Authenticate, legitimize, quantify, evaluate, gauge, appraise, gain validity - sounds like someone just used a thesaurus, doesn't it?
Improvements are hard to measure. Especially in golf. Is it your score against the crew you play with all the time? Does your handicap measure the improvement? Gauge your game by the length of your drives, number of putts? Amount of money in your pocket at the end of the round? Number of beers on the front nine?
No, none of these really reflects you or the improvement in your golf game. It's like having a Breitling knock off - nice but not the real deal. Phony, and no real accurate measurement to decode the improved status of your game.
How about this to gauge where you are? For starters, the bar to be measured against has to be very high. Such as playing the very best courses. The track has to be up to PGA standards, i.e. PGA narrow, PGA roughs, PGA greens, PGA decisions and PGA scoring protocol.
Sure, the conditions will be tough, challenging the mental and physical aspects of your game. But that's what we're seeking here, right? Second, these courses should be where PGA professionals have played. How would you fare?
Encounter the course as they view it: every hole, every individual challenge they face, all the shots they mentally visualize as they attempt to earn their keep the player's card. Feel the pressure yet? Remember, these guys are the best in the world. Compare yourself to them and now we're talking.
The Tournament Players Club was organized in 1979 when TPC Sawgrass was built from swampland in Florida. The TPC is a subsidiary of the PGA Tour and was founded to create and maintain facilities that match the tour's high standards for tournaments and events. There are 26 such TPC facilities across the U.S.
We're lucky to have two TPC courses in Las Vegas. TPC Las Vegas, 9851 Canyon Run Drive, is the daily-use course in Summerlin. The 7,063-yard course played host to the Las Vegas Senior Classic from 1994 to 2001.
The shining star, however, is TPC Summerlin, 1700 Village Center Circle, home to the just-finished Justin Timberlake Shriners Hospital for Children Open.
TPC Summerlin is a private facility and has hosted professional golf events since the mid-1990s. In fact, Tiger Woods earned his first professional victory there in 1996.
So I set out to weasel an invitation to play TPC Summerlin to test my game against the sport's best. Lee Smith, general manager of TPC Summerlin, made my day.
It was a beautiful day for a long walk when we teed up that sunny afternoon. Garfield Ogilvie, director of sales and marketing, joined us for the round of golf.
"TPC courses are the closest to real tour conditions that the average golfer can experience," Garfield said.
After the first tee shot, I readily agreed. My shot ended up in the right rough, and I hacked it out in two shots.
What makes the TPC course an authentic tour experience?
"We're constantly making the course more challenging for the pros," Garfield said.
One of the tools to achieve this is ShotLink, which has been in use for more than a decade. During an event, from a command post armed with dozens of computers, ShotLink records every shot the pros take during a tournament and measures and incorporates them into a program that spits out hundreds of individual and course statistics.
Besides the statistical info, ShotLink analyzes drives (where they land), approach shots (relationship to the greens) and how hard or easy to score from around the green. With this data, it's an easy step to toughen up the course.
During the round, Garfield said additional traps would be added here, additional trees would be placed there, all with the intent of making the decisions the pros have to make more challenging. Ultimately, more difficult for us hackers, too.
It was a long day of golf for me.
I came away with a new appreciation and an old realization. Big surprise: Pro golfers are really good, and I'm clearly not in the league with the pro golfers. But wait - on hole No. 3, where John Daly recently took an eight, I easily cruised to a seven. I'm pro-quality, I mused. I authenticated my game.
TPC Summerlin is the real deal. Its motto, "play where the pros play," sums it up pretty nicely. And if you are serious about your game and want to improve it, you should consider membership at TPC Summerlin. With tour-quality playing conditions, world-class practice areas, PGA-level instruction, a PGA-level clubhouse and facilities and terrific social activities, you can authenticate your game and have a great time achieving it.
John Asay is a longtime golfer and local freelance writer. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.