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Jan 28, 2014 | 09:29 AM

Another Tiger-Rory Showdown

This weekend, if any of the players in the Omega Dubai Desert Classic should be stupid-lucky enough to bang a 325-yard drive onto the green and into the cup of the 325-yard 17th hole at the Emirates Golf Club, the tournament organizers—in celebration of the event’s silver anniversary—will write a check for $2.5 million. That’s equal to the entire purse for the event. A wounded Tiger, fresh off his ignominious 79 at Torrey Pines, will be there, not because of the hole-in-one gimmick or the anniversary or because he’s a former champion, but because the organizers have already written him a check in excess of the $2.5 mil simply for showing up. Nonetheless, it will be good drama watching him and Rory (who won his first pro event here) play head-to-head over the first two days, if for no other reason than to see if either of them can make an early statement about the year to come.

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Jan 27, 2014 | 10:41 AM

Of Courses

The National Golf Foundation—the industry’s research arm—has published its final numbers on course openings/closings for 2013, and they aren’t pretty. According to the NGF, only 14 courses (in 18-hole equivalents) opened in the U.S. last year, while 157.5 closed. Break the numbers down and you see that of the 14 new courses, 8.5 (61%) were public and 5.5 (39%) were private; of the closures, 151.5 (96%) were public and only 6 (4%) were private. So public golf is taking it on the chin. The NGF report notes that while there were few openings, “some…are exciting additions to America’s golf course landscape,” citing Gary Player’s The Cliffs at Mountain Park in South Carolina (reviewed in the Winter 2014 issue of LINKS Magazine, out soon) and Tom Doak’s Red Course at Dismal River Club in Nebraska (shown above, and reviewed in our Fall 2013 issue, readable here). Perhaps, but those two high-end, out-of-the-way tracks, good as they are, don’t give us much hope for the future of course construction. By the way, if you’ve ever wondered how many courses are in the U.S., the NGF reports a total of 14,564.5, with public ones accounting 73% of the total (roughly 3.5-to-1 daily fee to municipal) and 27% private.

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Jan 24, 2014 | 06:39 AM

Where Golf Is Going

The LINKS editors have been writing on our blog, “Blinks,” about new products and other announcements coming out of the PGA Merchandise Show, soon to wrap up its three-day run in Orlando. And we will continue to introduce you to new gear on this website and in the magazine over the next few months. But besides specific debuts, the show featured some broader themes proving just how advanced golf technology has become. Such as…

1. Light Is Right. Carry bags are considered really light if they get below 4 pounds. Oakley—well known for its eyewear and youthful apparel, and charging into other sectors of golf equipment under the banner “be disruptive”—offers a new carry bag that weighs 2.8 pounds. The “Factory Lite” (a name the company also uses on reduced-weight shoes, even apparel) trims precious ounces throughout its construction, using shorter zippers, fewer rivets, smaller pockets, and carbon-fiber legs without giving up any convenience. There are also a number of incredibly light shoes stepping into the light, including some from Oakley and Ogio, but perhaps not slimmer than the Minimus from New Balance, which enters the golf market for the first time with a snappy athletic-look shoe (above) that weighs just 7.2 ounces.

2. Follow The Bouncing Balls. As reported a few weeks back, Titleist has redone all the balls in its line other than the Pro V1 this year: The Velocity, DT Solo, and NXT balls have been updated with better aerodynamics, feel, and in some cases new dimple patterns. Plus there are the new RZN balls from Nike, with a new inner core; a new four-piece FG Tour ball from Wilson that promises lower spin off the driver and higher spin off the wedges; and Callaway’s just-introduced SuperSoft ball, which is, yes, very soft. Plus Bridgestone has revamped its B330 balls, rolling out four new models all with something the company calls Hydro Core technology.

3. Front And Center. For years, club makers have been buliding drivers with the center of gravity low and back, which gets the ball up and flying. Suddenly, the new catchphrase for drivers is “high and forward,” with a few models—notably TaylorMade’s SLDR—moving the center of gravity up and ahead, producing a lower, more penetrating flight. Tour Edge is offering the woods in its new XCG7 line in both traditional and “beta” models for better players (the latter with the CG higher and more forward). Other companies with new drivers—including Ping with the I25, Cobra with the Bio Cell+, Callaway with the Big Bertha (although its CG can be moved slightly with an adjustable sole weight), and even TaylorMade with its other new driver, the JetSpeed (which falls somewhere in between in CG)—still seem to favor weight lower and further back. To help the everyday player make the most of forward-weighting, TaylorMade has launched a campaign to “Loft Up,” telling consumers to play with more loft to balance the effects of the lower CG. There’s no doubt the club is hot; the question is whether golfers will understand and accept the message.

4. Health Matters. Fitness devices and other wellness products—from sunscreens to stretching/exercise bars, vibration platforms, snacks and drinks, weights, resistance training, inflatable balls, and more—were everywhere. The Buzz especially liked GolfersSkin, a greaseless sunscreen that dries clear and dry, and is looking forward to working out with Gold Flex, a swing trainer that also helps strengthen and stretch muscles. But just a few rows away from the fitness section, Kraft Foods was serving Oscar Mayer maple-flavored pigs in a blanket. As always, the PGA Show offered something for everyone.

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Jan 23, 2014 | 12:13 PM

Luxury Lodge for Streamsong

Build it and they will come. But where will they stay? Streamsong Resort in Florida recently answered that question. Golfers have been coming to the 36-hole facility since last year for its distinctive layouts: the Blue, designed by Tom Doak, and the Red, created by Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw. Now the resort has opened the doors of a 216-room Lodge, a necessity given its location almost 90 miles southwest of Orlando and 60 miles southeast of Tampa. Amenities include three restaurants, a spa and a rooftop lounge. Not to mention two spectacular courses nearby. The current Stay & Play package includes 36 holes, accommodations for the night and breakfast for $595 per person, based on double occupancy.

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