The Local Knowlege

Courses & Travel

An edible golf course? Yes, there is such a thing

Forget about grabbing a bag of potato chips or a hot dog at the turn, this golf course in the West Indies encourages golfers to pick a variety of fresh fruits -- mangoes, papayas, bananas -- while they play.

Irie Fields, located at Kittitian Hill on St. Kitts Island, is a unique, par 71, 18-hole course, designed by the legendary Welsh tour player Ian Woosnam. It is perhaps the world's most edible, 'pick-as-you-play' golf course, with over 70 acres of tropical fruit orchards and farmland. Irie Fields is not only the world's "first edible golf course," but also the first course to acquire certification in the Golf Environment Organization's LEGACY Program, which showcases the world's most sustainable golf development. It's maintained without the use of chemical pesticides or fertilizers and uses a water-conserving irrigation system.

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Signs are posted that indicate what's ripe enough to eat and caddies, who know each season's harvests, provide guidance on both club and fruit selection. For more information visit www.kittitianhill.com

Related: The Most Earth-Friendly Golf Courses

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USGA

A quick walk through the Jack Nicklaus room at the USGA Museum

Wednesday was the official opening and dedication of the Jack Nicklaus Room at the USGA Museum in Far Hills, NJ. For the people who go to these sorts of things, the experience is always the same: You can't walk 10 feet without bumping into someone you know, or are supposed to know, wearing his blue blazer. If you know the face but not the name, you buy some time by asking if they've been playing much golf lately. And if it's 85 and humid, like it was yesterday, brace yourself for the answer.

Regrettably, I spent only 15 minutes in the new room, which at 1,200 square feet is surprisingly intimate and houses just 82 artifacts. It's a lean version of the sprawling Jack Nicklaus Museum in Columbus, Ohio, which loaned items for the exhibit and will continue to rotate more. Several short videos and an interactive course-design feature pack additional layers of depth, but the impression is that the main concern of the curators was accessibility. The placards for each object are succinct and written in the first-person voice of Jack.    

"[The USGA] did such an efficient job of not being overbearing with a big room," Nicklaus said. "They've put it tastefully in a place where it's not going to get lost, where you can see it very quickly. There are three people that come to these rooms — streakers, strollers and scholars.  Streakers spend about a half an hour and they're done with it. Strollers spend a couple hours and get a lot of information. A scholar could spend all day, or more…I think that's what they've tried to accomplish."

Someday soon, I'd like to return on at least the level of a stroller. But to offer at least a taste from my manic visit...

BEN SAYERS PUTTER USED BY JACK NICKLAUS

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"I bought this putter in North Berwick, Scotland shortly before the 1959 Walker Cup. It helped me to more than a dozen amateur titles, including both my U.S. Amateur wins."

Easy to forget that Jack Nicklaus actually used a hickory shafted putter. With it, he holed what he's said is the most important putt of his career; the final putt in the final match to defeat Charlie Coe in the 1959 U.S. Amateur.

TIE CASE, 1959 MASTERS

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"I played in my first Masters in 1959, as a 19-year-old. I hit 31 greens in regulation, but had eight three-putts and missed the cut. I realized then that I had better learn how to putt those greens - and I did."

Tie case? You mean there's a better traveling method than crumpling it in the breast pocket so you don't forget? Just another reason the rest of us don't have green jackets.

GOLF GREATS, BILL BATES

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A cannon for a driver? If that's the most cutting satire a caricaturist can think of, you're untouchable.

FIRST PAYCHECK, 1962 LOS ANGELES OPEN

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"Though I was happy to have made the cut in my first tournament as a professional, my official prize winnings represented one-third of last-place money."

Tiger Woods' professional debut wasn't much stronger. He finished T-60 at the 1996 Greater Milwaukee Open but did bring home $2,544. 

Will there ever be a Tiger Woods wing at Far Hills? Already, Tiger's nine USGA championships eclipse Jack's eight, and Big Cat hasn't even had a chance at any U.S. Senior Opens. But more than trophies, yesterday's dedication was to Jack Nicklaus' character, as a family man and ambassador for the game. The reputations of the four other golfers with dedicated rooms — Bob Jones, Ben Hogan, Mickey Wright and Arnold Palmer - are as impeccable.

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U.S. Open

USGA's Davis stands by his Chambers Bay warning to players, but says reaction is "overblown"

FAR HILLS, N.J. -- Mike Davis would never request a mulligan, for either a misdirected golf shot or a perceived misstatement, so it should be no surprise that the USGA executive director wasn’t about to retract a pointed observation he made last month about the upcoming U.S. Open at Chambers Bay that drew the ire of several would-be competitors.
 
“I was simply trying to be helpful by pointing out that preparation for this year’s U.S. Open might be more critical than any in recent memory given the uniqueness of the golf course,” Davis said Wednesday at Golf House, the USGA’s headquarters. “I think things have gotten a little overblown, but the point is still valid.”


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Davis caused a stir during media day at Chambers Bay, in University Place, Wash., when he predicted that intense advanced preparation was all but mandatory to have a chance to win the 115th U.S. Open. “I would contend that there is no way, no way, a player would have success here at Chambers Bay unless he really studies the golf course and learns it,” Davis said April 27. “The idea of coming in and playing two practice rounds and having your caddie just walk it and using your yardage book, that person's done. Will not win the U.S. Open.”
 
Among those with sharp retorts was 2012 U.S. Open champion Webb Simpson, who snarked, “We’ll play for second.”
 
“My point was this is really a unique golf course that was going to require a lot of study,” Davis said. “[There’s] more elevation changes than a normal U.S. Open course. It’s wider. It’s all fescue. They had never seen it before. There’s a lot of local knowledge needed.
 
“This is going to be my 26th U.S. Open, and I’ve noticed that players just don’t play as much golf there [at the Open site]. They’ll play nine holes a day, rely on their caddies instead of coming in early to play three or four rounds the week before like they did in the past … it’s just the way things have become. And what I wanted to communicate is that the advantage really goes to the player who knows the course inside and out. There is so much bounciness to that course that you just can’t learn it quickly. You certainly can’t learn it well from a yardage book. It is not a straightforward test, like, say Oakmont next year, which many of them have already seen.”
 
As Davis was talking, the embodiment of a well-prepared U.S. Open player was within earshot. The USGA officially opened the Jack Nicklaus Room Wedndesday at the USGA Museum. Nicklaus won four U.S. Open titles, starting in 1962 when he beat local hero Arnold Palmer in a playoff at Oakmont CC, near Pittsburgh. Nicklaus captured the first of his 18 major titles after an extensive visit to Oakmont the week before the championship, and throughout his career he made it a habit, whenever possible, to visit a major venue early to learn the layout and acclimate himself to the challenge.
 
“I think Jack knew which players would be the toughest to beat based on preparation, and he also knew which ones he could eliminate,” Davis said.
 
“A little bit of this is just things tend to get, I think, lost in translation, and I should probably be used to it,” Davis added. “Look at last year, when there was talk that back-to-back Opens at Pinehurst was going to be a disaster. ‘Why are the women playing second? Are the greens going to be unplayable?’ Two years ago at Merion it wasn’t going to work; they were going to demolish that golf course. The year before that was Olympic, and players weren’t going to like that style of architecture because of the doglegs and the fairway slopes cantering the other way.
 
“In the end, the best thing is to just let the golf course speak for itself.”
 

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Throwback Thursday

Arnie started cashing tour checks 60 years ago, and tour players are still cashing in today

Forget Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon. A better example of connectedness, at least in the game of golf, is Arnold Palmer, who has millions of fans feeling part of the Arnie's Army, as well as thousands of tour pros, including Tiger Woods, who can trace their personal largesse to A.P.

loop-arnold-palmer-1955-canada-300.jpgIn fact, the big money machine that benefits the PGA Tour and its players can celebrate an anniversary this week. Sixty years ago on Friday marks the day Arnold Palmer started making money as a tour player. On May 29, 1955, after finishing his fourth round at the Fort Wayne Invitational, Palmer pocketed $145 for finishing T-25. It was the first official PGA Tour payday Palmer was allowed to keep, having served the long-since abandoned, six-month probation against earning money in tour events after turning pro. (Imagine a tour pro today being told he had to wait a half-year to take home money he earned.) 

Prior to Fort Wayne, Palmer had played 10 tour-run events in 1955, having turned pro at the end of 1954. He finished "out of the money" in five, missed the cut in one and had to pass on $1,144.86 he would have gone home with in the other four. (He was allowed to take home the $695.83 he earned for a T-10 finish at the Masters in April 1955 because it was not run by the tour.) Three months later in August, Palmer won the Canadian Open (shown) for his first tour title and a top prize of $2,400. 

The 145 simoleons from Fort Wayne were the start of Palmer's launch into making golf in general -- and the tour specifically -- financially lucrative. His star power helped the tour grow in popularity, which in turn increased prize money substantially. He was the first to make $100,000 in a season, first to $1 million in career earnings and the first to make advertising marketability an art form, something he still excels at today at age 85. The huge tour purses he helped grow came much after Palmer was capable of winning on tour, but the money he was able to keep at the Fort Wayne Invitational 60 years ago must have felt like a fortune at the time, which is what he turned it into.

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News & Tours

These five stats put Rory's opening-round 80 at the Irish Open into perspective

There was a lot of carnage at Royal County Down on Thursday. And the World No. 1 -- who is also hosting the Irish Open this week through his charity -- was not spared from the tough conditions. An opening-round 80 has the Northern Irishman sitting in last place after 18 holes.

Literally, last place.

Some other top-name players got off to equally brutal starts. Martin Kaymer, playing in the same group as Rory, finished with a 79. Sergio Garcia was 5-over at last check. Lee Westwood had a 74. It's never an easy round at Royal County Down -- but Thursday it was playing even tougher than usual.

These five stats from Rory's round tell the story of how bad it really was.

1. This was Rory's worst competitive round since the final round of the 2011 Masters.

We know how that ended. We also have a feeling Rory will be a lot less disappointed by Thursday's round than he was after the snap-hook at the 10th hole at Augusta. But to put today's round in perspective, it was as bad as that 80 Rory had in 2011.

2. Rory hit only six of 14 fairways.

Rory talked about that after the round. That'll happen at tough, windy Royal County Down.

3. Rory made nine bogeys.

Couple nine bogeys with nine pars and no birdies? That's how you get an 80. And which is also how you get ...

4. A scrambling stat of 1-out-of-9.

When you miss six out of 16 greens, like Rory did on Thursday, then don't get up and down eight out of nine times, you're going to be bound for a round in the 80s. Average golfers know that all too well.

5. A total of 36 putts.

Ouch. That number kind of speaks for itself. You don't often see pro golfers have 36 putts in one round. We know Rory can struggle at times on the greens, but this was a pretty poor showing by the World No. 1.

And now Rory looks like a good bet to miss the cut for the third straight year at the Irish Open.

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Trending

Oklahoma men's golf team makes epic trick-shot video to prepare for this weekend's NCAAs

Before NCAAs even start, Oklahoma can say it's won the trick-shot game.

The men's golf team is heading to its fifth straight NCAA finals this week -- and what better way to prepare then showing off your skills with random trick shots? That's got to psych out your opponents.

If the Sooners make it to match play, I wouldn't want to play these guys. Imagine playing against a guy who can drain shots into a little plastic cup? You know he's never out of a hole. That's scrambling like no other.

There's something so college about making one of these videos. Hundreds of golf-trick shot videos are out there. And we respect you all for keeping us tuning in.

And now we'll be paying close attention to the Sooners at NCAAs. If they make it to match play, watch out!

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College Golf

Just how good is Stanford's Mariah Stackhouse? Her handicap index is +4.3

We know Mariah Stackhouse is good based solely on her performance in the final match of the NCAA Women’s Championship on Wednesday.

Stackhouse, a Stanford junior, was two down with two holes to play in her match with Baylor’s Hayley Davis, then birdied the final two holes of regulation to pull even and won the first extra hole to give the Cardinal the national championship.

But if you need more evidence, check out this scorecard for the second round of the 2013 Peg Barnhard Invitational on the Stanford University Golf Course that she won by 10:

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And she plays to a +4.3 handicap index out of four different clubs in her home state of Georgia: Braelinn Golf Club, Flat Creek Club, Planterra Ridge Golf Club and Whitewater Creek Country Club:

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News & Tours

Why Stanford winning the NCAA title is the best thing that could happen to women's college golf

BRADENTON, FLA. -- Everywhere you turned late Wednesday afternoon at The Concession G.C. you saw the usual emotions on display from coaches and players and family that accompany the conclusion of the NCAA Women's Championship.


Cheers, tears, elation and relief.

That they used match play to decide the women's team champion for the first time in NCAA history didn't change any of that. On the contrary, it only amplified it. Baylor senior Hayley Davis' missed par putt on the first extra hole of her deciding match with Stanford junior Mariah Stackhouse was all the more gut-wrenching because of the finality of the moment set up uniquely because of the new match-play format.

Stanford's 3-2 victory over Baylor in the championship match ended six grueling days of play in the warm Florida sun. You can add one new emotion then to the 2015 championship: exhaustion. If there was a valid criticism of the new schedule it was the sheer amount of golf played overall -- seven competition rounds in six days -- something both Stanford coach Anne Walker and Baylor coach Jay Goble noted in their post-round interviews.

Ultimately, though, women's college golf got not only what it had hoped for but what it deserved: An exciting finish, national TV exposure (with the Golf Channel broadcasting the championship for the first time), even a little controversy to spice things up (the grumbling about The Concession G.C. playing too long and having hole locations that were too severe muted somewhat by the amazing play down the stretch of Stackhouse and Davis with the national title in the balance).

Oh, and a new national champion.

For only the second time in the last 12 years, a program that had never won the NCAA title walked away the victors. While a perennial top-25 program under coaches Tim Baldwin and Caroline O'Conner, the Cardinal's previous best showing was a runner-up finish in 2000.

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Coming off a Pac-12 title last spring and with two All-Americans in Stackhouse (above) and fellow junior Lauren Kim leading the charge, expectations were big in Palo Alto at the start of the 2014-'15 season. And yet the team struggled to find its way. Walker's squad won just one tournament during the regular season (its home even in October), enduring injuries to Kim as well as sophomore Quirine Eijkenboom, and seeing talented freshman Shannon Aubert (who won three matches this week) undergo surgery in February to remove an ovarian cyst. Walker, in her third year as head coach, had her own mid-season adjustments to make, giving birth to daughter Emma in December.

Related: Stanford women's team shows you how to hit golf's scariest shots

Yet despite entering the NCAA postseason with finishes of 10th, sixth and seventh in its final three starts, Stanford shinned, letting its NerdNation followers (led by former Stanford student Michelle Wie) rejoice.

For a sport that has grown so much in the last decade, with so many programs around the country investing time and resources to build national contenders, it's a good thing to have a little new blood step up to help maintain the sport's upward momentum.

Six years after the men started using match play to help crown the team winner, the women went kicking and screaming. And by and large found out what the men have: That match play simple creates a more exciting NCAA championship.

"I was the first one to be hesitant about it originally," said Goble moments after watching his squad painfully lost the championship. "I didn't originally believe that it was a format that was broken. But you know, again, going through the last two days, it's really exciting. It's really fun. It's an emotional roller coaster out there, but I think that to go out there and to fight it out the way you have to do in match play, it shows a lot of guts.

There will continue to be some dissenting voices who question whether the format change makes it less likely to identify the nation's top team. Had the format not been altered, traditional power USC would have won its four NCAA title in 12 years. But when the Trojans fell to Stanford in the semifinals, their title quest came to its own painful end.

Ultimately, just as college sports evolve so do their championships. Look no further than the most popular college sport in the country: football. Ohio State wouldn't have won its national championship this year under the format that sport traditionally used, yet the Buckeyes performance made them a legitimate national champion.

The same should be said for Stanford, deserving winners of the most exciting six-day endurance test women's college golf has ever seen.

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Courses & Travel

Westchester golf course adds really cool floating 19th hole "to settle your bets"

Your match just ended all square after 18 holes. In most cases, your next move of heading to the 19th hole would mean going to the clubhouse bar. Never a bad plan.

But what if your course actually had a 19th hole? And what if that 19th hole involved a floating green?

Behind The Camera: Life on TPC Sawgrass' other island

Westchester Magazine has the story on this cool concept recently introduced by GlenArbor Golf Club in Bedford Hills, N.Y. Following their rounds, golfers there can hit a shot from near the clubhouse patio onto a green in the middle of a lake.

"It's the coolest shot in golf," GlenArbor head professional Brian Crowell told Westchester. "It's the perfect way to settle your bets -- or make a few more -- at the end of your round."

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Nineteenth holes are becoming more common, but having a floating green is unique. The idea was the brainchild of Crowell and Michael Lehrer, owner of Home Green Advantage in Armonk.

GlenArbor's 19th is a 14-by-21-foot green that's a replica of the club's 14th green. The shot is 80 yards long, but it plays about 60 with the elevation drop and there are three different pin placements. No, you don't take a boat out there to putt out, but the tee shot alone is fun enough.

"There's also nothing more satisfying than watching your opponent's ball splash into the lake after yours lands safely on the green," Crowell said.

Related: Watch Brian Crowell's "Quick Tips" video series

Well, that and knowing golf's traditional 19th hole -- let's call it the 20th in this case -- is just a few steps away.

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Travel

Deal of the Week: Add golf to the full Branson experience

Travelers on the coasts sometimes sniff at Branson, Missouri as a potential vacation destination, but nearly 10 million people visited the Ozarks entertainment hub last year for shopping, shows, fishing and golf. 

The problem with heading to a place that has more than 50 theaters, some of the best bass fishing in the U.S. and a collection of natural attractions like Marvel Cave is parsing out the time to see everything. 

With its Platinum Experience package, the Thousand Hills Golf Resort aims to solve that problem. For rates starting around $200 per night, you get a two-bedroom condo adjacent to the Bob Cupp design and $750 in coupons for a laundry list of shows, attractions, activities and restaurants. Golf costs $49 per player, and isn't included in the price. 

The coupons range from practical (free rental clubs for four at the course) to the prosaic (see Yakov Smirnoff live!), and cover virtually every cultural taste, from Mickey Gilley to the Osmonds.

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Using Thousand Hills as a base, you can branch out and play some of the area's other strong tests. Buffalo Ridge is one of Tom Fazio's toughest tests, and played host to the Champions Tour's Legends of Golf last year. Payne Stewart Golf Club was designed by Chuck Smith and Bobby Clampett as a tribute to the PGA Tour star and Missouri native. Both courses are on the outskirts of Branson proper. 

The vast majority of travelers get to Branson by car and bus--it was the most popular charter bus destination in the U.S. last year--but air travel has gotten way easier in the last few years. The privately-owned Branson Airport opened in 2009, and has daily flights from Denver, Chicago, Houston and Baltimore. 

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