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Business

Haggin Oaks: A golf course success story as measured by the foot

A beleaguered game takes its success stories however they come these days, and this one comes with a soccer ball.

In July of 2013, Haggin Oaks, a popular golf facility in Sacramento, Calif., began offering footgolf, a soccer/golf hybrid, though without any expectations or marketing.

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It extended invitations to soccer teams to come out and experience it, and “it took on a life of its own,” one of Haggin Oaks’ owners, Ken Morton Jr., said. “It was all word of mouth. Sacramento has four television stations and they all came out. The Sacramento Bee did a front-page story on it.”

The rounds of footgolf exceeded 13,000 the first year, at the same price as nine holes of golf, Morton said, and the number is steadily, even rapidly growing.

“We’ve been surprised every step of the way. The reception has been nothing sort of remarkable. We certainly had some of the old guards ticked off that there are soccer players out on their golf course. However, at the end of the day positive reaction has been far greater than any negative reaction. And we have only touched the surface.”

Morton said that “we’re quite confident we could play 50,000 rounds” given the time to pursue it. It now employs a director of footgolf who is reaching out to soccer clubs in the Sacramento area. “Our junior soccer program in the greater Sacramento region is the largest anywhere in the continental United States,” Morton said. “Soccer teams come out [to Haggin Oaks] and use it for practice, and have birthday parties for kids.”

Related: We call it golf

Haggin Oaks features two golf courses, one of them the MacKenzie course designed by Alister MacKenzie. The 18-hole footgolf course has been set up on the front nine of the Arcade Creek course and features its own tee boxes and greens that are situated adjacent to the golf course’s fairways and greens.

It now hosts several footgolf tournaments, as well as dual-sports tournaments in which contestants play nine holes of footgolf and nine holes of regular golf. Morton said the footgolf tournament fields fill up faster than its regular golf tournaments.

The question, of course, is whether footgolfers can be converted to regular golf. “We’re seeing some of that,” Morton said. “As we begin to figure this out more, that’s our job to make that conversion. But it’s not uncommon now to see on the range somebody’s golf bag with a soccer ball sitting next to it.

Related: 17 GIFs that explain how footgolf works

“It is a different sport altogether, but we’re trying to encourage as many as we can to play in the dual-sports tournaments. It’s been an absolute blast for the one=s who have done it.”

Morton is following the example of his father, Ken Morton Sr., a PGA of America professional who has been associated with Haggin Oaks in one form or another since 1958 and is now one of its owners as well as the CEO of Morton Golf.

“Growth of the game initiatives have been at the forefront of everything he’s done throughout his career,” Morton Jr. said. “We’ve tried to take that baton.”

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Travel

Deal of the Week: Golf around the world on a private jet adventure

It probably isn't accurate to call a month-long, 14-course private-jet journey that costs almost $80,000 per person a "deal," but considering the itinerary and amenities, you'd be hard-pressed to recreate the trip for the same price on your own. 

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The "Golf Around the World" adventure starts at the Four Seasons in Kona, Hawaii, and hits nine countries in 24 days -- with stops in Fiji, Australia, Indonesia, Thailand, United Arab Emirates, Mauritius, South Africa and Spain -- and checks off world-class courses like the Alister MacKenzie-designed New South Wales Golf Club, Valderrama and Links at Fancourt (above).

Off the course, you won't exactly be slumming it. Accommodations are Four Seasons level and above, and you'll head from country to country non-stop on a private Boeing 757 outfitted for 78 spread-out and comfortable travelers. 

Ultra-high-end luxury tour organizers TCS Expeditions and Kalos Golf are partnering to offer the trip, which includes golf, transportation, accommodations and guidance from a team of experienced tour leaders and lecturers -- and a once in a lifetime opportunity to one-up anyone else's golf trip story, anytime. The price is $78,450 per person for the full golf itinerary on the trip, which runs from October 8-31, 2015. Non-golfers can go along for $73,950. Space is limited to 78, and reservations can be made up to a month before departure. 

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Equipment

Callaway bolsters Big Bertha driver line

big-bertha-alpha-815.jpg“There’s really no one recipe for distance, there’s no one driver type that fits all,” said Alan Hocknell, Callaway’s R&D chief. “In fact, we found that there are three.” 

Those words herald today's introduction of two new Big Bertha drivers. The two new clubs complete a trio of fitting options with last month’s Big Bertha V-Series. While the lightweight, aerodynamic V-Series is aimed at enhancing clubhead speed, the new Big Bertha Alpha 815 and Alpha 815 Double Black Diamond (in stores Nov. 14) focus on spin reduction and forgiveness. The new introductions, each of which features two settings of vertical center of gravity positions come 10 months after the company unveiled the Big Bertha Alpha, its first driver to feature independent adjustability of vertical center of gravity, as well as loft and lie.

Both Big Bertha Alpha 815 and Alpha 815 DD feature lightweight composite crowns, the central core weight that can be flipped in a low or mid center of gravity position (the "gravity core"), heel and toe adjustable weights, an adjustable hosel and a revised face design that saves additional weight. In the Alpha 815 ($450; 9, 10.5 12 degrees), the weight is saved to provide lower spin and improved off-center hit stability compared to last December’s Big Bertha Alpha. 

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"We wanted this driver to get into the space where it's capable of delivering low spin but play with the character of being forgiving, as well," Hocknell said. "We don't think there's currently another driver in the marketplace that really accomplishes those two objectives."

When Callaway introduced its Big Bertha driver last December, it stressed forgiveness with a movable weight that slid to various degrees of draw and fade bias. It also debuted the Big Bertha Alpha, whose adjustable vertical center of gravity could alter spin rate by some 300 revolutions per minute depending on whether the core was positioned with its heavy end in the top or bottom position. But it was somewhat less forgiving, featuring a lower moment of inertia, or stability on off-center hits.
 
Fast forward to today and the new Big Bertha Alpha 815 promises to do both. Meanwhile, the Big Bertha Alpha 815 Double Black Diamond, as its name implies, is geared to more elite, higher swing speed golfers. Its emphasis is on extreme spin reduction.
 
The Alpha 815 utilizes eight materials (including titanium, stainless steel, tungsten, aluminum, ABS thermoplastic, and the company's trademark "forged composite" carbon fiber material) and has a lighter swingweight and overall club weight than the original Alpha along with slightly more draw bias. Also different is the head size—460cc compared to 430cc on last year’s model. The gravity core (which produces more spin in the “up” position and less when the end with more weight is in the “down” position) is identical to the original.
 
The most intriguing parts of the club, however, are the rib structures that connect from the face to the sole and the crown. “The combination of those ribs plus a thinner overall structure in the area around the face in addition to the composite crown makes the club lighter than it was before,” says Hocknell. “We have used that weight [between 5 and 6 grams] elsewhere to stretch the body in order to improve the forgiveness of the club.”
 
Hocknell went on to say that the face (which is .005 to .006 of an inch thinner on average) was designed to improve specific areas, noting that the center of the face already was at the limit and that the area near the sole of the driver is already flexible so there was no need to make it more so. Instead, Callaway engineers used internal ribs in the crown and sole to better control the flexibility of the boundary areas of the face while creating more ball speed by boosting face deflection. The company calls it RMOTO for "rib motion control"—in short, a more efficient transfer of energy to the ball while using up less weight in the face. That weight is then redistributed for more off-center hit stability than last year's Big Bertha Alpha.
 
The adjustability of the Alpha 815 expands beyond the gravity core with adjustable heel and toe weights (1 gram and 7 grams) as well as an adjustable hosel with settings ranging from minus 1 degree loft to plus 2 degrees loft, as well as draw and neutral lie angle settings. There’s also been an upgrade in the area of shaft selection as well. In addition to the stock Fujikura Speeder Motore 565, there are 13 additional premium shafts available at no upcharge from the $450 street price.
 
The Alphja 815 DD ($500, with two lofts: 9 and 10.5 degrees) version boasts most of the same attributes as the Alpha 815, but with a smaller clubhead footprint with a deeper, more open face angle and a taller gravity core that provides a larger spin difference. Furthering Callaway’s claim of a “extreme low spin driver” is that weight savings of 3 grams from the face were used to lower the CG to further lessen spin. The adjustable hosel is the same as the Alpha 815, with the movable weights of 1 gram and 5 grams.
 
Both drivers will be available in golf stores in November.
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News & Tours

Congrats, Chesson Hadley, but this crop of rookies was pretty weak

Chesson Hadley was named the 2013-14 PGA Tour Rookie of the Year on Wednesday, winning a vote by his peers. Although it wasn't quite the slam dunk as Rory McIlroy taking Player of the Year honors, Hadley was an obvious choice as well -- which doesn't say too much for his fellow first-timers on tour.

Related: 8 eye-popping stats from the PGA Tour season

Not to take anything away from Hadley, who had a nice season that was highlighted by a win at the Puerto Rico Open, but there weren't any serious challengers. European Ryder Cup team member Victor Dubuisson and Brooks Koepka could have given the 27-year-old Hadley more of a run, but both are just special temporary members of the tour and combined to play in 28 events -- one fewer than Hadley.

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Those three players were the only golfers nominated for the award by the PGA Tour, which nominated five players for player of the year for some reason. Hadley's victory, plus his four top 10s and a rookie-best (Dubuisson and Koepka were ineligible) 49th-place in the FedEx Cup standings put him over the top.

Related: Golf Digest's profile on Hadley

But things really fell off in the rookie ranks after that trio. Only one other rookie, Brice Garnett, who finished 121st in the FedEx Cup standings, even advanced to the Playoffs.

So, that's four of the 16 players who qualified as rookies -- essentially, a player's first year on the PGA Tour playing at least 10 events for finishing in the top 125 on the FedEx Cup or official money list -- who retained their tour cards for the 2014-15 season. Another two, Hudson Swafford and Tyrone Van Aswegen, kept their cards through the Web.com Tour Finals.

The 16 rookies combined for 16 top 10s (Will Wilcox was the only player other than Hadley, Dubuisson and Koepka to have more than one top 10) and just eight top fives. Outside of that top trio, the other 13 rookies only had three top fives and seven top 10s.

The Grind: A divided United States, and a pregnant Paulina

So of the group, Hadley had the best PGA Tour season, Dubuisson looks like the best player and Koepka, who finished T-4 at the U.S. Open, probably has the best chance of being on the next U.S. Ryder Cup team. Apart from that? Well, better luck next year.

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News & Tours

Missing Links: U.S. cause a 'mess'...and thanks to Mickelson more people know it,' and McIlroy now a comfortable No. 1

Stories of interest you might have missed…

Phil Mickelson’s post-Ryder Cup tirade could be what the U.S. needs, James Corrigan of the Telegraph writes. “For now they lambast, pillory and accuse Phil Mickelson of disrespect, disloyalty and even treachery…The US Ryder Cup cause is in a bigger mess than it has ever been and thanks to Mickelson more people know about it.”

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(Getty Images photo)

The manner in which the PGA of America selects its Ryder Cup captain is flawed, Doug Ferguson of the Associated Press writes. “It’s hard to say which is more dreadful. That [PGA president Ted Bishop] would connect [Tom] Watson’s playing record in Scotland with his ability to lead players half his age? Or that the PGA of America alone decides to should be captain?”

“As Rory McIlroy returned to the feared Angus links where he first announced his talent to the sporting public at large seven years ago, Jack Nicklaus was hailing his Ryder Cup performance as the proof that he is finally enjoying being the world No‚ÄČ1,” Corrigan writes in the Telegraph.

The “draft Azinger” movement is gaining momentum, as Mark Cannizarro of the New York Post indicates in this column that also defends Phil Mickelson for his controversial comments. “Mickelson had the guts to step up and say something,” Azinger said. “Mickelson is a winner and he sees the bigger picture. I see Mickelson as the instigator of what is hopefully going to be a real effort by the PGA of America to fix what’s wrong. I believe that we’re only an eyelash away from winning these matches.”

“By the time the next Ryder Cup comes along, [Ian] Poulter will be in his forties and seriously good young Europeans like Joost Luiten will be ready for promotion by then. Without a return to form, there will be no guarantee of a wild card as there was this time. It’s fair to say he’s at a crossroads in his career,” Derek Lawrenson of the Daily Mail writes in this look at the Ryder Cup futures of Poulter and Lee Westwood.

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Drivers

Titleist's sole groove is central to new metalwoods

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Titleist’s line of 915 drivers have been seen and heard at the PGA Tour level since June, even used in Geoff Ogilvy’s win at the Barracuda Championship in August. Now, they’re ready to make their official debut to the public. 

What many have noticed right away in the family of drivers (the 460 cubic centimeter 915 D2 and the 440 cc 915 D3; $450, in stores Nov. 14) is a deep groove toward the front of the sole labeled “Active Recoil Channel.” But don’t think it is just about making the flex face at impact, says Dan Stone, Titleist’s vice president of golf club research and development. “What really hasn’t been explained in the marketplace is that the channel isn’t just about ballspeed,” he says. “It also changes the spin to launch ratio, and that’s a really powerful tool. So it gives us two pops: it improves off-center ballspeed and it reduces spin.” 

The other benefit in the channel design is to produce a greater area on the face of both ballspeed and spin consistency. In short, it’s designed to make more shots perform in the neighborhood of perfect hits. 

Those bonuses are not so easily achieved. Stone says the Titleist R&D team solved a couple of problem areas that arose from having a flexible channel in the sole, particularly when it comes to center of gravity location. 

“I think acoustics is one area that we spent a lot of time designing for because of the changes in the internal structure,” he said. “The other is weight. In a way you’re adding twice the wall thickness in a place where you normally have a flat section. We worked really hard at making that as thin as possible, so we would still have a CG location that was not driving it significantly low and forward because we wanted to preserve the moment of inertia.”

Stone says the value of increased moment of inertia for increased stability isn’t just for average hacks. He says the 915 drivers achieve similar measurements for moment of inertia (or off-center hit stability) as the 913 series.  

“Tour players do tend to have a miss area on a driver that’s about the size of a nickel, as opposed to a half-dollar sized with a higher-handicapper,” he says. “But they do miss it, it just happens much less frequently. Of course, it usually comes with a shot under pressure. And with one shot meaning so much, that’s where inertia can help even them get more consistent ballspeed more often.”

Helping achieve a more stable head design and ideal CG location is the use of a lighter 8-1-1 titanium in the body, as well as a thinned out variable thickness face insert that Stone says “organically tapers” at the heel and toe to improve low, toe and heel shots. 

Both the D2 and D3 offer a slightly higher launch angle and less spin than its predecessor. Compared to each other, Stone says the 915 D2 will have a slight draw bias, while the D3 will offer less spin.

The drivers once again will feature Titleist’s 16-way adjustable hosel that allows players to independently change loft and lie angle. Each head can move loft by up to plus-1.75 degrees and minus .75 degrees, while lie angle can be shifted 1.5 degrees upright to .75 degrees flat. The 915 D2 will be available in five lofts (7.5, 8.5, 9.5, 10.5, 12), while the D3 will be available in four (7.5, 8.5, 9.5, 10.5). 

The drivers utilize five stock shafts, including the Aldila Rogue Black and Silver and the Diamana D+ White, S+ Blue and M+ Red.

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The 915 line also includes completely redesigned fairway woods (915 F, 915 Fd) and hybrids (915 H, 915 Hd), each featuring the sole channel geometry. The channel is deeper, narrower and more forward on the fairway woods than the driver to control spin. A Carpenter 455 face insert is the thinnest ever for a Titleist’s fairway wood. In each case, the “d” models are designed to yield a lower trajectory and less spin.

The 915 F comes in five lofts (13.5, 15, 16.5, 18, 21). while the 915 Fd is offered in two (13.5, 15). The 915 H is available in four lofts (18, 21, 24, 27), while the 915 Hd is offered in three (17.5, 20, 23.5). Both the fairway woods and hybrids feature the same 16-way adjustable hosel as the 915 drivers.

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Health & Fitness

Your fitness questions answered

If you have a golf-and-fitness related question, tweet it to me @ronkaspriske. Here are some recent questions answered.

@golfguitarist: I struggle with early extension on the downswing. Are weak glutes and hamstrings the culprit?

maar04_fitness_twitter2.jpgA: Early extension, which means a loss of the golf posture you created at address, is often thought to be caused by a lack of strength in the glutes, hips and hamstrings. But believe it or not, many amateurs early extend, because it's a power generator. You instinctively thrust your body mass at the ball to try and hit it harder. Exercises such as Romanian deadlifts and squats can help correct the problem if there is a physical issue, but you might achieve better results if you focus on your trunk rotation when you swing. If you're right-handed, make practice swings where your left shoulder dips lower than the right during the backswing and then the right shoulder dips lower than the left during the downswing. It's nearly impossible to do either if your pelvis incorrectly moves toward the ball at the same time.

@quinlan61: Is there anywhere I can find a 15-minute home workout featuring dumbbells and kettlebells?


A: There are several kettlebell workouts that can be found with a simple Google search, but before you start clicking, I would consider alternatives. Many trainers will tell you kettlebells are bad for golfers, because exercises such as the Turkish get-up put too much stress on the wrists. The golf swing already puts the wrists under a great deal of stress so why compound the problem? Kettlebell swings, another staple exercise, also are dangerous. Not only do you risk smashing into your legs with a heavy weight, you also put your lower back under unnecessary stress. About the only kettlebell exercise that I like for golfers is the bottoms-up press. If you want a quick workout for golf, try my 20-in-20 or the advance 20-in-20. Check out the first version here. This workout does include dumbbells.

fitness-twitter-questions2-260.jpg@lacrackson: Any suggestions for stretches and core drills?

A:
That's a pretty broad question! Not sure exactly what you're looking for, but let's start with the notion that if you're looking to improve your range of motion, you need to strengthen muscles first. Golf Digest fitness advisor Ben Shear (@ben_shear) is one of many fitness experts who believe that you need to first be stable in order to tap into your natural range of motion.

Without stability, your brain won't let you be mobile. It's a safety mechanism we all have. It's good that you are focused on the core, but keep in mind it's a group of muscles on the front, back and sides of the body. Most people think of the core as just the abdomen muscles. Here are four good core exercises provided by Mark Verstegen and Greg Rose.

Ron Kaspriske is the fitness editor of Golf Digest.

(Illustration by John Ueland) ... Read
News & Tours

Tiger Woods is opening a new restaurant and it has a really long name

Tiger Woods might have his own restaurant before he has his own golf course.

Allied Capital & Development of South Florida made the announcement through a press release on Tuesday. The Woods Jupiter: Sports and Dining Club (doesn't really flow off the tongue, does it?) will be coming to Harbourside Place, the name of Jupiter, Fl.'s new downtown development, as early as the first quarter of 2015.

The Grind: A divided U.S. and a pregnant Paulina

The Woods Jupiter: Sports and Dining Club, or TWJS&DC for short, is still being planned, but the original design had indoor/outdoor seating and a 5,900 square foot layout -- about the size of an average green on a PGA Tour course.

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Tiger cooking with celebrity chef Bobby Flay in 2006.

"I've been watching Harbourside Place's development since it broke ground more than two years ago, and know that it is the perfect location for my sports and dining club," Woods said. "I look forward to enjoying my restaurant as much as I hope the public will."

And how does the new restauranteur picture his first venture into food?

"I envision a place where people can meet friends, watch sports on TV and enjoy a great meal," Woods said. "I wanted to build it locally where I live and where it could help support the community."

No word on the menu yet, but we're not expecting it to be overly complicated like the restaurant's name. At the champions dinner before the 1998 Masters, Woods famously served cheeseburgers and milkshakes.

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Business

Get ready for Mickelson National Golf Club

Now that the Ryder Cup is behind him (save for the Tom Watson controversy), it’s back to the drawing board, more or less, for Phil Mickelson: The design of a golf course that will carry his name.

Mickelson National Golf Club of Canada is his latest design project, in rolling terrain west of the city of Calgary and scheduled to open in 2017.

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The project began seven years ago and was to be a Johnny Miller design, when a downturn in the economy put the project on hold.

“When we kickstarted it again, I thought, ‘If I can be associated with one individual or brand, who would it be?’” Barry Ehlert, managing partner of the Windmill Golf Group, said. “Phil Mickelson was the first name to come to mind, not just for his design work, but what he brings to golf. He was my first call.

“What you see on television with Phil is what you get. Everybody likes Phil. That’s how he came across when we met face to face. It was a friendly, engaging, easy conversation to have with him. After quite a long time getting to know them and them getting to know us, it seemed like a perfect fit for both of us.”

The course originally was going to be known as Copithorne Club, named for the original landowners of the property. But people had trouble spelling Copithorne, Ehlert said, which made it problematic on the branding front.

“We thought it would be much easier having a name that people could find,” Ehlert said. “We were talking to Phil’s team and said, ‘what if Phil’s name was associated with it?’ They contemplated it and agreed to it. We believe there will only be one Mickelson National in Canada.” Or likely anywhere else, for that matter.

The course will be built in anticipation of the Canadian Open being played there one day. “We’d love to do that,” Ehlert said. “Calgary has never had a PGA Tour event. The Canadian Open has never been to Calgary. But we know Calgary would support it. Probably all of Albert would support it.”

Related: Why does Phil want to be a Rancho Santa Fe country club?

Mickelson has not yet seen the property — the course layout shown above, measuring nearly 8,000 yards (the altitude is 3,500 to 4,000 feet), loosely follows the original routing — but is expected to travel to Calgary in the next month to get his first look. Meanwhile, his design team has visited the property on a couple of occasions.

“We’re not set on 8,000 yards,” Ehlert said. “When Phil gets on site, cit ould end up being 7,600 yards. The original routing ended up being almost 8,000 yards. But whether it’s 7,600, 7,700 or 7.800 yards, whatever it is, first and foremost it will be a course that the members play every day.”

Mickelson Design includes Whisper Rock Golf Club in Scottsdale, Ariz., a renovation of the North Course at Torrey Pines, and two courses in China.

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News & Tours

If you're at work right now, you should probably try to replicate this office trick shot

It all depends if your boss is a golfer. If he (or she) is, then maybe you should try this out. It looks pretty difficult to pull off -- and by pretty, I mean very -- but if you do, surely there's a promotion waiting for you afterwards.

 

We tried office golf once. Needless to say, it didn't go so well.

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