Proof we have lost the slow-play battle

I had a chance to watch some pretty decent golf Thursday in the Desert Valley League match between La Quinta and Palm Desert high schools at SilverRock Resort in La Quinta. La Quinta won the match 191-205, but there was one overriding thing that stuck out at me.

All of the players in the match  were SLOW.  I mean like, take forever to play a hole or even hit a shot slow.

Just a few examples of what I saw that make play slow.

– Guys who are maybe 80 or 90 years from the green walking all the way up to the green to survey the shot, then walking all the way back to their ball before finally hitting the shot. Other players can’t hit as the guy is near the green, and the offending player must take extra time in doing all that walking.

–Guys waiting to hit shots that they can’t pull off, like carrying the corner on doglegs. The resulting shot makes a player have to consider options on a demanding second shot that maybe the players shouldn’t have been facing to begin with.

–Putting. Oh, this was the worst. Four guys on a green. Guy farthest away hits, say, a 40-foot to 2 feet. He walks up, marks the ball, walks away. The next players surveys his putt from both sides, then finally puts the ball down, hits a 20 footer, misses  by two feet, marks the ball, and the process begins again for the third and fourth players. Then they all have to hit their second putts. Yikes.

The result is a final group that took close to two and a half hours to play nine holes. And these are pretty decent players, the kind that are capable of shooting par on a given day. Did these kids pick up these bad habits from watching the pros on television, from their own teachers or even their own mental coaches?

Whatever the issue, these are players who have learned to play slow golf. And we might all be doomed to slow play very, very soon.



Golf is coming back, but things still aren’t great

Lots of good news in the world of golf these days, from an increased number of rounds of golf players in 2012 to an economy that might be improving and thus giving some people a little more spending cash for the game.

But just to sober you up from the giddy news in some areas comes this report from the National Golf Foundation: in 2012, more than 150 golf courses in this country closed.

It’s safe to say that the number of closures of courses continues to outpace the number of openings. Facilities opened in just 18 states last year (none of those were in the Coachella Valley).

Just a few other nuggets on courses in the country from 2012 from the NGF:

– Just over 25 percent of the courses in the country are private. Compare that to the desert, where about 50 percent of courses are private.

–NGF says 19 percent of courses are involved with real estate developments. Gosh, in the desert it seems like 100 percent.

–the five states with the most supply of golf courses are Florida, California, New York, Michigan and Texas.

So the next time someone tell you that things are looking up in golf, remind them that the NGF says one course closes in this country ever other day last year. That should make them think a little harder.


Palm Springs: Why Moby should visit our desert oasis

Moby at Palm Springs Modernism Week

Grammy-nominated musician Moby is seen Feb. 23 at a Palm Springs Modernism Week event. (Marilyn Chung/The Desert Sun)

Dear Moby,

I woke up this morning to an email from my boss about you: “Moby disses Palm Springs. Sort of.”

To refresh your memory, Moby, you wrote in an open letter about the “remarkable mid-century architecture” you saw during Palm Springs Modernism Week in mid-February. Then you added this:

“palm springs fascinates and baffles me. it’s beautiful and it seems like a great place to live, even if it’s a desert furnace that without irrigation is probably incapable of supporting biological life for 2 or 3 months out of the year.”

Moby, no confusion necessary. You’re flat-out wrong on the last part.

Let me take you on a virtual tour of the Palm Springs area to show you why desert living isn’t what you think:

The Living Desert can explain how desert animals have evolved to solve the heat and water problems. Visit ‘em — they’re open all year.

Coachella Valley Preserve

Hikers tour the Coachella Valley Preserve in this August 2011 file photo. (Richard Lui/The Desert Sun)

Or check out one of my favorite hideaways: Coachella Valley Preserve Systema 20,000-acre sanctuary for rare species like the fringe-toed lizard.

We even spent more than $2.2 billion on a 75-year plan — the Multiple Species Habitat Conservation Plan — to protect 27 endangered and protected species that live here.

While you’re at the preserve, don’t miss the amazing palm oases that pop up along the San Andreas Fault Line because of the water that flows underground.

Oasis Date Garden in Thermal

Or check out the Oasis Date Gardens in Thermal, seen in this August 2011 file photo. (Crystal Chatham/The Desert Sun)

Then swing out to Shields Date Garden to learn more about our robust agricultural economy and learn how we became known as the Date Capital of the World. The 123-mile Coachella Canal that brings in water from the Colorado River is far from our only source of water.

Or pick up fresh produce at one of three Certified Farmers’ Market every week. Again, they’re open all year ’round.

Wrap up your trip by soaking in the lush green of 124 golf courses — and, of course, a margarita under the misters in downtown Palm Springs.

Palmer Course at PGA West

The 18th green is shown here at the Palmer Course at PGA West in this January 2013 file photo. (Jay Calderon/The Desert Sun)

Still not convinced? The Los Angeles Times once explained that Palm Springs, which gets mere inches of rain each year, sits atop “a vast sea of ground water, which has been carefully managed.”

As our then-Mayor Sonny Bono said: “If we hadn’t taken good care of our resources, we wouldn’t be in good shape. But we did.”

Moby, we can’t wait to welcome you back for your DJ sets at Coachella.

When you’re here, will you meet us at the Coachella Valley Preserve to see if you’ve changed your thoughts on the desert?

Sending you warm wishes,


Charity tournament season is in full swing in the desert

It seems these days you can’t turn around in the desert without running into a golf tournament raising money for one charity or another.

Yes, there are charity events in the fall, and even one or two in the summer, but it is the late winter and early spring where charity tournament pop up two or three per week, it seems. From college alumni associations hosting tournaments to non-profits hosting tournament to event that raise money for children or medical-related issues, this is the time of year when golfers can do a little good and play some pretty nice golf courses at the same time.

And that is the key for a lot of desert golfers. Yes, some of the tournaments fill up their field pretty quickly with true believers in the particular cause, people who have supported a non-profit or its golf tournament year and year. But in many instances, the tournament struggle to fill a field of 144 players. So rather than not do anything, local golfers can take a chance and give some money to a good cause and get to play a little golf on a good course with some new playing partners.

Of course, you have to pick the right price to play. Some of the tournaments can be $300 or more (some a lot more), while some of the smaller tournaments are under $100, a pretty good price for a round of golf and likely a lunch.

So before you skip over news of just another charity tournament in the charity-rich Coachella Valley, stop and ask yourself if maybe this isn’t the right tournament, the right course and the right price to get you out on the course for a good cause.


Saturday is ‘Military Appreciation Day’ at Humana Challenge

A special tented area just for service members, called the Military Outpost, sits along the 1st teebox of the Palmer Private Course at PGA West during the PGA Tour's Humana Challenge event. On Saturday, the tournament is hosting a military appreciation day and service members can attend the tournament for free. Crystal Chatham, The Desert Sun

Saturday’s inaugural Humana Military Appreciation Day will feature a ceremony to honor members of the armed forces and their families. It will include presentations by military leaders, a color guard and a flyover of two Navy F-5s from the Naval west coast aggressor squadron VFC-13 from Naval Air Station Fallon, Nevada.

All active duty military, reserve, veterans and military retirees, along with their dependents, will receive free admission to the Humana Challenge on Saturday.

Gen. Wesley Clark, U.S. Army (Ret), Linda Hope, daughter of comedian Bob Hope, 13-time PGA Tour winner David Toms and Humana President of Government Business Tim McClain will all speak during the event.

From 1997-2000, Clark served as Supreme Allied Commander Europe. He briefly ran for President ahead of the 2004 election.

“The Humana Challenge, formerly the Bob Hope Classic, has a long history of celebrating our nation’s servicemen and women who give so much every day,” said Tim McClain, President of Humana Government Business. “Given Bob Hope’s legacy and devotion to entertaining military troops, it is fitting to dedicate a day to honoring military personnel and their families. In the end, we hope the Military Appreciation Day will have a lasting impact on all participants and continue to honor our troops.”

“Additionally, during the Humana Challenge event, the Military Warriors Support Foundation will donate a 100 percent mortgage-free home to a local veteran injured during combat. Humana-sponsored PGA TOUR golfer David Toms will be on hand to award the home, which signifies Humana’s continued commitment to the military community.”

“We at Humana are proud to honor our military personnel during an event like the Humana Challenge, which is steeped in tradition,” said Bruce Broussard, President and CEO of Humana. “We also know that our dedication to the military does not end at the Humana Challenge. In fact, our company has a long history of supporting the armed forces and their families.”

PGA TOUR events – similar to the Humana Challenge – have served as past venues for the donation of homes to Wounded Warriors. The cost of the home is funded solely through the Military Warriors Support Foundation and Chase Bank. There is no cost to the Humana Challenge or to Humana.

The Humana Challenge Military Outpost features free refreshments and climate-controlled indoor seating along the 1st hole of the Palmer Private Course at PGA West. Crystal Chatham, The Desert Sun

In addition to Saturday’s day to honor those who served, the tournament’s Military Outpost also returned this year. Active duty, reserve, and military retirees can access a special military-only tent and patio near the 1st tee of the Palmer Private Course at PGA West.

We are proud to host members of our country’s military at the Humana Military Outpost as our guests; they deserve the opportunity to have a fun and relaxing time with us while watching many of the world’s best golfers up close,” Humana Challenge Executive Director and CEO Bob Marra said.

The outpost is a private hospitality pavilion offering climate-controlled indoor seating, outdoor patio seating and complimentary refreshments.

Humana administers health coverage for approximately 3 million active duty and retired military through the TRICARE program, according to Mike McCallister, Humana’s Chairman and CEO.

Three Wounded Warriors in Humana Challenge amateur field

Former President Bill Clinton talks with wounded warrior double amputee golfer Saul Martinez on the driving range at PGA West's Palmer and Nicklaus Private Courses on Thursday, January 17, 2013 during the first day of the Humana Challenge golf tournament. Crystal Chatham, The Desert Sun

Three wounded warriors are playing in the amateur field of this week’s PGA Tour Humana Challenge golf tournament in La Quinta. Saul Martinez, Dave Romanowsky, and Matt Anderson, who are representing the Troops First Foundation, will be on the course for their third and final round in the Humana Challenge’s amateur competition.

Wounded warrior double amputee Saul Martinez works out on the driving range Thursday at PGA West.

Sgt. Saul Martinez, U.S. Army (Ret), joined the Army infantry in 2006 and was deployed to Iraq the next year as part of the surge.  He quickly became a Sergeant assigned to the Brigade Commander’s security detail.  On May 8, 2007, his vehicle was hit by a large IED, instantly killing his best friends and severely injuring Martinez.

He became a bilateral amputee who also had a traumatic brain injury. He medically retired in 2010 after three more years of active duty including regular soldier training and serving as a squad leader in a Warrior Transition Unit. He also returned to Iraq in 2011 as part of Operation Proper Exit.

During his recovery he discovered that golf was both therapeutic and relaxing.  He and his family live in Montana, where he tries to get out on the course as much as possible.

Before the opening round on Thursday, Martinez was greeted by former President Bill Clinton on the driving range at PGA West.

A 15-handicap, Martinez posted 7-under in the opening round at Nicklaus Private Course with professionals Daniel Summerhays and Roberto Castro, who is a tournament co-leader at -14 after the second round. On Friday Martinez played with Michael Bradley and Jason Bohn and shot 4-under. He is at 11-under for the tournament.

Martinez tees off Saturday at 8:50 a.m. on the 1st tee at La Quinta Country Club. He will play with professional golfers Robert Streb and Steve LeBrun.

Technical Sgt. Dave Romanowsky, U.S. Air Force (Ret), served in the Air Force for 17.5 years where he served as an intelligence operative for 12 years before switching to Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD). Before Sept. 11, 2001, Romanowky served a 12-month deployment to Kosovo. Following 9/11 he did two one-year tours in Iraq where he conducted over 1200 ground combat missions.

He worked one year as a demolition specialist for Army Special Operations and as he described “in a capacity to go and catch the bomb makers that were killing or wounding so many of my fellow troops.”

He is a recipient of the Bronze Star for Valor, Purple Heart, Army and Air Force Commendation Medals, and several Combat action medals.

Romanowsky turned to golf as a rehabilitative tool after he was wounded in action with several fractured vertebra. “I am so thankful to just be walking,” he said about his injuries which include other injuries to legs, head, and torso area with severe damage to the lung area and hearing loss in left ear. He spent roughly 4 months in the hospital and roughly 18 months doing rehabilitation in Colorado. He and his family recently moved to Dallas.

“I found that golf is not only extremely fun but acts as a great way to spend time with wife and my two children. I did play prior to being injured but now being retired from the service I’ve thrown myself into it here in Texas,” Romanowsky said.

“I look forward to the great opportunity to play in the Humana and cannot even put into words how thankful I am for the opportunity. Having been nearly killed in combat, I truly embrace everyday of life and this event is almost unbelievable to a be a part of.”

Romanowsky has been Tweeting about his trip to the Humana Challenge via his handle, @Romo9999.

In Thursday’s first round, Romanowsky played with pros Brad Fritsch and Aaron Watkins at La Quinta Country Club where he shot 3-under. Friday the airman, who is listed as an 8-handicap, posted 9-under at the Nicklaus Private Course at PGA West with Jason Kokrak and Greg Owen. He is 12-under so far in the tournament.

He tees off Saturday at 8:40 a.m. on the 10th tee of the Palmer Private Course at PGA West. He will play with professional golfers D.A. Points and Tommy Gainey. Comedian Ron White is also in his foursome.

Wounded warrior Matt Anderson shakes hands with PGA Tour player William McGirt after their foursome finished up on the18th hole at Palmer Private Course on Thursday, January 17, 2013 at the Humana Challenge. Crystal Chatham, The Desert Sun

After the September 11th attacks, Capt. Matt Anderson, U.S. Army, left college and join the military.  He enlisted as an 11B Infantryman and became a Scout/Sniper with the 25th Infantry Division shortly before deploying for a 15 month deployment to Iraq. He promoted from a Private First Class to Staff Sergeant in four years. He was selected to go to Officer Candidacy School. After finishing at #4 in his class, he voluntarily served as an assistant S-3 in planning and operations for 1-66 Armor, part of 1st Brigade, 4th Infantry Division. Later he was given command of 1st Platoon, Bravo Company. 1-66 Armor was the first Heavy Brigade Combat Team to occupy Afghanistan.  Their area of operation in the Arghandab River Valley was heavily contested and land mines were a constant threat. The Arghandab River Valley was regarded as the worst area in Afghanistan in 2010. Within the first two-and-a-half weeks, his platoon suffered 14 casualties, diminishing their manpower by half.

His platoon helped with the identification and reduction of multiple IEDs and the improvement of the infrastructure and Afghan/American sentiment within three local towns.  One night, they were tasked to secure the Arghandab River from an abandoned town that was rumored to be extensively mined by the Taliban. At 4:16 a.m. then-First Lt. Anderson stepped on the first land mine inside the compound.  The explosion shattered his heel into 13 pieces and his ankle into three pieces. He also suffered a fractured tibia, fibula, cubiod and navicular bones with extensive vascular and neurologic damage.

A few months after his injury, he learned that there was 45-pounds of ammonium nitrate explosive attached to the land mine that did not detonate, had it gone off he would not have survived the blast. Two other soldiers were injured by land mines within the same compound.

Anderson has had 24 procedures and operations on his right leg.  His leg was salvaged and with the help of a brace, he remains an active duty Army officer and was promoted to Captain.

He said he loves to compete as an athlete and perform the job that he loves. He says that his men are his inspiration to always strive to become a better leader, to work harder, and not let pain or physical limitations stop him from anything.

Anderson is a recipient of the Purple Heart and the Bronze Star.

He opened the tournament 6-under on Thursday at the Palmer Private Course of PGA West with tour pros Brian Harman and William McGirt. On Friday he played at La Quinta Country Club and played 2-under for the round with pros Ryo Ishikawa and Lucas Glover. He is listed as an 8-handicap and is currently 8-under for the tournament.

Anderson tees off Saturday at 10:30 a.m. on the 1st tee of the Nicklaus Private Course at PGA West. He will play with professional golfers Ben Kohles and Alistair Presnell. Singer Dave Brock is also in his foursome.

*Tournament officials provided biographical data for each wounded warrior.

Golf Digest’s top California courses tend to be in NorCal

Golf Digest’s list of the top 100 courses in the course, along with other lists associated with the big list, are now out. And one of those “other” lists is a list of the top 40 courses in California. If you read the list, you get the impression the voters started at the Oregon border and worked their way down the state in putting the list together.

The 17th hole of The Quarry at La Quinta, ranked 11th by Golf Digest among California golf courses (Marilyn Chung/The Desert Sun)

Four of the top five courses in the state, according to the list, are in Northern California. That would be, in order, Cypress Point (1), Pebble Beach (2), Olympic Club Lakes Course (4) and San Francisco Golf Club (5). The only SoCal course invading the top five is Riviera Country Club.

Four of the next five courses on the list are also in Northern California, with one LA Country Club’s North Course making the list at No. 6. The Coachella Valley’s first course on the list is No. 11 with The Quarry at La Quinta. The desert has nine courses in the top 40.

Okay, no one is going to argue Cyrpess Point and Pebble Beach, other than to perhaps argue which of those two great courses is better.

But the is a trend on the list that certainly tends to go against SoCal courses and in particular desert courses. Yes, the Pacific Ocean helps the courses in the Monterey Peninsula. But the courses on the top of the list tend to be older courses, big, old trees, maybe some softer conditions. Nothing that the desert can match.

And if you are looking for my personal outrage of the week, it’s that the Dinah Shore Tournament Course at Mission Hills Country Club didn’t make the top 40 in the state. It should be in the top 20 at least. But the folks at Mission Hills tend not to play the game of trying to get on the list that many of the newer courses that are popping up on the list play. But gosh, the Shore Course is such a great course, it’s hard to imagine it not being named to even just the California list.




The desert’s top 100 golf holes, or what I did on my summer vacation

When the idea of me selecting my personal top 100 golf holes in the desert came up early in the summer, and then the idea of filming a short video of each hole was bounced around, I’m not sure I understood just how much work it would be. I know for sure that’s videographer, Marilyn Chung, didn’t know how much work she would be in for.

The fruits of a summer and early fall of labor, often in the extreme humidity and the heat of the summer that nearly melted poor Marilyn a time or two, will be revealed this Sunday on the One hundred holes from across the desert will be featured with more than 60 courses allowing Marilyn and me access to their courses to film the holes I think are particularly interesting in the desert.

Recognize this famous desert hole? It the 18th green of the Dinah Shore Tournament Course at Mission Hills in Rancho Mirage (Marilyn Chung/The Desert Sun)

The criteria for the list was pretty simple. There was no criteria. This was not particularly the 100 most beautiful holes, or the 100 toughest holes. They are just, well, my holes. Holes that have in some way shape or form said something to me through the years. They might be on the list for beauty, or for difficulty. But they also might be on the list because they are kind of quirky and stand out from the crowd. Or they might be on the list because they are historic holes in the desert in some fashion.

What you will see is that even for the holes that we shot in the summer, the desert is a beautiful and compelling place for golf. The Santa Rosa and San Jacinto Mountains provide a breathtaking backdrop, but they also provide interesting opportunities for course architects to use those mountains. You will also see that the desert, at least in the hands of a talented golf architect, can be anything but flat and boring.

The holes on the list are as diverse as I could make them (understanding that some courses just never returned my call when I wanted to include them on the list). There are ultra-private courses, resort courses and daily-fee courses. There are, for the record, 25 par-3s, 22 par-5s and 53 par-4s on the list. But as a way of trying to make sure as many hidden gems in the desert made the list, we decided to limit each 18-hole course to no more than two holes on the list.

The credit for the project goes to Marilyn Chung, who not only shot the video but edited it, gave the videos styles and even produced the opening credits for each video. And Nick Bolland of our editorial online department did wonderful work in producing the pages for each video.

I’m sure I had something to do with this, but I can’t remember what now.

So please enjoy the list when it debuts on the web site over the weekend, or you can access the list directly at And if you want, please take a moment over the new few days and tweet me a comment or a suggestion of a hole you would have had on your list. After all, everyone’s list is a little different. My Twitter account is @mydesertgolf. Use the hashtag #my100holes.

Enjoy and debate.



Palm Desert girls should still smile despite rugged final tournament

It’s pretty safe to say that the ride home from the CIF girls state championship in Rancho Cucamonga was a quiet one for the Palm Desert High School team. Entering the tournament with some hope of winning the state title at Red Hill Country Club, the Aztecs instead produced one of their worst days of the year to finish fourth in the event. The 440 total team score was actually kind of shocking in how uncharacteristic it was of the team.

Looking back on the day, the players and coaches, head coach Jack Stewart and assistant Debbie Koyama,  are sure to feel like they let an opportunity slip through their golf gloves. They finished 39 shots out of first place and 20 shots out of second place and one shot out of third, but the team has to know that there were 30 more more shots that logically could have been shaved off the team’s score. Surprisingly high scores from some of the team’s players seemed unexplainable, even if you know the Red Hill course had amazingly fast greens that even had coaches shaking their heads, lots of trees and lots of elevation changes, things that aren’t usually found in the desert.

Junior Mackenzie Raim, left, and freshman Jiyoon Jang of the Palm Desert High School girls golf team on a happier day earlier this season (Wade Byers,/The Desert Sun)

But hopefully after the depression of the day disappears in a few days, the Palm Desert girls will be able to focus on the positives of the year. Like another undefeated season in the Desert Valley League. Or the fact that the team reached the state tournament for the third year in a row in a year that was supposed to be about rebuilding after losing three solid seniors from last year’s team.

And there is the fact that the Aztecs finished as the fourth-best team in the state of California. That’s alone is a remarkable statistic.

Oh, and there is this: The six players the Aztecs played in the state tournament Tuesday are all back next year. That would be four juniors and two freshmen. Not to get too far ahead of ourselves here, but some opposing coaches Tuesday (after the Aztecs had packed up and left) were talking about just how tough Palm Desert could be next year.

So for the moment there is some pain and a lot of self-questioning among the Aztecs for sure. But in the coming days and weeks, hopefully the players and coaches will understand what a special year they had, even if it ended on the wrong note.



Worst summer ever for golf?

Okay, every year someone pops up and says, gee, this is the worst summer I can remember. Every year, we think the temperatures were higher than ever before, the humidity was worse than ever, the summer lasted longer, the nights never cooled down.

Heck, if we live in the desert year-round, it is our right to complain about the weather. The people who don’t have that right are the folks who spend the summer in Seattle or Vancouver or Chicago. Because we are the ones who get to play golf in the desert heat.

That’s being said, I’ve had three people tell me in the last 24 hours that they are convinced this was the worst summer they can recall for golf in the Coachella Valley. The combination of 110-degree days and humidity that pushed dew points into the 70s was enough to drive people indoors from any outdoor activity, and that included golf.

But, as tends to happen ever year around this time, the temperatures have broken. Predictions for the next three days are that the high for the day in the desert won’t reach 90. And nighttime temperatures will reach the 60s, which is great for golf courses undergoing overseeding and want that rye grass to germinate and grow fast.

Unfortunately for desert golfers, the now-perfect golf weather comes when many courses are still closed for the overseeding period. Yes, there are a few courses that have already re-opened and there are a few courses that haven’t closed yet, waiting for the better weather. But just when you can feel that cool breeze on your cheek in the morning, there are few places you can play.

It will be another three weeks before almost every course in the desert re-opens. You might be itching to get out on the course, but for now, the break in the weather cna make you happy and get you thinking about November golf.