GAO Growing the Game!

Walking around the Toronto Golf Show I was happy to see a variety of booths and kiosks. As we meandered down ‘demo alley’, I spied the area for the Golf Association of Ontario. As a current member, I was drawn to their location like a moth to light. I talked to many of the hosts and hostesses […]

http://thegratefulgolfer.com/2016/02/27/gao-growing-the-game/

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My Dog Days of Winter

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Stu and I taking advantage of no one on the practice area (Nov 2014)

My Dog Days of Winter

While it has been a tame winter in southern Ontario, unlike the Maritimes or parts of the prairies, golf has not been possible for me and like most Canadian golfers we are forced to wait until driving ranges open and shortly after, courses. Well, it doesn’t have to be that way. There are many options to actively engage golfers, maintaining both interests and skills so that come spring we’re ready to enjoy some fun and some success. Here is an overview of my ‘off season’ and my efforts to minimize its impact:

1. Pins are pulled.
I may be one of the last people to play golf in Ontario. Facts are I’ll play until they tell me I can’t. This alone compresses my off-season. I played this year on Christmas Eve and was tempted by the fact Tarandowah, outside of London, ON, opened their course briefly this January and February during an extended mild spell. Playing late is my first first tip to reduce the off season.

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Christmas Eve – 2015.  A mild 14c.

2. Snow falls.
In most winters, it is impossible to think about getting out and playing. Early in the off-season, I use this time to clean and assess the state of my equipment. It can help to inform my wish list to Santa and re calibrates my thinking from playing to maintenance. My equipment is important to me and keeping it in good condition helps. I know I need to seriously consider my choice of golf ball storage, as The Grateful Golfer wrote about.

3. New Years
Like many, I assess goals and this year I have identified two golf related goals for myself. The first is to get into better shape. I am working with certified golf fitness instructor, Todd Marsh from Syracuse, NY. We met via #GolfChat and I am piloting a distance-based fitness program which is tailored to my needs based on a questionnaire and video assessment. I’m feeling great and already notice changes to my flexibility and ability to rotate around the ball in my swing. Second, is a plan to drop my index from 8.8 to under 5.  I will continue my lessons with Brian McCann from BGCC and will focus more on the short game. I am putting in my basement regularly with a focus on technique and pre shot routine.

4. Golf and Travel Show Season
I have written about this before and love the chance to engage with golf professionals and industry leaders. My engagement with the wonderful folks at Golf PEI supported important parts of my research and planning for my fall 2015 trip which you’ve all read about. The Toronto Golf Show whets the appetite for the coming year and allows a chance to try new equipment, plan golf trips, research memberships and simply immerse yourself in a day of golf dreaming and planning. When it is -15c that is not a bad thing.

5. The Masters
Where I live, this usually coincides with the opening of some courses and driving ranges. Even if winter is lingering, it is not long. I use this time to start to work on my full swing, even considering a golf dome (which I don’t enjoy), a golf simulator (which is better), or, if I could something more realistic like TopGolf or a new golf experience set to open in the United States, REALiTEE GOLF. The industry is making great advancements to allow players to enjoy golf off the course. Check them all out!

6. First Round
Nothing is better. It often looks like I am playing on the moon; the ground is wet and the grass dormant grey but I am playing outdoors and after a winter of patiently practicing and planning, I am ready to have at it.

Of course, there are other options. A trip south; reading; or even getting fitted for new equipment. All of these can generate the excitement and help pass the time during the dog days of winter.

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Casting shadows on Christmas Eve early in the morning at Hidden Lake Golf Club

Golfers, Let’s Talk Mental Health

Golfers, Let’s Talk Mental Health.

Today is January 28, 2015. Here in Canada it is #BellLetsTalk day in support of mental health initiatives. For Bell Canada it is a day where 5 cents from every tweet, text, mobile or long distance call with the hashtag listed above is donated from the company in support of research, workplace health, care and access, and anti-stigma programs. In 2014, there were over 109 million tweets, texts and calls made which raised over $5 million. According to the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in any one year 1 in 5 adults will experience a mental health or addiction problem. So maybe your foursome is all ok, but statistically speaking within your group and the one ahead of you someone is suffering. If we correlate this to the number of golfers in Canada, a number which ranges from 1.5 million to almost 6 million (depending on the source) and we can see that mental health challenges affect a large number of golfers.

So why am I sharing this with you today? In my late 20’s I was diagnosed with an anxiety disorder. It’s not on my business card, I don’t share it at dinner parties and I have many friends who may be finding out through this blog for the first time. But the fact is I was struggling and was able to reach out and get the help I needed. And since then I have been able to manage it very well and golf has been a significant aspect of my ongoing health regime. When people talk about golf and health the correlation often relates to walking and the cardiovascular benefits, and maintaining muscle health and flexibility to be able to repeat a swing. I do not hear of people discuss the mental health benefits of golf; in fact I see comics and jokes which show the anger and frustration of the game, funny but not exactly helpful.

But my story is one where golf provided me expansiveness – literally in terms of the field of play, and also in providing me hours of time alone (which I can carve for myself even within a foursome) to think, reflect and often just relax. Golf has provided me a healthy pursuit when I’ve needed it. My wife has often said, “you need to get out and hit some golf balls”, seemingly intuitively knowing when I need a break. I am pleased to say I’ve been feeling healthy and well for many years now. Any relapses are minor in nature and through self-awareness, golf, and knowing there is professional help available should I need it, I am living a healthy life and enjoying positive mental health.

The golf community is amazing. Through this blog I have met new people who educate, entertain and perhaps without knowing it, continue to support my journey. Jim, who authors The Grateful Golfer and Josh who writes Golf Is Mental are bloggers whose writing touches on an issue which is important to me and through their writing continues to educate and inform me about the role golf can have for positive mental health. So send a tweet, send a text and reflect on your own mental health today. #Bellletstalk.

Like Jim, to borrow a phrase, I am a grateful golfer.

This is my favourite golf hole I've ever played, the 16th at Cabot Links.

This is my favourite golf hole I’ve ever played, the 16th at Cabot Links.

Good golf versus great golf

“It’s the little things that separate the good from the great”

–          Bob Schneider

My first encounter with the good v great golf course question was in reviewing a blog post by Robert Thompson in his CanadianGolfer.com blog. Specifically, Robert was writing about the challenges and current shortcomings of the state of golf in Prince Edward Island, specifically Crowbush Cove.  With a recent trip to Cape Breton Island in my rear view mirror and with good memories of world class and top ranked Canadian courses like Cabot Links and Highlands Links and an underrated gem like The Lakes, I shifted my gaze and anticipation to PEI.  Robert’s premise is that PEI offers good golf but not great golf and the chance to upgrade Crowbush Cove is the real hope to move the needle to true greatness for golf in PEI.

For myself, a public player who is only starting to explore Canada’s excellent public golf courses I was taken aback by this critical and candid review. But it did leave me with a lingering question of what makes a golf course good versus great?  And like many debates in the world of golf there is a significant element of subjectivity to it.  I have played courses over the past year or two, highly touted courses, which are not ‘great’ in my opinion.  They’re very good courses I’d happily experience again but I don’t prefer them to others and there are characteristics about them which I do not enjoy.  I acknowledge others may disagree, especially since they sit prominently on top 50 or 100 lists.

So allow me to wade into the debate and offer my opinion to help support myself and others answer this difficult question.

Factors such as location, scenery, layout, conditioning, unique/ memorable quality, facilities and staff are the foundational pieces around greatness.  But I offer forward the following for consideration which complement the clear factors above:

–          Enjoyment

–          Relevance

–          Worthy of travelling to play

–          Challenge

–          History (a trait which I find to be underrated)

–          Diversity (of holes throughout the 18)

–          Fairness

–          Value

But perhaps greatness, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. And with that, I can take comfort in knowing I have some courses off the beaten path which I find to be great.   For that reason I am comfortable offering my opinion and listening to criticism around what courses are good and what courses are great.  After my fall 2015 trip to PEI I can offer an informed opinion on the greatness of PEI golf.  For now, I am happy to reflect on my own experience, read and listen to others and explore what greatness in Canadian public golf means to others.

What do you feel makes a golf course great?

TripleBogey Beer – The Official Beer of the @36aday Blog

TripleBogey Beer – The Official Beer of the @36aday Blog

http://www.triplebogey.com/

First, the marketing opportunities are gold. Marketing a beer to golfers is like ACME Corporation marketing roadrunner-killing gadgets to coyotes; it’s brilliant. As a twitter junkie, I followed the baby steps of the TripleBogey Brewing and Golf Co. from its early days. And as this golf season started I knew I had to try some of this beer and appropriately attire myself with swag. A golf weekend in early May provided me the drive to make this happen.

Geoff Tait is a great guy to know (aside from the obvious, I mean the guy owns a freakin’ brewery!). He’s personable, engaging and very helpful. I was able to procure some of +3’s finest and along with a snappy new +3 toque, and with my supplies secured headed out for an annual golf weekend outside of Sarnia, to a small community called Forest, Ontario. To make a long story short – the beer is awesome, the weather was horrible and my golf game may be as good as it’s ever been (which I attributed to the beer on twitter that weekend).

More on the beer: I love the clean taste. A lager with 5% alcohol, the tall cans provided a crisp finish. And I was able to enjoy a few over the course of the day and evening and not wake up for golf the next day feeling or looking like Keith Richards. To me that’s important. My playing partners also enjoyed the beer, some a little too much! This is not going to be as detailed as a wine review here. Simply put, I like the beer. I like it a lot. And when the winter months are over and my affinity for beer drinking goes up at a similar pace to my interest in playing golf, it is nice to know I have a go-to brand which will satisfy. It tastes like a good, clean Canadian-made brew, meaning it is not too light, watery or void of flavour.

At the time of this blog draft, it is not available for sale at the LCBO or the Beer Store in Ontario but I’m hopeful one day…

Check the website, follow Geoff on twitter and ask…no, demand, your course sell TripleBogey.

TripleBogey is the official beer of the @36aday blog. Drink TripleBogey…play better golf (worked for me!)

The Plague of Slow Play

“Scots do not dally when they play golf.  From their opening stroke on the first tee to the last putt on 18, they play golf with an unerring determination to get to the ball, hit it, and move on…golf is what they are out to play and play it they will.” – Willis Copeland, http://www.theindependentgolfer.com.

I am not a fan of the current USGA “While we’re young” campaign aimed to, essentially, shame slow players to play faster.  To me it’s like trying to swat a fly with one piece of tissue paper instead of rolled up newspaper.  And while I admit I laughed at PGA Professional Ben Crane’s video where he poked fun at himself, I was also struck by the audacity of another PGA pro, Rory Sabbatini, who putted out and basically played the 18th hole alone in protest of Crane’s slow play.  All these belie a significant problem which I feel is keeping people from starting (or for many, continuing) to play the game.

If it was touring professionals alone, I’d be ok with this.  Their livelihood is at stake and their extended rounds mean more time on the couch in the winter to watch golf.  But public golfers are lemmings, ok, I am.  I try to dress like the late Payne Stewart or Ian Poulter.  I like that I can use their equipment and play the same courses they do (although I no longer try to play from the tips, but some will…not an insignificant issue in itself). The point is, we emulate their actions.  We grind over short putts, partially because modern course design provides risk of three putting from 4 feet and ready golf is not commonplace (among other issues).

I’m not radical in my beliefs; course marshals should not have tasers, and should not escort people off the course immediately.  But they should be empowered to effectively move play along.  And players should be aware of and ultimately responsible for the ramifications of their slow play.  I admire a campaign that Copper Creek, in Kleinburg, Ontario, has had, boasting a 4.5 hour round ‘guarantee’.  Another progressive alternative is to reward fast play.  The deep thinkers of the national governing bodies of golf can skirt around this all they want, but the issue is real, deeply problematic in my opinion, and requires some innovative solutions that need to balance a ‘carrot and stick’ approach.  And using a 14 year-old scapegoat at the 2013 Masters, in my opinion, is weak when the issue is much more pervasive.  Perhaps the “While we’re young” campaign needs to be aimed inward at the USGA.  Time and resources can be better utilized leading an action agenda toward solutions, creative and innovative ideas, not gimmicks likely to be lost on the most heinous offenders.  After all, we all impacted by the challenges around pace of play.  John Gordon of Canadian Golf Magazine says it best, “If you love this game, you will take a personal responsibility for it”.

I’m interested in your thoughts.  Is slow play really a serious issue for golf?  What is the greatest challenge that leads to slow play in golf today?

P.S. Special acknowledgement to an excellent article (pg. 11) on the issue of slow play in golf by Canadian Golf Magazine’s Steve Auger which inspired this post.