The Local Knowlege

Missing Links

Are hard, fast courses a weakness for Rory McIlroy? Nonsense, Ryder Cup captain says

Stories of interest you might have missed…

Former Ryder Cup captain Paul McGinley said that Rory McIlroy has nothing to prove at the Irish Open this week, “even if McIlroy's game has led to some debate over his perceived weaknesses on hard and fast tracks,” Brian Keogh of the Irish Golf Desk writes. “‘He’s only in his early 20s and he’s still got a lot to achieve and different conditions to get better at,’ McGinley said. ‘But as far as I am concerned he’s way ahead of schedule, that’s for sure. It’s easy to be critical. Debate? There is no debate. He is comfortably the No 1 player in the world.’”

Rory Irish Open.jpg

“Jordan Spieth and his caddie, Michael Greller…compete at table tennis. Cards. Pool. Fishing. They have impromptu putting and chipping contests,” Brad Townsend of the Dallas Morning News writes in this story on the Spieth-Greller pairing. “In most other respects Spieth and Greller are pro golf’s odd couple, but they’ve channeled their competitive natures into Spieth becoming the world’s No. 2-ranked golfer. ‘I think one reason we hit it off so well is I don’t back down from him at all,” Greller said. “I don’t care that he’s Jordan Spieth. To me he’s the same guy I met four years ago. I want to stick it to him so he doesn’t stick it to me.’”

***

Even if Stacy Lewis seemed as though she needed no help when she turned pro, she found invaluable advice from the likes of Betsy King, Beth Daniel, Meg Mallon and Nancy Lopez, Joe Juliano writes in the Philadelphia Inquirer. “Betsy was the reason I went to Africa [for charity] and she helped me kind of find a purpose to what I do,” Lewis said. “Beth and Meg and Nancy, they've helped me on the golf course and dealing with everything. Nancy gets what it's like to be that top American to have the spotlight and Beth does, too.”

***

The AT&T Byron Nelson is a home game for Hunter Mahan, who won’t have a home-course or home-crowd advantage, Bill Nichols writes in the Dallas Morning News. “Mahan criticized the TPC after deciding to skip the event in 2011…Mahan’s return is not a public apology. Although he regrets publicly voicing his criticisms, he still stands by his words. ‘I feel bad; you learn a lot through your experience of how you look at things and how other people look at things,’ he said. ‘I wish I didn’t say things in the media like I did, but there are no emotional ties. I just want to play better. I just want to go there and play well and have a good week.’”

--------------------------------------------------------

... Read
Health & Fitness

Blisters 101

Your hands feel like tenderized meat—now what?

In hindsight, maybe that third bucket of range balls was a mistake. It's OK, we all get a little overzealous when golf season begins. If the result of your practice session is a blister or three, here's a refresher on how to deal with them (so you can go hit more range balls).

the-loop-blisters-101.jpg1. Drain with a sterile needle by piercing an edge, not the middle. Leave the layer of dead skin intact if possible.

2. Dab antibiotic ointment on it.

3. Place a padded bandage over the area. Moleskin works best if the blister is at the base of the fingers or on the palm.

PREVENT DEFENSE
Feel a tender spot? Before the blister occurs, cover it with thin athletic tape. You might look like Rocky, but you'll be able to last at least another round.

Ron Kaspriske is the fitness editor of Golf Digest.

(Photo by Getty Images)

--------------------------------------------------------

... Read
Equipment

A driver designed only for Tiger Woods now can be yours

Vapor_Speed_TW_Driver_SLDR.jpg
There are many aspects of Tiger Woods that remain distinct, anomalous and separate from the rest of professional golf. One of the more complicated and unique might be his driver.

Nike announced today that it is making available a limited edition version of Woods’ specific Vapor Speed driver, a club that director of engineering Nate Radcliffe says is “very different” in terms of its properties compared to the stock versions of the Vapor Speed and Vapor Pro drivers.

“Certainly anybody on our staff who wanted to play this driver could,” Radcliffe says. “But Tiger is so unique from an athlete perspective that he is really the only player that this driver appeals to. Most of our tour players have moved to larger parts.”

Vapor_Speed_TW_Driver_FACE.jpg
The new Vapor Speed TW is a 420cc model, smaller than the standard issue Vapor Speed  or Vapor Pro (460 cc), the latter preferred by Rory McIlroy. Its center of gravity is both closer to the face and to the hosel axis compared to the standard clubs. Players with a little more hand action in their swings are likely to prefer a center of gravity that’s more forward. When the center of gravity is positioned deeper, those types of players tend to have a sense that they have less effect on how the club moves in the swing.  

While Woods has played and had success with full-size 460cc clubheads before, he believes he is better able to shape shots with a smaller head that has less moment of inertia, or stability on off-center hits. Radcliffe says Woods remains that rare player today who “shapes shots by intentionally missing the center of the face. He’ll hit hold-off cuts by teeing it lower and then heels it a little bit. You just don’t see very many modern guys doing that, but he will strike the ball at different places on the clubface.” 

That’s where Woods believes he can take advantage of some of the baseline technology in the Vapor Speed driver. Specifically, the channel in the sole behind the face on all the Vapor drivers is designed to improve the face’s flexibility on off-center impacts. It’s an idea Nike originated in its VR line of drivers, and one Woods encouraged the design team to bring back with the Vapor drivers.

Originally, Nike’s designers built the shape and size of the Vapor Flex driver thinking Woods would gravitate toward it. As it turns out, the shape is correct, but the center of gravity locations on that adjustable driver is different. The Vapor Speed TW’s CG is actually located more forward than any other Nike driver, with the exception of the more forward position in the  Vapor Flex, which adjusts between a forward and rearward CG. 

“He’s certainly impressed me more than a few times in what he can feel,” Radcliffe says. 

Unlike the standard Vapor drivers, the Vapor Speed TW is only offered in Woods’ loft (10.5) and is a bonded, non-adjustable head. It comes standard with the Mitsubishi Rayon Diamana Blue 73X, Woods’ preferred shaft. 

“I think this is fair to the player who wants exactly what Tiger has,” Radcliffe says. “Everything is exactly the same as what we give to him.”

The limited edition club will go on sale June 1 ($400).
... Read
Trending

Anthony Kim is playing golf for money again! (Sort of)

Anthony Kim's mysterious disappearance from pro golf continues, but it appears he'll pay for play at some point in the near future. Sort of.

According to NewsOK, a round with Kim was auctioned off at the 12th annual Toby Keith & Friends Golf Classic. There aren't any details on when the round will take place, but someone paid $24,500 to play with the three-time PGA Tour winner. Of course, that money will go to Keith's charity.

Related: Golf's all-time biggest phenoms

Kim, who hasn't played in a tour event in more than three years and who is reported to be sitting on an eight-figure disability settlement, was spotted at a Las Vegas nightclub in April. He turns 30 next month.

(h/t Golf News Net)

... Read
Gear & Equipment

New TaylorMade CEO outlines brand's future plans

This is an extended version of a Q&A interview with TaylorMade's David Abeles that recently appeared in Golf Digest Stix. Abeles, 43, was named the CEO of TaylorMade Golf in March and gave us his first interview since taking the new job. Abeles brings more than 15 years experience in the golf industry with him to his new role, several of them coming working previously at TaylorMade. 

loop-david-abeles-500.jpg

Golf Digest Stix: It's your third stint with TaylorMade. How important is it to understand the culture of the company? 

To be successful in this job, it's important not just to understand the culture of TaylorMade, but important to understand the culture of the industry and that of the golfer. I am an authentic, passionate golfer. There is a strategic side of things that encompass success in this role and then there is an intuitive side. If you look at the best leaders in the industry, they have had both. An intuitive sense of what the golfer wants is critical.

 

What is the perception of the company right now, both in the industry and with consumers?

When you're a company that bases its product strategy on innovation -- which is design and development to optimize performance -- there are things you do very well to excite consumers and there are times you do things quicker than most would appreciate or understand. And that's fair, that's definitely fair. But we're in a good place. We move forward and bring exciting products to market so consumers will get off the couch and buy them. We also have an obligation to work with our retail partners in managing some of the inventory challenges they face as a result of us bringing the products to market. We're cognizant of that. It's not a simple fix, but we have good ideas as to how we want to work with our customers. When you pursue innovation as a strategy -- and that is our strategy -- great things happen. But you take a lot of risk. We're very creative, we use technology to optimize performance and we use the world's best players to validate it. We're not perfect, I'm the first to admit that, but no company is.

 

What did you learn in your time that away from TaylorMade? (Abeles left in 2014 to become CEO of Competitor Group Inc., an operator of marathon and half-marathon races.)

I learned that running and golf are different. Running is an inspiring sport to those who run. They run for health and wellness, for charity, for personal records. Golf is a very aspirational sport. When we see Dustin Johnson, Jason Day or Justin Rose hit a shot, we want to hit that shot -- and from time to time we actually do. So we aspire to that level. But the biggest learning for me was the interaction of brands and how it can elevate your business practices. One of the things we'll do at TaylorMade moving forward is build out an experiential platform. To engage golfers on a day-to-day, week-to-week, month-to-month basis so they can experience our brands and products in new ways.

  

Where do you see the growth categories for TaylorMade? 

My first three hours back here I went down to the R&D room to see what we were working on for the future. I spent four hours with our engineers. We work on technologies that are three, four, five, even six years out. Technologies that we feel can define our brand and products and how golf is played. Some of the technologies we can't commercialize yet. The future is bright for our product lines. We'll see solid growth in the metal-wood business and iron business, and we will strengthen our leadership there. We're growing our golf-ball business. We have hundreds of tour players around the world in our ball.

 

What about Adams?

It's taken us a while to get it positioned the right way, but we think we have it right now. It's a very friendly brand to play. What's misunderstood is that it is still a performance brand. It takes a lot of R&D and technology to make an easy-to-hit golf club. And in some cases, our tour players benefit from that.

 

What is one thing individuals can do to grow the game?

It's incumbent upon all of us as golfers to grow the game. To reach out to people of all skill levels. They're friendships for life and they are experiences that grow the game. There's a responsibility for us to play with those who are less skilled. This will bring more golfers to the sport along with all the formal initiatives. There's a lot of energy surrounding golf now. We need to capitalize on that positive energy rather than the negative things people are saying about the sport.

 

How important is social media in promoting your brand?

Short answer: It's critically important. To give golfers around the world access to Dustin Johnson, Sergio Garcia and Justin Rose, to actually interact with them. It's amazing. When you can interact with the world's best, it brings people in. It's wonderful for us as well. It plays a huge role in our marketing strategy and just in the industry in general. And it will be a major part of how we promote the game in the future.

When you got the new job and met with your staff, what was the first thing you told them "this is what we need to work on"?

It's funny you ask that because I actually asked myself that question. What's important to us is that we continue to push downfield on great technologies and bringing great technologies to market. We want to build an environment for our people and create something where people want to be associated with our brands. Are we relentlessly innovating in everything we do? We want all golfers to feel about our company like our employees do and our athletes do. Our success will be contingent on that.



Interested in more stories on equipment?
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 equipment.
 

... Read
Gear & Equipment

Here's why Rory McIlroy will wear four strange-looking shoes this week

By now we all expect Rory McIlroy to add a bit of flavor to his outfits, whether it's by wearing a loud belt, blocks of color or bold patterns. But he generally stays away from making fashion statements with his shoes—until now.

At the Irish Open this week McIlroy will wear four colorful, eye-catching Nike Lunar Control 3 shoes that were each designed by a kid whose life has been impacted by cancer. McIlroy, the Rory Foundation and Nike worked together with the Cancer Fund for Children, a charity in Northern Ireland that provides support to kids whose lives have been affected by cancer, to raise awareness through these NIKEiD designs.

Here's a roundup of the shoes you'll see McIlroy wear each day this week:

Round One: Designed by Sara Lockhart

blog-rory-thur-560.png
“I read online that Rory really likes different shades of green so I combined that with some of my favorite colors," said Lockhart, 12, whose mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. 

Rory's verdict: "I like the message she's put on the tongue. She wrote 'good luck' on them."

Round Two: Designed by Ryan Keenan

blog-rory-fri-560.jpg
“I chose the colors because it is for the Irish Open and they are colors associated with Ireland,” said Keenan, 16, whose mom was diagnosed with cancer.

Rory's verdict: "He's put a little message on the tongue saying, 'Go Rory,' so they're pretty cool for Friday."

Round Three: Designed by Chloe Hyndman

blog-rory-shoe-sat-560.jpg
“I picked black and white to make them look professional, but then added a print to keep them fun and recent," said Hyndman, 15, whose mom was diagnosed with cancer.

Rory's verdict: "I think these are pretty self-explanatory. You've got the little pebble/grain design, which is pretty cool, and purple with a little bit of blue in the laces."

Round Four: Designed by Alex Kernaghan

blog-rory-sunday-560.jpg
“It says ‘Be You’ on my Nike shoes because that’s all you ever should be -- yourself," said Kernaghan, 13, whose father recently passed away from cancer. "I also added in a bit of blue as it’s my dad’s favorite color and yellow to represent the charity."

Rory's verdict: "Alex has designed these shoes which have basically every color in the rainbow...These are a pretty funky pair of shoes and I'm excited to wear them."

These NIKEiD designs can be purchased on NIKEiD.com (and a portion of the proceeds will benefit The Rory Foundation).

... Read
The Grind

Chris Kirk comes up clutch, Bubba gets dunked, Miguel dances, and Keegan/Jillian go to a wedding

Welcome to another edition of The Grind, where we are just coming out of our annual Memorial Day hot dog coma. Or maybe it's more of a spicy brown mustard hangover. In fact, if we were ranking condiments, we'd go 1. Gulden's spicy brown mustard; 2. Trader Joe's spicy brown mustard; 3. French's spicy mustard; 4. All other kinds of spicy brown mustard we haven't tried yet; 5. All other condiments.

In any matter, we might have given Kobayashi a run for his money this weekend. It's a good thing hot dogs are so healthy. . . OK, so that's not true, but it was certainly a healthy weekend for golf. Let's get cooking.

WE'RE BUYING

Chris Kirk: Two weeks after a disappointing finish at the Players, Kirk finished off his fourth PGA Tour victory at Colonial with a clutch up-and-down on the final hole to avoid a four-man playoff. The 30-year-old University of Georgia product is now up to 17th in the Official World Golf Ranking. He's easily No. 1, though, among tour pros with two first names.

blog-chris-kirk-colonial-0526.jpg

To the Colonial victor goes a plaid jacket and one of the biggest trophies in the world.

Colin Montgomerie: Monty couldn't win a major during his prime, but now he can't seem to lose one on the Champions Tour. With a four-shot win at a difficult Pete Dye Course in French Lick, Montgomerie repeated at the Senior PGA Championship and won his third major in his last six attempts as a senior. He is 0 for 71 at majors on the younger circuit.

Behind the camera: Riding around TPC Sawgrass with Roger Maltbie

Byeong Hun An: Six years after winning the U.S. Amateur, An finally claimed another big tournament, winning the European Tour's flagship event, the BMW PGA, by six shots. In other words, maybe there's still hope for guys like Bubba Dickerson. The difference with An is he's still only 23. Do we need to add him into the "Era" conversation?

J.R. Smith: Unfortunately for the Cleveland Cavaliers guard, his team's success is keeping him from playing much golf these days. But on the bright side, Smith is playing the best basketball of his career. Smith made eight three-pointers in Cleveland's Game 1 win in the Eastern Conference Finals, but his mind remains on golf as evidenced by this tweet about divots. Hang in there, J.R. you'll be back to playing 36-a-day soon.

WE'RE SELLING

Kevin Na: In the past three months, Na has finished out of the top 20 once while racking up five top 10s. However, his play on Sundays has let him down. In contention, Na shot 72 at the Masters to fall to T-12, 71 at the Players to fall to T-6 and now a 72 (with preferred lies through the greens) at Colonial to fall from being the 54-hole leader to a T-10. He's on pace to have his best season ever, but oh, what could have been.

Photos: Meet the WAGs of the PGA Tour

Sinkholes: These things are positively horrifying. In case you missed it, one opened up at the Top of the Rock Golf Course just a month after the Champions Tour was in town. The course is known for it's stunning practice range, but how could you not be scared of falling into one of these the next time you're there?

blog-sinkhole-rock-0526.jpg

Francesco Molinari: After having at least a share of the lead at the BMW PGA after the first three days, Molinari shot a final-round 74 at Wentworth to drop into fifth. The Ryder Cupper hasn't won in more than three years. At least he still has bragging rights over brother Edoardo, who hasn't won since 2010.

Rory McIlroy: Just kidding! It's one bad week. He'll be OK.

ON TAP

The PGA Tour stays in Texas for the AT&T Byron Nelson. This year happens to mark the 70th anniversary of Nelson's incredible 1945 campaign that consisted of 18 wins, including a mind-blowing 11 in a row. We'll probably hear about that a few times during the TV broadcast.

Related: 15 signs you watch too much golf on TV

Random tournament fact: I found a golf ball with the event's course, TPC Las Colinas, while playing on Monday. Of course, this doesn't mean anything.

RANDOM PROP BETS OF THE WEEK

-- Someone will win 11 PGA Tour events in a row this year: 1 MILLION-to-1 odds

-- Webb Simpson will be a captain's pick over Chris Kirk again this year: 10-to-1 odds

Related: The top 25 golf viral videos in 2014

-- J.R. Smith would trade eight three-pointers in a game for eight birdies in a round: LOCK

PHOTO OF THE WEEK

Miguel Angel Jimenez celebrating after making his third(!) hole-in-one of the year to set a new European Tour career record with 10.

blog-miguel-ace-record-0526.jpg

The 51-year-old also finished runner-up. Not surprisingly, he's perfected his celebratory dance:

VIRAL VIDEO OF THE WEEK

Bubba Watson goes in the dunk tank:

QUOTE OF THE WEEK

"You get the right distance, the right club, hit a good shot and that's the ingredients you need to make a hole in one." -- Miguel Angel Jimenez. Sounds easy enough.

THIS WEEK IN MODERN-DAY TOUR PROS BEING MODERN-DAY TOUR PROS

Billy Horschel challenged Brandt Snedeker to a bet on Twitter involving their alma maters' baseball teams. But when Snedeker proposed the stakes -- loser wears their rival school's colors at the U.S. Open -- Horschel couldn't because his U.S. Open outfits had been scripted six months in advance.

Florida wound up beating Vanderbilt making Horschel the winner of the bet. If Snedeker wears blue and orange at Chambers Bay, that's why.

THIS WEEK IN NATALIE GULBIS MAKING US FEEL BAD WITH HER TRAINING/TAKING SELFIES

blog-gulbis-shorts-0526.jpg

Gulbis may have also just set the record for shortest shorts.

THIS WEEK IN RICKIE FOWLER-ALEXIS RANDOCK KEEGAN BRADLEY-JILLIAN STACEY PUBLIC DISPLAYS OF AFFECTION

blog-keegan-jillian-0526.jpg

Keegan and Jillian were in NYC for the wedding of one of Keegan's friends. We hope to see them at their own wedding some day. (What are you waiting for, Keegan?!) 

THIS WEEK IN WILD HOLE-IN-ONE REACTIONS ON THE EUROPEAN TOUR (NON-MIGUEL ANGEL JIMENEZ EDITION)

Not to be outdone by the Mechanic, Andrew Johnston, aka "Beef," made an ace of his own at the BMW PGA on Thursday. Beef reacted to his shot and winning a new sports car by pulling off an impressive running chest bump:

THIS AND THAT

blog-baltusrol-range.jpg

Alabama's Emma Talley birdied the final hole to win the NCAA women's individual golf championship. She also won the 2013 U.S. Women's Amateur. If not for Lydia Ko, we'd probably be saying the LPGA is about to enter the Emma Era. . . . Peter Uihlein, the 2010 U.S. Amateur champ at Chambers Bay, will not be making a return trip there to this year's U.S. Open after failing to qualify. Too bad because he was one of the few potential players in the field with Mike Davis' recommended 10 practice rounds under his belt. . . . Congrats to Wake Forest men's golf coach Jerry Haas on finishing as low club pro at his first Senior PGA. Jerry, Jay's brother and Bill's uncle, put up with me for four years of covering the Deacs while I was in college. . . . Pictured are the cute farm boxes of golf balls on the range at Baltusrol. Yes, this is my cute way of telling you I got to play Baltusrol ahead of the 2016 PGA Championship. And yes, it was glorious.

RANDOM QUESTIONS TO PONDER

Which pro would I most like to nail in the dunk tank?

Who has the best nickname in pro sports?

How can anyone prefer regular mustard to spicy brown mustard?

-- Alex Myers is an Associate Editor for GolfDigest.com. Feel free to email him and please follow him on Twitter since he has self-esteem issues.

... Read
Celebrity

Video: Basketball star D'Angelo Russell's woeful attempts at hitting a golf ball

Presumably hand-eye coordination is an important aspect of sports, including golf, and presumably a college basketball star has great hand-eye coordination. So, presumably, he should be able to hit a golf ball teed up. Presumably.

But not in the case of D'Angelo Russell, a first-team All-American at Ohio State and projected to go high in the NBA draft. Here he is, in an Instagram video, attempting to hit a golf ball, woefully so, especially for someone who went to the same university that Jack Nicklaus did:

😂😂😂

A video posted by Dez Wells (@dezwells_) on

... Read
Golf pads

You should buy Rory McIlroy's old house in Northern Ireland, because that would be a great conversation starter

Not so long ago we marveled at Rory McIlroy's 15,000-square foot Florida home and all the accoutrements that go with a superstar athlete's new digs. It's the type of place we'd like to retreat to after a tough day making birdies in bunches (or more likely in our case, after making four pars). But we should be clear that it wasn't like McIlroy was living in squalor before that.

In fact, McIlroy's old home, Robinhall House in County Down, Northern Ireland, is now for sale for $3.8 million. You should buy it, because that would be a handy ice breaker at cocktail parties.

64_671_ECS36157_6thumb1.jpgAmong Robinhall House's features:

-- Five bedrooms and five "reception rooms" over 7,200 square feet.

-- An eight-acre practice area and driving range, including several pot bunkers as seen here.

64_671_ECS36157_26thumb1.jpg-- An all-weather tennis court in case you happen to be dating a top-ranked women's tennis player.

-- And a sweet entertainment room in case you break up with your top-ranked women's tennis player girlfriend, but you still want to keep tabs on her progress.

64_671_ECS36157_24thumb1.jpgSome more photos here:

64_671_ECS36157_8thumb1.jpg64_671_ECS36157_21thumb1.jpgIf nothing else, you should try to get a tour of the house, because I'd bet good money McIlroy left behind a wedge in one of the closets.

Below, Mark Crossfield in "The Waggle" on everything a tour player's house has to have.


h/t The Mirror






... Read
Courses & Travel

7 things you need to know about the Irish Open and the incredible Royal County Down

Ladies and Gentlemen, set your DVRs. 

Sure, three Senior British Opens were played at Royal County Down around the turn of the 21st century. But they were shown in lowly standard definition for a couple of hours on a summer weekend. And yes, the 2007 Walker Cup was briefly televised, showing us a thrilling match (plus those charmingly unflattering photos of Rory and Rickie) but without much coverage.

royal-county-down-560.jpg
Otherwise, Royal County Down Golf Club is mostly been known to the world by photos of two holes and to the lucky few guests who will never forget Northern Ireland’s mysterious masterpiece.

Until this week.

That’s when the hard-to-reach, hard-to-play and awe-inspiring course hosts the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open benefiting McIlroy’s foundation. The World No. 1 golfer brings his friends to the course Golf Digest rates the best outside of the United States. And for the first time it will be shown in full HD glory.

A few things to keep in mind when extensive Golf Channel coverage starts Thursday morning. 

-- The field at this European Tour tournament may be better than the tour's "flagship" event had a week ago. With a great course and Dubai Duty Free making the difficult journey to Northern Ireland worth their while, stars are flocking to Newcastle: Darren Clarke, Luke Donald, Victor Dubuisson, Ernie Els, Rickie Fowler, Sergio Garcia, Padraig Harrington, Miguel Angel Jimenez, Martin Kaymer, Graeme McDowell, Paul McGinley, Lee Westwood and last week’s BWM winner Byeong Hun An.

-- The course has almost as many architects as there are players in the field this week. For a change, that’s a good thing. Ran Morrissett wrote in his GolfClubAtlas.com review, “As with Oakmont Country Club and Pine Valley Golf Club, County Down stands apart as reminding one of no other course in the world in part because it was designed not by a professional architect but rather by strong willed people with a genuine love and feel for the game.”

A Scottish schoolteacher named George Baillie was the first to design nine holes here in 1889 or so. Then Old Tom Morris was paid “a sum not to exceed £4” to turn the Newcastle course into 18 holes. A series of major changes were made by a club captain, George Combe, that resulted in the core of today’s world-renowned layout. This was followed by suggestions from legends James Braid, J.H. Taylor, Harry Vardon and Ben Sayers before the great H.S. Colt created the famed fourth and ninth holes in 1925. More recently, Donald Steel strengthened the finishing holes, including the entirely new 16th that gives the finishing stretch a risk-reward short par 4.

-- RCD is “quirky” in the best sense. You know that word: it’s the label put on any course that includes blind shots and an unorthodox routing. As Morrissett noted in his review, there is little chance a Royal County Down-style course would be built today as players would want none of the blind shots and general craziness they'll get this week. No hole is more bizarre than the 483-yard ninth, where an inviting dune-top fairway plunges suddenly 60 feet straight down, as the awkward distance of 200 yards off the tee. Anyone who has played there will be hard pressed to knock this H.S. Colt idea. Unless you don’t carry it 200 yards (I did not, but I was only 15 and I’m still bitter about it).

-- What’s that beautiful red building and what are those amazing mountains? You’ll see no shortage of shots from the ninth fairway looking down on the town, where the Slieve Donard looms over the course. The high-end hotel and spa is the host for the week, offering players views of the course or the stunning mountain for which the resort shares its namesake. The Mourne Mountains are the highest in Northern Ireland (nearly 2,800 feet at Slieve Donard’s peak) and have been a favorite of hikers who enjoy its network of trails.

-- Royal County Down is not as remote as it seems. A two-hour drive from Dublin and an hour drive from Belfast doesn’t sound so bad except that it’s all by two-lane roads, making the logistical setup part of the story this week. Fans will be dropped off on the other side of Newcastle and be asked to take a 15-minute walk through the beautiful town. There are worse experiences to be had in golf spectating.

-- Golf Channel is offering no shortage of chances to see Rickie and Rory re-uniting at Royal County Down. Thursday the network is live from 3-8 a.m. ET, with a second live window from 11-1 p.m ET. Friday is one window from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. ET. The weekend is live too, with Saturday coverage starting at 8:30 a.m. and Sunday commencing at 8 a.m.

-- You can play Royal County Down and take a Game of Thrones tour, too. While it’s a private golf club, like most U.K. courses, they will gladly take your money to fund their operations and offer up their beautiful course for a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Check out the details on Royal County Down’s website. For fans of the HBO show, the Winterfell Castle & Demesne, home to many of the visuals used in filming, is not too far away.

Finally, for some visuals to get you in the mood for Royal County Down, check out Ben Sargent’s two tours of a place we’re pretty sure you’ll never get tired of looking at.




... Read
Subscribe to Golf Digest
Subscribe today