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Chip Shots Great summer golf adventures

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When you have a passion for something, whether it's a sport or other interest, it can help inform what you do on trips or even in your own backyard. I've had a few of these experiences this summer, and they are both things I won't soon forget.

A visit to Pebble Beach

My wife and I are both avid golfers and even enjoy watching professional golf on TV. Last year we attended the PGA Travelers Championship in Cromwell, Connecticut and had a great time watching tour stars like Bubba Watson and Zach Johnson.

This past June, we took a trip to California; the plan was to fly in to San Diego, then take the Pacific Coast Highway all the way to northern California, where we would visit old friends. One of our planned stops was Monterey, which is very close to the Pebble Beach area. I didn't realize this until we were actually in Pebble Beach, but it is more than the iconic course known as Pebble Beach Golf Links.

It is actually a corporation that has created a mini-municipality that features the famous 17-Mile Drive, residences and a variety of world-class golf courses like The Links at Spanish Bay and Spyglass Hill.

The day we spent in the Pebble Beach area happened to be Fathers' Day, and it was gorgeous; sunny with temperatures in the 70s. In that one day we took in the sights of the 17-mile drive and even went on a horseback ride that wove through a forest, near parts of Spyglass Hill and across a few beaches.

While both of those activities were awesome, I have to say I was most excited to visit Pebble Beach Golf Links. I've watched tournaments played on the famous course for years, and couldn't wait to actually see it in person. Make no mistake - I didn't go there to play as the cost for a round adds up to about $600 a person! No, I just wanted to spend some time enjoying the beauty of the course and its surroundings.

When we first arrived we spent some time at the first tee, watching golfers hit their first drives of the day on the par-4 first hole, which was a slightly uphill dogleg to the right. You could feel the nervous excitement emanating from the players, many of whom were probably checking Pebble Beach off their bucket list.

After that, we strolled through the shops that were adjacent to the first tee, and ended up eating brunch on the deck that overlooks the legendary par-5 18th hole that runs along the ocean. As I sat there, I just couldn't take my eyes off that fairway and hole, and watched many players of all abilities finish their rounds.

Overall, I was struck by how accessible the course and grounds felt and how welcoming the place was. I thought it would be much stuffier and highbrow, but I watched many families with young children actually walking over to watch people make their putts on the 18th hole. They could get to within 40 or 50 feet of the actual green!

So while we couldn't afford to actually play Pebble Beach, my wife and I got to enjoy simply being there and watching others fulfill a lifelong dream - including many fathers and sons on Fathers' Day.

Hanging out with the world's best pro disc golfer

The weekend we returned from our California trip, I attended something called the McBeast Challenge at Pleasant Hill Disc Golf in Scarborough, Maine. The Challenge is named after the world's number-one professional disc golfer, Paul McBeth. His nickname is McBeast, and it's not because of his stature, as he is actually a fairly average-sized person; around 5'10' and slim.

He earned the moniker because he is a beast on the course. McBeth has been the dominant professional disc golfer for the past few years, winning tournaments and setting scoring records wherever he plays. He and another professional disc golfer, top-ten player Nate Sexton, are both sponsored by the industry's biggest disc maker, Innova. They spend some of their time traveling the country in a specialized motor home hosting McBeast Challenges at local courses as a way to promote Innova products and grow the sport.

The Challenge is a tournament played with two Innova discs that are given to each player, along with a putter of the player's choosing. I was nervous before playing the round, as the course is on a former golf course, so it is very open and rewards stronger arms who can throw the discs further. That is certainly NOT my strengththink of me as a Zach Johnson-type of player competing with the Dustin Johnsons of the world. I have to be accurate, putt well and not make many mistakes to compete. Well, the wind was strong and many of the stronger throwers seemed to struggle with their control. In the meantime, I kept to my game plan and quietly compiled a score worthy of fifth place!

The McBeast Challenge also features a special driving clinic put on by Paul and Nate for all participants. And one of the coolest things is that at the end of the day Paul and Nate play what is known as a 'safari round' on the course. That's where instead of following the course as it is laid out, they make it up as they go along, playing from the second tee across to hole six, for example. At any rate, it is a casual round and is a blast to watch as two of the world's best display the technique and power that has allowed them to be at the top of their sport.

A few other highlights from this experience was getting Paul and Nate to sign my two new Innova discs, and having the chance to do an interview with Nate. Here's what Nate had to say about the state of disc golf in Maine:

'I think the Maine disc golf scene is great. I didn't know exactly what to expect; it seems like Maine has a great pay-to-play culture going, which is a good thing in a way, because you get so many nice manicured courses and people who really take ownership of that space. I think that is a good thing for the players, as long as the fees are reasonable, which it seems like they are. Everyone we've met has been really nice and really enthusiastic, so obviously Maine's a place we hope to come back to in the future.'

Since professional disc golf is relatively new compared to the PGA, the players are far more accessible, so this made for a truly exciting day for me and all of the players who participated in the McBeast Challenge. So, thanks Paul and Nate for an awesome day!

The time spent at Pebble Beach, as well as the day spent at the McBeast Challenge were two of the best days of my summer. I hope I continue to be involved with both sports and experience more adventures in the future. Who knows, maybe someday I'll get to walk down the 18th fairway at Pebble Beach!

A guy can dream

1 comment

  • Comment Link Kathie Lowenstein Friday, 13 October 2017 18:07 posted by Kathie Lowenstein

    Hi there, just wanted to let you know that we had a great holiday at Marina de Bolnuevo in July of this year (http://www.marinadebolnuevo.co.uk/about-bolnuevo). We flew into San Javier and hired a car from the airport for the short drive to Bolnuevo. The beaches are fantastic, most of them awarded the Blue Flag. The restaurents were great, with paella on the beach a highlight and managed a day on the nudist beach there. Very liberating. We also visited the Big Guns, The Roman Mines and the Sand sculptures. Will be returning there again in 2018. Look forward to catching up with you at Marina de Bolnuevo in the next few months. Thanks for reading Niall.

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