Fast & Fascinating Facts

Mike Wilson
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Leona Maguire with her sister and caddy Lisa during the 2016 Rio Summer Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo By Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

  1. Who Had the Biggest Balls?

–    Up until 1990, the actual size of the golf ball was not enshrined in the Rules of Golf, when the R&A and the USGA eventually agreed on the universal golf ball diameter being 1.68-inches, or 4.26cm anywhere in the world.

  • Prior to then, in areas under the R&A’s jurisdiction, the, ‘British ball’ was of 1.62-inches (41.148mm) but under USGA rules, the standard golf ball size was slightly bigger, at 1.68-inches (42.67 mm), although both parties had always agreed on an identical weight, 1.62-ounces (45.93g).

 

  1. Ace in the Pack
  • The odds of an average club golfer achieving the ‘Holy Grail’ of golf, namely, a hole-in-one are said to be 12,500/1, or, in other words, very remote.
  • But, move up to the professional ranks and the odds fall quite dramatically, down to 2,500/1.

 

  1. All in a Name
  • Many of the early, hickory-shafted golf clubs, the vast majority of which were hand-crafted in Scotland, the ‘Home of Golf,’ carried names more in keeping with implements of torture than pieces of sporting equipment.
  • For example, the, ‘Cleek’ was a relatively flat-faced iron used for striking the ball a considerable distance, along the lines of a one-iron or two-iron today.
  • Meanwhile, a, ‘Mashie,’ was a more lofted, pitching club akin to a modern seven-iron, whilst a, ‘Niblick,’ was a golf club, similar to a wedge with a small, round, heavy head, used for extricating the golf ball from an awkward or constricted location.
  • The transition from those traditional club names to the more generic club numbers such as, ‘Three-wood,’ or ‘Four-iron,’ did not happen until the late 1930s / early 1940s, but, to this day, even though they are made from metal, the name ‘3-wood,’ and, 5-wood’ remain to this day.

 

  1. Money, Money, Money
  • Back in the mists of time, when the likes of Willie Park Snr and his son, Willie Park Jnr were regularly winning the Open Championship, their first prize would be just a few pounds, five-or-six pounds out of a total prize purse of £10 – £12.
  • The first double-digit winner’s cheque came at the 13th Open Championship in 1873 when fellow-Scot Tom Kidd won the princely sum of £11.
  • These prized pale into insignificance in comparison with the £1,000 earned by Peter Thomson when he won the 1955 Open at St Andrews and the £10,000 and £100,000 won respectively by Tom Watson in 1977 and Greg Norman in 1993.
  • But even those sums are a mere pittance by comparison with the first £1m first prize, won by Zach Johnson at St Andrews in 2015, which the winner of the 2021 Open Championship at Royal St. Georges can be expected to top the £2m mark.

 

  1. A Head for Heights
  • According to the Guinness Book of Records, the highest golf course in the world is the Yak Golf Course in Kupup, East Sikkim, India, the 6,025-yard, 18-hole course is situated at 13,025 feet above sea level in the foothills of the Himalayas.
  • In second place, some 7,666km south west is La Paz Golf Club in Bolivia, sitting almost 11,000-feet above sea level, with Copper Creek Golf Club, Colorado, USA in third place, its 14th tee perching some 9,863 feet above sea level.
  • Meanwhile, at the other end of the spectrum, the lowest-lying golf course on the planet is Furnace Creek Golf Course in Death Valley in California, which is measured at 214-feet below sea level.

 

  1. Significant Spanish Firsts
  • Following its formation at the start of the 1972 season, the European Tour has witnessed many hundreds of different winners from scores of different countries, but the winner of the inaugural event on the circuit was a home winner, Spanish star Antonio Garrido, who earned €2,072 (Approx. US$2,2550) when he won the Spanish Open at the Club Golf de Pals, Girona between 12th – 15th April 1972.
  • And it was to be a clean sweep of ‘Home’ winners, with compatriots Valentin Barrios and Ángel Gallardo taking second and third place respectively.
  • In all, Garrido Snr, from whom the 1972 Spanish Open was to be his maiden European Tour victory, he went on to win 10-times in total on the circuit, eight more than his son Ignacio, whose two European Tour wins were in Volvo-sponsored tournaments, the 1997 Volvo German Open, then, six-years-later, the big one, the Volvo PGA Championship at Wentworth.

 

  1. Longest Drive
  • Although there have been slightly longer drives recorded during specialist Long Driving competitions, the longest-ever tee shot during a professional tournament is thought to have been at the 1974 US National Seniors Championship staged at the Desert Rose Resort in Las Vegas.
  • English-American professional Mike Austin, 65-years-old at that time drove the ball a remarkable 515-yards, overshooting the green on the 450-yard, Par-4 fifth hole, prompting former PGA champion Chandler Harper, Austin’s playing partner to say, “This is impossible, but there is a ball over here.”
  • For his part, Austin remarked, “It was like God hit it,” and he may well find out, having died and presumably taken up membership at the great golf club in the sky in 2005 at the ripe old age of 95, 30-years after his longest drive of all time feat, which is yet to be overtaken.

 

  1. Irish Lords & Ladies of the Rings
  • Ireland was one of a very small and select group of countries able to field the maximum number of both male and female players at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, despite the country’s #1 Rory McIlroy declining the opportunity to take part in the ‘Greatest Show on Earth.’
  • With golf being played as part of the Summer Olympic programme for the first time in 112-years, with Irishman Séamus Power outperforming the more illustrious Pádraig Harrington, finishing in 15th place, six places ahead of the 2020 Ryder Cup captain.
  • Meanwhile the two Irishwomen who qualified to become the first of their kind to represent their country to play golf at the Olympic Games both finished well up the leaderboard but short of the medal positions, Leona Maguire in 21st place`and her compatriot Stephanie Meadow 10 places further back.

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