Guidelines for Junior Golfers

Junior Golfer

I have so much to say to junior golfers – they are the future of the game.  Here is a summary of what I believe to be the most important points for them to observe:

  • Always walk versus ride! Golf carts have been forced into the game primarily for financial reasons. They do not speed up the game; they do not provide the golfer with a better experience; and they do not improve the design of golf courses!  Do yourself a favor and commit to never riding again unless it is absolutely called for.
  • Compete, casually and seriously, as often as possible. One of the primary reasons boys are much better chippers than girls is because they love to compete and try unique shots around the practice green. It is this competitive environment that stretches them to create new and better shots. Apply this philosophy to every element of the game.
  • Study and learn to appreciate the history of the game.  Do you know who Bobby Jones is?  Why is St. Andrews such a special place?  Who is Dr. Alister MacKenzie? I wholeheartedly believe that this is an element of the game that is being lost on our young golfers – an appreciation of all who have walked the fairways before them.  Read books and ask questions!  You will be better off for it.
  • Take full advantage of every opportunity you are presented with.  Do not give yourself the chance to look back on your career and regret that you did not give everything 100% effort.  Do everything to the best of your ability!
  • Heart always beats out a pretty swing!  When it comes to the game of golf, this statement will forever be true.  All of the great champions played with a tremendous amount of heart; not all of them had pretty swings.
  • Have fun with the short game. Try to hit the craziest shots you can imagine.  It will teach you how to control your club face and ultimately the ball.  I actually remember having SW long drive contests. Try to hit the highest, lowest, shortest shots you can think of; it all adds up to creativity around the greens.
  • Work hard at the game. It’ll teach you about life and its challenges. Golf, like life, is not always fair, but patience, belief and persistence will pay off in the end.
  • You do not have to be the next Tiger Woods or Jack Nicklaus.  This is a huge problem I see amongst junior golfers and their parents.  When did it stop being okay for junior golfers to just simply play the game for enjoyment? It seems that every junior golfer and their parents have their sights set on grandeur and no expense or sacrifice is too great for a slim shot at stardom. If you want to be as good as you can, by all means go for it, but if you just like the game for what it is, take it easy and just have fun.
  • Play with the best golfers you can find. Nothing will improve your game as quickly as playing with players that are a lot better than you.
  • If you are over 15 and serious about being good you need to look into getting stronger and fitter. Find a trainer who knows the golf swing and how to train for golf.
  • Respect the etiquette, honesty and integrity of the game. Play the game at a different level than your peers. The vast majority of champions in the game were very clear in this regard – play golf the way it was meant to be played!  Behave in a first class fashion on the course and it will start to carry over into all areas of your life.
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A Note to Parents:

Give your young golfers a chance to have a great time playing and practicing the game.  This way they will learn to love the game and when they love the game they will come back to it over and over.  This is the only way they will ever reach their full potential - if you will allow them to have fun while playing golf!I have seen the game become work and a career for too many 12 and 13 year olds.  I taught perhaps the best female junior golfer of all time in Aree Song At 13 she had won the US Junior, the very first AJGA event she played in, finished in the top 10 in an LPGA major and was a first team AJGA All-American.  Aree, now in her late twenties, no longer plays on the tour.  She should be a dominant force in the prime of her career! We can all guess why she no longer has a passion for the game.  Trust me; I have seen the right way and the wrong way; tread lightly and let them have fun.

National Golf Links of America - Wow!

CB Macdonald is a genius. If golf is to be played for the purpose of enjoyment then surely the course a golfer plays should elevate the potential for that enjoyment.  The National Golf Links of America is beyond question, the most fun and interesting golf course I have ever played.  Having not played the course before I have heard numerous reviews from fellow golfers fortunate enough to have played the course that there are too many blind shots, it's too short, the greens have too much movement, essentially it's just okay.  What?  If I could only play one golf course for the rest of my life it would unquestionably be this one.

The course was designed by Charles Blair Macdonald and opened in 1911.  Many of the holes were patterned from famous golf courses in Britain and adapted to fit the lay of the land:

  • The 2nd hole, named Sahara, is a par four modeled after the 3rd hole at Royal St. Georges.
  • The 3rd hole, named Alps, is a par four that requires a blind approach shot to the green, similar to the 17th hole at Prestwick.
  • The 4th hole, named Redan, is a par three that copied the 15th hole at North Berwick, the site of the original Redan hole.
  • The 7th hole, named St. Andrews, is a par five that was designed based on the 17th hole (Road Hole) at St. Andrews.
  • The 8th hole, named Bottle, is a par four that resembles the 12th hole at Sunningdale Golf Club.
  • The 13th hole, named Eden, is a par three that replicates the 11th hole at St. Andrews.

Some of the other holes were original designs, the most notable of which is the par four 14th hole. It was named Cape because the green was located on a small peninsula that jutted into a bay. The green was later moved during construction of Sebonac Inlet Road but is now surrounded on three sides by a large bunker.  A unique feature on the golf course is a windmill located between the 2nd and 16th holes.  A member once remarked that a windmill would make a nice addition to the course so Macdonald purchased one when he was in Europe and sent the member the bill.

The golf course is a perfect site for a matchplay event and when it playes host to the 2013 Walker Cup there are bound to be some thrilling matches. The reason for this is due to the fact that there are so many holes that play either a half stroke lower or higher than par. For example the 1st and 2nd holes are driveable to the long hitter and birdie is a real possibility, yet the 3rd, Alps, is a long and blind par four where there's a real chance for bogey.  The course now plays to a par 72 as the 5th Hog's Back has been converted into a long par four....and a half.

There is no hole on the entire golf course that is not memorable or interesting to play and with the size and movement of the greens there is an endless array of variation to every hole.  If you are ever granted the opportunity to play here do yourself a favor, clear your schedule and get there.  The amazing thing to me is that the best course in the world, Shinnecock Hills,  and the most enjoyable course in the world are next door neighbors.
View my photos from the day HERE

If you are ever in Ottawa, Canada and are looking for another excellent course to play try Loch March Golf and Country Club - you will not be disappointed!

Louis in a Landslide!

 Claret Joy!

Louis proved all the naysayers wrong! He held the lead in the Open Championship from the 7th hole on Friday and never once looked like he would relinquish his grip on the coveted Claret Jug. With the victory South Africa has their 20th major championship and he becomes the fourth South African to win "Champion Golfer of the Year" honors.

Paul Casey, the nearest challenger, was no match for the diminutive man from Mossel Bay. Shrekkie, as he is nicknamed, showed no sign of wavering on Sunday as he split the fairway early and often. He did exactly what was needed - stay ahead of the pressure (three shots or more) and never gave Casey any hint that he had a chance. That eagle on nine must have hurt!

Here are a few observations from the event:

  • The shot tracker feature off the 17th hole was phenomenal. A great idea that got even better when shown from the fairway. I got to a point where I could tell where balls would end up just by watching the tracker from the tee.
  • I think the 17th hole played a little too long and I believe the chaps at the R&A would agree. They showed their thoughts by not putting the flag beyond the Road Hole Bunker once.
  • Tom Watson did a fantastic job in the booth. He was the only one who came close to pronouncing Oosthuizen correctly, although it did look like John Daly picked out his outfit for Sunday.
  • I enjoyed the addition of Rocco Mediate on the telecast - he was fresh and unrehearsed.
  • Tom Weiskopf was insightful, but very dreary and slow and I felt he took away from the experience.
  • Ricky Fowler is a golfer for the future! What a great turn around after his poor start.
  • St. Andrews is the finest golf course on the planet - in my opinion. For almost 150 years it has withstood the challenges from the games finest and still continues to stand tall.
  • After the butchering of "Oosthuizen" by all who attempted it, the Champion Golfer will from now on be referred to as Louis - to go along with Tiger, Phil and Ernie!

Some may have thought the Open was drab, but I absolutely loved it. What can be better than a fresh young star winning on the best golf course in the best event?

Watch Louis' swing in slo-mo HERE and HERE

The 2010 Open Championship at St. Andrews

The Home of Golf

How many of golf's greatest have traversed the bridge crossing the Swilcan Burn?

There will not be birdies flying at the 17th hole this week after the venerable R&A added an additional 50 yards to this already very difficult hole.

The par-5 14th hole could be heaven or hell this week for the golfers. The latter if they happen to find their ball in Hell Bunker!

I would love to be in the "auld grey toon" this week for the Open Championship - in any capacity. Just to be able to get a sense for not only the event, but the place as well. I'd love to simply see those bunkers - from Beardies, to Ginger Beer, to Cottage, Road and the feared Hell. It seems that the saying of Bobby Jones has never been more true,

Too much ambition is a bad thing to have in a bunker.

I look for TW to win this week and I hope for firm fast and windy conditions. Whatever we get - enjoy!

Dear Seve....

Seve

I miss you.  I miss the way you played golf the "incorrect" way, yet managed to make it so exciting and seem so right.  The game of golf is worse off without you and it does not appear that there is currently anybody to take your place.

 I remember crying when you three putted the 10th green in the playoff for the 1987 Masters against Mize and Norman.  I remember watching you do your now famous fist pump when you defeated Tom Watson in the Open Championship at St. Andrews in 1984.

I remember watching you when I was just a boy shoot 31 on the back nine at Gary Player CC all while hitting only one fairway.  I remember the sound of the one-iron you hit on the 18th hole that day and rushing out onto the tee box to collect your discarded tee.

Seve, I know you will always love the Open Championship because it allowed you to play golf your way.  You were given the opportunity to recover, to hit amazing shots from seemingly nowhere, and that's why you thrived there.  The only thing I would have enjoyed more than watching Tom Watson this year (2009), would have been rooting for you down the stretch at Turnberry.

I don't think you would enjoy playing the new Augusta National.  It requires the same rigid style of golf that is a requirement for success at the US Open and PGA.  In the quest for difficulty they have managed to remove a certain element of excitement - particularly from the back nine on Sunday.

seve

 The game of golf is just not the same without you.  It has become a little boring actually.  There is this new guy, Tiger Woods.  He too has taken much of the excitement out of the game, simply because he wins so often that it has become predictable and, well, boring.  You see, when you played, there was nothing predictable.  I never knew if you were going to find the hole you were playing never mind win the tournament, and that is what made you so exciting to follow.

You have done so much for golf throughout the world - one might even say you are the "Arnold Palmer" of Europe.  Your swashbuckling style and flair launched a thousand careers.  The game has seen multiple young Spanish stars rise from what you started.  Spain has even become a golf destination because of your passion and love for this great game.

1980 Augusta National

Seve, the game misses you. Golfers all over the world wish you well in your latest battle.  And we thank you for what you have done for our game. Gracias Senor.

Golf's Greatest Challenge

I believe that the game of golf is too difficult, too expensive and too time consuming. By the time you can earn a living to be able to afford the game, you don't have the time to play. Not to mention all those years you missed out on learning how to play. For years I have envisioned a particular type of golf course that is challenging and still maintains the essence of the game, yet addresses three of golf's greatest challenges - difficulty, expense and the time it takes to play. Here's what it would look like:

Difficulty:

This golf course will be based on the model of St. Andrews - an open field style course with a limited number of hazards. There will preferably be no water and a limited number of very shallow, firm shell-based traps that encroach on the tee shots. These shallow traps will be in play for multple holes as they straddle the space between prefered avenues of play. The length will still be there as every golfer loves to swing away at the driver, but there will distance specific tee boxes vs. ego or gender specific options. For example, if you hit an 8 iron 150 yards+ you'll play the back tees (which would never measure more than 6,500 yards long), if you hit an 8 iron 125-150 then you play the next set up and all the way to somebody who hits an 8 iron less than 75 yards. There will be no rough on the golf course. Closely mown fairway from wall to wall! The greens will not have any bunkers or other hazards around them. They will be raised and feauture tightly mown grass swales as their interest feature. This is most important as it is still a challenge to the better player who must make par, yet for the average golfer it is a decidedly easier shot than the one played from a sand bunker. Putt the ball onto the green, two putt and make a net par! Alister Mackenzie once said that out of all of golf's hazards, undulation is best. Whether it's water, sand, rough, or wind I love a golf golf course that utilizes this subtle hazard as its primary defense. The course will feature fairly severe undulation countered with flatter lies in the optimal playing areas. Once again, still challenging for the good player, yet easier than traps or water for the higher handicapper.

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