Golf Shopping – ‘Tis the Season

Today’s blog entry started out to be all about practicing at Haggin Oaks; however, I have postponed the practice, as I often seem to do in winter months, to focus on another important area of interest to golfers – retail goods.  Yes, Christmas is coming, and I couldn’t resist all the shopping possibilities here.  For the golfers on her list, a Christmas elf really can’t go wrong at Haggin Oaks Golf Complex.

Out of habit and because I needed my driver re-gripped, when I arrived I made my way to the pro shop which overlooks the first tee.  The check-in desk caught my eye first, but soon I realized that most of the space in this building was filled with shoes – stacks and stacks of boxes of shoes and all walls filled with colorful shoe displays.  Haggin Oaks may be the golf shoe capital of Northern California with Foot Joys, Adidas, Sketchers, Nikes, New Balances, Under Armors, Pumas, Eccos, Callaways, and others stacked in neat piles of boxes.  It carries virtually all brands – a bit confusing since I expected shoes to be located in the Superstore, a large building adjacent to the driving range (where I should have been practicing).  Almost hidden among all the shoe boxes was the small club repair shop where it took Dan three minutes to re-grip my driver for about $10.  What more could I ask for?

The Superstore, a cavernous building that requires a map to get around, basically carries apparel (other than shoes) and any piece of golf equipment a player desires.  Women’s clothes are a featured attraction.  Holiday shoppers can choose from Nike, Puma, Tail, Adidas, Sunice, Jaimie Saddock, etc.,etc.,etc.  A clerk was excited to tell me about the deal they were offering on Jaimie Saddock: buy 10 items and get 1 free.  Of course, if I bought 10, I really couldn’t afford to play golf anymore.  Approximately half of the Superstore is dedicated to hard goods: balls, clubs, bags, pushcarts, even cute, fuzzy little headcovers that could also function as puppets to entertain the kids.  Shoppers are welcome to test prospective clubs on the driving range behind the Superstore; they simply need to sign up, leave a driver’s license, and swing away.

Located at the center of the Superstore, the Concierge Desk is the heart of the operation.  The desk is manned (or “womaned”) by Sterling who is as valuable as her name suggests at tasks such as arranging group or private lessons with PGA teaching pros, setting up appointments for club fittings using the latest Doppler Radar technology (sounds more like a weather report), reserving one of the Academy Holes for practicing that short game, and even purchasing gift certificates for Christmas.  Look for more about using the Concierge Desk in a blog about Haggin Oaks’ practice facilities coming up in the near future – depending on how many times I postpone writing it.

The best thing about Christmas shopping at Haggin Oaks is that you can get all the gifts on your golfing list so quickly and conveniently that you will have time to play the MacKenzie 18-hole course or one of the Arcade Creek 9-hole courses when you have finished – a little Christmas present to yourself.  Happy holidays!

 

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Golfing in Egypt

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Temple of Luxor at sunset.

Beware!  The title is a trick.  We never saw a golf course on our just-completed trip to Egypt although they do exist.  Some are located on the Mediterranean coast to the north and some on the Red Sea to Egypt’s east.  The largest cluster, according to Google Maps, is around Cairo where most of Egypt’s population resides.  Palm Hills, a John Sanford and Nicklaus design, even uses the pyramids of Giza as a backdrop.  However, on our trip from Cairo up the Nile River to Aswan and Abu Simbel and back again, we admit that golf was not on our minds.  The following list touches on some of the amazing sites we experienced:

1)  The sun setting on the Nile River as it winds through Cairo, a city of eclectic architecture, high rises, and bright lights.  Egypt needs to take better care of its life-giving river, perhaps the most important river in the world; sadly, it is polluted and its banks are littered with garbage.

2)  Waking up one morning to find the Temple of Kom Ombo, brilliant as the sun rose, directly outside our riverboat window only steps away.  It has been there for 2200 years.

3)  Walking through the barren hills of the Valley of the Kings in brutal 100+ degree heat in order to duck into the cool, elaborately decorated tombs of pharaohs who had undertaken their journeys to the afterlife 3500 years ago, an indescribable feeling.

4)  Traveling 300 miles by air just to see the breathtaking Temples of Abu Simbel, a double miracle.  First – that human beings of the 13th century BC could have carved the temples out of a solid cliff.  Second – that human beings in the 1960’s could save the temples by relocating them piece by piece to higher ground before the waters of newly created Lake Nasser could engulf them.  Thank you Egypt and UNESCO.

5)  Passing by hundreds of Nile riverboats either abandoned, retired, or out of work on the banks of the Nile from Luxor to Aswan.  The crowds of tourists have disappeared; at times we were the only tour group at a site.  Our Uniworld boat (ship?) had an eighty passenger capacity; only thirty of us enjoyed this river cruise, great for sightseeing but terrible for the Egyptian economy.

Do not journey to your own afterlife not having seen Egypt.  The country poses no more dangers than any tourist destination you visit these days.  We traveled with Uniworld River Cruises and felt very safe at all times.  If you travel in the near future, you will encounter smaller crowds and always very warm, welcoming people.

As the 5th century BC Greek historian Herodotus so eloquently said of Egypt, “Nowhere in the world are there so many marvellous things of unspeakable greatness.”

What Grass are You On?

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Lovin’ the grass at Bailey Creek.

No, not that kind of grass; the grass (-es that comprise the fairways, greens, and rough.)

Have you noticed that with the extreme heat some golf courses are watering like mad even to the point that there is significantly less roll in the fairways?  Other courses, although watering during the heat spells, seem to be able to maintain their grasses with less water and therefore have more roll and the grass seems to be thriving.

Welcome to the Sacramento Valley where no grass type is able to grow 12 months out of the year.  Some grasses like the hot summer and some like the cool, wet winter, but few grasses likes both.  A few newly developed hybrids do pretty well, but their cost for a golf course is prohibitive.  You might be able to afford enough of this hybrid seed to plant the lawn of your patio home.

Golf courses that have the money or that have been constructed more recently (in the last 20 or so years) generally plant the fairways and green surrounds with one type of grass.  The two most popular grasses for golf in the Sacramento Valley (because a golf balls sits on top of the grass when it is cut short) are bermuda and rye.  Older courses and those without luxurious budgets tend to have a mixture of grasses including bermuda, rye, and other local grasses.

Grasses fall into two general categories, warm season grasses and cool season grasses.  Bermuda is a warm season grass; it does well in the heat and goes dormant in the winter.  Rye is a cool season grass; it does well in the cool weather and struggles to survive the valley heat.   When you see cart restrictions, lots of water running, and bare spots during our hottest summer days, that course is likely to be planted in rye grass.

Personally, I prefer bermuda grass because the ball sits so well on it and I don’t play in the winter. (Mary is the President of the “Play It Warm, Dry, and Forward” fan club.)  While rye grass is green and offering its best lies in the winter months, Bermuda is “USGA golden” brown when it is dormant which draws complaints from those who live on a course planted in that grass.  The dormant grass does offer playable lies for those of you who insist on playing in crappy weather.

The type of grass that is planted in the fairways will also dominate the rough.  Warm season grasses make it more difficult to hit a ball out of the rough than cool season grasses of the same length.  If you are playing on a course with bermuda as the dominant grass, be aware that your lies in the rough may not look deep, but they are extremely difficult.

One final note:  If you need to sleep, try a Kush.  If you like a “busy” grass, you will want a green style.  If you are playing golf, neither works.

Surf the Earth with a Golf Board

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Nan Wiik enjoying her “Board” at Bailey Creek.

Introducing the Golf Board

Are you a wannabe surfer girl who had to give up her beach dreams and take up golf instead?  Or perhaps you are a winter snow boarder, always imagining your shredding moves, but playing golf instead in the summer months.

Upon returning from our eye-opening trip to Bailey Creek Golf Course near Lake Almanor, we have great news for you.  We have discovered a  board, the Golf Board, that will allow you to practice your board moves and play golf at the same time.

The Golf Board is  actually a four-wheeled motorized vehicle.  The player’s golf clubs are mounted on the front while the player herself stands on the board located between the front and back sets of wheels.  She steadies herself by grasping a handle bar, and she steers by shifting her weight like a surfer or snowboarder.  The board on the heavy scooter-like cart is very stable and can move at speeds up to 14 miles per hour.   The inventors describe the Golf Board as “a faster way of walking” and claim that it can improve pace of play and attract a younger group of players because it will bring more fun to the game. (Apparently the inventor has not played with many women golfers – we’re fun and fast)

We observed the Golf Boards at work and play firsthand when we were paired with 2 first-time  boarders, Dave and Nan Wiik (from Lake Wildwood), for our round at Bailey Creek (see prior blog post under “Courses”).  Both are excellent golfers; we didn’t think that learning the new boarding skill affected their games too much.  It did not take long for them to look very proficient on their boards.  By the end of the round Dave made the last few fairways his own private slalom course, leaning into his “carved turns” with ease.  Nan agreed with the company’s claim that Golf Boards provide great core exercise although she warned that her left knee, which bore most of her weight as she leaned into turns, might hurt in the morning.  We haven’t heard from her on that front.

Developed by a surfer and a fitness entrepreneur, Golf Boards sell for $6,500; however, more and more golf courses are offering them for rent.  In the Sacramento area Haggin Oaks and Lincoln Hills both have a number of boards on hand for groups or individuals. Is this new ride a faster and better way of walking?  Golf Boarding is certainly more entertaining than riding in a golf cart. Apparently, they are also quite heavy which means that courses will have to regulate where the boards are allowed to go with respect to the green and tee areas. The big obstacle that the manufacturers must overcome is convincing the golf establishment, not known for embracing change, that this innovation will help the game.

We say, “Go for it!”  Golf is a sport for a lifetime.  Add some speed to the game!  A Golf Board and an even-par round  most certainly will get your adrenaline pumping!

Marge

The editors of this blog went to our dear friend’s funeral on Sunday, September 17.  Marge Neal was a wonderful member of our women’s golfing community.  She loved to laugh, enjoyed a nice glass of wine. and devoted herself to her family.

She loved and honored the game of golf.  She played it as it should be played.

We will miss her.

Mary and Leslie

Shopping at Fiddler’s Green

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Fiddler’s Green Golf Center is literally filled to the rafters with golf merchandise.

After a long two-week road trip that would have made Thelma and Louise proud and a particularly stressful day in I-5 traffic, there it loomed in front of us – the “Promised Land” in Eugene, Oregon – Fiddler’s Green Golf Center, home of the largest on-course golf shop in the USA.  We felt the tension drain from our tired bodies; we were about to go golf shopping!

We opened the front door and walked into a cavernous whole new world of all things golf related.  The store (it seemed as big as a football field) was an attractive warehouse with rows of colorful golf clothes for women.  I’m pretty sure it carried men’s clothing as well.  Toward the back around the 50-yard line, a cornucopia of golf clubs, all brands and all shiny and new, waited for a lucky player to select them.  At the far end zone was a wall of attractive (too attractive) golf shoes.  Fiddler’s Green also had separate rooms attached to the main large room, one dedicated to golf bags and one dedicated to wedges and putters, enabling a customer to make her choice away from the general hubbub created by the masses of shoppers.  As we wandered around the sidelines, we found everything a golfer could possibly need, including the latest technology.

We definitely needed a guide in this place that so easily overwhelms the senses, and Raymond Moore, a personable manager, came to our rescue.  He was eager to fill us in on the history of the golf center while he tempted us with various “good buys.”  Zeke, another personable and successful employee, was content to help Mary buy her first pair ever of full-priced golf shoes.

Raymond explained that the current owners founded Fiddler’s Green in 1976 when they took over a small, rundown golf course by the Eugene Airport.  Over the years they built addition after addition to the pro shop until golfers now enjoy the current behemoth they see today.  Fiddler’s Green still maintains the 18-hole, 2315-yard short course originally in place.  In addition, it has added a driving range, not only for warming up but for testing prospective purchases as well.  The original pro shop in the back is now a small coffee shop for both players and customers.  To get to the coffee shop from the shopping center, Raymond led us past an in-house embroidery shop, a golf club repair shop, a shipping/receiving space, and Mary and Zeke trying on shoes.  judging by all the services available, Raymond justifiably boasted that “customer service is primary” at Fiddler’s Green.

I know the big questions all you readers are asking are “did you buy anything” and “was it a good deal.”  The answers, of course, are “yes” and “yes.”  How could we resist?  I bought a golf watch that also counts steps, and Mary bought a new, longed-for pair of Footjoys. The purchases did not break the bank.  We will chalk them up to our road trip budget.

Hope to see you again soon, Fiddler’s Green.

Address: 91292 Highway 99N, Eugene, OR 97402.

4th of July Fact

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Feeling patriotic. Teeing it up at Mather’s red, white, and blue tee markers.

We learned so much history about the former Mather Air Force Base when we played Mather Golf Course that I thought I would share a little-known fact with you in honor of the 4th of July.  Mather was not the original name of the air field.  It was christened Mills Air Field, named after the community Mills Station where it was located.  Built in 1917 in preparation for World War I, it was one of the original Army Air Service training camps in the United States.

Enlisting in one of the first training classes, Second Lieutenant Carl Spencer Mather proved himself a talented and well-liked pilot.  Sadly, while continuing his training in Texas, he was killed in a mid-air collision on January 30, 1918.  The remainder of his class requested that Mills Field be renamed in Mather’s honor.  Mather Air Field eventually became Mather Air Force Base and continued under that name until it was decommissioned in 1993.

Over that period of time the military also built a golf course named after 2nd Lt. Mather. I wonder if he ever played golf.  Probably not – he was too busy flying.