Wednesday, December 30, 2009

A Bit of Irony for the New Year

The United States Postal Service is issuing new stamps for 2010, including one that will be released Jan. 14, to honor the Year of the Tiger. The lunar new year begins in February.

If the fact that it will be the Year of the Tiger isn't humorous enough, 14 is the amount of alleged mistresses that have stepped forward in the Tiger Woods scandal.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Ann Arbor Media Group No Longer Publishing Golf Books

This is not good news for authors and readers.

Ann Arbor Media Group, of which Sports Media Group is an imprint, will not longer be publishing golf book. Sports Media Group published my first book, "To the Nines."

SMG traces its roots back to golf book publisher Sleeping Bear Press. Lynne Johnson, head of Product Service Management at AAMG, wrote in an email that the decision was based on on the fact the golf book market has changed dramatically.

"Our decision in the golf market is more a gradual process than a one-day, press release type of event. While doing golf books at Sleeping Bear, we sold largely to a reader interested in golf history and architecture. In our recent sales with AAMG, we found less of an interest in those topics (Perhaps because more has been done there in recent years? Perhaps because those readers are aging?). Sales were more modest and as a result we signed fewer new projects each year. At the same time, our business model evolved to do more custom publishing and fewer trade sales (a non-returnable market as opposed to a returnable market). We might do a course history for the club, but not an instruction book. It's been a gradual process for us but we've decided not to sign additional books in the trade golf area."

Johnson says there might be signs of hope in the new media areas.

"It is a sad occasion of sorts. I've worked in the golf stuff since 1994. We had a good run with those high-end architecture books like the (Brad Klein's) Ross book and I'm afraid some of those projects won't be done any more now that the bookstores rarely carry a book that sells over $40. Good news that perhaps ebooks will give some of the shorter run text only projects life without printing a bunch of copies? I can tell you that publishers are really scared about the cheap ebook market currently, with good reason probably."

So while publishers are scared and trying to figure out what the future will bring, writers are left with fewer and fewer places where they can pitch legitimate book ideas and those dwindling group of golf book fans will have fewer titles to add to their collections.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

No Decision Yet on the Golf Course

Monday night the Middletown Economic Development Commission did not vote on my golf course proposal. They want to have a deeper look at the lease/tax issue. As it now stands, if the city goes ahead with the plan of me having a lease and pay full taxes, it will sink the project. The next EDC meeting is Jan. 11 and we're working to have the issue solved by then so they will be able to approve my proposal and move it to the Middletown Common Council for their approval, at which point I would have control of the land.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Spain, Portugal and Africa

Still have golf travel on my mind with Portugal and Spain in the forefront. While I set foot on a number of golf courses during my trip to Portugal nearly two years ago, I never struck a single golf ball. I think it's time I made up for that transgression.

As for a golf break in Spain, I'd really like to find out what's going on in the country that produced Sergio Garcia and Seve Ballesteros.

Being in that part of Southern Europe would also give me the chance to head over to Africa where I've never been. I like the idea of teeing it up on another continent. The Royal Country Golf Club that dates back to 1917 and is located in Tangier, is a parkland style layout designed by Frank Pennink and Henry Cotton, then renovated by Peter Harradine.

According to this website, it the oldest course in the country and the layout "winds its way through cypress, pine and eucalyptus trees while crossing the mountain, sloping down and climbing again. It provides panoramic views over the white town of Tangier and the Straits of Gibraltar."

Sounds good to me.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Tiger and Chevron

For those who believe in karma, the timing of the Tiger Woods debacle, coming right before the Chevron World Challenge, hosted by Woods, cannot be ignored.

Chevron has been accused by a number of human rights organizations of being in partnership with the Burmese military regime, the same people who blocked aid agencies from helping the survivors of Cyclone Nargis that claimed close to 80,000 lives. As detailed in this article by Dave Zirin that appeared in the May 2008 issue of the Nation, human rights groups contacted Woods to voice concerns about his partnership with Chevron that helps fund the Tiger Woods Foundation, but received no response.

According to the Nation, "Ka Hsaw Wa, co-founder and executive director of EarthRights International, wrote in an open letter to Woods, 'I myself have spoken to victims of forced labor, rape, and torture on Chevron's pipeline--if you heard what they said to me, you too would understand how their tragic stories stand in stark contrast to Chevron's rhetoric about helping communities.' ERI's request to meet with Woods or someone from the foundation has been met with silence."

The story also shows how Chevron's unethical dealings are not just confined to Burma and includes the United States.

"Lawsuits have been issued against Chevron's toxic waste dumping in Alaska, Canada, Angola, California. Then there's the matter of 18 billion gallons of toxic waste the company has been accused of dumping in the Amazon."

There is hope that the end result of this mess that Tiger has created for himself might result in him becoming humble. Maybe, too, it can also teach him to look beyond his bankbook, the walls of his gated community and his gated life and see the world around him.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Tiger and Other Athletes Who Want It Both Ways

Here is a wonderful column from James Corrigan in the English newspaper, The Independent, talking about how athletes want only the attention that is beneficial to them. Thanks to Geoff Shackelford for uncovering this piece.

I've refrained from wading into the whole Tiger Woods debacle but this is the subject on which I would have written if I had no choice. Even from my days covering the NHL's Hartford Whalers along with a handful of PGA tournaments, I ran across instances of athletes courting the press to cover their achievements, yet being incensed when their transgressions were made public, as well.

At its most basic, the reaction of many athletes is a result of having nothing but lavish praise thrown on them their entire lives by relatives, coaches, management people and sycophantic media outlets such as the Golf Channel. If Tiger never used his fame to sell us Buick, Nike, Rolex, Gillette and Chevron, he have never would have faced this kind of scrutiny.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Tour of the Arawana Site

A few of us are heading out to what could be, someday, the site of my golf course. The two-hour walk begins at about 10:30 a.m. and we're meeting at what would be the first tee off Bow Lane. If you need directions, let me know.

Thursday, December 3, 2009


On the advice of my high-tech guru, Rick White, I have now started a Twitter account:

At some point I'll be posting scintillating updates about the world of golf in 140-character increments.

Stay tuned!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Dirty Dealings on Golf Courses

The New York Times has a wonderful story about how many corrupt political deals take place on golf courses.

Here's a great quote from the article. “More politicians will succumb to a pricey golf outing than to a sexy woman in a negligee,” said Melanie Sloan, executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a nonpartisan watchdog group. “You have a lot more privacy than in your office and in a restaurant, and it’s socially acceptable to leave your office for half the day to play golf.

Here's the link to the story:

Thursday, November 19, 2009

A Wild Punchbowl Green from 1921

This is 1921 photo of the wild 16th green at Westmoreland Country Club in Wilmette, Ill., which hosted the men's and women's Western amateur that year. According to a Golf Illustrated article previewing the events, William Watson was responsible for the original design and construction.

"The tees are large, the original greens were enormous and they tell a story of a famous British golfer who, after being constantly short of the cup with his approach putts, them with his driver," wrote Jack Hoag in Golf Illustrated. "Since that time many of the holes have been changed according to plans by Billy Langford and A.W. Tillinghast and the size of some of the greens were reduced by cutting traps right out of the original greens. This has made the bunkering so close that the element of luck has been practically eliminated and the course is famous throughout the West for the sportiness of its approaches."

During his hole-by-hole description Hoag, this time writing this time in The American Golfer, was critical of the 16th. "The three hundred and ten yard sixteenth is either a very good or a very bad hole, depending on the point of view, and the point of view depends largely on your drive. You play from a tee up over the ridge, the clubhouse is on your left and an out of bounds is on your right. If your drive has been a good one, you face a little niblick pitch into a punchbowl green, which has a cop six feet high completely surrounding it and hazards outside the cop. Granted a good drive, just a pitch into the bowl and slope of the sides will do the rest. But, if you miss your drive and have to play a spoon or a long iron approach, this same bowl is a tough baby to hit."

What Langford and/or Tillinhast created was a green that possesses qualities Robert Trent Jones produced on many of his par-4 holes, that of a putting surface heavily guarded in front by bunkers or hazards and only conducive to a short-iron approach without the option to run the ball on. The problem, for me, with this design style is that when a poor tee shot is the result, any attempt to hold the green with a long iron is virtually impossible. The only options, other than trying to produce a miraculous shot, is to lay up short of trouble or dump the approach in a bunker. Neither alternative is enticing.

No surprisingly, the 1921 version of the 16th green no longer exists.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Arawana Golf Course - A Slight Delay

The Middletown Economic Development Commission was scheduled to vote on my proposal for the city-owned land to become a golf course at the November meeting, but it was canceled as a result of the recent municipal elections and rescheduled for the second Monday in December. The elections should have no bearing on how the commission will vote. The only member of Middletown's Common Council, from which a majority of the EDC is comprised, who was not reelected is opposed to the golf course.

Stay tuned.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

A Great Set of "Lost" Bunkers

I came across this photo from the July 1921 issue of the USGA magazine, showing an amazing bunker on the par-5 fifth hole of Columbia Country Club in Chevy Chase, Md. That month the club hosted its only major, the U.S. Open. "Long Jim" Barnes smoked the field with a 289, nine strokes better than Walter Hagen and Fred McLeod.

Prior to the event, the course had been redone by architect William Flynn. However, it is likely this magnificent sand hazard that had to be negotiated on the second shot was not Flynn's but that of Walter Travis, who worked on the Columbia layout after architect Herbert Barker designed the first golf course.

A 1921 Golf Illustrated article prior to the U.S. Open says Columbia member Dr. Walter Harban, a member of the USGA executive committee, came up with the design but that is doubtful. What Harban might have done is hire Travis to upgrade the course and then make suggestions during the renovation. Harban and Travis were members of Garden City Golf Club, a Travis design.

This bunker is, in all likelihood, a Travis creation and fits in with other bunkers he fashioned throughout his career. It doesn't appear that Barker ever created a hazard like this on his handful of designs and Harban was never a golf course architect.

In that same Golf Illustrated, a description of the putting surface at the fifth also sounds like the work of Travis.

"One must hold this green like grim death, for steep sides and an even deeper gulch at the back await the unsuspecting shots that do not live up to their purposes."

Columbia CC remains, but the bunker is gone. The photo I posted above, is well-known at the club and is a favorite of the members, who refer to the hole as, "Lost Bunkers." Since the fifth-hole corridor is the same as it was in 1921, the hazard, along with the rest of the Travis-Flynn golf course that had other audacious features, could be easily restored but that will not happen anytime soon. In fact, from what I understand, there is not even a discussion about reinstating this bunker or any of the others. Where the fabulous creation once rose from the ground, a bland, elongated depression sits below the fairway.

This appears to be just another case of post-World War II golf course redesign where the distinctive and challenging architecture was eviscerated to accommodate the higher handicaps and shorter hitters. Again and again, difficult hazards and green complexes, no matter how well built, how effective as part of a golf hole, or how beautiful, are removed to make the golf course play easier for those golfers who would have the toughest time negotiating the test.

Where Columbia CC once sought to be among the finest golf courses in the country, it is now content to be nothing more than just another golf course in the Washington D.C. area.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Spanish Golf

Maybe it's because the Volvo World Match Play Championship is under way, or because I've be watching a cooking show that features nothing but cuisine from Spain, that I thought to myself, "man, I wouldn't mind going there." I loved the food and the people and the golf courses in Portugal, why wouldn't I enjoy Spain just as much?

The Marabella region in the southern portion of the country has a number of layouts including some with views of Gibralter and Africa. Now that has to be something, looking at another continent while playing golf.

Finca Cortesin Golf Resort is hosting the World Match Play and I'd surely tee it up on the Cabell Robinson design if the opportunity arose. The event is raising money for the Seve Ballesteros Foundation, which aids in brain cancer research.

Looking around the web, I cam across the La Manga Las Lomas Village on the southwest coast and that appears to be a wonderful spot. The resort has three layouts including the South Course that was reworked by Arnold Palmer and has hosted the Spanish Open. I'd love to try out all three.

OK, now I just have to figure out a way to get over there!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Golf and Gambling

For so many golfers, the game can’t be played without a little side action, say a $5 nassau and $1 birdies. For others, though, it has to be way more involved than that and they partake in a game like Wolf that is so complicated, I really don’t have a modicum of understanding of the rules even though I’ve played it a few times.

For me, a straight match-play contest is good enough and if there is a want to pay out for greenies and sandies, I’m good with that. If there's no desire for a "game," I'll still tee it up.

On the other hand, my friend who I'll call Keith (because that's his name), can't just enjoy a round of golf. "I have to play for something," he once barked in his gravely voice. "I don't care if it's a stick."

He's serious. During one of my trips to the Old Course, I brought him back a branch broken off from a gorse bush on the famous layout that he used to carry in his golf bag as the designated "stick."

During one of our more memorable rounds, we decided to complicate it about as much as we could. Besides me giving him shots and playing for sandies and birdies, we also paid out on each hole for Hogans, par or better while hitting the fairway and green in regulation on each hole, Watsons, hitting the fairway in regulation but missing the green while making par or better and Seves, missing the fairway and green in regulation while still making par or better.

I think we also threw in barkies, making par or better after hitting a tree, and had we had the chance we would have played for Alexander Graham Bells, that's making par or better after bouncing a shot off a telephone pole or overhanging wires.

Then there are those who love golfing and gambling, but not at the same time, which explains the popularity of golf and casinos. If your looking for places around the world to gamble, and possibly get in some golf, check out this casino guide.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Take Me to Teeth of the Dog

It's turning cold in Connecticut and I'm not ready for it. The forecast of temperatures in the 40s, accompanied by wind and rain, makes me want to take a crash course in hibernation. Pretending, for a moment, that I had the money, I was perusing the Internet for a place I'd jet off to for golf and sun when it gets really cold. The answer I came up with was, Casa de Campo in the Dominican Republic and Pete Dye's Teeth of the Dog Course.

I have Dye on the brain after speaking with him a few weeks ago for a piece I wrote for Golfdom magazine about the role of architects in helping golf courses conserve water. At 84, the design genius is still opinionated when it comes to all topics golf and it was pure joy to talk with him on a variety of topic for close to 30 minutes.

Ranked as high as 34th in the world by various magazines, Teeth of the Dog is now complimented by two other Dye designs -- Dye Fore and The Links. Teeth of the Dog might not have the audaciousness of Dye's later work, but it is replete with his signature style of options and angles that appeal and challenge players of all skill levels.

"Casa de Campo has been my life," he has said. "I always say Casa de Campo is my favorite place. The courses are as good as I can build."

Hey, maybe that's just an architect hyping his work like he should but, if I had the money, I'd take a trip there and find out for myself.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Arawana on the Air

Here is a link that takes you to my appearance on The Eye on the Air, discussing the Arawana Golf Course Project.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Magnificent Machrihanish Dunes

I should have posted this a while ago, but my life has been a bit hectic with the Arawana Golf Course project.

I played Machrihanish Dunes in late July as part of the grand opening that occurred the Tuesday after the Open Championship and I have to tell you, this course is worth the trip.

Architect David McLay Kidd and his chief associate, Paul Kimber, have created an outstanding links golf course, the first layout built on the West Coast of Scotland in over 100 years, with wild greens that nestle into the natural terrain. The course, on the southern tip of the Kintyre Peninsula on Scotland's far Southwest Coast, is within one of the country's most sensitive natural areas that is known as a Site of Special Scientific Interest. Because of that, there are no pesticides used on the golf course and artificial irrigation is only allowed for the greens. As a result, this is a golf course that is constantly changing as the natural grasses adapt to the lower heights of cut and the presence of golfers. It is, as the literature says, "the way golf began." The Old Tom Morris-designed Machrihanish Golf Club that was built over 100 years ago and is Mach Dune's next-door-neighbor, transformed over the years exactly as Machrihanish Dunes is doing and will continue to do.

As part of the Machrihanish Dunes, complex, there are the newly-built
cottages in which to stay, creating a perfect home base for journeys to
nearby courses such as Machrihanish, Dunaverty and the wonderful Machrie,
located on the Island of Islay, also home to the distilleries that produce
the lovely Islay single malt whiskies.

The drive from Glasgow or Edinburgh to Kintyre is a delightful trip, and there is also the option of direct flights from Glasgow to Cambeltown Airport.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Arawana: Economic Development Commission Meeting

I made my presentation before the Middletown Economic Development Commission Monday night and it was well-received. Also presenting their plans were the ArtFarm people and Blue-Blaze Trail people.

Here is a link to the story in the Middletown Press:

Commission members had no questions for me after the presentation but I talked to a few one-on-one and they appear to like the plan. Commission chairman Gerry Daley, however, wants the Conservation Commission to review all the proposals and report back for the November meeting. The CC has no actual power, but acts in an advisory capacity.

One surprise of the evening came before the meeting began when the Blue-Blaze Trail people and I were in the conference room together. We had a good discussion and it looks like we may have found a way to route the proposed trail through the golf course land in a way that works for both our interests.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Another Arawana Update

Well, I'm getting closer to the first official step in making the Arawana Golf Course a reality when I appear before the Middletown Economic Development Commission on Sept. 14. I'm optimistic that my plan will be approved.

There is one new bump in the process. While meeting with the chief engineer of the Middletown Water and Sewer Department I learned an access road to the Kleen Energy power plant wells will run right through the fourth and sixth holes (click on the photo, red line indicates proposed road). I meet with people from Kleen Energy on the morning of the 14th in the office of the director of the city's planning and development department to see if we can do something about this problem.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

More drivel from golf announcers

It's said so often, that it has now become standard knowledge: "Donald Ross built small greens." Unfortunately, it's not true. I've never been a Ross course where the majority of greens were "small," no matter how "small" is designated.

On Saturday, I heard another one of this informational tidbits that are, in fact wrong, courtesy of, CBS annoucer, Bill Macatee during this week's PGA Tour Event, the Wyndham Championship that is played on the Sedgefield Country Club, a Donald Ross design.

"As with most Donald Ross courses, the greens are the primary defense."

I'm not sure where this misinformation came from but it might be that many of Ross's designs and redesigns have had the original random fairway bunkering removed. From what I've seen on many courses where Ross worked is that a properly placed tee shot leads to a preferred angle into the green. Thanks to Macatee, and others, though, most people don't know that.

Sunday update: Ian Baker Finch just walked viewers through the final three holes of the course, not even realizing he contradicted Macatee. On 16 he pointed out how getting the drive in the fairway was so important to score on the hole;there's a fairway bunker and a pond right. For 17, Macatee talked about how the difficulty is a result of the uneven fairway, leading to tricky stances on the approach shots. About 18, he described how the difficulty is that the second shot is from a down-hill lie to an uphill green.

Those three holes, from my experience, accurately sum up Ross's work.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Arawana in the news and on the blogs

Here are two items, one from the Middletown Press (where I was once a sportswriter covering the Hartford Whalers) and the other from Thanks to Bob Samek for inviting me on.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

To the Nines are here

If you wish to purchase a copy of To the Nines ($10 plus postage and packaging), please email your return address to:

Indicate whether or not you would like the books signed and to whom.



Thursday, August 13, 2009

Arawana Golf Course in the press

The Hartford Courant (Tom Yantz) and the Hartford edition of the Examiner (Tim Gavrich) have picked up on the story.,0,652060.story

Work has begun on the hire pressure oil line that will run through the proposed golf course site and all the way to the Kleen Energy power plant. That's good news for us since they are removing trees we would have had to take down.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Arawana update

The Arawana Golf Course project is progressing. The official proposal is in the hands of the Economic Development Commission. The photo shows members of the the EDC along with Bill Warner, director of the department of Planning, Zoning and Conservation. He's on the right, pointing to the route plan I provided. I was unaware of the walk-through, but that's not a problem. The bearded gentleman in the background is Dick Wheeler. He's the head of ArtFarm, which has submitted a proposal to use another parcel of land not near the golf course. When I moved to Middetown in 1989, Dick lived across the street from me.

Next up is the EDC meeting on Sept. 14 when I make the formal proposal to EDC. In the meantime, I'll be out there trying to find more investors.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

A new direction: golf course development

I've entered the golf course development business and am in the process of trying to make the 9-hole Arawana Golf Course and practice area come to life in Middletown, Conn. For that to happen, I need to secure a lease for about 100 acres of land from the city, which I'm now in the process of doing.

Here is a brief outline of the golf course -- designed by Brian Silva (99.1 percent) and me (.9 percent) -- and the course routing. (Click on the image to enlarge. For inexplicable reason, the numbers for holes 2/11 and 8/17 do not appear.)


The Arawana Golf Course will be a unique, affordable, daily fee, nine-hole layout that will play like 18 holes, and includes a large practice area. Using two distinct sets of tees, two holes will play as either a par-4 or a par-5, while one hole will be a par-3 or a par-4. On the remaining four holes, tees will vary the length enough so that while par remains the same during both trips around the layout, play will be distinctively different each time through.

The course will vary in length from just over 5,000 yards to just under 7,000 yards, accommodating all skill levels of players. Par will be 72.

The practice area will be one of the largest located on a public golf course in Connecticut. It will include a driving range that has a 50,000 square-foot grass tee as a short game practice area, as well as a practice putting green.

The clubhouse will be small and will have a pro shop and a small dining/bar area designed to service only golfers. The restaurant will not be open after golf course operating hours nor will it be open during the months when the golf course is closed.


The golf course architect, Brian Silva, is Golf World Magazine’s 1999 Architect of the Year. The layouts he’s designed, as well as those he’s restored, have received accolades from golf publications on the national and regional level. For instance, his most recent original golf course, Old Marsh Country Club in Wells, Maine, was named one of the 10 best new courses to open in the United States in 2008 by Golf Magazine.

Silva’s design philosophy harkens back to the Golden Age of Architecture when men like Donald Ross, A.W. Tillinghast and Seth Raynor plied their trades. They not only produced visually interesting layouts but also ones that could be enjoyed by all golfers, from single-digit handicaps to the higher handicaps and even beginners. Silva, like his famous predecessors, wants golfers of varying skill levels to have fun during their time on the golf course, while also having the opportunity to test their game. His design philosophy is predicated on options, offering multiple routes along each golf hole to accommodate all levels of play. Unlike the other public courses in the area, Arawana will invite golfers to challenge the course and themselves. More information on Brian’s work can be found here:


Only a minimal amount of earth will have to be moved to create the tees, fairways and greens of the course since the natural topography lends itself perfectly to golf. There will also be a minimal amount of tree removal since much of the land is open. A swath of trees that would have to be removed during course construction is already scheduled to be taken down during the installation of the Kleen Energy high-pressure oil pipeline. A large barren area that is being used to store building material and heavy equipment for the Kleen Energy project will be converted to grass as a result of the golf course.


The grassing and maintenance of the Arawana Golf Course will be environmentally friendly. We intend to turf the fairways with a mix of fescue and bent grasses. Usually, in this part of the country, golf courses are seeded with a mix of bluegrass and ryegrass because they grow quickly and are a rich green color. Arawana’s turf varieties are more environmentally friendly; fescues and bents require less water than other varieties. As a result, they are less susceptible to disease and therefore require fewer pesticides to survive. The fescues will also create a look to which the vast majority of golfers who play Arawana will not be accustomed. Fescues and bents naturally lose their brilliant green color during the warmer months, changing to pale green and even light brown. Picture the great linksland courses of the United Kingdom and that will give you an idea of what the Arawana will look like during the summer and fall.

In keeping with this environmentally friendly approach, out-of-play areas will not be manicured or maintained, but allowed to grow naturally. Varieties of fescues will be interspersed in those areas to grow along with and bolster the native species. The areas will be mowed two or three times a year, the result of which will be the gradual eradication of invasive and unwanted species, which will be accomplished without the use of herbicides.

The impact on the small area of wetlands found on the property will also be minimal. Three bridges will cross Indian Hill Brook, one of the bridges will utilize the stream crossing created by the Kleen Energy Pipeline. The maintained areas of the golf course will not come near the brook.

Arawana Golf Course will also seek Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary status, an education and certification program for golf courses that requires participants to protect the environment and preserve the natural heritage of the game of golf; Audubon International administers it.

The golf course will be maintained using Integrated Pest Management, or IPM. IPM is a method of controlling pests (weeds, diseases, insects or others) in which pesticides are only applied when a pest is confirmed to be active, rather than applying pesticides in anticipation of pest problems or under the assumption there will be a pest problem, thus reducing the use of pesticides.

The image is the Arawana routing laid onto a Google Earth image of the site, expertly done by Tommy Naccarato.

Monday, August 3, 2009

To the Nines goes out of print

I've just been informed by my publisher that To the Nines is going out of print. I have the option to purchase the remaining copies, so if you would like one, please contact me.

Contact me at

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Lee Janzen talks design

Lee Janzen is a throw back, at least when it comes to golf course design; he favors the likes of Seth Raynor. A neophyte golf course architect with just one project under his belt, he methods are reminiscent of designers like Raynor.

“I’m old school. I do it in the dirt,” he said. “A hundred years from now when they’ll looking for drawings and they’ll be none.”

So far Janzen’s only project has been a reworking of nine of the 27 holes at University Club at Cobblestone Park in Blythwood, S.C., a P.B. Dye layout.

Along the way, he turned an uncomfortable par-4 that doglegged around homes, into a long par-3, also reworking the two holes that followed.

Janzen said he designed the changes in the field, giving instructions to a shaper as they went. Another company installed the drainage. The Cobblestone website says Janzen will be adding nine more holes, although no date for construction has been set.

Janzen said he picked up the design bug in 1993 while spending hours with architect/swing coach, Rick Smith, during the building of his highly acclaimed Treetops Resort in Gaylord, Mich.

Janzen has eight Tour titles but is best known for twice winning the U.S. Open, with both victories coming on heralded classic designs. In 1993 he won on Baltusrol Golf Club’s Lower Course and in 1998 took the title at the Olympic Club Lake Course. Surprisingly, Janzen is critical of the way the USGA prepared that course.

He said the deep rough served to negate the penalizing characteristics of the heavily sloping design. Janzen would have preferred wider fairways that would have allowed wayward shots to roll off into the trees rather than stop in the rough. Janzen is optimistic that the way the USGA is setting up the U.S. Open venues since Mike Davis took over as senior director of rules and competitions. At Bethpage’s Black Course, for instance, the primary cut of rough was mowed lower than in years past, allowing for recovery shots besides just wedging out back to the fairway.

On Tour, Janzen lists Pebble Beach, Copperhead Course at the Innisbrook Resort and Golf Club and TPC River Highlands as his favorites. “It has that old style feel,” he said, while lamenting the fact that Westchester Country Club West Course is no longer hosting an event.

Janzen said his overall favorite layouts are Chicago Golf Club, Fishers Island and Mountain Lake, all Seth Raynor designs. There’s also two Ben Crenshaw-Bill Coore creations he touts, Old Sandwich Golf Club in Massachusetts and Sugar Loaf Golf and Town Club in Florida. Janzen’s a fan of the Steve Smyers-designed Wolf Run Golf Club in Indiana. The two have known each other since Smyers, an accomplished amateur player, defeated Janzen in a junior tournament when the two were teenagers.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Kenny Perry discusses River Highland's architecture

Kenny Perry blistered the TPC River Highlands Thursday with a nine-under-par 61, tying the course record and followed with a two-under round Friday.

Asked if River Highlands needs to be lengthened to combat such low scores, which was due in part to the soft conditions brought on by weeks of rain, Perry's response was, no.

"If you really want to change the scoring conditions, you don't have to add length at all. You have to get the guys to think a little bit out there and play a little more course management instead of the old bomb and gouge approach," he said. "So I mean I love this golf course, it's one of my favorites. It's got a lot of risk-reward holes. The finish from 13 in are just beautiful golf holes coming down the stretch, and no, I don't think they need to lengthen the golf course at all."

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Three players assess the TPC River Highlands layout

TPC River Highlands is a Pete Dye design with reworking done by protege Bobby Weed. Dye redid many of holes on the existing layout while adding others. Featured throughout is just what you would expect from Dye and Weed, there's plenty of strategy where positioning a tee shot on one side of a fairway results in a better line to the green. Those players that can work the ball left and right have an advantage.

Zach Johnson, the 2007 Masters champion, lists River Highlands as one of his favorites on the PGA Tour.

"I think it starts out with the fact you have everything. You have some long holes. You have some short holes, but they're both demanding. You have some lefts, some rights, and you have a lot of ups and downs. I think you also throw in just the unique aspect... starting on 13," Johnson said. "Well, even 10, 11 and 12 are good. But the back nine in general, 13 through 18, those holes are just great. There's not a hole you like more than the next. You know, if you're hitting well, and putting well, you can make some birdies. At the same time, if you're a little bit off, it will bite you."

Stewart Cink also likes the layout; he won the tournament in 1997 and 2008. His take on the design is different from Johnson.

"We know where the targets are off these tees. We just try and hit it off the target, and the fairway (width) is immaterial," Cink said.

Boo Weekely appears not to be a fan of River Highlands. His only appearance came in 2002. Asked what he remembers of the course, he replied, "Nothing."

"It's all a blank?" the PGA official asked.

Boo: "It's all a blank. I mean, I tell you, maybe what came back was a bad one, though, but it came back. It seems like the bad ones always pop up. But on hole 17, the year I was here, I think I made double on the last or on 17 there to miss the cut."

The official pressed on: "Hit it in the water?"

"Yes sir. Hit it in the water. But the golf course is gorgeous. I'd like to see it with the sun out."

There's no water on 18 so Boo's end came on 17.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Travelers Championship Continued -- Ricky Barnes

Ricky Barnes led the U.S. Open through three rounds before tying for second after a final round six-over par 76, but headed up to Connecticut for the Travelers Championship anyway. For those of us who have covered this tournament for a number of years, a rule of thumb is that the guys who finish first or should have finished first the week before are a guaranteed to withdraw from the Travelers, usually at about 10 p.m. Sunday night. Barnes, though, made the trip and so will U.S. Open winner Lucas Glover, whom Barnes was paired with in the third and fourth rounds.

During his time in the interview room Monday afternoon, Barnes was a bit surprised when he was asked if he thought about pulling out of the event.

"I just want to get out and play. If you're playing well, why not keep playing?" he said in part.

That night, while filling divots as a volunteer on superintendent Tom Degrandi's grounds crew (I worked for him part time in 2008), I had a chance to talk with Barnes again, this time on the seventh fairway. He's never been to TPC River Highlands and was walking the course with his caddy/brother and a wedge, hitting full shots into greens as well as chipping from the falloff areas that are prevalent on the Bobby Weed design.

"You know, the reason they asked you that question about withdrawing, was because most guys in your position, don't show up," I said.

"Really? I talked to Lucas Sunday night and said, 'are you going up' and he said, 'yes,' and I said I was too," Barnes replied.

"You know, the fans really appreciate you and Lucas coming up," I told him, which he was glad to hear.

We chatted or a bit longer and off he went to see River Highlands while I filled divots.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Anthony Kim at the Travelers Championship

I'll be posting from this week's PGA Tour stop the Travelers Championship at TPC River Highlands in Cromwell, Conn. where I've mowed grass for superintendent Tom DeGrandi.

Anthony Kim was in the press room today at 12:20 p.m. for his 11 a.m. press conference. He shot three-over par with three 71s and a 70 in the U.S. Open at Bethpage Black making 11 birdies, 12 bogies and a double along the way.

Asked about the rainy conditions at Bethpage Black, Kim replied, "I think when you're younger, you grow up playing and you don't use an umbrella, and you just go and chip and putt and try to get the ball in the hole as fast as you can."

"It's called the U.S. Open. If you're an amateur, if you're just a local guy that tried to qualify and got lucky enough to make it, you had the same opportunities as everybody else. You know how to play in the rain. It's obviously a huge test of patience."

Kim played nine holes Monday afternoon and will play nine more today. "It's in tremendous shape," he said of the conditions. "It seems like this course is made for somebody that can strategically play this golf course. And if that's the case, I feel like I'm in good shape."

Friday, June 19, 2009

The Perpetuation of Golf Architecture Myths

Listening to the words of golf announcers or reading the words of golf writers, it is very easy for those unfamiliar with golf course architecture to be lead down the wrong path when it comes to what makes a quality golf course or golf hole, or the defining style of an architect.

Recently, while watching TV coverage of the PGA Tour stop in Memphis, golf announcer Frank Nobilo demonstrated how ignorant some golf announcers are of even the most basic design strategies.

During the Friday telecast, Nobilo described the tee shot on no. 10 at TPC Southwind as, “trees on the right, trees on the left, they act like goal posts.” I was waiting for him to say, “an awful quality,” but instead he made it sound as if splitting the uprights was a desired design characteristic, when in fact it is nothing short of a compete failure on the part of the architect.
Part of his problem is that Nobilo was a member of the PGA Tour and for those who play golf for a living, the less thinking they have to do the better. While all the great course designers were fans of alternate lines of play and causing players confusion by visual deception such as crossbunkers or the intentional lack of depth perception, golf professionals want to stand on a tee and know exactly where the preferred line of play is. A narrow band of fairway, even if guarded by six-inch deep rough, is much preferred to a wide-open landing area where the correct route to play is not immediately apparent, or might change depending on the wind. Goalposts to the pros are a perfect direction indicator; for the rest of us, it’s an aberration.
Nobilo’s not the only one I heard miss the point weekend.

There was the Golf Channel announcer, describing the 16th at Bulle Rock during the LPGA’s McDonald’s Championship as a, “tree-lined, a lovely hole.”

Bulle Rock is a Pete Dye-designed gem. The 16th is a medium length par-4 where players who choose to pull the driver bring more problems into play as the fairway narrows but are rewarded with a much shorter approach to a tight green with bunkers left and right.
The print media is by no means immune from this sort of misinformation passed on as fact. Leading up to the U.S. Open at Bethpage Black, New York Times writer Charles McGrath wrote a wonderful piece about the disputed design history of the course -- A.W. Tillinghast or A.W. Tillinghast and Joe Burbeck? (

In the midst of the piece, though, McGrath, wrote, “This is somewhat subjective ground because everyone agrees that unlike Donald Ross, famous for his domed greens, or C. B. Macdonald, who tended to reproduce his favorite holes on all his courses Tillinghast had no signature style.”
Sure Ross built domes greens -- on two courses -- the famed Pinehurst No. 2, which he lived next to for the last years of his life and with which he constantly tinkered, and Sara Bay Country Club in Florida. At least McGrath didn’t write that Ross built “small greens.” That misnomer has appeared in print so many times that it is now taken for fact, when it is not. Ross did not design small greens as the norm, he built greens that would be considered average size then and now, probably between 5,000 square feet to 6,000 square feet on average, and went as large as 8,000 square feet at places like Wannimoisett Country Club in Rhode Island.

As for Macdonald, he didn’t “reproduce” his favorite holes; he used them as templates. The Short Hole at Sleepy Hollow, bears little resemblance to the short at National Golf Links of America and neither of them are copies of the original. The same holds true for the two who learned design under Macdonald: Seth Raynor and Charles Banks, who each interpreted and then altered the templates style to the specific site.

The good news is, though, at least McGrath wrote about golf course architecture at all and that the New York times gave it great play in the paper and on their website.

Monday, June 8, 2009

An Odd Golf Club

I’m not a collector of old golf clubs, but I’ve volunteered to help a friend try to identify the make and year of a large number of hickory shaft clubs her family accumulated while running Canton (Conn.) Public Golf Course, which opened in the mid 1930s and closed in 2003.

Among the items was this putter with the swastika-like symbol at the heal and toe. I contacted Peter Georgiady, author of “Wood Shafted Golf Club Value Guide,” probably the best reference for antique golf clubs. Georgiady told me, the club was made for the B. Altman department store in New York City - years before the Nazi party came to power - by the Morehead Co. of Milwaukee. Manufacturers, especially ones that made clubs for a variety of outlets, identified their products with what is known as, “cleek marks.” Morehead’s symbol was reportedly taken from the Navajo symbol for good luck.

Monday, June 1, 2009

The Overlooked Genius of Fishers Island Part 2

Another shortage par-4 is the 12th hole, which plays 389 from the back tee with the prevailing wind usually coming from the right. As you can see in can see in the left photo (click on the photo to make it larger), taken by Brett Zimmerman, the left side of the green is well above the right, perhaps as much as five feet. This style of Seth Raynor hole is often referred to as a Two-Shot Redan, as the green style mimics that of a Redan, a par-3. Here the feature is reversed so that the high side is on the left.

The green is angled to the left side of the fairway making that side the preferred route in. However, playing too far left can leave the ball below the feet of a right-handed player or in the rough. Those who play to the middle or the right of the fairway, often must aim their approach shot out over the right bunker that sits some 10 feet below the putting surface so the whipping wind can blow it back. What few players realize, though, is that the high left side of the green can be used on the approach, or in my case seen here, out of the bunker.

Most times that people are in the right bunker they leave their attempt to get out on the bank and the ball rolls back to their feet. Few realize, playing the shot some 10 to 15 feet beyond the pin and up the slope will bring the ball back down to the pin.

From the fairway, a well-played shot left will result in the ball being directed by the hill down to the pin. It is exactly these kind of features that make golf so much fun. Unfortunately, few modern architects integrate them into their designs.

By the way, while my sand shot was a good one, I missed the putt for par.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The Overlooked Genius of Fishers Island

Fishers Island has a well-deserved reputation as one of the finest golf courses in the United States, and one of the most scenic in the world. The Seth Raynor design, which opened after he died, was completed by his able assistant, Charles Banks. Perched on the edge of Fishers Island. N.Y., just off the Connecticut coast, it has ocean views on all 18 holes.

What is obscured by the beauty, however, is how architecturally strong Raynor's work is here. He constantly presents players with the option of challenging a hazard that, if successful, will set up the preferred angle into the green, made even more important on the many days the course is battered by winds.

A wonderful example of that is the seventh hole, shown here in a photo by Brett Zimmerman, my tee shot still in flight. Called, "Latimer," it is 363 yards from the back tee. I overlooked the genius of this hole, as well, the first few times I played it, but in 2006 and 2007 while caddying at Fishers, I learned many of the best players consider this one of their two or three favorite holes.

One reason the hole was ignored was that for years the aggressive underbrush was allowed to creep in some 30 yards in on the right from where it is now, eliminating almost the entire right half of the fairway. When golf course superintendent Donnie Beck pushed the overgrowth back, he revealed that strategy as Raynor intended.

In the photo, you can see how the green is angled to right so that the axis is facing a small pond just visible off the right front corner of the tee. The perfect tee shot is either one that challenges the pond leaving about a 160-yard, uphill approach shot into a wind that crosses from left to right in the summer, or a bombed drive that goes beyond the pond.

If the safe route is taken, placing the tee shot on the left side of the fairway, then the approach shot - because of the prevailing wind - must be played out over the left bunkers that sit some 10 feet below the putting surface. A shot aimed too far into the middle of the green, will be pushed by the wind and roll off the far side, finding an equally deep bunker.

I caddied for the Fishers Island Club champion in 2006. He would lay up off the tee and then play to the front of the green if the pin was front or middle, or, if the pin was back, maybe to the front third of the green. Par was always an acceptable score and on a surprising number of occasion, was good enough to win the hole.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009


I've entered the modern age and started my own blog. Not surprisingly, it will revolve around golf, golf course architecture and my golf writing. I'll write, you read.