Road Hole Shorts

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Archive for November, 2011

A review of the 2011 Sun Country Golf Summit

By: Mary Armstrong

Published by: Las Cruces Sun-News 11/18/11


This past weekend I at­tended the 2011 Sun Country Golf Summit at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Albuquerque.  The Summit represented a joint effort of the governing bodies of golf in New Mexico and West Texas and resulted in a gathering of golf leaders across the industry spectrum.

The theme of the meeting was “Golf Under Construc­tion,” in recognition of the re­cent decline in play. PGA of America Secretary Derek Sprague’s keynote speech fo­cused on a recently completed market study entitled Golf 2.0.  Boston Consulting Group was hired by the PGA for the proj­ect. Their work resulted in three core strategies to grow the game: Retain/strengthen the core market; engage the “lapsed” market; and drive new players. The current core mar­ket is about 26.1 million players, down by 10 percent from 2009.  The “lapsed” market includes individuals that at one time de­scribed themselves as golfers.  According to the plan, this la­tent pool of players numbers over 90 million. The “other 84 percent” or non-golfing house­holds are also targeted.

The study included 2,000 broad-based consumer quanti­tative studies, 2,700 surveys of PGA members and employers, and consumer focus groups.  The plan’s objective is to reach 32 million golfers by 2016 and 40 million by 2020.  There are five core Golf 2.0 messages that will be directed to consumers through various media outlets: 1) Golf is a fun family activity; 2) golf is afford­able; 3) golf doesn’t have to mean 18 holes; 4) women and golf; and 5) golf is healthy.

This is a tall order — a very tall order.

First of all, bringing a family to the golf course can easily cost more than $150, which also speaks to golf being affordable.  When was the last time you saw a family at the golf course?

Secondly, the PGA has been trying to “conquer” the women’s market for over 20 years. Will the hiring of Donna Orender, the former CEO of the WNBA, make the differ­ence? I don’t think so. Orender is pushing a social component to women’s golf. That may work fine for retirees and stay­at-home moms, but for the vast majority, the time that the game takes is a greater factor.

Whether you have time for 9 or 18, it’s rare that women can stretch that for a wine tasting event or a make-up demonstra­tion. Really, the “secret” is we need you guys to communicate WITH us. Don’t try and tell us what to do and for goodness sake, don’t talk to us like we’re your 8-year-old niece. When we ask a question, we might not be asking the right question or we might be asking it incor­rectly. Enter into a discussion — just like you would with the guys when you think they might not know what they’re talking about. And just like the guys, get to know your female players. We like to joke around and have fun just like your male players do. We won’t bite. Then there’s the perception that golf courses are congested. Nearly every market group identified in the study that has some exposure to the game feels that courses are too is congested. This just isn’t the case. Even a course such as NMSU’s, which is probably the busiest in town, has as many as two hours or more of tee times left unfilled on their busiest days. In a day with 12 hours of daylight, and 10 minutes be­tween tee times, leaving a two­hour gap at the end so that the players can complete at least nine holes, there are 240 possi­ble slots for a player. So the problem isn’t the availability of a tee time, but perhaps that there is too much waiting while at the course, or even that play­ers feel self-conscious about holding up groups when the course is busy. It is my experi­ence that this CAN be resolved with strict expectations being expressed at the counter and a strong on-course marshaling program.

Regardless of my nitpicks, the PGA has invested a sub­stantial effort and dollars to try and figure this thing out. Peo­ple like Matt Williams, the Di­rector of the Sun Country PGA Chapter and Sun Country Am­ateur Golf Association are committed to carrying out the plan. Matt is a very motivated guy and I think we’ll see progress from him and his con­stituent pros. I try not to com­plain about things without of­fering constructive solutions.

While it’s easy to see that the pros have a tenable stake in seeing the plan implemented, it may not be so easy for us as players. Think about the last time you were on the course where you saw a group of be­ginners or even a family play­ing golf. Did you scowl or growl some complaint when they were unable to keep pace?

Wouldn’t it make things more pleasant instead to offer help or guidance to move them along? Golf courses are disappearing from the nation at an alarming rate. If you think this game is so wonderful, wouldn’t it be more fun to share it? Our reluc­tance to share the sport with those that aren’t as experienced may cost us a future. It’s frus­trating to be behind someone that doesn’t know what they are doing, but helping them along can pay dividends.


Presidents Cup

Will Tiger roar once again? He showed signs of his old self at the Australian Open this past week. If you know golf, you know that anything can hap­pen. He could sweep his matches and he could end up with the big donut. By the time you read this you’ll probably know whether he is digging himself out or burying himself deeper.

One thing is for sure, the ven­ue won’t change and I’m thank­ful for that. Royal Melbourne is a traditional style course de­signed by Alister Mackenzie — of Augusta National’s leg­endary greens fame. But, don’t confuse traditional with dull. In my opinion, the golf course makes the event in the team match play tournaments. A course that has a lot of heroic holes — those that allow a player to gain a distinct advan­tage by playing a daring shot — provides the most dramatic sit­uations in match play.

Geoff Shackelford is perhaps the best writer I know when it comes to critiquing a golf course. When I went to his blog, he has linked to an inter­view of Michael Clayton by Golf Digest’s John Huggan for his critique of the course. Clay­ton says the best holes are at the beginning of the course, so be sure to tune in early — and fortunately, with the time dif­ferential the live telecasts will begin in early evenings or late afternoons here. And by the way, the live telecasts are on the Golf Channel and delayed telecasts the next morning on NBC.

Clayton points out that holes three through six may be the most spectacular four hole stretch in the world. He com­pares them to the 11th through 14th at Augusta. The layout is a composite of the East and West 18’s at Royal Melbourne. This is the third version of the com­posite course, as the 16th (14th in the composite layout) has been added from the East Course as well as some other changes that primarily have to do with the order the holes are played.

Also, Shackelford points to the 11th green as his favorite overall. He says to watch this short par 4 closely for some of the most imaginative and wild shots.

From what I hear as I write this, Webb Simpson will be playing with Bubba Watson. Watch out for that pairing. It seems like the perfect combina­tion of steady and daring to me. By the time you read this we’ll have a better idea of how effec­tive it was.


A golf architect in New Hamp­shire for over 20 years, Arm­strong brought her craft to Las Cruces in January 2010. She is the founder of Armstrong Golf Architects, which provides plan­ning, designing, permitting and construction monitoring services for golf course projects. You can comment on her writing and view past articles at her blog: http://roadholeshorts17. word­





An update from the LPGA Tour

By: Mary Armstrong

Published by the Las Cruces Sun-News, 11/11/11

The LPGA Tour has returned to North America after a four tournament swing in Asia.   This will be the Fourth Annual Lorena Ochoa Invitational. Kyung Kim is the defending champion thanks to a three shot victory over Suzann Pettersen.

But we are getting ahead of ourselves. The Asian swing was wildly popular there and Yani Tseng’s win in her homeland certainly didn’t hurt the cause. Whether it’s the result of Yani’s romp and strong tournament attendance totals or not, the LPGA seems to be seizing the opportunity to expand it’s brand in the Pacific Rim. A new Korean version of the LP-GA website was unveiled, and next year Australia will join the fun as the inaugural ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open joins the winter Asian swing this coming February.

I don’t know what the Nielson Ratings were, but even I didn’t tune into the LPGA Asian events as often as I do to the more familiar U.S. tournaments. The few times I did, I wasn’t impressed. The coverage contracted by the Golf Channel was substandard — even for the Golf Channel. The commentators were largely unknown to us Americans and the initial tournament — the Hana Bank Championship went most if not all of at least one broadcast without on-the-course ambient audio. The LPGA is at a bit of a disadvantage with the broadcasts because former commissioner Carolyn Bivens’ negotiations with the Golf Channel were one of the factors that got her booted.

Nonetheless, television is essentially LPGA’s connection to its fan base and the broadcasts must capture and hold our attention. If the Golf Channel will continue as the primary outlet for the LPGA, they must demand a better product. The biggest problem was the commentators. Aside from being unknown in the U.S. market, the lead broadcaster had a heavy Australian accent, making it difficult for us sheltered Americans to follow him. I would think familiarity is very important when trying to hold an audience. If the current U.S. crew can’t fit the Asian tournaments into their schedule, that needs to be corrected.

Despite the growing number of Pacific Rim tournaments, the absence of an Asian Solheim Cup equivalent could provide LPGA Commissioner Michael Whan with his best opportunity to solidify what is becoming a world tour. There have been published reports that there will be a multinational team event in the 2012 schedule.

Kraig Kan, LPGA Chief Communications Officer, said in a statement that speculation regarding the specifics of the event is premature at this point. It seems obvious that it would include South America, Australia and the Pacific Rim players.

That doesn’t mean I can’t speculate though. What’s the fun in waiting for them to tell us? As I have said before, there’s no good reason for simply grabbing the men’s shirt tails and copying the Ryder/Presidents Cup format.

Ryan Ballenge of ProGolfTalk offered up a single event three team format that would require one team to sit out the biennial tournament. Therefore, whichever team lost (e.g. this year it would have been the USA) would have to sit on the sidelines and watch the Europeans play against… the rest of the world, I suppose. That would be interesting…well maybe a little interesting…actually, it wouldn’t be good. I mean, can you imagine getting your butt kicked and then having to wait FOUR YEARS to get back at them?

We need to get over the fact that we aren’t the best in the world at sports – at least in women’s golf. Our “us against the world” mindset has done nothing but establish us as snobby elitists. I’m curious about what happened to the dynamics of the Ryder Cup when the British were joined by the rest of Europe in 1979. It seems to me that the event not only became more competitive, as Seve’, Bernhard and eventually other Europeans joined in, but also more interesting as dissimilar cultures came together. I sometimes envy the European side because it seems they relish the chance to join together against us as much as anything. It seems to me that broadening our “shores,” if you will, might help us to appreciate our neighbors a little more as well as make us competitive against the likes of the Asian contingent.

And now for a little geography lesson: most of us have been taught in school there are seven continents — Africa, Antarctica, Asia, Australia, Europe, North America and South America. In Europe and most other parts of the world, only six continents are taught — Africa, America, Antarctica, Asia, Australia, and Europe — as America is actually a single land mass. What about the European/Asian landmass you might ask. Well, geographers actually think of the world as regions rather than continents, for ease of study. Since their reasons involve not only physical land configurations, but also cultures, it seems appropriate to use the eight regions when arranging teams. I’m going to give it my best effort: • Team America — North America, Central America and the Caribbean • Team Europe — Europe, the Middle East and North Africa, • Team Asia — Asia • Team Australia — Australia and Oceania, South America Central America and the Caribbean could just as easily swap with South America I suppose, and over time adjustments might be required. All four teams could play each year. I don’t have room in this column to explore the different formats, but there are countless ways to pair up teams and crown a biennial champion.

Whether Michael Whan and the other world tour executives use this arrangement or something totally different doesn’t really matter. What really DOES matter is that they get off the dime and get it done.

As Whan is completing his second year in the position, I’m seeing some promise for a renewed LPGA. It’s not your Grandmother’s LPGA or even your Mother’s, but its showing potential for the kind of excitement that will elevate women’s golf worldwide.

One of the more interesting recent moves by Whan this past year was to sign Korean golf ball manufacturer Volvik to a marketing deal. Volvik has a line of seven golf balls, but are mostly noted for their colored and crystal appearances.

All but one of their line is designed for swing speeds of 90 MPH or below. Volvik Chairman Kyung Ahn Moon met with Whan at the Avnet LPGA Classic to announce the partnership and also to sign Allison Fouch. Fouch joined three other Volvik sponsored players — Jee Young Lee, Kyeong Bae and Jin Young Pak — at the press conference. The company’s most visible marketing effort will be the sponsorship of the “Volvik Shot of the Day” on Golf Channel.

A golf architect in New Hampshire for over 20 years, Armstrong brought her craft to Las Cruces in January 2010. She is the founder of Armstrong Golf Architects, which provides planning, designing, permitting and construction monitoring services for golf course projects. You can comment on her writing and view past articles at her blog: