** DISCLAIMER** This blog is devoted to golf. I realize given the recent Twitter comments from our President that some may have an issue with this post. Yes, the President's comments on Thursday morning were tasteless and beneath the office of the President of the US. I have chosen a narrow focus in examining his impact on golf. His conduct and impact on the issues confronting the future of our country and the world are for debate in other forums, not here.
You probably did not notice this week , but Trump Turnberry had another re-opening of a golf course. While the acclaimed Ailsa Course was renovated and re-opened last year, highlighted by a personal visit by Trump himself, the old Kintyre Course at the resort was also undergoing renovations.
Today, the newly-named Robert the Bruce Course was re-opened. And, while you may not politically agree with our current President, one must admit that his company’s overseeing of re-shaping and producing great golf courses and facilities must be applauded.
Martin Hawtree designed Trumps International Golf Links in Aberdeen Scotland in 2007. It opened and was immediately recognized as one of the top courses in the United Kingdom & Ireland. There is another 18-hole course rumored to being built there.
Architects McKenzie and Ebert worked on the recent renovations to the Ailsa Course at Turnberry last year. The building of new tees, re-routing of the spectacular coastal holes and restoration of the course to some of its pre-WWII identity has moved it to the top of the GB&I list of greatest courses in 2017. Having played Turnberry prior to the renovation, I can say that it had lost some of its luster, mostly through conditioning. Now, it is truly back to being one of the best courses in the world because of the reimagining of the Ailsa. There is no question in my mind that the Ailsa must be put back into the Open rota of golf courses! Politics may not allow this to happen now, but there is no question the infrastucture is in place and the course is better than when it hosted previous Opens.
Now, to go along with the Ailsa, Trump’s Turnberry team has turned what was a rather bland and pedestrian companion into a true gem, featuring its own coastal holes and own identity. The Robert the Bruce Course renovation was also done by McKenzie and Ebert.
In the US, I personally saw the changes in a course since he took ownership of the old Lowes Island Club and renamed it Trump International Golf Club DC. He has reinvigorated the design and layout, combined with beautiful views of the Potomac River. It was also host to the 2017 Senior PGA Championship a few weeks ago. Trump National Bedminster will host the US Women’s Open in just a few weeks.
Whether he acquired these courses because the previous owners were struggling financially or he decided to build them on his own, there is one simple fact. He has improved the clubs/courses under his ownership and gives golfers (both public and private/members at the clubs) an opportunity to play on some fantastic layouts at some wonderful facilities. I know, our latest view of President Trump was of him driving a cart on the green. I agree, he shouldn’t have done that…but he was at a place he does own. That behavior is an argument for another day. Trump the businessman has offered up some impressive courses in his massive golf portfolio.
My point is that he has an obviously love for the game and made golf part of his business empire. He has hired great architects and has shown a reverence for the game and its history with his designs/renovations (see Turnberry). If you leave politics out of this, all golfers must be thankful for the changes and improvement he has overseen at his facilities and the gems which we can choose to play. His involvement and ownership in golf has overall been positive for the game.
I was never a Tiger fan. Sure, I admired and respected his immense talent. But I was never a fan. Growing up, I was never a Jack fan. I respected Nicklaus, but I have always tended to root for the underdog, so my golfing idol was (and to this day) Tom Watson. In other sports, I support the Seattle Mariners in baseball, the Seattle Seahawks in American football and Crystal Palace in Premier League football. Again, I respect the Yankees, Patriots and Manchester United, but they aren't the underdogs.
So, as the Quicken Loans National begins this week, Tiger’s event on the PGA Tour, I must admit that I miss Tiger, in the same way I miss Jack.
Rarely do you get to see an athlete perform at their pinnacle. One moment in sports history that I find myself watching every year at least once is Secreatriat’s run as a three-year old horse winning the Triple Crown, culminating with his 30 length win at the Belmont Stakes. Three Triple Crown races, three Triple Crown records (which I believe still stand today).
In my opinion, we will never see another period of dominance in golf like Tiger had. Watson had his run in the late 70’s and early 80’s, but it still doesn't match what Tiger was able to accomplish. Tiger’s execution and shot making on the golf course was unparalleled. Some of his performances were like Secretariat winning the Belmont by 30 lengths (US Open and the Masters). It seemed he never made a poor decision and in many ways, played very conservative golf (hitting stinger 2 irons while Phil and other were blasting drivers into the corporate tents, settling for more 8-15 foot birdie putts than most make in a lifetime rather than trying to stiff every shot). Sure, he was very talented…but his mind and thinking on the golf course was the big difference maker and separating factor from the rest of the field. Nicklaus was the same way.
It is probably true that you do not truly appreciate something great until you don't have it any more. I would love to relive Jack’s seven stroke 1980 PGA Championship win. I would love to experience Tom’s 1980 Open Championship and 1982 US Open wins again. Why? Because they were great performances my great players. I miss being able to witness and respect the greatest players playing at an elite level and being at the top of the game.
There are so many training aids in the golf market that it can make you head spin. Even worse, many of those training aids are worthless. I will not take the time to tell you which ones I feel are worthless, but I will talk about some putting aids that are absolutely spot on to help with your putting.
Phil Kenyon is the putting guru of European golf. He is the David Orr of Europe, working with many European Tour players on improving their putting.
He has developed Visio Putting (www.visioputting.com), a line of putting aids designed using Phil’s expertise and insights from his experiences of working some of the best players in the world.
One of my favorites is the Visio Mi Putting Template. It was just recognized as one of the best new training aids in golf and this is one well worth all the plaudits it is receiving. Available in four different putting arcs (from 12-21 degrees), it gives the player both kinesthetic and visual feedback on your path and face angle. You can work on every facet of the putting stroke, including speed, face rotation, direction, aim, path, etc. It is also very portable and can be set up anywhere without much hassle. Using this template shows the student what needs to happen during the stroke. Unlike other putting aids (like a putting arc), the template does not force the student to move the putter without any constraint from the aid itself.
Should you wish, using the holes in the template, you can place tees along the arc if you are a player who needs to physically constrain your stroke in one manner or another. Tees can also be placed at the end of the template to give you a ‘putting gate’ effect to show the accuracy of your start line.
I was introduced to these templates by David Orr in December and I immediately started using them with our golf team at William & Mary. They are without a doubt one of the best training aids that has come out in a long time.
Stop by Visio’s website to check out the Mi Putting Templates and the other training aids. I would also recommend the Start Line Trainer that just came out in the last few months. The pricing is very reasonable and they do ship to the US.
We are only one week removed from the US Open and watching the action at the rather dull layout at the TPC at River Highlands over the weekend has made consider last weekend’s latest version of our national golf championship.
Two of the last three years, the USGA has went ‘outside the box’ with host course. In 2015, we were treated to the visually stunning Chambers Bay, which featured one tree on the entire course, a links-style layout with humps and many bumps (thanks to poa annua) on the putting surfaces. The conditions of the greens and the difficulty in spectator sightlines and access led many to criticize the event.
Move now to 2017 and we were treated to the visually stunning Erin Hills in Wisconsin. With its fescue-lined fairways, the course treated the gallery and viewers to record-setting low scoring for a US Open. If I closed my eyes and just listened to the commentators discuss the low scoring, I would have thought they were playing the Bob Hope Desert Classic. Hope and Gerald Ford would have made good Pro-Am partners for Brooks Koepka and Brian Harman in the final group last weekend.
As you can probably tell, I wasn’t a fan of it. Yes, I can applaud the USGA wanting to grow the game and try using different golf courses. But I don’t think the site of the United States Open is a main determining factor in growing the game of golf. While the most visible even the USGA run, making the biggest impact on growing the game starts on the local level with courses, country clubs, local golf professionals, etc. I can discuss this more in another blog. I want to focus on the US Open right now.
Long ago, the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews decided on a rota of clubs that would host the Open Championship. There are essentially 10 clubs (with Royal Portrush joining in 2019) that they use for the Open. That’s it…. that’s the list! Essentially, every club hosts the Open once in a ten-year span (with the Old Course typically hosting once every five years). The R&A know the sites well, they know how to setup the course, they know how spectators will get around/see the golf. Essentially, there is not a lot of reinventing the wheel when it come to the R&A hosting at one of their sites. The Open Championship has an identity…you play on a true links golf course and the scoring depends largely upon the weather conditions.
Yes, last week did not feel like a US Open. And it just wasn’t the scoring. While Erin Hills looked like a spectacular golf course and it has received great praise since it opened, it just didn’t feel like a course for a US Open. Maybe a PGA, maybe a World Golf Championship…but not a US Open.
The USGA needs to take a page out of the R&A handbook and come up with a 10 course rota here in the US that are designated as sites for the national golf championship. These should be classic, old-school American designs. You know…the US Open type of course we all grew up with…tight fairways, rough up above your ankles, greens stimping out at 13, par being a great score…that’s what I am talking about. This is the US Open identity! I’m not saying create another Massacre at Winged Foot…but let’s have the US Open stick to the classic designs and layouts! Here are my suggestions for a 10 course rota:
The Country Club
Los Angeles CC
The Olympic Club
Alternates: Oak Hill, Southern Hills, Baltusrol, Congressional
I know geographically it may not be perfect…but these courses are some of the most classic and best designs in the US and have shown they have the infrastructure and space to host a major golf championship. And there is no doubt, to use the words of Sandy Tatum, these courses ‘would identify who they [best players] are.’