The Local Knowlege

Courses & Travel

This is the coolest miniature golf course that you'll see today

If you find yourself in Tennessee over the holiday week, you should probably check out D&D Miniature Golf.

The miniature golf venue in Clakesville, Tennessee combines blacklights and 3D glasses to offer a Fantasy Forest-feel, according to The Leaf-Chronicle, which first reported on the venue. The mini-golf course features unicorns, dragons and fairies, among other things. Prices range from $7.50 for kids to $9.50 for adults.

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Jazzed-up miniature golf courses like this are growing increasingly more common as they try to find new ways to attract more customers. A miniature golf course in Oregon recently featured lasers on one of its holes, while a minor league baseball team in Ohio spent the off-season turning its stadium into a miniature golf course.

"Golf alone doesn’t make it any more," David Callahan, CEO of Putt-Putt Golf, told Bloomberg TV in August. "You can’t make that business model work."

And that seems to be the goal here for Todd Lindburgh, the course's designer, who set out to create a "a one-of-a-kind event."

"Everyone will find something they like," he said.

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News & Tours

Missing Links: Navy SEAL who shot Bin Laden found golf 'more stressful than combat'

Stories of interest you might have missed…

“The future of golf is handicapped,” the headline to this story by Harrison Jacobs of the Economist says. The handicaps are familiar: It takes too long and it’s too hard. As for the latter, “Robert O'Neill, the Navy Seal who shot Osama bin Laden, was urged by his psychologist to take up golf, but found it ‘more stressful than combat,’” Jacobs writes.

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(Getty Images)

There are many reasons to like Charley Hull, the budding 18-year-old star from England, but the best reason? Her personality. She would like a boyfriend, for instance, “[b]ut I’m really fussy with guys,” she said in this profile by Sue Mott in the Independent. “I don’t like those maintained pretty-type boys. I like somebody who can stand up for himself. An outdoors type, not a poncey pretty boy.”

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John Huggan of the Scotsman presents his annual Huggy awards, always an amusing read. For instance, his Huggy for “daftest rule” has nothing to do with golf rules. It’s this: “No one is allowed to take food/water from the [Augusta National] media centre, lest the sun fall from the sky presumably.” He cites the example of a BBC producer who purchased sandwiches that he took into the media center, but then was not allowed to take them out of the media center. “Welcome to Augusta National everyone,” Huggan writes.

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“My slump had gone on for so long it had got to the stage where I couldn't keep doing it. My results were terrible, I was playing with people on the Challenge Tour who didn't know I was quite good once who were thinking: ‘He's rubbish’. It had become embarrassing.” Oliver Wilson then beat the best player in the world, Rory McIlroy, to win the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship at St. Andrews in October. Now, “instead of contemplating another profession, he can pore over the European Tour schedule and pick the glamour places to play,” Derek Lawrenson of the Daily Mail writes in this look back at one of the more improbable victories in golf.

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News & Tours

Tiger Woods celebrating another win...vicariously

Arjun Atwal is an otherwise relatively obscure tour professional whose profile has been raised considerably by his friendship with Tiger Woods.

So it was that Atwal, an Indian native, won the inaugural Dubai Open Sunday after receiving encouragement via a text from Woods.

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Atwal, Woods during Players Championship practice round in 2012 (Getty Images)

“We’ve become really close,” Atwal told the Gulf News. “What with him going through his stuff and me struggling the last couple of years, we’ve been there for each other.

“There’s very few friends in the world that will be there for you when you need them the most, and he’s one of them. And I’m there for him as well.

“Going through his two years of struggle, he’s always been nothing but positive. I’ve spent some time with him, and he’s always guided me on the right way I should go with my game or my health, and how to go about rehabbing.

“In fact he texted me this morning and told me, ‘Shoot two under a side. Shoot 68 and you should be good.’ He was wrong.”

Atwal, in fact, needed a 72nd-hole birdie to complete a final-round 66 to win by one over Jeung-hun Wang in the Asian Tour event. It was his first victory since winning the PGA Tour's Wyndham Championship in 2010. He has not played the PGA Tour full time since 2012.

Atwal, 41, and Woods were once neighbors in the Isleworth community near Orlando. On occasions when they’re entered in the same tournament, they play practice rounds, together.

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My Usual Game

Let's check in with that guy who has played every golf course in Ireland

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Kevin Markham lives south of Dublin and knows Irish golf better than anyone. He has played every 18-hole course in the country and written two excellent books about them: Hooked, a course-by-course guide, with ratings; and Driving the Green, the story of the 7,000-mile trip during which he played them all while somehow remaining married. 

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I’ve had the good fortune to join him for rounds on four of the very best: Royal Portstewart and Royal Portrush, in 2012, Royal County Down, in 2013, and the Island, in 2014. Here he is (on the left) at R.C.D., with Kevan Whitson, the head pro:

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Recently, Markham wrote to say that the County Sligo Golf Club -- which I’ve played, though not with him -- has been undergoing significant changes. His report:

County Sligo Golf Club bears the hallmark of the great Harry Colt. His design work in the 1920s helped establish a global reputation for this links course, which is commonly known as Rosses Point. But times change, and in recent years the club’s profile, ranking, and revenues have declined. The response is a three-phase course upgrade under the guidance of the architect Pat Ruddy, a Sligo native. Phase One, which is underway, includes additional tee boxes, new bunkering, and extended greens, as well as one new green. It is a brave move to alter such a classic links course, but, Ruddy has said the improvements will "move County Sligo back to the very pinnacle of world golf.” One goal is to attract a major event. The ultimate prize would be the Irish Open in 2019, the same year that Royal Portrush is expected to host the Open Championship.

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Ruddy is sometimes accused of creating courses that are too difficult. I once published a list of the five toughest Irish courses, and three of them were his (the European Club, Sandy Hills at Rosapenna, and Druids Heath at Druids Glen). That said, I adore the European Club, and I rate Sandy Hills highly. My issue with Druids Heath is that you rarely see the landing area from the tee, which I find unrewarding when you hit a good drive.

You can see more of Markham’s photos of the Rosses Point renovations, with informative captions, here.

I myself played Rosses Point in 2011. A club competition was scheduled for the day I wanted to visit -- the toughest time to play a visitor round in Ireland (or Scotland or England or anywhere else) is Saturday morning, when tee times are usually reserved for members -- but David O’Donovan, the director of golf, told me that he and I could play ahead of the pack if I didn’t mind teeing off at 7:26. To make certain I’d be there on time, I stayed at the Yeats Country Hotel, which, according to the website on which I made my room reservation, is 0.0 miles from the clubhouse. I could see the course from my window, and in the morning I arrived at the golf shop a few minutes before O’Donovan.

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Rosses Point had just held a major amateur championship, the West of Ireland (whose past winners include Padraig Harrington and Rory McIlroy), so the course was in great shape. O’Donovan, who grew up in town in a family of excellent players, insisted that we take a golf cart -- an Irish first for me. When you’re in a cart, it’s hard to get a feel for any golf hole, but we did make excellent time. 

Rosses Point begins with two good holes up a hill, followed by two very good holes back. Then you tee off over a cliff -- on a par 5 called the Jump -- and work your way around a stretch of linksland that appears flat from above but turns out to be filled with seductive complications. Here's the view from the tee on the Jump (although the camera flattens the cliff):

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We finished in two and a half hours, and then, since the kitchen hadn’t opened yet, we played the club’s third nine, which adjoins the lower portion of the championship course. We caught up to and joined an older member, who gave up golf for 20 years to please his second wife but had now begun playing again (and was in the process of giving up the wife). “My game is coming back,” he said -- a man at peace.


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Books

Book Review: Al Michaels' You Can't Make This Up

Each week GolfDigest.com will highlight a book that it finds of interest to readers. This week is:

You Can't Make This Up: Miracles, Memories and the Perfect Marriage of Sports and Television, by Al Michaels, with L. Jon Wertheim, William Morrow, $28.99, hardback, 288 pages.

If you are familiar with sportscaster Al Michaels, it's because he's been all over the sports landscape. Recently turned 70, Michaels' 40-plus year career has taken him to the championship moments of the NFL, NBA, NHL and MLB, Triple Crown races, and most legendarily, to the Olympics. His "Do you believe in miracles?" call as the United States ticked down to an improbable hockey victory over the Soviet Union in 1980 will be a broadcasting moment replayed as long as TV sports highlight packages are compiled. He presently does NBC's Sunday Night Football. 

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There is not as much golf as I would like to recommend this autobiography to a pure golf fan, but given that the Brooklyn-born Michaels is a golf fanatic, the sport does figure into his account. The latter half has enough golf anecdotes interspersed to make it interesting for the golf fan, including how Michaels made a call to O.J. Simpson to play golf on the day Simpson's wife and an acquaintance of her's would later be murdered. Early in the book, Michaels writes about how his father, Jay, a talent agent-turned TV rights negotiator had worked with legendary agent Mark McCormack on buying rights to sports events. Michaels' father ended up founding and running Trans World International, IMG's television division.

During his career with ABC from 1977-2006, Michaels covered golf at events such as the Tiger Woods "Showdown at Sherwood" night-time specials played under the lights with the likes of David Duval.  He writes about those events, as well as his rounds of golf with athletes and celebrities. Throughout the book, Michaels drops a lot of famous names, but it's not obtrusive or excessive. He's simply telling his life's story and the people he met along the way, many of whom became or were famous. 

I particularly enjoyed: The nostalgic nature of Michaels' life. He begins by talking about growing up in Brooklyn with three baseball teams in New York to follow. His remembrances of New York's great athletes and how they impacted his life to what it became is something all sports fans can relate to from their own childhood when it is common to adore athletes. Michaels was able to continue that adoration of the players of his youth when his family moved to California, coinciding with the Dodgers' move to Los Angeles. 

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News & Tours

Missing Links: Tiger Woods, Jack Nicklaus still linked, this time by (course) design

Stories of interest you might have missed…

“Jack Nicklaus designed the neighboring course, and there is more than a touch of irony that the Golden Bear's latest in a long list of projects opened a mere 12 days before Woods christened El Cardonal at Diamante [in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico] to a good bit of fanfare this week. The two men's names have been linked for more than two decades, from the time Woods noted Nicklaus' golf accomplishments as a youth and decided he wanted to surpass the 73 PGA Tour victories (Woods has) and the 18 major championships (Woods has not).” ESPN’s Bob Harig writes about the two legends’ different approaches to their design businesses.

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(Getty Images)

European Ryder Cup player Stephen Gallacher is the latest to go off on slow play in professional golf. “Certain forms of slow play is tantamount to cheating,” Gallagher said in this Scottish Express story. “Guys who know they are slow and get fined all the time but don’t do anything about it are putting people off. They are certainly putting viewers off. The bit I think is akin to cheating is their two paces - when they speed up once they’ve been put on the clock.”

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Jason Palmer of England has earned a European Tour card for the first time, after a long and debilitating battle with the chip yips. How did he persevere? “[W]henever he finds himself within 40 yards of the pin but off the green, he will pitch or chip one-handed, be it from a bunker, rough or fairway. Yes, he does so with only his right hand on the club. Riath Al-Samarrai has the story in the Daily Mail.

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We’ve had disc golf for a while now. Then came foot golf. Now we have smash golf, played with a racket and a rubber ball. “The fact that [Daril] Pacinella was offering a new idea to help business was the clincher, and so Smash Golf had an official home base in Rockledge {Fla.},” Brian McCallum writes in Florida Today. “[Justin Horton, the general manager of Turtle Creek Golf Club] is working to establish a league for the new sport…For now, he's simply hopeful.”

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Celebrity

5 things to talk about with your buddies on the course this weekend

From sports to TV to politics (OK, so mostly the first two), we offer five hot topics that are sure to liven up your round of golf:

1. "The Interview": In an unprecedented move, Sony decided to pull this new Seth Rogan-James Franco comedy about assassinating Kim Jong Un after being hacked and threatened. The FBI has confirmed the threats came from the North Korean government, but many people are still upset the studio (and big movie theater chains) caved to the demands of those angry about the film's message. We're more upset North Korea didn't care as much about the release of Bubba Watson's latest music video.

Related: Our favorite golf movie scenes

2. "Homeland": Maybe this Showtime series can cover a similar type of cyberterrorism on Hollywood in its next season. If you gave up on this show after a disappointing third season, we don't blame you, but you really need to start watching again. Season 4 has been so good (Hopefully, we're not jinxing Sunday's finale) it deserves some sort of comeback player/thing of the year award. And CIA operative Peter Quinn has become the biggest badass on TV. We're convinced he could have handled this whole situation with North Korea by himself.

3. "Taken 3": Liam Neeson is another tough guy who could help us take on North Korea, but "Taken 3"? As in a third "Taken"? Seriously? Hollywood really is running out of good ideas.

Related: NBA stars who love playing golf

4. Rajon Rondo: After years of being on the trading block, the Celtics finally moved their talented guard to the Dallas Mavericks. As if the NBA's Western Conference wasn't stacked enough. Spurs, Warriors, Thunder, Clippers, Grizzlies, Mavericks, Rockets, and Trailblazers. FOUR of those teams will not make it out of the first round of the playoffs. Meanwhile, Golf Digest might be able to round up a pick-up team that could contend in the East. Speaking of fellow, um, colleagues. . .

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5. Kate Upton: The Golf Digest cover model was named People magazine's "Sexiest Woman Alive." Congrats, Kate! We're all so proud of you here! But please come back to the office soon. Those reports aren't going to write themselves. . .

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Courses & Travel

Here's how you can play some of the best golf courses in the country in 2015

Do you have a golf course -- or perhaps a list of courses -- that you've made it your goal to play next year? Golf Channel posed that question on Morning Drive a few days ago, and we thought it was a good one, so we explored it a little further.

It turns out that The First Tee of Central Ohio is auctioning off a handful of rounds at some of the swankiest, most-desirable courses in the country. It'll cost you, but split it between a group of other people and it's not totally unreasonable. And besides, it's for a good cause.

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Bidding on most of them doesn't end for another six months, but each has a "buy it now" price that hovers around $5,000. You can check out the full list here.

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News & Tours

Golf instruction loses one of its most influential figures

teacher-rudy-obit-250.jpgOne of the legends in golf instruction passed away December 15 -- quietly, just as he taught. Ben Doyle was not only a charter member of Golf Digest's 50 Best Teachers list, but a mentor and friend to dozens of top-rank instructors around the world. He also helped craft three of the most beautiful swings in the game in the form of Mac O'Grady, Bobby Clampett and Steve Elkington.  

Doyle was probably most famous for his relationship with the Golfing Machine teaching manual -- a complicated golf textbook written by Homer Kelley in 1969. Doyle was the first teacher to become certified to teach Kelley's method, and spent more than 40 years advancing its core principles.

He did it from a cart filled to the top with bags of old clubs, vintage televisions, video equipment and household items like mops and brooms -- all designed to get students to feel and see a technically sound swing. I went to see Doyle in the early 2000s with another of Doyle's proteges, 50 Best Teacher Tom Ness, and the cart didn't look much different during my visit than it did in this image from the August 1983 issue of Golf Digest. It was probably sitting in the exact same spot, too, at the end of the driving range at the Quail Lodge & Country Cub in Carmel Valley, CA. The two days of lessons I saw all went essentially the same way, with the student making small, body-controlled swings in a bunker while trying to strike a specific point in the sand. 

Doyle's dogmatic devotion to the Golfing Machine manual and less-than-charismatic teaching style often led to him being dismissed as a one-note "method teacher." But many top teachers credit Doyle for being one of the true trailblazers in incorporating science into golf instruction. He was one of the first instructors to film each lesson and provide the student with the tape at the end of the session.   

"There's a lot of recent proof that has come out that the best way to learn is through analogies--showing a person similar things that he's done before, like dragging a mop. Ben was way ahead of his time," said 50 Best Teacher Chuck Cook, who started working with Doyle in the mid-1980s. "My whole teaching is built around what I learned from him. The core information--get good impact, on plane with lag--those are my three goals in every lesson I give."

Doyle's influence within the teaching business extended across generations, from Cook, Ness and Gregg McHatton to Brian Manzella, Michael Finney, Michael Jacobs, Tom Stickney and dozens of other nationally-renowned instructors.  

"If you did a teaching tree, Ben's branches would be right there with the best," said fellow 50 Best Teacher Brian Manzella, who made his first trip out to see Doyle in 1987. "He was a true pioneer. Even if you went away from the Golfing Machine, his idea still held--that there's an answer for anything, and there's a way for the average guy to do it. He had it down to the essence."

Despite his influence, Doyle was never recognized on the sectional or national level by the PGA of America and isn't in the teaching Hall of Fame, something Cook calls a "tragedy." Manzella said Doyle's unwillingness to listen quietly to information he thought would hurt players ended up hurting him politically. "They basically re-wrote the rules of the PGA Teaching and Coaching Summit around him, because they were panic stricken that he'd get up and whisper a question that would show that what everybody was teaching was wrong," said Manzella, who published a heartfelt obituary for his mentor on Facebook Wednesday night. "He never got the recognition he deserved." 

But Manzella said Ness framed the devout Christian Scientist's legacy the most appropriately on Tuesday, when word came of Doyle's passing in San Francisco. "He said Ben is in the real Hall of Fame now."

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Health & Fitness

Fitness Friday: Does high-altitude-simulation training work?

On paper it seemed like a fair fight: Rory versus Rickie. McIlroy came into this past September's Ryder Cup as the No. 1 golfer in the world, and Fowler was enjoying the best year of his career, having finished no worse than T-5 in all four majors. But by the sixth hole of their singles match, it was over. McIlroy was 5 up and showed no signs of fatigue from having played 70 holes of pressure-packed golf during the previous two days.

fitness-friday-rory-oxygen-mask.jpgWhy did Rory look and play so invigorated? One doctor believes it's because of the way he trains in the gym. McIlroy often runs on a treadmill wearing a high-altitude-simulation training mask (pictured). Known as hypoxia or altitude training, it restricts the flow of air while McIlroy is running sprints and doing other cardiovascular exercise. The goal is to improve endurance by training the body to require less oxygen for muscles to function optimally for longer periods in a sea-level atmosphere. Working with trainer Steve McGregor, McIlroy alternates between 90-second sprints and walking to vary his heart rate, says Dr. Ara Suppiah, a sports-medicine expert whose patients include PGA Tour stars Justin Rose, Ian Poulter, Steve Stricker, Henrik Stenson and Hunter Mahan.

"It's a legal performance-enhancer," Suppiah says. "It increases endurance because the oxygen-extracting capacity in the muscles goes up. You don't produce lactic acid as much in those muscles, and when you do, that burning feeling dissipates much quicker."

There has yet to be a definitive scientific answer on whether this type of training works. In 2010, the National Center for Biotechnolgy Information published a report that stated "hypoxia as a supplement to training is not consistently found to be advantageous for performance at sea level." However, many elite athletes are now donning masks or working out in oxygen-deprivation rooms in the hopes of gaining an edge.

"You should not try hypoxia training if you have pre-existing conditions such as high blood pressure, heart disease, poor circulation, diabetes, etc.," Suppiah says. "Everyone should be vetted by a doc first."

Regardless of whether you wear the mask, the type of interval training McIlroy does on the treadmill is great for golfers because it improves function of the fast-twitch muscle fibers needed to swing a golf club powerfully.

"Golf is a sport where you need explosive power for a second or two every few minutes, and then you rest," Suppiah says. "This type of training mimics those needs."

Ron Kaspriske is the fitness editor of Golf Digest.

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