April 2008


Wanna-be designers are a dime a dozen...and you get what you pay for.

If this column gets into the magazine this month, its only because the editor stretched the deadline to a ridiculous length. The fact of the matter is that I donít want to write a column right now.

I am in the process of scheduling arthroscopic surgery for some torn muscles in my shoulder which is making it damn near impossible to sleep, impossible to hold my daughter or even tuck in my shirt.

Because one major challenge, such as opening a new club, or having shoulder surgery isnít enough, I am also in the process of quitting cigarette smoking through acupuncture (which seems to be working Ė three days as of this writing, still smoke-free). The drawback to this is that I cannot be around people or situations which have the ability to annoy me...which means at least ĺ of the planet, but thatís not anything new. Iíve always been a walking hand grenade.

The doctor who is helping me quit smoking thought that it would be good for me to go play some golf around the 4th day of quitting, until she found out that my shoulder is torn up, so she stuck a few extra needles into my back and shoulder for good measure.

One of the less fun things is this tea that she gives me for when I get really on edge. It is supposed to help calm you down and I suppose it works, but the problem is it also encourages me to say exactly what is on my mind without care of who is listening or what I am saying.

This is not a good thing and suffice it to say, I only drink it when I am all alone...or when I am writing a column.

Sometimes, I really have to take pity on my various editors, because they never know when they are going to accidentally rattle my cage. Yes, I too have emotions, especially anger at the moment. Iím good at anger and this weekís range of topics were just enough to send me over the edge given all Iím going through.

Quite often, people will play a golf course and later, over a beer in the clubhouse, discuss the better parts and the weak parts of it. Some joker will always make some inane comment such as "Hmph, I couldíve designed a better course than that."

You think so?

Wanna-be designers often think its just a matter of "put a bunker over there", slope a green a little more,. or put a tree over there. Yet there are implications for everything you do and most of these people want changes according to "their" view of the course without looking at the perspective from other tee-boxes.

When designing a course, you have to consider ALL skill levels, not just the pros, low and middle handicappers.

Ok, letís start with the "put a bunker over there" comment. First of all, where you put a bunker has to come into play for all the players from the tee boxes designated for their skill levels. Putting one "over there" has to be justified. Does it make the hole too difficult for the weekend hacker? Does it lend definition to the hole? Does it serve a purpose?

Youíd be surprised how many times a bunker serves absolutely no purpose on the course, except to take up time being raked by the crews each morning. Bunkers are wonderful for helping to shape a hole, especially a dog-leg. Need to scare players into going left? Add bunkers on the right. Players are afraid of bunkers for all the wrong reasons.

Whatís interesting is that players will actually consider hitting 230 yards over a pond, more often than hitting the same distance over bunkers. It should be the opposite, yet bunkers terrify them more than water.

While a lot of players will cry about the unnecessary and artificial "mounding" on a golf course, what they donít understand is that it is there for three reasons: drainage; safety; and aesthetics.

I first thought that Dr Sukitti was nuts after playing the Phuket Country Club for the very first time, but changed my mind after the very first tropical downpour. All those hills and mounds were strategically placed to ensure the course was drained and ready for play within 15 minutes after the rain stopped. Proper drainage is more than simple hydrology, itís an art form unto itself.

If you really want to see the secrets of a golf course unfold before your eyes, walk the course backwards. Thatís correct, start at the 18th green and finish at the 1st tee. Only then will you truly understand what the architect was trying to do, and what the best way to play the course is.

Now if youíll excuse me, I am going to try and smoke my head covers....

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