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, "...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.