Tag Archives: John Novosel

KC Pro Fights for Hillcrest Ranking

“Hey, John,” writes Kansas City club pro John Bozarth. “When we get the ninth green finished here at Hillcrest, will we move up in the Top 50 list?”

Hillcrest's 9th green

Richard III wasn’t found under the tailings of Hillcrest’s old 9th green — just a lot of ribbons and rice. (John Garrity)

Bozarth is referring to the original Donald Ross green at 45th-ranked Hillcrest Golf Club, a three-time PGA Tour venue. Several years ago, a club executive decided that Ross’s green would produce more revenue as a wedding bower, situated as it was close to the clubhouse and parking for tin-can-festooned getaway cars. Dimly aware that golfers would still need a place to hole out before moving on to No. 10, the executive installed a new ninth green of dubious merit — a small, sticky putting patch fronted by a bunker and a stone wall.

Ross promptly shifted in his grave.

Since 17-½ holes falls just shy of the accepted standard for championship play, Hillcrest no longer evokes comparisons to Ross’s more-famous parkland courses, such as Chicago’s Beverly CC, Atlanta’s East Lake GC, and Rochester’s 51st-ranked Oak Hill CC, site of this summer’s PGA Championship. But Bozarth assumes, with logic on his side, that the restoration of Hillcrest’s once-great ninth hole will put his track back in the national picture.

“I would at the very least like to go ahead of the other course listed from the Kansas City area,” Bozarth writes.* “What is the criteria for choosing the ranking? Is there a way to influence that decision, like free fountain drinks, or maybe a season’s supply of tees? Or I could let you use my covered cart when it is cold. Well, I think you can see where I’m going with this.”

*The “other course” would be Tom Fazio’s 42nd-ranked Hallbrook Country Club, one of the midwest’s most challenging layouts and home course of Tour Tempo pioneer John Novosel, co-author of Tour Tempo 2: The Short Game and Beyond. 

Bozarth is a friend, so I know that his wink-wink, nudge-nudge is merely his way of acknowledging the incorruptibility of the Top 50 ranking. (It’s all science here at Catch Basin. A season’s supply of tees doesn’t even move the needle.) But he’s not crazy for supposing that Hillcrest will move up when the old ninth green is put back in play.

That new fleet of golf carts won’t hurt, either.

Top 50 on TV: Ninth-ranked Pebble Beach Golf Links swept defending champ Phil Mickelson off his feet today at the AT&T National Pro-Am. (Those rocks are slippery.) Meanwhile, the postman just delivered a book by Oliver Horovitz called An American Caddie in St. Andrews: Growing Up, Girls, and Looping on the [16th-ranked] Old Course. I enjoyed An American Caddie in page proofs some time back, but it’s possible that Gotham Books has trimmed it to appeal to the bridal-shower crowd. I’ll read it again and let you know.

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Donald Ross Green Taking Shape Again

It has been quiet on the ratings front. Catch Basin’s new concrete parking lot was sealed last week, and the Bomar Brain is down for maintenance. It being election season, we’ve rented out the big ratings board to the local TV station that sold it to us. (I fully expect to see an election-night victory call of incumbent Rep. Emanuel Cleaver over tenth-ranked Royal Portrush GC.) On the competitive front, our South-Atlantic ratings chief, David Henson, won the MGA Individual Match Play Championship at 51st-ranked Palmetto Hall Plantation for the second straight year, and last week I teamed up with my Tour Tempo co-author, John Novosel, to run away with the St. Francis Xavier Celebrity Two-Man Scramble at 45th-ranked Hillcrest at Heartland GC.

Ninth green at Hillcrest/Heartland

In September, Hillcrest’s old ninth green was re-graded and drain tiles were installed. (John Garrity).

Speaking of Hillcrest, the venerable Kansas City track is making great progress on the restoration of Donald Ross’s original ninth green. Located for most of the club’s history at the end of the ninth hole, the Ross green was abandoned a few years back at the urging of a since-departed club executive. A miniature green suitable for a putt-putt course was subsequently installed at a random point in the fairway, fronted by a stone wall that has caused Ross to spin so vigorously in his grave that he has drilled down through bedrock and struck oil.

When I first brought up the Hillcrest project in a recent post, I unintentionally gave the impression that the bogus green was the work of GCSAA Hall of Famer Bill Amick, who oversaw a 1984 renovation of Hillcrest. “That was certainly not the case,” Amick informed me in a recent phone call, “and I don’t know why anyone would impose stone walls on a Donald Ross green. That’s anything but subtle.”

I heard from Amick again in response to my column celebrating Hillcrest’s par-4 fifth as my favorite hole of the summer. “You hit me in my professional pride, right where it hurts most,” he wrote.

For I don’t much recall Hillcrest’s fifth hole — and I spent a good bit of quality time on that course. The picture you included didn’t help, even though, as my wife says, I pay attention to golf holes, if little else. So I viewed Hillcrest using Google Maps, and that wasn’t a whole lotta help, either. I must confess that I recall more about Green Lawn Cemetery [across the road from and paralleling Hillcrest’s first hole] than the fairway of number five sloping to the left. Could I really be wrong in thinking that the “Carolina pasture-plower” concentrated more on getting players from the green of #4 to the tee of #6 than he did in making that a special hole? But there it all is in your September 7 blog, and you’ve likely messed up that hole enough times to know.

Perhaps Herbert Warren Wind was wrong when he wrote something like “One mark of a great course is that after a single round you can distinctly remember each of its holes.” I can still clearly visualize Hillcrest’s opening hole and several others, but not the fifth.

My purpose in this message, if I really have any, is this. I believe you might be misleading “a neighbor,” who just happens to be your grandson Jack, about your current favorite golf hole. I do agree with many of your other conclusions on courses and holes around the world, but on this particular selection, maybe you’d better stick to playing catch with Jack after dinner.

Yours, Bill (known to some of his friends as The Overbunkerer)

Hillcrest's new/old ninth green

October saw the first green shoots sprouting on Donald Ross’s original green site. (John Garrity)

I chuckled knowingly when I read Amick’s e-mail. Twenty-eight years have passed since he performed his miracles at Hillcrest; his memory will understandably be cloudy concerning a hole that was unremarkable back when Ronald Reagan was seeking a second term. But Hillcrest’s fifth, like a fine wine, has improved with age. It is one of those rare holes that, having long been bad, ripens into something sublime.

It’s possible, of course, that Amick doctored the hole in a way that led to its ultimate improvement, and he’s forgotten that. How about it, Bill? Do you still have the blueprints?

Top 50 on TV: Nothing this week, but a tennis injury has forced Ernie Els to pull out of next week’s PGA Grand Slam of Golf at 51st-ranked Port Royal Golf Club in Bermuda. I only mention it so I can remind everyone of my own first-place finish in the 2006 PGA Grand Slam Pro-Am at 15th-ranked Poipu Bay Golf Course on the island of Kauai. That’s the year, if you’ve forgotten, that three scramble partners and I carried Tiger Woods to victory. My trophy, a slightly smaller version of the crystal-spire-upon-a-walnut-base prize that Tiger has won seven times, greets visitors as they enter Catch Basin from our new and very expensive parking lot.

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Top 50 Author Debuts at No. 1

A worried reader asks,“Is this a golf course blog? A week or so ago, you popped up on Golf Channel’s Champions Tour Learning Center with some snake-oil swing remedy. This morning I caught you dispensing tips on bunker play on “Teed Off,” Brian Katrek’s PGA Tour Network program. Now I’m in my dentist’s waiting room, and here’s your byline on an SI Golf Plus rant about Tiger Woods’s screwed-up tempo. What gives? Have you forsaken course rating for the Hollywood allure of swing-guru celebrity?”

John Novosel Jr. on "Learning Center"

John Novosel Jr. explained Tour Tempo to a Golf Channel crew at the TPC of San Antonio. (John Garrity)

Fear not, Worried Reader. I just spent a working weekend in the Atlantic time zone, checking up on our two Canadian courses (24th-ranked Cabot Links and No. 31 Highlands Links) and I’m already packing for a trip to Oregon’s Bandon Dunes Golf Resort, where I’ll tee it up and trade rants with Tom Doak, designer of Pacific Dunes, No. 26. And just to forestall confusion, the Top 50 is not “a golf course blog.” It is the golf course blog.

However, like the late Steve Jobs, I take pride in revolutionizing whole industries. To that end, I co-authored the best-selling golf instructional, Tour Tempo: Golf’s Last Secret Finally Revealed, now in its 11th printing by Doubleday. And now John Novosel and I are out with an e-book sequel, Tour Tempo 2: The Short Game & Beyond, available on the Amazon Kindle* and Apple iBooks** platforms.

*Tour Tempo 2 debuted at No. 1 on Amazon’s golf books list. No surprise, that, since the original Tour Tempo was Amazon’s best-selling sports book of 2004, beating out Leigh Montville’s compelling Ted Williams biography.

**The Apple edition [which also debuted at No. 1 among golf books in the iTunes Store] is “enhanced” with color photography, instructional video clips and the  Tour Tempo short-game training tones. Buyers of the Kindle version can acquire these TT2 extras via a free download from the Web.

Naturally, promoting the new book has kept me from blogging as often as I’d like. But that hasn’t kept our highly-paid Top 50 evaluators from their appointed rounds. Within the past hour, for example, the A.W. Tillinghast-designed Wissahickon course at the Philadelphia Cricket Club jumped from No. 62 to No. 53 upon news of a breakthrough in the European sovereign-debt crisis. At the same time, a perennial Top-50 favorite, Colonial Country Club of Fort Worth, Texas, plummeted from No. 24 to No. 238.*

*Colonial’s fall, a by-product of program trading, was interrupted by a computerized “circuit breaker.” Our IT staff is looking into it.

Tour Tempo 2 Cover Art

TT2 is $9.99 on the iPad and Kindle reader.

How good is Tour Tempo 2?  Sports Illustrated senior writer Michael Bamberger, co-author of the best-selling golf novel, The Swinger, rates it ahead of the collected output of every last golf guru of the past half-century. “Since Eisenhower took to the links,” Bamberger writes in his latest blurb, “there have been two important golf instruction books: Five Fundamentals, by Ben Hogan and Herbert Warren Wind, and Tour Tempo, with John Novosel playing the Hogan role and John Garrity as Herb. TT2 is clearer yet. It’s like a wonder drug.”

Coming from Bamberger, a master of understatement, this is high praise. But let’s talk value. For a mere $9.99, you get the aforementioned color photography, the short-game tones, and the instruction videos. And if you order in the next hour, you’ll receive at no extra cost a bonus chapter, “The Force,” from an upcoming e-book by long-drive specialist John Novosel, Jr. Act this very instant and we’ll throw in “The Force” video clip, which will take strokes off your game faster than you can say “Popeil’s Pocket Fisherman!”

As for Worried Reader … stop moping and play some golf before winter sets in. I recommend any of the courses on the adjacent list.

Top 50 on TV: Nothing this week, but Rory McIlroy leads after one round of the Shanghai Masters, which is being played on the Lake Malaren Masters course, a Jack Nicklaus design. Robert Allenby, meanwhile, is the first-round leader at the Asia Pacific Classic, held at The Mines Resort & Golf Club in Selangor Malaysia, a Robert Trent Jones Jr. track. Both courses are “Unrated” pending a review of the Colonial situation.

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