Thursday, December 23, 2004

David McLay Kidd -- in Oregon, San Fran

David McLay Kidd, the delightful Scottish golf architect who created the wonderful Bandon Dunes in Oregon, appears to have a busy year ahead of him.
He's apparently working on another course in Oregon, the 7th course at St. Andrews and another in San Francisco. Of course there's also the new one near Machrihanish, which could be mind blowing.
I interviewed David a couple of years ago for, when the site cared for something other than articles on the driving stats from the 84 Lumber Classic.
You can find the story here:,1977,6330724,00.html

Syd the Kid, my daughter aged four months, demonstrates her fine taste in golf course architecture through her Bandon Dunes hat!

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

The Big Wiesy

More on Michelle Wie and her quest to compete with those on the PGA Tour. Apparently she'll be back at the Sony. Quite interesting, considering my post about Shawn O'Hair from earlier this week.

Golf course in Saskatchewan for sale on eBay...

Well, it is only nine holes, but for the lowly price of $1.5-million you too could have your own golf course and "resort" in rural Saskatchewan. Check it out here.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

The return of the cruiser

Here's an amazing story about Sean O'Hair, once a teenage phenom nicknamed "The Cruiser," who struggled under family pressure and other issues before finally making it through Q-School earlier this month. Check out the story here.

Golf blog worth checking out

New York entertainment lawyer Jay Flamma has a blog worth checking out called A Walk in the Park -- he spends a lot of time reviewing public golf courses, a worthwhile concept I fully support .

Give his blog a read here.

Friday, December 17, 2004

Open Championship to return to Turnberry?

According to the Scotsman, the Open Championship is poised to return to Turnberry.
Go here for the story.
I'm all for it -- having played the course, I found it to be one of the most amazing places to play golf. It would make an amazing venue for the British Open and apparently the road issues which have plagued the site are in the midst of being fixed.
While the road to Turnberry is interesting if you are driving a car, having 30,000 people on that road would be very, very interesting.

Sunday, December 12, 2004

Irish golf tourism falls...

This story, taken from the website, presents a pretty bleak picture for golf tourism in Ireland. Note the figure about golf tourism falling by half over the past five years, mainly from the UK. That said, Scotland's courses were pretty quiet as well when I was there for two trips in the last two years.

Golf crisis looming
Sunday December 12th 2004

A CRISIS is looming in Irish golf. Through a combination of over supply and weak tourist figures, the situation is especially acute in the east of the country, where facilities are already experiencing difficulties.

Cost-cutting in the proprietary sector is creating fierce competition for members' clubs, which had developed a dependence on green-fee traffic in recent years. And the situation overall has been exacerbated by the smoking ban and a greater adherence to the drink-driving laws.

All of which means that certain members' clubs in Dublin are looking at the stark option of either enlarging their membership base, or slapping increases of up to 20 per cent on the annual subscription. And in some cases it's even doubtful if increased membership would offer a solution, given the growing resistance to five-figure entrance fees.

So it appears that the old, pre-EEC notion of Ireland contracting pneumonia if Britain caught a cold, still has some validity where golf is concerned. For instance, a recent survey for the English Golf Union showed that there were 46,690 membership vacancies last year and that 75 per cent of English clubs were actively seeking members.

Even the home of golf is suffering. According to a recent story in The Times, many Scottish clubs have had little choice but to open their doors because of dwindling membership and declining interest. And it seems that new converts to the Royal and Ancient game have upset traditionalists because of the little time they spend having a dram at the 19th hole.

There has also been criticism that visiting players from Japan and the US behave like "car-park golfers", limiting their patronage to the course and never setting a foot in the clubhouse.

It is a dramatically different situation from that envisaged by the Royal and Ancient in their document "The Demand for Golf", which was published in 1989. Among other things, they set what was viewed as an ambitious target of having at least one facility for every 25,000 inhabitants in these islands by the year 2000. This target was set against ratios of 1:12,000 in Scotland, 1:10,000 in Australia and 1:20,000 on the Eastern Seaboard of the US at that time.

The figures quoted for Northern Ireland in the report make interesting reading. With 58 golf clubs in 1988 for a population of 1.58 million, our brethren north of the border had a ratio of 1:27,259, which meant that an increase of 15.5 per cent was desirable by the millennium. In fact the increase was 57 per cent which, given the current number of 94 clubs, has since risen to a whopping increase of 82 per cent, producing a ratio of 1:17,000.

Meanwhile, the number of facilities in the Republic has snowballed from 202 in 1988 to a current 316 - an increase of 56 per cent. In the process, the ratio of facilities per head of population has come down from 1:16,600 to a current 1:11,400.

The big change in course construction during that period was in the proliferation of proprietary establishments, triggered to a considerable degree by EU farming quotas. For instance, between 1987 and 1994, more than half the 129 new clubs launched in this country were proprietary. And the total of 410 affiliated clubs for the whole of the island in 2004 will be increased to 413 when the GUI hold their AGM next February.

Donal Flinn, general manager of Druids Glen, brought the situation sharply into focus by pointing out: "When we opened in the autumn of 1995, our main rivals, geographically, were Mount Juliet and The K Club. Now we have a second course (Druids Heath), so have The K Club and there is the addition of two courses at Carton House, a second one at Powerscourt and the new Heritage facility, all seeking the same business. That's six additional courses, which make it a very tough market."

Against the background of grim reports from the UK, it is revealing to note from Fáilte Ireland that there has been a 47 per cent drop in golfing visitors here from 1999 to 2003. And the greatest decrease - of 53 per cent - was from the UK.

As it happened, a number of Irish club representatives converged on Lisbon last week for the annual get-together of the International Association of Golf Tour Operators. Fáilte Ireland had a stand there and, predictably, the gathering included a strong presence from proprietary clubs including Adare Manor, Carton House, City West, Dromoland Castle, Druids Glen, Glasson, Mount Juliet, Mount Wolseley, Powerscourt, Ring of Kerry, The K Club, The Heritage, Rathsallagh and Portmarnock Links. And a number of members' clubs were also represented through established marketing organisations, SWING and North and West Coast Links.

Yet one Irish club official pointed to the fact that only about 10 per cent of Irish courses were represented there. As he put it: "You will generally see the same faces at these events every year."

Continental European operators seemed decidedly upbeat about the prospects for 2005, but their mood was tempered somewhat by an awareness of increasing competition.

For instance, newcomers Tunisia and Turkey have been making their presence felt, with an emphasis on price and climate. While the general feeling was that they were certain to take business from Spain and Portugal, my Irish informant expressed a fear that they would also corner some of the UK business which has departed from these shores.

"Looking towards next year, it is clear that the Irish picture is not as healthy as we would like it to be," he said. "We cannot escape the fact that there is an obvious over-supply of facilities which will continue to make life difficult for us."

Though owners and club officials are putting a brave face on things, it is clear that financially vulnerable establishments could face closure, unless there is a significant upturn in the tourist market. And quickly.

Dermot Gilleece


Thursday, December 09, 2004

Golf Digest Best New Course List 2004

As a Golf Digest panelist, I was intrigued by the list that first appeared yesterday. You can find it here --

Interestingly, GD published the actual voting totals for each course. I found this particularly interesting when it came to the Canadian courses, all of which I've played. It is still hard to imagine anyone ranking The Rock ahead of Blackhawk, but it shows just how close the voting was.

Best New Canadian
1. The Rock Golf Club, Minett, Ontario 43.441
2. Blackhawk Golf Club 43.204
3. Wildfire Golf Club 43.015

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

The Rock's 12th hole

The Rock #1 New Course in Canada?

Though I haven't seen it yet, apparently The Rock in Muskoka has won Golf Digest's Best New Course in Canada.
This is incredible for a number of reasons. Mainly, it is remarkable for the course that didn't win -- Rod Whitman's Blackhawk . But first, let's talk about The Rock.
I've seen the course several times, including a preview in late 2003 and again at the media opening with Nick Faldo (who shot 73 on his round there) in June.
The story behind the project is that a developer decided Muskoka, which is overbuilt, needed yet another golf course. He hired David Moote, an architect used to mainly working on low-budget projects. He routed the course, despite several problems, mainly with water-related issues. It seems residents of cottages near the course site were concerned about water quality. To placate them, the developers decided it would be necessary to put in a series of holding ponds. The problem was, given the limited land to build the course, the ponds are almost always in play and not in a good way.
Once the Mariott hotel chain became involved with the project, Moote was cast aside and Nick Faldo, and IMG in-house designer Brit Stenson, were hired. However, given time limitations and zoning, Moote's routing had to be used. The routing made many of the holes very tight and very difficult.
The best, like the lengthy par five 9th and the short, but interesting 11th, are still terrific, despite the routing issues. The worst, like the truly awful third hole, are difficult and not particularly fun to play. It is a damning combination.
All of this makes The Rock's win over Blackhawk (which I've written about extensively in an article elsewhere on this blog) that much more astounding. Blackhawk is a throwback to classic Canadian designs. It is a clever, nuanced design that time will be very kind to. I'm not sure the same can be said for The Rock.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

So what makes Pacific Dunes so great and so hyped? Well, part of it is that the course is a throw back to another era, when land, not bulldozers, dictated how a links would play. A great example is the 10th and 11th (pictured above) holes. Back-to-back par threes is unheard of these days, but Tom Doak makes sense of it. This hole is only 148-yards from the tips, but it can be a magnificant challenge. Everything at Pacific Dunes is remarkable and it ranks right up there with Turnberry, Kingsbarns and Royal Dornoch as one of the great courses I've had the chance to play.

Pacific Dunes' famed seventh hole, and certainly one of the toughest at 464-yards from the tips. I managed to hold on here to make par on my way to shooting 68, my all-time low round earlier this year.

Hearn makes the grade while Morland stumbles

Brantford's David Hearn managed to narrowly make it through PGA Tour Q-School. Despite landing in second place heading into the sixth round, he fell apart, ending up one stroke inside the cut line after holing a lengthy putt (some said 40 feet, others said longer) for birdie on the final hole.
Aurora's David Morland IV didn't have any luck, or apparently any good swings, during his last round. Morland shot 78 to assure a spot on the Nationwide Tour, but that's not really much of a consolation to the diminutive Canuck, who played on the PGA Tour in 2004.
Does Hearn have what it takes? Well it was a remarkable run in 2004, starting in Asia, through the Canadian Tour to winning on the Nationwide Tour. I doubt he's the next Mike Weir, but he is likely better than Ian Leggat, Glen Hnatiuk and the like.

Monday, December 06, 2004

Photo for a Monday night: An amazing day at North Berwick. Here's the famed short four with the wall in front of the green. The first time I played this, I tried to drive the green downwind, only to rattle off the wall. The second time I hit a 3-iron and a lob wedge. A remarkable, quirky hole. Absolutely wonderful!

Hearn makes it through?

David Hearn could be Canada's nest Mike Weir, but today he's struggling to hang on at the stadium course at PGA West. If he makes the top-30, which still looks likely, he'll join Weir, Ian Leggat, and Glen Hnatiuk (who both have medical exemptions for next year) in the show.

Western swing works for youngster: Hearn blocks out
distractions to win Alberta Classic
National Post
Wednesday, August 25, 2004
Page: B10
Section: Sports
Byline: Robert Thompson
Column: On Golf

When David Hearn went to Asia in January in an attempt to elevate his golf game, he could never have imagined that his
breakthrough would come in Western Canada.

But that's exactly what happened to Hearn, the 25-year-old Brantford, Ont. native who held off a charge by David McKenzie to
take the Alberta Classic on Sunday.

The event was one of two tournaments held on Canadian soil by the Nationwide Tour, the PGA Tour's minor league. Hearn, who was not a member of the Nationwide Tour, was given an exemption into the event. Despite numerous rain delays, and freezing conditions, Hearn took the tournament lead in the second round, shooting 65. It was a lead he would hold right through to the end of the event.

Hearn, who has had success on the Canadian Tour, but never managed to win an event until this year, said he didn't have any
difficulties staying focused on Sunday.

"I was pretty proud of myself that I managed to block everything but the golf out," he said by phone after arriving in Salt Lake
City, Utah for this week's Nationwide event. "For me, the real difference is having the confidence to know I can win."

Hearn's year started with a trip to Malaysia in order to try, in his words, "experience another golf tour."

He made it through qualifying school, but only played a few events before returning to North America. For someone who aspires to play on the PGA Tour, Hearn says his golf game simply wasn't where he hoped it would be. He sought out Texas teacher Shawn Humphries to try to figure out exactly what the problem was.

It turned out that Hearn simply needed some fine tuning.

"The changes were pretty subtle," he says. "You couldn't really pin it down to one thing. But I didn't see the results right away. It
took a few months."

By May, Hearn was taking his new game, and ensuing confidence, back out on the Canadian Tour. He placed second in an event in Mexico, and then won an event in Victoria at the end of June.

It all set up nicely for the first Nationwide Tour event in Canada, held in Cambridge, where Hearn shot a strong final round to finish in the top 25 and gaining access to the following week's tournament.
He improved there, finishing tied for seventh. But it didn't last --Hearn missed the cut in his third straight week on the Nationwide.

But last weekend's win in Alberta opens a window of opportunity for Hearn. Though he's only played four events on the Nationwide Tour, his win vaults him all the way to 39th on the money list. The top 20 at the end of this year gain their PGA Tour cards.

Hearn is well aware that his goal is within his reach.

"I think I have a pretty good opportunity to play my way into the top 20," he said. "I have a lot more options now than I had a week

He also has some decisions. He has nine more Nationwide events ahead of him, but one, in Virginia Beach, conflicts with the
Canadian Open. Hearn says even though he doesn't have a lot of experience with Glen Abbey, where the Canadian Open is being held this year, he'll pass on the Nationwide Tour that week to tee it up at Canada's top golf tournament. Then it is back in search of enough cash to join Mike Weir and Stephen Ames on the PGA Tour.

"I have a lot of opportunities now," he said. "With opportunity comes confidence. They feed off of one another."

Bill Haas' crack at Q School

I see Bill Haas is struggling to get his tour card this week in California. That led me to dig up this column I wrote on him from the Canadian Open. The kid has a great swing and was pretty comfortable chatting with a reporter. No shock, of course, given his background. Anyway, maybe he'll shoot a good round today...

Son of Haas 'buying' his way on to Tour: Just us$100,000 shy:
Trying to qualify by earning enough through exemptions
National Post
Saturday, September 11, 2004
Byline: Robert Thompson
Dateline: OAKVILLE

OAKVILLE - Bill Haas is trying to accomplish something only three golfers -- and one of them is named Tiger -- have managed to
do on the PGA Tour.

Haas is trying to qualify for his PGA Tour card by earning enough money through sponsor's exemptions.

The PGA Tour only allows players to receive seven exemptions in a season. To date, only Tiger Woods, Justin Leonard and Charles Howell III have managed to earn enough money to gain a PGA Tour card.

Most golfers head to the dreaded qualifying school at the end of the season to try to gain entrance to golf's top tour.

But Bill Haas is hardly just any golfer.

The son of Ryder Cup player Jay Haas excelled at the golf powerhouse of Wake Forest, was named college player of the year in
May and turned pro earlier this year after teeing it up alongside his father at the U.S. Open. Now out of sponsor's exemptions, Haas finished in the top-10 at the Deutsche Bank Championship in Boston earlier this week to earn a spot at the Canadian Open.

Having earned US$260,719 to date, he needs about another US$100,000 to gain entrance to the tour and be allowed to play regularly.

"I'm not putting any pressure on myself to pull it off, especially since only three others guys have done it," he said. "If I don't
make it, I'll just go to Q-School."

Yesterday he had difficulty finding fairways -- "I had a stretch where I didn't know where it was going out there," he said following
his round -- but still managed to hang on and finish even par. That means he'll play on the weekend.

Haas seems to have all the tools. Blessed with a lean, muscular physique, he can work the ball off the tee and has a deft touch with his putter. Haas said the main difference between playing college golf and the PGA Tour is the level of competition. You can't go out and shoot 74 and expect to stay on tour, he said. But, demonstrating a maturity beyond his 22 years, Haas says that doesn't mean you need to shoot the lights out either.

"If you shoot 2-under every day you're out here, you're going to make some money," he said. "And if you manage to have a good week, then who knows?"

Haas isn't sure if he'll get a chance to watch his father play at the Ryder Cup next week in Detroit. If he doesn't finish in the top
10 at the Canadian Open, he will try to qualify on Monday for a spot at the John Deere Classic.

While he says he speaks to his father regularly, Jay doesn't critique his son's play.
The two have spent time together when playing at the same events, Haas says, and his dad has been especially helpful in gearing his son up for the tedious travel and issues that come from life on the PGA Tour.

While his father continues to have success on both the PGA Tour and the Champions Tour, in the end, Bill admits, he has to make his own way. After all, he is the one hitting the shots and sinking the putts.

"Everything on the course is all me. I take all the credit and I take all the blame."

Another example of the fine dunes at Royal Montrose, with my friend Steve standing in the background.

Kingsbarns' famed #15 on a wonderful sunny day last April. I managed to eagle the ninth at this sublime course to shoot 35 from the tips in what was our final round of the trip. Too bad about that 40 on the back. Nonetheless, I shot some terrific photos, including this one, with the spring shadows drifting into view.

Sunday, December 05, 2004

Royal Montrose's diminishing dunes

Scotland's disappearing dunes?

On a recent thread, the discussion centered around which golf course had the best dunes.
It got me to thinking about the great links I've seen (Cruden Bay, Old Course, Dornoch, Turnberry, Muirfield) and also to the plight of Scotland's dunes. Clearly some will disappear as coastal erosion creeps nearer.
Which is exactly the case with Royal Montrose, a terrific links I played in April, 2004, alongside golf architect Robin Hiseman, who is a member at the course.
The first hole heads straight up hill towards the dunes. This photo will give you a sense of the main dune, which separates the course from the beach.

The issue is that the east side of the dune is disappearing. The course had several tees fashioned on the beach side of the dune that are simply disintegrating. That's caused several tee shots to be moved inwards, altering some of the character of the golf course.

You can see that in the photo in the next entry....

Only time will tell how much of an impact this erosion will have on some links. Cruden Bay seems pretty safe, and others, like Muirfield, are actually well removed from the sea. But course like North Berwick, Crail and Dornoch could be in for some changes.

Saturday, December 04, 2004

Jeff Mingay online!

My friend and budding golf architect Jeff Mingay is now online with a fine looking website. Check it out here. Way to go Jeff!

Thursday, December 02, 2004

PGA revamps Ryder Cup points

Doug Ferguson, who is likely the best golf beat reporter in the world at the moment (and a good guy as well), reports on the changes to the Ryder Cup qualifying system. Apparently it took a beating at Oakland Hills to help some PGA officials, who are clearly more concerned with the merchandising cash than the U.S. team, to decide the likes of Fred Funk shouldn't have been at the event.
However, you've got to wonder whether it will make any difference. After all, Mickelson and Woods will be on the team for the next decade and both sucked wind throughout most of their rounds in Michigan. Would Todd Hamilton have made a difference? I doubt it, but he certainly is a player with a lot of heart and fight, something sorely missing on the U.S. team.

Now the story....

PGA changes Ryder Cup qualifying to emphasize winning, final year
by Doug Ferguson, Associated Press

The PGA of America revamped its system Thursday for qualifying for the Ryder Cup team, giving additional points for winning and quadrupling the points awarded during the year the matches are played.

It was the first major change in the U.S. points system since 1993, when more emphasis was placed on the majors.

The PGA came under pressure to alter the way the U.S. team is selected after the Americans sustained their worst loss to Europe, 18 1/2 - 9 1/2, in September at Oakland Hills.

The U.S. team had only five 2004 winners out of 12 players. Among those who failed to qualify was Todd Hamilton, a 38-year-old rookie whose two victories included the British Open, where he went the final 40 holes against Ernie Els before beating him in a playoff.

Several players had complained that the system was not current and included too many players no longer at the peak of their games.

``The new system rewards the game's hottest players, as well as many players who have won events in the year of the matches,'' PGA president Roger Warren said.

The next Ryder Cup will be in 2006 at the K Club in Ireland.

PGA Tour victories at the end of 2004 and all of 2005 will be worth 75 points, with points awarded down to 10th place. That's how it was under the old system.

The big change comes in 2006, when PGA Tour victories are worth 375 points. Previously, regular tour victories during a Ryder Cup year were worth only 150 points. Points for PGA Tour events, from first place to 10th, will be worth four times as much during Ryder Cup years, with an extra 75 points for winning.

The biggest change is in the major championships.

A major victory in 2005 will be worth 450 points (up from 225), while 10th place will earn 25 points. Majors in 2006 will be worth 675 points (up from 300), with 10th place worth 40 points.

Chris Riley earned the last spot on the Ryder Cup team this year with 576.786 points.

Points will be earned through the 2006 PGA Championship. The top 10 players make the team, and captain Tom Lehman will pick two other players.

Europe changed its selection process for the 2004 matches, taking five top players from world ranking points, five from the European tour money list and two captain's picks. Unlike the United States, however, Europe's standings do not begin until one year before the Ryder Cup.

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