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Friday, August 31, 2012

Pasatiempo Celebrates Classic Golf

Pasatiempo 11th Hole
11th Hole, Pasatiempo. Photo courtesy of Rob Babcock/Pasatiempo Golf Club
California has so many great golf destinations it's easy to overlook one of the best courses in the state--if not the nation--simply because there's no resort attached to it and the professional tours don't stop there. I'm talking about Pasatiempo, the classic Alister Mackenzie gem roughly midway between San Francisco and the Monterey Peninsula, home to one of his other famous designs, Cypress Point (not to mention Pebble Beach, Spyglass, et al). No matter where you're playing otherwise in Northern California, Pasatiempo is well worth the short side trip. It's a must-play for serious golfers not to mention students of golf architecture. How good is Pasatiempo? When Bobby Jones played it on opening day in 1929, he immediately hired Mackenzie to design Augusta National.

Pasatiempo is only 6,521 yards from the tips, but it plays to a stalwart 72.4 rating/143 slope. Its dramatic elevation changes and seemingly endless natural hazards make for a rugged course whose difficulty is cranked up several notches by Mackenzie's strongly contoured greens and sprawling, glorious bunkers. Every hole seems to offer a risk and reward tactical choice and every green runs fast, true, and convoluted.

Each successive tee box presents you with a unique challenge. The opener is a 457-yard par four that requires a long, accurate approach as well as a powerful drive. The third hole, a magnificent 235-yard uphill par three, is protected not just by its length but by four menacing greenside bunkers along with a mind-messing cross bunker. The first par five you play, the sixth hole, is 567 yards, but believe it or not, accuracy counts more than length on every shot due to the tight fairway, cross bunkers, and long, narrow green. Next up is the shortest par four on the course, the 348-yard seventh hole, where trees from both sides nearly meet overhead to practically form a tunnel over the fairway. Needless to say, a controlled tee shot is essential.

Natural hazards abound on the back side. A bottomless ravine threatens both your drive and your approach on the 392-yard eleventh hole, then comes back into play guarding the green on the 373-yard twelfth. Fifteen is a 141-yard one-shotter perched behind another deep fissure in the earth's crust, as is the 169-yard finishing hole, which also slopes--and putts--more like an icy ski slope than a golf green.

Pasatiempo 16th Hole
16th Hole, Pasatiempo. Photo courtesy of Rob Babcock/Pasatiempo Golf Club
The number one handicap hole on Pasatiempo is the 387-yard sixteenth, a hole Mackenzie himself considered the best two-shotter in the game. The drive is uphill, blind, and rewards a high draw if you can pull one off. The approach is what separates the men from the boys, however. It's back over the ravine you've encounted on several holes and into a brutal three-tiered green that is a full 49 yards deep and has a frightening false front. Coming up short is not an option, nor is leaving your ball above the hole. In other words, par on this hole is almost always a function of a perfect second shot. It's easy to see how Pasatiempo was built to enhance match play, the predominant form of competition in its day.

The club has hosted numerous USGA championships and is the permanent home of the Western Intercollegiate Golf Tournament where everyone from Ken Venturi and Gene Littler To Johnny Miller, Dave Stockton, and Tiger Woods competed during their college years. LPGA star Juli Inkster literally grew up on the course and Alister Mackenzie chose to live there--his home is along the fairway on the sixth hole. And here's an aside for New York area golfers: Mackenzie is believed to have worked on Century Country Club in Purchase while he was a partner with Colt & Allison, the official designers of the course.

One of the best features of Pasatiempo is its status as a semi-private club. Certain tee times are reserved for members, but you can book a time online as much as 365 days in advance. If you treasure the classical traditions of golf architecture or otherwise want a spectacular golf experience, book yours today!

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

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Breed, Alexander, Kennedy Honored by PGA

Thee outstanding members of the Metropolitan Section of the PGA will be honored at the PGA of America Awards in January. They are Michael Breed, popular Golf Channel personality and head professional at Sunningdale, who was named PGA Teacher of the Year, Carl Alexander, head pro at The Golf Club of Purchase, who will receive the Horton Smith Award, and John Kennedy, Jr., Director of Golf at Westchester Country Club, who will be honored with the Patriot Award. Here's what the PGA press release said about them:

MICHAEL BREED - PGA Teacher of the Year

Michael Breed of Greenwich, Conn., whose telegenic instruction skills through his signature Golf Channel program, "The Golf Fix," has motivated countless viewers to enjoy the game, has been named the recipient of the 2012 PGA Teacher of the Year Award.

Breed, 50, is in his 12th season as PGA head professional at Sunningdale Country Club in Scarsdale, N.Y. He follows Michael Hebron (1991) of St. James, N.Y., as the only Metropolitan PGA members to receive The PGA of America's highest honor for a golf instructor.

A native of Greenwich, Conn., Breed began his athletic career in baseball as a shortstop, and was introduced to golf at age 13 by his father.

Breed is a 1985 graduate of Randolph-Macon College in Ashland, Va., where he was a standout player for the Yellow Jackets, and was a 2004 inductee into the school's Athletic Hall of Fame. Breed declared professional in 1985, and made a bid in 1991 to earn a berth on the former Ben Hogan (now Web.com Tour). Breed was a PGA assistant professional at Augusta (Ga.) National Golf Club from 1989 through 1992, before serving as assistant from 1992 to 1995, for former PGA Professional National Champion Darrell Kestner at Deepdale Golf Club in Manhasset, N.Y. In 1994, Breed competed in the Greater Hartford Open on the PGA Tour.

Breed made his venture into golf broadcasting at Golf Channel in 1999, appearing on numerous "Golf Academy Live" programs as both a guest instructor and host. He has served as an on-course reporter for the former Nationwide Tour and PGA Tour events, and as a guest on such Golf Channel programs as "Viewer's Forum" and "Golf Central." Breed also contributed numerous golf tips for CBS, Turner Sports, and Cablevision.

In 2009, Breed was selected to host "The Golf Fix," elevating it into one of golf's most popular instruction programs on cable television. He also serves as host instructor for Golf Channel's "Big Break Academy."

Breed's broadcasting venture, he said, would not have been possible without the support of his home facility, Sunningdale Country Club, where he has been PGA head professional since 2001.

Breed served from 2005 to 2010 on the Metropolitan PGA Board of Directors and is in his second term on the national PGA Instruction Committee. A past chair of the Metropolitan PGA Education Committee, Breed won two Ely Callaway Awards in 2010 and 2011, recognizing individuals earning the most service hour credits for education recertification. He was the 2000 and 2009 Metropolitan PGA Teacher of the Year, and recipient of the Section's 2006 and '07 Horton Smith Award for contributions to PGA education.

For more than a decade, Breed has served as a Titleist Leadership Advisory Staff member and is among Golf Digest's Top 50 instructors in the U.S., and since 2003 has been listed as a top 100 instructor by GOLF Magazine. Breed's worldwide travels include trips to Canada and China to promote PGA education and has appeared before more than 15 PGA Sections nationwide.

Breed has coached 2003 PGA Champion Shaun Micheel, and past Tour winners Chris Smith and Joe Ogilvie. His current students include five-time Web.com Tour winner Darron Stiles, Ron Whitaker and LPGA winner Meghan Francella.

CARL ALEXANDER – Horton Smith Award 

Carl Alexander of Bedford, N.Y., whose leadership within the Metropolitan PGA Section resulted in showcasing both model programs and inspiring new audiences to the game, has been named the recipient of the 2012 Horton Smith Award for outstanding and continuing contributions to professional education.

Alexander, 46, is PGA director of golf at The Golf Club of Purchase (N.Y.), and a 16-year member of The PGA of America. He is the fourth member of the Metropolitan PGA Section to receive the Horton Smith Award, which was established in 1965, and named for the late PGA Past President and inaugural Masters Champion.

Born in New York City, Alexander is the son of renowned golf photographer Jules Alexander, and attended Rollins College in Orlando, Fla., before transferring to the University of Arizona. He turned professional in 1992, and joined the Grand Cypress Academy of Golf staff in Orlando, Fla. In 1997, Alexander accepted a teaching and assistant professional position at Pine Hollow Country Club in East Norwich, N.Y. In 1999, he was recruited to join GlenArbor Golf Club in Bedford Hills, N.Y., as PGA head professional to help build the new private golf club.

In 2005, Alexander joined The Golf Club of Purchase, where he has built successful teaching programs, and managed a first-class golf club with high-end services. Throughout his career, Alexander has hired and trained many assistants, several of whom have gone on to their own head professional positions in the Metropolitan PGA Section.

Alexander was introduced to golf at age 6, encouraged to join his neighborhood friends, and would take his first formal lessons from then-Westchester Country Club assistant professional Jim McLean, who went on to become one of the country's most celebrated instructors and the 1994 PGA Teacher of the Year.

Since 2003, Alexander has served as a member of the Metropolitan PGA Board of Directors; was Section vice president from 2007 to 2011; and has been a member of the Section Education Committee since 2004, and chair of the committee since 2009. He also is co-chair of the Section Communications and Public Relations Committee, serving in those capacities since 2008.

Alexander was the 2006 Metropolitan PGA Teacher of the Year and the 2010 Section Horton Smith Award recipient, and the 2000 Westchester Golf Association Player of the Year.

Among Alexander's endeavors of the past several years include teaming with LPGA Tour player Jane Blalock and other LPGA Tour professionals for a women's executive golf clinic; and developing a junior golf program at The Golf Club of Purchase, which pairs junior golfers for clinics, contests, and on-course competition with professional staff.

In 2009, Alexander met with and recruited Stuart Levine, formerly of Dale Carnegie, and together they developed a leadership and governance program for the Metropolitan PGA Educational Programs and the Board. In 2010, Stuart Levine was one of several keynote speakers at the Met PGA Spring Educational Forum along with Barry Hyde of the USGA and PGA Chief Executive Officer Joe Steranka. The PGA of America's Education Department later created four regional educational conferences and teamed with Stuart Levine & Associates to create the Power of Fundamentals Executive Program.

Alexander later served on the committee to develop the Met PGA Head Professional Handbook, which featured more than 400 pages of materials and outlines designed to help professionals in every phase of their operations, business, and personal development. Alexander created the Teaching Center at Purchase, a year-round state-of-the-art facility offered to players of all skill levels.

JOHN KENNEDY JR. – Patriot Award 

John Kennedy Jr. of New Canaan, Conn., whose leadership within the Metropolitan PGA Section extended to establishing a foundation for supporting the men and women of the military along with affiliation with the VA to help instruct disabled veterans, has been named the recipient of the 2012 Patriot Award.

First presented in 2008, the Patriot Award honors a PGA Professional who personifies patriotism through the game of golf and demonstrates unwavering commitment and dedication to the men and women who have valiantly served and protected the United States of America.

The 61-year-old Kennedy is in his 22nd year as PGA head professional at Westchester Country Club in Rye, N.Y., and is a 36-year member of The PGA of America. He is the second Metropolitan PGA Section member to receive the Patriot Award, following John Hines of Calverton, N.Y., in 2011.

Kennedy established Golfers in Support of the Troops Foundation in 2008, which has raised more than $90,000 over a four-year period to distribute more than 20,000 articles of clothing to U.S. troops and their families. Clothing was sent to Baghdad, Iraq; Fort Benning, Ga.; Fort Hood, Texas; Fort Collins, Colo.; and Fort Drum, N.Y. Kennedy contributed 50 percent of the clothing that he purchased for his own golf shop.

In addition to Westchester Country Club serving as a strong supporter of Patriot Golf Day since the initiative began in 2007, it also has supported Kennedy's efforts to build an alliance between the New York VA Hospital Prosthetics Device Department and 2010 Patriot Award recipient Jim Estes of Olney, Md., founder of the Salute Military Golf Association. Together with 2011 Patriot Award recipient John Hines, the group are working to expand training of PGA Professionals to give golf instruction to disabled veterans.

Born in Fairfield, Conn., Kennedy graduated from Fairfield University in 1972 and turned professional that year. He was elected to PGA membership in 1976, during which time he was an assistant professional at Sleepy Hollow Country Club in Scarborough, N.Y. In 2010, he became the third member of the Metropolitan PGA Section to be named a recipient of the national Horton Smith Award, which recognizes an individual PGA member for outstanding and continuing contributions to professional education.

Kennedy also was the 1997 Metropolitan PGA Golf Professional of the Year; and recipient of the 2005 Section Bill Strausbaugh Award; the 1985, '88 and 2009 Section Horton Smith Award; and the 1983 and '91 Section Merchandiser of the Year for Private Facilities.

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

SNAG Your Youngster On Golf

photo courtesy of SNAG
Why don't more kids take up golf? Because golf courses, instructors, and nearly everyone else in the game make it almost impossible for them to play. We introduce them to the game by standing them on a range, handing them a cut-down club, then filling their little heads with a couple dozen things to remember about their grip, stance, alignment, backswing, follow-through, balance, and so on. Maybe after a few weeks of pounding balls, we let them actually go out on the course, but it's the same one the grownups play and the rules are the same, so (just like the adults) they fail most of the time.

SNAG has a different approach. Starting New At Golf contains all the elements of golf but can be played anywhere indoors or out. It's an easy game that gets kids (or anyone) into the game by making it easy to learn and fun to play. Gee, what a concept.

PGA professional Kelly McCammon, a VP at SNAG, describes the game as a "bunny slope" for golf. "It's designed to introduce kids to the game the same way other sports bring young players into theirs," he says. "Youngsters begin soccer with a ball sized to their smaller feet, baseball puts the ball on a tee for beginners, basketball lowers the hoop--you get the picture." The SNAG equipment package and instruction system does the same thing.

photo courtesy of SNAG
Everything in the package is color-coded and simplified. The kids learn to hold a club correctly, for example, by grabbing the five-sided club handle with their left thumb on the yellow side and the right on the red one--giving them a perfect grip. Everything is target-oriented, too. There's a big circle on the club face that tells them where the ball is supposed to be struck and the ball itself is teed up on a pad with an arrow pointing to the place you want it to go. The ball is specially designed to be used anywhere indoors or out. There are only two clubs in the set--an oversized eight iron and a giant putter--but they are available in sizes for three-year-olds on up. The "hole" is actually a flag-topped cone that sits above ground and uses a velcro-like surface to hold the ball when it hits. There are other targets,

SNAG equipment is used by the First Tee and the system has been adopted by 12,000 facilities in 42 countries around the world. The system is marketed mostly to golf courses, schools, and parks and recreation departments, although there are individual packages available and it would be very easy to set up a SNAG "course" in your backyard.

President Terry Anton estimated 3.5 million kids are participating in the program in the U.S. The goal, he points out, is not just to get them into the game but to keep them there. "We believe sixty to seventy percent of SNAG participants stay in the game," he says. I can't think of a better testimonial.

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

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

User-Friendly Wild Turkey At Crystal Springs

If you're a fan of spacious fairways, expansive greens, and eye-pleasing vistas, you'll like Wild Turkey, the Roger Rulewich design that opened in 2001 at Crystal Springs in Hamburg, NJ. It's an excellent resort course with just enough bite to give the serious golfer his or her money's worth.

Wild Turkey is routed over two distinct terrains, a ridge that gives you multiple elevation changes and a treeless basin that lends a hint of links to the round. Throughout the course, Rulewich provides plenty of fairway to work with but demands that your tee shot be in the right place for a precise approach to deceptively difficult greens. Many of the par fours have limited aprons to punish a miss as well as multiple pin positions on seemingly acres of putting surface to command pinpoint accuracy on your approach. The course measures 7,202 yards from the tips, but is a good round from the blue tees at 6,555 with a 71.4 rating/131 slope. Four sets of tees are available in total.

Wild Turkey at Crystal Springs Resort
Wild Turkey Hole #7. Photo courtesy of the course.
Still, aside from a few exceptions, most of the holes are fairly forgiving as long as you observe and play to some of their design features. The 450-yard par four fifth hole, for example, has a green that runs away from a straight-on approach. The seventh, a 181-yard one-shotter, plays over a quarry lake. There's a minimal bail-out area left and out-of-bounds right, so the hole deserves your full attention.

As you make the turn, stop on the tenth tee to enjoy the view of three states, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and New York, on the horizon at Port Jervis. You'll get another view worth pausing for at the fourteenth tee, where you overlook the entire basin from the twelfth to the seventeenth hole.

Wild Turkey shows its teeth on the finishing holes, beginning with the 392-yard fifteenth where you face a long forced carry over water, a menacing bunker complex on the right side of the fairway, and a difficult elevated green where the surface is hidden from view on your approach. You'll also have to contend with water on the sixteenth hole, a 170-yard par three, as well as on the tee shot for the seventeenth, a seriously-long 577-yard par five that looks like a Cape hole, but isn't unless you can safely carry the ball 270 yards. The better play from the tee is to aim at the right-side fairway bunkers, which are barely reachable by the average player but will put you in a position to avoid the cross bunkers on your second shot.

Wild Turkey is a user-friendly golf course, but certainly not one on which you'd be ashamed of posting par or a little over. Like all the courses at Crystal Springs, the amenities are excellent, the conditions good, and the staff welcoming and helpful. Greens fees are reasonable, too, so consider squeezing in a second round during the day.

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

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Make A Difference With Your Labor Day Weekend Golf

Golfers this weekend will be supporting the children and spouses of the military men and women killed or disabled while serving our nation. It’s all part of Patriot Golf Day, a fundraiser for the Folds of Honor Foundation, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that provides postsecondary educational scholarships. On Labor Day weekend, golfers across the country are asked to add an extra dollar to their greens fees to fund Folds of Honor scholarships.  Both public and private courses—as well as driving ranges and other golf facilities—are behind the event.  Here are a few of the courses participating this year in my neck of the woods:

Ardsley CC
Whippoorwill CC
Bedford G&T
Otterkill CC
Hollow Brook GC
Hudson National GC
Leewood CC
Lake Isle CC
Knollwood CC
Willow Ridge CC
St. Andrews GC
Winged Foot GC
Mount Kisco CC
Wykagyl CC
Pelham CC
Casperkill GC
Vassar GC
Westchester CC
Sunningdale CC
Fenway CC
Patriot Hills GC
Tuxedo Club
Waccabuc CC
West Point GC
Metropolis CC
Dunwoodie GC

Even if your favorite course isn’t part of the event, you can still support this great cause with a direct dontaion—even if you don’t play golf this weekend!

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

Saturday, August 25, 2012

A Perfect Golf Weekend? Try Half Moon Bay

The Ritz Carlton Half Moon Bay epitomizes the perfect golf weekend destination. Just 30 minutes from San Francisco International Airport, the resort offers accommodations at a fabulous Ritz hotel, two very entertaining golf courses, and guest pampering that won't stop.

Golf is the heart of the resort and two excellent and completely different golf experiences are available to both resort guests and daily fee players. The Old Course, a traditional parkland-style track that opened in 1973, was designed by Arnold Palmer and Francis Duane. Its18th hole along the ocean has been ranked among the 100 best in America. The Ocean Course was designed by Arthur Hills to pay homage to Scottish links-style courses. It debuted in 1997 and was remodeled in 2009 to make it play even more true to the style.

Half Moon Bay Old Course 18th Hole
18th Hole on the Old Course. Photo courtesy of the resort.
The Old Course stretches 7,001 yards from the tips. The generous fairways and gentle greens are perfect for the resort player who chooses the right tees (the whites are fine at 6,323 yards). The better player will be rewarded by well-placed tee shots and aggressive pin-seeking approaches while the less-than-perfect golfer won't be decimated by a miss or two. The Old Course ends with two thrilling holes on the Pacific, a 167-yard one-shotter that plays dead into the prevailing wind followed by a risk-and-reward 405-yard par four with the ocean on the right and a ravine crossing the fairway smack in the middle of the range of just about everybody's tee shot. A driver should probably be your last choice off the tee on the final hole. The shot into the tiny 18th green is a simple short iron or wedge made a bit more demanding by the audience typically watching from the hotel patio and fire pit adjacent to it.

The Pacific is in view from every hole on the Ocean Course, but is in play (kind of) only on the 184-yard par-three seventeenth hole, where an errant tee shot can easily find the beach at the bottom of the cliffs next to the green. The ocean breezes (or gales), though, shape every shot you make on the 6,854-yard track--especially on the back nine. The course plays much like pure links, with rolling, contoured fairways where odd bounces prevail and approach shots into generous greens demand careful consideration of the humps and bumps of the greenside terrain. Shot values matter more than sheer length and power. The fairways are generous but the rough is mowed short around bunkers to bring the hazards into play on tee shots. Greenside surrounds are cut to “just above green” mowing height to foster ball movement on the ground and native fescue between holes provides you with visual cues about how to direct your shots.

Half Moon Bay Ocean Course 18th hole
18th Hole on the Ocean Course. Photo courtesy of the resort.
With a little planning, it's easy to play both courses in a day. Just be sure to leave time for a generous lunch break in Mullins Bar & Grill in the clubhouse or in the Conservatory Lounge in the hotel. The sliders of pulled pork cooked for 48 sweet hours deserve your full attention, so allow enough time between rounds to enjoy them.

Other dining options include the nautically-inspired Navio, which serves fine coastal cuisine from a 1,000 sq. ft. display kitchen and ENO, a wine bar that contains over 5,000 bottles of international wines and includes sommelier-selected wine flights. Other resort amenities include a 16,000 sq. ft. Spa and Fitness Center with a unique co-ed Roman mineral bath, an immense patio perched on the cliffs above the beach, and soul-searing views of the Pacific from nearly every room. There also a scenic trail that winds along the cliffs and activities nearby include horseback riding, deep-sea fishing, whale watching, sea kayaking, hiking, biking and antiquing.

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

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Golf Stinks Gives Away Weird Golf

Weird Golf is all about fun on the golf course and here's a fun way to win a free copy of the book from Golf Stinks!

Just visit their Facebook page, "Like" it, and enter the photo caption contest. Hint: Just keep your "Big Foot" out of your mouth!

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

A Ten Minute Lesson From David Leadbetter

David Leadbetter At Crystal Springs
David Leadbetter delivered some solid advice during a recent session at his academy at Crystal Springs in Franklin, NJ. The well-known guru has coached dozens of tour stars around the world who have amassed over a dozen Major Championship titles and over 100 individual worldwide tournament victories. He basically invented the business of golf instruction and today operates 28 golf academies around the globe. His insights into the state of the average player's game are not to be ignored.

"Ninety percent of all golfers have a lousy grip," he said as he started the session. "A lot of swing problems can be traced directly to that." According to Leadbetter, most players hold the club too much in the palms of their hands which restricts hinging of the wrists, adds to tension in the arms and shoulders, and virtually eliminates any chance of a smooth, powerful movement. "The grip should be in the fingers and light enough to take tension out of the swing." Leadbetter laughingly pointed out that he and his staff got so tired of drawing lines on players' gloves to show them where to hold the club that he created the Correct Grip Golf Glove with markings already on it.

The next part of Leadbetter's lesson focused on stance. "Stand like you're ready to move," he said. Weight evenly distributed and knees slightly flexed, arms hanging loose, you'll be ready to make a relaxed but powerful swing.

"Try not to have more than one swing thought," Leadbetter adds. "And none is even better." Over-thinking is the enemy of good golf, according to him. He adds, "You don't have to be dumb to play this game, but it helps."

Finally, complete your back swing with your weight on your right heel, then swing all the way to a finish and hold the pose. "If you can do that, you've accomplished a lot of good things in your swing," he says.

The master teacher's observations on technology were interesting, too. "The biggest difference in teaching now and thirty years ago," he says, "is that now we have the cameras, launch monitors, brain scans, you name it, to prove the average player's swing sucks."  From the positive side of technology, he points out that "The largest change in the game is our ability to improve results by club fitting."

Leadbetter opened his academy at Crystal Springs last year. Golfers in the Northeastern US can now take advantage of a variety of mini schools, players’ schools, retreats, private sessions and improved performance programs.

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

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Oscar Salazar Honored By Westchester Hills

Oscar Salazar
Westchester Hills Country Club paid tribute to a special person August 21. It wasn't the winner of a tournament championship or a newly-elected club president but rather Oscar Salazar, a locker room attendant at the White Plains club for 43 years.

When members of the club learned that the 65-year-old Salazar was battling cancer, they got together to stage an outing to both honor his years of service and to raise money for the education of his three kids. Over 120 golfers signed up for golf, dinner, raffles, and other fund-raising festivities held in the newly-renovated club house. One long-time member came from Florida for the event. Another cut short a business trip in Germany to fly back for it.

Oscar and his family greeted participants as they arrived, exchanging stories and posing for endless pictures as the golfer checked in. "This is like my second home," Oscar said. "The members are like a family."

Like the perfect sunny day, the mood was upbeat, cheerful, and celebratory of the man's life. His brother, Pepe, was in the locker room where he, too, has worked for many years. Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino declared August 21, 2012, "Oscar Salazar Day."

Oscar, a native of Lima, Peru, came to Westchester Hills as a bus boy. In 1980, he "graduated" to the locker room where he presides over the upper level. His brother, Pepe, is stationed on the ground floor. The two are noted for continuous banter about their favorite teams. Pepe is a Yankees fan while Oscar roots for the Mets.

As head pro Jason Gobleck said, "We do golf events all the time, but this one is special. It's for one of our own."

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

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Lightning? Gimme Shelter!

Photo courtesy of Adam Donlin, Ballyowen Director of Golf
If you have any doubt about what happens when lightning strikes a golf course, look closely at the green in this picture from Ballyowen in Hamburg, NJ. The flag has been replaced since the one that drew the lighting was obliterated, but check out the cracks in the green radiating from the cup. Now imagine the force that created them coursing through your body. Not pleasant, but that's exactly what could happen if you ignore the simplest rule in golf: if there is the remotest possibility that lightning is in the area while you are on a golf course--take immediate shelter!

A few things to keep in mind:

Lightning can strike several miles from the center of a storm and far from the clouds you see. Ever heard of a "bolt from the blue?" They're real! Lightning can strike fifteen miles from a thunderstorm.

You will not always have warning from thunder. Atmospheric conditions can send the thunder sound wave away from you.  On the other hand, if you hear thunder, don't try to second-guess it. There's lighting somewhere in your vicinity so take cover.

Don't trust the "30-second rule." It's widely believed that you can count the seconds between a lightning flash and the sound of the thunder and, if it's greater than thirty seconds, the danger is too far away to be cause for concern. That's dangerous wishful thinking--the next lightning flash you see can easily be the one that strikes your head.

Most lightning casualties occur in the beginning of a storm because golfers tend to try to ignore the warning signs and try to squeeze in just one more hole. Many injuries also come after the storm--lightning can strike up to thirty minutes after the thunderstorm has supposedly passed.

Many golf courses have lightning warning systems, but don't wait for the horn to sound if you see the storm coming. The systems are great, but not always maintained in perfect working order.

The safest place to be is in the clubhouse, so head for it at the first indication of trouble. If you can't make it, avoid the places you want to be like in a course rain shelter, under a tree, or even in your golf cart. All of these actually increase the probability of being struck. Instead, find the lowest point away from things like standing water, fences, or machinery, crouch down, and put your hands over your ears to minimize hearing damage. Don't lay flat on the ground and stay at least fifteen feet from other people--lightning can jump from them to you.

What should you do if someone in your group is struck? Here's what the National Severe Storms Laboratory says:

  1. Call 911 and provide directions to the victim
  2. Don't endanger yourself or others if the victim is in a high-risk area and the storm is continuing. Lightning DOES strike the same place twice!
  3. Victims don't carry a charge after being struck, so it's safe to touch them to render treatment. They also seldom suffer from major fractures or bleeding complications, so it's safe to move them away from a high risk area if you can do so safely.
  4. If the victim is not breathing, start mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. If you can't find a pulse, start cardiac compression as well. If the ground is cold and wet, put a protective layer beneath the victim to decrease hypothermia.

Literally hundreds of people are killed and injured every year by lightning. While about 10% of strike victims die, the other 90% usually suffer lifelong effects. Don't be one of them.

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

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Dress Your Best Game For The Tuxedo Club

Tuxedo Club 17th Hole
17th Hole at the Tuxedo Club. Photo courtesy of the club.
The very name “Tuxedo Club” carries more than an hint of upper-crust exclusivity, bringing to mind scenes of men with pencil-thin mustaches smoking cigarettes in ivory holders before they pick up their brassie to smash a Spalding Kro-Flite down the first fairway.  Once upon a time, that may have been a familiar sight in the early Tuxedo Park community, where a despotic house committee once enforced rules like the one prohibiting the use of first names in public—even between husband and wife.

Today’s Tuxedo Park is vastly different from the gated community Pierre Lorillard Jr. established in 1886 to rival Newport, RI, as a retreat for the wealthy.  The current golf club, built in 1956, is completely different from the first course, too, which is probably a good thing since the original nine-hole track was described by Scribner’s Magazine as “…a sporting links where straight, long drives are the only hope for preserving the temper, and the hazards are outer darkness where is weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

Robert Trent Jones, Sr. designed the current course to play with much less anguish but no less visual drama.  Nestled in the Ramapo Mountains about five miles from the gates of the private community, Tuxedo looks like a relatively short, easy round, but it is actually a demanding course off the tee, requiring accurate tee shots to stay out of various forms of trouble that haunt many holes.

The three finishing holes are superb tests of golf.  The 374-yard 16th looks like a pushover, but beware of how much of the dog leg you try to cut off—five bunkers line the left side of the fairway from the crook in the leg al the way to the green.  The tee shot on the 181-yard 17th hole is one of the most intimidating on the course, calling for a carry over water the entire distance.  The pond fronting the green also wraps around the left side and bunkers guard the right, so straight is good. The 518-yard par five 18th hole is a birdie opportunity as long as you keep your drive on the right half of the fairway so you have a line to the green past the trees guarding the left.  Push your drive too far right, though, and water comes into play again.  Take care with a lay-up second shot; a creek cuts across the entire fairway in front of the green.

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

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Kiawah For Great Golf And Grits

Shrimp ‘n Grits. Even if you don’t want to play one of the most exciting golf courses in the country, bask on a top-ten beach, or luxuriate in a five-star spa, it’s worth the trip to Kiawah Island just to chow down on Shrimp ‘n Grits, a dish you’ll fortunately find on many menus at the resort. I liked it so much I had it for breakfast one day.

The dish is a lot like the entire experience at Kiawah, the oceanfront resort just 21 miles from Charleston, South Carolina. Each mouthful seems to combine the briny breeze off the Atlantic with the nutty grist of the dunes, all smothered with the creamy gravy of Southern hospitality. The resort melds into a 10,000-acre barrier island, home to egrets, loggerhead turtles, and alligators, not to mention ten miles of perfect Atlantic Ocean beach. You can stay at the ultra-luxury 255-room Sanctuary Hotel or rent one of the 600 charming villas and private homes on the island. There are world-class tennis facilities, a nature center with on-staff naturalists, bike rentals, three swimming pool complexes, a 21-acre park, and year-round family activities.

But the prime attraction at Kiawah Island—or at least the reason we went—are the five championship golf courses headlined by Pete Dye’s Ocean Course, once named America’s Toughest Course by Golf Digest, home of the 1991 Ryder Cup, and home of the 2012 PGA Championship. Not to be overlooked are the other four courses at the resort, all creations of the world’s top golf course architects. They are Osprey Point by Tom Fazio, Turtle Point by Jack Nicklaus, Cougar Point by Gary Player, and Oak Point by Clyde Johnston.

Golfers with a sense of history remember very well the “War By The Shore,” the 1991 Ryder Cup that poured gasoline on the spark of rivalry ignited by the European win in 1987 and the jaw-clenching tie of 1989. When the matches came to Kiawah, they took on a death-before-dishonor tone that they’d never really seen before. Corey Pavin and Steve Pate wore combat-style camo hats in their second day match, the fans were beered-up and raucous, the course was windswept and fast, giving the golfers on both sides fits as they tried to navigate the tough layout and hit the tiny target greens. As the final day dawned, the teams were tied. The singles matches went back and forth, with one memorable moment after another including Mark Calcavecchia’s choking finish that culminated in a missed two-foot putt. The Americans won the event on a missed putt, too, this one the last putt of the last hole when Bernhard Langer’s four-footer slid past the cup.

There may not be chants of “USA! USA!” when you play the Ocean Course, but that won’t make it any less thrilling. The 7,296-yard, par 72 layout runs back and forth along the dune line, giving you views of the ocean on practically every hole while forcing you to play the wind differently on each one as well. The course doesn’t play flat like some other tracks in the region, but has many not-so-subtle elevation changes Dye carved into the fairways to add to the fun. Among the stand-out holes is the 543-yard par-five second, a double dog leg that features a cross hazard in the landing area for the second shot, forcing either a heroic effort to carry it or a precise layup to avoid it. It’s followed by the shortest par four on the course, the 390-yard third hole where the green is perched on a natural sand dune that requires a perfect, high, soft approach to hold the green.

The Ocean Course plays progressively harder as you proceed through the round. At the fourteenth hole, the wind is either your best friend or your worst enemy. Your only choice on this 194-yard par three is to hit the green, which is surrounded by a waste area on the left and a steep collection area on the right from which it’s almost impossible to get up and down. The seventeenth hole strikes fear into the heart of every golfer who stands on the tee and tries to muster the strength and courage to carry the water to the green as much as 221 yards away. The average player at the resort loses two balls on this hole—and most play from the forward tee boxes!

Turtle Point, the Jack Nicklaus design that opened in 1981, is almost the opposite style of golf course, although not much less challenging. It’s a low-profile track where fairways and greens blend into the existing landscape without the artificial mounding and radical features that have become so popular elsewhere. At 6,914 yards from the tips and five par fours measuring 420 yards or longer, the course offers a fine test. The 412-yard fifteenth hole, with its tiny green tucked into the dunes, is part of a three-hole oceanfront duo and possibly the hardest hole on the course.

Tom Fazio’s Osprey Point features four large natural lakes, fingers of saltwater marsh, and dense forests of ancient live oaks, palmetto palms, and magnolias. The 6,871-yard, par 72 course has a great mix of golf holes including the 453-yard par-four ninth and two 200-yard-plus par threes, as well as some short par fours that tempt the big hitter to take a trip on the wild side.

Cougar Point, designed by Gary Player, is known for its three-hole stretch through the front nine bordering the tidal marsh and offering panoramic views of the Kiawah River. The countless wading birds, wave-skipping pelicans, and soaring osprey can easily break your concentration on par—in a good way. The 6,861-yard, par 72 course has an excellent finishing stretch that begins with the 542-yard par five fifteenth hole and ends with the dramatic 415-yard eighteenth.

Oak Point lies just outside the Kiawah gate. It’s a more typical parkland course and makes a good break from the on-island courses. It’s not to be taken lightly, either. At 6,701 yards, it’s long enough to keep your attention and tricky enough to put a big number (or two) on your scorecard.

Kiawah Island is one of the country’s prime non-golf vacation destinations, too. Tennis Magazine ranks it among the top tennis resorts in the nation, based on the quality of instruction as well as on the two separate tennis facilities, one with 14 Har-Tru clay courts, two lighted hard courts and a backboard, the other with nine Har-Tru clay courts (one lighted) and three hard courts (one lighted) as well as a zoned practice court with a ball machine and automatic retrieval system. Family activities include swimming, canoeing, kayaking, bicycling, cookouts, oyster roasts, sing-alongs, and nature walks. Staff naturalists conduct marsh creek canoe trips, sea kayaking, birding walks, night beach walks, and bike tours. Guests at Kiawah enjoy a uniquely pristine beach that stretches ten miles along the Atlantic—and 100 yards wide at low tide! Island homes are set back behind the dunes and the Sanctuary Hotel is the only one on the beach, so it’s much like enjoying  your own private beach.

After all the fun and games, you’ll need a place to lay your head, of course. You have two options. First is the Sanctuary, an ultra-luxurious oceanfront resort and spa that opened just seven years ago. Ninety percent of the guest rooms—which are among the largest you’ll find anywhere—have ocean views and all of them have five-fixture bathrooms with walk-in showers and deep soaking tubs. The hotel’s spa has a Five-Star Mobil rating and features 12 treatment rooms, sauna, steam room, and whirlpool as well as a beauty salon and fitness center. Indulge yourself—or a treat a special someone—to a Mint Julep facial, Lowcountry Verbena Body Polish, or a Body Wrapture—a treatment with warm grain- and herb-filled wraps used to induce deep relaxation.  For an additional housing option, you can rent a private home or condo through the Villas at Kiawah Island.

Now, back to the Shrimp ‘n Grits. Kiawah offers an array of dining options—all of which offer more than just my favorite dish. The Ocean Room at the Sanctuary is the resort’s premier restaurant. It specializes in serving local, grass-fed beef, helping to earn it both the Forbes Five-Star and the AAA Five-Diamond awards. Jasmine Porch, the more casual restaurant at the hotel, serves up Lowcountry cuisine in a setting of authentic Charleston brick, oak-planked floors, and a breath-taking view of the Atlantic ocean. Yes, this is the prime destination for Shrimp ‘n Grits, but you can also enjoy She Crab Bisque, house-made charcuterie, and other local specialties. There are also several casual eating spots on and around the property and each of the golf courses offers dining options as well, although some don’t offer dinner. The Atlantic Room at the Ocean Course concentrates on fine local seafood while Tomasso at Turtle Point is an Italian eatery

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