Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Sorenstam Gets Hitched. What Does This Mean for the LPGA?

Oh boy! Annika just got hitched and you know what that means: limited schedule, retirement, clothing line, course building, babies. I mean, the girl is 36 and has been the best female golfer on the planet for the last ten years. What do you think it means for the LPGA?

Oddly, nothing.

Annika is no Tiger. She's great, don't get me wrong, but "Annika, Incorporated" ain't "Tiger, Inc." Annika is everything a good golfer should be: intelligent, understated, polite, well-spoken and a great golfer. But she is not a great interview nor does she look hot in a swimsuit.

Tiger draws. And draws and draws and draws. He single-handedly made golf the big money sport that it is today. Annika, although dominant on a golf course, isn't anything close to that off it. She has been pushed off the front pages of golf magazines to show Natalie Gulbis in a swimsuit and the continued meltdown of Michelle Wie.

Just look at Lorena Ochoa to see how little attention the top female golfers get in the mainstream golf media. I mean that girl has won three golf tournaments in a row this year, but she doesn't speak English that well so we don't really care. She's won eight tournaments, including a major. I bet you didn't know that. That fact alone makes my point in spades.

Once the happy couple decides on a wedding date, Annika will start to plan her retirement date.

The great golf seer has spoken.

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Golf Gear News Writes 100th Blog Post

Wow! How time flies. I didn't realize this but just last week I wrote my 100th blog post on Hardwoods Golf Course in Garrison, MN. Way back on 9/12/05, when I did the first one, I never expected to still be talking golf. Yet, here I am.


Monday, August 20, 2007

Course Review: Hardwoods Golf Club

Mille Lacs Golf Resort & Marina
Garrison, MN

NOTE: From time to time, I visit courses in my area and give my impressions. I am not compensated to give these reviews.
View bottom of posting for rating categories.

Things are happening at the Mille Lacs Golf Resort & Marina. The sleepy 6300 yard, par 71 course is slowly being transformed into a leading resort and entertainment center in central Minnesota. Just minutes from the Native American casino Grand Casino, which attracts 3.2 million visitors annually, the Hardwoods Golf Club is part of a 270 acre resort complex that is planning to have a 120-room hotel, an indoor water park, and a day spa surrounding the course.

The developers of this ambitious project are Todd & Mary Christenson, owners of Christenson Development, a family-run construction and development company. They purchased the golf course in 2003 from R.J. Smiley, a well-known senior golfer in Minnesota and have been busy with improvements ever since.

The course is cut through stands of mature trees, thus the Hardwoods name. It’s longest hole is only 510 yards, but the course also has two dogleg left par 4s, and a 205 par three. On most holes, if you can keep your drive on the fairway, you can reach the green with a well-placed utility wood. Another feature is Pinehurst-like elevated greens. If you are just off the fringe, rolling your putts up to the hole often isn’t your best option complicating getting your ball on the green and potentially adding strokes to your score. You will find this course a great test for high-handicap players and is the perfect length for women.

The course itself is short by modern standards, but the new owners plan to add 200-300 yards, many more sand traps (the course only has three) and another par 5 hole. At 6500+ yards, the course will become a better test for golfers and with the construction of a new modern clubhouse, slated to break ground in 2008, the Hardwoods Golf Club hopes to become the leading resort in the Mille Lacs Lake area alongside competitors Izady’s and Ruttger’s.

A big advantage is its proximity to the Twin Citis – only 90 minutes from Minneapolis/St. Paul and one of the first major resorts on the Highway 169 corridor. The Mille Lacs Golf & Marina is also well situated to take advantage of its proximity to Grand Casino, less than ten minutes away. Many Native American-owned casinos also own a golf course, but this one has no plans to be a golf course developer, so with only a short drive to Hardwood Golf Club, gamblers can take some of their winnings and play 18 holes or make it part of a weekend package of golf and gambling.

On a recent tour of the course, one thing that is very apparent are the many new log cabin-style housing that is spring up all over the back nine. Freestanding units and four- and eight-plexes are sprouting up along the fairway and surrounding the greens on the back nine. Unlike more modern courses, the setback of these units is quite close to the course and if you are interested in taking the plunge, are available for sale.

Although the existing clubhouse is a bit dated, it still boasts a full bar and a pretty extensive grill menu, something that you rarely find at smaller outstate Minnesota courses. Even the cart girl will mix you a drink right there on-course.

Rates are very reasonable, especially for off-peak tee times. They top out at $45.00 with cart for weekends in the summer months, but a twilight round with cart can be had for as little as $25.00. Also, the Christenson’s are aggressive marketers and deals should be easy to find through out the summer.

Hardwood Golf Club
Garrison, MN

Location: 7
Friendliness: 6
Value: 7
Layout: 6
Playability: 8

The Hacker Rating of this course is based on the golfing experience for the average golfer. The course was rated on the following categories: Location -- easy access, easy to find, what’s nearby; Friendliness -- good service, cart girl, clubhouse, food choices; Value -- cost, what you get for your money; Layout -- length, bunkers, traps, difficulty, course style; Playability -- good for beginners, seniors, etc.
The rating is based on scale of 1 to 10 in each category with a total possible rating score of 10.0 .

Friday, August 17, 2007

Viagra and Golf – Is Sex Worth the Sacrifice?

I was driving to a client’s office this morning and I heard a radio ad for Viagra and its claim that an estimated 17 million men have erectile dysfunction (ED). Yes, ED. I was shocked to hear that so many men can’t bring themselves to attention. I also didn’t know that we have an epidemic on our hands. According to Webster’s New World Medical Dictionary, an epidemic is defined as “the occurrence of more cases of a disease than would be expected in a community or region during a given time period.” How did our society reproduce with so many men that couldn’t get it up? Is there something in our water? I digress.

What struck me as quite interesting was that the ad closed with “…and see our ad in Golf Magazine.” That made me rise up in my seat. Why did the advertiser mention Golf Magazine as the only place where the print ad was running? Is there some sort of connection between ED and golf? Why didn’t they mention Forbes, Fortune or Maxim? What about Rolling Stone, Sports Illustrated or Science? Don’t any of these publications’ readers have ED? Is it only those who read Golf Magazine that have this dreaded disease?

Perhaps we should thrust ourselves into a deeper understanding of the connection between golf and ED? Yes, I think we should.

A quick check of Golf Magazine’s 2006 media kit is very telling:

95% of the readership is male – VERY MALE
They have an average net worth of over $1 million -- RICH
They have an average household income of $148,000 -- RICH
They have played golf an average of 25 years -- OLD
They play an average of 58 rounds per year – PLAY LOTS OF GOLF
83% are professional or managerial – IN MANAGEMENT

What do we have: rich old male managers that play too much golf and according to Viagra, they have an ED problem. Clearly a target rich market.

So, I think the conclusion we can draw from this is that playing too much golf (58 rounds/year mind you) leads to ED and so your choices are:

A) Stop playing golf -- NOT
B) Stop playing golf, take Viagra and still have sex - NOT
C) Keep playing golf, take Viagra and still have sex -- POSSIBLE
D) Keep playing golf and stop having sex - ???

Hmmmm…. don’t rush me, I’m still thinking about it.

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Sunday, August 12, 2007

Is It Too Early to Canonize Saint Tiger Woods?

In the 100-degree heat of Tulsa, Oklahoma, the greatest golfer of my lifetime ceaselessly toiled to his 13th major victory. At 31, he showed no ill effects from the heat, no sign of being off his game nor of backing down.

In the span of two weeks he wins the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational by eight strokes, then he marches on to a convincing victory in the PGA Championship for his 59th tournament win. Saying that the greatest golfer in history was someone like Nicklaus, Hogan or Palmer will always be defended, but the strength of these arguments are rapidly weakening.

It is impossible to make straight-up comparisons between golfers of different generations if they’ve never played against each other. In the case of Tiger Woods, he is clearly the best golfer of this generation and will likely become the best golfer of any generation. Why?

Tiger Woods, has won at every level; from the juniors to the professional ranks. He has won in every condition, on every course, won from behind, with a lead, against the best in the world and against one-hit wonders. He doesn’t make mistakes, is relentless, has a higher gear when it is needed, makes the shots he should and makes the shots he shouldn’t. He has the aura and mystic that he is invincible (note the 13-0 when he has the lead in a major). He is photogenic, well-spoken and doesn’t get into personal trouble Tiger has had public personal tragedies and personal triumphs. He doesn’t have bad habits, doesn’t gamble away, doesn’t get caught in compromising situations.

He’s a saint and a marketing wunderkind. He is the unofficial spokeperson for golf. Unlike Michael Jordan, who arguably is the greatest basketball player in history, Tiger has to win all of these tournaments on his own. Jordan had a team around him.

Tiger plays a schedule that is probably half as active as most of his closest competitors and has now won his 13th major. Jack Nicklaus, considered the greatest golfer to date, won 18 majors with his last coming when he was 46. If Tiger just wins one major a year from now on, he will be 36 (ten years younger than Jack when he won his last). What does one do when you’ve won everything there is to win in golf?

It is obvious that Woods has crushed the spirit of his closest competitors. Ernie Els, once considered one of the best golfers in the world tells it this way: "The statistics will tell you, yes, it is over. But as a competitor, I can't sit there and tell you it's over. I can't ever do that" (Remember, this was at the conclusion of the 3rd round).

Tiger will be the greatest golfer in history and competitors like Els, Mickelson, Singh, and Garcia will have to be content to say they were there to witness it firsthand.

How many majors does Tiger need to win before we can anoint him a saint?

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Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Golf Gear News Podcast Goes on Hiatus

I would like to announce that effective today, the Golf Gear News Podcast is going on hiatus for a while. All the episodes will still be available on the website, but because of time commitments, a new fulltime job and other things that have been taking up more and more of my time, I need to take a break from recording the show.

When I started this podcast back in October, 2005, I really had no idea what the show could be, how much work it required, nor how my audience would respond to what I have to say. Listeners have been very attentive, but I don’t get very much feedback from them. On the otherhand, the blog does get a lot of feedback and I’m grateful for that.

I am stopping the clock at 38 episodes with the intent of changing the format of the show and bringing it back sometime in the future. Podcasting is a great audio medium, but behind each broadcast, is 4-6 hours of preparation and recording. I truly admire the professional stations like National Public Radio. They make it look so easy.

Putting the audio podcast in mothballs for a while doesn’t mean that I won’t continue to update the blog or send out the monthly e-Newsletter. Those will still be out there. All it means is that on a bi-weekly basis you won’t get to hear my melodious voice in your ear.

If anyone has any ideas or suggestions on how to improve the podcast in the future, I’m all ears. Until then, hit ‘em straight.

Bruce Stasch
Golf Gear News

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Thursday, August 02, 2007

New Zealander Plays 419 Courses in One Year

I always knew that New Zealanders were crazy. In the Golf Observer I find a write-up on 40 year old New Zealander Ricky Bartlett who recently finished a year long journey in which he played every golf course and golf hole in New Zealand for charity.

If you count every course (even the 9 hole ones) there are 419 golf course, which is the highest number of courses per capita in the world. Bartlett played 419 rounds in 362 days which amounts to 7,542 holes in 31,594 shots.

All the courses, except for one gave Bartlett free golf in his quest, the one standout was a course on Chatham Islands that was in terrible shape with sheep droppings and worm casts on the greens. The course charged Bartlett $3 for that round. That course sounds like it could deserve some charity.

Bartlett's quest was to raise money for three different charities: the Cancer Society, Amnesty International and the Ronald McDonald House. He raised over $75,000 for his troubles.

Sure nice not to have to work for a living.

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