Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Golf in Costa Del Sol

One of the great things about the game of golf is you can combine a world-class golf experience with an equally exciting travel experience. Fine resorts and interesting golf courses seem to go hand in hand. There has been such a boom in golf resort construction in the last 20 years, worldwide, the choices of golf destinations are virtually endless. In the case of a golf trip outside the United States, it is an opportunity to experience a different culture, scenery, cuisine—even style of golf course. And there’s an added bonus—if your golf game turns sour during your trip, and you break out with a tragic case of the shanks, duffs, or foozles, at least you can enjoy the sightseeing portion of your trip.

Spain is a country I’ve always wanted to visit, and I’ve learned that the southern part Spain, the “costa del sol” region, has a lot to offer the golf enthusiast, including 50 great golf courses, more than 100 kilometers of beautiful beaches, and accommodations for every taste and budget, all the way up to 5-star resorts. The climate is mild year-round. Imagine playing a Robert Trent Jones design course and then relaxing at a bar/restaurant with a view of the gorgeous blue Mediterranean in the background. That’s exactly what’s available to you at the Marbella Golf & Country Club in costa del sol. The #1 ranked course in continental Europe, Valderrama, which has hosted many major tournaments including the 1997 Ryder Cup, is in this region as well.

Planning an international golf vacation can be daunting, even with the Internet to guide you. A good place to start are the experts on golf courses: costa del sol region. They’ve even played the golf courses. This company takes care of all the details including arranging ground transportation. They know which accommodations are best, and can advise you about the most interesting courses to play. In addition, they are able to secure better prices for rooms and green fees than you could do on your own.

All you have to do is remember to pack your golf clubs.

A “golf Spain” vacation could be one of your memorable golf experiences ever. I know I’m looking forward to visiting there.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Wurst Case Scenarios

Recently, at my annual check-up, the doctor discovered my blood pressure was higher than it should be. The doctor prescribed some medication for me to try, which worked very well, but I also found out that it may be possible to lower your blood pressure by making some better lifestyle choices—more exercise, losing weight, and reducing the amount of salt in your diet.

I started checking the labels of the foods I buy and was shocked to learn how much sodium (salt) is in many of my favorite things. This is expressed on the labels as “% Daily Value” meaning what percent of your daily recommended “allowance” of salt is in that food. For most foods, the percentages are in the 5-15% range, but when you add up all the different things we eat each day, and all the ingredients we might use to make the dishes we cook, it’s easy to end up consuming 200% or more of the salt we should.

Luckily, there are low sodium alternatives to many brands of foods, even things like bread, bacon and cheese. And, you can of course completely eliminate some of the major sodium-laden culprits like soy sauce from your cooking. Or simply not eat as much of certain items. Have just a little sprinkling of cheese on your chili instead of the usual cheddar blizzard. Fast food is another good thing to eliminate from your diet in order to lower salt intake. Many restaurants make up for lack of food quality and culinary skill by liberally applying salt to everything.

So far, so good. But then I discovered something that came as a major shock: MY FAVORITE BRAND OF BRATWURST had a sodium value of 30%--much more than I should consume. Imagine a Green Bay Packer fan who is not allowed to eat brats. This is bad, bad news, truly a wurst case scenario. I can’t imagine watching Packer football without eating brats. It’s almost unthinkable. Some foods naturally go with football, some don’t. Think about during the game broadcasts when they take you into the luxury boxes at the stadiums and show you all the gourmet food the rich folk are eating like filet mignon in bĂ©arnaise sauce or duck confit. It doesn’t seem right somehow. Brats seem right.

But then I thought, next football season is months and months away: it’s no time to panic or feel sorry for myself. I enjoy experimenting with recipes, so I’m going to attempt to create the next generation of wurst:


Wish me luck.

Enjoy the Journey

The week after the Super Bowl, I happened to be corresponding via e-mail with some friends back East—New England Patriots fans—and naturally their mood was gloomy. Actually, dark depression describes it best. Here they went from being so close to being on top of the world—AN UNDEFEATED SEASON—and instead they were just the last victim of the incredible late season run the New York Giants put on.

Green Bay Packer fans happened to feel the same sting just two weeks earlier. After one of the most memorable playoff games in Packer history, complete with a stirring comeback from two touchdowns behind and a lovely snowstorm that made the whole atmosphere seem like a winter dreamscape, there was nothing but bitterness and an empty feeling at the end of the game, combined with the sobering realization that opportunities to go to the Super Bowl don’t come around that often. Who knows when Green Bay will make it to the NFC Championship again? Next year? Ten years from now?

It got me to thinking about this whole notion of whether winning really is “the only thing.” If that’s true, in professional sports the only way to feel satisfied at the end of a season is to win the Championship, or to not make the playoffs at all but win your final game. In the latter case, at least you get to experience that “we’ll get ‘em next year” solace, that hopeful anticipation of the upcoming season.

Perhaps sports fans should enjoy the journey instead; we should try to remember the thrill of each and every victory during the season, each amazing play we witnessed. After all, even losing teams have highlight reels.

I learned this lesson when I was a kid and went to PGA Golf Tournaments on a regular basis. I had several favorite players I rooted for, and I was always disappointed when the tournament was over and my players didn’t win. Then it dawned on me: the chances of any single player winning a given tournament, especially one I happened to attend, are extremely slim. It’s possible I would never see one of my favorite players win in person. With that in mind, I learned how to enjoy the event for the event itself, not the outcome.

As it turned out, I never did see one of my favorite players hoist the trophy at the end, but now, twenty years or more later, I still remember the thrill of having them in contention on Sunday afternoon at Augusta or Pebble Beach. I remember the excitement of being in the middle of the cheering crowds.

The journey. That’s the important thing.

(But, I have to admit I didn’t watch the Super Bowl because I was still angry the Packers didn’t make it).

This “enjoy the journey” concept will require a little more practice on my part.

Monday, February 11, 2008

If I Could Do My Business Career Over…

When I was a youngster one of my dreams was to be a professional golfer, to play on the PGA Tour. The life of the tour pro seemed so glamorous—playing all the great courses, working outside rather than in a dreary office building, hearing the cheers of the crowd, and of course there was all that prize money they played for. As time went on, I gradually let go of that dream, and replaced it with a dream (that eventually came true) of making a living as a writer. But my passion for golf remained; in fact the first time I earned money from writing was for an article I submitted to Golf Magazine.

Recently I discovered something that I wish I had heard about when I was planning my career: golf schools, for example the San Diego Golf Academy. This is a two-year golf college that trains people for jobs in the golf industry. They offer a curriculum of both golf instruction and golf business management. Imagine taking classes in the morning to learn how to manage a posh golf resort and then playing golf or practicing in the afternoon. It sure sounds a lot more interesting than the MBA school I attended!

San Diego Golf Academy has four campuses, in Phoenix, San Diego, Orlando, and Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. They assist their graduates with finding just the right position at one of the more than 18,000 golf courses in the United States, or golf affiliated companies such as equipment manufacturers. Golf jobs are plentiful; this is an industry that has experienced tremendous growth in recent years; you can learn more at: http://www.sdga.edu/Career_Guide_Download.php.

What really impressed me about the San Diego Golf Academy were the credentials of the instructors. They are accomplished in golf instruction, some have had their own golf instruction TV shows and contributed articles to major golf magazines, and have managed some of the largest and most prestigious golf facilities in the world. A golf pro today is really a skilled business person who happens to love golf. If you’ve ever considered a career in the golf industry, this web site is a great place to start.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Book Review: "Playing for Pizza" by John Grisham

Mega-bestselling author John Grisham is known primarily for his legal thrillers, some of which have been turned into motion pictures. He is an avid football fan, too, and occasionally takes a break from writing about the courtroom and heads for the gridiron. His first effort in that regard was titled Bleachers. Now he returns with another football novel, Playing for Pizza. It’s always a risk for a bestselling author to venture out of his readers’ comfort zone. They have certain expectations when they see “John Grisham” on the cover, and authors run the risk of alienating their loyal fans if they don’t meet those expectations. I can’t imagine being disappointed in this football novel, however.

I’d describe Playing for Pizza as Breezy and Thoroughly Enjoyable.

Playing for Pizza is one of those novels you can enjoy on several levels. Grisham gives us an intriguing, offbeat football story, a series of lovely postcard-like images of traveling through Italy, a good deal of humor--even a warm and hopeful ending in which the main character, quarterback Rick Dockery, achieves redemption not just on the football field, but through the possibility of finding love as well. He realistically portrays the downside of NFL gridiron fame and contrasts it with an Italian football league where the players are not in the game for money, but for the sheer joy of competition.

Rick is likable though flawed and Grisham’s supporting cast is full of quirky, interesting individuals. I really enjoyed the maniacal sportswriter character who comes all the way from Cleveland to Italy to carry on an in-print vendetta against Rick for ineptly ruining the Browns’ chances of winning a championship (by throwing three consecutive interceptions!). I wondered if that character might represent some of the rather nasty book critics in the media who take pot shots at Grisham’s novels from time to time, mostly out of envy because Grisham has sold so many millions of books.

All in all, Playing for Pizza is an amusing, fast-paced story that can be enjoyed whether you are a football fan or not. Check it out at: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0385525001/ref=cm_cr_pr_product_top