Golf Blog

Discover Puerto Rico!

When the opportunity arose to visit Puerto Rico in the middle of February, I raised my hand quickly. It was 40 degrees in California and I was happy to pay a visit to the 80 degrees and sunny scene. Having never visited Puerto Rico before, I was excited to enter unexplored territory.

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The next day, our group quickly jumped into the golf agenda at TPC Dorado Beach’s East Course. We had a full foursome of golf “influencers” in addition to myself, here was the lineup.

With firepower like this, it was necessary to put it all on the line in a winner take all death match. It would be the Chicos vs Chicas. The battle would be life threatening and intense.

“Prepare to lose and cry,” barked an enthused Chelsea Pezzola. Hailey Ostrom followed up the taunt with a casual “This won’t even be close.”

That was all the motivation that Lee and I needed. The boys came out hot and never looked back. With the women down 3 on the 16th hole, Pezzola holed her bunker shot for birdie but I would also make birdie to seal the match. The ladies came up with plenty of excuses but nothing could take away the sweet taste of victory. Final Score: Chicos win, 3 and 2.

In September of 2017, Hurricane Maria devastated much of Puerto Rico. It is regarded as the worst natural disaster on record to affect the island and the category 5 storm caused $91.6 billion in losses.

The good news is that Puerto Ricans are persistent and the country has bounced back aggressively. There are still signs of the devastation as you travel the countryside but at the resorts we visited, the damage is unnoticeable. Puerto Rico is definitely open for business.

After arriving in San Juan, we headed out on the town for some dinner. Azabache Restaurant was the decision. The gnocchi shrimp was good but my taste buds are still recovering from the dessert. I can taste it right now just looking at the picture again. Look at those gold flakes!

Hailey pounds her drive on the 5th hole at TPC Dorado.

Hailey pounds her drive on the 5th hole at TPC Dorado.

Just about every swing was documented by this duo of powerful Instagram influencers.

Just about every swing was documented by this duo of powerful Instagram influencers.

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Today, there are currently two courses open for play at TPC Dorado Beach, the East course and the Sugarcane course. Running through lush jungle and coconut groves, The East course was originally designed by Robert Trent Jones Sr and restored by Jr in 2011. In 2016, Golf Digest named the East course the #1 course in Puerto Rico. Unfortunately, our group didn’t have time to explore the Sugarcane course but it sounds delicious.

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After the round our party made a quick transfer to the Wyndham Grand Rio Mar. Over the next several days, our group would take full advantage of the 10 different restaurants and bars on the resort. My personal favorite was the conveniently located Ice cream bar. Who needs whiskey when you have ice cream? It must be noted that they have a corn bread ice cream that was surprisingly delicious.

The resort also has a casino that Lee and I made a run on. I was up $50 and Lee cashed in around $250. It’s always fun to walk out of a casino with some money in your pocket. But the best walk for me will always be on a golf course.

The grass courtyard at The Wyndham is one of my top 5 grass courtyards.

The grass courtyard at The Wyndham is one of my top 5 grass courtyards.

The best part about the Wyndham is that this is the backyard.

The best part about the Wyndham is that this is the backyard.

After we settled into the accommodations, it was time for the ‘death match’ rematch at Bahia Beach, which is just 20 minutes down the road. The course was originally designed by Robert Trent Jones and later tweaked by Robert Trent Jones Jr in 2008. The golf course requires the golfer to keep the ball in play off of the tee as the lush Puerto Rican jungle awaits your wayward tee shots. If you brought your slice with you to the island, you will need to make sure you brought a couple extra sleeves of Chrome Softs.

We would struggle out of the gate and hover around 3 down for most of the day. A late surge was also thwarted by some untimely 3 putts. I blamed the views on the 15th hole (shown below) for most of our team’s putting woes. In the end, the chicas would prove too much for the chicos and we would be forced to enter the loser locker room. Final Score: Chicas win, 1 up.

The pivotal 15th hole at Bahia Beach.

The pivotal 15th hole at Bahia Beach.

Also onboard at Bahia Beach was professional photographer Omark Reyes, who was following our group for the day. Omark did an excellent job of documenting the match and it was a pleasure to be on the other side of the camera for a change. Although it was labeled a death match, nobody would lose their life and we would all emerge bonded as survivors and friends. Although, with the death match victories tied at 1, a death match rubber match will need to take place.

Hailey Ostrom looks on as I pound one… probably 400 yards.

Hailey Ostrom looks on as I pound one… probably 400 yards.

Lee Abbamonte sends one deep into the woods during a tough front nine stretch.

Lee Abbamonte sends one deep into the woods during a tough front nine stretch.

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Death Match Win Totals

One of my favorite parts about the golf courses in Puerto Rico are the ever-present iguanas. They can be found near just about every body of water and appear to be huge fans of the game. I informed the iguanas that I was putting together the world’s greatest iguana photo gallery and they reluctantly posed for some photographs.

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After the round at Bahia Beach it was time to watch some professional golf at The Puerto Rico Open. In 2006, Tom Kite designed four nines at Coco Beach Golf & Country Club and the course has hosted the Puerto Rico Open since it became an event on the PGA Tour in 2008. The tournament is the only official PGA event in the entire Caribbean. I would only catch the tail end of Saturday’s round but I would find some cool sunset action.

The 17th hole at Coco Beach Golf & Country Club

The 17th hole at Coco Beach Golf & Country Club

The highlight of my visit to the Puerto Rico Open was when I got a chance to meet Oro the Cat. Oro is in charge of Player Support in the media center and is one of the friendliest golf cats in the industry. Oro is a very big deal.

We also filmed a mock player interview in the media center that I am unable to post due to a copyright claim by The PGA Tour. Rest assured it is hilarious.

There was time for one more round in Puerto Rico and Wyndham’s Rio Mar River Course was up on deck. Guests of the resort have 2 options for golf on the property, the River Course, designed by Greg Norman, and Fazio’s Ocean Course. The River is the more difficult of the 2 courses and I was up for the challenge.

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The 16th hole at the 2018 Puerto Rico Open.

The 16th hole at the 2018 Puerto Rico Open.

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The view from behind the 12th green at Rio Mar’s River course.

The view from behind the 12th green at Rio Mar’s River course.

The River course derives its name from the Mameyes River that winds its way through the property. Wisely, Greg Norman took advantage of the river’s natural charm and routed a number of holes along it’s banks. With views of the nearby Yunque Mountains the course is a beautiful and challenging experience.

Since I was the only golfer to rise early enough for the final round, I was golfing alone. I have always enjoyed golfing by myself and being surrounded by the Puerto Rican country side made the walk even more enjoyable. The death match rubber match would have to wait until we return to discover more of what Puerto Rico has to offer.

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Bahamas!

During 2018’s RGV Tour across the United States, tour operations were temporarily halted for a visit to Great Exuma in The Bahamas. If you are going to halt operations for a destination, Sandals Emerald Bay Resort in The Bahamas is a good place to do it.

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The Sandals resort is an all inclusive type of place. You pay just once and then keep your money in your wallet. Just stroll up and start ordering… then order again. They have options for Italian, Indian, American, Japanese, etc. You get the idea, you are not going to starve at this place. Below are my top 5 favorite spots at the resort.

  • Croquet fields - Challenge your spouse to death match .

  • Cafe De Paris - Pig out on different desserts and coffee all day long.

  • The beach - Just beyond the pool lies the beautiful Flamingo Bay.

  • Soy - As much sushi as you can you eat.

  • The Drunken Duck - Shoot pool, throw darts, dance like an idiot.

The resort has a lot more to offer than just my top 5. However, the main reason for the visit was to focus on some world class golf. Just next door, the resort has a Greg Norman designed golf course and it was hosting The Web.com Bahamas Great Exuma Classic.

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Before the official tournament began, it was time to kick off the Pro-Am. Little did the Bahamas know that it was about to encounter the world’s greatest Pro-Am team and witness the most unbelievable Pro-Am performance in the history of the world. The format was a shamble and the team was led by Harry Higgs himself. We started off eagle, eagle and never looked back. Putts dropped from all over the place, shots were holed out. We even recorded a net ace. When the smoke cleared, we were -22 and 6 shots ahead of the field. As I type this, jaws are still being picked up off of the floor at the Sandals Resort.

The rainbow shines down on the world’s greatest Pro-Am team.

The rainbow shines down on the world’s greatest Pro-Am team.

Nothing to see here.

Nothing to see here.

It must also be noted that Brodie Smith hammers it about 350 off the tee and put us in position to score all day long. Brodie is relatively new to the game, but you can instantly tell that the ceiling for his golf game is very high. I am excited to see what the future holds for Brodie as he explores the world of golf.

Emotions run high as another putt finds the bottom of the cup.

Emotions run high as another putt finds the bottom of the cup.

Only 3 of the 5 members of the world’s greatest Pro-Am team were able to make it to the podium. The other 2 members were being treated for exhaustion.

Only 3 of the 5 members of the world’s greatest Pro-Am team were able to make it to the podium. The other 2 members were being treated for exhaustion.

After the performance in the Pro-Am our team needed to cool off with a quick swim. Naturally, we decided it would be best to swim with the pigs 🐷. Joining me for the adventure was Brodie Smith and his fiancé Kelsey Lowrance.

Posing with Big Squealy.

Posing with Big Squealy.

Lil’ Squealy was my favorite piggy.

Lil’ Squealy was my favorite piggy.

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Amongst the pigs, you also have rays looking for a quick bite to eat. Brodie’s excitement for Kelsey’s terror is inspiring.

Amongst the pigs, you also have rays looking for a quick bite to eat. Brodie’s excitement for Kelsey’s terror is inspiring.

Just across from Pig Island is Iguana island. These Bahamian rock iguanas are pretty friendly.

Just across from Pig Island is Iguana island. These Bahamian rock iguanas are pretty friendly.

When I learned that Kelsey Lowrance had been previously affiliated with the Dallas Cowboy cheerleaders and had some modeling experience, I immediately challenged her to a model-off.

MODEL POSE #1: Rock pile lounging

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MODEL POSE #2: Beach bathing

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Like many other people, when the results of the model-off came in, I was shocked. That lizard made a surprise run at 2nd place, but I held him off like a seasoned veteran. Enjoy 3rd place, silly Bahamian rock iguana.

Model-off Results

Brodie and Kelsey are scheduled to be married and become Mr and Mrs Smith. A common name, an uncommon couple.

Brodie and Kelsey are scheduled to be married and become Mr and Mrs Smith. A common name, an uncommon couple.

Perhaps the best part about the Sandals resort is that you can just walk right over to the golf course. Brodie and I took full advantage of this and happily enjoyed a lot of live golf. The quality of play and depth on the Web.com tour is significant and most of these players can compete at the PGA Tour level. The biggest difference is that the players are not playing for millions of dollars in front of huge crowds. They are grinding for a paycheck and fighting for the ability to play golf for a living. Some of them will succeed and live out their dreams and others will become real estate agents. The stakes are as high as it gets.

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Our group was also treated to a tour of the Golf Channel production facilities. Most viewers have limited knowledge about the effort that it takes to put on a golf tournament and it was eye opening to walk behind the scenes. These guys are working hard to make sure that every second of live golf is as good as it can be.

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The tournament does a great job of employing the local Bahamians. Brodie and I salute their work.

The tournament does a great job of employing the local Bahamians. Brodie and I salute their work.

That evening we were treated to a dinner with golf royalty. Greg Norman would be joining us for dinner at the resort’s Il Cielo restaurant. I had previously had the chance to photograph Greg at a launch event and I was excited to talk with the golfing legend. Greg had stories for days and it was a joy to ask questions about his projects and achievements around the globe. For the most part, I was just trying not to spill drinks or dump food in my lap.

Every time that you visit the Bahamas, your time will certainly be up too soon. As we scurried off to the airport, I snapped a couple of parting shots as the sun rose over paradise for another day. If you are interested in catching your own Exuma sunrise, click here.

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The RGV Tour

At the end of every golf trip I think to myself... "What if I didn't have to stop playing golf?  What if I could just drive down the road and go to the next golf course? The next state? Just never stop playing golf?"  For years, that has been my dream.

I have decided that the time to live the dream is now.  I have resigned from my sales position, I have purchased a recreational vehicle (RV), and turned it into a recreational golf vehicle (RGV).  I am touring the country playing golf for the next 12 months.  I will be raising money for the First Tee and I am inviting you to join me.

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The time is now for me to play golf every day.
— Patrick Koenig - RGV Tour Founder

Yes, that's right, I quit my job to play golf every single day.  Over the next year it will be my goal to play golf in the lower 48 states.  I will be looking to play everywhere, the local gems, the top 100's, the quirky par 3 courses, the local municipalities, and the top tier putt-putt tracks.  I am starting the Recreational Golf Vehicle Tour, or the RGV Tour and it is going to be glorious.

The best part about the RGV Tour is that I will be raising money for a worthwhile cause, The First Tee of Greater Seattle.  The First Tee positively impacts the lives of young people by building character, instilling life-enhancing values and promoting healthy choices through the game of golf.  With all that the game of golf has given me, I feel it's important to start giving back.  My goal is to present a check for $10,000 at the season ending check ceremony.

The second best part about the RGV Tour is that it is coming to your town.  I am inviting you to join me and you don't have to go to Q School to get your RGV Tour card.  All you need is a passion for the game and a 9 iron.  Just consult the schedule and send me a message l and I will do my best to bring the RGV Tour to you.

After we golf our socks off, you will be invited to sign The RGV Tour guest book with other legends of the RGV Tour.  Upon signing, you will automatically be entered into the RGV Tour hall of fame. Yes, everyone that joins the RGV Tour is a member of the hall of fame.

At 26 feet long, the recreational golf vehicle will serve as the RGV Tour headquarters for the next 12 months.  Now leaving behind your home and no longer having a "mailing address" can be scary, but this ride should ease the pain.  The Tour bus is complete with a mini golf library, and is stocked full of golf balls and energy bars.  It is #golfparty headquarters.

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I have also transformed the RGV common areas into a portable podcast studio.  Please find me on the RGV Tour podcast with PJKoenig.  We will go behind the scenes as I golf like a maniac and talk golf with fellow RGV Tour pros, my favorite golf brands, and various special guests, 

While I have a tentative schedule for the states, I believe the magic resides in the spirit of exploration and adventure. The goal of the RGV Tour is to explore the places and people that make up the American golf landscape. 

It all starts on January 28th 2018 at the RGV Tour kickoff event at Chambers Bay.  If you are interested in joining, please let me know as spots for this premier event are limited. 

The first tour event of the season is at Chambers Bay on January 28th.

The first tour event of the season is at Chambers Bay on January 28th.

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Please head on over to the RGV Tour Blog as the regular blog has been suspended temporarily due to the RGV Tour.

Oui, France, Oui!

With The Ryder Cup coming to France in 2018, I deemed it necessary to visit Paris before Patrick Reed gets his "shush" on and angers the French fan base.  I was able to sneak in one last 2017 trip and my partner in golf crime was Stephanie Wei.

When a normal person thinks about France, they think of the Eiffel Tower, French bread, and maybe some of those silly hats.  For me, I think... "I bet they got some cool golf courses out there."  Now, France is not well known for it's golf, but in this post, I uncover some gems and play some courses that are definitely not on your radar.  When you pair those gems up with the typical French destinations, you have got yourself a serious golf vacation.

Our first round of golf was at France's finest links course, Golf De Granville.  The course is an HS Colt design and is a time tested routing.  Like any true links test, we faced Granville in a pretty good side-ways downpour.  I started out with 2 great shots and a 3 putt par.  The golf party was on.

The clubhouse behind the 9th green.

The clubhouse behind the 9th green.

I love a good riveted bunker.

I love a good riveted bunker.

On June 6th 1944 US, British, and Canadian troops stormed Omaha Beach on World War II's infamous D-Day.  Today, France is no longer occupied by German forces and instead of Nazi soldiers, there is a golf course on the bluffs above the beach.  Fittingly, the beach was getting stormed, with rain, as we put our tees in the ground at the Omaha Beach Golf Club.  Eventually the rain would lift and we would enjoy a gap in the clouds.

The 6th hole finishes right on the edge of the bluff overlooking the sea.

The 6th hole finishes right on the edge of the bluff overlooking the sea.

A view of Omaha Beach from behind the 6th hole.

A view of Omaha Beach from behind the 6th hole.

After storming Omaha, we were off to Le Golf National, the host course for the 2018 Ryder Cup.  As we rolled up to the course we caught a glimpse of the rolling WHITE fairways.  To our despair, snow had covered the course the night before and we would not be able to play.

However, the snow and frost would not stop us from touring the course, getting some great pictures, and enjoying the day.

Le Golf National is perfectly suited to host a large professional championship.  With stadium seating on just about every hole, the Ryder Cup experience is sure to be a good one for the spectators.  The French fan base has already gotten their tickets with the event selling out in around an hour.  

The sun rises over a chilly 16th at Le Golf National.

The sun rises over a chilly 16th at Le Golf National.

The most prominent and challenging string of holes at Le Golf National is on holes 15-18.  Players will need to be both long and accurate on this key stretch if they want to stay dry and put points on the board.  There is sure to be some spectacular drama come September 2018.  Early odds are 10:1 that someone chucks a putter in the pond.

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They have the flags up and the carts fully charged.  Le Golf National is Ryder Cup ready.

They have the flags up and the carts fully charged.  Le Golf National is Ryder Cup ready.

The frozen 15th and 18th greens.  You will want the Ryder Cup matches to make it to these holes.

The frozen 15th and 18th greens.  You will want the Ryder Cup matches to make it to these holes.

After a solid scouting of the Ryder Cup venue, it was time to take in some of the French scenery.  There is an endless amount of obvious attractions like the Eiffel Tower and the Palace of Versailles to see in the Paris area.  We did our best to see what we could in a short amount of time.

"Look at all of the gold and rich stuff in there."

"Look at all of the gold and rich stuff in there."

Stephanie Wei  is happy to be in Versailles.

Stephanie Wei is happy to be in Versailles.

The fine folks over at  De Vinis Illvstribvs  had us out for a drink in Paris.  Even as a non drinker, I enjoyed the wine tasting.

The fine folks over at De Vinis Illvstribvs had us out for a drink in Paris.  Even as a non drinker, I enjoyed the wine tasting.

Arc De Triomphe pose.

Arc De Triomphe pose.

Successful high kicks start with consistent stretching.

Successful high kicks start with consistent stretching.

For a golfer, the ideal way to take in the Eiffel Tower is obviously from the golf course.  That is exactly what you get at Golf de Saint Cloud.  Since St Cloud is a private club, the course isn't accessible to all tourists.  Fortunately, it's not Augusta and if you are interesting in experiencing this one of a kind golf experience, it's entirely possible.   You would just need to contact Private Golf Key for the details.  Just ask for Olivier and tell 'em Large Marge sent, ya.   Mentioning this blog post also works.

Two greens and the Eiffel Tower.  Golf courses don't pose much better than this.

Two greens and the Eiffel Tower.  Golf courses don't pose much better than this.

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Next up on the agenda was a visit to the International Golf Travel Market (IGTM) in Cannes.  The IGTM is an annual get together of countries and tourism boards looking to promote golf and tourism within their countries.  It is a big deal and you get a really good idea of some of the amazing golf outside of the US.  As if my list of countries to golf in needed to get any longer.

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After a serious rain fest at nearby Golf de Saint Donat, it was finally time for the sun to come out.  We tackled the Golf de Grande Bastide on a brisk but sun filled afternoon.  The course is set amongst the foothills of the Niçoise hinterland and has a strong Southern France vibe to it.  We had a tense 3 way duel that included several clutch putts with an overabundance of 3 putts.

High above the partially frozen fairways of Grande Bastide.

High above the partially frozen fairways of Grande Bastide.

After a spirited day on the links it was time to kick off the IGTM.  With France hosting the Ryder Cup in 2018, the country is set for a huge year in golf and the IGTM coming to Cannes was no coincidence.  The Mayor of Cannes and the officials in charge of the Ryder Cup welcomed us and talked briefly about the unique opportunity that France has to assert itself as a legitimate golf destination.  France is not going to replace Ireland or Scotland but any visit to France should certainly involve several trips to the golf course.

The IGTM took place in the The Palais des Festivals et des Congrès, the same venue as the Cannes Film Festival

The IGTM took place in the The Palais des Festivals et des Congrès, the same venue as the Cannes Film Festival

The Mayor of Cannes, David Lisnard, kicks things off with a ribbon cutting.

The Mayor of Cannes, David Lisnard, kicks things off with a ribbon cutting.

After a full day scouting the various golf destinations of the world, we decided to head down the street and actually visit one of them.

Good times in Cannes with Leo.

Good times in Cannes with Leo.

It's hard to capture the serene feeling that the surrounding trees on the Old Course provide.  

It's hard to capture the serene feeling that the surrounding trees on the Old Course provide.  

The Grand Duke Michael Mikhailovich of Russia founded the Old Course at Cannes Mandelieu in 1891 and the routing would later be altered by HS Colt.  The most beautiful aspect of the course is without a doubt the canopy of trees that surrounds just about every hole. While it is not long at only 6,300 yards it is certainly a very enjoyable round of golf.

I teed it up with 2 Frenchman who did not speak a word of English.  Since I did not speak a word of French, there was not a lot of chit chat.  However, all 3 of us spoke the language of golf and we traded groans, grunts, and fist bumps as the highs and lows of our rounds unfolded.  

Even though we did not talk, I would rank my playing partners high on the enjoyability scale.  If you have the opportunity to play with someone and only communicate through golf noises, I would recommend it.

I only had to punch out 3 times on the 4th hole.

I only had to punch out 3 times on the 4th hole.

The short 16th was my favorite of the par 3's.

The short 16th was my favorite of the par 3's.

With only one course left to play in France. we were lucky enough to play one of France's finest.  We were headed out for some twilight action at Golf Country Club de Cannes Mougins.  The course hosted the Cannes Open in the 1980's and 1990's featuring winners such as Greg Norman and Seve Ballesteros.  If you only have time to play one course in the Cannes area, this is the course you want to play.

Long Shadows.

Long Shadows.

Longer Shadows!

Longer Shadows!

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If you are interested in creating your own French experience please reach out to Paris' premier golf & art de vivre travel concierge, Private Golf Key.  The CÔTE D'AZUR website is also a great French reference.

Our trip to France ended in Cannes with a fantastic party that generated this awful selfie of me attempting to lick the Ryder Cup.  As an FYI, I google image searched "People licking the Ryder Cup" and found lots of people kissing, posing, and drinking from the cup, but as far as I can tell I am the first person in history to lick it.  According to my nieces, cooties only last a week, so we should be good to go come presentation time in 2018.

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Sea Island Sweepstakes!

"I am already sold, sign me up for the free sweepstakes."  

In 2016, I went to my very first Masters and it was an experience that I will never forget.  However, you don't actually get to play golf and since they wouldn't let me out onto Augusta for a quick nine, I had to look elsewhere.  The course that I wanted to play was Sea Island in nearby St. Simons Island, GA.  The course is home to the PGA Tour's RSM Classic and it was time I paid it a visit.  Sea Island has 3 championship courses, The Seaside, The Plantation and the Retreat.  I was after the Seaside course.

The Seaside course winds its way around tidal creeks, marshes, and sand dunes on the southern tip of Sea Island.  Not only is the golf course fantastic, but the entire area and resort has a fabulous five star feel to it.  In fact, it's a Forbe's Five Star resort. 

Top notch conditions!

Top notch conditions!

Basket pins!!

Basket pins!!

You:  "Patrick, this looks cool.  I also want to visit Sea Island." 

Me:  "But didn't you just lose your life savings on an overly aggressive Nassau last weekend?"

You:  "That son of a bitch!  With those pants he was wearing, it should have been a sure thing!! 

         "But yes... I now have no money."

Me:  "Fret not my friend!!  I have the perfect solution for your woes"

        "Everything you see below can be yours."

 

  • Three (3) night’s stay at the Sea Island Resort located in Sea Island, GA
  • Ground Transportation between Brunswick Golden Isles Airport or Jacksonville International Airport and Sea Island Resort
  • One (1) $1,000 gift card to use towards travel costs
  • One (1) round of golf for winner and one (1) guest
  • BMW vehicle for transportation during stay at Sea Island Resort
  • $500 Sea Island Resort credit for use at Sea Island Resort

Just click here to make this hypothetical conversation become a reality.  The deadline is December 1st, 2017.

Tathata Golf Launch Party

When Kyle over at Tathata Golf (www.TathataGolf.com) informed me that they were having a launch party to celebrate the new 60-Day Training Program and membership platform, I was excited.  When Kyle mentioned that he was inviting Jack Nicklaus, Greg Norman, and Annika Sorenstam to help launch the program, I was even more excited... and when Kyle invited me to help celebrate the occasion, I punched a hole in my wall with excitement.  For years, I had watched these legends dominate the sport and now I was getting the chance to meet and photograph them.  

Since Tathata Golf's teaching foundation is based on the movements of the greatest golfers of all time it only made sense to have Jack, Greg, and Annika join in the presentation and launch of the new training platform.  Greg Norman, the best driver of all time, was going to walk us through his approach to driving the golf ball.  Annika Sorenstam, the best female golfer of her generation, was going to demonstrate her wedge game.  Jack Nicklaus, the best pressure putter of all time, was going to share his thoughts on putting.  The evening would conclude with a $1 million closest to the pin competition with the proceeds going to the winner's charity of choice.  The event was aptly titled "A Celebration with the Greats" and it would be streamed on the Golf Channel.

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Annika's approach to the wedge game is simple,   Every time she gets a wedge in her hands, she is looking to place the ball inside of 10 feet.  She has created a very repeatable fluid motion that allows her to do this consistently.  

Although it's no surprise, Annika stresses practice and really being able to get a feel for those shots inside of 100 yards.  It is a pleasure to watch as she drops wedge after wedge right next to each other.  Annika was going to be tough to beat in the million dollar closest to the pin competition.  

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Up next was Greg Norman and his approach to driving the golf ball.  After twenty or so minutes of istening to The Shark talk about hitting a driver, I came away with a couple of things

  • Pick the smallest target you can, every single time.  Small... I mean the leaf on a tree 400 yards away small.
  • Try to hit the front of the golf ball and not the back of it.  This is a great way to visualize and feel the acceleration through the impact zone.
  • Greg Norman is the man.  Even at 62, with large gaps of time away from the game.  Greg steps up and bombs the driver like a 30 year old.
I never really got nervous, I would just get excited.
— Greg Norman
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It's not often that Annika or Greg aren't the main attraction at an event, but when Jack Nicklaus is in the building, all eyes are on the Golden Bear.  With 18 major championships to his name, Jack is arguably the best golfer to ever walk the earth.

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Jack starts off by highlighting the importance of keeping your eyes directly over the ball and strokes a couple of putts.  It is a surreal feeling to be on the same putting green as Jack Nicklaus and at one point Bryan Hepler, the Founder of Tathata Golf, comments "Isn't this the coolest? Just hanging out with Jack and watching him roll some putts?"  

The biggest takeaway from listening to Jack talk is that he values the mental side of putting just as much as the fundamentals.  Because Nicklaus has built up such a strong mental game, he is much more dangerous when he fully engages his mind on the putting green.  Because of this approach, Jack is a notably better putter when he "needs" to make a putt.  If anybody can will a ball into a hole, it's Jack.  Well, maybe Tiger did it once or twice... (In corner, Michael Jordan raises hand)

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Jack's head covers are cooler than yours.

Jack's head covers are cooler than yours.

The hands of 18 majors grip the putter lightly

The hands of 18 majors grip the putter lightly

Jack's philosophy on putting centers mostly around the importance of speed.  Three putt avoidance is important to Jack and he likes those second putts to be stress free.  He recalls several seasons when he made it to June or July on the tour without a three putt.  Most of us are lucky to make it to the third hole.

Jack doesn't just stick to the putting stroke and offers up his thoughts on the full swing.  Nicklaus clearly embraces a natural swing that develops from a golfer's own personal style. He also gives a few lines on today's competitive landscape.  "Jordan Spieth will be a much better golfer than he is today."  So Jack is clearly on the Spieth Wagon with the rest of us.

There is even a discussion about the whereabouts of a putter Jack used to win the Masters.  Apparently those things are valuable.  Side note:  If anybody knows where the Lynx putter that I used to win the 1994 Junior Varsity Bruin Invitational is, please let me know.

This quote may NOT have actually happened.

This quote may NOT have actually happened.

Greg, Annika, and Jack pose along side Bryan of Tathata Golf.

Greg, Annika, and Jack pose along side Bryan of Tathata Golf.

The roundtable discussion on the grounds of the Tathata training facility.

The roundtable discussion on the grounds of the Tathata training facility.

After the roundtable discussion winds up, it is time for the $1 Million shootout.  It's a 60 yard wedge shot and they only get one shot, closest to the pin wins $1 million.  Not to be left out, each runner up receives $200k for the charity of their choice.  The Greats warm up and give the honor to Annika.  Like a champion, she sticks it to 3 feet.  With the pressure on, Jack finds the sand and Greg catches it heavy.  Jack later laughs  "Greg and I couldn't get it over a bunker 40 yards away."  At 77, his game isn't what it used to be, but his mental outlook remains solid and fun.

Nice lil' check for Annika

Nice lil' check for Annika

With any luck, you picked up one or two takeaways from this post, I know I picked up 2-3 strokes just by meeting these legends.  It was truly a special treat.

If you are looking to improve your game at all, I would suggest checking out Tathata Golf and their new membership platform. It contains a variety of beneficial features in a Netflix-like user experience; training courses, weekly TV shows, 200+ Video Library, and mobile companion app.  If it's special enough to attract these champions, it is worth a moment of your consideration.

Jack, Greg, and Annika were gracious with their time and met everyone at the party.

Jack, Greg, and Annika were gracious with their time and met everyone at the party.

The sun sets on Tathata Golf and one of my favorite golf days.

The sun sets on Tathata Golf and one of my favorite golf days.

A 3rd Option to Consider

In order to play golf in America, you basically have two options to get out onto the course.

1.) Pay a lump sum of money and monthly dues to belong to a private club.

2.) Pay a daily fee to play public courses.

For the majority of my golfing career, I did not want to be tied down to just one course and If I spent my money on a private club, it would be difficult to justify the cost of paying a green fee elsewhere.  So I have always opted for the 2nd option.  The good news is that there is a 3rd way to go about things.  It may not make sense for everyone but it is a viable option for the passionate golfer who likes to travel.

Imagine, every time you take a golf trip, being able to visit your own private golf club and not just any private club, but one of the state's best.  If you click on any of the links above, you will get a taste for the high quality of these clubs.

The Dormie Club  in West End, NC is a Coore and Crenshaw favorite.

The Dormie Club in West End, NC is a Coore and Crenshaw favorite.

Ballyhack in Virginia

Ballyhack in Virginia

If the $7k initiation fee is holding you back, it's not due for 2 years.  The club operates under a spend off model so every time you spend money on cottages, guest fees, or even beers for your group, that total comes off of the $7000 fee.  So if you manage to drink $7k worth of beer over two years, you owe nothing.  Or, if you manage to eat $6500 worth of steaks, you would only owe $500.  A pretty cool motivation to make sure you get the most out of your membership. Right now, The Dormie Network has a limited time offer where they are waiving the $7k initiation fee.

In addition to the tremendous golf, each course has on site lodging, food, and service that will blow you away. The steaks at Arbor Links were some of the best that I have ever eaten and the lodging at Ballyhack was one of my favorite breaks from life on The RGV Tour.

Briggs Ranch is a Fazio Texas gem.

Briggs Ranch is a Fazio Texas gem.

Palmer's Arborlinks brings the beach and the trees.

Palmer's Arborlinks brings the beach and the trees.

The best part about the whole deal is that It's a fairly new organization that is adding clubs at an aggressive rate.  Even with 5 clubs, there is tremendous value here and there are ongoing negotiations with several other well known clubs as I type this.  The goal is to have 20-22 courses in the network by 2022 all scattered across the US.

If you are a corporation reading this, there is also an option for you.

  • $20K initiation fee

  • $9,450 dues per year for 3 designees to use.

  • Can add more designees at $1,000 a piece, up to 10 additional.

PJKoenig blog readers that sign up will have the initiation fee waived. Corporations will receive $2000 off of the initiation fee.  Just click here and send me a message if you are interested.

Since my original post in 2017, The Dormie Network has already added another Top 100 course with Victoria National.

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Comments on the Cleveland VAS Irons

I recently came across an article that mentioned the Cleveland VAS golf clubs and it brought back memories of the 1990's when the clubs were popular.  For those not in the know, VAS stands for Vibration Absorption System.  Which, I am pretty sure was a load of marketing garbage, but people really bought into it back in the 90's.  I did a little research and here are some of the comments I found on the irons. These are real comments from real people.  Well... real internet people.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

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  • " I was so impressed with these irons that I have already purchased a back up set." - James
  • "The looks only a mother could love." = David
  • "Easily the best feeling irons I've ever hit. - Mike P.
  • "Found the driver on Ebay for $1... Best investment I ever made." - Ty T.
  • "I am not convinced that the VAS plate absorbs too much vibration. - Jay
  • "Took my Rocket Blades out and put my VAS's in and shot my best round in 10 years." - Mark
  • "An incredible damping effect." - Andy M.
  • "I love the finish.  I love the matte pewter finish."  - JB
  • "I don't think I could commit to the swing, I'd either be laughing or puking." Mikey D
  • "I sold them in 1999 and I have regretted it ever since" - Tim
  • "Those irons may be even uglier than Corey Pavin's mustache." - BG.
  • "It may look unshankable, but trust me, you can still shank it."  Steve R. from Rhode Island
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Personally, I never owned a set of the Cleveland VAS irons, but I remember a player in high school who did.  That kid's name is Travis Hampshire, so I decided to google Travis.  As it turns out, Travis is no longer a kid and actually went on to play an event on the PGA Tour, the 2011 Traveler's Championship.  Was it the VAS effect that trampolined him to the PGA Tour?   We may never know.

Alex Dunlop Golf

Over the course of my 25 year golfing career, I have had less than 5 lessons.  At most, I would pick a swing thought that made sense to me and just go with that.  I am a feel player and that works for me.  I always knew that my swing wasn't perfect, but I also knew that it was good enough to break 70.  

However, after playing a round with Golf Teacher Alex Dunlop, I decided to take in a long overdue lesson.  I was actually looking forward to getting some expert eyes on my swing and receiving some feedback on things that I could work on.  As an added bonus, Alex's office has a first class view of Newcastle Golf Club and the City of Seattle.

The view from above the clubhouse at Newcastle and the Rusty Putter; an 18 hole putting course.

The view from above the clubhouse at Newcastle and the Rusty Putter; an 18 hole putting course.

Chances are, your office isn't as green.

Chances are, your office isn't as green.

One of the best parts about taking a lesson with Alex is that he is a straight up cool dude that likes to talk about golf.  We could have hung around and shot the shit for an hour, but we decided to hit some balls as well.  Alex is Trackman certified and immediately as we start the lesson, I am getting feedback in terms of numbers.  Now, these numbers didn't mean much to me at first, especially since I have always played by feel.  The good news is that Alex is an expert on explaining what these numbers mean and keying in on the numbers that actually matter.

For me, it was just one number that we started on with my driver.  That number was attack angle and according to Alex -2.5 was not good.  After a series of interpretations and suggestions that made sense to me, I was able to understand what it felt like to change that -2.5 to a +2.5.  After grooving that feeling over several months, my drives are much longer and there is less dispersion on my tee shots.

On the latest session, Alex and I worked on consistently compressing my iron shots.

On the latest session, Alex and I worked on consistently compressing my iron shots.

Here I am compared to Brooks Koepka.  A model player for shaft lean.

Here I am compared to Brooks Koepka.  A model player for shaft lean.

One of the coolest aspects about Trackman is that you get full digital copies of your lessons afterwards.  The photos above are snap shots that I took from the videos on my phone.  If you wanted to, you could pull up a lesson while you are sitting in a staff meeting.  You can literally hear Alex and I discussing things as we review the video and crack jokes about how much better I am at golf than Brooks Koepka.  

My case is nothing special for Alex, it's just business as usual for him.  I had the opportunity to sit in on another lesson and the story was similar with even more measurable success over the past 2 years. 

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When I first started working with Alex 2 years ago, I carried a 24 handicap, now I am a 10.
— Zander, Student of Alex Dunlop Golf

Alex is the youngest ever winner of the Western Washington Chapter’s PGA Teacher of the Year for 2015 and is generally regarded as one of the best teachers in the state of Washington.  You can find Alex at Newcastle throughout the week or head on over to his website to learn more.  

Golf Town New York!

With the New York area playing host to nearly 20 of America's top 100 golf courses, it is without a doubt one of the best areas for high end golf in the country.  The issue for most golfers is that the majority of these courses are private clubs.  Don't get me wrong, for a weekend golfer looking to pay a daily fee, you have got some great options with Bethpage Black, or nearby Ferry Point.  However, most passionate golfers have their eye on Long Island or Westchester as these regions pack a serious golf punch.  Getting an invitation to play some of these exclusive clubs is partly what makes these rounds so special.  I was fortunate enough to have a couple of these "Bucket List" courses on the agenda.  Let's jump into it, as I get excited just warming up to it.  Click on any of the photos to visit the full course gallery.

  • Quaker Ridge Golf Club

Coming in at #71 on Golf Digest's Top 100, Quaker Ridge is a Tillinghast gem and an excellent way to start off my adventure.  The course is pure classic golf and the greens are regarded as some of the finest in the country.  I found this to be especially true as I was one of the first to head out in the morning, following right behind the maintenance crew.

Given the challenge on the greens, there are certain places you can't afford to miss.  Unfortunately, I found just about all of those places.  A great start course wise, a bad start score wise.  

 

  • Old Oaks Country Club

A quick afternoon tee time was just what I needed to address my early morning swing woes.  As it turns out, that was definitely not the case.  However, I didn't mind my poor play one bit as the walk around Old Oaks is a fantastic one.  It was my second Tillinghast course in the same day.  The only way you can pull that off on the west coast is to own a private jet.  I do not own a private jet.

The highlight of the day was playing through a fourball on the 5th hole and nearly holing out for eagle.  As I tapped in for birdie, I pretended like I hadn't doubled the last two holes.

 

  • Hudson National Golf Club

Resting on dramatic bluffs above the Hudson River Valley, Hudson National is regarded as one of Tom Fazio's finest designs.  The design is not a natural one, as Fazio dynamited over 130,00 cubic feet to match the terrain with his design.  Built in 1996, Hudson is one of the more modern additions to the Top 100, coming in at #95.

The site used to be home to Hessian Hills Country Club in the 1920's.  However, a fire burned it down in the 1930's.  In an odd coincidence, my golf game would also go up in flames for my 2017 round.  Remnants of the old clubhouse can still be seen today along the 4th and 5th holes.  Remnants of my golf game would also survive the fire.

 

  • Essex Country Club

After playing Shoreacres in 2016, I immediately became a Seth Raynor fan.  Unfortunately, there are not many Raynor designs and none near my home base of Seattle.  So when I had an afternoon open up, I gladly signed up for some twilight action at Essex.  The club was founded in 1887 and is the oldest in the state of New Jersey.  A composite design by Banks, Raynor, and Tillinghast, Essex is one of the 25 founding clubs of the USGA.

I had the pleasure of employing Spencer for my round at Essex.  When it comes to caddies, Spencer was just about as enthusiastic as they come.    Quick quote from Spence:  "Oh yeah, our greens are big... Big enough for your ass."  With the help of my man Spence, my game was back on track.

 

  • Maidstone Club

Having found my groove at Essex, I was stoked to be heading out onto Long Island and paying a visit to Maidstone.  The club was founded in 1891 and architectural credits go to Willie Parker Jr.  It also has as a pretty sweet whale logo.  I had heard great things about Maidstone and I was pretty fired up to play.  

The holes on the ocean definitely stand out, but the entire design is very enjoyable and a lot of fun to play.  Fun fact:  The house to the right of the tee box on #15 has bullet proof windows to protect itself from errant tee shots and I guess.. gunfire.  Although, in East Hampton, people are not too concerned about flying bullets penetrating their million dollar homes.

 

  • Bayonne Golf Club

The last thing I said before I found the entrance to Bayonne Golf Club was "Oh man, I definitely made a wrong turn."  It is easy to think you are in the wrong area as you pull in from the nearby industrial area into the private gates of Bayonne.  It's a touch of Scotland that some how found it's way into New Jersey.  Built on top of an old waste disposal site, Bayonne does an excellent job at providing the golfer with a links experience... A links experience with a view of Manhattan.

The day started out with rain and by the 4th hole, it was pouring down pretty good.  Not good for pictures, but not a problem for this Seattleite.  However, by the 7th hole, the rain had lifted and we ended up with a pretty good day for golf.  Nothing quite like the feeling of pealing off your rain gear as the sun hits your shoulders.   

  • Aronimink Golf Club

I had originally visited Aronimink Golf Club in 2016 and it was easily one of my favorite Donald Ross designs.  So when I got a chance to head back out and see the Gil Hanse renovations, I was pretty excited.  If you follow golf course design, you know that Gil Hanse is the hottest architect in the game right now.  It's basically Zoolander but for golf nerds.  See video below for clarification on this point.

After visiting several of Hanse's renovations, I have found them to be very well done and non intrusive.  As a member at Maidstone described it to me, "It's not like he changed the nose on the Mona Lisa, he just scrubbed off all the grime and dirt that had built up over the years.  Now we can see the beauty of the original intent."  The renovation at Aronimink is no exception.  When the BMW Championship visits in 2018, I am sure the players will rave about the course.

Aronimink has one of the coolest clubhouses in the game.

Aronimink has one of the coolest clubhouses in the game.

 

  • National Golf Links of America

After several days of dealing with the big dogs, it was time to bring in the really big dogs.  National Golf Links of America is the ultimate creation from the father of American golf course architecture, Charles Blair McDonald.  This is his masterpiece.

When Stephanie Wei of Weiunderpar.com informed me that we had a tee time, I nearly threw up and definitely peed my pants.  As a fan of the classics and a fan of golf course architecture, NGLA or National, has been at the top of my bucket list for quite some time.  I had studied it from above via Google Earth and now it was time to study it from ground level.  I was beyond excited.

Unfortunately for my score, that excitement would carry over to the first hole and I would promptly open up with a double bogey.  The good news is that the golfer within would emerge and manage a handful of birdies and a score in the 70's.  Every hole is a study in architecture and a joy to play.  

 

  • Fishers Island

The cape hole at Fishers is a crowd favorite.

The cape hole at Fishers is a crowd favorite.

There is an old saying that goes "The only thing better than playing NGLA, is playing NGLA and Fishers Island."  Naturally we hopped onto the ferry to Fishers Island to honor this ancient saying.  Another Seth Raynor gem, Fishers Island is widely regarded to be one of Raynor's very best designs.  Because the course is basically on it's own private island, it offers a golfing experience like no other. 

There are some outstandingly good template holes at Fishers Island and I was particularly impressed by the "Punchbowl" and "Biarritz" options on the front nine.  Other highlights include a birdie bomb on the first hole and the bounce I received on the 8th that led to a very memorable eagle.  

Fishers Island was also one of the most interesting courses I have photographed from the air.  Be sure to check out the gallery.

The best part about the New York area is that you could easily do 3-4 trips of similar quality before you would run low on amazing new courses to play.  This golfer will have to return.