Golf Buzz

Scott Stallings at the Kapalua Resort
Scott Stallings via Instagram
Time flies when you're having fun, if you're Scott Stallings at Kapalua.
Scott Stallings is out in Hawaii this week for the Hyundai Tournament of Champions and, naturally, he's been getting in some practice. On Tuesday, he spent the afternoon out on the Plantation Course at the Kapalua Resort – and captured his round on camera.
He then posted the video on social media. But, knowing that few of us have four hours to dedicate to watching it, he sped it up a bit. Well, make that a lot.
No, in fact, he cranked it up to Warp Speed. It looks like one of those old Benny Hill skits on steroids. I don't know if there's anything to be learned about Stallings' golf game, or Kapalua for that matter, but it's mesmerizing to watch. And hey, it's not like it'll cost you a lot of time to check it out.

My afternoon in Maui!

A video posted by scottstallings (@scottstallings) on

John Breedlove via Twitter
We're not sure how well "Hunter SnowMahan" plays golf, but we bet he's great at the Ice Bucket Challenge.
Seeing as how there's snow over a good part of the northern hemisphere these days, no doubt many of you have ventured out and built a snowman. What you haven't done, however, is build an homage to your favorite golfer out of the white stuff.
Over in Germany, a sergeant in the U.S. Army named John Breedlove took to Twitter the other day to show us the "SnowMahan" his six-year-old daughter assembled in honor of PGA Tour player Hunter Mahan. No mere snowman, this backyard creation boasts a Ping cap and a Ping Eye 2 7-wood.
In his Twitter bio, Breedlove describes himself as the "world's okayest golfer," but clearly his love of the sport has rubbed off on his daughter. No doubt they'll be rooting Mahan on as he begins his 2015 campaign this week at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions in Hawaii – where he'll be trying to keep a dreaded snowman off his card.
Augusta National, No. 12
Getty Images
The beauty and treachery of its 12th hole helps make Augusta National a consistent presence at the top of Golf Digest's list of America's best courses.
As long as most of us have played golf, Golf Digest's course rankings have served as something of a bucket list. When the new rankings come out every two years, we peruse the collection of top 100 courses – wistfully wishing we could somehow get on some of those elite layouts and also feeling a bit of satisfaction after finally putting a tee in the hallowed ground of some of the courses to make the list.
Digest is celebrating what it's calling the "Golden Anniversary" of its biennial course rankings (the nation's oldest course ranking system, it debuted in 1966) this week by revealing its newest edition of what is now called "America's Greatest 100 Courses." There are a number of changes to the 2015-2016 ranking, which no doubt will prompt much debate in clubhouses and grillrooms nationwide over the next few months.
The biggest change is right at the top, where Augusta National reclaimed the No. 1 spot from longtime top choice Pine Valley, which now slots in as No. 2. Another change in the top 10 sees the East Course at Merion move up from sixth to fifth, switching places with Oakmont.
There are many more moves up and down, and off and on, the top 100 – and even more throughout the second 100. The rankings have seen continual change over the years, Golf Digest Architecture Editor Ron Whitten writes in an expansive introduction to the list. That, he explains, is in part because 51 of the current top 100 courses weren't even around when the inaugural list was issued.
In fact, Whitten reveals, only 24 courses have appeared on every one of the lists – and, he notes, several well-known courses haven't always been ranked. Among them are Shinnecock Hills, which is now all the way up to No. 4; National Golf Links of America, now No. 8; and Chicago Golf Club, now No. 14.
Here's another tidbit I found quite interesting – seven courses joined the top 100 this year, but only two of those were built in the past 30 years: Wisconsin's No. 42 Erin Hills, which opened in 2006, and Florida's No. 100 Streamsong Red, which opened in 2012. What took the other five so long to be recognized? 
Whitten doesn't explore these specific courses in his intro, but likely it's a combination of maturity and improvements; slippage among some of the courses that fell down, or off, the list; changes to the ratings tastes and criteria; and changes to the roster of raters – he notes that there were 125 raters when the list began, and 10 times that many now.
Another interesting fact: Course architect Seth Raynor had three courses join the new top 100 list – and he's been dead for 89 years. How'd that happen? All three – No. 53 Camargo Club, No. 64 Yeamans Hall and No. 99 Shoreacres – have been recently renovated by Tom Doak. As Whitten says, they're all classic designs that have been fully retrofitted for the modern game.
The new top 100 list appears in the February issue, but you can see it online right here. Take a look, and let us know what you think.
Value Guide
What are these wedges worth? Check their value with the Value Guide research tool.

Have some golf clubs lying around that you'd like to trade in for cash or credit towards the purchase of new golf equipment from a local PGA Professional-staffed golf shop or golf retailer? It's as easy as 1-2-3 with the Value Guide.

1. Find the trade-in value for all of your clubs

First, go to the Value Guide site and choose the "Trade-In" tab. You should see a screen like this:

You can look up the trade-in value on virtually any golf club made in the past 10 years. And because the Value Guide is the national standard for golf club values, you'll know you're getting the fair market value.

2. Complete the quick and easy online process

Once you've decided on which clubs to trade, you can print a free FedEx Return Merchandise Authorization label, then drop your clubs off at your local FedEx Office location where they will be shipped in for payment. If your trade-ins are worth $50 or more, you will receive free shipping, and if they are worth $100 or more, you will also get a free box and packaging services. Or you can find a local PGA Trade-In Network Facility near you to bring in your clubs to trade in person.

3. Get paid and buy new equipment

You can select to be paid by either check or with a PGA credit certificate. Checks are mailed out every Friday and PGA credit certificates are e-mailed out the day your clubs are received. If you select the PGA credit certificate option, you will receive a bonus 5%-10% in value, and you can then print and redeem the credit certificate at any of over 5,000 participating PGA Trade-In Network locations nationwide towards the purchase of new golf equipment or other services. 

Just use this "Find a Pro" page to locate the PGA Trade-In Network locations nearest you:


John Smoltz
Baseball Hall of Famer John Smoltz was a key member of the Atlanta Braves teams in the 1990s, both on the diamond and the golf course.

Baseball and golf have always seemed to go together. It seems that if a baseball player isn't on the diamond, chances are he's playing golf. 

So it shouldn't come as a surprise that there are some very good golfers in the Baseball Hall of Fame. In fact, this year's four-man class includes one of the best baseball-playing golfers in John Smoltz. Smoltz was elected as a member of the Class of 2015, along with Pedro Martinez, Randy Johnson and Craig Biggio.

Smoltz, a member of the Atlanta Braves teams of the 1990s that contained a number of golfers, could arguably be the best living golfer currently in the Hall of Fame -- in fact, we list him as the best. But which other living Hall of Famers can hold their own over the span of 18 holes? Here's our list of 10 of the best recent Baseball Hall of Famers who also play golf. We've tried to organize them based on their skill level using their handicaps with the USGA, news stories and those who have been around these players. 

1. John Smoltz. Like we said before, Smoltz is our top-ranked golfer, and for good reason. Entering 2015, he carried a 1.8 handicap at Hawks Ridge Golf Course in Georgia, and some notable highlights of his golf career include him playing on the Nationwide Tour, trying to earn a spot at the U.S. Open and being a regular in celebrity pro-ams. But we're not the only ones who have been impressed with Smoltz on the golf course -- consider these words from Tiger Woods: 

"Smoltzy? Well, I had not ever played with an amateur that had ever shot the scores he shot," Woods said to the Orlando Sentinel. "He is a hell of an athlete. He can play basketball. Obviously he was an incredible pitcher. But I think just the way he is able to take that same tenacity into golf is amazing. I've gone out there with him when he's shot 69-67 in the same day … so it's pretty phenomenal."

Still need more proof? Just take a look at his swing, and decide for yourself. 


2. Greg Maddux. Another member of the Atlanta Braves golf teams of the 1990s, Maddux was known for being one of the smartest -- and most dominating -- pitchers in baseball. That skill has translated over to the golf course, and he now owns a 3.9 handicap at three Nevada golf courses. No, he may not be as good as his former teammate, but he's still very good in his own accord. 



3. Mike Schmidt. There must be something about playing in the National League East and playing good golf because the former Philadelphia Phillies third baseman is the third player in a row from that division on our list. Back in 2009, Golf Digest ranked him fourth on its list of athlete golfers with a handicap of plus-1.1. So why do we have him third on our list? To put it simply, we have more info on Smoltz and Maddux. But hey, at least Schmidt's main photo on his Wikipedia page is him playing golf. 

Related: Manny Ramirez's first golf swing doesn't go to plan 

4. Robin Yount. The former Milwaukee Brewers shortstop almost had a very short baseball career. Back in 1978, amidst a dispute over his position and a contract dispute, Yount threatened to quit baseball at the ripe old age of 22. And it would have been interesting to see what Yount could have done with golf as his full-time sport. At the time, he was a scratch golfer and once shot 2-over at Pebble Beach. Alas, he stuck with baseball and helped the Brewers reach their only World Series in franchise history in 1982. 

5. Tom Glavine. The third -- and final -- starting pitcher from the Braves teams of the 90s, Glavine is an exceptional golfer in his own right. The lefty has actually lowered his handicap from last year, and now sports one at 2.8 at two courses in Georgia. The only thing missing from Glavine's golf resume is to see him in some public competition, whether it's on a tour or at a celebrity event.  

6. Johnny Bench. As catcher as part of the Cincinnati Reds' 'Big Red Machine' in the 1970s, Bench is considered to be one of the greatest catchers in the history of the game. Turns out he was a pretty good golfer, too. While he no longer plays that often, at his peak he was a scratch golfer and competed in some Champions Tour events back in the early 2000s. 

Related: David Ortiz pranked by exploding ball trick

7. George Brett. A third baseman and designated hitter for 20 years with the Kansas City Royals, Brett now works in the front office with the Royals but he can still carries a strong golf game. His handicap is listed at 4.0 at both Mission Hills and Flint Hills in Missouri. As Brett told in an interview: 

"When I'm home in Kansas City, we play Mission Hills. It's just four hours with friends, and the conversations range from investments, baseball, golf, wine, restaurants, recipes, politics, anything."

8. Ozzie Smith. 'The Wizard of Oz' as he was known as with the St. Louis Cardinals, Smith is a late arrival to the game of golf. Smith only started playing in 1996, the same year he retired from baseball. He now has a 4.3 handicap at both Fort Run and Boone Valley in Missouri, and is now trying to introduce more inner-city kids to golf. 

9. Jim Rice. As a member of the Boston Red Sox in the 1980s, Rice was known for his prodigeous power. It should be no surprise that he can also regularly drive a golf ball 300-plus yards. According to a 1979 news article in The Day, Rice hit four drives of at least 300 yards with all of them landing in the fairway. As recently as 2009, there was a story of Rice hitting 300-yard drives with his single-digit handicap. 

10. Cal Ripken Jr. Unlike the others on the list, Ripken isn't a frequent visitor to a golf course but still has a pretty solid golf game. Sean English, a PGA Professional at Caves Valley where Ripken will play during the summer, summed up Ripken's game as: 

"He is a strong man with great clubhead speed, difficulty with short game shots around the greens." 

Ripken does not have a handicap listed at the course -- having only two registered scores from 2006 -- but him and English have talked about starting golf lessons. 

Others receiving consideration: Ryne Sandberg (was about a 5-handicap, has played Augusta National and Pebble Beach), Eddie Murray (plays in charity outings, struggles with the short game), Goose Gossage (7 handicap, was nearly deadlly -- literally -- when he first started), Bert Blyleven (4 handicap in 2011), Wade Boggs (doesn't have a USGA handicap in home state of Florida, but he has said he enjoys the game and plays in a Baseball Hall of Fame event), Carlton Fisk (6 handicap in 2011). 

January 6, 2015 - 2:27pm
Posted by:
T.J. Auclair
tj.auclair's picture
Bubba Watson
The closing hole at Kapalua's Plantation Course lends itself to some awesome shots. This one from Bubba Watson -- a driver off the deck -- is among the best.

The PGA Tour resumes its 2014-15 season this week at Kapalua's Plantation Course on the impossibly beautiful Hawaiian island paradise that is Maui.

We're ecstatic that golf is back... especially those of us freezing our tails off in the Northeast right now. Sure, we'll be jealous of the beautiful pictures on our TV from Maui, but it's not bad sitting in your favorite recliner, in front of a toasty fire, sipping on your favorite adult beverage while watching some night-time coverage of the Hyundai Tournament of Champions.

The Plantation Course boasts one of the more dramatic final holes you'll find on the PGA Tour schedule. It's a long, downhill par 5 that epitomizes "risk-reward."

That leads me to the reason for this post... a flashback to Bubba Watson's incredible eagle on the hole in the first round of the 2011 event.

After smashing his drive 348 yards, Watson was left with 305 yards to the hole.

With a downhill lie, Watson elected to go for the green in two by taking a huge risk and hitting driver off the deck.

Here was the result:

That, folks, is one of the best eagles you'll ever see.