Admit it, GolfWRX: The only thing we golf dorks love more than golf, is science-y golf. Golf where we boast online to strangers about our 1.5 smash factors, our stupidly positive angles of attack, and our (community average) 138 mph clubhead speed.
And how can we not love science? After all, it offers us life, and breath, and Phil Mickelson’s spectacular calves. But most importantly, this week, science offers us a 100 percent foolproof way to determine which players stand a chance against the formidable Black Course at Bethpage.
And let’s get this out of the way up front — maybe you’re here because of Rich Hunt’s annually excellent piece, “The X Players who can win the Masters,” where Hunt filters out those who cannot win the Masters, using complex statistics like Max Height, Carry Distance, and other very important stuff.
Yeah. This isn’t that.
This, my friends, is for the guy (or gal!) who likes their golf blended with unnecessarily complex scientific theory, compiled by a dude whose greatest scientific achievement transpired in the urinal of a 7th grade bathroom.
By now, we’ve all seen that Bethpage WARNING sign at least 324 times this week. We get it, Golf Channel. The course is difficult. But something not so difficult? Proclaiming that PGA Pro Ben Kern wasn’t going to beat Brooks Koepka last year.
Kern’s 1991-era super-relaxed-fit Dockers and wide-brimmed hat will be sorely missed this year, replaced by 20 other PGA teaching Professionals with the same chance to win in 2019 as Julius Boros.* (Zero. Zero chance.)
Have you heard of Albert Einstein’s theory of “Special Relativity?” For those of you whose scientific acumen is akin to Ben Kern’s fitness plan, here’s the gist; Time is a landscape. We move through it, and time is the same for everybody. Therefore, using Einstein’s theory, the following dudes are obviously way too damn old to win this week. Science!
Vijay Singh, Rich Beem, Jim Furyk, Brian Gay, Paddy Harrington, Shaun Micheel, John Daly (even in his stupid cart,) Steve Stricker, Y.E. Yang and of course, Beau Hossler. Yes, Hossler’s actual age is only 24, but he went from looking 15 to 48 overnight with the growth of seriously patchy facial hair. In this pure scientific study, looking old = being old. Surely, Einstein would agree.
Another group with no shot at the Wanamaker Trophy stems from the 16th century concept of Heliocentricism– the belief that earth revolves around the sun. Clearly, this eliminates Ian Poulter, Bubba Watson, Sergio Garcia, and Patrick Reed, who believe the earth revolves around them.
We’ll assume everyone is familiar with the Broglie-Bohm theory, right? Good.
In considering the velocities of particles in terms of the wave function, and applying it to the 2019 PGA championship, anybody who doesn’t possess GolfWRX-level clubhead speed doesn’t stand a chance. As a matter of science, you must bomb it at Bethpage, so you can eliminate these short-knockers from your betting list; Jordan Spieth, Zach Johnson, Webb Simpson, Kevin Na, Brian Harman, Brandt Snedeker, and a whole bunch of others. For the purpose of time, you know who they are. Cross ‘em off.
A surprisingly fun science rabbit hole is the idea of “Quantum Randomness.” There’s a real thing out there called a “Quantum-mechanical random number generator” and people sell them commercially. You are all now 3 I.Q. points smarter after reading this paragraph.
Now, here’s some people eliminated at random, in the spirit of Quantum Randomness; Jon Rahm, Justin Rose, Henrik Stenson, Kevin Tway, Richy Werenski, Kyle Stanley, J.J. Spaun, Andrew Putnam, Pat Perez, and Thorbjorn Oleson.
Oh, Kevin Tway is your favorite player? Feel free to argue with science in the comments.
And last but not least, we’ll scrub the remaining field through the incredibly influential Physics concept of “Nonlocality.” Do I understand the concept, even in the slightest? Nope.
So, I’ll just apply it literally, and we’re going to boot every non-American not named Rory McIlroy, since McIlroy owns property here, married an American girl, and practically never plays in Europe anymore. Basically, Rory McIroy is more American than you.
So, for those following along at home, here are the 18 people that can scientifically win the PGA.
Who’s going to win? I don’t know. I’m waiting on my Quantum-mechanical random number generator to arrive that I bought off Amazon Prime (free shipping!)
Once it arrives, scientifically, I’ll have a much better idea.
*Boros, in case you were wondering, is not in the field this year due to his untimely demise back in 1994. **
The Jamaica Golf Experience
I love Jamaica. I have been to the island for several trips with my family and the feeling I get every time I think about a next visit is always exciting. On past trips, I have made Jamaican friends that I will remember for the rest of my life. The people there are so happy and good. One Love. The “no problem ‘mon'” culture just becomes a part of you when you’re there, creating a special atmosphere that lets you escape it all. I keep Red Stripe beer in my fridge at home in Fort Worth, Texas, all year — a reminder of the island I love with every sip. So when I received an invitation to play in The Jamaica Pro-Am, I was quick to accept.
The Jamaica Pro-Am (aka Annie’s Revenge — more on that later) is an annual tournament held each year in Montego Bay, Jamaica. Four-man teams constructed of three amateurs and one PGA Professional, the tournament is typically played on three of Jamaica’s finest golf courses — Half Moon, Cinnamon Hill, and White Witch. I attended this year’s tournament as a playing observer, confined to the “media team” and partaking in the festivities. Ya’mon.
The tournament field gets to stay at the beautiful Iberostar Grand Rose Hotel, conveniently located near all three courses and more importantly, right on the beach. The hotel is indeed grand and all-inclusive, providing guests with a wristband that gets you whatever you’d like to eat or drink from any of the onsite bars and restaurants — no questions asked. Less than 30 minutes from the airport, if Montego Bay is your desired city for your next Jamaican vacation, I’d imagine this hotel is tough to beat.
The first night of the tournament is the welcome dinner and reception on the beach. A full Jamaican buffet complete with jerk chicken and pork, beef patties, fried plantains, rice and peas, and cabbage. A true taste of the Caribbean, accompanied of course with whatever rum drink your heart desires. Appleton is the island favorite, and it mixes well with pretty much everything when you’re toes are in the sand. There was a live reggae band playing the Bob Marley songs everyone knows.
While the festivities were for the tournament participants, there was still plenty of activity and vibe for the other hotel guests. This is Jamaica. There was music and fun all around the hotel every moment of this trip. No worries, everything is irie. I have a real love for the island. The people are kind, the food is fantastic, and the waters are the finest in the world.
Day One: Half Moon Golf Club
Quite understandably, Jamaica has been hit hard by COVID-19, with tourism taking a substantial dip in the past year and a half. The golf has seen a dip in numbers as a result, but the courses are in gorgeous shape with foot and cart traffic just now picking back up.
Half Moon was designed by Robert Trent Jones, Sr. and it opened in 1962. The course rests between the Blue Mountains and the sea, playing a mostly flat 7,120 yards from the back tees. Half Moon does offer several tee box options and could be played as short as 5,032 yards, making it a pleasant resort course, should that be your speed.
The course is beautiful and very well maintained. The greens were a bit shaggy, but luscious, playing at a slower pace than I am used to. I am not sure if that is by design or a side effect of the pandemic, as I do know the Jamaican golf courses have been short-staffed and without the usual supplies this past season. That appears to be a thing of the past, however, as the course looks to have turned a corner.
Most fairways are lined by palm trees, adding something to avoid off the tee, but there is enough space between each trunk to give you a full swing if you do miss left or right. The coconuts that drop, luckily, are loose impediments.
Half Moon is a resort course through and through. There are elements of character and excitement, but it mostly just provides a beautiful and benign setting for fun island golf. The fairways are dressed with multiple well-placed bunkers which provide the only designed protection against low scores. The driver could be used on virtually every non-par 3, but the course is better suited to be thought around and played to avoid the sand.
Built on a retired sugar cane estate, the other real hazard (water doesn’t come into play much at all) is the coastal winds that pick up mid-morning each day. With little besides the coconut trees to protect your ball from gusts, the wind becomes a real challenge on this bow-tie routed design. Holes into the wind were a beast, and when we finally turned with the wind at our back, it was time for a Red Stripe and a sigh of relief.
Those winds are a big reason why this tournament is called “Annie’s Revenge.” Named after Annie Palmer, the White Witch of Rose Hall, the namesake is one of Jamaica’s most famous local legends. Rose Hall’s Great House, just down the road towards Cinnamon Hill Golf Course, was home to Palmer, a Haitian-born white woman who grew up studying voodoo and witchcraft. Thus the nickname, the White Witch. She moved to Jamaica when she married John Palmer, the owner of Rose Hall, and unfortunately, her practice of dark magic proved too powerful for those around her. Legend tells she murdered her husband (and two more after that) along with many of her slaves. She herself was eventually killed, but to this day, the locals claim to have witnessed Palmer’s ghost riding her horse around the Jamaican plantations.
The strong coastal winds are Annie’s Revenge on any golfer trying to enjoy the land she once owned. They got the best of me a time or two.
Days Two and Three: Cinnamon Hill
Both Cinnamon Hill and White Witch Golf Course are members of the Rose Hall family. Typically, in the “Annie’s Revenge” tournament format, the courses are played once each in the three-day event. However, White Witch is currently closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Its owners made the financial decision to proceed through these tough times with only one course due to the limited play and the costs of upkeep. While disappointed to not play White Witch, playing Cinnamon Hill twice instead more than satisfied my appetite for Jamaican golf. This is my favorite course on the island.
Cinnamon Hill was designed by Rick Baril and opened in 1969. It was later renovated and redesigned by Robert von Hagge. The greens here were much quicker than those at Half Moon, which I certainly appreciated. The two nines of Cinnamon Hill play in complementing contrast to one another, with the front providing low coastal play while the back nine rises into the tropical Blue Mountains.
Tipping out at 6,828 yards, the front nine marches and builds towards the ocean, with two phenomenal holes hugging the coastline. This is unusual for Jamaica, as most of the shore is saved for sandy beaches and rum-flavored sips under thatch umbrellas.
I played Cinnamon Hill with my cart partner, Jason Deegan of GolfPass.com. Our hosts for our rounds at Rose Hall were Keith Stein, the Director of Golf Course Operations for both Cinnamon Hill and White Witch, and Donnie Dawson, the Deputy Director of Tourism for the Jamaica Tourist Board.
Keith is a very good golfer with a smooth swing. He is originally from Toronto but has lived in Jamaica for 30 years. Donnie is a world-class storyteller who grew up in Kingston and has been playing these courses his entire life. It was a real treat to be able to play the course with both fine gentlemen, see how they play each hole, and hear their tales. The best story came on hole four, a 170-yard par 3 over marshy ponds.
As we approached the fourth tee box, Donnie pointed out a concrete wall just behind the markers and informed us that a cemetery lay just beyond. Peering over, we could see the gravestones in this centuries-old burial plot for the family of English poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning. The grass is grown tall because the golf course staff, local Jamaicans, refuse to go inside.
Donnie told us 20 or so years ago, he was playing this course with a caddie named “Teeth,” a moniker he was given based on the looper’s colored and decorated top front teeth. As they approached the fourth tee box, a man was sitting on the concrete wall bordering the cemetery. He tossed Donnie a ball and said “hit this one, mon.” Donnie complied and the three men watched the shot bounce twice and roll directly into the cup. A hole-in-one with accompanied celebration. When they reached the green, Donnie and Teeth looked into the cup to retrieve the ball, and, to their surprise, it had vanished. Disappeared from the hole. They looked to the tee box and the kind stranger on the wall was gone as well. Perhaps a ghost from the ancient graves. Donnie said Teeth, a believer in local legend, took off running and didn’t stop for three miles.
Holes five and six provide tremendous views right along the quietly crashing waves. The par-3 sixth hole, arguably the prettiest hole on the island, is a 178-yard carry over the Caribbean with bailout room to the left. Just a gorgeous hole that I would have been happy to play all day. Cinnamon Hill does not waste their par 3s.
The course is also home to an ancient aqueduct that winds through both the front and back nine. The now-ruins provide an interesting backdrop to island golf, whereas they used to be a working part of the sugar cane plantation and used to grind and transport one of Jamaica’s top export products for commerce.
The back nine brings you up the mountains, with the 17th tee box sitting nearly 400 feet above sea level. What that provides, obviously, is wonderful views of the ocean through and over jungle leaves, along with challenging golf shots. On the fairway of the 14th hole sits one of the few homes on course, but one has some historical value: The Cinnamon Hill Great House was the second home of Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash for 30 years.
The 15th hole is another tremendous par 3 measuring 220 yards from the back but playing much shorter straight down the hill to a large green nestled beneath a waterfall. The waterfall, in case it looks familiar, was the backdrop of a famous scene in “Live and Let Die” — one of the best James Bond films ever made. Ian Fleming, the author of the Bond series, lived and wrote many of the books here on the island at Golden Eye.
Cinnamon Hill takes the driver out of your hand on many holes, forcing you to find the right club on every tee shot. You need to be prepared to hit mid-irons off some par fours as angles are often more important than distance. And with the undulating back nine, distances are sometimes deceiving. Cheers to my caddie for keeping the right club in my hand all trip.
Back to the hotel for the final ceremony and last sleep on the island. The Jamaica Pro-Am is open to anyone willing to pay the entry fee, but if you come to Jamaica for just a family vacation, don’t forget about the golf. Most travelers to Jamaica come for the beaches and the island lifestyle, and they aren’t wrong to do so. But next time you visit, I suggest you bring your clubs, mon.
Club Junkie: Reviewing New Bettinardi BB and Inovai putters!
Bettinardi has new and updated putters for their BB and Inovai putter lines. I have been rolling a ton of putts (indoors, unfortunately) with both the BB-8W and the Inovai Rev 8.0 and they are really solid (read our launch piece here).
BB series is now made from stainless steel and has a new face milling that offers much better feel. The new Inovai 8.0 has a great, toned-down shape with the new Roll Control face for reducing hopping and skidding and producing forward roll.
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