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Saturday, August 31, 2013

Patriot Golf Day Should Be Every Day

The seventh annual Patriot Golf Day® is going on right now through September 2, 2013. If you haven't yet made a donation, consider joining the thousands and thousands of golfers who support this nationwide effort to provide educational scholarships for children and spouses of military service men and women killed or disabled while serving our nation.

Golfers nationwide are asked to donate a minimum of $1 to benefit the Folds of Honor Foundation® when they play one of the participating courses or visit one of the other facilities supporting the drive. During the past six years, Patriot Golf Day has raised more than $17 million dollars and the Folds of Honor Foundation has awarded more than 3,500 scholarships.

In Westchester, you can show your support at more than two dozen locations:

Anglebrook Golf ClubLincolndale
Ardsley Country ClubArdsley on Hudson
Bedford Golf & Tennis ClubBedford
Dunwoodie Golf CourseYonkers
Fenway Golf ClubScarsdale
GlenArbor Golf ClubBedford Hills
GolfTEC - White PlainsWhite Plains
Hollow Brook Golf ClubCortlandt Manor
Hudson National Golf ClubCroton on Hudson
Knollwood Country ClubElmsford
Lake Isle Country ClubEastchester
Leewood Golf ClubEastchester
Metropolis Country ClubWhite Plains
Mt Kisco Country ClubMount Kisco
Pelham Country ClubPelham
Sleepy Hollow Country ClubScarborough
St Andrews Golf ClubHastings
Sunningdale Country ClubScarsdale
The Golf Club of PurchasePurchase
Waccabuc Country ClubWaccabuc
Westchester Country ClubRye
Whippoorwill ClubArmonk
Willow Ridge Country ClubHarrison
Winged Foot Golf ClubMamaroneck
Wykagyl Country ClubNew Rochelle

PGA Professional Dan Rooney, a former F-16 fighter pilot in the Oklahoma Air National Guard, is the founder of the Folds of Honor Foundation. Major Rooney has served three tours in Iraq. He reminds us, "We have lost so many soldiers who have given the ultimate sacrifice. America can come together in the spirit of golf and have a dramatic impact. We have an opportunity to make a difference for the families who have made the ultimate sacrifice."

Among many other books, Dave Donelson is the author of Weird Golf: 18 tales of fantastic, horrific, scientifically impossible, and morally reprehensible golf

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Marine Park GC Swings Into Social Media

Marine Park GC  photo courtesy of the course
Golfers at Marine Park Golf Course now enjoy the ability to turn to a free mobile app to stay in the know about the Robert Trent Jones design on or off the course.
Marine Park Golf Course officials recently released a "Marine Park" mobile app that provides everything from up-to-date weather conditions, tee time booking, score keeping, and a GPS yardage system on the course. With the app - available in the Apple App Store or Android Market - players receive updates about Marine Park including course updates, event announcements, and promotions.
Recently, golfers with the Marine Park app received the following:
"Is your local course aerating? Marine Park's greens are fast and true as ever. Come down to MPGC and enjoy the day."
"Our new mobile golf app has provided us with a fantastic tool to engage our customers," said Richard McDonough, Director of Golf Operations at Marine Park. "The ease in which our customers can book a tee time from anywhere with their phone is invaluable. The on-course GPS works fantastic without the expense of a separate GPS device. Players can also use the interactive scorecard to track their round by round stats or keep score for an entire group."
Marine Park Golf Course is an 18-hole Championship Course open to the public year-round and is a member of New York City Parks. Located in southern Brooklyn, this links-style course was designed in 1964 by world-renowned architect, Robert Trent Jones, Sr. It boasts panoramic water views, country club quality greens and fairways, a beautifully manicured driving range and prevailing winds off Jamaica Bay. It measures 6,866 yards from the Blue tees, 6,609 yards from the White tees, 5,793 from the Gold tees and 5,323 from the Red tees.Since 2008 Marine Park Golf Course has been under the management of father-son team Michael and Adam Giordano. Since the Giordanos took over, golfers at Marine Park have welcomed the addition of a driving range and learning center, renovations to the clubhouse and grille and currently a course restoration project under the guidance of golf course architect Stephen Kay.   
Among many other books, Dave Donelson is the author of Weird Golf: 18 tales of fantastic, horrific, scientifically impossible, and morally reprehensible golf

Monday, August 26, 2013

Pound Ridge Is D*&#%d Hard

Pound Ridge #13
Pound Ridge #13  photo by Jim Krajicek
We all have "off" days on the golf course, but the last place you want to have one is at Pound Ridge GC, the Pete Dye design about an hour north of NYC. Show up with less than your "A" game and your ego will take quite a beating. The daily fee track is known for fabulous sculpturing of the land, majestic forests, and picturesque rock outcroppings, but it's always a good idea to keep Pete Dye's opening-day advice in mind: “Everyone agrees it’s a beautiful piece of land. You just need to bring a lot of golf balls.” If you can't hit it straight, you'll need a bucket full.

The first thing you discover at Pound Ridge is that precision isn't just nice to have, it's absolutely essential. Tee shots have to be not only in the fairway but in the right place in the fairway to have a shot at the green. Approach shots have to not only land on the green but end up in the correct place on the green to have a reasonable two-putt. Mistakes aren't just unfortunate, they're deadly. Off the fairway a yard or two? You'll be in four-inch rough with a wedge your best option. Miss it by ten yards or so? You've probably lost your ball in the fescue or one of the many, many environmentally-sensitive hazards. The same conditions apply, by the way, to most of the par threes.

That's not to say Pound Ridge isn't an enjoyable golf experience--just be mentally prepared for a tough round. The course is visually stunning, with 14,000 linear feet of rock walls, dramatic bunkering, and gorgeous water hazards. The green complexes have none-too-subtle but perfectly putt-able contours, well-placed but playable traps, and numerous pin positions to keep things interesting from round to round. The turf and putting surfaces are as good as any private club--and better than many.

Pete Dye pointedly built five sets of tees with large differences not just in length of hole but angles of play, forced carries, and even hazards and obstacles between them. Choosing the correct tee is essential if you want any hope of playing a successful round. The tale is in the course rating for each tee, not the yardage. The "Oak" tees, for example, play 6,773 yards, a not-unplayable distance for many decent golfers using modern equipment these days. The course rating from those tees, though, is 73.8. That means a scratch golfer is expected to score nearly two over par if he shoots to his handicap that day!

The course isn't a pushover from the next set of tees forward, either. The "Granite" tees measure 6,261 yards with a 70.4 rating and 140 slope. From there, you'll face 200-yard-or-so carries off the tee on a couple of holes (nine and fourteen), not to mention the need to shape your tee shots on a couple more (ten and eighteen). Approaches over water will affect your strategy on the second and possibly the eighteenth hole. Elevated greens add to the difficulty on nine, thirteen, and sixteen.

Regardless of the tees you play, a house-size boulder, aka "Pete's Rock," sits in your line off the tee on the thirteenth hole, a 448-yard par five (from the Granite tees). The glacial erratic draws a great deal of commentary, but it also distracts from the real difficulty of the hole, which is lined by hazards on both sides of the narrow fairway all the way to the green. Golfers befuddled by the rock are much more likely to lose a ball right or left than to bounce one off the boulder. Even if your drive finds the short grass, your second shot needs to be laser-straight even if you are laying up to the long, narrow green.

Dye plays all sorts of mind games on the equally-infamous fifteenth hole, a relatively easy 144-yard par three. Once again, a granite outcropping immediately behind the green draws the player's attention while the hazard lining the front poses a much greater threat. The green is huge--some 60 yards wide--and set at an angle to the tee, so distance control is the key to par. Just to mess with you some more, though, Dye set the tees so that foliage in the hazard typically blocks your view of much of the putting surface.

Pound Ridge opened in 2008 to great acclaim and much comment about both it's demanding layout and equally-demanding greens fees, which were easily the highest in the metro area. Deep-pocketed golfers flocked to the course, however, and owner Ken Wang's $40-million gamble appears to be paying off. Given the caliber of the golf course, players get their money's worth even at the top rate of
$195 (including cart, range, and other amenities). Off-season and off-peak rates are considerably lower.

Among many other books, Dave Donelson is the author of Weird Golf: 18 tales of fantastic, horrific, scientifically impossible, and morally reprehensible golf

Friday, August 23, 2013

Heathland Golf in the Mountains of Vermont

Okemo Valley Hole #16
Okemo Valley Hole #16   all photos courtesy of the club
Okemo Valley Golf Club styles itself a "heathland" course, or somewhat of a cross between links and parkland. Regardless of how you define the term, in this case it describes one of the most exciting golf courses you'll find in the Northeast.

The 6,450 yard, par 70 course offers an excellent mix of long and short, tight and expansive, uphill and downhill holes. Many of the region's mountain courses are notable for tight, tree-lined fairways, but not Okemo. There are places where trees are in play, but most of the holes are defined by fescue-covered moguls and hillsides and well-placed fairway bunkers. Rating from the tips is 71.1 with a 130 slope. There are four sets of tees, the shortest at 5,105 yards.

The opening hole, a 398-yard par four, sets the tone with bunkers at 270 from the tee to the right and a heavily contoured green protected by four tough bunkers greenside as well as a couple of tall trees that encroach from the right to punish an overdone fade off the tee. It's pretty typical of the challenges you'll face throughout the round. Refreshingly, they are different on just about every hole.

Water affects your strategy on six holes, especially the 213-yard 17th hole, a daunting one-shotter that's all carry. Speaking of par threes, Okemo has five of them in total, all fairly long holes although the 186-yard 8th plays ridiculously (three club's worth) downhill.

It wouldn't be golf in Vermont, of course, without such elevation changes. The 397-yard ninth hole plays downhill, too, and the dogleg right dictates a hybrid or something much less than a driver off the tee. The signature 16th hole, a 458-yard par four, has a generous landing area for your downhill drive followed by a tight, treacherous approach, also downhill, to a green perfectly framed against some glorious scenery.

Okemo Valley
Okemo Valley is also a great place to work on your game. An expansive range lets you hit off both grass and mats and there's a dedicated short-game area with a spacious green and big practice bunker. The separate practice green is large enough to accommodate plenty of players at the same time. If you really want to get better, there's also an excellent staff of PGA professionals at hand.

One of my favorite features at Okemo Valley is the four-hole Family Fun course. The holes measure 60 to 100 yards and are available Saturday and Sunday afternoons at an affordable hourly rate. While on the subject of rates, even at peak season they are quite reasonable given the quality of the golf experience at Okemo. The top weekend morning rate is only $103 with cart and you can walk for as little as $39 at other times.

Tater Hill GC
Tater Hill Hole #18
Okemo also operates Tater Hill GC in nearby North Windham, VT, about a twenty minute drive from Ludlow. The 6,364-yard par 71 course has a 71.7 rating and 131 slope, just challenging enough to give you some fun without being a pushover.

Tater Hill plays pretty wide open, although there are enough doglegs and other features to make you think twice before pulling a driver on every tee. The back nine, with three par threes and three par fives, is the more interesting of the two. All the fives are reachable and the 501-yard 15th hole offers a spectacular view off the tee and an exciting downhill tee shot.

Conditions at Tater Hill are quite good, belying the bargain rates ($79 for a weekend morning peak-season round with cart) and as low as $23 walking at other times).

Okemo Mountain may be better known for its fine ski resort in Ludlow, but the company operates two good golf courses, too.

Among many other books, Dave Donelson is the author of Weird Golf: 18 tales of fantastic, horrific, scientifically impossible, and morally reprehensible golf

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Barney Adams on the Future of Golf - Part Four

Barney Adams
Barney Adams
Barney Adams, the founder and past CEO of Adams Golf, is a man whose open-minded approach to the game improved the way it's played for thousands and thousands of golfers. He recently applied his genius to the biggest question in the game: how do we make it accessible, popular, and attractive to more players? This is the fourth of a series of guest posts containing his unfiltered thoughts. If you haven't yet, I suggest you read the first three posts (Part One, Part Two, Part Three) for an in-depth look at his idea.

From the Desk of Barney Adams...

I've spent months telling this story, initially trying for converts. An overriding lack of success taught me that the better approach was to gather feedback, hone the idea and hope to garner support from major organizations. Some of the most repeated comments and my responses follow.  

“Your idea will ruin the game. To get everyone at the 135 yard “The Tour Test” marker players in a foursome will be hitting from different tees and that destroys the camaraderie that is part of golf.”

Response: In my concept a group playing from the same tees is integral to the enjoyment of the game. On Tour (our standard of relativity) the longest hitters are 40 yards in front of the shorter ones. As long as your group on average is 20 yards on either side of the 135 yard “The Tour Test” marker, you are fine.

“Let's cut to the chase, we gamble. You think we want our opponent at 120 yards from the green while we're at 150? That’s nuts.”

Response: Right now your shot is 180 yards. Can you roll the ball between the traps? Maybe one in five times? Your opponent is 150 yards and feels very secure. With “The Tour Test” you are now positioned at 150 yards and can carry your ball over the bunker and guess what -- it stops 10' from the hole. I don't care how close he is, your opponent’s shot just got a lot harder.

Note: Let me add something here. There’s a misconception that playing at “The Tour Test” distance will automatically result in lower scores. Maybe. I've plugged a lot of 7 or 8 irons into bunkers (while gambling) but at least somewhere in the “The Tour Test” game, I'll get a decent birdie opportunity.

This is baloney, I'm 62 and I can get home on 400 yard par 4 holes.”

Response: I'm 73 and so can I. That's not the objective. I can shoot at a 12' basket too but I'd rather compete at 10' and be playing comparable to the best in the world. Besides, I have a lot more fun at 10’. If we don’t do something to enhance the experience of the game of golf for everyone, it is going to die a slow and painful death.

“How do I know what tees to play?”

Response: Properly set up (which is part of the program) courses will have  suggested "The Tour Test" tees for men and women based on tee shot data from tens of thousands of golfers. If you find yourself constantly approaching from 160-180 yards (rather than close to 140 yards) then move up a set. If you are truly (note the word truly) a golfer who drives the ball 260 -280 yards, keep moving back. Golf is a game of honesty. If your stock 8 iron is 163 yards (like a tour player) then play the tips.

Over the years we have turned into a total yardage descriptor for golf, “We play from 6700, or 6000 or 7700 whatever.” I'd do away with those numbers if I could, (along with tee colors). “The Tour Test” golf is about testing your game against the best players in the world by playing relative distances into the green.

“Our group moved up and it just didn't feel right hitting 8 irons where we used to hit hybrids, almost like cheating.”

Response: Ironically this is one of the most significant lessons I learned from my field odyssey and experienced it myself. There is an inherent honesty in golf and you have to get used to the idea that you are simply playing relative distances to the best in the world. Once accepted it's an easy adjustment.

“What about my handicap, if I move to the “Tour Test” tees won't it go down and then I'll be penalized if I play a course that still plays back?”

Response: The USGA has strongly supported Tee It Forward. Assuming they are on board with “The Tour Test” I cannot see them ignoring handicaps should they become an issue.

“Can we do this at our course now? Why do we have to wait?”

Response: It’s perfectly legit to change. In my dreams the golfers of the world rise up and request "The Tour Test" tees at their courses NOW.

Among many other books, Dave Donelson is the author of Weird Golf: 18 tales of fantastic, horrific, scientifically impossible, and morally reprehensible golf

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Barney Adams on the Future of Golf - Part Three

Barney Adams
Barney Adams
Barney Adams, the founder and past CEO of Adams Golf, is a man whose open-minded approach to the game improved the way it's played for thousands and thousands of golfers. He recently applied his genius to the biggest question in the game: how do we make it accessible, popular, and attractive to more players? This is the third of a series of guest posts containing his unfiltered thoughts.

From the Desk of Barney Adams...

A Typical “ Tour Test" Layout 
Notice the word typical and other vague references. Further I use “Tour Test” here as simply a name for setting up courses. Golf is not a fixed experience. A 350 yard hole is not always the same 350 yard hole. Prevailing winds, fairway design, firmness, forced carries, green sizes, surrounding bunkering (I could go on)…all are factors. Tee It Forward was a start but it needs an upgrade. The front tees may work in some cases, on some holes, and not at all on others. Since I’ve played this way, I realize that in some instances current course design will force compromises. Maybe someday there will be new tees but for now, I suggest we work with existing layouts.

“The Tour Test” Par Four Holes
Given historical data on tee shots, a median length of 360 yards is a good rule of thumb for a par four hole. If I'm laying out a course I look for a design where I have at least one short par four hole (290-310 yards) on each side. Basically there are two types of design that accomplish this: relief off the tee with a very small green surrounded by trouble, or a more forgiving green area and a narrow, tough tee shot.

In my layout there will also be a couple of long par four holes (in the 400 yard range) with openings into the green, down slope, or down prevailing winds.

That leaves 6 par 4 holes (depending on their shape) between 340 and 370 yards each.

“The Tour Test” Par Three Holes
A par 3 hole with forced carry and trouble can be a short 120-140 yards. With a wider opening into the green the hole can be longer (180 yards). Terrain and conditions always affect design plans.

“The Tour Test” Par Five Holes. 
Unlike the Tee It Forward approach, “The Tour Test” play can support longer holes. A 220 yard drive, 190 yard second shot, and 140 yard approach is a 550 yard hole!  While the number 550 works perfectly in the field, the same players who disparage moving up to Tee it Forward are equally unhappy with longer par 5 holes. Conditions dictate! The point is 550 yards can work perfectly. Hitting the green on a par 5 in two shots is common on tour. It is great fun to watch, but it’s not happening for the vast majority of golfers – just for the .08%.  I’ve heard suggestions for 425 yard “reachable” par 5 holes and the idea just doesn’t work.

“The Tour Test” Course
“The Tour Test” course could measure 6000 yards (or 6400 yards or even more) depending on the conditions mentioned.   What it is not is 6100 yards with 7 par four holes of 400 yards, and 4 par 5 holes at 460 yards. That course layout is one of the weaknesses of the “Tee It Forward” movement. Moving up does not always give you “The Tour Test” experience. The question to ask as we create “The Tour Test” holes is: How do we lay this out so the amateur is realistically given the chance to compete against the best players in the world?

So there is my story. I am a great fan of the game; it bothers me to realize that it might not continue at its current level for my grandchildren and their children. I’ve given you the history, the analysis, and a proposed solution.  I do not know what will come next. I hope "they" rally to the cause.

from Dave: Read some reactions to Barney's ideas in the next post.

Among many other books, Dave Donelson is the author of Weird Golf: 18 tales of fantastic, horrific, scientifically impossible, and morally reprehensible golf

Monday, August 19, 2013

Barney Adams on the Future of Golf - Part Two

Barney Adams
Barney Adams
Barney Adams, the founder and past CEO of Adams Golf, is a man whose open-minded approach to the game improved the way it's played for thousands and thousands of golfers. He recently applied his genius to the biggest question in the game: how do we make it accessible, popular, and attractive to more players? This is the second of a series of guest posts containing his unfiltered thoughts.

From the Desk of Barney Adams...

I need to start with some general comments. There are lots of issues to be addressed in the industry, I'm a huge fan of junior programs, caddies, family friendly courses initiatives, at the local level too numerous to mention. I am zeroing in on one specific aspect of participation because if we ignore that, if we keep doing the same things we've done in the past the prognostication for the future is very unhealthy. I have no illusions about the difficulty involved to bring about this change.    
"The golf industry should pay very close attention to Barney's ideas", said Tom Fazio, renowned golf course architect.  "The game should be fun, not a struggle."

Good business practices teach us to be very focused in our marketing efforts. The golf industry has data that identifies the target market but somehow the message of focused marketing gets lost.   "Come play our magnificent 7200 yard (famous designer) layout."   At 7200 yards you are marketing to maybe 2% of your potential customers. When golfers do arrive they are not allowed to play from 7200 yards but moved forward as if they aren't worthy. So we've accomplished two things: spending advertising dollars ineffectively and creating a negative environment once customers get on property.

And here's the odd part: I don't fault the owners/operators for this. They are responding to a culture developed over the years that emphasizes course length not shots into the green.

To start let me be clear, you cannot put golf in a defined box. One of the great joys of the game is its inconsistency; you can have two 360 yard par 4 holes that play completely different. Fairway slopes, prevailing winds, types of grass hazards to avoid and I could go on. So analyze in golf terms, the way holes play, not in absolute yardages.

No better example exists than the recent U.S. Open at Merion. I loved watching the best players in the world trying to hit short par 4 greens from the rough or, even the fairway, and you know what?   Sometimes they didn't !

I use men's data simply because it's more familiar and easier for me to write about; I have women's data as well.

Fig 1 shows a classic long par 4, 460 yards, with a trap protecting the right side of the green. This is pretty basic architecture. Data from the PGA Tour's Shotlink system on 35,000 drives shows that Tour players will hit 6 or 7 irons into the green 26% of the time, an 8 iron 36% of the time and 9 irons or wedges 22% of the time. There will be roughly 40 yards between the longest and shortest drives. This is why 7200 yards is no problem for Tour players, who constitute .08% of those who play. Please allow me to emphasize: the .08% are great talents who play a game that is television entertainment. Somehow the folks who are protecting the game get them mixed up with the other 99.92% -us.
  figure 1
For amateurs, who cares?! Using data from 1.8 million handicaps, fewer than 10% of players will get home to the aforementioned green in two shots using any club; stick a creek in front of the green, making it a forced carry, and the GIR figure drops to less than 6%.

Aha! A poor example, you say, because amateurs don't often play 460 yd par 4 holes. I'll agree, but even under Tee It Forward they will play 405 yard par 4's. From that distance all of the Tour players, if they hit driver or three wood off the tee, will hit 9 iron or wedge into the green on their second shots, in while the number of amateurs getting home in two on a 405-yard par 4 leaps all the way to 24%, and to   15% with that damn creek to carry. That carefully sculpted trap on the right might work better as a grass bunker because even in that at 24%, many are rolling the ball onto the green, not hitting a soft shot to a protected pin.  

So it isn't about forward tees, it's about where you play approach shots from. On Tour the average iron into a par 4 hole is an 8 iron and that's good enough for me. (I mean my 8 iron, which goes 135 not theirs, which go 164 yards on average) Do you get it; how can I correctly emphasize this ; not one hole but 8 irons or less for most second shots.   Play the same type of shots into the green that the best players in the world do; most golfers play the equivalent of a 12' basket. figure 2

When I bring up the subject when visiting clubs, I see furtive glances, folks wondering who those "other guys" who don't hit 8 irons are. Yeah, right! Many decades ago I cleaned clubs and it stuck with me that the long irons were seldom used, a thought that ultimately led to the design of a fairway wood. Cleaning clubs today and I'd see used hybrids and relatively clean 6-9 irons!      

Install me as Grand Czar and all courses would be required to have  markers measured 135 yards from the green. They could be painted sprinkler heads, small plaques (I will have some official Czar discs available with my likeness), trees like the old 150 bushes. My army of golf police will inspect and certify them.

The markers are reminders. It's like having a great Scottish caddy standing in the fairway, "Aye, Laddie play from here.   It's just like the professionals only adjusted for you." He will explain there is a 40 yard spread-plus or minus 20 yards-from the markers and playing within that spread is to play the same shots Tour players do. Over a relatively short period, the question of what tees to play will become evident. The back tees don't disappear; they just get used by the few that really belong there.

Originally I had this grand idea of official markers sanctioned by the PGA of America and the USGA. The regional PGA of America staff would verify them as they visited courses. This would allow certified facilities to advertise that they featured the chance to play Tour-type shots into the greens, have fun, and enjoy the game.

I even invented a sponsor who would host a three-year amateur event played from the correct distances. I called the event "The Tour Test" as a way of incenting folks to play from the relevant areas. Like a lot of my grand schemes, reality intervened. The USGA and PGA of America have their own programs.

Truth is I harbor a dream of a large corporation with ties to golf contacting me about wanting to be associated with an event that so strongly supports amateur golf. Oh Golf Channel and a partner, can you hear me, televised regionals, finals; this would be a game changer. Nope, not looking for work here...just trying to help.

I think this concept has a near zero chance of becoming adapted.  Tour golf produces a state of 'television euphoria' and a commentary that the game isn't doing well is not well received.  The PGA of America will continue efforts to bring in new players and there will be some references to 'more fun' and 'playing faster'.  Yes, I see the Jack Nicklaus spot on moving to forward tees.  This is the closest to getting those who have cut back to start playing more but at the  course level this gets interpreted as an application for senior players and is not becoming widely accepted.  

There are two factors conspicuous by their absence in this article. The first is the issue of slow play; very simply, if golfers learn to play from the correct approach area play will speed up. I realize slow play is a study unto itself, but this movement is definitely on the right side of the equation. The second is cost; I believe in value. Once you get courses playing correctly, you've increased value. The marketplace will determine actual cost far beyond any words by me.

As an added thought, turn off the water. Two reasons: it will make the course play faster, and pretty soon you're not going to be able to afford it anyway. Educate the golfing market that soft green fairways are unhealthy; a light tan means a deeper, stronger root structure.  

Among many other books, Dave Donelson is the author of Weird Golf: 18 tales of fantastic, horrific, scientifically impossible, and morally reprehensible golf

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Barney Adams on the Future of Golf - Part One

Barney Adams
Barney Adams
Barney Adams, the founder and past CEO of Adams Golf, is a man whose open-minded approach to the game improved the way it's played for thousands and thousands of golfers. He recently applied his genius to the biggest question in the game: how do we make it accessible, popular, and attractive to more players? This is the first of a series of guest posts containing his unfiltered thoughts.

From the Desk of Barney Adams...

Given my history with Tee It Forward, I have spent a significant amount of time studying participation data in the golf industry. Recently, I saw two forecasts, one from the NGF and one from Golf 20/20. The former predicts 3 million new golfers by 2020, keeping up with the population increase; the latter, an increase to 30 million players in 5 years. Apples to apples the 5 million increase would constitute almost 29 million, so the NGF is relatively more conservative.                                                              

My initial reaction to these revelations was somewhere between negative and incredulous. They have 30 years worth of data that refutes their own positions. But, as I contemplated more, it became evident that the real issue is how to increase participation, not criticize forecasts.

The facts: golf participation has significantly lost ground vs. the population increase over the last 30 years-something well over 20%. Junior golf is down 30% from its high in 2005. And in fact, if you carefully look at the participation data since 1985, everything is down.

The NGF has a category encompassing all who play at least once a year, age six and older, (the base they use for their 2020 forecast). While that category shows a similar decline, I am more specific in my analysis. They have a category called "Avid," those who play 25+ times a year. This category accounts for and pick up 71% of all golf associated costs. A clear path: grow this group and good things fall in line.

Definitely a straightforward objective, we have the category we want to expand - now let's develop programs to increase their play, just as has been done in the past. It worked! We had 10.2 million avid golfers in 2000, only ultimately it didn't work.  Well, that group of avid golfers did grow once. From 1985 to 2000, it grew from 6.8 million to 10.2 million.  But that didn't solve the problem, because then it shrank. From 10.2 million in 2000 to 9.1 million in 2005, 7.0 million in 2010, we end up with 6.8 million and counting in 2012, the same as we had in 1985, (not close to keeping up with the population increase). So it isn't about getting them, it's about keeping them and that is where every organization associated with the game needs to focus. There have been enough economic and weather variations over those years to factor them out as the cause; the culprit is the game itself.

In the business world this would be identified as a case of product rejection. At all levels, men, women and juniors, we can get them started, but we can't get them to stay with the game. We continue to try and attract new players but until the product rejection issue is turned around these efforts will not fix the participation issue.

I understand that there will be some who say the current status is acceptable so let's not interfere. Two million jobs, people supporting families, kids with summer jobs-that is what the industry provides and that base is being eroded. If that isn't an incentive, there is a long range forecast which is so negative folks tune it out. That is the result of today's birth rate, the lowest in history, By comparison, the baby boomers, today's chief golf participants had the highest birth rate in our history.

Let's be the generation that is recognized for taking action that has a positive effect on participation. In Part 2, I'll propose a fix that is within the rules and spirit of the game, is virtually cost free and at the end of the day, a solution that we can easily install. I'm talking about us, the folks who play the game.

Among many other books, Dave Donelson is the author of Weird Golf: 18 tales of fantastic, horrific, scientifically impossible, and morally reprehensible golf

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Diffley Weighs in on the PGA Championship

Mike Diffley
Guest blogger Mike Diffley, head pro at Pelham CC and all around good guy, shares his thoughts on the PGA Championship and a few other hot topics:
The four majors have been played. The PGA was exciting as it has become the major where the best players play great courses not too tricked up--except they continue to make the finishing holes par 5's that they call par 4's. It seems like a par is a birdie, I'm not sure if it's good or not but I don't like it.

Oak Hill was soft earlier in the tournament and the scores reflected what happens when all these great players don't have to worry about controlling the ball into the greens. Looked like darts! The fairways become wider as the ball doesn't roll out into trouble if hit a little off line. Length is not much of an issue with an amazing amount of players using non-drivers on long holes. I have personally not been to Oak Hill but it surely looks like and have heard it's like many of our best.

Speaking of our best, the three locals, Danny Balin, Mark Brown and Rob Labritz surprised me by not playing better. All three are great drivers of the ball as evidenced by their having won on the Black at least once. Getting used to the scene or just not having your "A" game at a major makes things tough.

Jason Dufner all week--but particularly in the last round--proved the adage that the three most important clubs are putter, driver and wedge. He was splitting the fairways, hitting it on the center line defined by the cut. Wedging it to three tap-ins in the final round and putted well from inside 10 feet. He can be a little shaky on the greens but handled it well this week.

Dufner has a great motion with incredible balance and power all following the longest (in length and number of times) waggle in the history of golf. He waggles until he feels it, very different than most players or instructors would advocate. He is known as an awesome ball striker, so keep it up.

His persona on the course is interesting. The announcers are always saying how calm he is. He definitely seems like a cool cat because he has found his way of not reacting (no judgment) to every or any shot. He didn't know how to celebrate after his last putt went in because he had trained himself not to react! In his first interview after the win you could tell he was in shock and hadn't turned off his focus.

It's great to see a player who has worked and improved over the years. He is 36 and nobody really knew who he was on the big scene until the PGA two years ago. He was a walk-on at Auburn and comes from Ohio. Not a star at 17 I guess, just someone who figured out how to keep getting better. Chuck Cook a great Texas teacher is his man and lets him be himself!

On another note: Andrew Svoboda (a St. John's grad) won on the Web.Com this week in Missouri shooting 22 under with a final round 64 (8 under) to probably secure his PGA Tour Card for 2014. He hasn't had a great year but caught fire this week under the radar. Andrew grew up at Winged Foot and is a former Met Am and Open Champion.
Speaking of Met Open Champions, Diffley won the premier event in 1991. This year, he'll be playing in his 30th Met Open at Old Westbury CC.

Among many other books, Dave Donelson is the author of Weird Golf: 18 tales of fantastic, horrific, scientifically impossible, and morally reprehensible golf

Monday, August 12, 2013

Richest Deal Ever Made on a Golf Course?

It's probably impossible to prove, but it's entirely likely that a deal spawned at St. Andrew's GC in Hastings may have been the largest ever struck on a golf course. I ran across this interesting tidbit in American Colosus: The Triumph of Capitalism 1865-1900 by H.W. Brands. The club, which celebrated its 125th anniversary this year, played an essential role in the sale of member Andrew Carnegie's steel interests to J.P. Morgan and others in 1901.

The deal was a perfect example of the role golf can play in business--not to mention the value of scoring judiciously when playing against your boss.

Andrew Carnegie playing at St. Andrew’s circa 1899. He enjoyed the game so much, he built a home next to the course // Photograph courtesy of Westchester County Historical Society
Carnegie Steel President Charles M. Schwab was the hero of the piece. Morgan had made it known he and his partners wanted to buy out Carnegie so they could monopolize the steel industry. Schwab saw the value of the deal (he subsequently became President of the company it created, U.S. Steel) but the ultimate decision was Carnegie's, who wasn't particularly interested in selling. His wife, Louise, though, wanted him to retire. Here's how Brands described what happened:
"Louise Carnegie conspired with Schwab against her husband. Shortly after Schwab informed her of the merger scheme, she telephoned to say that Carnegie would be playing golf the next morning at St. Andrew's club in Westchester. He was always more cooperative after winning at the Scottish national sport, she suggested. Schwab took the hint, whiffed a few for the cause, and broached the subject of selling. Carnegie didn't reject the plan outright, which Schwab took to be a good sign."
It was. The next morning, Carnegie named his price--$480 million. Morgan accepted it and a few days later closed the deal personally. As he shook Carnegie's hand, he said, "Mr. Carnegie, I want to congratulate you on being the richest man in the world."

At that point in time, it probably wasn't an exaggeration. The deal would be worth about $13 billion in today's dollars. That has to make it one of the biggest ever born on a golf course.

Among many other books, Dave Donelson is the author of Weird Golf: 18 tales of fantastic, horrific, scientifically impossible, and morally reprehensible golf

Friday, August 9, 2013

Simple Chips...No Dips, No Chili...To Cut Your Scores

Keep it simple and chip it close with this review of chip mechanics by Jason Caron from Siwanoy CC, part of the Golf Tips From Around the Met video series by Anthony Renna of Five Iron Fitness.

Among many other books, Dave Donelson is the author of Weird Golf: 18 tales of fantastic, horrific, scientifically impossible, and morally reprehensible golf

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Bid To Play For Better Courses

The Environmental Institute for Golf, the philanthropic arm of the Golf Course Superintendents Association, has created a fabulous way for you to enjoy rounds on some spectacular private (and public) courses while supporting their efforts to help ensure golf's future through turf grass research.  Right now, you can bid to play the courses with the proceeds benefiting the game through the Rounds 4 Research auction.

Some of the local courses participating in the program include Metropolis, Scarsdale, Sunningdale, Trump National Westchester, Brae Burn, and GlenArbor. These are just a few of the 363 opportunities around the country that you can bid on until August 11. For something special, you can also bid on two badges to any day of the 2014 Masters or two Trophy Club passes to any two days of the 2014 US Open at Pinehurst. The US Open package includes hotel, rental car, and a bunch of other goodies.

The real prize, though, is the support your bids will provide for turf grass research. The GCSAA's Environmental Institute for Golf supports applied agronomic and/or environmentally friendly research around the country. Round 4 Research is presented in partnership with Toro.

Among many other books, Dave Donelson is the author of Weird Golf: 18 tales of fantastic, horrific, scientifically impossible, and morally reprehensible golf

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Jim McLean Helps You Drill Like A Pro

Few instructors have seen more swings and given more solid lessons--to amateurs and top pros alike--than Jim McLean. Now, his decades of experience are distilled into 120 drills that will help every aspect of your game in Golf Digest's Ultimate Drill Book.

The book covers the complete game from stance, grip, alignment, and posture to the full swing with every club from driver to putter. McLean also has some excellent drills to build your stamina and flexibility as well as a few to sharpen your mental game--something many instructors talk about but only a few, like McLean, offer any practical help with.  All the drills are described in a four-part format: Problem, Result, Goal, and Practice Procedure. There are plenty of annotated photos to illustrate each one.

I recognized several of the drills from the time I spent at McLean's school at the Doral, but I also found many fresh ones, too. One of my favorites is the Right-Arm-Only On-Center Drill, which teaches how to co-ordinate body and arm action. It's also one (of several) you can do on the tee while you're awaiting your turn to hit. I also particularly like the Pacific Ocean Drill, where the player imagines hitting balls at a target the size of the ocean in order to encourage a free swing unencumbered by attempts to steer the ball.

McLean is one of the game's greatest teachers. You may not be able to make it to one of his schools, but you can benefit from his wisdom with this simple, thorough instruction book.

Among many other books, Dave Donelson is the author of Weird Golf: 18 tales of fantastic, horrific, scientifically impossible, and morally reprehensible golf

Monday, August 5, 2013

Adams Updates the Original Tight Lies

Adams Golf is bringing back the legendary fairway wood that put the company on the map in the mid-1990s. It's the Tight Lies line updated to incorporate Velocity Slot Technology that makes their current hybrids and fairway woods so hot. It's hard to believe, but I'm still playing (occasionally) a Tight Lies five wood and I'm sure I've got a three- and even a two-wood around here someplace. That was some serious technology at the time! The new Tight Lies has launched initially as a 16 degree three-wood with other loft options available including a 19 degree five-wood and 22-degree seven. Come to think of it, I have one of those in the original version, too.

“In the ever-present pursuit of maximum distance, today’s fairway woods have become mini-drivers – extremely difficult to hit from anywhere other than from a tee,” said Justin Honea, Adams Director of R&D. “The low profile design places the center of gravity (CG) below the CG of the ball, making it easy to hit the ball in the air. The unique tri-sole design makes it easy to hit from a multitude of challenging lies and then we added a refined Cut-Thru Slot design so this new Tight Lies is twice as hot as the original. It’s the perfect blend of playability and performance.”

Tight Lies features redesigned Cut-Thru Slots in the crown and sole to create maximum face deflection. This increased deflection allows for higher ball speeds making the new Tight Lies twice as hot as the original. Another added benefit of this new slot design is the increased forgiveness across the face. I started playing a Speedline Fast 12 three-wood last year and can attest to the distance gained by the slot technology.

A hallmark of the original Tight Lies fairway wood was the revolutionary low-profile, upside-down design, and it is back in the new version. This design feature allows for a very low CG – below the CG of the golf ball, making it extremely easy to hit the ball in the air for more consistent and controllable performance. The unique tri-sole design, which made the original version playable from any lie, will again be a difference maker for golfers playing the new Tight Lies. This sole design reduces turf interaction to increase performance from the fairway, rough, sand - even tight or bare lies.

And here's a kicker: Adams is so confident you will be satisfied with the easy-to-hit performance of the Tight Lies fairway wood, purchasers can return the club to Adams for a full refund within 30 days of purchase if they are not fully satisfied. The offer begins on August 15, 2013 and runs through October 15, 2013. More information is available by visiting www.adamsgolf.com/tightliesguarantee or calling (800)-709-6142.

Among many other books, Dave Donelson is the author of Weird Golf: 18 tales of fantastic, horrific, scientifically impossible, and morally reprehensible golf

Friday, August 2, 2013

Tee Shots Count at Forsgate CC's Banks Course

Forsgate Banks Course #15 "Chocolate Drop"
The Banks Course at Forsgate CC is justifiably renowned for spectacular greens and bunker complexes shaped by Charles "Steam Shovel" Banks. What's often overlooked, however, is the importance of accurate, thoughtful play from tee to green on the Monroe Township, NJ, course. Hit it wrong off the tee and par becomes much, much harder (if not impossible) on most of the holes.

The need for strategic driving is easily ignored when you see some of the seemingly generous fairways like the one on the first hole. "Preparatory," as it is named, is only 384 yards, but shots to the right half of the fairway will leave you with an approach over the first of many cavernous bunkers you'll face throughout the day.

Another short par four, the 347-yard fourth, demonstrates another Banks design principle. A well-struck tee ball will find a level landing area with a clear shot to the "Hog's Back" green. Anything else--even in the fairway--will have an uneven lie and/or an obstructed approach. You'll see the same design feature on the course's longest hole, the 603-yard eighth, and it's back-to-back par five cousin, the ninth, where two plateaus serve as landing areas. Miss either one and you'll have serious side-hill issues.

Banks also made judicious use of cross bunkers and other fairway features. The tenth hole, a 416-yard tester named "Valley" not only has a namesake ravine to navigate but a series of fescue-fringed cross bunkers to keep long hitters honest. The short (330 yards) confounding fifteenth holes features a narrow fairway that slopes right so that even straight tee shots are pushed into the rough. The answer, to hug the left side of the fairway from the tee, brings the eponymous "Chocolate Drop" bunker into play in the left rough.

None of this is to say that the Banks Course greens can be taken for granted. As I've written before, they are simply spectacular. My point is that you can't take the rest of the course for granted, either. The Banks Course deserves to be cherished as a full test of your game.

Among many other books, Dave Donelson is the author of Weird Golf: 18 tales of fantastic, horrific, scientifically impossible, and morally reprehensible golf

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Grand Slam This Week?

No modern golfer--man or woman--has won more than three major championships in a single season. That record may well fall this week when Inbee Park tees it up in the Ricoh Women's British Open at St. Andrews. It's her chance to make an indelible stamp in the record books.

It's also a good reason for me to offer "Grand Slam" free on Amazon! The offer is good for today only (and you don't need a Kindle to read it!), so order now.

The 24-year-old South Korean won the Kraft Nabisco Championship, the LPGA Championship, and the US Women's Open, making her only the second woman to have captured three Grand Slam events in the same season--Babe Zaharias is the only other one. But no one has ever won four majors, and that's what will drive the excitement at this week's tournament.

It couldn't happen at a more fitting venue, either.  Her fluid, controlled swing and astounding putting prowess should play well at St. Andrews. And what a boon a Grand Slam would be for the LPGA Tour!

Among many other books, Dave Donelson is the author of Weird Golf: 18 tales of fantastic, horrific, scientifically impossible, and morally reprehensible golf