“You’re going to the Scottish Highlands to play golf? In November?”
“Yep. For three weeks.”
Everyone I spoke to thought I was an idiot for going so late in the year. Expect heavy rain and plummeting temperatures I was told, time and again. I assumed I’d be writing a Survival Guide to Scottish Golf, one that recommends carrying a small coal-fired power station in your pocket for warmth.
There is an air of mystery and romanticism to the Scottish Highlands. As a boy, I always imagined these Highlands were way up high, mist-enshrined mountains with clouds hiding their peaks as far as the eye can see.
It turns out that’s exactly what they are… but there is so much more. The coastline encircling those mountains is laced with beautiful beaches, bays, cliffs and castles…. and dunes.
And the Scots have been playing golf in those dunes for centuries.
Earlier this year, Scotland introduced a 500-mile coastal driving route called the North Coast 500 (NC500). It wraps around the northern Highlands, stretching from the region’s capital, Inverness, up to John O’ Groats, the most northerly point on the British mainland. From there it switches west for 90 miles to the isolated and beautiful Durness, before coasting south through a dramatic and inspiring landscape to the equally remote village of Applecross.
This is Scotland at its wildest, forever battered by the Atlantic Ocean and the elements. Given the landscape and the often-inhospitable conditions, you can understand why the county of Sutherland (roughly the size of the State of Delaware) has an average population of just two people per square mile.
When I first heard about the NC500, I realized that Royal Dornoch was on that route, along with Brora. More research revealed the route possesses 27 golf courses. I sensed an opportunity to do something a bit different: drive those 500 miles and play every course along the way. Perhaps, after 30 years, I would get to determine if my dreams of the Scottish Highlands coincided with reality.
The starting point was Inverness, on the Moray Firth. There are many golf courses nearby, but the renowned Nairn and Castle Stuart are not on the NC500. Instead, I played the parklands of Inverness and Strathpeffer, and the heathland Muir of Ord.
I also played Torvean, Loch Ness, Invergordon and Alness, and it was these four that emphasized how screwed up my priorities had become in recent years. The courses’ quality was underwhelming but at the sweet parkland of Alness I realized—or remembered—that what makes golf so special isn’t playing highly manicured fairways, perfect greens or some grand design.
The game’s essence, rather, is hitting a ball in the company of friends and switching off for a while. I had forgotten that spirit and it wasn’t for another week, when I played Reay Golf Club on the north coast that it all came back to me. The rough links fairways took me back to when I was a boy, trampling over similar fairways on a beat up nine-hole course in County Cork … and loving every minute of it.
Fortrose and Rosemarkie was the first serious course I played, a low-lying links laid out by Scotsman James Braid on a small peninsula that slashes into the Moray Firth. Established in 1888, someone recently found proof in their attic that golf has been played here since 1702. It makes it the 15th-oldest golfing site in the world.
After leaving Inverness, my next stop was in Tain, a quaint town and home to an Old Tom Morris links celebrating its 125th anniversary. Tain Golf Club, along with Golspie, tends to be forgotten behind the might of Royal Dornoch and Brora. It is a shame because Tain is old school and charming.
And it was at Tain, squeezed by gorse and broom, that I rediscovered the speed at which golf should be played. Playing on my own, I finished in 2½ hours, never losing the three-ball behind me. These guys were fast. I imagine sponsors and TV stations would be infuriated if the professional game were ever to achieve such speeds, but what a breath of fresh air it would be for the amateur game.
I drove over Dornoch Bridge the following morning to play one of the world’s greatest courses. Royal Dornoch has 400 years of golfing history ingrained in its fairways and, on this particular day, it was kind enough to provide clear blue skies and an empty timesheet. On a course this magnificent it meant I could lap up every inch of the place. My round took four hours. Who knows how long it would have taken if the gorse had been in bloom.
If Johnny Miller is reading this, we hope he’s sitting down. Preferably, in the comfort of his home, while wearing his favorite pair of houndstooth-pattern pants. Johnny, there’s no easy way to say this, but when it comes to golf analysts, you’re not the people’s choice anymore.
Nick Faldo overtaking Miller was one of the most noteworthy findings in Golf Digest’s latest survey of TV viewers. It wasn’t a blowout, but Faldo, the six-time major champion, received 58 percent to Miller’s 53 percent in the favorite-analyst category.(Respondents could choose multiple options.) In previous TV surveys (2002 and 1996), Miller was the dominant winner among analysts.
But was it a fair fight? Miller still had plenty of support and was widely praised for his “brutal honesty,” but Faldo has four more majors and that distinguished English accent. More important, he gets to call the Masters, the runaway favorite event among viewers (66 percent to 12 percent for the Ryder Cup), as well as a second major, the PGA Championship. Meanwhile, NBC didn’t broadcast the U.S. Open for the first time in two decades, and it wasn’t a Ryder Cup year.
Regardless, there’s no contest when it comes to hosts/play-by-play announcers. As was the case in our last comprehensive survey, Jim Nantz emerged an easy winner among respondents, who were 83 percent male, had a median age of 59, and averaged watching 19 tournaments last season. In other words, these weren’t just bandwagon Masters fans. To be sure, Nantz’s popularity isn’t hurt by his ubiquitous presence at CBS’ biggest sporting events, from the Super Bowl to the Final Four. Still, his 65 percent (nearly doubling ESPN’s Mike Tirico, at 33 percent) versus just 8 percent of viewers naming Nantz their least favorite, is impressive.
It wasn’t all smiles and “Hello, friends,” for CBS, though, as the network said goodbye to one of its star personalities, David Feherty. An overwhelming choice for favorite on-course reporter (74 percent), Feherty ended a 19-year relationship with the network in September and is adding NBC to his Golf Channel duties. CBS will gain Dottie Pepper (No. 5 at 35 percent) in 2016, but Feherty seems irreplaceable.
In fact, a comedic touch can go a long way. Another CBS jokester, Gary McCord (52 percent), was the most popular hole announcer, followed closely by Peter Jacobsen (50 percent) on NBC. And Faldo’s sense of humor played a big part in him edging Miller. Also, when viewers were asked to pick which celebrity they’d most like to see on a golf telecast, comedian Jimmy Fallon was the overwhelming choice at 43 percent, and unintentional comedian Donald Trump took second at 14 percent.
In addition to losing the game’s top funnyman, CBS also lost its grip as favorite golf network for the first time since Golf Digest started this survey in 1988. Golf Channel, which finished its 21st year of being the only 24-hour golf network, took that category (38 percent to 29 percent) and benefited from a deep, balanced roster. The polarizing Brandel Chamblee finished as the sixth-favorite analyst and tied for second-most disliked. Interestingly, he was edged in popularity by rookie teammate David Duval. Kelly Tilghman’s 28 percent was good for fourth among hosts, and Charlie Rymer was a surprising favorite member of “Morning Drive,” Golf Channel’s flagship show. Golf Channel’s Tim Rosaforte came in second to NBC’s Jimmy Roberts in the reporter/interviewer category and finished No. 2 to Rymer among “Morning Drive” cast members in the first year of the post-Holly Sonders era.
Speaking of Sonders, she finished No. 3 among reporters. But not even her presence or a star-studded booth duo of Joe Buck and Greg Norman translated into a good first impression by Fox at the U.S. Open. In fact, Buck and Norman were named least favorite in their respective categories, with Buck widely criticized for a perceived lack of golf knowledge and Norman getting knocked for a surplus of arrogance. It wasn’t quite a Brent Musburger level of disdain—the former ABC golf announcer received 43 percent of our worst-host vote in 1996—but 39 percent named Buck their least favorite, and a quarter of those polled gave the Shark a biting review.
Not surprisingly, there was a huge difference in how today’s fans consume pro golf and which players they follow most closely. Jordan Spieth, after his monster season, was a clear favorite player to watch (viewers were 83 percent more likely to watch when he was in contention), and Tiger Woods fell from first in 2002 to sixth, at 55 percent.
All participants said they watched at least 10 events on TV in the past year, but 69 percent reported they have watched golf tournaments using mobile apps, which didn’t exist when Golf Digest last conducted this survey. Yes, a lot can happen in 13 years—and it’s not all bad, Johnny. We hear houndstooth is making a comeback.
Pictures : Dale Stephanos
Tiger Woods has certainly changed for the better as he has aged. I’m not talking about his golf, but about his entire demeanor. Gone is the brash young man who wanted to conquer the world and break every record in the process. Instead, he puts family first and has come to terms with the fact that catching and beating Jack Nicklaus’s 18 Majors is now something that probably will not happen. In this introspective piece, by Alex Myers of Golf Digest, Tiger opens up about the mistakes he made in the past, and where he is going forward.
We learned a lot from Tiger Woods’ Tuesday press conference. The 14-time major winner has no timetable for a return, seems content with his career if this is it, and has gotten really good at video games. On Thursday, we learned even more from Woods through an interview he did with Lorne Rubenstein and Time Magazine. The usually guarded superstar was unusually candid discussing his life. The entire interview is fantastic and well worth your time, but here are some of the highlights:
Tiger hates watching golf on TV
“I can’t remember the last time I watched golf. I can’t stand it. Unless one of my friends has a chance to win, then I like watching it. I watched Jason [Day] win the PGA. But it was on mute. It’s always on mute and I have some other game on another TV.”
Tiger and Elin are BFFs
“In hindsight, it’s not how I would change 2009 and how it all came about. It would be having a more open, honest relationship with my ex-wife. Having the relationship that I have now with her is fantastic. She’s one of my best friends. We’re able to pick up the phone, and we talk to each other all the time. We both know that the most important things in our lives are our kids. I wish I would have known that back then.”
“We’re like best friends. It’s fun. She talks to me about her life, I talk to her about my life. We try and help each other out on all occasions. And we work through it with the kids, the parenting program. She is one of my best friends now, and it’s all because of my kids.”
Speaking of his kids. . .
Tiger would choose them over golf
Woods tells Rubenstein that being able to be active in his kids’ lives is more important than his golf career. He says he values his time with them more than anything. “Now I know what my dad felt like when we’d go out there and play nine holes in the dark,” Woods said.
Tiger takes the blame for his divorce
“I’ve taken the initiative with the kids, and told them up front, ‘Guys, the reason why we’re not in the same house, why we don’t live under the same roof, Mommy and Daddy, is because Daddy made some mistakes.’ I just want them to understand before they get to Internet age and they log on to something or have their friends tell them something. I want it to come from me so that when they come of age, I’ll just tell them the real story. But meanwhile, it’s just, ‘Hey, Daddy made some mistakes. But it’s O.K. We’re all human. We all make mistakes. But look what happened at the end of it. Look at how great you are. You have two loving parents that love you no matter what.'”
Pictures : Keith Allison
1. Robert Allenby
Happy Thanksgiving everyone! As we all give thanks for the great things we have in our lives, friends, family and this wonderful country we live in, warts and all, it is time to see what we are really thankful for in golf. Thanks to Joel Beall and the hard working people at Golf Digest, here are 28 things we golfers need to be grateful for!
We’ve become an ungrateful bunch. Instead of cherishing the good, we belabor the bad. We complain about the Wi-Fi stalling out, oblivious to the miracle of the Internet. Talk crap about our jobs without referencing its steady income. Traffic, sports, politics: moan, moan, moan. And God only knows the struggle of sitting on an airport runway.
Which is why Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays of the year. It’s a respite from groaning, where gratitude takes center stage. That attitude applies to golf, for I’ve been guilty of bellyaching just as much as anyone.
In keeping with Thanksgiving tradition, here are the things I’m most thankful for from the world of golf:
- Gimme Putts
And we’re guessing Alison Lee does, too.2. Online tee-time reservation sites
For those too poor to afford a country club (me) and/or procrastinate in making a tee time earlier in the week (me, again), these websites are a gift from the golf gods. It can be a roll of the dice; in many ways, it’s like TJ Maxx: If you’re trying to find a specific, particular item, you may be disappointed, but if casually browsing, you’ll likely find something that fits your fancy. As long as you don’t mind the spontaneity of the process, booking a time online should be right up your alley.
And no, this wasn’t a paid, sponsored content endorsement.
3. Masters week
Where to begin? It’s the best golf course in the world, and the same sentiment can be applied to its condition. Forget sporting events; it’s the most efficiently run event in this country PERIOD. Every element of Augusta is draped in tradition; the Par 3 Contest has more history than most tournaments. The small field all but guarantees a big-name winner, and the course layout ensures an exciting finish.
In short: If there is a heaven, then the Pearly Gates are located at 2604 Washington Road.
4. Breakfast balls
How to know your friend’s a keeper: He/she motions for a reload after your first shot of the day finds the parking lot. As Euripides said, “Friends show their love in times of trouble, not in happiness.”
5. Weekday outings
The snow days of adulthood. Bonus points if they reside on a Friday.
6. Night Golf
If you’ve only swung a club in sunlight, you’re missing out.
Amateurs competing in majors
While Jordan Spieth was the main storyline at St. Andrews, the competitive showings of Paul Dunne and Jordan Niebrugge were right up there in narrative excitement. Granted, these guys are professionals-in-training, yet there’s undoubtedly a romanticized feeling when an “(A)” name designation appears on the scoreboard.
It even inspires the ephemeral hope that you, too, watching at home, can compete with the big boys. All you need is a little practice around the greens, more mental focus, a better diet and stretching regimen, and — BOOM — you’d be walking up the 18th fairway as Jim Nantz pontificates a Nantzism on your historic victory (which, in my case, would be along the lines of, “An Un-BEALL-ievable moment!!!).
Then you remember you couldn’t break par at the member-guest and think, “Na.”
7. 16th hole at Phoenix
The antithesis of golf etiquette, decorum and civility…and, remarkably, it’s universally beloved by everyone in the game.
8. Cart girls
Admittedly, I always resented this profession growing up, due to making minimum wage on maintenance duty while those manning carts would pull in $35 per hour off tips. But this summer, most of my golf was played at a course without coolers, and on the days I forgot to pack my own water bottle — which was often — seeing the silhouette of the snack truck approaching from the distance turned me into Andy Dufresne after his Shawshank escape.
Be it equipment, books, programs, clothes, tickets, even vacations, eBay is the Elysium of golf memorabilia. If you’re ready to go down this rabbit hole, Matt Rudy’s work is a weekly source for these finds.
10. John Daly
The big guy gave us a scare this summer, collapsing at an event in Mississippi. From his outlandish ensembles to his penchant for belting out “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door,” the game is always a bit more colorful when Daly’s around. Moreover, there’s something to be said for a person who can energize a gallery with his mere appearance, and in terms of treating fans, Daly has no peer on the PGA Tour.
Here’s hoping for a clean bill of health for JD for 2016.
11. Club Pro Guy Twitter account
Crass, irreverent, offensive, demeaning. Our kind of guy.
12. Televised golf at bizarre hours
The British Open is the annual model for its early-morning showcase on the East Coast, but 2015 gave us a prime-time U.S. Open and a deep-into-the-night Presidents Cup broadcast. Even the British Open got into the act — albeit briefly — with its 1:30 a.m. EST Saturday-morning start.
There is nothing better for a golfer’s confidence than a scramble . It’s easy to dismiss awful shots (“Well, clearly I was just being overly aggressive because of the format, you guys”), putting transforms from the bane of your existence to a shared struggle and every decent knock is treated like MacArthur returning to the Philippines.
14. Dash Day
Fact: Golf viewership among females audiences has soared 784 percent, strictly at the prospect of seeing Lil’ Day running across the 18th green. EvenKeely Levins, who makes the Grinch look amicable, lights up like a Christmas tree at Dash sightings.
Even in the well-buffered world that is golf—even in our world, in other words—it’s a wonder that some kids make it. Malachi Zeitner, son of an Iowa golf professional and the nephew of another, lost his mother to drugs and jail when he was not much more than a toddler. When he was 8, his father, Brandon, got married to another woman and moved to Chicago, where he took a job as an assistant pro, and, when the marriage failed, succumbed to an alcoholic habit he’d kept secret from his family. He died in 2007. Malachi, then 12, moved back to Sioux City, Iowa, to live with his grandparents and might still be there if it weren’t for a meeting about caddies his uncle attended in Ohio, and the conversation it inspired. “So I’ve come back from this Evans Scholarship selection meeting,” says Brad Zeitner, head professional at Brookside Golf and Country Club in Columbus, Ohio, “and I’m telling my wife, Beth, how cool an experience it was listening to these kids who are applying for the scholarship, how I had tears in my eyes and all, and I finish, and she says—give her the credit—’Well, I don’t know much about caddieing, but based on what you’re telling me, what about Malachi? What if he came here and lived with us and caddied at Brookside?’ That pretty much set the ball rolling.” It continued rolling through three summers of caddieing, strong grades, and a selection meeting at the Maketewah Country Club in Cincinnati much like the first one Malachi’s uncle had attended. The adults at the meeting—donors, scholarship directors, many former caddies themselves—wanted to know if Malachi, in addition to his strong caddie and academic records, was a solid kid, a kid with character. They were also curious about why he’d chosen dentistry. Malachi told them he decided to be a dentist about the time he moved back to Iowa from Chicago, when things got rough. “I’d heard somewhere that dentists got more free health care than any professional. I needed that.” “The last question they asked him was what getting this scholarship would mean to him,” recalls Uncle Brad. “Malachi said, ‘It would mean I could give my kids the things I didn’t have.’ As everyone took that in, the room went absolutely silent. One of the gentlemen stopped it there. ‘Malachi, I think that’s enough,’ he said. Mal tells me later, ‘I didn’t get a chance to thank everyone.’ I said, “No, you thanked them. You just didn’t know it.” In 2012, Malachi Zeitner won the Evans Scholarship, a full ride, including housing, to Miami University in Ohio (where tuition runs about $31,000 a year), and he has lived without charge in a house of 40 former caddies for the past three years. He’ll graduate this May, dental school ahead. “To be honest, I probably wouldn’t be in college if it weren’t for the scholarship,” Malachi says. He’s also a big fan of the communal living that’s part of the Evans experience. “I got to school the first week, and I felt like we had a family in the house.”To read the rest of this incredible story, go here! Source : Golf Digest Bob Carney Pictures : Tom Fowlks
Growing up, your parents always told you to have a back-up plan. In the cut-throat world of professional caddies, that mantra holds especially true as players and caddies break up regularly, often for no better reason than the player needs a change of scenery. Next week at the RSM Classic at the Sea Island Resort — formerly the McGladrey Classic — Jim “Bones” Mackay, Phil Mickelson’s longtime caddie, and John Wood, Matt Kuchar’s loop, will try out a back-up plan of their own: on-course reporting.The check out the rest of this article on the caddies becoming reporters, go here! Here is a preview of is coming up on the Source : Back9Network Chris Chaney, Wrong Fairway Pictures : Julie Campbell Video :
Grab your checkbooks: “A world-famous piece of golfing memorabilia” — as legendary commentator Peter Alliss called the painting — is up for sale. Auction house Bonhams will feature the aptly titled The Portrait of Henry Callender standing in a landscape, in the red coat of Captain General of the Blackheath Golf Club and holding a putter for bid. The painting is the work of the brush of Leicestershire artist Lemuel Francis Abbott, and is expected to fetch £600,000 –£800,000. That’s roughly $900,000 to $1.2 million. Regarded as one of the earliest depictions of the gentleman’s game, the undated painting has spent at least the past 150 years in the clubhouse of Royal Blackheath Golf Club, which traces its origins to the early 17th century is one of the oldest golf courses in the world. Indeed, the famed British golf writer Bernard Darwin identified it as the oldest course in the world. The club is auctioning off the famous portrait to raise funds.More about the painting, via Golfbusinessnews.com: To see this pricey piece and learn why it is being auctioned off, go here: Source : GolfWrx.com Ben Alberstadt Pictures : GolfWrx