Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Take Me Home to Sebasco Harbor Resort

Sebasco Harbor Resort Hole #2
Sebasco Harbor Resort Hole #2
I spend a lot of time in fabulously fancy resorts and play many famous, perfectly-manicured golf courses, but I can't remember having a better time than my wife and I did recently at relaxed, comfortable Sebasco Harbor Resort in Maine.  It's got all the amenities you could want including one you can't find everywhere regardless of the price you pay--the feeling that you've come home.

That sense of belonging exists in spades at the spunky nine hole golf course, which I played four times during our five-day stay despite having promised my wife I wasn't even going to bring my clubs on this trip.  It was just too much fun to pass up!  The fourth round was actually a scramble tournament played with both locals and resort guests (including men, women, and kids) that was pure enjoyment.  I had to leave before the final scores were posted to make it to dinner with my long-suffering wife, but stopped by the clubhouse to check the results afterward. It was closed, but head pro Bruce Olson happened to be walking off the course after playing a quick twilight nine, recognized me, and congratulated me on our team's win! The feeling couldn't have been warmer at my home club.

The Sebasco Harbor track is challenging, especially for a resort course. It has a couple of quirky holes to make it interesting and enough length in several places to put your full game to the test.  Tees range from 4,728 to 6,092 yards (for a double circuit to make 18 with a par of 72) and a rating/slope of 70.6/123 from the tips. The layout lies in the hills above the harbor and winds through trees, not home sites, so you can relax and enjoy your game without worrying about driving into somebody's patio.

The signature hole is the 145-yard second hole, a par three that plays over water to a severely-sloped two-tier green.  I barely missed a hole-in-one the first time I played it, then four-putted the next day.  The third hole is one of the most challenging short par fives you'll find anywhere.  It's only 471 yards, but the tee shot is a forced carry to a sharp dogleg left that forces you to leave the driver and maybe even your three wood in the bag.  The green is still reachable in two, but only if your standard 230-yard fairway shot can thread a tree-lined fairway that's less than 20 yards wide in spots.

Three short par fours (the fourth, fifth, and eighth) are offset by the brutal 400-yard uphill dogleg seventh hole, which requires a perfectly-placed drive and a well-aimed mid iron to reach the green in regulation.  The nine ends with a fun birdie opportunity, the 501-yard ninth which has a generous fairway and a dogleg that's navigable by most players. My scramble partners and I put an eagle on our card--probably the winning one-stroke margin.

One of the great bonus golf features of Sebasco Harbor is the Lake Course, a three-hole track made up of holes that were at one time part of the main course until it was rebuilt by new owners in 2001.  The 176-, 204-, and 280-yard holes are perfect for kids, non-golfers, and players of all ages who want to squeeze in a few more holes.  The cost? A whopping $12 to play as much as you like.  The regular course, by the way, is only $45 for 18 holes.

As much fun as I had on the golf course, I still managed to tear myself away from it long enough to do some biking, hiking, and sea kayaking with my wife, visit a couple of nearby towns to do some shopping, site-seeing, and have lunch with some old friends, and enjoyed several lobster dinners at the best dining spot in Maine, Anna's Water's Edge Restaurant, where there were far more locals than tourists every time we were there. The resort also offers excellent dining options plus an addictive ice-cream and coffee stand.  There's a spa as well, plus every conceivable outdoor activity you could want (most of them free!), not to mention an indoor recreation center with vintage candlepin bowling and dozens of other options for rainy days.

The best amenity of all, though, was the people. Staff members were friendly without being cloying and couldn't have been more helpful.  From the time we arrived, they made us feel totally at home.

Among many other books, Dave Donelson is the author of Weird Golf: 18 tales of fantastic, horrific, scientifically impossible, and morally reprehensible golf

Monday, August 18, 2014

Strategic Play Rules at Canmore Golf & Curling


Constant improvement is the dream not only of every golfer but the mantra of the Canmore Golf & Curling Club, a must-play course in the Canadian Rockies.  The member-owned course opened in 1926 and has continually tweaked its golfer-friendly layout to keep itself relevant to the modern game.  It’s a pleasure to walk, the scenery is excellent, and the amenities belie the price.

Canmore Golf & Curling Club’s course lies in a flat valley near the Bow River with great views of the Rundle Range.  It’s surrounded by the mountains, but doesn’t play up and down them, so lies are level and there aren’t any drastic elevation changes to deal with. The difficulty on the course comes from tree-lined fairways and careful shaping of the green and bunker complexes. Water is in play on several holes, too, so a little thought should go into nearly every shot. Four sets of tees measure 5,172 to 6,470 yards.

You first encounter the Bow River on the 410-yard fifth hole, where it lines the right side from tee to green. It’s there again on the approach to number six, the 454-yard par-four number one handicap hole. All of the par fives are reachable in two in the crisp, thin mountain air and none of the par threes plays with the same club, measuring 150, 173, 182, 190, and 217 yards. The course also features five par fours where the driver is best left in the bag. They all require super accuracy and shape off the tee, distance control, and a deft hand with the wedge.

The finishing holes at Canmore Golf & Curling can flip a match on its ear in a split second.  The sixteenth is a 444-yard par four with a gentle dog leg to navigate off the tee and water to carry on your approach. The seventeenth is a 217-yard par three guarded by several bunkers not to be trifled with and the eighteenth is a 528-yard double dogleg par five that screams “birdie!” for the accurate ball striker.

Canmore Golf & Curling Club has an excellent range, short game practice area, and two full practice holes (the result of recent course improvements). The Sand Traps Restaurant goes far beyond the usual burgers and wraps to offer seasonal and regional treats like tourtieres, which are French Canadian meat pies made with venison and wild boar, and fresh greens picked daily from local community gardens. It all adds up to a relaxed, first-class golf experience.

Among many other books, Dave Donelson is the author of Weird Golf: 18 tales of fantastic, horrific, scientifically impossible, and morally reprehensible golf

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Mike Diffley Riffs on Mid-Year Golf

A guest post from Mike Diffley, Head Professional at Pelham Country Club and 2013 Met PGA Teacher of the Year:

The majors are over on the PGA Tour but here in the Northeast everyone should have plenty of competitive rounds under their belt. Good or bad it's time to check yourself. You need to spend time evaluating your game, skills, practice habits, attitude and mindset! Club Championships, Section Championships, getting ready for the finish is important. If you won one tournament a year you would be a legend in your world so look ahead and keep your motivation where it might get you what you want!

Your Game

  • Score: Is it reflecting the state of your game or are there one or two aspects that are weak? Improve weaknesses and maintain strengths. Analyze and plan. Double down on weaknesses.
  • Skills: Grade yourself, A thru F (Driver, Fairways & Hybrids, Irons, Short Irons, Full wedges, less than full shots, around green, long putts, short putts)
  • Practice Habits:  Keep a schedule or at least keep track of how much time is spent on each aspect and what needs to be improved. Make 50 five-footers and hit 25 sand shots as examples. Most players practice a particular shot that might have cost them in their last round or one that left them disappointed. Those are emotional ways to practice, you need to be analytical and practice the important things as well as your weaknesses. Play nine holes often to work on scoring. Use the game "Worst Ball" (play 2 balls and take the worst one on each shot until you hole out and see if you can break 40.) This teaches you course management, concentration and scoring as well as learning to play from everywhere not just the easy places.
  • Attitude:  Are you positive in your thoughts and actions? Are you planning for the rest of the season or have you written it off because it wasn't the start you wanted? You're working hard, tired like most people, but that's no excuse. The difference between those that succeed and those that don't most times is the attitude. My observation has been those with the most drive succeed!

Your Mindset

  • The Fixed Mindset:  Usually people who are talented or smart think that those traits will get them what they want. They have a "cream rises to the top" philosophy. They blame the system or others for their failures. Examples include Pedro Martinez, John McEnroe, Sergio Garcia (big babies). 
  • The Growth Mindset:  People who takes ownership for their success or failures. They don't blame anyone, they just try to figure out a way to better by learning new or better ways to do things.They practice better, condition better, think better. They rise from their defeats and love the challenge of the process of improving. Examples are Tom Watson, Tom Kite, and Michael Jordan.   
As far as how this relates to golfers, players with fixed mindset think hitting balls and having lots of talent or, my favorite misconception, "groove their swing" will make them better. Then there are players who seek many ways to grow their knowledge and skills. They learn to be creative, smart, and better at the important things! They recognize that they are not limited by where they are now but where they will be in the future. Can you change your mindset? The answer is yes! We have the ability to grow and learn and get better by hard, smart work.

Thoughts on the PGA Championship

  •  Rory: Wow! He is now the man, a incredible front-runner and now a comeback for the ages on the back nine. Eagled #10, everyone was laying up to 80-100 yds because they couldn't get near it. He was not to be denied by the competition, Valhalla, the weather or even darkness. He drives the ball 320 with no roll and straight. Clutch putter with no fear in any part of his game. Four majors at 25 years old, same as Jack and Tiger.
  • Valhalla:  Seems to provide exciting events and finishes, has length, risk/reward and greens where putts can be made. Storms seem to find Louisville when it is hosting. How did they get that course ready to play after all that rain? Big hitters reign with the par fives being  very reachable except for #10 and a few 500 yd par 4's.
  • The PGA of America: Chaos at the end with Rory joining up with Phil and Ricky to finish before dark. Phil wanted nothing to do with this and was pissed off (his eyes gave him away) they wanted a chance to do something special and have Rory watch and sweat. The PGA Tour wouldn't have done that. You know if they had to come back on Monday it would have cost significant dollars as well the loss of the golf and sports worlds attention. The PGA of America appeared to choke but ended up ok with the right winner and the whole world watching!

Monday, August 11, 2014

Stewart Creek Mines the Canadian Golf Mountain


In the land of the side-hill lie, Stewart Creek is king.  It’s a mountain course in Canmore where the history of the town as a mining center is highlighted on several holes (including the first) by a mine shaft entrance spotted just off the fairway.  Spend a few minutes reading the placards on the site if you can tear your eyes away from the views of the surrounding Three Sisters, Cascade, Pigeon and Ha Ling Mountains.

Stewart Creek’s 7,195 yards (from the tips) present a succession of challenging, occasionally quirky holes. Five sets of tees make it accessible for players of all levels, although the 6,360-yard whites are tough enough for most of us, especially those playing the course for the first time. You need to choose your lines carefully on holes like the 527-yard sixth, which has a split fairway forcing a difficult choice for your second shot.  The same holds true for the 516-yard eighteen hole where a drive farther left than you think is essential to avoid the woods on the right, but a good tee shot will send your drive down the hill to birdie territory.

The course has several unusual short par fours that demand careful study before teeing off. Choose your club carefully on the tee at the 274-yard fourteenth hole, for example. The ravine that suggests a layup is closer than you may think and so is the green, which can be reached by a moderately strong drive.

Stewart Creek also has a fine range, short game facility, and practice green. It pays to spend time on the latter since the greens are delightfully slick and true.  It's a great addition to any Canadian Rockies golf adventure.

Among many other books, Dave Donelson is the author of Weird Golf: 18 tales of fantastic, horrific, scientifically impossible, and morally reprehensible golf

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Dottie Pepper Brings Back Bogey

PhotoDottie Pepper's little buddy, Bogey, is back in a new adventure. The second volume in the delightful children’s book series, “Bogey Tees Off,” tackles the subject of youth bullying and will be released in mid-August. Pepper is the book's co-author with Scott Fuller. It was illustrated by Shon Watkins.

“We are teeing up a serious issue and wanted to time the release when kids were starting to get back to school," said Pepper, formerly the No. 1-ranked golfer in the world and currently a broadcaster for ESPN.

The new book again features the series’ title character, Bogey Ballton, who is attending Best Ball School in an attempt to earn his tour card.  Because he is a range ball, Bogey becomes an easy target for a group of bullies until the other students, led by Bogey’s bully busting gal pal Daisy, stand up and put a stop to the bullying.

Scooter Pines Publishing, a division of Scooter Pines Holdings, LLC, is publishing “A Lesson About Bullying.”  The new book will be formally introduced during the Wegmans LPGA Championship, to be held Aug. 11-17 at, Monroe Golf Club in Pittsford, N.Y.

A portion of the book’s proceeds will go to help support The LPGA Foundation, whose mission is to empower and support girls and women through developmental and humanitarian golf initiatives.  Additionally, 150 autographed “Bogey Tees Off Vol. 1” books will be distributed throughout the Rochester area to help promote literacy and the tournament.

"In addition to giving back, Bogey's mission is to get kids playing golf, reading, and having fun," Fuller said.  “The Wegmans LPGA Championship is the perfect place to have fun and introduce our female hero, Daisy!”

Among many other books, Dave Donelson is the author of Weird Golf: 18 tales of fantastic, horrific, scientifically impossible, and morally reprehensible golf

Monday, August 4, 2014

Golf In the Wilderness at Jasper Park


Canadian Rockies golf will leave you with many visual memories, but one that will stay with me for a long time was a wolf stalking ground squirrels late in the day on the thirteenth hole at Jasper Park.  Add that to the brown bear we'd seen earlier in the day near the ninth tee, the elk that stopped to nosh on the flowers in the window box outside my cabin bedroom that morning, and my visit to the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge was a visual delight. The golf was memorable, too.

The Jasper Park Golf Course epitomizes classic design that has stood the test of time.  Stanley Thompson’s genius was such that only one hole has been altered since the course opened in 1925, yet it remains challenging and thoroughly enjoyable to today's titanium-faced, graphite-loaded modern golfer.  With a brilliant mix of long and short, left and right, up and down holes and four sets of tees ranging from 5,397 to 6,663 yards—not to mention a spectacular setting—Jasper Park will please and test every golfer.

The par threes are treacherously delightful. There are five of them, each unique. The first you encounter is the fourth hole, where drivers are frequently used on the tee since it measures 220 yards and plays to a lightly elevated green and often into the wind.  The 214-yard ninth plays steeply downhill to a green shaped like the hole’s namesake, “Cleopatra.”  The last one-shotter is the fifteenth hole, aptly called “The Bad Baby,” a little bugger that earns its name with 130 yards to a small, heavily defended green where even the slightest misdirection off the tee will send you into a deep bunker to the left or a nasty collection area on the right.

The back nine gives you one memorable hole after another, beginning with the 483-yard par-five tenth that is shaped into a double dogleg by innumerable bunkers. The 581-yard thirteenth finishes with a downhill blind shot to a tiny green nestled in the pines—aim for the birdhouse mounted behind it. A knee-knocking tee ball over crystal-clear Lac Beauvert turns the 361-yard fourteenth hole into a shotmaker’s test.

The Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge couldn’t be more different from its sister Fairmont Hotel in Banff Springs.  No imposing castle here.  Instead, the rooms are located in cabins spread throughout the property around picture-perfect Lac Beauvert.  The cabins vary in size and layout, but all exude a wilderness aura made perfect by a small herd of elk that frequently meander through the grounds during the morning hours and the coyotes heard wailing into the night. For a real memory, consider booking the “Royal Retreat,” a 6,000-sq. ft. log cabin recreated from the plans of the original that hosted King George VI in 1939.

Among many other books, Dave Donelson is the author of Weird Golf: 18 tales of fantastic, horrific, scientifically impossible, and morally reprehensible golf

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Honor Wounded Warriors at World's Largest Golf Outing

World's Largest Golf Outing
The fourth annual “World’s Largest Golf Outing,” will be held Monday, August 11, to benefit Wounded Warrior Project (WWP).  The simultaneous golf outing will be played at more than 120 Billy Casper Golf-managed courses in 28 states and is open to all golfers regardless of ability.  Locally, you can participate in this great event at Hudson Hills GC in Ossining.

Part of event proceeds and all donations from non-players benefit WWP, the national organization whose mission is to honor and empower Wounded Warriors – some of whom will be playing in the World’s Largest Golf Outing.  Teams are encouraged to raise additional funds to support the worthy cause; donations to WWP unrelated to event participation are made at www.worldslargestgolfouting.com.

Last year, Billy Casper Golf (BCG) hosted more than 10,000 golfers, including 70 injured service members at 110 of its courses in 24 states and raised $725,000 for WWP, topping the 2012 event that totaled 7,800 golfers and $400,000 to WWP.

Since its inception four years ago, the World’s Largest Golf Outing has donated more than $1.1 million to WWP, the largest amount ever via a single-day golf event.  BCG forecasts another record-breaking charity donation this year.

“The World’s Largest Golf Outing continues to raise the bar in giving back to our injured veterans,” says Peter Hill, Chairman and CEO of BCG.  “The astounding growth in participation and donations by Billy Casper Golf’s loyal golfers is humbling and shows unwavering support for our country’s heroes.”

“Our warriors were awed by the generosity of golfers,” says Adam Silva, Chief Development Officer of WWP.  “We salute the innovative ways of Billy Casper Golf and look forward to this year’s edition of the World’s Largest Golf Outing.”

Highlights from the 2013 World’s Largest Golf Outing:

Lyman Orchards Golf Club (Middlefield, CT) raised $51,449 in total donations

Team Calkin at Alta Vista Country Club (Placentia, CA) raised $14,960

Four teams raised more than $8,000 each

10 courses hosted more than 200 golfers (Lincoln Hills Golf Club in Lincoln, CA, hosted 307)

Teams of father-son wounded warriors, celebrities and politicians played in the event

Three holes-in-one were recorded at Lyman Orchards, Bear Creek Golf Club (Dallas, TX) and Eastpointe Country Club (Palm Beach Gardens, FL)

“The outpouring from across the country is incredible,” says Sergeant Robert Maier, an injured service member who survived two IED attacks and played in the 2013 World’s Largest Golf Outing.  “The money raised does amazing things for us and our families.”

All golfers will be entered into a drawing to win a grand-prize, and prizes can be earned by teams with the highest contribution levels and best scores of the day.

For more information about participating courses and to register: www.worldslargestgolfouting.com

Wounded Warrior Project this year recognizes its ten-year anniversary, a decade of service and reaffirming its commitment to serving injured veterans for their lifetime.  WWP currently serves more than 50,000 warriors and nearly 7,000 family members through its unique 20 programs and services.  WWP’s purpose is to raise awareness and to enlist the public’s aid for the needs of injured service members, to help injured servicemen and women aid and assist each other, and to provide unique, direct programs and services to meet their needs.

Among many other books, Dave Donelson is the author of Weird Golf: 18 tales of fantastic, horrific, scientifically impossible, and morally reprehensible golf