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Archive for June, 2010

Commentary: Breaking down the Tiger factor

By Mary Armstrong/For the Las Cruces Sun-News

Posted: 06/25/2010 12:00:00 AM MDT

The Saturday round at the U.S. Open featured a Tigeresque performance by none other than Eldrick Tont “Tiger” Woods himself. His score of 66 and the manner in which he scored it – an incoming bogeyless nine of 31 – ignited media cries of “Tiger is back”. Yes, apparently he was able to bury his demons, muster his focus and allow his skill to yield a fabulous score. Does this mean he’s back? Why does the media cater to him? Why is he credited with single handedly creating the golf boom of the 90’s?

There are simple answers to these questions. First of all, he IS a very talented player – perhaps the most talented of all time, but time still must be the judge of that. And yes, Americans are notorious underdog fans especially for oppressed people of talent. When Tiger arrived on the scene – from the time he made that historic appearance as hardly more than a toddler prodigy on the Mike Douglas show – he of African American, Thai, Chinese, and Dutch heritage has benefited from the public’s willingness to hope for the best for him. Sure, he proved himself with countless tournament wins in juniors and later with two U.S. Amateur Championships, but is that all you have to do to earn the media’s adoration? It seems so.

Is Tiger Woods a good guy, a bad guy, a shy guy? I don’t know and I don’t think there are many people that know him well enough to know that. Earl Woods was the ultimate father of a prodigy, but it didn’t stop there. He wasn’t content with just a championship golfer, Earl was very adept at guiding Tiger toward being media savvy as well. Tiger may not have had the benefit of an agent when he was a student athlete at Stanford, but you can bet his father did. I imagine there were plenty of media experienced people clamoring to Earl Woods door willing to “give” their advice in exchange (at least in their minds) for a bite of the big apple that was budding.

I’ve never met Tiger and I didn’t interview him before writing this article – not that he would give me an interview anyway. It’s not my intent to write about what Tiger wants to tell us, after all that is what his and every other celebrity athletes’ PR people school them to do. This article is about the garbage we are force fed for the sake of making a buck.In 2008 Tiger earned about 12 million dollars playing golf. He was paid nearly 10 times that amount through endorsements. When a company is looking for someone to endorse their product they want an individual that has a polished persona: someone that will not embarrass the company. Tiger and his father spent years and lots of money (if only by taking “free” advice) creating such a facade. We now know it was a pretense – a pretense that established him as a role model, and all around good family man. If Elin can forgive his misbehavior, then I suppose I can as well.Deep down I knew that the Tiger we were being exposed to wasn’t the real Eldrick. Still, I harbored hope that this person was “for real”. He seemed to echo so much that is good about the game. He was poised, passionate, dedicated and most of all beyond reproach. Golf IS different from every other sport. Honesty and with it honor are perhaps the most important non-athletic values of the game. Eldrick is not Tiger and Eldrick is no role model.My father taught me early on about the importance of honor in the game. It made a big impression on me. I’ve always felt that a person that cheats at golf will be likely to cheat at other things too. Is the reverse true? Will Tiger’s dishonorable behavior lead to revelations about his golf? Call me a cynic, but I wouldn’t be surprised.Perhaps you’re thinking to yourself “they all do it, what’s the big deal”. You might be right – maybe there are many others that have character flaws that run counter to their PR created images. If so, I can only hope that they are caught in their own game, just as Eldrick was. And what about all of us? We all have secrets – things we’d prefer aren’t known about ourselves. But are you making millions because people don’t know these things? What’s more, are you willing to fork over your hard earned dollars to these people making millions? After all, ultimately it is we, the consumer that pays. There is a line and we, as a society, should be drawing it in the sand.Parting Shots: How many of my readers have participated in this or that charity event this year? I’ll bet a high percentage and probably all for very good causes. Golf has become the event of choice among those that want to raise cash. What have you done lately to give back to the game that has helped so many indirectly? There is an event coming up that will enable you to support the game and also encourage its growth. The City golf tournament is just around the corner. There are divisions for men, senior men, women, and juniors are in the tournament for the first time this year. We are fortunate here in Las Cruces and Dona Ana County to have a very classy and well run City Tournament. Your support – either by sponsorships, donations of raffle prizes, as a volunteer or as a participant in the tournament makes the game a little better here in our little corner of the world. Get out there and support the upcoming City Tournament. There are entry forms at each of the area golf courses. Call Larry Hunt (575) 525-2166 or Leon Cox at (575)571-9870 to let them know you’re interested in supporting the event.A golf architect in New Hampshire for over 20 years, Armstrong brought her craft to Las Cruces last January. She is the founder of Armstrong Golf Architects, which provides planning, designing, permitting and construction monitoring services for golf course projects. 


Top Ten Lists

by Mary Armstrong/For the Las Cruces Sun-News

Posted: 06/18/2010 12:00:00 AM MDT

My Top 10 favorite golf courses I have played worldwide:

1. North Berwick Golf Club – North Berwick, Scotland

2. Pinehurst #2,Pinehurst Resort, Pinehurst, NC

3. The Old Course, St. Andrews Golf Club, St Andrews Scotland

4. Mid-Pines Golf Club, Southern Pines, NC

5. The New Course, St. Andrews Golf Club, St. Andrews, Scotland

6. Pine Needles Golf Club, Southern Pines, NC

7. Lake Sunapee Country Club, New London, New Hampshire

8. Prouts Neck Golf Club, Scarborough, Maine

9. Dunes Course, New Seabury Country Club, Mashpee (Cape Cod), Massachusetts

10. The Country Club, Brookline, Massachusetts

My Top 10 golf courses I’ve never played world-wide:

1. Augusta National GC – Augusta, Georgia

2. Royal Dornoch Golf Links, Dornoch, Scotland

3. Prairie Dunes Country Club, Hutchinson, Kansas

4. Pebble Beach Golf Links, Carmel, California

5. Cruden Bay Golf Club, Aberdeenshire, Scotland

6. Ballybunion Golf Club, County Kerry, Ireland

7. Royal Melbourne Golf Links, Black Rock, Victoria, Australia

8. Bethpage Black, Farmingdale, New York

9. TPC Sawgrass GC, Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida

10. Turnberry Golf Links, Ayshire, Scotland

11. My next design…*smiles*

My Top 10 list of golf slang/sayings:

1. Don’t drink and drive; don’t even putt.

2. That shot wasn’t fat, it was obese/That shot wasn’t thin it was emaciated.

3. The woods are full of long hitters.

4. That’s a Star Trek shot – Boldly goes where no one has gone before!

5. Sandy Snowman – an 8 with a one putt from the bunker (I’ve done this!)

6. Duck Hook, aka Quacker – a shot that hooks, but dives steeply to the ground.

7. Blue Bayou – as in blew by you!

8. Weber – a shot that goes into someone’s backyard – if it hits their outdoor grill, it’s a Weber-in-one.

9. Grunkel – Anyplace that would be considered out-of-play, but often used in New England to describe wetland areas.

10. Last, my own creation – It’s not how good your good shots are – it’s how good your bad shots are!

Top 10 reasons I love golf

1. I’m outside.

2. I get some exercise for my body (I usually walk) and lots of mental gymnastics.

3. The surroundings are usually beautiful.

4. I meet the most wonderful people – nearly all my friends are from golf meetings.

5. I can play by myself and be challenged.

6. I nearly always see wildlife and sometimes unusual wildlife happenings – just last week I saw a coyote catch a bird.

7. When I’m upset I can relieve my aggression playing golf.

8. When I’m reflective I can be alone and play without thinking about the game.

9. I love the smell of freshly mown grass.

10. It’s given me a wonderful career and a good living.

Top 10 turnoffs at the golf course

1. seeing someone search their bag for a ringing cell phone.

2. seeing someone leave their bag 10 yards away from them and then needing to change their club.

3. forward tees that are too small, improperly leveled or just poorly built.

4. old greens that weren’t designed for today’s green speeds.

5. cart paths – wish we didn’t need them at all.

6. watching someone look at a putt from behind the hole every time.

7. Bunkers that have lips higher than 2 inches

8. Marshals that don’t marshal.

9. Out of bounds within the course.

10. Someone that insists on calling a penalty on me when they don’t know the rules.

Margaret Curtis — a woman for all seasons

by Mary Armstrong/For the Las Cruces Sun-News

Posted: 06/18/2010 12:00:00 AM MDT

This year’s Curtis Cup is especially poignant as it returns to Essex County Club in Manchester-by-the-sea, Massachusetts. Margaret was born in the Manchester-by-the-sea area, the youngest of ten children. Her father eventually served as the Assistant Secretary of the Treasury under William Howard Taft. Her cousin, Laurence Curtis, encouraged his entire family to take up the game before he served as the USGA President from 1897-98.

Margaret and her older sister Harriot began playing at a young age. Margaret quickly became a talented player and in 1897, at the age of 13 she qualified fourth for the US Women’s Amateur. Her sister won the championship in 1906 and then Margaret won it in 1907, 1911 and 1912. Margaret was also an excellent tennis player. In 1908 she won the U.S. Open doubles tennis championship with Evelyn Sears. She remains today as the only person to simultaneously hold the U.S. golf and tennis titles. Margaret was very fond of competing in Great Britain in the British Ladies Amateur Championship. Despite losing a five shot lead on the final hole in 1907 at Walton Heath, near London, she felt it very important to continue a competitive and social connection to the ladies in Britain.

Margaret attended Simmons College and was a student of their School of Social Work. This eventually led her to the Board of Directors of the Family Service Society for 51 years. During World War I, she went to Paris where she joined the Red Cross and served as its Director of the Bureau for Refugees.

Margaret and Harriot donated the Curtis Cup in 1932 for the biennial competition between the U.S. and Great Britain. She died on Christmas Eve, 1965. You can only imagine that she would have been overjoyed to see the Cup come to Essex County Club once again. For more information on Margaret and the Curtis Cup surf to Wikipedia.

COMMENTARY: Are you Green Literate?

COMMENTARY: Are you Green Literate?

By Mary Armstrong, Golf Architect

Posted: 06/11/2010 12:00:00 AM MDT – Published by the Las Cruces Sun-news


The primary objective of the golf architect and contractor is to create a green surface that has the structure and components to promote the maintenance of healthy turf. Essentially, green design is first and foremost about water management. The golf course superintendent that can control water on his greens has a good first step toward maintaining the best possible surfaces. The contours also must collect and funnel surface water off the green, away from bunkers and out of play. So water movement away from the green surface provides the basis for the creative contouring that makes each green a unique challenge to approach play and putting. The more places the architect can shed water off the green, the better. You should be aware of these factors when reading greens.

Sometimes in the heat of competition we forget that greens are living organisms. They aren’t some sort of carpet; and to consider them so is only detrimental to your own game. In Dave Pelz book, “Putt Like the Pros”, he describes an experiment using a putting machine to simulate 1800 perfectly stroked 12-foot putts on greens at three different golf courses. What he found might surprise you. The three courses he chose might be typified as average maintenance budget with heavy play (A), high maintenance budget and average play (B), and very high maintenance budget with light play (C). The results were only 48 percent of the putts went in on course A, 54 percent on course B, and 84 percent on Course C. Clearly, foot traffic and maintenance budget does have an effect on putting. Furthermore, in his experimentation Dave found that there are putts that “can’t be made” – just as there are putts that “can’t be missed”. Simply put, a putt along a the top of a very subtle ridge might wander off line no matter where you hit it. Likewise, a ball hit down a slight valley will go back on line regardless of where it’s hit. What’s more, I believe that as putting green heights go lower, putts are more likely to be knocked off line by subtle imperfections. This means that faster greens may be LESS true than slower greens.

So, no matter how good you stroke your putt, greens don’t provide the perfect surface and the ball may not find the hole. The moral of the story – “don’t beat yourself up when you miss a putt.”If you feel uncertain about reading greens, try these tips:• Observe the green as you are approaching it — say from 60 yards or so. From this distance, you should be able to see the direction the land is sloping where the green is placed. From this distance you can almost always get a good feel for the general pitch of the green. This is because architects generally avoid allowing stormwater to flow off the green against the prevailing slope. Also, earthmoving is minimized and it will appear more “natural” if the green generally pitches with the slope of the land. If there are bunkers around the green, the architect must avoid having water runoff into the bunkers because it will cause sand erosion and maintenance headaches. Therefore, the area between the bunker and the green surface will most often be a gentle mound or ridge and putts to holes near the green edges will ordinarily break away from bunkers. Very old or poorly built golf courses may be the exception to this rule.• As you approach the green look for the lowest point — the location at the edge of the green where water will flow off the green. As I mentioned before, there may be more than one location, so you may want to choose the spot that most influences the track of your putt. From this position it is usually easiest to see the arrangement of the contours and their severity.• If you are carrying your clubs try to walk across the green and look at the line from behind the hole. After dropping your clubs off at the edge, analyze the break from behind your ball. All the information you have gathered should be computing in your brain and by now you should be getting something of a sense for how much break and whether the putt is uphill or downhill.• There are sometimes “modifiers” to judging break, but they are only that. If you can predict the direction water flows, then most of the time you’ll have all the information you need. Among others, modifiers are things like “A” Mountain, Picacho Peak and other major land features that influence the larger landscape. When I say influence, I don’t mean anything mystical or magical.• Have you ever read your putt, become committed to your line and then have an element of doubt in your mind? Your feet may be talking to you! It is a fact that we sense slope in our feet. Sometimes just standing over your putt will give you feedback on how the green slopes at that location. Depending upon how consistently the green slopes, this may be helpful, or a complete misread. Although I’ve never tried it, walking along (not in) your expected line may give you another “sense” to factor in.As with everything in golf, it takes practice. If you are fortunate to have a putting green with slopes and turf that reflect what you will see on the course, you can quickly learn to read your course’s greens. One last tip — I firmly believe that walking versus riding a cart helps me read greens.Moving from course to course can be challenging. The Evian Masters GC in ƒvian-les-Bains, France is known to have among the most difficult greens to read. This is primarily because of its mountainside setting. Here in Las Cruces, the greens at Picacho Hills and NMSU are most difficult to read because of our mountain setting. The good news is — if you can learn to read those greens, you can learn to read almost any!A golf architect in New Hampshire for over 20 years, Armstrong brought her craft to Las Cruces last January. She is the founder of Armstrong Golf Architects, which provides planning, designing, permitting and construction monitoring services for golf course projects. 

Commentary: Has golf embraced women?

By Mary Armstrong/For the Sun-News

Posted: 06/08/2010 03:17:53 PM MDT

The weekly Golf Journal column by John Paul Newport in the Wall Street Journal titled “Golf’s Search for its Feminine Side” draws on studies and research from the last few years. The most recent study “The Right Invitation: A Comprehensive Research Study to Guide the Golf Industry to Meaningfully Increase Women’s Golf Participation and Satisfaction” is by the National Golf Course Owners Association.

I could stretch this article out — talk about how women experience golf differently than men, how there are different things that women value in a golfing experience — but let’s just lay it on the line. Golf doesn’t care. Ladies, we have to face it. We are not in the power position in this society — not even close. For the guys, I think it’s just become the way things are and why make an effort to change it?

Here is what some of my women golfer friends thought about Mr. Newport’s article:

“In Las Cruces and El Paso there are no stores that sell women’s equipment. Our pro shop has just begun to carry some attractive women’s clothing, but has more men’s attire, as do Sonoma and NMSU. I do not believe that either place or the golf store in town has demos for the ladies to try.”

“I would love to play on a little shorter course that would make my score much better and therefore more fun.”

“The young women play in college, then stop to build their careers and family. When their kids get older and their careers are established, many come back. Some don’t.

Men often use golf to build their careers. There is definitely a gap in there.””I do believe that most older, and the higher-handicap, women golfers have a hard time going to a course as a single and playing with other people/strangers for fear that they will get paired up with a male. Sometimes if he is fairly good, women are afraid that the man will think the woman will hold them up. There are some men today that will refuse to play with a woman.”

“Men don’t understand it when women ‘collect’ around they’re playing partner for her to hit her shot. Boys, it’s because when women feel threatened or uncomfortable, and especially when it has to do with men, they tend to gather ’round to support each other.”

And this final comment from my friend in New Hampshire:”The last issue, and probably the most important, has to do with respect. It is not just golf courses that don’t know how to deal with women. It is, unfortunately, a cultural problem. I know a couple of men who should move up a set of tees. They would enjoy themselves so much more. They don’t because of the comments from the other men. And don’t get me started on the looks I get when I get paired up with men I don’t know while traveling.”Granted, all women aren’t overwhelmed by the game and having to deal with a male dominated facility.

Since coming to Las Cruces, I’ve had very positive experiences at all the courses. On the other hand, here as well as other places around the country, I’ve seen women completely turned off by their golfing experience.Province Lake Golf Club in Parsonsfield, Maine (I’ve played it several times) tripled rounds played by women. How’d they do it? Oh sure, they altered their facility — adding tees to produce appropriate-length holes, included restrooms on the course and provided access to all the features that men take for granted. I mean REALLY, why can’t there be a wastebasket or ball washer near the women’s tees?

But it’s about a lot more than physical adjustments. According to Nancy Berkley, a noted consultant on women and golf, it’s about attitude. When a woman walks into a pro shop is she getting the customer service that is going to result in her playing your course? The male dominated gatekeepers of golf intimidate many women. From the person taking green fees behind the counter to the bag-boys, marshals and starters, it’s 99 percent male. Is it purposeful? Is this just a remnant of our fading patriarchal society? Maybe, but I prefer to think that men are just panic-stricken by women golfers. Think about it — men are from Mars, right? If it’s not important enough for them to figure out how to get along with us in relationships, why in the world will they want to help you decide if you need a Precept Lady IQ plus or a Titlest Pro V1x?I’m not writing this to bash you guys. We understand that you like to have your all-men’s moments.

We like to have our all-women’s moments too. Thing is, there’s not many women-owned courses.Then there’s always the sexual tension issue. It’s difficult in our society for men and women to interact and communicate clearly in an “unchaperoned” setting. Think about the last time you were in line at the grocery store. If you were by yourself and there was a man or woman behind or in front of you, did you feel comfortable striking up a casual “this line is sure slow” type conversation? I’ll bet not. Women are afraid we’ll be perceived as offering ourselves up as a willing partner, and men are afraid she will think he is hitting on her.

But in American society isn’t capitalism the last word? If it can make money then societal nuances be damned? Apparently not for golf. Women have been looked upon as a “vast untapped market” for well over 10 years. The sad and telling truth is that we still are.

A golf architect in New Hampshire for over 20 years, Armstrong brought her craft to Las Cruces last January. She is the founder of Armstrong Golf Architects, which provides planning, designing, permitting and construction monitoring services for golf course projects.