Sunday, 17 December 2017

2017 The Year in Review - Part 3 – Ian’s Golfing Travels

I usually make at least one trip to go and see new courses. This was a pretty good year because I began with a trip to both Ireland and Northern Ireland. 

Travels in 2017

By The Numbers

Rounds Played: 61 (most since 1985)
Rounds in Ireland: 12
Lowest Round: 83 multiple times including an interview round!
Lowest To Par: +11 (84) at Streamsong Black on first play 
Low Nine: 38 (+2)
Strangest Nine: 7 pars, a bogie and a 10 with 7 putts …
Handicap: Dropped 3
Lessons Taken: 2 (putting and chipping)
Tournaments Won: 1 (Caveman Cup)

Tornaments Won Caveman Cup

My most famous/infamous story was choking with a four shot lead with four to go in the Junior club championship at 17. Well my partner Ben Hillard and I posted a combined 51 in the opening round in the Stableford and then topped that off with 46 to shoot 97 over two days. We won by four on a birdie at the end where I went for the 18th in two and two putted for a final birdie.

Favourite Course Royal County Down

I made the comment after the second round of the day I think this is the best course in the World. The opening nine is easily the best in golf and only the 6th would be considered anything “close” to average. The 3rd and 9th make most lists of the best 18 holes in Golf. I find the course continues the momentum right through to the 16th. I happen to really like the 16th, but others are not as convinced. The 17th and 18th have always been the biggest question marks, but it’s only because they show up at the end that anyone questions the legitimacy of this being best course in the world. Well, for me, it is. Play it 10 to 18 once and there’s no question after.

aerial of course -  Getty Images

Runner-Up Seminole

I had the chance to return to Seminole in the spring. It remains an architectural masterpiece. The routing is flawless continually working to and from the main ridges in a way which reduces the impact of the flat central section of the course. There are so many exceptional moments that it’s the one where I will always say it’s not the club, it’s the course that makes it at comfortable a Top 100. Much, much better than anything at Streamsong or Sand Valley.

Best New Course – Streamsong Black

Is the best of the three? Potentially, but I still think I would pick the Red by a slim margin. The Red has higher highs, but contains a few moments that I’m not enamoured with including the overuse – yes I think you can – of half par holes. Black is more consistent and has better greens than the other two and the ground is more in play which I appreciated a great deal. I think Gil was given a high bar and exceeded on a site that was not near as good as the other two.

Biggest Surprise – Kirtland CC

The front nine of this Colt and Alison is a treat, with some expansive and impressive architectural work at the greens, but the back has a reasonable argument for being among the best two or three in the game. It has everything from elevation change, to river crossings to sublime architectural ideas that punctuate with ramble up into the final bowl and out along the top of the valley coming hole. Just wow.

Hidden Gem – Portsalon

Played all of Ballyliffen and Rossapenna along with a host of courses in Norther Ireland, but the real gem and the one I kept thinking about was Portsalon. The 2nd is an epic four among the greats in the game. There’s a whole host of excellent holes that play through the dunes or ramble across the undulating upper portion of the property. This is one not to miss.  

Hidden Gem – Lawsonia Links

I would rather play Lawsonia that Sand Valley or Mammoth Dunes. The scale is epic, but so are the features and that is why architecturally this course is a masterpiece. It’s a lesson in scale and consequence justifying width and space. The beginning of the back nine stands with anything – and I mean anything – in golf design.

Favourite Canadian Round - Laval-sur-le-lac (Green)

I was very pleased to how much the changes impacted the play of the course. There were odds and ends that needed to be fixed, but by-in-large the course had finally come together as I always had envisioned it should be presented. Now we just need to get the rest of the trees down …

On Site at Ohoopee

I spent just a week and because of the extremely cold snap, did not have to dodge snakes and spiders. I ran a skid steer and spent my time reclaiming native grasses and transferring them into bunkers for the shapers to put their final touches on. It was a fun week to see what the work after Streamsong Black would look and feel like. 4th, 5th and 6th were my favourite stretch.  This is Gil’s chance to work with a much better sandy site.

Did I Just Walk the 3rd Course at Sand Valley Resort?

I joined Tom Doak for a couple of days walking the South-west quarter of  Sand Valley. It was interesting to see where he choose to go and the reasoning for some of his choices. The second day featured a walk with Mike Keiser and his family. I enjoyed the experience and thank Tom for including me in the walks and discussion with Brian Schneider. I can't share the plan or pictures from the day ... but ...

Here is my alternative plan:

2018 Travels

Spring – Houston ASGCA Meeting

I’m not really that interested in where we are playing. I have played Champions, but it was pretty average golf with an incredible club atmosphere. But I have arranged a small group of eight to go up and see Bluejack National. I walked it last time out and loved it. It will be fun to play there.

Spring – West Coast of England?

Robert and I have discussed “one more” – every trip is sold to our wives this way – trip to see what we haven’t seen. Lytham, Liverpool, Ganton and Woodhall Spa are on the must-see list. This one is likely, but not set.

Summer – New Jersey

Sommerset Hills

Sand Hills?

The only Top 50 I have not seen in person. I always mention Sand Hills every year … I really need to go … I really want to go …

Caveman Cup in Georgia at Ohoopee

We play this event in early November, which will make a nice finish to my 2018, since most construction projects end exactly at that point. 

And after all, Ben and I are defending champions!

Thursday, 7 December 2017

2017 The Year in Review - Part 2 – Golf Architecture

Pebble’s 14th Rebuilt and Open for Play

“It's a sensible green change,” Padraig Harrington said after his round. “Be interesting to see how it would play in U.S. Open conditions when it's Stimping at 12 or more. I had a putt on the right side, 5 feet above the hole, and I wasn't trying to diddle it. I was trying to hit it. The greens are slow enough today, so it was very playable today. I was surprised how flat that area of the green is. There was a bit more break in it, but today I was looking at it and it probably would be able to hold a pin at a U.S. Open.”

This was one of the more memorable greens I had ever seen in my travels. One of the most intimidating approach shots I have ever faced. It made the five relevant even in a day and age of bombers. The first time I played in 1991, they had a pin on the right and it was awesome and challenging. The goal was to return this location back into play.  My impression is they were successful. That is good for golf because Pebble matters a great deal to the game.

One Thing Golf Doesn’t Need - More Panelists

Golf Digest Editor Jerry Tarde reveals in his February that the America's 100 Greatest Courses panel is looking to double by 2020 to around 2,000. What’s not said is they will also be charging all for the privilege and turning this into a source of revenue … ugh.

“Dean Knuth, known as the Pope of Slope for his decades of work on the USGA's handicapping system and the chief statistician for Golf Digest's course rankings, advises us that we need to raise our minimum qualifying number of evaluations from 45 to at least 70 to make the 100 Greatest statistically above reproach. To reach that goal, we're dedicating our efforts to double the size of the panel by 2020.”

They will also be charging all for the privilege and turning this into a source of revenue … so I call “bullshit ” on the explanation.

Augusta Made Easier By Changes?

Steve DiMeglio of USA Today reported Tiger Woods comment on Augusta National, “The golf course has been redesigned and it’s not as difficult as it used to be. The golf course was quicker and faster. All the greens have been redesigned and it’s not as difficult as it used to be; they’ve all gotten bigger and flatter. But at the same time they’ve made the golf course longer so we’re all hitting longer shots into the greens.”

He went on to say the shots around the greens have changed too, “I think that the short shots at Augusta have gotten so different. The grass has gotten longer. Chipping with Seve and Raymond  and Ollie, showed me how to play all these different shots because you had to play those little shots.”

The key is his comments about the greens. Team Fazio has been levelling out critical features to create a new pin here and a new pin there for years. What they didn’t understand was how critical they were to approach shots and percentages.

Sand Valley Resort

I thought I would share my own thoughts. I went not expecting much because I wasn’t convinced about the site from photos. I was wrong. Frist off, the resort caught me a little off-guard and I really liked what they had built. The setting was better than anticipated and the whole ambiance was fantastic. It’s the little details that had the most appealed to me from the (intentionally) cheap food at the halfway house to the Muskoka Chairs at the 1st and 10th tees of the Coore and Crenshaw course to the fire pit at the clubhouse. It just works.

I really enjoyed Bill and Ben’s course, but I’ll leave the full review to the Best New Category at the end.

I don’t get David Kidd’s Mammoth Dunes. But I do know that players will enjoy playing well there because David goes out of his way to make things work out well. I think some will love the combination of scale, exposed dunes land and quest to make sure you have fun – others will find the course generous to a fault.

The best course of the three is called the Sand Box. The short course at Sand Valley mostly created by Jim Craig is a brilliant combination of short and challenging holes. It will be the ultimate match-play - with drink in hand - experience. I could play that course for an entire day.

Alice Dye Pans New 12th at TPC

"It’s an awkward hole," says Alice Dye. "It doesn’t fit the course. He OK’d it, but it’s not a Pete Dye design."

Geoff Shackelford on the other hand said, “I think it’s a success.” he liked that players were now willing to go for the green about a quarter of the time.

I really liked the original and prefer odd or quirky holes over something that’s super obvious like the new hole. It compels more to go for the green, but the irony is Pete never intended the hole to be about the drive. It was all about the approach shot and finding the right place to make the shot from. I prefer a more subtle and cerebral version of architecture.

US Open Coming to Jackson Park in Chicago?

It’s kind of how we ended up with Erin Hills and Chambers Bay hosting Opens. They unveiled a $30 million – wait 30 million? - Tiger Woods golf course in the park's southern end. I get the appeal for serious golfers, but I don’t see this as a good city planning choice.  I’ve always argued some things are best not done and this strikes me as one of them.

Oh Canada – Part One - Bunker Liner Issue at Glen Abbey

Geoff Shackelford of Golfweek reports, “Credit Hoffman and caddie for recognizing the renovated Glen Abbey bunkers for having newly installed bunker floor lining that prevented him from digging enough to take a stance on his bunker shot.”

The site is pure clay underneath, clay makes a great natural liner as long as there are no rocks. You can get clean rock-free clay nearby really cheap. But instead we get really expensive liners that have to be buried deep with extra $120. a ton sand. Hmmm.

Augusta Sells Land to Augusta

Kevin Spain of USA Today reported, “It wasn't revealed what the purchase price for the land was — although Golfweek reported in April of 2016 that the price was around $25 million — nor what plans Augusta National has for it, but Masters chairman Billy Payne said in 2016 that the Club was studying changes to No. 13.”

Geoff Shackelford reports, “The inclination is to assume the 13th hole will be lengthened even though the governing bodies insist things have flat lined. Also look for a service road and stronger property buffer to be part of future changes to the Amen Corner portion of Augusta National.”

Reports are they offered up their architect too, but the Country Club politely declined.

The Olympic Course Lives On

Rex Hoggard responds, “An Agence France-Presse report last November described a layout overgrown with natural vegetation and nearly devoid of players. But as the anniversary of that historic hand-over passes it appears the rumors of the layout’s death have been greatly exaggerated.”

In talking with Gil around that time, he went to check the aerials and realized what others had reported as unkempt and overgrown was the very successful preservation and transplanting of native materials from around the site.

Oh Canada - Part Two – Glen Abbey To Become Houses

Sorry, was a cheering out loud…

Robert Thompson states, “Truthfully, history hasn’t been kind to Glen Abbey as a golf design. Some of the elements highlighted for preservation could readily be considered the biggest shortcomings of the course. Described as “unusual,” the report says the “17th green with its horseshoe configuration around a left greenside bunker … is in keeping with the design intent of the course,” and “its uniqueness and novelty in tournament play deserves attention.” Some might also just contend the green is awful, and it has even been rebuilt to deal with its challenges. Other parts of the course are pedestrian to the point of being plain and dull.”

I even got in my own twitter debate about the fact that development was the outcome from the day the RCGA (now Golf Canada) sold the golf course.

I’ve played the course multiple times and it is one of the least interesting courses in Toronto. It has one nice run of holes in the valley and the remainder is a Real Estate Course. There is nothing unique or special in the design, Jack’s built much better work after this. The only thing people can hang onto is the number of great shots hit on that golf course. 

Golf Top 100 Panel Confidential

For the record, I am a Golf Magazine Panelist. That was the second time I have participated.
We break our Top 10 into top 3 and remaining 7 … so I will share the top of my ballot alphabetically:

National Golf Links
Pine Valley
Royal County Down

Cypress Point
Merion (East)
Royal Dornoch
Royal Melboune
Shinnecock Hills
St. Andrew’s Old

(next two were Prairie Dunes and Crystal Downs - btw, not seen Sand Hills)

After, we were asked to fill out some additional questions for the Panel Confidential. I thought I would share the results and highlight my own choices and comments.

Most Overrated Course

1. Seminole, 15% (of the 75 panelists polled)
"By a mile. Lovely club, nice course, but a pushover unless the wind is blowing and the greens are brown, running at 13+. The upcoming Coore/Crenshaw renovation will help immensely."

2. Baltusrol (Lower), 12%

"A boring slog of long par 4s. Relies on its competitive history and strong conditioning to impress. Its sister, the Upper, is more interesting, more fun."

Underrated" Course

1. North Berwick (West Links), 7%
"It's the most 'fun' course in the world."

2. Los Angeles Country Club (North), 4%
"George Thomas was a genius, and not many people have had the opportunity to see his brilliance on display at this masterpiece, but that's about to change with this year's Walker Cup and the U.S. Open being played at LA North."

3. Yale, 3%
"Yale University—an architecture master class in scale and consequence." (I wrote that)

Who is the greatest Golden Age architect?
Alister MacKenzie, 54%

Who is the greatest modern architect?
Bill Coore (with Ben Crenshaw), 54%
"Each has a role to play, but Bill is a genius. He is the MacKenzie of our time."

What is the design feature most panelists overvalue?
Conditioning, 22%

Shinnecock Restored but Narrowed

“A recent push to narrow the fairways marginally has seen the grounds staff  to convert seven of the layout’s 50 acres of shortgrass to rough. The idea is to create more strategic twist and turn to the fairways consistent with Flynn’s plan and to bring more fairway bunkers closer to the line of play. Fairway widths are still on the relatively generous side for U.S. Open, 28-34 yards in the championship landing areas. But their delineation pays close attention to the lay of the land and the role of airway bunkers.”

The overreaction to Erin Hills and Chambers Bay …

Oh Canada - Part Three – We Have No New Ideas

Golf Canada had Nicklaus drop by during Canadian Open. They promoted the idea of a joint venture replacement course for Glen Abbey designed by Jack. The reaction was surprisingly negative with most saying it was time to move on. The more cynical pointing out that Golf Canada had no land or money, so why would a developer want to get them involved with them.

Short Courses are Becoming Really Popular

Jaime Diaz points out a growing trend to short course at resorts and remote destination courses.

“To me, a good par-3 course works on many levels besides just the price and the pace. A little funkiness in design and even conditioning is a plus, as the capriciousness invites improvisation. The mood should be informal and promote a hint of relaxed raucousness.”

I always play the short course or warn-up holes anywhere they are offered. Among my favourites are: 

Bandon Preserve
World Woods (warm up nine is better than Rolling Oaks)
Sand Valley – Sand Box

Fred Ridley Augusta and Technology

“We will take whatever action, whatever course of action is necessary to protect the integrity of Augusta National golf course,”  

Sounds like more work and not a new ball to me. But he did speak about the potential of a different ball,

“We’re interested in that issue,” he said. “It’s not my place to talk about what’s good and not good for the game. I might have opinions, but I’m not the person to talk about it. What I can talk about is what’s good for Augusta National and our golf course. Going back to the guiding principles, again, I believe that the philosophies that Jones and (Alister) MacKenzie established here are timeless.”

Best New Course – Streamsong Black – Gil Hanse

Is it the best course at the resort? Probably. THe Red has better high points, but the Black is so consistently good from beginning to end and the most complete course of the three, Gil managed to create on an impressive scale some really intimate and imaginative holes to play. It plays the best of the three and that gives it the nod.

Runner Up – Sand Valley – Coore and Crenshaw

The highlights such as the 8th, 9th, 10th, 14th and 17th are truly impressive. But this time there are some misses too. The 2nd green was really forced and the split fairway on the 12th didn’t provide any advantage from either side. They had lots of land and a great property so the choices were all there’s to make.

They still build great golf courses every time out. They are still the best in the game. But I will always hold them up against other works like Friars Head where I think they did even better.

Surprising note for C&C is they currently don't have a 2018 project.

Renovation of the Year – Winged Foot - Gil Hanse

The three part series put out by the USGA does a great job in explaining the research and detail that went into preserving, restoring and rebuilding some of golf's most iconic greens.

Most Anticipated Openings

Sand Valley by David Kidd
Ohoopee Match Play Club by Gil Hanse
Trinity Forest by Coore and Crenshaw

Tuesday, 5 December 2017

2017 The Year in Review - Part 1 – Golf

The Ball - Part 1 – Increase … What Increase?

In January they made a joint statement,

“Looking at all of the players who are ranked for distance on the PGA TOUR and PGA European Tour, the amount by which players are “long” or “short” has not changed – for instance, since 2003 the 10 shortest players in that group are about 6% shorter than average, while the 10 longest players in the group are about 7% longer than average. The statistics are not skewed toward either longer or shorter players.

Then James Hahn said what we all knew,

“Interesting. But does the study show what clubs were used off the tee? A drive off the tee could be with 3 wood or 2 iron.”

Why Bother with Facts or Understanding Your Subject

Reuters' Gabriela Milian wrote an article about Rio’s venues falling apart. She included the golf course using aerial images but failed to understand the use of native plant material and open expanses of sand as desirable and sustainable … the golf course is actually doing fine.

The Ball – Part Two – Captain’s Speak Out

In Febuary Sir Michael Bonallack made a statement, “I am on Jack Nicklaus Captains Club. We meet at Muirfield Village every year. At one of those we had Jack, Arnold Palmer, Gary Player, Bill Campbell, myself, Charlie Mechem from the LPGA, all with huge experience in golf. Jack was talking about the ball. We all agreed it was out of control and going too far. It had to be pegged back. So a letter was composed and sent off to the R&A and the USGA, signed by all of us.”

Speed of Play 

R&A Chief at Martin Slumbers said “When you get to the professional level, there’s no doubt in my mind that the professionals are role models, and they are fantastic role models for young people. They’re healthy, they’re fit, they’re strong and they’ve got unbelievable skill.  But part of that role model is pace of play, and there is no doubt that younger generations take a steer from them. So I think I would just encourage the Tour pros to realize that pace of play is part of them being that role model, and it’s not helpful to growing the amateur game when the youngsters are slowing down.”

My father always said your first responsibility is to play fast and if you can’t play well play even faster…

Rules of Golf

New rules came out to deal with issues like putting with the flag in, but behind the scenes bigger ideas were considered like No more stroke and distance penalties. Golf is looking at ideas to speed up the game and make it more fun … about time?

The Ball – Part Three - Variable Ball Debate

Mike Davis' suggestion at the USGA's Innovation Symposium in April was “Anybody is hard-pressed to say that as distance has increased in the last 100 years that that’s been good for the game. We all want to hit the ball farther. We get that. But distance is all relative. When you think about the billions and billions of dollars that have been spent to change golf courses, and you say, has that been good for the game?”

“Is the fact that Shinnecock Hills went from 5,500 yards to 7,500 yards, what has that done good for the game? It’s increased the expenses to maintain it. It’s cost us time to walk an extra 2,000 yards. So you have to say, What has that actually done?”

The answer … made the game increasingly more expensive 

The Ball – Part Four – Pace of Play Issue?

In April Charl Schwartzel said a shorter ball will help address pace of play, “Now you have to walk 150 yards back and then walk this way, so you’re walking 300 yards and you’re still at the same place. If you can make the balls and clubs go shorter, and you can play the old courses, then the game will be 3 ½ hours again. It’s simple. But you’ve got to walk so far, how are you going to play quick? It’s impossible to play quick.”

Graham McDowell added, “Something’s got to happen. We’re starting to lose the integrity of some of the most beautiful courses in the world. They’re becoming outdated, which is just a little scary, really.”

I thought Equality Matters?

Alistair Tait's of Golfweek tells us, “There is no timetable for women to join the club.” He does on to say that in an official statement the club it says, “The current waiting list for membership at Muirfield suggests that new candidates for membership, women and men, can expect to wait two to three years, or longer, to become a member of the club.”

I’m sorry but the R&A should have waited to announce their return to the Open Rota till after the first “few” woman were full members. Rather than optics, this for me is all about the principal of the policy.

Municipal Golf Matters – Sharp Park is Saved

Jaime Diaz writes about the successful fight to save Sharp Park, So when a muny, especially one with history in a big city, gets threatened, even the most escapist golfers can be roused. Instead of complaining about the greens and the drainage and range mats, they realize how much they’d miss the $30 green fee and all the camaraderie if it disappeared. They become attuned to how munys are about affordability and accessibility and diversity and being the best entry point for beginners and especially kids. Basically the spirit of St. Andrews. It’s a good exercise, especially if it translates to the kind of activism a beset muny needs to stay alive.”

Later on his says, “Munys are vulnerable targets. City coffers are still recovering from the Great Recession, making the upkeep of golf courses seem less viable, especially when rounds are down. But because the golf lovers who are defending the munys know that if one falls, it could start a domino effect, they are fighting back with every asset at their disposal.”

Sergio wins the Masters

Doug Ferguson said it so well, “Eighteen years and 71 majors later, more tears for Sergio Garcia. This time, they were accompanied by a smile.”

The response from the players spoke volumes about what they feel about Sergio and the pressure he felt throughout his career to live up to expectations.

Green Reading Books Part One – Rule Change Coming?

Comment from the governing bodies signals a potential change to come, “The R&A and the USGA believe that a player's ability to read greens is an essential part of the skill of putting. Rule 14-3 limits the use of equipment and devices that might assist a player in their play, based on the principle that golf is a challenging game in which success should depend on the judgement, skills and abilities of the player. We are concerned about the rapid development of increasingly detailed materials that players are using to help with reading greens during a round. We are reviewing the use of these materials to assess whether any actions need to be taken to protect this important part of the game. We expect to address this matter further in the coming months.”

This statement went out in April, I’m beginning to wonder if they will do something.

“I think probably we should ban the book,” Adam Scott said. “If they feel that reading the green needs to be more of an art and it's an advantage to a player who's a creative, great green reader, then I wouldn't have a problem with that.”

When some players began trusting the book over their own eyes and the caddies opinion, it indicated this was another skill that was being removed from the game.

Cost of Hosting and Event

Adam Schupak wrote a piece for Links Magazine that was eye-opening for me, The starting price can be as modest as roughly $150,000 for the U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur, balloons to $750,000 for the Walker Cup, and gets close to $1 million for the U.S. Amateur when a larger footprint for worldwide media and television compounds is factored in. To raise the money, host facilities often are forced to get creative, ranging from throwing golf outings to finding local sponsors. It took approximately 50 well-heeled members at Country Club of Birmingham in Alabama—a century-old, 36-hole private facility that had slipped out of golf’s Top 100 lists—to bankroll the $300,000 budget for the 2013 U.S. Mid-Amateur Championship.”

Wait, what … if it’s costing the club money, why the hell would you ever host? Between the changes that get made for these events and the interruptions for membership play, why on earth would any club host anything anymore.

Should Erin Hill Get the Open Back?

Golf World's Jaime Diaz. Erin Hills, with sheer bigness that requires less retrofitting for distance than older courses, and a brawn accented by humpy land and jagged bunkers that can make for exciting golf, offers a welcome but only occasional – maybe once every 20 years - change of pace from the traditional Golden Age classics.”

I think that argues for either Erin Hills or Chambers Bay once every 20 years.

Jack Nicklaus wasn’t convinced, “I'm not sure that I thought that was what a U.S. Open should look like, but I'm not used to seeing no rough around the green or wide fairways with extreme rough if you hit a real bad tee shot.  And I'm not sure that I thought that was what a U.S. Open should look like, I don't want to be an old fogey about it and say that everything that we did was the right way.  There's other ways to do it and they did it a different way and I think they had a great tournament.”

Daily Mail correspondent Derek Lawrenson  gave Worst Tournament to the U.S. Open at Erin Hills, “Just when you think they can't possibly cock it up for a third year running, the United States Golf Association managed to debase yet another US Open. A shocking, soulless venue in the middle of nowhere and scoring so low the tournament's raison d'etre as the hardest major was lost completely. I recently had to fill in a survey from the USGA asking what I thought of them. It's fair to say they didn't score well.”

I personally don’t think it should go back to either Erin Hills or Chambers Bay. I don’t care about the PGA sites, but the Open sites should be historical sites of other Opens. It adds to the magic of the week.

The Ball – Part Five Split the Rules?

R&A Chief Executive Martin Slumbers When we look at all the options we’ve got, it [bifurcation] will have to be one of the options we look at,” Slumbers said. “Whether that’s the right thing to do, who knows the answer? Up to date, we have had a view of one set of playing rules, one set of equipment rules, and I think that served our game extremely well, but we must make sure we get the skill and technology right, as a balance for the good of the overall game.

Hole of the Year End – A Great Bogie

Geoff Shackelford  of Golfweek writes, “Spieth knew by going backwards he’d be able to get Temporary Movable Obstruction relief from the trucks and onto a beautiful tight fescue turf lie.

With the option now clear, the mob scene moved to the range, with cameramen shifting behind Spieth like a swarm of blackbirds tracing him as he looked at options with the walking referee. Eventually the back-nine roving official, John Paramor, arrived and signed off on an unplayable lie drop between the Callaway and TaylorMade trucks.”

“As he walked off the back of the putting surface, Spieth ever-so-briefly flashed Greller a mischievous grin while handing him his trusty Scotty Cameron. He knew he’d just made an epic bogey.”

“Given that he went on to win the British Open, it might have been the greatest bogey in major championship history.”

The Ratings are Down

Geoff Ogilvy said, “TV ratings are really not a measure of whether golf is popular.”

Yes and no. Participation numbers suggest that golf’s is stagnant at best and well down from the year 2000. TV ratings make it clear that fewer people are watching professional golf. I hate to say it, but it’s more than Tiger … or is it?

Greg Norman Changes Golf 

After weeks of build-up Greg Norman creates an on-line experience for golfing millennials. Or they can just use their phone like they do now …

In my mind he’s crossed the point from being a clever businessman and “jumped the shark” … come on, that was funny!

Green Reading Books Part One – The Caddies Speak Out

Caddie Stevie Williams speaks out, “There’s no doubt that a lot of the information that’s getting provided now is taking a lot of the skill and the art and the natural gift [out] of playing the game."

“I’m totally against greens reading books. I think it’s a skill of the game not to have a book provided that absolutely gives you a detailed description of the green and if you read the book accurately, you know exactly how far your putt’s going to break.”

Longtime Caddy John Paramor says, "But I have to say I think they are a de-skilling of the game. Part of this game is making your own judgement about how your ball is going to roll across a green. It’s not for you to find that out on a piece of paper.” 

The Ball – Part Six – Debate Heats Up

He’s back …Tiger Woods not only returns to active play, but also speaks out on the ball, “The only thing I would say is that we need to do something about the golf ball. I just think it’s going too far because we’re having to build golf courses…if you want to have a championship venue, they’ve got to be 73, 7400 yards long and if the game keeps progressing the way it is with technology, I think that the 8,000 yard golf course is not too far away. And that’s pretty scary. We don’t have enough property to be designing these types of golf courses. And it just makes it so much more complicated.”

Bridgestone CEO Angel Ilagan said the time has come. "As it relates to the Tour...there needs to be something to standardize [the ball] because the guys are hitting it way too long."

USGA's Mike Davis weighs in, “I don’t care how far Tiger Woods hits it. The reality is this is affecting all golfers and affecting them in a bad way. All it’s doing is increasing the cost of the game.”

The retiring head of Acushnet Wally Uihlein weighs in, "Is there any evidence to support this canard…the trickle down cost argument?” Where is the evidence to support the argument that golf course operating costs nationwide are being escalated due to advances in equipment technology?"

Tiger Woods is Back!

It began with an engaging press conference where Tiger once again reiterated his view on shortening the ball, “Hey, I am one of the guys that if they did roll the ball back, it would help me out a little bit. I would have an advantage. Any long guy who hits the ball long and high would have more of an advantage because now we're having to hit longer irons in the greens, other guys are having to hit hybrids and woods, so you have an advantage.”

The buzz of having Tiger back playing was enormous that week. The unusually high interest in a nothing tournament was stunning. And then on Friday we saw that ever familiar name climb to the top of the leader board … and the excitement was off the charts. 

Rex Hoggard said, For four days, Woods drove the ball as well as he has in a decade, putted better than his final statistics might suggest and largely controlled his golf ball with the notable exception of his opening loop on Saturday.”

Michael Bamberger, senior writer, Sports Illustrated chipped in, He's been through a personal hell, major surgery, the chip yips and a bunch of other things. He played well and carried himself well and talked like a person who knows there's a mountain in front of him and he's just starting the climb. It was impressive. Saturday was a reminder that there’s a long road ahead.”

The last word on this year goes to Tennis legend Rafa Nadal who walked the course watching Woods, “I think this is a very important moment now for golf and himself and for all the people who love the sport in general. He’s the most charismatic star golf has had in the past 50 years or so. For everyone to see him back is something great for the sport.”