Tuesday, September 19, 2017

5 Reasons Tiger Won't Be Tiger Again

Ya gotta wonder when Tiger Woods will start introducing himself as Eldrick. 

After all, it's starting to look highly doubtful that he'll mount a serious comeback and return to any semblance of the ultimate dominator he used to be on the PGA TOUR. These days, he's less of a Tiger and more like that graceful but aging house cat that saunters slowly around the house when he used to leap aggressively and effortlessly up onto the couch.

There are lots of reasons why Tiger won't be Tiger again. Here are the Guru's top 5:

1. Multiple Back Surgeries--Uh, you kinda need a good back to play golf. Tiger has undergone four back surgeries and, realistically, he just can't swing with the same force and balance. Add to that a series of knee injuries and Tiger has a body that resembles an 80-year old, not a forty-something. Fact is, Woods might be able to go out and shoot an occasional round in the 60s, but, I just don't see him doing it four days in row in competition against young guys who have no back problems and the flexibility of yoga instructors.

2. Young Guns are Too Darn Good--Dustin, Jordan, Rory, Justin and Rickie are just a few of the phenomenal players on Tour these days. Others Tiger would have to beat are long bombers like Brooks Koepka and Daniel Berger. These guys all grew up watching and emulating Tiger and there's just no way he can stay with them for four days in a Major or any other tournament.

3. Training Time is Limited--Because of his questionable back, balky knee, family and business obligations, Woods can only put in a fraction of the work he used to when he was No. 1 in the world. Nowadays, he has to be cautious and limit his time so another injury doesn't crop up. While he understandably has cut back on practice time, other pros are hitting thousands of balls and grinding on the putting green.

4. He Doesn't Have Harmon, Haney or Williams--Let's face it, Tiger had the majority of his success when he was coached by Butch Harmon and Hank Haney and Steve Williams was on the bag. All three are not in Tiger's life these days and it doesn't look like he'll have a reunion with any of them. 

5. His Off-The-Course Life is Expanding--It'll be interesting to see how Tiger does in his post-competition phase.  Fellow icons like Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus and Greg Norman achieved amazing success after their PGA TOUR careers. Under his "TGR" brand, Woods is seemingly looking to follow a similar path. His golf design firm has several projects in development around the world and his sports bar/restaurant, The Woods Jupiter, in Jupiter, Florida is doing well. He also has plans for several new business projects under the brand.

Rest assured, Tiger Woods won't just fade into obscurity. The media and public were enamored with his meteoric success on the course and just as fascinated with his missteps and foibles away from the fairways. He means way too many clicks to the media and, to be honest, Americans can't get enough of celebrities who stumble and fall.

Let's hope there are no more back surgeries and mug shots in Tiger's future.  Golf needs him whether he wins another tournament or not. You don't just cast a 14-time Major winner aside, either. 

Woods-- love him or hate him-- is too much a part of modern golf history to just casually disregard as a broken down golfer who'll never again approach his amazing wizardry on the links.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

10 Absolutely Stupid Things Golf Announcers Say

I admit it. The Guru spends an inordinate amount of time in a horizontal position on my couch watching PGA TOUR Tournaments. While most of the commentary is concise and insightful, there are moments when announcers say the stupidest things.

Here are a few of my faves:

1."He's going to WILL that putt into the hole."--Really? Now how exactly do you execute those powers. I've tried it numerous times and my putts still rush four feet past the hole.

2."You can see it in his eyes, he has the look of  a champion."--How these guys can sit up in their announcers booth and identify the guy with the championship eyes is beyond me.

3."He just wants it more than the other guys."--Give me a break. The rest of the field is out busting their asses hitting balls till the sun don't shine and this one guy wants it more than them. Absolutely ridiculous.

4."He's going to need some birdies down the stretch to pull this one out."--C'mon, everybody on the planet knows you don't win on the PGA TOUR making pars.

5."He's so good with the flat stick."--Uh, you mean the putter. How about the "Texas Wedge"?

6."Wow, what a great golf shot."--I mean, after all, they're on a golf course so it really has to be a golf shot, right?

7."He could hit a bucket of balls from there and not get the ball within 20 feet of the hole."--This, of course, is said right before the pro hits it to within six inches.

8."He's the hardest worker on Tour."--Now, how, again, do they measure who puts in more hours on the range and in the fitness trailer?

9."He's got a draw with a fade wind."--How about a fade with a draw wind? Just hit the freakin' ball.

10."He needs to keep it in the short grass."--You mean, no doubt, the fairway. Great advice announcer guy.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

UPDATE: Topgolf Orlando On-Schedule for Early Fall Opening


It's almost ready...

I swung by the Topgolf Orlando project yesterday for a progress check and everything seems to be on schedule. Topgolf is still reporting an "early fall" opening so I expect them to open the doors and those amazing hitting stalls in the next few weeks. 
The opening comes right before the busy holiday season and Topgolf Orlando, no doubt, will be in fine form with a well trained staff by the PGA Merchandise Show in late January 2018.

Here's a brief overview of Topgolf Orlando:


--The three-level complex will encompass a whopping 65,000 square feet.

--There will be 3,000 square feet of private event space and meeting rooms.

--The 102 climate-controlled hitting bays will host up to six players at one time.

--More than 200 high-definition flat-screen TVs will be situated throughout the complex.

--There will be a full-service restaurant and bar and rooftop terrace and fire pit.

--The drinks and food selections will feature an upscale menu highlighted by specialty drinks like the Tipsy Palmer and Strawberry Jalapeño Margarita, craft beer selections, wine by the bottle or glass and delicacies like Bacon Mac 'N Cheese Springs Rolls, Pulled Pork Sliders and Char-grilled Steak Flatbread.


The location (9295 Universal Blvd.) is a prime one at Convention Way and Universal Boulevard, directly behind the Orange County Convention Center near International Drive. 

Currently under construction in front of Topgolf is the Andretti Indoor Karting & Games, an amazing facility with high-speed electric karts on a multi-level, banked turn track, as well as a ropes course with a zip line, VR racing simulators, laser tag, bowling, theater and restaurant and bar.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Ocean Course at Hammock Beach Resort in Florida Will Re-Open in October

The Guru loves oceanside courses, yet, oddly enough, there aren’t that many in my home state of Florida. You’ve got lots of layouts near the ocean, but really only a precious few directly on the ocean.

That’s why I’m so excited about the re-opening on October 12, 2017 of the Ocean Course, a Jack Nicklaus Signature Design, at Hammock Beach Resort in Palm Coast, about 28 miles south of St. Augustine.

If the date sounds vaguely familiar, it’s because it marks the one-year anniversary of Hurricane Matthew, which wreaked havoc on the Ocean Course. High winds and storm surge from hurricane made the course almost unrecognizable.

Now, following an extensive 12-month restoration project, the Ocean Course is returning better than ever.

Staying true to Nicklaus’ design, the Ocean Course restoration and enhancement encompasses the re-grassing of all fairways, greens and rough with the salt-tolerant Platinum Paspalum, and the reconstruction of each tee box, bunker and green.

“By replacing Bermuda grass with salt-tolerant Platinum Paspalum, we will now offer golfers one of the purest surfaces in the game,” says Brad Hauer, director of golf at Hammock Beach Resort. “And, in addition to improved playing conditions for golfers of all levels, the views of the Atlantic Ocean are simply incredible.”
The Ocean Course’s dune line, which is more than a mile long, continues to be carefully restored to state conservation specifications. Newer and stronger dunes are forming, which offer greater environmental protection while also offering golfers some of the most stunning ocean panoramas on the East Coast.

Renowned for its six Atlantic Ocean-hugging holes and finishing stretch dubbed “The Bear Claw”, the Ocean Course is challenging, fun and oh so photogenic. Originally opened in 2000, the Ocean Course has multiple tee settings and plays as short as 4,100 yards and as long as 7,201 yards from the back tees.

While you’re at Hammock Beach Resort, definitely play the resort’s other highly-rated layout, the Conservatory Course, an exceptional Tom Watson design. 

Once the Ocean Course re-opens, the resort will be able to double its efforts to introduce young players to the sport through its Family Fairways Program. Designed to bring families together through golf, the daily program provides special rates for adults and juniors along with complimentary club rentals for children from 3:00 p.m. until close.

Guests are invited to be among the first to play the Ocean Course during the Grand Reopening Weekend, starting on October 12. It will feature several events, dining and entertainment. Golfers can also register to win a weekend at the resort by visiting the Ocean Course’s countdown page.
 Starting this fall, Hammock Beach Resort is offering golfers a JUST GOLF PACKAGE with rates starting at $179 per person, per day. The package includes one round on the Ocean Course, one round on the Conservatory Course and $20 daily breakfast credit. Pricing is based on midweek, two-night stay with four people sharing a deluxe three-bedroom villa. Rates, which are subject to availability, do not include taxes and service fees.

HammockBeach Resort has everything the Guru likes in a golf resort with challenging and drop dead gorgeous golf, luxurious, spacious accommodations, superb amenities like multiple restaurants and bars, a spa and fitness center and a terrific golf director who knows what golfers like.


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Monday, August 14, 2017

10 Annoying Things About Golf


Laying on my couch this weekend watching the PGA Championship and U.S. Women's Amateur, I had a few minutes during commercials to write down some of the things that annoy me about golf these days.

1. I absolutely love Topgolf, but the golf media should please stop saying it'll bring more Millennials to golf. Noshing on upscale appetizers and copping a buzz from fancy cocktails before you hit some electronic golf balls is not really golf.

2. Enough already with dumb ideas like high-top golf shoes, golf sandals and track pants. Hey folks, we're supposed to be playing golf not shooting hoops or hangin' at the beach.

3. Hey LPGA and USGA, please stop having 12 and 13 year olds compete in your major championships. It just seems so sad to see these whippersnappers beat the heck out of your pros and college golfers.

4. Hello LPGA! Stop with the dress code. These are grown women. If Lexi Thompson, Belen Mozo and Paige Spiranac want to work out and wear form fitting clothing on the golf course, what's wrong with that. What you should outlaw is all of the boring outfits many players wear during tournaments.

5. Speed up play on the PGA Tour. Enough with the six hour rounds. My gosh, I've seen scramble tournaments with beer swilling participants play faster than some of these guys.

6. Attention PGA Tour, LPGA Tour and any other professional tour. Please don't use golf courses that have ridiculous false fronts on greens. I despise seeing golfers hit the green and have the ball roll off 20 yards back into the fairway. 

7. Leave Tiger Woods alone, golf media. I know he's worth millions of clicks and viewers, but let the man live in peace till he decides to tee it up again. And puh-leeze don't run that mug shot again. 

8. Hey PGA Tour, try to find more players like John Daly and Beef Johnston to counteract all of the lifeless robots playing on Tour.

9. At professional tour events, please instantly remove any fan that yells "Baba Booey", "Cheeseburger", "Mash Potatoes",  "in the hole", "you da man", etc. Especially "you da man" (that's so 1990s)

10. Hey adult fans (kids are ok), please stop trying to hand slap PGA Tour players as they walk from one hole to the next. It just seems so sad to see adult jock sniffers be so desperate.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Get Ready for Spieth Slam


Will 24-year-old Jordan Spieth achieve the career Grand Slam by winning the PGA Championship (August 10-13) at Quail Hollow Club in Charlotte, North Carolina?

Yes.

While there will be no shortage of young guns vying for the Wanamaker Trophy such as Rory McIlory, Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka and Rickie Fowler to name a few, nobody comes into the last major of the year with more mojo and confidence than Spieth.

His comeback from a crash-and-burn round at the Open Championship at Royal Birkdale, was, as Jim Nance would say, "one for the ages". My gosh, after Spieth's disastrous first twelve holes, I thought they might start etching Matt Kuchar's name on to the Claret Jug.

Quite possibly, that one miraculous Spieth swing from the driving range next to a couple of equipment trailers, while playing the 13th hole, might have erased all the negative thoughts from blowing a three stroke lead and maybe allowed him, in the big picture, to finally put the 2016 Masters debacle in his rear view mirror.

Soon after hoisting the Claret Jug, Spieth said, "This is as much of a high as I've ever experienced in my golfing life."

Spieth is rapidly advancing to the rarified air of Nicklaus and Woods. In fact, Spieth and Nicklaus are the only players to win three different majors at the age of 23. The numbers don't lie, either. On the PGA TOUR, Spieth is No. 1 in scoring average (69.080), No. 2 in greens in regulation (70.58), No. 1 on the Official Money List and No. 1 in the FedEx Cup standings. He's also tied with his friend Justin Thomas with 8 top ten finishes this season.

Arguably, the most impressive number is that Spieth wins 9% of the time, which is absolutely phenomenal when you consider the best players in the world only win around 5% of the time.

When you consider Spieth's momentum, confidence and statistics, he must be considered the consensus favorite to take home the 2017 PGA Championship. Enhancing his chances is an out-of-this-world, clutch short game, amazing prowess on putts over 15 feet and Michael Greller, who many consider to be the best caddie in the game and very experienced in major championships.

A win for Spieth would be great for golf. After all of the bad news concerning Tiger's troubles on and off-the-course, a victory at the PGA Championship to capture the career Grand Slam will give the golf world a huge headline and further enhance Spieth's status as the face of American golf around the world.


Monday, July 24, 2017

10 Reasons I Love Italy's Friuli Venezia Giulia Region


One of the Guru's favorite places on the planet is Italy. I spend a month there each year. On this visit (June 2017), I took much more time exploring vineyards than golf courses in the Friuli Venezia Giulia region. Yet, whether you want to play lots of golf or drink lots of wine, I highly recommend you visit this area about two hours north of Venice.

Here are 10 reasons why:

1. Fantastico Wine--With my humble apologies to all golf lovers, if the Guru had to make the dreadful choice between giving up wine or golf, I'd have to lay my clubs to rest. I enjoy great wines immensely and especially Italian wines. I absolutely love the wonderful, crisp wines in this region like Friulano, Pinot Grigio, Ribolla Gialla and Sauvignon.

2. Great Golf--The golf menu is impressive with seven good courses to choose from, including Golf Club Trieste, Golf Club Udine, Golf Club Lignano, Golf Club Grado, Golf & Country Club Castello Di Spessa, Golf Club Castel D'Aviano and Golf Club Tarviso.

3. City of Trieste--It's one of my favorite cities in the world. It's like a mini San Francisco with its hills and antique trolly to the village of Opicina, which overlooks the city. There's also Barcola beach, the castles of San Giusto and Miramare, Piazza Unita, a beautiful city square overlooking the ocean and a walkable old town with excellent seafood restaurants.

4. Town of Civedale--Founded by Julius Caesar in 50 B.C., this charming little town surrounded by vineyards has cobblestone streets, ancient buildings, a national archeological museum, a picturesque bridge and a city square rimmed by quaint cafes and restaurants.

5. Wine Hotels and Farmhouses--I decided to eschew traditional hotels on my visit and opted for small boutique properties or farmhouse hotels. One of my favorites is Il Roncal, a small estate winery with 50 acres of terraced vineyards and a small hotel. It has a swimming pool, bicycles for rides through the vineyards, exceptional wines and a sunny outdoor patio where you can enjoy breakfast each morning.

6. Foodie Fun--Because the region is in close proximity to the Austrian border, you'll find lots of great fusion cuisine. Some of my favorites include Jota, a bean soup topped with sauerkraut; Frico, a fritatta-like pancake of cheese and potatoes and Strucolo, the region's take on Austrian strudel. Also, don't forget to get a plate of San Danielle ham with a nice glass of local wine and fresh baked bread.

7. Castles--If you love castles, you'll love this region. Some of my favorites are Castlemonte near Civedale and Castle Miramare and Castello di San Guisto in Trieste.

8. Villa Bottacin in Trieste--One of my favorite places to stay in all of Europe is the Villa Bottacin, which was originally built in 1854. About 10 years ago, it was converted into a boutique hotel. It has a beautifully landscaped lawn and garden, outdoor terrace for breakfast dining and a swimming pool where you lounge and sip limoncello. La Dolce Vita, indeed.

9. Venice Airport (Marco Polo)--In my opinion, it's absolutely one of the best and easiest-to- navigate airports in Italy. Flying into Rome or Milan is hectic and a major hassle. Marco Polo was enhanced a few years ago to accommodate cruise travelers and it's really a great entry point to enjoy northern Italy, especially the Friuli Venezia Giulia region.

10. Bicycle Trails and Roads--There are some unbelievable bicycle trails and small roads that weave through the vineyards just outside Civedale in Friuli Venezia Giulia. Several of the wine hotel and farmhouses offer complimentary bicycle rental. You can ride leisurely through the vineyards in quiet isolation most of the time.


Monday, July 10, 2017

10 Amazing Golf Superstitions and Quirky Situations


The Guru has teed it up around the world with all sorts of golfers. There are, of course, differences in golf courses, cultural attitudes and drink choices at the 19th hole. (I love a chilled Vinho Verde wine in Portugal and a frosty Tsingtao in China after a round). 

One thing that seems to be universal, though, are the crazy superstitions and quirky behaviors golfers display no matter where you are in the world.

Here are 10 of my favorite ones:

1.  Never drink a beer on the first hole. It implies you're not serious about golf. The Guru always waits to the second hole for some swing oil.

2. Don't use crappy, cheap balls or range balls when facing a water hazard off the tee--It's just bad karma. Range balls, especially.

3. If you find a person's ball out of bounds while looking for yours, don't use it in that round. It may have a tendency to find out of bounds frequently.

4. Don't yell "it's in the hole" when you see your ball tracking towards the hole for a hole-in-one. Remember, the ball can hear you and it likes to do the opposite of your command.

5. Don't stand with your shadow in someone else's putting line. Shadows somehow make people miss putts. Yeah, sure.

6. Never say out loud, "I hope I don't hit it in the water" because you inevitably will. That phrase creates some sort of magnet effect.

7. Don't carry more than one extra ball in your pocket. It's bad vibes and puts the idea in your head that you EXPECT to lose balls.

8. Always wear a lucky color shirt. They work. Just ask Jack Nicklaus-Yellow, Gary Player-Black, Tiger Woods-Red and Rickie Fowler-Orange.

9. You should always mark your ball consistently with either heads or tails on your coin. Don't go back and forth.

10. Always take your hat off when shaking hands after a round. It's not necessarily bad karma-- you just want to be a gentleman and show sportsmanship and not come off as some sort of rube.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

On Location: Saddlebrook Resort


Much like a perennial favorite Cabernet Sauvignon wine you order at a steakhouse to accompany a butter slathered, grilled New York Strip, Saddlebrook Resort in Tampa provides a welcome comfort zone for golf vacationers.

A mainstay on Florida's golf resort menu for more than 35 years, Saddlebrook is designed with golfers in mind. 

The most appealing aspect of the 480-acre resort is that most of its accommodations, its restaurants, two golf courses, and all of its major amenities are never more than a short walk away, thanks to the resort's innovative walking-village concept. No long commutes or vans are needed here: Simply walk a few steps from your room or suite, and , voila, you stroll into the golf pro shop, dine at the restaurants or lounge by the pool.

GOLF

The golf menu at Saddlebrook consists of two on-site 18-hole courses that take full advantage of the lush, palm-, pine-, -cypress and lake-dotted rolling terrain. Both courses-the Palmer and Saddlebrook- are not long, but they're testy because of the undulating terrain, sometimes narrow fairways and strategically placed bunkers.
Both of these Arnold Palmer designed courses are exceedingly fair, though. And if you can keep it in the short grass off the tee and make solid approach shots, you can score well.


If I had to pick a favorite between the two, it's the Palmer. The combination of fairways that often dip like a roller coaster, greens with lots of movement and aesthetic beauty with brightly colored flowers and lush foliage make it a joy to play.


The Saddlebrook is an excellent resort track as well and its finishing hole with a pond and towering cypress trees populated by egrets and wood storks lining the right side near the green is one of Florida's best.

Finally, if the putts don't fall and your scorecard has more strokes than points at an NBA All-Star game, you can either drown yourself in sorrow at the adjacent sports T.D.'s Sports Bar or grab your swimsuit for a refreshing dunk the Superpool, which is a few steps from the pro shop.

ACCOMMODATIONS


I stayed in one-bedroom suite with a tropical Bahamas decor accented by dark wood furnishings. There are 540 rooms and suites at Saddlebrook with 800 bedrooms. More than 75% of Saddlebrook's accommodations are suites. Conveniently, the accommodations are clustered around nine park-like courtyards, each made up of four buildings (50 suites). Thanks to the car-free walking village concept, every major amenity and restaurant is just a few minutes or less walk from your front door.

If you want to stock up on groceries and brewskis, there's a Publix and Wal-Mart just a few blocks from the resort on State Road 54.

Here's a list of highlights in my suite:

--A full-kitchen with a regular size refrigerator, microwave and serving bar.

--42 inch flat screen television in the living room (32 inch in the bedroom)

--A private patio (also private balconies for second story units)

--Marble appointed bathroom

--100% Egyptian cotton sheets and white goose down duvets and pillows

--Keuring coffee and tea maker

--High-speed Internet access

RESORT AMENITIES

--45 tennis courts, including 4 Grand Slam surfaces

--7,000 square-foot European style spa with 12 treatment rooms

--500,000 gallon free-form Superpool

--Fitness center

--Saddlebrook Golf Academy

--Bicycle rentals

--Sports village with volleyball and basketball courts

10 Little Things I Liked

1. The amazing wood storks and egrets you'll see up close and personal in the cypress trees overlooking the 18th green on the Saddlebrook Course.


2. The superb tennis pro shop with a varied selection of top-notch fashions you don't see at resorts.


3. The expansive Superpool, one of the largest pools I've seen at the countless resorts I've visited.


4. Dew busting on both courses. Early morning play at Saddlebrook rewards you with excellent playing conditions and a chance to see fantastic birds and wildlife.


5. The Greek salad I had at the Poolside Cafe. Wow. It was loaded with chicken, feta cheese, cucumbers, tomatoes and more.


6. Dempsey's Steakhouse's menu, which not only has great steaks, but the Shrimp Scampi pasta is exceptional.


7. The Keurig coffee maker in our suite.


8. The very functional and convenient kitchen in our suites with a bar counter, full refrigerator, microwave and dishwasher.


9. Convenient and fast valet parking.


10. The friendly staff that always offered golf cart rides back to your room.


DINING/LOUNGES

Dempsey's Steakhouse

The Guru loves a great juicy steak and Dempsey's (on-site at the resort) delivered big-time. My New York Strip was excellent and Mrs. Guru had what she considers the best Shrimp Scampi pasta dish she's ever tasted. This pronouncement is from a lady who seemingly orders the dish at just about every restaurant that has it on their menu. A nice touch at Dempsey's is the Caesar Salad prepared table side. Other menu highlights include Home-Made Pasta Bolognese, Steak Diane in a Cognac Sauce and Sesame Seared Tuna.

Tropics Restaurant

Overlooking the 18th green of the Saddlebrook Course, Tropics is renowned for its great breakfasts and buffet highlighted by their signature Pecan Crusted French Toast. Lunch features innovative items like a Grilled Mahi Club Sandwich with Mango Avocado Salsa and a Chopped Greek Salad with Chicken.

T.D's Sports Bar

Next to the pro shop and adjacent to Dempsey's Steakhouse, this place has all the elements needed for a great sports bar. A horseshoe shaped wooden bar, several elevated televisions and a wide selection of liquors, beer and wine make T.D's a must stop after a round of golf. I like the menu, too, which has selections like Irish Nachos, Hot Pastrami Sandwich and Open-Faced Grilled Ribeye Steak on Grilled Pumpernickel Bread.

Poolside Cafe

Adjacent to the Superpool, it offers comfortable and relaxing poolside, al fresco dining with a great selection of salads and sandwiches. 

THINGS TO DO NEARBY

--Shops at Wiregrass (3.6 miles)

--Tampa Premium Outlets (4.7 miles)

--Busch Gardens Tampa (20 miles)

--Downtown Tampa (24 miles) Lowry Park Zoo, Florida Aquarium, Ybor City, Glazer Children's Museum, Tampa Cruise Terminal and more.

LOCATION

Situated one mile east of I-75 at exit 279 on State Road 54 about 30 minutes north of Tampa International Airport.

GET THE SCOOP

For reservations and information, call 800-729-8383. For golf package information at Saddlebrook click to Saddlebrook Golf Deals.