The Biz Blog


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Tait: Let kids play for free, watch the game grow

Alistair Tait

Want a radical solution to grow the game? Let children play for free.

It’s time to own up to an unpleasant truth – golf is not growing in the western world. It’s shrinking. That’s why we should set the kids free.

There’s never been a better time to join a golf club in the British Isles. There was a time, say, 15 years ago when clubs in my area to the north of London had long waiting lists. No more. Those same clubs are openly advertising for membership. Many have dispensed with joining fees. Yet many are struggling to attract new members.

Some clubs are even going to the wall. Lamerwood in Hertfordshire was a lovely course when it opened in 1996. I had the pleasure of playing there with Retief Goosen. Those were heady days, when clubs like Lamerwood had marketing money to spend on a future U.S. Open champion.

Drive past Lamerwood now and sheep graze on what used to be fairways. Only the discerning eye can pick out what were formerly tees, greens and bunkers. Lamerwood was one of many courses in this part of Hertfordshire looking for business that has long since ...

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In choosing Hanse, IOC makes 'wise' decision

Jim McCabe

DORAL, Fla. – They were told to be prepared for the phone call at 6:30 a.m., so Gil Hanse and Jim Wagner did just that Wednesday morning. They were ready. Then they remained ready, only to wait . . . and wait . . . and wait . . . and wait.

And when finally after several hours the phone rang?

“I had all I could do to hold back the tears,” Hanse said.

Always an unheralded name in an industry that is populated by high-profile and highly visible personalities, Hanse heard news from the other end of the phone that he had hoped for, but perhaps had been considered a long shot for – he had won the bid to design the course that will be used when golf returns to the Olympics in 2016 in Rio de Janeiro.

In winning the bid, Hanse Golf Course Design was chosen over proposals put in by Hall of Famers Jack Nicklaus and Annika Sorenstam, Greg Norman and Lorena Ochoa, Gary Player, Peter Thomson, as well as acclaimed architects Robert Trent Jones II, Tom Doak and Martin Hawtree.

If there was surprise when the decision was announced by the Rio 2016 selection committee, it wasn’t so much a reflection on ...

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Brewer is perfect fit for Callaway CEO

James Achenbach

If you ask me, Callaway Golf has been waiting for Chip Brewer since July 5, 2001. That’s the day Ely Callaway died of pancreatic cancer.

It has taken almost 11 years, but the right guy finally has the job of president and CEO of Callaway Golf. It’s not that Callaway executives of the past decade have been unqualified. To the contrary, some of them have been brilliant.

But they haven’t been golf guys in the Ely Callaway sense of the word. They haven’t been infectiously enthusiastic in an outgoing, extroverted, passionate, aggressive, golf-is-the-center-of-the-universe manner.

Ely Callaway was one of a kind, and I’ve told this story before.

It was 1999. I was in Beaverton, Ore., gathering information about Nike Golf. The Tiger Slam was one year away.

My phone rang. It was Ely Callaway. He wanted to talk about my column that had appeared in the most recent print edition of Golfweek.

“Go ahead, Ely,” I said. “I’ve got plenty of time.”

He replied, “Good, because I want you to come down here (to Callaway headquarters in Carlsbad, Calif.). I want to talk face-to-face.”

Callaway then dropped a bomb: He wanted to send the ...

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NBC promotes Solomon to Golf Channel post

Martin Kaufmann

NBC Sports Group promoted producer Molly Solomon to serve as executive producer and senior vice president, production and operations, of its Orlando-based Golf Channel unit.

Solomon, who will report to Golf Channel president Mike McCarley, will oversee all production of tournaments, news and original shows. She is the first woman to serve as executive producer for a national sports network, according to NBC.

Solomon, 43, a nine-time Emmy Award winner, serves as NBC’s coordinating producer for the Summer Olympics in London. For the next several months, she will split time between that job and and her new duties with Golf Channel. A Golf Channel spokesman said that Solomon will relocate to Orlando after the Summer Games.

The move marks NBC’s continuing makeover of Golf Channel. McCarley, a former NBC Sports marketing executive, was installed as president in February 2011.

Late last year Golf Channel announced several key personnel moves. Tom Stathakes, senior vice president, production, programming and operations, left the network. Some of his duties were assumed by Tom Knapp, a former Golf Channel executive who returned to the network as senior vice president, programming. Several other management moves also were made at that time.

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Kraft Nabisco announces Calif. junior exemption

Beth Ann Nichols

California kids now have an unusual avenue into the LPGA’s first major: a Tuesday qualifier. The winner of the inaugural fresh&easy-Kraft Foods Legacy Junior Challenge on March 27 will receive a sponsor exemption to play in the Kraft Nabisco Championship … two days later.

It’s an interesting twist to the championship’s traditional exemptions for top amateurs and juniors. Twenty hand-picked juniors will play alongside LPGA legends in an 18-hole event on the Arnold Palmer Course at Mission Hills Country Club. Legends who have already committed include Kathy Whitworth, Nancy Lopez, Amy Alcott, Beth Daniel, Betsy King, Pat Bradley and Meg Mallon.

Juniors must fill out an online application to be eligible for selection. The event is only open to junior girls ages 13-18 who live and attend middle school or high school in Southern California. Applicants must maintain a GPA of 3.0 or higher and a Handicap Index of 2.0 or lower. She must play high school or junior golf in Southern California and provide a personal statement showing leadership/community service and a letter of reference.

Application deadline is Feb. 29 at 5 p.m.

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Wind-farm rift won’t stop Trump's Scotland course

Bradley S. Klein

Donald Trump is upset about a proposed wind farm off the coast of his mammoth Scottish golf resort and housing development. But he won’t let his concerns get in the way of a planned June 28 opening of Trump International Golf Links Scotland in Aberdeen.

The property sits on Scotland’s northeast coast on the North Sea and long has been coveted by proponents of renewable-energy, wind-driven turbines. But plans for the 11 structures, which would rise 65 stories high and be located 1.5-2.5 miles offshore, have been met with resistance from regional tourism and golf officials concerned about what they claim will be ruined views. Chief among the critics is Trump, who is concerned that his $1.184 billion golf course, luxury hotel and real-estate community will be compromised in the process.

Trump has not withheld his fury from Scottish and local planning officials tasked with responsibility for evaluating the wind turbines. He reportedly has written to Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond decrying the turbines as “disastrous and environmentally irresponsible” and as an “ugly cloud hanging over the future of the great Scottish coastline.” Now, Trump has threatened to halt progress on the hotel and housing ...

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Tait: Number of European golfers decreased in 2011

Alistair Tait

Has the golf bubble finally burst in Europe? That would seem to be the evidence from a recent survey.

In 2011, there was a decline in the number of European golfers for the first time in 20 years. “The Golf Participation in Europe 2011 Survey,” produced by KPMG’s Golf Advisory Practice, found Europe suffered a net loss of 46,000 golfers last year, with the total number of registered golfers falling below 4.4 million (minus 1 percent). The United Kingdom & Ireland suffered the biggest loss, with numbers down by 42,700, or 3.1 percent.

Sweden and Spain also had golfers leaving the fairways in significant numbers. Sweden’s golf population fell by 21,000, a 4.1 percent reduction. Spain lost 9,700, a 2.9 percent drop.

“While the growth of golf started to slow down after 2005, last year was the first time there was an actual decrease in registered golfers,” said Andrea Sartori, head of KPMG’s Golf Advisory Practice. “The decline can be attributed to two factors: the reduction in the number of golfers in some of Europe’s largest golf markets, especially the UK and Ireland, and the lack of dynamic growth ...

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Delay signals tough call to build a legacy

Bradley S. Klein

Talk about a letdown. Friday’s big surprise announcement by the Rio 2016 committee selecting a golf course architect for the Olympic Games is that it has put off a decision for a month.

You can bet this won’t be the last delay. Missed deadlines are just part of the process -- with any golf course and with any Olympics. That doesn’t bode well for getting the course up and running for a planned 2015 tournament test run before the Olympic Games begin the next summer.

After two days of listening to a total of eight 45-minute presentations, the four-man selection committee apparently has its hand full and can’t come to an agreement. Let’s hope that’s a testament to the PowerPoint skills of the finalists and not a function of backdoor politicking and influence peddling. Not that such issues ever have been a factor in previous Olympiads.

Going into today’s stall, the favorite surely was Jack Nicklaus, who enhanced his considerable global presence by teaming with Annika Sorenstam. That move seemed to make sense on a site destined to hold competitions for the men and women on consecutive weeks in 2016. Other finalists also found ...

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PerryGolf founder sees golf travelers 'resurfacing'

Martin Kaufmann

Gordon Dalgleish and his brother, Colin, co-founded PerryGolf in August 1984. Since then, their company has organized overseas golf trips for nearly 50,000 travelers – mostly to Scotland and Ireland, but also to more far-flung destinations such as New Zealand and South Africa.

During the PGA Merchandise Show, Gordon Dalgleish discussed the golf travel market with Golfweek.

Golfweek: How is 2012 shaping up in the golf travel category?

Dalgleish: 2010 was a bad year, 2011 was slightly disappointing because it started stronger but finished off weaker. 2012 is shaping up with some level of optimism. My sense is that we’re going to have a good improvement over ’11. One trend that we’re seeing is that a lot of repeat customers from 2005, ’06, ’07 – guys who were maybe two- or three-year-cycle travelers – missed a cycle. They’re now resurfacing. They’re thinking, “OK, the world isn’t perfect, we’re not getting any younger, we want to get back to doing things we enjoy as a group.” It’s a fairly noticeable trend when I see bookings come through. 

Golfweek: What’s the state of golf travel to Scotland and Ireland?

Dalgleish: Scotland continues to come back faster ...

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Martin: Dramatic N'wide Tour changes needed

LA QUINTA, Calif. – The quest to dramatically change Q-School will continue next week when the PGA Tour’s staff presents its latest proposal at a mandatory players meeting. The changes are starting to seem inevitable.

The greatest criticism of the proposed qualifying system is that it keeps players from making the leap from college or the mini-tours to the PGA Tour. Many players would be required to spend a year on the Nationwide Tour, even though many of the PGA Tour’s biggest stars bypassed the secondary circuit.

Under the proposal, PGA Tour cards would be awarded through a season-ending series of events. Players would gain entry into that series through performance on the PGA and Nationwide tours. No PGA Tour cards would be available through Q-School, which would award only Nationwide Tour status.

I propose that radical Nationwide Tour changes – changes that would make the secondary circuit more accessible – should accompany the modifications to Q-School. It seems only fair that if one route to the PGA Tour were closed that another should be opened.

Making the Nationwide Tour more accessible would make the secondary circuit more intriguing. The tour would gain the charm that Q-School would be losing. It ...

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EA Sports unveils changes for upcoming Tiger game

D.J. Piehowski

EA Sports made a few big announcements Tuesday about the upcoming version of its popular Tiger Woods video game.

The Tiger Woods PGA Tour 13 version of the game, which hits stores on March 27, will include integration for the Kinect on XBOX 360, allowing players to operate the game without a controller. The Kinect uses a system of cameras to track body movement and mimic gamers’ actions inside the game through their character. Players can cycle through the game’s menus and options by using either voice commands or hand motions.

Tiger Woods PGA Tour 13 will be the first-ever Kinect for XBOX 360 sports simulation title.

Also announced was a new swing mechanic, which will take the game’s shotmaking to a new level. Gone are the days of the no-thought, back-and-through swing, as players will now have control over their swing tempo, ball position and stance, allowing players to replicate countless swing combinations used by actual PGA Tour players.

“Our fans asked us to deliver a new level of fidelity and authenticity to Tiger Woods PGA Tour 13, and our team delivered with the ability to literally choose millions of shot combinations through our new swing mechanic ...

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Miller-Faldo: A match not made in heaven

Martin Kaufmann

Early in Friday’s telecast of the Hyundai Tournament of Champions, anchor Dan Hicks referred to the ad hoc pairing of analysts Johnny Miller and Nick Faldo as “the yin and yang of golf” – sort of like Oscar and Felix sharing the 18th tower.

If only.

If Miller and Faldo were a sit-com pairing, they would have been canceled after the second week – if they had made it out of pre-production.

As much as Hicks and co-anchor Terry Gannon tried to engage the pair, there was no spark between Miller and Faldo. They seemed to get along fine, but they didn’t have a rapport. They were individuals on the course, and they’re apparently more comfortable working solo in the booth.

For Hicks’ benefit, Miller briefly tried to play along. “I was kind of crazy like Lanny Wadkins going for every pin, and Nick was more of a cerebral, percentage golfer,” he said during the opening round. “So we have different slants on the game.”

Alas, those interesting “slants” didn’t translate to the broadcast booth. There were no memorable exchanges, no great laugh lines, and few, if any, noteworthy insights. In short, Miller and Faldo had worse chemistry ...

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Adams Golf hires banker to explore options

Alex Miceli

Adams Golf, which has struggled to recover its shareholder value after the worldwide equity collapse of 2008, has retained investment bank Morgan Stanley to explore options that could include a sale of the company.

Chip Brewer, Adams Golf’s chief executive officer, told Golfweek in a phone interview from his office in Plano, Texas, that Adams’ board of directors voted unanimously in late December to hire Morgan Stanley.

“The board felt the share price doesn’t correctly reflect the prospect of the business,” Brewer said. “We’re pretty optimistic there will be a whole range of options out there.”

Those options could include:

• issuing a dividend to shareholders

• repurchasing shares

• selling the company

• taking the company private.

On the news that Adams hired Morgan Stanley, Adams stock (ticker symbol ADGF on the NASDAQ exchange) jumped 13.5 percent, or 85 cents, to $7.16.

Adams, founded in 1987 by Barney Adams, found success with its Tight Lies fairway woods. The company went public in 1998, topping $70 per share in its initial offering. By 2000, the share price had dropped to less than $1.

The stock steadily recovered in recent years and was up to $8.80 in January 2008 ...

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My year in golf: Gene Yasuda

Reflecting on another year that has come and gone, my mind gravitates to an unsettling thought: Why did I play so little golf in 2011?

Borrowing runners' jargon, I didn't set a "PR" – or personal record – for rounds played. In fact, I guess you could call it a "PW," or personal worst.

At first blush, the story of my absence from neighborhood courses could lead any local newscast depicting the economy's impact on consumer spending. Frugal might as well be my middle name for a variety of reasons: Spiraling college costs (one kid in school, another getting ready to go next year). Unexpected health-care bills. My plummeting home value. All of these factors make me want to stuff my savings under my mattress and sit on it – a symbolic, and likely futile, protest to preserve what I have.

My love of the game, however, certainly hasn't diminished. So, I'm convinced if course operators had given me greater encouragement and incentives to play I would have overcome my economic handicap. But for the most part, they didn't. Which leads me to golf's biggest issue in 2011 and one that's sure to top the agenda ...

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Finalists selected for Olympic course design

Bradley S. Klein

Competitive bidding for plum course-design assignments is nothing new for golf architects.

But it’s fair to say that the industry never has seen a bigger project pursued by so many distinguished teams as is the case now with golf’s return to the Olympics for the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro.

What began as an open call for qualified designers that drew more than two dozen applications has been narrowed to an elite eight: Tom Doak, Gil Hanse, Martin Hawtree, Robert Trent Jones II, Gary Player and the design teams of Jack Nicklaus and Annika Sorenstam; Greg Norman and Lorena Ochoa; and Peter Thomson and Ross Perrett.

The applicants signed confidentially agreements. As a condition of the project, the three-man team representing 2016 Rio Olympics has set a fee of $300,000 – a fraction of the normal design rate most of these architects receive. The big prize here will be the prestige of having designed a showpiece for the global game.

The site itself is an undistinguished, virtually flat, land-locked parcel on the far southwest side of Rio de Janeiro near the planned Olympic Village. Technical specifications, as well as budgets, environmental issues and timeline, will be shared ...

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