An introduction to Aspen Lakes for the uninitiated

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Sisters golf course to host the Lithia Pacific Amateur Golf Classic this week

Aspen Lakes is in prime shape to challenge hundreds of golfers from around the country and beyond who will be taking part in the 2016 Pacific Amateur Golf Classic.

Being a Pac Am host course is always a fun adventure for Aspen Lakes, and the annual tournament gives us a chance to challenge a varied group of golfers, some of whom have never played the course before. For them, we want to offer a little introduction.

Central Oregon certainly has more than its fair share of heralded golf courses, some of which are hosts to the Pac Am. And Aspen Lakes tends to hold its own with the elite courses of the area. Not only is Aspen Lakes considered one of this country’s Hidden Gems, it is also considered one of the best in Oregon by both national golf magazines AND locals.

Aspen Lakes’ beauty is often cited as among Aspen Lakes’ top attributes, and with good reason. With incomprehensibly gorgeous views of the surrounding Cascade Range from most any point on the golf course and frequent visits from wildlife, the scenery is impossible to forget.

But architect Bill Overdorf designed a beauty, too, and it’s not quite like any other golf course in Central Oregon. So before you tee it up, we would like to share a little knowledge about Aspen Lakes Golf Course.

Here are some things to think about:

  • There is little doubt to what is Aspen Lakes’ signature feature. Our red-sand bunkers are as unique as they are beautiful. They are also nothing to be weary of. The texture of Aspen Lakes’ bunkers is a bit different, especially for the uninitiated. But playing from them is not unlike playing out of more conventional sand. And the sand won’t do any harm to your wedge, either.
  • Aspen Lakes offers a wonderfully fair challenge that most any golfer will enjoy. But that does not make the course easy. In fact, Aspen Lakes provides one of the stiffest challenges in Oregon. Choose your spots to be aggressive, and be careful not to attempt too much. In particular, use sound strategy on Aspen Lakes’ two toughest holes, the par-4 fifth hole and the par-4 14th hole.
  • All four par 5s at Aspen Lakes have teeth, but each provides a unique challenge. From the back tees, the holes stretch from 554 yards (No. 10) to 606 yards (No. 2). Water dictates the second shots on both the second and sixth holes. The approach on No. 10 into a shallow green, which is guarded by water in front and wetlands in back, is among the most difficult shots on the course. The finishing 583-yard 18th hole, was designed to separate two closely matched players.
  • The mountain views from the par-3 eighth hole are pretty spectacular. Make sure to take an extra second to take it all in:

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  • The par-4 11th hole, is pretty gorgeous, too:

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  • The view from the 15th tee box, a 222-yard par 3 played over water and massive bunkers, can be intimidating. The hole also presents a chance for golfers to shake free of their competition.
  • Few golfers walk off of Aspen Lakes disappointed. Something about the combination of beauty, design, top conditioning, and great service tends to endear itself to golfers.

Aspen Lakes is family-owned and operated, and we are proud of our heritage. That includes the naming of our Brand 33 restaurant, which is named after the Cyrus families’ brand that dates back to the 19th century.

We want every golfer to have a great visit to Aspen Lakes. Enjoy the course!

Of course, you don’t have to be a participant in the Pac Am to enjoy Aspen Lakes. To book a tee time, call 541-549-GOLF or book online at www.aspenlakes.com.

 

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AimPoint instruction at Aspen Lakes can help golfers read the greens better

Aspen Lakes pro the only certified AimPoint instructor in Central Oregon

Putting can be one of golf’s great mysteries. It seems so easy. What’s so hard about slowly rolling a ball toward a hole down a relatively smooth surface, right?

Yet, it is on the greens that so many amateur golfers struggle most. According to research in Golf magazine: “High handicappers require about 30 percent more putts — or roughly 8 strokes — per round than pros do.”

For amateurs, the culprits are many, from poor strategy to less-than-ideal speed to an inability to “read” the greens correctly. Perhaps the key to improving on the greens is to whittle that list of culprits down.

We know instinctively that the more time we devote to the practice green the better our putting stroke will be. But learning how to properly read a green is a skill not many higher handicappers possess. That is why learning how to read greens using the AimPoint Express method can be so valuable.

Pioneered by Mark Sweeney, an amateur golfer who himself struggled with putting, the AimPoint Express method works to simplify reading greens by teaching golfers how to feel the slope of the green with their feet and how to use your arm and fingers to aim. AimPoint Express has quickly gained favor on the professional tours, used by such players as Adam Scott and Christina Kim. (If the name sounds familiar it might be because AimPoint Technologies, which Sweeney founded, produces some of those graphical marks that show viewers the line of a putt during professional golf broadcasts.)

It is a method that Aspen Lakes’ PGA Director of Player Development Howie Pruitt, the only certified AimPoint instructor in Central Oregon, knows well.

“AimPoint is just a simple way to read greens,” said Pruitt, who earned the certification in January 2015. “You will still have hit the putt at the right speed and on the right line to be a successful putter. But by eliminating one of the factors that lead us astray on the greens, most golfers quickly save strokes.”

Trusting that gravity is a constant, AimPoint attempts to define the correct putting line by relying on three basic factors: distance from the hole (calculated by pacing), the amount of slope (which is usually a 1 percent to 4 percent grade, judged by feel and practice), and the angle of the putt across the slope (uphill, downhill, etc.), according to a Bend Bulletin story.

It might sound complicated, but in actuality AimPoint is a relatively simple method to learn, at least with the right instruction. In fact, Pruitt says it only takes about an hour for a golfer to get reasonably proficient.

Once adopted, the benefits become clear. By understanding the basic physics of putting, golfers gain more confidence. In turn, that confidence can lead not only to a better line toward the hole, but more consistent strokes that improve pace and lead to better decision-making around the greens.

In other words, it will save strokes.

“As a player, it definitely improved my confidence,” Pruitt said. “ I knew exactly what the ball was going to do once it started to roll.”

Private, group lessons, classes and clinics with Pruitt are all available through the Aspen Lakes PGA Learning Center. Call the Aspen Lakes pro shop at 541-549-4653 for more information. To book a tee time call the golf shop or book online.

 

Tip: It takes more than just hitting golf balls to make perfect

Aspen Lakes professional says simple drills will help get the most out of a practice session

The scene on the Aspen Lakes Golf Course practice range is a familiar one: Golfers in line sending golf ball after golf ball into the blue Central Oregon sky, then watching as the white spheres come crashing down on their emerald-green resting place.

Golfers working on their games like this can be seen at most any practice facility. But for Howie Pruitt, Aspen Lakes PGA director of player development, he sees a different kind of practice session … something less productive.

“I walk the line and ask what they are working on, and I usually get a blank stare from golfers,” Pruitt said. “But for a practice session to be productive, you can’t just be spraying balls down the range. Every shot has to have a purpose.”

What’s a golfer to do to get more out of a session? Well, Pruitt suggests a few easy drills.

It starts with a simple training aid: driveway markers. With driveway markers, or at least a suitable replacement, golfers can:

  • Practice their alignment by setting up a single stick to align the stance.
  • Set two markers up, one for your stance and another set up parallel to the first stick, create a target path for each shot.
  • Set up two sticks perpendicular to one another to check ball position.

In addition, golfers should set two golf tees along the line of the range and then place a golf ball between the two tees. Then golfers should practice hitting the ball with the goal of not touching either tee. As a golfer improves, the tees should be moved closer to one another until it is at a width just longer than the clubface.

The idea of each drill is to retrain yourself to think differently on the range.

“You want to get away from thinking about the results of the swing, and instead focus on the process of the swing,” Pruitt said. “That is where real improvement can be made.”

Of course, every golfer should devote more time to practice their short games.

“I see so many golfers go to the range, hit balls, and then walk right past the putting green,” Pruitt said. “That is a mistake.”

Remember what Vince Lombardi said: “’Practice does not make perfect. Perfect practice makes perfect.”

Private, group lessons, classes and clinics with Pruitt are all available through the Aspen Lakes PGA Learning Center. Call the Aspen Lakes pro shop at 541-549-4653 for more information. To book a tee time call the golf shop or book online.

 

Fixing your slice starts with identifying swing flaw

Aspen Lakes teaching pro says fixes are simple once a
golfer understands what the golf ball is telling them

There may be no more common golf malady than the slice. In fact, more than 70 percent of golfers reported to regularly hit a slice, according to a Golf.com survey just a few years ago.

Of course, knowing you regularly hit a slice is a lot easier to identify than it is to truly understand the swing flaw that is causing the ball to careen wildly toward the rough and what is needed to fix that flaw.

Howie Pruitt, Aspen Lakes’ director of player development, has some advice. It begins with first understanding the truth the golf ball is trying to tell you every time it flies right (for right-handers).

“The ball will always tell you what you are doing wrong,” said Pruitt. “The path to the ball is controlled by stance and posture. The face is controlled by your hands.”

The ball should tell a golfer one of three things:

  • Push, or “block,” a ball straight right (or left, if you are a lefty) and that suggests a stance and posture problem that is causing the club to move off line at impact
  • If the ball begins straight and then curves right, that suggests a problem with your hands that are allowing the clubface to fly open at impact.
  • And finally, if you tend to hit those dreaded “banana balls” that start right and then curve, you likely have both issues.

The fixes are different for each issue, of course. But one fix that will likely not work, Pruitt warns, is to change your stance to aim further left.

“That will probably only exasperate the slicing problem,” he said.

The good news is that fixing a slice does not have to be difficult.

Those who struggle releasing the club at impact, causing those blocks, can work on the issue by holding a club in the top hand (the left hand for righties, right hand for lefties), then holding your bicep to your body with your off hand, swinging over and over to work on the release of the club.

Those with more significant slices can use a training device such as an Orange Whip or a weight (such as a donut weight) placed on a conventional club to work on swinging through impact and better transferring your weight to your front foot.

“If you can figure out how to that club that target line with a square clubface, your slice is going to be gone,” Pruitt said.

The best way to fix a swing flaw is with the help of a PGA professional.

Private, group lessons, classes and clinics with Pruitt are all available through the Aspen Lakes PGA Learning Center. Call the Aspen Lakes pro shop at 541-549-4653 for more information. To book a tee time call the golf shop or book online.

 

Short putts make easy path to fewer strokes

Howie Pruitt suggests simple drill to improve your accuracy inside 8 feet

Every golfer, from beginner to grizzled PGA Tour veteran, asks the same question: “How can I save strokes on the golf course?” The question is the very essence of golf.

Perhaps surprisingly, the answer is actually quite simple.

“You gain strokes with your putter,” Howie Pruitt, Aspen Lakes director of player development, says flatly.

The path to better putting is nearly as simple. In fact, success can often be found by improving your performance on the easiest shots in a given round: putts inside 8 feet.

Yet, short putts are a skill few amateur golfers pay much mind to. They should. Working on these putts is not particularly complicated and it can pay huge dividends on the scorecard.

A time-tested drill begins on a flat piece of practice putting green. Set up four balls around a hole, each set about 4 feet away. Then work your way around each ball, trying to make each putt.

If you make all four putts, then set up four more balls, this time 8 feet away from the hole. If at any point you miss, you must start over with four new balls set 4 feet away.

The drill might sound overly simplistic, but it actually helps golfers improve in two ways.

“What it does is build confidence for you,” Pruitt says. “It also helps you deal with some of the stress on the golf course. I assure you that when you get to putt No. 4, and you’ve made three, you won’t want to start over again. So there is a pressure to make that fourth putt.”

The drill is nothing new. In fact, some of the best in the game have made the drill a cornerstone of their work on the greens.

“Phil Mickelson is an example. He will come out here and keep doing it until he makes 100 in a row,” Pruitt says. “I’ve never made more than 15 or 20 in a row, so I can only imagine what it’s like to come out here and make 100 4-footers.”

Give it a try and see how many you can make.

Private, group lessons, classes and clinics with Pruitt are all available through the Aspen Lakes PGA Learning Center. Call the Aspen Lakes pro shop at 541-549-4653 for more information. To book a tee time call the golf shop or book online.

Golfers can use the offseason to get better

Aspen Lakes director of player development, Howie Pruitt, explains ways that golfers can work on their game away from the course

GripsGolf’s offseason can be a frustrating time for those who are devoted to the game.

In Central Oregon, we can spend weeks and sometimes months away from golf. Our clubs rest untouched in the garage as our golf swings turn rustier than 100-year-old nail.

Thankfully, those chilly days have mostly stayed away this fall. In fact, with discounted rates and exceptionally mild weather that has Aspen Lakes in unusually good shape for so late in October, this is a wonderful time to play a round of golf.

But the cold, snowy days are about as inevitable as the sun rising in the east. The layoff will come. But a well thought out offseason can pay off come next golf season.

Howie Pruitt, Aspen Lakes’ director of player development, has some thoughts on ways to have us all ready to tee off next spring.

Tune up the equipment

Quick question: How long has it actually been since you last regripped your clubs? If it has been awhile, you might want to bring them in to Aspen Lakes’ pro shop for a tune-up.

Pruitt says that any golfer who plays at least 20 times in a season should probably have their clubs regripped annually. Yet, so many golfers neglect this simple, and relatively affordable, equipment fix.

“I can’t tell you the number of times I have seen people with clubs that have grips that are hard and slippery,” Pruitt says. “That creates more tension in their arms and hands because they are trying to hold on to the club so tightly.”

In addition, the offseason can be used to clean your golf shoes, including clearing out each socket of debris, and replace the soft spikes with new ones (which can also be found in the Aspen Lakes golf shop).

In addition, every golfer should take a moment to audit what is in their golf bags. Old, unusable golf balls should be donated or otherwise discarded to lighten the load for next season. More importantly you want to ensure there are no unwanted remnants of the golf season left in the bag.

“Find those old sandwiches, candy bars and nuts that you left in the bag, so you don’t have a surprise waiting for you next spring,” Pruitt jokes.

Improve fitness

Use the winter to get in better golf shape. For golf, that means focusing on improving endurance, flexibility, and most of all core strength, Pruitt says. (One should seek the advice of a professional such as a doctor, physical therapist or athletic trainer before embarking on a new exercise regimen.)

Cardio exercises that utilize the lower body, such as running or walking, can help a golfer better last through a round. A proper stretching regimen will help keep a golf swing limber without touching a golf club.

But Pruitt says that core exercises are the most essential for golfers.

“I think what becomes more important is core strength, because the core is going to hold your posture,” Pruitt says. “Your posture is going to control the path and plane of the club. I think core strength becomes more important than flexibility, particularly as we get older. Posture starts to become a bigger problem.

“If your posture is bad, you are not going to make a proper turn.”

Work on the mind

No, golfers do not have to get into some Zen-like state to succeed on a golf course. But training yourself to think positively can affect your golf game.

Pruitt is a big proponent of the power of positive thinking. He often sees golfers chastise themselves after a bad shot and hedge when they are complimented after a good shot.

“If you were to keep track of how many times you say something negative to yourself about yourself during the day you would be amazed,” Pruitt says.

This is often self-defeating.

Instead of browbeating yourself, Pruitt advises anyone to positively reinforce what they are doing, even after a mistake. For a golfer, that could mean simply changing your outlook after a bad shot.

Instead of sulking, Pruitt says, “Simply say to yourself, ‘That is so unlike me.'”

“Learn to say positive things to yourself as opposed to beating yourself up,” Pruitt adds. “It is so critical, and the winter time is a great time to practice it.”

Of course, this could be put into practice right now as the golf season still has some life yet.

Take advantage of the conditions before winter comes with the best rates of the year. Golfers who donate three canned items can play 18 holes at Aspen Lakes for just $30 and nine holes for just $20 (additional fees apply for a cart rental or the use of GolfBoard). Aspen Lakes will then donate the food it collects to a Central Oregon charity.

To book a tee time or to inquire about club tune-ups, including regripping, call the golf shop 541-549-GOLF, or book a tee time online at www.aspenlakes.com. Private, group lessons, classes and clinics with Pruitt are all available through the Aspen Lakes PGA Learning Center.

Chipping with a hybrid can save strokes

A simple putting stroke with a hybrid club in hand is often easier to execute than more traditional means

There are so many ways to waste a stroke in golf. Slices, hooks, shanks, mishits, bad bounces or poor reads can all conspire to ruin an otherwise decent hole.

Among the most frustrating ways to cough up that extra stroke is with those seemingly simple chip shots from just off the green. Every golfer has been there. A decent, but slightly off-the-mark, approach leaves the ball in a place just off the putting surface that requires a chip.

You grab an 8-iron with thoughts of a par save dancing in your head. You then take a couple of practice strokes, set up to the ball, make your move, and alarmingly mishit the chip, dribbling the ball short of the green or watching helplessly as the ball rolls perilously past the flagstick.

“To me a traditional chip shot with a 7- or 8-iron creates too many opportunities for screw-ups by blading it, chunking it or anything else,” says Howie Pruitt, Aspen Lakes’s director of player development.

For such a short shot a whole lot can go wrong with a conventional chip shot. Part of the problem with such a chip is the complexity of it.

Golfers must put their weight on the their front foot, point the shaft of the club toward the front hip, and make an abbreviated putting stroke. That is hardly a natural swing for many amateur golfers.

Pruitt’s solution is actually quite simple, starting with the most important question a golfer must ask themselves when just off the green.

“The first question I ask is, ‘Can I putt it?'” Pruitt says.

If not, Pruitt recommends using a hybrid club instead of the more conventional chip with a short iron.

“So you can take a hybrid, like a 24-degree hybrid, and set up just like you were going to putt the ball,” Pruitt says. “The hybrid is going to give you just enough loft to get it up onto the green and rolling.”

A hybrid allows golfers to mimic their putting strokes, which is usually the most reliable swing in a recreational golfer’s repertoire. And hybrids can be particularly valuable when chipping from longer rough just off the fringe of the putting surface, Pruitt says.

The best news is that learning to chip with a hybrid is a breeze, Pruitt adds.

“These are just simple little shots,” Pruitt says. “If you can teach somebody how to putt, you can teach somebody how to hit this shot.”

Private, group lessons, classes and clinics with Pruitt are all available through the Aspen Lakes PGA Learning Center. Call the Aspen Lakes pro shop at 541-549-4653 for more information. To book a tee time call the golf shop or book online.