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Could PGA Championship, Ryder Cup Have a Permanent Host? Should They?

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Taking my colleague Ben Alberstadt’s post in a different direction, let’s talk about another aspect of this post by Ted Bishop, former President of the PGA. In it, he is essentially lobbying for Valhalla Golf Club in Louisville, KY, to become the annual host of the PGA Championship, as well as all Ryder Cup events played in the U.S..

Feel free to read Mr. Bishop’s post for detailed reasoning, but a brief summary is as follows:

  1. Valhalla is a massive facility that can easily accommodate throngs of fans, as well as corporate and merchandise tents and all the infrastructure associated with such things.
  2. The course also has an impressive resume of past champions and dramatic golf theater in its tournaments (I will resist latching on to the argument that Augusta National is “not as dramatic and challenging as Valhalla,” as that has already been debated).
  3. Valhalla is already owned by the PGA of America, who would love to enhance the value of its course.
  4. Louisville, KY, is adept at hosting major sporting events (i.e. the Kentucky Derby) and is a palatable destination for patrons and sponsors alike.
  5. With recent discussions about moving the PGA Championship to May, Louisville is about as far north as you could hold that tournament for agronomical reasons.

Now that that’s out of the way, let’s get to some commentary. I would be remiss if I didn’t put forth the disclaimer that I have a unique history with Valhalla. I learned to play golf at their junior clinic in 1988, which was the year my dad joined the club. He is still a member there. I was raised in the Louisville metro area and currently only live about 1 hour east of the course. I know a lot of people at the course. I love Valhalla, plain and simple.

That being said, if I said I were wholeheartedly in favor of this change, I admit it would almost entirely be purely for selfish reasons. Obviously, I would love to have a major championship in my backyard every year. I thoroughly enjoy (and am in awe of) watching the best players in the world shred a golf course that I myself have played (and struggled mightily with) many times.

As a regular golf fan, there’s two sides to this. On one hand, it would be nice to have the familiarity that comes with having a tournament on the same course every year, à la The Masters. Golf fans wind up associating the course with the tournament and you build an emotional relationship with it over the years. Remember Louis Oosthuizen’s double eagle on No. 2 in the final round of The Masters in 2012? Remember Phil’s shot out of the pine straw on No. 13 in 2010? Who’s to say that couldn’t happen with Valhalla, even if it may not be on the same scale as Augusta National? After all, most will remember Tiger pointing his putt into the first playoff hole in 2000 and Azinger spraying champagne after ending the USA’s Ryder Cup drought in 2008.

On the other hand, when you make the decision to marry a tournament with a specific course, you obviously limit yourself in certain aspects. While Louisville is an easy drive from many populated areas such as Cincinnati, Indianapolis, St. Louis, and Nashville, it’s not easy to bring your kids to the tournament if you live in Portland, for example, which one can argue makes it difficult to grow the game. The flipside to that, of course, is that you have the U.S. Open in June to rotate around the country and ensure a broader audience could be reached.

For now, I will have to agree with Mr. Nicklaus himself (also the course designer if you’re unaware) in saying it’s “an interesting concept.” What say you? Comment below.

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Peter Schmitt does not profess to be a PGA professional or to be certified at...well...anything much in golf. Just another lifelong golfer with a passion for the game trying to get better every day, the definition of which changes relatively frequently. Peter is a former Marine and a full-time mechanical engineer (outside of the golf industry). He lives in Lexington, KY with his wife and two young kids.

18 Comments

18 Comments

  1. Scott

    Aug 7, 2017 at 11:56 am

    I would not propose one course but maybe PGA should only be held on the far west Midwest or West coast to get prime time viewing? That way it can get the feel of being held in one location, get prime time viewing, and ease up on the East Coast bias golf has. If it was held in prime time (on the East Coast) every year, it may start developing an stronger identity.

  2. Ronald Montesano

    Aug 7, 2017 at 6:06 am

    A) It’s impossible for major titles to carry the same aura;
    B) Attend a PGA and feel its vibe. Whoever “you” is will change her/his mind about it being weak or not at the same level;
    C) Exhibit A: Glen Abbey. Weak course that keeps great golfers from playing Canadian Open. Since PGA is a major, it would only be a few years before inevitable comparisons to TPC and Players Championship were made;
    D) They say “You can’t move the Masters” and “The US Open is the US Open for a reason.” USA have a stranglehold on major titles and perhaps its time to say “2018-US Open is a major. 2019-Canadian Open is a major. 2020-Australian Open is a major.” Rotating the national open status can’t be any more ludicrous than keeping the PGA or the Ryder Cup at one course;
    E) Exhibit B: Oak Hill. 36 holes-take that, Valhalla. East course being returned to its classic greatness. Do they know how to put on a tournament in Rochester? Huh-YUH!

    I could go through the alphabet, but you and I both know that the solution to this is to move majors and team events around as often as possible. Simply no defense in making golf even more exclusive, even if it is geographic.

    • Sam

      Aug 7, 2017 at 2:42 pm

      I agree with your conclusion, but I don’t agree with Glen Abbey, they get a good field for that tournament, and the main reason why it’s not better is that it’s after the British version of the US Open.

  3. Jacked_Loft

    Aug 6, 2017 at 11:54 am

    As the PGA is seen as the “weakest” major I believe that a fixed venue would reduce it further to being just another stop on the tour schedule. An earlier scheduling would effectively make the Open Championship the last major of the season, which would then be concluded in July. With only the FedEx playoffs left you would have created a situation where basically only limited field events are played after the Open. I don’t see this as positive for growth. Leave it when it’s scheduled but make a fixed 5 venue rota to increase the image and establish a “new”history for the event.

  4. Greg

    Aug 6, 2017 at 8:44 am

    The Ryder cup needs to move. That’s part of what makes it amazing. Every 4 years on our soil, different venues.

    Personally I think the PGA should have a set rota of 5 and never vary: Valhalla, Whistling Straights, Maybe Bethpage since they are camped there for a few years, somewhere south-central, somewhere west coast. This touches most of America when you can play there. Whistling Straights is another venue that has become well known with the PGA. For the southern central area, I would propose Southern Hills CC. I’m at a loss for where out west since the PGA really hasn’t been out there a ton.

    I think this gives them a nice consistent rota without throwing in other locations (like the USO and Open Champ), and allows you to build up familiarity with the courses without trying to copy the Masters/Players.

    My long standing on PGA has been they have to change the format somehow. That’s why it’s the weakest event, it feels like any other tournament. I think going stableford, setting up the course easy, and just having birdies and eagles galore and a low scoring (or in stableford’s case high scoring) affair. I want to see what happens when these guys have to keep firing from hole 1-72. Masters is about the history, USO is about being a grind, Open is about the weather, so make PGA about going low.

  5. NT

    Aug 6, 2017 at 4:38 am

    Move the PGA to other countries. Asia, Australia, Africa, Europe. Make it a global game.

  6. Chris

    Aug 6, 2017 at 1:04 am

    No way they should make either a one course event. That said, Valhalla is one of my favorite PGA venues and it definitely would be fine with me if the make it the events featured course and give it the tournament every 5 years. 18 there is one of the best finishing holes in Championship golf and that was no more apparent than in the McIlroy Mickelson controversial basically a foursome finish.

  7. Tommy

    Aug 6, 2017 at 12:26 am

    This is a great idea. Everything about the present PGA is lacking…a total letdown that nobody looks forward to. It doesn’t even feel like a Major anymore. If it doesn’t work a planned, who says you can’t change it back to how it was? It might take ten years to build some cred though so they’ll have to be patient. Bottom line is that it just can’t be any worse than it is now. Do it!

  8. Woody

    Aug 5, 2017 at 5:01 pm

    Drop the PGA and add the Players..or move the PGA to
    A different time of year. I do look at the PGA as the easiest to win out of all 4. I think that’s why it isn’t as prestigious as the others.

  9. Joe

    Aug 5, 2017 at 10:28 am

    Trying to match the feel of The Masters is a fruitless endeavor. Which is why the US Open and (British) Open have a Rota system, making sure to include particular courses in a cycle and having St. Andrew’s every 5 years.

    If you love having Valhalla as a more official site of the PGA. Then do what the others do. Make it the official venue every 3 to 5 years, but keep rotating the courses.

    Ryder Cup, since it changes continents every 2 years, is just a no-brainer to not have it at the same place.

  10. Hawkeye77

    Aug 5, 2017 at 8:43 am

    No surprise Crawford supports this “piece”. Nothing solid about it, lol. Peter basically ducks the entire issue, and no mention of historical significance of past venues for either event. Bigger LOL, create an environment like The Masters? That’s just silliness, and again no comprehension of the history/background/elements that make The Masters what it is. Come on now.

    Take a stand and make some intelligent arguments. Former Marines (and respect X 1000) should take these issues head on!

    • Peter Schmitt

      Aug 5, 2017 at 11:04 am

      Thanks for the comment. I think it’s safe to say it would be a pretty much unanimous consensus among golf fans that the PGA Championship doesn’t carry the same anywhere near the aura or mystique of the other three majors. I can absolutely see why the PGA would like to give their major a shot in the arm. Would this work? Who knows. Ultimately, what I was aiming at is to (a) put my personal bias out there as a disclaimer, and (b) present both sides of the coin. I could envision a scenario where this works and you start to build some pageantry around the PGA. That’s not to say that it would rise to the level of the Master’s, but it could elevate the PGA to some extent (who knows to what extent that might be). I could also see a scenario where the PGA ties its own hands behind their back and doesn’t achieve much of anything. Either way, I do think it’s safe to say the PGA is turning their wheels about how to improve their major. It could be interesting to see how that develops.

    • Adam Crawford

      Aug 5, 2017 at 8:46 pm

      Wow, calling me out in your comment. Nice to meet you too, friend.

  11. Moose

    Aug 5, 2017 at 8:13 am

    I do not really think of the PGA as a major. No one grows up dreaming of winning the PGA.

  12. BBD

    Aug 5, 2017 at 2:49 am

    Dumbest idea ever. Playing on different courses is what makes both those events somewhat more interesting. It would get really old real quick that it’s always on the same course. And nobody wants to take away the glory from the Masters

  13. Adam crawford

    Aug 4, 2017 at 7:07 pm

    I think it could really do the PGA some good. It suffers from fatigue at the end of the season, especially when there are Ryder Cups looming. I don’t know that a permenant home would totally cure it, but over the course of a decade it could really help. I also think Valhalla would be a great venue. May is a beautiful time in Kentucky. The Ryder Cup? Not quite on board with that being in one spot in the states. Solid idea and solid piece, Peter!

    • Sam

      Aug 7, 2017 at 3:05 pm

      Kentucky is not a good idea, they should keep it in August, but hold it out west every year somewhere in California

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Gear Dive: USC head golf coach Chris Zambri on the challenges that will come with the new NCAA rules

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In this Special Edition of The Gear Dive, USC Men’s Head Golf Coach Chris Zambri discusses his thoughts on the new NCAA mandates, how to get recruited, and the pros and cons of recruiting can’t-miss superstars.

  • 9:55 — Zambri discusses thoughts on new rule
  • 17:35 — The rule he feels is the toughest navigate
  • 26:05 — Zambri discusses the disadvantages of recruiting a “can’t miss” PGA star
  • 32:50 — Advice to future recruits
  • 44:45 — The disadvantages of being tied to an OEM as a college golf team

Check out the full podcast on SoundCloud below, or click here to listen on iTunes!

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A new NCAA transfer rule gets passed… and college coaches are NOT happy

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New rules just keep on coming from the NCAA; college coaches are not happy about this one.

In a summer of block buster coaching changes, the NCAA has done its best to stay atop the news cycle by making some significant changes, which will impact the recruitment process. In an article two months ago entitled “The effect the NCAA’s new recruiting rules will have on college golf,” I spoke to college coaches about a new rule, which will not allow unofficial or official visits until September 1 of the players Junior Year. To go along with this rule, the NCAA has also put in place a new recruiting calendar which will limit the sum of the days of off campus recruiting between a head and assistant coach to 45 days starting August 1, 2018.

The 45-day rule will have several potential impacts for both recruits and assistant coaches. For recruits, it is likely that after a couple (2-3) evaluations, coaches will make offers and ask for speed responses to ensure they are not missing out on other options. I also think you will see far less assistant coaches recruiting, which ultimately hurts their opportunities to learn the art of recruitment.

The new transfer rule

In the past, players were subject to asking their present institution for either permission to contact other schools regarding transfer, or a full release.

Now, starting October 15, players can simply inform their institution of their intensions to leave and then start contacting other schools to find an opportunity. This is a drastic shift in policy, so I decided to poll college coaches to get their reactions.

The poll was conducted anonymously via Survey Monkey. Participation was optional and included 6 questions:

  1. New NCAA Legislation will allow players to transfer without a release starting October 2018. Do you support this rule change?
  2. Do you believe that this rule will have APR implications?
  3. Who do you think will benefit most from this rule?
  4. What are the benefits of allowing students to transfer without a release? What are the potential harms?
  5. New NCAA Legislation will make December a dead period for recruiting off campus. Do you support this legislation?
  6. What implications do you see for this rule?

In all, 62 Division I golf coaches responded, or about 10 percent of all Division I coaches in Men’s and Women’s Golf. The results show that 81.25 percent of DI coaches said that they do NOT support the rule change for transfers.

Also, 90 percent of coaches polled believe that the rule will have APR implications. APR is Academic Progress Rate which holds institutions accountable for the academic progress of their student-athletes through a team-based metric that accounts for the eligibility and retention of each student-athlete for each academic term.

The APR is calculated as follows:

  • Each student-athlete receiving athletically related financial aid earns one point for staying in school and one point for being academically eligible.
  • A team’s total points are divided by points possible and then multiplied by 1,000 to equal the team’s Academic Progress Rate.
  • In addition to a team’s current-year APR, its rolling four-year APR is also used to determine accountability.

Teams must earn a four-year average APR of 930 to compete in championships.

While the APR is intended as an incentive-based approach, it does come with a progression of penalties for teams that under-perform academically over time.

The first penalty level limits teams to 16 hours of practice per week over five days (as opposed to 20 over six days), with the lost four hours to be replaced with academic activities.

A second level adds additional practice and competition reductions, either in the traditional or non-championship season, to the first-level penalties. The third level, where teams could remain until their rate improves, includes a menu of possible penalties, including coaching suspensions, financial aid reductions and restricted NCAA membership.

Clearly coaches are not happy about the move and feel that the rule unfairly benefits both the student athletes and major conference schools, who may have a swell of calls around middle of October as Student athletes play great fall golf and look to transfer. Although coaches are unhappy about the new rule, it is very difficult to predict what direct impact the rule will have on teams; coaches are extremely smart and understand recruiting and development within the frame work of college better than anyone can imagine. As a result, I think coaches will react in many ways which are impossible to predict.

The survey also asked, “new NCAA Legislation will make December a dead period for recruiting off campus. Do you support this legislation?” For this, coaches were more divided with 45 percent in favor of the rule, and 55 percent not.

Although coaches supported the legislation, many (41/62) suggested that it would potentially hurt international recruiting at tournaments like Doral and the Orange Bowl and they had, in the past, used December as a time to recruit.

As we move forward with these changes, here are some potential things that recruits, and their families should consider, including consequences of the rules:

  1. With a limit of 45 days and these transfer rules, it is likely that coaches will be doing significantly more investigation into a player’s personalities and family situation to make sure they know what they are getting.
  2. Coaches may also start skipping over better players in favor of kids they think will be a good fit and are likely to stay
  3. Rosters may get bigger, as coaches are trying to have larger numbers to potentially offset transfers

Unfortunately, we enter a new era of rules at the worst time; we have never had a more competent and deep group of college coaches, the clear majority of whom are tremendous stewards of the game. Hopefully this rule will have insignificant effect on the continued growth of college golf but only time will tell.

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Is golf actually a team sport?

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Do a little research on the top PGA Tour players, and what you’ll see is that most (if not all of them) employ a team of diverse professionals that support their efforts to perform on the golf course. Take two-time major champion Zach Johnson; he has a team that includes a caddie, a swing instructor, a sports psychologist, a physiotherapist, an agent, a statistician, a spiritual mentor, a financial adviser… and of course his wife.

“I know this seems like a lot, and maybe even too much,” Johnson readily admitted. “But each individual has their place. Each place is different in its role and capacity. In order for me to practice, work out and just play golf, I need these individuals along the way. There is a freedom that comes with having such a great group that allows me to just play.”

My best guess is that Zach Johnson commits hundreds of thousands of dollars each year to this team, and I assume most players on the leading professional tours are making significant investments in their “teams.” There are three questions that jump out at this point. First, is a team necessary? Second, how can anyone compete without one? And third, how to pay for it?

From the club player to the collegiate player to the aspiring/touring professional, everyone can benefit from a team that offers individual instruction, support, guidance, and encouragement. Such a team, however, needs to be credible, timely, beneficial and affordable.

To be affordable, serious golfers should build their team one piece at a time. The obvious first choice is a swing coach. Golf swing coaches charge from $100-$1,500 per hour. The cost explains why players have historically been responsible for their own practice. The next piece, which is a newly developing trend, should be a performance coach who specializes in the supervision of practice, training and tournament preparation. Performance coaching on-site fees range from $200 to $3,000 per day.

So is team support essential for a player to be as good as he/she can be? My research says it is. When a player schedules a practice session, that session is usually based on what the player likes to do or wants to do. “Best Practices” utilized by world-class athletes suggest strongly that great progress in training always occurs when someone other than the player writes, administers and supervises the programs and sessions. The team approach says the player should focus on what needs to be done. Sometimes what the player wants to do and the things needed to be done are the same thing; sometimes they aren’t.

Now for the question of how to pay for it all. Wealthy players, or those with substantial or institutional support, have access to what they need or want… whatever the cost. If you use an on-site coach, teacher or other professional you will be paying for blocks of time. Fees can be hourly, weekly, monthly, yearly or lifetime arrangements based upon several factors. If your coach of choice is not local, you can also incur travel and per diem expenses. The process of paying for someone’s time can really add up. You can review what I charge for various services that require my attendance at edmyersgolf.com.

For those of you who don’t have easy access to on-site expertise or don’t want to incur the expense, I want to offer an approach that business, industry, colleges/universities and entrepreneurs are turning to: “Distance Coaching.” Distance learning is made possible through modern technology. In today’s world, expertise can be delivered using FaceTime, Skype, texting, email and (old fashion) phone calls. Textbooks, videos, specific programs and workbooks can be accessed from anywhere at any time by anyone with a desire to do so… and who knows what’s coming in the future. Through Distance Coaching, individuals can employ professional expertise on an as-needed basis without incurring huge costs or expenses.

The primary team expenses that can be avoided are those associated with face-to-face, on-site visits or experiences. Distance Coaching brings whatever any player needs, wants or desires within financial reach. For example, a player in Australia can walk onto the practice ground and have that day’s practice schedule delivered to a personal device by his/her performance coach. The player then forwards the results of that session back to the coach — let’s say in Memphis, Tennessee. The player is then free to move onto other activities knowing that the performance, training and preparation process is engaged and functioning. In the same vein, that same player in Australia may have moved into learning mode and he/she is now recording the golf swing and is sending it to the swing teacher of choice for analysis and comment.

So what is the cost of Distance Coaching? Teachers, trainers and coaches set their own fees based upon their business plan. Some require membership, partnership or some other form of commitment. For example, I offer free performance coaching with the purchase of one of my books or programs, as do others. Where face-to-face, on-site fees for performance coaching is available for $200 a day, the same expertise from the same coach can cost as little as $50 a month using the distance format, tools and technology. I highly recommend that players responsibly research the options available to them and then build the best team that fits their games, desires and goals. I’m happy to forward a guide of what to look for in a performance coach; just ask for it at edmyersgolf@gmail.com.

Back to Zach Johnson; he recently admitted that his lack of recent success could be traced to his lack of focus and practice discipline. Additional, he concedes that he has been practicing the wrong things. “It goes back to the basics,” he said. “I have to do what I do well. Truth be told, what I’m practicing now is more on my strengths than my weaknesses.”

Zach Johnson has a great team, but as he concedes, he still needs to put in the work.

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