Tag Archives: Harbour Town

Free-Lunch Reprise for Top 50 CEO

LA JOLLA, CALIF. — As you probably have heard, I paid something less than a hundred grand last year to have the consulting firm, Mackinsay & Company, find ways to enhance reader satisfaction while cutting costs at our Kansas City headquarters. Mackinsay, after making certain that my check had cleared, recommended that I fire forty staffers at Catch Basin and plunder the pensions of those lucky enough to keep their jobs.*

*Having just re-read A Christmas Carol, I rejected Mackinsay’s advice and gave every employee a Christmas goose and a copy of my latest book, Tour Tempo 2: The Short Game & Beyond, available as an e-book on all iPads, Kindles and Nooks.

Highland Links, Cape Breton Island

Top 50 courses like Cape Breton Island's Highland Links (above) could suffer if consultant's advice is followed. (John Garrity)

Mackinsay’s second recommendation called for a de-emphasis of golf course reviews (“because they’re closing more courses than they’re building”) offset by a boost in tour coverage (“because pro golfers get a lot more air time than golf architects do”). This advice made more sense, but I pointed out that qualified golf writers, such as I used to be, are paid immensely more than the quasi-galley slaves who work in my basement computer room.

Mackinsay’s rejoinder: “You only paid for two recommendations. A third will cost you forty thousand.”

So now that Mackinsay is out of the picture, I’m wrestling with a decision: Should I spend more time at pro tournaments, trying to extract something quotable from sweaty guys who spend most of their days in the hot sun? Or should I spend most of my time in the hot sun, playing the world’s greatest golf courses on behalf of my readers?

To help with that decision, I’ve put on my old reporter’s hat — the fedora with the press pass sticking out of the band — and planted my laptop on a black-fabric-draped table in the media center at the Farmers Insurance Open. I’m working for my old employer, Sports Illustrated, but I’m also here for you, my Top 50 readers. If something pops into my head that I am not contractually or ethically obligated to share with SI, I promise to share it with you.

Fortunately, nothing like that has yet popped into my head. And since it’s been a long day, I think I’ll pack up and drive over to the Del Mar Driving Range for a sunset bucket of balls.

Top 50 on TV: Nothing this week, but Phil Mickelson praised a couple of courses at his post-pro-am presser. “My favorite golf course out here is probably Hilton Head,” he said, referring to Pete Dye’s 51st-ranked Harbour Town Golf Links. “And I don’t even play there any more because it’s the week after the Masters.” Reminded that the U.S. Amateur was returning to 52nd-ranked Cherry Hills Country Club in Denver, Col., site of his 1990 Amateur triumph, Lefty said, “I loved that golf course. I thought it was spectacular. There is so much history there, from Palmer driving the green on 1, to Hogan backing up his wedge on 17 … you can’t help but feel it.”

Until prodded, Mickelson modestly left out his own contribution to Cherry Hills lore: his jaw-dropping concession of a 30-foot par putt on the first hole of his second-round match with perennial New Jersey amateur champ Jeff Thomas. “I’ll never forget the look that he gave me,” Mickelson recalled with a smile. “I ended up making a three- or four-foot birdie putt to win the hole.”

Those of us who were there remember that Mickelson minimized the length of his birdie try after the match, saying, “I wasn’t going to try to lag a two-footer. I thought it was a gimme.”

My contemporaneous account of Mickelson’s memorable week at Cherry Hills is in the SI Vault. Check it out.

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Furyk Mislays Three Decades of Golf Design

Hilton Head, S.C. — I rarely stoop to reportage when I’m rating courses for the Top 50, but Jim Furyk practically bumped my shoulder this afternoon outside the interview room at The Heritage. The former U.S. Open champ had just vaulted up the leader board with a second-round 66, so he was relaxed, affable, and eager to share what, besides the  red-and-white-striped lighthouse, he liked about the 51st-ranked Harbour Town Golf Links.

Askernish 16th Green

Hilton Head resident Dave Henson on No. 16 at Askernish Old. (John Garrity)

Mostly he liked the fact that Pete Dye and Jack Nicklaus wore their high-button shoes when designing Harbour Town. That is, they built skinny, tree-lined fairways, installed waste-bunkers where once there was only waste, let tree limbs encroach on commercial air lanes, pinched the greens until they popped, stocked the ponds with alligators, and bundled everything into a short-by-modern-standards 6,973 yards.

Harbour Town “neutralizes power,” said Furyk, a perennial also-ran in the PGA Tour’s driving-distance category. He added, “I’m not long by any means.” Still adding, he mumbled, “You could argue I’m short.”

We could argue that, but this is a golf-course blog. So I’ll just call your attention to the Furyk statement that really caught my ear. “I’ve always said that if the golf course was built before 1960, there’s a really good chance I’m going to like it. If it was built after 1990, there’s probably a good chance I’m not going to like it.”

Not one reporter in the room asked the obvious follow-up question: How do you prejudge courses built from 1960 to 1990?

Never mind. It just struck me that Furyk has hit upon a fresh way of judging golfing grounds, a method that burns off the morning fog of traditional design variables (turf quality, green speeds, length of rough, etc.), leaving us a single overriding criterion: Birthdate.

Furyk’s method, applied to my own Top 50, doesn’t yield groupings as distinct as his tripartite scheme. It’s clear, however, that the best golf courses are those built in the ‘90s. (No. 1 Askernish Old opened for play in 1891. Second-ranked Carne Golf Links threw open its original portacabin door in the 1990s.) The worst golf courses, meanwhile, were mostly built in 1987.

When I get back to Kansas City, I’ll put the Bomar Brain to the task and come up with a more encyclopedic Furyk Scale ranking. Meanwhile, I’m going find out where Furyk is having dinner and point out to him that Harbour Town actually opened in 1967.

Top 50 on TV: Nothing this week, but Harbour Town won’t hurt your eyes. Next up: Charlotte’s Quail Hollow Golf Club, but not until we’ve endured a week of New Orleans-style gumbo, chargrilled oysters and jambalaya.

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