Taking Gimmes

I want my putts not to matter becomes the bottom line, and if this isn’t the formula for golf gutlessness and the crunchtime yips, then Jack Nicklaus never won a major.

The strokes you save with a sheaf of gimmes are there to haunt you when reality moves back in.

John Updike

The Gimme Game

Golf Dreams-Writings On Golf

Autumn In New England

Autumn brings to the courses an especial beauty.  The maples flare a pinkish red, the hickories turn a buttery yellow, the oaks withdraw into a rusty brown.  The trees gradually show bare branches and a fresh new breadth of light washes over the fairways.

Views deepen; forgotten perspectives reappear. The lower angle of sunlight brings the swellings and swales into fuller relief.  The course has been ripening toward this season of golden harvest.

John Updike

The Yankee Golfer

Golf Dreams-Writings on Golf

The Moment

While marshaling a Par 3 at a U.S. Open:

I remember how strangely trivial a golf ball looked in this interim, resting between strokes, like the weary face of an actor relaxing offstage.  One moment, the spotlight focus of the multitudes, and the next, a lowly orb half-hidden in the anonymous grass.

John Updike

Memoirs of a Marshal

Golf Dreams-Writings On Golf

Swing Management

Now, I take it that there is no other game in which these three fundamental factors-the physiological, the psychological, and the social or moral-are so extraordinarily combined or so constantly called into play.

In no other game that I know is, first, the whole anatomical frame brought into such strenuous yet delicate action at every stroke; or, second, does the mind play so important a part in governing the actions of the muscles; or, third, do the character and temperament of your opponent so powerfully affect you as they do in golf.

To play well, these three factors in the game must be most accurately adjusted, and their accurate adjustment is as difficult as it is fascinating.

Arnold Haultain

The Mystery of Golf (1908)

Moe Norman

For 98% of the golfing public the name Moe Norman does not ring a bell at all, but for those truly schooled in the history of the game his name strikes a mystical resonant chord not dissimilar to Shivas Irons from Michael Murphy’s “Golf In The Kingdom”.

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As you can read in this 1995 Golf Digest article written by David Owen, one of the most observant writers about things golf, there are many layers to the story of “Moe Norman-Golf’s Troubled Genius”.

Norman spent most of his career in what would have to be characterized as golf obscurity.  He was born in Canada and most of his considerable golf accomplishments, both amateur and professional, took place in the 1950’s outside of the lens of the American golfing public.

He never won on American soil,  his quirky personality and vagabond lifestyle just did not fit among the Sansabelt crowd of the U.S. Tour.  To many of the professionals of his day his unconventional swing, despite the purity of his ball striking, made him the object of derision rather then admiration.

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But to any of the professionals who were actually paying attention, Moe had an uncanny ability to hit a golf ball exactly the way he wanted to and where he wanted to, over and over again.  He was a pure striker of the ball, a coveted characteristic at the top levels of the game.  Guys who know it when they see it, Lee Trevino, Ken Venturi, and Paul Azinger, say he was maybe the purest ball striker the game has ever seen.

Certainly his stiff posture, constrained body rotation, and single plane swing path were an oddity, but many of the game’s purest strikers-Trevino, Azinger, and Furyk-had self taught unconventional swing mechanics that they could repeat and their winning aptitudes at all levels bear witness to the fact that the conventional way is not the only path to success in the game.

It is interesting to me that a more athletic version of Moe Norman’s approach has sprung onto the scene in the persona of Bryson DeChambeau.  No one would teach his unique swing method to a young player, but his success, one rung from the top level of today’s game, reiterates the point that there are many ways to successfully manage a ball around a golf course.

As Owen’s tale reveals there is a semi happy ending to Moe Norman’s journey as a couple of well placed people in the golf hierarchy embraced the importance of Moe’s legacy and saw to it that he at least had some semblance of comfort and golf joy in his declining years.

Pull up a comfortable chair, set a spell, and enjoy this odd tale of one of the game’s true savants……you will be glad that you did.

(Click to read David Owen’s Article “Moe Norman-Golf’s Troubled Genius”)

David Owen (1995)

Golf Digest

Course Rankings

For golfers with any degree of discrimination the annual course ranking lists put out by the major golf periodicals are nothing but a high school beauty pageant.  They represent the most difficult, the most expensive, the most TV exposed, and the most unreachable golf destinations on the planet.  Distinction on these lists is typically all about money-the depth of the pockets of the developers, the resorts, or a self-made tech gazillionaire.

#11 at Rustic Canyon is arid golf with a links feel-quite unique and totally enjoyable

In contrast to that Golf Club Atlas, under the capable guidance of Ran Morrissett, has broken that mold by creating a list called the “147 Custodians of The Game”.   His criterion for a course making it to this list has nothing to do with photo worthiness, course condition in the Augusta sense, elaborate architectural features, or what a stringent test of golf it represents.

How much fun is it to maneuver  your approach to this right pin at #17 on Castle Stuart

As Ran puts it in the introduction to this list “Distance and toughness are far less meaningful measures of a design’s worth then the simple test of how badly one wants to play the course on a regular basis”.  It is about how much the course challenges your golf intellect, how much creativity it calls for through the round, and how much fun it is to play.

#3 at Bandon Trails helped earn it the top ranked Bandon course on this list

In going through the list it strikes me how many of the top ranking standards are missing-no Pine Valley, no Augusta, no TPC Courses.  But it also strikes me how many of the truly fun walks that I have enjoyed are included like Somerset Hills, Gullane I, Brora, Bandon Trails, Rustic Canyon, and Castle Stuart.  These are all places that were a joy to play the first time and make you want to play them over and over and over.

Sheep and cattle have a long standing maintenance agreement at Brora

Not only will you enjoy rekindling memories of some of the great venues you have played but you can add a couple of dozen more to your must play list for future golf expeditions.

(Click to enjoy Golf Club Atlas’s 147 Custodians Of The Game)

Ran Morrissett

August, 2018

Ranking The Rota

British Open FlagFor true golf fanatics getting up early to watch the Open Championship live in July has become kind of a sleep walking ritual.  Even though the rota only brings this esteemed championship back to the same venue about every 10 years we watch and remember fondly holes we have seen in past years, or if we are very lucky, have actually played in the flesh.

You can read author David Owen’s entertaining personal digest of his Open Championship Rota picks in the attached article from Golf Digest.

A smiling Irishman celebrates the return of the Open to Royal Portrush

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Of the 14 places the Open Championship has been played a number are very obscure or even gone, so it has not been back to those in a long while.  But the Royal’s and the iconic places like The Old Course and Carnoustie we know well for pain inflicted upon unwary professional trying to fashion the biggest golf memory of their life.

It may surprise you what the author picks for the best venue of them all….. but to each his own.

(Click to read David Owen’s Ranking The Rota from Golf Digest)

David Owen

Golf Digest.com

June, 2016




Growing The Game

Drive Chip Putt Champ LogoAngst has developed in recent years about how to perpetuate and sustain interest in golf for generations to come. Of all the initiatives out there for “growing the game”, the national Drive, Chip, & Putt Championship that culminates at Augusta National the Sunday before the Masters has to be the most successful of them all.

In a rare moment of cooperative planning and execution the folks from the Masters Tournament, USGA, and PGA of America have fashioned a national golf skill competition for boys and girls ages 7 to 15. Using the successful template of the NFL’s Pass, Punt, and Kick competition combined with an iconic venue for the finals like the Little League World Series, they have created an enticing competitive treat for kids with an itch for the game.

The cannon fire starts Sunday morning with the opening tee shots

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This has become a huge deal for kids who relish the chance to walk the emerald green fairways, sniff the aroma of pine straw, and emulate the accomplishments of their golf heroes on the hallowed grounds of Augusta National. In just three years the participation levels are astounding with tens of thousands of kids from every state in the union registering each year to play in local, sub-regional, and ten regional qualifying events. In the end, 40 boys and 40 girls anticipate a cherished personal invitation to travel with their family for the final stage competition at Augusta National.

The creators of the DCP Championship did their homework and made sure it has all the characteristics to capture the attention of young kids and foster the growth of their interest in the game.

First they picked an iconic venue, Augusta National, that runs it’s events with clockwork efficiency. With the help of the Augusta members as officials everything from the invitations to the celebration dress-up dinner the night before to Sunday’s final competition has all the swag and kool of a major sporting event.

The Golf Channel presentation of the final stage of the competition has all the pomp and circumstance we have come to know at The Masters. Past champions like Adam Scott, Nick Faldo, Bubba Watson, and other celebrity dignitaries put the full polish on the experience for these kids and make it a day they will never forget.

Seen this on TV before….a young matador striking his best Chi-Chi pose

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Second they made sure the emphasis of this celebration is on family. Like they do at the Little League World Series in Williamsport each summer the kids participating have the unbridled emotion and support of their family members in attendance on full display.

As we know of the young stars who make it on the PGA and LPGA Tours, golf takes a family mentor, usually a parent or a relative to introduce the game to a kid and steward their development. Whether it is schlepping them to the course, hanging with them on the practice green doing creative short game drills, explaining the fastidious etiquette the game demands, or spending hours on the course sharing one-on-one time, it takes the dedication of a mentor to nurture golf interest. Of course this is usually followed by the ritual apre-game milkshake run to discuss the blow-by-blow details of the day’s events all over again.

Hours of practice are required to get this fist pump just right

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Third, the genius of the competitive format is that it tests combined performance in driving, chipping, and putting talents that all young golfers have in their skill set. With real passion for the game and lots of after school or weekend hours of practice any kid who catches this competition on TV can fashion and pursue the dream of making it to Augusta.

In the end it is a real skills competition-a kid cannot simply participate and move one. Only the best in each gender/age group advance at each stage so there is real-time pressure to get to the next level of the competition. As Nick Faldo said while observing this week at Augusta, it is such a unique opportunity for the young kids to set a goal to get here and have to compete to accomplish it. Imagine competing in a skills competition at the most iconic venue in golf-it is like being thrown in the deep and proving you can swim.

The goal for all of them…..seeing their names on a Major Leaderboard

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All 80 kids who make it to the finals learn a host of life lessons from the experience. Maybe the most important one is the humility that golf teaches us every weekend when we compete with our friends. To paraphrase Peter Jacobson, these kids learn that for even the greatest champions in the game there are times when they will win and times when they will lose. In the end it is learning how to handle both of these situations with dignity that matters.

The annual DCP Championship fans the enthusiasm of kids across the country for the game we love and gives them the rare opportunity to experience it on a field of dreams.
What could be better than this for introducing golf to the next generation and growing the game.

April, 2016

Ships Passing In The Light

As I saw images of Peyton Manning delivering his swan song to football this week and heard an interview with Jordan Spieth talking about his meteoric rise to the top in the world of golf I could not help being struck by the similarity in tone and content as they described their approach to their crafts.

Peyton will now have more time to focus on this

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Though obviously athletic looking and of considerable innate talent in their sports neither Peyton or Jordan would be the first one you picked out of a police line up early in their careers as the guy most likely to dominate their sport. They would not elicit that dominating persona even when interviewed, you would rather presume they would be second tier performers who would have successful but inglorious careers.

This is clearly not the case, the outside wrapping is a bad predictor to the richness of the present inside, and with both of these guys-at opposite ends of their Hall of Fame careers- there is something other than pure athletic talent that elevates them to the stature of superstar in their sports.

No question their dedication to physical training, development of their skill set, and study of others who have played the game before them have a lot to do with their success.
But from listening to them and peers who know them well it is assiduous development of a plan for playing the games and the confidence to stick to it no matter what happens that moves them up to the elite level of performers in their sport.

Peyton has displayed a willingness to sacrifice personal time his entire career to spend endless hours in the film room or the game plan conferences preparing himself and his team to play every game as if it was the most important one of the year. His wife is quoted as saying that going to the movies with Peyton during the height of his career meant sitting with popcorn in her lap going over the film of next week’s opponent. Down to changing up his verbal and hand signal audible commands from week to week to throw off the opposition, Peyton left no stone unturned in trying to find the little edge he needed to improve his team’s chances to win the next game.

Jordan explaining what went down at a Major

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Jordan is of similar ilk, even at the tender age of 22. You can hear it when he describes his approach in press conferences before and after tournaments, it is always what his “team” is accomplishing and how they all contribute to the success or failure in each week’s event. He is relentless in his preparation, studying the venue and the anticipated conditions ahead and building a plan of attack for success. If he has a late tee time on the weekends I am betting he is watching the broadcast of players with early times to see how the day’s playing conditions will affect the plan.

In an interview with Feherty this week Jordan discussed his victory in the U.S. Open in 2015 at the torture chamber on brown grass called Chambers Bay. Having played in similar conditions in missing the Match Play cut at the U.S. Amateur at Chambers Bay in 2010 as a teenager, Spieth said that he would never return to the place even if they held a U.S. Open there. The words of an impetuous youth!

Fast forward to 2016 coming off his first Major victory at Augusta in April Jordan knew what was ahead in June at Chambers and figured out a way to prepare for success. He said that when he and his team got there the weekend before they immediately recognized that negotiating the burnt out, rock solid greens they would be facing would be the key to being competitive. He and his coach Cameron McCormick spent days just working on speed control over the patchy putting surfaces, recognizing that matching speed to line was the crucial factor in avoiding comeback 12 footers at a U.S. Open.

When it came time for the rubber to meet the road Jordan stuck to their plan and focused on approach speed on all putts. Over the course of the tournament his putting was top quartile, 15th in total putts for the week at 126. After it was all done he said, “I did not have my best stuff ball striking and we really grinded over the 4 and 5 footers. That was the difference.” The key phrases are the “we” and “the 4 and 5 footers” which confirm the importance of preparation and sticking to a plan to have an advantage over the field.

At St. Andrews, a course where meticulous planning and tactical approach to playing the conditions of the day are paramount, Jordan was seeking the third leg of an historic march to the rare Grand Slam. In very difficult weather conditions all week Jordan got agonizingly close before a bogey-par finish on the Road Hole and through the Valley of Sin left him one shot short of the playoff for the Claret Jug. The grind over four days was indicative of his willingness to stick to the plan through thick and thin.

Stephen Curry as quarterback of the World Champions Dubs

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Though these two are 17 years apart in age the receding hairline and furrowed brow would suggest the similarity of their mature mental approach to dominating their sports.
As Jordan’s speedboat heads out of port passing Peyton’s yacht on it’s way in,  he might also note Stephen Curry on his left and Russell Wilson on his right who share a similar approach to success at this stage of their careers.

March, 2016

One For One

Kapalua LogoYou will not hear Jordan Spieth say it but I think the world number one is taking a page out of the Golden State/Steph Curry follow-up year motivation script when he implies that there is still something to prove this year.

When asked about his approach to the Hyundai Tournament of Champions at Kapalua he said, “Continue what we were doing last year. That’s the way I’ll keep on thinking about it”. Note that in the most individual sport in the world Jordan insists on speaking in the first person plural.

The man is coachable…whether he needs it or not..

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Spieth knows that everyone will be measuring this year’s performance against the career year he posted last year-two majors, five wins, a tour championship, a FedEx Cup, and $20 plus million in tournament winnings. At age 22 this will be an awfully high bar he has set but given his team’s focus and attention to detail it behooves all of us to just sit back and enjoy their enthusiastic approach to taking it on.

Sky’s the limit and it looks bluer than blue for Jordan

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Against a strong contingent that included all of the Golf World Ranking Top Ten except Rory, Henrik, and Justin, Spieth torched the Plantation Course to the tune of 30-under par beating the field by 8 furlongs (or a mile by my calculation). Ravaging the par fives to the tune of 16-under for the week he just kept his eyes in front of him and never looked back at the competition furiously chasing his wake.

In the midst of the back nine on Sunday, with a five-shot lead his conversation with counsel picking his club into the 13th from an awkward angle in the left rough was typically aggressive-he thought he needed one more birdie to insure the victory. He settled for par but birdies on 15, 16, and 18 applied plenty of whipped cream to the championship sundae.

You can set your watch…we will be seeing this image again and again this year

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Next stop is the appearance money mart at the HSBC in Abu Dhabi where McIlroy, Stenson, Fowler, and the rest of the WGR Gang will have to fashion a response. Trust me, they know Jordan’s 2015 was no fluke and it is going to take a group effort to keep him from winning 24 in a row.

January, 2016