Monday, December 31, 2012

Pure Golf in 2012

I was fortunate to play some pure golf in 2012, as well as write about it. Here are four of the best.

1. Augusta National.  The feeling of driving down Magnolia Lane never gets old and the golf course continues to amaze. It is without question the greatest experience in golf.

2. The Old Course. I played in the summer, before the R&A pulled a swift one and made the unnecessary changes. The wind was up that day and was all the defence the grand old lady needed. TOC continues to be a major bucket list item.

3. Pinehurst #2. The revamp by Coore and Crenshaw is remarkable and proof that length is not the essential component in memorable design. To improve on Ross's layout is an amazing accomplishment.

4. Muirfield. The site of the 2013 Open Championship gets better the more you play it and with The Honorable Company of Edinburgh Golfers wisely improving the playing opportunities for non-members this is a must play.

Many thanks to all the very kind members and professionals who facilitated these rounds of golf. It was a blast!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The R&A, What Were You Thinking?

Wow, what a week for the purists amongst us. The powers that be at The Old Course, namely the St Andrews Links Trust and the R&A have seen fit to make one of the worst decisions ever in golf by digging up the hallowed turf on a number of holes, including the 17th (above). And for absolutely no good reason. I'm sure Old Tom is spinning in his grave. The way that they handled the matter is also a joke. By announcing the decision to "improve" TOC last Friday (following Thanksgiving Day in the USA) it was the ultimate way to "bury the lede." By the time the news wires picked up on the story on Monday, Mr. Hawtree and his ditch diggers were hard at work attempting to "improve" on one of the greatest golf courses in the world. How on earth they could think that increasing the size of the road hole bunker would improve the hole remains to be seen, and it's another example of the R&A running rough shod over the game. They have managed for years to ignore the fact that the golf ball was getting longer and longer and destroying classic golf courses and now they see fit to add to their incompetence by messing with the most famous golf course in the world. I was at TOC in June this year with seven friends all of whom were in awe of the town and the finest public golf course in the world. Golf architects around the world, who know considerably more about these things than I do, are outraged and have made their voices heard. The most vocal is renowned designer, Tom Doak, but sadly it seems to be too late to stop the insane "reshaping." It is indeed a sad day for the Old Grey Toon.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

A Pure Round in Pinehurst, NC

Putter Boy (in his new location)

 The Pine Crest Inn pork chop

Welcome to the Pine Crest Inn

Thistle Dhu putting green

Thistle Dhu putting green (tough to see the amazing contours, so just go and play it!)

The new and improved No.2

I have just returned from the most perfect round of golf (though it was off to a rough start getting out of D.C. on a Friday afternoon). We arrived late on Friday night into the delightful village of Pinehurst in North Carolina and our hotel, The Pine Crest Inn, was hopping as always. The Pine Crest was owned and operated by world renowned golf architect Donald Ross from 1921 to 1948 and is now owned by the welcoming Barratt family.  Next year will be 100 years since it opened and it's the best deal in town. The room price includes a full breakfast and dinner with the best pork chop in the world (see photo two above). At around $110 a night it is a throwback to another era in warmth and price. The accommodations are basic, but hey, we are here for golf and not to hang around in the hotel room.

Our morning began with a visit to the Pinehurst Resort and their wonderful new Thistle Dhu putting green. Loosely based around The Himalayas in St. Andrews, it is as much fun as you can ever have on a putting green. There are 18 contoured holes, some with 15 feet of break from tee to hole!  After a couple of weeks of being open the course record is in the 40s, and on a number of holes three is a good score. Well conceived and beautifully executed by the superintendent it is the perfect start or finish to a round at the resort and I can only imagine how much beer they will sell as foursomes head out to Thistle Dhu after their round. So, after some chips and putts we stepped onto the tee of the magnificent Donald Ross designed No. 2.  It been well reported that Ben Crenshaw and Bill Coore with their skillful team have renovated the golf course and what a job they have done. I last played No.2 in 1999 the week before it closed for the U.S. Open and came away totally underwhelmed. The course today is a different proposition and rightfully deserves a spot in the top 10 in America, if not the world. C & C have opened up the vistas and taken away all of the extraneous grasses that blanketed the course a decade or more ago. It has become the epitome of natural golf and actually feels very British (think Swinley Forest and Sunningdale). I was expecting it to be great and even an ardent C & C fan I can honestly say it was even better than anticipated. The greens complexes are better than ever and missing the fairway leaves the player a shot which can vary from straightforward to chipping out sideways from the sandy waste area. I experienced both. All of the bunkers that border the waste areas are not treated as hazards, so you can ground your club, which I have always found disconcerting. It will be fascinating to see how the USGA defines these areas after the Dustin Johnson incident at Whistling Straits a couple of years ago.

The U.S. Men's and Women's Opens are due to be played on back to back weeks in June of 2014 and it will be fascinating to see how both sets of professionals manage this re-polished gem. The hospitality from the golf staff at the Pinehurst Resort was first class and I highly recommend experiencing No.2 ahead of the Opens - it will be so much more meaningful to watch the telecasts having played the course.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Has the Ryder Cup lost its Pure?

Ryder Cup golf is matchplay all the way. Mano-a-mano for 3 days (why not four?...but that's another story!) Matchplay is golf in its purest form and the way that many majors were decided for years before the advent of the TV led 4 rounds of strokeplay golf and those 5 hour rounds. The question is "Does the Ryder Cup remain pure and if not when did it lose?"

I have had the good fortune to attend many Ryder Cups over the years, including representing players in the team and it is fair to say that the event is unlike anything else in the world of professional golf. And most of it in a good way. The teams play a mixture of three formats over the Friday to Sunday competition - foursomes (or alternate shot in U.S. parlance), fourballs and singles match. The tension and pressure on the players is immense and the atmosphere at the course is very special. For the most part the partisanship outside of the ropes is in good spirits and this year both captains seem to be going over the top trying to kill each other with kindness. The true test will come on Friday morning when some poor soul has to be the first to hit the opening tee shot. Of course the hospitality tents and overpriced souvenirs are there in force, but hey, the PGA of America has to pay the bills.

For me the pure element that has been missing for many years has been the actual playing surface - the golf course. And once again this year we are treated to an average (ok, above average) golf course. With a choice of many great golf courses to choose from and the best the PGA of America can do is Medinah - and before that Valhalla and Oakland Hills. Still they are doing better in choosing golf courses than their European counterparts. The sorry tale of venues for the last seven Ryder Cups reads Celtic Manor, The K Club, The Belfry, (ok, Valderrama we like!) The Belfry, The Belfry and you guessed it, The Belfry. So, that takes us back to 1981 since the Cup was played on a classic course, Walton Heath - 30 years! We all know why and it's a great shame that pure golf is thrown out of the window for money. And the pattern continues in 2014 with the dreadful Centenary Course at Gleneagles, which happens to be the 3rd best course on the property!

So, the golf does remains pure and we expect to see some great matchplay golf, but sadly the golf courses chosen in the last 3 decades have lost the pure and focused on the dollars and cents, which is a real shame. What I would give to see the Ryder Cup played at a classic links golf course like St Andrews or Muirfield. Dream on!

Monday, September 24, 2012

The Ryder Cup is here - 12 Questions that need answers!

It's Ryder Cup week and the talking heads on the Golf Channel have already started the usual conversations.

1. Why is Tiger's record so bad?
2. Why do the Europeans "bond" and the Americans don't?
3. What will the wives be wearing?...really, does anyone care?
4. Who will be the US mystery speaker? - who never fails to give a great team room speech, but it has zero effect on the team.
5. Just how many table tennis tables are there in the US team room, as this seems to be the latest form of relaxation - bets on Phil v. Kuch anyone?

We'll also throw in a few more interesting ones of our own...

6. Why does each team need 4 vice captains?
7. Who are all those hangers on inside the ropes?
8. Just how many "team uniforms" do the apparel manufacturers actually provide to people who aren't on the team?
9. How much money does this event make every 2 years for either The PGA of America or the European Tour?
10. How is that with a choice of all the great courses in the US and Europe, the event is always at a second rate venue? We know the answer, but still....Medinah, Celtic Manor, Valhalla, K Club (stop,'s hurting my head thinking about it!)
11. Could it really be the last really good venue in the US was Oak Hill in 1995 and in Europe try 1973 and Muirfield.
12. Why does the U.S. captain keep bringing Michael Jordan into the fold - especially in Chicago, where, contrary to popular opinion he is not the city's favorite son!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Rules, Rules, Rules.

The subject of the rules of golf seems to have reared its head on more than one occasion this season. Whether it was long putters, incorrectly replacing divots, bunkers or no bunkers or Petersson’s flying leaf at Kiawah. It seems to be the latest obsession for those rules geeks out there who think it is okay to call in rulings having seen a possible infraction on high def TV. It’s hard to think of another sport where this happens – imagine its 3rd and goal and someone calls in the right guard twitching on the offensive line, even though the refs missed it. Doesn’t happen does it? And for good reason, the referee is in charge and makes the call, not some guy sitting on his couch drinking beer and eating doritos. Let’s just let the on course rules officials do their job and resist the temptation to make the call! 

Friday, June 29, 2012

The Long Putter - Pure or Not?

Another Major goes by and another is won by a player using the long or belly putter. That’s Keegan and Webb, both “young guns” using the ugly weapon.  There’s no question in my mind it’s not pure, but it is also not against the rules. It takes some digging in the lengthy Rules of Golf to find even where the long putter could be covered. It seems that Rule 14-3 covers it and here’s what that says:

“14-3. Artificial Devices, Unusual Equipment And Unusual Use Of Equipment
The USGA reserves the right, at any time, to change the Rules relating to artificial devices, unusual equipment and the unusual use of equipment, and to make or change the interpretations relating to these Rules.
Except as provided in the Rules, during a stipulated round the player must not use any artificial device or unusual equipment, or use any equipment in an unusual manner:
a. That might assist him in making a stroke or in his play; or
b. For the purpose of gauging or measuring distance or conditions that might affect his play; or
c. That might assist him in gripping the club”

The word “anchoring” is nowhere to be found in the official rule book, which for those of you who have not read it, is just slightly more complicated than nuclear physics! It’s only a matter of time before that changes and following the recent majors victories both Messrs Dawson (R & A) and Davis (USGA) have stated they are investigating the situation. My interpretation of the rule is that the equipment is used in an “unusual manner” and this “assists in gripping the club”.

The R & A and the USGA reviews the rules every few years and this review would mean that no change is likely to be enforced until 2016 and possibly in recreational play not at all. Pure, unquestionably no, but legal until the governing rules bodies rule otherwise. Meanwhile, I’ll stick to my Bullseye la Femme, which at 33 inches is just perfect!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Golf in the UK - The Pure Rankings

I am back from the UK and our bi-annual match between teams from the UK and the US. This was our first match in the UK, following matches at Bandon and Pinehurst. The US was in the lead by 1½ to 1/2, so it was time for the UK team to step it up! I thought it would be interesting to take a look at the experience at each golf club on our tour. We played a mixture of private and public clubs which gave me an insight into the state of the British golf business and how they embrace visitors. The great news about "private" clubs in the UK is that they aren't! Calling or writing ahead will guarantee you a tee time - the Brits will happily take your money and the members of these clubs benefit with reduced fees and simply don't show up at the club on "visitor days". We played 6 courses over the week and here is a run down on the good, the bad and finally the indifferent. I have created the Pure Rankings, which is a secret amalgamation of scores for the course conditioning, design and overall experience of the day.

St. George's Hill, Weybridge

Designed by Harry Colt in 1912, St. George's comprises 27 holes, with the red, green and blue nines. We played what are generally considered the better 9s, the blue and red, but the green is also extremely good (and tight off the tee).  Several of the UK team are members of St. George’s and the experience and golf course were both magnificent.. The golf course is surrounded by some gorgeous period homes and sadly some McMansions allegedly being built by Russian oil tycoons. On the 18th on the red 9 a house hidden behind a huge fence warns away visitors with a huge sign saying “Beware Rotweillers”. Apparently the house is owned by Putin’s daughter and while we didn’t see her, we did see and hear the nice doggies!
Golf Course 4/5
Experience 4/5
Pure Ranking 7/10

Hankley Common, Farnham

Unfortunately, we experienced the British summer weather in all it’s glory…rain, rain and more rain! Hankley is a terrific golf course and the friendly pro helped get us on our way in a prompt and efficient manner. The course is one of many in the area designed by James Braid - actually he added 9 holes to the original 9 in 1922 - and it is a gem.
It’s also a golf course on which to hit the ball straight! Our group spent a long time looking for golf balls in the heather that borders many of the holes (see above). Many new tees have been built, but have not improved the golf course and I would recommend playing the course from the middle tees.
Golf Course 3/5
Experience 4/5
Pure Ranking 5/10

Walton Heath Old, Walton on the Hill

Originally laid out by Sir Herbert Fowler there are 2 courses at Walton Heath, the Old and the New. The 1981 Ryder Cup was played on the Old Course and in the locker room are wonderful photos of the teams. The US team with Nicklaus, Miller, Trevino, Watson, and more crushed the home team by the biggest margin in Ryder Cup history.
Once again we got wet, but apart from that had a fine time. The lady at the check in desk was charming and the course is highly recommended. The Old plays nearly 7,500 yards from the back tees, so don't even think about going back there! Walton Heath is very close to the M25 and unfortunately you can hear the sound of Britain’s busiest round at quite a number of the holes. There have been some architectural changes to the heathland course recently, including the removal of the wonderful wrap around bunker around 17.
Golf Course 4/5
Experience 4/5
Pure ranking 6/10

North Berwick, North Berwick

By far the most generous and welcoming club on our tour, North Berwick is the 13th oldest club in golf. Founded in 1832, Berwick is home to the famous, though slightly underwhelming Redan hole, the 15th. There are better Redan holes around the world, though this is widely considered to be the original. It was a wet day on our arrival, but miraculously, the clouds lifted for most of the round and Berwick provided a wonderfully playable and fun golf course on marvelous links land. Charming people and a lovely golf course.
Golf Course 3/5
Experience 5/5
Pure Ranking 7/10

Muirfield, Gullane

The Honorable Company of Edinburgh Golfers and their wonderful golf course has a reputation for being stuffy, exclusive and exclusionary. We found completely the opposite. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, the club now opens the club to visitors (for hotel guests at Greywalls next door it is Mondays and Fridays)
It is a golf course that becomes more appreciated the more it is played, rather like The Old Course. Having been at University in Scotland, I have been fortunate to play the course on many occasions and despite playing poorly on the day I thoroughly enjoyed the course. The greens were slow, the rough high and with The Open Championship due in 2013, the course looks set to be in great shape for the event. The original golf course was designed by Old Tom Morris in 1891 and following several Open Championships, Harry Colt was hired to make some changes and that is essentially the golf course that we played.
Golf Course 4/5
Experience 5/5
Pure Ranking 8/10

The Old Course, St. Andrews

It’s almost impossible to review The Old Course from an architecture standpoint. Many, many more capable architecture experts have done that. Suffice to say I have played it countless times and every time I play I enjoy it more. In fact my game was deteriorating rapidly as the match progressed, but once we arrived in the “Old Grey Toon” I could feel my game return in time for the deciding singles matches. I awoke to lashing seas and a strong wind coming down and off the North Sea. The front nine played relatively easy, but around the loop and into the back nine the challenge rose. By the time we reached 18 the wind was blowing hard enough to hit 3 wood and 5 iron to 18!
The experience at TOC was terrific. The online booking process for the ballot was straightforward, but you need a stroke of luck to get the tee time you would like, on the day you would like. Once onsite, the starter and the gentleman on the first tee couldn’t have been nicer or more patient as they took photo after photo of each group on the first tee. At $225 it’s not cheap, but there isn’t a golfer on the planet who should miss the experience. In fact you aren’t really a golfer until you have experienced TOC.
Golf Course 5/5
Experience 5/5
Pure Ranking 10/10

Castle Course, St. Andrews

A David Kidd design and the newest course owned and operated by the St. Andrews Links Trust (making 7 in total). Prior to playing the course we heard many indifferent course reports from friends and other players in the town and we turned into the entrance about 2 miles out of town with some trepidation. Unfortunately our first encounter with a staff member was shocking. For some strange reason the entrance road into the club is only wide enough for one car and as we pulled in we encountered one of the green staff on a golf cart who seemed to think the road was his made an inappropriate gesture at us. Welcome to you too! Things picked up after that and the clubhouse staff and starter were very friendly.
The golf course still feels very new and rather like Whistling Straits has too many unnatural pushed up slopes and mounds that serve no purpose. The greens are big and have huge slopes, but were better than advertised.  The course management was poor, with rangers seemingly powerless to get people moving and after 4 ½ hours we took matters into our own hands down the last 2 holes and played an 8 ball back to the house! However, the view from many of the holes of St. Andrews town was worth the price of admission.
Golf Course 2/5
Experience 2/5
Pure Ranking 4/10

So, there you have it - 7 courses, 144 holes, 40 miles walked, 11 golf balls used, and the Brits finally drew level with a resounding victory at the Home of Golf. Roll on Match 4!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Stitch Golf - Pure Leather

There is a cool new player in the headcover world and the company, Stitch Golf, comes with a first class pedigree. The owners are industry veterans from amongst others, Callaway Golf and their products are great, so we expect these guys to really knock it out of the park. Until the end of the month they have a crazy good deal going on both their leather and wool products, with either 3 or 4 covers for $99 or $109.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

What's in my Pure Bag?

I have been asked online twice this week, what is in my golf bag? Well, I don't need to be asked 3 times, so here you go - the whole enchilada!

Ball - Callaway Hex Black Tour - Callaway's latest and a really great ball!

Glove - Various G-Fore colored gloves - the coolest glove on the market - choose your color each round!

Irons - 4 through 9 iron - Callaway Forged (2007) with Project X 6.0 shafts. Great irons and I still haven't found anything as good to replace them.

Wedges - Callaway forged with copper finish in following lofts - 48, 54, 58 (green initials stamped on the back)

3 wood - Callaway X Hot (2004) They have never made a better 3 wood, though I just hit the new Callaway RAZR Fit 3 wood and it is pretty close! You will not find a better 3 wood for $84 (in Callaway Pre-owned)

Driver - Callaway RAZR Fit 9.5 degree - still experimenting with different shafts. The stock shaft is really good, but with an open face my launch angle was too low, so it's now closed, which increases loft, even though that is counterintuitive.

Hybrid - nothing, nada! - Still trying to find the perfect hybrid, as I have a huge gap between 3 wood and 4 iron. I carry an old 5 wood for certain courses, which is crazy! Suggestions on a postcard.

Golf Bag - MacKenzie Walker Sunday Bag - Green and brown leather with cool Union Jack sewn inside the ball pocket. Expensive yes, gorgeous, yes and the only bag you will ever need!

Putter - Scotty Cameron Yellow Dot Tour Newport - A thing of beauty! My gamer is often an old original Reuter Bullseye.

Grips - Lamkin 3Gen colors - finally a manufacturer introducing some solid colors into their range. Love these!

Head covers - Seamus Golf - Handmade custom MacDuff tartan covers for my driver, 3 wood and putter - gorgeous wool head covers from a cool Portland company!

Golf Ball Marking Tool - The best way to make your mark is Tin Cup. I use a "Green" custom Tin Cup or the British Flag.

Ball Marker - Winston Churchill commemorative coin from 1965. You can get them on ebay, though it is useless inside 5 feet as it is 2 inches across!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Slow Play - The Curse of the US Game and 5 Main Culprits

Our 8-man buddy trip is coming up next month to London and Scotland. Finally, I have convinced the boys that London has such great golf that we would be crazy once again to suffer the agonies of Heathrow without the ecstasy of golf in the wonderful heath land to the west and south of the capital of the old country. The classic heather strewn courses are too numerous to mention and we have several of these on our plan - St. Georges Hill, Walton Heath Old, Sunningdale Old. It should be a treat. Then it's off to Scotland for The Old Course, Muirfield, and North Berwick (pictured above).
That all sounds great, but what's the point of this blog, other than to name drop? Well, the point is this, on several days we are playing 36 holes and although the tee times are not set in stone at most British clubs we will have no problem playing 36 holes on these world class courses. Sadly the same cannot be said for many of courses I have encountered in the US where 4 1/2 to 5 hours has become the norm. The reasons are numerous so let's take a look at a few and ponder why the US golfer has slowed to a crawl and yet British golfers simply hit the ball and when it stops, hit it again! Here are 5 of the main culprits.

1. Carts. A dreadful invention and used by able-bodied people who should know better. Golf is a game for walking, not driving. If you have a medical reason, no problem, but kids and anyone who can walk should walk. I see more carts moving sideways or backwards here than I see moving forward! Players driving over to see their opponents ball, or if "cart paths only" are in operation taking one club out to their ball only to return 2 minutes later for another!

2. Electronic devices. Regular readers will know I would like to blow these all up or have a large receptacle by the first tee for them. It would be just like going through the airport and the golf equivalent of the TSA would ask you to dispose of your electronic yardage device - you know it doesn't help anyway and they just add time to the round. "Jerry, you have 167 yards and not 169 yards" (as we thought by looking in a yardage book) - oh, let me take that couple of yards off my 6 iron swing! I don't think so and you took 2 minutes to make your mind up and hit it 130 yards!

3. Watching golf on television. The Brits watch golf too, but for some reason the excruciatingly slow play on the professional tours seems to have had a more negative effect on US amateur golfers than their foreign counterparts. The question is when will the tours actually try and speed up the game and stop pretending that 5 hours is acceptable. Go on, fine someone a shot and see what that does - money won't get it done, but shots will. The American Junior Golf Association has been proactive by introducing a "Pace of Play Program" for their young, aspiring College players - the tours should take a leaf out of the AJGA's book and follow suit, so guys like Webb Simpson, Jonathan Byrd and Ben Crane get a move on!

4. Drinks carts. Don't have 'em in the UK and the only reason they exist in the US is to generate revenue. A noble idea for sure, but just one more thing that holds up play. A bunch of old dudes chatting up the 19-year-old cart girl is no reason to add 15 minutes to the round. Fellas, she is not interested!

5. Keeping score. Stop it now! This is supposed to be fun! If it's inside the leather pick it up and move on. In the UK, 99% of golf is matchplay and it's the major reason that golf keeps moving. I don't need to be waiting 230 yards away watching you putting out for a 7... I'll give you a 6 if you pick it up and get out of the way! Think Chevy Chase in Caddyshack and measure your performance by height!

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

3 Pure Products from the PGA Show

It was a PGA show with something we haven't felt in a few! And amongst the buzz were some really cool and pure products. Here are 3 "pures" that caught my eye.

1. G-Fore Golf Gloves. Yes, that is the suave Marty Hackel on their booth. If it's possible to be as equally well dressed as Mr. Style, then Mossimo Giannulli, the owner of G-Fore pulls it off. Mr. Giannulli's company does one thing - it makes beautiful golf gloves in all the colors of the rainbow. You can see the company's website here. No, they are not cheap at $35, but imagine the statement you make teeing it up with one of these wonderfully rich hued gloves.

2. TRUE Linkswear. It's no secret that I love "TRUES" and this year the company has somehow managed to improve the shoes and even extended the line into 3 price points. The PHX, named, I guess after their new office location is $99, The TOUR is $149 and The Stealth is $199. Playing golf and walking in these shoes is such a delight and they really feel like playing golf in barefeet. The picture above is the new TOUR in white with a green sole and yes, they are on order!

3. Seamus Golf Head Covers. When I saw these I fell in love with them! Made in Oregon and in very limited batches per design, these are the epitome of Pure! I have 3 already. They are currently available only through ETSY here and if you like a particular style, buy it, because it may never be made again! I hear their website at will soon have a store too. You can see it here.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

The Coolest Valuables Pouch

Thanks to our friends at The MacKenzie Golf Bag Company, we now have a very cool (and pure) valuables pouch for the 2012 season. I asked Todd at MacKenzie to discreetly use our logo, so we had some MacDuff branding, but keep it classy (San Diego!). One of my main incentives to play golf soon is so I can use this beautiful American made leather pouch.