Thursday, August 25, 2016

Book review: The Anatomy of Greatness, by Brandel Chamblee ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (out of 5)

Golf Channel analyst’s instruction book scores A- for content, C+ for presentation

Golf Channel analyst/commentator Brandel Chamblee knows a thing or two about the golf swing, and when he talks, or writes, about it people should take notice. A former PGA Tour player himself, Chamblee brings a tremendous amount of insight and experience, as well as a sense of history, to his on-air role, and in his recent book, The Anatomy of Greatness: Lessons from the Best Golf Swings in History, he brings the same qualities to bear in writing about the golf swing.
In his new book from Classics of Golf, Golf Channel analyst Brandel Chamblee
breaks down the simple concepts that the great golf swings have in common. 

The Anatomy of Greatness is not just another swing instruction book, like the thousands that have been published over the decades since the first, The Golfer’s Manual, by Henry Brougham Farnie, was published in 1857. Even a cursory look through the pages of the book will show that Chamblee has taken a different approach to the matter at hand. Rather than the Golf My Way (Jack Nicklaus) or How I Play Golf (Tiger Woods) approach, telling the reader “This is how I do it”, Chamblee shows the reader the characteristics of the golf swing that are common to a panoply of the greats of the game – including, of course, Nicklaus and Woods.

Taking the basics of the golf swing – the grip, the setup, posture, and the various phases of the swing movement itself – in order, Chamblee explains the basic concepts that helped make these past champions great. With a wide variety of illustrations and photographs, he shows how the greats of the game – from Jones, Snead, Hogan, and female golf great Mickey Wright, to Player, Nicklaus, Trevino, Woods and others – utilized these basics to produce their championship-winning golf swings.

Along the way Chamblee debunks some popular misconceptions, especially the widespread, but misguided, concept of loading the mid-body like a torsion spring to produce power in the downswing. Instead, the reader is shown how the great champions of the past used a few key movements to produce the fluid, free-flowing swings we have seen in newsreel footage (for the earlier players in the comparisons) and television coverage of tournaments, for years. He also explains how the looser, freer swing described in the pages of the book is easier on the body, especially the thoracic spine (lower back), which is a key element in a long-lived quality golf swing.
“The premise of this theory is so massively incorrect and its problems so numerous that for over thirty years it has almost completely divested the PGA and LPGA Tour players of their ability to build on the methods of a previous generation…”

One of the really interesting things about The Anatomy of Greatness is how Chamblee traces the common roots of these fundamental concepts back to Los Angeles-based golf instructor Alex Morrison, whose influence can be seen in the swing motions of such greats as Bob Jones, and through Morrison disciples Henry Picard and Jack Grout, in the swings of Ben Hogan and Jack Nicklaus, respectively. The same concepts can be seen in the swing motions of such 20th-century greats as Byron Nelson and Sam Snead, who though they arrived at them independently, were themselves very influential on a great number of later players.
All that being said, there is room for improvement in the book’s presentation. The layout is clumsy and rather unprofessional looking, with frequent unwelcome blocks of blank space, and in at least a couple of places, multi-page jumps in the text to accommodate poorly arranged stretches of photos and captions. The prose is rather stilted and stiff, in general, and appears to have lacked the input of a good proofreader and a firm-handed, knowledgeable copy editor. 

The mediocre-to-poor layout of the book is the reason it missed out on a fifth star, but despite those minor complaints, this slim volume (121 pages of content, plus a two-pages-and-a-bit foreword by Tom Watson) is a book that every golfer should read, and that all golfers can take advantage of to improve their game, with a bit of reading, and a bit of practice.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Olympic golf’s Northern California connection – H. Chandler Egan

It has been 112 years since men’s golf was played in the Olympic Games, and on the eve of its return in the Rio Games of 2016, it’s worth looking back at one of the men who claimed the medals the last time around, a man with a strong connection to Northern California golf.
H. Chandler Egan, noted West Coast golf architect, and individual silver medalist in men’s golf at the 1904 Olympic Games.

H. Chandler Egan is a name that is familiar to golf history buffs with an interest in Northern California’s Monterey Peninsula and San Francisco Bay Area golf meccas. Born in Chicago, Illinois, in 1884, Egan attended Harvard University, where he captained the golf team. Egan won the NCAA Individual Golf Championship in 1902, and was a member of the team which won three straight NCAA Division I Golf Championships, from 1902 to 1904.

Egan’s successes in amateur golf outside of the collegiate game included winning the 1902 Western Amateur at Chicago Golf Club – the first 18-hole golf course in the United States – and the 1904 U.S. Amateur at Baltusrol Golf Club, the first of four U.S. Amateurs held at the venerable New Jersey course, which recently hosted its eighth U. S. Open.

When the Olympic Games came to St. Louis, Missouri, in 1904, Egan competed as an individual and as a member of a team from the Western States Golf Association, one of 74 Americans and three Canadians who played for the medals at Glen Echo Country Club in September 1904. Taking home the individual gold in the second and last – until now – men’s golf competition in the Olympic Games was 46-year-old George Lyon, of Canada; Egan took the individual silver, and his team from the WSGA took the team gold.

H. Chandler Egan’s individual silver medal (left) and team gold medal (right) from the 1904 St. Louis Games.
Egan’s Olympic medals were thought to have been lost until they turned up in the autumn of 2016, tucked away on the bottom shelf of a bookcase in the former home of his daughter, and only child, Eleanor, who passed away in 2012 at the age of 101. The medals were discovered, along with a trove of Egan’s other golf memorabilia, when one of Eleanor’s sons, Morris Everett Jr., was cleaning out the house, which is located on the farm near Chagrin Falls, Ohio, where he and his brother grew up.

Chandler Egan’s connection to Northern California golf stems in part from his collaboration and association with revered golf course architect Alister Mackenzie. Mackenzie is best known in the Monterey Peninsula and San Francisco Bay region for designing the Cypress Point Golf Club in the Del Monte Forest (near Pebble Beach Golf Links) and Pasatiempo Golf Club, north across Monterey Bay in the hills above Santa Cruz.

In 1929 Egan took the lead in a partnership with Mackenzie in the renovation of the then 10-year-old Pebble Beach Golf Links layout in preparation for the U.S. Amateur. Egan played in the event (with some advantage over his competitors, we can imagine…), and reached the semifinal round before being eliminated.

That same year Egan worked with Mackenzie and his partner Robert Hunter on the design and construction of the Union League Golf and Country Club (now known as Green Hills Country Club), in the San Francisco Peninsula town of Millbrae. Across the bay in the Oakland Hills, Egan took over the re-design of the Sequoyah Country Club course in 1930, after the death of famed architect Seth Raynor, who passed in 1926 not long after submitting plans for the re-design.

Egan also worked with Dr. Mackenzie on Sharp Park Golf Course, in the coastal town of Pacifica, 10 miles south of San Francisco. A rare publicly owned Mackenzie course, Sharp Park and the Eden Course in St Andrews, Scotland, are the only two seaside public courses designed by Mackenzie. Egan oversaw the construction, in 1929, of this handsome layout, which is situated on partially reclaimed land next to the Pacific Ocean, overlooked by the rugged western face of the Coast Range hills that lie between the Pacific and San Francisco Bay.

Egan is also responsible for one of the most cherished public golf courses in the Monterey Peninsula region, Pacific Grove Golf Links, known as “The Poor Man’s Pebble Beach.”

Opening in May 1932, PG Golf Links was laid out by Egan on land which Del Monte Properties Company owner Samuel F. B. Morse sold to the city of Pacific Grove for a $10 gold piece and a promise to operate it as a public course for at least five years. Lying just inland of Point Piños, the rocky stub jutting out into the Pacific which closes the southern “hook” of Monterey Bay, Egan’s original nine-hole layout was expanded to 18 holes in 1960 with a back nine laid out right on Point Piños by Jack Neville and Douglas Grant, the original architects of Pebble Beach.

As golf returns to the Olympic Games this week, golf fans in the Monterey and San Francisco Bay region can be proud of the area’s connection to the history of Olympic golf, and can still play golf courses which were designed by a man whose name is forever linked to golf and the Olympic Games.