Impressions of the 2017 Toronto Golf and Travel Show

http://www.torontogolfshow.com/

I’m losing count but my guess would be that this is my 7th Toronto golf show in the past 8 years.  My motivation for attending has changed considerably over the years.  Gone are the days when I would show up early and line up to access the quality free golf giveaway (which still exists and creates significant buzz).  Now, I am interested in building and maintain relationships.  I have been fortunate to make friends in the golf industry in Canada and this event provides me a regular touch point to connect with key people in golf in Canada.

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Meeting golf ball inventor and legend, Dean Snell.

Let’s not kid ourselves here…there is an energy and buzz to this show which gets any golfing enthusiast excited for the season ahead.   Add to it exhibitors keen to share information on their products, courses, services and organizations and I was no different than the multitude of attendees.  So as I reflect back on the Golf and Travel Show, here are my impressions:

  1. There is something for everyone.

There really is.  Whether its discounted retail outlet shopping; numerous jurisdictions providing information on golf and travel escapes; access to local, national and international golf with strong promotional offers; chances to try new equipment; access to lessons from CPGA teaching professionals; draws and giveaways; speakers; and more.  The Toronto International Centre is sufficiently big enough to host an event of this magnitude and organizers had things clearly marked inside.

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Such a pleasure to meet and chat with Jim Burton.  For those active on Twitter, you’ll know him as The Grateful Golfer (@TheGratefulGolf)

  1. Make time to meaningfully engage.

The crowds are such that some people feel they should only spend a brief moment and gather information.  But I have learned that it is possible to strike up a conversation, ask questions and learn more about courses, organizations and golfing regions.  Carve out the experience you want from the show.  I appreciated the chance to meet The Grateful Golfer, a fellow golf blogger who does exceptional work (and possesses an exceptional golf game).  I spent time with my friends at Snell Golf Canada.  Highlighted here was the chance to meet Dean Snell, inventor of Snell golf balls and whom I most recently interviewed.  The booth got busier as the afternoon went on and I was happy to share my positive experience with these golf balls with attendees.

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It’s an annual tradition for me to head over and visit my good friends at Golf PEI.  Appreciated that Mark McLane could take time to talk and share insight on new initiatives.

I spent some time talking with my friend Mark McLane from Golf PEI and learned about some of the new golf initiatives happening on the gentle island.  It was a pleasure to meet Graham Hudson from Highlands Links who was at the Golf North booth.  Graham was excited to share some of the great developments happening on the course.  I met an old friend from grade school who heads up the On The Tee magazine.  And I had a chance to connect briefly with Jay from the 36 Golf Company, an amazing golf apparel company based in Canada.

I met and networked with many others.

  1. Grab now, read later.

I like to learn about new getaway destinations but I also like to learn about what courses in my area – the western part of the Greater Toronto Area – offer in terms of early season specials and promotions.  This approach of gathering as much information as possible truly helped me plan for my 2015 PEI golf trip and I find that once I am back in the quiet of my own home I can sift through the materials I have gathered and identify new courses to play, destinations to consider and products to learn about.  Along with making a direct connection with someone, I love this part of the golf show.

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As with any trophy, it’s only to be touched when you win it.  The base of the RBC Canadian Open trophy is being extended to allow for more winners to be added.

4. Shopping for Golf Gear

This part appeals to me less than others listed above.  The Golf and Travel Show has expanded over the years to include retailers offering discount product.  Often models which are older, there is value to be had but people need to be discerning in looking at product.  And if you can imagine it, they sell it.  Carts, bags, training aids, clubs, balls and apparel are all available.  I counted three separate discount retailers this year.  I grabbed a new putter grip but that was all.

  1. Education and Youth Engagement

This part excites me as the Golf and Travel Show works to engage junior golfers.  Being there on a Friday I did not see many kids (as they’d be in school) but understand that allowing kids to enter free and offering a real hands on experience in terms of contests, trying clubs, lessons and more, will provide people (kids of all ages) with a great opportunity to learn about the game and engage more within it.

I attended the Dean Snell talk and he provided a true master class on ball fitting which contradicts many approaches companies utilize today.  I learned a great deal from Dean during his 30 minute talk, including Q & A.   The speakers line up was diverse and impressive.

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Crowds were large and lineups long.  It moved steadily fortunately.  Great to see this kind of excitement.

The timing of this show is perfect, as it happens late enough in winter and before the Masters to truly pique the interest of golfers.  Based on the lineups and the large crowds on the first day, this is an event that just keeps growing and getting better and better.

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Conversation with Dean Snell – Part 3

@36aday is pleased to introduce interviews with leaders in the game of golf in Canada. Nine questions are presented to probe important issues of the game, personal experiences, stories and insight. Just like 9 holes of golf, I hope you find this enjoyable and that it leaves you wanting more.

This is the third of this three-part conversation with Dean Snell, owner and inventor of Snell Golf balls.  In this segment Dean discusses his approach to ball fitting, his upcoming visit to Canada at the Toronto Golf and Travel Show and his dream foursome.

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7. Golf ball companies are getting aggressive in their marketing of ball fitting approaches. What is your response to this and what would you suggest for someone who would like to determine what Snell golf ball is best for them?

DS – So when I mentioned before being a hockey player there are certain pet peeves that make me want to pull the jersey over their heads and start throwing uppercuts.  This is one of them.  Having someone fit for a golf ball by hitting three golf balls into a net with a driver is absolutely wrong.  Today we’ve done so much work in getting the spin rates and ball speed and launch angles correct.  And off the tee they all go about the same distance.  Hitting a few balls and judging a bad shot compared to a good shot and then say, ‘this is the ball for you, you gained six yards’; it’s just the wrong way to do it.  Over time those golf balls will be about the same distance.  But where you’ll notice it is in the short game.  That’s where you’ll notice a difference.  So a two piece golf ball and a tour golf ball, from 100 yards and in are completely different in performance.  One flies high with less spin, one flies low with more spin.  You’re going to experience the fliers and the jumpers, the bump and runs, or the low hit knock downs with the check; they’re different.  So my recommendation for fitting – you spend so much fitting for your clubs and fine tuning them at a range but the ball counts for every shot.  So take maybe an hour and a half and go out on a course and take all the clubs you’d use inside of 100 yards.  Take the My Tour Ball (MTB) and the Get Sum 2 piece ball and whatever models you play and go and hit balls from 100 yards, 70, 50, 30, chip, putt, and once a group catches you go to the next hole and keep doing the same thing.  Just play a lot of shots from inside 100 yards.  And after the 4th of 5th hole something in there is going to say I like the way it flew high, flew low, checked, bumped and ran, felt soft or hard, whatever it is you like.  Fit the ball to what you prefer there and trust off the tee they’ll all be the same.    Because if you can’t tell the differences inside of 100 yards your game is not ready yet for it and just buy the cheapest one.

MJ – Following up, you mentioned this around the time of the PGA Show in Orlando that the My Tour Ball may be better suited for mid to high handicap players who could benefit more from tour ball performance around the greens.  Could you please elaborate on this?

DS – If you take price out of it, tour golf balls are going to be better for everybody.  The 18 handicap misses 17 greens.  That’s 17 par 3’s the player has to play effectively.  If you play low compression, low spin golf balls you have the worst possible performance the closer you get to the greens.  So that’s where most of your golf is played, it’s where most of your scores happen.  A higher handicap who shoots 90 versus a guy who shoots 72, you have a lot more shots which you play around the greens which you could get better at than the guy shooting 72.  You’re never going to be able to hit a ball that hits and sucks back the way the pros do but you may be able to add some spin on a full wedge which may and roll out 5 feet instead of 15 feet.  You stopped it 10 feet closer.  Maybe your chip stops 5 feet closer that could eliminate one or two 3 putts.  Having an advantage of performance around the greens is what tour golf balls have.  If you can get that you will only perform better the closer you get to the green and that’s going to help you lower scores.

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8. I understand you’re going to be coming to Toronto for the Golf and Travel Show in February. Snell Golf Canada will be present and showcasing your product offerings.  What is your schedule there and when can people come by and talk with you?

DS – My understanding is I will be in the Snell Golf Canada booth on Friday.  I will be speaking on Friday mid-afternoon and also Saturday around noon.  I’ll do a little presentation for everybody and the rest of the time I’ll be in the booth so if anybody has any technical questions or wants to come by and say hi I will be at the Snell Golf Canada booth.

I believe the team will have balls available to sell to people attending the show.  We’ve done this before and it creates a real buzz with golf show participants.

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9. Lastly, what is your dream foursome and what course tops your own Bucket List? Is there a course(s) in Canada you’d like to experience?

DS – Boy, that’s a good question.  My dream foursome would probably include Wayne Gretzky, Michael Jordan and Bobby Orr and myself.  Those guys to me were the best in their sports during their time.  They are all golfers and I think it would be so cool to listen to some of their stories both on and off the field of play.  I’d love to get some pictures too, it would be great memorabilia.

MJ – That’s a strong list, how about courses?

DS – You’ll have to help me with courses in Canada; I’ve spent much time in Canada in the winter time but not enough in the summer.  Being in the industry so long I haven’t played much golf, things have been busy.  I’d love to play Augusta National, or Pebble Beach.  I’ve been to Pebble and worked there and walked the course but have never been there with my clubs.  Augusta is my first choice just because it is Augusta.

MJ – When you get there, and I hope you’re able to play Augusta one day, take a picture of your My Tour Ball when you stick the green on 12.

DS – (Laughs) I will.

MJ – Thank you for your time Dean.  Continued success.

DS – My pleasure.  Thank you.

Click here to access Part 1 of my conversation with Dean.

Click here to access Part 2 of my conversation with Dean.

 

 

 

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

Dog Days of Summer

Dog Days of Summer

Being a statistics geek regarding my golf game I recently looked at my rounds per month over the past 7 years (yes, I keep data around my game going back many years). Within the golf season in southern Ontario (May to October), the month I play golf the least is August. This also explains why for two summers now with this blog gets a little quieter for me. For me, I will call it my golfing dog days of summer.

The hottest weather I have ever golfed in was outside of Phoenix, Arizona. It was an early August morning and once the round was completed the temperature was 108 F (42 C). The dry heat matters to me. I had a round at Grand Niagara one July which was so hot and humid I needed to wear rain gloves to keep a grip on the club. That was a hot one, too. Fact is, I am growing increasingly uncomfortable playing golf in the humid summer heat of Ontario.  AZ golf

The numbers back this up. My busiest months to play are May (6.4 rounds) and October (5.8 rounds). August is my least active with only 3.1 rounds on average. And this year may see me below that number. I expend considerable emotional energy thinking about this game. From January to March the obsession is quite high leading up to the first few courses that open and disregard the dormant, grey-green grasses. I go the Toronto Golf and Travel Show and plan in earnest for an early season golf trip. But in August, upon reflection, I am ready for a physical and emotional break. 3 months of regular play and practice has been replaced by lower energy reserves and a desire to keep at it. With high temperatures this week and humidity levels over 100 F (38 C) I realized my desire to play golf was low. Not having touched a club for over a week (which is rare anytime throughout the year) I decided to look over my statistics of play and see if this was unusual.

This is not a criticism, more an observation of a trend over time. Fact is, my energy level and interest to play golf is greater in October than it is in August…at least in Ontario in August.

So bring on the cooler and wet weather. The dog days of the golf season in Ontario are a time for me to give my body and mind a brief break from the game. And to me that is ok.

I’m curious to know if others give themselves time away from the game – playing, planning or reflecting – asidAZ golfe from when the weather dictates play is not possible? I can appreciate if you think it’s odd I choose August for this break.

Impressions of the 2015 Toronto Golf and Travel Show

Impressions of the 2015 Toronto Golf and Travel Show

As I approach the one year anniversary of this blog it is nice to be able to provide some ‘regular’ posts and a reflection post of the annual Toronto Golf and Travel Show is very exciting. First, it is an important milestone which indicates that spring is near. Second, as a golf enthusiast, the show is extremely impressive and offers something for everyone – tech and gear, courses, apparel, travel, and chances to meet leaders in the industry. And for myself there was a nice mix of all the above.

A healthy crowd for the noon opening

 

A new feature of this blog which will launch February 23 and extending to March 6 will be segments of my inaugural interview. Special thanks to Sean Casey, Director of Instruction at Glen Abbey Golf Club for his time. His interview will be released in nine unique posts which span an array of topics including his early career work with Tiger’s former instructor Sean Foley. But make no mistake, Sean Casey is a renowned instructor in his own right and I am excited to share with readers Sean’s philosophy, experience and insight on the game. At the Golf Show, I was fortunate to also interview Mark McLane, Executive Director for Golf PEI. Without giving too much away, I have also set tentative plans to interview the Program Coordinator for the progressive Golf Association of Ontario initiative, ‘She Swings She Scores’, and one of the Managing Partners for my golf club, the GTA Golf Club. This is a unique model that provides limited membership access to discounted greens fees at selected courses in the Greater Toronto Area as well in around London, Kitchener-Waterloo and a third hub in Chicago. I am hopeful the interviews will be informative and entertaining, while providing me some ‘journalistic’ experience.

Golf PEI Executive Director, Mark McLane and I at the Golf PEI booth

Golf PEI Executive Director, Mark McLane and I at the Golf PEI booth

A change in venue to the International Centre, a very large trade show venue in Mississauga, Ontario and adjacent to Pearson International Airport was interesting to see. My thoughts were numbers may suffer on Friday as the draw of downtown professionals on Friday was significant. Conversely, I expected numbers should increase over the weekend given the suburban location and proximity to major highways, along with free parking. Attending on the Friday afternoon I was impressed with the crowd and the overall layout. Over the years some exhibitors come and others go and it creates something new each year. What I appreciate are the ones who have made a long-term commitment to the Golf Show.

As mentioned, I had great conversations with Golf PEI and Golf Nova Scotia, two destinations which remain high on my travel list for golf in Canada. I visited several Ontario courses and observed how they’re seeking to engage people – less with giveaways and more with incentives for membership or extended play privileges.

The retail component was extensive but disappointing (for me, I acknowledge) with clearance-type retailers and not a leading retail chain. I also was impressed with the presence the RBC Canadian Open had. Participants were invited to post a picture on twitter with the RBC Canadian Open trophy for a chance to win an autographed Graham DeLaet hat and a Golf Canada golf bag. I also like the GAO booth which was set up for people to converse with staff. Given their influence and reach over the game in Ontario it was nice to see them set up so invitingly.

Posing with the RBC Canadian Open Trophy.  This pic won me the #rbcco prize pack for Friday!

Posing with the RBC Canadian Open Trophy. This pic won me the #rbcco prize pack for Friday!

Like every year, I entered several contests for golf trips. I was so impressed with the golf Bluetooth speaker system from Songbirdie and bought an entry level model with a small cord which would attach to my iPhone…nice for early morning rounds which may allow me some mellow tunes to really relax and enjoy my surroundings. And no, I would never play it so loud as to disturb others…there is etiquette to remember. But I do play some courses which are, shall we say, a little more liberal on such things.

I have much information to sort through, including promotional materials from PEI to help me and three buddies plan our fall trip this year (10 rounds, 7 days!). Of course, this will complement the exceptional service and support we’ve already received from Golf PEI.

In closing, the show was a smashing success and I applaud the organizers for the decision to move to the International Centre. It was informative and exciting. And hey, do the right thing next year and get Triple Bogey Brewing back. If I’m searching for criticism, that would be it. But overall, the experience was positive.

Optimize your golfing off-season

“If you’re haven’t started on 2015 than you’re already behind” – @JakeCalderGolf

I’m not the first to write about the end of the 2014 golf season. Other bloggers that I enjoy reading, like The Grateful Golfer and Golf is Mental have shared their thoughts on this. And while I’m always a little sad when it’s time to clean the clubs for the winter it does not mean I have to stop focusing on the game. Here are 10 ways to help pass the golfing off-season:

1. Pause for Reflection – Golf is a game (for most of us, anyway). What was fun about it for you? What were the challenges? Why do you play the game and were your past reasons consistent today? What do you get from the game and what do you try to give back to the game?

2. Look back at highlights – Did you play any new and exciting courses? Did you reach milestones or achieve goals you’d set at the beginning of the season? Best shot? (Worst shot?). Any career rounds? Any aces?

3. Reset goals for the upcoming season – Extending from the previous two points, it is time for new goals (either loftier or more realistic)? For me, as a single digit handicapper now (8.8) I’m going to have to spend some time on this.

4. Assess your equipment needs – How are the sticks? Any need to add to your putter collection? What about apparel, shoes or even your ball (golf ball is one area I’ve struggled to match to my game for almost 2 years now). And with Black Friday almost here the time for this is perfect.

5. Fitness – a new focus for me. I’m 47 years old and well past my immortal phase. With a horrendously short swing I’ll spend the off-season seeking to increase flexibility, strength and boost my cardio. Can you still walk 36 a day?

6. Practice – For those like me locked in the Great White North or parts of the USA and Europe where there’s an extended and forced off season at home there are options to keeping the swing loose. Indoor domes, golf simulator studios and even finished basements all mean that in the off season our clubs are not necessarily banished to the garage.

7. Write (and read) – love the game? Why not write about it. Blogs are fun, easy and can connect you with a host of others who share a passion for the game.  I plan to read this winter too.  Bob Rotella and Lorne Rubenstein are on the top of my reading list.

8. Lessons – yes, I am starting with a new instructor in 2015 (it just wasn’t the big news Tiger’s move was). Developing a plan to continue to improve and address the weaknesses in my game which are primarily inside 100 yards.

9. Golf and Travel Shows – while these tend to happen in late winter, they can certainly whet the appetite and connect you to new gear, new course and vacation options and get you excited for the imminent start of the season.

10. Travel, or, plan your next golf trip – If you don’t live in the southern states or even Canada’s own Vancouver Island where you can play 12 months a year that forgo the off season and travel there to play! I’m already doing some extensive research on a fall 2015 trip to PEI with some buddies.

The off season can be a state of mind and a time to reflect and refine goals. Sure, we can’t get out and tee it up when we’d like but it does not mean we can’t take strides to improve our performance and enjoyment of the game!