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How Golf & Body is defining premium golf instruction and training in NYC

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It’s a great truism of the game that golfers are always looking to improve. “No one will ever have golf under his thumb,” Bobby Jones said 100 years ago. And we can imagine the Scots of the Middle Ages smacking their featheries around farmlands felt the same way.

Regarding improvement, then, the futile effort to get golf under one’s thumb: What’s the best way to get better in the third millennium? Lessons with a PGA pro? Digging it out of the dirt? Scrolling through YouTube golf instruction videos until you find one that speaks to you?

Perhaps.

And while there may not be a best way to get better for all, there is a facility in New York City that has pulled out all the stops in an effort to offer those with the means the full buffet of improvement options.

Forgetting about the fact that Golf & Body is a beautiful, modern, comfortably appointed private club a block from Madison Square Garden in Midtown Manhattan, let’s try and think back to a point of origin, likely the same point of departure for club founder, Tom Schiff, an avid golfer who retired from a successful career in the finance sector to pursue business and real estate opportunities.

bigputtinggreenImagine, for a moment, that you wanted to offer golfers in the world’s foremost metropolis everything they needed to improve their golf games…And we’re talking about a very comprehensive variant of “everything.”

How would you do it?

Assuming we’re looking at the golfer in the holistic, team-based manner of today’s touring pros, beginning with an assessment of a golfer’s physical capabilities and limitations, overall fitness, and golf swing/game would seem to be the sensible point of departure.

Such is the approach Golf & Body takes. New members are given a comprehensive 25-test physical and assessment overseen by Director of Sports Medicine & Wellness Bradley Borne, D.C. The assessment evaluates a golfer’s strength, mobility, flexibility and potential restrictions that might impact the golf swing.

And after said assessment, what then? Well, broadly speaking, you’d likely want to implement a plan for improving the golfer’s body and his/her golf game. And to do so, you’d like to rely on industry-leading technologies whenever possible.

Golf-Body-Simulator This, again, is Golf & Body’s approach. Golfers are given a plan for individual instruction, which is carried out by Darrell Kestner, Director of Golf, and Head Professional Ronnie McDougall, a Golf Digest Top 25 teacher in New York, and their eminently qualified staff. The facility is equipped with seven state-of-the-art simulators outfitted with TrackMan, as well as High Definition Golf. And of course, SAM PuttLab analysis is available as well, as is a comprehensive fitting center, run by True Spec Golf (which, incidentally, is accessible to non-members). 

And from the “body” standpoint? You guessed it: One-on-one personal training in a fully loaded gym setting with every variety of equipment imaginable, as well as the full spectrum of massage, chiropractic and manual therapy, pre- and post-workout bodywork, acupuncture, etc. In short, from both “golf” and “body” perspectives: It’s all there…and perhaps then some.

Golf-and-body-gym

In a Bloomberg piece on the club, member George Zahringer, a 10-time Metropolitan Golf Association player of the year, conveyed how Golf & Body works for him.

“I use the rehab proactively. Stretching and soft-tissue work to sort of stay ahead of the curve from a preventive perspective. If there were such a thing as an Olympic training golf facility indoors, you’d be hard-pressed to think it would be much different than the Golf & Body facilities.”

High praise from a high-level amateur and an individual articulation of what the facility is after: A Tour pro-quality team to help amateurs play their best golf.

Of course, with a range of food and drink offerings at the cafe and on-site business meetings for the finance industry-heavy membership, there’s no shortage of that element of the private club experience. And while they declined to discuss initiation, dues, or membership figures when I visited last month, the same Bloomberg piece quoted above from 2014 indicated those figures are a $5,000 initiation fee and annual membership cost of $7,500. And the limited membership likely stands in the 150-to-200 range.

While what’s going on at 883 Avenue of the Americas may not be best for all golfers — and indeed, a club membership is likely outside the budget of many golfers — Golf & Body’s approach is the element of interest for casual observers.

sim4Whether the Golf & Body model is scalable and repeatable remains to be seen (indeed, we don’t know whether Schiff and company are looking to broaden the scope of the enterprise). But what the club is putting forth is what they believe to be the best way to help golfers improve in 2016 and a means for the membership to integrate golf into a healthy, active mode of being late into life.

Such is the place’s value within the industry beyond being “Manhattan’s Premier Country Club,” as their tagline suggests: All the resources under one roof for serious golfers to pursue their goals in earnest. We’ll watch for a ripple effect among those looking to avoid injury, extend their playing days, and, of course, shave strokes off their games.   

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13 Comments

13 Comments

  1. ooffa

    May 26, 2016 at 7:05 pm

    Looks like a place you;d visit once then say, meh.

  2. foo

    May 26, 2016 at 6:50 pm

    They used to have a deal for BMW owners to get free time there, but I just checked and it seems to be no longer available.

  3. RJ

    May 26, 2016 at 1:48 pm

    Well it is New York…. Land is at a premium so the cost per sq. ft is outrageous any ways. It look amazing nonetheless.

  4. mlamb

    May 26, 2016 at 9:25 am

    I live in Manhattan – looked at this place last year. Outrageous fees for a practice facility.

  5. Weekend Duffer

    May 26, 2016 at 9:05 am

    What serious golfer would be living in Manhattan?

  6. Jordan G

    May 26, 2016 at 9:01 am

    Such a cool idea, its a shame that the initiation and fees are thought the roof.. rightfully so

    • Christen_the_sloop

      May 26, 2016 at 10:34 am

      What kind of fees?

      • Ben Alberstadt

        May 26, 2016 at 1:10 pm

        “And while they declined to discuss initiation, dues, or membership figures when I visited last month, the same Bloomberg piece quoted above from 2014 indicated those figures are a $5,000 initiation fee and annual membership cost of $7,500. And the limited membership likely stands in the 150-to-200 range.”

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Courses

Brough Creek National: The backyard course you wish you’d built

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Raise your hand if you’ve ever wanted a golf course in your backyard.

Of course you have.

Now leave your hand raised if you actually rolled up your sleeves and made it happen.

Among the very few people left with their hands in the air are Ben Hotaling, Zach Brough, Evan Bissell, and Mark Robinson, the driving force behind Brough Creek National. That’s right. These guys are building a golf course in their backyard. From scratch.

The true beginnings of golf aren’t well-documented, but one thing’s for sure: people were playing golf at least 400 years before the first working internal combustion engine. Long before golf course architecture was a multi-million dollar investment before the first dime of revenue trickled in, courses were laid down largely by hand using the natural movement of the land. In that same spirit, Ben happened to notice that there was one particular shot in their backyard that reminded him of the Road Hole at St. Andrews, as it plays over their barn and to a green situated right in front of the road to the property.

Ben ultimately convinced his roommate Zach, whose family has owned the land for some time, that they should clear some trees and put in a makeshift green for their Road Hole. That was in 2015 and, while that’s technically the genesis of Brough Creek National, it was in 2018 when they started sharing their ideas in No Laying Up’s online forum section that things escalated rather quickly. Bouncing ideas off their fellow compatriots revealed great natural setups for a Biarritz/punch bowl combination, a Redan, and more. Before they knew it, they had a 630-yard, 7-hole golf course criss-crossing through the three-acre property in Kansas City, KS.

Road Hole green at Brough Creek National

Perhaps the most impressive aspect of Brough Creek National is that it has operated solely off of donations, which started with a weed eater here and a can of herbicide there and has since grown to a recent GoFundMe campaign of $15,000. These donations have allowed them to purchase grass seed and other vital equipment to see the project through. The community aspect of Brough Creek National is so important to what they’re trying to achieve that anyone who provides their name and address on the website is sent a free new membership packet (I happen to be member #209). Included are some stickers, a ballmark, and a welcome letter that states (among other things),

“We are proud to have you as a lifetime national member at our exclusive, member-owned (and maintained) club…The vision of Brough Creek National is to have a place for community golf modeled around fun for members and guests from all golfing backgrounds…Your dues will be assessed at the rate of $0.00 annually.”

Ben further emphasizes the importance of the community aspect by saying:

“I think Brough Creek stands for community. It’s like-minded individuals coming together and supporting something they’re proud of. It’s a smart, intriguing golf course, but it’s ultimately about making friends and that’s what matters. The quality of the golf course is almost inconsequential because the real purpose is to assemble this brotherhood of people who are passionate about the game of golf. We think it’s done in a way that sheds the elitist stigma that golf has often struggled with and we’re almost mocking that in a playful way.”

“I’m not going to tell anyone they have to experience the game a certain way, but we try to go above and beyond to be approachable and welcoming because we think that’s more important than status. Golf’s not a money-making business. It’s just not. So, why don’t we just take that out of it, come together as a community, and create something we can all be proud of?”

If we’re all having an honest moment, not even Ben and Zach know exactly how this project is going to evolve, but one thing’s for sure: an emphasis on maximizing fun for the highest number of the golfing community is never a bad place to start. Those who believe par and total yardage are irrelevant in determining the amount of fun available to them should be in for a treat. To watch the project unfold, check out www.someguysbackyard.com and follow @someguysbackyrd on Twitter and @someguysbackyard on Instagram.

Below is an overview of the course, narrated by Ben Hotaling

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Opinion & Analysis

Brooks Koepka’s coach, Claude Harmon III, on BK’s PGA Championship victory, working with the game’s best, and more

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Coming fresh off the celebration of Brooks Koepka’s fourth major win, Koepka’s long-time coach, Claude Harmon III chatted with Johnny Wunder as he was just about to hop on a plane back to The Floridian.

Here are the highlights of their conversation.

JW: Claude how you doin’?

CH3: Uh, I’m hungover!

JW: Brooks is walking off the 18th green after another major triumph. What is the first thing you guys said to each other?

CH3: Well, obviously there was a lot of emotion in that moment, but he told me it was the happiest he has ever been on the golf course, and after everything he’s done, that’s a big statement.

For him to put in all the hard work and to fight as hard as he did on a golf course that completely changed on the last day and come out on top makes me extremely grateful to be a part of the team that supports that. I believe he will find out more about himself from getting through the final nine holes than he would if he would have had a parade coming in and won by seven.

JW: That’s a great point. It seems like he is more apt to win even more majors based on that back nine than he would have otherwise.

CH3: I don’t think if you were watching it on TV you could have any appreciation for just how difficult it was. What DJ did yesterday was impossible and having that up ahead applies even more pressure to a leader. Ricky Elliott and BK are looking at the scoreboard and seeing DJ and 3 under and having no idea how that’s even possible. It was that tough.

JW: I think Brooks stubbornness is part of his true greatness. Would you agree?

CH3: His perspective constantly was “I’m still in the lead and someone is going to have to catch me and this golf course is extremely difficult.” Even after all the bogeys on the back side, he still controlled the lead and kept that mantra. The crowd yelling “DJ! DJ!” actually didn’t piss him off, it woke him up and made him want to hit a good drive and show the crowd he was still leading.

JW: How did yesterday compare to Shinnecock? 

CH3: At Shinnecock it was an interesting situation because Fleetwood…posted before BK was even off and in that case, Brooks said it was like playing against a ghost. No matter what he does, Tommy isn’t going to make any more mistakes or change in any way. That’s a tough scenario when you are staring at a number that won’t move for 5 1/2 hours.

JW: What do Brooks and DJ have that people can learn from.

CH3: It’s funny because we hear these cliches in sports psychology all the time, but I believe those two are the living embodiment of ONE SHOT AT A TIME. They don’t look back. Ever.

JW: Speaking on DJ. I’m watching the back nine and thinking to myself this guy is playing out of his mind, it was literally a battle of the best.

CH3: We talk about it all the time in golf, what we always want is the two best players in the world going toe to toe. We had that yesterday and I hope as time goes by we can look at this final round as a battle we will be talking about for a long time. Best players in the world on a tough but fair golf course with the ultimate prize on the line. In situations like this when there is this kind of pressure and these stakes you can look at the leaderboard and see the cream rising to the top. Rory, DJ, Jordan all with good rounds on a really tough day.

JW: You met Brooks in 2013, he showed up in his mom’s beat up Explorer and don’t know him at all. What was your first impression?

CH3: I was introduced to him by Pete Uihlein, his old roommate, and at first glance, he had raw talent and a ton of speed, but no plan. At the time he was hitting a draw and was uncomfortable with that. He told me his current coach wanted him to hit draws, and I said well that’s your fault, not your coach’s. It’s the player’s responsibility to manage himself and the information he’s comfortable with. When we worked on him getting into a fade, he started to click and he turned to me and said “it can’t be this easy.” My reply was “it has to be this easy!” At that level, under the gun, it better be easy. [Golf is] tough enough already.

JW: What were his career goals early on?

CH3: Even then, he wanted to be an elite player who won multiple majors. I was coaching Ernie Els at the time who had just won his fourth major and Brooks was on the Challenge Tour. He was committed to getting there but needed guidance, someone with a plan that wasn’t just his golf swing. Obviously, it worked out.

JW: What would you say is the Harmon secret to getting the best players in the world to peak as often as you guys do?

CH3: My dad told me: “What you don’t say is just as important as what you do say.” At the Masters this year Brooks, in practice, was really struggling. Look, it’s Masters week and I’m not going to go in there and start putting thoughts in his head. At that point, if this is a shuttle launch, we are in the cockpit and there is no turning back. My dad always had his guys have a go-to shot that they “knew” they could hit. Brooks calls it his “fairway finder” which is a squeeze off fade with a driver. I told him to hit a couple of those knowing it might spur some confidence. After a few absolutely flushed missiles, his confidence went up and he turned to me and said…”fairway finder all day.” The rest is history.

JW: You coach DJ, Brooks, Jimmy Walker and Rickie. Describe each in one word

JW: DJ
CH3: Natural

JW: Brooks
CH3: Tough MF

JW: Rickie
CH3: Genuine

JW: Jimmy
CH3: Soulful

JW: Thanks old friend
CH3: Talk soon, thanks man.

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Podcasts

On Spec: Swing weight is overrated

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A deep dive into one of the most talked about but truly misunderstood aspects of club building: swing weight. What it really means, and why it isn’t the end all be all for a set of clubs.

Check out the full podcast on SoundCloud below, or click here to listen on iTunes or here to listen on Spotify.

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