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Saturday, July 23, 2005

Tough to Choose: Pine Valley, Augusta, and Cypress Point

A couple of friends of mine visited from New York recently for a golf binge at some of the DC area's better public layouts. As you might imagine, it's a tad difficult to coordinate rides, tee times, and other logistics when you live in the Big Apple. Just leaving the city limits is hard enough. So, they get their fill by playing with me at courses in the more accessible DC Metro area.

After a Saturday of 36 holes at Blue Mash and P.B. Dye, we hit a few of the local watering holes. Very quickly, the topic of conversation turned to golf. My friend Bill asked me if I could only play one of them in my life, which would I choose -- Pine Valley, Augusta National, or Cypress Point. As most golf fans know, Pine Valley is consistently rated the best course in the world. I've never heard a negative thing said about Pine Valley (other than that it can be punishingly difficult if you hit it in the wrong places). but my decision came down to the latter two courses. Maybe because I know enough people in the Philly/South Jersey area who can get me on Pine Valley, the allure is slightly less than Cypress or Augusta. I'm not sure, but it doesn't get my engines going as much as the opportunity to play Alister MacKenzie's masterpieces.

I told Bill that either course would be fine with me. He pressed me on it and said I had to choose one. I picked Augusta. Why? Well, I've walked Augusta, and it blew my mind from a design standpoint and for its ability to maintain a natural look in a very manufactured environment. Plus, some pretty decent golfers tee it up there every spring at a little tournament started by Robert Tyre Jones. It has the "it" factor.

Cypress Point is a VERY close second. The combination of a second-to-none property, Alister MacKenzie, and unparalleled exclusiveness makes Cypress very appealing to me. I hope I can find a way to play them all. My dad has, and he's one of the only people I know who can claim that. If I only play one of the three, I'll be a very happy golfer. In the meantime, Bill and I will have to continue discussing what "could be".

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

No Surprise: Awful TV Coverage

I'm reluctant to stray from my normal themes, but I was so disgusted this weekend while watching the Open Championship on ABC, that I have to mention to choppy, narrowly-focused telecast that has become the norm these days.

Everyone knows that CBS, ABC, and NBC all fall victim to producing "All Tiger, All the Time" telecasts. However, the Open was as bad an example of Tiger-loving as I've seen (my apologies to CBS and their pandering to "the chosen one" at the 2005 Masters). Even though Tiger pulled away midway though the round on Sunday, we saw very little of anyone but Tiger. It's tragic for golfers around the world who would actually like to see others hit the ball. And when I say hit the ball, I don't mean "putt", which is about the only non-Tiger coverage that you'll see of other players.

On top of the Tiger Lovefest, the amount of commercial breaks, highlights from the tournament, and previews of each hole get very old, very quickly. On Thursday and Friday, I listened to commercial-free coverage on XM Radio and The announcers were British and I believe South African, and they were just awesome. They know the sport, and they did an excellent job of painting a picture of what was going on in the tournament. It was very balanced, and I didn't get the feeling that Tiger was running the broadcast.

Now, I don't want to take anything away from Woods' performance on the golf course. He's the best in the world -- by a significant margin until Vijay finds his putting stroke. However, it's been tiring for years now, and we deserve better from the likes of ABC.

The only honest commentary I heard on ABC came from Nick Faldo. On about the 9th hole, Tiger cleaned up a putt and walked off the green to the next teebox while JMO stood over a twelve footer. Nick called him out on his poor ettiquette, even going so far as to say that Tiger's bad manners are the norm for him. No one else would dare make this observation, so kudos to Nick. Tiger was rude for doing what he did, and I'm sure he'll continue to do it in the future.

Let's hope that Tiger misses the cut at the PGA (doubtful) so we can watch some real shots hit by other players. My guess is that if he does miss the cut, half the telecast will be spent reviewing Tiger's rounds and analyzing what went wrong.

Friday, July 01, 2005

It's been a long time, but I'm back!

I don't really know where to start. Since my last post, many things have occurred in my golfing world, not the least of which is my continued erratic play. So instead of boring you with every detail, here's a quick snapshot to get everyone up to par:

1) I played two rounds of golf in Iceland in May. At the Grafarholt GC (Reykjavik), I nearly had my best back nine ever, only to miss two well-struck three-footers on the last two holes to shoot a ho-hum 39. If you haven't been to Iceland -- Go! The golf is very good, and the scenery is even better.

2) My mom won the Ladies Club Championship at her home course, Whitemarsh Valley CC. As the former Southern California Junior Champion (about 40 years ago), she reached back to her youth to beat a pair of teenage sisters by a shot. Great going, Mom!

3) My brothers and I hosted our fourth annual golf trip to Ocean City, NJ at the end of April. The weather really cooperated, and everyone had a good time. I was able to play five rounds in four days, and my scores were all over the map. A low of 83 and a high of 103. Go figure... The lowlight of the trip might have been when the winning foursome from our Saturday tournament bet all of their winnings (about $1,200) on one spin of roulette. They bet red, and the ball dropped into black eight. Roulette can be a lot like golf -- you need to get good bounces to be successful. I'll stick with blackjack.

4) My brother Patrick discovered a cool web site called MyGolfRecord. I have become hooked on it, as has my friend Jack. Check it out if you've never seen it. It's the best site out there for handicaps, stats, golf journals, and course reviews.

5) Patrick also broke 90 for the first time -- in Iceland. I wonder if he's the first American to ever do that in Iceland. Probably. People in the pro shop at Leynir GC (Akranes) said they couldn't remember Americans ever playing it.

6) I've been making progress on my quest to play 1,000 different golf courses. I've added some new ones already this year, and have plenty in the queue. I play #150 and 151 this weekend.