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Donnie’s Friday Focus: Jimmy Clay front-nine

The Jimmy Clay/Roy Kizer golf complex is far and away my favorite place for public golf in Austin. All in one place you have two 18-hole courses, two putting greens, a driving range with lights for night practice and a short/practice course consisting of four par 3’s and its own separate putting green and practice bunker.

The two courses are both moderately priced, Jimmy Clay features a more American country club style with narrow, tree-lined fairways and Roy Kizer is a wide open links-style course and a bit more expensive. If you don’t have time for an entire round, it’s only $5 to practice on the short course and you can play it and use the putting green and practice bunker as much as you like. Great deal.

Today I’m going to focus on Jimmy Clay because I find the layout more challenging due to the doglegged, tree-line fairways. I have no problem with links-style golf, I just find Jimmy Clay is a bit more difficult to navigate if you’re new to the course due to the abundance of trees.

#1 par 4 385 yds.
The first hole is a sharp dogleg left with water all along the left side. You may occasionally see golfers intentionally hit the ball over the water and on to the ninth fairway to get a better, closer angle to the green. Even if you don’t feel it’s your place to correct them, notice that there are white stakes along the outside of the water hazard indicating that playing that route is illegal, out-of-bounds, and the golfer should be taking a stroke and hitting his third shot from the tee-box. Your approach shot must be straight because the water still lurks on the left and thick trees pose trouble on your right. The green slopes back to front and features two bunkers, one on the left and one on the right. Finding yourself in these bunkers isn’t terrible. It’s better than being in the water or punching out of the trees.

#2 par 3 134 yds.
This is short par three into an hourglass green that gets pretty narrow around the neck. The surface itself is fairly flat but does roll of the back of the green down the hill. It’s much better to be short, below the hole than to be long or in either bunker guarding the front-right and back-left of the green. Club selection is key on this hole. Get a good feel for what the wind is doing before you tee-off.

From the blue tees, #3 might be the most difficult driving hole of all the public courses in Austin.

#3 par 4 361 yds.
From the blue tees, this might be the most difficult driving hole of all the public courses in Austin. The narrow fairway doglegs sharply to the right and both sides are heavily guarded by thick trees. If you push your drive right, blast it. There is a clearing in the trees. You have to hit it pretty far to get there but trust me it’s there and you’ll have an open shot to the green. Whatever you do, don’t go left. The fairway itself slopes from right to left toward the trees and there’s a steep run-off along the tree-line that will cause your ball to roll down into the creek. The green itself is turtlebacked and not terribly difficult to put on. Getting started off the tee is the problem.

#4 par 5 540 yds.
From the tee it looks like you don’t have much room on your drive. The truth is, there’s plenty of room on your right once you get past the immediate trees right in front of you. Don’t go left. The trees are too think and you won’t be able to find your ball. Aim toward the pair of bunkers on top of the hill and hit a slight draw if you have one. From there it’s a straight shot, or two depending on how aggressive you are, to an elevated green that runs off the back. The surface is two-tiered and is guarded by two front bunkers. Whatever tier the pin is on that day is where you want to be.

#5 par 3 98 yds.
A 98 yd. par 3 with no bunkers or water should be a walk in the park, but for some reason this hole drives me crazy. It’s all about distance and wind. The green itself is narrow from front to back and runs off if you’re short or long. You’re definitely going to have a wedge of some sort in your hand for this shot, but which wedge to chose is always my problem. Study the wind, trust your distances, decide on a club and strike it clean. If you land on the green, putting is cake on this hole. If you go long and find yourself at the bottom of the hill, you’re not alone. I’ve been there plenty. Just be careful on your chip back up to the green. The last thing you want is to go long and run off the front of the green and be in the same position you are now, from the other side.

It sure looks pretty, but the island green on #6 can play tricks with your mind.

#6 par 4 291 yds.
If you’ve never played here before, you can’t see the green or the water from the tee-box. Just know that they are definitely in reach. Oh yeah and by the way, the green is an island. Keep the driver in your bag, grab a long iron and hit a straight shot. From there you’ll be left with a 100 yd. wedge into the island. If you go left off the tee, you’ll lose your ball in the woods. If you go right, you’ll be able to find your ball, but will have no shot at reaching the island green in two. So here you are, 100 yds. away from the green with a wedge in your hand. Under any other circumstances you can hit this green 10-out-of-10 times. There’s just something about island greens that cause you to doubt yourself. Fight through it. Trust your swing. If you’re undecided when you address the ball, step back and go through your routine again. Forget about where the pin is and aim for the middle of the green. Bragging rights for the rest of the round are yours for the taking.

#7 par 5 468 yds.
Number 7 is a short par 5 in terms of distance, only 468 yds. long, but it’s all uphill. No real hazard threats on this hole, just put together two or three good, solid shots and work your way up the hill. The green is elevated, guarded by two bunkers and has a ridge that runs through the middle of the surface. The green drops off back-right and off the front so landing in a bunker on your second or third shot is actually better than catching the run-off and rolling all the way down the hill. Don’t be tempted by a flagstick that’s tucked near one of those runoffs. Aim for the middle of the green and give yourself an opportunity at birdie or par.

Walking away with par on #8 is just as good as making birdie on other holes.

#8 par 4 425 yds.
This par 4 is long, doglegs hard the left and is extremely narrow. Off the tee, you have to be either straight of slightly off to the right. If you go left, you’ll have absolutely no chance of reaching the green in two. Your approach shot demands precision because of the thick trees on the left and right of the fairway. There are two bunkers on the front-left and front-right that you must clear but don’t hit it too far, because the green runs off the back and right down the hill. I’m not going to lie, this is a difficult hole. Walking away with par is a great victory.

#9 par 4 386 yds.
You’ll see people take a lot of different angles off the tee on #9. The safest route is just to the left of the cart-path with a slight fade back to the right. A lot of players will aim to blast it over the two trees right in front of you, but be careful about going that route. There is a wooden fence just to the right of the trees that is out of bounds. If you push the ball even a little to the right, you’ll be O.B. and teeing off again on with your third shot. The green itself is elevated and guarded by a deep bunker that stretches across the front of the green. Once I get my distance, I always use one club higher than what I would normally hit because of the green’s elevation. From a perception standpoint, it’s misleading because it looks a lot closer than it really is. The surface slopes from back to front and rolls of the left and right of the green. You want to be on the front, putting uphill rather than on the back putting down, but make sure you don’t leave your approach too short. That bunker is deep and can be extremely unpleasant.

Next Friday: back-nine at Jimmy Clay G.C.

Selig’s “special committee” swings and misses

MLB says they plan to condense the postseason, but their actions are keeping business as usual.

MLB announced yesterday they made a change to the postseason format. As I read the headline, I immediately hoped the league had made some of the changes I discussed in an earlier post, most notably earlier start times. Instead, what did we get?

An off-day between games 4 and 5 of the league championship series (LCS) was eliminated, and another off-day between the division series and LCS was added.

Are you serious? After all the talk about tightening the postseason, this is what the “special committee” Bud Selig created came up with?

I’m not a baseball hater. I believe the MLB postseason is exciting and filled with drama. It’s the reward at the end of a marathon season. The sad thing is the league stretches the postseason out as long as they can and milk it for everything it’s worth. After 162 games where teams play nearly everyday, all the sudden fans, and players have to endure off-days in-between postseason games.

Staggered scheduling with off-days allows TV execs. to schedule every game in primetime for maximum ratings, I understand that. But I also know that, more than any other sport, baseball players are creatures of habit. By October, they are not only used to playing daily, but prefer it.

I’m just saying, playing multiple games at once, especially in the early rounds has proven to be a huge success in the past. Just look at the excitement for March Madness or New Year’s Day Bowls before college football got greedy and made the same mistake MLB does.

Don’t make us wait a month after the start of the playoffs to see a a new champion crowned. Capitalize on the excitement and drama of the postseason and give fans all the baseball they can handle on a daily basis. Making players and fans wait doesn’t build the excitement. It hurts the product on the field and the fans relationship with it.

The more Tiger speaks, the more we learn nothing

Every time Tiger opens his mouth, he passes on another opportunity to end this saga by telling us what happened on Thanksgiving weekend.

If Woods continues to dodge the question of what exactly transpired the night of Nov. 28 by claiming it’s a private matter, there will never be any closure to this story regardless of how many Masters or any other major championships he racks up for the rest of his career.

Last Sunday, Woods conducted his first two interviews since the incident which aired on ESPN (above) and the Golf Channel. However, when the question arose that everyone wants to know, he maintained his desire for privacy.

Before you buy the line that we are “seeing the real Tiger now”, realize the fact that Tiger hired former White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer to dictate his moves with the media. It is rumored that Fleischer recently parted ways with Tiger, but Woods’ reluctance to come clean on his own leads me to one conclusion: we shouldn’t believe a word that comes out of his mouth.

You do remember Ari Fleischer don’t you? Let me remind you. After serving for former President George W. Bush during the Iraq War and advising Mark McGwire during his steroid admission, he now works as a media consultant for college football’s BCS. Not the most trustworthy list of clients Tiger was a part of.

We’re not “seeing the real Tiger now”. We’re seeing a carefully constructed media perception of a man whose reputation has been in damage control mode since Thanksgiving.

The “real” Tiger is the obsessive-compulsive, micro-managing, controlling man who dominated his sport and truly believed he was indestructible.

Tiger should be opening up and rebuilding his trust, not hiring PR gurus like Ari Fleischer to construct media perceptions of the 'new Tiger'.
photo by: Associated Press

Can people change? Yes. But until Tiger reveals the truth about what transpired, this saga will never die and Woods will never be forgiven by the American people. It’s impossible to forgive someone if you don’t know exactly what you are forgiving them for.

The fact that Tiger continues to believe what happened that night is private and should not be discussed, tells me that Tiger has learned nothing through this whole experience. If you want us to know the real Tiger then do us all a favor and open up and show yourself without the help of PR flak-masters like Ari Fleischer.

Until you do, this saga will inevitably continue and we’ll continue to not believe a word that comes out of your mouth.

NCAA: leave the tourney alone

Cinderella teams like Saint Mary's capture the hearts of sports fans every March with dramatic upset victories.
photo by: Getty Images


Dear NCAA,

I know you’re basking in your own glory, coming off what could be argued the most exciting first two rounds in recent NCAA tournament history. But before you use the current popularity of March Madness as momentum to persuade fans like myself that expanding the tournament to 96 teams is a good idea, I’m going to let you in on a little secret.

Just because something is great, doesn’t mean more of it is necessarily better.

The NCAA college basketball tournament is the closest thing we have to a perfect postseason in sports. There’s no BCS, no first round byes, no home and away games, just one single-game elimination bracket of the 65 best teams in the country. Win, you move on. Lose, you go home.

The greedy, money hungry suits in your organization must be licking their chops at the prospect of making even more money by expanding the tournament from 65 to 96 teams in the near future. More games equal more drama, which produce higher ratings, meaning more ad revenue, etc. right? Wrong.

Pick up the phone and ask the NCAA bowl committee how the turnout, ratings and revenue for the Beef ‘O’ Brady’s St. Petersburg Bowl and San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl were last year. Any college football fan will tell you, it’s definitely possible to have way too many teams playing in the postseason.

Whether you add 32 more mid-major teams, power conference teams, or a combination of both, the point is neither will better the tournament. We want to see mid-majors like Northern Iowa and St. Mary’s upset powerhouses Kansas and Villanova. We don’t want to see mid-majors play each other. Part of what makes upsets so special is that no one rationally gives these smaller schools a chance to win against the elite.

No one cares if David beats another David. But when David slays the mighty Goliath, it’s not only newsworthy, it’s legendary.

We certainly don’t want to see average teams from power conferences be rewarded for season-long mediocracy with a trip to the big dance. An invitation to the tournament should be a reward for a great season, not a hand-out to a team that stumbled down the stretch.

Once again your tournament has been great, creating story-lines, upsets and buzzer-beaters that we will remember for the rest of our lives. Do us a favor. Don’t be blinded by the money, leave March Madness the way it is and let us enjoy it like we always have.

Sincerely,

Donnie Hogan
lifelong sports fanatic

Goldmine for cheap green’s fees in Austin

Golfing can be expensive.

I’m a full-time college student. I feel your pain.

Golf512 is to local golf what other companies like Orbitz, Cheap Tickets and Expedia are to traveling. Golf512 is a free service, that compiles unbooked tee-times from nearly every public course in the Austin area and offers those times to subscribers at a fraction of the cost.

Did I mention this service is free.

Not only will you end up frequently paying half the price everyone else does for the same course, the site will also e-mail you the best deals daily. Once you find a tee-time you like, click on the time and the site will immediately prompt you to insert your credit or debit card information to book the tee-time.

Another luxury of this service is if bad weather shuts down the course on the day of your tee-time, golf512 issues a full refund on your card. I recently encountered this over spring break. I called the local customer support number, gave my last name and tee-time and was issued a full refund the next day.

I have used this service religiously for the last year and have saved hundreds of dollars in the process. Golf512 has even expanded in the state to Houston and Dallas/Fort Worth area golf courses as well.

Pine Forest G.C. in Bastrop, TX, is a beautiful course in the Hill Country and frequently featured on golf512.

Travelling? They also offer discounted tee-times in Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Missouri, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Wisconsin and Washington D.C.

Part of what makes golfing great is that no two courses are the same. The more courses you play, the more you appreciate the intricacies that each has to offer. With golf512 you can experience a plethora of courses whether you’re in your hometown or not.

And you don’t have to break the bank to do it.

NBA Jam Wii: EA Sports puts new touch on old classic

LeBron James' athletic skill set is tailor-made for a game like NBA Jam.
Photo courtesy of EA Sports


“Boomshakalaka!”
“He’s heating up.”
“He’s on fire!”

To some of you, those phrases mean nothing. To others, including myself, those phrases instantly transport us back to countless childhood hours of video game bliss.

NBA Jam first debuted in 1993 as an arcade-style, two-player basketball game and made its way to the Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis gaming platforms a year later changing the landscape of basketball simulation video games forever.

When I saw the first screen shots (above left) of EA Sports’ new NBA Jam Wii, due to release sometime this year, I immediately remembered my favorite past duos and dreamed about matchup possibilities in the current, star-studded NBA.

Top 5 old-school duos:

    5. New York Knicks: Patrick Ewing & John Starks
    4: Charlotte Hornets: Larry Johnson & Alonzo Mourning
    3: Phoenix Suns: Charles Barkley & Kevin Johnson
    2: Atlanta Hawks: Dominique Wilkins & Stacey Augmon
    1: Utah Jazz: Karl Malone & John Stockton

Top 5 wish list for NBA Jam Wii:

    5. Los Angeles Lakers: Kobe Bryant & Ron Artest
    4. Denver Nuggets: Chauncey Billups & Carmelo Anthony
    3. Boston Celtics: Paul Pierce & Kevin Garnett
    2. Cleveland Cavaliers: LeBron James & Shaquille O’Neal
    1. Orlando Magic: Vince Carter & Dwight Howard

Regardless of who EA decides to pair up in the classic remake, I think the game will be extremely successful. The NBA Jam brand created emotional bonds with a lot of kids in the early ’90s and that should be easy to capitalize on today.

The actual players will change. But the trash-talk, friendly wagers and arcade-style beat downs will be exactly the way we remember them.