Month: March 2018

How To Remove The Hassle From Your Next Golf Trip

By Scott Kramer

Golf travel is fun. But transporting your gear with you can be a major hassle — especially shlepping your clubs to and through airports. And the costs can add up: Airlines generally charge $25 to send your golf travel bag each way domestically, although some set you back twice that amount. And that’s if it’s your only checked-in luggage. Fees may double if you’re also checking in a suitcase. Plus you’ll be tipping the bellman at the resort to move the clubs into and out of the golf bag storage area.

You can always rent clubs at your destination. But that can frankly be both expensive ($50/day on up) and dicey: You can often be given clubs that you’re unfamiliar with and are not suited to your swing. As a golf writer, I take a lot of golf trips every year for work. And rental clubs — generally my favorite option, particularly for short excursions, can be hit or miss. I recall one recent multi-day trip when the clubs were so mis-gauged for my swing that it actually ruined the golf portion of my trip. The game is not fun when you cannot get the ball airborne.

So what’s a golfer to do? Ship the clubs ahead of time to your destination. Know up front that there can be drawbacks, such as being without your clubs for a few days immediately before and after your trip. But this method can also eliminate many of the hassles. Which is why several club shipping services have gained popularity the past five years. The most popular is Ship Sticks. It’s a West Palm Beach, Fla.-based company started and run by golfers, that’s been around since 2011.

I went to use it for a trip I’m taking next week. The process was simple. I called the company, told them where I live, where I was going to play golf, and how long I was going to be there. I could’ve used my own travel bag — had my father-in-law not taken it with him on his own golf trip. Instead, Ship Sticks sent me a box via FedEx, replete with pre-printed shipping labels for both directions. And they arranged a date to pick up the clubs at my home. Unfortunately, the day after the box arrived, I had to cancel the golf portion of my upcoming trip. So I was unable to use the service this time.

But several of my friends and colleagues have used it in the past. I’ve heard several praises of the service, and not one complaint. It can be a little pricey: Ship Sticks sends your clubs each way for $40 and up, depending on the weight of your bag and how quickly you need it to get there. But the convenience can outweigh the cost. The company arranges all of the back-end handling at the golf course. All you do is set your bag on your porch or at the front desk of your office, for initial pick-up. Then just show up at your destination course and the clubs will be ready for play. Whenever you want the clubs returned home — and from wherever — the company arranges for that. Next time you see the clubs is back home.

Playing golf more than once or twice on your trip can definitely justify using the service — based on the cost of rentals at most places. And while you can go directly with the likes of FedEx or UPS, those services are more expensive. There’s also a service called Luggage Forward that can do the task. Ship Sticks has its own in with the couriers, so its reps constantly keep track of exactly where your bag is at any time. The company also offers free base insurance of $1,000 on your clubs — included in your cost. But you can buy more.

When you take a golf trip, the courses you play are likely new. So it’s that much more important to have some level of familiarity to help you score well and enjoy the game. Playing your own clubs adds that level of comfort.

Scott Kramer is veteran, Southern California-based writer primarily versed in golf and personal technology. Studying Computer Sciences in college, and then working as a programmer/software engineer for about a decade, triggered my passion for today’s high-end, high-tech gadgets. I can’t help myself whenever I see any kind of cool new personal technology. I feel compelled to further check it out and see what it’s all about. And even if I have no use for it personally, I’m always thinking who it might best suit. There are exciting new innovations emerging daily that are shaping the future and simplifying life. And I hope to be your eyes to that world, through the words of this column.

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New Rules – What are they thinking? OB will carry two shot penalty

By Mike Lednovich, Editor & Publisher

The USGA has announced new rules for 2019 and wow they are doozies.

Let’s start with the double hit. The most famous double hit was T.C. Chen in the 1985 U.S. Open when he had a four shot lead over Andy North and ended up with a quad bogey and lost.

T.C. Chen’s double hit in the 1985 U.S. Open paved the way for Andy North.

This generally occurs with a wedge usually when playing a ball out of thick rough. You hit it, the ball lazily pops up and you hit it again as you follow thru. Used to be a one stroke penalty.  No, not any more. Seems you can hit it as many times as you want in one swing. No penalty at all. This will be ripe for trick shot artists.

But the dumbest is the Out of Bounds rule. The OB rule as always been the most punitive rule in golf — one stroke and distance. Stroke and distance was part of golf’s original list of rules, in 1744, but during subsequent decades and centuries it was repeatedly modified, dropped, resurrected, and modified again. Sometimes you counted only the bad stroke and the do-over; sometimes you added a penalty but got a drop. The most severe version was adopted by the Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews in 1842: three strokes and distance, meaning that if you hit a ball out of bounds your next stroke, played from the spot where you struck your first, counted as your fifth. That lasted until 1846.

In 1959, The Southern California Golf Association railed against the USGA and implemented a one-stroke penalty from the spot where you lost the ball.

Under the new rule you no longer have to go back to the tee and hit again. You can now drop in the vicinity of where the ball crossed the out of bounds marker. But wait, it’s a two shot penalty. Are you freaking kidding me? Two shots? So I go OB, I drop and now I lie three and hitting my 4th shot — OMG! Just shoot me why don’t you?

But let me get this right. I can hit my ball twice in one swing without penalty, but if I hit it outside the white boundary markers it’s gonna cost me two shots. What is the USGA thinking? I’d be better off going back to the tee where I’m hitting my third shot with the possibility of gaining more yardage with a straight drive.

My solution is do away with out of bounds all together. Just make all boundaries a lost ball for Pete’s sake. By the way, how and who determines what areas on the course are OB and what are lost balls? Why can I hit a lost ball to the left, but it’s OB on the right?

I will give the USGA credit on the measuring in taking relief rule where some golfers got an unfair advantage by using their long putters instead of their drivers to measure their relief point. Long Putters are now out of the equation.

OK, that’s my rant on these rules. At least they got the dropping procedure right. Now it’s from knee height instead of should height. Maybe before I reach the cosmos you can merely place the ball for goodness sakes. Thankfully I’m a recreational golfer and as I tell my friends, “You know there’s no Claret Jug in the clubhouse?” That simply means follow the intention of the rules unless there’s money on the line or you’re playing for a title.

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French Lick: Donald Ross and Pete Dye at their finest

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Don’t get shafted! A Guide to Finding the Right Shaft for Your Game

By Leonard Finkel

 

Think you know a lot about golf shafts? Think again. Did you know there are no recognized standards for shaft flex, no uniform measurements?

Flex can mean something different for every brand and manufacturer. Tolerance ranges in each category like stiff or regular are huge! To learn more about this misunderstood topic, I spoke with executives from leading shaft manufacturers: Fujikura’s Chad Embrey, Victor Afable of VA Composites, Gawain Robertson of ACCRA/True Temper Plus, Kim Braley of KBS Golf and Nick Sherburne, founder of Club Champion, a national club fitting chain.

Club Champion is the #1 premium club fitter, builder and retailer of the best brands in golf. Their master fitters and builders are unrivaled experts. Their approach is unbiased; no specific vendor is promoted. The only goal is to find the best combination of components to lower your scores. Club Champion offers over 35,000 hittable head and shaft combinations, making Sherburne an expert on the topic.

Says Sherburne, “The industry taught us the head is the engine of the golf club because that’s what hits the ball. But the shaft is far more important. With thousands of shafts and no industry standards in flex, it’s nearly impossible for golfers to find the shaft that performs best for them without professional help. This makes it important to not buy clubs off the rack. Instead, find a skilled fitter with a launch monitor to show you how the right shaft will maximize your swing to its fullest potential.”

According to Gawain Robertson at ACCRA, terms like stiff or regular flex are so generalized, they really mean nothing. Different sections of the shaft can be totally different flexes within that shaft. When ACCRA designs shafts, they look at three different zones; the butt, midsection and tip. They can produce shafts that are soft in the middle and stiff at the tip or the butt section plus countless other combinations. Robertson adds, “Club fitters understand the profiles of shafts. If a player needs something with a softer tip section and a stiffer butt section, they know which shaft fits that profile for that golfer. Club Champion’s understanding of how to fit golfers is an integral part of any club being successful in a player’s hands. “

Chad Embrey from Fujikura shares that, “Flex specifications range from manufacturer to manufacturer and it is significantly impacted by torque, one of the most misunderstood shaft specifications. The ways you can measure torque are countless.” Many golfers think that lower torque means better shafts. Not necessarily true. Higher torque shafts are better for smoother, slower swingers; getting the ball up and creating spin. Lower torque is better for herky-jerky movements, guys that swing aggressively.

VA Composites likes to fit to the way a player loads the shaft, not just swing speed. Afable says, “Imagine two types of swings. An Ernie Els swing, which is a very smooth tempo; and a swing like Lanny Watkins, a short, fast swing. Both may have the same swing speed, but they get there two different ways. The fitters at Club Champion really understand the difference and are trained to fit our shafts not only to factors such as swing speed but also to the amount of shaft load a player will create.”

There is an enormous difference between standard OEM golf shafts and higher-end aftermarket models. Materials and technology are different, as is attention to detail. Premium shafts are manufactured individually in Japan while stock shafts are most likely made in places like Vietnam or Mexico on an assembly line.

Typically, cheaper shafts are made from lower grade materials. They’re manufactured in larger quantities which necessitates wider tolerances. The most exotic materials from Japan maintain very tight tolerances, not only for frequency, but straightness and roundness of the shaft. When a shaft is not rolled or manufactured properly, there will be gaps within the layers of graphite, which can really affect performance.

With aftermarket product used on Tour and sold through premium club fitters, Fujikura has the freedom to use materials and technologies that may be cost prohibitive for an OEM club company. “A lot of times when I handle OEM business, cost targets prohibit some of the techniques we can use. An OEM shaft is a great shaft. We would never not put our name on it,” Embrey adds. Mostly, OEM shafts do what they’re intended to do, but they’re not designed to dial players in.

To facilitate finding the right components, Club Champion uses a unique coupling system that allows golfers to hit any head and shaft. They deliver combinations that address a golfer’s problems and fix them. Most fitters use fitting carts provided by club manufacturers. While they offer options, golfers are unable to mix-and-match across carts to determine their ideal combinations.  Club Champion offers hundreds of shafts, many not available through most other fitters and retailers.

Sherburne believes golfers should start thinking about what value they put a on their golf game. “Sometimes people come in and say they’ll just get something off the shelf because spending $500 to get an extra 20 yards isn’t worth it. That 20 extra yards is two less clubs into the green? Hitting pitching wedge instead of 8-iron, you’re going to hit more greens. I can almost guarantee that 20 yards is going to knock two strokes off your handicap.”

Club Champion delivers a Tour-quality fitting producing longer, more accurate shots with a nearly 100% satisfaction rate. Whether you’re looking to buy new clubs or just fix your current set, premium club fitting is the answer. With 28 studios across the country, at Club Champion, you don’t just buy clubs, you buy guaranteed improvement. More information at, https://clubchampiongolf.com/gator-golf

 

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French Lick: Donald Ross and Pete Dye at their finest

If the golf courses at French Lick Resort aren’t on your must-play list, adjust it. The Indiana boyhood home of NBA Hall of Famer Larry Bird also has two layouts that are turning the hoops hotbed into a golf playground as well.