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  • Putt to the Beat

    14 Nov 2009

    By Josh Zander

    Do these seem like some of the thoughts you have when you are over the ball? I need this putt to save par. I have already three putted twice today. If I two putt, I can finally break 80. My partners will think I stink if I can’t make this three-footer. I hope I take the putter back straight. I hope I make it. This line does not look right to me.

    This is your conscious mind interfering with your stroke. None of these thoughts will help you putt better. Putting to a beat will keep your conscious mind occupied and let you make an athletic stroke.

    I always count when I putt. I count to 5. The count is as follows:

    1)    I put my putter next to the ball
    2)    I look at the hole
    3)    I look at the ball
    4)    I make my backswing
    5)    I make contact

    Buy yourself a metronome and find a beat that you like. Start the metronome at 72 beats per minute and see if it fits your internal rhythm. If you are a faster paced person, increase the beats per minute and if you are a slower paced person, decrease it. Once you find your personal beat, stick to it and simply count when you putt.

    This applies to all length putts. The rhythm is always the same. Your stroke will be shorter for short putts and longer for long putts. Putting to the beat will free your mind up to perform. All golfers experience pressure when they play. A routine allows golfers to perform even when they experience extreme pressure.

    I had a downhill sidehill 4 foot putt for par on the 11th hole at Pebble Beach in the 1992 U.S. Open. The greens were so fast that if the putt missed, I was going to face a 45 foot come backer from the front fringe. In short, the pressure was on as I was fighting to make the 36 hole cut. As I got over the putt, my conscious mind started to think about the consequences. I backed off the putt and committed to count to the beat. I nailed the putt right in the center of the cup. I was also willing to live with the consequences if I missed as long as I was committed to the routine.

    Find your beat and enjoy some great putting experiences.

  • It's Happy Hour

    13 Nov 2009

    Check out what arrived in our office today, just in time for Friday afternoon happy hour...

    Be sure to play for your chance to win even more fabulous Glenlivet prizes in this month's The Glenlivet Whisky Season Open!

  • Dubai's Rise and Fall Closely Tied To Its Love for Golf

    12 Nov 2009

    By Ryan Ballengee

    The presence of professional golf in the United Arab Emirates' most chic metropolis, Dubai, began in 1989 when the European Tour planted a flag in the middle of the desert.  Mark James won that year with a score of 277 and pocketed some €270,000 for the win. 

    While James was doing that, Dubai was really just beginning its two decade explosion onto the global scene —both as a beacon of tepid acceptance of western culture in the Middle East, but also as a cultural center for the Middle East's wealthy.

    The massive real estate development that has transformed Dubai's image, for better and worse, coincided with the presence of professional golf in the region.  That's not to say that it was the likes of the Dubai Desert Classic's early champions - Ernie Els in the same year as his first US Open, Fred Couples one year later - shaped the city's transformation, but the growth of the tournament has certainly run parallel to that of its host city.


    Aerial photograph of Dubai's desert footprint (Click to enlarge)

    Emirates Golf Club, host to the DDC, was constructed one year prior and labeled the "Miracle in the Desert" as it became the first course completely covered with grass in the Middle East.  The Majlis course was a clear signal to the globe that the Emirates had serious intentions in transforming Dubai from a sparsely populated, nice trade city into a global secular mecca that could boast the most "mosts" and "biggests" in the world.  One need not look further for proof than the skyline view of downtown Dubai from the Majlis course to see how drastically the city changed drastically in the twenty years since the course's construction.

    Today, Dubai is home to the world's only supposed 7 star hotel.  It will be home to the world's tallest building and tallest hotel.  An underwater hotel is near completion.  It has an indoor ski park in a city where daytime temperatures average 120 degress.  Manmade islands, dredged using the latest technology, have been constructed.  All serve as a monument to what enormous sums of money and hubris can achieve.


    The same street in Dubai circa 1989 and in 2003

    The next indicator of Dubai's aggressive quest to become a global city was intended to be the Race to Dubai and Dubai-owned Lesiurecorp's five year, nearly $200 million investment in the European Tour.  Leisurecorp was intending to cultivate so much influence that it could even buy the rights to host the 2018 Ryder Cup despite not having a single participant in the historic matches.

    But, then the steady stream of accessible, low rate debt and financing dried up as quickly as a plant in the desert sun.  The billions—maybe trillions—in debt that propped up Dubai's infrastructure, global profile, and social profile was gone.  With it, the real estate and debt collapse took a large chunk of the reputation and standing that had been created in the last two decades.

    On the golf front, Leisurecorp was merged into Nakheel, another Dubai-owned organization. David Spencer, the man who architected the Race to Dubai deal, was shed from the company.  All of this has happened while Dubai has negotiated with Abu Dhabi—the Emirate much more solidly built on the world's unquenched thirst for oil - a plan to dig the Arabic Las Vegas out of its deep hole

    Though there are still tons of cranes in Dubai, many have come to a standstill. Many of the immigrants that came from all corners of the Middle East and the Indian subcontinent to help in the construction of the city have since left.  A good number of the real estate investors that staked their futures on the growth of paper wealth have abandoned their properties and luxury vehicles.  The Dubai airport has become not just a monument to Dubai's massive growth by being the world's largest airport, but its parking lot is simultaneously a memento of this dark time for the city.

    Golf in Dubai also has eye-opening indicators of Dubai's drastic fall. The 2009 Dubai Desert Classic was won by Rory McIlroy.  For the win, he earned €325,000 Euros for the title - just €55,000 more than what Mark James earned two decades ago.  But, an even more shocking footnote is that Tiger Woods, the 2008 champion, earned five times as much for the win.

    Both the city and its golf presence, though, soldier on through the trouble.  Dubai refuses to withdraw its investment in the European Tour. Though it has scaled back its $20 million commitment to the upcoming Dubai World Championship down to $15 million, it did not remove itself entirely as a show of wounded strength.  Jumeriah Estates, a development for the uber-wealthy, has announced that it will only continue with construction of two of its four originally intended courses.  But, development has not ceased altogether.

    Dubai is aggressively trying to work with Abu Dhabi and private creditors to resolve its quasi-public debt structure. Many of the cranes may have come to a stop, but some progresses along with the aggressive planning for the future of Dubai.

    Not coincidentally, the future of Dubai's growth on the global stage and in the golfing world are pegged to its ability to find a way to sustain itself—much less grow—amidst the new world flow of debt and capital. 

    Dubai's growth has certainly been both staggering and impressive, but it has been equally rivaled by its implosion.  The question remains if its future is one of stagnation or decline, or steady growth.  Provided the link between the city and its love for golf, perhaps the best indicator of its future can come from the health of the game in the Emirate.

  • Veterans Day Pro Shop Promotion

    11 Nov 2009

    To commemorate this Veterans Day, WGT is giving away a 3-pack of red, white, or blue GI-D Balls to the first 50 players who purchase WGT credits on Nov. 11! Hurry, the offer is good only on credit purchases made Nov. 11, and ends at 11:59PM Pacific Time.

    To purchase credits, click on the ACCOUNT button under your username on the upper left hand side of the screen, then click on the Buy Credits tab.

    * The color of the free balls will be randomly selected and will be either red, white or blue. Unfortunately you will not be able to choose the ball color given to you.

  • Putting Athletically

    09 Nov 2009

    By Josh Zander

    There are so many ways to putt well. Bobby Locke hooked his putts. Billy Mayfair slices his putts. Crenshaw has a long, flowing stroke. Azinger has a short, pop- like stroke.  And Tiger has perhaps the simplest stroke I have ever seen. All of the aforementioned putters have made their fair share of putts and all have one fundamental in common. They all accelerate into the ball. 

    All golfers know that it is important to accelerate into impact. This is an important fundamental in the swing as well as in putting. If we all agree that acceleration is important, then we should all understand that accelerating the putter means that the putter has to release past the hands.

    Too many golfers believe that the stroke is controlled by the shoulders and that the hands need to stay quiet. Keeping your hands and wrists locked produces a block which leads to poor contact and deceleration. Your hands are your only contact with the club. The key is to use your hands and wrists correctly rather than eliminate them from the process. When throwing a ball underhand, the hands and wrists remain soft and active in producing the throw. This is an athletic motion and so is putting. To feel the correct motion, simply anchor your putter to your belly and let the putterhead swing. Can you feel what is happening to your hands and wrists? This is a release!

    I personally can’t believe that USGA has allowed belly putters as they make putting so much easier. You can’t block your putts if you let the putterhead swing while keeping the grip end anchored to your body. If you have a short putter, I recommend building a belly putter to match so you can practice the release. All you have to do is take your short putter to a club builder and have him use the same lie angle and build one long enough to reach your belly. Once you learn the feel of the proper release, your putting will improve tremendously.

  • Replay Reel

    07 Nov 2009
  • Byron Nelson: Our Last 19th Hole Conversation (Part 2 of 3)

    06 Nov 2009

    By Peter Kessler

    Byron Nelson was born in Texas in 1912, the same year as his rivals Ben Hogan and Sam Snead. He died in September of 2006. The first player to make a successful transition from hickory to steel shafts in the early 1930s, Nelson never made a swing change after his 24th birthday. He never needed to. He was the first of his great triumvirate to win majors and set records. He traveled by car when there was no modern tour, when fresh tires were a player's best friend. And after winning every important American event, he left the tour at age 34 and bought the Texas ranch he'd dreamed of. He has lived there with his first wife, Louise, who died in 1985, and then with his second wife, Peggy. Nelson played with Walter Hagen and Bobby Jones and Gene Sarazen. He did better against Hogan and Snead than they did against him. The best player in the world from 1937 until he retired in 1946, he left behind one unbreakable record—his 11 straight victories in 1945—and several that were as remarkable, including 113 consecutive top-20 finishes and 18 wins in a stretch of 30 events in a single season. He was the perfect interview. Over many years, things had gotten to the point where I didn't really ask him questions anymore—I offered a phrase or a few scant words, and Byron Nelson told his wonderful stories, as fluid as honey. I was recently asked if I would like to have had a mind like his at age 93. My answer: Why do I have to wait 40 years?

    We spoke for the last time at the TPC at Las Colinas, not far from his ranch, Fairway Ranch in Roanoke, Texas, where Nelson lived for 59 happy years.

    PART TWO

    The three great golf course designers of the classic age were Alister Mackenzie, Donald Ross and A.W. Tillinghast. Tillinghast designed Winged Foot, Quaker Ridge, Baltusrol and his favorite, Ridgewood Country Club in New Jersey, where you were the assistant pro in the mid-1930s.

    Tillinghast wore a loose tweed coat. When he played, I mean—I never saw him hit a shot without that tweed coat on. He had a waxed moustache. A very well-ordered man who could look at a piece of property and see exactly what he wanted to do with it. Talk to him about a golf course, and there was no argument. He would say, "We're going to put a bunker here," and that's what happened.

    Ridgewood was the perfect place to prepare for the big leagues.

    They had three great nines—East, West and Center. I made $400 a summer as the assistant pro. I learned to run a pro shop and how to run tournaments. In 1935, the Ryder Cup came to Ridgewood. Here are these great players, and they got fine slacks and shoes and they had parties to go to and I said, "Boy, I'm going to get on that Ryder Cup team one of these days."

    I made it in '37. It was a fortunate start for my career—I was stepping up.

    Leading the General Brock Open by five shots in 1935, you had to wait for Walter Hagen before you could begin your final round.

    Oh, fun. I only waited an hour and a half on the first tee. The officials said I could go ahead and play and I said, "No, I'll wait for Hagen." I hadn't led a lot of tournaments. The officials said, "We'll send you out with a marker if you want to go." I said no. So finally he comes. He drove up in a nice, big car. Hagen was dressed in beautiful clothes. He never said anything about it, never apologized for being late. He was cordial, but he played strictly to the gallery. He was there for them, not for me. I was so nervous playing with him, even leading by 5, that I shot a nice fat 42 on the first nine. At least I settled down enough to shoot 35 on the back nine and finish second to Tony Manero. I won $600.

    That was a lot of money at the time.

    I got all fives and ones. A big stack of money. My wife Louise and I hid that money all over our car. We were afraid we'd get robbed. I had never seen that much money.

    How did you prepare for tournaments in those days?

    I never changed any part of my swing after 1936. If I practiced a lot, it bothered my concentration because I'd start experimenting. So I would just play the golf course. If I didn't know the course, I'd play it once to become acquainted with it. In those days we didn't do all the exercises the boys do now. Nobody exercised or stretched at all. I never heard of anybody exercising other than just playing golf.

    What do you think was the weakest part of your game?

    I didn't putt badly except in one area—12 to 15 feet. That's called the scoring area. You need to make a lot of those, and I didn't. I didn't three-putt often and was a good lag putter, a good short putter, but I didn't make as many of those 12- to 15-footers as I should have.

    Who's the best from that distance?

    Tiger's the best I ever saw. It's better than even money that he'll make a putt from 12 to 15 feet.

    Do you ever regret leaving the game in 1946, at the height of your powers?

    I have never regretted it once. You have to look at things back then—I was making no money. I wanted to win every important American tournament once, so when I won the L.A. Open to start 1946, I had completed my playing goals. And I lost the desire to put forth the effort to stay there. Retiring was the best thing I ever did. If I hadn't retired from playing, I never would have done television for 17 years, or the other things I've been blessed to do.

    You get upset when people say you had a nervous stomach.

    That bothers me more than any other thing. The fact is, I had an upset stomach twice in all my years on tour. I've seen articles that say I had the yips, too. I never yipped a putt in my life. I was not a great putter but I was not a bad putter. I played very consistently my whole career.

    I was raised in Texas and I wanted a ranch.That's what I wanted and that's what I got. But that is the one thing said about my career that bothers me—that I had a nervous stomach. My stomach had nothing in the world to do with me quitting.

    Does it bother you when people say Snead and Hogan weren't there in 1945 when you won 18 times?

    No, because they were there. In 1945 they played 46 tournaments between them. I had good luck against Hogan and Snead—I beat Snead for the U.S. Open in '39 and Hogan in a playoff for the '42 Masters.

    In what order do you rank Jones's Grand Slam year of 1930, your 11-in-a-row and 18-win season of 1945, Hogan's three majors in 1953, and Tiger's three majors in 2000?

    I rank them in the order you just stated them.

    Tell me more about the money you couldn't make in your heyday.

    I won the 1936 Metropolitan Open, my first important tournament, with $5 in my pocket. From '36 to '42 I won 19 times including four majors, and my entire winnings were $25,495. That's about $4,000 a year. So I made my expenses. My career winnings were $182,000. In 1939, Cliff Roberts, who ran The Masters, told me, "Byron, you're going to have to care for your money because you'll never make enough playing golf."

    Does it bother you not to have won the British Open?

    No. In 1955, long after I retired, my friend Eddie Lowery—he was Francis Ouimet's 10-year-old caddie in the 1913 U.S. Open—had gotten married and wanted to have his honeymoon at St. Andrews during the British Open. He offered to pay our expenses if my wife and I would join them. I had never seen St. Andrews, so we went and I qualified for the Open easily. Eddie didn't qualify. In the tournament, I played as well as I could tee to green, but I averaged 37 putts a round and finished 12th. It had rained early in the week, then it got real hot and the greens got real slow. I could not make the adjustment.

    Unbeknownst to me, Eddie then entered us in the French Open. When we told our wives, they just about divorced us.

    When I registered at the French Federation of Golf, it was at 1 Byron Street. I said, "Oh!" And I played just like I'd played in Scotland, but I made adjustments and won. It was the last tournament I ever played. The irons I used are still there on the clubhouse wall.

  • Q&A: Natalie Gulbis at Pinehurst

    04 Nov 2009

    By The Armchair Golfer


    Natalie Gulbis at a recent skills challenge. Zach Johnson looks on.
    (Photos courtesy of RSM McGladrey)

    [WGT Note: Our Pinehurst vacation trip winners were there the same week, and some got to meet Ms. Gulbis as well!]

    Natalie Gulbis is one of the most recognizable female golfers on the planet. Only 26, Natalie is completing her eighth season on the LPGA Tour. Yes, eight seasons. It’s kind of hard to believe.

    Natalie has won one LPGA title and played on three victorious U.S. Solheim Cup teams. She has five top 10 finishes in majors. And, of course, she is a golfer-model, with looks and sex appeal that attract legions of admirers and land her in magazine spreads and on TV programs such as “The Celebrity Apprentice” and her own reality show on the Golf Channel.

    What is Natalie like up close? What is it like to talk to her?

    I can tell you—at least a little bit—because I stood with her under a canopy on the 10th tee of Pinehurst No. 8 last week.

    I was a sponsor’s guest at the finals of the McGladrey Team Championship, a national best-ball amateur tournament. In addition to attending the festivities and VIP activities such as a skills challenge, I had the opportunity to talk to Natalie, Zach Johnson and Chris DiMarco, the three RSM McGladrey tour pros.

    I didn’t know exactly when or where I’d have my chat with the three tour players. Although I had prepared some questions and carried a tiny digital voice recorder in my pocket, I knew I better be ready for anything. This would not be sit-downs or in-depth interviews. I was there to take in the experience, including my encounters with Natalie, Zach and Chris.

    Natalie was first. I introduced myself and shook her hand. We talked, sometimes whispering, as amateur teams teed off in the three-day competition. She stepped away a couple of times for photographs with the teams, as did Zach, who stood nearby.

    Natalie is personable and direct. She is totally at ease and an eager advocate for the women’s game, charities and her sponsors. Although she has fielded thousands of questions, this may be the first time she was asked this opener.

    ARMCHAIR GOLF: I have to ask you a couple of questions for my daughters. My 9-year-old wants to know your favorite color.

    NATALIE GULBIS: My favorite color is purple.

    ARMCHAIR GOLF: My 14-year-old daughter wants to know if you have any pets.

    NATALIE GULBIS: I don’t have any pets. I had pets growing up, but now since I turned professional it’s too hard to be on the road and have pets. Stuffed animals is about the extent. My family does, though. My family in Sacramento has a dog and a cat.

    ARMCHAIR GOLF: What’s it been like for you to be associated with this event and the Special Olympics?

    NATALIE GULBIS: It’s been great. It’s been an honor to be associated with RSM McGladrey, to be part of a team. We always consider ourselves to be a team. I’ve learned so much from them. And then with their partnership with the Special Olympics, to be able to be involved in Special Olympics in golf and help them raise money and raise awareness has been a pure joy.

    ARMCHAIR GOLF: It looked like you were really having a good time at the auction last night.

    NATALIE GULBIS: Yeah, last night was fun.

    ARMCHAIR GOLF: Raised a lot of money.

    NATALIE GULBIS: Yeah, 34 grand.

    ARMCHAIR GOLF: And your group went for $10,000? (Note: A two-day outing with Natalie for four people was a feature of the Special Olympics golf live auction the night before.)

    NATALIE GULBIS: $10,000.

    ARMCHAIR GOLF: So, I was looking at your schedule and you’re on your way to Korea after this?

    NATALIE GULBIS: Actually, I pulled out of Korea. I would have normally went to Korea tonight and played Japan next week.

    ARMCHAIR GOLF: I was thinking, “Wow, what a schedule.”

    NATALIE GULBIS: Yeah, that was a little bit too much. You get over there and you lose a day.

    ARMCHAIR GOLF: How’s your back? (Note: Natalie has had back problems for at least two years.)

    NATALIE GULBIS: Good. Very good, thank you.

    ARMCHAIR GOLF: Are you doing some new strength work?

    NATALIE GULBIS: Different. I changed my work. I used to do much more overall strength and now I just do core strength.

    ARMCHAIR GOLF: Your back has been good all year?

    NATALIE GULBIS: At times, yes.

    ARMCHAIR GOLF: Backs are tough in golf, aren’t they?

    NATALIE GULBIS: They are.

    ARMCHAIR GOLF: How’s your game and what are you working on?

    NATALIE GULBIS: Right now I am working and spending a lot of time on my short game. I’ve been striking the ball well, I’ve been putting well, but missed a lot of opportunities for up and downs when I’ve missed greens so I’ve been working on my short game a lot.

    ARMCHAIR GOLF: Tough year in golf for all tours. What’s it been like to see events like the Corning Classic go away?

    NATALIE GULBIS: Middle of the year it was really scary. We had 10 events up for renewal and we didn’t know how many of those we were going to re-sign. But we’ve had some pretty good momentum here in the last couple of months and we got the preview of our schedule for 2010 and it looks like we’re only going to lose two tournaments. That was big.

    ARMCHAIR GOLF: Have you gotten used to playing without Annika out there or does it still feel sort of strange?

    NATALIE GULBIS: It definitely does when she’s the past champion of a tournament and she’s not there to defend. You just miss seeing her on leaderboards, seeing her on the putting green. She was one of my best friends on tour. We used to rent a house every year at the British Open. You see her name on past champions at most of our tournaments. To think that she’s not in the field any more is sad.

    ARMCHAIR GOLF: Have you seen the baby (Annika’s first child born in September)?

    NATALIE GULBIS: No, just pictures. I hope to meet her in January. I’ll probably go down to Florida to see her.

    ARMCHAIR GOLF: What is your best advice for the amateur golfer?

    NATALIE GULBIS: Spend as much time on the short game as they can. That’s usually the ultimate goal, to shoot lower scores. You can’t do that without working on your short game.

  • La Manga: Golfing Heaven in Southern Spain

    02 Nov 2009

    By Doug Farrick

    So my brother is heading on a honeymoon in Spain. I am a wee bit jealous as Spain is, strangely, one of the few countries I have not visited in Europe – why, I'm not exactly sure.

    One of my favorites artists, Picasso, of course hails from Spain and my first stop would probably be the Museu Picasso in Barcelona. I have visited the Picasso Museum in Paris – and it was just fabulous.

    So besides the Picasso museum and a tour of the incredible Antoni Gaudi architecture in Barcelona – I would HAVE to get in some golf.

    One destination that I have heard great things about from my European friends is the La Manga golf resort – a 1,400 acre sporting paradise nestled between the low hills which separate the Mediterranean from the Mar Menor sea in south eastern Spain in the southeast corner of Southern Spain.

    The La Manga Club & Resort has always been synonymous with golf and with its three championship courses and outstanding practice facilities, it is hardly surprising that it has been voted Europe's top golf resort twice in the past five years.

    The 3 courses are the North, South and West (did they forget the East one?) The South is considered the premier layout which was reworked by Arnold Palmer in the early 1990's. The other two courses are quite challenging as well, but in different ways.

    The South Course has been the venue for many major professional tournaments; Spanish Opens (both ladies' and men's), PGA Championships and Qualifying Schools for both the men's and ladies' European Tours.

    The North course (6,291 yards) has more palm trees, lakes, larger greens, tighter fairways and 'barrancas'. These natural storm gullies feature on all three golf courses and add an extra dimension to the game.

    The West course is set amid serene pine woodlands, the West Course's design closely follows the natural contours of the undulating land. Its distinct character makes it a good alternative to the other, more classical championship courses.

    The West is many golfers' favorite, both because of its unique setting and outstanding views. It weighs in a bit longer than the North at 6,529 yards.

    We've made it a goal to do more traveling the next few years and with the kids getting older. One stop will surely be La Manga in Southern Spain.

    "If I had to choose one golf course to play before I die, it would be the South Course at La Manga."
    - Lord Deedes – Editor of the Daily Telegraph

  • Replay Highlights

    01 Nov 2009


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