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Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Pound Ridge GC Offers Annual Membership Plans

Pound Ridge Golf Club

You don't have to be a member, but you can be. Pound Ridge Golf Club, the only Pete Dye-design in New York, announces its 2013 individual and corporate season plans for avid golfers searching for a home course on a level with the area's private golf clubs.

According to Pound Ridge owner Ken Wang, Season plans are a no-risk alternative to the long-term commitment of a country club membership. There are no food and beverage minimums or hidden fees, and rounds are conveniently debited from the plan holder’s account.

Individual plan holders enjoy full use of the driving range and short game area after 4 p.m. Monday - Thursday, and receive a 2013 GHIN handicap. Starting at $3,000, annually, holders can use the account to pay for golf as well as for guests playing in their group.

Corporate plans ($16,000) offer the flexibility of listing any number of designated representatives on the account. A complimentary foursome voucher (up to a $940 value) is included along with an assortment of benefits tailored to the needs of modern executives.

“Our annual golf plans are the ideal option for area golfers who want to play frequently on a world-class public course designed to the highest private club standard,” says Wang. “Pound Ridge’s proximity to New York and the financial hub of Southern Connecticut provides the business professional with an unforgettable experience for client entertainment in a most convenient location.”

Pound Ridge is a quintessential Dye course. There are some excellent videos with Dye discussing the course during its construction on the club's website. All the legendary designer’s renowned touches are on display: rhythmic routing, dramatic mounding and subtle deception meld to create an exciting and challenging golf experience. Pound Ridge reflects the best in contemporary course design and is unique in a region filled with classic courses.

Since opening in 2008, Pound Ridge has earned world-class accolades from Golf Digest, GOLF Magazine, Golfweek, AskMen.com, Rolex and LINKS Magazine, not to mention TeeToGreen and Westchester Magazine. For more information,  www.poundridgegolf.com, (914) 764-5771.

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

Monday, January 28, 2013

U S Open Returns To Winged Foot

Winged Foot
18th Hole, Winged Foot West Course, photo courtesy of the club.
The big news in Mamaroneck, NY, is the announcement by the USGA that Winged Foot Golf Club will host the 2020 U.S. Open. It will be the sixth time the club has held the event and the 20th U.S. Open to be played in the state of New York.

"We're thrilled to bring the U.S. Open back to this outstanding club," said Tom O'Toole, Jr., USGA VP and Championship Committee chairman. "Winged Foot offers a spectacular setting in a dynamic market and has justifiably earned its reputation as one of the premier U.S. Open venues in the nation."

The last time the U.S. Open was held at Winged Foot was 2006, when Phil Mickelson suffered a traumatic collapse on the 18th hole to hand the trophy to Australian Geoff Ogilvy.

At one point, Winged Foot had offered to host the tournament in 2015, but withdrew that proposal after the membership complained of being deprived of the use of both of their golf courses for an inordinate amount of time. The U.S. Open is held on the West Course, but the East Course was closed for a year to accommodate parking, corporate tents, a driving range, and other tournament facilities and the subsequent renovation of the turf. The members are currently considering a plan by Gil Hanse to refresh the East Course.

"We have always had a good relationship with the U.S.G.A. and our decision to withdraw from consideration for 2015 didn't alter that," said club president John Schneider. "We felt a longer interval would serve everyone better." 2020 was the next open date, with the championship scheduled for Merion this year, Pinehurst in 2014, Chambers Bay (Seattle) in 2015, Oakmont in 2016, Erin Hills (Milwaukee) for 2017, Shinnecock for 2018, and Pebble Beach in 2019.

Winged Foot celebrates its centennial in 2023, but that year will certainly have numerous other events scheduled. Given the club's contributions to the amateur game, a Walker Cup would be a good choice, but that year will be a Great Britain/Ireland location. There's always the U.S. Amateur, though. Of course, it might be better to aim for a reprise of the U.S. Open in 2029, marking the 100th anniversary for Bobby Jones' epic win over Al Espinosa in a playoff in 1929.

U.S. Open Trophy
US Open Trophy
with putter used by Billy Casper
and sand wedge from Hale Irwin's win at Winged Foot
Regardless of what the future holds, Winged Foot's place in the history of the game is assured. Besides the Jones victory in the U.S. Open, Billy Casper won the championship in 1959, Hale Irwin in 1974, and Fuzzy Zoeller in 1984 in yet another playoff.  Davis Love III won the PGA Championship at Winged Foot in 1997.

A.W. Tillinghast designed two excellent courses at Winged Foot. The West Course is better known and also hosted the U.S. Amateur Championships in 1940 and 2004 in addition to the Walker Cup in 1949, but the East is an equally difficult test. It held the U.S. Women’s Open in 1957 and 1972. The first USGA Senior Open was also held on the East Course. It was won by Roberto DeVicenzo in 1980.

It may be a little early to order tickets, but mark your calendar for June 18-21, 2020, the dates for the next U.S. Open at Winged Foot Golf Club.

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

Emerald Dunes Refreshed And Exceptional

A just-completed multi-million dollar renovation makes Emerald Dunes an excellent membership choice for those second-home owners who don’t live in a dedicated golf community in Florida. Tom Fazio supervised the renovation of the course he originally designed, resulting in a challenging but perfectly playable course where there’s plenty of risk-and-reward to go with the refined landscaping and sense of isolation that comes from the 2,000 trees recently planted along the club’s perimeter.

Emerald Dunes, West Palm Beach
Emerald Dunes opens with a pair of enjoyable birdie opportunities, a 503-yard par five and a 397-yard par four, but the teeth come out on the first par three, 167 yards over water and a major bunker with a small bail-out area to the left. A delightful rock-ledge waterfall frames the green back right. That’s followed by a double-dog leg 571-yard par five with water all the way to the green on the left and bunkers lining the fairway on the right. The front side wraps up with a brutish 439-yard par four that dog legs right around a lake. If your drive is under 300 yards, you’ll have to carry the water to reach the green in regulation.

Emerald Dunes, West Palm Beach
The back nine offers some birdie opportunities as long as you’re not risk-averse. The eleventh hole, a 486-yard par five, is one of them, especially for the long drivers in the group. The par four fifteenth, 394 yards, is a fine Cape hole that will yield a short approach to the brave player who challenges the water. The eighteenth hole, a 426-yard par four, has a big, inviting fairway but a long approach to an elevated green.

Fazio also designed a new short game practice area with multiple target and chipping greens, sand and grass bunkers (including a shallow-face fairway bunker), and a huge putting green to go with a double-ended range, learning center with two teaching bays, and a club-fitting area. Members also enjoy a unique yearly dues arrangement, which includes absolutely everything—even all food and beverages. The club has an excellent caddie program 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, January 25, 2013

LPGA Announces International Crown Competition

In a decision that shines a light on the its growing internationalism, the LPGA announced a new event at the PGA show this week. Its the International Crown, an eight-country team match scheduled to debut in 2014 and be held in subsequent even-numbered years. The inaugural event will be held July 21-27 at Caves Valley Golf Club near Baltimore. The 2016 tournament will be at Rich Harvest Farms outside Chicago.

LPGA International Crown

LPGA Commissioner Mike Whan said the concept grew from the Solheim Cup, which pits a US team against a European Team during odd numbered years. With the huge number of LPGA stars from the rest of the world--especially Asia--he recognized the need for a more universal event. "One thing is true if you have traveled the globe like we all have," he said, "when you go play in Korea, they are rooting for Korea; and when you play in Japan, they are rooting for Japan.  Japan and Korea don't want to play on Team Asia; they want to play each other.  And Australia might not view themselves as part of that region, and they wear their own flag and have their own anthem.

"We said let's not bring out a format that the world has seen or a U.S.‑centric us versus everybody else.  Let's not try to put people in continents or regions and waves.  Let's let countries be countries, and introduce something to the world of golf that can really take advantage of what's happening in the women's game."

The event will feature 32 players representing eight countries in foursome and individual matches. The field of eight countries will be determined by the combined Rolex World Ranking of the top
four players from each country as of the conclusion of the 2013 CME Group Titleholders. Countries must have a minimum of four ranked players to be eligible. The final field of 32 players will chosen after the Rolex World Rankings are published on the Monday of the 2014 Kraft Nabisco Championship week. At this point, the top four players from each pre-qualified country will make up their respective country’s team.

The competition will take place over four days. It will feature three days of four-ball competition in two brackets and one day of singles matches on Sunday. Five of the eight countries will advance to the Sunday singles matches based on the outcome of the four-ball matches contested Thursday – Saturday. Points will be awarded per match based on two for a win, one for a halve, and zero for a loss. All points from the four-ball matches will carry over to Sunday and the total cumulative points for the four days of competition will be used to determine the overall champion.

In an interesting twist, there will be no team captains. The players will meet and decide who plays and when as well as who will compete in sudden death wild card matches and anticipated tie-breakers, which can easily occur given the scoring system. It sounds complicated, but at least it's simpler than the FedEx Cup system.

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

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Met Golfer EXTRA Debuts

Check it out!

The Metropolitan Golf Association has started issuing a new digital publication, Met Golfer EXTRA. It's meant to be a complement to the MGA's award-winning print magazine, The Met Golfer, which is sent to members of the organization's clubs in the NY Metro area. The new publication will be delivered monthly via email to golfers who receive the monthly eRevision newsletter that updates their handicap.

"This publication will provide you with quick, highly visual, stories that we are sure will be of interest to Met Area golfers," says Executive Director Jay Mattola. 

The first issue is available now, so check it out here.

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

Monday, January 21, 2013

Beautiful, Challenging Golf At Trump Palm Beach

Trump International Golf Course, Palm Beach

Trump International Golf Club is one of the most visually stunning and competitively challenging courses in Florida. Members of the Palm Beach club enjoy a true championship course that has hosted nine LPGA tour events with winners like Annika Sorenstam, Karri Webb, and Lorena Ochoa, another nine holes with a daring island green, and a practice facility where many PGA, LPGA, and Champions tour regulars work on their game. Lexi Thompson was working on her short game when I was there recently.

The course was designed by Jim Fazio (with ample and expert advice from the man whose name is over the door) and opened to well-deserved acclaim in 1999. Two lakes and elevations as high as 58-feet above sea level dominate the geography, while tasteful landscaping provides colorful accents throughout.  Fazio moved over three million cubic yards of earth (dredging the lakes to 80-feet depths in the process) to sculpt the course out of what was originally flat scrub land.  The course is par 72 with six sets of tees ranging from 5,314 to 7,326 yards. Check the course rating and slope before you choose a tee box--this course punishes testosterone-fueled foolishness.

Trump International Golf Club, Palm Beach
The opening hole, par four at 417 yards, is relatively benign as long as you avoid the creek that meanders along the right side of the fairway, but don't rush to the second tee box until you pause to see the entrance to President John Kennedy's former bomb shelter along the way. The third hole, a 500-yard par five, presents a birdie opportunity as long as you watch your club selection into the water-protected green. The sixth is the hardest easy hole you'll ever play. It's only 335 yards, but the fairway bends around the lake at a right angle so a bigger-than-normal fade (aka a slice) will put you in the soup. Check the pin position, too, since the green has a Biarritz-like swale cutting across it. The last two holes on the front are stand-up holes. The eighth is a 430-yard par four with a big, elevated, well-bunkered green with a false front while the ninth is simply breath-taking, a 513-yard par five with water left and bunkers right.

The back nine opens with an echo of the sixth hole, only the tenth requires a longer approach assuming you kept your drive out of the water, which is just as wet as it is on the front.  The thirteenth, a 414-yard par four, has more bunkers than mortal man (or woman) should ever face on one hole. When you reach the tee box on the 491-yard par five fifteenth hole, stop and think before your aim your drive. The fairway is split by a creek and a long line of bunkers that you'll have to cross twice to reach the green. The signature hole on the course is the par three seventeenth, where the $3.2 million waterfall and amazing tropical foliage can easily distract you from your 190-yard tee shot over the lake in front of the green. Quite frankly, the 420-yard par four eighteenth hole is just as spectacular with its elevated tee, water, huge bunkers, and magnificent clubhouse in the background.

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

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Putter Ban No Big Deal, According to Study

Most amateur golfers care about the putter anchoring ban just about as much as they did about the change in wedge groove rules--not so much--according to a study by Golf Datatech LLC, an independent research firm for consumer, trade and retail golf trends.  The company has released a study to evaluate the reaction of “serious golfers” to the U.S. Golf Association’s proposed new ruling that would prohibit anchoring the putter to the body while making a stroke. They report that a majority of golfers surveyed feel that their game will not be impacted by the rule, while the small percentage who use a long putter will continue to play with it as they please regardless of the ruling.

The study was based on responses from 1,766 randomly selected golfers drawn from Golf Datatech’s exclusive Serious Golfer Database, who play an average of 68 rounds per year with an average handicap of 14.3.
“This is such an explosive topic in golf that we felt the industry needed a benchmark for evaluating the opinion of the game’s most avid players,” said John Krzynowek, Partner, Golf Datatech. “On a practical level, the proposed ruling on anchoring putters has minimal impact on most amateur golfers, as only 5% use a long putter, and the majority of serious golfers don’t believe long putters aid in the putting process. Overall, however, the debate over long putters has far more to do with a few elite professional players and less to do with the game as played by the average golfer.”
Key findings in the Golf Datatech study on the Anchor Ruling for Putters include the following:
•         Among the respondents who had an opinion about whether or not anchoring the putter makes it easier to putt, 45% feel that anchoring the putter makes it easier to putt, while 55% believe anchoring the putter does not make it easier.
•         60% of respondents believe that the governing bodies of golf should ban the anchoring of clubs to the body, while 40% believe they should not.
•         62% of respondents do not believe the anchoring ban will cause some amateur golfers to enjoy the game less.
•         If the proposed rule is enforced in 2016, 31% of current long putter users will continue to anchor their putter, while 31% will not anchor against their body, and 38% will switch to a conventional putter.

For more information or to get a copy of the Club Anchor Ruling study, call 888-944-4116 or visit www.golfdatatech.com.

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

Monday, January 14, 2013

It's Old Palm For The Good Golf Life

The neighbors you meet at Old Palm Golf Club fully live the golf life so many of us can only dream about. The ultra-luxurious gated community in Palm Beach Gardens has drawn top PGA stars like Lee Westwood, Louis Oosthuizen, and Charl Schwartzel with a combination of custom homes ranging from $1.2 to $15 million, amenities like a full fitness center, spa, and concierge service, and a fine golf course coupled with one of the best practice facilities anywhere.

"Living at Old Palm has been a wonderful experience and not just because of its exceptional golf facilities," says 2011 Masters Champion Schwartzel. "Old Palm makes for a relaxing lifestyle. It allows for privacy when we want it, and when we’re in the Club the members have welcomed us like old friends."

Raymond Floyd
Another neighbor is four-time major winner and Ryder Cup champion Raymond Floyd, who not only designed the Old Palm golf course but lives there as well. He's a regular in the fitness center and at the club's ultra-casual "pub night" in the elegant but relaxed clubhouse lounge. He's a bit more laid back now than he was in his tournament days, although there's still an intense flash in his eyes that match the Leroy Neiman portrait that hangs in the clubhouse.

The golf course Floyd designed takes full advantage of the property's native foliage and rolling topography. Six sets of tees make it playable from 5,218 to 7,401 yards, giving every golfer a challenge suitable to their skills. Fairway landing areas are generous but reward the strategic player who can position the ball off the tee. Greens were rebuilt in 2012 using TifEagle Bermuda grass, which yields a fast and true putting surface.

The front nine is routed through wetlands and savannah while the back, which features tighter fairways and less water, winds through indigenous palm and pine trees. On the front, the 379-yard seventh hole presents excellent risk-and-reward options off the tee. It's a slight dog leg right that can be cut with a 230-yard carry over the bunkers in the curve or played conservatively on the center line. The green on the eleventh hole, a 170-yard par three, has echoes of the sixteenth at Augusta National while the fifteenth, a 150-yard one-shotter, has a VW micro-bus buried in the green to make for some interesting putts.

Home sites are set well back from the playing areas, yet afford fine views of the course--not to mention the lakes and lagoons that wind through the 650-acre property.  Old Palm’s Mediterranean-style clubhouse pampers you with fine and casual dining, resort-style pool, and a luxurious spa and fitness facility. Just steps from the pool and clubhouse, Old Palm’s Casitas are the perfect guest-entertainment venue with charming tropical d├ęcor and well-appointed suites.

The 33-acre practice area includes a double-ended range, short-game area, and a golf studio with covered hitting bays and all the electronics anyone could want or use. Three regulation practice holes, a par 3, 4, and 5, wrap around a lake next to the range, making Old Palm the perfect place to hone to game.

Old Palm is close to shopping, dining, entertainment, and beaches. Palm Beach International Airport and North County General Aviation Airport (for private jets) are only minutes away. Old Palm is being developed by Clarion Partners, a leading real estate investment firm with over $25 billion in assets under management.

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

Friday, January 4, 2013

A Young Golfer To Watch

The metropolitan area is swimming with good--and possibly great--young players, but one who hasn't received the recognition she deserves is Ellen Oswald, winner of the 2012 NYS Women's Amateur. Oswald, who plays out of Westchester Country Club, graduated from St. John's last year where she played on the women's golf team and was a four-time Academic All-American.

Ellen Oswald
Ellen Oswald, NYS Women's Amateur Champion. Photo courtesy of the WMGA.
Oswald won the NYS Women's Amateur at Seneca Falls Country Club by five strokes over Sara Eichelberger of Rochester. It was Oswald's first time in the statewide event, but the win capped a strong season she finished as runner-up Player of the Year for the Women's Metropolitan Golf Association and was named Women's Amateur Player of the Year by the Westchester Golf Association. She finished second in the WMGA Stroke Play Championship the week after her NYS win and had also placed second in the WMGA/MGA Met Amateur Championship in June.

Word has it that Oswald has put her degree in finance to one side for the time being and is working on her game in Florida this winter with Mike Diffley, head pro of Pelham CC and St. John's alum. We'll be keeping an eye on her when she starts competing again this in the met area this spring.

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