Tag Archives: Golf

Pinehurst No. 2: The Way Golf Is Supposed To Be

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Pinehurst No. 2 is anything but perfect for the U.S. Open, at least in the traditional sense of major championships in America.

USGA executive director Mike Davis could not be any more thrilled. “It’s awesome,” Davis said Monday as he gazed out at a golf course that looks like a yard that hasn’t been watered in a month.

The US Open will NOT be played this year at one of those perfectly maintained “stadium courses” where the entire leaderboard is under par. This is a real TEST of golf. Sort of an inland version of those “links” courses that dot both sides of the Atlantic plus Peeble Beach on the West Coast.

Shortly after Pinehurst No. 2 was awarded its third U.S. Open in 15 years — the most for any golf course in more than a century — the USGA signed off on a project to restore the course to its natural look, with sandy areas of wiregrass bushes and natural vegetation where there once was gnarly rough. A U.S. Open without rough? That sounds as strange as a British Open without pot bunkers.

The USGA calls it “undergrowth”, Pinehurst Resort officials refer to it as “natural vegetation,” others call it weeds. The project required more than 35 acres of turf being removed, and only 450 of the 1,150 sprinkler heads remain.

Golf is getting used to not having Tiger Woods around. He hasn’t played in three months and already missed the Masters for the first time in his career. The notion of Phil Mickelson winning a U.S. Open at Pinehurst — any U.S. Open, for that matter — is more than enough to fill the void. However, seeing him at The Memorial last week, I think he is going after a tie with Sam Snead as a great “also ran” in US Open history.

Justin Rose is the defending champion, the latest player to have a chance to join Curtis Strange as the only back-to-back U.S. Open champions in the last 60 years. Bubba Watson, the Masters champion and No. 3 player in the world, is the only player capable of the calendar Grand Slam. The story lines haven’t changed much this year. Pinehurst, however, is still the main attraction for this U.S. Open.

The edges of the bunkers are ragged. The turf is uneven just off some of the greens, with patches of no grass. Instead of verdant fairways from tee-to-green, the fairways are a blend of green, yellow and brown.

The past two U.S. Open champons finished over par — Webb Simpson at Olympic Club, Justin Rose at Merion, both at 1-over. A third straight U.S. Open champion over par would be the longest streak in nearly 60 years.

 

Why Golf Clubs Have Numbers?

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PGA.COM recently published much of this information based on an interview with golf historian Fred Beltz. Fred is a member and Club Historian at Oak Hill Country Club, site of three U.S. Opens, three PGA Championships (including 2013; Beltz is the co-historian of that tournament), one Ryder Cup, a Senior PGA Championship and two U.S. Amateurs.

Did you know that your clubs weren’t always numbered? Instead, they had names like the “mashie” and the “niblick.” In fact, not only that, but clubs didn’t always come in the complete sets that we have come to know today. “Prior to 1850, when the golf ball used was the feather ball, almost all golf clubs were wooden,” explained Beltz.

“They were rather delicate, long-nosed and swung with a relatively flat swing; if irons were used at all it would have been as a trouble club where the situation would have damaged the early wooden ‘play’ clubs.”

Right around 1850 and with the advent of the gutta percha ball (a “guttie”), Beltz told us, is when irons began to take on a more important role, “partly because hitting a ‘guttie’ was akin to hitting a rock and the wooden play clubs were too easily broken. Partly too because of Allan Robertson, a very early golf professional, who developed a highly successful short game using irons which was quickly imitated by other competitors.”

At this point in time, clubs were unmarked and neither named nor numbered. Instead, they were referred to more by their usage.

“A ‘cleek’ for fairway shots and a ‘rut’ iron for trouble shots,” Beltz said. “As irons became more popular and the number of club makers increased, there was a need to differentiate who made the club for marketing reasons and also to differentiate the more subtle differences as the number of irons in the bag (if a bag was being used) multiplied.”

At the end of the 19th century, not only were the usually recognized names for clubs (putter, to niblick, mashie niblick, spade mashie, mashie, mid-iron, spoon, brassie and driver) in use, but then all sorts of utility clubs became common — the jigger, the sammy, the chipper, the lofting iron, the sky iron, semi-putter and many others.

Beltz told us that up until the 1920s, players accumulated their clubs as a collection of what worked for them and obtained them from various club makers. Players bought and used what worked and the club names were more of a guide than a precise statement of loft and weight, with one club maker’s mashie more similar to another club maker’s spade mashie and so on.

“Back in the day when you might stop at a rummage sale to find a dozen hickories in an old canvas bag there might be three, four or five club makers represented — there was no such thing as a ‘set of clubs,'” Beltz said.

In the early 1920s, Spalding began to market their Kro-Flight brand of “related” clubs where there was a defined relationship of loft, weight and shaft length from one club to the next, Beltz explained.

Quickly other club makers like MacGregor and Wilson picked up on this trend and began selling their version of related — or “sets” — of clubs. By 1925, the idea of “matched” sets where the flex properties of the clubs were also matched hit the market and with it the idea of buying a “set” of clubs took hold.

“It was important for club makers to express the differential between each club, as well as to express the cutting edge technology that the matched clubs offered,” Beltz said. “Their solution was a numbering sequence for the irons, but not wanting to alienate the more traditional buyer both the club name and number were stamped on the club. It was even a common practice to number the putter as the ’10’ club. During the quarter century between 1915 and 1940 the named clubs became name/numbered and then just numbered.

“For whatever reason, this phenomenon was even slower with the woods and finding fairway woods labeled as brassie and spoon even into the middle of the 20th century was not uncommon,” Beltz added. “There was a clear trend to make the clubs look alike and look like a progression from less to more loft but other than that, the trend with fairway woods was very slow.”

Check out our list of “Old Names for Golf Clubs

Check out our GOLF EQUIPMENT OUTLET, more US Open courses, and some great golf resorts. We have a great collection of pictures of golf courses on Google Earth.

The Masters Golf Tournament: Lot of History

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In the picture above, Gene Sarazen (at right) putts out while Craig Wood looks on. Despite his two major championships, Wood is probably most well known as the victim of Gene Sarazen’s famous double eagle in the 1935 Augusta National Invitational (now known as the Masters Tournament). The shot left the two players tied at the end of regulation and Sarazen went on to victory in a 36-hole playoff.

Sarazen’s double eagle (“albatross”) was on the par 5 15th hole. It was called the “shot heard ‘round the world.” He holed out a 4 wood from 235 yards to a tough green well protected by a creek in front.

As a 20-year old he won the U.S. Open at Skokie in 1922, shooting a 68 in the final round, the first player to shoot under 70 to win. He added the PGA Championship at Oakmont later that year.  Repeating his victory in the PGA the next year, Sarazen won numerous tournaments in the ensuing years – his total eventually reaching 39 PGA Tour victories. In 1932,  he won the British Open at Sandwich, then the U.S. Open at Fresh Meadow, for a historic double in the world’s two major Open Championships. In 1933 he added a third PGA at Blue Mound in Wisconsin.

The 1935 Masters had a very strong field of 64. All four of the reigning U.S. national champions were entered – Olin Dutra, Open; Lawson Little, Amateur; Paul Runyon, PGA; and Charlie Yates, Intercollegiate (NCAA). There were also nine former National Open champs, including Bobby Jones, and two former British Open victors.

Wood went on to become a big name later. In 1941 he won the Masters becoming its first wire-to-wire champion with rounds of 66-71-71-72=280 and a three shot victory over Byron Nelson. He followed his Masters success by winning the 45th U.S. Open at The Colonial Club in Fort Worth, Texas. His score of 284 beat out another former nemesis Denny Shute by three. This was the first time someone had successfully captured the first two major championships of the year. In 1954, the Lake Placid Golf and Country Club changed its name to the Craig Wood Golf Course in honor of its native son.