The Local Knowlege

News & Tours

A friendly reminder that Stableford scoring returns this week. Here's how it works.

The best players might be in Akron, Ohio this week for the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational. But the tour's alternate event - the Barracuda Championship (formerly the Reno-Tahoe Open) still warrants watching, if only for one reason:

Stableford scoring.

The unorthodox accounting system used to be a fixture on the PGA Tour, famously utilized at the International at Castle Pines. Invented by Dr. Frank Stableford around 1900, the purpose of this revolutionary scoring was to give incentive to frustrated golfers who struggled on opening holes.


To do this, Stableford rewards low scores while minimizing the damage of mistakes. In short, birdies are good, but bogeys don't break you.

When the International went away in 2007, so did Stableford's utilization on tour until 2012, when the Reno-Tahoe Open revitalized the format.

For a quick refresher, instead of strokes, scoring is maintained by points. Here is how the modified Stableford scoring system breaks down:

Double Eagle - 8 points
Eagle - 5 points
Birdie - 2 points
Par - 0
Bogey - minus-1
Double or more - minus-3

What makes this format enthralling on the professional circuit is it enables players to take the foot off the break. More than that, it encourages a "go for broke" mentality. Basically, what you and your buds try to do at the local muny ... only these guys actually make it work.

The Barracuda Championship will be played on Montreux Golf and Country Club. Geoff Ogilvy is your defending champ.

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News & Tours

Tiger Woods at Firestone, and players that have made a particular golf course their personal stomping grounds

Tiger Woods is not at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational this week, which feels like having Christmas without Santa.

In his last 15 tournaments at Firestone Country Club, Woods has left the Akron, Ohio, course with the trophy eight times. On four other occasions, he finished in the top 10. Fractions were never a strong suit of mine, but that seems like a pretty sound success ratio. (Woods also owns the course record at a 21-under 259.)

Due to his plunge in the world rankings, Woods failed to qualify for the 2015 competition. Woods is missing out on the Bridgestone for only the second time in his career, sitting out in 2008 due to injury.

As we pour one on the pavement for Woods’ absence, here are seven players -- including El Tigre himself -- that have reigned over specific courses in their careers:

Sam Snead - Sedgefield/Starmount Forest, Miami Springs

It should be no surprise that Slammin’ Sammy makes an appearance. With a record 82 PGA Tour wins, it stands to reason a few venues would be recurring scenes of the crime. Snead won the Greater Greensboro Open eight times, hosted at Sedgefield and Starmount Forest, and racked up six titles at the Miami Open.

Alec Ross - Pinehurst No. 2

The North and South Open may not ring a bell to some golf fans, but the event was once a distinguished competition. Held at Pinehurst No. 2, the event saw Ross, a club pro at Brae Burn Country Club near Boston, claim the title on six occasions.

However, one could argue Ross, who captured the 1907 U.S. Open, had an unfair advantage. After all, his brother, Donald -- yes, that Donald -- designed the course.

Ben Hogan - Colonial Country Club

The Hawk, a native of the Fort Worth, won the inaugural Colonial Invitational in 1946. When he finished atop the leader board at the 1959 event, it was his fifth Colonial championship. 

Hogan was a member at Colonial in retirement, and the course is now known as “Hogan’s Alley.”


Jack Nicklaus - Augusta National

Nicklaus has become a renowned architect and hosts his own tournament at Muirfield Village in Columbus, Ohio. Yet the Golden Bear is most associated with the Masters, a sentiment his trophy case supports.

Nicklaus earned six green jackets at Augusta, with his 1986 victory standing as one of the most memorable moments in the game’s history. 

However, it should be noted he finished in the top 10 on 16 other appearances, most recently as 1998, a year AFTER Tiger’s historic win. And then there's this: from 1970 to 1980, Nicklaus finished no worse than eighth.

Now THAT is getting it done. 

Davis Love III - Harbour Town

DLIII never got to put on the green jacket. The week after the Masters, however, the man was gangbusters, winning at Hilton Head five times. Unrelated note: one of the recurring comment themes from yesterday's "John Daly, Ryder Cup Captain?" piece was "JD would be a helluva lot better than Davis Love III." Hey now, Love might not have the same public affection as Daly, but he's not a wet sock, either. You want character? The dude made friends with a squirrel! LEAVE DAVIS LOVE ALONE.)

Mark O’Meara - Pebble Beach

In a 12-tournament Bing Crosby/AT&T National Pro-Am stretch at Pebble, O’Meara found the winner’s circle in five instances. Quite the feat, given O’Meara has 16 total career PGA Tour wins.

Tiger Woods - Doral, Bay Hill and Torrey Pines

Firestone is not the only stomping grounds for Tiger, winning at Bay Hill (Arnold Palmer’s tournament) and Torrey Pines (Farmers Insurance/Buick Invitational, U.S. Open) eight times. Woods has also seven triumphs at Doral. Add Firestone into the mix and this quartet accounts for 31 of Woods’ victories. For context, that figure alone would be good for 16th on the all-time wins list.

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News & Tours

Just like most Americans, President Obama loses money on the golf course

Don't be surprised if Congressman Joe Courtney gets audited. That seems like the penalty one might get for costing President Obama money on the golf course.

Courtney, a Democratic representative from Connecticut, was recently playing with POTUS, as well as fellow congressmen John Yarmuth (Kentucky) and Ed Perlmutter (Colorado). The foursome recently teed it off at the Courses at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland.

Courtney was teamed with President Obama against Yarmuth and Perlmutter. According to the Washington Post, Yarmuth and Perlmutter won the match on the 15th hole, but Obama and Courtney pressed on the final three.

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Which is how Courtney found himself over a knee-shaker on the 18th green, with a miss giving the game to Yarmuth and Perlmutter. His putt stayed on the lip, meaning Obama and Courtney had to cough up the cash.

All of $3, to be exact.

Though President Obama has been bitten by the golf bug -- he's officially hit the links for 240 rounds in office -- this match was just the fifth time he has played with members of Congress, according to CBS White House correspondent Mark Knoller.

Yet, according to accounts from the three congressmen, lobbying was left in the parking lot.

"I just thought this should be a nice day of golf," Yarmuth recalls Obama saying. "I wasn’t gonna get into business."

However, Courtney shouldn't expect any political favors from Obama. Not after letting his teammate down.

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Video

Watch this kangaroo punch all the flags on a practice green

This week in animals invading golf courses, we have for you: A kangaroo. 


Daniel Popovic, a professional golfer from Australia, was on the practice green at Heritage Golf and Country Club in Australia, when an unlikely playing partner joined him and started punching the flags.  



Those flags were blowing around pretty aggressively -- they deserved all the left hooks they got from that kangaroo. 


h/t Golf Channel

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Photography

'Cool shot from Jordan Spieth's PGA Championship practice round'

Jordan Spieth's Facebook page posted this photo from his practice round at Whistling Straits on Monday:

Cool shot from Jordan's PGA Championship practice round at Whistling Straits this afternoon. Just 10 more days until the start of the fourth major of the year.

Posted by Jordan Spieth on Monday, August 3, 2015

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Equipment

Callaway expands adjustability with new Great Big Bertha and 816 drivers

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In an era when nearly every new driver introduced is adjustable to fitting what seems to be an endless array of golfers, Callaway is making the case that there really need to be two kinds of adjustable drivers: one that focuses on correcting left and right misses and a second that makes the more subtle directional changes that a better player might seek with an additional heavy focus on controlling spin. 

Hence, the company announced two new models Tuesday morning. The new Great Big Bertha features a sliding weight in the rear perimeter that yields an internal weight bias (toward the heel or toe) that affects ball-flight direction side to side. The two approaches continue the company's focus on adjustability and diversity in drivers, a far cry from the one size fits all approach from 20 years ago when Callaway first introduced a driver under the name Great Big Bertha. 

While the new Big Bertha Alpha 816 Double Black Diamond is focused on better players and is for a more limited audience, it features the company’s unique movable weight cylinder that can be positioned in either the heel or toe for degrees of draw or neutral bias. The cylinder can be positioned either heavy side down or up to further control spin.

“Both of these drivers grew out of player test data and our experience with where tour player trajectories are,” said Evan Gibbs, Callaway’s senior R&D woods manager. “But what we’ve been able to do is use multiple materials and adjustability to satisfy these two types of players.”

While driver technologies today tend to offer a unique array of capabilities and features, at the end of the day, a driver really has only one job: distance. But Gibbs says players achieve more distance in different ways. With Great Big Bertha, the approach is more direct. With Big Bertha Alpha 816 DD, the approach is more subtle.

Gibbs says shot straightness was the main motivating factor on Great Big Bertha. “We think with this player, controlling the lateral shot shape is the most important way for improving performance,” he said. “We design the head to overcome inefficiencies in impact, but there are also gains in how the clubhead is being delivered to the ball.”

Those improvements in the Great Big Bertha, which is the natural followup to 2014’s sliding weight Big Bertha driver, start with a head that saves weight in the structure of the face. Unique internal ribs at the crown and sole provide stability and support flexibility to the face while reducing the mass in the front part of the club. Dubbed, R-Moto, this structure was first seen in last fall’s Big Bertha Alpha 815 drivers. It’s been further fine-tuned in the Great Big Bertha to provide a lighter, thinner face.

Thanks as well to the lightweight composite crown, that reduced mass up front frees up extra mass that’s redistributed in a redesigned sliding weight at the rear of the club and a fixed sole weight that helps lower the head's center of gravity. The 10-gram sliding weight (up from eight grams on the 2014 Big Bertha driver) moves along a track that runs from a neutral position to an extreme heel-weighted or draw-biased position. According to Gibbs, the weight position accommodates 18 yards of ball-flight correction. The track is more concentrated between the neutral and draw bias positions than the track on the 2014 Big Bertha because Gibbs says there was less demand for fade-biased positions, even among tour players. It's designed to provide more potential draw bias than the 2014 Big Bertha driver.

The clubhead is designed with a lighter weight (198 grams) to provide more flexibility in shafts. Depending on which shaft, the Great Big Bertha can either play as a lighter weight driver designed to increase your potential swing speed or as a meatier, tour-weighted driver. Through the company’s program of offering 19 premium shafts at no additional charge, the Great Big Bertha can play at as little as 295 grams or as heavy as 325 grams. 

Like all Callaway drivers, the Great Big Bertha features the company’s eight-way adjustable hosel that lets the golfer independently tweak the standard loft four ways (by minus one degree to plus two degrees) and the lie angle two ways (neutral or draw/upright). 

The Great Big Bertha, which was put on the USGA’s conforming list last Monday, already has been used in a professional victory. Kiradech Aphibarnrat had the new driver in his bag when he won the Saltire Energy Paul Lawrie Match Play Championship on the European Tour on Sunday. 

Available in 9, 10.5 and 13 degrees, it will be in stores Aug. 28 ($450).

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The deep-faced, low-center of gravity Big Bertha Alpha 816 Double Black Diamond offers more sophistication for the elite player looking to control driver spin. Instead of a perimeter sliding weight, the sole features two chambers for the company’s weight cylinder called the Gravity Core. With the cylinder in the toe side, the club takes on a neutral bias, while with the weight cylinder in the heel, it features a slight draw bias. 

But like the original Gravity Core found on the Big Bertha Alpha and both of last year’s Big Bertha Alpha 815 drivers, the cylinder does more than affect draw or fade bias. With a heavier mass on one end, the cylinder can be positioned with the heavy side down for extremely low spin. Gibbs says the club produces 200 rpm less spin with the heavy side down. 

“For this type of player, we don’t need as much side to side correction,” Gibbs said. “We’re really helping this player with fine tuning in terms of direction and spin, as well as matching their impact location to achieve the best ballspeeds.”

Gibbs explained that the vertical position of the Gravity Core is not just a matter of spin. It also helps more directly line up where a better player is impacting the face with the club’s center of gravity. Matching those positions means less twisting at impact, and less twisting at impact means more energy is transferred to the ball. He noted that 40 percent of the players tested achieved higher ballspeeds with the heavier side in the high position compared to the low position.

Unlike the previous Gravity Core versions, where the weight cylinder was centrally located, Gibbs said that moving to two chambers positioned in the heel and toe also improves the head’s performance on off-center hits compared to last fall’s Big Bertha Alpha 815 Double Black Diamond.

It also features the company’s eight-way adjustable hosel to tweak loft and lie independently, as well as the updated R-Moto face structure. In the standard setup, the face angle is slightly open to match the preference of better players. 

Available in limited supply Sept. 18, the Big Bertha Alpha 816 Double Black Diamond will be offered in 9 and 10.5 degrees ($500).

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Both the Great Big Bertha and Big Bertha Alpha 816 DD lines are also enhanced with fairway woods. Slightly oversized, the Great Big Bertha features an updated forged cup face design. The sole, which features a fixed, centered weight to lower the center of gravity, is the latest iteration of the scalloped War Bird shape for improved turf interaction, most recently seen on the Big Bertha V-Series fairway woods. 

Meanwhile, the more compact Big Bertha Alpha 816 DD fairway woods incorporates the cup face design but also utilize two movable sole weights. The weights are positioned front and back and come in  16- and 3-gram weights. The heavier weight in the forward position is designed to reduce spin, while putting the heavier weight in the rear position improves head stability on off-center hits. 

Both heads feature the company’s eight-way hosel adjustability. The Great Big Bertha fairway woods come in five lofts, (15.5, 18 and 21 degrees, along with a 43-inch, 20.5-degree Heavenwood and 42-inch, 24-degree Divine Nine, both of which are not adjustable). It will be at retail Aug. 28 ($250). The Big Bertha Alpha 816 DD is available in 14-, 16- and 18-degree heads. It will be at retail Sept. 18 ($300). 

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My Usual Game

Why isn't the men's member-guest on TV?

I wish the Golf Channel would drop the Champions Tour and broadcast my club's member-guest tournament instead. Wouldn't you watch? There's way more drama:

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The spectators are appreciative:

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The putting is less tedious, especially after dark:

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Protracer was practically made for it:

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The player endorsements are more persuasive:

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There are always plenty of refreshments:

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We get pizza during the putting contest:

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Faster foursomes are allowed to play through:

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There are moments of high drama -- like when the pro has to explain to a member who didn't read her email that the course is closed all weekend, except for participants:

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And you see shots the pros won't even try:



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News & Tours

Either Rory McIlroy is toying with our emotions or there's reason to think he could play in the PGA Championship

The prospect of Rory McIlroy defending his PGA Championship title has appeared unlikely as the World No. 1 remains sidelined after rupturing the anterior ligament in his left ankle playing soccer with friends in July. Yet for the first time since he suffered the injury -- which kept him from competing in the British Open at St. Andrews -- there's reason to think we could see McIlroy back to play in the year's last major -- emphasis on could.

A report by Reuters, citing an unnamed but "reliable" source, says McIlroy has scheduled a practice round at Whistling Straits for Saturday. McIlroy, who is often active on social media, has not said anything to confirm the report.

McIlroy announced July 29 that he was skipping this week's WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, a tournament he won a year ago by two strokes over Sergio Garcia, to continue his rehabilitation process. Many speculated that the decision was a prelude for McIlroy making a similar announcement about Whistling Straits in the days ahead. However, bypassing the WGC event might have been necessary if McIlroy were to make a reasonable attempt at playing in the PGA, figuring that playing golf tournaments in consecutive weeks on an ankle that some doctors suggest would take three months to properly heal, would be too much too soon.

UPDATE, Tues., 8/4, 12:45 p.m.

Terry Prone, a publicist who works for Rory McIlroy, told the Irish Golf Desk that McIlroy has not set up a practice round for Saturday at Whistling Straits. Prone did not say whether McIlroy would play or not play in the PGA.

McIlroy's manager, Sean O'Flaherty, texted Golf Digest and Golf Channel's Tim Rosaforte to say: “Rehab is going good and progressing well. Should know more later this week.”

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News & Tours

Is Paul Goydos the lone tour player posting tour scores for handicap index purposes?

It’s hard to know definitively, but Champions Tour player Paul Goydos might be unique in that he maintains a handicap index and actually posts his scores from tour events.

For instance, Goydos had scores of 72, 65 and 68 at the 3M Championship over the weekend (he tied for seventh). A check of his handicap index at GHIN.com shows he posted scores of 71, 65 and 68 (we can’t explain the discrepancy between his first-round score and his posted score) on a course with a rating of 73.3 and a slope of 146. From the blue tees at the TPC Twin Cities at which the 3M Championship was played, the course has a 73.3 rating and a 146 slope.

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There was an additional score of 67 posted from what obviously is the same course. Presumably that was his pro-am score.

In June, he posted this series of scores: 71, 74, 72 and 67. Those were his U.S. Senior Open scores at Del Paso Country Club (he tied for 38th).

Goydos, whose current index is +4.9, maintains his index because when he is home in Southern California he frequently plays matches with his friends.

There is a club, Whisper Rock in Scottsdale, Ariz., that has several tour players as members, and the staff there records their tour scores (Phil Mickelson is a +5.8, Paul Casey a +6.0).

But Goydos posting his own scores from tour events, as well as his scores playing with friends at home, is exceedingly rare, if not unique.

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News & Tours

What is the biggest emotional meltdown or blow-up you've witnessed on a golf course?

Some things you can't unsee.

My male roommate shaving his legs, or catching a "Good by 03-11-2004" date on a beer I had just finished in 2009 are two of the images forever burned in my mind. However, these ingrained events don't have to be exclusively traumatic.

In fact, one of my most vivid childhood memories involved a golf-course breakdown of Homer Simpson-esque proportions. One which, while awkward at the time, never fails to bring a smile to my face.

I was playing in a golf tournament during my senior year of high school. Despite the innocuous, beautiful autumn scenery, the course was something fierce that afternoon. The type of day where a profuseness of fallen leaves -- although majestic -- makes finding one's Titleist a pain in the behind.

One of my competitors was having an especially tough go of it. This cat turned the front nine in 47, and things didn't get particularly better on the back. The player in question was normally a calm guy, but the high numbers broke his psyche early, leading to numerous club slams against his bag.

Unfortunately for him, the consequence of this act swiftly manifested its ugly head. During the back nine, his club shafts, one by one, started to snap. His continual bag swings -- reminiscent of a lumberjack cutting down a tree -- were taking their toll on his sticks. If memory serves, at least four clubs were splintered in this manner.

Had the tale ended there, it was have merely been a cautionary narrative against losing one's temper. Luckily, at least for posterity's sake, the story was just getting started.

The 13th hole was a 180-yard par 3. In the face of incessant wind, it was playing closer to 200. It was guarded by a large bunker on the right and thick heather outlining the hole, a tough set-up in any condition. Coupled with the wind, along with our protagonist's journey to a radio-station score -- a Magic 101 or 98 the Zoo -- the hole was ripe for destruction.

My competitor proceeded to top his shot off the tee box and into the heather. Unfazed, he grabbed a provisional. His reload took a similar flight. 

He managed to put his third try into the bunker. After executing a hell of a sand shot, he had 10 inches or so to make his 7.

His tap-in went 270 degrees around the hole, but not in the cup. Snowman.

Following the miss, his putter went helicoptering towards his bag. Dramatic, yes, but I'd seen similar throws. What I hadn't seen, however, is what he did next. And I swear on my mother's life, the following is true.

When the last man in our group finished out, our beleaguered compadre took the flag and, in a scene straight out of Happy Gilmore, chucked the stick in javelin fashion towards the high stuff.

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In terms of form, his execution was flawless. That baby sailed for days. Alas, after eight seconds of magnificent, "Did that really just happen?" awe, it became apparent that our playing partner needed to retrieve the flag, as there was still a group left on the course.

One problem: he couldn't find the flag.

Not helping matters was the yellow hue of the flag and stick. Plus, we weren't exactly tracking its destination, which was a point of consternation with an opposing coach.

"How can you take your eye off it?" he wallowed.

"How is that your first question?" was my reply.

We spent a good 15 minutes trying to locate that bad boy. Our search party grew to 20 or so spectators. My favorite part came from someone's grandpa, who inquired, "What did the flag look like?" in the same cadence as seeking for a lost ball. 

"Oh, you found a yellow flag with a 16? Sorry, we're looking for 13."

Why do I bring this up? Because, this past weekend at a golf outing, I witnessed a meltdown that makes this affair look civil. And it got us thinking here ...

We're sure the treasure chest of golf course blow-ups is rich and full of worthwhile amusement, and so we want you to share in the harvest. Send us your stories either in the comment/Facebook sections, via the Golf Digest Twitter account or email (joel_beall@golfdigest.com). We will run the best selections later this week, along with my promised weekend experience. 

As for the ending of our story, the flag was ultimately discovered. I suppose it's not a surprise it took so long to spot. As Mark Twain once wrote, "It takes me a long time to lose my temper, but once lost I could not find it with a dog."

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