Proper Golf

Friday, December 31, 2010

Golf and Skiing

One of my favorite sayings I use while caddying actually comes from a good friend of mine who is a ski instructor at Vail/Beaver Creek in Colorado. "Improvement, not perfection," Frank says to his clients who are trying to rip down the slopes, but aren't quite ready yet.

Vail 2009, The Golfmeister is lounging in the middle.

I find this line also translates well to caddying. "Improvement, not perfection." I tell my golfers after a bad swing or two. In golf, clearly nobody, not even Tiger, is able to hit every shot perfectly. And clearly in amateur golf, everybody hits poor shots, which is why I explain to my players, the goal is not to hit every shot perfectly, but to improve slightly every time you tee it up, and every time you swing. If amateur golfers would focus on trying to hit each shot just a little bit better than the last, rather than focusing on the imperfections in their swings, everyone would have more fun and I'm sure scores would go down as people would stop trying to pull 3-wood from 5 inch rough, and instead find a way to get the ball back in the fairway and improve their chances of hitting it in on the next shot.

On my most recent trip to Beaver Creek to ski with Frankie (today was actually my last of 7 days on the mountain with him) I taught him a new line... Known as the first 3 rules of caddying: "Show up. Keep up. And shut up!" He is already using it to heard groups of skiers around the mountain in search of fresh powder!

Saturday, December 25, 2010

I Build Golf Courses.

I've heard him tell this story before, its one of my favorites.

Ballyneal 15

"... when people ask me what I do, I tell them 'I build golf courses,' Mr. Dye always said that labeling yourself an architect sounded like it could get you into more trouble."

The Golfers Guide

Since I entered the biz, all of 9 months ago now, I've been using the same phrase the answer the question, "What do you do?" I like it better than golf course construction, I'm not currently designing, and it always leads to further questioning...

Monday, December 20, 2010


Visualization is one of the most important things in golf. Its involved in pretty much every swing tip you have ever heard, obviously involved in playing the game (half the game requires putts to be read!), and obviously its an everyday occurrence in architecture and construction. Some thoughts I shared on yesterday. Visualization ...

I'm very good at being able to visualize whatever I'm trying to create. I don't really know how to explain it, but I can see final products in my head.

However this skill is completely useless unless you have the problem solving abilities to actually figure out the process to create what you see in your mind. This is what I go to work everyday to practice, so when I get my next chance, I have every tool possible to translate idea into something solid.

The ability to breakdown the image of a final product into all of its steps towards creation and having faith that your vision will only be achieved by following a long process start to finish is a miracle of the human mind. Through the beginning stages of my golf course building career, the absolute hardest thing for me to do is to let my vision of the finished product go a let the process take of it and build up to it.

It took me thousands of hours in the printmaking studio to master the process of photo silkscreen, a flat 2-dimensional medium. Golf courses are a much more complicated animal that only a handful of people have probably ever really tamed.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

The List

Golf Courses I have worked at this year.


Battleground Country Club, Manalapan, NJ
Canoe Brook Country Club, Summit, NJ (Rees Jones)
Cherry Valley Country Club, Skillman, NJ (Rees Jones)
Darien Country Club, Darien, CT (Dr. Michael Hurzdan)
Eagle Ridge Golf Club, Lakewood, NJ
Heritage Creek, Warwick, PA (Kelly Blake Moran)
Knickerbocker Country Club, Tenefly, NJ
Mendam Golf and Tennis Club, Mendam, NJ (Robert McNeil)
Mountain Ridge Country Club, West Caldwell, NJ
Montclair Golf Club, West Orange, NJ (Rees Jones)
Richmond County Country Club, Staten Island, NY

Custom Sand and Soil Blending:

Jersey Soil Blending, Woodmancie, NJ


Quaker Ridge Golf Club, Scarsdale, NY (Tillinghast)
Fenway Golf Club, Scarsdale, NY (Tillinghast)

Sunday, December 12, 2010

My new bit


Grab your g-string bikinis and your dancing shoes, golf looks like its going salsa dancing... 60 minutes just got me all pumped up!

Look at all the coastline

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

The Contest

Mission Hills Hainan, the Chinese version of golfers disney land part deux, has decided to hold an open design contest for 3 holes on their new Icon Course. They have like 3 zillion courses already,! and decided to try something a little different on this "Icon" course where each hole's design is inspired by, well anything. They are asking people to design 3 golf holes, based on anything you want (objects, things, creatures, etc) and then they will choose the best par 3, 4, and 5 of the lot. From what I've read, more out of the box the ideas are what they are looking for.

Their examples included, chopsticks, fireworks and the birdsnest stadium used during the olympics.

Obviously this sort of architectural thinking isn't exactly in line with purist thinking, and many view this as the opposite direction that the game of golf and architecture needs to be headed in. Others don't really have a problem with it, seeing it as a fun alternative to all the other courses in the development, and will have no problem hoping in the cart with fully automated gps tracking devices and slap it around for a few hours.

Personally, this idea doesn't bother me. If there is one platform for the type of course, its Mission Hills. Not that I have ever been there, but due to what I've read, seen and the sheer volume of golf they already have, its not a bad idea I don't think. Also one must consider the marketing strategies being employed here. If you go on the site and click through, you start to get a sense of the demographic their aiming this at, not the same group that makes annual pilgrimages to Bandon.

I already have a few ideas for my submission. One of which involves a natural disaster. Good luck.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Drainage, Drainage

My first day on the grounds crew at Quaker Ridge Golf Club in Scarsdale, NY I was riding around in a golf cart with the superintendent. I don't remember if the course closed that day, but it was raining really hard. We had full rain gear on, but I was soaked through my pants.

Since it was my first my first day we got to talking about my interests in architecture and why I wanted to spend some time on his crew. He suggested a few books, and then told me the 2 most important things on a golf course. "Number one," he said "is drainage. And number two, is drainage."

Section A
Section B

Basic Stone Drain - What I'm calling the slight variation on a French drain, used normally in lateral patterns to collect ground a surface water. Found on virtually all tees, fairways, greens and bunkers, they use gravity to carry water downhill to a low area on the golf course. Depending on existing sub-soils, variations of pipe size, trench depth, width and angle, stone type, and finish material are required.

Pea Gravel - Small rounded stones that provide easy passage of water through the small air-pockets surrounding them. Direct water to specified area by providing a path of least resistance for ground and surface water towards a desired low spot. Protects against roots and other particles that clog pipes.

Perforated Pipe - Commonly black and corrugated. Helps move water through the gravel, stone or sand, at a faster rate.

Mix / Topsoil - A well draining material that will be compacted to finish grade and grassed over. Mix is more expensive but is preferred because the sand base will drain better than a soil. Even compaction is a must in order to properly tie into to grade so the drain will not settle into a hollow over time.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Recently released

Sorry, Cabot Links, but the 36 hole Coore and Crenshaw/Doak facility in an abandoned mine somewhere in Florida wins.

P.S. its all sand

Check out site and construction photos recently released on Coore and Crenshaws blog.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Favorite Par-3's

Ballyneal #11 (Doak)

Ballyneal #16 (Doak)

Bandon Trails #17 (Coore and Crenshaw)

Carnoustie #16 (Robertson, Morris and Braid)

Friars Head #10 (Coore and Crenshaw)

Friars Head #17 (Coore and Crenshaw)

Kiawah Ocean #14 (Dye)

Knoll West #3 (Banks)

Old Macdonald #5 (Doak and Urbina)

Old Macdonald #8 (Doak and Urbina)

Pinehurst 2 #9 (Ross)

Quaker Ridge #13 (Tillinghast)

Quaker Ridge #9 (Tillinghast)

Sebonack #12 (Doak and Nicklaus)

Shenecossett #4 (Ross)

St. Andrews Old #11

Stonehouse #17 (Stranz)

Winged Foot West #10 (Tillinghast)

Yale #13 (Macdonald and Raynor)

Yale #9 (Macdonald and Raynor)

Wednesday, November 17, 2010


Enjoy the changes. A few more still to come.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Coming Soon - copyrights pending

Due to an increase in audience the Golfmeister has been working on updating the layout and overall look of the site. A quick preview...
Future content: Sparked by a recent GolfClubAtlas thread about where to direct the future of golf design,,46426.0/ the Golfmeister has decided to pursue one possible answer and design "abstract golf" (working title). Why do so many more people enjoy driving ranges rather than the game itself? The focus of the design will be on capturing the raw, imaginative fun had at the driving range. It will not be site specific, but rather adaptable to non-ideal sites for golf and even non-grass alternatives.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Year in review

A little Mike Stranz from the 2nd round of the year
Stonehouse, Virginia

With the possibility of no more than 36 holes left in the sticks for the year, a list of golf courses played in 2010 seems an appropriate way to wrap it up.

Ballyneal Golf and Hunt Club - Holyoke, Colorado (Doak)
Century Country Club - Purchase, NY (Colt/Allison)
Hyatt Hills Golf Course - Clark, NJ
Metropolis Country Club - Scarsdale, NY (Tillinghast and Strong)
Montclair Country Club - West Orange, NJ (Ross and Banks)
Pinehurst 2 - Pinehurst, North Carolina (Ross)
Pinehurst 4 - Pinehurst, North Carolina (Fazio)
Quaker Ridge - Scarsdale, New York (Tillinghast)
Riverfront - Suffolk, Virginia (Doak)
Sebonack Golf Club - Southampton, NY (Doak)
Split Rock Golf Course - Bronx, NY (Stiles and Van Kleek)
Stonehouse - Toano, Virginia (Stranz)
Westchester Country Club West- Rye, New York (Emmett)
Wykagyl Country Club - New Rochelle, NY (too many)

Fenway Golf Club - White Plains, NY (Tillinghast)
Quaker Ridge Golf Club - Scarsdale, NY (Tillinghast)
Winged Foot Golf Club East/West - Mamaroneck, NY (Tillinghast)

13 + 3 different courses. Coming soon: courses worked on (Construction).

Monday, November 1, 2010

The Reef Hole

One of the A.W. Tillinghast's template holes. Honestly, I'm surprised other architects haven't tried to knock off Tilly's genius long par-3 template.

Sketch by A.W. Tillinghast
(Tillinghast Association)

The basic concept: Long, downhill par-3 with large approach/fairway to give alternative route to green around carry hazard. Green, guarded on only one side and contoured to accept recovery easier from the other.

I only know of 2 that exist. One is at Bethpage State Park on the Yellow course. The other, which I am very familiar with is at Quaker Ridge.

Quaker Ridge #13
post 2010 renovation

Since, I cant speak about Bethpage having never seen the Yellow course, Quaker's Reef measures 209 yards for most members. The large bunker that must be carried to reach the green in one is the first thing one notices while standing on the tee. Because of the downhill perspective and the raised lip of what is one of the largest bunkers on the course, it looks like it is immediately in front of the green, when in fact it is about 50 yards short of center. One of the most generous fairways I have ever seen on a par-3 is there for those who choose to go around rather than over. But for those who do take the more risky path, the fairway between kicks balls towards the green, a perfect complement to the 3-wood that most are hitting off the tee; a slight miss-hit probably gets pretty close if you going for it. This green which is very severe and may have more triple breakers than any other of its size in the world, just adds to the fun of the Reef hole.

Quaker Ridge #13
13 pre-renovation

You can really see the 3 anticipated lines of play in the photo above. 1 - Straight away. 2 - Lay-up fairway right. 3 - Miss greenside left in low area give best angle to most pins.

This template just seems like it could so easily be adaptable to so many different sites and properties for golf around the world. It offers fun and challenges for all levels, and allows for arial attack as well as the rolling shot. And for those who even desire as much length as possible, it racks up a big number of the score card, but plays short in reality, a good characteristic for a long par-3 to have, especially in handicaped matches!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Going the distance

Mike Stranz, Stonehouse VA

If you want to be in "the biz" get used to spending huge hours behind the wheel. Sure, transportation has changed since A.W. Tillinghast drove a zillion miles around the country, but there is no way anyone can financially survive from only working at courses in their neighborhood. That means you gotta rack up the miles, car, truck or plane.

Today's travel recap:
  1. 5:07-5:30: Drive to Nutley, 14 miles (change to van)
  2. 5:40-6:49: Drive to Skillman, 43 miles
  3. 4:30-6:00: Drive to Passaic, 46 miles
  4. 6:00-6:10: Drive to Nutley, 3 miles (change back to car)
  5. 6:30-7:00: Drive home, 14 miles
totals - 4 hours, 120 miles

Of the 3 projects we currently have going, Skillman is the 2nd furthest/closest. Sometimes I can cut out a few steps when I drive my own car to the site myself.

Make sure you are comfortable in your car. Ipod chargers, satellite radio, extra clothes, tire pumps, jumper cables, time travel devices, radar detectors, and of course my golf sticks are always near by cause I practically live in my car. Yesterday after working 9 hours, driving the van for another 3:30 at this point, it took me 2 hours to go the last 14 miles home.... The only thing you can do is GET USED TO IT, and if you like the work enough, you will.

Friday, October 15, 2010


A bulldozer is just a big rake. It does better when its pushing. Push, push, push, track it in, even compaction is everything, back blade your way out.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Construction tips

Last time I gave tips for those entering the golf course construction business was 10 days after I joined the industry myself... 7 months later its time for some more. This time the focus will be on operating machines.

  • The best way to get speed up the learning process of digging (backhoe or trackhoe) is to use multiple machines with different control patterns. This teaches you the importance of proper technique, along with making you more versatile.
Coring out a Donald Ross original.

  • Keeping the bottom of your trenches flat and the sides clean can seriously cut down on excess labor. What makes operators efficient is that they can accomplish bigger tasks with minimal help.
When there is this much ground water in your trench, clean walls are a must. Note the plywood to minimize turf damage.

  • Take a little extra time setting up your machine before you just dive and disturb the ground. Set the machine up properly so you can work as fast as possible, with spoil piles, disturbed areas and loading/movement patterns are all attainable by the least amount of movement.
  • If you find yourself in a new or uncomfortable situation where you are not familiar with how to go about operating your machine safely, it is important to step back and think through how to approach your job. Working near water, in extreme weather, on an un-compacted pile, or unstable material, can cause machines to move, slip and just react differently. Before you go putting the blade or bucket in the ground, you need to make sure you are not putting yourself or the equipment in danger. As a new operator I will get off the machine, and call my boss on the phone if I cant figure out the best way to do it on my own. You cant work if you the operator or your machine is broken, 5 minutes of thinking is well worth $$$$ of repairs by dr's and mechanics.
Removing sand from bunkers can be done with a machine as long as the edges are cleaned out by hand ahead of time.

  • Save every cubic inch of topsoil you can.
  • If your machine is not working properly make sure somebody in charge knows. Cover your ass. Everyone understands machines break.
  • The only way to get better is spending time in the seat running the machines, making mistakes, and asking questions.

Friday, October 1, 2010


Bandon Trails

Slightly lacking on the posts recently. Some potentially life changing news arrives back from China tomorrow and I'm slightly distracted.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Mission Statement

I have spent a lot of time thinking about how I want go about designing and building golf courses, when I am one day given the chance. One thing that I have recently put some thought into and wanted to get into writing is a personal mission statement for the future...

People play golf for fun. Whether it is the sport, the competition, the enjoyment of being outdoors, the challenge of mastering the swing, or whatever reason, what it all boils down to is that unless you are a professional golfer who plays golf as a job, 99.99% of golf is played for fun just like every other form of sport and entertainment at the amateur level.

I, The Golfmeister, as builder and designer, am dedicated to extracting the most fun, enjoyable and exciting round of golf possible out of the site and budget. Through site exploration, adaptation of style and sheer imagination, it is my job to provide every golfer with the utmost potential for fun. There will be no set rules that ever could possibly limit the potential for providing fun golf shots through architecture.

Through years of experience being in the minds of golfers of all skills and personalities, calculating every decision on the course, carefully studying what excites them, combined with an ever expanding list of courses to draw inspiration from, I will sculpt each individual site into a fun and unique form of sport. I will be there using every tool possible to accomplish this from pencil to bulldozer as the only way to guarantee my product and vision.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Golfmeister's Artwork

For Sale!
All original prints by the Golfmeister.
Silkscreen, 2008 unless otherwise marked.

Silkscreen, 2007
Pen and Ink, 2009

contact via email if interested in purchase

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Sebonack: Review

Architect: Tom Doak and Jack Nicklaus
Southampton, NY

Last Sunday I had the pleasure of playing golf at Sebonack. The Sebonack experience is one of the most unique anywhere the game is played. But before the merit of the architecture can be discussed, it is the setting that must first be explained.

If you take a minute to examine the aerial photograph above, you see two golf courses. The course on the right, with the fan shaped routing and the brownish tint, is Sebonack. The golf course on the left which is a brighter shade of green and has what is called an out-and-back routing is CB Macdonald's The National Golf Links of America. However, this is a tale of three golf courses. Shinnecock Hills is just off the top of the picture. Now factor in the fact that the best player in the history of the game is one of the co-designers on one of the most expensive golf properties ever at $46 million, directly adjacent to the birthplace of golf architecture in America... Sebonack was built with one thing in mind, building the absolute best golf possible.

One of the most fantastic greensites I have ever seen. Sebonack starts off with a bang, #2 might be the best hole on the property.

Even for me personally, I feel the need to explain my personal bias/expectations/influences going into my round. Mr. Doak has seriously influenced some of my career decisions and has privately shared some opinions on what it was like to build this golf course with me. Going into this round I had played 2 other Doak designs this year and according to the magazines, Sebonack ranks higher than both.

#3 Plays back to the clubhouse before heading making a right hand turn inland. Don't be surprised if you are just trying to set your next putt on this extremely difficult green.

Aside from the location, the site itself is very impressive. Sandy dunes along the beach doesn't get much better. Only this is in the very protected Hamptons, where there are extreme environmental constraints. Some of the types of things that the architects had to deal with: all water must be contained within the site and recycled, certain areas and grasses cannot be mowed, and turf care chemicals are a no-no. That said, there are some holes at Sebonack which had to have been no brainers. With all the Doak v Jack design fights that took place, greensites #1, 11, 12, 17, 18, 19 had to have been no-brainers. What makes Sebonack a great golf course is what the architects were able to do when you weren't in the dunes and along the water.

#4 is a very diverse par 3 with a ridge that runs between the bunkers on the right, and splits the green horizontally down the middle into distinct front and back sections. The front half slopes back-to-front while the back half slope away from the golfer, front-to-back. Tees can also be stretched giving the hole 4 different setup options.

I really like the opening sequence of the golf course, even though it is extremely difficult. While the course begins with some awkward tee shots, the quality of golf between #1 green and #5 is phenomenal. I really didn't like the opening tee shot, I know driver doesn't have to be the play, but when you are standing on the tee for one of the most anticipated opening drives of any first play you will ever have, you want to be able to grab a club that gives you the biggest margin of error. I even thought the tee shot on #2 was a little confusing for a first timer. Looking at sand dunes, an ocean, and a triple fairway, it took me a minute to realize the trees were my guide here.

Mr. Doak is known for his great short par 4's and his love for Heathlands and Aussie Sandbelt architecture, but who does the credit for #5 belong to? Note the caddy standing left of the fairway bunker: site of the Golfmeister's first ever eagle (9 iron from 135).

The turn inland starts out with #4 and #5, but I found the next three holes to be the least interesting on the property. It is hear that you can really begin to feel the struggle between compromising the style and preferences of one architect to sacrifice for the goal of building the best golf. This section of the property is a relative low and where the main irrigation pond is, which normally is a hard enough problem to solve, but when you factor in that all water must be retained on property some how and you are coming off such a high from the ocean holes, it will be a let down no matter what the solution.

A wonderfully creative tee box for hole #7 sits atop the bunkers just right of #6 green.

Even #9, which is a solid par 5, doesn't quite live up to the famous hole which it was inspired by. Bethpage Black's #4 hole, the famous double dog-leg with the glacier bunker carry is one of the best combinations of aesthetics and strategy I have ever come across. While this hole plays off a similar strategy, it falls well short of the intimidation factor and therefor the potential for excitement falls short of its Suffolk counterpart. On this very difficult golf course, I wish this hole was a bit tougher and another hole, such as #1 or #3 made a bit easier.

While the left bunker off the tee and the 3rd bunker on the right of #9 are certainly big enough, they neither intimidate nor encroach the line of play enough to make this hole as it could be.

There are a number of holes to fall in love with on the back nine. With 4 greensites along the edge of the property, bordering the beach, a fascination with at least a few of the holes on the way in is inevitable. But first to get back to the coast, a golf hole that immediately jumped out at me as a Mackenzie inspired Doak short par 4. The bunker scheme and shape along with the playfulness of the slopes around the right side of the green leave so many options that affect the way one guides the ball onto the playing surface.

While I have never played a Mackenzie, from all the photos I've seen, it just feels like the pictures of the camouflage inspired bunkering.

Holes #11 and #12 don't need much review, the are simply great. If neither Doak, nor Nicklaus, nor Pascucci found these holes we would have had serious problems. Lucky for us, they did!

#'s 11 and 12

While the problems with #14 have already been well documented. I will say that the green can at the very least be puttable with a little help from my trackhoe and shovel. It is unacceptable to have to plug the slope with sod because it is to steep to mow and grow healthy turf. The next hole, #15 is along with #2 one of my favorites. To be fair, I normally bash holes with bunkers behind the green, but the aesthetic offering is fantastic, natural, and will over great fun if entered, so I will let this one slide since no rule is absolute in golf architecture... Plus I love the idea of unreachable in 2 par 5's.

#15 approach

While one of the biggest knocks on Sebonack is the unbalanced pars between front and back nines, I think the final decision to end the round with the par 3 #17 and finish with #18 as a par 5 worked out wonderfully. One last bold iron shot played into the dunes and directly at the bay is what the golfer faces at #17, before playing along side the ocean for all 3 shots on #18.

One last tee shot. Water left and most of the triple fairway that connects #18 to #2 and 3 on the right.

My host completely nailed it... Sebonack is a great golf course that contains limitless excitement, but it is not a perfect golf course. While it may be the best Nicklaus design, it is not the best Doak. There are so many questions to be figured out in future plays a truly definite opinion cannot be placed. While there are some obvious changes I would make that could immediately make the course better, like fixing #14, Sebonack is like no other golf course I have ever played, and for that I love it.

#19 plays straight at NGLA. My last question is: Why do you need tee markers for a 19th hole? Just through down a ball and settle your bet.