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Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Last Chance For Free Grand Slam Today

Today is the last day to read Grand Slam for free! Don't miss this Halloween opportunity to download the Kindle edition of this tongue-in-cheek tale of a werewolf with moonstruck swing thoughts who pursues the biggest prize in golf, the Grand Slam.

Bobby Jones did it, Tiger Woods almost did it, but if the moon were full during the Masters, U.S. Open, British Open, and PGA Championship, could a werewolf win the elusive Grand Slam of golf? Find out in this tale from Weird Golf: 18 tales of fantastic, horrific, scientifically impossible, and morally reprehensible golf.

Kindle owners can download Grand Slam with a single click. You can also read it on your iPad or other device using the Kindle app from Amazon. But if want to read it for free, you have to act today!

Monday, October 29, 2012

Michael Breed Golf Academy Opens At Manhattan Woods

You've seen him on the Golf Channel's Golf Fix, heard his expert color commentary about the Ryder Cup and PGA Championship, and soon you will be able to experience Michael Breed's intensely energetic teaching style up close and personal.  Next year, he will launch the Michael Breed Golf Academy at Manhattan Woods in West Nyack, NY. Best news of all: it's not just for the high-end club's members. You're invited too!

Michael Breed
Michael Breed on the lesson tee at Manhattan Woods
"I've always wanted to expose more and more people to the great game of golf," Breed says. "That's what led me to the Golf Fix and now it's what I'm doing with the academy."

Breed is leaving as head pro of Sunningdale Country Club in Scarsdale, NY, a position he's held for twelve years, so he can devote full time to extending his reach as an instructor.  “I couldn’t have done any of this without Sunningdale," he says. "Without them, I couldn't have done the Golf Fix and without Golf Fix, I couldn't do this. But there was a limit to what I could do at Sunningdale.”

There are apparently no limits to the arrangement with Manhattan Woods. "The idea is to create the best golf learning experience you can have at a club," Breed says. "I’m a big dreamer and this is a big dream."

Manhattan Woods President John Koh adds, “Our club is a hidden jewel. Our goal is to become THE club in this area and among the top 50 in the nation. Merging Michael Breed’s name with ours will help do that.”

Breed says he'll be offering every learning tool he can find, not to mention his own personal touch to every lessson.  "Our goal is to bring you to the highest level golf instruction that exists," he says. "Working with Titleist and other brands, we’ll have an entire fitting system for every club including putting, wedges, and full swing. We’ll have indoor bays with the latest and greatest technology. I’m also working with About Golf so we’ll have launch monitors, simulators, weight boards, and all of that, too."

The club is also going to make some changes to the existing short game area so it will have a wider variety of shots to practice. The range will also be updated to include places where you can hit fairway bunkers shots, practice uphill, downhill, and sidehill lies. The work will start this winter with a project to stretch the back range teeing area by 50% and to build a structure to house the bells and whistles. Other features will be added as time and demand permits.

Breed says he expects to offer not only individual lessons to Manhattan Woods members, guests, and the public, but to offer two-day golf schools for small groups at some point in the near future. He will be at the academy three days a week at the beginning and will add instructors who meet his standards in the near future. "The idea is to build it up so there will be instructors at the academy all the time."

Knowing Breed, you can also expect a few out-of-the-box events. "We’re hoping to shoot some Golf Fix shows from here," he adds. "I may do things like hang out on the seventh tee and play the hole with members and guests as they play through. I’ll also be available for outings at Manhattan Woods."

His ambition is to put Manhattan Woods on the map--the really big map. "We expect to draw people from as far away at Bejing," Breed says, pointing out that he does clinics in China every year.

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

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Halloween, Werewolves, and Golf

You think golf is scary? Wait until you read Grand Slam, a tongue-in-cheek golf tale that will put a shiver in your swing. And for a few days--just in time for Halloween--Grand Slam is FREE for Kindle owners at Amazon.com!

The full moon is the key when an underachieving European Tour pro suddenly stalks the fairways at Augusta National, Shinnecock, Carnoustie, and Winged Foot with a chance to set the ultimate record in golf, winning the Grand Slam, while leaving behind a trail of bloody victims and sparking the ire of a golf-obsessed newspaper reporter who vows to stop him. It's a golf story weird enough to leave you howling at the moon.

Grand Slam is free through Halloween, so don't miss out on this chance to read one of the 18 tales of fantastic, horrific, scientifically impossible and morally reprehensible golf in Weird Golf.

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

Thursday, October 25, 2012

New GoBe Golf Shoes Solve Spikeless Slips

So-called "spikeless" shoes are growing in popularity, but more than a few golfers are still a bit leary of their ability to provide a stable swing platform, especially on wet or damp turf--sometimes quite justifiably. Of course, a smooth, balanced swing can solve the problem of slippage, but who has one of those?

GoBe Golf Shoes
GoBe 5-point tread sole design
Another solution is the 5-Point Star Traction sole on the new GoBe Golf Shoes released this year by the new Austin, Minnesota company of the same name. Check out most other "spikeless" shoes and you'll find the sole covered with round nubs to give you some grip. They work fine, but nowhere nearly as well as the sharp points on the star-shaped lugs on the GoBe sole. I tried out a pair this week the day after a drenching rain and didn't have a bit of trouble on the wet grass.  Even with my normal lurching, lunging swing, the five-point star traction pattern gave me a good foundation. The sole also has non-slip vertical and horizontal traction stripes to complement the star treads and provide a little more stability. The company says that the sole is made of single density, Grade A TPU (whatever that is), which is more durable than rubber but just as flexible.

The GoBe Dry shoe liner has an interior moisture management system with drainage channels, aeration holes at flex points, and notches above the toe area to drain perspiration away from the foot. the moisture wicking fiber lining also aerates and has anti-microbial and anti-odor properties. I guess that means your swing may stink, but your feet won't. Speaking of moisture, the GoBe upper is designed to be roughly 20 times more water resistant than treated leathers. It promises to breathe, keep its color and shape, and resist stains.
GoBe Golf Shoes
GoBe Rebel
One point to keep in mind when it comes to fitting, the GoBe shoe is built on a European last, which has a deep heel cup and a wide toe area. I found my usual size slightly looser than I like, so consider ordering a half-size smaller if your foot is narrow or you like a more snug fit.

GoBe shoes come in four styles for men and women and the suggested retail price ranges from $139 to $159. I wore the "Prodigy" model and the styling so impressed my caddie he made a note to check them out himself.

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

Monday, October 22, 2012

Beat A Path To Ballybunion

Ballybunion Old Course
The 18th on the Old Course at Ballybunion. Photo courtesy of the club.
There are many old golf courses and more than a few great ones in Ireland, but you can count on one hand the number that are both old and great. The first or second finger on that hand signifies Ballybunion's Old Course, where 120 years of great golf have been played. How great? Tom Watson, winner of five British Opens, called it the best links course in the world.

When you walk out of the modern clubhouse to meet your caddie on the first tee, you're following in the footsteps of nearly every great golfer who ever played on either side of the pond, as well as thousands of devoted duffers from all over the world. The latter group includes countless notables like former President Bill Clinton. His enthusiasm for Ballybunion, not to mention his role in settling the religious strife in Ireland, earned him a statue at the main crossroads in town as well as life membership in the club. Caddies still talk about the drive he supposedly sliced into the cemetery bordering the first hole.

Don't laugh too hard at the man's errant drive, however, until you've successfully hit one to a fairway you can barely see in a 30-mph left-to-right crosswind. That's what you can easily encounter at Ballybunion where, like any great links course, the wind shapes your entire round, pushing the ball wherever it wants in the air and frequently even on the ground. The wind can easily blow a standing ball uphill and caddies develop a particular skill in teeing the ball at a slant to stand up to it.

Wind isn't the only element that can wreck your score at Ballybunion. Missing the fairway can bring on scorecard disaster whether it comes about from an unfortunate gust or shear duffer-ness. Countless pot bunkers await in all the most inconvenient places. Even worse is the marram grass, which is like fescue only meaner since it falls over in the damp air and smothers the unfortunate ProV you just took out of the sleeve and launched into the wind.

Ballybunion's Old Course was thought to be first laid out by a local professional, James McKenna, in 1892. It's been redone, extended, revised, and otherwise tinkered with through the years with the latest design changes overseen by Tom Watson in 1995. Today it plays par 71 at 6,802 yards.

Caddies say the real course begins on the sixth tee since the first five holes are little more than warm ups for the fun the come. The sixth hole is also where the Atlantic comes first into full view. Most golfers would hesitate to dismiss the opening holes as trivial, however. After all, they include a 224-yard par 3 and back-to-back par fives, the second of which, at 560 yards uphill, plays plenty tough.

The eleventh hole, a 473-yard par four, is the signature hole on the Old Course. It plays full along the ocean for both your drive and approach and the elevated green sits nestled against a marram-covered hillside with only a narrow lay-up option 50 yards in front.

While the front side has back-to-back par fives, the second nine has back-to-back par threes. The fourteenth hole is a 133 yard uphill tester with trouble on every side. It's immediately followed by the fifteenth, a 216-yard monster with a 200-yard carry.

Ballybunion Cashen Course
16th Hole at Ballybunion's Cashen Course. Photo courtesy of the club.
Ballybunion also boasts a second course, the Cashen, designed by Robert Trent Jones, Sr., that opened in 1984. Depending on your frame of mind, you'll either find the Cashen Course a tremendous challenge or simply impossible. It features tight blind fairways, forced carries off the tee and to the green (sometimes on the same hole), and approaches with no safety zones for cautious players. The Cashen Course is par 72 and only 6,306 yards, but don't be fooled into thinking it an easy walk along the seashore.

The place to stay in Ballybunion is Kilcooly's Country House, a congenial small hotel with character, a fine dining room, and an intimate, well-stocked bar. The place is filled with antiques and tasteful bric-a-brac, but unlike so many old-world hotels, the rooms are spacious and uncluttered. It's worth requesting that your golf packager include Kilcooly's in your itinerary.

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

Monday, October 15, 2012

Pelz Plays Games

Dave Pelz Putting Games
The day before I read Dave Pelz's Putting Games, I played in a scramble where all four members of my team--none with a handicap over ten--missed the same basically straight five-foot birdie putt. As you might imagine, I opened Pelz's book with more than average interest. I wasn't disappointed.

Putting Games is all about developing the skills to make more putts. The first section is diagnostic, the second covers stroke mechanics like aim and face angle, while the third is about developing touch and feel. Pelz painstakingly describes seven games you should play to measure your performance so you can map a route to improvement. They are all played with twelve balls and address nearly every putting circumstance from the dreaded three-footer to sixty-foot lags.

As you would expect given Pelz's background as a NASA scientist and perhaps the most data-driven golf instructor in the business, the "games" rely heavily on measurement and data analysis. they also make extensive us of some of the many training aids Pelz sells. This approach will clearly appeal to analytic golfers, but the games will also help more "feel" players improve their putting performance as well.

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

Friday, October 12, 2012

Crystal Springs Makes Golf A Family Game

There are those who talk about growing the game of golf, then there are those who do something about it. Put Art Walton, VP of Golf Operations at New Jersey's Crystal Springs Resort, at the head of the second group. He's led the seven-course facility in a major effort to make golf a family affair, the single best way to introduce new players into the game and increase the fun factor so they stay with it.

Family Golf at Crystal Springs
The Ultimate Buddy Trip at Crystal Springs. Photo courtesy of the resort.
It all began when they addedd the Minerals Hotel with its par-three nine-hole course to the portfolio a few years ago. The course was specified as a "Family Golf Club" and several features were added to make it more than a slogan. They cut oversize cups into the greens, provided four-seater golf carts, and put peanut butter and jelly sandwiches on the snack cart. Similar steps were taken when the full-length nine-hole Cascades Course was opened a couple of years later. When Cascades was built, a special set of tees was built far forward on each hole and second, larger cups are cut into each green. Cascades, a Roger Rulewich design, can challenge golfers at all levels.

“Kids have done a lot to transform our two nine hole facilities,” Walton says. “It makes it more fun, not to mention easier, and certainly different.” Minerals has a full calendar of parent-junior events throughout the year and both courses offer family-friendly pricing, kids rental clubs, and rookie tee times.  “That took off," Walton says, "and each year our percentage of family golf has increased. It feels good and it’s been good from a financial standpoint, too. We’re growing the player segment.”

The resort isn't resting on its laurels. The Minerals course, a Robert Trent Jones design, is getting renovations to make it even more family-friendly. "The second hole has an elevated green with two bunkers in the front guarding the approach," Walton explains. "We took out one bunker and created a play-up area so you can hit it short and play on up. The par four fifth hole is a dog-leg right with a fairway bunker at the turn. We took out that bunker and created a run-up area for the green."

The single most popular innovation? "The four seater family carts are the best," says Walton. "Everyone in the family can ride together and you don’t have to worry about different sets of clubs."

The results have been rewarding, according to Walton, who points out, "The one limiting factor on family golf is the school year, of course, so you have a compressed season.” They still expect to log 13,000 rounds annually for family play on Minerals and a few less on Cascades.

He sums up the Crystal Springs philosophy perfectly: “You have to make it fun. People play for a lot of different reasons. Some are competitive, some aren’t. Some play for business, others to meet people. It makes you feel good when you try something like family golf and it works.”

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

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Lahinch Epitomizes Great Links

Sixth hole at Lahinch
Sixth hole at Lahinch. Photo courtesy of the club.
You'll find every distinguishing feature of great links golf at the Old Course at Lahinch in County Clare, Ireland. Hard, fast greens. Narrow, rumpled fairways. Blind shots. Tangled rough. Wind, rain, intrepid golfers, and goats. Yes, goats. Local lore holds that when you encounter the goats munching their way around the course, you can expect an interlude of bad weather. From my experience, local lore is dead-on.

Lahinch Golf Club
But it's the links landscape that makes Lahinch one of the world's great golf courses. When Alistair Mackenzie first saw saw it in 1927, he said, "Lahinch will make the finest and most popular course that I, or I believe anyone else, ever constructed." Mackenzie, whose credits include Augusta National, Cypress Point, and Pasatiempo, used the natural features of the wind-swept seaside to shape his holes among the dunes.

The course was originally laid out in 1892 and re-designed by Old Tom Morris in 1894. The present fifth hole, a 154-yard par 3 that plays more like 180 over a dune that blocks all but about 20% of the green, was Old Tom's handiwork. In 1999, Martin Hawtree modernized the course.

From the tips at 6,950 yards and at par 72, Lahinch demands a firm stroke and steady nerves. The heavy, wet wind off the Atlantic affects every single shot, including your putts. You play the wind from every angle, too, since Mackenzie routed the holes so that six play into it, six play with it, and six play across. But you play the landscape as well. Fairways can be as narrow as 20 yards and thread their way through dunes covered by knotty rough. The heavily contoured greens look slow but they roll fast and are guarded by numerous deep bunkers.

Fourth hole at Lahinch
The fairway on the fourth hole at Lahinch. Photo courtesy of the club.
Blind shots add to the fun. The fourth hole, for example, is a simple 475-yard par five. It plays straight away downwind, too, which should mean a birdie fest. But forty-foot-tall Klondyke Hill stands in the middle of the fairway about 300 yards from the tee, blocking all views of the fairway and green beyond. It blocks the hole so completely that a club employee is stationed atop it to let you know when it's safe to hit over. Your strategy? Hit your blind second shot over the white rock on top of the hill and trust it.

The par fours make Lahinch. Eight of them are over 400 yards and none are automatic pars. Even the uniquely short 279-yard thirteenth hole can give you fits. It's eminently drive-able, but be sure to hit the green or you'll be left with an impossible up and down. It is followed by two monsters, the 461-yard fourteenth with its deadly mounds blocking the approach to the green and the 460-yard fifteenth hole, where bunkers off the tee and near the green challenge long hitters.

A good second round (or a first if you're looking for an easier warm-up) is the Castle Course at Lahinch, which plays a little shorter through less hilly terrain, but still requires precision shot making due to several water features. It's par 69 at 5,488 yards.

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

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

More Unconscious Instruction From Dave Stockton

Dave Stockton Unconscious Scoring

I got quite a lot from reading Dave Stockton's book, Unconscious Putting, probably because the master's approach very much mirrors mine: see the hole, role the ball into it. Sweet and simple. I consider myself a pretty good putter but not a great one, though, because I still don't have as many one-putts as I need to really get the putt count down. That's where Stockton's latest book, Unconscious Scoring, is helpful.

Why? Because one-putts come mostly from hitting your approach shot closer to the hole in the first place. That's what Unconscious Scoring is all about. Again, I really, really identify with Stockton's KISS (Keep It Simple, Stupid) philosophy.

Stockton says you only need two basic shots around the green to produce a fabulous short game--a low shot and a high shot. After explaining why this approach will work for players at all handicaps, he shows how to hit each one in two clearly-illustrated chapters.

Next, he carries these principles into various situations where he demonstrates how you don't need to create a whole new swing to get up and down every time you face a tough lie. Stockton covers numerous trouble shots--from a bunker, hardpan, a divot, off a side-hill, etc.--with some elementary modifications of his basic two-shot repertoire. The book is rounded out with chapters on the Mental Game, Practice, Equipment, and Putting.

The material in Unconscious Scoring came from Stockton's excellent five-major-championship career as well as his work with world-class players like Phil Mickelson, Annika Sorenstam, Yani Tseng, and Rory McIlroy, who also wrote the foreword for the book.

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