When 2010 U.S. Open winner Graeme McDowell?a fixture among the top 20 golfers in the world for the past three years?needs a bit of swing advice, he often turns to his friend and frequent playing partner, John O'Leary. The head of his eponymous Golf Academy, O'Leary began coaching after experiencing his own share of success in the professional ranks, where he won 15 PGA and mini-tour events and earned a berth in the 2007 PGA Championship. While he occasionally jousts putters with some of the world's top golfers, John's instructional style embraces players of all ages and abilities. With an emphasis on fundamentals and fun, he helps golfers hone everything from swings that produce long, straight drives to strokes that consistently hole short putts. John also makes use of V1 Video Swing analysis and CG2 Launch Monitor by Foresight Sports during lessons, camps, and clinics, allowing his students to see their swing firsthand and determine if they missed a belt loop.
Course designer Tom Clark of Ault, Clark, & Associates earned Pleasant Valley Golf Club a 4.5-star rating from Golf Digest, whose editors applauded the architect’s creativity in the site’s rolling hills and dense hardwood forest. Clark’s 18-hole brainchild allows players to tee up from one of four tee boxes and test their mettle against the par 72 course, taking care to avoid the water in play on six holes and the grassy meadows that lie outside the fairway borders. Players can bookend their round with a warm-up session on the range and a cooldown at the grill, helped along by a club sandwich, a Gatorade, or a glass of ice water dumped on an overused foot wedge.
Course at a Glance: * 18-hole, par 72 course * Total length of 6,915 yards from the back tees * Course rating of 73.5 from the back tees * Course slope of 137 from the back tees * Four sets of tees per hole * Scorecard
Dressed in protective helmets and flowing uniforms, the students at Virginia Kumdo Academy charge at each other, bamboo swords held aloft. Their spars end quickly—after one hit from the weapon in a vulnerable spot, such as the head, waist, or wrist, they typically start over.
This Korean style of sword fighting, an offshoot of Japanese kendo, prioritizes mental focus and strong technique. The academy staff hones both during one-hour classes, which are geared toward levels from beginner to advanced. Regular visitors can take tests to graduate up a belt, as well as participate in scheduled league matches.
Kumdo means "the way of the sword," and it's easy to see how faithfully the trainers of U.S. Hwa Rang Kwan Kumdo take that meaning. The classes include bamboo swords, full body armor, and face-obscuring masks, as students and master twirl around one another in intricate, technical maneuvers. A scream accompanies each swing of the sword, making kumdo almost as invigorating to watch as it is to practice.