When Bobby Jones won the Grand Slam — all four major tournaments in a calendar year — it included the U.S. Open, the Open Championship, The U.S. Amateur, and the British Amateur. Today the first major of the year is Jones’ own tournament, The Masters. Hosted on the course he built, Augusta National, it has become an annual American sporting tradition that transcends golf. But The Masters wasn’t always iconic, it wasn’t even always called The Masters, and it almost failed a number of times. We caught up with golf historian and Bobby Jones biographer Sidney Matthew to find out how Augusta National and The Masters went from a bankrupt passion project to a seminal part of our sporting identity.
Why did Bobby Jones build Augusta National?
Because he was tired of playing in front of crowds. He wanted a sanctuary, and he always, from early in his career, had the ambition of building the world’s greatest inland golf course.
What would make the ideal golf course in his mind?
Well, it evolved over time. As he played around the world, he collected knowledge about all of the famous golf courses. He borrowed from these golf courses, the very best features. And of course he studied golf course architecture. He wrote about it. He discoursed on it. He talked to his pals who were golf course architects, and he believed that you never really mastered golf until you try to figure out what the architect had in mind when he built the golf course. That way you would be able to play the golf course correctly, the way it was intended by the architect.
What were the world class courses Jones borrowed from?
Late in his life, Jones said, If I were to be sentenced to play on one golf course for the rest of my life, it would be the Old Course at Saint Andrews. And the reason for that is the essence of golf is adventure, and the key to adventure is variety. A golf course that provides the most adventure and the most variety provides the most enjoyment because it presents a different challenge every time you play it. The ultimate golf course would never play the same way twice two days in a row because of weather, because of conditions, because of the playing partners. Because of the way that the course may be set up with flag positions, and just the seasons, and the way the grass grows. But with Saint Andrews, it provides the most variety of any golf course that Jones had ever seen.
Jones didn’t design Augusta National alone. Why did he take on a design partner?
He chose Alister MacKenzie because MacKenzie was a kindred spirit in this notion that the Old Course is the best golf course in the world. And MacKenzie understood it, the Royal and Ancient hired him in 1921 to do a line drawing and the first competent survey of the golf course that had been done. MacKenzie was in the Boer War early on and studied the art of camouflage. He could see that the Boers were digging trenches and building embankments to hide their guns. So you’d move your troops in thinking that you were out of range and they’d blow you to bits. So he copied some of those features of camouflage in some of his golf courses. He would put a bunker 30 yards from the green but trick you into believing it was the green side.
Sort of an optical illusion to play with the mind?
Yeah. You see that today, and of course you know. MacKenzie said when you play a golf course, you should envision yourself on the forecastle of a ship than on the heavy sea. And when you’re looking at the front of the ship, you see the waves crashing at you. You see the breakers, white caps. Those are bunkers. But when you look back behind the ship, you see the rolling sea and you see no white cap. It’s all green. And when you’re on a MacKenzie course, you can see that today.
What was MacKenzie’s more general design philosophy?
MacKenzie believed that many of the broad roads will lead to destruction, narrow is the way that leads to salvation. You should build a golf course with as much variety and as many options as possible. The USGA sets up an Open golf course that you’ve got to be a marching soldier right down the middle. You’ve got to hit your drive right straight down the middle, you’ve got to hit your shot straight on the green, and you’ve got one putt or two putt. If you stray to the right or stray to the left, it’s going to cost you a shot because you’re in rough up to your ankle and will break your wrist. What that does is make a very mechanical, unimaginative golfer, because straight, straight, straight, that’s all you do. MacKenzie spawned the strategic school of golf course architecture. The penal school of architecture was old-testament thinking — if you sin, you should be punished, and there is no forgiveness, there is no redemption. That’s the way it is. The strategic school of golf course architecture said wait a second. Let’s flatten some of these bunkers out, so with a heroic shot, you should be able to redeem yourself. But it’s got to be a heroic shot. So they at least give you a chance for forgiveness and it followed the reformation. It had a religious overtone to it. So a golf course provides the most enjoyment for the highest-skill player or the lowest duffer. And that’s the variety of the adventure. That’s beautiful.
You described Jones’ reason for building Augusta National, as he wanted a sanctuary away from the crowds. Then why create this tournament?
Everyone said that Bob Jones was insane for building a golf course during the Depression. Golf courses were folding, and Augusta folded twice. The fact is that he seized on the opportunity because of the piece of ground. Jones saw the piece of property and said, That’s it. We’re going to build my dream course on this piece of property. He said it looked like this land was lying there for years waiting for a golf course to be laid on it.
But (after building it) they folded a couple of times. So (the partners) decided, Let’s see if we can hold an invitation tournament and then invite all of Bob’s pals. Surely they’ll come. And Grantland Rice said, Well, I’ll help you out. All of the sports writers go down to the [Florida] Grapefruit League [for] baseball in the winter in Florida, and I’ll tell them to come back to Augusta and report on the tournament and maybe we can bring the gate up. They also told the British press, if you guys can make it to New York, we’ll put you on a train, put you up at the Bon Air Vanderbilt, and that’s how they got the British Press to come. Of course anybody who was anybody wanted to come play at Bob Jones’ first invitational tournament. Because Bob was a national and international hero. And so everybody showed up and the gate didn’t come in. So Alfred Severin Bourne had to reach into his pocket and come up with the $5,000 purse. Then in the second year, Gene Sarazen hits the shot heard round the world on 15 and makes, and all the sports writers go crazy, and so everyone wanted to go to the next tournament in ’36 to find out what in the world’s going on in Augusta. And that’s really what kicked it off. Jones initially thought it was somewhat immodest to call it the Masters, but in 1938, Jones said, I think that it has earned the right to be called the Masters, because it continues to assemble those who are entitled to call themselves the masters of the game.
In 1894 when the USGA was formed by the top half dozen golf clubs, amateur golf was on page one of the sports page. In Plato’s Republic the amateur athlete was the hero who was emulated by the populous. And that was true at the turn of the century. They did not have professional golf at that time. They had exhibitions. Walter Hagen was the first guy to make a living as a professional golfer in the late ‘20s.
And this is because it was viewed as being sort of undignified?
Well it was. Golfers were associated with caddies. They were not educated. They didn’t dress well. They were shagging the member’s wives. They were not allowed in the club houses. It was not looked upon as an honorable profession, and mainly because it was associated with gambling and drinking. One of the reasons Bob Jones retired in 1930 was he had more ambition than to be a professional golfer and he hated to travel. It was the horse-and-buggy era. They traveled by ship, they didn’t have private citation jets yet. It was horrible. And the biggest purses were a few thousand dollars, so, you might make a few hundred dollars. Jones had a profession. In 1928 he’s working as a lawyer for Coca-Cola, and all of the big companies wanted him as their lawyer so they could play golf with him.
So when the Masters first started, it was more of a social outing with Bob Jones to rub shoulders with Jones and all of his pals rather than a money-making thing. And it wasn’t until the later years that it became a major because of the publicity that it got, and because of the uniqueness of the golf course — a golf course unlike any other. And it continued to assemble those who were entitled to be called “the masters of the game.” Anybody who was anybody wanted to win Bob Jones’ tournament, the same way that [later] they wanted to win Arnold Palmer’s tournament. You always want to win the King’s tournament.
So I suppose we could say that the Depression sort of leveled the playing field in terms of the perspective people had on professional golfers.
It did. Everybody had to be scrappy. Hagan was the paradigm. But Neilson, Snead, and Hogan, that triumvirate really kind of launched it. I mean, Snead goes over to Saint Andrews and he wins it in ’37, first time he ever saw it! Hogan goes over to Carnoustie in ’53, and he’s on his way, he’s won three, he’s on his way to win the grand slam, right? That he couldn’t make it back to play in the PGA was his problem. But he won Carnoustie the first time he ever saw it. So these guys became international superstars as professionals.
Later on The Masters becomes iconic — it transcends golf. It becomes an iconic sporting event. How did it become so popular?
Well, yes, the popularity became universal. People who did not play golf found that they enjoyed watching it on TV. Remember, golf was a rich man’s sport. In Great Britain, it’s a poor man’s sport. You know, it’s a common town, and everybody in town belongs to the golf course. And you don’t have to be rich to play it, the courses were public. Here they’re private, so only the rich guys could play it. But you didn’t have to play it, you could watch it, and it became extremely popular because it had this swash-buckling Errol Flynn–type character, Arnold Palmer, making these heroic displays of athleticism and looking fabulous.
But The Masters also became a singular tournament because Bob Jones and Cliff Roberts made it gentile. They made it fun for the spectators, and they raised the level of sportsmanship. In the ’60s when Jack Nicholas was overhauling Arnold, some spectators shouted out, “Miss it! Fat Jack.” Jones heard that, and he was terribly distressed. So he sat down, put pen to paper and he wrote out some suggestions for the spectators. They still hand it out today. It says, that, in the game of golf, etiquette and decorum are almost as important as the rules governing play. Most distressing are those rare occasions upon which a spectator will applaud or cheer misplays or misfortunes of a player. Although these occurrences are extremely rare, we must completely eliminate them if our patrons are going to deserve their reputation of being the most knowledgeable and considerate in the world. Now, that is a pretty high standard. But guess what? You don’t see anybody acting out. The patrons of the Masters are the most considerate and knowledgeable in the world.
Source: Men’s Journal
Most golfers see where they want their ball to end and aim straight for it. Pretty straightforward. Others incorporate an intermediary target — a spot two feet in front of the ball in line with their distant target — and focus on both before they swing.
Which is better? Neither.
GOLF Top 100 Teacher Eric Alpenfels and Dr. Bob Christina, Emeritus Professor of Kinesiology at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, conducted a recent study where they took 29 golfers of varying skill levels and instructed them to hit six shots each aiming three different ways:
- Looking only at a distant target.
- Looking only at an intermediary target.
- Then the traditional method of looking at both the distant and intermediary target.
They measured the results, and some rather interesting results amongst the golfers when they forgot about their distant target, and looked only at the intermediary target.
That’s right. Alpenfels and Christina found that, on average, golfers actually hit the ball straighter and just as far when they don’t look at where they want to hit it, and only focus on a spot about two feet in front of their ball. Their overall accuracy increased, as did their Smash Factor — a metric that can be used to measure the overall quality of strike.
Why? Because when a golfer looks at where they want to hit their ball, they don’t just see the green. They see the water, the bunkers, the trees — all the places they don’t want to hit their ball. That subconscious fear forces your mind into making last-minute overcompensations, the study found, which hurts golfers’ distance and accuracy. So, the next time you’re struggling to hit a fairway, pick a spot just in front of your ball and focus only on that. It could give your swing the freedom it needs.
On a short par 3 over water, the tee box was placed with an overhanging tree on the line to the pin. I moved the left tee marker a few feet so that the tee shot could be hit without obstruction. This was done before everyone teed off — in fact, my opponent played first and I hit second. What is the correct penalty? This has sparked a huge debate in my men’s league. —JASON WRIGHT, VIA E-MAIL
Jason, the fact that you ask what the penalty is — rather than if there’s a penalty — suggests you know you’ve done wrong … and you have. (Admitting that you have a problem, however, is the first step toward recovery of your honor.)
Tee markers are fixed — yes, even poorly positioned ones. Under Rule 8.1a, if you move one to gain a potential advantage by improving the conditions affecting the stroke, you must take the general penalty, which is two strokes in stroke play or loss of hole in match play. (Other players could likewise be subject to penalty if they knowingly took advantage of your maneuver.)
We’re keeping it fun with some presidential golf facts!
- Donald Trump
Has won 19 club championships. Handicap Index reported to be 2.8
- John F. Kennedy
Despite chronic back pain, averaged 80.
- Dwight D. Eisenhower
Installed a green outside the Oval Office; member at Augusta National. Became friends with Arnold Palmer.
- Gerald R. Ford
Despite a clumsy image, a legitimate 80s-shooter. He also played with Arnold Palmer.
- Franklin D. Roosevelt
At 39, polio robbed him of a powerful golf swing
- George W. Bush
His handicap reported to dip under 10, post-presidency. He gave up golf during his presidency at the start of the Iraq War.
- George H.W. Bush
Once got his handicap down to 11. Favorite exclamation on the course was “Power outage!” when putts fell short
- Bill Clinton
Can break 90, especially using his “Billigans”
- Barack Obama
The lefty plays hoops and golf, more than 330 rounds during his two terms.
- Ronald Reagan
Didn’t play often or well (best was low 90s)
- Warren G. Harding
Struggled to break 95
- Woodrow Wilson
Played over 1,000 Rounds in office but almost never broke 100. He even enlisted his Secret Service agents to paint his golf balls black so that he could practice in the snow.
- Richard M. Nixon
He shot 79 once and quit the game
- Lyndon B. Johnson
Played with senators to secure votes for the Civil Rights Act of 1964
- Calvin Coolidge
When he vacated the White House, he left his clubs behind
It’s not quite golf season across the entire country, but we do know that everyone across the country is thinking about golf, golf season, and just how much they love playing golf. Here we offer the 12 reasons we all love golf:
Golf promotes freedom on a playing field with few boundaries.
What other game is played on 200 acres or more? Baseball, softball, football and soccer fields all have defined, rigid lines. So do tennis and basketball courts. Ice rinks have walls. Nascar has fences. For goodness’ sake, bowling alleys have gutters, how intimidating is that?
Yes, in golf you’re supposed to play the holes where the short grass is, but it’s liberating to know that you do not have to. (And probably won’t.) You’ve got this immense open space to play in. Play the holes any way you choose — just meet us on the next tee afterward.
The gear is cool.
It’s amusing, entertaining and even educational to get lost in all of golf’s little details: the dozens of different clubs, a glove, a ball marker, tees, green repair tools, interchangeable spikes, custom grips, shaft flexes, head covers, rain gear, global positioning equipment. And then there are the nicknames for this inner society’s tools: big dog, flat stick, belly putter, cavity back, hosel, kickpoint, camber, off-set, niblick, mashie, brassie, bounce, flange. I doubt that even the C.I.A. has this much fun naming its secret paraphernalia.
Golf is serendipitous.
Where else can you get sand in your shoes, pond water on your socks, ketchup on your shirt, sweat on your cap, mud in the cuffs of your pants, blisters on your hands, a farmer’s tan and a frog in your bag? And like it. If you make birdie on the 18th hole, you will spend the rest of the day excessively explaining how you acquired all the sand, water, ketchup, sweat, mud, blisters, color and the stowaway frog.
Golf has the best views.
O.K., so some baseball stadiums have good views of city skyscrapers. The rare college football stadium will glimpse a pastoral campus. Our indoor arenas increasingly all look alike and now they are louder than an airport runway. If you fish, hike, surf or ski, maybe you have an argument on this subject, but compared with all the mainstream sports, golf has no equal in terms of the setting. There are hundreds of golf courses that jut into the ocean, hundreds more that wind through forests, hundreds more with majestic mountain views and hundreds more that flow through parkland valleys.
Stand on the 18th tee at Pebble Beach, a few feet from the Pacific Ocean with the spray from the waves landing softly on your shoulders, and you will never again wax poetic about the Citgo sign behind the Green Monster at Fenway Park.
Golf is played with a host of wildlife partners.
Deer, turtles, foxes, woodchucks, rabbits, chipmunks, squirrels, moose, beavers, trout, bass, hawks, blue heron, eagles, geese, ducks, robins, blue jays, toads, armadillos, turkeys, otters, gophers, lizards, butterflies and even alligators.
They come with the golf course for free.
You’ve heard of runner’s high? Golfers have their own version and it takes place on an uncrowded golf course, walking quietly around the green landscape, proceeding at any pace you choose.
Arriving alone and joining another group.
A completely different experience, this is more like a blind date, but it almost always ends up better since it doesn’t matter if you ever see your newfound partners again. You meet the most fascinating people with this little leap of faith and you are witness to the most bizarre approaches to playing the game. Who needs reality TV? Just walk into a pro shop on a busy Saturday and announce you’re a single.
Looking for lost balls in the woods.
I’m always amazed what I find in the woods. Like one boat shoe. Why and how did that get here? I’ve found a pocket calculator. A hat and sunglasses. Maybe I’m watching too much “NCIS,” but I try to reconstruct the scene:
O.K., guy tries to hit his second shot from the woods but it strikes two other trees and lands in some swampy moss. Disgusted, he throws down his hat (sunglasses were on the brim). Still, he takes an awkward stance in the swamp and swats at the ball, which soars onto the green to land two feet from the cup. In his follow-through, however, he loses his balance and falls backward. Boat shoe sticks in moss and calculator falls from pocket. He doesn’t notice; he’s shuffling down the fairway to make that par putt.
There is the crisp sound of a club face contacting the golf ball with no grass in between. The muted “thunk” of a well-played bunker shot. The soft, little plunk heard from the fairway when an approach shot lands on the green. The clatter of clubs in the bag bumping along the fairway, a practiced cadence of leisure on the move. There is the silence that follows a shot from the woods, the audio proof that your ball escaped without striking a tree. There is the sound of surprised, astonished laughter when you sink a 60-foot putt over hill and dale.
Auditory delights are par for the course.
Anyone can play golf.
It doesn’t matter if you are particularly tall or strong, all body types can succeed. Look on the PGA and L.P.G.A. tours, where the top golfers come in all shapes and sizes. It doesn’t matter what part of the world you are from. Age doesn’t much matter, unless you want to be a touring pro. Even a lack of flexibility or athleticism can be counteracted with savvy and skill around the greens. Over the years, I have lost much money to the 60- or 70-year-olds at my home course who have the precision of surgeons from 100 yards and in. Just being a good putter will make you a good golfer. And who can’t putt a little white ball into a little hole?
You can, and should, play with your family or male and female friends.
The fact that men, women and children can play golf equitably on the same golf course is one of the game’s greatest benefits. It is the perfect blend of social event and exercise. And there’s something about golf’s humbling nature that brings everyone together. No one is immune from embarrassment, and that is liberating to the family dynamic.
The chance of a hole in one.
In what other game, in what other walk of life, can you perform something that in that moment is as good as it can be? The average person cannot go to a major league ballpark and hit a grand slam to win a game, but when the average person makes a hole in one, it is a shot that no one, not Phil Mickelson and not Jack Nicklaus in his prime, could have done better at that moment in that place. The chance of, and quest for, perfection is what keeps golfers coming back.
You gotta love that.
Source: NY Times
The question over whether you should putt with the flagstick in has sparked plenty of debate. The one thing missing until now has been any real science.
Partnering with California Polytechnic State University-San Luis Obispo professor Tom Mase, a Ph.D in mechanical engineering and a member of the Golf Digest Hot List Technical Advisory Panel, we sought to find out if it is in fact true that putting with the flagstick in is always better than not. While Mase’s research is preliminary, the takeaway is pretty clear: The benefits of the flagstick are at best inconclusive and may in fact prevent off-center putts from going in more often than they would if the flagstick were removed.
In other words, hold on to your DeChambeau.
(Bryson DeChambeau, you’ll recall, seemed fairly unequivocal in his assessment of golf’s new rule that allows players to leave the flagstick in while putting. He said in January at the Sentry Tournament of Champions: “After the testing we’ve seen, and what we just did out there now, absolutely, I’m going to leave it in. I’m going to do it until I can see that it messes me up. For the most part, we’ve seen it to be a benefit and not a detriment. That’s from anywhere.”)
Mase’s study, conducted at Cal Poly’s golf practice center at Dairy Creek Golf Course with help from men’s coach Scott Cartwright and women’s coach Sofie Aagaard, used a putting device called the Perfect Putter to roll putts at a speed slightly faster than minimum holing speed. (The theory being that holing speed, approximately two-and-a-half feet past the hole, is not affected by the stick being left in the hole.) The Cal Poly study examined straight and breaking putts that crossed the hole at the upper third, the middle of the hole and the lower third.
Mase released a video of the test conducted last week.
The results showed that with a breaking putt entering the hole from the low side, keeping the flagstick in prevents some putts from being holed. With the flagstick out, those putts are holed every time.
The study also showed that the coefficient of restitution for the flagstick is relatively low, and that direct impacts with the stick, regardless of the type, tend to stop the ball fairly quickly, helping it to finish in the hole every time at a speed that sends the ball five to seven feet past the hole. Further tests of the different flagsticks showed that fiberglass sticks—those most commonly used on the PGA Tour—were the most forgiving, but while multi-diameter and tapered aluminum pins rejected putts that otherwise would have been made, even the fiberglass pin caused more putts to have been missed than were made with the flagstick out.
Off-center flagstick strikes on the low side of the hole tended to shoot the ball off farther away, hence the problem with balls rolling toward the hole on the low side.
Still, for putts entering on the high side, leaving the flagstick in wasn’t such a sure thing, either. While nine out of nine putts were made with the flagstick out, each of the three types of flagsticks yielded less than perfect results for high-side entry putts. For the multi-diameter aluminum stick, there were only seven makes. Same for the common fiberglass flagstick. But for the tapered aluminum stick, it got worse: only two of the nine putts were holed. That’s a difference of 78 percent between flagstick out and flagstick in.
In an earlier test from a longer distance, Mase found that straight-in putts were made 100 percent of the time with both the flagstick out and the flagstick in. On low side entry, putts were holed 80 percent of the time with the flagstick out, but only 56 percent of the time with the flagstick in.
Mase, who will continue to run further tests on the flagstick-in/out question at Cal Poly’s golf practice center, found the testing results surprising, given the current attitudes some tour players have expressed.
“While the sample is very small on this data, I believe it represents well what is happening here,” he said. “Low-side putts will definitely be hurt by having the pin in. Putts entering the center will be made with or without the pin. High side entering putts is a little bit of a pin type dependent problem. However, high-side hole entry without the pin performs best.
“The results are intriguing and perplexing. At first, I bought into the pin helping always. But it is too easy to set up a low-side entering putt that is made 100 percent without the pin and not close to 100 percent with any of the three pins tested.”
Your move, Bryson.
Source: Golf Digest
As January comes to a close, how are you doing on your New Year’s resolutions? Most of us make New Year’s resolutions and, unfortunately, most of us fail to see them through for all 365 days, or even 31 days.
If your resolution involved improving your golf game in 2019, here’s a list of things you can do every day/week — even if you’re in the bitter cold like a lot of folks right now — to help you achieve those goals.
And, once it warms up in your area, you can take all five of these drills outside.
4. Exercise. Yeah, we know. That’s what we should be doing every day anyway, right? But when it comes to golf, you don’t want to be tight. There are a number of stretches you can do right from your desk while reading emails that will benefit your arms, shoulders, neck, back, hips and legs for golf season.
Even better, place one of those handy, elastic, tension bands in the top drawer of your desk.
3. Take 100 swings per day in your house or garage… without a golf ball. The best players in the world visualize the shot they want to hit before they hit it. With a drill like this one, you’re going to be forced to visualize, because there’s no ball there to hit. If you’re able, place a mirror in front of you and pay attention to the positions of your address, takeaway, the top of your swing and impact position as well as follow through. Do it in slow motion. Become an expert on your swing.
2. Work on your chipping. Can’t do it outside? No worries. You can purchase a chipping net, or even put down a hula-hoop as a target. Get a few foam golf balls and a tiny turf mat to hit the balls off of.
Will it produce the same feel as a real golf ball? Of course not. But what it will do is force you to focus on a target and repeat the same motion over and over. After a long layoff, “touch,” is the first thing that goes for all golfers.
This will help you to work on some semblance of touch all winter long.
1. Practice your putting. Anywhere. All you need is a putter, a golf ball, a flat surface and an object — any object — to putt at. If you’re so inclined, rollout turf can be purchased for around $20 with holes cut out.
Since the greens are where you’re going to take most of your strokes, doesn’t it make sense to dial that in whenever possible? It can be fun too. Does your significant other, roommate, or child play? Have regular putting contests.
The feel you gain during those sessions may not seem like much, but man will they come in handy when your season begins on the real grass.
No matter the weather, you can work on your swing throughout the winter months and keep your game sharp. How nice would it be to be on top of your game as soon as the course opens here in the spring?