Sunday, May 31, 2009

Nice Guys Can Finish 1st

Every week on Tour, a giant novelty check is cashed by the champion. Sometimes, the champ is a chump (hello VJ Singh who, after winning the Buick Open a few years back, refused to greet the event's volunteers at their post-tourney appreciation party). More often than not, however, I'm encouraged to see a good guy win the trophy.

This week's Crowne Plaza Invitational winner is not exception, as Steve Stricker went extra holes to claim the title. For a top flight player to stay true to his snowbelt (Wisconsin) roots, develop his game by hitting from a shed into the snow throughout winter, and maintain a very humble demeanor throughout his stellar career - I find it all quite impressive.

Way to go Strick the Stick - may you enjoy many more! (too bad about the jacket, but you can't have the check AND fashion all at once)

Friday, May 29, 2009

Remote, Removed, Refined, Remarkable

Golf Digest's list of the Top 100 Places You Can Play includes a wonderful course in Roscommon - Forest Dunes. Instead of giving you a shot-by-shot recounting of my Friday round at this pristine layout (wayyyy too many shots to recount), let me share some scattered thoughts (the only kind I seem to have these days) about the marvelous design and challenge at Forest Dunes.
  • For all those who complain about slow greens, welcome to nirvana. The FDunes greens are rolling a bit above 11 and will give you every bit of challenge you pretend you want. In other words, get through your round in under 36 putts and we'll be impressed!
  • Spend some time before (and maybe after) your round at the extensive practice facility on property. I haven't seen its equal in this state and often find myself thinking I would be better served to practice for a couple hours instead of revealing my need for practice throughout the round. Then again, I don't really want to give up the chance to play these amazing holes.
  • The front 9 brings the forest into play, the back introduces the dunes. By the time you finish, there will be no doubt how the name came about.
  • The clubhouse is simply stunning.
  • Awards? You want awards? Here they are!
    • Golf Digest – Best rates for 36 holes of golf a day - Peak Season, #4 of Top 20 Americas Greatest Public Courses
    • Golf Week Magazine Top Public Access Courses in Michigan - # 2 Forest Dunes
    • Michigan Golf - Top 100 Golf Courses in Michigan - # 2 Forest Dunes
    • Golf Week Magazine – Americas Top 100 Residential Golf Courses - # 27 Forest Dunes
    • Golf Week Magazine Top 100 Modern Courses – #84 Forest Dunes
    • Golf Digest – 100 Greatest Public Courses – #20 Forest Dunes
  • There isn't much to do away from the course here, so be sure and book one of the fantastic stay/play packages. The house you'll stay in is better than the one you live in, and the value of the package gives you unlimited golf, meals, lodging, range access - for less than 2 round of golf would cost. It's a great deal!
OK, enough from me on Forest Dunes. If you've been here, please share your thoughts on the course and experience. I need to go practice!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Take Your Pick - Champions or Ladies?

The great state of Michigan is struggling in a mighty way these days. Keeping businesses and entire industries from nailing plywood over the doors and going away forever is becoming more difficult, and in many cases, a losing battle. The headlines every day are filled with the sort of news none of us enjoys reading.

But what if things were different? What if economic news was bright and cheery? What if layoffs and closures were not a concern? What if we no longer feared the 2009 Buick Open would be the final chapter in that wonderful annual event...and instead were looking to add another professional Tour stop to the summer schedule?

There was a time not so long ago that the PGA Tour, the LPGA, and the Champions Tour all held a place on the competition calendar in Michigan. The PGA was the anchor event with the Buick Open. The Champions made an annual appearance in both Grand Rapids and Dearborn. The ladies came to the state capitol for the Oldsmobile Classic.

So the question of the day is this: if you were put in charge of resurrecting one of the events, which would you choose? Champions or LPGA?

Which is the hotter commodity these days?
Which would draw more support from sponsors and fans?

Before you reflexively answer "Gulbis! Wie! Bring in the ladies!" keep in mind that some of the "rookies" on the Champions Tour are household names in golf and still in prime competitive form.

There's a strong case to be made for the drawing power of both which way would you go?

We'll share your responses on MGL Radio next week, so put on your commissioner's hat and make your case!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Walking vs. Riding

Even with all the emphasis on fitness in our society, it seems to me like more and more golfers hunker down for a 4-hour cart ride instead of trying the game on foot. I recently received an amazing product from TaylorMade - a full size carry bag that weighed in at under 4 pounds.

Along with the technological breakthroughs in what used to be cumbersome golf bags that made walking a feat of Herculean strength, footwear is now better than ever and makes the 4+ mile trek quite comfortable.

On those occasions when a cart is inevitable (sometimes even required), try your best to be the "passenger" and walk from tee to green. Not only will the exercise be beneficial, I believe it helps your game maintain a better rhythm and allows you a better feel for the course itself.

So, here's the challenge to all who have been velcroed to their cart seats for years - try 3 rounds where you walk. Don't want to carry the bag? No problem! The newest pull carts are fantastic and will vaporize the entire excuse of "I don't want to lug that heavy bag around."

Let me know how you do after those 3 rounds...enjoy!

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Helping The Troops Through Golf

It's Memorial Day 2009 and we come to that somewhat uncomfortable position of trying to pretend golf really matters on a day like this when we all know it really doesn't in the grand scheme of things. It can't possibly matter when compared to the selfless sacrifice made by so many who serve our nation around the world, giving their lives and limbs to provide the very freedom that allows us to 3-putt and then whine about it as if the entire world hangs in the balance of our double bogey.

On Saturday's edition of MGL Radio, I interview Major Ed Pulido (pictured with me at last year's Ryder Cup) from the Folds of Honor Foundation. Ed lost a leg in battle and serves as an inspiration to everyone who has the honor of meeting him.

This charity is part of Patriot Golf Day and works tirelessly to support the families of those who have fallen. Much of the support for FOH comes from the world of golf and to me the ONLY way to truly thank our troops and their families through golf is for each one of us to take part in hosting or playing in a fund raiser for them.

Please treat this Memorial Day as more than just a free Monday. Please treat it as more than an excuse to eat a brat or huge burger. Please realize the sacrifices behind the day and do something special to honor the fallen. And if you can do it through golf, all the better.

Thank you to those who served...and those who still bravely represent this nation.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

The Sounds of Golf in the Morning

I am not a morning person, to say the least. If the Lord wanted us to see the sunrise, I believe he would have put it at noon. Having said that, there is something wonderfully special about being at a golf course as the sun starts its day and the birds wake up with their distinctive sounds. As I write this, my broadcast location for this morning's edition of MGL Radio is just outside the clubhouse at The Emerald in St John's.

It's a friendly, down to earth course where the vehicles in the parking lot aren't as important as the friends that meet here for their Saturday morning game...where the course offers a stout challenge, especially when you get to the Tour quality greens that are rolling somewhere between 11 and 12 on the Stimp. Better be sharp with the flat stick or your fine ball striking that got you to the dance floor will be quickly forgotten.

We're on the air in 30 minutes with a live broadcast from The Emerald...a place I would strongly encourage you to put on your schedule this season!


Friday, May 22, 2009

Recent MGL Story from the Bay City Times: Michigan Golf Live celebrates 10 years of fairways and airwaves by Lee Thompson

Bill Hobson can talk golf all day.

But his real knack is getting people to listen.

Hobson took a somewhat absurd concept - golf on the radio - and spun it into a decade-long success story. With Michigan Golf Live, Hobson has had the ear of the golf world.

And he always talks a good game.

"I was interested in doing a show that would celebrate the game," said Hobson. "And not the brain-surgery, watch-the-grass-grow kind of golf show, but the kind of show that people would leave saying 'That was good. That was fun.'

"There's nothing more boring than hearing somebody tell you about their round, shot for shot for shot... We're not about that. We try to keep things upbeat and positive and entertaining."

The format apparently has appeal, as Michigan Golf Live celebrates its 10-year anniversary this season. What began as a low-scale venture has blossomed into a 26-week radio program broadcast on 11 stations throughout the state along with a weekly television show aired on Fox Sports Net Detroit.

Hobson, a Clio native and University of Michigan graduate, became known on the local sports scene in the 1990s as the football and basketball broadcaster for Saginaw Valley State University. But the beckon of golf was something he could not resist - and he knew he was not alone.

"I've always found golf to be the most loving, confounding and addicting game you can play," he said. "And it's unlike any other sport out there.

"You're not ever going to dunk over Rasheed, you're never going to be like Tom Brady, and you're never going to hit a 90 mph fastball. But golf is the one sport where everybody has moments where they are as good as the guys on TV. Everybody hits that one good shot, and it lets you dream a little bit."

Hobson has brought his own little piece of the dream to life with Michigan Golf Life. The radio program, which originates from a different golf locale each week, broadcasts live at WSGW 100.5-FM from 9-11 a.m. each Saturday from April through September.

Hobson takes his "Show in a box" around the state, spotlighting Michigan courses and the people who call them home. Each radio show includes interviews with PGA Tour members and other golf dignitaries as well as hot-topic discussions, a chat with a swing doctor, listener call-ins as well as contests and giveaways.

"The most fun is getting out and seeing friends in the industry," Hobson said. "We set up shop at their place and they sort of get to co-host the show that week. We might grab a random golfer and find out what they think about the course - that's only backfired on us once or twice. But it's that kind of thing that makes it fun."

The television program is a 30-minute travelogue, profiling destination courses such as Black Lake, Oakland Hills, Treetops and others. Stops are planned this month for Forest Dunes, Arcadia Bluffs, The Grand Hotel and Bucks Run.

Shows are aired on FSN-Detroit at 9:30 a.m. Saturdays, 9 a.m. Sundays and 1:30 p.m. Tuesdays and can also be viewed online at

"The audience has invested their trust in us," Hobson said. "We're not shilling for crap. We're not a ShamWow commercial. Golfers want a credible voice because there are so many choices out there.

"In our state, there are courses that people have never heard of that are just stunning and don't cost $9 million to play. And I've always encouraged people to try a new course every year. Don't just throw a dart at the map, but do your homework, find a course that sounds interesting and get out and try it."

During the week, Hobson operates Hobson Media, a consulting firm which helps homeless shelters raise funds. But he always looks forward to his weekends, when he hits the road and hits the golf course - and uses the radio or television to tell golfers throughout Michigan all about it.

"After 10 years, it's the only show of its kind in this state," he said. "And I'm proud of the fact that we stuck around for awhile."

Thursday, May 21, 2009

MGL's Breathtaking Trip To New Mexico

Looking for the golf experience of a lifetime? The MGL team just returned from an amazing trip to New Mexico where we (Bill and Matt) joined golf writers from across the nation for 3 days of golf at Black Mesa Golf Club and lodging at Ojo Caliente Resort & Spa.

At the risk of gushing too much, it seemed like every vista on the Black Mesa layout was taken straight from a Successories poster. Most of the scenes etched in my mind need to be captioned with "Strive for Success" or some other motivational them, since every swing was greeted by a knee-knocking demand for accuracy and the challenge of maintaining focus in the face of such tremendous beauty surrounding in 360 degree panaroma.

It's not often a shot missing the fairway is greeted by a sign warning of "Rattlesnake Hazard," but I imagine if midwest golfers were confronted by warnings like that more often, we might spend more time on the practice tee in an effort to avoid making a cameo on Discovery Channel's "Snakebitten At The Turn."
Suffice to say, the Black Mesa Golf Course was wonderful and even though my scores escalated each day (poor putting knows no time zones), it was a treat to play the same course all 3 days of our trip because Black Mesa offered a different challenge every round.

As for our lodging, Ojo Caliente is unlike any resort/spa I have ever visited. Steeped in history and holding fast to the thought that healing can be found in natural springs, Ojo offers a most unique experience in a rustic, adobe-themed historic site. Visiting their website is the best way to get a feel for the place because my words will come up short of truly portraying how wonderful Ojo is.

Add to the mix an amazing tour of the Puye Cliffs, where we saw the cave homes of Native Americans and learned more about the rich history of the area during a one hour tour than I did in all my years of school, and golfers looking for a unique trip need to shake out of the Myrtle Beach/Disney/North Carolina itineraries so commonly chosen by default...and instead book your flight to New Mexico!