77 year old Jack Nicklaus is one of the prodigies of the golfing world. He’s won just about every major American trophy there is, and has been an iconic figure not just in the golfing world, but for many millions who admire his style and grace without understanding a thing about the game.
But Nicklaus recently told reporters in Orlando, where he is roiling things up in the PNC Father/Son challenge with one of his grandsons, that he hasn’t sat down to watch a golf game on TV in years.
“When it’s on, I’m off” he joked with reporters.
He said that at home whenever someone is watching a golf game on TV he will get a book to read, take a nap, or go into another room. Not even the imminent return of Tiger Woods, afflicted with back problems and rotten PR, in the near future has made Nicklaus curious enough to want to watch the game again that gave him wealth and prestige.
But don’t get him wrong. There’s nothing wrong with the game of golf, he told reporters. It still fascinates him and he likes to sit back to play over some of his more famous tournaments. But watching a full game on television is not the same thing as participating in the game itself. There’s not that sense of self-challenge, or adrenaline rush when a ball goes exactly where it’s aimed at.
Sadly, Nicklaus disinterest in TV golf is mirrored by the public. Last year the Masters final round had its lowest TV rating in 13 years.
Mike Keiser builds golf courses. He likes to do it; it’s his livelihood, plus he likes playing as a semi-pro hack himself. He recently drove from his home turf in Chicago up to the middle of Wisconsin to oversee the start of construction on a new golf course in the Badger State.
“It’s a breeze, working in Wisconsin” Keiser told reporters recently. “There’s no red tape to speak of. But here in Chicago-land — that’s a different story!”
Keiser knows what he is talking about. He was one of the first to come onboard over a year ago, when the Chicago media broke the story that Tiger Woods, at the urging of past President Barack Obama, would be the head designer of a lavish golf course on the Southside of the windy city. Mayor Rahm Emanuel was in on the deal, as well — ready to take it before the city council and push for the funding and eminent domain purchasing necessary.
The Lincoln Park neighborhood where the course was to be built would also be home to the future Presidential Library of Barack Obama. That project is making headway. But the Tiger Woods project is not making any great strides as of yet.
Why? People in the know say it’s because the red tape and the many city and county departments involved have slowed things down to a crawl. While no one is saying the enterprise is dead, the finishing date has been pushed back to a very indefinite “sometime in the next few years.”
The PGA Golf Tournament schedule has been as sure and steady and stable as the tides of the sea. The beginning of the year sees the tour basking in Hawaii; then it’s California in February; March means Florida; and so it goes. This stately procession through the calendar and through the states has remained unchanged for nearly a half century.
And that is probably why the reaction was so seismic when it was announced earlier this years that this hallowed schedule would be changed, staring in 2019. There had been whispered rumors of such a prospective and titanic upheaval in the paneled halls of country clubs around the land, but it became official when the CEO of the PGA, Pete Bevacqua, stated that in January of 2019 the most traditional of all golf competitions, even the PGA Championship, was moving from its regular August slot to a date in late May. To help facilitate this move, the PGA’s own Jay Monahan, Tour Commissioner, also announced that the Players Championship would in turn give up its own spot in the merry month of May go back to the blustery month of March.
The changed schedule sets aside both January and February to begin the Main Event in March, starting with the Players and TPC Sawgrass. Next up, the Masters in April, the PGA in May, the U.S. Open in June, and the Open Championship will take place around the Fourth of July weekend. August will host the FedEx Cup Playoff rounds, and it all comes to a beautiful halt on Labor Day weekend for the fabled Tour Championship.
Many people would think living next to a golf course a dream come true. They could easily stroll over for nine holes whenever their time and the weather permitted. Sounds idyllic in every sense of the word.
But for Jerzy and Halina Wisniewski, of Williams Township in Pennsylvania, living next door to the Morgan Hill Golf Club proved to be anything but a pleasant blessing. In a Northampton County courtroom last week Mr. Wisniewski was awarded an undisclosed amount from the golf club for emotional and physical trauma — induced by a constant hail of ill hit golf balls raining down on his property.
The Wisniewski’s lawyer, R.J. Brasko, says the couple were constantly assaulted by misdirected golf balls while outside on their property, and could not even take a leisurely stroll without being menaced by a wild shot. Brasko said this ‘terror’ indirectly led to Mrs. Wisniewski’s premature death from cancer. Brasko said that walking in the woody backyard of their property was the chief delight of Mrs. Winiewski in the months following her cancer diagnosis, and that the fear of being struck by a golf ball kept her indoors most of the time. The couple testified in court that they both had been struck in and around the head by golf balls.
In addition to the cash settlement, the Morgan Hill Golf Club has agreed to put up netting to prevent errant balls from escaping out of the club’s grounds. Mr. Wisniewski will keep several bags full of golf balls he claims came from Morgan Hill over the last two years, in memory of his departed spouse.
Golfers can spend a good deal of money on new clubs and different brands of ball in order to improve their scores out on the course. But recent studies show that perhaps the best way to shave a point or two off the scorecard is an inexpensive jolt of caffeine right before a game — or even a stick of chewing gum masticated during the first nine holes.
The National Institute of Health, in between rounds down at the country club no doubt, has been conducting studies that show a small dose of caffeine prior to a round of golf has a tendency to improve a player’s concentration and physical coordination. It can also be effective in minimizing fatigue.
In a similar study, Auburn University released a more definite conclusion: stating conclusively that a single caffeinated drink will take 2 strokes off of any golfer’s game.
And that’s not all. The Auburn study further discovered that chewing gum while out on the course will reduce the number of cognitive errors associated with subpar performance.
Naturally, in their never-ending search for a cleaner, meaner, supplement to give golfers a boost, entrepreneurs have taken these new findings and come up with ‘golf gum’ — a stick of chicle imbued with a wee bit of caffeine, that hackers can carry with them out on the course.
Groundskeepers, of course, are going to have to keep a wary eye out for chewing gum wads carelessly thrown in the grass and sand traps, or surreptitiously stuck under golf carts and ball cleaners.