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

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