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Monday, December 29, 2014

Quail Lodge Rebuilds a Classic Course

Quail Lodge & Golf Club
There is a world of good golf fifteen minutes (and $400) away from Pebble Beach along Carmel Valley Road.  Quail Lodge, Rancho Canada, and Carmel Valley Ranch offer welcome respites from the sometimes pressure cooker rounds played nearer the ocean.  I sampled Quail Lodge and found it both relaxing and challenging--and a real value for the dollar, too.

The course measures 6,449 yards from the back tees, with a manageable 71.4 rating/129 slope. Two other sets of tees make it fun for everyone and the reasonable green's fees encourage newbies to tee it up.  There's also an excellent range, short game area, and practice green right next to Edgar's Grill, which is worth the trip itself.

Quail Lodge Golf Course, a classic Robert Muir Graves design, has recently undergone a major renovation that includes rerouting a couple of holes, redesigning and refreshing the bunkers, and rethinking the pond, lakes, and other water on the property--a timely effort given California's recent drought. Since the back nine was closed for construction during my stay, I played only the front, which was interesting enough to play twice.

The opener is a benign 540-yard par five, but the meat of the front side is the collection of three long par threes. At 203, 198, and 216 yards, you may need some big artillery to reach them.  The number one handicap hole is the uphill 403-yard fourth hole where you can't see the surface of the green on your approach. The green is big enough to warrant a quick look, though, since the pin location can easily dictate club choice. The hill is so steep you know you'll need at least one more club--depending on the pin, you might want to add one or even two more.

One of the most challenging features of Quail Lodge is the massive tree that sits smack in the middle of the ninth fairway about 100 yards from the tee. A well-hit drive on the 541-yard par five can clear it, but don't try going around. The fairway is surprisingly narrow and there's OB on the left if you try for a big fade and a punitive bunker complex on the right if you go for a looping draw and hit the dreaded straight ball instead.

It's a great temptation to visit Carmel and focus entirely on the ocean courses, but a day spent looking eastward will yield some excellent golf.

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

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Getting Ready for Next Year

Guest blogger Mike Diffley, Head Pro at Pelham CC and a recognized guru of the mental game, has some words of wisdom appropriate to this time of year:

2014 is coming to an end, golf up north is over except for indoor activities. Everyone should be evaluating their year and breaking their game down to see what needs to be improved. You should rate all parts of your game. Rate them A-F. Be fair and realistic. Truly evaluating your game is the only way to improve it. You can't judge by one important round that you didn't drive well or pitch it well. You need to look at the overall to target the specific.

  • Driver
  • Fairways
  • Hybrids
  • Long Irons
  • Mid Irons
  • Short Irons
  • Wedges
  • Half-Wedges
  • Pitching
  • Chipping
  • Sand Play
  • Long Putting
  • Short Putting
  • Mental Game
  • Emotional Game
  • Physical Condition

 There are many categories, you need to keep your strengths and improve your weaknesses--do not ignore anything but concentrate on important things. Everyone needs to get better at putting and trying to hit the driver better (straighter or longer or both.)

How was your attitude, thinking, emotions? How about planning your preparation or practicing purposefully  Do you have a game plan or even an idea what to do in those categories. Many people don't and really are only wishing for success.

Look at last year, evaluate, and make changes to get better. That's how it works not just wishing it!

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

Monday, December 22, 2014

Spanish Bay Shines Among the Stars

Links at Spanish Bay #17
The Links at Spanish Bay is the "bargain" course among those operated by the Pebble Beach Resorts (not counting Del Monte), but there's nothing cut-rate about the golf to be played there. It's long enough (6,821 yards from the tips), tough enough (74.0 rating and 140 slope), and scenic enough to warrant a trip for its own sake. Spanish Bay is like the youngest sibling in a family whose two older brothers were star athletes before him in school. If they hadn't been born, he'd have all the raves to himself.

Spanish Bay has a links look with wind-swept fairways, tough waste areas and dunes to punish wayward drives, and greens that often invite a bump and run approach, although the turf is a little lush to rely on a ground game the way you would on a real links course.  Surf and sand are the dominant themes of the front nine, where you can practically walk in the water when playing the delightful par 3 eighth hole.

Enjoy the scenery and make your pars and birdies on the front side while you can, though.  The back nine is miles tougher.  Tough, but fun. From the gold tees, the front is par 35 at 3,042 yards whereas the back stretches to 3,379 and plays to par 37. The first three holes are birdie opportunities on the front, as is the 367-yard ninth hole. Even though the back offers three par fives, birdies are much harder to come by. The tenth hole, par five at 477 yards, looks like easy pickings but the relentless bunkers splitting the fairway on the second leg of the double dog leg say otherwise. The eighteenth, 524 yards, challenges you on every single shot. There are forced carries on the first and third and a major risk/reward decision on your second.

Three architects are credited with the design of Spanish Bay. Tom Watson, Sandy Tatum, and Robert Trent Jones, Jr., all are listed, although I suspect the latter did most of the heavy lifting when the course was built in 1987.  Regardless of who gets the lion's share of the credit, the trio designed a fine, worthwhile must-play course for anyone visiting Pebble Beach.

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

Sunday, December 21, 2014

That's Not a Wine Bottle, It's Your Putter!

The only time most golfers think of cork is when they sniff one that's come out of a wine bottle (although that doesn't apply to those of us who gravitate to vintages with screw-tops). That's about to change. A Portuguese company, The Cork Tree, has debuted four new putter grips made of cork leather.

The Cork Tree, the world's first company to produce golf products in cork leather, was co-founded by Nuno Nascimento and Marc Boggia. Nascimento was born into a family with a cork oak forest and learned the business of commercializing the material from his grandfather. Boggia, an Englishman, has been a member of the British PGA since 1981. He's also a golf entrepreneur, course owner, and partner in indoor golf teaching facilities in Asia. The Cork Tree's golf bag was awarded the first place award at the Golf Europe 2013 show in the golf bag category and lead to the launch of the cork putter grips.

Why cork? The company says it's proven to be the perfect complement to leather in a grip. Cork is 100% natural, feels soft in the hands, and proves its playability well beyond other materials when a golfer's hands are hot or sweaty -- as well as in humid playing conditions. "That means the grip won't slip in your hands -- regardless of how moist your hands are," says Boggia. "That lets you confidently putt away without any tension in your hands and arms, promoting a more fluid stroke. Once you try it, I know you'll agree that it feels amazing. Plus, it cleans very easily -- dirt wipes away with a wet cloth."

Cork's honeycomb cell structure is the key. Each cell is a 14-sided polyhedron filled with air, making it an extremely strong and flexible membrane that's waterproof and airtight. Cork bark is about 89% air, giving it a low density. But when it's compressed, air isn't squeezed out, because the cell membranes won't release it. So it returns to its original shape when the compression is removed. I'm no physicist, but I assume that also means moisture isn't sucked back into the material, ergo its utility for sealing wine bottles.

The four initial putter grips include the Midsize, Feather Light, Parallel and Tour models, all selling for $39.95.

Cork Tree says there are currently more than twenty PGA Tour players using Cork Tree cork leather putter grips including the winner of the recent Nedbank Golf Challenge in South Africa.  A multiple major winner on the PGA Tour is also using the Cork Tree putter grip.

The Nascimento family continues to sell cork bark to the cork stopper industry from its own 500 hectares cork plantation. Conscious of its hereditary property, The Cork Tree family continues to invest hundreds of thousands of dollars in developing, protecting and maintenance of the properties. Beyond cleaning and fertilizing the cork oak forest, the plantation continues to grow with some 40,000 new cork trees being planted in the past eight years. That's a lot of putter grips.

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

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Need a Unique Holiday Golf Gift? Think KPMG Women's PGA Championship Tickets

I have a standing rule for family members--under no circumstances should they give me any golf-related gifts. I have too many golfing Santa figurines and golf-ball-emblazoned coffee cups already and wouldn't hang a club-cleaner-tee-holder-glove-stretcher on my bag if you paid me.


This year, though, I made an exception to that rule for tickets to the KMPG Women's PGA Championship to be played at Westchester Country Club. The opportunity to watch superstar golfers like Stacy Lewis, Inbee Park, Paula Creamer, Lexi Thompson, and Michelle Wie doesn't come along very often, so this would be a truly unique gift that every golfer--and an awful lot of non-golfers--would really enjoy.

The best deal is the The Clubhouse Ticket Package, which includes access to the Championship Grounds, main Clubhouse and Clubhouse foyer, patio and lawn areas, Tuesday through Sunday of Championship Week, June 9-14. The package is $200, quite reasonable considering the unfettered access to the best facilities at the club. Upgraded food and beverage will be available for purchase.

Want to give a youngster a thrill?  Buy a Tuesday or Wednesday grounds ticket for yourself (a whopping $15) and you can take up to four kids 17 or under with you absolutely free!  You can do the same thing Thursday-Sunday for slightly higher prices, but the cool thing about Tuesday or Wednesday is that those are practice round and pro-am days and the players are really, really approachable.

For that very special golfer on your list, you'll want to give them something you KNOW they don't already have. How about the opportunity to play the Westchester Country Club West Course with one of the 156 star players in the Tuesday Pro-Am?  Prices start at $4,000 and space is limited, so order that little stocking stuffer right away!

Hey, Santa! Need more info? Call (800) PGA-GOLF (742-4653) or visit www.kpmgwomenspgachampionship.com.

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

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Breed Moves to Trump Golf Links

Michael Breed
Michael Breed
Michael Breed and his namesake golf academy will open at Trump’s brand new Trump Golf Links at Ferry Point this spring.  He moves to the new course from Manhattan Woods in West Nyack.  Breed is ranked thirteenth on Golf Digest’s list of Top Fifty Instructors in the United States. Throughout his twenty five year career Breed has worked with over thirty PGA Tour, LPGA Tour, Nationwide Tour and Senior Tour players.  He is also the host of Golf Channel’s hit show “The Golf Fix” and was recognized as the PGA’s National Teacher of the Year in 2012. 

Donald J. Trump, Chairman and President of the Trump Organization says, “We are thrilled to have Michael bring his immense talent and highly regarded academy to Trump Golf Links at Ferry Point, which will be one of the finest public golf courses in the country. Michael is an incredible addition to an already stellar facility and we look forward to continuing our great relationship for many years to come.”

Michael Breed added, “I’m honored to partner with the Trump Organization on this incredible opportunity to bring my academy to a world-class facility located just minutes outside of Manhattan. Trump Golf Links at Ferry Point is truly an unbelievable course and I’m confident we will experience great success.”

Most recently Michael was the Director of Instruction at the Michael Breed Golf Academy previously located at the Manhattan Woods Golf Club in West Nyack, NY. Formerly, Michael was the Head Golf Professional at Sunningdale Country Club in Scarsdale for 12 years from 2001 – 2012. His experience includes five years as the Head Golf Professional at Birchwood Country Club and Assistant Professional positions at Deepdale Golf Club and Augusta National Golf Club.

Trump Golf Links at Ferry Point is part of a city-funded redevelopment project. The 18-hole links style Jack Nicklaus Signature Golf Course, designed in consultation with Sanford Design, will be operated by the Trump Golf team and will be a part of the global golf portfolio of native New Yorker and avid golfer Donald Trump. The city’s newest golf facility is located in the Bronx with easy access to all five boroughs, just minutes outside of Manhattan and situated at the foot of the Whitestone Bridge. The course is designed specifically to take advantage of spectacular views of the Manhattan skyline, East River and the Whitestone and Throgs Neck bridges. In addition to the 18-hole course, Trump Golf Links at Ferry Point will also feature a state of the art lighted practice facility, a magnificent clubhouse and dining amenities.

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

Monday, December 15, 2014

For Pure Golf, Spyglass Beats Pebble

Spyglass Hill #3
Pebble Beach gets all the headlines, but Spyglass Hill is arguably the better golf course by many standards. It's measurably harder, has more than a few intimidating shots, and can more severely punish a near miss. Spyglass may not have quite as many iconic holes, but it has more than its fair share of fabulous scenery, too.

Sypglass has an interesting history. It was originally built by the Northern California Golf Assocation (NCGA) in 1966, its construction financed by members who put up cash and agreed to dues of $50 per year. There is still a membership, although I'm not sure what happens to them in 2016 when the fiftieth anniversary comes around. The course is owned and operated today by the Pebble Beach Company and the NCGA has moved its headquarters to Poppy Hills, which it owns.

Robert Trent Jones, Sr., designed Spyglass and many of us believe it to be his best work. By the numbers, Spyglass Hill is tougher than Pebble Beach. It's longer from all four tee boxes, measuring 6,960 vs Pebble's 6,828 from the tips. From the gold tees, the Spyglass rating/slope is 73.8/140 vs. Pebble's 72.6/136, a difference that's reflected on the other three tees as well. Jones' pop up greens and the natural elevation changes at Spyglass makes it play even longer than Pebble's relatively flat terrain, too. The extra 100 yards on the scorecard for the gold tees play more like an extra 300 yards when you take that into account.

The opening hole reflects the dual nature of the course--trees, elevation, and the ocean combine to make a classic introduction to the layout. The hole is a long, downhill par five with a tee shot that threads a corridor of pines to reach the dog leg at the bottom of the hill. Once you've cleared the corner, the hole turns left and greets the ocean. The extensive bunkers in front of the green echo the dunes and beach lying beyond it.

Spyglass isn't lacking in visual splendor. The first five holes play along the dunes, often close enough to the waves to see the water dripping from the surfers' eyebrows. The second hole, a 321-yard uphill par four (from the gold tees), plays to a green perched like a crow's nest overlooking the ocean.  It's followed by a truly great par 3. At 150 yards, the third hole plays directly toward the Pacific over a wasteland of scrub, dunes, and bunkers. The fourth hole, which Jones often said was his favorite par four, is short at 358 yards but has one of the most radically skinny greens you'll find anywhere. The last hole you play on the ocean stretch is the 169-yard fifth, where the green sits directly beneath the glass-fronted house made famous by Clint Eastwood in "Play Misty for Me."

The back nine at Spyglass is a pure test of golf, rewarding in equal parts accuracy, distance, and touch around the green. The 13th and 16th holes are long, demanding par fours playing 435 and 454 yards respectively. The two par threes on the side have water in play while the short (312-yard) par four 17th seems to have as many bunkers as trees--and there are a LOT of trees. The finisher plays up a steep, steep hill to a green with brutal contours. It's only 386 yards on the card, but plays like 486 and a bogey feels like a birdie.

Spyglass Hill is not for the faint of heart, but it is a rewarding, memorable golf experience that should have a place on everyone's bucket list.

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

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Sunice Introduces Outerwear for 2015

The Spring/Summer 2015 collection for Sunice Golf is all about comfort and function allowing golfers to perform better while playing.

"We did not just stop at function in our design. In color there is no other in golf that can compete," says  Kathryn McClemens, Senior Product Manager of Sunice.  "Bold brights are mixed with classic core colors to bring a new vibrant palette to the game.  The true essence of the collection this year is bringing unlikely color pairings together in harmony and unison to create a color palette that is both striking in its appearance yet commercial enough to worn by the most discerning of golfers." 

In the ladies collections the colors embrace femininity yet have undertones of bolder more unexpected twists of colors.  Jeweled tones reflecting City skylines, flamboyant neon pinks complimented with classic whites and grounded to charcoal make a dynamic palette.    

The men's collections also kept a similar approach to color.  The economy of recent years has influenced color palettes to be muted and somber: black, tans and greys that seemed like basics until they become a statement of fashion.  Sunice is witnessing a resurgence of color popped with the basics.  Neon greens, vibrant blues and rich yellows trimmed with color staples of pure white, grey and blacks reinvents modern golf fashion.  Prints that were once classic patterns have been deconstructed to add the unexpected. 

"The main feeling Sunce wanted to evoke in the 2015 color palette was sportsmanship, quality, perseverance and passion - all the things we believe that Sunice as a brand is about," says McClemens.

Sunice continues to design and develop six different categories in the Spring 2015 collection with an expansion adding down vests and jackets with stretch panels.  "We felt there was a need for the player to have the warmth of down but required the stretch and protection of a 3L stretch insert to allow for full range of motion," McClemens says.  Each outerwear category - Hurricane, Tornado, Typhoon, Pro Sport and Sport - provides different levels of protection from an array of weather conditions. "We are continuing to expand our highly technical apparel line, Sunice Silver using only X-Static and XT2 fabrics in our polo collection. The success of Sunice's golf platform derives from our capability to offer innovation through research and development and diversification in our products providing the ultimate Freedom to play, no matter the weather."

Hurricane Collection
Featuring GORE-TEX® and GORE-TEX® enhanced with Paclite® technology, and backed by the GORE-TEX® "Guaranteed to keep you dry™" promise, the Hurricane Collection is the Sunice Gore category.

The Ultimate Jacket is back in its seventh adaptation (V7), with a complete re-design and the reintroduction of the Albany jacket.  The Sunice science is evident in these jackets with the added features, including the X-Static® stretch lining, Pro-Trim™ waist cinching system, in-pocket ball cleaner, and stretch insert back panel. The Sunice DNA is represented in detailing such as laser cut designs on the sleeves and body, laser cut and welded pocket frames, and the Sunice patented V collar design.

Tornado Collection
The standout category for 2015 is the Tornado collection featuring exclusive Flexvent fabric - breathable, extremely lightweight and ultra-quiet stretch knit jackets backed by a four-year waterproof guarantee.    

McClemens says, "These features are all a call out to our commitment to performance outerwear allowing the golfer to focus on their game rather than the weather - with its uniquely soft hand feels and super quiet stretch laminate; we believe this is the future in waterproofs."  

Typhoon Collection
The Typhoon category is now a full-stretch, waterproof category with a three-year waterproof guarantee. Introduced in 2011, Sepal™ is a quieter-performance lightweight fabric that now has the added benefit of full stretch. A complete revamp in the design of the performance jackets with more streamlined silhouettes - less cut and sew and more laser cutting - showcases the brighter pop colors for a more modern feel.  This category has become synonymous with value proposition for a highly technical rain suit, incorporating all the game enhancing features that Sunice is famous for and using laser cut welding detail, ergonomically designed laser cut welded pocket frames, and the Sunice patented V collar design - Designed to enhance comfort without compromising performance

"To keep in tune with this commitment to a bolder and edgier collection we have combined vivid blues and bright neon greens with saturated yellows to take us to the next level," McClemens explains. "We feel it is a perfect blend of fashion and sport.  A true testimony to the Sunice Player - bold and fun but should be taken seriously."  

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

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

KPMG Women's PGA Championship Offers Tickets

Tickets for the inaugural KPMG Women’s PGA Championship, to be held at Westchester Country Club from June 9-14, 2015, go on sale to the public this week. While a daily pass starts as low as $15 for the June 9 and 10 practice rounds, those who want the “VIP treatment” at the tournament can purchase a Weekly Clubhouse Pass for $200.

“The PGA of America, the LPGA, and KPMG are growing the game, so setting ticket prices reasonable enough for not just individuals but for families to come is a great way to get people involved,” says championship director Bob Jeffrey.  “The $15 day pass for practice rounds is about as good as you’re going to see for golf or any sporting event.”

Daily and weekly packages for grounds or clubhouse access will allow spectators to be a part of history. The KPMG Women’s PGA Championship is the first women's major run by the PGA of America, which also stages the annual PGA Championship and bi-annual Ryder Cup competition.

Jeffrey points out, “You’ll see the best female golfers in the world. We’ll have Stacy Lewis, Michelle Wie, and our defending champ Inbee Park so you’re going to see some great golf.  Westchester is a great venue for viewing, too. There are several holes where you get an amphitheater feel."

Ticket options include:

  • Weekly Clubhouse Pass - $200 (includes access to the golf course, main clubhouse and clubhouse foyer, patio and lawn areas, Tuesday through Sunday); upgraded food and beverage available for purchase
  • One-Day Flex Pass - $35 (allows golf course access on day of choice, Thursday through Sunday)
  • Daily Grounds Pass (allows golf course access)
  • $15 Tuesday and Wednesday
    $25 Thursday and Friday
    $30 Saturday and Sunday

According to Jeffrey, there will be additional features to make the event even more attractive to families and juniors: “On the weekend, we’re going to have some junior clinics and junior golf activities on site, so if you bring your family out, there will be things for them to do in addition to watching golf.  There will be chipping and putting in the middle of the course at our junior activities area.”  He adds, “The pro-am on Tuesday is a great time to get close for photos and autographs with the players.”

The KPMG Women’s PGA Championship brings together a world-class, annual major golf championship with a women’s leadership summit and an ongoing community initiative to inspire and develop new generations of female leaders.

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

Monday, December 8, 2014

Pelham's Nan Hill Wins LPGA Status

Nannette Hill
photo courtesy Symetra Tour
Nan Hill, a Pelham CC standout we profiled when she was a sparkling teenager, realized her dream to compete on the LPGA Tour by stringing together five solid rounds at LPGA Stage II Q School last week.  Hill finished tied for ninth yesterday with a very fine six under total for five rounds at LPGA International's Jones & Hills Courses in Daytona Beach, Florida.

Hill played in nine Symetra Tour events this season, making six cuts. The Wake Forest graduate had a series of career-stalling elbow injuries related to Cubital Tunnel Syndrome which kept her sidelined for 2011 and 2012, then went through a swing change earlier this year.

“I can’t even think straight,” Hill said after her round. “I’ve been working really hard. I have a really good team that’s helped me get to this point.” A key member of that team has been Hill's mentor Mike Diffley, head pro at Pelham CC.  “It has been a lot this year as I went through a big swing change and I got worse to get better but it has paid off,” Hill said. “It definitely feels awesome. I can’t even put it in to words especially the way I started off this year struggling. Where I’ve come and now where I’m at it’s pretty cool.”

She was one of 20 players who earned LPGA Tour membership through Category 12 on the priority list.  Kelly Shon (Port Washington, N.Y.), the 2013-14 Ivy League Player of the Year, also punched her ticket to the LPGA Tour on Sunday by shooting an even par round of 72 to tie Hill at 6-under. Topping the field were UCLA sophomore Alison Lee (Valencia, Calif.), who turned professional following her round, and Rolex Women’s World Golf Rankings No. 82 Minjee Lee (Perth, Australia). The pair shared medalist honors at 10-under.  Also making the pro grade was Tiger Woods' niece, Cheyenne Woods, who finished in a tie for 11th.   A total of 23 players including world No. 37 Charley Hull (Kettering, England) earned membership through Category 17.

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

Reflections on Pebble Beach

Pebble Beach Golf Links has nine truly spectacular holes and nine perfectly mediocre ones that somehow seem spectacular because of the company they keep. Add them all up, and playing there is a religious experience--which is the main reason you must do it at least once in your life. I've played the links several times, but it had been fifteen years since I last made the pilgrimage when I played Pebble last month. Regardless, every hole brought back memories of previous rounds. That's the way it is with mystical shrines.

Let me get one thing out of the way: Is Pebble Beach expensive? Ridiculously so. Who cares? How can you put a price on magic?  Forget the $495 greens fee. It's not like you're paying it every week, is it? Consider the price per memory and Pebble becomes one of the most inexpensive courses you can play.

While you're at it, forget your score, too.  You're not going to break the course record, so why ruin your memories by focusing on it?  (It's 62 for tournament play, held by Tom Kite and David Duval) Instead, just remember what it was like to stand on the seventh tee with the surf crashing around the tiny green below.  Or how it felt to take dead aim at the same pin as Jack Nicklaus and Tom Watson on the historic seventeenth hole. And how can you put a price on playing perhaps the best finishing hole in America with the ocean to your left, OB right, and always a small gallery of onlookers hovering around the 18th green?

Pebble Beach should be one of the most fun rounds of golf you'll ever play, but what I find fascinating about it is how badly most of us score there considering how playable it actually is.  Most of the greens have generous approaches, the fairways are generally wide, and the bunkering tough but not impossible.  The greens are tricky, of course, but perfectly readable and usually role at resort-course speeds rather than the linoleum-fast Stimps you see on TV.

So what makes it so hard to go low on the course?  It's all psychological.  First, of course, there is the fame factor.  You've seen Tom Watson's chip-in on endless highlight reels, you've watched Ernie Els fall apart on the beach and Dustin Johnson die a thousand deaths in the bunkers, not to mention Tiger Woods lap the field in the U.S. Open.  Put yourself on that stage and see if you can stay relaxed!  There's always a crowd around the first tee, too. It's surrounded by golfers, tourists, caddies--all watching you try to hit less than a driver far enough to clear the dog leg.

Then there is the tour pro problem.  We think we play the way they do, so we inevitably bite off more than we can chew. If you have an honest course handicap of 13 or greater (which includes 90% of the golfers in the world), you should be playing from the white tees (6,116 yards, rating 71.3, slope 132) not the gold (6,445/72.6/136) and certainly not the blues (6,828/74.7/143).  Guess what? The scenery is just as spectacular and the truly iconic holes (6 through 9 and 14, 17, and 18) are just as breathtaking when you're hitting a mid-iron or a wedge instead of a three-wood into the green.

You also don't have to reach (and probably can't) the par fives in two or even the long par fours in regulation.  If you split the fairway on #2 (a short par 5 at 460 yards from the gold tees), you might consider it, but the penalties for a miss are severe. Number 8, the iconic 400-yard par four with the dramatic second shot off a 100-ft. cliff will murder your score if you go for the pin and hit less than a perfect shot. I once hit the flagstick with my approach and still ended up with a bogey!  And #9? At 460 yards for a par 4, it's a three shot hole--period.  If you want a better score at Pebble, practice your layups, not your long irons.

Another thing to keep in mind is that Pebble is a visually intimidating golf course.  From the fairway bunker through the dog leg on the first hole to the surf crashing along the entire length of the eighteenth, there's at least once frightening feature on every hole.  The stretch along the ocean from #4 to #10 is the scariest, of course, and that's also where you're going to battle the worst winds (until 17 comes into view). But if you look dispassionately at each hole, you can find a way to avert disaster and play it somewhere near par. Take an iron off the tee at #4, aim for the fat part of the green on #5, swing easy on your first and second shots of #6 (you can't get there in two anyway!), knock down a wedge on #7, play #8 and #9 as three-shot holes, and stay left all the way on #10. Easy-peasy!

Audra Kepler
One last piece of advice about enjoying Pebble Beach: hire a caddie.  It's a glorious, leisurely walk and you're going to have plenty of time to enjoy the scenery, so why spoil it by sitting on your fat arse in a golf cart?  The caddie will guide you around the trickier holes, regale you with stories, and save you at least five strokes on the greens.  What's that worth? It will cost you $80 plus a generous tip ($35 to $55 minimum suggested), but you're already paying a king's ransom to play, so what does a few more bucks matter?

The caddies at Pebble Beach are generally excellent. Audra Kepler carried my sticks this year. She was filling time between her All-American college golf career, her appearance in the U.S. Women's Amateur, and her win in the NCGA Women's Am and the start of her professional career on the Symetra Tour. She was great company and a total professional so I asked her to loop for me the next two days at Spyglass and Spanish Bay--a no brainer.

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

Saturday, December 6, 2014

The Private Club Experience in Two Minutes

Thinking of joining a club but not sure what you get out of the deal besides a nice golf course?  Check out this video from Brynwood Golf & Country Club in Armonk.

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

Friday, December 5, 2014

Pound Ridge Clubhouse Honored

Custom builder Mark Mosolino has received a prestigious Home Building Industry (HOBI) Award from the Home Builders and Remodelers Association of Connecticut for his renovation of the Pound Ridge Golf Club clubhouse.

Mosolino took home the coveted “2014 Best Commercial Rehab Overall” award for his ability to maximize the structure’s utility and aesthetics. Considered an expert at creating vibrant, livable spaces in limited building footprints, Mosolino has received four HOBI Awards since 2010.

His work on the Pound Ridge clubhouse included the addition of permanent bathrooms, a full-service kitchen with new equipment, and men’s and women’s showers and small locker rooms. The breezeway between the building and temporary structure also was enclosed for additional comfort and privacy.

“We applaud Mark’s creativity and flexibility, and we’re elated that the Home Builders and Remodelers Association of Connecticut recognized the scope and nuance of his work,” adds Ken Wang, owner of Pound Ridge Golf Club. “The new-look clubhouse provides our guests more options including showering or refreshing here at the course, and grabbing a bite to eat before, during or after a round.”

Other notable enhancements included floor, ceiling and window frame molding, chair rails and other fixtures. Extra features and equipment were added to create both elegance and permanence. Guests now have the choice of relaxing in the refreshed interior or outdoors on one of Pound Ridge’s two alfresco seating and gathering areas.

“My team is honored to win an award in HOBI’s hyper-competitive commercial category,” says Mosolino, owner of Mosolino Development. “Pound Ridge Golf Club is a part of this community, and we embraced the opportunity.”

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

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Antigua Outerwear Debuts for 2015

The AntiguaGroup's Spring 2015 Men's Golf Outerwear Collection has been released just in time for those shoulder-season rounds we're all playing right now.

"The Spring 2015 Men's Golf Outerwear Collection is the focal point of Antigua's ever-expanding lightweight golf outerwear," says Ron McPherson, President and CEO of Antigua. "Technology advancements have included new lightweight functional fabrics, making the design potential limitless. And golf outerwear has been crossing over to daily wear use, which has helped grow the category."

For 2015, half-zip pullovers like Asset are available in a range of deep-yet-colorful heather shades complemented with brighter tonal sleeve taping and contrasting placket zippers. It can easily become a cool weather everyday wear garment, given its wide range of color options.  

The versatility of lightweight outerwear styles adds to their popularity. They've been designed with the intent to be be worn as standalone garments, or worn over a tee shirt or performance polo or under a heavier weight outerwear piece. Each of these lightweight outerwear styles can be utilized to perform these multiple garment functions. Crux, for instance, is constructed using a mid-weight, double knit neutral heather interlock that's contrasted with deep palette color shades and outlined with seams covered in bright color contrast cover stitching. It's appealing as a casual look and as a new-color classic. Haze demonstrates the subtle simplicity of a tonal irregular yarn, constructed into a lightweight, lightly brushed half-zip pullover guaranteed to be comfortable in cool climates without impeding movement.

As technology has advanced to make wind-resistant fabrics lighter, thinner and softer for both comfort and flexibility, these advancements also offer unique design opportunities to add features and garment functionality that weren't previously available. With the new half sleeve windshirt Skill, the process of bonding a thinly constructed micro-membrane behind and against the filament knit interlock outer face, and sandwiching it with an additional inner layer of filament interlock, gives the appearance of one singularly constructed layer of fabric. This one-piece, multi-layer, wind-resistant fabric eliminates the need for an additional garment lining. Due to its shell construction, Skill functions as a wind-resistant garment while also keeping golfers dry from rain based on its high-quality inner membrane. It's embellished with elastic outer garment seam tape that mimics the irregular neutral stripe effects in this collection's polos, giving it a unique aesthetic design appeal.

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

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

My Comeback Season In Review

Wired for a swing check at Clay Fitness Center

My 2014 golf season is over and I am happy to say it was successful.  Did I win any tournaments or important matches?  No, but I did accomplish the goal I set for myself in the spring, which had major significance for me in many ways.  The goal was simple: get my handicap to the level it was at the close of the 2013 season.

That doesn't sound very ambitious, does it?  Here's the story, though.  At this time last year, I was coming off stent surgery and getting ready to go into Westchester Medical Center for bypass surgery, which occurred over the Christmas holiday. In February, I had a melanoma excised from my ear.  In March, pneumonia struck.  By April 1, I basically couldn't hit a ball out of my own shadow.

My 2013 year had ended with a 10.3 index, not my lowest ever, but pretty much around the number I've played at for several years.   I started playing as soon as the courses opened, knowing that things weren't going to be pretty.  By June, my index had climbed to 14.8. I knew it was going to take some major work to reach my goal.

The first step was getting back into physical shape.  I'd already started that process, actually exercising (under doctor's supervision) within two weeks of the heart surgery.  I started by climbing up and down the stairs in my home, then graduated to trudging a circuit around my long, hilly, driveway in the January cold.  By the end of the month, less than a month after surgery, I was walking a brisk mile outside every day. I got the go-ahead to graduate to the gym and light weights shortly thereafter.  I started slow in deference to the 14-inch incision running down my sternum.  In February, I started cardio rehab in addition to my gym work.  My goal at that point was simply to build my stamina so I'd be able to complete 18 holes when the season started.

The melanoma procedure and pneumonia set me back, but I teed it up in early April. Couldn't break 90. In fact, 95 was tough, but at least I kept it under 100. The first week of May, I put my stamina to the test with a five-round, five-day trip to Atlantic City with a bunch of golf writers.  Again, the scores weren't as important as completing the task, which I did.

The next step was to adjust my expectations.  I sure wasn't driving the ball much over 200 yards, so I pretty much stopped playing from tees over 6400 yards.  I also stopped trying to hit long par fours in regulation, often laying up to wedge distance and settling for an easy bogey.  The math is pretty compelling if you can follow this discipline.  On a standard par 72 course, if you can par the threes and fives (yes, that's a tall order itself), and bogey the ten par fours, you'll shoot an 82.  From a practical standpoint, there's going to be a bogey or two on the par threes and fives, but there also will be some pars (and maybe an odd birdie) on the shorter par fours, so things should even out.

Keeping the ball in the fairway became much more important, so I worked on my hybrids and mid-irons to make up for shorter drives.  That took awhile, but it came around when I realized I was over-swinging to get more distance from those clubs and was still subconsciously trying to reach every green in regulation.  My new rule of thumb for reaching a green became 175 yards, which was a solid five iron for me.  If the green was further than that (or was heavily bunkered), I would lay up.

What that plan requires, though, is a solid short game.  I dedicated myself to spending at least one practice session each week on the short game facility at Brynwood working on short pitches and chips from various distances and lies, including the sand. The confidence that gave me really paid off as the season progressed.

Along the way, I developed some putting problems, so I went to work on that with a couple of Aim Point seminars with John Hobbins.  That really, really made a difference.  I not only basically eliminated three-putts from my scorecard, but substantially increased the number of mid-range (10-12 ft.) putts I sank.  I still missed too many three-footers, though, so I spent several hours on the practice green trying different putters until I found one that felt solid. The winner, by the way, was a 20-year veteran of my putter collection, a Tad Moore signature model from Maxfli.

The final step in putting my game back together was a session on the lesson tee with Craig Thomas, head pro at Metropolis and all-around good guy.  He pointed out a basic problem that had developed with my driving and gave me a couple of drills to correct it.  Voila!  Twenty-five more yards down the middle off the tee.  Still not as long as last year, but I'm not any younger, either.  All things considered, I was a happy guy.

So what happened after all this sturm und drang? By the August 15 revision, my index was back to 10.3.  After posting 85 rounds, I ended the season with a 9.9 and was quite satisfied with it.

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

Monday, December 1, 2014

Sun Mountain Cart Bags New for 2015

Sun Mountain C-130
For 2015, Sun Mountain is expanding its collection of top-selling C-130 golf cart bags to include three different models: a stand bag, a version with a 7-way divided top, and the standard 14-way divided top.

All versions of the C-130 are designed to work optimally on a riding cart. Features in common across all C-130 models include the reverse-orientation top and the three utility handles integrated into the top that offer multiple hand-holds for picking the bag up. Each model also has a cart-strap tunnel which allows the cart strap to pass through the bag and not block access to any of the bag’s pockets or crush any of the pockets’ contents.

The C-130S stand bag is for cart-golfers who like to carry their bag to the practice range and enjoy the convenience of the stand. The C-130 7-way has a seven-way divided top for those who don’t care for the individual club dividers. And, the C-130 14-way is the traditional version of the C-130 for golfers who prefer the individual, club-divided top.

One of the hallmarks of the C-130 is pocket space. All models of the C-130 feature two full-length clothing pockets, two velour-lined valuables pockets (including one sized for a rangefinder), a beverage pocket, and several additional pockets for balls and tees and other accessories. C-130 7-way and 14-way also offer an integrated putter well.

All three models are in stores now at $239 for the C-130S stand bag and $229 for the C-130 7-way and 14-way.  Call 800-227-9224 or visit www.sunmountain.com to find your nearest retailer.

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