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Monday, February 27, 2006

Great comment by Goeff Ogilvy (From Shackelford)

Found this from Geoff Ogilvy (thanks to Geoff Shackelford.)

"It had to be a better game when Dan Pohl was leading the driving stats with 274 yards. Annika hits it 270 now. It's a joke. The regulatory inaction demonstrates sheer contempt for the legacy of the great designers as well as making the game less interesting to play."

Shack also had this on his website:

The object of golf architecture is to give an intelligent purpose to the striking of a golf ball. To be worthwhile, this purpose must excite and hold interest. If it fails in this, the character of the architecture is at fault. MAX BEHR

It's worth investigating...

Welcome golf course architect Ian Andrew to the Golf Blog family

Rightly famous Canadian Golf Course Architect Ian Andrew, who recently hung his own shingle as a golf course designer has started his own weblog where he will be commenting on golf travel, hole designs and other architectural issues. Best of Luck Ian! We'll all be much smarter on the golf course because of your tidbits. Welcome to the family.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Tour Announcement - Black Mesa and the Rawls Course in early March

Well the team will shortly be off to Texas and New mexico for a few days to review two of the highest reecommended excellent public golf values, Tom Doak's The Rawls Course at Texas Tech in Lubbock and Black Mesa in N.M. The usually minimalist Doak did Rawls right after finishign Bandon Dunes and wrote that"we had to go back to square one." They moved 800,000 yards of earth on a flat sight to create what is supposedly a realistic windspept site, then deisnged holes over it. I will play my tround there with the son of the TTU fotballk coach, himself former head coach at Arizona - along with two rock stars form the band The Feds.

Baxter Spann said that
Black Mesa “has opportunities for eagles on a couple par fives and a couple par fours, but those holes are also fraught with the possibility of “other” scores. Black Mesa is a fantastic match play course for that reason. Each shot requires a strategic decision involving line, distance, wind, trajectory, and how the shot will react once it lands on the sloping, firm surfaces.” I'll be playing there with Bowling for Soup musicians Chris Burney and Gary Wiseman and a decorated and excellent New Mexico criminal defense lawyer, John Klein-Robbenhaar. (Hi Klein.)

On that note, I'll soon hit 250 public courses played that were ranked in the top 100 either now or at one time. (This excludes the private number, which happily is growing as quickly.) To celebrate, we're having a contest. Whoever comes closest to guessing where the 250th course is played, wins a free round with me. We did the same thing for my 200th course. The winner was Red Bull Music Director Greg Hammer who guessed Shenacossett in northeast, CT. He came really close as I hit number 200 at The Captain's Club (port course) in Cape Cod. The only thing I'll say is while I am forming a trip to Hilton Head, SC, I don't know whether I'll hit 250 by then or not, but there will not be 10 courses played on that particular trip. The question is whether the weather holds and I can pick off a couple rounds before leaving for that trip. In the interest of clarity, I have no clue or plans where 250 will be hit - where it comes, it comes. If it's Whistling Straits, great, if its something way off the radar screen, great too.

Time for a couple other folks to take a bow and have you take a look at their work. Props to my buddy the Media Guru (hooked on golf website) on using my theme song to pimp his cool looking trip. Don't worry everybody, he paid me a licensing fee;);) Props also to him teaming up with Rich from Eat Golf. have a great time guys. Tony, we will play this year, I can feel it.

Next, congratulations to Tom Kirkendall at Houston's Clear Thinkers. I was swinging on a vine in the Golf Observer treehouse and it came across my desk they linked to his touching Dick Harmon funeral story. Congrats Tom, you run a world class site and the more people that can take advantage, the better.

Finally, just wanna tell everybody that the more you also read Bogey Lounge and Brand Lounge, Rob Thompson, golf.about.com, and golf punk, the better your day will be.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Carolyn Bivens, LPGA should reconsider bad policy on copyrights of journalists' work

Geoff Shackelford, Rob Thompson, the Associated Press and many individual papers, writers and industry experts are lining up to try to diffuse a ghastly and grotesque policy gaffe by the LPGA.

Here is what the AP released this morning:

"The Associated Press was denied credentials to cover the LPGA Fields Open tournament Wednesday in a dispute over new restrictions on use of its stories and photos. AP reporter Jaymes Song was not allowed on the course during Wednesday's practice rounds or in the media room to cover Michelle Wie's pretournament news conference after refusing to sign the credential form with the new restrictions. Freelance photographer Ronen Zilberman also refused to sign the form and was denied a credential. The tournament begins Thursday. Without an agreement, AP sports editor Terry Taylor said the AP will not provide photographs or other news coverage of LPGA events but will carry final scores."

Check and mate. The entire AP article is here. The Honolulu newspaper...which is the largest supporter of Michelle Wie agrees in this article.

Here are the absurd demands, as reported by Rob Thompson:

"Among the rules to which LPGA photographers must adhere:
The LPGA gets unlimited, perpetual, non-exclusive rights to use any photograph taken at an LPGA event for "non-commercial promotion" worldwide at no cost.
LPGA has the exclusive right to purchase a commercial-use license for any image taken at an LPGA event at a 20 percent discount off the best terms usually offered or a similar price.
A photographer or news organization must promptly supply the LPGA with any photo or digital file it requests at no cost.
Photographers "must refrain from taking photos until after a player has made her swing or stroke." These requirements are even softer than the first draft of the LPGA rules, to which editors also strongly objected. The first set of regulations, dated Feb. 7, said news organizations could only use LPGA photos if they were accompanied by a text article and for coverage that has a deadline within 48 hours of the event."

Rob's article is here. Goeff Shackelford's is here.

Every provider of content, from AP journalists to photogs to weblog authors should denounce this rule as dreadfully thought out on the LPGA's part. At a critical time on the tour's history when they need to reach broader demographics in both economic income categories and age, sex, ethnicity, etc., angering the vehicle that is your partner in such growth, (the media) is counterproductive. They should follow the more comeraderous example of more successful tournamments and organizations.

Save the battles for far more important issues. This is a waste of bargaining leverage.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

HSBC expands golf sponsorship reach - now has Enjoy Jakarta Indonesia Open

I just compiled this from International Sports Business reports:

Banking firm HSBC now sponsors the "Enjoy Jakarta Indonesian Open."

"Golf is booming and aspirational sport in regions like Asia, where our Group was founded, and which remains crucial to our business" said Richard McHowet, CEO of HSBC Indonesia .

Keld Kristiansen, managing director of event promoter Parallel Media Asia (PMA), echoed the comments and highlighted the continuing rise of high level co-branding and corporate sponsorship deals in emerging territories. He noted that, "Sponsorship is the lifeblood of sport these days and to have a major global company like HSBC so closely involved is a massive boost for the tournament."

That is especially true in this case as the event was resurrected in 2005 by PMA and others after being dormant for several years.

The tournament will continue to be co-sanctioned by the European and Asian Tours as well as the Indonesian Golf Association.

Last year, HSBC also sponsored, the $5 million Shanghai Golf Tournament at Shenshan G.C. (among other international tourneys.)

HSBC's comments from November of last year have indeed come to fruition. They stated:

"`HSBC operates in three principal regions around the world,'' company spokesman Richard Lindsay. ``We sponsor major tournaments in two of those and it's no secret that we were looking for opportunities in Asia."

London-based HSBC is in the third year of a 10-year accord to sponsor golf's World Match Play Championship. The tournament, played at Wentworth in the U.K., had a first prize of 1 million pounds ($1.84 million), the biggest in the sport. The total purse in 2005 will be 2.44 million pounds, $600,000 less than the China event.

Judge Flemma and Mrs. Flemma love the Hideout G.C. in Naples, Florida

Thanks to the wonderful generousity of Kelly Blake Moran and the folks at the Hideout G.C., my mom and dad had a chance to play Kelly's wonderful private design which is the flagship in SW Florida.

Mom said: "The par-5s were terrific. The fairways were wide so you had alot of playing angles. The waste bunkers were really interesting and made for a lot of choices off the tee. From the back tees, it has to be murder. I liked number 9 because this huge bunker was in the middle-ish of the fairway and had four trees growing in it! I loved the warm relaxing rustic feeling of the clubhouse and everyone was so nice. The conditioning is incredible. The greens were lightning! I three and four putted all day long."

Dad had this to say: "Its a really nice layout. Some of the fastest greens I've ever played. Conditioning is pristine. We loved it. The par fours are very long from the back tees...7 are over 400 yards...one is even 460 something! The par-5s are very long too. The 579 yd par 5 2d is immense from the back tees. 12 was my favorite par-5. Also, I liked the 9th. They have these four trees in the middle of the fairway and you have to go through them or around them. I suppose you could go over them, but the only way to go over is to hit it way the hell up in the air! I can't do that. There's lots of dog legs and it's constantly changing routing direction wise. It was really interesting."

Mom and dad had the cutest little discussion with each other as I asked them about seven star system ratings...so remember this is my mom and dad here;)

The Hideout G.C.
Naples, Fla

Design: 6 stars
Natural Setting: 5 stars
Conditioning: 6-1/2 stars
Overall: 6 stars
Value: N/A - course is private.

I just want to thank Kelly for giving me the chance to do something special for my parents. You see, they've taken the same golf vacation 42 consecutive times (the fazio courses at Hilton Head). For the first time in 21 years they went somewhere different. Dad wont fly, so Oregon and Scottsdale are out. I think Dad threw a dart at a map blindfolded and hit naples, Fla. (We all went "Wha?" at that).

Anyway, Kelly thank you. You have no idea exactly how wonderful this was. Mom and dad have spent their whole lives playing puni munis in Utica and such...not great private designs. They deserve it. My dad, a lawyer for 28 years and a family court judge for 26 is the most noble man I know. Everyone loves him 'cause he treats everyone like gold, no matter who they are, he does things for people with no thought of recompense for himself and he is noble.

No son ever had a better father...and no son could be more proud of his dad's example.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Ballyowen Golf Club, Hamburg, NJ - Why all the Ballyhoo, Ballyowen?

Crystal Springs
Golf and Spa Resort
105-137 Wheatsworth Road
Hamburg, NJ 07419


Architect: Roger Rulewich
Par - 72
Excitement Level – 8/12
Difficulty – 9/12
Design – Four and ½ stars (out of 7)

Natural Setting – Four and ½ stars

Conditioning – Six and ½ stars
Cost - $135 Peak, $85 Off-Peak/Reduced
Yearly memberships – No
Value – Three stars

Overall – Four stars

Tees Yards Rating Slope

Black 7032 73.6 131
Blue 6508 71.2 125
White 6066 70.0 122
Gold 5531 65.9/71.2 105/124
Red 4903 67.0 116

There has been a lot of ballyhoo about Ballyowen, some of which is deserved and some of which is marketing fluff parroted by over-enthusiastic New Yorkers and uninformed players who fall victim to the hyperbole. The course touts itself as a "true links experience." "The minute you see the site you will think you are in Scotland” chirps the marketing literature in an attempt to play off the ever-rising popularity of and reverence for the great courses of the UK and Ireland. To add to the “true links experience” the course hired several bagpipers (who are really nice guys) to play each evening and imported black sheep to sit in a paddock to the right of one fairway.

Let's get something straight right from the get go. Ballyowen is an excellent golf course, but only a drunk goat would mistake the setting for Scotland. It looks like a quaint fescue-lined course in a quaint New England/New York/New Jersey town. Further, there are some unauthentic features such as forced carries over water or scrublands. Finally, there is nary a pot bunker on the course. Rulewich instead opted for the more familiar parkland style inkblot bunkering he learned from his mentor Robert Trent Jones. Also, there is a first cut of traditional rough which is deliberately left quite long. This first cut is deep and penal so hitting the fairway is a must off the tee to card pars.

Despite the superfluous distractions for the uninformed, the course has some authentic characteristics. The entire site is treeless so the wind is merciless. Towering fescue lines both sides of most fairways and most greens are open in front and receptive to bump and run approaches.

Finally, the conditioning is superb. Fairways are impeccably manicured and the greens are tour quality and lightning quick.

The only other conundrum besides the marketing nonsense is the astronomical price. At $135 in high season and $85 at twilight, the course is an expensive splurge. The excellent design and phenomenal conditioning are refreshing, but the price can be prohibitive. We here at WITP have no problem telling players it’s an enjoyable round, but the value factor is diminished by the high price tag. You won't feel cheated, but its also nothing savvy travelers have not seen before. It's in great condition, but it is certainly not Bandon Dunes, or Whistling Straits.


While the two opening par fours are short, accuracy is key. Any shot in even the short rough will have difficulty resulting in a green in regulation. The second is a solid risk reward par-4. The corner on this short dog-leg left is guarded by a deep chasm of fescue and brush. At a mere 300 yards (severely uphill) the green may be drivable, but any miss is either unplayable in the hazard or in a deep, penal greenside bunker.

The next stretch of holes are well designed, but any trained eye can easily see they are not links holes. The third hole features a huge Rorschak-like inkblot-shaped bunker in the middle of the fairway just short of the green. Not a pot bunker, but a classic parkland style Rees Jones-esque bunker. How Scottish is that?

Next, holes five, six and seven play around a large inland lake with the hazard uniformly on the right side so as to frustrate slicers. On the par three sixth, the hazard cuts in front of the green resulting in a forced carry to reach the green. Again, these do not resemble a links in any way.

The back nine feels more isolated and takes the players past the sheep paddock located to the right of the twelfth tee. It features another par three over water and more classic style bunkering.


The goal here is to showcase great $60 courses that are worth $120 and great $150 courses worth twice as much. Ballyowen is the opposite, a $135 course worth $60, maybe $80. To its credit, the course is a strong layout, impeccably manicured, features fantastic true-rolling lightning quick greens, but the inaccurate marketing schtick is both distracting and detracting.

To the courses credit, many players love the course. New Yorkers embrace anything of good quality in New York with rabid enthusiasm and have rallied around the course and rave about it loudly and often. But Golf Digest, Golf Magazine and Golf Week have never once rated it anywhere near the top 100 in the country, so something does not jive. The course is in the same price range as Las Vegas' greatest courses and Myrtle Beach's greatest courses, but is not at great a design as Caledonia, The Dunes, Wolf Creek, The Falls, or TPC Myrtle Beach.

As far as New Jersey is considered, Ballyowen makes a strong case for being one of the best courses in the state. I still prefer Pine Hill and Shore Gate, especially at Shore Gate's incredible $40 twilight rate, but I believe Ballyowen can stand shoulder to shoulder, pound for pound with Pine Barrens and Twisted Dunes, the other leading New Jersey public courses. Since Ballyowen is part of the larger Crystal Springs Resort and is the centerpiece of the 72 hole complex, it need not worry about fiscal downturns as much as its purely public competition at Empire Golf Management (Pine Hill, Twisted Dunes and Pine Barrens.) All of these courses are in the $125 range and all should have lowered their prices. Sadly, hard times have fallen, cuts have been made to staff and instead, Empire Golf has announced all its facilities will go private under a “superclub” arrangement – one membership for three or four clubs at a premium but not prohibitive price. As for me, I’d rather spare the sheep and hyperbole and get a great course at a reasonable price.

For more information see www.newjerseygolf.com

Look at the pic to the right. Does that look like Scotland to you?

Monday, February 20, 2006

The Olympics have jumped the shark, so lets add golf just to make it worse

I'm really disappointed in the American Olympic team. Not with the medal count - I'm actually happy about that. Winning every medal in every event completely demeans the so-called and entirely non-existent "Olympic Spirit," but that's not what I'm on about.

No, I'm disappointed in the way our preening, self-aggrandizing athletes are flaming out socially like so many impotent beach boys at a surfing event. Sure, it's not just the Americans as Austria and Canada have had their share of unbelieveable distractions and, OF COURSE, everybody is cheating to high heaven. Yes, the Olympics award medals to those who are swifter, higher and faster at not getting caught cheating, but we just mailed this Olympics in and acted like...well..."ugly Americans" at every turn. I'm convinced our team thinks that they give out medals for biggest jerk too...an event we win more frequently than just about anything in the "Games."

The 2006 American Olympic athlete. They do not represent me or the values for which my country stands.

Lindsay Jacobellis was so concerned with striking a victory pose that she pulled the ultimate Leon Lett and...OOPS!...slipped and fell while showing off during her run (DURING HER RUN!) on the last gate.

That's the sports Gods saying, "You deserve it, honey." No Wheaties box for you. So much for all that coveted endorsement money and nice example to set for the kids. (Not that snowboarders have ever been concerned with anything other than their edgy, rebel image.) There's one to tell the grandkids. Can you see the Jacobellis family reunion this year? "Hey everybody! Let's watch Lindsay's Olympic run!"

But here's the kicker. What did she say in the post-run interview? "I have no regrets."

Someone's in denial. I wonder what she said to her parents after that.

Someone also obviously shaved down a gorilla, named it Bode Miller and taught it to ski. This guy, who apparently will go back to selling weed and mushrooms outside Phish reunion shows when he's done skiing, sold out his team and his country for a party boy image.

The sports Gods got him too. He's eating a big BAGEL right now. Poster boy for squandered talent and failed opportunity. Abroad, they are all sniggering and saying..."the American Way!"

Here's what broadcaster Steve Czaban had to say about Miller:

"Mr. “I Work Out Harder Than Everyone, But Somehow Manage to Care Less, Because I’m Really Cool, and Quite Often Loaded?”… well, let’s see...lost a medal in the downhill by fractions of a point after bragging about having a “few beers” and eating a late dinner near midnight before a noon event the next day, Got DQ’d from the combined after leading, because he straddled a gate. Then didn’t finish the Super G because he smashed into another gate, and nearly ran off into the woods. How sweet, it is! We’ve got one more realistic shot for him to get a medal, and once he fails in that (and I’ll be rooting as hard as I can) then we can be done with him forever. Which I don’t think he’ll care much about either, since he said last week that “it’s other people that care about me winning medals.” Yeah, like Nike, you idiot. A company that’s sitting on a multi-million dollar marketing campaign for a guy who’s the Darko Milicic of skiing. The only thing left is a DUI on the way back to the airport out of Italy, and don’t think it’s impossible to dream."

How many families could we have fed for the money we wasted on him in the last four years.

Ohno...not again...yes again. The talking soul patch (well more like chirping soul patch) has nauseated us again with his unctuous, ubiquitous presence yet again. Apolo Anton Ohno actually loves...indeed revels in controversy...and a little vodka and nuzzling with models.

Yeah, right...he's just like you or me. He's "representative" of America. All of you at home coming in from a hard days work are just gonna head right down to the club to hang with the local Norwegian knockout, I'm sure.

And don't even get me started on the biggest loser of all...Shani Davis, who took all of ten seconds to blow all the goodwill he built up wining his speed skating medal. He TURNED TRAITOR. He quit. He bagged out on the relay team on which he was supposed to skate. He left them in the lurch. For no reason.

He didn't just betray his team, he betrayed his country. If the team coaches had any C.O.Jones whatsoever, they'd send him home. Today.

And we paid for this. With our tax dollars.

Cameron Myler, where have you gone? There was someone we were proud to root for. Cameron is a thoughtful, warm, person who competed in a sport where she knew she was a huge longshot. A woman with grace - a word, indeed a virtue that escapes this 2006 team. She knew that TV deals and adoring fans and VIP parties in swanky clubs and hip-hop moguls were not going to be headed her way even if she did win. But for four Olympiads she worked for the shot at the medal...not the endorsement deal. That's why America should be proud she carried our flag. But it's still a sure bar bet winner none of your buddies could pick her out of a picture of Dizzie Gillespie's orchestra or even name her event (that's "luge" for those of you scoring at home.) What is she doing now? Kicking major fanny in NYC as a prominent sports lawyer with a white shoe firm, that's all.

But these 2006 anti-social, obnoxious, insensitive 2006 athletes who embarrased us these games are one other thing - freeloaders. They grow large (literally) off our tax dollars so they can cheat their way to a medal. These guys have more money invested in them than most families will ever have...and thats BEFORE they compete for the first time. And you wonder why the rest of the world howls with glee when we lose.

Nothing speaks more loudly or appropriately to the fact that the entire Olympic movement has jumped the shark than this one little fact: CBS and ABC are killing the Olympics in the ratings on a nightly basis. Why? 1) We know everybody cheats. 2) The stigma of rigged events (especially figure skating). 3) So called "events" that were added simply to pad North American stats. (all snowboarding and women's hockey...apologies to my cousin Jeannie, a hockey star for Choate and Middlebury.) 4) The country is growing tired of underachieving celebrities. 5) We all know its a corporate shell game far from our own lives, so why feed the beast?

Don't feed the beast, slay the beast. One arrow at a time. By the way, NBC's $613 MIllion that they paid for these games sure didn't go all that far, did it?

So we might as well add golf. Our American pros would fit right in. They are spoiled. They don't like each other. They backstab and snipe at each other. They used to getting everything for free. They're used to the easy life. They're used to a corporate ride and living a 24 hour a day vacation and being overpaid to do...well...nothing useful to society in any rate. If they couldn't swing a club, I wouldn't trust most of them to wash my car. Sure there's exceptions...like Fred Funk, who is a prince of a guy.

The rest of them? Looks like a match made in heaven.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Hilarious golf prank

For those of you who missed it buried deep in my piece on the Super Bowl, click here to see the funniest golf prank ever. It's actually taken from a Canadian Labatt's as that I don't think ever aired in the U.S. Enjoy.

A nice curtain call for the late great golf instructor Dick Harmon

My Houston colleague Tom Kirkendall attended Dick's funeral this week and covers the fond farewell remembrances with grace and wit. His piece is over at his website Houston's Clear Thinkers, so please give it a read.

I'm reprinting the highlight of the services here, direct from Tom's site:

"Best crack of the funeral came from brother Bill Harmon, who passed along during his eulogy a prediction that former PGA Tour pro and current CBS color commentator Lanny Wadkins made about Dick's first meeting in heaven with his late father Claude, who was a rather acerbic character at times, particularly with regard to his four sons. The subject of that predicted first meeting was brother Butch, who tutored Tiger Woods during college and his first several years on the Tour before Woods unceremoniously fired him. Inasmuch as I have had the pleasure of a personal relationship with each of Claude, Dick and Butch, I can vouch for the validity of Wadkins' prediction:
"[Wadkins] said he knew for a fact what my dad said to Dick when he saw him in heaven," Bill Harmon said. "The first thing out of his mouth was:
'How the hell did Butch screw up that Tiger deal?' "

Laughter and applause spread across the church. Butch Harmon . . . laughed as hard as anybody.

God Bless Dick Harmon and the entire Harmon Family."

That was a great piece Tom.

Hey Tom...as soon as somebody builds a REALLY good public course out in Houston, (i.e. one with lots of lines of charm) I'm making you head of A Walk in the Park's Houston Bureau;);)

Friday, February 17, 2006

Explaining the seven star system for rating golf courses

I know Tom Doak has his ten point scale and Ron Whitten effectively uses a decimel system (e.g. 8.7) like an Olympic figure skating judge, but I use a system of zero to seven stars.

Like Doak, we spend most of our time splitting hairs between the truly great and the merely pretty good. The five rating criteria are Design, Natural Setting, Conditioning, Value and Overall.

Seven stars = an indelible masterpiece in both design and natural setting. A course of world significance and a golf life experience with no parallel.The ground itself is a clarion call to golfers.

Six stars = a truly exceptional course and a course of national significance. A must play. A great centerpiece to any golf vacation.

Five stars = an excellent course. A solid design and natural setting. Make the effort to get there.

Four stars = a good, course, if a little pedestrian at times. A good value, but not exceptional. Play it if you’re nearby.

Three stars = a marginal course. There are some issues regarding design, natural setting or both. Not a good value or a bad deal, but merely reasonable.

Two stars = A weak effort with serious design flaws and/or a mundane setting. As Tom Doak said in The Confidential Guide to Golf Courses, “play it in a scramble and drink a lot of beer.”

One star = a terrible course with serious flaws in design and no value to speak of - avoid.

Zero stars = If you waste your money playing here (even though I expressly told you not to), may you crash your runaway golf cart into an alligator infested swamp. As Tom Doak said, “Usually reserved for courses that spent too much money and moved to much earth during construction” then produced little architectural interest. To quote sportswriter and broadcaster Steve Czaban “your wallet is their bitch.”

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Pictures of new nine at Carne by Jim Engh

Jim Engh and Tim Hartnett sent me a couple pix of the new nine Jim is building at Carne. The top pic is 9...the dunes pinch at the landing area. The bottom pic is 7, looking towards the green. Both holes needed almost no grading and the holes will look the same with the fairway and rough cut. Grading is almost done. Jim is going over in May to start green contouring. Seeding will occur next fall. Carne is located in the northwest corner of Ireland, called the "bloody forelands" because of the way the sunset reflects off the water and land giving it an eerie crimson hue.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

In Memoriam: Houston's Dick Harmon, an unparalleled instructor

The Golf World lost one of its greatest instructors and gentlemen yesterday. Dick Harmon died unexpectedly at the age of 58 from complications to pneumonia.

Houston Native Tom Kirkendall has written a glowing tribute to Dick. Click here to read Tom's Blog Houston's Clear Thinkers.

Since Tom's piece says everything best, there's really nothing more for me to add. Keep Tom's blog on your blog rolol for business updates on the Enron case and other Texas business issues. It's an outstanding read.

Friday, February 10, 2006

The Mike Strantz Nobody Knew (part 1)

Just keep going until you can’t go any further. Then go further, because the moves you make then – when you’ve run out of steam and you’re totally on subconscious and not even thinking about the mechanics - the moves you make then are incredible. - Jeff Buckley

Musician Jeff Buckley was talking about himself, but he was speaking for any true artist, any true trailblazer, any true maverick. Yes, even a golf course architect. And like Jeff Buckley, we lost Mike Strantz, (1955-2005), far too soon.

Mike Strantz called himself The Maverick and he backed it up. He talked the talk, he walked the walk, and he did it all with not just style, but grace and class. Devoted husband and father, cancer battler, sensitive artist, jazz aficionado, gourmet chef and yes, a cowboy, Mike Strantz was so much more than just a great golf course designer.

Golfers live vicariously through the designer. Except for Pete Dye, no architect was more inseparable, more indelible from his own designs than Mike Strantz. His courses look and play differently than anything else anyone has ever designed (or even seen for that matter). Maybe that’s one reason he is not yet a household name. Because Strantz took us so far so quickly, he outran the mainstream golf media, the eight hundred or so five handicappers that are raters, and most casual players. The golf cogniscenti speak of him in holy whispers, but to people with only a mainstream or casual knowledge of the game, he is merely an interesting footnote, perhaps even a polarizing one.

Happily, the holy whisperers are right. (Two words for doubters – Tobacco Road.) Besides, when a professional artist is trying to create, the last thing he wants is to be worrying about or considering the industry’s side of the equation. That destroys any chance at free expression. That is what it means to be The Maverick. Yes, Strantz was not just a maverick, but The Maverick – the definitive article as it were; The Maverick with an unparalleled golf spirit. Sadly, in June of 2005, oral cancer claimed his life at 50.


Strantz’s career began with a colorful moment in golf history. Perhaps it was an omen, a microcosm. He was working at Inverness Country Club in Ohio when the 1979 U.S. Open came to town. Tom Fazio was renovating the course for the U.S.G.A. A glitch in set up would provide the impetus for Strantz’s brief, but luminescent career.

On the first day, journeyman pro Lon Hinkle came to the par-5 eighth tee already out of contention. The seventeenth fairway runs parallel to the left, separated by a string of tall trees. Hinkle, feeling a bit puckish and having nothing to lose, noticed a gap about twenty-five feet wide about two hundred yards away from the teebox. “Take down the gallery ropes. Tell the guys on seventeen I’m playing through” he quipped.

Hinkle smashed his drive well into the seventeenth fairway, leaving a mere eight-iron back over the trees to the green. Word spread like wildfire and - surprise! - everyone else followed suit.

Late that night, U.S.G.A. officials had a secret meeting on the eighth tee. Comments were made about the “integrity of the hole” and “playing the right way” and such. Steps were paced off, arms were waved, comments were snarled and discussions ended with soon to be short lived smugness.

The next morning when the patrons arrived at the eighth tee, they were greeted by a strange sight. About twenty-five feet away from the teebox stood a short, droopy, frumpy looking newly planted Douglas Fir. A sign hung from one patchy, spindly arm – “A Hinkle Tree.”

Strantz was elated when asked about it. “I planted that tree!” he shouted gleefully. “I backed in the trucks! I tried to tell them to move it a little bit, buuuuuut…” he trails off with a mischievous grin. The gap was not truly plugged, just reduced to about eight feet.

Strantz’s protestations proved prophetic. Hinkle arrived on the tee later that day with a huge gallery. “Trees sure grow fast in Ohio” he joked. Then without missing a beat he drawled “Take down the gallery ropes.”

There was thunderous applause.

The gap through which to hit was still 200 yards away, but the Hinkle tree, looking as pathetic than the tree in “A Charlie Brown Christmas Special” never had a chance. Hinkle easily carried deep into the seventeenth fairway.

There was even more thunderous applause. He again hit the par-5 in two.


Strantz so impressed Fazio, that Tom whisked him away immediately upon conclusion of the Open. Mike may have worked for many years with Tom Fazio, (from ’79 to ’87), but after a three year hiatus as an artist, when Strantz hung his own shingle as a designer, his work more closely followed Pete Dye.

Strantz embraced and continued the paradigm shift in golf course design Dye began from narrow, flat, prefabricated parkland courses to courses which harken back to the games roots of architectural strategy and which naturally follow the lay of the land. Like Dye, he loved blind and semi-blind shots. After all, it’s only blind the first time you play it. Strantz also used Mackenzie’s philosophy of the “line of charm” as his central theme in building golf holes.

Strantz’s artistic background served two important purposes. First, his drawings became his blueprints. He drew detailed watercolor sketches of his proposed holes, not the more formal choice – detailed contour drawings. It took a superlative team to translate this less formal method into a three-dimensional canvas, so Strantz surrounded himself with the best shapers, landscaping teams and a kindred spirit in design partner Forrest “Fuzzy” Fezler,

Second, using his artistic creative freedom, Strantz expanded on Mackenzie and Dye by building contours and hazards that were larger than life. Bigger, bolder, holes resulted and the scale of his designs (and hazards) commanded attention. Except for Caledonia, Strantz courses are enormous. Your group feels and looks like a bunch of Hobbits scrambling around the surreal landscape of Middle Earth.

“Tough hazards and arresting visuals accomplish two goals” Mike said. “First, the amateur loves trying and pulling off an impossible shot. Second, if an expert gets in a tough place, he may try an impossible shot and make matters worse for himself. Dr. Mackenzie wrote in his book The Spirit of St. Andrews, ‘People get more pleasure in playing a hole which looks almost impossible, but is not so difficult as it appears.’ My holes look much more fierce than they play. But it’s an optical illusion. The fairways are actually wide. Once you get over the hill in front of the tee box, you get out and say ‘Hey there’s a lot of room out here.’” Another of Strantz’s great optical illusions was to raise bunker lips so that the hazard looked closer to the green than it was. He would also raise green entries so that they appeared smaller than they really were. Besides,” Strantz says in defense of his design features, “golf would be boring if all the hazards and shots were standardized.”

He’s right. Strategy is the lifeblood of the game. Sadly, too many five and under handicappers are too concerned with their score and what they see on TV to understand this concept. The optical illusions still confound first time players and closed minds. Mistaking size, severity and illusion for quirks and flaws, some less imaginative critics view his semi-blind shots and visual pranks as a negative, but adventurous golfers and hardcore connoisseurs know better. What looks at first to be hyperbole is, upon deeper reflection, a most faithful and accurate rendition of all the ancient and revered elements of golf design. Just like Pete Dye.

Because of these solid, bedrock foundational elements, even naysayers must admit that Strantz mastered every genre he attempted. Parkland masterpiece at Caledonia, links recreation at RNK, a public Pine Valley meets Ireland at The Road, Strantz never failed to seize attention and create challenging holes. Sometimes cracking the code of a Strantz hole can be as difficult as a New York Times Sunday Crossword. Some holes are a primal scream and the golfer must always keep himself on high alert, but that is what makes for a wonderful golf adventure.

Despite the severity of greenside trouble, fearsome larger than life playing fields and contours Mackenzie himself would have envied, and a vocal minority of unimaginative critics, course for course, Strantz has the strongest resume of any architect. With only seven original designs and two redesigns (six public, three private), Strantz claimed three top new public course awards in four years. His best course, Tobacco Road did not win the year it opened, but recently was voted the most adventurous course in America by Golf Magazine editors and readers. His final work, the redesign of Monterey Peninsula (Shore Course) is masterpiece in Pebble Beach, California which holds its own with Cypress Point and the resort courses admirably. Several golf insiders say it will host a major as soon as the members will permit one.

Strantz recalled these formative years of his career enthusiastically and gave much credit to Fuzzy Fezler, for the creativity and scale of his projects. Fuzzy is the perfect compliment to me. We are brothers in arms. I saw that Fu Manchu moustache and I knew I had my man.” Together, they let it roll as high as it would go, creating scorching, towering golf adventures without being contrived or campy. “Forrest is especially good at making sure I don’t get carried away” he says emphatically. “He will look at me and say ‘Mike, how is my mom going to play that hole?’ His mom is in her 80’s.” Sometimes dialing it down a notch is a good idea. Even Fezler hints that one green that generated such a discussion, the 9th at Tobacco Road, could have been much more severe.

However at other times, Strantz merely employed his penchant for optical illusion to make it appear as though he moved a lot of earth. Yes, Royal New Kent really was that hurly-burly a topographic site before Strantz built the course – he merely added a little earth to the higher areas, cut the low areas a little lower and gave the impression of moving millions of cubic yards of earth. Yes, those green settings at Stonehouse, nestled cozily in their own little amphitheatres, were natural, not manufactured. “I let the lay of the land dictate the holes and I try to use as many natural fairways and green sites that I can find” he says. What critics mistake for “contrived” is really an excellent, innovative use of the site’s best natural features.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Summary of DC/Baltimore area public courses and Staten Island Chuck

Golfers don’t need Punxatawny Phil or Staten Island Chuck (NYC’s copycat groundhog) to tell them when to go play. DC and Baltimore area players are chomping at the bit now with this warm winter.

Public golf in DC usually averages about $95, which as we all know is too steep. To maximize your golf dollars, here is a review of the best public courses in the DelMarVa area. (That’s “DelawareMarylandVirginia” for those of you scoring at home.) All ratings are out of seven stars.

While we’re on the topic…”Staten Island Chuck???” I wouldn’t be caught dead taking advice from somebody named “Staten Island Chuck.” Sounds like some chump with bad season tickets to New York Knicks games.


Whiskey Creek (Ernie Els) – Four and ½ stars

Els’ first design work. It’s an interesting take on a heathland links and feels like the moors on dark blustery spring or fall days. Some holes are memorable. The wall in the middle of the 18th fairway is….interesting…

Augustine (HHHH HHHHHH) – Five stars

Fantastic front nine, but a more sedate back nine. The front is memorable, but the back can’t reach the same peaks as the front.

Beechtree (Tom Doak) – Six stars

A warm, inviting and serene course. Definitely Doak’s most relaxing design. Just like you envision your home country club. The routing is the star here and not the individual holes or features or natural setting. Back to back par-5s on the front, an epic sequence at 13-15, including Doak’s self-described best Eden hole and two of his strongest par-4s. Convenient to both DC and NYC and only seven miles from Bulle Rock. It’s a great study for architecture students. They can learn how to design around the difficult portions of the property and make the most of tradeoffs (see the water on 1-2 and the short par-4 3rd as balanced by the rest of the front and the great par fours of the later back nine.)

Bulle Rock (Pete Dye) – Six stars

Home of the LPGA Championship, and featuring strong hole after strong hole, it narrowly defeats Beechtree for first place in the design category. Some of Dye’s best bunkers here go unappreciated because the player is too concerned with the water hazards on the other side. That’s how they end up in the bunker after playing the shot – they aimed right for it. (Especially on 12…)

Stonewall (Tom Jackson) – Four stars

An expensive hit or miss affair. Houses crowd a pedestrian opening trio, then we get a few good lakeside holes, then it’s back to the houses again. Lake, houses, lake, houses – lather, rinse, repeat.

Packsaddle Ridge (Russell Breeden) – Two and 1/2 stars

The dreadful first seven holes need to be walked single file. Over 350 acres to build on and there’s nowhere to hit the ball. Too many long uphill par-3s and 90 degree dog-legs. Some of the uphill holes are just screwy. I hope they get someone a little younger with more design features in his bag of tricks to build the second course. With the extremely sharp topography of the site and over 220 more acres, they really should consider Jim Engh. He’d certainly give something more creative than “narrow, narrow, narrow, uphill, uphill, uphill.” PLEASE tear up that ridiculous 12th hole…a four club uphill par-3 that starts at 190 yards long…after we saw the same thing five holes earlier.

Back Creek – Three and ½ stars

A bland but convenient and inexpensive collection of holes. A pleasant course for a low impact round, but nothing special.


Whiskey Creek – Five and ½ stars

Augustine – Five and ½ stars

Beechtree – Six stars

Bulle Rock – Six and ½ stars

Stonewall – Five stars

Packsaddle Ridge – Five and ½ stars

Back Creek – Four and ½ stars


Whiskey Creek – Four and ½ stars

Augustine – Five stars

Beechtree – Five and ½ stars

Bulle Rock – Five and ½ stars

Stonewall – Five stars (The lakeside holes are amazing, the houses detract.)

Packsaddle Ridge – Five stars Built on the side of the mountain, it’s a murderous walk.

Back Creek – Four stars


Whiskey Creek($95) – Four Stars

The second-best value for a high priced course, behind only Beechtree.

Augustine ($70 max, more often $50-55) – Five and ½ stars. The best value.

Beechtree ($95) – Six stars

It’s still too much for golf, but the design is stellar and there is only one other Doak course nearby (Atlantic City) and that’s a redesign. You simply must play here if you want to see a Doak design. The alternative is a plane to Michigan or Oregon…or New Zealand…)

Bulle Rock ($145) – Four stars

It’s a shame more people can’t enjoy this course. The design is terrific, but the price should come down to $120.

Stonewall ($115) – Two and ½ stars. Boy, those lakeside holes are expensive.

Packsaddle Ridge ($50-$60) – Four and 1/2 stars. Good value, but you’ll lose what you saved in golf balls on the screwy front nine.

Back Creek ($60 max) – Four and 1/2 stars.


Whiskey Creek – Five Stars

Augustine – Five stars

Beechtree – Six stars

Bulle Rock – Six stars

Stonewall – Three stars

Packsaddle Ridge – Three stars

Back Creek – Four stars

Monday, February 06, 2006

Pittsburgh Steelers razzle-dazzle to Super Bowl title with hot second half

"Steelers record motown hit" read the headline. Sure the refs were awful, but the fact is the Steelers made plenty of huge completions and timely runs when they had to make them. The refs had nothing to do with the poor defensive playcalling that led to Parker's 75 yard romp untouched. (UNTOUCHED!) for a TD. The refs didn't have anything to do with a backup corner getting posterized on Randel El's TD pass to Hines. The refs didn't affect the Seahawks inability to defend a crucial 3rd and 28. (Third and twenty-eight!). The refs didnt miss two field goals...indoors...on turf.

And then their punter blew FOUR opportunities to saddle the Steelers in the shadow of their own goal post. The result? FOUR touchbacks. Unacceptable.

You give up a flea-flicker in the Super Bowl, and cant stop a 3rd and 28 and you dont deserve to win. Even Michaels and Madden knew the Steelers were gearing up for a gadget play. It was even a play that the Seahawks had seen on film from the Cleveland game. But with the starting corner down with an injury, the backup bit on the reverse.

Holmgren sure did a great job of clock management too.

Nevertheless, the Steelers did what Super Bowl champs do. Play stifling D when they had to, make sizzling razzle-dazzle plays, and take advantage of their oppurtunities.

The Steelers did, the Seahawks didn't. With or without the refs.

Here's some great stuff from Steve czaban on the game. Click here for his site.

Hail to the Steelers! True champions, in every sense of the word. Think about how HARD it is, to go down at home in the AFC Championship game a year ago, and then somehow summon the strength to return all the way and get it done the next year. It’s the hardest thing in sports, and easily the most under-rated. Teams and players of weak character, allow crushing defeats to crush them. They crumble, and are often not heard from for years.

Not the Steelers. I like stories like theirs. It’s what sports should be all about.

I am thrilled for Bill Cowher. Every hater out there now can just shut the hell up. He goes from being a Steeler fan’s muttered lament (nice coachin’ Cowhah!) to a near lock for the Hall of Fame. He’ll coach in Pittsburgh until HE’S tired of doing it, and for no other reason. That might just be 20-plus years, completely unheard of in the “modern” era.

He outcoached Holmgren badly. He did so with his team not playing particularly well. While a Seahawk fan might gripe that the Steelers only really made 3 big plays (Ben’s floater to Ward, Parker’s run, and the Randle El lightning bolt) the fact remains that you still have to coach through all that. Too many times I saw Holmgren with a face that appeared as if he just swallowed a box of tacks. Hardly confidence inspiring.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Hurricane Jay will slam L.I. if Pittsburgh Steelers lose Super Bowl

“Jay. Jay, get up. Come on, up” a voice urged through darkness and painful throbbing in my head.

But getting up seemed like an awful idea. When I opened my eyes, more pain shot through my brain. My stomach did a dip and a roll. Everything ached, at least everything that had feeling at that moment. I felt like if I did an inventory several crucial things might indeed be missing. Light hurt my eyes and my stomach rolled over when I tried to move. I tried to right myself, wronged myself instead and lay flat.

“Oh…” I moaned. “Bad idea. Look, it’s just beginning to get light. Lemme sleep a bit more.”

“It’s just beginning to get dark. It’s five o’clock.”

“Why the hell are you waking me up at Five AM?”

“Jay it’s Five PM” the voice said. “Tuesday.”

Tuesday?!?” That got me moving. Ohhhh…Too quick. I tried to sit up, but my head had other ideas. It felt like someone’s thumb was having drumming practice on the pain nerve centers in my head. My mouth tasted as though two ferrets had crawled down my throat and died there.

“Yes. Here drink this. It’s Gatorade” the voice cooed.

Gatorade! Thank you. Oh, sweet, liquidy, sugary goodness! The thought of my Gobi sized thirst quenched moved my arms and I gratefully drank the whole bottle, wiping the drool and backwash off my jowls with my hand and all over the comforter, (it was all I could do in this sub-human state). I opened my eyes, slowly this time, and saw Nancy’s Carpenter’s face.

Nancy is worth about three million dollars…of trouble, that is. For beneath the “come hither beauty” exterior that evokes nothing less than blind loyalty lurks a volcano of energy and a danger-seeking/troublemaking streak a mile wide. Many men have dashed themselves against the rocks for her, and I’m not just talking financially, although her monthly sushi and alcohol bills do tend to resemble small government defense budgets. I wasn't about to dash myself against those same rocks because I felt like a manure truck that jack-knifed and overturned on the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway at the moment.

“No, you have to get up.” She mewed. “The insurance adjuster was here a little while ago and it was a bad scene. He was muttering all sorts of ominous things like “Screw him, we’re not covering. Let him sue us.”

Insurance Adjuster? Then it came back to me. The Super Bowl! The Party! The Game. My house! Tuesday, 5PM?

“What? What the hell? Where is everybody, who won the game, where’s the insurance guy? Why was he here?” Nancy didn’t answer at first. She just looked at me, expressionless, at least for her.

“It was a very long and destructive party, Jay.”

Things began to swim into focus behind her and that’s when I saw it. The aftermath of the party: the ruins, I should say. The hammer, sharp end crashed into the shattered screen of the 44” TV, was first.

“My flatscreen” I moaned, horrified. I spotted shards of broken glass all over the floor, but they were different colors, some clear shards, some painted dark on the back.

“That’s from the mirrors and windows too” Nancy supplied, helping me into a sitting position on the coach. The floor also had about two full inches deep of ground glass, ashes, beer schwee (that’s stale spilt beer + random floor muck and debris), slices of pepperoni, cherry pits, twists of lime peel, various rinds, cigar butts, cigarette butts and various empty hand-roll cigarette envelopes, a viscous pink liquid that might once have been a pomegranate margarita and several olives skewered with those little plastic swords. Pomegranate margarita appeared to be dripping off the walls too, along with huge smeared chunks of what appeared to be decaying crumbly blue cheese. Several of the larger chunks had asparagus stalks sticking out of them like some eclectic hedgehog-shaped object d’art. Worse still, several of these mini sculptures were encrusted on every painting and picture in the living room. I looked back at Nancy and that’s when I saw the other couch missing from its usual place.

“Where’s the other couch?” I asked, adrenaline starting to coarse through my veins. My head throbbed again, reminding me not to move too fast again.

“It’s in the swimming pool. With the piano.”

“The piano?!?” That did it. “But that’s a priceless white Steinway!

“Not any more…” Nancy laughed.

I got up. Nancy raced in front of me, hand in the air and a wild look on her face.

“Jay, do not take another step” she ordered. “First off, you need shoes on your feet or your next step is the hospital. There is too much glass…even I have trouble hop-scotching around here over glass and burned compact discs. But that can wait, it’s more important that you don’t go down the stairs without help.”

“Nance, I’m a little shaky, but I think I can handle…”

“No, I don’t mean like that. I’ll take you downstairs, but when we go, we go slowly.”

The walk to the door was a painful and nightmarish excursion into the bowels of despair. Everywhere was destruction of an order of magnitude only five consecutive years worth of Super Bowl parties could dream up, surely not one night. You know that old expression “if you put an infinite number of monkeys in a room with an infinite number of typewriters, you’ll eventually get Hamlet?” Well B*%$sh#@. You’ll get what my house looked like.

Nancy lead me around through my own personal hell like she was an attractive version of Virgil doing the same for Dante…only I felt I wasn’t coming back from my trip to hell like Virgil did.

She was right about the staircase. When I opened the door, which was hanging on one hinge, I saw the first six risers descend…and that was it. A rope was tied to the door and dangled off into space near the bottom of the first floor.

“You sawed the bottom stairs off with a chain saw and threw them on the bonfire.” I think it was the throbbing in my head that made me momentarily forget “bonfire” for the moment.

“Chain saw?!? What chain saw?”

“The one you had Chuck Cordova bring over. The one that’s now sticking out of the keyboard of the piano.” There was a pause.

“Which is in the swimming pool?” I asked with mounting panic.

“Right. Along with the couch.”

“Oh, yeah…the couch.” I continued hopelessly.

The climb down the rope to the foyer was a nightmare. It looked like a ravaged avocado farm got in a fight with a blighted vineyard and an exploded distillery tried to break it up.

The chandelier was in a shattered, dented pile on the foyer floor. Innumerable bottles of alcohol lay in shards on the bar…apparently victims of my automatic air rifle.

“People were getting a real kick out of you shooting bottles until somebody noticed that if we didn’t stop you, you’d blast all the alcohol” Nancy explained. “Well we couldn’t have that, but people were having too much fun watching you laughing maniacally and raving like a demented Goldfinger shooting at James Bond. That’s when somebody got the idea of raiding other Super Bowl parties for supplies.”

I just blinked at her. “Raiding other Super Bowl parties?” I shrieked.

“Yeah. They started attacking the other Super Bowl parties like a hipster pirate brigade. They’d roll up on parties, snarling and screaming and cranking loud music and they’d kick the snot out of everyone and just take extra rations of martini olives, nacho cheese, guac, crackers, boneless ribs, tequila, port wine, whatever they could find. Then they’d go running off screaming ‘later, chumps!’ and laughing.

“Why didn’t they get arrested or get their ass kicked?”

“Nobody could get a clear shot at them. They kept lurching around drunkenly - and therefore quite erratically and unpredictably - around the city.”

We went outside, preparing to make our way to the backyard when I noticed the street was a sea of golf balls. Golf balls lined both gutters at least ten deep. Every time a car passed more balls collided with tires and sprayed in every conceivable direction. A few straggled toward me and I picked them up, reading their logos. “Blackstone Country Club,” “Crystal Downs,” “Talking Stick” they read.

“These are from my golf ball collection!” I looked at Nancy for an explanation. “What are they doing here?”

“You had us take them out to Chuck Cordova’s car; all 2,000 balls. Somehow, you got them in his car wedged up against the door. Then you sent him out to the car to get a CD. Well when he opened the door, (click here, have your speakers turned up (http://www.metacafe.com/watch/42105/golf_balls/)

I couldn’t help but laugh at this. “Then what happened?”

“The cops came and ticketed him for littering. $750. Chuck was furious. He was halfway up the rope and coming to kick your ass when you started…what else…firing air rifle at him and chasing him down Metropolitan Ave. You could have hurt him, you know.”

“Oh, I wouldn’t hurt Chuck, he’s been my friend for 20 years.” I paused. “I might have shot a little “J” into his thigh or something, but I’d never hurt him.”

“Well I’m sure he’s getting the last laugh now. Never mind the golf balls, have you noticed the antenna on the roof?”

“I don’t have an antenna on the roof.”

“You do now” she said, pointing.

I followed her finger with my gaze and sure enough, sitting there embedded…indeed stuck into the roof was a makeshift antenna. For a moment I froze in horror. My stomach bottomed out as I saw pieces of broken, twisted metal at on end of some pieces, grooved faces on others and rounded, solid ends on still others. Then, heedless of any caution, completely enveloped in panic, I clambered up on the roof, ignoring Nancy’s protestations and the ever increasing throbbing in my head. I felt the bile rising in my stomach as I reached the “antenna” and made out the words at one end of a broken piece of twisted wreckage.

“Ping Eye” it read - a single red dot where the iris would be located.

It was my vintage golf clubs, every last one of them. Even the two extra sets, broken and twisted into oblivion.

The rest of the journey didn’t matter, for I was numb by now. We saw the burned out circle of the bonfire which not only claimed the couch and stairs, but several pictures, 1000 Grateful Dead tapes (cassettes, thank goodness) and one old refrigerator. The piano (with the chainsaw embedded in the keyboard) and couch were indeed in the pool, along with the waterbed (frame, mattress, sheets and all), four palm trees (minus the leaves, they were in the bathtub), every martini and margarita glass I owned and two laptops. Broken keys from the piano littered the lawn and pool bottom.

“How did I get the piano in there?” I asked, looking at Nancy. “Why didn’t you stop me?”

“You made me help you.”

“Help me?! Why on Earth would you help me?”

“There was no arguing with you” she said, frustrated. “None at all. You were totally insistent about it. Look, you want me to pay for half of the piano? I don’t have the money. I can’t pay.”


There was no argument to be made. Game, set, match, Nancy.

Happily, I was able to make some positive use of my pent up aggression. I found a pup tent containing two hippie stragglers still parked on my lawn. After I ripped it down, exposing them in mid-toke, they mumbled something about my “not being as cool as other people said” in a drug-addled fog.

I BEG YOUR MINISCULE PARDON?!?” I roared, looking forward to finally being able to open up an industrial sized can of whoop-ass. Then I ripped down one thick arm of a birch tree, announced “I’M GOING TO BEAT ON YOUR KIDNEYS WITH BRANCHES,” and swung a ferocious R7 driver swing, hitting smelly hippie #1 exactly where I had threatened. Pie-eyed with horror, he let loose a pitiful howl of pain and with the whimper of a frightened animal, scampered ungainly on all fours trying to escape.

The effect was comical. Watching hippies try to run is almost as much fun as watching models eat pasta.

I nailed smelly hippie #2 in the meaty part of his right side, but the blow broke the branch and by the time I had “reloaded” with lumber, they were off my lawn. Something else had gotten my attention anyway.

A lone figure, bound and gagged…with duct tape…sat taped to a chair in the middle of the lawn. As we got closer, I saw it was my best friend, Rafi Cabrera. My stomach lurched again, trying to escape from my body. My eyes swam. Nancy, inexplicably, was sniggering to herself, trying but failing to hide it from me.

“I find nothing remotely funny about it. He’s gonna kill me!”

“No…you’re good on this one. It’s me he’s mad at.”

“MMM! MMMMM MMMMMM MMMM MMMMM MMM!” said Rafi, red in the face.

“You? Why?” I said, ignoring Rafi.

She just grinned a disarming, wry grin.


“You did this?!” I said, not believing it. She just shrugged and smiled. There wasn’t the least bit of remorse.

“Why did you tape him to a chair with duct tape?!”

“Because he wouldn’t shut up” she shot back. “All day it was THEJETSTHEJETSTHEJETSTHEJETSTHEJETSJAMESFARRIORTHE

“OK! OK! Enough.” I said, my head beginning to hurt. She was absolutely right. Rafi kept struggling and whining.

“Why did you leave him out here for two days?” I asked.


Nancy shrugged again and looked at me, putting her hands in the pockets of her jogging jacket. “It’s a lot quieter this way.”


“Shh!” I said gesturing at Rafi to be silent. “Be quiet a second.”

I thought for a minute, rubbing my goatee as I worked out the next move.

“You’re right. It is a lot quieter this way. C’mon, this mess will still be here when we get back. Let’s go get some Greek food in Astoria.”


But we left. Food would soften both blows…not just the damage to the house, but the sports psychology damage too. For as we left the house, we walked over the portion of the lawn on which I had poured bleach. The grass, now forever dead had letters ten feet tall written across it. I took one look at its message, before sighing and shaking my head sadly. The message burned back at me, before I turned away in disgust. It read: