I must admit that I was surprised and humbled when told I’ve been named Czar over all of golf. I asked about the process and was told that upon investigation the computer drives failed but the appointment stands. I was afraid it would eat into my gin rummy time, but given the lack of focus involving participation I have decided to accept.
I do not plan to dismantle any of the current organizations and those of you who openly questioned my election process will be forgiven over the next several decades. There will also be a new event starting at the regional level, “The (Mandatory) Czar Homage Invitational,” featuring a huge field and colossal entry fee: details forthcoming except for distribution of the entry fee.
As promised before being elected, I will devote my time and energies to setting up a format where golf courses can combat the “too slow, no fun” malaise that is effecting the game. I will also drop any pretense of formality and go forward in a conversational tone. As Czar, my legacy will be seeing participation increase to a comfortable level. This does not mean I’m ignoring cost, good management and associated issues. It means my first goal is to improve the game as a value proposition.
Some facilities have attempted a leadership position by moving players up to shorter tees under the “Tee It Forward” influence. With a few exceptions, the effort is C-worthy and emblematic of the lack of thought which resulted in the original problem.
A short course with bland, uninteresting holes is only slightly better than one with spectacular holes that are too long for 90 percent of players. There’s no question that moving up benefits the majority of players, but I want the assembled minds in the industry to take that objective and do so with the combined goal of a shorter and still challenging layout.
As Czar, I don’t really have to do this, but to show my humanitarian side, let me start by apologizing to women golfers. I will write about men’s lengths and layouts because it’s easier for me and I’m lazy. I can provide specifics for women and if anyone is serious in that area I suggest they contact Carol Mann of the LPGA’s Hall of Fame. She did the best job of altering a course to be “woman friendly” that I have encountered (email address available upon request).
I realize golf courses are not easily adjusted. What follows is a statistic-based analysis of what it should be. I say “statistic-based” because the guidelines emanate from data on more than 1 million handicaps. If you really want to improve, you will look at the concepts and change what you can.
First we establish the back tees. Every course, public or private, has some number of long-hitting, good players and they deserve the challenge. The difference is that these tees will be identified as being for a small percentage of the players and the “real courses” are shorter but very challenging.
Since there is a historical association with the color of tees and who is supposed to play there, my first suggestion is new tee names and colors. The name “Czar Tees” is available with rental terms to be negotiated.
Wind and terrain are major factors and must be considered. It’s not how long a hole measures, it’s how it plays. Obviously, unless you live in West Texas or Oklahoma, the wind won’t be predictable (it never stops, and yes, I have lived in both places).
Look at the great links courses of Europe where they design holes around prevailing winds. Trust me, they have great layouts. So as I lay out ground rules, understand that theoretically each hole has been factored for the conditions. The other premise is that the average golfer gets to hit something in the neighborhood of an 8 iron into par-4 holes.
For the record, 8 iron is the average club tour players hit into par-4’s on the Tour. This is a key factor. It really isn’t about where the tees are or how long the hole measures; it’s about where you play from into the green so you can hit the ball into the air and have it land and stop on the green.
The unthinking rush to front tees has produced a lot of 450-to-480 yard par-5 holes. The majority are dumb holes, still three shots for most everyone, but you can hit almost anything off the tee, anything for a second shot and still have a relatively short third shot. The great unwashed can whip something around 210 yards with a decent tee shot and have 180-to-190 yards for a second shot.
Assuming that a player can hit a 7 or 8 iron about 140 yards, we should have par 5 holes of 530 yards or more, not 475 yards. A downhill par-5 with a fast fairway should play longer than 530 yards, while an uphill par-5 or one that plays into the wind should player shorter. Let me repeat that I’m talking distances for the majority. Challenges for long-hitting, good players are handled very well by today’s architects.
I’ve seen a lot of par 3’s that play something like 180 yards over a 30-foot deep water hazard replete with man-eating creatures. Let’s move those up to about 150 yards. If it’s a fairly open fairway where golfers can roll the ball onto the green, 190 yards is not out of the picture. If the green is protected by 18-foot deep traps where you can break an ankle getting in and out, let’s shallow them out.
The bottom line is that par-3 holes should range from 120 yards with small, protected greens to 190 yards with a helpful fairway.
Par 4 holes now become more obvious from our experiences with the par-3’s and par-5’s. Drivable par 4’s are a great addition to some tour courses. Good for them, but they’re not applicable for us. Longer par 4’s (up to 400 yards) should feature straighter, faster fairways that encourage a ball to roll onto the green. Shorter par-4’s can obviously be more nefarious with curves and rough, and my personal reaction is that these types of holes are where great architecture can truly emerge.
I have a personal favorite par-4 that measures 340 yards and plays uphill. I swear it plays closer to 400 yards and the very memory of hitting a decent drive and needing a hybrid to have a chance just bugs me. But I CAN play it, unlike many others at 430-yard holes. Those leave me thinking about fishing more.
For those of you obsessed with numbers, I can provide a playable course between 6000-and-6600 yards under normal conditions. Remember, the back tees will still be in the 7000-yard range. For the golf architects bemoaning the low level of current business, I suggest that applying their skills to this concept creates more business opportunities. Let them be known for designing fun, playable courses and altering current ones accordingly.
Who pays for all these makeovers? That will be covered in the next and final issue.
Clark: A teacher’s take on Brandel Chamblee’s comments
Because I’m writing to a knowledgeable audience who follows the game closely, I’m sure the current Brandel Chamblee interview and ensuing controversy needs no introduction, so let’s get right to it.
Brandel Chamblee, a former PGA Tour player, now plays a role as a TV personality. He has built a “brand” around that role. The Golf Channel seems to relish the idea of Brandel as the “loose cannon” of the crew (not unlike Johnny Miller on NBC) saying exactly what he thinks with seeming impunity from his superiors.
I do not know the gentleman personally, but on-air, he seems like an intelligent, articulate golf professional, very much on top of his subject matter, which is mostly the PGA Tour. He was also a very capable player (anyone who played and won on the PGA Tour is/was a great player). But remember, nowadays he is not being judged by what scores he shoots, but by how many viewers/readers his show and his book have (ratings). Bold statements sell, humdrum ones do not.
For example, saying that a teacher’s idiocy was exposed is a bold controversial statement that will sell, but is at best only partly true and entirely craven. If the accuser is not willing to name the accused, he is being unfair and self-serving. However, I think it’s dangerous to throw the baby out with the bathwater here; Brandel is a student of the game and I like a lot of what he says and thinks.
His overriding message in that interview is that golf over the last “30-40 years” has been poorly taught. He says the teachers have been too concerned with aesthetics, not paying enough attention to function. There is some truth in that, but Brandel is painting with a very broad brush here. Many, myself included, eschewed method teaching years ago for just that reason. Method teachers are bound to help some and not others. Maybe the “X swing” one player finds very useful, another cannot use it all.
Brandel was asked specifically about Matthew Wolff’s unique swing: Lifting the left heel, crossing the line at the top, etc. He answered, “of course he can play because that’s how he plays.” The problem would be if someone tried to change that because it “looked odd.” Any teacher worth his weight in salt would not change a swing simply because it looked odd if it was repeating good impact. I learned from the great John Jacobs that it matters not what the swing looks like if it is producing great impact.
Now, if he is objecting exclusively to those method teachers who felt a certain pattern of motions was the one true way to get to solid impact, I agree with him 100 percent. Buy many teach on an individual, ball flight and impact basis and did not generalize a method. So to say “golf instruction over the last 30-40 years” has been this or that is far too broad a description and unfair.
He goes on to say that the “Top Teacher” lists are “ridiculous.” I agree, mostly. While I have been honored by the PGA and a few golf publications as a “top teacher,” I have never understood how or why. NOT ONE person who awarded me those honors ever saw me give one lesson! Nor have they have ever tracked one player I coached. I once had a 19 handicap come to me and two seasons later he won the club championship-championship flight! By that I mean with that student I had great success. But no one knew of that progress who gave me an award.
On the award form, I was asked about the best, or most well-known students I had taught. In the golf journals, a “this-is-the-teacher-who-can-help-you” message is the epitome of misdirection. Writing articles, appearing on TV, giving YouTube video tips, etc. is not the measure of a teacher. On the list of recognized names, I’m sure there are great teachers, but wouldn’t you like to see them teach as opposed to hearing them speak? I’m assuming the “ridiculous” ones Brandel refers to are those teaching a philosophy or theory of movement and trying to get everyone to do just that.
When it comes to his criticism of TrackMan, I disagree. TrackMan does much more than help “dial in yardage.” Video cannot measure impact, true path, face-to-path relationship, centeredness of contact, club speed, ball speed, plane etc. Comparing video with radar is unfair because the two systems serve different functions. And if real help is better ball flight, which of course only results from better impact, then we need both a video of the overall motion and a measure of impact.
Now the specific example he cites of Jordan Spieth’s struggles being something that can be corrected in “two seconds” is hyperbolic at least! Nothing can be corrected that quickly simply because the player has likely fallen into that swing flaw over time, and it will take time to correct it. My take on Jordan’s struggles is a bit different, but he is a GREAT player who will find his way back.
Brandel accuses Cameron McCormick (his teacher) of telling him to change his swing. Do we know that to be true, or did Jordan just fall into a habit and Cameron is not seeing the change? I agree there is a problem; his stats prove that, but before we pick a culprit, let’s get the whole story. Again back to the sensationalism which sells! (Briefly, I believe Jordan’s grip is and has always been a problem but his putter and confidence overcame it. An active body and “quiet” hands is the motion one might expect of a player with a strong grip-for obvious reason…but again just my two teacher cents)
Anyway, “bitch-slapped” got him in hot water for other reasons obviously, and he did apologize over his choice of words, and to be clear he did not condemn the PGA as a whole. But because I have disagreements with his reasoning here does not mean Brandel is not a bright articulate golf professional, I just hope he looks before he leaps the next time, and realizes none of us are always right.
Some of my regular readers will recall I “laid down my pen” a few years ago, but it occurred to me, I would be doing many teachers a disservice if I did not offer these thoughts on this particular topic!
A trip down Magnolia Memory Lane: Patron fashion at the 1991 Masters
Like a lot of golfers out there, I’ve been getting my fix thanks to the final round Masters broadcasts on YouTube via the Masters channel. Considering these broadcasts go back as far as 1968, there is a lot we could discuss—we could break down shots, equipment, how the course has changed, but instead I thought we could have a little fun taking a different direction—fashion.
However, I’m not talking players fashion, that’s fairly straight forward. Instead, I wanted to follow the action behind the action and see what we could find along the way – here are the 1991 Highlights.
I love the “Die Hard” series as much as anyone else but one fan took it to a new level of fandom by wearing a Die Hard 2 – Die Harder T-shirt to Sunday at the Masters. This patron was spotted during Ian Woosnam fourth shot into 13. Honorable mention goes to Woosie’s gold chain.
There is a lot going on here as Ben Crenshaw lines up his put on 17. First, we have the yellow-shirted man just left of center with perfectly paired Masters green pants to go along with his hat (he also bears a striking resemblance to Ping founder Karsten Solheim). Secondly, we have what I would imagine is his friend in the solid red pants—both these outfits are 10 out of 10. Last but not least, we have the man seen just to the right of Ben with sunglasses so big and tinted, I would expect to be receiving a ticket from him on the I20 on my way out of town.
If you don’t know the name Jack Hamm, consider yourself lucky you missed a lot of early 2000s late-night golf infomercials. OK so maybe it’s not the guy known for selling “The Hammer” driver but if you look under the peak of the cabin behind Woosie as he tees off on ten you can be forgiven for taking a double-take… This guy might show up later too. Honorable mention to the pastel-pink-shorted man with the binoculars and Hogan cap in the right of the frame.
Big proportions were still very much in style as the 80s transitioned into the early 90s. We get a peek into some serious style aficionados wardrobes behind the 15th green with a wide striped, stiff collared lilac polo, along with a full-length bright blue sweater and a head of hair that has no intention of being covered by a Masters hat.
Considering the modern tales of patrons (and Rickie Folwer) being requested to turn backward hats forward while on the grounds of Augusta National, it was a pretty big shock to see Gerry Pate’s caddy with his hat being worn in such an ungentlemanly manner during the final round.
Before going any further, I would like us all to take a moment to reflect on how far graphics during the Masters coverage has come in the last 30 years. In 2019 we had the ability to see every shot from every player on every hole…in 1991 we had this!
At first glance, early in the broadcast, these yellow hardhats threw me for a loop. I honestly thought that a spectator had chosen to wear one to take in the action. When Ian Woosnam smashed his driver left on 18 over the bunkers it became very apparent that anyone wearing a hard hat was not there for fun, they were part of the staff. If you look closely you can see hole numbers on the side of the helmets to easily identify what holes they were assigned to. Although they have less to do with fashion, I must admit I’m curious where these helmets are now, and what one might be worth as a piece of memorabilia.
Speaking of the 18th hole, full credit to the man in the yellow hat (golf clap to anyone that got the Curious George reference) who perfectly matched the Pantone of his hat to his shirt and also looked directly into the TV camera.
It could be said the following photo exemplifies early ’90s fashion. We have pleated Bermuda shorts, horizontal stripes all over the place and some pretty amazing hairstyles. Honorable mention to the young guys in the right of the frame that look like every ’80s movie antagonist “rich preppy boy.”
What else can I say except, khaki and oversized long sleeve polos certainly had their day in 1991? We have a bit of everything here as Tom Watson lines up his persimmon 3-wood on the 18th. The guy next to Ian Woosnam’s sleeves hit his mid-forearm, there are too many pleats to count, and somehow our Jack Hamm look-alike managed to find another tee box front row seat.
You can check out the full final-round broadcast of the 1991 Masters below.
The 19th Hole Episode 119: Gary Player joins the 19th Hole!
Hall of Famer Gary Player gives an exclusive one-on-one interview with Host Michael Williams about his life in golf, his thoughts on the current game and his tips for thriving even in difficult times.
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