Hilton Head Island Golf Vibe

About David Zunker

David Zunker is a 25-year visitor to Hilton Head Island and has been a golfer for about that long, learning the game's nuances at the foot of a father-in-law. Steady improvement hit a roadblock recently -- the sudden arrival of a golf aberration, an s-h word that has more than four letters, which can only be whispered in polite company. His goal in this blog is to seek a solution to this crisis of confidence and get his game back.

Golf "issue" solution #1

Doug Weaver was the first person on the Island I turned to to quietly explain my golf affliction because I knew he’d understand, he would take it seriously and there’d be a better than even chance he could fix …

… whisper it … the sh@&ks.

So we got together on a Tuesday afternoon in the full sunshine of a beautiful day at the Robert Trent Jones Course at Palmetto Dunes on Hilton Head Island, where Weaver is the teaching pro, and I explained to him, in hushed tones, that I’m a mess, stricken with a serious case of the “abrupt right turns”, a conundrum I can’t seem to overcome, despite reading books, poring over golf instruction videos and visiting a swing (call him a “witch”) doctor in the Northeast.  (A disastrous story for another day).

Weaver, ever the laid back, quietly confident professional, listened empathetically, nodded emphatically and cut right to the chase.

“Your goal is to get rid of the SHANKS, and I’m not afraid to say it,” he said, perhaps a bit too loudly.  About seven guys hitting balls on the range heard that awful word spoken out loud.  They looked away, down at their clubs, or up, as if discovering the sky for the very first time.

But they listened in and they sneaked peeks — like watching a train wreck, witnessing the shanks is something you can’t take your eyes off, while you’re praying to your personal higher power that it doesn’t happen to you. 

It didn’t take Doug long to analyze a disconnect between my stance and alignment.

“Now I want you to understand that you’ve been kind of fixing everything by avoiding everything,” he said.  “You’re trying to avoid going right, by aiming to the left. Your poor alignment is causing mental anguish.”

Nail on head: I’m clearly a tangle of intentions.

To take the mental out of the equation, Weaver quotes the wit and wisdom of Lee Trevino, who once said “anytime your golf game is not going right, blame something else.”

I’ve been blaming my golf clubs, a major change of venue and the weather.  Weaver buys none of it.

“I believe you can play with anybody’s clubs at any time as long as you do the fundamentals correctly,” Doug says.  And the “fun”-damentals are: grip, stance, posture and alignment.  His analysis provided video proof that my fundamentals were no fun.

Quick summary:

  • Grip: okay;
  • Stance: okay;
  • Posture: lousy (I looked like one of the Village People trying to form the “C” in YMCA);
  • Alignment: confused.  50% in golf is not going to get you there and I was hedging .

Doug’s suggested solution was to commit to aligning shoulders with feet.  Get everything aimed in the right direction and “believe.”

It’s been a while since Doug’s insight set me off on the path to a golf crisis solution.  His has been a critical piece of solving a baffling puzzle.  His tips didn’t solve the problem immediately.  In fact, as soon as he left me alone on the range the “rights” crept back into my swing and my dreams became nightmares again.  But like that famous Robin Williams origin of golf video, he had given me “hope”.

Weaver gives hope to golf hopefuls each Monday afternoon at 4 pm at the Robert Trent Jones course at Palmetto Dunes, where he typically provides a free intro lesson, covers a wide range of golf topics and sometimes analyzes swings.

Next time: A visit with a fellow former Minnesotan – when you face crushing conundrums in your life, sometimes you just have to head back to your roots.

Beware the Sh***ks!

Golf on Hilton Head Island is a thing of beauty, with a couple dozen gorgeous courses to choose from, lined with stately pines and graceful live oaks, dripping delicate Spanish moss.

But what if, in the midst of this beautiful island paradise, your golf game turns randomly ugly?

I have played the game for 20-some years, starting late, but making enough steady progress to secure a pretty solid 12 handicap. Drives are typically straight and long, mid-irons are dependable, chips and pitches are pretty consistent around the greens, and when they’re not, a deadly putting stroke often saves the day.

That was the case until a peculiar aberration appeared about two years ago.  Like an uninvited guest, suddenly, a shank showed up and simply refused to leave.  I had just switched clubs and blamed them at first.  But the problem persisted with my old reliable Pings.

What to do?  Take up tennis?  Move to Missouri? (no offense).  Quit and just walk the course for exercise?  Heaven forbid!

One of the great things about golf on Hilton Head Island is the preponderance of golf professionals available to solve even the most testy trauma.  My goal in the next several blogs is to seek a solution to this crisis of confidence about my game.  Every pro I’ve approached simply shakes his or her head, smiles wryly and assures me this can be fixed.  I’m trying to be positive but I have my doubts.

Stay with me during this trying time – my odyssey to return to the game I love – it’s either that or I start working on my backhand.

Return of the Kiwis

Almost a year ago I learned that two bold (or crazy) New Zealand lawyer/golfers in their mid-twenties had decided to bag the law biz and travel the world.  The part that piqued my interest was that their travels would include a round of golf per day for a full 365 days, constantly moving, regardless of weather, inconvenience or even time of day.  Their location would change, they wouldn’t duplicate a golf venue, they would book their own tee times, arrange for lodging and even forage for their own food.  They would write about their experiences, post blogs to their website and take photos and video – posting those as well to their website along the way.  It would be a perfect time to do something “mad” like this – before they become, in their own words, “dull, married and mediocre.”

The logistics of the goal were breathtaking, since there was no corporate support for their travel, there wasn’t a lot of money and they weren’t independently wealthy.  They’d considered the corporate route and even had serious offers from golf magazines and television (including the Golf Channel) to chronicle their odyssey, but that wasn’t the concept or even the point.  The concept was pure golf (their blog was posted on www.puregolf2010.com), playing a different 18 holes each day and documenting the experience by themselves for themselves.  The point was that they were young, energetic, bored by the daily humdrum and ready for adventure.  As a side benefit, money raised during their travels would  benefit The First Tee of New Zealand, which teaches kids golf lessons (like etiquette) as well as how to play the game. These were just two guys – mates if you will — who would experience some of the world’s absolutely finest golf venues and meet a wide range of similarly golf-centric new best friends.

They completed their journey on December 31st, circling back to New Zealand after playing the likes of Spyglass (Day 139), Riviera (Day143 as guest of Robbie Krieger, guitarist with The Doors), Bay Hill (Day 152), the Ocean Course at Kiawah (Day 161), Shinnecock Hills (Day 188), Royal Dornock (Day 221), Turnberry (Day 235 or so), St. Andrews (of course), a unique night round under the lights in Dubai and then back around toward Australia and New Zealand.  Along the way they also played with British Open champion Bob Charles and oh, yes, they had a remarkable two days on Hilton Head Island, which, despite an automobile breakdown and a driving rainstorm, included 18 holes on 18 of Hilton Head Island’s best courses in a single day.  Again, remarkable.

So, a couple weeks ago, they were back, a bit older, plenty wiser, but still passionate about the game of golf.  Jamie and Michael were drawn by friends who will last lifelong to play Secession Golf Club on their way to Augusta to take in the Masters, and hoist a pint or two with two locals.  Their lives had been changed permanently by their year – neither will return to lawyering, at least for now – and Michael would like to parlay his blog skills into a golf writing career.  Neither have been bowed by the rigors of 365 18-hole days, and neither have lost their love of socializing with wit and grace.  They are amazing ambassadors for the game and speak highly of Hilton Head Island wherever they go – their 18-on-18 experience was one of the year’s true highlights and they speak of it in high spirits.

Their website remains up and contains 430 entries that they will treasure forever, they are pleased to share and are a treat to read or watch.  It’s such a pleasure to meet millennials with such respect for and love of golf.  The game’s future is in good hands.

Golf Lovers Choose Hilton Head Island

Hilton Head Island has long been considered a favorite destination for golf lovers.  With 24 championship golf courses on the Island, and 15 additional courses in the region, how could an avid golfer go wrong?

This spring, it seems like the accolades for Hilton Head Island’s golf have been stacking up.  Here are the highlights:

  • In March, GolfWeek magazine ranked Harbour Town Golf Links as the second best course in the state of South Carolina. The May River Course at Palmetto Bluff ranked 4th on that same list.
  • In April, Hilton Head Island’s golf resorts earned praise from several media.  First, Conde Nast Traveler named Hilton Head Island’s The Inn at Harbour Town in the Sea Pines Resort as a Top 20 Golf Resort in South Carolina at No. 8.  The Inn at Palmetto Bluff ranked even higher, at No. 4 in the same category.
  • In April, coverage of the 43rd annual The Heritage PGA TOUR golf tournament was tremendous as the hunt for a title sponsor continued.  Also, as featured in the cover article in GolfWorld magazine’s May 2nd issue, this year’s tournament was a tie-breaking sizzler. A final showdown between young Brandt Snedeker and fellow competitor Luke Donald in the final day of play was sensational, as Snedeker sneaked up on Donald and stole away his chances at a No. 1-in-the-world ranking. It seemed as if the whole world on TV was watching anxiously along with the thousands of fans seated on the banks of the Calibogue Sound on that glorious Easter evening. And of course, looking on with as much anticipation, but in more stately, serene fashion, was the signature Harbour Town candy-cane striped lighthouse, peering above the stadium crowd behind the 18th.
  • In their May 2011 issue, Golf Digest magazine ranked Harbour Town Golf Links as No. 100 on their America’s 100 Greatest Golf Courses list.