Sunday, February 8, 2009

The Golf Buddy GPS distance finder

The Golf Buddy
There are several GPS units that give you accurate golf course distances on the market now. I have used two of them; Sky caddie and Golf Buddy. They both give you very similar information, but there are some major differences that are important. I have been trying the Golf Buddy for a couple weeks now-- on several courses and I like it much better than Sky Caddie.

First of all, the purchase costs are quite similar. However the Golf Buddy requires no annual subscription fee and no need to continually download courses from your computer. They are all stored right there in the device (or up in cyberspace, somewhere). I started at Firerock in Fountain Hills AZ and turned it on. It took a few minutes to boot up, then it recognized Firerock and asked me: Are you at
Firerock CC. I hit the toggle switch yes and in a minute it loaded up the first hole. After that it automatically forwarded to each successive hole and gave me distances to front, middle and back of green, in an easy to read font (I like it when it’s easy to read)

You can also toggle and get distances to water and bunkers and hazards, but for my eyes, which now need reading glasses, it was difficult to read, I could do it with a bit of squinting but it would be such an improvement if they could increase that type size.

You can also pick your favorite layup distance (say it’s a 100 yard Pitching wedge) and it will tell you the distance to that anytime you want it.

It has a rechargeable battery and seems to hold the charge for at least 1 if not 2 rounds.

The website has a complete list of courses that are on Golf Buddy and I found a couple that are not on it, The Champions course at TPC Scottsdale and Vista Verde. You can email golf buddy and they say they will add them, which I did a week ago and I am still waiting to hear what happened to my request. As of this writing I have not heard back from them, so I don’t know how well that system is set up yet.

It has features that allow you to hit “Mark” and determine how far you hit any shot that you hit. It also has a feature where you can mark an unknown course you are on and up load it to their system. Don’t let any of this bother you because they seem to have so many courses on their system that its hard to imagine there are many that you won’t find.
For example in Arizona alone, they have approx 300 listed on the web. It also has a feature where you can keep your score, but I have not tried this yet.

It also comes with an instructional DVD from Rick Smith, who endorses the product, but is also one of the top golf instructors in the U.S.

For price and convenience, I would take this over any other global positioning device I have played so far. For more info visit

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Ritz Carlton Golf Club at Dove Mountain

On Mon Feb 2 I played in the media day at the brand new Ritz- Carlton Golf Club in Marana AZ, just outside of Tucson.
This course is a Jack Nicklaus signature (the signature means he was personally involved in the design) and just opened for play less that 2 weeks ago, so it is in pristine condition. For the tour it plays over 7800 yards with a rating of 77.1 and a slope if 147 (the hardest slope that is issued by the USGA is 151 to the best of my knowledge). It does have 5 sets of tees, however, and it can be played as short as 5300 yards. It is beautifully nestled in the surrounding Tortolita Mountain Range which is dotted with hundreds of majestic saguaro cactus, just up the road from The Gallery at Dove Mountain.

The WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship will be played there later this month (that is a field of the top 64 players in the world) and as Wade Dunagan told us in the press conference, “This course was specifically designed with Match play in mind” That means difficult, with lots of carries over desert washes and significant undulation in the greens. Some of the carries are not too bad (like off the tees) but at least half the holes have desert washes near the greens, which means you better carry the ball all the way over them. Many of them are uphill greens, requiring an additional club for the distance and making it difficult to see the green surfaces and thus hard to judge the pin positions.

Unlike many desert courses, this place has real rough, which they are growing out for the tour stop, but I like that better than having balls kick out into the desert, even though it surely reduced the roll and was not easy to hit from.

Having said all that, it is truly a wonderful place for golf, both to play and will be wonderful to watch the match play there as well. The match play will be like a mini global summit, with players from 19 countries. As of this writing, they have not ruled out Tiger showing up to defend his title.

I played with 3 other golf writers, (just because they are golf writers, don’t assume that makes them good golfers) although one of them was clearly a single digit handicapper. We all enjoyed the course, although there was speculation in the group about average players liking it once, but being reluctant to play it many times over, because of its difficulty. That remains to be seen. I know I would like to go back there, even from 6800 yard tees we played, I shot 84 which is good for me. We played 18 holes (the 18 on which the Match Play will take place) but there are 9 more holes that we didn’t get to play and 9 more are scheduled to be built in 2010.

It is currently open to the public at $225.00 per round but when the hotel opens this fall it is intended to be for members and hotel guests only. If you want to join its going to be $125,000 initiation and dues of $750 per month plus $25 usage fee for every round of golf. Its gonna take an improving economy to make that be attractive..

The 45,000 square foot clubhouse is as luxurous as you can imagine, with a huge spa coming, and they have hired great chefs and the food is magnificent. My favorite item on the menu is “Short rib sliders” which are to die for and I am sure will become the signature dish of the club.

The hotel will have 250 rooms and 25 casitas and there are 450 home sites for sale. I took a tour of one of the model homes and there are 450 lots avail with homes ranging from $1.25 million to $3 million. Even though you will have $750 - $1100 per month HOA dues with your home you get all the service you want including the hotel concierge and, I am told, room service from the hotel 24 hours a day. Not bad eh?