Thursday, December 31, 2009

New Year's resolutions for every golfer

Do you make New Year's resolutions like this fellow on the right? If you do it's okay. Almost everyone does. Problem is everybody makes them and then forty-eight hours later those good intentions are shanked somewhere off into the deep woods on the right. Then it’s “wait ‘til next year” and we’ve got 363 days of freedom. So why bother?

However, making those New Year commitments should be different for golf. I think it’s important that each of us makes one, or perhaps more, golf-related New Year’s resolution. We should determine that we will maintain our golf sanity. So, with the commitment to make a commitment in place, the Eye On Golf staff has diligently compiled a short list to get you started. This list, as they say, is not all inclusive. It is provided for your motivation and guidance.

Now, repeat after me, “I resolve to...”

Yes, it’s a very broad resolution but very purposeful. Not everyone can get to the golf course or a practice facility every day, but that doesn’t mean you cannot do something everyday to improve. Even if the weather is frightful or your time is limited, you can stretch the muscles and then swing a weighted golf club for 15-20 swings. You’ll be amazed with the results.

Yes, you read that correctly. The game still can be played on foot. If your favorite golf course does not allow you to walk, go somewhere else. Not only is it great exercise to walk around the course, it will assuredly improve your game. And you can start getting in shape for that now!

No other sport lends itself to the production of literature like golf. A multitude of “golf” books are published every year, so you’ll be a long time catching up on your reading. Every category imaginable is available: instruction, biography, course architecture, reference, anthology, etc. You name it, it’s within your reach. If you're not sure where to get started go to Golf Book Review for some ideas. Get away from the magazines and a little into books. You'll be a better golfer and a better person for it.

If you’re in a location where you have forced hibernation and no golf for a few months, it’s a good idea to get a quick half-hour checkup before you head to the first tee for the first time in the new season. Having a qualified professional check your fundamentals, will bring you a lot more happiness and joy in the New Year and save a lot of aspirin. Shoot, the money you save on pain relievers, will probably pay for the lesson.

There’s just four suggestions to get your golf imagination in gear. And there’s many more. Go for it.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Golf’s best and worst shots of 2009

Golf’s major championships of 2009 certainly provided us with the unusual. It was the year of the spoiler on the PGA Tour. On the LPGA Tour it was a year of the dramatic on the 72nd hole.

Here’s our list of the best and a few of the worst on both tours.

Best Putt: Here we can easily select the 18-foot putt from Eun-Hee Ji to win the U.S. Women’s Open. Needing a birdie to win, Ji calmly stroked the putt dead center for a one stroke victory.

Second Best Putt: Stewart Cink may have thought he was just improving his position in the tournament, but as it turned out his 12-foot putt for birdie on the final hole of the British Open earned him a tie for the championship with Tom Watson when he bogeyed the final hole. A worn out Watson was no match for Cink in the playoff.

Worst Two Putts: All of us who grew up in the Nicklaus and Watson era were on the edge of our seats watching the 2009 British Open. Here was 59-year old Tom Watson about to take the title and tie Harry Vardon with six victories in golf’s oldest major. Unfortunately, Watson’s second to the final hole scooted over the green. Electing to putt from a dodgy lie, he knocked it eight feet past. More unfortunately, he didn’t even come close on the putt to win the title. In the end he was no match for Stewart Cink in the playoff.

Worst Finish: All (“all” is a suspicious word when working under the pressure of a major championship) Kenny Perry had to do was play the final two holes of the 2009 Masters in one over par to slip on the green jacket. Disastrously Perry bogeyed the final two and then lost on the second playoff hole to Angel Cabrera.

Luckiest Shot: How can we forget this? On the first playoff hole at the Masters, the par-4 18th, Angel Cabrera hit his tee shot dead right into the trees. With a swashbuckling, go-for-broke attitude, he fires his next at the green, but the loud “crack” as the ball hits a tree proclaims something has gone amiss. No worries, the ball bounces into the fairway from which point he makes par to tie Kenny Perry. Cabrera wins the Masters on the very next playoff hole, the 10th.
Unluckiest Shot: Hunter Mahan was definitely in the hunt at the 2009 U.S. Open. Needing a birdie on one of the last four holes, Mahan fired his second at the par 4 15th dead at the flagstick – right dead on the flagstick. The ball caromed of the flagstick to about 15 feet from where Mahan made par.

Second Best Shot (A & B): Y.E. Yang wins the A & B award here. Yang became the first man to stare down Tiger on the final nine of a major at the PGA Championship. He gets the A award for his chip-in for eagle on the short par 4 fourteenth. The chip was from a severely sloped lie beside the green. He also receives the B award for his second shot on the 72nd hole, a hybrid to about ten feet. Leading by one at the time he drove the metaphorical nail into Tiger’s coffin.

Absolute Best Shot: No doubt Brittany Lincicome provided the outright most dramatic shot in a major championship in 2009. Trailing by one shot coming to the final hole of the Kraft Nabisco Championship, Lincicome fired a hybrid second shot from 210 yards on the par-5 finishing hole that finished four feet. She made the eagle putt and won by one.

And that's the way it was in 2009.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Nothing Major - the book

Golf is fun - or at least it should be. You hear it all the time, especially from those professionals who attempt to make their living playing the game. “I was just trying to have fun out there,” is the common cliché in an interview. So, if we're all “trying to have fun out there,” the logical progression should be that golf is funny. Well, we certainly know that's the case. Funny stuff happens consistently on a golf course. We might not view it as amusing at the time, but later, upon serious reflection or a visit to the 19th hole, it certainly produces a smile.

But with all these shenanigans happening on the course, very seldom does some golf scribe take time to catalog these amusing incidents. They are too busy analyzing the game attempting to elucidate on the perceived thinking of the great players. The lot of golf books written from the humorous angle is quite slim. Fortunately, we now have a new volume that will surely put a smile on your face and often get you to laugh out loud.

The culprit is Bob Cayne and his monumental work on humor in golf is entitled “...Nothing Major.” Cayne is the former co-host of “Talking Golf,” a weekly radio which he shared with Cleveland Plain Dealer golf writer George Sweda. Cayne has compiled 219 pages of quips and clips from the radio show and his years in golf. The result is an anecdotal walk down the fairways of golf. Virtually every page will have you cracking a smile.

Cayne displays a waggish sense of humor and his writing style is what definitely adds to the fun of the book. His clever use of metaphors and similes adds greatly to the humor of the book.
You'll want to read (and perhaps re-read) the complete volume, but here's an appetizer of what's in store. Be sure to read the chapter entitle “I'm 74 Years Old, or Two Over Par.” It'll give you a finer appreciation for senior golfers.

I also found this book to be “educational.” In the chapter “The Laughs Are On Me” you'll discover why golf should be taught from the green backwards. And finally, as part of the educational process, you'll discover why golf equipment and personal grooming products are marketed the same way.

If you love golf and like to laugh a little bit at the game and the antics that go on around the game, “...Nothing Major.” is a must for your library.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Golf books make the perfect last minute Christmas gifts

In case you haven’t looked at the calendar, there are but four shopping days left until Christmas. And in case you have yet to select a gift for the golfer in your life, permit us to provide a few literary suggestions for your last minute shopping. We’ve placed these into categories if it happens that your golfer is selective in his or her golf reading.

HISTORY: The top selection in this category and for the season is easy - Sports Illustrated’s The Golf Book. You can read our review here, but suffice it to say that this book will please any golfer. It’s a perfect blend of everything golf – completely and totally loaded with stunning pictures and informative text by many of SI’s writers.

INSTRUCTION: The best is still Harvey Penick’s Little Red Book. Penick was a lifetime teacher of the game and his wisdom is priceless. If you want a glimpse of what he taught Crenshaw and Kite, get the Little Red Book. Teach Yourself Visually Golf is an excellent volume for learning the game. It was published in 2007 by Wiley Press. It is straightforward presentation on the game. It’s colorful with lots of how-to pictures. For a more in depth examination of the mental side go for Tom Dorsel’s Golf: The Mental Game. Dr. Dorsel presents a practical, yet non-clinical approach to our mental game on the course. His approach is heavily tilted to the practical side with barely a hint of psychobabble.

RULES: My favorite books dealing with the Rules of Golf are not volumes that attempt to explain the rules but rather present intriguing theory and/or history on the rules. The Principles Behind the Rules of Golf by Richard S. Tufts presents the two guiding principles of the rules and demonstrates how all other rules emanate from them. This one may be a little hard to find, but it will satisfy the golfer’s curiosity about the rules. The Rules of the Green by Kenneth G. Chapman is a scholarly work on the history of the rules that will not induce the slightest bit of insomnia. Chapman takes us on a historical journey from a time before the first written code in 1744 up to the present day carefully providing the logic behind the evolution of the rules. Can I Get a Ruling? by Dave Marrandette – Although this is self-serving, I would be remiss if I did not recommend by own volume on the rules. This book is historical in the sense that it presents a time capsule of actual rule incidents presented in categorical fashion.

GOLF COURSES: For a whimsical journey to fantasy courses we suggest David Barrett’s new volume Golf’s Dream 18s. Golf's Dream 18s is a collection of fantasy courses, 18 to be exact, that teases the golfer's mind and pleases his visual senses. You might also try Secrets of the Great Golf Course Architects. This compilation was put together by radio host and author Michael Patrick Shiels. The “Secrets” are short, pithy tales from the lives of 118 golf course architects.

ANTHOLOGY: Every sports fan has heard of Dan Jenkins. This year Jenkins published a fun volume appropriately titled Jenkins at the Majors: Sixty years of the World's best golf writing, from Hogan to Tiger. It is collection and re-editing of his essays and press room work from 1951 to 2008. The bottom line on this book is quite simple: If you are a golf fan and have even the slightest interest in the history of the game, you need to read Jenkins at the Majors. It is a massive history lesson presented with the Jenkins' flavor.

HUMOR: While literary humor in the world of golf is in short supply former radio golf talk show host Bob Cayne published a work this year entitled Nothing Major. It’s a collection of amusing golf stories and essays that will have you laughing out loud. We have not review this yet (it’s coming soon), but trust us on this one. You can get it at

Happy last minute golf shopping.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Book Review: Golf's Dream 18s

All of us who love to play the game of golf have a number of favorite holes that we have played. Our fantasy is to transplant those holes to a mythical course that we could play forever. It would be a place where we could visit to get a small taste of golf utopia. Alas, these courses that we build in our hearts and minds are a daydream, a mental image that we conjure up as we envision a life with nothing but the greatest game of all to occupy our time.

Fortunately, we now have been provided some visual and written assistance to serve as guidance along the paths of our fantasies. David Barrett's newest volume, Golf's Dream 18s, has taken the daydreaming to a new level. Recently published by Abrams Press, the leader in dynamic, visually appealing golf volumes, Barrett takes the fantasy course scenario to the ultimate extreme. Golf's Dream 18s is a collection of fantasy courses, 18 to be exact, that teases the golfer's mind and pleases his visual senses.

Barrett is well equipped for the job. He has served as a senior editor at Golf Magazine and he also produced a similar volume from Abrams Golf Courses of the U.S. Open.

Barrett's organizational structure of this volume provides us with a fun look at over 300 holes from around the world. He starts us off with a short introduction and then guides us through 18 holes on 18 individual fantasy courses with each “course” having a specific theme. We get to tour courses with Scenic Holes, Historic Holes, Exclusive Holes (ed. op., holes virtually no one can play), Holes Anyone Can Play (ed. op., which is more like it), Modern Holes, Classic Holes, and twelve other themed, fantasy courses culminating in The Ultimate Dream 18, an all-star team of the holes in the book.

What really makes Golf's Dream 18s really enjoyable is that each hole is accompanied by a first-class picture (This is what Abrams does quite well.) and informative text. We learn a little about each and every hole. Unfortunately, there are no diagrams of each hole which at times left us wondering how the entire hole looks.

This book is a heavyweight, literally and figuratively. It comprises 324 full-color photographs and 304 pages. Together with the hardcover and the eye-catching jacket, it tips the scales at approximately four pounds. But its content is also fascinating.

To date this is our second favorite book of the season, ranking right behind SI's The Golf Book. (But that may be because we are slightly more interested in golf history than course architecture.) You can't go wrong with this volume for your favorite golfer who loves golf courses (and a little bit of fantasy).

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Tiger and the PGA Tour pucker factor

You gotta think that PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem's pucker factor has increased exponentially every day for the past two weeks. You could almost hear him pacing around his office mumbling to himself, “What am I going to say? What am I going to do?” Slowly, ever so slowly Finchem's throat got drier and his lips pursed tighter and tighter. The drama was building. What would Tiger do? What would we do? For every new bimbo that was paraded out on the international stage, the air at PGA Tour Headquarters was gradually sucked out.

Finally last night the balloon burst. Tiger said adiós to golf for an indefinite period of time. You could hear a collective “CRAP!” come out of Ponte Vedra. We could even hear it in Arizona. Now they were scrambling for PGA Tour Canned Statement 12.6. 4b. Finchem issued his statement (which turned out to be PGA Tour Canned Statement 12.6. 4b(1)), “His priorities are where they need to be, and we will continue to respect and honor his family's request for privacy. We look forward to Tiger 's return to the PGA Tour when he determines the time is right for him.”

There's a lot of under lying meaning here, unspoken nuance, if you will. Finchem needs Tiger to return to play as soon as possible. With Tiger plays, the Tour is exciting and dynamic; without Tiger television ratings drop 50%. It's hard to negotiate new contract with sponsors and television networks when the star of the show is on hiatus.

Finchem is probably nearing the end of his time with the PGA Tour. Retirement is looming on the horizon. It's closer that a short par four. The last thing he needs is a blowout at the end of his time leaving a legacy that spells R-U-I-N. It'll make former LPGA Commissioner Bivens look like a genius.

Boy is that scary.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Tiger watch just like a daytime soap

Eye On Golf has waited patiently to inject its opinion into the infinitesimal quantity of journalistic appraisals that have thus far been offered on the soap opera following Tiger. In short, we thought we would let the scandalous dust settle before we put pen to paper so to speak. (Actually we have been on holiday and have been somewhat isolated (thankfully) from this whole scandalous news cycle.)

However, a multitude of other golf scribes have not been so isolated and have freely given opinions whether based on conjecture or fact. Here is the most microscopic of samplings from what has been typed this week – the good, the bad and the ugly.

Go here for the thoughts of Steve Stricker. Jeff Rude has some interesting analysis here. Randall Mell chips in with this. And, although his approach is somewhat skewed, Rich Lerner provides us with an interesting analysis. Click here for titillating info and rumors from a non-golf related website. The intrepid Glenn Beck pitches in with his unique perspective. And finally for an all inclusive myriad of Tiger stuff visit Geoff Shackelford.

So here's what Eye On Golf concludes. Tiger Woods is a private citizen. He is not a publicly elected official. There is a difference. He may be one of the most famous private citizens on the planet, but he is still a private citizen. What happened outside of his private property is public, namely the car crash, is public knowledge and should be reported. What happened inside of his private property is private, namely those situations that could possibly have led to the car crash. That information, regardless how steamy and tantalizing, should be left alone unless Tiger decides to bring it forth.

And that is the bottom line.