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

Rocco

There are a handful of golfers like Tiger, Phil, Jack, Rory, or Brooks whose first names alone bring to mind their huge accomplishments in the game. Rocco Mediate is one of those guys but not because he won the big one, but because he lost it in a memorable playoff……..to Tiger Woods

No won will forget Rocco’s name or his performance in his 2008 loss of the U.S. Open at Torrey Pines to Tiger.  In some of the most riveting playoff golf we have ever witnessed, Rocco took Tiger, the #1 Player of our time, to the 19th hole of a playoff watched by a gazillion golf fans playing hookey from Monday’s work. He was not intimidated by the task of playing Tiger one-on-one in a playoff for a Major. Rocco relished the moment and would not have wanted it any other way.

Wearing his emotions on his sleeve-an air of quiet confidence always prevails

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This interview on the No Laying Up Podcast, couched in Rocco’s own devilish story telling style reveals all that has been through over a 35 year professional career-including 6 wins on the PGA Tour, years cast out to the hinterland because of chronic back issues, more then a few flirtations with winning a major, a colossal train wreck on #12 at Augusta in 2006, the aforementioned playoff in 2008 at Torrey Pines, and a second life winning 4 times on the PGA Tour Champions including a Senior PGA.

Rocco methodically won 13 times over his professional career

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Growing up a drive and a 5-iron from Latrobe, Rocco talks at length about his relationship with Arnold who served as a second father and a life coach throughout his career.  Rocco played hundreds of rounds with The King over the years, including walking with him for his final two rounds in the 1994 U.S. Open at Oakmont, a home game for both of them.

But it was his golf mentor Jim Ferree, one of the great ball strikers of all time, who taught him the fundamentals of the game that would serve him so ably for years on the Tour.   To this day he still has the same neutral grip that Jim taught him as a teenager and does not wear a golf glove just like his mentor.

As to Tiger, Rocco literally saw him coming, he was in attendance when Tiger won his first U.S. Am at Sawgrass where Rocco was living at the time. Tiger’s immediate success on the Tour was no surprise to Rocco, he knew that this kid had a set of skills the Tour had never seen before.  There were a few Tiger tales of course, the tallest of them all being that fateful week they shared in La Jolla at the 2008 U.S. Open.

Wearing red for the Monday playoff Rocco and Tiger were equals that week

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There are plenty of other nuggets in this interview, you just have to play really close attention since Rocco’s hyperactive pace of delivery can make it a real challenge to follow the details of the script.

My favorite part of the interview was Rocco’s description of his last PGA Tour win at the Frye’s in 2010.  He holed out four times over the four days, the last time on the 17th on Sunday where he asked his playing partner to mark his ball even though Rocco was 116 yards from the pin.  The rest is history.

Take a listen to this one, it is full of giggles and grins…..just like Rocco.

(Click to hear the No Laying Up Interview with Rocco Mediate)

Rocco Mediate-Episode 365 (2020)

No Laying Up Podcast

Phil Being Phil

As is usually the case, in this interview on The Clubhouse With Shane Bacon we get the Phil MIckelson unvarnished authoritative views on a range of subjects from the importance of the Majors to his enterprising made-for-TV matches with Tiger.

Shane Bacon, an experienced golf broadcaster who has been an unfortunate casualty of Fox’s decision to let go of it’s hold on the USGA TV broadcasts this year, does an expert job in staging this entertaining interview with one of the most knowledgeable and opinionated stars of the modern era. 

He starts right out of the gate with the question burning in every golf fan’s mind, how did Phil feel about being chosen by Alex Trebek and crew as the Final Jeopardy answer in a recent broadcast.  Phil was honored but his ego took a little hit when no contestant got the right answer.

Shane moves on to Phil’s view of the PGA Tour Champions where he is currently undefeated in his first two events and playing to a stroke average of 65.  He throws in a few good stories about his relationships with guys on both tours and some insight into his respect for and his evolving friendship with Tiger.

The most interesting part of the interview for me was Phil explaining why he is such an insightful commentator on live golf broadcasts when he has been invited up into the booth after his day’s play.  The detail with which he looks at the consideration of each shot challenge for the players is a function of his own preparation to play each week, but it is his ability to relate this in intelligible terms an average viewer can comprehend that makes him so interesting.

There are plenty of snippets in this hour long broadcast like his recuperative preparation of his Match III partner Charles Barkley swing, the relentless pursuit of driving distance on the PGA Tour, his most memorable Phil elevator shot, and his view on personal health and fitness as it relates to him remaining relevant for such a long time on the tour.

Phil is one of the most thoughtful and engaging golf personalities of his generation and this interview does nothing but enhance that view.  It is why so many people want to hear what he has to say and why it is worthwhile for you to click the link below to listen to his interview.

(Click to hear The Clubhouse With Shane Bacon Interview Of Phil Mickelson)

Phil Mickelson-Episode 162 (2020)

The Clubhouse With Shane Bacon Podcast

 

Playing With Hickories

The personal isolation created by the pandemic has given us all lots of time to catch up on things we have meant to do for a long time. For me this included the idea of someday “playing with hickories”, something I wanted to do for years but just never found a way to get to it.

You see the problem had always been where does one get a reliable set of hand made clubs that are 100 years old. The point was not just to own a few hickory clubs as collector’s items but to play with them, not just once, but often enough to understand how guys like Jones, Hagen, Vardon, and Ouimet were able to play the game at such a high level with this antiquated hardware. There were plenty of hickory shafted clubs from different sources out there on the internet but how could I be sure if they were authentic, still in playable condition, or were worth anywhere near what people were asking for them.

Then in my covid catch-up reading I stumbled on an article in The Golfer’s Journal about a small artisan company called Louisville Golf that had been making custom persimmon head clubs for the last 50 years and had taken up reproducing hickory shafted clubs in the 1990’s in an attempt to survive in what was a shrinking persimmon niche market. Four older gentlemen made all the clubs by hand and the reproduction of lines of vintage hickory clubs became the staple that kept them in business.

A little more research revealed that there were only two companies in America that still made hickories to the original specifications and Louisville Golf offered the widest variety of woods, irons, niblicks, and putters that were authentic reproductions of the most famous products of the hickory era. Sure seemed like the avenue I had been waiting for to explore this world of hickory first hand.

A study of the Louisville Golf website followed by a conversation with the owner Jeremy Wright got me out of the gate. Since a full set of these would be no small investment, it made sense to get a couple of clubs to begin with to see if it was even feasible for me to handle the clubs proficiently enough to enjoy the challenge of playing with them on a regular basis. I started with their 1920’s vintage Precision Series Mashie (an equivalent to a modern 8 iron) and a 21-degree persimmon headed Jack White Special Cleek (an early version of a utility wood).

A couple of weeks worth of range and on course work with these two convinced me that there was nothing intrinsically difficult about hitting hickory clubs and with some patience and perseverance it was possible to play them on the regular course and appreciate the skills of the ancient greats of the game.

Within a month I had my own custom crafted set of hickory shafted clubs-made up of a 14-degree Wilsonian Brassie for driving and fairway play, the Jack White Cleek, the full array of Precision Series dimpled faced irons, and a replica Bobby Jones Calamity Jane blade putter.

Now the fun would begin, exploring the parameters of this new set of old clubs to find out just how playable they would be on my regular hunting grounds. Sessions on the range with my Rapsodo launch monitor would supply ball speed, club head speed, launch angle, and carry distances for comparing the performance of clubs of the same loft from my hickory set vs my modern equipment.

The dimple faced Precision Series Mashie and Pitching Mashie are identical lofts to a contemporary 8 and 9 iron respectively

For someone like me with a relatively modest swing and ball speed, 80 and 100 mph respectively with my PXG 6-iron, the launch monitor numbers were surprising in that the differences in the irons were statistically insignificant.  Launch angles were a tinch lower with the hickories but the club and ball speed and the carry distances were less than 3 percent apart throughout the iron range.

The hickory shafts make the clubs heavier in hand then their composite shafted relatives from my modern set, but choking up an inch and concentrating swing rhythm and timing seems to take care of it.  The dimpled face does not impart the kind of spin we get off grooved face irons today so some adjustment for roll out is necessary on carry shots into the greens.

The forgiveness of these irons is surprisingly adequate so I really did not pine for the cavity backed feature of modern irons.  But the club head seems more sole weighted and balls that climb up to the thinner part of the face, especially in the rough, can come off with insufficient enthusiasm and a dampened trajectory.

Shape of the Niblick and the SM Niblick behind looks pretty to the contemporary eye

The Mashie Niblick (PW), Niblick (GW), and SM Niblick (56 degree SW) do a good job for the approach distances of 110 yards and in.   Trajectory is very similar to my modern versions of the same clubs and, except for a little less spin off the face, hitting the click-stop array of half, three-quarter, and full shots has been very manageable.

The close-in pitching and chipping game around the green is very familiar.  I have found that the sole weighting on the irons gives a little more aggressive roll out in these shots so I have actually lofted up one notch using the Mashie-Niblick (PW) for shots I usually play with a 9 iron and the Niblick (GW) for shots I most often play with my modern wedge.  The 56 degree SM Niblick has plenty of lift for the lofty pitches and the bounce is appropriate for playing the array of sand shots we generally run in to.

The heads on the Brassie and Cleek will remind you of the persimmons you played with as a kid

The Brassie and the Cleek had significantly lower launch monitor numbers then the high tech hybrids and driver in my current set.  The more significant factor had nothing to do with the hickory shafts but rather the persimmon heads.  As you might remember from playing persimmon heads from the 60’s though the 80’s, the sweet spot on these woods is the size of a dime, so the mishits are real foul balls and could be seriously off line and 30% shorter than a solid one.  The practical playing yardage of the course at 6200 yards gets seriously longer as a result.

Calamity Jane, complete with the Bobby Jones’s three extra whipping shaft wraps, has great strike balance with the offset hosel

Maybe the most pleasant surprise was the putting experience with the Calamity Jane blade putter.  Having played a heel shafted putter most of my golfing life the overall feel is not unfamiliar to me.  The tall unscored paddle face does take some getting used to but they engineered the balance of the club with the offset head so you get a good aggressive roll on it time-after-time.  On the slick downhill putt the toe putting trick works very well to dampen the speed.

Having played a half a dozen rounds with my hickories I have a some of takeaways on how to play these clubs effectively.

1. The differential in the carry yardage of the driving clubs coupled with the variance of distance and direction on the mishits puts real pressure on recovery shots.  Acceptance and humility are very important in these situations.  On the four pars when this happens it seems prudent to give up the hope of reaching the green and play a lay up to an intelligent  short iron distance from which an up-and-down save is possible.

2. Recovering from the rough, given the tendency of the ball to ride up to the thin part of the face on the irons, favors playing finesse shots with the Cleek or choking up on the irons to intentionally hit them a little thin on the meaty part of the club.

3. In planning shots from the fairway, the lower launch angles off the face and the lack of spin control favors a more links-like, ground game approach into the green openings allowing for roll out.  Three quarter and half shots are an art with these clubs and it seems to me the shaft and the club head weighting makes them very conducive to success on these type of plays.

4. The 13 inch long leather grips take some getting used to.  First of all they are a little firmer then the softer rubberized grips on most clubs today.  In the heat, if you do not wear a glove, they can get a little slippery from your hand sweat.  Most peculiar, since the grips are 3 to 4 inches longer then what you are used to, when you grip down on the chip shots around the green or on less then full shots in the fairway you have to recalibrate how far down the grip to set your hands to get the club length right. It took me a couple of sessions at the short game area to work this out.

5. Scoring to your normal handicap is going to be a challenge because some of the precision the new technology gives to your equipment is not there, so you have to adjust your expectations accordingly.  I suggest you track a separate handicap for your hickory rounds so as not to distort your regular index.  Playing the course a tee up may make sense to increase your enjoyment by taking some of the pressure off the wood club differentials and allowing yourself the opportunity to play approach shots with irons you are used to.

6. Most important, embrace the challenge and allow your strategic approach to playing to be more old school.  Most of us grew up playing in a time when the hard turf and less manicured conditions left a strong bit of existential outcome in the game.  The style of play with the hickories matches up to that way of playing nicely if you can accept the mind set and play accordingly.

A minimalist canvas walking bag with a Truckin’ theme seemed right

I have had to put up with the snickers of macho friends who wonder why in the world a sane person would give up current technology to play with a bag full of antiques.  But it is like joining a vintage car club and going off on a sunny summer day for a country ride in a classic fin back convertible with your favorite squeeze.  Some things just have to be experienced to be appreciated.

 

 

Evolution Of The Golf Ball

If you need something to fill and hour and a half of your Covid downtime, I invite you to listen to a series of three internet broadcasts, part of the Fried Egg Stories Series, narrated by Garrett Morrison who escorts you through 170 years of the development of the golf ball and it’s effect on the game.

Besides connecting a bunch of dots about the role of this essential piece of equipment in the development of the modern game, you are going to realize that the discourse of reigning in the effect of technological innovations to save the game is not new and really has not changed that much over the last two centuries.

If you are a conservative by nature, that is to say someone who wants to conserve the game and it’s challenge by putting constraints on the introduction of new technologies in the development of the equipment, you have to face the fact that this battle is being lost today just as it was lost in the first two decades of the 1900’s.

Below is a synopsis of each episode and the link to the Fried Egg Podcasts themselves. I encourage you to enjoy this fascinating stroll through golf history.

Part I: The Gutty

For nearly three centuries the game of golf in Scotland was played with the Feathery Ball.  This was an expensive ball created by the hands of artisans stuffing goose feathers into hand sewn leather covers.  The ball worked well but it was not very durable, especially in wet weather, and was prohibitively expensive making the play of the long game of golf the purview of the wealthy and the professionals who made the clubs and balls for them.

Around 1850 someone discovered that using Gutta Percha, the rubber gum sap from a tree in Malaysia, a solid core rubber ball could be economically produced that was durable, repairable, and went way further then the Feathery of the day.  The introduction and acceptance of this new ball opened the long game up to thousands of Scots who previously could not afford to play. 

The durability of the ball also allowed the proliferation of the use of iron clubs that would not impart harm to the Gutta Percha Ball as they did to their leather skinned predecessors.  The crafty players of the day quickly learned that the irons added a new level of control over the flight and spin of the ball which allowed them to play more boldly over hazards and stop the ball more abruptly on the green.  As you can imagine this presented a huge advantage and took performance to an entirely new level.

Turns out the advantages of Gutta Percha were much bigger outside of golf-it revolutionized product production in the industrial world in the late 19th century.  It was used to insulate undersea cables in the new world of telegraph communications and helped introduce the first mode of instantaneous communication across the world.

(Click to listen to Part I: The Gutty)

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Part II: The Wound Ball

By the turn of the century another inquisitive mind,  Coburn Haskell, came up with the idea of replacing the solid rubber core Gutty with a liquid center ball wrapped tightly in rubber bands and covered in gutta percha. 

The Haskell Ball was introduced around 1899 in the United States where it caught on like wild fire among American golf crazies.  By 1905 the Scots recognized that the superior length which the Haskell traveled and additional spin created by the rubber band core made it the next go to step in the evolution of the golf ball

This is the contraption they used to wind the rubber bands around the new Haskell Ball (as seen at Archie Baird’s “Exhibition-The Heritage of Golf” in Gullane, Scotland)

But not everyone in the Scottish golf world was enthused about this development and recognized that the introduction of these technological efficiencies were going to make the challenging game easier and possibly require renovation of the existing links which would be overwhelmed by the capability of this new ball.

What ensued was a massive debate between traditionalists (conservatives) who wanted to ban the new ball to protect the sanctity of the game and its playing fields and the new thinkers who wanted to allow libertarian principles to prevail to make the game more equitable to all players by letting all innovations manufacturers came up with be implemented without regulation.

With classic courses succumbing to the ghastly distances the new improved balls were traveling, the R & A and an amalgamation of American golf organizations including the fledgling USGA agreed in the early 1920’s to come up with a size and weight regulation for a legal ball they thought would provide some tether on the manufacturers. The ball had to be at least 1.68 inches in diameter and could not weigh more than 1.62 ounces.

Nice try, but it did not work.  The manufacturers found ways to continue to improve the performance of the ball within these parameters and massive amount of redesign of classic courses ensued.

The die was cast, as long as the ball was made within these two parameters, it could be made in any way or with any material and be considered conforming to the rules of the game.

(Click to listen to Part II: The Wound Ball)

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Part III: The Better Ball

Fast forward about a half a century and what we saw was a frenzy of development in golf equipment from the 1970’s through the 1990’s.  Titanium replaced Persimmon making drivers and fairway woods longer, composite shafts replaced steel adding club head speed for players of all ability, and cavity backed irons made of combinations of space age materials added trajectory which allowed manufacturers to de-loft the irons considerably to add length and forgiveness as well.

But with all of that, it is the enhanced engineering of the ball itself, with the use of varieties of plastic based materials, that continue to have the most significant impact on how the game is played.

Spaulding introduced the solid core two-piece Top Flite ball in the 1970’s which had more power in it’s core and less spin creating another new “distance” ball.  This became a ball for the masses which coupled with the other equipment changes made the old courses shorter and shorter for those with distance aspirations.  The lack of spin control around the green kept the professional acceptance of this technology at bay….at least for a while.

In the mid 1990’s Spaulding stepped it up a notch with the introduction of the Strata, a  three-piece ball-solid core with a thin mantle layer to add spin for control on the shorter clubs, and a urethane cover that was more durable than balata used by Titleist.  Once the pros got their hands on this combination of ball engineering it changed everything , as it had with the introduction of the Haskell a century earlier.

The change was so profound that in 2000 Titleist, manufacturer of the number one ball among touring professionals, had to protect it’s turf by abandoning its top selling Titleist Professional wound ball and introduce the three-piece Pro V1 which parroted the technologies of it’s main rival.

In 2020 we have four-piece balls with dual cores.  The technology train keeps chugging along.

Good news is all these space age material ball improvements are conforming to the size and weight parameters of the ruling bodies, bad news is we are running out of real estate to lengthen courses to accommodate them.

(Click to listen to Part III: The Better Ball)

Fried Egg Stories Series (2020)

Fried Egg Golf Podcasts

A Pairing To Remember

A story related in Ron Read’s “Starting The U.S. Open” about a young boy who was first alternate in his Local qualifying for the U.S. Open who never dreamed he would ever get into the Sectional much less whom he would be paired to play with for a morning walk.

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Larry rang the first alternate, a sixteen-year-old, who most certainly would accept his invitation.  It was the dad who took Larry’s call, since the boy was still in school.

“Do you accept the position in Sectional Qualifying?” Larry asked the father.  He already knew the answer.

“Yes…yes….YES!” Dad excitedly responded, but he had a few questions for Larry.

“Are you sure you are who you say you are?”, Dad was suspicious.  Then he added, “Are you sure of what you are telling me?”

Larry answered those questions, twice each, before the father finally believed him.  Now Larry could fill him in on the details.

“Do you know his pairing?” Dad asked.  “Who’s he playing with?”

“Yes,” the USGA good Samaritan said. “Arnold Palmer.”

There was now a really long pause.

“Are you really serious?”

“Yes.”

“My son’s only sixteen years old!”

Larry’s surprise was beginning to sink in.

“What’s he going to do?  He’ll be scared to death.”

Larry finally convinced Dad that everything would be fine and that it would be a special experience.

Do you think?

By this time in his career, Arnie was no longer exempt into the Open, but true to his nature, he was going to try, just like nine thousand others.

The day after Sectional Qualifying, Larry took a call from the boy’s father.

“Mr. Adamson, I had to call,” he said.  “I can’t tell you what an experience our son…well, in fact, the whole family had yesterday.…How kind….how nice Mr. Palmer was to our son.  As our son came to the first tee,  Mr. Palmer went to him, introduced himself, and told him, ‘Young man, just play your game, enjoy this day and time.  You’ll be fine.’”

Dad broke down.

“What a nice man,” he managed to finally say.  “What a day he made for our son…What a memory…What a memory he gave to all of us.”

“Sometimes, the best thing we can give or receive in life, “ Larry told me, “is a good memory”.

Arnold Palmer did that for all.

Ron Read

Starting The U.S. Open

Handicaps

The maintenance of equitable individual handicaps is a tedious labor intensive effort that has been a challenge for golf administrators for over a century.  The latest fine tuning with the adoption of the World Handicap System in 2020 by the golf governing bodies has done little to simplify it or make the calculations intelligible.

In the spirit of simplicity I share a snippet I found in Alistar Mackenzie’s “The Spirit of St. Andrews” that fiddles with the handicap calculation issue.

No doubt it is simple, intelligible, and passes most of the tests of logic.  It really would be most appropriate for creating a home course handicap and is not readily transferable for play at other places.

In our current realm of multiple tees on our home course, it would take a little adjustment to incur fairness for players in competitions using this “home course handicap” playing from different tees.  Also, as suggested by Max Behr, something along similar lines would have to be developed for players whose skill level is beyond 18.

Never to be adopted but it is food for thought.

Alistar MacKenzie

The Spirit of St. Andrews

The Spirit of the Game

John Updike is one of great American writer’s of his generation and has written extensively over his career for various publications on one of his favorite subjects-the game of golf.  His book “Golf Dreams”, a compilation of his writings on golf, is a staple on the bookshelves of most serious golfer readers.

His style of writing is soothing like a warm fire in the hearth on a chilly New England evening with an undercurrent of humility and humor that evokes a knowing nod and a smile as we just shake our head as to say, yes that is how it is with golf.

Sometimes he is stating the obvious, “The golf swing is like a suitcase into which we are trying to pack one too many items – if we remember to keep our heads still, we forget to shift our weight; if we remember to shift our weight, we lift our head, or stiffen the left knee, or uncock the wrists too soon.” And sometimes he is more subtle and descriptive, “The secrets of a locale declare themselves in the interstices of a golf game: the sun-baked spiciness of Caribbean underbrush, the resiny scent and slippery lie beneath a stand of Vermont pines, the numerous anthills of Pennsylvania, like so many cones of spilled coffee grounds.”  The insight he provides as he reflects on the mystery of this great game leaves the reader feeling richer for the experience, much like a walk with friends on the links.

John Updike wrote his wonderful essay “The Spirit of the Game” as part of the USGA’s Centennial Celebration in 1994.  The USGA included it as the introduction in their Centennial book saying, “The USGA Museum is proud to honor one of golf’s greatest writers, in his own words”.

(Click here to enjoy John Updike’s essay “The Spirit of the Game”)

John Updike

USGA Centennial Celebration Book, 1994

Urban Renewal

Some times it takes synergy of widely divergent sources to pull off a project of major scale and importance, but it also takes the stewardship of a visionary to collate those sources, convince them of shared purpose, and compose a finished proposal that has a chance to get to the finish line.

In the case of the restoration of a pair of age old public courses in the South Side of Chicago on the shores of Lake Michigan that visionary is Mark Rolfing.  Those sources are Tiger Woods, Barack Obama, Mike Keiser, and Al DeBonnett who have collectively brought to the brink of reality a restored municipal golf venue that is a win-win-win-win for all the parties involved.

If they have there way they will create, at a minimal cost to the public coffers,  a restored Jackson Park 18-hole Championship Course complete with public access to the beach, a community cultural center, affordable greens fees, and viable youth employment program.

The final march along the shore line of Lake Michigan should provide stunning views of the lake and the impressive Chicago skyline

The model for this project is totally unique in the way it is funded, the pricing structure for the golf, the caddie program, and  community amenity improvement possibilities that it will create and support.

It is hard to imagine totally funding this with private donations, greens fees on a championship layout of less then $50 for the neighborhood locals, a robust caddie program that could provide employment of 150 to 200 inner city kids, and improvement and support of non-golfing community recreational amenities.  This is the type of stuff often discussed but rarely accomplished in major urban renewal projects.   But that is what this confluence of sources has brought to the table to the benefit of this community and it’s residents.

Pour yourself a cup of refreshment and take a few minutes to read Dylan Dether’s fascinating account of the development of this unique project to renew Jackson Park Golf Course and dramatically enhance this neiborhood in the South Side of Chicago.

(Click to read Dylan Dether’s Golf.com article on Jackson Park Renewal)

Dylan Dether

Golf.com (2018)

Justice Reckoned

Back in 2012 Max Adler, a writer from Golf Digest, got interested in the case of Valentino Dixon, a young man who was serving 39 years to life in Attica State Prison for a murder that he claimed he did not do.

That original article, and you can read it here through the link to our moegolf posting “Justice Served?”, outlined how Max had come to know of Valentino’s plight and his side story that golf, a game that Valentino had never played, was providing him solace and the will to continue to fight his conviction.  Max was convinced from studying the exhaustive paper record of Valentino’s trial and subsequent legal efforts that he was in fact wrongfully convicted and this was a miscarriage of justice.

Fast forward six years!!

Through the persistent efforts since 2012 of Max Adler, Valentino’s wife Louise, the Dixon family, and a host of lawyers and advocacy groups, the conviction of Valentino Dixon has finally been overturned and he was released from prison in September 2018.

Valentino and Max smiling inside and out in front of the courthouse after his release

Take a few minutes to read Max Adler’s recent Golf Digest article that details the difficult and turbulent road Valentino faced these last six years in overturning his conviction.  Make sure to watch the embedded video in the article that provides a moving epilogue to this tale.

(Click to read Max Adler’s Golf Digest Article “Valentino’s Redemption”)

At the end of the article there is a link to a GoFundMe drive that Valentino and his wife Louise have set up to help them fund their next challenge, a legal battle with U.S. immigration, that would finally allow them to be permanently reunited here in the United States.  Now wouldn’t that provide a real happy ending.

Max Adler

Golf Digest (2018)