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Posted by & filed under Majors, Previews.

HC Fownes’ brute of a creation, the Oakmont course, Pennsylvania, is preparing to host its ninth national championship. But what exactly makes this course the sternest of tests for the world’s golfing elite?

Henry Clay Fownes, a Pittsburgh businessman who grew up in England, never intended for Oakmont to be easy. In fact, he built it precisely because the local courses were not sufficiently testing.

An accomplished amateur in his own right, Fownes’ design brief was to replicate the kind of windswept, bleak landscape of a links course back home. And in the absence of reliably unpleasant weather to make the course more difficult, he cut the fairways so narrow that at one US Open, so legend has it, the USGA had to ask the club to widen them.

Because of the clay subsoil, he couldn’t make the bunkers as deep as they were back home.

The dastardly Fownes’ solution was to create a rake that left golf-ball-wide ridges in the sand perpendicular to the line of play. (When Ben Hogan was asked how he planned to counter these hazards, he replied, true to form: “I don’t plan to be in them.”)

The enormous greens were heavy-rollered into submission, creating firm and fast surfaces.

In short, Oakmont was brutal from the beginning.

As time went on, Henry’s son, William Clark, took over. His philosophy on course design left little doubt that he was a chip off the old block: “A poorly played shot should result in a shot irrevocably lost,” he said. “Keep it rugged, baffling, hard to conquer, otherwise we should tire of the game. Let the clumsy, the spineless and the alibi artist stand aside.”

Oakmont was laid out in 1903. By the 90s it had changed almost beyond recognition. For a start, the Pennsylvania Turnpike highway was built alongside the course, parallel to the railway. And over time, thousands of trees grew on the property.

Oakmont had been in danger of becoming mistaken for a generic country club at one time. With no new tees or bunkers, Oakmont will again measure 7,230 yards against the regulation US Open par of 70. So far, identikit.

But dig a little deeper and you will find an unusual configuration. Five of the par 4s are under 400 yards, with the same number longer than 475 yards. In other words, it is one extreme or the other.

Both the par 5s measure over 600 yards, which makes them lay-up holes until Mike Davis, the USGA’s executive director and CEO, performs his customary sleight of hand with the tees.

Finally, two of the par 3s stretch to over 230 yards, with the 8th measuring 288 yards off the plates. The joke goes it is the only hole in America where you can run nearest the pin and longest drive competitions simultaneously.

“The US Open is played on the country’s grandest golf courses,” says Davis. “The US Open is an examination of shot making, strategy, course management and nerves. Oakmont more than meets all that criteria. It meets the gold standard of a rigorous championship test,” he added.

 

The defending champion, Jordan Spieth, has already made a reconnaissance visit to Oakmont and he left in no doubt as to the scale of the challenge. “The bunkers here may as well be bunkers in the UK,” said Spieth. “You just have to hit sideways out of them.”

He also learned this is not a course where you automatically reach for the driver.

“A lot of holes, you can hit 4-iron off the tee and then hit 8-iron into the green, and chances are you’re in the fairway. But you always can look ahead and see that 15- to 20-yard area that you can fit a 3-wood or driver into and hit a wedge.

“If you are hitting your long irons well off the tee, you’re going to have a good six to eight birdie opportunities, and if you can do that in a US Open, you’re at an advantage to the field.”

Spieth, who finished the week at -5 at Chambers Bay last June, has no doubt that the winner will be deserving.

“The best player will come out on top this week,” he said. “You will have no crazy circumstance or bounces. You have to golf your ball around this place, and the person who is in full control of their entire game will win. I know that if you win a US Open at Oakmont, you can go ahead and say that you’ve conquered the hardest test in all of golf, because this is arguably the hardest course in America day-to-day.

“Any time you win the US Open, you’ve won the hardest test that year, but this is potentially the hardest test in golf. Par is going to be a fantastic score. I’d sign for even par right now,” he said.

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Posted by & filed under Competitions, Golf Equipment, Partners.

We’re offering ten The Golfers Club members the opportunity to win a John Letters TP-S series wedge.

Q: How many free rounds of golf vouchers are given to all policy holders in the Fairway Member’s Golf Pack? 

Simply email your answer to competitions@thegolfersclub.co.uk with details of the prize, your name, membership number and contact number. The prize draw will take place on the 2nd June 2016.

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Posted by & filed under Blog, Videos.

Scott Cranfield, the PGA Golf Professional, has provided a simple video to show you how to avoid the shot that all golfers fear, the dreaded shank. The one thing that golfers don’t even like to hear the word mentioned, just the thought of it can make many people tense up. And when it actually happens to you, it can ruin your confidence for the rest of that round, and sometimes even longer.

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Posted by & filed under Blog, Videos.

Playing golf tests much more than just your technical skills – it also tests your nerve as well as your patience. But for many golfers, both of these elements play second fiddle to the gorgeous surroundings the course is played on. There are, however, holes on some courses that successfully combine the two. It’s that one hole that stands out from the rest. It taunts and tantalises us with its impossibility, and its spectacular backdrop.

Here at The Golfers Club, we insure some of the UK’s most well-travelled golfers. That means we’ve heard many stories about that special course that drives us mad. They steal our balls, destroy our handicap and plague our thoughts as we scramble to save face and make par. So with this in mind, we’ve scoured the globe to bring you three of the toughest, and most picturesque tee shots in the world.

Attempt them if you dare.

The 17th hole at TPC Sawgrass, Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida

 PONTE VEDRA BEACH, FL - MAY 9: Phil Mickelson plays the 17th hole during the final round of THE PLAYERS Championship on THE PLAYERS Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass on May 9, 2010 in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida. (Photo by Chris Condon/PGA TOUR)

Although the 17th at TPC Sawgrass is affectionately known as the “Island Green”, there’s definitely no love lost between golfers and this treacherous hole. The hole itself is located on a small island surrounded by water on which you need to chip the ball onto. Connected to the mainland by a small bridge, making it to the green is a privilege only the very elite, or extremely lucky, get to experience.The rest of us have to settle for playing our third, fourth and fifth shots still off the tee.

USA Today claims that over 140,000 balls end up in the water each year. And not all of those come from tee shots. Oh, and if you do actually make it on to the hole, despite the swirling winds and immense pressure from spectators, seagulls have also been known to steal balls.

 

The 16th hole at Cypress Point Club, California

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This exceedingly private club is reserved for elite golfers and the rich and affluent. It also features one of the most picturesque and daunting holes in the world. Located near Pebble Beach in California, to make par requires a 200-yard hit over the Pacific Ocean. If that doesn’t put you off trying out this 234-yard Par 3, strong crosswinds and Pacific Ocean spray just might. Designed by Alister Mackenzie and nicknamed ‘The Sistine Chapel of golf’, Cypress Point Club has seen celebrities such as Jack Lemmon, Clint Eastwood and golfing legend Greg Norman face up to the challenge.

 

The 19th hole at Legend Golf & Safari Resort, Entabeni Safari Reserve

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This legendary 19th is an absolute one off, one of the most difficult holes you could ever encounter. Only accessible via helicopter, the 19th is situated on the top of the Hanglip Mountain, South Africa. Believe it or not, this is a Par 3 hole (!) and 395 yards long. Once you tee off, the ball takes approximately 30 seconds to hit the ground where a spotter is waiting for his partner (watching from above) to tell him roughly whereabouts the ball has landed. According to Legend Lodges, only 15 people have ever made birdie. Hollywood A-listers such as Morgan Freeman have been known to take the helicopter ride to play what could be the most unique hole in golf.

(Skip video to 2:15 for the golf shots)

 

The Golfers Club Fairway Member’s Golf Pack – 5 free rounds

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Every policy purchased with The Golfers Club includes a Fairway Member’s Golf Pack. Included in every member’s pack are five free rounds of golf at a mouth-watering selection of golf courses around the UK. The savings you can make on green fees alone will more than pay for the cost of your insurance.

There are over 70 courses to choose from, including world-class destinations such as The Belfry and The Celtic Manor Resort, home of the 2010 Ryder Cup. We’ve made every effort to match the quality of courses available with the premium golf insurance we provide.

Specialist golf insurance cover including our 15% introductory discount starts from as little as £38.24 per year and protects your clubs and accessories against theft, loss and damage and offers personal liability golf insurance up to £5m.

Click here to choose your policy today or call 0800 158 5550 to get insured instantly.

Posted by & filed under Competitions, Golf Equipment.

We’re offering one member of The Golfers Club the opportunity to win a dozen Srixon AD333 golf balls.

What is the cash amount The Golfers Club awards as a bonus on all policies for a hole-in-one?

Simply email your answer to competitions@thegolfersclub.co.uk with details of the prize, your name, membership number and contact number. The prize draw will take place on the 2nd June 2016.

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Posted by & filed under Feature Articles, Interviews, Majors, Masters.

The team at National Club Golfer conducted a series of interviews with Danny Willett’s former coaches and playing partners. These interviews chart how Willett went from being a member of an inner-city Sheffield municipal to Masters Champion.

 

The man himself – Danny Willett

“Rotherham Golf Club has been massive. They have always had a fantastic junior section. Lol Morgan (junior organiser) was always the leader in that. He worked for Sheffield Union of Golf Clubs for a massive amount of time and helped nurture young talent around South Yorkshire. Luckily enough for me, I was able to join here when I was younger and play with a lot of fantastic golfers.

“I had to work hard. There were already a couple of lads here who were a lot better than me. I just kept working hard and doing my thing and, slowly, I progressed and took over a little bit.”

“Graham Walker was a coach of mine for a long, long time – through Sheffield days, Yorkshire days and England days. [I spent] 10+ years with Graham, working hard. He was a massive father figure to me, to help me through a lot of tough and good situations and work really hard.

“Family and friends have helped me along the way and kept me grounded, kept me normal, kept a reality check [on] everything. All of that stuff helps.

“You don’t really have a childhood, between 14 and 20, I guess. They are really crucial years in golf development. You are here after school, working. You have got to try and fit in doing your homework with practising for a few hours.

“At weekends, you are in the medals. You are in the junior opens. Your mum and dad are driving you up and down the country to play in these different things and you don’t just get to go and play out when you are a kid and do that stuff.

“You have got to put the hours in and, if you are going to go to college in America, or play for England, you are then away for a few months of the year training with them – in Spain or in Australia. You look back now and, yeah, I didn’t get to go and ride my bike as much as other kids but I would much rather be sat here now wearing a Green Jacket.”

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The fresh-faced Willett conducts his first interview as Masters champion

The childhood coach – Pete Ball

“Danny first came to Birley Wood (a Sheffield municipal) at the age of 11 with his school. I think he’d hit some balls before he came to me but not very many so we were starting from scratch.

“He progressed to the after-schools class and then he started coming every night.

“We built it from there. And he just got better and better – but not meteorically.

“Danny had slightly more going for him than most but not much. It’s a tough area where his father worked. Hats off to him for working around there.

“It’s the steel inside them. They’ve had to fight for what they want. And that’s what makes them very hard people. Very determined people. What do they say – a hungry fighter is a dangerous fighter.

“When he got to 15 or 16, we needed another coach. I said to him as I do with all the kids: ‘You’re 16 years of age, I’ve done the best I can but you need a full-time coach now and I’m not going to be your full-time coach.’

“My idea with all my players is to get them to 16 and then encourage them to leave the nest. They’ve got to make that flight on their own. Not with me. My job’s done.

“We discussed who Danny would like to work with as a full-time coach, he said Graham Walker. I said great choice. He’d been doing a bit with him at county level. I said that would be perfect for me, a good fit, he knows my coaching methods and he’s an expert technical coach which I’m not.

“He was scratch or plus one at that stage. But he was driven. A couple of years later, he came back from Jacksonville. He didn’t want to go back to college, he wanted to go to tour school.”

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Willett’s nerves of steel around the greens were a big factor in his victory at Augusta

Walker Cup team mate – Nigel Edwards

“I always think of Danny’s work ethic and these three examples.

“I wasn’t driving the ball great going into County Down in the 2007 Walker Cup and on the Tuesday morning I went to the practice area to sort it out. I got there at 6.15am and Danny was already there, we were teeing off at about 10.

“Then there was the Bonallack Trophy and Danny played in the same team with Chris Wood and it struck me how well prepared the pair of them were. Danny had his diary with all his lessons for the year mapped out.

“Finally, in 2013, he’d played in the PGA Championship at Oak Hill and flew overnight home. We were playing the Home Internationals at Ganton and he was still working with Graham Walker. It was the Monday evening and he came and spoke to me to see if he could have an hour with Graham.

“Of course, he could and there was no need to ask me but it was just out of courtesy. He had just landed and he wanted to go and have a lesson after finishing 40th at the PGA.

“At Augusta he looked like he was enjoying it but he looked like that on the other occasions he won and when you look back at those maybe the Masters wasn’t a surprise.

“On the putt on 16 he looked very much in the moment, he stuck to his process to do what he could to play well. On the last tee his caddy said to start again, he writes a note in his yardage book which focused his mind and that got him back in his process again.

“It was great to see someone take their chance – he went and won it.”

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Willett can barely contain his emotion as he wears his famous green jacket

The tour coach – Pete Cowen

“I started working with Danny three years ago along with Mike Walker and Nick Huby. We’re all singing from the same hymn sheet in terms of the mechanics which I have honed over the last 50 years or so.

“There’s a good continuity in what we teach which means the players can then trust it under pressure. That really came through on the Sunday afternoon where Danny could trust his golf swing implicitly. That’s what we do really.

“There have been a lot of people involved with Danny’s rise to the top, at Birley Wood, Pete Ball – without that we wouldn’t have seen Danny Willett at all.

“Then he went to Rotherham, where Graham Walker coached him through the England Golf set-up.

“With certain players, like Danny, we add the finishing touches. I always say that what we do is get them over the line.

“When we started working with Danny he was a good solid player but you couldn’t say he was going to go on and win Majors.

“Danny had a bad back, and I know all about that as I suffered with it for a good few years. When you’ve got a bad back you’re wondering if it’s ever going to go.

“Unfortunately for Danny he had far too much shape on the ball – too much right to left. There wasn’t a great deal of control and it was spinning too much.

“We worked on giving him a much better body action, more control in the movement so that he can rely on it under pressure.

“I’d expect him to push on, as I said he’s a confident lad. He putts really well, Paul Hurrion should take a lot of credit for that as Danny has improved massively over the last few years with his putting.

“His short game has always been good, he’s a great bunker player. I think at Doral he was 18 out of 20 for up and downs – people often miss that but it’s the sort of thing that turns an average score into a good score if you have that in your armoury.”

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Willett walking off the 18th at Augusta – what came next will change his life forever.