Friday, December 25, 2015

Hawaii, Part 2 - And What About Golf?!?

Garden Variety Golfers in Paradise
 Lihue, Kauai, Hawaii
September 2015

Kauai Lagoons/Hokuala Kauai

     It seemed impossible at first - picking a course to play in Hawaii.  Our itinerary was going to be packed to the gills but we couldn't imagine this trip without golf.  Which one then?  So many to choose from!  Kauai would be our last island before heading home and as it turned out was our favorite.  The Ocean Course at Hokuala Kauai includes the longest continuous stretch of ocean holes in Hawaii.  That was what sold us, along with hearing our first "Aloha" when we called the Pro Shop.  Tomoko assured us that all we would have to bring off the ship at Lihue was our game.  She was right.  A shuttle met us, TaylorMade clubs and balls were waiting on the cart, the weather and hospitality were perfect, and we enjoyed one of the most beautiful golf courses in the world. 
     Golfers who have visited Kauai may know this Jack Nicklaus design by its former name - Kauai Lagoons.  As of October 2015 it is a Timbers Resort.  The new name, Hokuala, is Hawaiian for "Rising Star" and a star it is.  Hope you enjoy the view!
    








 




Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Hawaii, Part 1 - The Vacation of a Lifetime

 
Waikiki



September 2015

     The house was finally paid for, family was in good shape and the glass block bank that we had been filling with dimes for the last 10 years could not hold another coin.  Our masons gave it to us when we finished building, said it would hold at least $1,000.  Masons exaggerate but we always said we would go to Hawaii when it was full.  It was the greatest trip we have ever taken.
     Hawaii and Florida are similar in many ways - golf courses aplenty, tropical landscapes, the tourist seasons, even the hurricane seasons!  September is slow for tourism in both states, offering great deals for the traveler.  We lucked out on the weather, getting only a few glancing blows from Tropical Storm Jimena but we had our rain gear, just in case!
     It's similar to Florida, but in many ways Hawaii is different from anywhere we've ever been.  Maybe it's because it is so far from anywhere - the farthest point from any landmass - something we learned during a fabulous day at the Polynesian Cultural Center on the north shore of Oahu.  The center has entertained and educated millions of visitors from around the world since 1963 with a showcase of cultures that originally discovered these islands more than 1,500 years ago.  Figi, Samoa, Tahiti, Tonga, Easter Island, Hawaii and New Zealand (Aotearoa as it is known in the ancient language of the Maori) are all represented here.

Hawaii
Tahiti

 
Samoa
    
Figi
New Zealand


Tonga
     Their sincerity in sharing their history and ancestoral past was quite moving.  People had to work hard to get here, work hard to stay here, even now.  Formed from fire deep in the Pacific, the islands of Hawaii are some of the newest formations in the world.  Along with people, everything living here has recently arrived from somewhere else.  The earliest people brought everything they might need to survive - canoe plants, they are called.  Taro, banana, sweet potato and breadfruit, ginger for cleansing, kukui nut for oil, noni for medicine and coconut palms for almost everything else - these are some of the original botanical species brought to a rocky chain of volcanic islands that generations have coaxed life from.
Travelers and Traveler Palm
     It does not take long for new species to take hold in this paradise.  Original plantlife had little competition.  Protective defenses like aggressive growth and bitter taste had less time to evolve here, allowing invasive species like golden bamboo and Brazilian peppertree to quickly dominate.  And in the time pre-man, one plant took hold here every thousand years.  Now ten plants per year find their way to Hawaii.  Sugarcane, pineapple and macadamia plantations stormed the islands in the 1800's and early 1900's, the remnants of which are still visible.  But they, too, are giving way to the next invasion - tourism and development which pay much better.  Possibly this is a better thing in the long run for Hawaii.  We visited several wonderful ranches, gardens and farms where all of the staff are eager to share their excitement for returning to a nurturing position when it comes to production and protection of these islands.  You would think that this is the most fertile place in the world, but soil and sand are just getting started here, geologically speaking.
     The staff at Kona Joe Coffee trellises their plants on the steep slopes of the Big Island of Hawaii, just like a vineyard, facilitating hand-harvesting on what would be a difficult terrain to work large pickers over.
Entrance to Kona Joe's
Trellised Coffee
 
Great View from the Tasting Patio
     Also on the Big Island, Bob and Pam Cooper of Original Hawaiian Chocolate found their beautiful collection of cacao trees on a visit, then bought the property and moved to Hawaii to make chocolate after years of managing a country club in North Carolina.  Bob gives one of the most interesting tours we've ever been on, knows every detail of the cacao plant and chocolate process and truly loves his newest career.  Their signature chocolate design is a Plumeria bloom, one of the most popular flowers in lei-making.
Original Hawaiian Chocolate "Factory"
Cacao Pods spring from every branch
 
So Many Colors!

     For 6 generations, descendants of the Judd Family have been caring for their Kualoa Ranch on the north shore of Oahu.  Over 4,000 acres of private nature reserve, it includes a cattle ranch, outdoor recreation and environmental education opportunities, film locations, Mokoli'i Island and an 800-year-old fish pond that is still in operation.
Foundations from the Past
Across Kualoa Ranch to Mokoli'i Island
Crossing the Moli'i Fish Pond
     Balancing nature and tourism in an art in Hawaii.  The Aloha spirit is evident everywhere.  People come and embrace this paradise on each side of the experience.  At Garden of Eden Arboretum along the Hana Highway on Maui, Alan Bradbury has created a self-sustaining botanical wonder that absolutely charms the visitor.  He also leases rappelling rights to Rappel Maui who offer the most amazing experience -  rappelling the waterfalls that drop through this rainforest!  Guides led us, prepped us, instructed us, encouraged us, and at the end carried every last rope back out with us, leaving barely a trace of our trek through this garden.  Truly tourism at its finest.
Garden of Eden, Maui
Rappelling
Canyoneering

Monday, August 17, 2015

Include Patriot Golf Day in your Labor Day Plans


Patriot Golf Day
Labor Day Weekend
September 4-7, 2015

     Since its first Patriot Golf Day in 2007, Folds of Honor has worked to ensure that no military family is left behind by delivering over 7500 scholarships to families of  U. S. Service men and women who have been killed or disabled in active duty.
     By adding just $1 to their greens fees at participating courses over Labor Day Weekend, golfers are able to empower many young lives through educational opportunities.  For a nationwide list of host golf courses, go to:

https://www.foldsofhonor.org/event-locator/?category=patriot_golf_day

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Swallow-tailed Kites - Florida's Summer Snowbirds

 July 2015
                                                                            

     We hadn't even discovered golf yet the first time we saw a swallow-tailed kite.  A summer visit to the southwest coast of Florida led us one day to cool off at Audubon's Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary under the largest remaining stand of old-growth bald cypress in North America.  Its habitat supports an amazing array of wildlife, including these beautiful birds who arrive every spring for nesting season and leave each fall - returning to Brazil!
     Our area of Central Florida lies between the St. John's River and the Atlantic Ocean, offering ideal nesting for these small raptors - stands of wide-spread live oaks draped in Spanish moss that they collect to pad into soft nests high atop tall long-leaf pines and bald cypress.  We noticed a few here the following summer and every March since then we have watched for their return.  They seem to come back to the same neighborhood year after year, generation after generation, and every year there have been a few more.
     Once seen as far north as Minnesota, the southeastern United States is as far north as these birds travel now.  But if our sightings of swallowtails this year are an indication of the bird's population growth, we have good news to report.  We've seen them almost daily over our house and at Victoria Hills Golf Club in Deland, RedTail Golf Club in Sorrento, Riviera Country Club in Ormond Beach and Glen Abbey Golf Course in Debary.  It's hard to capture them on film - as soon as we hear them we see them and then they are gone, cutting and banking through treetops.
     One day we counted 15 in the air together, testing thermal lift it seems.  We believe by now, early July, the babies have fledged and what we are seeing are squadrons in training.  In another month they'll be gathering along Florida's rivers and swamps, getting in one last big buffet of lizards and frogs before taking flight in their own Florida snowbird migration, heading south for the winter - South America!
                
video

                                                   Swallow-tailed Squadron
     The above video is of swallow-tailed kites in flight training over Central Florida before taking wing to their winter home in Brazil!  Our area golf courses offer great birding opportunities year-round, including kite sightings from March to September.

For more information on the swallow-tailed kite and other Florida wildlife, go to
Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission's
Great Florida Birding and Wildlife Trail
 
 

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Groundskeepers - Praises for Golf's Unsung Heroes

April 2015

     This year's Earth Day on April 22 and Arbor Day on April 24 were flanked by weekends of predictably unpredictable spring storms across the US that tested the grounds crews of several tournaments - The Champion's Tour Greater Gwinnett Championship at TPC Sugarloaf in Duluth, Georgia and the PGA Zurich Classic of New Orleans at TPC Louisiana.  Deluges of rain caused delays and even shortened the Greater Gwinnett to a 36 hole format.  That play could resume at all each day was testimony to the diligence of extraordinary individuals who work as many miracles as is humanly possible to make outstanding environments not just for golfers, but for the future.

     It was an excellent opportunity for several announcers to highlight the importance of golf course grounds crews everywhere and if you missed Matt Ginella's interview April 22, 2015 on Golf Channel of Rhett Evans, CEO of the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America, you can catch it at
GCSAA CEO talks course conservation efforts

     These guys really are golf's unsung heroes.  If you have a few minutes to check out their website, GCSAA has a fantastic wealth of information including From the desk of GCM, the official blog of GCSAA's Golf Course Management magazine.  There is a sidebar that lists links to their "Super Bloggers" (Super - Superintendent - Get it?!) and, as we have a lot of family in Iowa, the blog from Des Moines Golf and Country Club caught our eye.  Not only are they an Audubon-certified golf course, but they also will be hosting the 2017 Solheim Cup and have been renovating their NE 9 in what to Floridians seems an impossibly short maintenance season.  On his blog, Rick Tegtmeier, Director of Grounds, highlights bluebird boxes, honey bee hives, winter houses for their swans and professional video fly-overs of work in progress and it shows there's always a whole lot going on behind the mowers and sand rakes of a golf course.

     Today we enjoyed a round at one of our favorite home courses in Central Florida - Victoria Hills Golf Club in Deland.  Yesterday was a rainout - the tail end of the marching storms that tormented Georgia and Louisiana last week.  But today was beautiful.  And no standing water anywhere on the course.  Bunkers were clean.  Greens were fresh.  The grounds crew was hard at it but politely waited for us to go by.   Last week's spotlight on the tasks these guys sometimes have in front of them made this week's round all the more appreciated. 
    
     Next round, remember to thank your groundskeepers!


                     




Friday, February 6, 2015

2015 PGA Merchandise Show and Demo Day

January 21, 2015
PGA Merchandise Show Outdoor Demo Day
at Orange County National Golf Center and Lodge

     From the time Bubba Watson scanned our media pass at the entrance of Demo Day to the golf cart shuttle ride back to our vehicle by one of the legion of volunteers at Orange County National, this day was quite possibly the most fun we've ever had at a golf course!

     Starting at the Flightscope tent where we got a great introduction to the newest in 3D Doppler tracking technology (based here in Orlando) to our final stop 8 hours later at the Ben Hogan Golf Company that is returning to its roots, we went full circle around the 42 acre driving range where the ball retrievers never stopped!  More than 100 participating companies with names big and small filled 300 hitting bays and 4 practice greens with the newest equipment in the trade.  Added to the PGA Merchandise Show in 2003 as an opportunity for PGA professionals, invited media and merchandise buyers to experience equipment in a realistic environment, the Outdoor Demo Day is a great lead into the show days ahead.

     You would never imagine that over 6,000 people are milling around the mile-long circle of tee boxes unless you focus on the ball flights soaring out into the center - it looked like hail raining down on the ball carts!  Name badges reflected that attendees represented almost every corner of the globe.  And many young faces were not only trying out but repping equipment - very reassuring to see in a sport that some claim is losing popularity with generations X, Y and Z.

     An enthusiastic crowd watched Bubba put on a shot-making exhibition and listened to some sage advice from the shooting star:  try playing a round every so often with just one club.  Creativity begins when you step outside the box!


    


     Adams Golf got The Garden Variety Golfer Award for Best-Tailgating Party - giving away chicken wings, GolfBeer Brewing Company Keegan Bradley New England Style Lager, Graeme MacDowell Celtic Style Pale Ale and Freddie Jacobson Scandenavian Style Blonde Ale, brewed in Lakeland, Florida.  Oh, AND chocolate chip cookies!
 The Yamaha guys had set up a nice little obstacle course where we test-drove the new 6.7 hp
Yamaha Drive-A.C.:  very smooth transition, no hesitation, and 6-8v batteries delivering more voltage and drawing fewer amps making for more efficient usage on the course.  That translates into 3 rounds or better between charges.  And it has a great water-filling system that an amusing rep from Texas claimed can withstand even a 16-year-old cart boy's maintenance methodology!

     For those who walk the course, some innovations on display included the X9 Follow, a remote control bag cart that follows and R1 Push, a cart that folds into a suitcase-sized unit, both hand-built in Great Britain by Stewart Golf.  Non-motorized but very clever carts from Clicgear USA feature state-of-the-art design in compactness and accessories.  And for those who want a little more thrill in their ride, the electric Golfboard by Solboards, Inc. and electric ATV bike by QuietKat were getting a lot of notice!

     We really enjoyed talking with inventors and designers, many of whom we would see again at their show booths.  It's amazing how often people of diverse occupations bring innovation to the game of golf not necessarily because it is their occupation to do so but because the game they love draws it out of their occupation.  From the German metallurgist who began Dreamliner Golf to build a perfect putter that his wife could also use to one of the co-founders of the Tee Claw who was tired of the chewed-up rubber tees on artificial turf range stations, it was evident that golf was the beneficiary of inspiration.


     






     And speaking of ranges, those hard working folks at the Golf Range Association of America gave away the greatest hats!  Those guys really do work hard - on every range!!

     Wedges and putters were lined up at three practice greens with PGA teaching pros and manufacture reps ready to show off the details of new designs.  A few that caught our eye and felt great in hand included the Cleveland Wedges with a double score cut that had a good bite, the MLA Golf putter's beautiful clean Swiss design that really does focus the eye on the ball, and Ray Cook M Series putters for their affordable price tag and Nancy Lopez stamp of approval.
    


     Our final stop of the day was at Ben Hogan Golf where the conversation turned to the similarities between the new Ft. Worth 15 irons and the set of Apex we still have in our attic, the clubs so many of our generation grew up with.  And with the recent return of the company to the Hogan family, a return to its design roots resonates with many golfers.  Familiarity might be its greatest marketing tool.

    
January 21-23, 2015
PGA Merchandise Show
Orange County Convention Center
Orlando, Florida
    
     With one million square feet of display and 10 miles of aisles that are all about golf, walking through the doors of the PGA Merchandise Show is nothing short of amazing.  Golf equipment, products and services, apparel, forums, workshop sessions and travel are represented with flair and fanfare.  Where Demo Day had given us a taste of new equipment and products, the days of the Merchandise Show are where business really gets done.

     Meeting rooms that surrounded the main entry hall of the huge West Concourse at the Orange County Convention Center were filled to capacity and the doors at the top of the staircase opened to a thrilling amusement park that catered to every corner of golf business.
 
Always entertaining, Bridgestone paired up with BMW up to show off not just hot golf gear but the new electric BMW i8 - a very hot ride! 
 
 

     Having done a little welding in our day, we really enjoyed talking metalcraft at the MLA booth when we stopped to thank them for the Demo Day putting pointers.  Izulu Golf, whose entire club-fitters case is no larger than a 4-drawer tool chest, attains changes in their 2-piece irons by increasing or decreasing interior weights rather than shaft length and lie angles are adjusted by hosel changes instead of bending. 

     Clubface thinness is the name of the game now.  With advancements in metallurgy and ever-more-cutting-edge technology, clubmakers are able to get spring effects that are truly recognizable, especially with the surge of tracking devices that can measure every nuance in a golfer's swing.  They run the gambit of size and price from the affordable Swami Sport by Izzo Golf to the feature rich golf bands and watches of GolfBuddy , the automatic analytics and performance tracking of Arccos Golf and precision range finders of Leupold.  With teaching tools as simple as the RedZone Golf Combine app and as portable as the ES 14 Launch Monitor from Ernest Sports, there is an improvement vehicle for every player out there.

     And from futuristic to nostalgic, Ben Hogan Golf took us back in time with historic exhibits of Hogan's own equipment and we appreciated the time they took to explain the company's plans for addressing player's individual needs with one club fitting at a time rather than packaging entire sets.



     Another icon who is returning to his roots would be the Shark himself, Greg Norman.  At a press conference for Cobra Puma that included CEO Robert Philion and brand ambassadors Holly Sonders, Jesper Parnevik, Lexi Thompson and Curtis Thompson, it was evident that Norman was proud of the company he had helped bring into being years ago and is excited to be involved in the research and development of the company's products again.

     At the Travel Pavillion we had a great time visiting with the guys from Ireland at Emerald Golf Travel and encouraged them to get one more round in before heading home, recommending they give Orange County National a try since they really only got an introduction to it on Demo Day.  They encouraged us to come give their "wee island" a try in the near future - Aye, and we will!



     We feel fortunate to have had the opportunity to be a part of such a significant event.  We found common ground even in our hotel lobby where we happened to meet Jeff Aubery, a Dunlop Sport rep and co-author of Chicken Soup for the Golfer's Soul, a book we have sitting on our shelf! 

     But probably the most significant booths that we visited were the Folds of Honor and Salute Military Golf Association, both of which are working very hard to bring a sense of inclusion to military veterans of recent conflicts who have given so much and often lost even more.  Founded by former PGA Professional and F-16 pilot Major Dan Rooney, Folds of Honor provides scholarships for families of  U. S. Military who have been disabled or killed in recent conflicts through fundraisers that include the nationwide Patriot Golf Championship held annually during the month of May.
     Sgt. T. J. Brooks, USMC Ret., caught our attention at Salute Military Golf Association primarily because of his partner, a huge soft-eyed shepherd who took up most of the aisle in front of the booth.  We didn't get his name because emotion was welling up and we found it difficult to start the conversation to begin with.  SMGA provides rehabilitative golf experiences and opportunities to post-9/11 wounded war veterans and we were looking for information to give to Dad, a retired Navy Captain with an above-the-knee amputation who is working on his prosthetic rehab and hoping to move from a cane to a seven iron this summer.  Sgt. Brooks is also an amputee.  And also retired, although he is considerably younger than Dad.  Considerably younger than us.  He was very dear and waited for the questions to come.  How can Dad be of help to you guys?  Would we be able to participate in any way that  might be of service?  On the back of his business card he wrote the e-mail address for Bob Buck, founder of the Eastern Amputee Golf Association, a resource for our own family, because without another word he understood what we were trying to say.  By supporting golf, golf supports us all.

2016 PGA Merchandise Show and Demo Day

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Yoo Hoo!

They're playing that tune again!  Yoo Hoo - Here comes Feherty Live!


Pre-Show Happy Hour at Feherty Live - Universal Studios Orlando
    
     Perseverence paid off for us on January 21st, 2014 - Tickets to the January 2014 shows in Orlando were available if a person followed the treasure map that only David Feherty would devise and we were rewarded with a fabulous night of pre-show Happy Hour Mixing in Universal Studios Soundstage 20 followed by a hugely humorous, sometimes touching, show featuring Lee Trevino, Coach Lou Holtz, Graeme McDowell and of course the effervescent host himself, David Feherty, Live (almost) because yes indeed there is a five second delay AND a very busy man, the censor with the cut button!
     It was such a great evening, so much fun, that the least we could do was contribute to
Feherty's Troops First Foundation, garnering us a Frank T-shirt to hang among our trophies!
     The 2015 shows will be airing January 28 and 29 from Phoenix, 10 pm EST on the Golf Channel. If you plan to be anywhere close, check out http://golfchannel.com/tv/feherty/ and maybe you, too, can find some clues to Yoo-Hoo - Feherty Live - from Phoenix!