Friday, November 27, 2009

Tiger, Say It Ain't So!

As I was perusing the Internet this afternoon, I came across the following story about Tiger Woods. From all the reports I am hearing and seeing, Tiger was in a one car accident early this morning in front of his own home. Obviously, being a fan, I was pleased to hear that despite some facial lacerations, Tiger is OK and has been released from the hospital.

What has yet to be understood, however, is what caused the accident. As of now, the police are saying that alcohol was not a factor, and hopefully that is true, but the circumstances are certainly peculiar and suspicious.

I tend to believe strongly in treating people as innocent until proven guilty, so would not like to infer that Tiger was driving under the influence, but the mere suspicion of it leads me to a different topic. Why do wealthy athletes and celebrities drive at all?

I certainly understand the physical desire to drive, especially once you have earned enough cash to buy the kinds of vehicles you would want to take out for a spin, Tiger's Cadillac Escalade not among them for me, by the way. To satisfy that urge, take a road trip if you must, or even an afternoon gallop across the countryside. Running errands, however, could certainly be left to someone else, and late night excursions to...well, anywhere, should definitely be left to a hired driver.

Over the last several years, many athletes have been arrested and/or charged with DUI including: Warren Moon, Kareem McKenzie, Jason Shirley, Matthew McCoy, Marcus Vick, Lawyer Milloy, Brandon Marshall, Karl Paymah, Jimmy Smith, Mark Bell, Lofa Tatupu, Jerramy Stevens, Carmelo Anthony, Jevon Kearse, Richard Collier, Cedric Benson, Dwayne Jarrett, David Legwand, Odell Thurman, John LeClair, and of course the more infamous cases resulting in the additional manslaughter convictions of both Leonard Little and Donte Stallworth.

Nobody...NOBODY should ever drive when they are consuming alcohol, but millions do anyway. Certainly civilian arrests for DUI/DWI (measuring in the hundreds of thousands) far outweigh those of famous athletes and celebrities combined. In no way should being wealthy translate to being held to a higher standard of conduct than those less fortunate. Being famous, however, like it or not, does translate to greater publicity of a mistake. Additionally, the fact that you can afford a Bentley (that, by the way, is the car that Stallworth was driving when he struck and killed Mario Reyes earlier this year) means that you can afford a driver to handle those duties. It's more than your legal responsibility, it's common sense.

So, I bring it up today because of the strange circumstances surrounding Tiger Woods' early morning accident. I truly hope that there is a different explanation for what occurred down in posh Windermere, FL, because Tiger is one of those celebrities for whom I have developed a genuine respect. Though the reasons I respect him would still be valid, knowing that Tiger would knowingly drive under the influence of alcohol rather than hire a ride (hell, he could summon a helicopter) definitely would impact the appreciation I have for him as a person beyond his talents on the course. Until we know for certain what happened this morning on the Woods' front lawn, however, we must simply be thankful that something worse did not happen, and we will be able to continue to admire the way this man completely and utterly dominates the sport of golf.

Fairways and Greens!

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Thursday, November 26, 2009

Let's Call It Green Friday!

Hello all you Beaver Golfers! I hope you all had a nice relaxing Thanksgiving, and possibly even hit the links if the weather was kind.

Speaking of links, as much as I love writing about golf, I do have to make a buck from time to time as well. To that end, I have partnered with a handful of retailers who reside in the right hand column of my blog. Please take note of them each time you visit, as the deals change with some regularity. Most are specifically golf related, but not all, and anything you purchase after clicking through from my links helps support my ability to keep producing this blog, and much more in the near future.

Given that the day after Thanksgiving is a BIG day for retailers, and even bigger for online retailers -it has been nicknamed Black Friday after all - my affiliate partners are offering some pretty sweet deals this weekend. If you are going to do some online shopping for the holidays, I'd encourage you to use Beaver Golf as a starting point, and take advantage of some of these offers.

Some notable ones include store wide savings at Golf Galaxy and at Target. You can use these links below:

Callaway Golf Pre-Owned is offering an interesting tiered discount where you save $75 when you spend $300, save $125 when you spend over $450, and $175 when you spend over $600. Here is the link:

Rock Bottom Golf is offering 15% off SITE-WIDE this entire weekend using this link below:

Other shops on my site include Edwin Watts,, Medicus, Pine Meadow Golf, Oakley Vault, SmugMug, and Kinesys Eco-friendly Sunscreen.

So, instead of shopping on Black Friday, let's put those dollars to work, buy someone you love some new golf gear, clubs, balls, or training aids and change that color from black to green! Oh, and don't forget to grab something for yourself either!

Fairways and Greens!

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Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Phil, Bill, and Jean - That Is Why It's Called Risk

While catching up on my blogroll this evening, I came across an interesting article that I found myself taking some exception to, i.e. a provocative article about a good topic. The post in question is from the Waggle Room blog and is titled "Bigger Idiot: Phil Mickelson at Winged Foot or Bill Belichick Last Night?"

For those unaware what this article might be referring to, on Sunday Night Football this past weekend, Bill Belichick, the well-known head coach of the New England Patriots football squad, made the decision to go for a first down on a 4th & 2 on their own 30 with just over 2 minutes left playing with a 6 point lead over the Indianapolis Colts in Indy. The play called was a quick out from Tom Brady to Kevin Faulk that was almost, barely, good enough, but after a brief bobble netted about a half of a yard, and gave the Colts the ball on the Pats' 30 with two minutes remaining and needing seven points to win.

I trust you can guess from the title of the article above, or from reading or watching anything sports related over the last 48 hours, that the Colts did indeed score the necessary 7 points, and Belichick quickly grew a little chin beard, short horns, and those crazy devil eyes (oh, wait, those were already there, they just became more apparent). Yes, for a change, Belichick was the goat, and lost what would have been a huge win for the Patriots.

If you hadn't already guessed, I'm not the biggest Bill Belichick fan (as if he cares), and I do think the decision was stupid (again, as if he cares). Bill Belichick has won 3 Super Bowls, and has coached the only 16-0 regular season record in NFL history. With the loss on Sunday night, his current team is 6-3, and still in good position to win the AFC East and once again head to the playoffs. I would bet a tremendous sum of money (OK, so right now I only have $22.64, but that's a lot for me) that Belichick and the Pats have already moved on to next Sunday's game against their rival Jets. So why can't the media? Because they are paid to talk and write about how Belichick should never have made that decision, that's why.

This is not a blog about football, though I do so very much love football. This is a golf blog, so on to the topic we go. The article in question (written by Ryan Ballengee) makes a comparison between Belichick's decision Sunday and Phil Mickelson's decision on the 18th hole of the 2006 U.S. Open at Winged Foot that ultimately cost him the major, and handed it to Geoff Ogilvy. In an unnecessarily cruel spin, he even brought poor old Jean van de Velde into the three-way comparison. Though I do find Mr. Ballengee's blog to be entertaining, I disagree with the comparison for the following reason; football is a team sport, and Belichick a coach while golf is an individual sport with Mickelson the player.

Sure, Phil has Jim "Bones" Mackay by his side playing the good angel on his right shoulder dressed in his all-whites while the dark-attired Phil sits on Phil's other shoulder suggesting a backwards flop shot swinging a draw biased driver right-handed from his knees, but Mackay is not Phil's coach. On the 18th hole of the 2006 U.S. Open, needing a par 4 to win, Phil made an aggressive decision and hit driver off the tee, blasting it well left and hitting a hospitality tent before making a not-temporary-enough home in the woods. He followed that shot with a mighty attempt to hit a high drawing 6-iron over the trees that found only more trees, then put the next shot, from an even more ghastly lie, into the greenside bunker. From there he hit a respectable bunker shot, but missed the putt that would have sent it to a playoff allowing Ogilvy to take the victory.

For many, many years, NFL football has been founded in risk-aversion, and while not very exciting to watch, did provide a blueprint for how to win. That blueprint has been changed quite a bit over the years, but if you look at Super Bowl winners over the last 10, 20, or even 30 years, the overwhelming majority of them based their teams on ball-protection, short, manageable plays, and solid defense. There are also certain decisions that should simply not be made, and one of those was made by Belichick the other night. What Belichick could not know was how each one of the 11 players on the offense felt at that moment, or more accurately, how pumped each of the 11 players on the Colts defense felt. Additionally, he had the lead of more than a Field Goal, and could have forced the opponent to earn points from much further away to win. The Patriots were not going to lose points in any scenario, and needed no additional points to win at the time of the decision. Ultimately, the failed execution gave the Colts a much easier task of earning the seven points they needed to win when three points was not an option.

Golf is different in a couple of key ways. First, golf is an individual sport. Nobody is more qualified to make decisions nor more responsible for the results than the player. The player must assess the situation, make many decisions, and execute the shot with nothing more than a variable amount of guidance and support from his or her caddie. It is also a sport where the idea is not to gain "points" but to lose them. Finally, golf is a sport where your opponents have no way of physically preventing you from playing well, though including some tackling or shot deflection might be fun to watch.

Though Phil Mickelson has been quoted calling himself an "idiot" for his decision, lots of players hit driver on 18, and he had been hitting it all weekend. It isn't like it was my foursome playing out there, hoping that our slices would only slice a little this time. Phil is one of the most talented golfers to have ever played the game, and has hit solid shots with his driver probably millions of times. On his second shot, he felt understandably trapped, and wanted to win so bad that he likely thought there was no way he wouldn't be successful with that 6-iron. Even standing in that bunker, I'll bet he thought he would force a playoff.

And, oh, by the way, Colin Montgomery could also have won the tournament on 18, but lost instead. Hey, guess what, Montgomery didn't hit driver off the tee, was hitting his second shot from the middle of the fairway, and also made a double bogey on the final hole to lose by one stroke. Had stodgy old Colin made birdie, and Phil a par, Phil would have lost anyway. And that isn't all, Jim Furyk missed a 5-foot putt for a par that would have forced a playoff as well. Phil was trying to play his best shots to win the tournament and failed to execute on a decision that is made all the time.

Yes, I consider myself a fan of Phil Mickelson. I have heard so many refer to him as plastic, insincere, and yes, stupid, but that isn't what I see. I see a man who is genuinely happy to be making an incredibly good living doing something he loves, and is very talented at. I see a man who loves his family, and understands the relationship he needs to have with his fans. I see a man who is incredibly generous be it the Phil and Amy Mickelson Foundation or his handing a fan $200 out of his pocket immediately after striking and breaking the fan's wristwatch with an errant shot during the 2006 Ford Championship. Perhaps most of all, I see a man who tries things on the golf course that we all wish we could do, in the heat of competition, on television! He succeeds with regularity, and many times each tournament saves himself several shots with his inventive and daring strategy. On that day in 2006, however, he failed to execute not a daring shot, or even a risky shot, but perhaps one that could have been played more conservatively, you know, like Monty did.

So, let's be careful how hard we are on risk takers in professional sports. After all, if they didn't take risks and fail once in a while, you could never write about how they should never have taken the risk and failed so that you wouldn't have to write about it...right?

Fairways and Greens!

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Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Top 20 Golf Courses in Chicagoland

Just for the sake of argument, I have decided to publish my own personal list of the Top 20 Public Golf Courses in Chicagoland. This is completely unscientific, but takes into account playability, price, walkability, risk/reward opportunities, course condition, customer service, aura/tradition, and pace of play. I expect there will be some disagreement to my list, and I strongly encourage others to openly debate me via the comments area of this blog post.

Without further ado..."the" list:

1. Cantigny Golf

2. Thunderhawk Golf Club

3. Prairie Landing Golf Club

4. Pine Meadow Golf Course

5. Cog Hill - Course #4 "Dubsdread"

6. The Glen Club

7. Ravisloe Country Club

8. Stonewall Orchard Golf Club

9. Bolingbrook Golf Club

10. Harborside International - Starboard Course

11. Orchard Valley Golf Course

12. Harborside International - Port Course

13. White Deer Run Golf Club

14. Prairie Bluff Golf Course

15. Mistwood Golf Club

16. Balmoral Woods Country Club

17. Heritage Bluffs Golf Club

18. Oak Grove Golf Course

19. Makray Memorial Golf Club

20. Bowe's Creek Country Club

Fairways and Greens!

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Thursday, November 05, 2009

Prairie Landing Excels at Events

I wasn't planning on writing a review for Prairie Landing again, especially this late in the season, but when a course does something exceedingly well, I really need to recognize them.

This "gush" stems from the experience that I and three of my friends had on Halloween morning during the Prairie Landing annual 4-man Fall Scramble. Of course, this scramble doesn't always fall on Halloween, but this year it did, and it only made the event that much more enjoyable.

If you have never participated in a 4-man (or woman) scramble anywhere, I strongly recommend it. For those new to the game, in a 4-man scramble, each member of a team hits the ball from the tee, then all four take their second shot from the location of the best drive, then all four take their third shot from the location of the best second shot, and so on. Often there will be "local" rules such as a team having to use at least two drives from each player, or not holing out a "gimme" putt until all four have putted the previous stroke, etc. Typically, winning scores in 4-man scrambles are at least around 60, and can dip well into the upper 50s (and that isn't always the weather). Birdies are the norm, and close approach shots along with solid putting are the only way to win. Perhaps the best thing about the 4-man scramble is that you don't feel the same stress over each shot, as generally your teammates will cover for your bad shots, and vice versa...generally.

Many courses offer scramble events throughout the year, but a fair number of them are featured in the early Spring and late Fall to bookend the regular season. What this can mean is some pretty dicey weather, though you can get lucky here in Chicago too. Halloween 2009 was not a lucky weather day. When we arrived at the course at 8:00 am to utilize Prairie Landing's excellent practice area, it was barely 40 degrees, and the wind was howling making it feel much colder. It stayed like that through the entire round, with the wind frequently piercing even the most inner of the many layers we all wore. Alas, everyone has to deal with the same weather at this shotgun start event, so it can not explain the results.

Being Halloween, the Prairie Landing staff was in the spirit of the day, and each was decked out as a character from the Wizard of Oz...right down to the little dog Toto, yes a real dog! Our intrepid leader, Jim Larson endured the cold and wind dressed as Auntie Em, and no, he/she was not wearing warm stockings under that dress. Bravo!

The day began with continental breakfast and a grand Bloody Mary bar that looked so nice I almost forgot how I despise Bloody Marys. We were sent off to our respective starting tees, the Par 3 3rd for my team, along with door prizes such as a cap, towel, and sleeve of balls. Perhaps my only suggestion for the future would be to give the same prize to all participants next time to avoid the ugly wrestling matches that spontaneously broke out for possession of the 1 per team caps.

It is important to note that though the weather was the same for all, nobody on my team had even picked up a club in at least 5 weeks prior to this event, and one of our players who shall remain nameless, BRUCE, barely made the tee time, so took his first swing on the 1st tee. We scrambled to make par on our first four holes, then barely missed birdie on our next three before hitting the clubhouse at even par (not good). At the "turn" we were given dogs and burgers, soft drinks, and delicious fudge brownies before heading back out into the cold.

We finally made our first bird on 10, then got back to scrambling for par on 11-15. As we approached the long Par 4 16th playing at just over 410 yards directly into the wind on a 40-degree day, we felt a bit hopeless. On the previous hole, playing in the same direction, our best drives were solidly struck and went about 190 yards, so we knew 16 was going to be near impossible. Well, I managed to strike an heroic 3-wood to about 15 feet from the cup from about 210 yards away, and then jarred the putt for the always satisfying "all me" birdie, net eagle! If nothing else, we felt confident in a skin there. After another par on 17, we birdied 18 and found ourselves on the leader board with two to play.

Ah yes, the leader board! Yet another great feature at Prairie Landing is the real-time leader board on the cart's built in GPS screen. At this event, it displayed both net leaders and their gross score as well. As much as I despise golf carts, this feature makes the event incredibly enjoyable, and with the way we played the later holes, kept us pumped to finish strong...we were "making a move"!

Numbers one and two were our final holes, and both headed straight back into the wind. After finding the fairway, and needing birdie, I was again able to muster some heroics and placed a knockdown 7-iron to about 12 feet away from a tucked pin. Brad made the putt on our fourth attempt to seal yet another birdie. Number two found me again hitting a high-pressure approach with a 5-iron uphill and again into the howling wind. I pulled it off, and Bruce, looking for some redemption, stepped up on our first putt and drained a 25 footer for birdie and a round of 5-under 67, net 59. Not bad after our tough start, but alas not enough as we finished narrowly out of the money on both gross and net. Ah, but we still had a skin coming, right? Wrong, turns out one other team scored a net eagle on 16 - cheaters - so we missed our skin.

Following the round, the Prairie Landing staff served up free pitchers of beer and a chili bar before holding an entertaining, if not somewhat disappointing awards ceremony. The reception was raucous at times, and it appeared as though everyone really enjoyed themselves. You can view the official results and photos here.

Finally, at a scramble, you want to see lots of side prizes, and due to the layout at Prairie Landing, there are a bunch. With five Par 3s came five closest to the pin contests, and man, every winner was hit stiff...great shots were needed to win. Hole nine featured a longest putt contest, and hole ten the prestigious longest drive contest where I striped my drive down the middle of the fairway and was a good 30 yards short of the eventual winner! I am sure it was that damn shag bag ball I was playing - wink, wink.

So, my thanks to Prairie Landing Gold Club for a great event! Well done! I, and my teammates are sure to be out there for at least two of their events again next year, and hopefully can get at least 20 more degrees of warmth from Mother Nature in the future.

Fairways and Greens!

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