AmateurGolf.com: The Inventors’ Spotlight at the 2015 PGA Show

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Perhaps appropriately placed off the beaten path of the show floor at the PGA Show, you’ll find some exhibitors whose ideas are off the beaten path from conventional golf thinking.

Far removed from the cathedral-like booths of the industry leaders, and located closer to the loading dock and the portable gyro stand in Orlando’s massive Orange County Convention Center, you’ll find the more modest set ups of the would-be Thomas Edisons of the show. This is the Inventors’ Spotlight Pavilion sponsored by the United Inventors Association of America.

You can find the full story at: bit.ly/1LsGxQ7

AmateurGolf.com Q & A: Wilson Golf GM and Turnaround Specialist Tim Clarke

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Editor’s note: Our two-part look at revitalized golf brands, which began with Ben Hogan, continues with Wilson’s return to relevance after a serious slump at the end of its first 100 years.

When Tim Clarke took over as General Manager of the Wilson Staff golf division nine years ago, the brand was arguably at the nadir of its first 100 years.

The glory days when Wilson Staff bags filled the fairways of the PGA Tour were long gone. In fact, Wilson’s Tour presence had dwindled to one player.

Clarke made regaining Tour presence his No. 1 priority – and got a serious reality check. Clarke says he literally couldn’t pay pros to play Wilson clubs.


www.amateurgolf.com/golf-equipment-reviews/Irons/14104/Executive-Interview–Turnaround-Specialist-Tim-Clarke-of-Wilson-Golf-

January Southland Golf: John Ashworth’s Rescue Mission At Goat Hill

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One of San Diego’s oldest golf courses was facing its final rounds earlier this year before an unlikely scramble recovery.

Oceanside’s Goat Hill, opened in 1952, had been targeted for redevelopment by the city council. What began as a nine-hole track that was once the Oceanside Carlsbad Country Club was about to become a soccer complex or shopping mall before John Ashworth stepped forward.

Ashworth, the namesake of the golf clothing line, played the course in high school and was still enjoying a weekly round there. He submitted a last-minute bid as something of a lark.

“I was really just trying to save my Friday round,” he jokes.

To Ashworth’s astonishment, his proposal prevailed and that’s how the resurrection of Goat Hill (now Goat Hill Park) began in July of this year.

Ashworth now find himself as golf’s answer to Bob Villa on an episode of “This Old Course” trying to coax a track whose fairways had gone bare back into playable shape. But where many would see a course whose condition more closely resembles a driving range, Ashworth sees ocean views – and potential.

“It’s a cool spot that just needs a little love,” Ashworth says. “It’s got a lot of great views, and it’s a challenging little course. If we had grass, we wouldn’t be able to keep people away.

Ashworth just built a new pro shop, has re-seeded the fairways and has posted public rounds on GolfNow.com.

Goat Hill is a blue-collar course in a blue-collar part of Oceanside, and that’s exactly the audience Ashworth markets to. You don’t have to worry about dress codes here. In fact, Ashworth plays in shorts and a tee shot from his latest clothing line, Linksoul.

Ashworth also plays with persimmon clubs and embraces the histories and values of the game. That, as much as anything, he says is what bothered him about Goat Hill potentially closing.

“It’s sad to see golf courses like this going away across the country,” he says. “It’s a big loss, and I don’t think people even realize it. We need to have courses for kids and beginners, and that’s what this is.”

Ashworth says Goat Hill’s place in the community has been undervalued, and that’s where he sees the true potential.

“We have to get to the course right, but the part I get fired up about is to have a safe haven for the kids in the neighborhood,” he says. “It’s a tough neighborhood, and we want to have after-school programs and a caddy academy. We want to be a positive influence. We want to keep 13- and 14-year-olds out of gangs and off the streets.
“That part is going to be really rewarding. Already is.”

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Ashworth wants to see people bond over the game again and be brought together socially, which is why he’s going to encourage leagues, including one for wooden clubs.

Local golfer Dana Albert, who began his golf career as marshal in 1991 when the course was being converted to 18 holes, shares Ashworth’s sentimentality for the course and says his efforts are laudable.

“John’s vision is inclusive to North County,” he says. “It’s a park for everyone.”

As a golfer, Albert also appreciates the challenge the course truly presents.

“You have it to hit uphill, downhill, left to right, right to left, downwind, into the wind, etc… You can hit every club in your bag.”

Ashworth now spends his days alternating between running his clothing company, which has offices nearby, and directing efforts at the course.

Ashworth has reached a point in his career where potentially things should be slowing down, but since taking on Goat Hill, that’s hardly the case, he says.

“The days are crazy. No day is typical. But what else am I going to do? It’s a challenge. And if it saves a couple kids, it’s totally worth it,” Ashworth says.

“For everything the game of golf has given me, I have to give something back.”

Maderas: Callaway Clips From Mickelson Maderas Shoot Start To Surface

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www.maderasgolf.com/callaway-clips-from-mickelson-maderas-shoot.blog

Photo courtesy of www.callawaygolf.com

Look closely at some recently released Callaway Golf commercials and you may recognize a familiar course in the background.

The clips from a shoot done with Phil Mickelson at the par-5 14th at Maderas Golf Club last November are starting to surface.

The course, which looks fantastic on film, gets the most air time in this clip for Callaway’s new Chrome Soft ball:

www.youtube.com/watch?v=EhVgIeu-Jk0

But you also easily identify Maderas in the backdrop of this clip for the Alpha 815 driver:
www.youtube.com/watch?v=wCO-yKH8zsY

Callaway officials say there’s still more Maderas footage to come, so stay tuned.

Amateurgolf.com Q & A: An Iconic Brand Returns To The Market

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Photo courtesy of www.golfdigest.com

No golfer in history has more short stories passed from player to player like the legendary Ben Hogan. Most of them involve his work ethic, legendary shot making and ascerbic wit. On the equipment side, Hogan was so exacting that he is said to have ordered the entire first production run of clubs destroyed in 1953 because they did not meet his standards.

After a seven-year hiatus from the market, the Ben Hogan Golf Equipment Company re-launched its brand with a new club line at the PGA Show in Orlando.

The company’s Ft. Worth 15 irons and TK 15 wedges were on display and quickly generated buzz at the show. First you notice the clubs’ clean, classic look with the iconic Ben Hogan signature. Then you notice something else: The clubs are only designated by loft, no numbers.

In response to lofts being strengthened in the industry over the years, the Hogan Company dropped the numbering system and produced clubs in an “unprecedented” range of 44 lofts so golfers know exactly what they’re hitting when they’re trying to gap their set.

Follow the link to read the rest of this post:

www.amateurgolf.com/golf-equipment-reviews/Irons/14101/Ben-Hogan–An-iconic-brand-returns-to-the-market

Farmers 2014 Revisited: Studying Billy Horschel’s Practice Round

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Photo courtesy of www.zimbio.com.

Editor’s Note: The blog is still rebooting from the PGA Show. In the meantime, to prime you for the Farmers in two week at Torrey, here’s a re-post of a piece I did last year about Billy Horschel’s practice round. This piece spurred then-record traffic for my blog that week. Thankfully I’ve got many more followers now, so this is for those of you who may have missed this the first time.

On a day when the clouds refused to yield at Torrey Pines, Billy Horschel’s white golf ball dropped out of a gray sky and nearly into the cup on the South Course’s par-3 8th hole Tuesday.

Horschel’s tee shot to the front-right pin location caught a slope in the middle of the green and nestled back to within mere inches of an ace. On Thursday, Friday, Saturday or Sunday, it might’ve been an ESPN highlight. Today? As Allen Iverson famously once said, “This was practice, man. We’re talking about practice.”

His reward for near perfection after he walked to the green? He got to pick the ball up and go to work. A ball had been dropped in each bunker by his caddie and two more were hiding in the lush greenside rough, buried deeply like eggs left by an evil Easter Bunny.

Five balls in all and Horschel’s job was to drop each within 6 feet of the tournament’s four locations, three indicated by wooden pegs in the green.

Horschel worked through the shots, the toughest being a ball in the back bunker to a back pin, a tight shot to execute with about 5 feet of green to the hole.

Horschel’s sand shot floated out softly but didn’t land within the desired distance. Do it again, his caddy, Micah Fugitt, directed him.

“Oh, man, that was perfect,” Horschel said in a bit of mock protest. And then he hit another one that passed the test.

Hole after hole, this is how Horschel’s practice round went until he walked off the 18th green at about 2 p.m. Tuesday afternoon.

This was a PGA Tour pro at work on tournament week.

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Horschel hits bunker shots to multiple pin locations

If you follow the PGA Tour, you might remember Horschel for the octopus pants he wore for a round at the U.S. Open.

Locally, you’re possibly more likely to recall that he was in the final group of last year’s Farmers Insurance Open. Playing alongside eventual, and seemingly perpetual at Torrey, tournament champion Tiger Woods, Horschel couldn’t follow up his strong start and finished T-39.

Horschel, dressed in a pink shirt, white PING hat and white pats, was working hard Tuesday to prepare himself to better last year’s finish at a tournament that was his breakout a year ago.

“I still have good vibes about the place, for sure,” Horschel said. “There’s a learning curve out here and that was a learning experience.

“I’m looking forward to playing well the first two days and then playing better the last two days.”

To better his best finish at Torrey, Horschel spent his practice time Tuesday with a heavy emphasis on the short game, but with no neglect of anything.

His overall game certainly seemed sharp. He followed his near ace on No. 8 by bouncing his pitch shot into the pin on the par-5 No. 9 for a near eagle. The reward? Two more pitches to alternative pin locations and more work on the green – by Billy and his caddie.

While Horschel worked, Fugitt hand-rolled multiple balls to one peg and studied the break.

Two holes later, Fugitt switched to being videographer. On the long par-3 11th, as Horschel teed off with an iron, Fugitt stood behind him taking video with a cell phone camera. Horschel’s shot came up short right of the front pin location.

Horschel studied the video for about 45 seconds and re-teed. Similar result.

“Too high,” Horschel self-analyzed as he walked off the tee.

At the green, the short-game game began all over again with him hitting chips, bunker shots and putts to various locations.

After watching a putt to a back pin location veer wide, Horschel asked his caddie, “Didn’t I three-putt here last year?”

His caddie confirmed and Horschel dropped more balls.

On 12, the tough par-4 played toward the ocean, Horschel spent more time testing the Torrey rough, which was ankle-deep and thick. After Horschel’s club hit the rough with a grassy thud his swings produced divots the size of small house plants.

Trying to hit a flop from a particularly tough patch, Horschel’s flop flailed meekly and promptly returned to the rough prompting him to self-scold, “Geez, Billy.”

He hit four or five more from that spot.

The desired short-game goal always seemed to be six feet, but Horschel wouldn’t be that specific when asked later.

“The closer you get to the hole, the better your chance on the putt,” he said. “If you average getting it within 6 feet on your short-game shots, you’ve got a pretty good chance of getting up and down.

“Everyone has their way of practice and mine is to spend more time on my short game. It’s just a little game we play.”

On 13, a par-5 played with two split tee boxes, Horschel found the middle of the fairway with his drive and then tried to get home in two to a green fronted by tiered bunkers.

His first attempt slammed into the wall of the front left bunker; his next did the same on the right.

After taking a minute to recalibrate, Horschel fired a 3-wood that cleared easily and bounded onto the green.

“That was a solid,” Horschel said while handing his club to Fugitt. It was the closest he came to an audible self-compliment all day.

After he walked off the 18th green, I asked about his practice routine and the amount of time, especially, he spent playing out of the rough.

“The rough is thick. You know you’re going to miss some greens, unfortunately, so I needed to find out how the ball was going to react. Getting up-and-down can save you a lot of shots,” he said.

Starting Thursday, we’ll find out if Horschel’s practice saves him enough.

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Maderas: Michael Flickinger Named New General Manager

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Following Bill O’Brien’s promotion to Vice President of Operations at Troon Golf, Michael Flickinger has assumed the role of General Manager at Maderas Golf Club.

Flickinger has served as Director of Sales and Marketing at Maderas the past two years after previously being employed as Director of Operations. He came to Maderas from the hotel industry.

Now in his fourth year at Maderas, Flickinger says he embraces the General Manager duties and seeks to preserve the high level of service patrons have come to expect at Maderas.

Noting Maderas has been rated a top-100 public course by Golf Digest again for 2015-16, Flickinger said, “Maderas is a bucket-list club for people. When they come to San Diego, they want to play Torrey Pines and Maderas. We want to make that’s easy for them to do coming from the hotel where they are staying. We want to get more tourists here.”

To that end, Flickinger says a program coined “No car, no clubs, no problem,” will continue. That service picks up traveling golfers at their location and then provides them with rental clubs for their round for a packaged rate. The current rental clubs are brand new Callaway X Hot.

Flickinger said Maderas is also increasingly expanding its marketing thru mobile to reach new and current customers.

“In 2015, we want to do more to reach our core audience, meaning those who already like Maderas but aren’t visiting as frequently as they could be. We want people to be more aware of all that we have going on at the club,” Flickinger said.

Flickinger can now be reached at mflickinger@maderasgolf.com, or 858.451.8100.

Amateurgolf.com: Reviewing Cobra’s Fly-Z Plus Driver

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Editor’s note: This post marks the start of a new relationship with amateurgolf.com. I’ll be writing more about the relationship soon, but you can look forward to more equipment posts like this on in the short term.

In this age of adjustable drivers, golfers have become accustomed to being afforded a sometimes mind-boggling number of settings to dial in their desired launched conditions.

What golfers aren’t accustomed to being able to do, however, is change the CG (center of gravity), and that’s where Cobra’s new driver, the Fly-Z Plus, enters the fray.

Using something called FlipZone weight technology, the player can move the CG forward or back, thus inducing a lower or higher ball flight. Cobra says this allows high-ball and low-ball hitters to adjust the driver to dial in the launch conditions that are most conducive to ball speed, launch angle and, naturally, distance.

You can read the full review at:

www.amateurgolf.com/golf-equipment-reviews/Drivers/14050/Cobra-Fly-Z-Plus-Driver–The-AmateurGolf-com-Review

JC Golf: Desert-Style Golf Comes to Carmel Mountain Ranch

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At the moment, the course transformation taking place at Carmel Mountain Ranch is more about what isn’t there than what is.

What isn’t there: 50 acres of turf and 600 mature trees.

The scars of that two-month removal process remain, but they are quickly being replaced by mounds of redwood bark, piles of decomposed granite and a new vision for Carmel Mountain Ranch.

Course officials made a dramatic decision that last fall to close the course and embark on a renovation that would help the course achieve new goals of maintenance and sustainability during the prevailing drought conditions in Southern California.

To be more environmentally friendly and water-wise, the 50 acres of turf was removed, largely from tee box areas, landing areas and rough areas surrounding the existing fairways. When you walk onto a tee box at Carmel Mountain Ranch now, you’ll see the bordering landscape that is comprised of shaved redwood bark surrounding plantings of drought-resistance plants.

The area surrounding the cut-back fairway areas are now comprised of gray decomposed granite and will ultimately play like waste bunkers.

New Carmel Mountain Ranch Head Professional Brandon Delgado says the turf-removal process has made him look at golf courses differently.

“You don’t realize how much turf goes unused until it isn’t there,” Delgado says.

And thus the future savings for course and the community. Delgado says that when the plants have matured, the course will converse 400 millions of gallons of water annually, enough to supply 400 households.

Barring weather delays, Delgado expects the course work to be complete and the course rounding into shape by the end of March. Until then, two crews from a team of nearly 50 will be working two shifts daily to complete the renovation process.

In January, players are invited to play the course at a reduced rate ($39 for JC players; $49 for non-JC) and receive a $25 playback pass good through the end of April.

While the course may temporarily suffer a bit in aesthetics, the fairways and especially the greens are in as good a playing condition as any course in the area, Delgado says.

“After two months of no play and a shot of rain, our greens couldn’t be better,” he says.

After the turf removal, the first stage of the renovation to be completed was a flattening of all the tee boxes and a re-positioning of some of them, largely to more advantageous angles from the forward tees.

Golfers who’ve played the course in the past will mostly likely notice an immediate difference on their scorecards.

“Low-handicappers are probably going to see it get a few strokes tougher,” he says, “but high-handicappers should have their scores go down.”

The new tee boxes are also wider and in many cases will allow for a great variety of teeing options, such as on the signature 11th, a par 3 over water.

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Left: No. 11 before. Right: No. 11 after.

As someone who’s played the course from the blue tees in the past, I could feel my tee shots getting tighter just walking the course. In particular, I recalled a round that started with a tee shot pulled left on the opening hole, a downhill par 4. My ball settled into the rough, but thankfully tree-free, and I was able to recover to six feet for an opening birdie.

That shot next time will likely be from decomposed granite and possibly a little more challenging to replicate.

The formerly generous 16th fairway renovations also caught my eye. Formerly a straightaway par-4 with a creek carry, the fairway has been tightened significantly, not only near the initial landing area but all the way to the green.

In the past, the course has been a mix of tight tee shots and less restrictive ones, but golfers can expect more uniform play from the new design and an increased premium on fairways.

Delgado says the finished product will be unique amongst San Diego courses and ensure Carmel Mountain Ranch’s sustainability for many years to come.

“We’re going to have a one-of-a-kind golf experience in San Diego and hopefully one of the best golf products out there.”

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