Fall Golf, Course Set-up’s on TOUR and The 2018 Ryder Cup

It’s a great time of the year. Pumpkin Spice is en vogue (although I get tired of it by the second week of September). Members of golf clubs that I’ve worked at are already thinking of their annual “Snowbird migration”. Meanwhile, the residents of regions affected by the annual influx are also thinking about it…For different reasons.

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Fall golf at Byrncliff in 2014.

With a show of hands.. who loves fall golf? I know that I do and it sucks that stroke recovery is likely going to prevent me from partaking in playing this fall.. The weather is fantastic with the temperatures being near perfection. Gone are the days of oppressive heat. The fairways aren’t nearly as busy and getting in 18-36 holes is a breeze. Of course, there’s the added benefit of fall foliage. Is there a prettier time of the year to go golfing? The reds, oranges and yellows make you feel like you’re golfing amongst a fire. Even the smell in the air is just a little different. Fall is also the time when superintendents are aerating, top-dressing and fertilizing their greens. Yes, it might be a pain in the arse putting on those surfaces but just remember. A little misery now means that your greens will survive the winter and be ready for you in the spring. Thank your superintendent and greens staff today.

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A necessary part of golf.

The 2018 Ryder Cup was just contested this past weekend and a huge congratulations goes out to Team Europe. The European side played some beautiful golf and their victory was convincing to say the least. While I will refrain from using the term “bloodbath” it wasn’t close. The Europeans (Captained by Thomas Bjorn) cruised to a 17.5 to 10.5 victory powered by the likes of Tommy Fleetwood, Francesco Molinari, Ian Poulter, Rory McIlroy, Sergio Garcia, Jon Rahm, Justin Rose, Alex Noren et al. The European team simply looked like that… a team. Something that the American team failed to achieve especially amid the aftermath of the defeat. Patrick Reed was busy pointing fingers and while I love the fact that he’s not a “spit and polish” kind of guy you never point fingers. Win and lose as a “team” right?! Finger pointing at the Ryder Cup is not unprecedented. Who remembers when Phil Mickelson pointed his finger at Captain Tom Watson in 2014? Wasn’t that also the year when “The Panel” was set up after an embarrassing defeat to ensure that it never happened again? Maybe I’m mistaken. Also, there were reports of an apparent incident between Brooks Koepka and Dustin Johnson.at the after party where they had to be separated. Either way, there are bigger things to get into a huff over and in the grand scheme of things. Say what you will… the Euros dominated in every facet of the competition. Namely, hitting fairways and greens. Which brings me to my next point.

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Photo Credit: CBS Sports

All over social media I’ve seen it said. The difference was in how the golf course was set up. On the PGA Tour golf courses are generally set up too easy. Everything is lush and pristine. A missed fairway simply isn’t penalized. While the American side was “chock full” of the sort of player referred to as “Bomb and Gouge” the Europeans were not. Accuracy was the name of the game as it always is and should be. The American team was ill-suited to succeed at Le Golf National. Sure there was a ton of talent and “big boppers” on their team. However, if you’re unable to score from the thicker, graduated rough when you miss the narrowed fairway the battle is already lost. Here’s a news flash. If you’re new to my site I have long said that the answer to the insanely low scores on tour is not the golf ball and rolling it back. Protect the integrity of the game by protecting the golf course architect and the golf course itself. Let the superintendents of host venues on TOUR have “fun”. Grow the golf course out! Make the fairways narrow, punish a missed fairway with thicker rough, firm up the greens and by all means water the living Hell out of the fairways to eliminate roll. These guys will torch a “resort course” all day long and that’s how these courses are set-up. Wake up PGA Tour and the USGA. If you truly want to compete and win the Ryder Cup and not be lambasted… make your tournament courses tougher.

Until The Next Tee!!

#seeuonthenexttee #fightandgrind

This and That!!! (Volume 3)

According to my calculations this is the third installment of an article that I simply titled “This and That”. I honestly don’t remember what said article was about but I do know that something cheesed me off so I wrote about it. In this installment I’m going to get a few things off of my chest.

Recently, I was asked why is it that I’m so hard on Tiger Woods bordering on the point of hate. The greatest player to have ever played the game. I feel this is the best outlet and time to discuss it. First and foremost I just wanted to clarify that I don’t hate Tiger Woods. I have never had a talk with him and therefore I don’t know him. Yes, he really comes off as arrogant and elitist but that is what I see and I am entitled to my opinion.. I don’t how he interacts with children or elderly people. But there is a certain air about him isn’t there? Is he the kind of guy that would give you the shirt off of his back? I’ll never know. I get it… to his legions of fans that fact doesn’t even matter… or at least I assume that it doesn’t.

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Photo Credit: cbssports.com

But there are some things about Tiger that I do hate. The first thing is that I hate the choices that he’s made. I spoke about that before within these pages. There’s absolutely no excuse for driving under the influence whether it’s prescribed medications or alcohol and there is no explanation that forgives it. To be honest, I don’t care what he did or didn’t do during his marriage to Elin Nordgren. Of course, I am referring to his act of indiscretion (or two), Hey, it’s his life right? The media and how they handle/treat him. This really bugs me. Especially the  Golf Channel most notably and how they gush about him. I get it…. Tiger did a lot for golf  but not in the sense of what Mr. Palmer did. What Tiger has done for golf was bring people to the golf course or driving range who otherwise may not him. He had his name on a very popular game for consoles further immersing youth and old alike in golf. Viewers and broadcasts love him and in particular the ratings that he brings. Ratings that  in all likelihood Golf Channel wouldn’t have. But we don’t need to hear about every time he swings a golf club or what he has for breakfast and so on. Did you know that tere were other players in the event? Did you know that Kevin Chappell was leading? When Tiger is involved directly with the game or an event there is a certain buzz that envelops said event. Look no further than the recent President’s Cup. Tiger is great for the golf industry and he brings attention to a game that is much maligned.

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Photo Credit: golfweek.com

As everybody and their uncle knows Tiger teed it up this week at his event (Hero World Challenge). An event with a field of 18 players most of which are among the game’s elite. In typical fashion during the days leading up to the event all that you saw was Tiger here… Tiger there. It’s understandable… because it was huge. It was a comeback and one that felt different and the masses soaked it all in. Heck, there were some pictures circulating on social media that bordered on creepy. Pictures taken from behind bushes. you know the typical stalker-type. Pictures that were ominously close to being labeled as sociopathic. As I said, this time around the comeback felt different. His swing didn’t look hesitant like in other returns from injury etc. He looked good and I’m the first to say that and give Tiger credit where credit is due. He played well.. real well in fact. He was right there near the top of the leaderboard for a bit. That in itself is great to see and love him or hate him you never want to see a guy struggle or be a shell of their former selves. Whether you’re a “golf fan” or a “Tiger fan” (and there is a difference) it can only be good for our struggling sport. It’s sort of strange for me to see him playing TaylorMade Golf equipment and Bridgestone Golf Tour B XS balls. I don’t even look at the 75 that he shot on Saturday when looking back at his return. He played well period! All that I say now is just let him play golf when he decides to play and nature will take its course.

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My GOAT (Photo Credit: arnoldpalmer.com)

A couple of other things real quick. A reference has been thrown around a ton. The reference of which I speak is a type of livestock. Goats! Otherwise known as the greatest of all time. Many say that Tiger is THE G.O.A.T. and to me I feel that he isn’t. I feel that Tiger is by far the greatest of my generation without question but he isn’t the G.O.A.T. Many factors weigh in to somebody being the G.O.AT. For me it just isn’t about stats or victories. There’s more to being a champion on the course, the field or the rink. Maybe to a rabid Boston Bruins fan Wayne Gretzky isn’t the GOAT when it comes to hockey. Maybe to that fan it’s Bobby Orr.  To me there’s a hidden variable to being a GOAT. That variable is how someone was or conducts themselves in life. Everybody has an opinion and that’s what makes debate fun. Each individual has a reason why (to them) somebody is the GOAT. To me when I look at the greats Tiger is there. But then again so are Bobby Jones and Jack Nicklaus seeing that his statistics speak for themselves. For me the greatest of all time was Arnold Palmer. Not just for his 93 total victories which included 7 Majors. But he was a champion at life. He was a champion off of the course. To me that makes him THE G.O.A.T!

Another thing that has my hackles up. Golf balls! This entire bifurcation thing”. It isn’t going to work and unless you’re playing on the PGA Tour you don’t really need to worry about it. I’ll stick to my guns and what I wrote last week or whenever it was. Water the crap out of the fairways, narrow the fairways, grow the rough out and firm up the greens. I know there’s a crusade about water conservation. But again my idea only affects Tour courses and the weeks leading up to an event. Sure the member’s at courses that host an event would have it tough for a bit but it’s an easy payoff to lessen the chances of making your 7,300 yard golf course look like a pitch ‘n’ putt and yielding mini-putt scores. Protect the architects!

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Photo Credit: Golf Digest

Long putters! People are bashing Bernhard Langer, Scott McCarron and Adam Scott. Scott because he’s reportedly going back to a long putter.  Langer and McCarron because people feel that they’re breaching the rule (anchor ban) and cheating. I hate long putters and I’ve tried them. They aren’t for me. But if they were automatic everybody would use them. When it comes to the Tour. I think it should be clear. No use… period! Which gets me to the equipment and golf balls for the run of the mill hack… like me! Use whatever you want. Use what makes the game fun for you and gives you the best results. Use a 53″ long driver or a belly putter. Use irons that don’t conform to the groove rule if you wish. If you aren’t playing in a sanctioned RCGA, USGA or R & A event then don’t worry about it. These rules affect only a miniscule percentage of the world’s golfers. If the curmudgeon that you’re paired with on the first tee gets their knickers in a bunch about your equipment… Screw ’em! Just get on the course, play golf and have fun!

Until The Next Tee!!

Rrrrroll Back??

Alright! Right up until this moment I’ve been very quiet about the hot topic that has come up lately. No it isn’t Tiger’s comeback at the Hero World Challenge but he is involved in this article. Then again so are legends of golf Mr. Jack Nicklaus and Mr. Gary Player. Of course I am talking about the latest talk of rolling back the golf ball.The reason is simple and I totally understand their concern. The fact is that Tour players are making certain golf courses obsolete. Most notably, some of the courses in the rota for the Open Championship. Imagine a world where there is no Open Championship on the Old Course at St. Andrew’s. When you think about it… it isn’t far-fetched at all.

The talk of rolling the golf ball back is not a new idea. Mr. Nicklaus has stated this in the past so his suggestion about a uniform golf ball is nothing new. I remember going back to 2015 during the week of the U.S. Open at Chambers Bay the timeless legend Mr. Player stated that golf courses were “getting too long” and that the “mismanagement of the golf ball” is leading to the demise of golf courses. Even more recently, Mr. Player stated that it was “sad” to see the Old Course being defeated by today’s golf ball. He actually expressed concerns in 2005. Tiger Woods joined the “campaign” on dialing the golf ball back very recently as well. Of course, there were those who follow the game that said he wants the golf ball rolled back because he is no longer the longest guy out there. But there he was clearly stating that “We” need to do something. So if this is a concern than why has nothing been done?

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While evolution and progress can be a great thing in some cases it isn’t. In a world of checks and balances something has to give. I have a hard time seeing the likes of the major brands in the industry saying yes to having a uniform golf ball. After all, in the case of Titleist their marketing model has nothing to do with their golf clubs or their mid-range golf balls. It’s all about the Pro V1 golf ball. Play what the best in the world play! Of course, the Pro V1 will almost certainly continue to live for the masses.  But getting back to giving a new meaning to “the one ball rule” how would that process occur? Bids by the likes of Acushnet, Srixon Golf,  Bridgestone Golf, Wilson Golf etc with the winner being selected and to the victor go the spoils? Seems hardly fair right? If all company’s had to adhere to the same criteria that would theoretically work. But then I get this eerie premonition.

Just like when rolling and shaving softball bats was a thing when I was still playing softball. To make composite softball bats more lively guys at all levels of softball would shave the inner walls of the bat and roll the bats to make them “pop” reducing their break-in period which made the bats hot!!!. The result… pitchers dreaded lobbing up every pitch because of the balls exit speed coming back up the middle. Trust me.. it was deadly!   The governing bodies at Provincial Championships had x-ray machines to check for any suspected bats breaching the rule. Remember my premonition? Imagine the eventual winner of a tournament won a tournament that we’ll call ‘The Masters”. The winner was  hitting the “rolled back” golf ball long. Meanwhile, up in The Butler Cabin  by the fireplace sits an x-ray machine. Right before the Green Jacket presentation they examine the golf ball… or all of the golf balls in the golf bag of the winner. Somehow, there was one ball that magically slipped through quality and control at Plant#3 and there’s an illegal golf ball. Disqualification.

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Photo Credit: scottishgolfhistory.com

 

The reality of the game and rolling the golf ball back only is a concern for such a low percentage of golfers around the world. For everyone else (mere mortals) this debate doesn’t or shouldn’t really effect them. With all due respect to Mr. Nicklaus, Mr. Player and Mr. Woods the problem really stems back to my entire baseball bat scenario. Sure the golf ball is long. Maybe it doesn’t spin as much. But those baseball bats started to launch the ball out of the ball park 375 feet  at will. One league I played in had houses built right behind the sports complex. Segments of 50′ mesh nets were strung up in a vain attempt to protect the houses against incoming “mortar shells”. It sort of worked but yet windows were still getting smashed. The league brought in a flight restricted ball and sure the instances of baseballs being hit off of the roofs of neighboring houses decreased but not by much. So what was the correlation and why was it still a problem… other than poor city planning? The bats and athlete’s themselves.

I personally think that the issue with golf and this entire “rolling back crusade” is with the golf clubs themselves. Let’s face it… when you’re an arthritic 70-year-old man you shouldn’t really hitting the ball further than when you were 50. But you are! If there’s an issue with too much length look at the new equipment that’s being constructed from space-aged materials. If it’s anything it’s the equipment causing the issues.  Not just drivers and irons but the turf equipment too. Bear with me for a second regarding the latter. But again, this only pertains to a small percentage of golfers. Have scores dropped significantly among amateurs over the last 5 years with all of the advances in technology? The answer is no! Look at the technology in place for these guys playing on television on Sunday afternoon’s. Sure it’s out there for amateur’s as well  but the technology goes far outside of having the right shafts installed into your set. Who saw Rocky IV? Remember the technology that “Ivan Drago” had? Technology that actually makes the athlete with much advanced workout programs. Golfers at the collegiate and professional levels like their NHL, NFL, and MLB counterparts are quite simply bigger, faster and stronger. So… is the answer having 8,500 yard long golf courses? My thought is no! How the heck does that help and what is a solution?

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The course of the future now. (Photo Credit: Daily Mail)

I never thought that I would say this but maybe.. just maybe the USGA has had it “sort of” right all along with their set-ups. Maybe the superintendents at said courses would take an issue to this but maybe growing out the rough, making fairways narrower and the greens firmer and faster is the answer. Moreover, water the living “bejeezus” out of the fairways. Drench them… and forget about these guys getting 50+ yards of roll. My Lord… most of the fairways that these guys play on roll faster on a “Stimp” than the greens at most Semi-Private golf courses. The machinery that superintendents have at their disposal has come a long way since the era of “Caddyshack’. I’ve said for too long that golf has become hard to watch. Seeing these guys posting combined -24 scores for a tournament is hurting the game and making the game boring to watch. Many people go to car races for the “wrecks” and that’s why I love the carnage at the U.S. Open. High scores and punishment for wayward shots. Many of these courses also feature fairways as wide as the eyes can see… or they should be considering their width. Look at Erin Hills… wow! Heck, even Glen Abbey site of the RBC Canadian Open has massive fairways where the bombers can bomb away at will. If they miss… no big deal because there is no rough. If you want to roll anything back… roll back the course conditioning.

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2004 U.S. Open Shinnecock Hills (Photo Credit: Getty Images)

Maybe my solution is too simplified. You aren’t going to be able to roll back the athlete (force them to be obese) and you might be able to do something about rolling back the ball and/or equipment. But the one thing that golf needs to do is preserve the game and preserve the likes of Tillinghast, Thompson, Nicklaus, Palmer, Robert Trent Jones and Ross. Make these guys “golf the ball” around the course. Screw “bomb and gouge” and make these guys hit golf shots. Make them work the ball and penalize a miss.

Until The Next Tee!!