Sunday, December 24, 2006

Whose the Richest of Them All?

Mirror, mirror on the wall, whose the richest of them all?

I have just come into possession of the golf club equivalent of Snow White's mirror and it is very revealing regarding the U.S. based courses on the world top 100. The list shows the assets on the balance sheet of the top courses in the U.S. Unfortunately, the mirror only works for clubs in the United States so we can't do a complete world ranking. You can let your breath out now over at the R & A and Honourable Company, your secrets are still safe!

Pine Valley and Cypress Point may be #1 and #2 in the world rankings, but The Olympic Club of San Francisco puts them to shame in the asset department. The Olympic Club boasts $122 million in assets on its balance sheet. It exceeds the next richest club by almost a factor of four, with Congressional Country Club coming in at $31 million. Southern Hills in Oklahoma at #5 with $22 million? Things seem to be going pretty well in the in the oil patch these days!

After some detective work and sleuthing I found this interesting information. Most golf clubs in the U.S. are organized as non-for-profit enterprises. As such, they are required to file information with the US government each year and it is publicly available information if you know where to look. The list above excludes municipally or corporate-owned entities such as Bethpage Black, World Woods, Pinehurst and Pebble Beach. Sand Hills was too new to be included in the list.

Augusta is excluded from the analysis because it was formed as a Georgia corporation from its inception. Since their intent from the beginning was to host the Invitational Tournament as it was called, they (correctly) figured it made more sense. Little did they know it was a good thing too, since Martha Burke and her PC crew would have created a bigger stir if it was a non-profit entity.

The asset values listed also exclude the current market value of the land the courses are on, which in some cases would be in the mid-eight-digit range.

Just like trying to get on the course, some of the clubs did a good job of making it very difficult to obtain the above information (Pine Valley, Seminole, The National Golf Links, Baltusrol, Medinah, Merion, Shoreacres and Inverness). But, like trying to play the course, my persistence paid off and I was able to obtain it after jumping through an additional layer of red tape.

The list is below:

1. Olympic Club $122 million
2. Congressional C.C. $31 million
3. Medinah $29 million
4. Brookline $24 million
5. Southern Hills $22 million
6. Baltimore $22 million
7. Winged Foot $20 million
8. East Lake $20 million
9. Merion $20 million
10. Los Angeles C.C. $18 million
11. Baltusrol $15.5 million
12. Oak Hill $15 million
13. Scioto $13 million
14. Oakmont $11 million
15. Pine Valley $11 million
16. Garden City $10 million
17. Wade Hampton $10 million
18. Inverness $10 million
19. Maidstone $9 million
20. Cypress Point $9 million
21. Prairie Dunes $9 million
22. Seminole $8.8 million
23. Muirfield Village $8 million
24. Fishers Island $7 million
25. Shinnecock $6.8 million
26. The Valley Club of Montecito $6.5 million
27. San Francisco $6 million
28. Peachtree $6 million
29. Quaker Ridge $5 million
30. The Golf Club $5 million
31. Chicago Golf Club $5 million
32. Shoreacres $5 million
33. Camargo Club $4.4 million
34. Somerset Hills $4.3 million
35. Crystal Downs C.C. $3.5 million
36. National Golf Links of America $2 million

When you think about it the list isn't that surprising. Those clubs that are low key and don't host championships generally have a smaller balance sheet. Those at the top of the list are generally larger clubs, host major championships and are in large metropolitan areas. If you ever wondered why courses let the U.S.G.A. or P.G.A. take over for six months and disrupt the club and environs, here's one of your reasons why.

The only club that I could not obtain the information for was Oakland Hills. They have apparently found a way to keep this information away from nosey fools such as myself. And, I still haven't been able to play the course.

To them, I say, touché. Our golf hats off to you. Well done, boys.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Top 100 Golfer Podcast

Top 100 Golfer had the opportunity recently to be interviewed by Fred Greene who operates a golf podcast, which is the #1 amateur sports podcast in the world.

Click below to listen to the interview which runs about 30 minutes. Once the main screen appears click on List of Podcasts and you will see the interview.

Top 100 Golfer Interview

You can listen to the interview either on your PC or download it from the iTunes Store download section.

Hopefully, I didn't give away too many secrets during the interview.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Inverness Club

18th hole and Inverness clubhouse at dusk

As I was driving from Detroit Metro Airport to Toledo, Ohio a friend called me on my cell phone. He asked where I was and I told him and started laughing with joy. He thought I should be in a rubber-padded room being excited about driving between two rust-belt cities. Obviously he's not a golf fanatic.

Playing the top 100 has really given me a new perspective on life. Yes, I am truly excited to travel to Detroit and Toledo to play great golf. It really has forced me to have a more open mind. The Inverness Club (ranked #58 in the world) is located in a lovely neighborhood of Toledo not far from the University of Toledo.

Inverness is a Donald Ross gem originally designed in 1919. The course has been changed over the years by Arthur Hills and Tom Fazio as well. Byron Nelson served as the pro at Inverness at one time. Inverness has played host to six major championships - the U.S. Open in 1920, 1931, 1957 and 1979 and the P.G.A. Championship in 1986 and 1993. It also hosted the U.S. Amateur in 1973 won by Craig Stadler. Although the winners of the Opens at Inverness are not exactly household names (Edward Ray, Dick Mayer, Hale Irwin and Billy Burke) it is unquestionably a championship golf course.

If I had to sum up Inverness in two words: small greens. Inverness has the smallest greens of any golf course I have ever played. Almost every green is a postage stamp green.

The approach to the 2nd green

Not only is each green very small, but the predominant design feature of the course is well guarded greens with narrow openings that require accurate approaches. Each green has either mounds on both sides or bunkers with high lips as you can see in the pictures above and below. It is a fairly easy driving course, with wide fairways. The trick at Inverness is getting on the greens in regulation. It requires very precise iron play.

Approach to 8th green

I liked the layout and routing at Inverness. I especially liked the 7th hole, which is the #1 handicap. You play your tee shot from an elevated tee. The ideal tee shot favors the right side of the fairway, but in shades of Carnoustie, you have to flirt with a burn that snakes subtly throughout the entire course. The second shot is straight uphill and really favors an approach from the right as opposed to left side of the fairway since a big sycamore tree sits at the top of a plateau protecting the green.

The approach to the 7th green

As is customary in Ross's designs, Inverness has its fair share of holes with shaved areas around the small greens such as the one below on the 4th hole.

The 4th green

Sorry to disappoint, but no jokes about Toledo. It seems like a perfectly nice middle-America city to me. I very much enjoyed playing Inverness, although I didn't hit many of the greens in regulation. Inverness is another good example of how technology is ruining tournament golf. This gem of a course can no longer host professional tournaments because technology has made it too short, which is a shame.

Inverness is a private club and you are required to play with a member.