The Golf Soul

On the obsession with score over quality of shots played.

“The man who regards golf as a matter of ‘card and pencil’ is not a golfer at all, for he has lost his soul in arithmetic, whereas the true golfer puts his soul into the game for the love of it, and not because it amounts to a mere matter of mathematics as he wends his way back to the club house.”

Henry Chellew (1927)

As quoted in C.B. Macdonald’s

Scotland’s Gift-Golf

Mastering The Game

In comparing two ways of learning to play-one based on trusting your natural instincts and the other focusing on acquired technical knowledge.

“A perfectly good, well-formed, strong, and healthy man with a keen eye may do all that he has been taught and yet never really learn to play the game well, try as he will. In getting all these injunctions synchronized comes the real test of a man’s inherent ability to excel; primarily there must be concentration, and further, there must be coordination with the subconscious self, strength applied with extreme delicacy.”

C.B. Macdonald (1927)

Scotland’s Gift-Golf

On The Road With Bill Murray

The Golfer’s Journal regularly offers a wide array of stimulating golf content for the golf inebriated mind, both written and oral selections, that cover everything but instruction and golf jokes.

This podcast #124 is a Tom Coyne travelogue interview with Bill as they drive through rural Georgia on the way to a golf event at The Ohoopee Match Club. Bill is driving….aggressively…which presents a few thrilling moments and Tom is the enchanted frog on a log just prodding Bill to rap about just about everything.

Learn a bunch of interesting Bill tidbits:

-Bill’s collection of golf recovery devices

-His currency preference for $50’s and $10’s and disapproval of Andrew Jacksons

-An informal dissection of a pop-up movie set

-Yearning for java and fruitcake

-Some Arnie musings

-His early life as a shag boy and a barefoot caddie growing up in Chicago

-What he loves about the golfing experience

This is a pleasant car conversation between friends with you sitting in the back seat just taking it in. Well worth some lounge chair time for a listen.

Click to connect to this Golfers Journal Interview

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California Golf Club

Cal Club LogoThe Golden Age of Golf Architecture left it’s imprint in San Francisco in the 1920’s and one of it’s finest contributions was the California Golf Club.  The Cal Club is located at the southern end of the city in the hilly topography at the foot of San Bruno Mountain State Park.  From the many high vistas throughout the property you can see the splendor of the city set against the mountain backdrop.

CC 1 Green

The approach view of the first green juxtaposes the green complex to the near in city and the mountain backdrop behind

As we see on many of these layouts in California the early architects used the movement of the ground coupled with clever routing and imaginative green complexes to present challenging and entertaining golf with virtually no water hazards or forced carries.

CC 14 Par 4

Locke routed the wide open Par 4 14th to follow the flow of the land…Macon created the landing areas and the green complex….MacKenzie added elaborate bunkering throughout to define the strategic alternative off the tee and into the green.

The original design was actually the compilation of the work of three distinct architects over a three-year period.  Scot Willie Locke, who later designed Lake Merced, was the first to the plate in 1924 and is responsible for the design of the overall routing.  Before the construction began they replaced him with an Irishman, A. Vernon Macon, who built the tees, green complexes, and original bunkering.

CC 6 Par 3

The 6th is an example of a bold Macon’s green complex design.. With fall offs front, left, and back it is hard to keep a mid-iron approach on the putting surface. Deep face bunkering can punish a timid approach shot.

Macon designed the green complexes with bold contours that caught the attention of the golfing community when it opened in 1926.  The fairway bunkering was left for later on purpose, so the architect could analyze from actual play the best positioning based on the divot patterns left by players.

In 1927 the task for creating the fairway bunkering was given out to a third architect, a young Alister MacKenzie, who had recently finished the 9 hole track at the Meadow Club north of San Francisco.  MacKenzie redid the 10th and 18th green, all the greenside bunkers, as well as adding the fairway bunkers.  His flair for the dramatic took this track to a whole new level in the minds of the golfing public.

CC 5 Par 4

This 5th hole would feel right at home at Pine Valley. At 300ish yards a big bopper is tempted to go for the green but the green side bunkers are punishing and can turn a birdie opportunity into a bogie in a heartbeat.

By 1960 the course was in dire need of a attention due to the state’s rerouting of a road adjacent to the property.   The club hired the biggest gun of the times, Robert Trent Jones Sr. to do the update.  As was his habit when approaching renovation of U.S. Open Course of the era, Jones could not resist putting his entire footprint on the course.  He re-routed holes, changed things dramatically and pretty much redefined the character of the Cal Club.

In 2005 the course was suffering from major maintenance issues due to turf disease and inappropriate grasses so they solicited proposals for a complete shutdown and renovation of the course.  Kyle Phillips submitted a bold proposal to undo the previous rerouting by relocating the practice area and creating new holes on the front nine and was chosen to do the job. The results supported that choice.

Cal Club Long View

One of the base principles of Phillip’s renovation was to add about 6 inches of sand across the entire layout-this improved the drainage and facilitated the introduction of fescue to replace the rye and poa anna in the fairways and eradicate the poa from the greens.  Kyle undid the mess Trent Jones had done to the front nine by introducing three new holes and, at the same time, went back to aerial images of the course to reclaim many of the parameters and features MacKenzie had put in the original work.

CC 3 Par 4

This downhill dogleg 3rd was one of Kyle Phillip’s old style new holes that seamlessly fits into the character of this age old design. This original bunkering mimics the detail of MacKenzie’s work.

He made sure that width was king, the rough was not significant reducing the search for balls, and let the strategic MacKenzie bunker positioning steal the show. What emerged was turf that would support hard and fast playing conditions to force the players to respect the topography as a strategic element of play.  The presentation of fairway width, no rough to speak of, complimented by generous bunkering in the green complexes puts the premium of positioning on every hole.

CC 8 Par 3

On the downhill Par 3 8th begs for a bit of a soft draw…they added a barely visible kicker mound front right that will propel an approach onto the center of the green following the right-to-left movement of the ground

In reading the Hole-By-Hole Analysis below you will see that Phillips gave them a seamless combination of the outward and inward nines that once again emphasized the design thinking of the Golden Age.

CC 18 Par 4 2

Looking down from the top of the hill at MacKenzie’s 18th green surrounded by sprawling bunkers wedged into the hill under the clubhouse is testimony to their choice of Kyle Phillips to bring this amazing track back to full grandeur.

San Francisco, California

Architect: Willie Lock, A. Vernon Macon, Alister MacKenzie (1927)

Kyle Phillips Restoration (2007)

Par       Rating    Slope   Yardage

Venturi             72        74.6        139       7215

Back                72        72.7        135       6794

Middle             72        70.5        130       6293

Forward           72        66.5        122       5401

(Click here to review the complete California Golf Club hole-by-hole descriptions)

McKellar Magazine-A Golf Companion

The digital age has wreaked havoc on print journalism turning the most established outlets upside-down shaking the most valuable assets from their trouser pockets into a discarded heap on the ground.

As a result we now have golf magazines trying to fill a hollow digital footprint without the credible writers to produce content worth reading. What you have left are internet magazine subscriptions to lists of Top 100 Golf Courses, collections of worthless golf tips, reviews of the latest “new and improved” equipment you don’t need, and infomercials for the next great destination golf resort of your dreams. If you are truly interested in creative golf content this is not going to scratch that itch.

Fortunately a couple of new print publications have risen from the ashes who have assembled the best golf writers, photographers, and illustrators to create long form articles on a wide array of subjects of golf interest. The templates are like none you have seen before-little or no advertising to distract you from the content, no grandstanding articles about the professional golf tours and their stars, and no sell-your-soul patronizing reviews of the next generation equipment that is going to shave strokes off your scores.

One of these publications is McKellar Magazine which has been publishing since 2018 under the capable direction of their founding editors Lawrence Donegan and Thomas Dunne. The list of contributing writers they have assembled is a Who’s Who of accomplished golf scribes of the last thirty years. It includes Michael Clayton, Lloyd Cole, Lorne Rubenstein, John Huggan, Mark Cannizzaro, John Strawn, Geoff Shackelford and many, many more.

The journal’s namesake-Alexander McKellar-his thought over every golf shot “This shall not go for Nothing” is something we can all relate to.

In the five editions they have published so far you will find a wide array of excellent articles to tantalize your golf interests. These include glib interviews with Dottie Pepper, Chubby Chandler, and Rory McIlroy, an article about the symbiotic relationship between Sweeten’s Cove and The Waffle House, the back story of why Amana appeared on the hats of golf greats Bob Goalby, Julius Boros, and Jim Colbert, and Michael Clayton’s proverbs of the design features of venues in the Australian Sand Belt that are influencing the works of today’s most prolific course architects.

Every edition is chock full of this kind of well written, engaging stuff that will keep you glued to your favorite reading recliner. For a generation of people who grew up getting ink on their fingers from reading print publications this is manna from heaven.

You can learn more about what these guys are up to and order the magazine through the McKellar Magazine Website. At a cost of about $20 an issue delivered the price may seem steep but remember this is not your father’s golf magazine business model-there are no advertiser revenues to subsidize your reading habits.

McKellar has put out five robust issues so far. So don’t tarry, invest in the most recent issue, this is a Golf Companion you will be glad you welcomed into you personal library.

McKellar Magazine (2021)

Whistling Straits Course-Flyover

Whistling Straits LogoWith Whistling Straits playing host to the Ryder Cup this week, Andy Johnson of The Fried Egg has dispatched his drone to put together a timely video exposition of the course and paired it with his thoughtful and knowledgeable analysis of how the Pete and Alice Dye’s architecture will provide strategic challenges in this match play competition.

There are two things that are startling about The Straits. First it is essentially a links style course in the middle of America and second, everything you see that makes this a links style course, except for the ocean sized Lake Michigan over your shoulder, was manufactured by man (and woman).

Besides the engineering feat of importing and placing a bazillion truckloads of dirt from Indiana to sculpt the land, they had to conceive of a routing to expose as many of the holes as possible to the lake winds to create the real look and feel of links golf in Wisconsin.

As Andy points out, it is a figure eight routing with the front nine going south along the lake shore and then looping back upon itself to catch more shoreline on the way back in. The back side does the same thing going north along the shoreline and looping back for more shore on the way back to the clubhouse. This puts 8 of the 18 holes with direct interface to the lake and another six within eye view. The influence of the wind off the lake can be profound and since the holes go in both directions on both sides you rarely get but a couple of holes in a row with the same wind effect.

Seventh Hole Par 3 green presents pure intimidation-especially the right pin

The par threes on this course are all stunners-forced carries over huge waste areas to precipice greens with the backdrop of the lake behind. This lack of topological backdrop can make frame of reference of the shots hard to discern. The wind influence on the three pars is at it’s max because they are the most exposed holes on the course.

The harsh reality of Number 17 will challenge the world’s best players

Andy goes through the full Dye collection and from his analysis you will have a much better appreciation of how these pros will negotiate their way around this unique layout under the intense competitive heat that only a Ryder Cup can provide.

Set aside ten minutes to watch this on a PC screen so you can truly appreciate the artistry of this video and it’s subject as well.

The Fried Egg Podcasts (2021)

(Click to see Andy Johnson’s video analysis of Whistling Straits)

Green Speeds…Get Over It

How many times have you looked forward to playing a course of special interest, maybe on a vacation or in an event in your area, only to come away disappointed because they had the greens jacked up so fast that only gutter bumpers could save you from three-putting all day long. My guess is this is experience is all too familiar to many of you.

In the attached article by John Steinbreder in this week’s Global Golf Post a strong case is made by many of the biggest names in golf architecture that the “Arms Race” for faster and faster green speeds, at private and public courses all over the country, is totally out of control. As a result, the courses are just no fun for anyone who does not carry a handicap index in the low single figure range.

There is little question that a kabal of low-handicappers who dominate green’s committees at these places are driving the bus and, in an effort to keep the “rating” of their course” in the top quartile, have made them virtually unplayable for the bulk of their membership.

This started out isolated to “premier” show-off events like the annual Member-Guest, but now has creeped into their Club Championship, Opening Day, Calcutta Event, and even day-to-day play at their courses. Who wants to compete in these things if you have to wear protective gear just to get through the experience.

We visited this issue in our “Is Faster Really Better” posting back in 2011 that featured an article by Ian Andrews a renowned architect from north of the border. The issues have not changed in 10 years, in fact the incidence seems to have gotten worse in my humble opinion.

It is long overdue for the decision makers at golf facilities to bring a little sanity back to daily course set up and let all players smell the roses once again.

John Steinbreder

Golf Global Post (2021)

(Click to read Global Golf’s article “Slippery Slope”)

Lee Trevino

In the late 1960’s Lee Buck Trevino was a disruptive intrusion to the Big Three Plus One status quo on the PGA Tour. No one really knew what to make of this Mexican-American upstart with the flat swing, low left-to-right ball flight, non-stop wise-cracking chatter, and gunslinger’s no-fear attitude playing against Nicklaus, Palmer, Player, and Casper.

In this Shotgun Start Spotlight Podcast Brendan Porath and Andy Johnson provide an informative historical perspective of the early career of Lee Trevino. This podcast is a deep dive into the challenging path Lee took from an impoverished Texas upbringing to being the most significant foil to the dominance of Jack Nicklaus in the early 1970’s.

Lee was not a product of the country club mold that is for sure……

Embed from Getty Images

As Andy points out, in the 10-year period from 1968 to 1977 Lee Trevino was arguably the most dominant player other then the GOAT himself. Over his storied career Trevino won six majors-two U.S. Opens, two Open Championships, and two PGA Championships. In 1971 he was named Sports Illustrated’s “Sportsman of the Year”. Over a three-week period in June and July of that year Lee garnered three national championships, beating Jack Nicklaus in a playoff at Merion to win the U.S. Open, won his first of two Canadian Opens, and outlasted England’s Tony Jacklin and Taiwan’s Lu Liang Huan at Royal Birkdale for his first British Open Championship. No one else in the golf history has ever done that.

The podcast is rich with Lee’s legendary personal musings as well as the entertaining perspective of Dan Jenkin’s the premier golf journalist the time. There are lots of revealing quotes from his peers that leave little doubt as to the impact Trevino made on the staid order of the PGA Tour. The language was not always politically correct by today’s standards, but it was representative of the mood of the time.

Set aside the time to listen to this 90 minute podcast, you will not be disappointed. This is a nostalgic romp from those of us who grew up with Lee challenging the golf establishment. For those who only know him only as a golf myth, it is an opportunity to put his accomplishments in real perspective.

Brendan Porath and Andy Johnson

Shotgun Start (June 2021)

Lip Outs

Lipping out a well struck putt that you were sure was going down when it was six inches from the hole is one the most excruciating experiences for most golfers.  But like everything in this crazy game, there can be two sides to every story.

In the attached article from The Golfers Journal this month, the Club Pro Guy gives you a different perspective on how to look at these disappointments as the grandest of all “Buts” and use them to your post game advantage.

It may not help your score, but it will do your self esteem a world of good.  I like his attitude.

In a further bit of self-deprecating humor I note that the author claims he led the Mexican Mini-Tour over a 10-year period in SPGOS-Strokes Gained: Punching Out Sideways.  Guess that qualifies him as an expert.

Club Pro Guy (2020)

The Golfers Journal (#14)

(Click to read “Coming In Hot” from The Golfers Journal)

Playing Augusta National-Architect’s Perspective

Augusta National is a course whose strategic approach the avid golf watcher would say he understands just based on the sheer number of times he has seen The Masters broadcasts over the years.  Yet every year there is one shot a leader or a chaser hits on Saturday or Sunday that leaves the TV patron scratching their head wondering why did they try to do that.

The answer to that question and many, many more can be found in this in depth Fried Egg Podcast interview with major champion and golf course architect Geoff Ogilvy.  Andy Johnson plies Ogilvy’s knowledge of every hole at Augusta-one to eighteen-from both a playing and competitive standpoint to give you a much richer understanding of the challenge the top professionals in the world face as they wend their way through the tournament set up at The Masters.

Because of his accomplished playing career and his subsequent devotion to golf course architecture and design, Ogilvy is uniquely qualified to provide this guided tour.  He had 16 professional wins over his career-8 on the PGA Tour that include a U.S. Open and 3 World Golf Championships.  His record in the four Majors during the height of his career speaks to his deep understanding of championship golf courses and the challenges they present in major championships.

The fact that Augusta National is an Alister MacKenzie design and Ogilvy grew up and is cutting his course architecture teeth in the Sand Belt Region of Australia where MacKenzie also plied his craft adds to the depth of understanding he has of the strategic approach of this unique venue.

Ogilvy points out that Augusta National is routed in such a way that the holes traverse the severe topography of the land which is why their is so much movement on the fairways and the greens.  This also lends itself to severe side hill stances on approach shots that often are counter to the shot shape required to get at specific pins.  A good example is the hook stance from the fairway on the Par 5 13th into a green that favors a fade to most pins to counter the risk of traversing the diagonal relation of Rae’s Creek to the putting surface.

On almost every hole there are repel pin positions and collection pin positions, so the tournament powers that be can change the difficulty factor dramatically from day-to-day simply by the location of the hole.  As Ogilvy points out this also changes the preferred driving position and angle of approach in each round. 

The wide variance of potential score on a hole in a given day based the hole positions is what makes the course endlessly interesting for the player and the viewing patron alike.  Depending on the player’s position on the scoreboard on Sunday afternoon there are holes that they must make decision after decision to either take on the challenge or protect their score. In the vernacular of risk and reward Ogilvy’s experience at Augusta is that takes a care-free aggressive approach to be successful at Augusta National.

Fair warning, this interview is almost two hours in it’s entirety but it is chock full of stuff you have not heard before so it is well worth it if you have the time.  Even if you just listen to a chunk of it, your understanding of what you see the next time you are watching The Masters will be greatly enhanced.

(Click to listen to Geoff Ogilvy’s Interview on the Fried Egg)

Geoff Ogilvy-Episode 196 (2020)

The Fried Egg Podcast