Grant Rogers is not your average teaching professional. The worse the weather, the better he likes it.
Welcome to 2005. The first week of the new year was rainy, cold and unpleasant. Rogers, director of instruction at Bandon Dunes Resort, was a happy man.
Call him the Czar of Winter. Call him Wind Wizard, Rain Ruler, Monarch of Mayhem, Prince of Dark Skies.
Call him anything you like, but don’t call him when it’s sunny and calm. He’ll be in mourning.
Rogers loves to tell this true story: A guy plays Bandon Dunes for the first time, marches from the 18th green directly to the golf shop, and demands his money back.
“What’s the problem?” asks Rogers.
“There wasn’t any wind,” the man replies. “No wind. They promised me wind. Everybody said it blows like crazy around here.”
Bandon Dunes, located on the southern Oregon coast, is where the wind sleeps at night after raising hell during the day. I picture Rogers tucking in the wind. “May you dream of gusts and flurries,” he says tenderly.
Rogers has emerged as one of golf’s foremost teachers in what he labels “wild weather” instruction. He shows students how to hit specific shots to combat the elements, he advises them how to dress and he counsels them on psychological preparation.
As a result, Bandon’s three-day golf schools have become extremely popular. It doesn’t hurt that students get to play all the Bandon courses (Bandon Dunes and Pacific Dunes will be joined this summer by the new Bandon Trails, designed by Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw).
Head pros John Grothe of Bandon Dunes and Jim Wakeman of Pacific Dunes team with Rogers to conduct the golf schools, which include a maximum of 12 students.
Rogers ought to be a Scotsman. He loves
links-style golf as much as he loves inclement weather, and Bandon has both. It can be very
much like Scotland.
When Rogers attended his first Open Championship, in 1985 at Royal St. George’s in southeast England, his life changed.
“I just kind of switched to another dimension,” he says. “I’ve never been the same.”
He has returned to England and Scotland at least 15 times, and he keeps a running list of his personal top 10 shots from the gorse (a thorny bush that also is plentiful at Bandon Dunes).
“All you have to do is spend a little time in Europe to realize this is the way to play golf,” he says. “I identified with the rolling golf ball game. It’s more fun. It offers more shot possibilities. It lets you be creative.”
One of Rogers’ first attempts at creative shotmaking came on the famous Postage Stamp hole at Royal Troon. He wanted to hit a full-blown pitching wedge on the par-3 hole, but his caddie insisted he swing a 6-iron. The caddie even demonstrated how to maneuver a little punch shot.
Rogers, all his senses heightened, nailed the 6-iron far over the green. “My god,” exclaimed the caddie, “you’ll make a 10 from there.”
Even Rogers had to laugh.
He relates a story that took place at Bandon on a mildly windy day. He was hitting balls on the range, when a friend approached and asked, “What are you doing?”
He didn’t even hesitate with his reply: “Oh, I’m just waiting for it to get really windy, and then I’ll go play.”
Rogers likes to quote Ben Hogan on the capability of any truly great player to handle wind, rain and the weather gremlins. Looking at golfers today, he says, “There are a lot of people running around who perceive themselves to be excellent golfers, and I suppose they are – until things start happening. That’s what links golf and wild weather golf are all about. You have to hold yourself together.”
A 2-handicap player came to Bandon, shot 97, and said, “I can’t shoot that, I’m a 2.” Rogers, a PGA master professional, offered words of consolation and his usual dose of insight.
“I love it here, particularly in the winter,” Rogers reflects. “Every day is totally different. There are a lot of storms. We’ve had winds up to 100 miles an hour. The golf course seems to get bigger and you get smaller. You are wondering what you’re going to do next. Many players just get overwhelmed.”
Welcome to Bandon, where expectation and reality often live on different sides of the tracks. Rogers is a specialist in revitalizing demoralized golfers, and his services are in great demand.
He grew up in northern California, played water polo rather than golf at San Jose State (he says he was not allowed to participate in two sports), then became a golf professional after college.
His first job was at historic Pasatiempo Golf Club in Santa Cruz, Calif., where he became a teaching pro.
“We were getting complaints about a young girl hitting practice shots out on the course,” Rogers says. “I went out to talk with her. She had a pretty good swing, and she was very enthusiastic. I told her to hit more shots. I became the guy who always went out there, and I never kicked her off the golf course.”
The girl was Juli Simpson (now Inkster), who would win three U.S. Amateur titles before becoming a dominant professional player.
Rogers moved to Salishan Golf Links in Lincoln City, Ore., where he became the head professional and continued his active role in teaching. The local golf team from Taft High School, which Rogers helped develop, won seven state championships.
Four years ago, he came to Bandon Dunes after realizing that founder Mike Keiser had found the perfect sand-based site for links golf in America. Asked why he doesn’t go to California, Arizona or Florida in the winter, Rogers says simply, “You’ve got to be kidding. Why would I want to do that? I love it here.”
Today’s forecast: overcast skies, persistent rain, punishing winds, falling temperatures, wide fairways, smooth greens. Isn’t life great?
Welcome to Mr. Rogers’ neighborhood.