The Faldo Golf Institute at Shadow Ridge in Palm Desert is a great place to sharpen your game

By Travel ArticlesApril 26, 2012, 5:10 pm

PALM DESERT, Calif. -- When you come to the Marriott's Shadow Ridge Golf Course you not only have the chance to play one of California's premier golf layouts, designed by Nick Faldo with help from Lee Schmidt and Brian Curley, but you also can sharpen your game with some of the best golf instructors of the Faldo Golf Institute.

Mike Ellis -- senior golf instructor and my easy-going, two-day teacher -- made me immediately feel at ease and promoted a professional, knowledgeable and calm atmosphere to address my flat, inside swing pattern. He gave me several practice drills to become more upright -- like Faldo. And Ellis should know what works and what doesn't work.

Ellis will never forget the day Faldo sent him a new student to look at and appraise. Her name was Yani Tseng and she was 15.

'I took her out to the pitching area where we have an area that is shaped like an upside down V with various lengths of pin placements,' Ellis remembered. 'After we finished there were balls closely surrounding all the pins. I knew she could be something special.'

Ellis kept in touch, and after Tseng had qualified and missed the cut in 2005 at the U.S. Women's Open at Cherry Hills he called her.

'I only cry (sic) one hour,' Tseng told Ellis. Reversely, when Tseng won the 2004 U.S. Women's Public Links title she told Ellis, 'that time I make Michelle Wie cry.'

Needless to say, Tseng, the top-ranked women's player in the world, doesn't shed many tears these days.

Faldo Golf Institute: Instruction that's fun

'My first goal is to make the student feel comfortable,' Ellis said. 'I found my niche quickly, started teaching right out of college 29 years ago, and when I joined the Faldo Golf Institute I discovered Mr. Faldo's philosophy was to have fun learning the fundamentals. We don't have a cookie-cutter approach because we know everyone has a different swing and we try to give tips and drills to improve on it.

'The most important thing to me is to see a student improve -- that's what keeps me going in the teaching industry. I always try to make someone feel comfortable -- set them at ease and the learning experience is much better. Fun is first, and if you walk away with some things to work on your game, have a good experience and start to hit the ball better then everyone is happy.'

The curriculum at Faldo Golf Institute

Faldo, a six-time major champion, has an extensive certification process for his instructions and they all spend time with him as part of their training.

The Faldo Golf Institute offers programs aimed to match each type of player, from experts to women to kids. The curriculum is flexible to ensure learning is paced for each student and goals are established for improvement with specific practice regimens and developmental drills.

Ellis' instruction for me included putting grip and alignment, short-game chipping and pitching, sand tips, irons and driver drills, and video documentation which was emailed to me after my two days along with Ellis' audio comments. Correcting years of bringing the club too inside can't be corrected in two days, but Ellis was able to show me improvement from day one to the second day.

At one point on the range we took a break and Ellis looked up at the view from the backside of the range, peering at the panorama of the snow-capped peaks of the San Jacinto, Santa Rosa and San Gorgonio mountains on an ideal 80-degree March day.

'Not a bad office,' Ellis said.

True, and the view, weather, practice facilities and Faldo's Shadow Ridge Golf Course and time-share Villas made it even more of an excellent experience.

Faldo Golf Institute: What else is included?

Faldo believes club fitting will take your game to the next level and the Faldo Golf Institute includes a Club Fitter's Workshop and Trackman, which is a precision swing and ball flight analysis.

TrackMan uses Doppler radar -- the same technology employed by the military for tracking missiles -- to analyze the golf swing and entire flight of the ball from impact to landing: displaying the ball's 3D trajectory in real time, while delivering 22 swing and ball flight parameters/data points on every shot.

Also included is the Alumni Clubhouse, where you can login to information about new instruction videos and even access your videos at

Faldo Golf Institute: Free lodging promotion

Book a two- or three-day golf school and don't pay lodging package pricing. Just pay regular pricing for the Golf School and the lodging is free in Marriott's Grande Vista resort in Orlando, Fla., or Marriott's Shadow Ridge resort in Palm Desert, Calif.

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Tiger's checklist: How he can contend at Augusta

By Ryan LavnerFebruary 21, 2018, 8:31 pm

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Augusta is already on the minds of most players here at the Honda Classic, and that includes the only one in the field with four green jackets.

Yes, Tiger Woods has been talking about the Masters ever since he started this latest comeback at Torrey Pines. These three months are all about trying to build momentum for the year’s first major.

Woods hasn’t revealed his schedule past this week, but his options are limited. He’s a good bet to play at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, where he has won eight times, but adding another start would be a departure from the norm. He’s not eligible for the two World Golf Championship events, in Mexico and Austin, and he has never played the Valspar Championship or the Houston Open.

So there’s a greater sense of urgency this week at PGA National, which is realistically one of his final tune-ups.

How will Woods know if he’s ready to contend at Augusta? Here’s his pre-Masters checklist:

1. Stay healthy

So far, so good, as Woods tries to resume a normal playing schedule following four back surgeries since 2014. Though he vowed to learn from his past mistakes and not push himself, it was a promising sign that Woods felt strong enough to sign up for the Honda, the second of back-to-back starts on separate coasts.

Another reason for optimism on the health front: The soreness that Woods felt after his season opener at Torrey Pines wasn’t related to his surgically repaired back. No, what ached most were his feet – he wasn’t used to walking 72 holes on hilly terrain.

Woods is stiffer than normal, but that’s to be expected. His back is fused.

2. Figure out his driver

Augusta National is more forgiving off the tee than most major courses, putting more of a premium on approach shots and recoveries.

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That’s good news for Woods, who has yet to find a reliable tee shot. Clearly, he is most comfortable playing a fade and wants to take the left side of the course out of play, but in competition he’s been plagued by a two-way miss.

In two starts this year, Woods has hit only 36 percent of the fairways, no matter if he was using driver, fairway wood or long iron.

Unfortunately, Woods is unlikely to gain any significant insight into his driver play this week. PGA National’s Champion Course isn’t overly long, but there is water on 15 of the 18 holes. As a result, he said he likely will hit driver only four times a round, maybe five, and otherwise rely on his 3-wood and 2-iron. 

Said Rory McIlroy: “Being conservative off the tee is something that you have to do here to play well.”

That won’t be the case at Augusta.

3. Clean up his iron play

As wayward as Woods has been off the tee, his iron play hasn’t impressed, either.

At Riviera, he hit only 16 greens in regulation – his fewest in a Tour event as a professional. Of course, Woods’ chances of hitting the green are reduced when he’s playing from the thick rough, sand and trees, but he also misfired on six of the eight par 3s.

Even when Woods does find the green, he’s not close enough to the hole. Had he played enough rounds to qualify, his proximity to the hole (39 feet, 7 inches) would rank 161st on Tour.

That won’t be good enough at Augusta, where distance control and precision are paramount.

Perhaps that’s why Justin Thomas said last week what many of us were thinking: “I would say he’s a pretty good ways away.”

4. Get into contention somewhere

As much as he would have liked to pick off a win on the West Coast, Woods said that it’s not a prerequisite to have a chance at the Masters. He cited 2010, when he tied for fourth despite taking four months off after the fallout from his scandal.

In reality, though, there hasn’t been an out-of-nowhere Masters champion since Charl Schwartzel in 2011. Since then, every player who eventually donned the green jacket either already had a win that year or at least a top-3 finish worldwide.

“I would like to play well,” Woods said. “I would like to win golf tournaments leading into it. The years I’ve won there, I’ve played really well early.”

Indeed, he had at least one win in all of the years he went on to win the Masters (1997, 2000, ’01, ’05). Throw in the fact that Woods is nearly five years removed from his last Tour title, and it’s reasonable to believe that he at least needs to get himself into contention before he can seriously entertain winning another major.

And so that’s why he’s here at the Honda, trying to find his game with seven weeks to go. 

“It’s tournament reps,” he said, “and I need tournament reps.”

Add that to the rest of his pre-Masters checklist.

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Players winner to get 3-year exemption into PGA

By Rex HoggardFebruary 21, 2018, 8:01 pm

Although The Players isn’t golf’s fifth major, it received a boost in that direction this week.

The PGA of America has adjusted its criteria for eligibility into the PGA Championship, extending an exemption for the winner of The Players to three years.

According to an official with the PGA of America, the association felt the winner of The Players deserved more than a single-year exemption, which had been the case, and the move is consistent with how the PGA Tour’s annual flagship event is treated by the other majors.

Winners of The Players were already exempt for three years into the Masters, U.S. Open and The Open Championship.

The change will begin with this year’s PGA Championship.

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Thomas: Playing in front of Tiger even more chaotic

By Randall MellFebruary 21, 2018, 7:52 pm

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Justin Thomas may be going from the frying pan to the fire of Tiger Woods’ pairings.

Translation: He’s going from being grouped with Woods last week in the first two rounds at the Genesis Open to being grouped directly in front of Woods this week at the Honda Classic.

“Which might be even worse than playing with him,” Thomas said Wednesday.

Typically, the pairing in front of Woods deals with a lot of gallery movement, with fans racing ahead to get in position to see Woods’ next shot.

Thomas was quoted after two rounds with Tiger at Riviera saying fans “got a little out of hand,” and saying it’s disappointing some golf fans today think it’s “so amusing to yell and all that stuff while we’re trying to hit shots.”

With 200,000 fans expected this week at the Honda Classic, and with the Goslings Bear Trap pavilion setting a party mood at the 16th green and 17th tee, that portion of the course figures to be quite lively at PGA National.

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Thomas was asked about that.

“I touched on this a little bit last week,” Thomas said. “I think it got blown out of proportion, was just taken out of context, and worded differently than how I said it or meant it.

“I love the fans. The fans are what I hope to have a lot of, what all of us hope to have a lot of. We want them cheering us on. But it's those certain fans that are choosing to yell at the wrong times, or just saying stuff that's completely inappropriate.”

Thomas said it’s more than ill-timed shouts. It’s the nature of some things being said.

“It's one thing if it's just you and I talking, but when you're around kids, when you're around women, when you're around families, or just around people in general, some of the stuff they are saying to us is just extremely inappropriate,” he said. “There’s really no place for it anywhere, especially on a golf course.

“I feel like golf is pretty well known as a classy sport, not that other sports aren't, but it has that reputation.”

Thomas said the nature of the 17th hole at PGA National’s Champion Course makes it a more difficult tee shot than the raucous 16th at the Waste Management Phoenix Open. Typically, players like to hear fans get into the action before or after they hit shots. Ill-timed bluster, however, makes a shot like the one at Honda’s 17th even tougher.

“That hole is hard enough,” Thomas said. “I don't need someone yelling in my ear on my backswing that I'm going to hit it in the water, to make it any harder. I hope it gets better, just for the sake of the game. That's not helping anything. That's not helping grow the game.”

Those who follow golf know an ill-timed shout in a player’s backswing is different than anything a fan says at a football, basketball or baseball game. An ill-timed comment in a backswing has a greater effect on the outcome of a competition.

“Just in terms of how much money we're playing for, how many points we're playing for ... this is our jobs out here, and you hate to somehow see something that a fan does, or something that they yell, influence something that affects [a player’s] job,” Thomas said.

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Rory: Phil said RC task force just copied Europe

By Randall MellFebruary 21, 2018, 7:21 pm

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Playing the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am two weeks ago, Rory McIlroy quizzed Phil Mickelson about what the Americans got out of the U.S. Ryder Cup task force’s overhaul.

McIlroy and Mickelson were paired together at Pebble Beach.

“Basically, all they are doing is copying what the Europeans have done,” McIlroy said.  “That's what he said.”

The Europeans claimed their sixth of seven Ryder Cups with their victory at Gleneagles in 2014. That brought about a sea change in the way the United States approached the Ryder Cup. Mickelson called out the tactics in Gleneagles of captain Tom Watson, who was outmaneuvered by European captain Paul McGinley.

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The Americans defeated Europe at Hazeltine two years ago with that new European model.

“He said the first thing they did in that task force was Phil played a video, a 12-minute video of Paul McGinley to all of them,” McIlroy said. “So, they are copying what we do, and it's working for them. It's more cohesive, and the team and the core of that team are more in control of what they are doing, instead of the PGA of America recruiting and someone telling them what to do.”