Boy, did Thanksgiving come and go in a tryptophan-induced haze. Got buried so deep in turkey and stuffing, I neglected to post this article in a timely fashion.
Having scarfed the last scrap of leftovers, here are a few of the thousand things that make me thankful to be a golfer:
No. 1 on our bucket list.
Walking a deserted course, solo, first thing on a Sunday morning.
A three-and-a-half-hour round.
Courses where you can’t possibly plunk a house off the tee.
A foursome without one of the guys who top this list.
Playing partners who know when to call off the hunt for a lost ball.
The golf equipment geeks who hang out here.
Friendly starters and marshalls.
Old-school Scottish caddies, like these guys.
ShotLink, the all-knowing PGA Tour stat-keeping tool, for those occasions when I just have to know which player is most likely to bunt a drive less than 240 yards, or score the lowest with a late second-round tee time going off the 10th tee. (Seriously, it’s all in there.)
Thing o' beauty: Rory McIlroy's swing.
Mike Keiser (visionary founder of Bandon Dunes and Cabot Links).
The town of St. Andrews, Scotland – No. 1 on my bucket list of places to visit.
Minimalist design and the architects who practice it.
Firm, fast conditions.
19th holes that serve local microbrews.
Rory McIlroy’s swing.
Matt Kuchar’s smile.
Tiger Woods’ glare.
Luke Donald’s putting stroke.
Handheld GPS devices and rangefinders.
The USGA’s Mike Davis, whose U.S. Open setups emphasize shotmaking and imagination over hacking out sideways from ankle-deep rough.
Street-style golf shoes.
Caddyshack quotes. Some of the best are short: “Don’t sell yourself short, Judge, you’re a tremendous slouch.” Others, classically long: “So we finish the eighteenth and he's gonna stiff me. And I say, ‘Hey, Lama, hey, how about a little something, you know, for the effort, you know.’ And he says, ‘Oh, uh, there won't be any money, but when you die, on your deathbed, you will receive total consciousness.’ So I got that goin' for me, which is nice.”
It sure is, Carl. It sure is.
All together now: USA! USA! USA!
Feels pretty good once every two years, doesn’t it? Put another way, it’s a good thing America has the Presidents Cup to stir up some pride in between Ryder Cup whippings.
Tiger Woods celebrated in style.
The United States once again took the International team to the woodshed, winning the 2011 Presidents Cup by a more-dominating-than-it-sounds 19-15 margin. And this was supposed to be the year the Internationals -- an Aussie-heavy squad playing on home turf -- broke a five-match victory drought.
Instead, the Americans succeeded where they so often fail against Europe’s Ryder Cuppers: on the greens. The U.S. squad made miles of twisting putts across Royal Melbourne’s diabolical, wind-whipped surfaces, continually snuffing any spark of a comeback.
With Uncle Sam’s finest pushing their all-time record to 7-1-1 against the Internationals, a question lingers: Why don’t the Americans play like this in the Ryder Cup? The Europeans have claimed four of the past five and six of eight since 1995.
Who knows? And for now, who cares? America’s golf community should enjoy the moment.
After all, the next Ryder Cup is just 10 months away.
The Presidents Cup produced a bevy of heroes and goats. We singled out these for polite applause and tacit disapproval:
Royal Melbourne: Talk about living up to the hype. The Alister MacKenzie-designed masterpiece delivered compelling theater each day, the constantly changing conditions only highlighting the layout’s brilliance. And somehow, the setup crew kept things fair despite green speeds in excess of 14 (!) on the Stimpmeter.
Jim Furyk: Coming off his worst season since his rookie year, Furyk didn’t figure to make a big impact. Surprise! By going 5-0, Furyk paced the Americans and became the first player over 40 to win all his Presidents Cup matches.
Fred Couples’ captain’s picks: To the chagrin of many, Freddie followed rule No. 1 in making his captain’s picks: Never, ever pass up Tiger Woods. While Woods’ 2-3 record was nothing special, he played well in team-match defeats and even better in singles. For good measure, Woods clinched the Cup with a 4-and-3 beatdown of Aaron Baddeley on Sunday. Couples’ other choice, Bill Haas, was solid in splitting his five matches.
The Ryder Cup: Still golf's best.
While Woods’ and Haas’s combined 4 ½ - 4 ½ record may seem pedestrian, it compared quite favorably with the International captain’s picks. Which leads us to…
Greg Norman’s wild-card selections: Baddeley was bad, posting a 1 ½ - 3 ½ record. Robert Allenby was worse, putting up a big, fat doughnut against four defeats. That’s a combined score of 1 ½ - 7 ½, making Norman’s pre-Cup criticism of Couples ring rather hollow.
The Presidents Cup’s standing alongside the Ryder Cup: Sure, it’s fun to win. But until these matches become more competitive, the Ryder Cup will remain golf’s biggest biennial affair. By a longshot.
In case you missed the Australian Open – which you probably did, considering it took place a gazillion time zones away from the U.S. – Tiger Woods came thisclose to winning his first tournament since 2009.
Tiger Woods tantalized Down Under.
He didn’t, finishing third thanks to a Saturday 75 that cost him the lead. For most of the event, though, Woods had the Aussie crowds and international golf media buzzing. His drives were straighter than usual, the irons old-Tiger crisp, the putter showing more than occasional flashes of sizzle.
Following his third-round flop, Woods charged back with a final-round 67, falling two shy of Greg Chalmers’ winning score of -13. The display left most everyone impressed, if not quite ready to declare Tiger “back” just yet.
Left high and dry by too many Tiger teases the past couple years, some wags noted that he finished behind two journeyman types (Chalmers and runner-up John Senden). More importantly, though, look at the guys right behind him: Adam Scott, Geoff Ogilvy, Jason Day and Nick Watney. They’ve played some decent golf lately, haven’t they?
Bottom line: another non-win for Woods – still the only golfer for whom a third-place finish against a world-class field is regarded as a disappointment. But it bodes well for his – and America’s – chances in this week’s Presidents Cup at Royal Melbourne.
We’ll be staying up for that one.
The Presidents Cup: As if the controversies surrounding Fred Couples using a captain’s pick on Woods and Steve Williams’ foolhardy remarks about Tiger weren’t enough to spark interest… The matches got a further boost from Woods’ performance and that of International team members Scott, Ogilvy, Day et al. The Ryder Cup still reigns supreme when it comes to biennial team competitions, but the Presidents Cup continues to catch up quickly.
Oh, and we can’t wait to see Royal Melbourne, one of golf’s most revered sites. Architecture geeks rejoice!
John Daly: After intentionally drowning a half-dozen balls before walking off the course midway through his first round, Daly proved yet again that he’s a complete waste of a sponsor’s exemption. The man needs help.
Barton Creek Resort and Spa is one of Texas’ top rated golf resorts and for very good reason. This beautiful property, just minutes northwest of downtown Austin, lies in the rolling wooded Hill Country of Texas and boasts access to four great golf courses. Two Tom Fazio designed championship layouts anchor the golf experience and are backed up with a Ben Crenshaw track and an Arnold Palmer designed course as well.
Just outside the front door of the resort lie the Tom Fazio Foothills course and the Ben Crenshaw Cliffside layout. Just a 5 minute free shuttle ride away is the second Fazio gem named the Canyons. A bit further out is the Arnold Palmer Lakeside course along beautiful Lake Travis. Combined, these four layouts provide an ever changing and challenging test for golfers of all abilities.
This trip I played the Foothills, Canyons and Cliffside courses which share the rolling landscape of the Barton Creek area. This wooded and hilly terrain is reminiscent of the interior holes of Spyglass Hill near Pebble Beach as well as the mature northern forests of Minnesota’s Grand View Lodge or the amazing Lake Tahoe layouts of Coyote Moon and Schaffer’s Mill.
Tom Fazio Foothills and Canyon gems
The Fazio Foothills and Canyon courses feature remarkable elevation changes, fairly tight fairways, lightning fast greens and an array of hazards whose beauty belie their danger. Dry creek beds, running water, arroyos, canyons, limestone cliffs and caves, waterfalls and ever changing terrain are just some of the natural challenges Fazio has incorporated into his layouts.
While the two Fazio tracks share similar feel and terrain the courses play quite differently. Head Golf Professional Justin Kutz probably explained it best when he said “The fairways of the Canyons course tend to fall off on the sides while those on the Foothills course tend to filter the ball back onto the fairway.” I found this to be exactly right. Wayward shots on the Canyons course often rolled off the short grass and down into canyons, creeks, trees or worse. The Foothills layout was more forgiving in this regard but I found the fairways felt a bit narrower.
Both tracks featured numerous greens fronted by water requiring all or none carries to the safety of the putting surfaces. These watery hazards took the form of small running creeks, deep natural gorges cut from limestone and even distracting waterfalls tumbling alongside the greens. Two of my favorite holes were the 8th and 9th on the Foothills.
The Par 5 eighth hole starts at an elevated tee high above a fairly wide fairway protected on the left by a large pond and on the right by the ever present woods. From here the hole narrows considerably with a creek running down the entire left side and trees pinching the right side all the way to the green. If you have safely made it this far in two, your approach shot to the green must avoid the deep chasm left of the green where the creek falls into a deep abyss. This is a great golf hole. The Par 3 ninth is probably the signature Par 3 of all the courses. Again, an elevated tee gives you a great view of the hole and its many challenges. A smallish green angles away from you and is guarded on the front and left by a waterfall that tumbles into the same chasm that guards the eighth green. Amazing!
Crenshaw Cliffside course
The Crenshaw designed Cliffside course could not be more different than the Fazio layouts. Here the fairways are very wide with generous landing areas and fewer hazards. It is more of a links style. Yet, whatever advantage is gained off the tee is taken away by some of the largest and most undulating putting surfaces you will ever play. Finding the wrong part of these greens makes two putting heroic, three putting common and four putts not out of the question.
Besides the four golf courses, Barton Creek Resort and Spa features every amenity you would expect from a world class resort. A full fitness center with an indoor pool, running track and exercise rooms are a great way to start your day. The full service spa offers treatments of every kind. In addition, there are numerous dining options, an excellent tennis center, nature trail, miniature golf and first class rooms and service. Be sure to give Justin Kutz and his golf staff a warm hello and tell them I look forward to seeing them again soon.
Golf gear manufacturers release a lot of new equipment during the year. While the vast majority of offerings are simply updated, tricked-out versions of existing models, interesting stuff does come down the pike every now and then.
Here are a few equipment items that caught our attention in recent weeks.
Bellying up – way up
TaylorMade's Ghost Spider putter.
Every golfer of a certain age remembers Jack Nicklaus’ stunning Masters triumph in 1986. Most have forgotten the explosion of putter sales that followed his win. Specifically, sales of the mammoth-headed MacGregor Response ZT putter Nicklaus used to make all those back-nine bombs.
In the 2 ½ years following Nicklaus’ sixth Masters victory, MacGregor sold an astounding 350,000 Response ZTs. A similar boom is mushrooming now in the belly and long putter market.
Late-season victories by Keegan Bradley, Adam Scott and Webb Simpson put extended flatsticks front and center in the public’s eye. TaylorMade recently tripled fourth-quarter sales expectations for long and belly putters, and accelerated the timeline for launching long versions of its popular Corza Ghost and Ghost Spider models.
Cleveland and Odyssey have reported similar success and product plans.
adidas joins street shoe brigade
Constant innovation is a key benefit of the free-market system. And whenever something original breaks through to a mass audience, copy-cats are sure to follow.
adidas' new adicross golf shoes
Hence, Nirvana begat Bush, the Android rode the iPhone’s coattails, and adidas joined the parade of companies mimicking Ecco’s Street Premiere golf shoes.
The adicross is adidas’ entry into this expanding category, which FootJoy, Nike and startups like Kikkor Golf have joined. (For the record, we consider TRUE Linkswear shoes a somewhat different breed.)
What does adicross offer? Lightweight, full-grain leather, five color combos and, of course, a spikeless sole.
Not to be confused with soul-less tripe. For that, we recommend listening to a Bush album.
Rejoice: Mizuno intros new irons
Few golf brands inspire the loyalty of Mizuno, specifically, the company’s forged irons. (You’ll get my Mizzies when you pry them from my cold, dead hands.)
There’s a new member of the esteemed MP family, the cavity-back MP-59. Like its forebear, the MP-58, the 59 features a hunk of titanium forged into the back of the blade. The company claims a 5-percent larger sweet spot on the MP-59s than the 58s.
Mizuno aims these irons at golfers in the plus-2 to 13 handicap range. In other words, you need to be a decent stick, but not a world-beater, to wield them properly.
This just in: Steve Williams is an idiot.
Make that a bleeping idiot.
Steve Williams needs to memorize part three of the caddie mantra.
We already knew Williams possessed a vastly inflated sense of importance. Now Tiger Woods’ former caddie has revealed a stupid streak as big as his ego. Maybe bigger.
In case you missed the latest news, Williams took a stupefying shot at Woods during an annual caddie awards ceremony. First, Williams was roasted by colleagues for his infamous display of self-satisfaction following a victory by his new boss, Adam Scott, at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational. Taking his turn to speak, Williams explained.
“My aim was to shove it right back up that black (bleep),” he said, referring to Woods and an unprintable part of Tiger’s anatomy.
The remarks set off another roasting, and not the good-natured kind.
Media issued the requisite calls for discipline by the PGA Tour, Scott, and anyone else in position to punish the surly New Zealander. Williams, naturally, issued an apology while Scott stood by his bag man. The Tour claimed its hands were tied and said Williams’ apology would have to suffice.
As if this month’s Presidents Cup – where Woods will play as a controversial U.S. captain’s pick while Scott anchors the Internationals – needed any extra drama.
There’s a well-known mantra regarding a tour caddie’s on-course responsibilities: “Show up, keep up, shut up.” Williams should learn to follow part three, everywhere he goes.
Golfweek: Old is Best New
Once upon a time, Golfweek compiled an annual list of the 50 best courses opened in the U.S. during the previous year. Then that list dwindled to 40 in 2009. Now, it’s down to a mere 25 – which covers a two-year period and includes two renovations.
Such is the slow state of affairs in the course construction business, victimized by the economic downturn but already suffering growing pains earlier in the decade.
The building boom of the 1980s and ’90s, when several hundred new courses came online each year, created a demand-exceeding glut in supply. Things only got worse when the economy went belly-up. Now, more courses are closing than opening each year.
It’s sad, for sure. But that’s the free market at work, and far worse things have happened during the downturn. Besides, we’ve got a new Golfweek list to peruse.
No surprise at the top: Old Macdonald, the fourth course at Bandon Dunes Resort. Conceived by Tom Doak and right-hand man Jim Urbina, it’s a sprawling ode to Charles Blair Macdonald’s seminal design work at National Golf Links (Long Island), Chicago Golf Club and numerous other Golden Age classics.
The Patriot Golf Club
The second spot goes to an equally intriguing project, The Patriot GC in Oklahoma. Robert Trent Jones II leaned on the men who helped him make Chambers Bay (Wash.) such a smash, Bruce Charlton and Jay Blasi. The trio hit another home run, carving a compelling course from a rugged, boulder-strewn chunk of northeast Oklahoma.
What makes The Patriot truly special is its purpose. The club is home to the Folds of Honor Foundation, the brainchild of PGA professional and F-16 pilot Major Dan Rooney. Folds of Honor provides scholarships to the kids of service members killed or wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The Patriot is a private club, but sets aside three tee times a day for one-time public access. Ten percent of the $150 fee goes to Folds of Honor.
If you’re in the Tulsa area and covet a tee time, or just want to contribute to the cause, visit www.patriotgolfclub.com.
In general, I think people find too many things to complain about. (So Facebook changed its news feed – WHO CARES?)
Spare her your cheesy come-on lines, please.
I’m working to curtail my own griping, but it’s hard work, especially where golf is concerned. That’s why I’ve decided to share my list of golf pet peeves -- you know, as part of the self-improvement process.
Judging by my list, you might think I really hate the game. Nothing could be further from the truth. I only have so many irritants because I love it so much.
In no particular order, golf-related stuff that drives me up the flagstick:
- Guys who hit on beverage-cart girls. Dude, she’s the same age as your daughter!
- Courses with too many attendants. Not because I don’t appreciate the service, but because I rarely carry cash and feel like a tool not tipping them.
- People who hunt endlessly for lost balls. Just drop one already. Your chance of breaking 70 ended on the first hole.
- Golfers who drive to their partner’s ball, wait for him/her to hit, then go to their own ball. Either drop them off and drive to your ball, or leave the cart and walk to yours. You should be ready to hit as soon as they’ve finished.
- Clichés in website course descriptions. For example: “Nestled amongst (notable geographic or topographical feature), our championship course is a challenging yet fair test that’s enjoyable for golfers of all levels.” Sadly, the same can’t be said for your writing.
- Those who don’t know they’re supposed to rake bunkers or, far worse, don’t bother. Then again, I suppose it’s my fault for following the rules and not taking a free drop from a footprint.
- Temporary greens. I know they’re sometimes a necessary evil. They’re still an evil.
- Trees overhanging green entrances.Golf has enough land-based hazards, thanks.
Say it right, or don't say it at all.
- People who say “expresso” instead of “espresso.” OK, this one’s not golf related. Just makes me want to throw a club.
- Perfectly walkable courses that require carts. Don’t even get me started.
- Cart paths too close to fairways. They’re eyesores, cause havoc on half-decent tee shots, and scrape ugly scuff marks on golf balls. Sooo not cool.
- Courses that water fairways and greens after it rains. I’m no superintendent, but surely you can override the automatic timer.
- The idea that golf is an elitist game. The trappings of private club golf can be snooty, for sure. The game itself is egalitarian to the core.
- Rory Sabbatini’s swing. Looks like he’s swinging a sledgehammer. Of course, he has the personality to match.
- Black golf gloves. Yuck. Just, yuck.
- Televised interviews with corporate executives. I know they pay for the privilege, and give tons of money to charities, but…Yuck. Just, yuck.
Got any golf pet peeves of your own? Sure you do. Feel free to share ’em in the comments.
And stop being such a whiner.