Tuesday, January 27

My Interview on The Brad Bogner Show

I HAVEN'T SAID MUCH IN A WHILE about my newest book, DRAW IN THE DUNES, so I though I'd mention this interview with Brad Bogner which I did at the end of last year. It's 26 minutes and a little more informative than the standard radio segment, if you want to listen. It's also unique from the standpoint of Brad's cool rap music introduction.

The Brad Bogner Show covers "an array of topics where experts in their field talk history, entertainment, politics and sports."

Episode #180: Neil Sagebiel

Book Review: Tom Doak's The Confidential Guide to Golf Courses

By Kevin Markham

Copyright © Kevin Markham. All rights reserved. Used with permission.


WHEN TOM DOAK SELF-PUBLISHED a handful of copies of his Confidential Guide in 1988, he was quite happy to give honest, frank opinions of the courses around the world that he had visited. Back then he was a young man finishing his first golf course design; today he is a revered golf course architect, but, as his considerably expanded new series of five Confidential Guides is published, it is clear that little has changed when it comes to stating his opinions.

Of course, one man’s opinion is another man’s criticism. That’s the way of reviews and scores, but Doak and his three collaborators (Darius Oliver, Ran Morrissett and Masa Nishijima) have reputation, experience and credibility on their side. Not to mention the 2,200 courses they have played. Whether you agree with the reviews or not matters little: this is a serious book with seriously intelligent reviews.

It costs $70 and is a full color hardback book of 180 pages available through Tom Doak’s Renaissance website. This is the first of five new world guides, and it focuses exclusively on the UK and Ireland. The remaining four volumes will cover: The Americas (winter destinations); The Americas (summer destinations); Europe, Middle East and Africa; and Asia, Australia and New Zealand.

The writing style is informal and relaxed. Humor can be found in many of the reviews and some courses end up damned with faint praise. One thing is for sure: the reviews are illuminating, insightful and intelligent. You only have to read St. Andrews (Old) to appreciate the joys of what a first time visitor will see, feel and experience.

Scoring

Every course is reviewed and then scored out of 10. Once you get to grips with this "Doak Scale" of scoring, you will appreciate that a score of 6 means the course is well worth your time. A score of 10 is exceptional and he gives only four Great Britain and Ireland (GB&I) courses that mark (St. Andrews, Royal Dornoch, Muirfield, Ballybunion).

A 10 on the Doak Scale means a course is: "Nearly perfect; if you skipped even one hole, you would miss something worth seeing… Drop the book and call your travel agent, immediately."

A score of 3, meanwhile, is: "About the level of the average golf course in the world."

A score of 0 … well if you get a 0 score, as the St. Andrew’s (Castle) course does, you’d really rather not be included in this book.

It is also worth noting that, at the back of the book, the four contributors spell out their individual scores for the courses they have played. The scores of 6–8–8–7 for Waterville reflect how differently the four men rate the course, and Doak makes a point of this early on, saying that while the panel of four often disagree, their individual scores for a course never vary by more than two points. That said, the difference between 8 and 6 is sizeable, which pretty much sums up the varying esteem in which Waterville is held.

The Irish Angle

As an Irish golf writer, my knowledge focuses on Ireland’s courses and a handful more in Great Britain.

The book covers 57 Irish courses and, not surprisingly given the nature of the book, they receive mixed praise. Reviews range from a couple of lines to an effusive two pages each for the three Irish courses (Royal County Down, Ballybunion, Lahinch) that make Doak’s top 18 Gourmet’s Choice courses in the British Isles.

The Gourmet’s Choice is a delightful inclusion, introducing the 18 courses that, in the author’s words: "stir our souls."

And while golf writers, tourism bodies and golf magazines sing the praises of so many GB&I courses, the foursome behind this book feel no such obligations. Tom Doak gives both courses at Ballyliffin and Rosapenna a somewhat humbling score of 5. He backs up the scores with enlightening commentary. Sure, you may not agree, but his points are clear and well made.

The Design Factor

Mount Juliet gets a cold splash, too, with the comment: "The rolling mounds, flattish Nicklaus bunkers and obligatory ponds have been done to death in other parts of the world, but nowhere are they more out of place than in Ireland."

Then again, few in Ireland actually worry about such things when they’re playing one of the country’s most glamorous parklands. Visiting golfers, however, may turn tail and run.

Commentary swings both ways: Surrey’s acclaimed Wentworth, and Ernie Els in particular, get chastised for his redesign work "None of us cares to go back and see the wreck"; while the relatively unknown Silloth on Solway is heaped with praise – "It is hard to believe that that this charming golf club with so many fine holes still manages to exist in relative anonymity."

It is this emphasis on design that is, perhaps, the only downside of the book – if you can call it that. There are times when the fun of a course or hole is sacrificed in the interests of design. The majority of amateurs do not look at golf courses in the same way as golf architects: they want and like different things.

For instance, when talking about Carne, in Co. Mayo, Doak says that the 11th and 12th holes are "silly 90-degree doglegs," which misses the point that they are inspiring to play, just standing on either tee is stunning. Similarly, at Ballyliffin, most golfers who have enjoyed the two courses would consider them a must-play and considerably above a score of 5. That design finesse may be lacking, but few walk away less than thrilled.

But, in the cases of both Carne and Ballyliffin, Doak’s analysis still pulls out the positives, balancing the rough with the smooth.

The Afters

Reviews and scores are not all the book offers. There are 14 pages of entertaining "Best" lists, a whopping 74 of them, ranging from "Most Hospitable Clubs,", "Dumb Blonde Awards" and "Courses Where You Are Most Likely to Hit an Animal," to "Biggest Dunes,""Best Par-4s" and "Windiest Courses." There are best holes, ultimate 18s and a wish list where each of the four contributors gets to list those courses they want to play. It’s an entertaining end to a seriously entertaining book.

Conclusion

So, agree or disagree, the one thing you can guarantee with this book is that as soon as you open it you will be turning to the entries of courses you have played  quickly followed by those you want to play. And isn’t that precisely the point?

Finally, it is refreshing to read such candid commentary in an era where golf writers are so often expected to brush their criticism under the rug and use vanilla terms to keep advertisers and resorts happy. Tom Doak et al are considerably more than just golf writers, but their insightful and honest appraisals should be welcomed, admired and, most of all, heeded.

This is a book for golfers who take their game seriously, who value or are interested in design, or want the invaluable insights of Tom Doak and his collaborators. And let’s not forget those who want to know which courses to play on their odyssey to Great Britain and Ireland.

Kevin Markham is the author of Hooked: An Amateur's Guide to the Golf Courses of Ireland and Driving the Green: An Irish Golfing Adventure. He writes about Irish golf courses and related topics at theirishgolfblog.com.

Friday, January 23

First U.S. Open in Northwest Highlights 2015 USGA Championship Schedule

WHEN I THINK OF USGA CHAMPIONSHIPS, the U.S. Open, U.S. Women's Open, U.S. Senior Open and U.S. Amateur come to mind. But the USGA conducts a bunch of national championships, more than a dozen.

Below is the 2015 lineup, including two new amateur fourball championships.

2015 USGA Championship Schedule

U.S. Amateur Four-Ball Championship, The Olympic Club, San Francisco, Calif., May 2-6

U.S. Women’s Amateur Four-Ball Championship, Bandon Dunes Resort, Bandon, Ore., May 9-13

U.S. Open, Chambers Bay, University Place, Wash., June 18-21
USGA notes: Chambers Bay will host the 115th U.S. Open on June 18-21 and become the third municipal course to host the championship. Owned by Pierce County, the links-style course is part of a 930-acre park and lies on a former gravel and sand quarry. Chambers Bay joins Bethpage State Park (Black Course), in Farmingdale, N.Y., and Torrey Pines Golf Course (South Course), in San Diego, Calif., on the list of municipal courses to host a U.S. Open.
U.S. Senior Open, Del Paso Country Club, Sacramento, Calif., June 25-28
USGA notes: The U.S. Senior Open will be contested in Northern California for the first time, from June 25-28. Del Paso Country Club, in Sacramento, will host its fifth USGA championship and first since the 1982 U.S. Women’s Open.
U.S. Women’s Open, Lancaster (Pa.) Country Club, July 9-12
USGA notes: Pennsylvania will host a U.S. Women’s Open for the ninth time when the 2015 championship is played at Lancaster Country Club from July 9-12. 
U.S. Girls’ Junior, Tulsa (Okla.) Country Club, July 20-25

U.S. Junior Amateur, Colleton River Plantation Club (Dye Course), Bluffton, S.C., July 20-25

U.S. Women’s Amateur, Portland (Ore.) Golf Club, Aug. 10-16

U.S. Amateur, Olympia Fields (Ill.) Country Club, Aug. 17-23
USGA notes: Olympia Fields (Ill.) Country Club will host the 115th U.S. Amateur from Aug. 17-23. The club becomes the 11th course to host the U.S. Open, U.S. Senior Open and U.S. Amateur. Jim Furyk (2003) and Johnny Farrell (1928) won Opens at the club, which was established in 1915 and whose first president was pioneering college football coach Amos Alonzo Stagg. 
USGA Women’s State Team, Dalhousie (Mo.) Golf Club, Sept. 10-12

U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur, Hillwood Country Club, Nashville, Tenn., Sept. 26-Oct. 1

U.S. Senior Amateur, Hidden Creek Golf Club, Egg Harbor Township, N.J., Sept. 26-Oct. 1

U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur, Squire Creek Country Club, Choudrant, La., Oct. 3-8

U.S. Mid-Amateur, John’s Island Club, Vero Beach, Fla., Oct. 3-8

(International)
Walker Cup Match, Royal Lytham & St. Annes Golf Club, Lancashire, England, Sept. 12-13

Thursday, January 22

Golf on TV: Humana Challenge, Mitsubishi Electric Championship, Commercial Bank Qatar Masters

The following edited content was supplied by Golf Channel in a news release.

Phil Mickelson will make his first professional start this week since the 2014 Ryder Cup, headlining the field at the Humana Challenge in partnership with the Clinton Foundation. Golf Channel will carry live coverage of all four rounds of the event, and Patrick Reed – already having won in 2015 at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions earlier this month – is in the field defending his 2014 title.

The Champions Tour begins its 2015 season at the Mitsubishi Electric Championship at Hualalai in Hawaii, with 2014 Charles Schwab Cup winner Bernhard Langer looking to capture the season-opener for the second consecutive year.

On the European Tour, Sergio Garcia defends at the Commerical Bank Qatar Masters, with Henrik Stenson and Justin Rose also headlining the field.

* * *

PGA TOUR

Humana Challenge in partnership with the Clinton Foundation
Dates: Jan. 22-25
Venue: Palmer Private Course, PGA West; Nicklaus Private Course, PGA West; La Quinta Country Club (La Quinta, Calif.)

Tournament Airtimes On Golf Channel (Eastern):
Thursday         3-7 p.m. (Live) / 7:30-11:30 p.m. (Replay)
Friday              3-7 p.m. (Live) / 10:30 p.m.-2:30 a.m. (Replay)
Saturday          3-7 p.m. (Live) / 10:30 p.m.-2:30 a.m. (Replay)
Sunday            3-7 p.m. (Live) / 11 p.m.-3 a.m. (Replay)

Event Notes

Tournament format: Professionals will be paired with different amateur golfers in each of the first three days of the tournament, playing one round on each of the tournament course venues: Palmer Private Course, Nicklaus Private Course and La Quinta Country Club. The top-three gross and net amateurs from the first three rounds will qualify to play in Sunday’s final round at the Palmer Private Course.
    
Reed defends: Patrick Reed finished two shots ahead of Ryan Palmer to cap off a wire-to-wire victory after recording three consecutive rounds of 63 before closing with a final round 71.

Headlining the field: Phil Mickelson, Patrick Reed, Keegan Bradley, Billy Horschel, Matt Kuchar, Zach Johnson, Webb Simpson, Brandt Snedeker, Jason Dufner and Bill Haas.

* * *

CHAMPIONS TOUR

Mitsubishi Electric Championship at Hualalai 
Dates: Jan. 23-25
Venue: Hualalai Resort Golf Club, Ka’upulehu-Kona, Hawaii

Tournament Airtimes On Golf Channel (Eastern):
Friday              7:30-10:30 p.m. (Live) / 2:30-4:30 a.m. (Saturday replay)
Saturday          7:30-10:30 p.m. (Live) / 3-6 a.m. (Sunday replay)
Sunday            7-10 p.m. (Live) / 4-6 a.m. (Monday replay)

Event Notes

Langer defends: Bernhard Langer finished three shots ahead of Fred Couples and Jeff Sluman to stretch his streak to eight consecutive seasons of winning at least one tournament.

Headlining the field: Bernhard Langer, Fred Couples, Tom Watson, Miguel Angel Jimenez, Davis Love III, Colin Montgomerie, Kenny Perry, Corey Pavin, Tom Lehman and Peter Jacobsen.

* * *

EUROPEAN TOUR

Commercial Bank Qatar Masters 
Dates: Jan. 21-24
Venue: Doha Golf Club, Doha, Qatar

Tournament Airtimes On Golf Channel (Eastern):
Wednesday     1:30-4:30 a.m.6 -8:30 a.m. (Live)
Thursday         1:30-4:30 a.m., 6-8:30 a.m. (Live)
Friday              4:30-8:30 a.m. (Live)
Saturday          4:30-8:30 a.m. (Live) / 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. (Replay)

Event Notes

Garcia defends: Sergio Garcia made birdie on the third playoff hole to edge Mikko Ilonen for his 11th career European Tour win.
                                    
Headlining the field: Henrik Stenson, Justin Rose, Sergio Garcia, Ernie Els, Charl Schwartzel, Stephen Gallacher, Matteo Manassero, Thorbjorn Olesen, Mikko Ilonen and Peter Uihlein.

Wednesday, January 21

Jack Nicklaus Turns 75

Jack Nicklaus in his North Palm Beach office in May 2013.
JACK NICKLAUS WAS BORN ON THIS day in 1940 in Upper Arlington, Ohio, a suburb of Columbus. He took up golf in earnest at age 10, putting in long hours at Scioto Country Club, where Bobby Jones won the 1926 U.S. Open.

Compared to others, the game came easily to Nicklaus, and he won often at every level before experiencing his first prolonged slump in the late 1960s. Even then the man who would become known as the Golden Bear won golf tournaments, although he did have to endure a majors drought from the summer of 1967 to the summer of 1970.

The drought ended when Jack beat Doug Sanders in an 18-hole playoff to win the British Open at the Old Course in St. Andrews, Scotland. It was his eighth major title. He would go on to win 18 major championships as a professional, with the last one, the 1986 Masters, being arguably the most dramatic and most memorable. Nicklaus slipped into the Green Jacket for a record sixth time at age 46.

I interviewed Jack at his North Palm Beach office in May 2013 for my book about the 1969 Ryder Cup, DRAW IN THE DUNES. The conversation strayed into several areas, including all those seconds in majors (19). Here's what he told me.
ME: When I think of your career, you played smart golf and didn't make as many mistakes. 
First professional check for $33.33 at the L.A. Open.
Nicklaus tied for 50th place.
JACK: That's probably why I finished second a lot, because I didn't make a lot of the dumb mistakes but somebody else just happened to play better that week, which is OK. I never had a problem with ever finishing second, if I had prepared properly and played the best I thought I could play, and somebody played better, then well done, that’s congratulations. But if I do something stupid, like I did at [Royal] Lytham, and bogeyed the last two holes to lose a tournament, or if I would have missed the putt [on the final hole] at the [1969] Ryder Cup, that would have been stupid. Those are the kind of things that really, really sit in your mind and you say, "Why would you ever do something like that?" Because you have total control over it, or at least you hope you have total control over yourself. That's what you're trying to do. 
Happy 75th birthday, Jack Nicklaus.

Tuesday, January 20

Playing With Hogan: Fred Hawkins (Conclusion)

Fred Hawkins often practiced with the most feared player on the circuit—Ben Hogan. “I played a number of practice rounds with [Hogan],” Hawkins told me. “[H]e’d always ask me to come down to Fort Worth a couple of days early so he’d get a little competition [and] practice that way.” In the continuation of this series, you'll learn about Hawkins and his Hogan stories. Read Part 1Part 2, Part 3, Part 4 and Part 5.

Fred Hawkins and Ben Hogan
at Colonial in 1959.
BEN HOGAN WAS TOUGH AND UNKNOWABLE. That’s the legend, part of the mystique.

“[Jimmy] Demaret probably knew him better than any of us,” Fred Hawkins said, “but I probably knew him as well as anybody outside of Demaret. But nobody ever knew him.

“I’ve always said he was the hardest man that I have ever known. If he told you he wasn’t going to cross street, there was nothing in the world to make him cross the street. At times he could be very gracious, he could speak well and organize his thoughts. Other times, he’d go right by you. He was never really nasty to anybody that I know of. He wasn’t that way. He was just uncommunicative. He stayed in his own little world.”

Hawkins offered an example of Hogan’s stubbornness, the legend’s treatment of rising star Gary Player.

“I used to argue with him about Gary Player,” Hawkins said. “Finished second to Tommy Bolt in the U.S. Open in 1958 at Tulsa. Gary, at that time, … had just come over [from South Africa], and Hogan knew how he played.

“Gary wasn’t signed with [a golf equipment company] at that time. Hogan talked to him because Gary was a big Hogan fan. He tried to pattern his own game after [Hogan] as so many people did. He asked Player to not sign with anybody else until he talked to him. Gary said he would do that.”

A long time went by, according to Hawkins. Months, maybe an entire year. Player eventually signed with First Flight.

“Gary said he tried to call Ben three or four times and couldn’t get him on the phone so he went ahead and signed,” Hawkins said. “But Hogan would never forgive him.

“I used to tell [Hogan], ‘God, how can you do that?’

“‘I don’t’ care,’ Hogan said. ‘He gave me his word he’d talk to me first and he didn’t do it.’

“And that was it,” Hawkins said, chuckling. “Nothing would ever make him change his mind.”

“How did Ben treat you?” I asked.

“He treated me fine,” Hawkins replied.

“You got along well with him, it sounds like.”

“Yeah, but not all things good.”

Hawkins told me about a time when he sought a club job in Los Angeles. He was in his early forties, about to leave the PGA Tour.

“It was a good job,” he said. “They said who could I give for a recommendation, and I named Hogan and somebody else.”

The club told Hawkins that would be great.

“I called [Hogan] on the phone and asked if he’d send a letter of recommendation. He said that’s not the way to do it. They call me and I’ll give you a good recommendation, but I’m not going to write one and send it to them. That’s not the way it’s supposed to be done.

“I said, OK.”

The Hogan recommendation never got to the club.

“I didn’t get the job,” Hawkins said, “which I wasn’t broken up about it. The next time I saw [Hogan], he said, ‘How’s that job going?’

“I said, ‘What job?’

“'That job out there in California.’

“I said, ‘I didn’t get it.

“[Hogan] just stopped and looked down at the ground.

“‘You didn’t want that job anyhow,’ he said.”

* * *

Fred Hawkins recalled Jimmy Demaret, Hogan’s frequent match-play partner on tour, as “such an entertaining and funny and witty guy.”

Demaret beat Hogan in an 18-hole playoff  just prior to Hogan’s February 1949 accident that nearly killed him. Later on, after Hogan recovered, Demaret quipped about it.

“They’d had a playoff in Phoenix and Hogan was on his way [to Fort Worth],” Hawkins said. “And Demaret said [Hogan] was so damned upset he went ahead and ran into a Greyhound bus.

“Jimmy Demaret was the most delightful guy to be around that I have ever seen. We used to get he and Phil Harris together. They could put on a show for hours.”

Other Installments:
Playing With Hogan: Fred Hawkins, Part 1
Playing With Hogan: Fred Hawkins, Part 2
Playing With Hogan: Fred Hawkins, Part 3
Playing With Hogan: Fred Hawkins, Part 4
Playing With Hogan: Fred Hawkins, Part 5

Monday, January 19

Nightmare in Abu Dhabi


A CENTURY AGO SIX-TIME BRITISH OPEN champion Harry Vardon may have said it best when he uttered, "Golf is master of us all." I expect Martin Kaymer would agree with Vardon's maxim, especially on this Monday.

The two-time major champion began yesterday's final round in the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship with a six-shot lead. Kaymer's fourth title at Abu Dhabi Golf Club was all but assured; the only open question was the margin of victory.

The German's lead grew to 10 shots when he birdied three of the first four holes. With 14 holes to play and a 10-stroke lead, all it seemed Kaymer had to do was hold onto the golf club. Firing 64, 67 and 65 through the first three rounds and with a hot start on Sunday, Kaymer was in control of everything that mattered: himself, his game and the golf tournament.

Then, inexplicably, the man who was 23 under par for 58 holes played the final 14 in 6 over. And lost.

Kaymer finished third, two strokes behind winner Gary Stal, a 22-year-old Frenchman ranked 357th in the world, who stormed to the clubhouse with a 65. Closing with a 66, Rory McIlroy finished second. Kaymer's 75 was the worst final-round score in the field.

Kaymer admitted to being "a little shocked" afterward.

"Obviously, I didn't play as good as the other days," he said, "but I didn’t make many mistakes; a couple of bad shots cost me. It's difficult right after the round to say how I feel. It was definitely a very interesting day and one I need to reflect on."

Happening in broad daylight in Abu Dhabi, the collapse had to be the worst nightmare for Martin Kaymer.

Today I'm once again reminded that no lead is safe in golf. And, furthermore, that no golfer is master of this ancient game.

Friday, January 16

'Nicklaus: The Making of a Champion' to Air on Fox Sports This Sunday



A NEW JACK NICKLAUS DOCUMENTARY that coincides with Jack turning 75 will air on Fox Sports this Sunday at noon ET.

From the USGA, which, along with Ross Greenburg Productions, produced "Nicklaus: The Making of a Champion":
The documentary chronicles the life, career and legacy of Nicklaus, winner of a record 18 professional major championships, including four U.S. Opens, tied for the most all-time. His eight USGA championships include two U.S. Amateurs and two U.S. Senior Opens.
The film explores the completeness of Nicklaus’ storied career, emphasizing the values he formed growing up in Columbus, Ohio, and continues to embody.

"I believe a hallmark of my career is that I always tried to look ahead, be it the next tournament, next championship or next mountain to climb," Nicklaus said.

"But through the lens of my career-long association with the USGA, and the creative vision of Ross Greenburg and his team, I allowed myself the opportunity to reflect on some very special times in my life and share some wonderful moments and memories that I will forever cherish. I don’t think my career, my life, would be the same were it not for the USGA championships that helped shape me as a golfer and person, and I thank the USGA for wanting to share those stories."

Produced in partnership with 52-time Sports Emmy Award winner Ross Greenburg, "Nicklaus: The Making of a Champion" is narrated by accomplished actor and Emmy Award-winning narrator Peter Coyote, who has lent his voice to more than 125 films and documentaries, including the 2012 USGA documentary, "1962 U.S. Open: Jack’s First Major."