This column features recollections of the author’s 36 years as a golf writer. These installments stem from his many travels and experiences, which led to a gradual understanding that the game has many intriguing components, especially its people.
Here’s a peek at some news items in the world of golf.
Preaching to the Choir
Socalgolfer.org ,recently conducted a survey of golf course superintendents. The anonymous interviewees noted their pet peeves, listed below in order of irritation level. We’re sure our readers can relate.
- Tee-box tantrums resulting in shattered tee markers and driver-sized indents in the turf.
- Early-bird practice sessions when a golfer hits a dozen balls in the middle of a fairway with his 8-iron and doesn’t replace divots.
- Off-season trespassers walking their dogs and practicing shots with balls stored in bulging pockets (see No. 2).
- Litter bugs missing nearby trash bins with beer cans, candy wrappers and other detritus.
- Lip disservice whereby lazy golfers can’t be bothered to bend over to extract a ball from the cup, using their putters to ream out the hole.
- Reckless driving by (maybe tipsy?) golfers who run over ropes, directional signs, and fences with power carts.
- Ash holes from smokers who dig heels in the bunker sand to bury their butts.
- Taking excess relief by those who prefer to relieve themselves on the course rather than in nearby bathrooms.
- Stage whisperers who complain loudly enough to be overheard by maintenance crews about green speeds and other lame reasons they’re lousy golfers.
- Wannabe bosses of the moss who ask how the greens are rolling but don’t know the difference between a Stimpmeter and a parking meter.
- Icy treatment from golfers who snivel about frost delays, exclaiming “There wasn’t frost at my house!”
- Putting the aggro in agronomy by irate golfers hitting into maintenance crews or making no effort to get out of the workers’ way.
The patch on the left is where the bin was!..Please enjoy your golf but take your litter home. pic.twitter.com/4boXT9yWWJ— Gary Connell (@GaryCon11024388) June 10, 2020
Here are my additions, rounding out this list to an even 20:
- Pro shops allowing kids under driving-license age to rent power carts (youngsters should be taught early in life that golf is a walking game).
- Failure by golfers to use club- or course-provided sand-mix containers to fill in their own and/or other divots.
- Negligent ball-mark repairers; nothing more annoying than having to fix 15 clearly visible indents before a putt.
- Frustrated hackers swinging wildly at flowers, trees, and ornamental bushes after yet another crummy shot.
- Properly raking bunkers – if done at all – to leave them in better shape than when entered.
- Parking power carts right next to the edges of greens and bunkers.
- Loud music from golf carts; I like music but prefer controlling what I listen to and the volume knob.
- Incessant talkers whose one-way conversations are inevitably all about themselves.
Speaking of Aggravating . . .
I’ve tried to stay away from this subject but can’t avoid it any longer: LIV Golf. I have issues with it for several reasons. Here they are.
This renegade pro tour is an attempt to “sportswash” the heinous human-rights record of its bazillionaire Saudi backers, the Public Investment Fund (see Jimmy Dunne paragraphs below). Its name is the Roman numerals for 54; i.e., the number of holes played at LIV events. That’s also the score if every hole on a par-72 course was birdied. How cute.
Tournaments (only seven held in 2022; 14 this year) are no-cut, shotgun, three-round, “hit-and-giggle” team events that will revolutionize the sport, LIV proclaims. To quote Gertrude Stein, I find “there’s no there there.” That’s because this format is an inherent disconnect from the week-to-week accountability, focus, competitiveness, excitement, tension, tragedy, and career legacies associated with every other pro tournament where only one champion is crowned.
By now it should be clear that I’m no fan of this interloper, whose members have been suspended by the PGA Tour. According to commissioner Jay Monahan, “[These] players have made a choice for financial-based reasons” and “cannot demand the same benefits and opportunities” as other PGA Tour players. Some of the game’s strongest supporters – Tiger Woods, Justin Thomas, Rory McIlroy (who claims LIV has “fractured” golf), Fred Couples, Davis Love III, Nick Faldo, et al – agree with Monahan.
Meanwhile, the rebel circuit’s greedy players have pocketed giant guaranteed paydays following a leader (Greg Norman) who swears LIV is “good for the game.” How that statement rings true has never been precisely quantified by the “Great White Shark” or his minions.
The LIV folks are not only arrogant but litigious, filing lawsuits against PGA Tour officials (virtually all dismissed by judges for lack of evidence), individual players, Masters chairman Fred Ridley, former Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice, media outlets, and darn near anyone or anything that openly opposes them. Ridley, for one, was none too pleased to hear that, in October 2022, LIV reportedly attempted to rent Augusta National’s clubhouse during the upcoming Masters Tournament to try and woo potential recruits to climb aboard its party bus.
LIV has not made a penny on its events, despite shelling out a total of – at the time of this writing – $784 million to lure players. Some private clubs have shown distaste for this “tour,” essentially banning LIV players from their premises.
Jimmy Dunne, a huge supporter of golf and the president of historic Seminole in Florida, played with LIV’s Dustin Johnson in the club’s prestigious Pro-Member tournament last year. Dunne has since disinvited Johnson – who received $125 million to join LIV and “earned” another $55 million in purses and bonuses its first season – along with all other defectors. That group includes Phil Mickelson (paid $200 million for slinking to the other side), another former partner of Dunne’s in the event held on the Monday after the Honda Classic.
Dunne’s reasons are more personal than simply balking at LIV’s blatant venality. For years he was an influential figure on Wall Street as the senior principal of investment banker Sandler O’Neill (now Piper Sandler). One-third of Dunne’s employees (68 of 171 – including two close partners), were killed in the September 11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center. The FBI has determined that 15 of the 19 hijackers were Saudis. Dunne is playing with Max Homa in this year’s Pro-Member at Seminole.
Let’s Move on Please
The World Journal of Advanced Research and Reviews released a recent study about how golfers who walk or ride compare health- and score-wise. The results were published in the elaborately named “Energy Expenditure Compared to Mental Focus & Score in Three Modes of Golf Transport/Play.” The analysis involved a group of 10 golfers with average ages of 64 and mean nine-hole handicaps of 10.8.
The three groups were evaluated after riding in a golf cart, pushing a hand pushcart, and using a motorized trolley (called “joeys” where I come from).
The results were unsurprising. Both walking groups had a higher heart rate and burned almost 80 calories more an hour than the riders. Walkers showed better mental focus – 6.63 out of a possible 10 in the criteria – compared to 5.01 for riders. Most importantly, walkers scored almost a full stroke lower than those transported by buggies.
Tiger to Design his Fourth Course
In February 2023 it was announced that Tiger Woods and his TGR Design will design the second course at the posh Marcella Club in Park City, Utah. It will be the fourth course designed by Woods, whose other layouts include Bluejack National in Houston, El Cardonal at Diamante in Cabo, and Payne’s Valley in Hollister, Missouri. His group also designed short tracks at The Hay at Pebble Beach, The Playground at Jack’s Bay in the Bahamas, and Diamante.
The site for the course will be within a new alpine ski resort located at 7,000 feet above sea level. From the tips Tiger’s layout will stretch a whopping 8,000 yards and feature a 700-yard par-5 (the 10th hole) and 297-yard par-3 (15th). Each par-5 will measure more than 600 yards.
“I couldn’t be more excited to be partnering with Marcella Club to design and create a new championship golf course just outside Park City,” Woods said in a press release. “Utah is an incredible place, with favorable year-round weather that offers opportunities to be active outdoors throughout all four seasons – golfing, skiing, biking, hiking, and fishing – the list goes on and on. I’m thrilled to be designing a course in such a special location; this new course is uniquely beautiful and will offer engaging play for every ability.”
And a Happy Ending – First Green Shines in San Diego and Grows Overseas
Following a two-year, COVID-caused hiatus when thousands of schools were closed and kids were taught remotely, First Green has been generating considerable post-pandemic traction. The basis of the STEM-teaching program is bringing students to golf courses for hands-on “learning labs” led by superintendents. (Full disclosure: I was First Green’s board president for seven years leading up to the program’s merger with the GCSAA in 2018.)
During the PGA Tour’s Farmers Insurance Open in January 2023, the San Diego GCSA hosted 60 students from Millennial Tech Middle School at Torrey Pines, site of the tournament. https://www.gcmonline.com/headlines/gcsaa-news/news/first-green-torrey-pines?utm_source=informz&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=general&_zs=5OMEN1&_zl=HdA17
Fifteen members of the chapter were on hand to educate the students about different soil types, water management, protecting wildlife and the environment, drone technology, and various tools of the superintendent’s trade.
Answering questions during a Q&A were PGA Tour players Ricky Fowler and Michael Herrera. Herrera and fellow Farmers Insurance Open players Kamaiu Johnson, Doc Redman and Justin Lower hit golf balls, sharing stories and advice with the students.
Jeff Jensen, the GCSAA’s Southwest field staff representative, hosted the event, which received widespread media attention. “Special thanks to all of our volunteers from the San Diego GCSA, and our partners from the Century Club of San Diego, the city of San Diego and Farmers Insurance,” Jensen told GCM’s Mike Strauss, the GCSAA’s manager of media relations.
“It is a super event to bring 60 kids from Millennial Tech out to learn a little bit about the golf industry, our best management practices, our sustainability and give the kids a chance to see the golf course, see some professionals from the PGA Tour hit some balls,” Jensen added. “It was a great introduction to the game.”
Also in January, the GCSAA and British and International Golf Greenkeepers Association (BIGGA) announced a collaborative agreement to bring First Green – founded and developed in Bellevue, Washington in 1997 – overseas. As part of the multi-year agreement, the GCSAA will provide “branding, training, insight and curriculum advice to assist BIGGA with establishing the First Green in the UK,” according to the press release. “The two associations will share best practices and updates to ensure students will be part of programs offering the best possible experience and learning.”
Noted GCSAA’s CEO, Rhett Evans, “STEM education opens the door to a wide variety of career paths including golf-related careers. While our number-one goal for First Green is to support the educational growth of students, we also contribute to golf’s sustainability by showcasing golf facilities’ focus on preserving the environment and creating interest in a golf-related career,” Evans said in the announcement. “Over the years we have collaborated on many initiatives with BIGGA and created a strong working relationship. This long-term and successful relationship enabled our two associations to seamlessly bring the GCSAA First Green program to the UK.”
His counterpart at BIGGA, Jim Croxton, was equally enthusiastic. “First Green is a brilliant tool with all the assets, lesson plans and resources that any golf course needs to host an event. We’re thankful to the GCSAA for the incredible work they have done to develop the program and also for enabling us to bring it to the UK, where I am confident it will be a huge success.”
Here’s a video of a First Green outing in South Dakota: https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=1323434611458898
Jeff Shelley has written and published nine books as well as numerous articles for print and online media over his lengthy career. Among his titles are three editions of the book, “Golf Courses of the Pacific Northwest.” The Seattle resident was the editorial director of Cybergolf.com from 2000-15. He also co-founded the Northwest Golf Media Association in 1995. For seven years he served as the board president of First Green, an educational outreach program that is now part of the Golf Course Superintendents of America and Environmental Institute for Golf.