Tag: United States Golf Association (page 1 of 4)

The Crossover of Crossovers- Stanley Cup Playoff Games on Golf Channel (a helpful explainer)

2003 Masters Champion Mike Weir dropping the puck at a Leafs-Flyers playoff game in 2003. This really happened.

Lost amid Patrick Reed winning The Masters on Sunday night (along with the coveted Green Jacket, $1.98 million in prize money, and the chance to have the 2019 Champions Dinner catered by McDonalds, Hardees and Domino’s) was the conclusion of the NHL regular season and the announcement of first round playoff dates/times and TV (Boston had a makeup game with Florida that finalized the pairings; otherwise the regular season was supposed to have ended on Saturday the 7th).

NBC, unlike the other network that shows golf (CBS), has managed to intertwine its afternoon NHL coverage successfully; the Sunday afternoon regular season games end on time and they’re able to transition over to golf coverage with minimal delay (unlike CBS’ college basketball coverage during the PGA Tour West Coast swing which ran late every single weekend).  Let’s just pretend that their 2007 decision to dump out of a Conference Final playoff game to show a horse racing pregame show never happened.  I point this out because if you take a look at the NHL schedule for the first round, you notice that two games are slated to air on Golf Channel (both games on April 18; New Jersey/Tampa followed by Anaheim/San Jose).  This is real; it’s not some delayed April Fool’s Day joke.

I suppose it’s similar to how NCAA basketball fans feel when they have to look for TruTV.

NHL fans have gotten used to NBC putting games on USA Network and CNBC in the first/second round, but Golf Channel’s deployment is a new thing.  While there are many hockey fans who watch golf (and vice versa), many people many not know what (or why, for that matter) Golf Channel is and why it exists.  It went on the air in January of 1995, founded by the late Arnold Palmer (sort of like if Gordie Howe started the NHL Network).  It was acquired by NBC/Comcast several years ago.  Golf Channel has never deviated from showing golf (other than endless airings of either Caddyshack, Happy Gilmore, Bagger Vance, The Greatest Game Ever Played, Bobby Jones/Strokes of Genius or The Squeeze).

While there are many differences between the PGA, LPGA, Champions (Senior), European Tours and the NHL, there are some similarities.  So in the interest of helping fellow hockey fans who may be curious about Golf Channel and the similarities between golf and hockey, I humbly offer an a primer.  You’re welcome.

Point of Contention Hockey Golf
Annoying old man who spends too much time hanging around much to the annoyance of most people who wish he’d do it less Don Cherry Donald Trump
Movie that fans can quote pretty much verbatim that made a horrible sequel nobody wants to acknowledge Slap Shot Caddyshack
Movie with dozens of inaccuracies people love to hate Youngblood Happy Gilmore
Annoying guy with a checkered past named Patrick Patrick Kane Patrick Reed
Beloved player who can’t win the country’s most important event and has failed repeatedly on a grand and tragic scale Alex Ovechkin Phil Mickelson
Studio Analyst that drives most fans off the wall Mike Milbury Brandel Chamblee
Rules Concept that exists that nobody understands Goaltender Interference Anchoring the putter
Rule that will immediately start an argument Getting Rid of Fighting Rolling the Ball Back
Annoying Analytics that a lot of fans wish people would shut up about Corsi/Fenwick/PDO Strokes Gained
Crossover figure who plays the other sport very well NHL Official Garret Rank Mike Weir, Graham DaLaet
Lightning Rod Game Analyst “shut up about it” go-to phrase Pierre McGuire “When I was an assistant coach with the Pittsburgh Penguins…” Johnny Miller “In 1973 at Oakmont when I shot my 63”
Phrase you hear that makes you want to stab your eyes out “Respect the Game” “Protect the Field”
Annoying Team Competition that really brings out the worst in fans Olympics Ryder Cup
Catch phrase from a main announcer you hate “WAFFLEBOARD!” “Hello Friends”
Played-out rivalry no serious fan cares about Ovechkin/Crosby Tiger/Phil
Potential International Rivalry Connor McDavid/Auston Matthews Patrick Reed/Rory McIlroy
Annoying Fan Behavior #1 Lower Bowl fan on cell phone waving at camera BABA BOOEY, DILLY DILLY, MASHED POTATOES.
Annoying Fan Behavior #2 Throwing things on the ice Calling to report a rules violation
Beloved analyst with crossover appeal Bob McKenzie David Feherty
Schtick you want to see fired into the sun Multiple outdoor games in a season Big Break
Variation from the game that inspires passions on both sides 3 on 3, 4 on 4 Match play, 2-man team golf
Hated figure running the game Gary Bettman The USGA
Best Trophy Stanley Cup Claret Jug
Amateur jerk move Beer league player with a tinted visor 20-handicapper with a pro staff bag
Asshole amateur tactic Ringers Sandbaggers

 

Your 2018 Majors (and other) Predictions

Your faithful scribe, hard at work.

Now that 2017 is in the rear view mirror and everyone looks at the 2018 season, it’s time to make some (likely wrong) predictions.  First, let’s take a look at my 2017 majors predictions.

NOT Better Than Most.

 

Event My Prediction Actual Winner
Masters Phil Mickelson Sergio Garcia
US Open Rory McIlroy Brooks Koepka
Open Championship Shane Lowry Jordan Spieth
USPGA Championship Dustin Johnson Justin Thomas
ANA Inspiration Christina Kim Ryu So-Yeon
US Womens Open Brooke Henderson Sung Hyun Park
LPGA Championship A. Jutanugarn Danielle Kang
Womens Open Championship Gerina Piller In-Kyung (IK) Kim
Evian Championship Lydia Ko Anna Nordqvist

That’s pretty bad.  In fact, it’s downright terrible.  I wasn’t remotely close.  As much as I’d like to run from this, I can’t.  I could sit here and wallow in my failure and go crawl into a hole to cry softly, or I could knock back a few drinks and take another stab at things.  As with other things, I’m choosing the option involving drinking.  To borrow an old line, the use of these picks as the means for making a wager is, at best, foolhardy and at worst plain stupid.

Masters Tournament:

The “root for the story” pick: Either Rory McIlroy or Tiger.  McIlroy needs a green jacket to complete the career grand slam and Tiger in the hunt on Sunday would move the needle unlike anything we’ve seen in recent memory.  For the record, I don’t know what to think about Tiger’s latest comeback, because frankly we’ve heard this same stuff before.  As of this writing he hasn’t hit a ball in anger in 2018 yet so I’ve no clue about this comeback.

The thinking man’s pick: Dustin Johnson can overpower this course (or anywhere else, really) unlike anything we’ve seen.  If he’s healthy and his putter is working he’s the favorite.  What happened last year (getting injured and having to WD) was incredibly unlucky.  If Jason Day is healthy (and that’s a HUGE if) he’s got the game to win here.

My pick: Six first-time winners in the last seven years (which underlines how hard it is to win a major with so many very good players out there).  I think this continues in 2018 and Jon Rahm wins.  He has the length and I like his short game.  First timers often struggle.  This will be his second Masters.

US Open (Shinnecock):

The “root for the story” pick: Phil Mickelson. Another ‘should have’ from the last time they were here.  The USGA managed to cock up the course by being unable to read a weather forecast and turned the greens into concrete.  They have an entire year to properly set up a golf course for the national championship and manage to screw up more often than not.  If he’s in contention and wins this is THE story of 2018 unless Tiger wins Augusta by 10, and the other majors by 5+ strokes.  It completes the career grand slam for him and gives him the ultimate sendoff.

The thinking man’s pick: Jordan Spieth.  Wind won’t bother him and he’s already won a US Open on a similar course.

My pick:  Your previous winners at Shinnecock are Raymond Floyd, Corey Pavin and Retief Goosen.  Not bombers but guys who can think their way around a course.  I’m going to go out on a big ass limb and predict either Justin Thomas or Rickie Fowler (I think this is the year he finally wins a major).

Open Championship (Carnoustie):

The “root for the story” pick: Either Sergio (should have won in 2007), Tommy Fleetwood or Ian Poulter.

The thinking man’s pick: Justin Rose.  He’s got the game to win, and he was probably unlucky to have not won in Augusta last year.  Paul Casey seems to have found his game.

My pick: Your previous winners at Carnoustie are Padraig Harrington and Paul Lawrie, so the sample size is really difficult.  The weather is always a factor; bad weather on the first two days can easily knock out half the field so it’s really a bit of a lottery.  Having said that, the R&A don’t get worked up about protecting par.  If the winning score is 17 under then fine; if the wind blows and it’s 5 over, then that’s okay as well.  A lot of first-time winners of recent memory and a lot of Americans winning, but not at Carnoustie.  I think this continues.  I think it’ll be a non-US first-timer that wins.  Rafa Cabrera Bello has the length, he played well last year at Birkdale.

US PGA Championship (Bellrieve):

The root for the story pick: Jordan Spieth needs a US PGA Championship to complete the career grand slam.

The thinking man’s pick: Rickie Fowler is way overdue.  Patrick Reed fits the profile of a young American first-time winner and I think he’ll contend.

My pick: First-time major winners galore.  This will be the last US PGA Championship held in August (thankfully); and of course they’re going into the St. Louis area (so expect horrible heat, humidity and likely thunderstorms).  I’ve advocated that the PGA get the hell out of middle America and look West, but they don’t seem to be able to do this.  I’m going with Charley Hoffman who will come out of a competitive and muddled pack to eke out a win.

RYDER CUP:

Unlike a certain writer who thinks we’re into some gilded age of American dominance, I’m not ready to hang the bunting just yet.  The ugly truth is that it’s been 25 years since an US team won in Europe.  I think Europe wins a very closely contested Ryder Cup.

 

 

The 2017 SGIC Plays Santa Awards You Didn’t Want

Screw cookies and milk. I prefer bourbon. And a dozen ProV1’s.

What a year it’s been in golf.  Until things went completely sideways for me, I was set to make my personal goal of playing in every month of a calendar year (so I’ll have to settle for 10 months).  Sergio won a major, Lexi got robbed of one through a call-in rules violation, Jordan Spieth won a crazy Open Championship, Justin Thomas won a major and the FedEx Cup, the US won the Presidents Cup, Lexi won the CME Race to the Globe, and there’s optimism of another comeback from Tiger Woods (he fired his coach last night so there’s that).

Breakfast of Champions. Accept no substitutes.

If it’s late December and close to Christmas, it’s time for my annual Single Golfer In Cart (SGIC) plays Santa day!  Unfortunately I can’t claim it has the cult following of Drew Magary’s annual Haters Guide To The Williams Sonoma Catalog.

After having given this much thought (a few glasses of whiskey), I’ve put on my Santa costume while Santa is delivering presents to good boys and girls and have decided to grant some wishes throughout the world of golf (a mix of local folks in the DMV and on the pro tours).  These gifts aren’t returnable, by the way.  Suck it up.

For Jason Day you’re getting a copy of “Pace of Play and You” which I’d politely suggest you put to use.  I know you’ve had a rough year but you make early 2000’s Sergio Garcia look fast.

For Golf Channel, Santa is giving you the rights to air “Dead Solid Perfect” which remains the finest golf movie ever made.  Every time I have to see Matt Damon or Shia Leboeuf swing a golf club I fear for my own swing.  And seriously, can you air these films unedited?  You’re a cable channel so you’re not under some FCC bullshit decency coda.  Please.

Lake Presidential Golf Club, you’re getting improved playing conditions.  I know you made some improvements but some trusted spies say it’s still not great.  Earn that top-10 “best you can play’ ranking Golfweek keeps giving you.

Phil Mickelson, Santa has decided to give you that US Open win you keep asking for as long as you agree to go immediately into the booth when you finish playing and agree to be the same candid self you are now.

Golfweek Magazine, I’m getting you a new crop of raters.  Your “best you can play” lists are fairly stagnant.  Also, start showing actual reviews and speak to the methodology.

Worthington Manor Golf Course, Santa is giving you intermediate rough.  Use it.  You’re a great track, but seriously- embrace intermediate rough.

The LPGA was very good this year so you’re getting a few things.   Santa is getting you your own video game.  Also, some of your tournaments are getting new formats (a 6-hole event, a 2-player team event, a Stableford event, and a match play event or two).  Lastly, you’re getting a partnership with Top Golf to help get young people exposed to your products.

Timbers at Troy golf course, Santa is giving you improved drainage.  Your course still drains at the rate an 85-year old man pees.  The new bunkers look great.  Do something about the drainage.  I’ve played there on dry mornings when we haven’t had rain for 2 weeks and it’ll still be squishy fairways.  Or stop overwatering.  Seriously.  Do something about it.

The PGA Tour is getting a map of the DMV from Santa.  You’ll notice Virginia, DC and Maryland.  Look at the population, average income, and ask yourselves why you insist on jobbing this area as often as you do.  I mean, the LPGA doesn’t get closer than Williamsburg or Atlantic City.  The area event has constantly been plagued by a litany of issues, and yet every year people show up in large numbers.

The Guys Who Call In To Report Rules Violations are getting a lump of coal, a beating with a bag of hammers and a kick in the groin.  Stop it.  You’re not a rules official, so just stick to watching.

Brandel Chamblee is getting his own “hot talk” or talking head show from Santa.  First guest is Jason Duffner.  I don’t mind Brandel being a bit of a bomb thrower; it’s better than everyone unafraid to have a controversial opinion.

The USGA and the R&A are both getting pocket dictionaries from Santa.  If you turn to the page I’ve flagged, please read the definition for the word Bifurcation.  Study it.  Memorize it.  Live it.  Roll back the ball for the US Open and Open Championship.  The women don’t need this, nor do 99% of golfers.  And while you’re doing that, we’re getting rid of the OB rule for us mortals.  Play it as a lateral hazard.  No more walking back and hitting 3 from the tee.

Last, and certainly not least, Santa is giving local courses a short winter, a good growing season, and a 2018 playing season that runs into December.  And for all of the marshals, teaching professionals, superintendents and their staffs, Santa wishes all of you a very Merry Christmas (or the holiday of your choosing) and a prosperous 2018.

SONG OF THE DAY

The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame continues to ignore some highly influential bands and everything that came out of the 80’s New Wave era.  Duran Duran, The Cure, The Smiths, New Order, and Depeche Mode hold up incredibly well.  Three decades later you still have kids ‘discovering’ this music.  At some point they’re going to run out of mediocre old white dude bands and start to induct the New Wave era bands.  Now would be an ideal time.

Giving Thanks in 2017

Being able to play in the desert is always worth giving thanks.

Being able to play in the desert is always worth giving thanks.

It’s been a few weeks since I updated my blog; after returning from the desert a few weeks ago, things have been less than ideal on several levels.  I’ll spare you the details, but it’s been the things that nobody should ever have to endure.  If you’d have told me on October 25th after getting up and down for a 79 that I wouldn’t touch a club at all in November I’d have thought you were crazy (I guess it’s for the best that the weather has been uncooperative).

So it’s from there that I wanted to pause for a moment and offer up some holiday thanks (since this coming Thursday is Thanksgiving in the US; if you’re curious She Who Is Really In Charge and I will be having a quiet dinner) to some people in the golf world who deserve it.

To the LPGA, thanks for providing a blueprint on how to grow the game and engage fans.  It’s a travesty that all four rounds of their Tour Championship this past weekend weren’t being shown live on TV (bump it to USA Network or MSNBC if needed; surely a bunch of USA Network reruns of NCIS and whatever “Prison Lockup” show MSNBC is showing could be bumped to show live golf).

To the USGA and the R&A, thank you for making progress towards simplifying the rules.  I still argue that bifurcation is the way forward with the rules (and equipment) but you’re making an effort.

To all of the local maintenance staffs, superintendents, starters and people who work at golf courses, thank you.  Profusely.  While it’s all good and well to thank the local teaching professionals (and they do great work), if you didn’t have maintenance people doing what they do at zero dark hour things wouldn’t be that much fun for us.  They get next to no credit and blamed for pretty much anything and everything.  Yes, putting on punched greens isn’t fun but it’s punching them that keeps them in great shape.

To Golf Channel, thanks for ensuring I never go more than a week or so without a rerun of the Golf Movie Trinity (Caddyshack, Tin Cup, Bagger Vance).  Can you maybe air the unedited/non-condensed versions after 11pm?  Just a request (and while we’re at it, could you possibly acquire the rights to Dead Solid Perfect which remains the greatest golf movie nobody’s ever seen).

To Alan Shipnuck, thanks for writing a terribly-sourced piece of click-bait on the supposed impending dominance of the Americans in the Ryder Cup.  A US team that has exactly one win on European soil in 35 years (I distinctly remember reading about how the Americans were going to be dominant with Tiger as their anchor; didn’t quite work out that way) should probably avoid talk of a dynasty just yet.  I’m not saying the US doesn’t have what could potentially be a great core of the team, but things happen (Anthony Kim anyone?).  Call me old fashioned but i prefer to actually WIN before pounding my chest.  And while it’s all good and well to point out what a folly it was to have Tom Watson captain the 2014 side I remember reading dozens of pieces about how he’d be the steady hand on the tiller (didn’t quite work out that way).  I also read stories galore about US dominance before the 2004, 2006, 2010 and 2012 matches.

Thanks to the PGA Tour for doing your dead-level best to ensure the DMV doesn’t have a tour stop anytime soon.  The level of support the events here get despite every attempt to let them fail is nothing short of amazing.  The weather issues this event has dealt with (going back to the old Kemper Open days) look like end-of-days stuff.  And yet, people come out in droves to volunteer, buy tickets, attend events, and watch with amazement.

Thanks to our local golf retailers for continuing to fail to stock my size in clothing and footwear and saving me from having to fight traffic in hopes of finding something.  When you wonder “why is retail dying?” see me quietly buying stuff online because I literally don’t have any other options.  When the inevitable fail happens, a lot of good and decent people will lose their jobs as a result.  Please start catering to a wider audience.  Or don’t.  I can literally update my blog and buy a pair of shoes at the same time while enjoying a couple scotches.

To my friend Real Name Redacted, thanks for putting up with my admitted insanity and more-than-occasional OCD behavior (I could write 500 words about tee colour, towel usage and why #2 balls are bad luck and that’s not even my top 5) as we trek all over the DMV to play golf (I may seem normal, but I’m most decidedly not).  It’s been fun seeing you go from curious enthusiast to full-blown addict and putting a unique spin on the Circle of Trust.

Photo from GNNstore.com

Somebody’s Christmas gift available at gnnstore.com

To my putters who’ve endured unspeakable insults and threats, thank you for not rising up in the middle of the night to attack me.  If having conversations with my putters and giving them rum and cigars is wrong, then maybe I don’t want to be right.  Worked for Cerrano in ‘Major League’ so why not, I say.

This may or may not be me before I tee off, trying to wake up my putter.

This may or may not be me before I tee off, trying to wake up my putter.

To all the people who are on Golfchat on Twitter on Tuesday nights, thanks for sharing your insights, opinions, and perspectives.  It’s interesting to hear from other people and learn from their experiences on this game we all love.  We may not agree on every issue but it from hearing each other, maybe we learn something we didn’t fully understand prior.

Best wishes for an enjoyable Thanksgiving if that’s your thing; otherwise thanks as always for reading.

SONG OF THE DAY

For a lot of reasons, this song always brings me back to a happier place.  I’ll pause from my current state of affairs to give thanks, and one small reason is this song which brings a lot of happy memories.

 

Greystone Course Review and a chance to meet SGIC!

From the 2nd hole at Greystone.  A good time to be long and straight.

From the 2nd hole at Greystone. A good time to be long and straight.

As part of my goal to play more courses in Baltimore in 2017, I took a trip up into northern Baltimore County yesterday (August 19th) to play at Greystone Golf Course (located in White Hall, which is north of Hunt Valley for those interested).  Greystone is part of the Baltimore County Revenue Authority portfolio of courses (similar, it seems, to the Montgomery County Golf courses).

3rd hole at Greystone. A long par 3 to clear a hazard and land on a severely sloped green.  The morning mist, combined with the sun coming up made for interesting light conditions.

3rd hole at Greystone. A long par 3 to clear a hazard and land on a severely sloped green. The morning mist, combined with the sun coming up made for interesting light conditions.

Admittedly, I didn’t know much about Greystone beyond having seen it listed in Golfweek Magazine’s ’10 Best You Can Play’ list by state on several occasions (it’s ranked #10 in their 2017 list).  From my humble abode in Columbia it’s an hour drive up to the course.  Not the easiest place in the world to find, but credit to them for having ample signage along the way (strongly prevent having directions or using a GPS).

7th hole at Greystone.  Lay up and then a long 2nd shot over a hazard to a tough green.  Whee!

7th hole at Greystone. Lay up and then a long 2nd shot over a hazard to a tough green. Whee!

Having finished, I can see why it earns the praise it does and it further shows that a municipally-run course can be well taken care of and hold its own against privately-run courses.

18th hole at Greystone.  Still a long ways to go.  Very much a 3-shot par 5.

18th hole at Greystone. Still a long ways to go. Very much a 3-shot par 5.

WHAT I LIKED:

  1. Five sets of tees.  So many courses only have 3 or 4 sets.  They had five sets.  From the tips it’s just under 7,000 yards and from the forward (red) tees it’s 4,800 yards.  I played the front nine with a husband and wife (she was playing from the red tees and enjoying herself and finding plenty of challenge and opportunity).
  2. Conditions.  The hot, humid and spate of strong thunderstorms that we’ve had must be a nightmare for superintendents and it seems like this year has had its own unique challenges.  So full credit to the maintenance staff for their work.  Greens rolled true.  Fairways were in good shape but the turf was probably in need of a trim so not exactly playing firm and fast, but they were consistent.  Rough was, for the most part, thick and lush.
  3. Yardage poles.  I know that this is a bit of controversy for some, but I like them.  For one, it helps people determine yardages since not everyone carries a GPS device/watch or a rangefinder.  Second, it helps someone see how the fairway is laid out (especially on semi-blind tee shots).
  4. Five par 3’s, five par 5’s.  Don’t see this very often.  Both nines start with a par 5.  The par 3’s vary quite a bit in length (white tee lengths listed) from 130-175 yards (when I played it ran from 120-195 yards).  The closing hole (572 yards from the tips, 541 from the white tees) is a 3-shot deal.  Three of the par 5’s are under 500 yards from the white tees.
  5. Not a lot of housing.  With the exception of a couple holes on the back nine, you don’t see any housing.  It’s pure golf.
  6. A nice sign in the pro shop and a nice link on their website about their aerification schedule.   Well done.
  7. Pro shop was well stocked and had the kind of things you’d expect to find.
  8. Everyone I met that worked there was friendly.  Guy in the pro shop was nice; the guys in the staging area dealing with carts and getting people off were nice enough as well.  I’d also comment that since I left my glove (I do typically go to a new one after 6-8 rounds, so sue me for that) at home I had to buy one there; not sure what it says when the one I buy at a course is $4.00 cheaper than at a retail store beyond thanks for not ripping me off.

WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE

  1. Cart path only.  The fairways and roughs weren’t wet other than from overnight dew.  Not spongy a bit.  I understand the par 3’s and hole 15 (tight, tree-lined, clearly doesn’t get a lot of sun) but otherwise I’m not sure about this.  They didn’t get that much rain the night before (according to the NWS).  It really slows pace of play up.  If it were wet I’d understand, but it wasn’t that wet.
  2. Didn’t see a beverage cart all day.  Water stations weren’t plentiful.  I don’t expect courses to have the holy shrines of ice/water machines like Potomac Shores (TPC Potomac also has them) has, but seeing a beverage cart would be nice.  It was warm and humid.  For a course that does a lot of things well, this struck something of an odd note.   Trying to finish quickly I didn’t make a stop at the turn, so I can’t comment on that.  If you do go, you can hit the clubhouse after the 4th, 9th, and 18th hole.
  3. Cart paths were pretty beat up.  Don’t think anyone’s going to talk about how great the asphalt is.  Excusable given the conditions of the fairways and greens.

IF YOU GO

  1. Give yourself plenty of time to get there and to come back.  Traffic on the Baltimore Beltway (I-695) rivals its DC cousin, and I-83 can be less than fun.
  2. You don’t need to bring 2 dozen balls but don’t show up with a sleeve and think that’ll get you through the day.  There’s enough holes with forced carries and hazards to give most players pause for thought.
  3. Some of the bunkers are pretty deep so be good with that 56-58 degree sand wedge.
  4. There’s not really much of anything near the course (probably 4-5 miles south on MD-45 until you hit what appears to be civilization).
  5. Have directions.  Once you make the turn from MD-45 for the street to the course, it’s a several miles of 1-lane (in each direction) road.  Watch out for deer and other drivers.
  6. You don’t need to be long, but accuracy is rewarded.
  7. Someone chop that damn tree near the tee on the 8th hole.  Please.

OVERALL

Greystone is a great challenge for most golfers including single digit handicappers.  It’s not quite on the par of a Bulle Rock or Worthington Manor but for a county-run course it’s outstanding.  If it were in Howard County I’d put it on a par with Waverly Woods and above Timbers at Troy or the CA courses.  In short, go.

 

MY PUBLIC DEMANDED IT

Okay, that’s probably not true (and by probably I mean ‘in no way’) but barring an emergency I’ll be making an appearance on Monday, August 21st at the HoCoBlogs event at BareBones Grill in Ellicott City.  Watch me attempt to eat food without spilling on myself.  Watch me consume alcohol.  Listen to me have terrible opinions about golf.  Watch me interact with other bloggers (sorry folks, but She Who Is Really In Charge will not be there- someone has to take care of the dog).

Potomac Shores Course Review

When I think of Jack Nicklaus-designed courses, I think of private country clubs with members who enjoy their enclaves of solitude (Muirfield Village in Ohio comes to mind pretty quickly).  In that I’m decidedly not a member anywhere, I accepted that this was the way things were.  So when I heard about a Nicklaus-designed course down in Dumfries, VA named Potomac Shores being open to the public a couple years ago, I’ll confess I was interested (especially given Potomac Shores‘ rather interesting history).

Driving range & practice area at Potomac Shores.

Driving range & practice area at Potomac Shores.

There’s little question that if there was a Mount Rushmore for American golf architects that Nicklaus would be on it; the sheer volume of his work (I’m convinced if someone wanted a course on the moon that Nicklaus would not only design it but would incorporate his own style along with the natural contours of the moon) and that his work has become as much of a brand as anything else he touches (I haven’t had his ice cream yet but you know it’s probably good).

From the 1st tee at Potomac Shores. Not a handshake hole by any means.

From the 1st tee at Potomac Shores. Not a handshake hole by any means.

Rather than go hole-by-hole with some comments, I’ll separate this into a few different parts:

WHAT I LIKED:

  1. The course is more than playable for low, mid and high handicappers.  I play (not nearly enough but work and life get in the way) with a former colleague who plays to an index in the low 20’s, while my index is closer to 10.  I’m a bit longer off the tee and my years of practice around the greens pays off on occasion.  But you don’t have to be a low-digit handicapper to enjoy this course.  From the silver tees (that we played) it’s less than 6,000 yards but still plays to a 132 slope which is no pushover.  If your index is in the 20’s and you play from the gold tees (because you see just under 6,400 yards and think ‘piece of cake’) you’re going to be in for a long day (and by that, you may want to make sure you have plenty of balls).
  2. Fairways are generous but bad shots get punished.  It’s not impossible to put the ball in the fairway off the tee and leave yourself a decent chance to get the ball onto the green in regulation.  Which leads me to my next point…
  3. Greens are big and require accuracy.  Greens are often multi-tiered and being on the wrong side or wrong tier is, in some cases, worse than being off the green.
  4. Service.  Too many courses still fail to see golfers as customers.  Not the case here.  Everyone I ran into was unfailingly polite and hospitable.  The starter was competent and made us feel welcome.  The people in the pro shop were friendly and helpful.  The course is managed by Troon Golf if that matters to you.
  5. Ice water stations.  The day we played was quite hot and humid.  Being able to stop for a cup of ice water was pretty darn nice.  Makes you wonder why more courses don’t do this especially in the mid-Atlantic.
  6. Beverage cart.  It’s hot, and occasionally you want something besides ice water.  Saw the beverage cart twice (we went out early so I don’t expect to see them early on).  Can’t complain.
  7. Lack of houses.  Even though Potomac Shores is part of a larger housing development, it didn’t feel like it (in 4-5 years this may not be the case).  It felt like a course by itself that was adjacent to a housing development.  I played South River a few years ago (before it went private) and it felt like I was in someone’s backyard.
  8. Free range balls.  We paid $100 each to play which isn’t free.  Including range balls and use of their excellent practice facility is a nice touch.  The range (picture above) was country-club level nice.
  9. Conditions.  Despite the heat wave we were in, the course was, for the most part, in great shape (the photo below you can see some brown spots in the fairway but these were few and far between).
9th hole at Potomac Shores (their 'signature' hole).   Tee is more than a bit elevated.

9th hole at Potomac Shores (their ‘signature’ hole). Tee is more than a bit elevated.

WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE

  1. The horse flies and other biting insects.   If you play here in the summer, bug spray is pretty much a requirement.  Not remotely kidding on this one.  On the scorching hot & humid day we played, you can tack sunscreen on.  Re-apply often.  A hazmat suit might not be a bad idea.
  2. Bunkers.  A few bunkers are good.  A lot is too many.  I know that Nicklaus uses them and that’s fine, but on two occasions I didn’t have a rake anywhere near the bunker.  For a place that does so many things right, this seemed odd.  Did Michael Greller come and take them or something?
  3. Sizes in the pro shop.  I’m big & tall and would occasionally like to come home with a souvenir beyond the logo ball.  I’d have happily handed over money for a shirt if they had one in my size.  I can’t be the only person who thinks this.  This happens a lot at higher-end courses (although if I’m being honest, She Who Is Really In Charge probably likes that I’m not throwing down $60 on a golf shirt with regularity).  But it would be nice to have it as an option.
  4. No GPS in carts.  Given that rangefinders and wearable devices are pretty common, having carts with GPS would help (especially for first-timers) especially with pace of play.  We were first out and finished in 3 hours 40 minutes playing as a foursome (we got paired up with a couple who were members).

IF YOU GO (AND YOU SHOULD):

  1. The course is right off I-95 just south of Potomac Mills.  If you don’t normally trek this way, traffic sucks.  I mean, it really sucks.  So give yourself plenty of time to get there (they have free range balls- did I mention this?).
  2. A yardage book isn’t a bad expenditure if they don’t have GPS on carts, because several holes are target variety and you can (and will) end up in trouble if you don’t know where to avoid.  Measurements are to the centre of the green, NOT to the pin (and the greens are huge so take heed).
  3. Play it forward.  I played from the silver tees and didn’t feel the least bit shame in doing so.  I prefer to hit short irons as approach shots rather than long irons and hybrids.   It’s more fun (not to brag but I made two birdies and should have had 1-2 more).
  4. The greens are huge.  Being on the right side of the green is a huge advantage.
  5. A couple holes have views of the Potomac river (notably from the 3rd tee).
  6. There are several holes that have lengthy rides between holes (even on a cart) so the course really isn’t a walker’s paradise.
Third hole at Potomac Shores. Pro tip: don't get too cute at cutting off the dogleg.

Third hole at Potomac Shores. Pro tip: don’t get too cute at cutting off the dogleg.

OVERALL:

To the best of my knowledge it’s the only Nicklaus designed course in the area that’s open to the public (if you can get on Creighton Farms contact me and I’ll be happy to join you).  I’m not a guru of golf architecture but this course is definitely a Nicklaus design.  Lots of elevated tees and greens, plenty of bunkers, and playable for a variety of levels.  Golfweek has it ranked in the top 10 for ‘Best You Can Play’ in their 2017 rankings for the state of Virginia if that matters to you.    Most importantly, I had a good time and I’d happily come back.  If you haven’t been, it’s worth the drive.

 

Bulle Rock RIP?

After hearing from several people through the grapevine that Bulle Rock golf course, consistently ranked as the #1 public access course in the state, may be on its last legs.  An article cites several issues that Harbor East Management Group (who owns the development) has with taxes and abatement charges (read the article).  Lest we forget, they own the Baltimore Marriott Waterfront hotel in the Harbor East development and pay a grand total of $1.00 in property taxes (according to the article).

Here’s the problem- people work at the golf course, and people spend money to play the golf course.  Not just in green fees, but food and beverage (money that gets redistributed in Harford County), and likely helps with tourism given its lofty ranking.

Its closure would signal a massive shakeup in public-access golf in the region, and more worrisome, could have a domino effect of sorts.

This should be a year to celebrate golf in the region as three professional tournaments are being held in the area; the Senior PGA Championship was held over Memorial Day weekend at Trump National in Sterling, this week sees the Quicken Loans National at TPC Potomac (played it in 2012 and was very impressed), and the seniors return in mid-July to Caves Valley for the Senior Players Championship (if we could just get an LPGA event in the DMV…oh to dream).  Instead, it looks like what is arguably the best ‘course you can play’ in the region may be going away.

IN VIRGINIA…

On the other side of the Potomac River, Landsdowne Resort is being sold to an Asian developer, but according to someone in the know, plans to continue operating the course ‘for now’ which doesn’t exactly sound promising.

OTHER LOCAL GOLF NEWS

Congrats to the fine people at Golfmatch announced that they have entered into a partnership with Troon.  Full disclosure- I use Golfmatch and find it useful.  I played in one of their events and enjoyed myself.  It’s a great way to meet other golfers and share experiences (and as much as I want argue otherwise, the reality is that we all want experiences).  If I didn’t use it I’d still mention it because Troon has one of the more impressive portfolios just from their Americas portfolio.

Long weekend coming up- sure, it’s going to be hot but who cares!  Get out there and tee it up!

Timbers At Troy Course Review 2017 version

2nd hole at Timbers at Troy. Hello, old friend. It's been a while.

2nd hole at Timbers at Troy. Hello, old friend. It’s been a while.

First off, happy Father’s day to all the dads.   My father never played golf and didn’t have any desire to take up the game- he played professional baseball (minor leagues), and prior to my arrival in his world he played doubles tennis but wasn’t a golfer.  While I prefer whiskey, bourbon and Scotch, my father drank a gin martini every night and God help you if you screwed with that (I don’t dislike gin, but I prefer other spirits).   He passed away more than 20 years ago, and I miss the stubborn SOB all the time mostly because we could argue and disagree on a level that I cannot possibly put into words (which happened pretty much all the time).

I mention this because it was on Father’s Day that I went back to Timbers at Troy for the first time in 3 years when the course had fallen into a state of disrepair.  I do remember playing at Timbers on Fathers Day in 2007 or 2008 and getting paired up with a father/son playing together.  I tried to avoid being a third wheel, but the father seemed to gravitate towards me while the son was a weepy, pathetic mess of humanity seeking an “experience” with his father (if you’re that son and reading this, just enjoy each day for what it is.  Be your own man.

When Timbers closed for renovations and repairs last fall, I didn’t know what the next chapter of this course would look like.  The course I remember from 3 + years ago was one with washed out hardpan bunkers, chewed-up tee boxes, fairways that had seen better days, and greens that were inconsistent.  I’ve long complained about the state of affairs for Howard County public golf (the CA courses are at best a mixed bag, Waverly Woods seems to have its act together, while Timbers at Troy is still the big question mark).

So it was on a peak summer-like hot and steamy morning that I made that familiar drive off MD-100 to see what seven months’ closure had done.

Whether you play off #1 or #10, both starters are among the toughest holes on the course; long par 4’s that require two accurate shots to reach the green.  Whatever optimism I had about the state of affairs took a punch to the gut fairly quickly.  The fairway on #1 was a soggy, spongy mess and the area around the green had several spots that should have been Ground Under Repair (the bunkers on either side did look quite good).

10th hole at Timbers at Troy.  A good time to hit one straight.

10th hole at Timbers at Troy. A good time to hit one straight.

Unfortunately, the 1st hole was fairly consistent with what I saw most of my round.  Either heavy overnight rain or over-watering (I didn’t have any rain at my house yesterday but I suppose it’s possible that Timbers got a deluge) made most of the fairways fairly wet and heavy.  The tee boxes were a mixed bag; some were in great shape and others looked like they’d been used by a rugby team for scrum practice.  Roughs were also inconsistent, however several areas had the obvious signs of being re-sodded.

13th green at Timbers at Troy.  As you can see some areas are still in need of some TLC.

13th green at Timbers at Troy. As you can see some areas are still in need of some TLC.

If there’s hope with the course conditions, it’s on the greens.  The surfaces were hardly US Open level speeds, but they were smooth and consistent (which  99.9% of golfers will gladly take).  Hopefully, others will make sure to repair pitch marks and ball marks (if you’re not then shame on you).   I was impressed with the greens.

The layout is unchanged.  It’s certainly not the longest track in the area (from the tips it’s under 6700 yards, and from the blues it’s less than 6200 yards but has a rather stout slope rating of 133) but it demands accuracy.  For all of its shortcomings, it’s still a great layout with a nice variety of holes and lengths.  The longest par 5 is just over 510 yards from the blue tees but wild shots are punished.  The elevation changes aren’t overly dramatic other than the 14th hole (a shortish par 3 that plays 1-2 clubs shorter), but they are noticeable.

From the 18th tee at Timbers at Troy. More uphill than it looks.

From the 18th tee at Timbers at Troy. More uphill than it looks.

One other improvement was the staff.   The pro shop, the starter and even the ranger/marshal were all if nothing else friendly (and I firmly believe this goes a long way).  This was not always the case; more than once I can remember going to the pro shop or dealing with the starter and thinking I was an intrusion and not a customer.

So overall, conditions are improved at Timbers but they have some work to do.  The bones are there; now they just need to take it to that next level.

 

Waverly Woods Revisited

From just off the 1st tee at Waverly Woods.  Cold, sun just coming up. Hoping for the best.

From just off the 1st tee at Waverly Woods. Cold, sun just coming up. Hoping for the best.

The last time I played Waverly Woods was in September 2015, and to put it politely I was unimpressed about the pace of play (and more importantly that nobody from the course seemed to give a rip).  I wrote some pretty unflattering words, and I meant (and still do) every word of it based on what was happening at the time.  For a course to permit rounds going over 5 1/2 hours in your dew-sweeper groups is doing the game a disservice not to mention area golfers.  It’s simply going to kill the game.

However, I gave this quite a bit of thought, and wanted to see if things had changed there.  If I’m being honest, I wanted it to improve because the layout is one of the best in the area, and seeing the course function better serves the golfing public far better than if it’s known as a pace-of-play graveyard.  If I make pointed complaints, much of it comes from wanting to see this area serve public golfers better.  I seek not to take people down, but rather, to hopefully see things elevated.

It was in this vein that I made the relatively short drive up to Marriottsville on a chilly Sunday morning (I was worried about a frost delay but we escaped that).  After parking and changing shoes, I went into the pro shop and paid my green fee (range balls were included but I didn’t really have time to hit balls so I went to the short game area and hit a few chips before we started our round).

From the rough on the third hole.  Green is to the far right of the photo (bad aim on my part).

From the rough on the third hole. Green is to the far right of the photo (bad aim on my part).

Despite what must be a challenging winter, the course was, for the most part, in pretty good shape.  Fairways were well manicured, rough wasn’t overly penal, and the greens were fairly true.  One of their members was in my group and he mentioned that they had hired a new GM at the course (apparently the previous one enjoyed the free golf perk quite a bit, while the new one seems to be more concerned about how the course operates) that had been well received.

From the 8th tee at Waverly Woods. Love this hole.  Loved it more after I managed a birdie.

From the 8th tee at Waverly Woods. Love this hole. Loved it more after I managed a birdie.

The good news- pace of play was better (we were first out so there’s no reason it shouldn’t be).  The other twosome in our group were good guys who needed the occasional nudge, but by and large kept it moving.  We finished in 3 hours and 40 minutes (and more importantly the group in back of us only waited on us 2-3 times…still 2-3 times more than they should have had to, but by the time we got to the back nine we hardly saw them).

From the tee at the 15th hole. That townhouse on the right...that's more in play for a slicer than it should be.

From the tee at the 15th hole. That townhouse on the right…that’s more in play for a slicer than it should be.

I did notice that marshals/player assistants on carts at least 2-3 times during the round.  I won’t speculate if they were looking at a time par or making sure we weren’t holding up the group in back of us, but nothing was said to us (I know this is never fun but even a “doing okay fellas but let’s keep things moving- you shouldn’t be seeing the group in back of you” can be well received).

13th hole- a long and very difficult par 3.  I managed to get on the green in regulation. Miracles do happen.

13th hole- a long and very difficult par 3. I managed to get on the green in regulation. Miracles do happen.

The layout is largely unchanged from my visit two years ago, nor should it need to be changed.  It remains a great test with a very wide range of hole lengths (both short and long par 4’s and par 3’s).  The 13th hole (above) is as tough of a par 3 as you’ll fine in the area.  Miss left and you’re well below the hole.  Miss right and you’ve got an almost impossible chip shot downhill to a very slick green.  Even on the green if on the wrong half relative to the hole location is brutal as well.

17tg hole at Waverly Woods.  Target golf at its finest.

17tg hole at Waverly Woods. Target golf at its finest.

While you do see homes on most holes, only on a few holes are they really in play (and this is the reality we have with newer courses).

So all in all, I had a good time at Waverly Woods.  If you can keep the ball in the fairway and get around in four hours, it’s as good of a test of golf that exists for public golfers in the DMV.  They have a pro-shop/grill room that has what you’d expect to see.  They do have a beverage cart during the warmer months (didn’t see one when I played), and as I’ve mentioned before, the green grass driving range and their short game area are better than you’d see at most private clubs.

 

Major Championship Rules Snafu Version 3.0

For the third time in 10 months, a major championship will be best remembered for a terribly managed rules issue rather than for great golf and a worthy champion.  Lexi Thompson was denied the title last night at the ANA Inspiration because someone emailed the LPGA that she thought that Lexi Thompson moved her ball illegally on the 17th hole of Saturday’s third round.   Below is a clip from Golf Channel’s coverage last night:

I’ll point out that at no point did her playing partner nor the walking rules official see any issue with it (who are the primary sources for bringing up any issues).  Nobody on Golf Channel’s coverage (their own rules expert as well as the broadcast team- all experts at golf) saw an issue with it at the time.  None of the print journalists saw an issue nor did anyone covering the event.

No other sport entertains cranks who call in to report this kind of stuff other than golf.  Tennis (golf’s closest comparable) has a fantastic replay system that takes 5-10 seconds to review.  Call the ATP or the WTA about a foot-fault and you might as well yell at clouds.  The professional golf tours should act similarly.

It wasn’t until someone emailed the LPGA after play had ended (the LPGA didn’t see the email until Sunday) to report the issue.  This is wrong on two accounts (besides the larger issue of why professional golf should EVER give these people so much as the time of day):

1) If the viewer waited until Sunday to send the email (or after Saturday’s round), then this is a whole new level of being a shithead, because in doing so you’re setting up Lexi Thompson to fail knowing that she already signed her scorecard which brings in an additional penalty for signing an incorrect scorecard (how much money did this asshole have on someone other than Lexi Thompson because this reeks of some dickhead who had money on someone else and was scrambling trying to figure out a way to not lose?  Oh, am I not being fair to this asshole?  Tough.  In one email he effectively changed the result of a major championship- I hope this person has nightmares about it for the rest of their life, and may the 877-KARS-4-KIDS song be stuck in your head for the next 1000 years).  The word you’re looking for here in entrapment.

2) If the viewer sent the email on Saturday, why did the LPGA not immediately contact Lexi Thompson and say “please come back here NOW” and at the very least, administer the penalty BEFORE the start of Sunday’s round?   Surely it would have been better to let Lexi know where she stood BEFORE teeing off on Sunday (and if you’re so damn worried about protecting the field announce it then as well).  That way, everyone knows what’s going on and can plan accordingly.  In this case, telling her after finishing her 12th hole of the final round is absurd.  Most of the field had finished their round so this idea of protecting the field goes out the window (if you teed off thinking you were 6 or 7 shots off the lead as opposed to 2 or 3, your thinking is going to be entirely different).

So this jerk that thinks he’s a hero is anything but a hero.  Either way you look at it, what this person did was patently wrong.

So how do you go forward?

1) Effective today, professional golf and any governing body has to agree that any rules issues brought up by a viewer is to be ignored.  The role of protecting the field and enforcing the rules has to be the dominion of the players (as specified by the rules of golf) and the on-site rules officials.  The tours should immediately enact a local rule at all tournaments that advice from an outside agency/TV viewer is not to be considered.

2) Players and on-site rules officials should be reminded that they should act immediately if they see something.  I don’t have an issue with a rules official saying “let’s take a look at this on TV” if they’re not sure but the decision has to be made at that point and before the player signs their scorecard.

3) If you want TV to step in, then the professional tours should immediately set up a remote TV rules bunker/war room (MLB, NHL and the NFL have these, as does both codes of rugby).  This means that every player has to be viewed on every hole (otherwise you’re not enforcing the rules evenly).  If the TV war room/bunker see an issue they can contact one of the on-site rules officials and review the infraction with the player immediately.

4) You can’t have things be subject to review after the round is finished.  They don’t do this after the final round, so why is it accepted after the first three rounds?  If there’s any doubt from anyone, the player should be advised to not sign their scorecard until they can review it.

Three incidents in 10 months regarding rules infractions that have been badly managed is three too many.  This simply cannot continue.

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