The Masters of Golf Infographics - A Data Visualization Challenge

A well rendered infographic can enhance just about anything.

The most mundane data set... in the hands of a skilled infographics designer... can be transformed into an engaging visual, likely to draw in and enlighten a wide swath of viewers.  Even those with an aversion to statistics... and no particular interest in the data itself.

So imagine potential awesomeness when the subject is something you love, and the statistics are ones you're seeking out anyway.

That's what got me searching for infographics on The Masters today. With less than two weeks left before the annual orgy of understated excess begins in Augusta, I found myself in the mood for for some Masterful data visualizations.

Well I did find a few, including some that little more than stylised charts.  Others contained a wealth of information and all the elements of modern infographic design.  There were even a couple I felt could comfortably contend for a Malofiej gold medal, the Infographical equivalent of a green jacket.

My favorite has got to be the one about course changes at Augusta National.  Displayed in side-by-side illustrations are the iconic course's 18 holes and the changes that have been made to each throughout the years. Both the art and the typeface are rendered in a vintage style, reflective of the event and its venue.  Then there was Foreplay to the Masters, a powerful presentation that came out last year and provides a surprisingly detailed history of the tournament, course and players, in a darkly elegant style.  I've also got to mention the visualization created by Kyle Porter, editor of Pistols Firing, the OKState Sports Blog. I'm guessing Kyle isn't a infographics designer by trade but looking at his 2012 Masters Infographic, you can tell he's got a genuine enthusiasm for his subject, and I'm quite sure had a lot of fun creating this piece.  The lamest of the lot has to be the infographic I created, to depict the most popular early pics to win in 2011.  I've got to admit I just plugged in the data. Wordle did the rest.

Here's the thing though.  We need more Masters infographics... don't we? I think we do, and to that end I'm going to: A) try to make one... or two. and B) have a contest during Masters week for anyone else who might want to make one.  More details to come on that in the next couple of days.  In the meantime if you should find any Masters-related visualizations I missed I'd love a link.


KStew and RPattz Back on Course With a Super Twilight Golf Date

photo credit: Angie22Arts via photopin cc (some rights reserved)
The last time we saw Kristen Stewart on a golf course, Forbes magazine had just declared her the highest paid actress in Hollywood and the offscreen romance she'd been having with Robert Pattinson... her handsome co-star in the Twilight series... was just about to hit a rough patch.

That balmy day in early July, she played a casual round with her Dad and a couple of friends, wearing her supposedly steady boyfriend's shirt.  Many observers found the gesture endearing, though the golf purists were quick to point out that the baggy collarless top... and the cutoff khaki shorts she paired it with...  were inappropriate.

Anyway, a couple of days after that relaxed summer round, the winsome actress found herself at the center of an epic pop-culture media feeding frenzy when news broke of an affair she'd been having with Rupert Sanders, a married movie director she'd worked with that Spring.

As such things will be, it was messy... and ultimately, the Sanders marriage was a casualty.  However, the romance between the star-crossed, silver screen vampires appears... after a couple of false starts... to be on the mend.  So much so that they recently played golf together. It seems the two stars were seen at a California golf course earlier this week. Fittingly, they chose to play a "Super Twilight" round. How romantic is that?


Selling With Sex: A Sustainable Marketing Strategy for Golf & Golfers?

The Red Bikini Special      via 
What could be more seductive... particularly for those of us enduring a chilly, gray Spring... than the prospect of summer?

That idea could be part of the strategy behind Cape Cod Golf Vacations' Red Bikini campaign.  It definitely worked for me, as I suddenly felt compelled to begin curating my summer wardrobe.

I'm guessing however, that the main motivating factor being addressed in the eye-catching ad is the promise that your day on the links would come with a side order of sexy-ladies-in-skimpy-swimsuits.

Sex Sells. It's a marketing strategy that's as old as advertising itself, and every bit as ubiquitous as the aspirational imagery of expensive cars, opulent homes and happy families we're bombarded with daily.

The notable thing with "sex appeal advertising" is that it so often incites discussion... even in our current era of pushed envelopes and exceeded limits... which allows it to transcend its target audience and reach consumers who may have missed it otherwise.  This is particularly pertinent now that social media has been added to the marketing equation.

The Play Golf With Blair presented by Cobra
Just last week I observed ... and joined... a lively Twitter conversation surrounding the stunning Play Golf With Blair campaign for the new COBRA AMP CELL™ driver. It started with one man's tweet questioning the value to the women's game, of female golfers posing in bikinis, and burgeoned into a multi-layered, multi-player discussion.  Some saw the campaign as gratuitous and exploitative while others felt it was empowering and positive. It was an engaging exchange, and one that's probably taken place among numerous groups on numerous networks since Play Golf With Blair was launched.

The thing is, whichever side you come down on in that debate it seems to me the campaign was effective in the sense that it generated the kind of buzz that allows an ad... or an individual... to break through the logjam created by an overabundance of content and reach the consumer; a consumer who might be a golfer or a golf fan and still miss the message thanks to a cacophony of competition and a fragmented media landscape.

The sustainability of a Sex Sells marketing strategy in the golf niche... and in other markets... is often called into question with some arguing that "eventually people are going to realize that the sexiness has nothing to do with product being advertised - it's just meant to attract consumers". However, from what I've seen the effect is frequently quite the opposite.  To that end, I've already booked a Cape Cod golf trip, and I'm now considering the possibility of a new driver. Preferably  one with an attractive orange head.

What do you think? Is the "sex appeal strategy" an effective way to market golf? And do you think it works best for products, players or the game itself?


Sinister Steampunk Flying Machine Is Actually a Golf Channel Camera

Flying Machine Stamp ....  via Stampers Best
Nineteenth century French writer Jules Verne didn't play golf.

After all, he was nearing middle age by the time the first course came to France, and I'm guessing he was too busy building his "Father of Science Fiction" legacy, writing the retro-futuristic tales of space travel, submarines and sea monsters we all read growing up.

Out of his fantastic imagination came giant dirigibles, soaring, steam-powered clipper ships and idiosyncratic ornithopters with flapping wings.

But Monsieur Verne passed away in 1905, about the same time the Wright Brothers took the twelve second flight that ushered in the era of modern aviation and streamlined aircraft.

So... not surprisingly... the appearance of a malevolent-looking, multi-propellered flying machine hovering over PGA Tour golfer Scott Stallings as he practiced at Bay Hill last week turned quite a few heads; the tech press was buzzing about it... so were the sports blogs.  As it turns out, the aeronautic arthropod was simply a camera-carrying drone to be deployed by the Golf Channel to capture a player's eye view of the action on-course.  ~ In our era of fragmented audiences and increased competition, innovation is increasingly important even when it appears to come from the mind of a nineteenth century Frenchman.



Women at St. Andrews: A Museum Exhibition & A Major Championship

For female golfers... and fans of the women's game... 2013 is looking to be a particularly excellent year for a trip to the "home of golf".

As you probably know, the 2013 Women's British Open will take place on the Old Course in St. Andrews from August 1st - 4th for only the second time in its history.

In addition, The British Golf Museum... just a pitching wedge away from the famous Old Course... will be presenting Ladies First: Pioneering Moments in Women's Golf, an exhibition that focuses on the history of women's golf.

Curated by a group of postgraduate students from the University of St. Andrews' Museum and Gallery Studies program, Ladies First, will feature historic artifacts, art and photography that promise to bring to life key events and characters from golf's past and the way it was played by women.

There are also numerous courses to play in and around the beautiful and historical town.  So, if you've been looking forward to making that trip to St. Andrews one of these years... this might be the perfect time to do it.

Ladies First: on Facebook
Ladies First: on Twitter


Chicken Wings, Cleavage Canines and Improvised Golf Training Aids

Paulina Gretzky             via bigleadsports
Here in Connecticut, the weather is finally warming up.  As daffodils and crocuses begin to emerge from the soil, local golf courses are opening their doors for the season.

Many among us will soon resume that elusive quest to make this The Year: the year we break 80 (or 90 or 100)...  the year we win the tournament... the year we finally beat our husband.

It can be a myriad of things, but I'm pretty sure most golfers start the season with a basic desire to take their game to the proverbial next level.  Some will go out and purchase new equipment, others will seek instruction from professionals, or spend endless hours at the range, relentlessly hitting balls.  Then there are those who head for the latest gadgets and training aids, and while most would agree that great equipment, quality instruction and lots of practice are bound to result in an improved game, the jury's still out on the efficacy of many training aids.

The thing we do know, however, is that the golf swing, by its very nature, is multi-faceted and complex... and that certain flaws are quite universal. It's from that knowledge that training aids are often conceived.  For example, the very common flaw is one I'll call by its inelegant avian name: chicken wings. That's when the arms and body get out of sync during the backswing, causing the lead elbow to break down and disconnect through impact. The resulting shot will be a slice or a wormburner... or worse. I happen to know the chicken wing well, it was my signature move for years.

Fortunately there's a pretty simple fix for this unfortunate, and all-too-common, flaw.  The principal is to train one's arms and body to work together and stay connected, and it's achieved through drills often using a commercial gadget or an improvised training aid.

Ben Hogan's Advice                               via GolfCanada
The most elaborate such product I've seen is the Golf Swing Shirt, which trains you to keep your arms together by holding them side-by-side in a snug, one armed garment that's as orange as Rickie Fowler on Sunday. I hope to have a chance to try it one of these days because I have a feeling it could be effective, after all it's endorsed by golf gadget guru and three-time major champion Padraig Harrington.

There's also Perfect Connection. Now maybe it's because I've just read 50 Shades of Grey, but to me Perfect Connection looks more like a restraining device than a training device.  The idea, though, is the same: to teach a repeatable, connected swing, in this case with a set of postmodern manacles joined by a metal bar.  You'll notice the device beginning to release if you "disconnect", so you learn by feel.  I'd like to try this one too, and not because of my recent reading material.

As for improvised devices, I've seen a variety of objects used; a soccer ball, a range bucket, an empty water bottle and most pictured at the top of the page... an ultra-cute teacup Pomeranian with a Teddy Bear trim.

Clearly, that's what Paulina Gretzky was doing on the boat last week, in the company of her boyfriend, 7 time PGA tour winner Dustin Johnson: working on her chicken wings, with an adorable improvised training aid.


Myrtle Beach Celebrates Its 75th with Cake and... Presumably... Golf

A vintage postcard shows Pine Lakes Club House                                                      via Travel Belles 

"The city of Myrtle Beach will celebrate its 75th birthday with cake, punch and refreshments at 1 p.m. Tuesday before the City Council meeting.  ~ The public is invited to attend the celebration, held in council chambers at the Ted. C. Collins Law Enforcement Center, 1101 N. Oak St. People who also have March 12 birthdays are invited to celebrate with the city."

From the time the coastal South Carolina town of Myrtle Beach was incorporated in 1938, and throughout the remainder of the 20th century, it developed into a tourist destination that today hosts nearly 15 million visitors annually. Its expansive beaches and mild climate have made it a highly desirable destination for snowbirds, spring breakers and vacationing families.  Not to mention golfers.

Myrtle Beach Golf - Vintage Postcard       via CardCow
In fact, this seaside resort is often referred to as the "Golf Capital of the World" and with over 100 courses, the sheer variety of golf experiences on offer can make your Myrtle Beach golf trip seem like a global golf holiday.  As if to reinforce this perception there's even one course, the International World Tour Golf Links, that replicates 27 of the planet's most renown golf holes, allowing an armchair golf traveler to play a bit of Valderrama and a touch of Royal Melbourne in the same round... while also getting a taste of St. Andrew's Old Course and living the universal Amen Corner fantasy.

Myrtle Beach, like many coastal resort areas, has had to deal with the occasional damaging storm... as well as the changing demands of consumers. In the process some of its historical buildings and landmarks were torn down to accommodate modern visitors more interested in convenient condos and  massive water parks than quaint pavilions and grand old beach hotels.

However, the encouraging thing... as this milestone birthday celebration gets underway... is that the benefits of historic preservation in Myrtle Beach now seem clear to a growing number of its citizens, seasonal visitors, architects and elected officials. Projects like the restoration of the Myrtle Beach Train Depot have won awards and attracted national attention making the future of remaining historical structures more secure.

As a history buff... and an avid recreational golfer... this makes Myrtle Beach quite compelling to me... which is probably a good thing because my husband has been visiting the town... and many of its golf courses... with increasing frequency these past couple of years, and is now talking seriously about spending winters on the South Carolina coast... or even relocating there altogether.  Of course he's a nomadic Frenchman who's lived all over the globe,  while my coastal Connecticut roots are deep, but the prospects of year round golf and walks on the beach in February sound very seductive to me right now so I'm actually considering the possibility of spending winter 2014 in Myrtle Beach.

In the meantime,  I'll wish the city a Happy Birthday and start making a list of the courses I want to play.


The Short Game - A Rare Glimpse into a Unique Subculture of Global Golf

The city of Austin will be awash in musicians, filmmakers and digital creatives for the coming ten days, in that springtime ritual known as South by Southwest.  SXSW has been straining the Texas town's infrastructure for years, as more events get added and an increasing number of attendees pour in for music, film and interactive happenings.

Over the past several years, SXSW has become one of the world's major film festivals premiering major hollywood films, attracting top movie executives and spawning multiple distribution deals.

One of 2013's most anticipated entries in the feature documentary category is called "The Short Game", and though director Josh Greenbaum maintains that "it's not about golf"  it promises to be particularly enlightening, inspiring and entertaining for those who play the game, and... in light of Rory McIlroy's recent travails... quite timely.

"The Short Game" looks like an extraordinarily powerful movie and I'm really hoping it secures a distribution deal in Austin, because I can't wait to see it.  Check out the trailer below and I'm quite sure you'll feel the same.

Please like "The Short Game" on facebook to show your support and keep up-to-date on where and when you can see it.


Twitter Trend Weekly: Golf Makes Some People Smile

Often, they're annoying and spammy, but at their best Twitter hashtags... and the trending topics they spawn... can offer us an enlightening view of the way things are perceived by the masses.

Over the years I've enjoyed observing the 140 character thoughts and opinions expressed about golf... and I've often been entertained by them.  Frequently funny and sometimes surprising, tweets, when looked at collectively, can certainly tell a story.

That's the idea behind Twitter Trend Weekly, a new feature I'll be presenting here each Wednesday.  I'm thinking it might be a fun way to liven up the middle of the week and a good chance to see what folks are saying about the the sport we love.

This week's topic is #howtomakemesmile

The course alone seems to make some girls happy...

...while others want to make sure they get the full experience.

Guys, apparently, like to have an audience...

...even if it's just an audience of one admiring female. 

It's the golf swag that does it for some... 

...while others apparently just want to see their rivals under the wheels of a golf buggy. 

Alrighty then.  "Twitter Trend Weekly" will be back again next Wednesday with more hashtag-inspired observations in 140 characters or less.  


Rory McIlroy's Sudden Secession & Our Passion for Ever Younger Players

Rory McIlroy                   photo credit: mirsasha via photopin cc

I think it's interesting that we push for - and then idolize - ever more youthful champions

In fact, we're so quick to abandon our "teen phenoms" for "pre-teen phenoms" and discard our "young guns" for "younger guns" that a number of today's top players are still shy of the quarter century mark... and most have been competing relentlessly since they were tiny tots.  

It's exhilarating to watch a winning player who seems fearless.  Youth, by its very nature, will often beget fearlessness.  So our passion for these precocious pros is rather easily understood ...and it only adds to the impressiveness factor when poise and maturity are tacked on to the fearlessness.  The young player possessing that particular triad of qualities is sure to become an immediate star.

With that kind of stardom, however, comes corresponding (and often unrealistic) expectations; we feel we've finally found a very young person who'll consistently offer us a winning game and exemplary behavior, and when the expectations are not met, we'll likely forget about our lapsed savior's extreme youth... or the fact that he may have had to miss out on a life-lesson or two in his singular quest to become so good, so fast. 

For the wow factor, we want our athletes to be ever younger, but the reality is that lack of life experience will often result in questionable decisions, so should Rory McIlroy's sudden secession halfway through Friday's second round at the Honda Classic be as shocking as some are making it out to be?  After all young people make questionable decisions all the time and neuroscientists now agree that the human brain is not fully mature until at least age 25

Jack Nicklaus deftly distilled the current "Rory Story" this way: "I think he's a little frustrated, and he's frustrated at himself right now," later adding, " ...if he had waited five more minutes he wouldn't have done that."  I agree but I think that if we want our sports stars to attain lofty heights at increasingly younger ages we've got to figure that... on occasion... they won't want to wait that five more minutes. 


Google Glass & Golf - The Many Awesome/Annoying Possibilities

A woman wearing Glass.            Photo courtesy of Creative Commons.
Golf has a rich and singular history, one that's often alluded to in contemporary
conversations about the sport.

That said, the sport has been quite receptive to technological advances.... like those that've taken the golf ball from the featherie to the guttie to the multi-layered urethane marvels we play with today.

In a continual quest for additional distance, golfers were quick to retire their hickory shafts and persimmon heads when steel shafts and metal woods made the scene.  Over the past decade, the pace of change in golf equipment, accessories and gadgets accelerated rapidly, as "innovation" became both a business buzzword and the holy grail for competitive advantage.

With that in mind, I'm guessing golfers... for the most part... will be quick to explore the myriad possibilities in Google Glass, one of the most anticipated and promisingly innovative-seeming  products in the news these days.  For those who don't know, we're talking about a rather diminutive device that's basically just a very, very, very smart smartphone... that you wear on your brow like a sleek pair of spectacles/shades.  The video below gives you a very basic idea of how it might work.

So yes:  Wrap your mind around that and imagine what you might be able to do with it on a golf course.  The fact is, quite a number of forward-thinking golfers have already weighed in on such matters via Google+ and Twitter.

Google's @ProjectGlass sent out a call for "Glass Explorers" using the hashtag #ifihadglass.  Contestants were asked how they'd use glass and why they felt they should be among the first group of testers.  Apparently the company got an avalanche of suggestions among which were many that involved golf.  Some were great.  Others provided a preview of the annoyingness that will undoubtedly ensue once Glass makes its way to the grass.
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