Sunday, January 15, 2006

Golfography has moved...

If you're looking for my latest escapade, I've moved the Golfography blog to a new site. All posts after January 1, 2006, are now located here. So come on over. The golf is even better...

Thursday, December 29, 2005

What a great golf year!

Thank you, dear readers, for following my golf geography - or "golfography" - during 2005. It was a special year. I played some outstanding courses for the first time (Cypress Point, Pebble Beach, Bandon Trails, Western Gailes), attended a number of first class outings (to Scotland with the Blue Elephants, my brother's trip to Caves Valley, outings to Pinehurst with my friend Robert Miller, another with The Golf Channel, and a lovely stay at the Ritz at Reynolds Plantation with LINKS, among many others). Plus, I enjoyed more happy days at my beloved Secession.

I won't attempt to relive great moments here. The entire year's posts represent my highlights. So rather than write on and on about this Member/Member or that par 3 (on which I likely made 5), I'll say merely that, yes, 2005 was a very good year for golf for me.

And here's to a better (?) 2006!

Friday, December 02, 2005

Changing the landscape

I began this blog early this year with this statement:

"We all have our passions in life, and then there are the things we truly enjoy. Playing golf is among the things I enjoy. But what I refer to as 'golfology,' now that's a passion. 'Golfology' is the culture of golf. And there's nothing quite like it."

For the last year or so I've written about the places and people with whom I've played golf. "Golfography," I call it, what I consider to be a subset of the bigger study of golf, "golfology." For the next 12 months or so I plan to write about the business of golf, especially the marketing aspects, an area in which I consider my company and myself to have a particular expertise.

I was meeting with a prospective new business customer recently. In preparation I made a list of all the golf companies with whom we've worked over the last 20 years. I couldn't believe the list myself - more than 25 different companies, large and small, established and new, some wildly successful, others (but not very many, such as no longer in the, ahem, golf landscape.

BURRIS is about to begin a dedicated push to acquire new golf industry customers, either for marketing consulting or communications plan implementation projects. There are quite a number of companies I believe we can help, bringing ideas to life and in the process making their brands stronger, their strategies tighter, their delivered customer experience richer, their communications materials better.

So the journal - or "blog" - "Golfography" will remain here, and perhaps from time-to-time I'll post my thoughts on a new (or revisited) golf "place." But most of my energies in this field will now go into "Golfology." And you can find that blog here.

Thanks for reading. I hope you'll visit Golfology often.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

The Last Ride

(Photos at bottom)
I enjoyed my last golf trip of the year on Novembers 29 and 30.

There's much that can be said about this one, from the planning to the departure, but I'll cut right to the parts that really matter:

1. We were at Secession Golf Club, which, I'm proud to say, I'd put up against any club in terms of delivering a top-drawer golf experience. Our president, Bob Harcharik, and our Director of Golf, Mike Harmon, have created an environment where guests are as welcome as they would be in our homes, and it shows. Last night, during dinner, I think my six guests felt as though they, themselves, were members, and there's nothing, nothing, that makes a host feel better than that.

2. My guests, their-own-selves, were top drawer. All had been to Secession before, and it's clear they value the experience. (That makes it all the better - the best, perhaps - for the host.) I've taken control of with whom I play and where I play, and it shows. This was - as was another the previous week - an outstanding group, and we laughed and cut up on as well as off the course. We played, drank, and ate together as old friends, even though some of them became brand new friends this week. (How good is that?)

3. Our golf wasn't all that good. We played a difficult, wet, not-in-its-best-condition golf course, but it was still pretty special. Secession played long (I forced us back on the "Grant" tees, and I think I'll have to re-chrome my 3-wood), and the game we played rewarded stick-to-it-iveness as much as a medal score. My pal Kirk Davis won all the individual games, but there were enough better balls going around that everyone won a little bit. Perfect.

I'll use another entry to sum up the year, but this was a perfect outing for me to end 2005's golf. Thanks, fellas. Hit 'em straight forever.

This is our group being served dinner. Tami, who served our table is much nicer and more attractive, but Claude McElveen, who runs our food and beverage operation at Secession, helped serve the entrees.Let me tell you about the dinner Tory and Justin prepared: We had an outstanding appetizer (potstickers), followed by a Caesar salad, then a Rigatoni Bolognese that reminded me "sauce is, truly, King." The pleasant surprise, however, were some bacon-wrapped asparagus. (Did I tell you that we know how to treat guests at Secession?)

This is our last hole on the first day. I insisted we go out and play the "the point" (Secession's 16th, 17th, and 18th holes) again after we finished our round. Here's Glenn Prillaman on 18 tee: And, yep, it was that dark!

Here is Tami serving Kirk and Neil:

And here's the Secession club house at dawn this morning.How beautiful is that?

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Closing out the year

I'll be closing out my golf for the year at a couple of events I've scheduled at Secession Golf Club in the coming weeks. It's been a great year, one I've caught a lot of joking about. After all, I've played Pinehurst, Pebble Beach, Cypress Point, Bandon Dunes' three courses, traveled to Scotland and played Royal Troon and Turnberry Ailsa, battled in Member Guests and Scratch events...what a great year.

This space, however, will begin taking on a slightly different tone in the coming weeks. I plan to deal with some of the issues facing the golf industry in all of the areas that interest me and those where our customers go to market. "Golfology," I call it, and as such it's the "broader science of golf," of which "Golfography" is a subset.

One of the things we'll be watching is the LPGA Tour, which, I believe, will become the hot sponsor, spectator and viewer ticket in the coming couple of years. The talent there is phenomenal, and the people who'll be watching will be fascinated. Opinions abound (just ask my friend Rick Hall what he thinks of Michelle Wie), but my gut tells me this is going to be big.

In the meantime, I'll still write about where I play, just, I'm sure, not quite as often as in 2005...probably because I won't be playing as much.

Stay tuned.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Malcolm Gladwell on Golf

Well, he wasn't really talking about golf in a recent interview for TIME called "What's Next," but he was exactly right when he said, "I'd like to make a distinction between change and progress."

"To use a prosaic example, technology related to golf has improved and will continue to improve dramatically. Golf clubs are way better today than they were 10 years ago, and will be way better 10 years from now. Golf scores, however, have remained absolutely stable. This is an important distinction because historically when we talked about the future, we talk about the possibilities for change, which says that either we have deliberately lowered expectations or we're playing a game where we're pretending what we're talking about is progress when all we're doing is talking about change."

Gladwell is the author of "Blink" and a regular contributor to The New Yorker.

For a link to the entire interview, click on the title of this post.

Blue-Gray at Secession, October 19-22, 2005

The annual Blue-Gray event at Secession is the best tournament of the year, the one I'll always build my calendar around.

At its simplest, Blue-Gray is our national club's "Northern" members playing the "Southern" members. To fill out the teams we've been known to designate Texas as "north" and a New Jersey carpetbagger a "southerner," but, what the heck? There's always next year.

Three days of better ball competition, alternate shot, "emergency nines," great food and a bit too much drink.

What I like best about Blue-Gray is a course and house full of people you see only once or twice a year, friends who love golf the way I do, who are much better at telling stories than I'll ever be, and just enough friendly competition to keep us all grinding and joking and smash-mouthing each other to become better friends after it's all over.

You also see some interesting fashions. This year's story included three trends. (Hope not!)

1. Shorts that were too long for short guys, long enough to recall the term "clamdiggers," but now (and with this group) better described as "capris" for men. Tom Whitten and Steve McCarthy were singled out (and I laid low).

2. Collars turned up, giving the Providence-or-Hamptons-in-the-Summer look to a lot of members. The hair has to be just right in the back to pull this off. And, surprisingly, a couple of guys managed it. Maybe six members in all with this look this year. (Hope it doesn't last.)

3. And this. Sighted just after the bagpiper's walk and before the cannon's blast on Friday night.

Only at Blue-Gray. I hope I never miss another...

Saturday, October 08, 2005

The incongruity of it all

Two golf course incidents in the last several months remain high on my mind, so I thought I'd share them with you, dear reader.

1. Back in early September, on my last day of vacation at Bandon Dunes, second round for the day, this one at the new Bandon Trails masterpiece by Coore and Crenshaw, after a light lunch (but including a couple of beers), Betty and I rushed to the first tee to make our 1:50p tee time. I join a couple of guys on the tee - they're already standing on the "championship" box, which is where I want to play from too - and while I'm rooting through my bag for ball, tee and glove, they hit solid drives that bounce this way and that but end up in the fairway.

Not me. I neck a diver that carries about 100 yards then bounces and rolls along the left dunes, coming to rest in a footprint undoubtedly left by Sasquatch, the original "Big Foot." I gouge it out, wedge my third onto the green, sink a 20- or 25-footer for par, and head for the second tee.

The second is a longish par 3, a short 215 yards downwind this day. I again hit third, after my two playing partners hit solid shots onto the green. I wave at this tee shot, what I call a "flair," a high, soft, harmless (to anyone watching) cut that goes almost nowhere and lands a full 30 yards short and right of the green. After an average lob wedge and two putts, I have a respectable bogey on the card where not one of the shots might be referred to as such..."respectable."

After another necked-diver tee shot on the third hole, one of the two guys I've now known for about 30 minutes - but whom I've hardly seen since meeting them on the first tee - sidles up to me as we walk with our caddies toward the fairway and says, "You know, just because Jim (the other guy) and I are playing the back tees, it's okay, if you want to move up to the forwards."

Not the least embarrassed - but now both amused and challenged - I looked at my round through a new pair of eyes. I knew I'd start hitting the ball solid soon, but for me there was new incentive. And every golfer who feels even the slightest urge to play competitively, gets motivated by something in the game. It's more than pride or ego. Our game was on.

By the way Bandon Trails is a magnificent course. Here's a look - from the fairway, no less - at the last 175 yards on the short (325 from the, ahem, back tees) par 4, number 14:
#14 Bandon Trails

2. The second golf-related incident that keeps popping in my head occurred at Bulls Bay's club championship just last week. I knew I wouldn't contend for the championship itself, but my competitive Jones keeps me playing in the top flight. On the first day I'm paired with a member sporting a +5 handicap, an aspiring Champion's Tour player. I'm not playing badly, but I'm also not making anything on the greens (and to shoot a good score, I have to be putting well). Coming to number 12, a 180-yard par 3 over water, I'm five over. My tee shot flairs (again, an ugly "flair") and catches a finger of the hazard after crossing land near the green. I drop, punch a long, low pitch (7-iron) over two ridges in the green, scooting about 25-30 yards and coming to rest no more than 15 inches behind the cup. I want to tap in, but I'd be standing in both their lines, so I mark. By the time they miss their birdie putts - and one of them misses the par comebacker - I have kind of lost interest in the putt, already thinking ahead to a tough tee shot on 13. And, yes, I miss, miss a putt just over a foot, a certainty for anyone except, perhaps, Vijay (and now, John Daly).

The +5, aspiring Champions Tour player says to me as we walk off, "Aw, Mark, that putt was good. I'm giving you 4 there." I think he's kidding, so I laugh, walk on, but continue the expletive-laced lashing I'm giving myself under my breath. "No," he says, "there are players out here today who are taking putts like that and worse. That was good. I'm giving you that one."

I stop, look at him with both appreciation for his concern but primarily horror that he's serious. I say to him: "You obviously don't know me very well. That just can't happen, and if you write down 4, I'll change it to 5. You wouldn't do it, would you? Well, neither would I."

We compete not only to win, but also to see how we measure up against our own expectations, against the golf course and conditions. In both cases - the sanctimonious suggestion that I shouldn't feel intimidated by guys on the back tees or the condescending assurance that a botched tap-in can be forgotten with a "shucks, that was good" from a player who doesn't feel threatened by my presence in the field - these kinds of things tell us as much about ourselves as they do about the ones we know and play with.

I love golf, love what the game offers, not the least of which is a way to find how we live with ourselves.