Feb 06, 2014 | 09:00 AM

Pebble’s Permanent Resident

There will be no shortage of airtime this weekend for the 17th hole at Pebble Beach. The par 3 with the hourglass-shaped green is best known for hosting two of golf’s most iconic shots. During the final round of the 1972 U.S. Open, Jack Nicklaus hit a 1-iron that bounced off the flagstick en route to capturing the third of his four U.S. Opens. A decade later Tom Watson’s famous chip-in from the left rough cemented his only U.S. Open victory. What you may not know is the 17th green is also the final resting place of astronaut Alan Shepard, the only human to hit golf balls on the moon. One of the original Mercury 7 astronauts, Shepard was an avid golfer who owned a home in Pebble Beach. He loved the course so much that he requested his ashes be spread from a U.S. Navy helicopter over the famed green. Shortly after his death on July 21st, 1998, that wish was granted.

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Feb 05, 2014 | 06:05 AM

When One Hole Means A Lot

Does one hole a golf course make? Of course not. But a single hole—the par-four 3rd at Royal Dornoch, the iconic layout in northern Scotland—has undergone a notable renovation. As reported by the British magazine/website Golf Course Architecture, the third was reworked by architect Tom Mackenzie, who says, it “used to be a fearsome driving hole,” but houses built along its left side forced golfers to the right, avoiding the series of bunkers down that side of the fairway that gave the hole its character and distinctive look off the tee. To restore the hole, the fairway was widened and the bunkers relocated even further right. (The photo above, from the club’s website, shows the bunkers before the renovation.) “[The 3rd] has become overpowered in recent years," Mackenzie told GCA. "Even relatively short drivers are going straight past the bunkers." To Dornoch’s members, he wrote, the bunkers “were adjusted so that they will test the better players much more… whereas once they dominated the thinking of these players. The fairway has been slipped over to the right by about 25 yards… and the valley on the left is now punishing, which will encourage golfers to play the hole to the right more.” A relatively simple change—work began in the fall, was completed in December, and will be unveiled next month—says a great deal about what’s happening to classic architecture.

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Feb 04, 2014 | 10:05 AM

Same Game, New Rules

You say the game is too difficult, you say the USGA should never have banned long putters, you say the Rules of Golf have become so complicated and restrictive that the game isn’t fun anymore. Take heart. The recent PGA Merchandise Show brought the launch of something called the RGAA—Recreational Golf Association of America. Its Executive Director, golf equipment industry veteran John Hoeflich, says, "Our plan is to simplify the rules to make them easier to learn and allow technology that will make clubs and balls easier to hit. Our plan is not to challenge the USGA’s authority as rule makers for the game’s elite players. We simply want to provide a set of rules that reflect the way average recreational golfers play.” Those rules will allow for mulligans, gimmes, simpler procedures concerning water hazards, playing out of divots, anchored putters, etc. If this appeals to you, you can join the cause on the RGAA website. Membership is free. 

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Feb 03, 2014 | 11:19 AM

Tiger In The Looking Glass

Check out this YouTube video of Tiger Woods and Mark O’Meara conducting a clinic during the past weekend's Dubai Desert Classic. Tiger looking at this six-year-old hitting balls must have had the same feeling that pros had 30 years ago when they first saw Tiger play. And it can't have been any easier for Tiger, who is off to his worst start to a season of his career. There’s no information on the kid—name, where he’s from—but it’s worth listening to some of the commentary. O’Meara asks the young man how many tournaments he’s won and the answer sounds like “five or six.” And it seems that the kid is calling his shots, even pointing one out, much to the pros’ amusement. But the most prophetic statement of all might be Tiger’s when he figures out that about the time the kid hits the pro tours, a 50-plus Woods will be in a cart, on the Champions Tour, or more likely sitting at home counting his billions. If anyone does know the youngster’s name, let us know: We'd like to remember it and see if he lives up to the promise.

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