From a patriotic TV analyst to the mind behind Bandon Dunes, here -- in their own words -- are six remarkable people making the game better, on and off the golf course.
David Feherty, 55, Co-founder, Feherty's Troops First Foundation
Using his platform to fight for injured veterans
Although I'm now a very proud American citizen, I didn't really want to come to America. I was playing the German Open in the early 1990s, and when I got home I found that my wife at the time had decided to move here. So I of course followed, arriving in America kicking and screaming. I had to try to get through Tour school, which obviously wasn't easy, and it wasn't a happy time in my life.
But then in 1996 an incredibly fortunate thing happened: I got an offer from CBS to cover golf, right when Tiger Woods went pro. Talk about the luck of the Irish! After that, I settled into American life, until 9/11 happened. We invaded Iraq in 2003, and I started to get sick and tired of reading and watching so much bad press about American soldiers. I grew up in an urban-warfare situation in Ireland, so I knew that a lot of the negative reports about the behavior of American soldiers were nothing but BS. In 2006, I went to Baghdad with the USO and a number of other golf personalities.
What I saw in Iraq made an indelible impression, and I got mad. I was angry at what wasn't being reported -- namely, the tremendous compassion that our young soldiers had for the people they were fighting for, especially the Iraqi women. The scale of the good deeds they were doing made me want to be an American, and when I got home I started the process of becoming a citizen. I also got involved with wounded veterans, which eventually led me to co-found Feherty's Troops First Foundation. We head up a number of initiatives focused on improving the lives of veterans, including helping them secure and maintain home ownership, showing them how to help other vets in their recovery, and introducing them to others, including their sports idols. Everything that keeps this country free comes from the men and women who serve, and it's my great honor to have a platform to help them.
If everyone reading this would pick just one veteran and do something to improve his or her life, and stay involved in that person's life, we'd all be a lot better off.
For details on how to get involved visit: troopsfirstfoundation.org.
THE PROFESSOR & THE PRO
Young-hoo Kwon Ph.D., 52 & Chris Como PGA Pro, 36
Unlocking the secrets of the swing through teaching and technology
I'm a professor of biomechanics at Texas Woman's University in Dallas, where I work with graduate students. In 2007, a student expressed an interest in studying the biomechanics of the golf swing. It was an interesting idea. I play golf, and I knew that a lot of the accepted wisdom was just plain wrong, like the belief that the arms have to drop from the top first, when in reality the proper downswing moves from the ground up. After I met Chris in 2008 we began to shed light on this misunderstood movement, and today we're showing how good players push off the ground with their legs to create clubhead speed; how the planes through which various body parts move during the swing affect club delivery; and how a longer flat spot in the impact zone improves ballstriking. As we educate golfers and teachers, this information is helping every level of player improve, thereby increasing their enjoyment of the game.
Dr. Kwon and I have been studying and quantifying the biomechanics of the golf swing for six years. Our partnership is unique because Dr. Kwon is a Ph.D. biomechanist with a strong background in research methods, programming and 3D motion analysis. I have a golf background -- I'm a PGA pro and a Golf Magazine Top 100 teacher -- but I'm also about to receive my masters in biomechanics. Young-hoo and I communicate well, and I can translate our findings into understandable golf terms. For example, a PGA Tour player once came to me struggling with his driving. He was trying to change the path of his hands as he swung into impact, but he couldn't make it happen. We did an analysis of how his lower body was working, which allowed him to see how his faulty lower-body motion was inhibiting the desired movement of his hands. Once he had a clear picture of how one aspect of his swing affected the other, it became fairly easy to make the necessary changes and dramatically improve his distance and accuracy.
David Edel, 46, Founder and President, Edel Golf
Helping you play wedge shots as well as the pros
The next time you chunk a chip or blade a flop shot, don't blame yourself. Blame your wedge. Not only will you feel better, you'll be correct. That's right: Usually, it really is the club's fault -- not yours -- because most weekend players don't have wedges that fit their swing. When we designed our line of customizable wedges, we started with the sole of the club, because that's the part that interacts with the ground. Finding a sole with the right shape and degree of bounce for your game depends on factors like playing conditions, the types of shots you like to hit, and your swing. Many recreational players need double or triple the amount of bounce they think they do, but they're leery of high-bounce models. They may think the club will "bounce" off the turf. But when you combine the right sole design with a high bounce angle, the club glides through the turf perfectly, with no digging or bouncing. Our custom sole-grinds match the bounce to the player's typical angle of attack. When we fit a wedge correctly, the golfer can play the ball in the middle of his stance and keep the shaft vertical, using the maximum amount of the wedge's loft -- without any manipulation. There was a long period of time when only professionals were able to get wedges that were properly fit, but with our designs, anybody can now get Tour-quality scoring clubs.
Tom Leverton, 42, CEO, TopGolf
Making golf a blast -- even for non-golfers!
Around 2000, brothers Steve and Dave Jolliffe, who founded TopGolf before selling it to a group of investors, started experimenting with something called radio frequency identification chips. These chips were light enough to place in a golf ball's core without affecting the ball's flight or performance, so they could be used to improve practice sessions by enabling the golfer to more precisely track flight and distance. The Jolliffes put up three high-tech practice facilities outside London, and each one made use of the new technology. It's not surprising that serious players became regulars, but casual golfers -- and even people who never play golf or visit ranges -- kept coming back to play clever hit-the-target games. I could tell that the Jolliffes were on to something, combining informative and cool new diagnostics with a top practice facility.
I became TopGolf CEO in 2013. Today we operate nine facilities in the U.S., with five more under construction. The success of these locations led us to broaden the business's social and entertainment aspects, which is reflected in our most recent location at the Colony development outside Dallas. There you'll find a 12-acre site with 102 hitting bays and a number of target greens. At first glance it appears to be just a nice driving range, but when you take a closer look you'll find video screens in each bay that let you play a variety of games. The computers, the balls and the targets all work together to tell you exactly how far you hit the ball, how close to the targets you hit it, and how many points you've earned with each shot. Children, teenagers, adults who've never held a club -- they're all hitting balls and having a good time. We're making the game accessible to anyone, without all the old barriers of a normal round of golf. In fact, about 50 percent of our customers don't even consider themselves golfers. They come for the experience and the comfort -- heaters when it's cold, misters when it's hot, refreshments, food, and even music. We're making golf easy and fun, and the breadth of our appeal is proving to be huge.
Mike Keiser, 68, Founder of Bandon Dunes Golf Resort
Combining world-class golf with the ultimate in natural beauty
I was in awe as I played Pine Valley in the 1980s, because while I wasn't a great golfer, the visual experience was absolutely stunning. After buying a 90-acre parcel of land in northern Michigan so that it wouldn't be developed into homes, I started looking more closely at the 60-foot-high sand dunes. Aha! A lightbulb went off, and I built the Dunes Club in a small town called New Buffalo as an homage to Pine Valley. The experience was so enjoyable, and the course turned out so well, that I decided to do it again. For my next course I wanted a true links, which requires both sand and coastline. I bought 1,200 acres on the Oregon coast and built Bandon Dunes, and eventually Pacific Dunes, Bandon Trails, Old Macdonald and the par-3 Bandon Preserve. We're trying to build a sixth course about 20 miles south of Bandon Dunes; the goal is to make it inexpensive for locals and to establish a caddie program for kids. That would finish off Bandon. We're a year away from completing Cabot Cliffs in Nova Scotia, and we're also working on a new project in Wisconsin -- Sand Valley -- where I have 1,500 acres, with dunes like Pine Valley's. With Coore/Crenshaw designing, I think it will be a terrific destination.