Just One Player Laid Up At Riviera's 10th Hole Sunday, Zero Yesterday

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Longtime readers know I’ve tracked the gradual shift of the ShotLink scatter chart at Riviera’s 10th toward the greensite.

The great risk-reward short par-4 is now officially a one-shot hole given that only one player appeared to intentionally lay up Sunday and only 40 over four days of Genesis Open play at Riviera. The rest—400 attempts—”went for the green”.

That, my friends, is a par-4 in name only.

The round 4 scatter chart:

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When the hole played shorter Saturday, no one laid up.

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And over four days, almost no one is even bothering to try to use the lay-up options once so revered before, you know, kale, high-fiber diets and agronomy conspired to shorten the hole.

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90 Years Later: How The 10th At Riviera Evolved

The 10th hole as bunkers are added around the green in 1928. The left “lay-up” bunker had also been recently installed. The two foreground bunkers and far right bunker were part of the original design.

The 10th hole as bunkers are added around the green in 1928. The left “lay-up” bunker had also been recently installed. The two foreground bunkers and far right bunker were part of the original design.

A few things to remember about Riviera when it hosted its first Los Angeles Open 90 years ago.

—The course was in the “countryside” and a bit of a gamble as a location so far from the city center downtown.

—Riviera was just a year-and-half old with a reputation for extreme difficulty (“Where do the members play?”-Bobby Jones).

—The course underwent modifications prior to the tournament by George Thomas and Billy Bell despite concerns about the difficulty.

When I wrote The Captain in 1996, a year after The Riviera Country Club : A Definitive History, we only knew from mentions in the tournament program that modifications were made to the 5th and 9th holes (greenside bunkers added). A huge bunker on the 7th fairway could also be seen in aerial photos, as could the most significant of all: new bunkering at the world famous short par-4 10th.

After the books were published, I traveled to Golf House and with the help of USGA researcher Patty Moran, found many wonderful articles including this Country Club Magazine piece below by Scotty Chisholm, co-founder of the L.A. Open and friend to Thomas, Bell and many other luminaries.

In it he details why the bunkers were added by Captain Thomas throughout the course under Billy Bell’s supervision—a right he and Bell retained when taking the commission in 1926.

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The remainder of the story. Also note the “Boles McCrackan’s Bletherings” by Chisholm explains Riviera’s 6th hole design by Thomas and when the hole was a 145-yarder, not as played from the silly back tee since added.

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The explanation of 10th hole changes suggests the original bunkerless green was not challenging enough.

“This hole has been too easy to score on even for the so-called dubs. It measures 320 yards and it is a well known fact that the golf architect of today experiences more difficulty in designing a hole of this length than any other. Although the green lies at almost right angles to the tee and difficult to hold with a pitched shot, Thomas has decided to trap it heavily to the right and cut down the putting surface.”

That decision proved a brilliant one, though as the bunkers have become deeper, the green smaller and more pitched with modern speeds pushing 13, the 10th has teetered on the edge of silliness.

Playing now as a long par-3 due to modern driving distances, some of the lay-up strategy is gone as well and silly bottlebrush bushes are needed to defend the hole from even more tee shots driving near the green without regard for accuracy.

Rain this year may take some of the fire out of the 10th green, and that’s not all bad given how it has teetered on the edge of sanity in recent playings. Regardless, the changes made 90 years ago have held up well and are a credit to the original architect’s willingness to make adjustments. And, contrary to an attempted scam designed to reduce the role of Thomas and Bell, the changes were very much made by the original designers as documented at the time.

In the 1929 L.A. Open program after bunkers were added around the green.

In the 1929 L.A. Open program after bunkers were added around the green.

NY Times Obituary: Alice Dye And Her Impact On The Sport

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Alice Dye’s passing has left many in the golf world to reflect on her impact and while the obvious go-to’s are TPC Sawgrass’s 17th or keeping Pete from doing something really dumb, I keep coming back to tees.

Not sexy, but if you ever talked to her you know how passionate she was about better tee design for all, and in particular women and beginners. She penned an essay on the topic for my Masters of the Links (1997, Sleeping Bear Press) and did more than any architect in golf history for tee design.

So it was nice to see her passion and the positive influence Mrs. Dye had on player enjoyment highlighted in substantial New York Times obituary by Richard Goldstein:

Ms. Dye championed forward tees that make formidable courses more playable for most women as well as for male players outside the pro ranks.

“I worked very hard on trying to get the two-tee system for women,” she told the PGA of America. “I was successful in getting the yardage down between 5,000 and 5,200 yards.”

Prior to Alice, forward tees were not close to properly designed for women. By expanding the number of sets, she also quietly made more men comfortable playing shorter sets of tees while allowing women to enjoy the strategies intended by architects. Couple those factors together, and Alice Dye was instrumental in more enjoyment tied to millions of rounds played. For that alone she should be enshrined in the World Golf Hall of Fame.

We discussed the mark she left Monday on Morning Drive:

"It’s no insult to Pete Dye to say that Alice was literally his better half."

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Ron Whitten on the passing of his friend and one of golf’s great characters, not to mention wildly influential figures, Alice Dye:

Alice Dye was always in charge, from the day she told Pete it was time to get married to many times she walked a construction site with Pete and told him he was doing it all wrong. Alice was in charge of their family, of their business, of their image, their reputation and massive influence on the game of golf. If you consider Pete Dye a genius, as I do, then you absolutely must concur that Alice Dye was the genius behind the genius.

First (At Least, Graphically Depicted) Look At Augusta National's Extended 5th Hole

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With no Instagram posts from Augusta National—not even a random post-Daniel Field takeoff photo—the Masters Media Guide provides our first look at the extended 5th hole. The addition of 40 yards will get most of the attention, but the question fans of Bobby Jones and Alister MacKenzie’s design most want to know: has the original Road hole-inspired strategy been restored?

To recap: Bobby Jones described the hole as a reverse of the Road with a carry over the left bunkers and flirtation with the lefthand forest shortening the hole and opening up an ideal angle to most hole locations. The fairway bunkers Jones-MacKenzie answer to the Roads’ Station Master’s Garden. (Here’s an old Golf World piece I wrote on the ties to St. Andrews and in particular, this hole.)

So as today’s modern heptathletes finally stopped downing Jagermeister shots and moved to Cauliflower smoothies, the club pushed forward the fairway bunkers in response. They also planted pines and essentially created a pinched landing area to offset the surge of athleticism. The left risk/reward option of Jones’s day was erased in an attempt to maintain certain distances for the approach.

Going from 455 to 495 in 2019 and our first look at the depiction suggests fairway bunkers have been repositioned. That’s backed by the description of a 315 yard carry in 2018 and a 313 yard carry in 2019. This is very exciting news, though until we see what kind of tree planting and earthwork took place, we should reserve judgement about the potential for a strategic revival.

The 2019 vs. 2018 depictions:

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Sigh: Torrey Pines Set For $14 Million In New Irrigation, New Bunker Floor Work

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Seeing Torrey Pines so immaculately groomed for this week’s Farmers Insurance Open makes the prospect of even more gratuitous spending tougher to swallow given the projected $14 million cost. What will they get> A new South Course irrigation system, modern bunker floor capping and tweaks to two holes. All as the architecture continues to age so poorly, the facility works out of the same 2008 U.S. Open maintenance tent—TENT— and the property continues to have way too much water-wasting turf in out of play areas.

The horrendous 4th green is also now off the table in the latest round of work, but the project will still include fairway bunker shifting on the 4th and 17th holes.

The bunkers need better drainage and their shape returned to the original work after years of sand building up on the edges, Marney said. The greens will not be altered.

There will be several strategic changes with bunkers. Most notably, the fairway bunkers to the right at the par-4 fourth and 17th will be shifted to the left and closer to the cliffs. The fairway also will move left to create more of a driving challenge, especially for the pros.

You may recall that in firmer but hardly fast U.S. Open conditions, balls were not staying on the 4th fairway. Presumably with shifted bunkers and grading work, it’ll become an automatic layup shot and even more of a missed-opportunity than the current version.

Note To Golf Clubs : Google Alerts Are Your Friends

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The news reported by Andy Johnson of Keith Foster’s ouster as consulting architect at Congressional and Olympia Fields following a guilty plea on charges of smuggling goods made from endangered species, is a dark chapter in what has been an excellent and widely-respected career of faithful restoration work.

Still, I couldn’t help but notice this line in Ryan Herrington’s Golf World report confirming the news based on a letter from Congressional president Bev Lane to the members claiming the club’s board was not aware of the case.

In the letter, first reported by the Fried Egg and a copy of which has been obtained by Golf Digest, Lane stated that the club had no prior knowledge of Foster’s legal issues. In addition to his work as an architect, Foster owned a family antiques business in Virginia that specialized in selling foreign-sourced merchandise, a portion of which included wildlife products made from endangered species such as crocodiles, sea turtles and sawfish.

A simple Google news alert would have turned up this report a year ago when the Foster’s shop was raided about 50 minutes away from Congressional.

As for Olympia Fields, Tim Cronin offers a few details on the club moving in a new direction following Foster’s guilty plea.

Golf Architect Keith Foster Facing Five Years In Prison After Guilty Plea For Smuggling Endangered Wildlife Goods

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A.W. Tillinghast got into the rare antique business late in life, so there was a nice parallel of sorts for Keith Foster in opening The Outpost, a Middleburg, Virginia store devoted to “authentic finds.”

Turns out, a little too authentic.

According to Len Shapiro writing for the Fauquier Times, the golf architect currently handling Congressional’s renovation and known for work at Colonial, Southern Hills and Eastward Ho! faces up to five years in prison for illegally transporting up to $500,000 worth of items made from endangered species.

With good behavior should be out in time for the Senior PGA Championship on the freshly renovated course!

According to court documents, to evade enforcement by Fish and Wildlife, Foster relied on a shipping company to falsify import records in order to hide wildlife items and avoid inspection by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and other law enforcement officials.

Wonder if he ever ran into Big Leo?

Those documents indicated that starting in December 2016,  on numerous occasions Foster discussed with a customer, later revealed to be an undercover agent for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the unlawful nature of his conduct. He also told the undercover agent that it was illegal to import sawfish blades but that he intended to smuggle them, according to the Justice Department news release.

Foster told the agent, “Rest assured, I’m gonna bring more in ‘cause I’m the only fool in the States that probably wants to risk it,” the news release said.

Anything for his customers!

Rare Win For Property Owners: Court Orders Dye's Amelia Island Design Restored

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As many golf course real estate developments have seen courses closed and property values implode, it’s nice to see a circuit court judge recognizing the rogue work by the Omni resort to close a historic early Pete Dye design.

They have until October 31, 2019 to reopen the course in what will be a much costlier than had it been kept open. Garry Smits does a super job recounting the entire escapade for the Florida Times-Union.

This was particularly charming:

Omni Amelia closed Ocean Links one day after it was still booking local tee times. The club moved in bulldozers under police protection and began tearing down the greens on the three oceanside holes with the intention of converting the property into “green space,” for parks, bicycle trails and nature trails.

The resort did not notify property owners that it had begun the demolition until that day, in an email time-dated 5 p.m. By that time, the heavy construction equipment had already been at work a full day. The Equity Club filed for an emergency injunction halting the demolition, which was granted two days later.

Dr. Alister MacKenzie "Shall Not Grow Old"

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Maybe you’ve heard: acclaimed director Peter Jackson and his team of digital wizards have created a stunning new form of digitization that takes old films and brings them to life in ways we’ve never imagined: colorization, optimization and incredible sound.

Well, golf architecture aficionado Martin Bonnar watched the film during its recent BBC premiere and spotted someone who looks very much like Dr. Alister MacKenzie. Given that the doctor wrote of his many encounters with battle matters as a military physician and the timing fitting with what we know if his life’s work, there is a very high likelihood that the architect of Cypress Point and Augusta National makes a cameo in this groundbreaking film.

Here’s our discussion on Morning Drive today, with some keen technical analysis from Charlie Rymer.

The documentary trailer is below. The film is only in U.S. theaters two days: December 17 and 27th before presumably another form of release.

Go see Dr. MacKenzie and many other brave soldiers who shall not grow old!

Presidential Order: Trump Orders Tweaks To Turnberry's New Lighthouse Par-3's

Rear view of the par-3 11th.

Rear view of the par-3 11th.

The MacKenzie and Ebert-revamped Turnberry Ailsa course is spectacular in many ways, with the three-hole stretch at the 9th to the 11th able to stand with any three-hole stretch in the game.

Well it seems President Donald Trump’s July visit—his first since the revamp—prompted some notes. Specifically, making the 9th and 11th greens more receptive. The Daily Record’s Stuart Wilson reports on the Presidential tweaks at 9 and 11:

Turnberry members have been told the 11th, where the most extensive work will take place, could be out of action for up to three months.

The President’s son, Eric, told the Ayrshire Post this week: “We will always look to tweak and make things better where we can.

“This is part of the natural bedding -in process of a new course and we’re making the changes in line with the R&A.

“We want every hole to be perfect and if that means making a few changes like this, we’ll do it.”

I’m curious how much input the R&A has had on any post-reconstruction tweaks. Turnberry is not scheduled to host any R&A events at present.

"Pete Dye's Last Chapter"

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While Ron Whitten dwells on the horror of seeing the Pete Dye he’d long known no longer able to recognize him or share stories, he uses the opportunity of a recent visit to recount Dye’s career and legacy in golf architecture in a lengthy Golf Digest story.

To me, Pete was always a combination of Will Rogers, Walt Disney and Rod Serling. Now he's barely Pete. It is heartbreaking.

I ask Alice if Pete is aware of who we are, or, more important, who he is anymore.

"I don't know what he knows," she says. "It's very strange. He doesn't communicate back much. But I think he understands more about what's going on than we think."

I guess I'd seen it coming but didn't recognize it for what it was at first, or maybe I was in a state of denial. During a round of golf in 2015 with Pete and Alice at Gulf Stream Golf Club, just down the street from their house, Pete had asked me a question, then five minutes later asked me the same question again. And he kept calling me by the wrong name. I dismissed that as the usual forgetfulness that comes with old age.

From there Whitten briefly details coming to grips with the emotions of seeing a longtime subject essentially gone. But mercifully Alice is as sharp as ever and there is a long documented record, much of which Whitten reviews in this remembrance.

Tom Doak Seems Determined To Be Different Than David Kidd

Eamon Lynch of Golfweek talks to Tom Doak about the golf architect’s plans to build a much shorter but also demanding course at Sand Valley resort where David McLay Kidd’s Mammoth Dunes was recently unveiled.

Given that the course is years away from opening, it’s odd that Doak seems more obsessed with countering Kidd’s design than quietly going about building a great course and letting the results speak for themselves. But maybe this faux drama is what the “retail golfer” clamors for.

“The hardest part will be to convince them to let me make it somewhat challenging,” Doak said. “I don’t think they think that’s a really important part of their business model, and the feedback on Mammoth Dunes says maybe they’re right. I don’t think that’s a difficult golf course and people love it.”

Mammoth Dunes was designed by David McLay Kidd, with whom Doak has had a robust rivalry since they built the first two courses in Bandon. Kidd had lobbied for Doak to get Sand Valley’s third job (Coore and Crenshaw preceded Kidd).

“He’s really competitive with me and he really wants to beat me head to head, which he can’t do if I don’t do a golf course there,” Doak laughs.

Kidd cheerfully dismissed his rival’s tweaking. “You can still have challenge but allow recovery,” he said. “Nobody is shooting 58 just because I built a course that’s fun.”

Not Everyone Is Excited About Congressional's Restoration Program

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Congressional Country Club, soon slated to host a PGA of America event every other year for the rest of our lives, has a Keith Foster restoration of Devereux Emmet’s design in its immediate future. With that is tree removal apparently carried out in a questionable manner for Montgomery County, reports the Washington Post’s Jennifer Barrios.

After inspecting the grounds and comparing aerial photos with photos received as part of a complaint, authorities said the club appears to have removed roughly half an acre of tree cover in recent months — possibly in preparation for hosting several high-profile tournaments in coming years, including the PGA Championship and the Ryder Cup.

A club member, who triggered the investigation by tipping off a local environmental group, estimated that 1,000 trees were taken down on the 358-acre property. The member thinks it happened in the colder winter months, when the courses are less utilized.

“I am [upset] because they’re ruining my club,” said the member, who spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of retribution from club officials, but added that dozens of fellow clubgoers are also concerned.

“I think they don’t want members to fuss,” the person said. “I think it [was] also quietly done so it didn’t draw attention from the county.”

Too late now!

UK Golf Guy Is Posting Favorite Ten Courses Lists And They're Fun To Check Out

For those who love their lists and reading about good golf architecture, UK Golf Guy has posted the top ten favorite courses of Mike Clayton, Pat Goss, Alan Shipnuck, Darius Oliver and has more to come.

Yours truly turned in his ten and most are probably predictable, but given this is a pure favorites list I had to include a few where I’d just be happy playing. I did not include any course I had a design or renovation hand in.

Feel free to post yours below!

Golden State National: Is This A Bad Time To Mention That We Need More Golf Tournaments In California?

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Let's establish three very simple facts:

--Rain rarely occurs in California from May through October.

--When a golf tournament is played in California, it finishes in prime time for more than half the country and garners a much bigger rating, no matter who is contending

--Golf is played outdoors. It is much better when rain does not interfere with the proceedings.

Ok, technically I've presented four simple facts.

As we were reminded again last week after what has actually been a good-weather season in golf, the sport features many overpaid individuals who continue to sign up their major events on the east coast at times of year when rain can (will) be an issue. The PGA Tour set its playoffs for midwest and northeast venues, with a finish in Atlanta at a boring culmination architecturally that will be even less glamorous in 2019.

(In his defense, Commissioner Moonbeam was said to have been trying for at least one major west coast market in his original playoff plans, but players complained about travel issues and the PGA Tour could not find a sponsor/venue fit out west.)

As you know, ratings have never been very good for the FedExCup Playoffs. The list of reasons is long, from a confusing and unsatisfying format, to the time of year and the time zone of the venues, to overall golf fatigue once the majors have been played. The numbers may not improve next year when the playoffs are contested by late August, soon after the major season has ended and at more eastern venues. 

Meanwhile, the PGA Championship moves to May 2019 and while this meant the PGA of America could open up new regions like Florida or Arizona, they've got mostly a who's-who of venues similar to those they've always gone to--Kiawah, Valhalla, Quail Hollow, Baltusrol, Southern Hills, etc...), with just two California stops scheduled through 2030--Harding Park in 2020 and Olympic Club in 2028. Weather could be an issue for most of the future PGA venues, particularly the New York area stops at Bethpage, Trump Bedminster and Oak Hill. 

So if you like the permutations of weather-delayed event planning, then check out Nick Menta's GolfChannel.com story on the many possibilities for the 2018 BMW Championship as play spills into Monday.

But if you are a dreamer, consider Golden State National. 

It's an as-yet unbuilt (or not-yet-remodeled) facility somewhere south of San Francisco and featuring 36-holes of golf, enough hotel rooms within 45 minutes to support the traveling golf circus, a luxury hotel on property for not-important VIP's, a G5-friendly landing strip, and of course, at least 8,500 yards of golf to deal with the distance explosion.

More vitally, Golden State National can host major events from March to November, deliver ratings and finish on Sundays. The ground will be firm. Fans will enjoy themselves. Television executives won't have digestive issues.

But here's the catch: to build or remodel an existing facility into GSN, it costs money. A lot of money when you have to build a course for the modern game where 250 acres is the new 150, meaning we need 500 acres potentially.

The non-profits of golf, devoted to funneling every penny possible to charity--ok, that's slightly sarcastic--have resisted even considering such a facility due to a lack of vision or a lack of funds, even though GSN could also host some NCAA Championships, LPGA majors and other special events. And hackers the rest of the year eager to pay $250 to play where the pros play. 

It'll probably take about $150 million to pull off the facility from scratch, maybe less if we can find a lesser property where dynamite and architectural ingenuity will be the greatest expenses and a local airport handles the Wheels Up crowd. I can think of two San Diego area properties that fit such a bill, and that's just off the top of my head. 

So how do we go about raising the funds for Golden State National since golf's Five Families resist the desire, vision or courage of convictions to do what is right? Which is, to create a facility dedicated to the modern game, modern weather, and modern sports audience? 

Kickstarter anyone?

BMW Championship: First Look At The Restored Aronimink

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In the seven years since the PGA Tour visited Aronimink, the club has shed the architecture firm that gets shed a lot from classic courses--Fazio and friends--hired Gil Hanse and Jim Wagner, and embraced its Donald Ross roots.

Jim McCabe with a PGATour.com primer on the place that will also hold a PGA Championship next decade (2027). 

But for now, it's the BMW Championship, which also means the preferred carmaker of No Laying Up has led to this fine piece on how the course has evolved since we last saw it.

Strantz's Royal New Kent Coming Back In April 2019

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There has been no shortage of depressing stories of golf courses lost for not entirely great reasons, and the loss of one of Mike Strantz's nine designs has filled up my email box.

While I haven't played it, I'm nonetheless pleased to read Erik Matuszewski's Forbes.com item on the impending resurrection of Strantz's work in Virginia, with help from the Strantz family and the courses original shapers.

Before its closure, conditions at Royal New Kent had deteriorated significantly. But a new ownership group led by Wingfield Golf Management Services is faithfully restoring Strantz’s work, which in 1996 was selected by Golf Digest as the country’s best new course. So not only did they save it from going to seed or being plowed under for housing, they're preserving one of Strantz's visions the right way.

Video: Ridgewood From Above

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I won't even begin to try and convince you to get excited about the first round of the Playoffs (C), nor will I try to figure out the composite course in use for Ridgewood Country Club in this week's Northern Trust Open

Instead, just whet your appetite on a return to a A.W. Tillinghast gem thanks to Evan Schiller's drone shots:

U.S. Open V. The Open: Green Speeds Make The Difference

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After playing his first Open, Luke List is wishing the USGA mimic the R&A in setup philosophy, reports Tony Jimenez for Reuters.

A similar refrain was repeated many times by players, observers and fans who enjoyed the tough-but-fair and noticeably faster golf, though as I note in this assessment of Carnoustie for Golfweek, the issue is layered but also incredibly simple: green speeds made the difference between complimenting Carnoustie's architecture, and ruining it.

Pace of play was noticeably better and as a "product," The Open proved infinitely more pleasurable to watching without having to spend so much time watching players grind over short putts for four days.

While professional golfers are praising the R&A coming off the U.S. Open setup issues, there were more than a handful of silly hole locations saved only by green speeds in the high 9s when leaders reached them.  Had the USGA slowed greens at Shinnecock down to the high 9's, there would have been softer and bumpier conditions that today's spoiled-by-bent-grass players would loathe. But on a seaside links with a blend of poa, fescue and bent, with a links mindset, the players are more accepting of a bumpiness.

And really, the ball goes too far.

On another day we can continue to lament how much course setup manipulation must take place to mask regulatory mistakes and debate how vital it is for golf to slow greens down.

In the meantime, I'd prefer to celebrate a magnificent week at Carnoustie made special by Mother Nature baking out an outstanding course. As I note in the Golfweek piece, Carnoustie has had a troubled relationship with the rota at times, but brilliant maintenance management by Craig Boath's team, mostly great work by the R&A and a hot, dry summer allowed the links to remind people of its great strategic character.