Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Masters Tournament Ticket Raffle Continues

Just received word from Bob Spencer at the Middlesex YMCA that there are a few tickets remaining for the Masters Tournament raffle.

Five hundred chances at $100 each are being sold with the winner getting four tickets to the 2011 Masters Thursday-Sunday, five days, four nights of accommodations at a private home adjacent to Augusta National, a round of golf for four at an area course and a $5,000 American Express gift card that can be used for airfare.

The Middlesex YMCA, located in Middletown, Conn., is a wonderful organization that serves many communities in Middlesex County. The money from the raffle will be used to send underprivileged children to summer camp that the YMCA runs in nearby Portland, Conn.

For more information, or to purchase tickets, contact Bob at bspencer@midymca.org.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Thailand Part 3: the Spirit House

The Thai are very religious people and Buddhism is practiced by nearly 95 percent of the population. The sect of Buddhism that is most common is Theravada, the oldest surviving Buddhist school in the world with its roots in India.

In Thailand, however, Buddhism is also mixed with folk beliefs, as well as aspects of Hinduism that made its way to Thailand from what is now Cambodia.

Buddhist temples are everywhere as are the monks clad in their burnt orange garments. Each morning, the monks walk out into their community with a large wooden bowl looking for food donations from nearby residents. All the food the monks eat comes via this ritual.

Also, as part of Thai Buddhism, on nearly every piece of property, from shopping malls to banks to golf courses, are found what are known as, "spirit houses," or, san phra phum in Thai. I took a photo of the one pictured here at Chiang Mai Highlands Golf and Spa Resort.

I asked Santi Chudintra, Director - The Americas Market Division for the Tourism Authority of Thailand, who accompanied us for much of the trip, to tell me about the significance of the spirit house.

"Most Thai people believe that when a Thai family builds a new house, there is always the possibility that it has disturbed the spirits who live on the property. In order to protect their new home from retaliatory harm or mischief, some Thai families put up a little model house on a pole for the spirits to live in . Offerings of incense, fruit, flowers, and rice will be placed here, because the spirits must be kept happy at all costs. Inside the San Phra Phum, you will normally notice an image of Phra Chai Mongkol, an angel figurine, often gilded, and holding a sword in one hand, a money bag in the other hand. Phra Chai Mongkol’s origin lies in Hinduism. Suffice it to say, she is there to protect the land and its inhabitants.

"In addition, some spirit houses on the road were built to pacify the tormented spirits of people who have died violent deaths in crashes at that site."

A more in depth explanation of spirit houses can be found here and here.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

My Latest Visit to the Proposed Quinnetucket Site

Over the summer month I rarely visited the site for my proposed Quinnetucket Golf Course. It's not that I didn't want to be there, but once the leaves are on the trees, bushes and vines, walking is very difficult and hot, even with my trustee machete.

Now that the cooler weather is here and the majority of leaves are on the ground, I headed back out to the site. Not much has changed, including the fact that people continue to use the site as a dumping ground. I found this recent deposit near what would be the approach the the seventh green.

The project continues to progress, albeit at a slower pace than I would like, but it is moving forward.

Thailand Part 2: Suwan Golf and Country Club

Once our group of approximately 25 tour operators and golf writers had finished playing the eight golf courses that GolfAsian arranged for us to sample throughout Thailand, we invariably came up with a best-of list and in nearly everyone's top 3, was Suwan Golf and Country Club. What's most surprising about that fact is that green fees at the outstanding facility were $25, American, easily the least expensive course where we teed it up. As with all golf courses in Thailand, we had access to the locker room, showers and restaurant, just as if we were members. The caddies were fantastic.

The attributes we found so appealing about the layout was the fact the golf course had strategy on nearly every hole. This isn't a course where merely hitting it down the middle on the tee shot is always the correct way to play. There are doglegs that tempt golfers to cut the corners and for those who do there are big rewards but severe penalties for the failed attempt. The bunkering was more than just of the penal variety. At times, like many of the streams or ponds found on the course, the sand punishes the overzealous player, at other times, is serves to deceive the golfer.

As an example, this is a photo of
the par-3 sixth hole. The front bunker is some 20 yards short of the green but from the tee looks as if it is flush again the putting surface and.

The greens were interesting and challenging without being overdone. There's plenty of movement requiring more than just a cursory read of the line to be successful at putting.

Suwan also has the most interesting design history of the layouts we played. The architect is Major General Weerayudth Phetbuasak, still active in the Thai army and director of the Weeyos Design Group. He also laid out Sir James Country Club, Narai Hill Golf Resort, and Bangkok Golf Club as well as Phokeethra Golf Club in Siem Reap, Cambodia.

I took a good look on the web for information on Major General Phetbuasak and all I could find was that he is a member of the International Golf and Life Foundation Council of Experts.

Making the round at Suwan even better was the fact I went out in a fivesome that included (left to right) Paul Guarino, an American via the Dominican Republic, me, Chayuda (Toom) Singhsuwan, Mikael Jensen from Denmark and Canadian Sandy Bain.

Toom, 20, is a newly minted professional golfer who counts Golfasian as one of her sponsors along with Chang beer. It was a delight to watch her navigate her way around the course, playing bold when she could and cautious when she had to. Toom's short game is fantastic, she has a putting stroke that I would sell my soul for and her play with the long irons-hybrids game is astonishing. One of her birdies came after she knocked a 3-wood to 12 feet.

After shooting even par on the front side with us from the men's tees, Toom came home in four over for the last nine but after carrying our team for so long, it was no wonder her game floundered. I'm just hoping we didn't do any permanent damage to her golf game or her psyche. Toom plays on various tours throughout Asia and already has wracked up a victory. Keep an eye on her.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

My Seth Raynor Piece in Golf Course Architecture magazine

Golf Course Architecture magazine has put a link to the Seth Raynor story I wrote for the latest issue. You can find it here. I also profiled The Prairie Club in Nebraska in this issue.

I know I'm biased, but Golf Course Architecture is a wonderful publication that talks with architects and profiles golf courses the world over, not just in the UK and the U.S. If nothing else, a regular visit to the website is a must. You really should purchase the magazine and can get yourself a subscription by following this link.

The photo is of the ninth at Fishers Island Club taken from the left rough. It is one of my favorite, if not the favorite, Double Plateau greens Raynor ever created. I snapped this pic while caddying this summer.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Greg Norman Design, Two Investors Conned in Scotland

A 79-year-old veteran conman was sentenced to four years in prison after convincing two businessmen to invest $640,000 in a bogus golf course development project in Fife, Scotland. The story can be found here on the Golf Course Architecture magazine website.

According to the Daily Express story, John Cameron, "claimed to be an ex-military man and took to wearing tweeds and driving a Daimler to further convince his victims in Leeds, West Yorkshire.

He even drove to the property in Fife with one of the businessmen and his son, along with Australian golfer Greg Norman’s course planner."

According to a person familiar with the area, if nothing else Cameron had a great eye. The land would make a wonderful site for a golf course. It is located not far from a castle where the Toro company put up many of its guests during the recent Open Championship at the Old Course.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Golf Punk Finally Succumbs

After years of financial difficulties including going into a form of reorganization, Golf Punk magazine is no longer as confirmed in this story on the Sport Journalists Association website.

I was interviewed by Golf Punk in 2005 while a volunteer greenkeeper at the Old Course for the 2005 Open Championship. Later, I wrote a few pieces for them and there was talk of me becoming a permanent American voice, but then financial troubles set in and the plan never materialized.

JF Media, which owns Golf Punk, was in Company Voluntary Arrangements – known in short as a CVA. For me that means money owed will probably never arrive.

I was a little disturbed to read this in the story about their business practices:

"In its brief history, the company is believed to have built up a collection of County Court Judgments, brought by disgruntled and unpaid contributors, as well as an Advertising Standard Authority ruling in 2009 from customers angry that they never received the free gifts offered when they paid their £35 for a year’s subscription."

I wish editor Shaun McGuckian the best of luck. He always treated me fairly.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Back from 11 Days of Golf in Wonderful Thailand

I have just returned from 11 days golfing in Thailand as part of a tour put on by GolfAsian for a bevy of tour travel operators and two golf writers. It was quite a whirlwind trip encompassing 8 courses and 8 hotels in 11 days plus an elephant park, Buddhist temples and the nightlife of Hua Hin, Bangkok, Pattaya and Chiang Mai.

The Thai are golf crazy. Unlike other countries, there the average person tees it up, not just the wealthy and golf tourists. There are 700,00 Thais that golf plus 200,000 more golfers that are foreigners living in the country. Golf courses number 260 while there are 1,000 driving ranges.

There's a lot to write about golf in Thailand, but I'm going to start with the caddies.

Every golf course has caddies, which are mandatory, and all caddies are women. Most Thais try to avoid the sun so caddies wear long sleeves, long pants hats and, in many cases, gloves, all in the distinctive colors of their course.

Many caddies play, as well, but most do not. What is remarkable is that adeptness at which they ply their craft. Of the 8 caddies I had, I would rate perhaps 3 of them A+, 4 A and 1 a B+ plus. My fellow travelers said they had much the same experience as me. In a couple of instances, I had caddies who were pulling my clubs 4 holes into the round. All of them were excellent at reading putts.

To make communication with them easier, the caddies often shorten their names. Here is my caddie Bai, also known as "James Bond" for her uniform number "007." The caddies, like the cast majority of the Thai people, have a wonderful sense of humor. Bai and her fellow caddies laughed at the nickname my group -- Julien, Mikael, Oliver and I -- gave her. About three holes into the round, she said to me. "You good golfer. Play bad golf. I kill you. I James Bond."

I'm not sure I'd ever been threatened with death by a caddie up until that time.

All caddies have shortened their names or use nicknames that are sewn onto their uniforms to make communication easier. Many use words that obviously have no direct correlation to their real names. One caddie was called "Poa," much to the delight of those who know about golf course agronomy. Another went by the name, "Norm." Maybe she was a fan of the television show, Cheers?

Here, though, hands down, is our favorite nickname. No one, to my knowledge, ever asked her how she came up with this moniker. (Thanks to Mikael Jensen of Krone Golf Tours for the photos)