Golf traditions come and go all the time.
It's the nature of the sport. Never has that been more evident than the current state of the PGA Tour. The "Super Golf League", a breakaway tour financed by the Saudi Arabian Government, has been operating in the shadows attempting to poach the world's best players, although that pursuit looks bleak after Dustin Johnson and Bryson DeChambeau pledged loyalties to the PGA Tour over the weekend. Regardless of who's staying or going, it's still a mess.
Just when it looked like golf was gaining momentum at the grassroots level thanks to a pandemic golf boom, the pro game feels like it's headed out of bounds.
All of this nonsense has me daydreaming of a simpler time in tournament golf when professionals just showed up and played. It was probably still all about the money back then, but at least it seemed to be somewhat about the love of the game. There was a romanticism about playing the game at the highest level. That appears to have been lost in greed, egos, guaranteed money, social media bravado, media rights and NFTs.
I miss the proverbial good ole days ... the sound of a good strike with a persimmon wood, watching Jack battle Arnie and reading Dan Jenkins riff about major championships won and lost. Imagine what kinds of Twitter snark Jenkins would be throwing at Phil Mickelson today.
Forgive me for feeling overly nostalgic, but I'd like to turn back the clock to remember some of golf's greatest traditions that have been lost over the years. I'm sharing the ones that I'd like to see make a comeback.
If professional golf changes as dramatically as it appears it might, then I may need to write this column again a decade from now, pointing out what's been lost from the "old" PGA Tour. Only time will tell.
What golf tradition do you miss the most? Which should be revived? Let us know in the comments below.
Cypress Point Club at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am
Many old-timers grumble that the soul of the "Bing Crosby Clambake" has been lost amid the corporatization of the PGA Tour. Over the years, fewer and fewer of golf's best players are showing up for the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, and even the celebrity pool is getting a bit stale. Despite the criticism, it's still one of the best Tour events to attend for a golf vacation. What I miss most is the old rotation prior to 1991 when Cypress Point and Poppy Hills were involved. The current rotation including Monterey Peninsula Country Club's Shore Course and Spyglass Hill is spectacular in its own right, but the reintroduction of Cypress Point would add the necessary juice to take the event next level again. I'm sure more than a few Northern California Golf Association members like myself would also love to see the pros take on our home course, the "new" Poppy Hills. It's firmer, faster and more fun since a 2014 redesign by original architect Robert Trent Jones Jr., leaving us to wonder: How low would they go?
Shell's Wonderful World of Golf
The Match has tried hard to fill the void the past few years, but nothing can replace the sheer elegance of Shell's Wonderful World of Golf. Shell's - which ran from 1961-1970 and was revived by Golf Channel from 1994-2003 - brought us so many exotic courses from a faraway land for the first time ... Banff Springs (1962), Turnberry's Ailsa Course (1966), Royal County Down (1968), Kauri Cliffs (2003) and others. Chi Chi. Jack. Arnie. Gary. Trevino. Watson. Bob Charles. They all competed in their primes. Wouldn't it be wonderful to watch a Shell's match broadcast from the ultra-exclusive Sand Hills in Nebraska or a new exotic layout like Tara Iti in New Zealand?
Launching the PGA Tour season in Maui
Prior to the FedEx Cup, the PGA Tour schedule used to make so much sense. Fall had a few Tour events on the calendar - with the President's Cup and Ryder Cup rotating every other year - before giving the players some family time around the holidays in November and December. This breather set the stage for the first week of January to kick off a new season with all the winners from the previous year. Maui meant fresh beginnings for golf's biggest stars. There was no wrap-around schedule to confuse fans. Almost all of the players would show up on the regular. Golf fans snowed in around the country still tune in to watch guys going for the 18th green at Kapalua's Plantation Course in two, but it just doesn't feel the same.
Prestwick hosting The Open
Admittedly, I wasn't alive the last time Prestwick Golf Club hosted The Open in 1925. Still, I can easily imagine what it would look like today ... special. Prestwick, located on the Ayrshire coast of Scotland, hosted the first Open across 12 holes in 1860, one of 24 in its history, more than any club except the Old Course at St. Andrews. Sure, the Prestwick links is too short at 6,908 yards and too compact to host the crowds and hospitality of a modern major, but why not try it once more for old time's sake? Grow the rough. Turn a few par 5s into par 4s. Pray for rain and wind. I'd love to watch the pros grumble at bad bounces and squirm attempting Prestwick's many blind shots. A finishing drivable par 4 - 288 yards called "Clock" - could be epic.
The PGA Grand Slam of Golf in Hawaii
Here's another nod to the glory days when players actually showed up to a non-sanctioned PGA Tour event without demanding a big appearance fee. The PGA Grand Slam of Golf was a year-end 36-hole exhibition match run by the PGA of America that showcased the winners of the four majors. It started in 1979 but took off in popularity during Tiger's reign of terror. He won it seven times at Poipu Bay on Kauai between 1997 and 2006. Lefty did get one jab in, winning with a 59. Moving to Bermuda from 2009-14, the Grand Slam lost a lot of sizzle when big-name major champions started opting out. The event was permanently canceled in 2016. Now imagine if it was still going. The three-man field in 2020 - DeChambeau, Dustin Johnson and Collin Morikawa - and four-man field of 2021 - Morikawa, Jon Rahm, Hideki Matsuyama and Mickelson - would have been fun to watch.
Johnny on the Spot
Wouldn't it be grand to unleash Johnny Miller on today's tumultuous Tour? Or maybe that's a bad idea. The disgruntled players would probably run from the PGA Tour coverage faster than ever. Although current TV analysts like Paul Azinger, Nick Faldo and Jim Nantz have their supporters, nobody called it quite like Miller, NBC Sports' lead golf analyst who retired in 2019 after nearly 30 years. If you were choking, Miller wasn't shy about telling the whole world. As the winner of two majors, he could get away with it. He understood, better than most, what can go wrong under the glaring spotlight of a final round.
Battling Doral's Blue Monster
Of all the former Tour venues that have fallen by the wayside in my lifetime - Brown Deer Park, Disney's Palm and Magnolia courses, Turning Stone, Nemacolin, Cog Hill's Dubsdread, Castle Pines, Warwick Hills, Firestone, etc. - I miss Doral's Blue Monster the most. I was always watching when I lived in Michigan, suffering through another long winter, wondering how I would fare on its fearsome 18th hole. Not good, I eventually found out after a few rounds. A 2017 visit to experience the changes made by Gil Hanse proved that the course is better than ever. I realize that the club's current owner, Donald Trump, is an issue for many people. Even so, it's just sad that 50 years of tournament history have been lost to politics ever since its final event in 2016. There are rumors that a Trump Golf property could host a new SGL event when/if the new league is announced. I'm really not sure how I'll feel if Doral is selected.
The Thanksgiving Skins Game
I'm not sure if I actually miss the Skins game or what it represents - a chance to relax on a holiday weekend with some golf on the TV and tryptophan in the belly. Golf naps are the best. You could wake up an hour later feeling like you haven't missed anything, knowing that the real money-laced skins show up on the final holes. The PGA Tour's version of the skins game had a long run from 1983 to 2008, competing on courses in California and Arizona. The LPGA Tour (1990-2003) and PGA Tour Champions (1988-2011) hosted their own versions, as did Telus (1993-2012) in Canada. The Match in 2018 revived the concept but with too many distractions - too many announcers, too many call-ins from celebrities, too many sponsor shout-outs. Let the fans enjoy the golf without the hoopla.
Finding "Hope" in the Desert
It's tough to see a PGA Tour event with so much history slip, but that's where we are with the old Bob Hope Classic in California's Coachella Valley. What a shame. In its heyday under the "Hope" name from 1965-2011, it grew to compete across five courses with dozens of big-name celebrities and pros participating. Since 2012, new hosts Bill Clinton and Mickelson have tried to recapture the magic, despite a new format (three courses and a 54-hole cut) and a myriad of revolving sponsors (Humana, Career Builder, Workday and currently, The American Express). With such a cool host course, the Stadium Course at PGA West, and ideal weather in a prime winter golf destination, it seems like there must be a key hidden somewhere that can unlock the tournament's potential and revive its storied past.
Caddie Races at the Waste Management Phoenix Open
It's almost been a decade since the PGA Tour acted like the fun police banning caddie races in 2013 at two of the most popular par-3 holes in golf - the 16th at the Waste Management Phoenix Open and 13th at Colonial. The cheering and jeering from the crowd spurring on the races remains my fondest memory from my first and only TPC Scottsdale Stadium hole experience in 2012. I say let the caddies run. If they need to sign a waiver, they can do so in the entry tunnel to Scottsdale's "Coliseum". If they don't want to run, let the crowd boo them out of the place.