Wednesday, November 28, 2012

"Proposed" Ban on Anchoring

After much waiting (Over 2 years behind the scenes, BTW not 15 months) the joint teleconference was held a short while ago.

A further refinement of the definition of "stroke" is the summary.

It was issued as a proposal with a proffered 3 month period of discussion and not a hard ruling.  It is short and sweet.  There is a feel of "testing the waters" perhaps as information gathering for a future reference point.  We all know that the distance issue is a greater one.  That one can be a win-win in many way and is easily addressed by pure science - utilisation of polymers that conform to a lesser standard - really rather easy.  Kudo to Geoff Shackleford for trying to bring up the topic.

Staying in the present - the definition of stroke and both defining and banning anchoring (which has never in my mind constituted a "stroke") was well-thought out and well-presented today. Let's embrace keeping the nature of the "stroke" functionally the same with each of the 14 clubs in the bag.

Too long in coming, but very welcome.

Here's some polls to follow - Two sides of the pond


Telegraph.co.uk

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/golf/9708750/Ban-on-anchoring-long-putters-to-be-imposed-from-2016.html


Geoffshakelford.com

http://www.geoffshackelford.com/homepage/2012/11/28/anchoring-ban-instant-poll-do-you-support-rule-14-1b-as-prop.html

edit: Into the poll 4 days there is more support for the broomstick on the West side of the pond.  I'd have thought it the East. Both polls are substantially on board with the ruling bodies' proposal.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Shorts for Professional Men

In Turkey this week the wearing of shorts brought out more than a few comments on Professional Men Golfers wearing shorts.  I heard it at clubs and it was on the almighty internet  some were downright silly calling out "Chicken Legs" was one kind one, but shorts are the wear of choice for most men who play unless it's cold or mandated.  Gentlemen at Baltusrol used to go to great lengths to get wafer-thin trousers to meet the requirement which considering the hot humid days one gets in central New Jersey a bit much.

During my stint at the California Golf Club of San Francisco, long pants were mandated, but with weather closer to Brora than Barcelona, hardly anyone but me complained.  Places such as ANGC talk about "Tradition" and "Gentlemen" but one must remember that the (Egalitarian, by contrast) Scots who invented and popularized the game wore what they wore because it was well, rather cold.  Plenty of Scots and Englishmen wear shorts when it makes sense to them, they choose.

This week the argument at Geoff Shackleford's site in discussion of this aspect of the game got way off track on a skin cancer debate but I guess it is irrelevant that Natalie Gulbis or Sandra Gal get skin cancer as these sports fans want to see some skin.  I pick these two ladies for a reason - Ms. Gulbis is fair and needs to watch more carefully than Ms. Gall (although German a Czech by birth as are my forebearers) who tans easily and naturally due to genetic predisposition.  Me?  I'm for a ban on tight white pants on fat men and while we're at it, all white - belts, shoes (ugh!) and Drivers, too.  I'm OK with keeping white balls, for the record, they are a nice contrast on green and shades of brown- speeding play.

So what are we to take from the debate?

The caddies have finally been relieved of their long pants and an overwhelming majority have donned Bermuda length shorts.  No calls of chicken legs there.  Having endured the 90-90 days South Florida (as well as other spots) is famous for, I have been a shorts wearer at golf unless required by club mandate.  Let's at least allow our professional golfers to have the choice.

Wave to me at Brora next time you see me there, I'm the tall one in shorts pushing a trolley which has my bag on it.

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Tillinghast's Paramount (Dellwood) New City, NY

Hudson River Palisades - Paramount View
NEW City, no the "York" is not missing.  This very southern part of New York adjacent to that stretch of NY Thruway which runs East-West near the New Jersey border connecting the Tappan Zee to the main Thruway is not often on the list of places talked about regarding New York golf courses; the density is far less here than it is in the other areas of the Tri-State adjacent to the city itself. Close to but not on the west banks of the Hudson River (Basically directly across from Sleepy Hollow and Hudson National on the East Side) is where you'll find Paramount.  East-looking views to the Palisades crest-line of the nearby peaks makes up the simple new logo for the club.  Once standing on the green of the rather unusual and perhaps unique first hole,  looking back to the east, a wonderful view of the ridgeline and the magnificent basalt columns appears.  There is a lovely piece of land for the golf course split by a roadway that is truly in play and this high land comprises most of the first nine.  The higher land is fortunately encountered first and one marvels in the challenging land Old Dead Guy Architects of quality used to lay out golf courses in a time when a powered golf car was not even an option.  Tillinghast has laid a course on a steep piece of land elsewhere - most notably just a short drive down the Palisades to Alpine, but this first hole at Paramount is more vexing than the tenth at Alpine, but perhaps less accommodating, I offer that it depends on your particular skill set.  Tillinghast used less distinctly template designs but had them nonetheless and most importantly the 18th hole is a rather good and perhaps unique rendition of his "Reef" hole as featured in the Tillinghast writings. Once down from the high ground after the sixth green, the remainder of the course is laid beautifully on voluptuously rolling lands east of the centrally located clubhouse.

Last Monday we had a number of Tillinghast luminaries playing including Bob Trebus and Rick Wolffe, perhaps the two men most responsible for creating the great Tillinghast literature that we have available to us at a celebration of Paramount.  The occasion was the club's introduction to the Metropolitan Golf Writer's Association of this (last of the?) true hidden gem(s).  Originally a personal course, it was constructed on a property comprising over 800 acres.  The routing is however tight and central in the routing is the original estate main house as the clubhouse. Certainly a bit lost under the indistinct name of "Dellwood C.C." - now paying tribute to original origins the name - now Paramount pays tribute to the location as well.   Dell started as a truly personal course  for Adolph Zukor, more than 50 years head of the Paramount Studio in Hollywood, a nice nod to Mr. Zukor's legacy.  His original name was The Dells Golf and Country Club before Dellwood but now known as Paramount it shows up on the proverbial radar. It was from the start intended to rival the local private clubs created in the more traditional way for a group of members. Recently the Mandelbaum family bought Dellwood with the intention of renovating it to greatness.
Urbina holding Master Class

Jim Urbina,  best known as the on-site man for Renaissance Golf's Old MacDonald effort at Bandon Dunes has been hired to professionally restore lost Tillinghast features and sensitively add necessary changes for the modern day.  I was fortunate to have lunch with Jim on Monday  and I also want to give a nod to Phil Young, a fine author well-known in the circles for his writings on Arthur Warren Tillinghast who compiled a small history for the club on which I have relied to fact check some historical points. The work is not complete at this point and we were able to see Master Plan, work in progress and some just being completed.  The majority of the greens just need some expansion and re-capture as the contouring is at times breathtaking (save the wholly blind and highly elevated first green) and at speed provide superior challenge.  As with most golden age courses, bunkers have been removed and are being restored.

The first hole is really one of note with a daring drive across the highway followed by a vertical sixty foot elevated shot to the green.
First looking to green from fairway short of road
 Some likened the hole to a junior 15th hole at Tillinghast's Black at the Bethpage facility (I for one do not give Burbeck even co-credit - let's dispense with that now), I also found number one a bit reminiscent of the opener of the King's at Gleneagles.  If you've played either you now have a good idea to go along with these photos.
First Green from Second Tee

An enlarged green has been completed and short grass surrounds help keep delays to a minimum as there is challenge enough in the two shots required.  A little more tree removal on the right near the second tee will make the hole more playable for more players as for now the right side of the fairway does not always allow a shot to the green.  I'm not a particular proponent of "Fair", but one cannot dishearten the player too severely and certainly not at the start.

The second is just as it was on course opening, nearly 600 yards par 5 with a wicked slope downhill and to the player's right the entire way.

First landing area on #2
These are really brilliant strategic holes requiring a thoughtful placement of each and every shot on the hole.  A great member's hole, one must always look forward to the challenge of this hole every play.  Properly laying up and being familiar with the demand of a short shot down the hill to the green provides a never tiring challenge to the player.

Second landing area on #2
Tillinghast was rather good at understanding the difficulty of constructing a demanding, interesting yet fun par 5 that holds interest and one must look forward as a member to playing such a varied hole every single time.

Immediate on the card, one is offered a lovely version of Tillie's "Tiny Tim" playing 145 at most and uphill to a semi-blind (a common Paramount visual) green with more than a handful of slope to conquer.  This is not a cupcake nor a breather in any way. Golf is so much better with this sort of hole rather than four 200-250 par threes on a course.  The challenges it presents to all levels of golfers, especially while giving hope to even the weakest golfers for a possible birdie putt is more of what golf needs - especially in modern design where all too often it seems that 6-iron is the requirement on the "short hole" for the course.

The "Tiny Tim"
All the par 3's are of note with Tiny Tim 


Reef Hole







and Reef pictured -









- these being noted Tillinghast named holes with the 13th requiring 250 yards, a driver at opening create quite a set! 

An Historical note - not just #18 (Reef) is a finishing par 3 but #9 is also a one-shotter completing the  distinguished four with a short wetlands carry and a well-bunkered  devil of a green for a mid-iron shot.  Both nines finish on a par three hole and as far as I know this is unique.

Reverse canted 12th fairway
A very wide variety of par 4 holes are at Paramount - from drive pitch holes,
reverse-cant dog-leg (Not "Elbow" to the true Tillinghast student) holes playing as much as 50 yards longer than the card length to those requiring a long precise play in after a demanding tee shot.

12th green

Overall #10 comes closest to indifference as it is merely least quirky yet a fine hole.  But as with what one comes to expect from Tillinghast, one does not struggle in the least to recall any hole at Paramount.  There are heroic uphill tee shots such as the fourth,
A True Skyline

 a superior true skyline green par 4 hole at the sixth and out of bounds in play long on par 4's at Paramount just to give a sampling.

Seventh Hole with O.B. Over the green


Staking of proposed bunker




I've included just a smattering of photos as I plan to return to update.  For example where




the yellow
Completed bunker by Urbina
flagged bunker locations laid out will be completed as shown from the par 5 17th.  I hope to direct some attention to this gem and to specifically note that the Metropolitan Golf Writer's Association is and has been loyal to the Tri-State NYC region in bringing such wonderful courses to our attention so I can offer to the architectural fans out there who follow me such tid-bits.

 Consider this post merely an introduction.

Fifth hole, Classic Tillinghast "Look"
Previously we at MGWA were introduced to North Shore on Long Island as a Tillinghast course but found that it was not even Robert White (Who had been a staff Professional) as suggested by an early consulting architect but actually Seth Raynor who likely built NSCC as his first solo work. (I had a pretty good feeling by the Road Hole but left the historical detective work to the men who do it best.)  I published that course here and Steve Shaeffer eventually divined the Raynor provenience.  No such detective work is needed for Paramount, its history is particularly well-documented. The irony of that last point is rather amusing in that Tre-Wolf and Tillinghast Association records did not discover this course until recently with the announcement of  this event.

Paramount is perhaps the least well-known course of quality I have come across in quite a number of years.  Stay with redanman for more.

Saturday, August 04, 2012

2012 The Open Championship and beyond

Royal Lytham & St. Anne's provided unrivaled agony and ecstasy at the finish in 2012. I certainly held amazingly polar feelings simultaneously at the finish.  as  a long time Ernie Els fan, I was very happy that he won the event, win it he did.  Statistically he played the best round of the day and he had put himself in a reasonable position to contend.  Now a major winner in three decades, he is among elite, where he belongs; had it not been for balky confidence to go with his balky putter he would be the one with 15 majors now, not Woods.  Els has left a lifetime of putts on-line left short in majors; one might argue that he has always been so self-effacing that he was too nice to be a killer but good enough to still be great. As a human being, he has done a great deal for humanity while having quite a career as a golfer. It is good to see him win another, this writer hopes it is not his last.

On the other hand it was difficult to see Adam Scott whittle away his lead, but he did let it go and at the wrong time.  P r e s s u r e.  It was indeed a collapse, but collapses can be as little as an inch or three once or four times, Tom Watson surely collapsed at Turnberry two years ago as did Van de Velde in 1999, a matter of degree, we golfers all know it.  Coupling a slow & gentle collapse with a strong 32 final nine finish, Els was and is a worthy champion.  He did enough and did it at the right time.

The simultaneous pairing of emotions was something only golf can do.  ESPN was at its most shameless at Tiger hucksterism this Open. Trying to pull in the sport rather than the golf fan is their primary motivation and it shows to an embarrassing degree.  Golf's default is that one never knows until the end who the champion will be as was illustrated again this year at The Open as it has the other two hostings I mentioned.  Tiger Woods has been reminding us just how monumental his run was.  Those students of the game will know the likelihood of return to that level is no more possible than Rory McIlroy becoming the next one.  Golf's charm is partly in its cruelty, it is so much as is life charming, rewarding, heartbreaking and fickle - rare so all at once as this special Open.  We'll be off next to Kiawah's Ocean Course for a very unusual and worthy US PGA - certainly golf's red-headed stepchild major. It will be the hardest major in years to handicap, but there is one sure bet - Tiger v. The Field.  The field in a walk, guaranteed.  Tiger has no chance.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Ramblings on False Idols, Heroes and Sport

Outside of golf, the big sport story leading up to the Olympic Opening in 3 days is the sanctions handed down to the Pennsylvania State University yesterday in the wake of investigations and deliberations by the NCtwoA after pedophilic abuse convictions of Assistant Coach Jerry Sandusky.

My history includes three major events that lead to my opining on the matter and to offer a couple of questions although I will add some other anecdotal history that I hope is interesting.  All of us that love sport have our heroes and those that we admire for skill and perhaps also for grace and courage.  I loved baseball before golf, golf had come to me in the early 1960's but not doggedly so until I gave up on baseball and more importantly idols.  The place of sport and the men and women who play it in society is what really came under fire yesterday in Indianapolis at that press conference.  That is the message that one should take from the events of yesterday.  It was very sad to see some Penn State students commenting on how their beloved football had been taken away, I can't excuse the mindset of youth for that.

In the spring of 1962, I attended a pre-season baseball game in West Palm Beach, FL, that changed how I viewed sport forever in the course of perhaps 15 seconds.  We all wanted to see Mickey Mantle, no one it seems wanted to see Roger Maris that or any day, Mickey was THE Man (You daMan!).  He didn't play and over 300 of us waited for Mickey at the visitor's clubhouse door for probably 30 minutes, maybe more. Those of you that know me have might have heard the blue version, but that's not for here.  Suffice it to say that 300 people kids, young adults, fathers, grand-parents - all were silent and walked away changed, me forever and unforgivingly so.  I learned that maybe we ought not get so invested in someone of such character.  Golf had its episode recently, too but now that so many sports fans are on board with golf winning seems to be all that matters.

In golf, I discovered an admirable, if not particularly pleasant man who was as strong an individual that I have encountered in the public realm who could be a hero, he remains one of my few today.  Unfortunately, I never got to see him play but know or have known a dozen people who personally knew him including a man who bought his company, a company legendary for his dedication to quality and its mere association with his name.  I played 3 sets of his irons over a course of over 30 years, only changing because I liked a new model better  and needed new clubs.  I admired this man for his dedication, his values and as a surgeon - for what he overcame in the primitive medical conditions of when he was injured.  Obviously that man is Ben Hogan, the only man ever to win every Major Championship available to him in a calendar year - a feat in golf unmatched since.  He overcame so much in his life personally and as he neared death and after we learned - psychologically so.  There is no "greatest of all time" categorically, but he fits my set of criteria as a most remarkable man as well as golfer.

In an amazing sense of irony, I did not even play American Football (great big lug that I am) until my junior year of high school - living in Florida of all places.  I had a funny little illness at age 18 months and my dear Mother was to be kind a bit protective.  She finally reneged to my requests to play and I went from jayvee to starter at Defensive Tackle in less than a season. I didn't like like it, did not like the coaches teaching me ways to cheat and not get caught (rather goes against Golf's Ethos) and especially did not like those illegally blocking my 6'5" frame.  I escaped injuries that season and never cared to play again, Basketball was far more important to me as well as the golf.  So the basic tenets of American Football were not really consistent with how I viewed sport as we parted ways.  I was also a student first, got to speak at Graduation Day.

I attended the University of Florida from 1969-1974, a true big time American College Football school as there is, certainly Top 10 for how importantly one associates the name of the school with Football above all else.  I was in athletics, a non-scholarship athlete who chose, given the opportunity, to live in famed Yon Hall under the east stands of The Swamp, eat at the training table and live with the top athletes of that era of that fine (Academic & certainly sports) institution.  I didn't do steroids and wouldn't so my potential as a shot putter was limited although I did throw a mildly respectable 54' 11" best.  The best part of Yon Hall was meeting athletes and learning about how big time college athletics worked.  I knew John Reaves and Carlos Alvarez - the dynamic QB -WR team that led UF from obscurity to Gator Bowl Championship in one season and saw the divergent paths each took.  Reaves had a minor NFL Career with some bad luck and timing contributing to a long devolving personal horror story and Alvarez (Carlos Alvarez Vasquez Rodriguez Ubieta) declining to become a Dallas Cowboy to attend Law School and excel in his chosen field.  I also more importantly learned first-hand just how inappropriate American College Football is viewed in America.

My days at Florida took a great turn when I quit the track team - Head Coach Jimmy Carnes had promised scholarship money to me if I reached a certain goal, (which I did my sophomore year) and reneged when I asked him about it.  Karma* caught him in 1980.  I went to play golf on my own time at the UF course for $33 per student quarter (about the cost of 3 dozen balls).  This in that time allowed me to play with all the scholarship players such as Gary Koch, Andy North, Andy Bean, Fred Ridley, Woody Blackburn, Suzanne Jackson (UF's first great Lady Golfer who became a world-class rules official before leaving this world far too early at age 46) and non-scholarship try-out players, most notably "Fast Eddie" from Long Island.  I am particularly proud to remember Suzanne as my good friend.  I never even  tried to try out; I knew after a few rounds with Koch that I had zero chance of reaching THAT level. I did get my 6 or more rounds in a week and nothing ever came close to golf in my heart after that.  The Donald Ross gem we had available to play also really got my interest in design started.  It was the first non-pancake (SoFL) course I got to know intimately.  I have a Gator Golf Bag for caddies to carry, but it is for the Golf Team, no one else.

Fast forward to Denver Metro area 1987, fall, first "Full Pads Practice" for the Denver Broncos in Fort Collins, CO.  Front page news, SRO.  A couple of years later even what John Elway (the man who broke all of Reaves NCAA QB records, incidentally) gave out for Halloween candy was big news, his reaction to it being published might have even made the news.  Anyway, the mis-placed idolatry for NFL Football came to the fore.  I believe that summer day of full pad taught me the meaning of "Get a Life" as did no other event could.  The bonus was that Saturday during CU Buffaloes (another big-time school for football) games and Sundays during Bronco games, I could play 3 hour rounds of golf.  You can still find me on a golf course on Sundays in the fall after 1 p.m. wherever I am in America.  Only GolfFans, not sports fans are out then.

So yesterday the NCAA made a statement about priorities, it might not have much impact, but they did make that statement and they reiterated that they did say so.  Football unites families, but perspective is lost and I frankly find the start-stop nature of it annoying, I don't really watch except to be polite company.  I prefer what the world calls football and we call soccer.  It has an occasional great human being as a superstar, too.  Didier Drogba of the Côte d'Ivoire, named by time as one of the world's Top 100 influential people for his role in abating civil war in his country.  Certainly World Football has its problems with riots and racism, too.

Sport needs putting into perspective, maybe this set of actions can contribute.  I personally have no grudge against Penn State, its many Alumni many very fine people, let me make that clear.  Many Penn State Alumni are my friends, take no offense.  My Florida brethren neither you as well, this is a national culture issue that I see needing address.

So my questions:

Do the vacated wins for 1988-2011 for Penn State affect in retrospect the contracts of the coaches and A.D. at Penn State?  Certainly the main effect was to not reward Paterno as the "Winningest Coach of All-Time", but did the decision to vacate cause financial impact to those who knew or might have acted?  Sport is a small community and to believe knowledge was limited to a very few is challenging to believe. 

Is America ready to put academics and sport in proper perspective at least at the College level? (Tuition has historically been several thousand dollars more for Penn State College Station (Main PSU Campus) students than any other Pennsylvania public University, little wonder why.  I make a plea to education at all costs, especially Science, Math and non-English language studies, that is why we should go to University.

Finally - My condolences go out to the unknowing punished by all of this and those unintendedly harmed - the game day sellers, the swag merchants, the hawkers of team rah-rah stadium favors.  There is always unfortunate collateral damage in any action.








A perhaps unimportant note is that Jimmy Carnes Karma* payoff was that he was named Head Athletics Coach for Team USA in 1980.  For those that forget, James Earl Carter did not allow the USA Athletes to attend the Olympic games in Moscow.  A totally hollow appointment, just desserts.

Monday, July 23, 2012

redanman weighs in on anchoring and Congrats BIg Ernie!

Stroke

A “stroke’’ is the forward movement of the club made with the intention of striking at and moving the ball,



It seems to me:

The decision has already been made (I believe it was made this past winter)
It is all about anchoring, it will be declared to not be consistent with the definition of  "a stroke"
It will be announced after the US PGA at Kiawah that anchoring is forbidden

The only question is date of institution of the change? For elite competition?  For All golfers.

Elite:
Start of 2013?
Before Masters 2013?
Start of 2014?
No later.

All golfers:
2015

My guesses.

Still congrats to Els despite the early inaccurate coronation by someone at the theopen.com website's coronation of Scott as posted yesterday.  Condolences to all in OZ staying up all night just to be gutted, I feel for you. 

Els is specifically working to get away from the anchored putter, hopefully he can look back soon and say he was literally using a crutch.  Here's to Els and a career Grand Slam.

Huzzah!

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Jumping the gun

14.55 B.S.T screen shot from theopen.com (click image to enlarge)



can you spot it?

23 July edit:  Only a very few of you actually noticed this but someone at the website was a bit premature.  Apparently a medal had already been started with Adam Scott's name on it for presentation as well!

The fat Lady sang pretty late yesterday!

If you haven't spotted it, under Scott's profile it says (as it does for Tiger 2000, 2005, 2006)

OPEN CHAMPION 2012

ESPN showed the medal pre-readied for engraving on the TV (from the World BBC Feed), but this prize-giving was far earlier.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Ratings & Rankings IIa

Recently we had the week of The Memorial the tournament that Jack built; his own private Masters Invitational Tournament.  Once can argue about MVGC as a personal Augusta National, but not only Mr. Nicklaus (Castle Pines GC, Shoal Creek, etc.), but Rees Jones(LedgeRock, Red Stick, Piedmont Driving, ), Tom Fazio (The Alotian), and Lester George (Kinloch) for three have built lovely Modern Augusta National Model based clubs in various states around the nation. One might argue that Friar's Head in its own way is of that model, but I think it is too different so I won't include it in this discussion.

The Muirfield Village GC is probably the most like ANGC because it has its own now lengthy history of an invitational tournament and ANGC-like list of revisions, something on the order of 5 of them this year alone.  A completely new par 3 16th with a pond is as notable as any change and as with 16 at ANGC, it has ... wait for it  ... a pond now, just like the real one.  to me the saddest (upcoming change) is the planned clubhouse demolition and new clubhouse.  There was something special about that MVGC just as the originals at The Ocean Course at TPC Sawgrass - a special simplicity (although Ocean Course did a much better job on that clubhouse re-build).

But American Corporate Golfers just love that awe-inspiring clubhouse re-build that somehow AGNC has avoided.  The presence of these large, top quality construction clubhouses do little to nothing to decrease the presence of these exclusive clubs in the mind of those seeking to play great golf courses, play Top 100 lists and just play travel and member-guest tournaments.

But this is the week of the USGA Open or The Open or The National Open, I prefer the USGA Open.  It is at Olympic, a seminal venue for the USGA Open and a great example of the courses that host this tournament. It is relatively charming for a USGA Open site and has provided us with some of the best theatre ever in US Golf History - Fleck beating Hogan with his own clubs to deny Hogan the fifth he so deserved - and not the first or last time that happened.  The foreshadowing of Payne Stewart as US Open Champion - then he was lost to us forever.  What would his effect have been in the age of Tiger? I for one think he would have been able to perhaps understand and deal with Woods of that era as well as anyone due to his strong mental character which he forged, not unlike Hogan, pity he didn't get back-to-backs.

But there is the Greek Tragedy of 1966 if written by Dan Jenkins we would have rejected as preposterous.  The King indeed - redeeming himself from the embarrassment of losing to Jack in his proverbial back yard at Oakmont in 1962.  Seven up with 9 to play, he dared to break Hogan's Open record score and failed miserably - failed again on the sixteenth for any chance of redemption for a win in regulation also taking six on the seventeenth to tie only to fall apart again on the second nine in the playoff Monday round (this time only from two ahead). Read it as fiction, never believe it as plausible, yet it was real life golf.

We're hearing that it's the dawning of a new Age of Tiger and he's in for a walk off win.  Remember, it's at the O this week.  The bunkerless wonder with reverse cant fairways, still too many trees, too narrow fairways, bent greens that should remain pure bent until the playoff Monday is over and site of the loss of two very charming par 3 holes - most recently the lovely blind 8th (bearing no resemblance whatsoever to its origins) and previously at the hands of Weiskopf design the short 15th.  We won't talk of number 8's creator and just sit back and watch.  As Medinah #3 was my first "Open Course", O Lake was the first that I played as many as 50 times - and still the most played Major Tournament Venue for me - built on the most interesting terrain, certainly.  I can't really praise O Lake architecturally as greatness, but it is near the top for where the USGA has left its mark.

As the hangover now begins we look back at yet another USGA Open of attrition.  To be fair Simpson did win it shooting the only sub-par round in the final 18 players and Furyk uncharacteristically made a mistake and gave it away.  He was flummoxed by a move of the tees on #16 (an awkward slog at best) of nearly 100 yards shortening which brought back into play the same sharp left turn than nicked Palmer back in 1966.  The old story of 16 at O Lake is that Bob Jones easily hit it in two but of course there were no trees and there was technically an elbow hole rather than a dog-leg (Tillinghast made the distinction very clear).  I don't know if that is lore or fact, but it is true that Sam Snead, the great bettor as well as great champion indeed suckered a younger long-hitting pro in a similar spot by goading the player "When I was your age, I used to just hit it over those trees there and cut the dog leg."  When the younger player failed to do so, Snead of course finished the story ... "When I was your age, those trees weren't nearly as tall."

Hard to believe from TV but over the years many thousands of trees have come down at Olympic.  Very good stroke play minded players like trees as they are "fair" and similar to water clearly reward "good" shots and punish "bad" ones.  Golf is a bit cut and dried that way but it works for the USGA thus they love Olympic and plans are already being aired to return.  Hopefully in their pursuit to find west coast courses for the USGA Open they will create new courses or ruin mediocre ones such as was done at Torrey Pines rather than doing any more of Fazio's "magic" to Riviera or one of the few other remaining golden age courses left anywhere near L.A. Basin.

So as the major season enters its overseas leg we can leave the single file fairways preferred by American golfers as "great tests" and return to the "unfair" links and fouil (proper golf) weather.  My last Saturday's round was played in 20-30 m.p.h. winds and heavy overcast with 60 degree temperatures - just as I prefer - proper golf weather.

Friday, June 01, 2012

Where Do We Play Golf?

Golf in America is such a complicated event at times, it is so different from Scotland the birthplace of golf where virtually everyone can call virtually everywhere and ask to play. It might be rather restricted or at times insanely expensive but generally one gets to play a fine course at a fine price. There are in America so many different and distinct places and ways to play golf. This is a topic that I have gone over in my mind for so many years. There are really different and good options, we really do get spoiled.


The Municipal Course
The beloved Muni is where most players get started, even if they are privileged enough to have access through family to a Country Club or Golf Club. Why? It is easy to access, has good value for money and is completely non-discriminatory. Well, almost, you do pay more if you are not from the MUNIcipality where the Muni is located. Your tax dollars help support the muni and that's what the source of all the benefits and befalls a course springs. The tax structure of most municipalities provides for a parks & recreation system, not unlike on NBC Thursday Nights but without all the comedy and drama. That damned tax bill you pay every year allows your city county or other government to own, build, maintain and otherwise oversee that place thatis lovingly called a rat-ass muni. We are rather lucky where I live in that the daily resident fee for the muni done by Ault & Clark runs about $20 more or less. There is a restaurant run by a local brew works that serves a solid meal and even breakfast that I will eat. Mine is within a mile of my house, in fact I can see it from the upstairs bedroom. We get a course that has no bad or stupid holes in reasonable shape where you can walk, ride, pull, carry whatever and at up to 7100 yards Par 72. The next town over has another solid muni with a few better more interesting holes and a few not up to the rest. Overall it's not in quite as good of shape, but it is maybe $5 more. There is not the same food facilities but "good enough". At each of these there is a reasonable yearly rate of under $1500.


Private Daily Fee
Two towns over to the east is a less than 10 year old Kelly Blake Moran masterpiece of quirky hillside routing that is in superb shape. It is in a housing community and the second nine has the two best mountain par 5 holes in one nine anywhere. As a Senior, most days I can play for $35, regular Joes & Janes $45 and conditioning (THE single most important criteria to American golfers according to NGA polls) basically equal to the two world class private clubs in the immediate area. When I lived in Chicago, the Jemsek family ran Cog Hill and six other courses. Within an hour of my house, privately owned Public access courses were everywhere and by seemingly every architect. Most of the time the conditioning of a privately owned daily fee is notably better than your Muni. It is definitely NOT your CCFAD.


The Resort 
One goes on vacation to these places, a destination with one, two or many courses and with lodging on site. At the top of the "most courses list" is certainly St. Andrews, the daddy of all destinations albeit without titular lodging. The Old Course Hotel is owned by Herb Kohler and thankfully he has nothing to do with any operations of the St. Andrews Links, that is up to the Links Foundation who controls the public lands and runs the systems used to access these wonderful courses. USA-wise: In sheer numbers, the Pinehurst Resort probably has the most directly associated courses although some of them approach Doak 0 category. Resorts are chock full of things for non-golfers to do, should have a pool and plenty of hot water Jacuzzi Spas, if not, I don't want to go. The class of these is Bandon Dunes Resort, uniquely American despite their efforts to convince you otherwise, a good resort always is enjoyable even if buyer's remorse hits you at check out. When you faint, you are at Pebble Beach or Kohler. At the value for money end in the USA s the superb 3-course resort replete with Indian Casino in the very best sense at Turning Stone, Oneida, NY. There is everything else in-between including multiple design-your-own at Myrtle Beach, SC. Myrtle is pleasing because one goes off the reservation with no problem. Kiawah, Bandon, Pebble, Homestead, Turning Stone, Pequot, etc. Choose your poison, these often have very fine and even world-class golf available. The best have caddies.


The CCFAD (Country Club for a Day)
This is the more upscale Private Daily Fee morphing into the Resort, usually with one or two courses. There is a hazy line where one turns into the other ..... It is arguable that the very first of these was in suburban Illinois in the form of Kemper Lakes. It opened in 1974 or so and I was able to get out there right from the start. This was before the swarms of employees outfitted with wireless communications enveloped you as they do today. The worst part of all of that is that you are expected to buy your way in and out with $1 and $5 bills, getting your bag out of your vehicle, parking said vehicle, directing the bag stand operator which your and your group bags are, again identifying them downstairs going to the range, meeting the starter, meeting and being serviced by the (hopefully) hot cart girls, and at the end the bag-off-cart taker-offers, rack storers (down and upstairs the club polishers the valet return driver and the bag (badly and inevitably how you do NOT want them) trunk placers. My wallet seems light from typing this. Odd considering that I A) Never carry cash B) have a throng of cards to pay for things. Many of these are pasture pool fields of perfect turf devoid of architectural strategy. From what Kemper Lakes was in the mid-1970's to what this class of course is currently is a case of sad inexorable decline.


The Country Club
Country Club is not Golf Club, nor should it be. It is basically your private resort with a heavy emphasis on added activities (swimming, tennis, workout, child care, fine dining - even horsey stuff & skeet) to your beloved golf. However at most country clubs golf is the main attraction. Some golf and country clubs so state, but these are the majority of where private golf is played in the USA.


The Golf Club
Golf. A place to change? Probably. Have a drink? Likely. Swim, play tennis? No, not here. Just golf - although I once wrote that the "New Country Club" required you to fly forever, drive to nowhere, stay on site, drink too expensive of wine & other booze but offer only golf and call it Golf Club of Nowheresville or the Rattlesnake Grill and Club or other cute name somehow reflective of the location. I'm not sure what to call these, but they are too limited for me, generally. Golf Clubs are still near civilization and allow other activities because they actually are somewhere and you don't need a secret handshake to get the code to the gate on the dirt road in from the county-designated highway.

Anyone else?

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Ratings & Rankings Part II

The Masters Invitational Tournament 2012 has come and gone and we are into the golf season for men professionals full tilt. At one time the Augusta National Golf Club was rather different than it is today having undergone wholesale re-design at least three times now most recently in the 21st Century with the changes enough to obliterate all the uniqueness that Jones and Mackenzie originally had hoped the course would possess. Augusta National is a perfect example to segeway into a discussion of the morphology of a so-called Tournament Course. When I was a boy in the 1960's taking up the wonderful pastime of golf there were two prominent aspects of golf design that one could not avoid. The first was the beginning of prominence of the designer or architect of the course with Robert Trent Jones, Sr., blazing the way for the "Signature Architect". We learned a little of who RTJ and Donald Ross were, in fact at one time there was common knowledge that Donald Ross was responsible for the design of well over six hundred courses and RTJ was the hot ticket. The second was that thewell-recognized non-description "A Championship Golf Course" ensured little more than a back tee yardage approaching the magical 7000 yard endorsement of (frequently unrealized) implied quality. As a youth in the flatlands of South Florida seemingly every course had tacked on tees frequently unused which filled this apparent need. It seemed very unlikely that anyone was able to find anyone at any of these courses who could define just what a "Championship Course" actually was. Today we actually have a designation "Tournament Course" and it is far more than specific yardages. The current formula includes Narrow fairways, preferably tree-lined and isolating and original bunkers if the course was constructed prior to World War II. Also included is agronomic perfection - Bluegrass rough of at least 3-4", greens, generally flattened of contours, homogenous cultivars capable of Stimpmeter speed exceeding 13. The Modern Concept of Tournament golf and especially men's tournament golf has done great old courses little in the way of favors. Courses such as Oak Hill East (this time last year) really started my scrutiny of the ratings and rankings but specifically got me to analyse the concept of a Tournament Course. As a kid that meant every hole had a tee about 30 yards back, now it means 100. Trump has been stumping for the USGA and has already held joint Boys and Girls Junior events simultaneously at his Bedminster facility, site of Trump's Gem - The "Old Course" at Bedminster, New Jersey. It is also one of Tom Fazio's most versatile and interesting courses; playing it with greens about 10 on the stimp is great member fun while ratcheting the same greens up to 12 or so requires real skill. Still for my tastes overall it is a little bland for my own personal tastes as I like the quirk. The "New Course" there is a valid championship snooze, great for card & pencil types but built to be played in the near 7500 yard range it holds little interest at 6500 yards no matter what the greens are that day. I mention Trump because a recent visit took me to Trump's D.C. location where The "Championship Course" of 7400 yards was created out of two courses from the Loewe's Island Resort that it once was. I has holes from each course a Golf Buddy Platinum faithfully asks if you want to change courses when you go from what was formerly the other course to the main one. I mention this course in particular because it is such a hodgepodge trying for difficulty and yardage - yardage by adding tees on several holes across two roads and a slough off the river to add over 100 yards to a particular hole. Walking the course leads one to a three hole stretch near the turn where your caddie puts your clubs on a cart to remain on a cart path into and out of a wooded area while the remainder of the course is out overlooking the Potomac River, a rather odd version of attaining that "over 7300 yard total". Apparently plans are in the works to improve the routing but many a tournament course nowadays has bee transmogrified to include epic walks. Since it is a work in progress, I'll give it a pass and I look forward greatly to see updates. These Tournament Hosting Courses are important in this discussion for a variety of reasons. Most importantly it has led to a Frankenstein-like change in what were once nice little or pastoral places to play. On the one hand the not too interesting "Old" Course at Saucon Valley Country Club (A USGA Favorite site with plenty of parking access and infrastructure) was modernized and revised from a half -(Herbert) Strong Course to a full-fledged Fazio Course replete with cookie stamper cape and bay bunkers with orphaned tees tacked on 50-100 yards hither and yon to get the yardage up to counter-attack the out-of-control ball. I wrote on this as there is precious little Strong left anywhere and the bunkering could have at least emulated what was once done by Strong in this re-do. SVCC Old is still a better than average Tournament Venue for the club player and is centerpiece of perhaps America's most pastoral club. Perhaps not enough for the Men while poor old Merion East - Pennsylvania (at least the Eastern part)'s Historic gem has been made a mockery of with absurd back tees on holes such as five and 18, single file fairway widths and rough one might lose a toddler in on tournament day - all in defense of par. Then there is the mis-named Alister Mackenzie's Augusta National Golf Club - that which 68% of American men would wear a dress to just watch the Masters played there - just what is it with that course and just what is that course in 20012 or was it in 2008? Thus in the name of Tournament Integrity, we have Il buono, il brutto, il cattivo - for those not deeply into movies The Good, The Bad and the (just plain) Ugly. Why are these courses so important? There are hangers-on from the old days in terms of what were once great golf courses lost forever and not really all that good any more. I want to cite two great examples that are a little different yet. Aronimink Golf Club and Oakland Hills (South) - both originally Donald Ross and both modified for Tournament play at least twice and with greatly different results and eventual outcomes. One thing they have in common is that the two clubs had the sense of purpose to recognize that the green complexes of Ross could not really be improved upon and were chosen to remain in situ or de novo. Aronimink hired Mr. Jones Sr. to tournament-up the course for a mid 1960's PGA that never happened by creating a wasp-waisted signature at about 260 off the back tees with single file fairway between those Jones cloverleaf bunkers. At Oakland Hills - Jones Senior toughened up the fairways and bunkering from Ross' original to create the "Monster" that Mr. Hogan so proudly brought to its knees with a first round 67 in his magnificent Grand Slam year of 1953. He was five under par overall and six ahead of perennial runner-up Sam Snead. When time came for a further toughening update of the course, consulting son Rees Jones mindlessly bunkered literally each side of each play hole with fairway bunkers flanking narrowed fairways removing any possible semblance of a strategic approach to any of the wonderful greens. Aronimink? Originally opposed by a club president now long gone was a plan to restore Ross' original intent. Finally, Ron Prichard created a sympathetic restoration (I called it on these pages a "Rescue") retaining the Ross greens then creating bunkering similarly to the original design but accommodating current technology. Two vastly different outcomes. The great news for Oakland Hills is that if they ever choose to do so - since they have not re-built or abandoned holes such as some courses have - they can obtain a similar outcome as Aronimink did. Oakland Hills South remains in my own personal opinion the highest calibre tournament modified classic course. Just for the possibility of its return to roots by elimination of that absurd and unsightly bunkering. Getting back to the ratings and rankings - these historic tournament create a legacy, a boost an improper recognition of perceived greatness of architecture and in Golf Digest's system is actually directly rewarded for such changes by the nebulous shot values and difficulty from the back tees that they so cling to in their absurd decimal to the hundredth of a point system which still has arbitrary fudge factors as well. This effect is mirrored by all world rankings and when modern and classic courses are lumped together we see such anomalies as Whistling Straits (home of two of the worst golf holes I have ever seen, no less on the same course) such a missed opportunity with a blank slate poorly used, hystrionic mounding and scraped out bunker/waste area mostly out of play for the class player but an absolute nightmare for the proverbial 190 yard driving 18 handicapper who comprises the virtual Average Joe at America's Country Clubs. I counted 21 real bunkers in play on that course - the rest is candy for the eyes. Worldwide Top 100 lists somehow include this over-priced mess of a course as well as courses like Muirfield Village Golf Club. MVGC has an interesting hole or two but with a figure of 8 routing through neighborhoods of large homes that is a nightmare for spectators, force-grown bent grass, top billing as a Top Notch Course because of Jack William Nicklaus' Memorial held there, it can not even really claim to be America's Best Housing Course ABHC). TV Our exposure to courses created or modified to attract tournaments drives some courses to the proverbial top but most are absent from my recognition of greatness. What the future holds for the place of golf architecture that can test the world's elite of elite players is yet to be seen, it it certainly in evolution. We still get these head-scratching courses that everyone wants to play because they are famous on TV. There are indeed courses that A) You can play B) You can enjoy and C) both. Monday was my yearly chance at one of the "C" group. None other than the Black Beast at Bethpage State Park, New York. What a very special course. It is a bit different than the other beast of pro golf in that it, too is restorable to normal fairway widths and it is manageable from a grass standpoint. More later.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Ratings & Rankings Part I

Starting a treatise on ratings and ranking, some introduction and history. There has been for some time quite the buzz about them in the US especially as there is a lot of belt-notching that goes on. Some folks, especially business types like to post the pins in their GOLF Magazine pegboards for USA and World 100’s. Others truly love the variety the game’s playing field has and indeed there is a bit of overlap on the Venn Diagram (don’t worry, no picture today) – not just a tangential blow.

I first played The Goff in 1961; from the very outset I was fascinated by the different golf courses and noted every one that I drove or flew by (and whoever was driving before I could) and then if at all possible played them at some point if they had any iota of merit apparent or accessibility. Not just notching for its own sake but variety and exposure were the prime draw. Junior High School at the softball field, anyone wanting to learn to play formally was told to bring a few balls and clubs to the Math Teacher – Mr. Hart, a rotund rumpled robust tweedy English Uncle Sort after school on a particular Wednesday. I’d already had the virus planted from some Palmer guy on TV who went on to be known as “The King”. I liked all that jazz quite a bit better than baseball and football. I showed up and the rest to nearly a thousand played is almost a blur sometimes. Here’s some stories I hope that you enjoy.

Interestingly enough, I learned to play golf and played exclusively in Florida (only Delaware is flatter) for the first few years and thus played two-dimensional courses for the most part. About 5 years ago that was brought back to me when I played Palma Ceia in Tampa and that course must have no more than 8-9 feet of elevation change. I’ve been blessed with a three-dimensional memory ability which has been very useful, in fact an architectural sort of gift that in another life might have led me to commercial if not golf architecture rather than a Viet Nam avoiding Surgical Career. I very distinctly remember holes of note and variety as if it were yesterday afternoon. If anyone has ever played the wee Lake Worth (FL) Municipal golf course on the eponymous intercoastal waterway, they’ll likely remember the 264 yard 90° dog-leg par 4 with the green set amongst and in front of the mangroves resting at the shore of the lake. Later, that sort of design of hole, was a revelation in my education; on the second nine at Medinah #3 (The number keeps changing as they repeatedly bastardize the layout in the name of the USGA) – that one you all know as the Sergio-a-leaping hole. When I turned that corner in 1978 and saw that shallow green perched on that shelf above the end of the fairway going left, I knew I was way beyond some point of return – it became religion, too, I suppose.

Medinah #3 was my first actual USGA Open course although I had previously played my first major-hosting (before the actual 1971 PGA) venue. That was in a 1967 High School match at the then PGA National (Then JDM – yes Macarthur) now Ballen Isles East course. That was a very special place in a number of ways but I also tried to break into the caddie pool for that tournament joining in with the other amateur caddies hoping to shag balls for a professional. We as a group kept shouting “Pick me Pete, pick ME!” to Pete, the caddiemaster. Neither I nor my friends I’d come with got a job that day despite enthusiasm for hours, it was for nil. That particular PGA Tournament was part of an experiment to move the Major from its Open Championship time conflict. It is well-known that Ben Hogan in 1953 was prevented from capturing a True Modern Major Grand Slam. He surely would have taken it and how golf’s history would have been changed.

There was a great irony in one JWN’s victory there literally a 10 minute drive from his family home in Lost Tree as Jack did not need the famous towel to pick up the trophy that February unlike August, 1963. The trophy was not 150°F as it was when he won his first PGA in Dallas. I think the Masters® didn’t like being upstaged and that surely was part of the move from and back again to August perhaps even dictating Golf as a hot weather sport in America (another day, another essay). Even I was not immune to the power of Television and Media as a part of anointing Golf Courses and noting them as somehow elite back then. There is a very important connection between “great” and “famous” to many American golfers. Even today on The Golf channel, it was offered that the Sony Open was to be played on “that great old course” a thought to freeze the blood of any true Raynor student! With all due respect that course is notable as a peg in your home-made “PGA Tour Stops” board only.

Another bit of irony in Medinah #3 being my first real “BIG” golf course if you will is that at this point in time is its near dismissal as a top golf course by me. I cannot place it in anything but “Top 100 hardest” or Top 100 “over-rated and tournament boosted”. There are very highly ranked courses that really don’t belong where they are or at least as high as they are. Muirfield Village and Whistling Straits are two prime examples, but at least MVGC has one solid hole.

The American obsession with ranking started with Golf Digest and their original 200 toughest in America based on stroke rating and slope which rather quickly morphed into their Top 100, proffered as the “Oldest Rankings in Golf”. It is important to look carefully at rankings historically as there is both reluctance on the part all current raters (world-wide) to over-throw the sacred cows and even more importantly to the rank and file golfer’s detriment - to favor certain architects preferentially. Rankings are always a combination of individual’s ratings with some mathematical formula. Golf Digest is in trying for transparency guilty of attempting to insert science into the formula without an inkling of scientific methodology.

With a system mathematically computing to the one-one-hundredth of a point – yet fudging very dramatically for pure difficulty and allowing a disproportional methodology for subjectivity with the indefinable “shot values” and “Tradition” respectively yielding a very biased self-perpetuating process in which is a meritocracy for a chosen set of courses nears irrelevancy for most golfers. These have kept the ever-changing Augusta National Golf Club, the most sacred of sacred cows at or actually on top of the ratings. ANGC is the only upper echelon course in America narrowing fairways and planting trees. All golfers worthy an inflated handicap groveling to attend a practice round there know now that über-green and over-conifer-ed are just so wrong, especially at YOUR course.

To be continued …

Monday, January 02, 2012

Happy New Year

Hereby resolved to be more productive.

Axiomatically, Mud Golf is better than no golf but just barely. There has been a very wet 2011 here in the eastern US and the courses with a history of poor maintenance practices and foresight have fared the worst. Boston Golf Club fared extremely well under Rodney's hand, he is one of the very best.

2011 real golf ended 2 holes after this, it was much darker than it appears. By design, we were last off the course and it was dark.


I told Santa I that wanted more like this in our offseason:

We'll see.