The Local Knowlege

Courses & Travel

TPC Sawgrass is losing one of its most recognizable features

Don't worry, the 17th hole's island green hasn't eroded away, but TPC Sawgrass announced on Twitter the tree overhanging the sixth tee on the Stadium Course will be no more. You know, the one that makes it seem like golfers at the Players are teeing off through an actual window.

Sad from a visual perspective perhaps, but pros probably won't miss the visually-intimidating tree that altered strategy on the short par four. Bob Estes, for one, was quick to chime in.

Related: America's 100 Greatest Golf Courses

"We were only a few years away from having to tee off with a putter. #truth"

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Gear & Equipment

How the Titleist Pro V1 revolutionized golf

Editor's Note: In his new book, Faster, Higher, Stronger: How Sports Science Is Creating a New Generation of Superathletes--and What We Can Learn from Them, Mark McClusky examines the various ways sports at the highest level have benefited from scientific innovation. That certainly includes golf. In the excerpt below, McClusky, the editor of WIRED.com, discusses how the Titleist Pro V1 contributed to a dramatic jump in PGA Tour driving distance in the early '00s.

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In 1993, Bernhard Langer won the Masters, one of golf’s four major tournaments, using a driver made of persimmon, rather than one of the new generation of metal “woods” that had been slowly infiltrating the game. He would be the last player to win a major with an actual wooden wood -- by 1997, Davis Love III retired his persimmon driver and old school woods left the tour for good. Meanwhile, metal drivers were becoming better and better, leading to that steady improvement.
 
And then things got a little nuts. The next year, 2001, average driving distance leapt six yards in a single season. There was a very clear reason for that huge jump -- the introduction of what might be the single most influential product in the history of any sport: the Titleist Pro V1 golf ball. For decades, top golfers had all played with balls constructed in the same way: A liquid-filled rubber core was wound with thin rubber thread, building the ball up to the correct diameter as if it was a ball of yarn. This was covered with balata, a type of rubber harvested from a tropical tree called the bully tree. The balls were sometimes inconsistent, but they offered the best level of spin and distance for strong players. Other types of balls, made for high handicappers, emphasized distance over control and used solid rubber cores, but low-handicap golfers viewed them with disdain.

Early in 2000, Nike introduced a solid-core ball aimed at tour- level golfers, which its star endorser Tiger Woods began to use. Titleist, the largest maker of golf balls, had its own solid-core model under development, which combined a large rubber core with a harder mantle layer. The outside cover was made of urethane, a soft plastic. The ball yielded the distance of solid-core balls with the control of the balata models. It was like nothing the sport had ever seen. Balata balls were very inconsistent -- some seemed to fly better than others, and players would struggle to adapt to a different performance every time they’d break out a new ball. And over time, the balls would start to break down, getting out of round or cut by the club during a shot.
 
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Photo by Getty Images

Solid-core balls like the Pro V1 were much more consistent and reliable. The durability was better. The solid core allowed engineers to tune the ball to react differently in different situations. When smashed with a driver, the ball would spin less than a balata ball, keeping it from hooking or slicing. When hit with a wedge, it would spin more quickly, giving the player more control to stop the ball on the green. And in every situation, it flew significantly farther than a balata ball when hit with the same force.
 
The first week the new Pro V1 model ball was available for tournament play, in October 2000, forty-seven players switched from their previous ball. That sort of wholesale equipment change was unprecedented in the history of golf. How fast was the transition across the sport? At the 2000 Masters, fifty-nine of the ninety- five players used a wound golf ball. One year later, only four players used one. By the end of 2001, not a single tournament champion on any of the world’s major professional tours had won using a wound ball; the rout was so comprehensive that Titleist stopped making them at all.
 
Today, the seventh generation of the Pro V1 and its brother model, the Pro V1x, are made at Titleist’s ball plant 3, in New Bedford, Massachusetts. Walking the factory floor, you’re surrounded by balls in various states of manufacture, from the raw rubber to the cork-shaped billets that are then molded into spheres. There are bins and bins of centers, of balls with the covers molded on that haven’t been polished, of polished and painted balls waiting to be packaged. They make three hundred thousand Pro V1s here each day, balls destined to win major titles or to find the bottom of a lake after a duffer’s bad drive.
 
The invention of the Pro V1 started out as a little bit of an accident. The company’s engineers were just trying to combine some of the technologies in their balls for amateur golfers with the ones in their pro models, and they stumbled upon the construction of the Pro V1. From that point, its refinement became a process that involved five years of prototypes and endless testing at the company’s facility in Massachusetts. “We didn’t have a clue what we really had at the time,” recalled Bill Morgan, the company’s head of golf ball development, in a 2013 interview. It took a day in which a hundred of the company’s sponsored pros used the prototype ball -- and gave it rave reviews --  for the company to fast-track it into production.

From Faster, Higher, Stronger: How Sports Science Is Creating a New Generation of Superathletes--and What We Can Learn from Them by Mark McClusky. Reprinted by arrangement with Hudson Street Press, a member of Penguin Group (USA) LLC, a Penguin Random House Company. Copyright ©Mark McClusky, 2014.
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Tenuous golf connection

Video: New NSFW music video called "Tiger Woods" is oddly catchy

Tiger Woods' sex scandal is nearly five years old, but that hasn't stopped a rapper from using the 14-time major winner's highly publicized off-course activities as the topic of a new song. Maxxx Flair (clever) has released a track titled "Tiger Woods," and it's about a guy who is going to have sex with a woman in a relationship.

The Grind: Jessica Alba plays golf and John Daly plays Bob Dylan

We think Mr. Flair has the details backward, but we'll chalk that up to artistic license. Check out the NSFW -- just for the lyrics since Flair is the only person to appear in the low-budget production -- music video in which he says "Tiger" or "Tiger Woods" about 768 times in less than two minutes. And yet, we can't stop listening. . .

(h/t Ryan Ballangee, Golf News Net)

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News & Tours

Why Ted Bishop's gaffe doesn't offend me the way some people think it should

It's been almost a week since PGA of America president Ted Bishop posted the tweet and Facebook rant that would end up sinking his career, and I'm still grappling with the emotions that I, as a woman in the golf industry, am supposed to have about it. Sure, I was put off by what he wrote -- but not, at first, because of the sexist nature of the comment. I was stunned to see the president of one of golf's largest organizations resort to a juvenile taunt of a PGA Tour player on social media, completely unprovoked. It wasn't until somebody else pointed out the sexism in Bishop's posts that it struck me just what a giant PR blunder this moment of posturing would turn into.

Related: The story behind Ted Bishop's dismissal from the PGA

Of course the president of the PGA can't use "lil girl" in public. Of course his organization would have to distance itself from him. And of course I was disappointed that he had perpetuated the image of golf as a tone deaf old-boys' sport. But I was much more irritated that he thought it was OK to bully a player on Twitter than I was with the term he used. Because I've heard that term used a million times, always in sports settings. 

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As I've watched the Bishop saga play out over the last six days, I've wavered frequently between appreciation for the unilateral condemnation of his actions and brewing resentment over the demand for more vocal outrage from prominent female golfers. This was a clown act by a man whose ego had been bruised during the Ryder Cup, and one that clearly was unintentionally sexist.

He used a term that he'd become desensitized to -- just like I have -- and didn't think about what it meant. It was wrong and stupid. But as a woman who plays golf -- and watches golf, and reads about golf, and works in golf -- there are so many other things that I'm more offended by.

I'm offended that I can't play in most of my own club's tournaments because the women's events take place on Thursdays while the men's events are played on the weekends, as if women don't work just as hard as men do during the week. I'm outraged that the women's locker rooms at most clubs are a fraction of the size of the men's locker rooms and rarely come close to having the same amenities. I resent that my girlfriends and I are never allowed to play through a group of slower-playing men, or tee off before a group of guys, simply because of our gender. I'm perturbed when I turn on a golf TV morning show and have to watch women I respect present golf news in high heels and cocktail dresses while their male counterparts are wearing slacks and golf shirts. And I hate that 95 percent of golf course design is patently unfair to female players. Basic equality at a grass-roots level -- that's well above eradicating sexist slurs on my wish list. 

We should be upset that Ted Bishop, one of golf's elected leaders, posted those words on social. But as far as real issues for women in golf go, this wouldn't rank anywhere near the top. Let's not pat ourselves on the back too vigorously for a job well done in unseating him. We've still got a long way to go before we've eliminated sexism in American golf. 

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Tenuous golf connection

Meet Mike Pickett, a golf club pro who also creates pumpkin masterpieces

Mike Pickett says he's always been good at reading greens. That same keen eye has helped the golf pro in his side business -- where he expertly wields a knife instead of a putter. 

Pickett, the Director of Golf at the private Stonewater Golf Club in Highland Heights, Ohio, has gained notoriety in recent years for his stunning pumpkin carvings. So much so that he has extra time off during the fall written into his contract and he's set up a website to start selling his Halloween creations called "Illuminated Carves."

Here are his takes on Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods: 

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See? We told you they were good. So how did it all start? A friendly competition.

Related: Our Halloween costume suggestions

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"I've always been artistic and Halloween is my favorite time of year. I was in a contest with a friend and he was beating me. And then I found out how to carve a face," Pickett said.

The technique Pickett discovered took him two hours to complete and used two kinds of knives. With plenty of practice, he has shaved half the time off the process and has switched to using pumpkins made of foam.

"When someone buys a pumpkin, it's about the time it takes me," said Pickett, who stays busy through the holiday season fulfilling orders. "No one's going to spend money on something that's going to rot. It's a really nice piece and it lasts forever."

Being based in Ohio, Pickett says his most popular sports carvings are of LeBron James, Ohio State, and the Cleveland Browns, "since they're actually playing football this season." Of non-sports figures, Pickett says John Wayne, Marilyn Monroe and Heath Ledger's "The Joker" (Pickett's personal favorite carve) are best sellers.

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People can choose from pumpkins Pickett has already carved or have one custom-made. He typically charges $80 to $100 and the orders have really started to pick up in 2014 thanks mainly to being a feature vendor at Ohio's annual Circleville Pumpkin Show and having a month-long display at the Horseshoe Casino in Cleveland. You may have seen his work on Golf Channel sets at last year's Presidents Cup and on recent episodes of "Morning Drive" and "Golf Central."

"I never in a million years thought it would get this big," said Pickett, who estimates he'll sell 350 pumpkins this year, up from 162 in 2013. "I love seeing people's reactions to what I do."

The Grind: Jessica Alba plays golf and John Daly plays Bob Dylan

He'll get to see more reactions when he carves for three hours at Quicken Loans Arena leading up to the Cleveland Cavaliers' home opener on Thursday night. The pumpkins he carves will be raffled off during the game.

"I enjoy every carve I do," Pickett said. "It's very independent. Just like going out to play golf by yourself. It's very pleasing and entertaining."

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Equipment

Where will Phil go next? When it comes to his equipment company, apparently nowhere

Callaway announced that its star endorser, Phil Mickelson, has signed a multi-year extension with the company to endorse and play its products, including its clubs and ball. The move ends any speculation that the two might part ways after a decade together (Mickelson controversially inked a deal with Callaway just prior to the 2004 Ryder Cup), such conjecture driven by Lefty's age (44 years old) and penchant for, at times, trying out equipment from Callaway's competitors. At times in recent years Mickelson has used fairway woods from Titleist and TaylorMade and at last year's Presidents Cup, he used a TaylorMade SLDR driver. 

Related: Phil Mickelson makes surprise visit to Callaway sales meeting

At those times, Callaway shrugged off those transgressions as Phil being Phil -- the ultimate equipment tinkerer always seeking something new. That same desire and interest in equipment, however, likely led Mickelson to re-up with Callaway as he enjoys a particularly close relationship with the R&D team there led by Dr. Alan Hocknell. In fact, Mickelson's name appears on a couple of patents for Callaway clubs designed specifically for him and he visited the company right after his British Open win (the last of his five majors) in 2013.

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"When I joined the team at Callaway 10 years ago, I knew I was making the best decision of my career," Mickelson said. "And I feel even stronger about that decision today. Backed by innovative technologies, industry-leading products, and the outstanding R&D group that works so closely with me, I honestly believe that these next few years will be the best of my career."
 

That remains to be seen as Mickelson, who has 42 PGA Tour wins to his credit, went winless last year for the first time since 2003. Still, Callaway's brass is happy to have its star player remain in the fold.

 

"We are thrilled to extend our partnership with Phil," said Callaway president & CEO Chip Brewer. "He has meant so much to Callaway, and he continues to inspire us to develop the most innovative equipment in golf." 

 

 
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News & Tours

Poulter's past proves derogatory comments more tolerable when not coming from a PGA president


The dust has settled on the Ted Bishop Twitter mishap and it turned out to be the ultimate insider saga after no national organizations or major figures in the women’s game were willing to weigh in on Bishop’s “lil girl” Tweet to Ian Poulter.

As time passes, the forced removal of Bishop -- with 29 days to go in his presidency -- seems like it was driven by personal feelings about the outstpoken Bishop and not, as PGA CEO Pete Bevacqua has claimed, a matter of remaining consistent with the organization’s grow the game focus.  

After all, PGA Tour pros are PGA of America members by default and they’ve said a lot worse things on Twitter. Poulter famously had to delete and apologize just as Bishop did, only his first offense was in 2010 when he referred to “the yids” when speaking of the Tottenham football club.

As recent as March, Poulter invoked an equally demeaning description of women in an Instagram posting. “Funny picture form the range the other day. Looks like I could fish with that girlie shaft.”

This is the same Poulter who told Golf Channel he was shocked at Bishop’s remark.

"Is being called a "lil girl" meant to be derogatory or a put down? That's pretty shocking and disappointing, especially coming from the leader of the PGA of America. No further comment."

At least his Ryder Cup counterpart Lee Westwood apologized for using the term “girly boy trolls” this year during yet another peculiar Twitter rampage that has become a staple of Westwood’s love-hate relationship with social media.

Still, Poulter’s online behavior juxtaposed with Bishop’s mistake makes it clear that if you’re young, popular and not irritating a largely anonymous board of directors, you can get away with a lot on social media and still keep your reputation.

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Gear & Equipment

Phil Mickelson continues in role as ultimate pitchman, makes surprise visit at Callaway sales meeting

Few men are better equipped to be a company spokesman than Phil Mickelson, if only based on his history of gushing about the clubs in his bag. Remember Phil extolling the virtues of his new Callaway Big Bertha Alpha driver at the beginning of 2014? It was like off a script.

"It’s just mind-boggling the way it’s made a difference in my game and it allows me to swing like it’s a 7-iron or a 5-iron, and my irons are the strength of my game," Mickelson said in a press conference prior to the Farmers Insurance Invitational last January. "Now that I’m able to make the same swing with both driver and irons . . .  I’m going to be able to be a much more aggressive player.”

Fast forward to this week, when Callaway was having its National Sales Meeting, and Mickelson continued in the role of ideal company man. According to Callaway, the five-time major champion asked to speak to the company's sales representatives in San Diego because he was so enthusiastic about the upcoming Callaway product line.

Here's a Vine of him first showing up in the meeting:


And here's Phil on stage with Callaway Senior VP of Marketing Harry Arnett.

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No truth to the rumor Mickelson also whipped up a batch of his world famous macaroni salad for the company picnic.


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News & Tours

Michael Jordan just burned Keegan Bradley on Twitter

Michael Jordan took over the Charlotte Hornets Twitter account on Tuesday. Keegan Bradley noticed, so he decided it was a good time to give MJ some grief about his golf game.

Unfortunately for Keegan, His Airness came prepared.

And by the way, here's the 2011 PGA Champ wearing his Air Keegans Jordans on the July cover of Golf Digest.

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MJ 1 Keegan 0


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Travel

Deal of the Week: Golf with the Niners in New Orleans for Half Price

Golf can't match the NFL when it comes to tailgating, but with a half-off tee-time deal from TPC Louisiana in New Orleans, it doesn't have to. 

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If you're following the San Francisco 49ers to the Big Easy for the Nov. 9 Saints game, you can book a special Golf the Gridiron tee time on the 7th or 8th at the home of the PGA Tour's Zurich Classic for $120. The traveler-friendly rate also includes rental clubs and practice balls.

Finding something to do at night in New Orleans shouldn't be a challenge. (If It is, you need more help than GolfDigest.com can give you in 300 words...) Two authentic places to start are Clancy's and the Parkway Bakery and Tavern. Both are off French Quarter tourist path and worth the cab ride. Clancy's has been serving sophisticated meals in a quaint neighborhood setting near Audubon Park for more than 70 years. Parkway opened in 1911, and in the late 1920s popularized the po'boy sandwich, served on its fresh-baked bread. The fried oyster model is the one to get, but plan ahead. They're only served on Mondays and Wednesdays. 

If the Niners aren't your team, you can also claim the deal for a variety of other teams when they head to a city near a TPC venue. For example, you can play TPC Scottsdale's Champions course for 40 percent off and the Stadium Course for 28 percent off the weekend of Nov. 16, when the Detroit Lions visit the Arizona Cardinals. Check TPC.com for more details on the venues and deals. 

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