2017 In Review

Our favorite Golf World longform stories of 2017

December 23, 2017
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When Golf World transitioned in March from a weekly digital magazine to 24/7 news website, we committed to retaining the rich heritage of in-depth reporting, detailed analysis and impactful writing that had come to be the trademark of the brand in its print magazine glory. We like to think we’ve been faithful to that promise, particularly when it comes to impactful “longform” stories that have aimed at taking a deeper dive into a chosen subject, allowing our writers to entertain and edify you, the readers, with the very best reporting, analysis and commentary.

Narrowing down our favorites from 2017 was a tricky proposition—do you have a favorite child?—but here are 10 that stood out not only for their solid prose but for the depth and diversity of subjects we tackled in 2017.

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There is something great—and grating—about a single Masters start. The sons of one-and-done cherish their fond memories and feel enduring pride. Of course, they have to shoulder their regrets, too, because once is never enough, one Masters start never could be enough. When April comes around, these players are reminded that once they were worthy of a coveted invitation to the year’s first major championship—but then never received another. Imagine celebrating one Christmas and then being forced to let it pass by every year thereafter.

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Emotions over the incident continue to run high, in part because golf isn’t fully over the controversial—and arguably mismanaged—penalties that were applied to Dustin Johnson and Anna Nordqvist at last year’s men’s and women’s U.S. Opens. In such a climate, Thompson’s penalties simply seemed like too much. “I think we’ve seen some stuff in the past year,” Rickie Fowler said at the Masters, “that is not making the game look very good at all.

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Golf has had a hard time bringing out its best qualities [to the big screen]. Even though other sports have more physical action to fall back on, I would argue that golf on screen doesn’t have to be dull. The buildup of a player conceiving and playing a shot can be cinematic. The constant inner turmoil competitive golfers must manage can be conveyed. Where golf movies have fallen short is because many of the filmmakers, whatever their technical abilities, have lacked a close feel for the game.

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When former No. 1 Luke Donald revealed in early 2016 that he considered quitting after falling out of the top 50 in the World Rankings, several of his peers nodded in empathy. They could relate. Golf is always hard, but it doesn’t always seem that way. Yet more often than not, at the highest level, it’s a burdensome endeavor, psychologically. Successes are fleeting. Frustrations are ever-present.

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We Are Golf estimates that the total size of the golf economy is $68.8 billion, or 10 times that of the tennis industry and more than five times that of skiing and video games. The total impact on the economy from golf, both directly and indirectly, amounts to $176.6 billion. Based on International Monetary Fund figures, that’s higher than the gross domestic product of 136 countries. As a kicker, golf will also point to its fitness benefits and the nearly $4 billion in charitable impact in 2016. That message of golf’s truth, as it were, is the calling card of National Golf Day, which resulted in some 175 meetings with legislators, staff and federal agencies.

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“When your kids are young, they look up to you like you’re Superman,” Kuchar said a few days later at the RBC Canadian Open. “Kind of you’re their hero. You’re the one to protect them and save them and do great things. And when it doesn’t work out, and you aren’t the hero holding the trophy, it’s saddening as well. I saw the look in their eyes, and I wanted to be that guy. So I was a little bit broken myself that I wasn’t that guy.”

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Tour players somehow appear perpetually fresh and well-rested. Maybe it’s just their youth, but their strides seem as bouncy at the conclusion of a five-hour round than at the beginning. So is sleep really that important? And how much are tour players sleeping really? … [Interestingly], tour pros provide little in the way of details about that aspect of their lives. They regularly post on social-media photos of their workouts, meals and other parts of their training and recovery, but little about sleep. It’s understandable why Rickie Fowler is more apt to post photos of himself in the gym than slumbering in eye mask and pajamas. Still, it’s surprising players don’t address it more.

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Like the best leaders in any sport, Inkster provided a huge support system for her squad. A number of her players were only junior golfers when Inkster was dominating the LPGA, winning 31 tour events, including seven majors, and earning a place in the World Golf Hall of Fame. The generational divide allowed for her players to hold a true admiration and respect towards Inkster, even as she could be seen pumping up the crowd—who can’t get enough of her—and dancing around the first tee.

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Under Payne, the position of the Masters and Augusta National among golf’s major organizations has climbed in stature and import. The club has a bigger voice in the game’s issues and seems to operate with more autonomy. By shrewdly blending its increased revenues with a broader, more culturally current vision, Payne pushed the previously often hidebound club and its tournament into the 21st century with a vitality that in retrospect is stunning.

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The longest hole in golf runs 1,250 miles and spans an entire country. It has been played only once, and it took 82 days and 20,093 strokes to complete. That included the first shot, struck at 1 a.m. on June 29 of this year at the base camp of Khüiten Peak, the highest and most western point in Mongolia, and it was promptly lost. No breakfast balls here.