Spy on Golf: The Best (and Worst) of 2011

With 2012 nearly upon us, it’s time to bid adieu to 2011 – a topsy-turvy year in golf that managed to entertain, start to finish, with or without Tiger Woods on stage. Here are one blogger’s picks for the year’s best – and best forgotten – people, moments and assorted objects.

Putter of the Year: Long (by a grip handle over Belly)

Putt of the Year: Keegan Bradley, PGA Championship, 17th hole of the final round

Quote of the Year: “As long as it’s legal, I’ll keep cheating like the rest of them.” – Ernie Els on using a belly putter

Prize of the Year: Cured Spanish ham

Headline of the Year: Saltman wins body eight in ham for hole-in-one

Ben Crane

Ham of the Year

Ham of the Year: Ben Crane

Player of the Year, Men: Luke Donald

Player of the Year, Any Gender: Yani Tseng

Youngster of the Year: Lexi Thompson

Streak of the Year: Donald’s 449 holes without a three-putt

Meaningful Meaningless Win of the Year: Tiger Woods, Chevron World Challenge

Performance for the Ages of the Year: Rory McIlroy’s eight-shot victory at the U.S. Open

Cutthroat of the Year: McIlroy, who dumped his girlfriend and his agent in 2011

Gag-Inducing Celebrity Couple Nickname of the Year: Wozzilroy (McIrloy and his new squeeze, tennis star Caroline Wozniacki)

Resurrected Career of the Year: Tie -- Sergio Garcia and Thomas Bjorn

Celebrator of the Year: Open champion Darren Clarke

Guinness Stout

Beverage of the Year

Beverage of the Year: Guinness Stout

#$!*& of the Year: Steve Williams

Innocent Bystander of the Year: Adam Scott

Captain of the Year: Fred Couples (Presidents Cup)

City of the Year: Jupiter, Fla. (aka the “new Orlando”)

Amateur of the Year: Patrick Cantlay

Lowlife of the Year: John Daly (who has officially retired this dubious honor)

Instant Classic: Cleveland Golf Driver a Beautiful Behemoth

As a guy who grew up playing woods made of a strange substance called wood, I find many of today’s drivers unappealing to the eye. There’s only one form a driver should take, and that’s pear-shaped.

Cleveland Classic Driver

Drooling yet?

So my heart skipped a beat when I saw Cleveland Golf’s new Classic Driver, due out early next year. Mahogany finish. Brass-colored face “insert” and sole plate. The word “Classic” scrolled on the crown as an alignment aid. Even a black leather head cover in a shape the company calls “RetroBarrel.”

Cue Homer Simpson drooling sound.

In a word, this is one gorgeous golf club. But that’s the end of the Cleveland Classic’s similarities with its ancestors. (You know, the ones made from trees.) The Classic maxes out the USGA volume allowance at 460cc, about three times the size of a persimmon driver head. Its face is massive – the deepest on the market, according to Cleveland. And off-the-rack models are powered by an ultralight Miyazaki graphite shaft.

While it’s not yet for sale to the public, the Classic has already been tested on Tour. In fact, 2011 Rookie of the Year Keegan Bradley used it en route to winning (with Brendan Steele) the Franklin Templeton Shootout last weekend.

Bradley, who strikes me as the traditional type, instantly fell for the club’s old-school aesthetics. “When I looked at the new driver, honestly, I loved it,” he gushed. “I love the gold face on it… You look down at the face and the thing that you focus on is the sweet spot. I think it’s brilliant. I think it’s gonna change the way drivers are made.”

Of course, Callaway, Ping, TaylorMade et al will have something to say about that. In fact, TaylorMade just introduced its new wood lineup, which carries a decidedly non-traditional name: RocketBallz.

May the best club win.

 

 

Golf Gifts: From Socks to Simulators

What do you get the golfer who has everything? Something non-golf-related, of course.

Since no actual golfer (except maybe Donald Trump) has literally everything, we’ve prepared a list of holiday gift ideas suitable for just about anyone who plays the game. Our picks cover the budgetary spectrum, from affordable stocking stuffers all the way to “in their dreams.”

Straight from St. Andrews Claus himself, our picks for 2011’s best golf gifts:

BIG-TICKET ITEMS

Miura Forged Black Blades

Miura Limited Forged Black Blades

Golf vacation of a lifetime: We won’t tell you where to send your favorite golfer; suffice it to say, Scotland, Ireland and Australia/New Zealand merit serious consideration. Your best bet is to book through an experienced, respected golf tour operator like Perry Golf. They’ll take care of every detail, right down to fixing your pitch marks. Price: $1,500 and up. Way up.

An in-home golf simulator: These are all the rage among golfers with the space and disposable income to install one. P3ProSwing is one of the more affordable suppliers, and its packages allow you to “play” famous courses and analyze your swing. Price: Starting at $599; most popular package is $1,228.

Black beauties: Master clubmaker Katsuhiro Miura -- principal of Miura Golf -- is renowned for the look and feel of his luscious forgings, as his Limited Forged Black Blades attest. The appearance is so striking, in fact, your recipient may choose to display them rather than play them. Price: $2,200 (3-iron through PW)

MID-PRICED GOODIES

Major ducats: Every golf fan dreams of attending the Masters, but Barack Obama will be elected president of the NRA before you’ll score passes to that event. Your golfer will have to settle for the U.S. Open, played next year at San Francisco’s splendid Olympic Club. The USGA is currently running a holiday special – jump on it before Jan. 2, 2012 to grab some extra goodies. Price: $450 for individual Weekly Grounds Ticket.

Walk this way: We believe the game should be played on foot, and that those feet should be comfortable on their 5-mile journey around the course. Every major manufacturer makes lightweight, comfy shoes these days, so you can’t go wrong with FootJoy, adidas, Ecco, or any of the big brands. But we’re partial to upstart TRUE Linkswear, whose ultra-low-profile, spikeless kicks have made a big impression. Price: Starting at $129.

Clicgear golf cart

Cligear golf cart

Push it good: Sticking with the theme, toting a bag over the shoulder for 18 holes can really wear you out. A push cart makes things so much easier. Aficionados adore the folding 3-wheel models made by Clicgear, available in nine colors with a bundle of accessories. Price: $199

STOCKING STUFFERS

Scotland’s Caddies: This charming film, available on DVD, delivers 69 minutes of old-school Scottish loopers spinning yarns about everything and everyone. Caddies from St. Andrews, Troon, Dornoch, Turnberry, Gleneagles and other classic courses tattle on celebrities like Jack Nicholson and Sean Connery. They take on cheaters, too, as well as Americans and the dreaded French. The scenery is spectacular. Price: $19.95

Sock it to ’em: Socks are socks, right? Wrong. Kentwool uses super-fine Merino wool to make a sock so comfortable, the company says it can boost your energy and make you play better. Some sock, huh? Pros like Matt Kuchar and Bubba Watson think so. Price: $24.95 for a pair of Tour Standard models.

Belated Thanks for Golf’s Great Pleasures

Boy, did Thanksgiving come and go in a tryptophan-induced haze. Got buried so deep in turkey and stuffing, I neglected to post this article in a timely fashion.

Having scarfed the last scrap of leftovers, here are a few of the thousand things that make me thankful to be a golfer:

St. Andrews, Scotland - Old Course

No. 1 on our bucket list.

Walking a deserted course, solo, first thing on a Sunday morning.

A three-and-a-half-hour round.

Courses where you can’t possibly plunk a house off the tee.

A foursome without one of the guys who top this list.

Playing partners who know when to call off the hunt for a lost ball.

Hybrid clubs.

Launch monitors.

Clubfitting.

The golf equipment geeks who hang out here.

Friendly starters and marshalls.

Old-school Scottish caddies, like these guys.

ShotLink, the all-knowing PGA Tour stat-keeping tool, for those occasions when I just have to know which player is most likely to bunt a drive less than 240 yards, or score the lowest with a late second-round tee time going off the 10th tee. (Seriously, it’s all in there.)

Rory McIlroy

Thing o' beauty: Rory McIlroy's swing.

David Feherty.

Mike Keiser (visionary founder of Bandon Dunes and Cabot Links).

The town of St. Andrews, Scotland – No. 1 on my bucket list of places to visit.

Minimalist design and the architects who practice it.

Firm, fast conditions.

19th holes that serve local microbrews.

Pull carts.

Stand bags.

Rory McIlroy’s swing.

Matt Kuchar’s smile.

Tiger Woods’ glare.

Luke Donald’s putting stroke.

GolfClubAtlas.com

Seaside golf.

Handheld GPS devices and rangefinders.

The USGA’s Mike Davis, whose U.S. Open setups emphasize shotmaking and imagination over hacking out sideways from ankle-deep rough.

Street-style golf shoes.

Caddyshack quotes. Some of the best are short: “Don’t sell yourself short, Judge, you’re a tremendous slouch.” Others, classically long: “So we finish the eighteenth and he's gonna stiff me. And I say, ‘Hey, Lama, hey, how about a little something, you know, for the effort, you know.’ And he says, ‘Oh, uh, there won't be any money, but when you die, on your deathbed, you will receive total consciousness.’ So I got that goin' for me, which is nice.”

It sure is, Carl. It sure is.

 

Spy on Equipment: Long Putters, Snazzy Shoes and New Mizuno Irons

Golf gear manufacturers release a lot of new equipment during the year. While the vast majority of offerings are simply updated, tricked-out versions of existing models, interesting stuff does come down the pike every now and then.

Here are a few equipment items that caught our attention in recent weeks.

Bellying up – way up

TaylorMade Ghost Spider

TaylorMade's Ghost Spider putter.

Every golfer of a certain age remembers Jack Nicklaus’ stunning Masters triumph in 1986. Most have forgotten the explosion of putter sales that followed his win. Specifically, sales of the mammoth-headed MacGregor Response ZT putter Nicklaus used to make all those back-nine bombs.

In the 2 ½ years following Nicklaus’ sixth Masters victory, MacGregor sold an astounding 350,000 Response ZTs. A similar boom is mushrooming now in the belly and long putter market.

Late-season victories by Keegan Bradley, Adam Scott and Webb Simpson put extended flatsticks front and center in the public’s eye. TaylorMade recently tripled fourth-quarter sales expectations for long and belly putters, and accelerated the timeline for launching long versions of its popular Corza Ghost and Ghost Spider models.

Cleveland and Odyssey have reported similar success and product plans.

adidas joins street shoe brigade

Constant innovation is a key benefit of the free-market system. And whenever something original breaks through to a mass audience, copy-cats are sure to follow.

adidas adicross golf shoes

adidas' new adicross golf shoes

Hence, Nirvana begat Bush, the Android rode the iPhone’s coattails, and adidas joined the parade of companies mimicking Ecco’s Street Premiere golf shoes.

The adicross is adidas’ entry into this expanding category, which FootJoy, Nike and startups like Kikkor Golf have joined. (For the record, we consider TRUE Linkswear shoes a somewhat different breed.)

What does adicross offer? Lightweight, full-grain leather, five color combos and, of course, a spikeless sole.

Not to be confused with soul-less tripe. For that, we recommend listening to a Bush album.

Rejoice: Mizuno intros new irons

Few golf brands inspire the loyalty of Mizuno, specifically, the company’s forged irons. (You’ll get my Mizzies when you pry them from my cold, dead hands.)

Mizuno MP-59 irons

Mizuno's MP-59

There’s a new member of the esteemed MP family, the cavity-back MP-59. Like its forebear, the MP-58, the 59 features a hunk of titanium forged into the back of the blade. The company claims a 5-percent larger sweet spot on the MP-59s than the 58s.

Mizuno aims these irons at golfers in the plus-2 to 13 handicap range. In other words, you need to be a decent stick, but not a world-beater, to wield them properly.

Old Corkscrew Golf Club – Southwest Florida’s Nicklaus Tour de Force

Old Corkscrew Golf Club is the latest Jack Nicklaus Signature golf course to spring from the grounds of southwest Florida. This championship layout is perhaps the finest public course in the area if you are looking to challenge every aspect of your game.

Old Corkscrew is located inland from the resorts and beaches of nearby Naples, Fort Myers and Bonita Springs. It is just a half hour drive from the Fort Myers international airport but feels as if you have entered a world unseen by most southwest Florida golfers (or anyone for that matter). The drive in to Old Corkscrew takes you deep into the forests and uninhabited interior wilderness and far away from the hustle, bustle and developments known to most area visitors. There are no homes on the course and the feel here is more like that of being in the middle of the Everglades.

What You Will Find

This Audobon International certified property winds through an amazing array of waterways, cypress, pine and oak trees and abuts a seemingly endless expanse of citrus groves. The Audobon designation is meant to “assist golf courses and golf course developments in providing wildlife habitat, protecting water quality, and improving overall environmental performance” and it does this in spades. Don’t be surprised to see egrets and herons fishing while being watched by alligators (or were they crocodiles) sunning themselves on the banks of the course’s waters. Talk about a hazard!

I got to play my round with former NHL goalie Don Edwards who now serves as Old Corkscrew’s Director of Sales and Marketing. Don is an exceptional player and the perfect guide as we navigated the ever changing array of holes. The course has a few open holes like those at nearby Tiburon  and Raptor Bay but the majority wind themselves through a wooded wonderland of white sand bunkers, doglegs of every direction and an outstanding collection of par 3’s. The variety of hole designs is this course's strength and is also what differentiates it from the typical Florida golf course.

Awards and Recognition

Opened in 2007, Old Corkscrew has already garnered many coveted awards and recognitions including:

  • Best Course That You Can Play That You Have Never Heard Of - Golf Magazine, 2011
  • One of America’s Best New Courses in 2007 - Golf Digest
  • Southwest Florida’s # 1 Best Course You Can Play - Golf Magazine 2010
  • 2008 Florida Golf Course of the Year - National Golf Course Owners Association of America

It is also has been the host site for:

  • 2011 (and 2012) Qualifying Site - ACE Group Championship – PGA Champions Tour
  • USGA – 2010 Sectional Amateur Qualifier
  • USGA – 2009 Sectional Open Qualifier
  • FSGA – 2008 Florida State Amateur Championship
  • FSGA – 2007 Florida State Senior Open

I highly urge you to take the time to visit and play Old Corkscrew. The course conditions are amazing, the practice facilities excellent and the greens are as challenging as any I have played. If you are lucky enough to reside in the area, Old Corkscrew also offers an array of membership and loyalty programs for individuals and corporations. This is a top notch and challenging venue and a welcome escape from the typical area golf courses, gated communities and resorts.

Vacation Time – One is a Golfer One Isn’t – Now What

You are in luck. Of the many questions I get, this is one of the easiest to answer. First, let me just say this; many of the great golf resorts and courses also happen to be in some of the most scenic locations in the world. Second, opportunities abound for the non-golfer including world class spas, hiking, biking, rafting, fishing and so much more.

Spas and Golf

Great golf resorts go hand in hand with great spas and offer both golfers and non-golfers vacations of a lifetime. Whether it’s The Spa at Pebble Beach or at the The Greenbrier in West Virginia, there is no shortage of phenomenal golf paired with equally popular pampering and relaxation. Certainly it would be hard to beat a stay at the American Club in Kohler, Wisconsin. This Midwest resort is not only home to the acclaimed Whisling Straits golf courses it also boasts the Kohler Waters Spa. Yet, for every well known resort such as the Broadmoor, Pinehurst or The Phoenician there are many more and lesser known hideaways.

From the woods of northern Minnesota’s Grand View Lodge to the shores of Cabo San Lucas, a day of golf followed by an afternoon of rest, relaxation and a massage is hard to beat. What could be better than hitting the links while your spouse hits the whirlpool, aroma steam room and yoga class?

Outdoor Activities

Golf resorts worldwide abut some of the finest natural surroundings on the planet. The Lake Tahoe area is home to some of the finest hiking, camping and skiing in the country. Puerto Vallarta, Cabo San Lucas and the islands of the Caribbean and Bahamas abound with world class fishing – both deep sea and shallow water flats fishing. Would you rather be in the water than on the water? Many of these sites were renowned for their snorkeling, scuba and amazing beaches long before they even offered golf.

Feeling a bit more daring? Maybe a day of white water rafting, jeep touring, hot air ballooning or riding a zip line is in your future. These are just a very few of the near endless variety of activities available if you were to be golfing in Aspen, Tucson, Sedona or Vail.

Family Fun

Golf resorts are now synonymous with activities for the entire family. From the youngest children to the senior golfer, today’s resorts offer an adventure for every member of the family and for every level of activity. While Mom is on the golf course and Dad is at the spa, the kids are at supervised pool play or off biking on a guided tour of the surrounding hillsides, desert or ocean shores. Check out the options next time you are planning a trip. You will be glad you did and so will your family.

Where and How to Find Golf Clubs for Sale

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Interested in picking up the game of golf or just ready for a new set of clubs? Well the game of golf is nothing without the hard-working set of clubs behind the player. The biggest questions facing anyone in the market for the best golf clubs are where can golf clubs for sale be found? The answer to that question is simple: with a little research anyone can find and buy golf clubs.

The first thing to consider when looking for golf clubs for sale is the budget; clubs can range from very cheap to very expensive and anywhere in between so it is important to have a grasp on the economic perspective of the purchase. Next, golfers should identify what golf clubs are needed or how many are needed. Drivers are usually the most costly tool in the golf bag, while wedges and even some putters retail for significantly less. Buying an expensive club is not always the best investment: the club is only as good as the player so do not expect a $300 USD Callaway driver to outperform a $50 off-brand driver when the player is inexperienced or has a higher handicap.

Another item to consider when researching golf clubs is the new or used predicament. Used golf clubs can be found all over the place: garage sales, flea markets, thrift shops, and other places. Negotiation is completely appropriate for the used market setting and can result in deeply discounted and even high-end golf clubs. New clubs, on the other hand, can be found at major retail outlets or smaller shops and golf courses.

Depending on the particular style of club, different brands of Golf Clubs for Sale are suitable for purchasing. In a driver, players should look for both an economical and ergonomically fit to the budget and bag. Callaway, Nike, and Taylormade clubs are more expensive, but are considered to be worth the money as well as comfortable during the stroke. Irons are one of the most important and utilized sets in the bag so to splurge on this aspect of the game is logical. Cleveland, Ping, and some smaller name brands make reliable clubs that feature the latest and greatest technology to increase loft, forgiveness, and distance to the shot. Wedges are one of the hardest sets of clubs to define a company: materials, weighting, and other aspects go into shaping the price and success of the club. Cleveland is most noted for the production of wedges like the sand, lob, and gap styles.

Putters are considered the “closer” to any golfer’s game. With hundreds of companies producing putters, there are many aspects to consider before buying. Not only is price important, but so is the style. Tall handles or heavy putters or the new versus old club format can effect cost or demand, which in turn can effect where to buy or how to afford such tools for the bag.

An Honest Look at Used Golf Clubs

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Used golf clubs are one of the toughest items to research and purchase in the game of golf. Any golfer will testify that finding the best golf clubs at a gently used or used quality is near impossible. Having seen and actively searched for the perfect pair, many golfers give up and buy a poor quality set of Used Golf Clubs or invest in new clubs.

So where can one find used golf clubs for sale? The answer being virtually anywhere. Whether it is a single used club or full set, golfers can find great deals at various places: garage sales, fairs, flea markets, or pro-shops. Since some clubs can come with minor damages that could range from cosmetic to structural, do not be afraid to negotiate with the seller in terms of price. Any able seller will be happy to part with any type of clubs for any price so be cautious of that scenario. Custom clubs have recently flooded the market, but just because they fit and are styled for one person does not mean that a prospective buyer will fit the bill. Taller clubs are harder to come by in the used market, but with a growing popularity of hybrid and weighted clubs and putters, these clubs can be now be found with relative ease.

What many golfers do not know or care to research is how brands compare overtime and how clubs wear and play overtime. The longest lasting and possibly the best golf clubs available are Callaway. These drivers, irons, wedges, and putters are not only some of the best new clubs, but also have been over the last decade or more: meaning that a used set is still comparable to present-day, new models. The only downfall to used being the lack of new technology. Extremely old Callaway’s may not feature the hybrid or weighting that is offered today, but the structure of the club and its basic capabilities are still available.

One of Callaway’s most popular older models currently flooding the market are the Big Bertha Gold line. It is uncertain why so many of this line are being sold now, but one assessment is that so many were produced fifteen or more years ago and that the lifetime is coming to a close with so many other technological advancements having taken place in the game of golf. Many people have different opinions in terms of Used Golf Clubs, but purchasing history and success show that overall, Callaway has been the premier producer of clubs that last and are worth the effort to buy second-hand.

All About Discount Golf Clubs

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The game of golf is one of the most expensive games to play. Players are responsible for shoes, bags, balls, tees, gloves, and of course the clubs. Since the game can cost a small fortune just to startup and play, why carry the added expense of costly clubs? Discount Golf Clubs are the most desired and obtained element of the golfer’s game. First, potential buyers must identify what exactly is needed for their bag: driver, irons, wedges, putter, or whatever. If a whole set of clubs is wanted then buyers will have to decide whether or not a golf bag is needed too. Second, it is important to set a budget so that buyers stay within their means, but also because a thin line separates discount from full price.

Since literally anyone can learn to play golf, the ubiquity of golf supplies can bring about some incredible deals on such supplies. By investigating all available brands, not just discounted golf clubs, and discovering the benefits and flaws to each, golfers will be able get the most for their money. Used golf clubs also come at a discount as well as incomplete sets or imperfect clubs. Imperfect does not always mean that the clubs themselves are faulty, but it could mean that the grips are poor or the bag is substandard: both have nothing to do with the performance of the club head. If used clubs are available or desired, remember that a little wear and tear is okay. Price is effected by the wear and tear so be sure to carefully identify each scratch or dent and negotiate accordingly.

Brands to buy bring about another challenge to the searching buyer. Buying new clubs can offer warrantees as well as services that may come discounted, but are worth the expense as well. When buying new clubs, the most discounted models are often the lesser known names such as Acuity or Krank, which can offer similar quality as big names, but at lower prices. The potential downside to these lesser known new club brands is that they may not last as long as big brands that are built for the long haul. Used clubs bring discounts automatically and golfers can find old Callaway, Ping, Nike, or Cleveland golf clubs that will last a long time and may have a bit of history to them.

Finding a place to buy discount golf clubs is becoming increasingly easier with the growing internet and retail development. Stores such as Dick’s Sporting Goods, Golf Smith, and other big box style stores are just a few places to find new golf clubs at a discount, while local thrift stores, flea markets, and pro-shops can be potential sources for used or pre-owned clubs or bags.

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