Hotlinks

Hotlinks

July 30, 2019

Master architect Robert Trent Jones Sr. created the concept of a “heroic” hole, differentiated from “strategic” or “penal” design as something between the two. Jones defined such a hole as one that demands a heroic carry or gamble for the better player to get in position for a birdie (or eagle), but one that leaves an option for the lesser player to take the safe route. Jones’ ultimate expression of a heroic hole is his 481-yard, par-54th at Dorado Beach Resort’s East Course.  Recently given a facelift by Jones’ oldest son, Bobby, the 4th has returned to its 50-year-old glory days when Sam Snead and Jimmy Demaret helped capture the 1961 Canada (now World) Cup Matches there and when Jack Nicklaus called it, “one of the 10 best holes in the world.” With a drive that flirts with a lake on the left, an approach that tangles with tall coconut palms and another lake on the right, and the Atlantic Ocean beckoning behind the green, the risk/reward 4th lives up to the hype. 

In 1960, the man developing the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel, Laurance S. Rockefeller (yes, of those Rockefellers) prowled the dark lava landscape he had in mind for his resort’s golf course alongside the dean of modern architecture, Robert Trent Jones Sr. As Rockefeller surveyed the cactus-flecked, desert-like terrain, he asked Jones if a golf course could be built. After some experimenting, Jones answered in the affirmative. The mudrock (volcanic stone) could be crushed and was actually quite porous. It could indeed be used as a soil base. The discovery allowed nearly a dozen courses to be built on the Kohala Coast over the next 40 years. The best of them, however, remains the original at Mauna Kea. Inspirato offers lodging within the Hualalai resort community, which possesses two of the Big Island’s best lava-lined courses and is near more oceanside fairway splendor at Mauna Lani. Still, it’s Mauna Kea, just to the north, that tops them all, partly for its rugged, hilly, 7,370- yard journey; partly for its renovated greens and deepened bunkers, the work performed in 2008 by Trent Jones’ son, Rees; but mostly for its jaw-dropping, gargantuan par-3 3rd hole. Stretching 272 yards from its tiny, isolated back tee set into 5,000-year-old black lava rock, this unparalleled one-shotter demands a career shot over crashing Pacific surf to a huge green ringed with a necklace of bunkers. Nearly 50 years ago, in December 1964, Jack Nicklaus downed top rivals Arnold Palmer and Gary Player over four rounds in the nationally televised Big Three match. Afterwards Nicklaus called Mauna Kea, “the most fun golf course I’ve ever played.” Jack, I can tell you that it’s still really fun.

Hilton Head has beckoned vacationers since 1960 or so, but it wasn’t until 1969 that it took its exalted place among golf destinations. It was all due to Harbour Town, where Jack Nicklaus, serving as co-designer with Pete Dye, made his first foray into big-time course architecture. The PGA Tour staged a November event in 1969 and both tournament and course were judged roaring successes. It didn’t hurt that another future designer, Arnold Palmer, won that first event with a hardfought, 1-under-par total. Situated 15 minutes away from Inspirato’s Hilton Head property, Harbour Town is a bewitching brew of dark lagoons, flat, narrow fairways framed by moss-festooned live oaks, tiny greens and bunkers shored with railroad ties. The emphasis here is on strategy and placement, which explains why brilliant ball strikers such as Johnny Miller, Tom Watson and Payne Stewart won here twice each and why Davis Love III owns five trophies from the Heritage Classic. To win, all of them had to survive the fabled 472-yard, par-4 18th, one of golf ’s “must-play” holes. To the left are the breeze-fueled salt marshes of Calibogue (pronounced “Cali-bogey”) Sound. To the right, trees, condos and out of bounds. In the distance looms Harbour Town’s most enduring symbol, a candy cane-striped lighthouse, along with a luxury boat-filled marina. Spring in the lowcountry is a special time of the year, and a round at Harbour Town is a perfect a way to experience it.

Promotional hyperbole may have influenced Cabo del Sol’s designer, Jack Nicklaus, to trumpet its closing trio as “the three finest finishing holes in golf,” but after you’ve played them, it’s hard to argue with the Golden Bear. The Scottsdale-by-the-sea setting at the southern tip of Baja, within 10 miles of more than a dozen Inspirato residences, combines cactus, mountain and ocean in a delightful—and slightly surreal—package. This 1994 seaside/desert design features newly redone back-to-back par-3s along the Sea of Cortez on the front nine and the aforementioned finish that sandwiches two demanding, dramatic par-4s around the unforgettable 178-yard, par3 17th. From a clifftop tee, the 17th calls for an all-or-nothing shot over a wave-splashed sandy cove and rugged rock outcroppings, with cactus-covered hills and the turquoise-blue sea forming a compelling backdrop. A fistful of the world’s elite golfers have trod the fairways, including Hall-of-Famer Raymond Floyd, who won the PGA Tour’s Senior Slam here in 1995. Dr. Gil Morgan broke Floyd’s course record when he captured the Senior Slam in 1998, on rounds of 66-68, beating Hale Irwin by six shots. However, locals still talk about April 12, 1996, when Jack Nicklaus and Lee Trevino dueled in a televised Shell’s Wonderful World of Golf match. With highs in March averaging 75 degrees and lows only in the 60s, frost is the last thing you’ll encounter this spring. An icy margarita might be the first though—ordered on the Courtyard Bar at the Clubhouse’s terrace overlooking the sea.

An explosion of heralded golf courses has turned the Dominican Republic from a one-trick golf pony (Casa de Campo’s wonderful Teeth of the Dog course) into a paradise of seaside links. Among the most remarkable of the recent designs is Tom Fazio’s Corales Golf Course at Puntacana Resort & Club. The mostly private Corales course is accessible to guests of the Punta Cana Resort (including Inspirato members) and community residents, who include designers Oscar de la Renta and Bunny Williams and singer Julio Iglesias. Stylish bunkers, mature palms, scattered lakes and a closing trio of jaw-dropping holes along the sea are highlights. As superb as Corales is, the nearby Punta Espada Golf Club at Cap Cana is even more spectacular. This 2006 Jack Nicklaus design incorporates oceanfront bluffs, beaches and jungle in its memorable 7,400-yard journey through a slice of Domincan Republic teeming with wildlife, from an iguanafilled cave to the left of the first fairway to native roosters that strut around like they own the place. What most crow about, however, is Punta Espada’s 13th hole, a beautiful brute of 250 yards that plays directly over the Caribbean Sea. Mortals can utilize a short-right bailout area—but you didn’t fly this far to lay up—and neither did Fred Couples who not only conquered the 13th, but the other 17 holes as well, when he beat out Corey Pavin to win a Champions Tour event at Cap Cana in 2010. See if you can do the same.  

As iconic images in golf go, none so perfectly captures the agony of defeat as Bernhard Langer’s anguished grimace at the 1991 Ryder Cup. Amid suffocating pressure, the German star had just missed a 6-foot putt on the final green at Kiawah’s Ocean Course to hand the U.S. team victory in the fabled “War by the Shore” match. Not so glum was Rory McIlroy, who manhandled this notoriously difficult Pete Dye design at the 2012 PGA Championship, romping to an eight-shot win over the best in the world. Whether you match Rory’s final-round score of 66, or shoot 106, your emotions will likely run more to Rory-like glee, rather than Langer-like misery—purely for the setting alone. Filled with tranquil lowcountry charm amid live oaks, wavy golden grasses and strong sea breezes, Kiawah’s Ocean course is lovely, but lethal. A blend of tidal marsh carries, scrub-topped dunes and undulating greens pair with 7,356 muscular yards to form a relentless mix of beauty and brawn. Dye’s masterpiece was the fourth course at Kiawah and was finished specifically to host the Ryder Cup. While Dye has softened the greens and their surrounds over the years, the Ocean Course remains among the toughest tests in the country. If you find yourself overwhelmed, you can always retreat to the Ryder Cup Bar at the clubhouse, overlooking the Atlantic and regroup. 

The Three Best Golf Courses in Hawaii

The Three Best Golf Courses in Hawaii

July 19, 2019

It’s not an overstatement to claim that playing Wailea’s golf courses, all clustered within a 2-mile stretch on Maui’s southwestern shore, is a benchmark experience for mainland golfers. Few places boast as many sweeping ocean vistas from nearly every hole, well-conditioned courses, challenging layouts from highly acclaimed course architects and top-notch service. Not to mention the perfect year-round weather that graces this southwest region of the island. These three standouts exemplify Wailea’s best. 

Old Blue Course

Wailea Golf Club’s Old Blue course is perpetually rated among the most enjoyable on all of Maui, and packs as much vivid scenery and as many wide-open fairways as anyplace you’ll play golf. From its relatively easy, straightaway par-4 first hole traversing toward the ocean to its expansive back nine fairways, Old Blue is an ideal first course to play during your vacation, especially if you’re still in a travel fog or your game is rusty. This 40-year-old gem was designed by Arthur Jack Snyder, who has a reputation for maximizing fun without taking away the challenge of a good design. Holes are forgiving, and you’ll often find your ball rolling back toward the fairway—whether your shots veer right or left. The large greens roll true and are perpetually in terrific condition.

That said, Old Blue is no cakewalk. The afternoon breezes can be brisk, making the open fairways seem like wind tunnels. There are also plenty of bunkers—many of them greenside—but the fluffy sand makes for relatively easy bunker shots. Greens hold the ball well, but beware of the optical illusions: Locals say that all putts break toward the ocean and move faster in that direction, despite how they might appear. You’ll swear that some putts break uphill. 

The front nine feature continual rolling undulations along the fairways and greens, with some uphill tee shots and downhill approaches—many with mesmerizing ocean views. Holes six and seven each have a fairway tree that challenges your drives, particularly if you draw the ball on the tee shot. Speaking of trees, the back nine fairways are nearly all tree-lined. And because this side can be more susceptible to wind, the trees become much more reachable. In fact, the wind can stump even the most-seasoned golfers who may often think that every hole plays into the breeze. No doubt, if you want to play a gorgeous, well-rounded course on Maui with magnificent views from most holes, Old Blue is a must.  

Many of Wailea’s courses offer stunning ocean views, and while the scenery is a major bonus when playing here, the steady offshore breezes—particularly in the afternoons—can pose a challenge to golfers unaccustomed to playing in the wind. Rather than adjust your swing, however, the trick is to “treat the wind as a friend, not as a foe,” says Eddie Lee, a PGA Teaching Professional with the David Leadbetter Academy at Wailea and two-time Aloha Section Teacher of the Year. Lee offers these tips for making the most of Wailea’s breeze. 

Makena Beach & Golf Resort 

The south course at Makena Beach & Golf Resort is among the most challenging on Maui, with narrow fairways and plenty of hazards. It’s a well-rounded course, however, and offers plenty of rewards for golfers who take the risk. 

Another unique jewel designed by Jones, this is a phenomenal 6,914-yard test that can be difficult. There are hills, hazards, tough hole designs and less-than-forgiving terrain that force you to think through every shot before you swing, or you’ll suffer the consequences. Fairways are relatively narrow and are bordered by mature trees—which means they can snag inaccurate shots— and regardless of which tee box you drive from, you will hit traps if you’re not careful with direction and distance. with direction and distance. Aside from the varied distances from one set of tees to the next, you’ll also find the angles of your tee shots, the elevations and the direction to the hole to be completely different, offering a unique playing experience from each tee. Course highlights include the 12th hole, a 185-yarder over a canyon and toward the deep blue Pacific that is, perhaps, the prettiest par-3 in the state. Then there’s the 620-yard, par-5 14th hole that descends 200-plus feet and also plays toward the ocean. The generous greens are not as enormous as those at Old Blue or the Emerald, but they roll perfectly true, smooth and fair. Beyond all the challenges this course presents, you’ll walk away feeling sufficiently tested and with lingering impressions of the dramatic ocean views.

Wind In a cross-breeze situation where the wind is blowing from left to right, open up your shoulder slightly and position your toe-line, in relation to your hips and shoulders, slightly left of the intended target line. Take dead aim at the target with your club face, and your body will naturally align in that direction. “That’s the key,” Lee says. “Aim with the club face, not your body.”

The opposite is true in this case. Keep your toe-line aligned slightly right of the intended target, aiming your club face directly at the target.

Downwind shots offer a tempting situation—when else can you hit a Tourworthy drive? But beware of overpowering your swing. A general tip: “When it’s breezy, swing easy,” says Lee. The wind will flatten the launch angle and your ball will go out, not up. It’s also a good idea to select one club down from what you’d normally use at the given distance. In Hawaii, says Lee, every 10 mph of wind generally equates to a one-club adjustment.

Headwind shots generate drag, which sends the ball upward. To avoid losing yardage, play your ball position from your normal setup, widen your stance and focus on maintaining rhythm and balance on your backswing. Your downswing is the key. Slightly arch and raise your left wrist bone so that your hands lead the clubhead, and keep the clubhead low to the ground through the hitting zone (approximately 10 inches before and 10 inches after you hit the ball), which will send the ball on a lower trajectory with less curve.

Emerald Course

Your next stop should be one of Old Blue’s two sibling layouts. The nearby 6,825-yard Emerald Course is an outstanding Robert Trent Jones Jr. design and plays in the same fun spirit as Old Blue— but with a bit more of a bite. Jones’s self-described mission at the Emerald, which opened in 1994, was to make it up to “24-karat gold” standard. Mission accomplished! The fairways are narrower than Old Blue’s, the greens are large and the pace of play is nice and breezy. There are ocean views from every hole, which often compete for your attention when you’re trying to make quality swings at the ball. In fact, many shots seem to play longer than they appear on the Emerald because of these expansive views. But fear not, the fairways slope toward the middle, coercing mishits safely into the short grass. Texas Wedgers will rejoice in the well-manicured fairways that practically goad them to putt from far off the green, as the aprons roll just as smoothly.

As an added touch of generosity by Jones, many of the tee boxes are elevated so that drives travel downhill and pick up some added distance. Bunker sand is even softer than Old Blue’s, making for fairly predictable play. Greens hold well, too, so you needn’t worry about shots bouncing and rolling well beyond their landing points. Emerald also boasts Maui’s only double green, which serves holes 10 and 17. A greenside lake can also come into play on both holes. As is the case at many resort courses, Jones made the 18th hole relatively easy—in this case a par-5—to allow golfers to end their round on a high note. 

There are ocean views from every hole, which often compete for your attention…. In fact, many shots seem to play longer than they appear on the Emerald because of these expansive views.

The Luxury Golf Experience at the Kapalua Resort

The Luxury Golf Experience at the Kapalua Resort

July 8, 2019

Situated along Maui’s northwest shore, the five-star Kapalua Resort is an eco-chic paradise that blends harmoniously into the surrounding rain forest. Every amenity is thoughtfully provided for at Kapalua, including a wide variety of lodging, dining and shopping to suit any style, and an award-winning spa that makes use of indigenous products and individualized treatments to soothe mind and body.

Best of all, this 22,000-acre former pineapple plantation is a year-round, world-class golf destination all on its own. Kapalua’s two Tour-proven courses—the Plantation Course and the Bay Course—make excellent use of the island’s diverse topography, tropical setting and consistently beautiful weather to provide an unparalleled golf experience. Add in the world renowned Kapalua Golf Academy, and there’s simply no better setting for golf on the planet.

Kapalua’s two courses—one nestled into the mountains and the other stretched along the bay—offer completely unique experiences, vastly different challenges and wonderful layouts. And if you play different tee boxes from one round to the next, you’ll never see the same shot twice.

The weather is as consistently predictable as the great golf at Kapalua, with highs that typically remain in the mid-80s and lows that rarely dip below 65 degrees. No matter what time of year you play Kapalua, count on clear skies and a brief shower at some point during the day. Locals call these brief bursts “liquid sunshine” because the sun continues to shine through the sporadic rain clouds, which come and go within minutes and refresh the landscape.

The Plantation Course

Meandering through the West Maui Mountains, the Plantation Course at Kapalua perpetually ranks among the world’s best. It hosts the season-opening PGA Tour event every year— the Hyundai Tournament of Champions—where only winners from the previous year’s PGA Tour events are afforded the opportunity to play the par-73, 7,411-yard course that was co-designed by Ben Crenshaw and Bill Coore in 1991.

The layout boasts wide fairways and large greens that readily accommodate shots influenced by the steady 15- to 30-miles-per-hour trade winds, especially at the course’s higher elevations. The holes are contoured and sloped to gently (and sometimes dramatically) move errant shots back toward the fairway, and golfers generally find that the north-to-south direction of these prevailing winds helps their game. The occasional Kona breezes from the south, on the other hand, can turn some of the Plantation’s longer holes into outright marathons.

Speaking of long, the 18th hole—the Plantation’s longest— stretches a massive 663 yards from its tips but is all downhill. Take in the staggering view from the elevated tee box, which may be the single-best vantage point on the entire island, and then send your drive toward the horizon. Golfers frequently find their drives landing in the spacious fairway and then bouncing and rolling well beyond their normal tee-shot distance.  Overall, guests find the course very playable with opportunities to score well. Tour pros typically do well here as well, as the course is among the Tour’s most forgiving. 

At last count, there were 97 bunkers throughout the course. While strategically placed and penal, many of them are avoidable because of the vast fairways. The recently renovated greens feature new Bermuda grass that can be mowed to a tighter height and allow for a truer roll. Greens here play fast and have plenty of undulation. Playing the course more than once, as well as making use of local knowledge on the greens, is the surest way to shoot low. After the round, bets are often settled at the Plantation House Restaurant in the grand clubhouse, which is consistently ranked as one of Maui’s top dining experiences. It’s a soothing blend of Hawaiian hospitality, great food, casual atmosphere and incredible views. Time your round to end later in the day, and you’ll witness breathtaking sunsets over the Pacific with views of neighboring islands Molokai and Lanai in the distance.

The Bay Course

The Bay Course stretches 6,600 yards along the rugged shoreline with sweeping ocean views and a player-friendly layout that affords golfers the opportunity to score well. This par-72, Arnold Palmer-Francis Duane designed course opened in 1975, and is the epitome of a Hawaiian resort-style course with its rolling terrain, an abundance of water hazards, 68 bunkers and consistent winds that blow right down to the shore. Holes are routed through towering palms and flowering hibiscus, and some along the front nine border picturesque homes owned by celebrities. 

The scenic par-3 fifth is Maui’s only hole that plays directly over the ocean, and in this case requires golfers to carry their tee shots over the gorgeous Oneloa Bay. While the front nine snakes around the heart of the resort and the on-property RitzCarlton, Kapalua, the back nine meanders through elevation changes, hills and barrancas, with postcard-perfect views of the island’s natural splendor. Most of the backside is sheltered from the trade winds—that is, until the closing trio. The 16th hole features a carry over a pond onto a split fairway, and is regarded as one of Hawaii’s best par 4s. No. 17 is a par 3 that’s protected by two large bunkers on the front side, and the par-5 18th hole can play longer or shorter depending on the prevailing winds. 

The Bay is a championcaliber course that plays host to the PGA Tour’s Kapalua International tournament, and is also the former host site of an LPGA event. But with its stunning ocean views, predictable winds and friendly terrain, it remains a perennial favorite among golfers of all skill levels.

Train with the Pros at the Kapalua Golf Academy

As great as the golf is at Kapalua, the resort’s world-renowned instruction program may be even better. Set near the resort’s entrance, this state-ofthe-art teaching facility features a 2,500-squarefoot learning center, 85,000-square-foot grass teeing area with range and targets, greenside and fairway bunkers, practice putting greens, a three-hole walking course, 18- hole putting course and much more. 

No wonder GOLF Magazine ranks Kapalua Golf Academy among its “Top 25 Golf Schools” in America. The indoor/outdoor hitting bay is replete with an advanced digital video analysis system, and the experienced staff is made up of PGA Professionals who communicate well and can assist with expert instruction and club fitting. Individual or group lessons can be customized to suit your needs, and the various clinics range from a half-day up to a full week. Your game will improve after a visit to the Kapalua Golf Academy.

Orange County’s Best Golf Courses

Orange County's Best Golf Courses

June 14, 2019

There are few places in the world nicer than Orange County, California. The Pacific lined stretch from Huntington Beach down through Dana Point is scenic. Filled with world-class restaurants and shopping, it’s bordered by wide, soft-sand Southern California Beaches. When people say they’re traveling to Newport, they typically mean this heavenly belt of Orange County, the geographic center of which is Newport Beach.

Not only is the area gorgeous and brimming with culture and activity, but the golf here is simply impeccable. While courses are sprawled throughout the vast 791-square-mile county, it’s the links in the southern region that everyone raves about. There are courses along the water with ocean-resort ambience and inland courses with a tranquil, rural farm feeling just miles from the coast. There are enough world-class courses in the area to fill your next golf vacation—or two.

Through the 1980s and early 1990s, the area experienced a boom of upscale, daily-fee courses. Twenty years later, many of these courses have matured nicely into beautiful and challenging layouts for all skill levels. Plus, they’ve been well-maintained all along: The golf facilities do everything they can to keep golfers coming back. And the draw is difficult to resist. Add in the fact that the average Newport Beach temperature is 68 degrees year-round and you quickly realize you have the perfect golf climate, no matter when you want to play.

Pelican Hill is the area’s crown jewel, but there are other outstanding courses in the area, too. Here, we detail three of the finest courses in Orange County to entice you toward your next golf getaway. We’ll give you the lay of the land, but if you want to know which way the greens break, you just have to find out for yourself.

Monarch Beach Golf Links: This 6,601-yard, par-70 gem in Dana Point—just south of Newport and Laguna beaches—is a Robert Trent Jones, Jr. design modeled after a typical Scottish links-style course. Its quick, small, rolling greens and tight fairways are challenging, no doubt, and the sloping rough gets thick, which can balloon some scores.

That said, the course is a destination of sheer beauty. Two holes play right down to the ocean, but all 18 have some view of the Pacific. And there’s a perpetual breeze that somehow brings alive the entire experience. Back in 2001 and 2002, Monarch Beach hosted the Hyundai Team Matches with top players from the PGA, LPGA, and Senior PGA tours. That’s when Tom Watson compared the greens to Augusta National’s. Yep, they’re that good.

Pace of play is emphasized here, so you will likely see marshals driving about during the course of a round to keep this moving. If the course and its jaw-dropping, sweeping ocean views aren’t enough of an attraction, then consider that the 1,200-square-foot pro shop has been named among America’s Top 100. The grand clubhouse is also a perfect place to watch a post-round sunset while enjoying a drink. Best of all, the course’s friendly staffers treat everyone like they’re members for a day.

Strawberry Farms Golf Club: While the entire Newport Beach area can sometimes feel like a bustling big city, there are several nearby escapes for golfers. Locals love this par-71, 6,700-yard, Jim Lipe design in Irvine, just inland over the hills from Newport Coast. Located in peaceful farm country—complete with big red barn—this course truly feels like another part of the country. Set amid canyons and wetlands, the rural-style course affords golfers picturesque views across a 35-acre reservoir on the back nine, plus massive undulating greens throughout that are enveloped by wildlife and natural vegetation.

Surrounding hillsides are replete with large boulders and natural waterfalls. The course itself is player-friendly, with no overbearing hills or drastic doglegs to combat. Five holes on the back nine play alongside the lake. Chances are you’ll score well as the course plays with a tendency of forgiveness. And it’s perpetually in good shape.

The facility was developed by Doug DeCinces, a former California Angels infielder. When opening the venue in 1997, he insisted that it house a good restaurant. And in this case, he hit a home run. The Farmhouse Grill serves some of the best breakfast burritos and burgers in town and is frequented by non-golfers for breakfast and lunch.

Oak Creek Golf Club: Tom Fazio-designed courses have a reputation for being forgiving to golfers of all skill levels. Balls hitting the edge of the fairway seem to roll back toward the center. Those straying into the rough never become completely buried. And putts tend to roll truly, without surprise breaks.

All of that is encompassed in this par-71, 6,834-yard Irvine course that meanders around a former orange grove with rolling, well-manicured fairways, bull nosed bunkers, guarded greens, and serene lakes. Since the venue opened in 1996, the dynamic trees and flora have matured with such grace that the course feels like it has been around for decades. It’s a true sanctuary that was built with environmental sensitivity and preserves a trace of the past— exhibited by the fact that you never see a house nor a road from any hole. You may, however, catch an owl, hawk, egret or heron, thanks to Oak Creek’s participation in the Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary Program for Golf Courses.

The first few holes can deceive you into thinking you’re bound for a personal best, but hang on as the layout gets increasingly more difficult throughout the round. The state-of-the-art practice facility–which has been rated by local publications as the finest in the county–features 65 natural turf tees, a nine-acre all terrain landing area, two practice greens, and a large practice bunker. There’s also a club-fitting company permanently housed at one end of the range. Truly … what more do you need?

How to Dial in Your Golf Game and Enjoy the Season

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How to Dial in Your Golf Game and Enjoy the Season Even If You’re Not a Pro

April 30, 2019

For most amateur golfers sneaking in a quick 9 holes after work or looking forward to that early Sunday morning tee time, the primary goal is just to enjoy the game. But that doesn’t mean you don’t want to chip away at that handicap too. You don’t have to be a pro to enjoy the benefits of becoming a better golfer. Here are three pro tips to help you dial in your golf game and enjoy the season like you never have before.

enjoy-golf-game

Lock in on your short game.

Stop three-putting that par 4 by picking a putting drill to practice before and after every round. Sticking to a practice routine is a simple way to see big results. Start small and be consistent. For the biggest impact, tighten up your performance on the greens by spending extra time six feet and in. Short putts are a part of your game that can improve drastically with just a little extra practice, so take the time to dial in your short game and watch those scores drop

Think straighter not further.

With the latest lineup of young guns like Brooks Koepka, Rory McIlroy and Wyndham Clark hitting longer off the tee than ever before, there’s more pressure on the amateur golfer to prioritize distance. But if you can’t control the ball, it’s going to hurt your game. Distance doesn’t matter much if you’re always hacking your way out of the rough or spending all your time digging out of that bunker.

 If you need evidence, look at Tiger’s latest win at Augusta. He patiently and strategically picked his spots, avoided the big mistakes that sunk his competition, and pulled out one of the greatest comeback wins in sports history…and he’s not even close to the powerhouse he was 11 years ago when he won his last major. So, forget about that guy in your foursome who drives it 350 yards and focus on location. Think straighter not further this season, and you’ll find yourself leading that four man scramble.

Use the right clubs.

Golf technology has come a long way, and treating yourself to a set of custom golf clubs built to help you dial in your game will be the best way to enjoy the season like a pro. Companies like PXG set out to designs clubs unlike anything else. With more than 280 patents on the books, PXG has introduced a full line of high-performance clubs that are the best on the market.

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If you’re prioritizing high performance this season, you need a set of PXG clubs that are built by hand and unique to you. And when you see your game improving, you’ll have your new clubs to thank, and you’ll have more fun too. If PXG clubs are good enough for golf legend Gary Player, Masters Champion Zach Johnson, and two-time major champion Lydia Ko, they can help you play your best game too.

So whether you’re a pro, an amateur, or somewhere in between, get the most out of this season by dialing in your golf game with the right gear. You’ll be surprised by how much more you enjoy playing by employing the three tips above

The Cutting Edge Golf Robot Created to Improve Your Swing

Golf-Robot-Hero

The Cutting Edge Golf Robot Created to Improve Your Swing

January 15, 2019

“Hit another one,” says Blake Isakson, the director of golf at Boccieri Golf in Arizona. I oblige by rolling a ball onto a turf mat and thwacking another 7-iron into the screen in front of me. A red line traces the continuing arc of the shot as calculated by sensors in the mat and the screen, and I watch as the animated ball drifts right and winds up in a sand trap some 10 yards from the electronic green.

Isakson approaches with an iPad and shows me on video where my hands and arms were during the swing. Then he uses a finger to plot an arc where my hands and arms should have been. He explains that with a flatter swing plane I could get more distance. Armed with this knowledge, we step into an adjacent hitting booth and I get my first good look at the RoboGolfPro swing trainer, one of two at Boccieri Golf ’s North Scottsdale headquarters.

The contraption in front of me is like a 9-foot-tall robot, with two screens and four long metal arms holding a golf club. I take my stance and grip the club as Isakson moves the arms into position and programs the robot based on the data recorded about my swing in the other hitting bay.

Once everything is ready, the RoboGolfPro swings the club for me, forcing my hands to move back on a flatter plane for the backswing and then dropping my right elbow more steeply into the hitting zone as I swing down. It’s an odd sensation having my arms moved for me, but I have to admit it’s a swing that would indeed add distance to my shots, if I would take the time to learn it.

Golf-Robot-Featured-1

This swing-teaching robot might seem a little over the top to nongolfers, but to golfers looking for any way they can find to shave strokes, the RoboGolfPro is part of the never-ending war for lower scores. Technology rules in golf, and as a spring trip to Scottsdale—with visits to Boccieri Golf and a couple of other cutting-edge companies— shows, robot golf instructors are far from the industry’s only high-tech weapon.

A Fit to be Tried

Not far from Boccieri Golf, in another part of North Scottsdale, the global headquarters of Cool Clubs is like nothing I’ve ever seen; it’s equal parts tech startup, driving range and Lego factory. Founded in 2007, and now one of the world leaders in the burgeoning field of custom club fitting, Cool Clubs has hitting bays outfitted with an array of computers, monitors and video gear, and bins filled with thousands of interchangeable pieces, including clubheads, shafts and grips from all the top manufacturers in golf. It’s a tinkerer’s dream come true.

A walk around the place reveals cubbyholes labeled with some of the biggest names on the PGA, LPGA and Champions tours. I’m told over 100 of them have their specifications on file at Cool Clubs. This plays into the reputation custom clubs have as being a luxury used only by tour pros and low-handicappers, but bespoke clubs are growing in popularity for average golfers. “The reality,” according to Cool Clubs founder and CEO Mark Timms, “is that the higher the handicap, the bigger the change. Give me a 25 handicap and we can probably drop him five shots immediately. It’s very easy to do.”

The reasons for getting custom clubs are fairly self-evident— certainly, a golfer who is 5-foot-4 and one who’s 6-foot-3 should use different sets—but, even after you focus in on clubs for your height, the array of choices and the brainpower that goes into finding the right ones for each golfer are astounding.

During fittings, Cool Clubs’ proprietary software and TrackMan—a radar tracking system that gathers data about things like clubhead speed, ball speed, launch angle and spin rate—analyze swings. Using this information, Cool Clubs pinpoints the best combinations of clubheads and shafts at a variety of price points. Decide on clubs and then they’re assembled right there in Scottsdale. For an additional fee, they can be picked up or shipped later that same day.

Vito Berlingeri, a former Bell Labs engineer who retired and is now Cool Clubs’ marketing director, shows me around the facility. In the back of the building, where the clubs are tested and built, I’m introduced to Simon Grondin, a young man who Berlingeri says was one of Canada’s top engineering students before coming to Scottsdale to head Cool Clubs’ research and development.

At the moment, Grondin is working on a machine he designed and built with Timms. It tests the flex of club shafts down to the nth degree. Each shaft test is recorded and analyzed by software that Grondin wrote himself. Behind him, a 3D printer spits out a new part he designed. It will be added to the machine.

It’s clear these people operate on a much higher intellectual level than I’m used to, and it’s enough to make me wonder why they’re not curing cancer or helping send someone to Mars. They love the game of golf so much they’ve devoted their professional lives to helping people play better. And the fitting process—which can start off feeling like a doctor’s visit, with a look at existing equipment and questions about hitting history—is a big part of this.

“We’ll first measure all the clubs they’ve got and see what they all are,” Timms says. “That gives us a lot of insight into what’s going on. Where are the big problems in their swing? What’s the big miss, and which club is it?”

If it turns out a player’s swing is the problem, Timms might recommend lessons instead of trying to sell them something they don’t need. But if the clubs’ fit is off, and Timms thinks a player would benefit from custom clubs, the fitting begins in earnest, inside one of Cool Clubs’ hitting bays. (It can also be done outside at nearby Grayhawk Golf Club or at one of Cool Clubs’ 20 fitting centers in the U.S., Canada, Mexico, Australia, England, Korea and Japan.)

Getting the Shaft

Given all the clubheads at a place like Cool Clubs—drivers, hybrids, cavity-backs, musclebacks, blades and wedges—I assumed clubheads were the key element of clubs, but no. “We are firm believers in finding the shaft first,” says Hot Stix general manager Chris Marsh. “We may have a golfer try seven or eight shafts from different manufacturers, both steel and graphite. Once we find that shaft, we’re able to try it with multiple heads until we find the right combination.”

Headquartered a few miles away in another part of Scottsdale, Hot Stix shares a philosophy and parentage with Cool Clubs. Timms started his first golf company, Custom Golf of Connecticut, in 1990. A decade later, Timms moved to Arizona to escape the cold and launch a new company: Hot Stix. Rapid expansion prompted Timms to bring on partners, but later, when they didn’t see eye to eye, Timms left. He took a year off and then opened Cool Clubs.

In Timms’ absence, Hot Stix soldiered on and now has four fitting centers across the country. The Scottsdale facility is indoors, but Hot Stix has a fully wired fitting center at SunRidge Canyon Golf Club in nearby Fountain Hills and hopes to move all its Arizona operations there in April 2016.

At SunRidge Canyon, golfers hit off the driving range while Hot Stix software analyzes everything about their swing. Marsh says there are numerous shafts that can fit a client’s swing, but, after neutrally testing these, one will emerge with the greatest consistency and feel. To that end, Hot Stix fittings often allow golfers to keep their expensive clubheads but recommend replacing shafts. This will still lead to an improvement in a player’s game. “We’re crazy passionate about golf,” Marsh says. “Our fitters are, in my mind, the best in the world.”

Golf-Robot-Featured-2

Cool Clubs may dispute that last point, but Hot Stix’s passion and approach have caught the notice of Golf magazine, which named Hot Stix as its official research partner for its annual ClubTest in Florida. About 40 testers are charged with evaluating the new equipment coming out. Hot Stix is there “as an independent testing company to provide data to the testers and Golf magazine,” Marsh says.

Heavy on the Innovation

Back at Boccieri Golf, a young woman who is there for a lesson has stepped into a bay, donned a training device called a K-VEST and is having her arms swung by RoboGolfPro. My session over, I putt around the putting-green floor with Stephen Boccieri, inventor of the Heavy Putter and the Secret Grip.

A structural engineer and 1-handicap, Boccieri transitioned into the golf business after starting a company called Engineered Golf in upstate New York in 1994. The company provided research and design services to the industry. “What I was doing was like forensic analysis on golfing equipment,” Boccieri says. “I was buying golf clubs and tearing them apart and trying to understand what kind of engineering was going into these things.”

Crunching all that data led Boccieri to start tinkering with putters on his own. He found that adding weight to the head of a putter helped him make more short putts but didn’t work very well for long putts. Looking for a solution, he added a weight to the grip end of the shaft as a counterbalance and was astonished at the results. “That was the ‘a-ha’ moment,” says Boccieri, who was on the phone when he first tested this idea. “I told my friend, ‘You’re not gonna believe this. I’m putting one-handed, and I’m sinking 10 putts in a row from 14 feet into the little cup in my office.’” That was 2003. Soon after, Boccieri refined the design into the Heavy Putter and launched Boccieri Golf. The putter received rave reviews and sold like crazy, prompting him to apply the same counterbalancing principles to other clubs. The Heavy Wedge and Heavy Driver followed shortly. Next, seeking to help golfers with their existing clubs, Boccieri came up with the Secret Grip, a weighted golf grip. It made waves when Jack Nicklaus endorsed it. In 2011, Boccieri Golf relocated from the East Coast to the more golf-conducive climate of Scottsdale.

I try out several Heavy Putters of various head shapes and shaft lengths while Boccieri shows me “the Stork.” This is a method of putting he invented. I split my hands wide on the shaft and place one foot in front of the other. “I have converts who cannot believe how well they’re putting with it,” Boccieri says.

The Heavy Putter and the other heavy clubs put Boccieri Golf on the map, but what has the engineer really excited is the potential teaching abilities of the RoboGolfPro. It can model an ideal swing to teach golfers’ muscles the right mechanics. “People get on it, they feel it, then they hit balls,” he says. “We do a before-and-after comparison, and they just are dumbfounded with the results.” Lessons on the RoboGolfPro are so popular that the company added a second one last October, making it one of only three facilities in the country with two of the machines, Boccieri says. “The RoboGolfPro is a whole new possibility,” he says. “It’s hope. It’s a possibility that this new technology is going to provide them with a feeling of what a golf swing is supposed to be.”

Experience the World’s Best Golf Destinations Like You Never Have Before

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Experience the World's Best Golf Destinations Like You Never Have Before

January 9, 2019

There are a lot of great places to visit in America, but golfers have their own ideas of what defines an ideal getaway. In this article, we’re featuring our favorite golfing destinations around North America that embody everything the discerning golfer expects. From location and overall beauty, to unique design and features, right through to “wow” factor, these courses have it all.

Courses in South Carolina

There may be no golf experience more breathtaking than playing along the ocean at one of the world’s most-renowned golf facilities. This South Carolina resort near historic Charleston exemplifies all that is great about golf. Five top-rated courses designed by golf legends sprinkle the island property that also includes the luxury beachfront Sanctuary Hotel, villas and private rental homes.

Turtle Point is one of Jack Nicklaus’ early designs, and it’s rated 4.5 stars in Golf Digest’s “Best Places to Play” guidebook. And if you’re at Turtle point, there are a few other award-winning courses you’ll need to play. Osprey Point, a Tom Fazio masterpiece that’s very playable — despite all of its gorgeous lakes, marshes and forests. Oak Point, sculpted by Clyde Johnston into an undulating course rated 4.5 stars by Golf Digest readers in a “Best Places to Play” poll. And Cougar Point, a Gary Player classic that was ranked “Golf Course of The Year” by the South Carolina Golf Course Owners Association.

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While the courses above exceed the quality of golf at most resorts, Kiawah’s jewel remains its Ocean Course that’s served as home to many PGA events, including the Ryder Cup. This Pete Dye landmark ranks 25th on Golf Digest’s 100 Greatest U.S. Golf Courses list, 4th on the publication’s Best Public Course index, and best course in South Carolina by the magazine.

Kiawah's Ocean Course
The iconic clubhouse on Kiawah's Ocean Course.

What earns it these honors is a combination of factors, including great golf, tough challenges, incredible beauty, and the fact that it keeps attracting the world’s best players. The course is perhaps best known for its sometimes-stubborn easterly and westerly ocean winds. Experts say that it’s the only course in the world outside of the United Kingdom and Ireland that’s affected as much by gusts. In fact, depending on the wind’s direction and brawn, you may experience up to an eight-club difference on shots, so if you decide to visit the course, make sure you’re playing with clubs that’ll help you play your best gameSituated on the eastern end of the island, the layout features 10 seaside holes with clear views of the Atlantic coastline. The Ocean Course also served as the setting for the 2000 film “The Legend of Bagger Vance.” 

Courses in Los Cabos

On the other side of the continent, several excellent courses populate the Los Cabos coast at the tip of Mexico’s Baja California Peninsula. All have unparalleled views of the Sea of Cortez and surrounding mountains. It’s truly a vacation paradise with warm water, white-sand beaches, energizing ocean breezes and magnificent — relatively new — golf. 

Cabo’s courses offer stunning desert terrain, holes adjacent to the ocean, and lush green fairways. Some of golf’s finest architects have laid out groundwork here. In fact, Jack Nicklaus and his design firm created five courses and 99 holes of golf in the region, in a 13-year span. That alone helped Cabo evolve from a sleepy fishing town into a golf vacation wonderland. Nicklaus’ first work in Cabo was Palmilla Golf Club, which opened in 1993. 

The 27-hole course in San Jose del Cabo has been rated among the 100 greatest golf resorts in the world. It features everything from towering cacti and deep arroyos to breathtaking views of the sea. This upscale layout is divided into the Arroyo, Mountain and Ocean nines. Four lakes and extreme elevation shifts make it a memorable experience.

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Club Campestre is another Nicklaus masterpiece. Positioned between rolling mountains and the sea, every hole on the course spotlights panoramic vistas. Large elevation changes and undulating greens make it a fantastic golf challenge that’s enjoyable for all skill levels, especially if they’re using the clubs designed just for them. The trademark 7th hole boasts a peninsula green.

Meanwhile, Cabo Real is part of a 3,000-acre resort with major name hotels scattered along its 3.2 miles of pristine beach property. The Robert Trent Jones II-designed course has hosted a pair of PGA Senior Slams. The striking course is known for being well-kept all throughout, as it meanders between the desert and water. The front nine is reputed to be Cabo’s toughest.

At Cabo del Sol, the Nicklaus-designed Ocean Course stretches for more than a mile along a coastline of craggy rock outcroppings and sundrenched shores. Nicklaus himself claims the course boasts the three finest finishing holes in all of golf. Its sister layout, the Tom Weiskopf-sculpted Desert Course, offers ocean views from every hole, while bringing into play natural desert-like surroundings. The course is ranked No. 6 in all of Mexico by Golf Digest, and you’ll enjoy it even more if you dial in your golf game with clubs custom designed for you.

Courses in Southern California

America may have no finer parcel of land than where The Resort at Pelican Hill resides in Newport Coast, Calif. The clubhouse and six-star hotel sit on the bluff above the Pacific, while the two Tom Fazio-designed courses — Ocean North and Ocean South — meander all the way down to the beach and back, with stunning vistas the entire way. Palladian-inspired bungalows and villas — the latter armed with butler, personal chef, private garage, and more — make you feel as if you’re in northern Italy, amid world-class restaurants in classic al fresco setting. With a luxurious spa, and an infinity pool that showcases an incredible nightly sunset and destination shopping just minutes away, it’s no wonder that this destination is known as the Pebble Beach of Southern California.

In 2009, the two courses reopened after being shuttered for a two-year renovation while the massive resort was being built. In that time, Fazio modified the greens to make them much more speedy, removed some Eucalyptus trees that were blocking ocean views from the hotel and clubhouse, and generally upgraded wherever he saw fit. The results are subtle, which is a positive. Don’t mess with a great thing. The two courses offer experiences that are vastly different, yet with a common thread of familiarity – think perfectly manicured conditions almost all of the time, many sand traps, and absolutely perfect panoramic Pacific views. Ocean North, which is the newer of the pair, offers some challenging tee-shot carries, rolling fairways, dramatic elevation changes, and large greens. Golfers perpetually rave about the experience.

Ocean South has matured very nicely over time, while its essence has thankfully remained intact. It’s a very forgiving layout, one in which balls straying left and right somehow find the terrain and kick back toward the middle of the fairway. That thankfully always seems to help the pace of play moving, as do the savvy forecaddies. Back-to-back par-3’s on the back nine play right along the beach, so you can play to the aura of rock-crashing waves.

Another great Southern California option is Monarch Beach Golf Links in picturesque Dana Point, where golfers come for the game but stay for the views. This location has a ton of amenities, including a PXG Rental Set program that allows golfers to play with the best clubs on the market for the day and take them home if they fall in love.

Courses in the Caribbean

Known as the Caribbean’s premier golf and beach resort destination, La Cana Golf Course is a fresh Dominican Republic jewel that now features three courses, the latest of which just opened this year. The property epitomizes all that’s right about tropical getaways, as it’s graced with elegant resort accommodations and private villas, water action, phenomenal hiking, and stunning scenery. But it’s the golf that’s creating the loudest buzz among avid players. 

La Cana Golf Course is an inland P. B. Dye design featuring incredible ocean views on 14 holes that you may even find to be a welcome distraction. Four of the holes play right at the foot of the water. La Cana’s perfectly manicured greens can test your short-game skills, as will negotiating various lakes to reach those greens. Lush, tropical landscaping includes state-of-the-art Seashore Paspalum grass that allows for maintenance with minimal environmental impact. Golf Magazine labels La Cana the best course in the Caribbean, comparing it to Pebble Beach, and thanks to one innovative club designer, enjoying your golf game at La Cana just got easier.

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The Resort at Pelican Hill course in Newport Coast, CA.

Tom Fazio’s Corales Golf Course opened to rave reviews. The layout sits amid rocky cliffs, coral reefs and the Caribbean Sea. It features six oceanfront holes, scenic canyons, and plenty of great golf tests. In fact, the 18th hole requires a carry over the Bay of Corales. Best of all for the lucky golfers who get to play Corales, the course is only open to a limited number of players each day. So you’ll experience that tranquil sense that you have the course to yourself. Plus, there are exceptional spacious practice facilities – replete with PGA instruction by appointment — where you can hone your game. The upscale Hacienda Golf Course – also a Dye design – is there too. It’s the centerpiece of a new luxury home community and is already receiving high accolades. These are truly three world-class courses at one swanky resort.

Course in Lake Tahoe

How much better can it get? There may be no place more scenic than Lake Tahoe, particularly its north end in California that combines gorgeous mountains, rolling hills, greenery, crystal clear lake views, sunshine and golf-friendly ideal weather all summer long. The area is loaded with excellent restaurants, chateau-styled hotels, jaw-dropping hike and bike paths, water sports, and art and music festivals. Plus, gambling in world-class casinos is just a short ride away. In other words, there’s something for every taste. 

As for golf, there are dozens of great places to play, highlighted by sister courses The Golf Club at Gray’s Crossing and Old Greenwood, located directly across the street from one another in Truckee. The Golf Course at Gray’s Crossing is known for its fast greens and perpetual tournament conditions. Tall pines line the fairways, which make for a fun and playable challenge. The Peter Jacobsen/Jim Hardy design is a public course with a private club feel – replete with a topnotch practice facility and valet service

Old Greenwood is Tahoe’s cornerstone, a picturesque mountain gem with amazing views and even better golf. The 600-acre layout is a product of Jack Nicklaus Signature Golf, meaning it’s received Nicklaus’ highest level of personal attention. It was rated among America’s 10 Best New Public-Access Courses by Golf Magazine, fourth among America’s Finest New Upscale Public Courses by Golf Digest, and 77th in Golf Digest’s “America’s Greatest 100 Public Golf Courses”, and the best way to enjoy it like a pro is to follow this pro tip. 

Know right up front that the course can be challenging, due to its elevation changes and the way it winds through the forest. But the relaxing scenery will keep your heart rate down all the way, especially as the round moves to the serene back nine. The practice facility is fantastic and the service is attentive. Old Greenwood also plays home to a renowned 15-acre golf academy with an indoor center armed with a state-of-the-art swing analysis studio, high-tech four-camera video bay, launch monitor, putting lab, and more. The driving range spans 470 yards.

Golfers really do have their own ideas of what defines an ideal vacation, and the world-renowned golf destinations above truly have it all.