Greensboro, GA (SportsNetwork.com) - Every month, you open up the latest golf publication only to find 5-10 articles on how to change your swing, what clubs to buy and where to travel.
In addition, each month contradicts the previous issue's take on all three aspects. So what's the golf enthusiast supposed to do?
The answer is simple ... The Kingdom and Golf Academy at Reynolds Plantation.
This amazing facility at Reynolds Plantation, outside Atlanta, can tackle all three areas and then some.
If you're like me, the last thing you want is your swing analyzed and dissected by a PGA Professional. Most of our swings are not as pretty or as functional as say, Rory McIlroy, Adam Scott or even Justin Rose, for that matter.
Although we don't get the same results, we probably resemble the likes of Jim Furyk, Kevin Stadler or Tommy "Two Gloves" Gainey, but hopefully not as bad as Charles Barkley.
But that's the beauty of the academy. They're not trying to change your swing. They're trying to refine it.
"My philosophy is," said Charlie King, director of instruction at Reynolds Plantation, "that for every person that comes to the table, they are a unique individual. Everybody has a unique build, personality and tempo. We take that into account at the beginning, so that we're not giving someone something that's totally foreign. We're not taking their back-swing and saying 'that because you deviate from Ben Hogan, and Ben Hogan is our model, then we need to change your back-swing.' Well, guess what, Ben didn't copy anybody. He created something that was pretty good. We don't need to copy that exact part, just keep to the edges of it."
If you think your golf swing is going to change after a lesson and you'll now be a single-digit player, you're mistaken.
"The foundation of the academy is to take the mystery out of playing golf," King said. "We'll focus on personal strengths and weaknesses to build a core of essential golf skills that will improve any golfer's game.
"In 20 years of teaching," King continued, "I have no two players that look the same. Everybody is a little bit different. It's all because we take that into account at the beginning and realize that uniqueness and individuality are an important part of an individual's core way of golf. We shouldn't be doing cookie-cutter or we shouldn't be doing one-size-fits-all."
The academy is more than just the swing and technique, and that's where King and his trained staff come into play.
"It's very important to help golfers with the mental toughness side of what they do. So that's another key aspect of how we teach. We check fitness issues, different situations and we show people how to practice."
That certainly is one area in which most recreational players fail: the practice time before and after a round. "Most people don't know how to practice and most people wish they could play better golf without practicing," King said. "The reality is, it does take a little bit of practice and more steady practice instead of hours and hours of Vijay Singh-style of beating balls."
King has somewhat simplified the practice part of golf. "I call it, technique and compete training," he said. "If you need better technique, you should be hitting stacks of golf balls with the new ideas from your instructor, but as your technique becomes good, the transition becomes more towards short-game, more towards hitting off a variety of lies, not just the perfect lie, more trouble shots, etc. Not only do people not necessarily know how to practice, they need to know how to transition to competitive practice instead of technique practice."
Let's not forget the differences between the PGA player and us hackers.
"The skills for the tour player and the high handicapper are the same in terms of what a person needs to do to hit a golf ball," King said. "We've mapped it out with seven essential skills and we feel they are the same for all levels of players. What you end up with is a lot like martial arts. You end up with a fifth-degree or seventh-degree black belt in those skills for the tour player and 30 handicap, you're dealing with a white belt, somebody who's very new and doesn't have those skills yet."
The dynamic duo at Reynolds Plantation is completed by The Kingdom, one of only two such facilities in the United States run by TaylorMade-adidas. "When we have someone who has clubs that are not fit for them, we get them in touch with the Kingdom," King added, "and if they get someone who is struggling with their technique, they will recommend a visit to the academy for a lesson. We kind of feed back and forth with each other, so we can work hand in hand."
Originally just for the TOUR and club professionals, The Kingdom is now open at Reynolds Plantation to its members and resort guests. This is club-fitting at the highest level. You're not hitting into nets at a sporting goods store. This is the "Full Monty."
"The Kingdom is a club-fitting center entirely run and maintained by employees of TaylorMade," said Mark Lammi, vice president of golf operations at Reynolds Plantation. "They are all tour-trained fitters and builders of clubs. They actually spent time working with tour players out on tour before they ever came to service a member or a guest at Reynolds. That level of service and expertise is really unheard of at a resort facility."
The beauty about the Kingdom is that it will change your game. You've heard it before: Better golf through technology.
"A typical fitting experience is 3 1/2 hours," Lammi said. "They'll start you inside the MAT-T Lab, which is the motion analysis technology studio. They will put you into a suit with all of the markers on it, so they can not only capture club data, but body data, which is really helpful to identify one or two things which you may want to talk over with your instructor. In addition, you're given a 3-D image on disc which shows how your body is moving."
This is as high-tech as it gets. Dissecting all the particulars, but not your swing, that's what the Academy is for.
"The analysis includes swing speeds, launch angles, spin rates and every other fine detail, how fast your hands are moving compared to the clubhead at impact," Lammi said. "It will tell you which hybrids, fairway woods, irons and drivers and shafts to use."
Then it's off to the range where you can hit balls downrange using the flight skill technology, where they will track each and every shot with these new specs with doppler-like radar. All of this data gathered from inside is now melded with the information pulled in from the range and they fine-tune it.
"It's almost like a doctor with an X-Ray or a blood test," Lammi said. "The blood test is going to diagnose something and it's up to the doctor to make the final diagnosis and then prescribe the right medicine. That's what they're doing out there on the practice tee. They're taking the data that they've been given with the recommendation and then using their skill to implement that information to your swing and fine-tune it down to the highest level."
When all is said and done, you'll have no excuses on the course anymore. Well, maybe, but who knows.
"You can get fit in the morning and head out by mid-afternoon and play with the clubs that were just built for you," Lammi said. "It's really the highest level of instant gratification that you can imagine. There is no other facility that can offer that."
Complimenting the Academy and the Kingdom are 117 holes of sensational golf.
The six courses were designed by some of the sport's best architects, not to mention the greatest player in golf history, Jack Nicklaus. Tom Fazio (27 holes at The National), Rees Jones, Bob Cupp and Jim Engh round out the stellar listing that has created award-winning layouts.
"It is extremely rewarding to see Reynolds Plantation honored at the ultimate level," Lammi said. "We truly appreciate being cited among the best of the best. We are fortunate to have one of the greatest collections of golf courses in the country and we are determined to remain as one of its premier destinations, both as a resort and a residential community."
These courses have hosted some of golf's finest events, from the PGA Tour's Andersen Consulting World Championships (now known as the Accenture Match Play) to the PGA Professional National Championship.
"Our collection of courses across the board is as strong as anybody in the country," Lammi noted. "So when you come to Reynolds Plantation, it's not just a bucket list to play Great Waters or Oconee. The expectation from our guests when they get here is that they really want to play our entire collection."
The cream of the crop is the Nicklaus-designed Great Waters Course, which opened in 1992. Upon his first visit to the area, Nicklaus commented, "It's one of the really great pieces of property that I've ever had the opportunity to work with." It's no wonder the venue is rated as one of the top-100 courses you can play in the United States.
"The fact that we are a member club, as well as a resort destination," Lammi said, "gives us the ability to actually make sure that all of our golf courses, not from top to bottom, but from side to side, are maintained at the same level of quality."
However, it's the diversity of venues that make Reynolds Plantation a must- visit resort.
"We have such a great variety of courses," Lammi added. "From a parkland style golf course right along the lake line at Great Waters, all the way to the National with unbelievable vistas 30 feet above the lake. So you can go throughout the entire plantation and go from a relatively flat golf course to a very hilly course. You play Great Waters right along the lake on day one, which is fairly flat, and then go to Oconee or National the next day and get 50- to 60-foot elevation changes within a 10-minute drive from each. (It) is pretty incredible."
For complete course information at Reynolds Plantation, you can access SportsNetwork.com reviews at http://tinyurl.com/lmdvkzv.
As golf continues to be the main focal point at Reynolds Plantation, the Ritz- Carlton Lodge offers amenities fit for a king ... and more importantly, a queen.
From the rustic decor of the Lodge to sumptuous fare and pampering plus at the Spa, Reynolds Plantation is the ultimate resort destination and now with the Kingdom and the academy at your fingertips, it's like reaching for a Starburst and getting Godiva!