Planning (too far?) ahead

The five families of golf release an optimistic fall schedule, and we pick out some things we like and don’t like


What’s the quote about the light at the end of the tunnel and the train? Anyway, golf’s governing bodies released a tentative new schedule on Monday morning. Let’s dive right in and see if we can strike a balance between hope and caution.

The Storylines

The 2020 golf schedule (for now)

Golf’s “five families” have always had to work together on the annual schedule, but the COVID-19 pandemic has forced them to collaborate even more intensively. Two days ago we got our first clear look at the negotiations. The PGA Tour, USGA, R&A, PGA of America, and Augusta National announced their planned changes to the rest of the 2020 golf schedule. The highlights:

  • ANGC has claimed November 12-15 for The Masters. ESPN’s Bob Harig reported that the field will be locked at 96 players, and anyone who wins a PGA Tour event in the rest of 2020 will receive a 2021 invitation.
  • The second edition of the Augusta National Women’s Amateur has been canceled. Invited players will be invited again in 2021 but must retain their amateur status in order to participate.
  • The PGA Championship has been rescheduled for August 6-9, and the venue is still TPC Harding Park.
  • The U.S. Open is shooting for September 17-20 at Winged Foot.
  • The 149th Open will not take place in 2020. Instead, Royal St. George’s will host the championship in 2021, and the 150th edition of the Open will take place at St. Andrews in 2022.
  • The PGA Tour could potentially slide events into the dates previously occupied by the U.S. Open, the Open, and the Olympics.
  • The Ryder Cup is still slated for September 25-27, 2020, at Whistling Straits.

This is the most news we’ve had out of the golf world in quite some time. Some of it we like, some of it we don’t. Let’s discuss.

Like: the idea of a November Masters

Assuming the COVID-19 crisis winds down this summer, a November Masters would be a delight. Fall temperatures would presumably make the course play a bit longer, and turf experts believe the playing surfaces would resemble those of an April Masters.

Dislike: a lack of clarity from the PGA Tour

With June and July majors already canceled, it was odd that the PGA Tour said nothing about its tournaments currently scheduled for the end of May. As far as we know, the Tour plans to return on May 22 at Colonial. At best, unlikely. At worst, irresponsible. Yes, the event is a month and a half away, but no one should be peddling the illusion that fans will be able to attend.

Dislike: the notion of a traveling golf tour anytime soon

Things may change drastically over the next few months, but right now, the idea of players flying from city to city in the midst of a pandemic seems preposterous. The MLB is reportedly planning to hole up all 30 teams in Arizona and eliminate mound visits, but somehow the Tour is going to have its players and caddies and officials flying all around the country? Will there be a fleet of chartered jets or something? If not, the risks—not to mention the bad optics—would be hard to justify.

Like: the packed fall slate

If played as planned, the fall schedule is going to be insane. Just look at September. The PGA Tour finishes the FedEx Cup Playoffs on September 7. Ten days later, the U.S. Open starts. The week after that? The damn Ryder Cup. And don’t forget that college football and the NFL could be getting underway at the same time! After nearly a month of no live sports, this sounds like a lot of fun.

Dislike: the packed fall slate

The denser the schedule gets, the less juice each individual event may have. Part of what makes the majors and the Ryder Cup so exciting is the run-up, the long period of anticipation and speculation. We may lose some of that this fall. Plus, the players will probably be unbelievably tired by the time the Masters comes around in November. The savvy ones will prioritize, perhaps forgoing some FedEx cash in favor of prestige.

That said, all of these would be decidedly good problems to have.

Ehhhhh: golf schedule news in general right now

The next two weeks are going to be difficult. The death toll from COVID-19 will continue to rise, as will unemployment. Perhaps golf’s governing bodies could have just sat on their press releases for a bit. Until the medical community can give more confident projections, none of us will have any idea when pro sports can reopen for business. Sure, we love dreaming about fall major championships and appreciate having something to look forward to, but our excitement has to be tempered by doubt right now. Let’s wait and see how things look in May.

The Must-Sees of Public Golf Architecture in America

Santa Anita Golf Course (Arcadia, California)


Built on the former site of the famed Santa Anita race tracks, Santa Anita Golf Course was a WPA project, finished in 1935. The architect was little-known James Harrison (J.H.) Smith, who dealt with the flat race track by pushing a whole lot of dirt around. The result was a rumpled playground that offers surprises left and right. Unlike many manufactured courses, Santa Anita  has its most interesting landforms down the middle of the playing corridors rather than along the edges. There are lots of random lies, blind shots, and fun variety. While the entire course is compelling, the back nine is a cut above. Standout holes include the short par-4 10th, the Redan 12th, and the rollercoaster 18th.

Insider tip: The slope on No. 12 is from the old turn on the Santa Anita race track. For more on the history behind the course, check out Geoff Shackelford and Tommy Naccarato’s excellent article in Issue 3 of McKellar Magazine. -Andy Johnson

Photo credit: Andy Johnson

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Winged Foot Golf Club in the fall – Andy Johnson took a trip to Winged Foot last October and captured some footage of what a fall U.S. Open could look like. It’s nice. Real nice.

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This Wednesday episode begins with some brief news on Bryson releasing a fancy video with his Masters scripting despite the fact that there is no Masters this week. We also discuss the Masters field being finalized right now at 96 players, even though the tournament will not be played until November. Then our SGS Spotlight focuses on Fred Couples. We dive into his upbringing in a middle class neighborhood in Seattle, learning to play at a local muni, and eventually working his way to Houston. His two Players wins, his Masters victory, and his peak years as the world No. 1 force are given the treatment. We also review the critiques from his contemporaries about his apathy, absentmindedness, and aversion to practicing. His struggles, both with tragedy in his personal life and with his injured back, are also discussed as consistent themes that kept popping up in research. This was an enjoyable one on Boom Boom aka Mr. Skins aka the Czar of the Silly Season. Listen on iTunes, Stitcher, and Spotify.

Pro Shop

Our friends at Bixby Coffee teamed up with Andy and Brendan to create a Shotgun Start blend. It’s really powering us through these tough times. Check it out today!