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News & Tours

Babe Didrikson Zaharias' golf clubs sell at auction for $31,250

By Luke Kerr-Dineen

Is this the golden age for golf collectors? We're not really sure how to measure that, but if you do happen to have deep pockets and a penchant for golf memorabilia, the last few months have been a gold mine.

At a Los Angeles auction on Monday, the MacGregor Tommy Armour clubs Babe Didrikson Zaharias used before signing with Wilson in 1947 sold for $31,250. The set features a golf bag and all 14 clubs including -- gasp! -- a 1- and 2-iron.

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The sale comes about seven months after Augusta National's inaugural green jacket was put up to auction, eight months after a whole raft of Sam Snead memorabilia was put to auction, and almost a year after Al Geiberger's "59" clubs and Wanamaker trophy sold for $130,000.

What's next? Something from Hogan, perhaps? We'll keep a look out. In the meantime, here's a picture of the clubs:

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News & Tours

Comparing Victor Dubuisson's two cactus shots to Bill Haas' save out of a lake

By Luke Kerr-Dineen

Victor Dubuisson and Bill Haas' recovery shots were, undoubtedly, two of the greatest pressure shots in golf history. It seems wrong to anoint one act of brilliance over the other, so we'll leave that to you, the readers. And to help you do that, we thought it would be useful to list the facts about both situations.


Victor Dubuisson

The Situation:

After winning the last two holes in regulation to claw his way back from dormie 2-down, Dubuisson hacked his ball from the root of a cactus to four feet on the 19th hole. Then, on the 20th hole from a spot even worse, he knocked it close again out of a cactus to extend the match further.

The Stakes:

For the 23-year-old Victor Dubuisson, it was a chance for his first PGA Tour victory (which would have given him full eligibility for the next two years), his second worldwide victory in less than four months, and a $1.5 million first-place check. The winner would also get 72 Official World Ranking points, enough to vault him nearer to the top 20 and make him all but a lock for the 2014 Ryder Cup team.

The Shot:


The Degree Of Difficulty:

Aside from not letting the cacti intimidate him (they are, after all, pretty scary plants, especially for Europeans) Dubuisson chose to play the shot like a bump-and-run. He kept the ball low and judged the roll to perfection, especially on his second shot, which he landed in the rough short of the green.

The Final Result:

Although he saved par both times, he went on to lose the match to Jason Day's birdie on the 23rd playoff hole. The ranking points he received for finishing second still moved him to 23rd in the World Rankings and into the European Ryder Cup standings. The second place check for more than $900,000 didn't hurt, either.

What They Said:

"[They were] the two greatest up-and-downs in a row. . .that has to go straight to No. 1." -- Nick Faldo

What He Said:

"Those two shots were amazing. I just played it like I had nothing to lose."

Related: Day survives the magic of Dubuisson

Bill Haas

The Situation:

Facing Hunter Mahan on the second playoff hole of the 2011 Tour Championship, Bill Haas hooked his approach shot into the water just left of East Lake's 17th green. Luckily for him, the ball wasn't fully submerged, so -- naturally -- he climbed into the water, knocked his shot to a few feet and made the putt for par to extend the playoff.

The Stakes:

Aside from offering Haas the chance to collect his third PGA Tour victory in two years, a win at the 2011 Tour Championship would hand him that year's FedEx Cup, and the $10 million bonus that came with it (plus the more than $1 million due to the winner of the Tour Championship). With the season drawing to a close, it would also go a long way in securing Haas a spot on the 2011 U.S. Presidents Cup team.

The Shot:


The Degree Of Difficulty:

If you're ever hitting a shot from the water, remember that the general rule of thumb is to swing about 50 percent than you usually would. Not only did Haas accomplish that part beautifully, but he caught the ball so clean that it actually came out of the water with spin on it.

The Final Result:

That par save kept the playoff alive, which Haas went on to win one hole later. He collected more than $11 million dollars as a result, and was picked by President's Cup captain Fred Couples less than a month later.

Related: Bill Haas' FedExCup Win Is The Best Thing To Ever Happen To The FedExCup

What They Said:

"I thought I had won on the second playoff hole, and then he hits it out of the water to 2 feet, so it seemed like he was destined to win this week." -- Hunter Mahan

What He Said:

"It was an all or nothing shot, so if I don't pull it off, I'm shaking Hunter's hand."


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News & Tours

Remembering Larry Packard, an architect who leaves an enduring imprint on the game

By Ron Whitten

Golf architect Larry Packard died on January 28, 2014 in his apartment at Innisbrook golf resort in Tarpon Springs, Florida. He was 101 years old, the oldest living course architect in the world at the time of his death.

I'd known Larry for over 30 years (his full name was Edward Lawrence Packard, but he went by Larry). We first corresponded in the late 1970s, when I was working on the book, The Golf Course. We finally met at an ASGCA meeting in 1981 and played a couple of rounds of golf together at subsequent meetings -- he was one of the few architects who could hack it around worse than I. I also visited his office in LaGrange, Ill. a couple of times in the mid-1980s, digging through both his plans and his memories. We kept in touch over the years. It was my good fortune to visit him one last time in Florida just 10 days before his death. 

I've played many Packard designs over the years, his nifty public courses like Benson Park in Omaha (where I grew up), Sunflower Hills in Kansas, Lick Creek in Illinois and Brown County, Naga-Waukee and Peninsula State Park, all in Wisconsin. Also some fine private layouts, including Echo Valley in Des Moines, Platteview south of Omaha, and of course, the Island and Copperhead Courses at Innisbrook, both of which were once ranked among America's 100 Greatest by Golf Digest.

Related: 2013-14 Ranking: America's 100 Greatest Golf Courses

After hearing of his death, I sorted through my files of his work and concluded there are aspects to his architecture that are still relevant today. His style, call it the Larry Packard formula, was based upon economy: moving as little earth as absolutely necessary, shaping features that could be inexpensively maintained and providing holes whose strategies were immediately apparent.

blog-whitten-packard-480.jpgA native of Massachusetts, Larry earned a landscape architecture degree from ZooMass in 1935. At the start of WWII, he worked at Westover Field, a large military base near Springfield, Mass, designing camouflage plans for the base. (Yes, the same discipline that Alister MacKenzie undertook 50 years earlier. Larry came to the same conclusion as MacKenzie: Always put hazards where golfers can see them, so that they have a fighting chance of staying out of them. If you position them correctly, they disappear looking back down a fairway.)  

He learned golf design working for Chicago golf architect Robert Bruce Harris from 1946 to 1954. Harris's style was that of extreme economy. Huge greens canted in three directions for surface drainage. Big oval bunkers that were easily raked by machines. Bunkers kept far enough from greens to allow access for tractors and gang mowers. Long rectangular tees that could be mowed with fairway rigs. 

When he went on his own, Larry refined Harris's style, moving bunkers closer to edges of greens and giving both freeform movement. Expanding teeing areas into parabolic shapes. Twisting and turning fairways, with graceful looks throughout, all curves, no straight lines. 

He did smaller greens that fit the intended approach shot.  "Harris used to make his greens 12,000 square feet," Larry once said. "You could get on the green all right, but you were a mile from the hole. He used to have a lot of three-putts."

Related: Remembering Charles Price, one of Golf Digest's indelible voices

Packard's greens were designed with gentle slopes to accommodate riding mowers. (Which, by the way, are making a comeback.)  An unforeseen benefit was that, decades later, they accommodate faster green speeds without accelerating putts completely off the surface.

His bunkers were primarily fit into mounds, their floors normally elevated slightly above the surrounds so water (and golf balls) wouldn't pour into them. If you hit into a Larry Packard bunker, it's likely you flew it in. (Some design critics find that anathema, until I point out that Coore & Crenshaw used that style at Hidden Creek in New Jersey and will do so again at the upcoming Trinity Forest site in Dallas.)

Larry's specialty was the double-dogleg par-5, shaped not like a boomerang, but like the letter S. His double doglegs present the same shot-shaping challenges that Pete Dye has also trumpeted, forcing the golfer to work the ball one way off the tee and the other way on the second shot.

Larry's personal favorite was the par-5 14th at Innisbrook Copperhead, which plays over the crest of a hill off the tee, then bends around a lagoon to a green perched on a ledge with an enormous bunker on the left (one actually below the level of the green).  His sketch of it appears on the dust jacket of Mickey Rathbun's 2002 biography of Larry, Double Doglegs and Other Hazards. It was also depicted on the birthday cake presented to Larry on his 100th birthday in November, 2012.

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A double dogleg demanding both a fade and a draw on the same hole may seem antiquated in today's point-to-point navigational method of play, but I defy anyone to play the mammoth live-oak-lined par-5 11th at Cypress Run (a rather unheralded Packard gem just four miles from Innisbrook) without feeling outside one's comfort zone. If you don't work the ball somewhere along the hole, you'll be faced with either lofting a shot high over an umbrella-shaped oak or punching a shot beneath its limbs.

Not every course ought to follow the Larry Packard formula. Golf would be pretty dull if every course followed any one formula, or any formula at all. But if I were developing a low-budget public golf course today, I'd be smart to incorporate some of Larry's principles into the design.

Make it pretty but not lush. Shape it to be mowed mechanically, not by hand. Provide some easy holes and a few strenuous ones to keep things interesting.

Larry Packard is gone now, but his architecture remains. I plan to play and study more of his designs in future travels, places like Eagle Ridge in Galena, Ill., Westward Ho in Sioux Falls, Woodlake in New Jersey, Silver Lake in Ohio and Eagle Creek in Naples, Florida.  

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News & Tours

Movie in the works on Old Tom Morris, golf's original action hero

By Luke Kerr-Dineen

It's fair to say that golf's founding father -- our George Washington -- is Old Tom Morris. Up until now, the game has glorified Old Tom mostly through books, but that's about to change.

Kevin Cook, a former Editor in Chief of Golf Magazine and an occasional Golf Digest contributor, is turning his book Tommy's Honor: The Story of Old Tom Morris and Young Tom Morris, Golf's Founding Father and Son, which won the USGA book award in 2007, into a movie. It's still in the early stages; Cook says he is still gathering funds for the movie and hopes to start shooting the film some time next year. He has already installed Jason Connery, who has directed The Devil's Tomb and The Philly Kid, as the film's director.


"It's so interesting because it's a completely different craft," Cook said on turning the book into a screenplay. "You think about a scene and write down 'the entire town came to watch,' then you start thinking about budgets and logistics. Does it really have to be the whole town? Probably not."

That's one of the many challenges Cook is facing as he attempts to fit his historically accurate book into a "based on a true story" movie lens, but it's something he relishes. Why? Because Old Tom's story, Cook says, never stops inspiring him.

Related: Jeff Silverman's latest book, Merion: The Championship Story

"It's about the great pioneer of the game who was surpassed by his son, Tommy, this dashing heroic character, who died suddenly when he was just 24," Cook said. "It meant that Old Tom lived the rest of his life trying to honor his son's legacy."

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Is there a mass market audience for a historical golf film?

That remains to be seen. The 2004 film Bobby Jones: Stroke of Genius tanked both among critics and in the box office, generating about 10 percent of its $20 million budget. The 2000 film Legend of Bagger Vance received slightly better reviews, but still failed to recoup its $60 million budget in box office sales. 

The Greatest Game Ever Played, which was released in 2005, experienced some success both critically and in theaters. It generated more than $50 million in box office sales, about double its $25 million budget.

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News & Tours

What's rarer than a double eagle? Two double eagles on the same day

By Alex Myers

A hole-in-one? Sure, those are nice. But if you really want to do something special on the PGA Tour, you're going to have to better.

Related: How ShotLink changed how we follow golf

James Hahn did just that in the second round of the Sony Open to vault into contention. Hahn holed his second shot from 193 yards with a 6-iron on the par-5 ninth hole at Waialae CC for a rare albatross. However, despite being three under par on one hole, he made three bogeys on the back nine to only finish with a two-under 68.

How rare is a double eagle? There were only two on tour during the entire 2013 season: Luke List in the final round of the Farmers Insurance Open and Charl Schwartzel in the second round of the Canadian Open.

But believe it or not, Hahn wasn't even the first professional golfer to pull off the feat on Friday. Joost Luiten also accomplished the trick on the European Tour in the second round of the Volvo Golf Champions, matching the total number of albatrosses recorded on that tour last season. Luiten holed a 4-iron from 248 yards on the par-5 10th (At the :50 mark of this video) at Durban CC in South Africa on his way to a 67 and a share of the 36-hole lead.

Unfortunately, there isn't good footage of Hahn's shot, but Adam Sarson (Twitter: @Adam_Sarson) made the following GIF of the two shots side by side:

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Related: The best shots of the 2013 PGA Tour season

Hahn said the albatross was the second of his career, the first coming on the Nationwide Tour. Luiten said the double eagle was the first of his life. It is believed to be the first time an albatross has been recorded on two major tours on the same day.

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News & Tours

Mike Keiser, along with Coore and Crenshaw, looks to make Sand Valley the Bandon Dunes of Wisconsin

By Geoff Shackelford

Gary D'Amato filed an excellent write-up detailing Mike Keiser's next great project 15 miles south of Wisconsin Rapids, around 167 miles northwest of Milwaukee. The Bandon Dunes developer is creating an 18-hole course in conjunction with 120 founders who paid a refundable $50,000 a piece for lifetime access, though it's clear based on his comments that Keiser has not acceded creative control, announcing his decision in a rare press release.

"I have purchased the land and The Founders and I have decided to build the first of four golf courses at Sand Valley," Keiser said in the release. "The first course will be designed by Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw (Bandon Trails, Cabot Cliffs). Design work will begin as soon as the snow melts and we plan to be open for play in Spring 2016."


Keiser revealed that he tried to "resist this project, but within 30 minutes of being on site, I was hooked," while calling it "a thrilling dunescape -- a cross between Pine Valley and Sand Hills."

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Coore and Crenshaw have vaulted to the top of Keiser's favorite-architect's list, even though for months it seemed this would be a Tom Doak project. With his Renaissance Golf Design offices not too far away in Michigan, Doak hinted in his Christmas newsletter that an announcement was coming, and talked openly about the project on GolfClubAtlas.com's discussion group. The architect of Pacific Dunes -- and co-architect of new World No. 11 Barnbougle Dunes -- took to GCA to lament losing the job.


"Naturally, we're bummed we didn't get the nod for course #1 -- it's tough to keep losing out on jobs to the same guys, even if they are friends whom we totally respect." Doak wrote in a post.

"I've only interviewed for three jobs in the past year and a half. Bill and Ben interviewed for two of them and were hired for both. That's a bummer when you've got a crew full of talented people who require opportunities to show what they can do. Further, opportunities to build courses for Mr. Keiser are rare, and meaningful."

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How meaningful can Sand Valley be in a state with two other distinct destination golf properties in Blackwolf Run/Whistling Straits and 2017 U.S. Open host Erin Hills?

Considering that this has Keiser's blessing, a novel business structure, modest goals and most of all, Keiser's impeccable standards, it's tough to argue with any project he undertakes. Even one as remote as this. Also in Keiser's favor is the likelihood of building something with more "fun" golf than the aforementioned Wisconsin properties, which tend to be one-time, thrill-seeking bucket list destinations.


The first Sand Valley course has not been routed yet but should start construction next September, with plans for as many as four more courses at the site if the first is a success. Doak figures to have a shot at one of the following layouts, though sources suggest Keiser wants to see his Pacific Dunes designer rekindle a partnership with longtime associate Jim Urbina for the design, something Doak has resisted. GolfClubAtlas.com member Brian Zager's has posted an image gallery of the site, which indeed looks like a mix of Sand Hills and Pine Valley. 

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News & Tours

Could 2014 be the year of driverless golf carts?

By Luke Kerr-Dineen

People might one day look back at 2013 as a seminal year in the golf-automotive world. Bubba's hovercraft burst onto the scenes in April, as did that Batmobile golf cart-thing, which in December sold on eBay for more than $17,000. One criminal even tried to use a golf cart as a getaway vehicle -- although that one didn't turn out so well.

But it's the brilliant minds over at the Singapore-MIT Alliance for Research and Technology (SMART), in collaboration with the Future Urban Mobility Interdisciplinary Research Group (FM IRG), who could have closed the year with an invention worthy of starting a new one. It's a driverless golf cart, fit with laser sensors, computers and GPS satellites that together allow the cart to drive itself.


The idea stems from the car manufacturing industry, where engineers are testing cars that could one day do all the driving for you. Why? Because it helps cut down on commuting time and may, in some cases, actually be safer because computers can't experience emotions like fatigue or anger.

Could self-driving golf carts be a natural successor to driverless cars? They might. They might even precede them, according to one of the carts builders James Fu, because right now one of these carts requires a tolerance between 10 to 50 meters. That's space more suited to a rural environment -- a golf course, for example -- rather than a city.


We'll have to wait and see. In the meantime, here's what could prove to be a glimpse into the future:





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News & Tours

Somebody on eBay is selling golf balls signed by really random celebrities

By Luke Kerr-Dineen

We're not really sure why, or how, but someone with the username stevpapes9bkz on eBay is selling golf balls signed by some pretty high-profile celebrities. The golf balls range from a little more than $30 to about $100, and all come with a Certificate of Authenticity -- so if you need to do some last minute holiday shopping, you might be in luck.

We're not sure any of the signees play golf, but in any case, here are some of the items up for auction:


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News & Tours

Is Jim Kaat the first golfer to shoot his age as a switch-hitter?

By Cliff Schrock

Jim Kaat finished a 25-year career in Major League Baseball in 1983. One of roughly 30 players whose career spanned four decades, "Kitty" Kaat retired with arguably a career worthy of the Baseball Hall of Fame. But while he must remain patient and wait for another Hall of Fame vote in December 2014, we have no hesitation giving him Hall of Fame status in our Records and Rarities record book based on what he did earlier this month.

Related: Notable baseball stars who love golf

Kaat, who turned 75 on Nov. 7, shot his age on Dec. 7 at McArthur Golf Club in Hobe Sound, Fla., a Tom Fazio-Nick Price work. That alone makes him one of just thousands who have shot their age. But Kaat's 75 was as a righthander, and together with three other age-shooting rounds he's had from the left side, the feat makes Kaat the first golfer we've chronicled who has shot their age from both sides of the ball.

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More proficient as a lefthander, the lefty hurler had shot his age from that side at age 70, 74 and on Nov. 24 at age 75. Because of his two-sided ability, he often found it enjoyable to grab a caddie and play a round from both sides of the ball, in essence playing a match of Righty vs. Lefty. It was in such a match on Dec. 7 that Kaat, with caddie Mike Adamson, shot a 78 lefthanded and had a 12-footer on 18 to shoot 75 righty. Knowing exactly where he stood, Kaat drained the putt, turned to Adamson and said, "Do you know what that meant? I just shot my age."

A 6-handicap lefty, but a 10 to 12 righty, Kaat had a little fade working all day from the right side to shoot his age. "One of my favorite movies is 'Let It Ride,' with Richard Dreyfuss," Kaat said of the 1989 racetrack film. "And one of the lines said quite often is, 'I'm really having a good day.' And that's the way it was that round."

The ability to play from both sides of the ball is not unheard of, but to do it well is very rare. Johnny Bulla and Mac O'Grady are examples of pros who excelled from each side. Kaat had a unique entry into the ambidextrous world. As a young pitcher with the Minnesota Twins in the 1960s, he kidded others his age for wasting their time playing golf. But Fred Cox, a kicker with the neighboring Vikings, got Kaat on the course when Kaat was around 30. Even though he was a southpaw, as Bulla was, Kaat played righthanded for similar reasons Bulla played righty as a pro. "I was told it was a righthander's game and you couldn't get lefty equipment, which we know now was nonsense," Kaat said.

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As time went on, and Kaat developed the yips with short-game shots while playing around 1994 at Sailfish Point in Stuart, Fla., member Gerald Barnett suggested he try hitting shots from around the green lefty. "I was humbled for awhile, whiffing and topping," Kaat said. But he soon became better lefthanded, and now hits the ball about a club and a half longer from that side. When he shot his righthanded 75, Kaat played McArthur from 6,000 yards righty and 6,400 lefty. (Kaat is diligent with his scorekeeping, maintaining two GHIN numbers, and yes, he knows his right from his left.) 

Kaat, who plays mainly at McArthur and at the classic Walter Travis Ekwanok Country Club in Manchester, Vt., has longevity in his athletic pursuits. He played MLB until age 44, and now is playing well on the golf course in his 70s. Working both sides of the body is something more trainers are promoting, and the physical act of swinging from both sides is something Kaat advocates. He believes it has kept his body flexible and in good alignment. Kaat has a case of scoliosis, so after playing lefthanded a few rounds in a row, it is physically helpful that he play from the other side to keep his spine aligned. He' also does Pete Egoscue's training and flexibility exercises, made famous by Jack Nicklaus' use of them.

Related: Jim Kaat reacts to Greg Norman's feud with Medalist GC

Kaat admits to being obsessive about golf. "If you put together all the features I've read about golf, it would be quite a notebook," he said. His wife, Margie Bowes, a former assistant golf pro who now has her amateur standing back, even provides some incentive. "I've beaten her, rarely, as a lefthander, so I have a goal to beat her righthanded," he said with a laugh.

Ambidextrous bragging rights over the spouse? He'd be our first in that category too.

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News & Tours

PGA Tour rookie stuck in traffic, decides it's a good time to hit golf balls

By Luke Kerr-Dineen

Perhaps you haven't heard of PGA Tour player John Peterson. His T-2 finish at the 2013 Web.com Tour Finals back in September was enough to earn him his first ever PGA Tour card for the 2014 season, but that pales in comparison to the idea he just came up with.

Stuck in traffic on the I-20 in West Texas, Peterson decided to brave the 21-degree weather and take his clubs out for spin, striping a few shots from the side of the road over what looks to be another road and into the trees. 


Check it out, and remember: the next time you're stuck in traffic, use it as an opportunity to work on the game. It's what the pros do.  

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