We are quickly moving through the summer season. In a few weeks, the third Major (The Open) will happen. Later in July, I’ll be heading to the Jersey Shore to play a few rounds there. Why does summer seem to pass so quickly?
In the meantime, a few items have come across the screen. They caught me eye and I thought they might interest you. From our cousins in Iceland comes an interesting idea.
In a pioneering move to inspire responsible resource use and in a response to changing lifestyles, The Golf Union of Iceland discontinued all reference to hole counts from its championship criteria. Now, 18 holes are no longer a requirement for a golf championships in Iceland. Iceland is a country where around 10% of the population of 330,000 play golf on almost seventy courses, most of which have nine holes.
The original plan was to hold next year’s event on an existing 12-hole course. But the Golf Union decided to implement the idea this year. A few greens on the Westman Islands GC lagged behind in quality due to a seemingly excessive combination of winter salt spray and wind chill. These “bad” holes were simply omitted from the routing. The remaining holes were re-numbered to form a loop of 13 holes starting and finishing at the clubhouse.
The Iceland National Match Play Championships, the KPMG Cup, took place in the Westman Islands 23-25 June. There Gudrún Brá Björgvinsdóttir celebrated victory in the women’s class, defeating Helgi Kristín Einarsdóttir 3/2. Egill Ragnar Gunnarsson defeated Alfreð Brynjari Kristinsson in the final, 5-3. “There were more holes than usual in the final, 26 holes in total. Certainly, this was more stressful, but I found this tournament to be fun,” said Egill Ragnar after the win. “This tournament was different from other tournaments, strange in many ways, but it was a fun tournament,” said Guðrún Brá.
It could be the first time that an established golf nation staged a national championship on a course with fewer than 18 holes in the modern era.
Explaining this novel move, GUI president Haukur Birgisson said, “People’s needs have changed and will continue to do so. This includes people who already play golf and those interested in taking up a healthy form of outdoor life.”
Recent media coverage and industry discussion have revealed growing concerns that an 18-hole rounds of golf are at risk of becoming irrelevant to growing numbers of existing and potential golfers.
“People need more options. We should not stand in the way of innovation among our member golf clubs. Therefore we are introducing more flexibility. For us, this is appropriate on many levels, because the focused concept of golf’s return to flexible hole counts comes from Iceland,” Haukur added, referring to the Why-18-holes concept developed and advocated by Edwin Roald, an Icelandic golf architect.
I have talked about my friend Edwin Roald on these pages before.
Edwin is a golf course architect from Iceland. Edwin is also the founder of the “Why 18?” concept. In “Why 18?” the question of why does a golf course need 18 holes to be considered “real” or championship is considered. “Why 18?” also says that there should be no set number of holes. Read about the concept here.
In other news, they say that if you want to know the true nature of a man, play a round of golf with him. Last week we got a glimpse of the nature of one golfer.
Sure, we can say that because he owns the course, he can do what he wants. I think that if he has so little respect for the course, how much can he have for the game itself?
Yesterday I received a press release in the email from Golf för Vuxna (Golf for Adults). I have talked before about my adventure with this unconventional golf swing.
The founder, Sacke Frondelius, guarantees that you will lower your handicap using his method. If that does not happen after six months of purchasing his online course he will give you 500 SEK. Lower your current handicap using the Golf för Vuxna method or you’ll get money back.
First of all, the Golf for Vuxna swing came to be by accident. Frondelius was in a severe car accident that damaged his back. The damage was so great that doctors had wondered if he would ever walk again. But playing golf, with its twists and turns was out of the question. But determined, Sacke wanted to play golf again.
Here, the Golf for Adults creator tells how he discovered this swing. “After my car accident, I had to find a gentler way to play golf,” says Sacke Frondelius. “As a result of years of testing I came up with a new way to swing. I checked my results with doctors, physiotherapists and PGA instructors. Using the best amateur and professional players I could find, I tested it. I never thought that my new swing would become a safer and better way for anyone to play golf.”
The traditional golf swing has harmful and difficult movements. The Golf for Adults swing strips those away. The result is an easier and more natural swing. The Golf for Adults swing has just a few basic principles that are easy to learn and repeat. The movements follow recognizable everyday movements . The results are straighter and longer golf shots.
I use this swing and can tell you the results are as they say. And after 18 holes, my lower back is never sore.
Sacke Frondelius is sure that his swing will work for golfers of all ages. In fact, he will pay you money if your handicap does not lower after six months of buying his program. Now that is unusual. I’d like to see the face of your present instructor after you ask him for the same deal.
Lexi Asked, “Is this a joke?” After Four Stroke Penalty
Sorry for the delay in this blog. It was on my mind and I wanted to share this last week. Circumstances and a trip to Barcelona delayed my thoughts on Lexi Thompson and the Four Strokes Penalty, which is a pretty good name for a band.
While the golf world forgets the spitting, sour grapes and club throwing of the new Masters champion, let’s go back to April 2, 2017….
Imagine you’re in a race of 40,000 meters over four days. You run 10,000 meters each of the four days. Come the fourth and final race you’re in first place by two laps after ⅔ of the final race completed.
Then a race official comes up along side you. He says that a TV viewer saw you bump another runner on the third day. It was an accident and not a factor in your or the other runner’s position.
Yet, it is a rules infraction and it affected your racing position after the third race. The infraction gives you a penalty of four laps. Now, with only 3,000 meters to go, you’re no longer in first by two laps. You are now behind the new leader by two laps.
This happened to Lexi Thompson during the final round of the ANA Inspiration. Thompson received a FOUR stroke penalty walking off the 12th green. For an infraction that happened the previous day. It was from an e-mail sent by a TV viewer that alerted the judges. The ANA Inspiration is an LPGA Major Tournament.
The armchair referee is nothing new. Old timers will remember it was Craig Stadler who was the first victim. In that case, “While playing the 14th hole of Saturday’s third round, Stadler had found it necessary to play a stroke from a kneeling position. Because the ground was wet from Friday night’s rain, Stadler pulled out a towel and placed it under both knees. (Bob Wolfe, of the LA Times dated 2/16/87)
Presumably, he just wanted to keep his trousers dry. But in doing so he also violated rule 13-3 1/2, defined as building a stance. Stadler, who thought he tied for second, lost over $37,000 that day.
After the penalty, Lexi Thompson, found the fortitude to birdie the next hole. She got into a playoff despite that crushing setback.
Why do the Tours allow judges to watch a video, then go out on the course to assess a penalty that occurred the day before? It’s not fair to the competitors or the fans.
TV cameras, with closeups and replay, create situations that otherwise would not be there. No one present saw a penalty. Thompson said she was unaware of any rule violation. Nobody disputes that. Without the eye of TV there would be no bizarre situations like the one that occurred to Thompson.
The trials and tribulations of Lexi Thompson were newsworthy. As was the execution of penalties on a tip from a couch potato a farce.
But the sad fact of the matter is, it takes a something crazy like this for MSM sports to report on a woman’s golf event. Now that’s a violation.
In Golf, It’s a Small World After All
When I was a kid, I would hear the adults say, “It’s a small world, isn’t it?” I never could make sense of what they meant. I was an avid reader of the National Geographic magazine, so to my mind the world was enormous and mysterious and full of adventure.
But in the last week, the phrase came to me twice and both times it was related to golf.
Englishman Alexander Ward is a teaching professional in Pilar de la Horadada. Formerly associated with the Lo Romero Golf Club, Alex now owns and operates the Golf Stash Golf Boutique. While using the words golf and boutique in one sentence may be rare, in Alex’s case it is true. Alex is an individual with some distinct notions on the game of golf. He believes that the current concept in golf marketing, stuffing every sq.cm with products confuses customers, especially non-golfers who enjoy the clothing styles or may be looking for gifts for their golfing friends. The Golf Stash has plenty of room to amble around and focus on the items at hand.
Anyway, Alex and my Eva were in a discussion so I do what I normally do when I’m not involved in the conversation. I pantomime my golf swing. As I swing a few more, Alex asks me how I hit the ball? Did I draw hook it? Fade Slice it? I answered, “Mostly straight, I guess….” Then Alex said something that jolted both Eva and I. He said, “Golf for Adults?”
For those of you who don’t know Golf for Adults is the English translation for the book by Sacke Frondelius, Golf för Vuxna. I have been associated with Sacke for a couple of years, but to find someone, an Englishman no less, in the middle of Spain who knows Sacke and the book was a trip all right. We found out that Alex represents and is an instructor in the Golf för Vuxna.
3 Fun Finns
This past Friday I played golf at Lo Romero Golf Course, which IMHO gives you the best bang for buck in the south Alicante area. I joined a 3some of Finns who were on a golfing holiday. On the second tee, one of the three, Aulis Ranua, comes up to me and asks if I would write my name on the scorecard. I thought it a nice gesture, he wanting to keep my score. I filled in my name and we proceeded to play the hole.
Aulis Ranua, Discerning Golf Scholar, Ace Photographer and Good Guy.
As we came off the green. Aulis comes up to me and asks if I’m a writer? In my head, my voice says how ITF did he know that but my voice said, “Yes, I am.” My new Finnish friend then says, “Did you write the book, The Swedish Golf Experience?” That sound you just heard was my mind blowing. I was able to mouth the words,”Yeah, I did. How do you know?” “I OWN that book! I love it. I look at it all the time.”
It was a real nice day after that bit of ego boost. I mean it doesn’t come near hearing, “Did you write Moby Dick?” Still, it was cool.
It’s taken a few years but it has become a small world, after all.
Arnold Palmer – The People’s Champion
The weight of this sad time we must obey;
Speak what we feel, not what we ought to say.
The oldest hath borne most: we that are young,
Shall never see so much, nor live so long.
– King Lear act V scene iii
The King is dead. We can decommission the Army. As Bill wrote in King Lear, we “Shall never see so much…”
In my lifetime, Arnold Palmer was golf. I remember on rainy Sunday afternoons my Dad and I watching Arnold hitch up those baggy pants and take such a tremendous lash at the ball that his follow through would twirl around his head. Arnie wasn’t the longest hitter on tour but nobody hit the ball any harder. I used to imagine that the golf ball screamed in pain, like the baseballs in the Looney Tunes. A wristy putter, with his scrunched over, knock-knee stance Palmer was deadly on the greens. It wasn’t until he changed to the “normal” putting stroke, with no wrist break, that he lost his touch on the greens, never to return to him.
I have no clear proof, but Arnie was the first pro with a clothing line. Musingwear produced the golf shirt styled after Palmer’s polo style shirt. On Arnie, the shirt highlighted his trim and muscular physique. On his “Army”, that shirt highlighted a different part of the anatomy, having little to do with trim.
Later, Arnie has a canned ice tea named after him. At home, Palmer would drink a mixture of three parts unsweetened ice tea to one part lemonade. The canned tea, distributed by the Arizona Beverage Company is made half and half and is named as such. At The Seminole Golf Club in Florida they spoil you and serve Arnie’s original recipe mixed on the spot. I never enjoyed the can version since.
Today’s pros fly private planes from tournament to tournament. Arnie was the first professional golfer that I know who flew his own private planes and later jets. When I say flew, I don’t mean enjoyed the ride. Palmer actually was the pilot who flew the aircraft.
It was Palmer who renewed the American interest in the British Open. Like I said earlier, my Dad and I watched the grainy B&W images beamed back on ABC’s “Wide World of Sports.” Not since Bobby Jones had the golfers of the British Isles embraced an American competitor. I’m sure it was the rugged image of Palmer dragging on his cigarette, throwing it to the ground and taking that mighty thrash. It was the British Open where “Arnie’s Army” began it’s recruitment. Counting its TV members, that army was in the millions.
I only met Arnold Palmer once. He was playing an exhibition in the State of Washington, outside of Seattle. After smashing his customary tee shot, he began walking down the fairway. I was in a position where he would walk right next to me. As he neared, I nervously wracked my brain for something to say. I stuck my hand out and said it was a pleasure to be here with him and (in shear panic) blurted out, “I love your design at the Semiahmoo Resort.” I never played the course but knew that it opened the year before. He stopped and, while still shaking my hand, said, “Well, thanks a lot.”
My only other contact with Palmer was by Six Degrees of Separation. I met his dentist in Orlando. He was very proud of his friendship with Arnold Palmer. I think he wrote a book about it. And why wouldn’t he?
They say that the modern pro owes much to Tiger Woods for his popularity raising interest in golf worldwide and for the amazing purses they now play for. Professional golf would still be a minor sport watched by dilettantes and played for little money, if not for Palmer.
Arnold Palmer was a man every man admired and every golfer of his era wanted to be.
The King is dead. There is no heir and there will never be one.
My Northwest Passage
This summer I’ve been through three adventures. One was a trip to the United States. I travelled to the Pacific NW to play golf in Oregon and Washington. I played the Eugene Country Club, Tokatee Golf Club, Bandon Dunes, the Gearhart Golf Club, West Seatlle Golf Course and Chambers Bay, the site of the 2015 US Open. The second adventure was a stopover in Iceland to play golf just outside of Reykjavik. The last event was, that after thirty years, I treated myself to a new set of golf clubs.
In the next few weeks I will be giving you some reviews and events based on one or the other or all the experiences. It was a summer packed with golf, some of it good and some not so. What matters is the rules of play that I found at Tokatee.
1. COME RELAXED…..LEAVE HAPPY
2. YOU’LL REMEMBER YOUR FRIENDS MORE THAN YOUR SCORES
3. PLAY OFTEN…..LAUGH MORE
4. PLAY THE TEES THAT MAKE YOU HAPPIEST
5. IT’S MORE FUN WHEN YOU’RE NOT THE ONLY ONE HAVING IT
If I learn anything from this summer, I want it to be those five rules.
Just a few miles away from Royal Troon, on October 17, 1860, eight professionals assembled at Prestwick for a tournament to determine who would be the Champion golfer. The competitors played three rounds on the then 12-hole links, with Willie Park Sr beating Old Tom Morris by two shots. A year later, Prestwick announced that the tournament “shall be open to all the world.”
With all the world watching, with all the pre-tournament noise, the 146th British Open came down to two men. The rest of the field played this Open like a weekend gathering of golfers that you and I would enjoy.
Just a few miles from Prestwick, where the Open’s time began, two golfers played four rounds of golf for the Ages. One golfer stood on the 18th fairway of Royal Troon, six under par for his day, and was two strokes behind his fellow competitor.
The golf course, the weather and Phil Mickelson threw everything they had at the winner from Sweden, Henrik Stenson. He didn’t just overcame those deterrents, he dominated them, playing better and better each day. On Sunday’s final round, normally a knee knocking, nerve rattling day for anyone in contention, Henrik Stenson fired 1o birdies at the Royal Troon links.
In 2002, Henrik Stenson ranked 336th in the golf world. As late as 2011, Stenson was ranked #211. Watching Stenson play was not a matter of if he would melt down but when. That same year, Stenson had not qualified to play in the PGA Championship, so he opted to play for his club championship at Sweden’s Barseback Golf Club. He lost, finishing second to Henrik Hilford Brander.
2011 is just five years ago, but it is light years away from the man who raised the claret jug this day. How good was Henrik? Let the man who battled him for four days explain. Tell us Phil:
“I thought we played pretty good golf. I hit a lot of good shots and Henrik made 10 birdies. He and I have been friends for quite some time and I really like and respect him. I’m really happy for him, as much as I’m disappointed with the outcome. He’s a class act and he played phenomenal. He hit the ball so solid yesterday and today especially. What a great champion. He just played some incredible golf. I threw as much at him as I could and he didn’t make any mistakes. Just incredible play. What a great champion he is.”
Not only has the weight of not winning a major been lifted off of Stenson’s back but that weight is off the country of Sweden, as well. Sweden delivered major winners in woman’s golf but, until today, never a man.
In one round of golf, Swedish golf is now, itself, a major.
So, The Season Begins…
I played golf last Monday, my first round of the year. No big deal for most golfers but it was for me. I’ll speak to that a bit later.
In the last few months, I have been stuck in a golf dissatisfaction. The game has changed and I’m not sure it’s for the better. More attention is paid to the money list than the leader board. Many golfers on the professional level are content to just cruise through the season staying in the Top 25, earning a nice living, if pulling in €4 to 5 million or more is just a nice living.
Golf news has become who is involved in the latest war of words on Twitter. The golfer’s love life is a priority. Tiger, Rory and Dustin, more words written on Jason Duffer for his divorce than ever for his golf. Arnie’s Army wasn’t formed because of his personal life. It became that way because of the way it was described when he hitched up his pants and went to work for come from behind wins in the 1960 Masters and the US Open.
The golf ball is juiced, the golf clubs are rocket launchers and no sooner do you buy a new set of these gee-whiz clubs, than a new and “better” set arrives. You would think golf clubs were manufactured in Silicon Valley. The tournament schedule just runs one after another, until only the Majors become meaningful, except that most people can’t tell you who won the British Open or the PGA.
Which brings us to my golf round last week. I had spent a month in Spain and hadn’t played one round. It just seemed, I don’t know, unimportant. Finally, Eva threatened drastic measures and dragged me to the first tee.
When I bent over, placing the tee in the ground and the golf ball upon the tee, it all came back. All the reasons I play this game came rushing back, filling my soul making no room for all the silly stories and bad vibes that golf had become. I was home.
Why this was important is that it reminded me that I don’t play this game for the gossip or the latest trends. To quote George C. Scott in *Patton,* “I love it. … God help me, I do love it so.”
Swedish Golf Puts Foot Forward
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Over my hiatus, I picked up many new Facebook friends to the website. It was a treat to observe though I wonder if the new fans arrived because of the lack of content and should I risk losing them by adding some new text. Time will tell. Still, it’s great to be back.
Things have been quiet here in Sweden in things golf. Quiet to the observer but there is many a change behind the scenes. Swedish golf is subtle in that way. Everything looks the same but things are different in many areas. Management shifts and changes to staff are made. 2015 brought the development of new co-operationss between golf courses that will save some courses from financial peril, give value for money to golfers by giving access to multiple locations for one membership fee. So far these arrangements are in the Stockholm and Malmö areas. Will there be more of these arrangements in 2016?
Swedish golfers are sick of the winter (unless you’re a skier). Over the Christmas holidays everybody dreams of the cold and snowy weather that fits all our sugar plum dreams. Now it’s February and we’re sick of the nasty weather and the dark skies.
Sweden exports hundreds of thousands of golf rounds each year. Most are to warm weather locations around the world. In Spring and Fall there will be many a pilgrimage to Scotland and Ireland for pilgrimages to the fabulous links courses these countries offer. In fact, your writer will be heading to Alicante, Spain to open the new Spanish office of Swedish Golf Online. Spain continues to be one of the most popular golf destinations in Europe. Why? Well, currently there is a 27ºF difference between Stockholm and Alicante. *Nuff said.
Finally, great news from the Swedish Golf Federation, the overseer of golf in Sweden. They have officially endorsed foot golf (soccer golf) as a legitimate addition to golf. Soccer golf is a recreation usually played at golf resorts as something for the kids to do while the parent(s) are out playing the real golf. Why a golf federation perceives this as a sport much less golf is beyond my understanding of what golf or soccer is. Is this another example of the Federation out of touch with what actually goes on at the club level? Will there be a handicap process. What will be the slope of a foot golf course? On the SGF website it says, “Golf is one of Sweden’s largest sports with 470 clubs and facilities which has over 470 000 members..” That sounds good but it also shows that the SGF has lost over 100,000 members in the last decade. Will soccer golf bring in 100,000 new members? Why was frisbee golf ignored? My guess is that they already have an organization.
So, with frisbee in hand and a football at my feet, I anxiously await the 2016 golf season in Sweden.