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Feb 21, 2014 | 09:07 AM

Historic House Work

It isn’t only courses that get renovated. At Van Cortlandt Golf Course in the Bronx, New York City—the oldest public golf course in the United States, dating back to 1895—the 111-year-old clubhouse has been under reconstruction for the past year and is about to reopen. Interior designer Susan Arann of American & International Designers, Inc. kept as much of the original architecture and material as possible, including the Grand Staircase between the main clubroom and the upstairs locker rooms. As for the original wooden lockers—used over the decades by thousands of local golfers, including Babe Ruth, Joe Louis, and the Three Stooges—they’ve also been repaired and restored as much as possible, with some of the unsavable pieces recycled into display cases in the pro shop and snack bar. Among the new elements added to the historic building are a natural-stone fireplace, wood-lined ceiling, French doors, and more windows. All this work—plus some Stephen Kay-led course work five years ago—means the beloved “Vanny” is better than ever.

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Feb 20, 2014 | 10:00 AM

We’ll Never Be Royals

Ever wonder how golf clubs such as Northern Ireland’s Royal County Down (above), acquire the official Royal designation? First and foremost it has to be part of the British Commonwealth. The rest is explained in a new book entitled Golf’s Royal Clubs: Honoured by the British Royal Family 1833-2013 ($100) by Scott Macpherson. The Duke of York, a past Captain of The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews, sums up who bestows the title in the book’s foreword: “The right to adopt the prefix ‘royal’ can only be granted to a golf club with the approval of the current sovereign.” Only 65 clubs have gotten the nod—the most recent was Germany’s Royal Homburger GC in 2013—but which are most worth playing? Go to our Top 10 Royal Courses to find out. 

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Feb 19, 2014 | 12:36 PM

Course of Action

Outside of the majors, today is one of the most exciting days of the year for pro golf fans when 32 of the world’s best players will be sent packing at the WGC-Accenture Match Play. This the last year that Dove Mountain outside Tucson will host the event, much to the joy of the players who have never taken to the Jack Nicklaus-designed course with its severely undulating greens and wacky weather (see last year’s snow delay). Despite the fickle nature of match play, where a player could play well and still lose, it’s a unique tournament that generates a lot more interest than a typical tour stop so it deserves a course worthy of its status. Here are our top five picks for the next host. What are yours?

1. Cypress Point. It’ll never happen, but we can dream, can’t we?
2. PGA West Stadium Course. The ultimate match-play course with risk-reward lurking at every turn.
3. Shadow Creek (above). It would be great to finally see this course for high rollers where Tom Fazio exceeded an unlimited budge. Plus, since this is Vegas, let the players do their own “bracket challenge” with a few of their own chips on the line.
4. Rancho Santa Fe. The Match Play can stay dry and classy at this historic Max Behr design in north San Diego County that played host to Bing Crosby’s first six "clambakes." Plus, club member Phil Mickelson will be much more likely to show up.
5.  Seminole. Kick off the Florida Swing with the Match Play at this legendary Donald Ross design. When half the field loses the first day, they can walk home.

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Feb 17, 2014 | 06:43 AM

We Liked Ike

Just two months before the 78th Masters tees off on April 10, one of Augusta National’s enduring symbols is gone. The Eisenhower Tree—a 65-foot-tall pine that stood along the left side of the 17th fairway about 200 yards off the tee—finally met its match in the icy winter storms that recently battered the Southeast. The broad pine (visible up the left side of the hole in the photo above) was named for President Dwight Eisenhower, an Augusta member who often hit his tee shot left and found himself stymied by the tree. According to The Masters: A Hole-by-Hole History of America’s Golf Classic, by David Sowell, the tree “caused President Eisenhower more trouble than the Russians ever did.” Ike, who twice served on the Augusta National Board of Governors, even suggested that the tree be cut down. “Clifford Roberts quickly adjourned the meeting before Ike could obtain a second for his motion,” wrote Sowell. Current Augusta Chairman Billy Payne says not to worry. “The golf course sustained no major damage otherwise,” Payne was quoted by the GlobalPost. “We are now open for member play and we will be unaffected in our preparations for the 2014 Masters.” As to what will take its place, “We have begun deliberations of the best way to address the future of the 17th hole,” said Payne, “and to pay tribute to this iconic symbol of our history. Rest assured we will do both appropriately.”

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