Watching the PGA’s Hawaii swing really makes me miss golf. The tour will continue through California and Florida during our colder months, forcing us to watch green grass, warm temperatures, and unlimited sunshine while we struggle to find any worthwhile sports on TV (save March Madness). The Masters is a little under three months away, so our golf season will be here before you know it.
Look at this this way: you have time to get ready. Doing a little offseason golf work will pay dividends when your calendar starts to fill up with tee times. For me, it’s more of a cleansing. Personally, I didn’t play a ton of golf last year, but it was more than I played in 2015. I expect to play a lot more this year. Mrs. RCS plays (and is really good), so it has become a theme of our quality time together. We are really excited for golf season to get here, and I don’t want to feel like I’m starting at zero on the first tee. Here are a few things that I do when it is NOT golf weather:
1. Clean out your golf bag. Over the course of a golf season, it’s amazing what collects in the black hole-like pockets of your golf bag. I usually keep a few shoeboxes and containers in the basement for golf “stuff”, and I unload everything into those boxes. Balls, gloves, tees, change, markers, towels, receipts, warm Coors Light cans…whatever. Then I take the shop vac and go to work on the inside of the pockets. Cleanliness is next to Godliness, folks. And this only takes about an hour.
2. Check the condition of your equipment. This is a no-brainer, but take some time and check your grips, your hosels, and the general condition of your clubs. Now would be a good time to send in your putter for a refresh (like I did with my old Cameron… #1 is about to head over for a re-do as well). Upgrading grips is like having new clubs. In addition, check your soft spikes, clean your shoes, toss your old gloves, and replace the batteries in your range finder.
3. Restock the necessities. It’s offseason, and it’s after Christmas, so most golf stuff will be on sale until mid-March. Check all the online golf websites and Amazon for golf balls, golf gloves, new spikes, tees, etc. All of that stuff is marked way down, as the new 2017 models fill the coffers over the next couple of months. Think about it, 2016 model golf balls hit just the same, at a 25%+ discount on Amazon. You know what size/style golf glove you wear, so buy a multi-pack for a steep discount. You get it.
4. Evaluate your golf ‘look’. Look through your golf shirts, hats, etc. and toss the stuff with mustard stains, sweat stains, holes, and bad fits. Trust me, it’s important. Get a few updated nice golf shirts (check out Holderness & Bourne), a pullover or two, some new pants, and a hat or two (skip the golf logo and go for something unique, like the Onward Reserve bear). It’s important to look good on the golf course, especially if you are known as a Red Clay Soul reader.
5. Get a few lessons. Beat the Spring rush and get a few lessons with a club pro. This may be tough, as the weather may not cooperate, but here’s how you do it: Call a club pro, and let him know you want some lessons. Get a 3-session discount. Scheduling will be tough, so ask that you can schedule based on weather. When the high is 60 on Saturday, call the pro and ask for a lesson at 3:00PM. You won’t get to practice as much as you would in the Spring, but it’s better that sitting on the couch.
6. Get flexible. Speaking of sitting on the couch… By now you’ve probably fallen off your New Year’s resolution and ‘going to the gym’ is a thing of the past. Well, here’s a reason to get back: your flexibility is key to play better golf. You have to be able to turn, and Bowl Season and the NFL Playoffs are gym prohibitive. Spend 45 minutes stretching a few times a week. Hell, do a yoga class with your significant other. Don’t laugh: there’s nothing worse than being tight on the tee box.
Beyond these, think about setting goals for the year, and work backwards on how to accomplish them. Want to break 80? Figure out how to get there, with more practice, more lessons, and getting fitted for your equipment. Want to take a golf trip? Price out that long weekend in Kiawah or Pursell Farms and start recruiting your significant other and golf buddies. Want to go to the Masters? Good luck!
What are your off-season golf tricks?
Now is an excellent time of year to take a long weekend trip with your significant other. You’ve got plenty of vacation time, and a half-day on a Friday is completely worth a fun and relaxing weekend with your best girl. Think about it: now is a great time to take advantage of lower-than-normal hotel fare, and plenty of available reservations at great restaurants. We’re in the post-Christmas lull. Here’s how you do it: find somewhere four or so hours away, take half a day on Friday, and hit the road.
Remember, it doesn’t have to be a particularly fancy trip. There are plenty of great towns around that deserve 48 hours of you and your better half’s attention. So do a little research, reserve a nice hotel room, find a good spot for breakfast, and the spot for local fare. Think of it as a Bourdain-esque, or ‘Alternate Route‘-like adventure…she’ll love it. And most importantly, pack smart.
For a weekend trip, bring items that can be mixed and matched, and easily refreshed. A sweater over a button up, the button up by itself, a vest over a long sleeve t-shirt, etc. Make sure all your goods are good together, and it’ll never look like you wore the same thing twice. Here’s how to do it:
From top left:
1. Beretta Soft Shell Fleece Vest: A good vest is a must for any trip. It provides just enough warmth inside on cold days, and an extra layer under your coat when banging around outside. Don’t sleep on Beretta’s line…they have super-nice stuff.
2. Ledbury Lamont Plaid Shirt: More of a ‘brushed cotton’ rather than a flannel shirt, so it’s dressy for weekends like this. You can give it a pit-stop ironing before your dinner reservations. Dressed up at the steak place or dressed down eating fried seafood and beer out of a pitcher, it’s the way to go.
3. Ball and Buck Lightweight Merino V-Neck Sweater: A good v-neck sweater over a sharp shirt like #2 will get you into 95% of places you’d like to eat.
4. Eddie Bauer Bainbridge Field Jacket: A good field coat with tons of pockets is a must on this trip. She’ll work hard filling them up with local mementoes from your adventure. This Eddie Bauer is an excellent choice, and the price is just right.
5. Edgevale Cast Iron Pants: Canvas pants wear like jeans, but can be ironed for a more dressed up look. Edgevale has an excellent option with their Cast Iron pants…they work in the field and at the dining table. More on these later…
6. Drifter Pocket Knife: There’s always room for a pocket knife
7. Aviate Hat: A traveling hat…either bring one from your neck of the woods, or pick one up on your trip. They’ve got it covered, but it’s up to you and yours to make the memories.
8. Colonel Littleton #1 Belt: One of the coolest waist huggers out there. Enough flare to get a nod, but professional enough to wear in the boardroom.
9. Truman Boot Co. Marine Horse Hump Pull Up Boots: Tough enough for traveling, and nice enough for dinner. The Dianite soles will keep you comfortable while exploring a new city.
10. Over Under ‘In the Blind’ Long-Sleeve T-shirt: Always pack an extra t-shirt. These are perfect for the drive home on Sunday under the #1 vest, or for her to steal.
11. Orvis Bootlegger Leather/Canvas Small Duffle: You get to a point in life where you need good luggage. Use trips like these to take advantage of filling out those needs. A small duffle is a great bag for those weekend trips when you only need one pair of shoes, and you’ll be hard pressed to find a better one than this one from Orvis.
12. Martin Dingman Rudyard Farrier Wine Caddy: You’ve got that great bottle you’ve been saving, and that bottle of Basil…give them a ride in style in this handsome wine caddy. It’s the details that count…and she’ll forgive you for forgetting the wine glasses at the ultra-exclusive hotel room pre-party.
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that.
Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
– Martin Luther King, Jr
Image: Steve Penley
The weather here in Atlanta and all over the South has been a bit nutty over the last few weeks. We celebrated Christmas around 70 degrees, then had an ice “storm” and highs in the 20s last weekend, and today is supposed to be 64, which will continue through the holiday weekend.
I love tweed jackets, and as David Coggins said: ‘you can’t have too many’. I completely agree. They are extremely versatile wardrobe staples. At their core, they are built to go with wool pants, a dress shirt, and a good earth-toned tie. Add a pair of cap toes and you are in business. On the other end of the spectrum, you can go Ivy: a pair of khakis, penny or tassel loafers, and a blue OCBD. Either is a classic look that will never go out of style. How I like to wear tweed jackets in the vein of a work coat. Pair it with a good pair of jeans, a solid dress shirt or OCBD, some double monks and an engine turned belt. It’s my winter uniform.
Beyond finding a jewel at Goodwill every now and then, there are some excellent tweed options out there. I would highly recommend sticking with a Harris Tweed in a good cut. Here are a few that are 100% RCS approved:
From top left:
1. Brooks Brothers Blue Harris Tweed Sport Coat: I’m really digging solid tweed jackets. Brooks Brothers does it as well as anyone, and this shade of blue is killer in the winter.
2. Ledbury Randolph Tweed Sport Coat: A good cut is as important as the color, hand, etc. The jacket has to fit, and Ledbury jackets fit GREAT off the rack. For the quality, the price is just right.
3. Southwick Rust Sport Coat from O’Connell’s: Solid rust, put this over a blue OCBD and navy trousers. Big business.
4. Beams Plus Slim Fit Houndstooth Harris Tweed Jacket: This is a bit of a lightweight, but that’s OK. You can wear this unlined jacket all day around the office and be comfortable.
5. Drake’s Harris Tweed Olive Tweed Jacket: Drake’s cuts these OTR as good as anyone. Olive is a strong choice for tweed. Like most Earthy colors, be sure the rest of your wardrobe palate follows suit.
6. Peter Millar Alpine Tweed Sport Coat: Or you can go with a bold color, like this deep purple option from Peter Millar. Be sure you’ve got the stones to pull this one off…
7. Harris Tweed Patrick Jacket: Plaid are always great, like an exploding jacket. The 70’s plaids are coming back, but not the 70’s cuts. You don’t want to look like a game show host.
8. Harrison Limited Olive Windowpane Tweed Jacket: Don’t forget to stop by your favorite men’s store and peruse their selection of tweeds, as they usually have some jewels, like this bad boy from Harrison LTD in Birmingham. Top shelf.
Do you have a favorite tweed jacket? Let’s see it…
In the spirit of refinement, I accepted an invitation from a very close friend to join him for a quail hunt. Full disclosure, this was my first quail hunt. My excitement outweighed my anxiety exponentially. I knew that an invitation like this was coming, so I had been studying up: reading as much as I could, watching YouTube videos, shooting clays, and talking to my friends who are experienced upland hunters.
We had a morning hunt scheduled at Piney Creek Plantation in Dawson, GA, about an hour south of Columbus. It happened to be the Saturday morning after a big ice storm was scheduled to hit Atlanta. The forecast for Saturday was cold, but dry, so Mrs. RCS and I agreed that I’d leave on Friday afternoon and get a hotel room below the freeze line in Columbus. My friend was already in southeast Alabama, so the hunt was on. I arrived in Columbus on Friday evening, stopped by Momma Goldberg’s for a Momma’s Love sandwich, and checked into the hotel. I fell asleep watching the Rhode Island vs. Dayton basketball game. 5:30AM couldn’t come soon enough.
The alarm rang, and I was packed, dressed, and on the road with an Egg McMuffin and a large coffee within 45 minutes.
I got to Dawson, and headed down a dirt road to the plantation. How appropriate.
After an hour, the sunrise came, as did this sign for Piney Creek:
The approach is a long gravel drive to a very homey lodge. The front porch was as welcoming as the staff. They were all very happy to see us.
The inside of the lodge was is nicely and appropriately appointed. Tons of taxidermy, and a rustic decor. The lodge has three bedrooms for those that are making a weekend of it. We were down for a half-day hunt, so they didn’t apply to us. I will say that the bedrooms were nice enough to bring down Mrs. RCS for a night. Pardon the images, it was still early morning, so the light wasn’t great:
Ready to jam:
Yep, add this to my list of taxidermy. You’ll understand why in a bit.
I’m on the hunt for one of these prints:
The back dining room had a great view of the lake and the back property, and is where they keep the logo’ed goodies:
After getting the lay of the land, we were all set. Guns and dogs were loaded up and we packed on as many layers of clothes as humanly possible. The crow’s nest of the truck was a bit chilly, but the view was outstanding.
On the dogs: Our truck was outfitted with six cages for GSPs under the crow’s nest, and two Cockers (below). Yeti (left) is an 8 year old, and Skeeter (standing), an 8 month old. Yeti pretty much ran the show, and Skeeter did really well. These two took the cake for ‘best attitude’.
We had our foursome on the truck with one guide. We hunted two at a time, with two plus the guide in the field, and two back at the truck. Each session lasted about 20 minutes, which went a lot quicker than the mid-30s temperatures should have allowed. It didn’t feel like there was any downtime. Bill, a Dawson native and our guide, was GREAT with the dogs, as well as keeping us on track. He was really personable, and had some stories…
After the first pair finished up, it was our turn to go. This was my first quail hunt, so I was a little anxious. Being that I’m a goal-oriented person, I level-set with myself that a goose egg on this trip was OK, as long as I learned as much as I could for future trips. Think about the first time you swung a driver on the tee box, or cast a fly into moving water. It was that same feeling. I usually score pretty well when shooting sporting clays, but this was the real deal.
We walked the first hundred yards, where the GSPs and Yeti flushed two coveys. I got off three shots, and didn’t hit a thing. No surprise there, I was all nerves and had to get settled in. The good news was that I didn’t shoot a dog, my partner, the guide, or myself. We reloaded and kept going. Then it happened. Jake, one of the GSPs, pointed about 20 yards directly ahead of me. Yeti the cocker followed suit and flushed three quail that all jumped straight up and caught the wind. I aimed, missed the first shot, but landed a direct hit with the second shot.
All of the prep I had done, all of the money I’d spent, the long drive down to Dawson, GA, and the near-freezing temperatures…all of that disappeared from my mind. I had just shot my first quail! I’ll ask all of you that have been shooting birds since you could walk to bear with me. The feeling was amazing. It was like I had conquered something. The fact that I hit a brown missile out of the sky with a 20 gauge shotgun is an accomplishment that I’ll never forget, and I’m grinning ear to ear as I write this. Yeti brought the quail to our guide, who walked it over to me:
He knew this was my first bird, and I think he was just as excited as I. My friend came over and congratulated me as well. It was a GREAT moment; a memory I’ll never forget. After I came back down to Earth, I knew that I had been bitten by the bird bug.
With my first bird coming less than 30 minutes into a half-day hunt, I began to feel comfortable with the process. We saw some huge coveys rise, one being around fifty birds. It was like nothing I’d ever seen. I apologize for the low number of action shots, but we were moving at pretty good clip and my focus was elsewhere. I did capture a couple good shots:
At the conclusion of the hunt, we all commented at how the time got away from us. All in all, we tallied 48 birds. I ended up shooting seven, and am ecstatic. WAY more than I expected. They rotate meat, so I was able to bring home a nice little stash for Mrs. RCS. She’s looking for recipes now.
Piney Creek served an outstanding meat and three lunch, where our foursome and the owner of the plantation shared stories, a few cups of hot coffee, and fellowship. The pecan pie was the perfect icing on the experience. After eating, we all got a couple t-shirts and hats, and settled up.
I can’t say enough nice things about the Piney Creek staff. They made my first hunt an excellent experience, and I know I’ll be back – probably this season. The price seemed VERY fair for all the birds we saw. I can’t thank them enough for making my first experience a great and memorable one, and I can’t thank my buddy enough for the invitation on the first of what will be many more hunting trips.
Do you still remember your first bird?
And then there were two. Except for one slip up against Pitt, these teams are perfect. Most honest pundits picked Alabama and Clemson to get back to the National Championship early in the season, and they were right. They both wiped the floor with their opponents in last week’s playoff games. Think about it: most of the bowl games were entertaining, except for the playoff games. They were both really boring. I do have a way to fix it, but I’ll get to that in a later post.
Honestly, I’m a little surprised that this game has such a David vs. Goliath feel. Sure, Alabama has been at the top of the mountain for the last eight years, but Clemson did play in the National Championship game last year. And let’s remember that they almost beat what was then touted as the best defense Alabama has ever put on the field. Clemson is an extremely talented team, and the players believe in each other, as well as their coach. They have a very ‘team’ focus, and Dabo is a master at motivation. More on motivation in a moment.
2017 National Championship
Clemson Tigers (13-1) vs. Alabama Crimson Tide (14-0)
When: Monday, January 9th at 8PM ET
Where: Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, FL
Line: Bama -7 (O/U 51)
Alabama is loaded. Their offense has all the weapons they need to win. Their defense is the typical Crimson Tide defense we’ve come to know and love over the last few years. There isn’t anything else you can say about their team, except that they have a freshman QB, who didn’t play that well last week vs. Washington. Lane Kiffin was summarily dismissed from the team last week, and it exposes a huge unknown. There’s no doubt that Saban weighed the value proposition of keeping/dismissing/killing Kiffin prior to the game, and he obviously believes dismissal was the best move for his team. Let’s be honest- Lane Kiffin couldn’t last as long as undergrads are required to stay before declaring for the NFL. This guy needs a reality TV show. “Single in Boca.” I called it first, folks.
In the same vein, Clemson is also loaded. Watson is the best player in college football, and he has offensive talent across the field, each of which will play in the NFL. WR Mike Williams would start for the Browns. Clemson’s defense is fast, mean, and motivated. They shut out Ohio State last week and they are riding high. It’s fair to say that Alabama hasn’t seen a defense like this all year. Speaking of motivation, I believe that is the difference this week. This team has been living with last year’s loss against Alabama all year. Don’t think that hasn’t been the common denominator all year- at every practice, at every team meeting, and every press conference. The loss to Pitt only fortified that position. I would not want to play Clemson on this stage. At all.
I believe this game is going to be like a chess match. The first quarter will be slow. Two heavyweights trading jabs until one sees an opening. Clemson could have a hard time opening up their offense, but Alabama’s defense won’t be able to just lock Clemson down like they are used to doing. Expect a 17-13 halftime score. Then it gets interesting. Alabama’s offense isn’t used to scoring in the second half, because they don’t need to. They let their defense loose, and let them do the work, locking down their opponent. This won’t be enough to be successful against Clemson. Clemson tends to move the ball very well in the second half. It’s imperative that Clemson focuses on shutting down the Tide’s run game, and make Bama’s freshman QB beat them with his arm. On this stage, Hurts hurts. Clemson will force him to make mistakes, and they could have a hard time keeping up with Clemson’s high-powered offense on the scoreboard. By no means does Clemson run away with this one, but they win by a TD.
Official RCS Prediction: Clemson 41 Alabama 35
Let’s hear it…
I didn’t wear my tuxedo once in 2016. This is odd for me… we had six black tie occasions in 2015, and about that many the year prior. I actually miss wearing it. These parties are usually outstanding, and wearing a tuxedo always allows you to have one more drink, one more dance, or stay out one hour later… Need proof? Check out the Chairman of the Board below…Sinatra knew how to wear a tux. Enjoy:
Images: Google Image Search