Thursday, February 20, 2014

Golfing in the USA

They are 26 million golf players in the US which is approximately 8% of the population!
Despite the recent slight decrease in the number of golf players, this ratio is still much higher than the average percentage of golf players in Europe. 

A clear distinction exists between private golf courses where you need to be invited to play, and public golf courses open to anybody. Yep, anybody who has a golf set! Public golf courses are indeed open to any players, advanced or beginner and you don't even need a golf handicap/index to play. This is very different from Europe as the requested average golf index is +36 over par. 
Some private golf couses membership fees are really crazy expensive...I was really curious to know what was the approximate price to join Plainfield, the Barclay's venue (see previous posts of the blog) so I asked...$100,000 entry fee plus the annual playing fee...and on top of that a fix amount of $25,000 to be spent at the restaurant of the club-house... so you arrive at the restaurant, order, spend a great time with your family and say good bye to the waiter, "you'll deduct this from my account, Sir, thank you..."

Golf is sometimes a bit funky on public courses as it is not rare to see golfers driving golf carts while drinking is for everyone here, it's a relaxing hobby which is less competitive than in Europe where you can have two competitions in the same week-end ! I have tried to find local competitions on local public courses and I can tell you it's really complicated...    
Because of this lack of competitions on public courses, every golf player has to upload his score on a system after each round played. This process is of course only for those who wants to maintain an official golf index which is not always the common practice in the US !
As the public courses are open to everyone, the pace of play is sometimes slow, very slow... long discussions and slow play brings up the time spent on a golf course to the maximum (un)acceptable level... sometimes 5 and an half hours or 6 hours spent out there... insane ! I had to leave the golf course once after three hours spent for barely 9 holes... this was nerve racking!

(Copyrights: USGA website)

Pace of play became such a big issue that the US Golf Association released a national campaign called While we are youngto speed up the pace of play including a few key recommendations to pledge:

a) "Give it forward tee a try" 
...don't consider yourself as a Superhero...that's right we see too many average players playing from the back tees...

b) "Embrace opportunities to play 9 holes".
...Yes, but where ?

c) Play "ready golf".
...honestly, I would really love to !
The day these rules will be implemented, the golf in the US will grow again !
I love the typical US lunch at the turn (between hold 9 and 10) including a juicy burger and a bottle of cool water (no beer while playing for me, thanks!) that you eat while playing. Let's push on the button and order, now !  

OK, you have to be very dedicated to play golf on pubIic courses here and find solutions to play this great game but trust me it's still possible !



Thursday, February 13, 2014

Back on track to marshal on the PGA Tour !

After a few years wandering around (I did not stop golf and won't...ever !), I am now back in the world of golf blogs to continue the journey on another continent as I recently moved to NY bringing my golf bag with me.
I was only in NYC for one week when I volunteered as Marshal at the Barclays play-off golf tournament including the top 125 players on the PGA could never imagine this dream comes true ! 


...first registering from outside of the US as I was still a resident of Europe at the time of the request. I had no address or telephone number on the US soil at that time and this could have made the registration difficult... However, I grabbed my phone and called the Volunteer's Director who directly announced me that I was becoming the longest traveling Marshal with a new record of 3,600 miles (5,800 km) traveled...ha, ha! This is a really great start in the world of US golf.

You must be a little nuts to travel from Manhattan to the Plainfield Golf Club in New-Jersey by public transportation as it took me 2 hours to hit the Barclays's venue...I had the pleasure to take the subway, the train and a shuttle, so long ! 

Map Plainfield

All I can say is that the commute worth it! I truly felt like a kid in a huge open-air toys store, every golf brands were present, merchandise tents perfectly settled, big leader board screens reflected the score and the pictures of the players, everything was so perfectly organized, it was impressive.

I am back at home on Wednesday night after this long day of competition. To summarize, the best moment came after I was standing in the middle of (...nowhere) the hole number 12 (see the location indicated by a yellow star on the map), a very long hole, for one hour managing the crossing of the fairway by the was honestly a pretty sleepy place to stay... 

However, my time came afterward when the captain asked me to "go on the tee box".

Wow...great PGA tee box, this is even better than my first impression as I entered the door of this event. A lot of spectators were packed next to the tee box to watch the big bombs launched by the best players on Tour.  

The captain explained to me the duties: wait for the first group to clear the fairway before asking the following to tee off...indicating to the other marshals on the sides of the fairway whether the ball was going straight, left or right...I am feeling a bit nervous now as I can not  see any ball landing way forward (these guys are really long hitters...) as I forgot my eye- glasses at home! ;-)

...five minutes after the short explanation came Ernie Els, two times major champion, on the tee...he is standing only a few yards from me ready to hit his driver... 5 minutes later came Adams Scott and Jason Day...I must be dreaming, I have been here for only one hour and I am now managing the traffic jam on the tee box...

I am very nervous now as I have to guess where the ball is landing for several shots...ha, ha !   

Today was the pro-am and one of my favourite player, G-MAC, US Open winner, also signed my cap. WHAT A FIRST DAY!


One another magical moment came while I was giving the go for the Scott-Day-Na pairing (great choice!) as I saw a few minutes later a ball rolling toward me touching my foot...well...nobody saw that...except the captain as a golf ball was stuck next to my feet..."what's up" he asked...heuhhh...I explained to him that one of the caddie slid and dropped a golf ball out of the golf bag... "it's yours" said the captain. It was Kevin Na's ball, I have been high for two days now and won't forget these great moments. 

Plainfield Country Club
(Copyright: Plainfield Country Club website)

It was a wonderful experience and I am looking forward to volunteer this time for a Major tournament: the PGA Championship in Baltrusol, NJ in 2016!