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Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Interview with Tom Doak part 2

Please note: Part one of the interview is here. Tom answered some Qs by email, others by tape. In two cases, we hit the same topic twice. Enjoy.

Jay: We know that you love telling people the joys of being a minimalist. What do you do different in building golf courses? What's unique about a Tom Doak design?

Tom: You know it is very had to define. I think I see different holes on a topo map and on the ground than most architects see and ways to lay out a hole that you are not moving any dirt on the fairway but you are using the more contoured part of the property to build something really interesting.. A lot of it comes from having traveled so much and seeing holes like the 5th Hole at Crystal Downs. I would see a hole like that on a topo map and most architects might never think of that. I have seen such a wild variety of holes compared to what most people have seen from spending a year in the UK and from going to see interesting courses buy famous designers where they didn't have much money and it is like "ok let's make it all good anyway."

Jay: Like Eddie Hackett maybe?

Tom: A little not a lot. I have spent a little time in Ireland but not that much but some of the less well known courses that Mackenzie and those guys have built too. But I have seen this really wide variety of stuff and I think that it makes me more attuned to seeing a less straight forward solution…you know you can wrap the hole this way and this way and this way but you can also go around the back of there and over there and you know I don't know why those things stick out to me when I am playing a golf course.

Jay: What's the key to being a successful minimalist?

Tom: One is being stubborn and really wanting to build a golf course and not move dirt. You know it’s so easy to move dirt that the only way you really going to be a minimalist is if you are stubborn and cheap or both. If you treat it like it is all your money and you don’t really want to spend any you don't have to. I was raised by two depression era parents so I grew up with the concept of “I've got to find a way to do this work and not let it cost a lot of money." That held me back from my early career cause the kind of people I am working for now they would never want to admit that they are finding an inexpensive way to do things…money is never the object for them…they want something cool and they realize that maybe it is cooler if you don't blow up the world and start over. But I have learned not to talk about it in terms of money because they would never admit that they like that it doesn’t cost as much.

Jay: Now how do we get the rest of the golf world and the media and players to jump on board with minimalist designs and with strategic designs as opposed to gaudy monstrosities that have waterfalls?

Tom: I don’t know that it is ever going to be a completely mainstream in this business….you know it didn't occur to me until I had been in the business for five or ten years that it is much easier. Most clients haven't developed golf courses before, they are developing golf courses not because they love to do it but they have been successful in some other business they are not really from the golf world. So they are a little nervous getting in the golf business and you know what makes them comfortable? A signature architect...an architect who says “you like my course over there? We will build you one just like it. We will just move the same amount of earth and do the same things and come up with something that is comparable because you like that you will be happy and we can tell you how much that will cost.” And they are fine with that. You know it is much a harder sell to say “you know it is a really nice piece of land and I am not sure what I want to do yet we are going to try to do something different so I can't tell you exactly what it is going to look like.” I mean that is where the work comes in and you know that is like “Oooooh that sounds risky. I don't want to do that.” It sounds less risky now that I have a reputation for having done some great courses and you know we know what it costs to build those and it is not going to break the bank. It is a whole simpler sale for an architect to just say “I am just doing the same thing that I have done a bunch of times that everyone recognizes me for and they like.”

Jay: Now did it cost a lot more money to move all that earth…those 800,000 cubic yards over at The Rawls Course (Lubbock, TX) or were you able to keep costs the same way down like at other courses?

Tom: We had some clever ways to keep the cost down somewhat…but no that was much more expensive than our typical golf course. I mean that started out with just a dead flat pancake on the ground and worse yet a pancake with views on two sides that we had to keep….I mean probably half the earth moving there is just hiding the stuff that was across the street on two sides of the property.

Jay: Like the power lines and the roads and stuff?

Tom: Power lines, roads, buildings, everything from residential to industrial stuff you know a lot of earth moving there is simply to try to hide that…we tried to do it without moving more dirt than we really needed to so we didn't go wild and do all this really dramatic stuff, a lot of it is fairly subtle. It is all build around the fact that it is a very windy place and the holes are designed to be challenging because of the wind..you know downwind you can run the ball into the green but only from certain places. There is a lot of long holes that play into the wind so they play really long. Even for good college players they are still hitting long irons in fairway woods to get home on some of the par-4s.

Jay: What are the best strategic holes?

Tom: You know I don't know if there is one that I would single out. There are a couple of really short par 4s that I like…there’s a little like a hole that I tried to do once before with the dog-leg last it tends to play cross wind you could try to smash the ball over the corner right in front the green if you want to but it is kind of a wild green with a lower and higher wings on the side if the pin is up on the wing last you really want to drive it out to the right to get it back and if the pin is out to the right cut behind a bunker than if you could drive it left then you don’t have to go straight over the bunker to get there. That is one hole that you try to drive two entirely different places yet you know there’s fairway bunkers out wide on either side too so that the straight forward drive down the middle is never good.

Jay: Give me some of your favorite memories about some of your colleagues. When is the last time one of them made you laugh out loud?

Tom: When we had that event I had four or five years ago out in Bandon (when Bandon was ready to open) I invited thirty architects to play golf. (Author's Note: Brian Silva calls it "Archite-looza"). All the guys my age or basically all the guys under 50 that had done anything at the time…we made an exception for Bill he was a little older than that….but Brian Silva came and brought one of the young guys who works for him and he was a riot he kept the whole place in stitches. We were talking about if we this did again where would we want to do it and I said Sand Hills, I think we might be able to arrange that. So Brian said "well I have got to enlarge a couple of ladies tees at some club next Spring if you give me enough notice I think I could try to make that."

Jay: How about Ben Crenshaw?

Tom: Ben I have known for going on twenty-five years, from when I was in college and interested in architecture. He always had a reputation for being interested in history and design. So I wrote him a letter and said if you were me and you were trying to study design what courses would you seek and he wrote back a nice letter and recommended a half a dozen places.

Jay: Do you remember which ones?

Tom: National and Shinnecock, Merion and Pine Valley. I remember sort of the one that was off the beaten track was Prairie Dunes. So we have been friends for a long time since and I had several people write letters of recommendation when I was trying to get my scholarship from Cornell so I could spend a year overseas and they were pretty impressive…Pete Dye and others, but the most impressive one of the bunch was the one Ben had written. I know he did it on the plane coming back from playing at Hawaii for the Hawaiian Open. He wrote a four page handwritten note you know basically saying this is what all great architects have done and I met Tom and I know him a little bit and he is a very sharp guy and if you give him this opportunity it will be great for the future of golf. You know and the other letters were wonderful too but that was kind of the clincher of the bunch. You know he said at the time boy I wish I could do what you are doing…that trip really did have a profound influence on what I design, since all the stuff I saw over there goes back to very simple principles of design. They wouldn't even think about doing what we do now. You know, golf is very uncomplicated compared to how we make it in America. Then when I came back, all the American courses being built in the early mid 80s were all erroneously was labeled Scottish.

Jay: Yeah and that means nothing now.

Tom: Right. It was all manufactured stuff and my reaction coming back was the Scots would never do this…they wouldn't do this any more than they would go over there and plant trees everywhere and bulldoze.

Jay: Like people say Montauk Downs is a links course, it is the furthest thing from it…it’s a great course but it is certainly not a links course…

Tom: Yeah, alot of terms about golf courses are misused so much in golf that people don't understand what they mean at all anymore so they have no meaning whatsoever.

Jay: What is the dumbest mistake you had ever made as an architect?

Tom: I have seen other people do it too and I did it. It wasn't on a new course it was on the redesign. When we redesigned Atlantic City Country Club, we changed five or six holes there and we were trying to make the course a little tougher and lengthen out. It had a lot of holes playing short downwind. So in rerouting the course and trying to get some longer tougher holes, I kind of combined these two holes, a par-4 and a par-3 into a short par-5 but in doing so the first hole was a dog leg and the second hole continued on and there was another hole coming back on the inside of dog legs. So even before we built it, I went back to the guy who was in charge of the project and said “I think we’ve got to change this because this one hole people are going to try to shortcut the one hole going down the other fairway” and the guy I was going to was the director of golf and he had already sold the company board on it and he didn't want to go back to them. He said “no it will be ok” and at the time they were using it as a really exclusive private deal anyway it just hospitality for guests at the casino…so you know there was only going to be 20 people a day out there it doesn’t really matter but sure enough year 1 people started trying to short cut it and in an event. I knew we shouldn't have done that, but they wanted their solution and anyway there wasn't a good one as unless you got a bunch of 100 foot trees right in the way that is where people are going to go….it is either that or call it out of bounds.

Jay: And you hate the cops don’t you? (Author’s Note “The Cops” is Tom’s slang for “out-of-bounds stakes.”)

Tom: Yes, unless they make it out of bounds to keep people from entering certain areas because the foot traffic would cause a problem.

Jay: What is the craziest thing, the most “I cannot believe this is happening” moment that you have had to deal with while you were working on a project?

Tom: I have had some odd environmental things over the years for a couple of them but I guess the funniest did not hold up the project. We were working on the planning for Apache Stronghold. The Apaches had this archeologist guide come out with us to look at where we wanted to hold this stuff and at one point were in the desert two hours from Phoenix, never having developed anything out there and we were walking around and at one point there was a bunch of little narrow desert washes going through and we walked through and in one of them there is this pile of rocks that has obviously been put there for something and I said to the archeologist what the hell is that and he said umm well in the 1930's in the Depression there were some MWP projects. Projects would get set up out there in the middle of nowhere just to pay people to work along some of these washes and that was probably one of them. Fortunately it wasn't old enough to be a true archeological artifact.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Two new links and Liberty National

Lets give a warm round of golf claps for a twosome coming up the fairway...

Unplayable lies is sports broadcaster Matthew Ipsan's site. He did a nice piece on my Old Tom Piece at Golf Observer. Thanks Matthew...I know it was long, but with all eyes on the Open and most of them revering everything about OTM, I had to leave no stone unturned.

Next, Golf Punk is a terrific site, but small world here...they are also friends with my friends Xeni who run the #1 blog in the world, Boing Boing! Lets have an ale and toast their health! BY any chance are you also friends with my colleague Ian Clarke? (Not to be confused with David Clarke
at Golf Magazine...another stout hearted fellow who recommends Ladybank as one of his faves in the UK. Finally, Golf Observer linked to my review of a private course to open next year, Liberty National, the course built in the shadow of Lady Liberty. It's here. Enjoy.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Golf in Hawaii and Triumph the insult comic dog!

So I'm researching for a golf trip to Hawaii and Lo and behold! There is Steve Czaban to the rescue as usual. This time the sportsworld's everyman (who also possesses rapier wit) hooked me up with Triumph the Insult comic dog...who gave us all the weather report for the upcoming Hawaii Trip...Czabe is right! Instant classic! Click here for the clip.

P.S....do NOT drink anything while watching this clip...you WILL spit it up all over your laptop.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Some great PRIVATE courses to join - Black Rock, Bull's Bay, Monterey Peninsula Country Club and Sebonack

Normally, this site is about great public courses, but let's take a quick look at some great private clubs for your family to join.

Boston: Black Rock G.C. - Brian Silva's collection of terrfic designs for golf holes is a living, breathing encyclopaedia of golf architecture. Plus the members are uniformly friendly. If you live in Boston, this should be the first choice. The par-3 9th hole (Pictured to the left) is a true redan with the green running away from the player. The course also features a Biarritz green at 11, holes with alternating shot values (draw off the tee, then fade into the green), and other interesting architectural features.

S.C.: Bull's Bay - Next, those of you
in South Carolina have the chance to join Mike Strantz's gorgeous and challenging Bull's Bay. Pete Dye told Strantz before he tragically passed from cancer that he got the idea for the artistic bunkering from Mike's work just east of Charleston.
The long par-4 9th is pictured here to the right.
From the clubhouse, you can see 14 holes while the rest play along the Bay. Mike loved it so much here, he chose to live next to this course over his terrific work at other courses in other parts of the country (and also to stay closer to his wife Heide and his daughters Andrea and Dana while they were the University of South Carolina.)

Finally, also remember this
name...Sebonack. Tom Doak, the ultimate in minimalist architecture had the chance of a lifetime (yes...even for the guy who built Pacific Dunes and Cape Kidnappers). He teamed up with Jack Nicklaus to build a seaside course right between Shinnecock and the National Golf Links of America. Sebonack is going to take the golf world by storm as the next truly great private club. Because Tom and Jack are forsaking what TV thinks is good for what is truly great golf architecture, we may never see Sebonack on TV, but that matters little. Expect a compilation of fantastic holes that are dictated by the shape of the land (not the architect's hand) and brilliant strategic puzzles on every tee box. Beg borrow or steal to find a way to play the course. For thoise of you wondering about membership, yes it will be expensive, but it will totally be worth it. Just think about this. Tom Doak has always loved and revered National and Shinnecock. Here is his chance (along with Jack and the excellent shapers) to add his work alongside Flynn's and Macdonald's. You know he was inspired.

For the record, Strantz also did the same thing at Monterey Peninsula Country Club (Shore Course). He had a chance to etch his work beside Pebble and Cypress. Like Mackenzie, he let the natural setting take center stage and dialed down his design a notch. The result is the most low impact Strantz design since Caledonia. You have to be on high alert at all times at Royal New Kent or Tobacco Road, but it was a kinder, gentler Strantz who did the Shore Course. It's still a towering achievement, but more sedate. No slave to symmetrical routing, the course is "out and back", is par 35-37=72 and has five par-5s and five par-3s. The par-5 15th is pictured below.

Monday, November 21, 2005

More pictures of Liberty National

The chipping swales and crowned shape of the par-4 3d green are really interesting...that's why there are no bunkers, the severe contours defend par admirably...less is more. However, is there really a need for a 521 yard par-4 at the sixth hole?

...but the par-4 5th at Liberty National G.C. is claustrophobic. Posted by Picasa

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Liberty National Golf Club - New York City Golf in the shadow of Lady Liberty

Remember this name: Liberty National Golf Club. You will see it again.

Reebok CEO Paul Fireman envisioned a private club just minutes from Manhattan where wall street execs could play nine holes after work or cut monumental business deals in an opulent club setting in the shadow of the Statue of Liberty.

Oh...and of course there's that pesky PGA/USGA tournament every developer dreams of having too...and the top 100 rating.

After walking the course today with Director of Golf Development Adrian Davies (an old touring pro) and Marketing expert Josh Zeide, it's fair to say Liberty National will make a valiant run to host a high profile event - perhaps a Ryder or President's Cup.
It will also make a ratings splash because it will fill its primary purposes well - it will be a great place for well-heeled business executives to conveniently play ay the end of the workday and it will look great on TV. There were some irregularities in the overall design strategy, but there were also some inspired moments. Let's review the tale of the tape:

Architects: Bob Cupp and Tom Kite. Bob Cupp has built a nice career building solid courses - he effectively blends building a great tournament venue and a solid strategic course to as much an extent as those usually mutually exclusive ends (in the 21st century) can be met. As for Kite, normally when I hear a touring pros name
attached to another designers work it means one of three bad things. Either 1) the designer needs the pseudo-star power attached to a star player's name (as happens frequently in foreign countries) because (right or wrong) the client doesn't think his name has enough cache; 2) the pro is going to make every Joe and Jane Citizen who plays the course try to hit some impossible shot shape only the pro could hit; and/or 3) we're going to get a course designed in the penal school or runway schools of architecture. Lots of doctrine of framing, but strategy light.

Luckily, Kite was actually concerned with strategy too and some holes are excellent. Moreover the routing had moments of genius - particularly regarding wind direction. The first four holes run in four different directions and only two consecutive holes run in the same direction twice...once at 8 and 9 and again at 15 and 16. Also, the
course runs out and back...it does not return to the clubhouse after nine.

The good about the course: They do NOT try to call it a links course as it is the far from links. The soil is spongy loam and will be more condusive to stick the pin aerial attack than a firm fast links playing surface. Even so, the soil was in excellent shape with healthy roots and good leaf. The nap was great length - meaning it will winterize well and should stay at a four and 1/2 star conditioning level.

The course gets four and 1/2 stars for setting also. Constant views of Lady Liberty
and the seaside. It's very pretty.

Two holes that stand out are 12 and 16. Twelve, a 437 yard par-4 has design reminiscent of 8 at National Golf lInks with its bifurcated fairway and bunkers directly
in the line of play. The 328 yard par-4 16th is drivable, but with water and sand in the direct line of flight, it's a perilous risk.

The par-3s are all postcards and offer interesting strategic risks. For example, in one case, fearing the water hazard on the left, the player aims right at a deep pot bunker on the other side of the green which puts him a worse predicament because now he's coming out of the bunker towards...you guessed it...the water hazard!

In a few places, there are some interesting chipping swales around a fistful of holes that will make for interesting strategic recovery shots. However, in a few cases, most notably 14 and 18, these areas are so small that I doubt many balls will filter and
instead will be gobbled up by the bordering water hazard.

The restaurant, clubhouse, gym and any other amenities will be ultra-high end. It's $500,000 initiation fee and $30,000 a year after that, but you will have everything you could wish for from a genie in a bottle. No expense spared.

Things I wish were different: Soooooooo many holes are claustrophobic. With fairways averaging 30 yards, its frequently penal, tight and "targety" (was that English?). It will be difficult to hit them in a 30 mph crosswind. The greens are "medium" size to use industry jargon, which means comparatively they are really tight targets. Most do not have much undulation, although one (see below) is an excellent standout example of a crowned green with fascinating chipping areas immediately adjacent.

They moved THREE MILLION CUBIC YARDS OF EARTH!!!!! Good aspect - they needed that much to raise the entire former dump sight out of the water in the first
place. It sits 50-60 feet higher than before the course existed. Bad aspect - the most interesting undulations are OFF the fairway...put those in play! Note: they are considering widening the fairways for ordinary play which would make for many more options, and fun uneven lies. Average players will need some extra room to play.

Also, despite moving all that earth, the entire sight only has a grand total of 60 feet of elevation change maximum. Last, you see Lady Liberty constantly, but it's never used as a target for a drive. How cool would it be to have a semi-blind drive where
the only thing you see and aim for is the Torch. Then you crest the hill and there's your ball in the fairway.

Lastly, some of the holes are too long. The par-4 6th alone is 521 yards. One more par-4 exceeds 500 and sandwiched in between is a 628 yard par-5. All told, the course is well over 7,400 yard par 70...which means it plays closer to 7,800. (For a good rule of thumb, look at the par of the golf course, for example, 70. Then look at the yardage and add 200-250 yards for each stroke under 72 and you'll see how it will play if it were a par 72.)

I think the course would be fine as a par 71, but many courses are too enamored with showing the USGA and PGA that they can keep the pros out of red numbers.

Anyway, the course will successfully attract a solid membership who will get what
they pay for and lots more. Its run for a tournament will be interesting to watch...it has alot of what TV golf likes...great aerial shots, a great natural setting and a tough test. As for cracking the top 100, I will bet it will make a great showing in next year's "New Private Course" rankings, but the rest is speculation.

Most importantly for day to day usage, If you are a rich flounder living in NYC with gobs of liquid cash and an insatiable golf jones, you may finally have a place to catch the ferry from wall street at 5:05 and be on the first tee by 5:35. The course will be tough on the pro, but may be even more punishing to amateurs. Bring more than a dozen golf balls...and your camera.

The third green (pictured abovet) has a crowned shape, pronounced contours and devilish chipping swales which defend par admirably without the need for elaborate bunkering.

However, the fifth hole (pictured next) is far to penal. Faux mounds guard the right and water guards the left. There is nowhere to miss.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

The gorgeous 15th at Monterey Peninsula C.C. Shore Course - winner of the 2005 Jazzy Award for Best Re-Design. Posted by Picasa

Mike Strantz - winner 2005 Jazzy Award for Architect of the Year for his tremendous redesign of Monterey Peninsula CC Shore Course. Posted by Picasa

2005 Jazzy Awards - Architect of the Year: MIke Strantz, Best Re-Design: Monterey Peninsula C.C. - Shore Course

When he was President of the American Society of Golf Course Architects, Dan Maples once observed at their annual meeting “Each year we try for twelve months to beat each others brains in but I can’t think of a better group of people I would rather spend my lifetime working among.”

Indeed, the collegiality of this august body is inspiring, but this year even though minimalist genius Tom Doak traded blows with heavyweights Tom Fazio and Pete Dye and even though Jim Engh is rewriting the awards record books with accolade after accolade while Brian Silva keeps doing his best C.B.Macdonald impression, one man’s monumental achievement, accomplished in the face of the ultimate adversity – a fight with cancer - resulted in his rightfully becoming immortal. The golf gods smiled on Mike Strantz to afford him a chance to join the pantheon of the game’s greatest designers (including his idol, Alistair Mackenzie), and etch his unique, vibrant vision on the most sacred plot of land save only St. Andrews.

Monterey Peninsula is the epicenter of golf in the New World. With its rugged coastline, fantastic weather and storied history, its legend grows with each passing day. The architects of American golf’s sacred shrines – Cypress Point, Pebble Beach and the other resort courses read like a who’s who in the golf world; Jack Neville, Alistair Mackenzie and Robert Trent Jones.

With such celebrated courses on the doorstep, many people never even heard of Monterey Peninsula Country Club, even though it shares the same coastline and property as its better known sisters. Both of the country club’s courses, the Shore Course and the Dunes course were marked for redesign at the turn of the millennium. Rees Jones got the more sedate plot at the Dunes Course, but the members knew that the Shore Course lay on a piece of coastline the equal of Cypress and Pebble. The biggest names were in the mix for the job.

Arnold Palmer was the front runner, but after turning in proposed routings two issues became apparent. First, Palmer was clearly handcuffed in drafting his routing plans by the sites environmental restrictions. This led to a second, equally sticky problem. It became clear Palmer’s routings had a further flaw; they failed to make optimum use of the natural wonders on the site. “His holes kept running away from the coastline” said one observer. The resulting designs made merely mundane usage of a world-class site.

The redesign committee then took a brave gamble. They contacted “The Maverick.”

Strantz had built a career and loyal following by being dramatic and bold. Yes, his courses are larger than life, but he never traded visuals for great strategy. He demanded both. His holes are frequently so wide that there are as many as five different angles of attack which can cater to every caliber of play. Yet teeboxes have a cloak and dagger claustrophobia which can terrify even the most seasoned player. The book on Strantz had always been “I’ve never seen anything like it.”

It seemed like an odd match; on one hand the wild, unapologetic, rugged, self styled and described “Maverick” and the reserved, well-heeled Monterey private club. Yet the committee recognized and embraced two critical factors in picking Strantz. First, they came to a realization that too few country clubs and developers recognize. Just like a great microbrew is always superior to a mass produced beer, the new generation of preeminent “small company” golf course design firms have a vastly superior understanding of great golf design than either touring professionals or mega-design companies. Rather than a banal, insipid penal design, chances were they would get something original, something unique, something passionate. Second, they knew Strantz’s idol was Mackenzie. With Cypress, Mackenzie’s masterpiece right next door, Strantz would be inspired.

It was the opportunity of a lifetime. Yet Strantz was the consummate professional. He told the committee he would not criticize the work of a colleague. When they informed him Palmer had told the committee he could not take the job with the environmental restrictions he found as an impasse, Strantz replied, “Well I can build the course for you even with those restrictions.”

It should have been a fairy tale ending, a coming out party on the biggest of stages for a vibrant individual, a devoted family man, and a gifted designer in the prime of life. Fate had other cruel plans. Just as the Strantz family celebrated perhaps their greatest achievement, Mike was diagnosed with cancer of the tongue.

On Friday: Strantz does his best Mackenzie imitation and creates a course eerily similar in design to Alistair's work at Cypress Point.

Morgan Pressel turns pro

The golf media may be star struck by Michelle Wie, but they better break out the band-aids and bactine cause they are gonna get burned. Nothing galls them worse than when they are wrong about someone they themselves anointed as the chosen one. (See Mickelson, Phil and the SAVAGING he had to endure before breaking the "0 for whatever" streak in majors by beating that ape on his back to death with a gap wedge.)

The worst case scenario just came to pass. Morgan Pressel is turning pro...and she's got game, spunk and ice water in her veins.

Pressel is 115 pounds of Tonka-tough steel, baby. Lets review for a minute...just in case anybody tries to run some "revisionist history" past you in your next water cooler discussion.

Pressel handed Wie her lungs head to head every single time they have met face to face.

At the U.S. Open, while Wie was stamping her foot in frustration and offering those Tiger-esque pained expressions every two holes on her way to a tidy 82, Pressel had the throttle floored and was licking her chops. You could see it in her eyes...she was ready to flatten Birdie Kim. It took a lighning bolt lucky shot of the highest order...of epic magnatude...to steal that tournament from her.

Hey, you'd shed a tear too if you got jobbed like that at the U.S. Open at age 16.

Two weeks later, it took a pitch in from the next county to derail the Pressel train. She was criticized for throwing her clubs into the trunk of her grandfather's car and pouting a little.

Of course she was gonna throw a club and pout! LIKE EVERYBODY SAYS ABOUT WIE...SHE IS ONLY 16...and she just got robbed again in a stroke of unbelieveable luck for the second time in two weeks. Hell, I threw my clubs in the car and pouted after throwing a junior club championship to a badly-dressed chump...at that age it's understandable.

Sure, sometimes you lose, but you never have to LIKE IT.

So what did she do? She ran over everybody at the US Women's Amateur. The locker room was abuzz with the same sentiments each day by competitor after competitor. "Did you get hit by that train?" Pass the band-aids and bactine. Morgan's cleanin' house!

Pressel plays with reckless abandon...and that's just how Joe and Jane Citizen like it. We love OVERACHIEVERS, not anointed stars. We love players with passion, not pampers. We love feel good stories of hard work and determination, not privilege and pandering.

You take one look at Pressel and you see one look in her eyes...RESOLVE. All she needs is time. She has a killer instinct I have seen in only two other women players...Annika and Paula Creamer.

Pressel made 7 apearances on the Ladies' Tour last year and cracked the top 25 every time. HAD SHE BEEN ALLOWED TO COLLECT PAY, SHE'D HAVE MADE A TIDY $00,000 And been ranked 32 on the money list...in a mere seven starts.

So hold off on those coronations for Michelle. The proof of the pudding is in the tasting and with spunky firebrands like Creamer and Pressel just aching to compete at full tilt from the first shot Thursday, Michelle better find the next gear fast and better make all her putts. She's gonna need them...or alot of band aids and bactine.

Junk Justice, Athlete Pandering help accused felon Reuben Houston play for Georgia Tech

Nothing erodes confidence in the American Justice system faster than when athletes and celebrities get preferential treatment. In a ghastly and grotesque parody of "justice," Superior Court Judge M. Gino Brogdon ordered Georgia Tech to reinstate cornerback Reuben Houston to the football team even though he is facing felony drug charges and was suspended from the team for the season. Houston was arrested June 21 in Atlanta in connection with a pot distrinbution ring based in California.

As a sports society, we were just starting to get somewhere. Steroid cheaters were finally about to face the music more severely than ever before, self-indulgent "ballers" with street attitude and little regard for such niceties as manners and responsibility were finally becoming exposed for the frauds they are and teams finally began drawing lines in the sand regarding runaway contracts.

So much for progress. Congratulations Judge...you just "set the way back machine" for "dark ages." Thank you judge for showing us that, at least in your courtroom, rules are for chumps and that talent at football is more important than respect for the law and being a decent upstanding member of society. Oh well...AT LEAST NOW GEORGIA TECH HAS A MARGINALLY BETTER CHANCE OF KNOCKING OFF MIAMI IN THE BIG GAME THIS SATURDAY. It would save the team's season wouldn't it? Knocking off a rival that still has an outside chance of getting to the title game...sure would help recruiting and booster donations too. All hail Lord Football.

Interestingly, even though he now has his starting cornerback back for the game, Ga Tech's AD still was sufficiently outraged to note "This decision will send shock waves through college athletic programs around the country. We must be able to set standards of conduct for our student athletes and enforce and maintain discipline."

Those are crocodile tears if ever I saw. Let's see what he says it Houston runs a pick-six back for the winning score. Isn't it great when goliath (the big universities) finds itself in a win-win situation...

Earlier this year, New York City sitting federal court Judge Shira Scheindlin issued an equally disappointing decision when she ruled that Maurice Clarett could enter the NFL draft despite an age restriction. She was quickly reversed.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

The soul of golf course architecture and Rob Thompson wins a 2005 Jazzy Award for blogging

Great stuff on the Internet today regarding architecture. Geoff Shackelford has an absolutely hilarious satire of the Golf Digest Panel winter meeting here.

Defending his panel (and his loyalty commands respect) Rob Thompson takes Geoff to the woodshed as more puerile than poignant.

I threw my $.02 in on Rob's site here, so click to see me stick up for old-school architecture and strike a blow against over-priced chump-traps and real estate marketers masquerading as designers. The important thing is:

Geooff is razor-sharp precise when he 1) mocks Orlando as the tackiest city on the eastern seaboard, 2) exposes the ridiculously overpriced and under designed courses at the resort and 3) exposes the banal insipidness of many of the courses by several of the designers invited. You could re-name the entire thing "how to brainwash the well-heeled panelists into liking our courses and helping our MARKETING.

We are in a battle for the soul of golf design. As one of our leading lights on fine architecture, I hope you'll join me in wondering why Fazio, Nicklaus and Palmer ARE there...but Engh, Doak and Silva are NOT. To quote Alistair Mackenzie "the very soul of the game shrieks!"

This has "feed the beast" written all over it. Don't feed the beast, slay the beast...one spear at a time.

While on the topic of Golf Observer, my new piece on Fossil Trace will be up later this week and look for new piece's there by me as well on HIAWATHA LANDING, TOBACCO ROAD, other course architects and more soon.

Finally, although I disagree with him on the Shackelford piece, Rob Thompson wins the 2005 Jazzy Award for Best Golf Blog in a close dog fight with the Media Guru and the Bogey Lounge.

The Best Golf Blog Jazzy is now the "Bunker Mulligan Award" memory of our fallen comrade, Mike Reed.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Mackenzie was the greatest at green settings. Crystal Downs wins the 2005 Jazzy Award for "Best Classic Private Course." Posted by Picasa

2005 Jazzy Awards -Best Classic Private Course: Crystal Downs C.C., Frankfort, MI



“We don’t often have seventy degree days in October, Jay” said Tom Doak I his usual matter-of-fact timbre. Confident but reserved, Doak doesn’t turn cartwheels down the fairway or “have fits of hysteria on every tee box” as his idol Mackenzie would say, but his love of his home course, the delightfully relaxing Crystal Downs – crystalline at times, verdant and idyllic at others – is palpable and infectious. “I fell in love with course from the first time I saw it while at Cornell.”

You can see why Doak moved here after returning from his scholarship tour of the UK’s greatest courses. Alistair Mackenzie’s design is still a textbook in waiting for would-be-designers. “Mackenzie knows how to make 6,500 yards feel like 7,000…wish I knew how he did it.”

We both know the answer to that question – it’s a par 70 which means several par-5s are masquerading as par-4s…about 450 yards in cases. Nevertheless, Crystal Downs is the essence of a truly great country club…it’s peaceful and restful, it’s not too crowded, the course is the star (and what a star it is) and everyone is friendly with one another.


Saturday, November 12, 2005

Great option filled par-5s (like 18 seen here), shaved Pinehurst like chipping areas and great variety in the par-4s make Pradera the winner for this years "Best New Private Couse" Jazzy Award. Posted by Picasa

2005 Jazzy Awards -Best New Private Course: The Club at Pradera, Parker, CO

As I noted in part one of my interview with Jim Engh here, people mistakenly attribute Jim Engh’s success to beautiful natural settings and not his talent for building fascinating golf holes with multiple playing options.

Pradera is a treasure trove of all of Engh’s favorite design features and incorporates Alistair Mackenzie’s “line of charm” concept by putting hazards in the direct line of play between the teebox and the hole. Engh has his “Irish Hole” at number 6, a short par-4 where the green is semi-hidden between towering dunes. He also has several holes that are more Scottish in flavor; being wide open and with the green guarded by devilish chipping swales and drop-offs and pot-bunker-deep muscle bunkers directly in front.

The routing follows Engh’s trend of breaking with the tradition of symmetry (4 par-3s and 4 par-5s, two on each loop of nine). Instead, by letting the land dictate the best holes and routing to the architect and not vice-versa, Pradera has 5 par-5s and 5 par-3s. Three of the par-5s are just fabulous, long carries to islands of fairway to give it a go in two, and longer “scenic routes” for amateurs. There is terrific variety of short and long holes as well. With an price of $29,000 per year plus $335 per month for a whole family, Pradera is a terrific choice for a home course and country club. Tennis, pools and a gym on site are other draws.

Runner up – BLACK ROCK C.C., Boston, MA

This was far more of a heavyweight prizefight than anyone knows. Sadly, too few people will play these courses as they are private, but everyone should as they both are textbook examples of superlative design.

Black Rock is Brian Silva’s version of National Golf Links of America by C.B. Macdonald.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

The "Green Monster" Bunker complex guards the last half of the fairway at the par-5 4th at Black Rock. Winner 2005 "Best Hole" Award. Posted by Picasa

2005 Jazzy Awards -Best Golf Hole: No. 4 at BLACK ROCK C.C., Boston, MA


After seeing close to 100 courses this year, many ranked in the top 10 in America in either the public or private rankings, this was exceptionally difficult. I played many incredible, creative, beautiful, and strategic golf holes. In one stretch, I played Pebble Beach, Pinehurst, and Monterey Peninsula (Shore Course). Nevertheless, this year’s winner is far off the beaten track.

Brian Silva is quietly building golf courses for the ages. Because he trades what the pro tour thinks is a good hole or course for what history proves is a good hole or course, he frequently flies below the radar screen, but Black Rock has angles and design features that rival National Golf Links in Southampton.

The course is a living textbook of classic holes and angles. The most interesting and fun hole is the par-5 4th. Players stand on the teebox and face a huge trapezoid-shaped grass covered rock about 400 yards from the tee which Silva calls the “Green Monster.” The Monster also has Silva’s trademark horizontal bunkers cut into the face of the hill like a stack of pancakes for visual stimulus.

After the drive, they can either lay up short of the Monster or go for the green. Either way the approach is blind, but Silva makes that point moot. Beyond the bunker complex, the fairway drops off for 100 yards at a 45 degree angle and empties into a punchbowl green. Brilliant.

Runner up: #10 at The Club at Pradera, Parker, CO

There are too many phenomenal holes at Pradera to praise here, but the 311 yard par-4 10th is fiendishly clever in its intricacy.

From the tee, the green sits beckoning…almost winking like a harlot with teased hair in a short skirt at the end of the bar. But two deep muscle bunkers sit dead center of the fairway short of the green. Moreover, the green drops off sharply on all sides and is surrounded by devilish grassy chipping areas. The green drops off sharply, so chips are to be played thoughtfully and delicately. Even so, Engh gives the player options. Bump and run? Pitch and check? Putt? Any will work.

Once again, Jim Engh says more in 311 yards than most architects say in 450.

2005 Jazzy Awards -Best Conditioned Golf Course: Red Tail G.C., Devens, MA

I have always loved Red Tail as a masterpiece of architectural echo, bringing old design features from great courses like National Golf Links of America to public players. Happily, after a rugged 2003 season (where most NE golf courses suffered to some extent), Red Tail was in pristine condition and has blossomed into a rich, multi-textured, multi-colored stunner this year.

Picture below.

Red Tail - Winner "Best Conditioning" for 2005. Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

2005 Jazzy Golf Awards -Best Golf Writer: Ron Whitten


In a year that saw 1) ESPN gobble up a handful of writers and turn them into TV shills; 2) every sportswriter who happens to cover golf overhyping Michelle Wie; and 3) media attention diverted to a "chase for the cup" it's nice to know that we can always rely on Ron Whitten to provide clarity of eye and sensibility in writing. Ron quietly wrote arguably two of the most important articles ever this year.

First, his piece "Is Tom Fazio Really Good for Golf?" examined with laser-like precision the malaise that has infected golf course building, golf course marketing and the choices for tournament venues.

Next, Ron shatters the myth of "Donald Ross Greens" with his pre U.S. Open expose on how "Donald Ross wouldn't recognize these greens" explaining that not only did Ross NOT commonly employ crowned greens everywhere, but that the greens at No 2 (as they exist today) grew several inches over decades, then were cut at the sides by the U.S.G.A.

Finally, of all the poignant pieces written to honor the passing of eminent golf course architect Mike Strantz, noone captured the spirit of the man and his courses better than Ron.

Honorable Mention:

Tie: Geoff Shackelford Cameron Morfit and Melanie Hauser

Only Shackelford has the courage to take on the USGA and sensitive issues such as course length (and what strange things players may be doing as a result) with such relentlessness and fearlessness. Melanie Hauser wrote the most sensible, introspective and intelligent piece about how Michelle Wie Fever has been overblown by the media. Cameron and his excellent editors at Golf Magazine ran a terrific piece on one of the best undiscovered jewels of the golf travel world - North Dakota and its great trio: Hawktree, Bully Pulpit and Red Mike.

The "Jazzies!" - Jay Flemma's Golf Course and golf writing awards

I realized last week that on November 16th I will complete my first full year as a published golf writer. Coincidentally, with the New Year rapidly approaching, most writers turn to introspective "year in review" columns. So happily, I am introducing ***drum roll please***

THE JAZZIES - Jay's Golf Course and writing awards!

That's right, besides other articles over the next week, I will be handing out various 2005 "Best of" awards. Some categories include "Best golf article," "Best golf writer," "Best new public course," "Best new private course," "Best classic design," "Best hole of the year" and many other categories.

In other news, folowing up on yesterday's article about the Carolina Panthers cheerleaders bar bathroom sex romp, Steve Czaban reports, "They have since been released from the cheer squad. And yes, the Vikings have decided to pick them up off of waivers.

Monday, November 07, 2005

More NFLers gone wild!

...OK this time it's NFL cheerleaders, but just when you slam people for real-life story lines from ESPN's "Playmakers" it only gets worse...check out this from the "sports societal rocket sled to hell" division. As Steve czaban said "how long before the minnesota vikings pick them up off waivers?":

NFL Cheerleaders arrested in sex romp

Two Carolina Panthers cheerleaders who allegedly were having sex with each other in a bathroom stall at a Tampa, Fla., nightclub were arrested and charged early Sunday following a run-in with patrons and police.

According to a police report obtained by the CBS TV affiliate in Tampa and the Charlotte Observer, Angela Ellen Keathley and Renee Thomas were arrested following an incident at Banana Joe's, in Tampa's Channelside district, at 2:10 a.m. ET.

In the police report, witnesses claimed Thomas and Keathley were having sex with each other in a stall when other patrons grew angry that the two were taking so long in the bathroom.

Another woman waiting to use the bathroom got into an argument with the two, and Thomas hit that person in the face, according to details of the report posted on TampaBay10.com, the CBS TV affiliate's Web site.

Keathley, who was escorted from the nightclub, was so drunk she could barely stand, the report said. Police described Keathley as rude and belligerent with police.

When Thomas was arrested, she gave police the name of another Panthers cheerleader -- Kristen Lanier Owen, the Observer and TampaBay10.com reported. Thomas, who was charged with one count of battery, might face additional charges for lying to police, once they confirm her identity.

Keathley was charged with disorderly conduct and obstructing or opposing an officer.

Other Panthers cheerleaders bailed Thomas and Keathley out of Hillsborough County jail later Sunday morning, TampaBay10.com reported.

The cheerleaders made the trip to Tampa on their own -- the squad performs on the sideline only at home games. Panthers officials at Sunday afternoon's game said they were aware of the report, but declined further comment when contacted by the Observer.

According to the Panthers' official team Web site on NFL.com, Keathley is a registered nurse and second-year member of the TopCats. Thomas is listed as a student at the University of North Carolina-Charlotte and first-year member of the cheerleading squad.

On a happier note, Rob Thompson has a great article on the Golf Magazine Top 100 at www.goingforthegreen.blogspot.com.

Anyway, tomorrow its back to more Jim Engh interview.

What pro golf and Terrell Owens have in common

It's amusing watching ESPN, the holy church of the professional athelete, finally burn one of their own at the stake for heresy. "The Owenstein Monster " started eating his own teammates. Of course, Dr. Frankenstein had to destroy his own monster too.

The lesson to be learned (or not) is next time you (television sports media) are disgusted by the actions of pro atheletes who cross the line (or cross the loin in the case of the Minnesota Vikings)...

Don't feed the beast.

What kind of message does it send to already infernally educated, inarticulate, behaviorally underdeveloped or even hostile, spoiled multi-millionaires whose only "talent" is stupid human tricks with a ball when you let Michael Irvin or Jim Grey and other no-journalistic-talent posers and apologizers offer a 24/7/365 arena to "strut their stuff and bring their bling?" (that's a direct quote from Irvin, ESPN's anointed "Playmaker" and the Dallas City Police's rap-sheet recorded "Pleamaker.")

Of course...the message is "act like a chump all you like! The louder and more outrageous the better! We will protect you at all costs."

Ask Keyshawn Johnson or Terrell "where are they now?" Their stock was in sharp decline and Me-Shawn is now "Me-shawn when Coack Parcells says so..."

Of course ESPN's tune changes when the same atheletes start sexually propositioning young prudent tour boat employees or going into the stands to make oatmeal of a paying patron's face because of some MANUFACTURED claim of "disrispec, yo." Then, whoopsie, we better condemn it...except you, Screamin A. Smith...I mean Stephen A. Hole...I mean Stephen A. Smith, you defend them...we don't want the players to get mad. You too Irvin and Grey. Go interview Ron Artest the Victim.

After all, we might not get to roll to the club next week in the tricked out Escalade. Worse...we might have to offer them TWO "Sunday Conversation" spots in order to get one "Budweiser Hot Seat" out of them.

Now the same forces that brought us a cadre of obnoxious anti-social, preening, eat-their-own wide receivers, rap/thug mogul NBA "ballers" other assorted socially worthless in-your-face chumps have turned their attention to golf with the complete goal of making it as lowest common denominator as possible...right down to encouraging a manufactured slow-motion bumper car race of a money grab right while football is starting to really gain momentum.

...and Tim Finchem agrees. Mind you, these are the same TV nimrods who tell us to love the crazies lining the 16th at Scottsdale each spring to get drunk and heckle. Tink the pros like that? "That's not a golf tournament" says former U.S. Open Champ Jim Furyk.

Some members of some excellent private country clubs or good public golf courses often ask me what can be done to improve their rankings with major magazines. Sometimes the answer is simple...

Nothing. You have a great product (course). You have optimized your upward mobility. The only courses above you are, for all intents and purposes, untouchable. "Famous Country Club X" may be ranked in the top 25...but lets face it...Cypress, Augusta and Pinehurst are just better and are not going to drop beneath you. You will spend money needlessly that can be better used elsewhere.

Well, Tim Finchem, the same is true of golf when compared to Lord Football. No matter how many eagles Tiger makes at the TPC at Little Chicago's Merrill Lynch Shootout presented by Viagra, it is not as exciting to as many people as the Pittsburgh Steelers scoring 14 points in 47 seconds to beat the Dallas Cowboys by one at the gun.

Vijay chipping to one foot from the fringe to edge Phil is not going to lure people away from Tedy Bruschi sacking Peyton Manning and Willie McGinest scooping up the fumble and rumbling 75 yards for a score.

And let's face it...even Tiger heading right for Jack's major record is not generating the cross-demographic appeal of baseball or football.

Ron Sirak is dead wrong about one point in his article here. No...the Tour Championship is NOT more compelling than pro football. Always remember, Sirak works for ESPN. He is paid to try to run that by you. Don't feed the beast.

Like hockey, golf has a rabid, loyal, but limited fan base. Listening to the TV executives...who 1) only like things they have seen before; 2) seemingly roll dice to determine scheduling (read: More reality shows); 3) constantly underestimate middle America will dilute the importance of the rest of the season and fail to make a dent in footbal's fall dominence.

Regarding hockey's similar attempt to foist a watered down version of the game (a skills shootout) for settling ties, the New York Post's Phil Mushnick writes that it was like watching "an NBA game after one OT determined by a slam dunk contest or a baseball game, after 10 innings decided by a home run derby. We're told this is what the fans want. But we're not sure that's true."

No, Phil...it's what the TV suits want. Nice clean time lines for scheduling in extra reality shows or "entertainment tonight." And it's instant gratification for a "fast paced, get what we want when we want it on demand world."

Less real golf, more silly golf. Brought to you by the same guys who put Chris Berman in the tower at Pinehurst during the U.S. Open so he could say "David Major Toms" every single time TV cut to the guy. Too bad 80% of your audience is too old or too refined to get the joke.

You know, Tim you could follow Augusta National's template. You call the shots to TV. Less flash, better product. Hell, tthe Masters got along just fine WITHOUT two years' TV revenue!

Rather than changing the schedule of the major championships (HEAVEN FORBID!!!) or worse, adding Sawgrass as a fifth major (BLASPHEMY!!!), we now have a golf version of a bad "made for TV movie." Something else that, like the "Tour Championship," is only mildly interesting to only the most hardcore fans.

Why not take the silly season and do something Jack Nicklaus suggested twenty years ago...have the players form teams and play each other? Or better yet, have the NCAA championship in the fall instead of the spring, and dominate the landscape as golf's version of the final four? Maybe we need more international events instead of meaningless "World Golf Championships" (which are "actually four more majors" according to the Accenture marketing division and various TV shills) and silly skins games. No...make up your own mind about what makes up good golf television, good golf tournament setups and good tournament courses.

Don't just believe the beast.

Maybe the fall malaise is caused by too much meaningless stroke play as well as being up against the sports world juggernaut. Hasn't anyone noticed how every other sport has at least a four to five month off season, but stroke-play golf never ends?

Well, like most fans, until I see something truly original, wake me up in January for a glimpse of Kapalua and Wailea...

...then I'll sleep again till Sawgrass, when real sports sparks start to fly again. Not TV induced hysteria...both on and off the field of play.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Golf Course Architect Jim Engh - Playing the Enghles, Pt. 1


Since forming his own design firm in 1997, Colorado’s Jim Engh has won four “best new course” awards from Golf Digest, been named “Architect of the Year” in 2003 ahead of such luminaries as Fazio, Dye, and Doak, built a reputation for getting world class work done on time and under budget, landed one gorgeous site after another on which to build yet another epic layout, and has developed a legion of loyal fans not just in Colorado and former home North Dakota, but all around the country.

And yet somehow the golf industry and fans actually underestimate Engh and fail to truly appreciate him altogether.

You read correctly. Underestimate the winner of multiple best course awards.

Because Engh has had gorgeous canvases on which to work - pristine, unspoiled North Dakota and Colorado Canyonlands and mountain tops - the uninitiated attribute his success to the superficial. “He’s great because he has the most postcard holes?” queries one player meekly. “It’s really pretty, if a little wild…” he trails off, speaking of Lakota Canyon Ranch, my personal vote for Best New Public Course in 2004-2005.

Well Jim Engh is already an epic golf course architect. Fossil Trace in Golden might never have achieved the terrific multiple use of the site as a golf course and archaeological treasure without his tireless efforts to offer concessions to environmentalists. Redlands Mesa might be far more ordinary instead of a quintessential example of world-class green settings and ingenious routing. The Club at Pradera (on which Engh owns a home adjacent to the 16th fairway with his wife Monie and two kids, Brian (10) and Bailey (8)) may be the best private course designed in 2005 due to its collection of unbelieveably tempting par-5s and Pinehurst-like greenside chipping swales.

Yes, I think Engh will be one for the ages when all is said and done, but his secrets are “lines of charm,” “trapdoors and hidden staircases,” and “muscle bunkers,” not merely virgin North Dakota, pristine Coeur D’Alene, Idaho and incomparable Colorado. The result is fascinating golf courses loaded with options and refreshingly innovative routings (try five par-3s and five par-5s frequently). Only then can you add in the jaw-dropping natural settings especially gorgeous green settings a la Mackenzie and Engh’s penchant for making the most of the routing process and well, we have a monster on our hands. Deciding which Jim Engh course to play is like deciding between a chateaubriand and the double lobster tails.


“Anyone can place hazards in a way that par is an impossible task. It is the talented architect who can present holes that are genuinely challenging yet reward skillful play” writes Geoff Shackelford in Grounds for Golf. Engh takes this proposition to heart.

Like Alistair Mackenzie, Engh eschews the doctrine of framing (where the player is spoon fed what to do on the tee box and responds to the dictatorial will of the architect) and instead utilizes the doctrine of keeping a “line of charm” between the tee box and the hole. In other words, the direct line to the hole may be playable, even tempting, but there is also a boatload of danger right squarely in the direct line of flight to the target. Meanwhile, the other side of the playing field is wide and welcoming, but a longer way round. The player gets to pick how to play the hole – according to his talent and greed.

Engh is especially talented at designing tempting risk-reward par-5s. Many are short – reachable in two by many – but misses are punished mercilessly. “I’ll give a player a shot to reach a green in one shot less than regulation, but I sure won’t help him or make it easy!” he adds with an almost scandalized look as I note the par-5 green at 18 at Fossil Trace is not designed to be overly receptive to a long fairway wood approach. “If they want a putt for eagle, they have to hit two great shots to earn it.”

The foundations of Engh design philosophy are based solidly on the great design features of the great U.K. courses, which he has studied extensively even though Engh is still a modernist. Engh also employs the doctrine of deception. Rather than spoon feed the player the optimum line, Engh gives no indication where to play. Again the choice is left to the golfer to determine the line based on his talent and temptation.

Engh also has some Old Tom Morris and some A.W. Tillinghast in him as well. Speaking of Old Tom’s work in designing Machrihanish, the Good Dr. Mackenzie wrote in The Spirit of St. Andrews, “Some of the natural greens were so undulating that at times one had to putt twenty or thirty yards round to lay dead at the hole five yards away. These greens have all gone and today one loses all the joy of outwitting an opponent by making spectacular putts of this description.” Engh, like A.W. Tillinghast at places like Winged Foot and Baltusrol and like Mackenzie at Pasatiempo and Crystal Downs before him, has brought back wild green undulations, most notably at Fossil Trace. The result is an array of challenging and interesting courses that place heavy emphasis on smart strategic play as well as solid execution. All players, regardless of ability have different playing options on every tee box.

Coming next - Trapdoors, hidden stairs and muscle bunkers. See pictures below as well.

Another incredible finishing par-5 by Jim Engh, this time at Lakota Canyon in Western Colorado, Posted by Picasa

The incredible 18th at Pradera. With a huge muscle bunker dividing the fairway, left is tempting but dangerous. Right is safe but long. What a finish for match play. Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

New Courses Opening in 2006

There is alot to look forward to in 2006. Three great architects are opening new courses (if all goes as planned) with others to follow shortly thereafter. Here are some to watch as they make a meteoric rise to stardom.

Boston's Brian Silva has been busy. After the successful reno work at Country Club of San Antonio scored high marks with critics and members, Silva has three high profile renos which will all compete for Best Renovation next year. Since Seth Raynor and C.B. Macdonald's work is so close to his heart, Silva is thrilled to be spit-shining Raynor's wonderful Country Club of Charleston. A few hours south in Sarasota, Silva is once again taking his palette to a Ross course, this time Sara Bay in Sarasota, Florida. Next, He will proudly display his perpendicular hazards, wonderful modernized Mackenzie-esque bunkering to Annandale in Pasadena, CA. All four are private. Finally, once again treading the same soil as one of hie idols, Silva will restore C.B. Macdonald's C.C. of St. Louis to its former glory.

Silva also has two public facilities due to open soon, Old Marsh in Wells, Maine (just south of Kennebunkport) and (with apologies to Tom Doak) Renaissance G.C in Haverhill, Mass near his beloved Boston.

Speaking of Tom Doak, his next three projects promise to be fascinating examples of minimalist design and Mackenzie-like strategy. After his world class links work in Oregon and New Zealand, it is only fitting Doak was selected to build next to one of the game's most blessed plots - next door to Muirfield. He also has private projects going in Montana and north of Cabo Del Sol.

Finally, after setting the world on fire for the last six years out west, Jim Engh is alternating time between his beloved Carne in the "bloody forelands" of northwest Ireland (because of the way the sunset reflects off the sea and land) and Reynolds Plantation Resort in Georgia.