Monday, August 15, 2011

Now Posting at AnthonyPioppi.com

Check out my posts on Treetops Resort and my new topic, caddying.

anthonypioppi.com

Tony


Wednesday, August 10, 2011

I'm Packing Up and Moving!

You may have noticed that I have not posted here in over a month and probably came up with a variety of scenarios as to why. Let me put the rumors to rest, arrest and/or deportation were not the reasons.

Beginning in less than a week I'll be posting at AnthonyPioppi.com and be part of TheAPosition.com website, a consortium of golf travel writers from around the world. I'll be posting on the same variety of topics as I have been. Some items will be posted under the golf and travel banner and others under my blog. While some of the posts will have already run on this blog, most of the contest will be brand spanking new. The good news for me is that TheAPosition.com will bring my writing to a wider audience and, even better, allow me the opportunity to make some money for my writing. With AnthonyPioppi.com, the more hits on the site translates directly to cash. More hits to the sites of the more than 50 writers who are also part of TheAPosition.com, means the site becomes more attractive to advertisers and suddenly - yes, it's a darn good possibility - I could actually be getting paid for my blog posts.

Stay tuned.


Thursday, June 30, 2011

The Machrie Has a New Owner

This is from the official Machrie Facebook page.

Machrie golf links

Its been a long time since I posted from the Machrie page, but I`m back with some good news. Machrie has new owners as of today, and I`m sure you will all join me in wishing Gavyn Davies and his family all the very best in their new business venture. I don`t think it will take them long to realise that the whole of Islay is right behind them in their attempt to maximise the potential of this brilliant facility.


Davies is an interesting fellow according to this Wikipedia entry.

This appears to be good news for one of the world's great links golf courses. More details will follow.

Golf Course Architect Don Herfort Dead at 86

Here is the press release from the American Society of Golf Course Architects

Don Herfort, ASGCA Fellow of Lakeville, Minn., died June 26. He was 86.

Herfort was a 1951 graduate of the University of Wisconsin, earning a degree in Business Administration. While working for 3M he was asked to design the 3M Tartan Park Golf Course, launching his career as a golf course architect.

During a career which spanned more than 40 years, Herfort designed courses including Northwoods Golf Course, Rhinelander, Wis.; Indian Hills Country Club and Phalen Golf Course in St. Paul, Minn.; Pebble Creek Golf Course, Becker, Minn.; and Oak Glen Country Club in Stillwater, Minn.

Herfort is survived by his wife Shirley and three children. He was preceded in death by his daughter Karen. A memorial service will be held Saturday, July 2 at Washburn-McReavy Werness Brothers Chapel.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Bethpage Black Gets PGA Tour Event

The Barclays, the first stop of the PGA Tour's four-tournament FedEx Cup, is scheduled to rotate venues starting in 2012 with Bethpage State Park's Black Course, the site of the 2002 and 2009 U.S. Open. The tournament is slated to return there in 2016. Other venues are: Liberty National, 2013; Ridgewood Country Club, 2014; and Plainfield Country Club, 2015.

The following descriptions of the courses are from the PGA Tour press release.

Bethpage Black

In the early 1930s, the Bethpage Park Authority purchased the Lenox Hills Country Club and other adjacent properties to build what we now know as Bethpage State Park. Tillinghast was hired to design and oversee construction of three new golf courses (Black, Red and Blue) as well as modify the Lenox Hills Course, which became the Green Course.

Tiger Woods won the 2002 U.S. Open by being the only player to break par in a tournament that was remembered for excitement on the course and atmosphere outside the ropes. Prior to 2002, the U.S. Open had only been contested at privately owned courses. Lucas Glover won the 2009 U.S. Open in a rain-soaked event.

Liberty National - 2013

In 2013, The Barclays will return to Liberty National in Jersey City, N.J., site of the 2009 event, won by Heath Slocum. The vision of owner Paul Fireman, Liberty National features unparalleled views of the Manhattan skyline and the Statue of Liberty, which is located less than 1,000 yards from the 14th green. TOUR players will find a new Liberty National that has undergone significant redesign by original course architects Tom Kite and Bob Cupp, including revamped greens and changes to multiple green surrounds and fairways.

“We’re thrilled to have The Barclays and FedExCup return to Liberty National after such a memorable tournament in 2009,” said Fireman, founder of Liberty National Golf Club. “We recently completed changes to the course and gallery areas with collaboration from PGA TOUR Chief Architect Steve Wenzloff and our original design team of Tom Kite and Bob Cupp. We believe the new look Liberty National will be well received by the playing professionals and provide an even better experience for players and fans.”

Ridgewood Country Club - 2014

The Barclays will return to another recent host in 2014, Ridgewood Country Club in Paramus, N.J. Ridgewood has hosted The Barclays twice: in 2008 when Vijay Singh won the title – and eventually the FedExCup – by defeating Kevin Sutherland and Sergio Garcia in a sudden-death playoff; and last year, when Matt Kuchar, also in a sudden-death playoff, hit his approach shot from the left rough to less than three feet from the hole to beat Martin Laird with a birdie. Ridgewood was founded in 1890 and is one of the oldest clubs in America. In addition to two installments of The Barclays, the course – another A.W. Tillinghast design – has hosted the 1935 Ryder Cup, 1974 U.S. Amateur, 1990 U.S. Senior Open and 2001 Senior PGA Championship.


Plainfield Country Club - 2015

This year’s site, Plainfield Country Club in Edison, N.J., is slated to host The Barclays again in 2015. Like Ridgewood, Plainfield Country Club was founded in 1890 and stands as one of the oldest clubs in the United States. The course was built in 1921 by Donald Ross and is widely regarded as one of his masterpieces. The club recently spent more than a decade restoring, renovating and extending the course, using Ross’s original blueprints. Plainfield has hosted the 1978 U.S. Amateur and the 1987 U.S. Women’s Open.

In addition to hosting The Barclays, Plainfield Country Club has made a major commitment to educating children in its local community by starting a First Tee program two years ago. Plainfield is the first private club to partner with The First Tee and commit to being a full-time First Tee facility. Plainfield’s West 9 golf course hosts The First Tee programs as part of The First Tee of Metropolitan NY.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Taylor and Simpson Explain How to Putt "Slow" Greens

Because of Thursday's heavy rains at TPC River Highlands in Cromwell, Conn., players in the Travelers Championship putted greens on Friday that were at speeds well below what they are accustomed. Even so, a number of golfers thrived on greens that are considered "slow" by PGA Tour standards. They were probably rolling under 10 feet on the Stimpmeter, close to a foot less than they would have been without the rain.

Meanwhile, on golf courses all around Cromwell, players on Saturday, today and every other day golf can be played, complained or will complain that the problem with their putting is not their stroke, but the "slow" greens.

Following their rounds, Vaughn Taylor and Webb Simpson explained how they dealt with the conditions on the River Highlands greens. Both were at 9-under-par, Taylor shot 65-66, with one bogey in the second round and none in the first. Simpson shot 66-65, including a bogey-free second round.

They each said there is no secret to putting when greens are not at lightning speeds.

"For a little while in the morning you just got to tell yourself on the first few putts that you just got to hit it a little harder than you are used to. And then you know, it's just like anything else. We just kind of adapt to it and you get used to it the rest of the day," Simpson said. "And you might want to watch other guys putt in your group a little more to see how hard they hit and see how far the ball rolls out."

Hmm, hit it harder and watch others in your group. That seems to be good advice for any level of player.

Taylor's technique was less technical.

"It's difficult at times. Definitely on uphill putts you gotta give it—definitely give it some extra steam. But I myself, I do it by sight," Taylor said. "I can just visually tell that the greens are slower, and that's kind of the way I do it. I don't like to try and hit putts harder or firmer."

From there, he had a difficult time conveying exactly how he adjusts.

"So I just kind of use my instincts and kind of adjust that way. Just kind of adjusting without adjusting if that makes any sense," he said and chuckled.

(Vaughn Taylor reads a putt at the 2010 The Barclays at Ridgewood. Photo )

Geoff Ogilvy at the Travelers Championship


It's been a crazy two days at TPC River Highlands for the PGA Tour's Travelers Championship thanks to heavy rain on Thursday that only allowed six players to finish. Play started at 7 a.m. today and will continue almost non stop until sundown. Between the last group of the morning round and the first group of the afternoon wave, two teams of maintenance were out changing cups and moving tee markers. Not a bunker was raked or blade of grass mowed.

If the rain holds off today, they'll be another long day tomorrow as players will return at 7 a.m. to the holes they were on when darkness set in. Once the second round is completed, by sometime late morning, we all hope, the third round pairing will be announced and the golf balls will be teed up almost right away.

Thursday, a parade of players made their way through the media building talking about, what else, they rain delay.

Wednesday, though, Geoff Ogilvy was in for an interview and had some interesting comments.

On Rory McIlroy's victory in the U.S. Open:

"It's hard to measure. I mean, it's not as good as Tiger's 12-under at Pebble because the next guy was 3-over... I don't think it should be remembered as relative to par. I think it should be remembered by how many shots he won by and how he was so clearly the best player in the field last week that it was evident by lunchtime on Friday that the tournament was pretty much all over."

Tiger won the 2000 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach Golf Links

On Anthony Kim:

"If he gets organized off the golf course, he could win as many golf tournaments as he wants."

On the drivable 15th hole at River Highlands:

"I'll probably go for the green. At least try to get it to the front edge with a 3-wood if it's downwind or driver into the wind. It's quite a difficult layup.... and if you actually do drive it in the water, you're dropping it and chipping. You're trying to get up-and-down for par. You can still make par a lot of times. It's very similar to 17 at Phoenix. And we all just try to go for the green at 17 because the punishment—the reward is worth risking the punishment. I mean worst case, you're going to have a shortish putt for par, but you could make 2."

(Photo: John Woike/Hartford Courant)

Blogging from Golfdom from the Travelers Championship

Rain is the story in Cromwell, Conn. for the PGA Tour's Travelers Championship. The blog items I've submitted for Golfdom from the tournament can be found right here.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Talking About TPC River Highlands with Fox 61

I was interviewed last week by Bob Rumbold of Fox 61 television in Hartford and talked about the design intent that architect Bobby Weed had when laying out TPC River Highlands. The video, which ran on Sunday night, can be viewed here.

Bobby discussed some interesting concepts with me including half par holes. With those, he said, they play either slightly more difficult or slightly easier than the par of the hole. The drivable par-4 15th (shown here) at River Highlands, he considers having a par of 3 1/2, while the difficult par-3 fifth he also sees as having a par of 3 1/2.

Bobby is very much a fan of the classic style of golf course architecture, giving players alternate ways to play holes but rewarding the bold golfer who challenges hazards with an easier next shot. He said that those who hit away from the trouble, "defer the challenge to the next shot," where the next problem must then be dealt with by the player.

Travelers Championship this Week

The Travelers Championship at TPC River Highlands, 7 miles from my home, is this week. A strong field, thanks to the U.S. Open being in Maryland last week, includes defending champion Bubba Watson, Geoff Ogilvy, Padraig Harrington, Ian Poulter. The complete list of entries is found here.

I'll be at the tournament all week providing insightful information.

I'm picking Fredrik Jacobson to win!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Defining "Small" Greens and "Deep" Bunkers: An Informal Poll

Recently, New York-based golf writer Ann Ligouri wrote a review of the two golf courses at The Breakers in Palm Beach, Florida for the New York CBS television affiliate. She used adjectives that are common in golf course reviews but in reality have absolutely no meaning, describing the greens of the The Ocean Course as "small" and the bunkers of the Breakers Rees Jones Course as quite "deep." She gave no concrete numbers as to what "small" or "deep" entail.

According to the Breakers web site, the Ocean Course was designed in 1896 by Alex Findlay (incorrectly spelled as Findley on the site) and renovated by Brian Silva in 2000. I'm assuming Rees Jones designed the Rees Jones course but I didn't check.

I wondered that when it comes to the sizes of greens and the depth of bunkers, if words such as small, average, large and deep do have meaning to golf course architects and those who write about golf course architecture, so I unscientifically polled a group of 14.

I asked these question: what is the size of a small green; what is the size of a medium green; what is the size of a large green; what is the depth of a deep bunker; do you consider a deep bunker one that is well below the surface of a green (Seth Raynor, etc.) or one that you must walk down into, such as a pot bunker?

Here are the results

Small green: This ranges from fewer than 3,500-square feet to fewer than 5,500-square feet. The most common answer (6) was fewer than 4,000-square feet.

Medium green: The size varied from 4,000-square feet to 7,000-square feet. Five answered 6,500-square feet and four answered 6,000-square feet.

Large green: The smallest answer to this question was 5,000-square feet, the largest 7,500-square feet. The most common answer was 6,500 square feet according to five people who replied

One architect's reply to the green size query was, in part, "There are a lot of 'conditions', or 'depends' with the answers to these questions. As for greens, what is small depends on the slope in the green (what is pinnable), what club you're hitting to the green, how firm the greens and approaches might play (how small will the green 'play'). They can be too small for maintenance or playability or reasonable strategy. In the interest of good design, it is really not purposeful to assign numerical values to what is big or small. It depends - that should be the answer."

One other architect said the size of a green has much to do with surrounding land. If, for instance, a green is built at the level of the fairway, and both areas are maintained firm, then the size of the actual putting surface is almost irrelevant.

In an interesting side note, he said he is amazed at how often those who have supposed intimate knowledge of a golf course have incorrect perceptions of green sizes. As an example, he recounted how he was brought in to expand a green that the superintendent said was 2,500-square feet. When it was measured, it was nearly double that size.

Depth of a deep bunker: The most common answer was six feet by four repliers. Two answered deep enough so the player cannot see out of them. An interesting perspective since that means a deep bunker to Dirk Nowitzky is a little different than for Justin Timberlake.

One reply was four feet for a fairway bunker and six feet for greenside.

It was nearly unanimous that Raynor's bunkers are considered deep.

As one respondent put it, though, there are many ways to determine a deep bunker. It might be a deep if: 1. You need stairs to get in and out of it, 2. You can't see the flag from the bottom, 3. You can't play at the flag from the bottom even if you could see it.

To put Ligouri's original article into perspective, the greens at the Ocean Course average at least 5,000-square feet, which is medium size in the minds of all but one who responded

While Jones may have designed a few bunkers with a depth of five feet, there are no six-foot deep bunkers at the Rees Jones Course. However, I'm not sure of Ligouri's height, so they might all be deep to her.

(Photo 1: 17th green Fox Chapel Golf Club, Pittsburgh, Penn.)
(Photos 2: 4th hole Fenwick Golf Course, Old Saybrook, Conn., 150 yards, green approximately 2,200 square feet.)

Monday, June 13, 2011

Congressional By the Numbers; This Doesn't Look Like Fun

I watched the 18 flyover videos describing the holes of Congressional Country Club that is hosting the United States Open this week. The videos can be found by clicking here. The layout comes across as one that appears to severely punish players who look to use the ground game or are higher handicaps, leaving only the aerial route as the way onto greens.

Weather will dictate the hue of the turf and firmness of the golf course, but it will be interesting to see how far balls are rolling this year compared to last year's tournament at Pebble Beach Golf Links since running shots onto the putting surfaces, other than the 18th, isn't a viable option.

To me, Congressional has the fetid appearance of the work of Robert Trent Jones. He redesigned Congressional in 1962 and 1969 . His son, Rees, renovated the layout twice, also, once for this tournament.

Here are some rather discomforting numbers:

• 14 green approaches are pinched near the putting surface making the run-up nearly impossible. Almost every green has bunkers that back into the approach landing area.

(For amateur players unfortunate enough to find the sand, this means bunker shots of 40 yards and more. The accompanying photo of the first hole has both a narrow opening to the green and bunkers set far away from the putting surface.)

• Two holes require forced carries to the green.

• Nine of the greens are sloped back to front, many of those severely.

• When it comes to fairway landing areas, nine are guarded by either sand or water on the right while three are guarded on the left.

• Two holes have pinched landing areas.

The best news about the U.S. Open being at Congressional is it might be the last time Rees Jones, who has the ill-fitting moniker of "The Open Doctor" for his work of preparing venues for the U.S. Open, gets to botch golf course surgery on a U.S. Open venue. According to John Garrity of Golf.com, "...other designers have been hired to prepare seven of the next eight U.S. Open sites. The USGA has assigned its Open venues through 2019, with the exception of 2018, which means it's quite likely that the earliest Jones's services could be called upon again would be in 2020, when he'll be 78."

Friday, June 10, 2011

Connecticut Attorney General Enters Stanley Park Controversy

The attempt by the city of New Britain, Conn. to sell part of a city park, including a portion of the golf course, has caught the attention of the Connecticut Attorney General. His office will review the deed to see the sale it violated the terms under which the land was donated in the 1920s. The entire Hartford Courant story can be accessed by clicking here.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Costco Plan in New Britain Advances

Costco took another stop towards securing land to build a store partly on an area that is now a golf course in New Britain, Conn.

Even though, according to this story in the New Britain Herald that can be accessed by clicking here, most residents opposed the zoning change required, the City Council’s Planning, Zoning and Housing Committee Tuesday voted 11-3 to recommend the change.

GolfWeek architecture editor Bradley Klein, spoke in opposition to the proposal, which he said will turn a very walkable course into one that almost demands golfers ride. According to the story Klein, "ridiculed the plans for a revised Stanley Golf course, saying that it will require more forest land than Costco believes and will have a negative impact on wetlands. 'Why not keep the course on one side of Route 71 and make it an 18-hole golf course?'" he asked.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Stanley Golf Course, New Britain, Conn, Threatenened by Costco

The economically depressed city of New Britain, Conn. took the first step Monday night in allowing part of the history Stanley Park to become a Costco, a giant box retailer. The plan calls for the elimination of at least three of the 27 holes that make up the golf park golf course. The holes would be moved across the street to a rocky area that also has wetlands and would require a tunnel under the road for access to the area. The Hartford Courant story on last night's vote can be found be clicking here.

"Costco wants to buy about 17 acres of a city-owned golf course along Hartford Road for its store. The city would then restore that part of the course on about 17 acres of nearby Stanley Park woodlands and nature trails," according to the story.

The original 18 holes were designed by Connecticut architect Robert Ross, who also designed Indian Hill Golf Club, Middletown Golf Club, which is now TPC River Highlands, Canton Public Golf Course, and Goodwin Park Golf Course, among others.

The photo is a 1934 aerial of Stanley.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Minikahda Layout Eviscerated By National Media (1916)

While conducting research for the forthcoming book, "History of The Minikahda Club Golf Course," I spent a great deal of time on the 1916 U.S. Open held at Minikahda.

It was the furthest west the event had ever been and when Chick Evans walked off the final green as the champion, he became the first amateur to hoist the trophy.

The layout was a Tom Bendelow design that incorporated virtually all of the original nine holes designed by Willie Watson and Robert Foulis in 1899. Prior to the tournament, Minikahda was aware that the layout needed to be improved following play and had hired Donald Ross for the job. There is now way, however, the club could have expected the harsh criticism the design received following the tournament. It was considered too easy and lacking in length and strategy by players and writers. (Below is the article by Bunker Hill that appeared in The American Golfer magazine.)

Reading the denunciations, I wondered if there are any big name architects today who would stand for such disparagement of their work. I get the feeling that Pete Dye and the team of Ben Crenshaw and Bill Coore would read the disapproving words and forget them. For the preponderance of the others, though, I could only imagine how their frail and sensitive egos would handle such legitimate criticism on a national level. (If you're an architect and you think I'm referring to you, then I probably am.)

American Golfer, Aug. 1916

By Bunker Hill

“I will not mention the name of the professional who said:

‘What’s the use of wasting time and money going to play in a national open on a course like Minikahda? Any man might win there. It isn’t any test of real golf, for it demands nothing in variety of shots or in knowledge of execution beyond the drive, mashie and putter. Or wait, -- I might add that the player has to have some ability in hitting a tee shot with the iron, on holes where wood is over long. I’m speaking truthfully,’ he went on, ‘when I say that had I personally gone on the course with no clubs other than a brassie, mashie and putter, and been as well acquainted with the layout as I was at the completion of the championship, I haven’t a doubt that my score would have been lower by many strokes. To state the case further, the course no not only was merely a drive, pitch and putt, taken all through, but it was anything but a test of putting. The Minikahda greens were of such surface texture that all a man had to do was bang the ball straight at the cup from any point and feel that if he hit it both hard and straight at the cup he stood a good chance of holing the ball. There was none of that delicacy of putting stroke which is demanded of the golfer on some of the leading eastern courses, and no disparagement of Mr. Evans’ victory is intended when I say that I will form my judgment of his reputed improvement in putting after he had demonstrated his effectiveness of his new style on some of the keen and undulating greens of the east, such as at the national open championship presumably will encounter at the Merion Cricket Club during the national amateur championship.

‘As for the professionals, I know of many, myself included, who would delight at the chance of playing for the open title next year on a course like the Myopia Hunt Club or the Brae-Burn Country Club. These are the courses where the golfer is put to the test not alone on his execution of the simpler shots, but on his ability to use all the clubs in his bag and know when, as well as how, to use each club. No man can play Myopia or Brae-Burn with a brassie, mashie and putter, yet hop to land a title in a representative championship field. Either there or at Brae-Burn, a man must (and I emphasize the must) get his distance with a wood, plus accuracy; he must be able to pick up a brassie for distance and proper direction; he must be able to play full iron shots, half irons, mashie and niblick; he must know how to play out of bunkers which are as tenacious of their hold on the ball as those to be found abroad; he must have the power of the wrists and the knowledge of applying it, to get anywhere out of the rough such as Myopia boasts and, he must have the delicate touch, coupled with innate putting sense, which will enable him to sink a goodly number of putts of ten feet and under on greens where the ball has to be tapped almost as lightly as walking on eggs without breaking them.”



Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Rick Phelps Elected ASGCA President

Here is are excerpts from the official press release.

BROOKFIELD, Wis. – Rick Phelps, ASGCA was elected President of the American Society of Golf Course Architects (ASGCA) at the organization’s recent 65th Annual Meeting in Denver.

Phelps is Owner and Golf Course Architect for Phelps-Atkinson Golf Course Design in Evergreen, Colo. He holds a B.S. in Environmental Design from the University of Colorado. His list of representative courses includes The Broadlands, Broomfield, Colo.; Devil’s Thumb, Delta, Colo.; Panther Creek Country Club, Springfield, Ill. (with Hale Irwin); and Antler Creek Golf Club, Falcon, Colo. Remodels include Pinnacle Peak Country Club, Scottsdale, Ariz.; Pinehurst Country Club, Denver; and Liberty Lake Golf Course, Spokane, Wash.

Phelps continues a family legacy in his service to ASGCA; his father, Dick, is a long-time ASGCA member who served as president in 1980. .

As ASGCA President, Rick Phelps plans to focus on golf courses which are affordable, playable and sustainable. “The most famous courses in North America are well known, but they make up less than five percent of the total number of courses,” he said. “The lesser-known projects also have stories to tell. I want to bring attention to the other 95%, including the public courses where over 70% of all rounds are played, and educate people inside and outside the golf industry that the median greens fee for those courses is $28.”

As the golf industry continues to change domestically and internationally, Phelps will also actively promote the value of ASGCA and its members. ASGCA continues to be the largest organization of golf course architects in the world and its’ members the most experienced. More than two-thirds of 2011 Annual Meeting attendees work on projects outside North America.

Defining a "Small" Green and a "Deep" Bunker: An Informal Poll

Recently, New York-based golf writer Ann Ligouri wrote a review of the two golf courses at The Breakers in Palm Beach, Florida for the New York CBS television affiliate. She used adjectives that are common in golf course reviews but in reality have absolutely no meaning, describing the greens of the The Ocean Course as "small" and the bunkers of the Breakers Rees Jones Course as quite "deep." She gave no concrete numbers as to what "small" or "deep" entail.

According to the Breakers web site, the Ocean Course was designed in 1896 by Alex Findlay (incorrectly spelled as Findley on the site) and renovated by Brian Silva in 2000. I'm assuming Rees Jones designed the Rees Jones course but I didn't check.

I wondered that when it comes to the sizes of greens and the depth of bunkers, if words such as small, average, large and deep do have meaning to golf course architects and those who write about golf course architecture, so I unscientifically polled a group of 14.

I asked these question: what is the size of a small green; what is the size of a medium green; what is the size of a large green; what is the depth of a deep bunker; do you consider a deep bunker one that is well below the surface of a green (Seth Raynor, etc.) or one that you must walk down into, such as a pot bunker?

Here are the results

Small bunker: This ranges from fewer than 3,500-square feet to fewer than 5,500-square feet. The most common answer (6) was fewer than 4,000-square feet.

Medium bunker: The size varied from 4,000-square feet to 7,000-square feet. Five answered 6,500-square feet and four answered 6,000-square feet.

Large bunker: The smallest answer to this question was 5,000-square feet, the largest 7,500-square feet. The most common answer was 6,500 square feet according to five people who replied

One architect's reply to the green size query was, in part, "There are a lot of 'conditions', or 'depends' with the answers to these questions. As for greens, what is small depends on the slope in the green (what is pinnable), what club your hitting to the green, how firm the greens and approaches might play (how small will the green 'play.') They can be too small for maintenance or playability or reasonable strategy. In the interest of good design It is really not purposeful to assign numerical values to what is big or small. It depends - that should be the answer."

One other architect said the size of a green has as much to do with surrounding land. If, for instance, a green is built at the level of the fairway, and both areas are maintained firm, then the size of the actual putting surface is almost irrelevant.

In an interesting side note, he said he is amazed at how often those who have supposed intimate knowledge of a golf course have incorrect perceptions of green sizes. As an example, he recounted how he was brought in to expand a green that the superintendent said was 2,500-square feet. When it was measured, it was nearly double that size.

Depth of a deep bunker: The most common answer was six feet by four repliers. Two answered deep enough so the player cannot see out of them. An interesting perspective since that means a deep bunker to Dirk Nowitzky is a little different than for Justin Timberlake.

One reply was four feet for a a fairway bunker and six feet for greenside.

It was nearly unanimous that Raynor's bunkers are considered deep.

As one respondent put it, though, there are many ways to determine a deep bunker. It might be a deep if: 1. You need stairs to get in and out of. 2. You can't see the flag from the bottom. 3. You can't play at the flag from the bottom even if you could see it.

To put Ligouri's original article into perspective, the greens at the Ocean Course average at least 5,000-square feet, which is medium size in the minds of all but one who responded

While Jones may have designed a few bunkers with a depth of five feet, there are no six-foot deep bunkers at the Rees Jones Course. However, I'm not sure of Ligouri's height, so they might all be deep to her.

(Photo 1: 17th green Fox Chapel Golf Club, Pittsburgh, Penn.)
(Photos 2: 4th hole Fenwick Golf Course, Old Saybrook, Conn., 150 yards, green approximately 2,200 square feet.)

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Bubba Watson's Favorite Golf Courses: No Thinking Required

Bubba Watson stopped into Cromwell, Conn. today for the Travelers Championship Media Day at TPC River Highlands. As defending champion, he gets to sit on a small stage and be interviewed by ESPN's Chris Berman, who acts as host, and the Connecticut media. Unlike many who have been in the champion's chair, Watson is charming, funny and willing to talk.

One of the hottest players in the world, Watson followed up his first career victory in Cromwell with an appearance on last year's Ryder Cup and two more PGA Tour titles. He comes across as being on top of the world.

During his nearly hour-long interview, Watson spoke about how he uses his imagination on the golf course and envisions moving the ball either right or left as he plays a hole.

"I look at a course and see what it gives me," he told us Tuesday afternoon. "I let my instincts take over."

With that way of approaching a layout, I made the assumption that Watson would be partial to courses that require a player to use thought from tee to green. I was wrong.

I asked him about his favorite stops on the PGA Tour and whether places that are considered shot-makers' courses appeal to him, layouts such as Riviera Country Club (a George Thomas design), TPC at Sawgrass Stadium Course (A Pete Dye design redone by Bobby Weed, who also designed River Highlands) and Harbor Town Golf Links, another Dye creation. It turns out the Watson, like the vast majority of tour pros, prefers layouts where he doesn't have to think or have a chance of being distracted by the architecture.

Since virtually the birth of the golf design profession, architects have known one of the best ways to get a golfer off his game, especially a good one, is to make that golfer think. Watson proved the point.

Watson said his favorite hole at River Highlands is the 10th, the only tree-lined one on the course. It sets up perfectly for his fade off the tee. He's a left-hander.

"It's the one hole where I focus. The others I lose it," he said.

He went on to laud Quail Hollow Club, a Tom Fazio creation, because the grass of the rough and fairways are not the same color and that allows him to select his target.

"It's easy for me to focus," he said.

He cited the same reason—turf hues—for liking Muirfield Village Golf Club, the Jack Nicklaus design that hosts the Memorial Tournament.

"Everything is defined, so it's good," Watson said.

One course that does not appeal to him is, in fact, Sawgrass. The above photo is of the 11th hole. Watson said all the water and bunkers are hindrances.

"There's a lot of things that take my mind off of what I'm supposed to be doing, which is to hit the fairway."

Knowing that they created a design that gets into the brains of golfers, at least according to Watson, means Dye and Weed created a wonderful layout where thinking is a requirement for players of every caliber.

Le Golf National - Links and Target Golf?


The 2018 Ryder Cup was awarded to France today. Here is the Associated Press story.

According to the website golfalot.com, "The Le Golf National Albatros golf course is located in the flatland region of Guyancourt, surrounding the historic Chateau of Versailles, once home to Louis XIV. The Albatros course was designed by golf architects Hubert Chesneau and Robert Von Hagge design built in the late 1980's "was created in the Scottish 'links style' as well as the 'target golf' style of the U.S. courses, adapting well to the native landscape."

An interesting description that makes no sense since links and target are two distinctly opposite styles of design.

The website goes on: "From the Championship tees the total length of the course is just over 7,000 yards. Its layout consists of well trimmed slick greens, vast undulating fairways dotted by innumerable links bunkers, sand traps, water hazards, fescue roughs, trees, bushes as well as the rigid slopes and artificial sand mounds."

Never heard of a links bunker and nothing says links style like trees,bushes and water hazards.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

GCSAA Awards Garske Grants

The Golf Course Superintendents Association of America (GCSAA) has awarded its 2011 Joseph S. Garske Collegiate Grants to Addison Esoda, Michael Barnard, Andrew Fanning, Ryan Hall and Alaina Jordan.

"The Garske Grants are one of the unique scholarship opportunities GCSAA makes available to students each year," said GCSAA President Robert M. Randquist, CGCS. "Thanks to Par Aide and The Environmental Institute for Golf, the Garske Grants are also one of the unique benefits to our members – scholarship money available toward their children's college education."

Esoda, from Marrietta, Ga., earned a $2,500 scholarship with a first-place finish in the overall scoring of the Garske Grant application process which includes community service, leadership, academic performance, and a written essay. She will attend the University of Alabama. Her father, Mark Esoda, is the GCSAA certified golf course superintendent Atlanta Country Club in Marrietta. He is a 24-year GCSAA member.

Barnard, from Burnet, Texas, earned a $2,000 scholarship with a second place finish. He will attend Baylor University. His stepfather, Michael Kelley, is the GCSAA Class A superintendent at Delaware Spring Golf Course in Burnet. He is a 12-year GCSAA member.

Fanning, from Lumberton, N.C., earned the $1,500 third-place scholarship. He will attend the University of North Carolina. His father, Dyrck Fanning, is the GCSAA Class A superintendent at Bayonet at Puppy Creek in Raeford, N.C. He is a 25-year GCSAA member.

Hall, from Lake Geneva, Wis., earned a $1,000 scholarship. He will attend Marquette University. His father, Phillip Hall, CGCS, is a retired 30-year GCSAA member.

Jordan, from Westfield Center, Ohio, receives a $500 scholarship. She will attend Slippery Rock (Pa.) University. Her father, Mark Jordan, is the GCSAA certified golf course superintendent at Westfield (Ohio) Group Country Club and is a 24-year GCSAA member.

The Garske Grant was established in honor of Par Aide company founder Joseph S. Garske. It is funded by Par Aide and administered by The Environmental Institute for Golf, the philanthropic organization of GCSAA. The program assists children of GCSAA members to fund their education at an accredited college or trade school with one-time, one-year grants awarded to five winners without renewals.

Friday, May 6, 2011

St. Andrews Golf Club May Soon Admit Women Members

The St. Andrews (Scotland) Golf Club, founded in 1843 is on its way to admitting women members, according to a story in the Guardian.

I'm a member of the club.

According to the piece, "The committee at the St Andrews Golf Club, which is run from a handsome Victorian mansion overlooking the greens and fairways of the fabled Old Course, has written to its 2,000 male members recommending that it admit women to the club. The club, founded in 1843, has warned its members that under the new Equality Act, the club could face prosecution for failing to allow women to join. Keeping the ban would be a 'retrograde step' as it would mean women would also have to be barred from its clubhouse as guests."

Not everyone approves of the move, including one prominent women's organization, according to the article.

"Shona Malcolm, chief executive officer of the Ladies Golf Union, which has 3,000 affiliated women-only clubs, said: 'We have absolutely no problem with single-gender clubs at all. We're very supportive of single-gender clubs: what it does is allow golfers the freedom to choose what kind of club they want to join.'"

The courses of St. Andrews are, in fact, all municipal layouts owned and run by the town. There are a number of clubs that have rights to play on the eight layouts, including the Old Course. The most famous of the organizations is the Royal and Ancient Golf Club whose headquarters are located behind the first tee of the Old Course.

The St. Andrews Golf Club clubhouse is almost directly to the right of the 18th green. Invariably, during any tournament played on the Old, whether it be the Open Championship or the Dunhill Links, there is a shot of St. Andrews Golf Club members watching the action from in front of the clubhouse or leaning out open windows on the second and third floors.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Boston Golf Club Reopens

There is good news in regards to Boston Golf Club. The Gil Hanse-designed layout opened for the season Saturday.

According to people with knowledge of the situation, a group of members stepped up to fund the operating expenses of the club for the year. At the same time, BGC is working on renegotiating a lease with the landowners.

This does not mean the club, ranked as the 21st best modern course according to GolfWeek magazine, has avoided closing. Any new lease deal must be approved by the membership.

The Most Ridiculous PGA Tour Stat Ever

Greens in regulation, okay. Fairways hit, fine. Strokes Gained-Putting? Just stop it.

Apparently, the PGA Tour will not rest until you need an advanced mathematics degree. At some point the statistics for victories per year and lifetime will be unimportant to the tour.

Here is an edited version of the press release with some of my comments.


The PGA TOUR today begins to present player putting efficiency in a more accurate, meaningful way by introducing Strokes Gained-Putting as a new primary statistical category.

Developed initially by Professor Mark Broadie of Columbia Business School and further analyzed in collaboration with a team from Massachusetts Institute of Technology led by Professor Stephen Graves, Strokes Gained-Putting measures a player’s putting performance relative to his fellow competitors in a tournament and will offer a more accurate portrayal of his overall putting performance.

While ShotLink, powered by PGA TOUR technology partner CDW, has provided a wealth of putting data to determine proficiency from various distances, the primary overarching putting statistic continued to be Putts Per Round, which simply measures the average number of putts a player takes over 18 holes and can be skewed by chipping close to the hole after missing a green.

(Soon we'll see the Strokes Gained-Chipping statistic. AP)

Strokes Gained-Putting, however, takes into account putting proficiency from various distances and computes the difference between a player’s performance on every green – the number of strokes needed to hole out – against the performance of the other players for each round. This ultimately shows how many strokes are gained or lost due to putting for a particular round, for a tournament and over the course of a year.

The statistic is computed by calculating the average number of putts a PGA TOUR player is expected to take from every distance, based on ShotLink data from the previous season. The actual number of putts taken by a player is subtracted from this average value to determine strokes gained or lost. For example, the average number of putts used to hole out from 7 feet 10 inches is 1.5. If a player one-putts from this distance, he gains 0.5 strokes. If he two-putts, he loses 0.5 strokes. If he three-putts, he loses 1.5 strokes.

(Of course, this rating system does not take into consideration the difficulty of the putt. A putt from six feet that breaks a foot is given the same value as a putt from the same distance that breaks an inch. AP)

A player’s strokes gained or lost are then compared to the field. For example, if a player gained a total of three strokes over the course of a round and the field gained an average of one stroke, the player’s “Strokes Gained Against the Field” would be two.

While it is being introduced today, Strokes Gained-Putting tracks players’ performance back through the 2004 PGA TOUR season, since it is based on ShotLink data that already has been collected.

Entering this week, Nick Watney leads the category, gaining an average of 1.215 strokes on the field per round with Brandt Snedeker second at 1.132.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Asking Price for Machrie Slashed; Boston Golf Club Remains Closed

Simon Freeman, head greenkeeper of the the Machrie Hotel and Golf Links, emailed to say that the amount needed to purchase the legendary course and hotel has been dropped.

"The asking price for Machrie has been massively slashed from £1.75million ($2,884,900) to just 'offers over' £895,000, ($1,475,260)," he wrote.

Freeman also reports that it has been a great spring for growing grass and that the course is in great shape.

Meanwhile, the Boston Golf Club remains closed although maintenance workers have been spotted on the property. Members have reportedly been told that the club is hoping for an opening as early as the first week of May.

Friday, April 15, 2011

My Quinnetucket Blog Removed from CTGolfer.com

My blog on CTgolfer.com detailing the Quinnetucket Golf Course project has been removed by the site's owner, Bob Samek, under pressure from Tom DeVaux, superintendent at Hunter Golf Course. According to Samek, DeVaux threatened to pull Hunter's advertisement off the CTGolfer.com site because of a piece I wrote on my own blog about the bunker work at Hunter. I posted the item in January, weeks before I began writing for CTGolfer.com. Click here to view the offending blog post.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Boston Golf Club in Financial Trouble, Not Open for Play


The Boston Golf Club, located in Hingham, Mass. 18 miles south of Boston, is closed and may not open for the 2011 season amidst reports of serious financial problems. Other courses in the area have had play since mid March.

Opened in 2005, the heralded Gil Hanse design received instant acclaim and is ranked 21st on the 2011 GolfWeek's list of Best Modern Courses.

I've talked to a number of people familiar with the situation and the information all seems to indicate the same causes. First, a club member who had been funding a large annual deficit in recent years informed other members that he would not be doing so in 2011. Second, the lease payments for the land on which the entire course sits triples in May.

BGC was founded by Rob Ketterson and John Mineck. In 2007, Mineck was killed in a construction accident on the golf course.

(Photo: Brett Zimmerman, copyright 2010)

Monday, April 11, 2011

Favorite Comments from the Masters Broadcast

For seven of the last 10 years, I've hosted a Masters Sunday party at my home. This year, eight of us wolfed down sushi, pizza, Goldfish Crackers (not considered sushi no matter what George says) and pretzels. We also quaffed copious amounts of beer, lots of my Springbank 10 single malt and some white wine.

For the first time in the history of this even someone was put on probation, and then double secret probation, for what can best be described as poor attitude. The Executive Committee will meet before the next Masters Party to determine whether Rachel will be allowed to return.

Now, along with rooting for Anybody But Tiger, we have a wonderful tradition of chastising the announcers for their idiotic comments.

We detest Jim Nantz for his fake sentimentality. One of the surest bets is that Nantz will bring up a heartwarming tale about a player's father. This year, Nantz was so wracked with emotion when talking about Jason Day's father that he blurted out that the elder Day died when he was 12. We think Nantz meant he died when Jason was 12, but we're holding off judgement until we have more information.

Ian Baker-Finch had a beauty, informing us that Angel Cabrera was so poor and hungry as a child in Argentina that he stole chickens, which inspired Randy to scream, "They just called him a thief on national TV!"

It was also Baker-Finch who said of Cabrera, "He tries to hit a great shot every time."

Thanks for that insight, buddy, but we'd find it more entertaining if you told us which players occasionally strives to produce a mediocre result.

David Feherty proved that he has not even the most basic knowledge of world geography when he stated of the leaderboard, "every continent is represented except the Arctic and Antarctica."

Not too long before that, he told us, "every continent will be watching" the broadcast.

So all eight continents will be watching, David?

Feherty's gaffe led to Jonathan wondering aloud why they are called "polar bears" and not "north polar bears" since none are found on the South Pole. The conversation, more scintillating than what was on TV, lasted a good three minutes.

The basic problem with announcers is they just can't shut up. It's as if they have an unseen force driving them they to comment on everything. It's television for god's sake; let the picture tell the story now and then.

Nantz is the worst. He just couldn't clam up as Geoff Ogilvy's approach to 18 landed on the front of the green and spun back and off.

"He better be careful," Nantz said with a tone of concern that should be reserved for someone diffusing a bomb.

To which one of the party-goers barked out, "How can he be careful, he's a 145 (expletive) yards away?"

Following his epic implosion, third-round leader Rory McIlroy was kind enough to grant an interview to Peter Kostis off the back of the 18th green. McIlroy was gracious and honest after shooting an 80. Kostis, of course, couldn't just keep the encounter as pure question-and-answer, he had to fawn over McIlroy and told his interview subject, "You have a head that's wiser than what's on your shoulders."

So, Rory has another head? Where do you think he keeps it? How does he get it through airport security?

The ridiculous comments about Eldrick Woods were just too many to list here. For me, the blabbering went over the edge following Tiger's missed putt at 13 when Nick Faldo informed us, "I was watching his jaw line."

We're not sure if Nick's assignment was to watch Woods's jaw or if he just made the bold decision to do it on his own. By the way, enough with calling Faldo, "Sir Nick." This is the United States; we don't grant royal titles.

We, the television viewers, were also treated to much useless knowledge.

Did you know that 2011 Masters champion Charl Shwartzel weighs 140 pounds? You would if you had watched the CBS broadcast. We're guessing that that number had some importance since we weren't told the weight of any other competitor. Come to think of it, nobody's height was mentioned. I wonder why?

Saturday, April 9, 2011

The Original Intent at Augusta of MacKenzie and Jones

As the Masters golf tournament plays across television screens the world over the next two days for the tournament's final rounds, it's good to remember that the once great golf course is a mere thin shadow of its original self. No matter how many times the CBS golf announcers tout the greatness of Augusta National Country Club - led of course by the ultimate sycophant, Jim Nantz - maintaining that it adheres to the original intent of architects Alister MacKenzie and Bobby Jones, they are telling lies. If Augusta was once the Mona Lisa, then a series of overzealous club chairmen and ill advised architects from Jack Nicklaus to Tom Fazio have sullied the once stunning lady.

Here is a March 1932 article from the American Golfer magazine in which MacKenzie details the intent of the design and gives descriptions of all 18 holes. The nines have been flipped since the course opened so no. 1 is now no. 10 and no. 18 was the original 9th.

Throughout the magazine piece MacKenzie informs readers as to what were the inspirations for the holes at AGNC.

For instance the 4th (originally the 13th) was patterned after the Eden Hole (no.11) of the Old Course, St. Andrews, Scotland.

The original 4th (current 13th) took its design characteristics from the 17th at Cypress Point, a MacKenzie design, which, as MacKenzie points out in the piece, was considered an ideal hole by Charles Blair Macdonald in his book, Scotland's Gift - Golf.

The 16th (original 7th) was changed markedly by Robert Trent Jones. The hole Bobby Jones and MacKenzie built "is somewhat similar to the best hole (seventh) at Stoke Poges, England."

Never having walked the layout, I feel I've missed an opportunity to view one of the greatest courses every built. Now, the original design, an attempt to create the ideal "inland course," is gone and gone forever.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Golf Course Plans Before Quinnetucket


Made my latest post about Quinnetucket Golf Course at CtGolfer.com. This is an expanded version that doesn't tread as lightly when it comes to the routing of architect Al Zikorus.

Sometime in the 1970s, the city of Middletown had the idea to build a golf course on part of what is the proposed Quinnetucket Golf Course site. The 18-hole Zikorus design ran from the south side of Bow Lane - where the Quinnetucket clubhouse and practice area would be located - south to property that is now part of Middlesex Community College, including up to one of the Connecticut Valley Hospital reservoirs. The clubhouse site was at the corner of Cedar Lane and Reservoir Road. The design was a par-72 and 6,607 yards from the back tees.

There are also two other rudimentary routings that are on file in the city's planning and zoning office. Both of those 18-hole courses were jammed into essentially the same four parcels that make up the nine-hole Quinnetucket layout, and had an overabundance of short par-4s. I can find no information the architect's identity or when the routings were created.

As for the Zikorus plan, it isn't apparent if it was a final drawing or merely a proposal. Since it only shows one set of tees, I'm guessing it is a preliminary attempt. What it does show, even in that form, is that Zikorus chose to take golf holes up and down a steep ravine that is located on a narrow parcel resulting in greens and tees being wedged together. He made almost no effort to work with the land and gradually traverse the slope. Admittedly, at some points the topography is so extreme that tact would have been impossible.

Zikorus was giving the city what they wanted by drawing up a routing but if the layout had been built to his plans, the course would have had a number of uncomfortable holes that either ran straight up or down severe grades. The worst example is the par-3 9th that would have played 190 yards from the back tee and risen 70 feet. The hole would have been a driver for virtually every class of player, all of whom would be hitting to a blind green. On the opposite end of the spectrum was the 533-yard par-5 first hole that dropped 120 feet from tee to putting surface.

The severity of that part of the property that Zikorus chose to incorporate was unusable to Silva and me. We preferred to create a nine-hole layout that works comfortably with the land, rather than an 18-hole design that fights it.

I can't say I'm surprised by what the drawings show. From the Zikorus courses I've seen, he had a modicum of talent. His renovation of the Hunter Golf Course in Meriden, Conn., my home course, resulted in a series of boring and disagreeable holes that punish the the high handicap player and shorter hitter. There is rarely a time where playing to a specific side of a fairway reveals the best route for an approach to the green. Timberline Golf Club in Berlin, Conn., is one of the most boring layouts I've ever had the misfortune play. He also displayed little talent when it came to adapting new holes to existing layouts. His one green complex at the Donald Ross-designed Cohasset (Mass.) Country Club fits in like a white horse in herd of black cows.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Greenbrier's Old White Course Becomes a TPC


Here is excerpt of the press release on the surprising alignment between The Greenbrier resort and the PGA Tour.

"The PGA TOUR announced today that The Old White Course at The Greenbrier in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia, is now part of the TPC Network of clubs as part of a licensing agreement for the property. One of four championship layouts at the historic Greenbrier, the newly named The Old White TPC serves as host site of the TOUR’s Greenbrier Classic, which will be played July 25 – 31, 2011.

"Included in the TPC relationship is management consultation from PGA TOUR. As part of that, 30-year golf industry veteran Burton Baine has been hired to be on property to advise the owner regarding day to day golf course operations."

Interesting that the press release does not mention that Lester George renovated Old White, a 1924 Charles Blair Macdonald design, prior to last year's tournament. A link to my interview with George about the course and his work can be found here.

The press release gives a slight tip of the cap to the original architect but fails to mention Seth Raynor, protege of Macdonald, also did a major upgrade that was completed after his death by his partner, Charles Banks.

"Macdonald, a dominant figure in the early history of American golf, took advantage of the topography’s undulating terrain to create a challenging and visually stunning layout that pays tribute to some of the most famous European holes in golf. The Old White TPC’s No. 8 hole was styled after the Redan at North Berwick, No. 13 after the Alps at Prestwick, and No. 15 after the Eden at St. Andrews."

Other courses at The Greenbrier are the Dick Wilson/Bob Cupp-designed Meadows Course and the Greenbrier Course, which was originally designed by Seth Raynor and re-designed by Jack Nicklaus in 1977, as well as The Snead, a private membership layout designed by Tom Fazio.

(Photo by Stephen Szurlej)

Friday, March 18, 2011

The Machrie Doubles Size of Green Staff with Addition of Noted Mower

Simon Freeman, head greenkeeper at the Machrie Hotel and Golf Links, emailed to say he was allowed to double the size of his staff so that there are now two employees, including himself.

"I got my first assistant, Ewan Logan, back to help me. Ewan has worked out here for 25 years, so to have someone with his knowledge and experience back is an absolute bonus for me. Quite apart from his level of expertise, he's the fastest hand mower operator on the West Coast!"

Freeman went on to write that an early spring has the layout ahead of schedule.

"The golf course is looking good for the time of year, we have had some excellent weather these last few weeks and have good grass cover pretty much everywhere and the greens are coming into the season in good health. The turfing jobs that I managed to do over the winter are knitting in well."

(The accompanying Freeman photo was taken this past winter.)

Freeman also passed along that the hotel is closed but that there are limited services for golfers.

"The shop is open to sell green fees from Monday- Friday from 8am to 4pm, and Kate is available between those hours to help with inquiries that potential visitors might have. Because the front door and the corridor are open, there are toilet facilities for all guests, and a changing room area which visitors can utilise as long as they pick up their belongings before 3:30pm."

There is no official word on the asking price for the Machrie but after talking with people involved with golf on that side of the ocean, the number appears to be 1.75 million pounds ($2.8 million.)

Monday, March 14, 2011

The Machrie is Open for Business, Green Fees Reduced

Head greenkeeper Simon Freeman is the last man remaining on the green staff at The Machrie Hotel and Golf Links, but the fantastic layout is open for business while it is up for sale. Since there are no irrigation heads anywhere on the property and the nights are still cool, Freeman's mowing schedule is not as intense as if the layout was artificially watered or it was the dead of summer.

Freeman has also taken to posting regularly on Facebook to keep golfers apprised of the situation.

"Despite going into administration, the Machrie is absolutely open for business as usual, and the more people we can persuade to come and make use of the facility this year, the more money will be made available to us to spend on the course for the benefit of everyone," he wrote.

Freeman also posted that because the restaurant is closed and there are no changing facilities, green fees for April will be reduced to 40 pounds.

KPMG continues to mana
ge the property and look for a buyer.

I played The Machrie last year with Keith Martin, the head greenkeeper at Machrihanish Dunes, along with his assistant Kevin Smith. It's an absolute joy and easily worth the ferry ride to the Isle of Islay.

Freeman has also had the time to post some fantastic photos of the course on Facebook, two of which I've included here.


Friday, March 11, 2011

A Day at the New England Regional Turfgrass Conference and Show

Spent Wednesday at the 14th annual New England Regional Turfgrass Conference and Show held at the Rhode Island Convention Center. It ran from March 7-10.

I've attended every year since 2000 and I thought attendance was down from last year. Superintendents and exhibitors I talked to agreed with me. Wednesday was the first day the exhibition hall was open the entire day.

There appears to be three reasons for the lower attendance.


First, superintendents continue to feel the pinch of the sluggish economy on their budgets and are not making purchases beyond necessary items.

Second, the Golf Industry Show was held Feb. 7-11 in O
rlando, Fla. An East Coast venue for that event always means New England superintendents are more likely to attend than when the GIS is held in California. In 2012, the national is scheduled for Las Vegas and falls after the NERTCS.

The third likely reason was the fact that rains and warm temperatures in the days leading up to the NERTCS wiped away large amounts of snow on many layouts. Superintendents that weren't sure when they would be calling seasonal help back to work just last week now had had a contingent of workers out on the course that needed directing.

The NERTCS is not just for the golf industry. Education classes and products are also offered for sports and grounds, landscape and equipment technicians.

I don't think shrinking attendance is indicative of the value superintendents see in regional shows. In fact, I would not be surprised to see attendance at the GIS decline over the next few years as regional shows entice superintendents with an increased number of exhibitors while provide more and better education seminars, all for a much lower cost. There also appears to be much more business done of the show floor of the regional events than at the national.

This year in Providence lecturers carme from universities in Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Connecticut, California, Ohio, Tennessee and North Carolina.

Two superintendents also spoke: Jeff Carlson of the Vineyard Golf Club in Martha's Vineyard, Mass., and John Garcia of the Patterson Club in Fairfield, Conn.

The USGA Green Section was represented by Director David Oatis and Northeast Regional Agronomist Jim Skorulski.

This year's keynote address was delivered Tuesday by Mike Eruzione, captain of the 1980 U.S. Olympic Hockey Team.

The highlight of my day in Providence is always the chance to talk with people from around the Northeast that I only see at this show or when I play their golf courses. This year was no exception.

My second favorite part of the day this year was lunch at Eddie and Son on Dorrance Street in the Financial District. Rather than eat at one of the many establishments around the convention center, Keith Angilly and I decided to wander downtown. Keith is a Rhode Island native and superintendent at Mill River Country Club in Stratford, Conn.

We hit the jackpot with Eddie and Son, which as you can see from this link gets rave reviews.

I opted for meatballs and American cheese on a torpedo role with a side of fries while Keith went for sausage, peppers and provolone on a torpedo role, also with fries.

Eddie's has been around for over 65 years. It seats perhaps 30 at both counter and tables. The food was fantastic; some of the best marinara that I've had in a long time. The service was quick and pleasant. We had our meals less than two minutes after ordering. Eddie and Son is really worth a visit if you are in downtown Providence looking for breakfast or lunch. If I'm at the NERTFCS next year, I'll be back at Eddie and Son.


Tuesday, March 8, 2011

A Brief History of Quinnetucket on CTGolfer.com

My latest installment at CtGolfer.com will be of interest for anyone who is not entirely familiar with the history of the Quinnetucket Golf Course project.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Sorry to Say, Frank Nobilo Already in Midseason Form

Listening to Frank Nobilo talk about architecture and maintenance while announcing golf on television is enough to make me turn down the volume permanently out of fear that I might accidentally stumble onto one of his infuriating statements.

When it comes to agronomy, Nobilo - like nearly every one of his announcer brethren - have no idea the harm and problems they can cause with what they take to be an a mere aside. Those in the business of growing grass, though, are all too aware of the power the mouths have.

Case in point. Here's a Facebook post from a well-regarded superintendent watching today's coverage of the Honda Classic.

"To my golf business friends - Nobilo just said that the greens were rolling at 11, which is not 'overly fast.' So, apparently 11 is just kind of average. sigh..."

Can't wait to hear what Nobilo will be saying come August.




Thursday, March 3, 2011

Chronicling the Quinnetucket project on CtGolfer.Com

After an invitation from Bob Samek, the guy who runs, Ctgolfer.com, I'm blogging regularly on the site about my Quinnetucket Golf Course project. The first post was last week. Most of what I'll be writing about for Ctgolfer.com has been covered in my posts here, but will give those who are unfamiliar with the project a chance to catch up.

CTgolfer.com is a wonderful site that is easily the most comprehensive when it comes to what's going on and where to play in regards to golf in Connecticut. Besides Bob and me, there two other bloggers I know well. Paul Sabino, superintendent at the Farms Country Club in Wallingford, Conn., who I worked for in the fall of 1998, writes about the world of course maintenance. There is also Bruce Berlet, former longtime golf writer for the Hartford Courant covers the happenings of players and courses across Connecticut.

In addition, Sue Sawyer chronicles topics pertaining to woman while Pete Asadourian is the guy for golf and fitness tips.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Bubba Watson Blames Loss on "They," Meaning "the Superintendent"

I've never been a fan of Bubba Watson, and now I feel even less kindly disposed towards him after his comments following his defeat in the semifinal round of the Accenture Match Play Championship.

He may profess to be a God guy, which always leads to glowing accolades from the usual fawning announcers (Jim Nantz, Kelly Tilghman), but I'm not buying it. It makes for good P.R., though.

Viewers caught a piece of his it-wasn't-my-fault attitude on Saturday.

Immediately after losing 1-up to Martin Kaymer, Bubba laid the reason for his defeat partly on the shoulders of unnamed others.

"They slowed the greens down a bit," Watson said, "and I couldn't get the speed right."

Man up, Bubba. Who is "they?" The superintendent? The PGA Tour? God and his choir of angels? Tell us.

Let's suppose the greens were slowed down, here's a question: why didn't you adapt to the "slower" speeds? Martin Kaymer certainly did. Luke Donald, the eventual winner, had no problem.

By the way, whatever happened to all the "it's in God's hands" lines we heard from you when you won? Was the defeat not in God's hands?

Also on Sunday, there was a brief replay of the caustic and surly attitude I witnessed at last year's Travelers Championship.

An older gentleman carrying a red sweater apparently encroached on Bubba's space while he was preparing to hit a shot from deep in the desert, even though there were PGA officials with each group keeping the fans back.

Either Bubba or his caddy barked at the man to move back and to "just go away," telling him he had been too close all day.

"Excuse me, sir, could you move please?" would have been just as effective.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Sometimes the Golf Gods Smile on You


My pal Lloyd Cole is Down Under touring with his band the Small Ensemble, this after playing to packed houses and garnering wonderful reviews during a couple of European Tours.

Lloyd, with a handicap in the single digits, loves the game of golf and course architecture and is known for doing what he can to make sure he tees it up while on the road. In the world rankings of musician golfers that Golf Digest magazine compiles, he is consistently in the top 15.

So it was no surprise to learn that Lloyd found his way to Barnbougle Dunes while in Australia. The course, in 2009 ranked the 43rd best in the world by Golf Magazine, is co-designed by Tom Doak and Australian architect Mike Clayton, a friend of Lloyd. Lloyd is also a big fan of Doak's work.

What is surprising is that Lloyd aced the par-3 16th. On Facebook, he posted this photo of him retrieving his golf ball from the cup. No details, however, on what he hit for a club.

Congratulations to him and I hope he has more aces up his sleeve. He will be giving me more strokes the next time we play.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

If I Could Only Escape this Connecticut Winter


With the weather people predicting rain tomorrow followed by freezing temperatures on Saturday - oh good, more ice - I'm dreaming of getting away to play some golf in a far off, warm place.

I think golf in Naples, Italy would be nice this time of year. For instance, here's the San Domenic Golf at Borgo Ignazia resort. The 18-hole layout was created by European Golf Design. I think that would do the trick for me, as long as I had a nice authentic Italian meal after the round.

Then again, I don't wan to appear greedy. I would be more than happy to search out the best golf offers I could find. I can't think of anyplace I would not go, as long as the golf was good and the weather was warm.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Another Incorrect Prognostication that Tiger Woods is Back

Call me a cynic, but whenever I hear most American golf announcers or tour golfers touting Tiger Woods, I assume they're overstating or misstating the truth, especially if they share a membership to Isleworth Country Club with Woods. It is apparent that Woods' game is nowhere near it what was when he was at his best, no matter what anybody says or so badly wants to believe.

That latest to prove my theory was John Cook, who plays on the Champions Tour, has done time with a microphone in his hand and has a membership at Isleworth.

Here's, in part, what he said, as quoted in the Orlando Sentinel

“Monday, it clicked,” Cook relayed after a practice round at this week’s Naples stop. “It was fun just to stop and watch and see the excitement he had on his face and the flight of the golf ball as he was explaining to me what was going on.

“He said it’s way better and way different. This only happened on Monday, and Tuesday he was feeling it even more. We had a great chat about it.”

The swing was doing everything but clicking Wednesday in the first round of the Accenture Match Play Championship as Woods fell to Thomas Bjorn, pictured above, on the 19th hole. After making a great birdie on 18 to extend the match, Woods missed the ample fairway on the 19th hole with a 3-wood and carded a six.

"It's easy to put the ball in the fairway and I couldn't even do that," Woods said, so visibly upset that he was stumbling over his words, according to the Associated Press story.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Confusion Over the Proposed Site for the Quinnetucket Golf Course

I appeared before Middletown's Urban Forestry Commission meeting last night to give input concerning the resigning of a lease by Millane's Nursery, which farms 40 acres within the 95 acres that I'm looking to take control of for the proposed Quinnetucket Golf Course. Millane's would pay about $120 an acre. The proposed golf course lease calls for $20,000 a year beginning in year six.

Go here to see the Middletown Press coverage of the story.

Millane's lease expired at the end of January and the company is looking to sign another 5-year deal, which could seriously delay the Quinnetucket project. The first step towards a new lease was for Millane's to appear before the Urban Forestry Commission, which serves in an advisory capacity to the Economic Development Commission.

After learning that the Millane's lease negotiations had started at the January UFC meeting without input from me, I attended last night's meeting. I was surprised to find that commission did not know my project was still viable. The commission was surprised to discover that the golf course project is very much alive.

A tentative compromise appears to be that Millane's would sign a two-year lease with a one-year exit clause. The EDC still must vote on the lease.

Stay tuned.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Duran Goes Overboard With Its Course Architect Description

Since the earliest days of golf course design, architects have been touting every piece of land as having been deemed by God as a perfect location for golf, and every club has touted its architect as a genius. Duran Golf Club in Viera, Fla. has gone well beyond the usual excesses in describing course architect Chip Powell.

According to their
site, Powell did much more than just move earth in creating Duran.

"His keen eye for manipulating an area's natural weather patterns and wind tendencies make him a highly-sought, Florida course architect," reads the description.

One would think that if Powell is capable of altering the weather, his talent could be better used outside the world of architecture.

It seems pretty obvious from reading the rest of the site that it was not Powell, himself who wrote up his biography or the hole-by-hole descriptions of the course.

"No. 17 (pictured here), a long par-3 (235 yards from the Onyx and 163 from the Ruby) is nicknamed 'Biarritz.' A biarritz is a French name for a green that has a deep dip in the middle, usually running from side to side. This long narrow green does indeed have a gully that will funnel balls to the center, which can be a good thing if the pin is in the right position."

In fact, there is no meaning for the word "Biarritz" in French. As the story goes, the Biarritz hole design, first used by Charles Blair Macdonald, was based on a hole found on a course that was located in Biarritz, France.

A friend of mine recently played Duran and found the course enjoyable. He was impressed with Powell's version of that Biarritz; it has a closely-mowed chipping area to the right of the green in place of the customary bunkering.

The website also has an overall description of the golf course that is a head-scratcher:

"More than a million cubic yards of earth were moved and shaped to create a course with links characteristics, including rolling terrain and mounded greens. Some 15 ponds and lakes were created that add beauty and drama to almost every hole on the course."

Because nothing says links golf like 15 ponds and lakes and mounded greens?

On another note, I wonder if a second course is built if they'll call it Duran Duran?


Monday, February 14, 2011

Bill Murray and D.A. Points on Winning

A wonderful piece in the New York Times about how much D.A. Points delighted in playing with Bill Murray during the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am and the joy Murray felt when the final putt dropped. Points won the tournament and the pair captured the pro-am crown.

"When the putt went in at the 18th, he (Murray) began laughing hysterically, unable to stop.

"'It's like when I see real art, I laugh,' Murray said. 'When I saw like a Rembrandt, I laugh, because it's so, it's just this combination of this beautiful thing. It's alive, yet it's not.'"