Masters Week: The price of perfection at Augusta

I’d love to see Augusta National, and play it, and watch The Masters in person, but with today’s crazy-good electronics, it’s the major made for TV. Only one other golf tournament in the world – The (British) Open Championship – compares as a television spectacle.
If Augusta had any blemishes, the high-def cameras would pick them up and magnify them for the world to see, like the individual pores on the face of a guy like Jason Dufner. But there aren’t any, and the grass and flowers and water features are posed as if for a spring-issue snow globe, with dogwood blossoms standing in for the snowflakes.
– Grey Goatee Golf and Travel, April 10, 2014

He describes it as “a woodland cathedral,” this peaceful glade far enough off the path of play that no golfer would give it a thought or even know it was there. The rough trail in, just big enough for a superintendent’s golf cart, joins out-of-play parts of holes 13 and 14 on the Red nine at Eagles Pride Golf Course at Joint Base Lewis McChord, south of Tacoma.

When his day brings him here, David Wienecke can pause and soak in the quiet. He can look around and appreciate that there are no noxious, invasive species as far as his practiced eye can see. There is no more completely natural spot on the 600 acres of the Eagles Pride property, only 40 percent of which, Wienecke is happy to point out, is given over to the 27 holes of the golf course.

Wienecke is sustainable operations and environmental manager for Eagles Pride and Whispering Firs, its sister military course on the base. He’s far from Augusta, Ga., in miles, certainly, but even more in his philosophy of golf course maintenance.

“It’s beautiful, absolutely beautiful,” Wienecke says of Augusta National Country Club, site of this week’s Masters Tournament, “but it’s just all artificial. It’s like Disneyland. I mean, nobody thinks Disneyland is natural. It’s a theme park.”

Eagles-Pride-edited
Eagles Pride

Wienecke, who was the original superintendent for Chambers Bay Golf Course, site of this June’s U.S. Open, visited Augusta National when he worked for the United States Golf Association.

“I know what their product is,” he says.

Wienecke works constantly to reduce, minimize or eliminate chemicals and fertilizers at his courses. He’s set aside dozens of acres of grass that will never again feel a mower blade. He lets the natural woodland landscape live and breathe.

At Augusta, every strand of grass, every flower, is managed.  “They do amazing things to make sure they bloom right at the Masters,”

Wienecke says, by which he means “tons of chemicals” and heaters and artificial lighting to regulate the environment of the flowering plants.

The greens at Augusta are creeping bentgrass, a cool-season grass in a warm-season environment. Agronomist Wienecke suggests Ultra Dwarf Bermuda grass, a totally different genus, would work much better.

“The creeping bentgrass barely hangs on by its fingernails,” he says, “then they have to do heroic things to keep it alive through the summer, for the next year’s event. They have disease issues, insect pest issues, fertility issues …

“It’s too hot and humid, so they have to put shade cloth over the greens. It’s just a real challenge to keep that going.”

As he stood on the bird-walk trail looking over Hodge Lake toward the 14th green of the Blue nine — another of his favorite places at Eagles Pride — Wienecke said golf courses should be one with the environment, be a part of the environment.

Augusta is not that, he says.

“It’s not golf the way it was meant to be.”

Potter mug shot-1Grey Goatee. 468x60 copyBart Potter lives, plays and writes about golf in the Pacific Northwest. He has taught journalism, and is an award- winning writer. He writes from his home in Olympia, Wash.
*The above article was re-posted from his website.*

 

Is Golf Morphing? Check Out These Different Forms

LocalGolfer.com writer, Jack Seybold, explores golf’s metamorphosis into different forms around the globe.

Sports evolve, as cultures do, and we can witness tendrils from the stem of our beloved game of golf growing in a range of adaptations.

The sport we call soccer has its antecedents two or three centuries before Christ. Games in ancient Greece and China involved kicking a ball into an opponent’s goal, and there were indigenous games in pre-Columbian Latin America with similarities to modern soccer (or football, as it is known elsewhere the world). In the early 19th Century the idea developed (perhaps inevitably) of “football” (soccer) players at England’s Rugby College running with the ball, resulting in the sport of rugby – which on our shores eventually morphed into “American football.” Similarly, golf offshoots are developing, gaining devotees ranging from casual to professional.

Hickory Golf

hickory golf 5First, consider the back-to-the-future phenomenon of Hickory Golf. Participants are likely purists who harken back to a hickory golf 4supposed Golden Age of pre-1935 golf, or even to the modern game’s 15th-Century roots, when clubs were made with wooden shafts and heads. The Society of Hickory Golfers, founded in 2001, developed from the golf championships in the 1990’s of the Golf Collectors Society, whose members had accumulated enough dated equipment to have a go the old-fashioned way – although not risking their rare valuable specimens.

In those early days there were perhaps two dozen “hickory golfers.” Today their worldwide number has swelled into the thousands. They usually dress in period attire, and you hickory golf 8expect them to adhere to strict standards, such as scrupulously playing their ball as it lies, observing proper golf etiquette, and repairing divots and pitch marks with zen-like dedication.

hickory golf 10Rob Ahlschwede of Olympia, Washington has used only hickory clubs for a dozen years. The difference between them and modern clubs, he says, is that “the driver just does not go as far, although I still hit the hickory driver 220 more or less. But then, when I hit a modern driver–when someone lets me–I hit it about 250-70.”

Fellow Northwesterner Bill Keeler’s modern clubs are also gathering dust in the garage. “When I started playing with the hickories, my expectations were low and I found that a slower tempo was key hickory golf 9to better shot making. I can’t describe the wonderful feeling of the shaft flexing on the ‘pure’ shot!”

They are echoed by Ray Tokareff of Ashland, Oregon. “Forget distance,” he declares, and adds that playing with hickory clubs improves his modern golf game as well. “It makes me really focus, and sharpens my short game.”

The Society of Hickory Golfers seeks to “promote the experience of golf in a manner consistent with how the ‘royal hickory golf 11and ancient game’ was played in the hickory era,” and “develop and maintain equipment standards for authentic hickory play.” The organization hosts tournaments, provides a hickory golf handicapping service, and publishes a newsletter, The Wee Nip.
http://www.hickorygolfers.com/

Several manufacturers, such as Louisville Golf, Tad Moore Golf, St. Andrews Golf Co., and Play Hickory Golf, now create replica wooden-shafted clubs for use in events such as the U.S. Hickory Open (since 2008). Louisville advertizes a “starter set” of five clubs for $760, and a “tournament set” of ten clubs for $1,500. Some golf courses have hickory clubs available for rental, and manufacturers make rental sets available at tournament venues. In 2011, the first Professional Hickory Golfers Association championship was held at Temple Terrace, Florida, with a purse of $5,000.

Flogton

Quite elsewhere on the golf spectrum you find Flogton. That’s “not golf” spelled backwards. Neither royal nor ancient, it is flogton AGAotherwise known as the Alternative Golf Association, a group of Silicon Valley executives who advocate a relaxed attitude toward the rules and equipment of golf. Those for whom executive courses, pitch-and-putt courses, or even miniature golf do not sufficiently reduce the challenge of the game might take refuge in Flogton. Improve your lie, take mulligans and “gimmes,” tee the ball up anywhere on the course, use non-conforming clubs or balls, score no higher than double-bogey. Recognizing the game’s considerable challenge, Flogton’s advocates hope to stimulate participation in golf, as snowboarding boosted the sport of skiing. Less frustration, more fun.

Snow Golf

Speaking of skiing: This year marked the 31st annual snow golf tournament at Lake Tahoe’s Alpine Meadows ski resort. Participants (wearing skis) tee off on a snow golf 4series of nine white downhill “fairways,” hitting green tennis balls that won’t sink into the snow, shussing down for follow-up shots, ending in flagged circles spray-painted on the greens (well, whites). Although they keep their scores, winners are determined by a snow golf 2raffle drawing of the scorecards, and major emphasis is on the post-round party.

There is, however, a sport of snow (and ice) golf that is both old and new. In fact, Medieval Dutch artists created paintings that showed what might be the antecedent of both golf and hockey, known in Dutch as kolf. In his celebrated short story “Winter Dreams” F. Scott snow golfFitzgerald mentions playing golf with colored balls, which would be more easily spotted in snow. And in the last decade or so Canadian Tina Blomme, the “inventor” of snow golf, designed the first snow golf course next to the Ice Hotel in Quebec, and has snow golf 3attempted to “officialize” the sport. There are snow golf events (using colored golf balls) from Greenland to Argentina, and a World Championship was played in 2008 in Austria.

Boerengolf

Vacationing in Netherlands a couple of years ago I was charmed to see a curious boerengolf 4event in a pasture along the Maas River. Several groups of five young men were
swatting what looked like a volleyball, using a Dutch wooden shoe fixed on the end of a pole. It was my introduction to boerengolf 5Boerengolf (Farmers Golf). Invented by a Dutch dairy farmer, Peter Weenink, the game was his response to frustrations such as the expense of golf and the requirement in Netherlands of earning a golf certificate to be allowed on a course.

The game of Farmers Golf is very simple: “The course is a pasture, and a hole is boerengolf 7quickly made by digging a milk bucket in the ground with a large flag next to it,” says Weenink. The team that completes the hole in the fewest hits is the winner. Hazards include cows, and their droppings. There are boerengolf 8usually ten holes to a course, averaging perhaps two hundred yards. Green fees are usually from $7.50 to $12 at more than a hundred courses in Europe, mostly in Netherlands. Farmers thus make additional profit from their land, and the public has an enjoyable, boerengolf 3inexpensive, family-friendly alternative to golf – no experience necessary. The Boerengolf website claims it is the fastest growing outdoor sport in the world.

The first boerengolf club was invented by Peter Weenink’s neighbor as they were organizing for the first boerengolf tournament, a neighborhood event, on Easter of 1999. Now the clubs are made in boerengolf 2the nearby village of Beltrum, exclusively for Farmersgolf Int. by Nijhuis, the largest manufacturer of wooden shoes in the world. The ball is about eight inches in diameter and is manufactured in Pakistan. Club and ball can be purchased for about $48. No other equipment is required, although boots are recommended.

Pasture Golf

Golf played on farmland has been happening in the USA for decades now. The town of Wisdom, Montana (population about 100) has hosted the boerengolf 6quirky Cow Pasture Open on a course created on all-but-unimproved farmland once annually for nearly twenty years. Part charity fundraiser, part pasturegolf 6 pasturegolf 7 pasturegolf 8country fair, the event is a two-person scramble through unforgiving rough to offbeat hole locations – sheds, hay bales, a cattle skull. Beginners welcome.

The just-for-fun aspect of some pasture golf events is evident from the list of rules for the Second annual Cow Pasture Golf Classic in Brownwood, Texas (2010), which include: “Leave wildlife alone. Critters should not be bothered except for rattlesnakes and copperheads. Feel free pasturegolf 10to use your clubs on these (at your own risk). Bring your own ride (pickup, golf cart, mule, horse, or whatever).”
A list of “fun and affordable” pasture golf courses can be found at pasturegolf.com. pasturegolf 2The site is much less tongue-in-cheek about the pasture golf experience. “Golf as it was meant to be,” it claims, the courses are “the true link to the game’s grass roots.” Pasture golf pasturegolf 5shares elements of hickory golf’s philosophy of reverence for the game, but boasts a more blue-collar approach. Pasture golf courses might have normal-looking greens and tee boxes, but few other features of modern pasturegolf 3golf courses. Often players use old or thrift-store clubs due to the rough nature of the rough – and fairways. As pasturegolf.com quotes, “the fairways aren’t always fair, the greens aren’t always green, but the game is golf.”

FootGolf

And then there’s golf without clubs. Less than a decade old, a merging of golf and soccer materialized in various parts of the footgolf 1world. The game is played in parks and also on golf courses, using soccer balls propelled by nimble feet (without cleats!), generally following the rules of golf. The hole is a 21-inch cup, not located on regular golf greens, thus preserving the quality of the course. The American FootGolf League lists hundreds of courses in the USA (48 in California!). The sport’s enthusiasts point out that some participants are induced to take up golf after footgolf introduces them to the pleasures of golf courses.

A Federation for International FootGolf, now with 22 member nations, was organized in 2012, when the first FootGolf World Cup was held in Hungary.

Disc Golf
A further iteration of golf sans clubs is disc golf. I get the idea you shouldn’t call it Frisbee Golf. Frisbee is a trademarked name for the original throwing disc, manufactured by Wham-O (also the manufacturer of the hula hoop). Of discgolf1course, the object is to hurl or zip a plastic disc in as few throws as possible until a target, usually a chain basket, is struck. The origin of the game predates by decades the invention of the plastic disc, according to the Professional Disc Golf Association. Yes, there are professionals of the sport! Professional disc golfers use a bagful of discs, just as golfers have an array of clubs for different distances and challenges.
discgolf 2There is a disc golf hall of fame, national collegiate championships, national and world pro championships, with purses as high as $15,000.
Disc golf courses number in the thousands throughout the world, usually located in public parks, although care must be taken to ensure safety and tranquility for non-participants. Not a problem at the isolated and formidable Shale City/Frog Creek course, located on a forested mountainside near Ashland, Oregon. It is difficult to find, let alone navigate, and lost discs are common.
The PDGA maintains lists of courses, world and national player rankings, events, rules and standards, and publishes the quarterly DiscGolfer magazine.

Moongolf

moongolf 1Gearhart 200x200 final banner 2Moongolf is a form of golf that is out of this world.  As of yet, has been only one participant… astronaut Alan Shepard.

 

 

Jack Seybold
Jack Seybold, a teacher with an M.A. in linguistics, played college basketball, ran three marathons, and has published a novel, articles, and poems. In retirement he has appeared in over 25 theatrical productions at Talent’s Camelot Theater.
 

 

Predicting The Masters – The Game HAS Changed

Augusta National  Photo: www.masters.com
Augusta National
Photo: www.masters.com

Golf Writer, Keith Cook, discovers how much the game has changed when narrowing down the 2015 Masters field.

It started out as a research project to narrow the field and predict a 2015 Masters winner. A simple look at statistics . . . so I thought, until the data itself proved to me just how much the modern game of golf has changed.

DISTANCE DOMINATES

We’ve all heard how distance is dominating our modern game, so I started out by using what I thought was a good objective criteria – distance – to narrow the field. Augusta National is a long golf course so I chose what I felt was a lofty number and decided to narrow the field of 98 golfers by eliminating anyone who didn’t hit the ball at least 290-yards off the tee on average.

I expected this would narrow the field significantly and make my predicting a winner a little easier. However, after all the research, there were still 44 golfers left. Think about that number . . . out of a Masters field of 98 golfers, 44 of them hit the ball over 290-yards off the tee on average!

I knew distance was a big part of the modern game, but until these numbers, I never realized how much. Don’t get me wrong, I knew golfers were longer off the tee nowadays, but I still held out that some portion of professional golf wasn’t about 460cc’s and Trackman.

The reality of our modern game hit me at that moment. It is indeed a different game at the highest levels and the game HAS definitely changed! For better or worse isn’t really debatable, because the reality is, it is what it is . . . plain and simple.

SECOND CUT

I next narrowed the field of 44 down to 20 golfers by using the criteria of taking anyone off the list who was not in the Top 30 in the Official World Golf Rankings. Once again, the numbers may surprise you. Of the narrowed field of 44 golfers, who all hit the ball over 290-yards off the tee, 20 of them are inside the Top 30 in the world.

Distance it seems, is King, even to the point of correlation into the world’s top rankings. It could still be argued that putting is a larger factor between the guy who wins and the guy who takes second. However, right now it appears the majority of winners each week come from the pack of the world’s longest players and then it’s just a putting contest between those guys to see who happens to putt the best during the tournament.

But enough about the stats, because there is still a tournament to predict.

Also, I think I need to make my way to the store to search for a new driver!

PREDICTION

Phil Mickelson, Masters Champion (2004, 2006, 2010) Photo: Associated Press
Phil Mickelson, Masters Champion (2004, 2006, 2010)
Photo: Associated Press

From the field of 20, I used my first subjective category, simply who is playing “on form” right now. From the field of 20, I ended up with 12. Here are my top finishers from that list.

  • Phil Mickelson – Your 2015 Champion! On form, new putter in the bag, right-to-left (fade) dominate shot pattern off the tee, and he’s always “Phil the thrill” at Augusta.
  • Dustin Johnson – Seems to be a new man with the same old awesome talent. An overabundance of distance off the tee and a putter that is heating up.
  • Rory McIlroy – #1 in the world with literally the world watching to see if he can compete the Career Grand Slam. If anyone has a chance to accomplish the feat under the gun, McIlroy might just be the man who can do it.
  • Patrick Reed – The “shhhhh” man. A confident player with a heavy reliance on his right-to-left (draw) shot pattern. A pattern that won’t work well at many majors, but at Augusta National – money.
  • Bubba Watson – Always in the mix due to length off the tee and his ability to move the ball both ways into the required landing areas of the demanding greens at Augusta.
  • Jordan Spieth – Hot right now and playing great golf on the world’s top stages. His shot shape doesn’t exactly match Augusta off the tee, but his amazing short game makes him a favorite in any tournament he enters.
Tiger Woods Photo: PGATour.com
Tiger Woods
Photo: PGATour.com

**Tiger Woods** Tiger Woods announced on 3 April 2015, he will compete in the 2015 Masters. This is great news for the tournament and for the world of golf. As far as finishers, Tiger Woods is not in my favorites. What I hope however is that Tiger can come back, make the cut, and play four solid rounds of golf without having to withdraw/WD from the tournament for any physical reasons. As a fan, I believe this is a “success” and will be a tremendous first step in his comeback.

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BIO: Keith Cook has been a writer/blogger/contributing editor at localgolfer.com since 2013. He is a retired U.S. Military Veteran and Ashford University Graduate living in Michigan. Follow Keith and Local Golfer on Twitter @_KeithCook and @LocalGolfer.

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