Don’t Allow the Edges to Blur

I was asked by one of my favorite people the other day what I saw at our property and in the Golf Industry and what we were doing about it at TPC Tampa Bay?  I told him one of my favorite quotes was by Michael Johnson, the Olympic Gold Medalist Sprinter, “Discipline is not allowing the edges to blur.”  This is how he became the fastest man in the world for a period of time, but I happen to spend time around both the Game and Business of Golf and I think that concept applies to both of these environments.  I and the generations that came before me are fortunate that we have been able to see the greatest golfer of all time, Jack Nicklaus.  I also have been a part of the golf industry as arguably the most influential golfer of all time, Tiger Woods climb to the pinnacle of his game.  As most of us watched Tiger with his comeback, we were excited at the concepts that brings for the game of golf.  As I watched him play, the edges looked blurry to me.  Chip shots were just a bit off, putting wasn’t up to his standards, approach shots that would typically be 5 feet away ended up missing the green.  It was great to see him on the golf course again and play pain free, but to ascend to the summit of the game he will have to tighten up the edges of his game.  As golfers, we all have our sweet spots that we are good at, but we have to be able to focus on the edges if we are going to be great in golf and I’ve found this approach should carry over to whatever business we are in.  Industries used to have a bit of a “Baseball” model, where you were either a pitcher, 1st baseman or catcher for example, where the current business environment is much more of a “Golf” or “Basketball” approach.  We all have to be able, even competent, in each of the disciplines our industries require.  Just because you are a guard in basketball, you better get in there and be willing to rebound or play defense a center must be able to dribble!  I think about the great artists, Van Gogh, Rembrandt, DaVinci they had to paint to the edge of the canvas, it wasn’t just about Mona Lisa’s smile, the way that light cascades into The Night Watch, or the morning star in The Starry Night.

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Can Golf Save Your Workplace?

I was all prepared to give a golf lesson to a friend today and as I walked up he was striping it! We spent a bit of time working the set-up, but really there was little to be done, I felt like when Harvey Penick told Ben Crenshaw to just keep doing what you are doing! As so often in the game of golf the real joy is the fellowship that happens and this even happens in golf lessons! Towards the end of the time together we started discussing “A Message to Garcia.” I had never heard of the story written by Elbert Hubbard in 1899. The gist of the story is during the Spanish American War, President McKinley needed to get a message to the rebel leader, Calixto Garcia, on the island of Cuba. Lieutenant Andrew Rowan was volunteered to handle the assignment. Elbert Hubbard’s take in his editorial is that when Rowan was given the assignment he was resourceful enough to figure a way to get it done and when an assignment or responsibility is given, often the employee gets lost in the how, who, why, when, where, is that my job and anything he could think of that didn’t actively get the task at hand done. A Message to Garcia, actually held a place on the Commandant’s Professional Reading List in the Marine Corp. “To take a message to Garcia,” was for years a popular American expression for taking initiative and is still used by some members of the military. In the workplace getting Human Capital to take initiative or autonomy over situations and outcomes is the goal of most environments. The game of golf is a great lesson in ownership! It doesn’t matter if the player is a Junior, Senior, Male, or Female, the responsibility for the outcome relies totally on the individual. It doesn’t matter what club you use or if the player is right or left handed. There is very little judgement, other than the individual is responsible to get the ball in the hole. It isn’t a team sport! No matter who is watching or if nobody is watching the outcome still relies on the player. The challenges will be there, in work as on the golf course! There will be barriers and challenges from both internal and external sources but golf teaches problem solving and initiative!

Is Golf a Sport?

One of the constant questions about golfers is, are they athletes?  The honest answer is maybe, I would say there are very athletic golfers and then there are golfers that you wonder how they walk and chew gum at the same time.  I don’t know if golf is a sport.  What I see in this field, is that it is about fellowship and challenging yourself over and over again for a period of time against a golf course.  I watch men, women and children start their day with total optimism as they warm up on the range and putting green.  The first couple of holes the dopamine runs high as people feel out the day giving jabs to the course and sometimes taking the jabs.  Then something wonderful happens, performance transitions into camaraderie!  People start looking for each other’s golf ball, they pick up the other person’s towel on the green, compliment them on a well struck shot, or encourage them after a poorly struck one.  The next thing you know the end of the round is closer than the beginning and score has taken a back seat to the relationships that have been or are being established during the round of golf.  Then the group puts the flag back in the green on the 18th green, take off their hats, shake hands, but the experience isn’t over, it is just a commercial break until they arrive at everybody’s favorite hazard, the watering hole or the 19th!  This is the crescendo of the day!  You see groups of golfers discussing whether or not to eat or how the matches turned out, but my favorite view of all is seeing a parent sipping an adult beverage while their child consumes a Roy Rogers or Shirley Temple and does a once over to see if it is ok to have a second!  I don’t know if Golf is a Sport, this to me doesn’t describe any other sport I know and I love it!

We Will Stand the Test of Time

The United States won the President’s Cup with a route of the International Team.  The winning wasn’t such a surprise but the real drama was could they do it without needing the final day?  Lost in the midst of the competition was the fact that 4 of the 6 living Presidents showed up to this golf event!  Above is a photo of a selfie taken by Phil Mickelson!  I am not sure I have ever been a bigger fan of the Game of Golf and this industry.  In a world that seems to get more and more divided each day with people that think their beliefs are more important than their neighbors we witnessed this past weekend something that I am not sure has ever been done before?  This Game of Golf doesn’t discriminate!  This Game crosses Party Lines!  This Game is built on calling penalties on yourself to protect the field, your competitors, your neighbors!  I am Bullish on this Game!  Did the United States win the President’s Cup, yes, would it have mattered if the International Team had won, no?  What we saw was 4 very diverse and sometime contrary President’s find a common value in this Game of Golf!

The Best Offense is a Great Defense!

As we embark on the NFL and College Football, I thought it might be interesting relating those game-plans to golf. In football and in golf, you are trying to control as much of the environment as you can. . We have all heard the saying, “the team became one dimensional.” Football teams and coaching staffs scheme to take a portion out of teams as we saw with Kansas City in the first game against New England. They were committed to keeping Tom Brady off balance and on his gluteus maximus. In the second game of the season, we saw Denver do the opposite to Dallas, where they committed to keeping the running back to single digit yards for the game. In both of these circumstances the offenses became “one dimensional” and the defenses won the day and eventually their teams won the games. In golf the goal is similar. All of our goals should be to take one side of the golf course out of play. If you play a right to left ball flight, you must learn to miss left and not right. If you play a left to right ball flight, you must learn to miss right and not left. For an example, to the left is an image of #8 and if you are a left to right player of the ball, aiming at the left side of the fairway bunker using a club that will leave you short of it is the smart play. If you hit a good shot, you are in the middle of the fairway, a “bad shot” with your shot pattern, you may end up in the bunker, a “bad shot” with the opposite ball flight you are going back to your bag. If your ball flight is right to left, playing at the left edge of the right bunker in the rough is the smart play. That will put your preferred ball flight into the fairway and a “bad shot” with your shot pattern will leave you right of the water, in the fairway where a “bad shot” with the opposite ball flight, you may need a hound dog to find your ball in the wetlands. The key to this approach is to find your preferred and most natural ball flight and make sure that you are doing things in your practice sessions and rounds of golf to make sure that the contrary ball flight doesn’t sneak into your patterns. If you take this approach to your practice and the way you manage the golf course, you will see your scores lower, without having to change anything in your swing! Happy hunting and I hope this helps you enjoy your journey around the golf course!

It’s a War out There!

As I have mentioned before in these blogs, we are in an environment that breeds healthy warm season grasses. That is both a positive and negative. The bulk of warm season grasses will widen their footprint naturally, this is the positive. They use stolons (on top of the ground) or rhizomes (beneath the surface of the ground) to spread their roots. Cooler season grasses typically generate a root system per seed, but that isn’t how Bermuda grass works, which covers our property. Our greens are Champions Bermuda grass and they were replaced in the summer of 2009. I have been told since moving to Florida that greens need to be replaced about every 10 years due to the fact that other warm season contaminant grasses embed themselves with the “dominant” grass. This thought scares me for 2 reasons, first I think we consistently have the best greens in Tampa and second, if it is true we will have to close for 3 or 4 months in the summer of 2019. A healthy foundation of grass is the best combatant against disease and contaminants. This is the negative to being in a warm growing climate, all of the contaminant grasses are also warm season grasses. In other areas, you can promote the warm season grass while the cool season grass is weakened because of the contrary growing conditions. Jason is going to do this with cultural practices on our greens and see if he can’t manage us deeper into our 10 year window. We received most of our new Maintenance Equipment and our roller has brushes on each side so that after rolling the surface, it lifts the leaf blade allowing the mower to cut for a smoother surface. Champions Bermuda grass was developed to tolerate a very low mowing height which fits right into this practice. All of the contaminant grasses are not and they will be stressed out with the aggressive mowing heights and rolling patterns. As the contaminants weaken, you may see areas that look “blotchy,” but with sunlight and warm dry weather, which are the conditions that Champions thrives it, their stolons and rhizomes will spread out over those areas and fill in and we will have a more consistent putting surface on the greens. With Jason’s expertise, I think we will have the best greens in Tampa for another 10 years, but it is a War our there between these competing grasses.

Focus is the Purpose!

The Grand Canyon is one of the wonders of the world. It is a giant valley that goes for hundreds of miles that makes up some of the most beautiful land in the United States. If you have ever stood at the edge of the Grand Canyon and looked at the vast area that it covers, it leaves an impression. To each that impression varies but it was all created with 2 things, time and water. It is one of the most stunning and vivid examples of erosion this world has ever seen. The “Webster’s” definition of Erosion is the process of eroding or being eroded by wind, water, or other natural agents. I was always taught that you couldn’t use a part of the word to define a word, but obviously “Webster’s” didn’t share my English Teacher. I would like to focus on the part that says, “natural agents.” Erosion is one of the few things in this world that happens naturally. The word has many synonyms: wearing away, abrasion, attrition, weathering, dissolution, corrosion, decay, deterioration, disintegration, destruction to name a few. Most of us in our lives have made commitments to keep the erosion at bay and in each of our golf games we have to recognize that it’s synonyms are constantly at work. When we go out to practice or play we must identify what we are up against. We either need to be building or maintaining each aspect of the game of golf. It is important to dedicate at least your focus to areas of the game that may degenerate over time, whether we need to preserve a part of the game, or develop a new asset. This idea is not just common to golf, it is a part of each of our health, relationships, careers even character. It is better to keep the erosion from getting it’s foothold otherwise solving the problem the erosion has created may feel like we are looking at the Grand Canyon and wondering how are we going to fill that up?

An Appropriate 4 Letter Word!

As I continue to think about this game and this industry and share my brain over the World Wide Web I can’t help but to marvel at its influencers! The people that are in the game of golf have established its culture, which is what I find to be the most unique and greatest culture in major sports. We saw this past weekend a Professional Golfer win the PGA Championship that was raised by PGA Member for the 7th time in this events history. The previous 6 were, Jack Burke Jr., Dave Marr, Raymond Floyd, Davis Love III, Rich Beem, and Keegan Bradley. Early on the back nine for Justin he was in a 5 way tie at 7-under with Francesco Molinari, Chris Stroud, Kevin Kisner, and his playing partner Hideki Matsuyama. On the 15th hole Francesco made birdie to get to 7-under and Justin had just made birdie on the 10th to get to that same number. What happened after that was Justin focused on his own game. He was playing with Hideki who had been at 8 under after 10 but gave one back on the 11th to set up the 5 way tie at 7-under. Hideki had a back nine with only one par, 5 bogeys and 3 birdies…what a rollercoaster. Chris Stroud finished the event at 1-under after getting into that tie and Kisner finished at 4-under for the event. Molinari was the closest opponent finishing 2 off the lead at 6-under. What we saw with Justin Thomas is a microcosm of how I try to live in this world and is why I think the game of golf is so sticky to those that have been affected by it. If you take care of your own business, things just tend to work out. I have seen this to be true in life also. Life and Golf, 2 great 4-letter words are much more of an internal competition. We all live in a society that challenges each of us to want more, have more, crave more and above all else compare ourselves to each other. Justin focused on his own game and for that he was rewarded by winning the PGA Championship, a third generation PGA Professional.

Food for thought.

Golf is a Walk in the Park!

Golf is easy! I am not sure anybody believes that, present company included, but allow me to make this argument. It is going to be a big ask to change your perspective, but if you choose to have an open mind, you might enjoy this little journey and look at golf differently!

You stare at a little white ball (unless you are Bubba Watson) and will it to go in a direction towards the ultimate dark place in a defined number of shots. Games and sport is about winning and losing, I am not trying to get everybody to crave a participation trophy, that is a blog for a different day, but if you could understand that the game of golf is a competition between a golfer (you) and a golf course, you would realize it’s a Walk in the Park. Within this golf course experience there are holes and in the world most of us reside, those holes are made up by par…this is where I need you to let go and close your eyes…unless you are driving, wait how would you read this…never mind! What if it didn’t matter how many shots it took you and you could recognize that getting the ball in the hole means you beat the hole! Let us forget par for a minute and realize we are competing against that hole. If we compare this with other sports is where I think it is fun! Baseball is often said to be one of the most difficult major sports. I can’t imagine trying to hit a 90 mph fastball. If a baseball player hits the ball 3 out of 10 times they are a Hall of Famer and they get potentially an infinite number of pitches to try to get a hit and then you just need to have 9 people miss the ball and run really fast. I make contact with the golf ball at least 80% of the time! If Golf were like baseball, I’d have my own wing in Cooperstown! Basketball is another one! Last year in the NBA, the League averaged less than 50% from the field and less than 40% from 3-point range and once again, that has nothing to do with winning the game. So maybe I hit the ball only 70% of the time, I still would have made the All-Star team last year in the NBA with those numbers. If you play tennis, there is no number of volleys that it takes to complete a point, and then when the point is over, you or your opponent has won! Tennis you have to win points, then games then sets and there is a winner and loser. In golf your competition is the golf hole and every hole you walk off, you have beat! You maybe didn’t make the number you made last time, or maybe you did the best you have ever done on that hole, you still are the conqueror. The best part of all is that you didn’t have to run to do it like all those other mean sports! Golf is easy!

At Home on the Range

The United States is made up of 3 basic growing regions. We obviously are in the “Warm-Season Zone.” The benefit of being in this climate is having it be beneficial to Bermuda  grass as it thrives in the warm weather. Our golf course, for the most part is covered in various types of Bermuda grass. The genius of this type of grass is it is constantly repairing itself and trying to spread. It does this 2 ways, with rhizomes and stolons. Rhizomes grow under the earth, while stolons grow across the top of the ground. This benefit is specifically helpful to golf courses as over time Bermuda grass will eventually cover divots made by the golfer on the course. Where the Bermuda grass needs the help of the player is on the driving range.  We rotate the driving range because of the amount of traffic that the plant sustains to try to get it to grow over the divots that are made by the golfer. The ideal divot pattern for the recovery of the plant is long linear tracks with about 4 inches of Bermuda grass between tracks. This allows the plant on both sides of the track to maintain its health and produce stolons to grow over the area created by the divots. An additional side effect is the fact that this uses less turf in a limited space on the range and allows more players to use the area. If you could help us in this process it benefits both the grass and the player that would like to practice or warm up before their round of golf at TPC Tampa Bay.

“Keepin’ it Linear”…have a great week!