Coming to the RBC Canadian Open? Here’s what you can do

Although all eyes in golf were on the Open Championship at Hoylake last week, for many Canadians, next week is a major, too.

The RBC Canadian Open returns to Royal Montreal for the first time since 2001 (it hosted the 2008 President’s Cup as well) on an anniversary of sorts. It hosted the first Canadian Open championship in 1904, and, this year marks 60 years since a Canadian last won the national title. Pat Fletcher, who was formerly the golf director at Royal Montreal, captured the title in 1954.

But enough about the past. If you’re attending the Canadian Open, here’s what you need to know.

  • Children 17-and-under get in FREE (all week) when accompanied by a paying adult
  • RBC Avion Putting Challenge – If you have an RBC Avion credit card, you get access to the Avion VIP lounge off no.16 and get front-of-the-line access to the putting challenge
  • RBC Fan Experience – a chance to take home a customized issue of Golf Canada Magazine with YOU on the cover. You can participate in a digital trivia challenge to win a signed Team RBC golf bag
  • Global Montreal Anchor Experience – Experience what it’s like to be behind the Global Montreal news desk and “interview” Graham DeLaet
  • On the Red Course (the pros are playing the Blue Course) Taylormade-adidas have set up a full driving range for patrons to test out Taylormade and Adams equipment while rocking the latest adidas gear.
  • BMW hole-in-one challenge – Adjacent to the 13th hole, shoot for a chance to win a BMW M235i
  • FAMILY DAY is July 26 (the Saturday)
  • CN Future Links is putting on a tour, where young participants engage in a friendly, golf-based adventure and try out their putting, chipping and driving skills
  • Get your picture taken with the RBC Canadian Open trophy AND the 1904 Olympic Golf trophy at the Golf Canada tent

Oh yeah, there’s a golf tournament on too. Tickets are on sale at: http://rbccanadianopen.com/

First (and only) ‘Girls Only’ Junior Golf Development Centre to launch in Canada

Golf Performance Coaches partner with Brampton Golf Club to launch the first “Girls Only” Junior Golf Development Centre in Canada

(Brampton, Ont.) – Jeff Overholt and Jon Roy of Golf Performance Coaches have partnered with the Brampton Golf Club to launch the first and only Junior Golf Development Centre designed specifically for girls in Canada.

Jeff Overholt_Coach

The objective is to create an opportunity to encourage young girls to participate in golf while developing confidence and respect in a safe and supportive environment. It will also provide a coaching pathway for girls who are interested in playing competitive golf.

The program, a joint effort between Golf Performance Coaches and Brampton GC, is in conjunction with the governing bodies for golf in Canada. It is supported by Golf Canada, and run by PGA of Canada members.

“We found there was an opportunity to create a structure to take girls’ golf games to the next level,” explained Overholt. “There’s a gap between the number of girls, especially at the competitive level, and we thought this program will help fix a disconnect we’ve seen. Other programs are already in place for different sports like hockey or baseball, but this is the first for golf.”

It’s a unique strategy for growing the game that will be mimicked in future years across Canada and a chance for young girls to develop a passion for the game that will enable them to enjoy golf for the rest of their lives.

“Our hope through this program is to grow the game, specifically with young girls, in a very unique, fun and social environment,” explained Emerson Mahoney Head Golf Professional at Brampton Golf Club. “The board and membership of Brampton GC are very excited for this partnership, as it aligns well with the Club’s vision of promoting a lifelong passion for golf.”

The centre will launch in early July with both recreational and competitive coaching programs available for both current Brampton junior members as well as the public.

More specifically, things will be kicked off on July 7th with a free “girls only” future champions clinic – open to the public – prior to the Golf Association of Ontario’s Women’s Amateur Championship (happening July 8th – 11th at Brampton GC).

For parents in the Brampton area, there will be an information night on June 2nd from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at the golf course.

Brittany Marchand, the 76th-ranked female amateur in the world, member at Brampton GC and member of Golf Canada’s national amateur team, will be fully supporting the program and will appear at the information night.

If you have a daughter between the age of 6 – 18 who would be interested in being a member of the JGDC please contact Jeff Overholt at 647-897-6178 or email him at jeff@golfperformancecoaches.com

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Golf Talk Canada

On Saturday April 19th I had the opportunity to appear on TSN1050 – a radio station in Toronto – and its nationally syndicated golf program Golf Talk Canada with hosts Mark Zecchino and Jim Tatti.

The guys couldn’t have been nicer and I’m excited to make another appearance, hopefully later this summer.

The whole show is available here, but I’ve edited my segment and you can listen by clicking on the icon below. I talk about Brooke Henderson, Mackenzie Hughes, the next generation of Canadian golfers and a little bit about myself.

Five stories I’d love to see at The Masters

Some would say it’s the greatest week of the year, and you’d be hard-pressed to find a disagreement from me. It’s Masters week.

Here are five storylines that I’d love to see play out come Sunday (some are totally utopian, others may actually happen). In no particular order:

  1. One of the guys who is making his Masters debut capture the green jacket (see: Spieth, Jordan; English, Harris)
  2. Fred Couples turn back the clock (again). Imagine if the 54-year-old actually won. Seeing that Jim Nantz/Couples interview after the fact would be worth the price of admission in itself
  3. Graham DeLaet contending into the weekend (Canadians will be forever enshrined at Augusta thanks to Mike Weir. It was a historical moment. If DeLaet is in contention on Saturday or Sunday, this country will stop whatever it’s doing and tune in)
  4. Rory McIlroy shake off the critics, and the Augusta demons (the last few times Tiger missed a major, it was Irishmen who won. That trend might continue)
  5. The BPWAM (Best-Player-Without-A-Major) label to get tossed aside by someone: Dustin Johnson, Luke Donald, Matt Kuchar, Jason Day, Sergio Garcia, Lee Westwood, Brandt Snedeker, Ian Poulter… it’s a stout list. Perhaps this is the time.

Dabbling in the Desert

In December 2013 I had the opportunity to travel to Arizona with a handful of golf writers from around the world. That story appeared in Canadian Golf Magazine. You can read it in it’s entirety below. 

Please forgive my wide-eyed innocence, but I had never been somewhere warm during the winter until last year. But when I had a chance to visit Arizona, I wasn’t going to pass up an opportunity to trade my toque for a t-shirt, and escape to the desert. I was excited.

Perhaps it was the endless stretch of palm trees and cacti, or the fact I had ice cream on a patio while wearing shorts in early December, but I was quick to realize that Arizona is a fine destination to spend a few days in the winter, and my excitement was warranted.

For starters, it’s impossibly easy to get to. There are direct flights from most Canadian cities, and even a direct one from London, England that a few of my travelling companions took advantage of.

There’s much to visit in the Phoenix area. I played golf in the capital, and in Scottsdale and Mesa. I didn’t have a chance to venture to Tempe – where Phil Mickelson’s Alma matter Arizona State is – or Glendale (where the Phoenix Coyotes play; however, it seems not many people venture out that way regardless), or Tucson, which is less than two hours south.

A recent Golf Magazine columnist called the whole area the best for golf in the United States, and it’s easy to see why.

Beyond golf, local cuisine, craft beers, creative margaritas and beautiful weather there’s a town that’s eager to please its visitors and residents with 365 days worth of outdoor activities.

I’d liken the whole Arizona experience to a slogan that the province of Ontario used for so long to promote itself: “more to discover.”

Our first stop was a short drive from the airport, the Westin Kierland resort in North Scottsdale. It’s a sprawling property, and despite spending three nights there, there was still much more to see and do.

For example, the hotel just officially announced its incredible scotch collection. 130 bottles of the world’s finest scotches, including a north-of-$20,000 bottle of Glenfiddich, aged 50 years. If you’re hoping to be a bit more active – perhaps not after indulging in a dram (or three) – the hotel has a spa, multiple pools and the ForeMax golf fitness program (unique to the Westin Kierland and used by a multitude of professional and amateur golfers around the world).

The highlight – because I’m still just a big kid – was the Flowrider. In late 2012 the resort expanded it’s family-friendly water park to include the new board sport simulator that is a combination of boogie boarding, surfing, snowboarding and skateboarding. Two jets blast water at speeds of up to 30 mph. It was “totally gnarly” if I had to explain it in surf terminology.

I didn’t expect to come to the desert to surf, that’s for sure. What I did come to desert for, was golf.

I began at Lookout Mountain, north of Phoenix. It weaves through a local neighbourhood and the meandering desert up and down the mountainside. Dramatic elevation was a strong point of the course, and none more dramatic than that of the par-4 10th. It’s a mid-range par four, but it plays much shorter, as golfers tee off from nearly 100 feet in the air. The course sits along the North Phoenix Mountains and offers panorama views of the Arizona landscape.

After our round I enjoyed a meal at the on-site restaurant called Different Pointe of View. In a word, it’s fabulous.

You get shuttled to the top of one of the mountains, and have an unobstructed look all the way to downtown Phoenix. The meal was a detour from what I usually have after a round of golf – short ribs on a bed of risotto with white chocolate mousse is definitely not Doritos and a hot dog – but that certainly was not a complaint. It’s worth checking out.

The next day I teed it up at the Kierland Golf Club, adjacent to the hotel. The course itself is a fair layout that does its job as a resort golf course. There aren’t the sprawling desert vistas that you get at Lookout Mountain, but it was in immaculate shape and with 27 holes plus a practice area, there’s something for everyone.

For me, the highlight at Kierland Golf Club was how dedicated the staff is to making sure its guests have fun. For example, Kierland is the lone golf course in the U.S. that offers golfers a chance to ride a Segway while playing (it has four Segway units for its guests) – an option that I obviously took advantage of.

I can say unequivocally that it was the most fun I’ve had on a golf course.

It takes a little getting used to (you have a 20-minute training session prior to your round then you’re on your way) but you don’t really feel the weight of your bag and it’s such a detour from regular golf, how could I not have enjoyed myself?

The next day we visited Las Sendas Golf Course in Mesa. Las Sendas is a unique track, built in 1995 as Robert Trent Jones Jr.’s first foray into the Arizona golf scene. It’s a true desert-style layout that winds through the Usery Mountains. The course demands the most of your game as you navigate through rugged desert terrain approximately 1,800 feet above the floor, so choosing the right tees is essential. It’s owned by a group of Canadians (who gladly made me a spicy Caesar after my round) who were typically hospitable.

Up next was the newly designed Ambiente Golf Club, part of the Camelback golf family. Ambiente was well hyped prior to the trip, as it just received a $10 million renovation. It officially re-opened two weeks prior, and I’d be one of the first people, to experience it. And to me, it was indeed an experience.

It was unlike any other ‘desert’ course I played, and it was a fresh change – it’s not as though Arizona needed yet another ‘Arizona’ golf course. The course will only get better as it matures and areas on the course get better filled in. For now, it’s a complex and visually intriguing layout that deserves the attention it’s gotten so far.

Finally I had the opportunity to play at the fabulous We-Ko-Pa resort. I could have easily played 36 holes across both courses, but alas, I was only able to squeeze in 18. First up was the Cholla course, a pristine desert golf experience. It’s dramatic, and it’s a pure golf course with picturesque elevations. Unlike the aforementioned courses, We-Ko-Pa gives its players unobstructed views of the layout in front of them. No homes to be seen.

Opened in 2001, it’s matured enough to become one of the best courses in the State, but it’s up against stiff competition. Namely, it’s neighbour course, Saguaro.

The other layout on the We-Ko-Pa property is a fabulous Coore/Crenshaw design that was unveiled in 2006. The ‘pure’ golf experience continues on Saguaro and follows the designers’ tested philosophy of letting the lay of the land dictate the end result of the course. It’s a walkable layout as well, the first I played during my trip.

As the Valley of the Sun got dark, the sun began to set on both my round at We-Ko-Pa and my trip.

I left Arizona the same way I came in, wide-eyed.

It’s an exciting city rich in passionate sports fans, fine dining and drinking establishments, and golf-mad residents (and visitors, of course). Despite a full week’s itinerary there’s still much to explore.

When you’re going through your fourth month of knee-deep snow and frigid temperatures, an escape to the desert may be just what you need.

***********

Where to stay:

The Westin Kierland

Distance from airport: 21 minutes

Golf course on-site: Yes

Restaurants: Nine

Highlights: Family-friendly outdoor activities, huge scotch collection, incredible staff, Segway golf option, walking distance to large shopping mall

J.W. Marriott Scottsdale Camelback Inn Resort & Spa

Distance from airport: 15 minutes

Golf course on-site: No (but 36 holes at Camelback is 10 minutes away)

Restaurants: Seven

Highlights: History, unique design, unbelievable spa, outdoor patios

Where to play:

Lookout Mountain Golf Club

Kierland Golf Club

Las Sendas Golf Club

Ambiente Golf Course

We-Ko-Pa

Troon North

Where to eat:

Different Pointe of View

Be sure to order: The citrus white chocolate mousse (if available). Best dessert I’ve ever had.

Aunt Chilada’s

Be sure to order: The fajitas and a house margarita

Rita’s Kitchen

Be sure to order: Tableside guacamole (made fresh), and the slow-cooked green chili pork

Cowboy Ciao

Be sure to order: The famous Stetson chopped salad

Brat Haus

Be sure to order: Belgian fries and a beer (or, “bier”)

Where to party:

The Yard – Grab a Pabst Blue Ribbon (presented elegantly in a paper bag), some house-made pretzels with cheese fondue dip and post up in front of a television, throw a few games of corn hole, or challenge your buddies to a game of table tennis. Packed on weekends, but just as fun whenever there is a game on.

Whiskey Row– The first bar concept from country singer Dierks Bentley, Whiskey Row is a typical bar for University-aged patrons. The band plays rocking country tunes on a platform above the crowd. Gets extremely busy after 10 p.m. Huge patio that spills onto the street.

What else to do:

Drink a scotch by the outdoor fire pit at the Westin Kierland, cruise the desert in a Tomcar, ride above the desert in a hot-air balloon, find a spa (not difficult) and get a hot stone massage (which originated in the area).

TaylorMade unveils its Speed Police

They’re kind of like ‘Team America’ but for golf.

TaylorMade introduced its puppet ‘Speed Police’ today via a series of YouTube videos.

I would describe them to you, but it’s best if you just take a look yourself.

Dustin Johnson

Justin Rose

Sergio Garcia

Jason Day (my favourite)

Hack Golf? Or Help Golf?

Prior to the official beginning of the 2014 PGA Merchandise Show, TaylorMade-adidas hosted an event for approximately 1,000 industry professionals where CEO Mark King, Ted Bishop (the president of the PGA of America), Joe Beditz (CEO of the National Golf Foundation) and Gary Hamel (renowned “business thinker”) made a presentation introducing a new initiative called Hack Golf.

Hack Golf is crowd-sourced platform where the general golfing public can submit their ideas on how they think the game can be improved or changed.

“Innovation stalls when the same people keep talking to each other about the same challenge over and over,” said Hamel in a press release to the media.  “We need to open the conversation up to a wider audience instead of continuing to try and innovate in the same ineffective vacuum.”

In about a month since its inception, the Hack Golf movement has acquired nearly 2,000 followers on Twitter and 420 likes on Facebook. Smaller numbers than they had hoped, perhaps (TaylorMade by comparison has 161,000 followers on Twitter and 371,000 likes on Facebook), but over 750 ideas have been submitted. The most popular idea right now is a pretty good one – it’s basically a proposal of an app that allows golfers to meet up with others in their area – and I can see TaylorMade-adidas getting behind it (they are committing $5 million over the next five years towards the most popular experiments that come from the site).

The conversation has started.

But what is maybe more surprising, Hack Golf has started a trend of other golf organizations and publications asking golfers what they love about the game.

Where Hack Golf is asking what people would like to see changed, Golf Canada, ESPN and Golf Digest are asking the golfing public to speak proudly about the game as-is.

Do you love golf? Then Tweet at @TheGolfCanada using the hashtag #WhyILoveGolf

Snap a great photo of a golf course and post it to Instagram or Twitter? Golf Digest asks that you use the hashtag #WhyILoveThisGame

And hey, they’re even adding a contest element. Share your photos and you have a chance to win a trip to the 2015 AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am.

ESPN just announced a new video series and campaign called “Falling For Golf” where they have (you guessed it) asked golfers to submit their stories using Twitter and the hashtag #FallingForGolf explaining how they got into the game.

These are some of the biggest organizations in golf in Canada and the U.S. And I’d argue, are a little more trustworthy to the general public than a multi-million dollar corporation.

ESPN, Golf Canada and Golf Digest are trying to become part of the conversation, while Hack Golf is trying to change it.

But maybe nothing needs to be changed?

Michael Bamberger, the long-time Sports Illustrated and GOLF Magazine writer said it best in a recent column.

“If your goal is to grow the game, you have to start with the premise that the game is great. You have to have confidence in your game, basically as it is. Should it be faster? Yes. Should it be less expensive? Yes. Should your ball be easier to find? Yes. Should shirttails come out? It doesn’t matter. Should making a par on any hole, for any golfer, anywhere, remain the challenge it has always been? Absolutely. Some will be drawn to that. Most will not. That’s our exclusivity. That’s why we are a band of golfers. We are not in the mainstream. We are different. The game is what it is.”

The game’s fun. Cool. Exciting. Frustrating. It’s a lot of different things to a lot of different people. If it needs to be changed, then there’s now a platform for your voice to be heard. But don’t change it for the sake of changing it. It’s pretty good just the way it is.