With the 1997 Masters golf tournament at the legendary Augusta National Golf Club beginning Thursday, it might be time to check out golf sites on the World Wide Web.
"The Web has changed the way we get information about golf," said Sal Johnson, a noted golf statistician and author of "The U.S. Open Almanac." "I can find out details about any golf tournament right from home now, which makes following them much easier." From tournament guides to player statistics to equipment facts in numbing detail, golf enthusiasts can find plenty of information on the Web. Judging by the number of sites, advertisers and publishers have been quick to see the value of the golf-playing demographic and its overlap with the Internet-user demographic.
"When you take the fanaticism of golf fans and combine it with the Web, which allows them to get a daily fix of their sport, that's a potent combination," said Paul Saunders, editor of a leading financial newsletter on the golf business, Par Valu, which has its own site.
Many sites use multimedia technology to provide video tours of courses, audio discussions with famous golf pros and instructions. Check out Golfmedia for a sophisticated demonstration.
Two common themes are in evidence this week. One, of course, is the Masters -- see the Augusta National's site and as well the golf section of CBS Sports, the official broadcaster. The other is Tiger Woods, the young phenomenon who has sparked interest in the sport. Several sites have sections called "Tiger Watch" or "Tiger Talk," allowing fans to track everything from his scoring record to his thoughts on the game of life.
There does not seem to be much specialization, however, among the golf sites. Most of them are trying to be as extensive as possible and, in the process, they rarely have exclusive information. So it's important to pick and choose the stops on your Web golf tour.
A good starting point is Golfweb, which has an estimated 60,000 pages. Features include detailed coverage of the Masters and other tournaments; On Course, a searchable database of 20,000 courses in the United States and around the world, and extensive classified ads (in the market for a used putter?). The site, which has a version in Japanese, allows visitors to receive personalized tips from an instructor via e-mail.
Another in-depth site is Golf.com, a joint effort of Golf Digest magazine, which is owned by The New York Times Co., and NBC Sports. In addition to tournament coverage, the site offers a detailed look at the business of golf, articles from the magazine and an unusual venture: Divot, an online magazine that features fiction and poetry with golf themes.
Golf Online, the site of Golf Magazine, has extensive coverage of the various tours, as well as articles from Golf Week newspaper. Sports Illustrated magazine's golf site has news and a series of interactive multimedia quizzes. The site prominently features Woods, who was the magazine's 1996 "sportsman of the year."
The various tours have extensive sites themselves. The PGA Tour site boasts live, hole-by-hole scoring updates during its tournaments and contains player backgrounds as well as links to the Senior and Nike tours. The PGA of America, which is the association of club professionals, has a Golf 911 page on its site, where visitors can get help with conditions like "first tee jitters," "the chili dip" and "putter memory loss." The Ladies Professional Golf Association site has a useful teaching section (including how to find an LPGA instructor) and details about the group's charity work.
Searching for golf-related sites on the Web is made simple by Igolf's search engine, which allows for specific category searches. Igolf's main site also has an instruction section for all skill levels.
To help settle disputes about the intricacies of the game, the U.S. Golf Association site has a searchable section that deals with the rules.
Even the Royal and Ancient Golf Club, located at St. Andrews Links in Scotland, has not been left behind. Several sites revolve around the course and the surrounding region.
For more about golf outside the United States, try the World Golf site, which has exhaustive international links, in addition to a handy dictionary of golfing terms. That site is a part of an extensive network run by Cliqgolf, which also includes such sites as Virtual Golfer and Cyber Golfer.
The big equipment manufacturers also have Web sites. For instance, Callaway Golf, makers of Big Bertha clubs, has a site filled with information about its products, stock price and its endorsers.
Etiquette is an integral part of the game, and the Web offers guidance in that department. Send any friends who lack golfing grace to Mr. Golf Etiquette, a site that offers tips and thoughts on the sport, as well as answers to etiquette questions.
Tired of just surfing the Internet and want to actually play a round on the Web? That, too, is possible. Pretty Good Golf is a site off Golfweb that uses a simple plug-in to begin a free virtual game.
And, finally, the Web is a rich depository of golfing humor. One of several fun sites is, fittingly enough, Bad Golf, "the online magazine for the golfer whose handicap IS golf."
WHERE TO GO
Copyright 1997 The New York Times Company