Thursday, August 25, 2016

Book review: The Anatomy of Greatness, by Brandel Chamblee ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (out of 5)

Golf Channel analyst’s instruction book scores A- for content, C+ for presentation

Golf Channel analyst/commentator Brandel Chamblee knows a thing or two about the golf swing, and when he talks, or writes, about it people should take notice. A former PGA Tour player himself, Chamblee brings a tremendous amount of insight and experience, as well as a sense of history, to his on-air role, and in his recent book, The Anatomy of Greatness: Lessons from the Best Golf Swings in History, he brings the same qualities to bear in writing about the golf swing.
In his new book from Classics of Golf, Golf Channel analyst Brandel Chamblee
breaks down the simple concepts that the great golf swings have in common. 

The Anatomy of Greatness is not just another swing instruction book, like the thousands that have been published over the decades since the first, The Golfer’s Manual, by Henry Brougham Farnie, was published in 1857. Even a cursory look through the pages of the book will show that Chamblee has taken a different approach to the matter at hand. Rather than the Golf My Way (Jack Nicklaus) or How I Play Golf (Tiger Woods) approach, telling the reader “This is how I do it”, Chamblee shows the reader the characteristics of the golf swing that are common to a panoply of the greats of the game – including, of course, Nicklaus and Woods.

Taking the basics of the golf swing – the grip, the setup, posture, and the various phases of the swing movement itself – in order, Chamblee explains the basic concepts that helped make these past champions great. With a wide variety of illustrations and photographs, he shows how the greats of the game – from Jones, Snead, Hogan, and female golf great Mickey Wright, to Player, Nicklaus, Trevino, Woods and others – utilized these basics to produce their championship-winning golf swings.

Along the way Chamblee debunks some popular misconceptions, especially the widespread, but misguided, concept of loading the mid-body like a torsion spring to produce power in the downswing. Instead, the reader is shown how the great champions of the past used a few key movements to produce the fluid, free-flowing swings we have seen in newsreel footage (for the earlier players in the comparisons) and television coverage of tournaments, for years. He also explains how the looser, freer swing described in the pages of the book is easier on the body, especially the thoracic spine (lower back), which is a key element in a long-lived quality golf swing.
“The premise of this theory is so massively incorrect and its problems so numerous that for over thirty years it has almost completely divested the PGA and LPGA Tour players of their ability to build on the methods of a previous generation…”

One of the really interesting things about The Anatomy of Greatness is how Chamblee traces the common roots of these fundamental concepts back to Los Angeles-based golf instructor Alex Morrison, whose influence can be seen in the swing motions of such greats as Bob Jones, and through Morrison disciples Henry Picard and Jack Grout, in the swings of Ben Hogan and Jack Nicklaus, respectively. The same concepts can be seen in the swing motions of such 20th-century greats as Byron Nelson and Sam Snead, who though they arrived at them independently, were themselves very influential on a great number of later players.
All that being said, there is room for improvement in the book’s presentation. The layout is clumsy and rather unprofessional looking, with frequent unwelcome blocks of blank space, and in at least a couple of places, multi-page jumps in the text to accommodate poorly arranged stretches of photos and captions. The prose is rather stilted and stiff, in general, and appears to have lacked the input of a good proofreader and a firm-handed, knowledgeable copy editor. 

The mediocre-to-poor layout of the book is the reason it missed out on a fifth star, but despite those minor complaints, this slim volume (121 pages of content, plus a two-pages-and-a-bit foreword by Tom Watson) is a book that every golfer should read, and that all golfers can take advantage of to improve their game, with a bit of reading, and a bit of practice.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Olympic golf’s Northern California connection – H. Chandler Egan

It has been 112 years since men’s golf was played in the Olympic Games, and on the eve of its return in the Rio Games of 2016, it’s worth looking back at one of the men who claimed the medals the last time around, a man with a strong connection to Northern California golf.
H. Chandler Egan, noted West Coast golf architect, and individual silver medalist in men’s golf at the 1904 Olympic Games.

H. Chandler Egan is a name that is familiar to golf history buffs with an interest in Northern California’s Monterey Peninsula and San Francisco Bay Area golf meccas. Born in Chicago, Illinois, in 1884, Egan attended Harvard University, where he captained the golf team. Egan won the NCAA Individual Golf Championship in 1902, and was a member of the team which won three straight NCAA Division I Golf Championships, from 1902 to 1904.

Egan’s successes in amateur golf outside of the collegiate game included winning the 1902 Western Amateur at Chicago Golf Club – the first 18-hole golf course in the United States – and the 1904 U.S. Amateur at Baltusrol Golf Club, the first of four U.S. Amateurs held at the venerable New Jersey course, which recently hosted its eighth U. S. Open.

When the Olympic Games came to St. Louis, Missouri, in 1904, Egan competed as an individual and as a member of a team from the Western States Golf Association, one of 74 Americans and three Canadians who played for the medals at Glen Echo Country Club in September 1904. Taking home the individual gold in the second and last – until now – men’s golf competition in the Olympic Games was 46-year-old George Lyon, of Canada; Egan took the individual silver, and his team from the WSGA took the team gold.

H. Chandler Egan’s individual silver medal (left) and team gold medal (right) from the 1904 St. Louis Games.
Egan’s Olympic medals were thought to have been lost until they turned up in the autumn of 2016, tucked away on the bottom shelf of a bookcase in the former home of his daughter, and only child, Eleanor, who passed away in 2012 at the age of 101. The medals were discovered, along with a trove of Egan’s other golf memorabilia, when one of Eleanor’s sons, Morris Everett Jr., was cleaning out the house, which is located on the farm near Chagrin Falls, Ohio, where he and his brother grew up.

Chandler Egan’s connection to Northern California golf stems in part from his collaboration and association with revered golf course architect Alister Mackenzie. Mackenzie is best known in the Monterey Peninsula and San Francisco Bay region for designing the Cypress Point Golf Club in the Del Monte Forest (near Pebble Beach Golf Links) and Pasatiempo Golf Club, north across Monterey Bay in the hills above Santa Cruz.

In 1929 Egan took the lead in a partnership with Mackenzie in the renovation of the then 10-year-old Pebble Beach Golf Links layout in preparation for the U.S. Amateur. Egan played in the event (with some advantage over his competitors, we can imagine…), and reached the semifinal round before being eliminated.

That same year Egan worked with Mackenzie and his partner Robert Hunter on the design and construction of the Union League Golf and Country Club (now known as Green Hills Country Club), in the San Francisco Peninsula town of Millbrae. Across the bay in the Oakland Hills, Egan took over the re-design of the Sequoyah Country Club course in 1930, after the death of famed architect Seth Raynor, who passed in 1926 not long after submitting plans for the re-design.

Egan also worked with Dr. Mackenzie on Sharp Park Golf Course, in the coastal town of Pacifica, 10 miles south of San Francisco. A rare publicly owned Mackenzie course, Sharp Park and the Eden Course in St Andrews, Scotland, are the only two seaside public courses designed by Mackenzie. Egan oversaw the construction, in 1929, of this handsome layout, which is situated on partially reclaimed land next to the Pacific Ocean, overlooked by the rugged western face of the Coast Range hills that lie between the Pacific and San Francisco Bay.

Egan is also responsible for one of the most cherished public golf courses in the Monterey Peninsula region, Pacific Grove Golf Links, known as “The Poor Man’s Pebble Beach.”

Opening in May 1932, PG Golf Links was laid out by Egan on land which Del Monte Properties Company owner Samuel F. B. Morse sold to the city of Pacific Grove for a $10 gold piece and a promise to operate it as a public course for at least five years. Lying just inland of Point Piños, the rocky stub jutting out into the Pacific which closes the southern “hook” of Monterey Bay, Egan’s original nine-hole layout was expanded to 18 holes in 1960 with a back nine laid out right on Point Piños by Jack Neville and Douglas Grant, the original architects of Pebble Beach.


As golf returns to the Olympic Games this week, golf fans in the Monterey and San Francisco Bay region can be proud of the area’s connection to the history of Olympic golf, and can still play golf courses which were designed by a man whose name is forever linked to golf and the Olympic Games.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Buick Cascada: a luxury convertible with European style – and room for your golf clubs

Convertibles. If you own one, or have ever owned one, you love ’em; if you haven’t owned one there’s a good chance you have wanted to.

Of course, if you’re a golfer, and you need room for golf bags and maybe a playing partner, a 2+2 convertible with limited trunk space may not be high up on your list the next time you're shopping for a car. If that’s the case, do yourself a favor – open your mind to new possibilities and go look at a Buick Cascada, the first Buick convertible to be sold in the United States in 25 years.

I recently had the opportunity to drive a 2016 Buick Cascada for a week. I drove it around town, took it to the golf course locally, and then drove it on a road trip to Southern California for a golf outing – and loved every minute of it.

As a convertible the Cascada has limited trunk space, and the 2+2 seating means your rear-seat passengers are not going to be stretching their legs limo-style – but if you’re not in the market for a vehicle to carry your entire foursome to the course for a weekend round or on a buddy trip to Tahoe or Monterey, the Cascada may just be the car you’re looking for.

With just me and my golf bag in the car I laid the bag down on the rear seat – which leaves the available trunk space open for a medium-sized suitcase or two. If you have two bags to carry, as I did on one local trip to the golf course, you can stack two bags in the rear seating area, or fold down the rear seatbacks and slide the bags through into the trunk space. For up to two people and two golf bags, the Cascada offers no limitations in carrying capacity.

Comfort on my long drive came thanks to the 8-way power adjustable driver and passenger sport bucket seats. The power lumbar support system allows you to trim the seat to conform perfectly to your back for maximum comfort – a feature I came to appreciate on the 6-hour drives to and from Southern California in the Cascada.

Top-up the Cascada is as quiet as any hardtop, the double-walled soft top doing an excellent job of keeping out noise – and summer heat. Sunny days with mild temperatures are great times to drive with the top down, but when it really heats up outside you’ll want the top up and the air conditioning on. The Cascada handled triple-digit temperatures with ease as I drove through Paso Robles on the way south and over the Grapevine as I returned to the Bay Area, with none of the “skull heating” you get with an old-school, single-thickness ragtop.

When you do decide to drop, or raise, the top, the Cascada makes it simple – you can even do it while the car is in motion. The top can be raised or lowered at speeds up to 31 mph with a simple push or pull on a lever on the center console. The system automatically lowers the windows and positions and secures the top, signaling with an audible “beep” that the top is locked either up or down. It’s a much simpler proposition than dealing with the vinyl and metal-linkage top on my 45-year-old Japanese convertible, that’s for sure…

The new Buick Cascada convertible, built by GM’s European subsidiary, Opel, is a sporty, luxurious drop-top that will not cramp your style whether you are taking a short drive to your local golf course or going on the road with your clubs.
The Cascada is in all respects a luxury 2+2 automobile, with all of the perks and conveniences drivers have come to expect – fully-featured navigation system, sound system that includes satellite radio, and full iPod/iPhone/MP3 player compatibility with Bluetooth connectivity. Convenient steering-wheel-mounted controls allow hands-free phone use with a few buttons on the right side, with full control of the cruise control under your left thumb.

As a driver’s car I found the Cascada to be a real treat. The turbocharged 1.6-liter 4-cylinder engine develops plenty of power, and works well in concert with the smooth-shifting six-speed automatic transmission. The front-wheel drive, four-wheel independent suspension, and 20-inch wheels & low-profile all-season tires delivered a sure-footed and comfortable ride that I found struck just the right balance between ride comfort and handling performance.

A full rundown of the Cascada’s features and specifications can be found at http://www.buick.com/cascada-luxury-convertible/features-specs/trims.html , but here are the highlights:

                                 Starting MSRP    $33,065
                EPA est. mpg – hwy/city       27/20
                                        Seating for     4
           1.6L Turbo 4-cylinder engine     Standard
             4-wheel antilock disc brakes    Standard
        6-speed automatic transmission    Standard
                    Sport-tuned suspension     Standard

Taking full advantage of the cruise control system, and with no wish to rush through my time in the Cascada, I averaged 25.5 mph for my round-trip to the southern reaches of Orange County. The trip included long stretches of level highway and freeway, some entertaining twisty two-lane driving, a long climb up the southern side of Tejon Pass, aka “The Grapevine”, and of course – some top-down cruising along the Pacific Coast Highway through Malibu.

Designed and built by GM’s European subsidiary, Opel, the Cascada brings a touch of Continental sophistication to the Buick line that might surprise car buyers who haven’t looked at the marque in a few years. If you have any doubt that the Cascada will turn heads, consider this: With a BMW i8, at least one AMG Mercedes, and a Maserati parked in the forecourt of the resort where I was staying, the Cascada elicited admiring remarks from the valet who parked the car.


The Cascada is a serious contender for the discerning driver who wants performance and luxury in a fun-to-drive car that will get them to the golf course, or anywhere they go, in style.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Neuroswing personal ball dispenser – lightweight, portable backsaver for driving range practice

The golf equipment landscape is rife with gadgets, gizmos, and gimmicks of all sorts – all accompanied by claims that they will cure your slice, give you more distance off the tee, help you make more putts, etc. Few, if any, are designed solely to make your practice sessions easier—despite the importance of frequent practice in keeping your golf game sharp.

The Neuroswing ball dispenser (www.neuroswing.com) is one device that is designed specifically to help you practice. The Neuroswing’s inventor, Claude Pommereau, suffered from back pain, and the constant bending over and straightening up to tee up balls limited his ability to practice. After extensive research and development, M. Pommereau developed the Neuroswing, a personal ball-dispensing device which eliminates that repetitive strain on the back.

Lightweight and easily assembled, the Neuroswing consists of a tripod base with a pivoting dispensing tube, topped by a rotating ball magazine. The Neuroswing holds 42 golf balls, funneling the balls into six slots in its rotating magazine from a collapsible, flower-petal-like basket at the top of the unit. Balls are dispensed by reaching out and pulling the dispensing tube toward you with your club; as the tube pivots out the next ball in line clears the built-in stop, dropping down the tube to the mat or turf. When you’ve emptied a slot in the magazine, you rotate the next one into place and keep going.


The Neuroswing personal ball dispenser puts 42 golf balls at your disposal with no bending over to tee up the ball.
My prototype Neuroswing came with four flexible tees, ranging in height from 1 inch to 2-1/2 inches, which are designed to poke up through the hole in a range mat. The tees are just like the tees that you normally find at a range, only the Neuroswing tees are equipped with a flexible, molded-in stop which prevents the ball from hopping off the tee when it is dropped from the dispenser.

I took the unit to the range at a local course with mats, set it up, filled it with golf balls, and popped a tee up through the hole in the range mat. This course has pretty thick mats, so I had to use the longest tee that came with the unit, and while it set the ball at a good height for my driver swing, some of the “tee it high and let it fly” types might be wishing for a taller tee.

There’s a red dot sticker on the main tube which indicates the proper height at which to set the unit, but that will vary depending upon the height of the tee you are using. It took a little bit of fussing with the height adjustment to get the ball to land on the tee and stay, and a few misfires happened because the ball dropped hard enough to flex the stop out of the way and hop off of the tee, but in general, once it was set it operated very smoothly.

I’ll tell you, it sure was nice to just reach out, pull the dispensing tube and drop another ball onto the tee, rather than bending over and teeing up a ball every time. Even though my range time with the Neuroswing was centered around evaluating its operation, I found my attention focusing on my golf swing and not the product I was testing, because I didn’t have to think about the Neuroswing—just reach out, pull the tube, drop a ball, and hit it.

The unit which I tested is an advanced prototype, and the folks at Neuroswing informed me of some planned improvements when they sent it to me. Here’s how on-the-ball they are: the few, and very minor, nits I had with the prototype are already being addressed. They are already planning modifications to the delivery piece to improve teeing precision, modification of the stop strip on the tees to be more rigid, and there will be three red height-adjustment dots, for the different height tees, printed directly on the main tube, instead of the sticker which was used on the prototype.

Bottom line: the Neuroswing ball dispenser is lightweight, easy to assemble and set up, easy to break down and stow in its storage bag—and most important of all, it works as advertised. I can’t think of much more that could be asked of a product.

Neuroswing will be launched on Kickstarter (www.kickstarter.com) beginning October 14, 2014. The goal of Neuroswing’s Kickstarter initiative is to fund the first production run of its prototype product and to provide for additional research-and-development efforts. Those interested in learning more about Neuroswing’s Kickstarter launch are invited to visit www.kickstarter.com and www.neuroswing.com.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Golf Channel needs a new approach in coverage of First Tee Open


Champions Tour golf is a hard sell at the best of times. Save for the presence of some of the more recognizable big names of the past—or recent past—from the PGA Tour, TV coverage of the 50+ tour is drawing only hardcore golf fans – and even then, probably only the 50+ fans, golfers who are of an age with the players, and remember their glory days.
When it comes to the Champion Tour’s Nature Valley First Tee Open at Pebble Beach, the venue itself is a draw for viewers, especially with the schedule change to a late-September time slot. While mid-summer often sees the Monterey Peninsula blanketed in fog, early autumn is a time of sparkling blue skies and mild to surprisingly warm temperatures. Beauty shots of glassy waves breaking on Carmel Beach and sea otters frolicking in the kelp, interspersed between shots of towering drives down Pebble’s verdant fairways, lend a Nature Channel look to the coverage, reminiscent of the coverage of the AT&T in good-weather years.
Why then, does Golf Channel burden its coverage of the Nature Valley First Tee Open with an endless succession of interview spots consisting of on-course commentator Billy Ray Brown asking successive pairs of junior and pro players the same questions: (To the junior player) “What does the First Tee mean to you?” or “What is your favorite Core Value?” and (to the pro) “What impresses you most about this young person?”, or Dave Marr Jr. soliciting heart-felt personal life stories from the juniors.
Another cliché button that is being leaned on by the commentators, both in the trailer and out on the course, is “When I was 15, I sure wasn’t playing golf at Pebble Beach on national TV!” or words to that effect. Granted, many of these kids are very accomplished—there was more than one 4.0+ GPA among this year’s group of players, and many of them are talented in other fields beyond golf—and they don’t need to be artificially elevated by the Golf Channel announcers by the use of this device.
Golf fans tune in to the broadcast coverage of a golf tournament to see golf being played. In much the same way that dedicated runners will watch an elite marathon race on TV, because their own experiences give them an appreciation for what the world-class athletes are achieving, golfers watch the pros—even the 50+ pros—to see the best in the world playing the game at a high level. While the interview spots are a nice interval-filler, in measured doses, and appropriate given the unique nature of this event, they are over-played and interfere with the action that viewers tune in to see – golf shots.
Don’t get me wrong, the First Tee is a great program, and the format—teams of talented junior players partnered with experienced senior golfers—is a great hook for this tournament, but I think that Golf Channel is over-egging the pudding, and turning off their core viewers, by continually cutting to the interview spots instead of concentrating on the great golf being played by both the pros and the juniors. I imagine that legions of viewers (if the viewership numbers even rate the use of the term “legion”) are clicking off after about the third interview, which is a shame, because the tournament deserves viewers.
My suggestions: 1) Trim the interviews by half, 2) Vet the kids who are to be interviewed, beforehand. Most of these kids are articulate and well-spoken, but not all of them are, so find out which kids can carry an on-camera interview and which ones can’t – and, finally – find Dave Marr Jr something else to do. His over-earnest on-camera style is grating at the best of times, but he lapses into a sycophantic stupor at this event that is painful to watch. He’s not the on-camera personality his late father was, and he never will be.