At age 6, when most little boys are obsessed with their toy trucks and plastic dinosaurs, Ken Miller was interested in playthings with steel shafts and the ability to send a ball soaring over the grass. Young Miller’s passion for golf didn’t wane as he grew older: after making a splash on the junior golf scene, he attended Fresno State University on a golf scholarship and toured competitively before retiring to teach. But after 10 years of working for someone else, Miller was ready to realize his own dream: a family-friendly range that satisfied even the pickiest golfer. So, with his kids and wife in tow, Miller spent a year sculpting 19 acres of land into what is now McHenry Golf Center.
Today, the practice facility—which was named one of the Top 100 Ranges in America in 2009 by Golf Range—presents players with an all-grass driving range whose lighting makes it possible to play with balls that are afraid of the dark. After landing shots on the range’s seven target greens, which taunt them from 50 to 250 yards away, golfers can work on their short game at an 11,000-square-foot putting green, then head over to a practice green guarded by five circular and kidney-bean-shaped bunkers. If they want help with their chipping technique or sand play, they can take lessons with Miller and other PGA pros. Golfers can refuel with fare from the center’s snack bar after a lesson or independent practice.
While creating McHenry Golf Center, Ken Miller designed a pro shop to meet the needs of both casual and dedicated golfers, whether they carry a standard coin purse or suitcases filled with golden golf balls. Customers can get an expert fitting before picking their clubs, thanks to the center's TaylorMade SelectFit System and Ping Advanced Fitting System. For putters and woods that need attention, Golfsmith Clubmakers–trained Jim Tocco awaits at the repair center, where he fixes grips and shafts, working quickly enough to offer next-day service.
Since 1978, Brenda Athletic Clubs has stood out from other gyms for its staff’s focus on offering all the amenities of a modern fitness facility while still fostering an inviting atmosphere. Its founder, Al Brenda, believed in fitness programs for all age groups, a mantra that the club continues today with youth fitness programs, including basketball clinics and yoga lessons, as well as a SilverSneakers fitness program for seniors. In addition to tennis, swimming, and standard strength and cardio equipment, the fitness centers supply its members with an ample amount of group classes including cycling, Zumba, and kickboxing.
Modesto Tai Chi Academy instructs students of all skill levels in tai chi, an art of self-defense that requires bodies to be flexible and relaxed to allow rapid, unexpected strikes. These fast and slow exercises not only impart fighting techniques, they increase the flow of chi to the body and leave students with a sense of well-being. Modesto focuses especially on Yang style tai chi, the most practiced form of tai chi in the world.
A PGA Class A professional, Joe Smith blasts bogeys off of scorecards with advice culled from teaching experience and time competing as a high-level golfer. Joe spent several years pursuing a career as a touring pro by playing in mini tour events before turning his attention to teaching full-time. In more than a decade as a coach, Joe has imparted his swing-honing wisdom to top-ranked juniors, amateurs, and senior golfers.
At Cornerstone, a staff of experienced, award-winning coaches helps students ride with their body in tune with their horse, instructing pupils in the art of equitation riding. The low-key atmosphere puts animals and humans at ease, while private and group lessons train members in techniques suitable for shows and competitions.
Though they operate more than 200 locations in upwards of 30 states, the team behind U.S. Baseball Academy aims to make each young athlete's experience a personal one. Their four- or six-week camps are taught by local instructors who are current or former coaches at the high school or college level, and typically offer a 6:1 or better player-to-teacher ratio for intense, professional-style training. The Academy's proven itinerary of hitting, pitching, fielding, and baserunning drills was developed by an advisory board of college coaches and Major League players, including Cy Young Award–winner and ace pitcher Brandon Webb.