Friday, February 25, 2011

Flogton – “Alternative Golf” or “Golf for Dummies”?

“Flogton” is an “alternative form of golf”  dreamt up by a consortium of Silicon Valley wunderkinds calling themselves the Alternative Golf Association. The group includes Scott McNealy, one of the co-founders of the former computer software/hardware giant Sun Microsystems and a 3-handicap who should know better – he apparently doesn’t have enough to do now that Sun has been bought out by Oracle Corporation, leaving him with a lot of time, and money, on his hands.

Flogton (“not golf” spelled backwards – clever, eh?) is touted as “… the golf equivalent for (sic) what snowboarding has been to skiing – an exciting option that can energize those frustrated with the old sport and attract an entirely new audience, yet settle into a value-added existence with the existing participants and venues.” (That little mission statement scores 3 on my Buzzword Bingo score card – what did you get?) What “Flogton” actually is, is a dumbed-down perversion of the game of golf.

The stated mission of the Alternative Golf Association is to “… return innovation and invention to the sport and encourage a style of play that stresses performance over conformance.” The AGA decries USGA rules as “conformance”, but their idea of “performance” includes:
  • One mulligan per hole, any shot – play the best ball
[Old joke: An American went to Scotland and played a round of golf with a Scotsman he had just met. After a bad tee shot, the American played a mulligan which was an extremely good shot. He then asked the Scot, “What do you call a mulligan in Scotland?” The Scot replied, “We call it hitting three.”]
  • Six-foot bump, any hole – move your ball up to six feet (no closer to the hole) to get out of trouble, like out of a bunker
  • No OB, any shot – drop in the rough at the edge of the fairway, one-shot penalty
  • 3rd-putt gimmes – 3rd putt is good, no more than three putts on a hole
But wait, it gets worse:
  • Lubricate – Apply lubricant (Vaseline, etc.) or low-friction face material to driver face; reduces spin, correcting hook or slice
  • Tee up – tee the ball up anywhere but on the green
  • Change balls – change ball during play of a hole to use optimum ball for required shot
  • Hazard bump – remove ball from any bunker or red-or yellow-staked hazard area, replace no closer to hole
  • Gimme putts – any putt “inside the leather” is good
Their other ideas include such fun-loving innovations as requiring one throw per hole and tripling the diameter of the cup (un-be-liev-able!). 

Remember that Kenny Mayne commercial for the Top-Fite Gamer – their low-cost, 3-piece golf ball? The one where he’s asking this guy questions out on the course to see if he’s a “gamer” (and therefore worthy of playing the “Gamer” golf ball)?

Kenny: “Winter rules?”
Golfer: “Cheating.”
Kenny: “Gimmes?”
Golfer: “Make the putt!”
Kenny starts to hand the guy a Gamer, then hesitates and asks one last question:
Kenny: “Mulligans?”
[Golfer gives Kenny a dirty look]
Kenny hands the Golfer a Gamer, then turns to look off-camera and says, “I think we’ve got our guy!”

That’s what golf is about – learning the game, playing it correctly. Golf is about aspiring to be better – to keeping it in the fairway, hitting greens, and sinking putts – not “do-overs”, picking up out of trouble, or greasing the club face to compensate for a lack of skill. 

Remember that line from Tin Cup? “A tuning fork goes off in your heart and your (vitals) – such a pure feeling is the well-struck golf shot.” That’s what golf is about.

Remember the feeling the first time you pured a mid-iron shot close to the flag on a par-3 and rolled the putt in for a two? That’s what golf is about. 

Remember the first time you got on in regulation, from the fairway, on a long par four or a par five (of any length) and two-putted for a regulation par? That’s what golf is about.

The satisfaction of golf comes from improving your skills and lowering your score – not from lowering the standards of the game. Where is the satisfaction in picking up out of trouble, dropping in a clean lie, and putting close to the hole – good enough? Slamming a high fade 240 yards around the corner on a dogleg right, 498-yard par 5, nailing a 225-yard 3-wood to the edge of an elevated green – on in two! – what sensation beats that? Even if you don’t make the 65-foot eagle putt, or the birdie putt (OK, I admit it… but I made the par putt – it was my first five on a par 5), would it feel as good, as right, if you got there by hitting a hot ball off the tee with a greased club face and teeing it up in the fairway? I don’t think so. 

Just learning? Play easier courses, play nine-hole courses, play pitch-and-putts. One of my favorite local municipal courses, Santa Teresa Golf Club in San José, CA, includes a par-27, nine-hole short course that is interesting and challenging – hole lengths ranging from 76 yards to 132 yards, water in play on five of the nine holes, and greens with slope and undulations that allow a range of hole positions from easy to difficult. It’s a great short game workout, but no walkover – and it’s walk-on play, $11 weekdays, $15 weekends. Hit from the grass in the tee boxes (as I do) and it’s like playing nine holes with every shot but the drive, and the second shot on par 5s – a great way to strengthen your short game. (My favorite hole on Shortie? The 124-yard 4th – elevated tee box, big eucalyptus tree intruding on the left, water right, water long, bunkers left and right front. Hold a high soft draw into the left-to-right breeze that’s threatening to drown your tee ball, over that big overhanging branch of the eucalyptus, right to the center of the green  – that’s a moment you’ll remember like your first kiss…)

Slicing or hooking the ball? Use the harder-cover balls for high-handicappers – they spin less so they hook or slice less, and they’re less expensive too, so less traumatic to lose; take a lesson; improve your skills. There is a word for employing antics like picking up, teeing up, or tricking out your clubs with plastic faces or Vaseline to reduce spin from mis-hits – cheating.

Watching the PGA and LPGA pros on TV can give a beginning golfer an inferiority complex, but if you play within your game you will have fun; try to duplicate theirs and you will just get frustrated. Leave the driver in the bag for the narrower fairways and hit the more accurate 3-wood, or a hybrid, off the tee (even the pros do that sometimes – it’s just that their standards for “wide” and “narrow” differ from ours), lay up instead of trying to cut the corner, use a bump-and-run up on to the green instead of the more difficult chip shot. As you get better, well, go ahead and pull the “Big Dog” and bomb it sometimes – when you pull it off it will make your day.

Besides their teardown of the playing standards of the game, the AGA folks decry the stuffy, country-club atmosphere of private golf courses (though some of the AGA’s founders are rich enough to own their own country clubs, let alone join one) with “no jeans” rules and other genteel restrictions. Courses like that are the exception anymore – and folks who belong to clubs like that want to be there anyway. There are plenty of easier-going semi-private or public courses where dress codes are relaxed – or non-existent – and muni hackers by the thousands are having fun playing them every weekend all across the country, so that’s no argument.

The AGA also whine about the complex rules of golf, but the basics are simple: Play the course as you find it, and the ball as it lies – and when in doubt, take relief and add a stroke to your score. The more complex stuff is for tournament play (or when there’s money on the game) so don’t sweat it.

The AGA folks pitch their concept to golfers on the basis of having more fun on the golf course, and to course owners on the basis of attracting more players to their courses. They contend that the difficulty of the game is driving players away, and while there have been a lot of high-end courses built by ego-stroking course architects in the last couple of decades which aspire to grandeur and eye-watering levels of difficulty, there are still plenty of playable, affordable courses in this country. You have to be pretty far out in the sticks not to be within range of a decent muni course in the USA: find one, take a lesson, hit the range, play the course as you find it and within the rules – and have fun. Play with friends, or make friends when you play, and as you play more and your game improves your level of satisfaction and feelings of achievement will increase too – and you will laugh at the AGA clowns and their “goofy golf” concept.

And if golf finally defeats you, and you just can’t hack it, what then? Well, you can always take up tennis…

Friday, February 18, 2011

Hogan’s Alley — Riviera Country Club and Bantam Ben

Ben Hogan was a man who left his mark on the history of golf in many ways and in many places. He “…brought the monster to its knees…” at the 1953 U.S. Open at Oakland Hills, where the penal rough and narrow fairways had Tour pros shaking their heads. That same year, in his one and only appearance in the Open Championship (known on this side of the Atlantic as the British Open), he tamed the windy linksland of Carnoustie, where the 6th hole is known as Hogan’s Alley for his bold play to a narrow stretch of the fairway between OB left and a pair of dangerous bunkers. This approach to the challenge of the daunting 567-yard hole allowed him to reach the green in two – driver, wood – while other competitors, including then-defending Open Champion, South African Bobby Locke, were hitting something like 4-iron, 3-iron and a pitch to get on in three.

Of all the golf courses, all over the world, which were analyzed, dissected and overcome by the genius of Ben Hogan over the years, the Riviera Country Club golf course is second only to Colonial Golf Club in his home town of Fort Worth, Texas in being deserving of the moniker “Hogan’s Alley”. Back-to-back victories in the Los Angeles Open in 1947 & 1948, plus the 1948 U.S. Open victory, put Hogan’s stamp on this George C. Thomas masterpiece for all time. From the elevated tee at the 503-yard par-five opening hole to the uphill run to the final green overlooked by the massive Spanish-style clubhouse, Riviera is a stern test of shot-making which rewards precision play. Players who bomb it long off the tee but lack accuracy will find their time on this storied course a death march as they scramble to carve recovery shots out the the vicious kikuyu grass rough.

Besides the ball-swallowing kikuyu, Riviera boasts meandering barrancas, stands of leafy eucalyptus trees, and a multitude of well-sited bunkers – many with overhanging edges that make a clean up-and-down a chancy endeavor. The most famous of Riviera’s bunkers is the pot bunker in the middle of the 6th green, a feature which turns an ordinary-enough 166-yard par-three into a strategic conundrum, especially when the flag is situated back-left. Clusters of ghostly pale sycamores, still leafless in midwinter when the PGA Tour comes to Riviera, are featured at the western end of the course, standing guard around the 15th green, all of the short par-three 16th, and the 17th tee. More stage dressing than obstacle, the sycamores cast long, eerie shadows across the fairways and greens in the slanting winter sunlight.

Hogan’s first victory at Riviera, in 1947, came at a point in his Tour career when he was hitting his stride, finding success on the Tour and acclaim in the press. An opening round of 70 started him off in good shape, in second place behind Marvin (Bud) Ward and Toney Penna, but it was the blistering 66 – tying the course record – that he stitched on the place in Saturday’s round that put the rest of the field in his wake. A pair of 1-over 72’s on the weekend were all it took to cinch the win, as he posted a final score of  280 that bested 2nd place finisher Penna by three strokes.

Hogan’s success in the 1947 season had come despite signs that his relentless practice regimen was taking a toll on his body, even at age 34, but as the 1948 season opened he appeared to have put his physical problems behind him. In those days, well before the modern season openers in the Hawaiian Islands, the return to sunny Southern California was a welcome start to a new year’s round of tournament play. In 1948 Riviera once more lay at Hogan’s feet. He played the tournament in four under-par rounds, 68-70-70-67, for a nine-under total score of 275, a record that wasn’t equaled until 1975, when Pat Fitzsimmons again posted a 275, and wasn’t bettered until Hale Irwin’s 272 in 1976. (Lower scores for the tournament had been posted in the interim, but not at Riviera. From 1954 through 1972 the tournament’s venue moved between four other L.A.-area courses.)

The tournament that tied the names Riviera and Hogan together once and for all, though, was the 1948 U.S. Open – only the third time that the national championship was played west of the Mississippi River, after the 1938 Open at Cherry Hills CC in Denver and the 1941 Open at Colonial Country Club in Fort Worth, Texas, and the first time on a West Coast course. Despite the USGA’s penchant for toughening up a course in preparation for hosting the U. S. Open – increasing the height of the rough, narrowing and/or skewing the fairways, and rolling and shaving the greens to lightning speed – Riviera’s longtime pro Willie Hunter convinced USGA Executive Secretary Joe Dey that the planned 6-inch rough would be too severe given the course’s wiry kikuyu grass; the rough was cut to three inches – enough to snag a mis-played tee shot, but not overly punitive. The course was considered to be sufficiently challenging as it was to provide a championship test – Bobby Jones himself, after playing to a two-over 73 during a visit in 1931, said, “Fine course – but tell me, where do the members play?”

After his victory at Riviera in January, Hogan predicted in his syndicated newspaper column that the course would play six to eight strokes harder for the USGA Championship in June, but after a couple of practice rounds on the U. S. Open setup, he commented that the course was playing no harder than it had for the Los Angeles Open. He underscored his comments with an opening round 67 (which included a 31 on the front nine). Hogan’s Saturday round was not as scintillating; an afternoon tee time and increasing winds off the ocean (the western end of the course is a scant mile and a quarter from the beach) gave him a bit more trouble. He came in with a one-over 72 – and considered himself lucky to get it. At the end of Saturday play Hogan was one shot behind Sam Snead, who followed his Friday round of 69 with another for a two-day total of 168 – a new 36-hole U.S. Open scoring record.

Sunday’s two-round conclusion put Snead out of the running, however. His U. S. Open curse struck again, and putting woes dropped him down the leaderboard with a morning round of 72 and an afternoon 73, for a final score of 283 – only good enough for 5th place. Sunday at the ’48 Open belonged to Ben Hogan and Jimmy Demaret – a flamboyant dresser and bon vivant who was a good friend of Hogan’s off the course. The pair came into the final day two strokes apart, Demaret’s Saturday round of 70 not making up all the ground he had lost with a Friday round of 71 (against Hogan’s 67). After matching 68s in the morning, Hogan still led Demaret by two at the lunch break. Hogan’s morning round included a dramatic recovery on the par-3 6th hole, where he blasted out of the peculiar little pot bunker in the middle of the green and sank a must-have putt to save par.

Tournament pairings were not re-aligned for the final round in those days as they are now, when TV coverage dictates the need for dramatic finishes. Demaret went out 30 minutes ahead of Hogan in the afternoon, and looked poised to make a run at the title when he went four under for the six-hole stretch from #7 through #12. A lipped-out putt from four feet on the 13th seemed to take the wind out of Demaret’s sails, though, and he wasn’t able to press home in the stretch. The best he could do was a 3-under 69, which turned out to not be enough to overtake Hogan.

Hogan played the final round of the Open in the precise, focused manner for which he was justly famous. Unruffled by a 3-putt on the 17th green, he matched Demaret’s 69 to stay two strokes ahead for the tournament, setting a new U.S Open record of 276 – five strokes better than the previous record, Ralph Guldahl’s 281 at Oakland Hills in 1937 – in the process. The record would stand for 19 years, until Jack Nicklaus’ 275 at the 1967 U.S. Open at Baltusrol.

After his success in 1947 and 1948, Ben Hogan never stepped into the winner’s circle at Riviera again; in fact, his next outing there, in the 1949 Los Angeles Open, saw him come home in a rather dismal tie for 11th place. Still, his place in Riviera’s history was secured by two successive, successful years, and the posh hangout of the Hollywood elite will be forever associated with Bantam Ben.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Cinderella Story

“Cinderella Story... ” There was not a golfer in the United States, and probably not many in the world, who didn’t have that phrase running through their mind coming into the final round of the AT&T Pro-Am at Pebble Beach last weekend. Why? Because comedian Bill Murray, an iconic figure in the world of golf for 30 years on the back of his portrayal of gopher-obsessed greenskeeper Carl Spackler in the 1980 film Caddyshack, and a fixture at the AT&T tournament on the Monterey Peninsula since 1992, lived every duffer’s fantasy when he became the amateur champion at the 2011 AT&T Pro-Am.

In case you’ve been living in a cave in a remote Central Asian mountain range since 1980, the phrase “Cinderella story” comes from the scene in Caddyshack in which Murray, as Spackler, fantasizes about winning the Masters while beheading a row of mumms in a planter bed outside the clubhouse with rhythmic swings of a weed cutter: “What an incredible Cinderella story! This unknown, comes out of nowhere, to lead the pack at Augusta. […]  Cinderella story, out of nowhere, former greenskeeper, now about to become the Masters champion. It looks like a mirac– it’s in the hole! It’s in the hole!” Murray used the line in the title of his biography, Cinderella Story: My Life In Golf, published in 2000.

Murray has been regularly paired over the years at the AT&T with pro Scott Simpson, but with Simpson not playing the tournament this year as he transitions to the Champions Tour full time, the pro slot alongside the Clown Prince of Pebble Beach was open. Partnered this year with D. A. Points, a fellow Illinois native and Caddyshack fan who is reported to have actively sought out the pairing with Murray, the comedy star played the clown as well as some outstanding golf (for a player with a reported 12 handicap), contributing 20 net strokes under par to the team’s tournament total of 251. Murray has made the Saturday cut at the AT&T Pro-Am 5 times previously, posting Top Ten finishes in 1995 (T7 – 259) and 2005 (T4 – 258) with Simpson. Murray and Simpson were in the running for the championship in ’05, but a closing round 67 dropped them to 4th place.

Some of the more rigid-minded pros equate a pairing with Murray to a 2-stroke handicap, but Points, who admits to having watched Caddyshack “…like 5,000 times…” thought that having Murray as a partner would help keep him loose. That theory proved to be sound as Points shot an opening round 63 at the Monterey Peninsula Country Club’s Shore course; a par-70 layout that is  acknowledged to be the easiest of the three courses in the tournament rotation, but no pushover even under the benign weather conditions that prevailed over the four days of the tournament.

Points could only manage a 2-under 70 on the tighter, more difficult Spyglass Hill course in Friday’s round, but the Points/Murray team were near the top of the Pro-Am division leader board as they started play on Saturday morning at Pebble Beach, inspiring Murray to don an Elmer Fudd-style hat and declare, “It’s official – we are in the hunt!” Points posted a 71 at Pebble on Saturday, stumbling slightly with a double-bogey at the iconic par-4 ninth hole, the middle hole in the famous oceanside stretch of the course dubbed “Abalone Corner” by golf writer Dan Jenkins.

Hunter Mahan made a run at the championship on Sunday, shooting a 66 to follow up rounds of 70-67-70 at Spyglass, Pebble, and Monterey Peninsula CC for a tournament total of 273, but Points held him off,  recovering from Saturday’s stumble to post a 67 in Sunday’s final round at Pebble Beach. Crucial to his low score was a spectacular eagle at the par-5 fourteenth hole, where he holed out from the fairway on a fortuitous bounce off the back side of the slope above the treacherous front bunker. Backed up by a timely birdie at 15—where he had to make his approach shot while practically straddling an out-of-bounds stake, then sink a curling 28-foot putt—the two strokes he saved with the eagle at 14 turned out to be his margin of victory.

Murray and Points both admit to being nervous as they entered the final stretch of holes, especially following errant tee shots by Points at 15 and 16, but Points turned Murray’s comic relief technique around as Bill stood over a downhill 45-foot putt on the 16th green, calling out to him from across the green, “You know, Bill, I think everyone would really like it if you would make this putt.” Murray and the spectators surrounding the green laughed, and with the pressure eased, the pair played the final two holes in a more relaxed mood, Points smoothly parring 17 and 18 to cruise home for the win. Points’ pro and pro-am sweep is only the seventh solo double-victory since the the tournament moved to the Monterey Peninsula in 1947.

Murray, fittingly, finished off his round with an impromptu monologue styled after the famous “Cinderella Story” scene from Caddyshack as he lined up his bogey putt: “A meaningless putt, for the World Championship, formerly known as the Crosby Pro-Am, now known as the AT&T National Pro-Am…”, jogging after the putt as it rolled just right of the hole, and sweeping it in backhanded as he tossed his hat in the air.

Despite his often irreverent behavior, Murray is no joke on the golf course. He has played the game since he was a boy, and many of the antics in Caddyshack spring from the boyhood experiences of Bill and his brothers Brian (who co-wrote the film’s screenplay with Harold Ramis and Doug Kenney) and Ed as caddies at a local country club golf course. Golfers and sportswriters who decry Murray’s on-course antics should take note of his sober reaction after he and Points posted the victory: “I could not speak,” Murray said. “I realized that this is it. We have won this tournament.”

Of course, Bill being Bill, he had to end on a funny note: “When we got to 18, I wanted to do something dramatic. I hit one really good shot, but unfortunately there was a tree in front of it.”

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Crosby Weather

If you grew up in Central California’s Steinbeck Country – the Salinas Valley and the Monterey Peninsula – or watching golf on television from other parts of the country, you are familiar with the term “Crosby weather”. It refers to the smörgåsbord of weather the Monterey Peninsula may experience in the period from January to mid-February when the Crosby Pro-Am (now the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am) has been played over the years.

Sportswriters and sportscasters like to dwell on those occasions when the weather during the tournament is poor;  windy, cold, wet – there was even a snow delay in 1962 – but residents of the area prefer to glory in the particularly fine weather we sometimes experience at this time of year. When the rest of the country is hunkered down, enduring blizzard conditions or just plain frigid cold, we are just as likely to be enjoying sunshine, blue skies, and temperatures in the 60s – if not the 70s. A round of golf at the Peninsula’s most challenging courses – Spyglass Hill, Monterey Peninsula Country Club and, of course, Pebble Beach Golf Links are the current rotation – can be a grim day out when the weather is dire, but treading these fairways on a fine, sunny day is any golfer’s idea of heaven.

It was clear and sunny in the area today (the Tuesday before the tournament), though there was more of a breeze than most golfers would feel comfortable with were they to encounter it on the more exposed, seaward holes on the three courses being played this weekend. The weather forecast for the weekend predicts clear weather, highs in the mid 60s and light breezes – 5 to 6 mph from the north Thursday & Friday, dropping to 3 mph and quartering from SSE to SSW Saturday and Sunday. For the landlubbers, this means a helping breeze on Saturday at Pebble for 18, hurting for 4, 5, 7, 9, and 10, cross for 6, 8, and 17.  The SSW breeze (onshore) on Sunday means a little help keeping drives in the fairways on 9, 10 and 18; helping on 8 and 11, hurting on 6 and 17, where the big left-front bunker comes into play with a hurting breeze and a back-left pin. These effects will likely be negligible because the winds will be so light, but it’s best to be aware of even light breezes on the seaward holes; the more sheltered inland holes probably won’t be affected at all by such frail zephyrs.

Some notable names are missing from the leaderboard for this weekend’s AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am—Steve Stricker, Bubba Watson, and Matt Kuchar, for instance—and I guess they all have their reasons for staying away (Tiger Woods has 3 million reasons to scratch the AT&T from his schedule – that’s the amount of the appearance fee he is pocketing for playing in the sandbox in Dubai this weekend – though he probably also wants to take another shot at Westwood and Kaymer over on their turf, so to speak, while they’re coming off of poor performances at Qatar last weekend), but I can’t for the life of me imagine turning down an opportunity to play these courses under these conditions.

The players who are skipping the AT&T, whether playing in Dubai or taking a week off at home, will be missing a chance to play some of the finest courses in the USA (including one which is arguably the finest) under the best possible conditions—no skewed fairways, insane rough or billiard-table fast greens like the USGA’s version of Pebble when they overhaul it for the US Open—and the kind of benign, crystal-clear weather conditions that make it hard for natives of the Central Coast not to feel smug, especially when we turn on the TV and see the weather in the rest of the country.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Welcome to “Will o'the Glen On Golf”!

Welcome to Will o’the Glen On Golf! I may be a lone voice crying in the wilderness for a while here, until I work out how to guide some reader traffic to this blog, but I am hoping that, with time and experience, I will bring readers to my little corner of the online world.

A will o’the wisp is an elusive goal or hope, so I have chosen to combine “will o’the wisp” with Willow Glen, the name of the neighborhood in which I live, in San José, CA, in the name of my web-log to symbolize my aspirations for my labors here. My goal is to educate, enlighten, and amuse my readers (not in any particular order) – with the full realization that some of the amusement might be unintentional on my part.

While my ultimate goal here on these pages might be elusive, my identity will not be – I do not intend to be circumspect in that regard. My name is Gary K. McCormick. I am a mechanical engineer, an aspiring writer (despite the clichés about engineers not being able to write, these are not mutually exclusive activities) and – heaven help me – a golfer.

I have only been playing golf with any level of intent for about a year and a half, so I am relatively new to the game, but I have been reading about and following golf for nearly 25 years, having gotten that bug when the father of a friend of mine recommended that I read Dan Jenkins’ book Dead Solid Perfect. I quickly set about getting hold of as many of Mr. Jenkins’ books as I could track down (golf-related and otherwise), and have read everything new that he has come out with since then. Mr Jenkins’ writing, and viewpoint, set the tone for my own viewpoint on the game of golf, so expect to hear a lot about Dan and his golf writing, and Ben Hogan — the mid-20th Century golf legend who Mr Jenkins was privileged to know, and whose career he covered from 1951 until Ben’s retirement from competitive golf in 1967.

I expect that I will also be writing about golf in Central California — the Monterey Peninsula and the San Francisco Bay Area – the area in which I have been privileged to live my entire life, and home to some of the most beautiful, and revered, golf courses in the world. Pebble Beach Golf Links and Cypress Point down on the Monterey Peninsula, Pasatiempo in the hills above Santa Cruz (take that, Augusta National, we have two Alister Mackenzie creations right here in our backyard – three counting public track Sharp Park, in Pacifica), Harding Park and the Olympic Club in San Francisco, to name a few – all these and (thanks to the weather) year-round golf, too. Say what you will about Florida, Myrtle Beach, and Hawaii—outside of Scotland, this has to be the golf center of the world!

Musings on happenings in the world of professional golf are likely to form a significant part of the content to be found here in the future, and thoughts on the people – players, commentators, journalists, and officials – in the game. Professional golf may not be as rich in characters as it has been in the past, but there are still personalities out there worth writing about. The LPGA will get some of my attention, too – the distaff side of the game has as much to offer, in every way, as the male side, and I look forward to using this forum as my motivation for learning more about the women’s game.

So stay tuned as I figure out this blogging deal – and if I reach some appreciative ears, the effort will have been worth it.