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Five years ago I was flipping through a book by golfer Tiger Woods’ ex-swing coach Hank Haney and came upon Haney’s claim that Woods’ now career-ruining injuries started, after the death of his father, when he became obsessed with quitting golf and joining the Navy Seals. I thought it was pretty fascinating and wrote it up into a Taki’s Magazine column, but didn’t hear any more about it for years, so I started to wonder if Haney had just been blowing smoke.

But a reader has directed me to this ESPN article from April 21, 2016:

The Secret History of Tiger Woods

The death of his father set a battle raging inside the world’s greatest golfer. How he waged that war — through an obsession with the Navy SEALs — is the tale of how Tiger lost his way.

… To many people inside Tiger’s circle, Jack Nicklaus’ record of 18 majors wasn’t as important to Tiger as it was to the golfing media and fans. He never mentioned it. Multiple people who’ve spent significant amounts of time with him say that. When Tiger did talk about it, someone else usually brought it up and he merely responded. The record instead became something to break so he could chase something that truly mattered. He loved the anonymity of wearing a uniform and being part of a team. “It was very, very serious,” the friend says. “If he had had a hot two years and broken the record, he would have hung up his clubs and enlisted. No doubt.”

Here’s a 2009 Taki’s Magazine article, “Tiger Juice,” I wrote about how the once wiry Tiger, the most famous athlete since Michael Jordan, had changed shaped massively over the last few years without sports fans much discussing it.

We now know two things I didn’t know then.

Tiger had been blackmailed by National Enquirer into doing the cover story in their sister publication Men’s Fitness that had caught my eye as being out of character for him. National Enquirer had telephoto pictures of Tiger and a waitress in a restaurant parking lot.* Tiger agreed to do the Men’s Fitness story in return for National Enquirer spiking the waitress story.

And Tiger was bulking up in hopes that he would quit golf and become a Navy SEAL.

* By the way, I can never remember the exact legal reasoning why Bill Cosby and David Letterman, when in analogous situations, simply had their blackmailers taken away by the police. It’s been explained to me several times and each time I ultimately have to admit that the law against blackmail does make sense, but I can never remember the justification. Presumably, the friendly folks at National Enquirer understand the law on blackmail extremely well.

But what’s the use of being friends with the Navy SEALs if they won’t help you out of a jam with the National Enquirer?

• Tags: Golf, Sports, Tiger Woods 
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A striking thing about Donald Trump’s campaign is that The Establishment’s hostility to him proposing immigration restrictions is costing him serious money, but unlike so many others, he has yet to flinch.

The term “The Establishment” was a 1960s hippie phrase, but it now seems to be mostly used today on the dissident right. Who exactly is “The Establishment” is debatable, but it seems fair to include The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews, the ruling body of golf outside the U.S., within any definition of The Establishment.

From The Independent:

Donald Trump’s Turnberry golf club to no longer host The Open tournament amid anger over controversial remarks

The more offensive he is, the more popular he is – but not in Scotland, and not with golf’s ruling class
James Cusick Political Correspondent @indyvoices Sunday 13 December 201575 comments

The Turnberry golf course, which has hosted the Open Championship on numerous occasions, is one of two famous golf courses Donald Trump owns in Scotland

When Donald Trump bought the famous Turnberry golf club in Ayrshire last year, he believed his name would soon be cemented alongside the legends of the game.

But his dream of handing over the trophy at The Open is in tatters, The Independent on Sunday can reveal, after golf’s governing body, headquartered in Scotland, privately decided that his reputation is now so toxic that the newly renamed Trump Turnberry can no longer host the game’s most prestigious tournament.

Controversial remarks made by Mr Trump in his campaign for the Republican nomination – about Muslims, Mexicans, Chinese and women, among others – have given him a near-pariah status in the global game, raising the risk of a boycott by sponsors and international players.

Previously, the new chief executive of the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews, Martin Slumbers, had been expected to endorse Turnberry as a venue for the 2020 Open. …

But his call for a “total and complete shutdown” of US borders to all Muslims, until, as he claimed, “our country’s representatives figure out what’s going on”, appears to have been the final straw for the R&A.

One member, close to the championship committee, told the IoS about recent discussions: “One word was thrown around: Enough.”

The property tycoon bought the Turnberry resort in April last year from the subsidiary owned by the Dubai investment group chaired by Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum. It was renamed Trump Turnberry and a £200m upgrade was promised.

And that gives me a chance to talk about golf courses …

Turnberry has the most spectacular site of any of the British Open courses, the Scottish equivalent of Pebble Beach. But its current golf architecture doesn’t take much advantage of its ocean clifftop location.

Fortunately, Trump has announced a host of revisions that would fully exploit the potential of the location, such as this new par 5 10th hole, which would one-up the 18th at Pebble Beach by constructing tees on the rocks by the lighthouse, offering a chance at eagle for those long enough and daring enough to risk the cliffs on both their tee shots and long iron approach shots.

Trump’s taste in golf architecture tended toward artificial waterfalls in the past, but it has improved over the decades, and his plans for Turnberry appear to be outstanding.

The purchase appeared to give the billionaire the near-guarantee that when the Open came to his place, he would be centre-stage at the winner’s presentation party on the 18th green, along with Mr Slumbers and other dignitaries, a ceremony shown to millions around the world.

Trump took time out from campaigning last summer to host the Women’s British Open at Turnberry.

Although the R&A is stuffed full of establishment figures, Turnberry with Trump is now seen as a risk they will not take. Another insider said: “2020 will not happen here. Turnberry will be back. But perhaps not Trump Turnberry.”

Even after his remarks about Muslims, Mr Trump still leads current polls of Republican voters with about 35 per cent, double his nearest rival, Ted Cruz.

However, while he may dream of handing over the Claret Jug having jetted into Scotland from the White House, the R&A doesn’t see it that way. Middle East sovereign wealth is a key element of European Tour golf sponsorship. Leading sponsors include DP World, the Dubai-based marine terminal company chaired by Sultan Ahmed bin Sulayem.

Jumeirah Golf Estates and the Emirates airline are also leading sponsors of the big-money finale to the European tour. The Damac real estate company in Dubai, currently building a multi-million-dollar golf complex marketed with the Trump signature, this week stripped his name from the project.

I’m always struck by how Trump haters assume that listing other Trump haters, such as Persian Gulf oil princes, will rally the average voter to hate Trump too.

Saudi Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal called Mr Trump “a disgrace to all America”, saying he should withdraw from the US presidential race.

Mr Trump’s reply indicated his disregard for any consequences. He called the prince “dopey”, saying that he wouldn’t be allowed to control US politicians when he became president.

We can’t have that: it’s unthinkable that US politicians wouldn’t be controlled by Arab oil princes.

Organisations that represent tour players in the United States and Europe, have so far said nothing official in response to Mr Trump’s racist comments. But that is not expected to last much longer….

Perhaps. But touring pros are not all that Democratic. Tom Watson was the only tour pro to vote Democratic in 1972 and he soon became a fervent Republican. Scott Simpson was the only pro to publicly express Democratic leanings in, I think, 2000.

Mr Trump himself has filed estimates which say his golf-related business is worth $1.5bn (£1bn) of his estimated $10bn fortune, though experts claim his golf assets are over-valued.

Trump has bought a bunch of top golf courses in the teeth of what may be a permanent golf recession. Does he know something everybody else doesn’t know? Or does the entrepreneur, whose mother was born in the Hebrides, just really like golf?

• Tags: Donald Trump, Golf 
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#1 ranked golfer Rory McIlroy

Fall guy Wilmer (Elisha Cook, Jr.) in The Maltese Falcon

• Tags: Golf, Movies, Sports 
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Modernist: Torrey Pines (South) 3rd hole (designed in 2001 in style of 1957 original)

The 2008 U.S. Open golf tournament at the Torrey Pines municipal course in La Jolla, CA, with a limping Tiger Woods winning his latest (and perhaps last) major championship over journeyman Rocco Mediate, was a popular success, with terrific attendance and TV ratings. This made the blue-blooded United States Golf Association feel good about its decision earlier in 2008, as part of its PR campaign to make golf seem less country club snobby, to hold the 2015 Open at a brand new muni course, Chambers Bay on Puget Sound just south of Tacoma:

Retro: Chambers Bay (2007) 15th hole, flag is right of the tree (photo by Richard Choi)

Of course, golf course architecture is an almost completely opaque art form to nongolfers and to a large fraction of golfers. But comparing pictures of the signature par 3s at Torrey Pines (designed by Bill Bell the Younger in 1957, redesigned by Rees Jones in 2001) and Chambers Bay (designed by Rees’s brother Robert Trent Jones II in 2007) offers an exaggeratedly clear example of trends in golf course design. (And, yes, all three of these golf architects are the sons of famous golf architects. Bill Bell the Elder worked on a variety of 1920s golden age courses in California, while Robert Trent Jones Sr. was the pre-eminent golf architect of the 1948-1968 Modernist era).


Modernist golf courses were rationalized, with the eccentricities bulldozed away. In retrospect, they tended to produce good young golfers (America dominated the Ryder Cup in the wake of the RTJ Sr. era.) But among the tiny number of people who care about fashions in golf design, they are now unfashionable.

Billy Bell Jr.’s South Course at Torrey Pines was to post-WWII modernism in golf design what the World Trade Center was to post-WWII modernism in building design: the site and scale were extraordinary, but the design was streamlined and simple to the point of boredom.

For decades, Torrey Pines South served as the minimal test of a golf design aficionado: if you didn’t feel frustrated by Torrey Pines South’s failure to fulfill its potential, you didn’t have much taste. (The more modest North Course at Torrey Pines makes better use of the ocean cliffs and arroyos.)

Modernist: Torrey Pines South 12th hole

Nonetheless, the course was enormously popular, hosting a PGA tournament every winter (with local boys Tiger Woods winning seven times and Phil Mickelson three times, suggesting that it is good at determining who the best golfers are), and being played by huge numbers of visitors to San Diego year round.

To lure the U.S. Open, the local government hired Open Doctor Rees Jones to improve the South Course, but gave him a rather limited budget. He more or less built the magnificent new third hole (top of this post) over the canyon and moved other greens closer to the cliffs and added bunkers. But Rees Jones’ budget was fairly limited ($3.4 million) so he mostly kept the generally Mad Men Era modernist style of Bell’s 1957 original.

In contrast, Rees’s brother RT Jones II’s Chambers Bay course is very much representative of the Neo-Scotland on Steroids style that dominates American golf architecture at present. Chambers Bay is an old gravel and sand pit that was an industrial eyesore, so RTJ II’s designers and bulldozer-driving shapers pushed sand around into whatever 3d shapes pleased them. (That’s the only tree on the golf course.)

Extreme complexity is the current style.

Here’s Chambers Bay’s par 3 17th hole alongside Puget Sound:

Retro: Chambers Bay, 17th hole (photo by Jon Cavalier)

Modernism has come back into fashion in building architecture.

Modernist: Ray’s restaurant at LACMA

For example, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art is booming with tourists at present, so a few years ago LACMA put up a new restaurant in the courtyard to cash in of fashionable visitors: a simple steel and glass box.

It’s possible that Modernism will start showing up again in golf courses if golf courses ever start getting built again.

Escena, one of the most recent golf courses to open in Palm Springs, where ring-a-ding-a-ding Ratpack Modernism is all the rage (Frank Sinatra’s old house has become a tourist attraction among architecture aficionados), has a fairly streamlined modernist course that complements its steel and glass clubhouse.

As the top picture on the post of Torrey Pines’s third hole shows, if your hole spans a giant arroyo and has an ocean for a backdrop, modernist simplicity can look great.

• Tags: Art, Golf 
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Before Tiger Woods, five African-Americans had won on the PGA golf tour, and each one would make an entertaining and inspirational biopic. For example, Calvin Peete, a grade school dropout, came out of the Old, Weird America before the 10,000 Hour Rule to win a dozen tournaments after he turned 35, even though he never tried golf until around his 23rd birthday and was never a strong man. Bruce Weber writes in the New York Times:

Peete’s top win, the 5th major, at age 41

Calvin Peete, whose life traced one of sport’s most triumphant arcs — a school dropout with a crooked left arm who did not pick up a golf club until his 20s, did not join the pro tour until his 30s, and still became one of the leading players of his era and the most successful black professional golfer before Tiger Woods — has died. He was 71.

… A self-taught player who never hit especially long, Peete was one of golf’s most accurate drivers and fairway players. He won his first Professional Golfers Association tour event, the Greater Milwaukee Open, in 1979, and from 1982 through 1986 was among the tour’s most prolific champions, winning 11 tournaments, including four in 1982.

In 1984, he averaged 70.56 shots per round, winning the Vardon Trophy, given annually to the professional golfer with the lowest per-round score. …

His story is Dickensian in its down-and-out beginnings and American in its particular obstacles and eventual rewards. He was born in Detroit on July 18, 1943. According to numerous sources, his parents had nine children, and after they divorced, his father, Dennis, had 10 more.

Calvin lived with his father, a vegetable picker in Pahokee, Fla., in the south-central part of the state, and after he dropped out of school in the eighth grade to help feed the family, he, too, worked in the corn and bean fields. He was unable to do heavy work, however; at age 12, he had fallen out of a tree and broken his left elbow, leaving him unable to straighten the arm.

It was perhaps a serendipitous accident. It is a golfing dictum that for right-handed golfers, the left arm remains straight during a swing, but Peete, who never had a golf lesson before he turned pro, developed his own method, compensating for his handicap and developing a stroke uncanny in its accuracy, or, as his onetime caddy Dolphus Hill said in 1986, “He goes flag on you.”

Peete was regularly among the tour leaders in driving accuracy and greens hit in regulation. …

Peete led the PGA Tour eight straight years in percent of fairways hit off the tee. In 1983 he peaked at avoiding the rough on 84.55% of his tee shots. (In 2014, David Toms led all pros with a 75.49%, despite large technological advances in clubs and balls since about 1990.]

Peete never ranked higher than 128th in driving distance. He was a little bit like a baseball player making the All Star Games in the 1980s by choking up on the bat and trying to hit ‘em where they ain’t like in the Dead Ball Era. The baseball player I’d compare him to might be Ichiro Suzuki: you wouldn’t necessarily advise a kid to follow Peete’s or Suzuki’s strategies, but they made being a fan more interesting because they were so idiosyncratic.

It was in Rochester, in the summer of 1966, that he tried golf for the first time. He was 23. Friends invited him to a fish fry, he recalled in a 1986 interview with Boys’ Life magazine, but they took him to a golf course instead.

“I couldn’t get a ride home,” he said, “so I went along with the fool idea.”

Quickly bitten by the bug, and with his selling done at night, he began spending days on the golf course, teaching himself by reading books. He took advice on his grip from the man who sold him his golf gloves, practiced on a baseball field, made films of his stroke and studied them. It took him nine years and three trips to the PGA qualifying school before he earned the right to join the tour, at 32, in 1975.

At the time, blacks were rare in professional golf, a sport that had a history of exclusion. A “Caucasian-only” clause was not rescinded by the PGA until 1961, and only a handful of black golfers — among them Charlie Sifford (who died in February), Lee Elder and Jim Dent — preceded Peete on the pro tour.

Actually, black golfers are less common today. The quarter black Tiger is the only black winner since Peete in 1986. Caddying and mowing fairways offered poor boys entry level jobs, and there was a shadowy career path in the Darwinian world of golf hustling. Lee Elder, for example, worked as the chauffeur of famous gambler Titanic Thompson as part of a long-running scam in which Thompson would fleece wealthy suckers by telling them “Hell, I can beat the two of you with my chauffeur as my partner.”

A white player of Peete’s generation, Larry Nelson, took up golf at 21 after getting back from a tour of infantry duty in Vietnam. He went on to win ten times, including three majors. Nelson qualified for the pro tour more quickly than Peete, only a half dozen years after taking up golf, but it still him took him over a decade before his first win.

Since then I’m not familiar with anybody having much pro success taking up golf after their teen years. There are a huge number of retired team sport athletes who would love to play on the over-50 pro golf tour, but almost none have made the transition.

Sports are getting more specialized, more dependent upon early concentrations. It’s clear from Jack Nicklaus’ autobiography that he subscribed to a philosophy of well-roundedness in sports that has faded in recent decades.

Thus it seems bizarre today, but when Nicklaus enrolled at Ohio State in 1959, he expected to walk on to the Buckeye basketball team to give him a sport to play when the golf courses were snowed under. After all, he had been a fine high school basketball player and had just set the Ohio schoolboy record for most consecutive free throws made (26). But then Nicklaus discovered just how good was the Ohio State basketball team, which won the NCAA champion the next spring with John Havlicek, Jerry Lucas, and a reserve named Bobby Knight, so he decided to finally concentrate on golf.

These days, however, most of the variety among pros’ backgrounds is in just how early they started. Rory McIlroy, the Northern Irish superstar appears to have started hitting balls before he was three. The new American star Jordan Spieth was less precocious: he got interested in golf when his parents joined a country club when he was eight and he took up golf intensively the next summer at nine.

The 10,000 Hour rule really does apply in a negative sense to golf.

One possibility is that golf strategy has evolved to favor the most precocious at obsessing over golf.

The first famous American pro golfer, Walter Hagen, had a style optimized for winning bets: he was a careless driver, but remarkably good at recovery shots. I suspect he made a lot of money upping his bet on who would win the hole after he hit a bad drive. Golf is more fun to bet on when you bet on who will win each hole rather than on who will shoot the lowest score for the whole round or the whole four-day tournament.

Over time, golf strategy evolved in a more conservative direction aimed at optimizing scores over 72 hole tournaments. Ben Hogan’s spectacular run in the rigorous U.S. Open after WWII influenced Jack Nicklaus to play a quite cautious game. Nicklaus emerged out of an upper middle class background with an emphasis on winning tournaments rather than winning bets, so he de-emphasized spectacular shots even though he probably could have been a much longer driver than almost anybody else on tour if he hadn’t put his game under so much intellectual constraint.

The slightly android style of Nicklaus’s game was very intimidating to his contemporaries, but I suspect he would have been even more successful if he hadn’t fetishized cautiousness.

Peete, oddly enough, was kind of the ultimate evolution of the Hogan-Nicklaus strategy of minimizing trouble. Peete was a very short, very straight driver who tried to avoid getting in the rough or trees where he’d have to improvise a shot out of trouble. He preferred to have the ball sitting up in the middle of the fairway. Peete’s game was rather robotic, but now that I think of it, his strategy makes a lot of sense if you recall he didn’t have all those adolescent years to practice crazy shots out of trouble and develop as much natural feel for all the different shots you’d have to hit if you wander into the rough and trees.

It made Peete a rather fascinating figure during his prime in the first half of the 1980s because he had emerged from virtually an underclass background to become the most overachieving exponent of the cautious Calvinist style on the pro tour.

Late in the 20th Century, however, there emerged a new, more swashbuckling strategy of long, sometimes sloppy driving and spectacular extrications from bad drives.

Y axis is number of tour pros (out of roughly 125 regulars and 25-50 fringe players).

Looking at this graph from JamieOnSport, it’s easy to see the introduction of the Callaway Big Bertha driver in 1991, which caused a large jump in the percentage of pros hitting at least 70% of their fairways (blue line). Suddenly, over 75% of tour pros could come close to Peete’s benchmarks for accuracy.

After Tiger Woods laid waste to the tour in 2000, however, pros rapidly chose to trade accuracy for distance.

The Mickelson-Woods style — Flog It and Find It or Bomb and Gouge — was driven in part, by the addition of more wedges for escaping from trouble to the golfer’s bag. Phil Mickelson, for example, usually carries four wedges compared to Nicklaus’s two.

Another likelihood is that players are stronger than they used to be, due to weightlifting and/or steroids. This lets them generate more clubhead speed to get out of the rough consistently. I followed Peete around for a few holes at the 1985 U.S. Open in Detroit, where he had come in as one of the favorites because his accurate game seemed suited to the narrow fairways. But as a slight 40-something, he seemed to be having problems generating the clubhead speed to deal with the high U.S. Open rough. (I haven’t been to a pro tournament in a decade, but my impression from going to tournaments in the mid-2000s was that players were significantly bigger than in the 1970s and 1980s. At Shinnecock for the 2004 U.S. Open, I’d say about 2 out 3 players were, say, 6 foot or taller and 190 pounds or heavier (i.e., noticeably bigger than the average man), whereas a generation before the majority of golfers were in the 5’10″ and 170 pound range (i.e., roughly average).

And the Bomb and Gouge turn was driven in part by early childhood focus on golf that allowed players to get an immense amount of experience at all facets of the game when they were young and their central nervous systems were impressionable.

By the way, it appears that driving distances have been getting shorter the last couple of years. Whether that’s because the flog it and find it style had hit diminishing returns or because the PGA Tour introduced quiet drug testing a few years ago is unknown. Big hitter Dustin Johnson disappeared for about half a year, although the tour won’t say if he was suspended for performance-enhancing or recreational drugs, or if he just felt like taking a break.

• Tags: Golf, RIP, Sports 
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The Rio de Janeiro Olympics in August 2016 will feature golf for the first time since the early 20th Century. Professional golfers traditionally have not been enthusiastic about Olympic golf since the Olympics just gives you a shiny medal instead of what tour pros really like: one those four foot wide novelty checks with your name written in the “Pay to the Order of” space in Magic Marker 9 inches high.

A quarter of a century ago, there was big talk about holding an Olympic golf tournament at Augusta National during the 1996 Atlanta games, but the tour pros weren’t interested and Augusta is closed in August, anyway, because — although this seemed to come as a surprise to the International Olympic Committee — it’s hot and humid in Georgia in August.

But the golf industry wants to be in the Olympics now. And Brazil might conceivably be a good market someday for golf, since, unlike China, the country has a reasonable amount of land per person. But Brazil has almost zero golf tradition, so a new course is supposed to be built in Rio to host the men’s and women’s Olympic tournaments.

The Rio Olympic course is the the highest profile golf course commission of the decade. The surprise winner over Jack Nicklaus’s and Greg Norman’s firms was Gil Hanse, head of a tiny but excellent design firm, who promised to move to Rio for two years and drive the bulldozer himself.

The problem so far has been that exactly who owns the land where the golf course is supposed to go wasn’t exactly nailed down. (Economist Hernando de Soto, who has frequently noted Latin America’s less than clear-cut property rights, wouldn’t be surprised.)

So far, Hanse has roughly shaped the golf course in the dirt, but he’s visibly nervous in interviews about having the grass ready in 28 months.

Pete Dye’s 1979 island green at TPC

Assuming it gets finished in time, the Olympic course will be a test of the mass appeal of trends in elite golf course design thought away from spectacular and expensive do-or-die holes and toward cheap, complex, and baffling, back to much like St. Andrews in Scotland, which more or less evolved over hundreds of years of play.

A couple of decades ago, Tom Doak pointed out that pros don’t fear water hazards anymore, they only fear wind and gravity. In other words, they don’t worry about being able to hit the ball far enough to cross a water hazard, they worry about being unable to stop the ball on the fairway or green. Hanse, along with Doak and the Ben Crenshaw-Bill Coore team are the leaders of this generation of architects who have thought hardest about reproducing the subtle challenges of St. Andrews in the 21st Century.

When asked which existing course his Rio course will most resemble, Hanse says, “I think Rustic Canyon (in Los Angeles) would be the closest. It’s set on a similarly sandy site, and, like Rustic, it feels very indigenous to the area.”

Rustic Canyon: Now what?

I played Hanse’s Rustic Canyon on Wednesday for $36. I don’t play much golf these days, but when I do it’s almost always at Rustic because the quality to price ratio is so much higher than anywhere else in the greater L.A. area. And now, after Rustic has been open for a dozen years, the grounds crew has the greens in close to US Open quality. (A British Open would be more than pleased with how Rustic’s greens played yesterday.) I hit quite a few greens yesterday with my irons, but typically the ball would then slowly, slowly trickle off the green because I hadn’t hit the perfect part of the green. And even if I could execute shots perfectly, are my 3-d cognitive skills strong enough to plan shots perfectly?

Yet, Rustic is not a punishing course. The fairways are immensely wide, there are no ponds, streams, or waterfalls. The chief penalty for hitting an indifferent shot is that your ball keeps rolling until it reaches a spot disadvantageous for your next shot. Your score keeps mounting without anything spectacularly bad happening to you.

In theory, Rustic Canyon style courses have a lot going for them: they can be built cheaply on unexciting terrain and they challenge good golfers while not beating up bad golfers. Thus, Rustic Canyon is held in the highest regard by golf course architecture aficionados. On the other hand, you can play Rustic Canyon for $36, so it’s not as if it has overwhelmed the golfing public.

It will be interesting to see if Hanse’s Olympic course televises well to an even less sophisticated audience.

(Republished from iSteve by permission of author or representative)
• Tags: Golf 
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Judging from today’s Google searches, the whole world is suddenly interested in my 2001 UPI article on how the Nabisco ladies’ golf tournament in Palm Springs functions as a national Lesbian Spring Break:

Lesbians Turn Out for Ladies Golf Championship
by Steve Sailer
March 26, 2001

(Republished from iSteve by permission of author or representative)
• Tags: Golf 
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Looking back over a long enough period of time, you can see how golf course architecture in America followed the same general stylistic evolutions as building architecture, enjoying a golden age in the 1920s and then enduring an eat-your-vegetables modernism in the 1950s and 1960s. It’s not at all clear that Mies van der Rohe and Robert Trent Jones saw much connection between each other’s work in 1950, but today it’s obvious that the spirit of the age — streamlining, simplicity, sleekness, and so forth — pervaded the skyscrapers and golf courses of the Postwar Era.

But it’s hard to tell what’s going on in your own time. For example, prestige golf course architecture in the 21st Century is devoted to achieving a look of Old Money WASP Higher Scruffiness that’s hard to equate with much else going on in the arts today, outside of the design of some recent college dormitories. (Golfers pay a lot of college tuition bills, so that may not be coincidental.) Above is the 16th hole designed by Ben Crenshaw and Bill Coore at one of the first courses to debut in 2013, Streamsong-Red on an old phosphate strip mine in central Florida. 

Most golf course architects prefer to avoid discussing their style and instead talk about the functionality of their design (how it challenges the golfer, etc.). It could be that golf course architecture is evolving off in its own direction, divorced from the rest of the culture. Or, perhaps in a generation, we’ll look at golf courses from the 2010s and be instantly reminded of, say, video games or hipster fashions or whatever from the 2010s because they all share common characteristics that will be glaringly obvious to people in 2043 even if they are baffling today.

A few months ago, I visited a half dozen of the newer golf courses in Palm Springs. It must be an uncomfortable time for golf course designers in Palm Springs because the current Mid-Atlantic steampunk (or whatever) look is so antithetical to the natural blank slate phoniness of Palm Springs. Southern California’s low desert is a sprawling monument to post-War notions of design Modernism, now carefully tended to by a huge number of aging gay men formerly employed in Hollywood. It’s about as far from the current aesthetic in golf design as is possible.

The most beautiful Palm Springs golf course was Desert Willow, a late 1990s design where Hurzdan and Fry went up into the mountains and brought down shrubs native to about 4,000 foot in elevation, then planted them alongside the fairways and watered the heck out of them to keep them alive in the low desert. (This is supposed to be “environmentalist.”)

But, the most interesting development from an aesthetic standpoint was the newest, Escena, where Nicklaus, post-Crash, embraced the flatness and boringness of the desert in a tribute to Rat Pack-era modernism. (The steel and glass clubhouse appears to be a tribute to Frank Sinatra’s house in Palm Springs.) I wouldn’t be surprised that Nicklaus was originally intending to push around great piles of dirt, but then the developer suffered reverses in 2008, forcing a more modest, more old fashioned Modernist design philosophy.

(Republished from iSteve by permission of author or representative)
• Tags: Golf 
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Enough election politics for now. Back to my August sports kick.

Roger Federer comes into the U.S. Open with a record 17 victories in tennis’s four annual Grand Slam major championships (Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon, and U.S. Open). The 31-year-old Swissman is trying to open up distance between himself and younger stars Rafael Nadal (11 majors) and Novak Djokovic (5). 

To my mind, however, the interesting angle is that he has a shot at tying Jack Nicklaus’s record of 18 majors in the two big country club sports, tennis and golf. (Golf also has four Grand Slam events per year, the Masters, U.S. Open, British Open, and PGA.) Tiger Woods has been chasing Nicklaus’s mark his whole life, but Federer may beat him to it.

Combining the lists of top men’s major champions of all time into an apples and oranges table gives a sense, that, yes, this isn’t a completely apples and oranges compilation:

Jack Nicklaus Golf 18
Roger Federer Tennis 17
Pete Sampras Tennis 14
Tiger Woods Golf 14
Roy Emerson Tennis 12
Björn Borg Tennis 11
Rafael Nadal Tennis 11
Rod Laver Tennis 11
Walter Hagen Golf 11
Bill Tilden Tennis 10
Ben Hogan Golf 9
Gary Player Golf 9
Andre Agassi Tennis 8
Fred Perry Tennis 8
Ivan Lendl Tennis 8
Jimmy Connors Tennis 8
Ken Rosewall Tennis 8
Tom Watson Golf 8
Arnold Palmer Golf 7
Bobby Jones Golf 7
Gene Sarazen Golf 7
Harry Vardon Golf 7
Henri Cochet Tennis 7
John McEnroe Tennis 7
John Newcombe Tennis 7
Mats Wilander Tennis 7
René Lacoste Tennis 7
Richard Sears Tennis 7
Sam Snead Golf 7
William Larned Tennis 7
William Renshaw Tennis 7
Boris Becker Tennis 6
Don Budge Tennis 6
Jack Crawford Tennis 6
Laurence Doherty Tennis 6
Lee Trevino Golf 6
Nick Faldo Golf 6
Stefan Edberg Tennis 6
Tony Wilding Tennis 6
Byron Nelson Golf 5
Frank Sedgman Tennis 5
James Braid Golf 5
J.H. Taylor Golf 5
Novak Djokovic Tennis 5
Peter Thomson Golf 5
Seve Ballesteros Golf 5
Tony Trabert Tennis 5
Golf >= 5 18
Tennis >=5 29

I’d say that this list suggests that it’s a little bit easier to pile up a lot of Grand Slam titles in tennis than in golf, primarily because most people would agree that Tiger Woods (14 majors) is a better golfer than Pete Sampras (14, too) is a tennis player. 

In general, the all time great tennis players can win more often at the peak of their careers than the all time great golfers, because tennis is a less random, larger sample size sport. In any given major, the world’s best tennis player is usually more likely to win than the world’s best golfer. Tennis is kind of like tug-of-war, where the better team ought to win.

On the other hand, golf careers last much longer. Nicklaus won his first major at 22, his 16th and 17th majors at 40 and his 18th at 46 (the famous 1986 Masters). And one of these years somebody really old will win a golf major. Tom Watson missed winning the British Open at 59 in 2009 by inches. In 1974, Sam Snead finished third in the PGA, behind only Trevino and Nicklaus. 

In contrast, Federer is considered a miracle of rejuvenation to have won Wimbledon at 30. 

The age of first victory in a major is usually lower in tennis, supporting the common sense notion that tennis is a much tougher game physically, while golf may be somewhat tougher mentally.

Put it all together, and it seems pretty reasonable to note that Federer is challenging Nicklaus.

By the way, why are apples and oranges the canonical examples of things that shouldn’t be compared? Relative to every other possible pair of things, they seem pretty similar to me.

Sports History Minutia (for sports data methodology aficionados only): It’s hard comparing the number of major championships won by golfers and tennis players before 1968, when tennis opened up its Grand Slam events to professionals. Thus, the great Mexican-American tennis player Pancho Gonzales is credited with only two Grand Slam titles because he turned pro and spent about 15 years on the small pro tour. (He won 15 Pro Slam titles). Rod Laver would have 20 major championships, adding together amateur, pro, and open titles. On the other hand, that segregation of talent may overstate this era’s combined talent. Before 1968, Laver was never playing against all the top players in the world all at once. Then, again, in 1969, he won all four Grand Slam in open competition, the last time a man has done that. Laver was really good.

Golf has a lesser problem in that it’s not clear what to do with the British and U.S. Amateur titles. The term Grand Slam was invented in 1930 when Atlanta amateur golfer Bobby Jones won the U.S. and British Opens and the U.S. and British Amateurs. Golf historians usually credit him with 13 major championships instead of just the 7 he won in the Opens, as on this list. However, when Jones retired upon achieving his Grand Slam, the prestige of Amateur championships as they slowly turned into merely the premiere events for college golfers. Nicklaus, who idolized Jones, likes to count his two U.S. Amateur titles, giving him 20 major championships (and Woods 17, including his three U.S. Amateurs), but most people just count victories in the four majors currently open to professionals, a foursome stabilized by 1934. 

Two golfers have won three professional majors in one calendar year: Ben Hogan in 1953 and Tiger Woods in 2000. Woods winning four straight majors in 2000-2001 is clearly the greatest 12-month feat in golf history, although it still lacks an agreed-upon catchy title like Bobby Jones’ Grand Slam. In contrast, tennis players have won three of the four grand slam titles in one calendar year 13 times, seven times since open competition began in 1968.

Americans possess an advantage in golf in that three of golf’s majors are played in the U.S., versus only one in tennis.

Golf courses can look radically different, especially the British Open courses, which are always played over gnarly-looking sand dunes next to the windy sea, versus The Masters’ Augusta National, which is the prototype of the glossy inland course with trees and water hazards. Tennis courts are always identical in size, differing only in surface. Yet, at this point in history, golfers might be better at adapting to wildly different courses than tennis players are to different  surfaces.

Before the introduction of jetliners at the end of the 1950s, it wasn’t all that common for golfers and tennis players to think of making it to all four events. Top golfers crossed the Atlantic on ocean liners in the 1920s, but the British Open withered in the 1930s through the 1950s due to Depression, war, and austerity. Arnold Palmer’s decision to jet in for the British Open in 1960 revitalized that event.

(Republished from iSteve by permission of author or representative)
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Back in 2004, USA Today published a list of the approximately 300 members of the Augusta National Golf Club. The list was probably from about 2002, since some of the members on the list have obituaries from 2003. 

I’m not particularly good at recognizing names, but the only Business Titans on the list whose names strikes me off the top of my head as more likely Jewish than not are Sandy Weill of Citi and John L. Weinberg of Goldman Sachs.

Here’s Canadian real estate mogul Leo Kolber in his autobiography Leo describing the 1980s:

And among the very stupid things I’ve done personally was to turn down an offer to join Augusta National Golf Club, where I believe I might have been the first Jewish member. … “I’ll never use it, I said, declining with thanks. Of the many things I’ve regretted in my life, that is near the top of the list. Later, Johnny Weinberg of Goldman Sachs and Sandy Weill of Citibank became the first Jews admitted to membership at Augusta National.

Two of out of 300 is not terribly representative of the balance of money and power and media influence in a modern America where the Forbes 400 is reportedly 36 percent Jewish.

For whatever it’s worth, in the behind-the-scenes Talk section of Wikipedia, I found:

Does anybody know if Augusta National has any Jewish members? (talk) 19:32, 3 April 2009 (UTC)Otis P. Nixon 

In answer to your question, Otis…yes, the Augusta National has several Jewish members. I grew up close to Augusta and lived there for many years, and was occasionally able to borrow tickets from one of the Jewish members because I went to school with one of his daughters. The membership at Augusta National consists of people in two main categories: Long-time businessmen (especially from the east Georgia and west South Carolina areas), whose parents/grandparents joined the club during the first few years of its existence. (Up until the late 1940′s it was not as exclusive, nor as prestigious…though the association with Bobby Jones was a big attraction.) Most of the Jewish members are this type, who own and run area businesses started by their fathers and grandfathers, who helped build the club into what it is today. And the other main group of members are the wealthy and important people who first started joining when President Eisenhower became a regular at the club. After that, the membership became rather exclusive and prestigious, and soon there was a large group of members who were invited to join because they were Board Chairmen or CEO’s of some of the largest companies in the country. A few more of the Jewish members are in that category, CEO’s of large international corporations.

That sounds pretty plausible to me, although it technically contradicts Kolber’s surmise that Weill and Weinberg were the first Jews at Augusta National. Anyway, the topic suggests an answer to the question that must be puzzling Augusta National insiders: How to get more sympathetic press coverage?

(Republished from iSteve by permission of author or representative)
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The subjects of country clubs, Jews, and Jewish country clubs are interesting and somewhat important because old resentments and guilts related to ancestral exclusion and social status striving seem to be one among the little-discussed reasons behind much of today’s conventional wisdom. 

So, for background, I’ll start with part of a 2009 Golfweek article by Bradley S. Klein called “Demise of the Jewish club.” It was written immediately after the Madoff Affair had punched a big hole in the net worths of members of some Jewish country clubs, so the term “Demise” — instead of the more accurate “Decline” — is understandable hyperbole.

Peter Davidson, a member of Inwood Country Club since 1956, vividly remembers realizing just how unusual his Long Island club really was. The moment of clarity took place nearly two decades ago, and it explained much about how his historically Jewish club operated. 

“I was invited to play at a member-guest at Oakmont Country Club outside Pittsburgh,” Davidson says. “Along with our host were members from the Olympic Club in San Francisco and Medinah in Chicago.

Oakmont, Olympic, and Medina all have hosted major championships in recent years, so they are very famous in the golf world.

The conversation turned to annual fees. I forget the exact numbers, but it was something like $5,000 for Olympic and about $5,500 for Medinah. Our host from Oakmont said that his dues were right in the middle.” 

Inquiring minds naturally turned to Davidson. 

“I said, ‘We’re about where all of you are – combined.” Back then, Inwood charged a princely sum of $18,000. [Around 1990] 

Later on, Klein explains the reasons for this price differential.

In its heyday, Inwood didn’t have to worry about holding down costs or attracting new members. Having an acclaimed golf course – good enough to host the 1921 PGA Championship and the 1923 U.S. Open, where Bobby Jones won his first national championship – served as a magnet for the affluent who lived in the distinct Five Towns community on Long Island’s south shore. ….

Another unexpected blow comes from the investment scandal involving Bernie Madoff. An avid golfer based on Long Island and in Palm Beach County, Fla., Madoff apparently drew heavily upon the close social circles of the Jewish community. His ill-doing led to financial hardship and membership resignation among hundreds of people, resulting in some Jewish clubs losing dozens of members over the past winter. 

Long before Madoff, however, the demise of Jewish clubs was evident. 

As the hush-hush exclusivity of American country clubs gave way to a wide-open market in which anyone is welcome, Jews gained the freedom to assimilate. The shrinking pool of candidates for all-Jewish clubs, in turn, forced such facilities to seek a secular, more diverse membership. …

Jewish clubs surfaced in the early 1900s when overt discrimination was the norm. If your ethnicity or religious identity didn’t conform to the prevailing blue-blood ethos of the ruling “Social Register” crowd, you were out of luck. Or you formed your own golf club. 

That’s exactly how Inwood emerged in the southwest corner of Nassau County, just beyond the limits of New York City, where the runways of JFK Airport now abut the tidal salt marshes of Long Island’s Jamaica Bay. …

Inwood is now directly under the final descent flight path of JFK, making it a relaxing experience for deaf members. They had Tom Doak revamp their seafront holes to look more Early 20th Century.

For Jewish clubs, golf served as just one of many reasons for seeking membership. The club became a center for Jewish life, providing privacy so an extended family of sorts could celebrate holidays and dining, and pursue community service or charity work. 

That kindred behavior often has led to distinct differences between Jewish clubs and other private facilities. Jewish clubs keep outside corporate outings to a minimum. They offer full-service meals all the time, not just on weekends. They usually keep a bigger staff, which typically translates into better service but higher costs for labor and benefits. 

One interesting cultural aside, according to McMahon: Jewish clubs consume less alcohol, lowering revenues from one of the most profitable components of any private-club operation.

The profit on gin-and-tonics alone has probably paid for a lot of lawn-mowing at classic WASP courses.

Later on, I’ll get to some of the more puzzling aspects.

(Republished from iSteve by permission of author or representative)
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From my Taki’s Magazine column:

Augusta National is to aspirational Gentile corporate executives what Harvard is to ambitious high-school students. …. So why did Augusta National immediately add a black member in 1990 after Shoal Creek, site of that year’s PGA Championship, was widely criticized when its founder let it slip that it was all-white? In contrast, why did Augusta National wait 22 more years to let in any women, even shrugging off a frenzied 2002 campaign against it by The New York Times? … 

The contrast is striking because race discrimination was pervasive in American country clubs up through the 1990 Shoal Creek imbroglio… 

On the other hand, contrary to all the press accounts presenting Augusta National as a last relic of the Bad Old Days, all-male golf clubs have never been common in the US, and they may even now be increasing in number.  

What’s the story behind all this?  

Read the whole thing there.

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Three years ago, I blogged about how the culture of the bond rating companies, such as Warren Buffett’s Moody’s, had been very slowly corrupted by the logic of the conflict of interest that went back to the 1970s by which they stopped being paid by buyers of securities and started being paid by issuers. This logical problem didn’t become a terrible real world problem until the 2000s with the mortgage-backed securities disaster. I drew an example from golf:

Casey Martin, who was born with a terrible birth defect that crippled one of his legs, leaving him in recurrent pain, starred on Stanford’s famous mid-1990s college golf team along with the full-blooded Navajo Notah Begay, who went on to win four times on the PGA tour before alcohol brought him down, and with Eldrick Woods Jr., who, last time I heard, remains employed in a golfing capacity. 

Despite his disability, Martin enjoyed enough success on the minor league Nike tour to qualify for the PGA tour in 2000. His lawsuit under the Americans with Disability Act to be allowed to use a golf cart on the PGA tour went all the way to the Supreme Court, where he won in 2001. 

Martin’s was not a popular victory with players, with both Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer protesting that it would open the door to other players getting a note from their doctor to be chauffeured about the course. 

It was easy to imagine a player with a bad back like Fred Couples trying to get permission for a cart, and then the whole thing descending into carts everywhere.
And yet, eight years later, the PGA Tour hasn’t slid down the slippery slope. So far, as far as I can tell, a cart has only been used once by somebody other than the severely unlucky Martin: Erik Compton rode in one tournament last fall because he had gotten his second heart transplant only a few months before. 

Essentially, golf has a fairly healthy culture of sportsmanship where top players don’t want to be seen as abusing loopholes. So, it hasn’t been hard so far to restrict cart-riding to rare human-interest stories like Martin and Compton.

As dearieme commented at the time:

This accords with my observation that conservatives are very shrewd at seeing the direction of social change but prone to overestimating its speed. That’s because they overlook how conservative people can be, which is pleasingly paradoxical.

Golf has a highly conservative culture, basically one of “What would Old Tom Morris do?” 

It was fortunate that its origin culture was Scottish rather than English because it avoided most of the hypocrisy and cheating over amateurism that plagued tennis up to 1968 (when Wimbledon finally admitted professionals) and the Olympics even later. The Scots had a somewhat less classbound society than the English, so if a man wanted to make his living from golf, as Morris did at St. Andrews in the mid-19th Century, that was honorable. It was more honorable to be an amateur, like Bobby Jones in the 1920s, and they had their own Amateur tournaments, but the amateurs did not see themselves as tainted by striving against the professionals in the Open tournaments. 

By the way, the partially crippled Casey Martin, unsurprisingly, couldn’t play well enough to stay on the PGA tour. Six years ago, he retired and became the golf coach at the U. of Oregon. A week ago, at age 40, he qualified for next week’s U.S. Open at Olympic in San Francisco.

(Republished from iSteve by permission of author or representative)
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A decade ago, Annika Sorenstam was doing a lot of weightlifting*, and pulled away from other women golfers, becoming probably the best woman golfer ever for a few years. So, she entered the men’s PGA tournament at Colonial in 2003 to a din of publicity. In the weeks leading up to that event, I collected a ton of data on the difficulty ratings of the courses that the PGA and LPGA play to provide an objective metric, and I announced:

So, I predict that if Sorenstam plays this week the way she’s played in the rest of 2003, she’ll miss the cut by four strokes.

And that’s exactly what happened: she missed the cut to play on the weekend by four strokes. Out of 113 entrants, she outperformed 13 men, tied four, and finished behind 93. A highly respectable performance, but not up to Phil Mickelson’s prediction (that she’d finish 20th — although I’m guessing that was gamesmanship on the part of Phil, who is a sly devil) or Thomas Boswell’s assertion that if she played the PGA regularly, she’d make the cut half the time and win a couple of events during her career. But, she beat the Vegas over-under line by eight strokes over two rounds. 

Of course, I was very lucky that she played in those two rounds about as well as she had been playing all year. Still, it was a pretty level-headed prediction. Sorenstam seems to have felt she’d given it a good shot, and didn’t try it again.

I wanted to bring this up because prediction is widely recognized as crucial to science. On the other hand, one of my two or three most important contributions to the philosophy science is the idea that people tend to be more interested in those future events that are hardest to predict: e.g., will this stock outperform the market?  When thinking about the kind of things that people get most fascinated by, such as which NFL teams will beat the point spread on Sunday, the phrase “dart-throwing monkey” comes to mind. In contrast, most of the things that are pretty predictable, like test scores for large groups, bring to mind the phrase “boring and depressing.”

In contrast, Sorenstam’s entrance in that PGA tournament was the kind of novel event that is interesting to predict as a test of one’s model of the world and struck the public, briefly, as not boring and depressing.

* By the way, I was attacked by the SPLC for noticing that Sorenstam, at her peak, had bulked up from weightlifting:

Sailer’s website is rife with primitive stereotypes. On it, Sailer mocks professional golfer Annika Sorenstam for having well-developed muscles …

What I actually said in my prediction article was, in the course of comparing her scoring proficiency to that of Corey Pavin:

Pavin is listed at 5′-9″ and 155 pounds. The 32-year-old Sorenstam is 5′-6″. She used to be listed at 130 pounds, but has clearly added a lot of muscle mass over the last two years. Now, she has that distinctive characteristic of a bodybuilder: her forearms no longer hang down along her sides because her upper arms are so muscular. Think of how Saturday Night Live’s Dana Carvey and Kevin Nelon held their arms away from their sides while playing Hans and Franz, their Schwarzenegger-type “Ve vill pump you up!” muscle heads. (No doubt some male pros think she’s been augmenting her weightlifting with steroids or human growth hormone, but there’s no specific evidence for that at all.)

Noticing things is evil.

(Republished from iSteve by permission of author or representative)
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To get ready for the 2012 Masters, the New York Times has an article on why there are so few black caddies anymore: “Treasure of Golf’s Sad Past, Black Caddies Vanish in Era of Riches.”

I wrote basically the same article nine years ago to get ready for the 2003 Masters: “Decline of the Black Caddie.” (And here’s my 2003 companion piece: “Decline of the Black Golf Pro.”)

If you are interested in the topic, I’d invite you to compare and contrast the two articles on black caddies to see which one is more coherent and draws out more implications from the topic. Think of it as a test of worldviews: the conventional one of the New York Times versus mine. Whose perspective makes for more interesting thinking?

I’d probably sum up my approach as “empathy without sentimentality.” By nature, I’m highly sentimental, so I’ve had to train myself to avoid thinking that way. What I’m good at is putting myself in other people’s shoes, seeing the incentive structures they face, and thus how they feel. 

I don’t reason well from the abstract to the particular. But I have a good memory, so I can usually think of examples to get started in noticing larger patterns. And because I like to notice patterns, and don’t believe noticing patterns is evil, I’m better at remembering examples because they either support a thesis or contradict it. If an example contradicts my thesis, then it either is what I like to call an “exception that supports the tendency” (e.g., that 6’8″ Brittney Griner is famous for being a woman basketball player who dunks suggests that women basketball players seldom dunk), it’s just an anomaly, or, most profitably, it suggests that the thesis needs work and that there might well be a better thesis out there somewhere that accounts both for the bulk of the examples and the exceptions.
(Republished from iSteve by permission of author or representative)
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I’ve long been interested in the topic of municipal coups, in which somebody overthrows a corrupt and incompetent local government and then afterwards, everybody acts as if nothing out-of-the-ordinary happened. For example, the feds setting up Mayor Marion Barry of Washington D.C. in 1990. After WWII, returning veterans organized to rid more than a few hometowns of corrupt mayors and police, much like Frodo and friends do in the Scouring of the Shire conclusion to Lord of the Rings. San Francisco and New Orleans had major coups in the 19th Century.  
The NYT Magazine has an article on an expensive new golf course, hotel, and housing development, Harbor Shores, that has opened in the micro-Detroit of Benton Harbor, a black slum city on Lake Michigan a couple of hours from the South Side of Chicago. As Rachel Maddow often complains, the state of Michigan suspended democracy in Benton Harbor and turned all responsibility over to an appointed city autocrat. The Whirlpool Company, which maintains its headquarters in Benton Harbor, has promoted the Jack Nicklaus-designed golf course (greens fee for non-residents on summer weekends: $150), which will host the 2012 Senior PGA Championship, and the gentrifying Arts District. The writer interviews a quasi-homeless former city councilman who thinks, with some reason, that what’s going on is a municipal coup.

This development is another high-low team-up:

Given Benton Harbor’s unfavorable history and demographics, no private developer would likely be willing to take on such an ambitious project there. But there was another way: Robinson’s group, along with other nonprofits supported by Whirlpool, could secure enough federal and state grant money to help remediate the land, build the golf course and at least get Harbor Shores off the ground. The project’s complicated financing deal closed in May 2008, right around the time that the national real-estate market crashed. 

On the Thursday morning that we played Harbor Shores, the course looked virtually empty. 

The West Coast of Michigan is a great place for golf because the steady winds blow cool air across Lake Michigan, making it vastly more pleasant in summer than Chicago’s suburbs, and that has piled up big sand dunes along the shore. There’s nothing golfers love more than playing through sand dunes with a view of big water. 
Until the last couple of decades, this coastline has been underserved with quality golf courses. Alister Mackensie designed the fantastic Crystal Downs course in Frankfort, MI in the 1920s, but almost nothing else was built on the forested dunes until the last 15 years. Back in 1990, I bought a a couple of dozen topographic maps of the southwest Michigan coastline and drove up and down looking for a piece of undeveloped shoreline that I could put a team of investors together to buy and turn into a great course. But, just about every bit of cliff along Lake Michigan had cabins on it, so I left it to more enterprising people to do the heavy lifting of buying out existing homeowners. About a half dozen spectacular courses such as Arcadia Bluffs have gone up along this coastline since then at vast expense.  
My question about this new development in Benton Harbor would be, however: are all the responsible grown-ups crazy? Has anybody made a nickel off of a new golf course development in the last ten years (outside of China?). Back in 2005 a California real estate developer I know told he he’d never invest in a golf course-centric housing development again, and I can’t see much that would have made him change his mind since then. 
The sad secret of golf is that it’s a youngish man’s game, not the game for retirees that everybody thinks. It peaked economically in the 1980s and 1990s when Baby Boomers were between, say, 25 and 50. There was a huge overbuilding of outstanding new golf courses that came online about a decade ago, and times have been tough for golf course owners ever since. 
Moreover, how does a resort provide work for the black underclass? The article says:

This is the competing narrative of what’s going on in Benton Harbor: It’s being converted into a resort town for wealthy weekenders and Whirlpool employees — that, when all is said and done, its struggling black population will either be driven out by the development or reduced to low-wage jobs cleaning hotel rooms, carrying golf bags or cutting grass.

As I pointed out in 2003, practically no black guys have taken up caddying since the Civil Rights era. Only Hal Sutton of all tour golfers still had a black caddie. The usual caddie on tour might be a former college golf teammate of the pro who dropped out of law school. Similarly,

Poor urban African-Americans hate servile work, so is the resort, assuming it ever gets any guests, going to have to bring in immigrants to be maids?

And who are the target customers? Judging by the models in the ads, they’re aiming for a half black clientele. I think that would be interesting — is there a large enough black middle class in Chicago to support a heavily black resort? The number of black men who play golf in Chicago is by no means small, and they tend to be big spenders when they play, but I’ve never heard of them flocking to one single upscale course. Usually, huge cities have one municipal course that is, by common agreement, the black course where blacks are socially dominant: Chester Washington in LA., Joe Louis in Chicago, etc. In the Northeast, there are a number of summer home communities, such as The Oaks on Martha’s Vineyard, that have been upper middle class black for generations, but I’m not familiar with new golf or beach destinations for upscale blacks forming in recent decades.  

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A distinguished reader points to this from CNN:

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is worried that high U.S. unemployment could lead to the same kind of riots here that have swept through Europe and North Africa.

Fortunately, Bloomberg has long used his massive political, media, and financial influence to increase the supply of marginally employed workers / potential rioters in the U.S.

From UPI in 2006:

Bloomberg: Illegal immigrants help golfers 

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg says golf fairways would suffer if illegal immigrants were returned to their native country. 

“You and I are beneficiaries of these jobs,” Bloomberg told his WABC-AM radio co-host, John Gambling. “You and I both play golf; who takes care of the greens and the fairways in your golf course?” 

However, Robert Heaney, general manager of Deepdale Golf Club — a Long Island course where Bloomberg often plays — told The New York Daily News that no illegal immigrants work at the club.

Deepdale is “maybe the most reclusive club in America,” and it “hosts maybe ten rounds per day,” according to golf course architect Tom Doak in his indispensable Confidential Guide to Golf Courses. Thank God that billionaires like Bloomberg don’t have to choose between paying groundskeepers a little more or putting up with fluffy lies in the fairway that might make it harder to draw a 3-iron shot into Deepdale’s notoriously unreceptive 15th green. If it weren’t for illegal immigrants holding costs down, Deepdale might have to let an extra two or three golfers per day play the course to pay the wages of those greedy American citizens. And then, Mayor Bloomberg might one day see another foursome playing on a different hole, which could ruin for him, perhaps permanently, the entire Deepdale Experience of having what appears to be his own personal golf course. C’mon, people, we have to get our priorities straight. 

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Scottish golf fans are among the most discerning fans in all of sports. Watching the British Open on TV can be disconcerting because what the crowd cheers and doesn’t cheer depends upon subtle slopes in course that you can’t see on 2-D television. The player on the right side of the fairway hits a shot that stops 40′ from the flag and the crowd goes wild (because he managed to hold his shot on a green tilted sharply away from him). Then, the player on the left side of the fairway hits his shot to 20′ and is greeted with tepid applause (because he should have gotten it closer).
The Swinger is a new roman a clef novel about golf superstar Hubert X. “Tree” Tremont by two Sports Illustrated writers who clearly enjoy being liberated from the shackles of Access Journalism. In it, a fan at St. Andrew’s heckles the struggling, post-disgrace Tree:

“Ya canna pleh without the magic drugs, ken ya?”

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I’ve noticed that when I read the obituaries of prominent people in New York Times, I always check the last paragraph to see how many grandchildren they have. The replacement rate would be four, and lots of high-achieving people die without getting to that number. 
On the other hand, I just noticed that golfer Jack Nicklaus (who is not dead, by the way — his name just comes up whenever there’s a major championship), whose career record of 18 major championships is looking more secure each month (Tiger has been stuck on 14 for just under three years), has 21 grandchildren. 
Nicklaus, who was born in 1940, had six children, and his children have averaged 3.5 kids each, which is a lot for a celebrity’s kids these days. (I suspect that bequests from Grandpa Jack have helped his offspring go forth and multiply.)
Nicklaus is an example of high all-around competence. For one thing, he was a fat white 5’10″ kid who could dunk a basketball. He’s also one of very few celebrities to lose a large amount of weight for cosmetic purposes in mid-career without hurting performance. 
I’m not sure that I’d want to have Jack Nicklaus as my next door neighbor. (I suspect he would roll his eyes in a marked manner at my lawn care efforts.) But, in case of, say, alien invasion, I would be glad that there were more rather than fewer copies of his genes floating around in the human race. 
It might be interesting for somebody to go through obituaries of high achievers and build a database of numbers of children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren. 

(Republished from iSteve by permission of author or representative)
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From the Washington Post:

After months of public anticipation [really?], President Obama and House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) have settled on a date to play golf together: Saturday, June 18…. 

Boehner is widely considered the much better player, having started playing when he was in his 20s. Later in life, as a successful businessman, he joined Wetherington Golf and Country Club outside Cincinnati. Obama didn’t really become a regular player until he became president, when he started using golf outings to maintain a level of normalcy to escape the intense life inside the presidential bubble. Of late, however, Obama has been improving his game as Boehner’s has deteriorated. 

According to Golf Digest, Obama is now a 17-handicap. That means that he usually shoots about a 90 on a course with an overall par of 72.

Not really. Handicaps are calculated, or at least they were 17 years ago when I wrote an article for Golf magazine on them, using only the better half of your last 20 rounds. And the handicap makes up only a majority of the gap (85%?) — the idea is that the lower handicap golfer should win the majority of bets (because he’s better), but at least it should be interesting. 
If somebody lists their handicap without a decimal point, they probably don’t maintain an actual handicap. 

Boehner’s handicap has drifted up from about 5 or 6, before he became the GOP leader in 2007, to an 8.5, according to an official handicap site. Boehner has not broken 80 at his home course, Wetherington, since last May — at which point his campaign for Republicans to win the majority in the November midterms shifted into high gear.

On the other hand, the Christian Science Monitor reported in January that Boehner “hit the links some 120 times last year.”
That’s a lot. Considering that the guy lives in Washington and Ohio, that means about four months of the year are too cold for golf, and it rains a lot the rest of the year, so he must have been playing golf over half the days when the weather is reasonable. I’m glad he’s got a job that’s not too demanding.
Guys always tell you that you should play golf to become rich and powerful, but my sneaking suspicion is that a lot of guys become rich and powerful in order to play more golf.

(Republished from iSteve by permission of author or representative)
• Tags: Golf, Sports 
Steve Sailer
About Steve Sailer

Steve Sailer is a journalist, movie critic for Taki's Magazine, columnist, and founder of the Human Biodiversity discussion group for top scientists and public intellectuals.

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