Sunday, March 21, 2010

Market Your Course Designer- Score Golf, Rick Young

Score Golf Market Your Course Designer by Rick Young

The Blog Post link above is an interesting article by Rick Young, which I have a different opinion on. Rick quotes Terry McAndrew's Web Street Golf Daily Pulse. Golf Daily Pulse cites marketing data from The Golf Research Group's research suggesting that Top 10 golf designer's projects are more successful than other designers based upon golf course valuation.  

Those of you that have been following this blog understand that I tend to do my own thinking. Below is my response to Rick Young's article.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Is Golf Business an Oxymoron or a Regular Moron in Golf Attire?

It's easy to look back at golf's build-up prior to the collapse and wonder what were they thinking. How did the golf business get to this point? Obviously, this recession has affected businesses across the board and there will be no bailouts for golf. But there is more to Golf's economic free fall than easy financing and a market downturn.

People got into the golf business because times were good and the golf business is sexy. Sexy, you may be shaking your head but think about this, you are at a cocktail party and there is one fellow that owns at a mini-storage warehouse that is extremely profitable and another fellow that owns a golf course that loses a million a year, which fellow will get chatted up the most? A golf course and or development owner will really draw a crowd if he has used a "big name" to design the course. So, we have people that got into the business, that may have had only a cursory understanding of the golf business based upon playing the game and possibly having been on the board at their club and we wonder why our industry crashed.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Richard Zokol Interview- Toronto Golf Show on Golf Course Design

Zokol Interview

Richard Zokol, 2-time winner and 25 year PGA Tour veteran, has some prescient thoughts on what's wrong with golf and where Golf and Golf Course Design are headed. To view the Zokol interview, click on the link above.

 Sagebrush Golf and Sporting Club

Golf Digest's Best New Course
Canada for 2009

Zokol is a partner in Suny Zokol Golf Design.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

40,000+ hours on Great Golf Courses

Malcolm Gladwell wrote a book called "Outliers". One of his contentions in the book is that to become competent in any given vocation or profession that you must spend 10,000 hours in your chosen field. I must be slower than most people because it took me over 40,000 hours spent on great golf courses before I became comfortable with my own instincts about Golf Course Design.

There are those in the Golf Design business that talk about how they have "studied" and are "students" of the great golf courses. Their studies have consisted of reading about the course, the architect, looking at pictures,  possibly plans, and a single or several trips to the hallowed ground to play golf. It has always struck me as sincere although incomplete and naive to assume that one can garner much more than the gross strategy and a general sense of a great course in such a short period of time and course of study.

Consider some additional methods to learn more about golf course architecture from a different angle. It takes time at great courses:

*Spend one week on the same course, a month, a year
*Do golf course setup, you may call it changing cups but when done well, its daily design
*Watch thousands of variously skilled golfers play the same course and holes
*Look at the golf course forward and backward day after day
*Look across golf holes and at areas between  and around holes and how they relate
*See the course before the sun comes up, at sunrise, sunset, or after dark, in the moonlight
*Look at contours from shadows created by headlights, you won't believe what's there
*Watch a downpour, where the water flows, and how fast
*See how the snow settles on the course and melts
*Watch the golf course during a wind storm, see what blows where
*See shadows at different times of the day and year
*Look at the golf course as the leaves fall from the trees and the how the shade changes
*Smell the dirt, good soils smell better than bad soils
*Look at the course when its completely dormant or browned off for over-seeding
*Shovel up bunker washouts, fix bunkers on the spot with hand tools and without a master-plan
*Watch tens of thousands of golf shots hit, land, and roll on every part of the course
*Roll balls on every green repeatedly every day and watch the ball roll, exposing all of the contours
*Learn from the people that were responsible for protecting the integrity of these courses, if any are left
*Playing shouldn't be ignored but if you are a skilled player try some shots from where less skilled players may have to play from

Hopefully, it won't take others the 40,000 hours at great golf courses that it took me to feel comfortable with golf course design. But surely, it takes more than a few rounds to learn about a great golf course. Spending significant time on great golf courses has exposed me to many of their subtleties and nuances, while developing a very different and varied perspective on golf course architecture.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Italian Grape Hoes

Quite a few people have asked me the significance of using Italian Grape Hoes to finish bunkers. It's a little bit like the old adage: if you have to ask how much something costs you can't afford it. With the Italian Grape Hoe, if you have to ask why its a better tool to finish bunkers with, then you have never used one.

The Italian Grape Hoe (IGH) has a heavy sharp blade 7-8 inches wide, depending on the manufacturer, and 10 inches high. It typically comes with a handle that is 5 feet long.

With the IGH, when finishing, renovating or edging bunkers, one always works from within the bunker. One simply chops down and pulls back a chunk of what ever material is being worked. It is at least twice as fast as using a shovel. As you can tell by the photo above, the IGH has a curved head, so it allows you to easily create the "right" angle on the edges of the bunkers, even when working on steep faces.

The first time that I saw or used an Italian Grape Hoe was at Merion Golf Club in 1980 when we did a lot of renovation/restoration work on the bunkers prior to the Open. Apparently, they had been using them since Flynn was the Head Greenkeeper and Joe Valentine was the Construction Foreman. When Flynn left, Joe Valentine took over as Head Greenkeeper and then Richie Valentine took over as Superintendent. I was Richie's Assistant in 1980 and 81.

In a future post, I'll describe "chunking" to make repairs and create features in bunkers, another original technique from the early days that was handed down to Valentine and from him to me.