Fall is in the Air and Professional Sports are in Full Swing

I love fall.  Even though I now live in Florida, where the daytime temps are still in the 90′s, the season still brings to mind the colors of the changing leaves and crisp, clear mornings. When I was a kid in  high school it would mean after-school football practice and the excitement of Friday night games. I also spent many fall Sundays with my Dad at the old Three Rivers Stadium in Pittsburg watching the Steelers.

Nowadays I still enjoy fall, but mostly because there are so many professional sports in full swing. Not only is the PGA FedEx Cup race is underway with Tiger in the lead, but the NHL is in pre-season, the NFL season is gaining momentum, NASCAR’s Race for the Chase has begun and the Boys of October are getting ready to bat. My days are a blur of watching sports and it’s great! I’m not real happy with the way my Pittsburg Steelers are playing so far, but I’m very happy with my Pittsburg Pirates who should see the post-season for the first time in 20 years.

I’m not alone in this love of fall, which seems to bring out the armchair expert in everyone. Whether it’s pre-season or regular season, everyone has a prediction and they like to do some wagering on their favorite team, or spend hours picking and following their fantasy league teams. On the radio, on TV, and increasingly, online, you can find the spreads, odds or points on all kinds of sports from tennis to golf to football. Who will win and by how much, how many total points, who scores first and many more bets can be made on all sporting events. You can even put your money where your mouth is and make real money on some of the sports betting sites. Make sure you do your homework first though.

However you choose to enjoy your fall sports, have fun, drink responsibly, and don’t bet the farm. Good luck and happy fall!

My New RIFE Putter

My new RIFE putter

My new RIFE putter

If there’s one thing many golfers don’t like to change, it’s their putter. Many golfers change iron’s, driver’s and golf balls without any reservations, but the putter, once you have one that you like, you will hold on to it for a long time. I am like this too. I have 7 or 8 different putters in my garage and I always go back to my trusty Acushnet Bulls Eye La Femme. I’ve had this putter for over 20 years and it always takes me back after trying another fancy new putter. When you have a putter you like and trust, it makes you feel like you can make putts from anywhere.

But, while attending the PGA Merchandise in January I came across a new putter to try. It’s by RIFE. RIFE might not be a household name like Nike, Ping or Odyssey, but since it began operating in 2004 as a three person company, it has become the fastest growing putter company in the world. They boast over 100 tour pros who use their products and most recently, their Vault 001 Iconic putter was used to win the Par 3 Tournament at the Masters.

The Sanford, Florida based company has introduced a new line of putters for 2013 featuring 14 models in various styles. It’s also the company’s only aluminum faced model. Rife Putters claim to help improve golfer’s putts using what they call RollGroove Technology™. This refers to the  grooves on the face that creates friction causing the ball to gripped, held through impact, and then released into a forward roll. The Two Bar Alignment System is used to improve aim without changes to your setup with the bars acting to frame the ball and create a railroad track effect right to your target. This visual effect is used to help aim the putter correctly and more accurately.

The putter I chose is their new Vault 001 Legend Z two bar putter. The Legend Z is a mallet type putter with a 2 bar weighting system that can be adjusted to better suit your game. What I really liked initially about this putter was its weight and feel. When executing a putting stroke the club gives you a reassuringly balanced feel. Even some of the putts I hit off-center weren’t highly noticeable. Also the weight in the putter helped prevent longer putts from coming up short.

So far, so good. After some extended practice on the putting green and a local par three course, I ventured onto a regulation course to see if my new RIFE putter was going to save me strokes or send me running back to my Bulls Eye. I normally don’t keep count of how many putting strokes I have during my round, but this time I did.  I had nine 1-putts and didn’t 3-putt a green. I would estimate that I shaved a good 3 to 4 strokes off my round. In rounds since then, I have consistently been able to attribute loosing at least 2 strokes per game to my new putter.

That’s good enough for me. I now have a new putter in my bag, and if it keeps helping me sink putts like I have been, it will stay there. But of course, my trusty Bulls Eye will always be ready to take me back. For more information on Rife putters go to www.rifeputters.com

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Northdale Golf and Tennis Club is a Convenient Community Golf Course

 

Northdale Golf and Tennis Club: 5th hole

The 5th hole is a short par 3 with drive over water. Can’t be short and long will take you into woods behind green.

Northdale Golf and Tennis Club is a community golf course that winds you through the adjacent neighborhood. There are houses on both sides of the fairway on almost every hole. Most courses in Florida are like this and it’s more uncommon to play a course with no houses. There is a good mixture of open fairways, like hole six, and some that are tighter, such as the tough second hole that features water left and trees right.  Another difficult hole is the par three fifth hole which is not long, but the tee shot is all carry over water. Northdale is not a long course and features four sets of tees that range from just over 6800 yards from the blue tees to 5230 yards from the red tees.

I was pleasantly surprised with the good condition of the course. I haven’t played Northdale Golf and Tennis Club in almost three years because it’s not usually in very good condition with ragged tees, rough greens and wet fairways. However, in the interests of providing my readers with reviews of all Tampa golfing opportunities, I sucked it up. This time, the fairways were in good condition as were the sands traps. What impressed me the most was the good condition of all the greens. My only complaint is that a few of the tee boxes were a little rough.

The pace-of-play is another thing that always bothered me about this course. It can take a looooong time to play a round. This time pace wasn’t a problem and although it did seem like we waited on every shot, we still finished our round in four hours. However, we played on a weekday with a late morning tee time so I’m sure the pace will change depending on time and day of week. Something to keep in mind if you want to play a weekend round of golf.

The staff was friendly at check-in as was the starter. There was a beverage cart that we saw several times during our round. For practice, they have a nice size putting green near the clubhouse, but they do not have a driving range. There is no GPS for this course. The price was fair at $32, but again, this will change depending on the day of week and time.

Northdale Golf and Tennis Club is popular with area locals and is conveniently located in the Carrollwood area, about a 20 minute drive from downtown Tampa. For more information or to book a tee time, call 813-962-0428 or go to www.northdalegolf.com.

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Looking Forward to the PGA Tour’s Tampa Bay Championship

Innisbrook Copperhead Course: 16th hole

The 16th starts the “snake pit” and is a medium to long par 4 with water down right. The more water you can carry, the shorter your second shot.

This week the PGA Tour comes to one of the Tampa Bay area’s best golf courses, the Copperhead at Innisbrook Resort in Palm Harbor. Year in and year out this tournament draws a lot of big name golfers - not named Tiger, Phil or Rory.

Regardless, every year the Tampa Bay Championship features a solid field. Matt Kuchar will be here, this year’s WGC Match play champ, along with Luke Donald, last year’s champion and former #1. Also on hand will be  Webb Simpson, the 2012 U.S. Open winner, several Ryder Cup players, and fan favorite, John Daly. I was fortunate to play the Copperhead Course back in August of 2012 and I’m excited to attend this year’s tournament to see how some of these top ranked players maneuver their way around this course.

I am interested to see how Luke, who may not be the longest hitter, but is the more accurate, plays the 3rd hole, aptly called “Narrow Neck,” and how Jason Dufner, known as a straight hitter, handles the “Sidewinder” 6th hole (one of my favorites - I made birdie here). How will John Daly , always one of the longest drivers of the golf ball, fare on the course’s second toughest hole, the long par five 14th known as “Packard’s Double Dogleg?” I also will be keeping a close eye on the “Snake Pit” – holes  16, 17 and 18 - considered by some to be the most difficult  finishing holes on the PGA Tour.

The weather’s supposed to be great and there’s no doubt that both Innisbrook Resort and the Copperhead Course will be in tip-top shape. I look forward to seeing some great golf on a great golf course. Check out my review of the Innisbrook Resort’s Copperhead Course for more course info. Tournament information can be found at tampabaychampionship.com.

 

What’s New from the 2013 PGA Merchandise Show — Part 3

Here’s another post about some of the newest golf-related products that I spotted at the 2013 PGA Merchandise Show in Orlando. There were over 100 new items this year and quite a few caught my eye. While always looking for gadgets that might help me with my golf swing and game, I came across two items that not only might help me, but also my Dad.  In a post I wrote a while back (For the Love of Golf), I told you about my Dad who had a stroke 6 years ago. Currently he only has motion on his right side and since he’s golfing again he needs a way to better grip his right hand to the club when he swings. Below are two products that can help.

The Golf GripThe GripLock

The GripLock is a golf glove fitted with a velcro strap. Once you take your grip on the club, you then take the strap around your hand and club and attach it to velcro strips on your knuckles. This gives you a solid hold on your club and, according to their website, is “designed to assist all golfers in achieving the perfect grip.” The GripLock glove helps to keep your club head square at impact, which can increase your distance and eliminate hooks and slices. It’s the Preferred Training Aid of the PGA Learning and Performance.

The GripLock not only helps the able-bodied keep their hand in the proper form when swinging the club,  it also helps those who have strength or mobility issues such as those who have had strokes or suffer from arthritis. I know it has helped my Dad. This glove is great for training or can be used on the course. The GripLock golf glove is available for men and women and comes in sizes medium and large for either right or left hand. It currently sells online for $24.95. For more information go to www.thegriplock.com.

The Eagle ClawThe Eagle Claw

The Eagle Claw is a golf grip device that, according to their literature, can “assist with developing and maintaining grip strength and accuracy.” This device locks your hand and grip to the club to help make a more consistent swing by supporting and strengthening your grip. It is perfect for disabled golfers who are physically impaired i.e. arthritis, stroke or those who struggle gripping and holding a club as you swing. The Eagle Claw has been tested and approved by the Wounded Warriors Project.

The Eagle Claw is only available for the left hand for now, although they are planning to have a right-handed version with in the next 6 months. It comes with a locking device and golf glove in sizes medium, large and extra-large and is priced at $49.95. It can currently be found via their website or at several stores online such as Golfsmith and Walmart. For more information on the Eagle Claw, including a demonstration video, log on to www.the-eagle-claw.com.

Check out my previous posts about this year’s PGA Merchandise Show:
What’s New from the 2013 PGA Merchandise Show – Part 1
What’s New from the 2013 PGA Merchandise Show – Part 2

Plantation Palms Golf Club is a Good Choice for Weekend Play

 

PlantationPalms: 11th hole

The 11th hole is a short par 5 with trouble down right. A good drive can get you home in two. On approach, anything short and right falls off the green.

Last weekend was my first visit to Plantation Palms Golf Club since October of 2012. Once again, Plantation Palms did not disappoint. The course was in good shape from the tees and on the fairways. The greens also were in fine condition along with all the sand, and Plantation Palms has a lot of sand. This golf course is almost always in good condition and is safe choice for weekend golf outings.

Plantation Palms Golf Club has four sets of tees from over 6700 yards to 5300. The right tee selection is crucial for this course as there are many challenging holes that will test your length and accuracy (and patience). One example is the dog-leg left sixth hole, with sand and a long stretch of water to carry off the tee. Similarly, the very next hole is a par three that requires a long iron off the tee to carry the water that reaches almost to the green. Holes on the back nine also have their own set of obstacles. Difficult tee shots over wetlands, like the twelfth hole where you hit to an elevated green, or the short par four fifteenth hole that features a narrow fairway and water on both sides.

The staff is friendly and each cart has a GPS an ice and water filled cooler. There is also a beverage cart that makes the rounds. There is a nice driving range with a practice bunker area, and a nice sized putting green near the first tee. The pace of play that weekend morning was just over four hours which isn’t bad, and the price was $42; although that will change depending on what day or time you choose.

If you haven’t already, I would definitely recommend giving Plantation Palms Golf Club a try. I think it’s worth it. For more information you can go to www.plantationpalms.net or check out my previous posts:

Plantation Palms Golf Club (4/11/11)
Update: 10/5/12

 

Golfer’s Grail Provides A State-of-the-Art Indoor Golf Experience

 

Golfer's Grail Indoor Golf and Tap

Working on my swing with the GolfBlaster 3D golf simulator.

Last week I had the chance through a Paradise Golf outing to visit the new Golfer’s Grail Indoor Golf & Tap in Carrollwood, Florida. I had heard about the place, but never visited. Serial entrepreneurs Jeff and Brenda Sproat decided to open a place were you could golf, rain or shine, by combining first-class golf simulators with beer and wine.

Initially I questioned the idea, given that golf is available year-round in Tampa. But there’s a lot to be said for being able to golf while I have a beer with my wife, who is not a golfer. And it does rain and get very hot and humid in the summer. And it does sound like a great place for parties, or for someone to learn the game. So, I’ve changed my tune.

The ambiance is very inviting and has a clubhouse feel. Lounge areas with comfy couches and chairs occupy one wall, and there is a line of bar-height tables fronting the simulators so you can watch the golfers and maybe heckle a little. While playing, you can enjoy craft beer and wines, have food delivered to you from local eateries, and even watch your favorite sporting events on the HDTVs between shots. But, of course, the stars of the show are the golf simulators.

Golfer's Grail Indoor Golf and Tap

Golfer’s Grail has a comfortable clubhouse feel.

Golfer’s Grail features four state-of-the-art GolfBlaster 3D golf simulators. These simulators can detect every kind of golf shot with their dual-sensor ball tracking system. After you hit, your ball is projected on a huge screen featuring high-resolution graphics and animation, giving you an immersive experience. After your shot you can get a detailed swing analysis, but the simulators are not just for practicing. You can play complete rounds on actual courses from around the world. There are approximately 60 to choose from now and new ones are added all the time.

The night I was there, my friend and I started out on the “range” to get used to the simulator and check our club distances. After warming up on the range we played a few holes at Pebble Beach, imagining ourselves on the bluffs overlooking the pacific. After that, feeling like pros, it was off to Augusta to admire the azaleas and play Amen corner. We left a big divot there. It didn’t take long to realize we were not ready for that course yet. It was fun to experience those courses, even as a virtual experience.

Jeff and Brenda Sproat

Owner’s Jeff and Brenda Sproat

The level of service and support was great. Jeff was there every step of the way to help us learn the system and provide useful playing tips. Brenda does a wonderful job of making you feel comfortable and ensuring that Gofer’s Grail is as welcoming to women as it is to men. There are also several PGA Professionals on staff available to help including Tom Shea, the director of US Kids, and the Sproat’s son Jason who is apprenticing.

Golfer’s Grail has  a lot to offer whether you’re just learning or seasoned pro. You can practice by buying a bucket of balls ($6 for a small to $10 for a large) or you can select a course to play. The cost is $35 per hour for 1-4 players and you can play 9 or 18 holes. There are also leagues you can compete in and  private or group lessons are offered by the PGA Professionals. This is also a very kid and family  friendly place with youth clinics on Saturday mornings and miniature golf courses for casual play.

Check it out! Golfer’s Grail is conveniently located at 10019 N. Dale Mabry Hwy, Suite 100, Tampa, Florida.

 

What’s New from the 2013 PGA Merchandise Show – Part 2

Spotless Swing golf towel

Spotless Swing golf towel.

Last month I attended the 2013 PGA Merchandise Show in Orlando. This is my second post about some of the newest golf-related products and there will be more. There were over 100 new items this year and quite a few caught my eye. I’ll keep posting about some of the most interesting over the next few weeks.

Spotless Swing Golf Towel

I carry a big, half-wet bath towel to clean the club face and grooves of grass and dirt after every shot. I know I’m not the only amateur that likes clean clubs. That being said, I might be a little anal about it. I have played with some people who always have grass stains and dirt in the grooves of their clubs. I don’t know how they do it.

So, while I was roaming the vast expanses of the 2013 PGA Merchandise Show, I sought out the booth for the Spotless Swing golf towel. I wanted to see what made this towel special. The Spotless Swing golf towel advertises itself as three towels in one. The fabric on the outside is for keeping your hands and grips dry, while the inside features both a “MicroBrush Fabric” to clean the grooves, and fabric to dry and wipe the clubs.

Spotless Swing colors

Spotless Swing golf towels come in a variety of colors

After receiving a towel at the Merchandise Show, I was eager to  give it try on the course. Not knowing how well the Spotless Swing golf towel would work, I stilled carried my own half-wet towel, just in case. After the first shot from the fairway, and noticing  grass stains and dirt on the club face, I reached for the Spotless Swing golf towel and went to work. I was really surprised on how well it cleaned the club and instantly got the dirt out of the grooves with its “MicroBrush Fabric”. After attaching the Spotless Swing golf towel to my bag I don’t think I’ll need my bath towel anymore.

The Spotless Swing golf towel comes in eight different colors and easily attaches to your golf bag whether riding on a golf cart or carrying your bag. You can also order custom logos, which is great for any golf tournament prizes. For those of you that like to have clean clubs for every golf shot Spotless Swing golf towel is the last one you will buy. They are available locally at Edwin Watts for $19.99, at the link below or from their website at www.spotlessswing.com.

 

Heritage Harbor Golf and Country Club Can Test Your Patience

 

Heritage Harbor Golf and Country Club - 16th hole

The 16th is a mid-length par 3 with water down right.

Getting to back to Heritage Harbor Golf and Country Club for the first time in over a year, I wasn’t sure what to expect. My biggest problem with this course is the pace-of-play and sand trap conditions so I was eager to see if these had improved.

For this visit, most of the course was in good condition with tees and fairways in good shape. The greens also were in nice condition. But, as usual, there were a lot of un-raked sand traps – from the fairway traps to sand around the green. They are hard enough to get out of, but when your ball is lying in a size twelve footprint forget it.

The pace of play was horrible. We had a 10:30 am tee time on a Sunday and it took nearly five hours to get through 18. I have played this course before on weekends and it has never been under 4 1/2 hours. I was really hoping the pace would have improved.

The course layout at Heritage Harbor Golf and Country Club takes you through the Heritage Harbor subdivision. It has its fair share of difficult holes, with many requiring accurate tee shots and precise approach shots to the green. With its water, sand and some wider fairways it still remains tough. However, it’s not the longest course, going from 6900 yards to 4800 yards with four sets of tees, so choosing the right tees can help make your round an enjoyable one.

The staff was friendly at check in and the beverage cart made its way around the course several times to keep you refreshed. They have an aqua driving range and putting green to warm up before your round and both were in good shape. The price was $42 which is a little high but better rates are available during off-peak times.

Heritage Harbor has a lot going for it with its layout and general course condition, but they have to do something about slow play on weekends. For more information you can check out my previous post or contact www.heritageharborgolf.com.

 

Cheval Golf and Country Club has Reversal of Fortune

Cheval Golf and Country Club - 11th hole

The 11th hole, which used to be the 2nd, is a long par 4 with water right and sand fronting the green on your approach.

I recently got back to play Cheval Golf and Country Club. I last played here at the end of October and found the course in good shape. The same holds true for this time around also, however I did notice that they changed the nines. The back-side is now the front and front-side is now the back. When we asked why, the folks in the pro shop told me that the members had voted for the change to start with a less intimidating hole. This should be good news for players who prefer an easier start to their round.

Other than that, everything was excellent as expected. All the tees and fairways were cut and in good shape. The sand traps are also in good condition except for one or two. The greens are in good shape, but watch out as they are very firm and fast. The driving range was in good shape with range balls for you to hit, also they have a nice chipping and sand trap area near the practice putting green.

Staff was friendly from bag-drop to check-in and there was a beverage cart along the way. Pace-of-play was decent for a weekend. We played as a threesome and made it through in just about four hours. This is a private club that offers “member for a day” privileges so you need to call to arrange tee times and get current rates.

Except for the change in nines, everything at Cheval was in the same excellent condition as usual. Great golf course, great conditions. For more information visit www.chevalgolfandcountryclub.com or check out my previous posts:

Cheval Golf and Country Club (10/10/11)
Update: 11/5/12

 

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