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Oct 06, 2014 | 06:44 AM

Happy 18th Birthday

A happy belated 18th birthday to the Old Course at St. Andrews. Wait? Hasn’t golf been played over the fabled links for centuries? Yes, but on October 4, 1764, the Old Course was played at 18 holes for the first time. Before that, it had been a 22-hole layout. On that day—250 years and two days ago—a meeting was held of the Society of St. Andrews Golfers, at which the following was read into the minutes: “The Captain and Gentlemen Golfers present are of the opinion that it would be for the improvement of the Links that the four first holes should be converted into two.” Given that the course at the time was played out and back, taking out two of the opening holes meant a reduction of four in total. (In fact, at the time, the course consisted of 10 holes, 8 of which were played twice during a round, equaling 18.) The Old continued to change, with new greens and holes added over the years, but 18 remained the number, and the standard that the rest of the world soon adopted. And as a birthday present to golfers everywhere, the St. Andrews Links Trust, which runs the town’s courses, created a time-lapse video of the Old being prepared for the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship, which was played over this past weekend and won by Oliver Wilson of England. It's a fitting tribute.

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Oct 03, 2014 | 06:49 AM

The Year Of Rory

In what might be the least surprising bit of news this year, Rory McIlroy has won the PGA Tour’s Player of the Year award. According to some pundits, his victory might be tainted because it came from just one month of good play: Between the end of July and the middle of August, McIlroy recorded his three Tour wins—the British Open, World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational, and PGA Championship. But give the 25-year-old credit. He entered 17 events on the PGA Tour in the wrap-around 2013-2014 season and made 17 cuts, finishing in the top 10 12 times. Besides his three victories, he had two seconds. He never withdrew (unlike last year), and he ran away with the money title, earning $8,280,096, which was $1,943,368 more than second-place Bubba Watson, who played in four more events. McIlroy also finished third in the FedExCup competition, and while it didn’t affect his PGA Tour status, he’s leading the European Tour’s money list by nearly three millions Euros. Plus, he played pretty well at the Ryder Cup. Rookie of the Year honors went to Chesson Hadley.

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Oct 02, 2014 | 10:34 AM

Landmark Status

Almost a century after its two A.W. Tillinghast-designed courses debuted, Baltusrol Golf Club in Springfield, New Jersey, has been designated a National Historic Landmark. The honor comes from the Department of the Interior's National Park Service Landmarks Program, which defines each honoree as “nationally significant historic places designated by the Secretary of the Interior because they possess exceptional value or quality in illustrating or interpreting the heritage of the United States.” The honor described the club’s 36 holes as “arguably the most important and influential design of leading early-20th-century golf course architect Albert W. Tillinghast, one of the first American golf architects to integrate a golf course into nature.” Of course, hosting seven U.S. Opens, two U.S. Women's Opens, a total of 15 USGA Championships, and a PGA Championship (an event that returns here in 2016) certainly helped too. The status also puts Baltusrol in some good company: Pinehurst, Merion and Oakmont are the only other courses to receive the recognition.  

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Oct 01, 2014 | 01:24 PM

Critical Mass

Attention golf-course architecture fans: You can finally order the new edition of Tom Doak’s Confidential Guide to Golf Courses—all five volumes!—by going to his website and ordering the self-published set for $280 (or you can order each volume separately for $60). The update will cover more than 2,500 courses written by Doak and three co-authors, Ran Morrissett of golfclubatlas.com, Japanese architect and critic Masa Nishijima, and Planet Golf author Darius Oliver. Volume 1 is available now and includes 288 reviews of courses in Great Britain and Ireland. The four other volumes will focus on America (winter and summer destinations); Europe, the Middle East, and Africa; and Asia, Australia, and New Zealand, with one volume a year published through 2018. As any golf-course aficionado knows, the first edition is a cult classic, fetching four-figure sums as a collectible since Doak only self-published 60 copies in the mid-'90s (second and third editions totaled 13,000 copies). Readers loved his controversial (read: bluntly honest) take on some of the best courses and architects in the game (all the old reviews are included in the update, as well, though Doak admits to rewriting some since he had to retype them—all the files were on unreadable Mac floppy disks). But don’t expect that just because he’s a famous architect now, he’s gone soft or anything, including on his own designs. Said Doak, who will autograph all pre-ordered copies: “Rest assured that I do not plan to write and self-publish a book about all the great courses I have ever seen, only to leave all of my own work out of the book.”

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