Oct 9, 2014

Top 10 Golf Cakes - Creative Confections That Hit the Sweet Spot

Today is National Cake Decorating Day!  It really is.  

I first published a version of this story a while back... before I knew such a day existed...  but it does, and it's today and who doesn't love cakes?  So this just seemed like a perfect time to revisit it. Enjoy. 

There was a time... not long ago... when cakes conformed to certain specific standards; a wedding cake would generally be tiered and white, while a birthday cake was expected to be layered... and laden with candles.

Thanks to several celebrity bakers and a few reality cooking shows, stunning, over-the-top cake design has become standard... no matter what the occasion.  

As for inspiration... it can come from anywhere. Or so it seems. An image search for "cakes" yields a substantial selection of truly exquisite creations... and a mind-boggling multitude of hideous/hilarious "cake mistakes"

With so much interest in the sugar arts, cake contests have become popular fundraisers, and a couple of years ago I competed in one myself. It was a benefit the Danbury Museum & Historical Society, an organization that's dear to my heart because of its commitment to the preservation of history... specifically the history of our centuries-old town: Danbury, CT.

The theme of the contest that year was "Bake What You Love", so I naturally thought of golf... and when I started looking around for ideas I found plenty. As in hundreds. Some were sublime, others were... interesting... and some left me wanting to swear off cake... and golf... for the rest of my life. Anyway I ended up creating mine in honor of the US Open (a tournament I love) which was soon to take place at Medina.  It was the first three tier cake I'd ever made and though it wasn't perfect, I loved way it came out and the taste was sublime.  Check it out here.

Then last spring I decided to make a golf birthday cake for my husband.  He loves the game and it rarely loves him back, I figured this might add some sweetness to his obsession and I think it did. Sort of.  That's my a photo of the cake above, taken before Nick attempted to blow out the candles and after the flag caught on fire and nearly burned down Dad's house.  More photos here.

Finally check the golf cakes on my Top 10 list  HERE.

Oct 1, 2014

5 Fabulous Things About Playing Golf in October

1- Unencumbered Courses: A surprising number of golfers put away their clubs... along with their white clothing... on Labor Day, freeing up the fairways for faster rounds... or slower ones if that's your desire. 

A little break between nines at Vails Grove Golf Course , Brewster, NY                                                         @GolfGirlMedia

2- Gorgeous Weather: Across the US... and in many places around the globe... October provides a perfect meteorologic medium between summer's oppressive heat and the icy chill of winter. Bereft of cloying humidity, skies seem bluer and air seems fresher in October.

Blue skies and crisp, cool air at Gainfield Farms Golf Course, Southbury, CT           @GolfGirlMedia

3- Awesome Autumnal Fashion: Argyle, tartan, houndstooth and tweed, these quintessential fall patterns share their Anglo-Scottish heritage with the game of golf.  Autumn's rich color palettes play into such patterns perfectly and make summer's flowery pastels seem insipid and uninspiring. Fairway fashion definitely comes into its own in fall.

Wearing autumnal tartan golf trousers by Lizzie Driver                                                                                @GolfGirlMedia

4- Fabulous Foliage:
In many places the resplendent colors of Autumn reach their brilliant peak sometime in October providing a multi-chromatic spectacle on each fairway.  However the burnished hues that follow the peak... and the coppery colors that proceed it... are equally dreamy. October is a month of nature's most impressive 

The autumnal landscape at Salem Golf Club, North Salem, NY                                      @GolfGirlMedia

5- Fallen Foliage:
While they may be seen as an annoyance to some, the fallen leaves that sometimes swallow errant shots tend to give back quite generously. I don't know how the math works, but every October I seem to find at least two balls for every one I lose.  In addition, at this time of year many of us invoke the leaf rule, by which you simply drop a second ball in the general vicinity of your first one's disappearance and hit from there... sans penalty, of course.

Autumn leaves often abduct a cherished ball, but may also yield a hidden treasure   @GolfGirlMedia

Sep 16, 2014

Watermelon Gazpacho Cocktail - A Sublime September Tipple

With September firmly in its second half, the days are decidedly getting shorter.  Our New England foliage is beginning to feature some lively licks of color, and the morning chill no longer allows for a sleeveless stroll to the mailbox.  That the official end of summer is still several days off is of little solace to those lamenting the approach of winter.

I used to be one of those lamenters.  I'd get all gloomy at the first hint of fall; pumpkins depressed me... so did chrysanthemums and cornucopias. Especially cornucopias.  An irrational dread of what the winter might bring had left me unable to appreciate the unique awesomeness of fall.

It was a desire to extend the abbreviated Connecticut golf season that finally led me to stop sulking and embrace Autumn. Once I did, I found myself looking forward to this season on steamy summer days.  I now relish the last months of each year; for the spectacular changing colors, the cooler temperatures... and the less crowded golf courses.  There's also the prospect... once Autumn is well underway... of an Indian summer, bringing us a final taste of warmth before winter takes hold for good.   This endearing weather singularity is quite common in New England, and it's the inspiration behind a unique drink I developed for our annual fall golf classic.  It's a blend of the season's most delightful ingredients and the end result is both sweet and savory, just like the special season that inspired it: The Watermelon Gazpacho Cocktail.

Sep 11, 2014

The Birdie Sisters Continue to Create A Unique & Inspiring Golf Narrative

In the Autumn of 2009, when I first met up with Myah and Erica Jackson they were just 9 and 11 years old, but already the prodigious pair was well-known in Midwestern junior golf circles.

In fact, the Chicago-based sisters... having started playing golf at age four... had by that time become The Birdie Sisters... and not only did they regularly win golf tournaments, they also excelled at other disciplines; their family YouTube channel... in addition to golf and talk show clips... featured the girls (and their younger brother) participating in Taekwondo competitions and performing in music recitals.

Flash forward to the Fall of 2014: Erica is now16, Myah 14. Both have continued to compete... and excel... on a local, national and international level, despite the extraordinary cost involved.   They now attend Chicago's prestigious Jones College Prep where they play on the boy's golf team.  And, in case you're wondering, the Jones Prep boys don't really have a hard time when The Birdie Sisters beat them, because... they're kind of used to it.

The video above features the Birdie Sisters in their recent appearance on top Chicago talk show, Windy City Live.  They talk about how they started playing golf, what they've achieved in the sport, and where they feel golf may eventually take them.

It's an ultra-inspiring story and there's clearly much more to come.  Keep up with The Birdie Sisters via Facebook and Twitter.  Past posts on The Birdie Sisters.

Aug 26, 2014

On National Dog Day: Golf's Top Dogs And Their Cute Calendar

When someone says "golf pin-up" or "golf calendar model" it generally brings to mind images like like this.  Or perhaps, this. In other words, you picture a shapely lady in a revealing outfit... with maybe a golf club or two in the mix.

Well, earlier today I discovered a totally different kind of "golf pin-up". One with a slightly less... libidinous... aesthetic.

TurfNet.com is a site for golf course superintendents, the often under-heralded professionals who manage the labor, time, materials and financial resources needed to care for the fairways and greens of the courses we play on.  In addition the tutorials, job boards and equipment listings, there are myriad blogs and articles that provide an interesting and enlightening look and the extraordinary effort required to keep even the most modest golf courses up to par.  It's a fascinating glimpse into the multi-faceted world of a profession that we golfers depend on for our favorite recreational activity... but that most of us know very little about.  Then there's the calendar, and this is a feature that delightfully transcends golf.

"Betty Grable, Rita Hayworth, Hedy Lamarr... and Tank; just a few of history's most popular pin-up models." 

It's the TurfNet Superintendent's Best Friend Calendar. Every year since 2002, 14 fabulous golf course dogs have been selected to grace the pages of this very special calendar.

The 2013 calendar is viewable as a pdf on the site  and the models, I might add,  are real cuties. There's also a video on the site that presents a number of beguiling golf course canines in all their photogenic glory. The variety of different breeds and the diversity of the courses they inhabit is remarkable, and the way the dogs pose... and project ownership of their respective domains... enchanting.
So when you've got a bit of time to spare head over to TurfNet, and check out the awesome golf course dogs.  I guarantee they'll lift your spirits.

Today is National Dog Day. I wrote about this unique canine calendar a couple of years ago and thought this might be a perfect time to revisit it. Enjoy!

Jul 10, 2014

Ryo Revival: Ishikawa Gets A Long Awaited Win & A British Open Entrée

Relentlessly Stylish Ryo           photo: callawayapparel.jp
At first glance, age 22 would seem preposterously young to be talking about relaunching a career, but for some of today's professional golfers, the concept is not so far fetched. They take up the game as children and achieve early success; winning on increasingly important stages, collecting ever more impressive trophies and piling up precocity records. 

Youthful achievers fascinate fans, and as a result they often inspire the proverbial "media frenzy", which brings with it the prospect of lucrative sponsorship deals. 

But precipitous fame can be distracting, and a global golf career implies an exhausting travel schedule. Then comes the inevitable winless spell.

The stretch can last a year or two... or ten... it can come after multiple major wins or a handful of tournament victories, but either way, it's a burden for the player to bear. Once the long awaited win finally comes we hear the word relaunch... even when the player in question is implausibly young. 
This is certainly the case for one of our favorite golfers... a golfer we've written about on many occasions: Japan's Ryo Ishikawa.

As a 15 year old amateur... in his first tour appearance... he won the Munsingwear Open KSB and became the youngest ever to win on the Japanese Men's Tour.   From there, his rise was meteoric; Ryo Ishikawa was soon being called Japan's Tiger Woods and hailed as the face of golf in Japan.

The ensuing years brought multiple wins on the Japan Tour, and in 2008 the newly christened Bashful Prince became the youngest player ever to reach the top 100 of the Official World Golf rankings, in 2009, the youngest ever to reach the top 50.  MORE -->

Jun 27, 2014

5 Connecticut Courses That Challenge Golfers With Island Greens

With its massive purse and unofficial "fifth major" status, the Players Championship is a perennial favorite of golf fans, but most would probably agree that it's mainly the iconic 17th hole at TPC Sawgrass that allows this tournament to transcend golf... and capture the attention of the masses.

There's something about an island green: the prospect of a sudden watery demise can play on the nerves of even the most experienced golfer...  and drama will often ensue.

It's a good bet there's not a golfer anywhere who's watched the Players Championship without imagining themselves poised on that 17th tee, aiming for the island.

If a trip to Ponte Vedre Beach isn't currently in the cards for you, chances are you may be able to find a island green right in your own home state because... contrary to popular belief... island greens aren't all that rare.

Though they're not a traditional feature of golf course architecture, they've become quite popular since the mid-20th Century.  In fact here in Connecticut, without doing much research, I've already discovered five, so you may want to see what your state has to offer.  Meanwhile for those living in, or traveling to, the "Nutmeg State" this summer, here's what I've found:

Vineyard Valley Golf Course • 34 Brayman Valley Road • Pomfret, CT - It used to be a vineyard, now it's a 9 hole golf course... and the finishing hole on this scenic, steeply sloped course is an island green.
"The ninth hole is what Gus Loos, the designer of the course, considered to be eastern Connecticut's answer to the famous island green at the 17th hole at Sawgrass in Florida. Playing anywhere from 120 to 160 yards, the green is fronted by a watery marsh that has been and will continue to be the graveyard of many a good score."  
Chanticlair Golf Course • 288 Old Hebron Road • Colchester, CT 06415 - The 9 hole Chanticlair Golf Course has been in operation since the early 1970's in the scenic town of Colchester.  The island experience greets golfers on the 4th hole here.  • • MORE CT ISLAND GREENS