Ben and Bobby at Merion
I've had the good fortune to play Merion twice. If I play it two dozen times, I'll never tire of seeing these:
Thoughts and writing on the world of golf and golf course architecture.
I've had the good fortune to play Merion twice. If I play it two dozen times, I'll never tire of seeing these:
On a day when I can't really come up with a subject to write about, I determined it would be more interesting to have a photo montage of my trip to Ireland last month. Here's some quick shots:
Standing on the shoulders of giants -- our group at Royal County Down.
(left) Proving golf writers can design: The wonderful third hole at the European Club, created with wonderful whimsy by Pat Ruddy.
(Below) The strange Island Club. A remarkable place to play golf, akin to Scotland's Crail.
(Right) The underrated Castlerock in the north of Ireland sports several terrific tests of golf, including this long and difficult par three, which finishes the front nine.
Paris Grand, a relatively high-end public course located 75 minutes west from Toronto, has apparently gone into receivership. KPMG is looking after the course, which is now closed, and the club's Website is no more.
The following appears for those Torontogolfnuts interested in the Tri-Par golf course that I toured in August/2003. I guess the course should have opened by now, but there's been no word on this unusual project. It would be interesting to see just how this could be pulled off.
Here's the story:
While a name like the Maples makes any golf course sound common and uninspired, it is safe to say that the project being built under that moniker in a small Ontario town is anything but typical.
The Maples course in Noelville, Ont., about four hours north of Toronto, is going to be the first to use the "Tri-Par" concept, a creation of Ed and Scott McBride, brothers based in Sudbury, Ont. Their idea is to build golf courses in which every hole can be configured as a par-three through to a par-five. The Maples, which owner Mike Bouffard is scheduled to open next summer after three years of construction, is the first test vehicle for the idea.
The McBrides have patented their Tri-Par idea, which takes about 25% more land than the typical golf course.
So what are the defining characteristics of a Tri-Par course? First, Tri-Par courses could play to around 9,000 yards, which is essentially the length of the 18 par-fives that make up the basic course. And the concept allows owners to change the course each day, dictating at what length and par each hole will play.
Having players choose the par for a hole they wanted to play would simply be too dangerous and difficult, says Ed McBride. But owners could change the tees twice a day, meaning golfers could play one course in the morning and a different layout in the afternoon.
Golfers playing the Maples will have to ride in carts, as there could potentially be long stretches between tees depending on the configuration. There are eight tee boxes on each hole, allowing for women, senior and championship play.
Bouffard, an avid golfer who has overseen much of the construction, thinks players will be excited about playing a course that can be configured to play as 18 par- fives, though I expect there are some shorter hitters out there that have nightmares about such things. The plan is for the Maples to play as exclusively par-fives a few times a month and let golfers know about the configuration through the course's Web site.
"I think we'll find that people will travel a long way to play this kind of layout," Bouffard says. "After all, it will be the only place in the world where you can do it."
Not everyone is convinced the Tri-Par idea will work.
"Sounds kind of strange to me," said Tom McBroom, one of Canada's best-known golf designers and a member of the prestigious American Society of Golf Course Architects.
McBroom said he builds a different green complex that is determined by the length of the approach shot. Have a long iron shot into a lengthy par-three? Well then the green might be larger. Have a wedge into a par-five? Then the green would be smaller. McBroom says it would be difficult to build a green that would function properly for everything from a par-three to par-five.
But Bouffard isn't about to be deterred. He expects the novelty of the course will draw people to the rural area to play it, and the experience will get people to return. When I was there last week, Bouffard, who has spent less than $2-million on the project, had cleared the land for all 18 holes, determined where the tees would be set, and built some green complexes. Nine are expected to be open next June and the forest through which the course has been cut should make it look mature. As the inventors of the Tri-Par idea, the McBrides will receive a royalty on every round played.
While Bouffard admits the course may stir up some discussion about the way golf has been traditionally played, he says the Tri-Par idea is not that controversial.
"You're not changing the game," he notes. "You're just changing the par."
There's a new golf blog on the block worth checking out: travellinggolfer.com. The site, which is run by Mike Sigers, is doing a good job of keeping everyone up to date on the latest travel deals in the industry, especially good if you're looking for a retreat to Myrtle Beach this winter.
According to Geoff Shackelford, it is this:
So I've finally figured out what's been bothering me about the onslaught of
criticism. Bamberger was out there on the course. Many of golf's finest
scribblers haven't been seen walking with a player in years, or if they were, it
was from the locker room to the parking lot. Bamberger is actually one of the
few who walks enough with players to put himself in a position where he might
see something unusual happen. Some of his critics in the media might want to
keep that in mind when they ponder how they would have handled the situation.
Golfweek has a story on how Ryan Moore, currently 121 on the PGA Tour's money list, appears poised to get his tour card without heading to Q-School. The story was written by Golfweek Deputy Editor Jeff Babineau and points out that:
But with $598,250 in eight starts as a professional (nearly $75,000 per event), Moore has moved into a position equivalent to No. 121 on the money list. As a non-member, he'd earn his 2006 card by finishing the equivalent of No. 125. And with three events remaining, including this week's Funai Classic at Walt Disney World, Moore is in prime position to become the first player since Tiger Woods (1996) to step out of a college classroom and earn his PGA Tour card without ever seeing the first tee at Q-School.
Of course, Moore isn't the only one to gain his card by simply playing on sponsor's exemptions. That list includes more recent standouts like Charles Howell III and David Gossett (remember him?). But it does appear Moore is the real deal. That said, has any amateur since Tiger Woods (oh, right, Michelle Wie) been so hotly tipped? After all, Moore did win the 2004 US Am, the Western Am, the NCAA and the US Public Links titles. Is Moore the next Tiger Woods, or the next Bill Haas (who is currently toiling away on the Nationwide Tour, but should make his card)? Time will tell, but even with an idiosyncratic swing, Moore could well be golf's next superstar.
Robert Thompson On Golf
It should have been so Wiesy, but alas, it wasn't. The turmoil over Michelle Wie's misplaced drop in the third round of her first professional tournament is fascinating to watch. There's Michael Bamberger, the author of a couple of my favourite golf books, being questioned because he took a day to decide whether to turn Wie over to the rules officials. "I was just uncomfortable that I knew something," he said, adding, "Integrity is at the heart of the game." Bamberger would later say he didn't think Wie was actually trying to cheat -- she was just "too hasty," he noted. Bamberger's books make him out to be pretobservantent and with a good sense of humour. I never took him to take the game too seriously, but apparently his time working as a caddy has also made him a keen upholder of the rules of golf.
Interestingly, Alan Shipnuck, who has also written a pretty good insiders account of professional golf, wrote a story in SI, the publication Bamberger works for, trying to put some context on the situation:
Bamberger not only knows the rules, he also knows how to apply them -- in 1985 he spent a year caddying on the PGA Tour, and in 1990 he caddied for a season on the European Tour. But last week, Bamberger was traveling on a different passport, as a reporter.
Bamberger, evidently, felt he was in a bit of a spot after witnessing the Wie drop. You can see him in the footage played over and over on the Golf Channel -- he's wearing a pink shirt and standing behind Wie and caddy, Greg Johnston. The whole Wie saga has been so overplayed that I won't even try to present any details. I couldn't possibly outdo the Golf Channel, who showed the video so often that it appeared they had their own copy of showed the video of the drop over and over again. It was like a golf version of the Zapruder film. We were given Golf Channel talking heads detailing the drop ("you can see her first attempt roll closer to the hole,") and even in studiodreenactmentent, with potted plants sitting in for the cactus that were in Wie's way.
Anyway, Bamberger said it "nevoccurredred to me to call in a rules official," which makes sense. He's a reporter and is supposed to comment on the action, not be part of it. So he questioned Wie about it following her round. She said the drop was correct, and it didn't hurt that she'd made par on the hole even after taking an unplayable. But Michael clearly likes to be part of the action, that's what his books are about, so he went out on the course to walk off the drop and on Sunday and spoke to a rules official about it.
Shipnuck defends Bamberger, which isn't all that surprising, really. But his logic is a bit off:
In fact, third parties -- even reporters -- who point out rules infractions are protecting the field and preserving the integrity of the competition.
I tend to think of reporters as observers, not participants. In this case, Bamberger became a participant. It is crossing a line around which news reporters should tread lightly. Reports indicated that Wie and her father, BJ, were not too happy when questioned about the drop. Apparently Michelle became "very upset," according to the rules official who had her demonstrate the drop, but I guess that's not tsurprisinging. She's surely feeling a lot of pressure having signed huge endorsement deals and this is a huge embarrassment. Wonder how long her "professional caddy," will keep his job after advising her the drop was correct?
Of course Wie had her defenders. Golf commentator Mark Rolfing, a self describer "friend of the Wies," (is that your role as a television analyst, Mark?) told a Hawaii paper that the decision was a "travesty," adding, "I really don't think this is the way the rules of golf ought to be policed."
"I just think this is way worse than losing $50,000," Rolfing said of Wie losing her winnings. "It's going to cast a shadow on her first professional tournament that she committed a rules violation."
While Mark may have a bias, that statement rings true. There are already a lot of naysayers suggesting thatWie shouldn't have turned professional so quickly. She should have taken some time to learn to win and mature. But that wasn't going to happen. Her family, which had spent a fortune pumping up her image and brand, needed to cash in and did so. She signed with the William Morris Agency. She's now a spokesmodel and the best paid woman in LPGA golf, though she's never won anything of note.
Will this incident scar Wie? Don't bet on it. This crew is so self-absorbed and media savvy that when she finally wins -- and she surely will at some point -- they will make comments about how Michelle's win demonstrated that she could overcome the adversity she encountered early in her time on the LPGA Tour.
It is all about spin in the Wie camp and you know, in the background, the wheels are turning quickly.
The new course at Bond Head doesn't open until next summer, but here's a sneak preview courtesy of some photos sent to me by Brent Long. the first course has been an artistic success, though a questionable business venture. Jason Straka, the architect behind both Georgian Bay Club and the first Bond Head course, is again looking after this one, though it has a very different appearance from the original course.
Though I've yet to see the course in anything other than a preliminary state, Brent's photos make this look a bit more like Devil's Paintbrush than the first course, with its Friar's Head bunkering.
What is also apparent is some of the similarities with Dundarave, the Hurdzan/Fry course where Straka had his coming out party in Canada. The square tee boxes give the course a bit of a classic feel, but the look is quite modern.
Clearly the course is in varying degrees of construction. Some holes are complete, while others have yet to be grassed. What is also interesting is the degree of elevation change on the course. That is evident when driving into Bond Head (the new course is on the right as you head up the road).
It also looks like playability will still be a key factor. The fairways probably won't be as wide as the first course, but still maintaining the width of many of the newer courses. As I've mentioned, I have yet to see the course first hand. I'll be up at Bond Head on Friday and will take some more photos and get Jason's perspective on the design.
So how will the second course at Bond Head be received? That depends on how the business plan develops around the course. As the guys on Toronto Golf Nuts have said, at $80 Bond Head is a great value. At $180, it is empty. Determining the price point will be a big factor in how many golfers venture north of Toronto to play. At the very least, the courses have to have a comparable price point to Copper Creek, which has always discounted weekend afternoon rounds and is less expensive than Angus Glen or Eagles Nest to start with.
But none of that has anything to do with the actual design value of the course. If it is as good as the first Bond Head design, I think it can be judged a success. We'll see.
Had a nice chat with Jason Straka today, the architect who created the first Bond Head course and is hard at work finishing the second. He says it may be his best work in Canada to date -- and that includes the strong Dundarave course in PEI and the Georgian Bay Club, which I picked as the second best new course in Canada for Golf Digest this year. Straka seems to have an interesting style -- wide fairways, fascinating bunkering which he isn't afraid to throw into the middle of fairways, and fairly wild greens. It is an great mix -- I'm on record as saying I'm a fan of Bond Head (with one of two minor quibbles) and I'd be delighted to see the second course turn out better than the first.
In occasionally driving rain, I had the chance today to head out and see Willie Park's Weston Golf and Country Club, an interesting a historic private club in North Toronto.
Sadly, I heard today that John Tenpenny, the editor of Golf Canada, was let go by the Royal Canadian Golf Association yesterday. This leaves some turmoil at Golf Canada, which is published by the RCGA and generally has done a pretty good job. It has never been clear of its niche -- it kind of competes with Score and Ontario Golf -- but John did his best with the limitations he was presented with.
I'll have more on this tomorrow, but in the meantime, my good friend Ben Cowan-Dewar has been in the news with his proposed new golf club, Cabot Links. Here's a quick news hit from the Web.
After coming back from Ireland, I realized I've added a nice group of courses to those in the Top 100 in the world that I've had the good fortune to play or tour in the past six years. I'm using Golf Magazine's list.
The Toronto Star's longtime Bogeyman, the paper's annonymous golf critic, was outed over the weekend after he announced he was retiring. Turns out he isn't a staffer after all -- he's a teacher named Bob Marshall and he's 63.
Hey all: Because I've been spammed a great deal in my comments section lately, I've added a verification feature. Hope it isn't too bothersome -- I love hearing what everyone has to say, regardless of their opinion.
I've had the good fortune to play Pine Valley twice -- once is an experience of a lifetime. Twice is just good luck. There is hardly a point in making much of a comment on the course -- how do you comment on what is generally regarded as near golf perfection? -- so I've decided to post some photos of the course.