Keep Golf Weird
Quirky swings? Wacky clothes? With Austin hosting this week’s Dell Technologies Match Play, it’s time to celebrate golf’s unusual side
March 21, 2017
By Staff, PGATOUR.COM
Seventeen years ago, a librarian in Austin called a local radio station and uttered a phrase that eventually became a civic rallying cry of the quirky-cool college town in Texas.
Keep Austin Weird.
With the World Golf Championships-Dell Technologies Match Play in town this week at Austin Country Club, we’re putting our own spin on the slogan and keeping golf weird.
By Cameron Morfit
Allen Doyle didn’t start playing golf until he was 14, grooved his swing in a room with a low ceiling, and played hockey for Norwich University. You can see those influences in his odd move that nonetheless yielded 11 PGA TOUR Champions victories.
The late Miller “Mr. X” Barber had a loopy, home-cooked move that made him stand out on PGA TOUR driving ranges. Barber told Golf Digest in 2007: “…after I loop the club to the inside on the downswing, I look like any other good player. The downswing is all that matters.”
Tommy “Two Gloves” Gainey uses a 10-fingered “baseball” grip, bends down low at the waist, and has what Peter Kostis has called “a great home-built golf swing.” And with great results: Gainey shot a final-round 60 to win the 2012 McGladrey Classic.
Raymond Floyd won the Masters with such a quirky move he liked to say to his critics, “It ain’t how; it’s how many.” Floyd flipped the club back inside, brought it straight up, and delivered it down into the hitting area perfectly every time.
Jim Thorpe won 13 times on the PGA TOUR Champions. Impressive. Even more impressive was that he did so using an anti-hook helicopter follow-through -- a bizarre swing that he said “only a mother could love.”
Josh Broadaway made it all the way to the Web.com Tour using a cross-handed grip. Not that unusual, you say? Maybe not, if the club is the putter. Broadaway hits full shots cross-handed--very, very well.
Lee Trevino did a brief two-step dance with his feet before getting set, then brought the club back to the outside and back through the hitting area so consistently he’s been called one of the best ball-strikers ever.
The loop in his swing makes Jim Furyk look like no one else, but he is fundamentally sound through the hitting area and bound for the World Golf Hall of Fame. He’s also the only man ever to shoot 59 and 58 on the PGA TOUR.
Arnold Palmer’s action was not so much rhythmic and free-flowing as it was herky-jerky and powerful, and with copious leaning on the follow through and even a modified helicopter finish. But it worked wonderfully, and was yet one more aspect of Palmer’s everyman appeal.
Moe Norman won more than 50 tournaments in Canada, and according to Tiger Woods was one of only two people ever to own his own swing. (Ben Hogan was the other.) Norman’s stance was wider than most, his backswing shorter than most, but his quick-trigger swing produced laser-like accuracy.
Unique Swings on the PGA TOUR
By Jonathan Wall, Equipment Insider
Cleveland VAS irons: From a technological standpoint, Cleveland's VAS irons were ahead of their time. The Vibration Absorbing System (VAS) system in the cavity was initially designed to reduce vibration in skis, but it also worked in irons, where the multi-material badge reduced unwanted vibrations that would otherwise go up the arms and cause fatigue and pain.
Introduced in 1995, this club makes our weird list because of the head design, which included an insert hosel and overall profile that was a half-inch larger than conventional irons. The flange design also allowed the club to rest square at address, while the four-way camber sole gave the head an egg shape.
Despite the odd look, the club was put in play by a number of players on TOUR, including 1995 U.S. Open winner Corey Pavin.
Alien wedge: The Alien wedge has undergone numerous design changes over the years, but the original remains the gold standard for bizarre clubs.
Former minor league baseball player Pat Simmons came up with the odd-looking wedge one day in his basement. It had a dot face design that was reminiscent of an old niblick, and a wide, “triple radius sole" that was meant to keep the club from digging too deeply into the turf or sand.
Although the wedge head was roughly the size of a modern-day 5-wood — something most manufacturers have never embraced — Simmons' anti-chunk sole remains an integral part of many recent wedge designs.
Hammer X driver: The infomercial alone makes the Hammer X a worthy addition to the list. Spokesman and former long-drive champion Jack "The Hammer" Hamm is featured taking huge lashes with the driver while repeatedly yelling "Boom," as he attempts to take his tee shot over a rock outcropping.
Whether his drive makes it over the rocks — or travels 473 yards — is unknown. What we do know is the non-conforming club is one of the most recognized equipment oddities in the industry.
Touted as the "longest, straightest and fastest driver of all time," Hamm's creation has a see-thru design that was intended to reduce drag and backspin. The metal power core that sits right behind the face claims to add 30-50 yards to each drive.
Swingless driver: If you've ever wondered what it would take to hit every fairway during a round — aside from using a wedge or putter off every tee — there is a club on the market that makes it virtually impossible to miss the short grass.
Designed for golfers who otherwise might not be able to make a conventional swing, the Swingless driver uses small powder charges, called power strips, and a firing pin to hit the ball without ever having to move the club.
Simply line the driver up to the target, adjust the yardage range between 25 and 200 yards, and hit it straight every time. While you'll never be able to produce towering drives like Rory McIlroy, the number of lost balls per round should decrease considerably.
TaylorMade Nubbins putter: TaylorMade's Nubbins remains unique for its polymer face insert design that looked nearly identical to the rubber dots found on a Ping-Pong paddle. The "nibs" on the insert served a similar purpose, producing a soft feel with maximum topspin for a consistent roll on the greens.
Nubbins was unlike anything in the marketplace, and while the original "nibs" never exactly caught on in the marketplace, the weirdly textured insert remains one of the most talked-about designs in golf equipment circles.
By Cameron Morfit
2002, first round – Down went the top three seeds Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and David Duval. Weirder still, Peter O’Malley, who cracked the field only after Jose Coceres and Thomas Bjorn decided not to play, became the first 64 seed to win a match when he beat No. 1 Woods 2 and 1.
2005, first round – In a weird, wet scene straight out of the movie “Waterworld,” unrelenting rain flooded La Costa Resort and Spa, pushing the start of the tournament back a day and forcing quick-thinking officials to turn the 467-yard, par-4 ninth hole into a 162-yard par-3.
2007, third round – No. 1 Tiger Woods, going for his eighth straight win in as many PGA TOUR starts, lost to slender, left-handed Nick O’Hern. Weird. Much weirder: It was the second time in three years O’Hern had knocked out Woods. “I found his weakness,” O’Hern later told The Golf Channel’s Damon Hack. “He doesn’t like short-hitting left-handers.”
2013, first round -- A snowstorm dumped two inches on the course – in southern Arizona! -- halting play but leading to an epic snowball fight between Roger Maltbie and Steve Sands.
Rickie Fowler snowball fight in Round 1 of 2013 Match Play
2014, first round – Peter Hanson over Dustin Johnson? Richard Sterne over Zach Johnson? Hey, these things happen. But Graeme McDowell -- after seeing his agent on the phone and hoping he was booking their flight home -- coming back from 3 down with three to play to eliminate Gary Woodland at bomber-friendly Dove Mountain? Weird.
Animal Encounters on the PGA TOUR
Top-10 tree encounters on the PGA TOUR
Weather Interruptions on the PGA TOUR
By Greg Monteforte, Style Insider
Plus fours: First introduced in the Roaring 1920s, plus fours were golf’s original fashion statement; Bobby Jones paired them with argyle knee socks and wool sweaters. Dapper and stylish yet roomy and functional, plus fours all but disappeared from the game in the 1930s, but Payne Stewart revived them in the 1980s. The three-time major champ modernized the classic look with bright colors, daring patterns, and luxurious fabrics. Following his death, players in the 1999 TOUR Championship offered an emotional tribute to Stewart and his unique style by tucking their pants into their socks. The best tribute would come 15 years later when Rickie Fowler played the first round at the 2014 U.S. Open at Pinehurst, the site of Stewart’s final major championship victory, in a slimmer fitting silhouette.
High-top golf shoes: Have you noticed that fewer NBA players are wearing high-tops? On the flip side, more PGA TOUR players are wearing them. A weird development, indeed. Thanks to the influx of casual streetwear looks, these ankle-high kicks became the most controversial thing to happen to golf footwear since metal spikes went the way of the balata ball. While Rickie Fowler is credited for starting the high-top trend on the course, many of the game’s top players in the world have jumped on the bandwagon. Bubba Watson frequently laces up a variety of fashion-forward models, and Rory McIlroy has sported athletic sneaker styles.
Wide white belts: Philosopher George Sanayana famously said, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” Such is the curious case of the wide white belt. Its rise and fall and rise again proves that golf has its own fashion subculture. After first becoming a trend in the fashion-awkward 1970s, white belts returned to the fairways in the mid-‘00s as young players adopted retro styles. Even weirder was the fact that many paired their wide, white belts with swaggy, saucer-sized buckles.
Beltless pants: Belts are such an important fashion accessory in today’s game that it is difficult to believe there was a time when TOUR pros eliminated them from their wardrobes. Back in the 1970s and 1980s, nearly every player wore trousers without a belt. In some ways, these stretchy polyester pants were the original performance golf pants. Unfortunately, they also looked like they would spontaneously combust on a warm summer’s day in Phoenix.
Bell bottoms: Weird golf fashion trends often mirror weird fashion trends in general, which is why bell-bottom pants were the go-to style on the fairways in the 1970s. Of course, golf had to put its own unique spin on these disco-style pants, so bold plaids and loud paisleys became the norm. Everything in fashion seems to make a comeback, and bell bottoms were no different. About 10 years ago they snuck back into the game under the name “boot-cut” and with slightly less flare below the knee. Even the 2010 U.S. Ryder Cup team worked them into their scripting in Wales.
By Cameron Morfit
Ahead of the 2012 U.S. Open at Olympic Club, Dustin Johnson teed up a ball at home plate at AT&T Park and hit a driver over the right field wall and deep into San Francisco Bay.
Sergio Garcia displayed bravery and nimbleness as he climbed a tree and hit a one-handed shot, backward, during the fourth round of the 2013 Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill.
Phil Mickelson waded through the throng of party-goers to hit his second shot from the hospitality tent during the second round of The Barclays in 2014.
Rory McIlroy practiced his bunker play from a helipad on the roof of the Burj Al Arab Hotel in Dubai in 2011.
Bill Haas found his ball in the eponymous East Lake in 2011, then got up and down to win the TOUR Championship and the FedExCup.