109th Patterson Cup – Last Major Championship of the Year

Hard to believe the summer has kind of come and gone already but tomorrow starts the last major of the year. We’ve had some interesting conditions during the season: warm and soft at the Middle-Amateur Championship, nice temperatures and conditions at the Amateur, hot and bone dry at the Open Championship and the next two days look to be cool and probably soft after the rain yesterday. You could say we’ve gotten the full gamut of what could be expected from the weather this Championship season.

White Manor CC is a good test of golf, is in great shape and from a setup standpoint offers a good variety of golf. There is a new tee on the fifth hole which will stretch the yardage of the hole out to 470 yards. The seventh and fifteenth holes will offer a chance for players to be aggressive and attempt to drive the green. All of the par fives also offers the chance for the longer players to make an aggressive play. The par threes have some teeth with number three playing to 250 yards while number eight will play the shortest is requires a very accurate tee shot to very narrow green. The greens at White manor all have plenty of movement and require the player to manage where he leaves the golf ball on and around the greens. The speed of the greens will probably be very quick with the weather forecast we have coming our way.

My take on what White Manor will require in a champion is patience. There are too many difficult holes for anyone to set a blazing pace and pull away from the field. The winner will need to understand that there will be some bogies but also able to advantage of the opportunities that are there during each day. After the first day there will be 20 – 25 golfers within striking range of the Patterson Cup and the Silver Cross. The second day could be a grind fest and ultimately we could see a playoff.

As always it will be fun to watch what unfolds. Good Luck to all of the participants!

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The 111th Amateur Championship

Chris and I spent close to 11 hours on Tuesday setting up Manufacturers and North Hills for the Amateur Championship. We met with Scott May, the superintendent at MG&CC, shortly after arriving at 7 a.m. Picking out four hole locations and four tee locations can be a tedious process and we like to do that before there is a lot of member play.

My plan for setup was fairly simple. Manufacturers maxes out about 6,800 yards and given the rather dry conditions we have experienced in the last month, as well as the forecast for next week, length was not going to be a factor. What we try to do is set lengths that offer variety and try not to make the course play its hardest or longest on any one day of the Championship. Some concern is given to the first day as we have a lot to get accomplished (36 holes with 130 players, playoffs for qualifying spots, etc.). We asked Scott to keep this mind from a green speed standpoint; I know Scott likes to get his greens very fast. Also, the hole locations for match play can be more difficult as players are no longer playing against a score on the course, they are playing a match against an opponent. One of the other decisions we needed to make was regarding the use of the original upper 18th green, the 18th hole has two greens. The upper by the clubhouse makes it a par 5 and the lower by the 10th tee makes it a par 4. I had gone over this in my head several times prior to arriving and was having my own personal match with how I would use or not use this green. Finally, because of a match being against an opponent and not the course I decided we would use the upper green for the match play portion of the championship. It also provides a great setting for any matches that may finish there. We will return to Manufacturers on Monday to mark hole locations, tee locations and all of the hazards. The club has its Member-Guest this weekend, so we decided against painting all the dots, etc. before its event.

We arrived at North Hills around 2:30 p.m. and again from a yardage standpoint my game plan was simple, North Hills maxes out at around 6,500 yards. We met with Jeff Edwards, NHCC superintendent, and went over the same game plan. We finished marking the all the holes, tees and hazards around 5:30 and headed home. It is a long day in the heat but it always feels good to know the plan is in place.

One of the more interesting things about this Championship at these two venues will be the number of par threes and par fives. Both golf courses have five par threes, for the stroke-play qualifying there will be eight par fives and in match play Manufacturers has 5 par fives. So out of 36 holes on Tuesday there will be 18 holes that are either a par five or a par three. In match play, there will be 10 of each 18 that will be a par three or a par five. I’m not sure if this favors any one type of player but at the very least there should be some birdies flying on the par fives.

Have a great weekend and see you on Tuesday!

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Mid-Am Championship Rnd 1 Recap

Day 1 of the Championship is done. Great weather and even better course conditions lead to some pretty low scoring from a handful of competitors. Looking through the scoring stats http://www.ghintpp.com/GAP/TPPOnlineScoring/CourseStats.aspx?id=142 it is amazing to see there were 9 eagles yesterday, which included a hole-in-one from Jamie Slonis at no. three. The course will be stretched out a little more today with nice dry conditions with the exception of no. eleven. Today, eleven will be a drivable par 4 with lots of trouble (out of bounds and lateral water hazards) around the green. The hole location is back right which will give opportunity to those who can fit a drive in on the left side of the green. Those who choose to lay back will face a difficult wedge shot to a small area of green.

One of things that became apparent yesterday is the winner today will be the player who gets through the tough stretch of no. fifteen through eighteen the best. It is going to be fun and also heart wrenching to watch the end of the tournament today.

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Setup Done, Ready for Championship

Chris and I arrived at Laurel Creek on Friday around 7:40 am. We took some time to meet with John DiMarco (golf professional) and to discuss our strategy and go over details. Just as we loaded up our cart with paint and materials John Slade (superintendent) arrived. This was a perfect time to discuss his thoughts on the Championship. Last week was certainly rainy, to say the least and John’s crew was busy trying to get things mowed for the weekend. One of the items I failed to discuss in my last post was rough height. We never ask for anything special when it comes to the rough, only that each club do it’s best to keep it where they need it to be. Here is the line we use in the Pre-Tournament Information “Rough Height – Rough is intended to emphasize accuracy so that good shots are rewarded and poor ones require more testing recoveries. Rough that, in all cases, requires a “pitch” back toward the fairway is undesirable.” That being said, the weather may dictate if John’s crew can get one more pass prior to the tournament. I asked John what he expected for green speeds and he indicated somewhere between 11 and 12 on the stimpmeter. I also asked John if he knew what the number was on Friday and he indicated about 10. When a superintendent asks me what I would like to see from a speed standpoint I rarely indicate a number. Each golf course in Philadelphia is so unique and I spend time at so many that a number is difficult for me to produce accurately. I always like to use the word sporty, so that well struck putts and good green reading are required but not so much speed that the only thing we talk about for the Championship is green speed. A stimpmeter reading of 11 or 12 at Laurel Creek should be just about perfect for sporty conditions. Chris and I headed out starting on the first hole. Typically, if there is a lot of play we will start on the 18th hole and work backwards. Lucky for us the weather had chased most of the golfers away that morning and we worked steadily through all of the hole and tee locations. Previously, I had mentioned the opportunity to find a risk/reward drivable par 4 and I think we may have found one on no. 11. We will need the weather to cooperate but our plan is for that hole to be drivable in the second round. We finished around noon and slipped into the men’s locker lounge for a bite to eat just as it started to rain fairly hard.

When we finished lunch it was still raining but we had work to get finished and out we went to paint the hazards, check out of bounds and ground under repair. Sometimes when weather is nice we are able to paint from the cart. In other words, one of us drives while the other paints untill we get to a spot where we can’t drive. This was not possible at Laurel Creek, it was just too wet.  We were going to have to walk but we have a little plan to help us do it faster. One of gets dropped off at the green of the hole the other person takes the cart to the tee of that hole and begins painting the next hole. When the person dropped off at the green gets finished, he gets the cart and goes to pick up the other on the next hole. And so it went for the next three and half hours. A total of 72 cans of paint (some of it on our clothing) and lots of sweat later we were finished marking the course.

I will also say that the course is in perfect condition and we are excited about the opportunity to have the Middle-Amateur Championship at Laurel Creek.

Below are the yardages for each round:

Round 1                                                                              

#1

405

#2

368

#3

167

#4

405

#5

505

#6

428

#7

217

#8

346

#9

545

Front

3386

 

 

#10

406

#11

396

#12

434

#13

387

#14

165

#15

521

#16

411

#17

199

#18

437

Back

3356

 

 

Total

6742

                                                                                                          

Round 2

#1

412

#2

371

#3

163

#4

404

#5

505

#6

437

#7

189

#8

366

#9

553

Front

3400

 

 

#10

401

#11

284

#12

449

#13

397

#14

165

#15

521

#16

428

#17

219

#18

412

Back

3276

 

 

Total

6676

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Setting up for our first “Major” of the year

I’m hoping the rain is going to stop sometime soon but according to the weather forecast it is not looking too promising. On Friday, Chris Roselle and I are headed to Laurel Creek to “setup” for the 28th Middle-Amateur Championship. The trip over will begin early in the morning as we try to get on the course before play begins for the day. Before we head out on the course we will meet with John Slade, the golf course superintendent, to get an idea of what his expectations are from a golf course preparation standpoint, go over our thoughts on preparation and find out if there is anything that needs our attention. The Association has set parameters on the length of the Mid-Am of 6,900 to 7,200 yards based on course par and conditions. Based on the forecast, our setup will be shorter and if the weather turns to better we will adjust on the morning of each day.

Our first trip through the course will be comprised of selecting hole locations and tee locations for both days of the event. Keeping the yardage and course conditions in mind we will select two tee locations on each hole that will offer variety in how the course will play each day. Typically, we do not intend for any one day of the championship to play more difficult. One of the more interesting course setup items comes from Mike Davis (USGA Executive Director). It is to find one hole that could be drivable and presents some kind of risk/reward scenario. The opportunity doesn’t always present itself but I’ve been thinking about Laurel Creek and there may be an opportunity there. From a hole locations (rules gurus notice I didn’t say pin positions) standpoint we are often asked if we try to do six easy, six medium and six difficult. My answer has always been no, judging whether hole locations are easy or difficult is always in the eye of the player and how they play particular shots or holes. What we definitely try to do is balance our lefts and rights and balance our fronts and backs so that no advantage is given to players who hit the ball left to right or right to left or are high ball hitters or low ball hitters. We use different colored paint pens to mark hole locations that we pick up at the art store. They are available in a wide variety of colors and it easy to control our dot size, typically we try to keep it to the size of a nickel so we don’t kill a lot of grass on the greens. We also try to put our marks on a ball mark in the area we want to use. Keeping in mind the conditions we expect (wet) which typically means slower and more spin on approach shots we will select two hole locations on each green.

On our second trip through the course we paint all of the water hazards, add stakes where necessary, ensure all out of bounds is marked properly, paint any ground under repair and go over all local rules. This is a fairly lengthy process and given the number of hazards and out of bounds at Laurel Creek will take a few hours. We use paint guns that have a double barrel that allows us to put down an extra heavy line, in this case we will be marking the course nearly five days in advance and in wet weather our lines could disappear if not for the double paint job. Painting the course sometimes requires walking through some heavily grown areas, we will bring our rainsuits in case it is wet and to keep the bugs off us.

When we are finished we take a few minutes to meet with the golf professional and manager just to make sure everyone is on the same page and there are no questions. If time permits we head back to the office to enter the all of the yardages, hole locations and pace of play information into the tournament software and local rules sheets. It can be a pretty long day with some of the drive times but it always feels good to know that everything is just the way you want it.

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Interesting changes coming faster than ever before

Recently the USGA revised decision 33-7/4.5 Competitor Unaware of Penalty Returns Wrong Score; Whether Waiving or Modifying Disqualification Penalty Justified. Generally, I like the change. It prevents players from getting hung up on the rules when they thought they had proceeded correctly and still puts the onus on the player to know the rules. However, I don’t believe it will be one that will have a strong impact on GAP events. This is a television or HD decision that really only has an impact on events that are televised.

Previous

Q. A competitor returns his score card and the score for one hole is lower than actually taken due to failure to include a penalty of two strokes which he did not know he had incurred. The error is discovered before the competition has closed.

Would the Committee be justified, under 33-7, in waiving or modifying the penalty of disqualification prescribed in Rule 6-6d?

  1. No. It is the responsibility of the competitor to know the Rules

Revised

Q. A competitor returns his score card. It later transpires that the score for one hole is lower than actually taken due to his failure to include a penalty stroke(s) which he did not know he had incurred. The error is discovered before the competition has closed.

Would the Committee be justified, under Rule 33-7, in waiving or modifying the penalty of disqualification prescribed in Rule 6-6d?

A. Generally, the disqualification prescribed by Rule 6-6d must not be waived or modified.

However, if the Committee is satisfied that the competitor could not reasonably have known or discovered the facts resulting in his breach of the Rules, it would be justified under Rule 33-7 in waiving the disqualification penalty prescribed by Rule 6-6d.  The penalty stroke(s) associated with the breach would, however, be applied to the hole where the breach occurred.

For example, in the following scenarios, the Committee would be justified in waiving the disqualification penalty:

  • A player makes a short chip from the greenside rough. At the time, he and his fellow-competitors have no reason to suspect that the player has double-hit his ball in breach of Rule 14-4.  After the competitor has signed and returned his score card, a close-up, super-slow-motion video replay reveals that the competitor struck his ball twice during the course of the stroke.  In these circumstances, it would be appropriate for the Committee to waive the disqualification penalty and apply the one-stroke penalty under Rule 14-4 to the player’s score at the hole in question.
  • After a competitor has signed and returned his score card, it becomes known, through the use of a high-definition video replay, that the player unknowingly touched a few grains of sand with his club at the top of his backswing on a wall of the bunker.  The touching of the sand was so light that, at the time, it was reasonable for the player to have been unaware that he had breached Rule 13-4.  It would be appropriate for the Committee to waive the disqualification penalty and apply the two-stroke penalty to the player’s score at the hole in question.

 

  • A competitor moves his ball on the putting green with his finger in the act of removing his ball-marker. The competitor sees the ball move slightly forward but is certain that it has returned to the original spot, and he plays the ball as it lies. After the competitor signs and returns his score card, video footage is brought to the attention of the Committee that reveals that the ball did not precisely return to its original spot. When questioned by the Committee, the competitor cites the fact that the position of the logo on the ball appeared to be in exactly the same position as it was when he replaced the ball and this was the reason for him believing that the ball returned to the original spot. As it was reasonable in these circumstances for the player to have no doubt that the ball had returned to the original spot, and because the player could not himself have reasonably discovered otherwise prior to signing and returning his score card, it would be appropriate for the Committee to waive  the disqualification penalty. The two-stroke penalty under Rule 20-3a for playing from a wrong place would, however, be applied to the player’s score at the hole in question.

 A Committee would not be justified under Rule 33-7 in waiving or modifying the disqualification penalty prescribed in Rule 6-6d if the player’s failure to include the penalty stroke(s) was a result of either ignorance of the Rules or of facts that the player could have reasonably discovered prior to signing and returning his score card.

For example, in the following scenarios, the Committee would not be justified in waiving or modifying the disqualification penalty:

  • As a player’s ball is in motion, he moves several loose impediments in the area in which the ball will likely come to rest.  Unaware that this action is a breach of Rule 23-1, the player fails to include the two-stroke penalty in his score for the hole.  As the player was aware of the facts that resulted in his breaching the Rules, he should be disqualified under Rule 6-6d for failing to include the two-stroke penalty under Rule 23-1.
  • A player’s ball lies in a water hazard.  In making his backswing for the stroke, the player is aware that his club touched a branch in the hazard.  Not realizing at the time that the branch was detached, the player did not include the two-stroke penalty for a breach of Rule 13-4 in his score for the hole.  As the player could have reasonably determined the status of the branch prior to signing and returning his score card, the player should be disqualified under Rule 6-6d for failing to include the two-stroke penalty under Rule 13-4.  (Revised)

 

Tom O’Toole (Vice-President of the USGA) recently spoke of another change that could be coming in 2012 is to Rule 18-2b.

Currently

If a players ball in play moves after he has addressed it (other than as a result of a stroke), the player is deemed to have moved the ball and incurs a penalty of one stroke. The ball must be replaced, unless the movement of the ball occurs after the player has begun the stroke or the backward movement of the club for the stroke and the stroke is made.

In 2012?

if it was known or virtually certain that the player did not cause that ball to move, then the (penalty) does not apply

I find it interesting that while the rules haven’t changed and changes in that area will continue to occur every 4 years, the USGA and R&A have made revisions to decisions basically in season. It kinda tells you what kind of world we live in when information and ideas can be traded so quickly. They also seem to be more willing to share news on what changes may be coming soon.

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Course Setup – The Masters

I had a nice opportunity to watch the Masters over the weekend and all I can say is “wow.” The final round was one of the most fun rounds of golf to watch in quite some time. At almost any given point in time it seemed any one of about 10 guys could win. It seemed like the television cameras almost couldn’t keep up with all the action. It was certainly different from the days where all you needed to do was watch the final group and at the end of the day you felt like you watched about four people play the final round. Not too long ago, after lengthening the course, the final round felt pretty boring. You tuned into those final rounds and it was a battle of who could hold onto the lead, not the battle of who would make the biggest charge on the final nine holes. The Masters, in my estimation, has always been about final round excitement.

After the lengthening, it took some time for the Committee to see how it affected the tournament and gain some understanding of how and when to use the yardage to the benefit of the tournament and keep that Sunday excitement. One of the most difficult things to manage in a golf tournament is course setup. It takes a whole lot of things going in the right direction to achieve the desired product. First, it takes a great understanding of the course and the players competing. How far does this group of competitors, on average, hit their golf ball? Are the fairways receptive to shots struck that distance? Are there forced carries? Are there a lot of hazards and out of bounds? Second, you need to incorporate that knowledge into a great game plan of yardages, hole locations, rough heights and green speeds and a backup plan built around the weather. Third, you need the superintendent and his staff to have an understanding of the desired outcome and willingness to work toward that effort. Fourth, you need the support of the entire Committee and club members. Last, but certainly not least, you need the cooperation of Mother Nature. One of the cooler things about Augusta National is it’s ability to control some of the things Mother Nature throws at it from a course conditions standpoint. Each green is equipped to remove moisture, add moisture, and add heat or cooling. The Masters is also the only major that doesn’t move to a new venue each year giving the Committee the opportunity to constantly tweak it’s goals and the setup.

If you take the time to think about this information and reflect on the action on Sunday, I think you will come to the same conclusion, they got it just about perfect. Almost anyone could have come out of the woodwork and won that event. Sunday’s course setup required great shots to make a run at the Championship but not so much so that no one made birdies or eagles. It also required good shots to have opportunities at success. Lastly, it gave all types of players a chance to compete all over the course. Just when I thought Charl Schwartzel had given away too many opportunities early in the round he is able to birdie the last four holes and win the tournament.

Congratulations to The Masters, the Committee, Members and Staff for an awesome tournament!

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