Well, the European and United States Captains announcements are now official. Hopefully we will not hear about the Ryder Cup for another year....fat chance of that!
So let's take a quick look at the process followed by the Euros and the Yanks to decide who will wear the inevitable checked jacket into battle at the 86th ranked American course, Hazeltine National.
The US choice, as you know by now, is the losing 2012 captain, Davis Love III. And the first choice of his four assistant captains is the losing 2006 captain, Tom Lehman. So, the much vaunted "Task Force" has made two decisions both of which are beyond comprehension. Nothing personal and both are very nice guys, but clearly not very good at leading Ryder Cup teams to victory, which would seem to be fairly high on the "Ryder Cup To Do" list. It's right up there with "Don't choose leaky rain jackets" and "Let's visit the golf course ahead of time and practice together!".
So why didn't the "Task Force" pick Fred Couples? He is universally liked (by the players) and has captained three Presidents Cups - oh, that's right and they won all three of those. But, and this is huge, The Presidents Cup is a PGA Tour owned event and the Ryder Cup, when played in the US, is owned by The PGA of America. In the alphabet soup that is professional golf administration, handing the captaincy to Couples would be tantamount to admitting that the Tour was right and the PGA of America was wrong. Forget about winning, this is about something much more important, golf politics.
And in Europe what did they do? That's right five officials and players got in a room, had a beer and decided in two hours that Darren Clarke was the right man for the job - a passionate Ryder Cup loving Irishman, loved by the players and the public. He bleeds Ryder Cup and is the anti DL3 - fun loving, beer drinking, inspirational and all set to continue the European dominance of Samuel Ryder's trophy.
So, once again the European Team find themselves one up and the match is still 18 months away!
Another year comes and goes in Orlando at "the show". There were several positive innovations at the show, notably free wi-fi for all and an excellent App from Reed Exhibitions that made finding a booth easier than ever. The familiar inch thick Directory is not long for this world and a few more trees will be spared!
It's become a tradition for me to seek out my favorites from the show. I wander the massive Orange County Convention Center, so you don't have to. Here's what my 10,000 step days uncovered.
I have written about Arccos before and it's so good, it deserves another mention. The first iteration had a couple strange software glitches, especially with the putting, but these seem to have been resolved now. Arccos comprises 14 screw in devices that pair with your iPhone and record each and every shot you play on the golf course. The App then compiles all of this data into cool charts that allow you to study your stats and see how good (or bad!) you really are. They weigh a couple grams each, so don't impact your swing weight or golf swing. After a couple rounds you will actually forget you have them on your clubs. The only downside is the need to have your phone in your pocket and of course to make sure the phone is charged - which for me is always a challenge! But the stats and ability to compare rounds far outweigh the shortcomings of smart phone batteries - and that's not really Arccos fault is it! The website is www.arccos.com.
2. Royal Albartross Shoes
Made from English leather and handcrafted in Italy, these beautiful golf shoes are a throwback to another age. They come in several styles for men and women and fall in the category of "if you have to ask the price you can't afford them". Retailing around $500, these are shoes built to last and ideally meant for use in good weather. They are statement shoes and will no doubt be seen at the best private clubs in the country once the season kicks off. The website is www.albartross.com.
3. Ben Hogan Irons
The iconic Ben Hogan name is back on a set of golf clubs. And they are gorgeous as one would hope, forged from premium 1025 carbon steel. These clubs are definitely for the more accomplished player. I particularly liked the degrees of loft shown on each "Fort Worth" iron varying from 20 degrees to 47 degrees. It's possible to buy irons in every loft, which will be great for the player, but could play havoc with inventory! To buy the clubs you simply choose the lofts that hit the ball a certain distance during their recommended fitting process. So for example, the 43 degree iron is (was) a 9 iron. Once you know that you just hit your 43! It's a little bit of a gimmick yes, but good fun and will confuse the hell out of your opponent! TK 15 Wedges compliment the set and come in lofts from 48 to 60. The website is www.benhogangolf.com
4. DST Golf
This is a cool one. A charming Englishman called Bertie Cordle came up with the idea, having studied the very best professional golfers and observing a move they put on the ball that is obvious when pointed out. His training club with a unique, curved shaft puts the players hands in the right position to create the perfect feeling at impact. DST stands for "delayed strike technology" and the curved club trains the golfer to locate, train and perfect the optimal impact position. I'm not generally one for training clubs, but instantly understood Bertie's observation and believe this would be a major help to most golfers. The website is www.dstgolf.com.
5. 2 UNDR
Well, I wasn't expecting to write about underwear as one of my Top 5 (actually, I don't think I have ever written about this subject!). Truth be told, these Canadian guys created a huge buzz amongst exhibitors and visitors to the show. Brilliantly engineered and using state of the art fabrics, the mens underwear is comfortable in all the right places, if you know what I mean. The owners have an exceptional design pedigree and clearly their marketing skills are equally good. I love this expression in their brochure "Sewn inside each pair of 2 UNDR is a soft and comfortable penthouse condo for your most valuable assets - we call it the Joey Pouch" - Genius!
2 UNDR is a great name that actually serves several masters - from the expression in motocross world where "two under" refers to the two wheels under the rider, that was the early adopting sport for the brand. The cross over reference into golf was unintentional (but perfect!) and I think you'll be able to work out the other one, er two! The website is www.2undr.com.
I have been going to "the Show", as everyone calls it, since 1989 and yes, it is golf's Groundhog Day but I wouldn't miss it for the world. It's an opportunity to meet old friends, make new ones and see the latest and greatest equipment from the big manufacturers and from those one-man bands that just might strike gold with their latest product. Here are my Top 10 Do and Don'ts for the PGA Merchandise Show.
1. Don't try and sell on other people's booths. They have spent thousands on the space and months preparing for the show. You would be amazed how many people try and do this - it is just not cool. There are plenty of other spaces and occasions to sell your wares.
2. Don't make meetings just for the sake of it. Everyone is busy and aren't impressed that you have appointments every 15 minutes! Take your time and everyone will benefit.
3. Drink plenty of water. The free Pepsi isn't going to help your hydration! There are water fountains and it may well be the only free thing in the Orange County Convention Center (OCCC)!
4. Wear comfortable shoes...this is no time to break in your FootJoy teaching shoes.
5. If you want to do business, dress appropriately. Smart casual is perfect and don't dress like you are on Tour...you're not, or you would be in California or Abu Dhabi and not schlepping around the OCCC like the rest of us.
6. Eat a good breakfast at your hotel because the food in the OCCC is like a hot dog in a movie theater...overcooked and overpriced. It still beggars belief that there is no recognizable food brand represented in the hall.
7. Be very specific about where to meet your appointment. Pick a booth, preferably a small one so you can't miss the person you are meeting. Confirming your 1030 at the TaylorMade booth will almost certainly guarantee you'll still be looking for one another 20 minutes later. And remember there is nowhere to sit down in the Hall, so be prepared to stand and talk. (See no. 4!)
8. Give yourself time to move about the floor. It's a long way from the 1000 aisle to the 6000 aisle so don't make three appointments in 60 minutes in three locations. It's like trying to get from uptown to downtown in Manhattan at 4 p.m. with no cabs - all the stars need to be aligned and it still takes twice as long as you think.
9. Be patient. Everyone is busy and often running a few minutes behind. Whether you are buying or selling they will come.
10. Take some time to wander the floor. Go see the New Products section and marvel at the craziness of this business of ours.
The PGA Merchandise Show in Orlando is just around the corner and we are in final planning for clients and meeting schedules. Last year I wrote about "What not to ask at the Show" and it's worth revisiting with a couple of updates. Some have remained the same - Numbers 1-4 - please, please avoid asking these!, No. 5 is still in play after Tiger's injury prone 2014 season. I wouldn't bet against it, but the young guns have no fear factor with Tiger the way that the previous generation did. 1. Are you having a good show? The answer is always, yes 2. When did you get here? The floor show starts on Wednesday, so as always everyone gets into town on Tuesday! 3. When are you leaving? Always a strange one that one - didn't I just get here!? 4. Where are you staying? Your chance for oneupmanship...just say The Hyatt (though everyone still calls it the Peabody) and move on. Please don't say the Comfort Inn on I Drive at $59! 5. Will Tiger ever regain his Number One spot in the World Rankings?
"Sun is bad for you. everything our parents said was good is bad, sun, milk, red meat...college" Woody Allen in Annie Hall.
As a golfer for many, (many) years my consciousness about the dangers of the sun have increased dramatically over the years. Our friends down under have know about the perils of being out too long in the sun for decades. It's common to see Aussie golfers and others playing sport outside to be covered in sunscreen, wearing a hat and sunglasses. This awareness is increasing in the US and not before time.
The are a couple of new sun related brands I wanted to highlight that are serious about their intentions, are cool and have a great story to tell.
The first is Golfersskin, a sunscreen brand specifically aimed at golfers. Tour players have caught on to the brand developed in New Zealand and the green packaging has become familiar on the first and tenth tees at PGA Tour stops. The product is non greasy and is ideal to use just prior to teeing off. Don't even think about playing golf in the sun or seemingly overcast days without sunscreen. One trip to the dermatologist and their little freeze gun will have you reaching for this product! Learn more here.
The other readily protectable area is your eyes. Good sunglasses protect the wearer from UVA and UVB rays which help prevent wrinkles around the eyes and many more serious potential eye issues.
I recently discovered a great new brand called Waveborn. They are an interesting company with great sunglasses and a worthy social mission. Rather like the Tom's Shoes social responsibility model, Waveborn works with non-profit partners, Unite for Sight and Surgical Eye Expeditions (SEE) International to donate prescription eyeglasses and fund sight-restoring cataract surgeries around the globe. So, how are the sunglasses? Having just returned from a golf and beach trip I can attest to the quality and performance. They have top quality Carl Zeiss lenses, the frames are made in Italy and come in a plethora of styles and colors. With a hard or soft case they are available online here or at an increasing number of retailers.
My frame of choice for golf was the Zuma - it's a great wraparound frame which I found ideal for hitting golf shots and reading greens without light leaking in (and great for the beach!). Go take a look at their site www.waveborn.com. It will help your eyes and also support an amazing cause.
It's that time of the year again - seems to come quicker each year doesn't it? So, in keeping with tradition here's our Christmas Gift Guide featuring clients and even some who aren't clients, but we love their products! Here are my six of the best.
No more boring belts! That's what they say at this cool new belt company based in New York. Beltology belts have many colors to choose from, each made from a unique stretch material and achieving adjustability by eliminating holes. The styles are perfect for golf and for business and with beautiful packaging are an ideal gift for the holidays. Take a look at their site here.
If you play golf and haven't been fitted, then you have a problem. I can almost guarantee you are not playing with the right equipment and as a result you are not getting everything out of your game. I was recently fitted and had shafts that were way too stiff for the amount of golf I play and practice - it's no good looking like a hero in the parking lot with blades and 6.5 stiff shafts if you hit them poorly! So, leave a few subtle hints and you could get a gift certificate for a proper club fitting at one of the ten Club Champion locations around the country. Read More Here.
JOSH SMITH GOLF LANDSCAPES
Tom Doak's newly published, revised version of his Confidential Guide features artwork by the incredibly talented golf landscape artist, Josh Smith. The hole on the cover is the 6th at Cornwall's St. Enodoc and Josh has released a limited edition of 31 pieces of the artwork on canvas. The artwork measures 24 inches square and is hand finished and stretched by Josh and is $825. You can order by emailing me here. By the way, Mr. Doak has the original!
LEE WYBRANSKI POSTERS
Lee has had another outstanding year creating official artwork for all of the major championships. His distinctive style is well represented here in this special "Open Package" featuring Pinehurst No. 2 and Royal Liverpool. Lee's work has become highly collectable and his website features his iconic posters as well as one off originals. You can see all of his work here.
We have always been big fans of Portland based Seamus Golf. Their core products are unique headcovers designed from literally hundreds of tartans and other fabrics. In 2015, they introduced all manner of new items that continue to amaze us. These include ball marks, restored golf clubs, pitchforks and most recently a wash bag. You'll find great gift items and different price points on their site, each one handcrafted by our friends in Oregon. The website is here.
This is a golf gift you can safely give golfers and know they will use it. The rules of golf do state that you should mark your golf ball before playing and Tin Cup has made this a simple process for hundreds of thousands of golfers over the last five years - which is nice! Buy a gift package here.
What's the best collective noun for golf shafts? A bag, a bunch, a quiver?
I get asked both questions a surprising number of times. Let's start with the when. There used to be an easy answer and it was a function of the golf club manufacturers launch schedule. January is the PGA Merchandise Show in Orlando and having been a participant for the past 25 years, I know "the show" pretty well. All the big boys, Callaway, Nike, Ping, TaylorMade, Titleist used to launch all their new clubs in January and make them available to the public soon afterwards.
All that has changed as the manufacturers have embarked on a crazy launch schedule that has literally swamped the trade with new drivers, fairway woods and irons every few months. Callaway has launched eight drivers this year - I kid you not, eight! It's non-sensical of course and hasn't resulted in additional sales. But, that does help answer the question of when to get fitted.
So, "Why should I get fitted?" My response is always the same. Are you serious about the game? Do you want to make the best of the time you have on the golf course with the right equipment or trust to luck that the clubs you have in your bag are the right ones. Only the other day, I was playing golf with a friend who has clubs in his bag that were perfect for him 15 years ago - now...not so much. He has a bad hip and is swinging 10 miles an hour slower than he used to and wonders why the ball isn't going as far as it used to. It's an easy fix - check your ego at the club fitting door and get the right shafts. Ask yourself a simple question. Do I want to look good with X-100 shafts or play well with "pured regular shafts"? And if you don't know what "pured" means you really need to get fitted. There isn't a professional on any Tour that doesn't have "pured" shafts.
So here's three great reasons to get fitted now
1. It makes no sense to wait until February or March for the latest products - they are already available - the show product will be simply more variations on a theme.
2. Get fitted when you are playing well or at least feel like you are in the groove - for most of us that means at the end of the season. I'm in D.C, so now is the best time - the leaves are coming down, I've played lots of golf and so feel good about my swing. Getting fitted in March or at the beginning of your season is crazy - you won't have really played that much and will be trying to find your swing in the fitting studio.
3. Everyone else waits, so book now and you'll get the appointment you want, when you want it. It's like the Buffett stock theory - buy when everyone else is selling!
If you are serious about getting fitted correctly take a look at Club Champion, a company that has ten club fitting locations around the country including my home town of Washington D.C.
The notion of running an event in Latvia came from Brig Pari, a DC native, who's mother was from Latvia. She and I met at a Christmas party and it was her vision that led to our first event. Where is Latvia you ask? Well, so did I when first approached about running a professional event there about 18 months ago.A quick Google search found Latvia in the Baltics bordering
Belarus, Estonia, Lithuania and Russia. With an extraordinary history dating
back over 800 years, Latvia has been occupied by the Swedes, Nazis, and the
So, 18 months and many
early morning phone calls later (Latvia is seven hours ahead of east coast time.) I
found myself in Riga, the capital city. It is a gorgeous, walkable city with
wonderful views, architecture, restaurants, museums and coffee shops. And how
many 18 holes golf course do you suppose there are in Latvia? 10 or 20?
Actually the answer is one, Ozo Golf Club, and there are three nine hole courses.
Ozo is a fine 6,800 yard golf course designed by American Rob Swedburg. It’s
owned by the famous Latvian ice hockey player Sandis Ozolinsh – thus the name
“Ozo” which was his nickname when he played for the Colorado Avalanche.
Our official poster signed by the players
The first ever event in
Latvia to feature European Senior Tour players was a big success. We’ll come on
to the format of play, but the mission was to introduce the country to great
professional players and we chose wisely for the Skins Match – Tony Johnstone,
Barry Lane, Ronan Rafferty, Sam Torrance. I used to represent two of the
players (Tony and Sam) and worked many times with Barry and Ronan, so I knew we
were getting seasoned professionals who give of there best on and off the golf
course and are a joy to work with. The players arrived on two late night flights,
one from Moscow and one from London and they were greeted at the airport by
traditional Latvian singers. I think all enjoyed the welcome. Courtesy cars
from Amserv Lexus took the players back to the official hotel, The Albert and
we all headed to the 11th floor bar to catch up – some things never
Day one was Pro-Am day
and it began with a bunker and chipping clinic by Tony and Ronan and a long
game clinic by Sam and Barry. When you see these guys close up you really do
appreciate the talent professional golfers have. We had a full field of 72 in
the pro-am and on a beautiful sunny day at Ozo everyone had a great time.
Sam's team with the Federation President, Mr. Kristopans
The goody bag proved very popular!
Simon Harris from the European Senior Tour and I announcing the scores
And so back to the hotel for a quick change before heading to the Swedbank building for the gala dinner. There were some great touches created by our onsite organizer, Ieva. The floral arrangements were created to look like golf balls and the red carpet leading to the photo board was actual grass – a very cool idea! I interviewed the players, who as usual entertained the crowd with their views on happenings in the world of golf, most notably the Ryder Cup which is played in late September (three of the four players were former Ryder Cup players and Tony would have been if he wasn’t from Zimbabwe!). It was a spectacular evening enjoyed by golfers and non golfers alike.
I interviewed the players, who as always were on good form
Sam and Tony sharing a joke
The Dulevska sisters - our star organizer, Ieva and her sister the Latvian TV star, Jana
Event founder, Brig Pari with Mr. Vilis Kristopans, the Latvia Golf Federation President and and General Secretary, Aiga Nesaule
Tony, Barry, Vija Tirzmale from Ronald McDonald House Charities Latvia and Sam
Day two was the Latvia
Senior Skins Match. Fortunately the rain that threatened to delay us
disappeared just before the guys teed off the 10th hole for the nine holes.
They were playing for $95,000 and after many matching birdies they ave us a
thrilling finish with the final hole worth $52,500. Two of the players were in
close with just Sam to putt from around 30 feet and what do you know, he holed
it and made the pose made famous following his winning Ryder Cup putt in 1985.
The crowd went wild! Agreed, it was not quite as significant a putt as at The
Belfry, but it provided a fitting close for the spectators and confirmed how
competitive these guys remain, even after hundreds of Tourevents. Here are some more pictures from the day.
Ronan chipping from the waters edge
The final tee
Sam holes the winning putt
Tony, Sam, Ronan and Barry
Brig says a few words at the closing ceremony
Sam presents Vija with a check for $15,000 to Ronald McDonald House Charities Latvia
Following photographs and thank yous to the players and sponsors, Hotel Albert, Amrita Water, Amserv Lexus, the guys were off to the airport. It was a great couple of days supported by great people at the club and on our organizing committee. Roll on 2015! Our date for a full field event on the European Senior Tour is week two of August - so let the marketing commence. If you or someone you know someone is interested in sponsoring the event email me and let's talk! We have packages starting at $5,000.
I was recently sent a few dozen golf balls from a new German company. They are called Vice and the balls come in a variety of colors and compressions. And having tested them for the last couple months they are really, really good. These guys are very brave entering the US market and going up against Titleist, Callaway and Bridgestone in the worst retail golf market in memory. But, with awesome packaging and a quality product, priced to sell at way, way below the big boys, I wish them luck. Take a look at their website and you'll see pricing at around $25 a dozen and I defy you to tell the difference between Vice and Titleist if your handicap is north of 10. Even for the single digit player the Vice Pro is a great alternative to the $60 a dozen Titleist option. Give them a try by buying online here. (and no I'm not a paid spiffer - this is a great golf ball!)
Slow Play is a topic on which I have a lot to say. I grew up in England and learned to play 18 holes comfortably in three hours (often less), so it was a shock to the system playing on public and private golf courses in America where four hours and 30 minutes is more the norm.
It's actually been a while since I have blogged (sorry about that!). My clients have been keeping me busy! Although the retail golf business is tough, companies with cool, niche brands continue to do well.
As I said, I am passionate about pace of play and have recently started working with a cool new company, Golfswell, that addresses perhaps the hottest subject in the game right now - slow play. Despite some attempts by the governing bodies, namely the USGA with its "While We're Young" PSAs, the length of time it takes to play 18 holes in the US is a joke. You can point your finger at many organizations for the calamitous situation. Televised golf is in part responsible for the position we find ourselves in - pros consulting their yardage charts three times, backing off shots five times (yes, you Keegan Bradley) are all contributing to not only an awful viewing experience but encouraging amateurs that it is okay to play slowly. When is the Commish going to do something about it? That's right...never! He has hours of television pre-sold to fill. So, Webb Simpson has six practice swings. So what, says the Tour - not our problem.
The fact is that these Pros are part of the problem because kids are watching this nonsense, lining up the ball, backing off, checking their yardage book one more time - come on...hit it will you!
So what does Golfswell do to address slow play? Well, their iPhone App gives you a full GPS of the golf course you are playing PLUS it monitors your speed. The App helps you get around the golf course quicker and alerts those who are there to help with real time data and real facts. The massive advantage to the club is it frees up additional tee times so they can generate additional revenue.
So, your saying, I'll get around quicker? Yes, I am and there is amazing data from a well-known TPC course to confirm that round times fell a minimum of 15 minutes. The App is now moving from Beta to market because it works! Goodness knows we need something that speeds up play and helps to take away the major frustration ever present in today's game. Read more here on their website and download the free App here.