Highlight Hole: No. 12 at Manele Bay (Lanai/Hawaii)

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If there’s ever a hole where you won’t mind a little slow play, it’s No. 12 at Manele Bay. I can’t think of a better compliment for a golf hole.

No. 12 is a one of two signatures holes (the par-4 17th is the other) on the breath-taking back nine at Manele (pronounced like Liza) Bay Course in Hawaii on the island of Lanai. The course and the island are in the midst of a makeover after being purchased by billionaire Oracle owner Larry Ellison.

I will be writing more about this in a future post, but the island’s makeover is a giant construction project while the course’s makeover is more in the marketing. The course is no long being referred to as the Challenge at Manele and instead is now simply Lanai Golf Manele as part of a plan to market the island as a however.

While challenge has been removed from the name, it has not been removed from the course, which isn’t slated for many, if any, changes. Jack Nicklaus recently reaffirmed his faith in the original design.

Some of Nicklaus’ best work appears on the par 3 12th. The target is a green positioned atop a dramatic cliff coastline framed by a giant expanse of the Pacific Ocean (note: every hole has an ocean view at Manele). The “challenge” between you and the hole is either a little or a lot of carry, depending on what tees you choose. It’s 202 yards (a carry of nearly 185) from the back tees, but a more manageable 153 from the blues.

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You either make it or you don’t here, although there’s a significant bailout area right and room long.

The second time we played it, we hit our shots and allowed a two-some to pass through. With the extra five minutes on the tee, I snapped of a series of waves while stepping close (but not too close) to the dramatic cliff drop. The view is as cool as the photos. It represents very well and is now the new art on my phone.

The winds were benign the days we were played, make it ideal. Perhaps the only thing the hole lacked that day was a pod of migrating whales passing by. One of the more awesome course details I’ve heard ever is you can hear the whales from the course during migration season (February). Part of that is the volume of whale traffic and their powerful tales slapping the water. Another part is the tranquility of the course. It really is the ideally serene ocean golf experience.

But back to the tee shot … My first ended up finding the bailout area to the right. My rusty short game skipped the ball past the hole and left a ridiculous par putt that I can nowhere near holing.

The second round, however, I deposited an 8 iron dead in the middle of the green. Putting to a left-side pin, I went for birdie broke and watched my putt slide below the hole for a sneaky 5 footer coming back. I missed, exhausting my par chances at No. 12 for the trip.

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An aside about putting at Manele: My only previous Hawaii golf experience was at Kapalua. If you’ve played either course there, you know it’s like putting in a fun house. Putts away from the ocean fly, putts toward the ocean are like you’re putting through Super Glue. You have to hammer them. And the breaks are mind-bending. And that’s without the winds moving your putts like crazy.

The greens at Manele had none of this. Nicklaus did something with the green design to neutralize the ocean effect. Head pro Scott Ashworth advises to figure the break and then only play half. After four holes of playing breaks that weren’t there, I simply chose to charge the hole.

One more thing about the greens at Manele. They’ve been designed as “infinity greens” (think infinity pool) giving them a design where they seem to flow into the ocean. It is a truly awesome look to experience, particular through a camera. I’ve never seen a course that photographs better than Manele.

Anyway, No. 12 is most definitely in the conversation of the greatest par 3s of ever played. That’s a possible future post simply because it’s awfully fun to think about and very pretty to look at.

If you make the six-hour trip to Lanai and play Manele, I guarantee you’ll feel it was all worth while when you walk off the green on No. 12 – birdie, par or with just a lot of pretty pictures and great memories.

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SCGA: Hacking Away – An Update on the 15-Inch Golf Hole in SoCal

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The following is a story I did for the SCGA’s FORE Magazine updating local courses adaption of Hack Golf. You can find the article and issue here:

http://plusfore.scga.org/dec2014/Default/7/0

Standing over a 35-foot birdie putt on the ninth hole of the east course at Oaks North in Rancho Bernardo, I’d never felt more confident about sinking a long putt in my life.

Aiming at a hole the size of a large pizza will do that.

And sure enough, my putt, hit firmly at the left edge of the oversized hole, gently sloped in for a two on the closing par 3.

And with that, I had the experience the founders of Hack Golf wanted to me to have – increased ease of scoring.

The 15-inch cups have been in place for more than a month now and Oaks North Head Professional Lloyd Porter says the game is finding its audiences. He reports that young juniors in particular like the oversized holes as do couples.

“He’ll play the regulation holes and she’ll play the 15-inch cups,” he says. “The women really like it because it takes away some of the intimidation factor. When they hear about it, they say, ‘I’d try that.’”

Couples, kids, juniors and beginners are the ones most drawn to game, according to course managers.

“It definitely appeals to certain age demographics,” says Jason Egnetz, general manager at the Lomas Santa Fe Executive Course in Solona Beach.

Lomas and Oaks North have been joined by The Ranch at Laguna Beach and the Desert Willow Golf Resort in Palm Desert as early adapters. TaylorMade Golf, and particularly former CEO Mark King, are founders of the concept and recruited 100 courses nationally to introduce the concept.

At Oaks North, the 15-inch holes, designated by a flag with a “15” on it, also come with their own tees, shorter than the whites. Those tees boxes are comprised of two large orange balls stamped with a “15.” There’s also a 15-inch cup on the practicing putting green.

At the course greens at Oaks North there’s a regulation hole on one side of the green and a 15-inch cup on the other. At Lomas, the 15-inch cups are in the back, making them less intrusive of traditional play.

While the new game is easier, Egnetz stops short of calling it easy.

“You still have to the ball to the green,” he says, “and even then it’s not as easy you think.”
Perhaps the best use for the new holes, Egnetz says, has been as a complement to another novelty game: Glow ball.
“You can see the hole better,” he says, “so people seem to be having more fun with it.”

But the holes themselves are no longer a novelty, report Lomas and Oaks North. They’re now a fixture.
“The holes are here to stay,” Porter says. “This is for the next generation of golfers.”

If you’re looking to take your round on the 15-inch cups as more than practice and looking to go low, Oaks North Assistant Golf Professional Steve Lyons and I have come up with three scoring tips for you.

1. Putt aggressively – There’s no reason to hold back and your best bet is often to go straight at the hole. With a 15-inch cup, the ball isn’t jumping out. As painful as leaving putts short normally is, it’s doubly so here. See it and hit it firmly.

2. Go for the middle of the green – This timeless golf scoring strategy especially holds true on the 15-inch holes, none of which are in the middle. The greens are set up with a regulation cup on one side and a 15-inch inch on the other. Put yourself in the middle on every hole to have consistence chances to score. All you’re looking to do is set up a putt and then take advantage of the advantage the game is giving you.

3. Chip with irons, not just wedges –
We talked previously about the scoring mentality of short-game shots on 15-inch cups. Unlike a normal round, you’re not necessarily looking to give yourself the best leave. You want to score – and a wedge isn’t necessarily your best bet for doing that.

Trying chipping with your 7-, 8- and 9-irons for your best scoring chances. Why? Those clubs don’t impart as much backspin and roll out more.

On the practice chipping green, hit practice shots with these clubs to learn how far they roll out and then allow for that on your shot. And these are shots that can come in handy in your normal round. Truthfully, most people don’t utilize these shots enough and teaching pros preach that you have better control of a ball on the ground than in the air. Here’s your chance to work on it.

JC Golf: GolfTEC Opens at Encinitas Ranch

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The new GolfTEC building at Encinitas Ranch opened its doors at on Saturday and drew waves of curious golfers and potential clients for its lesson programs.

The 2,500-square-foot facility is the first to be located on a golf course property in San Diego. It consists of four teaching bays with simulators, a putting lab and a club-fitting studio. GolfTEC is the nation’s leading provider of golf lessons, giving millions of lessons a year in high-tech settings around the country.

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To start, the studio will be staffed by three GolfTEC instructors, but franchise owner Suzanne LaTour said a fourth will be added in January.

The studio’s hours are: Mon./Sat./Sun. – 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Tues./Wed./Thurs/ – 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Fri. – 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.

To book a lesson with GolfTEC Encinitas Ranch call 760.208.1400.

Maderas: Maderas’ Mayson Shares Stories of USA Junior Team’s Trip to China

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Photos courtesy of Chris Mayson

Editor’s Note: Chris Mayson was recently named one of top Young Teachers in America by Golf Digest. Congratulations, Chris!

Whatever your associations with China – communism, the Great Wall, a billion people, etc. – Chris Mayson has one that might surprise you: Great golf.

Mayson, Maderas’ Director of Instruction, just returned from his second trip to China in as many years as coach of the USA Junior National Golf Team.

Mayson traveled with a team of six players to take part in the Aaron Baddeley International Junior Championships in November. The team competed four days during its nine-day stay.

The tournament took place at a 36-hole facility in the city of Yiang Jiang, China, in southern China, about two hours from Hong Kong. The courses were carved out of the side of the mountain and in the setting of a jungle terrain. Mayson describe the overall topography as “stunning.”

He says the grandeur of golf in China is a sight to behold.

“The golf there is superb,” Mayson says. “The courses are beautifully maintained and the clubhouses are all built as big and grand as possible. They are out of this world.”

Amidst that setting, Mayson’s team of four boys and two girls 18 and under competed against players from seven other countries. Carolyn Zhao turned in the outstanding individual performance, leading after 36 holes before finishing fifth. The team placed sixth.

The trip was just as much a cultural experience as a golf one, Mayson says, after a 15 ½-hour flight from LAX and a 2 ½-hour bus ride to get to the resort.

On one of his first nights there, a trip to the market gained Mayson a bit of his own paparazzi.

“We were in a small town where they rarely see westerners,” he says. “I was walking through the market and turned around. There were six people following me taking pictures. They’d never see anybody with a beard, or so tall.”

Mayson’s group was escorted at all times by two or three interpreters to help them navigate a country where it’d be impossible for a non-native to do on their own.

“I could drop you off in Rome and you could make your way to the Coliseum by talking to someone or looking at signs,” he says. “In China? No chance. A billion people and hardly anyone speaks English. And the signs are all Chinese symbols. You wouldn’t have the faintest clue.”

But with a little help, Mayson’s team was indeed able to enjoy its time in such a foreign place.

On one of their first nights, the team was taken to a hot springs, Mayson says.

“We were at a hot springs resort where the springs were like Jacuzzis,” he says. “The springs were different temperatures and even different flavors – like apple, jasmine, etc. It was pretty cool.”

And the golf? That proved to be a real test, Mayson says.

“The course we played was really demanding off the tee,” he says. “Even though they’re not very good at golf as a general population, the Chinese like to make their courses really difficult because they like to bet. They want a course where anything can happen on a given hole.”

They only thing tougher than finding a fairway, perhaps, Mayson says, was finding a good meal.

“I’ll eat anything but by the end of the trip, fries started sounding really good to me,” he says. “It’s really hard to get some quality meat. The Chinese eat chicken feet and pig’s feet and squid and octopus. When you ask what you’re eating, they just tell you it’s meat. It’s different.

“And then you try to go to McDonald’s and even that’s different.”

While the food may not be five-star, Mayson says the courses in China are.

“You have to have caddies,” he says. “The caddies stand on the back of your cart and then you walk to your ball, never drive. So there are no cart lines in the fairways.

“And labor is very cheap there so they have tons of people working on the golf course.”

The overall playing experience doesn’t match that of say Scotland, Australia and America, Mayson says, but the courses themselves are indeed world class.

“In terms of the beauty and how well maintained they are, they are definitely at the highest level.”

SD Tourism: The Farmers Returns to Torrey in February, Adds Concerts

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This post is part of an occasional series for the San Diego Tourism Authority.

The PGA Tour’s annual spotlight on San Diego will shine again on Feb. 5-8, 2015, at the Farmers Insurance Open at scenic Torrey Pines.

Held in San Diego and at Torrey since 1952, the PGA’s annual stop is part of the Tour’s West Coast swing. The tournament falls between the Waste Management Phoenix Open in Scottsdale and the AT &T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am in Pebble Beach.

Highlights of the Torrey tourney: warm weather, a world-class course and the regular presence of such Tour stars as Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods. Woods is a seven-time winner of the event besides being the winner of the iconic 2008 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines.

Whether it’s to golf star gaze or spy a glimpse of a migrating whale, there are many great reasons to “See You at Torrey,” as the ad slogan says.

The tournament utilizes all of Torrey’s 36 holes. Play the first two days is held on both the North and South courses and moves exclusively to the South for the weekend.

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Scott Stallings

Last year’s champion, Scott Stallings, emerged from a crowded field of Sunday challengers to capture the crown by one shot. Defending champion Woods missed the secondary cut, the precursor of a year he’d miss much of recovering from back surgery. Local favorite Mickelson ended up withdrawing for the weekend from the 2014 tournament with back pain.

It’s anticipated both with return healthy for the 2015 event.

Tournament week begins with practice rounds starting Feb. 2 that are free and open to the public.

Wednesday is Preview Day for the tournament. The Zurich pro-am will be taking place.

The tournament begins on Thursday and will introduce two new changes of note for fans:

- For security reasons, the main entrance has been moved from near the practice putting greens to near the Glider Port.

- A new post-round concert series begins.

The post-round concerts will take place inside The Fringe presented by Harrah’s Resort SoCal and will be located behind the 15th green of the South Course.

On Thurs., Fri. and Sat., entertainment will begin after play has finished on No. 15 (3-3:30 p.m. w/out delays) and continue until sundown (5:15-5:30 p.m.)

Local bands and DJs will be announced at a later date.

The University Day Challenge and University Day will also return on Friday and Saturday. On Friday, Tour players with the support their alma mater’s mascots by competing in a glass-breaking competition on the North Course. The winner will have $10,000 donated to their alma mater’s golf team.

Players and patrons are encouraged to sport the colors of their college on Saturday.

Shortly after the conclusion of the tournament, a long-awaited renovation of the North Course will begin. The course will be closed during its construction phase.

The improvements are a part of Torrey’s preparations to host the U.S. Open again in 2021.
Tickets information and a schedule of events for the Farmers can be found at www.farmersinsuranceopen.com.

Pros Rickie Fowler and Charley Hoffman are also again scheduled to conduct a free youth that is part of the tournament’s charitable mission.

Since its inception, The Century Club of San Diego has generated more than $28 million for the San Diego community, with $2.8 million raised in 2014 alone.

As the host organization of the Farmers Insurance Open, The Century Club of San Diego is able to provide partnership fundraising programs and experiences for charities, local military families, community organizations and schools.

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King of Clubs: Rick Smith’s Two-Club Tempo Drill

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Editor’s note: This drill appears in the December issue of Southland Golf. We present it here with additional photos provided by SKLZ. Also, done at full tempo, this drill is quite impressive to see Rick perform live.

During a talk at SKLZ in Carlsbad in September, renowned PGA instructor Rick Smith worked through golf drills rapid fire in between giving insights about the Tour and stories about his years of teaching everyone from Nicklaus to Mickelson.

Perhaps Smith’s most impressive moment though came after he grabbed two irons – one in each hand. With perfect precision and symmetry, Smith swung the clubs at the same time on the same path from address to full finish, looking a bit like a golf samurai.

Smith was demonstrating one of his favorite drills for tempo.

“Golf is left- and right-sided. This trains each side. It creates a cadence where one arm and the other are moving in a similar fashion.

“If one arm is moving fasting than the other, the clubs will collide. The objective is to swing the clubs smoothly and keep that same distance apart throughout. If you get wrist-y, the clubs will collide. Never collide or cross the clubs.”

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Socalgolfblog.com Receives 2014 SoCal PGA Media Award

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I announced this a month ago, but the big day finally arrived this morning. The Southern California PGA San Diego chapter recognized me as its media person of the year. I’m honored to be honored, especially since I’m still relatively new here.

I want to especially thank board president Mark Hayden, who has been a long-time supporter of my work. He nominated me back when I didn’t even know there was something to be nominated for.

Thanks also to all the PGA pros I’ve worked with who have helped make 2014 such a great year. I’m hoping to work with more of you in 2015.

Maderas: Aviara Golf Club Joins Troon Golf; Five Highlights of the Course and Experience

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Shop the TaylorMade 2014 Holiday Gift Guide and get free shipping on all orders! Offer ends 12/25/14.

Aviara Golf Club at Park Hyatt Aviara Resort in Carlsbad has joined the Troon Golf global network of more than 200 courses.

Currently the annual host of the LPGA’s KIA Classic, Aviara is routinely rated one of California’s top resort courses and is the only Arnold Palmer design in San Diego. Impeccable landscaping and being situated next to the Batiquitos Lagoon define the property, which also features dramatic elevation changes on the front nine.

Each hole is truly a unique experience at Aviara.

“Aviara Golf Club at Park Hyatt Aviara Resort is a spectacular property, and we are excited to be involved,” stated John Easterbrook, executive vice president of operations at Troon. “Located in an ideal golf destination, we are confident that our services and expertise will contribute positively to the facility’s success.”

The property’s amenities include: a two-story, 32,000-square-foot Spanish Colonial clubhouse and the adjoining Argyle Steakhouse with indoor and outdoor balcony seating; showers, locker rooms; an upscale golf shop, driving range and an oversized practice putting green.

Troon players, including Maderas members, can now enjoy playing privileges at Aviara.

For those Troon members unfamiliar with Aviara, we provide the following five highlights of the course and overall playing experience.

1. Immaculate landscape – On the first tee, the starter welcomes you to an 18-hole botanical garden, and that’s exactly what Aviara is. An amazing array of plants and flowers accent every hole. The course is truly a visual treat. There’s always something in bloom at Aviara.

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2. Oversized greens –
Aviara is known for having greens the size of helipads. Get ready to stroke some of the longest putts you’ve ever hit if you can’t knock it close.

The greens are the course’s defining characteristic, which is funny considering they were originally a construction mistake. The construction crew doubled the size of the greens on the front nine. Rather than tear up the greens, course officials chose to double the size of the greens on the back to match.

The result is what you might term a happy accident, as players now look forward to the sizable undulating greens at Aviara.

3. Outstanding par 3s – The strength of the course is its par 3s, which many consider as a group to be the best in San Diego. Three of the four feature carries over water and are, again, impeccably landscaped. No. 3, a short par 3 with ponds in front and right, is considered the course’s signature hole. No. 6, the only one without water, is the toughest of the bunch. It’s a long uphill, a nearly 200-yard carry, to a blind green. An ocean crosswind can complicate matters even more here. The two par 3s on the back are all carry over water, with No. 14 being from an elevated tee box. You will want an iron and a camera phone on the par 3s because they are truly beautiful golf holes.

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Left: No. 11. Right: No. 14.

4. Sweet Treats – Aviara loves to tempt your sweet tooth. There are fresh-baked cookies available next to the putting green and a special treat waiting for you on the course. The course marshal usually greets you on the 8th green with a bucket of Tootsie Pops. Hopefully you’re walking off the green with birdie, but if not, you’ve at least go a consolation prize.

5. No. 18, a beauty and a beast – Besides having the best par 3s, Aviara may also boast the toughest closing hole in the county. This dogleg right offers a beautiful view of the Batiquitos Lagoon from the tee. Savor the view because you might not like what happens next. There’s water right, OB left and likely an ocean breeze in your face. Ideally, you want to place you tee shot just inside the fairway bunker on the left and we recommend clubbing down to a 3-wood if necessary to do it.

You just want to be in the fairway here and not the water. Then you’ve got a long, narrow approach into a green where water is still in play on the left, cascading down a gorgeous waterfall. Par is a great score here, but here’s guessing it’ll take you a few rounds to card one. After playing this course nearly a dozen times, I’m still waiting.

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No. 18 at Aviara during the KIA Classic

To book a tee time at Aviara, call 760.603.6900. You can learn more about the course at www.golfaviara.com.