Golf Digest editors picks
Mark King

'We absolutely want to be bold. ...
there's no other choice.'

A bold CEO: 'There's no other choice'

Mark King

Risky? Maybe. Bold, certainly. Yet, for Mark King, the decision to bet TaylorMade's industry and PGA Tour category leads on new drivers that feature white clubheads is more than that. It's business as usual.

Since taking over at TaylorMade in 1999, King has insisted on innovation. When competitors were introducing drivers one at a time, King drove to launch in multiples of three or four, whether golfers, retailers or rivals were ready for it (more than 40 drivers in the past decade). And in doing so, he changed golfers expectations--like making one driver perform as if it had a dozen heads. "When we came out with movable-weight technology, people were telling us that nobody wanted it, that they'd be intimidated by it," he said, citing the game-changing r7 quad. "That wasn't the case. We absolutely want to be bold. Honestly, I think there's no other choice."

His latest decision might be his boldest. TaylorMade's new R11 and Burner SuperFast 2.0 drivers have white-matte heads with black clubfaces. The company's current driver lineup will be all-white, a technology where no one else is going but one he believes will improve a golfer's ability to aim. "Our goal is to obsolete black drivers," he says.

Despite the limitations of rulemakers and frankly even those of physics, King remains bullish on technology and says that innovation will accelerate over the next 10 years. "The USGA doesn't control society," he says. True, but it does control golf's society. And like everyone else, it will be watching where King is aiming next.
Donald Trump

Donald Trump at Mar-A-Lago:
His courses "are all small deals compared
with a billion-dollar office tower."

Discounting the risk

Donald Trump

The first thing Donald Trump wants you to know is, he's not really much of a risk-taker. Not in his golf business, anyway. "I'm buying courses that are among the best around, for substantial discounts," he says. "The risk-takers were the previous owners, who spent a lot of money getting these courses up and running." Perhaps. But the fact is, anybody who has acquired five conspicuously high-end courses in the past three years, as Trump has done, is taking a chance. Even discounted, private golf clubs are nobody's idea of a sure thing these days.

Trump's latest purchases are the former Lowes Island in Washington, D.C. (two courses), Branton Woods in New York's Hudson Valley, Pine Hill near Philadelphia and Shadow Isle in Colts Neck, N.J. He has rebranded them all with the Trump name. His portfolio now includes 13 courses, from Los Angeles to Canouan Island in the Caribbean. He declines to say what he paid, other than suggesting that Branton Woods and Pine Hill were so inexpensive it's "almost embarrassing." He adds that he did not pay bargain-basement prices for either the Lowes Island or Shadow Isle properties.

Trump loves golf--he has a 3.7 Handicap Index--but that's not his only motivation. Along with his regular media appearances, the courses are part of his marketing apparatus, raising his profile among wealthy people who might buy apartments or lease offices in his real-estate developments. "You have to remember these are all small deals compared with a billion-dollar office tower," he says. "They might seem like a big risk, but next to what I do in my main business, they're small."

His newest project is Trump International Golf Links-Scotland, a $1.6 billion effort along the coast of Aberdeen. His plans, which have met resistance from some locals, call for two 18-hole courses, a hotel and 950 "holiday homes" and villas. Even Trump concedes he's taking a risk, given the state of the economy. Yet when he saw the property, he says he couldn't resist. Proclaims the Donald: "I consider myself an artist, and this is the greatest canvas in the world."
For The Love Of The Game

The Troops

They swing lone clubs sent from home, bashing balls prized more for durability than cosmetics--traits, they happen to share, by the way. They hit off squares of synthetic turf to holes hewn from some of the most inviolable ground on the planet. They contend with local rules borne of practicality--minefields, mess halls and anything outside the wire are out-of-bounds. They follow the pro tours in magazines and on dusty laptops (time, locales, Internet connections and lulls in the fighting permitting). For troops in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere abroad, golf as they knew it in America is one of a thousand freedoms they're fighting for and hoping to regain when their tours are finished.
If You Build It Right, They Will Come

Mike Keiser

Some bold ideas don't look so bold in hindsight. Time unveils the inevitability of a thing. But the gamble that is Bandon Dunes still baffles 12 years, four courses and a million rounds later. That Mike Keiser, a Chicago greeting-card executive, would create a "minimalist" golf course in a place that's about as accessible as Dornoch, put that course along the coast of a (rainy) state with the environmental sensitivity of Norway, and hire an unknown architect is the embodiment of bold, if not foolhardy. Keiser also eschewed carts because walking was part of the pure golf experience he sought. "I can't imagine it started as a business affair," says a business associate. "It started as a love affair with an idea." And so was born the American St. Andrews. The man who made it is intense, disciplined, detail-obsessed and, mostly in the company of family and close friends, playful. Above all, he's a learner. "I've never met anyone so inquisitive," says John Kaczkowski, executive director of the Evans Scholars Foundation, on whose board Keiser sits. With the late Howard McKee, Keiser solved the secret of selling Oregon on his resort: gorse. That ornery fixture periodically ignited, razing towns. The partners vowed to control it, and did. "Everything Mike says turns out exactly the way he says it will," says the businessman. "It's like dealing with the Swiss Railroad." Provided that railroad can dream.
Hall Of Famer

Jan Stephenson

The photogenic Australian will be remembered more for posing naked in a bathtub full of golf balls in the 1980s than for her 16 wins and three majors, but it was Jan Stephenson who pushed feminist buttons and drew the attention of the male audience by urging the LPGA to sell sex. She has also been a pioneer of women's senior golf and one of the first women to become a serious golf architect.

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