Wednesday, September 19, 2007

A Template For Managing Expectations

Certified superintendent Ralph Kepple should be every superintendent’s role model. And it’s not for pulling off a miraculous recovery of East Lake Golf Club’s bentgrass greens for the PGA Tour Championship following weeks of searing Atlanta heat, humidity and drought, although he should be lauded for that, too.

No, his true genius resides in the way he managed golfer expectations. Thirty of the best golfers in the world arrived at East Lake expecting to play on dirt. The course was closed to practice rounds early in the week, and a couple greens were off limits even when practice rounds began.

But there was no complaining about the conditions. Golf’s elite players expected worse, so they were pleased with soft greens that rolled around 10 feet on the Stimpmeter for the first couple days.

In a world where firm and fast is the benchmark for good conditioning, the soft and slow East Lake greens allowed Zach Johnson to set the course record on Saturday with a 60, and Tiger Woods won with a total of 257 strokes, the third-lowest in PGA tournament history.

No one complained. It’s a perfect case study of how agronomic conditions must supersede golfers’ whimsical and unrealistic expectations.

If Kepple can make the case to the best golfers in the world, then who are your members to argue?

Do you think the East Lake example will help you moderate golfer expectations through newsletters and other member communications?

— David Frabotta

Thursday, September 06, 2007

What Playoffs?

No Phil at Cog Hill. Last week’s Deutsche Bank champion and FedExCup Points leader will sit out the third leg of the PGA Tour Playoffs to spend some time with his family.

In stark contrast to other playoffs where athletes play hurt, tired and homesick, golfers don’t have a team to let down. They’re not under any contractual obligation to play, and the uninspired abstention of the sport’s elite players undoubtedly will take its toll on public interest and enthusiasm in the fledgling competition.

In a sport where the four Majors are still the benchmark for success among peers and the public alike, it’s clear PGA professionals don’t have the buy-in necessary to create a groundswell. And if last week’s pseudo-match-play ending between Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson didn’t create a buzz, it’s unlikely much else will.

What are your thoughts on the PGA Playoffs? Are you disappointed that high-profile players — including Woods, Mickelson and Ernie Els — have skipped tournaments? Is the players’ ambivalence a result of the PGA’s failure to court their opinions?

— David Frabotta