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Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Quaker Ridge to Host 2018 Curtis Cup

Fifth Hole at Quaker Ridge
photo by Evan Schiller
I walked off the 18th green at Quaker Ridge today to find this announcement from the USGA in my inbox:

The United States Golf Association has selected Quaker Ridge Golf Club, in Scarsdale, N.Y., as the host site of the 2018 Curtis Cup Match. The dates of the Match are June 8-10.

This will be the second USGA championship conducted at Quaker Ridge Golf Club. The club hosted the 1997 Walker Cup Match, won by the USA Team over a GB&I Team that included a future U.S. Open champion in 17-year-old Justin Rose. The USA, captained by A. Downing Gray Jr., regained the Cup by an 18-6 margin, having lost two years earlier at Royal Porthcawl Golf Club in Wales.

“The USGA is excited to return to Quaker Ridge Golf Club for this celebration of women’s amateur golf,” said Daniel B. Burton, USGA vice president and chairman of the Championship Committee. “Quaker Ridge provided a stern and fair test for the 1997 Walker Cup competitors, and we are confident that it will do the same for these elite female amateurs in four years, when the Match is contested for the 40th time.”

Quaker Ridge will become just the third club in the United States to host both the Walker Cup and Curtis Cup, joining The Minikahda Club in Minneapolis (1957 Walker Cup, 1998 Curtis Cup) and Merion Golf Club in Ardmore, Pa. (1954 Curtis Cup, 2009 Walker Cup).

“We are honored that the USGA has selected Quaker Ridge Golf Club to host the 2018 Curtis Cup Match,” said Marc Friedman, Quaker Ridge club president. “We are thrilled that outstanding amateur golfers from the United States and Great Britain and Ireland will be competing on the Quaker Ridge course in another historic match. Our members and staff look forward to providing a true test of golf for the players, and a wonderful viewing experience for the spectators.”

Quaker Ridge was founded in 1915 under the name Metropolitan Golf Links and featured a nine-hole course designed by John Duncan Dunn. In 1916, the club name was changed to Quaker Ridge Golf Club and renowned architect A.W. Tillinghast was commissioned to redesign seven holes and create 11 new holes. The course opened in its current configuration in 1918, and Robert Trent Jones (1965), Rees Jones (1993) and Gil Hanse (2009-12) have overseen modifications.

Quaker Ridge has a long history of hosting elite competition, both professional and amateur. It has hosted three Metropolitan Open Championships, including the 1936 championship won by five-time major champion Byron Nelson. It has also hosted four Metropolitan Amateur Championships and four Metropolitan PGA Championships.

The 2018 Curtis Cup will be the 71st USGA championship conducted in the state of New York. On Aug. 4-10, 2014, Nassau Country Club in Glen Cove will host the U.S. Women’s Amateur Championship. Winged Foot Golf Club in Mamaroneck will be the host site of the second U.S. Amateur Four-Ball Championship in 2016.

The Curtis Cup Match is a biennial team competition contested by female amateur golfers. One team representing the United States and one team representing Great Britain and Ireland alternate hosting the Match. The teams consist of not more than eight players and a captain.

The United States leads the all-time Curtis Cup series with a record of 28-7-3. The United States won the 2014 Match, which was conducted in June at St. Louis (Mo.) Country Club, by a 13-7 margin.
The 2016 Curtis Cup Match will be held June 10-12 at Dun Laoghaire Golf Club, near Dublin, Ireland.

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

Monday, July 28, 2014

Silvertip Brings Out Your Inner Mountain Man

If Grizzly Adams played golf, you’d find him on the tee at Silvertip Resort in Canmore, Alberta. Silvertip is true mountain golf, beginning with several holes in a valley but climbing steadily with a switchback layout until it climaxes with a finishing hole that descends so fast it will make your ears pop. The course rises—and falls—600 feet in total.

It also features panoramic views, crows the size of eagles, gophers, elk, and frequent visits from bears, coyotes, and wolves who take advantage of the property’s two wildlife corridors and certification as an “Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary.”

Silvertip is also an eminently enjoyable golf course, with six sets of tees stretching as long as 7,140 yards and as short as 4,822.  Both fairways and greens are heavily contoured so you’ll never have a level lie or a straight putt, yet it never calls for an impossible shot.Many of the holes are visually intimidating but much easier to play than they look—or vice versa depending on how you’re swinging the clubs that day.  The 510-yard eighth looks short but plays long, for example, and brings water into the equation off the tee.  The typical hole on the back nine (if there is such a thing), features a soaring shot from an elevated tee then squeezes your scoring attempt with an approach to an elevated green.

One of the great innovations at Silvertips is the Short Course within the regular track.  Separate tee boxes on every hole create a 2,666-yard par 58 course ideal for the resort guest of any age who can’t handle the length of regular golf course but wants to enjoy the beautiful, thought-provoking green complexes.  It’s ideal for kids or the once-a-year resort golfer who wants to join in the fun.

Silvertip is a modern design by Les Furber that contrasts perfectly with the classic Stanley Thompson courses in the region like Banff Springs and Jasper Park.  It's a must-have on any golf trip to the Canadian Rockies.

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

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Trump Triumphs at Ferry Point

Trump Ferry Point photo by Dave Donelson
Trump Golf Links at Ferry Point
The countdown to the opening of the most significant new course in New York--if not the country--is moving into single digits.  Trump Golf Links at Ferry Point will open next spring and accolades are already rolling in.  I had a private personal tour last week and I'll add my praise to the heap right now.

The single most striking aspect of Ferry Point is its location.  Everyone knows it's built on top of a landfill and that it cost the city of New York a gazillion dollars to build.  We also know that Donald Trump was apparently the only guy with the know-how and cajones to get it finished. What you don't realize until you stand on the first tee, however, is just how mind-bogglingly urban the site is.  You drive under the Whitestone Bridge to get there--something most New Yorkers don't even know you can do!  The bridge itself sets against the sky without dominating the vista, sort of like a citified version of a snow-capped mountain.  The Freedom Tower, Empire State Building, and the rest of the full expanse of the Manhattan skyline is in glorious view on almost every hole.  The Long Island Sound sparkles on the finishing holes and jets are seen but not heard departing LGA and JFK airports. Amid all this urban splendor is a splendid golf course.

Trump Golf Links at Ferry Point will be a challenging but fun track for daily fee duffers while providing a spectacular test for professional championships like the Barclay's, which is strongly rumored to be coming in 2017.  The Jack Nicklaus design currently measures 7,407 yards from the tips, which will probably be longer once the final measurements are in. There are a few details still to be worked out on the course and a temporary clubhouse/grill will be completed this fall, but the golf course is in the final stages of growing in and should be in perfect shape next spring.

Nicklaus provided wide, playable fairways for the daily fee player, with many measuring easily over 50 yards across in places.  They're full of bumps and swales, though, so there will be plenty of irregular tee shot roll-outs in the tradition of links golf.  Fairway bunkering is moderate on most holes, with placement to challenge the big-hitting pros without damaging the chances of a shorter hitter, even from the forward tees.  Fairways and greens are surrounded and separated by thousands of man-shaped moguls to accommodate NY-sized crowds of spectators.

photo by Dave Donelson
The current temporary scorecard lists 6,824 yards as the length from the blue tees.  There is a short par four on each nine (298-yard #7 and 335-yard #11) and the par threes meet my criterion for maximum variety and shot values (#3 is 226 yards, #8 170, #12 139, and #17 142).  Donald Trump made the first-ever hole-in-one on the course, believe it or not, during the first round ever played at Ferry Point. A plaque marks the spot and I love it!

The long holes are really, really long from the blue tees.  Most of the par fours approach 450 yards and will play significantly longer given the wind and green fairways.  The par fives aren't too bad, with the longest clocking in at 570 and the shortest at 466 yards, although it hasn't really been decided whether that hole will play as a par four or five.  I'll be highlighting individual holes from my tour in future posts.

Another decision in the works is creation of a set of tees between the blues and the current whites, which are only 6,071 yards.  While that would be fine for most of us, a length in the 6,200-6,400 yard range would have more appeal.  I also believe there should be a course shorter than the currently-listed 5,278-yard red tees.  The addition of some tees in the 4,000-yard neighborhood would make the course more accessible for youngsters, seniors, and very-occasional golfers.  That's a trend in the industry that's gaining a well-deserved toehold and the Trump organization would make a natural leader in bringing more players into the game.  Where are the stairs? I need to step off my soap box.

Trump Golf Links at Ferry Point photo by Dave Donelson

Although Ferry Point has "links" in it's name, you won't see any brown fairways a la Pinehurst No. 2.  Most golfers believe (erroneously) that green is good and brown is bad, so the turf here will be as green as hundreds of thousands of gallons of water can make it in order to appeal to the daily fee customer.  Playing conditions aside, the green fairways stand out in gorgeous contrast to the brown and yellow fescue in the rough.  It will definitely look fabulous on television (much better than Pinehurst did during the U.S. Open), but it remains to be seen if the course can play hard and fast with fairways that lush.

The design does include other links trademarks, however.  Wind will play a major role in your strategy on every hole since there are no trees or anything else to block it.  The prevailing breeze is from the southwest, but it can swirl in from the northeast off the Sound in a heartbeat.  Nicklaus did a great job on routing the course so that you will never play the same wind on two consecutive holes.

Small but nasty cross bunkers and chocolate drop fescue-covered mounds dot many fairways and make the approaches to some greens a bit more interesting. Many of the greens can be accessed with a bump-and-run or with a putter from the fairway if you take the soft turf into account.   The greens themselves are large enough to support the many pin positions needed for heavy daily fee play.  They are well-contoured but not fun house roller coasters.

Donald Trump threw out the initial permanent clubhouse designs because they didn't meet his high standards, but the facility is expected to be finished next year and promises to have magnificent views of the course, Long Island Sound, the Whitestone Bridge, and the Manhattan skyline, not to mention many of the first class amenities that are standard at Trump's private clubs.

One thing Ferry Point will also have is a practice facility to rival anything in the NY market, public or private.  There's a small warm-up green next to the first tee, but the real practice green is 15,000 square feet. It's next to a 65-yard short game area and not far from the 400-yard driving range that's 120 yards wide.

What makes Ferry Point so significant?  It will be far and away the best daily fee golf experience in the New York market when it opens.  You can count on one hand the truly fine public golf courses within an hour of Manhattan, and on one finger those within fifteen minutes.  That finger points to Trump Golf Links at Ferry Point.

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

Saturday, July 26, 2014

PowerBilt DFX Driver Takes Next Step

Seldom do we equate Mixed Martial Arts with golf, but somehow there is a connection when it comes to the DFX Driver from PowerBilt.  The new iteration of the Air Force One Driver has a muscular feel and "anything goes" look that makes you believe you, too, can pound the bejesus out of your opponent in the ring...er, the tee.

DFX stands for Deep Face Extreme and you can see the difference standing over the ball. The clubface is now 5 mm deeper than the previous version, so it gives you a greater opportunity to catch the ball higher on the clubface for greater altitude.  The use of nitrogen under pressure rather than structural bracing inside gives the DFX a larger sweet spot, too.

The Air Force One DFX features Nitrogen N7 "Nitrogen Charged" technology, a newly patented method to reinforce the clubface without adding any weight. The forged titanium body comes with titanium cup face technology, as well as aerodynamic clubhead shaping.

Still not convinced a golf club can crossover to Mixed Martial Arts? Just ask Cub Swanson. PowerBilt has signed the MMA athlete to promote the DFX driver and all of its latest golf equipment.  An avid golfer who grew up mostly in the Palm Springs area, the MMA pro Swanson is part of a new marketing campaign to position PowerBilt with an edgier personality.

The DFX Driver is available in both the high MOI and Tour Series, in lofts of 8.5°, 9.5°, 10.5° and 12.5°. Standard shaft length is 45 ½". The club is offered in several leading shaft models from the top OEM shaft brands, so that golfers will achieve the optimum launch angle and spin rate for their unique swing. MSRP starts at $299.99, and there is an upcharge for some shaft models.

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

Friday, July 25, 2014

Running Deer Challenges Your Game

Everything at Running Deer Golf Club is over-sized--some might even say over-done.  The fairways are collections of large mounds surrounded by impossible ravines, monstrous bunkers, and/or encroaching trees.  Sometimes all on the same hole.  The greens were contoured with a heavy hand, too, so that even if you can reach them in something near regulation, you'll have a tough two-putt to come close to par.

But then, what would you expect from an over-sized owner like ESPN personality and Philadelphia Eagles Hall of Fame quarterback Ron Jaworski?  Running Deer is one of several golf properties the sports star has collected under the umbrella of Ron Jaworski Golf Management.  Among them are Valleybrook Country Club and Blue Heron Pines, both in New Jersey.  Running Deer is his most recent acquisition.

Skilled players won't have much trouble with Running Deer, but then they don't have much difficulty anywhere, do they?  Anyone who occasionally sprays a tee shot or can't handle anything but a level lie is going to have their work cut out for them, however.  Still, the course is fair--it plays equally difficult for everyone--and all the trouble is right there in front of you.

Running Deer measures 7,100 yards from the tips and 6,400 from the more-reasonable white tees.  There are a few forced carries, but length isn't as necessary as accuracy on almost every hole.  Consider club selection carefully, especially on the short par fours.  And bring an extra sleeve of balls, too, since several holes have water and/or tangled rough not far off the fairway.

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

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

It's Time to Play 9

Play 9 Day

If you haven't started, now is the time to Play 9, the theme of a grow-the-game promotion from the USGA and American Express.  In fact, today has been proclaimed "Play 9" Day and the dynamic promotional duo has created a keen website to help you get into the nine-hole habit.

The site includes a clever PSA starring Rickie Fowler that you may have seen during 2014 U.S. Open. It shows the 25-year-old PGA Tour pro finding time to play the game with family and friends while still fulfilling other daily commitments and interests.

“I don’t always have enough time to play a full round between practice and spending time with friends and family,” said Fowler. “I’m happy to join the USGA and American Express on ‘Play 9’ to encourage golfers to play a nine-hole round, especially if that’s what’s going to get them out onto the golf course to play more often.”

The program is a big part of the USGA’s ongoing efforts to make the game more accessible, sensitive to time considerations and sustainable.

“During our extensive conversations with golfers, we’ve learned that they feel challenged by the time it takes to play,” said Mike Davis, executive director of the USGA. “By creating awareness of the nine-hole round, and the many ways that one can enjoy the game in less time, we hope this creative program featuring one of the game’s more dynamic and progressive players will energize and remind golfers how they can fit the game into their days.”

“American Express is excited to partner with the USGA and Rickie Fowler to support the game by encouraging more people to play nine-hole rounds,” said Deborah Curtis, vice president of sports and entertainment marketing at American Express. “With their support, we want ‘Play 9’ to demonstrate how golf can fit into the everyday lives of players – giving golfers everywhere a chance to play more often.”

Industry research indicates there is growing interest in this format of play. According to the National Golf Foundation, 27 percent – more than 4,000 – of America’s courses are nine-hole facilities. In addition, nine-hole rounds can be played at most 18-hole public facilities. However, just 24 percent of total rounds played last year, among those surveyed, were nine-hole rounds.

A separate study conducted in 2013 by Sports & Leisure Research Group for the USGA found that 33 percent of core golfers (those who play eight to 24 rounds annually) and 38 percent of casual golfers (those who play seven rounds or fewer) would play more nine-hole rounds if the format were “more strongly encouraged.”

The “Play 9” program will provide golfers and golf courses with resources that will allow them to celebrate the nine-hole round and the game in a variety of ways, including finding time to enjoy a nine-hole match with friends and post an official score, or even take a lesson.

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

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Great Offer for 2015 Open Championship

Photo little

Have you made your plans for the 2015 Open Championship at St. Andrews?  If you still have some options, consider a unique offer from the author of St. Andrews – In the Footsteps of Old Tom Morris. Golf historian Roger McStravick has produced a beautiful photo-rich book that guides readers around the historic sites of this ancient town known as The Home of Golf.  The new book presents remarkable new findings about St. Andrews and legendary Old Tom Morris, who is considered golf’s founding father.

In order to publish St. Andrews – In the Footsteps of Old Tom Morris, McStravick, who resides in St. Andrews, has turned to the fund-raising site Kickstarter with the goal of raising $38,000 to cover the print and production costs for 2,000 books with an anticipated late fall or winter 2014 release.  To make a donation to help publish this engaging guide, visit

Here's the unique offer: A pledge of $8,500 will reward the first donor with use of a two bedroom house for seven days during the 2015 Open Championship in St. Andrews, plus a personal tour of the town and lunch in The St. Andrews Golf Club, overlooking the 18th green of the Old Course. Short of a spot playing in the Open, I don't know how you could top that!

McStravick’s exhaustive three years of research in the University of St. Andrews’ golf collection archives resulted in the discovery of new information about Old Tom, many unpublished rare photographs, and unknown stories about the Old Course, including the naming of its bunkers. The 240 page book offers a fresh perspective on St. Andrews and the town’s famous 19th century residents who made it truly special.

An important part of McStravick’s mission in writing St. Andrews – In the Footsteps of Old Tom Morris, is a campaign to get signage on the town’s historic sites so visitors can identify and locate the homes of famous past golf champions. The book’s guided tour starts at Old Tom’s house at 6 Pilmour Links and ends at his grave in the ruins of the cathedral’s cemetery.

McStravick recently produced and wrote scripts for an iPad application, “Golf History with Peter Alliss.”  Roger is an avid collector of rare books on St. Andrews and a keen competitive golfer.  For the 2014 St. Andrews Links Yearbook, he has written a history of the Eden Course, which is enjoying its centenary year, and a story on the evolution of St. Andrews’ Old Course.

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

Monday, July 21, 2014

Banff Springs Eternal

As many places as I've been in the world for golf and otherwise, I'd never been to Canada until recently. My introduction to the land of the loonie was a golf trip to the Canadian Rockies that began in Banff Springs, one of the world's most spectacular golf destinations.

We have the railroads to thank for great golf in the Canadian Rockies.  The Banff Springs Hotel opened in 1888, built by the Canadian Pacific Railroad to attract more travelers to the region, an idea promulgated by Sir William Cornelius Van Horne, General Manager of the railroad, who reportedly said, “If we cannot export the scenery, we will have to import the tourists.”  Golf came a few years later. The Stanley Thompson Eighteen was added in 1928 and is today part of the Fairmont Banff Springs Resort along with the Tunnel Nine, a nine-hole course built in 1989.

The Thompson Eighteen delights by design and setting.  It sits between the snow-capped peaks of Sulphur Mountain and Mount Rundle so it’s scenic, of course, but the course plays off the scenery in many subtle and some not-so-subtle ways. Almost every hole frames a mountain view, some more than one from different locations on the hole, and many have equally stunning views looking back from green to tee.  Early in the round, the mountains seem to loom right next to the fairways and craning your neck to look up at them can bring on some serious vertigo.

There’s a unique visual rhythm to the course, too. Look carefully at the outlines of many of the bunkers and you’ll discover they reflect the jagged peaks of the mountains behind them.  On some holes like the 442-yard twelfth, as you advance toward the green you first experience the nearby Bow River by its rushing, bubbling sound, then catch glimpses of its sparkling water though the trees, and finally realize the river is fully in play as the trees clear and the riverbank appears just a few yards from the green.

The course is generous to the golfer looking to score.  Fairways are wide and the 150-plus bunkers are judiciously placed to guide, not punish, the player who can tear himself away from the views long enough to play a shot. Fairway bunkers are styled according to their function, with cross bunkers featuring high, forbidding faces to make you play around them while those to the sides are generally shallow to allow for a recovery shot at the pin. Most greens are subtly contoured and approachable with either a running or airborne shot. Four sets of tees are available, playing from 4,478 to 6,938 yards.

The signature hole on the Thompson Eighteen is the fourth, known as the Devil’s Cauldron.  It’s aptly named, too, since the 192-yard par three sits on the sides of a water-filled canyon that only a demon could love. Your shot has to carry the water, avoid the five bunkers surrounding the green, and land below the hole on the steeply-canted putting surface. With Rundle Mountain looming over it and the eerily still water lying like a mirror below, it’s easy to imagine a smirking Satan watching you play.

The Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel makes a fabulous base for your Canadian Rockies trip (although a night or two at its sister property in Jasper Park is a good idea, too). Known as the “Castle in the Rockies,” the hotel offers eleven excellent restaurants, an award-winning European-style spa, and legendary hospitality.

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

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Tom Watson on the Golf Channel

Tom Watson's timeless swing
Every time I need a little uplift in my game (which is often), I turn to my copies of the Tom Watson DVD set, Lessons of a Lifetime.  Tonight, I'll be tuning in to the Golf Channel to watch the eight-time major champion and 2014 U.S. Ryder Cup Captain on a special instruction episode of the Golf Channel Academy with Martin Hall. The segment will air 13 times through the end of September including July 16, 18, 20 and 23rd.

In the hour-long episode, Watson reflects on several memorable moments that helped establish his career and demonstrates the keys to developing a strong skill set and mindset on the golf course. Watson and Hall also discuss the tools necessary to creating an ideal swing and highlight the fundamentals for developing an excellent touch around the green.

Watson also discusses the time he spent with his first swing instructor, Stan Thirsk, at Kansas City Country Club, as a youngster trying to mimic Jack Nicklaus' swing. Since Tom and I are about the same age, that would have been about the same time in not-so-recent history when I was learning the game as a caddie at Fairview Municipal Golf Course about fifty miles away in St. Joseph, Mo. The Golf Channel episode was filmed at Loch Lloyd, a course Watson designed in his native Kansas City.

"One of the many great things about golf is that it can never be mastered," says Watson, who is also promoting his brand-new Tom Watson Lessons of a Lifetime II DVD set. "Sure you can have a good run of play, but sooner or later the wheels will come off. I've been experiencing the game for half a century, and I promise you I'm still learning."
His new DVD set is an addendum to the very popular original that was released in 2010. While that rendition has become one of the best-selling golf instructional video programs of all time -- selling 70,000 DVD sets in 40-plus countries -- the new series covers many advanced topics, including pre-shot routine, the importance of the bottom of the arc, head movement, getting maximum benefit at the practice tee, handling pressure, the 40-yard wedge shot, controlling trajectory on chips, chipping with a putting set up, and much more.

These DVD programs are available at TomWatson.com, Amazon.com, and select golf and sporting goods retailers. Both programs can also be purchased by calling 800-993-5589. A portion of the proceeds from all sales will be contributed to the Bruce Edwards Foundation for ALS Research.

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

Add Ballamor to Your Atlantic City Golf Itinerary

Ballamor Golf Club
While no one wants to see clubs go under, one of the silver linings in the cloud over the game has been the conversion of some excellent private clubs to public daily fee operations.  Leading that movement has been the Ottinger family in New Jersey, who took the bankrupt Ballamor Golf Club public in 2010.  The course had opened just nine years earlier.

Today Ballamor offers a wonderful golf experience within a few miles of Atlantic City.  The 7,098-yard course has a strong Pinelands feel, with routing through and around environmentally-sensitive wetlands on a huge 350-acre piece of property without a home in sight.  The architect, Dan Schlegel, then of Ault, Clark & Associates, moved a great deal of earth to create rolling terrain out of what was originally a fairly flat, featureless pine forest.  The result is a manicured and highly playable golf course.

Ballamor opens with a fairly benign 522-yard par five (from the 6,681-yard blue tees) that, like much of the course, features wide fairways and a green to match.  One of the most interesting holes on the course is number 15, a 347-yard par four with a mentally challenging tee shot.  Water is your first test, but then comes the real choice: carry the massive bunker on the left corner of the dog leg with a 220-yard drive or play it safer to the right, leaving a long, bunkers-everywhere-in-site second shot?

The Ottinger family group includes nearby Scotland Run and the tradition-laden Atlantic City 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

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Back to Back, Problems That Is

Last week, more than half a dozen Tour pros—including Fred Couples, Jay Haas, and Craig Stadler—had to withdraw from the U.S. Senior Open Championship due to back issues. If you're a normal weekend hacker, you've probably experienced some back issues yourself. There's an orthopedic surgeon that can tell you about mine!

So why do so many of us have bad backs?

Ben Shear

According to Ben Shear, Director of Performance at New York City’s Golf & Body and trainer to a number of PGA Tour stars, for the pros it’s the volume of balls they've hit for so many years. "The speed they generate and the millions of balls they hit, and swinging in only one direction, throughout their lifetime takes a toll," Shear says. "Three or four hours of exercise a week is not going to undo years and years of overuse."

But amateur golfers, says Shear, have a different set of problems, and there’s a lot they can do to limit the damage.  "The biggest problem amateurs have is sitting too much—behind a desk, in the car, in front of a computer. We sit and stand in a rounded position, hunched forward, constantly stretching our muscles along the posterior [rear] side of our bodies and pulling them tight. Therapists call that ‘locked long,’ and it puts constant stretch and pressure on the muscles in our back, shoulders, and hips.

"Now take those stretched muscles, rounded shoulders, and weak hip flexors, and glutes to a golf lesson or to the course, and, without doing any stretches, start swinging. That locked upper back and those weak, tight hips can’t turn, and what’s caught between them? The lower back. It takes the brunt of all that turning and torqueing. That’s enormous pressure on one part of the body and it’s going to give."

Shear’s advice? "I say it all the time.  If you play golf, start by getting a physical assessment from a trainer or therapist who understands golf.  Learn what your body can do and don’t ask it to do something else. Then find a golf pro who will teach you moves that you are capable of making. Don’t go to a pro who only teaches one method if your body can’t make the moves that method demands. That’s a waste of time and money, and could do your body more harm than good."

Combining physical training and golf instruction is the mission of Golf & Body NYC, where the therapists, trainers, and golf pros work together for the golfer’s greatest good both on and off the course. "We assess the golfer’s whole body," explains Shear, "looking for limitations and other concerns. Then we coordinate with the great team of golf instructors here so they don’t try to teach something that the student can’t do. Once the golfer knows more about his or her body, we hope he’ll start an exercise program to work on any deficiencies and fix those weak, stretched muscles. But even if you’re never going to exercise, get assessed."

In the spirit of the British Open, which tees off at Royal Liverpool Golf Club in northwest England this week, Shear offers some advice for golfers making the trip of a lifetime to play in Scotland, Ireland, and elsewhere in Britain where it is often cold and damp. "Warm up before you play," he says. "You need to get the blood flowing and increase your core body temperature. Stretch, do some basic activation exercises, spend a few minutes first on an exercise bike or treadmill. It’s absolutely critical that you get the blood flowing before teeing it up when it’s cool and wet."

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

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Steinbreder's 18 Ways to Play Better

If you want to play better golf, your first stop should be at the lesson tee with a PGA professional.  To find out just how good these guys are--as teachers--check out John Steinbreder's 18 Ways to Play a Better 18 Holes.  The veteran golf journalist got eighteen of the best PGA pros to talk about their approach to various aspects of the game and the results are exceptional, no-nonsense nuggets of wisdom just like they would convey to you on the lesson tee.

The list of PGA pros in this book reads like a who's who of America's best golf teachers at America's best country clubs.  It includes Bob Ford from Oakmont and Seminole, Darrell Kestner (Deepdale), Scott Nye (Merion), Eden Foster (Maidstone), and Brian Crowell (GlenArbor).  Topics covered range from sound basics like driving, putting, and bunker play to strategies for competition, fitness, and course management.  Suzy Whaley (TPC River Highlands) even gives a lesson on taking a lesson!

The lessons are based on Steinbreder's interviews with the pros, who were given a chance to read and correct the entries before the final version was published along with a scattering of illustrative photos.  The result is eminently readable and will serve every golfer well.

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

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Happy Tenth To Vineyard Golf at Renault

7th hole Vineyards Golf Par 4

Vineyard Golf at Renault, a delightful course in Egg Harbor City, NJ, celebrates its 10th anniversary this year.  It's great addition to the long list of excellent golf opportunities within a few minutes drive of Atlantic City. With a fine hotel, restaurant, and namesake winery, Renault Winery Resort is actually a worthwhile destination of its own.

The unique 7,200-yard golf course was designed by architect Ed Shearon and features intriguing views of the vineyards as it meanders through the south Jerseys Pinelands.  Every hole seems to offer risk/reward opportunities and thoughtful strategic elements. Wide fairways are inviting but reward the well-placed tee shot, fairway bunkers and water are in play often enough to provide some variety, and the undulating greens place a premium on an accurate approach game.

Five sets of tees give golfers a course to suite every game, ranging from 5,176 to 7,213 yards.  From the recommended white tees, Vineyard Golf measure 6,358 with a 70.2/123 rating/slope.  Any number of holes are standouts, but the seventh is perhaps the most memorable.  From the whites, it plays 400 yards from an elevated tee box surrounded by the vineyard. The right-to-left dog leg is protected by bunkers on both sides of the curve and the approach to the green is guarded by trees left, so club selection off the tee is critical.

The owners of Renault Winery Resort created the golf course ten years ago, but the winery itself dates back to the 1864.  The first vines were brought to America from his native France by Louis Nicolas Renault.  Opened to the public in 1870, the Renault Winery eventually become the largest producer of champagne in the United States at one point; a distinction it was able to claim (and retain) since it was made before the term "champagne" was reserved by French producers.

The winery once had 600 acres of grapes but a large portion of the space was developed into a resort starting in 1983 with the opening of a restaurant. The resort's Tuscany Hotel opened in 2001 and golf was added in 2004. In addition to the small, European-style hotel, Vineyard Golf at Renault features a gourmet restaurant, a historic winery building offering tours, lavish banquet rooms for weddings and celebrations and, of course, a golf course that is as fine as the wine.

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

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Brooklyn Open Champs Return to Defend

Both the professional and the amateur champions of the first Brooklyn Open will be back to defend their titles at the Second Annual Brooklyn Open Championship Monday, July 7 at Marine Park Golf Course. Professional champion Pete Meurer of Staten Island and defending amateur champion Neal Fredericksen of Staten Island will be in the full field of 120 golfers that includes 26 professionals and representatives from all five boroughs and surrounding counties. 

"I’m really looking forward to this tournament because it was my first professional tournament victory," said the 57-year-old Meurer, a retired FDNY firefighter and current teaching professional at Staten Island Golf Practice Center. "I have that trophy placed in a nice place to honor in my house. I thought Marine Park did a great job with the changes to the golf course. Before last year I hadn’t played it in 15 years. I went out there the Friday before the tournament and was blown away.”

Last year both Meurer, the 2004 Metropolitan Golf Association Player of the Year, and Gabriel Lee of Bayside carded 1-under 71s before Meurer won the tournament on the fifth playoff hole.  Fredericksen shot a 3-over 75 to capture the amateur title.

Players are scheduled to begin teeing off at 8:30 a.m. on the par-72 Robert Trent Jones designed course. The links-style design will be stretched to 7,091 yards for the professional and top amateur players, making it the longest challenge in New York City.

"The second Brooklyn Open Championship at Marine Park should prove to be a different test than last year’s inaugural tournament in October," said Rich McDonough, Brooklyn Open Tournament Director and Director of Golf Operations at Marine Park. "Summer conditions are more conducive to faster and firmer fairways and greens. The course definitely will provide a different challenge.”

Professionals will be vying for a purse expected to exceed $7,500. Gift certificates will be awarded to the top amateur finishers in each division based on individual flight size. The overall professional and amateur champion will receive a Brooklyn Borough President Trophy. Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams is scheduled to be on hand to present the Brooklyn Borough President trophies at 3 p.m.

Overall four amateur divisions have been prearranged by handicaps and each will crown a champion. The area’s top amateurs with a handicap index of 8.9 or less are in the first division vying for the amateur’s Brooklyn Borough President Trophy. Amateurs playing in divisions 2-4 will play Marine Park at 6,600-plus yards.

"I’d probably take a 71 again," Meurer said. "As good as that place is they can put those pins in some really tricky spots. With the speed of the greens they can make the course as tough as they want to."

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

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Nicklaus Golf Balls Pass My Test

Confused about golf balls?  Do you play a Pro V1 because it's the market leader?  Bridgestone because Freddie Couples is your hero?  Top Flite because they're a dime a dozen or something?  Why not play a ball that's actually going to perform according to your swing speed and fit your game?  Gee, what a concept!

You don't have to make an appointment with a launch monitor to do it, either. Just choose the appropriate ball from the new Jack Nicklaus models based on the tees you usually (or should) play. The Nicklaus White ball is designed for golfers who typically tee off from the forward or white tees; Blue is for those who prefer the middle or blue tees; and Black is for lower-handicap golfers who might use the back or black tees.

Golf Balls
“By simply knowing the tees golfers play, we can estimate swing speed ranges,” says Nicklaus, winner of more than 120 professional tournaments, including a record 18 majors and 73 PGA TOUR events.  “So, we conceived the balls based on each golfer’s unique ability, be it an everyday player or professional, to score better and enjoy the game even more. All you need to know is the tee you play from.”

The Nicklaus White is for players who swing under 90 mpg (that's most of us, in case you didn't know), Blue for 90-105 mph better players (are you really in the top 10%?), and Black for guys who really do hit their drives 280 yards without a tail wind and three-story down-sloping fairway.

Does it really make a difference?  I put all three models to the test recently in an unscientific but fair trial.  My driver swing speed (91 mph) is right on the line between white and blue. I played each ball for six holes on three different courses--Salem CC, Pelham CC, and Whippoorwill CC--on three successive days.  I played from my usual tees at each, which were:
Salem CC  White tees  6,486 yards  par 72  72.1 rating  137 slope
Pelham CC  Blue tees  6,388 yards  par 70  72.2 rating  138 slope
Whippoorwill CC  White Tees  6,327 yards  par 71  71.4 rating  142 slope 
FYI, I shot my handicap or better on two of the three rounds (Pelham and Whippoorwill) and was over by three shots at Salem so the overall performance was pretty standard for me.

The ball that performed best over the three rounds was the one the literature would suggest for my swing: Nicklaus White.  On the 18 holes I played it, I scored a stroke better than my handicap.  The other two were slightly higher, with Blue at two strokes over and Black one over.  It's not exactly a FDA-human-trial-quality experiment, but it's good enough for me.

Generally speaking, I couldn't feel much difference off the driver face between the White and the Blue but the Black really "clicked" and probably gave me a couple more yards off the tee.  Where the White performed best was with my irons and around the green.  I felt it compress more often with a full swing and it seemed to hold the greens better.  That would make sense given my swing speed.

In addition to easy selection and an easy-on-the-pocketbook price, the Nicklaus Golf Balls carry another big advantage: every sale supports the Nicklaus Children’s Health Care Foundation and St. Jude's.  Available exclusively at www.nicklaus.com and through pro shops at the more than 200 Nicklaus Design courses in the U.S., a percentage of the sales price is donated to the charities.  Consumers using nicklaus.com to purchase balls at essentially a wholesale price also receive free shipping.  If via FedEx delivery services, an additional donation is made to St. Jude.

Online sales save golfers money because distribution costs typically built into product sold through traditional retail channels have been reduced.  This allows Nicklaus Golf Balls to be priced attractively at $28 to $32 per dozen and generate greater charity donations. Visitors to nicklaus.com can also make voluntary contributions; to date, nearly 80 percent of consumers have opted to make a donation.

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

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Marathon Golfer Scores For Eric Trump Foundation

Tony Balassone
What's a big golf day for you?  A leisurely 18 holes? A forced march toward 36? Maybe you've even completed a bone-crunching 54 holes in a state of golf hysteria.  Fuggedaboutit!  You're a piker compared to Tony Balassone, who cranked out a record 451 holes in one day at Trump National Golf Club, Hudson Valley on June 23.  Tony wasn't just feeding his golf habit, though.  He was playing to benefit the Eric Trump Foundation for St. Jude.  His real triumph? He raised $25,000 (and still counting) for the cause.

Balassone, co-owner of Calico Restaurant and Patisserie in Rhinebeck, and his wife, Leslie, raise money each year on behalf of a different charity.  Last year, Tony raised more than $20K for Multiple Sclerosis in memory of his uncle by playing over 90 holes of golf (on foot) at Trump National, walking nearly 26 miles in the process.  Tony was so grateful to the Trump family and Brian Freeswick, General Manager of the club, for donating the course last year that he and Leslie identified The Eric Trump Foundation to be their 2014 beneficiary.

Electing to use a golf cart this year, Tony set his personal goal at 400 (+) golf holes.  At 6:25 AM, Tony teed off at hole number 1 and successfully completed 451 holes in 12 hours, taking 1,909 shots and making 48 birdies.  Don't bother to take your socks off to do the math with your fingers and toes: that's just over 25 18-hole rounds at an average score of 76.

Longtime Hopewell Junction resident, Dan Scavino, an ETF Board Member and Director of the Joe Torre Foundation, was on hand to support Tony Balassone and witness his efforts on behalf of the children.  Scavino also promoted Tony’s incredible feat via social media and with local radio personality “Woodman,” on K104.

A celebratory dinner & auction in honor of Tony Balassone will be held at Trump National Golf Club, Hudson Valley, on July 15, 2014, 6:00PM. Tickets are $125/each and may be purchased via Erin Murray, emurray@trumpnational.com, no later than Friday, July 11, 2014.

Since 2006, Eric Trump, son of Donald J. Trump, and his foundation have donated and pledged over $28 million dollars to St Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital.  If you would like to donate to The Eric Trump Foundation for St. Jude on behalf of Tony Balassone or learn more about ETF’s mission, visit www.erictrumpfoundation.com.

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