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Golf: "Swing 2005"

Dave Lucas and Craig Stoltz
NewsChannel 8 Anchor and Washington Post Health Editor
Wednesday, April 20, 2005; 12:00 PM

Dave Lucas, NewsChannel 8 anchor and host of Capital Golf Weekly, and Craig Stoltz, editor of The Washington Post's health section, were online Wednesday, April 20, at Noon ET to answer your questions about the Washington, D.C.-metro area's local golf scene and to talk about The Post's special section, "Swing 2005: A Guide to Washington Area Golf."

"Swing 2005" highlights a printable course map online, descriptions of the most scenic holes around the Washington, D.C.,-metro area, and tips and tricks to improve your game.

The transcript follows.

Editor's Note: Washingtonpost.com moderators retain editorial control over Live Online discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests and hosts; guests and hosts can decline to answer questions.


Craig Stoltz: Good afternoon, golf fans, and welcome to our online discussion about local golf.

Today we published Swing, the Post's annual guide to golf (if you haven't found it yet, dig back into the classified section, behind the Food section. Anything worth having is worth working for, I say).

I'm delighted to be sharing the microphone today with Dave Lucas, NewsChannel8 morning anchor and, more to the point, host of the channel's Capital Golf Weekly program. Dave wrote a story for us today in Swing about his Toughest Hole competition; we have the story and the video on our local golf guide site. (See the link above.)

Dave's got a butter-smooth swing (I've seen it on his show) and knows the local golf scene like Tiger Woods knows Augusta. I'm editor of Swing, and, let's say, an *enthusiastic* golfer. (Four years into the adventure, with much to learn.)

Ask us or share your comments on local courses, tough holes, Swing, Capital Golf Weekly. . .anything about the sport we all love and hate, but mostly love.


Bristow, Va.: Hey Guys, Checked out the Golf 2005 information ... looks real good, especially for someone relatively new to the area. Thanks a lot. Do either of you know of any Par 3 courses around, preferably in Virginia, but open to either the District or Maryland? Thanks a lot!

Craig Stoltz: Hi Bristow, thanks for joining us. Today's 9-hole guide includes all the par-3s in the area. I'm partial to two nine-holers:

* Hilltop Golf Club in Alexandria. Not a par-3--in fact, quite a challenge, though it has no really long holes. Since it's built on landfill it's treeless --the Scottish style, as they say--and offers spectacular views.

* In Maryland live near and often play, with my kids, Needwood's executive course. Has two par-4s, but most holes are under 200 yards from the blues, and there's one fun water carry over a pond.

Anyone else out there care to share their favorite par-3s or nine-holers?


Potomac, Md.: I was invited to a golf outing at a course in MD last week and had a terrible time. With that said, I am trying to plan a golf tournament in VA. Any suggestions as to where to play?

Dave Lucas: I'm a big fan of Stonewall GC in Prince William county. It's on the shores of Lake Manassas, just down from The Robert Trent Jones masterpiece, and is a worthy challenge. Farther South on I-95 is Augustine which you ought to play whatever the reason. Finally, Westfields runs very well organized events, and I think that's more than half the battle.


washingtonpost.com: Thank you both for joining us online today. Craig, what do you hope readers will learn from "Swing 2005: A Guide to Washington Area Golf"? How did you determine what information to include in the guide?

Craig Stoltz: Why funny you should ask. When we launched Swing, I drew inspiration from something I read that said most golfers play over 80 percent of their rounds at their home course. Given that we have about sixty public and daily-fee courses just in the counties closest to D.C., we should let people know about all their options. So I hope folks will realize they have lots of good options, and we let them know what we can about price and quality.

Also, we aim Swing at the typical golfer--not the 20 percent of golfers who regularly score below 90 (sorry, but that's a genuine fact), but at the whole rough bunch of us who shoot in the 90s, 100s, 110s, etc. You'll notice our publication, unlike a lot of golf pubs, is aimed pretty broadly.


washingtonpost.com: Dave, can you explain the kinds of information you discuss in your show, Capital Golf Weekly?

Dave Lucas: We try to cover the waterfront to mix my metaphores. We look at local courses, but also travel to regional must play destinations. We also keep a close eye on the latest clubs and ball products. This week for example, we'll take a closer look at Titleist's brand new 905 model drivers. Unlike many club makers Titleist doesn't bring new things to the market each year, and when they do it's news. We also try to analyze golf issues. One thing I'd love to hear from the other folks today is about the USGA's fairly naked attempt to get ball makers to think about making limited distance balls.


Washington, D.C.: For someone who can't afford golf lessons, can you recommend any golf instruction videos? Thanks.

Dave Lucas: There are a couple of video lessons I can recommend. One is the X-factor revisited by Jim McLean. He came up with this notion of turning around a couple of body axis years ago, but a lot of folks have muddied that water, even misapplied his theory, so he did a brand new take, and it makes a lot of sense. The other is a brand new reissue of the How To Play Golf movie house short subjects Bobby Jones made in the 30's. They've been digitally renewed, and look even better than the big screen versions. Yes, this is old school instruction, but there are some truths that transcend time.


Brad in Arlington: I am new in town and was wondering if you knew about a few local courses that offer season passes at somewhat reasonable rates? By reasonable, I mean under $1,000. Thank you.

Craig Stoltz: Hi Brad,

I know of a couple:

Virginia Player's Pass gives you discounts and a few free rounds at Pleasant Valley, South Riding and Lee's Hill for $300, I think,

Cross Creek and Renditions in Maryland have a membership plan, but I think it's over $2,000 for the season.

Anybody else know of others?


Arlington, Va.: Any driving ranges close the city that allow you to hit off of grass? Hitting off of mats is not a good way to improve your iron game.

Dave Lucas: There are a few, Hilltop GC in Alexandria is one that comes to mind. Just remember grass ranges are expensive, and you can practice iron shots off the mats, I was doing it two weeks ago at Pinehurst #2.


washingtonpost.com: What advice would each of you give to residents new to the D.C. metro-area who are looking to play golf during the weekends, but don't know what course to go to?

Craig Stoltz: 1. Go out as far away from the city as you can; crowds diminish significantly the farther out you get.

2. Play in the afternoon. Weekend tee times fill up quickly, and if you're not a great player you'll get pressure from the group behind often.

3. Try something new. The interactive version of Swing allows you to create a list of courses based on the number of diamonds each gets, price and geography. Pick your county or an adjacent one, depending on your ambition and your money look at price and quality, and pick a course you haven't played. There's great variety out there.


Washington, D.C.: I submitted this question to Steve Loesher but probably too late to get an answer so I am wondering what you two think. Is Nike doing the average weekend golfer any good by recommending, "If you play the game of golf, don't play safe, don't be timid, just play ..."?

Dave Lucas: There's real worry in the golf industry right now about Growing the Game. Last year 1 million people tried golf for the first time, but 1.2 million were giving it up. I talked to Nike's new GM Cindy Davis -- a local woman by the way, big Redskins fan, she's very concerned new players, and women especially are intimidated by the formality of the game. My guess is she's firmly behind this idea, and frankly, if it gets more people playing, so am I.


Annandale, Va.: Hi, Guys, thanks for being here today.

I've heard about a course in PG county called Renditions, and was wondering if you had any knowledge or opinion not only of this course in particular, but of the concept of 18 'greatest holes'? I've never played one of these courses, and was wondering if it's a decent bang for the buck for a just-below-bogey golfer.

Thanks, and keep it in the short stuff!

Dave Lucas: As a rule, I don't like the replica courses, but I've made a big exception for Renditions. I've played several of the real holes they've re-created, and they are very accurate. And after you see all the chaos number 17 at TPC Sawgrass did, you feel pretty good about getting away with 3 at the exact model at Renditions.


Washington, D.C.: I have never played golf before, but it's always something I've wanted to try. How should I start -- literally -- from the beginning?

Craig Stoltz: Hi Washington, you're a brave soul. Welcome to the great brotherhood of joy and sorrow!

Four years ago I had to answer this question for myself and made several bad decisions. Here they are:

1. No lessons during year one. Ingrained many, many bad habits.

2. Bad instructor, year 2. I sensed he was a blockhead who wasn't a good teacher when we met, but I didn't have the wherewithal to find someone else. Things went badly. He actually insulted me, at one point telling me his female students hit it farther than I did and I had to do something about that. I am not making that up. And yes--here comes the hate mail--he was PGA.

3. Reading too many golf magazines and books for playing tips. Golfers who are good love Ben Hogan's book. It's not a good book for beginners. Trying random tips only hurts--a good teacher will know which drills to give you in which order based on what you're doing and your stage.

That's my .02. Godspeed. Toss out the scorecard for the first year. Have fun. Enjoy your good shots. Forget the bad ones.


Fairfax, Va.: Can you recommend some golf schools or camps (aside from the Nike Learning Center at Reston) in the area? Thanks.

Craig Stoltz: A very popular one in Northern Virginia is the Every Body Golf School. As the name implies, they welcome newcomers and folks of all levels. They have facilities at several Va. courses.

In Maryland: I know people are positive about the teaching at Needwood, but I have no experience personally with that.

I take lessons at White Flint Golf Center on Rockville Pike. They have a system of their own called RYG (
Raise Your Game) that works very well for me. I'm coming along.

Anyone else out there have suggestions?


Arlington, Va.: What are some good vacation spots I could go to that have nice golf courses? Any ideas? I'm thinking somewhere south, but am open to suggestions. Thanks!

Dave Lucas: As a southerner, I'll ask, how far South do you care to go? Just 5 hours south of the beltway is Pinehurst, and it's not an exaggeration to call the village the American St. Andrews. They'll play the US Open there in a few weeks, but there more than a dozen courses within a few miles that are all worthy of your consideration.
Then there's South Carolina: a hundred courses around Myrtle Beach, lovely Kiawah and Wild Dunes in Charleston, Harbor Town at Hilton Head. Georgia's Sea Island resort is Ole' South at its best, and The World Golf Hall of Fame in St. Augustine Florida is worth the trip. All that, and I'm just scratching the surface.


Washington, D.C.: What's your take on the current overcapacity of golf courses? Do you think prices will come down at all? And do you think buying a home in a golf community is a good idea? Pretty random questions but any take you have on them would be appreciated, thanks.

Dave Lucas: I think you're seeing the results of overbuilding right now. There are simply too many courses chasing the same number of players as 5 years ago. Fees are down at many places, especially daily fee courses farther out from the Beltway. I'm told, it's now much easier to get weekend tee times at many places, and there are all kinds of 2 for 1 and 3 for 4 deals.


Reston, Va.: I've played golf for three summers now, and while I've improved and am no longer a beginner, I by no means consider myself "good" and have yet to break 100. My question is this: how good should someone be before they try to head to a course on their own, likely to be paired up with a group of 3 or 2 players. Thanks.

Craig Stoltz: Hi Reston,

Hey, I've been there and suffered my share of painful mismatches with strangers.

Start with par-3s and nine-holers (see today's Swing for a list). You'll find more developing players there. Any of the public courses are also more forgiving of members of The Century Club, as I like to call those of us who linger near 100. *Don't* play a fancy daily-fee course. Just don't.

When you go, introduce yourself and without a lot of song and dance explain you're a new golfer and that you'll do your best not to hold up the group. When you lose a ball, don't chase it into deep weeds or woods. Drop and play. When you've doubled par and the others are on the green, pick up your ball.

And don't worry. Act with humility and good humor and you'll be fine.


Washington, D.C.: Do you both play golf? If so, when did you each start? If not, how do you learn about it for your jobs?

Dave Lucas: I'll start, my late Dad gave me the gift of golf when I was 11. He also gave me a set of 50's era clubs that should have chased me to tennis, but I stuck with it. The equipment today is light years better, and if players aren't taking advantage of it, they're stuck in the wrong decade. While golf is a fun part of my job, it's only a part, and I get to play less now then before I did a golf show.


Craig Stoltz: My take on my golfing life, such as it is. I caught the virus four years ago, when I was 44, when my son wanted to play. All the sudden it clicked, and I was in love with the game.

The game wasn't in love with me for quite some time, but I've continued to enjoy it far more than the quality of my play would suggest.

I read something in Golf Digest once that said, think of your golf career as an academic track. It should take you four years to get your bachelor's (breaking 100), another three years for a master's (breaking 90). And getting a PhD, breaking 80, is something many folks never do, but it may take another five years--and some natural skill that many folks lack.


Arlington, Va.: FYI - I took private lessons at Everybody Golf School and felt it to be a factory. The instructor did not really feel invested in whether I improved ... what did he care, his schedule was booked, and I had prepaid for my series of lessons! I will definitely look more carefully for an instructor next time, someone who takes pride in their work.

Craig Stoltz: Hey, that's great feedback, Arlington. Anybody else have golf school experiences they'd like to share?


Craig Stoltz: Oakton: As today's Swing shows, there are many more courses in close-in Virginia than in close-in Maryland--and some of the best daily-fee high-end name-designer courses are in Virginia. For Swing I've made a point to hit a lot of NoVa courses, and I can tell you it's a richer piece of golfing turf than close-in Maryland (veer into the Baltimore and Frederick areas you the two states even out).


Oakton, Va.: Whenever the subject of D.C. area golf comes up, it seems like the talk is really centered around Maryland courses, and Virginia is an afterthought. Why do you think this is? Better courses in Maryland? More tradition? And what would you say is the best daily fee course in VA, and which is the best in MD? Thanks.

Dave Lucas: There may be a few more Maryland courses, but I'm partial to the Old Dominion. While Bulle Rock in Aberdeen MD is perhaps the best daily fee between Pine Valley and Pinehurst, the Homestead, Golden Horseshoe, Raspberry Falls and this brand new Mattaponi Spring course just south of Fredericksburg take a back seat to no one.


Anonymous: My dad's a golfer and always talks about how he wants to improve, but he's never taken lessons. If he continuously plays the "wrong way" and never stops to fix whatever's not working for him, will he just continuously reinforce bad playing? If he can't afford lessons, how can he work to improve his game?

Craig Stoltz: I'm going to sound like a hard-head, Anonymous, but if he can't afford lessons he can't afford to golf. However much he would spend on rounds this year--10 rounds at $30? 20 at $25?--he should split between lessons and play, preferably nine holes.

As someone who is just moving out of darkness via lessons, I can tell you the game is far more satisfying once you work out some basic kinks from your swing.

And yes, the more you play with bad habits, the worse you become.


Burke, Va.: A few things: Burke Lake and Oak Mar are decent par 3s. So is the Golf Park at Fair Oaks on 50 in Va. Fair Oaks also offers grass tees and trial clubs at extra cost.

Queenstown and a couple of other courses near Annapolis offer a membership at $1300.

The players pass you mentioned gives discounts but does not cover all fees. Courses like Westfields (5000) and Old Hickory (4000) are way over the $1000 cost requested.

Don't you think the "hump" on Renditions' island green is more severe that the real thing?

Why leave off courses like Musket Ridge and Maryland National off the listing in the article ... they are still in the metro area?

Dave Lucas: I wondered about the ridge -- okay, fault line -- at Renditions, but the designers haul out satellite land maps to show their version is an exact replica of the 17th at TPC Saw.


Arlington, Va.: What did you both think of Tiger winning the Masters? What do you think is ahead for him now? Thanks.

Dave Lucas: It wouldn't shock me if he won one or two more Majors this season. He told Hank Haney his new swing guru, he's hitting the ball better than he ever has. That's bad news for the rest of the Big 5 and everybody else. I'm not certain however he'll ever catch Jack Nicklaus's record of major championships.


Craig Stoltz: re: Tiger, Masters:

True confessions: I've become less of a Tiger fan. Did you notice when they played clips from his earlier Masters and other majors how much. . .happier he looked? He smiled a lot. He seemed to love the game. That's the Tiger the world fell in love with.

Celebrity/pro sport life being what it is, he's changed. He's intense, hostile to fans; he threw a club at the Master's. His arm-pumps seem more violent, somehow.

I was rooting for DiMarco, who I like a lot. I guess with my game and golf history I always admire the grinders.

(All that said: Who will not remember that chip-in by Tiger for the rest of their golfing life?)

Tiger seems to have his game back. I hope he gets himself back too.


Woodbridge, Va.: Great day for golf gentlemen! You should be outside hitting it out of the rough! I've played a lot over the years and the one thing that really irritates me is slow players. What are some of your biggest pet peeves when you play golf?

Dave Lucas: What, I can't be in the fairway?
Slow play is the bane of all golfers. I'd add to that folks who don't fix ball marks, rake bunkers or replace/sand divots. A little courtesy goes a long way.


Takoma Park, Md.: Is the Post going to publish a golf section or supplement on a regular basis throughout the summer? As an area golfer, it would be interesting to read about new courses, as well as deals/specials courses are offering.

Craig Stoltz: Thanks, Takoma Park. You want to send a letter stating this to Don Graham, c/o The Washington Post. . .

no, just kidding! Don't do that!

We will update our Web site throughout the season, and we're offering message boards that invite readers to review courses, talk about equipment, report on whose aerated greens really stink, etc. We're hoping the site will become local golfers' information source and rumpus room.

Alas, the next ink-on-paper Swing won't appear until 2006.


Washington, D.C.: Dave, Do you get a lot of feedback from your viewers and a lot of questions from golfers? Is the D.C. area considered a real golf "hot spot"?

Dave Lucas: That's one of the nicest things about Capital Golf Weekly, a lot of folks feel a real kinship with the program. Over 7 season's we've grown quite a following.
Is the DC area a golf hotspot, you decide. This year we'll have the PGA men's tour stop locally at one of the hundred best classic courses in the world, the world's best players will convene at RTJ in September to play the only team contest the US can win anymore, and there are all those great courses within an easy drive. my answer in an emphatic yes!..


Reston, Va. - Question on equipment issues: What's your take on the Club Test issues that the two largest golf mags come out with every year? I think they have gotten to the point of being completely useless for golfers. Golf Magazine completely eliminated two major manufactures from their test for whatever reason. Worse still, none of these magazines ever, ever, ever says anything bad about any product. Every product made for golf is just some degree of "Great". Seems like a total waste to me.

Craig Stoltz: I agree with you 100 percent, Reston.

I love the fact that, as we reported in Swing today, that average scores have not decreased over the past 20 years, despite the development of metal woods, titanium drivers, two-ball putters, new tech balls, etc. In other words: For a vast majority of golfers, it's not the equipment, it's you. (Not you, personally, Reston, you know what I mean).

I think the folks who review those things have very delicate senses of feel and can distinguish between very small differences that many of us can't. (Sort of like the folks who can tell the difference between a $20 and $60 bottle of wine. I can't. Over $15, it's all good to me.)

There's also the darker question of how much of that material is printed to please advertisers as opposed to readers. But I have no inside dope on how the magazines operate.

Anyone else want to weigh in?


Burke, Va.: Re: Renditions, perhaps the tools the designers use do not accurately depict elevation changes. I do know I enjoy the course and felt Tom Watson's pain when I hit a 170 yard shot that hit just short of the green and rolled back into Rae's Creek on Amen's Corner!

Perhaps you can suggest duffers or century club members, when ready move up to courses like Forest Greens and Twin Lakes before going to upscale courses. These courses have plenty of "muni" players and if you can play quickly and at least close to 100, a match up should work ok.

Are you aware of any leagues folks ... other than retirees ... can join?

Dave Lucas: About the Renditions thing, I can say with some certainty, TV flattens your vertical perspective.


Ashburn, Va.: Hey guys, I work off of Waxpool Rd and I've seen this Nicklaus designed course under construction for a while now. Do you know when this course is supposed to be completed? Is it going to be a public course?

Craig Stoltz: Hi Ashburn. The Nicklaus Bayside course (not the one where I got to trail Da Man) opens this summer. The Peninsula course will open next year.

Bayside will be open to daily fee play. To play Peninsula, you'll need to do a vacation rental there to play (or buy a house and join the club).

They both look spectacular to my eye. The beach area is really getting excellent courses--like a mini-Myrtle Beach without the Hooters.


Ashburn, Va.: How often should someone take a series of lessons? Every summer? Every other summer? Twice a year? At some point you do have to just practice on your own, don't you? Thanks.

Craig Stoltz: Based on my experience, and talking to instructors, it's important to get checkups even after you've built a solid swing that can get you around a course in the 90s. You likely develop bad habits you can't see--you start to drift over the top, aren't shifting your weight right, aren't following through smoothly--and you need someone to spot that and give you some drills to clean it up.

Practice on your own is where you make the suggested tweaks into habits. Be deliberate on the range, don't just beat balls. If you're hitting jumbo buckets, you may not be focussing on your swing in a beneficial way.


Washington, D.C.: Dave -- Thanks for your interesting answer. And if you do not want to spend more time on this subject, I'll understand. I agree that getting more of the people who try golf every year to stick with it is a great goal but I think the Nike approach will accomplish just the opposite. I believe that one of the two main reasons (time being the other) that people quit is because they find the game so hard and frustrating. Most beginners will improve much faster if they learn how to play smart rather than making matters worse by playing dumb. The winners on the pro tours prove this every week.

Dave Lucas: I think we're actually coming to the same conclusion from slightly different places. Yes, learning to play smart is the best way, but better equipment, courses like Hilltop GC where beginners are encouraged and the help of a PGA or LPGA pro will make for better scoring, and a lot more fun.


Golf Lesson Experience: I tool a group lesson for 4 weeks titled, "Intermediate Full Swing Review" at Haines Point. I learned quite a bit and made some good progress on the very first day (hitting from the driving bays). Unfortunately, after the first day, the instructor took us to the practice course and we spent the final three lessons chipping from the apron the entire hour, then getting one tee shot (reds) at the end. This was not what I signed up for as my chipping was already good (and confirmed by my instructor by telling me so, and also ignoring me to help those who needed help). I asked if we could go back to the driving bays, but everyone needed work on chipping so we did not. This was not the class I signed up for, or they gave it the wrong title. I really felt I could have improved greatly if we had continued with the "Full Swing" of the "Full Swing Review".

Dave Lucas: Just my impressions from your post, but greenside practice is better for just about any player than banging away in on a driving range. It's probably not exactly what was advertised, but don't dis the short game work, it will lower your score faster and more completely than hitting balls.


Clifton, Va.: What's your take on mallet putters? More gimick than benefit? I bought one and can't help but think the other golfers are snickering a little inside at me when I putt.

Craig Stoltz: I chickened out on buying an Odyssey two-ball and instead bought the White Hot blade. Like most golf issues, it's not the putter, it's me. I practiced this winter with a knock off the the $100 Dave Pelz Putting Track (knockoff via e-bay was $20) and it really smoothed out my stroke.

I did do the test of the Pure Pendulum that appears in today's Swing. It's a mallet, but much more. Very interesting. Not likely I'll spend $225 to buy it, though. . .


Arlington, Va.: My grandmother has these little golf clubs that she used to use when she was still able to play golf (she's 85 now). They're pink with flowers on them and from decades ago. This may be a funny question, but is there a place that showcases old/antique golf equipment? After seeing these clubs, I bet that would be an interesting place to visit if something like that exists ... thank you!;

Dave Lucas: There's a huge golf antiques market. I would think any sort of search engine could direct you to a place that could a,tell you all about the clubs, and b, what they're worth.


Washington, D.C.: Any predictions on who will win any upcoming tournaments?

Craig Stoltz: Ernie Els: Man, the guy is suffering. He needs the win.

I'd love to see Fred Funk, my personal hero, win at Booz-Allen, but I'm afraid the field this year, and the venue, isn't likely to produce that result.

Don't you want DiMarco to win a big one too?


Dave Lucas: This has been great fun, and I hope you'll check out Capital Golf Weekly on Newschannel 8. We're on 7:30PM Friday's, and then at 6:30 AM and 9 PM Saturdays. Play well everybody


Craig Stoltz: Well thanks for joining us folks, we've enjoyed it. Please be sure to dig through the paper today and exhume Swing (did I mention it's in the classifieds, behind Food?). Join our message boards to weigh in on courses, equipment and news throughout the season. And send any comments to swing@washpost.com.

Keep it on the short grass--or at least the first cut,



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