Thursday, December 31, 2009

2010 Open Championship at St. Andrews

It is the last day of the year and clients are scrambling to close real estate transactions and take tax losses because of the federal tax law allowing businesses to offset losses in 2009 against gains in the prior 5 years and receive cash refunds for taxes paid in those prior years. In a simple example, if a homebuilder sells property with a basis of $2 million for $1 million, which is its fair market value today, it realizes a $1 million loss, but will receive approximately $360,000 as a tax refund from the federal government if it paid at least that much in taxes over the prior 5 years. Therefore, the homebuilder actually receives cash of $1.36 million and reduces its loss to $640,000. This creates a potential bonanza for investors or others that can buy properties at distressed prices, with possibly even a larger discount because of the tax benefits to the seller.

But back to important things like golf! While waiting to confirm that closing documents have been recorded and wire transfers have been received, I was looking at the Arizona Golf Association website and it has a trip from July 18-26, 2010 for up to 20 people to St. Andrews to see the final day of the 2010 Open Championship and then stay for 7 rounds of golf in Scotland, including the Old Course (by daily ballot), Carnoustie, Kingsbarns, The New, The Jubilee, The Dukes and the new Castle Course, including breakfast daily, three hosted dinners, first class 5-star accommodations at The Fairmont Hotel in St. Andrews, all land transportation by private luxury coach, valet and gratuities. This looks promising!

Monday, December 28, 2009

Festivus for the Rest of Us

This week is very busy with year-end closings, getting ready for my son's wedding and having family in town, so my golf game is suffering. I am going to try to get out and play sometime this week if my deals get done in time and the weather is reasonably good.

Since my children are the product of a mixed religion marriage, my son decided that we should celebrate "Festivus for the rest of us", which was popularized by the television show, "Seinfeld". Of course, in my family, we call the show "Kramer" (and we have a cat named "Cosmo")!

I cleaned up this year at "Festivus". In addition to some cool non-golf presents, I received

According to Ben Hogan, any golfer with average coordination can learn to break 80 if he applies himself intelligently. I am going to take Ben up on his challenge!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Selling My Car and Golf

I have been trying to privately sell my 2000 BMW 528i for almost one year! Previously, I bought used cars from the dealer and traded in my car. This time I bought a used car from a private party and had to sell my car myself. We listed the car in the auto trader magazines and once in a blue moon we would get a phone call or e-mail and when we returned the phone call or e-mail, the person never responded.

This week we finally had a real buyer! Mr. and Mrs. Canuck (this pseudonym was affectionately penned and approved by Mrs. Canuck) from Calgary, Alberta, Canada. They have a second home in the Valley of the Sun and wanted a car for Mrs. Canuck rather than renting one each time they came for vacation. When SO returned Mr. Canuck's phone calls or e-mails, he actually responded! Mr. and Mrs. Canuck came to the house to test drive the car and they were a very nice and friendly couple. Mr. Canuck and I hit it off right away because all he wanted to talk about was golf and I was right there with him. He told me that he lives about a 5-iron off of a certain street and I confirmed that he hits his 7-iron about 150 yards so I could calculate the exact location of his house (it is better than a GPS!). I showed Mr. Canuck the Giant and I think he was a little jealous. I complained about my poor putting and Mr. Canuck told me that he swears by the cross-handed (or left hand low) putting style and that it took 5 strokes off of his score.

I had never sold a car privately. Mrs. Canuck drove the car while I talked golf with Mr. Canuck. She loved the car. Then Mr. Canuck got in the car to test drive it and quickly asked his wife to come for the ride. Uh Oh! As the car left the driveway, SO and I looked at one another with the same panicked thought: "Mr. and Mrs. Canuck are con men (or to be politically correct, con persons) and we are never going to see the car again", followed by "Mr. and Mrs. Canuck are too nice to be con men; of course they seem nice dummy because they are con men!", followed by (putting on our attorney hats), "is it theft if we gave them the car keys?", followed by "is this covered by our automobile insurance or homeowners' insurance", followed by "how long do we wait before calling the police?" Luckily, Mr. and Mrs. Canuck actually were nice people and were back in the driveway in no time at all!

Mr. and Mrs. Canuck bought the car and I am going to play golf with Mr. Canuck and a potential business referral from Mr. Canuck when they are back in town during the Spring! Golf is the universal language!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Christmas Wish List

Christmas is coming up (I already missed Hanukkah) and I have given my golf gift list to SO who is distributing it to my children and other family members. My list is pretty mundane. It includes Titleist Pro V golf balls, a couple of golf books, gift certificates to the PGA Tour Superstore, an external battery charger for my blackberry (more about that in a later post) and maybe some golf training devices (no clothing!). Any of my followers should feel free to send me golf gifts as well.

However, in perusing some of the golf sites I have a few more ideas for only the most avid golfers. First, and best, is the uro club. The uro club looks like an ordinary golf club, but is actually a container to store urine if you have to pee on the golf course! It even has a built-in towel over the handle to be discrete. The uro club commercial is very funny. When I was playing with Ace at Arizona Country Club last week we drove up to a tee box and right in front of us, in the middle of the course, was an older gentleman relieving himself for all to see. This golfer needs a uro club for Christmas! For my followers that abide strictly by the "Rules of Golf", I wonder if you need to count the uro club as one of your allotted 14 clubs under Rule 4-4?(you need to scroll down the middle bar to get to the Rule.)

Another Christmas golf gift for the trailer trash golfer or the euro trash golfer is loudmouth golf clothing. This brand is endorsed by John Daly. Do I need to say more (that was a rhetorical question)? If so, other celebrity spokespersons are Jim McMahon, the former Chicago Bears quarterback, and Alice Cooper. PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem must cringe whenever he sees John Daly in loudmouth golf clothing (but the masses still love Big John!).

There are a number of other golf gag gifts (I bet you can't say that one 5 times fast!) including the Potty Putter, exploding golf balls, etc. that are stocking stuffers and are perfect for re-gifting or Secret Santa.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

The Tiniest Violin

Chad Feldheimer and I played the Legacy Golf Resort course today. The course was rated as one of the top 10 public golf courses to play in Phoenix by Golf Digest and The golf course was designed by Gary Panks, who designed a lot of the top public and private golf courses in Arizona, including Chaparral Pines, Firerock Country Club and the Talon Course at Grayhawk. It is a very "playable" course with wide fairways and very large greens, but it also has some well-placed and deep fairway and greenside bunkers and elevated greens that require you to carry the ball all of the way to the hole or risk the ball rolling back into the fairway off of the false fronts on the green. The course has great views of Camelback Mountain, Squaw Peak and the downtown Phoenix skyline.

Chad Feldheimer made me play from the "big boy" tees, which are over 6,900 yards. From the back tees, the golf course is a par-71 and has a course rating of 72.1 and a slope rating of 128. Our tee time was 8:44 a.m. and it was still brisk. I was dressed with long pants, a long sleeve rugby shirt and a jacket. The other locals were dressed similarly. The "snowbirds" and vacationers were dressed in shorts and short-sleeve shirts! By the turn, the weather warmed up to about 70 degrees, but there was still a breeze and it was a little overcast.

I was striking the ball really well. From tee to green I played very consistently and hit a lot of good shots. I hit 5 of 7 fairways and 4 of 9 greens in regulation on the front 9, but I had 21 putts (four 3-putts!) and shot a 48. Other than my putting, the hole that killed me was the par-3, 150 yard 7th hole. I hit what looked to be a nice tee shot but the ball rolled off of the false front of the green and into a monstrous greenside bunker with very little sand! I blasted out of the bunker and skulled the ball over the green into the desert brush, banged my club on the metal fence on my next shot and picked up for a triple bogey maximum 6 on the hole! If I have 18 putts and make par on the 7th hole I would have shot a 42 (Chad is playing the tiniest violin in the world for me)!

I continued to hit the ball well on the back 9, but still had problems scoring. I played bogey golf on the par-3s and par-4s, but was 4 over on the par-5s. The par-5s were long, but easily reachable in 3 strokes for me. That is where I should be making up strokes to bogey, not losing them! On the par-5, 580 yard 14th hole, I hit my third shot into the greenside bunker and took 2 shots to get out of the bunker for a 7 on the hole. On the par-5, 545 yard finishing hole, I hit my drive out of bounds and made a 7 on the hole. I did improve my putting and had 18 putts on the back nine for a 47 and a 95 for the round.

Chad was whining after shooting a 40 on the front 9 and going bogey-bogey-bogey to start the back 9, but then he caught fire and had back-to-back birdies on the par-5 14th hole and the par-3 15th hole and finished the back 9 with a 37 for a 6 over par 77.

Realistically, as well as I hit the ball tee to green, I could easily have shot an 85. After the round, Chad Feldheimer worked with me on my sand game at the practice facilities, but my confidence out of the sand is pretty low. If I can improve my play around the greens, I should be able to shave 5 or more strokes off of my score. I need to find a convenient short game practice facility to work on my game.

"I am such an Idiot" is running on-line surveys of the decades "best" putt, clutch shot, record setting performance, etc. A recent survey was the best "quote" of the decade and it brought back not-so-fond memories.

Phil Mickelson, one of my favorite golfers and an Arizona State University alumni, is nothing if not candid! Phil wears his emotions on his sleeve and is not afraid to show his feminine side. He is the anti-Tiger Woods. Sometimes Phil seems bored shooting a run-of-the-mill, unimaginative 68 or 69. Phil would rather try the spectacular shot and bogey the hole instead of hitting the mundane shot and parring the hole. But sometimes he just has a brain freeze (too much ice cream or something!).

The final round of the 2006 U.S. Open at Winged Foot in Mamaroneck, New York was his most dramatic brain freeze. After being known as "the best golfer to have never won a major championship" for quite some time, Mickelson finally broke through and won the 2004 Masters at Augusta National, the 2005 PGA Championship at Baltusrol Golf Club in Springfield, New Jersey and the 2006 Masters at Augusta National. He was playing for his third straight major championship win and was leading the U.S. Open on Sunday with one hole to play. Mickelson only needed a par on the 18th hole to win the championship. Amidst some gasps on the tee box, Mickelson pulled out his driver and promptly pushed his tee shot far left. Instead of pitching out into the fairway, Mickelson played an aggressive shot from the trees and clipped a tree branch only advancing his golf ball 25 yards. His third shot buried in the bunker and all of America buried its head. Mickelson double bogeyed the hole and lost the U.S. open by one stroke.

To Phil's credit, minutes after signing his scorecard, Phil spoke to a small group of reporters and said "I am such an idiot". Never had more honest words been spoken. Tiger Woods should take note of Phil's words. This is a great link, but if you only want to see the meltdown (and only watch NASCAR for the crashes) go to 3:30 of the video.

Phil Mickelson's meltdown at the 2006 U.S. Open brings back memories of the most inexplicable meltdown of our time, Jean van de Velde at the 1999 (British) Open Championship. If you follow this link, you may want to avert your eyes because it is so sickening!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Wow, Those Greens are Fast!

My friends and clients, Ace and Freddy invited me to Arizona Country Club to play golf. Arizona Country Club is nestled in a residential neighborhood at 56th Street and Thomas Road in central Phoenix. The club was established in 1946 and was probably on the outskirts of town at the time. Arizona Country Club hosted the Phoenix Open (alternating with Phoenix Country Club) from 1955 through 1973. Arnold Palmer was a three-time winner at Arizona Country Club and other notable champions include Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player.

The golf course is a typical midwestern course with a lot of grass and some trees bordering the fairways. The fairways were overseeded and cut very close, but the rough was not overseeded and is dormant bermuda grass. The distinction between the green fairways and wheat-colored dormant bermuda grass is very striking and pretty and also helps you to visualize the fairways. By not overseeding the rough, the club saves water during the winter months. However, what truly distinguishes the Arizona Country Club golf course is the greens. The putting surfaces are very large and undulating and the greens are lightning fast! If you hit the ball above the hole, three putts would not be unusual (this is known as foreshadowing). We teed off at 9 a.m. and it was overcast and a little windy. By the time we made the turn, the sun was out, the wind had died down and the temperature was in the high 60s or low 70s (in December!). This is why we live in Phoenix!

Ace has only been playing golf for a few years and last year she had a hole-in-one on the 130 yard, par-3 9th hole at Arizona Country Club. Ace has a beautiful swing, is methodical (or as she put it, OCD) and hits the ball right down the middle. She was the long driver all day long. Her husband, Freddy, also has a nice swing, but he does not play as much as Ace and likes to peek up on his swing.

Country Boy, Ace and Freddy's business partner, also joined our foursome. Country Boy has promised to take me to Paradise Valley Country Club forever, but I think he is embarrassed to be seen with me at his club! Country Boy plays a consistent big left-to-right fade (since he is a client I am going to give him the benefit of the doubt and not call it a slice) and is very good around the greens. He made some nice putts to save par or bogey during the round and he also made some great sand shots, but it was usually after he left the first sand shot in the bunker!

We played a rotating high-low game. We changed playing partners every six holes. In a high-low game, on each hole, each team's low score is compared against the opponent's low score and each team's high score is compared against the opponent's high score. So, if one team has scores of 4 and 5 on a hole and the other team has scores of 5 and 5, the first team gets a point for the low score (4 to 5) and the teams tie for the high score (5 to 5) and no point is awarded. This game can be played with or without handicaps.

We played the white tees at Arizona Country Club which are only 6,319 yards. The course rating is 69.9 and the slope rating is 124. I drove the ball great all day, long and straight (although it was disheartening to be continually out-driven by Ace!). I had one horrible tee shot on a par-3 that I hit out-of-bounds and made a six! On the same hole that Ace made the hole-in-one I hit the ball to about four feet from the hole and made a birdie 2. I shot a 45 on the front and a 45 on the back for a 90. I played much better than my score indicates. The greens killed me! Although I did not keep track, I bet that I three-putted at least five holes (and that was with generous gimmes!).

Two holes typified my round. On the par-5 480 yard 8th hole I hit a nice straight drive and then I hit my 1-hybrid pin-high about ten feet off the green in a swale below the hole. I am now cocky and thinking about a birdie. Rather than chipping the ball and risk chili-dipping or skulling the chip shot, I elected to use the Texas wedge and putt the ball to cozy it up to the hole for the tap-in birdie. Well, the ball rockets past the hole and off the other side of the green and I then three-putt for a bogey 6. Then, on the 401-yard par-4 14th hole, I hit a mediocre drive and was about 180 yards from the flagstick. I hit a beautiful high 4-hybrid shot that I thought was going to land softly on the green in birdie range. Instead it caught the lip of the bunker guarding the green. I blasted out of the bunker and three-putted again for a double-bogey 6!

However, as the old adage goes, the worst day on the golf course is better than almost any day in the office! I really enjoyed this course and I hope that I have another chance to go low!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Shark Shootout

With all of the talk about Tiger Woods, we forget that the other golfers on the PGA Tour are pretty good themselves! The Shark Shootout is one of those silly season team tournaments with two-man teams playing best ball, modified alternate shot and scramble formats over three rounds. The tournament is is hosted by Greg Norman and played at Tiburón Golf Club in Naples, Florida, a course that Norman designed. The two-man scramble was unbelievable! Jerry Kelly and Steve Stricker shot a 13 under par 59 in the scramble format to win the tournament (they shot 6 under par in the best ball format and 7 under par in the modified alternate shot format). Three of the other top-5 finishers also shot 59s. Chad Campbell and Tim Clark shot a 15 under par 57 to finish tied for second and Tim Clark had an ace on the 183-yard par-3 No. 12 hole.

To put this in context. When I play in four-man scramble charity events on much easier courses playing from the forward tees, a score of 57 on a par-72 course puts you at or near the top of the leaderboard, even when teams are stacked with low-handicap players. If the charity event includes scorekeepers and no mulligans on a reasonably difficult course, you have a better than even chance to win at 15 under par! After a PGA Tour professional sees the speed and putting line on any makeable eagle or birdie putt, the odds are that he will make the putt. With the amateurs, on a 15 foot putt, the "D" player will be of no help because he will misjudge the speed and line of the putt; the "C" player will be a little bit better, but not much; the "B" player will have a reasonable chance of finding the right speed and line, but will not make anywhere near half his putts from that distance; and the "A" player will have a 50/50 chance at best of holing the putt if given the correct read.

These guys are good! (even if Tiger is taking an indefinite leave from golf.)

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Eating Jim Crow!

When you are a hard-hitting journalist like me, sometimes you have to eat crow! The Heisman Trophy post is my second crow feast. But this will not stop me from taking tough positions in the future and telling it like it is!

Mark Ingram won the 2009 Heisman Trophy award in the closest balloting ever. He edged out Toby Gerhart by 28 points and Colt McCoy by 159 points. Congratulations to Ingram and my sympathies to the Tide and the "World Of" faithful because, I will go out on a limb again and say that, Mark Ingram will not be wearing Alabama crimson next year, but will be playing on Sundays in the NFL.

It is unbelievable that Ingram is the first Crimson Tide player to win the Heisman Trophy, but when you look back, the greatest Crimson Tide modern day (post-1960) skill position offensive players (and I am sure that this will create wide-spread controversy among the "World Of" even with all of those caveats) were Joe Namath, Kenny Stabler, Ozzie Newsome and Johnny Musso, in no particular order. Only Musso even made the top-5 Heisman Trophy candidates. Alabama has generally won football games on the defensive side of the football and as a team. Undeniably, the most famous person in Alabama football history was an end on the 1934 national championship team, Paul "Bear" Bryant (by the way the other end on that team was Don Hutson).

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Heisman Trophy

Today, like Tiger Woods, I am going to take an "indefinite leave from golf" and blog about another subject of which I know very little, college football and the Heisman Trophy. I do know that the Heisman Trophy was named after John Heisman, who coached Georgia Tech for 16 years in the early 1900s, and the only two-timer winner of the award is Archie Griffin, the great running back from Ohio State University, in 1974 and 1975. Other than being the namesake for the Heisman Trophy, John Heisman may be most famous for being the coach of the team that showed lousy sportsmanship and ran up the score on an out-manned Cumberland College football team 222 to 0.

As usual in this hard-hitting blog, I will not pull any punches or equivocate. Notwithstanding Colt McCoy's pitiful performance against Nebraska last week, Colt McCoy will win the 2009 Heisman Trophy because of his body of work over 4 years and because he is the quarterback of an undefeated Texas football team (he probably should have won last year). Also, you could not make up a better name for a Texas quarterback than Colt McCoy! The quarterback triumvirate of Tim Tebow, Sam Bradford and Colt McCoy each deserve one Heisman Trophy.

The other four candidates for the Heisman Trophy are Tim Tebow, Toby Gerhart, Mark Ingram and Ndamukong Suh. Each player brings something different to the Heisman Trophy discussion. Tebow won the award as a sophomore. This is his second opportunity to tie Archie Griffin as the only two-time winner of the Heisman Trophy. His numbers are almost as good as in his Heisman Trophy year, but Tebow spoiled Heisman voters and losing to Alabama probably doomed his chances. Tim Tebow is the best college football player and team leader that I have ever seen.

Being near the West Coast and watching a lot of Pac-10 football, I saw Toby Gerhart play a number of games. He is the California career high school rushing leader so he is no fluke! He is tough as nails, hard to bring down and deceptively fast. He had an unbelievable season, rushing for over 1,700 yards and 26 touchdowns, and if I had a vote for the Heisman Trophy he would be my choice.

Mark Ingram plays in the toughest football conference in America, the Southeastern Conference. If he stays at Alabama, he may ultimately win a Heisman Trophy but this is not his year. The "World Of" Alabama faithful should be happy if he does not win the trophy this year because it may give Nick Saban a way of enticing Ingram to stay another year.

I had no idea who Ndamukong Suh was before the Nebraska - Texas Big-12 Championship Game (which confirms my limited knowledge of college football). His performance against Texas, 12 tackles, 4½ sacks and 7 tackles behind the line of scrimmage, may have been the greatest single game by a defensive lineman ever in college football. He single-handedly almost beat Texas, which would have denied Texas a possibility at a national championship and doomed Colt McCoy's Heisman Trophy hopes. He will not win the Heisman Trophy because only one true defensive player, Charles Woodson, has ever won the trophy. He will, however, overcome this disappointment when he is the first player selected in the NFL draft in 2010.

P.S. While I am making unequivocal predictions, I predict that Tiger Woods will be back for the Masters in April 2010!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Rules of Golf - Playing the Ball as it Lies

Rule 13 of the "Rules of Golf" simply put, states that the golfer must play the ball as it lies, without modifying the course, except as otherwise provided in the Rules. You may not improve the position of your ball, your stance or the intended line of play, by moving or breaking tree limbs or bushes, replacing divots, or removing dew, frost or water. There are exceptions for moving a ball located on "ground under repair", teeing the ball and lifting and cleaning a ball on the green. One famous example of a PGA Tour player improving his stance involves Craig Stadler. At the San Diego Open at Torrey Pines in 1987, Stadler placed a towel under his knee so that his pant knee would not get wet as he kneeled to hit a shot from under a tree. See link. Stadler a/k/a "The Walrus", is not known as one of the better dressed players on the PGA Tour and this gaffe cost Stadler over $35,000 (in 1987!) when viewers called the PGA Tour and Stadler was disqualified.

As the Local Rules Committee I have modified Rule 13 slightly. Rule 13 is fine for the PGA Tour. The Tour courses are in pristine condition and when they are not, the course superintendent and the PGA Tour get an earful from the players. The fairways are like green carpets, the bunkers have the appropriate amount of sand and are perfectly raked and the putting surfaces are unblemished, with ball marks properly repaired and no spike marks. PGA Tour players get upset if a golfer walks on the "through-line"! (I had no idea what the through-line was until recently).

First of all, if you hit a shot in the fairway, you are entitled to have grass under your ball so if your ball settles on a bare spot in the fairway, you are entitled to roll the ball with your club onto a tuft of grass (you may not pick up the ball and clean it!). Not even the USGA or R&A should object to this Rule modification! This Local Rule is known as "winter rules" although I play it year-round and although we hardly have what a Northerner or Midwesterner would call "winter" in Phoenix.

A bit more controversial Local Rule is what I call the "Fluff the Lie Rule". This Local Rule permits a high handicap golfer (handicap to be negotiated but no less than my then current handicap) to fluff the lie within 5 yards from the fairway and 3 yards from the green. For a high handicap golfer to hit the ball within 5 yards of the fairway or within 3 yards of the green is a good shot. It is dispiriting to the high handicapper to hit a relatively good drive only to find that he can barely see the top of the golf ball and he will have to wedge the ball back into the fairway, or for the high handicapper to hit a good approach shot and need the strength of Tiger Woods and the finesse of Phil Mickelson to get the ball to, and then to stay on, the green. This is a golf course design or maintenance flaw! The high handicapper should not be penalized and by Local Rule is permitted to fluff his lie without penalty so that the ball is "sitting up" and he has a reasonable chance of contacting the ball with his club and advancing the golf ball up the fairway from the rough or onto the green from greenside.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

2009 Q-School

The third and final stage of the PGA Tour Qualifying School, the most grueling six rounds of golf on the PGA Tour, ended on Monday. The top 25 finishers and ties receive their PGA Tour card and are exempt from qualifying for most PGA Tour events for 2010. The medalist was Troy Merritt from Boise State, who played on the Nationwide Tour in 2009. Merritt shot 22 under par. Jeff Maggert finished second and will play his twentieth consecutive year on the PGA Tour. Rickie Fowler, the Oklahoma State All-American finished eleventh. Fowler almost made the top 125 money winners on the PGA Tour in 2009 playing only three events and probably would have been able to bypass the Qualifying School if the Viking Classic was not rained out in Mississippi!

The best story from the PGA Tour Qualifying School was J.P. Hayes. Last year in the last round of the second stage of the Q-School, Hayes first called a two-stroke penalty on himself because his caddie changed the type of golf ball he was playing during the round but he still made the cut to the third and final stage of the Q-School. However, Hayes later determined that the replacement ball he used was a prototype that was not yet approved by the USGA, he notified a PGA Tour official and was disqualified. This year (with a new caddie I assume), Hayes easily qualified for the 2010 PGA Tour finishing in a tie for eighth place.

Tom Pernice, Jr., Jonathan Kaye, Shaun Micheel, Tim Herron and David Duval all failed to qualify.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Golf Lingo - Part 3

From time to time, I am told that my posts get too technical for some of my followers and I need to tone down the golf jargon. Rather than "dumbing down" the blog, I am taking it upon myself to educate my followers so that they can "talk the talk" (and sometimes I just run out of ideas and this is a good fall back!). If you click on the phrase you will link to one of the posts in which the term was used:

"Bad Course Design Rule: A Local Rule determined by the Rules Committee (me) that provides if a golf hole is so poorly designed or "tricked out" due to the location of hazards or the inability to see potential hazards that are in play, any golfer that falls prey to such bad course design may drop a ball as if the hazard did not exist and play his next shot without taking a penalty stroke. This Rule may only be invoked with respect to potential hazards that cannot be seen but are in play the first time you hit into the hazard. After that, you are on notice of the hazard and must play according to the Official Rules of Golf.

Bogey Rating: The United States Golf Association's determination of the playing difficulty of a course for a bogey golfer under normal course and weather conditions.

Cart Path Only: Oftentimes when a golf course is very wet or after overseeding, the course superintendent will not permit the golfers to drive their golf carts on the fairway or even in the rough and require the golfers to keep the golf carts on the cart paths. Generally, in such cases, each player hits his drive as far from the cart path as possible and has to carry 4 or 5 clubs or his entire bag across the fairway to his golf ball (and invariably does not have the club he needs!).

Course Rating: The United States Golf Association determination of the playing difficulty of a course for a scratch golfer under normal course and weather conditions. It is based in part on the length of a course, the difficulty of the putting greens and other factors that affect a scratch golfer's scoring ability.

Cup: The cylinder located on the putting surface into which each golfer must hit the golf ball to complete the hole. The golf cup is 4.25 inches in diameter and 4 inches deep. Most of the time, it seems much smaller or it seems like there is an invisible cap on top of the cup. Every once in a long while the cup looks as big as a basketball net. Savor those moments!

Fort Worth Rules: Local Rules generally imposed when one golfer in a male foursome fails to hit his drive past the women's tees. In that case, the "short hitter" is required to play the remainder of the hole with his manhood hanging out of his pants. This confirms to the golfing gods that although the humiliated golfer could not hit his drive past the women's tees, he is, in fact, a man.

Greens in Regulation: The par score on each golf hole assumes that it will take two putts to complete the hole. Therefore, landing your ball onto the putting surface in one shot on a par-3 hole, in two shots on a par-4 hole, or in three shots on a par-5 hole means that you have hit the green in regulation and should score a par on the hole.

Local Rules: These are rules promulgated by the Rules Committee at each golf club that differ from the USGA Rules or R&A Rules generally due to course-specific conditions. For example, in Arizona many Rules Committees invoke the "desert rules", which permit a player to play a ball that is lost or lies in the desert as if the desert were a lateral water hazard, rather than risk a rattlesnake bite. See this link for some other very funny local rules.

Pin: The flagstick. According to, "pin" is a term used by amateurs! The flagstick is a pole placed in the golf cup to indicate the position of the hole on a green. Interestingly, there is no uniform height for the flagstick mandated by the Official Rules of Golf (since the USGA and R&A mandate everything else!). Today, many flagsticks include a reflector so that a golfer can determine the exact distance to the flagstick using a range finder device. Various other methods are used to help the golfer determine the location of the flagstick on the green. For example, some courses uses different color flagsticks to indicate whether the cup is in the front, middle or back of the green, oftentimes red, white and blue (at least in the United States).

Rules Committee or Committee: Under the Official Rules of Golf, the Rules Committee is the committee in charge of the competition or, if the matter does not arise in a competition, the committee in charge of the golf course. When you play with me, I am the "Rules Committee" (unless I am playing with Turtle and then he is the Rules Committee!).

Scramble: A scramble tournament format is oftentimes played at charity events. In a scramble, each player tees off on each hole. The best tee shots is selected and all players play their second shots from that spot. The best second shot is selected and all players play their third shots from that spot, and so on until the ball is holed into the cup. If there is no official scorekeeper the winning score in a scramble could be as low as 18 to 20 under par. If there is an official scorekeeper for some reason the scores are not quite as low! There are as many variations of the scramble format as their are variations of 7 card draw poker!

Skull: Also known as "blade" or "thin" is when a golfer hits the golf ball with the leading edge of the iron, rather than the face of the club, causing the golf ball to fly on a low trajectory with little or no spin and to travel farther than desired.

Slope Rating: A uniform methodology for determining the difficulty of a golf course based on the following formula: Bogey Rating minus Course Rating multiplied by (5.381 men, 4.24 women).

Snowman: A score of 8 on a golf hole, probably because an eight looks a lot like a snowman. Golfers are nothing if not literal!

Tap-in Putt: Also known as a "gimme". A putt that the other players agree can count automatically without actually being played on the assumption that the golfer would make the putt. Also, in match play, if the other golfer has already won the hole, he may concede a longer putt because it does not affect the match. Generally, I do not wait for my opponent to concede the putt, I just take it!

I hope that this post will be helpful the next time you are on the golf course or you are sitting around the living room listening to Saturday Night Live spoof Tiger Woods!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Conquering Encanterra!

Sunday was overcast, drizzly and cold! It was not Arizona chamber of commerce weather! I had made arrangements to play at Encanterra, a Trilogy Country Club, in Queen Creek, Arizona. As I left my house at 7:15 in the morning in the cold and dark I was thinking to myself "what am I doing?" When I got off of the freeway and it started to rain I had visions of "World Of XXVI - Biloxi, Mississippi"! When I got to the club, the rain had stopped, but the temperatures were hovering in the lows 40s. We teed off at 9 a.m. and it was cold and drizzly, but I soon forgot about the weather because I was striping the ball!

We played the burgundy tees, which are 6,734 yards with a course rating of 71.9 and a slope rating of 125. Because the fairways were a little wet, we did not get a lot of role on our drives and the rough was so thick that it was hard to even find your ball and even harder to dig it out of the rough. I started off par, par, bogey, par through 4 holes. I had four bogeys and one par on the last 5 holes for a 41 on the front 9. I drove the ball down the middle of the fairway and hit about half the greens in regulation (Encanterra has some of the largest greens you have ever seen. I had to use my driver instead of my putter on one of the greens!). I had a lot of tap-in pars and no double-bogeys!

My SO downloaded the GolfLogix GPS software application onto my blackberry. It cost $40 for an annual subscription fee. When I got to the first hole, my blackberry showed the distance to the front and back of the hazards and to the front, middle and back of the green. It also allows you to keep track of your score, fairways hit, greens in regulation, putts, penalty strokes, etc. and it can track your club distances. I could read most of the information without putting on my reading glasses, which is helpful for those of us over 40 (OK, 50!). On the negative side, I was not able to get the club tracker to work (but I only tried it for one hole), it takes too long to update distances once you are at your ball and only measures to the front, middle and back of the green and not to the pin itself, and after four hours my blackberry ran out of juice because the application is running over the internet!

On No. 10, I hit my drive into the middle of the fairway and skulled a 9-iron over the green and made double-bogey. I made a great up-and-down for a tap-in par on the par-3 11 th hole. On the par-5 13th hole, I hit a long drive in the middle of the fairway and then topped my 1-hybrid into a deep bunker. I hit my third shot to about 80 yards and skulled a sand wedge over the green and made a snowman! On the par-4 17th hole, I hit my second shot to eight feet from the pin and had a brain freeze on the birdie putt and hit it 6 feet past the hole and missed the putt coming back for a bogey! I parred the par-5 18th hole for a 47 on the back nine and an 88 for the day! Although my score could have been a lot better I was very happy and I went home to take a hot shower and watch the Cardinals vs. Vikings on Sunday night football and the Suns vs. Lakers basketball game. The perfect Sunday!

Roll Tide!

Congratulations to the "World Of" Crimson Tide fans. The Alabama Crimson Tide rolled over the Florida Gators 32-13 and the game was not as close as the score indicates! Alabama manhandled Florida at the point of attack, both offensively and defensively. Carlos Dunlap, Florida's best pass rusher, was suspended after being arrested on drunken-driving charges Tuesday, but it would not have made a difference. Alabama was on a mission! Mark Ingram and Greg McElroy played great games and Nick Saban's defense stifled Tim Tebow, maybe the greatest college player of all time. Alabama ran 71 plays to 49 for Florida. Alabama rushed for over 250 yards and had a 40 minute to 20 minute time of possession advantage. It was a complete beat down!

Texas squeaked by Nebraska 13-12 and almost lost the game on a boneheaded play by Colt McCoy. With seven seconds remaining and the Longhorns in field goal position to win the game and with one remaining timeout, McCoy takes the snap, rolls right and when he cannot find a receiver heaves the ball out of bounds. The clock does not stop until the ball hits the ground and initially the clock showed "0:00" but the replay showed the ball hit the ground with one second or less on the clock and Texas was given another play and kicked the game-winning field goal.

Alabama will play Texas in the national championship game in Pasadena, California. Roll Tide!

Friday, December 4, 2009

Second Chances?

Everything is eerily quiet on the Tiger Woods front today. Tiger's attorneys must be negotiating the amendments to the pre-nuptial agreement with Elin's attorneys and the non-disclosure agreements with the girlfriends. Hopefully, no more girlfriends come out of the woodwork. No matter what, the "Tiger Affair" will not go away until Tiger and Elin, together, sit down with a friendly media personality on national television and tell their story. Tiger's sanitized public relations posts on his website are not cutting it for his fans and sponsors.

I had an opportunity to play with my friend the Joker in a charity golf scramble today for Habitat for Humanity at the Raven at South Mountain but work got in the way. The scary part was that I would have been the "A" player in the foursome! I have never shot over par in a 4-man scramble, but this could have been a first. The Joker is on the board of directors of the Habitat for Humanity Central Arizona affiliate. Habitat for Humanity helps families of low and moderate incomes become homeowners by building and partnering in the creation of affordable housing. The Habitat for Humanity Central Arizona affiliate has built more than 740 homes in the metropolitan Phoenix area since inception.

We are having a cold spell in Arizona. The temperature this morning at 6:30 a.m. on my way to work was 37 degrees! It warmed up to the mid-60s by mid-day, which is bone-chilling for us. The Joker e-mailed me from the charity golf tournament telling me that there were frost delays this morning!

This weekend I am revisiting the site of one of my recent debacles hoping to tame the Encanterra golf course. After my final seven holes at the Wigwam Gold Course last weekend I have a positive attitude and I am expecting great results! But see Albert Einstein's definition of "insanity" in "Rules of Golf - Ball Lost or Out of Bounds".

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Tiger's Reputation - R.I.P.

The "World Of" e-mails have been flying over the last couple of days about the "Tiger Affair". I have been given permission by Smooth (the man in charge unless Turtle decides that he wants to be in charge) to re-print excerpts from the e-mail flurry. Normally, the e-mail traffic is sarcastic and sardonic. The heartfelt depth of concern and legal analysis of these e-mails, however, is stunning. There is a sense of pathos and despair about our heroes and their human frailties and a yearning for the golf gods of yore like Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer and Tom Kite!

Now for the legal disclaimer: the opinions expressed in the e-mails do not constitute legal advice and neither Tiger Woods nor anyone else should rely upon this advice for Tiger's specific fact situation or any similar fact situation. Each fact pattern is different and if you find yourself in a pickle like the "Tiger Affair" you should immediately contact your criminal attorney and your publicist or spin control expert, and most importantly your domestic relations attorney that prepared your pre-nuptial agreement. I am sure that any "World Of" participant would be happy to accept Tiger Woods as a client so long as he pays an appropriate retainer.

The following e-mails were written on December 1, 2009 before Tiger came clean about his "transgressions":

Smooth: I do think that Tiger is getting bad advice and is screwing this up. If he had an affair, then he needs to step up and deal with it. If the accident followed a big fight with Elin, he needs to say so. But for his accident, he might have been able to say that the Enquirer is the Enquirer, and let me have my "Privacy." But now, the media will not go away until Tiger speaks. [Editor's Note: Sometimes your best advice is the first thing that pops out of your mouth!]

The Mouth: I agree that he has gone with a difficult strategy, but am not ready to say he is screwing it up ... Now that the FHP is closing their case, the refusing to cooperate with the authorities and the this could lead to serious charges/Court scrutiny angles go out the window... When she [Rachel Uchitel] finally decides to "open up" and she almost assuredly will, he can then decide whether to "come clean" or to continue to play the well-being and privacy of his family card ... At least this way, he has not yet lied to the public about what happened and it is always the lying -- not the mistake that led to the lie -- that the public will not forgive. Way too early to grade the keep quiet strategy in my opinion. [Editor's Note: The Mouth is playing it close to the vest like a good litigation defense attorney.]

Cameo: The Mouth makes a good case -- some real bad facts that El Tigre is dealing with -- hard to imagine Tom Kite getting chased by his wife with a 2 iron. [Editor's Note: Another litigation defense attorney managing client expectations and deflecting with humor.]

The following e-mail was written on December 2, 2009 after one of his girlfriends went public but before Tiger's mea culpa:

Smooth: You know, I think you are right. His best move may be to try to stay quiet.

However, the media will not go away. And it may be getting worse. This morning, there were several articles about another affair Tiger had with a waitress from CA. [I need to shut off this Google news feed.] The reports talk of 300 sext messages and a voice mail where Tiger asks the woman to take her name off her voice mail because Tiger's wife might be calling her.

On the one hand, with more stories like this, it might be easier for Tiger to say "ignore those lies." On the other hand, if there is truth to one or more of the affair stories, his endorsement deals have to be at risk. [Editor's Note: How many hands does Smooth have? This is the legal analysis known as "waffling", practiced by all great lawyers.]

Will Nike, Gatorade, American Express and TAG Heuer all keep him under contract AND continue to pay him at the same rate (he made $100 mm in 2007)? Compare this situation to Kobe Bryant. While an affair and a rape are not the same thing, I think Kobe lost all of his $20 mm in endorsement deals after his indictment. Also, golf is not like basketball or football. There are not many Iverson-like characters in the game of golf (save our buddy BIG John). You are selling to an older, more conservative demographic. [Editor's Note: As a Georgetown graduate, I take umbrage at the Iverson slight!]

In response to Cameo's comment, I have to agree that El Kitee would never get himself in this situation. But, had he had the Lasik and removed those glasses when he was in his svelte prime, who knows . . .

The following e-mails were written on December 2, 2009 after Tiger's press release:

Arnie: He would've been better off coming clean quickly, but he not only doesn't have a good story to tell, the story isn't written yet. Don't you think he and Elin are in negotiations now? He can't say much until things have stabilized between them. [Editor's Note: See "Tiger Woods - The Fire Hydrant Cover Up!"]

If the string of infidelity is true, it obviously is sad for the family. It also is surprising to me that even someone as remarkably disciplined and controlled as Tiger evidently couldn't control that part of his life. I hope it doesn't hurt golf too much--he's been a very good ambassador for the game. It may be that if the full extent of the problem is infidelity--and not things like domestic abuse--he can come clean and be forgiven. It never seemed to hurt Jordan's popularity. Maybe Smooth's basketball v. golf distinction explains that, but I'm not sure. You wonder if this is going to lead to a closer look into "life on the tour." I'd be surprised if there aren't plenty of racy stories out there. Wasn't Arnie a big ladies' man? Sure hope Jack was clean. [Editor's Note: I hate it when "World Of" Arnie gets all sappy!]

Smooth: Both Arnie and Jack (like JFK in the same era) played around.

Finally, discipline is one thing; fidelity is another; and stupidity is yet a third. How did Tiger think that he could keep this stuff a secret? Voice mail? 300 sexts ...? [Editor's Note: Smooth -- The Bill O'Reilly of the "World Of".]

Monday, November 30, 2009

Tiger Woods - The Fire Hydrant Cover Up

The bloggers and pundits have already beaten the Tiger Woods fire hydrant incident to death so I almost hate to continue the discussion, but my followers are demanding my insightful commentary. It is like shooting fish in a barrel.

Although I have not been keeping up on the minute-by-minute updates, Tiger finally got some good legal advice and provided the police with his driver's license, registration and proof of insurance as required by Florida law, but would not discuss the incident with the police. The police are now attempting to obtain a search warrant for Tiger's medical records to determine whether the facial lacerations are consistent with an automobile accident or domestic abuse. Even if there is some basis to the allegations of domestic abuse, Tiger and Elin have spousal privilege, meaning that neither can be forced to testify against the other. Don't the police in Windermere, Florida have anything better to do with their time than pursue this case? While celebrities sometimes are given a free ride by the police, other times they are treated more harshly than John Q. Public because of the publicity that can make a detective's or prosecutor's career or simply as a high-profile example.

Tiger has already announced that he will not be participating this week in the the Chevron World Challenge that benefits the Tiger Woods Foundation and that he will not return to the PGA Tour until February 2010. No big surprise there!

Tiger stands to lose a lot of money with respect to his current sponsorship agreements (not to mention future sponsorship opportunities). Most sponsorship agreements include a "morals clause" that permits the sponsor to terminate the agreement if the celebrity commits a felony or an act of moral turpitude that the sponsor believes will negatively impact its brand or the value of the celebrity as a spokesperson. An extra-marital affair may or may not rise to that level. Even if the sponsor does not want to terminate the sponsorship agreement it may have no choice if it believes that acting otherwise would be seen as condoning Tiger's extra-marital affair, if true.

Kobe Bryant set the bar a few years ago for adultery/rape when he apologized to his wife with a 4-carat diamond ring. What Christmas present do you think Tiger will be giving his wife this year? Kobe Bryant has done a remarkable job of rehabilitating his reputation after his problems in Colorado. What is so remarkable about Kobe is that he was not well-liked by the public before the incident and somehow he is now loved! Kobe quickly and publicly accepted blame for his transgressions (although he continues to claim that the sex was consensual), asked his wife and the public for forgiveness and has been a model husband and citizen ever since (as far as we know).

The lesson is so clear. From the beginning of time (or at least since Richard Nixon, Watergate and Deep Throat), the cover-up is generally worse than the crime! The quicker that Tiger can put this incident behind him and move on the better for him, his wife and children and the PGA Tour. If he had an extra-marital affair with Rachel Uchitel, admit it, give Elin the very large diamond, show contrition, ask the public and media for privacy to heal the marital wounds and move on. The longer this media circus continues, the worse it will become for Tiger Woods and his family and his cherished privacy.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Taming the Monster

I have wanted to play the Gold Course at the Wigwam Golf Resort and Spa since I came to Phoenix. I have played in a lot of charity golf tournaments at the Wigwam but I generally end up playing on the Blue Course or Red Course instead of the famous Gold Course, also known as "Arizona's Monster". So I was really looking forward to playing golf today. On Saturday a cold front moved through the Valley and the temperatures dropped into the low 60s and it was overcast with a few drizzles. The weather report for Sunday was not promising, but it turned out to be an Arizona Chamber of Commerce golf day. Temperatures were in the high 60s to low 70s (not my score!), the sky was blue and the air was clear and you could see forever.

In 1916, Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company bought 16,000 acres west of Phoenix (in what is now known as Goodyear and Litchfield Park, Arizona) to cultivate pima cotton because the cotton extended the tread life of its tires. The company built some living quarters for its visiting executives and sales representatives. In November 1929, right after the great stock crash, "The Wigwam" officially opened its doors as a guest ranch with enough rooms for 24 guests, including the original living quarters. Today, the Wigwam, located in Litchfield Park, Arizona, has 331 guest rooms and three championship golf courses, including the Robert Trent Jones Sr. - designed Gold Course. The Gold Course was built in the 1960s and was supposed to be Jones' west coast version of the South Course at Firestone Country Club in Akron, Ohio.

The Gold Course is nicknamed "Arizona's Monster" because it is 7,400 yards from the Monster tees. Chad Feldheimer and I played from the Championship tees, which is a 6,830 yard, par-72 layout. From the Championship tees, the course has a course rating of 72.3 and a slope rating of 130. The four par-5 holes are 533 yards, 575 yards, 590 yards and 522 yards so there are no "easy" birdie holes. We played with Vern, a community bank executive, and Larry, a sales representative for a cab company.

Chad was three over par on the front 9. I triple-bogeyed the 2nd hole and double-bogeyed the 9th hole and had seven bogeys for a 48 on the front 9. I triple-bogeyed the par-5 10th hole and double-bogeyed the par-3 11th and was contemplating a score of 100! Then I caught magic in a bottle! I had five pars and two bogeys on the last 7 holes for a 43 on the back 9 and a 91 for the round. Chad shot another ho-hum 39 0n the back 9 for a 78.

I drove the ball straight and reasonably long all day. The course was wet so some of my drives plugged in the ground and did not roll. Chad Feldheimer even complimented me on my set-up to the ball, which is unusual for Chad (or maybe there generally are no bases for compliments). On the front 9 and 10 and 11, I was pulling my iron shots and leaving my putts short. The greens were a little shaggy and wet so you really needed to hit the putts to get them to the hole. Beginning on the 12th hole, I hit 5 of 6 fairways (there was one par-3 hole) and I either hit 6 of 7 greens in regulation or I was on the fringe putting. I had 3 or 4 reasonable opportunities for birdie, but did not make one putt over 5-6 feet. I bogeyed No. 18 after hitting probably my best approach shot of the day, a 190-yard 4-hybrid with the wind that was headed right for the pin, bounced on the green and rolled off of the back of the green.

I am starting to feel like I am making some progress with my game. It is probably time to have another lesson with Bob or Will, and start over from scratch again!

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Tiger Woods - The Fire Hydrant

Sometimes it is great to be Tiger Woods; sometimes it just stinks! The lead story on ESPN SportsCenter and sports talk radio this Thanksgiving holiday weekend was Tiger's car accident. By this time, everyone knows the basic storyline. Page 6 of The New York Daily News and the National Enquirer posted stories about an affair between Tiger and Rachel Uchitel, the VIP manager of a New York night club. Tiger backs his Cadillac SUV out of his driveway at 2:30 a.m. Friday morning and hits a fire hydrant right next to the driveway and careens into a tree on his neighbor's property. His wife, Elin, rushes out of the house with a golf club (ironic!) and breaks the back window of the car and drags him out of the car where he is found with a bloody lip slipping in and out of consciousness when the police and ambulance arrive. Allegedly, alcohol was not a factor in the accident.

All of the other bloggers are wondering what he was doing leaving the house at 2:30 in the morning, assuming he was not heading over to Isleworth Country Club (this link takes a long time to load) to hit a bucket of balls. The conspiracy theorists are questioning whether his wife scratched him or hit him in the face and then chased him out of the house with a golf club because the injuries are not consistent with a fender bender accident. Bloggers are questioning why it took almost twelve hours for the police to report the accident and why the 911 call still has not been released. Where were the private security guards? None of the inner circle is talking.

I have a different spin on the "accident".

First of all, I am not putting any credence in the affair story! Check out Elin Nordegren Woods and Rachel Uchitel and you tell me whether Tiger would risk his marriage, his perfect image and some of his millions for Rachel Uchitel!

Second, what happened to the OnStar system in Tiger's Cadillac SUV? Did Tiger choose not to renew his annual subscription after Buick and Tiger "amicably terminated their sponsorship relationship". Or is there an On-Star recording? Operator: "Mr. Woods, are you OK? Do I need to call for an ambulance? Tiger Woods: Call the cops, my wife is trying to kill me with a golf club!"

Third, I know that General Motors and Buick no longer sponsor Tiger, but this is a great opportunity for the other SUV manufacturers to spoof General Motors and Cadillac. The commercial could open with the camera panning to a Tiger Woods look-a-like running out of his mansion to his Cadillac SUV with a gorgeous blonde chasing him with a golf club. He backs out of his driveway at 5 miles per hour and hits a fire hydrant, the air bag does not deploy, the On-Star system does not work, the fire hydrant starts shooting water like Old Faithful and the rear fender falls off of the SUV. The commercial ends with a voice over: "Cadillac Escalade - Solid, Dependable, Built to Last ... Like Tiger's Driver."

Fourth, did you see the location and color of the fire hydrant! That fire hydrant is awfully close to the driveway. I am surprised no one hit it previously. Also, what happened to the standard-issue yellow fire hydrant? That teal and silver thing is awfully gaudy. You would think in a gated community with multi-million dollar homes the fire hydrant would be less obtrusive (You may not believe this but there is an entire website dedicated to fire hydrants,, and it includes a collectors' club and an e-mail list that you can join!).

Finally, the Chevron World Challenge at Sherwood Country Club in Los Angeles begins this week. Tiger is the tournament host and there are only 18 golfers. The tournament benefits the Tiger Woods Foundation and its Tiger Woods Learning Center youth education facility. I wonder whether Tiger is going to play in the tournament and deal with the media or skip the tournament and hope that the "fire hydrant incident" calms down by the time he returns to the PGA Tour in February 2010?

Friday, November 27, 2009

Even for Life

Work was getting in the way of my blogging this week! Also, I had writer's block. I now realize how hard it is to write a daily column or daily blog! It is really difficult to come up with enough interesting and relevant material and to try to be funny at the same time when you are not naturally funny!

Today, I played golf at the Arizona Biltmore Golf Club. The Arizona Biltmore Golf Club is a daily fee golf course. It has a tee time agreement with the historic Arizona Biltmore Hotel (but is not otherwise affiliated with the hotel) and is located within the Arizona Biltmore subdivision at 24th Street and Missouri Avenue in central Phoenix. Other than the location, the course is nothing special. We played the Links Course, which is only 6,300 yards and a par-71 from the back tees, with a course rating of 69.5 and a slope rating of 125. I am not a big fan of this golf course because it is overpriced and not very customer-friendly, but today all of the employees were friendly and very customer-oriented. Isn't it interesting to see how a recession brings out the best in the service industry!

I played with Digger, and Fred Flintstone and his son Bamm-Bamm. I know I am mixing my cartoon characters, but this is a perfect pseudonym! Bamm-Bamm is now a college freshman. I have known him since he was a baby. He was always a tenacious little athlete, as well as a very good student and an all-around good kid. At 14, he was about 5'4" tall and 125 pounds. He was a slick-fielding, punch and judy hitting second baseman, bats left, throws right. Now, he is 6'2" tall and 185 pounds and playing Division 1 college baseball. He hit a grand slam home run in the fall black and white intra-squad game. But, his golf game leaves something to be desired! He hits the driver 275+ yards with a lot of hang time, but is erratic, and that is the best part of his game! It is all downhill from there. His wedge play and putting embarrass even me! We play "even for life" so that we do not have to worry about USGA Handicap Index, course rating, bogey rating or slope rating. We just tee it up and rip it! It is like taking candy from a baby!

We played a two-man, total score game. Fred Flintstone and Digger were teamed against Bamm-Bamm and me. I was conflicted because of my "even for life" grudge match with Bamm-Bamm. Fred shot a one-over 36 on the front nine and Digger was playing as well as I ever saw him play, so after 6 holes Bamm-Bamm and I waved the white flag and we changed teams to Fred and Bamm-Bamm versus Digger and me. Digger finished the front nine with a 45 and Bamm-Bamm and I made the turn at an ugly 48! There was a lot of trash talking and I lost my concentration and wasted a lot of shots around the green.

On the back-nine, which is longer and more difficult, I shot a 43 with 2 pars, seven bogeys and no double-bogeys. Fred Flintstone could not sustain his great play on the front 9 and shot a 42 on the back 9. Digger, now that he was my partner, shot a 52 and Bamm-Bamm shot a 48. Bamm-Bamm was down four holes on our "even for life" bet after No. 15 and pressed the bet and I beat him like a drum on both bets for $2 and pride (I lost the other 4 bets)! I made some really nice up-and-downs and almost chipped in for birdie on No. 15, which is the signature hole. No. 15 is a 183 yard, par-3, that plays 165 yards due to the elevation and looks directly at Camelback Mountain. Bamm-Bamm informed us that just above the elevated tee box is the lover's lane for local teenagers. I wonder if my kids knew that!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Golf GPS Devices

Although I apply certain unusual local rules as determined by the Committee (me) when I play golf, such as the "hidden-in-plain-sight rule", I am a traditionalist when it comes to stepping off distances and club selection. For some weird reason, I enjoy finding the sprinkler heads and walking the distance from the sprinkler head to my ball and calculating the distance from my ball to the pin. I have gotten to the point where my golf stride is almost exactly one yard. However, it is frustrating when you can't find a sprinkler head, the sprinkler head does not have a plate with the distance, or the numbers on the sprinkler head plate are unreadable, or the course is playing "cart path only" and your ball is on the far side of the fairway from the cart path and you need to take your entire golf bag to your ball. When playing "cart path only" I purposely try to hit my drives on the side with the cart path!

On the other hand, I would much rather play a round of golf in 3 1/2 hours, rather than 4 1/2 hours, and hand-held golf laser range finders and GPS systems and cart-mounted GPS systems are time-saving devices. I knew when the U.S. Government and military installed global positioning satellites (GPS) that we would find an important use for them! GPS systems and range finders not only provide information as to distance to the pin, but also lay-up distances and distances to hazards. In addition, the individually owned devices can store all kinds of personal information regarding your historical scores, the distance that you actually hit each club (not how far you think you hit it!), your USGA Handicap Index, etc. You can now get a GPS system uploaded to your blackberry! Although having a range finder or GPS system is similar to a professional golfer with a caddie, I thought that the up-tight USGA and R&A would not permit this technology under its Rules. In this case, I was only partially correct!

Every other year, the USGA and R&A, golf's ruling bodies, issue new decisions, revise previous decisions or withdraw previous decisions based on thousands of interpretive requests throughout the world. In another post, I will discuss some of the more bizarre rulings, but back to the issue at hand. The 2006-2007 Decisions book allows a Committee to permit the use of golf GPS and golf range finders by Local Rule. This applies to devices that measure distance only, not any other conditions that might affect a player's play (e.g., wind or gradient). In the absence of such a Local Rule, the use of a golf GPS or golf range finder is not permitted. New Decision 14-3/0.5.

My SO has talked about buying me a golf GPS or range finder. If my followers have any thoughts on the best deals let me know. Keep in mind that I am not the most technologically savvy person in the world and I already have way too many swing thoughts when I am playing golf so KISS (keep it simple stupid) is a good motto for me. Don't worry; I won't make any final decision until I have gotten input from the Curmudgeon!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Progress - Baby Steps

I was very excited today. I played at Phoenix Country Club. I was anxious when I arrived, concerned that all of the Club members read my post, "Gentlemen Only, Ladies Forbidden" and I would be blackballed (if that is a politically correct term). I entered through the side door to the golf pro shop rather than through the newly renovated main entrance to the Club. After getting a number of congratulatory slaps on the back about the post (not really), I hit some balls on the range and I was ready to play.

My member friend, "Fred Flintstone" is one of my closest friends. He is one of those guys that you love to be around because he is so inclusive (not in a diverse way) and makes each person feel like he or she is an integral part of the event, party or just hanging out watching TV. He is also a heck of a good golfer and athlete. His USGA Handicap Index is 6.8, but he does not play very often and his last 20 scores include scores that go back to 2000 (when he was much younger and more flexible and never missed a putt inside five feet!). He was a high school and college pitcher and, although I never saw him pitch, I am sure he was one of those pitchers that did not throw very hard, but never walked a batter, fielded his position well, had a good pick-off move, could lay down a sacrifice bunt and was just fundamentally sound. Fred is one of the smartest business persons and one of the best husbands, fathers and friends that I know. I have learned a lot of business and life lessons from him over the years. He and I (and his wife, Wilma) met over 20 years ago when I joined the board of directors of Chrysalis Shelter for Victims of Domestic Violence, a women's domestic violence shelter. We used to hold our board meetings at Fred and Wilma's home.

The Phoenix Country Club golf course was the home of the PGA Tour's Phoenix Open from 1932 to 1986 (except for a few early years when the tournament was not played) before it moved to the Tournament Players Club in Scottsdale. The Club is located in the middle of downtown Phoenix. The course is 6,764 yards from the black (back) tees with a course rating of 72.4 and a slope rating of 129. The Club was having a member-guest tournament in the afternoon so the tees were back as far as they can go and the pin placements were tough! The course was overseeded about seven weeks ago and it was in beautiful shape and the greens were fast, running at about an 11 on the stimpmeter. Putts that would normally cozy up to the hole for a gimme, were running four or five feet past the hole. I heard a lot of "there's still some meat on that bone" from Fred. We walked the course and I carried my bag. I have not done that since I was in my mid-20s! It was a lot of fun.

Because I know my followers are dying to know my score, I shot a 94, with a 46 on the front 9 and a 48 on the back 9. Fred shot an 85 and did not play his best golf. I am not sure if he did that to let his client beat him (one of those life lessons) or he had an off day. Although I did not score that well I was generally pleased with my play for the first time since I began blogging. I felt a lot more comfortable on the tees and hit my driver fairly well. I had a number of high, drawing drives in the 250+ range and in the fairway, although I still had a few duck hooks when I swung too quickly and two painful push slices when I did not get through the shot. I parred the 1, 2 and 3 handicap holes, a 457-yard par 4, a 460-yard par 4 and a 425-yard par 4! I missed a five footer for birdie on the number 1 handicap hole. But I only had two other pars! On a number of holes I was pitching or chipping from off of the green and it took me four more shots to get the ball in the hole, for triple bogey! I still need a lot of work on my short game and getting up-and-down! On 18, a 527-yard par 5, there was an old tree along the right side of the fairway with large branches hanging close to the fairway. I hit my driver right "on the screws" and I knew that it was going to nicely draw into the fairway about 250 to 260 yards down the middle (Fred may have a different recollection of this shot, but don't believe him!). Instead, I heard the dreaded sound of a golf ball hitting solid wood and then I felt the panic of having no idea where the ball landed. I employed the "you should not get over-penalized for a good shot due to bad course design" rule, took my penalty stroke but dropped the ball about 200 yards down the fairway (but in the rough) and finished the hole dragging my bag behind me.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Hit It, Alliss!

In response to yesterday's "Golf Lingo - Part 2" post, one of my politically incorrect male followers sent me an off-line commentary chiding me for being too sensitive and not controversial enough. He thought I should upset my female followers by explaining golf lingo such as "hit it, Alice!" or "does your husband play golf too?" or "you got that caught in your girdle".

I always assumed that the "Alice" in "Hit it, Alice" referred to Alice Kramden, Jackie Gleason's wife from the "Honeymooners". Actually, the Curmudgeon, the master of minutiae, told me (and I have since confirmed from other world wide web sites) that the origin of this phrase to the chagrin of every politically incorrect male golfer is from Peter Alliss, the well-known BBC television golf commentator. Alliss was a very fine golfer and played professional golf in Europe for over 20 years, but his putter was his nemesis. When he hit his putt short or missed a short putt because he did not put a good stroke on the ball, he could be heard saying to himself, "Hit it Alliss!"

Over the years, male golfers that disparage female golfers for their lack of power bastardized this slur to "Hit it, Alice" or "Nice shot, Alice" or "That's half way to the cup, Alice", assuming that "Alice" was being used as a derogatory term for all women. The ironic thing is, of all aspects of the game of golf, putting is the part of the game that requires the least amount of power and the most finesse and fine motor skills.

Another age-old male bonding golf joke involves "Fort Worth Rules". Although I doubt Ben Hogan and his friends at Colonial Country Club in Fort Worth, Texas, coined this phrase, it is generally imposed when one golfer in a male foursome fails to hit his drive past the women's tees. In that case, the "short hitter" is required to play the remainder of the hole with his manhood hanging out of his pants. This confirms to the golfing gods that although the humiliated golfer could not hit his drive past the women's tees, he is, in fact, a man.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Golf Lingo - Part 2

Given the resounding success of my prior "Golf Lingo" post (I actually had two comments!) and SO's recent commentary that some of the posts are too technical and not that funny (how dare she be so honest!), I decided that it is time for another golf lingo post based on terms used in recent posts.

Casual Water: temporary water on the golf course (not a lake, for example) that accumulates and affects the ball, the player's stance or the player's swing. In such case, without a penalty a player may lift his ball (but not clean the ball) and drop it within one club-length of the nearest point of relief, but not nearer to the hole.

Cut or Cut Line: On the PGA Tour, if there are 144 players in a field, the cut is the 70 professionals (plus amateurs) with the lowest scores through two rounds of the tournament, plus ties. If there are more than 79 golfers that "make the cut", the PGA has a second cut after the third round of the tournament. Those golfers that "make the cut" continue to play the final two (or one) rounds of the tournament and those golfers that do not "make the cut" are eliminated. At the Masters, the cut is the low 44 golfers and all golfers within 10 strokes of the leader, and at the U.S. Open, the cut is the low 60 golfers and all golfers within 10 strokes of the leader.

Double Eagle: A hole played three strokes under par! This is the rarest score in golf, even more rare than a hole-in-one. It can only occur on the second shot of a par-5 hole or on the drive on a par-4 (in which case it would also be a hole-in-one). I have added this to my golf bucket list.

Duck Hook: A shot generally unintentionally hit with a lot of topspin that travels sharply from right to left for right-handed players. A duck hook typically does not travel very far and runs along the ground usually until it passes the out-of-bounds stakes.

Gimme: A putt that the other players agree can count automatically without actually being played on the assumption that the golfer would make the putt. Also, in match play, if the other golfer has already won the hole, he may concede a longer putt because it does not affect the match. Generally, I do not wait for my opponent to concede the putt, I just take it!

Hiding-in-Plain-Sight Rule: You will not find this Rule in the Rules of Golf. It is a "local rule" of the Rules Committee (me!). The Rule states that if a golfer (especially me!) hits a good shot and there is no way the ball should be lost, but the golfer cannot find the ball, it must be "hiding in plain sight", in which case you may drop a new ball in the location where the ball should have been without taking a penalty stroke.

Lift, Clean and Place: is a modification to the normal rule of golf that the player must always play the ball as it lies without making any improvement to its lie. Generally, under very wet conditions, the Rules Committee may modify the normal rule to permit players to lift the ball, clean the ball and then place it back within 6 inches of the original position, no closer to the hole. Permitting a "scratch" golfer to play "lift, clean and place" is like shooting fish in a barrel and, thus, is generally frowned upon by the USGA or R&A.

Links Course: A golf course next to the ocean, usually with minimal trees and sandy soil and dunes and lots of wind. The course generally follows the natural terrain of the land rather than moving tons of dirt to shape the course. The course typically routes out and back either in a figure eight or with the ninth or tenth hole being the furthest from the clubhouse as opposed to many American courses where the fairways are side-by-side and the ninth green is generally next to the clubhouse.

On the Screws: Hitting the golf ball on the sweet spot of the club, generally referring to the driver. The expression comes from the old persimmon woods that used to have an insert in the middle of the club face attached with screws.

Overseeding: Laying new grass seed on top of existing grasses to replace the existing grass during its dormant period. For example, if a course uses bermuda grass, which goes dormant in colder weather, the course may overseed in the fall with rye grass that thrives in colder weather and vice versa. After overseeding, it usually takes about a month for the course to return to optimum conditions.

Q-School: A week-long, six-round tournament in which the golfers with the lowest 30 scores are automatically permitted to play in almost all of the PGA Tour events for the following year without qualifying. There are some tournaments like the Masters, U.S. Open and the FEDEX Cup that have special qualifying requirements. Probably the most nerve-racking tournament for professional golfers (even more so than the majors!).

Scratch Golfer: A golfer with a USGA Handicap Index of approximately zero, meaning that the scratch golfer will shoot around par. The Handicap Index is not your average score for 18-holes, but measures your top performance by discarding ten of your last 20 scores. PGA Tour golfers are "plus handicaps", which means their handicaps are below par. For example, in 2008 Tiger Woods was about a +8 handicap!

Up-and-Down: when a golfer does not hit the ball on the green in regulation and pitches or chips the ball onto the green and then one-putts for a par. Low handicap golfers are generally able to get "up-and-down" from around the green to save par, while bogey golfers are more likely to pitch or chip and two-putt for bogey.

Most of these definitions are brought to you by The Golf Club website (with my editorial comments). If I use any jargon or lingo in my posts that any faithful follower does not understand, just send me a comment and I will include an explanation (with appropriate editorial comment.)

Monday, November 16, 2009

Doug Barron - Motion Denied!

It is a good thing that Doug Barron is not paying me for legal advice! I told you that I thought the court would grant his application for a temporary restraining order to permit him to play in the second round of the PGA Qualifying School tournament in order to maintain the status quo while the case was heard on its merits. I was wrong!

The general standard for granting or denying a temporary restraining order involves consideration of whether: (i) there is a reasonable probability that the plaintiff (Barron) will prevail on the merits; (ii) irreparable harm will be sustained by the plaintiff (Barron) unless a temporary restraining order is issued; and (iii) the issuance of a temporary restraining order will result in disproportionate harm to the defendant (PGA Tour). The court ruled that although Barron made a strong case that irreparable harm will be sustained by prohibiting him from competing in the PGA Qualifying School tournament, he did not prove to the court that there was a reasonable probability that he would prevail on the merits of his claim against the PGA Tour. Also, the court held that Barron's participation in the PGA Qualifying School tournament "could raise substantial public policy concerns regarding the enforcement of anti-doping policies in professional sports," which may go to the third prong of the test for a temporary restraining order.

Losing the motion for a temporary restraining order does not necessarily end Barron's case, but even if Barron is ultimately successful on the merits he will have limited ability to play PGA Tour events in 2010 because he was unable to participate in the Q-School tournament. He would most likely be limited to sponsor exemptions, which are very difficult to obtain.

Michelle Wie - The Next Tiger Woods?

It was a busy weekend and I allowed work, family obligations, SO obligations and football to get in the way of my golf game. I do have games lined up at Phoenix Country Club (if the club allows me in) and Arizona Country Club over the next ten days so I am hoping to improve on my recent scores. I did get to the driving range for an hour on Saturday and Sunday and as usual I was striping the ball right down the middle! In addition to all of the other swing thoughts muddling my brain, I tried to swing a little inside on the backswing and swing out toward second base, per instructions from Chad Feldheimer. I was hitting the ball in the middle of the club with a nice little draw. Now, if only I could take that to the course.

As of this morning, there was no decision from the judge on the Doug Barron case. The second round of the Q-School begins Wednesday. The PGA is denying Barron access to the course or practice facility pending the court's ruling.

Tiger Woods won the JBWere Masters in Melbourne, Australia and the Australian government, which paid half of Woods' $3 million appearance fee, claims that the economic return was $20 million. Over 100,000 people attended the 4-day tournament in person and the Australian television audience averaged 440,000 viewers per day, a 92% increase from the previous year. The winning prize money was only $250,000, but Tiger played like it was a major. There is no question that you get your money's worth with Tiger. There was an incident in the third round after Tiger hit another wayward drive. The television cameras did not catch the entire incident and the announcers were saying that Tiger flung his club into the gallery, but I think that he flung it into the ground and it bounced into the gallery (which is not to excuse his action). Luckily no one was hurt and Tiger apologized to the gallery.

Michelle Wie finally won an LPGA Golf Tournament! It was her 65th LPGA Tour event. Her Solheim Cup teammates seemed genuinely happy for her. It is hard to believe that Michelle just turned 20 years old. She first qualified for a USGA event when she was 10 years old and played in an LPGA event at age 12. The LPGA Tour needs its own Tiger Woods to add excitement and increase television ratings. Michelle Wie may be the answer.

David Duval missed the cut at the Children's Miracle Network Classic in Lake Buena Vista, Florida, and dropped out of the top 125 money winners on the PGA Tour. It looked like Duval would be the comeback player of the year after his second place finish at the U.S. Open earlier this year, but he missed the cut in seven of the last eight tournaments in which he participated.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

The 800-Pound Gorilla

I have a feeling I may regret this post in the future and I know there are two (or more) sides to every story, but I am perplexed by the Doug Barron case. Barron is a journeyman, 40 something year old pro golfer. He is the first PGA Tour golfer to be suspended from the Tour for testing positive for performance-enhancing drugs since the Tour's anti-doping policy was instituted in 2008. Barron played in one PGA tour event this year, the St. Jude Classic in Memphis, Tennessee, on a sponsor exemption. He was born in Memphis. He missed the cut. He played in four tournaments on the Nike Tour in 2009 and missed the cut in all four!

According to Barron, he has taken beta blockers since 1987 when he was diagnosed at age 18 with mitral valve prolapse. In 2005, Barron was diagnosed with low testosterone and began taking monthly injections of testosterone. Both are banned substances under the Tour's anti-doping policy. The beta-blocker that Barron was taking calms nerves, which would be very helpful for a golfer with the "yips", and testosterone builds muscles and reduces fat which might arguably improve your golf game (but see Phil Mickelson). But for the performance-enhancing drugs, Doug Barron may be playing the public courses with me!

Before the anti-doping policy was instituted in 2008, Barron applied to the PGA Tour for a therapeutic use exemption, which the Tour denied. The PGA claimed that Barron's testosterone levels were within acceptable tolerances, without the testosterone (maybe we should ask his wife!). Barron was told to begin weaning off the beta blockers and testosterone even though, arguably, it could adversely affect his health. Barron claims that he tried to wean off of the drugs. At the St. Jude Classic, he was selected for testing and tested positive for both substances.

Barron was getting ready to compete in the second round of the Tour Qualifying School when he was informed that he tested positive for the banned substances and he was suspended for one year. Barron filed a motion for a preliminary injunction to permit him to play in the Q-School and a judge in Memphis, Tennessee has taken the matter under advisement and may issue an order as early as later today. If the court does not permit Barron to play in the second round of the Tour Q-School he will not be able to play on the PGA Tour in 2010 except under a sponsor exemption, even if he later successfully overturns the suspension. Therefore, it is likely that the judge will grant the preliminary injunction to maintain the status quo and the case will move forward.

I fully understand the "slippery slope" argument and the "integrity of the game" argument, but in this case and in the Casey Martin case, it just looks like the PGA Tour is taking a very narrow position because it is the 800-pound gorilla and it can (although the PGA ultimately lost the Casey Martin case)! If Doug Barron is trying to scam the system and does not need the banned substances to lead a normal life, or the drugs are giving him a competitive advantage over non-disabled competitors, then I have no problem with the PGA position. However, if a world-class golfer who is disabled needs to use a golf cart to compete on somewhat equal footing with his peers or take doctor-prescribed drugs to maintain normal health, he should not have to choose his career over his health. In a diverse society we should be applauding athletes that overcome adversity to compete at the highest levels; instead, the PGA is trying to drive these athletes asunder.