Holy Sand Hills pictures and write up

I don’t know Matt, the golfing blogger from St. Catherine’s, Ontario, Canada and Golf Club Atlas poster. But I do know that he has written about 1,000,000 words on his trip this past summer to Sand Hills Golf Club, the gem in Mullen, Neb.

I haven’t played this Coore and Crenshaw gem, but it seems like an awesome place. If Ihad a golf bucket list — maybe I should put one together — this would be on it.

Matt wrote so much about Sand Hills — both on the experience and the golf course  — that he needed to do it in two posts.

The first post is here. In it, he talks about how cool the place is and has a number of pictures of the non-golf portions of the place.

The second post went up today. I gave it only a quick glance and it looks really good. So many pictures. Looks fantastic.

So give our Canadian friend some traffic. The pictures are tremendous. And considering it is snowing — again — these photos might be the only thing to keep me going until spring.

Trying to embrace winter

I do realize that I live in Minneapolis. I know that we experience that thing called winter. I knew what I was getting myself into when I moved back to Minnesota from North Carolina in 2000.

I shouldn’t complain about it. I know that. But I don’t love winter. I can live with the snow, but I loathe the cold. The past month has been filled with especially brutal weekends.

When I returned from Christmas in Phoenix, I vowed to myself that I was going to again break out my cross-country skis that I bought a few years ago. When I moved from being a sports reporter to being a metro reporter, my winter workload was decreased. I worked five days a week instead of six or seven and had almost every weekend off.

Early that winter, I bought a pair of Atomic cross-country skis. I skied a pretty good amount as a kid growing up in the Willmar metroplex. Starting as an elementary school kid, our family would go up and ski at Sibley State Park on a very regular basis. I don’t think we went every weekend, but it seemed like we would go at least a couple of times a month.

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Required Reading: How Raf prepares

I feel almost guilty posting this story. I am a fan of Bill Raftery, the college hoops color guy who has a knack of being interesting, informative and fully as hell at the same time.

The Wall Street Journal brings it with a nice and interesting piece on Raf\’s preparation for the games he works.

And it is work. I don’t think many fans and viewers understand the challenge that is live TV. It is tough work describing what you see in real time with your own eyes and providing instant analysis.

Anyway, it’s worth a read.

Required Reading: Jan 27

Two good ones today from the last 24 hours. Both under in the subject area of college sports.

The first is an espn.com story about Nate Fleming, one of the people who died a decade ago when an Oklahoma State basketball plane crashed on the way back from a game at Colorado. Written by the very talented Tom Friend, this is just a fantastic piece.  Just fantastic.

Second is a column from Dennis Dodd of cbssports.com about the number of deaths in the last decade around college football workouts. Obviously this is a story now because of the news that a dozen Iowa football players are currently hospitalized after a tough workout.

One-and-done golf pick: Torrey Pines

This week is the first week of the very fun fantasy golf league I’m in where you pick one golfer each week. The catch and fun is that you can only a golfer once in the year.

My pick: Bill Haas. I didn’t want a guy who was making his season debut, but I also didn’t want somebody who has played in all three events this season. Haas has played twice, has been very solid and lost in a playoff last week. He was a fairly popular pick, but that’s OK this early in the year.

A midnight golf club release? Genius or crazy?

The envelope with a return address at from Dustin Johnson and TaylorMade. Inside was a letter from the guy who claims he isn’t really dating Natalie Gulbis. “Dustin” talked about how much he likes the new R11 driver and how great it is. Along with the letter — which featured a nice use of variable data — was an invitation to attend a launch event for the new R11 driver at Golf Galaxy.

That in itself isn’t that surprising. In recent equipment cycles, there has been more and more hype around the release of new clubs. Sometimes it is the new hot set of irons — there was a lot of hype around the initial launch of Titleist’s AP1 and AP2 irons — but usually it is around the driver.

The difference in this mailing was in the details. In honor of the R11 — the new driver with the white head that you’ve certainly seen ads for if you’ve watched anything on The Golf Channel — Golf Galaxy will be open from midnight until 2 a.m. on Feb. 4, the release date.

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First look: TaylorMade Burner 2.0 irons

I have been meaning to write about these for a while, but have now been inspired by watching a bunch of the PGA Tour’s Bob Hope Classic this weekend.

While I change golf equipment on a semi-regular basis, it usually revolves around the driver and the putter. The driver is always on probation and I’ll do almost anything to hit it further and straighter off of the tee. I have a bit more loyalty to my putter, but I do get to the point where I feel like I can’t make anything with a putter and have to make a switch.

I haven’t changed irons nearly as frequently. I think some of it is that there is greater financial cost to switching irons. But my game is very much based on distance control. If I have 163 yards to the pin, I want to know exactly what clubs to change.

Over the past year, I have changed my irons a couple of times. I went from my set of Callway X-18s to, eventually, a set of Nike VR Full Cavity irons. The Nikes had a good look and were very solid, but I wanted something that was a bit more forgiving. While I do fine on the golf course and many people think I would be just fine with a set of forged Mizunos or the like, I have always been a game improvement iron kind of guy. I’ve had a bunch of different sets of Pings, etc.

This fall, there was tremendous buzz about the new (and allegedly improved) Burner 2.0 irons. I’ve been somewhat intrigued by what TaylorMade is doing with their irons. Essentially the strategy is that each iron is an individual club and that they all need to be designed differently. I don’t know if it is 100 percent legit, but it at least makes some sense.

The more I read about these irons, the more I was intrigued. I like the idea of a game improvement iron that doesn’t have a sole that seems to be two inches wide (hello G15). That just doesn’t really work that well for me, someone who sweeps the ball off the turf. And while I realize that some of the distance gains are the result of jacked up lofts, I do like the idea of hitting the ball further.

The reality is that I’m not the longest hitter on the planet. I figured that if I could pick up one club in distance (i.e. hitting a 6 iron where I used to hit a 5 iron), that would help me.

So I bought into the hype and pulled the trigger. In early December, I called my pro and put in an order for a new set of Burner 2.0s. I got a 4-W, 1 degree upright with some upgraded grips on them. It was a little bit of a leap of faith.

The clubs arrived two days before my departure to Phoenix and I immediately took them to one of the indoor/outdoor driving ranges here to break them in a little bit. I then used them for four rounds in Arizona.

My initial reaction: They are good. Quite good actually. I thought the irons were definitely longer than my previous irons. They were also straighter. I tend to move the ball from right to left and the 2.0s would get to maximum height and then just kind of fall a few yards to the left.

They are going to require some getting used to. I think much of it was just the fact that I had gone six or seven weeks without playing when I arrived in Phoenix. I need reps to hit the ball well. Because of that, I’m not sure whether some of my inconsistency with the irons was me or the sticks.

I think some time on the range and on the golf course when the weather improves will improve things. I need to figure out just how far these things go and just how much less these things move right-to-left. When I was in Arizona, I frequently couldn’t get myself to aim where I needed to. I couldn’t believe that these were so straight. As a result, I ended up right of my target.

I also need to get used to the little bit more length of these, especially with the long irons.

I really liked the short irons and felt comfortable with them. The mid-irons were pretty good. I never got comfortable with the 4-iron. It certainly didn’t help that there was something loose in the shaft of the club. Need to also figure out what that was, as that wasn’t awesome quality control from the folks at TM.

I think I’m close to getting into a regular routine of hitting balls in preparation for the upcoming season. Hoping that by spring I’ll really be loving them.