First Tee Outing 2019-Youthful Exuberance

The Keepers 10th Annual First Tee Mentor Outing at Woodmont Country Club was dedicated to the memory of our good friend Gary Jonas.  From our early days Gary was a protagonist behind many of our community service initiatives and this outing was one of his favorites.

Gary still looks over our shoulder in all the good work the Keepers do in the community

Moe negotiates with Josephine on the perfect hat color to add to her wardrobe

The First Tee of Greater Washington D.C. brought 24 amazing kids from ages 8 to 18 to participate in another afternoon of pure golf fun.  We had 13 volunteers from our club along with capable professional golf staff as our guides for our normal drill of golf clinics, a picnic lunch, and a couple of hours of course time with the kids.

The First Tee program has introduced these kids to the wonderment of golf-teaching them the etiquette, course awareness, and basic skills of the game.  What you see as a result is a deep reservoir of self-confidence, poise, and grace in their ability to interact with each other and adults they have to deal with along the way.

Over 40 staff, volunteers, and kids enjoyed the full flavor of this mentor outing

Our volunteers provide the high fives, cheers, and a few hugs as well helping these kids understand how much they already have accomplished with this game.

Volunteering with these kids is something this group looks forward to every year

Jill and Randy

Randy and Monroe

Rick, Randy, and Chuck

The Kommish is all smiles for this annual affair

It takes the help of the First Tee of Greater Washington and supportive parents to pull this off year after year.

Andrew and Roger from the First Tee surround Steve our Keepers Koordinator

Roger of the First Tee with parents HyeWon, EunJung, and Mary

Moe the Keeper Kommish with Mary mom of Jonathan

To download any photos to your PC just right click on the image and pick “Save Image As” to save it to your computer.

The kids were split into three groups based on their golf experience and rotated through instruction clinics for full swing, short game, and putting-led by our professional staff.

No golf session should start with out a proper stretching and warm up session

Brice and Dean our PGA Professionals handled the full swing clinic on the driving range

Which included Dean explaining the proper straight line practice divot pattern on a natural grass tee

There is plenty of ammo for the kids to work on their swings

The swings on the range came in all shapes and sizes….the common denominator was good fundamentals and sheer determination.

Josephine may dress the angelic feminine part but look at that turn and balance

Young Peter the same has great arm spacing at the top

I like Gabrielle’s relaxed address position….the hands look comfortable on the grip

Myles is in the perfect handshake position with the straight away takeaway half way back

Salieus uses his height to create great extension with his arms that will give width and speed on the way back down

Caleb loads up his left side…the power this creates is evident in the height and carry of his shots

Sabrina plays for her high school team and you can see her pure athleticism at work in this move

Check out the bend in the shaft as David changes direction-uncoiling this full shoulder turn will deliver real power at the point of impact

Grant and Konnor worked the kids at the Sidney Harman Short Game area, fine tuning their pitching, chipping, and putting.

Grant explains to Sophie and Johan about smooth takeaways

Keith and Sol learn a thing or two from Eugene and David

Linc has his set-up positions in perfect order

Sabrina maintains club face position as she extends the follow through on this chip and run

The Konnor School of Putting is a full semester experience for these kids.

Konnor’s famous line dance works on putting distance control

Ryan, Sean, Gabrielle, Avery, and Josephine fire away

Rick and Jill watch Avery, Gabrielle, and Josephine triangulate their putting coordinates

Chuck is talking about visualization of the putting path to Kyle

Avery and Josephine seem to have the feel for fast bent grass greens

The clinics always work up an appetite and there were plenty of healthy sandwiches, real chips, fresh fruit, and some chocolate chip cookies for the lunchtime chat around.

It always begins with a Sol nutritional lecture that grabs their rapt attention

Linc, Eugene, David, Keith, Salieu, and Skyler pause between bites

Gene, Monroe, Steve, and Sabrina are working the through the pile

Randy and Chuck have enthusiasm for this task

Sophie and Avery have a very orderly approach

Caleb, Johan, Jonathan, and Peter are on to dessert….those cookies were special!

Then it was out to the golf course to put what they learned to the test.  Here is where the mentor bonds are freshly made or simply renewed.

Steve and Sabrina

Sabrina, Caleb, and Moe

Dhira, Len, and Yuna

Alexa and Dimitrios

Myles, Jill, and Gabrielle

Monroe, Skylar, and Sophie

Randy, Johan, and Eugene

Randy, Avery, and Sean

Gene, Jonathan, and Peter

It is amazing how the First Tee prepares these kids to handle themselves on the course.  All ball ball marks are fixed, bunkers are raked, balls are marked properly and they respectfully understand the term “your away”.

Rick, Justin, Josephine, Kyle, Ryan, and Chuck

Monroe, Eugene, Sophie, Randy, Johan, and Skylar

Dhira, Yuna, Gene, Jonathan, Len, and Peter

Steve, Sophie, Len, Dhira, Eugene, Randy, Skylar, Yuna, and Johan

Salieu, Sole, David, Linc, Keith, and Eugene

All that was left was to assemble the ranks thank all the folks involved and give out the goodies.

The assembled masses anxiously waiting to hear their names

The stash revealed…every kid gets an official participation certificate, a bunch of Woodmont golf course necessities, and the official Keepers Bag Tag

Monroe may be outsized by Salieu but has the reach to get the job done

Dimitrios gets the pass on a signature Konnor move

One more piece of Keepers klink for the golf bag

Special thanks to Connor Farrell, Steve Keller,  Moe Dweck, and Roger Brown and the professional golf staff for all the hard work in assembling this event.  Thanks to Woodmont Country Club for graciously hosting this picnic and the First Tee of Greater Washington D.C. for making it happen. And most important, thanks to these amazing kids who make this event such a special experience for all of us.

First Tee Greater Wash LogoRespect-Perserverance-Honesty-Integrity-Courtesy-Responsibility-Sportsmanship-Confidence-Judgement

August, 2019

Special thanks for the photographic contributions of Moe Dweck, Steve Keller, and Mary Yoon that made this posting colorful and fun

If you have any corrections to the captioning please email them to

The U.S. Open At Pebble Beach

With the U.S. Open returning to Pebble Beach this week it occurs to me that few places in American golf evoke as much memory and familiarity as this place. Because of the Majors it has hosted as well as the annual tour event in February, an Open at Pebble is second only to The Masters at Augusta in terms of anticipated drama and can’t miss TV for the true golf fan.

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We know the place, we remember the holes, we recall the glorious things that have happened there. Nicklaus’s 1-iron into 17 in 1972, Watson’s chip-in on the same hole in ’82, Kite’s 1992 mastery of the gale force winds, Tiger’s complete domination of the field winning by a thousand in 2000, and McDowell sprint by one of the dominant players of our time in 2010 are all indelibly marked in our golf psyches.

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It is interesting to look back over the winners of the A T & T tour event since 2005 for some hint to who might end up in the mix this time around. Mickelson has won it four times over the last 15 years, including this past February. With the only thing standing between Mickey and the career slam you gotta think this may be his last and best chance to fulfill that dream. Dustin Johnson owns the place-winning in 2009 and 2010, second in 2014, and we know about his near miss in the 2010 Open losing to Graeme McDowell. Brandt Snedeker has won A T & T twice in a three-year span from 2013 to 2015. Jordan Speith won it in 2017 and we know what his record in Majors is all about.

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It may be well founded to consider the difference of playing Pebble in June as opposed to February in handicapping the field. Beside the obvious pressure difference between playing a celebrity pro-am and a Major championship, I think advantage goes to the guys who can stay out of the seasonal lush greenside rough and who are comfortable putting on bumpy poa annua greens with a bit more pace in them this time of year.

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Pebble has extremely small green complexes and for anyone who cannot keep the tee ball between the hash marks the lack of control on approach shots out of the rough is going to mean lots of green-in-regulation misses. Recovery pitches from thick, long, and wiry rough are going to be extremely challenging to get up and down to avoid dropped shots.

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Poa annua greens are notorious for getting bumpy, especially late in the day when the grass growth kicks in. A TV commentator once pointed out that the great putters on tour don’t need perfect greens to putt well, their putting confidence is so high they think they can make 20 footers across cow pastures. Just remember Jordan’s performance on those awful, patchy things they called greens at Chambers Bay. Sneds, Jordan, Phil, and the old Tiger all come to mind as guys who may see the Poa greens as giving them an advantage over the legions of good putters out there.

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Wind is always the wild card at Pebble and when it begins to puff the skill set of those who can manage trajectory or simply hit through the wind will separate them from many of the wannabe Major contenders. Foreigners like Tommy Fleetwood, Francesca Molinari, Jason Day, and Louis Oosthuizen who have grown up playing in tough windy conditions will find Pebble to their liking if the wind gusts get over 20 miles-an-hour.

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Emotionally managing a sense of history will be very important if one is to win at Pebble Beach. Much like Amen Corner at Augusta these players know what has gone on before at the challenging quadrangle of holes in the middle of this course. The devilish steep downhill pitch into the short par three 7th, followed by restraint and acumen required on the postcard par four eighth, and then two rough and tumbling long seaside par fours at nine and ten will likely derail a good number of contenders on Saturday and Sunday. The guys who can visualize success in this crucial stretch will have the best chance of etching their names on a prestigious U.S. Open trophy associated with this iconic venue.

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I guess what I am saying is it seems very likely that a marquee player like Koepka, DJ, Rory, Phil, or Jordan wins out at the end of the day on Sunday. But maybe, just maybe it is a lesser known guy like Sneds or Fleetwood who is riding a hot putter and is not afraid of the moment or this particular stage for all of it’s notoriety, who finally gets the monkey off his back of “best player never to win a Major”. It happened for Tom Kite and Graeme McDowell at Pebble so it just might happen once again.

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Any way you look at it this is going to be a fun weekend of Prime Time TV viewing at a very recognizable venue…..the cum ratings should be off the chart.

June, 2019

Phil’s Grill At Grayhawk

At the Grayhawk Golf Club in Scottsdale everything is done first class.  Their two excellent golf courses which have hosted Tour events, the Peter Kostis Learning Center, and a Golf Shop replete with a robust selection of clothing and accessories from all the brands you care about all speak to this dedication to doing things the Grayhawk way.

In keeping with this tradition they created a warm and hamish bar and patio hangout that honors the club’s long standing connection with a favorite Arizona son, Phil Mickelson.  After a round you can drop in for your favorite adult beverage and some delectable bar treats.  From the patio you can enjoy a frustration of others on the 18th hole on the Raptor Course or spin a sailor’s tale about your day’s golf accomplishments.

But at some point you have to get out of that chair to take in the amazing collection of Lefty Memorabilia that adorns the walls of the bar area.  It includes everything from a persimmon driver Phil swung in high school to the flag from his Open Championship win at Muirfield and even an autographed wall commemorating his head-to-head challenge match with Tiger that was played at this venue in the fall of 2018.

Marketing of Phil’s Grill is right out their in front of you

It starts with local fare from appetizers to entrees….and it is all good eatin’

Phil’s early successes…remember he won a Tour event at Tucson as an amateur

A very early swing with Bones and Jack looking on at Augusta

His connection with the King goes way back-he won at Bay Hill in 1997

Fireside account of Phil’s 2004 Masters win-remember the gravity defying leap?

The Match-sort of pay-for-view presentation-between Tiger and Phil in 2018

All the paid supporters signed the commemorative wall for this event

Sweet family plaque of all his Tour wins…..and there have been more than a few

It is worth your time to make a stop at Phil’s Grill if you are in the neighborhood.  Whether it is for the food and drink or the Lefty memories, it will help complete your memorable Grayhawk golfing experience.

(Click to read about the Grayhawk Golf Club-Talon Course)

The Backstop Stops Here

The most egregious violation of the spirit of golf currently practiced on all the professional tours, and therefore by definition in all your club tournaments by people parroting their tour idols, is the use of “backstopping” on the green.

Essentially it comes down to one pro hitting a pitch shot in close proximity of the hole and deciding not to mark the ball before a fellow competitor with a similar shot plays their approach.  What results is the opportunity of the second player to use the first player’s ball as a backstop to keep their approach from wandering further past the hole.

Amy Olson and #1 Player in the World, Ariya Jutanugarn, celebrating a successful incident of backstopping on the 18th hole at the Honda LPGA Thailand in 2019

This practice has been supported as some unwritten creed by players on all the professional tours for a long time.  If things like fixing ball marks and divots or calling out a playing partner who has broken a rule are considered practices that protect interests of all the players in the competition, then how can such a practice as backstopping be tolerated?

Select broadcasting personalities have called this out on occasion but truthfully the broader group of golf pundits are as complicit as the players in this travesty by condoning it through their deafening silence when they see it occur.

As you can read in this article from Yahoo! Sports, two well known tour players not only did this in the full view of an international TV audience recently at the Honda LPGA Thailand event but they had the audacity to celebrate the success of their action after it worked out.

As the articles says, there is language in the USGA Rules that specifically addresses behaviors of this type.  It is simply the neglect of tour officials to identify and penalize players who practice this that allows it to continue.

If the term “protecting the field” is to mean anything in golf competition this practice needs to be called out by the powers that be on all the tours.  For the good of the game, they must insist that players cease and desist from this foul practice immediately.

Yahoo! Sports (February 2019)

(Click to read the recent  Yahoo! Sports article on backstopping on the LPGA Tour)

Casa de Campo-Teeth of the Dog

Early in his career Pete Dye established a beachhead in the Dominican Republic with the creation of this course at Casa de Campo.  He was so enamored with the place he bought a residence next to the 7th green and spent his lifetime tinkering with this beautiful seaside course.   What resulted is a distinctive seaside layout that has been chosen as the site of the prestigious Latin American Amateur Championship twice in the last five years.   Because of the success of his first design Pete’s fingerprints can be found on a plethora of resort and private courses on the island and as a result the Dominican presents a full treatise of the Dye design expertise.

The picket trim accent on the dry hazard along the 2nd is pure Pete Dye

Looking at an aerial view of the jagged coastline Pete must have noticed that it resembled the snarl of a German Shepard guard dog from a WWII prisoner of war camp.  This is where the course gets it’s moniker and Pete staked his reputation on the difficulty that represented.  If the wind is up at 20 mph plus the reputation is well earned and all bets are off on the medal score.  As I suggest to people when they play wind swept capricious links lay outs, make sure you have a match going, it is a hedge against a medal score train wreck and will insure that you have a good time no matter what transpires.

It is worth noting that with so many greens set against the seaside backdrop it gives you little depth perception which makes calculating approach carry distance a major challenge.  An experienced caddie with an accurate range finder can instill some needed confidence in solving the riddle of picking approach clubs.

Having said that, in spite of the reputation as Pete’s most punitive design, I think the course has a bark that is far worse then it’s bite.  This is very much a positional driving course where success on the approach depends on the angle of attack you are left with off the tee. If the wind is not debilitating, a player who thoughtfully positions their tee ball can, for the most part, control their own destiny.

The call of the rocks and the surf is the obvious psychological battle you must negotiate. But, as you see with Pete’s most challenging tracks like TPC Sawgrass and the Ocean Course at Kiawah, it is the innovative green complexes that present the stiffest challenges and make the value of position off the tee so pivotal to scoring well.  This is a relatively flat seaside piece of ground so Pete created topographical interest by raising many table top greens to create shoulders that will spill a shot without the requisite intention into low hollows or fierce collection bunkers from which full Phil antics are required for recovery.  The green surfaces are often narrow irregular shapes which accentuate the difficulty in keeping an approach on the dance floor-the proper attack angle makes that much more plausible.

The greens and surrounds have Paspalum grass which is a hearty plant that survives well in hot, seaside conditions.  The stuff is very grainy and affects putting pace and, equally problematic, chipping off the sticky surface of greenside surrounds.  Both of these factor into your play so, in anticipation of the Paspalum effect, you should probably prepare by hitting a dozen pitches and chips in the designated short game practice area next to the driving range.

Once on the greens take notice of the angle of the shadows which will reveal the direction of the setting sun and help you anticipate the effect of the grain on all putts. This is a place where you should read the pace of the putt first and then consider the line to match up. There is sufficient swerve in the surfaces themselves that makes picking the accurate line difficult enough, but controlling the speed of your putts will have more to do with avoiding a knee-knocker above the hole or a six-footers coming back.

The bottom line is that you better carefully consider your preferred drive position on every tee and expect that a short game with a wide variety of creative recovery shots will be required if you are to shoot something within your handicap range.

As is detailed in the Hole-By-Hole descriptive below, both sides have a similar rhythm-they start with mellow inland holes before tossing your fate to the call of the Sirens on the rocky coast line.   Standing on the first tee a wide fairway fans out in all directions but it is a solitary palm through the left rough that is your shot line.  With a short club in your hand, a coffee table green complex that repels shots in three directions awaits your approach so it is evident early on that dexterity will matter.

The Par 3 5th looks so manageable but the wind and that one tree will wreak havoc on your ball

The next three holes slowly ramp up the challenge before you reach the first toothy stretch of The Dog.  From the fifth to the eighth it features a pair of rocky par threes and a couple of tough par fours mixed in for good measure.  At only 125 yards an on-level pitch into a tiny green of the fifth seems very doable, but wind, fear, and one tree with long reach off the front right make this anything but a pushover.

#6-Surf, rocks, and the great beyond lurk ominously on the left

This is followed by the #1 handicap hole on the course, a mid-range four par where the prevailing wind pushes your Titleist toward the rocks that snuggle the coastline.  The further right you play off the tee to play safe from the sea the harder the angle into the green tucked back to the left.

The 7th-Pete’s backyard bar-b-que and you are the main course

Next is a signature par three that sits adjacent to the backyard of Pete’s Dominican residence.  This green is a much more generous target then the fifth but the sweeping contour of the putting surface can lead to serious head scratching as your ball separates from the hole and you think you can make out an audible chortle from just over the fence to your right.

Much like the sixth, the eighth profiles right-to-left around the coastline but it actually plays a half a stroke harder to me because the green complex has much more immediate peril associated with it.  This puts a premium on the distance control and accuracy of the second shot.

Here is a unique Pete Dye accent….he just had to get the old international airport to comply

The outward half ends with a three-shot par 5 where you drive it over remnant of the runway of the old Casa airport.   In the old days you had to sequence your drive with arrival and departure of jets servicing the resort.  Once in the fairway show sine restraint on the layup to get into position for a short pitch to get one more birdie chance on this side.

The inland start of the 10th is tame to the eye but it has it’s challenges

Relatively tame inland holes start out the second nine but the wake up calls begins at a very kitchy Par 3 at the 13th hole.  The descriptive below tells the story, this is a tough par if you miss the elusive putting surface.  The sobering Par 5 that follows brings you back to the sea and it is definitely a hole where you must keep your wits about you.  Pete sets you up for a sucker punch baiting you to go for the green in two but you have to resist that temptation because the green is set on a tight angle to the hazard and it is very shallow to your approach.  There are bad results lurking on missing in any direction.

A fang in the mouth of this dog-the Par 4 15th green sticks out into the sea

From 15 through 17 you are back in the jowls of the dog and it takes sound strategy and great shot making to get through this sequence without serious scorecard carnage.  Both par fours have green complexes hanging over the Atlantic so the wind influence is at it’s maximum.  The par three in between is probably the hardest hole you will play all day. Pay close attention to the pin position which will dictate the proper intended flight line for your approach.

Biggest of the three par challenges of the day-the 16th will treat all indecision with disdain

Turning back inland the day ends with a solid four par which once again calls for articulate shot placement off the tee and conservative line on the approach since a watery grave is hovering below the left front of the green.  There is plenty of room right of the green complex and, with the right shot shape, the contours in that landing area can feed your ball onto the putting surface.

When you are done make sure to enjoy a post game buffet lunch in the Lago Restaurant that overlooks the finishing hole of the Dog and a long view of the shoreline.  The food is excellent and the atmosphere is perfect for decompression after the round.

Casa de Campo, Dominican Republic

Architect: Pete Dye (1971)

Par     Rating  Slope  Yardage

Black               72        76        135      7263

Gold                72        74.4     134      6969

Blue                 72        71.2     132      6429

White              72        68.8     126      5954

Red                 72        68.0     118      4827

(Click here to review the Teeth of the Dog hole-by-hole descriptions)

For more on the Casa de Campo resort click to see Postcard From Casa de Campo

Cartesian Ruling

In a creative use of a pair of alignment sticks from Richard Sterne’s bag, a European Tour official was able to assure Sterne that he was properly taking his relief drop from the cart path on the 18th at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship today.

Crossing the two alignment sticks as an effective protractor the official made sure Sterne’s free drop would be no closer to the hole.

Now Sterne just had to remember to drop the ball from knee high and avoid a penalty from the new rules for 2019.

Never realized that Rene Descartes was a member of the R & A.

Design Theory

When asked by a reporter from the Boston Herald to explain his philosophy of designing a golf hole in a single sentence Tillie replied,

“The one shot that tells the story in golf is the shot to the green, and if you conceive of golf being a game of animate attack and inanimate defense with regard to that shot, you have my design in a nutshell.”

Albert Tillinghast

As seen on

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 article on Jackson Park Renewal)

Dylan Dether (2018)

No Two Snowflakes Are Alike

Visits to strange courses are the best education for the golfing mind.  The eye which has never seen but one horizon sees but little of what is made visible to the educated power of sight.

Every fresh hole we play should teach us some new possibility of using our strokes and suggest to us a further step in the progress of our golfing knowledge.

John Low

Concerning Golf (1903)

Evolution Of The Golf Ball

Likely you have seen in a golf memorabilia store the rack of old golf balls that depict, much like this image of the lineage of man, the evolution of the modern golf ball from its humble beginnings.

What started out as a small croquet ball became a hand-stuffed leather spheroid before being molded from a rigid latex extract called gutta percha and eventually making it to the more reliable and durable wound rubber band ball that we played for almost 100 years.

(Click to read the detailed timeline of golf ball evolution)

All of this has been obviated by material technology that allows manufacturers the ability to customize the feel and performance of the ball to the perceived preferences of the wide variety of players.

But many of us pine for the good old days of wound balata balls that actually spoke to you when you miss-hit them badly by providing a wry smile demarcing your swing folly.