Golf’s Distance Debate

Golf’s Distance Debate

Many experts in the golf industry feel that the distance modern golf professionals are hitting the ball is having a negative effect on the game. For example, golf courses now must be significantly longer to challenge top players and not all facilities have the resources to make this accommodation.

​Some experts say the ball technology must be dialed back in addition to more restrictive rules on the design of clubs. Critics of this strategy make the point that the game is very difficult for the average player and therefore dialing back the equipment is unfair to the average player and will hurt the growth of the game.

As a result, some are in favor of having two sets of rules regarding equipment for elite players and average players. While I am not opposed to the concept of having separate rules for professionals and elite level amateurs, it gets very complicated when deciding where to draw the line and what restrictions should be put in place.

Perhaps the simplest and most logical suggestion I have heard so far came from six-time major champion, Sir Nick Faldo. He posed the question “what would happen if players were not allowed to tee the ball up?”.

​Rule 6.2 covers playing the ball from the tee area and states in part “the ball must be played from either: a tee placed in or on the ground, or the ground itself.” What if a local rule could be adopted that required players to play the ball from the ground when teeing off? In my opinion, this would significantly reduce the distance that current players achieve from the teeing ground with a modern ball and a modern driver. One of the secrets to achieving these distances is to strike the ball while the club is traveling level to the ground or slightly on the upswing while simultaneously contacting the ball at or just above the center of the club face. This type of impact produces high launch/low spin conditions which maximizes distance.

​With the ball on the ground, players would need to hit slightly down on the ball, with more loft, to achieve the most consistent results. To do this, the player would give up maximum distance.

​For tournament organizers wishing to dial back driving distances, it seems to me this would be a great place to start. This would eliminate the need for new rules about ball or club specifications or what is or is not confirming equipment. Players could still use any club they want to, but most would end up teeing off with a fairway wood or with a specially designed driver with a smaller head and more loft than they would use when allowed to tee the ball up.

​In recreational or club level competitions, organizers would have the option of not invoking this rule and allowing players to place their ball on the tee. Unlike dialing back, the balls or clubs, the average golfer is left unaffected.

2023 PGA WORKS Collegiate Championship at Bent Brook

2023 PGA WORKS Collegiate Championship at Bent Brook

The Bent Brook family is thrilled to announce our participation in the 2023 PGA Works Collegiate Championship. Heralded as the most culturally significant championship in collegiate golf, the PWCC features golfers from Historically Black Colleges and Universities and other Minority Serving Institutions. In conjunction with Shoal Creek Club, Bent Brook will co-host over 200 athletes from diverse backgrounds all over the country. The PWCC has a long-standing tradition of opening doors to the game of golf and impacting the lives of the participating student athletes and Bent Brook is excited to be a part of that effort as we share our course with these players. We invite you to read the entire press release below.

FRISCO, Texas (May 17, 2022) – The PGA of America today announced that Shoal Creek Club and Bent Brook Golf Course, both outside Birmingham, Alabama, will host the 2023 PGA WORKS Collegiate Championship (PWCC), May 8-10. 

The PWCC, the most culturally significant championship in collegiate golf, features Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) and other Minority Serving Institutions (MSI) from all over the country. More than 200 student-athletes representing approximately 30 teams, along with 52 individuals, will compete in five divisions. 

The PWCC was founded in 1986 by the National Negro Golf Association when HBCUs did not have the same postseason opportunities as other institutions. Today, the Championship retains its founding vision to open doors for student-athletes from HBCUs and MSIs as well as other athletes from diverse backgrounds.

“The PWCC is an influential Championship that goes beyond the golf course, so it is important to the PGA of America that we have a host site that understands its importance in collegiate golf and its long-term effects on these student-athletes,” PGA CEO Seth Waugh said. “Shoal Creek and Bent Brook fit the bill, and we are excited to head to Alabama where the athletes, the Championship and venues can be showcased.”

In conjunction with the PWCC, PGA WORKS will host Beyond the Green, a career-exploration event designed to educate and inspire talent from historically underrepresented backgrounds to pursue careers in the golf industry and to understand the important role golf can play in their careers overall. The event will be held May 7, 2023.

In addition to providing a first-class venue for the PWCC, Shoal Creek and its membership have committed to helping support the PGA WORKS HBCU Golf Scholarship endowment, with 50% of those funds staying in Alabama. The PGA WORKS HBCU Golf Scholarship endowment has been created to provide men’s and women’s golf scholarships to underfunded HBCU and MSI institutions in an effort to sustain those programs for the long-term. 

“Shoal Creek is honored to host the 2023 PWCC. We look forward to welcoming student-athletes from across the country representing HBCU and MSI men’s and women’s collegiate golf programs,” said Shoal Creek Club president Greg King. “These young men and women are tremendous ambassadors of the game and truly represent the positive impact it can have on a young person’s life. We are thrilled with the opportunity to bring such a prestigious and significant event to Shoal Creek and the great state of Alabama.”

“Alabama is home to 15 HBCUs, making it the state with the most in the country,” added Bent Brook owner Jimmy Lee. “It is an honor to join PGA WORKS and Shoal Creek in hosting the PWCC. The Bent Brook Golf Course is looking forward to welcoming all teams and student-athletes to this historic event.”

The Championship is also a point of pride for the city of Birmingham and its mayor, who graduated from Morehouse College, an HBCU in Atlanta. 

“We’re proud to host the 2023 PGA WORKS Collegiate Championship here in our city, and we’re even more proud that HBCU student-athletes will have an opportunity to compete at one of the most beautiful golf courses in our state,” said Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin. “As an HBCU graduate myself, I’m excited that the PGA and Shoal Creek are creating more inclusive spaces for minority golfers while providing scholarships to student-athletes. This is a great step in the right direction.”

Shoal Creek is a Jack Nicklaus design that opened in 1977. It has hosted the 1984 and 1990 PGA Championships, the U.S. Amateur (1986), the U.S. Junior Amateur (2008) and the U.S. Women’s Open (2018), among other events. It is currently ranked among the top courses in the U.S. by both Golf Digest and

PGA WORKS is a strategic initiative designed to diversify the golf industry’s workforce. Funded as one of the pillars of PGA REACH, the 501(c)(3) charitable foundation of the PGA of America, PGA WORKS leverages fellowships, scholarships, career exploration events, and the PGA WORKS Collegiate Championship to inspire and engage talent from all backgrounds to pursue key employment positions across the golf industry. For more information, visit   

PGA Foundation, Inc. d/b/a PGA REACH is the 501(c)(3) charitable foundation of the PGA of America. The mission of PGA REACH is to positively impact the lives of youth, military and diverse populations by enabling access to PGA Professionals, PGA Sections and the game of golf. For more information, visit and follow @PGAREACH on TwitterInstagramLinkedIn and Facebook.

Jack vs. Tiger:  Who’s the GOAT?

Jack vs. Tiger: Who’s the GOAT?

When it comes to champion golfers, who is the greatest of all time?

Granted it is difficult to compare golfers from different eras. Differences in equipment, course conditions, travel, strength of the competition, opportunities to compete etc. are all factors that make objective comparison impossible.

Historically the gold standard for comparison is a player’s record in the major championships:  The Masters, United States Open, Open Championship (aka British Open) and the PGA Championship.

By this standard, two players stand far above the rest:  Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods.

In the history of golf, only 5 men have completed the so-called “Career Grand Slam,” by winning each of these championships at least 1 time:  Gene Sarazen, Ben Hogan, Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player and Tiger Woods.

Jack and Tiger are the only players to have multiple victories in each of these championships, having won each of them at least 3 times. 

For me, the discussion of who is the greatest comes down to these 2 players, and by a narrow margin I give the nod to Jack for the following reasons:

  1. Total Major Championship Victories:  Jack has 18 to Tiger’s 15.
  2. Major Championship Runners-Up:  Jack has 19 to Tiger’s 7.

Of these 19 runners-up, Jack finished within 2 strokes of the eventual winner 13 times. By comparison Tiger has 7 career runners-up where he finished within 2 stokes 5 times.

In other words, Jack came much closer to winning a potential 4th, 5th or even 6th career grand slam.

3. Jack beat more great players in his era. 

During the period when he won all but 1 of his majors (1962-1980), Jack competed against Gary Player (who also won a career slam) plus 4 other Hall of Fame players who completed 3 legs of the grand slam: Arnold Palmer, Lee Trevino, Raymond Floyd and Tom Watson. These 5 champions won a total of 34 major championships.

During the period when Tiger dominated major championship golf (1997-2008), only one player, Phil Mickelson (6 major wins) completed 3 legs of the grand slam. 

This is my argument for Jack Nicklaus as the G.O.A.T.

Also, we must consider the possibility that Tiger is not finished.

Mickey Smith, PGA

Change the Future of Golf:  teach a kid

Change the Future of Golf: teach a kid

Everyone already knows who the next Arnold, Jack or Tiger is. It’s some young person being introduced to the game by an adult family member, coach or volunteer. Let’s face it … kids just can’t pick up golf aroud the playground and every kid that is fortunate enough to be exposed to golf is not going to be the next GOAT – or even make the PGA Tour, for that matter. Teaching young people the game a golf has value well beyond making a team or getting a scholarship. Introducing a child to golf has many outstanding benefits which include:

  • It is a sport they can enjoy for many years, perhaps the rest of their life.
  • It will provide you with an opportunity as a parent, or grandparent, to spend countless hours of quality time with your child.
  • Even if they never play competitively, at some point in their adult life your child will probably benefit from knowing how to play golf. Regardless of what career they choose opportunities to play some type of “customer golf” will likely arise. If they are unable to participate, it will not be helpful to their career.

There is no “one size fits all” approach to getting a child started in golf. Children of different ages and athletic abilities will require different strategies. In addition, not everyone has the same resources regarding time and money. Having said that, I would like to offer general advice on getting your child started.

  • Give your child the opportunity to explore golf, but do not push if there is no interest at all on their part.
  • Particularly for children ages 6 and under, you can gauge their interest with minimal investment. I would recommend going to and buying an entry level training club appropriate for your child’s height. This is a lightweight club with an oversized head to make contact with the ball easier. It also has a molded training grip and comes with limited flight golf balls that can be used in the yard. For an investment of about $50 you can get your young child off to a positive start and determine if further involvement in the game is warranted.
  • Do not over coach younger children. Focus on letting them have fun.
  • For children who show a keen interest, invest in proper equipment as your budget will allow. Perhaps the biggest mistake made in this area is having kids play with adult clubs, even if they have been cut down to appropriate lengths. If your child is using clubs that are too long and/or too heavy for them, learning proper swing mechanics will be compromised.

Once again, can be an excellent resource. They have lightweight clubs in a wide variety of lengths, fitted based on height, which will give your child an excellent chance to learn good mechanics from the outset.

Unless you are an accomplished player knowledgeable about golf, I highly recommend seeking a qualified PGA or LPGA Professional to guide your child’s development. Here at Bent Brook, we offer individual instruction for junior golfers in addition to our outstanding PGA Junior League Golf Program for both boys and girls ages 9-13.

If you would like more information or would like to ask specific questions about junior golf, please contact me at 205-424-2368 or via email at

Mickey Smith, PGA

The Flagstick:  In or Out?

The Flagstick: In or Out?

The rules of golf have changed and now allow players to leave the flagstick in the hole when putting with no penalty.  Additionally, many golf courses required golfers to keep the flagstick in the hole last year due to Covid-19 concerns.  Therefore, most golfers have gotten used to the idea of leaving it in.  

Now that most course now allow players the option once again, it begs the question:  Which is better, flagstick in or out?

Tom Mase, Ph.D, a professor of mechanical engineering at California Polytechnic State University and member of the Golf Digest Technical Panel, conducted a study to analyze the effect of the flagstick on putts.

Dr. Mase conducted his testing with college golfers and the use of a putting machine called the Perfect Putter.  A variety of flagsticks were tested rolling putts designed for center and off-center impacts.  

Putts were also rolled at a variety of speeds, designed to carry the ball anywhere from 2.5 feet to 12 feet past the holes.

For putts rolling 2.5 feet past the hole, the results showed no advantage or disadvantage to leaving the flagstick in.

For putts rolling 4.5 feet past the hole, all putts hitting dead-center went in, with or without the flagstick.  However, leaving the flagstick had a negative effect on off-center putts.  The number of putts made without the flagstick was double the number made with it left in.

All dead-center putts went in, with or without the flagstick, even when rolled hard enough to go up to 8 feet past the hole.  Leaving the flagstick in was only beneficial for putts rolling between 9 and 12 feet past the hole.

Others have hypothesized that leaving the flagstick in on long putts would provide a visual benefit.  The testing conducted by Dr. Mase with elite college players on this hypothesis was inconclusive.

While further and perhaps more in-depth studies on this subject will likely be done, this data suggests the following strategy on the greens:

If you face a long, fast putt where there is a risk of rolling the ball way past and you are content to 2-putt, Ieaving the flagstick in is probably a good idea.  However, on any putt you are trying to hole, you should take the flagstick out or have it attended.

Looking Back on 33 Years, 27 Holes

Looking Back on 33 Years, 27 Holes

When I think of words that accurately describe Bent Brook Golf Course, two words immediately come to mind:  quality and innovation.

Back on the late 1980’s our owner, James C. Lee III, had a vison of a golf course that was open to the general public but provided a playing experience that was comparable to a private country club. Bent Brook Golf Course embodies that vision.

As a public course we do not feature all the amenities of a private club such as tennis, swimming, and formal dining. Instead our focus is strictly on golf and to provide our patrons with the best course conditions of any public in the greater Birmingham area.

From our beginning in the fall of 1988, our bent grass greens and 27-hole design made us stand out from the competition. At that time, public courses with bent grass were nonexistent in Birmingham and extremely rare in the south. The combination of summer heat and higher play volume make it incredibly challenging to maintain quality bent grass putting surfaces at a southern public course. Our 27-hole layout allows us to spread the added play out, thus reducing the wear and tear on each green.

Our legacy of quality and innovation continues to this day. In recent years we have completely renovated the course with new bunkering and the installation of AU Victory bent grass, a revolutionary grass that withstands summer heat much better that previous varieties. Two prominent private clubs in our area, Shoal Creek and Vestavia, were so impressed with our greens that they decided to use AU Victory with their renovations.

In 2018 we also added numerous new tees, to shorten the course instead of lengthening it, to make Bent Brook more enjoyable for golfers of all ages, genders, and ability levels.

The final stages of extensive improvements to the Windmill nine on holes 6-8 are taking shape as we wait on Mother Nature to work her magic.  

“Biarritz” Green is as Hard as it Sounds

“Biarritz” Green is as Hard as it Sounds

As I noted in a previous post, architect Charles Blair MacDonald got the inspiration for most of his of template holes from golf courses in the British Isles.  The Biarritz is an exception to that rule.

The name comes from the par 3 third hole at the original Biarritz le Phare Golf Club in southwestern France.  It was designed by prominent English golf professional and course designer Willie Dunn Jr. in 1888.  Sadly this hole, which was known as “the chasm” no longer exists.  It was damaged during World War II and a hotel was later built on the original site.

Typically features of a Biarritz hole include:

  • A long par 3 hole with a large green.
  • The green is bisected by a deep swale and protected by bunkers on both sides.
  • It gives the golfer options such as playing a high soft shot or a low running shot.
  • The key to success is placing your approach shot on the correct portion of the green to avoid playing through the swale.

Perhaps the most famous version of this green in America is the 9th hole at the Yale University Golf Course. It was designed by McDonald in the early 1920’s and is widely regarded as the finest collegiate golf course in the nation.

Bent Brook’s version of the Biarritz is the new 7th hole on the Windmill nine.  As with our other templates, architect John B. LaFoy has done an outstanding job of creating a challenging but playable version of this famous hole.

The green is massive, measuring 52 yards from front to back and over 11,000 square feet.  The swale that bisects the green, while prominent, is not as severe as other versions.  With five different tees and such a large green, this hole can play anywhere from 85 yards to 275 yards.

To the best of our knowledge this is the only Biarritz green in the state of Alabama and we are excited to provide our patrons with the unique challenges of this iconic design.

Mickey Smith

Director of Golf

The “Redan” Hole, Windmill

The “Redan” Hole, Windmill

In a previous post I introduced you to Charles Blair MacDonald the “father of American golf course architecture” and the concept of template holes.  Today we will go into more detail about the Redan hole, which is probably the most famous and most copied of the template holes.

The original Redan hole is #15 at North Berwick Golf Club in Scotland. A British military officer who served in the Crimean War is credited with giving this famous hole its name.  He said it reminded him of fortresses or “redans” he had encountered.

Typically features of a Redan green include:

  • It angles diagonally from front right to back left
  • The back of the green slopes right to left and away from the direction of play.
  • It is protected by a large, deep bunker on the left side.  Other bunkers may be placed both short and long on the right side of the green.
  • The approach shot is played uphill with at least a portion of the green hidden from the player.

C.B. McDonald himself said, “take a narrow tableland, tilt it a little from right to left, dig a deep bunker on the front side, approach it diagonally and you have a Redan.”

The first Redan hole built in America is #4 at National Golf Links of America and was designed by McDonald.  Perhaps the most famous redan hole in America is #7 at Shinnecock Hills which has hosted numerous United States Open Championships.

Bent Brook’s version of the Redan is #6 on the Windmill Nine.  It features the typical large bunker left of the green with three smaller bunkers on the right.  The front portion of the green slopes toward the fairway with the back portion sloping right to left and away from the fairway.

Architect John B. LaFoy has done an outstanding job of creating a version of this famous hole that is less severe and more “playable” than the original while still providing an excellent challenge.

Mickey Smith
Director of Golf

The Space Between Your Ears

The Space Between Your Ears

It has been said by many professional golfers, that the most important distance in golf is the six inches between your ears. I agree completely. Training or changing the way you think about yourself and your golf game, could be the door opener to take your game to the next threshold.

There is a lot of talk about sports psycholog these days. Is it worth it? Is it important? Is it a waste of time? It is my belief that it is terribly important. In life and certainly in golf,  self deprecation can become normal and comfortable. It becomes a safety blanket from success. When you give yourself negative self talk you train yourself to fail. When you tell yourself you can’t, you won’t! Our minds are extremely powerful. But also very fragile. That being said, it is important to be mindful of what we tell ourselves about ourselves.

Obviously you can not simply cheerlead yourself to victory in golf and in life. You have to do the work. In golf that means many things. It means you must practice your swing. You must work on your strength and flexibility. Your putting, your chipping, bunker play, and so on…. But the best of the best separate themselves from the rest by mastering the gray matter between their ears. Tiger Woods, Jack Nicklaus are masters of this. As are countless other athletes in many other sports.

As stated before, sports psychology and positive self talk will not make you a winner all by itself. There is no substitute for hard work on your craft. But, it is part of your craft. Some people are very good at training their minds all by themselves. Some people need the help of a professional. But whether a person is mentally strong all by themselves, or with the help and experience of others… Make no mistake, the cream of the crop are strong mentally.

The good news is anyone can get better between the ears. Much like we can all be better physically. The first thing that needs to be done is to personally asses your own ability to control your “golf attitude”. How good are you at not beating yourself up? How much do you self deprecate? How long do you hold on to the feelings of a poor shot?? There is nothing wrong with expecting a lot of one’s self. But there is a fine line between what is helping you get better and what is causing you to get worse. So give yourself a check-up. Then attempt to make some changes on your own. Just like working on yourself from a physical standpoint or golf swing standpoint, you may need the help of a professional. You may not. But either way, if you are truly trying to get better at this amazing game, you better pay attention to the six inches between your ears.