--despite the claimed flatlining of distance since 2003--the player's tee shot decision is muted by modern driving distances. From there, the dynamics of the second shot and green take on totally different meaning. 

This is not a big deal if you think a test is all about power and hitting from point A to point B. But if decision-making and going to great trouble to return to Shinnecock Hills to ask more sophisticated design questions is the USGA's goal, then the 5th provides a fine example of a losing battle for classic architecture.

The USGA's Mike Davis addressed the effort to get landing areas relevant again with new tees:

“We didn’t add distance just to add distance,” Davis said. “What we really did, and we did it in concert with the club itself and also with some work with Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw, that architectural firm, is we really wanted to bring the shot value back to what (William) Flynn had designed in the late 1920s. So we looked at each drive zone and said, ‘what would it take to get the drive zone back into play?’ So I think we are excited because now all of a sudden some of the cross bunkers that are in play, some of the lateral bunkers that are in play or some of the shots, I mean take the second hole, it was always meant to be a long downwind par-3 that you can bounce the ball in. We now have that again.”

Lengthened 30 yards for the U.S. Open's return in 1986, Flynn's fifth hole strategy is worth savoring even if it's not as his team envisioned. The player unwilling to take on the carry to the left fairway is forced to play right, lengthening the next shot and bringing a fairway bunker into play, possibly forcing another safe shot. While the player who lands in the alternate fairway shortens the hole, improves the second shot view and in general, is high on life.

Basic but interesting strategy, that must have been even more clever when 250 yards was a big poke but now lost. With the carry to the left fairway at 240 or so yards, only a stiff breeze into the players could make the tee shot decision relevant for a U.S. Open field. 

The flyover of Shinnecock Hills' fifth:

Minimalist Maintenance Is Not More Expensive, Contrary To Popular Opinion

TrinityForest18painting.png

I've always been particularly fascinated at the idea of minimalist course designs costing more to maintain.

The concept is generally perpetrated by the tin siding-salesman masquerading as golf architects who sometimes plaid jackets and would just as soon be selling you a policy as they would be in designing interesting, affordable golf holes. They also don't really like the minimalist movement for a variety of reasons, from general point missing to just wanting to sell projects on goods and services they don't need.

Born out of this have been derogatory whisper campaigns about the perils of going minimalist, including the contradictory notion that bunkers maintained as rough hazards take more time and money to present than those edged weekly and raked daily. 

So as accustomed to this completely bizarre take as we subscribers to the movement have become, it was a bit disheartening to read Gary Van Sickle's MorningRead.com take suggesting AT&T Byron Nelson Classic host site Trinity Forest was an example of the kind of "high-maintenance, slow-play golf course" the game needs less of.

Had Van Sickle been there to hear Jordan Spieth mention whizzing around the course in two-hours--golf board aided--or seen the turf, I wonder if this take might have been different:

Golf needs low-maintenance, fast-play golf courses. Trinity Forest is a high-maintenance, slow-play golf course. Did you see some of those massive bunkers? An amateur could spend five minutes raking his or her way out of the trap.

Greens are the most expensive parts of a golf course to maintain, and Trinity Forest has gigantic greens. One double green is 35,000 square feet. Pebble Beach’s front-nine greens would almost fit in that corral.

It’s ironic that Trinity Forest seemed like a breath of fresh air with its different look and myriad challenges, but it is not an economically viable model for golf in most areas.

Actually, it is. 

Despite the deep pockets of the members, the maintenance approach is pretty restrained.

Reviewing my notes from an interview with superintendent Kasey Kauff, he noted Trinity's full staff for the course is a very normal 24, including assistants and technicians.

Fairways are cut twice a week while bunkers are raked at the same rate (with touch ups). The greens are mown just five days a week in peak season, once or twice a week in the winter. 

Thanks to the slow-growing zoysia and lean watering program, bunkers are rarely edged. Fertilization is at half the rate of a Bermuda grass golf course. Half. 

As for slow play, maintenance and design are not to blame for threesomes in a full field PGA Tour event not getting around in a timely manner. When today's players can reach all par-5s in two and at least one par-4 in one, that's a distance discussion and sometimes a green speed discussion. Trinity Forest's greens were at a modest 10.5 on the Stimpmeter.

Yes, Trinity Forest is a wealthy membership with a token First Tee facility and it took millions to convert a landfill into a course only a select few rich guys can join. Quibble with that stuff all day long if you must. But suggesting the design is an example of high-cost maintenance and slow play maintenance would not be accurate. 

Instagram Roundup: Warrior Open, Sandbelt's Peninsula, Pinecone At The Cradle, Trick Shot Gone Wrong

Former President George W. Bush hosted the Warrior Open at Trinity Forest following the AT&T Byron Nelson Classic. A nice photo gallery from the day (arrow on right of image to scroll through):

Ogilvy-Clayton-Cocking-Mead's rejuvenation of Peninsula is coming in nicely...

WIDTH @occmgolf

A post shared by Onestrappers (@onestrappers) on

Pinehurst claims the prize for coolest modern day beverage cart, the "Pinecone" at The Cradle:

Don't try this at home dads...

Crenshaw Pleased With Trinity Forest Debut

A record winning score posted by a player posting some amazing ball-striking stats never hurts, but Ben Crenshaw declared his pleasure at Trinity Forest's AT&T Byron Nelson Classic debut.

From Will Gray's report for GolfChannel.com:

“We’re pleased. It’s off to a nice, quiet start, let’s say,” Crenshaw said. “The week started off very quiet with the wind. This course, we envision that you play it with a breeze. It sort of lends itself to a links style, playing firm and fast, and as you saw yesterday, when the wind got up the scores went up commensurately.”

The Crenshaw's with former President George W. Bush, who appeared in the broadcast booth during the final round. He hosts an event for wounded warriors Monday at Trinity Forest. 

Lahinch! 2019 Irish Open Headed To The Historic Links

Screen Shot 2018-05-18 at 10.22.51 AM.png

The race to secure the most exotic venues for European Tour events continues, as Lahinch was announced as the 2019 Irish Open site by host that year's host, Paul McGinley. Crossing fairways, a blind par-3, Old Tom, MacKenzie and goats, what's not to love?

Simon Lewis's Irish Examiner reports quotes Lahinch general manager Paddy Keane saying that McGinley was instrumental in the course landing the Irish Open.

“Paul’s introduction to Lahinch was caddying for his father (Mick) in the South of Ireland, he broke 80 for the first time on the Castle Course here. Then he came and played himself in the South and won it in 1991. That got him his place in the Walker Cup and that ultimately gave him the opportunity to turn pro.”

It was a return visit to Lahinch last year that Keane believes put the Old Course, whose architects since 1894 have included Old Tom Morris, Alister MacKenzie, and Martin Hawtree, firmly in McGinley’s thoughts when he was asked to consider possible host venues for the Irish Open.

“He came back for our 125th-anniversary celebrations last year when we hosted a day for our past South of Ireland champions."

Jason Scott Deegan with the GolfAdvisor wrap up on all you need to know regarding a popular golf trip destination.

Ran Morrissett's GolflClubAtlas.com review from 2003.

It takes a while to get going but the wait is worth it to see the aerial flyovers in this 125th anniversary video.

Time For Trinity Forest: One Last Preview Of Minimalism's Big Moment

TrinityForest12.jpeg

Minimalism's big moment arrives with the AT&T Byron Nelson Classic's bold move to Trinity Forest.  The Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw design features some of their boldest and best design work to date. I'm very jealous of the select few who get to play here on a daily basis, like LPGA star So Yeon Ryu!

I explain in this Golfweek piece my first impressions and why this is a high risk week for the minimalist movement and why you're going to see some fascinating golf played. 

The course's speed dial has been turned down a touch by the PGA Tour wanting to ease into this one, and I explain in this Golfweek piece--with supporting quotes from the firm of Mahan, Scott and Ogilvy that his isn't the worst idea ever.

Here is my Morning Drive chat with Kasey Kauff, the first employee hired by the founders

We discussed what hole has most grown on Jordan Spieth today on Morning Drive:

Adam Scott On Golfers Forced Out Of Their Comfort Zones

On the eve of the 2018 AT&T Byron Nelson Classic, Adam Scott was asked about the PGA Tour locker room talk surrounding Trinity Forest and the uncomfortable demands the course will make.

Look, just most majorities just don't like different, do they? This is just different than what we normally roll out and play.

You know, people are going to get put out of their comfort zones and not many people like that, you know.

The greatest players have all managed to succeed out of their comfort zones and learn to love links or learn to love a parkland golf to succeed, and I think the greatest champions over time have all done that and whoever is going to be here this week will be someone who really embraces the different challenges of this golf.

You're not going to be able to fight it out there this week. You're going to have to go with it and hit a nice shot from 200 out one time and catch the wrong side of the hill and you'll have some putt that you would never feel like you deserve but that's a different style of golf than target golf that we're used to playing.

You're just going to have to do your best to two-putt it or however many putts you need to make to get down and move on and get the right rub of the green on the next one. That's probably the links side of golf. There's a bit more rub of the green, a little less predictability.

I think if I think about Tiger who has grown up playing golf in America but just had this instant desire to love links golf and win the Opens and he showed so much creativity in his game that was apparently just suited to win on the U.S. Tour, he embraced the challenges of all parts of the game and he did it all.

So, it's kind of how I see it. The guy that does that this week will do well.

Bill Coore Explains Trinity Forest's Short Par-4 5th Hole

Great stuff here from Andy Johnson combining Bill Coore's explanation with a flyover of Trinity Forest's 5th hole.

I just love how he describes the issue at hand for players in just barely driving over the fairway bunker to get to the green. That kind of attention to detail--and the time put into getting that element just right--is why Coore, Crenshaw and The Boys are the best.

I Guess We Have To: Governing Bodies Launch "Multi-Pronged" Distance Insights Project

Here goes another year in the distance discussion, all because the two PGA's have decided they want to be in the rules business. I'm pretty sure we know what the input will look like ("Don't blame the ball! "-Wally, Fairhaven, MA). 

Anyway, if they must, but Senator you can have my answer now: do something.

The USGA and The R&A Launch Golf's Global Distance Insights Project

LIBERTY CORNER, N.J. USA AND ST ANDREWS, SCOTLAND (May 15, 2018) - The United States Golf Association (USGA) and The R&A have launched a comprehensive project to analyze distance in golf and gather perspectives from the worldwide golf community.  

The Distance Insights project will examine distance through a multi-pronged approach that includes global stakeholder engagement, third-party data review and primary research. Focus groups and discussion forums will play an important role in the project, to secure a broad range of perspectives throughout golf.

Beginning today, anyone interested in the topic can provide feedback by visiting usga.org/distanceinsights or randa.org/distanceinsights or by emailing either association directly.

“The topic of increased distance and its effects on the game have been discussed for well over a century. We believe that now is the time to examine this topic through a very wide and long lens, knowing it is critical to the future of the game,” said Mike Davis, CEO of the USGA. “We look forward to delving deeply into this topic and learning more, led by doing right by golf, first and foremost.”

Martin Slumbers, Chief Executive of The R&A, said, “Distance in golf is a complex issue which is widely debated at all levels of the sport. It is important that we collate all of the relevant data and hear the many different perspectives on this issue that exist in the international golf community. We intend to conduct this process openly, comprehensively and promptly and will work with all of the key stakeholders to ensure we have a fully rounded view of distance and its implications.”   

Stakeholder groups invited to participate in the project include amateur and professional golfers, worldwide professional golf tours, golf course owners and operators, golf equipment manufacturers, golf course architects, golf course superintendents and others. 

Among the many topics to be explored, the organizations will seek distance-related data on pace of play, golf course construction and maintenance practices, the evolution of equipment, golf course design and player enjoyment and participation.

The USGA and The R&A will engage various golf industry stakeholders through 2018, with plans to deliver a report in 2019.

Video: Ogilvy Taking Us Through The Best Of Trinity Forest

Great set of content videos here from the folks at Trinity Forest, host to this week's AT&T Byron Nelson Classic. 

Ogilvy on the double green at the third and eleventh holes. 

Ogilvy on the short par-4 5th:

On the short par-3 8th and it's green complex:

On the well-placed bunker at the 14th:

And finally the zany 17th green:

First Preview: PGA Tour Heads To Coore And Crenshaw's Trinity Forest

Screen Shot 2018-05-13 at 10.26.28 AM.png

Big week for minimalism!

The AT&T Byron Nelson Classic moves from the many-times remodeled TPC Las Colinas Four Seasons to the year-old Trinity Forest Not A Four Seasons Golf Club

The recently opened Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw course is built on a landfill next to the Trinity Forest and is decidedly linksy in appearance.  I'm getting a firsthand look and will be filing a review for Golfweek and Morning Drive coverage for Golf Channel, but in the meantime here is some preview coverage to whet your appetite...

Graylyn Loomis filed this preview for Links and featured this quote from Bill Coore on the design philosophy:

“We couldn’t make the course look like a prototypical Dallas layout with streams, trees, and lakes,” says Coore. “You can’t plant a tree because the roots break the cap. We knew early on there couldn’t be a stream or water, either. The focus had to be the rumpled ground created as the landfill settled over the decades and we tried to highlight those features.”

The intrigue will be in watching player comments to see how the design style is embrace given the lack of major visual eye candy and the general propensity of today's pros to find the ground game offensive. 

Jordan Spieth, who makes Trinity Forest his primary practice facilities, was asked about the course at The Players:

Q. You got your home game next week; what's the scouting report on Trinity?
JORDAN SPIETH: It looks as good as I've seen it since -- and I've been going out there since before the greens were even sprigged. It looks really good. It's grown on me a lot over the past six months, and in the springtime, I think it's at its best. It's in his best condition that it can be now or the next month or two. I think the weather looks like it's going to really cooperate to give it a good first showing.

A lot of big grandstands. It's like an American links. You've kind of got to play it from the air, not really a bounce the ball up kind of links, but it is still a links-looking golf course. So it's weird, it's unique. It's actually -- Birkdale was kind of the closest comparison I've found to a links course that you kind of have to attack from the air. You get maybe four or five, six holes where you can bounce the ball up, but the way to get balls close is to come in with a higher shot. That's not necessarily true links. I don't want to say that about Birkdale because of the history and everything, but it's just the way I've found to play it well is that route.

Here is a sampler from the AT&T Byron Nelson:

Andy Johnson broke down the 6th hole in this flyover. Check out that green!

The turf looks ready!

Hirono! Hires Martin Ebert To Restore Alison's Masterpiece

Screen Shot 2018-05-09 at 2.42.22 PM.png

On the list of courses most often cited for needing a proper restoration, Hirono has topped many lists. 

Adam Lawrence reports that through an odd coincidence and Martin Ebert's other life as a rules expert, the architect has been commissioned to restore C.H. Alison's 1930 masterpiece. 

“I was introduced to the club through a couple of Japanese guys who referee each year at the Open,” Ebert told GCA. “Later, I went over to Japan to do a Rules seminar for the JGA, and met up with some people from the club, who were aware of the work we had done at Portrush, Turnberry and so on. They had set up a restoration committee and were very keen to restore the course to something closer to Alisonʼs original design. Since then we have been back to Japan three times, culminating in a visit a few weeks ago during which we signed a contract for the project.”

Liberty National Loses Bid To Add Three New Island Holes, First Tee

IMG_4386.jpg

Terence McDonald reports that Liberty National Golf Club is giving up on hopes to leasing 20-acres to add what would have been three incredibly-situated holes. The concept was to free up space for a First Tee facility.

 The area in question sits in the small bay to the right of the 2017 Presidents Cup host's 18th hole and is essentially a bird sanctuary. 

The club, which hosts the PGA Tour's Northern Trust in 2019 and 2022, had wanted 20 acres but was rejected by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection and is now apparently abandoning the ambitious plan.

Chidley's letter to Liberty National says the DEP rejected the golf course's bid as "nonresponsive" because it does not include a number of required items. Liberty National failed to demonstrate how its proposed rent — $10,000 annually or a one-time payment of $200,000 — was equal to the market value of the proposed use, the letter says. The bid also failed to specify the tangible public benefit of leasing the portion of the park to Liberty National, according to the letter.

It's not clear whether Liberty National will make a second attempt to lease the land. A request for comment from the golf course's spokesman was not returned.