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Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Nicklaus Joins SNAG To Grow Golf

Jack Nicklaus
Photo courtesy of PGA Tour
In an effort to bring golf into the mainstream of youth sports, golf legend Jack Nicklaus has embarked on an initiative to grow the game with the assistance of SNAG® Golf (Starting New at Golf) and the National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA).  The new Jack Nicklaus Learning Leagues, powered by SNAG, will be introduced at select local park and recreation facilities in 2013, and for the first time golf will be made available to youngsters as a team sport.  The innovative Jack Nicklaus Learning Leagues, combined with SNAG’s well-established, first-touch development program, will provide a golf learning experience for children ages 5 through 12, in a safe, affordable and accessible environment.

Nicklaus has been an important advocate for growing the game and he envisions that with SNAG’s programming and modified equipment, and the active participation of local park and recreation agencies through the National Recreation and Park Association, golf at last will have a competitive footing with such team sports as soccer, basketball and football.

“There are so many sports—team sports—played in the park system today,” Nicklaus said. “Today, kids start playing athletics when they are as young as 4 or 5 years old, and by the time they are just 7, 8 or 9 years old, many of them have picked the two or three sports that they might want to play in the different seasons.  If golf is not part of the sports introduced and available to them at their local park and recreation facilities, they will play other sports and not golf.  So we need to get golf in their local parks and have them play our sport, and I think the team concept is the way to do it.

“Children seem to embrace the team concept of looking to and relying on other children, so it is not all on their shoulders. A lot of kids shy away from golf because of that.  When I picked up the game at age 10, one of the beauties of the sport was that I could do it by myself.  I didn’t need someone to throw a ball to me or catch a ball or defend me.  I could be as good as the time and effort that I wanted to put into it.  But at the very young age many children are introduced to sports, many don’t want so much placed on their shoulders.  The idea is to bring kids into the game, keep them into the game, have them learn, let them have fun, have fun with their friends, and then they can advance to the next level where they get on a golf course and develop.”

Some 300 Jack Nicklaus Learning Leagues are planned for spring 2013 and an estimated 400 are projected to launch in 2014.

Terry Anton, founder and CEO of SNAG Golf, is enthusiastic about the leadership position of Jack Nicklaus in the establishment of the Jack Nicklaus Learning Leagues.

“Jack Nicklaus’ vision to bring golf to the same venues where other organized sports thrive will make it easier to develop our future golfers,” Anton said. “These leagues will introduce millions of new players to the sport and will help nurture children developing their motor skills and do it in a fun way.  SNAG is honored to have been selected to participate with history’s greatest golfer and the NRPA in the Jack Nicklaus Learning Leagues.  Our task is to make his vision a reality by implementing SNAG’s programming in the parks and directing this feeder system into all on-course golf programs.  This is an important stepping stone for the industry to capture interest in golf early so that youngsters will transition with confidence to play with actual golf equipment on a traditional course.  The more fun we make golf for children, the more chance they have to play the game for a lifetime.”

Photo courtesy of SNAG
The use of parent-coaches and turning soccer and other playing fields into venues for this golf competition will be pivotal to the implementation of the Jack Nicklaus Learning Leagues, through the auspices of the National Recreation and Park Association.

“Local parks and recreation are the go-to places where children can learn to play sports and develop a connection to healthy activities,” says Barbara Tulipane, president and CEO of the National Recreation and Park Association.  “We are so proud to be bringing the Jack Nicklaus Learning Leagues and SNAG to park and recreation agencies across the country, because not only is it a great program but it means more children will have the chance to participate in the sport of golf in a fun and unique way and develop a connection to a healthy activity that will last them a lifetime.”

The NRPA will administer grants to park and recreation facilities across the U.S. to underwrite the costs associated with providing Jack Nicklaus Learning Leagues equipment, coaching and programming.  A 501©3 entity, G.O.L.F. (the Global Outreach for Learning Foundation), has been established to raise the necessary funds.  G.O.L.F.’s mission is to help people develop golf skills and have fun through developmentally appropriate programs.  The goal is to ensure retention and provide a sustainable model for transition to other programs at golf facilities, in order to increase participation for current and future generations. (For information on G.O.L.F. visit www.snaggolf.com/jnll.html.)

The Jack Nicklaus Learning Leagues will be separated by age groups:  5- and 6-year-olds; 7-8;
9-10; and 11-12.  Each league will have a set number of children per team and incorporate a specialized, age-appropriate format and learning curriculum.

The Jack Nicklaus Learning Leagues ultimately will be a global philanthropic endeavor to bring the sport to countries that are embracing the game as part of the Olympic movement.  For further information about the Jack Nicklaus Learning Leagues, powered by SNAG, call (866) 946-5092 or e-mail jnll@snaggolf.com.  For information about the grant program for park and recreation agencies visit www.nrpa.org/snag.

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

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Ionize Your Swing With Energy Athletic Golf Shirts

Energy Athletic Golf Shirt
Photo courtesy of Energy Athletic
You've probably seen (and maybe even wear) one of those energizer wrist bands that promise to help you hit the ball farther, walk the course faster, and otherwise generally enjoy the brighter side of life. Now you can enjoy the same effects in a golf shirt by Energy Athletic. The secret is in the shirt's fabric, which has been treated to embed negative ions in the structure of the fabric. You can't see it, but it's there.

But don't take my word for it; none other than Paul Azinger said it enhanced his performance when he endorsed the brand. While I can't attest to the science behind the energizing effect, I can say that the shirts I tried were super comfortable, stretched and gave in all the right places during the golf swing, and looked darn good, too. In addition to the IonX treatement, the company says the fabric is wrinkle resistant and has odor-preventing, anti-microbial properties as well as moisture-wicking ability.

I wore the Energy Athletic Short during a couple of rounds and I must confess I didn't see any appreciable difference in my scores although I suspect that had more to do with several unfortunate three-putts than with my clothing. Did I hit the ball further? I didn't take any before-and-after laser readings, but it seemed to me I was getting a couple of extra yards out of my driver. I also seemed to swing more freely. Was it the shirt? Your guess is as good as mine, but it sure felt good.

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

Monday, December 17, 2012

Big Little Book About Golf's Rules And Rewards

Golf: A Game For Life
Gene Westmoreland writes about more than just the rules of golf in A Game For Life, his collection of essays about a subject he knows better than just about anybody.  The book, proceeds of which will be donated to the MGA Foundation, gives us not only insights in the sometimes bewildering rules of the game but also into what makes it one of the best ways to enhance your life.

That may sound like heady stuff, but Westmoreland is anything but a stuffy philosopher. His writing is easy, his approach to the subject is thorough without being pedantic, and his outlook on the game is not so much reverntial as appreciative. He makes a great case for playing by the rules but doesn't hesitate to loosen them up a bit to make the game more fun for duffers just out to enjoy a walk in the sunshine. I've played a round or two with the man, and can attest that his attitude toward the game made every one of them a pleasure.

That attitude carries over into Westmoreland's explanation of the rules of golf, most of which are not only spelled out in clear English but illustrated with incidents many of us have seen either in person or while watching the pros on TV. He does this particularly well in situations that can be rather confusing, like encountering loose obstacles in a hazard. Can you move them? No. Are you penalized if you move, say, a twig in a bunker during your swing? Again, the answer is no. Westmoreland points out, though, that your "swing" doesn't include your backswing! So, if you touch that twig during your takeaway, you've added two strokes to your score. He illustrates the concept by recalling the penalty Brian Davis called on himself during a playoff with Jim Furyk at Harbour Town:
"The TV announcers correctly quoted Rule 13-4, but misunderstood the definition of a stroke, for while it is okay to touch a loose impediment during the stroke, Brian touched it on his backswing."
Nearly every rule examined in A Game For Life has a real-life example that makes it easier to understand and Westmoreland's career in the game has given him thousands of such examples from which to choose. He has been an active member of USGA Championship Committees, serving as co-chairman of the 2004 U.S. Amateur and the 2006 U.S. Open. His service as the Metropolitan Golf Association's Tournament Director for many years (among other accomplishments) led the MGA to christen the trophy for its premiere event, the Met Open, the Westmoreland Cup. In A Game For Life, Gene Westmoreland speaks with both common sense and authority.

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

Friday, December 14, 2012

GolfLogix Tops The GPS App Charts

Like many other things in golf (and life), I came to the GPS party rather late. In fact, I was unabashedly a reverse snob when it came to judging yardages by anything other than my own "keen eye" and a sprinkler head or two until I won a Golf Buddy in an event a couple of years ago. Even then, it somehow seemed unsporting to check it, especially on a course I knew. Shot by shot, though, I came to rely on the technology more and more even when I was standing next to a yardage marker. I must admit, having the distance to the front and back of the green was reassuring--as was knowing exactly how far my ball had carried when it landed in that big bunker. Then I left it in a cart after a round and that was that. I thought about getting another one, but never quite got around to it.

Until I got a smartphone. I was real late to that party, too. But things changed and I needed one, so I traded up--now I can text while driving just like the rest of the world. Just kidding! What the smartphone did enable me to do, though, was go back to the GPS party.

My app of choice? GolfLogix. I spent a couple of minutes downloading and setting it up, then put it into play.  I used it the first time on a course I know very well so I could check the quality of information on the screen and was very impressed. The course loaded quickly, the maps were helpful, and the accuracy was excellent. I particularly like the target feature, which lets you choose an intermediate point (like the left edge of a fairway bunker) and get the distance to reach it as well as the distance to the green from there. You can do the same for the green. Not sure whether to bomb a driver or lay up with a three wood? Another handy feature allows you to see the landing zones of your clubs right on the map for each hole.

You can also add notes to the holes to create your own caddie book for subsequent rounds--and if you're a real caddie, you can mark the daily pin positions on each hole before the round, then earn an extra large tip by demonstrating pinpoint course knowledge.

There are a whole raft of other features, too, like the ability to track your game shot-by-shot and club-by-club for post-round analysis of your driving distance and accuracy, ball striking (GIR's from the fairway), scrambling, putts, etc. Just in case you don't have enough information, you can also track the duration of the round and even the calories you burn.

Battery life and the hit on your data plan aren't really problems. By using the screen lock feature on my phone after every use, I drained only about a third of the battery in four and a half hours (I turned it on a few minutes before we teed off and played with it awhile afterward--it really was only a four-hour round). I also checked data usage, which was about one MB for the round.

I first tried the free version of the app, but the annual $19.99 Champion membership fee became quite reasonable when I realized I had to click through an ad every time I changed holes. Besides, many of the best features like the club distance grid and touchscreen distance markers, are only available on the paid membership.  As of this writing, you can actually make ten bucks by taking advantage of a Golfsmith Pro Shop offer that awards GolfLogix Champion members $20 off plus free ground shipping (worth $9.99) on their first order over $75. You can also upgrade to a Golf Digest Live suite of features for an additional $19.99.

GolfLogix is available for Apple and Android phones. There are some 30,000 courses mapped for use
and you can save the ones you play frequently (or just want to remember).

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

Monday, December 10, 2012

New Software Helps Golfers Go Pin Hunting

Your home club may not be quite as famous as Merion, host for the 2013 U.S. Open, but you can enjoy at least one of the advantages members of that famous course have. It's the innovative ezLocator system that helps the superintendent at Merion and dozens of other top facilities manage pin locations.

Merion's director of grounds Matt Shaffer says, "By looking at our pin sheets and seeing what kind of play we're getting, we can set things up accordingly and avoid making certain mistakes.  And it allows us to water better.  I think it's definitely going to give Merion an opportunity to put itself in the best possible position, and the technology will give the USGA a lot more flexibility.  I think the players may actually see the difference."

ezLocator pin sheets
ezLocator Pin Sheets
A high-tech solution to an age-old problem, ezLocator eliminates the shortcomings of restrictive systems such as dividing the green into zones or front, middle and back.  After a 3D mapping system locates all the possible placements on each green, the information is entered in a program and with a click of a button the superintendent can get the job done, allowing the members of the club to enjoy tournament quality pin sheets each time they play.

The product was developed by Jon Schultz, CEO of ezLocator, who is also a member of the Dallas Athletic Club. After chats with other members of his weekend golf group in the 19th hole, he saw a need that created an opportunity.  "It seemed they always played the same pin positions and that all the golfers wanted a tournament like experience every time they teed off," Schultz says.  From his experience as a top amateur player, a caddie, a tournament chairman, he began developing a system that was easy to use by the superintendent and would enhance the member’s experience.  A test program was conducted at the Dallas Athletic Club that evolved into the software application that is on the market today.

Kevin Nettles, superintendent at the Dallas Athletic Club, says, "There’s nothing like it on the market. Players absolutely love the system and it has allowed me to manage the greens from a stress point.  I can isolate certain areas of the greens when necessary and save certain locations for special events."  In addition to Merion and the Dallas AC, ezLocator is now being used by many of the top clubs and courses across the U.S. and Canada including Westchester Country Club.

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

Thursday, December 6, 2012

How Much Dye Golf Can You Play?

Casa de Campo is dishing up the ultimate golfer’s “all you can eat buffet,” including one of the top golf courses in the world, in a “Golf Fantasy Trip” package highlighted by limitless golf.  Stay at the resort for four nights and get everything for one price. That includes as much golf as a person can play on 63 holes designed by legendary architect Pete Dye, highlighted by the infamous Teeth of the Dog.

Casa de Campo. Photo courtesy of the resort.
Along with “The Dog”—the number-one course in the Caribbean according to Golf Digest — are three breathtaking nines at Dye Fore, spread along cliffs high above the Chavon River, and The Links, featuring spectacular views of the Caribbean Sea. Golfers partaking in the “Fantasy” play them all, as often as they would like, thanks to unlimited greens fees.

Other elements of this Golf Fantasy include:
  • Four nights’ accommodations in a newly renovated elite-class room at the resort
  • Breakfast, lunch, and dinner daily
  • Unlimited drinks in all resort bars and restaurants, including Oasis bars and beverage carts on the golf courses
  • A one-hour lesson with Eric Lillibridge, director of the on-site Jim McLean Golf School
  • One round with a Casa de Campo PGA Professional
  • Two sports massages at the Casa de Campo Spa
  • Welcome champagne and chocolate-covered strawberries
  • Complimentary use of a golf cart on property throughout the stay
  • Pete Dye-autographed copy of the beautiful coffee-table book, “Pete Dye Golf Courses”
  • VIP treatment through arrivals at La Romana airport, plus airport transfers, taxes, and service charges
Cost for the “Golf Fantasy,” available from Jan. 3 through March 14, 2013 , is $2,799 per golfer, based on double occupancy, or $3,695 single occupancy. Accompanying non-golfers are $2,110. For more information, call the golf reservations office at (809) 523-8215 or visit www.casadecampo.com.do.

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

Monday, December 3, 2012

Excited About Golf Socks

Considering the amount of golf gear I sample, I never thought I'd get all hopped up about a pair of socks, but then Kentwool came my way. Simply fabulous!

They fit snug without binding, hold their shape, give you extra support where it helps, and extra padding where you need it. They also have spandex panels that create an exact fit to your foot. I've taken to wearing them off the course, too, because they reduce fatigue and are comfortable as heck. There are several different styles, but all are made primarily from Merino wool, an ultra-fine fiber that's soft and has a luxurious feel. The sock insulates in the winter and cools in the summer, holds up to 30% of its weight in moisture while wicking it away from your skin, and the company claims the fabric does not bond with bacteria so it's odor resistant.

Kentwool Socks
photo courtesy of Kentwool
Kentwool makes traditional high- and low-profile styles  but their latest product is the 19th Hole Collection, which runs from solid to argyle to some pretty wild stripes. The company's slogan says they are the makers of the "world's best golf sock" and I agree.

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