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Friday, April 23, 2010

Words From A Winner

Bobby Heins is one of the most successful golfers I know, so when he talks about what it takes to win, I try to pay attention. He had some interesting words of advice during the MGA 2010 Media Day:

"To win," he said, "it's all about staying in the moment. You have to take care of the shot at hand. After forty years in this game, I've learned that a bogey not made is a birdie not needed."

"Once you get outside three or four feet, putting is all about the feel. Master your stroke on the short ones, then trust it on the long ones."

"When I reached my 40s, I went back to work. I couldn't rely on natural talent anymore. I try to hit a few balls every day and keep in shape with yoga, rolfing, and stretching."

Bobby is the head professional at Old Oaks Country Club in Purchase, NY, and one of the top teachers in the area. Among others, he coaches PGA Tour winner Johnson Wagner. He's also one of the winningest golfers in the game. In 2009 he was named Met PGA Senior Player of the Year after a fabulous season during which he won the MGA Senior Open Championship for the second year in a row. Those back-to-back wins mirrored his two-peat of the Met Open Championship, which he captured exactly twenty years earlier in 1988 and '89.

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

Friday, April 16, 2010

Struggling? Fit Your Swing To Your Body!

Fit the swing to the body was the advice Dave Phillips gave to an avid audience of PGA professionals at the 48th annual Metropolitan PGA Educational Forum. Phillips was one of the founders of the Titleist Performance Institute and knows whereof he speaks.

His message was directed to the club pros who do a ton to shape the way golf is played through the lessons they give and the clinics and golf camps they organize for players at all levels. Everyday golfers should take the message to heart too, though, because it corrects one of the great misconceptions of the game, that you should strive for a picture-perfect swing whether your body is capable of producing one or not. The game can not only be enjoyed without one, Phillips said, but every golfer will have a better time--and actually play better, too--if they stop trying to achieve some sort of ideal swing.
"There are millions of ways to swing a club," Phillips said, "but there is only one efficient way for each golfer. It's based on their individual body."
What is an "efficient" swing?

Phillips says that's determined by the answers to two questions:
"Can you hit the ball where you want it to go?"
"Are you in pain when you walk off the course?"
Hitting where you want it to go doesn't necessarily mean bombing 300 yard drives off every tee (as much fun as that might be). Knowing--really knowing--you are capable of getting the ball on the green 150 yard away over water will probably mean a lot more to your score. More importantly, your body is probably capable of performing the second shot consistently whereas the only time you and I are going to hit a 300 yard drive is when we're hitting down-wind, down-hill, on a concrete fairway.

The point of Phillips presentation was to encourage the teaching pros to start their lessons with every student by conducting an assessment of the player's physical abilities. He outlined a brief series of tests (you can find them at mytpi.com) that reveal what the golfer can or can't do. Rather than try to force the golfer's body to conform to an ideal swing, he recommends tweaking the swing to fit the body.

The Titleist Performance Institute is one of the most advanced learning facilities in golf. They look at everything that makes people better at the game including equipment, biomechanics, diet, and even optometry. In addition to an advisory board of specialists in all those fields, they base their approach on a research database of 40,000 golfers around the world. They offer programs for golfers at all levels and certify golf, medical, and fitness professionals.

The best way to start shaping your swing to your body? By taking a lesson from a PGA Professional.

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

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Hollow Brook Changes Hands

Hollow Brook, one of Westchester County's more interesting golf courses, changed hands recently and the new owner promises to take the facility up a notch or two while making the cost of membership more accurately reflect the realities of today's economy.

"The land is spectacular, the course wonderfully challenging and my team will be working on the little things to make Hollow Brook the greatest experience it can be for our members," says new owner Steve Torsoe. He says he plans to make the course more player friendly and adds, "We’ll make Hollow Brook accessible to local residents, charities, as well as local high school and college golf teams."

The course, which opened in 2004 on 250 acres in Cortlandt Manor, was designed and built by Eric Bergstol, who also recently sold two other courses in the metropolitan area to Donald Trump. The track is noted for dramatic elevation changes and punitive rough as well as judicious use of the eponymous Hollow Brook that runs through it. It's 6,923 yards from the tips, although unless you drive it long and laser-straight, you have no business playing from the back tees.

I'll be watching to see what changes Torsoe makes to the course, which has a quirky hole or two. The eighth hole, for example, could be a good, solid 531-yard par five. It's a well-laid-out dog leg right that should reward a long drive that challenges the bunkers at the turn with a good chance to make the green in two. I say "should" because there's a huge tree on the edge of the fairway that completely blocks an aggressive second shot regardless of how well you place your drive.

Hollow Brook is very much a strategic player's golf course. There are a couple of short par fours that preclude use of a driver off the tee and more than a few approach shots where elevation changes make you think twice about club selection. Greens are large and rolling and well-bunkered. Bergstol was an early adapter of the shaggy-edge bunker, which fits well with the general ambiance of the course.

Word on the street is that Torsoe is offering some very affordable membership deals, so it will be interesting to see what the future holds for the club.

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

Saturday, April 3, 2010

First Class First Round

I posted my first local round for 2010 yesterday and had the pleasure of starting my season in the NY area at a real first-class facility, Manhattan Woods in West Nyack. This Gary Player design has been one of the most under-reported gems of the New York market. It deserves a lot more recognition.

Hills and wetlands define most of the holes. High fescue is everywhere, too, so accuracy is much more important than length. Fortunately for me, it was still early in the season and the rough hadn't yet grown in. You'll encounter water on four holes and forced carries over environmentally-sensitive waste areas on several others. The bunkering is fiendish but fair.

The greens at Manhattan Woods are good sized and well-contoured. They weren't rolling particularly fast yesterday, but I've played them in mid-summer and can guarantee the speed will make you pay attention. One other important note: the grain here is very pronounced and many times doesn't flow the way you expect, so check it carefully before putting. If the caddie tells you to putt like it's uphill even though it looks like a downhiller, believe him. Short into-the-grain putts cost me at least four strokes. You'd think I'd learn, wouldn't you?

Manhattan Woods plays from 5,090 to over 7,100 yards with five sets of tees. I'm a big believer in playing from the proper tees for your handicap and yesterday's round showed how much that can improve the enjoyment of the game. My friend and colleague Dan Berger and I both hover between 9 and 11 indexes. We were playing with Michael Quaglianno, who turned pro last year. With Michael teeing off from the tips and Dan and I from the blues, we were all typically left with equal distances to the green for our second shots. Rounding out our foursome was club Membership Director Mary Ann Jones, who played from the forward tees and kept up with us very well. That's the mark of a well-laid-out course.

The amenities at Manhattan Woods are exemplary. The practice facility not only has a range with two sets of tees, but a practice bunker and chipping green as well. There are two practice greens, too, so you never feel like you're trying to putt in the crowd at Times Square. Every time I've played there, my caddie knew his stuff, too, which means a lot on a course where strategy is more important than brute strength and knowledge of the greens is just as important as reading the contours. The staff in the pro shop and locker room couldn't be friendlier, either.

One final note about friendliness: We were guests on a busy, holiday Friday (the parking lot was full) but the members who were playing went beyond cordial--there were a lot of them, too, but they seemed truly happy to have us there. And even though the course was full, we never felt rushed or had to wait on another group--another sign of a well-designed and well-run facility.

Manhattan Woods has a lot offer. You'll be hearing a lot more about it this year.

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