Category Archives: Interviews

World Renowned Course Designer Rees Jones and his Team are in Demand throughout U.S. and Abroad

When you ask famed architect Rees Jones, “What’s up?” be prepared to absorb plenty of insightful information on the topic of golf course design.

This legendary golf course designer, known by many as “The Open Doctor” (tagged with the nickname due to the vast number of golf courses he’s improved in preparation for U.S. Open Championships), has an elevated passion for his work. Jones focuses on creating courses that are fair yet challenging and ones that enhance the playing experience while also being sensitive to the natural environment.

Jones is not only a talented and award-winning designer, he is a wise man, one who values relationships and enjoys collaboration. This is evidenced by his team of talented designers who have been an integral part of the professional staff at Rees Jones, Inc., for several years now. Each designer possesses the same deeply-rooted passion for their work as Jones himself, and all are equally-committed to excellence.

Golf Course Designer Rees Jones

Golf Course Designer Rees Jones

It’s that “commitment to excellence” that propels Rees Jones and his team as they continue to be a leading force in golf course design at all levels – from new course master planning to carefully thought-out restorations, as well as golf course renovations that well-reflect improved playability and sustainability.

Their work also focuses on the actual financial realities that many clubs are encountering today, and as a result, they are developing creative design solutions that help streamline the maintenance process (minimizing operational expenses) while preserving design integrity and improving the overall player experience.

“We recognize that financial considerations have always been a key to most clubs and this is especially true today,” said Rees Jones. “In today’s more competitive marketplace, the need to reduce expenses while still providing a quality experience for players of every level is the key. We work with each club to help in these areas by looking at ways to make the course more playable and more cost effective to maintain. We look at the possibility of altering or eliminating course features such as shrinking bunkers or even converting bunkers to grass chipping areas, creating open entrances to greens and other areas which will help the club reach its goals of adding players, increasing pace of play and lowering maintenance costs.”

There is no project too big or too challenging for this accomplished design firm, evidenced by an impressive client list, one that encompasses compelling projects throughout the U.S. and abroad.

Design Projects in the Works

Playa Grande Golf Club, Rio San Juan, Dominican Republic
This is a complete renovation of a Robert Trent Jones, Sr. (father and mentor of Rees Jones) designed course. The project is in the construction stage and scheduled to open in 2015.
Playa Grande Golf Club

Danzante Bay Golf Course at Villa Del Palmar, Loreto, Baja Calif. Sur, Mexico
Located at the upscale resort of Villa Del Palmar in Loreto, the course will maximize the majestic views of both Danzante Bay and the Sea of Cortez to the east and the Sierra de la Giganta mountain range to the west. It is currently under construction with eleven holes scheduled for play by February 2016.
Danzante Bay Golf Course at Villa Del Palmar

Dream Island Resort, Incheon, South Korea
Two, new eighteen-hole courses are in the planning stages, serving as the inaugural design project for Rees Jones, Inc., in Incheon, South Korea. These link-style designed courses will be built adjacent to the ocean.

The Monster, Kiamesha Lake, NY
Adelaar, a meticulously planned, year-round destination resort will feature not only the Montreign Resort Casino but also The Monster Golf Course. Originally designed in 1963 by Joe Finger, the world-famous golf course will undergo a complete redesign using holes from both the current Monster Golf Course and the former International Course. This project is scheduled to begin in fall 2015.

City Park Golf Club, New Orleans, LA
In 2005, Hurricane Katrina flooded City Park with up to eight feet of water. The flooding and damaging winds substantially affected the three courses in operation at the time, leading to the closure of two courses. Following a new golf master plan, a new 18-hole layout that encompasses land previously home to portions of the former East and West courses is currently under construction and scheduled for completion in 2016. The new course meanders through majestic live oak trees and incorporates many of the existing bayous.

Medinah Country Club, Course #2, Medinah, IL
Work has commenced on the restoration of this iconic Tom Bendelow-designed golf course.

Jack Clark South Course at Chuck Corica Golf Complex, Alameda, CA
This is completely new course on the site of an existing one. This municipal course is under construction with nine holes completed and the eighteen hole golf course is scheduled to open in 2016.

Brynwood Golf & Country Club, Armonk, NY
The Brynwood Golf & Country Club project is a major upgrade of an existing Albert Zikorus design with the ultimate goal to meet today’s playability and maintenance standards. The golf course will play like a new course upon completion. Construction is scheduled to commence in late fall 2015.

Urbana Country Club, Urbana, IL
The firm will develop a long range master plan for Urbana Country Club which will assist the club through a complete course renovation. It includes updating features to today’s standards with focus on increasing playability and sustainability.

Resort at Cayo Largo, Fajardo, Puerto Rico
A complete redesign of an existing golf course will serve as the centerpiece of the Resort at Cayo Largo. The unique topography and views of Vieques Sound will make this course a fitting amenity to this new five star resort.

Hodogaya Country Club, Kanagawa, Japan
Established in 1921, Hodogaya Country Club is considered one of Japan’s oldest and most prestigious golf clubs. Using old photos, coupled with other pertinent historical data, the Rees Jones design team is working closely with the club in developing a long range master plan. This plan will help guide the club through a complete restoration of the golf course while also updating golf course features to today’s standards.

Golf Course of the Everglades, Naples, FL
In an effort to introduce a new residential development on site, the relocation of several holes was required on this original Rees Jones-designed course. The project will be completed in November 2015 and re-open for play by year’s end.

Ballantyne Country Club, Charlotte, NC
This project focused on the renovation of an original Rees Jones-design. Work included the reconstruction of all tees and bunkers, including the addition of many senior and forward tees, as well as a re-grassing/conversion of the putting surfaces from bentgrass to ultradwarf bermudagrass. The club has celebrated its reopening and members are now enjoying a completely updated course.

Ash Brook Golf Course, Scotch Plains, NJ
This project is a comprehensive bunker restoration at an Alfred Tull-designed public course and it is slated for completion in November 2015.

Atlanta Athletic Club, Highlands Course, John’s Creek, GA
At the Atlanta Athletic Club’s famed Highlands Course, renovation will include rebuild and removal of select bunkers, replacement of all bunker sand, rebuild of No. 14 green surface to increase the number of hole locations, as well as the addition of new forward tees on 12 holes to improve course playability. This project will commence in spring 2016.

Sahalee Country Club, Sammamish, WA
In collaboration with Sahalee Country Club, a plan to develop a comprehensive tree management plan is underway. The club is scheduled to host the 2016 KPMG Women’s PGA Championship.

And There’s More

The Rees Jones design team is conducting ongoing work on a number of classic golf courses in New Jersey, New York and Massachusetts at clubs which include Baltusrol Golf Club (Upper and Lower Courses, the famed Lower Course is the site of the 2016 PGA Championship), Bethpage State Park (Black Course which is the site of The Barclay’s in 2016, 2021, 2027; PGA Championship in 2019 and the Ryder Cup in 2024), Canoe Brook Country Club (North and South Courses), Deal Golf & Country Club, Echo Lake Country Club, Essex Fells Country Club, Galloping Hill Golf Course, Hackensack Golf Club, Montclair Golf Club, Old Oaks Country Club, Marshfield Country Club, Nashawtuc Country Club and two Robert Trent Jones, Sr. designs, The Tuxedo Club and North Hills Country Club.

Ongoing work is also occurring on Congressional Country Club (Blue Course) (Bethesda, MD), Bellerive Country Club site of the 2018 PGA Championship (St. Louis, MO), Lambton Golf and Country Club (Ontario, CA), Belle Meade Country Club (Nashville, TN), Baton Rouge Country Club (Baton Rouge, LA) and Lyford Cay Club (Nassau Island, Bahamas).

In The Planning Stage

Other noteworthy courses that are in the planning stages with the Rees Jones design team include Carolina Country Club (Raleigh, NC), Seabrook Island Club- Crooked Oaks (a Robert Trent Jones, Sr. design) and Ocean Winds Courses (Seabrook Island, SC), The Breakers Ocean Golf Course (Palm Beach, FL), Ibaraki Country Club- East Course (Osaka, Japan), Hidden Valley Country Club (Sandy, UT) and four original Jones’ designs–The Santaluz Club (San Diego, CA), Peninsula Golf Club (Cornelius, NC), Huntsville Golf Club (Shavertown, PA) and Piedmont Driving Club (Atlanta, GA).

More about Rees Jones, Inc.

Founded in 1974, the firm of Rees Jones, Inc. customizes the design and supervises the construction of new golf course layouts for public, private, resort and planned real estate community developments in the U.S. and abroad. They are also noted for their award-winning work in course restoration and renovation at scores of venues worldwide, of which several have hosted major championships, earning company founder Rees Jones the nickname, “The Open Doctor.” This well-established design firm provides innovative solutions and tailors its traditional yet timeless design to each client’s needs while also building strategic options into courses to ensure flexibility and continuing interest to golfers of all skill levels. As stewards of the environment, the firm remains committed to creating sustainable golf courses that co-exist in harmony with nature. To learn more about Rees Jones, Inc., visit http://www.reesjonesinc.com/

Photos Courtesy of Rees Jones, Inc.

An interview with Al Barkow, Author of The Upset, Jack Fleck’s Incredible Victory over Ben Hogan at the U.S. Open

The award-winning Al Barkow has been writing about golf for some 55 years including his tenure as former editor-in-chief of Golf and Golf Illustrated magazines. Al’s book Gettin’ to the Dance Floor: an Oral History of American Golf, won the first USGA International Golf Book of the Year award in 1986. He is also the 2005 recipient of the PGA’s Lifetime Achievement Award.

In addition to his new book, The Upset, Barkow has recently published another interesting book, Golf’s All-Time Firsts, Mosts, Leasts, and a Few Intriguing Nevers. It is a fun read, packed with facts and stats and trivia, too, with a lot of golf history woven throughout and plenty of “most asked but never answered” questions about golf.

When it comes to U.S. Open Championships at the Olympic Club there have been a few. Why did you choose to focus on the 1955 championship (Fleck’s win over Hogan) as opposed to the others (1966, 1987 or 1998)?

Because it was so great an upset, not only one of the most remarkable in the history of golf but in all sports.

Did Jack Fleck really out play Hogan? Or was he just lucky?

No, he out played him.  Fleck out-hit him off the tee, hit some very fine iron shots and executed some excellent trouble shots. He had a plugged lie in a bunker and got up-and-down with a superior sand shot.

Through your work as journalist, you knew both Fleck and Hogan. What trait/s did you most admire in each player, and why?

I knew Hogan better than Fleck, and found him to be someone who was not going to divulge anything about his personal life or his golf technique. He could be somewhat devious, and as I point out in the book. At the same time, he was truly a great golfer with a tremendous work ethic and golf intelligence. Fleck was very single-minded about his golf. He was actually a better player than he thought he was.

What will surprise readers the most when they read The Upset?

My take on Hogan will be different than most people have had to date. I like to think it’s a deeper and more straightforward, unblinking look at the man’s character as I was able to define it from my interviews with him and with others about him.

The biggest surprise will be Fleck’s practice of Hatha Yoga, a form of Buddhism, that was in very large part how he was able to be so cool under the pressure of going head-to-head with one of the greatest Open players in the game’s history and also a man with a very intimidating manner.

Al BarkowWhat was the most challenging chapter for you to pen?

I didn’t find any chapter especially challenging. I had a lot of facts about the play of both Fleck and Hogan during the playoff, and had a reasonable insight on how they went about their life on and off the course.

They say golf is a mind game. What do you surmise was going on in the minds of Hogan and Fleck during those last holes?

Hogan was far more anxious to win than it appeared; he really wanted to set the record with a fifth US Open title. As a result he over-extended his play on the final hole of the playoff, and it cost him any chance of either tying or winning the championship. Because Fleck was so within himself mentally, the result of his yoga exercises and the mental calm that came with it, he simply played by instinct and did not feel pressed to perform.

Crystal ball question: If you were to player a round of golf with Fleck, and another round of golf with Hogan, how would the experiences differ?

Hogan would be more critical of mistakes I might make, or, if he thought I had no ability he would simply ignore me and take little notice of my play. Fleck would be more outgoing and companionable.

An Interview with Bradley S. Klein, Author of Discovering Donald Ross: The Architect and His Golf Course-Expanded Edition

Bradley S. KleinIt’s been 10 years since Bradley Klein first published his well-received survey of the artistry of Donald Ross. It was lauded at the time as “…the most thoroughly researched book ever produced on the life and work of a golf course architect.” (Brian McCallen, Golf Magazine).

Here is what Bradley has to say about this new expanded edition:

What motivated you to write such a detailed chronicle about the life and work of golf course architect Donald Ross?

I am a trained academic, used to working for weeks and years in libraries, and there was no sustained, serious book about the life work of any designer that wasn’t a puff piece. So I thought it was time to explore a golf course architect as a craftsman and as a professional and to treat them much like one might treat a musician, writer or artist for what influenced them and how their entire body of work evolved.

What will readers discover about Ross in this recently released 2nd edition of Discovering Donald Ross that was absent in your original 367-page book about the famed architect?

The expanded edition deals with restoration developments the last ten years; how Ross and classical design became an accepted part of the American golf course landscape; and how in the process Pinehurst No. 2 has been totally reshaped.

Discovering Donald Ross-Expanded EditionIn addition to your work as architectural editor for Golfweek, you are considered an authority on the work of Donald Ross. What separates his design work from other course architects?

He did exquisite routings — incredibly efficient, no wasted space on the site, and he had a simplicity of form and yet endless variation of shot angle, of deflection into the green, and of the consequences for a slightly off line shot. He was subtle — something that is sorely lacking today and that even his contemporaries were not strong on.

Conducting research on the life of Ross must have been a project in itself. Where did it take you? Any unusual discoveries?

Three years, 150+ courses, every house Ross lived in, I even slept in two of his bedrooms, found his old caddie in Pinehurst, kneeled at his grave, spent a lot of time with his daughter and also his granddaughter, even walked the path he took off the boat in Boston when he arrived in April 1899. Spent 100 days in Pinehurst, and the folks at the Resort were very gracious in putting up with me.

After completing this 2nd edition of Discovering Donald Ross, are there any unanswered questions about this gentleman or his work? If Ross were alive today what questions would you be compelled to ask?

I am amazed at his ceaseless train travel; I’d like to ask if he regrets having done so many courses (400) that he couldn’t see them all or refine many of them. I’d also like to know what he would do differently with today’s distances; he was designing in an era when 200 yards was a good drive.

About Bradley Klein

Bradley S. Klein is architecture editor of Golfweek magazine and runs its national golf course rating system. A former PGA Tour caddie and 2006 inductee into the International Caddie Hall of Fame, he holds a Ph.D. in political science and enjoyed a distinguished academic career in international relations before retiring from university research and teaching in 1999 to devote himself full time to golf writing.

He has written and lectured widely on sports media, golf design, the golf development industry, golf course operations and maintenance. He is also a design consultant, including involvement in Old Macdonald, the fourth course at Bandon Dunes Resort in Oregon, opened in 2010.

Klein won the Golf Writers Association of America’s award for the best column of 2006. His golf books include a collection of essays, “Rough Meditations” (1997, 2006), and two club histories, “Desert Forest Golf Club: The First Forty Years” (2004) and “Sebonack: Classic Golf by Jack Nicklaus and Tom Doak” (2006, 2009). His next book, due out in 2012, is “Wide Open Fairways: The Landscapes of Golf.”

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Bradley Klein’s Image Courtesy of Jim Mandeville

An Interview with Al Barkow, Author of Sam: The One and Only Sam Snead

Al BarkowAl Barkow has been writing about golf for some 55 years including his tenure as former editor-in-chief of Golf and Golf Illustrated magazines. Al’s book Gettin’ to the Dance Floor: an Oral History of American Golf, won the first USGA International Golf Book of the Year award, in 1986.

1. What made you want to write about Sam Snead?

Sam was one of the greatest golfers in the game’s history, but had been ignored as a personality. He was taken to be just an uncommonly gifted athlete who didn’t know what he was doing but just did it, and otherwise, was a cranky, simple-minded rube from the Gettin' to the Dance Floorhills. From a long interview I had with Sam for my book, Gettin’ to the Dance Floor, an Oral History of American Golf, I found that there was much more to the man. For one thing, while he was given a marvelous athletic talent, he worked very hard to make it better and contrary to what Ben Hogan and others said, he knew exactly what he was doing with a golf club. For another, beneath the story-telling and profanity, and womanizing, there was a person with strong, even sentimental feelings about family and friends. I felt people should know more about Snead, and that there was a lot more to know.

2. What separated Snead from other prominent tour players during that era?

What separated Sam from the others, or most of the others of his era was his remarkable ability at the game, and the incredible grace of his action. Every time he swung a club we saw a bit of ballet. He was longer off the tee, had a wonderful touch for the short game, and was a better putter than he was given credit for.

Sam The One and Only Sam Snead3. When conducting research for the book what did you discover about this golf legend that was surprising or even shocking?

Discoveries? He had trouble clubbing himself. He needed a good caddie to put the right club in his hand. I don’t think it was his vision, it was some lack of confidence, which sounds odd but I think was the case. He would look in the bag of 20 handicap golfers to see what they were hitting for a shot from the same distance he had.

For another, he was far more generous with his money than the stories had it. He was always pictured as cheap, someone who hid his money in cans he buried in his backyard and so on. It was not at all the case. Many pros went to Sam for loans when they were down on their luck. However, if any of them did not remember the debt he would never lend them money again. Even if they never paid it back, as long as they acknowledge to Sam that he was owed everything was o.k.

He did have some chicanery about him. He played a lot of golf with amateur golfers – something Ben Hogan and others would never do – and for money. He would ask a golfer for his handicap, when there was time check it out with a phone call to his home course, or simply accept it and go from there. However, Sam always played as a scratch golfer, which meant he didn’t give as many strokes as he should have. He was really a plus six or so, but people didn’t know much about plus handicaps in those days. However, because so many amateurs he played were sandbagging their handicap it all came out about even.

4. If you had to describe Snead in three words (traits) what would they be?

Three words for Sam’s traits: Fun-loving, loyal, proud.

5. Might there be a favorite chapter?

The first chapter is one of my favorites, because it lays out the background from which he came and which shaped his personality.

6. Any plans for another golf-related book?

I am now working on a book on the Ben Hogan, Jack Fleck playoff (1955 US Open). I will also be publishing a book next Spring called Golf”s All-Time Firsts, Mosts, Leasts, and a Few Intriguing Nevers. It is a book of statistics and trivia, with a lot of golf history weaved into it.


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Author’s photo credit: Chris Felver

An Interview with Annie Loughlin, Author of The Golf Letters: Tee Tales

Ann LoughlinYou might say that golf runs in Annie’s blood. She had uncles who were captains of the Notre Dame and Georgetown golf teams and began her golf career as a tournament official for the Women’s Professional Golf Tour out of Palo Alto, Calif. She was the 5th woman in California to obtain her PGA Class A status–today only 500 women out of 22,000 PGA professionals hold Class A status.

A teacher for more than 22 years, Annie has compiled a number of stories and anecdotes into a little book she calls The Golf Letters. It’s available in print as well as the Kindle ebook format.

Annie shares a few of her thoughts about teaching and golf.

1. Do you ever tell your students stories from Golf Letters? Which ones get the most laughs or get people to think the most?

Yes, all the time. I find that the student needs to have levity brought to the lesson as this enhances the learning. Sometimes they tell me an anecdote, and I say, “Oh, that little story will be in my next book.” They like that idea. The student is my best source for everything I learn while teaching. Here are a couple of short anecdotes that are included in the book:

Playing Through
A friend of mine was playing with his regular group of buddies. They came upon a foursome of ladies on a par 3. The ladies were not moving along expeditiously. They hit their tee shots on the par 3 and were chatting up a storm. There was some extra room between the ladies and the group ahead who were already on the next hole. The women waved the group of buddies up and said, “Why don’t you play through here?”

The buddies agreed and they hit their shots and began walking to the green. They noticed the ladies were now hurrying up which they thought a bit odd. However, they continued on up to the green. They arrived at the green, only to see the ladies there ahead of them and hitting their shots.

The buddies exclaimed, “We thought you wanted us to play through?”

The ladies looked at them, smiled and exclaimed, “Yes, we did, but we got here first!”

Golf and the Pyramids
The pro shop, the driving range, the clubs, the bags, the balls and many things about golf can be intimidating to someone who hasn’t been educated on its procedures. I have a good friend who runs programs for Girl Scouts in Montana. She recounted her first foray to the driving range and her first time at a very nice resort. All the range balls were piled pyramid style, as they sometimes are for presentation and appearances only.

My friend told me she thought the pyramids were very nice and she began to hit. She figured it was going to take forever to hit all those balls. Yes, she thought she had to hit every last ball in the pyramid. No one told her otherwise.

So, she proceeded to do just that. She had to hit fast, though, because it was a warm-up for her game. She was to tee off in 15 minutes. She did manage to hit the whole pyramid, but obviously, was worn out for her round of golf!

2. What do you talk about in your speaking engagements?

I usually gear my speaking engagements to the audience, just like I do with my golf lessons. I start by telling a few of The Golf Letters, Tee Tales anecdotes and go on from there. There is usually a universal common theme found in the anecdotes, whether it be humor or fear or another human emotion that golf seems to bring out. I elaborate on this particular thought and give suggestions and tips on how to overcome obstacles. I find that stories are the true teachers. In a way, these are parables. They bring forth a point without hitting the reader/golfer/audience member over the head with it. Humor seems to allow the sensory system a chance to not “try” so hard. After all, golf is a difficult game! Here is an example from my book that tries to make a point, subtly:

Golf Letters-Print and Kindle ebook editionsSmith Barney
I was teaching a group class on using the woods. The driving range was full of other golfers practicing. I purposely said a bit loudly, “Now I am going to tell you the secret of golf.” I wanted all the golfers on the range to hear, because it was like that Smith Barney commercial where everyone stops what they are doing and cups their hand to their ear so they can hear the secret. As soon as I saw the other golfers who were not in the group perk up to listen, I whispered to each student in the group very quietly so it appeared that they were, indeed, receiving the secret to golf! What I whispered was, “There is no secret!” I wish I had a camera to record some of the looks I received. They were forlorn looks. No secret for them, at least not that day!

3. You use the word recovery when talking about golf and life, why?

This book is about both golf and life. And, they are nearly synonymous, don’t you think? Life. Golf. Both 4 letters to start off with, and then, you add in a defined playing field that has a start and an end, and yes, life comes to mind. As does golf. And, in the end, the day by day of golf and life boils down to one word: RECOVERY. We are always recovering in some form from our last swing, our last encounter, etc. This is true whether it is a positive outcome or a not so good outcome.

4. You’ve worked with men, women and children. Can you describe your favorite type of student?

As an instructor, the politically correct thing to say is that I don’t have a favorite type of student. However, being human, I can tell you that after giving thousands of golf lessons over 22 years, the student that is the easiest to work with is one that has truly defined their golf goals and wants to have FUN in the process of meeting these goals. They know, inherently, that golf is a GAME and that there are many parts to it, aside from the scoring alone! Through the years, I have really learned a lot from teaching kids. They know how to PLAY! As adults, most of us turn into critics and we are always criticizing ourselves for the various outcomes we produce on the golf course. Not so with the kids. They are out there naturally having fun and being “present” to their experience. In a way, this is the “state” that I attempt to allow my students to enter into as they take their lesson and continue to play the game of golf.

5. You were recently appointed to The PGA National Instruction Committee. What does this committee do and what is your role?

Yes, thank you. This has been an honor. Allen Wronowski, current PGA of America President, appointed me to this committee. It is a collection of PGA leaders called together to discuss the current state of golf instruction in America. We met this past March in St. Louis and will meet again in the Fall in Maryland. The concern is that more people are leaving the game of golf and we, as an industry, need to do better to retain them. What we are discovering is that we need to make golf fun, allow it to take less time, and become more welcoming to the non-traditional golfer, as well as get more creative in our programming.

6. People are playing less golf and fewer are entering the game. As a tenured teacher, what is your perspective on making the game of golf more accessible?

I am in agreement. And, at the National Instruction Committee Meeting, we all agreed, based on some extensive research, that we need somewhat of a paradigm shift in order for golf to improve its numbers. However, my take on this is also that not everyone should really play the game. It is a hard game. We can’t force people to play. They need to have a passion for it. We need to keep the players we have and invite more women and juniors into the game. We need to make the game more family friendly. More programs may not be the answer. Some of the complaints are that golf takes too long, is too difficult, and is too expensive. I believe all of this to be true in a lot of cases. I think we need to promote more playing of 3, 6, 9, 12 or 15 holes in addition to 18 holes. This would not have to interfere with the regular golfer’s game, but maybe people should be able to “pay per hole” in golf. This might help. And, maybe we need to involve more technology on courses using smart phones to entice the younger golfers. Their lives are spent texting, using apps, and on Facebook and Twitter. In a lot of cases, kids are not comfortable outdoors. They find it boring. Hard to believe, but if we somehow included some technology, this might entice them.

But, remember, golf is not for everyone, just like knitting or bowling is not for everyone! Let’s encourage people to have fun and the passion will follow. We can’t coerce people to come play golf. Maybe the game just grew too fast and now we are seeing a correction. Time will tell. But, in the meantime, my love and zest for the game will never fade! Thank you!


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An Interview with Tony Rosa, Author of The Schoolboy and Two for Tee

Tony RosaOur guest interview today is with Tony Rosa, author of two books aimed squarely at today’s youth and written to address the kinds of moral challenges that many of us faced when we were young. The Schoolboy and Two for Tee will introduce a young person to good role models which is often as important as buying them a new driver. It’s also less expensive and the lessons last longer.

1. Who is your target audience?
 
I hope my stories are good enough to draw wide appeal beyond any specific, targeted group. With the concise and straight-forward writing, the books don’t ramble on for an unnecessary epic length. So far, the main characters have been teenage boys, and so some would say that’s the target audience. But I know golfers of all ages enjoy the books. I’ve even had teenage girls and grandmothers praising the stories. I try not to get too preachy, but I’m hopeful young readers will come away with something. Also, since the characters are all interrelated, I’m trying to convey the old motto of trying to understand others by looking at the world from their perspective.
 
2. Why junior golf?
 
Like most writers, I’d have to admit the subject became apparent to me through the creative process. I asked myself: What was the first time you ever felt like you were on your own? I immediately thought about my mother dropping me off at the municipal golf course to play in a junior golf tournament. I signed-up on my own and played with a group of strangers and could remember how alone, yet, how different things were going to be for me after I had proved I could do something on my own. That experience and many that followed provided the inspiration for my first golf story, The Schoolboy.
 
The Schoolboy3. How are your books different than other golf fiction?
 
I’ve read a number of junior golf books, some good, and some that made me wince. For me, most of the golf fiction out there follows a formulaic plot that would have an underdog character winning a tournament at the end of the story. For starters, having never won a golf tournament, I decided to stay away from that. My experience comes from being around the game and hopefully having an ability to identify those peripheral things that teach us lessons. Growing up, I was urged to play in a number of junior golf tournaments and I always came home empty-handed. I attempt to make my golf stories a testament that all of life’s victories are not on display in the trophy case.
 
4. Are you an advocate for junior golf?
 
Absolutely. As a kid, I benefited from the generosity of those in the golf community and benefited greatly from participating in tournaments and summers at golf camp. Like my characters in the books, you don’t realize it until you have a chance to look back. But, make no mistake, junior golf is not an easy sport nor is it something for the faint of heart. It is hours out in the hot summer sun carrying a bag over miles of terrain and hacking at piles of practice balls. It does come with a financial cost as well, although with the efforts of some absolutely wonderful junior golf programs, I am convinced that any kid that shows real initiative and drive for the game, that his or her financial situation would not hold them back.
 
5. What about the life lessons learned in golf. Would you mind explaining what that means?
 
You can’t watch a tournament on television without catching at least one commercial extolling the life lessons learned in golf; I think that’s true of most sports. In golf, there’s no where to hide from your mistakes. You can’t blame a teammate, you can’t blame the umpire or referee for making a bad call, and you generally can’t claim you were oversized. In golf, you can’t play defense and everyone matches up against the same layout and conditions using the same regulated equipment. There’s generally no home team crowd or cheering squads giving you a lift and the biggest challenges are both physical and mental. I could go on forever just laying the groundwork for what golf is all about, but it certainly provides an arena for you to learn about yourself and your approach to life. Some of these are celebrated in my golf stories.
 
Two for Tee6. I recollect two widely reported stories in 2010 involving young golfers and integrity. One guy purposely took a bad shot to help another player advance and the second fellow called a violation on himself.
 
Golf has a long history of teaching young folks. The two examples of integrity you mention are part of the multitude of good acts that happen everyday on the golf course. As a writer, I wanted to look at the other side of the coin. I thought it would be interesting to dig for the root causes and create characters that ponder and often decide to ignore the rules.

In my second novel, “Two for Tee”, Chad and Buzzy learn lessons and sometimes forget what they’ve been taught. They play together in a junior golf tournament where their foursome condones a lack of integrity and they react to the situation at polar opposites. Why would a character cheat in golf the first place? I realized their reasons would be the same as if they decided to cheat off the golf course. When it comes to young folks, ignorance, defiance, and a need to conform were at the top of my list. In “Two for Tee”, I also thought it was important to show how fruitless or how insignificant the result can be when someone decides to bend the rules.
 
7. Are we missing an opportunity to generate heightened interest with our youth and amateur players if we allow professional golfers to complete in the 2016 Olympics?
 
First off, I think it’s great for golf. But the way your question is framed, I can’t help but think about how the basketball “Dream Team” exploded onto the Olympic scene. I know it’s all about TV ratings, selling tickets, and endorsement deals, but the coverage of the NBA superstars at the Olympics overshadowed the truly “amateur” athletes at the games. The lesser-knowns worked their whole lives in their sport with the ultimate goal being the representation of their country at the Olympic Games. Meanwhile, the TV cameras were focused on every move made by the well-known members of the “Dream Team”. I’m not knocking the superstar professionals, but it appeared that their participation in the Olympics was little more than a friendly diversion from their regular season goals. As proof, I recall how the best players dropped off the team as the novelty wore off.

As for golf, there is an international competition called the World Cup of Golf. It appears to me that the best U.S. golfers haven’t been interested in competing at this event for a very long time. There are numerous team competitions for both professionals and amateurs with the most popular being the Ryder Cup and the President’s Cup. I recall some recently rumored rumblings about some professionals wanting a cut of the money to appear in these matches.

So, for the young and the amateur wanting to compete for their country in the Olympics, I offer two pieces of advice. Practice and work hard to become one of the best golfers in your country. Or, just wait about twenty years for the spotlight to fade and the professionals to decide the novelty of the Olympics is not part of their regular goals.


An Interview with David Wood, Author of Around the World in 80 Rounds: Chasing a Golf Ball from Tierra del Fuego to the Land of the Midnight Sun

David WoodDavid Wood did what many of us think about, but rarely do: quit life as we know it to pursue a dream. In his case it was to travel the world playing golf. It’s a great yarn and an education as well.

David’s book has been recently re-released in paperback and a Kindle version is forthcoming. If you love travel and golf, you’ll want to listen to David.

1. What’s the most dangerous animal you encountered?
 
I encountered two giant kangaroos on a tee-box at the Golf Club at Kennedy near Perth, Australia right on the Indian Ocean.  I walked about a hedge and they suddenly appeared. They were huge and were staring at me him they wanted to beat me up. These two specimens looked like a couple of longshoremen who had been weaned on doughnuts and beer since they left the pouch. I was surprised they didn’t have tattoos. Luckily, I escaped unharmed. Also, I saw a lion at a game reserve in Zimbabwe (after playing golf near Victoria Falls ) around 100 yards away that would have made quick work of me, but a giraffe had died and he was having his dinner.

2. As Americans begin traveling again, what are the top two destinations they should consider?

Argentina, and South American in general, is vastly underrated. The cultures are sophisticated and diverse. The people are most always polite. The natural wonders are off the charts good. Plus, the exchanges rates are probably the best in the world for Americans. And, New Zealand is the promised land. It might well be the single most beautiful country on Earth. It’s easy to get around (I recommend a campervan), the natives are friendly also, the climate is balmy and the seascapes are mesmerizing. Tough to beat New Zealand. I could live there easily.

3. If you were taking your trip today, how would you change it?

I wouldn’t change much except perhaps taking along better medicine for gastrological maladies. I got so desperately sick in India and Egypt, I almost had to cancel the rest of my journey both times. By the way, if you want to lose weight go to India, eat from one of the many street vendors and watch those extra pounds melt away.
 

Around the World in 80 Rounds4. We know Rio won the 2016 Olympic Games and golf will be on the program, what should we expect from Brazilian courses, and fans? A follow up/second question is: What’s going on with golf in South America?

Golf is still a rich person’s sport in South America, unfortunately. There are a few public courses popping up. One is the middle of Buenos Aires in the Palermo section that is like playing in Central Park. There are fashionable apartment buildings rising up on the perimeter of the course. It’s grand to play golf in the middle of a teeming locale like Buenos Aires. The green fee was $8. What’s also wonderful about South American golf is that they love the ritual of the game like “having the honor” on the tee if they had the best score on the previous hole. They always made a big deal out playing the visiting gringo – which I loved how proud they were and how much they enjoyed playing first.  I played golf in the Atacama Desert at the driest course on Earth – no grass and no rain in recorded history. You play on the dirt, yet the locals are as formal as if they are playing The Masters. Overall, South Americans love sport and will be excellent hosts for the Olympics. 
 

5. Is there a piece of golf equipment that we take for granted that is fundamentally different in another country?

Not so much equipment per se, but how expensive clubs and balls are, for example. Much more expensive than in the U.S. – probably double the price at least. Traveling around the world on a budget, I’d just buy used golf balls from the kids that pick them up out of the woods from bad shots.  I probably bought back my own golf balls several times. Also, most of the world uses caddies and that was great to learn more about how people live. You get to have a four hour conversation if they speak a bit of English. Plus, they don’t make much money and when you tip them well they are very appreciative. What’s not a lot of money to us, is huge to them.  I loved tipping and then seeing the big smile on their faces.
 

6. Similarly, is there a golf tradition or protocol that we follow here that is fundamentally different in another country?

My favorite is in South America. You don’t yell “Fore!” you yell “Mono” because you want the mono (monkey) to throw the ball back into the fairways. Also, enjoyed the female caddies in Asia as they only speak “Caddie English” – they know all the golf terms (yardages, par, birdies, bogey, “good shot,” “nice putt”)  but barely another word of English. In Thailand,  they revere the King. I was using a Thai coin for a ball mark with the King’s picture on one side of the coin. I marked my ball on a green with the King’s face on the ground and almost gave my female caddie a heart attack. Only mark the ball with the King’s head facing skyward in Thailand. Lesson learned. 
 
About David Wood
As a former stand-up comedian, I try to use humor in my writing. For years I read and reread the travel books of Paul Theroux and yearned to take adventurous trips as he seemed to continually be doing. Around the World in 80 Rounds is the result of finally acting on that dream of traveling the world and then writing a book on the adventure.