The Local Knowlege

My Usual Game

Shouldn't you change the way you mark your ball?

Some people, when they’re having trouble with their golf game, take a lesson or even sign up for golf school, but others make a slight change in the way they mark their golf ball while also switching to a different color of Sharpie. At any rate, that’s what I did recently. And -- who knows? -- maybe my new ball-identification strategy will add 30 or 40 yards to my tee shots. In the photo below, the ball on the left is marked with my old, discredited pattern and color, and the ball on the right is marked with my new:


I made the change because Rick had suddenly begun marking his ball almost exactly the way I was accustomed to marking mine. Or maybe he'd always marked his ball that way and I'd only just noticed. Either way, I was ready for a change, and I was happy to have an excuse to order an entire box of red Sharpies:


When most golfers mark their ball, they don't mark it enough, in my opinion. Whatever technique you use, you should make sure you can identify your ball without touching it, no matter how it's lying on the ground. I use eight widely spaced dots, and even when my ball is in the rough I can almost always see at least a couple of them. Too many players check their ball by picking it up, then putting it back down in an obviously better lie. Who do they think they are? Tom Brady?


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The book any self-respecting mini-golf fan has to read next regularly highlights golf books we find of interest to readers. This week's book is:

loop-mini-golf-book-cover-300.jpgThe Minibook of Minigolf,
By Tim Hollis, Seaside Publishing, $14.95, paperback, 120 pages

When miniature golf is done right, it has all the elements you come to enjoy in the "regular" game: fun, challenge, competition and camaraderie. The Putt-Putt brand, to my mind, was always the best standard. However, we all know bad mini-golf: torn putting surfaces, cups protruding above the "green" and debris such as mulch, pebbles and dirt that litters your path to the hole. Good or bad, we expect three things in our mini-golf experience: layouts that defy description, greens that would go 20 or more on the Stimpmeter and plaster creatures, albeit golf style) you'd see on a Mardi Gras float.

That latter aspect is what makes The Minibook of Minigolf a delightful and nostalgic visual journey through the often wacky world of miniature golf. Printed in 6-by-4.5 inch size, each book page is like a colored postcard as the dragons, elephants, whales, dinosaurs and other creatures that bring to mind other putting-course Americana, such as the fiberglass Muffler Men showcased from various mini-golf courses.

Related: Catch up on other Golf Digest book reviews

There is not much to read, mainly captions describing the visuals. The focus is mini-golf layouts of the South, where the sport is quite popular and also at its most outrageous best. If nothing else, the book offers prime examples of why mini-golf is also often called Goofy Golf.

You also might like: If you are a fan of mini-golf, two predecessors to the Hollis book are worth tracking down. The first is The Miniature Book of Miniature Golf, by Mike Vago. It's a board book from Workman Publishing measuring roughly 6-by-6 inches that is a full nine-hole mini golf course, with putter and balls. You "play" through the book, "walking" the course from one page to another. Each hole has a different design, modeled on real holes, forcing you to avoid obstacles. The last hole has the traditional clown's mouth.

Related: Grantland's mini-documentary on mini-golf is really good

The second book is Miniature Golf, from Abbeville Press, with photos by John Margolies and text by Nina Garfinkel and Maria Reidelbach. For a review of minigolf's history, this is a more substantial read than the Hollis book and thus more in-depth, while visually just as strong. Some versions of the book have an artificial-turf cover. It's a great salute to a playing of the game known best by the casual observer.


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Missing Links

Graeme McDowell: Royal County Down 'is proper Open Championship golf'

Stories of interest you might have missed…

“Graeme McDowell think Royal County Down could host The Open but he warned: ‘It can eat you alive,’” Brian Keogh of the Irish Golf Desk writes. “The Ulster ace look set to lead early in the day only to finish with three straight bogeys for a one over 72. Happy not to blow himself out of the tournament in the morning squalls that wrecked Rory McIlroy’s day, G-Mac said: ‘This course is a beast, borderline evil in this type of wind. We don’t get to experience these conditions very much and this is raw, this is what it’s all about. This is proper Open Championship golf.’”

G Mac.jpg
(Getty Images)

Colin Montgomerie will play in seven major championships this year and he will attempt to add an eighth via qualifying for the British Open at St. Andrews. “The magic of playing in an Open Championship at St Andrews has enticed Colin Montgomerie to plan a 5,500-mile mad dash from Los Angeles to London in a bid to make it an eightsome reel for the Scot in golf’s majors this year,” Martin Dempster of the Scotsman writes.


“Given his rapid rise to world No. 2, his clean-cut image and his ability to connect with consumers of all ages, [Jordan] Spieth is a marketer’s dream,” Bill Nichols writes in the Dallas Morning News. “'I think he’s somebody who’s going to be very important, not just for AT&T but for the game of golf,’ Randall Stephenson, AT&T chairman and chief executive officer, said. ‘In the era since Tiger was in his prime, we need somebody to come out and really attract young people to the sport. We’re really excited about being affiliated with him.’”


“For University of South Florida junior golfer Chase Koepka, a funny thing happened on the way to simply being the little brother of an emerging star on the PGA Tour. He made his own name. He established his own identity,” Joey Johnston of the Tampa Tribune writes in this story on Brooks Koepka’s brother.


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News & Tours

John Daly, cases of beer and missing context

There is something missing from the following Tweet from John Daly, notably context. Not that is surprising, of course. Daly infamously once said, in response to a controversy he created regarding players on the PGAT our using drugs, "some of my quotes were taken out of content."

But in the photo, Daly is posing with cases of beer on pallets in a warehouse, and his Tweet is about support for his “Boys & Girls Club.”

Of course, 140 characters doesn’t provide ample room to provide context. Still…


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News & Tours

I played in an LPGA pro-am and it was way better than I expected

I've played as much golf as any 33-year-old non-professional golfer could ever hope, but I'd never had the pleasure of playing in a pro-am until the opportunity arose at the ShopRite LPGA Classic. I signed up and eagerly waited to see who I'd be paired with. "WINbee" Park? Michelle Wie? Paula Creamer?! Nope. Jing Yan.

Jing Yan?

A common perception of the LPGA Tour is that it's predominantly made up of Asian golfers lacking in English and personality. But that couldn't have been more wrong in my experience. Who is Jing Yan, you say? She's my new favorite golfer, that's who.

Aside from Jing's abundant golf skills and how cool she was with our group, I was intrigued by her back story. Jing grew up in Singapore and went to the University of Washington. However, she turned pro after one semester because she badly wants to make China's Olympic golf team in 2016. Just 19, Jing had only played in four LPGA events in 2015 as a rookie because she started the season with just conditional status. A recent T-11 at Kingsmill, though, has her in good shape for the rest of the year. Go Jing!

Related: 10 things men can learn from LPGA Tour pros

Back to the event, the ShopRite pro-am bills itself as the biggest pro-am in pro golf. It takes place over two days and at four different courses and a large collection of caddies has to be imported to handle the demand. Our group that included Jesse and John, a couple of sales guys, and Christina, a recent college graduate just entering "the real world" as an accountant, was fortunate to play the Bay Course at Stockton Seaview Hotel and Golf Club. The Bay Course is where the actual LPGA event is contested and as we all found out, playing it with Jing on a weekday felt as far from being in the real world as possible.

If you ever get the chance to play in a pro-am, DO IT. Here's a rundown of what it was like.

After checking in, you go eat lunch in a big room with all the LPGA players. They leave their golf bags outside the door.


If you're lucky, a player will come sit with you. No players sat at my table. However, Lexi Thompson almost ran into me going for a bottle of water.


After you've finished eating, you go to the range to practice. The range is divided into two sections: one for players and one for amateurs. At first, this was disappointing, but then I realized it's for the best. The LPGA doesn't need any of it's players being hurt by a hosel rocket. If you'd rather chill by the players' practice green, you can get an autograph or a picture with a star. Hey, there's Stacy Lewis!


Then it's time to head to your first hole. And when it's your turn to tee off, someone will announce your name.


You'll even have a (small) crowd watch your opening drive.


Jing says she enjoys the pro-ams. Because of the competition, they make her focus more than if she was just practicing by herself. Maybe she's just being nice, or maybe she feels that way because she's only done two of them.


The format is a scramble, which is always fun. But it's even better when you're playing with a tour pro. Jing always went last and didn't hit one bad shot all day. Look at this finish. Pure.


Jesse and John bet $1 for each time the group used one of their shots and they liked to pose for photos after particularly good ones. John came out on top (that closing eagle putt was the perfect way to end the day), but it had everyone, including Jing, yelling "Dollar!" throughout the round. And having Christina hitting bombs from the women's tees was another big key to Team Jing's success.


There are prizes on every hole for either closest to the pin or longest drive. The pros are not eligible for these prizes, which gives ample opportunities for amateurs to feel good about themselves. Hey, look at me!


There's also ample food and drink on every hole. It's a wonder every pro golfer doesn't look like Tim Herron.


Some holes even have buckets of beer and full bars set up.


Don't mind if I do. It is a scramble, after all, and we've got Jing.


The amateurs shared two caddies, but we also had Jing's caddie, who happens to be her dad, Ming, a veteran golf commentator for ESPN in Asia.


And you tend to listen to a man who keeps notes this detailed.


Of course, Jing knows a thing or two about reading greens and she constantly helped her team as well.


But having a pro player and caddie help you with yardages and reads isn't the only way you'll feel like a pro. You'll have marshals making sure everyone is still when it's your turn to hit.


And it's pretty tough to lose a ball when you have people looking for you.


Even if there aren't a lot of people watching, there is definitely a different atmosphere than your normal Sunday foursome.


That's not to say you won't have as much -- or even more -- fun.


Especially if your team plays well (thanks, Jing!). That's us posting a 58 to finish T-3 out of 58 teams in our wave. Not. Bad.


And when you finish, you get a framed photo of your group.


Of course, we all thought we left a couple shots out there, but everyone was happy with our score. And it's probably better we didn't win for Jing, who says players believe in a pro-am jinx. Hey, what's good for Jing is good for me. 

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News & Tours

What should we make of Rory McIlroy missing a second straight cut?

What to make of Rory McIlroy missing the cut at the Irish Open? Especially after doing the same at the BMW PGA the week before? And especially after sealing his fate with an opening 80 at Royal County Down?

As far as the short term? Not much. McIlroy got a little off, which turned into frustration that caused the bad to become worse. He's probably only a refresher session with Michael Bannon, a little cogitating and a couple of good nights of sleep from getting back to the player who won twice earlier this month. And who should go into the U.S. Open at Chambers Bay as the favorite.

But long term, we have seen some patterns from McIlroy that have been repeated enough to draw a reasonably filled-in portrait of the nature of his greatness and who he is as a golfer.

McIlroy's particular brand of genius-level ability comes with an artistic temperament that makes him stubborn about playing the kind of golf he knows he's capable of and deeply wants to play. Which starts with hitting his favorite club  -- the driver -- aggressively and often. It's statistically established that when he's hitting the driver well, it provides his most distinct advantage over the competition. And McIlroy has hit it so well -- with a gorgeous ball flight that he can bend both ways -- often enough that at 26 he is already considered a historically great driver. Most importantly for McIlroy's competitive state of mind, playing his brand of majestic golf tee to green is what most satisfies the artist within.

Related: 19 things you should know about Rory McIlroy

But on the flip side, being slightly off at the very high swing speeds that McIlroy generates means misses that go farther into trouble than shorter hitters. Psychologically, for an artist with McIlroy's talent level, it's nearly unavoidable that the mistakes grate more than they would for a less talented player with a more pragmatic view. The mega-talented and artistically bent Tom Weiskopf ruefully mused that after a couple of shots that displeased him, he began to look at his round as a painting he wanted to tear up and start over.

Of course, golf is a game of misses even for Ben Hogan. But while he's gotten better at stemming the tide on those days when it's not going right, McIlroy is susceptible to seeing his indifferent rounds snowball into snowmen. At McIlroy's stratospheric level -- No. 1 in the world, four major championships by age 25, one of the powerfully efficient golf swings ever seen -- it's a weakness.

Compared to the two dozen or so players golf's pantheon, at this point its fair to say that McIlroy's exhibits a distaste for grinding. Whereas Tiger Woods seemed to get as much satisfaction from turning a 75 into a 70 as from posting a 65, and Jack Nicklaus was a disciplined master of not shooting himself out of tournaments with wasted strokes, McIlroy models those behaviors almost grudgingly.

Not that McIlroy is a quitter in any sense of the word.  He has dug deep when his game has been off on plenty of occasions, most notably last year in the final round of the PGA Championship at Valhalla. But such is his emergency mode, not his habit.

Ergo, the occasional missed cut, and the odd 80. Especially at a non-major, McIlroy when struggling in the first or second round is akin to a tennis player giving away the first set after getting down 4-0. In moments of weakness he may be susceptible to the Weiskopf reaction. The other variable that could be playing a growing role are the demands of being No. 1. While it's clear McIlroy enjoys that station and will fight hard to keep it, the mental burdens can be draining, and conserving energy may be more on his mind than ever.

Even if he goes on to win double-digit majors, the bet here is that Rory's opposing poles of good and bad will be wider apart than almost any other great player. Criticizing him for that is almost as unreasonable as expecting a golfer to be perfect. Basically, McIlroy's "weakness" is the tradeoff for possessing a "good" that has the potential to be considered the highest ever.


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News & Tours

Why build a golf memorabilia collection when you can buy one?

Tour caddies usually collect a salary plus 10 percent of a winners check, but 15-year looper Scott Watts collected more -- a vast collection of memorabilia, ranging from tournament-used bags to signed balls, flags and gloves. 

If you've always dreamed of toting your clubs in one of Jack Nicklaus' (or Hugh Baiocchi's) old bags and impressing the rest of your foursome with an autographed, tournament-worn shoe from Arnold Palmer, you should head over and look at the eBay listing

Watts is asking $125,000 for the entire collection, which seems like a steal when you consider that it includes the compete caddie uniform Watts wore when he looped for Tommy Aaron at the 1993 Masters, along with the bag and yardage book he carried.

A video with the listing gives a quick preview of some of the 43 staff bags and other memorabilia in the collection. 

You might need to build an addition to the man cave. 


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News & Tours

UPDATE: That 100-yard par 4 at the AT&T Byron Nelson has been changed to a par 3

If a 300-yard hole is called a drivable par 4, what's one that's 100 yards? A pitch-able par 4?

Related: Check out one course's 19th hole with a floating green

That's what PGA Tour players will be dealing with during Friday's second round of the AT&T Byron Nelson. Seriously.

Four and a half inches of rain pelted TPC Las Colinas overnight, which now officially makes this the rainiest May in the history of the Dallas-Fort Worth area. The start of the second round was delayed by three hours, and we assume the par is remaining the same on No. 14 for consistency throughout the tournament (Chambers Bay will flip pars on two of its holes during the U.S. Open but par will stay 70 for each round).

So a 100-yard par 4 (104 to be exact) it is. Should be a decent confidence booster for the boys.

UPDATE: Gary Woodland has taken advantage of this situation.

UPDATE NO. 2: The PGA Tour has thought better of this.

Sorry, Gary.


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News & Tours

This photo from the Irish Open epitomizes European golf fan dedication

Sure, the weather in Northern Ireland can get nasty. We're sure Europeans are used to the brutal conditions that are common on a golf course.

But we're really impressed by the dedication of the fans at the Irish Open this week. Torrential rain, huge winds? Doesn't matter to them. This is the first time a pro event has been held at the magnificent Royal County Down, and European golf fans will do anything to experience the course as a spectator, as this photo illustrates.

Related: 7 things you need to know about Royal County Down

Yep, those are actual people underneath all those umbrellas. Not for nothing, but if it was the U.S., there's a good chance half of us would be under shelter, watching it on our high-def TVs away from the elements. We applaud you, European golf fans.


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Health & Fitness

Fitness Friday: Stronger hips = Longer drives

Watch Rory McIlroy hit a tee shot (see below) and you can't help but notice how fast his hips rotate counterclockwise when he starts his downswing. They look like they snap toward the target, leaving his upper body and club in the dust. This lag between lower-body and upper-body rotation generates a tremendous amount of force for a golf swing and is a good reason Rory can regularly bust drives in the 330-yard range or longer.


Most golfers don't have that kind of explosive hip action when they swing down, but even modest improvements in the way you move them can yield noticeable results in how far you hit the ball, says Dave Herman, a trainer to many professional golfers and creator of @superflexfit stretch bands.

Herman, teaching professional Andrew Park (@andrewparkgolf) and LPGA Tour 2013 Rookie of the Year Moriya Jutanugarn demonstrate a few exercises you can do to not only improve your hip action, but also strengthen your glutes, shoulder and mid-back muscles. Click on the two videos below to see what you need to do to launch the ball farther than ever.

Ron Kaspriske is the fitness editor of Golf Digest.


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