We’ve just turned the calendar page to March, which is a sign spring golf is coming to Wisconsin. Even though it’s snowing outside, spring training is underway with exhibition baseball being played, NCAA hoops is on the doorstep of their tournament and spring is one day closer. I love everything about this time of year except having to compile my tax returns. Oh well, just a minor inconvenience.
Golf in the Badger State looks exceptional this season. The US Open is coming to Erin Hills in June. Mike Keiser is officially opening his Coore/Crenshaw design at Sand Valley in May. The LPGA is conducting their first event in Green Bay at Thornberry Creek while the Seniors will be back in Madison at University Ridge. Gas prices are down so it looks like a great opportunity to travel about and see it or tee it at some of the states best venues.
With its wrap around season (something I still am not used to), the PGA Tour has featured a variety of champions. A few youngsters grabbed titles. Fowler, Spieth and DJ made us not forget about the upper echelon. Jason Day seems to have a bit of a problem getting it in gear so far but I doubt he’ll disappear. The big question continues to hover over Tiger and the state of his health. He gave it a go in two events, was talkative with the media but since his set back in Dubai, TW has reverted back to his ole, silent self. The “comeback” is no longer a topic.
It certainly appears that in this day and age of professional golf the biggest obstacle for players to avoid is injury. In an effort to propell a golf ball further and further, players line up with their TrackMans attempting to record numbers that may not necessarily translate to winning. It’s a different time and a different game.
Who can last a whole season? DJ would be my pick. The guy is simply an athlete. Spieth hasn’t appeared to get real bulky. I suspect Jason Day might have episodes of unexpected maladies from week to week. Thomas Pieters from Belgium, who played his college golf at Illinois, looks to be an intriguing player from the Euro Tour who could make some noise this season. Plenty of possibilities, plenty of names to consider as we creep towards the first major.
Speaking of Augusta, you know all bets are off trying to pick a winner at the National. Once the invitees drive down Magnolia Lane, the green fountain of youth seeps into player’s swings creating infinite possibilities as to who might don a green jacket. OK, I understand you want my pick. I’m going to go with Olympic Champion Justin Rose. Let’s see how that works out.
Another aspect of this year’s Masters is the absence of one of the games greatest ambassadors, Arnold Palmer. Anyone watching the ceremonial tee shots last April saw the King sitting as Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player fired balls down the first fairway. The faraway look in Arnie’s eyes told all of us the curtain was coming down, as much as we didn’t want to believe it. I’m sure the membership will have some special memorial activities to reflect on Mr. Palmer’s impact at the Masters. I suggested all players entering the press room be asked to remove their caps during their conferences, as a tribute to Arnie. I even sent a note to Mr. Payne recommending that be done. We’ll see what happens.
The equipment front continues to be ultra-competitive. Whether it’s shoes, balls, drivers, irons, putters or bags, the selections are endless. You probably saw Costco’s Kirkland golf ball garner a bit of attention. Turns out the ball was very good but apparently it served as a way for the manufacturer to reduce existing inventory. If you’re waiting for the Costco shelves to be restocked with those balls this spring, don’t hold your breathe. That venture is all done.
Does anyone believe that paying $300.00 per iron is the right way to proceed when picking a new set? The PXG phenomenon is filtering its way through the tours. Slowly through the amateur ranks the club is starting to appear. It comes down to the old question, can you buy a game? Certainly. The more important question is, with that kind of expense, can you buy a better game? Time will tell. During my years as a golf professional I’ve seen numerous companies come and go. From the days when it was Wilson, Spalding and Hogan to today’s landscape of Callaway, TaylorMade and Ping you wonder if the ultra club niche will serve PXG with longevity. I’ve never seen or hit them. Eventually I’m sure I will.
As I write, a story broke today detailing some of the proposed rules changes by the USGA and R&A. It is long overdue. Some of the silliness in the rules tends to make the game less enjoyable for new players. It also distracts experienced players. While there is something to be said about a game where rulings are often self imposed, the time has come to move forward and make the game less intimidating for all players. Even though we might give up those lively grill room rules debates, having a clearer understanding of things would be healthy.
Lastly, what plans do you have for your game this season? Are you looking to play more? What improvements will you focus on? Are you looking at that special golf trip? The main thing I want you to strive for this year is twofold. First, meet a new friend on the links. The relationship may be one that significantly impacts your life. Many of my closest friends share a love of the game. They are quality people. Secondly, don’t discount any opportunity you have to play the game. No matter where, how many holes, or the quality of your play, enjoy the experience. You’re playing the greatest game in the world.
Enjoy the new season. Have fun with family and friends. Visit some new venues. Above all, don’t forget to PurePlay!