JC Golf: Demo Day at Encinitas Ranch on Saturday Provides Unique Equipment Environment

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Five major equipment manufacturers – TaylorMade, Titleist, Ping, Cobra and Nike – will be represented at the biggest demo day of the year at Encinitas Ranch on Sat., Aug. 30th.

From 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., golfers will have an opportunity to test clubs on the driving range at Encinitas Ranch and ask questions of the attending equipment professionals. In addition, fitting appointments will be available from 10 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.

Golf Pride will also be taking part and providing free installation of new Golf Pride grips.

Encinitas Ranch General Manager Erik Johnson says that for golfers who’ve been pondering purchases or are simply curious about the volume of new product that has come onto the market this year, the demo day is an ideal opportunity.

“There is no obligation or commitment,” he says, “but for someone who’s considering possibly a new driver or a new set of irons, I think this is a terrific opportunity. For one, you’re hitting clubs outdoors, as opposed to inside, where can really see what the club does. And on top of that, we’re going to have the latest technology including launch monitors that can measure ball speed, launch angle, spin, etc., so you’re sure to really know how that club is performing.”

If you’ve never participated in a demo day before, know that the experience can be a little overwhelming, and exhausting, without the right approach. Swing fatigue can be an issue, Johnson says.

“We’re not PGA Tour pros. We’re not conditioned to hit 150 to 200 balls without experiencing a significant drop in swing performance,” he says.

That said, Johnson advises limiting each new club tested to a maximum of 15 swings, even including swings with differing loft settings or shafts.

So that means when comparing, say, a TaylorMade driver and a Titleist driver, it’d just be around 15 swings apiece.

“After hitting 60-75 balls, it’s usually diminishing returns. You’re going to buy off of how the club looks, feels and performs. That’s enough swings to determine that.”

A free 10-minute driver tune-up is also be offered, where your driver’s set up is evaluated to make sure the settings match your swing.

Golfers can also participate in a long-drive contest that awards a free club fitting to the winner.

Johnson says that if you’re a player pondering an equipment purchases or possibly in need an equipment adjustment, Saturday is a day to have on your calendar.

“It’s a great opportunity to come hit some new sticks.”

For more information about scheduling a fitting, please call the pro shop at 760.944.1936.

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Photo Post: Bad Lie

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This was my friend’s lie after a 290-yard drive on a par 5 at Encinitas Ranch. That’s what I call cruel and unusual punishment. And he had to hit it lefty.

Incredibly, he salvaged par. We know it’s not a fair game, but sometimes it’s just a little cruel.

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Photo Post: An Inside Look at SKLZ

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You’re going to be reading more about SKLZ on the blog very soon, so I’m going to fast-forward the company story for now except to say that SLKZ is a company involved in the training of elite athletes. They produce unique training products meant to enhance athletic performance and those training tools are then employed in intense workouts that take place at the SKLZ headquarters in Carlsbad.

Today, I just wanted to take you inside the SKLZ facility, which has a heavily industrial feel, start with its front door. Beyond that, we’re going to show you what an elite athlete training facility looks like, but we advise you to take the tour on your own if you can because the entire place is an experience. SKLZ is located on Faraday Ave., not far from TaylorMade Golf.

You can read more about them at www.sklz.com.

To the tour …

frontdoor

Even if it’s automated, merely walking through the front door at SKLZ is a confidence builder. It feels like you just opened something with the tonnage of a bank vault door. It sets the ton for what you experience inside.

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This is the main gym floor, equipped with the latest in weight and resistance training equipment. You can’t see it very well here, but the far wall is marked with a bunch of black streaks. Those are from medicine balls being flung against it. When you see where those marks are, you know we’re talking about some serious strength.

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Step out about and you discover the facility’s 50 yards of artificial turf. I trained here for my golf workout piece for Southland Golf. Among the exercises, my trainer had my balance on the goal line. I was doing half OK until he said, “Now close your eyes.” Uh, oh.

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This is the other half of the field, just to show the rest of the space. You can do a lot training with 50 yards of turf. We did plenty in just 15 minutes.

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As any good training space should, SKLZ is decorated with a number of motivational murals. I love this stuff.

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This is the best photo representation of what SKLZ does. These are the their golf training aids. They also work with football, baseball/softball, basketball and soccer. They are in constant creative mode, developing products that can help athletes reach their full potential.

My training piece in Southland Golf should be posted. Look for it on the blog under the Southland Golf tab.


Celebrating My Hole-In-One-Aversary: Two Years & Counting

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The two-year anniversary of my only hole-in-one is Labor Day, but I’m not envisioning a holiday as a big blog traffic day so I’m celebrating on the blog a week early. (Hey, it’s my blog, so I can do these things.)

I achieved the Holy Grail of golf shots quite unexpectedly three years ago, on Sept. 3, 2012, my first year in California.

That day I ventured out mid-afternoon only looking to get a few swings in on what normally would’ve been a tournament day (Monday) while I was attending the Golf Academy of America.

My original intent was just to hit range balls that day but my request to use my school-arranged range was denied, no kidding, because I wasn’t wearing long pants and thus in non-compliance with the most ridiculous element of the school’s dress code. (Long pants even for practice? Really?)

Anyway, the closest course to the range was the Vineyard in Escondido, so I decided to walk on and see how many holes I could squeeze in before sundown.

Well, on the third hole, a tranquil short par-3 played over a pond, I had the golf shock of my life: my first hole-in-one.

Playing a mere 125 yards from the blue tees, I pulled pitching wedge and watched my shot land about a foot in front of the hole and then hop into the cup.

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The hole

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It took me about five seconds to realize what had happened. The silence of the moment was broken by my three playing partners breaking out a celebratory golf clap.

After driving up to the hole, which I’d never played before, I walked up to the cup with camera phone in hand. I plucked the ball from the cup and struck a celebratory pose under the pin flag as one of my planning partner’s snapped the photo you see up top.

That brought the moment full circle and made me really realize I’d finally accomplished something had eluded me at least six times on the golf course, including once when my foursome slapped my back and high-fiving me on the tee only to find the ball 2 inches away from the cup, stopping on a downslope of all things.

Yes, these shots are part skill and part luck, thus the odds of making one being roughly 1 in 12,000.

I considered it to be my greatest golf moment since I won my first real set of irons (Titleist AP 1s) in a raffle for $20 at a charity golf tournament.

When I reported my ace at the clubhouse, they handed me a photo of the hole, which became the centerpiece of a shrine to the moment that I kept in my closet. The display consisted of the photo, the ball and my scorecard (38 on the front, thank you). I later, as a present, received a wooden “1” that would host the historic ball.

As best I could tell, that’s how you were supposed to properly celebrate what most regard as golf’s ultimate lifetime achievement award (a double eagle – a two on a par-5 – is actually more rare, but so much so that it’s beyond the wildest dreams of most who play).

A couple of the fringe benefits going forward were:

1) Every time I played the hole, I got to tell me story of my hole-in-one and re-live the moment a bit. (And, yes, I can still see and hear the ball going in.)

2) In any conversation about hole-in-ones, I could say I had one, and there are really only two camps of golfers: those who’ve had one and those who haven’t. You celebrate with the ones who have and commiserate with the ones who haven’t. My eye doctor looked at me with particular disdain when I told what I’d accomplished. “Thirty years of playing this game and I haven’t had one,” he said, shaking his head.
The game can be cruel that way, but my doc seemed to be in a particularly bitter group who could probably use a support group.

For me, it’s just fun to remember the day and the circumstances. Among others, I’d only been attending golf school for a week when I had my ace. When I announced my ace at school the next day, I told my instructor, “I had no idea school would work that fast.”

It’d be great to make another one some day – and, in fact, I had one round at Monarch Beach last summer where I nearly made two – but it’s mostly in the old business file. My new business is making and breaking par for a round.

Somewhat strangely, I think of my moment when the “This is SportsCenter” comes on where there’s velvet rope in a hallway at ESPN and seemingly bass bumping behind the door of what looks like a service closet, guarded by a doorman with “the list.” The bass turns out to be a bass drum from a marching band, one of the “club” members for ESPN’s Plays of the Week.

I’m not a member of many clubs, but I am a member of the hole-in-one club. When you make yours, I look forward to quoting the commercial and saying, or mostly likely texting: “Welcome to the club.”

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Friday Photo Post: Huge Waves in Cbad/Oside

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After more than two years of living here now, one of my self-styled favorite California credos has become: When in doubt, walk the beach.

Given my recent travels, I was away from the beach for a week and thus suffering dreaded beach withdrawal. After sending out a virtual blizzard of post-PGA Show emails on Thursday, I needed to rest my fried creative brain. So I closed my laptop around 3 p.m. and pointed by sandaled toes westward.

What I witnessed on the beach over the next three hours reinforces what I tell people about CA: Its ability to wow you in an instant is part of what makes it such an incredible and, for me, inspiring place. Seemingly mundane can turn magical in a California heartbeat. And that’s what happened Thursday.

I walked out to an ocean that at first glance appeared normal. It was doing its usual rhythmic, splashy, beautiful thing … until it turned into something else: a performance.

The more I walked north, from Carlsbad’s beach to Oceanside’s, the more I noticed that the frequency of the waves was becoming more intense. The waves were literally coming in waves – in sets of four or five.

Then the size of the waves became noticeably larger, which is something I might’ve missed two years ago (Note: the blog neither surfs nor swims).

The noticeably agitated state of the ocean was doubly confirmed to me when a tank-topped California blonde male passerby and I had the following conversation:

Him: “Dude, where’s the beach?”

To translate Californian, he wasn’t asking where the beach was, because that question is just silly. We all know where the beach is.

He was asking, “Where did the beach go?” Moreover, “What’s the deal with the ocean?”

I related to him something a surfer told me near the Oceanside pier minutes earlier. Apparently hurricanes near Hawaii are sending us massive surf. The surfer was reporting 8-foot waves and said his surfer buddies were abandoning the water.

“It’s getting rough out there,” he said.

And it was. I watched the surfers for a good 10 minutes and it was like witnessing an amateur bull-riding competition. No one was staying up for more than three seconds.

You have to understand that this is really aggressive surf for Carlsbad/Oceanside.

Anyway, I tried to capture this event in pics – and nearly lost my iPhone doing it (more on that shortly).

Land-locked photogs won’t appreciate this, but taking interesting photos of the ocean isn’t that easy. You can’t just point your camera phone at the water and get great pics, which I know sounds absurd, but it’s true.

To get something not mundane of the ocean, you need two things: perspective or scale. Or both. Perspective defined: elevation (a lifeguard tower, a cliff, etc.). Scale defined: boats, rocks, people – something other than water compared to water.

Again, I know this sounds totally ridiculous, but I’m going to spare you posting about 50 boring ocean photos from yesterday that completely failed to capture what was happening to make my point.

Instead, I’ll post these, which are my amateur best. Trust me, it was a rad day to be on the beach. And, yes, that’s the first time I’ve ever used rad in a blog post. I was saving it. And today is supposed to be a rad ocean day as well. Now to the swell swells …

enterance

This is the one of the entrances to Carlsbad beach. As the cops say, “There’s nothing to see here.” Well, nothing except normal, beautiful, awesome. This is what it looks like nearly every day.

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This photo probably looks like nothing, but trust me, it’s something. This was the first indication of more frequent waves than usual.

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This is what a pier getting pounded looks like. And it took the perspective of the pier to really properly capture what was going on.

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See?

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And this is what it looks like when you nearly lose your iPhone in the ocean. I had waded out into the water a bit to try to get a closer perspective on the pier. In that instant, a ropey strand of kelp washed up and wrapped around my ankles like a python. I briefly couldn’t move and then a wave hit me waist high and nearly took me out.

I immediately retreated to the beach. I have no business being in a turbid Pacific Ocean.

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Some of us stopped to appreciate what was going on. But many others just kept on doing their California thing, meaning …

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Running.

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Reading.

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And walking where you’d normally walk despite the fact that normally dry area is now engulfed in waves. This isn’t the best photo to show that, but it’s my best pic of the horizon. Photo editors have to make these sorts of tough calls. That’s what the blog pays me for. Or, more accurately, doesn’t pay me for.

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And this concludes our virtual day at the beach. If I get something good later, I’ll update and, as always, keep you posted.

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Photo Post: Day One of the 2014 West Coast PGA Show

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So the blog is still out in the desert doing bloggy stuff, but we’ve now reached our ultimate destination: the 2014 West Coast PGA Show in Las Vegas.

As you’re probably aware, the big industry show is in Orlando each year. The Vegas show, I’m told, is about one-quarter of the size and has more of a fashion focus, though the equipment companies and other elements of the industry (training aids, course services, etc.) are still present. And then you get your new business, which, for me, is the most entertaining part of the show. We’ll get to some of that in a second.

Anyway, this is just a few highlights about who’s here and what’s new that is in no way meant to be comprehensive. We’re here networking and gathering future blog material, but here’s a sample of the experience.

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This was my walk to work. I have to admit, I’ve had worse days at the office.

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We’ll start with a few local shout-outs. This is the Cobra Puma crew, smiling ear to ear after the year Rickie Fowler had in majors, particularly the PGA.

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And this is the crew from SKLZ, a friend of the blog. You will be reading much more about this seriously innovative and creative Carlsbad company down the road, but know that I learn something new every time I talk to them. You will enjoy being educated by them – & potentially trained.

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And here are our friends at Callaway Golf. You may recall that Callaway exhibited a military tank to promote its Tank putter at the Orlando show. Apparently that logistically didn’t work with the Venetian, so an over-sized driver had to do. Worked for me.

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This is Foresight, one of the launch monitor companies on the market and in use at some of the fitting studios, such as Fujikura. I’m a big believer in this stuff and am excited about the personalization trend to make this technology more affordable and accessible.

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Foresight’s new wrinkle is this kiosk, which gives your swing data instead of displaying on screen or viewing it on a laptop. The kiosk also helps you play more than 80 simulated courses. I really need to get around to writing that post about launch monitors and understanding the terminology and data. It’s worth knowing. If you haven’t heard the term “smash factor,” you’re my audience for that post.

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These are cooling visors made by a company called RealXGear based in Anna, Texas, which I now know is north of Dallas. You dip the visors in water and they keep you cool.

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They also make a personal mister that comes in a rechargeable can.

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OK, we’re all friends on the blog, right? We’ve known each other, what, 10 months now? We can talk have these conversations, right? OK …

No kidding this a men’s golf undergarment meant to keep your, well, “stuff” cool. It’s made by a “cool” company in Canada called 2 Under, utilizing a “cool” technology created in Canada and to keep us golfers cool here in the states. The technology actually utilizes sweat to create cool comfort below the beltline, or as it was explained to me, “it’s like air conditioning in your pants.” And there are puns galore where that came from, but I’ll just let a photo speak for all of them …

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In case that’s heard to read on your device, it says, “Joey Pouch.” I’ve got a pair now, so just call me Captain Kangaroo when you see me on the course.

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This is Golfboard, an electric board that replicates the feel of a skateboard/surfboard and can carry your golf clubs. You will definitely be hearing more about this, so I’ll keep it brief. You can think of this thing as a golf Segway of sorts. By the way, did you know the inventor of the Segway died riding a Segway? I think that merits Alanis releasing an updated version of “Ironic.”

scanforbeer

This is an app called Scan4Beer that allows you to order beer and other concession items from your cart on the golf course. I had a similar idea once, but there’s is better. Check it out.

lingerie

When people tell me I have a cool job, I don’t exactly object, but it’s sign like this that remind me their are levels beyond mine in the cool job hierarchy. Many of them are here.

No kidding, this is the show you pass to get to the PGA Show. The blog nearly stopped off and changed topics, but then we remembered our loyal readers and duty called. Hopefully none of you are holding that decision against me, but I wouldn’t blame you if you did.

That reminds me, I’ve got a “show” to catch.

Road Trip: Hiking in Sedona

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The first time I ever heard about Sedona, Ariz., was when I had my original monthly magazine, the one that covered Warren Buffett and the charity scene in Omaha.

That magazine had a travel section that ran largely on the travels of my friends. It was the most popular part of the magazine and begat my love of travel writing. One of the five best pieces we ever published was a story about Sedona.

One of my best travel writers was going there and pitched a story to me before she left on her trip, providing minimal detail. What popped into my inbox later absolutely floored me. The photos of the red rocks and vistas in Sedona were stunning and even in our newsprint format leapt off the page.

I made a note right then and there that I had to get to Sedona one day. Well, it finally happened. And what a place it is.

Situated about two hours north of Phoenix, Sedona is a hiker’s and nature lover’s paradise. I only explored the Bambi slopes of trails there, but I enjoyed every second of it. And if you don’t hike, the drove alone to Sedona is worth it. The red rock mountains you see on the way into the city are even more awesome than the mountains surrounding it. I’ve never seen anything like it.

With a population of just under 25,000, Sedona is a perfect getaway destination. It’s a quiet and friendly place to bond with nature and marvel at a most unique and inspiring part of our national landscape.

That said, I’ll let the photos take over from here, with minimal commentary from me. Sedona is a continual feast for the eyes, and your feet the passport to one visual adventure after the next. Enjoy.

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This photo and the one above were taken in the final hour of the trip, with a storm approaching. It was incredible to watch the approaching gray-and-black clouds provide a contrast that intensified the natural color of the rocks and highlighted the mountains’ features. I was so hoping for a storm and we finally got one.

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This was my hello to Sedona. The Chapel of the Holy Cross was our first stop. This famous church is situated with an impeccable view of the valley and from there you can see the rocks known as Courthouse (on the left) and Bell (on the right). I don’t know all the names, but I tried to master the major ones.

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And this is Chimney Rock, which is situated close to Thunder Mountain, the biggest mountain in the valley and my new No. 1 seed of mountain names.

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As in California, sunrise and sunset are events in Sedona.

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But unlike CA, where the sunset over the ocean is singular the visual event, there’s a 360 effect in Sedona to appreciate. There’s something to notice in every direction as the sun is setting.

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Like red clouds …

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To view sunset the next morning, we climbed atop a rock and joined a group of about 20 at 6 a.m. who were appreciating and documenting the start of another beautiful day in Sedona.

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The trails in Sedona are well marked and were very easy to follow. That said, we hardly attempted any lengthy or complicated hikes, as not getting lost was high on my list of hiking priorities. And, yes, we did see spiders and snakes, which we avoided entirely. Not visiting the ER was also on my hiking wish list.

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This view is from the “Sedona View” trail we hiked off Airport Road. We hiked on both sides of the city, giving us two different and completely cool perspectives on how the town is situated and the reverse view of the literally hundreds of cool patio views in the city.

cool cactus

You not only see the widest variety of cactus I’ve ever seen here, you see them growing in the coolest places, but you don’t see the giant saguaros here. Those are the closer to Phoenix and particularly plentiful off the interstate.

thundersplit

This is Thunder Mountain up close. From afar you have no idea it’s split, but it is. And you only realize that when you let you feet take you on an adventure. It’s amazing in how Sedona how a few extra feet can completely change your perspective and understanding.

rock stack

You see rock stacking frequently on the trails. Some of it is done just for fun, but Sedona is also a very spiritual place and some of it is done with religious intent. Be prepared to be exposed to a lot of different beliefs in Sedona and faith in mystical forces.

sunday sunrise

This was the second sunrise in Sedona, which was observed from a completely different perspective than the first. This is the sun rising over Thunder Mountain.

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Thunder Mountain is the right. Fabulous contrast between the two mountains. When you venture out of Sedona, it’s an entirely different landscape, more similar to Thunder Mountain.

rain

This was literally the last photo of Sedona on my phone. I didn’t realize until later I’d captured a rain shower. What a great way to go out and yet another wonderful way to appreciate the awesome landscape of Sedona.


Range Balls in Heaven, Anyone? A Taste of AZ Golf

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Thought I’d just give the blog followers a dose of daily golf inspiration from my trip.

I was privy to a tour of exclusive Seven Canyons in Sedona, Ariz., and will have more about it in a later post, but just for the day, I thought I’d kick you a picture of their range. I’ve seen some great ones, but as of now this is the leader in the clubhouse. I could hit balls here all day – except that I also saw the course and would certainly want to squeeze that in too.

And this is my hello to Arizona golf. Curious to see where it can possibly go from here.

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Happy Saturday.

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Editor’s Note: Next Week is Vegas PGA Show Week

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The blog doesn’t usually tip its hand (unintentional Vegas pun, I promise), but next week we will be blogging from the West Coast PGA Show in Las Vegas.

We hope to bring you some of the latest on what’s new in the world of golf on a few fronts, and frankly we also hope to be surprised by the some of the things we discover as well. This is my second year attending the West Coast PGA, and I’m looking forward to return fully armed on the social media front.

The photo at top is from the scenic route I’m taking on the way to Vegas. You can look forward to a photo montage from the above location at a future date. I’ve received some very nice compliments on the recent travel posts, and the kind words are greatly appreciated.

Have a great weekend. Talk to you from Vegas starting Tuesday of next week.

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JC Golf: Oaks North Hosts First 15-Inch Cups in JC Golf

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After a brief experimental period using them on the putting and chipping greens, the 15-inch cups went live on the east course at Oaks North last week and have been well received, says Lloyd Porter, Head Professional at Oaks North.

“The feedback has been good, and actually really good,” he says.

The cups are part of an initiative sponsored by TaylorMade Golf to make the game more accessible for who amateurs who don’t play often or non-golfers who might be discouraged by the difficulty of scoring.

JC Golf has offered Oaks North and Encinitas Ranch to be among the 100 test courses TaylorMade sought to recruit for the concept, termed “Hack Golf” by TaylorMade CEO Mark King when it was announced at the January PGA Show.

At the launch event at Pauma Valley last spring, King explained he got the concept from a novelty hole he played in a charity tournament once.

Besides increased scoring, the holes are also meant to improve pace of play by drastically reducing the time spent on greens reading putts, etc. Porter says that goal has already been realized.

“It’s unbelievably faster,” he says. “It would be fantastic (for pace) if it would catch on.”

JC is making the experience affordable and memorable by offering nine holes on the 15-inch cups for $15 (cart not included). For reference, by the way, 15 inches is larger than a paint can, but smaller than a basketball hoop.

Porter says younger players have been especially receptive to the concept.

“One of our junior camps went out and a kid chipped in for a birdie and sank a long putt. He was so excited,” Porter says. “Those are probably the first two birdies in his life. So the kids can really relate to the scoring part of it.”

The east course features two holes – one regulation and one enlarged – on each green. The location of the larger hole is noted by a flag with a “15” on it.

Having both holes is providing exposure to the game to players who book 18-hole rounds, Porter says, whether they chose to play the larger holes or not. (Rules note: If a ball goes in the larger hole during a regulation round, simply take relief and consider it a hole made by a greens keeper. And vice versa.)

Porter says it’s too early to draw any conclusions about the impact of the holes on new players, but reports that so far the launch has been successful.

“It’s going to take time to catch on,” he says, “but so far the feedback has been very positive.”

To book your nine-hole round for $15 at Oaks North, go to www.jcgolf.com or call 858.487.3021.