Niagara Parks Golf

  


 
   

Milfred "Mo" Golf: 

The Voice of Anarchy
in a Tranquil World
 

  Send An Email To Milfred "Mo" Golf: buffalogolfer@buffalogolfer.com

 

Click Here For Mo' Golf Archives (Pre-July 2005)

January 2011
Orange Blossom Circuit-
Winter Amateur Tour For Ladies

January 2011
Countering The Mouth's Dream Team with Picks of My Own: My Second Ten

January 2011
Countering The Mouth's Dream Team with Picks of My Own: My First Ten

January 2011
Top 25 Private Courses in Buffalo-Niagara

December 2010
Top 25 Public Courses in Buffalo-Niagara

November 2010
10 Holiday Items For Your Favorite Golfer

October 2010
So What's Up With Golf?

October 2010
Taking A Risk On A Rant

September 2010
Ryder Cup=Make Your Own Menu For Team Europe
 

September 2010
Golf News In The Second Digital Age

August 2010
Golf Sprint 8-10

July 2010
Golf Junket 2010
Williamsburg, Virginia

June 2010
Two DVD compilations from Watson & Mickelson

June 2010
How To Golf Properly
 

May 2010
Golf Sonnets?  Absolutely!

April 2010
Nabisco Revelations

April 2010
Cover Six

March 2010
The Shapes of Things To Come

 

February 2010
Tiger

January 2010
Ladies Day Out

October 2009
Inadvertent up-to-date Installment
September 2009
Walker Cup:  Saturday:  Morning 4somes
 
November 2009
Inadvertent up-to-date Installment
September 2009
Walker Cup:  Sunday:  Acroamatic Thoughts
 
August 2009 Special Submission
Golf Junket 2009
Updated 6 AM Monday, 8 AM Tuesday, 11 PM Wednesday,
6 AM Thursday, 3 PM Thursday & 4 PM Friday
August 2009
Local Boy Makes Good

July 2009
Before you know it, a month slips by...

May 2009
What's Been Happening,
What's Going On, What To Expect

May 2009
Ladies of the LPGA Tour

April 2009
Long Irons make a comeback, Hybrids in decline

March 2009
Mo' Speaks From The Heart

March 2009
Diamond Hawk:  Then Versus Now

February 2009
Ten Things I Know You Think I Know

 

January 2009
Welcome to Facebook, BuffaloGolfer!

November 2008
Holiday Gift Giving

October 2008
Things I've Sprayed, Balls I've Whacked, Shoes I've Worn
September 2008
Places I've Been, Things I've Read, Clubs I've Swung
August 2008
Bob Labbance, Golfer Eternal

July 2008
Big Plans at Holiday Valley

July 2008
Two Honest Voices

June 2008
The Jack Austin Series from John Corrigan

 

June 2008
Getting Acquainted
with Tournament Golf

May 2008
The Best Golf Trip I Never Took
 

May 2008
You Can Go (to someone else's) Home Again:  Tom's Run In Blairsville, PA

April 2008
Some Of My Favorite Golf People In WNY
 

March 2008
Chad Kulpa
 
February 2008
Rochester Golf Show Recap
 

January 2008
Writers' Summit

December 2007
The End Of The Year As We Know It
 

October 2007
A Shocking Round, Part Two

September 2007
Turning Stone Resort Championship

August 2007
The Byrncliff Open

August 2007
A Shocking Round

August 2007
Summer to Fall Plans

August 2007
Publics versus Privates:
The best golf in western New York

August 2007
Hook A Kid On Golf In Hamburg

July 2007
Porter Cup Photo Gallery

 

July 2007
The Michigan Road
June 2007
The Michigan Road Preview:  Part III
June 2007
The Michigan Road Preview:  Part II
June 2007
The Michigan Road Preview:  Part I
June 2007
Mo' Reacts To 100 Holes
June 2007
The Story of Trees

May 2007
Rise of the Amateurs

 

April 2007
Masters Review

March 2007
Byrncliff
40th Anniversary Celebration

February 2007
What to expect from our booth

January 2007
New Year Resolutions

 

January 2007
Indoor Golf Beyond The Dome

December 2006 # 3
Holiday Thanks and Year-End Ruminations

December 2006 # 2
What Is This Mystery Place On Transit Road?

 

December 2006 # 1
Golf Series 2007:  What To Expect...

 

November 2006 # 2
The Spaces Between: 
A Tour of Bandon's Lost Areas

 

November 2006 # 1
Kinzua Dam Golf

 

October 2006 Bonus
What to do without the domes?

 

October 2006
Mo' gives his blessing to Diamond Hawk

Special Report:  Wisconsin Sojourn 2006
Mo' Visits Wisconsin & The American Club
 

August 2006
Week in southern New England:
The Ranch and Lake of Isles

August 2006
Kohler's Impregnable Quadrilateral:
One From Each Column

July 2006
Bonus Article:  Thundering Waters

June 2006
Mo' Returns To Writing
 

Tour Reports:  A Good Idea At The Time
----------
Tour Report 11-3-05
Tour Report 10-3-05
Tour Report 9-3-05
Tour Report 8-3-05
Tour Report 7-3-05
Tour Report 6-2-27

Tour Report 1-1-29
Tour Report 2-2-05
Tour Report 3-2-12

Tour Report 4-2-19
Tour Report 5-2-26

Special Report
Mo' Golf and Copley Apparel
Click Here

January 2006
Western New York's
Collegiate players

December 2005
Ironwood Golf Club, From
The Architect's Chair
 

September 2005
The Answer: 
A Backyard Putting Green.
 

October 2005
The Arrowhead Story: 
WNY's Best New Private Club.

August 2005
Milfred 'Mo' Golf meets Vegas,
Oneida Style.

 

July/August 2005
East Aurora's E.J. Pfister takes Oklahoma State bond one step farther.

 

 

 

 

 

 

February 2011: There's a storm brewing in women's professional golf

Alliteration is the seductress of the hack professional writer. Since I am neither hack nor professional, its allure is lost on me. For one of weaker stuff, the temptress might have sent "Typhoon Tseng" or something similar through my muses. Should I become both hack and professional, expect some
significant alliteration to appear on these sheets.

There is a storm brewing in women's professional golf. Two storms, actually, in the Yin-Yang beauty of the cosmos. The first is a sorry one, sorry like
the state of the economy, sorry like the fact that the first stateside event for the US LPGA tour will not take place until mid-March. This has been the common thread since the early 2000s, as the LPGA is one of four major professional tours in the USA that compete for sponsorship dollars. As smalltown events like Corning and Kutztown fell victim to bad tour management and economic bullying, the early months of the LPGA season grew lean. In 2011, precisely ONE stateside event will be played in each of April and May. The months of March and June are healthy ones for the US economy, with 3 sites each for LPGA events in the lower 48. July and August return to the world tour beat with a solitary US event each, then 2 in September, then back to the world tour. Who wins? Ultimately, the LPGA, forced by the economy to become a world tour in order to sustain life. Who loses? US golf fans who connected with the ladies of professional golf.

The storm about which I wish to write, however, is a different one. Her name is Yani Tseng and she has triumphed in each of the four events played in 2011. The golfer from Taiwan opened her year with a win at the Ladies Open in her native country, an event on the Ladies Asian Tour. Many top pros from Europe and the USA, in contrast to recent years, were there. Tsent built a streak with victories in Australia at 2 consecutive European Tour events. Now, with her triumph in Thailand, she leaves for Singapore as the favorite to win a fifth event in succession.

It was interesting to me that she began the fourth round with a slim, stroke lead over Michelle Wie. During the age of Tiger, Wie was predicted (often by me) as the female version, the one who would lead the LPGA to new millenium stardom. Didn't happen. Instead, Wie turned pro way too early, never learned how to win against better and better competition and ultimately became a run-of-the-mill, win every now and then pro. Ironically, in 2004, Wie was the 13-year old, defending champion of the USGA Women's Public Links tournament. She again made it to the final match where she lost, inexplicably, to a youngster from Taiwan. Rather than heed the warning that she wasn't the guaranteed closer that Tiger was, Wie turned pro soon after and lost the ability to win. Tseng, meanwhile, bolstered by the victory, became the champion that she is today. In Thailand, Wie closed with a 70 while Tseng signed for a sublime 66, ensuring a five-stroke triumph.

Keep your attention directed east from the USA, toward Singapore (or west, if you live on that coast.) You just might see greatness this week as Tseng directs her focus toward another glorious triumph. I'll be studying up on my alliteration quiz.

 

February 2011: Rochester Golf Show: Saturday Submission

When Mother Nature ruffles and billows her dress, sometimes you press on. Since there was to be no golf show in Buffalo this year, the closest source for a fix is Rochester. Despite horrible driving conditions, I pressed on. The Dome Arena in Henrietta is a neat place for a show; it's neither too large nor too small for the event and is separated into two section, perfect for vendors on one side and club reps/driving range on the other.

This year, I brought the wee video camera with me for some action footage. When we hit it big, I'll purchase a better camera; for now, the tiny travel model will do. My subjects are the following:

Fitness Dudes...

Computer Swing Monitor Dudes...

PING fitting station...

The casual sales pitch for a backyard green...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4S2-EuDpmHE

And the delightful chocolate fountain!

After the moving pictures, I went back around for some stills and captured the following moments from Rochester Golf Show 2011

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
 
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

From the moment I arrived until the time that I left (roughly 3 hours), the show hummed with a hustle and bustle of humanity. Crowds anxious for the advent of Spring 2011 moved through the turnstiles, eased among the vendors and edged along the driving range. To say that X and Y were the busiest points would do an injustice to the remainder of the alphabet. Truth is, every booth did a brisk business. Attendees registered for the chance to win trips, rounds of golf, equipment and gift cards; they waited in line to try the whitest, the blackest, the shiniest and the dullest of clubs, and they purchased bags of experienced golf balls, sale-priced shirts and shorts and shoes and ... shticks, err, sticks. If the presence of so many folks can be construed to be an economic indicator, the golf biz is in for quite a rebound in 2011.

 

 

 

 

 

January 2011: Countering The Mouth's Dream Team with Picks of My Own: My Second Ten

We'll get sraight to the nitty-gritty details here. As with all great snake drafts, I get to pick the second ten ahead of Mr. Mouth That Roars. I'll continue my youth movement and go with the following chaps:

11. Bill Haas...Can you make a cherry pie, Billy Boy? Worst metaphor ever, unless the cherry pie represents wins.

12. Matt Kuchar...Wants it. Not in a fist-pumping way, but a quiet, wants-it way.

13. Francesco Molinari...Flipped a coin...Heads with Eduardo, Tails with Francesco, you know the result.

14. Charl Schwartzel...First we had Ernie and Retief, now we get Louis and Charl from South Africa

15. Noh Seung-Yul...This is the dude from Asian (not Ryo) who will make his mark.

16. Matteo Manassero...We've just gotten to know the Molinaris and here comes MaMa!

17. Webb Simpson...A guy who seems to have it on straight, and not just because he's from Wake Forest!

18. Ricky Barnes...worst swing for a potentially great player who can simply get the ball in the hole.

19. Kevin Na...this guy eventually learns to play outside of the west coast, right?

20. Adam Scott...got his randiness done, now ready to focus on golf.

21. Jason Day...This was The Mouth's 31st pick (he can't count well), so I'll say that he'll win a lot overseas, a little on American soil and perhaps sneak into a major.

22. Nick Watney...I recently declared Bubba Watson "dead to me" in Fantasy Golf, so he of course stands to finish in the top three this week. Watney is close to that declaration, but I think that his intensity will bring him higher than Bubba.

23. Alejandro Canizares (with a tilde over the 'n')...We need a Spaniard to replace the great ones (and Sergio) and I don't think that it's the one-dimensional Quiros,nor the hyphenated Cabrera-Bello (whose name translates at Goatherd-Pretty, interestingly.) I like the second-generation Alejo, son of Jose-Maria C., to make a name for himself.

24. Danny Lee...This korean kiwi was everything in the amateur world a few years back, then pulled a Justin Rose, turned pro too early and fell off the map. Talent doesn't sleep forever, so I'll take him with pick #24.

25. Ben Martin...In addition to being polite enough to speak with us during a practice round in 2009 at Bethpage's US Open, Martin keeps popping up in his rookie year, so I'll take a flyer on him.

26. Spencer Levin...Saw him as a butt-smoking, punk amateur in 2004 at Shinnecock. If his cockiness is tempered by experience, he's a safe bet for the next 15 years.

27. Jbe' Kruger...How you get that out of James Barry is less important than his crazy, South African hair and his looney penchant for making birdies.

28. Richie Ramsay...Scotland's hope.

29. Peter Uihlein...I used to think he'd never have to pay for sticks. Now, with the impending breakup of Acushnet, he might need to.

30. Anthony Paolucci...He's getting it done this week at San Diego. Might be enough for me.

 

January 2011: Countering The Mouth's Dream Team with Picks of My Own: My First Ten

My inimitable (and unavoidable) colleague, The Mouth, pitched an idea a while back for a little give-and-take. Since we're both in the same, year-long Fantasy Golf League, he suggested we debate whom we would select for our dream team. Understand, now, that this is not a team for one, not two, but for fifteen years! You need to look ahead to some longevity. Do you copy a page from the NFL contract table and back-load a guy's contract, knowing that you won't have him in years 11-15, gambling on enough productivity during the first decade of play to counter the final quint?

If you click here, you'll find The Mouth's first ten picks. His is an interesting and devious mind, so I need to be on my toes. He makes a good case for all his picks, but what troubles me is that two of them are 35 years of age or older and one is from a country that is notorious for an inability to export its golfers (Japan.) With that said, I'm going to get risky and crazy and go with a youth-infused lineup to start off my dream team. On the left you shall find the Mouth's selections. Mine are the chaps on the right, in bold. Beneath each selection, I'll give you some reasoning as to why "that guy" is in "that place."Here goes:

1) Rory McIlroy ======== Martin Kaymer

I like Kaymer a great deal. He has the physical gifts and apparently possesses the necessary ability to win tournaments. He currently has a five-shot, third-round advantage at the HSBC event in Abu Dhabi. If he brings this one home, hide the fillies!

2) Dustin Johnson ============ Graeme MacDowell

He defeated Woods in Eldrick's own cage. He nearly stole the T of C a few weeks back. He is, most of all, a high-rent lurker.He doesn't lurk in the 15-35th place slot. Rather, he is found in the top 15 most weeks and is a birdie run away from contending, when he is not contending. He has a US major championship on his rez and is primed for a long career.

3) Martin Kaymer ============= Chris Kirk

The first of my unknowns. Shooting a 64 makes me sit up and take notice. Kirk has weatherd his time on the N-Wide tour and has won there. Can't say the same for Rickie Fowler and others. Nice pedigree and has a friendly ax to grind with Walker Cup chum-mate Dustin Johnson.

4) Paul Casey ============== Colt Knost

This is the guy who, after winning the Am and the Pub Am in one summer (2007) turned down an invite to Da' Masters to turn pro. If that doesn't take confidence, 'splain to me what does. Like #3, he has earned some stripes and wins on the N-Wide Tour and should be a regular contender on the big tour.

5) Tiger Woods ============= Jeff Overton

Dude had some close calls in 2010 and whined like a baby with diaper rash after the last of them. Ben Crane is slow and Overton whines...I'll take whine over slow. Whine you can fix. Overton is a birdie machine who did some thumping in the Ryder Cup. Like David Duval half a generation ago, when Overton wins, he'll win again and again.

#6 - Rickie Fowler ============ Kevin Chappell

You can tell the type of athlete I'm looking for. Chappell is an N-Wide grad and is a physical rock. I just made the switch to a draw, while Chappell went the other way. I like his swing change. I like his upside. UCLA needs the Pavins out of the news and Chappell in it.

#7 - Hunter Mahan =========== Louis Oosthuizen

Onions have layers and I think we've seen layer #1 with this guy, nicknamed Shrek for his gap toothed smile. If you can win on the Old Course at St. Andrews, you have chops, game, bones, all of the above. Like Overton, he makes birdies. He won some events on the South Africa tour with red numbers too red to be believed.

#8 - Camillo Villegas =========== Dustin Johnson

Were you wondering when I'd get to him? 2011 will define him a bit more. Everyone is waiting to see how he will respond to the near-misses of last year. I think he makes a a statement early, at Augusta. He's a southeastern kid and knows the feel of the grasses and soils well. He does everything well and he does it with cool. That's good to have.

#9 - Ryo Ishikawa ============ Rory McIlroy

He wins, he dies his hair. If McIlroy gets sucked into the pomp and circumstance, he might founder more than a bit. If he keeps a level and focused head, he'll be a top-three guy for 15 years. Can't get the hair thing out of my head; that's why I didn't take him higher.

#10 - Ian Poulter ============ Rickie Fowler

He needs to win, he needs to win, he needs to win. That's it. Forget the Zach Efron hir, forget the Puma threads and kicks, forget the icing. He needs to win and win and win.

 

January 2011: Orange Blossom Circuit-Winter Amateur Tour For Ladies

In recent years, the Orange Blossom Circuit has represented less of an escape from northern weather, and more of a begrudging acceptance of its
invasion of the southern states. Four tournaments make up the month-long circuit of top-shelf female amateur competition. Three of the events are individual battles. The Sally (South Atlantic), Harder Hall and Jones/Doherty offer an opportunity for high school, college and adult amateurs to carry a bit of the holiday spirit into the new year's competition. The International Four-Ball closes the quad-event tour and affords a chance for the ladies to recall the spirit of bygone days (when professionals also played in two-player events) and complete their mid-winter sojourn in friendship.

Carol S. Thompson, the long-time caretaker and champion of women's amateur golf, watches over and play in these events. With such a heralded name, it's no surprise that many of the nation's finest collegiate golfers apply early for these four events. The 2011 OBT begain at Harder Hall country club in Sebring, at the eponymous championship. UKentucky's Ashleigh Albrecht and Wake Forest's Cheyenne Woods were separated by a handful of strokes after round one, as Albrecht opened with a 63. When she slipped a bit to a round-two 74, Woods moved into the top spot with a 69. Kyle Roig, the defending champion and future (2011) UCLA Bruin, joined the fray with a third-round 68, two behind the leaders. In the final round, none of the trio could gain any separation and Albrecht snuck into the top spot by one over Woods and three over Roig.

Week two finished up yesterday (Sunday the 16th) at Oceanside Country Club in Ormond Beach, Sunshine State. Jaye Marie Green, a whelp who competed in the 2010 Open at Oakmont, was nothing like the lass who signed for 171 after two rounds in Pennsylvania. Green began round four with a 2-blow lead over Charley Hull and saw it instantly halved by Hull's opening birdie. Answering with a hole-two birdie of her own, Green looked forward and tossed a five-under 67 at Hull. When the ink had dried, Hull's excellent 69 left her four strikes behind behind the winner at -1. And the rest of the field? A few miles back at +7 was the tie for third.

Despite the departure of two of the younger, more heralded competitors from 2010 (Jessica Korda and Alexis Thompson), the first two OBT events have provided excitement, drama and birdies. Week three begins without its two-time defending champion (Thompson) and a field poised to make a name for itself, the Jones/Doherty Cup kicks into gear at Coral Ridge country club in Hollywod. One week later, the OBT completes another sucessful run at its only team championship, the Women's International Four-Ball. After two weeks of medal play, the final pair of competitions are conducted at match play. The WIFB also has a two-time defending champion in Meghan Stasi. After winning in 2009 with Dawn Woodard as her partner, Stas and Donna Mummert claimed the 2010 crowns with a 24th-hole victory.

 

 

January 2011: The Top 25 Private Courses in Buffalo-Niagara

Understand from the get-go that this is a private "course" ranking, not a private "club" list. The difference, you ask? Glad to clarify. "Club" includes all
the amenities that sometimes accompany the centerpiece (the golf course.) This site enjoys a drink and a dip from time to time, but the number of
tennis courts, shooting fields, pools and oak bar rooms have no impact on this ranking. In order to gather 25, we had to scour from Lake Ontario to the Pennsylvania border, from the shores of Lake Erie to east Batavia. To get to 25, we gave a nod to one Canadian club whose membership boasts quite a number of Buffalonians. Truly, there are others that deserve to make the list, but we could not in good conscience keep any WNY courses off the ladder. In the end, we have a list that we hope engenders discussion and debate.

25. Shorewood
A fine course in Dunkirk, it has neither "shore" nor "wood," nor memorable holes. The entire 18 rests on a flat piece of land and the holes tend to go back and forth, parallel to each other. Conditioning is pretty good and a few local events have been played there.

24. Tan Tara
Also a fine course in North Tonawanda. Tan Tara would rank near the top twenty if not for the awful decision to begin and end each nine with a par three hole. #1 and #18 are very good holes that come at the wrong time in the round. All four short holes play across the same ditch. Throw in the goofy, 90 degree 11th and you have three unappealing holes. Tan Tara does have some excellent holes in the interior of the course, but is hampered by a practice range that takes up prime land in the middle of the property.

23. Shelridge
Shelridge ranks 23rd by virtue of having fewer awkward holes. It has some excellent newish holes on its more recent nine, yet many of the older ones still end in inverted turtle-shell greens that are very difficult (in a bad way) to putt and chip.

22. Bartlett
Bartlett is one of two private clubs along the southern Tier expressway that merit a trip down. The course is not long but makes use of its length in excellent fashion. Molded into the Olean hillside, Bartlett also takes advantage of rises and falls and suitable green sites. The conditioning is excellent, which brings it into the top 20 discussion.

21. Gowanda
Gowanda would be a bottom-three private club without one fatal move: the retention of Scott Witter as architect. Witter changed 3-4 holes in the middle of the back nine, creating one of the area's most spacious and dramatic par five holes. Like Bartlett, Gowanda benefits from very good conditioning and meandering terrain that adds character to the course the way sideburns fill out a face.

20. Westwood
What can you really say about Westwood, other than it is a solid course with good conditioning? There is no elevation change to speak of, until the 18th hole. The greens at Westwood are typical William Harries, not very inspired and quite uninteresting. There are no distastefully weak holes on the course, yet there is little consistency in design to elevate the course above its fourth-five placement.

19. Lockport Town & Country Club
Now we start to get into some mildly interesting layouts. Each of the next eight has just the right number of weak holes to remove it from top-ten consideration. At Lockport, the contrast between the original nine and the modern one is stark; the original holes lay on a rumpled piece of land that moves up and down with abruptness, ending in a flat, boring and weak 18th hole. The newer nine extends over two or three (hard to tell) separate pieces of land to the north-east, and possesses one of the worst par five finishes (#14 and its fronting moat) in the region. That it comes on the heels of the elegant 13th, also a par five, is grating.

18. Moonbrook
This classic course, the site of Ben Hogan's final stateside tune-up, prior to winning his only British Open title (1953) is reminiscent of Bartlett (#22) on a grander scale. The same Allegheny foothills give character to the fairways and mystique to the greens. Very rarely do holes run parallel, offering the notion of a journey, rather than a well-trod path.

17. Fox Valley
Like many a private club in Buffalo-Niagara, Fox Valley suffers from a lack of space. Tim Davis did the best he could with the available terrain; the flood plain he had to work with was equal parts inspirational and diabolical. Who among us has gazed in awe at a drive from the elevated 15th tee, only to arrive at the ball and curse the prospect of wedge-wedge into a reachable par five? Fox Valley makes a straight driver out of all its members, yet affords them the occasional, open-field lash at a reachable par four or five. Its drop-shot 6th hole is rivaled only by the Park Club's 13th for beauty.

16. Transit Valley
The most claustrophobic course in Buffalo-Niagara, Transit Valley gives new meaning to the words "restrained" and "containment." No matter what the estimate of available acreage might be, it is doubtless less in reality. Transit is made up of 18 solid holes. Brilliant ones like the 3rd and the 5th are balanced out by wretched ones like the 12th and 14th. The two "valley" courses have much in common; both place too much of a premium on driving accuracy, both long for more land and both fit comfortably in the middle of our list.

15. Springville
The pull of a gorge is mighty! Springville benefits from a natural phenomenon that no other course in wny boasts. The deep gorge to the south draws shots on 4, 12 and 13 with a sense of inescapability. The club had the common sense to purchase land to the north and utilize in-house talent to replace 3 weaker holes with a triumvirate of broader brush strokes. Fast greens and a wide variety of approach shot demands make Springville the first member of our "fine fifteen."

14. Orchard Park

I'm not saying that the destruction of holes 17 and 18 ruined a Travis design, but it sure ruined the integrity of a Travis design. Holes like 3, 4, 8, 10, 14, 17 and 18 absolutely bathe in the golden-age glow; they are a call from an earlier time and an invitation to play the land, not the air. In complete contrast, holes 5 and 13 are so out of proportion and style (5 may be the single worst hole on a good course in the area...in fact, it i) that one is grateful that the two are placed on separate nines. Any closer proximity and the complete flow would be disrupted. You'll remember 16 holes at OPCC for their wonderment; hopefully the new ones won't make a lasting impression.

13. Niagara Frontier
It must have taken serious daring "back in the day" to build a golf course over broken ground. Maybe it was easier, since you could place tees and greens on opposite sides of ravines and not worry about tending the space in between. This course has its fair share of these holes, some that breach a major chasm, along with others that run on and through a minor chasm. The piece of the puzzle that completed the image was the abandonment of some claustrophobic holes and the addition of three more in the western hollow. The new holes look more Florida-TPC than old school, the only negative that keeps this NFCC out of the top 10.

12. East Aurora
The most demanding drivers course in the area, there is not a single hole here that can be considered a wide-open driver. For the average adult, driver stays in the bag on nearly half the par fours and fives. The shots into the greens are less arduous, then the putting takes over. There is a reason that an international junior tournament is held here: it takes young nerves to conquer this course! EACC contains many of the area's memorable holes, but don't leave your patience or your punch shots in the locker room.

11. Brierwood
The pros had their share of trouble when a Hogan (now Nationwide) Tour event was held here in the early 1990s. Brierwood may have more space than any other club course in the area; in contrast to its immediate predecessor, when don't you take out driver here? Despite its apparent openness, the course tosses in a hole made narrow by a creek, a ravine or a stand of trees from time to time. The ultimate combination of challenge and accessibility for players of all lengths and ability levels elevates Brierwood above courses of similar worth.

10. Lancaster
Metro Buffalo's hidden gem. Lancaster has more solid par fours than most courses in wNY. The 18th hole was a forgettable par three in the original design, but now plays as a driveable, risk-reward par four. The greens at Lancaster slope phenomenally and are wicked when fast. The blind, par 3 8th hole is unique in the area.

9. Stafford
Western New York's hidden gem. Not many outside the inner circles of golf and the membership have been to Stafford. One of Walter Travis' pieces of mastery, the Batavia-area course boasts humpty-dumpty greens that demand acuity from the tournament player and a sense of humor from the average chop. The front nine begins and ends with stout, challenging par fours; the inward half begins and ends with drivable two-shotters (quite the irony!) The Travis quadrilateral (Stafford, Cherry Hill, Lookout Point and Orchard Park) is, in a rival sport's lexicon, quite the round trip.

8. Wanakah**

The double-asterisk identifies the one course on both lists (private and public) that BuffaloGolfer has not played. A google-earth tour of the property, along with the reputation (state amateur championship site and local renown) of the course place Wanakah in the top eight of our listing. Might it rank higher or lower? Of course. When we have the opportunity to finally play the track, we'll re-rank (if necessary) accordingly. Until then, Wanakah's true worth will remain as mysterious as the identity of its designer/architect.

7. Brookfield

This course is solidly anchored in the top ten of area club courses. Designed by the enigmatic William Harries, Brookfield does not share the inspirational greens of Cherry Hill (where Harries was a member.) The course is solid from tee to green, although it employs far too many straight holes with little interruption from tee to green. Brookfield is the victim of technology is well; two of its more unique holes (13 & 14) are bisected by a creek that now comes into play for longer drivers, never an issue with wooden clubs and balata balls. Brookfield replaced two holes in the 1990s. The new second is a triumph, while the unfortunate third is a bunker-dominated par three of less worth.

6. Niagara Falls
From a tournament perspective, the Porter Cup is in a class by itself. From a golf course point of view, the question begged is, is it Tillinghast? Cornish? Trent Jones? Niagara Falls ranks in the second-five of area club courses for the simple reason that its architecture has no definable identity. The course has undergone so many changes over the years that many would be surprised to know that #18 was once a short par four! The Lewiston tract of land is equal parts subtle roller and garishly-bunkered post modernist. Without equal are the greens; their subtle and obvious undulations are the match of any surfaces around, despite the location of many of them on flat, uninteresting ground.

5. Cherry Hill
The lone Canadian representative might as well be a US course, right? Cherry Hill has the "it" factor, a characteristic unique to its terrain...all putts run fast toward Buffalo. Uphill and toward the Queen city? It's fast. Downhill and away? It shall be slow. It's not grain, it's not the drop off the escarpment, but it is something! Ian Andrew's remarkable bunkering efforts of the late 20s, combined with Mother Nature's winter thinning of tree copses, opened up and closed down Cherry Hill in new ways. And, lest we forget Raymond Floyd's whining, the 18th green is the most iconoclastic golfing element of our region.

4. Park

This Colt-Alison offering lies serenely below Sheridan Drive and represents the most eponymously-named club in the area. The golden-age design team
utilized the central spine of the escarpment to develop the finest drop-shot par three (#13), a back-to-back rise and fall tandem (#14 & #15) and the
most dramatic closing hole in the area. If that weren't enough, the fifth hole might be the best par three around.

3. Country Club of Buffalo
At times, the third iteration is the charm. After stints along Elmwood Avenue and at Main-Bailey, the CC of B retained Donald J. Ross to build the area's golden-age masterpiece. One of the original quarry courses (Merion in Philadelphia being the other), CCB uses non-traditional terrain to provide stark shot selections over a lush canvas.

2. River Oaks

Desmond Muirhead was known to be a wildly-influenced (although not influential) designer. What he did on Grand Island was carved and mound a series of golf courses (depending on the tee deck that you select) within one 18-hole stretch. If there is a more challenging stretch of approach shots in the region than 10-13 at River Oaks, it ain't by much. Only a finishing stretch of disputable merit keeps River from challenging Crag Burn for the top spot.

1. Crag Burn
The undisputed champion will likely remain the best private course in western New York for years to come. The usual forced carries and penal bunkering of Robert Trent Jones, Senior are not in evidence here. Instead, RTJ, Sr. crafted a thoughtful, serpentine layout replete with optional routes from tee to green. Crag Burn is known for its lengthy 2nd hole; in our opinion, #2 is only the 3rd-best par five on the course! The only flaw to the course is the absence of a driveable par four on the back nine, to complement the 3rd hole of the outward nine. Often mistaken for a links course, Crag Burn bears the greatest of resemblances to the fine heathland courses of the British isles and is a worthy occupant of the local private course throne.

 

 

 

December 2010: The Top 25 Public Courses in Buffalo-Niagara

My holiday tribute to the golfers of western New York is an honest assessment of the state of public golf in our region. Judging byt the recent openings and consistent upgrades, it's never been healthier. Options run wild for affordable or high-end golfing experiences in WNY, which might explain why second-tier country clubs are scouring the tee sheets for members and first-tier clubs have reduced their initiiation edicts. I decided to make a list of the top 25 public courses in Buffalo-Niagara, going as far east as Darien Center (but not Batavia) and as far south as the Pennsylvania border. Many worthwhile courses like Audubon, Brighton, Beaver Island Hyde Park and Oak Run found themselves just beyond the list. To say that they are not worthy tests of golf would be facetious. As lists go, some make it, others do not. The list is yours to use as you wish. To keep the drama, I'll begin at #25 and work my way to the top.

Top 25 Public Courses in Buffalo-Niagara

25. Peak 'n Peek Lower Course
In a word, complementary. The lower course does not benefit from the undulation and elevation changes of the upper course, but it is a fine fit for the opening spot on my top twenty-five public course list. The holes work their way over a flattish piece of land but are never boring. Conditioning is top notch, probably the element that allows the Lower to grasp the final rung on this 25-rung ladder.
http://www.pknpk.com

24. Holland Hills
One of the many unknown jewels on this list, Holland Hills sits quietly off Route 16, just beyond the Holland Speedway. The course stretches through the meadows, balancing straight holes with doglegs and one island green!
No Website

23. Chestnut Hill
If you'd like the lowdown on Chestnut Hill, read Rico's Rants rant # 9 from this year. Chestnut Hill is a meat-and-potatoes course that does more tournament rounds than any other local layout. Fine conditioning balances out a benign layout and elevates Chestnut Hill into the elite 25 of area public courses.
http://www.chestnuthillcc.com

22. Dande Farms
Another humble country course, Dande Farms often gets overshadowed by its neighbors, #s 3 and 5 on this list. Nevertheless, it was good enough to produce the Brodziks, Gary Neuschel and Ken Bugenhagen, some of the finest amateur golfers in WNY during the 1970s and 1980s. Known for its absolute lack of sand traps, Dande Farms also blends an open front nine with an enclosed inward half to merge two unique styles of golf.
No Website

21. Cazenovia Park
Some might consider it a stretch to list a city-owned, nine-hole layout in the top twenty five of area public golf. If you let Caz grow on you, you'll understand why. Whether it's the fairway-level 1st, 2nd, 6th or 9th greens (holes where you cannot believe you 3-whacked or failed to get it up and down), the volcanic 3rd and 5th putting surfaces (where a miss anywhere but short leaves a ticklish recovery) or the hill-benched 4th, 7th or 8th greens (holes whose approach shots demand the greatest of care), Caz is an approach-shot course. Hit your drive anywhere, it seems, until you realize that each of these putting surfaces must be approached with respect and restraint. Conditions relegate it to the bottom five of the list but, hey, that's not so bad for a little south Buffalo course, is it?
No Website

20. Concord Crest
This southern Erie county course grew little by little...nine holes followed by nine more and voila! 18 interesting holes. The piece of property holds five holes on the upper shelf, along with one that transitions from top to bottoms, and the remaining dozen or so in the lower bowl. Concord Crest is not afraid of rock walls that front par three greens, nor consecutive short par fours, nor heroic par fours with greens that bench into a hillside. A solid if short course that easily finds a home in my top twenty.
http://www.concordcrest.com

19. South Shore
About five years ago, this link to golf's golden age of architecture was at a low point. As one friend liked to say, "a bunch of unsupervised kids with chemicals are burning out the greens and fairways." South Shore tried everything, including lights along the closing holes, a dome and a shortened first hole. To outsiders, it appeared that the Styles/Van Kleek course was on its way to foreclosure and a quick sale to developers. The rennaissance of the Hamburg course lies in the hands of an invested ownership family and a commited superintendent. South Shore occupies an elegant piece of land and contains a series of memorable holes. The approaches to #3, #7, #10, #11 (from the back deck) and #14 make full use of the creeks that work their way through the course. The laying of the fairways utilizes the flow of the land well. Unfortunately, the par fives are weak and minimal/ineffective bunkering relegate the course to its present location.
http://www.southshoregolfcourse.com

18. Deerwood
For many years, the key to Deerwood was length. Back in the days of wooden heads and rubber-band ball guts, it opened with along par five, a long par three and a long par four. Add the prevalent winds to the mixture and you might be 3-4 over par before heading to the fourth tee (thankfully, a short par four.) In the late 1990s, plans began for a third nine and the entire blend of the course changed. Scott Witter (see #3 & #11) took a compact tract of land and maneuvered a series of fairly shot (versus par) but challenging holes and created the third and most interesting nine at the golf course. Unlike the original eighteens, where straight and long is the order of the day, Fawn nine employs short and medium-length par threes, angular short par fours and hidden green sites to create a happy place for shotmakers.
Click Here

17. Elkdale
If you can't putt, you're in for a long day in Salamanca. Elkdale is a straight hitter's paradise, so long as said hitter can putt. The entire course is benched into the side of one of those Allegheny hills and the putting surfaces are 100% influenced by the slop of the terrain. Add well-mowed greens to the mix and you have the exciting and ennervating combination of undulations and speed. If one could hit driver 270 yards and straight at Elkdale, one would have wedge in all day...fortunately, that doesn't happen and the course asks for its share of mid and long iron approaches. It's amagical ride down to Salamanca and a worthwhile trip around a well-kept, divergent hill course with all the requisite shot opportunities.
http://www.elkdalecc.com

16. Elma Meadows
One of four municipal courses that occupy a spot among the heralded twenty-five, Elma Meadows takes complete advantage of the ground over which its course is laid out. It's no coincidence that local high schools hold their X-Country championships here. Elma Meadows is a compact course with an excellent routing. No single hole nor stretch of holes offers anything less than diverse horizontal and vertical movement. The course begins with a quintet of challenging and memorable holes, closes its front nine with four solid offerings, then begins its back nine with two oppsoing forces: a short and straight par four, followed by a long, doglegged two-shotter. The pace at Elma never gets too demanding, nor does it ever let up. Conditioning is decent for a muni and that's all you need for an affordable and interesting 18 holes.
http://www.erie.gov/parks/elma.asp

15. Buffalo Tournament Club
When plans for BTC went on the table, talk of the other new courses in the eastern suburbs was minimal at best. As development of the course moved at a leisurely pace, work on neighboring additions speeded up and suddenly, BTC was the formerly-acclaimed new kid at school who now had some competition. It's clear that BTC has some terrific land and a more-than-decent course scheme. The shots over the creek (#4 and #7) on the front, along with entire 9th hole, are memorable and challenging. The back nine keeps you waiting for that "wow" hole that never quite materializes. The shot qualities are all in the "B" grade range, but none ever ascends to the "A" level of this lists's top 8. Buffalo Tournament Club found its nitch in the golfing market of Buffalo's eastern suburbs and holds it down quite well. A day spent at the Lancaster course is enjoyable and worthwhile.
http://www.btcgolf.com

14. Chautauqua
It would be nearly impossible to suggest that either course at Chautauqua (unlike the two courses at Peek 'n Peak) would be deserving of a spot in the top 25 at the exclusion of the other. Taken together, however, the golfing compound situated high above the gorgeous, southern-tier lake and intellectual retreat merits a mention in my list. Chautauqua benefits from above-average conditioning and a great deal of interesting land, not from the architecture. While Donald Ross is listed as the designer of the Lake course, it would surprise me if he ever spent time on site. Ross was know for sketching layouts based on topographical maps, then delegating the work from afar to his field supervisors. His Lake course does bear many of the characteristics of golden-age architecture, with little earth movement and siting of greens and bunkers in places where the land and the the golfer's intuition would expect (for better and worse) to find them. Xen Hassenplug's Hill course has longer and more modern holes, and works its way through more trees and elevations than the exposed Lake course. One could do far worse than schedule 36 holes at Chautauqua during the summer of 2011.
http://www.chqgolf.com

13. Willowbrook
One of two 27-hole complexes to make our list, Willowbrook made great strides in the late nineties with the addition of its north nine. Some of the more intriguing holes in Niagara county, including two challenging par five holes, are found on this third of the course. Long known as a short and accurate hitter's paradise, Willowbrook's older, goofier holes are offset by the newer, substantial ones found on the north nine.
http://www.willowbrook.biz

12. Tri-County Country Club
Tri-County made some upgrades a few years back to its second hole, tunrning the stretch from yet another short par four to a challenging, three0shot hole (unless you're Jake Katz...more on that later.) Tri-County is a transitional step away from the professionally-designed hill course (see #10 and #11) to the "a local guy somehow got it right" type of layout. The piece of property out in Forestville is singular, with holes moving quickly up and down the equivalent of mild blue diamond slopes on the front, before flattening out for the most part on the back. The length of the course is on the home nine, with most of the trickery taking place on the front. Competitors in the BDGA Individual championship last summer (2010) had, for the most part, never seen a course like this one and it eventually showed, with lots of lost patience. And Katz? Well, he hit driver-7 iron to the second hole for eagle in the final round, on his way to a convincing victory.
http://www.tricountycountryclub.com

11. Ironwood
Believe it or don't, Scott Witter is more pleased with Ironwood than with Arrowhead. Certaintly the best-known attraction in Cowlesville, Ironwood has no weak holes. Short par fours are guarded by strategic sand, fairway cuts and giant ponds. Reachable par fives are buffeted by appropriate hazards and undulating putting surfaces. Witter invoked the great holes of yesteryear, from the pitch-shot 2nd to the blind tee ball on 3, from the risk-reward 7th to the great Irish flavor of 18. The slightest miscue is all it takes to keep a course out of the top ten and, unfortunately, the green built beyond the pond on 14 is incapable of holding much more than an 8 iron, eliminating the possibility of hitting the green in two or, sometimes, three shots.
http://www.playironwood.com

10. Byrncliff
There is no nicer and challenging walk in the woods than Byrncliff. Wyoming county's premier course moves up and down the foothills with gentle abandon. Known for its par five holes, all of which are reachable on a good day, Byrncliff also has a collection of short but deadly two-shotters. Need convincing? Play the 3rd, 5th, 6th and 13th in even par and you'll have a great day. 4 and 8 are fine one-shotters, but it's the boring nature of the back-nine par threes and the uncerainty of 17 (par four? par five? par four-point-five?) that holds Byrncliff back from a higher ranking.
http://www.byrncliff.com

9. Sheridan
The cream of the municipal crop in Buffalo-Niagara, no other municipality (town, city, county or state) has a course that comes close to Sheridan. Sadly, what once was and what might have been were even better than what exists today. When the land across Sheridan Drive was sold to developers, the course lost six great holes and replaced them with lines stolen from flat baseball fields. Nevertheless, find a stretch of holes as stirring as the closing eight anywhere in western New York. The dance back and forth across two mile creeek on 11, 12, 13, 14, 16, 17 and 18 is monumental. Return Sheridan to its glory days and the course vaults into the area's top five.
http://www.tonawanda.ny.us/index.aspx?NID=280

8. Glen Oak
One of my favorite success stories is Glen Oak. Back around 2000, knowing that a peck of new courses was coming to the eastern suburbs, Glen Oak dredged its ponds and tidied up what had become a drab old course. Glen Oak, built around the same time as Crag Burn, by the same architect (Robert Trent Jones, Sr.) is a fine, flat farmland course that looks at home in western New York and Florida. Fast forward three decades, turn the same land over to Scott Witter and you'll have a completely different course. Great holes like 7, 10, 11, 12 and 17 are balanced out by stinkers like the opener and the closer. Were it not for the incredible 11th, Glen Oak might have the worst set of par fives of a top 25 course in the area. It is a credit to the grounds crew that the courses is always in top shape and prepared to offer a quality test of golf.
http://www.glenoak.com

7. Diamond Hawk
Diamond Hawk is a clear 6A, tied with Holiday Valley for the first slot in the second five. The penal nature of Diamond Hawk is what holds it back from a greater assessment. To their credit, the owners and managers of the Cheektowaga course have listened to client opinions and have made efforts to remove great clumps of briar patch and widen landing zones and rough areas. Diamond Hawk is the ultimate strategic golf course; driver is useful but should remain in the bag on 2, 7, 8, 12 and 15...in other words, think your way around the course! The toughest finishing hole in Buffalo cements D-Hawk's place in the WNY top ten.
http://www.diamondhawkgolf.com

6. Holiday Valley
There aren't many redesigns in western New York, which makes Holiday Valley most unique. Ownership took the brave step to upgrade the golf course to the level of the ski resort and did so in spades. Bringing in Paul Albanese (see Mill Creek near Rochester) was a brilliant maneuver. Albanese improved #10 (the second of consecutive par threes) and gutted the abysmal 11th, making it a playable hole for the first time in its existence. The always-troublesome 17th and 18th were reversed, to great reception. 17 is now a terrific par five and 18 is the heroic, downhill hole that it should be. Oh, let's not forget the new tee on 7...shame about 5 (boring par three) and 6 (goofy, walled-off drive), holes that keep HV out of the top five...wait, one more...#14, the gorgeous launch hole to the newly widened and split fairway. Holiday Valley 2.0 is one heck of a golf course.
http://www.holidayvalley.com

5. Links At Ivy Ridge
Home to the smartest ownership team in Buffalo-Niagara (who else would have left such an enormous buffer between the course and Main Street?), Ivy Ridge might have the strongest collection of par four holes in western New York public golf. Taking advantage of the central ridge that defines the course and its name, LIR guarantees no similarity between consecutive holes. Even the 9th and 18th, twin two-shotters that wrap around the same pond, require two completely different strategies for success. The par three holes at Ivy (with the exception of the somewhat-mundane 5th) are stellar one-shotters. The centrally-located 6th and 14th, both brawny par fives, narrow a bit too much in their various landing areas to be truly considered great holes. Nevertheless, Ivy Ridge is firmly implanted in the top five of the area's public courses.
http://www.thelinksativyridge.com

4. Peak 'n Peek Upper
Gone too soon was WNY's most stable professional event. The Upper course held its own against the best of the Nationwide tour. Whether it's the breathtaking drop from tee to green on number three, the throat-narrowing second on the long 14th or the chance to get it as close to the home green as possible on the drive, the Upper Course without question offers one of the top golf experiences in the region.
http://www.pknpk.com

3. Arrowhead
The first 18-hole triumph from Lockport import Scott Witter. Afforded a flat piece of farm land occupied by some old Bright Meadows golf holes, Witter crafted a very playable layout with some of the best public course movement in the region. From short par fours to long par fives (and everything in between), Witter proved himself to be a master of his cradt and the finest hire for golf architecture around. The absence of a 7000 yard deck and occasional conditioning issues relegate Arrowhead to a third-place finish.
http://www.arrowheadgolfclub.net

2. Harvest Hill
The course in Buffalo-Niagara with the most similarities to the great Crag Burn, Harvest Hill offers the finest collection of par five holes in the area, public or private. The par four holes offer a strong backbone to the course and it is only the relative inconsistency of the par three holes that keeps Harvest Hill from the top spot.
http://www.harvesthillgc.com

1. Seneca Hickory Stick
It may be the newest, it may have been a bit controversial/newsworthy, but Seneca Hickory Stick has everything that one needs in a golf course for the average amateur and the professional alike. The ground and air games are welcomed at SHS as at no other course in the area. The putting surfaces are complex while the fairway routing demands forethought and planning if success is to be garnered.
http://www.senecahickorystick.com


November 2010:  Ten Holiday Items For Your Favorite Golfer!

Not a lot of introductory material for this story.  Let's get right to the ten products that will make this holiday season a memorable and
rewarding one for the golfer in your life.

Kentwool Socks

 

One of my favorite Pablo Neruda poems, Oda a los calcetines, visits socks as metaphor for security. Kentwool socks would have made Neruda smile a fine, Chilean smile. I have 3.5 pairs of them...high white and black and low white and black (although one low white is currently AWOL.) I wear them as often as I can, on the course especially. I’ve purchased cheap socks and expensive ones and have yet to find as comfortable and snug a pair as these.

Kewl Tubes

When Rocket Socks came out a few years back, I snapped one up in my team’s colors: green and white. I loved the retro look of the 1970s. Kewl Tubes brings the same retrospective, so I now have a bumblebee striper for my fairway metal. A headcover can’t improve your game, but it sure can hinder it! I once had an Incredible Hulk driver cover that kept falling off. What a PITA! Kewl Tubes look kewl and stay where they are supposed to.

Piretti Golf

Without doubt, Piretti is the find of the year. The scratched, filed face has been all the rage for a few years. Piretti found a way to make it both scratched and smooth. The weighting and balance of the putter are exquisite, and the look and feel are supreme. If you are a fan of Cameron, Ping or Odyssey and have the funding and need to try a new putter, I recommend this one.

Sun Mountain Caddie Bag

Once a walker, always a walker. Unless I’m reviewing a course and need a cart for my cameras and gear, I hoof it around the course. Nothing like turning one athletic endeavor into two at no additional cost. The Sun Mountain caddie bag is filled with pockets dark and deep, a comfortable single strap and a sturdy stand and casing.  If a double strap is your thing, our guess is that your retailer can swap out the single for a double.

Fairway & Greene

I’m not one for thin stripes (or any stripes, for that matter) on a shirt. Can’t exactly say why that is; I’ve worn crazy Tabasco prints, amoeba-like blotches and plain colors in consecutive rounds. Beginning in 2011, however, I may just take that all back. Two shirts from Fairway & Greene made their way to my empty coat hangers, then to my powerful shoulders and torso. Result? Me likee! The Sedona and the F& G Tech have the clean, sleek feel of blended fabric, yet don’t affect the eyes like typical contrasting stripes have done in the past.

59 Belts

This is the one item that makes me feel incredibly daring. Perhaps it’s because 59 belts first number looks more like a “6” (you get the insinuation) than a “5” or maybe it’s the size and weight of the buckle. Nope, that’s not it…it’s my initials, the huge “R” and “M” that stand out like a beacon in the night. You know what they say about chocolate, right? They say that the way it makes you feel (happy and sated) is emotionally and psychologically healthy. Well, that’s the result of a 59 belt and buckle around your waist. Your pants are held up just the same, but you feel like one bad mother!  For more on Trevor Derrheim, founder of 59 Belts, read this piece.

Kikkor

From the upper portion of North America comes the Kikkor line of golf shoes. 2010 marked the first year of kicks from Kikkor and the response was quite favorable. 2011 brings 26 unique styles, from straight white to sea foam blue to blacks, yellows, pinks and oranges. Walk straight from the subway onto the first tee, walk right off the 18th green into your personal rickshaw…Kikkor ‘s tag line of “street inspired” shoes will keep your feet secure and comfortable all the kickin’ day.

True Links book

Want to know how to peese off a golf architecture geek? Tell him (there are few women that fit into this category) that the latest and greatest course in your ‘hood is a links. Technically (and the technical is always debatable) a links is golf played on links land, land that links the sea to the good earth of farm land. It’s sandy soil good for grazing animals and golf. Turns out that two former golfing magazine magnates, Malcolm Campbell and George Peper, decided to write a volume about the 246 (determined by algorithms) links courses of the world. Buy this volume for the images and for the opportunity to learn more about what defines a golfinglinks.

Sweetwood Golf

Every top ten list needs to have a dream item and a personalized hickory club or set is mine. Sweetwood golf uses a
variety of woods in its shafts and heads, including hickory, maple and cherry, along with other exotic and foreign woods.
Sweetwood putters, with shafts and heads made from wood, run in the three to four Bennies price range, while a full set
(3-PW) of hickory shafted, iron headed irons costs 3 Gs. Is the equipment incomparable? I’d say yes. Is it for the faint
of pocketbook? Absolutely not.

Nike driver

Nike has been in the golf equipment biz for about a decade and is quietly making some of the best drivers around.
Nike was one of the first companies to take a chance on adjustable heads and the result was a beautiful gamble.
The STR8-FIT tour model of 2009 and 2010 has been supplemented by 2011’s SQ MachSpeed black driver.
Also a STR8-FIT adjustable model, it’s a sure bet to find its way into the bags of Casey, Leonard and Woods.

 

And thus ends our holiday gift list for 2010. 

 





October 2010:  So What's Up With Golf?

My memory of Tiger Woods' entry into the public domain is fuzzy...I recollect the appearance on "That's Incredible" when the little guy and Earl showed up to show the world what was to come.  Unlike many prodigies, this one paid out in every conceivable way.  When Eldrick burst into the public eye in 1996, the youngest baby boomer was 32 years old, the oldest was in her/his early fifties.

I bring this up because a few recent stories caught my attention, specifically about golf's dire straits.  The media, the associations and the tours are all looking for some place to point the index finger, but they can't agree on whom to blame.  Blame.  Got to have it, right?

I believe that many have read about the purported number one reason for golf's demise:  slow play.  Pundits blame it on the influence of professional golfers, those mavens who stalk shots from every conceivable angle before firing.  We read about ungodly long round played by twosomes and threesomes on tour, yet we never hear about rounds that were played in the proper amount of time, do we?  I bet that there are many of those.  We also don't equate the pace on tour with the facts that livelihoods are at stake and distractions are plentiful.  We, the adoring public, created these monsters, so let's not get jealous when these ladies and gents sink putts ultimately worth more than what we make in three years' time.  Here's an interesting piece of information:  I played in the New York State golf association mid-amateur qualifier this year at Transit Valley country club.  We played in threesomes and foursomes, due to the uber-high number of entrees.  These were the area's top golfers, those with handicaps at mid-single digits or lower.  The course measured some 6700 yards from the tees we played, hardly the ultra-long courses also being blamed for golf's demise.  Our scores were 75, 76, 78 and 81 (mine was the high one, the only one to not qualify on to the tournament proper) and we played in 5.5 hours.  Slow play is everywhere.

I drive to work through the industrial curve along the I-190 every day.  The curve is located southbound where the highway meets the Niagara River.  Some things about it make no sense to me.  Why does the right lane, the slower lane, always move faster than the left?  Why can't people seamlessly merge at 35 m.p.h. and keep traffic flowing?  My thinking is, we're human, flawed and fallible.  We have many seams.  The same happens in golf.  One bad hole by a good golfer (or heavens forbid, by two golfers in the same foursome) and we have a delay of 1-4 minutes.  Imagine it happens four times per round.  That group holds the next up by 10-20 minutes.  Imagine, like the I-190, that this phenomenon repeats itself in each foursome.  Imagine that the course actually sells out its tee sheet!  More golfers, more flaws, more hold-ups.

Here's one more notion I've read lately.  Beginners turn away from golf because the courses on which they learn the game are too difficult for the learning set.  I play River Oaks golf club on occasion, a 7200-yard Desmond Muirhead layout on Grand Island, New York.  I enjoy playing the course from the tips, knowing that it shouldn't play any tougher.  I've found that my playing partners on golf junkets and other outings don't share my enthusiasm for the Way-Backs, so I play up with them.  I've always felt that every golfer should begin each season playing the most forward set of tees.  No one does it, of course, but here's the reasoning.  You make more loose swings early in the new season, so why not make them with short irons in your hands for approaches.  You'll also get on or near the green more often, giving yourself more opps for chip-in or putt-in birdies and pars.  After no more than five rounds from there, move back a set of tees.  If playing from the (gasp!) Red or (double gasp!!) Ladies' tees puts you off that much, imagine dropping down their to play with a friend who is learning the game.  Let the friend play from the tips or near-tips and that friend will lose interest faster than a yawn makes its way around the room.  If we want adult beginners to learn and stick with the game, we need to make it accessible.

We have an 18 hole muni in Delaware Park, Buffao, New York.  It's no beauty:  it has two holes located across a biking/running/blading road and at least three holes where trees are placed directly between tee and green on par three holes.  In addition to the inherent dangers for the fitness set, soccer fields, baseball diamonds and tennis courts are all within easy reach of a sliced drive.  I have a few notions on how to improve the course, but the traditionalists probably won't want to buy a lot in my field.  First, eliminate the two short holes across the road and turn that area into a chipping/pitching/putting grounds.  Make it a St. Andrews Himalayas and people from the neighborhood will come just to putt (and maybe learn the game.)  Offset the free nature of the himalayan ground with a snack stand.  Next, eliminate the first two holes, parallel par fours of no great design value, and create a full-shot practice area.  People who won't pay money to golf 18 holes will certainly pay a few bucks to hit a bucket of balls.  Third, reshape the remaining 14 holes into 12 nifty ones.  In these times of golf course slowdown, most architects are working overseas, anywhere but in the USA.  There would be a battle royale at positive pricing to redesign this course.  The land moves enough that interesting holes could be laid out over the terrain, certainly more interesting than the ones currently available.

Golf's baby boomers, those so enamored with the sport, will eventually leave us.  Will they be replaced by a retired generation as enamored of the sport as they are?  Will they be replaced by a retired generation of any size at all?  The game will survive, but perhaps not at the level of popularity it held in the decade from 1995-2005.  Who says it has a right to?  Tennis dropped in mass  media popularity, yet people play it all across the USA and courts are full in my towns.  Maybe golf needs a fallow season, too.
 

 

 

October 2010:  Taking A Risk On A Rant

Most folks who read golf course reviews expect a certain level of honesty and sincerity in the wording.  If the course is a
money pit that simply wishes to separate you from your hard-earned cash, they want to know.  Once they get used to the
inner workings of magazines and websites that take in advertising dollars from courses that they review, the reader's skepticism
grows.  If the review has good things to say, the presumption is that the writer is taking it easy on the cash cow.  I won't lie
and say that that doesn't happen

BuffaloGolfer.Com welcomed Rico's Rants to the masthead in 2010.  Of late, Rico has been charged with playing courses and
writing an honest review of the place.  I know this to be true, because I'm the guy who gave him the assignment.  If I recall,
my exact words, more or less, were "find at least two aspects of the course that are good and discuss them.  Find at least one
element that needs work and discuss it."  Let's be honest:  go to Crag Burn or Country Club of Buffalo and, if you look well
enough, you'll find something that needs improvement.

So off Rico went, first to Glen Oak, then Chestnut Hill, and Batavia Country Club.  True to form, he found exactly what we
Hoped he would and then set to writing about it.  Rico is a fine writer and a perceptive guy, but no more so than your average
golfer (who usually gets far to little credit for perception.)  What that means is, if Rico saw something that needs work, then
most paying customers saw it as well.  My guess is, most golf course owners want or need that feedback.  They have a staff
that works long hours to prepare the course and most of their work is exceptional.  We want to recognize that effort.  At the
same time, some aspects are in need of a little TLC and it is Rico's job to point them out.

I hope that you'll continue to read Rico's Rants and let us know if you think he is going to easy or hard on his venues.  Just
as course owners need our feedback, we need yours.

 

 

 

September 2010:  Ryder Cup=Make Your Own Menu For Team Europe

My talented colleague, Christopher Whitcomb, AKA The Mouth That Roars, penned a column this month that delves into
the inner workings and pairing of the USA Ryder Cup team for 2010. It seemed fitting, then, for another writer to
do the same for Team Europe.  Since Travelin' Duff is busy with television appearances promoting his new reality show
(Duff Gone Wild) and The Scrambler is knee deep in his combined cooking/golf radio program (Scrambled Eggs & Pars),
it fell to me.  Oh, in case you were wondering, Rico  of "Rico's Rants" is doing the fall golf course review thing, so he too is out.
As a result, here goes nothing...

i fratelli Molinari--You have to begin with the most intriguing story on either side of the competition.  In 2009, i fratelli
Molinari won the World Golf Championship's team world cup for Italia, bringing a golf championship to a country where
gli azzurri normally bring calcio glory.  Most pundits commented "that's nice, but it's the World Cup, where many country's
don't send their top players (whoops, make that only the USA.)  Well, younger brother Francesco went out and qualified
automatically for the team, sparking the embers of "does Edoardo deserve a spot on the team?"  Well, if you consider making
birdie on the final three holes of the Johnnie Walker Championship to win deserving cause, then yes is your answer.  These
brothers should form the most dangerous duo for team Europe at Celtic Manor.

The English Quadrilateral--Colin Montgomerie probably picked Paddy Harrington over Paul Casey so as to not have to justify
having five English (Donald, Fisher, Poulter and Westwood being the others) and only two Irish (McIlroy & McDowell)
not to mention zero Welsh and Scots, on the team.  Truly, you can probably pair any two of the quartet and be well off,
although I'd be inclined to pair Westwood and Donald, leaving the flamboyant Poulter and the untested Fisher to other partners.

Nordic Slalom--Is this even an Olympic event?  Well, if you go by heritage, pair Germany's Martin Kaymer with Sweden's Peter
Hanson.  Why? Who knows?

Guinness Guys--McIlroy and McDowell...M & M.  Just seems to fit.

Geezers--These would be Miguel-Angel Jimenez, the Kenny Perry of the 2010 European side, and Paddy Harrington, the
awkward pick of the 2010 Euro side (kind of like Curtis Strange picking Lanny Wadkins.)

So there they are.  If you are a conservative captain, pair your nervous rookies (Hanson, Fisher, McDowell) with some of your
veterans (Jimenez, Harrington, Westwood) and have at it. And Christopher, errr, Mouth That Swallows, I'd like the chicken
finger custard, filet mignon with whipped cream and the mac-n-cheese sundae.

 

September 2010:  Golf News In The Second Digital Age

I recollect vaguely the effort it took to launch BuffaloGolfer.Com.  Back then it was known as buff-golf, but nudity and muscles
proved to be too conflicting a reference for us to continue with that moniker. I believe that we wanted buffgolf without the
hyphen, but a local family wouldn't sell its URL to us. Of course, we weren't in much of a position to enter a bidding war!

Then as now, this website is built with HTML and a WYSIWYG design program.  No fancy active server pages, although they
might be nice to have.  No Flash, no RSS, no Shockwave.  Simply put, we're dinosaurs, predicated on the typewritten word
and the opinions and experiences of a bunch of amateur writers with a profound, professed and professional love for golf.

I recall Golfweek's first venture into digital publishing...you could subscribe to their weekly digital magazine for half what the
print version cost.  The way I saw it, if I could read those same articles on their website three days later, why put out the cash?
That same technology, one digital (five minutes) generation later, is evident in Global Golf Post, the first major golf offering
(sorry, Golf Observer) with no paper trail, no pre-digital publishing history.  GGP is free, delivered to your email doorstep
every week.  How do they make it work?  Advertising is my guess.  With no subscription fees, the mighty of the golfing
industry pay hefty ad rates for viable ROI.  It's a tough game with the big companies.  We've been close to attracting their
advertising interest in the past (and will continuet to try for it in the future) but we've never made the final cut.

One of the notions I recall from those early, frontier days of Buff-Golf was the sentiment that we were a community-based
source for golfing news.  We wrote and published for the good of the community, setting its interests above our own.  With
that sense of community giving/sharing in mind, here are three places you might want to visit for increased golf awareness,
in addition to the aforementioned Global Golf Post;

--Golf Observer
--Golf Club Atlas
--Buffalo Amateur Golf
 

August 2010:  Golf Sprint 8-10

If you've not heard of the New York State Golf Association, the reason is a simple one:  you prefer to play your competitive
golf locally, or you don't compete at all.  The NYSGA heard the pleas of golfers of your ilk and created a series of events
statewide in 2009 called State Days.  I played in my first one on August 15th and will report on that one.

When you make a tee time at a course, visit its website or see an advertisement, the most garish pump is usually the golf
course architect.  Some current and former touring professionals turn to golf course architecture as a second career, with
mixed results.  Jack Nicklaus was the first to branch out into this vein of the game and in 2010, his design firm brings a
course to upstate New York:  Timber Banks in Baldwinsville (near Syracuse.)

The State Days series is a one-day, 18-hole shootout at 13 courses (2010 schedule).  Each day a gross and net male
and female champion in each handicap bracket are crowned and invited to the season-ender at Drumlins Golf Club in Syracuse. 
For someone who had done a lot of coaching and tournament directing, I was impressed with the registration, conduct and
post-tournament structure of the event.  I selected the Cornell University golf course as my venue.  Each year the state
public high school boys golf championships are held in the Spring at Cornell.  I never qualified as a youth and wanted to
see the course.  If you have an interest in seeing the course, click here.  The unfortunate thing about Cornell is that it is a
private college course; you need to know or be an alumnus, employee or student of the university.  The fortunate thing is, it
represents all the potential Robert Trent Jones, senior was to display on many courses in a long career as a golf course
architect.

The tournament itself was most enjoyable.  I was paired with the course superintendent, David Hicks, who not only let us in
on the subtleties of the course (as information, not advice, for you rules mavens!) but also showed us how to play the darned
thing.  David was the gross medalist with a five-bogey, three-birdie effort and earned a trip to the State Days championship
at Drumlins.  From south-central New York state and the Conklin Players Club came Micahel Niedzwiecki, also in our group.
I knew that Michael had kept up with David and me for the majority of the round, but I was a bit stunned to realize that he had
quietly put together a round of 76, good for second low gross and first in our handicap division, also earning a trip to Drumlins.
As for me, I was five over for 17 holes and three over for 1 hole, earning an OB-three putt eight on the par five eighth hole. 
Scores ranged from 74 to 120, confirming that the typical State Days event is appropriate for golfers of all skill levels.

That evening, I drove north to Syracuse and checked into the most elegant of Motel 6 franchises around, in anticipation of a
round the next day at Timber Banks Golf Club.  We've had our share of new course openings in the Buffalo region of late, but
Syracuse has not enjoyed the same spate of arrivals on the local slate of courses.  Timber Banks is situated on the shores of the
Seneca River and includes a marina and various housing offerings in the entire complex.  The centerpiece is the 18-hole golf
course, designed by lead architect Troy Vincent of the Nicklaus design firm.  Director of golf Perry Noun III gave me a brief
history lesson on the complex as we waited out an early morning display of nature's finest lightning and rain.  With the brief
tempest past, I was on my way to the first tee and the awaiting challenge.

One of my favorite golf stories involves the manner in which Harvey Penick taught Ben Crenshaw to golf:  from the putting
green back to the tee box.  In this way, Gentle Ben learned the importance of putting long before driving became a concern.
Timber Banks was built, in my mind, from the putting surfaces back to the tee decks.  Each green was meticulously divided
into quadrants, thirds or fifths that vary in size, shape and elevation.  The greens stimp at 9 or 10, not overwhelming by
today's standards.  They are rolled often by the grounds crew, however, which gives them a smoothness and a deceptive
pace.  You won't putt off these greens, but you will encounter mini-moguls, swales and curves that make putting fun again.

Don't get the idea that I'm setting you up for a boring tack with fun putt-putt greens, however.  Architect Vincent was able to
maneuver the fairways near wetlands, through trees, along marshes and the Seneca river, yet never giving a sense of
claustrophobia on the tee box or in the fairway.  Fairway width, not usually a feature on Nicklaus Group courses, is necessary
for proper angles into the aforementioned green quadrants.  Direct of Golf Noun suggested that the hole placement on most
greens ultimately determines how best to approach the hole from the tee.  Rates at Timber Banks run from $50 on weekdays
to $65 on weekends, golf cart inlcuded.  There are only two or three long rides between tees, suggesting the the course is
certainly walker-friendly.  Seniors, Juniors and Military members receive substantial discounts.

Go here for images of Timber Banks.

 

 

July 2010:  Golf Junket 2010--Williamsburg, Virginia

Preview:  Golf Junket 2010

I knew I wouldn't return to Williamsburg without a golfing reason.  Mom and Dad had taken us as children to visit the colonial
part as children and we returned the favor to our brood a few years back.  I lost my keys then and, despite a fervent search,
never recovered them.  With all that was hectic, heading back with the guys was the only option...and here it is.

Our junkets will never be the same after 2009...Scrambler and I played Pete Dye Golf Club in West Viriginia.  For those of you
that have never heard of it, PDGC is a private, national golf club.  The most well known is Augusta National, but your chance
to get on there is...remote.  Many of the other ones (Sand Hills, Ballyneal, Alotian, et al.) are negotiable, albeit pricey.  This
year, we will open and close our junket with two of these magnificent courses.

Sunday/Monday-Ballyhack  Click Here For Review

Opened in 2009, Ballyhack is located near Roanoke, Virginia.  It is the first of two Lester George courses that we will play.
The plan calls for a Sunday afternoon arrival and a photo tour of the course as sun turns to dusk.  Monday morning, bright
and early, after a stay overnight on the grounds, we will play 18 holes, get more photos, then head for Williamsburg.

Tuesday-Stonehouse & Kiskiack  Click Here For Review

Stonehouse is the first of two Mike Strantz courses that we will tackle.  Since our jaunt to the Sandhills last year, the Scrambler
and I have made it a personal pilgrimage to play all the courses of this great architect who passed from our earth, far too
soon.  We will then play Kiskiack in the afternoon.  Kiskiack is probably the best known creation of John LaFoy, a South Carolina
architect.  It will serve as a breather course and the only one not created by a well-known architect.

Wednesday-Royal New Kent  Click Here For Review

The second of our Strantz courses, RNK promises to be as demanding a course as we play, at least from the visual end.  Our
guess is that it will be similar to Tobacco Road, a course that plays as extremely challenging for those who suffer from visual
intimidation, but not nearly so daunting for those who can conquer the mental challenge of extreme terrain.

Thursday-Golden Horseshoe Green and Gold

A unique pairing, the Green course is an early work from Rees Jones, now known as the "Open Doctor" for his work on US
Open courses.  The Gold is recognized as one of the masterpieces of his father, Robert Trent Jones, Senior.

Friday-Kinloch

The junket closes with the second of the Lester George courses, this one near Richmond.  Kinloch is anticipated to play much
more like a parkland course than Ballyhack, so we should have an opportunity to compare two different styles from the same
architect, on similar pieces of land.

 

Days One & Two:  Arrival At Ballyhack

Ballyhack Golf Club, near Roanoke, is one of a fairly small group of national reserve clubs with national memberships.  It is also
one of the newest ones, with a golf course opened one year ago.  The template for this type of enterprise is fairly consistent:
--outstanding golf course; --on site accommodations (usually a well-appointed cabin with more than the creature comforts of
home); --clubhouse facilities the equal of the finest resorts; --an extensively-trained service staff, attuned to every need of the
membership and its guests.

Our arrival was greeted by the ebullient Duncan Haley, a man of distinction and grace.  He assured the arrival of our luggage
to our cabins and offered a comprehensible, appropriate amount of insight about the history of the property, the day to day
operations of the club, and the future of the enterprise.  Well prepared, we retired to the course for a late afternoon of golf
and photography.  The Scrambler and Recoil played the back nine while I headed for tee deck # 1 to shoot the course as day
lay down. Here are a few shots from those hours of dusk:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What I found at Ballyhack was one glorious hole after another.  Lester George, the architect, admitted that a walking-only
course was under consideration, deep into the routing process.  Ultimately, it was decided that such an endeavor would
eliminate certain holes from viability.  Make no mistake: you won't ever see housing interrupt the flow of the course, so
ultimately, the severity of certain sections of the terrain make walking and cart golf the proper decision.  In our1.5 rounds,
I don't recall a single shot that bounced off the cart paths, although we hit our share of wayward ones.

Day Three:  The Furnace--Legends at Stonehouse and Kiskiack

During the Sandhills Junket of 2009, the Scrambler and I developed an affinity for Michael Strantz courses.  If you recall,
"the Maverick" was the artist and architect who passed far too soon, leaving us fewer than 10 designs on which to base our
opinion of his place in the historic architectural thread.  Knowing that he had a pair of courses in the Williamsburg area, we
made the colonial village our base of operations.  We decided to play the two Strantz courses (Stonehouse and Royal New
Kent) on separate days, to afford ample interval for processing and assessment.

Stonehouse

 

The Best of Strantz

 

The Worst of Strantz

 

In the top two photos, we see the Michael Strantz we encountered at Tobacco Road and Tot Hill Farm in the Sandhills (and
I a few years prior at True Blue, near Myrtle Beach.)  Deceptive...angular...ultimately fair...challenging...unforgettable.  The
top left photo is shot from behind the tenth green, demonstrating a downhill approach to a green that runs away from the
golfer.  The upper right shot shows the approach to the twelfth green.  The shot typically comes in high, with a short iron,
allowing a bit more premium on accuracy.  The green borders on severe (I 4-putted from 30 feet!) but the hole is
manageable and memorable.

As the round progressed, we started to identify elements of Strantz' design that, if left untended, seep into the realm of
unmanageable golf.  The lower left photo reveals the lay-up zone on the par five, thirteenth hole.  It's narrow, but the hole
isn't that long, so fine, right?  In the upper-right portion of the photo, there is a brown hill covered in extremely clingy grass,
with little chance for a bounce or a roll to the fairway below.  With a stream hard left, then crossing in front of the green,
the play is to the right, with a carom down to the left.  Sadly, that won't happen.  The lower right photo shows the par four
fourteenth, a 400-yard affair.  The drive zone is typically wide, and the pinched valley leading to the green admits an
opportunity for both the high ball and the low ball to reach the lowered putting surface.  Unfortunately, neither ball has
much chance of reaching the green.  The hillsides, right and left, are strangled with grass and plants that don't repel balls
toward the funnel.  In addition, a high ball must carry a precise distance to the green, lest it be snared by fiercer bushes and
trees whose sole purpose in life is to claim golf balls.

Stonehouse showed us so much of Strantz' creativity that we ultimately had to admit that the best way to play his courses is to
mix the second and third sets of tees.  The tips, unless you hit the ball 25% farther than mortals, as do the best professionals,
demand too much length and consistency of strike.  With all the topsy-turvy twists and turns that his unique perspective could
not help but create, a Strantz course at more than 6500 yards is unmanageable for the vast majority of amateur golfers.

Kiskiack

Dumb luck prevails (unless you've played the courses before) when pairing courses for a 36-hole day.  We knew that the dual
Strantz challenge would be too much to process in a single day, especially since both courses were new to all of us.  The option
to play a breather course in the afternoon hours made more sense, so we headed to Kiskiack,  a John LaFoy track about five
minutes away.  In absolute contrast to a Strantz cardiac moment, the LaFoy layout offered less heaving in the fairways, less
visual challenge in the carries and less penalty for missed shots.

Kiskiack warmed us up quite easily.  Keep in mind that we were downgrading from Strantz-shock after Stonehouse; what we
needed was a gentle opener...just what Kiskiack offered.  Three vanilla holes (a par five, a par three and a par four) eased us
into the round.  With one of those incredible coincidences that only life on Earth can offer, two fighter jets from a nearby
air base shot over head as we completed the third hole; something of a horn blast, a portent of things to come.  It was then
that the golf course sprang to life!

As we entered this portion of the course, it became apparent that LaFoy was forced to use a hook of land to start his 18 holes
of golf.  That hook, near the entrance to the complex, lacked the tumbling quality of the remainder of the property.  A large
lake with a departing stream occupy the principal vistas from the clubhouse and much of the remaining 15 holes.

A pastoral setting, with rising and falling fairways, awaited.  The holes were challenging, missed shots were punished by sand,
trees and the occasional water body, but no excessively penal fates awaited.  After the opening par five, the remaining three
proved interesting and enjoyable.  Following the mundane, first par three, the final triumvirate offered thought-provoking
decisions (and one friendly squirrel.)  The blase third hole, a par four, was succeeded by an intricate web of varied
two-shotters whose worth was evident from tee, fairway and green.  By day's end, having survived the challenge of the
dramatic and romantic eighteenth, we were tremendously satisfied with our time at Kiskiack.

Day Four:  Royal New Kent

If you don't know the lore of Michael Strantz, we have a primer from the Scrambler here and here.  Strantz' influence was
felt on a all-too-limited list of nine courses, seven of which are located on the east coast.  We are not shy about admitting
an affection, a man-love, for Strantz, especially after playing Tobacco Road and Tot Hill Farm last summer (2009) in the
Sandhills region of North Carolina.  That love was tempered a bit this year after playing Stonehouse.  We found a penal
nature to the first Colonial course (Stonehouse, see above) that we played, and set out on Wednesday to determine if it was
an aberration from the playability of the first two experiences.

Royal New Kent has the ability, like Stonehouse and unlike Tobacco Road and Tot Hill Farm, to play over 7000 yards.  We
joked that it's not Tobacco Road and Tot Hill that should be listed on the "USA's Toughest Courses" sheet, but Stonehouse and
Royal New Kent.  These tracks are really difficult from tee to green.  As far as we can see, Strantz' mandate during the 1990s,
the glory years of golf course-building in the mid-Atlantic states, was to deliver unbridled fury from the deck to the putting
surface.  He did.  Unfortunately, he was unable to invest in the charmed, mesmerizing putting surfaces that characterize his
work in North Carolina.

Royal New Kent is an awesome track.  It is something of a sister course to Tobacco Road, as its first and ninth holes are
reminiscent (or precursors) to the same holes at the Road.  Number one is a downhill, dogleg left par five that penetrates two
mounds to reveal an ample fairway.  The second shot rises to a clifftop green with much space for landing of the ball.  The
green is mild, with long, drawn-out breaks, a fair finish to a challenging opener.  Nine is a dogleg right par four, from an
elevated tee to a valley.  A split fairway was on the books for the original design, but the right  portion is no longer mowed
at fairway height.  It's still pretty short, though, and is where my ball ended up.  The green is elevated, at a nearly-sideways
angle, with some bunkering to protect the front.

"They" like to say that Royal New Kent is the nearest thing to an Irish course on this side of the Atlantic.  I don't think that
I agree, nor am I sure that I would want to.  After all, why is it necessary to transplant something from elsewhere, unless
what we have is inferior?  I'm not certain that Strantz ever traveled to Ireland, nor do I feel it would have been necessary.  It
is true that some of the holes at RNK show traits from Eerie.  Strantz loved to hide holes in dells, glades, hollows or whatever
you might like to call them.  These might be lowered, at fairway height or elevated, but he did it in such a way that you know
where to put the ball.  The 8th and 14th holes are characteristic of this type of play.  Eight is a downhill-uphill par four, a mid
to long iron shot into an elevated, hidden green.  14 plays straight downhill from the tee, then to a putting surface at fairway
height, albeit partially obscured by a fronting ridge.

Stratz assembled a memorable collection of short (par 3) and long (par 5) holes at Royal New Kent.  Number three is a
version of what we call a Cauldron Hole, a par three, that plays from a circular set of tee decks to a green whose angle of
attack changes with each tee box movement.  Seven is one of the prettiest par threes you'll see, downhill across a diagonal
stream that parallels the angled putting surface.  The green has Redan characteristics, meaning that a shot need not carry all
the way to the hole; instead, if played short and right by the savvy player, it should bound onto the green for a look at birdie.
Twelve is like #17 at Pebble Beach, through the looking glass.  It plays downhill to an hourglass-shaped green, canted at
a contrasting angle to its California cousin.  The length of the tee ball varies by as much as 45 yards, given a front-left versus
back-right hole location.  #15 is all brute force, measuring 250 yards (with a false front!) from the tips.

Regarding the three-shotters, number two is a Strantz template hole, a wraparound-the-old-hazard par five, giving you a look
at the green across the void, daring you to uncover a three-metal and unleash a titanic blow of unnatural force, all aimed at
setting up an eagle putt.  Numbers 5 and 10 are cross country ramble (with the former being a bit flatter than the latter.) 
Ten offers more hazards, more elevation change and a green-fronting hazard.  Finally, number seventeen reveals a great bit
of length, much fairway space for the lay-up (you can't go too far left), completed by a gorgeous shot over a wee brook, to a
cute and thin green, hard by the burn.

If we had disappointment at Royal New Kent, it was experienced on some of the two-shotters.  Perhaps that was our fault,
ingrained as we are to par.  What we discovered was Strantz' penchant for half shot holes.  It's not a 3, but a 3.5; it's not a 4,
but a 3.5, and on and on.  Some 4s play like 3s, others like 5s (almost.)  In the end, it's up to the golfer to meet not the par
as dictated by some codifier, but instead, to play golf as it has always been played...in the fewest number of strokes, with the
smartest routing of shots, par be damned.


Day Five:  Golden Horseshoe Gold Course

I've been fortunate to participate in an online forum the last few years and one of the least-favored golf course architects
on the site is the designer of the Golden Horseshoe Gold course, Robert Trent Jones, Senior.  Thanks to his work at Oakland
Hills, in preparation for the 1951 US Open, RTJ is often remembered for his role in the "longer, tighter, harder" period of
golf course architecture.  For whatever reason, the common golfer was forgotten during the 1950s and 1960s, as courses
were built to challenge the top 1% of 1%, the professional golfer.

Thanks to recent tours 'round Crag Burn (East Aurora, NY) and Seven Oaks (Hamilton, NY), I have gained a sense that maybe,
just maybe, RTJ was not the megalomaniac he was purported to be.  Rather than simply present brute opposition, Trent saw
the importance of strategic yet playable design.  Knowing that Golden Horseshoe Gold was universally recognized as one of
his half-dozen best courses, I was curious to find out if it ranked as a brute or a gem.

What I re-discovered, from the first tee ball to the last, was Trent Jones' love for the dogleg.  I don't believe the man never
saw a dogleg he didn't incorporate into one of his courses.  Finding a straight par four on an RTJ Senior course is a sure
sign of a redesign.  His eminence took delight in forcing golfers to play to corners, rather than see the entire hole from the
beginning.  In today's climate of smash and bash driving, where the 450 cc cudgels minimize all error and let chops hit it 240,
this type of driving is one way of equalizing skill with technology.

The second noteworthy achievement, something I've not seen anywhere else, nor do I expect to find again, is the centralization
of four green sites within a half acre area.  Holes 2, 7, 12 and 16 play across the same body of water, an amoebic lake, yet
never in the same fashion nor distance.  Hole two is a par five (the rest are par threes,) yet bring its third shot in over the
pond in a similar fashion.  The third hole (the fourth par three) plays over a different (yet nearby) aquatic space.  Each of
the greens is uniquely canted, sized and shaped, creating separate putting experiences.  Doubtless you've seen #16 in
magazine photographs; discovering that three other one-shotters adjoin is electrifying.

Conditioning aside (it was nearly impeccable in 100 degree summer heat), the final achievement on RTJ's part was an
overwhelming sense of fairness.  In absolute contrast to other Trent Jones Senior courses (mostly mountain ones), a sense of
justness wafted over the acreage.  No trouble was hidden; the golfer knew from the tee that there was trouble here or there in
the drive zone.  Arriving at the second shot, problems yonder or hither were apparent.  When decision time came, Golden
Horseshoe Gold moved into the Top Five RTJ courses (ahead of Bristol Harbor, Boyne Mountain and others), joining Crag
Burn and Seven Oaks in the upper echelon.

Day Five:  Golden Horseshoe Green Course

The Green Course at Golden Horseshoe is a championship course and a resort course, wrapped into one eighteen hole layout.
To build such a course is no simple task, as corridors must be wide enough to accommodate the inconsistent dreamer and
greens must be accessible, to the point of allowing a few imperfect approach shots the opportunity to reach the promised
land.  The championship course, in contrast, must provide a relentless test (albeit not necessarily a daunting one) wherein
each shot, each distance, is examined to its fullest extent.  Rees Jones was presented this combinatory riddle when asked to
join his father as a golf course architect of a course at Golden Horseshoe.  The land he was offered was more spacious yet
not as hilly as the acreage of the original eighteen holes.  What to do, what to do?

Rees Jones seems to have a formula for golf courses.  He wants them to be accessible, so he tends toward the straight hole
unless absolutely forced to create a dogleg.  He leaves ample room in left, center and right fairways, preferring to line his
pathways with bunkers (instead of bisecting them with sand.)  On his front nine at the Green course, five of the six par fours
run straight from tee to green, with the two remaining dogleg holes taking shape as par five treats.  Truthfully, the two par fives
(both doglegs right) and the two par threes are the gems of the front nine.  All four holes demand a priori thought and
planning, followed by exuberant and unmitigated execution.

Having piped you in with a gentle tune, Rees Jones turns up the dramatic notes and chords on the inward nine.  Par fours
that might have been straight (and straightforward) affairs on the outward half, begin to show characteristics of angle and
flexure.  Challenging half-shot holes (the 466-yard fourteenth and the 616-yard fifteenth) make more than a simple request
for your finest consummation.  The course concludes with a sharp dogleg right (he never doglegs left!) par four of 380 yards,
a somewhat-brutish one shot hole of 220 yards, and an otherworldly par five that could be nothing other than the closing
hole.

Rees inherited his father's delight in creating a challenging and pleasing par three hole.  Holes 7, 9 and 11 are memorable and
worthy opponents, with 11 perhaps symbolizing an homage to his father's work up the road, at the Gold Course.  I would have
preferred a raised left fairway cut on #17, giving the hole a reverse-Redan quality, affording those without the ability to
bomb the ball over the bunker, a chance to reach with guile the green.  His par five work is also quite masterful...the long
holes on the front nine seem to continually change direction, via direction, fairway cut or positioning of bunkers.  The back
nine pair paint themselves even more in your memory, with the drive on eighteen being one of those heart-stopping affairs
that etches a trace in the sky forever.

Where Rees succeeded in joining the concepts of resort and championship golf together are the two-shot holes.  His par fours,
from the farthest tee decks, bring parallel hazards into play for the slightly wayward ball.  From the middle and forward decks,
these hazards come less and less into play.  Given the unwinnable challenge of designing a course next door to one of his
father's masterpieces, Rees acquitted himself extremely well, making the pair of full courses at Golden Horseshoe a success.

 

Day Six:  Kinloch

The end of the journey is always a bitter time.  When you consider the satisfaction from building the trip, the joy of
anticipation and the ebullience of setting forth, the return home is always a bit depressing.  It was for that reason that we
scheduled Kinloch as the final stop on our journey--we knew that it would simply be THAT satisfying and memorable.

Kinloch is a national private club near Richmond, set in the uniquely-named town of Manakin-Sabot, Virginia.  Its existence
was spearheaded by Marvin "Vinny" Giles, 1972 US and 1975 British amateur champion.  Mr. Giles employed Lester George,
an architect whose work we saw outside Roanoke on days one and two of our journey, to design his club.  To be blunt, at
first glance, Kinloch is nothing like Ballyhack!

Lester George's first-tier private reserves represent the two extreme stylings of American golf.  Kinloch is characteristic
of the manicured, parkland school while Ballyhack is emblematic of a rougher, frontier-style of golf that many feel hearkens
back to golf in the British isles.  An aficionado of golf course architecture would not be surprised to learn that George sketched
the plans for both courses; the untrained tyro would be astonished that one individual could vary so extremely in his creativity.

Midway through the round at Kinloch, I indicated to The Scrambler and Recoil that I would never get to play Augusta National
so...for me, Kinloch was my Augusta National.  I cannot imagine a more service-oriented club, from the caddies to the chefs
to the clubhouse staff, all headed by Mr. Phil Owenby.  I cannot imagine a better-kept course in the American tradition, from
the brilliantly-white sand to the well-trimmed fairways to the demi-glabrous putting surfaces.  For an all-too-brief five hours,
I felt like a captain of industry might feel on one of her or his days of relaxation.

So many holes at Kinloch stand out in my memory, for such a variety of reasons.  One of my favorite features on a course is
the split fairway; divided landing zones are in abundance at Kinloch.  Options off the tee force decisions; what seems to be the
smarter yet riskier play at first glance, often leaves a more challenging second shot.  The most extreme of the split fairway
designs is found on the par five ninth hole.  Truthfully, I had no problem with the layout of the hole.  Standing in the fairway
at one under par, I hit a weak layup and a weak approach, followed by a decent bunker shot and three indifferent putts...bam
came my double bogey, all the result of poor execution.

Driveable par fours, reachable par fives, delusive par threes are the found in relative abundance at Kinloch.  The two secrets I
am willing to share are these:  putts rarely break as much as you think they will and carries off the tee are usually 10% less
demanding than they initially appear.  Trust in your caddies and you will enjoy a round over this course more than most others.
Thanks to Loeb and Eamon for guiding us around.

 

June 2010:  Two DVD compilations from Watson & Mickelson

One of the easiest purchases and toughest sells on record is the golf training DVD set.  Nebulous description?  Of course!  Is it
an easy purchase?  Yes.  You, the golfer, see the pitch on television and immediately drop the dime by calling a toll-free
number or going on-line to make a quick, credit-card buy.  A few days later, the package arrives and in your hands are two
shiny dvds with loads of video and audio instruction.  Easy purchase.  Tough sell?  You bet.  Now that you have the
information in hand, what is going to motivate you to watch them and incorporate their lessons into your game?  Do you
think for a second that what you have will be an affirmation that what you've been doing all along is correct?  That's what
each golfer secretly desires:  an affirmation that his swing, his quirky method, is the right one, and that all those elevated
scores were due to circumstances beyond his control.  Yes and no.  The method is incorrect (that's the "no" part), yet the
incorrect method rendered much beyond the golfer's control (that's the "yes" part.)

I'm going to introduce you to two DVD sets that I've had the pleasure to watch and utilize over the past six months.  One
focuses solely on the short game, while the other addresses the entire swing, the complete golf game.  Each is hosted by
a master of the game, albeit from different generations.  Each master has contended in a major championship over the most
recent twelve months, each master has won multiple major championships.  Their approaches to instruction are different, but
the end result (if you take on the responsibility of healing yourself, your own swing, your own game) is an increase in solid
ball strikes, a drop in strokes and a greater satisfaction with golf.

The Phil Mickelson dvd set focuses on the short game and takes a proactive, dynamic approach to chipping, pitching and sand play.  Mickelson has long been known for his aggressive efforts on nearly every shot.  "Holing it" has been Lefty's mantra since his youth.  He bring excitement to the game and serves to motivate each one of us, the weekend warriors, to add a little excitement to our games.

Mickelson's approach will have you activate your wrists and add some risk to your chips, pitches and blasts.  His interpretation of his game and yours is simply, why not?  Take the risk, learn the shot, incorporate it and pull it off.  If you're looking for something to shake you out of the doldrums of sameness (and if your short game could use a turbo boost,) this is the ticket.

On a personal level, I've watched these dvds and have made some introduction of Phil's suggestions to my game.  The results are never instantaneous, but they do come!  Have faith and you shall indeed witness a pleasant change in your game.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

44 hours of programming is certainly not a night of popcorn and viewing.  Nothing about Tom Watson remotely connects with "quick fix."  As a player, he worked as diligently on the range as Vijay Singh does in this generation.  Watson was noted for overcoming an early tendency toward final-round jitters, and this dvd set might just be perfect if you have similar tendencies under pressure.

Watson is of average height and build, making him an ideal and accessible role model for the typical golfer.  Trying to master the swing thoughts of a 6'4" golfer is way more challenging than a 5'9" chap, after all, unless you are 6'4" yourself!

One of the keys, in my opinion, to this dvd set, is Watson's age.  I remember how quick his swing looked in the 1980s, during his hayday, when I was a youngster.  The swing path hasn't changed, but the pace seems to have moderated itself, coming more in line with the average golfer's rhythm.

The way I see it, you can't go wrong with either purchase.  We all have the monetary means of acquiring these collections, but do
we have the commitment to incorporate their lessons into our games.  I hope so.  Nothing animates me more than seeing the names
of my high school golfers in the local newspaper from June through September.  Knowing that they are competing on their own in
tournaments, making slight swing changes, adding shots to their repertoire, reminds me that certain things are not wasted on the
young.  In fact, if we all returned to a simpler time, when acknowledgement that someone knew more than we did on a topic, that
perhaps we weren't the only experts in the bunch, that certainly we could stand a little addition to our knowledge base, then we
might fully avail ourselves of the lessons that these two experts, masters of the game, have to teach us.

 

 

 

June 2010:  How To Golf Properly

Memorial Day weekend this year brought a confluence of many rivers to cross.  As they all met at one central point, I did some
thinking and came up with this column.  To give you an idea of the streams that came together, how about high school girls'
golf, PGATour radio on XM, a column from our newest writer (Rico) and a chance discussion with the pro shop operator at
South Shore in Hamburg, NY.  What it all meant was that many of us ignore the necessities and the etiquette of the game,
but far more have no fundamental concept of how to truly have a successful golfing day.  I'm going to give you a primer here
and now...you don't have to follow these rules, but they'll certainly lead you down a path of less resistance if you do.

1.  Get to the course ahead of time--tight

I know, I know...work, kids, work, spouse/other, work, parents, work...it gets old.  Get to the course ahead of time means
get to the course at least 15 minutes ahead of your scheduled tee time.  This is the digital era, so you've either texted (not
behind the wheel) or called (hands free!) your golf buds to tell them when you'll cruise on in.  Here's what you do with the
quince minutos you have left:  put on your shoes, your sunscreen and grab two bottles of water from the trunk...that takes
five minutes.  If you don't have water in the trunk, buy some from the first bev cart you see.  Next, grab three clubs from
your bag, grip them with one hand at the grips and the other down by the heads, then do some trunk rotations to loosen
the hips, the torso and the upper legs a bit.  Step away from your partners and swing all three clubs together, slowly, until
swing starts to feel familiar and even comfortable.  That takes five more minutes.  Finally, greet your buds, make your bets,
mark your balls, visualize your first shot and hit the dust out of the ball.

2.  Get to the course ahead of time--loose

I know, I know...plenty of dudes get to the course an hour ahead of schedule.  Why?  Simple, they like to prepare and they
know that the course has the facilities to allow for such preparation.  Make sure that you do all the stuff found in #1 above,
But add the following bullet points to your routine...hit a few putts before heading to the warm-up facility.  Putting will be the
most important thing you do all day, so start and finish your warm-up with the flat stick.  Then, head to the warm-up area,
grab your favorite iron, and hit 1/4, 1/2 and 3/4 shots with it.  Since you love the club, you have a relationship with it.  You
should show it different shots from time to time...less than full shots will awaken your tempo, your rhythm, your touch.
When you are loose, play the first three holes of the course as you wish to do that day...hit driver, 4 metal and wedge to the
par five first and so on.  Now your mind is awake and connected to the rhythm found above.  Finish your warm-up with the
club that you will hit off the first tee...if it's a normal day, it's probably driver.  What about a shotgun tourney?  Know your
starting hole!  Finally, drink a bottle of water, have a Cliff bar or something that's not a Power Bar (Snickers in sheep's
clothing) and hit some putts and chips to finish off the warm-up.  Make sure that you have enough healthy munchies to get
you through the day, on the off chance that bev cart never shows and the halfway house burns down.

3.  Stand in the place where you are...and should be--full shot

Subtle little thing, until you see a high school golfer get hit in the throat (recovered) with a toe job.  Stand back from and to
the right of a right-handed golfer; to the back left of a southpaw.  Why?  Well, the golfer sees you and makes a mental image
of where you are.  As long as you don't move, there are no surprises.  When someone is back and behind, she/he is in our
blind spot and we the golfer become tense.

4.  Walk to the place where you are...and should be--putting green

Since we no longer wear nails (metal spikes), turf damage is minimized.  If we drag our feet, we still kick up the short grass.
4 words of caution: pick up your feet.  More advice...get a sense of where everyone is on the green, then walk away from
their putting paths.  Even if you do zero damage to the line, you'll still depress the grass a bit, making the putt even more
uneven than before.  Worse, you'll anger your partners, who will then wonder what other transgressions you commit in life
(adultery, thievery, arson) if you ignore such a tenet as this.

5.  Look, really look, at your target

Without delaying the whole course of matters, obviously.  Don't turn statuesque and delay the whole process.  The more
frequently you pick a target with some precision, the more likely you are to come in to that target.  My though process is,
"right, I want to hit that mound, but I'll be satisfied with ten yards right and left of it."  Giving yourself primary and
secondary targets gives you focus and forgiveness, two keys to a successful shot.

6.  Railroad tracks

Ninety percent of right handed golfers aim too far to the right; the reverse with lefties.  Why do we do this?  Who know or
cares...we do it, it messes us up and we need to correct it.  Simple repair:  aim more to the right/left than normal.  Your
ball flight and final resting place will let you know when you've aimed properly.  Long-Term Fix:  lay two clubs (or two of
those fancy tour sticks) down when practicing.  Make certain that they are PARALLEL.  Your feet, knees, hips and shoulders
should all be aimed left (for righties) of your target line, albeit parallel to that line.  Reverse the instructions for hockey
players, errrrrr, Canadians, errrrrrr lefties.  Nothing irks me more than to hear someone piss and moan about a great shot
that was poorly aimed.  Nothing angers you more than to hear me say "well, you were aimed that way.  Spin around a bit
on your provisional ball."

Six tips are enough for this month.  I've got loads more and will share them in the future.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

May 2010:  Golf Sonnets?  Absolutely!

In one of his 18 sonnets on golf, James Long Hale writes the following lines on the subject of The Rules:

“From there the match descends into a bout
of rulings on which Rules should be ignored.
A principled democracy of doubt--
As long as three of four are in accord.”

Later, when discussing The Handicap, Hale continues…

“Your ten best—not as simple as it sounds,
And the system is so easy to abuse.”

From time to time, Hale himself strays from the precise meter and emphasis of the sonnet (for the poetic purist, of course),
but his thematic arrows routinely escape the quiver with accuracy and strength.  In his dedication, Hale recalls his father’s
ability to instill in him a “deep and abiding love” for language and golf, then proves it.  In his epilogue, he is described in
a Lemony Snicketty way as one who “freely gives and gets Mulligans…” a possessor of much equipment and the unknowing
forerunner of a widow-in-progress.  Like sturdy bookholders, his sincerity and mirth bracket the collection of sonnets he
offers up for our consumption.

It is rare that a book on golf poetry finds a publisher these days.  So rare that a periodista might nearly choke when this
volume crosses her or his desk/screen.  What sells in golf circles in our contempoarary literary world are collections of
flowery photography, swing tips, chicken soup and “When Habib said to Moisha…”  As such, we are indebted to James
Long Hale for his decision to address 18 elements of the game in verse, demanding of himself an attention to syllabification
and meaning.

In order, Hale dedicates individual sonnets to The Game, The Equipment, The Fellow Competitor, The Swing, The Course,
The Etiquette, The Greenkeeper (sic), The Putt, The Rules, The Attire, The Handicap, The Bunker, The Ladies, The Pro,
The Caddie, The Golf Widow, The Nineteenth Hole and The Golf Gods.

Hale is brazen enough to touch on topics that might be considered off-color at best, scandalous at worst.  Golf Sonnets is not
a boring read and certainly makes you think, smile, chuckle and even gasp.  Can you count ten other literary volumes about
the grand old game that have elicited such responses?

Learn more about Golf Sonnets here:  http://www.golfsonnets.com/

 

April 2010: Nabisco Revelations

The eyes of the golfing world are on Augusta, Georgia, as they should be. Last week, they were fixed on Houston, Texas,
where Anthony Kim defeated Vaughn Taylor in a playoff for the Houston Open.  Mistakenly fixed, I should add, and I write
this from a continent away.

I'm in Spain, you see, for another week and a half.  I'm seven hours ahead of Buffalo, yet I'm still in touch with USA golf.
And what I realized last week is that American golf, at least on the ladies side, plays second fiddle to the world.  Yani
Tseng, Suzann Pettersen and, most of all, the USA ladies, proved that to me.

Tseng burst off the first tee with a par-eagle-birdie start to build a solid cushion.  She went minus-four on her front nine,
enough to ensure a one-stroke victory over Suzann Pettersen at the Nabisco Championship, first major of the year on ANY
tour.  Pettersen started slowly, with a bird and a boge on her front nine.  She played the final nonagon in minus-three,
closing to within one of Tseng's lead.  Pettersen has struggled to close the deal in any tournament over the last year, so
second place should not come as much of a surprise.  However, she was IN the mix, which is more than can be said of any
USA golfer.  Here's the rundown:

--Christie Kerr...nine pars on the front, two boges and two birds on the back, finished nine back at T-5.  Never in the hunt.
--Brittany Lang...+2 on Sunday...had two eagles in an earlier round, but way too many pars.  Nothing explosive here.
--Paula Creamer...injured/did not start.
--Angela Stanford...-7 over the last three days, +6 on the first.  Normally a top-ten in the majors...what happened on
Thursday?
--Morgan Pressel...seems to have given up the Twitter bug for golf again...even par on the final six would have garnered a
top ten finish, but went +3 instead.
--Stacy Lewis...minus five the first two days, plus five when it really counted.  About time we see more from her.
--Michelle Wie...five boges and a triple offset two birds on day four...really?

As I recall, the next LPGA major is the LPGA at Rochester, New York.  Hoping that the USA ladies make it a bit more interesting
that week.

April 2010:  Cover Six

The most influential aspect of the entire Tiger Woods sequence of late 2009 was a brief interview with Dr. Joseph Parent,
well-known (in golf circles) author of Zen Golf and a Buddhist.  He spoke after Tiger confessed to abandoning
elements of his upbringing, especially the Buddhist religious aspect.  Dr. Parent went over a number of positive roles that a
stable religious influence plays in one's life and provided a few texts that would serve any practitioner of any religion.  I was
able to pick up a couple of them and plan to spend the next few weeks reading and considering their thoughts.  As a result,
I'll be on hiatus from golf book exploration and want to leave you with these brief summaries of six worthwhile golf books
that were published during the last couple of years.

Shooting an Albatross, by Steven R. Lundin, retells a story from the years of World War II, a story of love, jealousy and
vengeance, all painted against a background filled with the best that golf has to offer.  Two young men vie for the attention
and heart of a young lady; one is clearly her choice while the other simply won't go away.  The latter's jealousy of the former,
over the attention he receives both for his manners and his golf game, drive the unchosen one to a decision that changes and
ends lives.  Lundin's prose is precise and direct.  The book is not a flashy, melodramatic one.  Instead, it sits its reader down,
promises an interesting and memorable tale if the reader has the dedication to follow its intricate pathways, and delivers on all
that it suggests.

The Impact Zone is an instructional book from Bobby Clampett and Andy Brumer.  Anyone who followed golf during the
decade of the 1980s knows Clampett's name.  He was a wunderkind of capacious proportion, spoken of with John Cook and
Mark O'Meara.  Unlike the other two, Clampett's game did not stand the test of time and he faded from the professional golf
scene as the other two carved out memorable careers.  Clampett's swing was based on the principles of The Golfing Machine,
a unique instructional text written by Homer Kelley.  The swing was a powerful one when on target, but for whatever reasons,
did not hold up to the pressures of the professional tour.  Clampett has since made a name for himself as a television
commentator on CBS golf broadcasts and has influenced golf in many other ways.  Now he adds instructional author to the
list and does so quite well.  The Impact Zone focuses its efforts on what Clampett and Brumer call "the moment of truth," the
point of impact, just before and after, and how the club arrived there.  Clampett advances golf instruction by dispelling at least
one commonly-accepted myth (I won't reveal it here!) and traces a specific plan for game improvement.  Like all instructional
texts, this one is best utilized by an incredibly focused and self-motivated learner or by a learner with a current terrific
teacher-pro relationship in which the instructor is not afraid to utilize aspects of the work of another.

Golf, Naked reminds me of what it's like to step out onto a wrestling mat, dressed only in a singlet or uni.  Not only are you
alone to face your opponent, but the skin-tight garb reveals everything physical about you, putting it on display for all to see.
I never feel naked on the golf course, but my brief and undistinguished, gym-class wrestling career certainly made me feel so.
Ironic, then, that one of the sports our son chose was wrestling.  He does feel naked on the golf course, although he smiles a
lot!  Greg Rowley, PGA professional, assembles a digest of golf-related items that is easy to start and stop at any given
moment.  If you have five minutes before company arrives, read a few pages.  If you have an hour to kill before or after work,
read much more.  Golf, Naked teaches all aspects of the game, from its long-held rules and etiquette to the foibles of play
that drive tyros crazy.  Not everything in the text will be new to you, nor will it apply to your game.  You will find enough to
consider the money more than well-spent.  Most importantly, it is the type of informational book that, without a second
thought, you will pass on to friends.

Playing Through is a compendium of a year spent living and golfing along Scotland's coasts.  Curtis Gillespie is a writer by
trade, so he has that certain freedom to do what many others have done before him and what innumerable others continue
to do:  research and write the experiential text.  Gillespie and his family inhabit the town of Gullane for some 365-odd days,
becoming townspeople, attending school, writing, shopping and golfing.  You've read similar non-fiction works before about
St. Andrews, Ireland, and other golfing meccas, but for some odd reason (Canadian?!), Gillespie's writing and perspective
shine differently.  Perhaps the answer is found in having his family around him the entire while, perhaps because he is an
encumbered adult throughout the experience...others who have attempted this tack have been single and carefree (for a time,
at least) and therefore, slaves to their own ego and desires alone.  In any case, Gillespie's take on a year well lived and golfed
is absolutely worth your while.  It is available in paperback and travels well, so you can pick up a copy for your next sojourn.

Grounds For Golf represents itself as a knowledge base for the history and fundamentals of golf course design.  Geoff
Shackleford played golf at Pepperdine and represents that university's conservative values well in his curmudgeonly writings.
Shackleford is an unabashed, even shameless, trumpeter of all that is traditional about golf.  He believes in the ground game,
the fast and firm terrain, the creative yet natural route from tee to green and back again.  He has written much on the game,
contributes to the online forum Golf Club Atlas and fires off a daily RSS feed from his website on all that has been written
about and taken place in the game of golf.  Grounds for Golf was in part inspired by his at-the-time employment as co-
designer of Rustic Canyon Golf Club in California with current architect of the year Gil Hanse.  If your knowledge of golf
course architecture stretches from little to grandiose, you will enjoy GFG as a primer or a refresher on the traditionalist's
perspective on golf course design and construction.

Touring Prose offers a collection of writings on golf spanning the years 1979 to 1992 from the Toronto-based golf writer,
Lorne Rubenstein.  For years the golf correspondent/writer of The Globe and Mail, Rubenstein has also written for all the
major golf magazines available on newsstands.  Touring Prose represents his first anthological effort; he is at work on a
second tome, bringing us from 1993 to the current day.  Rubenstein's efforts reach every clean or dusty corner of the golfing
globe, from women and travel to professional golf and architecture.  Rubentstein's style, like that of so many newspapermen,
is direct, polished, accurate yet devoid of gild and fanfare.  Touring Prose, in an unintentional way, takes us back to an era
that immediately predates the arrival of this medium, the internet, when newspapers and magazines were the de-facto
deliverers of golfing news to the world.

 

March 2010:  The Shapes of Things To Come

The more things stay the same, the more they change.  There was no wholesale change in the look of BuffaloGolfer over
the winter holiday in 2009.  That is typically the time of year when I get creative (or bored) and pilfer some ideas from
other websites that I admire.  I did kill the big image on the home page, then shifted the masthead of columnists from the
right wing over to the left center.  If you don't like it, give me some suggestions on how to improve it.

Another year went by without making any movement toward php.  I'd love to one day use dynamic page processing to
bring this site into the 2000s (before we get to the twenty-tens...uh-oh, too late.)  I'd also like to incorporate more video,
scratch that, any video, of local golfers.  Doesn't have to be tournaments, just golf.  Maybe we'll do some kamikaze golf
course tours...Start off on the first hole in a cart and video the entire course, then post it on youtube or something...I'll
let you know.  Our Twitter experiment is doing well but Facebook is a bit slow.  I know it has to do with the purchase of
ads on the latter, but I just don't understand their ad structure enough to risk putting one up.  I have no desire to receive
a bill asking for $10G for one month of Facebook ads.

Some of the things I can confirm are book reviews, product reviews and course reviews.  I have a stack of eight books that
I plan to get to over the next two months.  Their titles are The Impact Zone; Golf Naked; The Best of Henry Longhurst;
Grounds For Golf; Shooting An Albatross, Golf In The Field Of Time:  Valley of Flowers; Playing Through; and Touring
Prose.  Some of the writers are well-known, while others are new to me.  Others, still, are touring pros, peddling their
swing thoughts.  I promise to be honest and forthright in my reviews.  I have a couple of Nike putters and a new Nike driver
to test when we get outdoors.  Domes are swell, but they are far too easy on the swing.  Once you get the feel for the indoor
putting surface, you lag everything inside a foot, right?  Besides, there's nothing on the line...no indoor qualifiers, no indoor
Prez Cup, no indoor Districts.  I have some swing and alignment aids called Tour Sticks.  They look, honestly, like the neon
sticks you use to demarcate your driveway for the snowplow guy...the things that keep him from plowing your lawn and
gardens.  All the young ams and pros have them, though, so they need to be examined.  Finally, the annual pilgrimmage
takes us to Williamsburg, VA, in 2010.  We had a dalliance with the late Mike Strantz golf courses last year in the Pinehurst
area, so we are heading to the commonwealth of Virginia, where two more Strantz await.  We will also play one of Robert
Trent Jones' finest creations, the Golden Horseshoe course, along with a few more there and back again.

Quite possible the most important professional move for me is a return to competition.  As a high school coach, it seems to me
odd that I don't compete.  How can I recall the taste of cotton with something on the line for my players if I'm no tasting it
my own self?  The Scrambler has agreed to caddy for me in the State Am qualifier, so keep an eye peeled for stories leading
in to the event.

As always, let us know at buffalogolferATbuffalogolfer.com (or on Facebook, or on Twitter) what you like, hate, or need to
read on BuffaloGolfer.Com.  We're easy to please and surprisingly flexible.  Just ask our wives.

 

 


February 2010:  Tiger

It won't surprise you to learn that a great deal of time, money and effort has been spent promoting, covering, interviewing,
researching, investigating, accusing and analyzing Tiger Woods since he came on the professional golf scene in the Fall of
1996.  Tiger is the most recognizable figure in the world of the past dozen years.  He may not be the most famous, nor the
most important, but he is the most recognizable.

It may surprise you to learn that I have initiated this perspective at least six times, only to come away with nothing.  I have
read many pieces on Tiger Woods' professional career, from the "Hello, World" advertisement to the latest predictions on when
the vanished luminary will reappear.  His televised appearances have not been lost on me, as I recall his first time in front of
the cameras as a child.  I recall his appearances in US Amateur championships.  I recall his disappearance last November.

I have read nearly every treatise on the events of late Fall, 2009, when the veil of mystery surrounding Tiger Woods was
sliced, then rent, then completely torn apart by his deeds and the efforts of the Hollywood gossip machine.  We learned more
about Tiger than we ever thought could exist.  It shouldn't have surprised us and it probably didn't, but it certainly caught us
off our guard.  The pieces were in place for a post-modern stage drama and production began.

The first act was the discovery.  A car accident occurred.  Tiger was injured in a way inconsistent with the severity of the
accident.  Accusations were hurled at him, his wife, an innocent and well-represented fire hydrant and an equally blameless
tree.  Various law agencies were involved, his car was impounded and Tiger disappeared.  He has been seen once since, but
more on that later.

The second act was the revelation.  Affairs with women other than his wife went from suggestion to testimony. A cover-up
in exchange for a magazine article and cover photo were alleged.  Lack of control in private affairs, in contrast to the oh-so
choreographed public sphere was trumpeted.  The lurkers smelled blood and went for the jugular, but there was one problem:
the jugular had disappeared.  The victim had decamped, seceding from all that was expected to transpire.

Act three brought the trial.  Experts, marginal participants and unrelated blowhards weighed in on which version of events
they believed and what they thought Tiger should do next.  Tearful confessions were intimated, public revelations were
advanced, and full disclosure was demanded by the same wash of humanity that takes great pains to avoid all three of these
in their own, non-public lives, unless backed, weakened, against a wall.  This was the first mistake of the many:  a
presumption that Tiger Woods was weakened, backed against a wall.

Act four brought the uncertainty.  Tiger Woods refused to testify at this public trial.  Granting no interviews, voluntarily
ceding no photographs, he remains shrouded in absolute invisibility for three months now.  No release has been granted on
a return to the public eye, to his craft, to his previous world.  This betrays the second mistake of the masses:  that Tiger
Woods will return in the form that we knew...that we thought we knew.  Let's digress for a space.

Tiger Woods had one public goal in mind:  To pass Jack Nicklaus' record of 18 professional and 20 major championships. 
He is 14 and 17 championships there, 5 and 4 away.  Beyond that, the readers and viewers were afforded only what the
publicity machined deemed salient and saleable.  His own father suggested that Tiger Woods was meant for greater things,
but that possibility ended long ago.  You see, Tiger failed to truly embrace the world as anything approaching the savior
his father envisioned.  It is beyond doubt that he has given much back, from his very public student learning center in
California to any other unpublicized donations.  Yet he has not become a man of the people, preferring to construct a cocoon penetrable by a selected few.  He secluded himself in gated communities, purchased an island and an enormous boat,
hired a caddie whose litany of tasks included protection.  Tiger had moved far beyond a place where he could transition from international sporting figure to international contributor.  He had not given evidence of an ability to connect with us on a
micro level.

And now, Act five.  It has no emboldened title beyond the next.  Tiger Woods may return at some point.  He could play
professional golf again.  He might appear in print and television advertising, in support of some product or firm.  He is not
what he was.  He never was what we thought him to be.  A barren landscape is all that remains.  The PGA Tour goes on,
week after week, disputing competitions as it did before 1996.  Gates open and close, fire hydrants and trees keep silent
watch along roadsides.  We wait for Godot to return.

 

 

January 2010:  Ladies Day Out

Here’s the skinny:  Lawrence, Flaubert and DeFoe are all known for having effectively adopted a woman’s narrative voice and perspective in their writings.  Might these three literary figures succeed in developing a woman’s perspective, say, regarding
a night of recreation and diversion?  Let’s hope so.  Try as I might, I was unable to identify enough sources to pinpoint
exactly what a girls golf day/night out might entail.  As a high school girls golf coach, I have kept in contact with my former
players, but none of them was able to define exactly what they might do differently from any other night of fun and frivolity. 
Using my creative side and my twenty-plus years of experience as a husband, I came up with the following sequence of
activities for a memorable day/night of golfing for the ladies. 

Step One:     Have a workout 

Annika Sorenstam, Lorena Ochoa, and Suzanne Petterson have demonstrated in the past decade that a physically-fit woman
has a greater chance at success on the golf course.  During that same period of time, working out has become less of a
sweat factory and more of a tailored program aiming equal parts at balance, endurance, muscular strength, and
cardiovascular fitness.  Professional golfers and high-level amateurs routinely bracket their practice and tournament sessions
with pre- and post-round fitness sessions.  There is no better place to start this day of golfing fun than Discover Golf Buffalo
and Fitness in East Amherst.  Owned and directed by Janet and Bob Gosch, DGB has provided an exercise home for residents
of the eastern suburbs during the past three years.  Offerings run the gamut from traditional weight stacks and cardio
machines to the more esoteric Power Pods and Water Wheels.  Discover Golf Buffalo offers a complete program from
warm-up and stretching through diverse exercises to cool-down and wrap up.  No two workouts look alike nor feel alike, ever. 

Step Two:    Make a tee time at a private club or high-end public course

Municipal golf courses are efficient and cost-effective, but they do not pamper you.  There is no bag drop space, no cart
attendant, and certainly no spacious and comfortable locker room.  Since the ladies are continuing their day/night out with
18 unforgettable holes of golf, they deserve the best.  Private clubs are the class of the service industry.  Employees cater
to the whims and desires of a closed membership on a daily basis, from towels and tees to dinner and dancing.  Members
are known by their last names and titles and no expense is spared to satisfy them.  Hard on the heels of Park Club,
Country Club of Buffalo, Wanakah, and other country clubs are the famous five of local, high-end public facilities: 
Harvest Hill, Glen Oak, Diamond Hawk, Arrowhead, and The Links At Ivy Ridge.  A reservation at any of these facilities
will continue this adventure in a wondrous fashion. 

Step Three:  A quick nine with appetizers, just before dinner

You’ve exercised and played 18 holes so far, but a bit of golf remains before you sit down for dinner.  Our final locale is
The Frog Hair in Williamsville.  Home to eight golf simulators, a lengthy bar, fireplace sitting room, and a spacious dinner
area, The Frog Hair is a golfer’s paradise twelve months of the year.  We’ve chose to reserve one of the four private simulators
(the other half face the bar and dining area) for a little personal time.  With a choice of over 35 courses, both real and
fictional, the golf simulator offers our ladies the opportunity to travel around the world to play golf in Scotland, China,
and the Dominican Republic, in addition to the USA and the creative minds of golf course architects.  Drinks and appetizers
are brought to the private room that houses the simulator and tables for sitting and leaning.  A quick nine holes takes about
an hour; with no walking or riding between shots, time flies by.  By this time, the table is ready, palates are cleansed
and tantalized and the end of the evening is nigh.  Seafood, steaks and salads provide the perfect finale to our ladies
day/night out of golf.

Might this day involve shopping for equipment and apparel?  Certainly.  A host of on-course and off-course golf boutiques
provide a selection from functional to extravagant blouses, sweaters, skirts, and shoes [not to mention metals, irons, and
golf balls.]  Tuck this journey in as a prelude to step one or just before step two and you’ll add another enjoyable two hours
to the day.

 

November 2009:  Why We Do What We Do

I play golf well.  I had 76 at Byrncliff on Sunday and an 83 from the tips (over 7300 yards) at River Oaks last Wednesday.
The reason I tell you is complex and not in the least bit arrogant.  I do a lot of other things not so well.  Take running, for
example.  My beloved and I have four children, the oldest of which is a runner, born to the turf.  He ran X-C in high school
and can flat out turn on the jets when necessary.  He is a very good sprinter and a great distance runner.  For the past few
Thanksgivings, we have jogged together in the Turkey Trot.  This notion brings me to my first segue: running in Delaware
Park.

Delaware Park, for the non-believer, is north Buffalo's Central Park.  It consists of two portions, divided by a repulsive
thoroughfare known as the 198, the Scajaquada Expressway, or "the Scadge."  One half of the park consists of a lake, an
outdoor theater, rose garden, soccer pitch, and treed open space.  The northern half of the park contains an 18-hole golf
course, ringed by a nearly-two mile road.  The Buffalo Zoo, a few soccer and baseball fields, and some more open space and
courts complete the list.  In preparation for the Turkey Trot (about two weeks away) I found myself running two laps around
the park.  I anticipated completion of the jog in under 40 minutes and was not disappointed.  As I said, I don't run well.  I
do it for the health, the camaraderie, the spirit.  As I progressed around the golf course, I came into contact with a series of
folks who run very well.  They came toward me with sails billowing in the wind, filled by overachieving vespers, err, I mean
zephyrs, moving at a great (and possibly illegal) pace.  I kept my head down, not wishing to make eye contact, not wishing to
disrupt neither their rhythm nor mine.  During my two laps, I passed these folks at least twice, possible thrice.  Hmmm, let's
amend that suggestion to...THEY PASSED ME!

It was a good run that became a great run.  It was a great run not because I suddenly found a resource of energy, power and
talent that lay heretofore dormant.  It was a great run because die-hard golfers were out on the golfing grounds of the park,
lashing at golf balls on a grey, cooly-cold day in November.  I felt them, just as if it had been Sunday or Wednesday last,
when I was the deliverer of the lashings, when I was the stroker of putts, when I hoisted the bag to my shoulders and
soldiered on across the hills of Wyoming county or the fields of Grand Island.  I imagined the low shot, driven through the very
winds that emboldened those who run well.  I grasped in an imaginary fashion the wedge that would run the chip shot to the
edge of the hole.  I was them, and they were me.

I do not know that feeling as a painter, a musician, nor as a runner.  Yet on I run, decently.  And on I golf, well.

 

October 2009:  Inadvertent up-to-date Installment

I was taken by surprise by this installment.  Maybe it was the Swingers' convention on Grand Island (that I did not attend);
maybe it was the terrible Fall weather that forced frequent postponements of high school matches.  One thing is for certain:
I did not know what I planned to write for October.  As you know, The Mouth That Roars not only won the WGR550 Rookie
contest, but he also submitted his 100th column for BuffaloGolfer.Com.  The good news for Mr. Mouth is, not once did we
reject one of his submissions, so he's batting 100%.  Hall of Fame numbers, if you ask me.

2009 was a terrific golfing year for Mr. Mo' Golf.  In addition to dropping the handicap index to 3.7, I've had the opportunity
this year to play a long list of fine, new courses.  Most are open to the public but at least two of them are private gems that
opened their gates to me.  I'm going to address some of these courses in this entry, along with some other tidbits.  In a year
that saw the USGA make good on a threat to roll back technology, I purchased two PING wedges for my bag.  If you know
me, you doubtless know that any equipment purchase is always supported by a lesson or two.  To accompany the wedges,
I went to Ebay and grabbed Phil Mickelson's new DVD pack...I'll discuss that discovery as well.

Here we go.  The golfing trips can be broken down into five ventures.  The first took place in early April, a Spring Break trip
ostensibly to look at colleges.  I played Triggs Memorial in Providence, Olde Sycamore and Charlotte Golf Links in Charlotte
and began the year on a good note.  The trip was intended to conclude a contest of sorts, in which I decided on hybrids for
my bag.  I had long struggled with these new-fangled clubs and finally made up my mind to try a variety and claim the ones
best suited for me.  The clubs revealed themselves to me and six months later, they are still in my bag!!  Triggs Memorial, a
Donald Ross municipal layout in the capitol of Rhode Island, is a national treasure.  It is as unique a course as can be found,
yet is the property of every working-class person in Providence.  If the weather hadn't been so ungodly cold, I would have
done more than drive the cart around and shoot pictures.  I hit a few shots, but none that can be written down with any
pride on a scorecard.  The weather in Charlotte was much kinder and the rounds at OS and CGL were a welcome change from
the prickly northern temps.  Olde Sycamore is a fairly common course in the southeast, snaking in and out of homes and
streets, while Charlotte Golf Links, one of Tom Doak's early achievements, moves linkslike along a piece of mundane ground
with a fair bit of inspiration.  I had played this one a decade ago, but could not remember the holes.  As I type this piece, I
cannot really recall them any better now, although I will say that I enjoy them when I play them.  It's a cat thing, I guess.

The second trip was wrapped around two days at Bethpage Black and the US Open.  The lads and I zipped off to Hamilton,
NY for a round at Colgate University's Seven Oaks course.  I had a decent round there from the tips, something near 81, with
an exorbitant number of putts.  The greens were well-trimmed and my touch was not yet at mid-Summer's sensitivity.  The
course opened with two of the best opening holes I saw all year and, with bogey-par, I led the pack.  After Colgate and
Bethpage, we returned westward by way of Cooperstown, where we ventured forth onto a Deveraux Emmett classic,
Leatherstocking.  For many years I had heard tales of the 18th hole, a wraparound, double-Cape par five.  I risk excommunication and exorcism, but it remains the least enjoyable of the course's holes.  Finally, I know why...the fairway was boringly flat, depending on Lake Otsego to provide the interest.  Since when can water add anything to the game of golf?  Fortunately for me, the other 17
holes were so filled with inspiration and guile that I can forgive the resort their glam faux pas.

Trip number three was a weekend jaunt to deliver child #1 to his summer job in New England.  After depositing him, I headed
 a bit north to Bernardston, MA, where I played Crump'n Fox, a tremendous woodland course.  I had previously played Fox
Hopyard in Connecticut, a layout owned by the same organization.  Hopyard is a much more open, airy course than Crump,
admitting the influence of the wind to a greater deal.  Crump'n Fox is a fairer test than its CT relative, neither long in the
yardage nor extreme in the carry.  The following day found me in Holyoke, MA, where I was the guest of The Orchards, a
private course on land owned by Mount Holyoke College.  It is not every college that can claim a pristine example of Donald
Ross' finest work; too bad!  Orchards hosted the 2004 US Women's Open on the spur of the moment and defended par against
me quite well.  One-over with three holes to play, I struggled home in six strokes over par across the final triumvirate, beaten
and humbled.

Trip number four was the by-product of a dreaded sojourn toward Orlando.  For some reason, 2009 marked another family
outing to the magic kingdoms.  Not only did I find a cool Orlando '09 shirt, I teed it up on two incredibly interesting courses.
Victoria Hills, a sandbelt course in Deland, Florida, was one of the top five experiences of the year, in a year when most of the
courses fit into a top five of some sort or other.  I shot 45-35 at Victoria Hills, again from the tips, and could not say that I
played any better on the back than the front, despite the 10-stroke differential!!  I somehow scored better on the inward nine,
although my ball-striking was equal on both halves.  The other course, Sanctuary Ridge, had been named Diamond Players
Club the last time I ventured south to the region.  Designed by the unheralded Terry LeGree, S-Ridge has some of the most
stunning drops and rises of any course, anywhere.  That these changes in elevation are found in typically-flat Florida makes
the course even more attractive and interesting.

Trip number five was the big one, a six-day jaunt back to North Carolina, this time to the Sandhills region.  The lads and I
sampled five courses in North Carolina (The Pit, Little River Farm, Southern Pines, Tobacco Road and Tot Hill Farm) and one
in West Virginia (Pete Dye Golf Club.)  Pete Dye, a private reserve for those of considerable wealth, represents a seldom-in-a
lifetime opportunity to play a golf course truly designed to be one of the world's best.  With no spared expense, this homage
to the region's coal mining folk was as groomed a course as I've played, yet also as wild.  The course was relentless, so even
after surviving the front nine, a second half awaited with orders to subdue me.  The North Carolina quintet was nearly as
memorable, especially the pair of Mike Strantz designs (Tobacco and Tot Hill.)

These fifteen courses represented the gamut of golfing opportunities for me.  I played a number of local layouts, including
Holiday Valley, Byrncliff, Harvest Hill, Penn Hills, and Mill Creek.  The familiarity i have with northern bent grass greens is
magnified and reiterated when I venture south of the Mason-Dixon line, toward Bermuda grass.  I just can't putt the stuff!!  If
no other reason arises, this inability to transfer skill allows me to appreciate the level of dexterity that top pros command when
switching surfaces.

I apologize, but I'll have to get to equipment next month.  I hope that you can be patient.  I'll make it worth your while.

 

 

2009 Walker Cup:  Merion Golf Club, Sunday Morning--Acroamatic Thoughts

Team USA skunked the GBIs at their suggested own game (foursomes), 6-2 over two days.  With GBI needing 6.5 out of 8
in the afternoon to reclaim the cup, my thinking is that such a comeback is unlikely at best.  Therefore, I have no
misgivings about leaving for home at 12:30, save for not knowing if Bernard Berrian (the core of my Fantasy Football offense)
is cleared to play on this opening Sunday.  Here's hoping.  Given this uncertainty of global importance and the equally
important revelation that I just walked the first ten holes, climbed six television towers and shot nearly 400 images, I'm pooped
and ready to wax lunatic.  Here we go...

Can Merion handle the whole US Open in four years?

Merion is a tiny course.  I could look up the complete acreage but I don't wish to.  You may, with my blessing.  Many holes
abut one another like drunken bar patrons seeking to score.  It's never difficult to get there from here, because there is right
next door to here.  Crowd movement and capacity, not worthiness of the golf course, are the principal projects that Team
USGA will need to resolve before the unlucky year arrives.

Could this catering be any tastier?

Morning begins with Krispy Kreme doughnuts and the individual coffee k-chunk machine that we discovered in 2004.  Lunch
and dinner are bagged selections of sandwich (ham or turkey and cheese), pasta salad, cookie, chips and soda.  Nothing
fancy, but everything necessary to walking a golf course.  Of course, if you sit on your asterisk all day, watch the scores on
television and type, you'll chunk out like Barkley.  Oh, there's an apple, too.

Subtlety of manicure

it was on the fifth hole, the one that some call the most natural hole on the course, where I first noticed the subtle difference
between fairway cut, greenside cut (there is no way to call it fringe) and putting surface.  The fairways are cut to the height
of the greens on the muni I played as a kid.  The greenside is often cut to the height of a fine country club's prized putting
greens.  The greens themselves are cut to the height of a 12-year old's stubble, if a 12-year old's wee growth were consistent
across his entire face.  The question is, do you putt or do you putt gently?

What constitutes a great golf course?

It depends on what you like.  There are two basic camps that don't interact:  traditionalists versus modernists.  Traditionalists
like golf courses built before World War Two and after 1990, but only if the architect's name is Hanse, Coore or Doak.
Modernists like courses built with big machines since World War Two, by guys named Jones (Rees, Bobby or Robert, doesn't
matter), Hills, Fazio and Dye.  Traditionalists like fuzzy bunker edges, short par fours, pitch par threes and open spaces.
Modernists like sharply edged bunkers, tall trees and monstrous holes that no one can reach in regulation.  Great golfers
bridge the two camps, but there aren't many great golfers.  Is Merion a great golf course?  Yes.  Is it a great tournament
course?  Yes.

Re-examine your garbage

Merion's sixteenth hole plays over the far edge of a played-out quarry.  The seventeenth plays down into it (although not as
successfully as does the 6th at Country Club of Buffalo) and the 18th completes the cycle by ascending the near wall of the
spacious declivity.  If someone promised me verdant meadows or a stark, empty hole in the ground where rock was once
mined, I'll take the latter.

Confident and Low

This is not a game of highs and lows, bursts of speed and strength followed by immense crashes.  Whether you play nine-hole
league or high school matches or 18-hole rounds, you need to find a way to keep the needle level.  Make birdie...big whoop.
Make double...see "Make Birdie."  Rounds are not saved or lost by single shots or single holes during the round.  Upon
completion and during retrospection, one might decide that the round was indeed saved or lost in such a manner, but don't
do so until after.

2009 Walker Cup:  Merion Golf Club, Morning Foursomes, Saturday

If the gents that lurk around Golf Club Atlas could make a list of golf courses in the USA that they'd like to haunt for the
remainder of their golfing days, it might run something like this: 

Shinnecock Hills
Cypress Point
Pine Valley
Chicago Golf Club
Merion
National Golf Links
Los Angeles Country Club North Course

Why would these courses be so popular?  They represent the golden age of golf course architecture, when men named Wilson,
MacDonald, Thomas, Flynn, MacKenzie and Crump (not to mention their compatriots, Ross, Tillinghast and Colt) sketched
pathways from tee to green that stand time's tests.  These courses have deep, hairy bunkers that erupt from mazy fairways
at most inauspicious junctures.  Their putting surfaces waver like children in a candy store and their tee decks don't
necessarily point in the proper direction (like grandparents who've forgotten or simply don't care anymore.)  Despite these
idiosyncrasies, these courses beguile and beckon, tease and taunt, suggest and stun, then invite you over for dinner and a
nap.  They are the best that these United States can offer and are journeys that etch an eternal glaze across the
memory.  Coincidentally, these are the course of the Walker Cup.

In the tiniest of nutshells, the W/C is an every-two-years-ten-v.-ten-great-britain-and-ireland-usa-team-amateur-golf-match.
You don't make the Walker Cup unless you're the best amateurs in the country.  College stalwarts from Oklahoma State,
Georgia, Wake Forest join the occasional interloper from reality (or at least the reality of an investment banker or financial
guy.)  The W/C means foursomes, fourballs and singles.  Four-what?  Foursomes is we two versus you two, one ball per
team.  I hit, my partner hits, I hit again, she hits again, until we get the ball in the hole.  Fourballs is we two versus you two
again, each of us playing our own ball.  If I make 4 and my partner 3, our team counts 3.  Singles is you versus me.  Oh, and
all of this takes place at match play...hole by hole scoring.  You make 10, we make 1, we only win one hole.  It's all about
tradition, history and reverence.

The first four clubs listed above have all hosted the Walker Cup since 1977.  The last two will host it in 2013 and 2017. 
Merion is the site this weekend of the 2009 dispute and my home for the next 36 hours.  The club sits in suburban Philadelphia
and lists a number of high-end championships (US Opens and US Amateurs) on its walls.  Once thought to be too short a
track to contain the beastly blows unleashed by today's technology, Merion has lengthened some hole while preserving their
essence.

The morning foursomes came out in the favor of the USA side.  Three of the colonial pairings emerged victorious over their
GBI (Great Britain and Ireland) rivals, none more dramatic than the duo of Nathan Smith, resident old guy, and Peter Uihlein,
resident silver spoon.  Smith and Uihlein entered the quarry holes of Merion (16-18) down by one hole.  If GBI had won
any of the three, it would have earned no less than one-half point.  It won none, Smith and Uihlein won the final two and
took a critical point away from the mother countries.  After the morning, USA sits ahead by 3 points to 1.  Stay tuned to our
Twitter (buffalogolfer) and Facebook (buffalogolfer.com) spots for instant updates.

 

August 2009 Special Submission:  Golf Junket 2009

Koehler 2006...amazing golf, the finest hotel I've ever darkened.  Michigan 2007...diverse courses, the finest hospitality,
unequalled scenery.  After a one-year hiatus, the BuffaloGolfer team takes its show on the road again for Golf Junket 2009.
The destination this time?  Pinehurst, North Carolina, with one special stop on the long road home.

The whole idea came out of an unfortunate victory.  Bob Labbance, a Vermont-based golf writer of international reknown,
passed away about a year ago from Lou Gherig's disease.  During the Spring of 2008, Bradley Klein of Golfweek and other
writers organized an auction to raise funds for Bob's children and their education.  I entered the high bid for Tobacco Road,
an unbelievable course designed by the late Mike Strantz.  You'll get to know his work when the Crosby/AT&T begins using
the Monterrey Peninsula's Shore course (a redesign of his, his final gift to golf) next year on the PGA Tour.  After winning and
feeling good about myself for having made a small contribution to Bob's family, it occurred to me that I had to get to Pinehurst
in order to use the foursome.

Thus was born the 2009 golf junket to Pinehurst.

We contacted The Pit, a vacation community that has a Dan Maples golf course of the same name.  The Pit gained national
attention in the 1980s when it turned a reclaimed quarry into a quality golf course.  Not since the days of Merion (2009
Walker Cup) and Country Club of Buffalo had spent quarries so daringly been utilized for the purpose of golf.  Since then,
a number of other developers have turned to played-out land to build golfing destinations.  The Pit not only offered us a tour
of their course, but invited us to spend the week with them.  Southern hospitality at its finest!

Just up the road from The Pit is Little River Farm, another fine community with a golf course.  Mr. Maples is responsible for
their design as well.  After playing an architect's most daring and certainly his signature work, the opportunity to play a
second track will shed light on the extent of his ability.  One-and-done just doesn't do it.  The Pit and Little River Farm will
unite to form our only 36-hole day (more on the rationale for that later.)

Tuesday will bring a return to a different era when we visit Southern Pines.  A Donald Ross design, Southern Pines is revered
by my friends on GolfClubAtlas.  This bunch of architecture buffs and designers can't quite figure out why we want to play any
course in the Sandhills area of North Carolina constructed after 1940.  A fine bunch of traditionalists, these guys.  After
touring The Orchards, a great Ross course in Massachusetts, and growing more familiar with the Country Club of Buffalo, I'm
excited to play a Ross layout in the region to which he dedicated the greater part of his years on Earth.

Wednesday and Thursday take us to the twilight zone.  Back-to-back Mike Strantz designs at Tobacco Road and Tot Hill Farm.
During the 1990s, no one designed more unique golf courses than Mike Strantz.  A formally-trained artist, Strantz' brand of
golf course architecture was the equivalent of Picasso's introduction of Cubism.  From Stonehouse and Royal New Kent near
Williamsburg, Virginia to True Blue and Caledonia in Myrtle Beach, to this Sandhills pair, Strantz only failure was dying too
young.  Barely 50 years old when he passed on, golf will be the poorer for his absence.  Not to say that Doak, Hanse, Witter,
the Jones boys, and Coore aren't doing fabulous work, but only Strantz was Strantz.

The reason for scheduling single rounds of golf has its genesis in the Memorial Day Wisconsin adventure of '06.  We drove
all afternoon and evening, arriving in Koehler around midnight.  We were up at the crack of dawn for a round on the Irish
course, followed by 36 holes on Sunday at Blackwolf Run, then a farewell tour of the Straits Course (2010 PGA) before
heading home.  Not having learned anything from that adventure, I scheduled two-a-day rounds in 2007 for the Michigan
trip.  Another mistake, another learning experience.  Pinehurst is too filled with opportunity to miss walks and lunches and
dinners and strolls.  We didn't schedule Pinehurst #2 because it's not that memorable a course.  Good, yes, but memorable,
no.  It's also very expensive, over $350 at last count, and paying $20 per hole somehow doesn't jibe with my sensibilities.

We'll head home after Tot Hill Farm and stop along I-79 for a once-in-a-lifetime round of golf at... nice try!  I'll let you know
next installment where that one will be.

Day One-Half:  The ride down from western New York was uneventful as eleven-hour rides go.  Scrambler and I shared
one car while Duff and the New Guy drove the other.  An eleventh-hour turn of events necessitated the utilization of two
vehicles, hence the arrangements.  As we get more of these trips under our belts, less golf and more big talk (politics,
economics, literacy, foreign affairs) takes place during the transportation portion of the junket.  We arrived around 8 along
Route 211 and pulled into The Pit Vacation Villas, our headquarters for four nights.  On Monday, we'll begin the journey
(they always seem to take less time than anticipated) at Dan Maples' signature design, The Pit.  I've mentioned it in other fora,
but this is the joint that re-ignited it all.  Back in the mid-1980s, when some golf course design was taking place, Maples broke
ground on broken ground, utilizing a played-out sand pit (is that even possible?) as his drawing paper.  He created an island
tee and green, a cape hole to end all cape holes, accompanied by a whole bunch of other fun routings from tee to green.  In
the afternoon, we'll journey to a second Maples layout, Little River Farm.  According to our mapping site, LRF sits 18 minutes
away, to the north, up routes 5 and 15.  LRF is a kinder, gentler Maples layout, built on a more traditional piece of property.
The challenge is anticipated, the environment, unknown.

The Pit Vacation Villas are a one-row, stand-alone, series of condominiums, single floor, with kitchen area, two bedrooms with
two expansive beds each, plush pillows, firm yet comforting mattresses, separate full bathrooms, and living/dining space.
Upper condos come with a balcony seating area while lowers have a covered porch.  All line the 9th fairway.  We're feeling
quite pampered and are looking forward to the 1/4 mile walk from doorstep to clubhouse.  Pictures from both layouts to come
later today.

Day One:  Dan Maples is a product of a multi-branched family tree with roots deep in golf and North Carolina. 
Greenskeepers, superintendents and golf professionals occupy the rungs of this generational ladder, then along came Ellis, the
first golf course designer.  Born in Pinehurst, his son Dan followed in his father's boot steps and plied the trade of golf course
designer.  His portfolio extends from Maine to Florida, with extremely rare forays overseas to Hawaii, Europe and Asia.  The
principal courses are mid-south designs, in the Carolinas and Virginia.  In the mid 1980s, Maples' name was plastered across
the pages of every major golf magazine in the country, thanks to The Pit, a daring design forced onto a played-out sand pit
in Aberdeen, North Carolina.  A decade later, Maples debuted Little River Farm just up the road in Carthage.  LRF could not
look nor play any different from The Pit.  On day one of the junket, we played both Maples designs in the now-apparent proper
order.

The Pit is a street fight, a brutal battle with trickery, strategy and body blows.  The front nine sits up on the higher ground
and moves elusively through manageable corridors of trees, scrub brush and unidentified flora.  The fairways play fast and firm,
and the potential to run through is enormous.  The starter warned us to consider leaving the driver in the bag.  He was correct.
You can hit driver and not stray right or left, but the fairway might bend just enough to induce your ball to find some desert
skunkweed (our designation) or some other far-reaching tentacles.  The back nine begins along a ridge, then drops into a
cauldron of heat and humidity.  The inward nine is less open with little draft.  Black is not a suggested apparel color on any
day other than January 1st.  The really memorable holes, the ones that make the covers of golf magazines, are found on the
back side.  As a result, you can't quit after nine and retire to the bar that overlooks the course (although it's incredibly tempting.)
You'll face a drive and approach over water par four, an island green par three and a Cape hole drive over water par four in the
space of three holes.  The back has three short holes and two par fives, ensuring no loss of interest.

Little River Farm is the antithesis of The Pit.  A former horse plantation (where they grow horses), LRF is an elegant, manicured
spacious course with wide and rambling fairways, open entrances to greens and a few brutish holes to keep you honest.  There
is, for example, a par three over water that play about 200, but what a bathtub!  If you bail right, you'll be up in the Scottish
Tobacco (another designation we created) and probably lost.  The subsequent hole, a par five, demands a 230-yard carry from
the tips to safely traverse the same ocean.  The second shot is played to a flat low, then a final downhill approach over the Gobi
desert to a postage-stamp green.  Back-to-back easies, I'd say.  In contrast to The Pit, the land on which LRF is lain is quite
moist, hence the absence of fast and firm.  That's a good thing, especially after the speedway feel of The Pit.  There is a sense
of expansive grandeur at Little River Farm, making it the perfect complement to The Pit.  All in all, a successful first day, a
respect for Dan Maples' ability as a designer, and a whetted appetite for day two at Southern Pines.

Day Two:

A fellow called Donald Ross emigrated to the Sandhills region after growing up a bit in northern Scotland.  Ross authored 2
or 3 courses (depending on how you count) at Pinehurst Resort and a few more at Mid Pines and Pine Needles.  The lads from
buffalogolfer.com had the opportunity to play another of his layouts, the 18 fine holes at Southern Pines.  After two modern
courses on day one, a turn 'round a classic track was at the top of the menu.  We fell prey to the old saw that low yardage
equals easy target; as Southern Pines tops out at 6200 yards, we smelled blood.  What we encountered were design genius
and interesting topography.  Ross took a lurching piece of land and traced a series of compelling fairways leading to
treacherous putting surfaces.  Along the way, he marked down deceiving measurements like 300, 320 and 340 yards.  Why so
uncertain?  Simple, really.  A 300 yard hole that requires a tee ball into the base of a hill (allowing no forward roll) leaps to
350 yards.  Add to that figure an uphill approach to the green and 25 more yards figure in.  Your apparently easy short par
four now appears robed in middle-range garb.

Ross was fortunate to get this land dotted with ponds and streams.  He utilized these hazards gently but firmly, allowing bail-
out areas while challenging the better player with more demanding lines of charm and contest.  He created putting surfaces
with unique bowl features (numbers 2 and 17 leap to the foreground), located others in natural shelves and hollows, and
generally engineered greens that require a 360 degree walk to truly determine the proper speed and break of each putt.

Without going into precise sketches of each of the 18 holes at Southern Pines, allow me to suggest that you add it to your
itinerary when you visit the Sandhills.  The course is understated, devoid of advertising campaigns, garish flower beds and
unbearable carries across wonders of the world.  It is resplendent in traditional golfing values, gentle greens and browns
and unpredictable bounces and caroms.  Southern Pines will challenge every element of your game and will remind you of
(or introduce you to) the grand old game of golf.

Day Three:

If you know one thing about me as a golfer, I love Mike Strantz courses.  They exude life and breath and demand your
attention on every shot.  It is sadly ironic that death brought me to Tobacco Road.  The wonderful Vermont golf writer Bob
Labbance was honored with an auction in 2008 to assist his children with their college expenses.  This auction was
necessitated by the arrival of Lou Gherig's disease to Bob's world.  I successfully (if such a word can be applied to so pathetic
and debilitating a situation) bid on a foursome at Tobacco Road, bringing about a reason to travel to Pinehurst.  Why Tobacco
Road?  Simple.  Mike Strantz, an artist by genetics, had apprenticed to a degree with Tom Fazio before striking out on his own,
retreating, then committing for good to golf course architecture.  On the heels of his most daring redesign, the Shore course
at Monterrey Peninsula Country Club, Mike Strantz passed away, a victim of cancer.  I played my first Strantz course in 2006,
True Blue in Pawley's Island, S.C.  "It blew my mind" and "Dude, was I stoked!" are the most Shakespearian ways I can
summon to express my mid- and post-round emotions.  Strantz is the creator (someone prove me wrong!) of the Cauldron
hole, the wrap around par three unlike any other.  The green is extraordinarily wide and curved, representing one hemisphere
of the cauldron.  The tee decks are strung like ornaments along the opposite curve, elevated above the putting surface.  This
neo-template hole demonstrated at once Strantz' debt to the golden age architects and his own creativity.  Despite the two
deaths or certainly as a memorial to them, I snatched up the opportunity to play another Strantz masterpiece, Tobacco Road.

Tobacco Road was the "The Pit" of the 1990s, a golf course that defied contemporary thoughts on golf course construction.  Is
was not minimalist in the Tom Doak or Bill Coore sense, nor was it cookie-cutter as many other architects have been accused
of being.  I'm not certain what the land was used for before Strantz arrived, but my guess would be lunar landing practice. 
The landscape of Tobacco Road goes something like this...cliff top tee shot, fairway, sky scraper mounds, fairway, pit of
hardened disaster, putting surface.  Oh, those putting surfaces...you've heard of multi-tiered greens?  Turn them sideways,
hold them up to your nose and blow, and you'll get a Strantz putting surface.  Roller Coaster is one term used to describe them,
perfect storm, another.  Tidal wave, a third.  They heave and pitch and crash and surge like no other earthly grounds since
Alistair Mackenzie at Sitwell Park.

Tobacco Road's greatest defense is the artist's greatest weapon:  visual effect.  What you see is not what you get.  Although
he placed a quarry here, a cliff there, twin volcanoes next door, you don't need more than 110 yards here, 180 yards there, or
205 yards next door to surpass the hazard and reach safety.  It's not your average anything, your local anything, unless you
live in Sanford, N.C.  If you don't, consider moving there.

Day Four:

One guy is in the shower, one guys is collecting dirty towels and I'm gathering the unclean dishes...check out time!  We have
to be on the road by 7 to make out tee time at Tot Hill Farm.  Being in a rush is not the perfect time to write an entry on the
accommodations, nor is it considered proper grammar, but it is a good time to recall all that is good about the Vacation
Villas at The Pit
.  The linens are soft and comfy.  The pillows are thick and reassuring.  The mattresses are wide and inviting.
If you like to sleep, you'll get it done here.

The grand room consists of a living area with television, coffee table, dining table, love seats and sofa.  Windows that look out
onto the golf course at The Pit wrap around two sides of the area.  It is quite spacious and allows for ease of movement, even
when exhausted golfers do the tap dance of clumsiness.  The kitchen area includes all the necessary appliances, all full-sized,
and an elegant sink.  The laundry facilities do the trick, the air conditioning keeps you cool on hot August Carolina days and
nights and the front porch and back terrace offer enticing views of the golf course and facilities.

The Vacation Villas at The Pit are all about the golf and the access.  Centrally located off route 5, near the intersection with
route 1, it's easy to turn right and head toward Pinehurst or left to go toward Southern Pines.  You can't ask for more and
expect to get it.  The Vacation Villas would be tops on anyone's list for accommodations in the Sandhills.

...We made it to Tot Hill Farm with time to spare.  Teeing off in the morning mist, we could not see the ski slope they call a
first fairway.  Despite our relative blindness, we all found the target and had approach shots over an enormous outcropping
along the right side of the fairway.  None of us made the carry; had we, the ball would have funneled down to the green.
Thus began another Mike Strantz adventure, although not the one we had envisioned.  When we stopped at Pinehurst Resort
on Tuesday afternoon, we had the good fortune to speak with one of the rangers.  An enlightened and outgoing chap, he
indicated that Tobacco Road would be playable and challenging, but that Tot Hill Farm would be an extreme golfing adventure.
We found his interpretation to be 180 degrees (nearly) contrary to our own.  THF looks daunting but is short enough that the
required carries are negated.  If you are a flatlander, it looks like nothing you've seen before.  Golf carts certainly can tip over
(and ankles can be sprained and broken) on the courses downhill and sidehill slopes (not so much on the uphill ones.)  The
greens are as severe as Tobacco Road's assortment, but the relative moisture index (never again to be referred to as RMI) is
cataclysmic at THF.  The course has more water coursing through than TR and seems to retain it much more.  The ranger
from Pinehurst spoke of how Asheboro is no longer Sandhills territory and that Strantz had to blast through rock to build his
holes.  The rock outcroppings, stalagmites and needles are quite in evidence (and most photogenic) but the different
foundation lessens the drainage potential.  In addition, many teeing grounds were in need of a tree trimming, in order to allow
sunlight through to cultivate grass growth.  We had seen this at Peek'n Peak in southwest New York state, in before and after
states, and the difference was life-changing (life-giving?) for the tee decks.

The other notable difference between the two courses was the design consistency.  TR is TR from hole 1 to hole 18.  THF
runs out of room to be THF and finishes with three meadow holes.  16-18 are quite good but their openness does not
preserve the restricted, near-claustrophobic drama of the first 15 holes.  As usual, Strantz provides an indelible sequence of
holes for the golfing memory.  The par threes are typically short and typically fraught with dangerous potential.  As the
Scrambler indicated, however, if you remember that you have a short iron in your hand and that you've hit this shot a million
times before on your home course(s), the shot becomes playable, if not easy.  The par five holes are more subtle in their
deception than those found at TR.  Remember that an invasive orange is the color of the day at TR; at THF, the shades of green
(at least in Summer) are the predominant color traces.  As a result, definition between trouble and safety declares itself in a
gentler (and more punitive) way at THF.  In retrospect, my most memorable holes were a pair of par fours on the front side.
The seventh plays a bit blindly from left to right, to an open fairway that kicks back left, across a creek to a long and angled
green.  My three-wood and nine iron combination found the putting surface but my three putts made the score less than
satisfying.  The green was not severe; my putting miscalculations were.  The ninth hole plays parallel to the first, rising back
up the ski slope.  A good drive leaves a mid to short iron straight uphill to a tabletop putting surface.  It is not big, flat nor
simple.  My good kharma ensured that I would be on the same level as the flag, however, and I two-whacked for par.

My final recollections are the ridiculous and the sublime.  The 10th is a photographer's dream.  As we were playing the tips,
we teed off, in Scottish style, adjacent to the previous green.  I near-whiffed a two-hybrid in an attempt to find the fairway.  I
succeeded in finding the next tee after bounding off the local road, the white boundary fence and a stone wall.  Gathering
myself, I was able to complete the hole in four more strokes for an acceptable bogey.  On 18, after a well-place drive left me
the identical two-hybrid back uphill, I crushed it to a point we assumed would leave me an eagle putt.  The ball was found
along the road, over the white fence.  Since there is no out of bounds, it was playable.  I flopped a 58 degree wedge onto the
green.  It bit, rolled and dropped...simple as that.  Ho hum, eagle, on to Pete Dye Golf Club.

Day Five:
There are times that transcend normalcy, reality, the status quo.  The first time it happens, I often get so caught up in it that
I miss much of what transpires around me.  The more these moments occur, however, the more comfortable and adept I
seem to become in anticipating them.  As a result, I am better prepared from the beginning to alert my senses to take in all
that occurs.  Such was the case when we turned onto Aaron Smith Drive and entered the Pete Dye Golf Club in Bridgeport,
West Virginia.

The Pete Dye Golf Club is one of a dozen or so national golf clubs, modeled on the Augusta National Golf Club in Georgia.  If
it weren't for the Masters held every April, we wouldn't know bupkus about ANGC.  The members are ultra-wealthy folks who
enjoy their privacy.  You don't make tee times at ANGC, nor do you play too many rounds at the course each year.  It is what
it is, and not too many of us know exactly what that means.  Pete Dye, Alotian, Sand Hills, Idaho Club, Ballyneal and Ballyhack
are a few of the other clubs that lay claim to this unique distinction of national private club.  On-site accommodations ensure
each member of a place to stay, dine and entertain.  Golf courses are found in pristine condition, created by the few members
of the highest echelon of golf course designers and architects (Coore, Dye, Doak, George) and populated by the country's
business, political and legal leaders and their most cherished relations.

On a misty Friday morning, The Scrambler and I drove past a coal car bearing the name of the club and into mystery.  A
winding entry way rose and fell amid West Virginia mountains rich in the coal that made the fortune that built this club.  A
mirror lake heralded our arrival to the point where clubs were abandoned to the care of the porters and bagmen who
placed them on the #1 cart for the day.  Our car was taken to a private lot.  As we entered the professional's shop, we were
greeted by the pro and the locker room attendant.  Both guided us in the ways and expectations of the club and set us up in
lockers reserved for guests.  Prepared for battle, we dressed and drove over a bridge to the practice facility.  The Scrambler
commented that the setup, more like a golf hole than a practice field, inspired him to select targets rather than just bang away.
I concurred, yet continued to bang away.  Sufficiently loosened up, we repaired to the first tee.

A prestigious charity event was to take place this weekend and the grounds crew were out in greater force than I had seen
previously, anywhere.  Subtleties that would escape even the trained eye were addressed by the landscapers as they moved
the grounds toward perfection.  After four days and five rounds on Bermuda grass, it took us a bit of time to reacquaint
ourselves with bent grass, the norm above the Mason-Dixon line.  As we moved through the first four holes, we recalled other
rounds on Pete Dye courses...#1 reminded us of the Meadow Valleys course and #2 of the River course, both at Blackwolf
Run in Wisconsin.  Numbers 5 and 6 bore a bit of the spirit of the Irish course at Whistling Straits, also in the Badger state.
As we approached the tee of #7, however, we were reminded of the heritage of the West Virginia mountains.  A portal under
the tee decks took us through an abandoned coal tunnel, adorned with the trappings that miners might utilize to ensure their
safety.  The sensation, if only for a moment, of working deep in those mountains clarified the sacrifices that laborers make in
their daily routines and the great and undeserved fortune we had to play this golf club's course.  The tee to the par three stood
196 yards above the green below.  Prefaced by bunkers, swales and mounds that recalled visions of battlegrounds, the green
awaited, awash in slants, breaks and general turbulence.  It came as no surprise that, while my five iron found the putting
surface, I three-putted the green for bogey.  Pete Dye, at least at the club that bears his name, conceded no shot as given.  Be
it a tee shot, approach, lay up, pitch or putt, rapt attention was demanded or the play would slip away.

I'm purposely ignoring the opportunity to give you a hole-by-hole summary of Pete Dye Golf Club.  You weren't there, you
can't see it, and I wouldn't do it justice.  What I hope to convey is the sense of gratitude and solitude a guest feels while on the
course.  We looked back at one point, saw a foursome two holes behind, and felt a need to hurry.  When was the last time on
any public course that the nearest trailing group was a full two holes back?  I shot over 400 images that day of holes, vistas,
buildings and nature and we still managed to keep the pursuers at bay, a good three holes behind by the end of the day.  I
posted a score of 87 from the Championship tees which, given the 75 rating and 140 slope, resulted in a differential of 8.8
strokes.  Take away the two Ocho-Cincos I made (eights on par fives) on holes I normally expect to par or birdie and I would
have been a good 6 to 8 strokes better.  Like I said, don't let your guard down or you'll pay Pete's price.  To put this in
perspective, however, consider the Nationwide Tour's Players Cup, held in June over the same course.  Playing from the same
tees as I, Tom Gillis signed off on rounds of 71-66-66-70 to finish three strokes clear of the field at -15.  Won-Joon Lee made
8 birdies and no bogeys ina third-round 64.  The previous day, he eagled both par fives on the back nine, on the way to a 68.
A great golf course allows great golfers to post great scores, and Pete Dye Golf Club complied.

I don't expect to play many (if any) other national private clubs in this lifetime.  The bag tag with my name inscribed will serve
to remind me of the many employees who complied with our requests for information and history, the facilities that provided
every needed amenity and the golf course that compelled us to envision, attempt and occasionally fulfill the extraordinary shots
needed for each extraordinary moment.  In the words of the songbird, back to life, back to reality.

August 2009:  Local Boy Makes Good, Reaches National Stage

Patrick Fahey, a member of the Bishop-Timon/St. Jude varsity golf team and a participant in The First Tee of
Western New York programs at Cazenovia Park and Harvest Hill Golf Course, journeyed to Arkansas recently to play in the
First Tee/Wal-Mart Open qualifier.  Those who advanced would earn a spot the tournament finale in Monterrey, California,
in September.  Each qualifier is paired with a Champions Tour professional.  In his words, Fahey describes his involvement
with The First Tee.

1. How long have you been involved in the First Tee program?
4 years

2. Describe the progression from the first year to where you are now?
I first started at Caz learning the Par classes that The First Tee teaches which involves basic life
and golf skills then I went to Harvest Hill for Birdie and Eagle classes.

3. Do you continue to receive instruction, or do you also help teach the kids who are new to the program?
I am currently working on my Eagle certification and I occasionally help witht the Par classes.

4. Who in the program has/have been your greatest influences in the game of golf?
Ray Lipczynski has had the greatest influence on me through The First Tee.

5. Why is The First Tee important for kids who want to get into golf?
The First Tee is important to kids who want to get into golf because it teaches you how to act on
the golf course like being patient and being positive. They teach kids how to interact with other people,
deal with conflicts, and set goals for the future. The First Tee also helps with all aspects of the golf game.

6. Describe the qualification process for the First Tee Open. Had you tried in previous years? Where was it held? How
was the competition? What did you shoot? How do you think you played? How did you handle the pressure?
This past week I went to Rogers, Arkansas for the Walmart First Tee Open Participant Selection Process.
There were 84 boys who tried to qualify and 48 made it to The Walmart First Tee Open at Pebble Beach.
The host course, Shadow Valley Country Club, played very hard and I finished tied for 3rd with a 75 77;
the winning score was 71 72. This was my first year trying to qualify. To handle the pressure I just kept
thinking one shot at a time and keeping cool because it was really hot down there.

7. Talk about the First Tee Open at Pebble Beach...kind of a famous place...will you get to play with Lonnie Nielsen or
Jim Thorpe, guys with Buffalo ties?
Playing in this tournament at Pebble Beach is going to be amazing. I am not sure yet who I'm
going to be playing with but I know it is going to be two amateur players and one champions
tour professional. It will be on the Golf Channel.

8. What plans do you have for golf as you grow older? Where will it fit in your education and your life?
I plan to hopefully get a scholarship to play college golf somewhere south so I can play year round.

9. How about beyond this Summer?
I can't wait for fall golf for the Monsignor Martin rivalry matches.

 

July 2009:  Before you know it, a month slips by...

and you need to catch people up.  Since the school year ended for me, the golf season has been a planned and
unplanned whirlwind, tornado, Tasmanian Devil spin and typhoon, all wrapped in one neat package.  I'll catch you up
and do my level best to make it interesting.

In mid-June, the Duff, the Scrambler and I journeyed east to play two golf courses and view two days of our Open at
Bethpage.  We had the fine opportunity to play Seven Oaks at Colgate University (Robert Trent Jones, Sr.) and
Leatherstocking in Cooperstown (Deveraux Emmet).  Of course the Open was played at Bethpage, designed by A.W.
Tillinghast or Joseph Burbeck, depending on your source.  What this added up to was two courses from the golden
age of golf course design and one from the mid-modern era. 

Since the arrival of Bill Coore/Ben Crenshaw, Tom Doak and Gil Hanse as pre-eminent designers, designs from the
years before the second world war re-emerged as embodying the motifs of proper hole design and construction. 
Builders like Emmet and Tillinghast have been consecrated as having a seat at the right hand of Old Tom Morris and
the great Scots, while Trent Jones Senior, Joe Finger, Dick Wilson, Joe Lee and others have been supplanted and
vilified.  This demotion is not without rationale, as courses that emphasize water hazards (from which recovery is
impossible), ultra-penal bunkering and uninspired putting surfaces eliminate the majority of golfers from those few
who might enjoy/challenge the layout.  The knock on many of the golden age designs has been a lack of distance; no
one refutes their quality.  Unfortunately, with the improvement of equipment and golf fitness, many levels of golfers
are blowing tee balls and approach shots past the trouble.  In recent years, many courses (Cherry Hill-Walter Travis,
Taconic-Styles/Van Kleek) have opted to lengthen "in the style of" the masters, revisit original schemata and renew
bunkering and mounding.

What I took away from the first trip east was a gently-improved sense of Robert Trent Jones, Senior.  I despise a fair
number of the layouts he built and rebuilt, but two original creations (Crag Burn and Seven Oaks) demonstrate that
the man did not always design an impenetrable fortress.  My hope is that more of this kindler, gentler RTJ Sr. will
reveal itself as time goes by.  My respect for Tillinghast/Burbeck and Emmet was rekindled in both walking and playing
their courses.  With the exception of the 18th at Leatherstocking (as goofy a par five as the 18th at Glen Oak in East
Amherst), Emmet's layout is spectacular.  It is ironic that often the hole that management considers the signature hole
is, in my opinion, the least representative of the designer's intent.

After that sojourn, I was home for two weeks of golf camp.  It is simultaneously disconcerting and refreshing to oversee
a golf camp populated by middle school golfers.  At one moment, they appear to possess the swing of the ages,
causing shots to rise and alight in perfect harmony.  During the next, they utilize those swings to attack one another,
again in perfect harmony.

An unexpected trip to southern Vermont in early July afforded me the opportunity to essentially reprise the earlier trip
in miniature.  I was able to play Crump'n Fox and The Orchards in north-central Massachusetts.  C-F is the work of
Roger Rulewich, the number one disciple of...you guessed it, Robert Trent Jones, Senior.  Rulewich actually designed
all of the courses in Alabama's Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail, for which he only recently received credit.  Unfortunately,
he tends toward the old man's love of penal fortresses.  I had played Fox Hopyard in southeast Connecticut a few years
back and decided that Rulewich was no good for the game.  Saratoga National a few years later served to affirm that
decision.  The Orchards was designed by Donald Ross, our truest connection to Scotland's great courses.  It served as
host(ess?) to the USGA Women's Open in 2003 and is recognized as one of the top ten collegiate (Mount Holyoke)
courses in the nation.  Can you guess which one I anticipated playing more?  Not difficult, is it?

Imagine my surprise when I shot nearly identical scores on both courses.  Crump'n Fox symbolizes a kindler, gentler
Rulewich, not representative of most of his work.  The Orchards was everything I expected it to be, even though I gave
away 7 shots to par over the final three holes.  Once again, I was convinced that great old courses continue to be great
in any era and that some of the mid-modern courses are not nearly as terrible as I might imagine them to be.

The past two weeks have been dedicated to family time in Florida.  I won't let you down by confessing that I left the
bag o' sticks at home; my clubs made the journey south.  I had the opportunity to play Victoria Hills in Deland and
Sanctuary Ridge (formerly Diamond Players Club) in Clermont.  The former was designed by Ron Garl while the later
is the work of Terrill LaGree, both previously unknown to me.  Garl's name was at least familiar (although I couldn't
name another of his tracks that I had played) while LaGree was out of another fairway in terms of anonymity.

Garl has designed a dozen courses outside the USA, worked on another 3 dozen in the lower 48 outside of Florida,
where he is based and has built or renovated about 8 dozen courses.  Victoria Hills is one of those courses that can be
played with putter from tee to green from most sets of tees, yet demands greatest planning and execution in order to
score at or below handicap.  After beguiling me into an outward 44 that was four shots worse than played, I came
home in 36 strokes, even par on the back.  I made three consecutive birdies on holes 14-16 to get back to six over
for the round, then felt the tightness and bogied the last two for 80.  Probably the finest 80 I'll ever turn in for handicap
purposes!

LaGree's Sanctuary Ridge proved a marvelous surprise.  He was a principal builder at Black Diamond Ranch, another
Florida course that cemented Tom Fazio's reputation as a pre-eminent modern designer.  That experience served him
well fifteen years later when he opened Diamond Players Club/Sanctuary Ridge.  One of a very few courses in Florida
undulating enough to be called mountain courses, Sanctuary Ridge plays over a diverse parcel of land, fairways
interspersed with homes and roadways.  Unlike many courses where architects are forced to cede the better land to house
building, LaGree was able to utilize the best property for his golf course.  The only moderately weak hole is number two,
a breather of a downhill par three hole.

What's next?  A big trip to the Sandhills of North Carolina in August, a little western New York golf with my visiting brother
in law and a visit to the Porter Cup at Niagara Falls CC.  Before I know it, varsity golf season will be here again and I'll be
on the cart, watching the shots of young men bent on playing high school golf this Fall.  Assuming all things follow the
loosely laid out plan, it will have proven to be a magnificent summer of golf.

 

May 2009:  What's Been Happening, What's Going On, What To Expect

Time for one of those easy-to-write installments from around the globe.  For those of you who don't know, I coach
two high school golf teams.  Guys in the Fall, ladies in the Spring.  Two different perspectives, both humbling
experiences.  The kids hit it really far and really straight.  I love working with the talented ones to find that subtle
improvement that shaves a stroke off the nine-hole score.  I derive great pleasure from seeing the beginners improve
from nowhere to somewhere.  Guess who improves quicker?  The ladies.  Why?  They listen.  No macho posing, just
a desire to get better.  AND NOW...

On to golf equipment.  Just did a hybrid review for an online golf website.  Check it out here.  I'd hit so many hybrids
over the years and failed to find one I liked.  It seemed time to try again and what a shock.  Three brands easily
might have won the battle (so glorious was the prize!) to occupy a space in my bag.  In the end, my particular brand
of humility allowed me to choose the one that best suits my game.  Here's hoping the clubs don't turn fickle. 
AND NOW...

On to fitness.  I'm suddenly a big fan of changing routines.  I've worked out quite a bit at Bob Gosch's Discover Golf
Buffalo and enjoy his contemporary way of assessing and training golfers.  However, sometimes (and this usually
happens when I can't get over to the DGB studio) I revert to good old body weight (pull-ups, push-ups and dips)
exercises for a week or two and am always amazed at the difference (in a positive way.)  I do believe that the change
in routine is a good thing for my body and swing.  AND NOW...

On to today.  I'm a big fan of the NYSGA (New York State Golf Association) western New York eclub.  I get my
handicap updated every two weeks and after about three cycles of increase from 5 to 7, it should drop this Friday.
How come?  I remembered how to play.  Had 74 on Saturday at PennHills Club in Bradford and have posted six
consecutive nines in the 30s.  Honestly, I don't know what to make of it.  I was chopping around in the low to mid
80s all Spring when bam!  out came the consistency.  Funny game; remember to laugh at it.  AND NOW...

On to players making news.  John Daly wrapped a band around his stomach, dropped some pounds, signed with
JLindeberg (just kidding, although he does have some crazy new threads) and made a comeback.  Michelle Wie changed
production companies, ditched her parents (she did, right?  they normally have such a restrictive effect on her) and
made her way back to the top ten on the LPGA tour.  AND NOW...

I suggested that the Duramed Futures Tour may have lost its excitement with the graduation of Vicky Hurst and others to
the LPGA Tour.  I was wrong, but not for the reasons I supposed.  If you like collapses, the DFT is alive and well.  Selanee
Henderson took a lead into Sunday this week and two doubles, one triple and two single bogies later, not even two birdies
could save her.  She gave back three strokes to par the last two holes and lost by a stroke.  After an even-par front nine
brought her into the lead, Jean Reynolds shot four-over on the back, including bogies on the final two holes, to also lose
by a stroke.  I never gave Vicky Cristina Barcelona (Ooops, Elisa Serramia of Barcelona) a thought until she birdied 18 to
win her first DFT title.  Wow.  AND NOW...

On to the future.  Coming up we may have a live report from the US Open at Bethpage.  We may have a live report from
the Porter Cup.  We may have a series of travel reports from Daytona/Orlando in Florida and Pinehurst in North Carolina.  Nothing's a done deal in this economy, so I'll keep you posted.  AND NOW...we're done.

May 2009:  Ladies of the LPGA Tour:  A Brief Prospective

I was a big fan of the Duramed Futures Tour last season, principally for the play of Vicky Hurst.  She was a recent
high school graduate who eschewed a place in collegiate lore to jump directly to the professional ranks.  She won
five or so times on the DFT and graduated to the LPGA tour.  I have yet to find anyone of interest to follow on the DFT
this year; rest assured that I will check back in with a name or ten.

On that note, I'll move to the big tour of women's golf, the LPGA.  The Corona Championship in Mexico is winding
down and home-country favorite Lorena Ochoa is sealing a major triumph over the second-best player in the world
today, Suzanne Pettersen.  T'was a time when it was Annika and Karrie, then just Annika, then Annika and Lorena.
Along the way we had Morgan and Paula and Yani (not the recorder player) making suggestions of greatness, but
nothing permanent.  Commonality is, they all jumped straight from high school to college but never learned how to
play and recreate as late-teeners.  That might be a story for another time, especially if Wie and Hurst don't make it...
(whoops, just gave away my upcoming paragraph.)

OK, Pettersen made it interesting with a final-hole birdie, but Ochoa made par to give her countryfolk something to take
the place of Swine Flu and Drug Wars, if only for a brief time.  Let's look at the top ten and see who we see, who might
make a ripple, a suggestion, this year.

Na Yeon Choi, Wendy Ward, Christie Kerr and Yani Tseng:  Honestly, none of them excite me.  Kerr couldn't get it done
at the Nabisco this year.  Strangely, she would have captured an unlikely second major in exactly the same sequence
as an unlikely counterpart (Angel Cabrera) did this year.  Kerr won the US Open in 2007, the same year Cabrera
triumphed at Oakmont.  Kerr held off Ochoa while Cabrera eclipsed Tiger.  In the women's equivalent of the Masters,
Kerr could have secured a victory in a playoff, but could not make birdie on the 72nd hole to force extra time.

Seon Hwa Lee, Brittany Lang, Morgan Pressel:  Still nothing.  Lee has won as has Pressel, but the latter seems more
interested lately in twittering a la Stewart Cink.  Lang came out of Duke with great expectations but so far, nada.  Close
but no cigar.

Vicky Hurst and Michelle Wie.  Tied for 10th spot are the two intriguing ones of 2009.  We know that Hurst can win
professionally.  How long will it take for her to translate this to the LPGA Tour?  I predict Corning.  As far as Wie, she is
talented and should come close this year.  Unlike the Earl-Kultida influence on Tiger, BJ and Bo are nothing but trouble for
the kid.  Here's hoping that IMG (her new agency) has more influence in separating the ultimate helicopter parents from their
talented youngster than did William Morris (the previous agency.)

 

 

April 2009:  Long Irons Make A Comeback, Hybrids In Decline

Sales numbers are in from all the major golf equipment companies and a surprising trend has taken hold across
the golfing world.  Long irons, specifically the numbers 1-3, have made an unexpected comeback in the bags of
the average golfer.  Interestingly, golfers with money to burn are seeking out the most unforgiving blades around,
foregoing the cavity-back models from contemporary leaders like Diment, Pong, and Radartec.  When contacted,
marketing director of Tuzuno, "Slim" Knifeblade, revealed that "golfers are seeking out the most unforgiving, lowest-
lofted one, two and three irons on the market.  We've had to go back to our oldest casts, dust them off and retool
our machines."  Titlemost general manager of fluff, Gomes Adams, chimed in with "Why they are doing this, I don't
know.  I believe it is tied to Obama and Biden taking office.  Something about their charisma makes the average
golfer cry out 'YES I can!' "

In a related story, hybrid sales are down, forcing the major equipment companies to fire-sale their on-site stock.
TylerMode-Doodas grand poobah of flim-flam Keemo Sabe openly wept as he corroborated this lead:  "We risked
everything on hybrids.  We resigned Sergio Garcia-Vega, the Belician wunderkind, to a six-year deal in the hopes that
his dashing appearance, presence of style and facial hair, and lack of major victories would translate not only to English,
but also to sales.  Instead, we are left with an overpaid refugee from a Coldplay concert and a boatload of clubs that
nobody wants."

BuffaloGolfer.com wants to wish everyone a happy April Fools' day and hopes that you take this article as the joke it was
intended to be!!  (Insert millions of smile emoticons here.)

 

March 2009:  Mo' Speaks From The Heart

I ran the Buffalo Shamrock Run today...5 miles around the Old First Ward and other fine Buffalo areas.  To get to
today, you need to hear the whole story.  It's a bit long and disjointed, but that's the fun of weaving a tale for the
ages.

When I went off to college, I had high hopes of walking on to the Wake Forest golf team.  Didn't make it, but had
the chance to play one of the great golf courses, Old Town Club, during the tryouts.  Wish I had had the sense to
caddie there during my four years at Wake.  Sophomore year, I roomed with four or five guys from the Wake cross
country team.  They had me doing two-a-day runs through the school trails and I got my times down pretty low.
What kid can't, right?

Fast forward about fifteen years.  Our oldest (and only son) competed in the Three Rs (running, rowing and wrestling)
in high school.  He also caddied at CCB, albeit only out of a profound need for pocket money.  He was a terrific
endurance athlete and excelled at all three sports.  One day he came to me and apologized for not liking golf.  I
laughed and asked the lad where it was written that a son should take interest in a father's pastimes.  He had no
answer and came away impressed with his father's wisdom.  Oh that it might last!

Last Thanksgiving, he and I ran for the second time in the Turkey Trot, down Delaware avenue.  For neophytes, the
Turkey Trot is the easiest 5-mile race you'll ever run.  You start up high and essentially run downhill for 4.75 miles.
The only uphills of note come on a gentle rise past Gates Circle and at the end, rising up one of those downtown
streets past Niagara Square.  We ran 10-minute miles and I laughed, asking him if it was harder to run fast or slow.
He revealed that my pace wasn't exactly that great, so I vowed to set a goal of a 9-minute pace by TT2010.

I charted the year and determined that I should run three other races (and train for each one) as a means of easing
into the sport.  After all, if he wasn't ready to embrace golf, then I (like Muhammad moved to the mountain)
should embrace his sport.  I've never heard of anyone golfing to get in shape for X-C, but it certainly works the other
way around!  In preparation for the Shamrock Run, I did most of my training on an elliptical machine.  I used the
X-Trainer program and set the level at 16.  The machine gives a lot of resistance at that setting, but a marathoner
friend assured me that it was a good idea, and I believe her!

I arrived about an hour before race time and parked in an empty lot with 100 or so other cars (more on that mistake
later).  After lacing on my timing chip, I went for a warm-up jog around the OFW.  For those who don't race, it seems
a bit of lunacy to run before you run...trust me, static stretching isn't the way to prepare for a race or a round of golf.
Warm up the body first with dynamic movement, then go to the static stuff.  The horn sounded as the rain began to
fall and 49 minutes and 56 seconds later, I was finished with the race.  The Shamrock Run includes the traversal of
no fewer than five bridges along its route.  Each one brings a fairly severe uphill and a less severe downhill patch.
I'd definitely rank it as a more demanding route than the Turkey Trot gallop.  The best part is that I'm no longer a
10-minute runner...I'm a 9:59 runner!

After the race, I stopped by the beer tent for a celebratory quaff.  It's St. Patty's week, after all, and it's South Buffalo.
Anything less would be heresy.  I eased on back to the car and found another car stuck in the mud, being pushed by
two earnest young women.  I lent a hand (fortuitous!) and got them out.  They asked if I needed a bump and I
accepted.  Six pounds of mud on my kicks and legs later, I was out and on my way back north.

So what did the race prove to me?  I missed my wingman (our son) very much, as I had no one to speak with for five
miles.  I came to know a part of Buffalo that I hadn't met in 43 prior years.  I remembered that driving is a nice way
to learn a neighborhood, but you get in touch by walking or running.  I reinforced the fact that Buffalo is a city of
great neighbors; we don't even ask...we just help.  And it gives as good as it gets.  After we freed both cars, I got two
warm hugs from the ladies.

It's a great time of the year to be Irish, even for a Sicilian from the north.

 

 

March 2009--Diamond Hawk:  Then Versus Now

One of the most rewarding golf stories of the past five years was the opening of Diamond Hawk in Cheektowaga.
The course went on the drawing board as a town project in 1991, died a slow death mid-decade, then regained
strength through a series of private backers as the new millennium dawned.  Today the course is a challenging
piece of architecture that incorporates various styles of architecture and topography, from the firm-and-fast
challenges of links golf to the gentle rolling softness of parkland play.  To succeed at Diamond Hawk, one needs
to have the high ball and low punch in one's arsenal, a deft touch on the immense putting surfaces and a sense
of patience to navigate the twisting corridors of fairway.

What is not well known (if at all) is the transformation the course underwent from its initial routing to the
finished product.  Bill Kerman of Hurdzan-Fry golf course architects (Columbus, Ohio) was the point man from
day one of the project.  He recently supplied an engineer's rendering of the initial layout which, when placed
next to a current course map, shows exactly how much weaker the original course was.
 

Diamond Hawk 1991

DiamondHawk 2009

Bill Kerman gave a little background on the reasons for the change from the original layout to the one in play
today:

"The local rumor is true – it was changes to the wetland delineations over time that forced the changes.  The
area to the south of the Parwood Subdivision was originally delineated with small pockets of wetlands.  Because
the original delineations were done in 1991, they had expired by time the project resurfaced first in 1998 and
finally in 2002.  Each time the delineation was done the size of the wetland “grew”.  I say grew in quotes because
nothing on the site change – just how wetlands were determined changed.  The result was that original holes
11, 15, and 16 could not be built where they were.  On the original layout the town was going to keep 2 of 4 ball fields
at the Rehm Road Park.  After the wetland changes the town said use the rest of the park.  That resulted in a complete
rerouting and ultimately a better golf course."

The layout under the auspices of the town of Cheektowaga had no name; a naming contest was never held as the
town was unable to authorize construction of the course.  During the late 1990s, a mystery developer from Toronto
got involved and indicated that he would name the course Sandbush.  Fortunately for western New York golf, he
disappeared just as quickly as he surfaced.  The Jim Kelly family also expressed interest in the project, planning to
team the course with a sports complex.  The withering of the bloom on the rose of the multi-sports complex, best 
seen locally in the rise and fall of Eagle Crest in Lockport, kept the Kellys from pursuing the dream.  The final chapter
came about when Cheektowaga businessmen Sam Tadio and Russ Salvatore teamed together to bring the course to
the last stages of completion.  Ultimately it was Mr. Tadio who saw the project through and continues to operate the
course today.

The original design topped out at 6500 yards.  Comparing the two plans, the great short par four 2nd and mammoth
long par three third would not have existed.  The little dink sixth (the par three...one of the weaker holes on the course)
also would not have existed, replaced by the apparently just-as-weak 8th on the original sketch.  The massive changes
to the back nine involved a complete redirection of the core loop.  The 10th through 12th holes would have occupied
the space currently housing 16th through 18th.  Land that today contains the practice range and superintendent's
equipment facility would have hosted the end of the inward nine.  Shorter, less spacious, weaker...perhaps the only time
in recent memory that a golf course owes its strength to the expansion of the wetlands contained within the perimeter. 
 

 

February 2009--Ten Things I Know You Think I Know!

With gratitude to Peter King of SI.Com, I'm inventing an altered version of a column he writes once a month. 
His "ten things I think I know" allows him the freedom to wax on a variety of unrelated topics.  The truth is,
sometimes we have a complete and fluid column to present, while others find us completely unprepared and
uninspired to give you, our readers, the material you deserve to digest.  I'll try to keep TTIKYTIK to 2-3 times
per year.

1.  I know that there is more going wrong at Hickory Stick than right.  I think that the Seneca Nation is in trouble
with the feds on this one.  I don't think we'll see a soft opening in 2009 and I'm not sure how much hope to hold
out for 2010.

2.  I know that Buffalo Tournament Club will have the most successful year of its five-year existence.  Even Tim Davis
would admit that they opened a year before the course would have been truly ready.  I know that BTC received
a lot of bad word-of-mouth during those first two year.  Having grown in and settled, look for a solid 2010 for
Davis and BTC.

3.  I know that no one is making a better golf shoe these days than Nike.  I have a pair of the Air Zoom TW
and the Air Zoom Vapor and I cannot imagine a lighter, sturdier shoe (with the exception, perhaps, of the Adidas
counterpart.)  It was only a matter of time before the King of sneakers came to dominate the golf shoe market.

4.  I know that Phil Mickelson has one saving grace:  he doesn't brag publicly.  Two absolutely sub-standard
performances (M/C at FBR and bottom 1/3 at Torrey Pines) have gone under the radar thanks to Lefty's lack
of public proclamation of his return/greatness.  For a guy who might have won another major in Tiger's absence
and surely should win on his home course at Torrey, his play has been abysmal.  To his credit, he's been quiet.

5.  I know that Luke Donald should give up his day job.  He is a good-looking young man, but he can't play under
pressure to save his life.  If I'm a US Ryder Cup captain, I have to hit my knees and pray that Luke Donald makes
every Ryder Cup team for the next twenty years.  Automatic points as far as I'm concerned.

6.  I know that PGA Tour radio is my new favorite thing.  We don't get The Golf Channel at home, but I do have
XM Radio on a trial basis in my new/old car.  When the trial runs out, I'm thinking about hitting the kids up for $2
each per month for Disney Radio to soften the blow.  Satellite radio is sweet.

7.  I know that no amount of education will stop the media from soliciting commentary on social issues from athletes
who are ill-prepared to go into depth on those issues.  A terse "no comment," repeated ad-infinitum if necessary,
will keep a player's reputation boring and clean.  Anna Rawson's sound-off this week reminds us of this.

8.  I know that the V-groove versus box-groove issue, the first in which the USGA publicly differentiates between
top quality players (pros and amateurs) and the rank-and-file golfer, will ultimately be proven to be a worse decision
for golf than any dismissal of technology through the years.  Average golfers pride themselves on being able to say
they did, at least once, what Lorena and Tiger can do; now they can legally do so with better equipment, rendering
the claim null.

9.  I know that western New York may have come late to the upscale public golf phenomenon, but it is better
positioned to not lose any of its courses to the economic downturn.  The owners and managers of Harvest Hill,
Ivy Ridge, Arrowhead and others knew their price points (no higher than $55 with cart) before they opened.  No
inflated $100 green fees in this rust belt region.

10.  I know that the Porter Cup, the East Aurora International Junior Masters and the Monroe Invitational are the
most affordable places to see great golf.  The juniors at East Aurora have no fear (and arguably, no brains), so they'll
try and usually pull off any shot in the bag.  Niagara Falls and Monroe are short tracks, leading to lots of birdies and
lead changes.  Since admission is free to all three, and since both Rochester and Buffalo/Jamestown have lost their
Nationwide events, these three are your remaining golf spectator events.

 

January 2009--Welcome to Facebook, BuffaloGolfer!

Last year around this time, I was sweating the new look of this fine website.  I marched from site to site around the web and finally decided on an appearance that I liked.  One thing about BuffaloGolfer.Com you should know:  it's about as traditional a site as still exists on the web.  No back-end magic, no personal logon access, no making the site appear the way you want it too.  No scripting, no dynamic content, none of that.

Want to know why?  At age 43, I've given up (perhaps temporarily) the need to resurface the site.  We provide information, that's all.  No sales, no tee times, no resort bookings.  We're a source, not a conduit.  Perhaps the day will come when a new piece of software catches my eye; then I'll make the upgrades needed to update the site and bring it into the 21st century.

HOWEVER, don't take this admission to mean that we are standing pat and resting on whatever leftover Fall foliage might count as laurels.  Two new 'thingies' for 2009 have the potential to rocket the site to new heights, and both depend on you, valued readers!

The first is a new look to the newsletter.  We're streamlining it here and tightening it there.  Tell your friends to send an email to buffalogolferATbuffalogolfer.com or better yet, forward your copy of the newsletter to her, him, or them.  We can't accept AOL addresses, something I think has more to do with AOL than us and our G-Rated content.

The second update is a Facebook page.  If you use Facebook, seach buffalogolfer.com and you'll find us.  Become a fan, write on our wall, upload pictures and video, whatever.  If you don't have a facebook page, you should.  It's not just for students, no matter what the kids tell you.  I found a whole bunch of long-lost chums from my high school class of 1983 and my college class of 1987, or rather, they found me!  Once you get the hang of it, Facebook becomes an amazing and easily-accesible portal to people around the world and around your life.

Welcome to 2009, to our new-look newsletter, and to BuffaloGolfer.com on Facebook.  Best wishes and
Godspeed to all.

 

November 2008--Holiday Gift Giving

October 2008--Things I've Sprayed, Balls I've Whacked, Shoes I've Worn

Fizz Golf, Basic Golf Shirt, Dixon Balls, and Adidas Shoes are the topics for this month. 

Fizz Golf produces a little canister with pressurized foam inside.  You spray the foam onto your club and use the cap (a very bristly brush) to remove the dirt.  It's a pretty cool concept and attaches efficiently and without disruption to the side of your bag.  If your course doesn't have ample water holes, those little scrub tubs on the sides of carts, or you despise the wet towels that all caddies carry, this is the ticket for you.

Dixon golf balls come the earth and go back to the earth, as long as you send them back to the company.  They are made with a unique core that is reusable.  Whether that is true, who cares.  I hit the thing as far or farther than I hit Titleist, Taylor Made or Callaway.  For your information, I hit those three a ton!  When you pull a Dixon out of your bag, all talk on other topics will cease, I guarantee it.  When you hit the ball, your partners will want to know how, where, and how much.

Basic Golf Shirt is one of many companies that use moisture-wicking cloth to give a sleek and dry feel to their shirts.  They have a small but intriguing sequence of colors and their pricing (around $40 on average) is not much higher nor lower than anyone else.  The shirt wears well, doesn't pinch, doesn't bind.  If you like their feel, stock up.

The success story of the year has been the Adidas Tour 360 II shoes that I picked up this August.  They have the three bands and the separated toe and heel pads.  These shoes feel snug in all the right places and at all the right times.  They establish a base of support during the quiet moments and remain secure throughout the back and down swings.  I usually wait for some company to ship me a free pair or five but these are the real deal and worth every penny I paid.

That's it for October.  Stay tuned in November to learn about cold weather gear and other good stufff.

September 2008--Places I've Been, Books I've Read, Clubs I've Swung

There's not been a year like this one.  The kids get older and the responsibilities mount.  I wish that I had more time to write introspective prose.  If you read my stuff from a few year's back, you'll understand what I'm pining for.  There used to be time to consider, investigate, delve, rehash, ponder, and finally produce with some semblance of originality and creativity.  I'd like to say it ain't so, but it is...I'm slammed for time and out of luck.  Here's my first installment of Places I've Been, Books I've Read, Clubs I've Swung.  The nouns and verbs will change, but the pithy nature of the column won't.  At least it won't until I get some time.

I've been to the Poconos, to Buck Hill Falls, Split Rock, Hideaway Hills and Shawnee golf clubs.  I've been to the Berkshires, to Taconic, Waubeeka, and Haystack golf clubs.  All seven were fantastic to play and photograph.  I've been to northeast Ohio, to Fowler's Mill, Quail Hollow, Avalon Lakes and Little Mountain golf clubs.  The funny thing is, I didn't hit a single shot.  I took a trip to take pictures.  I couldn't even shoot every hole of every course, I was that pressed for time.  I'd like to get back and play them all, they were that good.

I've read Stan Utley's short game and putting books.  The short game method made immediate sense and took immediate root.  The putting method also makes sense, but is taking a bit longer to ingrain itself in my ball-rolling technique.  I've read The Scorecard Never Lies by Chris Lewis, about a year (2006) on the PGA Tour.  Lewis used to have a great PGA Tour blog, but stopped in 2008 to pursue other things.  I've also been reading the Golf Architect forum on golfclubatlas.com.  It's a great place to learn what architects like Tom Doak think of golf course architecture.

I've swung two wedges, the Feel Golf 73 degree, super lob wedge and the Miura 58 degree.  If I played a course every day that called for high, soft recovery shots, the Feel club would be in my bag.  The Miura, in contrast, works as a perfect bridge between sand and lob.  It works in unison with my 53 degree Cleveland and my 48 degree Mizuno, giving me three wedges instead of four and room to put a three iron back in.  Instead of the 3 that came with my forged set, I went to a cavity back from Mizuno.

That's where I've been, what I've read and what I've swung.

Mo'

 

August 2008--Bob Labbance, Rest In Peace

There's lightning in the sky over Grand Island and rain is falling at a clip strong enough to let you know who's boss.  I've just been informed via the Golf Course Atlas bulletin board that our colleague and teacher, Mr. Bob Labbance, has died.  Bob was diagnosed last year with Lou Gherig's disease, for which we all know there is no cure.  He had battled back from spinal injuries suffered a few years back when he was informed of this latest and last health bombardment.

I first heard of Bob when BuffaloGolfer.Com was two or three years old.  We were interested in reviewing books and writing for print publications and Bob came up in both areas.  His "The Old Man" on Walter Travis had just been published and Bob was editing New York Golf and other publications for Divot Communications.  I read the Travis book and convinced him to retain me for an article on Rochester-Buffalo golf.

I never met Bob face to face, but did communicate with him via the internet for the past seven years.  He was a mountain man, a Grizzly Adams type from central Vermont, complete with beard and big smile.  I've never seen a picture of him without that smile, come to think of it.  Bob authored over twenty books and countless articles for a great variety of publications.  He was simply a good guy, a father and husband, and a friend.

When I graduated from college, I was told by our speaker that being a good man was the highest form of praise of which he knew.  Last night, a good man passed from our grasp, into the folds of Heaven's clouds.

Visit www.notowngolf.com to learn more about Bob.

To send a contribution to a college fund for Bob's children, use this address:

Labbance Family Fund
P.O. Box 53
Bloomfield, Ct. 06002

 

July 2008--Big Plans at Holiday Valley

The Tamarack Club at Holiday Valley is being built on a grand scale.  As you approach the golf course parking lot from route 219, what used to be the focal point (the lodge) is minimized by a giant hole in the ground, fortified by beams and girders.  An artist's rendering of a glacial palace immediately captures your eye.  Such is to be the Tamarack Club.  A five-story condominium project with sales are proceeding at record pace, the Tamarack Club will provide on-site access for winter and summer sport enthusiasts alike.  Seeking the lift?  Over there.  The first tee?  On your right.  The club will provide three outdoor pools and two hot tubs for recreational pleasure, along with an indoor fitness center, restaurant and lounge for before- and after-activity enjoyment.

The Double Black Diamond golf course began its renovation three years ago, under the guidance of Paul Albanese.  In the words of the crack team at Holiday Valley,

"The course renovation began in fall 2005 with new tees and bunkers on holes #12-17. A major relocation of tees #12 and #15 and a double tiered fairway on #15 resulted in dramatic changes. A new tee complex located west of the creek and a strategically placed sod wall bunker on #9 makes play very interesting. Phase two began in spring 2006 and was completed in spring 2007. This phase included holes 1,9,10, 11, 17 and 18.

Holes 17 and 18 were completed in spring of 2007 and construction on holes 2 though 8 began in spring '07. Much of the work on the front nine was adding new tees and renovating bunkers, two to three holes at a time. The final hole to be renovated is #9, which has been shortened to a par 3. Number 9 is open throughout construction but will be complete by mid-summer '08. Watch out for the sod wall bunkers just behind the green"

The renovation process culminates this weekend with the $100,000 Hole In One Shootout on the new 9th hole.  Here's another word bite from the resort:

"Holiday Valley will host a $100,000 “Hole in One Shoot Out” to mark the opening of the new number nine golf hole on Saturday, July 26, 2008.

The Shoot Out is sponsored by Ed Shults Auto Group and will benefit Camp Good Days and Special Times. Golfers pay $5 for two shots from the new #9 tee. The qualifying round will take place from 10 AM to 2 PM and the closest 20 golfers will compete in the final round at 2 PM. A hole in one in the final round will net the golfer a $100,000 prize! The golfer who is closest to the pin in the qualifying round will win a new golf outfit from the Holiday Valley Golf Shop, a $200.00 value.

Register for the Shoot Out at the number nine tee, adjacent to the Inn at Holiday Valley, between 10 AM and 2 PM. The contest is open to amateurs only (sorry, Tiger!)."

I had the opportunity to play the interim ninth hole, a wistful, 80-yard pitch to the old ninth green.  I'll be honest...I'm going to miss that driveable par four.  It took the Scrambler five years to convince me that driver on every hole is a GOOD thing, especially the short and tight ones.  Alas, poor ninth, I knew you.  All right, enough whimpering.  The new hole is going to be a great one.  Two-tiered green with a gentle slope, two massive, stacked-sod bunkers in keeping with the new, front-nine theme, and a flatter sand pit off to the side.  What you'll remember most about Holiday Valley are the new tees:  #7, # 10 and # 13 seem carved in the side of the mountain by prehistoric peoples.  Your tee shot will take flight, soar, and hang forever before alighting on the gentle fairway (in my dreams!)  Both holes afford incredible downhill tee balls you won't soon forget.

The one sketchy hole on the back nine has been improved.  Number 11, the infamous 370-yard par five, is now a more manageable 365 yards, albeit still quite narrow.  I hit punch driver two straight days and had 95 yards in.  It's the harrowing "pitch over the ditch" that gets your heart a-pumping.  Albanese shaved the hillside to the right so that balls flared out have a decent chance of bounding down to the left, into the fairway.  Remember that, on your approach, long is a friend.

It seems appropriate to get down to Holiday Valley soon.  Whether you opt to stay overnight for the multi-round experience, spend some time improving your game at the Phil Ritson-Mel Sole Golf School, or stop in for a weekday round, you'll love the fast and true greens and appreciate the qualities of good design work.  From Tamarack to the Double Black Diamond, Holiday Valley will represent western New York well.

July 2008--Porter Cup History

The 50th anniversary Porter Cup media guide is a collector's item.  A letter of congratulations from Phil Mickelson, 1990 champion, opens the volume.  Reproductions of the Niagara Gazette's tournament coverage from all previous 49 events continue the content.  Subsequent articles on Jay Sigel, Dick Harvey, and Bill McGrath tell the stories of the men who played, organized, and covered the first 49 years of the Porter Cup.  Lists of contestants who won golf's majors and played on Walker Cup teams are featured, along with a most unique document:  Tiger Wood's 1994 Porter Cup entry form. 

The 50th Porter Cup will commence on Wednesday, July 23rd with a singular ceremony.  The three oldest living winners have been invited back to serve as honorary starters.  John Konsek, Ward Wettlaufer and Bill Harvey will be piped up the first fairway from the driving range by an accomplished bagpipe player.  The trio will play ceremonial tee shots and perhaps play out a few holes.  That Konsek and Wettlaufer are two of the most accomplished amateur golfers with western New York roots makes the ceremony even more special.  The tournament will commence and the title will be disputed over the next four days, with a most deserving champion to be crowned on Saturday the 26th.

2008 records the launch of a separate Senior event.  The Harvey Cup, an event held in conjunction with the Porter Cup, will move to early September and will be renamed the Senior Porter Cup.  Fred Silver, Niagara Falls member, club champion and tournament organizer and supporter, will issue invitations to the top 100 senior golfers in the country.  It is expected that the Senior event will fit in nicely with the unofficial senior amateur tour that takes place during late summer and early autumn.  Forging its own path over separate dates allows both events to invite more players, strengthening both fields.

Rather than spend valuable cyberspace in this article on a list of the various players, results, and occasions that have taken place since 1959, I'll direct you to www.portercup.com.  The tournament website is one of the better-run, amateur tournament websites in existence.  On it you will find dates and times, participant biographies, and other information of general use by the public.  Be certain to reserve some time later this month to spectate at the Niagara Falls Country Club grounds.  You'll pony up a few dollars for parking, collected by the local scouts, but admission is free.  Foods and beverages are quite affordable, as are the tournament souvenirs.  Gallery ropes are infrequent, allowing intimate access to the players.  Enjoy the event and bask in the history that comes on the heels of 49 incredible events.  Something tells me that number 50 will have fireworks of its own.

July 2008--Two Honest Voices

I subject myself once a year to the verbal equivalent of a flogging by asking people in golf for their honest opinion on me, on the site, on matters in general.  Over the course of the last week, I've been fortunate to bump into two gentlemen who could care less what you do with their facts and opinions.  As we all know, this makes their knowledge that much more valuable.

Both men own area golf courses.  One lives north of Toronto and has a course along the Canadian Niagara peninsula.  The second can be found stateside and is a partner in a successful golf course venture.  Their demeanors could not be more distinct, yet their message is the same.  The Canadian is a former soccer player, relaxed, tranquil, seemingly at peace with his world.  He is frank and open with conversation, comfortable with small talk, honest bout his self and his golf course.  The American is friendly and guarded, eyes from a bird of prey, always sizing up, always processing information.  Some do not suffer fools gladly; this one does not suffer them in the least.  And that message?  It might be too simple for those seeking profound insight:  we are what we are, no more, no less.

 The Canadian golf course is an enjoyable oasis in a world of high-end golf.  Folksy, home-spun, rustic, tattered, earthy.  Formerly a run-of-the-mill nine hole track, the layout was upgraded to its current 18 holes by its owner, a man who knows the golf course industry.  Having worked the high end of golf in Saint Lucia and Jamaica, he recognizes the need for a people's course.  Green fees should not be so pitiful that good help cannot be retained and that golfers feel that they are paying for junk; should not be so exorbitant that every blade of grass, every grain of sand, is scrutinized and measured.  That course should be challenging, more narrow than lengthy, yet not overdone.  It should present the same types of hazards (water, bunkers, multi-tiered greens, forced carries) that the pros play (that we see on television), just not as severely.  At the turn and at the end of the day, there should await a welcoming place for refreshment and good cheer.  With all that in place, this club could not be a more gracious oasis.

The situation stateside is completely different.  Whereas the Canadian counterpart is the exception to the high-end courses that dot the vicinity, the American course is the proven, high-end option.  The honest voice reminds me of articles previously written, some a bit too filled with praise, others not so much.  He reminds me of all the big and little features of the course, the ones that go noticed and the others, unnoticed, by the clientele.  What might be important for the player is of least concern for ownership and staff, and often, vice-versa.  Being no more than five years old, the course looks and plays as thought it has seen fifty.  As I let him know, I can only take so much enlightenment in one dose, so my visits must be restricted to an annual appearance.  This released his one, true laugh and a smile, something I considered a triumph on my part, a measure of acceptance, from the master to the apprentice.

I suspect that, without too much effort, you will discern the identities of the two courses.  What would logically follow are the names of the owners.  However, I'm not going to give it to you that easily; dig it out of the dirt, as Ben Hogan would have you do.

June 2008--The Jack Austin Series from John Corrigan

If you've read the book reviews on BuffaloGolfer.Com, you'll know how much of a fan we have been of Cassie Burdette.  She is the protagonist of a series of murder mysteries from Connecticut-based writer Roberta Isleib.  Dr. Isleib created a struggling yet earnest pro with dreams of LPGA stardom.  Unfortunately for us, Cassie's literary career ended after four or five volumes.  Around the time that Cassie stroked her last putt, I stumbled onto the Jack Austin series from John R. Corrigan.  As they say, when one door closes, another one opens.

John Corrigan is an English teacher by trade and a writer by choice...or maybe it works the other way, too.  Corrigan created a character in Jack Austin that stands as a near-archetype, a chiseled, morally and ethically rigid professional golfer from the woodlands of Maine.  If he weren't a 21st century golfer, he would be someone Melville or Hawthorne had considered before opting for Queequeg or Brown.  Jack Austin stands as a barometer for what is correct, always.  Around this unwavering flagpole, Corrigan scripts his style of mystery.

Austin is a journeyman tour golfer.  He is successful, strong, dedicated, and fortunate.  The series follows him from tournament to tournament, from crime to crime, always with an unchanging cast of characters:  Perkins, the lifelong friend who stands with giants; Silver, the gay and black caddie who never fails to club Austin correctly in golf and in life; Tremblay, the beautiful and brilliant golfer/reporter who may or may not represent a love interest for Jack; Tarbuck, the former priest who opted for a career in pro golf as a means of meeting the masses; and Nash, the college football star with an inextinguishable link to Austin.  In the great literary tradition of the fairy tale, Austin is surrounded by those who help him and those he needs to help.  He is the center of the story, but never miscast as the only story.

Corrigan carries out his investigation well.  He moves from setting to setting with ease and legitimacy.  The dialogue written is terse and believable.  The characters know who they are, what they are capable of and what their destination might be.  If you read novels for entertainment (and you like golf), you'll while away counted hours of enjoyment with this series.  If you like to read for rhetoric, for analytical purposes, or for critical interpretation, you'll delve deeper through the layers that Corrigan pastes.

I don't know that I read the novels in their chronological sequence.  I don't know that it matters.  What I do know is that summer is a wonderful time to read novels and play golf.  Perhaps if you're sitting in a fine wooden chair near a peaceful place, you'll be at ease with one of these novels in your hands and thoughts. 

June 2008--Get Acquainted With Competition

If you zealously read the local golf scores in the Buffalo News, you might have seen the following blurb last Monday:

ELMA MEADOWS: Get Acquainted Tournament — Overall: Lynch-Montesano-Gawinski-Sylvester 64. Woods Flight: Kelm-Jeffords-Waz-Brennan 64. Nicklaus Flight: Garcia-Libsey-Piechota-Jentsch 65. Snead Flight: D’Addario-Jantzi-Szczepanski-Kane 65.

Shockingly, both The Scrambler and Mo' Golf combined for a victory.  We had help, no doubt, from the putter of the year, Ken Gawinski, and Mr. Personality, Craig Sylvester.  The format was a scramble and we did emerge victorious on a match of cards, but a win is a win is a win.

The Scramble was no intellectual cakewalk.  Each golfer could play a maximum of four drives and The Scrambler used his up by, oh about hole number eleven.  Gawinski is recovering from shoulder surgery and bunts the ball around the course, while Sylvester went through a spate of "The Wilds."  When they needed Mo' to come through, he didn't, but in the end, we got the job done off the tee.

Into the green, we were pretty good.  The best iron I hit was a six into number one at Elma Meadows.  It drew four feet off the right edge, stopping five feet from the hole.  After Gawinski drained about his fifth birdie putt of the day (we always let him putt first), we were off and running on our front seven (we started on # 17.)

We had a little trouble on the back nine.  After stuffing a wedge to eight feet on ten, four attempts at birdie never touched the cup.  Eleven and twelve are two demanding par fours and we got out of that serpent's den with no bogeys.  We had only pars and birdies on the day, which impressed all of us.  Our only run at eagle came on the short par five fourth hole, where Mo' (yup, that's me) hit a wedge in to three inches for a tappie-tappie-tapper.

I want to thank Jerry Sullivan of the Buffalo News for bowing out at the last minute, opening the door to my participation, and my teammates for their support and vigilance.  I look forward to much future competition of this ilk.

 

May 2008--The Best Golf Trip I Never Took

Weird things happen to weird people...Had a trip planned to the Adirondacks for some northern Spring golf this weekend.  Hotel had been reserved for another reason and didn't want to eat the loss (darned Hotwire!)  Got in touch with Top Of The World Resort (up north!) and Malone Golf Club (way up north!!) and arranged for three rounds of golf with reviews and photos of all 54 holes.

Sadly, it was not to be, not yet at least.  Circumstances conspired against me to remain away from the Lake George/Adirondack area.  It wasn't Mothers' Day, I'll have you know, but other events.  Feeling sour, I emailed both properties to inform them of my impending non-arrival.  They assured me that I was welcome at any point in the future.  In fact, given the weather of the season, it might not have given the best light for photography.  As I sit here amid the raindrops in western New York this Sunday, 5-11-2008, I browse the websites of both properties and envision what this excursion might someday be.

Top of the World looks like friendly fun.  The address, Lockhart Mountain Road, says it all about the views one might anticipate.  There's a farm on the property, a restaurant in the farmhouse, and somewhere between 9 and 11 rooms in the bed and breakfast.  Guests receive reduced rates on the golf course, which tops out at 6000 yards.  All the comforts of someone else's home and a fun, frolicking golf course.  I cannot wait to see the place.

Unlike Top of the World, Malone Golf Club seems to espouse a brutish toughness.  It's farther to the north, nearly to Quebec (land of dog teams and surly French speakers, right?), and boasts of matches between Babe Ruth and his friends.  Although there is no lodging on site, Malone Golf Club offers stay and play packages in conjunction with a local Econolodge and Comfort Inn.  Malone Golf Club possesses two courses designed by Robert Trent Jones the Old.  Both top out around 6600 yards.  Let Jones alone in the mountains, however, and he'll make 6600 feel like 7200 into the wind!  I've played his Bristol Harbour course in Canandaigua, NY, along with his effort at Boyne Highlands in Michigan, and could not believe how the downhill holes felt uphill.  He has another one at Treetops (also in Michigan) that I might have to return to play.  After searching for years to find something defensible about the man, perhaps his legacy is his work in the mountains.  I'll know for certain when I get to Malone.

There you have it, my attempt at salvaging a lost weekend of golf course reviews and photography.  With any luck, some of the shots that I take at Malone and Top of the World will make it on to their websites.  Until then, I'll search for the perfect weekend to motor on up to northeastern New York.

May 2008--You Can Go (to someone else's) Home Again:  Tom's Run In Blairsville, PA

For ten years the family made at least a monthly trek down the 219-119 Corridor into the hamlet of Blairsville, Pennsylvania.  My in-laws ran a store with their family there.  Born and bred in west-central PA, their blood ran thick and their roots, deep.  Fortunately for me, the oasis that is Chestnut Ridge happened to occupy the corner where 119 ran into route 22 to Pittsburgh.  CR had just completed work on its second course, a contemporary design by Bill Love and Doug Ault that complemented their original course.  Tom's Run (the new one) and Chestnut Ridge (the old one) made a formidable 36 for anyone looking to sharpen his or her game.

Bridge From 4 Green to 5 Tee Tom's Run

A weekend or two past, the store held its annual opening sale of equipment and my in-laws, unable to immediately attend, asked that I might go in their place.  Imagining that the courses had matured and that Sunday morning would be clear for golf (store opened at 11!), I agreed.  I made contact with the resort and secured an early tee time on Sunday.  By my side would be an 11-year old nephew, somewhat keen on the game but not yet addicted.  He'd hit the occasional shot, putt and chip everywhere, and shoot lots of photos to earn his trip around Tom's Run.

I'd heard rumors that quite a bit of development had taken place in Blairsville, but nothing prepared me for the site of that intersection of routes 119 and 22.  On the right (completely obscuring the view of the town high school) sits WyoTech, a seven-campus, 2-year school for mechanics.  The Blairsville campus represents the school's first foray into the northeast.  On the left, an enormous plaza with Wal-Mart and other stores.  Most impressive is the new Hampton Inn situated between the clubhouse and 18th hole of Tom's Run golf course.  In spite of the development, the downtown/main street of Blairsville hadn't changed much.  Brizzi's Candy appeared vacant, but the rest of the stores seemed content to remain isolated by the chestnut ridge from the new Blairsville.

Tee Shot Number Five Tom's Run Looking Back Hole Six Tom's Run

Tom's Run was the gem that I had remembered.  Thanks to a scheduling mistake on my part, we ended up playing holes 5-18 and shooting the first quartet after.  The second hole at Tom's Run is one of those holes that you should remember, with a 70-feet drop from tee to green.  Guess what?  It's the least memorable of the first four!  Other than the drop, the green is rather ordinary and the bunkering, forgettable.  The power lines in your line of site don't help much, either.  Now, before you dismiss the course, let me tell you about the fantastic 17 holes that wrap around this one.

Tom' Run begins and finishes with two holes that typify western Pennsylvania.  The first is a robust par four that dips down into a valley via a serpentine fairway, then rises to a well-bunkered green set on a shelf.  It's the type of hole where 4 makes you puff out your chest, 5 is just fine, and 6 leaves you scratching your head as to why you were so arrogant.  Remember, you don't have to follow a bad shot with a great shot; a good one will get you back in play.  18 is a level par five that ebbs and flows like a gentle tide, meandering between bunkers and mounding until you reach the most deceptive green on the course.  From the tips I belted driver and three wood and stuck a pitch to 12 feet.  Sensing birdie, I proceeded to three putt the green THREE TIMES!  FROM THE SAME SPOT!!  I'm warning you that if the pin is in the middle, watch out.  If it's long, play short, because over is no good.  If it's up front, eat it up!

Hole Two From Side Of Green Tom's Run Tee Shot Number Four Tom's Run

Holes three and four at Tom's Run are without doubt two of the prettiest golf holes in creation.  Set down in the hollow, they demand nothing less than strategy and nothing more than average distance.  Don't get muscular down here; all you'll end up fighting are lateral hazards and penalty strokes.  Three plays 359 yards from the tips, while four wanders off a bit farther, to 492 paces.  In all honesty, leave your driver in the bag, heck, leave all your metals in the bag from the first green to the fifth tee.  You'll understand when you see 3 and 4; if you don't understand before, you'll know why as you drive up the path to the fifth tee.  Both putting surfaces are inspired yet fair, and both fairways are wide enough in the spots you should target.  Sometimes a designer dictates where to hit the ball and sometimes you should listen!

The fifth tee awaits after a drive across a bridge and up a rainforest.  What you find is a driveable par four that lets you reclaim your macho.  Bomb away with the driver on the next three holes.  Love, Ault and Clark bring you back to the highlands in style, with three enjoyable par-four holes.  Eight is a lovely par three along or across (depending on the angle) a pond.  Nine is a monstrous, cross-country ramble of a par five, stretching to 620 yards from the big-boy tees.  Finishing far away from the clubhouse, the ninth green reminds us that out-and-back is a fine way to design a golf course.

Tee Shot Number Fourteen Tom's Run Tee Shot Number Fifteen Tom's Run

After a pair of healthy holes ( a 402-yard par four and a 232-year par three) to start the inward half, you are treated once again to a short par four, the rediscovery of the century.  Short par fours reward the intelligent golfer with runs at birdie and par, yet wound the over-zealous with armfuls of bogies and worse.  This one is fairly straightforward, so have a go at the green!  When you get to the next tee, you'll find nearly 1500 yards of acreage on the next three holes, with an aggregate par of 13.  Hole thirteen runs to 560 yards, heading east.  Hole fourteen returns westward at 440 yards.  As if to remind you of golf's difficulties, hole fifteen drops, then ascends, some 460 yards back to the east.  Framing and penalizing bunkering spot each of the three holes.

The final triumvirate is kinder and gentler.  You'll need no more than a mid or short iron to reach the par three sixteenth, then it's on to a short par four (371 from the tips) with a Sahara desert up the left side.  Don't be tempted to cut the corner (it can be done, but a hernia usually results); instead, play safely to the right side and you'll have a 9-iron or wedge pitch up to the green.

Tee Shot Number 3 Tom's Run From Green Back To Fairway
Number 4 Tom's Run

It's evident from the pictures and words that I've told you nothing about the other course, Chestnut Ridge.  Chestnut Ridge winds its way around the inside of Tom's Run and offers nearly as many interesting holes as the younger brother.  Chestnut Ridge has a more mature feel to it, almost like a New England course might.  Blending the open sense of Tom's Run with the treelined nature of Chestnut Ridge makes for a wonderful, complementary weekend of golf.

April 2008--Some Of My Favorite Golf People In WNY

While many in WNY are watching round three of The Masters today, I was out in North Amherst.  After dropping daughter #1 off at a canal for some rowing practice, I drove to Glen Oak for my first outdoor shots of the season.  I love GO for its putting and chipping green; the creekside location and the elongated hour glass putting surface make it aesthetically and rationally helpful.

After noticing that green # 18 was 70% under water (making the hole location a tough target, indeed), I headed inside to speak with Mike Zuppa, head pro at the course.  I had last seen Mike at the Buffalo-Niagara golf show in March and welcomed the opportunity to visit with him.  He assured me that # 18 would be playable by Monday.

As I drove away from the course, I got to thinking about golf people in WNY.  I had the good fortune to meet Jim Thorpe in 1981 as a junior golfer (me, not him) and to work with Lonnie Nielsen in a coaching capacity.  Both are on the Champions Tour now and I follow them regularly.  They among many represent the people that golf has brought into my life.  In honor of the first major championship of the year, I'm going to do a very quick Tale Of The Tape on about fifteen golf people that I really like in WNY.

1-3
Kevin Lynch, John Daken, Chris Whitcomb

My right-hand men, the Scrambler, the Duff, and the Mouth.  We'd have no site without them.

 4
Scott Whitter

Lockport-based architect of Arrowhead, Deerwood Doe and Ironwood.  This fellow knows more people and more about golf course architecture than anyone else within 200 miles.  If you don't know him, you should.

5-7
Dan Antonucci, Bob Gosch, Paul Winecksi

Head pro at Niagara Frontier, Owner of Discover Golf Buffalo and Director of the local Last Minute Golfer site.  All three signed on as writers this year and did not disappoint.

8
Joe Frey

Owner of Arrowhead.  Controversial and curmudgeonly, he jump-started the renaissance of golf course design in WNY with Whitter's Arrowhead.

9
Jim Fiske

Co-Owner of The Links at Ivy Ridge.  Deciding between a trailer park and a golf course, they flipped a coin and golf course won.  Thank God!  One of the straightest shooters in the local game.

10
Fred Zillner

Met him when he was coach of St. Francis golf team.  Runs Harvest Hill and has a vision and dedication for golf for the young beyond words.

11
Betsy Ulmer

Protector and promoter of junior golf for girls in WNY.  We disagree on time of year (she says Fall, I say Spring) for the girls high school league, but no one gets more respect than Betsy.

12-14
Patty Jordan, Marlene Davis and Cindy Miller

Patty, Marlene and Cindy have all played competitive golf at a high level.  As teachers of the game in WNY, they serve as excellent role models for juniors and adults throughout the region.

15-16
Jim Furlong and Mike Zuppa

Director of Golf at Diamond Hawk, Jim has taken control of the most anticipated course in WNY and shepherded it through the difficult first year.  As previously indicated, Mike runs the shop and course at Glen Oak and bends over foreward, backward and sideways to make your time there memorable.

There are many more that I will name at a later date, in a future column, or when you run into me on the first tee.  In the meantime, reflect on your favorite people in golf and let them know how you feel.

March 2008--Chad Kulpa

Chad Kulpa passed away on Sunday, March 16th, 2008.  It was a beautiful day in western New York, in terms of the weather and the camaraderie that inseparably bind us.  I had the casual opportunity to meet Chad last June for a brief five minutes on the 7th tee at Westwood Country Club.  The Travelin' Duff and I were participating in the 3rd Chip In For Carly's Club fundraiser for Roswell Park Cancer Institute, while Chad was the guest of honor.  He was an all-too-real reminder (a survivor of childhood cancer) of why we had all gathered. 

Chad was a golfer, through and through.  He dressed the part, spoke the part, and smiled the part.  He hit a shot with every participant that day, showing sincere gratitude for the time we spent playing a silly game, for the time we spent raising money to fund research for the battle to seek a cure for cancer, to seek better treatment for cancer.

Chad kicked my behind in the fundraising department.  He fundraised from personal experience, putting the most human of faces on the struggle to endure the treatments, the setbacks, the advances.  I'm glad that he did.  It somehow wouldn't have been right for a healthy, spoiled golf guy to exact more gratitude and solidarity from his brethren.

I remember, too, that Chad struck a beautiful shot from the tee, on a hole that he asked to play with every participant.  I'm pretty certain that he had a run at par, while I was fortunate to make bogey.  I do know that we left him with a BuffaloGolfer.Com golf hat, courtesy of the ever-thoughtful Travelin' Duff.

For whatever reason, it did not occur to me that Chad was still in danger, that his cancer was not in remission.  Perhaps that's why Chuck Collard's email shocked my senses.  Even in the sorrow of death, we were reminded what Chad gave to those of us who knew him briefly.  Chuck spent time with Chad's family on Sunday and let us know the following:

"Each family member told me how important Carly's Club was for Chad, and several specifically mentioned the "chip in" event.  I wanted to pass along their thoughts and appreciation for your commitment, and I want to stress how important your efforts are in the process to support pediatric families confronted with cancer.  Every program that we put in place is a result of efforts like the "chip in" event."

Another of our co-participants, Eric McClaren, commiserated thusly:

"It was my worst played hole of the day.  With Chad, his Dad, and tv cameras on me...but it was my favorite hole by far.  It was an honor to play with Chad and I will remember that every time I play that hole, over and over again.  Thanks for letting me play with him."

Memorial contributions may be made to the
"Friends of Chad Kulpa," C/O M&T Bank, 5226 Broadway, Lancaster, NY 14086

Sponsorship of this year's Chip In For Carly's Club made be made through this link.

 

February 2008--Rochester Golf Show Recap

Due to a scheduling conflict, the Rochester edition of Upstate New York Golf Shows 2008 made a venue switch.  Instead of the urban locale of the Riverside Convention Center:  Downtown Rochester, the golfing elite made the trek to Henrietta and the Dome Arena for three days of courses, clubs, and other vestiges of golf.  Travelin' Duff and I arrived on Sunday (long story, no time) and sensed immediately that the site offered a certain intimacy that a traditional convention center might not.  Our hunch proved correct as booth owner after booth owner confirmed that a vibe coursed through the show for three days, making the large crowds seem even larger, and the inquiries seem even more personal and individual than expected.  Now that's a show.

The Dome Arena was divided into two sections.  The main bowl housed the indoor testing range, a recreational vehicle display, and the smokeless tobacco tent.  Duff and I checked out the R/Vs, but could not figure out where the storage areas were.  Sure, your friends and you travel in the lap of luxury, but where does the stuff go?  The smokeless tobacco greeters were of the stuff that makes teenage boy fantasies, but neither of us ever dipped nor has teenage fantasies anymore, so on we paced.  The indoor testing center, populated by Callaway, Nike, Wilson, Srixon Mizuno and Ping, offered an opportunity to slam balls with the finest equipment available today.  Ever read a bad club review?  Do you know why not?  Simple:  the amount of money that goes into the research and development of these sticks is astronomical; no one makes a bad product anymore.

The second section of the hall, more rectangular and less domed, contained the traditional show booths.  Courses like Mill Creek, Webster, Brookwoods (formerly Ontario Golf Club) and Reservoir Creek put forth quite suggestive reasons as to why you should play their tracks.  With the Canadian dollar equal to ours, it makes sense to travel east for a day, rather than risk border issues and a higher green-fee ratio.  Coming soon, we'll list our top ten reasons to travel to Rochester for a day of golf, combining high-end courses with value destinations.  If you've ever studied Rochester golf, limiting the deal to ten is darned-near impossible.

Two of the more attractive booths boasted golf trails.  While I think the term "trail" is overused and overhyped these days, I cannot deny the persuasiveness of the argument.  The Finger Lakes Golf Trail, made up of Mill Creek, Greystone, Ravenwood and Bristol Harbour, offers golf and lodging or simple golf packages.  Visit www.fingerlakesgolftrail.com to learn more.  The New York Golf Trail has grand aspirations, intending to conquer the entire empire state.  To begin, though, they'll offer you deals at six Adirondack courses and one Syracuse-region layout.  Visit www.nygolftrail.com to find out about great mountain golf.

If you ran out of golf balls at the precise moment you teed off on 18 last November, don't worry.  Chances are your ball was found and repackaged by one of the golf equipment superstores that will also sell their wares at the Buffalo-Niagara show next month.  If you lost your shirt, they have plenty of those as well.  Professional tournament and amateur golf tour information, fitness and rehabilitation, and free lessons made the Rochester Golf Show a great day away from the Buffalo region.  If it's not already on your schedule, block out a day next month (March 14-16) to visit the Buffalo Convention Center and the Buffalo-Niagara Golf Show.  Stop by www.upstatenygolfshow.com on the web for an overview, hours and directions.

 

January 2008--Writers' Summit

When events exceed expectations, can bliss be far behind?  As previewed, the brain-trust behind BuffaloGolfer.Com met last weekend for the annual Writers' Summit.  We do our best to patronize one of our sponsors because it makes sense!  The Famous Dukes at The Links At Ivy Ridge had just closed for the season, so we headed to The Frog Hair to discuss plans for 2008.  If you haven't been to TFH lately, the place was mobbed!  In fact, it's a good thing we had The Mouth with us.  He's a mid-twenties guy, good-looking and physically fit.  That characterizes half of the crowd at the bar and dinner.  The simulators were full and the joint was truly hopping.  For us, our business lay elsewhere.

As you'll see in the coming months, a fair number of additions to the BuffaloGolfer.Com site are in the works.  They are initiatives that came together as 2007 drew to a close and will serve to enhance the writings found on the site.  One of these additions is Scott Witter, a Lockport-based landscape and golf course architect.  Scott is the artist and artisan behind three of the newer courses in western New York:  the Deerwood Doe nine, Arrowhead, and Ironwood.  Each course is unique to the others, yet reveals the practiced hand of someone who knows the trade.  With a true architect, things don't just happen on a golf course; they are caused for a reason.  Scott joined Mo', Mouth, Scrambler and Duff on that Saturday evening and changed the course of humanity.

I had often been spoiled with the opportunity to converse with Scott on the twin subjects of golf course design and golf course history.  You cannot have a helping of one without a serving from the other.  Scott has been working of late with Mark Fine, another noted designer and restorer.  With the slowing of new course builds in the continental USA, another element of the business has taken wing:  golf course restoration.  Unless your head's been in the sand, you know that everyone from Jack Nicklaus all the way round to Jack Nicklaus has been raising voices in complaint against the advances of technology.  Put it simply, the ball goes too far and straight, and older courses are not what they once were.  Let me tell you that many of those courses are not what they once were because of age, erosion, evolution, and the heartless fact that they never were what they once were.  Guys like Mark and Scott make those courses better again, or good for the first time.  It's a wonder to behold.

Scott brought along graphics from two recent jobs, one near Rochester and one in Massachusetts.  He showed us photos of a bunker restoration near Rochester; restoration is a kind term.  The bunkers never were of the quality the course deserved.  Scott made them so.  He also passed around original hole routings from a club in Massachusetts.  The routings were done by the hand of one Donald J. Ross, golf's Shakespeare.  While it's true that Ross gave us championship layouts like Oak Hill East in Rochester, Pinehurst #2 in North Carolina, and Oakland Hills in Michigan, he also contributed Lu Lu Country Club, Mount Crotched and Pinecres on Lotela.  Ross' name is everywhere, but his fingerprints and DNA are less commonly found.  Ross didn't show on site to most of his reputed designs.  The course that Scott showed us was one of the exceptions to this nasty secret.  Holding those schematics in a gingerly fashion, I became aware of the treasures that this man Scott Witter accesses, and the treasure that he in return provides to BuffaloGolfer.com.  If we're fortunate, he'll grace our web pages with his prosaic thoughts on golf and golf courses.

The evening was a blur of conversation, with the exception of Duff.  Like the wise buddha, aged and wary, he listened throughout the minutes and hours.  We raised many a toast to each other, to the commitment to the web site, to the many twists and turns its personal path has taken.  A sage once spoke of the medicinal properties of a meeting of kindred spirits.  I'm of the mind that one of those took place not long ago, and that anywhere that golf is discussed, on a wintry night in western New York, the same holds true.  Stay attuned.

December 2007--End Of The Year As We Know It

I cannot emphasize enough that you should not try this at home.  Whatever possessed me ten years ago, as our youngest was turning two and our oldest, nine, to begin a golfing publication that would ultimately turn into BuffaloGolfer was a mad fit of whimsy.  The celerity of this snowball's pace has amplified and multiplied and magnified to a point beyond control.  It all came to a head this November when, for the first time in forever, I missed a column.  I'll review the contents of my world, to let you in on why and how I could skip a month of writing:
--Three kids at home, one in college;
--Working wife (hey, if she were a homemaker, I'd have no responsibilities);
--Cooking and Cleaning (see above);
--High School teaching, coaching, summer golf camp, foreign exchange programs, and yearbook duty;
--Free-Lance Writing for:
Buffalo Spree
New York Golf
Sports and Leisure
Golf-South One and Two
--Occasional gadabout golf personality for WKBW-TV Channel Seven.

And those are the activities I remember to do.  It gets so crazy-busy at times, but I've grown to love crazy-busy.  Before I wed, I was a "lazy single guy."  My wife taught me the value and the reward of busting ass.  I don't hold it against people if they don't subscribe to my theory, but I don't slow down, either.

Here's what I'll remember from 2007...Great days of golf at Ivy Ridge, Peek'N Peak, Harvest Hill, Thundering Waters, Brockport, Buffalo Tournament Club, Arrowhead, Diamond Hawk, Holiday Valley and many more...a great tour of Michigan along the Michigan Road...three fantastic golf shows in Hamilton, Rochester and Buffalo...two near-perfect rounds of golf (enough to keep me playing!)...a new driver (Nike Sasquatch!)...Seven great golf holes with Jeff Russo and Channel 7...two wonderful, local pro events at Peek'N Peak and Turning Stone...and the list goes on and on.

Here's what I anticipate for 2008...three more great golf shows, including one where we give away 150 rounds of golf at Brockport...continued maturation at Harvest Hill, Ivy Ridge, Arrowhead and BTC...my first glimpse of Talking Stick, the new course in Lewiston...three near-perfect rounds of golf...more viewers for BuffaloGolfer (tell the world, y'all!)...and health and happiness for all I encounter...

Happy New Year!
 

October 2007--An Unbelievable Round, Part Two

It's not often that I'll write so similarly, so coincidentally.  Another one of those unforgettable rounds took place on Sunday, for reasons entirely unanticipated.  The four horsemen of the apocalypse, otherwise known as Travlein' Duff, The Mouth That Roars, The Scrambler, and Mo' Golf, headed south to Peek'N Peak for a glorious celebration of Fall golf in western New York.  The Upper Course at the Peek, site of the Nationwide Tour's annual showcase event, promised an adventure beyond words, beyond compare.  The course is a pleasure and a treasure, winding its way through woodlands, up and down hillsides, across slopes and beyond the wilderness.  Its tiny creeks and sizeable ponds provide balance and challenge, while its putting surfaces demand an accurate stroke on all counts.

I'll get to the point:  I produced a hoganesque round from tee to green, a ball-striking display the likes of which I hope to see again, the likes of which I had not previously know.  Here are the details:

15 greens in regulation.
2 fringes.
1 second fringe.

I do not recall missing a fairway beyond one to two feet.  I do not recall being outside of 35 feet on any birdie attempt.  And I do not recall three-putting fewer than 10 times...on my way to an 80.

Can you imagine?  Having 17 putts at birdie, and one chip at birdie, and the sole putt to drop was an eight-footer on the home hole.  From the tee I was Thor, from the fairway I was Odin/Oden, and on the short grass of the green, I was neither.  The putter felt comfortable, the reads seemed accurate, and each approach putt came short or drew long, by ten feet at a time.  The money distance, from six to ten feet, was a foreign language to me, and with each missed attempt, we laughed more and more.

That, perhaps, was the essence of the day.  The score did not matter, the putting display did not affect us.  In spite of near-perfect greens, the hole seemed to be covered by transparent film.  And on we played, on we putted, on we enjoyed.

Play well this Fall.  Go for a personal best and take chances on every hole.  The end is nigh and the Winter should be one of contentment.  As you sit inside on a snowy evening, you'll remember these Fall rounds, the chances you took, the heroic ascents you scaled, and the glory of Autumn.

 

September 2007--18 Hours At Turning Stone

9-22-5:30
Out the door, coffee in hand.  Camera battery charged, laptop cord in bag.  Email confirming press credentials taped to windshield.  No hotel, no meals, one Duff.  Things shaping up perfectly.
         

9-22-6:30
Somewhere between Buffalo and Rochester.  Duff is smoking his pipe, stinking up the wife's car.  I know the drill.  After I drop him off tomorrow evening, I'll drive home with all the windows open.  That usually gets the scent out.  Dude sure can listen...I go on and on about myself and he listens.  Plans are made:  call a few hotels, get some rates, make a choice not far from Verona.  Try to keep it around $40 for the night...going in on the cheap.
         

9-22-7:30
We stop for breakfast on the I-90.  Duff passes up Starbuck's for Roy Rogers...a true Brooklyn-to-NT guy.  I'd grab a 'bucks, but I'm still going on my Tim Horton's from WNY.  We get the rate we want near the dormant Carrier A/C plant.  Place looks kind of spooky when we get there, but it's right off the highway.
         

9-22-8:30
We hit the trailer in Vernon/Verona (hard to tell the difference) for temporary credentials.  I love volunteer security at these events...everyone wants to make the big bust.  My Junior G-Man informs me that I cannot bring my camera nor my cell phone, since neither has a sticker.  I explain that we have yet to get our full credentials, so I cannot possibly have a sticker.  This does not compute, but a superior explains my rationale, and we move along.
         

9-22-9:30
The crew snap our pictures and make our badges.  We receive stickers for our phones and our cameras.  I'll never forget Duff at the 2004 US Open, photographer's armband, with a disposable camera (he left his good one at home.)  The marshals were doubled over in laughter.  Atunyote (ask five people and you'll receive five different pronunciations) is so big in scale, you can get terrific pictures anywhere.  We head out to the action, to give Duff the lay of the land.  I'd played the course two years back, and began to notice the little changes that had been made to upgrade the look.
         

9-22-10:30
We're done.  Time for lunch, or a late breakfast.  Media creds mean never having to say "I'll buy."  A nice assortment of pastries, yogurt, oodwala bars, and fruit/nut mixes, washed down with coffee, stoke the fires.  The weather is gorgeous, so we bask a bit in the A/C of the media tent, read the obligatory press releases and event notes, and rest our feet.
         

9-22-11:30
We're back to the action.  We see a funny sight.  Rocco Mediate tosses a ball to a kid.  He doesn't get off his rear end and walk the ball over.  He doesn't say "hey, kid", like Mean Joe Greene in that Pepsi ad.  The kid isn't even looking.  Rocco nearly kills the kid with the Titleist, and has no clue what he did.  Rocco is really self-centered.  We laugh and move on.
         

9-22-12:30
We determine that my camera can suck the soul out of a golfer.  Frame:  I went to college with Billy Andrade, and he starts the day at -6.  I figure, shoot some images, interview him after the round, catch up.  Only problem is, Billy shoots his weight, dropping to last after 54 holes.  I avoid Billy, as I clearly caused this abyss to open.  Proof:  as we are leaving on Sunday, I snap a few shots of Steve Flesch walking, just walking.  He later bogeys two holes and almost gives the tournament away.

9-22-1:30
Duff is an Oswego guy, so he wants to see David Branshaw.  DB came out of Oswego, went to college in WV for golf, and is trying to drag himself out of the low 200s on the money list.  He places top 12 here, ties for 5th the next week at Mississippi, and sits at 160 with a few fortnights left.  Go low, Dave!

9-22-2:30
We're hungry again.  Lunch time...sandwiches, more goodies, sodas, power drinks, more A/C.  We've taken some fine pictures, watched some tremendous shots, so we start walking the back nine backward, to get a sense of shots into greens and tee balls into fairways.  Never done it?  Try it sometime.  We board the shuttle back to the lot, find our car, and are off.

9-22-3:30
Back to the hotel.  The names have been changed to protect the innocent.  We discover (later) that our humble inn charges by the hour, adding to the diversity (if not the length of stay) of its clientele.  Nevertheless, we find the beds comfy, the shower functional, and the cable in working order.  The wireless internet is another matter, however.  Inconsistent at best, it takes all my strategies to stay connected.

9-22-4:30
ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ...It's sleep time.  Duff zonks out, tired after the early rise and day of walking.  I do a bit of writing, review the day's photos, and make plans for more tomorrow.

9-22-5:30
ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ...I join the Duff (separate beds.)  Although I'm excited about the tournament's completion on Sunday, I realize that I won't be present unless I get some shut-eye.

9-22-6:30
Supper time.  We discuss sit-down versus take-out, settle on neither, and jump in the car to explore the 'hood.  We drive for about twenty minutes, find a pizza joint, and grab a pie to go.

9-22-7:30
Back in command HQ, we devour the 'za to the strains of some Golf Channel reviews of the tournament.  It's always cool, and a bit unnerving, to see your place on major television.

9-22-8:30
The general consensus of the tour players is that the fairways at Atunyote are more than ample.  Not that they want to have a US Open in September, but the rough could pinch in a bit more and create more of a premium for the driving club.

9-22-9:30
It's not your imagination that the ball is rolling smoothly on the putting greens.  The competitors agree that the greens are as smooth and true as any on tour.  Granted, a fair bit might be attributed to the tour policy of positive press and public relations, but a lot of birdie putts are falling.  That doesn't happen unless the greens run true.

9-22-10:30
If there is any complaint, it's the lack of on-site parking that forces the majority of media and all public ticket holders to be bused in.  The parking lot is located at a crossroads with a two-way stop sign.  The local police brigade is manning the direction of traffic the best that they can, but there has got to be another way.

9-22-11:30
It's funny how a man gets taken to task for proclaiming that he wants to be considered the Augusta of the North.  The white sand in the bunkers is the same as The National, the spacious environment mirrors Augusta's elbow room, and the nation has put the type of touches (rock walls, flower gardens, babbling brooks, bridges) that one would come to crave in Augusta.

9-23-12:30
Not much left to say.  Time to sleep.  ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ...

9-23-1:30

9-23-2:30

9-23-3:30

9-23-4:30

9-23-5:30

9-23-6:30
When your personal alarm clock says 5 am every morning, you cannot set one for 8 and expect to sleep in.  I set it for 8, but it won't make any noise until this afternoon, when I forget that vibrate is no longer on and get a call as someone is putting out on 18.

9-23-7:30
Well, we bid farewell to our humble digs.  No unexpected guests, although Duff met a few unique couples on his early morning walk.  If he ever gets around to writing another article, you may meet them, too!

9-23-8:30
We check out and drive to Green Lakes State Park, between the Milton and Turning Stone.  This is Robert Trent Jones, sr's first course.  He designed it and ran it in the 1930s.  The course is situated in a gorgeous park, and flows with the land through all of its 6200 yards.  I'm beginning to think that Grand Island is the only state park with a crappy golf course in New York State.

9-23-9:30
Predictably, with Duff, we get lost.  He may be the world's best listener, but he invariably takes his eyes off the road (both driving and navigating) and gets us off track.  Always blame the caddy.

9-23-10:30
Back to Turning Stone.  No issues getting in today. 

9-23-11:30
Yet to come...

9-23-12:30
Yet to come...

9-23-1:30
Yet to come...

9-23-2:30
Yet to come...

9-23-3:30
We bid farewell to the Turning Stone resort for another year. 

August 2007--The Byrncliff Open

Every competition has its ups and downs; a scramble needs 18 ups and 0 downs to be a success.  It's hard to determine which is worse at a scramble, a string of pars or the dreaded bogey.  When Mo' and the Scrambler teed it up last week in the Byrncliff Open, one pair in their foursome started off with three consecutive birdies, and went on to shoot 62 and tie for first.  Sadly for our boys, it wasn't them.  They acquitted themselves well, shooting 67 to tie for 7th.  After Mo' calmed down with some iced tea, he revealed the following details from the event.  Be cautioned:  the following text has a stream-of-consciousness feel to it; if you didn't like reading Faulkner in high school or college, this may not be for you.

So, Mo', how did it begin?
Well, we went off the 7th tee, played my drive and the Scrambler's second, and found ourselves just off the green in two.  We had a little eagle chip that I somehow left below the hole.  In successive hacks, both Scrambles and I missed the three feet birdie putt.  We parred the next three and found ourselves even after four.

Did you make any birdies at all?
Sure.  We drained one at 11, thanks to the Scrambler.  We got two more on 14 and 15, and got to minus-four on 18.  It seemed that every time we closed within two strokes of our partners, they would make a bomb from across the green to re-establish the three stroke margin.

Then came one to three, really a birdie stretch, right?
We honestly expected to make birdies on all three holes.  We had about a ten-feet putt for birdie on one, then they bombed it in from off the green and we missed.  On two, we hit two crappy drives and couldn't go at the green.  We made a par that felt like a bogey.  Then came number three.

Birdie, right?
Not.  We stuffed a little wedge in there, just eight feet above the hole.  We both tapped our putts and watched them go five feet by.  Missed both of those and made the dreaded bogey.

So you drove in and quite?
Naw, we wanted to improve on our previous score, so we stuck it out.  We birdied two of the last three and made a good par on number four.  Finished minus-five, one out of fourth place and five out of first.

Final thoughts...
It would have taken a nearly-perfect round to get to minus ten.  Give us a birdie on 7 (our first hole) and a birdie on 3, instead of bogey, and we are at minus eight.  We still would have needed two more birds to tie, and three to win.  That doesn't sound like much, but neither of us hit great irons that day, so we never got into birdie range on the par threes and fours.

Any more events this year?
I might play the Publinks 2-Man Scramble in September with The Mouth.  Scrambler is out of town that weekend, so I'll have to see what The Mouth is doing.  He's young and broke, and may not have the jing to enter.

August 2007--A Shocking Round

They seem to come out of nowhere.  You go along for a few holes, make some consistent shots, and before you know it, you're in rarefied strata.  The relative difficulty of the course need not matter; I've seen it happen on the neighborhood goat track and the championship layout.  It even happens to Mo' Golf from time to time, although not in recent memory.  You find the groove, the distances for your irons are right on, you mix in drivers with 3-metals with driving clubs off the tee, and the score stays low.  Somehow you find a way, somehow you encounter the calm to move the round through to the finish, then you stare at the score card with incredulity.  I had that round yesterday.

Here's the low-down:  12 greens in regulation.  31 putts.  One birdie.  Two bogies.  72 on a par 71 at Holiday Valley.  No goat track, this one.  6600 from the tips, up and down the ski hills, in between renovated bunkers, across smooth and icy-slick greens.

Before I find hubris, thinking that this round was one for the ages, check this:  four missed birdie putts inside twenty feet on the front, including one three-putt on number nine.  Six missed birdie attempts (two were putts from the fringe) on the back nine, where I had nine consecutive pars.  The true player finds a way to convert half of those, to complement the two twelve-feet, par-savers I drained, for a ho-hum, average tour round of 67.  That's the difference...when I get it going, I make fifteen pars.  When the pro gets it going, she or he makes one-unders.

Did it help that I was playing with a friend (in this case, The Scrambler), the two groups let us play through?  That the third member of our crew (in this case, The Mouth That Roars) gave us the cold shoulder?  Absolutely.  All those elements conspire in your favor, just as they might easily conspire against you on another occasion.

I'll take it, again and again.  The sound of the driver, blasting 322 yards straight down new number eighteen...the feel of the five-iron, gliding to fifteen feet down number fifteen...the sensation of the wedge, sliding under the ball on number seven, over the stacked-sod bunker to six feet (missed the birdie putt, darn it.)  The next time, it might be 78 or 88, but I'm always hoping for 68.

August 2007--Summer to Fall Plans

I blogged every day last week for travelgolf.com on the USGA Women's Amateur and  PGA championships, so I'm a bit out of ideas for a new column.  Suddenly, it hits me...write in the present tense.  Nah, that's not it.  What hits me is, how to transition from summer golf into fall golf.  My season has gone like this...100 holes of golf in June; trip to Northern Michigan in July; week in Connecticut (that's an upcoming article) in August.  In between, a day at the Peek'N Peak Classic, articles for New York Golf, Buffalo Spree and Sports & Leisure.  What's left?  Lots of opportunities.  To begin, the Xerox Classic on the Nationwide Tour this week in Rochester, followed by the Turning Stone Championship in late September on the PGA Tour.  I'll play two fun events at Byrncliff, beginning next week at the Byrncliff Open, followed by the WNY Publinks 2-man scramble in September.  I figure that my partner, The Scrambler, and I are due.  We've played well in these things before, but it's time to start making some birdies! 

Starting my 8th or 9th year as an assistant high school boys coach means the onset of fall high school golf, the greatest time of year to be on the course.  Coaches, however, are rarely on the course with clubs.  They hold tryouts, make cuts, arrange practice and competition schedules and venues, pray for good weather, and conduct matches.  When I played for Amherst, we competed in a bizarre combination of match and medal play, making us wonder which rules (match or medal) were in effect.  Things are streamlined today, either all match or all medal.  One thing hasn't changed:  kids still don't hit provisional balls until they get to the OB stake, or until they determine that their ball is lost.  How hard is it to remember to declare a provisional, put it in play with a hybrid, then conduct a search for the original?  Ahh, youth.  It makes the game funny for them and maddening for us.

If you haven't had the chance, you might want to schedule a round at the five new public-access courses in WNY.  The old dame of the group, Arrowhead, has been around for four years.  Links at Ivy Ridge, for three.  Buffalo Tournament Club for two and Diamond Hawk for one year.  The new kid on the block, Harvest Hill, opened its doors last month.  As the leaves diversify their colors, as different odors waft across the fairways, as the dew seems to hang on just a bit longer, the golf is melancholy and spectacular.  Enjoy these last weeks of August, and cheer on the Bills on Sunday.  Make time for golf until the snow flies, and then some.  Golf...it's what's for pleasure.

August 2007--Publics versus Privates:  The best golf in western New York

The talk on Monday around the office used to go like this:  so-and-so invited me out to (you fill in the blank) this weekend.  What a course!  It was like playing from a carpet.  So many bunkers.  Greens were fast, like the hood of my car.  You don't get that ever at (fill in local municipal course.)  Fast forward to 2007, and

Public Courses Private Clubs
Harvest Hill Crag Burn
Links At Ivy Ridge Park Club
Diamond Hawk River Oaks
Arrowhead Wanakah
Glen Oak Niagara Falls

Verdict:  A Tie...barely.
Harvest Hill, like all new courses, needs a little growing time.  Crag Burn is an established course, built by a heralded architectural name at the height of his legacy, with a litany of great holes.  Is HH the public Crag Burn?  That and more.  Try our version of Bethpage.  With all the room in the world for an unsurpassed golf complex, the Michael Hurdzan design group skimped on nothing.  Links at Ivy Ridge is what Park Club might be with a little more length.  What was considered ample room for a lengthy course nearly a century ago just doesn't cut it today.  What Park does have that Ivy lacks, is a name design team (Colt and Allison) and a major championship (1934 PGA.)  Ivy Ridge extends farther from tee to green, incorporates water equally, and beats out Park on the putting surfaces and on the vistas.  In a bizarre move in the mid-1980s, Park's strategic plan suggested adding, rather than removing, numerous trees.  Glen Oak and River Oaks meet in a dead heat.  River Oaks has a better property, both have terrible finial holes, but Glen Oak has done the most upgrade ever of any local public course.  With the new eastern courses (Ivy, Arrow, BTC, Diamond) on the horizon in the late 1990s, Glen Oak drained ponds, created stone walls, and basically reinvented itself.  Arrowhead has the bad fortune to go up against the club that has followed the Glen Oak path and put conditioning and appearance first.  Wanakah is immaculate, enough said.  The only knock on the lakeside club is its length, an area where Arrowhead also comes up shy.  In the rubber match, Hurdzan Design's second area course nips Niagara Falls at the wire.  Diamond Hawk is comparable to Niagara Falls in that it does amazing thing in small spaces.  Have you ever before played a course nestled amid two industrial parks, an international airport, and a trailer park and not noticed any of these?  Niagara Falls extends over three principal pieces of property, but finally succumbs to Diamond Hawk's length, contemporary touches, and diversity.  In spite of the influence of three tested  (Tillinghast, Trent Jones Senior, Cornish and Silva) over time, impeccable conditioning, and the 2nd most important amateur tournament in the USA, The NFCC comes up just shy of The Hawk.
 

2.5 Public Courses Private Clubs 2.5
  Harvest Hill Crag Burn >
< Links At Ivy Ridge Park Club  
= Glen Oak River Oaks =
  Arrowhead Wanakah >
< Diamond Hawk Niagara Falls  
2.5 TIE TIE 2.5

Let's be honest:  Niagara Frontier, East Aurora, Orchard Park, and Brookfield blow the doors off the next four public courses in western New York.  The next tier of privates (Lancaster, Westwood, Gowanda, Lockport T & C) extends the domination even farther.  However, around 2010, when the Seneca course in Lewiston opens its door, and as Buffalo Tournament Club continues to grow in well, there will be seven top-notch public courses to challenge the best of the private clubs across the Niagara region.

August 2007--Hook A Kid On Golf in Hamburg

Statistics claim that golf participation is on the decline, that the Tiger Woods "burp" has now expired, that the Michelle Wie "burp" hit a big bump in the road, failing to drive little girls to golf the way Tiger drove little boys to golf.  The problem with participation in golf is, it's all about retention, not necessarily introduction.  Don't get me illogical...you cannot have the former without the later.  It's the hook that's necessary to increase the numbers, and it's not always easy for the beginner to find a place to fit in.

I grew up a long drive from the third tee at Grover Cleveland golf course.  In the late 70s, when I was sneaking over and under the fence, no one was golfing.  The rangers chased us off only when we really acted up, and sometimes, we really acted up.  I had a three-hole loop that I played relentlessly; it was my neighborhood rink, my park hoops court, my proving ground.  If there were any junior programs at Grover, I was unaware.  It was a city course back then, and only the country clubs had any real junior golf development.  Around 1994, thing began to change.  And change took place south of the city.

In 1994, Joe Wenzel started Hook A Kid On Golf the town of Hamburg.  Wenzel is a recreation specialist, manager of the town golf course and the director of the HAKOG program.  Since its inception, the program has grown from 11 participants to over 300.  Wenzel employs area high school golfers and other recreation aficionados as instructors, maintaining a low teacher-student ration.     

Six different levels of HAKOG are featured at Hamburg.  The program begins with Start Smart Golf, move to Tee-Level, then Green Level.  At the competitive stage, the Challenge Golf League culminates in a Traditions of Golf challenge team, which moves on to national competition.  In 2004 Wenzel's program was named the Don Springer Award recipient by the national organization, in recognition of its commitment to make a positive difference in the lives of today's youth through golf.  Hamburg also offers golf clinics for the physically and mentally disabled.

For more information on the program, visit the following links:
Town of Hamburg Recreation
Hook A Kid On Golf National Organization

July 2007--Porter Cup Gallery

The Porter Cup is halfway home, and the scores may be the lowest ever.  A tumultuous growing season left Niagara Falls Country Club without its characteristic rough, one of the primary defenses against super-low scores.  If you want to see birdies and eagles, head on up to Lewiston Friday and Saturday.  Admission is free, parking is a couple bucks to the Boy Scouts.  In the meantime, here is a photo gallery of action from day two.
 


WALKER CUP CAPTAIN BUDDY MARUCCI FIRES ON #12

BILLY HORSCHEL PULLS OUT A PAR PUTT ON #11

SOMETIMES NATURE INTERVENES IN THE GAME OF GOLF

KEVIN CHAPPELL RECOVERS FROM SAND ON #9

'06 USGA PUBLIC LINKS CHAMPION CASEY WATABU

PERENNIAL WALKER CUPPER TRIP KUEHNE

DUSTIN JOHNSON FIRES A HUGE DIVOT ON #17


GOLF WEEK WRITER RON BALICKI INTERVIEWS HARMON AND HORSCHEL


ARNAND "BANK" VONGVANIJ, BOUND FOR U.FLORIDA,  LETS FLY ON #10


NEVER UNDERESTIMATE THE IMPORTANCE ...


OF THE SHORT GAME!


EAGLE PUTTS DO FALL ON OCCASION AT NFCC

July, 2007--The Michigan Road

11th:  The end of the road as we knew it ... and we felt fine.  My one moment of lucidity was the scheduling of a par three course for our final round.  Our one regret?  That it encompassed only nine holes.  Rick Smith, in addition to coaching Phil Mickelson for a great while, can now lay claim to the two finest par three courses in the world (Threetops at Treetops and Sandstone Hollow at Turning Stone (Verona, NY).  The Fazio course at Treetops, our 18-hole morning round, is a masterpiece, part rustic links bunkers, part mountain hike, part nature trail.  Here are a pair of shots from each place.

Fazio Course at Treetops

              

A par four that rises uphill, my tee ball came straight down in the middle of the fairway ... in a divot.  The second shot rose an extra three clubs to an elevated green of frightening speed.

This par three comes down from the opening between the trees, over the pond, to an angular green.  A tremendous one-shot hole on the heels of the halfway house (tucked to the left, above the flagstick.)

Threetops at Treetops

                

How about a 140 feet drop from tee to green?  Take two clubs off and let 'er fly.  Watch your six iron back up, then take on the putt.  If you have to cross from one side to the other, it's guaranteed that your flat stick will work overtime

Augusta of the north?  A little 9-iron over the water and sand, with the threat of a big gust from the right.  Just like being in Georgia in the Spring.  If your knees don't knock, your palms don't sweat, your heart doesn't flutter, you're just not right.

And that's the way it went.  It seemed that it was over before it began, but the truth is, the golf courses of Michigan are beyond anticipation.  You'll do yourself a favor if you look into a junket of your own in 2007 or 2008.

 

10th:  This is where things get confusing.  We actually played Bay Harbor on the 9th, and the two Boyne Highlands courses (Heather and Hills) on the 10th, or was it the 10th and the 11th?  In any case, here is what I have from those courses, just a taste until I get each shoot uploaded later this month.

Bay Harbor
Links Course

              

Is it Bay Harbor or Pebble Beach?  Bearing an uncanny resemblance to the sixth at Pebble, this par five tiptoes along the bluff ...

... then rises to a promontory green location.  Two solid metals and a deft pitch (lots of humility here) got me a second birdie on the day.


This is a downhill, par three heading straight toward the Bay Harbor community.  The green is a redan-type, in that shots from the side (right) will filter down to the left.  I hit my tee ball three feet from the hole, and tapped in for a birdie.

Bay Harbor
Quarry Course

              

Neither of these shots shows a hole; each encompasses a whole.  Built over a retired shale quarry, it should go on forever, but is sadly restricted to nine holes.

Although visually defiant, the Quarry nine is extremely playable.  Straight rather than far is the watchword for shots.

Boyne Highlands
Robert Trent Jones, Sr. Course

              

A typical Trent, Sr. course, with greens protected by multiple hazards.  The natural ones far outdo the created ones.  Trent was never one for creative bunkering, but he did utilize water extensively.

We argued over this closing hole endlessly.  Your best drive leaves you a 175+ yard shot into a green over Lake Trent, with swirling winds and bunkers behind.  I say it's unfair to demand so much.  That ribbon of fairway to the left is your sanctuary.  I defied Trent by hitting a perfect drive, then three perfect seven-iron chips along the runway, for a double bogey.

Boyne Highlands
Arthur Hills Course

              

This left-right hole moves nearly 600 yards down from a perch to a nasty fairway.  Aim far enough right, or you'll bound down the hill left (still in the fairway) and be left with a tough uphill/sidehill second.  The fairway coasts downward from the landing area to the green.  It is an unforgettable hole.

Easily the most innovative hole on the course, the 17th plays both ways across this pond.  The trees in the center delineate the two fairways.  If the tees are left, go left ... if right, then right.  We played from the right side.  The green is protected but accessible, and demands excellence in return for a par.

9th:  The vagaries of the internet require that I combine two courses from separate days into one entry ... and that's ... Okay.  Shanty Creek is a tremendous resort in Bellaire, Michigan, divided into three different villages:  Schuss, Cedar, and Summit.  The resort boasts four golf courses, two of which truly caught my attention:  Cedar River is a Tom Weiskopf design, while The Legend is a product of Arnold Palmer.  Both courses incorporate mountainous terrain, weaving their fairways up and down declivities, over creeks, and around wetlands and drylands.  The greens on the Palmer course have a greater severity than those of the Weiskopf course.  The angles of fairway movement on the Weiskopf course are less, while, angular than those on the Palmer layout.  That is, Arnold decided to add 90 degree turns to many holes, while Weiskopf opted for the more forgiving 75 degree and below movements.  In other words, you won't play the same course twice.  Below are a number of pictures from each track that tell the story better than words ever could.

Cedar River Images

              
The Cape Hole at Cedar River:  Number 5                            A downhill pitch:  Number 14 at Cedar River

              

The approach to 18:  A terrific end to                                   The left approach on the dual-fairway 13th
an unforgettable round                                                                                                 

The Legend Images

              

The uphill (and dangerous) tee ball                                The downhill tee ball to Legend number 15
on Legend number 2                                                                                           

              

  The terrifying tee shot on Legend number 6                            The final approach to the par five 7th           
                                                                                   at The Legend

Shanty Creek proved that it belongs in the same paragraph as traditional favorites Boyne Highlands and Treetops.  Given the potential for partnership in the "Chain of Lakes" region, Shanty Creek just might be at the epic

8th:  The character of a golf course comes through in the worst weather.  Our day at Crystal Mountain's Mountain Ridge course consisted of some 16 holes of rain, two holes of dryness, and 18 holes of excitement.


The onset of rain brought the wild beasts to the fairways.  They are certainly a calm gallery, applauding only for a truly great shot.  They are also very regal, and do not have to sound British to come off as such.


One of the few forced carries at Crystal Mountain's Mountain Ridge course.  In spite of its 7000 yards of length, the course is extremely manageable, and can often be played with a putter from tee to green.


Northern Michigan is home to sand dunes and sandy soil, making the creation of natural bunkers a ... well, natural thing.  It's hard to avoid the beach at Mountain Ridge.


As one might imagine, the tree lines abound in the hills of northern Michigan.  More often, though, it is the isolated trunks that occupy our thoughts and change our strategies.


Most importantly, the natural blend of water, sand, fairways, trees, and tees made the experience at Crystal Mountain a pleasure-filled one.

8th:  Here are a few pictures from Arcadia Bluffs, with some commentary.

Number 14:  The height of the trickery.  You cannot carry the mounds on the left, so fade away from them, or draw in from the right.  The green has an enormous punch-bowl effect, bringing everything down from the upper right.  Do not aim at any flag, ever.  Just hit to the right side of the green and watch it pour down to the center (writer's note:  I aimed left, and suffered the consequences.)

The end of number 11 (beginning is below.)  Front right bunker ate me up, but the view of Lake Michigan made up for it.

What you cannot see on this hole is the immense drop-off to the right side of the fairway.  The hole extends 600 yards from T to G, so you need to cover a fair amount of ground with each shot.  I drove right, chunked a 3-metal to 210 out, then just missed a 3-iron into the front right bunker.  Sand shot barely failed to carry to top tier, then three-whacked for a double.

In spite of the visual spectacle, the bunkering does not come into play if you consider three factors:  the wind, the camber of the fairway, and your follow-through.  The wind was pushing balls northward all day long, the fairways play like typical linksland, so you need to anticipate the carom and aim away from where you want the ball to end up.  The follow-through?  Low and left works well everywhere.

The home hole, the 18th green.  See all the undulations?  The greens roll just as much as the fairways.  Although there at least a dozen pin positions on each putting surface, some are nearly inaccessible from others.  In other words, you can't get there from here, no matter how gentle your touch.  With an eagle putt on number 15, I putted off the front of the green, and picked up in disgust.  I three-putted a dozen holes, and four-whacked the ninth after hitting 7-iron from 200 yards to twenty feet.  Not my day with the flat stick.

 

7th:  Here are three quick shots of Tullymore, with a wee bit on each one.

This is a 260-yard par three (number 12) that plays uphill to a green protected by two deep bunkers...over wetlands.  You'll face this type of carry on a series of holes at Tullymore, so bring your straightest, longest driver to the club drop.

The bunkering at Tullymore presents framing mounds that descend like teeth into the sandy bottom of the bunker.  Repetition calls to mind the bunker styles of architects of the early 20th century.

The typical par five at Tullymore.  Trees, water, sand and diabolical fairways and greens (oh yes, wetlands too) ensure that you will think your way from tee to green, or you will suffer.

June 2007--Preview To The Michigan Road Part Three

Over the course of a week in July of 2007, Mo' Golf, Travelin' Duff, and guest photographer Satchmo Slim will take a trip to northern Michigan.  The quest?  To play, review and shoot the great golf courses of the Wolverine state.  During those seven days, the trio will play a total of nine regulation golf courses and one par three.   I’ll be setting the stage for the journey by previewing a pair of courses at a time, to let you know what’s in store as we make our way west.

Wednesday
Heather Course at Boyne Highlands

Architect:      Robert Trent Jones
Location:      Harbor Springs
, MI
Opened:       1970
Website:       http://www.boyne.com/Golf/Eight_Courses/Boyne_Highlands/Heather_Course.html

Years after RTJ the First earned the reputation of monster designer, his approach to courses thankfully softened.  All carry and no bounce was abandoned for a more ecumenical approach to construction.  Boyne's Heather Course is a perfect representative of that later era.  Although green speeds and rough are kept high, the course is playable for all levels.  I am especially challenged by RTJ courses, and am looking forward to finally playing one that I can handle!  Will this be the one?

Hills Course at Boyne Highlands

Architect:      Arthur Hills
Location:      Harbor Springs
, MI
Opened:       2000
Website:       http://www.boyne.com/Golf/Eight_Courses/Boyne_Highlands/Arthur_Hills_Course.html

 For PGA Tour afficionados, the most recent evidence of Arthur Hills on tour was the Mirasol Club in Florida, host for the Honda Classic in 2003.  Everything about a Hills design is big...from sand traps and tee decks to green surfaces, fairways and hazards.  Given the landscape of northern Michigan, this one should blow our minds.

Tuesday
Cedar River Golf Club at Shanty Creek

Architect:      Tom Weiskopf
Location:      Bellaire
, MI
Opened:       1999
Website:      
http://www.shantycreek.com/villages/cedar/golf.html

Cedar River completed the triumvirate of courses at Shanty Creek.  It was Tom Weiskopf's first Michigan build, to be followed by others, including the highly-acclaimed Forest Dunes.  The course methodically navigates the pinelands and cautiously parallels the Cedar river.  Weiskopf the professional golfer has found a way to build courses that his former arch-rival, Jack Nicklaus, never did.  Given his rather volatile golfing temperament, this comes as a surprise, but a pleasant one.  In the annals of golfing architecture of the 22nd century, Weiskopf will be more highly rated than Nicklaus, thanks to courses like Cedar River.

 Tuesday
Bay Harbor Golf Club

Architect:      Arthur Hills
Location:      Bay Harbor
, MI
Opened:       1998
Website:       http://www.bayharborgolf.com/golf/

Arthur Hills never played the game at a high level, as Pete Dye, Arnold Palmer, and Jack Nicklaus did.  Up in Michigan, he is revered as something of a cult figure.  His designs wind their way throughout the northern state region, along lake shores, through mountain passes, over eponymous hills.  Bay Harbor is a 27-hole complex, with The Links, The Quarry, and The Preserve presenting three unique 9-hole tests of golf.  Even though we'll play this one on the heels of Cedar River at Shanty Creek, I may shoot for 45 that day, as I cannot imagine passing one of them up.

 

June 2007--Preview To The Michigan Road Part Two

Over the course of a week in July of 2007, Mo' Golf, Travelin' Duff, and guest photographer Satchmo Slim will take a trip to northern Michigan.  The quest?  To play, review and shoot the great golf courses of the Wolverine state.  During those seven days, the trio will play a total of nine regulation golf courses and one par three.   I’ll be setting the stage for the journey by previewing a pair of courses at a time, to let you know what’s in store as we make our way west.

Monday
Mountain Ridge Golf Club at Crystal Mountain

Architect:      Bill Newcomb
Location:     
Thompsonville, MI
Opened:       1998
Website:       http://www.crystalmountain.com/crystal/golf/index.cfm?fuseaction=mountainridge

Crystal Mountain, like many ski resorts throughout the northern environs of the USA, made the decision to add golf as a way of creating off-season income.  The course climbs some 200 feet from the first tee to its highest point, traversing highlands in the classic Scottish style.  Six ponds dot the course, built over a span of numerous years.  Not a course for fanfare nor bright lights, Mountain Ridge nevertheless flexes its muscles to the tune of 7000 yards from the tips.  After Arcadia Bluffs along the coast, the change to a mountain course will be tremendous.

 Monday
Legend Golf Course at Shanty Creek

Architect:      Arnold Palmer
Location:      Bellaire
, MI
Opened:       1984
Website:      
http://www.shantycreek.com/villages/summit/golf.html

Often, Arnold Palmer courses are criticized for the lack of attention to detail.  The Legend Course at Shanty Creek does not fall into that trap.  Like many resorts, Shanty began with a viable course designed by a little-known architect.  After reaching a saturation point, the business decided to expand, brought in Palmer, and later added a Weiskopf course.  The Legend tops out at 6764 yards, but it is Palmer's guile that creates the challenge.  A course short on yardage but long on strategy is the perfect way to end day three.

 

June 2007--Preview To The Michigan Road Part One

Over the course of a week in July of 2007, Mo' Golf, Travelin' Duff, and guest photographer Satchmo Slim will take a trip to northern Michigan.  The quest?  To play, review and shoot the great golf courses of the Wolverine state.  During those seven days, the trio will play a total of nine regulation golf courses and one par three.   I’ll be setting the stage for the journey by previewing a pair of courses at a time, to let you know what’s in store as we make our way west.

Saturday
Tullymore Golf Club

Architect:      Jim Engh
Location:      Stanwood
, MI
Opened:       2002
Website:       www.stivesgolf.com/?page=10718

Tullymore winds its way through wetlands and forested lands in a serpentine fashion unseen elsewhere.  I know this not from personal experience, but through the eyes of the many reviewers who have trod its fairways before me.  When a golf course makes every conceivable public-access list in its first five years of existence, including one list that includes private clubs, it is something special.  Colorado’s Jim Engh designs very few courses, but the ones he produces invariably result in plaudits and more importantly, a special experience.  Engh is one of a new generation of architects that designs for all tiers of golfers, not merely the elite echelon that plays at scratch or better.  I cannot envision a better jumping-off point than Tullymore.

 Sunday
Arcadia Bluffs

Architect:      Warren Henderson & Rick Smith
Location:      Arcadia
, MI
Opened:       1999
Website:       www.arcadiabluffs.com

One of my favorite novels, describing snow in Buffalo, indicates that it begins as a rumor.  The whispers about Arcadia Bluffs began in 1999, when the course opened.  Coincidentally, Bandon Dunes in Oregon commenced play the same year, so it could be said that Bandon and Arcadia cemented the trend of Whistling Straits (1998) of great linksland courses in the USA.  Having played the three Bandon courses and Whistling Straits, there is one feature of Arcadia Bluffs that allows me to anticipate it with greater urgency than the others.  The golf course drops, nay, plummets some 225 feet from clubhouse to lakeside, giving the sensation of a roller-coaster ride along a golf course.  Like Tullymore, Arcadia Bluffs has been granted admission to the finest golf courses in America, currently ranked as high as #10 on a national public-access course list.

 

 

June 2007--100 Holes in one day...Chip In For Carly's Club

I joked with some friends that the 100 Holes was the middle leg in my charity triathlon for Spring 2007.  It started two weeks ago with the Corporate Challenge, where I cruised 3.5 miles in something under one hour.  This Saturday, the little'uns and I will ride in the Ride For Roswell. 


Mo' Golf, Taking His Cuts!

The 100 Holes was the biggest anticipated challenge, sort of the US Open of the three events.  It proved to be every bit a scorching Sunday at Oakmont, other than the fact that it was played on a Monday.  Below are the raw numbers.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 OUT 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 IN TOTAL
4 4 3 5 5 4 3 4 4 36 4 3 5 5 4 4 5 3 4 36 72
5 4 5 5 6 5 3 6 6 45 5 4 5 5 4 5 5 3 5 41 86
4 5 5 6 6 4 3 6 4 43 5 4 5 5 5 4 5 4 5 41 84
4 4 3 5 5 4 3 5 4 37 4 5 5 5 4 6 5 3 6 43 80
5 5 5 5 7 4 3 4 4 42 4 3 6 4 4 4 5 4 5 39 81
4 5 4 5 5 5 4 5 5 41 4 4 4 6 4 5 6 4 5 42 83
                4   4 4 6 4 5 4 5 5 5 46 46
22 23 22 26 29 22 16 26 27 208 26 24 30 29 26 28 31 23 31 252 460
4.4 4.6 4.4 5.2 5.8 4.4 3.2 5.2 4.5 4.62 4.33 4 5 4.83 4.33 4.66 5.16 3.83 5.16 4.66 4.6

Thanks go out to my driver, the Travelin' Duff, Mr. John Daken, to Chris Podozak, Channel 7 photographer, for giving us some air time, to the fellow participants, who kept us buoyed and focused, and to Don Arthur, for his hyper-motivation through all 100 holes.


Mo' and the most dangerous
putter around, Mr. Don Arthur!!

I learned that certain holes do not set up well for me, no matter how many times I play them.  I learned that on other holes, the "look" of the hole fits my eye, and no matter the danger, there is no doubt that I will succeed.  I came to understand that the new technology allows me to launch a 3-metal over 250 yards, a ridiculous distance.  I also learned that new technology does not prevent me from missing 25 or so three-feet putts!  I learned that I cannot wait for next year, so start saving your pennies.

    
Chad Kulpa                                                     Mo' and Chad

             Cancer Survivor and Killer Fundraiser
 

June 2007--The Story of Trees

Everyone, it seems, has heard of the tree-removal program at Oakmont.  In an age of blessed tree-hugging, when we recognize the importance of lungpower that trees represent for our earth, it seems blasphemous to recommend the removal of oxygen-giving plant life for our own selfish, golfing needs.

In western New York, mother nature took care of our own wishy-washy, guilty feelings, last Fall.  The October Onslaught, Storm, whatever you feel the need to call it, clobbered the tree population in our region.  Not all trees went down, but a fair number were done in.  Taking a tour of area golf courses this Spring, I recognized the absence of a number of former obstacles.  Diamond Hawk lost an enormous tree on the corner of the 12th hole, the short par four that tempts you to go for the green.  The Country Club of Buffalo is rumored to have removed the remains of hundreds of trees from its Youngs Road terrain.

Guess what?  Great holes live on.  As Oakmont has proven, and will prove this week, trees are great, but they have a tendency to overshadow (like that pun?) the course itself.  A great golf course will be defined by the trace of the fairways, the sighting of tees and greens, and the cooperation with hazards.  Don't forget the placement of bunkers.  Number nine at CCB is a prime example.  Sure, the trees might be thinned on the corner of the dogleg, but you still have to carry the bunker, you still have OB left, and the green is still narrow, running away from you, bunkered right.

Fact is, if your course is solely dependent on trees, then you might look to redesign or perhaps consider another course.  Watch the US Open this week at Oakmont, and you'll see what I mean.  A fast-running, windswept golf course has replaced the alleyways that hosted the Open in 1983 and 1994.  You'll like the look, even if you feel like looking for something else to put on.  We're born naked and we die naked.  That's the best way to find a golf course, too.

 

May 2007:  Rise of the Amateurs

If you've seen my articles around town, you know that tournament season is upon us here in the Niagara region.  The Corning Classic runs the week of May 24-27 on the LPGA Tour, with the Wegmans Classic soon to follow in June.  On the Nationwide Tour, the Peek'n Peak Classic takes place in Findley Lake in late June, with the Xerox Classic in Rochester scheduled for mid-August.  The Dick's Sporting Goods Open is poised to debut on the Champions Tour in Endicott this Summer, with the Turning Stone Resort championship on the PGA Tour playing the week of September20-23 in Verona.

I've traditionally written that the future look of the game can be seen today at the International Junior Masters in East Aurora in June, then later at the Porter Cup in Lewiston in July.  Both are highly-rated and revered amateur championships, and tend to showcase the best the non-professional game has to offer.  Of late, some of these amateurs have been making more than a splash on the pro tours...they've been walking away with the hardware, if not the cash.

In a display of irony, Spaniard Pablo Martin, the 2005 Porter Cup titleist, ignored the challenge of Raphael Jacquelin to triumph on the European Tour on April 1st.  No fool he, Martin survived the Frenchman's flurry of two birdies in the final three holes to emerge victorious by one slim stroke.  By capturing the Estoril Open de Portugal, Martin became the first amateur to win an event on the European Tour's International Schedule.  That's fine...collegian Scott Verplank defeated Jim Thorpe in a playoff in 1985 on the PGA Tour, then Phil Mickelson won while still an amateur at Scottsdale in 1991.  A six-year gap followed by the current 16 year hiatus and hey!  Tiger Woods never won as an amateur.

Lightning struck again this weekend at the Tojigaoka Marine Hills Golf Club in Japan, when Ryo Ishikawa turned in a seven-birdie, one-bogey performance in the final round to claim the Munsingwear Open KSB Cup by one slim slash over Katsumasa Miyamoto.  A 17th-hole birdie provided the margin of victory for the young amateur.

We've seen precocious young women dominate the international gymnastics and tennis circuits for years.  On the LPGA tour, Michelle Wie has made a splash as a teenager in recent seasons, while Morgan Pressel and Paula Creamer have both won before the age of 20.  Is it time on the men's circuits for youth to prevail?  Who knows.  What is known is that the advances in equipment technology combine better than ever with the go-for-broke mentality and ability of the young, powerful golfer.  With tournament sponsors granting more and more exemptions to the young, it seems that the odds for victory by an amateur on the PGA Tour are improving. 

One tour that doesn't see this trend is the Champions Tour, where the old guys duke it out each week.  There are few career amateurs who ponder a switch to professional golf (Jay Sigel and John Harris being the exceptions.)  At that stage in life, they have made their money, and continue to enjoy competitive golf among their circle of champion, amateur golfer friends.  So, look to the young for surprises; they may be coming this week!

April 2007:  Masters Review

It was one of those events that festered in my very soul for three days.  Golfers making obscene numbers,
red figures as scarce as in McCarthy's finest hour, more golfers in the 80s than the 60s...It just didn't seem
like Augusta National.  The weather certainly provided much of the drama during the first 72 hours, freezing
out fans and competitors to the point that it simply wasn't much fun.  As I reached the hour of submission,
preparing to swear off the yardage additions to the course, mourning the loss of double-digit, under-par
returns by the champion, the final nine at Augusta again showed why it is the most thrilling half-round in
the game.

Where was it written that both Rory Sabatini and Retief Goosen would post 69s, get to +3, all for naught but a
second-place tie?  What business did Zach Johnson have making six birdies over 18 holes on Sunday, including three
in four holes from 13-16?  On whose authority could Justin Rose have the temerity to post six birdies, only to drive
a stake through our hearts with three double bogies, including a critical one on 17 as the twilight beckoned? 
And Tiger, oh Tiger, that eagle on 13 should not have been followed by five consecutive pars on holes 14-18,
especially when you needed birdies.  History will show that Stuart Appleby lost the Masters with a five-stroke slide
over a 3-hole stretch.  The end began with his triple-bogey seven Saturday on 17, and ended with his double-bogey
start on Sunday.  The shell-shocked Appleby did well to play +1 golf over the final 17 holes of the tourney.

Over the course of four years, Zach Johnson has gone from Nationwide Tour money leader to PGA Tour major
champion.  He has shown a mettle for pressure situations, and just might follow up his 2007 Masters victory
with another major or two in the coming years.  And maybe, just maybe, he will lead a new generation of
American golfers into international team play, making the Ryder and Presidents Cups more than a nice
diversion.  Writers everywhere have anointed Furyk, Howell III, O'Hair, Mickelson, and Riley as fellow knights at
Tiger's team round table, all without much legitimate follow-up when things got tough.  Let's pray that Johnson
brings us reason to not just hope, but to celebrate.

 

March 2007:  Byrncliff Press Release

For Immediate Release, March 13, 2007 

Released by: Byrncliff Resort & Conference Center

                        2357 Humphrey Rd.,  Varysburg, NY 14167

Contact: Lindsay Meidenbauer

585.535.7300 * lindsay@byrncliff.com

“Announcing: Byrncliff Celebrates 40 Years in Business!”

Byrncliff Resort & Conference Center in Varysburg is pleased to announce its 40th anniversary celebration in 2007.

Since its opening in 1967, Byrncliff has transformed into a popular, year-round resort destination.  Originally established as an 18-hole semi-private country club, Byrncliff opened its doors completely to the public in 1984. 

Over the last 40 years, Byrncliff has continually made improvements and renovations including the construction of 25 motel rooms, the expansion of the conference and dining areas, continued upgrading of the golf course, and the extensive addition of lighted cross country ski trails.

“Here at Byrncliff, people are our top priority.  We put all our efforts and resources into constantly improving the resort for our guests, giving back to the community, and making this an enjoyable place to work.” says Scott Meidenbauer, Owner

Byrncliff commits to being a leader in golf, cross country skiing, dining, entertainment, banquets, lodging, and business needs.  It is a sought out destination for guests and travelers from Western New York, neighboring states, and Canada.   

The summer of 2007 will bring special events to celebrate Byrncliff’s 40th birthday.  Look for news of a 40th Anniversary Bash, “The Byrncliff Open” Golf Tournment, and exclusive deals on www.byrncliff.com.

 

February 2007:  What to expect from our booth

I won't bore you with a long and drawn-out missive on every aspect of every element of our booth at
the Buffalo-Niagara Golf Show this weekend at the Buffalo-Niagara Convention Center.  Instead, in
bullet form, I will present the reasons why you should stop by booth #319 on Saturday, Sunday, or both.
*Paid raffle to benefit Roswell Park-Carly's Club*
Items to be raffled...Two sets of Nike fairway metals, Ogio Golf Bag, Izzo Hybrid and more.
*Free raffle for all visitors*
Items to be raffled...training equipment, Bite golf shoes, BuffaloGolfer.Com shirts and more.
*Revisit the last three seasons of the Best Golf In Western New York from Channel 7*
Our own Mo' Golf, Ronald Montesano, hit all the shots on the popular Channel 7 series, and will
be available to answer questions about the series. 
*Meet The Scrambler and The Mouth That Roars*
In addition to Mo' Golf, you can meet two more of the BuffaloGolfer.Com writers on both days of the show.
*Give us input on how to make BG.C a better site*
BuffaloGolfer.Com is your site, too!  Give us feedback on what works, what's broken, and what's missing.
*Pick up your copy of BuffaloGolfer.Com's commemorative magazine*
If you remember the original Buff-Golf, it was an 8.5 x 11 fold-over.  Even though we are a strong web presence,
we remember our roots.  Stop by and pick up a keep-sake, a copy of a commemorative issue of BuffaloGolfer.Com.
*Pick up a grab bag*
In addition to the magazine, each grab bag might contain BuffaloGolfer.Com tees, golf balls, a golf-related gift, or 
passes for free golf in 2007 to Arrowhead, Links at Ivy Ridge, or Elkdale.
There you have it, your lucky seven reason to visit the BuffaloGolfer.Com booth at the Buffalo Golf Show.  
Stop by #319 and say hello.  We'll be glad to meet you.
January 2007:  New Year Resolutions
I'm the guy who looks at the semantics of everything, and I've decided to not make "New Year" the owner of resolutions
by leaving off the apostrophe "s" ... exciting opening sentence, huh?  Well, there's more to this article than the typical
promises, mandates and dreams.  My resolutions are sound ones, and I'll keep you up to date on how they progress.
Let's start off with the BuffaloGolfer.Com bulletin board.  Not a lot of activity these first two months.  My resolution is to
make it a place that area golfers want to post.  What we've done this week is eliminate the necessity of an email address.
All you have to do to post is invent a pseudonym (like Senor Golfo or La Boca...two used choices) and post a new topic,
or add to a current thread.  Now that you can retain your anonymity, start posting!
Next, I want to add video to the site.  I have a camera, I know how to digitize and edit, and I now have a place to store
the files (boy, can they get heavy!)  As always, you can let us know what type of video we should put on the site.  We're
going to start with some fairly-tame topics, like visits to area golf courses and off-course spots.  We'll give you links, but
to let us know what you'd like to see (within bounds of course), send an email to buffalogolfer@buffalogolfer.com..
 A third resolution is to add to the perspectives on the site.  We are in discussions with area high school coaches and regional
teaching professionals.  BuffaloGolfer.Com would love nothing more than to present the top area high school players, as seen
through the eyes of their coaches, along with tips that these mentors have used throughout the years.  In a parallel vein,
insight from the region's teaching professionals will provide additional reasons for visiting the site, for staking a claim
toward improving your game, and for undertaking a series of lessons in 2007.
One final resolution as the calendar page turns is to enhance our profiles of all the area golfing joints.  Domes, indoor
spots, off-course shops, public and private courses...all will get the royal treatment as the area's golf-work-in-progress 
begins its eighth year of web-sistence in WNY and the world.
Happy New Year!
Mo'
January 2007:  Indoor Golf Beyond The Dome
Every then and then a fine, upstanding company or PR firm sends BuffaloGolfer.Com a media kit.  For those of you 
unfamiliar with the term, a media kit is basically a collection of directed or targeted materials with the purpose of explaining
the product to the media outlet.  Media kits can range from t-shirts and golf balls to copies of prior articles and DVDs.
The one that we received in mid-December from AboutGolf.Com included a stack of reprints from BusinessWeek, GolfWeb,
Golf News, Golf Business, Celebrated Living, and a bunch of regional and airline magazines.  The common thread was
the product:  the golf simulator amalgamation from AboutGolf.Com.  The simulator consists of a number of components,
which I will attempt to list here with eerie recollection:  booth, target screen, calibrated mat, projector.  Individually, all of 
these would be eye candy at best, serving a purpose of shock and awe; in unison, they combine to form a product which just 
might revolutionize participation in golf during bad-weather months.  For avid golfers in places like western New York, 
this music strikes the right sequence of notes.
I remember a few experiences over the years with indoor golf simulation.  During the formative year of Buff-Golf (our
previous incarnation), I headed north with Travelin' Duff to the Eagle Crest range in Lockport.  Don Snyder was running
the show then, and he had us play a nine-hole round on a simulator.  The idea seemed to fit, the graphics were decent,
but the essential numbers available today (such as ball and club speed, face angle, true yardages) were unavailable.
We left thinking that we'd be back, and that the idea would take off.  We never returned, and the idea didn't.  Looking back, 
there really was no motivation to stick around Eagle Crest other than the golf, and the location (halfway between Lockport 
and Williamsville on South Transit) was iffy at best.
A few years later, I participated in a series of exploratory lessons at the Adelphia Golf Dome in Hyde Park, Niagara Falls, USA, 
under the tutelage of Nick Montanaro and John Kajfasz.  Both men, accomplished playing and teaching professionals, were 
working with a system called Nearly Perfect Golf.  The machinery utilized 3-D glasses and a funny orange ball to track the 
movements of the golf swing.  There was no screen for visual feedback, and the notion quickly escaped me as a viable means of 
improvement...but that's me.  Earlier this fall, I headed to Bill Lindner's Golf Service in Tonawanda, where he let me test-drive the 
P3Pro computer tracking device.  The calibrated mat and computer interface allowed me hit balls into a net and see the results on 
the computer screen.  For the first time, I was able to determine club path, face path and angle leading up to and at impact, 
|and the, well, impact
that these positions would have on the ensuing ball flight.  I was astonished to see how inside-out I was, since I have been an 
outside-in player for most of my career.  That I was hooking my eight-iron ten yards, was enough to commence a swing change.
A day later (I kid you not!), I was on a tee with an eight in my hand.  The cathedral spires left and right denied the slightest 
possibility of the over-cooked fade or draw.  Trusting what I had worked on with Bill, I slapped that eight-iron dead over the flag,
finishing with a twelve-feet, downhill birdie putt.  Was I convinced?  You bet.
Did you ever take a chance on an email that you just knew was spam?  I did, it wasn't, and I'm grateful.  Tony Tatro, the head
professional at The Frog Hair, contacted me in late October, just after the storm, regarding his new venture.  As the front man for
an ambitious project on Transit Road in Williamsville, he wanted to know if BuffaloGolfer.Com was interested in learning more
about the business.  One article later, the answer was clearly 'yes.'  Contact with Tony led to more discussions with mblacy.com, 
the PR firm for AboutGolf.Com, and then did the media kit arrive.  Now we're all up to speed!
Here's the skinny on the simulator...you can be fit for clubs, you can receive professional teaching, you can practice and analyze 
shot patterns, you can track data and record video for future playback, and you can play against golfers from around the world
via online hookup.  Oh, did we mention you can play at least twenty, world-class courses in real-time 3D, including Pebble Beach,
Spyglass Hill, and the best course in the Caribbean, the Teeth Of The Dog course at Casa de Campo?  Yup, that's available, too.
There's even a fictional course called The Infamous 18, based on the paintings of Loyal Chapman, for the adventurer in you.
If you don't know Chapman's name, search "Infamous 18" on the web, and you'll recognize his work.  Here's
one for you, in case you're lazy:

The courses may be played in bits and pieces, or all at once.  As soon as you figure out the choreography of hitting shots 
and pulling clubs, you'll be  playing 18 holes in 2.5 hours.  After all, there's no walking between shots.
If you've been to a Golf Galaxy store, then you know the AboutGolf simulator already.  They're stationed in the rear of the store,
where everyone is taking cuts with test clubs.  You also know how zealously they guard their time, limiting most people to ten
swings.  Now imagine that you have all the time in the world to play...but where?  That's where The Frog Hair comes in.  Located
on one of the busiest stretches of road in western New York, The Frog Hair is visible, as well as centrally located,for access from 
all points in the area.  With eight simulators, bag lines will cease to exist.  And on blustery days in January and February, as well as
wet ones in March and April, you'll be able to tee it up or hit some balls for practice.

 Which one is the real 5th hole, and which is the simulation?  Find out in early January, when The Frog Hair opens for biz!
 

Visit The 19th Hole, the best site on the web,
to find out what's new and what's best in golf equipment.
Current Focus:
Fairway metals, Hybrids and Long Irons!
December 2006 Part Three:  Holiday Thanks and Year-End Ruminations
We all have our own personal and private lists of things and people to be thankful for as the year draws to a close.  We even 
organize important celebrations at this time of year, in our businesses and our places of worship, to commemorate our need
to give thanks.  I'm going to dedicate this space to a list of things and people associated with this website, in order to keep it
relevant.  Some of it may be obvious, while some may be brand-spanking new.  In either case, we'll revisit the events and 
notions that keep me gracious and grateful.
To begin, I need to thank three people.  I'm going to start with the young guy, because his performance has been the most
unexpected.  Chris Whitcomb, the Mouth That Roars, has officially graduated from college.  That means he'll be entering the 
work world, and may not have as much time to write columns for this site.  About two years ago, he answered a call to submit
material to replace the former Mouth That Roars.  Chris got the job, and has never looked back.  His two stints as a swamper at
PGA Championships gave him all kinds of insight into the setup and breakdown of a major golf championship, and he rewarded
us with ample column space detailing those experiences.  Chris is also the guy who came up with the idea for the bulletin board.
The bulletin board allows all viewers to post thoughts and ideas on area golf news, and establish an online forum.  To the most 
consistent writer on the BuffaloGolfer.Com staff, and perhaps the most creative and forward-thinking, a heartfelt thank you to
Chris!  The other two guys can best be described as a motley duo.  Kevin Lynch (The Scrambler) and John Daken (Travelin' Duff)
are two established men of the workplace.  Kevin crunches numbers and John is on his second tour of duty in the world of 
education.  Kevin believes that an article isn't an article until it can be measured in meters.  As such, his musings usually last for
days...they may take a while to read, but they are worth the effort.  Kevin attacks a topic relentlessly, probing it with the eye of an
investigator, until he has taken you along for the journey, step by grueling step.  John is an absolutely undependable writer who
always turns up with an article when it is least expected and most needed.  John is the guy you join up with who notices you, and
for the next four and a half hours, becomes a friend and confidant.  You may never see him again, but you remember your round
of golf with him, and you want to return to the course for another round with strangers, as he made yours such a memorable one.
So gentlemen, thank you for your dedication to the site.  Without your unique takes on golf, viewers would have to read four
articles per month from me, attempting to adopt various guises.
I next have to thank the vagaries of life in this are.  When else can you play a round of golf at Byrncliff in the morning, 
then head off to the stadium to view a Bills game in the afternoon?  Try mid-December in western New York.  Where else can you
find such a spate of course openings that you seemingly have a new, high-end course to add to the list each year?  WNY.  We all
remember the blast of Canadian courses of the 1990s (Pen Lakes, Legends, Hunters Pointe, Royal Niagara, Rockway Glen).  WNY
accepted the challenge, and has opened up a fair share in recent memory (Arrowhead, Buffalo Tournament Club, Links at Ivy
Ridge, Diamond Hawk.)  Canada gave us two more recently in Grand Niagara and Thundering Waters, and the list is not yet
exhausted.  By my count, two more US courses and one more CA course will open to the public in the next three years, giving us
a total of 16 courses since 1990.  That may have been a drop in the bucket for Myrtle Beach, but for the Niagara region, it's huge.
The First Tee of Western New York, located in Orchard Park, will open the Harvest Hill course next July.  In 2008, the Seneca
Nation should debut its Lewiston course, adjacent to Joseph Davis Park. In 2009, the Niagara River Golf Club in Fort Erie will open
its putting greens to the public.  Wait, I forgot Peek'n Peak's upper course (17!) and the Holiday Valley re-design (18!)  We truly
are a lucky bunch.  Sure, these courses carry a hefty, prime-time rate.  However, If you haven't figured out twilight and other 
off-peak price schedules, then you deserve to suffer, day after day, at the local muni.  If you can put aside an extra $200 for golf
this year, I guarantee that you can get on four or five of these courses.  After five years, you'll have played  them all.
My final debt of gratitude goes to a place that never settles, never stays the same, never seems the same:  the internet.  Each year,
new functionalities and new threats highlight and lowlight this incredible medium.  Because of BuffaloGolfer.Com's place in the
lives of cyber-golfers, I have been able to write countless columns under multiple pseudonyms.  I have parlayed these opportunities
into others, writing for TravelGolf.Com, Buffalo Spree, Sports and Leisure, and New York Golf, as well as do that little thing 
with Channel 7 every year.  Who would have thought this mug would make the 6 o'clock news?  I have handled web site blow-ups
and horrific spam attacks (and given thanks for backing up information on a daily basis.)  I have considered wholesale site
redesigns, accepted some changes while discarding others, and never looked back or too far forward.  I have made contact with
golf writers and sages from the world's finest golf magazines, exchanged ideas with them, received their plaudits and their 
misgivings about columns I've written, and written better as a result.  I've come to know jpg, mp3, htm and a host of other
acronyms.  The internet has changed my life considerably, and given me an opportunity to provide a service I would have loved
as a teen-aged golfer at Audubon in the 1980s.
As 2007 beckons, I thank all of you for tuning in.  Visit our bulletin board often and input your ideas.  Stop by the Buffalo Golf
Show, visit our table, and let us know what you think of the site.  We still have twenty tickets to give away, so send an email
marked "Free Tickets" to buffalogolfer@buffalogolfer.com and you'll see the show on us.  Take advantage of warm days and dry
fairways in WNY, head south for warmer climes, and visit the domes.  I'll see you on the fairways of Harves Hill and beyond in 
the new year.
December 2006 Part Two:  What Is This Mystery Place?

All right, it may not look like much now, but as we all know, appearances can be deceiving and books cannot be judged... you
get it.  The mystery place on Transit Road is The Frog Hair, an indoor golf facility with an outdoor arm.  Here in the northeast,
where no one can be expected to play golf all twelve months with any regularity, Tony Tatro is banking on the backing
of financers and the desire of golfers to make The Frog Hair a success story.

Tatro is an engaging man, with experience as a professional at area clubs.  Throughout his teaching career, Tatro has
been bothered by one recurring disillusionment for the players he has taught:  No accurate concrete feedback.  In Tatro’s
own words, “How can you improve if you don’t know what’s going on?”  The Frog Hair’s embracing of technology will
curtail the absence of accurate concrete feedback.

Ever been to Golf Galaxy?  Ever tested a club on their launch screen?  Ever asked to buy time or hit a few more, only to
be rebuffed?  I’ve seen it happen to grown-ups and kids alike.  At The Frog Hair, 8 golf simulators will be installed,
simulators that will allow you to hit balls at a driving range, or on any number of fictional or real golf courses around
the world.  Not a lot of time today?  Feel like playing nine at Pebble Beach or Spyglass Hill?  Head to The Frog Hair.

All right, that’s the sexy part of TFH.  What about the meat and potatoes of the instructional program, the true reason for
being of the business.  Well, the reasons for learning at TFH are multifold.  You can review your session, one swing at a
time, at any time in the future.  Ball speed, club head speed, and deviation from target line are three of the quantifiable
bits of accurate data available during each and every session.  The instructional program aims to measure the efficiency of
each movement of the swing.  By identifying elements that break down under scrutiny or pressure, learners will truly
recognize their faults, and receive the opportunity to become better players.  Imagine state of the art 3D video, just like an
MRI for your golf swing, calculating efficiency side to side, back to back, up and down, bends side, forward, backward, every
which way but loose.  Tony Tatro describes the revolutionary nature of the Academy:

We're going to be one of the most technically advanced facilities in the
country (The Academy at Frog Hair).  We've got the 3D system, one of only
three in the country (the other two - one at the Titleist Performance
Institute, Oceanside, CA - and the second in Omaha, NE with a PGA pro from
the Dave Pelz camp)  With it, I can see and measure exactly what's going on
in any players swing - as well as measure how efficiently a player is
swinging the club - like snapping a towel.  We'll have a 2 D studio with
three fixed cameras focusing on the primary angles - face on, down the line,
and behind the player.  We'll also perform physical analyses and be able to
tell a player what's wrong with his swing before he ever puts a club in his
hands just by knowing a little about the body.

Knowing what I know now, I realize I made plenty of mistakes as a club
professional and wasn't aware of them because I couldn't look at all three
of these pieces of information.  Now, I wouldn't dream of changing a player
unless I know how efficient he / she is right now, I've looked at and
studied 2 D (I can't look solely at 2 D video - because it doesn't tell the
whole story and often lies), and lastly, I know what a player's body can and
will do - if I don't know what a player's body will allow him / her to do
without compensating, then how can I ever prescribe a swing adjustment?
It's really comprehensive.  We'll make players better . . . No doubts.

In addition, we'll have a putting studio with cameras to check putter
efficiency.  We'll also have a force plate to see what's really going on
with weight transfer for every player during his / her swing.  Lots more
great stuff too!

Unbelievably, The Frog Hair pledges not to compete with golf professionals.  Management will invite all area golf professional
into the process.  Club professionals will be allowed to come in with their members and utilize all available technology save
the 3D video.

How about after-hours?  An experience in fine dining in a sizeable restaurant, a 6000-feet patio, a 1500 square-feet putting
green for settling bets or a few strokes after full-swing tutelage.  What if you suffer apprehension on golf courses, or feel tense
with people watching?  Join a virtual or real league at a predetermined time.  Compete in tournaments against other facilities
around the world.

The Frog Hair is housed in the old Club Evolution building on the western side of Transit Road (number 7800), just north of
the Sheridan Drive overpass.  The anticipated opening is scheduled for January 1st or 2nd.  It is safe to say that Mr. Golf himself
will wile away a few hours uncovering the faults of his game at The Frog Hair.

 

December 2006:  Golf Series 2007:  What To Expect...


Visit The 19th Hole, the best site on the web to find out what's new and what's best in golf equipment.
Current Focus:  Drivers!

If you had suggested at this time in 2003 that I would be co-hosting a local television series for nine weeks each Summer, I
would have declared you daft and continued writing this column.  Plucked from obscurity by the affable Jeff Russo, embraced
by the trustworthy John Murphy, and shepherded by the patient Chris Podoczak, BuffaloGolfer.Com's middle-aged columnist has
completed three years' worth of series, twenty-seven holes in all, from Niagara-On-The-Lake to Salamanca.  In 2004, the team
visited what we considered to be the nine best public courses in the area, selecting the most challenging holes from each course.
The response was unexpectedly positive, more a testimony to the video skills of Podo and the calming influence of Russo, than
to Mo's less-than-textbook execution of the golf swing.  Year two took us north of the border and back in time.  The best holes
along the Canadian Niagara peninsula were the subject of our 2.25 month sojourn, and a kilt, plus-fours, and knee socks were
our garb.  Yes, we gave Susan Banks and Keith Radford quite a few chuckles as we went from course to course, yet we recalled
to memory a number of Ontario courses that were part of the recent expansive explosion of world-class golf of our northern
neighbors.  Year three saw our return to the states, to nine new courses.  This past summer, we were able to highlight the best
of the American response to the Canadian boom.  The quality of public-access courses on both sides of the mighty Niagara has 
never been higher.  For those of us who grew up playing muni after muni, with the highly-occasional Glen Oak thrown in, a
dream come true has been the advent of high-end public courses in the eastern suburbs.  Mo' Golf has been fortunate along the 
way to have the support of a number of companies as he worked his way through the
longest round-and-a-half ever played.  Ogio bags, Bite Golf shoes, BadAss wedges, Nike Golf outerwear, and Copley Golf shirts
lent their support and their wares to Milfred, proving that you can cast pearls before swine and give an old dog a new look.  
As the sun sets for many on the 2006 western New York golf season, Mo' is hard at work developing the roster for the 2007 series
line-up of golf holes.  Highly classified as is to be expected, we cannot divulge the courses that will make up the schedule.  What
we can reveal, however, is that all will be located within western New York, and will be courses near and dear to the hearts of
many.  We can also promise to visit courses that we have previously not featured, courses that you all have played.  In order to
commemorate the fourth annual series, Mo' has also spent time interviewing potential sponsors, and has signed his name in ink
with two companies...Chiliwear and Sun Mountain.  If you've seen Jim Furyk (2006 Vardon trophy winner on the PGA Tour and
#2 money winner) lately, you've seen the Performance Camp shirts from Chiliwear that he began to wear last Spring.  Jim has
never looked better, thanks to the creative designers at the New Orleans-based company.  Sun Mountain makes some of the best
golf bags and outwear available, and has outfitted Mo' with a short-sleeved rain shirt for the first few, early Spring, shoots, as 
well as a lightweight, durable golf bag that makes walking a dream.  In the coming weeks, we'll introduce some of the other 
sponsors and their products.  As far as the chosen golf holes, well, you'll just have to wait until next May or June, when I tee it
up for the cameras at ... gotcha!
November 2006 # 2:  The Spaces Between:  A Tour of Bandon's Lost Areas

Land on Which "Old Macdonald," the fourth course at Bandon, is to be built.
With the recent announcement that the fourth course at Bandon Dunes in Oregon will be built, I revisited some photographs
of the complex.  Taken in August of 2005, they brought back memories of the wonderful golfing environment of which I was
guest for five days.  They also reawakened the memory of an article that I had planned to do in print, but had never come to 
pass.  With the double motivation of needing a new entry for this column, as well as a need to fulfill this impulse, I decided to
return to the southern coast of Oregon, but not to the fairways and greens. 

Railroad-Tie walkway from green to tee on Bandon Dunes Course
One of the more lasting memories from Bandon Dunes is the care given to the spaces between, the area not usually visited during
a common round of golf.  When reading Golf In The Kingdom by Michael Murphy, one is hearkened to the importance of these
areas on many occasions.  The most intoxicating instance happens during the visit to the Devil's Rug, the yawning bunker-land 
that fronts the signature and signifying hole at Burning Bush.  It is evident from the first step at Bandon that great care was given
to creating just significance in the spaces between.  As pictures so often tell a better story, consider this effort to be half word-,
half photo-essay.
          
  A solitary bench on the back of a tee box provides space for repose.	     The sandy dreamscape that brought Mike Keiser to Bandon.
Bandon Dunes is a walking resort.  It is true that shuttle services move golfers from the practice area to each of the current
courses, then back to the various cottages and lodges that dot the complex.  With the backdrop of the Pacific ocean and the
sounds and smells that accompany it, the land is made for walking.  With the effort of walking, however, comes the need for 
repose.  At just the moment when your feet feel heavy and your bag a burden, a bench like the one above appears, having read
your mind and soul's desire.  It is during these moments of repose that you can take a look at what surrounds the course, and 
sandy fall-offs, dotted with the gorse and other scrub brush so common to the area, collect the majority of your attention.
          
                               More of the dreamscape.			     Beyond the land, rock formations reveal the primordial earth.
It is doubtful that many golf balls will find their way into these spaces between and beyond the fair ways.  Not impossible, mind
you, just doubtful.  There are moments, especially at dusk, when one sets out for a mile walk from the lodge to the ocean, 
traversing the fairways and other noteworthy elements.  Take a turn through the tall gorse pathways, though, and you might
not emerge for a while, and certainly not in the direction you had anticipated.  Mrs. Mo and I set out from the home base, and
rather than head straight up 18 and 17, we took a detour to the right, into the gorse, beyond humanity.  When we emerged,
we were no closer to the great water than if we had directed ourselves parallel instead of perpendicular.  It is this ability to render
one small in the grand scheme of things that might perhaps be Bandon's most lasting gift; when we are reduced to what we are,
instead of what we imagine ourselves to be, we best acknowledge our place in the world.
          
And so, I leave you with these remaining pictures.  I hope that you have the opportunity to travel west to Bandon one day.  I 
know that I will return, in some way, some day.  Whether it shall be a permanent move or a temporary flight, I am not 
certain, yet I am certain.
            
 
            

            Land on which to dream of past and future times.
 
November 2006 # 1:  Kinzua Dam Golf
If you cross the New York-Pennsylvania border below Jamestown, you'll enter a region of woodland known for its hunting, 
fishing and camping.  Those guys wearing bright orange are not members of the Dutch national team, nor are they 
Camilo Villegas.  Do not fear, though, as Camilo would feel quite at home in northwest Pennsylvania.  You see, there are some
five to ten excellent golf courses in the Warren-Russell-Bradford area, and they are most accommodating to WNYers.  What they
all have in common, in the first place, is varied terrain.  No stretch of land in the region could completely avoid the influence of  
the mountains, so the challenge for the architects was to run the fairways along the flat stretches, without losing the ambience 
and feel of the uneven land.  The next similarity is the corridor effect of the tall timber.  While the fairways may be ample, the 
sheer height of the trees minimizes the angles of recovery.  If your driver is prone to wild spates of directional madness, you 
might consider a three wood or hybrid off the tee, or learn to bend the ball low and hard with your irons.  Finally, it would be
remiss of us to ignore the influence of the topography on the putting surfaces.  Quite simply, you will experience fits of extreme
break on the greens.  Since most of these fine courses do not keep their putting surfaces cut Augusta-short, your rolls will not 
careen out of control, at breakneck speed.  Rather, they will take the break as it was meant to be accepted.  A true read will bring
your ball within striking distance of a holed putt.  Beyond the courses, the hospitality of small-town America is alive and well
in Pennsylvania.  Accommodations, dining and entertainment are all available at reasonable prices.  Visit the Warren County Chamber
of Business and Industry website to find leads on places to stay and play when not on course. 
Course Key
Cable Hollow...www.cablehollow.com  
Conewango Valley...www.conewangovalleycc.com
Penn Hills Golf Club...www.pennhillsclub.com
Kane Country Club...www.kanecountryclub.com 
Jackson Valley Golf Club...No website
Pine Acres Country Club...www.pineacrescc.com
Blueberry Hill Golf Club...www.blueberryhillgc.com 
October 2006 Bonus:  What to do without the domes?
Yes, they're down.  Both of them.  For how long?  Who knows.  Time for contingency plans.  With both Paddock and Wehrle 
being victims of the recent October Onslaught (which, in my mind, is a much better way to describe it than October Surprise...
what a wimpy reminder!) golfers in western New York can travel to Rochester to hit balls indoors, or is there a better way?  By 
my way of thinking, THERE IS A BETTER WAY!  How do I know?  I stumbled onto it the other day.
Let's treat this like a blog, since I need some content to keep you interested.  I had plans to play Blueberry Hill in Russell, PA, on
Thursday.  Knowing that the conditions were likely to be moist, I decided to regrip my driver.  If you've used Winn Grips, then
you know that they feel like butter, and are twice as slippery when wet.  Bill Lindner's Golf Service is my choice for club repair
and regrips, so I headed toward Tonawanda on Tuesday evening.  Bill zipped on a full-cord grip in a jif, then mentioned 
casually an acquisition he had made two years previous:  computer software and a mat to register ball contact.
If you've been to Lindner's, you know that the practice area consists of three hitting stations and a matted wall about eighteen 
feet away.  Since the introduction of the computer software, the number of stations has been reduced to two.  The left station 
is a warm-up area, and the center station now hosts the computer setup.  The computer software gives you swing path, 
face angle, ball flight and yardage readings.  This is key, as it immediately takes you beyond the reaches of the dome.  Think
about the diameter of the domes...maybe ninety yards from tee to wall, right?  If your ball is moving left or right by more than a
yard when it hits the wall, you've got trouble.  Just how much is hard to tell.  With Lindner's new setup, you see the complete
shot.  When I went in on Wednesday afternoon, the feedback I got surprised me and motivated me.  Here's what my readings
were:  swing path--16 degrees inside out (perfect for a draw or a hook) and a face angle of 11 degrees.  Since my swing is fairly
malleable, I decided to let Bill offer suggestions as to how to bring path and face angles closer to an optimal 0 degrees (the
ultimate straight ball.)  After rerouting the paths back and through, I was able to approach my goal.  Beyond curious, I decided
to take the changes to Blueberry Hill on Thursday.
Here are the results in a nutshell.  First time on Blueberry Hill, from the tips at 6700 yards on a soggy (no rain) day, I hit 4 of 14
fairways on driving holes, and 10 of 18 greens.  With 35 putts, I posted an 81.  Two birdies, and three double bogeys (all on 
par five holes!) were the exceptions to my normal strings of bogeys and pars.  Do I need to work on the driver changes?  Yep.
How about those greens in regulation!!!  I'll take 10 birdie putts any day of the week.  If I can learn to convert more than 20%,
we may be in business.
Bill Lindner's Golf Service currently rents the computer station at a fee of $5 for 30 minutes.  Think of how many buckets you hit
in 30 minutes, and how little you learn from the experience.  Call them at 874-1110 to reserve times today.  Bill or John will stay
with you in the hitting area until you feel comfortable operating the software.  I promise that you'll find me hitting in their 
Sheridan Drive studio this Winter.
 
October 2006:  Mo' gives his blessing to Diamond Hawk
Cheektowaga is the place where my grandparents live.  It is know for its four high schools, huge mall, airport, and world-class 
golf course.  'Back up!' you say.  Yes, that's right, world-class golf course.  Sam Tadio finished the job that the municipality
could not, and the result is a Michael Hurdzan-designed golf course that stands with the best of western New York.  About a
mid-length par four five from the control tower at Buffalo International, Diamond Hawk stretches its wings to 7000 yards, and
puts wetlands, ponds and stacked-sod bunkering into the golfing vocabulary of the inner ring of suburbs.  Remember a few
years back, when the only upscale, public golf in WNY was Glen Oak?  You've come a long way, baby, as the tobacco ads used
to say.  Ivy Ridge, Arrowhead, and Buffalo Tournament Club are now joined by Diamond Hawk.  With Harvest Hill (West Seneca)
set to join the family in 2007, and the Seneca course in Lewiston slated to open in 2008, the menu of fine dining is nearly 
filled.  Diamond Hawk will stand shoulder-to-shoulder with all of them, providing challenges to golfers of every level.
What might be the most unexpected feature of the course is the tranquility.  With a major thoroughfare, an industrial park, and a
mobile home neighborhood bordering the course, the last thing one expects is quiet.  Yet there it is, unless you count the panting
of the deer and the heavy breathing of the birds as noise.  The opening hole is a par four that plays as a par five.  If you don't 
get even with the bunkers, forget about the green.  Hurdzan allows for the missed drive, as the hole narrows toward the green.
A deft pitch for the third will get you close for four, while a strong mid-iron second has a chance to find the green.  The second
is a strategic hole, playing to the edge of Genesee Street.  A hybrid gets you in the drive zone, leaving a short-iron approach to 
an elevated, bunkered green.  Thoughtful execution will bring you birdie here, or at least a par.  You'll need it for the next three
holes.  Number three is a long, one-shot hole over marshland.  Number four is a mid-length par four with wetlands left and 
bunkers right in the drive zone.  It is here that you begin to see one of Hurdzan's trademarks:  sunken chipping areas.  Fairway
runways dip low, then rise to the putting surface.  Scottish-style, stacked-sod bunkers protect the short grass.  You are forced to
clip a deft pitch with proper pace to get close for an up-and-down.
Along the bunkers, into the throat on Number 1 From the tips on Number 3
The fifth is a long (if 595 is long for you) par five that moves left, right, then left again.  Stealing a feature from the 16th at St.
Andrews Old Course, the Principal's Nose bunker triad in the middle of the layup zone forces you to be a bit more heroic
than you may have planned.  Don't go over this putting surface, or you'll certainly take a drop with penalty.  Cart path and
wetlands behind will see to that!  
Cross the Principal's Nose bunkers on Number 5 Stacked-sod bunkers protect the green on Number 7
After a bit of a breather on the short 6th, it's back to the grind on the par 4 seventh and 8th 
holes.  Seven is straight, with pinching bunkers in the drive zone.  A dogleg on eight narrows the fairway, with more pesky
bunkers shrinking the drive zone even more.  Pars on these four holes are a tremendous achievement.  Number nine is a design
rarely seen these days...the original penal golf hole.  Hurdzan forces you to carry cross bunkers not once, but twice on this par
five.  Why?  It would be simple without them.  With the wind in your face, it's a true, three-shot hole.  Playing hard and fast in the
Summer, this one will be quite exciting.  Go through the green and you'll find either a pot bunker or a nearly-impossible pitch 
back to the putting surface.  It's tempting, but stay short.
Tee Shot on Number 8 Over the bunker on Number 9
You know what?  That's enough for this week!  I'll be back after Columbus Day with a review of the back nine.
August 2006:  Week in southern New England
We make the trek east each August to visit relatives in Connecticut, so I scour the area to mix business with relaxation.  When you 
are based in the central part of the state, the entire confines are open to adventure, hence our past trips to The Golf Club at Oxford
Greens, Fox Hopyard, Wintonbury Hills, Blue Fox Run and other, fine, CT courses.  The tough part about the review business is, 
you can't visit too often, or you battle to write something new about a course that, simply, hasn't changed much in two or three 
years.  Five years are a good period to pause between course visits.  Running out of available courses is not a concern, but 
exhausting the stable of complexes that want you to come in and do a full review, might be.  This year, we stretch out a bit, with
trips into southern Massachusetts, then cross back to CT, all the way down east to Stonington.  Our first stop is The Ranch, 
a Damian Pascuzzo design in Southwick, MA, that claimed the mantle of 3rd best new upscale public course in the USA (according
to Golf Digest).  Damian Pascuzzo partnered the late Robert Muir Graves of California.  M-G has long been recognized as a few turns
off center in his design philosophy.  Not so far 'out there,' mind you, as the late Desmond Muirhead, but certainly a bit more likely
to produce a fun, curious, even scruffy, design.  Since a great many designs from M-G are found out west, I'd need to head to the 
left coast inorder to truly appreciate the man (for more on the late designer, click here and here.)
Since the 1980s, Damian Pascuzzo had worked with Muir Graves, before assuming the lead role in the firm.  Pascuzzo indeed has 
become a voice of the clan of designers, voicing his informed concern for the relationship between technological improvement and
golf course and community planning (click here).  Of the four links on the firm's 'Links' page, two consider the individual who 
decides, over a pint, to build a golf course.  How hard can it be?  Read on.  The more I learned about Pascuzzo, the more 
determined I was to play The Ranch.  After my 18 holes, I was not let down once.  The greatest compliment I can pay him is, the
holes play and look as well from end to start as they do from start to end.  Each time I looked back down the fairway from the green,
I marveled at the movement and stillness of the land, the relationship of the bunkering to the shape and direction of the holes, and
the overall connection of holes to their predecessors, followers, and other, unconnected holes.  Yes, the bunkers had that angry,
scruffy, California look I was hoping to find, so the child, too, was satisfied!  For a look at each individual shot, visit our photo
essay on The Ranch by clicking here.  
What I believe I enjoyed most about The Ranch was its thorough attention to detail.  I rarely care about the grass on which I play,
unless it's northern California sensimilla.  When you visit the complex' website, you can learn the what and why about the grasses
chosen for use.  I cannot say that I differentiated between the chewing, creeping and hard fescues as I was smashing the ball out
of a fairway bunker, but it is my privilege to remark that I remarked on the look of the bunker grasses on multiple occasions.  
Pascuzzo provides opportunities for the thing I love the most:  heroic shots.  The sixth and the fifteenth holes are short par fours 
where a risky drive, followed by a deft runner or chip, will leave a minute birdie putt.  The ninth and sixteenth holes are dramatically
downhill par fives on which driver-mid iron are common options.  My own sad tale of the ninth is a perfect portrait of the rush-
crush sequencing that must take place often.  Driver and 8 iron (over the trees on the right) brought me a long eagle putt from left
to right.  Three putts later, I walked off with a most disheartening par.
On an extraordinarily buzy day, we saw the player assistants and the beverage cart on nearly every hole.  They were courteous and
helpful, and never in the way.  If I hold true to my credo of five-year gaps between playings, I should return to The Ranch by 2011.
I do not know if I can wait that long.
Coming this weekend:  Lake Of Isles North Course by Rees Jones.
 
August 2006:  Kohler's Impregnable Quadrilateral:  One From Each Column
I've never dated anyone that was world-gorgeous, nor driven a car that had more vowels than consonants, and more horsepower
than flat tires.  I have, however, been given the opportunities to visit and play the courses of two resorts whose equal I cannot
imagine anywhere in the world.  That they came within nine months of each other allowed me to make fairly-accurate 
comparisons of lodging, culinary offerings, and of course, the golf courses.  I can say (and I hope you'll read the rest of the 
article in spite of this revelation) that Kohler's American Club is the complete golfing resort.  If you have one to visit the rest of
your days, make this one it.  Save your change, return your pop bottles, and use coupons at the grocery store to hoard the $$$
you'll need to play all four courses and stay at the American Club.  You'll leave their opulence with the knowledge that, for one
brief period, you dated the supermodel and drove the Ferrari.
Kohler, Wisconsin sits about an hour north of Milwaukee.  It is a bit inland from the shore of Lake Michigan, and borders 
Sheboygan, the home of the largest American flag in the USA (and, one supposes, the world.)  Kohler is a tribute to the family
that gave us many of the bathroom and kitchen implements that control water and sewage flow.  The current docent of the family
fortune, Herb Kohler, had a bit of a thing for golf, and decided to hire the best in the business (Pete Dye) to build him some 
courses.  The first plots of land that Herb provided sat adjacent to the town, and begat the River and Meadows Valley courses at
Blackwolf Run.  This pair of courses could not be more distinct, with the River never straying too far from the eponymous water 
course.  From the first tee shot, one becomes aware that the River is about high rough, precise fairway targeting, and turbulent
putting surfaces.  This is not to insinuate that the holes are not fun.  Rather, they are!  You will be offered tee shots from on high 
(numbers five and eight), over water (numbers nine through fourteen) and across stretches of desert (fifteen comes to mind.)  If
your preoccupation is with execution, not result, you will certainly enjoy your round.  If the occasional swimming golf ball bothers
you, then you won't.  The round finishes with an enjoyable sequence of 5, 3, 4.  Sixteen is a long, sweeping par five called 
Unter der lindenI (all the holes have names), which translates to "under the Linden."  The Linden is a gi-normous tree that guards
the left side of the hole.  It obscures all third shots to a green that plays longer than some par 3 holes.  Hit your drive straight, and
your second shot right, or you'll have to hit a bender around der linden if you hope to putt for birdie.  The entire right side of the
18th hole is wasteland that normally floods during tournament time.  Imagine having the wherewithal to flood a huge waste 
bunker for appearance sake!  The fairway rides triumphantly right, then back left, to finish under the decks of the clubhouse.
If you don't bask in the approach to the green of Black and Tan, then you should turn in your membership card to 
Golfers Everywhere.
The Irish course at Whistling Straits transports us to another world.  Located in Haven, a five-mile shuttle from the
lodge, this land could not look less like the farmland that it once was.  Word on the fairway is, Pete Dye looked at the land, 
trucked in mountains of soil to create new land that mimicked Ireland's rolling seaside terrain, then went about building his two
courses.  The Irish immediately catches your eye with the ridges that serve as backdrop to the first hole.  It doesn't allow those 
ocular organs to refocus until the course is finished.  The turbulence of the fairways is reminiscent of rolling and bucking of
the high seas.  Watching your ball bound this way and that is part of the experience, part of the fun.  If you take its final 
destination too seriously, be careful:  you may ruin your day.  You find that holes dogleg at apparently-preposterous angles on 
the Irish Course.  What the maps and scorecards don't tell you, and what only experience can reveal, is that the landing areas
for drives, second, and even third shots are ample enough.  More than any other skill needed is the knowledge of, and faith in,
your own yardages.  If you want to turn in a score for handicap purposes, then the Irish Course is not the place for heroic, 
I-hit-my-five-iron-this-far-once shots (although they, too, can be fun to attempt.)  Dye and Kohler present this cornucopia of 
visual hazards that, quite frankly, we're not used to.  We come from our ho-hum golf and country clubs and course, with rough
and trees and not much more on either side of the fairway.  What we seemingly find at The Irish Course are fjords, trenches,
caverns, and other such declivities where angels fear to tread.  If looking at them is difficult enough, then recovering from them
is even more demanding.  I believe that the tenth hole was where I first encountered God's majesty.  The hole plays away from
the clubhouse, toward the sea (or in this case, Lake Michigan.)  It plays over one of those fjords, up, up, and then up some more.
It is not overly long at 398 yards, but it is so evocative that catching your breath (as you climb the hill), and playing some 
shots along the way, is a mind and body-bending experience.  You encounter blind shots and long flagsticks (number 13), sheep
and shots from craggy bluffs (number 11), and more than enough sand to build a castle, bulwark, or trellace.  As much fun as 
the Irish Course is, it serves as a prelude to the Straits.  In my humble opinion, if you play Straits, followed by Irish, you will be
a bit disappointed in the Irish.  If you play them in their proper order, then the world will be righted.
I've spent the better part of three months considering all 72 holes, and have been able to identify only two that really lack...
something.  The 18th at Irish is a par five with a wonderful drive and a wonderful greenside space.  The tee shot carries a bunker 
on the right or plays safely to the left of it.  The second shot must travel over 225 yards in the air to reach a severely-sloped, 
landing zone area.  There are no bunkers around this green, just a volcanic side slope that forces a high and blind pitch, or 
a low and blind run-up.  Either shot is appropriate for the situation.  What is missing, however, is the lay-up area between 225 
and 125 yards out...there is none.  Or rather, it is razor-thin, beyond difficult to hit.  An entire acreage to the lower right, identified
on the course plan as lay-up turf, is now high rough.  Someone has forced the golfer to lay back 150-plus yards on a par five.  On 
some holes, after reaching the putting surface, you remark aloud "oh, there WAS more room than it seemed."  Not the case here.
The other curious hole is the first at Meadows Valley (complete review in September.)  It is a flat, unremarkable par four that 
swerves...nowhere.  It plays straight amid bunkers and a pond to a green located one foot above the fairway.  The hole apparently 
serves to warn, "this is as easy as it's going to get, so save your strokes here."  
However, there is an extra hole that is not on any map.  The River course has a separate tee box, adjacent to its first tee, that 
plays to an extra fairway, across the river from the clubhouse.  The approach is then played to the tenth at Meadows Valley
...sideways.  This is the official "first hole" of the tournament course, a combination of holes from both courses.  It was used at 
the 1998 US Women's Open, and is a tremendous 73rd hole.  This is the final lesson on the vision of Dye...he is so capable of 
creating distinct methods of playing individual holes along one fairway, so much so that he physically invented a second fairway 
to play 90 degrees to a green already employed, without the slightest thought of "this doesn't work."  Like many resort courses, 
we only have the chance to play them once.  Certainly a return trip with a bit of knowledge would make the experience complete.  
Ah, well, unter der linden!
 
July 2006:  Bonus Article:  Thundering Waters
I'll admit that we never got to finish the Channel 7 series last year.  Bills training camp caught us by surprise, and we
adjourned for the Fall with eight of nine holes filmed.  The one that got away was as important as any other, a representative
from the Bo Danoff course in Niagara Falls.  I say Bo, although the guy touted for its creation is no one other than the mulleted
lion, John Daly.  As we all know, however, most tour players are merely "associated" with the creation of a course.  Sure, Long
John may have suggested a design feature here or there, chosen a particular hole routing there or here, and inserted a pond
or green swale here, there, or everywhere.  It is safe to say, however, that the brains behind this incredibly complex routing
belong to Bo Danoff.
The piece of land on which Thundering Waters sits belonged to Canadian Rail for quite some time.  The land was played out,
however, with a line running through the center, and not much good earth on either side.  With some deep thought, however,
a golf course was born, and an addition to a tremendous tourist destination was created.  Thundering Waters does not overwhelm
from the beginning.  The car park is modest; the clubhouse, understated; and the practice range, truncated (nothing beyond 190
yards.)  The golf course, however, is something else.  From the genesis, we are aware that Danoff will play tricks of elevation with
us, masking fairway cantilevers with wild, amoebic bunkering.  Safe drive zones appear much more daunting from the tee, and 
apparently-flat green surfaces are uneven to the point of madness.  I chose to play the third set of tees with my bro-in-law,
Mad Mark, with the exception of one hole (more on that later.)
Since I stopped competing at golf, I pick up on the rare occasion when an ordinary number won't do to describe my efforts.
When my flailings approach flagellation, I insert the Greek symbol for pi or some other letter, and move on to the next hole.
On the first at TW, after shanking a nine-iron approach into the brush, then skulling a sand shot into the gunga, I inscribed pi
on my card and gamely moved on.  The warm-up first led to the hole for which I had come, the brutish, 667-yard second.
Fifteen minutes later, after driver-six iron-four iron-chip-putt gave me a par of five for the hole, I had completed the Canadian
Series for channel seven (albeit without cameras rolling) and rediscovered my game and Arabic numerals.
There are no beverage carts at Thundering Waters.  Danoff's marvelous routing brings the golfer past the centrally-located
Lion's Den no fewer than four times.  Add to this the stop at the clubhouse between the nines, and you have multiple opportunities
for refreshment and nourishment.  I scarfed down a pair of bran crackers to keep me moving, and added a couple of waters for
irrigation purposes.  The winds dry you out as much as the sun parches you, so keep the agua flowing!
Guess what impressed me most about the course?  The short holes!  Go figure!  Danoff's routing includes four par threes and two
driveable par fours.  I have included pictures of the short fours here below.  The first (number seven) bends right to left, with a 
sizeable pond down the right side.  Lay-up is about 175 yards, while a driver needs about 250 yards carry up the left to find the
bail-out.  The green is a solid 260 carry from the blues, and can be held.  Below you see a view from the fairway, some 140 yards
out.
The second reachable par four appears on the back nine, number eleven.  A reversal of number seven, this hole bends left to right, with
the H2O again on the right side.  The lay-up might be facile, with the exception of a pair of large trees that guard the entire right
side of the hole.  Hit your lay-up too strong, and you'll find the woodland creatures on the left.  Hit it with less abandon, and you 
find yourself blocked out to the green.  I took the manly approach (as I did on seven, where I scrambled for par) and bombed the
driver straight at the green.  As the ball crested the trees, a rogue branch reached out and knocked the ball into the water.  And I
crushed it!  Undaunted, I dropped beneath the tree, wedged on, and sank the putt for another scrambling par.  Below you see the
hole from the tee, with the river on the right hidden from view.  Trust me, it's there!
There is a cool feature to Thundering Waters, although I'm not sure how long it will last.  On hole sixteen, another of the great
par threes, you can pay $30 Canadian (which equals $50 American these days...just kidding!) and have three players take a shot 
at the green.  If one of you hits the green, you get a free round and cart (what's not to like?)  Even if you all miss, you still get
some clubhouse bucks to use on a souvenir (French for souvenir.)  Our crew gave it a go, and won a free round for the host.
TW reminds me of a Canadian Augusta.  There are many holes where the correct play is not toward the flag, or even toward the
green.  If you aim at the putting surface, you might miss by an inch, and find a watery grave.  TW asks that you eliminate the 
hazards by playing toward the chipping areas.  If you have the patience (and the short game), you'll make many a safe par.
Having played all the top new courses along the Niagara peninsula, the question must be answered:  which is the best?  I vote
that the two Legends on the Niagara courses, Grand Niagara's Rees Jones course, and Thundering Waters must all be lumped into
the same category of world-class.  I place Hunters Pointe and Royal Niagara a shaved level below, and Pen Lakes at the third level.
After that, it's up to you.  Personally, I would rate the top four in this order:  Thundering Waters, Ussher's Creek (Legends), 
Grand Niagara, Battlefield (Legends).  
 
 
July 2006:  Mo' Visits Wisconsin & The American Club
Distances are minimized with the continued growth of the internet.  On the user end, we have access to golfing web sites 
from the entire world.  On the provider end, golf businesses are intent on portraying every last detail lucidly on these web
sites.  We live vicariously through the photography and wordsmithing that frame courses such as Old Head in Ireland, resorts
of the ilk of Bandon Dunes in Oregon, or The American Club in Kohler, Wisconsin.
PRELUDE:
There was nothing guarded nor cautious about the enthusiasm that I felt one Friday in May when The Scrambler, Travelin' Duff
and I set off on the eleven-hour journey from Buffalo to Kohler.  Any strains of let-down had disappeared the previous August,
when I had visited Bandon, Oregon, to play the three transcendent courses at Mike Keiser's little place by the sea.  I knew then
that things would never be the same, that golf and the trappings at resorts like these would provide an experience of inimitable
quality.  In Bandon, Mrs. Mo and I stayed off-resort, in town.  In Kohler, the Three Musketeers would spend three nights amid
the luxury created by Herb Kohler.
There's a lot to be said for Ohio and Indiana, but what I remember most is the flatness.  That is, when I was awake.  I took 
the first six-hour shift behind the wheel of Old Gory, the green '98 caravan that gets me from A to B, then settled in to my 
captain's chair for a snooze.  Chicago, like Buffalo, was under construction.  Milwaukee look like an archeological dig.  When we
left brew-town in the rearview mirror, sometime around 10 pm CST, I started to look ahead anxiously.
ARRIVAL:
The American Club sits in mid-town Kohler.  While cruising the main drag, it occurs to you that all was planned to look like the
quintessential mid-country town, where everyone gets along, where litter never touches the sidewalk, where wood ages without
turning color.  There are understated shopping plazas, immense manicured lawns, funky statues, and playing fields.  You pass
the Sports Core, the incredibly-thorough workout facility, and arrive at the main facility.  Doormen greet you, although not at 11
in the evening!  Gravity motivated us out of the van, up the steps, and into some bucolic paradise.  The path from the main lobby
to our room required the traversing of four corridors, three staircases, and one elevator shaft.  Along the way, we would pass two 
gardens of exploding scents and underappreciated colors, one ice cream parlor imported from americana, a study and a spa.  
There was also a fine English-style pub on grounds, but the Sabres lost that night, so we hewed it from our memory.
The room was appointed with mattresses of uncompromising stability.  Duff and I drew the long straws, so Scrambler got the cot.
Yes, it was a weekend of primal male bonding, but no one wants to get THAT close to the Scrambler, other than Mrs. Scrambler.
The fixtures were Kohler's finest (big shock, that one), and the cabinetry evoked the handiwork of the finest woodworkers.
DAY ONE:  In a nutshell, this was wake-up, Irish course, nap in the room, work out in the fitness facility, and crash.  We ate 
some breakfast at Whistling Straits, where the two courses (Irish and Straits) along Lake Michigan are housed, then headed out
on foot to challenge the Irish course.  With the exception of the 18th hole, which none of us liked, the Irish course provided
the perfect opening round.  In fact, if you do journey to Kohler, play the Irish before you play the Straits.  It's like reading 
Angels and Demons before The daVinci Code.  It all flows like currency.  The Sports Core provided a terrific opportunity to 
swim, lift weights, run or stair or play tennis, and do some ab work.  I highly recommend a visit.  After such a trying day, the
pillows and mattresses never felt so good!
DAY TWO:  This day was one of penance.  We had the physical hangover from the eleven-hour trip, the round of golf, and 
the workout.  Playing thirty-six holes (even with carts) was exhausting, and made us feel less than old, basically washed up.
To make matters worse, our birdie-less streak reached 54 holes each.  What are the odds that three fairly-accomplished golfers
would complete 162 holes without going under par once?  The two inland courses (Blackwolf Run River and Meadows Valley)
seek precise shots and mete out punishment for wayward ones.
DAY THREE:  Although we knew that a twelve-hour drive (add the hour for time change) awaited us, we could not wait to
play the Straits course along Lake Michigan.  Part of the anticipation related to caddies; none of us takes a caddie with any 
regularity.  Duff had never had a looper, while I had only had little Mo' on the bag once.  As far as the Scrambler, like most 
things in his life, it was a mystery.  The Straits and its caddies not disappoint.  On the first hole (bragging a bit), my caddie
read a twenty-footer on the money, and the first birdie of the weekend dropped.  Straits, like Irish, dares you to attempt 
the heroic shot.  If you do so, you will leave fulfilled.

June 2006:  Mo' Golf returns to writing
Well, it took about two months before I got tired of doing summaries of tour events.  That's the kind of thing you do early 
in your writing career, to make you appreciate the opportunity to write an exploratory essay.  It was fun for a while to do
the research necessary to find out what was happening on all the major professional golf tours, but the routine nature of it
was too demanding.  Mo' is, after all, a balloon grabber.  His type is non-linear, asymmetric, and barely functional.  I live 
on inspiration, breathing it in from dawn to dusk.  Routine tasks horrify me, just ask Mrs. Mo'.
I want to begin by writing about some of the places I've been this Spring.  It occurred to me after last summer's truncated
golf series on Channel 7 that we needed to start earlier this year.  Since the Sabres were showing signs of a long season,
and as spring came early to our environs, I corralled Jeff and Podo, and off we went to shoot some early-season holes.  The
first four episodes that you see (Arrowhead, Rothland, Buffalo Tournament Club and Ivy Ridge) will seem a bit brown, 
and the reason is good:  it's April!  Beginning with number five (Willowbrook), you will finally see some green grass.  I have 
to say that I am excited that Arrowhead is still public, that Rothland improved the White Nine (home of my least favorite hole
in WNY), that BTC is opening its second nine soon, and that Ivy Ridge, well, exists!  When the Diamond Hawk course in
Cheektowaga is added to the mix, five of the finest public-access venues will claim residence in the eastern suburbs.  How 
do those affluent 'burbs of Amherst and Clarence feel when all they have between them is Glen Oak?  Time to step up and build
a real municipal course in one of the two townships.
Some of you may be aware that Mo' junior is a rower of some renown.  While he and his boatmates were off to Saratoga for the
state championships, I snuck over (literally two miles from the start line) to Saratoga National in May for a punishing round of 
golf.  I had forgotten how abusive a round can be, especially when it is played over a course created in the image of the abuser
himself, Robert Trent Jones, senior.  We in WNY are fortunate that RTJ Geezer built his two area courses (Glen Oak and Crag
Burn) when he was in a kinder, older, wiser, gentler phase of his architectural career.  One of the architects he spawned, Roger
Rulewich, has constructed some of the most demanding, target-oriented layouts anywhere, and S N epitomizes his philosophy.
I had played a Rulewich before, in Connecticut (Fox Hopyard), but had forgotten how many holes had been scored as X, Y, or,
in humorously philosophical moments, pi.  Rulewich demands that you select the proper tee deck, as forced carries are often
the law of the land.  If you play the tips, be sure that your average drive is laser straight and 260 carry.  If not, swallow your
hubris and move up.  Even in the wet weather of May, Saratoga National was in beautiful shape.  The holes are inspired, 
offering a dance through wetlands, over sand barrens, and around tall trees.  Green sites are often placed on the precipitous 
ends of peninsulas or across bodies of water.  Saratoga National, as with most demanding golf courses, requires a certain
golfing psychic ability (or prior rounds) to read and interpret what the layout is offering on a particular day.
The trip to the northlands was a warm-up for the year's golfing trip:  Kohler, Wisconsin.  The American Club is something of an
adult Williamsburg, a bit of a planned community (based around the Kohler faucet plant.)  It is pricey, but what you purchase is
absolute luxury, from the well-pillowed mattresses to the gentle greetings of the staff.  In town, barely two miles from the inn,
Blackwolf Run.  Two courses (Meadows Valley and River) were carved from the woodlands and farmland by Indiana's Paul "Pete"
Dye.  About seven miles away, in the appropriately-named town of Haven, is Whistling Straits.  Dye returned to craft a landscape,
then two golf tracks, all of which mimicked an Irish coastline.  The Irish course and the Straits links beckon beyond the waters of 
Lake Michigan (which they abut) to the island of Eyrie, where shamrocks and leprechauns abound.  Not as punitive as a Scottish
links, these Irish replicas offer truly melodious rounds of golf (unless you play from the tournament tees, which your caddies
will point out with glee.)  Next month, I will return to describe these courses in greater detail.  If you cannot wait, read The
Scrambler's accounts of days one and two of our trip.
And what awaits?  Way down the road, a return to Bandon to play the fourth course.  This year, however, still holds five courses
in Myrtle Beach, along with the possibility of two great new ones in New Engand (The Ranch and Great River.)  Locally, the back
nine at BTC beckons, along with return trips to Ivy Ridge and Arrowhead.  If Cheektowaga has grass on nine holes, you'll find
me there as well.  Happy fairways and greens, and long tee balls to you all.  
 
April 2006 Special Report:  Mo' Golf and Copley Apparel
For the third consecutive year, BuffaloGolfer.Com will team with channel 7, the local ABC affiliate, to present a nine-week series 
on the best golf holes in the BuffaloGolfer region.  2004 presented the top public holes, while 2005 brought the top Canadian 
holes of the Niagara peninsula.  Both series were received with tremendous support and enthusiasm, and Mo' did not hit the 
ball too badly, either.  2006 brings a revitalization of the series, with a "New Look, New Courses" theme.  A number of elements 
stand out from the background, each of which will be examined in detail in future articles.  This week we look at the shirts that 
will adorn Adonis, err, Mo's torso.  Made by Copley Apparel specially for BuffaloGolfer.Com, they are a tremendous 
improvement over last year's knickers and button-downs, and bring Mo' into the new millennium at last.  
Copley Apparel is a Pittston, PA-based company, just south-west of Scranton.  The company outfits David Branshaw, the 2005 
Nationwide Tour Championship tournament winner and 2006 PGA Tour member.  The company produces long and short 
sleeved polo shirts, outerwear, and long and short sleeved mock necks.  It is their color range that draws the most attention.  
By employing butter, cerulean, pea, tangerine, cherry, corn, lagoon and oak, Copley ensures that their crayon box of colors 
will never be imitated nor surpassed.  As Mo' Golf moves through his front nine of local golf holes, we'll bring you pictures of him
at every step, resplendent in his Copley shirts.
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Mo' Golf is tired.  He has written over 65 articles using the same investigative skills that got him tossed out of the Wake Forest
sports information department.  It is time for a new format, so beginning with February, 2006, Mo' will be a court reporter of
sorts, providing weekly reviews of the five major world tours (PGA, Euro PGA, LPGA, Nationwide and Champions.)  Without
further delay, here is Mo's Tour Report for March 30-April 2
PGA Tour

Bell South Classic

Phil Mickelson

Phil, Phil, Phil.  What can we say?  This was a demoralizing performance by lefty, who went no higher than 67 for a 13-stroke victory.  The only glimmer for the opposition came Saturday eve, when Phil double-bogeyed the 18th hole.  Sunday was vintage Mickelson, as he mixed in two eagles, five birdies and two bogeys for a smorgasbord of hilarity and brilliance.  Quietly rounding into Masters form were Olazabal, Goosen, and Donald.  Chema tied for second with Zach Johnson, while Retief and Luke closed with 66.

 

European
PGA Tour

Algarve Open de Portugal

Paul Broadhurst Horses for courses, as they say.  Paul Broadhurst employed the dramatic with a final-hole birdie to defend his Portugal championship.  The victim was fellow Englishman Anthony Wall, who closed brilliantly with three rounds of 67.  Two argentine expatriots followed the Brits, as Andres Romero and Ricardo Gonzalez placed 3rd and t-4th.  Gonzalez held the Saturday-Night lead, but could only manage 71 on a day when three players blew past him.

 

LPGA Tour

Nabisco

Karrie Webb

Welcome back, Miss Webb.  Eagle on 18?  Right.  Birdie on the first playoff hole?  Sure.  She's back.  The forgotten wonder-lass of the 1990s reclaimed a place at the top, just in time to say "hold on there" to the wunderkind crew of Wie, Creamer, and Pressel.  Wie is hurting most after another near-miss in a professional event.  Lorena Ochoa lost yet another important event as she struggles to find her mountain-top guts.  Juli Inkster came fifth, Sorenstam t-6, while Nat Gulbis closesd with 68-68 for yet another near-miss.

 

Nationwide
Tour

Livermore Wine Country Championship

Tripp Isenhour

Jeff Quinney could not hold it together on the weekend.  After opening with 67-68, the former national am champion closed with 74-75 to place third.  Aussie Paul Sheehan had 71 on Sunday for solo second, but the man of the hour was two-time winner Tripp Isenhour, who sealed the deal with 68, one of only four scores in the 60s on Sunday.  Isenhour coasted to a three-stroke victory with six birdies on day four.  Sheehan and Isenhour were in a dogfight with four to play, but the antipodean finished with two bogeys and a double, while Isenhour had two birdies over the closing stretch.

 

Champions Tour

Puerto Vallarta Blue Agave Golf Classic

Morris Hatalsky

On a day when no one wanted to go low, Morris the cat hung on for victory.  The greatest crash came from R.W. Eaks, who clawed his way to a virtual tie with Mo' after an eagle-birdie-birdie run over five holes mid round.  Eaks came to earth with two bogies and a double over his final five holes to finish t6.  Tom Kite had 69 on Sunday for solo fifth.  Scott Simpson was undone by a 53rd hole bogey to finish one behind Hatalsky.

 

March 23-26:
PGA Tour

The Players Championship

Stephen Ames

It seems that a wupping from Tiger does a body good.  Less than two months after losing 9 & 8 to the purring one at LaCosta, Stephen Ames claimed the most visible title of his career at Sawgrass.  Playing a different game from the other competitors, Ames won by six over Retief Goosen.  The calm that Ames displayed, even in the face of a double-bogey six on number ten, was Goosen-esque.  AS far as the runner-up was concerned, his play reestablished him as a major contender after the Sunday collapse at Pinehurst.

 

European
PGA Tour

Madeira Island Open

Jean Van de Velde Jean Van de Velde has been the subject of a silly commercial since his 1999 charitable donation of the British Open to Paul Lawrie.  He tried his best to give away the Madeira Island Open on the Euro Tour, but found a way to reach deep inside to make double-bogey on the final hole for a one-stroke victory.  Lee Slattery finished alone in 2nd after a second 66 on the weekend, with Spaniard Pedro Linhart in third, one more behind.

 

LPGA Tour

No Event

No Event

 
Nationwide Tour

Chitimacha Louisiana Open Presented by Dynamic Industries

Johnson Wagner

Johnson Wagner was the last man standing when the dust settled in the first North American event of the Nationwide season.  Wagner trailed Chad Collins by one with two to play, but a Collins bogey on seventeen, coupled with a Wagner birdie on 18, turned the deficit into a victory margin of one. Third-Round leader Franklin Langham played steady golf in the final round, but could not afford bogey on  18, when birdie was needed for playoff.  Cliff Kresge birdied four of six on the back nine to chase into a tie for third.

 

Champions Tour

No Event

No Event

 

March 16-19:

PGA Tour

Bay Hill Classic

Rodney Pampling

The watery finish at the King's club claimed another victim as Greg Owen's birdies on 14 and 16 were offset by a double-single finish to hand Rodney Pampling the title.  Pampling felt some pressure of his own as he made double on 13 and bogey on 17.  He was able to withstand the pressure of the aquatic 18th, make par, and walk off with the title.  Darren Clarke failed to birdie the easy 16th, then bogeyed 17 to see his title chances evaporate.

 

European PGA Tour

Enjoy Jakarta HSBC Indonesian Open

Johan Edfors David Howell went the wrong way all day, shooting his worst score by nine strokes all week, to allow a shoot-out to take place on Hainan Island.  When all was laid to rest, Johan Edfors's 68 was good enough for a -25 total, one in front of Andrew Buckle of Australia, and two clear of Prayad Marksaeng of Thailand.  England's Nick Dougherty claimed his second top-four finish in two weeks with a tidy 69.  After 64-63-66 placed him one stroke clear of Buckle heading into day four, Howell ran afoul of the bogey train to drop from sight into a tie for 7th.

 

LPGA Tour

MasterCard Classic

Juli Inkster On a day when untested front-runners were backing up (Sarah Lee and Aree Song each shot +1), a veteran staked claim to the title with 67 for a two-shot victory.  Although the 64s and 65s from earlier in the week were nowhere in site, Annika Sorenstam fired a 66 for low-final-round honors.  The smooth swede was nowhere to be found all week, as the -6 final round brought her into the top twenty for the first time.  Catriona Matthew and Cristie Kerr tossed 69s to climb into a fourth-place tie with Jeong Jang at -11.

 

Nationwide Tour

No Event

No Event

 
Champions Tour

AT&T Classic

Brad Bryant

Dr. Dirt was the last man standing on a day when 66s and 67s were the norm for the top ten.  Only Vicente Fernandez failed to break 70 among the top ten, and he finished two shots out of first.  A two-shot swing was the difference when Bobby Wadkins (who has the bad fortune of not being able to finish much off) bogeyed 17 on the heels of birdies on 15 and 16.  Bryant followed up with a birdie on 18 to snatch victory from the star-crossed BW.  John Harris failed to birdie 18 to also finish one shot back, while the Beerman, Mark Johnson, made 4 on the par five finisher to join the tie for second.

 

March 9-12:
PGA Tour

Honda Classic

Luke Donald

The Englishman proved nay-sayers wrong by triumphing against a decent tour field by two strokes.  Although the result was in doubt until the final putt, it was Donald who minimized mistakes to emerge victorious.  Jeff Gove imploded with multiple bogies and a double, Geoff Ogilvy made a careless bogey or two and a par on the simple seventeenth. David Toms had a chance to apply pressure, but could not birdie the 18th.

 

European PGA Tour

Enjoy Jakarta HSBC Indonesian Open

Mardan Mamat Much like Donald, Mamat got out to a lead, then held on in the face of pressure from defending champ Nick Dougherty.  After a horrible start, Dougherty came on late to close within a stroke, nearly holing a putt for eagle on the 71st hole.  Mamat matched the brit's birdie there, and got it up and down for par on 18 to seal the hometown victory.  Although a Canadian cannot seemingly win his home country's open, today a Singaporean did his countrymen proud.

 

LPGA Tour

MasterCard Classic

Annika Sorenstam The Great One did what needed to be done on a Sunday in Mexico City.  Countrywoman Helen Alfredsson applied pressure with a 67, while Natalie Gulbis tossed in an early 66 for the clubhouse lead.  In the end, bogey on 18 was good enough for a 70 and a one shot-victory for Annika.  Charges failed to materialize from Kim Mi-Hyun, Lee Seon Hwa, and Paula Creamer, three of the youngsters taking dead aim at the top ranking.
Nationwide Tour

No Event

   
Champions Tour

AT&T Classic

Tom Kite

Mr. Austin did to this field what Tiger did to him in the 1997 Masters ... almost.  Kite ran away from his peers for a five-stroke victory over Gil Morgan.  Three holes were enough at the top for Andy Bean, who still loses his cool at his current old age.  Eight-over for twelve holes took the Beaner right out of it, while No one could shoot that low-60s round needed to overtake Tom Terrific.
March 2-5
PGA Tour

Doral Open

Tiger Woods

Tiger has a habit of winning events in Florida in succession.  He owned Bay Hill when he lived full-time in Orlando, and now seems bent on controlling south Florida...Kind of like PGA Tour Risk.  The duel with Phil never took place, with Lefty posting 72-73 on the weekend.  In the meantime, Camilo Villegas and David Toms posted 67 early to tie for second place. 
 
European PGA Tour

Enjoy Jakarta HSBC Indonesian Open

Simon Dykson Simon Dyson took charge on day four with a 67 to pull away from Andrew Buckle and win the Indo Open by two strokes.  The top two finishers were the only pair to post all four rounds in the sixties, so the event was a two-man affair after round two.
LPGA Tour

No Event

   
Nationwide Tour

No Event

   
Champions Tour

No Event

 

 

February 23-26

PGA Tour

World Match Play
------------
Chrysler Classic of Tuscon

Geoff Ogilvy
----------
Kirk Triplett

Geoff Ogilvy defeated Davis Love III in the final match, 3 & 2.  Zach Johnson placed third with a victory over Tom Lehman.  The most important element all week was Lehman going deep into the bracket, and getting a sense of who has the stones and who does not for the Ryder Cup.  Zach won a lot of points this week, as did Chad and Davis.  As far as Ogilvy, just another talented Aussie stepping to the fore.
--------------------------------------
Kirk Triplett, Mr. Excitement, closed with a -9 63 for a one-stroke win over Jerry Kelly.  Duffy Waldorf could not do anything right, with three birds offset by three bogeys, and placed T3 with Heath Slocum and Bubba Watson.

 

European PGA Tour

No Event

   
LPGA Tour

The Fields Championship

Meena Lee Oh so close!  Michelle Wie cashed her first professional paycheck and almost won the Fields Open in her home state.  Instead it was Lee Meena and Lee Seon Hwa in a playoff, with Wie watching, one stroke back.  It was a bogey on the par-five 13th hole that did young Michelle in.  You want fireworks?  Try seven birds for Wie, and five birds and an eagle for Lee Meena on the final day.

 

Nationwide Tour

IHG New Zealand PGA

Jim Rutledge Jim Rutledge is an old dude.  He's 47, for God's sake, and he's Canadian!  He's also the New Zealand PGA champ, courtesy of an eagle-birdie finish to cap off an 8-under final round.  Jarrod Lyle bogeyed 18 when par would have meant playoff, while Brett Rumford could not manage the last-hole birdie he needed for the tie.  Wade Ormsby closed within two, but made nine consecutive pars to close the tournament...No Good!

 

Champions Tour

Outback Steakhouse

Jerry Pate

Boy, don't look back on the Champs tour this week, as they're not just gaining ... they're blowing right by.  Mark McNulty shot +2 for the final 18 and dropped to T10.  In the meantime, Pate shot -5 and Morris Hatalsky almost caught him with a -7 on Sunday.  Either of those scores would have been enough for Mark James and Hale Irwin, who both closed with -3 to finish one back, tied with Hatalsky.  Former WNY'er Lonnie Nielsen stunk the joint up, shooting 74-73-76 to finish tied for 66th.  Not exactly the way toward keeping your card, old pro.
February 16-19
PGA Tour

Nissan Open

Rory Sabbatini

The guy that everyone thought might chase down Sabbatini, didn't.  The up-and-comer nearly did.  Here's the capsule:  Rory started the day with a four-stroke lead on Couples and over half-a-dozen on everyone else.  He played one-over for the day, and actually gave the lead back to Couples on 15.  Couples proceeded to bogey that hole and two others on the way in to finish at -10.  Craig Barlow hung tough all week, found himself tied with Rory on 16, but bogeyed to the SA's birdie.  Finally, Adam Scott came from nine down on Sunday with eight birdies to nearly force a playoff.

 

European PGA Tour

Maybank Malaysian Open

Charlie Wi

63 on the final day of any tournament will do you a world of good, especially with the double-defender breathing down your neck, up your back, whatever.  Charlie Wi closed with seven birdies and an eagle to edge Thongchai Jaidee by a stroke.  Raphael Jacquelin of France proved his mettle by closing with a 10-under 62 for solo third, two strokes out, and
low round of the day honors.

 

LPGA Tour

SBS Open At Turtle Bay

Joo Mi Kim

The Kim assault is on.  Not Kim Birdie, nor Kim Christina.  This week's LPGA champion is Kim Joo Mi.  Lorena Ochoa was eliminated on the first playoff hole, while Moon Soo Young was ousted at the second.  Morgan Pressel's professional debut was a solid one, as rounds of 70-69-70 earned her a share of fifth with Miriam Nagl and Natalie Gulbis.  Ochoa, 4th-place Karen Stupples, and Karrie Webb had 67 for the low final round.

 

Nationwide Tour

Jacob's Creek Open

Paul Sheehan

A less-than-stellar playoff provided the conclusion to the JCO at Royal Adelaide.  Sheehan made bogey to overnight-leader Sim's double for the victory.  Sim could not make a birdie on his final nine holes, then made a routine par on the first extra hole before the double bogey did him in.  Nick Flanagan took solo third, one shot out of the overtime duel.  Low round of the day was 66 from Jason Dufner, who improved thirty slots for his effort.

 

Champions Tour

The Ace Group Classic

 

Loren Roberts

Hard to know what to do for an encore.  Loren Roberts evinced the man who set the standard for Senior-level dominance, and ultimately defeated a guy who seemingly will let nothing stop him.  In the process, Roberts won his third consecutive start on the Champions tour, by one thing stroke over R.W. Eaks and Brad Bryant.  After -3 for the first six, Roberts made 12 pars to close the day.  Eaks had 8 birds, but was undone by a single and a double bogey in the middle of the round.  Bryant birdied 18 to get close.  Irwin was at -6 for the day, tied for the lead on 18 tee, but double-bogeyed the hole to lose his shot.  Tom Watson closed with five birds over the final six holes to post -12, good for T-4.

 

February 9-12
PGA Tour AT & T Classic Aaron Oberholser Normally even par doesn't win on the final day, but it did at Monterrey for Oberholser.  After Mike Weir started three-over for three, while Oberholser played the same stretch in two-under.  Weir never regrouped, and Oberholser's strongest challenge came from himself.  Luke Donald, the first-round leader, failed once again to mount any sort of challenge, sinking day-by-day to an eventual seventh-place tie.

 

European PGA Tour Johnny Walker Classic Kevin Stadler Stadler has yet to win on the PGA tour, but finished in style for his most notable victory yet.  The 18th hole was his best friend, as he eagled it three consecutive days.  On Sunday, Stadler lost four shots to his pursuers in a three-hole, front-nine stretch.  In a tie with clubhouse leader Nick O'Hern coming to the final hole, the Walrus offspring struck a three-iron approach to one foot to claim the victory.

 

LPGA Tour No Event No Winner

No Summary

 

Nationwide Tour No Event No Winner

No Summary

 

Champions Tour No Event No Winner

No Summary

 

February 2-5
PGA Tour FBR Open J.B. Holmes From qualifying school winner to tour champion.  J.B. Holmes went out on Sunday with the lead, shot the low score for the day, and won going away.  His seven-stroke victory was highlighted by a heroic back-nine charge.  After playing the first half even, Holmes returned with three birdies and an eagle, creating the enormous margin of victory.  Among the casualties were Ryan Palmer, who tripled the same hole that Holmes eagled, and David Toms, who made only seven pars all day (six bogies, one double and four birdies rounded out his card!)
European PGA Tour Dubai Desert Classic Tiger Woods He has won on two tours this year, in consecutive weeks.  If he keeps it up, Tiger might be made an honorary South African (those known for their globe-trotting ways.)  Tiger closed with birdies on holes 71 and 72 to tie Ernie Els for the lead, then put the pressure on the Afrikaaner by landing on the par-five playoff hole in two.  Els splashed, and it was over.  Kudos to Richard Green and Anders Hansen, both of whom hung around long enough to smell the playoff.
LPGA Tour No Event No Winner

No Summary

Nationwide Tour No Event No Winner

No Summary

Champions Tour No Event No Winner

No Summary

January 19-22

PGA Tour Buick Open-San Diego, CA Tiger Woods El Tigre came back with a vengeance.  In a less-than-stellar final round for all involved, Tiger and others made birdie putts on the 72nd hole to reach a playoff.  Tiger's birdie putt on the second hole won over Jose Maria Olazabal after Aussie upstart Nathan Green bowed out on the first playoff hole.  Olazabal and Jonathan Kaye were the only two members of the top ten to shoot better than 70 in the final round.  Third round-leader Sergio Garcia failed to produce evidence of any grace under pressure by firing a 3-over 75 to miss the playoff by 2.

 

Euro PGA Tour Qatar Masters- Henrik Stenson Henrik Stenson made certain that a repeat of 2005 would not take place as he birdied three of the final four holes to win by three over Paul Broadhurst.  2003 champ Darren Fichardt came third.  Granted that Stenson did not have to deal with the intimidation of Ernie Els (who overtook him last year) his performance was still noteworthy, as he held together down the stretch.

 

LPGA Tour No Event No Champion No Summary

 

Nationwide Tour Movistar Panama Classic Tripp Isenhour In a battle of Mr. 63s, Tripp Isenhour held off Kevin Gessino-Kraft by three to win the first western hemisphere event of the 2006 Nationwide Tour.  Kraft closed with two birdies to tighten the final margin, although Isenhour's victory was never in jeopardy.  After playing the front nine in -3, the champion loosened up on the back with two bogeys to finish one under for the day.

 

Champions Tour Turtle Bay Classic-Kahuku, HI Loren Roberts Loren Roberts won his second consecutive start on the Champs tour, clothing himself as the new millenium version of Hale Irwin.  Showing striking similarities to Irwin, Roberts won by three over Scott Simpson.  Clinging to a precarious one-stroke lead, Roberts finished in style by eagling the 54th hole.  No great charges were mounted the final day, although Tom Watson did get to -4 through 8 before finishing with 10 consecutive pars.
January 2006--Western New York golfers at the collegiate level
Ever since John Konsek went off to Purdue to whip Jack Nicklaus head-to-head, and the big three of Tim Straub (Wake Forest),
        E.J. Pfister (Oklahoma State) and Steve Serotte (Furman) headed south in the early 80s, WNY has been a hidden gem for
        golf recruiters.  The current crop is playing at the mid-major level and below, which only represents a testament to the
        current level of play at the junior level.  Recruiters are heading overseas more than ever, and former three-sport athletes
        are foregoing the concussions and ACL tears of contact sports in favor of the sport of kings.  With that in mind, it's time to
        recognize the locals who made it to the big time.  Check out their teams at the links below.  If you know of any local player
        who failed to receive mention, drop me a line at buffalogolfer@buffalogolfer.com, and we'll do the necessary research to add
        her or him to the list.  Bravo, players!
	Lindsay Cornell-Xavier—Freshman
	http://goxavier.collegesports.com/sports/w-golf/mtt/cornell_lindsay00.html
        
	Jamie Miller-Augusta State University-Junior
      	http://www.aug.edu/athletics/sports/mgolf.htm
        
	Jeff Wolniewicz-SUNY-Binghamton-Junior
       	http://athletics.binghamton.edu/sports/golf/wolniewicz.html
        
	Kevin Crawford-SUNY-Binghamton-Senior
      	http://athletics.binghamton.edu/sports/golf/crawford.html
        
	Raman Luthra—George Washington U.—Junior
       	http://gwsports.collegesports.com/sports/m-golf/mtt/luthra_raman00.html
        
	Matt Thomas-Miami of Ohio—Senior
       	http://muredhawks.collegesports.com/sports/m-golf/mtt/thomas_matt00.html
        
	Dave Patronik-Gannon—Senior
       	http://www.gannon.edu/sports/men/golf/2005profiles/patronik.ihtml
        
	Chris Covelli-Florida Gulf Coast University—Freshman
        	http://www.fgcu.edu/athletics/mgolf/profile.asp?first=Chris%20&last=Covelli&season=2005/2006
        
	Justin Regier-Florida Institute of Technology—Sophomore
       	http://www.fit.edu/athletics/golf/statistics_golf.htm       
        
	Matt Felser-Williams—Freshman
       	http://www.williams.edu/athletics/sport.php?sport=11
        
	Garrett Davis-Wingate—Sophomore
      	http://sports.wingate.edu/golfmens/bios.asp
        
	Tim Falkner-Mercyhurst-Junior
      	http://hurstathletics.collegesports.com/sports/m-golf/mtt/falkner_tim00.html
        
	Entire Canisius team
      	http://www.canisius.edu/athletics/teams/roster.asp?teamID=94
        
	Entire Niagara team
      	http://www.purpleeagles.com/sports/mgolf/rosters/
December 2005--Ironwood Golf Club, From The Architect's Chair
BuffaloGolfer.Com was fortunate to gain access to Scott Witter, golf course and landscape architect, for a sit-down email
        interview this off-season.  What is written below refers to Mr. Witter's first 18-hole design, Ironwood Golf Club.  Site
        and email inks are found at the end.

Ironwood Golf Course is a very natural experience and one surely to be enjoyed by everyone who plays it, and I mean that quite sincerely.  If one must place it in some design category I would say that it is much akin to a minimalist design... A true lay-of-the-land golf course, where Mother Nature dictated, and for the best I might add, the optimum routing and the most sensible golf experience given the character and the realities of the land site.  Ironwood Golf Course may go down as one of my very best golf routings without a doubt.  To the trained eye, it holds many simple yet traditional playing characteristics that you will find on the classics in America and overseas.  During the routing of the course, my main objective was to direct as many holes as possible whose primary features already existed in the landscape, and then accent their inherent strategies without overkilling the number of hazards that would otherwise place the character of the course in danger of being forced and artificial.

This approach and philosophy doesn’t mean that there wasn’t any earthmoving done.  However, it was done so in a manner that doesn’t detract from the natural features of the site and it leaves most people wondering where earth was really moved.  Most all of the earthmoving involved cuts made on fairways to create sightlines to landing areas, green surfaces, or to create ponds and wetlands for drainage and irrigation needs.  Each hole follows very closely if not literally, the existing contour that existed on the site before we arrived.  Overall, this approach is good common sense.  Basically, it employs a restraint in not allowing design ideas out of thin air to overrule and outweigh the realities of the land.  Instead of totally reshaping a steep slope to cerate a flat landing area, or filling in a ravine to make the course more “friendly” we tried to figure out how to incorporate these features into the golf hole and keep it interesting and fun for the golfers.  At Ironwood, we were presented with a few of these landscape characteristics and in each case, the “difficult” feature in question became the highlight of the hole.  A perfect case in point is a man-made feature, the very tall and quite prominent TV and radio tower located in the center of the front nine holes.  When the Ripstein family first contacted me to walk their land and look over their ideas about a golf course, they told me that the course would end before they reached the tower.  I asked them why and they thought golfers would hate the experience of playing around the tower.  When I asked them if they owned the land around the tower they said yes.  Then I talked to them about the countless famous and classic golf courses around the world with even larger “eyesores” on them.  From that point on, the tower became nothing more than another large tree, one that we clearly couldn’t cut down, that we needed to work with to achieve the best routing possible.  It is my opinion that some of the best golf on the site routes around the tower and underneath the huge guy wires that hold the tower from falling over.  The sequence of holes; 5, 6, 7, 8 and 9 are some of the most naturally occurring and strategic golf holes at Ironwood.  The course wouldn’t flow nearly as smoothly as it does if this land around the tower wasn’t utilized.

Ironwood expresses an effortless flow of its routing and this is its biggest strength.  Each hole presents a different challenge from the tee, a separate strategic look from the approach shot and certainly many subtle and bold putting surfaces to keep golfers of all skill levels on their toes.  Each hole is unique from the others with each having its own personality.  To me, this is very similar to images and feelings we experience when we see a raw landscape for the first time.  No matter which way we turn to see another view, we are given a fresh outlook, with a whole new set of conditions to absorb and enjoy.

I could go on about the design and character of the golf course, but the real success story of Ironwood is a result of the people involved.  The three Ripstein brothers (Russ, Terry and Jeff) and Jeff’s wife Linda were completely involved during the entire process from planning through construction, and now they operate the course and continue to make many improvements.  There was never a question as to who would build the golf course.  Being involved in farming and construction for most of their lives, the Ripsteins brought countless skills from growing grass and crops to operating large scale heavy equipment, so building a golf course didn’t frighten them at all.  As soon as the drawings were finished, we all went out with tape measures, wood stakes, spray paint and me with my sketch pad.  After a couple of weeks to feel the routing and make minor adjustments, the Ripsteins fired up the heavy equipment and began their new lives.

Scott A. Witter, President
Principal Architect 
WITTER DESIGN P.C.
Scott Witter Email Link:     wittdsgn@buffnet.net
Ironwood Golf Club Link:   http://www.playironwood.com

 
October 2005--The Arrowhead Story:  WNY's Best New Private Club
The worst-kept secret in WNY golf is the conversion of Arrowhead Golf Club into a private facility.  What's important is,
        the administration WANTS you to know.  For those of us who loved its $50 green fees, C.C.-for-a-day feel, the mourning
        runs deep.  After we dry our tears, we realize what a great opportunity this really is.  A very successful girls' high school
        event was held on this Scott Witter design (his 2nd 18-hole layout) in May of 2005, followed by Lonnie Nielsen's triumph
        in the local USGA Senior Open qualifier in July (3 birdies in last three holes to win by one!)  Arrowhead promises to be the
        epitome of a private golf club, run for golfers, by golfers.  Mike Surtel was wooed away from Palmer Golf to manage the show,
        with Chris Gruttaria directing the pro shop.  Milfred 'Mo' Golf made the trek to Akron (does it count as a trek?  It's not that far)
        to sit down with Mike and Chris and get the skinny on the transition from public to private facility.   
1.  What are the steps in taking a course from public-access to private status?  What is the time table? 
        Will the course have any public access in 2006?

Much internal deliberation and research has gone into the decision to move the Club in a different direction as far
        as access to the course.  We began this process during mid golf season in 2005, with much feedback from
        various parties as we analyzed the golf industry, the function of a private golf club, along with market trends,
        and the golfing community locally.  Even though the course will be members and guests only, our dining facility
        will remain open to unaccompanied guests in 2006 for everyone’s enjoyment.  The Club began recruitment of
        golfing members over the last three months, and the official date that memberships take effect is January 1st, 2006. 
        As far as public access in 2006, as we mentioned, our restaurant will remain open to all, and the course will be members and
        guests only.  As many Clubs do, our membership will allow charity/corporate outside functions to utilize our
        wonderful facility on specific days.

2.  What new hires have been made to bring this transition about?

Our management team will consist of all the necessary team members to provide the full service in every aspect of a
        Country Club with the feel of a contemporary Golf Club approach and vision.  With our reputation as one of the finest
        new courses in New York State our mission is simply to provide the finest amenities and golf experience
        for our valued members.

3.  Will Scott Witter, the architect, continue his involvement?

Scott will continue to be an integral part of everything we do, especially as we grow with our members.  In fact,
        we have already begun to add improvements to the course following feedback from our golfers over the last 18 months. 
        Scott’s design and impeccable attention to detail are evident in the original construction and will continue as we
        add more improvements to this marvelous layout.

4.  The club lacks a separate driving range/practice facility.  Is there land to build one?

Our practice facility is capable of providing service to both courses we own and manage, one being Arrowhead Golf Club,
        and the other being our affiliate Bright Meadows, which is located next door.

5.  Why was the decision made to close Arrowhead to the public? 
Our decision was based on many factors with the major being: Golf has regained itself in the industry following
        a sluggish downturn over the last five years along with the economic impacts of 9/11.  Many people are
        returning to the game and the necessity for a new, different type of private club in Western New York was
        an opportunity we could not pass up.  With our “different type of private club” setting of no financial surprises
        or assessments, a very affordable membership plan, and a world-class golf course, the Club has positioned itself
        in a unique class.  Many new public facilities have and will continue to dot the Western New York
        and Southern Ontario landscape, which is great for our area.  We are separating ourselves from both category types,
        and breaking out of the mold into the “new era” of contemporary Golf Clubs in the country.  Simply put, you will
        enjoy the finest golf experience along with great food, in a comfortable setting.

6.  Do you anticipate any fall-out from the decision? 
So many people have enjoyed the course following its grand opening in 2005, and we know some people who are not
        considering membership are sad that the availability to play is now limited, but we hope they will join us as a guest
        from time to time.  Our membership base is filling as we continue to accept and welcome members to the Club
        during the off season.  We are 100% committed to our private membership and are very excited to bring this
        new type of Golf Club to the Western New York community.  Our current program to join is extremely affordable
        for this caliber of Club. Our current membership offerings are very beneficial to those willing to join us now, as we are
        sure that our limited number of memberships will sell out well before Spring of 2006.  Our staff is providing private tours
        of the Club to show you our wonderful facility.  Our restaurant is open to the public and we are current serving
        dinner on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday from 4pm.  Please give us a call at 542 – 4461 to make dinner reservations
        or contact our Membership office anytime at 542 – 4653.   
Welcome to Arrowhead Golf Club.

August 2005-The Answer:  A Backyard Putting Green

Drove up to the Deveaux section of Niagara Falls the other night, to see the future of backyard practice.  Brent Gadacz, long-time stellar amateur golfer, phys ed teacher, and high school hoops coach, had just purchased the territorial rights to Pro-Putt Backyard Putting Greens, and he wanted me to take a look.  Threw the camera in the van, I did, next to the putter and wedge, grabbed some Titleists, and off I went.

As you can see from the accompanying photo, the putting green sits in a corner of the yard, where Brent had the sense to adorn it with water fountain, stones, golfer statue and other landscaping materials.  I dropped the first ball on the green, squared up, and putted it . . . off the green.  Man, was that green fast!  I took less of a swing and snuggled the ball up to the hole . . . and in!  Since I play a fair share on the molasses-slow greens of my local muni, I snickered and said, “Sure, but what good is it if your course’s greens are slower?”  No worries, as Brent proceeded to explain how the whole green is laid down, and how you can adjust it to suit your golfing plans.

The putting green is laid down, then the fibers are straightened by machine, and sand is poured onto the green surface.  The sand weighs the green down, allowing it to settle, and also influences the speed.  The more sand you lay down, the faster it rolls.  Playing Grover Cleveland?  No problem, just vacuum some sand up.  Going up to Cherry Hill?  Lay down lots of sand!  Pro Putt thinks of everything; the last layer of sand is green, to blend in with the fibers.

How about chipping and pitching?  No problem.  I had my wedge with me, and started to hit low runners and flop shots.  They checked up when struck crisply, and bounded on when skulled, just as you would expect.  That a company can replicate a putting green with turf and sand, and make it maintenance-free is confounding, yet the proof is in . . . the putting.

In case you were unaware, Phil Mickelson’s dad spent a fortune keeping up the real-grass green that occupied the Mickelson’s San Diego backyard.  Sure, Phil became the greatest exponent of the modern short game, but why spend so much money?  For $14 per square foot, Pro Putt of Western New York can build you a putting green to take your short game to the next level.  Visit www.pro-putt.com to learn more.  Contact Brent at 716 285 5922.

 

August 2005-Vegas, Oneida Style

The tower at Turning Stone Resort rises above the central New York mesa, shimmering like an icicle.  It is especially magnificent on sunny days, when other icicles don't do so well.  The golf courses at Turning Stone also rise above their predecessors and contemporaries of the region.  Rick Smith, Robert Trent Jones II and Tom Fazio created three masterpieces, each with a unique personality.  Even after 54 holes, you won't have played the same hole twice.

Lodging:

The Tower is home to eleven unique eating emporia (more on them later), workout room,  a two-lane lap pool, the enormous casino, and some twenty levels of rooms.  The lodging ranges from luxury suites on the twenty-first floor to very comfortable double queen bed rooms.  Adjacent to the tower is the Hotel, a second, smaller facility, with rooms located above the entertainment and shopping complex.  Guest and jacuzzi rooms, along with jacuzzi and luxury sweets, are some of the available options in the three stories of the Hotel.  The Inn at Turning Stone is located off the main property, but provides continental breakfast and shuttle to all destinations.  It provides the most economic rooming at Turning Stone.  The Lodge, the newest addition to the resort, brings accomodation to a new level of luxury.  98 suites populate the Lodge, furnished with the most elegant and comfortable linens and sheets.  Separate lounge and dining facilities at the Lodge make mealtime an exquisite pleasure.  If you're not in the mood to leave your suite, in-room dining is also available.  The Lodge is located between the tower and the Shenendoah/Kaluhyat clubhouse, both of which can be seen from the balconies of each suite.

Golfing:

The first trip that I made to Turning Stone was a day trip in 2002.  Travelin' Duff and I played the Shenendoah course, one of Rick Smith's initial efforts at course design.  The course established an early "wow" factor for us both, and made us quite enthusiastic about returning for the next two courses.  I remember Duff hitting a ball over the pond and onto the eleventh green.  I commented that he hadn't let the water affect him at all; he responded, in all honesty, "What pond?"  Good thing he hadn't seen it!  We also played the nine-hole par three course, Sandstone Hollow, and agreed that it was the best short course that either of us had played (the holes call for eight of nine clubs between 3 iron and PW!)

We returned in June of 2004, in less than satisfactory condition.  U.S. Open hangover greeted us on the first tee at Kaluhyat.  Rather than watch the final day at Shinnecock, we had driven all night, and slept in a rest area for two hours, to be on the first tee of the Robert Trent Jones, Junior course.  Duff played the first few holes in relative bliss, matching par on them.  I played simply in a stupor, making all kinds of mistakes and marking all nature of numbers on my card.  With each succesive hole, the relentless nature of the course made a tattoo on our memories.  It wasn't that we were discouraged, but we certainly appreciated the difficulty that Trent Junior had measured into every hole.  If the PGA tour does one day come to Turning Stone, we can't wait to see what the pros shoot on Kaluhyat.

Duff was unavailable this year, so the Scrambler and I returned to Turning Stone for an overnight, with golf at Atunyote the first day, and a bludgeoning at Kaluhyat the next.  I'll get the bragging out of the way first:  80 at Atunyote and 85 at Kaluhyat, both from the tips.  Atunyote brags for itself, from its separate clubhouse, complimentary dining and drinks, and extra-terrestrial layout.  If you hit all the fairways and greens on the first five holes, like I did, you'll find yourself two under par (courtesy of a pitch-in eagle on five; I never said that I could putt.)  If you misclub on the sixth, you'll make triple, also like me.  My new book, How To Go From -2 to +1 In One Loose Swing, is on the editor's desk at this moment.  Atunyote was designed and built by Tom Fazio, with big-time tournament golf in mind.  It sits in an adjacent town (Vernon), on the back end of Kaluhyat.  It is the most open of the three layouts, but that will change soon.  Mature trees will be planted in strategic spots, although the openness will not be eliminated entirely.  The greens at all three courses will challenge your flat stick, but Atunyote places the highest premium of them all on your ability to roll the ball.

Dining:

Here's the list, with a little bit about each one.

Forest Grill
Delicious steaks as you like them.  Crackling embers from the hearth make you feel like you're far away from home.

Wildflowers
Intimate, individual dining experience at The Lodge.  Prepared for you, to your specifications.

Pino Bianco
Mangia!  Italian cooking like you'd expect from the boot.  Perhaps the most unique kitchen in resort dining.

Peach Blossom
Asian food when you feel like dining oriental.  Chinese, Thai, and other delicious offerings from the east.

Rodizio
The world has rediscovered Brazil, and Turning Stone offers this dining center as an opportunity to savor the traditional fare of the Brazilian pampas, or back country.  The most unique aspect is the "eat until you are full" mentality:  as long as your carving stone is green, the food will keep coming.  When you turn it to red, the carving stops.  Can you beat that, big eaters?

Emerald
Traditional American cooking, like a diner, but more upscale.  You'll find everything you like at Emerald.

Season's Harvest
A series of diverse offerings in a station-style restaurant.  Station-style?  It's like buffet, but much more fun!

Delta Cafe
Quick bites to eat between rounds of golf, or turns at the casino tables.


Stone Street Market
NYC deli-style fare, that unique flavor found only in the Big Apple.

Opals
Desserts to make your mouth water.  All that you need to finish your day in style.

Stone Roast Coffee
The delicious pick-me-up to start your day or finish your evening.

 

July/August 2005-East Aurora's E.J. Pfister takes Oklahoma State bond one step farther.
Click Here For More

There is a great local story of mentoring in the development stages, and the final scene will be played out today over 36 holes at Longmeadow Country Club in the Massachusetts town of the same name.  E.J. Pfister was called into a new line of work by fellow PGA tour and Okalahoma State alumnus, Bob Tway.  Seems that Tway's son, Kevin, had qualified for the USGA Junior Amateur, and Bob wanted someone not quite so nervous to caddie for his son.  E.J. has opened a golf academy in Reno, Nevada, where he lives, and fit the bill to perfection.  Now, Kevin Tway and E.J. Pfister are one match away from the national title.  They square off over 36 holes today with Brad Johnson of Birmingham, Alabama.  Click Here For More

Final Result:  Tway won.

 

July 2005-X-Strap Sunday Bag and Syncha-Swing: 
Two new products worth more than just one look

As Milfred Mo' Golf creeps ever closer to the magical 4-0 frontier, his views on the sport of golf retake shape on a monthly basis.  What once was important, no longer is.  What was seldom considered, takes center stage.  In an ironic duality, the body is both more responsive and less willing.  It is more acutely aware of itself, yet less agreeable to giving more.  This confounding situation (who thought of these things at 21?) makes the introduction of the X-Strap Sunday Bag and Syncha-Swing particularly appropriate for this time of year.

Mo' Golf took a shine to the game because of the walking.  A somewhat-portly lad, the notion of exercising away the pounds by walking and walking, stepping and stepping, was an enticing one.  No hard-core, immediate physical contact, with the threat of broken bones, strained ligaments, and other injuries.  Instead, the marathon of 18 holes with pounds of wood and steel on the shoulders, over and down the hills and valleys, was much more attractive.  As the years passed, the allure of the hike lost none of its charm; as friends and foes took to the riding cart, Mo' smiled and kept putting one foot in front of the other.

Cut to 2005.  You know the drill:  a little ache here, a little jab there, and you start to think--should I make the change?  climb aboard?  strap a new, gigundous bag onto the back of the cart?  As if by cue, the X-Strap Sunday Bag from Sun Mountain answered the questions with a resounding "No."  And the ring announcer continued--"Weighing in this corner, an astounding two pounds . . ." and the deafening roars drowned out the voice.  Two measly pounds, four pockets, a divider for your clubs, and bungee cord for towel or jacket.  All that in addition to the greatest advance in golf bag technology since Mo' cut his teeth on a persimmon wood head:  the dual bag strap.  For less than $60, Mo' plans to be walking for years to come.

It's a little-known fact that Mo' attended Wake Forest Universty when Billy Andrade and Len Mattiace were members of the team.  Mo' doesn't like to crow about such things because, well, he has no right.  You see, his attempt to walk on to the Demon Deacon golf squad was not the stuff of dreams, and thus a writing career was born.  He was recently asked if he was a better player now than back in the throes of youth, and answered with a confident "uh-huh."  When pressed, he put his finger on one aspect:  swing awareness.  An understanding of how (and a comfort with) his particular swing works, was the key.  With the arrival of Synca-Swing, such an awareness can now be quantified.

The Synca-Swing capsule wraps around the club shaft at a specific point (measurements included).  As the golfer swings, she/he determines the quality of the swing, and logs in the "best" swing to the Synca-Swing memory.  This baseline is the point against which all other swings are measured.  Each successive swing generates a number related to timing of release.  A positive number indicates a release earlier than the one on your target swing.  A negative number reveals that you were just a bit slower, releasing after your optimum release point.  Practice swings can be logged and uploaded to a computer via the USB/software interface.  And don't worry about hitting another career best that outdoes the first; you can always revise your "best" swing data.

Mo' is not so ingenuous as to believe that the arrival of the hugantic 5-0 in ten years will be quite as optimistic as this year's anniversary.  However, for the millions of golfers turning 40 and beyond in the coming years, the advancement of companies like Sun Mountain and Synca-Swing will considerably ease the crossing over.

Click Here For Mo' Golf Archives (Pre-July 2005)