Saturday, October 31, 2009

These Guys are Wimps!

The PGA Tour is in Annandale, Mississippi this week, which is about three hours north of Biloxi, the site of "World Of" XXVI and close to Scratch's hometown of Meridian, Mississippi. Surprise, it is still raining in Mississippi! The first round of the Viking Classic was postponed on Thursday and Friday and the officials did not even consider starting Saturday. Maybe the pros can caravan down to Baton Rouge to see the LSU Tigers play Tulane and hang out at the Station Sports Bar and Grill. There is a Halloween Bash at the bar tonight! Tournament officials are meeting this morning to assess the course conditions and make a decision on whether to start play on Sunday, postpone the tournament until the following Thursday or cancel the tournament completely. They may want some advice from the "world Of" stalwarts that surveyed the situation at "World Of XXVI - Day 2".

About 25 inches of rain has fallen in the Madison area in the last 30 days. That does not even include the 5 inches of rain during the "World Of"! Tournament officials discussed shortening the tees. One official commented that "as far as unplayable conditions, there are spots that you would actually have to go up and the driest place may be the park bench." I am sure that Turtle can advise the Tour officials on "lift, clean and place" and "casual water" rules for a saturated golf course (for my novice followers, see jargon definitions below).

In addition to the lost revenues for local and national charities, canceling the tournament would adversely affect those players trying to finish in the top 125 or top 150 of the PGA money list in order to secure their PGA playing card for the following season.

"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.

"Casual water" is 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. In the case above, the nearest point of relief may be on the park bench!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Sim Golf

All of a sudden it has gotten cold in beautiful Arizona. Last night, the temperatures dipped into the high 40s. This weather is not conducive to going to the lighted driving range at night! I have been hitting balls into the Giant in my private indoor driving range and I feel like I am making solid contact and hitting down and through the ball, but without seeing the ball flight it is difficult to see any improvement (I have not missed the net in a while!).

I found two cool indoor golf simulation facilities on the internet, Crosswoods Indoor Golf Center and Bunker Indoor Golf and Training Center. Crosswoods is in the far East Valley and Bunker is in the far West Valley and I live in central Phoenix so neither is geographically desirable. At Crosswoods, you can play sim golf at Pebble Beach, Spyglass, the Old Course at St. Andrews, the Ocean Course at Kiawah Island, Harbour Town and Pine Needles, among others. Bunker also has the Bayhill, Pinehurst and Torrey Pines courses. And you can play a full 18 holes in less than one hour!

According to the propaganda, the sims have realistic 3D rendered environments and you hit all of the shots from the driver to tap-in putts (I wonder if the sim has gimmes and plays by my Rules of Golf!). You also get ball speed, vertical launch angle, horizontal launch angle, sidespin, back spin, club head speed, horizontal strike angle, vertical strike angle, and club face angle information on each shot. If all of that information does not distract you, you have the concentration of Tiger Woods! Here's a story on the company that designed these golf simulators and the product. The story is a few years old and I assume that the technology is getting better and better.

I am going to sign up and give this a try. I will report back shortly.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

These Guys are Good!

This past week was Phoenix's red-headed stepchild PGA Tour event, the Open. The FBR (Phoenix) Open is the mega-golf tournament in town. It is usually played on Super Bowl weekend and, notwithstanding the conflict with the Super Bowl on Sunday, has by far the largest crowds of any PGA event. Everyone knows about the Par 3 16th hole, which is the rowdiest hole on the PGA Tour.

The Open is part of the Fall Season events and was played on the Raptor Course at Grayhawk Golf Club in Scottsdale. This year the tournament raised $670,500 for a variety of local and national charities. Since the tournament is played after the FEDEX Cup championship, most of the superstars do not participate in the event. It is a tournament for those players that are trying to make the top 125 money list for a full exemption the following year on the PGA Tour or the top 150 money list for a partial exemption the following year on the PGA Tour. The highest guy on the money list was Rory Sabbatini at No. 18. It is also an opportunity for a young player to win a tournament and receive all of the benefits of a tour winner in addition to the $1M+/- winner's check, including an exemption for the remainder of that season and the following two seasons, and an automatic invitation to the following year's PGA Championship. However, winners of Fall Series tournaments do not receive automatic invitations to the following year's Masters.

The golf was unbelievable! The winner, Troy Matteson, shot back-to-back 61s to break the PGA's consecutive 36 hole record. There were four holes in one, two on the 199 yard 16th hole, one on the 211 yard 5th hole, and Nicholas Thompson had a double eagle 2 on the par 5 11th hole, holing a 261 3-wood, and followed that with a hole in one from 199 yards on No. 13! I need to add a double eagle to my golf bucket list. He took care of two bucket list items in 3 holes and still finished tied for 8th place. The advertising company that came up with the campaign, "These Guys are Good!" hit the nail right on the head. Here's a second video.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Grand Ole Opry

I cannot figure out anyway to tie this post into golf, but it was so much fun that I wanted to tell you about our night at the Grand Ole Opry!

Everyone that visits Nashville needs to go to the Grand Ole Opry one time (only)! The Grand Ole Opry is to country music what Cooperstown is to baseball. It is broadcast live on WSM (We Serve Millions) AM Radio and simulcast to many parts of the country. It is two hours of country music and old fashioned humor broken into four half-hour segments with live voice over commercials for sponsors Dollar General, Humana, Bass Pro Shops and Martha White's Flour. The original Grand Ole Opry was in downtown Nashville at the Ryman Auditorium (check under the tab for history). The Opry still broadcasts from Ryman from time-to-time, but its home is now a beautiful theater on the outskirts of Nashville. We went on a Friday night.

The first half hour was hosted by John Conlee with Riders in the Sky and Whitney Duncan, who was singing for the first time at the Opry. Check out her hot new song and video, Skinny Dippin'. The second half hour was emceed by Little Jimmy Dickens who is a legend in Nashville and has been a Grand Ole Opry member for 60 years! His guests were Bobby Osborne and the Rocky Top X-Press, who sang the old standard "Rocky Top (Tennessee)" and T. Graham Brown. The third half hour was hosted by Bill Anderson with Jean Shepherd, the first female member of the Grand Ole Opry, and Keith Anderson, one of the two show headliners. Keith Anderson sang "I Still Miss You" and "Pickin' Wildflowers". The last half hour was headlined by special guest Ricky Skaggs, another country music legend, with Jeannie Seely and Jim Ed Brown.

The old-timers like Little Jimmy Dickens, Jeannie Seely, Bill Anderson and Jean Shepherd have been a part of the Opry for 40+ years, and today's superstars still come to the Opry and love to perform. Artists performing at the Opry during the next three weeks include Keith Urban (10/30), Vince Gill (10/30), Blake Shelton (10/31), Josh Turner (11/13) and Carrie Underwood (11/14).

If you enjoy country music or just music in general, you should see a show at the Grand Ole Opry.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Drums are Beating!

We are starting to build some momentum for a European golf trip. Below is an e-mail from Smooth, our trip coordinator, to the "World Of" participants:

Men, drums are beating for "A Journey to St. Andrews"-- both the blog and a 2010 Links Trip. There is no final decision from the Committee, but shareholder input is appropriate for this sojourn. Share your votes on the following:

2010 Trip: Foreign _________ U.S. Domestic ____________

If foreign, Scotland________ Ireland______________

Ideal no. of days for the trip: _____________

Ideal no. of rounds: ____________________

If we go, we should go in July or August. Scotland in July will be hard, however, because the Open is at St. Andrews next year.

We will take a modest, "World Of" approach to accommodations to reduce cost, but we also will look hard at a bus and driver to keep Americans off the roads, speed up travel, and increase the intake of single malt.

This is a "big" trip, but we have gone a less expensive route the last two years. If you gambled well, the last two years were dirt cheap. Also, we are 50+, and we need to do this before a Scotland "World Of" trip includes wives, castles, soap factories and a single round of golf on a 4500 yard course.

Yours Very Truly


Sunday, October 25, 2009

Southern Dunes - An Unmitigated Disaster!

Today I played one of my favorite courses in Arizona, Southern Dunes Golf Club, and made a mess of it! For whatever reason I cannot translate what I do on the driving range onto the golf course. As soon as I get to the first tee box I tense up and get the hooks. I am starting to think that I need a sports psychologist to join my entourage. I played with Chad Feldheimer, which is enjoyable because he is such a fundamentally sound player.

Southern Dunes Golf Club, formerly known as Royal Dunes Golf Club, is in unincorporated Pinal County, adjacent to the City of Maricopa, which is about 45 minutes from downtown Phoenix. Maricopa is the poster child for the boom and bust real estate market in Phoenix. Even the Wall Street Journal piled on! The starter homebuyer mantra is "drive to qualify". The further you get from the metropolitan areas, the lower the home prices and the easier it is for the first-time homebuyer to qualify for a mortgage. As I was driving to the course, I passed a number of subdivisions in the City of Maricopa in which I represented the homebuilders. There were kids twirling signs advertising homes starting at $59,000! The entry areas of the subdivisions looked like they were being reasonably well-maintained, but there have been so many foreclosures and homebuilder bankruptcies that houses and lots are not being maintained. We are starting to see a resurgence of investors buying finished lots to sell to homebuilders, but most of the activity is closer to Phoenix. The subdivisions in Maricopa and other communities in Pinal County will probably not be fully developed for another 5 to 10 years.

Southern Dunes Golf Club is a gorgeous Scottish links-style golf course designed by Schmidt-Curley Design, Inc. and Fred Couples, one of my favorite golfers, located in the middle of nowhere. The idea for this course was clearly someone's brain freeze! The golf course was originally a private club for men only, although it was designed to have home sites within the 320 acre master plan! Women were not even allowed in the clubhouse restaurant. I am trying to picture the poor homebuilder's salesperson explaining to a prospective buyer couple, "John can play golf on our fantastic Fred Couples-designed championship golf course and smoke cigars with the guys while Susan stays home taking care of the children, cleaning the house and cooking dinner." That will go over well! Surprisingly, a number of very well known athletes and local celebrities were founding members of the golf club. The golf course and surrounding residential property have been taken over by the lender and it is now a daily-fee course open to men and women.

The golf course clearly has a Freddy Couples feel; if you hit high fades you will love the course! Check out the hole-by-hole pictures on the website under golf club and then course flyover. I, of course, was hooking the ball. Even when I hit a reasonably good shot, it would trickle into the gorse-like native high grass never to be found. I shot a forgiving 98 not following the USGA/R&A Rules of Golf. The golf course was in great shape. We played the gold tees, which are about 6,900 yards with a slope rating of 131. The course was not overseeded so the bermuda grass was dormant. The fairways were cut very close so they had a links-style feel and if you hit your drive in the fairway you got a lot of run (I only know this because of my partner's drives). The greens were overseeded and were fast and true and receptive to approach shots (I only know this because of my partner's approach shots). Chad was hitting the ball really well from tee to green, but was having trouble pitching and putting and shot in the high 70s, except that we both played 18 so badly that we walked off of the course without finishing! It was a disappointing day, but I love this golf course and we played in 3 hours and 15 minutes, which makes up for the travel time!

Friday, October 23, 2009

World Of - Evening Entertainment

Today, I am pleased to have my first guest post from a founding member of the "World Of". I had to make some minor changes to the post to maintain my PG-13 blog rating, but this gives you a flavor of the camaraderie among the group. Hopefully, my "World Of" followers will continue to provide guest commentaries throughout the Journey:

The “World Of” is about as diverse as a group of middle-aged, white male lawyers can be. We share a common love of golf and laughter, but otherwise we’re pretty eclectic. We have Yankees and Confederates, Right Wingers and Left Wingers (not hockey players), Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, Rednecks and City Slickers. These differences are part of the fun, although we do observe a moratorium on political discussion. Another difference that has evolved over the years is the COs versus the Non-COs.

CO is short for “Conscientious Objector”. Non-CO, as you might have guessed, is short for “Non-Conscientious Objector”. These terms have nothing to do with war. As best I can tell, we all favor war, at least up to a point. No, COs and Non-COs have to do with who will go to gentlemen’s clubs on “World Of” trips.

In the early “World Of” years, there were no COs. We all went to the gentlemen’s clubs. At that time, the only questions were--how late would you stay out and how drunk would you get? The guys who stayed out the latest and got the drunkest declared, “The Wrong Way is the Right Way!” and its corollary, “The Right Way is the Wrong Way!” We never kept track of which way was the right way, but it was still fun to state the rule and the corollary, really loud and really often.

Anyway, around about “World Of V”, the Mouth--a very principled guy when he hasn’t knocked down 10 or 12 Budweisers--said he didn’t feel right about going out to the gentlemen’s clubs. Turtle, Smooth and Arnie quickly joined the Mouth. The COs thus were born, which simultaneously hatched the Non-COs. It was no small irony that the Mouth founded the COs, given that he had been one of the most frequent--and certainly the loudest—proponent of “The Wrong Way is the Right Way!”

It’s hard to say exactly what was the basis of the COs conscientiousness. It may be that several of the COs had gotten married and had daughters. The girls in those gentlemen’s clubs are someone’s daughters after all, and although the “World Of” isn’t exactly a hotbed of sensitivity, we do have our soft spots. Or, it may be that several of the more religious among the group had, by “World Of V”, recovered from our backsliding college and law school days, and decided it was time to clean up our “World Of” acts. Or, it may be that the innate cheapness of some of us just couldn’t deal with paying cover charges, buying expensive bad beer and being expected to throw money at women whom we knew cared about us only for the money they could fleece. Maybe most likely is that the COs were feeling older and decided they had a better chance of playing good golf the next day if they went to bed at a decent hour—“The Right Way is the Right Way!” Whatever the basis, the COs were around to stay.

I am a CO but I have to give the Non-COs their due. Led by High Right, and with strong support from the Natural, their outings have produced some of the most enduring lines of the “World Of”—“I’m not leaving this place until one of these girls takes a shower!” and “Just to show her!”—which were coined by Crimson Tide and the Big Man, respectively. The Non-COs also have a lot of courage—they have gone to some of the scariest-looking gentlemen’s clubs you’ve ever seen. Of course, it makes a big difference when you have the Big Man with you. By the way, the Big Man is not only good protection, but for some reason the girls at these places seem to really like him. Finally, I want to point out for the record that, to the best of my knowledge, none of the Non-COs has ever done anything really bad on their outings—and by that I mean something that would be relevant in a domestic proceeding.

An interesting feature of the CO/Non-CO split is that the COs have grown in number over the years while the Non-COs have dwindled. In the beginning there was usually one carload of COs. Now there is usually one carload of Non-COs. I suppose that was to be expected as the group aged…and our daughters became young women. I’m not sure what the future holds for the COs and the Non-COs as separate groups, but I continue to look forward to seeing them all every year, regardless of affiliation.


Editor's Note: I did not join the "World Of" until about "World Of XII" and I am a CO only because I cannot stay up that late and play golf (good or bad) the next morning!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Tiger Trophies

Did you know that the PGA Grand Slam of Golf occurred on Tuesday and Wednesday in Bermuda? Neither did I! The PGA Grand Slam of Golf pits the winners of the four majors in a two round tournament with $600,000 paid to the winner. This year's participants were Angel Cabrera (Masters), Lucas Glover (U.S. Open), Stewart Cink (Open Championship a/k/a the British Open), and Y.E. Yang (PGA Championship). Who? Lucas Glover, the U.S. Open Champion, played great and won at 11 under par for two rounds. All 15 fans at the event (including the players' family members) enjoyed it thoroughly. The PGA Tour is now divided into two parts, the tournaments that Tiger Woods plays and the rest of the tournaments. According to some articles, the television ratings for the standard PGA Tour events in which Tiger competes are 33% or more higher than the television ratings for those tournaments in which Tiger does not compete! This does not include the four majors, the Ryder Cup and similar big-ticket events.

Without winning a major in 2009, Tiger will win the PGA of America player of the year, the Vardon Trophy and the Byron Nelson Award, both for the lowest scoring average, the Arnold Palmer Award for winning the money title and the Jack Nicklaus Trophy for the PGA Tour player of the year. The only remaining drama (drum roll please) is whether Tiger will win the comeback player of the year award (which does not have to be awarded each year) after missing a substantial portion of the 2008 season with reconstructive knee surgery.

Jack Nicklaus had antagonists Arnie Palmer, Gary Player, Lee Trevino and Tom Watson. Tiger has Phil Mickelson, Vijay Singh, Paddy Harrington and Y.E. Yang. I truly believe that the depth and quality of today's PGA Tour far exceeds the Nicklaus era, but Tiger dominates like no one else. Is Tiger just so much better than Bobby Jones, Sam Snead, Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus or is it something else? Are his competitors happy just to finish in the top 10 and take home large checks? What are your thoughts?

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Golf Lingo

My favorite follower, who we will call "SO", expressed concern that the "Journey to St. Andrews" blog is not accessible to the masses because of the golf jargon. I explained that this is a blog for "real" golfers, not namby pamby golfers that look at the swans and take pictures while playing golf. As you can imagine, this did not go over very well!

Therefore, in the interest of commercialization and my goal of selling this blog to a book publisher and then to a movie production company (I am thinking of George Clooney to play me! I especially like this picture), and to maintain some minimum level of harmony in my relationship with SO, the following jargon can make you sound like a golfer even if you can't play a lick and you like to look at the swans while playing golf:

Ace - A hole in one.

Approach Shot - A short or medium shot played to the putting green or pin.

Birdie - One stroke under par on a hole.

Bogey - One stroke over par on a hole.

Bogey Golfer - A player who has a handicap is the about the same as the number holes on a course (18 to 22).

Chili Dip - To catch a shot fat by hitting the ground behind the ball before striking the ball itself; also known as fat, heavy, chunk.

Dance Floor - The putting green.

Dogleg - A hole where the fairway curves noticeably to the left or right.

Double Bogey - Two shots over the hole par.

Foot Wedge - When a golfer kicks his ball or nudges the ball into a better position for the next stroke.

Fried Egg - When a ball remains in its own pitch mark when landing in a bunker, looking like a fried egg with the ball as the yolk.

Match Play - Form of competition where each hole is won, lost or halved. The winner is whomever won the most holes. A winning score of 3 and 2 means that the winner won by 3 holes with 2 left to play. The highest score possible is 10 and 8.

Nassau - Three bets in one: the front nine, back nine and 18-hole scores all count as separate bets.

Nineteenth Hole - The clubhouse bar after playing 18 holes.

On the Dance Floor - When the ball has stayed on the green.

Ready Golf - A very effective informal method of play in which the right to play based on "honor" or "away" is forsaken and whoever is "ready to play" plays next, in the interest of speeding up play.

Rough - The high grass area adjacent to the fairway and green.

Royal and Ancient or R&A - Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews - golf's primary governing body.

Sandbagger - A golfer who lies about his ability in order to gain an advantage in a match or wager, or submits artificially high scores in order to inflate his handicap (euphemism for "liar, cheater").

Short Game - Chipping, Pitching and Putting.

Shotgun Start - A way to start a tournament in which all groups of players tee off simultaneously from different holes. If there are 18 groups of foursomes in a tournament, then each hole on the course will serve as the starting hole for a different group.

Texas wedge - Name given to putter when used anywhere other than the green.

Wedge - A short iron with significant loft mainly for playing shorter, more lofted shots (the amount of loft can vary widely, from a pitching wedge that ranges somewhere between 47° and 52° to a lob wedge that can range from 58° up to 65°).

This jargon is courtesy of,,, and For some politically incorrect golf jargon see

This leads to the old wive's tale that my female followers can debunk when confronted by a male chauvinist pig golfer that proclaims "golf" is an acronym for "gentlemen only, ladies forbidden." A more accurate and interesting description of the derivation of the word "golf" is in the on-line article "Golf Carte". I especially like the author's alternative name for golf, "flog".

I hope you novices enjoyed this post and are now ready to "talk the talk".

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Raving Fans

A good friend and client recently gave me the book "Raving Fans" written by Ken Blanchard and Sheldon Bowles. Ken Blanchard is the author of the "One Minute Manager" series of books. Raving Fans is a very easy-to-read and short business book about delivering extraordinary customer service and creating not just "satisfied customers", but Raving Fans! It is written using a golf motif.

Charlie is a Fairy Godmother (due to the Celestial Equal Opportunities legislation) who loves to play golf. His job is to teach the Area Manager the three magic secrets of creating Raving Fans. According to Charlie, the Area manager's "customers are a revolt waiting to happen. They're only satisfied because their expectations are so low and because no one else is doing any better. Your [the Area Manager's] customer service slogan should be" No Worse than the Competition."

I won't ruin the book for you, but I highly recommend Raving Fans for anyone in the service business, and in one respect or another, we are all in the service business.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Gathering Intelligence on St. Andrews

Well, I am back from my long (cold and wet) weekend in Nashville. I will dribble in some tidbits from the reunion over the next few posts. During the trip I did some reconnaissance on St. Andrews. My cousin, "Scratch" went to St. Andrews for his 50th birthday. According to Scratch, there are two ways to do the Scotland golf trip. First, you can go the expensive route and sign up for an organized tour that includes a guaranteed tee time at the Old Course, as well as tee times at some of the other famous Scottish courses, including Carnoustie and Muirfield. You also get a bus and driver/guide and stay at nice accommodations and eat as well as you can in Scotland (haggis sounds and looks pretty nasty!). You need to make sure that you go to St. Andrews at the right time of the year because there are certain times of the year when you have to bring a mat and hit each shot off of the mat. That does not sound like the St. Andrews experience to which I aspire!

The second alternative is the "hope and pray" approach. You get to St. Andrews with your sticks, stay at the local bed and breakfast and sign up each day for the daily lottery for the next day and hope and pray you are selected. The course is open 6 days per week and closed on Sundays. You also need to be careful because the Old Course is closed for maintenance or tournaments or other sundry reasons from time to time so you should call in advance to make sure that you are not there at an inopportune time. This is today's ballot for play tomorrow. July and August are the most difficult months to get a tee time. If you do not get a tee time for the Old Course in the daily lottery, you can play the New Course, the Jubilee Course or four other courses at St. Andrews, including the newest course, the Castle Course, and sign up for the following day's lottery. If you befriend the innkeeper, you somehow may be able to "win" the daily lottery.

Before you can play the Old Course, you need to present the starter with your USGA or R&A handicap card. The maximum handicap to play the Old Course is 24 for the gentlemen and 36 for the ladies. Of course, the only way to play the Old Course is to walk with a caddie and do whatever the caddie tells you to do, no matter how ridiculous it sounds. If the caddie tells you aim 30 yards to the left of the flag and take two extra clubs, do not question the advice, just do it (and later tip the caddie well for the sound advice)! In order to play the Old Course, you need to keep the ball close to the ground, whether it is low-flying, boring (the alternate meaning, dummy!) approach shots or chip and runs from the fairways. The balloon slice (or even the high fade) is not a good shot in Scotland!

Scratch and his buddies took the "hope and pray" approach and almost did not get to play the Old Course. Somehow, on their last day in Scotland, the good innkeeper was able to get a tee time. The innkeeper, Scratch and his buddies played in beautiful weather and Scratch shot a 78, losing a couple of strokes in the deep fairway traps and in the thick gorse. When he spoke about his St. Andrews golf experience, he was euphoric.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Vandy Reunion Weekend

I am heading to Nashville for my 25th law school reunion tomorrow so I will not be posting for a few days. I am sure that I will have some interesting stories that I can relate to my Journey to St. Andrews when I return from the reunion. Keeping up my good vacation weather karma, showers are expected Thursday, Friday and Saturday and the high temperatures will be in the low-50s and the low temperatures will be in the high-30s to low 40s. This is girding me for Scotland!

My "World Of" buddies were talking about playing golf over the weekend, but then they went radio silent. I think I may have been the odd man out on the golf foursome. I am not going to lug my sticks down to Nashville (although I am flying on the Southwest Airlines, which is the only airline that does not charge for checked luggage). On Thursday we are going to the Loveless Motel and Cafe for breakfast for dinner. On Friday, we are going to enjoy some country music at the Grand Ole Opry and Ricky Skaggs was just added to the playbill! The Vandy homecoming game is Saturday against the Georgia Bulldogs (most teams bring in patsies for homecoming but the 'Dores will be their own homecoming patsies!). Hopefully, I will eat those words! Saturday night is the big class reunion party and Sunday we are having brunch with my Mississippi cousins who are also Vandy grads (the Harvard of the South!).

I will be back at you on Monday!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Stop Choking the Chicken!

I have been playing so much golf recently that my hands are starting to hurt! As Slim Whiskey says: I am "choking the chicken" and I need to hold the club like I am holding a dove in my hands. I decided to try this at the driving range. I held the club lightly in my hands and after banging range balls for an hour my hands did not hurt and, as an added bonus, I was able to get more clubhead speed.

I feel like I am on the verge of a breakthrough! It is about time to go back and visit my golf guru, Bob. I have been working on hinging my wrist and loading my right side, hitting through the ball so that I take a divot in front of the ball, and holding the club like I am holding a dove in my hands. After checking my progress on the full swing, I want to work with Bob on the short game, pitching, chipping and putting.

Every high handicapper (especially me!) wants to hit the driver on the range, but I know in my heart of hearts that I lose way too many strokes within 50 yards of the hole and the quickest and easiest way to lower my handicap is to improve my pitching, chipping, sand play and, most importantly for me, putting. I have been concentrating on making solid contact on my chips so as not to chili-dip the shot and trying to get the chip shot to or past the hole instead of leaving it way short and then two or three putting. I have not figured out how to hit the chip shot so that it takes two skips and stops. I am also working hard on getting my putts to the hole following the old adage "never up, never in".

Many golfers that learn to play at a young age develop good short games because they are not long enough to consistently reach the greens in regulation and, therefore, need to learn to chip and putt to save par. A perfect example of this axiom is Tim Clark, the little South African golfer. He was magnificent this weekend at the President's Cup. He was the shortest hitter at the event, but he was deadly from 100 yards and closer. Invariably, he hit his wedges and short irons inside 10 feet and his putting was spot on. He had 8 birdies (in 15 holes!) and no bogeys in his singles match on Sunday against a shell-shocked Zach Johnson, who finished with 4 birdies in his last six holes.

Monday, October 12, 2009

World Of XXVI - Day 4

Monday, I woke up and surprise, it was raining again in Biloxi! From Friday through Monday we had almost 5 inches of rain! Undaunted, the remaining 8 World Of scuba divers headed to Shell Landing, a Davis Love III-designed course. It is a links style, par 72 championship course. We played Hawksbill, which is only 6,010 yards because the course was soaking wet and it was the fourth day of the "World Of". This was the replacement course for Fallen Oaks, the Tom Fazio course that was supposed to be the marquee course for this "World Of" trip, but was closed for overseeding.

The fact that this group would even consider playing a Davis Love III course is a testament to how soft we have become. DLIII is the most ridiculed golfer at the "World Of" (even more than the Natural). The group (lead by Turtle) believes that DLIII has more natural talent and less heart than any other golfer on the tour. Davis is a great show or place horse, except at Harbour Town, his home course, which he has won 5 times! However, he has become irrelevant on the PGA tour in recent years so that may have affected our willingness to play his course. DLIII's most famous meltdown was in the third round of the 1999 Masters. The par-5 15th hole is a potential eagle hole for someone that hits the ball as long as Davis. Instead, he hit a poor drive so that he had to lay up instead of going for the green with his second shot and then things got worse! He hit his third shot in the water and made a double bogey 7 on a hole where he should have scored no worse than a birdie.

By the third hole the rain was coming down fairly hard and we saw lightning in the distance. I was putting for birdie when we marked our balls and headed back to the clubhouse, assuming World Of XXVI had mercifully come to a wet end. But the gods were smiling on the "World Of" and the sun came shining through 20 minutes later and we headed back to the course. I missed the birdie putt but I was just happy to be on the golf course among friends. We had intermittent rain, clouds and sunshine the remainder of the morning. I hit some really good shots and some really tired shots. On No. 18, a par 4, I hit my best shot of the round, a 4 hybrid from about 175 yards to 6' from the hole for a possible birdie, which would have been a perfect ending to my World Of XXVI ...

As we were leaving the hotel to drive to the airport, Smooth was talking about World Of XXVII in Ireland. I will have to talk him into a detour to St. Andrews. I don't think it will be too hard!!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Golf in the Pines - Part 2

We arrived at the Golf Club at Chaparral Pines about an hour before our tee time, which gave me plenty of time to hit balls until my arms felt like lead. I felt really good on the driving range, but that does not always translate to the course. We decided to play the silver tees. Chaparral Pines is a 6,513 yard, par 72 championship golf course with a 133 slope from the silver tees, but the front 9 is a par 35 and the back 9 is a par 37.

On the first hole, I drove it right down the middle, hit the green in regulation and 3-putted for a bogey! The third hole is a short 315 yard par 4 with a rock formation in the middle of the fairway about 200 yards from the tees. I flew my drive well over the rock formation and was about 60 yards from the green. I hit my 60 degree wedge to less than 10' and made the birdie putt for the highlight of my round. The front 9 has three par 3s. I hit 5 out of 6 fairways and 5 out of 9 greens in regulation. But it took me 3 shots to get out of one greenside bunker and I three-putted 3 holes. I shot a 41 on the front that could easily have been a 38. I had the low gross score in the group.

However, as Chad Feldheimer aptly pointed out, golf is 18 holes and the planets aligned on the back nine. Somehow, between the ninth green and the tenth tee, I lost my swing. I wanted to go back and find it, but it was too late! Over the next six holes I had 6 penalty strokes for hooking or slicing my drives out of bounds (without knowing the local rules, I played my out-of-bounds tee shots as lateral hazards). I did get a par on the par 5 14th hole with a penalty stroke. I kind of pulled it together on the last 3 holes with my only fairway and green in regulation and only one more penalty stroke for a 50 on the back 9, and a 91 total.

After shooting a 43 on the front 9, Chad played brilliantly on the back, shooting a 3 under par 34 and an overall 77. Every drive was long and straight, he hit his approach shots with pinpoint accuracy and he made some nice putts, but no ridiculous 50 footers. It was beautiful to watch!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Golf in the Pines

We played hooky from work on Friday and went to Payson to play The Golf Club at Chaparral Pines. This website does not do the course justice! Payson is about 90 minutes from central Phoenix and the temperatures are about 10-12 degrees cooler. The high temperature was in the mid-70s (not my score!). I played with two of my friends from work, Slim Whiskey and Chad Feldheimer.

Slim Whiskey is a tax lawyer with a personality, which is a very unusual combination! He is creative, funny and a really sharp dresser. I would compare him to the late Payne Stewart. Using my 64-pack of Crayola Crayons, Slim wore a mango tango (orange) shirt with perfectly matched mango tango and complementary colors argyle socks. Slim had a bad ski accident about a year ago and it is still affecting his golf game. He is about a 12 handicap. Slim plays golf every Saturday and Sunday at a private club in Scottsdale, but the club is closed for overseeding so the members were given reciprocal privileges at Chaparral Pines.

Chad Feldheimer is our cocky young gun. His undergraduate degree is in golf course management. Can you believe that you can actually get a degree in golf course management! He attended law school on the San Diego beaches and somewhere in between he was an assistant golf professional at a golf resort in Phoenix. I think that means that he worked in the pro shop and cleaned your clubs on the driving range, which is why Chad ultimately went to law school. Chad does not have a current USGA handicap, but he once told me that if he shot 80 he would quit (or do something worse). I think that Chad is about a 5 handicap or less.

On the ride up to Payson, among other things we talked about the heresy of my recent "Rules of Golf" blog. We discussed one of the most famous gaffes in PGA golf history. In the final round of the 1968 Masters, Roberto De Vincenzo attested to an incorrect score card. He was not disqualified because the mistake resulted in a higher score, but he otherwise would have been in a playoff with Bob Goalby. At that time, the players reviewed their scorecards right off of the 18th green in the midst of the spectators. As a result of De Vincenzo's gaffe, the PGA changed its rules and players now go into a private room to carefully review their scorecards without all of the crowd distractions. The funny thing is that every golfer knows about Roberto De Vincenzo, but very few golfers know who won the 1968 Masters or even know of Bob Goalby, even though he won 11 PGA golf tournaments, including the 1968 Masters.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

The Rules of Golf

I recently received a copy of The Rules of Golf in Plain English, written by Jeffrey S. Kuhn and Bryan A. Garner. For all of my lawyer followers, you will recognize Bryan Garner as the author and lecturer who has written numerous books on plain English for legal writing. We send our associates to his lectures and use his materials as excellent examples of legal writing for our internal training programs.

As the authors note in the preface, the original rules of golf written in 1744 included 13 rules and 338 words. Later, the predecessor to the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews, printed 17 rules of golf in 541 words. The Rules of Golf in Plain English is 115 pages, including 2 appendices, and approximately 20,000 words!

Rule 1 provides that you must play the ball as it lies except if the rules say otherwise. For the life of me, I never understood the English grammar rule about "lie" and "lay", but I digress! Surprisingly, you cannot agree with your playing partner(s) to ignore a rule or penalty or you will be disqualified. Since it takes at least two people to agree, I assume that "you" means both (or all) players agreeing would be disqualified. Then, I love the legal catch-all, "If any issue is not specifically covered by the rules, the Committee will make a decision based on fairness."

I am dead in the water before teeing off on the first hole! Before sticking my tee in the ground, my first comment on the tee box is "two off of the first tee" and everyone agrees. Disqualified! But ... If we agree that you can hit two shots off of the first tee, but each player hits such a good drive that no one hits a second shot, do you get a pass or is it like a conspiracy where you do not actually have to commit the act, but simply agree to commit the act?

Assuming that I have not yet been disqualified, my ball is in the center of the fairway but it is sitting on a dead patch of grass so I gently roll the ball a few inches (but no closer to the hole) until it is sitting up on a nice tuft of grass. If I do this unseemly act on my own without the agreement of my playing partners, it is a two stroke penalty or a loss of the hole in match play. If my playing partners explicitly or implicitly agree, then we are all disqualified!

I think it is fundamentally unfair that I hit the ball in the fairway and I do not have a pristine lie (or lay), whether because my ball is in a divot, I have an uphill, downhill or side hill lie, or a cat used that portion of the fairway as her personal litter box killing the grass. In those circumstances, the Committee (me, since I would not want to agree with my playing partner and risk disqualification) should employ the "catch-all" and determine based on fundamental fairness that it is permissible to move the ball to an appropriate pristine lie in the fairway (but no closer to the hole)!

After all of that I miss the green and three-putt for a double bogey anyway!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Bucket List

This is an e-mail I just received from a friend with whom I went to high school entitled "Bucket List":

I summited Mount Whitney on Saturday in the middle of an 18 hour and 22 mile ordeal. 6 out of 8 of us made the summit. Left trailhead at 8300' under full moon and headlamps at 4 AM and returned at 10:30 PM under similar conditions. At 14,495', Whitney is the tallest peak in lower 48 states. 40 mph wind gusts and temperature in 30's. Most difficult physical and mental challenge I have ever encountered. Hadn't climbed a tall mountain since I was 21. Not in the mood or any condition right now to climb any others....

Wow! That is pretty impressive!

I am not sure of the derivation of the term "bucket list". The first time I heard it used was in the movie, "The Bucket List" with Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson. It is one of the great phrases in the American lexicon. I assume that it comes from the term "kick the bucket".

My golf bucket list includes the following:

1. Play St. Andrews.
2. Play Augusta National.
3. Shoot par (or my age, whichever comes first).
4. Make a hole-in-one.
5. Attend the Masters.
6. Attend a Ryder Cup.
7. Win the purple jacket.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

World Of XXVI - Day 3

I woke up on Sunday, Day 3 of World Of XXVI, to (drum roll please!), more rain. However, the World Of had never been rained out two days in a row and we were determined to play golf today. We were supposed to play 36 holes at the Grand Bear, a Jack Nicklaus-designed course, but when we called the course we were told that it was closed because it was underwater (great drainage, Jack!). We called our private golf club, the Preserve, and luckily it was playable and open. My roomie, Crimson Tide, had food poisoning and stayed in bed with his snuffleupagus breathing apparatus all day watching football. He alternately blamed the Po Boy sandwich he ate in Baton Rouge or the roast beef sandwich that I carried around since Friday morning that was sitting in the water in the beer cooler. We had a leisurely Sunday buffet of light southern food (that is an oxymoron!), biscuits and gravy, grits, potatoes, pancakes, french toast, scrambled eggs, omelettes, etc. and headed to the golf course.

We arrived at the course and it was drizzling. As we drove into the parking lot we wagered how long it would take the staff to get to our car and take our bags. The guy was at our car to get our golf bags before we pulled into the parking space! Except for the staff, our cars were the only cars in the lot. I was paired with Smooth in the two-man game, which is generally the kiss of death. Since Smooth gets no strokes and the rest of us round up a bit on our handicap, Smooth has to shoot in the 60s to even have a chance of winning the two-man game. It is a pleasure to watch Smooth play golf (as long as you avert your eyes on the greens!). He is long enough and accurate. He rarely makes a mistake. I was putting like Ben Crenshaw and Smooth was eyeing my Ping Craz-E putter the entire round. Smooth shot a 68 and I made enough pars so that we ended net 9 under and tied for low two-man score. There was some discussion with the Mouth about "World Of" tie-breaker rules, but Turtle proclaimed that a tie is a tie and we split the meager pot between the two winning groups. Then the fun began ...

It is a "World Of" tradition to, first, play a late Sunday afternoon scramble in a single group (no matter how many players), and, second, play until it is too dark to see the ball. So we headed back out to the No. 1 tee with our four carts. Since Crimson Tide was still in the hotel room watching football, the teams were Smooth against Turtle, the Mouth and High Right (oh yah, the three worst golfers, me, the Natural and WOF (World Of Friend)tagged along with Smooth). We rode Smooth hard and put him away wet, with the Natural making all the birdie putts. After eight holes we had won the first bet going away and were even on the second bet. We knew that Turtle and the Mouth would not let us quit and still pay the bets. Before No. 9, Turtle pressed for the second time. No. 9 is a long 421 yard uphill par 4 with a wet fairway. All 7 World Of participants teed off into the darkness. We found 3 balls from our group (I think my ball must have been further up the fairway, but no one believed me!). Turtle, Mouth and High Right continued to look for their balls as Smooth bunted his ball into the cup to complete the hole. Well after the 5-minute lost ball rule expired, lo and behold one or more of the lost balls appeared and a "gentlemen's disagreement" ensued. In the interest of our our 28+ year friendship I magnanimously agreed (without the consent of my team members)to call the third bet a nullity, thus halving the second bet, and we headed home for a shower and dinner, each of the winning team members $3.75 richer.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Back to the Driving Range

After Saturday's debacle I was back at the range Sunday banging the Top-Flites. I decided to take my Taylor Made 580 cc driver to the range. It has a 9.5 degree loft and is 1" shorter than my Ping driver. The first couple of balls I hit with the Taylor Made driver were hit right on the sweet spot and the ball traveled on a lower trajectory with a slight draw. I also was swinging with a more fluid and easier motion. Then, I worked on hitting my irons through the ball and taking a divot in front of the ball and also cocking my wrist and loading my right side. I hit my mid-irons really well and then moved to the dreaded pitching wedge that gave me so much trouble on Saturday. Lo and behold, I was hitting down and through the ball and taking a divot in front of the ball and my pitching wedge was traveling 120-125 yards and straight and true! I also tried the same swing motion with my hybrids instead of sweeping the ball and that also worked. It was probably the best driving range practice session I ever had! I can't wait to play again!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

No Place to Go, But Lower

I finally played my first round of golf since beginning the blog. On Saturday, I played with my friend Digger. Digger has been a long-time client and friend. He is a new member at Moon Valley Country Club. Since Digger joined the club, the course superintendent has been purchasing extra grass seed because Digger's divots are as big as tiger pelts. Generally Digger hits a big fade (some might call it a slice) and I hit my duck hook so we are not good cart buddies. When Digger is playing well he compensates for the fade and hits the ball into the fairway.

Moon Valley Country Club was originally built and owned by the Solheim family, the owners of Ping. It was the home of the LPGA Standard Register Ping Tournament from 1987 to 2003. It is an urban course that meanders through the local neighborhood. Driving to the course, you pass Winged Foot Road, Medinah Drive and Pine Valley Drive. From the tips it is over 7,200 yards. We played from the gold tees, which are 6,584 yards. The slope rating from the gold tees is 120. The slope rating for a course of average difficulty is 113.

Let me begin by saying that I stunk! I started off well hitting two of the first three greens in regulation and it was all downhill from there. On No. 4, a 511 yard par 5, I was hitting a pitching wedge and thinking birdie when I skull-hossled my third shot over the green and out-of-bounds for a 7. I hossled another pitching wedge on No. 9 and made the turn at 46, thinking that I could still shoot in the 80s. Other than the two pitching wedge disasters, I actually hit the ball pretty well on the front side.

My partner Digger was driving the ball brilliantly but the rest of his game was a disaster. For some reason he was not taking his normal tiger pelt divots from the fairway (I think the course superintendent may have talked with him!). More sand was added to the greenside bunkers since the last time we played and Digger hit a couple of really nice sand shots, but it was too little, too late. Digger also made one of the most remarkable shots I have ever seen. No. 6 is a 393 yard par 4. Digger hit his drive right down the middle (again!) and was 165 yards from the pin and 15 yards directly behind the 150 yard pole. He hit his next shot low and straight and the ball hit the 150 yard pole and ricocheted never to be found. I know that if Digger and I tried to do that 100 times we would not be able to hit that pole again!

On the par 5 13th hole I hooked my drive into the swale and wedged out into the middle of the fairway. I then hit my best shot of the day, a 3 hybrid 190 yards that cozied up to about 7' from the hole. I putted well all afternoon, but in this case I pushed the putt right and had to settle for a par. On No. 14 for some unknown reason I changed my driver set-up to hit a high draw and instead badly duck-hooked the ball. Frustrated, I told Digger that I was taking my traveling mulligan and I hit a beautiful high draw that just caught the lip of a bunker on the right side of the fairway. I bogied the hole, but the golf gods did not take kindly to my use of the traveling mulligan and I fell apart on the last couple of holes and shot a generous 48 on the back for a 94. Being the eternal golf optimist, I actually did some things pretty well, especially my putting. After watching Tiger Woods and vowing to get my putts to the hole, I only left one putt short all day (I three-putted that hole). I made a couple of nice putts and lipped out one or two other putts. I felt like I hit the ball better than my score indicated (don't you always feel that way!). There is no place to go, but lower.

Friday, October 2, 2009

World Of XXVI - Day 2

The plan for Saturday was to play 18 holes at the Preserve Golf Club and then head to Baton Rouge for the Vanderbilt vs. LSU football game starting at 6 p.m. It is about 2 hours from Biloxi to Baton Rouge. We woke up on Saturday morning to a complete wash-out! It had rained all night and continued to rain all day. Between Friday night and Saturday, Biloxi got over 3.5 inches of rain. To put that in context, the greatest rainfall in a 24 hour period in Phoenix was 4.98 inches on July 1-2, 1911. Not to be dissuaded, a few of the "World Of" stalwarts (not me!) headed out to the course to check out the conditions. They rode a couple of holes and when they threw a ball out into the fairway on No. 3 and could not find it under the water, even this hearty group gave up and headed back to the hotel.

Since there were two good football games on television that afternoon, we decided to head to Baton Rouge earlier than originally planned. I drove with Crimson Tide in his crimson pick-up truck with the Alabama license plate and Nick Saban bumper sticker (intending to stay under the radar, literally and figuratively!). We stopped at Wal-Mart to pick up $9 rainsuits for the game. We arrived in Baton Rouge at around 3 p.m. and hung out at the Station Sports Bar and Grill, a well-known Tiger game day hangout in Baton Rouge, and watched the other games and checked out the Tiger faithful. Driving through the campus to Tiger Stadium in the crimson pick-up truck, we got some stares and some Cajun yells of "Tiger bait!". When we got to the stadium and finally got to our seats three rows from the top of the stadium (in rows V and U) and put on our oxygen masks the rain had miraculously stopped (actually, we were so high that the rain was below us!). The first thing that we saw when we caught our breath was a 25-yard-long sign "Welcome to Death Valley'', the politically incorrect nickname for Tiger Stadium. In addition to football, LSU is known for its excellent marching band and its real Tiger mascot Mike. The band was marching and playing and 92,000 rabid fans were singing along and yelling "Geaux Tigers" (which sounds a lot like "Go Tigers" unless you saw the thousands of tee shirts with the correct spelling). To my chagrin, Mike was nowhere to be found (we later learned that if Mike does not want to get into his trailer for a game, Mike does not get into his trailer and no one messes with him!).

Once the game started Vandy hung tough with the Tigers. Vandy got a safety in the third quarter and was within a touchdown with the ball in good field position, but could not score and LSU added another touchdown in the fourth quarter to win 23 to 9. The Tiger fans were not happy with Les Miles' very conservative play-calling and the fact that the team did not steamroll the lowly Commodores. It was a rousing moral victory for the 'Dores! We got back to Biloxi a little after midnight and it was still raining and I headed to sleep with dreams of playing 36 holes under par the following day. Some of my compadres played blackjack and claimed that they paid for the trip with their winnings.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Indoor Driving Range

To say the least, I have a very large house for an empty nester. I use only a few of the rooms in the house, the master bedroom, kitchen, family room and indoor driving range. Someone could be living in one of the back rooms and I would have no clue. Immediately as you enter the house through the front door, to the left is a long room with a 20+' high ceiling and wet bar and wine closet on one end (I do not drink!) and a fireplace on the far end. If you were an interior decorator (or had any interior design acumen) you might have a sitting area at each end of the room. When I bought the house, the previous owner had a pool table in the room, which he offered to sell to me and I mistakenly declined. I thought it was gauche to have a pool table right off of the front entry. The room sat empty for a year or more until I was at the PGA Golf Superstore (again!) and saw the Izzo Giant Net. The picture on the link does not list the size specifications and does not do the Giant justice. It is huge! So instead of a pool/game room I have an indoor driving range (which is much cooler and not gauche at all). When I can't get to the local public driving range where you hit off of the hard dirt or to the lighted public driving range where you hit off of mats, I have my own private indoor driving range in my house! Generally, I keep the balls within the confines of the Giant, but I have had two accidents with the Giant and the indentations in the walls to show for it.