Friday, 26 June 2009

La Manga Anticipation

Off to La Manga on Monday for a couple of days to sample the delights of at least two of their championship courses. We are going to shoot a couple of Hell Holes and a couple of HLFs, which are for the uninitiated Holes I Would Like To Frequent. I'm keeping off the hole by hole guide to the courses, as I want to build my anticipation. I've had a glimpse at the website, but I want to get the real experience first hand and not have any preconceptions. Can't wait.....


Monday, 22 June 2009

Ricky Barnes - The Ultimate Photo

We’ve only got probably the only picture of any merit ever shot of Ricky Barnes in our library, courtesy of Mr Steve Read, golf photographer to the stars. Tim (Editor of was up at Loch Lomond doing a photo shoot with Darren Clarke. When that was delayed the boys got their paws on one Ricky Barnes, and talked him into getting in front of the camera. The result – one of the most iconic golfer shots of the last decade. If only he had won, Steve would be rolling in it, and we’d be basking in some sort of reflected glory halo. But it was not to be; Mr Glover came through. And we never got a shot of him.  Never mind.  As this is a blog I can’t show you the photo in question anyway, which is more the pity, as you’d love it. Will have to get Steve Read to release it for our use on Show Me The Golf.

Sunday, 21 June 2009

Ricky Barnes - Renaissance Man

Just been doing some research (OK Googling) on Ricky Barnes, and have come up with this fascinating listing for his name - Ricky (Barnes) is passionate about Thinking, Writing, Reading, Learning, Languages, Linguistics, Philosophy, World History, and Cultural Anthropology. It's a wonder he's any time for golf at all! Maybe that’s why he held onto his amateur status for a while. With all that going on he might not get enough time to sit back and enjoy a few golf videos, or a session with Show Me The Golf. We hope he will. And best of luck this afternoon / morning your time.

Hard Times at the US Open

It looks like the USPGA has been acting like a bunch of skin flints - $100 a ticket for the Thursday for 3 hours of play, and a soaking thrown in for free.  Only now that the media and the odd Congressman have got up in arms has there been a bit of a step down by the boys in blue (jackets). You can come for free on Monday if it isn’t wrapped up on Sunday, but if not you’ll just get a 50% refund. Whoopie-do! Thanks a bunch.

Still, the USPGA don’t appear to be the worst offender – you’ll only get a refund for two hours at The Open. But in my past experience, nothing stops The Open. On the first day of the 2003 Open a gale blew in off the English Channel, and almost took our Motor-home for a spin – but play went on, and some incredible low shots were recorded – I seem to remember that South Africa’s Otto had a 69, even though he went out in the middle of it. Greg Norman also managed a 69, but had the benefit of a much later tee time.

And then last year at Royal Birkdale, we were storm-lashed for the best part of three days and nights, with tents collapsing, and one of our journalists throwing a fit of epic proportions at 4am. Everyone had been moaning that The Open wouldn’t be the same without Tiger but the weather came in and stole the show, well alongside Padraig, Poults and Greg. But even on the brutal first day, four players shot 69. Miraculously Ernie Els managed to make the cut with an 80 followed by a 69!

Otherwise, all I‘ve been hearing on this side of the pond is good stuff about the organization. I liked the pairings – French playing with French, Spaniard with Spaniard, Swede on Swede -  plus  the Supergroup  of Woods, Mickelson and Cabrera.-  the PGA’s equivalent to Cream, or The Travelling Wilburys  - god forbid.

And when the US Open is all done and dusted, you can apparently play on Bethpage Black for the normal public green fee, rather than at a corporate daylight robbery price. Maybe there will be a bit of global recession upside after all. It’s only $50 for a weekday tee time if you are a New York state resident, which is pretty amazing for the quality that you are getting.

Our man on the ground, Mr Jay Townsend, is still recovering from Thursday’s trench foot, and has some way to go yet if his prediction that Tiger will win is to come off. It’s a shame when an event is so biased by the weather. Ricky Barnes, bless him, has yet to hit a single shot in the rain, which must have been a factor in his 8 under par performance – the lowest 36 score ever in 109 years of the US Open. Ricky Barnes was also playing as an Amateur in the 2003 Open, but didn’t make the cut, racking up a 79 and a 74, so he would appear not to like the rain!

As for my Paul Casey, £5, enough said. I’m now turning my Anglo- Saxon attentions to Lee Westwood, Oliver Fisher and the indefatigable Poults, who kicks off his third round Sunday 7.46am Standard Eastern Time. Can’t wait....

Friday, 19 June 2009

It's a Washout

Well, an inch of rain is going to put a bit of a dampener on things I guess. It sounds like BethPage Black has turned into Long Island’s equivalent of Glastonbury. And looking at the weather forecast, I can only see further delays ahead. So maybe a Monday or a Tuesday finish. My money is on Tuesday – with or without a play off.

We’ve got’s US correspondent working for us on the ground there. Mr Jay Townsend. Just press here for his take on what's going to occur.

We're really grateful to Jay getting trench foot on our behalf, and he’s backing Tiger – if he continues to hit the ball straight, which is exactly what he was doing at The Memorial. Jay reckons that if he hits 70% of fairways he will win by at a pace. I’m still rooting for Paul Casey, as I think he has the game for the course, and the form.

I was also delighted that Johan Edfors made such a strong start, as we meet up with him recently at the Puma Open, and he’s a totally charming man, who is also a dead ringer for Roger Federer. Tough life! 

Here's hoping for some play today.

Thursday, 18 June 2009

US Open Early Day 1 Musings

I’ve read in the papers today that Poults is massively in to technology and specifically Twitter, while Justin Rose is just about keeping his head above water with email and texting. If we could get Poults out there at the US PGA Twittering away, that could make for some fascinating copy. I’m thinking more club selection info than” F....King shanked that one”, or “Stopping for a banana.” I’d better get signed up and see what’s occurring.

We’ve already done some filming for with Poults, where he was interviewed by Valderama. We also had a good look at his new fashion collection. 

Now won’t a major for Poults or Casey be something? We’ve not had a US Open winner since 1970 with Tony Jacklin for goodness sakes. I’m hearing that the course set up isn’t quite living up to its Death Page nickname, and it should suit Casey’s long game in particular. I think a fiver might be going his way for a top five finish.

Wednesday, 17 June 2009

The Great Machrie

The Great Machrie.....

The Machrie.  Mmmm. Savour those two words. T...h...e...M..a..c..h...r...i..e...

Swirl them around your mouth. Get the taste. This is full flavour golf, bought to you from the Isle of Islay, one of the most chilled out places in the UK, which is also drenched in the fine art of Whisky making.

Golf + whisky? Could it work? I think so.

This is a proper walk on the wild side – a journey into a golfing nirvana, with a cast of lovely people, who are so; agreeable, pleasant, share the time of day with you, calm, relaxed, charming, wave at you from their car, hospitable, and without side- that it takes you time to get it. I was way too Londoned-up for the place, and it was more than a day or two to before I even start to get on their wavelength. Maybe there is a dark side, but if it’s there I missed it.

 I was wandering around the Laphroaig  distillery, when I wasn’t playing golf, and chatted with one of the guys who ran the ‘Maltings’– he looks after the whisky, and then nips out to do a bit of lobster fishing. Now that works for me.  He’s also travelled around India – so any idea that this is some insular, hate incomers, environment is completely dispelled.  These are great people, with an amazing golf course in their midst, or rather at the edge – it is links after all.

The Machrie is a golf wonderland. The setting is sublime – a seven mile sandy beach, with the course deeply set into the dunes behind it. If you don’t like this you have no soul. Simple as. So go, go, go, now, tomorrow, just as soon as you can.

At 6250 yards off the whites, it’s not long, but who cares about length when you’ve got a serious links course to contend with? 6250 yards of The Machrie is more than enough for me, and it has to be walked – you’d need shooting if you wanted to cart this baby, and you’d have to be one hell of a cart driver as well.

I have to say that this fetish for length is totally irrelevant, unless you are Paul Casey. I hate it when great courses like this start to get almost apologetic about their perceived lack of length. There’s no need for any golfing Viagra – it’s all here already.

And as for the course itself, it’s links as I love it. Fast running, undulating fairways – of course - and a great variety of green placements – some raised; some sunken into great sand-duned punch bowls. Because of the challenging terrain, there’s no real need for other defences, so there’s little in the way of bunkering. And that’s before I even mention the wind, which can add a whole new dimension of difficulty.

Some complain about the number of blind shots, but that’s a part of what gets me going -knocking one out into the unknown, but with the hope that there’s a safe place to be found, which is sometimes the case.

I also have to say hats off to Simon Freeman, the Head Green keeper. We bumped into him on the 10th, and he is one of the most committed and engaging people I’ve met in golf. He’s totally on top of this place, even thought he doesn’t have an army of staff to help him keep the place in shape.

Right, I need to calm down and maybe have a quick Laphroaig, or maybe a Lagavulin, or an Ardbeg, or a Caol Ila, or a Bunnahabhain, or a Bruichladdich.

‘This is not a love song’ sang Mr J. Rotten, back in 1983 - well, I’m not sorry to say, this is. And I'm longing to get back up here for Show Me The Golf, and shoot some proper golf video of this place so everyone can see what it's about.


Monday, 15 June 2009

St Mellion - the New Nicklaus Signature Course

I’m just back from trying out the newly revamped Nicklaus course at St Mellion, now rechristened as ‘The Nicklaus Signature Course’. Trying is the word – very trying. I’d originally wanted to call this piece Dye Hard, as Pete Dye was a big influence on Jack’s early course designs, and this just about summed up my feelings for the course once I’d been battered by it.

As this was Jack’s first ever signature golf course design in the UK, I was keeping an eye out for the Dye influence, and it is there in abundance –noose-tight fairways, and bikini-top small greens.  But this  doesn’t really do justice to what Jack (sorry, Mr Nicklaus to me) originally bought to the party –  high tees with good views of the fairway, oceans of water, and the absolute need to think your way round the course, and position yourself accurately on the fairway.

This might sound like common sense, but if you turn your course management brain off here for more than a nanosecond, then you’ll be in deep....rough, water, sand, whatever. There’s a ‘wealth’ of different hazards to be endured – streams, lakes, ravines, rivers, the odd tree in the middle of the fairway (the 10th), and that rough I mentioned; nasty, deep, ball-loosing, club-clenching stuff.

We were sent off on our round with 3 shiny new balls, and in hindsight a rather knowing ‘Good Luck’ by David Moon, St Mellion’s Director of Golf and the South West’s leading Wolves fan. I’d had a premonition that I was in for a bit of a roughing up, so had loaded myself up with some spares, and if you’re not all over your game, you’ll need them. Especially if you try and muscle your way round this course – it simply will not be overpowered.

My single piece of advice is to put that driver away until the 15th, unless you’re really feeling super-confident.  And certainly leave it well alone for the 1st which, unusually for a Nicklaus design, is a blind drive. This is a real RTFM course (‘Read the F**** Manual’ for the uninitiated), or otherwise you’ll be off to a nightmare start.  I missed the fairway by a yard at most, but ball number one had already gone into permanent hiding. This is not a course that tolerates any lapse of concentration or failure to pay attention to detail.

The first nine just doesn’t let up as it winds its way through some stunning Cornish valley scenery, with no two consecutive holes following the same direction, and never a sight of the hotel. You feel if you’re out there on your own to do battle with the course, uninterrupted by the cares of the real world, or other golfers for that matter.

By the time you’ve emerged onto the 10th, you’ll be in need of some therapy. A quick burst of electro-shock treatment and a banana was all I could manage before setting out again on my quest to amass a grand total of 18 woeful, but hard fought for, Stapleford points.

I’m told by David Moon that the downhill Par 3 11th – 145 yards of the yellows – ‘echoes’ the 12th and 16th at Augusta, and that holes 10-13 are often referred to as Britain’s Amen Corner. These are a testing run of holes for golfers of any standard, and it’s only when I get to the 15th that I feel that I can start to open up my shoulders, and drive with any confidence. 16th and 17th – no sweat, but then there the 18th to contend with, and this doesn’t disappoint either.

It’s a 431 dog-leg right off the yellows, which should suit my game – OK, my slice. But the reality is you have to be long off the tee here, and keep it left to have any realistic chance of making the green in two. Oh, and the green is protected by a lake. Thanks Jack. Thanks very much. No, really, thanks.

I was a guest of the St Mellion International Resort, which has just spent a whacking great £2.5 million upgrading and reconfiguring The Nicklaus Signature Course and the Kernow Course at St Mellion.

I’m reliably informed that £2.5 million buys you:

·         1,000 metres of new drainage

·         1,000 tons of sand used in bunker replacement

·         4,000 tons of rootzone for use on new trees and greens

·         13,000m2 of cart path resurfacing

·         1,100 new sprinklers.

And, while they were  at it, they dropped another £20 million into creating a brand spanking new 4 Star 80-bedroom hotel, with gym, spa, Brassiere, top notch restaurant and a new driving range – where I’d suggest you spend a few hours practising your long irons before taking this beast on.