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Deal of the Week: Explore golf on one of the best of Minnesota's 10,000 lakes

Gull Lake in Central Minnesota is one of those places in-state visitors hope nobody ever hears about. 

The Brainerd area has been a go-to summer vacation spot for the rest of the state for nearly 100 years. Gull Lake's 38 miles of shoreline are lined with a dozen resorts and hotels of various sizes. Two of the biggest, Madden's and Cragun's, each have a variety of courses that take advantage of the lakefront, hills and mature trees. 

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At Madden's, you can pick from the championship-length Classic, the sportier Pine Beach East and Pine Beach West, and the beginner-friendly Social 9. All are meticulously maintained, and better yet, they all offer a different kind of challenge -- from the Classic's broad-shouldered, PGA Tour-style looks to the East's 1930s-era charm. 

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At Cragun's, Robert Trent Jones Jr. designed the Dutch Legacy and Bobby's Legacy 18s with distinctly different feels. The five-star Dutch has a collection of fierce 450-yard-plus par-4s, while the Legacy offers a more charitable experience for players who don't carry the ball quite so far. 

July and August are prime time in Minnesota, with no-humidity days in the low 80s and nights in the 60s. You can still find some good golf package rates at either place -- or book a trip that combines the best of both. The two properties sit about two miles apart on the southern tip of Gull Lake -- 150 miles north of Minneapolis-St. Paul. 

The Madden's Classic Deluxe package offers a round on the Classic and any of the other resort courses, lodging and breakfast for two for about $520 per night in a deluxe king room. An equivalent package at Cragun's -- two weekend nights with two rounds of golf, plus breakfast and dinner -- is $359. 

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Health & Fitness

Fitness Friday: Will walking the golf course help you lose weight?

The health benefits of walking are well documented. It improves mobility, proprioception, coordination, blood flow and lung function—not to mention improving your mood and ability to sleep soundly. But if you want to start walking when you play golf to help lose weight, you might end up frustrated.

An in-depth analysis of several studies on walking showed that dramatically increasing the amount you walk will help you lose weight—but just barely. How little are we talking? The analysis used nine studies that included several hundred people. Those participants increased the amount they walked by roughly two miles a day for 16 weeks. At the end of that period, the group, on average, had lost slightly more than three pounds.

golfer_walking_course_260.jpgThe analysis, published in the Annals of Family Medicine, indicated that if you walked approximately two rounds of golf in a day without carrying your bag, you would lose less than a pound of weight. Obviously adding the external load of roughly 30 pounds to your back in the form of a bag, balls and clubs would help lose more weight, but it wouldn't be significant enough to make walking when you play an efficient method for weight loss.

Back in 2009, I reported on how far golfers walk when they play. You can read about it here: What's Your Golf Mileage?

Ron Kaspriske is the fitness editor of Golf Digest.

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News & Tours

Bubba Watson to paint U.S. flag over Confederate flag on General Lee

The recent controversy over the Confederate flag has prompted Bubba Watson to paint a U.S. flag over the Confederate flag atop his pride and joy, the original General Lee, the Dodge Charger made famous on the television show “Dukes of Hazzard.”

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Watson's General Lee parked in Waste Management Open parking lot (Getty Images)

Watson made his announcement via the following Tweet:

The cable television station “TV Land” announced on Wednesday it was pulling reruns of the popular television series because of the controversy created by the recent murders in a South Carolina church.

Here’s what Watson had to say about the General Lee in a Golf Digest My Shot:

“I'm a huge ‘Dukes of Hazzard’ fan. I have the complete DVD collection. After I got the car, I didn't have it a month before I put it into the shop. It was messed up when I got it. There were hundreds of General Lees, but mine was the original. It had done a lot of jumping. There was a big concrete block in the back seat to stabilize it when it was airborne, none of the gauges on the dash worked, and it didn't have seat belts. I handed it over to some car junkies, and a year and $10,000 later— that's a cheap price, by the way — I got it back. Everything in it is perfect. Would I drive it into Augusta? Sure, it's just a car. But will I? No. That's a long way to transport a car just to drive it to a golf course.”

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Courses & Travel

Golf needs to dump Trump's courses; play here instead

Not that anybody asked me, but since Donald Trump has officially and repeatedly poisoned his relationship with golf and, well, humanity with his recent comments about Mexicans and Mexican-Americans, I thought it might be fun to provide some guidance on where golf’s organizations should take their Trump-affiliated events once they sever ties with the second-leading candidate for the Republican Presidential nomination. He doesn’t sound like he’s taking any of it back, so it’s time golf took back his golf tournaments.

First up is the tour’s long-standing event at Trump Doral, the WGC-Cadillac Championship. Now the Gil Hanse-refortified Blue Monster is an epic test, but until it’s no longer a Trump course, we have to look elsewhere. I would have chosen Crandon Golf at Key Biscayne. The well-regarded, tight and tough muni has been host to Champions Tour events back in the day, but now it seems Trump’s golf group is on the verge of signing a management contract there. So it, too, is out. How about The Bear’s Club in Jupiter, a home game for a bunch of tour players already? Better yet, why not Streamsong, a resort more real golfers want to play than all the Trump properties combined? Besides, it’s right on the way as the tour works its way from South Florida back up to Tampa and then Orlando.

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Streamsong 

Next: The Puerto Rico Open at Trump International. Never mind that the darn near insolvent commonwealth of Puerto Rico is currently North America’s version of Greece, there is more than one lavish golf resort on America’s pseudo-51st state. My choice: Royal Isabela. Lavish yes, but unlike the boorish, bulldozing golf course design preferences of Trump, nary a tree was removed in the design of this picture postcard layout spread over canyons and coastline.

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Royal Isabela

PGA Grand Slam of Golf: Set to be played at Trump National Los Angeles, the first thing I’d do if I were Jordan Spieth is come out and say I’m not playing in the event if it’s being held at a Trump-owned course. This event has almost never been interesting including the time Mike Ditka filled one of the four slots. Why not take it to a revered venue that the world never sees? I nominate the North Course at Los Angeles Country Club, a layout many believe would be a worthy U.S. Open site. But if we really want to do the right thing, take it to Rancho Park or the Wilson Course at Griffith Park, as detailed here by David Owen. Golf is really a much more diverse game than mainstream media would have you believe, and there’s no better showcase than an L.A. muni golf course

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Rancho Park

2017 U.S. Women’s Open, 2022 PGA Championship: Two legitimate major championships are already set for Trump National Bedminster. I say we divide them up. For the PGA, you can have your New Jersey major event standbys, your Baltusrols, your Plainfields, your Ridgewoods. It’s time the PGA thought outside the box. It’s always got the strongest field of the 
url.jpgfour majors with nearly every player in the Top 100 in the world in the championship. Why not take it to a venue outside the U.S.? How about Hirono in Japan, Cape Kidnappers in New Zealand or Barnbougle Dunes in Australia? Or better: Given Gary Player’s comments about the unworthiness of Chambers Bay as a major venue and Robert Trent Jones Jr.’s retort that Player’s never had a course of his own host a major, how about the PGA go to Player’s very own version of Chambers Bay, the Links at Fancourt in South Africa, site of the epic tie at the 2003 Presidents Cup? It would be fun just to see how Player would handle the backlash. 
And if golf’s organizing bodies really wanted to shake things up, I’d move the U.S. Women’s Open to Pine Valley, which as we all know doesn’t permit women to join and only allows them to play on Sunday afternoons. Hello? It’s 2017, not 1947. Time Pine Valley showed the world, men and women, how cool it really is.

So for the above reasons, let’s hope the Donald doesn’t recant and golf’s ruling bodies move the game in a more exciting direction.
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News & Tours

Tiger shot 66 at the Greenbrier. He's . . . back?

Tiger fans rejoice! 

When Woods teed off in the first round of the Greenbrier Classic, we were all watching with a little fear in our eyes. His golf has not been good lately, but you almost have to watch. Because he's Tiger.

He shot 66. Four under. Before we let this get away from us, we have to remember, it's just one round. But he did it with seven birdies. 



He started on the back, cruising through the first 7 holes at three under. Greens in regulation, a few dropped putts. Then, a slight hiccup on his eighth hole lead to a bogey.

Seeing that bogey appear on the scorecard was a little scary. Bad thoughts started creeping into our minds: Here it comes, the chip-yips are going to start up again. He's going to tweak a muscle. He's not going to be able to activate his glutes. 

But he steadied himself. More greens, more pars, a birdie for good measure. Even when some trouble around the green lead him to a double on his 15th hole, he came right back at us with three consecutive birdies. That's the Tiger who's fun to watch. 

Twitter, obviously, is excited: 



While one under-par round can't be called a comeback, we can't think of a better way to kick off Fourth of July weekend than by seeing Tiger go four under.


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Celebrity

Former NBA star Allan Houston's mansion is on the market, and it has a pretty sweet golf practice area (among everything else)

Allan Houston was a very good basketball player before a knee injury curtailed his career with the New York Knicks. Fortunately for him, that happened after the Knicks gave him an ill-advised six-year $100 million contract.

As you can imagine, that kind of money can buy you a pretty nice house. And now Houston, currently an assistant general manager for the Knicks, has put his custom-built mansion in Armonk, N.Y. on the market.

Related: The best backyard golf holes in the U.S.

The price? A cool $19.9 million because not listing it at an even $20 mill is a trick real estate agents use. Clever. Take a look at these photos, though, and you'll see that the property, which includes a basketball court and a golf practice area in the backyard (among everything else), is worth it:

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Houston plays out of Hudson National Golf Club and has a 7.7 handicap index according to GHIN, but he hasn't posted a score in nearly eight years. Probably because he's been so busy making the Knicks a championship contender. . . kidding!

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(h/t Wall Street Journal)

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Weird Golf News

Sickos who stole beloved fake horse from mini-golf course come to their senses and return fake horse

When you own and operate a mini-golf course with fake animals, you run the risk of pranksters making off with your wildlife. Phil and Suzie Santucci have experienced their share of wildlife abductions through the years, but on Sunday morning, they arrived at Vince's Sports Center in Ogletown, Delaware, and were devastated by what they saw.

The fiberglass pony that guards the fourth hole was gone, torn off at the hooves, reported Delawareonline.com.

"We can't purchase another one like that," said Suzie, who remembers ordering it with her mother-in-law nearly three decades ago, "and it wouldn't have the same sentimental value. It's priceless, it really is."

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"Priceless" might be stretching it, but that is a quality-looking fake horse by mini-golf standards.

Related: More weird golf news

Through social media, newspapers, and word of mouth, the Santuccis pleaded for the thieves to return their beloved horse. They promised not to press charges unlike when a thief who stole a giraffe from the course a few years back was turned in by his neighbor and wound up going to jail. Yep, jail. Stealing fake animals from mini-golf courses is serious stuff, people!

The message found its intended target and it worked. On Wednesday, the Santuccis showed up to work and the horse (shouldn't it have a name?) was there leaning against a fence.

"We both cried," Suzie told Delawareonline.com. Tears of joy!

Here's a video of Phil talking about the horse and promising a day of free mini-golf (Woo!) as a thanks to customers who supported the family during this crisis.

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Golf pads

This home across from Augusta National isn't much more expensive than a handful of badges

A Masters ticket is traditionally one of the toughest in sports, and even if you get in the gates there's the issue of finding someplace decent to stay nearby.

You're at the mercy of the secondary market -- or Augusta National's lottery -- for the tickets, but you can solve the sleeping problem with a quick call to your mortgage broker. 

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This four-bedroom, four-and-a-half-bath, 3,600-sqft home sits literally steps from Augusta National, and has already been tricked out as a hospitality venue for Georgia's most important golf week of the year. Updated inside with modern appliances and downstairs wet bar and catering station, the exterior features enough yard space for car and RV parking, a pool and a hot tub. It even has an attractively-designed promotional website already set up. 

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The list price is $389,900 -- or about $1,800 per month, not counting property taxes. When you consider an equivalent house costs $15,000 or more to rent for Masters week, the numbers look better than you might expect. Given the way the club has been buying land around the golf course, you might even with the speculator's jackpot a few years down there road. 

In the meantime, you'd finally have an excuse to come back in the summer and catch a Augusta GreenJackets minor league baseball game, or see the James Brown exhibit at the Augusta Museum of History.

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News & Tours

Tiger Woods makes par on his opening hole. Seriously!

The heavens have opened and the golf gods are signing praises from on high, for Tiger Woods has opened his round at the 2015 Greenbrier Classic…with a par.

We’re not being facetious. Well, maybe a bit. Nevertheless, this feat has been a rarity for Woods. The last time the former World No. 1 posted par on his opening hole in a tournament was June 26, 2014 at the Quicken Loans National at Congressional.

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To give this "achievement" context, the last time Woods’ was even after his first hole…

- LeBron James was a member of the Miami Heat.

- The Ice Bucket Challenge was all over your Facebook feed.

- Mo’ne Davis was a month away from making fools out of her Little League adversaries.

- George Clooney was still a bachelor.

- Chris Pratt was “Andy Dwyer from Parks and Recreation” and not “Chris Pratt, movie star.”

- Dumb Starbucks was a thing.

- The best Wheel of Fortune guess in the history of the game was just a glint in our eyes.

- The world viewed Jay-Z and Beyonce as a happy couple.

- We had only been blessed with one Sharknado film.

- Taco Bell was still a late-night mistake instead of a beginning-of-your-day mistake.

- James Franco and Seth Rogan had yet to instigate international catastrophe.

Sure, celebrating a 14-time major making a 4 on a 387-yard hole might be the biggest illustration of his fall from grace, but still…progress!

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Throwback Thursday

The Sam Snead connections with The Greenbrier never end

Any week -- any day, really -- is likely to be an anniversary of something special the great Sam Snead achieved in golf. Exhibit A: July 4 marks the 50th anniversary of a Snead double repeat. In both February 1964 and 1965, Snead won the Senior PGA Championship, which allowed him to go up against the English senior champion in July each year in a 36-hole International World Senior match, sponsored beginning in 1955 by Teacher's Scotch. In 1964, Snead beat Syd Scott, 7 and 6, at Wentworth in England (Snead is getting the winning trophy below). Then on July 4, 1965, he beat Charles Ward in 37 holes at England's Formby Golf Club. After 1968, Teacher's dropped sponsorship of the match.

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With this being the Greenbrier Classic week, it's only appropriate to also look back at Sam's remarkable association with "America's Resort." Almost 80 years ago in 1936, Snead made his first visit to The Greenbrier and the two were nearly always associated until Snead's death in 2002. Snead memorabilia populates the West Virginia resort, including at two restaurants, Sam Snead's at the Golf Club and Slammin' Sammy's.

Related: Don't think West Virginia is a playground for the rich? Think again

Snead was The Greenbrier's golf pro from 1946 until the end of 1974 when the two parted ways because the ageless wonder Snead, at age 62, "wanted more time to play tournament golf and [The Greenbrier] wants a full-time club pro," according to Golf World coverage. He rejoined as The Greenbrier's Golf Pro Emeritus from 1993-2002 (Tom Watson followed from 2005-2015 and Lee Trevino was named GPE earlier this year).

In October 1970, Snead aced the 18th hole of the Old White House Course (now Old White TPC), with a 7-iron covering the 163 yards. At the time it was his 18th career ace and the fourth on that hole, but he had another on it -- his final one -- in 1995. Snead also shot 60 six times on the Old White Course, and he had an easy-to-remember 59 in 1959 on the Greenbrier Course. 

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An elegant fixture of The Greenbrier is the Spring Festival, which began in 1948 and was later renamed the Sam Snead Festival. It was a star-studded event at its origin, held in late spring. Forty pros played 18 holes Thursday through Sunday, and three amateurs joined each pro on Saturday and Sunday in a pro-am format. Bob Hope, the Duke of Windsor and assorted U.S. senators were amateurs in the early days; Ben Hogan, Peter Thomson, Jack Burke Jr., Dow Finsterwald, Doug Ford, Claude Harmon, Henry Picard and Jimmy Demaret some of the pros.

Snead won the event multiple times (and gave clinics at the event like in the photo above), but in February 1968 the resort announced it was dropping festival. The announcement said, "Following a thorough study of current and future spring activity schedules at The Greenbrier, we have reluctantly decided to cancel future Sam Snead Festival golf tournaments."

But in a beautiful example of how life and common sense can come full circle, the Sam Snead Festival is back on The Greenbrier schedule as a 36-hole pro-am to honor his legacy. It was restarted in 1994 and he hosted it until 2001. This year it was held June 7-9 and hosted by Nick Faldo, who has a learning center at the resort and an affinity for The Slammer. 

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