Jones Golf Bags set the standard in style, tradition and performance

The new age of golf has become a melting pot of tradition, performance, and modern style. Clothing and shoe companies have always been front and center when it comes to new trends, but there are other trailblazers in the equipment game, too.

Jones Golf Bags is one of those trendsetters, staying on the cutting edge of performance and design with a nod to the game’s traditional style. The company began out of the trunk of a cab, from which founder George Jones sold is hand-sewn bags. More than 40 years later, the company produces some of the most durable and stylish bags we’ve ever carried.

When shopping Jones’ lines it’s apparent the company holds traditional designs close to heart. This means sleek, compact bags with fewer but larger storage compartments, and built to be carried. Jones’ carry bags (ranging from $139.95 to $169.95) top out at under 4lbs, and the sturdy, plush shoulder straps make for an easy trek no matter the model.

The Jones Original is the most traditional of the designs. It’s simply beautiful — literally and figuratively — with a classic unstructured body, 3-way top divider, and a single shoulder strap. This is the bag that started it all, as the web description notes.

Jones graciously sent CGB a pair of customized Utility Bags, among the company’s stand bag offerings (ranging from $174.95 to $229.95). After the gitty-ness of the unboxing wore off, the quality of the bags stood out. The water resistant nylon has proven to withstand an ample amount of fall and winter golf in Colorado without wear and tear, and the sturdy, smooth zippers make access to storage quick and easy. The Utility also sports the new “draw string” pouch for even quicker access to on-course essentials.

Jones calls its patented stand system the “gold standard,” and that sounds like a safe bet. Not matter the lie, the legs hold the bag steady and fold back into place smoothly when picked up, rivaling only one other bag I’ve ever played. During my high school career — when my love/hate relationship with walking the course began — our hand-me-down Ping Hoofer 2s were among the most coveted equipment. The reliability of the stand system and the simple design brought solace to our agonizing practice rounds, and no one wanted to return them at the end of season. I later switched to Ogio, and while durable and convenient I always struggled to find a design that wasn’t too modern for my taste, or didn’t have a bunch of features I didn’t need.

At capacity, the Utility is a cinch to carry (about 5lbs when empty) — I usually pack a couple sleeves of balls, range finder, water, snacks, tees and markers, and extra layers, along with the standard number of clubs. The standard single strap is more than enough to keep this bag comfortable on my shoulder, though it does come with an additional strap if you prefer the backpack-style carry. It feels strange to note how comfortable a golf bag is, but in this case it’s hard not to.

What’s more, Jones offers personalization on all of their products — the company also has backpacks, luggage, coolers, and more of equal quality — making your gorgeous bag a one-of-a-kind piece and the envy of your group.

In all, we’re blown away with Jones’ offerings and believe we’ve found a new benchmark to which we’ll compare the rest. Golf has always been a game of style, class, and tradition, and it always will be. Companies like Jones Golf Bags exude that aesthetic, finding a perfect balance between the then and now, and setting the standard for the game’s next generation.

Walking Stick Golf Course showcases the spirit of Southern Colorado

One of Colorado’s most-lauded municipal courses, Pueblo’s Walking Stick Golf Course (4301 Walking Stick Blvd., walkingstickpueblo.com) should be on the must-play list for anyone visiting the area.

The course has made plenty of other “best” lists already, being named “Colorado’s best golf value,” and second “best in state,” by Golf Digest in 1993, and included in the magazine’s 1996 “America’s Top 75 Affordable Courses” list.

The par-72 course borders the CSU Pueblo campus — serving as the home course for the college — with sweeping views of the front range and the southern face of Pikes Peak. The course landscape screams southwestern Colorado, with cacti, yucca plants and desert wildflowers dominating the native areas, and a stunning arroyo housing the high desert wildlife (lost balls beware).

Despite some intimidating looks from the tee box, Walking Stick is very inviting. Landing areas are fairly wide, and reachable for players of any length, and the rough is very playable — even the native hazards yield playable lies in most cases, but beware of snakes! Aside from and handful of tee-to-green challenges, Walking Stick can facilitate low scores, but don’t sleep on this course.

Starting with a wide, straight and short par 4 at no. 1, the layout gets you thinking low scores, especially long hitters, but Walking Stick’s real challenge is its greens. Though fairly large, tiered greens with multiple breaks, false fronts and slopes are a factor here, and the pin placements don’t make things any easier. While the fairways offer the chance to get aggressive on your approach, strategically placed bunkers and fairway undulations also come into play.

One of most challenging holes on the course is the 544-yard par 5 at no.4. The long, arching dogleg left hugs the gorgeous arroyo and keeps the green — and a sneaky pot bunker — from view until your second or third shot. Playing the right side is a must here, and your only chance of reaching the green in two. If you’re left from the tee, a layup is all but guaranteed.

According to the course guidebook, we should note, no.7 is the most difficult hole at Walking Stick. The 462-yard par 4 begins with an intimidating tee shot over an expanse of native area. Again, favoring the right side in your approach will yield the best results, as a miss right will keep you out of a greenside bunker on the left.

No.12 has to be considered one of Walking Stick’s signature holes. The 160-yard par 3 is intimidating from the tee, if you can even see the green. It may as well be an island green, playing in the middle of the arroyo with a small bailout area front left of the green. Too short, left, right or long means trouble from the tee, but if you’re lucky with your miss you may find a play from below the green, or in the right greenside bunker.

While finishing the back 9 it’ll be evident Walking Stick deserves all the credit it’s given as a one of the state’s best municipal courses. From tee to green, the layout is playable for players at all levels yet challenging enough to keep low handicappers on their game. The practice facilities include a full driving range, chipping and putting greens, though space can be limited at times just like any other muni — all the more reason to kill some time at the full restaurant and bar.

We’ll be keeping Walking Stick near the top of our best municipal courses list.

The Broadmoor East Course is elite Colorado golf at its finest

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Nestled at the foot of the mountains in Colorado Springs, The Broadmoor Golf Club’s East Course (1 Lake Ave., Colorado Springs, broadmoor.com) is one of Colorado golf’s most coveted crown jewels. The championship course is no stranger to the highest levels of the game, hosting 6 USGA Championships in its history (a total of 8 championships have been played on Broadmoor courses), and a number of NCAA Championships — and one now-famous black bear.

The world-renown resort is itself a dominant presence in upscale tourist offerings in the area, golf aside, and is celebrating its centennial anniversary through 2018. Perhaps as an early birthday gift, the USGA named the Broadmoor East Course as home of the 2018 U.S. Senior Open, bringing the track back into the limelight 10 years after the hosting its last Open.

At a summer 2017 launch event, Hale Irwin teed off into the wide no.1 fairway, setting up a good look at the uphill green from his second shot. The Donald Ross/Robert Trent Jones Sr. track plays like a country club: overly-inviting fairways in close proximity to one another, speckled with large trees dictating your shots, and highlighted by the manicured hazards, flowerbeds and the lushest of turf. Pristine conditions are a given — this is the Broadmoor we’re talking about — but what really sets the East Course apart from your everyday luxury private club are the greens.

While large and welcoming these greens will cause you a lot of grief, and several strokes, if you’re not extremely careful. The greens slope according to the mountains to aid in finding a line, but otherwise hidden undulations will send your ball sweeping away from the cup if your pace isn’t exact. And the super fast surface doesn’t make it easy, rolling as smooth as you can imagine. It’s no wonder how the Broadmoor East Course earned its challenging reputation in the elite levels of the game.

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Reprieve can be found in the sampling of the property’s high end amenities found throughout the layout, topped only by the gorgeous green complexes and sweeping views of the mountains to the west, and the sprawling cityscape to the east. The incredible sunsets, glimpses of the historic hotel, and wildlife spotting seem only an added bonus — no matter how many three-putts are on the card.

The front 9 provides the most scoring opportunities with par 5s at nos. 3, 7 and 9, a short par 4 at no.2 and manageable par 3s at nos. 4 and 8. Players will need to capitalize early before making the turn if they want to stay near the top of the leaderboard. The long par 35 back 9 isn’t as friendly, and can be punishing if you’re mishitting or getting too aggressive.

The 240-yard par 3 at no. 12 isn’t making too many friends at this course. Though reachable, the green complex sits above four frontside bunkers divided by a tiny landing  area. Outside of sicking the putting surface or threading the needle and catching the small patch of fairway, chances are you’re playing for par before your second shot.  Sunday’s champion can expect another challenge at the finish on the par 4 at no. 18, possibly the most difficult hole in the course. Vacation cottages line the inside of the tight doglegged fairway leading to a creek cutting off the green. A birdie finish is possible with a good, well placed tee shot and a targeted approach, but a look at the elevated, heavily undulated green from the rough can cause a lot of trouble. (Stay below the hole if you’re playing damage control.)

The Broadmoor Golf Club is a world-renowned destination for historic decadence and its culture of perfection, and that reputation rightfully extends to the East Course. The gorgeous country club setting disguises the challenges of this track very well, making it an excellent choice to host the highest levels of the game. And after enjoying a century of iconic status, the East Course is moving into the mainstream limelight once again to showcase elite Colorado golf.

A version of this story first appeared on GolfNow’s Daily Tee.

You can buy a better golf game with these three easy steps

If new clubs meant you’d drive the ball 20 yards longer and drop strokes, would you reach for your credit card? This past August, Golf Magazine published a study conducted with Club Champion, the nation’s #1 premium club fitter. According to equipment editor Rob Sauerhaft, “Fitting matters! Based on data along with tester interviews, it’s clear that correctly matched clubs can help golfers of all kinds — you actually can buy a better game with properly fit clubs.” The study found golfers gained 22 yards off the tee, 15 yards with their irons and lowered their scores by an average of 3 strokes per round.

I went to Nick Sherburne, founder of Club Champion, for things you should look for when buying new equipment. Club Champion is the highly regarded expert in the field, ranked by Golf Digest among the 100 best club fitters year after year. They offer more than 35,000 hittable head and shaft combinations, the best-trained master fitters, nearly every brand in golf, plus unrivaled, in-house club building. Here are 3 tips Nick had to share.

Buy the Right Shaft

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The industry taught us the head is the engine because that’s what hits the ball, but it’s the shaft that’s most important. Using that analogy, tires would be the engine of a car. Here the shaft powers the clubhead. In a golf shaft, flex can mean something different for every manufacturer. Manufacturers don’t use the same measurement scale. Sherburne tells customers, whether it’s stiff, regular or senior, it’s important to find the shaft that performs best for you. This makes it important to not just buy clubs off the rack. Find a skilled fitter with a launch monitor to show you how the right shaft will maximize your swing to its fullest potential.

Club Champion starts all fittings by looking at the shaft. It’s critical to identify not just the proper shaft flex but also the proper shaft weight. The shaft is what’s going to deliver the clubhead to the ball. To facilitate finding the right components, Club Champion, has a unique coupling system that allows golfers to hit any head and shaft combination. They deliver combinations that address a golfer’s problems and fix them. Most fitters use fitting carts provided by club manufacturers. While they offer options, golfers are unable to mix-and-match across carts to determine their ideal combinations. Club Champion offers hundreds of shafts, many not available through most other fitters and retailers.

Buy the Right Clubhead

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Each brand or model of clubhead has distinctive characteristics that affect launch angle, spin rate and ball speed. Buy a driver that has the right launch, spin and forgiveness for your swing. Be sure use a launch monitor and look for the highest smash factor, ball speed and spin that generates the greatest distance.

Iron heads are more complex. Design features like offset, non-offset, blade or cavity back impact ease of playability and whether you hit a draw or fade; whether you hit it high or low. Most people overlook turf interaction, which comes from having the right lie angle, grind or camber on the sole. It affects squareness at impact, the speed you move through the ball and overall consistency. Club Champion fitters will find you the best equipment options for your swing.

Buy the Right Swingweight

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Swingweight is a measurement of the weight distribution of the club or how your driver feels when you’re swinging. With widely variable shaft, grip and clubhead weighting, swingweight is more important than ever. It affects how a player swings the club and ultimately how they deliver it at impact. A heavier swingweight will make a shaft play looser; a lighter swingweight will make it play stiffer. The key application of swingweight is matching clubs within a set. If your clubs aren’t matched properly, they may feel different as you swing them.

Club Champion studios carry all the top golf club, shaft and grip manufacturers in the industry, which allows for 35,000+ equipment combinations for customers to test. Studios are equipped with advanced analysis technology and highly trained certified fitters and builders, all of whom must graduate through an extensive training program. Services include custom fitting and building for all club purchases, repair services, personalization and highly engaging corporate and personal entertainment events. For more information about Club Champion, visit clubchampiongolf.com.

A premium club fitting equals instant success

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With advances in club technology, most golfers could easily hit the ball further and more accurately. Yet, a Golf Magazine study found that 90% of U.S. golfers may be playing with improperly fit clubs. A Golf Digest study found that 8 out of 9 Club Champion custom fit golfers lowered their score by as much as 6 strokes per round and added an average of 21 yards off the tee.

Club Champion is the country’s premier club fitter, builder and retailer of the best brands in golf. The company delivers a Tour-quality fitting that produces longer, more accurate shots, with a nearly 100% satisfaction rate. Their approach is unbiased; no specific vendor is promoted. The only goal, for any skill level player, is to find the best combination of components to lower a golfer’s scores.

Ranked by Golf Digest among the 100 best club fitters eight times in a row, Club Champion’s unique coupling system allows them to combine any head and shaft together, so golfers can hit the precise combination to be custom built for them. Most golf stores use fitting carts provided by club manufacturers and while these carts offer options, golfers are unable to mix and match from different carts to determine ideal combinations. Club Champion offers hundreds of shafts, many not available through most other fitters and retailers.

Chuck Autry (Longmont) wrote, “I’ve taken my golf game to a new level. Being 64, I was struggling with almost every club in my bag. At the time I came to see you, I had a 13.5 handicap but was beginning to see much higher scores. You did some magic and it made an incredible difference. I have played many rounds in the past month in the 70s and of lowered my handicap to 8.3. This was the best investment I have ever made in my golf game!”

Former PGA Tour player Jay Williamson says, “I had access to every brand of shaft and head, but I never understood what they did for me. I didn’t have the opportunity to experiment like I do at Club Champion. They provide the same level of service players receive on Tour, including the newest heads and shafts and most advanced fitting technology. If you are a committed golfer at any level, I highly recommend it.” Incidentally, Club Champion was able to add an average of 15 yards to Jay’s drives.

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To obtain results like Jay’s, Club Champion fittings utilize Trackman launch monitors and the Science & Motion PuttLab. Both are considered the gold standard in fitting technology and are used by Tour players around the world to improve their game.

Club Champion stands out because they actually assemble clubs in-house to exacting, unrivaled tolerances. Club variables such as shaft flex, swing weight, club length and loft/lie DO alter performance. The experience and know-how in combining these intricate parts together is what separates Club Champion from its competition. TaylorMade CEO David Abeles believes, “Club Champion truly is one of the most innovative club fitters in the business. They provide a consumer experience that is undeniably helpful for all golfers to play better. We couldn’t be more thrilled with our partnership with Club Champion.”

While any caliber of player can benefit from premium club fitting, it’s for the golfer who wants maximized performance. “I chose Club Champion due to reputation and depth of the fitting process.” wrote Michael Rowells (Lakewood). “I’ve played 19 rounds with my new clubs. I’ve also played six new golf courses, not normally good for the handicap. I’ve lowered my handicap from 8.2 to 5.6 in less than two months. My best round? A 74 with five birdies and a triple bogey on 18 (water)! I could not have improved like this without getting fitted. I implore all serious golfers, and those not so serious to get fitted for their clubs.”

Studio manager Mitch Anderson relates, “I’ve become enamored with the differences between shafts in golf clubs. I wanted to pass that knowledge down to my clients. One of the best things about working for Club Champion is the chance to offer the best possible club fitting to the client, while maintaining a brand-agnostic approach. Club Champion is the major leagues of club fitting.”

When Club Champion says you’ll add 20 yards off the tee, they mean it. Whether you’re looking to buy new clubs or optimize your current set, premium club fitting is the answer. Fitting prices range from $150 for a driver to $350 for an entire bag. The local state-of-the-art studio is conveniently located at 2670 E. County Line Rd in Highlands Ranch.

Don’t just buy clubs, buy guaranteed improvement! For more information, call 888-335-9692 or visit clubchampiongolf.com.

The high life at The Country Club at Woodmoor

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There are a number of different ways to describe the country club lifestyle — from sophisticated, premiere and indulgent to, depending on who you ask, stuffy and outdated. But no matter what side of the argument you’re on, there’s no denying country club courses are home to some of the best conditions you’ll find. That may be enough to get an average golfer to shell out a little more cash for a round now and again, but it’s the extra embellishments — and sometimes over-the-top resort luxuries — that send membership prices skyrocketing.

The Country Club at Woodmoor (18945 Pebble Beach Way, Monument, ccwoodmoor.com), a semi-private course located in Black Forest, just off I-25 north of Colorado Springs is an appealing, quaint and peaceful retreat — and everything you could want in a country club, amenities wise. The property, which changed ownership in 2015, features an 18 hole championship golf course by Press Maxwell, an impressive mountain-style clubhouse with 3 dining areas and bar service, 2 pools, a 2-level fitness area, and indoor tennis facilities and more tucked into the surrounding hillsides blanketed in ponderosa pine trees and estate homes. And we can’t forget about postcard views of the Front Range and Pikes Peak in the distance.

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Woodmoor isn’t a course calling for long drives off the tee, covering 6,715 yards (from the tips) at 7,300′ elevation. The holes slice through the thick forest of Lodgepole pines narrowing your view and target lines, and preventing even the longest hitters from cutting corners. The greens on the front all have the back-to-front slant that many early designers used to show members a little love, and enticing everyday hackers tom come back. The greens on the back nine follow a more modern design with larger undulations and multiple tiers. The Woodmoor grounds crew has plenty of pin placement options to make it challenging throughout the round.

Since the change in ownership, the property continues to see upgrades and renovations, including around the green complexes, and on tees and fairways before the 2018 season. CGB made a visit upon invite from membership director and LPGA professional Debbie Zamprelli in the summer.

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This course begs you to attempt those low percentage shots, but shooting for par and planning your shots will garner a better round. Play too aggressive in the trees and you’ll be sending search parties in the woods the rest of the day.

If you’re still feeling confident, test your luck at the short par 5 at no.1, playing only 461-yards from the back tees. It’s a good representation of what to expect from J. Press Maxwell design: tight, meandering fairways, elevated green complexes, and a sea of trees. Standing on a narrow, elevated tee box shaded by trees bordering the length of the doglegged fairway. 230-240 yards into the corner sets up a clear second shot to the green for an eagle look to start. But left and right greenside bunkers stand ready to catch any shots off line.

Our favorite holes on the front included the two par 3s, which provided a reprieve from the left and right turns through the trees. No.3 and no.8 offer hopes to make that elusive ace, but of course they aren’t giving it up very easily. For the majority of average golfers both holes play a middle iron into to the mountains. Both are surrounded on three sides with trees so it’s tough to get a good gauge on the wind speed and direction. The 172-yard par 3 no.3 starts at an elevated position and the green has added protection from a pond and greenside bunkers. The right side has a good bailout area but is covered in deep rough. The 186-yard no.8 is a straight on look at a large bunker sprawled across the right front of the green — the only real threat to a birdie.

The back-nine sets up to be more challenging as the course continues to dip and climb through the rolling, tree-covered hillsides. There are fewer doglegs to contend with with the layout adding almost 200 yards of length, and an increased wow-factor with some tricky blind shots, larger greens, and premiere putting surfaces. The 410-yard par 4 no.12 calls for a solid tee shot from another horseshoe-shaped enclave where the tees stand narrowly looking out to the a rising fairway. A pond on the right side is hidden from the tee but creeps into play with shots favoring that side.

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If you’re somewhat of a nomad/traveling golfer that prefers to play a new course each time out, you’re probably skeptical of joining a club. But the Woodmoor property, at the very lest, makes you consider taking a tour, enjoying lunch, and maybe meeting some of the members and staff.

But for those who just want to plat, the Country Club at Woodmoor does have tee times open for non members (weekdays after 11am; weekends after 1pm). From the outside looking in, it seems hard to beat access to a peaceful property for a day around the pool with the family, or the bar with your foursome, playing some tennis, or socializing with new friends, but the golf a’int bad either.

Once the scheduled renovations are complete, Woodmoor will boast an even more well-rounded property, from the course to the club amenities. It’s a shot-maker’s course that makes you think about your targets to manage the thick surrounding forest while offering a natural sense of rest and relaxation in the wooded foothills. Regardless of your view of the country club lifestyle, you can’t discount tracks like The Country Club at Woodmoor.