Maderas: A Q & A With John Ashworth, The Soul Behind Linksoul – Part 1

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Left: Photo by theaposition.com

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As golf souls go, John Ashworth is decidedly an old one. He favors persimmon clubs, relishes golf history books, is renovating an old Oceanside golf course (more on that later) and prefers walk to riding.

He relates to the game this way because it speaks to his soul, and the embodiment of those belief is his new clothing brand, Linksoul.

Launched three years ago, Linksoul speaks to golf culture and surf culture and creates common ground in a clothing line that has quickly populated pro shops in Southern California, including Maderas Golf Club, and nationwide and recently went international.

Linksoul is the third evolution of Ashworth’s apparel career, the most notable being the clothing line of his namesake now owned by TaylorMade-Adidas.

After a brief break from the corporate world, Ashworth decided to spin a new line off of the Linksoul name he had trademarked years earlier and set out on his own.

Ashworth set up shop in Oceanside and has been happily re-conquering the world of golf apparel in a new way ever since. These days Ashworth seem to enjoy designing for the game as much as he does playing it.

“We’re very lucky to design for the golf market. It feels like we’re off the grid from the real world,” he says. “It’s great when coming to work feels like getting away with something.”

At age 55 and at a time when his career could be winding down, Ashworth is perhaps busier than ever. Besides launching his clothing brand, Ashworth is restoring Oceanside’s neglected Goat Hill Park golf course, which is just a mile from his office.

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The goals of Ashworth’s twin passion projects are to get ahead and give back. He recently took some time to talk about both.

Q. What’s the history of the Linksoul name?

A. I used it on t-shirts with Ashworth and trademarked it. I always liked the name and what it stood for. I thought if I ever did another brand that’s what it’d be because it has a real deep meaning to me. It’s true and it’s real, and that’s what you want in a brand.

The timing was right three years ago to make it a brand with its own personality, culture and thumbprint.

Q. What is the origin and meaning?

A. I came up with it when I was playing a lot of links golf in Scotland. I was also reading Michael Murphy’s, “The Kingdom of Shivas Irons,” in which he wrote, “Golf is what links the flesh to the soul.” I always liked that. And that’s how it started.

Q. How does that apply to the brand?

A. The true definition of links is, “The sandy dunes land that links the land to the sea,” and we’re trying to link the land to the sea by linking the golf culture and the surf culture.

From that point of view, it’s perfect for what we’re trying to do from a clothing and culture standpoint. And “soul” is the spiritual essence of the human body. And golf has a spiritual competent.

Four guys from different parts of the world can show up on a tee box and have their souls linked through golf.

Q. How much do surfing and golf have in common?

A. A lot. You can surf with a group, but ultimate you’re in charge of your own game, just like golf. And they’ve both tough to learn.

They are very similar in a lot of ways, and both very soulful.

Q. Growing up in California (Escondido), did you golf or surf more as a kid?

A. I was a range rat as a kid. My parents would drop me off at the course and I’d be there all day. But I had buddies who were surfers.

Q. When and why did you take up surfing?

A. I surfed a little as a kid, but didn’t really get into again until my 30s when I lived right near the beach. I had just had my first kid, and I wanted to learn how to surf because I wanted my kids to surf.”

It’s a tough sport. There’s a huge learning curve.

It took me a least a month to feel like I could go surfing and actually catch a wave. And that was after going every day.

Q. Which is tougher: Golf or surfing?

A. Well, land doesn’t move. (Laughing.)

Q. Three years in, how do you feel about the growth of the company?

A. I like where we’re positioned. I like the quality of our clothing and our look. We’ve got a full line, but we do a lot of cool graphic t-shirts. And we’ve got a board walker short that is a board short you can swim in. Guys love it. It’s super comfortable.

In our golf shirts, we use mostly natural fabrics with some very special treatments so they don’t shrink, fade and are very soft and comfortable with easy care finish for and no ironing needed. Guys love them.

We mostly want to come into the golf industry and give people a choice. And a lot of people are choosing us.

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Q. Geographically, where has the brand had its best success?

A. Obviously, California, but we’ve done well in the Pacific Northwest and Hawaii. We’re better on the coasts, though we’ve gotten a great response in places like Denver.

We’ve had requests from all over the word, back when we didn’t ship internationally. We’ve just now started that, which is awesome.

But we have fans called Linksouldiers – they call themselves that. They’re really into it. They like the clothing and what we stand for.

Q. That includes Geoff Ogilvy, John Merrick and Lucas Glover, the guys who wear your gear on Tour. How did those relationships start?

A. They all came to us so we sent them some stuff, and that’s how it started. It’s nice to have somebody wearing it unpaid and just because they like it. They’ve become good friends and are really behind what we’re doing.

It does help (to have Tour presence). We’re so lucky, because we couldn’t pay to get that. But the way the world is now, you’ve got to have a presence to have that credibility in the golf world.

Q. How is the business challenge most different for you this time?

A. The interesting thing about this go-around is the Web. That really wasn’t a factor starting in starting my businesses before. This time around, it’s crazy how everything has changed. We decided from the beginning we had to have our own web store and to make that our own TV station so to speak.

Q. Do you feel like you’re at the top of your game professionally?

A. I’m 10,000 hours in (editor’s note: reference to Malcolm Gladwell’s definition of a professional) and I finally feel like I kinda know what I’m doing. But you still can’t take anything for granted because the business changes every day.

In part II of our conversation, Ashworth will talk about his Goat Hill project and his affinity for wooden golf clubs.

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San Diego Tourism: SD’s Five Best Courses for Kids

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Left: Oaks North. Right: Reidy Creek.

This post is part of an occasional series for the San Diego Tourism Authority. You can find this post on their site at http://www.sandiego.org/articles/golf/5-kid-friendly-golf-courses.aspx

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Golf is a game for all ages, but it’s now more kid-friendly than ever in San Diego thanks to a new way to play the game.

In late summer of 2014, two courses in San Diego installed 15-inch cups, making the hole about the size of a large pizza, as a part of TaylorMade Golf initiative termed “Hack Golf” designed to draw new players to the game by making scoring easier.

Oaks North in Rancho Bernardo and Lomas St. Fe, both executive courses, were among the first adapters. Oaks North dedicated its nine-hole east course to the new game while Lomas St. Fe committed all 18 holes, hosting a 15-inch cup and a regulation hole on each green.

The new game has especially been a hit with kids, juniors and couples, say course managers in the area.

“The holes are here to stay,” says Lloyd Porter, Head Professional at Oaks North. “This is for the next generation of golfers.”
Players on the “hack” courses also get the benefit of forward tees.

The following list of top courses for kids in San Diego starts with those two courses and includes others known for being particularly hospitable to kids, juniors and beginners.

1. Lomas Santa Fe Executive Course – Course architect William Bell is best known for designing Torrey Pines, but he also built this 2,431-yard gem in Solona Beach. Lomas has been named one of America’s “Top Short Courses” by Golf Range Magazine the past two years and consists of all par 3s, save two 4s, and has an ocean view from the eighth tee box. Lomas is also the only course in the county currently offering the 15-inch cups on 18 holes. The holes are all placed in the backs of the greens so as not to be obtrusive to regulation play. Lomas also offers Glow Ball night golf on a semi-monthly basis, giving beginners, kids and juniors another way to enjoy the game.

2. Oaks North - Nine of Oaks North’s 27 holes are set up for “hack” rounds, but all three executive nines are terrific for beginners.

The east course hosts the 15-inch cups, but even played with the forward tees, the new game hardly reduces the course to pitch and putt. Three of the tee shots are more than 200 yards, giving younger players ample room to swing away and hit clubs all the way through their bag.

The 15-inch holes are donated by flags with the number “15” and orange balls with the same number on the tee boxes.

JC Golf originally had an introductory offer of nine holes for $15 for the east course (cart not included), but visitors will find all three nines affordable, playable and walkable and the practice facility, which includes a 15-inch cup as well, a great place to learn and be taught.

3. St. Mark Golf Club/Lake San Marcos – These two courses in San Marcos are a doubly good destination for kids because they pair a playable regulation course (St. Mark’s) and an executive course in the same community complex.
St. Mark’s hosts a number of junior tournament. Its largely flat topography and manageable yardage (6,398 yards/par 71) make it ideal for juniors and beginners, though a long par-5 on the back and a severely elevated par-4 on the back provide a test.
Lake San Marcos’ recent renovation included new cart paths, but the course is plenty walkable and a pleasurable stroll while honing your iron and short-game play. A new clubhouse is also in the works.

4. Reidy Creek – Even if you’ve experienced a number of executive courses, chances are you haven’t played one like Reidy Creek in Escondido.
Two things in particular make Reidy Creek unique: the setting and its sophisticated greens.
The course winds through a wooded area in the shadow of the Escondido mountains, making it more like a miniature version of a regulation course than what people largely associate with executive courses.
Sometimes-severe bunkering and heavily sloping greens make scoring a challenging even though the course is played entirely with irons.
Reidy Creek is an aesthetically enjoyable and challenging way to learn the game.

5. Mission Bay – Located just minutes from downtown, Mission Bay is an executive course owned and run by the City of San Diego.
Speaking of setting, how do ocean breezes and night lighting work for you? You can enjoy both on this par 58 that includes four par 4s.
Unlike some executive courses, Mission Bay also has a driving range.
And if you like a little history with your golf, Tiger Woods won a Junior World title here once.

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Southland Golf Book Review of “Mastering Golf’s Mental Game” by Dr. Michael Lardon

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If you’ve ever battled multiple swing thoughts, shot indecision or given in to negative thoughts on the golf course – and who hasn’t? – Dr. Michael Lardon has a book for you.

Lardon, a San Diego sports psychologist and professor at UC-San Diego, has worked with elite athletes, including golfers, for nearly 30 years and has distilled his mental game plan for golfers into a book called “Mastering Golf’s Mental Game.”

Whereas golfers will spend hours on the range honing – or looking for – their swing, few amateurs have given much thought to their thought process on the course and managing emotions. Lardon says in these areas amateurs could benefit greatly from an approach he uses with the pros.

“I think everybody has an idea of what they want to do with their swing,” he says, “but nobody really has an idea of what they want to do in terms of their mental game.

“This gives them a template for it. It gives them a playbook, if you will.”

By mental approach, Dr. Lardon means managing emotions on the course, having a vision and process for each shot and then distilling your “swing thoughts” into one thought to guide each play.
While these techniques help athletes became elite, the principles have potentially greater applications for amateurs in terms of score, Lardon says.

“For the Tour pro, we’re talking about a shot a round here or there because they’re obviously pretty darn good,” he says. “But for the 20-handicapper, it could make a tremendous impact on their game and in many ways.”

Lardon preaches a pre-shot process that consists of calculation (factoring variables: wind, club, shot), creation (visualizing the shot) and execution (hit the shot with one simple thought – or none).

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Lardon reinforces his process by citing anecdotes from his work with the pros, including Phil Mickelson, who provides a foreword for the book. They were introduced over a game of table tennis at The Bridges County Club at the invitation of Tim Mickelson, Mickelson’s brother and coach of the University of San Diego men’s golf team.

Lardon, a UCSD professor, had worked with the golf team and ended up working with Mickelson prior to his 2013 British Open victory. Mickelson actually coined the term “mental scorecard” for Lardon’s process.

The mental scorecard Lardon advises players keep during their round rewards process independent of result and gives them a measure of their mental focus for their round.

In short, if you go through the process on your drive, for instance, and slice, you still get a point. Whereas if you thoughtlessly hit a nice chip, no point is rewarded.

“He was probably at 98-99 percent that week,” Lardon says of Mickelson’s British performance, “but that’s what it takes to win a major.”

The score is normally expressed in a score equivalent to a players’ actual score, but Lardon it can also be termed as percentage of time that they execute the process.

Over time, players realize a connection with process and results that, when included with a pre-shot routine, provides a framework for growth and success.

Just prior to this interview, a 12-handicap who’d read the book e-mailed Lardon about his breakthrough round.
“I shot 71 … out of the blue,” he wrote, “a quantum leap for me. Shows what can happen when you get out of your own way.”

That’s the type of success Lardon wants for more players and he believes his book can achieve.

“This book is a playbook for the average guy and the Tour guy,” he says. “But I’m hopeful that it will end up helping everybody play better golf.”

Editor’s Note: Sorry for the Slow Play; Normal Content Stream Resuming Soon

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My apologies for a bit of slow play on the blog this week. I attended a conference and also have been busy writing a two-part post you’ll see next week.

As you’ve probably noticed, the blog has begun to run almost entirely on my client work, and I’ve got a couple things I’m waiting to get posted in that regard so I can re-post them here.

The next two weeks should be chocked full of good stuff on here. Thanks for your patience. Regularly scheduled programming on the blog will resume next week. Have a great weekend.

Maderas: GM Bill O’Brien Announces Promotion to Troon Golf

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Written with Maderas GM Bill O’Brien

After nine years at Maderas Golf Club, I’m moving on and moving up within the world of Troon Golf. Next week, I’ll report to my new assignment in Scottsdale as Vice President of Operations overseeing daily activities at some of our 200 courses worldwide.

Maderas will to continue to be one of my responsibilities, but you won’t see me here in the daily capacity you’ve become accustomed to. However, I will still be in the area as many family is remaining in Poway while my son, a junior, completes high school.

I relinquish my post as General Manager at Maderas with a great deal of pride for what we’ve accomplished and also a sense of what I’m going to miss about the club. You don’t stay in any place for nine years without making connections, and I’ve appreciated all of them, especially those that’ve helped us raise the level of service at Maderas to be worthy of the Golf Digest top 100 rating we received two years ago, our first.

That accolade fulfilled the promise and potential I saw for the course when I was introduced to it for the first time in 2006. I saw a course with a remarkable layout and well-appointed facilities in a fantastic setting … and with a great story to tell. It really was love at first sight.

And I’ve enjoyed helping Maderas tell the story of San Diego by highlighting the things that make Southern California so remarkable. Setting. Climate. Weather. Attitude. This place has it all.

That’s also what Maderas ownership and Troon saw when they opened the club in 2000 and put it on a trajectory to be elite. I have only tried to bolster that early success and make sure it lives up to that vision daily.

While Maderas has remained a premium golf destination, it’s become even more the last nine years. It’s increasingly now a place to teach and be taught. We renovated and upgraded our driving range in part to give Director of Instruction Chris Mayson and his golf academy a better place to practice and grow.

Maderas is now home to some of the best up-and-coming players in the game in men’s and women’s golf. Chris Mayson and his fellow coaches Skip Van Matre and John Darling tirelessly coach young people and are assuredly making Maderas the home of future champions.

Using the game to changes lives is one of the most powerful things a golf course can do. Maderas has done it, partly, through hosting charity golf tournaments. We’ve raised nearly $3 million annually through charity events, including those for Rady Children’s Hospital and the Toby Wells Foundation. I’m proud of those connections and even prouder to know those proceeds have changed lives.

We’ve also changed lives with our renovated and upgraded banquet area, which now allows to host weddings for up to 300 people some 35 to 40 times a year. That’s a lot a couples and a lot of lives and a lot of moments that that our club is tied to.

The biggest leap of faith a club ever takes is when it agrees to do somebody’s wedding. We’ve hosted more than 300 now in my tenure. Thanks to all of you for letting us be part of your most special story.

And people, and particularly the great and talented staff we’ve assembled here at Maderas, have been behind all of it. When you work more than 40 hours a week, you spend more time with your co-workers than your family. I’ve been fortunate to enjoy that time with a truly great group of people.

Before the raters ever showed up to tell us we were great, I believed it. And now that we’ve been ranked top 100 and Golfweek has named us one of the best places to play in California four out of the last five years, we’re no longer just potential. It’s real. And more and more people are discovering that.

The challenge then becomes not just to maintain but to gain and continue to grow and build of the momentum of these last nine years.

I do believe that there are higher levels of service for the club still to reach, and I’m rooting for the club to achieve those and hope to help it continue to tell its great story for a long time to come because there are even better chapters ahead. I wish you all well.

Big News: SoCal PGA Honors Blog W/2014 Media Award

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Here’s a great way to start a week: Announcing you won something.

I was informed last week that I’ve been chosen as the 2014 Media Person of the Year by the Southern California PGA’s San Diego Chapter. It’s obviously gratifying and always an honor to win something like this, but I’m particularly appreciative of this award since I’m living in a new area and it comes from a group of people (the PGA pros) that I respect and really enjoy working with.

In particular, I have Mark Hayden, General Manager of Eagle Crest and member of the PGA board, to thank for this. He’s been a supporter of mine from the beginning and nominated me back when I didn’t even there was something to be nominated for.

Anyway, this is the endorsement Mark wrote for my LinkedIn after nominating me:

“I have had the pleasure of knowing Corey Ross for over three years now, beginning with him being a student in my class at the Golf Academy of America. The enthusiasm and passion he showed for the game then he now expresses in his writings.

“His regular blog posts and magazine articles have been a great a promoter of the Southern California golf experience, as well as promoting the SDPGA, Junior Golf, PGA professionals and the game as a whole. He work has been well received in the golfing community.

“That’s why, though he’s only been doing this in San Diego for barely more than year, I felt he was worthy of nomination as the SDPGA’s 2014 Media Person of the Year. This annual award given by the SDPGA and its more than 400 members recognizes the media person who contributes the most to golf in the greater San Diego area. This honor can only be awarded to someone who has shown dedication to promoting the game and who has many supporting contributions, but Corey’s work has quickly met this criteria as his professionalism has earned him an impressive roster of golf clients, including TaylorMade Golf, JC Golf and Maderas Golf Club.

“I wish him well in future endeavors and know he’ll continue to diligently and creatively work to spread the word about the golfing good life we all enjoy in Southern California.”

There really isn’t any more that I could want someone to say about my work than that. There are plenty of others who’ve been supportive along the way, but I’d be quite remiss if I didn’t mention my editor at Southland Golf, Al Petersen, who gave the first assignment that got the ball rolling on all of this and gave me my new professional life in California.

Then I started the blog and started blogging for JC Golf and 160-some posts later socalgolfblog.com is now award-winning. I’d like to thank all my clients, but in particular Maderas General Manager Bill O’Brien who had a hand in pointing me in the right direction from the beginning in terms of marketing needs for golf courses. His openness, honesty and friendship have been invaluable while I’ve been figuring out a direction for my work.

I’m hopeful that other courses and course groups will see the content need the way JC Golf and Maderas do and that I can help more of them promote the incredible playing experiences Southern California golf has to offer.

Beyond that, I hope my readers have similarly appreciated what they find here. It’s been fun to watch the readership grow and I hope for only more of the same in 2015.

Finally, thank you to the Southern California PGA members and board for validating all the work that has been done here. I’m looking forward to meeting as many of you possible at the awards breakfast in December. Thank you for the honor.

JC Golf: Twins Oaks Introduces Golf and Grapes

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A golf teaching session begins with grabbing a club. Next week, it’ll also begin by grabbing a glass.

Twin Oaks Director of Instruction Paul Miernicki is combining golf education and wine education into a series called Golf and Grapes that will begin on Oct. 18th. The first session is called “Begin With the Basics” and will held on the Twin Oaks driving range and patio from 4-6:30 p.m., and attendance is being limited to 20 spots.

Miernicki says his inspiration for the concept came from a student of his in the wine industry. Miernicki saw it as a way for people to combine two passions that they would like to learn more about.

“I’m an entertainer,” Miernicki says, “and above all I want my students to have fun. So let’s drink some wine and have some fun.”

Miernicki says he’ll strive to combine golf and wine using common terms, such as short and sweet, which will be an introduction to the short game and sweet wines. Sommelier Dewey Lederer will be on hand to pour wines and providing tasting instruction. Each student will sample six wines.

The session costs $99. Golf attire is NOT required.

“We’re going to make wine tasting fun,” Miernicki says, “and combine it with the fun I normally have teaching golf.”

To register, go to www.jcgolf.com/golfandgrapes.

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Paul Miernicki

Photo courtesy of Southland Golf Magazine


Maderas: Maderas F & B Insider – Sous Chef Ryan Gilbert Talks About Oktoberfest

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Maderas Golf Club members and guests will be treated to a unique seasonal feast on Wednesday, Oct. 8 when the club presents its Oktoberfest.

The event takes place from 5-8 p.m. and will feature German fare and entertainment along with tastings of German wine and beer from Karl Strauss.

In the following interview, Maderas sous chef Ryan Gilbert provides a preview of the menu and talks about what makes special events at Maderas special for members and staff.

What type of event is Oktoberfest?

It’s a fun-loving, outgoing atmosphere that allows people to relax and sample some different flavors of food and beers and enjoy what might be an out-of-the-box experience for them.

How did the staff plan the menu?

We took a look at what was successful last year and then added some new things. For instance, the pork schnitzel was a favorite last year, so we brought it back and decided to work with chicken. That’s the fun thing about these special events is that, as a staff, it allows us to explore some flavor profiles we don’t get into normally.

One of the menu highlights is a three-meat sausage platter – bratwurst, knockwurst and bockwurst. Can you please give us Sausage 101 for those who aren’t familiar?

The brat is the most common, and that’s a heavily spiced pork sausage. It’s a very clean-flavored sausage. The other two are variations.

Knockwurst a little creamier, a little lighter and more delicate.

Bockwurst is a little more on the spicy side.

The three sausages really play off each very nicely and complement each other very well. It’s three variations of flavors that are in the same ballpark.

And what would Oktoberfest be without beer … tell us about the beer.

We’re offering a limited-release season Oktoberfest from Karl Strauss. It’s a California thought process on German beers. It gives people who normally drink a pilsner or ale a chance to try a new micro beer.

And that continues a local theme that predominates the menu at Maderas. Can you talk about the local emphasis at Maderas?

The term macrobiotics refers to sourcing and using local products, from vegetables to meat. Being in such a lucky area in terms of food allows us to do this.

Our real goal is to provide an experience from regions around the world while focusing on what is trendy, sustainable and readily available from California, with Southern California being our main source.

We feature dishes that range from Mediterranean to Asian to Southern California’s Baja influence. What we’re trying to do is open people’s eyes to something new and something they may unfamiliar with by spreading out our menu.

How much fun is that for you as a chef to be able to work across that wide a culinary range?

For me, coming from a fine dining aspect, I try to bring a different thought process to the country club atmosphere. Maderas is extremely high-quality, high-end, probably more so than most golf clubs.

That gives us the opportunity to take things up a notch and surprise people by putting our California contemporary spin on things.

It challenges us to maintain a baseline, but also to explore new flavors, new ideas and new presentations that you might not see in most country-club environments.

I feel lucky to be at Maderas, where I can focus almost entirely on food and the dining experience. For a chef, that’s an amazingly rare position and a wonderful thing.

Buy 1 SLDR S Driver & Get a Fairway or Rescue Free! Ends November 6, 2014

Video Post: New Callaway Big Bertha Alpha 815 Driver

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From our friends at Callaway Golf (videos to follow):

Today Callaway Golf Company officially announced the new Big Bertha Alpha 815 Driver, a club that establishes a new driver category. The new driver gives golfers the benefit of maximum distance from low spin and forgiveness. While low driver spin has previously come at the expense of forgiveness, Alpha 815 has changed that pattern by giving players both characteristics in one club.

Callaway also announced today the Big Bertha Alpha 815 Double Black Diamond Driver, designed for better players to maximize distance through extreme low spin.

Both drivers will be available at golf retailers nationwide and on www.callawaygolf.com on Nov. 13, 2014. The Alpha 815 will be available for a new product introduction price of $449.99, and the Alpha 815 DD will be available for a new product introduction price of $499.99

Below, we give you the video lowdown on the Big Bertha Alpha 815 Driver

-Introduction video: http://youtu.be/ZtYRSWqKH8A

-Callaway Talks: http://youtu.be/6nRqA9UlEhk

October 2014 Southland Golf

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The October issue of Southland Golf was my busiest issue ever. Follow the link to the digital issue and you will find stories as listed.

The Grape Escape: Temecula wine country travel piece – page 9

Lasting Impact: Titleist 915 driver Q & A – page 24

Stick Around: A look at the Lodge at Torrey Pines – page 47

Bucket List: A lesson about lessons – tips for maximizing your golf lesson – page 57

Q & A W/Buffalo Bills Hall of Fame WR Andre Reed – page 86

Buy 1 SLDR S Driver & Get a Fairway or Rescue Free! Ends November 6, 2014