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The 15 Best GolfWRX Stories of 2015

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At GolfWRX, our goal is to satisfy all of our your golfing needs, whether it’s the latest equipment, instruction, reviews or news from around the tours. We cover it all and more on our front page and in our forums, and we’re proud of the job we did in 2015.

Below is the final list of our absolute favorite stories from 2015. We thought many of our GolfWRX readers would have some downtime this holiday season, and in case you do we decided to create this list for your reading pleasure.

Related: GolfWRX’s Top-10 stories from 2014

Congratulations to the writers who were chosen to appear on this list, and a big THANK YOU to all of the Forum Members and Featured Writers who’ve helped GolfWRX become the awesome golf community that it is.

Hole 1: The day I met Ben Hogan

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Tom Stites has spent more than 30 years in the golf industry, a career that began at the Ben Hogan Company where he worked for the man himself. Stites plans on writing 18 holes, a full round of first-hand stories, about his interactions with Hogan — the man who has had such a tremendous impact on golf equipment, golf history, the golf swing and the way golfers play the game — and other encounters in the industry.

This particular story made this list, because well, what’s more interesting than a tale about meeting Ben Hogan in a restroom?

Video: Hudson Swafford’s drill to hit more fairways

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Hudson Swafford’s swing instructor Scott Hamilton gave us an insider’s look into how one of the best players in the world practices his tee shots. This kind of access and instruction is what GolfWRX is all about.

The reality of aim and alignment, and why golfers get them wrong

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PGA Master Professional Dennis Clark is an expert at making the complicated seem simple, and addressing common misconceptions among golfers. This story about alignment is one that may change the way golfers look at setting up to a golf ball.

5 things I learned traveling with a Tour player

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Nick Randall, the fitness specialist from down under, takes us behind the scenes of a PGA Tour event as he travels, works out and walks the course with PGA Tour player Cameron Smith. In terms of behind-the-scenes access into the life of a Tour player, it doesn’t get much better than this.

An added tidbit: Smith isn’t well-known in the States, but he finished T4 in the 2015 U.S. Open and T25 in the 2015 PGA Championship. He earned his 2015-2016 PGA Tour card as a non-member who finished in the top-125 on the Tour’s 2014-2015 money list. He will also tee it up in the 2016 Masters. 

Kinsler putter: Will the Raptor roar like Kinsler’s engine parts?

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This story embodies GolfWRX; it takes a deep dive into a unique golf product, but you don’t have to be a gearhead to enjoy reading it. The putter feature comes from GolfWRX Editor Zak Kozuchowski, who has been leading our Editorial Department since 2012.

Hit it like a girl for more distance

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The general population of male golfers look to imitate PGA Tour players. Justin Padjen’s story explains why that’s not the best plan of action for the average male golfer. Instead, hit it #LikeAGirl

The science of adding spin to your wedge shots

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If you’ve ever wondered how PGA Tour pros hit wedge shots that take a few hops and stop dead, this story is for you. Stickney takes explores the science of creating spin, and offers four ways to create more spin in your own game.

10 things not to do at a PGA Tour event

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If you’re planning to attend a PGA Tour event in 2016, make sure to read this story. Most people know not to yell “baba booey,” especially during a player’s backswing, but Alberstadt examines nine other things you shouldn’t do at a Tour event. It could save you some awkward encounters and death stares.

Inside the World of counterfeit golf clubs

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Barney Adams is a legend in the golf equipment industry, and in this story he takes readers into the underground world of counterfeit golf clubs. And if you haven’t read Barney Adams before, make sure to catch up.

The absolute facts about swing weight

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When Tom Wishon talks about golf clubs, golfers listen — it’s like Phil Jackson talking about the triangle offense. This story is like a handbook on swing weight, one of the most misunderstood concepts in golf equipment.

What really determines feel in an iron

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Paul Wood, Senior Vice President of Engineering for Ping Golf, explains what makes an iron “feel” better, as well as the differences between forged and cast irons.

A statistical analysis of what makes Jordan Spieth great

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Rich Hunt is a PGA Tour statistician, so when it comes to statistical breakdowns on GolfWRX, his are the most thorough and comprehensive that you’ll find. Here’s his explanation, backed by the facts, about what makes Jordan Spieth great.

Rickie Fowler’s golf clubs are like no one else’s

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Rickie Fowler is one of golf’s unique characters, but he also has golf clubs like no other player on Tour. His Cobra irons and wedges are created through an extensive process that GolfWRX Senior Editor Andrew Tursky explains in great detail. If you enjoy one-off golf clubs, you’ll love this look at Fowler’s clubs.

How far you can actually hit your driver

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This story may single-handedly bring golfers with big egos down to earth.

“When I ask students how far they carry the ball and what their average total distance is, the answer is usually grossly inaccurate and overstated 99 percent of the time,” Stickney says.

Charts in this story show how far you should be hitting the golf ball based on your swing speed, which means arguments begin and end with this article.

How I hit drives 56 yards farther with one adjustment

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The headline of this story makes a claim that seems like it’s straight out of an informercial until you read the instructional gold. If you’re looking for more distance, you need to read this story from Adam Young, a golf coach at the Leadbetter Academy in La Manga Resort in Spain.

Weekly stories

A special thanks to the recurring stories on GolfWRX, including Tour PhotosRevealing Photos, Tour Mash, From the Forums and Fantasy Previews.

Tour photos

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What would WRX be without our Tour photographer Greg Moore, who takes the best and most timely equipment photos in the industry.

Revealing photos

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This new feature in 2015 is written by Tursky and provides entertaining and informative commentary about select Tour photos from Moore.

Tour Mash

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Every Monday, Ronald Montesano recaps the biggest news, results and goings-on from across the globe in the sport of golf, from both men’s and women’s tours, with his “Tour Mash” series. Golf news has never been so enthralling.

Check out all of the weekly recaps, and more from Montesano here.

From the Forums

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This series brings you the best of the best from our forums each week. It’s no easy task since our forums are so vast, but Alberstadt always seems to find the best topics, equipment and Tour news.

Fantasy Previews

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Ben Auten has the difficult job of predicting what players will succeed, or underperform, each week on the PGA Tour. In the unpredictable world of golf, this is far from a cake walk, but his thorough analysis and Tour trends are usually spot on (And nice call on Smylie Kaufman!).

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6 Comments

6 Comments

  1. Jean

    Dec 25, 2015 at 5:21 pm

    why isn’t the Dustin Johnson Jean Van De Velde article in this list

  2. Billy

    Dec 25, 2015 at 5:53 am

    All 15 should be Tom Wishon articles/posts.

  3. Ronald Montesano

    Dec 24, 2015 at 12:05 pm

    My one, living goal is to one day make the “Top 15” list at GolfWRX. It’s my daily alarm clock.

    • Double Mocha Man

      Dec 24, 2015 at 12:43 pm

      Hey Ronald, you make my Top 15. Please request my physical address where you can send money.

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Courses

The Jamaica Golf Experience

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I love Jamaica. I have been to the island for several trips with my family and the feeling I get every time I think about a next visit is always exciting. On past trips, I have made Jamaican friends that I will remember for the rest of my life. The people there are so happy and good. One Love. The “no problem ‘mon'” culture just becomes a part of you when you’re there, creating a special atmosphere that lets you escape it all. I keep Red Stripe beer in my fridge at home in Fort Worth, Texas, all year — a reminder of the island I love with every sip. So when I received an invitation to play in The Jamaica Pro-Am, I was quick to accept.

The Jamaica Pro-Am (aka Annie’s Revenge — more on that later) is an annual tournament held each year in Montego Bay, Jamaica. Four-man teams constructed of three amateurs and one PGA Professional, the tournament is typically played on three of Jamaica’s finest golf courses — Half Moon, Cinnamon Hill, and White Witch. I attended this year’s tournament as a playing observer, confined to the “media team” and partaking in the festivities. Ya’mon.

The tournament field gets to stay at the beautiful Iberostar Grand Rose Hotel, conveniently located near all three courses and more importantly, right on the beach. The hotel is indeed grand and all-inclusive, providing guests with a wristband that gets you whatever you’d like to eat or drink from any of the onsite bars and restaurants — no questions asked. Less than 30 minutes from the airport, if Montego Bay is your desired city for your next Jamaican vacation, I’d imagine this hotel is tough to beat.

The first night of the tournament is the welcome dinner and reception on the beach. A full Jamaican buffet complete with jerk chicken and pork, beef patties, fried plantains, rice and peas, and cabbage. A true taste of the Caribbean, accompanied of course with whatever rum drink your heart desires. Appleton is the island favorite, and it mixes well with pretty much everything when you’re toes are in the sand. There was a live reggae band playing the Bob Marley songs everyone knows.

While the festivities were for the tournament participants, there was still plenty of activity and vibe for the other hotel guests. This is Jamaica. There was music and fun all around the hotel every moment of this trip. No worries, everything is irie. I have a real love for the island. The people are kind, the food is fantastic, and the waters are the finest in the world.

Day One: Half Moon Golf Club 

Quite understandably, Jamaica has been hit hard by COVID-19, with tourism taking a substantial dip in the past year and a half. The golf has seen a dip in numbers as a result, but the courses are in gorgeous shape with foot and cart traffic just now picking back up.

Half Moon was designed by Robert Trent Jones, Sr. and it opened in 1962. The course rests between the Blue Mountains and the sea, playing a mostly flat 7,120 yards from the back tees. Half Moon does offer several tee box options and could be played as short as 5,032 yards, making it a pleasant resort course, should that be your speed.

The course is beautiful and very well maintained. The greens were a bit shaggy, but luscious, playing at a slower pace than I am used to. I am not sure if that is by design or a side effect of the pandemic, as I do know the Jamaican golf courses have been short-staffed and without the usual supplies this past season. That appears to be a thing of the past, however, as the course looks to have turned a corner.

Most fairways are lined by palm trees, adding something to avoid off the tee, but there is enough space between each trunk to give you a full swing if you do miss left or right. The coconuts that drop, luckily, are loose impediments.

Half Moon is a resort course through and through. There are elements of character and excitement, but it mostly just provides a beautiful and benign setting for fun island golf. The fairways are dressed with multiple well-placed bunkers which provide the only designed protection against low scores. The driver could be used on virtually every non-par 3, but the course is better suited to be thought around and played to avoid the sand.

Built on a retired sugar cane estate, the other real hazard (water doesn’t come into play much at all) is the coastal winds that pick up mid-morning each day. With little besides the coconut trees to protect your ball from gusts, the wind becomes a real challenge on this bow-tie routed design. Holes into the wind were a beast, and when we finally turned with the wind at our back, it was time for a Red Stripe and a sigh of relief.

Those winds are a big reason why this tournament is called “Annie’s Revenge.” Named after Annie Palmer, the White Witch of Rose Hall, the namesake is one of Jamaica’s most famous local legends. Rose Hall’s Great House, just down the road towards Cinnamon Hill Golf Course, was home to Palmer, a Haitian-born white woman who grew up studying voodoo and witchcraft. Thus the nickname, the White Witch. She moved to Jamaica when she married John Palmer, the owner of Rose Hall, and unfortunately, her practice of dark magic proved too powerful for those around her. Legend tells she murdered her husband (and two more after that) along with many of her slaves. She herself was eventually killed, but to this day, the locals claim to have witnessed Palmer’s ghost riding her horse around the Jamaican plantations.

The strong coastal winds are Annie’s Revenge on any golfer trying to enjoy the land she once owned. They got the best of me a time or two.

Days Two and Three: Cinnamon Hill 

Both Cinnamon Hill and White Witch Golf Course are members of the Rose Hall family. Typically, in the “Annie’s Revenge” tournament format, the courses are played once each in the three-day event. However, White Witch is currently closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Its owners made the financial decision to proceed through these tough times with only one course due to the limited play and the costs of upkeep. While disappointed to not play White Witch, playing Cinnamon Hill twice instead more than satisfied my appetite for Jamaican golf. This is my favorite course on the island.

Cinnamon Hill was designed by Rick Baril and opened in 1969. It was later renovated and redesigned by Robert von Hagge. The greens here were much quicker than those at Half Moon, which I certainly appreciated. The two nines of Cinnamon Hill play in complementing contrast to one another, with the front providing low coastal play while the back nine rises into the tropical Blue Mountains.

Tipping out at 6,828 yards, the front nine marches and builds towards the ocean, with two phenomenal holes hugging the coastline. This is unusual for Jamaica, as most of the shore is saved for sandy beaches and rum-flavored sips under thatch umbrellas.

I played Cinnamon Hill with my cart partner, Jason Deegan of GolfPass.com. Our hosts for our rounds at Rose Hall were Keith Stein, the Director of Golf Course Operations for both Cinnamon Hill and White Witch, and Donnie Dawson, the Deputy Director of Tourism for the Jamaica Tourist Board.

Keith is a very good golfer with a smooth swing. He is originally from Toronto but has lived in Jamaica for 30 years. Donnie is a world-class storyteller who grew up in Kingston and has been playing these courses his entire life. It was a real treat to be able to play the course with both fine gentlemen, see how they play each hole, and hear their tales. The best story came on hole four, a 170-yard par 3 over marshy ponds.

Donnie Dawson and one of his stories

As we approached the fourth tee box, Donnie pointed out a concrete wall just behind the markers and informed us that a cemetery lay just beyond. Peering over, we could see the gravestones in this centuries-old burial plot for the family of English poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning. The grass is grown tall because the golf course staff, local Jamaicans, refuse to go inside.

Donnie told us 20 or so years ago, he was playing this course with a caddie named “Teeth,” a moniker he was given based on the looper’s colored and decorated top front teeth. As they approached the fourth tee box, a man was sitting on the concrete wall bordering the cemetery. He tossed Donnie a ball and said “hit this one, mon.” Donnie complied and the three men watched the shot bounce twice and roll directly into the cup. A hole-in-one with accompanied celebration. When they reached the green, Donnie and Teeth looked into the cup to retrieve the ball, and, to their surprise, it had vanished. Disappeared from the hole. They looked to the tee box and the kind stranger on the wall was gone as well. Perhaps a ghost from the ancient graves. Donnie said Teeth, a believer in local legend, took off running and didn’t stop for three miles.

Hole Four Green, site of the vanishing ball

Holes five and six provide tremendous views right along the quietly crashing waves. The par-3 sixth hole, arguably the prettiest hole on the island, is a 178-yard carry over the Caribbean with bailout room to the left. Just a gorgeous hole that I would have been happy to play all day. Cinnamon Hill does not waste their par 3s.

Hole five fairway

Keith Stein, yours truly and Jason Deegan

Par three sixth hole

The course is also home to an ancient aqueduct that winds through both the front and back nine. The now-ruins provide an interesting backdrop to island golf, whereas they used to be a working part of the sugar cane plantation and used to grind and transport one of Jamaica’s top export products for commerce.

The back nine brings you up the mountains, with the 17th tee box sitting nearly 400 feet above sea level. What that provides, obviously, is wonderful views of the ocean through and over jungle leaves, along with challenging golf shots. On the fairway of the 14th hole sits one of the few homes on course, but one has some historical value: The Cinnamon Hill Great House was the second home of Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash for 30 years.

Cinnamon Hill Great House

The 15th hole is another tremendous par 3 measuring 220 yards from the back but playing much shorter straight down the hill to a large green nestled beneath a waterfall. The waterfall, in case it looks familiar, was the backdrop of a famous scene in “Live and Let Die” — one of the best James Bond films ever made. Ian Fleming, the author of the Bond series, lived and wrote many of the books here on the island at Golden Eye.

Cinnamon Hill takes the driver out of your hand on many holes, forcing you to find the right club on every tee shot. You need to be prepared to hit mid-irons off some par fours as angles are often more important than distance. And with the undulating back nine, distances are sometimes deceiving. Cheers to my caddie for keeping the right club in my hand all trip.

Back to the hotel for the final ceremony and last sleep on the island. The Jamaica Pro-Am is open to anyone willing to pay the entry fee, but if you come to Jamaica for just a family vacation, don’t forget about the golf. Most travelers to Jamaica come for the beaches and the island lifestyle, and they aren’t wrong to do so. But next time you visit, I suggest you bring your clubs, mon.

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Club Junkie

Club Junkie: Reviewing New Bettinardi BB and Inovai putters!

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Bettinardi has new and updated putters for their BB and Inovai putter lines. I have been rolling a ton of putts (indoors, unfortunately) with both the BB-8W and the Inovai Rev 8.0 and they are really solid (read our launch piece here).

BB series is now made from stainless steel and has a new face milling that offers much better feel. The new Inovai 8.0 has a great, toned-down shape with the new Roll Control face for reducing hopping and skidding and producing forward roll.

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Podcasts

The 19th Hole Episode 174: The odd couple

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Host Michael Williams gives his take on the “The Match” between Bryson and Brooks, and what the real motivation for the alleged “feud” really is. Also features Travelling Lady Golfer host Sarah Forrest on golf in England.

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