Yes, it’s a troubled world. Rampant unemployment, partisan bickering, overpopulation—and that’s just the Kardashians. The good news: Now is the best time ever to love golf. A new rivalry has begun on Tour, high-tech toys are lifting your game to greater heights, and Tiger Woods has never been more fascinating. How do we love golf at this very moment? Let us count the ways.
No. 36: TIGER HAS NEVER BEEN MORE FASCINATING
By age 34, Tiger Woods had won 71 Tour events, including 14 majors, and was destined to surpass 18 majors, the standard set by Jack Nicklaus. That inevitability is gone. Every time we watch Woods play, we wonder: Is he still Tiger? Is the magic still there? There’s more suspense now, and it makes Woods more interesting than ever. When he won at Bay Hill this year, his red shirt looked even redder. “He’s back!” we said. Then he fell flat at the Masters. He’s not back. But he won the Memorial, complete with a flop-shot hole-out for the ages. Back! Then he led the U.S. Open through 36 holes and crumpled over the weekend. Not back! A similar narrative played out at the British Open and the PGA . So it goes. Tiger’s new unpredictability—and a jarring vulnerability we saw when he fluffed a chip at Olympic and dodged his own bunker shot at Royal Lytham—makes him more human than when he was winning the U.S. Open by 15 strokes. At his best, Woods still makes golf louder, brighter, more impactful. To me, he calls to mind not Jack Nicklaus but Jack Nicholson in About Schmidt. The guy can’t stand to be around his wife, but upon her sudden death becomes a blubbering mess, as if she’d been his reason for living all along. It’s like that for us with Woods. I used to have reservations about covering a guy who was so openly disdainful of the media. But man, those were some good times. —Cameron Morfit
No. 35: THIS YEAR’S RYDER CUP SHOULD BE EPIC
Too often, the Ryder Cup is like an Ocean’s Eleven sequel—great cast, weak story. Three of the last four matches have been blowouts, by Cup standards. Not this year. Not only is Tiger kinda-sorta Tiger again, but Rory McIlroy has awakened from a mini-slump. And at press time, nine of the world’s top 10 players were Medinah-bound: five for Team USA , four for the Euros. To paraphrase 1999 skipper Ben Crenshaw (complete with knowing finger wag), “We have a good feeling about this.”
No. 34: HIGH-TECH DRIVERS HELP YOU HIT IT LIKE A TOUR PRO
Whipsaw shafts. High-MOI titanium faces. Slice-busting adjustability. Today’s space-age drivers are so high-tech, Steve Jobs could have conjured them. Remember the ’90s when you used thimble-headed metal woods? Remember the ’80s when woods actually were wood? Today, players of all abilities are hitting it longer and straighter than ever. In a recent ShotLink experiment we conducted on the par-4 18th at Doral Resort’s Blue Monster, 57 weekend warriors (average handicap: 17.1) hit almost as many fairways (44 percent vs. 47 percent) and fewer balls in the water than did a comparable number of Tour pros during the WGC-Cadillac Championship. Off the tee, the gap between you and the world’s best players has never been smaller.
No. 33: TWITTER BRINGS FANS AND PLAYERS CLOSER TOGETHER
The addictive social networking service (500 million users daily) has given Tour pros and Average Joes a direct line of communication, 140 characters per pop. And it’s more versatile than a rescue club, whether you want to get a tip from Hank or Butch, or keep tabs on Keegan Bradley’s viewing habits. Three of our favorite Tweets:
“You know what time it is...... C O F F E E E E E E E E E E E E E.” —Webb Simpson (>@webbsimpson1a)
“Turning on the tv in England and Fresh prince of Bel Air is on. Gonna be a good week.”
—Keegan Bradley (@keegan_bradley)
“Giraffes make you smile for some reason”
—Ian Poulter (@ianjamespoulter)
No. 32: GOLF CHANNEL’S HOLLY SONDERS (pictured)
No. 31: CUSTOMIZING YOUR GEAR IS EASIER THAN EVER
Want to play orange-tinted irons like Rickie? Personal touches were once reserved for the pros, but no more. Vokey Wedge Works (vokey.com/wedgeworks) personalizes your wedges, Callaway’s “Udesign” (udesignu.callawaygolf.com) blasts color onto your Razr Fit Driver, and Scotty Cameron’s Custom Shop (scottycameron.com) can add hues, logos and initials to your flatstick. So now’s the time, Slugger, to finally get your nickname stamped on your lucky club.
No. 30: THIS EXISTS
Behold the Golfer’s Beer Tap (pictured), which holds 48 ounces of suds, fits most golf bags—and is almost impossible for your course’s “No Outside Coolers” cops to spot. ($47, groomsday.com)
No. 29: R.I.P. SILLY SEASON
Thanks to a revamped Tour schedule, beginning in 2013 the new season kicks off with October’s Fall Series, ending the eight-week snooze-fest from late October through New Year’s.
No. 28: YOU CAN FOLLOW IN TRAVELIN’ JOE’S FOOTSTEPS! (And Win a free trip to Hawaii worth $10,000)
Travelin ’ Joe isn’t the only lucky soul who gets to visit exotic golf locations for free. Here’s your chance to follow in his footsteps. If you’d like a chance to play in the pro-am at the Champions Tour’s Mitsubishi Electric Championship at Hualalai in January 2013, tell us in 100 words or less why this would be your dream trip. The winner receives round-trip airfare for two to Hawaii, four nights at the Four Seasons Resort Hualalai on the Big Island of Hawaii, one slot in the event’s pro-am, two VIP passes for the hospitality tent, and a gift bag. That’s an estimated $10,000 value! The winner will write a story for Golf.com about his or her experience in the event. Do you have the “write” stuff? Click here to enter!
No purchase necessary. “Hawaii Dream Trip” contest begins on 12:01 am (ET ) on Sept. 15, 2012, and ends at 11:59 pm (ET ) on Oct. 15, 2012. Open to legal U.S. residents, age 18 or older, in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Void where prohibited by law. For official rules and instructions on how to enter, go to Golf.com/Dreamtrip.
No. 27: BANDON DUNES
There’s a truism that savvy travelers hold dear: The accessibility of a resort is inversely proportional to its quality. Resorts that are close to downtown—take Doral Resort in Miami—frequently offer courses that make golfers wish they’d ventured farther afield. It’s only fair, then, that those who trek to Bandon Dunes on the remote southwest coast of Oregon get their just reward.
Golfers travel to Bandon for on-course thrills, not off-course frills. The rooms are comfortable if spartan. The food is unspectacular. But the golf? It’s a Bacchanalian feast. Pacific Dunes is the top-ranked public-access course in America, beating Pebble Beach by a mile, while the other three layouts—Bandon Dunes, Bandon Trails and Old Macdonald—rank in the top 15 in Golf Magazine’s Top 100 You Can Play.
The resort’s newest addition, Bandon Preserve, opened in May. It’s a 13-hole par-3 course best enjoyed with buddies, beers and bets.
And that’s the essence of Bandon: the intersection of engaging design, quirky bounces, wild weather, good friends and undiluted fun. This resort isn’t close to anywhere, but it’s as much enjoyment as golfers can find this side of Ballybunion.–Eamon Lynch
No. 26: KEVIN NA IS ONE OF US
He’s slow, like us. He gets yippy, like us. He makes the odd double-snowman (the 2011 Texas Open). In other words, Kevin Na suffers, making him a rarity: a Tour winner we can relate to.
No. 25: OLD SWEATERS NEVER DIE
Your old cardigan? It’s baa-aaack. Drag it out of the attic and wear it with the right shirt, says Rebecca Frey, a stylist and owner of Seek New York (seeknewyorkllc.com). “The trick is to pair your shirt with the nonprimary color of your sweater. Got a brown sweater with blue diamonds? Choose a shirt with navy stripes. If your argyle is gray with yellow diamonds, wear a shirt with yellow in the print. Golfers are creative with their shots. Why not be creative with your clothes, too?”
No. 24: MY PRO TO GO WILL CHANGE THE WAY YOU IMPROVE
Now you can get a customized lesson from a top pro no matter where you are. To learn how, visit the website.
No. 23: NATALIE GULBIS
Her 2012 fashion choices have turned more heads than a chiropractor.
No. 22: EVEN THE SHOES ARE HIGH-TECH
Freddie started a trend when he slipped on a pair of street-style Eccos at the 2010 Masters. Today, numerous shoemakers offer a tennis/golf-shoe hybrid. Even Tiger is wearing them. Many new Ecco models (above) feature a technology called “pre-molded traction bars,” which provides great stability and comfort on the course, not to mention a casual look off the course. Nike says that its TW ’13 has a “dynamic fit that extends from footbed to eyelets for 360 degrees of adaptive lockeddown fit.” Our takeaway? Eighteen holes may still be tough on your head, but it’s never been easier on your feet.
No. 21: THE FAB FORE
True, when the Golf Boys crooned, “Tweet tweet, I want my birdies all day long” in their debut video, they made the Monkees sound like Mozart. But we tip our visor to Rickie Fowler, Ben Crane, Hunter Mahan and Bubba Watson. This faux boy band not only raised money for charity, they did what Tour stars rarely do: Had fun and connected with fans. We await your next hit single, lads. (Suggested titles: “Norwegian 3-Wood,” “When I Shoot 64,” “Baby, You Can Drive My Cart.”)
No. 20: YOU CAN PLAY THE “OTHER PEBBLE” FOR $46
After a ho-hum start, Pacific Grove’s back nine ushers you to the British Isles, with inventive seaside holes traversing towering sand hills. The views are Pebblecaliber, but at a 90 percent discount. ($25-$46; 831-648-5775, pggolflinks.com)
No. 19: JASON DUFNER HAS PERFECTED THE WAGGLE
“Before I started golf, I played a lot of baseball, and when I was in the batter’s box I moved the bat a lot while waiting for a pitch. At address in golf, I still like the feeling of movement, which seems more natural than being static. I’m consistent—seven, eight or nine waggles per shot—but I don’t think about that. I just look at the target and envision my shot. The waggle also helps me stay loose and appear calm. Inside there’s more going on, but outwardly I look oblivious to the situation. It’s not something I practice. When I’m out there, I’m not trying to look cool. I’m trying to win a tournament.”
—Two-time Tour winner Jason Dufner
No. 18: THERE'S AN UPSIDE TO THE DOWN ECONOMY
The economic downturn has opened once-locked private-club doors. Seven Canyons, a Tom Weiskopf design in Sedona, Ariz., couples a creative layout with stunning visuals, like its massive amphitheaters of red rocks. The club formerly charged a cool $175,000 for a membership, but you can play it today for as little as $50. ($50-$125; 928-203-2001, sevencanyons.com)
No. 17: GAMBLING IS GOOD FOR YOU
Rising PGA Tour star Colt Knost on how betting makes you better:
“Playing for money is a big reason why I got where I am. My family had a membership at a club, and by 16 I got into money games with members. I played every weekend. It was $5 per hole, which seemed like a lot. It teaches you something about handling pressure to play with your own money, especially when you don’t have much. Even today, when I’m at Royal Oaks (Dallas) Country Club, I play guys from scratch to 15-handicaps. I enjoy the action. We play team games. ‘Hammer’ is like ‘Wolf,’ but you can ‘hammer’ at any point during the hole to double the bet. Action makes things fun and gets the blood flowing, so you can feel what it’s like to putt when you’re nervous.”
No. 16: YOUR GOLF BAG IS NO LONGER AGAINST YOU
The capacious bags of yesteryear used to wear a slot in your shoulder. No more. Today’s models are light, colorful and packed with bells and whistles, like über-light material, dual-strap technology and water-resistant pockets. These bags—like Callaway’s Hyper-lite 3.5 ($149.99, callawaygolf.com), Nike’s Sunday Carry ($140, nike.com/nikegolf) and Sun Mountain’s Sunday X-Strap ($79.99, sunmountain.com)—are low maintenance and easier on your poor shoulders than a hot-stone massage.
No. 15: YOU CAN DRINK WHILE YOU PLAY!
How to get freebies from the cart girl:
“I treat all players like they’re special, but groups that catch my attention often open a tab and slip me a tip. I’ll buy them an extra round when I know they plan on taking care of me—or just if they make me smile or flirt in an innocent way. But I get tired of cheesy pickup lines. The worst I’ve heard? ‘Honey, are you from Tennessee? ’Cause you’re the only 10 I see!’ ” –Kylee Seely (pictured), beverage server, SunRidge Canyon Golf Club, Fountain Hills, Ariz.
No. 14: THE HOME OF GOLF IS STILL MAGICAL
Acclaimed designer Tom Doak caddied at the Old Course in his youth. He shares his No. 1 favorite St. Andrews memory.
“I once caddied for a California family. The mother and father were avid golfers, but the two girls had never played 18 holes before. So the younger sister played the odd-numbered holes, and the older sister played the even holes. It was a fascinating loop, because I found that if I could keep them out of the bunkers, even two complete beginners could get around the Old Course and have some fun. On No. 18, the older sister hit a solid 3-wood that rolled through the Valley of Sin, and she just missed a 20-footer for birdie before the usual assembly of onlookers—none of whom could tell it was her first career par. I still hear from them 30 years later.”
No. 13: THE DAWN OF RORY VS. RICKIE
If you were standing by the practice green at the Quail Hollow Club at 5:49 p.m. on the first Sunday of May, you could not help but let out a small whoop.
It was there that Rory McIlroy and Rickie Fowler bumped into each other before a playoff at the Wells Fargo Championship, exchanged a hug and a hearty soul handshake, and set off to ensure the future of the game we all love.
It always happens this way, doesn’t it? Bobby Jones and Walter Hagen give way to Ben Hogan, Byron Nelson and Sam Snead. Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus take ownership of the game, only to be shadowed by Tom Watson and Johnny Miller. Who saw Seve Ballesteros coming, or Nick Faldo and Greg Norman? And who could have possibly foreseen the brilliant and sustained dominance of the Tiger Woods era?
The beauty of golf is that one wondrous generation gives way to the next and, once more, we are at the beginning of a new cycle. Our first glimpse of the future came one year ago at the U.S. Open at Congressional, where McIlroy dusted the field by eight shots and announced himself as the game’s next big thing. Fowler’s ascendance has unfolded in waves, first at the 2010 Ryder Cup, where he closed with four birdies to halve his match, and at the aforementioned Quail Hollow, where he defeated McIlroy and D.A. Points in a playoff for his first PGA Tour win, birdieing the first playoff hole with three perfect shots. With a second eight-shot major win, at the PGA , McIlroy seemed to be saying, “Come and get me.”
McIlroy and Fowler (both age 23!) share much in common with their forebears: a love of the big stage; style, but also a certain grace; a recognition of the genius within, but also an appreciation of the majesty of others.
Rory and Rickie have been bumping heads since the 2007 Walker Cup, and they have forged a healthy rivalry built on respect. Their duel at Quail Hollow gave us two marvelous, likable players beginning to grasp their powers.
After years of doomsday scenarios about golf’s future, we can exhale. For the next decade, the game will be carried in the interlocking grips of Rory and Rickie.
Even at Quail Hollow, a sense of wonderment prevailed. Late in the final round, Rory’s father, Gerry, recognized the meaning of his son sharing a leaderboard with Rickie, the meaning not only for the tournament but also for the game as a whole.
“It’s good for you to write about,” Gerry said with a knowing smile.
Yes it is, Gerry. Yes it is.—Damon Hack
No. 12: CARL PETTERSSON KEEPS ON WINNING
It seems everyone on Tour is lean and ripped, so we salute the soft-inthe middle Swede who won April’s RBC Heritage and finished T3 at the PGA. He inspires those who find most of their birdies in a bucket of KFC.
No. 11: ARNIE IS STILL THE KING
On Wednesday of Masters week this year, Arnold Palmer strolled out of Augusta’s stately clubhouse for lunch on the patio. He could’ve grabbed a chair anywhere on the spacious, sun-drenched lawn. Instead, he parked himself at a table next to the thin rope that separates the patio from the public, resulting in what must be a record for the most photos taken of a man eating a turkey sandwich. Now 83, the King still can’t get enough of the fans or Augusta. “If I didn’t love it, I wouldn’t be sitting here,” he said that day. “The tradition and the fans have been a part of me since 1955. The Par 3 [contest], the dinner, the tee shot—these are special days for me.” The next morning, he ripped his ceremonial opening tee shot down the middle, just like Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player. These are special days for us, too.—Jeff Ritter
No. 10: GOLF IN THE OLYMPICS!
As of October 1, there’s only 1,403 days, 19 hours, 4 minutes, and 27 seconds left until the 2016 Olympics in Rio. But hey, who’s counting?
No. 9: YOU’LL OUTLIVE YOUR BOWLING BUDDIES
Golf is good for you. According to a study in a Scandinavian medical journal, golfers live five years longer than nonplayers, and the lower your handicap, the longer you live!
No. 8: TRUMP IS GOOD FOR GOLF
This year he bought Doral Resort, so a welcome makeover is coming, and Trump Scotland drew raves. The Donald? Good for golf. Just ask him.
No. 7: GOLF CHANNEL’S DYNAMIC DUO
We can count the number of great TV analysts on one glove. Happily, two of them sit shoulder-to-shoulder on Golf Channel. David Feherty fuses effortless wit with deep insight, and he conducts some of the best TV interviews of any kind on Feherty. Not only is Brandel Chamblee willing to sling zings and arrows at players (he’s been merciless on Tiger’s swing changes), the bookish former Tour player is as likely to quote Lord Byron as Byron Nelson. When the two trade astute, cliché-free observations during the network’s major coverage, it’s must-see TV.
No. 6: OUR GOLFER-IN-CHIEF
We choose our next president in November. No matter how you feel about Barack Obama’s policies, his love of the links—he played his 100th round as Prez in July—places him alongside Eisenhower, Kennedy and Clinton on the Mount Rushmore of golfers-in-chief.
No. 5: ANYONE CAN MAKE A "1"
We sent an intrepid reader to see a major winner, in hopes of finally carding an ace. Read the story here. Plus, read three hole-in-one tips (Nos. 4, 3 and 2 on this list) from PGA Tour pro Hal Sutton, who has made 10 aces in competition:
No. 4: GET ALIGNED
“It sure as heck helps to line up where you want the ball to go.”
No. 3: TRY NOT TO TRY
“I don’t want to sound too mystical, but the harder you try, the less likely it is you’ll make it.”
No. 2 BACK IT IN
“It helps if you have a backstop and know how to spin it. That way you’ve got two chances of making it—one on the way past, another on the way back.”
AND FINALLY ... THE NO. 1 REASON TO LOVE GOLF NOW: READ THE FULL STORY HERE.
BONUS REASON No. 1: NEW GOLF STYLE
Not long ago, you could wear anything to play golf, as long as it was khaki or white. Now bright is the new white. Thanks, Rickie.
BONUS REASON No. 2: IT'S OFFICIAL: GOLFERS ARE ATHLETES
To say otherwise is to ignore Tiger's iron arms, the newly-ripped Rory McIlroy, and the uber-flexible Yani Tseng. Golfers aren't athletes? That argument is so 1985.
BONUS REASON No. 3: HAUTE HARDWARE
With the possible exception of NHL's Stanley Cup, we have the coolest damn trophies in all of sports.
BONUS REASON No. 4: THE NEW AND IMPROVED PINEHURST NO. 2
As we reported last month, Pinehurst No. 2 climbed to third place on Golf Magazine's latest Top 100 Courses You Can Play. You can thank Ben Crenshaw and Bill Coore's $2.5 million restoration for breathing new life into one of the world's best public-access courses. In 2008, C&C completely removed the rough. Now, stray drives are punished by sandy soil, native wire grass, and massive pine trees. Wider fairways bring back strategic options that were lost after previous redesigns, yet the iconic turtle-back greens were mostly untouched. This brawny beast is now better than ever.
BONUS REASON No. 5: THE FIRST TEE
Since its inception by the World Golf Foundation in 1997, the First Tee has helped millions of young people learn more than how to play golf. They're taught life skills needed to succeed in the classroom and beyond. Under the tutelage of volunteers, participants learn to abide by the foundation's core values, which include honesty, sportsmanship, confidence and-something every golfer must summon- perseverance. With over 750 chapters around the country, the First Tee looks to double that number by 2015. As Johnny Miller has said to Golf Magazine: "Golfers are usually good citizens." Thanks for making the world a better place, on and off the course.
BONUS REASON No. 6: RANGE FINDERS RULE
I confess. I'm hooked on rangefinders. I own three-three-and-a-half counting my Bushnell Hybrid, which has a laser AND a GPS function, the latter for out-of-sight targets. I carry only one with me per round. The GolfBuddy Voice [$199, Golfbuddyglobal.com] is great entertainment. It's matchbox-sized and clips to my hat or belt. I push a button and bingo, The Voice announces yardage to the middle of the green. People are amazed. Some even talk back to it. Really. When I play a course for the first time, I use a SkyCaddie GPS [$349.95, Skycaddie.com]. On its handheld screen, I get yardages to hazards like bunkers or lakes, so I can try to avoid them. It's like a caddie in your pocket. My Bushnell [PRICE, $399.99, Bushnellgolf.com] Tour V2 laser is for courses I know and all I want is exact yardage to today's pin. Click. Got it in two seconds! Do I miss searching for sprinkler heads and half-hidden yardage markers? Get serious. Click. -Gary Van Sickle
BONUS REASON No. 7: THERE'S SUCH THING AS A PERFECT DRIVE
Only a privileged few will ever ride up Magnolia Lane at Augusta National, but that isn't the only sublime, otherworldly entrance to a great course. At Caledonia Golf and Fish Club (pictured, and recently ranked No. 27 on Golf Magazine's list of Top 100 Public Courses in America), in Pawleys Island, S.C., rows of moss-drenched live oaks usher you to an antebellum clubhouse perched atop the Waccamaw River. (888-483-6800, Fishclub.com)
BONUS REASON No. 8: GOLF IS GOING FOR THE GREEN
Courses around the world have stepped up their efforts to preserve and even improve the environment, from recycling water and eliminating fertilizers, to protecting native species. And Mauna Lani Resort on Hawaii's Big Island boasts a three-acre PowerLight photovoltaic system that allows the property to generate more solar power than any resort in the world. Now that's eco-friendly.
BONUS REASON No. 9: GOLF HAS NEVER BEEN COOLER
Mark Wahlberg. Hugh Grant. Halle Berry. The game has never drawn more high-wattage A-listers. Is there anyone cooler than Vegas Tour-event host and Callaway-pitchman Justin Timberlake?
BONUS REASON No. 10: HYBRID CLUBS GET BETTER AND BETTER
A reader's love letter to his Taylor Made Hybrid:
"I've been playing hybrids since they came into vogue several years ago, and they've improved by leaps and bounds. I can't stop hitting my 22-degree Taylor-Made Rescue 11. Sure, the white crown looks sleek, but all I care about is the forgiveness. On one hole, I made a fat swing. I hit a 2 inches behind the ball, off the tow. It felt terrible. I didn't want to look. My ball flew 170 yards, just 10 yards short of my normal distance. I wish I could take credit, but it was the club. I may never use a middle iron again." -Dick Purcell, Troy, N.Y.
This article first appeared in the October 2012 issue of Golf Magazine, which is on newsstands now. Subscribers can download the issue on their tablets at golf.com/allaccess.