Golf Buzz

July 12, 2013 - 8:07pm
Posted by:
John Holmes
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Calabar golf course in Nigeria
Thomson Perrett & Lobb
The second hole on the Calabar course will wend through an old rubber plantation.

South Africa has several world-class golf courses, but the rest of Africa? Outside of Morocco, not so many.

The western Africa nation of Nigeria, however, soon will add the continent's newest high-end golf destination.

Construction has begun on a new championship course just outside the city of Calabar, the capital of Nigeria's Cross River State, that was designed by Thomson Perrett & Lobb, the golf course architecture firm founded by five-time British Open champion Peter Thomson. The layout begins in a dense plantation of rubber trees before moving into several valleys and up onto a ridge before it finishes alongside the Calabar River.

''We have worked very hard to ensure the course will fit seamlessly into the landscape,'' said TPL principal Tim Lobb, who is leading the design team. ''For example, we have marked the clearing lines by hand to give a natural looking edge, rather than the hole corridors being straight, and we have retained clumps of trees in strategic spots.''

Lobb said that he developed a routing that that makes the best possible use of the land's natural contours, and minimizes earthmoving. 

''Calabar is less than five degrees north of the Equator, with a challenging tropical climate, especially during the rainy season, so enhancing the site's natural drainage channels will be key to making a course that's playable year round,'' he said. 

Construction of the course should be finished by the end of 2014, Lobb said, with the opening planned for 2015.

The new course is part of a $200 million improvement project by the state government that incorporates an international-standard convention center, five-star hotel and a residential community.

''The Calabar International Convention Center, the golf course and the rest of the development will be a world-class amenity for the State, and one of the leading facilities in West Africa,'' said Liyel Imoke, the governor of Cross River State. ''We are delighted that the course construction is under way, and we look forward eagerly to seeing it completed.''

Nigeria has a population of around 170 million, but only about 50 golf courses and 200,000 golfers – so far. The new course will be just the second 18-hole layout in Cross River State, and its greens are made of dirt, not grass.

"An up-to-date standard golf course becomes relevant in an economy like ours in Nigeria, that is growing rapidly," Imoke told CNN. "We now see a new emerging middle class, what they used to call the yuppie class. The yuppie generation is here, and they play golf. If Calabar has something to offer, and they come to Calabar, then the people in Calabar benefit from that expenditure."


July 12, 2013 - 1:42am
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John Holmes
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Ok-Hee Ku
Ok-Hee Ku became the first Korean player to win on the LPGA Tour when she triumphed at the 1988 Standard Register Turquoise Classic in Phoenix.

Ok-Hee Ku, a Korean pioneer both on the LPGA Tour and on circuits across Asia, died Thursday at age 56, according to the LPGA Tour. The cause of death was a heart attack at her home in Japan, according to published reports. 

Ku became the first Korean player to win on the LPGA Tour when she triumphed at the 1988 Standard Register Turquoise Classic in Phoenix, and she played consistently on the LPGA Tour for several years from the late 1980s through the early 1990s. Before and after her stint in the United States, she was a consistent winner on the women’s tours in Japan and her native Korea.

She compiled 43 wins in Asia over a quarter of a century of competition and held the record for most wins in a Korean LPGA season with five until Jiyai Shin won seven times in 2007. She was the first player inducted into the KLPGA Hall of Fame, and served as the president of the KLPGA in 2011-2012.

''Ok-Hee Ku was a pioneer for women’s golf and a role model to players across many countries,'' said LPGA Commissioner Michael Whan in a statement. ''We are deeply saddened to learn of her death and offer our sincerest condolences to her family and friends. She made the world of women's golf a better place.''


July 11, 2013 - 1:46pm
Posted by:
John Holmes
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Sam Snead auction items
Courtesy of Heritage Auctions
The Ryder Cup that Sam Snead received in 1959 and the Claret Jug he won in 1946 are among many precious items from Sam Snead's personal collection that are now up for auction.

The great Sam Snead passed away in 2002, leaving behind an incredible legacy in golf that included seven majors, the all-time record for most PGA Tour victories, success in the Ryder Cup and so much more. Now, more than a decade after his death, his family is putting a large collection of his trophies and memorabilia up for auction.

The first offering will be Aug. 1-2 in what Heritage Auctions calls a ''Platinum Night Sports Auction'' at the Muvico Theater in Rosemont, Ill. The online bidding began last night. Two other auctions involving the Snead Collection are planned for the fall and next spring.

''We consider it the most significant golf collection that's ever been offered,'' Chris Ivy, the director of sports at Heritage Auctions, told Doug Ferguson at the Associated Press. Snead’s son, Jack, said the pieces have been displayed for years at the Greenbrier Resort, the restaurant chain called Sam Snead's Taverns, the occasional museum and at home in Hot Springs, Va.

This is the first time the items have been offered at auction.

''We've been thinking about this, trying to decide what to do because our company has so much stuff,'' Snead said. ''We just thought maybe it was time to share it with golf fans and historians. We've had most all of dad's trophies on display at the Greenbrier over the last 16 or 20 years. I don't know. I'm not too keen with museums. We've had some weird experiences with museums when we've loaned things out.

''We're going to have tons of stuff we'll maintain ourselves,'' he said. ''The rest we'll let it go out and see what happens.''

Here’s the rest of Ferguson’s report:

Snead’s Masters' trophy and silver claret jug are each expected to bring in $100,000 or more. Ivy estimated the entire collection will get several million dollars. ''A collection of this magnitude hasn't been offered before,'' he said.

Ivy said previous golf items through Heritage included the original Augusta National green jacket of co-founder Bobby Jones that fetched $310,000.

Other high-end golf items were Walter Hagen's gold medal from his 1922 British Open win at Royal St. George's and Ralph Guldahl's gold medal from the 1939 Masters. Each went for $65,000.

Snead said the proceeds would likely to go charity.

''The trophies didn't mean that much to Pop in a way,'' Snead said. ''In those days, he was more concerned with the paycheck. The thing he was most proud of was his record. He cared more about than any of his tournament wins.''

Snead said there were some items that would never be sold at auction, though they weren't all related to Snead's golfing career. He mentioned the tractor that Snead rode on his farm in Virginia to relax when he was away from golf, some of the guns Snead had since he was a boy growing up in West Virginia, and the five-string banjo he played.

For Heritage Sports, there wasn't as much work involved in authenticating the items. Snead did that himself.

His son said when they used to display the items in Sam Snead's Taverns, his father thought it would be a good idea to write a note explaining the significance of each.

''The provenance is much better coming from the family of an athlete,'' Ivy said. ''That's something Snead did that I've never seen done before. He went through and numbered all the clubs he owned – the significant ones – and wrote letters of authentication of each club. We've got handwritten letters from Sam Snead saying, 'This is the club used in 1954 in the playoff with Ben Hogan to win the Masters.' He's got literally hundreds of those.''

Other items being offered in the initial auction include the putter Snead used in the 1954 Masters; the red captain's jacket he wore in the 1969 Ryder Cup; the Wanamaker Trophy from his 1951 PGA Championship victory at Oakmont; a Ryder Cup trophy from 1959; the gold medal from his first Masters win in 1949; and a silver medal from the 1947 U.S. Open. The U.S. Open was the one major Snead never won. He lost in a playoff to Lew Worsham in 1947 at St. Louis Country Club.

''It's a pretty exciting collection,'' Ivy said.

To see photos and descriptions of all the items, click here. But hands off Snead’s personal 1959 Ryder Cup – that one’s for me!

July 10, 2013 - 5:47pm
Posted by:
John Holmes
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Will Grimmer
Will Grimmer carded a 59 one day after shooting a 74 at the North & South Amateur.

Talk about your Cincinnati Red – Cincinnati teenager Will Grimmer filled his scorecard with a whole lotta red on Wednesday, July 10, when he fired an 11-under 59 in the second round of the prestigious North & South Amateur.

Grimmer, a 16-year-old junior at Mariemont High School, opened with a 74 in the junior division on Tuesday before lowering his score by a whopping 15 shots on the No. 1 Course at the Pinehurst Resort in North Carolina. Needless to say, he set a new course record.

''I never really expected it today,'' said Grimmer in a video posted on YouTube after his record round, in which he was only 1 under through five holes. ''But I started making a lot of putts.''

Grimmer ended up with an eagle, a bogey and 10 birdies. His round is perhaps the best in a big-time junior event since Bobby Wyatt shot a 14-under 57 at the Country Club of Mobile in the 2010 Alabama Golf Association State Boys Championship. Last month, Wyatt played a key role as the University of Alabama won the NCAA Championship.


July 10, 2013 - 4:12pm
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John Holmes
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Tiger Woods golf course Dubai
Getty Images
Only a few holes of the Tiger Woods-designed golf course in Dubai have been completed.

Construction on the golf course in Dubai that Tiger Woods designed was stopped almost before it started a few years ago. And now comes word that Woods' partnership with the project's owner, Dubai Holding, has been formally dissolved.

Dubai Properties Group, a division of Dubai Holding, said the Al Ruwaya Golf Course project would ''continue to be monitored and a decision will be made in the future when to restart the project,'' according to Woods, however, is no longer connected to the development.

When it was announced back in 2006, the development was to include a championship golf course surrounded by residential real estate – including villas, mansions and sheik-styled palaces – a hotel, golf academy and other amenities. The $1.1 billion project was originally scheduled to open in 2009. According to reports, Woods was paid $55.4 million in two installments to design the course and promote the resort around the time he signed onto the project.

Work began on the course after a lengthy delay, but was halted after only a few holes were shaped. The developer, part of a conglomerate controlled by Dubai's debt-squeezed rulers, said ''market conditions'' were behind the decision to suspend construction, and that they hoped to resume work at some point.

The course was to have been part of a larger leisure and living master planned community, which also largely came to a standstill after Dubai's fiscal crunch. An 18-hole course designed by Colin Montgomerie opened in Dubai in 2006, and another by Ernie Els opened in 2008.

The website for Tiger Woods Design has a page dedicated to the Al Ruwaya project, which says that Woods' vision ''is to transform the blank canvas into a unique golf course that rivals any in the world.'' Woods envisioned Al Ruwaya as ''a respite from the desert and the pace of the city'' and a place that ''will welcome all cultures, all backgrounds and skill levels from new to experienced golfers.''

According to Tiger Woods Design, Woods remains involved in design projects in western North Carolina and both Ensenada and Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.


July 10, 2013 - 2:42pm
Posted by:
John Holmes
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Troon North
Courtesy of Troon Golf
Troon North Golf Club in Scottsdale, Ariz., is one of the facilities implementing Troon's pace-of-play initiatives.

The golf industry is exploring many options to ewncourage golfers to pick up the pace of play. Troon, which manages dozens of courses around the globe, has launched one of the most ambitious efforts yet with its "Troon Values Your Time" program.

"With time being such a precious commodity today, slow play on the golf course remains one of the industry's major impediments of growth," said Ryan Walls, senior vice president, operations, sales & marketing. "This is why we are implementing standards at Troon-managed facilities that define pace-of-play expectations to ultimately remove a barrier that exists in the game and improve the experience of our guests and members."

As part of the program, Troon communicates a pace-of-play standard to all its golfers before they get out on the course. And because no two courses are the same, Troon can tailor its pace-of-play expectations for each facility it manages.

There are three main elements to the program:

Time Par: Each Troon facility has calculated its own Time Par – the appropriate length of time a golfer should comfortably play and enjoy the course – and informs its golfers before they tee off. Troon informs its golfers about the Time Par when they book their tee time over the phone or online and puts it in their tee-time confirmation email; on displays in the golf shop; on scorecards, yardage books and signage throughout the property; and even on staff uniforms.

Pacesetter Times: Troon facilities are implementing Pacesetter Times, which are designated morning tee times reserved for players committed to playing quickly in at least 20 minutes under the facility's Time Par. This creates options for those looking to play in less time and also helps create a steady pace-of-play for tee times throughout the day.

Pacesetter Tips: Troon has come up with a series of suggestions to help golfers manage their own pace of play. They include:

--Play Your Tees: Choose a set of tees with a rating of 142 minus your handicap index. Or Tee It Forward.
--Play Ready Golf: When a player is at his ball or on the tee box and ready to play, he should go ahead. No one should take more than 45 seconds to hit a shot.
--Be Cart Smart: The cart driver should drop off his partner and drive to his own ball. The golfer leaving the cart first should take three clubs, not one. Also, the driver should park behind the green.
--Use Rules with Discretion: Take no more than three minutes to look for balls and take relief.
--See It, Read It, Hole It: While others are putting, each golfer should prepare for his putt. Once each golfer putts out, he should go to the next tee.
--Be Accountable: Recognize that slow play isn't just the fault of other players. 

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