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In case you haven’t noticed, golf courses are sprouting up around Central Florida quicker than the dandelions in your front yard.

Over one-third of the 108 18-hole golf courses in Central Florida have been built in the past 10 years, Forty-two to be exact.

And the numbers keep growing. There are another 20 or so either under construction or in the planning phase.

But where are all the golfers?

While new course owners still talk about what a wonderful market Central Florida is for golf, those who have been around awhile admit that it’s not an easy market.

“Five years ago, getting play was not a problem, but now, we really have to work at it,” says Brad Hauer, general manager of MetroWest Country Club. “There is no question the popularity of golf isn’t keeping up with the building of golf courses.”

The woes are echoed throughout the golf community.

“In the overall market, the feeling is that business is down,” says Ron Parris, general manager of Timacuan Country Club.

The boom started in 1988, when the National Golf Foundation issued a report saying the golfindustry needed to open a course a day across the country to keep up with demand.

The golf industry responded – much more than anyone could imagine. For the past five years, more than 400 golf courses have been opened per year in the united States.

But while that was happening, the number of people who play golf remained around 25 million, meaning that the new golf courses simply cannibalized each other’s business.

“There is that feeling,” says Bill Burbaum, spokesman for the National Golf Foundation. “But it is a tough thing to judge. I don’t see many courses going out of business.”

In fact, only a couple of area golf courses have been closed in the past decade, but golf courses that want to keep drawing business are having to try new marketing tricks to get golfers to play their links.

Anyone listening to sports radio or reading the sports pages of the paper have noticed. The airwaves and newsprint are filled with so many golf course commercials that they all seem to run together.

Others are trying nontraditional marketing to lure players.

For instance, Diamond Players Club, owners of Wekiva Golf Club, launched a large.media campaign when it bought the course a few months ago.

But it also started wacky weekdays, where the course holds daily longest drive and closest-to-the-pin contests in which winners get free dinners or a free round of golf.

Gregg Gagliardi, president of Diamond Players Club, sees the promotions and marketing campaigns as a result of change in the golf business.

“I think what is happening is that there are more professionals in golf,” he says. “Golf is becoming more of a business.”

In Lake Mary, Timacuan has responded to competitive pressure by going after group business and the millions of tourists that flock to the Orlando area.

“We’re part of the Greater Orlando Golf Destinations, whose sole purpose is to market Orlando as a golf destination,” Parris says. “We are trying to let people know we have some of the best golf in the country.”

Gagliardi and others say the Orlando golf industry is sheltered from the hardships other states have because of year-round play and the number of tourists who flood the area each year.

Gagliardi pins the drop in the golf business on the downward turn of the tourism industry over the past few months.

“I just think that it is a symptom of the tourists not being here,” he says.

But Tom Horan, marketing director for the East Central Florida Chapter of the North Florida Section of the PGA, says the industry has overbuilt for today’s market.

“We do have more courses than the market can bear right now,” Horan says. “I think we’re in a lull until the younger people grow up.”

While the number of golfers playing regularly has remained stagnant, the number of young golfers is booming, mostly because of Tiger Woods’ popularity.

Most golf courses are trying to feed the young golfer’s desire to play by implementing junior golfprograms. For instance, Diamond Players Club offers weekly golf camps throughout the summer.

“I truly believe that once the young golfers grow up, you will see business rebound,” Horan says. “I say that because I’ve never seen golf as popular as it is today.”

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With the opening of a Jack Nicklaus-designed golf course at the Moon Palace, Cancun has added a new dimension to its sports offerings. The $22 million, 18-hole championship course, which promises to attract more of the lucrative golf market from the U.S., is part of a series of new golf projects for this resort destination.

The new course was created out of the Yucatan jungle with care taken to protect the environment. And play on the course is challenging but not excessively difficult, making it ideal for U.S. golfers who want to relax over a few rounds.

“We didn’t ‘carve’ this golf course out of the jungle, we ‘drew’ it from the jungle, taking advantage of the local ecology,” says Nicklaus. “It molds itself to the environment. It has its own personality, which has been dictated by the characteristics of the terrain–very flat with lush vegetation. Many of the plants were salvaged, and the flora and fauna offer more diversity than before–so much so that it serves as a refuge for several species.”

MAJOR GOLF DESTINATION

This investment from the luxury all-inclusive Palace Resorts takes a serious step toward making this region, which is the fastest-growing in Mexico, a major golf destination, says USTOA President Robert Whitley, CTC, a golf enthusiast. He points out that golf constitutes an important ingredient that had been lacking in the Cancun-Riviera Maya area. “These facilities will now make the region a major golf destination because of its convenience and nearness to the U.S. market; you can leave on a morning flight and tee up at noon,” he says.

The Moon Palace’s new golf facility is just one of nine new golf projects that have been in the works along the Mexican Caribbean coast. Two years ago, Palace Resorts also acquired a Robert von Hagge-designed championship golf course in Playacar, a tourism development near Playa del Carmen in the Riviera Maya. The company has so far invested $12 million to improve and renovate this facility and its golf club.

This latter investment is located near Palace’s new properties, the Xpu-ha Palace and the Spa Palace. “The golf courses at the Moon Palace and in Playacar are a great asset to market the destination,” says Mark Meuwissen, product manager-international for MLT Vacations in Edina, Minn.

He says this holds especially true in Minnesota, Michigan and Wisconsin, where golf is a popular pastime. “The upper Midwest has a golf season of seven months out of the year because of the severe winters, so playing in Cancun and the Riviera Maya offer a great alternative,” he says. “It creates more demand from people who don’t think of this region as a golf destination.”

MLT is selling golf packages from its U.S. gateways at the Palace as well as in other resorts in Cozumel, such as the all-inclusive Melia Cozumel and the new all-inclusive Mayan Palace in the Riviera Maya. In addition, Northwest Airlines has announced year-round daily service from Memphis to Cancun, with feeder markets from the southeast.

Other points of origin in the U.S. are also enthusiastic. “This is a wonderful thing for our FIT clients,” says Ed Jackson, president of Runaway Tours in San Francisco. “Business is growing dramatically from California to Cancun, and more golf will enhance the destination tremendously.”

MARKET DIVERSIFICATION

Joe McCarthy, director general of FONATUR (the tourism development fund for Mexico) says golf is a great way to attract more visitors to Cancun and the rest of the Mexican Caribbean. “It’s a great way to diversify the market and get good rates for the hotels,” he says.

More golf courses are planned for the Riviera Maya, which boasts 50,000 hotel rooms and can easily accommodate more golfers. Among the new projects are two PGA golf courses in Punta Nizuc that are part of FONATUR’s third stage of development for Cancun. In addition, plans to build a golf course in Puerto Cancun, which were on hold, are being revived.

The Moon Palace golf course has been a success so far, with 250 to 300 people playing there each day since its opening. Jose Chapur, co-owner of Palace Resorts with brother Roberto, the company president, says Palace Resorts plans to build two more golf courses there.

And according to Jose’s brother Roberto Chapur, president and the other co-owner of Palace Resorts: “Golf attracts people who are willing to pay for a quality product.”

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Next time you get stuck at the eighth hole behind a slow and chatty foursome, take a moment to consider the turf your spikes are sinking into. If you’re at Turtle Bay, Coral Creek, Kapolei or any one of a dozen or so Hawaii golf courses, chances are that the grass you’re standing on is the finely tuned, genetically engineered result of an $18 million research project.

For 20 years, a handful of scientists have been working to develop this tough turf through an $18 million university grants program. Sponsored by the United States Golf Association, the program funds research on environmental issues that affect the world of golf. This has led to the development of emerald-green turf that thrives in unforgiving conditions.

Bermuda grass became the world’s dominant turf at a time when water was plentiful and fertilizers were abundant. “Times have changed,” comments Professor Ron Duncan, a pioneer of turfgrass breeding in stress physiology at the University of Georgia. “Fresh potable water is diminishing worldwide, and fertilizer has become an environmental concern.”

A saline-resistant turf called seashore paspalum has become one of the most popular alternative grasses for coastal areas around the world, Duncan says. “No. 1, it looks really good. Two, it’s environmentally friendly. We’re looking at about half the cost, and half the water, that you would use to grow Bermuda grass. You can use effluent water, brackish water … even ocean water short-term, if the course is constructed correctly.”

With a few twists of the turf’s genetic dials, scientists can breed it for a variety of physical characteristics, including several that are perfect on golf courses. Says Dennis Rose, director of golfat Turtle Bay, “Every new strain is a little finer-bladed than the last.”

Four months ago, the greens on Turtle Bay’s fabled Arnold Palmer course were completely regrassed with Sea Isle 2000, the latest strain of seashore paspalum. “This strain is grown specifically for putting greens,” enthuses Rose. “It’s a very fine blade of grass worthy of the smoothest surface. We’re the first course in Hawaii to plant it, and, I think, the second in the country.”

Courses in Florida, South Carolina and California all have paspalum, or are considering rejuvenation projects. “There’s tremendous interest in Mexico and the Caribbean, because they have water problems,” says Duncan. ChiChi Rodriguez and Arnold Palmer are evaluating Sea Isle 2000 for their Caribbean courses. Closer to home, Oahu, Maui, the Big Island, Kauai and Lanai all are home to current or future paspalum courses.

The pair of 18-hole courses at Turtle Bay, where 50,000 rounds of golf are played each year, recently received a rejuvenation of paspalum, including a restoration of the back nine of the George Fazio course. “And our eighth hole on the Arnold Palmer course is an experiment,” Duncan says. “It’s just about 100 percent paspalum. We didn’t fertilize it for years. The only nutrition it got was effluent water. The end result is that it is one of the better holes on the course.”

Paspalum occasionally manages to insinuate itself where it isn’t wanted. At Kapolei Golf Course, built in 1994, a grow-in of 328 hybrid Bermuda was planned for the greens. “When we got the sprigs from the nursery, they had paspalum contamination,” says golf superintendent Andy Meikie. “We couldn’t get rid of it.”

After a USGA agronomist explained that the paspalum was viable golf turf, course planners decided on a targeted contamination. Seashore paspalum now thrives on Kapolei’s greens, tees, and approaches, and savings have been spectacular. “Normally we spend $60,000 to $70,000 on fertilizer. We’re not putting down fertilizer anymore. We’re just doing greens and tees, and a light application on fairways. Out of 200 acres, we’re fertilizing about 40.”

What about the turf’s play ability? Well, a little retraining may be helpful, Meikle advises. “To chip out of it is difficult. You have to pick the ball out. The club will slice through Bermuda; with paspalum, if you hit down, it kind of grabs the club. Once you learn how to hit it, it’s fine.”

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Several new computerized golf simulation products are being developed by former computer company executives. Charles Blankenship, a former executive at Texas Instruments and Siliconix Inc, started a new company called Golftek Inc. The company manufactures golf swing analyzers and golf simulators using optical sensing devices and large projection screens or computer monitors. Don Curchod founded InnoGolf Corp, a company that produces a high-end golf simulator. The InGolf machine uses real clubs and real balls and costs $30,000. Curchod envisions an emerging new industry for golf simulation products. Mike McTigue, founder and CEO of SportSense Inc, is busy developing a $20,000 microcomputer-based product called the Swing Motion Trainer. John Malone founded Swing Technology after spending ten years at IBM. He continues to work at IBM while developing an affordable product aimed at the consumer market.

Golf: It’s one of America’s great outdoor pastime. Now some inventive engineers are bringing this sport–fairways and all–indoors.

The inventions-turned-products are golf simulators, which let people play and practice golf inside. One version takes up a whole room, recreating on a large screen various fairways on which golfers’ drives are projected. Another variation sells for just a few hundred dollars and can be played at home. Yet another acts as a training aid, analyzing a golfer’s swing.

Who is behind the designs of these high-tech, astroturfed toys? The people, like the products, vary. But these entrepreneurial engineers do have one thing in common: None has the time to play much golf anymore.

Take Charles “Bud” Blankenship, for example. He worries about some very tiny matters these days, like the 1/50,000th-of-an-inch precision with which his golf analyzer determines the angle of a golf-club face. Blankenship is founder and president of Golftek Inc (Lewiston, ID), which introduced one of the first electronic golf-swing analyzers in 1977.

Over the years, Blankenship has seen his share of innovation. About 30 years ago, the Korean War veteran took his engineering degree to Texas Instruments (Dallas, TX), where he joined the team that invented the semiconductor. Later he helped build the first computer based on an IC. Then he helped found Siliconix Inc (Santa Clara, CA), one of the IC companies that gave Silicon Valley its nickname.

Blankenship decided to go solo in the early 1970s, when he realized he’d topped out at Siliconix. Fed up with life in the Valley, he sold his stock options and moved his family back to his childhood home in Kansas.

“I spent a lot of time thinking about what I wanted to do,” Blankenship recalls, but all he really knew was that he wanted to work for himself.

What Blankenship needed was an idea, which appropriately enough, came to him on the golf course while he was teaching his son the game. “My son kept asking me, ‘Why does the ball go this way or that way when I hit it?’” say Blankenship, who, like a good teacher, tried to explain. It was actually his son who suggested the idea of a computer-based product that teaches people how to hit a golf ball.

The resulting company is Golftek Inc, makers of golf-swing analyzers and golf simulators. The 12-person firm is located in the Blankenship clan’s new hometown of Lewiston, ID: 50,000 people, three 18-hole golf courses, and one nine-hole course. The company’s newest product is a golf simulator that uses optical sensing devices and large projection screens or computer monitors to recreate “life-like” games played with real clubs and balls.

I’ll do it my way

Three years ago, Don Curchod formed InGolf Corp (San Jose, CA). From the way Curchod talks, he, too, is apparently the sort of person who is happiest working for himself. “I started my career working for big companies,” he says, “but I was always frustrated by bosses making incompetent decisions about technology.”

InGolf makes one of the high-end golf simulators on the market. To play, golfers hit a real ball with a real club. Optical measuring devices watch the ball and calculate its trajectory, feeding the information to the system, which then projects a computer simulation of the shot on a 10 x 12-foot screen. The real ball hits a net.

Curchod, a transplanted Australian who has lived in the United States for 18 years, already had a successful track record with a series of automobile-service equipment he’d designed. But after 15 years, he wanted new territory. Longer lines at public golf courses and increasing greens fees prompted Curchod to think about making his new turf artificial.

Like many inventors, Curchod spent years (in his case, six) working out the details in his spare time before forming InGolf. “One of the key things was to figure out a way to measure the backspin of a ball,” says Curchod. “It took us two years to get that.”

Without knowing the spin, he explains, there’s no way to accurately judge how far a drive will carry. This introduces one of the curious things about the physics of golf. The ball, after being struck by the club, starts to spin even before it leaves the tee. The InGolf machine measures the ball’s spin, speed, and angle of flight to replicate the shot on the projection screen.

At around $30,000, the InGolf machine is not intended for home use. But that doesn’t worry Curchod. “We think this is a billion-dollar industry,” he says. “We’re trying to create a new industry here, where people use our simulators at real golf centers–not amusement parks.”

It’s time for a change

For Gaylan Larson, it was about a year and a half ago that he noticed something was wrong. “I was stressed out,” he recalls, then a manager in the computer disk-drive industry.

In the previous three years, Larson had already been with two major disk-drive operations, Connor Peripherals and Maxtor Corp. Those jobs had followed 18 years at Hewlett-Packard as a manufacturing and division manager and seven years at Bell Labs.

“I decided I need a break–an extended sabbatical,” Larson says. So he traveled, hiked the Grand Canyon, and did whatever he wanted for eight months. Then he got bored. Work was a must, but what kind?

“I was ready to go back to work, but I wanted something different than the high-speed treadmill I was on,” says Larson. A headhunter then introduced Larson to Mike McTigue, a professional golf instructor who is founder and CEO of SportSense Inc (Mountain View, CA.) McTigue’s idea was to adapt an existing medical orthopedic diagnostic machine to analyze the angles of the spine, shoulders, and hips during a golf swing. The prototype of the Swing Motion Trainer, now a $20,000 PC-based product, was already under assembly when Larson joined SportSense as chief operating officer.

In many ways, the pressures at his new job are the same, says Larson. “All of the self-imposed pressures of meeting deadlines, solving technical problems, making it work well, interfacing with users and marketing people–all of those things are the same,” he says.

Larson says this job nevertheless feels completely different from the others. Mostly, he says it’s the sense of shared responsibility at the young firm. “If one person is running into problems, all the others are asking ‘What can we do to help?’” says Larson. “The effort is always on fixing the problem, instead of fixing the blame.”

Breaking mental obstacles

Making that first move toward creating a business was the mental obstacle that always stood between John Malone and his own company. But after 10 years of working at IBM, he finally decided to give entrepreneurship a try. “This passion has been itching at me for years and years to be in the sports engineering business,” he says. “I got really tired of talking about it all the time and not doing anything.”

Malone’s first step was to see a career counselor. “I actually went to give myself a kick in the butt,” he says, “to make me get out and go on my own.”

That turned out to be a smart move. The counselor figured out a way to help Malone overcome his block: He brought in another former IBMer who had left to start his own business. “Talking to him was what really turned on the light for me,” Malone says. “I told him I had five good ideas for products for new companies. He asked which of my five ideas do I have a passion for, not which is the best idea.”

Malone admitted he felt strongest about an idea to create a golf simulator. The ex-IBMer told him: “That’s the one to do. Forget the others.”

That was two years ago. Malone is now president and founder of Swing Technology (Austin, TX.) So far, he’s been able to keep his job at IBM while developing Swing Technology.

The idea behind his product was to combine a good golf analyzer with quality computer graphics but sell the product at a consumer price of about $500. “Here’s this growing family of computer video golf games that are getting incredibly detailed,” he says, “but the problem is you’re pushing buttons, not swinging a club. Golfers like to swing.”

Malone actually linked two existing products from other companies to create his simulator. One was a golf-shot analyzer: A small mat that captures information from a golf swing as the club head passes over it. Electronics in the mat then calculate the trajectory as if it were a real shot. Nintendo games provide the graphics.

For now, Malone likes balancing his two jobs. But if things go well with Swing Technology, who knows? “I don’t think there are many engineers worth their salt who don’t have the desire to be self employed,” says Malone.

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Understanding Hawaii’s appeal to golfers can help boost your bottom line.

Even agents who can’t tell an iron from a wood, much less know that those are types of golf clubs, can take an effective swing at selling clients on the idea of Hawaii golf vacations.

Each of the major islands sports a number of resort courses; indeed, some of the master-planned destination resorts boast two or even three of these manicured gems. Every year the pros compete in tournaments conducted on a number of resort courses, so agents can appeal to the cachet of playing where the pros do.

More fundamental, of course, is the fact that the roster of course designers and architects who have fashioned Hawaii’s greens and fairways reads like a Who’s Who of the golf world. Among them are Arnold Palmer, Robert Trent Jones Sr., Robert Trent Jones Jr., Arthur Jack Snyder, Ed Seay, Frances Duane, Ben Crenshaw, Bill Coore, Ted Robinson, George Fazio, Jack Nicklaus and Greg Norman.

This is a firm one-two punch. First, it is a powerful tool in attracting the interest of clients to whom the identity of the course designer is somewhat important. Second, it assures golfers who may have only a nodding acquaintance with such information that a course’s claim to high standards is more truth than fiction.

Despite the pedigree of Hawaii’s resort courses, agents can feel comfortable recommending a day on the links to golfers no matter what their skill level. Resort courses tend to offer several tee locations, or tee boxes, for each hole, which means that each member of the group can choose the distance he or she finds most comfortable–beginners may want to choose the shortest, while those with low handicaps may opt for a longer course.

Jim Richerson, general manager of Ko Olina Golf Club in West Oahu, notes that one hallmark of golf in Hawaii is an array of course styles, such as seaside, mountain and links, in a relatively compact area, so that golfers can plan for a variety of experiences during a single Hawaii vacation.

Winning Weather

Geographically speaking, Hawaii has a competitive edge that makes it appealing to golf-minded travelers. Weather conditions are pleasant year-round, and because the state doesn’t switch to daylight-savings time, it’s possible to book “twilight” games later in the afternoon. This may appeal to travelers on a budget or those who prefer to book several activities each day.

Resort courses tend to attract players of varying skill levels, so players should be alerted to the resources that await them in terms of both education and scheduling. “All courses have some kind of teaching program,” says Howard Kihune Jr., director of golf at the Makena Golf Courses. “Most of [them are] a quick fix, a half-hour or one-hour session, because [guests] might not have played for a couple of months.”

It’s worth checking on the availability of individual and group lessons, early and late tee times, and nine-hole rounds. With this information you can assure clients that it is possible to book a room-and-golf package and still schedule time for guided soft adventures and exploring the countryside in a rental car.

Indeed, while habitual golfers tend to prefer earlier tee times, Kihune says that couples may appreciate the suggestion of starting play at 3 p.m. or even later. “The weather’s ideal. The sun’s starting to set, there’s no one behind you,” he says. “It’s a nice time of day. I like to play at that time of day myself.” He adds that playing later in the day frees travelers for sightseeing and time at the beach in the morning. It also meshes with golfers’ desires to play at different courses.

“The way people think has changed,” Kihune says. “They want to play a lot of different places,” he adds.

Travel agents can parlay this knowledge into money-saving advice for their clients. While avid golfers may be booking a room-and-golf package or selecting a hotel based on the preferred rates it provides at the neighboring resort course or courses, more active travelers or those who want to stretch their budget a little farther may be grateful for the suggestion of booking late-afternoon rates at courses beyond their home base.

So who’s hitting the courses around the state? Richerson says that he and his staffers see players who have a wide range of skill levels, as well as couples and families playing together.

Wide Appeal

At Wailea Golf Club, on the island of Maui, senior head golf professional Rick Castillo says he’s noticed an increase in new golfers playing rounds. And Liana Mulleitner, marketing and public relations for Hawaii Prince Hotel Waikiki and Golf Club on Oahu and Maui Prince Hotel Makena Resort and Golf Club, says Prince Resorts Hawaii has seen an increase in women golfers. “With Tiger Woods being so popular,” she adds, “we’ve also seen an increase in families and teens.”

Kihune points out that most people who are hitting the links in Hawaii are couples. Even so, he has seen an increase in women golfers in the last four to five years for business reasons, camaraderie or love of the sport itself. He’s also observed groups of women who have planned golf vacations in the islands. “They’re avid golfers and they’ve done some homework,” he says. “They know where they want to play–four or eight or 10 women taking a five- or six-day vacation, playing 18 holes most of the days.”

Castillo notes that the game’s appeal encompasses an ever-broader cross-section of the country. Until the softening of Hawaii’s group market this year, he says, this segment had been growing at a fast clip at Wailea, especially during 1999 and 2000. in addition to an increase in inserting golf into group itineraries, the frequency of group lessons was increasing. Such lessons appeal to beginning golfers and nongolfers, and also serve as a reminder to travel agents to keep current on their clients’ interests. The customer who wasn’t interested in taking a golf vacation several years ago may now have taken a few lessons and may welcome the suggestion of visiting a beginner-friendly golf destination.

Another segment to consider is the cruise fan. Kenneth Kimura, golf operations manager at the Kauai Lagoons Golf Club, says the club’s greatest growth has come from players who are in Hawaii on cruises. Kimura estimates that the number of rounds has risen by approximately 25 percent in the past two years.

A cruise itinerary that calls on several islands provides golfers with the chance to play courses on different islands without the need to relocate lodgings or make day trips.

Golf by the Numbers

Crunching golf-related numbers has shown the Hawaii Tourism Authority and Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau (HVCB) that attracting travelers who golf is good business. Many of the traits that make these visitors attractive to the state of Hawaii endear them to agents.

For example, a 1998 profile of golf travelers by the Travel Industry Association of America (TIA) showed them to be more likely than the average domestic traveler to be married, college-educated, working in a professional or managerial post, or to be a member of a household with more than one wage-earner, and have a higher average annual household income.

In addition, 12 percent of domestic visitors to Hawaii play golf during their stays, according to information from the HVCB, the state Department of Business, Economic Development & Tourism and the TIA.

A useful resource in locating golf events is the HVCB Web site (www.gohawaii.com]. Searches can be performed by event type, island and date range.

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gender-specific

The number of women golfers in the US is observed to be steadily growing. As a result, a number of golf resorts have redesigned their courses to become more women-friendly. The Woodlands Executive Conference Center and Resort in Texas has, for instance, modified its North Course by cutting off 900 yards because it has noticed that women golfers cannot hit a golf ball as hard as a man. The resort is also in the process of varying its tee locations in order to provide women golfers the option of playing a hard or an easy course.

Just as women are still a minority at the uppermost levels of the corporate world, they’re also faced with a glass ceiling of sorts on the golf course (which is, in some cases, an extension of the boardroom). Traditionally, the game has embodied the old-boy club, but a growing number of women are taking advantage of opportunities to join in the networking that takes place from tee to green.

Women still make up only about 20 percent of all golfers, but statistics from the National Golf Association in Juniper, Fla., show that they are adopting the sport at a good clip. Nearly 40 percent of new players are women – many of whom will be signing up for business tournaments when they have the chance. Now, it’s up to planners to pull together great golf outings in which everyone – beginning and advanced golfers, female or male – feels welcome.

GETTING ON COURSE

When choosing a resort or club as the site of an event, not many people take into account features that might make it more or less friendly to the women in the group. Some physiological differences in how women and men play golf should be taken into consideration. Basically, the trajectory of a shot hit by a man tends to be higher than that hit by a woman, and he can hit it farther. Because of this, women have a tougher time hitting the ball over obstacles like ravines, lakes and, at a desert golf course, waste areas where there’s no fairway, just sand and brush.

“When it comes to solid contact, for the most part, the club-head speed of the man will be greater than that of the woman,” says former Ladies Professional Golf Association player Carol Mann, who is now a teaching pro at The Woodlands Executive Conference Center and Resort in The Woodlands, Texas, near Houston. “Because it does require club speed to carry the ball a decent length in the air, men tend to carry the ball a greater distance.”

With this in mind, Mann recently took on a huge task at The Woodlands: redesigning the North Course, one of two at the property that are open to conference groups, to make it more friendly to those who can’t hit for distance. “Before the redesign, the North Course had long ramps as tees, and the course was more than 7,000 yards long, which was much too long,” says Mann, who also owns Carol Mann Golf Services in Houston with architect Paula Eger. Among other projects, the company redesigns courses and consults with clubs on making their courses player-friendly for everyone – women, seniors, juniors. “Knowing how women play golf, from beginner to advanced, the course needed at least 900 yards cut off.” She also recommended varying the tee locations, giving players the option of playing a hard course or an easy one, depending on the tee they choose. The result? The North Course was recently listed among the top 100 women-friendly courses in the United States and Canada in Golf for Women magazine.

In considering women-friendly sites for a golf event, look for yardage from the forward tees (the ones closest to the hole) in the 5,600- to 5,700-yard range; choose courses where players won’t have to carry the ball over a lot of obstacles and where they can land their balls in front of the green without getting in too much trouble, and look for variety in the tee boxes – where the forward tees are not only much closer to the hole but give beginning players a better angle at the green.

Obviously, if your group is full of expert players, you needn’t worry about all this course advice. But choosing a difficult layout when you’re entertaining a number of neophytes – male or female – could kill their newfound interest in the game.

IN THE CLUBHOUSE

When you’re finalizing your site decision, put these criteria on your checklist. They were compiled by the Sunriver Resort Women’s Golf Forum, which met last year in Sunriver, Ore., to raise awareness of the needs of female golfers and to design a plan to implement changes in golf for women. The words of wisdom come from the attendees: teaching professionals; LPGA, PGA and Executive Women’s Golf Association representatives; equipment and apparel manufacturers, and mental management experts.

  • Are the men’s and women’s locker rooms and rest room facilities on an equal par? Are there adequate rest rooms on the course?
  • Does the property have a restrictive gender policy on tee times?
  • Are appropriate rental sets available for women? Does the facility have left-handed ladies’ clubs?
  • How is the overall attitude of the staff? Do you see male and female golfers receiving the same friendly treatment?
  • Are there women working in the pro shop? Is it well-stocked with women’s merchandise?

LET THEM LEARN

Remember, while it may be impressive to get your group prime tee times on a challenging championship course, your event could go bust if you misrepresent the skills of your attendees and their knowledge of the game. If your group consists primarily of beginners, say so up front. And arrange for players who want to better their game to take lessons.

“Ideally, you want the teaching ratio to be four to one for your attendees to get the most out of a lesson,” says Nancy Oliver, founder of the EWGA, a Palm Springs Gardens, Fla.-based recreation and networking organization with about 14,000 members. “You don’t want to go over a ratio of one to eight.” Oliver adds that women, particularly beginners, tend to be more comfortable learning from a woman, so if there is no female teaching pro on staff at the site you’ve chosen, talk to the director of golf or the head pro about bringing someone in from a nearby course.

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wilkinson-explains-decision-to-resign-as-barton-baseball-coach-part-1

Twenty years and 500 or more

Barton team

Twenty years and 500 or more victories amount to a tidy accomplishment for a 50-year-old coach. The numbers reflect a solid career. The combination works. However, Todd Wilkinson, who observes his 50th birthday next season, elected not to stay around as Barton College head baseball coach for a 20th campaign. He would have entered next season just four wins shy of the 500 milestone. Instead, Wilkinson accepted the opportunity to field the Barton athletic program’s new position of assistant athletic director and compliance coordinator.

He has been functioning in that capacity for nearly a month. “I’m through with coaching right now,” the relaxed Wilkinson said in an office interview Friday morning. “With what was presented to me, I have to be. This is a direction I have seen myself going in for some time, and the door opened. I’ve got 24 years in coaching; I’ve been doing it a long time.”

I never really got into it

Regarding the 500 wins, Willkinson responded: “I never really got into it; I never have charted any of that. (Milestones) of 200, then 300, next 400 … I never thought about it. Actually, I would have liked to have won a lot more games. “Now until whenever, I’m like anybody else. If opportunities come my way, I’ll consider them. But at this point, I wasn’t going to let this door close on me.” The opportunity surfaced through the athletic department’s ongoing reorganization process. It was not a matter of Wilkinson approaching athletic director Gary Hall and inquiring about the possibility of shifting to another position. “The thinking was that having an administrative assistant who was a non-coach could be a big help with the addition of (four new) sports, the college’s growth and compliance duties,” Wilkinson explained.

NEARING THE END

“The facilities are a big part of the job, and that part was created by me a long time ago.” Wilkinson, indeed, was a driving force into the development of the Barton College Athletic Complex into a highly regarded facility. The baseball facility, now named Nixon Field, attracted national acclaim. Emerging in the complex’s midst was a multi-purpose fieldhouse and press box. Wilkinson will also be handling assignments as a games manager. NEARING THE END But he will not be over the shoulder of new head baseball coach Josh Simmons, who was strongly recommended by Wilkinson. He will be interacting with Simmons in the care of the facilities but, from the standpoint of coaching baseball, Wilkinson is confident Simmons has enough respect for him that he will seek his input if needed. In fact, retaining Simmons as an assistant influenced Wilkinson’s decision to step away from coaching.

“I had been feeling that for probably the last three years,” Wilkinson revealed. “My first recollection is that, when we hired Josh, I was probably nearing the end of wanting to be the coach. “I am very, very comfortable and so excited for Josh. He connects very well with the players, and that voice is what the program needs now. I’m his No. 1 fan and my only regret is that I’m not going to be a part of the turnaround.” Wilkinson then reiterated: “I was not going to let this door close.” The decision to retire comes on the heels of his second poorest season in terms of wins. The Bulldogs managed just 16 wins in 2011 and struggled to be one of the six teams qualifying for the Conference Carolinas Tournament.

See part 2

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wilkinson-explains-decision-to-resign-as-barton-baseball-coach-part-2

In a lengthy retirement statement earlier this month, Wilkinson spoke of a grind that snapped his spirit and affected the passion needed to coach at the NCAA Division II level. “I found myself numb to the win and questioning myself following a loss,” he stated. “If a coach cannot celebrate the win and questions his teaching following a loss, it is time.

FAMILY REACTION

“Throughout the recent seasons, Lindsey and our beautiful daughter, Katie, have been subjected to a husband and father that was a flat line far too often…” The veteran coach added his wife was “very comfortable” with his decision but admitted it bothered his daughter, who graduated from Wilson Christian Academy on Friday evening and will continue her education at Barton. “She didn’t understand,” Wilkinson said of his daughter. “But Lindsey could see how the grind was beginning to beat me down day-by-day. She could see something had to give.” Wilkinson emphasized: “The coaching job now is tough.

“Coaching the kids is fine, but the agenda for every kid and the people around the kids makes it a difficult job at all levels.” The “Wilkinson way” was to bring in freshmen, start them from scratch, watch them steadily improve and “hit it just right where you’ve got some veteran players.” “I do know, to compete in this league, you need to have veteran players,” Wilkinson added. “I don’t think you will ever see it again like it was for us in 2002 — seven freshmen in the starting lineup (and won a conference tournament). You also have injuries along the way and, sometimes, your evaluation doesn’t turn out like you wanted or expected it to be.”

TOUGH LOVE

Wilkinson’s retirement statement also alluded to his “tough love” for his players. “That’s the discipline we instill,” Wilkinson explained.

“I will always believe in discipline on and off the field. That met with some resistance — that maybe we were beating them down and being too negative. But I knew, when I went into this, I wasn’t going to be too soft.” But, since his retirement, the feedback Wilkinson has received from former players, his peers, well-wishers and followers has been gratifying, satisfying and sometimes emotional. His first stint as Barton’s head coach began in 1988 and the second in 2000.

Returning, Wilkinson assures, was the right thing to do. “Barton College has been excellent for me and to me,” he emphatically said. “It has always supported me. Never have I ever once felt I didn’t receive the support I needed — including the attempt to grow the program. They always listened. I have absolutely no regrets.” The burn-out, the grind are behind Wilkinson but he remarks: “As a competitor, you would love to have another year, 10 more games. But it’s not going to happen.” “I love baseball and will always love baseball. But I do feel like I’m capable of doing something else, and I’m going forward in that direction. I’m looking forward to contributing in another capacity.”

His pride in the program, its tradition, its overall perception and its facilities will stay in the forefront. “We won the conference sportsmanship award this year,” Wilkinson said with a smile. “I left the program in better shape than it was, and I’ve been able to do that twice. If the message I wanted to deliver and the way I wanted the players to leave here got across, we got somewhere. “But I’ve got a feeling we had a lot of wins in life that nobody else is going to understand.”

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bloomington-baseball-coach-gets-600th-win

Bloomington baseball has seen better years.

ball and red helmet

But on Thursday night, as the mosquitoes and darkness descended on the school’s baseball field there were reasons to smile. The Bobcats 9-4 win over visiting Edna was the 600th career victory for its baseball coach Edward “Hodie” Garcia. Bloomington scored five runs in the bottom of the first and never looked back. Afterward, Garcia deflected the credit to his players because they played to their potential, executed and were rewarded with a comfortable win. He said the win was just as sweet as any other in his 34 year career. “To me, it’s just another game,” Garcia said. “I have been involved in a lot of ball games. I am proud of these boys because this group was the one that got that victory for this program. Not so much for me, but for the program.

“What I really like about this program is I try to maintain consistency. Win or lose that’s what I try to teach these kids, consistency on the field and consistency in life and doing things right.” Moments after senior second baseman Dennis Cano caught Guy Dodson’s pop up to end the game, Garcia shook the hands of the two umpires, made his team run a few sprints down the right field line, and participated in a postgame prayer. “I was nervous big time,” Cano said about recording the last out, to the amusement of fellow seniors Aaron Garza and Andres Castro. “I just hoped not to drop the ball and cause the team to keep on going. I was relieved.” The loss was the third straight for Edna (6-11, 3-3.) Javier Reyes pitched a complete game to lift Bloomington to 3-11 overall and 1-5 in district for the season. Dodson took the loss for the Cowboys after allowing nine runs in 5.1 innings.

“He pitched a great game,”

baseball game

Garza said of Reyes. “Coach got on him after he messed up on a couple plays, but he shook it off and didn’t let it get to him. He kept pitching and he pitched a great game. That was big for us. It helped us settle down and we weren’t all worried and tense. We were just relaxed out there.” Thursday’s district 26-2A contest was won like so many others in Garcia’s career that includes stints at Calhoun, Rio Grande City and the 1985 Class 5A state championship at Stroman. His boys played solid defense, were aggressive on the basepaths and bunted when they had a runner on third with less than two outs. Bloomington scored four runs on squeeze plays. In the fifth inning of a 6-3 game, Garcia asked Castro to bunt Dodson’s 2-2 pitch with one out and runners on second and third. Nathaniel Sanchez scored from easily and Keanu Escamilla scampered around from second to re-establish a five-run lead. Castro finished 1-2 with a run and those two RBIs.

He said Garcia is the best baseball coach he’s ever had because he’s instilled consistency, confidence and the will to persevere in him and the rest of the Bobcats. “He’s meant a lot. He’s stuck with us throughout the struggles,” Castro said. “He loves baseball and he loves being with us.” All 12 boys on the team contributed in the win. Whether it was Sanchez going 2-3 at the plate, John Mendez making a handful of fine plays at short to freshman Rolando Hinojosa scoring a run in the sixth. “When it comes to the squeeze play, I guarantee you I throw the book out the window. I am trying to score some runs,” Garcia said. “He failed on the first, failed on the second on, then he fouled one off and then we came back with it on two strikes. I am not afraid to do it with two strikes and we scored two runs on that (fifth inning) play.”

Junior Josh Cantu stole three bases and scored two runs as a courtesy runner. In the third, Cantu scored on a failed squeeze play. Edna’s catcher was in position to apply the tag, but the 113-pound Cantu ran through the tag to give Bloomington a 6-0 lead. Thursday night Garcia wore a T-shirt that encapsulated that mantra “Bloomington Baseball Champions Win or Lose.” Bloomington’s win meant Edna and Tidehaaven both have three losses in District 26-2A play, which gave the Bobcats a chance — albeit a minute one — to top both teams for the third and final playoff spot. “I am happy for my boys. That’s the main thing,” Garcia said. “I know they are very capable of winning. I love my boys and as long as they keep trying and never quit, I will hang in there with them.”

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tips-for-using-a-laser-rangefinder

Is hunting proving to be that difficult? Have you ever used a laser range finder? Well, this is a simple device that can help you to estimate the distance or range to a target using a laser beam. They usually use the time of flight principle.

They send a laser pulse in a narrow beam to an object and then calculate the time that it takes for the pulse to get reflected back from the object to the user. Many people are always mistaken to think that using a laser rangefinder is that difficult.

Well, this may not be true but a little bit of practice will still be required for one to be able to use it easily and correctly. Below are some tips which can help improve your skills when using a laser rangefinder.

  1. What is it being used for?

Choose a rangefinder that is specifically designed for your needs. There are different range finders designed for different purposes including hunting, golfing and fishing.

  • So if you happen to be a deer hunter, look for the best hunting rangefinder (check this useful reference).
  • Or if you are a golfer, pick one that can be used in a golf course.
  1. Watching video tutorials

Depending on the level of experience a person might have, you will always find different tips on how to use rangefinders. It would be a good idea to try checking out video tutorials too, for instance, those posted on YouTube as they give tips for both the amateurs and the professionals. This might helps a lot as you will most probably find one that goes with your level of experience. Also, look for videos made by the manufactures themselves.

  1. Reading the manual

Before doing anything else, I think this should be the first step. Many people usually ignore the user manual and that’s where the problem begins. It is very important that you go through this piece of the document before configuring and using the device. You can also find them online and learn more on how the device should be used.

  1. Use the inbuilt technology on the device

Different laser range finders from different companies will always have some sort of inbuilt technology that makes them extra power when it comes to estimating distances. It is important to know how to use the technology so that it will be easier for you to work with the device while on the field.

  1. A lot of practice

This is also one of the ways in which a person graduates from being an amateur to becoming a pro in using laser rangefinders. Practice even by aiming at large objects lying between 50 to 100 yards. Also, try and get familiar with the readings you get on display once the device starts picking up an object. If you still don’t understand what is being displayed, always try over and over again as this is the main reason for practicing in the first place. Remember, perfect practice makes perfect.

  1. Do a bit of research

Well, for hunters, they should know better than just depending on the rangefinder to do almost everything. This is not a good idea. Walking around and familiarizing yourself with the place where you would like to use the laser rangefinder is also an important point to note.

  1. Take time

Well, as you all know, nothing comes that easy. The same applies to using the laser rangefinders. It takes a few practice sessions and dedication before finally getting hold of how to use laser rangefinders. It is important to know whether your device is giving consistent information or not. This will help you to be sure of the range being aimed. Also, keep in mind that these things can fail too thus the need to be prepared when it happens.

  1. Make sure it is easily accessible

When using a laser range finder, keep it in a way that it can easily be reached. The time you take while accessing it, using it and putting it back might be the only thing standing between you and the deer. Sometimes it might even drop off while hooking up and this might spook the deer making it run away.

Conclusion

Well, laser rangefinders are not that difficult to use. Just follow the instructions given and that’s it. it is also important to note that external factors such as the weather or how the device is held might affect the readings on the display. With that being said it is now up to you to find the best rangefinder that will suit your needs, use the above tips and you will be good to go.

 

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