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The Ultimate Hacker is the voice of Hacker Central. He'll comment on whatever catches his attention. He's got an acerbic wit, great powers of observation, opinions galore and doesn't pull punches. Get behind the ropes with his amazing insight and cutting commentary.

Larger Golf Holes: Nicklaus May Be Onto Something
Tuesday, 06 September 2011 12:05

I know he probably got some grief for this, but when Jack Nicklaus proposed to host an event over Labor Day at his Muirfield Village Golf Club in which the cups were twice as large (8” vs. 4.25”), and the tournament was only 12 holes (vs. 18 holes), I was in his corner. He is concerned that fewer people are playing golf and that the industry needs to think outside the box. Bravo!!

According to the Columbus Business First article I found:

As part of the Labor Day activities at Muirfield Village, Nicklaus will host 12-hole tournaments in which the hole will be 8 inches in diameter instead of the traditional 4 1/4 inches. To encourage faster play, participants are required to complete the round in 2 1/2 hours. They will be penalized one stroke for every five minutes over the allotted time.

It seems that the industry is loathe to change and acts like the fairy tale kid with a finger in the dike. ..if we just keep our finger in the hole, then the world won’t come crashing down upon us. We’re in denial unfortunately.

We know that participation is dropping. We know it takes 4 ½ hours to play. We know that golf is a hard game and we know that as many people pick it up as drop it each year. If people like Jack Nicklaus start to lead a charge, then maybe others will listen.

It is past the time that golf courses will be able to wait out this double-dip recession (yes, unfortunately I mean that). Courses need to think WAY outside the box and getting behind something like this is a start.

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UFO Lands on Northern Minnesota Golf Course (or not)
Friday, 15 July 2011 11:46

One day in early July a round blackened circle appeared on the golf course. In addition, were four square spots.  Landing gear??

Who were these aliens that landed near the 2nd tee at the 9-hole Ponderosa Golf Course in Glyndon, Minnesota? Were they visiting because they didn’t have golf on their home world? Were they stopping to change drivers or fill up with gas?  Locals either don’t know or won’t say.

Management is covering up the event by saying that a groundskeeper’s golf cart caught fire, but we’re not buying it. In contrast to management’s party line, Ponderosa golf course manager Don Johnson has his theories. From the :

“Had to be a UFO, glad nobody got hurt.”

This burned circular mark in the middle of the fairway, complete with special square marks....could it be?

“Landing Gear, that's Landing Gear Pads”

Maybe these alien golfers are roaming around northern Minnesota golf courses right now.

This isn’t Roswell, New Mexico....is it?

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Looking Under the Hood of Golfweek's 2011 Best Canadian Courses Ratings
Wednesday, 27 April 2011 16:00

Now, I think it is great that Golfweek ranks golf courses (we're all about golf course ratings at Hacker's Guide). In presenting the 2011 Best Canadian Golf Courses, the writer mentions which architects built the courses. That's all well and good, but like celebrity chefs, it's not necessarily how great the architect is (some definitely are) but if a famous "name" is stamped on it, they can sell rounds (see Pete Dye, Greg Norman, Tom Fazio, Jack Nicklaus, etc.). This factor alone shouldn't be a determinent if the course is good or not. Most golfers wouldn't know Pete Dye or Tom Fazio if they ran into them on the street.

Another thing that bugs me is that when I did a quick review of the Top 5 "modern" Ontario courses on Golfweeks list, I found that only one of these courses was available for "hackers" to play.

When I searched around for the underlying rating system that is used by Golfweek, it wasn't very obvious how they did it.  Not to pick on Golfweek, but if you look at an example of what they rate a course on, every one of their 10 factors is on-course related, from tree management to conditioning.  What about the clubhouse, the signage, the practice facilities, the food, the customer service, etc., etc.

If Donald Trump had a clue about golf architecture, he'd build his own courses, but alas he can only buy them (with lots of other people's money).  Sorry I digress.

Also, who rated these courses and put scores to paper?  How many people did it? Is this the opinion of only one person or a group? If it was multiple raters are the scores listed averages?

My point is that a publication that portends to rate golf courses, and in turn be touted as an authority, should provide transparency when it comes to what they rate on and it should be a system that is broadly-based, not specific to the architecture of the course.

Additionally, of the 60 courses that were rated in this Golfweek list, how many weren't? In just the province of Ontario, there are over 840 golf courses. If that is true, the 32 Golfweek courses located in Ontario represent UNDER 4% of all the courses in that province!

Golfers make buying decisions based on reviews and saying a course is the best in Canada shouldn't be based only on the golf course architecture or the architect.  How the trees are managed shouldn't be a major consideration for a rating.  What happens when a tornado comes through and all the tree are gone?  Is this top-rated course now no longer worthwhile?

When I go to TripAdvisor.com for vacation advice or Amazon.com for book, CD or electronics advice, I'm looking for lots of reviews from regular people that bought the product or visited the destination. I make a judgment based on dozens or hundreds of reviews, not one. When I read Consumer Reports to get car ratings, I know exactly what they rated my new car on because their system is transparent.

When I read a golf review, I don't want to know who the architect was that built it, but what kind of experience will I have when I get there. Each golfer values different things about a golf course. Some may like the beautiful vistas and others prefer a great 19th hole. Many will look at the greens fees. Regardless, a golf review should be much more extensive than 10 subjective questions on the setting, the hole routing, the trees, the hole variety or the 'walk in the park' test.

It never ceases to amaze me that golfers will take a rating at face value without looking under the hood and learning what actually a course is being rated on. Many wonderful courses don't even get considered because they're not on a publication's list.

For a comparison, check out our Hacker's Guide Rating System .

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Every Hacker Can Relate to This: Kevin Na Shoots a 16 on a Par 4
Friday, 15 April 2011 14:47

Every hacker has a day like this.  Professional golfer Kevin Na (ranked ?? in the world) had one really bad hold: a 16 on a par 4.

Unfortunately for Kevin a 16 on a par 4 is a record on the PGA Tour.

Yes my fellow hackers, sixteen strokes on a par 4 at the TPC San Antonio in Texas. Most hackers, after they've shot a snowman (8 strokes) or maybe even a 10, give up on the hole and just put something down on the scorecard.

We've all been there. Flailing away after puting a ball in the woods, the water, the rough or the bunker (or a combinational of all four).  We drive our first shot out of bounds. We take our provisional and stick it somewhere it shouldn't be. Then we muff two or three shots.  Now we're lying six and we can't even see the green.

This is just the kind of hole that Kevin Na had.  We've all been there.

See the video of his work of art HERE .

As of 4/15/11 Kevin Na's best finish on the PGA Tour in 2011 is 3rd at the Northern Trust Open and he ranks 28th in money leaders on the the PGA Tour.

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Tuesday, 12 April 2011 15:11

An interview on NPR's Weekend Edition talked about a new kind of golf ball made from lobster shells that will break down within 2-3 weeks in the ocean versus 100 to 1000 years for your typical Titleist.

Guest host David Greene talks to David Neivandt (an admitted hacker), and a professor of biological and chemical engineering at the University of Maine, who helped engineer the balls and says that these biodegradable balls go about 70% of the distance of regular balls. Perfect for hitting off the back of a cruise ship.

Listen to the NPR interview .

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