Q&A With Ben Crenshaw On The State Of Putting

Screen Shot 2019-05-12 at 8.03.17 PM.png

For Golfweek’s May putting issue, I couldn’t help but ask Ben Crenshaw all sorts of grumpy old man questions like why can’t these kids put like you used to, what’s with these silly green reading books and what happened to all the blade putters?

I enjoyed this answer to a question about how to get kids developing their putting:

Crenshaw: Putting contests, I always thought, were great. Harvey encouraged that. Having to putt against someone and go around the clock. There’s no better practice, because you’re putting something on the line, you’re competing. When you’re putting at different holes, that’s what golf is. When I was a kid, I found about eight balls out on the golf course. I went up to the putting green by myself, and I hit this one putt about an hour. Same putt, over and over. Harvey said, “Ben, I see what you’re doing. Your stroke looks pretty good, but you’ll never have that putt again the rest of your life. Putt to different holes.” You see young people do that in practice. They get the chalk out with straight lines and all that stuff.

Save Muny Urgently Needs UT Regents To Hear From Supporters

It’s a golf course for everyone in a city center

It’s a golf course for everyone in a city center

The University of Texas Board of Regents and legislators who hold the future of Lions Municipal apparently need to be reminded again that a lot of people care about Austin’s gem of a public golf facility.

This Thursday they vote on whether to extend the Brackenridge Tract Agreement deadline for canceling the Muny Golf Course lease. An extension is needed to allow the state of Texas and City of Austin to continue negotiations on Saving Muny and the Brackenridge Tract. 

The Save Muni Instagram account offers this handy sample letter with pertinent email addresses.

View this post on Instagram

❗️URGENT CALL TO ACTION: Ask UT Board of Regents and Legislators to Save Muny! Dear Friend of Muny, This Thursday, the UT Board of Regents will vote on whether to extend the Brackenridge Tract Agreement deadline for canceling the Muny Golf Course lease and Brackenridge Development Agreement. If we don’t take action, we know that, absent UT negotiating in good faith, we’ll have more traffic and we’ll lose green space, so we need your help to contact the Regents and our elected leaders at the state to get UT to extend the deadline so that the State and City of Austin can continue negotiations on Saving Muny and the Brackenridge Tract. If you want UT and the City to negotiate a solution for the Brackenridge Tract Agreement and Muny Golf Course, then please consider sending a message, such as shown below, to let them know the importance of providing additional time to find a fair solution to help Save Muny and the Brackenridge Tract. Thank you for your help and continued support! Proposed Message (please revise as needed): Greetings Board of Regents (bor@utsystem.edu), Honorable Senator Kirk Watson (kirk.watson@senate.texas.gov), Honorable Donna Howard (donna.howard@house.texas.gov), Honorable Gina Hinojosa (gina.hinojosa@house.texas.gov): We urge you to extend the deadline for canceling the Muny Golf Course lease and Brackenridge Development Agreement so that negotiations can continue between the UT System and the City of Austin. With Austin City Council’s vote to extend the deadline from November 26, 2018 to February 28, 2019, UT has a willing partner to continue discussions, and we implore you to provide additional time for negotiation discussions to continue. The Brackenridge Tract properties are valuable and treasured assets, not only for UT Systems but also for the City of Austin. And with recent progress by the City of Austin in finding possible funding sources to fairly compensate UT for a deal to purchase and/or swap properties, there is a real opportunity to reach an agreement which provides reasonable development and compensation to UT for the properties. Please vote to extend the cancellation deadline. Yours very truly, ________________

A post shared by Save Muny - Austin, Texas (@savemuny) on

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. 

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!

Crenshaw And Dynamics Of Possibly Lengthening Augusta National's 13th

For Golfweek's Masters preview issue I wrote about the dynamics involved in lengthening the 13th hole and got some interesting feedback from Adam Scott. We will find out more today about future plans for the hole from Chairman Fred Ridley's press conference (11 am ET).

As part of the 13th Hole feature that aired this week on Live From The Masters (and may still run), we are getting some fun bonus content from our chats with Nick Faldo and Ben Crenshaw. Here is Ben talking about many elements of the hole, looking at Josh Pettit's plan created for the feature:

"Ben Crenshaw and Luke Wilson form a Pro-Am team to protect an Austin treasure and Civil Rights landmark"

Garden and Gun's Tom Cooper--because who doesn't garden and shoot things--looks at the Save Muny fight through the eyes of its most famous supporters,

Cooper on actor Luke Wilson's involvement:

Ever since that decision, Muny has become a cause célèbre in Austin, and a nonprofit organization named Save Muny has become the organizing force, recruiting local notables such as Willie Nelson and his son Lukas to help with the efforts. Which brings us back to Luke Wilson. The forty-six-year-old grew up in Dallas, and his two brothers, Owen and Andrew, both attended UT–Austin. A competent golfer himself, he’s played Muny many times and last year invested in an Austin company, Criquet, that makes retro-looking golf shirts. Criquet adopted Save Muny as its signature cause and enlisted Wilson to lend his star power. Last April, at Criquet’s annual 19th Hole party, a rollicking fund-raiser for Save Muny, a round of golf with Wilson and Crenshaw went for $25,000 at auction, raising enough to cover the nonprofit’s annual operating costs.

Trinity Forest Deep Dive And The Nelson Going Forward

It might seem rude to be looking ahead to the Byron Nelson's move from TPC Las Colinas/Four Seasons, but it's a course not loved by players. With a Coore and Crenshaw project that has reclaimed rolling, rumpled land, Trinity Forest has the potential to raise the architecture bar in the Dallas area.

More importantly, the 2018 Nelson could be a test run for bigger things, with the USGA having paid visits and the club thought to have major championship aspirations. With AT&T's golf-living bigwigs backing the project, don't be surprised if the Nelson is short-lived there and we see the PGA of America and USGA jockey for something bigger.

Anyway, Jonathan Wall at PGATour.com has done a wonderful deep dive piece into the project and has more details on the architectural elements than previous pieces. As always, please hit the link but here's a teaser:

Instead of attempting to alter the contours, Coore and Crenshaw embraced the character flaws and built Trinity Forest around the gentle rises and falls in the land, along with the native grasses and rolling, rumpled sand that are hallmarks of the design.

"The set of circumstances are we let the holes fall where they are," Crenshaw said. "The character of the topography of the ground dictates what the end result will be, and we are very traditional in that regard. We've borrowed ideas from the old architects such as Donald Ross, [A.W.] Tillinghast and Perry Maxwell, and they all basically have the same interwoven philosophies in that the holes must fit the ground.

"Perry Maxwell had some fascinating statements about that. He said, if you take a piece of land and tie it into a natural theme, your golf course will be different than anyone else's. I always thought that was a fascinating statement. So wherever we go, we try as hard as we can to not alter the land so much."

Texas Senate Votes To Transfer Lions Away Muny From UT

Ralph K.M. Haurwitz of the Austin American-Statesman on news that the Texas state Senate voted 21-10 to transfer Lions Municipal Golf Course ownership from the University of Texas to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. The bill now goes to the House.

This part made me chuckle given university plans for years to develop the course. What beacons of the community!

UT-Austin President Gregory L. Fenves offered in January to extend the city of Austin’s lease for Muny after it expires in May 2019 — provided that the city is willing to pony up lease payments that are closer to market value. Fenves testified before a Senate panel that the market value would be around $6 million a year, about 12 times the current rate paid by the city, which has operated the course for decades.

The Save Muny folks are understandably pleased:

Trinity Forest Opening Photos, A Few Course Glimpses

G.J. McCarthy's photo gallery for the Dallas Morning News offers a few more glimpses of the new Trinity Forest course in Dallas. Designed by Bill Coore & Ben Crenshaw, the course was built on a 400-acre landfill and sports a $150,000 initiation fee.

From the sounds of Bill Nichols' story on the opener, the course has gotten more private than was outlined in the original scope but remains the home course for SMU's golf teams. Architectural details, beyond being so starkly links-like and rustic, are pretty sparse.

The layout measures 7,300 yards from the tips and plays to a par of 71 with 11 par-4s, four par-3s and three par-5s. Three holes cross a deep ravine, and three others have split fairways. Most of the greens are slightly elevated with tightly mowed surrounding areas.

This Instagram image from Jordan Spieth gives a sense of the course location and scale:

You’re looking at the future home of the @ATTByronNelson! See you on the new track in 2018. #Dallas #ATTAthlete

A photo posted by Jordan Spieth (@jordanspieth) on


Trinity Forest To Host Nelson Year Earlier Than Planned

The Coore-Crenshaw design, opening this weekend and reportedly considered a potential future major venue, will host the 2018 AT&T Byron Nelson. That is a year earlier than expected, ending the PGA Tour's run at Las Colinas (since 1983) this upcoming season.

Art Stricklin reports the announcement will be made Wednesday with Jordan Spieth, PGA Tour EVP Andy Pazder.

Salesmanship Club officials said the early move came about for two reasons: The club and the Tour came to an agreement with the Four Seasons Resorts owner, Blackstone Real Estate Advisors, to get out of the contract early and the Tour's agronomy staff has signed off on when the course could host its first professional event.

Translation: they couldn't get away from TPC Las Colinas fast enough.

You can see a few Trinity Forest images at their official site.

Lions Muny Gets Endangered Places Landmark, Still Needs Help

Jenni Lee of KVUE reports on the dedication ceremony bequeathing official national endangered status on Lions Municipal. The course land is owned by the University of Texas, the former football power mired in another rough season, which wants to turn the historic course into a mixed-use development.

Among those turning out where golfers who enjoyed the links thanks to integration and affordability.

Such rich history is the reason Muny was added to the National Register of Historic Places in July.

But it was also added to the list of Most Endangered Historic Places earlier this month. The University of Texas Board of Regents wants to shut down Muny when its lease expires in 2019 and replace it with a mixed-use development.

"Here we go again," said Mary Arnold, a member of the group Save Muny.

This is the third time 81-year-old Mary Arnold is fighting UT. The university’s Board of Regents has already sold off acres of the donated Brackenridge tract of land for development twice before.

A stone lion has been greeting visitors at Muny since 1924. Supporters hope it sticks around.

I would argue that the fight for Lions is important in establishing the vitality of city-center golf courses as green spaces, but when they are in deteriorated shape, they become more expendable. One more reason we need a serious program restoring important public courses and WPA project links.

A video from KVUE's reporting on the ceremony:

Video: Crenshaw On Save Lions Muni

Let's interrupt the grow-the-game claims to give attention to a place to grow the game and now is in danger of redevelopment.

Ben Crenshaw speaks in this 18-minute tribute to a public course that was vital to his development as a player. But as he explains, Lions is more than just a historic place for shaping a two-time Masters champion. It's a place that kids could hang out and learn the game. It's a place adults could learn the game affordably. It's centrally located in an urban area. It grew the game. There are many just like it that have been neglected and golf doesn't seem interested enough in saving them. Maybe Lions will turn things around!

Video: Ben Crenshaw's Design Legacy

Using his 64th birthday as an excuse to laud the place Ben Crenshaw holds in the hearts of those who have benefitted from golf's architectural renaissance, we at Morning Drive discussed his legacy. (And Bill Coore also talked to the show via phone about his design partner's role in their many classic designs.)

While it's easy to morph Ben into the category of player-architect, his legacy is much greater than that of famous golfer who helped someone sell real estate. (Because in all honesty, pushing some lot sales is about the extent of most player-architect's legacy in the game.)

But as we discussed, Ben followed the groundwork layed by Pete Dye to revisit links golf and the efforts of our forefathers. His credibility as a lover of golf history and his worship of heros like Macdonald, Tillinghast, Ross, Thomas and MacKenzie opened the eyes of so many, including the host of this site. And by lending his name to book forwards, introductions and epilogues, Crenshaw injected his thoughts via writings that carried much needed weight with readers and decision makers at some of the world's great courses.

So while his legacy will always be tied to his amazing career as a two-time Masters champion, Ben Crenshaw's greatest contribution to golf will ultimately be his work as an advocate, historian, aficionado of golf literature and co-designer of courses.