Spring Training by Bill Abrams

By Bill Abrams PGA, Golf Solutions Academy, Balmoral Woods It’s that time of year again. The Masters is less than two months away and we will be outdoors playing this awesome game very soon. This is a great time to get some “spring training” in prior to those first swings outside. There are a few things we all can do to help prepare for the season. Below are a few you can do at home, but as always practicing at a dome or heated tee is great. Bill Abrams - grip side viewBill Abrams - grip front viewGrip is an area we need to monitor to keep shots from being inconsistent. Be sure your top hand (left hand for a right handed player) thumb is on top of the shaft and the club is more to the fingers than the palm. The only real pressure should be in the thumb and index finger of the top hand. This will allow the club to rotate properly and help prevent the dreaded chicken wing. The bottom hand should have the club rest in the fingertips as well. The top hand thumb will fit into the bottom hand lifeline naturally in a proper grip. Be sure to monitor the pressure and see how lightly you can grip the club – tension and excitement can increase pressure and go largely unnoticed. This can be practiced virtually anywhere you have a club handy. Watch a video to help with your grip. (more…)

LPGA’s 66th season is off to a good start at Golden Ocala

Len Ziehm on GolfBy Len Ziehm OCALA, FL. – The first event of the LPGA’s 66th season isn’t being held very far from the site of the circuit’s very first tournament, in 1950. That one was at Palma Cella Country Club in Tampa. It’s not far from the organization’s headquarters, either. The 2015 opener is being played at Golden Ocala Golf & Equestrian Club, a beautiful facility nestled in the horse country of northwestern Florida. It’s about 100 miles from Palma Cella and it’s not much further to LPGA headquarters in Daytona Beach. [caption id="attachment_865" align="alignnone" width="584"]Golden Ocala offered everything the LPGA needed for its season opener. Golden Ocala offered everything the LPGA needed for its season opener.[/caption] This season opener, though, is an indication of how far the LPGA has come, and the inaugural Coates Championship could trigger the biggest year yet for the premier women’s circuit. This LPGA opener represents a departure from recent years, when the circuit usually played its first tournament outside of the U.S. (Four of this year’s first five events, though, will still be beyond U.S. borders – in the Bahamas, Australia, Thailand and Singapore). The Coates Championship at Golden Ocala doesn’t have the traditional Thursday-Sunday run. This one started on Wednesday and will conclude on Saturday to avoid a conflict with the Super Bowl. (more…)

Bay Hill is a reflection of Arnold Palmer’s style

Len Ziehm on GolfBy Len Ziehm ORLANDO, FL. -Roy Schindele, director of sales and marketing for Arnold Palmer’s Bay Hill Club and Lodge, stresses one thing before taking you on a tour of the facilities. "This is not a resort. It's a country club," said Schindele, and that's an important distinction to make from the outset if you’re lucky enough to visit this place. There's a different, very nice feeling about Bay Hill - and why wouldn't there be? After all, it's been at least a winter home for perhaps the most charismatic athlete of all time for nearly 50 years. Bay Hill umbrellaBased on our visit, Bay Hill has become more than just a winter retreat for Palmer, who spends considerable time in the summer months in Latrobe, Pa., the town where he grew up. He's 85 now, and health issues have basically relegated him to hitting practice balls on the Bay Hill range these days. I'm told he rarely gets on the course. Yet, Palmer has an apartment behind the tennis courts and is a frequent visitor to all the club's facilities. Guests see him playing cards, dining with a group of friends or riding around in his golf cart. While he remains one of the most accommodating of all public figures, Palmer doesn't spend much of his time posing for pictures or signing autographs for guests. Bay Hill is just where he enjoys life. (more…)

IT ZIEHMS TO ME: Mystic Hills was a fun ending to Pete Dye Trail tour

Len Ziehm on GolfBy Len Ziehm CULVER, Ind. – Mission accomplished. It took four years, but my attempt to play all seven courses on Indiana’s Pete Dye Golf Trail ended with a bang on a cold but sunny November afternoon – a most pleasant way to finish a most pleasant golf odyssey. While Alabama’s Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail is the most famous of the few such golf ventures, the Dye Trail is special, too. There may be fewer courses, but those included offer plenty of variety and an historical touch as well. [caption id="attachment_854" align="alignright" width="192"]Mystic Hills flags Mystic Hills golfers had a high-flying time at the Big Cup Chili Open.[/caption] Dye – arguably the premier golf course architect of this generation — picked the seven for the Trail from the 25 courses he designed in his home state. They included his first-ever 18-holer, now known as Maple Creek, and – until just a month ago – his last course, the Pete Dye Course at French Lick. Maple Creek was known as Heather Hills when it opened in 1961. Design-wise it was a joint effort between Dye and wife Alice. Dye’s latest creation is at Keswick Hall, near Charlottesville, Va. I’m scheduled to play there in two weeks. (more…)

Finding America’s first golf course wasn’t easy

Len Ziehm on GolfBy Len Ziehm WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.Va. – Setting foot on the grounds of America’s first golf course took awhile – four years to be exact. Finally, though, it happened. That’s the good news. The unfortunate part is that Oakhurst Links, saved by a purchase by Jim Justice, owner of the Greenbrier Resort, was closed for the season a week into November. Playing this unique layout was not an option. [caption id="attachment_849" align="alignright" width="300"]Oakhurst’s welcome sign is somewhat hidden in the woods and not really close to the road leading to the clubhouse. Oakhurst’s welcome sign is somewhat hidden in the woods and not really close to the road leading to the clubhouse.[/caption] Some history: Oakhurst Links was a golf course from 1884 until at least 1912. Then Russell Montague, owner of the property, converted it into a horse farm. Just a few of Montague’s neighbors played the course way back when, and a book — “Oakhurst: The Birth of America’s First Golf Course’’ by Paula DiPerna and Vikki Keller (Walker & Co., 2002) – detailed the early history of the place. (more…)

It Ziehms To Me: Hazeltine is Ryder Cup-ready already

Len Ziehm on GolfBy Len Ziehm CHASKA, Minn. - In just a couple years a golf club that is just 52 years old will become only the second in history to host all of the top six championships played on American soil. Hazeltine National, which opened in 1962, has already hosted the U.S. Open (1970, 1991), the U.S. Women's Open (1966, 1977), the PGA Championship (2002, 2009), the U.S. Senior Open (1983) and the U.S. Amateur (2006). [caption id="attachment_841" align="alignright" width="254"]Hazeltine’s Walking Man statue may soon become as famous as PInehurst’s Putter Boy. Hazeltine’s Walking Man statue may soon become as famous as PInehurst’s Putter Boy.[/caption] All that's missing is the Ryder Cup, and Hazeltine went on the clock to host that epic battle duel between the U.S. and Europe in 2016 after Europe continued its recent domination of the competition at Gleneagles in Scotland earlier this fall. Hazeltine will be the place to be from Sept. 26-Oct. 2, 2016. The only club to host all those big event is North Carolina's Pinehurst No. 2, which opened in 1907 – 55 years before Hazeltine. Pinehurst, which became the first course to host both the men's and women's U.S. Opens in back-to-back weeks last June, also hosted the U.S. Senior Open (1994), PGA Championship (1936), U.S. Open (1999, 2005) and Ryder Cup (1951). (more…)

It Ziehms to Me: WWGA honors two of its long-time leaders

Len Ziehm on GolfBy Len Ziehm Long before there was a Ladies Professional Golf Assn. there was the Women's Western Golf Assn. This organization has spearheaded golf for girls and women since 1901. This week the WWGA honored two of its longstanding leaders. Susan Wagner and Audrey Peterson were presented with Woman of Distinction Awards at the WWGA's annual meeting at Sunset Ridge Country Club in Northfield, IL. [caption id="attachment_829" align="alignright" width="225"]Susan Wagner has represented the WWGA on the public relations and media side. Susan Wagner has represented the WWGA on the public relations and media side.[/caption] Both are extremely deserving of this recognition. Between the two of them they've spent over 70 years volunteering their time, energy and talent to both the WWGA and its Foundation, which has awarded academic scholarships for the past 43 years. Over the years the program has distributed over $3.35 million to 600 scholars from 45 states. Wagner, formerly of Flossmoor and now living in Florida, has been a WWGA director since 1977, when the Western Amateur tournament was held at her home club. In recent years she has served as the WWGA's national public relations and media director. She was the organization's president in 1997-98. (more…)

It Ziehms to Me: Flower Hole is still golf’s most beautiful

Len Ziehm on GolfBy Len Ziehm When you visit the SentryWorld course in Stevens Point, WI., there’s always the temptation to get overwhelmed by its world-renowned Flower Hole. I've seen lots of beautiful golf holes, but No. 16 at SentryWorld remains my choice as the most beautiful. SentryWorld Hole 16 SunsetThe course opened in 1982 and was recently renovated by Robert Trent Jones Jr. in collaboration with Bruce Charlton and Jay Blasi. I’d planned to make the unveiling of the renovated layout, but it was rained out. (more…)

It Ziehms to Me: Dancing Rabbit, Tunica National are Mississippi’s hot spots

Len Ziehm on GolfBy Len Ziehm CHOCTAW, MS. - Determining the best golf options in your first visit to an area isn't easy. We faced that situation in our first-ever visit to the state of Mississippi, and I don't think we could have made any better selections. The state has less than 200 courses, but the ones we found were all top of the line. [caption id="attachment_821" align="alignnone" width="584"]Dancing Rabbit's clubhouse Dancing Rabbit’s clubhouse has everything, including eight rooms for lodging.[/caption] (more…)

Handa Cup: Will Inkster’s debut get U.S. back on winning track?

Len Ziehm on GolfBy Len Ziehm WEST POINT, MS. — This week in golf isn't all about the Ryder Cup. The LPGA Legends Tour will have its premier team event, the ISPS Handa Cup, going on at the same time. [caption id="attachment_815" align="alignnone" width="584"]Old Waverly’s majestic clubhouse provides an attractive setting for the Handa Cup. Old Waverly’s majestic clubhouse provides an attractive setting for the Handa Cup.[/caption] (more…)