Butler Cabin, Augusta National (c) Burgh Golfer

Friday, December 31, 2010

2010 Professional Golf Year in Review: Transition

2010 was quite a year in professional golf and it certainly had its interesting moments. I thought I would provide a recap of my favorite moments and things that stood out for me as an average fan watching from the outside.

I am calling this year’s recap Transition for several reasons. For the record, I realize that the Kenny Perry, Trevor Immelman Transitions Lenses commercials were on TV quite a bit, but that’s not the reason I chose the word Transition.

Here are some transitional memories from 2010.

• Tiger Woods did not win a single tournament in 2010, which is the first time since he was a small child that he did not win some type of an event in a single season.

• Tiger Woods lost his number one world ranking to Lee Westwood of England.

• Tiger Woods changed coaches from Hank Haney to Sean Foley (or maybe he got fired by Haney - not really sure but either way it is a big deal).

• Rory McIlroy won his first PGA tournament in Charlotte. This is the first of many potential wins. As a side note, my personal prediction is that he will be the dominate player in the world within 5 years.

• The US lost the Ryder Cup to the Europeans. I never thought that Corey Pavin, knick-named The Bulldog would be such a passive captain. He brought new meaning to the phrase California Laidback.

• Dustin Johnson lost not one but two Majors in dramatic fashion.

• The rules officials were quite active this year. Remember Dustin Johnson in the bunker on the 18th hole of the PGA. Or, Ian Poulter dropping his ball mark and losing the playoff in Dubai.

• Who can forget Graham McDowell, quite possibly the Global Player of the Year. He wins the US Open at Pebble, wins the Ryder Cup for Europe, then stares down Tiger to win in a playoff at the Chevron.

• Phil Mickelson won the Masters with quite possibly the greatest shot in Masters history off the pine straw on the par 5 13th. It was absolutely amazing and a career defining shot.

• The 59’s shot by Appleby and Goydos. Who would have ever thought Goydos could shoot a 59? It goes to show how good they ALL are on their best day.

• Who can forget Ryo Ishikawa shooting a 58 in Japan? I don’t care where you are playing, a 58 anywhere is unreal at the age of 18.

• Paula Creamer winning the US Open; great to see an American win our national open.

What were your favorite moments of the 2010 golf season?

Thursday, December 30, 2010

2010 Personal Golf Year in Review

2010 was quite a year in professional golf and for me personally on the golf course. I achieved several goals this year and had a great time with friends in and around the game. So, for a year end review I thought I would put up two posts. Today’s post is about my year and tomorrows will be about the Professional game. I had to document some of these highlights as they may never occur again.

• 2010 Club Champion at my home course in the Championship Flight – no doubt the highlight of the year

• Holing out for eagle from 94 yards on the 24th hole of the Championship Match to win 4 and 3

• Winning the LV Team Championship this fall with my buddy Randy

• Meeting The King Arnold Palmer – pretty special

• Finishing second place in a team outing with my uncle at Mountaineer Golf Course

• Winning a team event at WCC with my buddy Sam – a putting display I will not soon forget, great job Sam

• Attended the 2010 Masters, my first time at the event

• Watching Tiger play his first practice round on Monday at Augusta prior to the event for his first public appearance since the scandal.

• Watching Tiger and Fred Couple stroll over the Hogan Bridge on the 12th at Augusta

• Playing three great golf courses in North Carolina; The Ballantyne Private Course, TPC Piper Glen and Pinehurst no. 8

• I had the opportunity to play four different courses at PGA National. The Bear Trap got the better of me on the Championship course.

• Attended the 2010 US Women’s Open at Oakmont and watched the Pink Panther bring home the trophy.

• Being contacted by the Publisher Gotham Books to do a book review on Stan Utley’s book called “The Art of Scoring.” This review will be done in January so keep an eye out for it.

• I even got the wife on the course a few times

• Last but not least starting the Golf Blog and receiving almost 1,000 page views in the first six months. It has been a lot of fun and I am looking forward to adding to and improving the blog in 2011.

How was your golf year? Did anything exciting happen to you?

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Where Have All the Characters Gone

Is it me or does Professional Golf seem to get more boring to watch with each passing year. It reminds me of the song by Paula Cole, “Where Have all the Cowboys Gone”? So, this in this weeks blog I ask, Where Have all the Characters Gone?

It is well documented about how much pressure the current players are under, playing for those huge purses. The talking head golf analysts say that because of the purse sizes there is less personality in the game. They claim that the players are playing for so much money and the fields are so much stronger than they used to be. Let’s face it, the players do not interact with the fans as much as they used to. They certainly give few straight answers to the media during interviews.

One of the neat things about the history of Professional Golf is the interesting characters and personalities who have played the game. Players like the Merry Mex- Lee Trevino, The King- Arnold Palmer, The Shark- Greg Norman among others. One of my favorite stories is when Lee Trevino talks about “playing for money”, i.e. betting when he had less money to his name than the bet on the course he was playing for. Trevino always said “now that’s pressure”. I would agree, whether Tiger or Phil win another million dollar check it does not matter to their financial well being. Knowing that they should be smiling from ear to ear knowing they have a net worth upwards of one billion dollars. They should be the happiest guys on the planet.

I have a theory when the shift occurred and point to the Sir Nick Faldo era for the change. Nick made it “acceptable” to be boring, stiff, reserved and unemotional on the course. Somewhere along the line these players forgot who is paying for their big purses, TV rights, endorsements. The fan, spectator or patron does and they want to see a show when they go to a golf tournament. The fans want to see a little character, flair and excitement. Not a bunch of overpaid, pampered athletes without any personality strolling down the fairways on their way to another million dollar payday. Although I have never been a big fan of Sergio Garcia, at least he played with passion, was inspired and showed his emotion on the golf course. Other tour players could learn from that example.

So when I ran across this article on Golf.com about Titanic Thompson I had to draw attention to this personality in Golf from the 30’s and 40’s. Although he was not exactly a model citizen or even a tour player he did bring some personality to the game. In his era he played, hustled and gambled for large sums of money on the golf course. In fact, he probably made far more money playing the game than did the Touring Golf Professionals of that time. So, one could argue that although quite talented it would have cost him too much money to turn professional.

Like most golf fans I knew little about Titanic Thompson prior to this article however, he was an interesting character and his story deserves to be told. As we look back on golf’s history it is worth noting these types of individuals who have a place in the game. Although Titanic may have never won a PGA Tournament or a Major Championship he does have a place in the game. He did interact with the likes of Byron Nelson, Ben Hogan, Lee Trevino and Ray Floyd as the article suggests. So for that he does deserve a mention with these greats in the game.

Who do you think were some of the most interesting characters in the game? Leave a comment with your thoughts.


Friday, December 17, 2010

Davis Love III to be named Ryder Cup Captain for 2012 team

It has been reported that Davis Love III will be named as the next Captain of the US Ryder Cup Team. It was an expected choice and a deserving one. Davis Love III has been a fixture in Professional Golf and on the PGA Tour for over twenty years. He has played the game with class, grace, and an effortless golf swing that is a beauty to watch.

So, what kind of captain will Davis make? How will he manage his team? How will he select his Captain’s Picks? What will his strategy be to take down the European Team so the US can regain the cup?

As an observer of golf, I have certainly watched Davis play many times. I have seen many interviews over the years and he strikes me as a genuine individual. There does not seem to be any false front, big ego, or devious motives. So, my guess is that his team will play to win for him and the Cup. I can foresee his players rallying together to win one for their captain. You can’t help but play harder, prepare better, or get more fired up to win when you have a captain you admire, respect, and dare I say “Love.”

As far as how he will manage his team, I would venture to say he will be a strategic thinker in how he goes about his business. He will take this approach in selecting the Captain’s Picks, setting up the pairings, laying out the course and probably even picking the team uniforms. Hopefully, there will not be another rain gear malfunction like we had at this year’s Ryder Cup.

I can also foresee Davis speaking to Paul Azinger about his strategy. Paul is a contemporary player and probably a good friend to Davis. Paul also happens to be the last captain to win the Ryder Cup for the US in quite awhile. He may even solicit some advice from Corey Pavin, the most recent US Captain who failed to win. There is much that can be learned in losing and perhaps Davis will glean a little insight from Corey on that so mistakes are not repeated.

Finally, how will he select his Captain’s Picks? Will he simply fall back on the age-old adage of picking the players who are playing great leading up to the Cup? Or, will he pick personalities, guys who can gel as a team -- that play well together, play like a team and play hard for their Captain and country. Prior to this year’s Ryder Cup, many analysts questioned Pavin’s pick of PGA Tour Rookie Rickie Fowler. I loved the pick because I enjoy watching guys who know how to win. Guys who have a little flare and can dig deep down inside and play their best when it matters most. Fowler had an impressive record as an amateur and a good year on the PGA Tour leading up to the Cup. Rickie proved that on the final day single matches when he stormed back to birdie the final four holes to tie his match with Molinari that included a twenty foot putt at 18.

So, let’s hope Davis picks some guys who love the game, know how to win, and are not afraid to show it. Who can forget Boo Weekley at the 08 Cup? I would hate to see another US Team that includes a bunch of Prima Donnas who act like robots and share little passion for the game.

Davis Love III was an assistant captain for the 2010 U.S. Ryder Cup team. (Getty Images)

Friday, December 10, 2010

Silly Season Golf

What happened to the excitement in the Silly Season of Golf? It used to be that after the PGA Tour Championship there was not much noteworthy, televised Golf to watch. The Silly Season really began with the Skins Game, which in the 80’s and 90’s actually meant something. Then came the Shark Shootout, Wendy’s Three Tour Challenge, PGA Grand Slam of Golf and most recently the Tiger Woods Invitational, aka The Chevron World Challenge.

Since the 2001 Skins Game when Greg Norman won all the Skins in the event, I started to lose interest in Silly Season Golf. After all, it really comes down to a bunch of millionaire golfers playing for a few charity dollars, in events that no one watches or records on DVR to watch later, skipping through all the commercials and boring interviews.

So, after bashing the Silly Season, I must say that this year’s Tiger Woods Invitational, the Chevron World Challenge, was actually enjoyable to watch for two reasons. First, I predicted in a previous blog posted November 19th that Tiger may actually win this event. That prediction was very close to coming true. On the 18th hole of the Chevron, Tiger stuffed his approach shot to about three feet. In the past this would have caused his playing partner to fold like a tent. Then Tiger would stroll on to victory, smile for the cameras, answer questions without any meaning, then collect his check and fly home on his private jet. Not so fast this year. Graham McDowell, an Irish sensation, didn’t fold. He stared down Tiger on the 18th hole, hit an okay approach shot, and then drained about a 20 foot putt to force a playoff.

At this point Tiger must have been thinking “how is this possible?” “This never happens to me.” So, Tiger and Graham went to a playoff and once again Graham hit an approach shot on the 18th hole to about 25 feet. I thought to myself, what are the chances of Graham making another putt on the 18th hole to win this thing? On the “Man Couch” I said to myself, there is no way he misses this putt. Graham made every putt this year that counted. He’s made putts at the US Open, the Ryder Cup, and on this very same hole about twenty minutes earlier when it mattered.

Sure enough Graham drained the putt and went on to win the 2010 Chevron World Challenge. You could see the disappointment in Tiger’s eyes when he lost. Tiger didn’t want to finish the 2010 season without a win of any fashion, but he did loose. This is probably the first time since Tiger was a young junior that he did not win an event of a kind in a single year.

For me this event was not your typical “Silly Season” event. It was great golf, by two world class players battling to win a tournament, on a great Jack Nicklaus Golf Course. If this is the type of golf and competition we can come to expect from the Silly Season, count me in.

Now I can’t wait to see what the Shark pulls out at this weekend’s Shark Shootout. Stay tuned.

Getty Images

Friday, December 3, 2010

Gifts Golfers Want Least

It’s the holiday season again and time for golfers to make their lists for Santa. Each year most of us who play the game get at least one golf gift that should be categorized as a gag gift or borderline ridiculous.

We have all opened packages on Christmas morning to find a pair of ugly golf pants, a crazy plaid sweater or a poorly scripted golf video. Why do our loved ones insist on buying us these things? Are they joking, or simply have no clue on what golfers really want?

As much as pretend to be excited and surprised, in the back of our mind we are thinking, “oh no, not another bad golf present”. How am I going to return this? I hope they included a gift receipt.

Here are a few gifts you should NOT buy for your friends and family members this holiday season.

The Golf Tie. Every season has an ugly tie. Spare the golfers!!! No ties displaying golfing Santas, please!

The Exploding Golf Ball. Yep, I got one of these a few years ago and of course, it is still in my garage – unused. I’m thinking about using it on the person who gave it to me one day.

Animal Head Covers. Unless your gift recipient is named; Tiger, The Shark or The Walrus, we do not need any animal head covers, especially Flamingos.

Complicated Swing Aids. Did you see the one that looks like it came from a Chinese Torture Chamber? A better gift idea would be lessons from a qualified local PGA Professional.

Ugly Golf Clothing. Unfortunately, golf has a reputation for plaid sweaters and knickers. Please do not add to this stereotype. Most of us don’t want to look like Ian Poulter.

The Golf Ball Paper Weight. It only encourages more desk clutter.

Motivational Golf Posters. Like “Frustration.” with the tag line "it is a sad fact that, regardless of effort or talent, second place means you are in a long line of losers.

Golf Ball Key Chains. Way to difficult and embarrassing to walk around with an extra ball in your front pocket.

Naked Lady Golf Tees. Need I say more? Too distracting.

Bad Golf Movies. Stick with classics like the original Caddyshack or Tin Cup.

A Golf Net. It will drive your spouse or neighbors nuts depending on whether it is in the basement or backyard

Golf Screen Saver. Way too tempting. Hmmmm…should I work or play golf today?

Looking back, the only ridiculous golf gift that I actually liked was a t-shirt that said I Love My Wife Golf. No need to yell back in an agreement. Instead, I just headed upstairs and put on that shirt. Enough said.

Or, on a positive note if we do receive one of these gifts this year, then we will have something for the gift exchange next year.

Merry Christmas,

Source for head cover; www.gifts.com
Source for tees; www.golfnut.com

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanks Golfing Day

As we all recover from too much TPF (Turkey, Pie and Football) and as the 2010 golf season winds down, let’s reflect on the year and what we are thankful for. Around the Thanksgiving table we usually hear the following phrases as thanks. I’ve decided to have a little fun with those commonly used phrases and translate the meaning for us golfers.

• I am thankful for my health -translation; I am thankful to be healthy enough to play the game.

• I am thankful for the turkey -translation; I am thankful for the occasional birdie.

• I am thankful for friends and family -translation; I am thankful for my regular foursome.

• I am thankful for peace in our land -translation; I am thankful that my wife and I don’t fight about my obsession with golf.

• I am thankful for the clothes on my back -translation; I am thankful Knickers went out of style.

• I am thankful for food and shelter -translation; I am thankful for the 19th hole.

• I am thankful to have a job -translation; I am thankful that I don’t need to make three-footers for a paycheck.

• I am thankful for peace of mind -translation; I am thankful that the game has not driven me crazy.

• I am thankful for my teachers -translation; I am thankful for Golf Professionals who fix all the quirks in my swing.

What are you thankful for this year in golf?

Friday, November 19, 2010

Will Tiger win at Chevron?

I watched the very end of the Australian Masters last week and caught a glimpse of the “Old Tiger”. I have not watched every round Tiger has played this year. However, what I saw in those final few holes told me he will be ready to roar again in 2011. In fact, I would not be surprised if he ends the year with a victory at the Chevron World Challenge in early December.

So, how did I come to this realization? Well, it is my humble opinion that Tiger like every other player has streaks of brilliance that lead to victory. This entire year, except on a few occasions, he had trouble developing any kind of streak. Streaks lead to momentum which leads to victories. Last week was different. He found one of those streaks at the end of his final round.

Tiger closed the final round with a 7 under par 65. Which, by the way, included two eagles and two birdies over the final six holes. That’s the Tiger Woods who people are used to seeing. I believe it’s the Tiger Woods who we will see much more of next season. Tiger in all of his greatness still needs confidence to win just like everyone else. With streaks of golf like he displayed last week, his confidence will grow. As his confidence grows, so will his success. Athletes like Tiger do not forget how to win, as some have suggested. He just needs to remember what it feels like to play well. He needs to find his “spark” on the course.

So, if Tiger raises the trophy in victory in a couple of weeks at Chevron it would not be surprising. For a guy who is known for his dramatics on the golf course, a win at Chevron would have the golf world abuzz going into next season. Everyone will be on the lookout for Tiger again if this happens.

                                  Photographer: Robert Cianflone/Getty Images via Bloomberg

Monday, November 15, 2010

Golfer Nicknames

I thought we would have a little fun this week by taking a look at professional golfers who are known by their nickname or a single name. I certainly do not know them all but will try and list as many as I can. Of course, the list has to start with “The King”, Arnold Palmer.

The King – Arnold Palmer

The Golden Bear- Jack Nicklaus

The Squire- Gene Sarazen

The Hawk- Ben Hogan

Byron – Byron Nelson, a.k.a. Iron Byron was named after Byron Nelson

Slamming Sam – Sam Snead

The Black Knight –Gary Player

Merry Mex- Lee Trevino

Chi Chi – Chi Chi Rodriguez

Champagne Tony- Tony Lema

Tiger – Eldrick Tiger Woods

Boom Boom- Fred Couples

Sir Nick- Nick Faldo (post competition)

Lefty or Phil the Thrill – Phil Mickelson

Desert Fox- Johnny Miller

Paddy- Padraig Harrington

Fuzzy- Fuzzy Zoeller

Gentle Ben – Ben Crenshaw

The Shark – Greg Norman

Radar –Mike Reid

The Big Easy – Ernie Els

The Goose- Retief Goosen

Monty – Colin Montgomerie

El Gato – Angel Cabrera

El Nino – Sergio Garcia

Walrus- Craig Stadler

Rors – Rory McIlroy

Seve- Seve Ballesteros

Bulldog- Corey Pavin

Anika- Anika Sorenstam

Pink Panther- Paula Creamer

Lumpy- Tim Herron

Lorena- Lorena Ochoa

The Mechanic – Miguel Angel Jimenez

Boo – Boo Weekley

Babe- Babe Didrikson Zaharias

Zinger – Paul Azinger

The Big Wiesy – Michelle Wie

Two Gloves- Tommy Gainey

I am sure I have missed many others, please add a comment on any you can think of.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Lee Westwood World Number One

Earlier this week Lee Westwood overtook Tiger Woods as the number one male golfer in the world. It is hard to believe that Westwood beat Mickelson to the top spot. Beginning this summer the watch was on for Lefty to take over the top spot but it just never happened.

Granted the World Rankings are not always the most accurate Barometer of the best player in the world however, it does require some attention. Just like College Footballs BCS Rankings, the World Golf Rankings are based on mathematical calculations that can be flawed.

I wonder if Westwood feels like the best player on the planet. I wonder if he woke up the day following taking the top spot and felt different. Do you think he will practice or prepare any harder? Do you think it will add pressure to win a major which he is yet to do? My wife and I went to the US Open a few years ago at Oakmont. I remember commenting to her that it is a rare opportunity to watch a person that is number one in the world in their career at work. That is the great thing about Professional Golf. You can watch these players’ men and women at work. It is one of the few professions whereby you can watch the best in the business in their “office”.

That raises an interesting question, is he the first player to become number one in the world rankings without winning a major championship? The previous number one’s all one majors; Woods, Faldo, Singh, Norman, Duval, Price, Els. As far as I know he is. Not that winning a major is the ultimate barometer of a player’s ability.  However, it is a good measure and he certainly had his chances the past two years.

Many of the top players in the world are playing this week at the HSBC Championship in Shanghai. Westwood will face Woods, Mickelson, Kaymer and Els. He will get a good feel for what it is like to play under the pressure of being number one. If his start, a six under sixty six is any representation then he will do just fine with that title. However, one great week does not a number one player make. In fact, if any of the top four players in the world wins they will overtake Westwood for the top spot. That would make Westwood’s rein a very short one.

To put it into some perspective let’s take a look at some prior number one performances. Greg Norman spent 281 weeks as the number one player in the world. Tiger Woods spent 281 weeks atop the list in prior to losing the ranking to Westwood. In total Woods has spent 623 weeks in the top spot. Or, pretty much his entire career. Knowing Woods this will only fuel his desire more. I would not be surprised to see him win one of the last three events he is playing in this year.

How long do you think Westwood will stay on top of the world rankings? Do you think he deserves to be number one in the world since he has never won a major championship?

Source; Andrew Redington/Getty Images

Friday, October 29, 2010

Time Away from the Game

I recently had some time away from the game, nearly a month where I did not touch a golf club. As I often do when I don't get a chance to practice or play, I think about my game. I think about various aspects of my game including; full swing, short game, putting, bunker shots, punch outs, decision making, etc. I often have my best ideas about how to improve my game while not playing.

I played last weekend with some buddies and had a chance to use my “new swing.” I can hear my wife now saying “did it really work this time?” Like most golfers, I always think I have the fix. Then I get on the course and usually realize I don't. However, this time my “fix” actually worked. I smiled at my wife and said “Yep!”

During this month-long break I found a solution to my full swing. It’s a problem that has been plaguing me for several years. My “miss” has been a block to the right with the full swing. All along I thought it was my swing plane when it was actually my release. I went through a checklist in my mind as to what could cause a ball to go right, but only on occasion. Golf is a cause and effect game. So, there are only so many possibilities as to what can cause golf ball to go right on occasion and not every time. If my club is on plane, going down the line through impact, and the clubface is square, what else could be the problem?

After some thinking about it, the light bulb went on. I was not fully releasing the club head through impact. Before my round, I headed to the range and tried my new “fix.” Thankfully, it worked. More importantly, it worked on the course.

The lesson here is this: the next time you have a break away from the game, try this exercise to fix a flaw in your game.

  • First, think through the problem in your game with some intensity. Before you can work on a fix you must thoroughly understand the problem. In most cases, this problem occurs on a consistent basis.
  • Next, think about some of the changes you have made in the past to try and correct the issue and what the results were. Write them down if you need to.
  • Then, think through all of other options that may work, and why. The “why” is very important. Refer to my previous post- The Why in Golf Instruction for more information.
  • Finally, try them on the practice tee one at a time. This process is usually not a quick one so patience is imperative. In most cases you will try many different variations to fixing the problem before you find a solution. Once you do find a fix you will know it.
  • To test it out, go out on the course. The fix will work on the course and will work over time if it is correct.
One last thing to remember is, if a change does not work, go back to the drawing board. Building bad technique on top of bad technique will make things worse, not better.

Are you looking for a fix in your game? If you have a consistent problem that you can’t seem to fix, send me an e-mail at burghgolfer@gmail.com. I’ll feature the issue in a future post.

Friday, October 22, 2010

TPC Piper Glen

I had the opportunity to play the TPC Piper Glen Golf Club this spring. The TPC Piper Glen is located in Charlotte North Carolina and is a terrific golf course in a magnificent setting. The TPC is a championship golf course designed by Arnold Palmer that is very playable for all skill levels. The course can stretch from 4,771 yards at the Forward Tees to 6,901 yards from the Championship Tees. So, there are a number of options for players of all skill levels to choose from.

The course has a nice variety of geographical features and elevation changes. Many of the holes are tree-lined with plenty of lakes and water features. The water features provide beauty and challenge as they are strategically placed. Most of the holes are fairly generous off the tee. However, many of the green complexes are well-protected with sand and water. This makes positioning off of the tee important and knowing your yardages into the green imperative.

In addition to a fantastic design, the setting is beautiful. Even though the course is surrounded by custom and executive homes, it still feels very peaceful and tranquil. It is listed as one mile from the city center in an urban environment, although you would never know it during a round.

The driving range is first rate, as you would expect at a Tournament Players Club facility. In addition to the teeing ground, they offer a separate short game area and bunker complex. This is where I need to spend more time, especially practicing in the bunkers. Whether you are looking to just warm up or seriously practice, this facility will fit the bill.

In addition to the golf course, the clubhouse and pro shop are very professional and well stocked. If you are looking for a gift to take home as a souvenir or golf attire you will not be disappointed. The locker room is complete with lockers (get a locker key from the pro shop) and full amenities.

There is a lot of history at this club so take a few minutes to look at the photos and take a look around.

If you ever get the opportunity to play TPC Piper Glen in Charlotte, don’t pass up the chance. You will surely be challenged, and don’t get distracted by the gorgeous scenery.

Hole 14
source; tpcpiperglen.com

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Three PGA Tours

For most of us when we think of Men’s Professional Golf we think of the three primary tours here in the USA. They are; The Nationwide Tour, PGA Tour, and Champions Tour. I have been saying for several years there are actually three versions of the Men’s PGA Tour.

The Big PGA Tour is the primary PGA Tour that includes the best players, biggest events, Major championships and now The FedEx Cup Championships. This tour holds all the big events, sees the best players on a frequent basis and draws the focus and attention of the average spectator.

The Second Tour has all the “other” events besides the big tournaments. Not to take anything away from these events but they just do not get the top players entering the events. They are held throughout the season and are played with little fanfare.

The Final Tour is the Nationwide Tour or as some would call it, the minor leagues. Not that the players are minor league in any shape or fashion. This tour has a lot of great players who have played on the Big Tour in the past, and will be on there again in the future. However, due to the PGA Tours size limitation, the remaining players need a place to play and compete if they wish to remain in the US. For most of them, this is where they play.

Most recently, there is the PGA Tours “Fall Series”. The Fall Series is a set of events that are going on right now after the Big Tour winds down. In my opinion, the Fall Series is the PGA Tours creative way of drawing attention to the events and to create a buzz. Let’s face it; most of us do not pay a lot of attention to events where Tiger, Phil or Ernie is not playing. I watch golf more than most and even I pay little attention to these events.

I remember a few years ago when Tim Finchem (PGA Tour Commissioner) had a disagreement with Greg Norman over an idea that allows the best players in the world to play against each other on a global basis. Norman wanted to create a World Tour whereby, the best players around the globe could compete against each other in a set number of events each season. Tim Finchem of course, was against the idea and chastised Norman for the concept. In the end, Norman was correct and Finchem saw it as a threat to the “PGA Tour Brand”. However, Finchem went on to create this very concept with the current PGA Tour schedule. On the (Big PGA Tour) there are the Four Majors, FedEx Championships, Players Championship, The Memorial and Bay Hill, etc. This is where the best players in the world gather to compete for prestigious titles and a lot of money. The remainder of the events (Second Tour) may be classified as the PGA tour but really they are not. Below is a quote from PGA Tour Member Charles Howell recently which illustrates my point on the inequity that exists among the events.

“Somehow (Fall Series events) got classified with an invisible asterisk besides them,” Howell said on Sunday at the McGladrey Classic. “If you win some of these tournaments, you should get in the Masters. How you can make a decision where if a guy wins a Fall Series event he's not in the Masters. I don't understand that. You look at the field we have this week. Sometimes decisions like that are made that aren't the best decisions.”

Source; Golf Channel.com

Sunday, October 10, 2010


We often here the term “Stimpmeter” when watching golf on TV. We also hear phrases such as “how fast did the greens stimp today?” I know a Stimpmeter is used to measure the speed of the greens however, I never knew its history or its connection to Oakmont.

It was designed by golfer Edward Stimpson, Sr. in 1935.[1] The Massachusetts state amateur champion, Stimpson was a spectator at that year's U.S. Open at Oakmont. After watching a putt by a top professional (Gene Sarazen) roll off a green, Stimpson was convinced the greens were unreasonably fast, but wondered how he could prove it. He developed a device, now known as the Stimpmeter, which is an angled track that releases a ball at a known velocity so that the distance it rolls on a green's surface can be measured. Although the original device was made of wood, in 1976 it was redesigned from aluminum by Frank Thomas of the United States Golf Association (USGA). It was first used by the USGA during the 1976 U.S. Open at Atlanta and made available to golf course superintendents in 1978. The official USGA stimpmeter (painted green) is not sold to the public.

Source; http://www.wikipedia.org/

Scott Halleran / Getty Images

Sunday, October 3, 2010

2010 Ryder Cup

I had the opportunity to watch some of the Ryder Cup this morning. Between the weather delays and early starts, it has been tough to catch on TV. I do not know about you, but waking up at 3am to watch golf is not exactly my thing. As much as I love to watch the Ryder Cup that is not going to happen. Thank goodness for the DVR’s.

As we enter the final day of “Singles” matches, the US team is once again down to the European Ryder Cup team in points. The score thus far is Europe 9 1/2, USA 6 1/2. That is a tough deficit to come back from but the US team is capable if they play really well.

Each time the Ryder Cup comes around the Golf Analysts always ponder why the US team has not done better in the matches against Europe? Especially, when the matches are played in Europe. In watching today’s play I came to the conclusion that it comes down to four primary reasons which I call the four P’s.

The Four “P’s” are; Patience, Pace, Passion and Preparation.

Patience: the pace of play was difficult to stand as a spectator let alone as a player. It seems to me that the players take an inordinate amount of time around the greens reading puts and playing shots. Especially the European Team where they need a decision by council before striking a putt. I believe this pace annoys many of the US players and probably disrupts their rhythm. The game is hard enough to play under pressure when your rhythm is good, let alone, when it is slowed down dramatically, by the opposing teams. Notice there is no pace of play rule or “clock” for slow play like there is on the PGA Tour.

Pace: The greens in Wales could not be any slower. I challenge you to count the number of times a US player leaves a putt short. Even when they have a free run at the putt the leave it short. The US team is just not used to playing on greens this slow. I know, the argument it that they are the best players in the world and should be able to adjust their speed. However, I beg to differ. Players at that level have a tough time adjusting to greens that slow every four years. The European side is much better adept at playing on greens of a slower pace. They face these cold, damp, wet conditions much more each year that the American players do.

Passion: Again, I have to criticize the US players and Captains on this point. The Analysts always talk about how much more passion the European Players play with. I have to agree, it almost means more to their team for some reason. In addition, why do our Captains continue to pick players who have little fire or energy, like Stewart Cink. Even Johnny Miller has questioned Cink’s place on the team. Cink, who has an abysmal Ryder Cup record, continues to get picked. Why we cannot pick players who play with passion and can make lots of birdies is beyond me. After all, each Ryder Cup seems to come down to these two elements as the most important in winning.

Preparation: Again, I think the US players probably do not and cannot prepare for the conditions they will face in Europe. Playing, practicing and working on your game in Florida, Texas, Arizona, Nevada or California is never going to prepare you for the conditions in Europe. Unfortunately, that is where most US players live and practice. Paul Azinger was the US Teams Ryder Cup Captain when the matches were played two years ago at Valhalla. He developed a system that produced a winning team and was praised for it. He even wrote a book about his winning strategy. That strategy seems to have been ignored by this year’s Captain Pavin. Perhaps, we should have sent a copy to Captain Pavin’s house before this year’s Cup.

I sure hope we win the matches tomorrow and retain the Cup. However, if the US Team does not begin getting these four critical areas corrected every Ryder Cup is going to be a real test. Especially, when they are playing on foreign soil.

What are your thought and recommendations on how the US team can fare better in the Ryder Cup?

Friday, September 24, 2010

Meeting Arnold Palmer

Two week ago, I had the rare opportunity to meet “the” King - Arnold Palmer. Having grown up in Western PA and been around the game all of my life, this was a special thrill. I grew up about 25 miles from Latrobe and Arnie has always been part of local folk lore, not to mention he’s a Global Sports Icon. There were even stories of how Arnold played my home course on several occasions. They say he drove the green on the dogleg right par four 18th hole on his way to shooting 64. Whether that story is true or not doesn’t really matter, but it is fun to recount nonetheless.

I was playing in a member – guest event with a good friend of mine when the opportunity arose. As we walked off of the 9th green, Arnold was standing between the 9th green and 10th tee. He was there speaking to the Club Pro and a few other gentlemen. As we approached Arnie and the group, the feeling was a bit surreal. As a golfer and a fellow “Pennsylvanian” this was a special moment. It made me stop and think how cool it was that the greatest Global Ambassador of Golf grew up very near where we were standing. That one of the greatest players of all time and the man who revolutionized the Game of Golf as we know it today is standing before me.

They always say that Arnie is great about making eye contact. That he always looked people in the eye and that the connection they felt is what endeared people to him. As the Club Pro introduced our group, I had the opportunity to shake the King’s hand and say “hello Mr. Palmer it is an honor to meet you”. With a firm grip, he looked me in directly in the eye, and with a big smile, said “it is a pleasure to meet you as well.” Our group exchanged a few words and Arnold made a few jokes, still showing his wit before we moved on. Needless to say, this was one experience in golf I will never forget.

Source: Photo: James Drake/Sports Illustrated

Have you ever met a famous golfer? Which players would you like to meet?

Monday, September 20, 2010

Going for the Green

My last post was about laying up, so I thought I should follow up with a post on “going for it” or “going for the green in two.”

Whether on a par four or par five, going for the green in one or two can be a risky play. As much as a layup shot is a conservative play, going for the green is the ultimate risk play. If successfully executed, going for the green can put your ball in position to make a birdie or eagle. However, if the shot is not properly executed, a player can easily make bogey, double bogey or worse.

When we hear the phrase “going for the green” we automatically think of a par five. However, on many golf courses there is the occasional opportunity to go for the green on a short, drivable par four. With the Ryder Cup quickly approaching, this is a good time to mention it. Almost every Ryder Cup has at least one hole where the course setup will allow for the players to drive a par four.

I played over the weekend at a friend’s club and had a chance to go for the green in two on a par five. I was not doing very well in the skins game and we came to the final hole - a dogleg par five with a lake fronting the entire length of the green. Here is a view of the hole from behind the green.

Since I had played the course before, I knew if I hit a good drive I would have a shot at the green. So I approached the ball, hit it extra hard, and was rewarded for the aggressive play. I was already behind in the match and there was no trouble off the tee, so I had nothing to lose. When I got to the ball it had tailed off into the rough. However, it was sitting up very nicely. I had 172 yards to the flag and asked the caddie if he liked the 6 iron. He didn’t say anything and as I went back to the bag and pulled the seven iron, he immediately said “I like that much better.” I proceeded to hit a high, towering seven iron right at the flag and the ball landed softly, about ten feet to the left of the flag, pin high. Unfortunately, I missed the putt as the ball broke about 18 inches and the greens were running twelve on the stimpmeter. However, it was worth the risk because even if I would have come up a tad short or mishit the shot I still would have cleared the water.

Based on my own experiences, I think players should go for the green when they are confident with the club selection, are willing to risk a bogey or worse, and are comfortable that they can successfully execute the shot. It’s not a hope and a prayer shot, but more of a calculated risk.

What do you consider when going for the green? How do you decide if the risk is worth the reward? Feel free to leave a comment on your strategy.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Laying Up

Every time we play a round of golf we face several holes where we need to “lay up”. Typically, a layup shot is one in which a player chooses to hit a shot a certain distance in order to position themselves for the approach into the green. For the average player this typically occurs four times per round, on par fives on a regulation golf course. However, the layup is not reserved for par fives. There are many times you need to lay up on short par fours or even par threes. Many golf course architects will include a short par four in their course design that allows a longer hitter to drive the green. These players have the option to drive the green or layup. Likewise, on longer par threes, some players choose to lay up short of the green, rather than risking a penalty shot by going for the green.

I decided to write this piece based upon a conversation I recently had with a friend of mine during a tournament round. We were playing a two man best ball event and we were discussing the strategy on his layup shot for a par five. His shot ended up finding the bunker. I asked him how he arrived at his decision to hit that particular club, a 5 iron. He said he was trying to hit to a certain “spot” in the distance. That is how most of us approach that decision. We try to hit a club a certain distance, or try to land the ball in a certain spot on the fairway short of the hole.

I also take this same strategy; however, I also consider two other main points when lying up.

First, I not only look at where I want the ball to end up. I also consider where I DO NOT want the ball to end up. I always consider other factors as well, such as; wind direction, the lie of my ball, hazards around the landing area, etc. In other words, if I mishit the shot or if some other factor influences where the ball goes, what areas do I need to avoid? What happens if there is a gust of wind? What happens if I catch a flier lie? What happens if the ball runs out or stops quickly.

Second, I consider what yardage and angle I want into the green. Most of us are comfortable with certain clubs in our bags. We are also comfortable with certain yardages into the green. My three comfort yardages are 90, 105 and 115 yards. That is because that is how far I hit my 60, 54 and 50 degree wedges respectively. When possible, I want to have one of those yardages into the green so I can hit the shot full with confidence. Finally, I always like to give myself the best angle to the pin that will allow me to remain “below” or “under” the hole. That way I can have an uphill putt that provides me with the best chance of making an aggressive stroke that results in a birdie.

The layup shot in golf is a conservative play and should be approached as such. If you are going to lay up, then take extra time to think about the ball position you want into the green. It will give you the best chance at a successful layup. There is no need to take unnecessary risks when laying up. The risk comes into play when you are “going for” the green.

What do you consider when hitting a layup? What yardages are you most comfortable with? Feel free to leave a comment on your strategy.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Dustin Johnson wins the BMW Championship

Dustin Johnson pulled in the victory on Sunday at the BMW Championship in Lemont, IL. It is good to see him earn the victory given all he has gone through this summer. He also taught us all a lesson on being persistent and not giving up. Johnson had his share of difficult setbacks this year at the US Open and PGA Championship. Most players will go through their entire career without ever experiencing those types of incidents. Johnson on the other hand, had to deal with two in one season.

Dustin Johnson could have easily thrown in the towel after the PGA Championship and said this year was a wash. However, he did just the opposite; he hung in there and kept fighting. He was humble in his responses and gracious with his time to be interviewed and answer some tough questions. David Feherty practically pulled him out of the shower at the PGA to interview him after the final round. Do you think Tiger would have been so gracious?  Let me think, AHH NO. Tiger would have politely declined and went on his way.

At a time when the “Golf Analysts” are constantly questioning “where are the Americans on the PGA Tour”, Dustin proves, the USA has a lot of young talent waiting to explode.

We should all be thankful that the USA has good, strong, humble, gracious young players like Dustin. Not only has he taught us how to deal with adversity this summer with grace. He also taught us to hang in there, keep fighting and you will eventually win. Given our current economic crisis in this country we could all pay head to that lesson and learn from it.  These are lessons we can all use in everyday life on and off the golf course.

Dustin now heads to the Ryder Cup with confidence and positive vibes. Interestingly enough, he beat Paul Casey at the end of the BMW Championship and Casey did not even make the European Ryder Cup team. HMMM, maybe Monty did overlook one of the hottest European players on tour.  Oh, by the way, Casey also is the 9th ranked player in the world.

(Getty Images)

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Ryder Cup Captain Pavin picks Fowler

US Ryder Cup Captain Corey Pavin made his four Captains selections today in New York. He selected Woods, Cink, Johnson and Fowler. The first three were on everyone’s list as likely Captains Selections. The latter was not on most people’s list, except mine. Call me crazy but I have my reasons why Fowler was always in the running.

If you have been following the coverage over the past few weeks, most “Golf Analysts” disregarded Rickie Fowler’s chances of making the team. They said “he has not won on tour,” “he has never contended in a major,” etc. All of that may be true but I always felt like it was down to him or Kim. Here is why:

Very simply, Fowler and Kim are from Southern California and so is Pavin (UCLA). I lived in Southern CA for thirteen years and I know how the locals think – they like other locals. I had a good suspicion Pavin would pick one of them. Pavin has had the opportunity to watch Rickie Fowler grow as a player and follow his career since his junior days. I believe that exposure provided him with the information he needed to have confidence in Rickie as a Captains Pick.

I also believe that Anthony Kim would have been selected instead of Fowler if his injury would have healed faster or had he played better since his comeback. His play was not great leading into the selection this week. In fact, he just missed the cut at The Barclays Tournament two weeks ago. I believe another factor in Pavin’s decision to not pick Kim was to question how Anthony Kim’s thumb would hold up in the Wales playing conditions. Everyone expects cold, wet, windy conditions for the Ryder Cup in Wales later this month. In addition, the players may face thick gorse and heavy rough on the course. Those are not ideal conditions for a player coming off of a three month thumb injury. Also, many players will play 36 holes a day in the Ryder Cup and I doubt Pavin wanted to be faced with sitting Kim due to injury concerns. As Caption, he needs to be able to play who he wants and when he wants without restriction.

Don’t get me wrong -- Rickie Fowler is a very talented player who deserves a look. He’s had a good rookie year on tour and a great Amateur career. I actually like the pick because we need guys on the team who have some character and play with confidence. Fowler has both. However, statistically speaking, in most categories he is not near the top of the list, evidenced by his 2010 PGA Tour Stats. According to thegolfchannel.com, as of September 6th, 2010 courtesy, his stats are as follows:


PGA Tour Money List -25th

World Rank – 33rd

Scrambling % -92nd

Scoring Avg. - 73rd

Birdie Avg. - 114th

Total putts per round – 119th

Greens in regulation % -19th

Fairways hit % -91st

Ball Striking – 19th

To view all of Rickie’s stats click on this link;


No matter how you look at Pavin’s decision to pick Fowler, there had to be some emotion involved, including his comfort level with players from Southern California. Fowler is not in the top 10 of any statistical category and is only in the top 20 in two. However, stats do not measure a player’s heart, desire or will to win, Fowler has all of these and I wish him the best of luck in Wales.

Friday, September 3, 2010

PGA Tour Scoring Average

There is always a lot of discussion around who the greatest player was that ever played the game of golf. Certainly, Jack Nicklaus currently is as he holds the record for the most number of major wins. That is the widely accepted barometer of how to measure the greatest player ever. Also, since Tiger Woods is approaching Jack's record the talk about him being the greatest is also on the front of everyone’s mind. Since most of us follow golf on a current events basis I thought it would be fun and interesting to look at the PGA scoring average of past years. The Scoring average for me also provides a good barometer of who the greatest players were in the game. Scoring average also depicts great play over an entire season not just in a few events.

I find it interesting that when the discussion of the great players of all time comes up many of the names on this list are part of that discussion. Interestingly enough Tiger Woods has had the lowest scoring average eight times (1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2007 and 2009). Jack Nicklaus on the other hand, has NEVER (officially) held the lowest scoring average at the end of the season. That is because Jack never met the tours eligibility requirements for enough rounds played. Ironically enough, he also led the tour in scoring average eight times. He just never won the Vardon Trophy for his efforts. So, if you have a moment click on the link in this blog. You can check out the names of the winners on the list for every year dating back to 1947. Again, it is interesting to see the names of the greats in this format versus all of the talk being about major championship wins which gets all of the attention. There is one last point I would like to mention. The player who wins the title for lowest scoring average each year wins the Vardon Trophy named after the great English Golfer Harry Vardon.

Recent History

Year Player Average

2010 Matt Kuchar 69.62 (YTD as of 8-31-10)

2005 Tiger Woods 68.66

2000 Tiger Woods 67.79 (this year is widely recognized as his greatest year in golf)

1995 Greg Norman 69.06

1990 Greg Norman 69.10

1985 Don Pooley 70.36

1980 Lee Trevino 69.73

1975 Bruce Crampton 70.51

1970 Lee Trevino 70.61

1965 Billy Casper 70.85

1960 Billy Casper 69.95

1955 Sam Snead 69.86

1950 Sam Snead 69.23

Other Years of Note

1984 Calvin Peete 70.56

1961 Arnold Palmer 69.85

1945 Byron Nelson 68.34 (this record stood until 2000 when Tiger Woods broke it)

1948 Ben Hogan 69.30

Monday, August 30, 2010

Wie wins the Canadian Open

Michelle Wie has been on the “golf scene” for a very long time. Although she is in her early twenties she has been playing golf on a national stage since she was twelve years old. She has a huge amount of natural talent, has a long flowing golf swing and untapped potential. She has been on the LPGA tour since 2005 and the win yesterday was only her second victory. So, why has she not won more?

I believe she has not won more because she is still learning how to win. As the old saying goes “winning breeds winning.” Golfers like all competitive athletes need to learn how to win when the pressure is on. Michelle Wie is not exempt from that stage in her professional development. If you look back at Tiger Woods amateur career for lessons on how to learn to win he is the role model. Who can forget the three US Amateur titles he captured and in stunning fashion. In all three US Amateur finals (36 holes) he was behind at some point in the match. In all three cases he came back to win. He learned how to win at an early age and that development provided him the confidence and belief that he carries with him on the PGA Tour today.

Michelle on the other hand did not have this same opportunity, why? Very simple, her parents did not allow her career to develop naturally. As a teenager when she should have been playing on Junior events, she was playing in the PGA Tours Sony Open. Instead of learning how to dominate as a junior player she was being asked to compete with the best male golfers in the world. One could argue that the experience she received by playing on the PGA tour made her better. To some degree that may be true, however, it did not teach her how to win.

Being competitive and playing well is one thing, winning is another. To win you need to be able to handle the pressure of the moment. A player must hit quality golf shots late in the round on the final day when it matters most. Those elements of a player’s development only come from putting themselves in that situation time and again. For Michelle, she just did not have enough of those opportunities as a young player. However, she has begun the process and is showing the world she does know how to win.

Next year she graduates from Stanford and will be able to pursue professional golf full time. All I have to say is watch out LPGA because if she focuses on playing that tour full time she is going to be a force.

(Getty Images)

Friday, August 27, 2010

The Match – The Day the Game of Golf Changed Forever

As part of my Blog I want to include reviews on Golf books I have read. A few years ago I had the opportunity to read “The Match” written by Mark Frost. For those of you that enjoy golf history, this book is a must read. Without giving too much about the book away here are a few reasons why you should read this book. First, it is a true story with numerous eye witness accounts to the events in the story. Second, the book is set on the Monterey Peninsula, namely on Pebble Beach Golf Links and Cypress Point Golf Club. Third, the book features Ben Hogan, Byron Nelson, Ken Venturi and Harvie Ward. Oh, and Eddie Lowery, who if you recall was Francis Ouimet’s caddie when he won the US Open in 1913.

This book is exciting from beginning to end and has a lot of great stories from players of the Hogan and Nelson era. Unlike today, the players of that era did not have every single golf shot recorded and taped. So, much of what we know about their careers is in written print. This book exemplifies how good the players were in that era. It also examines the decisions that went into how and why players chose to become “touring professionals.” Remember in those days the players were not being paid big money in purses and endorsements to play professional golf. Many good players had to decide between “Club Pro” jobs, remaining amateur and touring the country as a player.

Here is the quote by Ken Venturi on the back cover of the book;

“The Match was a dream I never thought would come true. If I hadn’t been there I wouldn’t believe it myself, and if you know anything about sports or the game of golf, once you pick up this book you won’t put it down. No one will ever see an event like this again. Fiction can’t touch it.”

Photo courtesy of Amazon.com

Monday, August 23, 2010

Arjun Atwal Wins Wyndham Championship, 1st Indian Golfer to Win on PGA Tour

Arjun Atwal the 450th ranked player in the world won the Wyndham Championship this past weekend on the PGA Tour. It is noteworthy and historic for several reasons. First, Atwal is the First Indian born player to win on the PGA Tour. India is an Emerging Economy with over one billion people and this win will have a significant impact on the growth of the game there. Frank Nobilo of the Golf Channel claims the win is probably more historic than Isao Aoki winning the Hawaiian Open in the 1983. As a note, Isao is the first and only Japanese born player to win on the PGA Tour.

Second, Atwal is not even an official member of the PGA Tour; in fact, he had to “Monday Qualify” to get into the event. He is the first player in 24 years to Monday qualify (Medalist) to gain entry into the event and then go on to win it. Like a lot of players without status on one tour or another, they need to travel far and wide in order to find places to play and to make a living. Atwal has been spending most of his time this season playing anywhere he could including; the Nationwide, European and PGA Tours.

Finally, it just goes to show how competitive professional golf has become on a global basis. Here is a player who is ranked 450th in the world, is not even a member of the PGA Tour. He has to “Monday Qualify” just to get a spot in the tournament; he wins the qualifier as the Medalist, then goes on to win the event.

You have to love a sport where this can happen on occasion and make dreams come true. It is hard to say what the immediate impact will be on Indian Golf. However, for some perspective let’s consider this. Isao Aoki won an event on the PGA in 1983 and it would have a big impact on Japanese Golf. Ryo Ishikawa the current Japanese Golf Superstar recently shot a 58 on a Japanese Tour event at the ripe old age of 18. Ryo was not even born until 1991; eight years after Aoki’s historic win. It has been almost thirty years and no other Japanese Golfer has won an event on the PGA Tour. I am not saying it will take another thirty years before a payer from India wins again. However, it does make you stop and think how long it takes these developing countries to produce world class players capable of winning on the premier tour in men’s golf. It also frames the historic nature of what Atwal just achieved.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Birdie, Eagle, Par

How many times have we played a round of golf and said to a playing partner, “nice birdie” or “that was a good par.” We do it all the time, but have you ever wondered where these terms originated? Have they always been part of the history of the game or is it a new verbiage?

Recently, I was watching a television program on the Golf Channel called Golf in America. In one of their segments they told the story of where the term “Birdie” came from. Most of us know a birdie to be a one under par score on a golf hole. So that got me thinking, where did the other commonly used scoring terms originate, and when? I do not want to rewrite the history or stories behind each term so I am providing a link to a website that will give you the information, which is very interesting. I recommend that you take a few minutes to read about the origins, so the next time you say “nice birdie” to a playing partner, it will mean a little more.

Bogey – Developed in England in the 19th Century

Par- 1870 at Prestwick Golf Club for the Open Championship

Birdie –1962 at Atlantic City Country Club by Ab Smith

Eagle – an extension of the “Bird” theme also claimed by Ab Smith

Double Eagle or Albatross – Who else? Yep, Ab Smith

Double and Triple Bogeys – There is no documented first use of these terms – they are an extension of bogey.


Monday, August 16, 2010

Sand Bunker or Waste Area

For anyone that has played the game for any length of time you will encounter “Sand Traps” and “Waste Bunkers” on a golf course. So, what is the difference between the two? Both have sand, most are surrounded by grass, water, fairway, rough, etc. For those of us that play weekend golf and find ourselves in one of these conditions the question is simple, can you ground your club or not? In other words, before you play the shot can your golf club come in contact with the sand or playing surface? Or, do you need to hover the club above the ball before you play the stroke? In a traditional Sand Trap, you cannot ground your club because the sand trap is considered a “hazard”. Meaning your golf club cannot come into contact with the surface prior to playing the stroke. Okay, what the h_l does that mean? In a nutshell, when addressing the golf ball, in your golf stance, you cannot have the golf club touch the ground. Sounds simple enough, eh? Not so fast because the sand you find yourself in may be a Waste Area, not a Sand Trap, so a different rule applies.

In a Waste Area you can ground your golf club. You can even take a practice swing that has the club come into contact with the ground. Also, when you go to play your stroke you can have the club rest behind the ball on the ground before you play the stroke.

So, you can see how an occasional or casual golfer could be confused. However, a touring pro such as Dustin Johnson should know different. I raise the point because at last weekend’s PGA Championship Dustin made the mistake of not knowing he was in a sand trap on the 18th hole. As he played the stroke, he grounded his club, incurred a two shot penalty for the infraction and after the round was completed he was assessed a two stroke penalty. Because of this penalty it knocked him out of the playoff with Kaymer and Watson. What makes this worse is that the PGA of America provided each player with a “local rules” sheet explaining the condition. So, Dustin and his caddy had plenty of notice prior to even starting the event that the local rules apply. Furthermore, the PGA of America Rules Officials placed the sheets throughout the locker room basically telling the players that if you are in “sand” that you should consider it a hazard no matter where you are on the golf course. Dustin felt that since he was in an area outside of the ropes and people had been walking through it, that it was not a hazard.

What makes this more amazing is that each group has a “PGA Official” following them and the players can easily ask the Official what the ruling is before they play the shot. After all, they were on the 18th hole of the Championship so delaying the field was a non factor. You see it each week on tour whereby the players ask the Officials for the most basic of rulings. Let alone on the 18th hole of a major when you are tied for the lead. Dustin stated that he did not think he was in a sand trap/hazard. All I can say to that is “C’mon Man” to borrow a phrase from the ESPN NFL coverage.

In the end, the rules of golf are complex, they apply to every player in the field and even the best players in the world are not exempt from them.

Associated Press Photo

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Olde Stonewall Golf Club

I recently had the opportunity to play Olde Stonewall Golf Club in Ellwood City, PA. Olde Stonewall is located about forty miles northwest of downtown Pittsburgh. I have always wanted to play this golf course because I've heard so many good things about it. It has also received industry recognition by Golf Magazine and Golf Digest as one of the best public courses. Needless to say, the golf course and facility did not disappoint.

The course is very challenging ,offering five sets of tees ranging from 5,241 to 7,103 yards. It is set up for every level of player from the beginner to a championship golfer. It suits the eye off the tee and offers some very challenging approach shots into well protected greens. The player will have to contend with sand, water, trees and streams. If you are a beginner player this is a course where you will want to bring a few extra balls because there are many chances to lose them.

The golf course itself sits on a very large piece of property and covers a lot of ground. It is not a golf course one could walk because there are great elevation changes, as well as long distance between greens and tees on a number of holes. This adds to the charm of the property because you have access to some great views and vistas. While the front nine is mainly at lower elevations, the back nine is entirely different. That back nine winds up and down the hillsides and back into the valleys. Many of the tee boxes sit on top of ridges and into the hillsides, providing great opportunities to snap photos. A number of our playing partners commented on how beautiful the course must be in the fall as the leaves change color. I would agree it would be a fantastic course to play in early to mid September. In this part of the country, late September to early October is typically the peak season for fall foliage.

The course was in beautiful condition, with nicely manicured fairways and greens. In addition, the greens rolled very true and the putts held their lines. To me, that is always a good sign of a great golf course.

They also have an adequate locker room facility should you wish to take a shower, clean up after the round or store your attire in case you want to change before dinner.

Finally, we had an opportunity have dinner in their restaurant Shakespeare’s. The food was fantastic and the service was very first rate. They had an extensive menu of food and drink that you do not typically find at a Golf Club. So, when you leave the property, you will not have only had a fantastic round of golf on a beautiful course, you will also enjoyed a great meal in a fine dining facility.

So, if you ever have the opportunity to play Olde Stonewall, take advantage of it. You will be hard pressed to find many courses more beautiful to play in Western Pennsylvania.

Monday, August 9, 2010

One Shot at a Time

One Shot at a Time

We always hear professional golfers say they are playing “one shot at a time.” Why is that a standard line? What does it really mean? Are they just saying it to avoid getting into detail about shots with the press, or is there any true meaning or truth to a strategy of playing one shot at a time? I say both. The statement does appease the press because they get a quick quote for the next morning’s daily sports page. But, I think that players really do play one shot at a time, and here is why.

First, because when you are playing a competitive or casual round of golf, every single shot counts. In a competitive round you cannot afford to lose shots to the field. Most of the competitors are good or great players and a golfer playing to win cannot afford to lose even a single stroke. If you do lose a stroke, you may not have time to make it up during the course of the round.

Second, because golf is a game of the present and conditions constantly change. Meaning, how you approached a shot in the past or what you might do in the future has no bearing. Every single shot is unique every time you play. Even if you play the same course on a regular basis every course setup is different. Yes, the superintendent may put the tees or pins in certain spots during course setup. However, that does not matter. As soon as you tee off every shot from there in is unique. Everything changes each round: ball position, pin position, wind direction, club selection, moisture, temperature, humidity, rough thickness, grain, putt breaks, etc.

So, the next time you are playing a competitive round of golf, whether for a skin or a championship, ask yourself “what are the ramifications if I do not execute this shot?” Will I be able to recover? Will my opponent make a mistake? Will there be any more opportunities to make up a stroke or hole? That is why good players and professionals play one shot at a time. They know that one poor swing, bad decision or miscalculation may cost them the round, championship or match.

In golf, every shot does count as you will only play that particular shot once in your lifetime. You will never have the same shot twice regardless of the conditions. Make it count because it is a once in a lifetime opportunity.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Tiger hearing it from fans

I was wondering how long it would take for the TV or Print Media to actually capture or report on the heckling that Tiger receives on tour.  Since he is the Media Golden Boy they dare not say that people are heckling him for "fear" that once his game returns he will shun them.  The fans do not share this same concern and you know he is hearing about it while on course.  

I ran across this article earlier today where a fan expressed his opinion and it was reported on by the media.  Here is an the excerpt and you can find the full article in the link attached.

Moments later, as he was walking between the 18th green and the scoring trailer, a young man said loudly to him, ``You're washed up, Tiger. Give it up!''

I think most golf fans agree that Tiger will win many more times in his career and probably many more majors.  However, will his reputation ever recover?  I do not believe it will for most people.  Fans will admire and respect his game.  They will enjoy watching him play and break records.  However, there will always be those memories in the back of their mind of what he did to himself and is family. 

For the first time in his golfing career he is receiving criticism.  It will be interesting to see how handles it and if his game truly recovers.

Monday, August 2, 2010

The Caddy

I had the opportunity recently to play in my clubs Caddyshack Open.  It is an event where the caddies and staff have the opportunity to play in an organized event with their colleagues and club members.  This is the first year I have had the opportunity to play in the event and had a wonderful time.  It was great to see everyone so relaxed and enjoying themselves.  Only in Western PA would the caddies warm up before the match by throwing around the pigskin on the driving range instead of hitting balls or practice putting  You have to love it.

We are fortunate enough to still have a caddy program at our club in a time when most golf courses do not.  Golf clubs have been eliminating caddies since the seventies when the golf cart burst onto the scene.  Golf Clubs around the world cite many reasons for this trend such as; carts speed up play, there are longer walks between greens and tees, carts are less expensive, golfers would rather ride than walk, etc.  That is sad because most of us could use the additional exercise and many potential caddies will never be exposed to this great game because of a "cart".

 As a young person I had the opportunity to be a caddy and so I really appreciate all they do to help our game.  I learned so much about the game as a young man lugging those bags around.  I learned the etiquette of the game, important life lessons and had the opportunity to watch some great players.  When I was a caddy, the members always used to tell us to fix two ball marks when you walk onto the green.  That simple act seems like a small task but it is really a sign of respect.  By doing so you are respecting the golf course, the players in your group and future players who will play the hole.  You want to leave the course in better condition than you found it.   Without having been a caddy it would have probably taken me a long time to learn those basic golf etiquette lessons.

Wikipedia defines a caddy as; In golf, a caddy (or caddie) is the person who carries a player's bag and clubs, and gives insightful advice and moral support. A good caddy is aware of the challenges and obstacles of the golf course being played, along with the best strategy in playing it. This includes knowing overall yardage, pin placements and club selection. A caddy is not usually an employee of a private club or resort. He is classified as an "independent contractor," meaning that he is basically self employed and does not receive any benefits from his association with the club. Some clubs and resorts do have caddy programs, although benefits are rarely offered.

I define the caddy a little differently;  A caddie is a person who does carry the player(s) clubs throughout the round.  However, he or she is also a friend, confidant, psychiatrist, critic, assistant, instructor and teammate. 

We watch the Professional caddies on TV each week assist the professional players during the round.  Unfortunatley, because of TV coverage we rarely hear the dialouge between touring pros and caddies. The announcers believe their commentary is much more important than what is being said between caddy and player.  However, I believe most fans watching the telecast would much rather hear what is being said on the course in the heat of battle than what a "talking head" has to say.  If you think about it what other sport can you watch on TV and you hear what a player is thinking about in the heat of the moment.   Without the caddy that would not be possible as the instructors are not allowed to instruct during competition play. 

To close, the Caddy is an importnat part of the history of the game.  Caddies have been an important part of the history of the game for instance, Eddie Lowry caddying for Francis Ouiment when he won the US Open at age 19.  Bruce Edwards caddying for Tom Watson for many years and in the end providing inspiration to all of us.  To the favorite caddy at your club who reads the proper break or tells you to hit the extra club.  The role of the caddy cannot be overstated and for some of us we wish the "Caddy Program" would come back into vogue and the carts would play less of a role in the game we love. 

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Putting Grip Pressure

Earlier this year I was struggling with my lag putting overall.  I was unable to judge the pace properly on longer putts.  So, I adjusted my grip pressure, holding the club might less firm.  Immediately, I began to seen the results on lagging the ball closer to the hole.  I have even found that this same tactic works for short putts.  The putter glides through the ball much  cleaner and the strike is more on the face.  I also had to take a much longer stroke since I was no longer "hitting" the putt rather, stroking the "putter".  The lighter grip pressure removes all of the tension from the hands, arms and shoulders which creates more of a rocking motion.  The stroke becomes more of a pendulum method resembling the strokes of touring professionals Justin Leonard and Loren Roberts.  I now make more long putts, have shorter second putts and can be much more relaxed on the greens.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

the Why in golf instruction

I found this article on the Golf dash Blog ver intersting.  In the article, John states that golf scores have barely improved over the past thirty years even with all of the new technology.  I have a theory as to why this is the case.

I have always found it interesting that golf instruction and tips typically come in the form of “how to do something” rather than “why”? Obviously, a player needs to understand how to perform the fundamentals of the golf swing; proper grip, stance, posture, etc. However, a player also needs to understand why they are making the change or improvement.  If they do not understand the "why" then they will not understand the ramifications of a movement.

I believe this is why so many players that take lessons never really improve. The instructor never fully explains why the change is necessary and the role the change plays in the overall swing and swing sequence. So, they make a change for a brief period of time then slide back into old, bad habits.

I recently discovered a mistake I was making in my right hand grip. Although I knew that I needed to have the club in my two middle fingers it was too much in my palm. The result was I was not able to break my right wrist enough going back to create the angle necessary for a proper wrist load. This led to inconsistent hits and a lack of power. Although I have been told how many times, I never translated the how to the why. In other words, why is it so important to properly set the right wrist in the backswing? As a right handed player it is the difference between a proper wrist load and not. It affected my entire golf swing on every shot from the driver to the shortest wedge shot. With the change, I have much more consistency and a lot more power with less effort.

If we learn why then we can groove proper muscle memory and all achieve lasting improvements. Just knowing how is not always good enough.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Follow Me

I have added a follow me link on the right side of the blog.  Sign up today and follow me with new posts an updates.  I look forward to sharing my experiences, tips, recommendations and ideas with you.  Also, please let me know if you have a Golf Blog as well and I would love to check it out and add it to my site.

Friday, July 23, 2010

I had the opportunity this spring to play Pinehurst #8 in North Carolina with three good friends.  We had a great time and were unsure which course to play since #2 gets all the press.  After asking around and even speaking to the people at Pinehurst they said play 8.  They said Pinehurst #8 is a great track, should not be crowded and is a great course.  They were correct, it was a great track, very challenging and quite beautiful.  Since we played in the springtime it was not crowded or overly expensive compared to #2.  If you ever get to North Carolina for golf, Pinehurst is a must.  Although it is somewhat remote that is part of its charm.  Not to mention great golf, lovely people, excellent service from the staff and exciting history.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Major Confidence

My two cents on last weeks British Open won by South African Louis Oosthuizen.  I find it interesting that regardless of the world ranking it comes down to confidence to win majors. If it was a matter of ranking then Casey and Westwood would have won several already. Even his fellow South African players said that him winning a major was more about his confidence and his "underacheiver" mentality than about talent. If there is anyting we can learn from the past two majors is that there are plenty of guys who have the talent to win but few have the confidence to pull it off. The PGA next month should be interesting

Wednesday, July 21, 2010