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Opinion & Analysis

Jim Nantz plants his flag at Pebble Beach

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Perhaps the most difficult part about writing a story about Jim Nantz is figuring out how to introduce him, if you list his accomplishments you are going to quickly run out of column inches. Same if you go with the list of significant moments that he has brought to the masses from behind the mic during his 35 years at CBS Sports. I mean, most guys in the business would hit a baby with a puppy to be able to call a Super Bowl, a Final Four or a Masters; Nantz has done all four. In the same year. Five times. His voice is a part of the soundtrack of golf, but the man is much more than that. His influence on the industry is felt in every aspect of the game from where we play (he’s a board member at Pebble Beach) to what we drink when we are there (he has a partnership that produces fine wines).

That influence extends to what we wear through his partnership with vineyard vines. Nantz and vineyard vines began collaborating in Spring 2017 to create the “Forget-Me-Knot” custom-designed collection that benefits research at the Nantz National Alzheimer Center. And in 2018, vineyard vines partnered with Nantz to create an authentic golf lifestyle brand that is comfortable and sophisticated for the course, clubhouse and beyond. The Jim Nantz by vineyard vines collection debuted in February and is inspired by the Pebble Beach way of life and Jim’s love for golf and the virtues it represents.

Last week they opened a new concept store featuring the Jim Nantz by vineyard vines collection. The store proves a unique shopping experience for visitors to America’s premier golf resort just steps away from the putting green at Pebble Beach Golf Links, site of the 2019 U.S. Open, and directly across from the iconic Lodge at Pebble Beach.
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With the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am teeing off in his backyard last week, I caught up with Nantz to talk about his life, his special connection to Pebble Beach, and his new role as a fashion influencer.

Q: When did you first play Pebble Beach?

A: I first played Pebble Beach back in the late 1980s during the week of the AT&T Pro-Am. Back then they actually allowed a few of us from CBS to play during the practice rounds leading up to the tournament. The late and legendary CBS golf producer, Frank Chirkinian took me out the first time. Ken Venturi was with us too. Also, one year long ago, I played a practice round with Glen Campbell the week of the event.

Q: What does Pebble Beach mean to the game of golf?

A: In my mind, Pebble is the mecca of American golf. It’s a public course that holds some of the greatest histories in the annals of the sport. And of course, the views are virtually unmatched.

 

Q: How did you get connected with vineyard vines?

A: It all began with a book about my father, “Always By My Side.” The book dealt with my dad’s long battle with Alzheimer’s and how my family attempted to cope. I realized there was a large group of people who related to the message. Families that were dealing with a loved one who was in failing health. The caregiving community felt galvanized by the book’s message. Soon we realized there was more we could do to make a difference. My wife, Courtney, and I decided it was time to roll up our sleeves, write the first of many checks and create an Alzheimer’s clinical care and cutting-edge research center. The Nantz National Alzheimer Center at Houston Methodist Hospital opened in 2011. vineyard vines wanted to help spread awareness and support the cause by collaborating to create the “Forget-Me-Knot” collection. The reaction by the consumer market was fantastic and a few years later, vineyard vines spoke to me about expanding our partnership to create a golf lifestyle brand, Jim Nantz by vineyard vines.

 

Q: What are the elements of Jim Nantz’s style?

A: Along with Shep and Ian Murray, the founders of vineyard vines, we have designed a Pebble Beach-inspired clothing line. Whether you’re playing golf at one of America’s greatest treasures or you’re there to enjoy many of the great experiences of the resort, including the fabulous restaurants, this is a fashion experience that has been created with the Pebble Beach vibe in mind.

Q: Was it important to have a physical store for this collection?

A: Having the epicenter of the brand located here is a dream! To be able to say that Pebble Beach is the home of Jim Nantz by vineyard vines is a stature that no golf apparel brand has ever been able to say. We are the first golf line in the history of this American treasure to have its own store at Pebble Beach Resorts.

 

 

Q: Is there any chance that another branch will be opened?

A: That is not something we have thought about at this point. We are thrilled to have this special partnership with the great people at Pebble Beach. I admire how they operate their business and the way they have maintained their amazing property. Most of all, it’s the employees of The Pebble Beach Company that make this area special. They make every guest feel welcomed and cared for. It’s a big reason why I wanted to move to the area, which we did back in 2012. Everything Pebble puts its fingerprints on represents the gold standard.

Q: Which golfer(s) in history had the best sense of style?

A: There have been so many—Arnold Palmer with his cardigan sweaters layered over a turtleneck. Jack Nicklaus was stylish in his prime. Tom Weiskopf was a great dresser. Doug Sanders brought a flamboyance to golf fashion. And of course, my old college roommate Fred Couples was a trendsetter when he helped take Ashworth to number one in the world. I’m proud to say that Fred is the latest professional golfer to wear Jim Nantz by vineyard vines.

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Williams has a reputation as a savvy broadcaster, and as an incisive interviewer and writer. An avid golfer himself, Williams has covered the game of golf and the golf lifestyle including courses, restaurants, travel and sports marketing for publications all over the world. He is currently working with a wide range of outlets in traditional and electronic media, and has produced and hosted “Sticks and Stones” on the Fox Radio network, a critically acclaimed show that combined coverage of the golf world with interviews of the Washington power elite. His work on Newschannel8’s “Capital Golf Weekly” and “SportsTalk” have established him as one of the area’s most trusted sources for golf reporting. Williams has also made numerous radio appearances on “The John Thompson Show,” and a host of other local productions. He is a sought-after speaker and panel moderator, he has recently launched a new partnership with The O Team to create original golf-themed programming and events. Williams is a member of the United States Golf Association and the Golf Writers Association of America.

1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Josh

    Feb 12, 2020 at 5:40 pm

    “I mean, most guys in the business would
    (1)hit a baby with a puppy to be able to call a
    (2)Super Bowl, a
    (3)Final Four or a
    (4)Masters; Nantz has done all four. In the same year. Five times.”

    Wait, Jim Nantz has hit a baby with a puppy?

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Opinion & Analysis

A road trip to St. Andrews

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In 2017, my son Brian and his wife Lauren, proposed a family trip to Scotland. Both of them have traveled a surprising amount for a couple barely 30 years old, but for us it would be a huge trip. We couldn’t get it scheduled for 2018 but everything lined up for October, 2019, a trip that might even include playing the Old Course in St. Andrews, if we got lucky. The amazing Lauren made all the arrangements, beginning with multiple email exchanges with the staff at the Old Course, who were extremely gracious and encouraging in their communications.

Unlike most other courses, in order to play the Old Course, you have three options: One is to book a very expensive trip through a travel broker who will guarantee a tee time. This is the only way to make your arrangements in advance, but you’re paying thousands for the package, which would include at least three other days of golf. Sounds great but above our budget. Secondly, you can take a real gamble and just show up at the starter’s window the day you are hoping to play, and get in line as early as 3 a.m., put your name on the list and then wait, maybe all day, maybe hopelessly. It’s no way to budget an entire day on your vacation. The third way is to use what is called the “ballot system,” submitting your request for a tee time via email to standrews.com, 48 hours ahead and hopefully getting a spot.

Now, it’s not as grim a prospect as it may sound for planning to play golf in St. Andrews. The above only applies to getting onto the Old Course. We were able to make a tee time for the Jubilee Course, one of six other courses (Jubilee, Castle, New Course, Eden, Strathtyrum, and Balgove), all part of the St. Andrews Links complex, “The Home of Golf” as their brochure proclaims. Since we were scheduling our trip for the tail-end of the golf season, the gentleman from St. Andrews wrote that he was cautiously optimistic we would be successful using the ballot system.

This wasn’t just a golfing vacation, the five us had an outstanding time touring the west coast of Scotland, including the Oban Whisky distillery, the Harry Potter train in Glencoe, Ben Nevis—the highest peak in the UK, Fort William, and the spectacular Highlands, the town of St. Andrews, and finally the marvelous city of Edinburgh. We ended up spending one night in St. Andrews, at The Saint, a lovely four-room hotel, a 10-minute walk from the Old Course. That evening, walking down cobblestone streets, with the R&A clubhouse coming into view, was like walking in a dream.

Our day started out by driving directly to the new Links Clubhouse, which has wonderful views of the courses from the restaurant. We had lunch, and I must admit to being a bit nervous over my chicken bacon mayo sandwich. We’d parked our bags in the locker room down below, it’s just what you’d expect in terms of world-class accommodations and feel. I could just imagine the pros suiting up there as they prepare to play in The Open.

Our day of golf at the Jubilee Course was spectacular, although it got off to a rainy start, but the weather cleared by the fourth hole. Mary, Jill, and Lauren formed our gallery as we teed off, then they went for a walk around the lovely town. I parred the first hole and told Brian that made my entire trip to Scotland. I was on fire, shooting 42 on the front nine but hitting only three fairways and two greens in regulation. Brian shot 45. We’d decided on match play, and I was up by three on the 11th hole. Brian then said the fateful words, “You haven’t hit into a pot bunker all day!” Which I promptly did. My game immediately tanked while he proceeded to make a total of nine pars, shooting 42 on the back, and won the match 2 & 1. Our gallery re-appeared on the 17th hole, the sun was shining, and we were in golf heaven! We ended the day with a pint at the famous Dunvegan Pub by the R&A clubhouse.

Earlier in the day, Brian had received an email from St. Andrews, unfortunately stating that we had not been selected for the ballot to play on the Old Course the next day. He resubmitted our request for the following day with fingers crossed. We headed to our next stop, Edinburgh, looking forward to exploring this ancient yet cosmopolitan city. During our walking tour, Brian received the email notification that we’d scored an 11 a.m. tee time on the Old Course for Friday. He and I would be making a road trip back north while the ladies spent the day in Edinburgh.

It was about an hour ride back to St. Andrews but traffic was quite manageable and we arrived at 9:30, plenty of time for breakfast at the Links Clubhouse. I felt that anticipatory excitement I always have right before marshaling at a big event, like a U.S. Open, where the atmosphere of the place is nearly overwhelming. Not really nervousness, but we were about to play the Old Course! Isn’t that every golfer’s dream? To say Brian was wound up tight would be an understatement, he could barely choke down half a scone. The walk over toward the starters shack, where we would meet our caddies, with the R&A clubhouse right there at the first tee was unreal.

The clerk was so gracious, taking our 130 Scottish pounds green fee (about $160), and handing us a very nice valuables pouch complete with an amazingly detailed yardage book, tees, pencils, divot tool, and scorecard. We were then approached by our two caddies, who between them had nearly 30 years of caddying experience. I got John, whose personality was perfect for me, quiet, calm, not too chatty, yet personable. Brian’s guy, Steve was just right for him as well, right from central casting with a thick Scottish brogue. He instantly bonded with Brian to become his playing partner/coach, which was just what he needed to get over the first tee jitters.

The starter, Richard, approached us as we made our way over to the first tee, greeting us much like you see them do at the start of the Open Championship. He made our presence there seem extra special, despite the fact he’d probably done the same routine 10 thousand times. He even took our picture. We were then introduced to our two other playing partners, both former members of the course, so they didn’t need caddies to show them the way. These guys were hilarious, self-deprecating, with brogues so thick I could understand maybe one word in three, not the best golfers by any stretch, which was somehow quite reassuring and certainly less intimidating. Brian proved to be the best golfer in our foursome by far although he had a rough start, hitting his drive into the Swilcan Burn.

I was really calm on the tee, it helped that there were very few spectators as it was drizzling and maybe 50 degrees. John told me where to aim, (“at that gorse bush off in the distance”) and I was able to do exactly that. As we walked off the first tee Steve said “now you can all breathe again!” I found having a caddy to be such a wonderful added dimension to this whole experience—not just as a guide to point out where in the world I should be aiming on this alien golf layout, but also to set an expectation for me on each shot which I then tried my best to fulfill. The greens weren’t too scary as I felt used to the speeds having played Jubilee, but having John read the subtle breaks and provide aiming points was terrific.

I played bogey golf through the first 12 holes but the rain only intensified and despite John’s best effort to keep things dry, the final 6 holes were a mess. Brian was one up on our match at the turn, then went on to win decisively at 5 up, with a total for the day of 5 pars and a birdie, including par on 17, the famous Road Hole. As the day went on, we found ourselves saying over and over to each other, what a wonderful experience this was despite the conditions. Steve took the traditional picture of us on the Swilcan Bridge, on our way to finishing on 18, which Brian almost parred. He later said he had such a tremendous feeling of accomplishment, having conquered the Old Course.

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Podcasts

TG2: Brooks and Peter Kostis rip Patrick Reed

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Brooks Koepka and Peter Kostis both talk about Patrick Reed and his cheating allegations. Brooks was on SiriusXM and Kostis on No Laying Up don’t hold back their feelings on cheating. Kostis also has some PGA Tour beef, saying that they don’t care about the television broadcast.

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

Want more GolfWRX Radio? Check out our other shows (and the full archives for this show) below. 

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Opinion & Analysis

Watch for players lofting up at altitude at the WGC-Mexico Championship

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This week, at the PGA Tour’s WGC-Mexico Championship, we are going to watch some of the best and longest players on the planet play what will effectively be one of the shortest courses on tour.

Now, 7,341 yards is by no means a cakewalk, and there are shorter courses from a pure yardage perspective played on tour—Harbour Town, as an example, only plays at 7,099 yards from the very back. The difference is Harbour Town is played at sea level while Club de Golf Chapultepec is at over 7,500 feet of elevation, and when you factor in the altitude difference between the two courses, they play very differently—more on the math in a moment.

The altitude will also factor in how some players will be setting up their equipment and we could see some adjustments. The most obvious is lofting up the driver or fairways woods to increase carry, which is something Tiger Woods specifically mentioned last year.

The biggest misconception when talking about playing golf at altitude is that the ball doesn’t spin the same in thinner air and players “loft up” to maintain spin. Let’s get into the physics to bust this “spinning less” myth and simplify the science behind playing at altitude,

The golf ball is an inanimate object, and it has no idea it’s at altitude; the air will not have an impact on how much the ball will actually spin. Yes, increasing loft should, by almost every imaginable measure, increase spin but the air it travels through will not change the spin rate.

However, playing at altitude has an effect, Let’s break down what happens

  • Thinner air exerts less drag force (resistance/friction) on the ball. The ball moves more easily through this less dense air and won’t decelerate as quickly as it flies. But note that the faster an object moves the more drag force will occur
  • Less resistance also means that it is harder to shape shots. So you when you see Shot Tracer, the pros are going to be hitting it even straighter (this makes Tiger’s fairway bunker shot last year even more unbelievable)
  • Less force = less lift, the ball will fly lower and on a flatter trajectory

Time for some math from Steve Aoyama, a Principal Scientist at Titleist Golf Ball R&D (full piece here: The Effect of Altitude on Golf Ball Performance)

“You can calculate the distance gain you will experience (compared to sea level) by multiplying the elevation (in feet) by .00116. For example, if you’re playing in Reno, at 1 mile elevation (5,280 ft.) the increase is about 6% (5,280 x .00116 = 6.1248). If you normally drive the ball 250 yards at sea level, you will likely drive it 265 yards in Reno.”

Not every player will be making changes to their bag, and some will instead focus on the types of shots they are hitting instead. When speaking to Adam Scott earlier this week, I was able to ask if he planned on making any changes heading into Mexico the week after his win at the Genesis Invitational.

“It’s very rare for me to make club changes week-to-week beyond playing in the Open Championship and adding a longer iron. The one thing I focus on when playing at altitude is avoiding partial shots where I’m trying to reduce the spin because as spin goes down the ball doesn’t want to stay in the air. I’ve experienced partial shots with longer clubs that end up 25 yards short, and because of that I want to hit as many full shots as possible”

With Club de Golf Chapultepec sitting just over 7,800 feet above sea level, we’re looking at 9.048 or an increase of just over 9 percent. That makes this 7,341-yard course play 6,677 yards (+/- where the tees are placed).

 

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