The Local Knowlege


Was golf "back in the day" better than it is now? regularly highlights golf books we find of interest to readers. This week is:

Men In Green
loop-men-in-green-book-300.jpgBy Michael Bamberger, Simon & Schuster, $27, hardback, 260 pages

When a book's premise matches a reader's present state of mind, that's a problem-free read. When the book doesn't quite take you on the journey you expected, that's problematic. That's where I was with Men in Green, acclaimed Sports Illustrated writer Michael Bamberger's new book. I felt closely aligned with the subject matter. The author is at that middle-age stage as I am, when the nostalgia and charm of events and eras from the past can be overwhelming and the players and moments from today just don't seem to measure up. The past, however, creates issues and questions that must be answered. In Men in Green, Bamberger talks with various golf figures about questions such as: What do you remember about the old days? Does it match up with what I remember? Were you happier then or would you have wanted to have done what you did in today's environment? Was golf better back in the day?

To help answer his questions, Bamberger did some pondering with the help of Living Legends and Secret Legends, nine names of each group he came up with as he wondered about these concerns. The Living Legends were all former players, while the Secret Legends was a hodgepodge ranging from a writer to caddies to golf's grand old man, Sandy Tatum, a former USGA president, NCAA champion and Tom Watson comrade. Watson is among Bamberger's Living Legends, which include Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Mickey Wright, Curtis Strange, Fred Couples, Ben Crenshaw, Hale Irwin, and Ken Venturi, who passed away in May 2013 but who did talk with the author for the book.

Related: Catch up on other Golf Digest book reviews

When Bamberger created his list, it was fall 2012. He mapped out where his 18 legends lived and saw they were spread around the country. Going on a Grand Tour that's more upbeat than George Jones', Bamberger is accompanied by Mike Donald, the tour player who was Hale Irwin's vanquished playoff foe from the 1990 U.S. Open. The stories the subjects tell bring golf from the era of late 1950s to the 1980s back in full vigor, sprinkled with some flowery language from the unexpected (Arnie saying the F-word) that proved more humanizing than shocking.

If you're familiar with golf of the last 50-plus years, the stories, the names and the events will entertain and enthrall. I felt, however, there was a lack of answering the central question surrounding if golf was better then than now. The mini-visits with subjects were biographical but not analytical about what they felt about the time they had in the golf spotlight. Bamberger weaves some common threads though the book, such as the infamous rules dispute Venturi couldn't let go of from the 1958 Masters, in which he felt Palmer cheated the runners-up Doug Ford and Fred Hawkins. The Masters itself and its workings are another common subject throughout.

Regardless of answers left unsaid, Men in Green did not disappoint as a nostalgic visit and reminiscence with those who fashioned golf history. Was golf better back in the day? Was the thrill of adventure watching our golfing heroes better then? Yes or no, it sure seemed to me that everyone was having a helluva time.

I particularly liked: Anything written about LPGA Hall of Famer Mickey Wright, the notoriously reclusive superstar who Ben Hogan said had the best swing, male or female, he had ever seen. Considering it is so difficult to find anything fresh about her, the several nuggets Bamberger reveals are to be cherished, especially the part that includes a letter she wrote about the old days.

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Think Lululemon is just a women's apparel brand? Don't tell PGA Tour caddies

Tour players are typically the ones influencing golf fashion. The team at Lululemon, however, has tour caddies to thank for the growing popularly of its men's apparel line.

The company most commonly associated with women's athletic wear (ask your wife or girl friend, they'll know the name) expanded into men's products a few years ago, starting with underwear before venturing into shorts, pants and polos. Using moisture-wicking materials with stretch fabric and flat-seam construction, the company created comfortable products, particularly for those who do a lot of walking in warm weather -- the general working conditions for tour caddies.

Word spread among loopers -- Scott Vail, caddie for Brandt Snedeker, is a convert -- about the products. Suffice it to say, the performance of the clothes offset any potential anxiety of Lululemon being "just for women."


The ABC pants ($125 in five colors) come in a five-pocket design with an easy access pocket for your cellphone, as do the ABC shorts ($78 in six colors). The Union Polo shirt ($78) is anti-microbial and offers UVA protection.


Interested in more stories on apparel? Signup to receive Golf Digest Stix, a weekly digital magazine that offers the latest news, new product introductions and behind-the-scenes looks at all things fashion.


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Missing Links

Turnberry's full 'Trump treatment' to include suite in iconic lighthouse

Stories of interest you might have missed…

“Turnberry is getting the full ‘Trump treatment’ as its billionaire owner bids to turn the Ayrshire resort into the jewel in his golfing crown,” Martin Dempster writes in the Scotsman. “A raft of ‘exciting’ changes are to be made, both to the Ailsa Course and the hotel. Trump is even going to turn the iconic lighthouse into a Halfway House that will also incorporate a luxurious two-bedroomed suite for guests.”


Phil Mickelson used one of two annual exemptions to skip the pro-am at the Valero Texas Open and arrived into San Antonio on Wednesday night. He was coming from Augusta National. “Mickelson is 44 years old, toward the end of his prime, and this is a significant moment in his career. When Mickelson goes back to Augusta, he wants to be in position to win his fourth green jacket,” columnist Buck Harvey of the San Antonio Express writes in this look at Mickelson’s pre-Masters preparation that includes the Valero Texas Open.


Much of the news surrounding Tiger Woods in the run-up to the Masters has focused on his short-game woes. Golf Monthly’s Jeremy Ellwood has a Q&A with Chris DiMarco, the victim of one of Tiger’s greatest short-game shots, on the 16th green of the last round in the 2005 Masters. “I was definitely not counting on that,” DiMarco said. “And like he said in his interview afterwards, he was just trying to chip it inside me so he knew what he had to do. But great champions produce great things in the biggest moments, and that’s what he did.”


The marquee star in the LPGA’s Kia Classic this week is Michelle Wie, who has a Kia endorsement contract and appeared in a two-page ad for the tournament in U-T San Diego on Monday. “It’s just that the splash isn’t very well-timed for the current state of Wie’s game, which has very literally been infirmed,” Tod Leonard of the U-T writes. “Wie came down with strep throat and then a sinus infection. ‘Feeling sick sucks, especially if you feel sick for a month,’ Wie said. I feel a lot better, and I think I’m kind of hopefully getting over it now.”


“As he drank a glass of milk in the afterglow of that Pinehurst win - March 21, 1940, as meaningful a date as any in Hogan’s career - you could sense the feeling of relief wash over him,” Bill Fields writes at, in this look back at the 75th anniversary of Hogan’s victory in the North and South that jump-started his career. “I won one just in time,” Hogan said. “I had finished second and third so many times, I was beginning to think I was an also-ran. I needed that win. They’ve kidded me about practicing so much. I’d go out there before a round and practice, and when I was through, I’d practice some more. Well, they can kid me all they want because it finally paid off.”

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Tenuous golf connection

So what if this Price Is Right contestant's putting stroke is blatantly illegal? It still won her a new car

Something tells us that when 84-year-old Margaret is riding in the new $16,000 car she won on The Price Is Right, she won't be lamenting her violation of the Rules of Golf. Nor should she -- last we checked, a TV soundstage is not a regulation golf course, and it was good enough to net her a new set of wheels.

Here's the video:

We're happy for Margaret, but as the designated wet blankets in charge, we'd be remiss in not pointing out that the clinching putt is in violation of Rule 16-1e: Standing Astride or on Line of Putt. The rule was adopted after Sam Snead reverted to this stroke in the mid-1960s when his normal stroke abandoned him. 

Here's Sam:

As Snead told Sports Illustrated in 1967, the stroke was ideal for players of advanced age. “Not too many people can bend over quite as well as I can, but I think it is good for old golfers," he said. "They don't have to coordinate two hands, only one."

The stroke was deemed objectionable by a number of golf people, including Bobby Jones, and it was made illegal by the USGA in 1968, with the rule stating: 

The player must not make a stroke on the putting green from a stance astride, or with either foot touching, the line of putt or an extension of that line behind the ball. 

For the record, the penalty here is two strokes or a loss of hole, but for now, we'll let Margaret off with a warning.

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European Tour

Thomas Levet and alleviating slow play on tour: For my next trick...

Slow play is the scourge of professional golf, but maybe France’s Thomas Levet has found a way to help alleviate the problem: Not by playing faster, but by providing entertainment while we wait.

Finland’s Mikko Korhonen, his playing partner in the first two rounds of the European Tour’s Trophee Hassan II in Morocco, took this photo of Levet performing a balancing act during a wait on Friday and posted it to his Twitter account:

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Giant Florida gator named "Goliath" returns, satisfies his appetite by chomping on a turtle

A couple weeks ago, a giant gator at Myakka Pines Golf Club in Englewood, Fla., became a viral sensation. Well, that scary-looking reptile -- appropriately named "Goliath" by the club -- surfaced again on Thursday and this time it had company.


Oh, you can't see what other creature is there? Here's a closer look:


Yep, that's a helpless turtle in Goliath's mouth. When we said Goliath had company, we meant Goliath had a snack. Hey, Goliath's gotta eat.

Related: 5 things to talk about on the golf course this weekend

The club posted those two photos of Goliath (what a great name!) to its Facebook page along with the following message: "Lots of people are asking what alligators is Goliath having a turtle for breakfast. (Sorta nasty to see but it's the reality of wild animals)"

Very true. Just stay away from the golfers, Goliath, and we're cool.

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5 things to talk about on the course: Kentucky's dominance, "The Last Man on Earth," and a Brad-Jen stinker

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. March Madness: By the end of this weekend, the Final Four will be set. In other words, we'll know the other three teams that will have a chance to get blown out by Kentucky. The Wildcats destroyed West Virginia 78-39 on Thursday night after a freshman Mountaineer guaranteed a win. Stupid freshman. Actually, Notre Dame, after its own thrashing of Wichita State, could give Kentucky a good game in the Elite 8 on Saturday night. Don't laugh. Saturday's other game, Wisconsin vs. Arizona should be great too. The only bad part about Arizona getting there is the fact they eliminated Xavier and everyman/Uber driver Matt Stainbrook in the process:


Fear the rec specs!

We'll miss watching you play, Matt, but we're confident you and your old-school game will be dominating YMCA pick-up games for decades to come.

Related: Vote in our ultimate golf excuse bracket

2. Fantasy baseball: MLB Opening Day is fast approaching, meaning fantasy baseball drafts are happening all across the country. My league's auction draft is on Saturday and I'm actually in decent shape entering the season for once with Clayton Kershaw and Troy Tulowitzki coming back as keepers. Anyone have any good sleeper suggestions? I've done less preparation than John Calipari does before a typical Kentucky game. Please help.

3. Aaron Baddeley: In case you missed it (sadly, all the cameras did), the 34-year-old Aussie made the craziest birdie ever on the 17th hole in Thursday's first round of the Valero Texas Open. How can we say that with such certainty? Well, have you ever heard about a player taking an unplayable after a wild drive, trudging back to the tee on a par 4 and then holing his third shot from 332 yards? Didn't think so. Baddeley said all he did differently for the second time was choke down on his driver and hit a straight ball. Yep, it's that easy!


"It doesn't matter what the critics are saying, we're still getting paid!"

4. "Serena": Jennifer Lawrence stars in this Serena Williams biopic that comes out in theaters this weekend. Kidding. J-Law is a great actress, but she's not that great. No, the movie also stars Bradley Cooper and it's set in North Carolina during the Great Depression. But despite the star power, apparently, there's not the same magic that we saw with these two in "Silver Linings Playbook." In fact, these reviews (New York Times, Time Magazine, Daily Beast, etc.) are some of the worst I can remember reading. Sounds like something I'd only watch if it were the last movie on Earth. That reminds me. . .

5. "The Last Man on Earth": After not being thrilled by the premise of this new Fox sitcom, I finally gave it a chance and I'm all in. First of all, Will Forte is fantastic. I've also always really liked him because I'm 95 percent sure I played a dawn-patrol round with him by chance years ago after he'd come straight from a Saturday Nigh Live post-show party. And if it wasn't him, I don't want to know because I don't want to ruin the story. Speaking of potentially ruining the story. . . SPOILER ALERT: If you notice, the title doesn't say anything about women. 2ND SPOILER ALERT: The title might also not be 100 percent true. Sorry, but I tell you these things to get you to watch because the title might scare you off. Now go support my golf buddy!

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Watch a guy snap the head off his driver in slow motion

The materials on the heads of golf clubs are, generally, pretty durable. Cracking the face of a driver usually takes either a really long time or an intense fit of anger.

Related: What happened to Troy Merritt's 2-iron is NOT normal

Well, this guy found a third way. Apparently, if you hit a golf ball so far onto the heel of the club, it snaps the head clean off. Check it out:

Rough day on the range.

A video posted by Stephen Gundrum (@gunsndrums9) on

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This "Game of Thrones"-inspired throne is made out of 320 golf clubs

In just over two weeks, season 5 of "Game of Thrones" will premiere on HBO. The show has a serious -- bordering on insane -- following, but I think I found the best fans of them all: The crew at Direct Golf that built this show-inspired throne out of 320 golf clubs. 


The golf retailer has a pretty big collection of clubs in storage, so naturally they started chopping them up to use to replicate the Iron Throne in the show. The throne is six feet tall, and although it hasn't been weighed yet, we're guessing it's not super light. 

The people at Direct Golf were also kind enough to give step-by-step instructions so you can build your own. I'm going to go see what we have kicking around our equipment closet, because that throne would be the perfect seat for my cubicle. 

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Gear & Equipment

What happened to Troy Merritt's 2-iron (and Phil Mickelson's 8-iron) isn't normal

OK, what the heck is going on at the Valero Texas Open? The first day featured the craziest birdie ever by Aaron Baddeley as well as 31 players failing to break 80 at TPC San Antonio in windy conditions. It also provided two of the strangest equipment malfunctions you'll ever see.

Related: 9 costly equipment rules blunders

First, Troy Merritt, whose 2-iron's face caved in somehow on the 11th hole:

Merritt, remembering where a lot of his bread is buttered, was quick to offer a follow-up tweet promoting his equipment sponsor. Smart.

But TPC San Antonio didn't discriminate when it came to embarrassing players or breaking certain brands of equipment. Phil Mickelson had the head of his Callaway 8-iron snap off at impact while hitting out of a fairway bunker on the 12th hole:

Hey, you know what they say about messing with Texas.

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