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Aug 02, 2013 | 10:01 AM

Golf's Economic Impact

Golf is an economic indicator. Housing sales, equipment sales, rounds played—put them together and they give a mini-snapshot of how America is doing. And how is it? Pretty good, according to Bloomberg.com, which says most of the strength is from sales of golf homes and courses, both on the rise. Debt-ridden courses are either cleaning out their books or being sold and prices are up. Rounds played rose in 2012 over 2011 (by nearly 500 million rounds, a 5.7% jump), but this year isn’t faring as well due to the crazy weather nationwide. But all is not lost: Revenue per round is up this year. The bad weather also slowed golf equipment sales, according to LINKS editors’ own chats with industry types. As for golf’s total financial impact, Bloomberg pegged it in 2011 at $69 billion for the “core business” (more than twice baseball or football); add in the “spillover effect” golf has on other industries and we’re talking $177 billion in economic activity. So give yourself a round of applause, golfers: We’re keeping America moving!

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Aug 01, 2013 | 10:02 AM

New 19th Hole in St. Andrews

If contestants in the Ricoh Women’s British Open at St. Andrews are stuck for a place to refresh themselves after their rounds this week, they can walk a few yards to Hamilton Grand, the impressive red stone building behind the 18th green on the Old Course. The 1895 landmark property, now a collection of private residences, recently opened the Home of Golf’s newest 19th Hole, called “Hams Hame.” (The name was selected from more than 100 entries). “The one chosen tips a nod of respect to Thomas Hamilton, the Victorian entrepreneur who built the original Grand Hotel,” said Daniel Pereira, the resort’s general manager. “And ‘Hame’ is the perfect summing up of exactly what we hope the new bar and grill will become: a home for golfers, caddies and visitors to St. Andrews to enjoy the very best of Scottish hospitality.” Based on the low first round scores already recorded, the mood in Hams Hame could be quite celebratory, though with wind and lower temperatures in the weekend forecast, it could become more of a welcome refuge from the elements.

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Jul 31, 2013 | 10:49 AM

History in the Making

Maybe the LPGA tour doesn’t excite you as much as the PGA Tour, and certainly the proliferation and success of South Korean players is a bit of a marketing problem, at least here in the U.S., but the Women’s British Open at St. Andrews this week should be pretty stirring stuff. If Inbee Park wins her fourth straight major at the game’s most hallowed ground, she’ll become the first golfer to win a calendar-year Grand Slam since Bobby Jones in 1930—and the first person to win all four professional majors in the same year (Mickey Wright and Tiger Woods won four straight over the course of two years, in 1961–62 and 2000–01, respectively). Which is why it was pretty shocking to hear that she gave a 30-minute press conference yesterday to a half-empty media room. Hopefully that isn’t a reflection on the interest in general because she’s very likely to pull it off for two reasons: Park is a revered name in Scottish golf—Willie Park won four Open titles, including the very first one in 1860, and his son won two—and she can putt the dimples off the ball, averaging a little over 28 putts per round in her major hat trick. That will serve her well on the Old Course’s ginormous double greens. She begins her historic quest tomorrow morning at 2:03 am eastern time. Here are the TV times:

Thursday, August 1: ESPN2 9:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.
 Friday, August 2: ESPN2 9:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.
 Saturday, August 3: ESPN2 10:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. 
Sunday, August 4: ESPN2 10:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.

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Jul 30, 2013 | 08:47 AM

Team Spirit

Guys, if you can break 80 consistently (and ladies, if you can get it around under 90), you now have a chance to spend a week at a great golf course while competing for a national title. The USGA has just announced the inaugural sites for its brand-new Men’s and Women’s U.S. Amateur Four-Ball Championships, and they’re four beauties: The Olympic Club (shown above) and Bandon Dunes will host the men and women, respectively, in 2015; Winged Foot and Streamsong will be the venues in 2016. Any man with a USGA Handicap Index up to 5.4 is eligible, while for women the limit is 14.4. There are no age restrictions and team partners may be from different clubs and states, even different countries. Sectional qualifying will determine the final fields—128 two-man teams for the men, 64 for the women. Each team’s score will be determined using its better-ball score for each hole. Once on site there will be 36 holes of stroke-play after which the field will be reduced to the low 32 teams and match-play competition will determine the winners. So start practicing.

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