We've Moved

We've Moved!

Dave Donelson Tee To Green has an exciting new home at
Westchester Magazine.

We're still about all things golf, especially those pertinent to golfers in Westchester and the NY Metro, but now we're in a much bigger space!

Please visit our new home at

Saturday, December 6, 2008

The Hardest Shot In Golf?

One of the worst feelings in golf is the one you get after cracking a big drive off the tee only to watch your ball trickle into a fairway bunker. "Who put that #&@$% thing there?" is about the nicest thing you'll say when it happens.

When I told Heath Wassem I wanted him to demonstrate how to make a long bunker shot, he said with a laugh, “Oh, the hardest shot in golf!” Wassem is the head pro at Fenway Golf Club in Scarsdale, NY, and a former Westchester Golf Association Player of the Year. I figured if anybody could handle it, he could.

“The key to this shot is, don’t land here in the first place,” he said cheerfully while standing seventy-five yards from the green in one of the dozens of serpentine bunkers that challenge golfers at Fenway. I told him that advice wasn’t helpful.
“You have to contact the ball first before the sand, so you get it to the green,” he answered more seriously. I noted that this is absolutely opposite to what you’re supposed to do in a green-side bunker and he agreed. He choked up a full hand-width from the end of the club and said, “Play the ball back in your stance, grip down, and take a little extra club so you can take a smoother swing.”
I’ve heard that smooth swing mantra before. It’s hard to do when you’re standing in kitty litter and your buddies are snickering from the sidelines because they know you don’t have a clue how hard to hit the ball to make it reach the green without sailing over it.

Wassem didn’t have that problem, of course. Every one of his long bunker shots landed on the green and bounced toward the hole like he’d just tossed it underhanded instead of hitting it with a golf club. His key? “Aim at the equator of the golf ball” so you hit the ball first, he replied.

Dave Donelson, author of Heart of Diamonds a about in the

Friday, November 21, 2008

Gas Attack

Here's some new golf technology for you: PowerBilt is filling the head of a golf club with nitrogen gas. NO, it doesn't sound like a Whoopee Cushion when you hit it and NO it doesn't explode--although the company says the idea is to get explosive power off the tee.

Just in case you miss the point, the line is called "Air Force One."

PowerBilt says that by filling the head of a driver, fairway wood, or hybrid with nitrogen gas, it can offer clubs with multiple face thicknesses, thus allowing all golfers to flex the face the way pros do.

The compressed nitrogen, which is pumped in to a pressure of 150 psi, supports the face with no mechanical bracing. There is a face thickness for big hitters and one for golfers with a more-controlled swing in the line. The face of any good driver flexes when it hits a golf ball, producing what is often referred to as the “trampoline” effect. The thinner the face, the more it flexes, although there is a point beyond which the USGA police can arrest you for using a club that's "non-conforming."

I tried the technology out at Chelsea Piers in New York and was suitably impressed. It may have been my imagination, but I swear I could feel the club face flex when I hit one on the screws. That didn't happen often due to operator error, but when it did the results were as advertised--long and straight. I particularly liked the three-wood, probably because the shaft on the demo drivers was a standard length whereas I normally hit a driver that's cut down an inch.

The clubs will be a particular boon, I suspect, to those of us with slower swing speeds. We get no trampoline effect off a standard club face, so the thinner face on the PowerBilt line should give us a little extra "oomph" where it counts.

Dave Donelson, author of Heart of Diamonds a about in the

Friday, November 14, 2008

120 Years Of Golf History

America’s oldest golf club celebrates its 120th anniversary today, Friday, November 14, 2008. I've enjoyed the course many times and would like to add my felicitations to the chorus of congratulatory messages I'm sure they are receiving.

St. Andrew's 10th Hold
The Saint Andrew’s Golf Club was founded when Scottish sportsman John Reid gathered his friends at a pasture in Yonkers, New York, on February 22, 1888, for what became the first official round of golf in the United States. Armed with a handful of clubs and balls imported from his homeland (and perhaps a wee dram to fight the February chill?) Reid roughed out a three-hole course and thus made history in the rolling hills of Westchester.

Reid and his buddies dubbed themselves “The Apple Tree Gang” to memorialize the tree located at the subsequent apple orchard course site where the gentlemen hung their coats and wicker decanters of whisky. A few months later, on November 14, 1888 at a formal meeting at Reid’s home, The Saint Andrew’s Golf Club was founded.

After a re-location or two, Reid’s legacy lives on at The Saint Andrew’s Golf Club in Hastings-on-Hudson, New York, which claims with some great justification to being America’s oldest enduring golf club.
“The finest thing The Saint Andrew’s Golf Club did in starting the game of golf was...that they started it right, with the right traditions,” said legendary champion Bobby Jones.
Saint Andrew’s has a rich history, including it's role as a founding member of the United States Golf Association (USGA) in December 1894. The club also hosted the first unofficial U.S. Amateur as well as the first “open” championship.

Dave Donelson, author of Heart of Diamonds a about in the

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Downhill, High and Soft

A downhill lie can be a bugger, especially when you need to hit a delicate approach. It’s a common problem where I play most of my golf, in Westchester County, where golf courses are noted for having undulating (or worse) fairways and you almost never have a level lie.

For help, I went to Bobby Heins, long-time head professional at Old Oaks Country Club in Purchase, NY, and long-time star of the Met PGA Secion. Bobby took me out to its fifteenth hole, where the postage-stamp sized green is surrounded by bunkers, which demands a high, soft approach shot. Unfortunately, you have to hit that shot standing downhill.

The key is to not believe everything you read, according to Heins. “Most people have read the books, so they put the ball back in their stance,” he said. “That causes the ball to fly low and screws up their distance. Or they play it normal and the instinct is to try and get your balance back. Because the ground is higher behind the ball, they hit fat or they skull it. I see it every day.”

The solution? “Play the ball just slightly back of normal, put your weight on the front foot—maybe sixty percent—and elongate the bottom of the swing while turning around the left leg. The last thing you want to do is lean back and try to help it into the air.”

I knew there had to be more to it. “The usual tendency will be for the ball to go a little right off the downhill lie,” he added. “So aim a little left.”

After Heins floated several towering shots that landed softly in the middle of the green 130 yards away, I asked him for a single key. “Your club head should follow the slope,” he answered, “And keep the club down through impact.”

That was two keys, but I let him ride.

Dave Donelson, author of Heart of Diamonds a about in the

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Rob Labritz Tops Met PGA Section

Rob LabritzRob Labritz has been crowned “Player of the Year” by the ultra-competitive Metropolitan Section of the PGA. Labritz, the Director of Golf at Bedford, NY's GlenArbor Golf Club won the singular honor with a stellar season of competition against a group of what are arguably the strongest group of club pros in the country's 41 PGA Sections.

Labritz racked up victories at the New York State Open at Bethpage Black, won the US Open Local Qualifying Round, and the Metropolitan Head Professional Championship, and had top finishes at the Metropolitan Open (third place) and the New England Open (fifth place). He clinched the title with a solo second place finish in the Treiber Memorial.
“This win is a product of hard work and dedication. I’ve been working for it all year long. Day after day, I spent countless hours at GlenArbor’s Short Game Center practicing every possible shot from within 125 yards of the pin, chipping and putting. I am very fortunate to have access to such incredible facilities.”
Labritz and the GlenArbor Short Game Center was featured in an article I wrote a couple of years ago for Westchester Magazine.

Labritz was also named 2008 Westchester PGA Player of the Year, earning this title for the third time in six years.

Dave Donelson, author of Heart of Diamonds a about in the

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

A Reason To Go Back To School

Fordham University in Westchester is tempting me to go back to school with "CONQUERING THE COURSE: Maximize Your Business and Golf Performance," a course offered through their Executive Education Program during the fall semester. Patrick Montana, Ph.D., a certified master golf teaching professional and author of 27 books in the fields of management and marketing, is the instructor.

The course includes two sessions covering Time Management and Managing for Results as well as two nine-hole golf instructional segments at Hollow Brook Golf Club in Cortlandt Manor, New York.

Montana has served as a visiting professor of management at Fordham's Graduate School of Business Administration. His books include Conquering the Course: Nine Steps to Manage Your Business and Golf Expectations (John Wiley) and Management (Barron's).
"There are many similarities in management and golf, as well as in teaching management and golf," said Montana. "Both require strategic thinking, planning, execution, control, evaluation and feedback. Given golf's popularity and global reach as well as its multibillion dollar market, we are constantly seeking ways to nurture this vibrant sport and make it and our business more efficient and effective."
Now, if he could just manage my putting stroke....

Dave Donelson, author of Heart of Diamonds a about in the

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Radio Daze with Brian Crowell

I had some fun recently visiting with Brian Crowell and his partner in crime Mark Jeffers on the Clubhouse Report, their weekly golf/sports/whatever talk show on WFAS Radio. The Hartsdale, NY, station is at AM 1230.

While I was officially there to plug my novel Heart of Diamonds, we also talked about all sorts of golf, including the FedEx Cup, the Ryder Cup, and the LPGA's controversial but never-adopted policy to require players to demonstrate English proficiency. Click to hear an mp3 excerpt from the program.

Dave Donelson, author of Heart of Diamonds a about in the

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Sudden Death Is Sudden Fun

James Patterson said it best, “You like golf, you like murder mysteries, then Sudden Death is your book."

Michael Balkind’s Sudden Death is the story of PGA Tour star Reid Clark, a sometimes not-very-likeable hero who competes—and wins—at the highest levels of competitive golf while literally under the gun from an anonymous assailant. Reid perseveres despite the cloud of death hovering over him, making for a suspenseful, hard-charging plot.

I particularly enjoyed Balkind’s description of places like Westchester Country Club in Harrison, where I play frequently. Now that I’ve read Sudden Death, in addition to the extreme elevation changes, tight fairways, and ridiculously difficult greens, I can add visions of a sniper lurking in the trees to the list of hazards to be considered the next time I tee it up there.

Dave Donelson, author of Heart of Diamonds a about in the

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Machismo Mafia On The Tee

Black, blue, white, green, gold--nearly every golf course offers a choice of tee boxes meant to make the game enjoyable for every player. Unfortunately, testosterone determines the tee box most players choose.

Instead of playing a course length appropriate to their physical ability and skill level—one where they can play every club in their bag, face the widest variety of challenging approach shots, and get the greatest amount of satisfaction from the game—they insist on hitting from the back tees. No girly men here!

Ask them why, and they’ll say something like “I want to see all the course.” It’s a stupid observation, but one unfortunately true in a way they don’t realize. Because they’re trying to hit their tee shot farther (consciously or not), they’re much more likely to drive the ball off-line, greatly increasing the chances of seeing the rough, the trees, the lakes, the next fairway, and the patio beyond the out-of-bound stakes. Sure makes the game fun.

Even when they somehow make the fairway, these “bombers” are usually well back from the position where the course designer intended the second shot on the hole to be played. Most courses are designed for a 250-yard drive, which is what the USGA expects the scratch player to hit. The machismo mafia may think they drive the ball 280 or even 300 like the pros, but I guarantee they hit the vast majority of their tee shots 235 or less on a good day. Once a month it goes 260; once a season 280. We all remember those bombs; unfortunately the reason we remember them so well is that they are the exception to the rule.

So, in those rare instances where it lands in the fairway, where does that 235-yard drive leave you for your second shot? Playing a hybrid or a fairway wood of (heaven forbid) a long iron into a green meant to be approached with a mid- or short-iron. And it’s a long way, so you swing harder, just like you did off the tee.

If the only time you hit a short iron is for your third shot on a par four, you’re playing from the wrong tees.

You should be guided to the correct tees by your handicap. Most courses recommend about a 10 or less play from the blues. Anything higher should go from the whites. Only a true scratch golfer should even think about playing the tips.

Another way is to analyze the scorecard in relation to your game. If your (honestly-measured) average drive goes 235, subtract that from the yardage of the par fours on the course. If you’re left with over honest five-iron distance on more than a third of the par fours, you probably should be swinging from the whites.

Playing the right tees isn’t about shooting a lower score, by the way. It’s about getting the most enjoyment from your game. It takes a lot more skill to execute a wide variety of second shots than it does to bomb one off the tee and into the woods.

Dave Donelson, author of Heart of Diamonds a about in the

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Scavino - Cream Rises To The Top

All my friends are becoming famous, it seems. Dan Scavino, General Manager of Trump National Golf Club in Westchester Couny, New York has been promoted by Donald J. Trump, to Executive Vice President and General Manager of the club. Kudos to Dan!

Scavino joined the Trump Organization in 2004 after stints with Coca-Cola and Galderma Labs. Dan not only runs a great golf club, but devotes a significant amount of time to community service as well. He was awarded a Citation of Merit from the New York State Senate for outstanding citizenship and was recognized for helping former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani raise funds for victims of Hurricane Katrina with an AmeriCares golf outing at Trump National. Scavino has worked very closely with organizations such as The Joe Torre Safe At Home Foundation, Alonzo Mourning Charities, The Eric Trump Foundation, Easter Seals, American Cancer Society, and countless others.

Dave Donelson, author of Heart of Diamonds a about in the

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Swing Tips From Hank Haney

My friend Stacy Solomon recently conducted a fine interview with Hank Haney, one of the game's top instructors and most widely noted as the man who helped Tiger Woods rebuild his swing. Stacy got Haney to tell us mortals how to hit the ball better, too.

For a free lesson from Tiger Woods' swing coach, go to Golf for Beginners

Dave Donelson, author of Heart of Diamonds a about in the

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Anglebrook Lands Mid-Am

Anglebrook 18
One of my all-time favorite courses has been chosen by the Metropolitan Golf Association to host the Mid-Amateur, one of the leading tournaments on the roster of the New York metro area golf organization. Anglebrook Golf Club, a 10-year-old gem in Lincolndale, NY, will host the two-day event in 2013.

The MGA Mid-Amateur is a 36-hole stroke-play invitational for the area's best amateurs aged 35 years and older. A field of 80 or so begin the tournament, but the field is reduced to the low 40 and ties for the second day.

Last year's event was won by Tuxedo Country Club member Michael Reardon, who shot 69-72-141 at Hudson National, where the slope of 146 is just slightly higher than Anglebrook's 143. Bayonne Golf Club hosts this year's tournament, with The Creek ('09), GlenArbor ('10 and another of my favorites), and Essex County Country Club ('11) coming up.

This is the second time the MGA tapped Anglebrook:
"Following our experience at the 2007 U.S. Amateur sectional qualifying round, it became obvious that the challenge, the beauty and the location of Anglebrook made it a perfect site for our Mid-Am."
--Gene Westmoreland, MGA Tournament Director
Anglebrook General Manager Matt Sullivan says the club is honored to join the list of prestigious sites chosen by the MGA for one of its premiere events.

Dave Donelson, author of Heart of Diamonds a about in the

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Pound Ridge Golf Club - Pete Dye Ball-Eater

Pound Ridge #15
Pound Ridge Golf Club, Pete Dye’s newly-opened ball-eater, is a spectacular golf course in a place where there are many spectacular golf courses already--Westchester County, NY. His first New York course joins a pantheon of legendary tracks like Winged Foot, Quaker Ridge, Westchester Country Club, Fenway, and Century, not to mention legends-in-the-making such as Hudson National, GlenArbor, Golf Club of Purchase, Trump National, and Anglebrook. It will be interesting to see how it rates with this sophisticated golf community.

I toured Pound Ridge while it was under construction, then played it during the Grand Opening just before it went live to the public. It’s look is unlike that of any other course in the area, which is what you would expect from Pete Dye and his son, Perry, who actually deserves most of the credit for the layout. The new course was literally blasted out of Westchester granite on 172 wooded, rolling acres. Fairways are narrow and rolling, surrounded my moguls, expansive bunkers, and what seems like miles and miles of stone walls (they had to do something with all that blast debris). Rock outcroppings are everywhere, as are environmentally-protected wetlands and acres of dense woodlands. The course is visually stunning.

At 7,171 yards from the tips, it’s plenty of golf course, too, although four other sets of tees ranging down to 5,180 yards make it perfectly playable for all types of golfers. The key to enjoying the course, in fact, is choosing the right set of tees. Several holes have forced carries and obstacles like trees and rock formations that will ruin the round of the player who insists on playing the blues (6,787) when their handicap calls for the whites (6,279). That’s a common theme, of course, but Pete Dye drives the point home with a vengeance.

The 18th hole is the most controversial in that regard. From the white tees, it’s a 415-yard par four with a series of bunkers along the left leading to a pond that pinches the front of the green. Moguls line the right side the length of the hole. Two huge maples stand 130 yards from the tee in the right rough. Go forty yards back to the blue tees, though, and the hole not only becomes a more respectable 454-yarder, but those two maples now completely block the line to the fairway about 170 yards off the tee. Since they’re at least 75 feet tall, it’s almost impossible to hit a driver high enough to carry over them. A sweeping fade means you have to aim directly at the fairway bunkers on the left; setting up for a draw points you at the adjacent fairway and has to come back over the moguls in the right rough.

Pete Dye
As Dye told my friend John Paul Newport of the Wall Street Journal, "Anybody dumb enough to play the hole from back there can try to work around it if they want to. There'll be some bellyaching, but who cares?"

The most interesting feature of Pound Ridge, though, is that it’s a daily fee course, not a private club. Owner Ken Wang, brother of fashion diva Vera Wang (who hits a mean driver herself, by the way) saw a need for a high-end public course in the New York metro market. He may be right, too, since Westchester County has a grand total of six public golf courses (munis, really) serving a population of nearly a million people. There are a few daily-fee courses within a hour’s drive, but none of them are even remotely in the same league. Greens fees at Pound Ridge? $235 including cart and use of practice facilities.

Dave Donelson, author of Heart of Diamonds a about in the

Watch great live golf thanks to the best satellite tv deals for cheap satellite at SatelliteDish.tv!

Friday, June 27, 2008

Link Braggart Laid Low

LaVerne Moore was one of the more colorful figures in the world of golf in the 1930's and Leigh Montville tells his tale in all its boisterous glory in The Mysterious Montague, A True Tale of Hollywood, Golf, and Armed Robbery.

John Montague, as Moore was better known, was a trick shot artist who could chip a ball into a highball glass or under the sash of a partially-opened window across the room. He reputedly knocked a bird off a power line from 170 yards and consistently drove the ball over 300 yards with a specially-made oversized driver the weighed twice as much as the standard club of its time. Most famously, he once beat Bing Crosby while playing only with a rake, a shovel, and a baseball bat.

Montague had a secret, though. It was why he never allowed himself to be photographed and reputedly why he never entered any professional events. When that secret was revealed, it led to a sensational trial in upstate New York that turned into a celebrity-laden media fest. The secret is told in the first chapter of the book: Montague was wanted under his real name, LaVerne Moore, for the armed robbery of a roadside restaurant in the Adirondacks in 1930. The trial and its aftermath is an interesting window into the media world of the time.

Montville entertains the reader with tales of Montague's prowess, although it's obvious many of them grew to legendary status mainly through the re-telling such feats engender. He also gives us a good look at the celebrities who flocked to Montague's cause. Babe Ruth, Bing Crosby, Oliver Hardy, W.C. Fields, Howard Hughes, Babe Didrickson Zaharias, and many more were tied to Montague one way or another. Sportswriter Grantland Rice was his biggest fan.

The end of the book, which chronicles Montague's late-in-life attempt to break into the ranks of professional tournament golf, may be of the greatest interest to players of the game. Weakened by too many years of Hollywood parties and lack of practice, Montague was a miserable failure in his attempts to compete with PGA stars, who had disdained him from the start.

Dave Donelson, author of Heart of Diamonds a about in the

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Charlie Sifford & Gary Player - A Class Act

Charlie Sifford, the first African-American to play on the PGA Tour, was presented with the Gold Tee Award by the Metropolitan Golf Writers Association last night. The ceremony was one of the most moving experiences I’ve had in a long, long time.

What really made it sparkle was Gary Player’s acceptance speech for the Special Recognition Award presented to him by the MGWA at the same event. He graciously accepted the award, but then insisted on turning the spotlight on Sifford, whom he saluted at length as a strong competitor, loving husband, and powerful crusader for human dignity. It was a pure touch of class by the Black Knight, who suffered many of the same types of racial abuse during his playing days as a result of his steadfast stand against apartheid in his native South Africa.

Sifford’s story is testament to an indomitable spirit. He became a caddie at the age of 13 in this home town of Charlotte, North Carolina. Four years later, he turned pro and went on to win the United Golf Association’s National Negro Open six times, including five straight titles beginning in 1952.

He tried to qualify for the 1952 PGA Phoenix Open—a PGA Tour event—but was threatened and racially abused. In 1957, he won the Long Beach Open, a milestone of sorts since it was co-sponsored by the PGA even though it was not an official PGA event.

Finally, in 1961, Charlie Sifford overcame the “caucasion only” rule imposed by the PGA and won a tour card, the first African-American to do so. He became the Tour’s first African-American winner in 1967 when he won the Greater Hartford Open. In 1969, he won the Los Angeles Open. In a black mark that still stands, however, he was never invited to play in The Masters.

Sifford’s story is an inspiring one, and his humor-filled, poignant remarks at last night’s award dinner in Tarrytown, NY, reflected a life filled with both struggle and grace.

Dave Donelson, author of Heart of Diamonds a about in the

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Swing Tips From the U.S. Open

Brian Crowell, analyst for NBC Sports and Head Pro at GlenArbor in Bedford, NY, made some cogent observations (as always) about the golf swings of two fascinating players during the Wrap Up Show following the second round of the U.S. Open at Torrey Pines.

He pointed out how Phil Mickelson adapts his swing to play a wedge out of the high rough--a place where he spent much of the first two rounds.

Brian also critiqued Rocco Mediate's unorthodox address position and talked about how it compares with what's considered ideal alignment at address.

I've seen Brian on the lesson tee at GlenArbor, and can guarantee that he knows whereof he speaks.

Dave Donelson, author of Heart of Diamonds a about in the

Friday, June 13, 2008

Andrew Svoboda Fun at Torrey Pines

Andrew Svoboda of Larchmont, NY, gave me a prescient comment in an interview last year that previewed his winning attitude about playing in the U.S. Open this year at Torrey Pines. Andy slipped into the field as a last-minute replacement for Brett Wetterich, who withdrew because of a wrist injury.

I had interviewed him for an article about what it takes to succeed in the game, drawing on his experience as a four-time Winged Food club champion who now plays on the Hooters Tour. He qualified for the 2006 Open at his home course, but failed that year to make the cut.

During my interview with the 28-year-old Andy, he offered some wise words about playing good golf. “Learning the game at an early age helps," he said. "If someone takes up golf when they’re in their twenties or later, it’s hard to devote the time to it. Playing once a week makes it hard to get better.”

The solution? “You should just relax and have fun out there.”

Svoboda is having some fun at Torrey Pines. His opening round 77 was a little disappointing, but he roared back Friday with a 71, putting him into the weekend play tied with Masters Champion Trevor Immelman. How much fun is that?

Dave Donelson, author of Heart of Diamonds a about in the

Brian Crowell Analysis Is U.S. Open Winner

Even if you watched every second of the day's play at Torrey Pines, you'll get a great second look with some good insightful commentary provided by my friend Brian Crowell on NBC's online U.S. Open Wrapup. It's only Brian's second year in the analyst's chair, but his commentary is as pointed and on-target as Johnny Miller's.

In analyzing Phil Mickelson's first round, for example, Brian expressed astonishment that the number two player in the world announced before the championship that he was aiming for an even-par opening round. Brian observed, "Having one of these guys come out here shooting for par really threw me." As he pointed out, even under U.S. Open conditions, a player like Mickelson should certainly at least try to go low.

Brian also pointed out that Lefty's strategy of carrying a strong three-wood instead of a driver so he could stay in the narrow fairways at Torrey Pines evidently didn't work very well; he only hit six of them. With 33 putts, his vaunted flat stick play didn't live up to its reputation either, Brain observed.

The NBC U.S. Open Wrapup goes live online around 10 PM Eastern following each day's round. Brian (whom I know from GlenArbor Golf Club in Bedford, NY), works with show host Bill Patrick and commentator Jennifer Mills.

Dave Donelson, author of Heart of Diamonds a about in the

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Westchester Amateur at Torrey Pines

Michael Quagliano picked up a golf club when he was six and a half and declared that he intended to play the game, according to his father Steve. This week, he’s playing in the U.S. Open at Torrey Pines, one of eight amateurs in the field.

I interviewed Michael and his parents, Steve and Jean Quagliano, in 2004 as the then-seventeen-year-old was packing to leave his parents' Ardsley, NY, home to begin his freshman year on a full golf scholarship at Duke University in Durham, NC. Michael is a three-time Metropolitan PGA Junior Player of the Year, won the 2008 Met Junior, 2002 MGA/MetLife Boys Championship, and the 2007 Westchester Amateur. Around the time he turned old enough for a driver’s license, he barely missed qualifying to play with the pros by just one stroke at the 2003 Buick Classic at Westchester Country Club. He’s the captain of the golf team at Duke, where he’ll be a senior this year.

I’m avidly following his blog from Torrey Pines, (as told to Dan Berger) where he’s playing his first major championship. Looking back at what I wrote after my interview with him four years ago, I don’t think this will be his last.

"For me," said Michael, "most importantly it's the practice schedule and the work ethic." Michael is a serious person whose bespectacled face is that of a young man whose favorite subject in school is economics, the dismal science. He knows who Alan Greenspan is, even though he confesses to being like the rest of us and not understanding every word the man says. Michael believes in setting goals and working hard to achieve them. He likes to win, too--a lot. "The thrill of competition for me is definitely knowing that you've achieved something and done well, and it also doesn't hurt to know that both you and the other person know that you have prepared better or simply performed better."

Wolfgang Mozart had his father Leopold. Michael Quagliano has Steve, who rowed and coached on the US Olympic team and organizes Michael's career. "Michael's team is fairly large," Steve said. "It's not just Michael and his mommy and daddy. It's Dr. Tom Crawford, director of physiology, Dr. Jonathan Katz, sports psychologist, Dr. Karen Dolan, nutritionist, Carl Alexander, his swing coach, and Jim O'Mara, who's kind of a family mentor. I kind of manage each area and try to hold them together and use what we need to move forward." When I wrote the original article, Alexander was head pro at Glen Arbor Country Club, where Michael is a special junior intern member. O'Mara, Michael's first golf instructor, is Director of Golf at the TPC Golf Course in Boston.

Steve also works out the tournament schedule and arranges trips to the Titleist golf equipment factory where Michael is fitted with custom-made clubs provided at no cost by the company much as they do for PGA tour pros (strictly in accordance with NCAA rules, of course).

One of the biggest roles played by the parents is traveling companion, a job which is tiring and time-consuming, but one which has rewards of its own. Jean Quagliano said, "I wouldn't say that I'm sacrificing anything; I would say that it actually strengthened and enriched our relationship. Think about it: there aren't that many things that would put you together so much like that."
"There are way too many things to achieve and way too many records that have to be broken by someone," Michael says with a steady gaze. "If you like what you're doing and you want that, then there's really no end to it."

Another fun tidbit from the small-world-of-golf department: Dave Gagnon, who will be caddying for Michael at Torrey Pines, is a teaching pro at GlenArbor that I’ve known for several years. My best wishes to both.
Dave Donelson, author of Heart of Diamonds a about in the

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Hot Stix Fix

I’ve always suspected it, but now I know—my golf clubs are costing me strokes. Yes, despite the oft-heard adage that it’s the carpenter, not the hammer, who bends the nail, I now have confirmation that my clubs are responsible for at least some of my errant shots.

The truth was confirmed by a trip to Hot Stix Golf Performance Center at the Doral Arrowwood in Rye Brook, NY. I took my irons in for a check-up and was shocked by what Steve Grosz and Chris Marsh found when they put the clubs to the test. Then I was delighted by what they did to fix them. My irons, by the way, are Ping i-3’s that were fitted to me four years ago and seemed to work just fine at the time. But that was then and this is now and, despite a better swing thanks to many lessons and much practice, my approach shots seemed to be getting more and more erratic.

Hot Stix club fittingIt turns out that at least part of the problem is the clubs. Grosz explained that, once the basic lie angle is determined by your body and your swing (which is what used to happen during a normal fitting), each one of a matched set of irons should have progressively shorter shafts (by a half-inch each) and a one-half degree more upright lie angle. When they measured my irons, some of them were as much as three times more upright than they should be.

Does it matter? Only if you want to hit greens in regulation. Each degree an eight iron is off, for example, sends a 150-yard shot 15 feet off-line unless your swing somehow compensates for it. As you can imagine, it’s almost impossible to consciously or sub-consciously adjust every swing if the clubs aren’t right. So what’s the big deal about 15 feet? If the hole is cut five paces from the edge of the green (which would be a generous position), your approach is going to land somewhere other than the putting surface.

Grosz and Marsh measured all my irons and reset the lie angles. Now the same swing should produce the same line with each club—assuming I swing the same way twice. Considering that my pitching wedge was a whopping 1.5 degrees off, I expect to be looking at a lot more birdie putts instead of hoping for a sand save.

This is just one facet of the complete testing and fitting service Hot Stix provides. They also measure the ideal loft and shaft frequency for your irons (and woods) and determine the proper weight and bounce for each of your wedges. If you want, they’ll also apply their technological skill to your putting stroke, measuring impact, launch angle, skid, follow-through, and consistency. Services are available individually (an iron fitting lasts about 90 minutes and costs about $200), or you can go the whole route and get a “Tour fitting” that includes a session on the course where the experts will observe your swing under varying conditions. That lasts four to six hours.

The biggest single advantage Hot Stix offers, in my opinion, is that all testing is done outdoors on a full range, so the GPS and vector analysis is complimented by seeing the actual ball flight. I think I swing differently outdoors than I do in a testing booth, too.

Dave Donelson, author of Heart of Diamonds a about in the

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Tillinghast at Saxon Woods

A.W. Tillinghast is renowned as the creator of dozens of world-class golf courses. I was delighted to learn that he also designed my favorite local muni course, Saxon Woods in Scarsdale, NY. It's not likely I'll ever become a member at Winged Foot (although hope springs eternal), but for $25, I can tee it up at Saxon Woods whenever I want.

I'd heard rumors about Tilly's involvement with the Westchester County-owned course, but had poo-pooed them along with everyone else until a friend, Ken Sojka, brought me a copy of Philip Young's limited edition book, A.W. Tillinghast, Creator of Golf Courses. Saxon Woods is mentioned several times and listed as one of Tilly's original designs. The year was 1930, and it was apparent the great man needed the work as depression gripped the country.

Many of the holes at Saxon have been altered, of course, but there are clear marks of Tillinghast's genius throughout the course. The third hole, a long "three-shotter" as he would have called it, has an obviously artificial mound cramping the fairway at the landing area for the second shot as well as two steep-faced bunkers squeezing the green. The fifth hole, my favorite on the course, is a dog-leg par four that offers two strategies off the tee--a well-placed straight drive to the left half of the fairway that leaves a mid iron over another mound, or a long fade to a narrow alley next to the mound that rewards the perfect tee shot with a wedge. The green, too, is highly contoured and protected by a bunker on the right. The 17th hole is one of the best par 3's around, with a steep narrow green set at an angle, surrounded by bunkers, and fronted by a stream. The real Tilly touch is the tee box, which points not at the green but to the right of it.

Another interesting fact is that a well-struck three-wood (or two) would carry your ball from Saxon Woods over the Hutchinson River Parkway to Quaker Ridge. From there, a seven-iron over Griffen Avenue would get it to Winged Foot. I love playing golf in good company.

Dave Donelson, author of Heart of Diamonds a about in the

Monday, May 12, 2008

Would Tiger Beat Harry Vardon?

A favorite topic for discussion among golfers is how cross-generational matches would turn out. Would Tiger beat Jack Nicklaus? How would he fare against Ben Hogan? or Bobbie Jones? After reading The Vardon Invasion by Bob Labbance and Brian Siplo, I'd like to throw Harry Vardon's name into the mix.

The book tells the tale of how Vardon came to America in 1900 and energized the game in this country. He not only won the U.S. Open that year, but played 90 matches against the best amateur and professional golfers from Maine to Florida and west to Colorado. The book recounts many of those matches and is filled with interesting sidebars about his opponents and the courses they played.

I found descriptions of the courses themselves fascinating. Instead of the billiard-table greens and manicured fairways we play today, Harry and the boys teed it up on nine-hole tracks where irrigation was unheard of and greens might be "browns" of oiled and rolled sand rather than grass.

Vardon, of course, is best known here for his defeat in the 1913 U.S. Open at Brookline by Francis Ouimet. He won the British Open, though, six times--a record that stands to this day. He won 75 of the 90 matches in the 1900 tour covered in this book--most of them played against the best ball of two top amateurs or pros. A record like that would be envied by golfers of any generation.

Bob Labbance and Brian Siplo compiled The Vardon Invasion through countless hours of pouring through newspaper accounts and club records. Their work has paid off with a highly readable tribute to the man against whom all future champions should be measured.

Dave Donelson, author of Heart of Diamonds a about in the

Thursday, May 8, 2008

The Other Island Green At Sawgrass

TPC Sawgrass 17th hole
There are actually two island greens at the TPC Sawgrass Resort. One is the famous 17th hole on the TPC Sawgrass Course. The other is a tiny replica floating in the lagoon outside the Marriott Sawgrass Resort Hotel. Rumor has it that no one has ever successfully hit a shot that held that second green. You can see why. It just bobs serenely at there on the lagoon, flag flapping lazily in the Florida sunshine, taunting you.

Dave Donelson, author of Heart of Diamonds a about in the

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Pete Dye's Excuse For Sawgrass 17

Every time a golfer complains to Pete Dye about how many balls he drowned at the 17th hole at TPC Sawgrass, Pete just refers them to his wife, Alice. "It was her idea," he swears while making every effort to look innocent.

The way Billy Dettlaff, TPC Director of Golf told the story to me, Dye found a great deposit of perfect sand where the 17th hole was supposed to exist as a perfectly normal, medium length par 3. He kept hauling sand away from the spot to lay the foundations for the other fairways on the course until one day he realized that if he took away any more, there wouldn't be anything left except a huge crater where the 17th hole was supposed to be.

When he recounted the problem to Alice, she told him to fill the hole with water and put the green on an island. Voila--one of the most recognized and reviled holes on the PGA tour.

Dave Donelson, author of Heart of Diamonds

Monday, May 5, 2008

Sawgrass 17 - A Shotmaker's Hole

The 17th at Sawgrass epitomizes a shot-maker's hole. At 138 yards, brawn doesn't matter. With a 6,000 square-foot green, accuracy is everything. Just as important, though, is your ball's trajectory and spin. If it doesn't come in high and soft, it can easily bounce off the tiny target.

A couple of other things make the 17th even more challenging. One is the wind, which can put anything from a wedge to a six-iron in your hand or even force you to aim out over the water if it's blowing hard from right or left.

TPC Sawgrass 17th Hole
The other factor is the crowd. Even though you probably won't be playing in front of packed galleries like the pros in the Players' Championship, I can guarantee there will be at least one and probably two foursomes behind you waiting for their turn on the tee. The club also encourages non-playing tourists to visit the spot, too, so there are often a handful of gawkers watching your swing. Every atom in your body screams "Don't chunk it! Don't dunk it!" when you stand up to the ball. Your soul would shrivel up and expire should anyone chuckle. It's a grand game, ain't it?

The hole is full of stories. The last time I played it, everyone in my foursome drowned their (USGA-unapproved) practice shot from the back of the pro's tee. When we moved to the real tee, two players hit the green, then both sank their birdie putts while the other two (including me) reached for another sleeve of balls and headed for the 18th tee. The birdie boys are still chirping about it.

Dave Donelson, author of Heart of Diamonds a about in the

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Free Golf Lessons In May

One of the best deals to come around every year is a free ten-minute lesson from participating PGA teaching professionals. Think you can't learn anything in ten minutes? Then you must have a perfect repeating swing, hit every fairway, get up and down out of every bunker, and never miss a putt. Try it! It's free and I guarantee you'll save a stroke or two on your next round.

If you're anywhere near Westchester County (NY) where I live, you can get a great bonus: a chance to win a free swing analysis in the state-of-the-art studios of GolfTEC, a recent addition to the golf scene here run by well-respected PGA Professional Tom Sialiano. GolfTEC White Plains features four coaching studios and a putting studio, each one equipped with the latest technology to tell you more about your swing than you can possibly imagine. Add in their PGA teaching staff, and golfers of all skill levels can improve their performance.

All golfers who sign up for the free 10 minute lesson in May will participate in a drawing for a free evaluation from GolfTEC valued at $195. How can you beat that?

Dave Donelson, author of Heart of Diamonds a about in the

Monday, April 28, 2008

A Real Golf Hero

The next time I'm tempted to curse life because I missed a three-footer, I'm going to thank Bob Labbance for helping me keep it all in perspective. This golfer, author of 16 golf books, and rabid NY Yankees fan is keeping his sense of humor as ALS--Lou Gehrig's disease--breaks down his body.

Bob's golf days may be over, but his life isn't. He's still showing up for book signings, making plans to get to Yankee Stadium, and cherishing every moment he gets to spend with his wife Kathie, son Griffin, and daughter Simone. He's also set up a scholarship fund to help his children go to college.

Read Bob's inspiring story as told by Ralph Wimbish in the NY Post.

And keep it in mind next time you slice one out of bounds and start crying about the cruelty of the golf gods.

Dave Donelson, author of Heart of Diamonds a about in the

Monday, April 21, 2008

Memorable Shots at Harbour Town

Watching Boo Weekly win the Verizon Heritage at Harbour Town on Hilton Head brought back images of a memorable shot I hit there. That's one of the great things about the game--your best shots stay in your memory the way a good 18-year-old single malt lingers on the back of your throat.

I was playing with Beau and Dick, boon companions with whom I've teed it up since balata was the peak of golf technology, which is a long, long time. This trip wasn't quite that long ago, but it wasn't yesterday, either. I think Bush The First may have been in office, but I'm not exactly sure. It's funny, I can remember the shot I hit that day, but not who was President of the United States.

A storm threatened before the round began, but it wasn't raining, so we were going to play and hope for the best. It was very foggy on the practice range. I remember because Beau was warming up with brand new irons when the head of his five iron snapped off the graphite shaft and disappeared into the fog. Amid many jibes about his prodigious strength and how he should try to hit the ball instead of the ground two inches below it, he trotted out onto the range, found the club head, and took it to the pro shop for repair. That wasn't going to happen before our tee time, so Beau played with a loaner--complaining about it the entire round, of course.

The wind off Calibogue Sound was vicious, which played havoc with my erratic game that day. The teeny-tiny Harbour Town greens--the smallest on the PGA tour--were particularly unhittable for me and my score showed it. I don't recall the exact number on any given hole, but when I reached the 18th tee, I needed no worse than a bogey to break 100. I was not having a positive golf score experience.

Having given up all hope, I stepped up to the final tee shot totally relaxed. In other words, I didn't give a damn anymore. The wind roared directly into my face from somewhere behind the candy-striped lighthouse behind the green 478 yards away. Not caring, I swung loose--very loose--and hit the ball on the dime-size sweet spot on my Spaulding Executive driver. (That kind of dates the story, doesn't it?)

The ball took off low and boring into the wind, ending up in the center of the fairway next to a sprinkler head that said I had bombed it 279 yards into the wind. I find it mystifying that I can remember the exact yardage of my drive, but not who was the leader of the free world that day.

Yes, I broke 100, even though I sailed my second shot over the green in a paroxysm of adrenaline compounded by severe over-clubbing. A 99 is nothing to brag about, but I'll never forget that drive.

The other thing I remember is the Christmas present I sent to Dick and Beau that year: a ceramic beer stein picturing the 18th hole at Harbour Town. On it, I used a read Sharpie to draw a star where my drive landed.

Dave Donelson, author of Heart of Diamonds a about in the

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Masters Blaster

Even die-hard worshipers at the shrine of Augusta National will never watch the Master's the same way again once they've read Toonamint of Champions, a hilarious send-up of the hallowed event written by Georgia golf writer Todd Sentell.

Sentell puts a cast of outrageous characters both inside and outside the sacred grounds where golf's elite meet each spring to celebrate the game. Playing a round at Augusta is every golfer's fondest dream--and one that will never, ever come true for 99.99999% of us. But Sentell's Waymon Poodle, a daydreamer from Mullet Luv, Georgia, manages the feat in a way that defies description in a family golf blog.

Toonamint of Champions is the perfect read for Master's weekend. I suggest you don't try to multi-task and read it while you're waiting for Zach Johnson to line up his putts on TV, though. You just might end up laughing so hard you'll miss the winning stroke.

Dave Donelson, author of Heart of Diamonds a about in the

Thursday, April 3, 2008

A Fitting Encounter

Playing golf with off-the-rack clubs is akin to chewing a steak with store-bought teeth. You can do it, but the experience is far from optimal. Fortunately, just as there are plenty of specialists to properly fit new choppers to your mouth, there are numerous places in Westchester to get measured for perfectly fit golf clubs.

There are three basic ways to go. One is to a golf retailer, where a salesperson will use several devices to make sure the sticks you buy match the peculiarities of your swing the way a tailor will match your 30-inch inseam to your 42-inch waist. The second is to the golf club pro shop, where a PGA professional will lend his or her considerable expertise to the process. The last is to a club fitting service, where the technician will measure most of the moving and some of the non-moving parts of your golf swing, your anatomy, and maybe even your psyche. They use radar, lasers, ultra-high-speed cameras, strobe lights—you name it, they measure it. Then they feed it into their computer and come back with a profile of what happens when you swing a club at a golf ball.

My first experience with high-tech club fitting was with Rick DeMane, a third-generation golf technologist located in Greenwich, CT. It was fascinating to hit the ball in his studio surrounded by mysterious gizmos, then take a peek at the instantaneous feedback that explained in excruciating computerized detail why my last swing looked like something spectators should wear helmets to watch. After I tried out several drivers, he modified a couple of promising ones to my specs that I then took to the driving range. While the results aren’t Tigeresque, I came away with a club that pounds the ball a respectable distance and even hits the fairway (slightly) more often than not.

It's hard to tell if the results came from increased confidence or the technologically correct implement in my hands, but I've been pretty happy with it either way.

Dave Donelson, author of Heart of Diamonds a about in the

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

St Andrews April Fool

Beau and Dave on the Swilcan Bridge, 2001

It's not an April Fool's Day gag. The traditional season opening event at St Andrews Links is a weekend when the Old Course is played backwards for three days.

During the Old Course in Reverse event, golfers get to play the Old Course on its original clockwise routing starting from the first tee and playing to the 17th green, then the 18th tee to the 16th green and so on.

The Old Course was played in this direction until the 1870s when Old Tom Morris created the present first green. This made it possible to play in the anti-clockwise direction. In fact, until the early 20th Century the course was played in both directions in alternate weeks.

Until the 1970s the course was set up in the clockwise direction for four weeks in the winter. St Andrews Links Trust, which manages and maintains the seven public courses in St Andrews including the Old Course and the new Castle Course, recently revived this routing and it has proved popular as a season-opening event.

Dave Donelson, author of Heart of Diamonds a about in the

Monday, March 31, 2008

Bethpage Black From Inside The Ropes

If you haven't read it yet, pick up John Feinstein's Open: Inside the Ropes at Bethpage Black sometime before the US Open comes back to the course in 2009. As a golf writer who's played dozens of munis as well as some of the great courses around the world (including the Black), I greatly appreciated the way Feinstein captured the essence of the course. It's really unlike other Open venues I've seen and played and he describes it perfectly. It was also very instructive to learn what the USGA and the Bethpage staff went through to get the course into shape.

Dave Donelson, author of Heart of Diamonds a about in the

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Sermon From the Pulpit at Winged Foot

When my friend John Buczek became head pro at Winged Foot, I asked him what it takes to become a better golfer. His answer was immediate and unequivocal: Lessons.

“Look at Tiger and Ernie Els and all the rest, it might be 10% coaching and 90% perspiration, but they’re all taking lessons.”

“You can’t see yourself, so you don’t realize the balls back too far to forward too far, or your posture isn’t good, or your grip’s slipped, or you’re aiming to the right or left. Just different little things that all of us humans need some coaching with. Even Michael Jordan had good coaching.”

So next time you're handing over $500 for the latest can't-miss driver, consider handing $50 to your local PGA professional instead. The odds are much better than ten to one that he or she will straighten out your drive a lot quicker than that shiny new chunk of titanium.

Dave Donelson, author of Heart of Diamonds a about in the

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Miracle On The 17th Green

You probably know James Patterson's thrillers and possibly his Young Adult books, but you may not know that he's an avid golfer and once penned a really good piece of golf fiction, Miracle On The 17th Green, A Novel About Life, Love, Family, Miracles...and Golf.

I resurrected my copy recently and enjoyed it every bit as much as when I first read it many years ago. Patterson taps into every middle-aged golfer's fondest fantasy in this eminently readable and enjoyable novella.

Travis McKinley, a disgruntled Chicago ad man, approaches his fiftieth birthday knowing he's about to be fired by the agency where he's worked for 23 years and suspecting that his wife is about to drop the divorce bomb on him. A miraculous round of golf on Christmas Day gives him a reason to live, a scenario only another certified golf nut could understand. I found it perfectly credible.

The day Travis gets fired (and before he tells his wife the good news), he sends in his entry fee to the PGA Senior Tour Qualifying School, another perfectly rational action for those of use with a permanent track in our carpeting from where we practice putting. When his wife finds out, she doesn't see this as quite such a rational response to the situation.

Patterson's account of Travis' Q-school experience and year on the tour is a fine mix of humor, golf lore, and pathos as his hero struggles not with his golf game but with the disintegration of his marriage. The "Miracle on the 17th Green" at Pebble Beach produces a happy ending, though. It's as sweet as a pured second-shot three-wood to the center of the green on your own favorite par five.

Dave Donelson, author of Heart of Diamonds a about in the

Monday, March 24, 2008

Doral's Other Monster

The Great White Course at Doral - First Tee

Doral's Blue Monster, home of the WGC CA Championship, is one the great classic Florida courses you can play. But if you go, make sure you stay an extra day to check out the other monster at the resort, the Great White Course.

The Great White Course is arguably the Blue Monster’s equal although Greg Norman’s design makes it a totally different golf experience in several ways. At 6,679 yards, the Great White is about the same length as the Blue Monster although fewer of the greens are elevated, so it doesn’t play quite as long. You need a wide variety of approach shots, though—from high soft short irons over trouble to laser-guided long irons or hybrids, so it’s more entertaining that it’s more famous sibling in many ways.

The course had a reputation for undue toughness for a few years, but the Great White was made much more playable with a major remodeling in 2006, according to Golf General Manger Darrin Helfrick. They took out 125 pot bunkers and re-contoured the crowned green on the 6th hole—although it’s still harder to hit than a flea’s butt with a BB gun at 149 yards.

The course also technically has no rough, but don’t let that fool you. The short grass runs right into fairway-defining waste areas dotted with saw grass, trees, and other ball-blocking vegetation. And, because there’s generally no long grass to stop it, an errant shot may run a long, long way on the hard coquina sand in the waste areas. They also slip quite easily into bunkers and water hazards, so you have to plan not just the direction but the distance of your shots with care.

The Great White offers an excellent mix of demanding holes. There’s the 577-yard 14th that’s a four-shot hole for most golfers when it plays into the wind, the 161-yard island green 8th hole, and the 374-yard 10th, where a wide but shallow green forces you to lob a high, soft approach exactly the perfect distance—three steep bunkers guard the front while water awaits just off the back edge. The first and last holes are reachable par fives, too, depending on the wind, which makes for some interesting matches.

Dave Donelson, author of Heart of Diamonds a about in the

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Invasion of the Square Heads

The morning mists drift serenely across the lush landscape at dawn. Suddenly, an other-worldly CLOANG! wrecks the pastoral calm and a white bullet streaks down the middle of the fairway. The square-heads have arrived.

The heads in question aren’t bobbing above alien shoulders; they’re attached to graphite shafts on revolutionary (looking, at least) clubs new in golf pro shops everywhere last year. Both Nike and Callaway introduced drivers with heads shaped like square bricks, firing yet another salvo in the golf equipment manufacturers’ battle to give the average golfer a fighting chance to make par.

The first thing everyone says who hits one--or even hears one being hit--is how weird they sound. I remember the same thing being said when metal "woods" began to replace persimmon ones, too. But the nostalgia for timber lasted about thirty seconds when golfers saw how hot the ball came off the face of titanium drivers. Suddenly, that "awful" sound faded into the background.

The same is happening with the square-headed drivers. “The people who’ve tried them like them a lot,” says Ardsley (NY) Country Club head pro Jim Bender, who put a Callaway FT-i in his bag when it came out as a prototype and fitted several Ardsley members with it last spring. “Distance-wise, we’re finding they’re about the same as the FT-5 driver, which is a really good model, too.”

What’s the advantage? “It’s maxing out the distance like all the other big-headed titanium clubs, but, with the weight distribution at the four corners, it allows for less opening and closing of the club face when mis-hits are made, so the ball stays on a straighter line.”

Even the low-handicapper can benefit from the new design, according to Bender: “The ball doesn’t curve as much, so if I’m hitting a draw that I used to curve ten yards, now I’m only curving it five yards.”

The real payoff comes, though, for those of us who only hit the sweet spot when we’re in a candy store. “It’s great for when you hit that toe ball or the heel shot every now and then,” Bender says. “It doesn’t go off-line like it does with some of the other drivers.” So who cares what it sounds like?

Dave Donelson, author of Heart of Diamonds a about in the

Saturday, March 22, 2008

A Golf Book For True Aficianados

Golf Courses of the US Open, David Barrett; Abrams

Winged Foot’s West Course is just one of the 50 elite courses profiled by White Plains, NY golf writer David Barrett in this stunning large-format volume. Barrett was features editor of Golf Magazine for 18 years and knows whereof he writes. In addition to Pebble Beach, Oakmont, and Pinehurst #2, Barrett also introduces the golf-addicted reader to some lesser-known sites from the early history of the tournament such as Myopia Hunt Club and Inwood Country Club.

Barrett’s narrative includes an immense amount of detail about each course’s history and design as well as numerous anecdotes about the great (and not-so-great) players of the game. There’s also a foreword by Rees Jones, who is known as the “Open Doctor” for his architectural work on many US Open courses.

Dave Donelson, author of Heart of Diamonds a about in the

Friday, March 21, 2008

Love Those Caddies

Most lovers of the game know golf should not only be played on foot, but in the company of a caddy whenever possible. Among all the other things a caddy does, he (or she!) will be your psychologist, your swing coach, and your biggest cheerleader. I once eagled the second hole at Pebble Beach with a lucky chip, and I swear my caddy was so happy he almost wet his pants. What a great aid to my mental game that day!

Schlepping your clubs is the least important thing your caddy does, so don’t treat—or tip—him like a pack mule. A caddy knows whether that uphill approach requires one or two longer clubs, where your blind tee shot is likely to end up if you fade it a little, and just how irritated that member behind you is going to be if your slow play holds him up on the next hole. Then there’s putting—a good caddy sees breaks you’d need a micrometer to measure—the kind of local knowledge that helps you rake in the skins.

If you’re playing at an unfamiliar club, ask the starter or caddy master (it’s a good idea to slip him a few bucks, too) what caddies usually get for a round. Fees in Westchester range from $45 to $90 per bag, excluding tips. A fore-caddy, who accompanies players who ride a cart, will generally get about half that amount for each golfer. Don’t skimp on the tips, either—25% should be a minimum. These guys aren’t hauling your junk up and down all those hills just because they like to walk around outdoors with guys wearing spiked saddle shoes.

When you’re the guest of a club member, it’s extremely good form to pay both his caddy and yours—you’re also more likely to get invited back.

Dave Donelson, author of Heart of Diamonds a about in the