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.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Pebble Beach - Sim Golf

I played Pebble Beach Golf Links yesterday. It was great fun! The course was in great shape and the weather was a perfect 72 degrees with no wind. I hit the ball really well and shot an 84! I hit 10 of 14 fairways. I missed a lot of greens, but I was generally in the short rough and able to chip or pitch onto the greens. The greens were really difficult and I had 39 putts. My playing partner and I "walked" the course and carried our own bags. I have heard horror stories about 6 hour rounds at Pebble Beach with tourist/golfers stopping and taking pictures on each hole. We played in about 2 1/2 hours (and my playing partner, the Joker, got more than his monies worth on a per stroke basis!). The staff was great and catered to our every need. It was just what you would expect at Pebble!

This was my first simulated (sim) golf experience and it was fantastic! The Joker and I played at Bunker Indoor Golf and Training Center located at 2333 North Pebble Creek Parkway in Goodyear, Arizona. The phone number is 623.298.4540. It is less than one mile off of the highway and takes about 20 to 25 minutes from central Phoenix door-to-door with no traffic. The drive is not quite the scenic 17-mile drive to Pebble Beach, but the price is right! A sim golf round at Pebble Beach cost $28, as opposed to over $400 for the real thing. Jesse Cisneros, one of the owners (the other owner is Brad Clark), could not have been nicer. He set up the computer and showed us how it works and was available if we had any questions or needed any help during our round. I can unequivocally tell you that I had a great time at Bunker Golf and I will go back again and play!*

My playing partner, the Joker, is a goofy golfer, meaning that he plays left-handed (among other things!). The Joker has a great sense of humor (he needs it with his golf game) and he is a savant on the computer and with Photoshop. Someone will be talking about a wedding in the hallway and all of a sudden you will hear Billy Idol's "White Wedding" or another inappropriate song coming from the Joker's computer or you will get an e-mail with an exploding head attached to the groom or bride. Some people in the office call him the "Candyman" because he always has a bowl of M&Ms or other sweets on his desk and he constantly brings in donuts or cookies for our corner of the office. The Joker made me promise not to tell you that he shot a 126 (whoops!).

The Bunker facility has 6 state-of-the-art high definition golf simulators manufactured by Interactive Sports Technology, a golf shop and a television area with the NFL TV Package for Thursday night NFL football and some snacks available. The owners are expanding the facility to include a sports bar that will serve beer and wine (the liquor license application was just posted on the building). If you want to have a party at Bunker (which would be very cool!) or you just want some pizza while you are playing, Bunker will cater from Picazzo's Gourmet Pizza.

But you really come here for the golf! At Bunker Golf you have choice of a number of world-class golf courses, including Pebble Beach, Bayhill, Pinehurst, Torrey Pines, Kiawah Island, Troon and Spyglass. The golf simulator has actual high definition pictures of the golf course with life-like surround sound, including birds chirping, people clapping and even the sound of your ball hitting a tree limb (which the Joker heard more than once!) and dropping into the cup. But there are no sounds of paparazzi clicking cameras during your backswing! The screen is 10' x 14' and about 10 feet from the hitting area. You also have the equivalent of a course book showing distances to bunkers and other hazards and to the green for each hole. You aim where you actually intend to hit the ball (which is a novel concept for me!). The computer captures all kinds of information on each shot, including shot distance, ball speed, clubhead speed, ball flight, smash factor, swing path, launch angle, club path, club face angle, type of shot (draw, fade or straight ... the computer is nice and does not use terms like "duck hook" or "banana slice"), location of ball on clubhead (center, heel or toe) and more, with pictures for those of us that are more visual!

In addition to great fun, the simulator is a great training and learning tool because you get immediate feedback not just where the ball traveled but why! Another nice feature that Jesse showed us was on the driving range. Rather than just hitting balls on a driving range, you can choose certain distances and the simulator will show a real golf hole. We looked at a 147 yard shot to the par-3, No. 8 hole at Kiawah Island, but there are a number of holes and distances from which to choose. Also, if you want to compare different brands of clubs or balls, the simulator will keep statistics for each club or ball as you hit and you can compare and decide which equipment best suits your game. An hour of practice time with the simulator is $25 and although it is more expensive than a bucket of balls at the local driving range, there is no comparison as to the enjoyment and the valuable information and potential improvement in your golf game! Bunker Golf also has annual and monthly membership packages.

Putting is better than I expected, but still leaves something to be desired. If you are on the green or in the fringe and able to putt, the simulator gives you a grid showing you whether the putt is straight, uphill or downhill and the direction and amount of break on the putt (based on how quickly the dashes are moving), as well as the distance to the pin. When you hole out, the simulator actually makes the sound of a golf ball dropping into the hole. Jesse set up the simulator so that anything within 9 feet was a gimme (he must be reading my blog!), which may explain my low score. I think that you can adjust the gimme distance. The Joker and I never quite got the distance control on the putting, but we will try again soon!

Now back to the golf! We played from the white tees which are only 6,116 yards with a course rating of 71.2, a bogey rating of 96.1 and a slope rating of 134. I shot a 42 on the front 9 with 3 pars and 6 bogeys and a 42 on the back 9 with 4 pars, 5 bogeys and one double bogey. The double bogey was on No. 17, a 178 yard par 3. I hit my 4 hybrid on the green and four putted!

*In the interest of full disclosure, Brad and Jesse saw my previous post on sim golf and were nice enough to comp me 2 rounds.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

USGA Handicap Index

Notwithstanding my poor play recently, it is time to get serious about getting a USGA Handicap Index. The purpose of a USGA Handicap Index is to permit golfers of all levels to compete on an equitable basis. In addition to posting your 18-hole scores, in order to properly calculate your USGA Handicap Index, you need to post the course rating and slope rating. This allows golfers to match handicaps on an apples-to-apples basis taking into account the difficulty of the courses played and the course on which you are competing. The handicap system is also supposed to discourage "sandbagging". But most importantly, you need a USGA (or R&A) handicap index to play at St. Andrews!

The first step to obtain a USGA handicap index is to join a licensed golf club. This does not mean that you have to become a member at a private country club. I probably should not hold my breath for an invitation to join Portmarnock Golf Club or Phoenix Country Club. The USGA, through its state organizations, licenses its member clubs (both private and public golf courses) to use the USGA Handicap System. You can search on-line to see if your club is a USGA Handicap System licensed club. You can also form your own club! The USGA Handicap System manual, which explains all procedures, can be purchased for $3.00 plus shipping through the USGA Order Department (Golf House, P.O. Box 708 , Far Hills , New Jersey 07931 ).

You have to post at least 5 18-hole scores to get a USGA handicap index. Once you post 20 scores, your Handicap Index is calculated using your 10 best scores, relative to the Course Rating and Slope Rating. The Handicap Index is not your average score for 18-holes, but measures your top performance by discarding ten of your last 20 scores. Your Handicap Index also factors in Course Rating and Slope Rating.

Course Rating is the USGA's 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. Bogey Rating is the USGA's determination of the playing difficulty of a course for a bogey golfer under normal course and weather conditions. And Slope Rating is determined using the following formula: Bogey Rating minus Course Rating multiplied by (5.381 men, 4.24 women). For example, Pine Valley Golf Club in Pine Valley, New Jersey, is consistently ranked as one of the very best and most difficult golf courses in the United States. From the regular tees, the course rating is 72.7, the bogey rating is 101.2 and the slope rating is 153. The highest slope rating under the USGA Handicap System is 155! You can check the Course Rating, Bogey Rating and Slope Rating for any USGA member club at this site. For some reason, when I search certain clubs the site only shows the women's ratings and not the men's ratings. I wonder if the USGA is trying to tell me something!

I am off to play Sim Golf at Bunker Indoor Golf and Training Center. I will report to my followers tomorrow. I wonder if I can include my score for purposes of calculating my USGA handicap index?

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Alabama's Robert Trent Jones Trail

I have been trying to get Smooth and Turtle to do a Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail "World Of" for years. For some reason, I get rebuffed. It may be because the "World Of" red-neck (I meant rebel!) contingent does not consider it as exotic as Myrtle Beach, South Carolina or Biloxi, Mississippi! In preparation for St. Andrews, I have made inquiries with Turtle and Scratch about a long weekend on the "Trail".

In 1990, the PGA Championship was played at Shoal Creek in Birmingham, Alabama. Shoal Creek is one of the most beautiful golf courses you can imagine, but at the time it did not have any African American members (remember, this is pre-Tiger Woods!). This brought a hailstorm of criticism down against the PGA Tour and the State of Alabama. It was also the precursor to the women's rights movement at Augusta National.

Shortly thereafter, Dr. David G. Bronner, the Chief Executive Officer of the Retirement Systems of Alabama, announced that the Retirement System was going to invest $100 million into the creation of Alabama's Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail, a network of world-class public golf courses along the interstate through Alabama, to change the public's perception about the state and to make Alabama a golf capital of the United States. The "Trail", as originally envisioned by Dr. Bronner, consisted of seven sites and 324 golf holes. Over the next 15+ years the Trail expanded to eleven sites and 468 golf holes with world class hotels and conference centers. Robert Trent Jones, Sr. came out of semi-retirement to undertake this mammoth project and all of the courses are Robert Trent Jones designs. The Auburn/Opelika’s Grand National and Prattville’s Capitol Hill are frequently included in reader's choice lists of the top 10 public courses in the United States. And the "Trail" is considered one of the best golf values with in-season rates of $50 to $150 for some of the best public courses in the United States. Other states, including Tennessee with the Jack Nicklaus-designed Trail, have tried to copy the Alabama Golf Trail, but none have yet been as successful.

If any of my followers have played the "Trail" and have suggestions for four days of golf starting in Birmingham, let me know. Of course, any suggestions will be subject to Turtle's final approval!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Phil and Tiger

While watching the WGC-HSBC Champions from Shanghai, China on television this weekend, I must have seen 25 commercials for the "Tiger Tour". Maybe they should be calling it the "Phil Tour" given the way that Phil Mickelson beat Tiger in their last two head-to-head competitions! I think that the commercials were referring to this tournament, the JBWere Australian Masters in Melbourne, Australia and the Chevron World Challenge at Sherwood Country Club in Los Angeles before the regular PGA Tour resumes in January 2010, but they might have been talking about the PGA Tour in general.

After the WGC-HSBC Champions tournament, Phil Mickelson is taking 11 weeks of vacation to spend with his family before coming back in late January at his home course, Torrey Pines in San Diego. Maybe Phil will get in the gym and work on his conditioning and strength, rather than eating bons bons for 3 months. Tiger got on his private plane and jetted to Melbourne for the JBWere Australian Masters starting this Thursday. He is being paid a $3 million appearance fee to play in the tournament. JBWere, the tournament sponsor, is an Australian wealth management company with approximately $10 billion in managed assets. The company made the strategic marketing decision that having its name associated with Tiger Woods at a golf tournament pays for itself many times over.

It is really good to be Phil and Tiger and the two of them are good for each other. Although Tiger is unbelievably self-motivated, it always helps to have someone pushing you a little bit and forcing you to play your best and Phil has the talent and skill to play with Tiger. You can be sure that losing twice in a row to Phil Mickelson will not sit well with Tiger and he will be ready and rearing to go when he returns for the 2010 PGA Tour. Phil needs Tiger to see what greatness he could accomplish with the effort, determination and single-mindedness of Tiger Woods. And the PGA Tour needs both of them at the top of their games.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Encanterra - Set Up to Go Low!

I was really excited about playing golf this weekend. We played Encanterra, a Trilogy Country Club, which is a Shea Homes Trilogy golf course located in Queen Creek, Arizona. My friend and fellow Phoenix Suns Charities board member won a year's membership in the Club during our silent auction in October. This was his first time playing the course at his new country club.

Queen Creek is about an hour's drive southeast of central Phoenix in Pinal County. Queen Creek was another one of the anticipated growth areas for residential development following the transportation corridors and the "drive to qualify" mantra of first-time homebuyers and production homebuilders. Every national homebuilder and the large local homebuilders bought property to develop for residential projects in the area. Driving down the road to the golf course, I passed a number of subdivisions in which I worked on the acquisition, entitlement and infrastructure development. After the buying frenzy in 2005 through 2007, sales in these subdivisions fell off the end of the table and foreclosures accelerated. In recent months there has been some improvement in the market, but home prices are probably still down about 40% to 50% from 2007 highs and there are a number of homeowners that may never recoup the cost of their homes and do not meet the federal criteria for refinancing because the homes are so underwater.

Trilogy is Shea Homes' branded active adult community. Active adult communities are age-restricted communities for individuals 55 years and older. The project is highly amenitized, including a golf course and recreational facilities. Shea Homes is in the process of building a 60,000 square foot clubhouse right behind the 18th green that will include a fully equipped golf shop, an athletic club, indoor and outdoor pools, spa, two restaurants, ballroom and indoor/outdoor event spaces, business center, private lounges and a full service concierge.

The golf course is set up for playability. The fairways are extremely wide and there is little or no out-of-bounds unless you hit the ball into the private backyards. The houses are generally pretty far back from the fairways. Many of the greens are elevated so if you miss the green the ball rolls into the collection area and there are some difficult up-and-downs. The greens are relatively large, but depending on the flag locations the greens can be somewhat difficult. The course was overseeded about a month ago and it was in great shape except that the greens were still slow and hard. We played from the burgundy tees, which are 6,734 yards with a course rating of 71.9 and a slope rating of 125. I thought that this course was set up for me to go low!

I started out really strong. My first drive (no mulligan) was straight down the middle and my approach shot stopped within five feet of the pin. From there it was downhill. I missed the putt and settled for a par. On No. 2 my drive was down the middle again and I was on the green in regulation and 3-putted for a bogey. Even though I had given away two strokes on the first two holes I was still feeling pretty good about myself. The next hole was a long par-5 that I bogeyed with a one putt and I made a two-putt bogey on the par-3 4th hole. Then the wheels came off! I got the hooks (again!). See Albert Einstein quote from "Rules of Golf - Ball Lost or Out of Bounds" I was 10 over par for the next 5 holes for a 49 on the front. I three-putted three holes, consistently leaving my first putt 8 to 10 feet short. I was using the short backswing and follow-through approach from my recent golf lesson instead of my normal long fluid Ben Crenshaw-like putting stroke. I guess I have more work to do on the putting stroke!

About halfway through the back nine still hooking the ball, Chad Feldheimer, my golf guru, advised me to change to a neutral grip, i.e., both thumbs pointed directly down the shaft of the club. Generally, when I do this I start hitting big balloon slices but today I hit the ball relatively straight and in the fairway. On No. 18, which is a short par-5, I was on the green in regulation, but far away from the hole and I made a nice second putt for par to end the round with a 46 on the back and a 95 for the day.

My SO told me that golf is 90% mental and I added 50% physical. She is correct. She said that I need to find that "happy place" in my mind and do some deep breathing when the wheels fall off. The "happy place" in my mind used to be on the golf course! Now what?

Friday, November 6, 2009

Gentlemen Only, Ladies Forbidden

It seems that Portmarnock Golf Club, a venerable Irish golf club founded in 1894, continues to believe that Golf is an acronym for "Gentlemen Only, Ladies Forbidden", and in a 3-2 decision, Ireland’s supreme court upheld the Club's right to exclude women. The court ruled that the Club's decision to bar women from membership did not violate Ireland’s Equal Status Act because the law permits exceptions for exclusively male and female clubs if the Club's “principal purpose is to cater only for the needs of persons of a particular gender”. The club argued, and the court agreed, that the club's principal purpose is social fraternization. The plaintiffs argued that golf clubs are venues for power-brokering relationships important to businessmen and women alike and a lot lot more happens in golf clubs than playing golf.

This story was also picked up by the Arizona Republic on November 4, 2009, without comment about the local "Men's Grill" controversy, which has now been resolved. The Phoenix Country Club, which was the original and long-time site of the Phoenix Open PGA Golf Tournament, was established over a century ago and is located in the heart of central Phoenix. Its membership includes many of the most influential business persons and families in the Valley, including women (I am not a member).

The Club has a separate Men's Grill, Women's Grill and Mixed Grill. The Men's Grill is located on the second floor of the clubhouse overlooking the golf course with dark wood and high definition television sets and plaques on the wall commemorating past Club golf champions. It was always bustling with activity during the noon hour during the week and you could always find leading male politicians, attorneys and business persons chatting over lunch.

The Mixed Grill is about half the size of the Men's Grill and is also located on the second floor of the clubhouse overlooking the golf course. It has white linen table cloths and nice decor, but very few patrons during the lunch hour. Although I have never been in the Women's Grill, I am told that it is a smallish room adjacent to the Mixed Grill with few distinguishing features.

After years of in-fighting among Club members, in September 2008, the Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard filed a lawsuit against the Phoenix Country Club alleging that the Club violated the Arizona Civil Rights Act “by excluding women from using the Men’s Grill and men from using the Women’s Grill”. The Club responded that it was exempt from the Arizona Civil Rights Act because it was a "private club". The question of whether a country club or other organization is a "private club" under the Civil Rights Act is a question of fact and turns at least in part on whether the club facilities are truly private for the use of its members or are used for public meetings and events and whether the club or organization derives significant income from catering to outside groups.

After some very public and unseemly wrangling, in January 2009 the lawsuit was settled and the Club agreed to open all of the club’s dining facilities to all members and their guests “regardless of sex”. As part of the settlement, the Club did not admit liability and the Attorney General "acknowledged that he is now satisfied that the club is operating as a private club”. The acknowledgment of private club status by the Attorney General was a significant victory for the Club because it may preclude the Attorney General from bringing any further lawsuits against the Club under the Arizona Civil Rights Act due to the "private club" exemption.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Rules of Golf - Ball Lost or Out of Bounds

If I hit the tee ball in play (it does not even have to be in the fairway), generally my worst score should be a bogey. A few pars interspersed with bogeys and maybe a double bogey and birdie here and there and I am shooting in the mid-80s! This game is easy.

When I am struggling, it is usually because of my driver. Hitting your tee ball out-of-bounds one time per round will hurt your handicap, but hitting it out of bounds two or three times per round will drive you to (1) drink (which may loosen you up!), (2) give up the game of golf or (3) put your driver in the bag and take out your 3-wood. I am a glutton for punishment and don't drink so I continue to hit my driver. Albert Einstein described this as "insanity": doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results!

Rule 27 generally provides that if your golf ball is lost or out of bounds, you are assessed a "stroke and distance" penalty. I think this penalty is too harsh and slows the pace of play. And if you are playing Titleist Pro V golf balls, at $4 per ball, loss of the golf ball should be penalty enough!

Therefore, as the rules Committee, I invoke the local rule that all out-of-bounds areas are treated as modified lateral hazards, in which case you take a penalty stroke and are permitted to drop the golf ball in the short rough (using your foot wedge to provide a reasonable lie), 90 degrees from the location where the ball came to rest (not where it entered the hazard or out-of-bounds area). Further, the lost ball rule is null and void under my local rules. Either the ball is out-of-bounds, hiding in the desert or "hiding in plain sight". If it is out-of-bounds or hiding in the desert, you apply the above rule and take your penalty stroke and play on. If you hit a good shot and there is no way the ball should be lost, but you 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. The Committee's rationale for this local rule is that if you were a PGA Tour player, it would be almost impossible to lose a well-struck ball given the television cameras, the gallery, the marshals and your caddie.

If you are a stickler for the Rules of Golf, Rule 27 includes a subsection on playing a provisional ball. After hitting a wayward tee shot, rather than walking to the location of the ball to determine whether it is in bounds or out of bounds and then making the walk of shame back to the tee box while the next group is waiting, the Rules of Golf magnanimously permit you to hit a "provisional ball". You must announce to your playing partners that you are in fact hitting a provisional ball before striking the second tee ball. Then, if the first tee ball is out-of-bounds or lost your provisional ball is treated as your third stroke after taking the one-stroke penalty. If you are lucky and the first tee ball is not out-of-bounds or lost, you can treat the provisional ball as a practice shot without any penalty! No harm, no foul. This Rule applies to all shots lost or hit out-of-bounds, but the major culprit is typically the tee ball.

For those players like me, the Rules also provide for additional provisional balls if your prior provisional ball may be lost or out-of-bounds. In "The Rules of Golf in Plain English", Kuhn and Garner explain the Rule as follows: "Any additional provisional ball bears the same relationship to the previous provisional ball as the first provisional ball bears to the original". Now that is plain English! And you wonder why I invoke the modified lateral hazard local rule.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Rules of Golf - Loose Impediment or Movable Obstruction

As I said from the start of this blog, I am not a stickler for the Rules of Golf. I realize that this may taint my USGA handicap, but c'est la vie. There is nothing worse than ruining a beautiful day on the golf course by pulling a two foot putt for par (except for missing the bogey putt coming back)! I am not trying to compete on the PGA Senior Tour, but rather play a nice round of client golf in the mid 80s.

Acting as my own rules Committee, I oftentimes consider the advantages that the pro golfers have at tournaments when making rules decisions. I am not talking about the manicured fairways and perfect greens that have no spike marks or ball marks, but, for example, having spectators lining the fairways keeping the errant tee shot in the fairway or short, trampled rough. Or my favorite spectator intervention that occurred at our own Phoenix Open.

The avid golf fans will remember a young Tiger Woods at the 1999 Phoenix Open. His tee shot on No. 13, a 585-yard par-5 hole, was off-line and landed behind a large boulder. Two or three spectators rushed over to the ball and rolled the boulder away giving Tiger an unimpeded shot to the green. It is hard to believe but I cannot find a video of this on YouTube! Having recently landscaped my backyard, I can tell you that boulder probably weighed 300+ pounds.

[NOTE: One of my followers located a video of the "Tiger Incident". You have to scroll down almost to the bottom of the page to find the correct video and then click on the correct bandwidth and connection for your computer.]

Rule 23 of the Rules of Golf generally provides that a player may move any loose impediment without penalty, with certain exceptions. A loose impediment is defined as any natural object such as a stone, leaf, branch, etc. Anything that is fixed, growing or solidly embedded is not a loose impediment. An "obstruction" (Rule 24), whether movable or immovable, refers only to an artificial object, and, thus, is not applicable assuming that the boulder was natural and not artificial. Since the definition of a "loose impediment" does not differentiate between a pebble and a boulder, moving the boulder complied with the letter of Rule 23, but maybe not the spirit of the Rules. I have no recollection whether moving the boulder had any effect on the outcome of the tournament, but it is a good basis for "stretching the Rules".

There are two interesting asides relating to this incident. First, some years later the golf course owners affixed a placard on the boulder commemorating the "Tiger Incident", which arguably makes the boulder a part of the course and not a loose impediment. To further solidify that position, the boulder was solidly embedded into the ground. If you have an opportunity to play the TPC Scottsdale Stadium Course, you should check out the boulder on No. 13, but do not try to move it!

Second, after the "Tiger Incident", the USGA issued a ruling that a player can only move a loose impediment by using "reasonable effort" without the help of others. Given the size and weight of the boulder on No. 13, the only Tour player that might have a chance of moving the boulder himself would be Tiger Woods!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

The Curmudgeon - Revisited

There has been a huge groundswell among my followers for additional posts about the Curmudgeon. Although the Curmudgeon is light on his feet, you can tell the Curmudgeon is coming down the hallway (and quickly close your door) because of the spare change constantly jingling in his pockets. The Curmudgeon has been unusually quiet recently. He has been squirreled away in his office, no doubt plotting some skulduggery.

I know that the Curmudgeon has been surreptitiously reading the blog because every once in a while he will make an off-hand comment. He was disgusted with the Grand Ole Opry post telling me that I should stick with only one thing that I know nothing about, rather than going off-topic to another topic about which I know nothing! He also chuckles with Chad Feldheimer about the sad state of my golf game (even though the Curmudgeon has twenty-something age children, he is so out of touch with today's culture he does not get the Chad Feldheimer reference). The Curmudgeon has threatened to post a comment or retort on my blog but to my knowledge he has not done so yet. Maybe this post will bring him out of his shell!

The Curmudgeon is like E.F. Hutton (for those of you that remember E.F. Hutton), "when the Curmudgeon talks, people listen." When blackberries (the Kleenex of personal digital assistants) first came into vogue, one of my colleagues and I journeyed to the corner office to visit the Dalai Lama of Dirt and ask for his wise counsel. The Dalai Lama proclaimed that (for him) blackberries that use regular batteries are better than those that use rechargeable batteries because chargers are bulky to carry on airplanes and in hotel rooms. My colleague and I listened breathlessly to the great wisdom of the Curmudgeon and immediately purchased blackberries with regular batteries. Six months later, the manufacturers stopped making blackberries with regular batteries! I think that the Curmudgeon owns stock in Duracell!

One of the great Curmudgeon stories that he tells about himself is a family trip with his then young children. The children liked to play hand-held video games and the Curmudgeon carried batteries on the plane in his pockets. Unfortunately, the Curmudgeon was also carrying the requisite spare change in his pockets, including pennies. During the flight, the Curmudgeon began to smoke (from his pants pocket!) and caught fire. The copper in the batteries and the zinc in the pennies were rubbing against each other creating an oxidation reaction and sparking a fire. Could you imagine if that happened after 9/11! The airline security personnel would have immediately landed the plane in the nearest corn field, carried the Curmudgeon off of the plane to the closest jail cell (which would have been a feat in and of itself) and waterboarded him until he admitted that he was an Al Qaida sleeper terrorist!

I think that the Curmudgeon may be willing to pay for half of my St. Andrews golf trip just to get rid of me for a week! I am going to continue to work on that!

Monday, November 2, 2009

Putting Like a Pro

I had my third lesson at the PGA Tour Superstore yesterday. I wanted to work on my putting. While I love to go to the driving range and the high-tech hitting bays, I know that the fastest way to improve my score and reduce my handicap is to work on my putting and short game. Will is the short-game specialist. As you might expect, the PGA Tour Superstore has all kinds of high tech telemetry devices to improve your putting, in addition to some old-fashioned gadgets that you can use on the practice green.

Will attached a sensor to my Ping Craze-E putter and he started to play with his computer. I hit five putts from about 10 feet on the simulated putting surface. The green was probably running at a 12 on the stimp meter! The sensor measured seven items: initial putter alignment; length and angle of putter backswing; length and angle of putter follow-through; putter angle at impact; speed at impact; impact location on putterhead; and putter loft. I did very well at initial putter alignment and putter angle at impact, which are the two most important measurements. My backswing and follow-through were too long and I fanned the putter open on the backswing and closed the putter after impact, although I was pretty square at impact.

Will worked with me to shorten my backswing, accelerate through the ball and shorten the follow-through, which will reduce clubface rotation and keep the clubface square to the putting line. We used four low-tech pieces of equipment to practice. First, we used the putting arc, a piece of wood with a subtle curvature. You put the heel of the putter on the outside of the arc and draw the club back and through along the edge of the wood on a perfect plane. The first 6 to 8 inches on the backswing and follow-through are almost perfectly square and as the arms swing further like a pendulum there is a small arc in the backswing and follow-through. It feels unbelievably natural and with practice you can develop the necessary muscle memory to repeat the putting stroke. This device is fairly pricey at $90, but I think it is well worth the money.

Next, we used the golf putting track to keep the putting stroke short and on line. This is a pretty simple and effective device, at a substantially lower price. The putting track on the link is a little fancier than the one I used, which was just a flat rectangle. The next gadget was the putting pegz. The putting pegz is two pieces of string attached to the pegs that you place along your alignment and above the ball. When you set up correctly over the ball, the two strings should be perfectly aligned to your eyes and your putter face. Also, the strings make you keep the putter face low through your follow-through. You can make this device yourself with two knitting needles and some yarn. Finally, the last device was a metal yardstick about 2 inches wide that Will placed along side the putting arc and putting pegz to make sure that the putter was square at alignment. At the end of the lesson, Will placed a golf ball at one end of the metal yard stick and told me to putt the ball keeping the ball on the yardstick the entire 3 feet. He said that he has worked with people that have driven themselves crazy trying to do this exercise! In my first and only attempt the ball stayed on the yardstick the entire 3 feet and went right into the hole! At that point I quit for the day, very pleased with my lesson.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

To Drive or Not to Drive

I signed up for the GolfLink website to read an article on Steve Stricker's golf swing and I received a free copy via e-mail of "Planning the Ultimate Golf Vacation" by David M. Baum, et al. I cannot include a copy of the e-book in this post because there are copyright warnings and notices that specifically include website postings and say that the maximum penalty for violations is $150,000! You can go to the website and get a copy yourself, but you have to sign up.

I searched for "St. Andrews" and there was an insert "To Drive or not to Drive" on page 26. Smooth was advocating having a driver for "World Of XXVII - Europe" and I was questioning the additional cost. After reading this article, I will not question Smooth again. The author made the following excellent points:
  • European rental cars are very small, like Fiats. I can just see the Big Man, Crimson Tide, the Natural and me squeezing into a Fiat! Of course, Turtle and the Mouth will have their own car.
  • Gas is really expensive in Europe.
  • European rental cars are often manual transmissions with the stick shift on the left! (I am not sure which foot you use for the clutch, brake and accelerator.)
  • You drive on the left side of the road and the roads are oftentimes very narrow.
  • Europe has some of the strictest drunk driving laws.

On the other hand, the author says that for an additional $150 to $300 per person for a week, you can have a luxury motor coach or minivan with a local driver and you never have to worry about directions. The driver acts as concierge, arranging caddies, lunches, departure times and providing other local advice. You have your own traveling 19th hole without concern about driving while drinking and you don't have to worry about returning your rental car on time!