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GW Monday: How can we grow the game?

From the January 30 edition of Golf World Monday:

These days, golf's participation malaise -- fueled by issues of time, access and difficulty -- rivals the economy as a discussion point whenever the game's civic leaders gather in one place, as they did last week at the PGA Merchandise Show in Orlando. But the crisis -- if you want to call it that -- gained a prominent spokesman when Jack Nicklaus, speaking at a symposium to promote "Golf 2.0," the PGA of America's ambitious initiative to grow the game, revealed that among his 22 grandchildren, only one (nine-year-old G.T., the son of Jack's son Gary) plays golf "more than a little bit."

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Photo by Getty Images

Consider that for a moment: In a family known for its enthusiasm for sports, with (presumably) no barriers of access or cost, led by a grandfather considered the greatest golfer who ever lived, and who raised three of four sons to become golf pros, exactly one of 22 grandchildren has gravitated to the game. The Golden Bear, as involved as any grandfather could be, says it's because golf is being "out-organized."

"Other sports are grabbing kids' attention and time," Nicklaus said. "Soccer, lacrosse, football, baseball, basketball ... [As a result] they don't have the time to play golf, and they are not being introduced to it. We have to fix that. We need to introduce golf to them in a way that is friendly and [that provides] early success so they stay with the game."

Golf has plenty of pressing matters, but youth participation might be the weightiest. If Jack Nicklaus can't get his grandkids to play golf, what hope do the rest of us have?

-- Geoff Russell

What do you think about Jack's comments? Are you concerned about the declining number of children taking up the game? Sound off on our partner site, GolfWRX.com.

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News & Tours

Video: Discussing health matters at the Humana Challenge

The inaugural Humana Challenge was a success well beyond the golf course. Under the direction of former President Bill Clinton, the PGA Tour event formerly known as the Bob Hope Desert Classic was also the backdrop for a first-ever "Health Matters" Summit on the Tuesday prior to the first round, with a number of distinguished speakers addressing a range of health and wellness topics.

tarde conference photo.jpgFrom left to right: Casey Wasserman, Chairman and CEO, Wasserman Media Group;  Bob Lanier, Special Assistant to the Commissioner and NBA Cares Global Ambassador; Michael McCallister, CEO, Humana; James Curleigh, CEO, KEEN Footwear; Travis Bogard, CMO, Jawbone; and Jerry Tarde, Chairman and Editorial Director, Golf Digest.

The golf world was well represented, including Golf Digest's own Editorial Director Jerry Tarde, who moderated a lively discussion on health in the workplace on a panel that also included, among others, former NBA star Bob Lanier and Humana CEO Mike McCallister. A video of that discussion can be seen below.

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News & Tours

Video: Stanley's collapse opens door for Snedeker

Kyle Stanley had his first real chance at a PGA Tour victory taken away from him by Steve Stricker's otherworldly up-and-down from a fairway bunker at last year's John Deere Classic. Amazingly, he came up empty in more painful fashion in his second opportunity for a maiden win.

Entering Sunday with a five-shot lead at the Farmers Insurance Open, the second-year man from Clemson birdied his first two holes at Torrey Pines' South Course and extended his margin by seven shots at one point. Meanwhile, Brandt Snedeker, starting his final round seven off the pace, was the only player making a charge. Even with a kick-in birdie on No. 18 for a 67, though, Snedeker signed his scorecard still trailing by three with Stanley only having the easy par-5 closing hole.

As you can see in the following highlights, however, no lead is ever safe:

Following his stunning triple bogey, Stanley bounced back to birdie 18 in the playoff. Unfortunately for him, so did Snedeker, who then parred the difficult par-3 16th to win on the second extra hole. While the Vanderbilt product picked up his third career win, Stanley, 24, was left without any to his credit, despite the fact victory looked certain enough for a premature winning check to be made out to him.

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Instruction

How He Hit That: The fairway bunker shot that Rocked Tiger

Editor's Note: Regular readers of the Instruction Blog have come to appreciate the weekly analysis provided by Kevin Hinton, the Director of Instruction at Piping Rock Club in Locust Valley, N.Y. and one of Golf Digest's Best Young Teachers. This week, Hinton examines the crucial fairway bunker shot Robert Rock knocked to within eight feet for a birdie 3 on the 14th hole. The shot, while playing head to head with Tiger Woods, propelled Rock to a dramatic one-stroke victory over Rory McIlroy in the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship in the United Emirates.

Roger Schiffman
Managing Editor
Golf Digest
Twitter @RogerSchiffman


Here's Kevin: Robert Rock's fairway bunker shot on the 14th hole of the final round was a key to his win. Rock hit a pure 6-iron from 190 yards to eight feet, then rolled in his birdie putt and cruised to victory despite a shaky bogey on the final hole. Rock went on to birdie the 16th as well with another great iron shot. Let's take a closer look at Rock's stellar fairway bunker shot, which can be seen in the video here.

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Photo by Getty Images

The first thing to remember in playing a fairway bunker shot is that it is not at all similar to how a greenside bunker shot is played. In a greenside bunker, your goal is to hit the sand, not the ball, and have the sand propel the ball onto the green (see Mark Wilson's holed bunker shot from last week's "How he hit that"). In a fairway bunker it is essential to contact the ball first, then the sand. If there is any sand between the ball and the clubface at impact you'll lose considerable distance. Rock's contact had to be perfect to hit a 6-iron 190 yards from a bunker. Here are the keys to good fairway bunker play...

Setup
At address, dig your feet into the sand enough to solidify your base. Because you've effectively lowered yourself, be sure to grip down a bit on the club. Play the ball in the middle of your stance, with the shaft and weight leaning slightly toward the target. Be careful not to overdo this. Otherwise you'll create too steep an angle of attack into the sand. In general, your setup should feel quite "normal."

Backswing
For the average player, it's a good idea to take one extra club. This will allow for a slight mis-hit, as well as encouraging a more controlled swing. Rock hitting 6-iron from 190 obviously was a full swing. One thing that Rock does well is keep his body very stable in his backswing. 

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Courses & Travel

Notes & Best of Booth Babes from the PGA Show

Yes, I had a good show.

Back from my second PGA Show in Orlando, it's not unlike most conventions: meetings, meals and martinis. There were no beverage cart girls, but I did make a few minutes for the best of the booth babes.

My notebook (and iPhone) dump:

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News & Tours

Tiger's Sunday statement: I lost to who?

"The one and only Tiger Woods," the announcer said at the 18th green of the Abu Dhabi Golf Club on Sunday, as an imposter wearing a red shirt but otherwise bearing no resemblance to the one and only made his way onto the green.

The final round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Champions provided a perfect platform from which to make a resounding statement, that the throne that Woods ceded when a fire hydrant came between him and has assault on history was only on loan.

Woods was beating an elite field that included Luke Donald, Lee Westwood, Rory McIlroy and Martin Kaymer, numbers 1 through 4 in the World Ranking, and he shared the lead with Robert Rock, a former club pro, who was "struggling to crack the 100 mark [in the World Ranking]," he said.

Winning once was a formality in such circumstances, his the most imposing shadow in the history of golf. He routinely feasted on the best players, winning 14 major championships and 16 World Golf Championship events.

But Sundays no longer are scripted and Rock was better at improvisation on this one. He shot a two-under par 70 that included clutch birdies at 14 and 16 while Woods made eight straight pars to close with a 72 and tied for third.

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Instruction

Weekend Tip: More help from Toski & Flick

Readers of this blog know that this past week I had the privilege of spending time with Bob Toski and Jim Flick. They gave a clinic for TaylorMade at the PGA Show in Orlando. (See photo below.)

Roger Schiffman
Managing Editor
Golf Digest
Twitter @RogerSchiffman

This reunion of the two Hall of Fame teachers reminded me of the landmark book they wrote back in 1984, How to Become a Complete Golfer, with Larry Dennis. Even though that was 27 years ago, the principles they espoused then still hold

Thumbnail image for Toski-Flick.gif true today. Here are passages from that book that will help your game this weekend:

1. Control the speed
We've heard it said that if you swing the club back too slowly, you will snatch it down from the top. Maybe. But for every player we've seen take the club back too slowly we've seen 10,000 who go back too fast. What is too fast? If you take the club back so slowly that you have no sense of rhythm and flow, no sense of motion, that's too slow. That can happen, but it's a rare problem. You can swing the club with control only as fast as the strength of your hands and forearms can bear. In swinging the club back and during the change of direction at the top, you should have a feeling of ease. You should never feel you are swinging the club hard. If you lose that feeling of ease, you have swung the club too fast and are going out of control.

2. Feel the swing force
At the same time, you must have motion in your swing. There must be a smooth, rhythmic flow to your swing that allows you to generate clubhead speed as effortlessly as possible. A stilted, contrived swing that lacks motion, no matter
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Gear & Equipment

Back weight your golf clubs with Secret Grip

ORLANDO, Fla. -- When Boccieri Golf developed its Secret Grip it did so principally to provide golfers an easier way to back weight a club. What it discovered, company president and CEO Stephen Boccieri said, was that it actually improved performance.

Secret Grip.jpg

"From a performance standpoint, I never thought there could be a grip that would enhance the capabilities of a golfer," Boccieri said. "What we found was that players were picking up four miles an hour on ball speed by using this grip."

The Secret Grip was officially introduced at the PGA Merchandise Show here and is the latest offering from the company that has the Heavy Putter in its line of clubs.

The grip weighs in at 92 grams, 40 grams more than a traditional grip. A tungsten button on the butt end of the grip accounts for the additional weight.

"We have a full line of back-weighted golf clubs," Boccieri said. "What a lot of customers said to me last year is that they like the driver, they like the irons, but if they buy any one of my components they have to buy a complete set. The economy is saying I don't want to spend $300."

The grips, which will retail for $18.99, can be installed on any brand of club.

Back-weighting clubs is not knew. Jack Nicklaus back-weighted clubs, as do a number of tour players. The process of back-weighting clubs has been somewhat cumbersome, requiring drilling through the end of the grip. The Secret Grip accomplishes the same thing simply by changing the grip.

"None of the average golfers know anything about back-weighting," Boccieri said. "Jack Nicklaus used it in his day and people throughout the tour do it, but it's kind of behind closed doors, basically. We think the Secret Grip is going to enhance the back-weighting technology that Boccieri Golf has developed with its putters and now its swing clubs."

What is Boccieri's theory as to why the Secret Grip increases ball speed?

"At the top of the swing, when you have more mass in your hands, you have a better transition with that momentary pause at the top," he said. "The first move that the average golfer makes with a high swing weight, they cast from the top. With more mass in the left hand, like everybody says, it's like dropping into the slot. So what's happening is they're creating more lag and holding onto the angle of retention longer into impact."

-- John Strege

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Gear & Equipment

'Golf's first minimalist soft spike shoe'

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ORLANDO, Fla. -- The barefoot running phenomenon continues to seep into the golf shoe business, the latest entry the Barefoot B.E.R.B.S..

Introduced this week at the PGA Merchandise Show here, the Barefoot B.E.R.B.S. bills itself as the first minimalist soft spike shoe. It was designed by Jeremy Berbert, who has played professional golf and owns an irrigation and landscaping business in Westminster, Colo.

"I flew out to Vegas to see a buddy of mine, a professional golfer who is very much into fitness," Berbert said. "He was wearing the Vibram Five Fingers shoes. As a professional golfer myself, I knew that practicing golf barefoot is the way to go. It gives you balance. The only problem is that socially it's not acceptable. You can't go around a ritzy country club barefoot. Unacceptable. Plus, there's slippage. You don't have any traction, any stability under yourself when you're in that type of shoe."

Berbert set out to design "the most comfortable golf shoe ever," he said. "Oliver Wilson wore the Vibram Five Fingers at Dubai [in November of 2010]. His reaction when he was done was that they were not waterproof and they didn't have spikes. So I made the Barefoot B.E.R.B.S. that actually have a unique spike design. We limited the weight by not adding 10, nine, eight or seven, whatever, spikes. We have five on each shoe. And the design allow the perfect amount of stability because of how you swing."

The Barefoot B.E.R.B.S. have a suggested retail price of $139.

-- John Strege

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Courses & Travel

Travel Tips for Playing, Parking and/or Attending the AT&T

If you’ve ever been to Carmel, Calif., you know it’s simultaneously one of the most beautiful and expensive places on earth. I got an email this week that served as a reminder there are some bargains there. It was pitching a twofer of reasonably priced offerings during the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, Feb. 6-12:
 
1. You can park for $20 a day in nearby Pacific Grove and take a shuttle over to the tournament. A five-day parking pass: $60. Click here for more details.

PacificGrove.jpg2. More important, you can play golf that week on one of my favorite little courses, Pacific Grove Golf Links, for a non-exorbitant fee. The course, whose back nine was laid about Pebble Beach architect Jack Neville and which runs right alongside Monterey Bay, has weekday tee times for as little as $29 and, at most, $57 per player. You read that right. More details here.

3. Also in this price range: The Bayonet and Blackhorse courses on the old Fort Ord site, just down the road in Seaside. Here, weekday tee times can be had for $51- $55.
 
Need tickets for the tournament itself? They’re just $10 for Monday’s practice round and $20 for Tuesday and Wednesday. They climb to $50 for the tournament days. Think of it this way: You could take a group of 10 for the cost of one Pebble Beach green fee!

--Peter Finch

(Follow Pete on Twitter @Pete_Finch; follow me @Matt_Ginella.)


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