Monday, February 27, 2006

Course Preview: Tom Fazio's Coppinwood








He's likely the best known and most expensive designer in the world, but Tom Fazio hasn't worked in Canada since developing the National Golf Club of Canada alongside his uncle in 1975. That's all changed with Coppinwood, a new private course scheduled to open in Uxbridge in late May.
The private club, which costs $75,000 to join, is the boldest new facility to open near Toronto in several years. At a time when numerous private courses are struggling (Summit Golf Club and Thornhill, for example), Coppinwood will try to portray itself as a superior golf facility and entice new members to pull out their cheque book.
So what do we know about the golf course?
In many ways Tom Fazio like a chain of high-end restaurants. You can be assured the food will always be good, but the chain will never take the risks to make it great. The same can be said of many of Fazio's courses. He'll never make a bad course (not with the budgets he works with -- regularly more than $10-million per course), but the facilities he creates are often more style than substance. Pretty golf courses where the aesthetics are remarkable, but the golf is, well, just good.
That was the point of an article by Golf Digest critic Ron Whitten last year when he asked the question, Is Tom Fazio Good For Golf?
Whitten essentially concluded this:
Clients love Tom Fazio because he creates more headlines than headaches. Golfers love him because he doesn't beat them up. And rival architects love him—well, they appreciate him—because his splashy impact has helped raise everybody's fees.
What does this mean for Coppinwood? Well, nothing so far. The course is reputedly built on a great site that had several Canadian architects drooling over their chance to build on it. Initially conceived as 36 holes, the course is now 18, with three practice holes. The partners behind the course, including the powers behind Maxium Financial, are astute businessmen with deep connections. They've hired a great pro in Euan Dougal, formerly of Eagles Nest and Bigwin Island. Everything seems to be lined up, so the only question is whether the course is great, or just good? If it is great, this could be a home run. If it is just good, it'll still be a success, but it'll take longer to fill up the membership.
The photos I've included with this write up make it hard to determine what Fazio has delivered. It certainly is pretty, with bold bunkers with clean lines and greens perched in dramatic locations. The vistas look great.
I'm planning on getting a closer look as soon as the snow departs, so I'll try to draw a better conclusion then.

Norman muses on Augusta; Rutlege wins!; Coore on minimalism

So Greg Norman thinks all of the changes at Augusta are good -- even better, in fact, than the way the course played when he threw up on himself coming down the stretch. At least that's what he said in a story he wrote for Travel and Leisure Golf's latest issue.

Here's the grim details:

In fact, the golf course is 155 yards longer than it was a year ago and 460 yards longer than it was in 1999. At 7,445 yards, Augusta National is now the second-longest course in major-championship history. Only Whistling Straits, at 7,514 yards for the 2004 PGA Championship, was longer.

So it is long. Got that. But it doesn't take Norman long to get to the nitty gritty:

I think the big difference in this year's changes is that the club has tried to emphasize both power and accuracy. Technology has dramatically changed how modern golf is played at the professional level, and Augusta has adjusted as required to keep up. For many years, as the course got longer, the advantage
shifted to guys who could just wing it—hit it as hard and as high as they could.


Right. That would be fine, but two graphs later, Norman muses that it is precision, which somehow differs from accuracy, which is the real problem:

But Augusta is and always will be about precision. You have to know where to land the ball to get a desirable lie in the fairway (though there are very few truly flat lies) and where to land it on the green for an uphill putt. Precision is an invaluable asset, especially when you're dialed in. In fact, there are a few guys out there, myself included, who request distances to the half yard.


In the end, Norman concludes Augusta is better for all of the changes, even if the existing course has nothing to do with the one currently played.

What Augusta does better than any other course is blend significant changes seamlessly into the existing design. The quality of work done by the Masters committee is always phenomenal, and, from what I've heard, this year's work is
no exception.


What's the deal with all this sucking up Greg? Looking for an invite?


Canadian journeyman Jim Rutledge of BC actually finally fulfilled some of the promise he demonstrated when he was a teenager. It just took him 30 years to put it together. Well, Rutlegde, generally regarded by those in the know as one of the good guys of Canadian golf, won this week's Nationwide Tour event, giving him a good shot at landing on the PGA Tour full-time for the first time in his career.

You can find plenty of stories, including Lorne Rubenstein's discussion of Rutledge and the fact he jumped 486 spots up the world ranking (that's from nowhere to somewhere for those of you counting) with his win, in this google link.

Bob Weeks asks who are the 10 Canadians who have won on the Nationwide Tour (or variations on that theme). I came up with eight. Bob's blog can be found here.

More T&L Golf. Thomas Dunne, the editor in charge of architecture at T&L Golf, interviews Bill Coore, the astoundingly talented architect behind Friars Head and Sand Hills. Perhaps most interestingly is the comment by Coore on minimalism in golf architecture:

Q: The style of Sand Hills is frequently associated with the term "minimalism," and there has been a lot said about what this means. How would you define the term?
Coore: We've never applied the label "minimalism" to our work, although others have. Ultimately, I think the style that some call minimalism is really more of a return to the design concepts and philosophies of the 1920s and '30s. When architects didn't have the means to move earth like we can today, a premium was placed on finding good natural sites, and golf courses were laid out, as Ben likes to say, "very quietly on the ground." "Minimalism," though, has become a catchword, and I don't believe you can define it in any absolute way.


On the interesting and engaging side, golf writer and all-around good guy Tom Beddel takes you drinking, I mean golfing, um, actually drinking across Scotland. The piece is in this month's T&L Golf, but can be found here.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

New golf architecture blog; Thompson in Shackelford



  • So renegade upstart Canadian golf architect (and my good friend) Ian Andrew has started a golf blog called "The Caddy Shack." So far Ian has gone blog crazy, writing about taking his father to Ireland on their last golf trip (I was on the trip which was remarkable), the problems with green speeds, his logo and other things. Given that he's the most notable restoration architect in Canada (no one in this country is really a close second), I'm sure he'll have plenty of interesting posts on his work. Hopefully he'll give people a sense of how golf architects really work and some of the details on courses they've never even considered. Ian is thoughtful, but with strong opinions. It should be fun to see how the site develops. You can find it at thecaddyshack.blogspot.com.
  • I forgot to mention the appointment of Kevin Poole to the job at Ridge at Manitou. That's been corrected. Interestingly, apparently the demise of high-end golf in the Toronto area is not forthcoming for all courses. During a conversation yesterday with Chris Neale, the director of golf at Copper Creek, he noted the club is essentially packed full of corporate events from June through September. Maybe business is still strong or maybe Copper Creek just does a better job than other clubs...

  • Golf's premier contrarian and blogger, Geoff Shackelford, has a nice round up of the week in review and mentions my comments on the whole LPGA versus Associated Press situation. The situation has now been resolved, not a surprising move given the power of AP. The only surprising fact is that the LPGA tried to pull such a ridiculous move off on the first place.

  • Been a bad week for Canadians at the matchplay. First there was "9 and 8" Ames, and followed by Mike Weir's precedent setting meltdown against Geoff Ogilvy. Already one paper is calling Ogilvy's recovery, down four holes with four to play, as one of the great comebacks in sports. Or maybe it is one of the great choke jobs on Weir's part. Surely Canada's best golfer can't be faulted for Ogilvy's remarkable eagle on the final playoff hole, but there's no way the Aussie should have been in the position to make the eagle in the first place. It is called "close him out," something Mike should have done on the 15th hole.

Friday, February 24, 2006

LPGA's losing fight; New man at struggling Ridge;

Only four days until G4G makes its big move to another site. I'll post something about it next week.

More on the AP versus Carloyn Biven/LPGA fight over copyright control. Looks like it isn't working out particularly well for the LPGA, as Honolulu Advertiser columnist Ferd "Don't call me Fred" Lewis notes in a piece today:

First-round Fields Open in Hawai'i leader Lorena Ochoa had just shot a
remarkable 8-under-par 64 when she sat down in the 43-seat interview tent yesterday to talk about it.Staring back at her were 39 empty white chairs.Paul Rovnak, LPGA senior media relations coordinator, sat next to her on the platform to ask questions, and two staffers were the audience. Otherwise the room was devoid of reporters and cameras. Only later did a couple of international reporters wander in.


In case you don't quite get the scope of the sleeping giant the LPGA was awoken, here are the stats on AP, which is ignoring the LPGA Tour at the moment:

The AP, alone, claims 6,700 newspaper, radio and television clients in the
United States and 8,000 more in 121 other countries.


Ironically, an AP story provides an update on the situation this morning:

Backed by several other news organizations, the Associated Press made
progress Thursday in talks with the LPGA about new restrictions on press
credentials but was unable to resolve the dispute in time to cover the start of the Fields Open tournament in Kapolei, Hawaii.



ESPN's Jason Sobel notes that fans watching John Daly lose to Phil Mickelson at the matchplay couldn't pick a favourite. Maybe the fans couldn't, but it is clear who the players prefer -- and he hangs out in a motorhome and his wife is serving time.

On the home front, the blogs about Stephen Ames' disaster of a performance against Tiger Woods and duly notes that Ames' comments about Woods' wayward drives are actually accurate. Not that it matters. I wonder if Ames' new nickname around the tour is Stephen "Nine and Eight" Ames. Has a nice ring about it.

On the home front, the Ridge at Manitou, a fine Thomas McBroom course located near Parry Sound, has a new pro. Kevin Poole, formerly of the fine Hunter's Pointe, takes over operations and the search for a couple of dozen members on an annual basis. The course is rock solid, but has so far only attracted a handful of members. A news release on Poole's appointment notes he was instructed on teaching by mentor Gord McInnis Sr., who taught Marlene Streit at Lookout Point.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Stephen Ames -- Time to shut your mouth

Calgary's Stephen Ames was probably joking when, prior to the Accenture Matchplay start yesterday, he told reporters in California that Tiger Woods was spraying the ball a bit. He added that a great champion like Woods still finds a way to get the ball in the hole, but the notion was still clear: Tiger was ripe for the taking. He wasn't on his game and Ames would capitalize.
"Anything can happen," he told reporters Monday. "Especially where he's hitting the ball."
Wow, was Ames ever wrong.
Woods took Ames apart with birdies in each of his first six holes enroute to a 29 front total and the most one sided pounding of an opponent the Matchplay has seen to date. In fact, it will be the quickest defeat on a permanent basis, since Woods used the minimum number of holes to take Ames apart.
Sure Woods took his game to a new height, but Ames should be embarrassed by his remarks in the first place. It isn't the first time Ames has said something negative about Woods. A few years ago he commented that no one ever wanted Tiger as a playing partner and suggested Tiger wasn't particularly mature. Then at the Canadian Open in 2004, not long after his first win, he suggested he might sit out the Presidents Cup if he made the team. Turned out he didn't have to worry about that -- his terrible 2005 campaign in which he was dealing with his wife's battle with cancer took care of that -- but it was still indicative of the crazy stuff that comes out of Ames. Maybe it is his Caribbean background -- having grown up in Trinidad -- that has made him overly relaxed with his comments. Who knows? The reality is his peers also thought his latest remarks were not particularly sharp and Ames should probably think a bit longer before opening his mouth. (Note: A reader has suggested my comment on Ames' heritage is inappropriate -- this is my response: What I'm trying to suggest -- and I've heard it from other sports writers -- is that Stephen has a more relaxed way of dealing with the media. In other words, he simply voices his opinion without being too worried about the consequences. I'm betting that comes from growing up in a culture where the media isn't as intrusive.)
Â?That wasn't very smart,Â? Geoff Ogilvy said. Â?It's not the first time (Woods) has been motivated by something someone said to the press. That probably wasn't the most clever thing. Any motivation for 18 holes can help.Â?
Robert Allenby said he looks forward to taking on Woods today, noting he won't be embarrassed like Ames was: Â?Yeah, it should be great. I won't be beaten 9 and 8, let me tell you.Â?

In other news, the LPGA has picked a strange time to start a media war, especially since this war is with the media.

This month, the Ladies Professional Golf Association modified its media credential requirements to be much more restrictive. Among other points, photographers must agree that the LPGA has an unlimited, perpetual right to use their photos for free. Why is this an issue? Well most media organizations want and maintain copyright over their material, and freelancers, both in print and photography, usually only give up first rights to their work. Now the LPGA wants to perpetually control photos and tell newspapers and other media organizations how they can deal with them. Oh, and the LPGA wants to be able to use them -- whenever and however they want.

Among the rules to which LPGA photographers must adhere:
The LPGA gets unlimited, perpetual, non-exclusive rights to use any photograph taken at an LPGA event for "non-commercial promotion" worldwide at no cost.
LPGA has the exclusive right to purchase a commercial-use license for any image taken at an LPGA event at a 20 percent discount off the best terms usually offered or a similar price.
A photographer or news organization must promptly supply the LPGA with any photo or digital file it requests at no cost.
Photographers "must refrain from taking photos until after a player has made her swing or stroke." These requirements are even softer than the first draft of the LPGA rules, to which editors also strongly objected. The first set of regulations, dated Feb. 7, said news organizations could only use LPGA photos if they were accompanied by a text article and for coverage that has a deadline within 48 hours of the event.

Why the LPGA and commissioner Carolyn Bivens would go forward with such a policy and stir such controversey at a time when their sport is starting to garner some attention is anyone's guess. Some, like Geoff Shackelford, seem to think it is unusual for her to start such a battle given her background is really in advertising and not the content side of media. Unless you think developing ads is content.

In the press conference to introduce her as the new commissioner, Bivens seem to indicate that working with the media would be a strength. How wrong that has turned out to be...


Q: Two quick questions. One, how do you think your experience with
Initiative will translate to this new position? And two, any early
thoughts on given your background how you will go about increasing or changing some of the marketing and advertising that go along with the tour?
CAROLYN VESPER BIVENS: Okay. Well, let me take the experience piece of it first. Actually looking back at this point already in the rearview mirror,
I feel like my previously 25 years experience have prepared me for this job, and it comes at just the right time in my career, and as I said, at a very exciting time in the LPGA history. The fact that I work with and have worked with all media types, all media forms, with the networks, with publishers across a variety of platforms, I think will benefit me.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

The Open Doctor makes a visit; Rough going at Winged Foot


Another golf course is turning to Rees Jones to make it worthy of the USGA. The latest is Chicago's Cog Hill, which hosts the Western Open. This was in today's Chicago Sun-Times:

Cog Hill owner Frank Jemsek had been in negotiations with Jones and his staff for nearly a year in Jemsek's efforts to make the Western Open site a suitable U.S. Open venue. Jones associate Greg Muirhead visited Cog Hill last July before
Jones toured the course with Jemsek on Oct. 11. Jemsek revealed during last weekend's Chicago Golf Show that negotiations were successful. "They've cashed our check,'' said Jemsek, who said work will begin on a limited basis after this year's Western, which ends July 9.
So what is Jones doing, exactly?

The heart of the renovation will be on Dubsdread's last four holes. No. 15, which plays as a short par-5 now, will become a long par-4 with new tees shortening the hole. Nos. 16 and 18, both par-4s, will be lengthened with green-side hazards accentuated. And the par-4 17th, deemed much too easy by Jones, will be completely rebuilt with the green reduced and bunkers added.

Is it just me, or this all that Rees' office has become known for? In Ontario, he recently opened Grand Niagara, but there have been few courses with less buzz open in this country in recent memory. Have any of my readers played it? My contacts say it was nice, but built on flat land with few natural features. The club's website is not operating currently, but it says they are going ahead with a Greg Norman designed course on the same property. I'll believe that when I see the actual course.

The Orlando Sentinel's Steve Elling has a story on the US Open at Winged Foot in New York.Apparently the USGA thinks variable heights of rough will make everything equal again. I don't see how this is going to impact Bubba Watson's 350-yard drives, but who am I to say anything against the USGA?

When the pros pull out their whompin' sticks this summer at Winged Foot, they will be greeted for the first time by multi-fanged rough of variable lengths, a departure from the traditional, do-or-die norm associated with golf's most punitive set-up."It's a done deal," said Marty Parkes, a USGA spokesman.Under the new plan, the length of the grass will increase in inverse proportion to the misfire. Sort of like serving detention, the punishment for bursts of wildness will indeed fit the crime.Moreover, the rough heights will be adjusted depending upon the length of the hole, which means missing a fairway by a few yards on a 495-yard par-4 won't be as bad as hitting it sideways on a shorter two-shot hole.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Out of the rough; Tiger tales; Dream Golf

G4G reader Dennis alerted me to a story by the Golf Channel's Adam Barr about the need for rough on golf courses. Barr argues the game of golf is difficult enough without rough, and generally I agree.

It’s bad enough to yank a ball 40 yards off line. Now you have to look for
it too, and then hack it out of grass that feels like steel wire in a bad mood?
That’s too much. And if rough is so necessary to good golf, then why did Augusta National stand up to the world’s best for generations without it?

Barr uses long dead architect Max Behr to support his point that rough doesn't make the game of golf more interesting, just more difficult:

Add the strategy layer: rough doesn’t help there, either. Behr opined that rough cramps the architect’s style in creating future threats, because the next shot out of rough is often an escape, not an intelligent or courageous negotiation of a hazard or challenge further along the hole. “The golf architect…is not at all concerned with chastising faulty strokes. It is his business to arrange the field of play so as to stimulate interest,” Behr wrote.


Thanks Dennis for pointing this out and the whole story can be located here.

So Stephen Ames is in -- at least for the time being. Ames, who wasn't scheduled to play the Accenture Match Play this weekend, will tee it up against Tiger Woods. Mike Weir takes on Stewart Cink. My pick? How about a resurgent Tom Lehman, who takes on Stuart Appleby in the first round. Apparently Lehman also thinks he might be able to make the Ryder Cup team that he is already captain of.

"I would have to prove to myself that I'm playing really well and I would
probably want to get the opinion of the guys on the team," he added. "That's so far down the road it's pure conjecture. I'm not even going to begin to think about it at this point. But I want our players to know how much it means to be a part of that, trying really hard to be on this team myself."


I've spent the last few nights reading Dream Golf, a book by Stephen Goodwin on the creation of Bandon Dunes by American greeting card magnate Mike Keiser. The book isn't out for another month, but it is among the most fascinating golf reads I've been through in some time. It is partly about golf architecture, partly about business and the business of golf. It also details one man's vision in the face of long odds. Needless to say Bandon and Pacific Dunes are among the most fascinating golf experiences I've had in my lifetime -- and there isn't much rough in play on either course. I played both of the first two courses twice when I was there two years ago, just as the third, the now heralded Bandon Trails, was growing in. I was on the phone with Keiser recently for a story I'm working on and he said there are plans for an additional two courses. And of course Keiser has been spotted scouting a location on the Saskatchewan/Alberta border. He said the property was "better than Sand Hills," the courses in Nebraska which is in the Top 10 in the World, according to Golf Magazine.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Fred booms all over himself, Tiger WDs, and RBC out of CanOpen?


To my way of thinking, Fred Couples has to be one of the golfers who got the least out of his talent. One major! With that swing? How is it possible?
Well, Couples is now well past his prime and he's weighted down with a bad back and troublesome putter. But even with all of that in consideration, it appeared he might win yesterday at Riviera. Of course he didn't -- throwing up all over himself on three of the last four holes while Rory "Man I like to play fast" Sabbatini roared to the finish line.

The self-deprecating Couples' comments on Saturday should have made it clear that he was a longshot. Even while sitting right at the top of the leaderboard, he admitted his putting was in tough shape ("It would nice to have a longer, smoother putting stroke, but the clean and jerk is what I've got. If it was the Summer Olympics I would feel pretty good right now.") and that he wouldn't be playing as well on any other course ("What did I shoot? It was the biggest fluke of the year. If I had been playing a course I wasn't accustomed to, I would have shot 75 the same way I played. Thank you."). Turns out the miracle couldn't hold up over four rounds. Too bad.

On the other hand, Sabbatini, the winner, actually carries a second yardage book (the caddy obviously carries the first) just in an effort to slow him down while he plays. Of course, every story today will mention the Ben Crane incident from last year. Some say Sabbatini violated golf's clear etiquette rules when he played out of turn at last year's Booz Allen Classic. I'll tell you that if I had to play with Ben Crane, golf's version of Mike Hargrove, I'd simply putt out and move along too. God, even Crane admits he's too slow.

Here's a quick story about Sabbatini's win, of course referencing the Crane situation.

Tiger Woods had the flu and dropped out after making the cut. Apparently no one could tell the press directly that Woods was sick. Instead they issued a press release. Did they really need a press release to say Tiger's stripes were turning green?

"Everyone saw how Tiger felt this week," his agent, Mark Steinberg, said in
a release. "And he just can't shake it. He feels awful. This is an event he
loves to play in and strives to win, his hometown tournament. Tiger doesn't
want to pull out of any event, ever."


Score Golf's editor, Bob Weeks, blogged on Friday that Royal Bank has backed out of negotiations for sponsorship of the Canadian Open. That can't be good news for the beleaguered Royal Canadian Golf Association. The organization is months past the time when it initially expected to announce a new sponsor and with the bank out of the picture, one has to wonder who is going to step up. Could they run the tournament without a major sponsor? We might just find out.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Riviera's Ali G; New CanOpen date better?


The LA Times has its own version of Ali G, but this guy goes by the name of TJ Simers. Simers love to ask pro athletes slightly awkward questions and see how they respond. Of course, if they respond in a hostile way, they receive more questions. Brad Faxon, generally considered a pretty thoughtful guy, was on the receiving end from Simers this week at Riviera. Simers asked why fans shouldn't cheer against golfers, boo them and the like. The questions wasn't well received:

Faxon returned for Round 2, incredulous at the suggestion that fans be
encouraged to cheer against a golfer, and so I reminded him that every time Woods plays against Mickelson, half the crowd is for Tiger and … "I'm rooting against Mickelson," I said, "and from what I read about most pro golfers, apparently so are you."

That was too much for Faxon to absorb, and he made it clear he wanted me to leave, and I had just gotten there, and from what I could tell all I had done wrong was disagree with his opinion."Why is it that all you golfers are such sourpusses?" I asked, and later, when I relayed this story to
KCAL's Alan Massengale, he wasn't surprised."I covered golf for ESPN in the mid-'80s, and it's so different now," Massengale said. "Now it's like talking to a machine; there's no personalities. The one thing they've forgotten — this is entertainment."I tried to get that point across to Faxon, between the belligerent interruptions from his caddy, before Faxon said, "Then go ahead, why don't you start rooting against someone?""I've already started my list," I told him, "and I think I know who's at the top of it."



Thanks to Geoff Shackelford for the link. Geoff has tons of info on his site about Riviera. Read it here at www.geoffshackelford.com.

Score Golf's Rick Young is apparently no John Gordon. Or at least Young, unlike the grand curmudgeon that is Gordon, is one of the few to feel the Canadian Open is better with its July date in 2007.

On the surface, it’s not exactly what you might deem to be the ideal scenario for the BCO being surrounded on all sides by events with much, much higher profiles. As if the players don’t already have enough reasons to take a pass on heading north (more on that in a second).


I don't agree with Rick, but he presents some interesting thoughts on the issue.

  • David Duval watch: Duval shoots 68 in his opening round. Is he in danger of making another cut? Weir shoots level par, for what it is worth, and Stuart Appleby hits a 385-yard drive on the third at Riviera.
  • Did you know? That Guelph's Cutten Club was attacked by eco terrorists last year that attempted to burn down its clubhouse? True fact. Or that Rosedale Golf Club in Toronto has shifted architects again, dropping Carrick Design and scouting out the likes of US architects Tom Doak and Mike Devries? True fact. Or that the new architect could be the sixth or seventh to work on the course?

Thursday, February 16, 2006

No viewers for Pebble; All Woods, no Weir; Feature interview

USA Today reinforces my opinion that golf fans are tired of seeing Glen Frey, endless shots of Bill Murray and Andy Garcia that CBS showed over the weekend. On Saturday you hardly saw Mike Weir, though he was leading. Instead, we were handed more shots of the fantastic Carmel coastline and interviews with country singers and hacks hitting hozzle rockets.
Apparently everyone was tired of it after three days and tuned out on Sunday, as Aaron Oberholser backed his way into his first win. Here are the grim stats, as per USA Today:

PGA Tour: AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am
Sunday, 32.5 (1.9
million)
CBS Down 40.5% from last year's fourth-round
coverage.
Grinding, no-name winner Arron Oberholser simply doesn't have the star power of last year's champion, the always ratings-friendly Phil Mickelson.
Rival Olympics programming puts final nail in big ratings drop.

Apparently no one cares that Mike Weir is playing well and has won the tournament at Riviera twice in the past. That's because all the coverage is about Tiger and his strong start to the year. Even with Ernie Els in the field, everyone should be worried. That's because Tiger says he's not quite on his game and can still ramp it up.

"I just haven't played my best golf at the right time," Woods said
Wednesday. "I've played some good golf, but not my best stuff. And this track,
you've got to hit the ball well. You just can't get away with hitting it poorly
around here and expect to win."

Interestingly, despite his knee injury and his creeping age, Els says he will continue to play all over the world. Except Canada. Well, he didn't say that, but we know he won't be in Hamilton in September. That's a given.

You can read all of Doug Ferguson's story here.

Oh, and there's an interesting feature interview with.... drum roll please... me. Golflogic.ca, a fine site that offers Canadian golfers deals on green fees, is running a couple of blogs, and one has a short interview with your humble author. I don't say anything too outrageous (no overly bold quotes -- but you do get two lists of great golf courses!), but you might enjoy it nonetheless.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Rubenstein back on topic; the greatness of Riviera

The Globe and Mail's Lorne Rubenstein is back on topic, speaking about Mike Weir's meltdown with Ernie Ball, a pro golfer who may need a walker, but actually played in the first Masters. All jokes aside, it is pretty amazing -- though I would love to have read more about Ball and less about Weir's inability to hit a wedge or putt.

Apparently Ball thinks Weir has still got the right stuff:

As for Errie Ball, the 95-year-old professional who still teaches, he concluded his observations about Weir with emphasis on the positive.
"Mike has a great golf swing," he said. "He handles himself well and I think he'll win a lot of tournaments. He's in his prime."
Case closed, for Ball anyway. And who's to argue with a 95-year-old professional who competed against Hogan and Bobby
Jones, just to name a couple of golfing supermen?

Who indeed? Well, I will. Weir is playing a different game than those that are currently dominating the tour. He's short off the tee and that puts a lot of pressure on the rest of his game. Witness Sunday, when he hit 13 of 14 fairways, but shot 78. If courses keep getting longer, it'll only be a few years before Weir is considered the Corey Pavin of our time.

However, Mike likes Riviera, the historic site of this week's tour stop, where he has won twice before. There's a good piece on his own website, written by Chris Cook, about the course and its history. Not sure who Cook is, though. The only reference I could find was to a media relations pro who worked at Texas Tech. Anyone know who Cook is?

His piece sets up nicely:

You can’t buy much for $243,827.63 these days. But back in 1926, that was enough for one of the greatest American golf course architects to carve a classic design out of a wild, overgrown canyon. Now, over 80 years later, you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who doesn’t think it was money well spent.

In fact, I think $243,827.63 is about the cost of recontouring the first fairway at Angus Glen's North Course, so I'd say George Thomas did a pretty good job with his budget, even if it was 1927.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

New GM at Whitevale; Shackelford's big laugh; Crowbush recovers

Apparently Whitevale, a little known course outside of Toronto has hired Alex Maggiacomo, the former GM of Bond Head. Alex didn't last a season at Bond Head after struggling to find golfers and an uneven business plan. Anyway, he's landed on his feet:

"The next 3 to 5 years will be a very exciting time at Whitevale Golf Club. With Thomas McBroom's golf course redesign nearing completion and with the proposal to construct a new clubhouse, Whitevale Golf Club is positioning itself to be one of the preferred private clubs in Ontario" said Maggiacomo.

What exactly does "positioning itself to be one of the preferred private clubs in Ontario," mean, exactly? Does that mean it is competing with St. George's or Toronto Golf? Who says these things and do they ever stop to wonder whether there is any value in canned quotes like this one?

Geoff Shackelford has a hysterical piece up on Golfobserver.com at the moment. Essentially it is a parody of a PGA Tour policy board meeting, it is well worth a read. My favourite bit is about J.B. "Don't call me John" Holmes:

Commissioner Finchem: Gentlemen, I wanted to call to your attention last week's win at the FBR by J.B. Holmes. You know if it wasn't for the recent intervention of our Vice President of Name Gentrification, John Blutarksy, our good friends on the CBS broadcast team would have been calling him by his former
name, John Holmes.
Scott McCarron: Oh you mean like the porn star?
Commissioner Finchem: For the record, and I want to be very clear on this, I'm not sure who that was, but it's my general understanding that we dodged a value perception nightmare.
Joe Durant: A value perception nightmare?
Commissioner Finchem: I really don't want to talk about this as I had never heard of this John Holmes.


Bob Weeks, recovering from his shoulder surgery and hopefully hopped up on pain pills, has a neat blog about the changes being made to Crowbush Cove, which had part of one of its dunes washed out to sea recently.

The Golf Channel's Brian Hewitt, who annoys me to no end, picks Mike Weir to win this week at Riviera.

Hewitt says:
But hiding is something Mike Weir doesn’t know how to do. He comes from the same stolid Canadian stock that makes hockey players the most honorable among all professional athletes when it comes to taking the good with the bad.


Can we speak about a single Canadian without making a reference to hockey? Please?

Monday, February 13, 2006

Weir's world -- pressure putts


What can one say? Mike Weir starts by double bogeying the easiest hole at Pebble Beach. It can only be downhill from there. It isn't like Aaron Oberholser played like he really wanted to win -- it is just that everyone else (with the exception of Vijay Singh) played like they were looking to lose. I think more should be expected of Weir in these situations -- he's won big tournaments and should be able to step up and dominate someone like Oberholser. However, perhaps his final round score of 78 -- nine strokes higher than his worst of the three previous rounds -- is indicative that Weir's game isn't entirely back to where it was in 2003-04. Weir is now officially among the shortest drivers on tour (277 yards, 155th position), but unlike last year, he's putting very well (8th). It would seem to me that his short drives are placing a lot of pressure on his putting. It will be interesting to see how it holds up over the course of the year.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Playing the Top 100 in the world

I've had the good fortune to play with one of those lucky enough to play the top 100 in the world according to Golf Magazine. Apparently someone new is trying it -- and they are blogging about it at top100golf.blogspot.com. The site has a cool list of the great golf courses the blogger has played -- and is worth a visit for that description on its one. Haven't encountered many good new golf blogs lately, so this one might be worth keeping an eye on.

Chubby's comments don't bode well for CanOpen

Fascinating story in the Scotsman this morning. The piece, written by John Higgan, is an interview with Andrew 'Chubby' Chandler, a former tour pro turned manager. He dominates the UK scene, working with players like Darren Clarke, Lee Westwood, and more recently, Ernie Els.

The wide ranging interview is very much worth reading for Chandler's candor about a variety of subjects. But this is what he had to say when asked about the new PGA Tour schedule for 2007:

"Besides, I'm not certain the new American schedule is going to work perfectly. For example, what will happen after the Open is that there will be a regular PGA Tour event, then the Bridgestone WGC event, then the USPGA, then another regular
week, then three play-off events, then a season-ender. If you play all of those and a warm-up event for the Open, you've been out there nine weeks out of 11 right at the top level. The leading guys are not going to want to do that."

Chandler's comments seem to reflect the thoughts that most players will skip the Canadian Open, the event that immediately follows the British Open. As he says, no one is likely to play "nine weeks out of 11." Doesn't look good for the fine folks at the RCGA. Not only are they months behind on announcing a new sponsor, but their date on the Tour schedule hasn't improved.

One player not likely to appear in Canada any time soon (remember when Els used to occasionally play at the Abbey?), is the Big Easy. But Chandler acknowledges Ernie likes to pound a few back every now and then.

If you look at Ernie, he mirrors a lot of what we as a company are all about. He likes a beer and he socialises and he mucks in. He's been great at all of that, as has his wife. He's been to Manchester to watch the football with us. And the cricket. There's a massive respect between Ernie and (cricket star) Freddie Flintoff. They've met a few times but only briefly. Beer for beer I'm not sure who would win but it would be a three-day game. They both have their certain strengths in that area. So they'll get on fine. It's the ones around the edges - like me - who
will suffer. So Ernie was a challenge more than a gamble. But we treat him just the same as everyone else. I am brutal with him. I am constantly asking, 'Would Tiger do this, or would Tiger do that?' If you want to be number one in the world - and Ernie does - you have to prepare properly and sometimes that means saying 'no' to other opportunities.

CBS sports -- all celebrities and commercials


So I recorded yesterday's broadcast on the family PVR with the intention of watching Mike Weir, who was the leader for much of the day, on CBS Sports' broadcast of the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am.
What did I get? Lots of Bill Murray, some country singer I'd never heard of (largely because I dislike contemporary country. More of an alt-country guy) and a bunch of shots of Phil Mickelson flubbing short putts. Oh, and then after three minutes of coverage, much of which was shots of the ocean crashing along the shoreline, CBS would cut to commercial. Since I was watching the broadcast while running on a treadmill, it meant I had to get off every three minutes to grab the remote and blast through the advertisements. After about a half hour, I gave up. Too much Phil, too many commercials and not enough Mike. No wonder everyone enjoys watching the Masters, with its limited span of commercials.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Rubenstein on home courses of the pros, GCA.com


The Globe's Lorne Rubenstein writes in today's paper about where the pros play when not on the tournament trail. The place line on the story says Lorne was at the Abaco Club in Bahamas, a ultra private course that is referenced in the story a few times. Apparently the course has attracted interested from the PGA Tour's elite:

Els is scheduled to return next month. The local residents are betting that basketball legend Michael Jordan, who sometimes plays at the Lyford Cay Club in Nassau, will be here within a few weeks.

Jordan often tees it up with Redtail Golf Club owner Chris Goodwin at Lyford, but I suspect Abaco is a better course. Not like Jordan can't afford to add another to his list, which surely surpasses the 14 club rule.

Rubenstein also discusses the recent move by Tiger Woods and the speculation he might acquire the McArthur Club. Apparently he likes to jog on the cart paths, though I'm not sure how you make it from there to where he acquires the course. I'm sure a membership would be enough.

On the subject, Lorne says:

Meanwhile, the news that Woods is thinking of joining McArthur has led to all sorts of conjecture. Much of it can be found at golfclubatlas.com, an entertaining World Wide Web site where architecture wonks gather.


The Golfclubatlas thread was called "so far off the whole mark that it's unbelievable," in Rubenstein's article.

The entire article can be found here. The Golfclubatlas thread can be located here.

The greatness of Pebble Beach


I've only walked the course, though it looked pretty stunning to me. Many feel Pebble Beach only sports greatness along the ocean holes. Ron Whitten, Golf Digest's architecture critic, used to be one of them. Now he's changed his opinion.

But then I played Pebble again, and came away doubting my own prior judgment. I couldn't find six bad holes out there. I couldn't even figure out which were the six I'd always considered as ordinary.



Pebble will likely decide whether Mike Weir comes out on top after 18 months in the wilderness. See Ron's story here.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Don't call this a comeback!





Nothing better than quoting LL Cool J in a golf blog.
OK. Maybe I was premature in writing Mike Weir off, especially after he shot the lights out at Pebble Beach yesterday. Weir was on fire, playing the game at the same level as 2003. The only problem -- Luke Donald, who was one better than Weir's 63, and on Spyglass, arguably the toughest track played at the AT&T. Weir, who had five birdies in a row and has started strong again today, seemed surprised by how low Donald went:

"I knew there was going to be some low scores today," Weir said. "But 10 under at Spyglass? I thought of the lower scores, there might be more on this golf course than the other two. But Luke obviously played a great round over at Spyglass to do that."

Sure did. But Weir's in a good spot, especially if he plays well today.

As a follow up to Geoff Shackelford's posts on the proposed changes to Musselburgh, one of the most historic golf courses in the world, located outside of Edinburgh in Scotland. An interested party from Golfclubatlas.com wrote the club about the issue and the response they received is posted below. Let's hope the "architects" they quote do a better job than the awful reworking of Harry Colt's Eden course undertaken by Donald Steel for St. Andrews. Oh, you say Steel is supposed to do Musselburgh as well? Oh my.

Dear Mr Topp:

I have had your email forwarded to me. I am currently the Club
Secretary and fully aware of the developments of which you speak.I should advise that I am a keen golfer and historian and do understand very much the historical implications whenever our golf course make alterations or improvements.I can assure you that we have consulted eminent golf historians, the &A.and other golfing authorities to discuss the potential impact. Can I first of all state unequivically that the golf course will continue to maintain its authentic claim as an historic and antique golf course.I note that you are under the perception that the golf course is untouched and the layout as it was at the turn of the twentieth Century. I do not hope to disappoint you but the
course has seen many alterations over the last century and not all of these were beneficial. I can point to the ninth hole which is a complete new hole built only ten years ago. The original hole was replaced. Other changes include the relocating of the third green in 1987 and the realignment of the Fourth fairway. Personally I do not believe that the course 'is as it was'. What is true is the layout remains similar in the sense that the holes continue to run in the same directions as before. With the new
development that would continue to be true. However we at the Club have insisted that only top quality architechts and ground care specialists are involved in the alterations necessary. Having met the technical team hired for this project I am certain there is more than enough expertise to provide the
golfers here with a course similar to that which we are used but much improved in terms of its playability and cosmetic look. I am certain the plans will allow the course to continue to develop itself in line with its historic past and even allow the possibilty of new history being written as the golf course
moves into a new era. It should be remebered that very little has happened here for 100 years and the course has suffered as a result. A second phase plan allows for the course to be extended to 18 holes with new facilities which would
include a Musselburgh Golf Heritage Centre. The opportunity to educate golfers about Musselburgh's place in the game would be well represented by such a project. It will not be possible to hold another Open championship but I am
certain the golf course would regain some of its lost reputation in the golfing scene. I think what is paramount to remember is that the golf course can only retain its claims if people still play golf here. It is therefore imperitive that things the golf course adapts itself to the modern game and demands of golfers. Musselburgh racecourse needs to do similarly for its
patrons and as a result both facilities can mutually benefit by the initiative of the Racecourse.East Lothian council, the administrators of the area see the potential and have backed the project with considerable funding. We believe we
can emerge from the project with a much improved golf course and one that will allow its past to be celebrated in a manner which is long overdue. If you require more information please contact me.

Yours sincerely,

Robin McGregor, Secretary

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Stanley Thompson golf

As my Canadian readers surely know, and many of my American friends will also be aware, Stanley Thompson was Canada's preeminent golf designer. He died 53 years ago, but his courses -- places like Highlands Links, St. George's and Banff -- remain legendary homes of golf.

Anyway, an associate, Chris Parker, has compiled a website that lists all of the courses Thompson was supposed to have had some involvement with and attached the relevant websites. It is an impressive site for the information Chris has brought together on this vast array of courses, some of which I'd never heard of and was intrigued to see still claim some relationship to Thompson's work. I hope to seek a few of them out this summer.

On the other side, here is the website for the Stanley Thompson Society. I've never joined the society, though it is a worthwhile cause. I might do so this year. However, the organization's website is lacking in much of the detail Parker offers. For example, I couldn't find a list of Thompson courses that are actually members of the society. And in Thompson's course list, the society includes Brantford Golf & Country Club, a course that was built by Thompson's brother, Nicol. I know this to be true, as I've seen the advertisement for the course in a 1922 edition of Canadian Golfer, where Nicol listed it among the courses he designed.

Clublink's big deal; Weir's chances in Cali


So after 10 days, 23 hours, 22 minutes and six, I mean five, seconds, Clublink has announced its much anticipated new "gold" course. Gosh, I almost said new golf course, but that would be too obvious, wouldn't it?

Drum roll please.

Is it the acquisition of Royal Woodbine, a public course headed toward obscurity? How about a Paul Takahashi upgrade of some track previously best suited for goats?

Envelope please.

It is the stunning announcement that Station Creek is being upgraded to a gold club -- gosh I almost said golf club again. I recall when this was called Gormley Green and I used to play it after taking my first gig in Toronto. It wasn't much then and I can only assume it is slightly more now. (note for Tim O'Connor, media guy at CL: I didn't call SC a goat track. Just said that was what Gormley Green used to be. That might have been hyperbole, but you get my point).

This isn't really news at all. What does intrigue me is the recent rise in Clublink's share price -- up to $11 for the first time in years -- and the thought that the three controlling parties might battle for control over the company once again. I'm meeting with CEO Bob Poile in a few months to discuss the company's strategy going forward, and will report back then.

In other news, Mike Weir is being tipped as one to watch at Pebble Beach this week by a San Diego paper. According to the PGA Tour blurb, Weir has five top 10s at the AT&T.

Mike Weir, with a second-place finish in 2005, has five top-10s in eight starts at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, including three consecutive dating back to 2003. Weir jumped into second place in 2005 with the low final round at Pebble Beach Golf Links. He shot a 5-under-par 67, aided by a superior ball-striking day that saw him hit all 14 fairways and 15 of 18 greens.

Weir, who missed the cut in Arizona last week, says his game is back in shape after a terrible year in 2005. But even then, he finished second at Pebble. However, you've got to wonder whether players like Weir are heading the way of Corey Pavin. Weir, who is a short hitter in a a league that now includes bombers like Bubba Watson and JB Holmes -- guys who make Daly look average -- are going to hit the ball 40 yards in front of the slight Canadian left hander. And given that Weir's putting has been questionable for most of the last two years, that doesn't bode well.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Els and Accenture concerned about World Championships

According to Ernie Els, the World Championships have little to do with the world outside of the US of A.

The Big Easy lashed out at the PGA Tour (well, maybe lashed out isn't the right phrase -- more like suggested quietly) that the events should be moved around the other parts of the known galaxy.

"It's a bit crazy," he said. "Why call them World Championships if they're going to be played in the same place all the time? World Golf Championships are meant to promote the game all over the globe."


The problem is that when they are moved around, few of the American players want to have to add hours to their jetshare and commute to places outside of Florida, California and Arizona. I'd be suprised if a player doesn't complain about having to travel to Canada for next year's Presidents Cup. So Ernie can complain, but I doubt he gets anywhere with this one -- even if PGA Tour commish Tim Finchem says he's taking one o of the events to Asia in the near future.

Els isn't the only one unhappy with the situation. Apparently World Championship sponsor Accenture is also concerned about the positions of the tournaments following the creation of the FedEx Cup. Regardless of Finchem's plan, it is never a good idea to aggitate your sponsors.

"At first glance, it's a concern," said Jim Murphy, global managing director of marketing for Accenture. "You're adding another element in the mix, and this is going to be a yearlong promotion. By definition, the FedEx Cup will be raised in
visibility. In doing that, will it move the World Golf Championships down a notch, or interfere with the ambition to be the next layer behind the majors?"

Now the truth is the World Championships never held a candle to the majors. But I'm sure you understand Accenture's point, hyperbole notwithstanding.

There's an Associated Press story about the issue here.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Fox Harb'r to remain open to public -- sort of


Spent today with Ron Joyce, the co-founder of donut and coffee chain Tim Hortons. We're putting the finishing touches on his autobiography -- which currently has several working titles -- and I had the opportunity to talk about Fox Harb'r with Steven, Ron's son who runs the resort.
The initial course was built by Canadian architect Graham Cooke and won Golf Digest's Best New Course award a few years ago. It is a kinda course -- kinda private, kinda exclusive. In truth it does about 7,000 rounds per year, but Ron was anxious to take it fully private, with a very small membership (primarily those with jets to land at the facility's air strip.)
Apparently that plan has changed, and now Fox Harb'r will sort of be open to the public. The catch? You'll have to stay in one of 72 rooms on site and the total cost for golf and a room will run nearly $1,000 per day, putting it in the realm of Barbado's Sandy Lane.
An interesting piece of news is there are plans at Fox Harb'r to go forward with an additional nine holes -- and Steven has contacted Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw about doing the work. That would make it the first time Coore and Crenshaw have worked in Canada, though Coore has been scouting a location in Western Canada as well.

Monday, February 06, 2006

A Weeks worth of nods for G4G

Nothing better than blogs that reference other blogs. Anyway, Score editor Bob Weeks gave G4G a shoutout on Friday in reference to the blog about Mystic Golf Club near Ancaster and the question of value in golf. It looks like Bob might just become a dedicated blogger, which would be great for Canadian readers as he heads to the world's best golf tournaments. He also sees things from another perspective -- that of the broadcaster.
In other news, G4G is preparing for its departure from blogger and a move onto another, larger, website. I've long found blogger a bit finicky, and though I'm drawing more readers than ever (about 1,500 per week now and we haven't even hit golf season in Canada), I think it is time for a change. The plan is to move a majority of the content from this site to the new location and then just refer readers to the new location.
That said, all of my course reviews and other writing will remain on the new site. Little will change -- I'll just get a chance to encounter a greater number of readers.
Hope you will all stick with G4G as I make the change -- and I'll keep you posted on the progress.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Holmes hangs it out; Els chokes under pressure



Interesting golf on this weekend, especially if you tuned in to the Golfchannel to watch Ernie Els fail to better Tiger Woods. This is intriguing because:

a) It was Tiger's second win in a row and
b) Ernie Els continues to demonstrate that he has a tough time measuring up.

I'm particularly interested in the second point. Ernie managed to stick with Tiger a few years back in South Africa at the Presidents Cup and it proved to be some of the best golf ever televised. But on Sunday he should have been in the driver's seat. Woods was holding his swing together with a US$3-million appearance check and some duct tape. His drive was erratic, while Els looked cool and collected. The Big Easy was sparkling through 18, and Woods needed a birdie on the final just to get into the playoff.
But when the pressure is on, Woods ramps up and placed his drive on the extra hole down the middle. Els, on the other hand, hit it into the trees and seemed flustered enough that he tried for the green in two, coming up short and in the water. It was a desparate move by a golfer who seemed convinced his opponent was better. Els is wonderful with a wedge in his hand, so why not hit it close and then wedge it on. Instead Els played like Woods was guaranteed an eagle, which wasn't likely.
Els should be able to stand up to the best, but he's proving that isn't the case. Els' website lists quack Jos Vanstiphout as his "mental coach," even though he isn't a psychologist -- just a failed Belgium pop singer.

Els' site is pretty defensive when the issue of Vanstiphout comes up:

By the very nature of Jos’s business, there are sceptics who look at what he does and question its merit. Their vitriol is perhaps driven primarily by ignorance, and possibly jealousy, too. Some say that most of the players he works with are already successful. Of course it is true that, as Jos once memorably put it, “you can’t take a mule and make it win the Derby”! But all of the players he has worked with have taken their careers to greater heights. You can’t argue with that.


Well maybe you can. For all of Els' talent, he should have won more often. He should have shut the door on Todd Hamilton at Troon. He should have a green jacket by now. He should have held it together and won at Shinnecock. He didn't and that leaves me wondering where is all this success that Vanstiphout claims to have achieved? Many journalists say Jos is a "sports psychologist," but I can't find record of that. We know he was a singer, then a salesman and now a self-described "mental coach." I think it is time for Ernie to trade Jos in for a new version....

  • On another note, J.B. "Don't call me John" Holmes hammed his way to a win in Phoenix. His swing is a bit odd looking, but it is hard to argue with the results -- he is averaging 315 yards off the tee. His length allows him to simply overpower courses just as Bubba Watson is capable of doing. The game is about power now and Holmes has it in spades. Holmes had this to say about his win:
    It was one of my goals to win out here. It happened real quickly," Holmes said. "I didn't expect it so soon. I knew I had the ability. Every tournament I played, I just got more confidence and more confidence. It's just been a whirlwind right now.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Mystic Golf Club mystifies; Murray on Caddyshack II; Changes at Cruden Bay


Lots of debate about the new Tom Pearson designed Mystic Golf Club near Ancaster. I reviewed it in November and found parts of it intriguing (including the terrific 9th and 18th holes), but also mused about the business model ($125 in Ancaster? Who will pay that?) and felt several of the holes were quite plain, on the verge of being dull.
Anyway, few saw the course last year and there's been tons of discussion about it on Torontogolfnuts.com, a forum of average hackers who talk about everything from the latest sale at Golftown to the value of Watsons Glen. In this case, there's been quite the debate on about the merits of Mystic, with some suggesting I'm off my rocker with my comments or that I must have had a bad game there.
I stick by what I had to say -- I think the course is great in spots, but I don't understand the business model or the notion of building an extraordinarily difficult golf course in the current market. Mystic also brings about questions about the value of golf. In other words, how does one value a course with a $125 green fee versus one with a $60 green fee? It is a fascinating question. Does nearby Copetown Woods, which has a green fee that is half of Mystic, present a better value to the average golfer? I'd say yes, if only because the average golfer rarely, if ever, pays more than $100 for a game. Apparently Mystic is now offering players all the golf they want for the green fee -- so if you're into 36 holes, this makes more sense.
Time will tell how successful the club will be -- and considering there are several clubs currently up for sale, this could prove an interesting time for Canadian golf.
And, for the record, I had one of my best games last year at Mystic, playing from the 6,800 yard tees.

In other news, Bill Murray was recently grilled by an astute media observer as to why he never made a Caddyshack II. Only problem was someone did -- Murray just wasn't involved. His response to the question is quite funny:

BILL MURRAY: You know, I'm under a doctor's care (laughter). You know, Caddyshack was a great thing. There were some extraordinary people in it, Ted Knight, Rodney Dangerfield, the guy who played the bishop, these are people who have passed away. They were great people, great actors and lots of fun, and it was an unusual thing. Can't you be happy with having seen it and watched it? You want it again? You're one of those guys that wants to make love twice a week. Once is plenty (laughter).


Thanks to Geoff Shackelford for pointing this one out.

The powers that be (re: greens committee) at Cruden Bay are preparing to blow up several holes at the fabled course in order "to make it better." Interestingly, Pete Dye thought it was pretty good as it was -- good enough to inspire him to build links-style holes in North America in the 1980s. Well, apparently that's not good enough -- and several holes, including part of the back nine, are in danger of being reconfigured. Read about it here as part of a thread on Golfclubatlas.com. It sports some amazing photos of the current course.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Angus Glen overhaul


Yesterday I was up at Angus Glen speaking with the club's omnipresent Kevin Thistle and had a chance to tour the work being done on the Doug Carrick/Jay Morrish designed North Course.
Interestingly, many, including the RCGA, have painted the changes, which are being overseen by Davis Love III's design firm, as being insignificant. The alterations are being made to prep the course for the 2007 Canadian Open.
Critics of the course have noted PGA Tour players apparently have something against it because of the Skins Game held their a half decade ago. I doubt PGA Tour players have memories that long (and it was only four players anyway), since I recall asking Stuart Appleby about playing in the British Open and he couldn't remember where they had played the year previous.
Anyway, the dozers have been brought out and there are major changes, in the realm of $2-million worth, currently underway at the North Course.

Among the alterations are:

#1 -- previously a par five with an unusual tee shot, the fairway has been leveled slightly and the bunker that played about 200 yards off the tee on the left side of the fairway has been removed and pushed into the landing area about 280 yards off the tee. A new bunker complex on the right side of the fairway has been constructed near the green.

#2 -- perhaps the hole with the most significant changes, this was previously a par four with a large fairway bunker on the left to protect the carry angle. Balls then rolled down a hill -- meaning one could get quite close to the green. Now the fairway has been shifted 40 yards left and the bunker removed. Players will now play to a plateau and then hit their downhill approach to the green.

#3 -- new tees push this hole over 400 yards and the inside bunker has been brought further into play.

I didn't get a chance to see 5 through 8, though I understand there are changes to five and the fairway bunker on six is being removed. Eight is remaining the same, and there will be some additional bunker work on nine.

#10 -- new tee deck constructed on the left of existing tees and fairway being narrowed.

#12 -- the other hole with the most significant alterations. The tee shot has been moved forty or fifty yards left, bringing the pond (which has been expanded) into play. The eyelash bunker on the right off the old tee has been removed.

#15 -- new tees have been added and the left side of the fairway has been regrassed with blue grass. New bunker complexes have been added which effectively split the fairway.

The only other discussion is whether they will use 17-18 of the North Course or use the holes on the South, which provide a better vantage point for spectators.

Overall impression: The changes look positive -- at least for one tournament that will be held over one week next year. $2-million seems like a lot to spend, but I'm sure Angus Glen's management is aware that the Carrick/Morrish design has not been that well received and was in need on some alterations. The course was constructed when Carrick was infatuated with wide fairways, and many of the changes are designed to add some strategy to the tee shots. Carrick has always focused on carry angles, and several of the alterations are designed to accentuate those angles, many of which were rendered moot by the width of the landing area. With that in mind, the changes look positive.

The $10-million question: Will the changes draw a better field. I'm sure the RCGA and PGA Tour are hoping so -- otherwise why pay all of this money and bring Davis Love III into the equation? But I doubt they will bring more than one or two additional players to Canada next July.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Jack and Tom in PEI; Turnberry's facelift




The Globe's Lorne Rubenstein reports that IMG and Prince Edward Island will announce later this week that Dundarave will play host to a made-for-tv event featuring none other than Jack Nicklaus and Tom Watson.

Jack Nicklaus and Tom Watson will participate in an event on June 19 and 20 at
the Rodd Brudenell River Resort's Dundarave course in Cardigan, PEI, The Globe
and Mail has learned. The official announcement of a three-year contract between
Toronto-based IMG and Tourism PEI will be made tomorrow in Charlottetown.


Sounds like Shell's Wonderful world of golf to me. Nonetheless, Dundarave, designed by Jason Straka and Michael Hurdzan, is a fine golf course (it is likely the best on the island) and the concept could be engaging. One has to wonder, however, how much interest there will be in two over-the-hill athletes playing in an event without any real meaning. Will anyone care? Lorne's story can be found here.

Turnberry on Scotland's west coast is among my favourite courses in the world. Exposed to the element and perched right on the ocean, it is scenic and strategic, fun and grand. Well, after a lengthy disappearance, the course has been awarded the 2009 British Open. And I guess that even though it is ranked in the Top 20 in the world, it simply isn't good enough. Break out the shovels -- it is time to dig up Turnberry.

"The main thing I can tell you we're doing is building a lot more bunkers," said Stewart Selbie, Turnberry's GM. "Right now we have the fewest bunkers - 66
- of any of the Open venues. So we're putting in 30 just now and will have almost 100 by the time we're complete. That aspect will be finished by the time we stage the Senior British Open in the summer."


I didn't know that one determined a course's merits based on the number of bunkers they inserted, but the Scotsman's story makes it sound like that's how the R&A is judging Turnberry:

Although the number of traditional traps at the Ailsa is rising, the Ayrshire links still has a long way to go before it matches the 220 bunkers waiting to punish the errant golfer at Royal Lytham.
"There are a number of other changes in the pipeline which are yet to be finalised between ourselves and the Royal and Ancient," Selbie added. "The discussions are ongoing. . Obviously, there are going to be some changes to championship tees. Just adding length to the links is not necessarily the answer, although there are a couple of instances where we will be looking to add a little more distance around the 16th
and 17th holes."


The full, sad story is here.

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