Golf Buzz

December 24, 2012 - 11:08am
Posted by:
John Kim's picture
Phil Mickelson
The PGA of America
Phil Mickelson believes Torrey Pines needs a championship layout and one that is more 'player-friendly.'

Phil Mickelson knows Torrey Pines - both the South and the North courses.  Mickelson grew up in the San Diego area and has played countless rounds, both casual and tournament, on the iconic layouts including winning his first PGA Tour title as a pro at the Buick Invitational (now The Farmers Open).  (Mickelson's first PGA Tour title was at the Northern Telecom Open but he was an amateur at the time).

The South course at Torrey Pines is perhaps most famous as the host course of the 2008 U.S. Open (that of the Tiger Woods, one-legged win).  As popular as that win and the course became nationally, the locals didn't care too much for the changes it brought about - including the higher prices, the tougher layout and the more crowded tee sheet.

So when it was revealed that Mickelson would play a part in the redesign of the North layout, the locals again became anxious.  It seems he has laid those fears to rest. 

Read more. 

December 23, 2012 - 9:38pm
Posted by:
John Holmes
john.holmes's picture
Lee Westwood
Getty Images
Jake Mann at Bleacher Report says Lee Westwood wants more PGA Tour victories in the coming year.

I know what I want for Christmas. I'd bet you know what you want, too.

But what do the world's greatest golfers want Santa Claus to bring them? Over at Bleacher Report, Jake Mann puts on his thinking cap – is it red, with a little white ball on top? – and ponders what the game's top players are hoping to find under their trees come Christmas morning.

I think I can improve on some of the items on Mann's gift list. For example, he says Lee Westwood wants more wins in the United States, but I know Westy couldn't care less about winning any more regular PGA Tour events. The one and only thing he's asking Santa for is a long-awaited – and, I would add, much-deserved – breakthrough in a major.

So what is Mann divining for players like Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy and Bubba Watson? Click here to take a look at his list and see what you think.

December 22, 2012 - 11:19pm
Posted by:
John Holmes
john.holmes's picture
South Course at Andrews Air Force Base
Courtesy of Andrews AFB
The par-3 11th hole on the South Course is a nice example of scenic beauty of the layouts at Andrews Air Force Base.

Soon after arriving in Hawaii on Saturday, President Obama kicked off his Christmas vacation with a round of golf at Kaneohe Klipper, an 18-hole championship golf course on the Marine Corps Base in Kaneohe Bay, according to The Hill newspaper, which noted that Obama has played there before on past Christmas vacations.

Kaneohe Klipper is just one of 234 golf courses that the U.S. Armed Forces operate around the world, a fact that seems to be annoying some critics. The online magazine Salon, for one, expressed its disapproval by noting that military courses are among the "luxuries that are out of reach for the ordinary American." Also out of reach for the ordinary American, I would point out, is getting shot at in combat zones.

The overall cost of operating these courses is unknown, said Salon, which singled out the Arizona Golf Resort in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, for its displeasure. "The U.S. Army paid $71,614 [for the Arizona Resort in 2004]," it said. "The resort actually boasts an entire entertainment complex, complete with a water-slide-enhanced megapool, gym, bowling alley, horse stables, roller hockey rink, arcade, amphitheater, restaurant, and even a cappuccino bar — not to mention the golf course and a driving range."

In a stab at fairness, Salon pointed out that the military also maintains a ski resort in the Bavarian Alps, which opened in 2004 and cost $80 million, and that the DoD also spends $500 million annually on marching bands.

Another critic is Christopher Ryan, who writes on the PolicyMic website that "agreeing to stop supporting the military's golf courses should be an easy first spending cut" for President Obama and House Speaker John Boehner in their ongoing budget debate.

PolicyMic uses some data from the USGA and golf consulting firm GolfMAK, Inc. to try to put a cost figure to the DoD's golf course operations. It concludes that the average course costs between $384,000 and $1 million per year to maintain, for a total of more than $140 million every year out of Pentagon coffers.

Ryan notes, however, that the courses do generate revenue through green fees, food and beverage income, and so on. But he says the revenue stream is blunted by the fact that the courses routinely charge below-market rates while buying supplies and equipment at "full price." 

I know from experience that some military courses do charge rates below what their local markets could bear – but, of course, their primary purpose isn't to maximize revenue. It's to provide military personnel access to good golf at a reasonable price. And while these critics also complain that about the cost of keeping these facilities secure, that security also makes them a perfect place for military members – and presidents – to get in some recreation.

One other point that Ryan touches on but doesn't emphasize: The courses that the military owns sit on land that could be leased or sold for millions of dollars. There's a big difference between an expense and an investment, and I'd bet that many of the courses are excellent investments based on the difference between the price paid when the government built or acquired them and what they're worth now.

Fort Belvoir's two 18-hole courses and Andrews Air Force Base's three 18-hole courses are both located in highly populated Washington, D.C., suburbs, an area that's home to some of the highest land values in the country, writes Ryan. He also notes that the military's valuable golf course properties even extend overseas — the army has three courses in Germany worth a combined total of $36.4 million, and another in South Korea worth $26 million.

That sounds good to me, not bad. Besides, every golfing president since Dwight Eisenhower has played at Andrews AFB, and it's the only course I know of where you have as good a chance of spotting Air Force One as you do of making an eagle.

If these critics want to contend that every single government expense ought to be up for review during these trying financial times, I can't argue with that. But the amount of money saved from dumping all these courses would amount to no more than a rounding error in the military budget – much less the overall federal budget – and the benefit they provide our servicemen and women is worth an awful lot. And as we see on a consistent basis these days, golf is an increasingly popular component in helping wounded warriors get their lives back together.

Are golf courses at the very top of the military "must have" list? Of course not. But if we're putting together a list of government expenses that have to go, I'd certainly argue that these courses belong far down the page.

December 21, 2012 - 5:39pm
Posted by:
John Kim's picture
Crazy Golf Course
One of the proposed holes has an 80m wide noodle bowl and giant chop sticks.

Take the best elements of miniature golf.  Add the insane wackiness of video game settings.  Now stretch it out to a championship yardage golf course.  It doesn't exist ... yet.  But in China, it just might soon.  And oh yes, I'd make a trip to play this.  

December 21, 2012 - 2:56pm
Posted by:
John Holmes
john.holmes's picture
Garrett Sapp
Getty Images
OneAsia Tour veteran Garrett Sapp could have some company next year if some of his fellow Americans succeed in the circuit's California Q-School.

The OneAsia Tour will hold not one but two final-stage Q-School tournaments early next year – with one in the United States and the other in Malaysia.

The U.S. Q-School will take place at the Industry Hills Golf Club at Pacific Palms, in Industry Hills, Calif., on Jan. 29-Feb. 1. The Malaysian event will return to Sutera Harbour Golf Club in Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia, on Feb. 5-8.

The winner of each Q-School is s guaranteed starts in all 2013 OneAsia's tournaments, while those who finish second and third will likely get starts in most events. Positions then will be awarded alternately between the Malaysian and U.S. Q-Schools.

"As we enter our fifth season, there has been phenomenal interest in OneAsia from around the world and we feel that holding one of our Q-School tournaments in the United States will satisfy that demand and also help promote the tour there," said OneAsia Chairman and Commissioner Sang Y. Chun.

An increasing number of Asia-Pacific players are basing themselves on the West Coast of the United States to go to college or take advantage of playing and coaching facilities not available in Korea or northern China during winter.

The OneAsia circuit was founded four years ago by the China Golf Association, the Korea Golf Tour, the Korea Golf Association and the PGA of Australasia as an alternative to the Asian Tour. It now includes the national Opens of Australia, China, Korea and Thailand among other events.

And speaking of Asians and Americans and golf, Jack Newton has two words of advice for international golfers eager to seek their fortune on the PGA Tour: Slow down!

Young golfers would be best served cutting their teeth in Asia and Europe before heading for the riches of the PGA Tour, Newton, one of Australia’s most prominent golfers in the 1970s and early ‘80s and more recently a big advocate for junior golf. He also urged his fellow Australians not to expect too much too soon from their junior stars.

"A lot of people want to put tags on people ... this player's going to be the best that ever lived and so on. And they stub their toe somewhere and disappear," said Newton in The Australian, Australia's national newspaper, citing the struggles of junior star Won Joon Lee, who now has returned to Australia after flaming out on the Tour. "A lot of these kids are rushing to America too early and then get their arse kicked.

Lee "lost his card in America. He's got a place in Las Vegas and he's flying back to shut all that down to come back to Sydney and start again," Newton said. "That's the way it can go."

Newton spoke out after comments from Jake Higginbottom, the 19-year-old who recently won the New Zealand Open as an amateur, then immediately turned pro and later said he hopes to come to the United States for Q-School next year.

"I just wish a lot of these kids wouldn't rush to America because you'll get killed with the numbers," Newton told the newspaper. "It's not that they're better, but there's someone shooting the lights out every week and it gets to you mentally in the end."

December 20, 2012 - 7:06pm
Posted by:
John Holmes
john.holmes's picture
Bubba Watson
Getty Images
Bubba Watson's pink driver doesn't just stand out because of its color; it stands out for the good it's doing for Phoenix-area charities.

We all watched Bubba Watson swing his bubble-gum pink Ping driver for much of the year – including at the Masters, where he earned his first major victory and became not just a golf superstar but a pop culture favorite.

Watson wielded that unmistakable driver as part of his ''Bubba & Friends Drive to a Million'' effort in partnership with Ping's ''Bubba Long in Pink. Driven by Ping'' campaign. To help raise funds for Phoenix-area charities, Ping has donated $50 for each of the 5,000 pink drivers sold.

And on Thursday came the payoff. Watson and Ping presented $250,000 to the Phoenix Children's Hospital. The money will be used to create the Bubba Watson and Ping Golf Gait Lab, which will serve pediatric patients with neuromuscular diseases and disabilities.

Here's a cute photo from the check presentation ceremony that Ping Golf tweeted out. That's Ping Golf CEO John Solheim in the middle, and I suspect you can pick Bubba out of the crowd.