st-george2.jpg
GC Mar 16 Charleston2.jpg

 

Texas prides itself on being the land of superlatives.  Most anything and everything in this state–from barbecue joints, to observatory telescopes, to the 160-ft Jumbotron erected in the new Dallas Cowboys Stadium–are purported to be either the best or the biggest of their kind (the state slogan is, after all, “Everything’s bigger in Texas”).  But even skeptics have to acknowledge that time after time and instance after instance, most every boast made here is supported by fact.

All that said, golfers should not be surprised by the fact that the capital city of Austin is home to the state’s biggest and best golf resort.  Barton Creek Resort and Spa in Austin boasts some 72 holes of world-class championship golf that will truly leave you exhilarated.  The hills come alive here thanks to the work of Tom Fazio, Arnold Palmer, Ben Crenshaw and Bill Coore.  When you play golf here you are astounded by the elevation changes and by the one-of-a-kind views.  The destination’s rocky hills and spectacular vistas are uncharacteristic of the rest of Texas.  Indeed, if you ignore the cowboy boots and occasional Stetsons sported by visitors and locals, you’d swear that you were staying in Tuscany, Italy, rather than in the Lone Star State.

Along with the scenic beauty, the resort’s epicenter are the four championship golf courses that do nothing but accentuate the beauty and tranquility of the region.

 

In fact, the resort was recently bestowed the inaugural "Green Star Award” featuring America’s Best Environmental Resorts from Golf Digest in September 2009.  It became the first resort in Texas to be certified as the “Audubon International Signature Sanctuary course” in 2003 and has been awarded the same honor every year since.  Golf Magazine rated Barton Creek as #4 in its “Best Ecologically Friendly Golf Resorts” issue in 2008 and USA Today named Barton Creek as the “Top 10 Places to go for the Green and Be Green” just last year.

The limestone spring-fed streams are clean, clear, and just plain appealing to view.  They draw a wonderful contrast to the bunkers and all of the plush, manicured green grass of the courses.

Architect Tom Fazio displayed some real magic on The Foothills and The Canyons course. Each hole sits alone as they were carved harmoniously throughout these sprawling layouts. Tree-lined fairways are the norm here; but it’s the magical waterfalls on The Foothills holes #16 & 18 that etch permanent memories of your experience. I’ve been fortunate to play golf at a number of courses around the world, and I have seen a layout that is so beautiful, yet fair and challenging. One must pay close attention to slopes out here, as club selection is key in reaching the greens, rock outcroppings, meandering creeks, comfortably-sized fairways all make for a pleasurable trip around these Longhorn links. In Fazio’s book, Golf Course Designs, the author makes a statement that typifies his philosophy at Barton Creek. “In my opinion golf should not be easy, nor should it be overly difficult. We try to hit a middle ground between hard and easy so that, depending on how the course is set up, it can be made to play either fairly hard or fairly easy. I believe golf courses should be designed in the middle ground because it is the one most like to bring the greatest enjoyment to the greatest number of people.” Finish a round on The Foothills and The Canyons course and you fully comprehend why Tom Fazio is the most appreciated designer in the game today.

Excellent food and an attentive staff complete the perfect picture in this Texas Hill Country. What are the criteria in rating a golf destination? Forget about the reviews. Just book a reservation at Barton Creek Resort and Spa and find out up-close and personally. While I’ve never had the pleasure of playing golf in Tuscany, I am comfortable venturing a guess that Barton Creek has far better golf courses than one could locate in any part of Italy. And, if I may add, a place worthy of all the superlatives heaped upon the resort over the years.

On a side note, Austin, Texas is recognized as one of the country’s most livable cities. With year-round golf, comfortable temperatures, the University of Texas, friendly people, good food, and a tremendous music scene it’s an easy place to visit, and an even harder place to leave.                                  

(All images courtesy of  BartonCreek.com)

 

Tony Jacklin and Jack Nicklaus mapping out The Concession Golf Club in Bradenton, Florida.

Tony Jacklin and Jack Nicklaus mapping out The Concession Golf Club in Bradenton, Florida.

A two-foot putt is certainly not a big deal for an accomplished world-class player. But with the 1969 Ryder Cup at England’s famed Royal Birkdale in the balance Jack Nicklaus conceded such a putt to England’s Tony Jacklin. It resulted in the first-ever tie in the events storied history. It was a move that drew some controversy, but in essence it was true sportsmanship that helped define the game.

Jack said - “I don’t think you would have missed the putt, but under the circumstances, I’d never give you the opportunity.”

And Tony replied- “I think it was the greatest single sporting gesture in golf. If there was a greater one, I don’t know of it.” Thus a friendship was born between the two iconic players, and in the mid-2000’s they collaborated on a stellar golf club known as “The Concession.” Built on the outskirts of Bradenton, Florida this track started receiving accolades immediately with Golf Digest naming them best new private course in 2006.

The design is one that challenges the mind and tests your gut. There are reachable par 5’s, fair par 4’s, and par 3’s with a good disparity in yardages. And being in Florida there is naturally water, and the sand abundant, but certainly not over the top. The beautiful sugary white sand helps define each hole. This is high quality stuff which insures that your ball will always be sitting up, and never plugged. Whew!

A couple of holes (from the gold tees) that you will surely remember is the 507-yard par 5 13th and the par 4 18th. If you have two big hits you can get home in two shots, but you will be happy just to be on the putting surface in three. The elevated green can be described in one word, “severe.” In fact Nick Faldo had a little tug of war here going back-and-forth over the green, PICKING UP after his 7th shot! The finishing hole is a classic 436-yard par 4 with numerous bunkers, water coming into play on the right and the relaxed Concession clubhouse as a backdrop.

 Superintendent Terry Kennelly is truly a hands-on kind-of-guy, and treats this land like it was one of his own children. The course may be located in a gated community, but you will not find any homes in view from the course. It’s just you and your playing partners, and nature. Truly peaceful surroundings. The greens were always a challenge at The Concession, but last year Kennelly undertook some needed softening of the front nine’s undulating surfaces. This also added more hole positions ensuring that shot values could vary day-to-day. He likes The Concession to have a little brownish tint to the grass too- assuring that the grounds will play firm and fast. Numerous courses around the United States are taking to this is welcoming philosophy which is similar to links courses across the pond. Hey, what’s wrong with saving water, getting more roll, and never getting a plugged lie in the fairway?

In April the club will play host to The Concession Cup, a unique new Amateur tournament. There will be two eighteen-player teams- one from the United States, and the other from Great Britain/Ireland. Each team will have three categories: (8) Mid-Ams, that’s age 25 and older, (8) Seniors up to age 65, and (2) Super Seniors that are 65 and older. The big nugget of this match play competition is that Jack Nicklaus and Tony Jacklin will serve as honorary captains. This is truly a wonderful opportunity for the amateurs to meet these two icons, and the architects of The Concession!

Victorious United States 2008 Ryder Cup Captain Paul Azinger has been a fixture here since the club’s inception and is always sharing plenty of entertaining knowledge, and fodder of the game. Plus, world-renowned instructor David Leadbetter can occasionally be seen around the grounds. While he works with many of the top players around the globe he is more than willing to help us mere mortals with the golf swing.

Ryder Cup influences are sprinkled throughout this warm and welcoming facility. All of the electric carts have Murifield 1969 on the front, and there are numerous historical plaques on the world-class driving range depicting some of the famous matches. They also have a top-notch friendly caddy staff that will definitely help you shave a few strokes off here and there.

Moreover, the future will continue to shine when in 2015 the club plays host to both the Men’s and Women’s NCAA Championships in 2015. While The Concession may be a private club, it won’t be long before it becomes public knowledge.

 

Callaway Big Bertha Alpha Driver Review

Talk about versatile! Let’s face it, the driver is the sexiest club in the bag, and the new  Callaway Big Bertha Alpha Driver doesn’t disappoint. This bad boy has a number of bells and whistles that will make any player happy. a multitude of easy adjustments combined with a classic clean look, and a solid clubface that produces a REAL genuine sound. All of these factors make it one of the top drivers in the market today.

From the company:

Big Bertha Alpha is the first driver to enable independent adjustments of four significant performance characteristics, optimizing trajectory, control and distance for individual golfers.The four independent variables are loft, lie, CG (draw) bias, and most innovatively CG height.

Oh, and by the way – ball go far!

The key feature that distinguishes it from other adjustable drivers is the unique tungsten Gravity Core.

Big Bertha Alpha’s Gravity Core lets golfers adjust spin independently of launch angle, a natural (and dramatic) extension to loft adjustability in a driver head. This adjustability breaks the fixed relationship between launch angle and backspin for the first time, providing a major asset in the fitting process to find optimal distance for a wide range of players’ abilities.

 

The Gravity Core sits within the club head in a carbon tube that connects the crown and sole. It has a tungsten end, weighing 10.5g, and a glass fiber reinforced body, weighing just 1.5g. The gravity core can be inserted into the club head two different ways, which allows golfers to change the vertical center of gravity and alter the spin rates based on how it is positioned. When the tungsten end is closest to the sole, it will create a lower center of gravity and lower backspin. When the tungsten end is inserted first and therefore closer to the crown, it creates more of a mid-CG position.

Generally, players with above average head speeds or those who are trying to prevent excessive spin will benefit from the lower center of gravity, which a creates a flatter, more penetrating trajectory accompanied by more roll out. For those looking for a more controlled and workable ball flight and less roll out, the mid CG position is recommended.

Advanced Adjustable Hosel – Big Bertha enables golfers to independently adjust loft and lie angle to help translate the added ball speed into more distance. Golfers can chose from four different lofts (from -1 to +2) to optimize launch angle and backspin and two different lies, denoted by ‘D’ for Draw and ‘N’ for Neutral, to optimize the directional bias. Together, these provide eight unique combinations that help golfers optimize their distance and dispersion.  Callaway’s proprietary hosel technology is also the only adjustable hosel to achieve changes in loft and/or lie without having to rotate the shaft (and graphics) on its axis between settings.

CG Bias – Big Bertha Alpha also enables golfers to make adjustments to CG bias, which helps influence the shot shape. Big Bertha Alpha has a screw port in the heel and toe of the body and comes with four interchangeable weights: 1g, 3g, 5g, and 7g. This gives golfers a ton of flexibility in comfort controlling both the shot shape and overall head weight. The 7g and 1g screws are installed as standard.

Callaway-Big-Bertha-Alpha-Driver-Review-2.jpg

Callaway’s Big Bertha was at the forefront of the game changing titanium driver revolution in the mid-1990’s. Now with the Alpha they are making the game easier to play…again.In layman’s terms this club is the real deal with a traditional look, flexible to each individual’s swing and fully adaptable to the conditions that one faces out on the course. I have tested the driver with the stock Fubuki  ZT60 graphite shaft and found it to be one of the straightest drivers I have ever hit. It’s quite possible that the Alpha will be the last driver you will ever need!