Category: Grill Room (page 3 of 6)

2015 SGIC Plays Santa Awards

Screw it.  You're all bad.  Eat a bag of dirt.

Screw it. You’re all bad. Eat a bag of dirt.

Without the drunken debauchery and mayhem that come from a roast, it’s time for your humble scribe to don his santa outfit (who am I kidding- I don’t own one and unless the offer is an all-expense paid trip to Pebble Beach for a week, I’m not putting one on) and hand out some gifts this holiday season.

So this year I’ve invited people to come sit on my lap (and wear depends you assholes) and find out what Santa got you for Christmas (or the winter time festival of lights

First off…it’s Joe Buck from the Fox Sports Golf team.  You’ve had a bad year.  First off, Harold Reynolds is a moron, you don’t seem to understand geography, your network was a dumpster fire for the World Series and the US Open.  During the Franklin Templeton shootout last week you said a player was using a putter off the green.  Brad Faxon corrected you saying he was using a 5-wood/hybrid.  For someone who plays, you’d think you might know the difference.  Or, I don’t know…maybe ask?  Dan Hicks of NBC isn’t a hall of famer, but he knows how to go to Roger Maltbie and ask “what’s going on down their Rog?”  Try it some time.  So to help out Joe Buck, we’re sending you to the Columbia School of Broadcasting!  You’re welcome!

New logo for Fox Sports Baseball and Golf Coverage

New logo for Fox Sports Baseball and Golf Coverage

So for Christmas, since you can’t have nice things, Santa is taking away your USGA rights and putting them up for rebid.  You can air the events next year, but with CBS and NBC announcers who know how to get out of the way of fantastic championships and let the golf speak for itself.

Next on Santa’s lap is the USGA.  And haven’t you been a naughty group of stuffed shirts this year?  Your move to Fox Sports was a train wreck, you can’t understand why bifurcating the rule book would help the vast majority of golfers, and you’re about 10 years behind understanding technology.  You are trying to forbid rounds played as a single from counting towards your handicap which is fixing a problem that doesn’t exist.  Your signature events that the majority of the public associates with you…were train wrecks.  So one train wreck deserves another.  So in that vein, Santa got you a Sandra Lee Kwanzaa Cake.  That you’re going to eat while I watch.

Look at it.  LOOK AT IT!  Don’t avert your eyes!  Now eat the damn cake! Like we had to look at greens that were described as cauliflower on a course that hopefully will never see another major championship in its lifetime.  Now eat that concoction.  EAT IT!

To Rattlewood and Compass Pointe golf courses…you were nice to Santa this year.  You were pleasant surprises when Santa needed them.  So you’ll get good weather in 2016 so you can keep doing what you’re doing.  And Rattlewood, with your clubhouse decor straight out of Caddyshack…I like your style.

To Waverly Woods…you’re getting a watch so you can…you know, start enforcing pace of play.  Here’s some motivation for you.

May none of you ever get Judge Smails in the group in front of you.  If that wasn’t subtle enough…move people along.  It’s called a time par.   First few groups should be in 3 hours or less, then 3 1/2 hours, then 4 hours.  Look into it.  Please.  Don’t make excuses for slow play.  Move people along.  You’re better than this.

Timbers at Troy…oh, what’s happened to you?  This is your Santa intervention.  A few years ago, you had a really solid golf course.  Fantastic layout…some solid holes.  And you’ve let yourself go.  Take a look.

white goodman fat White goodman smile

That’s you at the top today, and below is what you used to be.  You can do this.  So let’s make it happen.  I’m pulling for you.  Nobody is saying you need to have tour-level conditions, but some basic improvements in conditioning will go a long way.  Ask yourself- do you want to become another Cross Creek, or worse- a Gunpowder or a Goose Creek, or do you want to be in that discussion of very good public courses in the area?

The LPGA has had a good year and remains a viable, entertaining and watchable product.  They have a good schedule and they’re growing their game fairly well.  So Santa is going to get you continued health, playable weather, and hope that the Olympics give your game that boost to the next level.

Donald Trump…where to start.  Have a seat.  Let’s leave your politics out of it for a moment.  You’re not exactly making friends so far, but what’s odd is how many people say that, on the golf course, you’re a swell guy, and I can see this.  You’re pretty good, and it’s been said you get around pretty quickly.  But with that being said, you can’t be completely tone deaf either, so let’s take it down a notch.  There’s no question you’ve acquired some name-brand golf courses, but this notion you have to put your name on it is frankly silly.  So stop it.  Turnberry was on the Open rota of courses until the R&A got a bit tired of your act and have decided to pull TRUMP Turnberry off the rota.  Sticking your name on something doesn’t make it better.  Improving pace of play for amateurs while having a course that will challenge modern professionals should be enough of a challenge.

As to your politics…they’re just that- yours.  However, I will point out something Michael Jordan said- “Republicans buy sneakers too.” and yes- Democrats play golf.

So stop attaching your name on courses you buy.  New builds?  Go as tacky as you want.  And stop eating thin crust pizza with a fork and a knife.  You’re a New Yorker for the love of birdies.  Fold the damn thing and insert into your maw.  Pay attention and take notes.  Note at the end how he folds and inserts into his maw.

So for Christmas, you’re playing golf at a public course.  With a bunch of regular guys.  You’ll change your shoes in the parking lot, pay a green fee in cash, and have to deal with the starter like we do.  And get off of push carts.  Seriously.  They’re tacky?   You wear a baseball cap with a suit.  Just saying.  You’re going to have to use one, because I’m being spiteful.

Don…seriously.  You’re not helping yourself.  People in the golf industry can’t stand you.  You’re embarrassing us.  People I play with think you’re an imbecile.  Okay, so maybe this whole thing is some kind of long con, or a goof.  But when the goof is over you have to go back and do whatever it is you do.  Good luck with that.

TopGolf Arlington…while my two visits to Top Golf didn’t blow me away, it’s a point of entry for people, and certainly folks seem to have fun.  So Santa is giving you a lease extension so more people can go and enjoy their facility.  Again- it’s not my brand of scotch but it doesn’t have to be.  People enjoy it and they have fun.  To close it down because of some nimby types is ridiculous.  I live near a concert venue.  Occasionally I hear the concerts during the summer.  I deal with it.

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame: Santa is giving you a whole new group of selectors, because your 2016 class is, frankly, laughably bad.  Steve Miller?  Chicago? Deep Purple?  It’s the triple-pleated dockers of inductees.  I get that Morrissey is a prick beyond words, but The Smiths have held up incredibly well, and their music has its own sound (it’s the Rickenbacker guitar).   You have teenagers wearing Smiths t-shirts today, like I did 30 years ago.  While you’re at it, time to induct a few punk bands (I have a list).

And since it is the holiday season, here’s my oddball discovery.

I found the Cocteau Twins in the late 1980’s, and I’ve liked their music on and off.  It wasn’t until a couple years ago, back when I had a Sirius XM unit in my car that I came upon this gem.  I didn’t really know that they had done this (originally released in 1993) so I finally found it on YouTube.  It’s exactly what it says it is- the Cocteau Twins singing a Christmas classic.

Enjoy your holidays.

Wise Words of Wisdom on Slow Play

While I like to consider myself a fast golfer, I won’t claim to being the only expert when it comes to slow play.  There are others, and I would argue that the more voices that we hear from, the better off we’ll all be.

To that, I cede the floor to James Achenbach of Golfweek, who, in his farewell column, wrote some of the best words (that came from Dick Hyland, head professional at The Country Club at DC Ranch in Scottsdale, Arizona (if you ever need a second, or a third, just contact me through my site and I’ll be there).

Note: this was in the August 31st issue of Golfweek.  I’d link to it, but Golfweek doesn’t have print articles that I can link to.  I tried (so we’re clear, what’s below isn’t my words, but that of James Achenbach and Dick Hyland; Italics are mine).  Mr Hyland’s tips (which should appear at every course), appear below:

1) Give golf professionals the clear authority to approach and advise plodding groups.  Hyland’s first words to any slow group: “What can I do to help you?”

2) Forget honors entirely; play ready golf at all times.

3) Concentrate on determining your yardage before it is your turn to his.

4) Try this guideline: From the time you pick up your coin (or ball marker), you have 15 seconds to hit a putt.

5) Another guideline: In the age of plastic spikes, experiment with rounds where continuous putting is mandatory.

6) The first golfer to hole out should hold the flag and replace it.

7) Never park a golf cart on the front side of the green; park it as close as possible to the point of exit from the green.

8) After hitting a shot, keep your club in your hand.  Replace it in the bag only after the cart has stopped at its next position.

9) In the age of distance measuring devices, try this on par-3 holes: Spray paint the exact yardage to the flag stick from various tee locations.

10: Courses might keep and even post a time sheet, noting start time, turn time, and finish time for all groups.

Brilliant.  Absolutely brilliant.


Slow Play Saturday and Other Very Bad Things

Work has kept me away from updating my blog for the last two weeks- I played a desultory round two weeks ago at UMD golf course where I couldn’t have made a putt if my life depended on it.  Last Saturday I played at Rattlewood with some locals; enjoyed their company and turned in a very pleasant 80.

The Rattlewood round was played with a foursome; we got around in a shade over 3 1/2 hours despite waiting for the foursome in front of us (all walking) on several holes.  Which leads me to today’s episode of “Slow Play and You- when forces combine to make the 5 hour round a living, breathing thing!”

Two things you’re noticing if you’re playing (or two things to take note of if you’re not)- several courses have punched their greens (it must be real difficult to let people know- if only there was some kind of mechanism to broadcast this information), and the lack of rain over the last several weeks means that the lush, thick rough we were all hacking our way out of back in June is now brown, thin, and going dormant.

Today’s episode takes place at Northwest Park Golf Course.  Let’s follow along step-by-step on how you, too, can make slow play a real thing and happen at your golf course too!

1) Accept and allow people to book tee times prior to sunrise.  So if the sun comes up at, say, 6:30, book that first time at 6:20.  Be sure to have several people in this first time who are unwilling to hit that first shot until the light is to their liking.

I can see the fairway and the sprinklers. Good to go.

I can see the fairway and the sprinklers. Good to go.

2) Have the starter show up late and spend several minutes taking care of stuff that has nothing to do with getting golfers on the golf course.  Said starter being a stickler for “enforcing rules” will be even better!

3) Always put out three walkers who aren’t exactly quick.

4) Put three foursomes of players in carts in back of them…ideally the types who are good golfers who play fairly quickly.

The deer play faster than the 3 rubes I got stuck with.

The deer play faster than the 3 rubes I got stuck with.

5) That first group?  The one with the three walkers?  Let’s have one go full Kevin Na 2012.  Not sure what I’m talking about?  Feast your eyes:

5) If you haven’t punched your computer yet, the next step would be to have one of these people have a pre-shot routine that takes about 60 seconds.  At a public course.  On a Saturday morning.  I’m almost shameful putting this link up but sometimes you have to do things that are unpleasant.

6) Be insistent about who does and doesn’t tend the flag.

I normally try to be patient (and if you play fast, you can shoot 150 for all I care), but I lasted four holes with these three idiots before I bolted from them.  I’ll point out that I took these clowns over an hour to play four holes (again- as the first group out).  It took me 90 minutes to play the last 14 as a single and that would have been shorter had I not had to wait on the guy cutting new holes on several shots on the back nine.

Waiting on guy cutting new hole location.  No worries mate.

Waiting on guy cutting new hole location. No worries mate.

I don’t know what became of them, and frankly, I don’t particularly care.  I know I played a whole lot better once I ditched them; played the back 9 at one over par (6 pars, 2 bogeys and 1 birdie).

18th hole at Northwest Park. Pro tip- hit it left of that giant tree on the right.  Seriously.

18th hole at Northwest Park. Pro tip- hit it left of that giant tree on the right. Seriously.

The sooner you send these goobers to “how to play faster” school, the better we all will be.   Hint- DO NOT, UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES, USE THE PRESHOT ROUTINES YOU SEE FROM THE PROS.  They get paid to play.  And most of them play at a pace that would have to improve to be called glacial.

If you’re one of these “walking is integral to the game” purists…that’s all good and well, but I can assure you that I can get around faster than you if I’m in a cart and you’re walking.  And I’m sorry, but on a Saturday morning with a full tee sheet, the goal should be getting people around quickly.  I’ve long felt that early morning weekend rounds should be cart only, with rigidly-enforced time par to get people around.  Maybe go to only twosomes or threesomes for the first few slots.  The Scots believe a round of golf shouldn’t take more than 3 hours.  They’re on to something.

The proverbial “last straw” with the three dipshits was the one telling me “maybe if you walked you might lose some weight” which was hilarious and sad at the same time.

Here’s the thing…I have a confession to make.  It’s taken me years to come to this realization, and hopefully you’ll all be understanding during this time.  I’ve never admitted this before, mostly because I never really felt the need to say it, but here goes.

Oh…the suspense….oh the agony!

I’m fat.


I’m fat.

I’ll say it again.  I’m fat.  It’s true…alert the media.  Golf Channel should have breaking news, but only if a half-in-the-bag Charley Rymer can be the one to mention it.  It’s true!  Golf blogger is fat!  Oh. My. Gawd.  Get Jim Ross!

I’ve been fat most of my life.  I spent two years in middle school fighting my way through grades 7 and 8 because the “intelligent, refined, and intellectually superior” kids would say horrible things and instigate fights with me (that for them, usually ended with them bloodied, bruised and occasionally broken and ended with me getting detention and eventually a suspension…for fights I didn’t seek out or start).

Once I got out of that playground comments about my weight (or the vastness of it) have largely gone silent because people don’t give two shits (ideally this is the case) or because people prefer to mock my fatness behind my back.  Which is fine, because the truth is I don’t really care what anyone thinks about me being fat.  If I wanted your opinion (and I don’t) I’d have provided you with one.

So yes…I’m fat.  You need not point this out to me.  I’m aware of it.  While I’m making confessions, I swear like a sailor and have an alcohol tolerance associated with Irish dockworkers.

I’m not looking for a parade or sympathy.  Treat me with the same respect you’d afford the other folks, and we’ll get along fine.  That’s it.  You don’t need to point it out, and talking about it is, frankly, pointless.  So there.  I said it.




A Polite Rebuttal and Other Nonsense

Brandel Chamblee of Golf Channel, who I normally find worth listening to (he’s not afraid to be critical which is good, and for those unaware he did play on the PGA Tour to some level of success- he has one PGA Tour victory which is one more than I’ll ever see) recently wrote an interesting piece about growing the game of golf.  He suggests that the PGA Professional at his home country club was a huge factor for him, and that the home professionals have the ability to make that all-important 1 on 1 contact with would-be golfers.  This sounds really nice, except that it lacks a bit of practicality in the 21st century.

Brandel Chamblee speaks.  I offer a rebuttal.  Politely.

Brandel Chamblee speaks. I offer a rebuttal. Politely.

I suppose that, if your parents have a country club membership that this is a fantastic means to make that personal connection that can make someone into a golfer for a lifetime.  I was not one of those people and I must confess to knowing one person (a very good friend) who grew up in a country club environment (by his own admission, the club was not a sanctuary for the well-heeled but more of a social club that had things for people of all ages and genders).  My parents were of very modest means, so joining a country club was a laughable idea (not to mention my parents were not golfers on any level- the best I could do is my father playing minor league baseball and being a fairly decent doubles tennis player).  However, I did have my “one on one” introduction via an aunt (since deceased) who was a very good amateur player (we would see her once a year during the family visits that doubled as vacations).  At no point did she ever give me lessons other than a couple tips (we played together a few times- she could be as tough as nails but she could also be as sweet and charming in her Texas/Oklahoma drawl as you could possibly imagine) and a suggestion to watch Jack Nicklaus’ videos “Golf My Way” (in my opinion this remains as good of an instructional video that exists- there’s nothing fancy here…just good solid fundamentals); I can still remember watching these videos (renting them from the local video rental store- kids, go ask your parents about “video rental stores”).

I’ve been playing the game off and on for close to 30 years.  I’ve probably played at 200 golf courses, and if I’ve met the local PGA Professional at any of them, it would be news to me (again- no need for introductions from the club pros).  If you don’t know me, I’m the guy who happily puts on his golf shoes in the parking lot, and then walks into the pro shop to pay my green fee and head to the starter (until I quit smoking I’d be the guy pulling up in untied golf shoes stashing my cigarettes in the cart (if I didn’t have one already lit) where nowadays people stash their mobile phones).  Generally speaking, I’m a “hit the ball and hit the road” golfer (a phrase coined by a writer whose work I enjoy).  I don’t know anyone who has the time to spend that kind of time at a country club, and the reality is that I don’t see this dichotomy changing anytime soon in the age of two-income families and social agendas for kids becoming more and more compacted.

So unless you’re the child of parents who spend a lot of time at a country club, the reality in the 21st century is that a club professional may not be capable (or willing) to have that one on one time.  It’s a wonderful idea (and to be clear, I’ve nothing but kind words for any club professional teaching the game to young people), but is it really practical?

The answer, it seems, is that it’s on all of us.  My aunt didn’t teach me grip, stance, or swing.  My grip, stance, and swing are entirely self-taught from watching Golf My Way and going out and following what the videos showed me.  Is that a bad thing?   I’ve had two people give me pointers in the last 20 years.  A guy I was talking to at a driving range in 1995 told me to stand closer and more upright to the ball (I’d gain distance and I’d be less likely to come over the top), and a guy at a store I was trying some clubs out identified me as a hockey player based on my swing.  His advice?  Don’t let anyone get the hockey out of your swing.  That and Jack (and later in life, that Jack would sometimes be Jack Daniels, who also offers sage advice).

If you see young people playing, welcome them.  Don’t worry about them becoming Tour Professionals (they won’t) and for all that’s good, let them try to figure it out on their own (sounds mean but once you actually figure out what it is you’re doing wrong and how to correct it, you’ll be a much better golfer).  Offer aid when asked.  Focus on the basics- grip, stance, ball position.  I learned by hitting lightweight practice balls in my neighbourhood (I’d cover them with scotch tape to give them a bit of weight and make them not quite as susceptible to wind) and I made my own “course” using light posts and trees for flag sticks (using a single club- an old Wilson 8-iron).

Again, I’m not being critical of Brandel Chamblee, I’m pointing out that his experiences are just that-his.  It’s not to diminish them, but rather to point out that there are different paths to the game other than the club professional.  I do agree with him that foot-golf (Frisbee golf but with a soccer ball) and the 15 inch hole are not solutions, but well-intended but naive ideas that do nothing to grow the game.

Shouldn't you be at a Phish concert or something?

Shouldn’t you be at a Phish concert or something?

Seriously.  Go find a disc golf course and ask folks playing if they’ve ever considered playing real golf.  My guess is that they haven’t.  Which is fine- they enjoy their sport and I’m free to enjoy mine, just like they can enjoy 20-minute versions of Phish songs, and I can enjoy double scotches.





Only 11 more years of this garbage (FOX Sports and the USGA)

I wanted FOX to get it right.  I wanted them to balance new technology and new thinking with a well-structured broadcast that would win reviews, delight and energize viewing audiences and hopefully, elevate the entire medium of how golf tournaments are broadcast.  At a minimum, I wanted them to put together a technically strong broadcast that informed the viewer of what was going on, and give the viewing public confidence that they would show themselves to be a worthy partner in the landscape and show their rivals at CBS, NBC and Golf Channel that while their portfolio might not be the largest, they would always put their best foot forward.

That, unfortunately, didn’t happen.  From enough technical mistakes to fill seasons’ worth of NBC/GC/CBS broadcasts to overuse of people wholly unsuited for the broadcast to the tragic under-utilization of Holly Sanders, to the USGA’s utter incompetence in being able to set up a golf course, it was four days of incompetence saved, not because of themselves, but in spite of themselves in the form of a thrilling conclusion.

It was only then that FOX managed to get out of their own way, but only barely.  An exciting finish does not make up for nor excuse a raft of technical mistakes that seemed to be happening far too often.

Much like Rogers’ 12-year (11 years left) deal for Canadian NHL rights, the first year was an error-strewn stage of screw-ups and trying to put round pegs in square holes that meant lower ratings and dissatisfied audiences.

I’ll let Gary Player offer a reasoned critique of the USGA:

He did everything but drop the mic when he was done.

I’ll add this- going to an all-fescue course wasn’t the problem.  It’s when you let poa annua creep in that you end up with mess on the greens that you have.   The USGA had 8 years to get this course ready, and more importantly, they had the resources to get the course in fantastic shape.  And frankly, this isn’t the first time that they’ve let this happen (letting a golf course get away from them).  It happened in 1998 at Olympic (the hole location on #18 on the Friday was worthy of a clown’s mouth), it happened in 2001 at Southern Hills, 2002 at Bethpage Black (forcing players to carry the ball 250 yards on the fly), 2004 at Shinnecock Hills (letting the greens die on them), 2006 Winged Foot (letting the rough get horrific), 2012 at Olympic (tee boxes on the final day), and 2014 at Pinehurst.  I don’t blame them for the wet conditions in 2009 and 2011…they did the best they could under the circumstances.  But far too often they’re trying to over-think things; often to the detriment of the tournament and the golf course.

My concern is this- by Sunday night, Chambers Bay looked dead (the turf).  For their well-intended concerns about using less water on courses how much more water (and sod, fertilizer, etc.) is it going to take to get the course back to being operational?  I’m all for courses that use drought-tolerant turf but there has to be a line between “you can save water” and “let the course die and become as hard as a cement parking lot.”

The USGA have one crack to set up a course for the best men in the world (and one for the best women), and their record is, frankly, terrible.  I’ll go back to the question- are we trying to identify the best players in the world or embarrass them?  This notion of “we must protect par” is absurd.  If you watched The Masters and were angry because Jordan Spieth took the course apart, raise your hand.  Did Rory McIlroy’s win in 2011 somehow detract because he finished -16 on a wet course that you could throw darts at?  Did Tiger Woods’ 2000 win at Pebble Beach (where he finished at 272 and won by 15 strokes and put on a clinic) detract from watching?  NO!  People want to see elite athletes turn in elite performances!  Set the course up to challenge the best players in the world, but reward great shots.  If the winning score is -10…so what?  Augusta National, the R&A and the PGA of America don’t have this obsession with par, and yet you have the USGA ginning up their annual “we must protect par” game.  And having holes alternate between being a par 4 and a par 5 is laughable.  The par of a hole should not change from one day to the next, especially on the first two days when you have players going off at the first and 10th holes.

Back to FOX.  In the interest of trying to be nice, I’ll present the good, the bad, and the ugly:


-The trackman that they were using was fantastic and it helped casual fans see where shots were going.  Better than their glow-puck idea from 20 years ago.

-The audio; from hearing the putts rattle around in the cup to the conversations between players and caddies…they got the audio right.

-Brad Faxon and Steve Flesch were solid, if not unspectacular in their roles.  Faxon would be a great tower commentator (17th hole).

-Tom Weiskopf- unafraid to voice an opinion; in a revamped lineup I’d put him in the 16 hole tower.

-Graphics (when in use).  The leaderboard was clean and the font they used easily readable.  Having a top-five leaderboard on the screen at all times might have been overkill early on, but definitely something I’d like to see more of for weekend (especially final round) coverage.

-Drones (when in use).  They should have been using the drone hole previews a lot more, especially on Sunday when you have casual fans tuning in.

-No Chris Berman.  Not having to listen to him babble like a drunk in a bar was the one positive in their Thursday/Friday coverage; he might well be great hosting football and baseball, but it does not equate to being good at golf (regardless of if he plays or not).


-Joe Buck.  They’re trying to put a square peg in a round hole.  Maybe you bump him to the host role (think Bob Costas on NBC’s US Open coverage), but for someone who’s covered Super Bowls and World Series, he seemed completely out of his element on Sunday evening.  He was good conducting the interview with Jordan Spieth…maybe that’s his role going forward.  It’s not a knock on Joe Buck; it’s about putting people in roles they’re good at.

Curt Menefee.  He’s good at football.  He’s terrible with golf.  The four-five person booth might work great for an NFL pregame and halftime setup, but for golf it was too many people (CBS and NBC have two at a time…it’s cleaner and it works better).  They tried having him host their UEFA Champions League Final coverage which was a similar bust.  Maybe he’d be a good fit for baseball.

-The crawl.  For early round coverage, that FOX didn’t have a crawl with the entire field (on Thursday) listed is borderline criminal.  For a network that spearheaded giving the viewer more information, this was laughable.  I kept flipping over the Golf Channel as they had one.  They hired Mark Loomis away, and something relatively simple and frankly, expected by viewers and they can’t be bothered.  They didn’t run it much on the weekend coverage either.

-Early coverage.  To come on the air and not show actual golf…WHY EVEN BOTHER?  When in doubt, show golf shots!  It’s not that hard!

-Mike Davis interview.  I’ve seen pillow fights that were tougher.  I know…the USGA is their partner.  But you didn’t have one or two players being critical of the course and the setup.  The guy who won was critical of the setup.  Ask tough questions.  It’s okay.  It’s not like they’re going anywhere.


-Holly Sanders.  They hire someone from the Golf Channel, and rather than use her knowledge of golf, they have her do the post-round interviews (99.9% of which are completely pointless).  I did like the graphic showing their score in the background, but a complete and total waste of talent.  Here’s a crazy idea- have her anchor coverage.

-Rules.  You have David Fay in the booth explaining things, but for audiences watching with no sound, a graphic showing the rule being applied would be a great addition (they do this with their NFL coverage).  When Grace hit his tee shot on 16 way right (I was on the phone at the time so I had the volume on mute), I didn’t know if it was O.B. or considered to be in a hazard.  The orange traffic cones I saw aren’t covered in any rule book.  Again- when in doubt, give the viewer as much info as possible.

-Dustin Johnson interview after the 4th round.  As in why didn’t they have one?  He had one putt to win the championship and a second to get into a playoff…missed both.  I get it- he feels awful, but this is your job to flag him down and ask him questions.  To borrow from the late great Ken Venturi, from his first putt, he needs to take 5 out of the equation.  Meaning, at worst, leave yourself a tap-in for a playoff.  It’s not unreasonable to ask him a few questions (ask him about the number of short putts he missed- was it spike marks, was it a read issue…what?).

-USGA Playoff Format.  In any other tournament they’d have kept playing (daylight wasn’t an issue), but this being the US Open, we’d send everyone home Sunday night without a winner and force an 18-hole playoff on Monday, which is beyond silly (the Masters goes to a sudden death playoff like every other PGA Tour event, while the PGA Championship and the Open Championship use 4 and 3-hole aggregate score playoffs).  If the USGA is so against sudden death, then why do they use it after an 18-hole playoff (see 1994 and 2008 US Opens).  Go to a 3-hole aggregate playoff, and send people home Sunday night with a winner.


-Greg Norman.  At times he was insightful; other times he was long-winded and seemingly incapable of making a coherent point.  With a better anchor who could keep him on point, I think he could be a solid main analyst.  He’s not Faldo nor is he Miller, but he has the ability to improve.  The question I’m asking is this- given his worldwide businesses that he runs, does he want to put in the work to become a world-class analyst?  Given their limited portfolio of events (if we’re being honest, you’re looking at the Open, Senior Open, Women’s Open and the Amateur as the four main events that FOX has) it’s not unreasonable to ask if Norman is going to put in the time for four weeks’ work.


As I predicted, this was never going to work well, and I continue to question the logic (beyond money) of the USGA’s decision to go to FOX for the next 11 years (after this one).  It’s hard to see them going after golf (they have NASCAR and baseball rights on weekends, and I don’t see Golf Channel/NBC or CBS giving up their current rights without having something to replace it) so they’re going to continue to be a part-time player (like ESPN, who shows the Open Championship and early-round Masters coverage and that’s it) in golf.  Long term I still think that the Masters will take early-round rights to Golf Channel, and I think NBC/Golf Channel goes hard now that the bidding process is underway for the Open Championship.

FOX did some good things, but still made far too many mistakes that viewers shouldn’t have to tolerate.  I can only hope that next year at Oakmont (as traditional of a US Open course as you can get) they do a better job.

The Falls Road Follies

Years ago, at least two or three jobs ago, the Bethesda-based company I worked for ran a golf league at Falls Road.  So once a week we’d go to Falls Road and play 9 holes in the evenings.  It was a great way to have fun and play golf.  I still have many happy memories of playing there.

Despite the clusterf**k that is Montgomery County traffic controls (especially in the Bethesda-Potomac area), I like to make the hike down there to see what’s happening.

My round on Saturday, if it were a highlight reel, would have this as the soundtrack (just click on it- it really makes everything better):

It was a cascade of shit in the form of el hozel chips, bad approach shots, and 37 putts (I never did get the pace down…which is a nice way of saying I putted like crap).

Falls Road, based on Saturday’s round in full-blown summer heat and humidity, is still catering to the masses and is still offering up a playable yet challenging course.

The first three holes shouldn’t pose much of a challenge, although #2, while on the card appearing to be a reachable par 5, has a very tight landing area to an uphill green.

The challenge really starts on the 4th hole, which is a par 5 protected to the left side by a giant tree (that unlike the giant tree protecting the second green at Maryland National, is still standing).  Shots to the left or into the gully offer no real chance of hitting the green.  The fifth hole (pictured below) is a tough par 3 with no bailout.

5th hole at Falls Road.  Don't miss long, left, right or short.

5th hole at Falls Road. Don’t miss long, left, right or short.

The seventh hole, for those who play there on occasion, has been toughened up with a hazard that runs the width of the fairway (for shorter hitters it doesn’t really come into play, but for longer hitters or for someone who tattoos one…you might want to give club selection some thought).

Falls Road 7th hole.  Note the hazard where there used to be fairway.  Jerks.

Falls Road 7th hole. Note the hazard where there used to be fairway. Jerks.

The back nine (or second nine if you prefer) is largely unchanged.  The 12th-15th holes remain as tough of a stretch of holes of any public course in the state (I’d put Blue Mash #1-#4 only because they start you with that crusher) before you get three relatively easier holes to finish the round (#16, while on the card appearing to be relatively easy, is anything but- the tee shot has to carry a hazard and the green is well protected with junk left and a giant bunker to the right).

Two issues- the greens were a bit soft (they were watering them yesterday morning) and the rough was pretty thick and lush (any shots that missed the fairway were dead).  I understand why they’re watering the greens because they don’t want to lose them especially with the spate of heat and humidity, but keeping the tall cabbage around grinds pace of play to a halt (it’s not like it rained Friday morning when they could have cut the roughs down).

Falls Road is still a pain in the ass to get to and pace of play can be brutal on a busy weekend, but once you’re there, you’ll find a course that still offers a pretty good setup.

In that note of “things I discovered in the late 90’s”, I discovered Everything But the Girl during a phase of enjoying the slightly less rage/angry music.  Not their biggest hit but for me, this was my favourite song:


I’m hoping to put together a US Open preview blog before Thursday where I’ll try to pick a winner…or most likely I’ll get it wrong beyond words.

Where I Get Revenge on Redgate (Sort of)

Last July 4th weekend, under weather too good to be true, I had what was easily the worst round I’ve had in more than 15 years; a complete meltdown in every facet of my game that led to the first triple-digit score since playing in the Myrtle Beach World Amateur back in 2001.

Yesterday, with summertime humidity making an all-too-early return to the area I went off at daybreak at Redgate, determined to not have another meltdown.  As much as it pains me, the complete meltdown in my swing that day got into my head and if nothing else, showed me what touring pros and elite golfers talk about when they simply lose their swing.  I had zero confidence that I could consistently put the ball in the fairway and on the green, and with a putter in my hand I had even less confidence.

Last week’s round at Hampshire Greens gave me hope and optimism (at least tee to green) that the slump that I had been in since that fateful July morning was a thing of the past.

The course was in decent shape; the greens were in good shape (they’ve almost always been in great shape over the last five or six years) and the fairways were in good shape.  The 11th green was in improved shape (not sure how much they can realistically do).  The tee boxes were a mixed bag; if you play at Redgate I’d suggest bringing a hammer to put a tee in the ground (I’m not kidding) for #12. The second hole isn’t much better.  While the trees that surround both holes offer plenty of cool shade on hot days, the issue is that there’s no grass to speak of (it’s not for lack of effort from the superintendent and their team).

While they did manage to put sod down on the 16th tee, the ground below it is still very firm and the sod is not exactly fairway cut so while I appreciate the improvement, it’s still a work in progress.  They did, however, build a stone retaining wall and steps for the 15th hole (the short par 3).  My only concern is that in wet conditions the stone might be a bit slick, but on a dry (albeit humid) morning everything was fine.  The hole still needs a windmill, a clown’s mouth and possibly dynamite, but one small step is a good step nonetheless.

New sod on 16th tee at Redgate. Hammer optional.

New sod on 16th tee at Redgate. Hammer optional.

If you’re unfamiliar with Redgate, you know the first three holes are fairly pedestrian (not that you can’t get into trouble).  The 4th hole is one of their “blow up” holes (as in after it blows up your scorecard you’ll want to blow it up with explosives), and I did just that with a nice cool 7.

Somehow I managed to get things turned around, and was able to save my butt on several holes by getting up and down to save par.   Other than #12 and #14 I kept the back nine fairly clean, and was able to finish with a 12-foot par saving putt on the last to come in with a nice even 80.  Scores on the doors:

The damage from my May 16th round. No complaints here.

The damage from my May 16th round. No complaints here.

So that’s a 20 shot improvement over last July’s utter debacle if you’re scoring at home (or even if you’re alone).  Driving home, I felt like I had buried some of the mental demons that were unleashed last July.

Redgate is still a work in progress, but it’s a reasonably affordable option for golf in the area and the course is, in the main, in good shape.  It’s cheaper than Falls Road (I paid $59 for an early morning weekend with no discounts) and has a better short game area than it’s Potomac neighbour.

Lastly, while the Toronto Maple Leafs are still horribly, my sympathies go out to the Caps fans.  I was pulling for them and would have loved to see them advance.  But more importantly, I take solace that the Montreal Canadiens are out as well.   Fellow Leafs fans Bloge Salming and Down Goes Brown (you can read DGB’s work on Grantland under his real name Sean McIdoe and it’s outstanding).   Their video ode to the Habs remains a staple that I break out once they’re eliminated from the playoffs.  If you’re reading this and you’re a Habs fan…yes, I get the joke (Leafs fan writing about golf) and your other collection of jokes that are older than dirt.  Go tell someone who cares.

Bloge/DGB, you guys are awesome.  Cheers.

Rebound Rounds and New Media

Played this morning at Hampshire Greens; tee to green I was about as good as I could hope for; hit 8 of 14 fairways, 10 of 18 GIR but with a soul-destroying 38 putts.   Played with three younger folks (including a woman who could flat-out hit the ball despite this being her first round of the year) and enjoyed their company.  Nice to see folks in their 20’s and 30’s get out and enjoy this game including one of them who’d only been playing a year.  If you’re reading this, stay at it and have fun.  Hopefully I didn’t get in your way.

Hampshire Greens #7.  It's out there somewhere.

Hampshire Greens #7. It’s out there somewhere.

Hampshire Greens was in good shape despite the usual rollercoaster weather we’ve been having.  It was a bit damp (it was drizzling for about half the round which didn’t help) but otherwise the course was playing fair.  One thing that did help was playing from the green tees (it’s 6000 yards as opposed to 6500 from the blue tees) which meant I was hitting 9 irons and wedges into the greens rather than mid-irons.  If you haven’t played Hampshire Greens it’s a decent track and definitely worth a visit.  A few holes have homes in shouting distance (and not for anything, but while we were teeing off, I learned that MacKenzie is going to wear that dress to prom AND is going to wear the Jimmy Choo flats that mom got her…also, Tiffany was really mean to Brody at Amber’s party last night), so thanks for the update, young girl sitting on the deck who needs to learn volume control.

Hampshire Greens #9.

Hampshire Greens #9.

Significantly more troubling than my ongoing struggles with the putter was the PGA Tour’s response to Stephanie Wei using Periscope during a practice round at the WGC Match Play at Harding Park in San Francisco.  If you don’t know, Periscope is a live streaming application for mobile devices that was purchased by Twitter.  It allows you to live stream things to anyone who follows you through the application.  If I wanted to, I could film my rounds and people could watch.  Why anyone would want to is, frankly, a question best left to the mental healthy community.  It got a lot of free publicity last weekend during the “awful human being v. slightly less awful human being” event that was the Mayweather-Pacquiao boxing match where many people were streaming the fight on their periscopes (figuring “just because I paid $100 to watch this garbage fire doesn’t mean you should”).

In short, the PGA Tour has a whole list of regulations about what you can and can’t do as a credentialed member of the media, and I suppose that, according to the letter of the law, that Ms Wei (who I’ve never met and am only marginally aware of her work) violated their media rights policy.  During a practice round that isn’t televised.  Specifically, she used the application to air a lighthearted discussion involving Masters Champion Jordan Spieth.  Nobody could claim that Golf Channel or the PGA Tour were losing viewers by virtue of this being aired.  However, rules are rules.

PGA Tour TV ratings are generally not particularly good compared to team sports, and for the tournament in question, according to Sports Media Watch it had the lowest rating since 2010 and the second lowest since 2001 (the final match featured Rory McIlroy).  In short, we’re not talking about a major championship and we’re not talking about a highly viewed event.  We’re talking about a practice round (and not for anything, but the PGA Tour has stopped admitting fans for practice rounds for most of their events).

A reasonable person would think that the PGA Tour would, in this instance, pull Ms Wei aside for a quiet word along the lines of “enjoy your work and thanks for helping to grow the game, but please don’t use Periscope without our approval.”  Instead, the Tour revoked her credential for the entire 2015 season.

PGA Tour Media Relations at Work

PGA Tour Media Relations at Work

Not a warning, not a “don’t ever do that again” but they went straight to the proverbial death penalty for the equivalent of a parking ticket.  I don’t think for one second that the PGA Tour pulls the credential of a “name” reporter (i.e. Doug Ferguson of the AP).  This was selective enforcement at it’s worst.

I’m not really sure what this accomplishes.  The TV demographics for golf are not favorable (in short, it’s old, white and apparently in love of medicare sleds, boner pills, and shitty beer).  If the PGA Tour is serious about growing the game (and if they’re not then they’re in real trouble) they need to embrace new media and they need to embrace new voices (and not 20-something almost exclusively white male golf bros who yell “mashed potatoes” during tournaments- these people should be hit with a cattle prod and be fed to angry bears).  It’s bad enough that NBC and CBS do not have a single woman on their coverage (Kelly Tilghman anchors Golf Channel’s Friday/Saturday coverage but haven’t seen her this year on NBC’s weekend coverage; CBS is an older version of “Stuff White People Like”), and among minorities, only Native American and Notah Begay (best known for being a teammate of Eldrick Woods when both were at Stanford) is non-Caucasian.  You’ll find one minority in the Golf Channel studios (Damon Hack), and among women, the best of a short list are Judy Rankin (I’m sorry but she’s better than 99% of the men), Lauren Thompson and a very under-used Paige MacKenzie.  I’m giving FOX a pass for now, but I will hope that they will do better than CBS and NBC when they cover the US Open next month.

Cumulatively, this is but another “you’re not welcome here” sign to women in sports.  In the last few weeks, we’ve seen two high profile (and very talented) reporters (Michelle Beadle and Rachel Nichols) have their credentials revoked at last Saturday’s boxing match because they had the temerity to report on Mayweather’s pervasive issues with domestic violence against women.  Earlier this week the NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers thought that a video that displayed a man throwing his girlfriend to the ground because she cheered for another team was a good idea (the end of the video showed the woman using an ice pack on her head), and NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman get rightly criticized for not being critical of Winnipeg Jets fans chanting “Katy Perry” at Anaheim Ducks forward Corey Perry.

What happened to Wei isn’t domestic violence and I’m not equating the two.  What I am saying is that we can, and should, do better.  My favourite hockey blog Pension Plan Puppets have an article that might be the best thing I’ve read on the subject.  I can’t recommend this article enough (their blog has female voices who, quite frankly, are damn good writers).

We need new voices in sports, and unfortunately, too often women are still being made to feel unwelcome in covering sports.  It was wrong then and it’s wrong today. Whether it’s selective enforcement of policy, offense over honest coverage of an issue that merits it, over an overall culture that needs to change, none of this is remotely good enough and isn’t close to being good enough for a sport that needs to embrace new voices and new perspectives.

This isn’t about hiring women for the sake of hiring women.  It’s about hiring people who are good at what they do and getting rid of the dinosaurs when they’re no longer good at what they do.  It’s about letting the cream rise to the top.


Where I Fix The PGA of America

Finally reading former PGA of America President Ted Bishop’s interview with Golf Magazine made me realize why the game struggles like it does…Bishop, while well meaning, comes off as another old white dude who doesn’t understand why you can’t say certain things, especially when you’re the head of an organization that pulls in upwards of $1 billion in annual revenue (according to their most recent tax forms).  He came from the world of private country clubs, and yes, he was a teaching professional (which is what the PGA of America is for- please don’t confuse them with the PGA Tour which are two entirely different organizations who serve entirely different populations).

So over two scotches (or “thinkin’ juice” as I like to call it), I came up with a plan to help them move into the 21st century and bring some badly needed change to the two events that they’re best known for contesting (the PGA Championship and the Ryder Cup).

Thinkin' juice?  Yes please

Thinkin’ juice? Yes please

Starting things off, I accepted the nomination from the PGA of America to be their CEO.  Sorry, Mr Bevacqua but you won’t be needed.  This idea of naming major championship venues 10-12 years out (especially given your choices) is, to put it politely, a pile of horseshit.  I don’t need a 7-figure pay packet…I’ll take a third of that and the PGA of America can put that money into junior golf programs and turfgrass research (work on trying to find grasses that are more heat and drought tolerant).

Step one is fixing the PGA Championship.  It falls in August, and despite this, the PGA of America has a hard-on for the mid-west and the north east portions of the country.  They’ve held the championship on the West coast 7 times (8 if you count the 2020 PGA Championship at Harding Park), or less than 8% of the time.  Insulting and short sided doesn’t even begin to describe it.

Having lived in both Southern and Northern California, you know what you don’t have to worry about in August?  Rain.  Thunderstorms.  Humidity.  Since August is usually a dead period for TV viewing, we’ll follow what NBC did with the US Open- have a finish during East Coast prime time.  There you go, East Coast/Midwest golfers- enjoy your day and then come home and watch the final round over dinner.

So where would I look?   I’d put Pebble Beach on a short list of courses to consider with Bandon Dunes (they have the land and they’ve already hosted a US Amateur), Torrey Pines, TPC Harding Park, Olympic Club, Riviera, Pumpkin Ridge in Oregon (hosted a US Amateur- some fella named Woods won it in 1996) and Shaughnessy Golf Club in Vancouver, BC.  Before you start screaming and yelling, you can golf just about year-round in Vancouver and the course is a traditional classic that with no whistles and bells beat up the best of the PGA Tour a few years ago when it hosted the Canadian Open.   If Riviera isn’t an option, I’d look at Trump National Los Angeles.

Just think of the possibilites

Just think of the possibilites

I’d also change the format.  Not to drop history on you, but the PGA Championship used to be match play…or what the Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup use.  I understand CBS isn’t going to run the risk of having a final between two guys that the vast majority of casual sports fans have never heard of, so we’re going to make a couple minor tweaks.

Rounds 1 and 2 will be in threesomes in two waves off the 1st and 10th tee with guys either going early/late or late/early.  Sounds simple enough, right?  The cut will be the top 65 and ties.  Period.  Now here’s where the fun begins.  We start a whole new tournament after the cut.  Before you retire to your fainting chair or your chaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaasssssssssssse or whatever, the US Amateur does essentially the same thing.

What I would do, however, is allow the top 20 finishers to pick their own tee time for the third round and then let the PGA of America do the rest.  So let’s say you finished early and you like to play early…this is your reward (the fourth and final round goes out like it already does).

My overall thought is this (while watching the Stanley Cup Playoffs)- everything a team did in the regular season simply determines seeding in the playoffs.  It’s not like they start with a lead or something.  It also means that the guy in front can’t coast on their laurels, and the guy who gets in on the number starts with equal footing.

The Ryder Cup is already a great event, but it hasn’t seen the West Coast or the Rockies since 1959.  It’s never been held at Pebble Beach.  Bandon Dunes should also be considered.  Cherry Hills CC in Colorado is another course I’d put up for consideration.  The Olympic Club in San Francisco is another great option.  The Europeans shouldn’t mind that much, and if they do, then let them pout.

Let’s hope the rain holds off tomorrow and everyone can enjoy a nice (albeit cool) day of golf.  Hit ’em straight!

Through It All There Was Hope

Non-golf item:

With the Leafs having mercifully ended their season in burning tire fire style, new team President Brendan Shanahan cleaned house- fired the coaching staff, GM David Nonis, the vast majority of the scouts, Carlton the Bear, and the guys who run the Tim Hortons kiosk.

Yup, everyone's fired.

Yup, everyone’s fired.

The expression “burn it to the ground” seems appropriate.

After nearly a decade of one failed season after another followed by false hope and one playoff appearance in 2013 (that ended in the kind of epic failure that you rarely see anymore), it’s good to see them try to get it right.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t plug my favourite Leafs blog Pension Plan Puppets who have been covering this with their usual level of excellence and hilarity.

Unrelated, congrats to Under-Armour logo-wearing human billboard Jordan Spieth for winning the Masters on Sunday.  I was pulling for fellow 40-something Phil Mickelson and while he played some fantastic golf, Spieth was the better golfer and deservedly won.  I think I could hear Kevin Plank from my house.


Yeah, he's pretty good at golf.

Yeah, he’s pretty good at golf.

Hopefully the rain will hold off this weekend and we’ll see golf courses full of golfers enjoying spring in the mid-Atlantic.

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