Being a golf writer comes with a lot of advantages, one of which is access. Specifically, course access. We spend the most of our weeks slumped over our computers. But what about those golden media days? This is your opportunity to tee it up like the pros.
That’s how I ended up in the Sandhills of North Carolina earlier this week on a quick excursion. The resort opened its doors to the media for a preview day ahead of the U.S. Women’s Open, which will be held in Pine Needles this summer. It was impossible for me to ignore it.
Typically, you’ll be partnered with other members of the media and spend an afternoon hitting and laughing your way around the course. This, I imagined, would be the same. But then when I met my cart partner, a local newspaper reporter, he gave me some juicy information.
“You know we’re playing with the guy who redesigned this place?”
Oh, hell yeah.
This adventure took on a whole new level of curiosity. It’s not every day that you get to golf with the man who created the ground beneath your feet. Plus, if one of my shots hit a well-placed bunker, I’d be able to direct my complaints right to the source.
Enter Kyle Franz.
The 40-year-old is regarded as one of the most promising young architects in the field of golf course design. On the renovation of Pinehurst No. 2 and the shaping of Pacific Dunes, he collaborated with Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw. He’s on the cutting edge of his field. But here’s the issue about Franz’s weapons: they’re seriously outdated.
He played the first hole with a Callaway Big Bertha Warbird that is older than I am (really), and the second hole with a Ping 5-wood that was last manufactured during the Reagan era.
Franz used a TaylorMade Burner 2-iron from his high school days when he wanted to take it easy off the tee, and Titleist DCIs from the early 2000s for his approach approaches. His clubs have passed the voting and drinking ages and are now in the stage of life where they want to settle down and start a family. These babies have seen better days.
As someone who grew up with a limited budget for equipment, I know better than to evaluate someone just on the basis of their clubs. But Franz’s setup belonged to a golfer who hadn’t touched his clubs in a decade, not to someone as well-known in the profession as he.
After just a few holes, I asked as to what was the deal with Franz’s approach.
He explained, “There’s actually a good reason for it, In the 1920s and 30s when these courses were built, the typical professional golfer hit it about 245 to 260 yards or so. And I hit 90s clubs about the exact same distance across the board.”
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