Which Golf Rangefinder Have I Chosen?

golf-rangefindersA while a ago I wrote about the minefield of the golf equipment industry. As someone relatively new to the game there are literally so many different clubs to consider. The sheer range of golf drivers, golf irons, golf putters and general golf accessories is just astounding. Not only are their multiple models, but there must be at least 40-50 major brands!

Anyway, after much research using sites like Golf Guide for Beginners, I managed to settle on a full golf club set and bag.

Now that my game has improved (yes, I’m now playing off a consistent 18 handicap), I have decided to buy a golf rangefinder!

If you haven’t heard of this technology and you play golf then you are in for a treat. Basically a rangefinder allows you to get accurate readings to any target on the course. Gone are the days of measuring out distances from stakes or sprinkler heads, and then correctly for pin position. Now it is possible to use a laser golf rangefinder to accurately get a distance within 1 yard accuracy.

The technology in rangefinders has come along so much that not only can you get a reading from over 250 yards away (with most rangefinders), but some will even correct for slope. As you can probably appreciate if the target is above you the actual distance to the target can appear short than it really is, and indeed vice versa.

bushnell-golf-rangefinder

Some rangefinders also come with Pin Seeking technology, so basically a soft target like a golf flag can get a lock-on reading despite obstacles in the foreground and background (like trees or branches)!

Other cool features in some rangefinders include a jolt function, which basically means the device jolts when it locks onto a target. This gives a great sense of confidence when you get a reading that you have locked onto the right target.

And many devices also have GPS that you can cross reference with known GPS data on a golf course.

The rangefinder that I decided to go with is middle of the range in terms of performance and price, but probably one of the best value options. It is the Bushnell V4 Slope and Jolt Rangefinder. Bushnell are undoubtedly one of the leaders in the golf rangefinder market, and with the V4 they have designed a rangefinder that is compliant with USGA rules but has flexibility features that can be turned on when not playing in a tournament to get more out of the rangefinder.

So far I am super happy with the V4 Rangefinder, it has exceeded my expectation in terms of performance and has definitely help me make better golf course management decisions.

Now I just need to knock more shots off my game.

If you are interested in the Bushnell V4 then I found this review super helpful.

Best time to trek to Everest Base Camp

everest-trek-to-base-campOne of the most beautiful destinations on earth, the Everest region is characterised by towering mountains and lush valleys.

However, deciding when to trek to Everest Base Camp very much depends on what you enjoy.

For trekkers who enjoy the warmer weather, there are two main trekking seasons – February through to May and September through to November.

Peak seasons

February – May

February to May is an extremely popular period due to the warm weather and flowering plants. Although occasional showers do happen during this period, the weather is generally mild and views excellent! The rhododendrons that explode in colour during this period are certainly a mesmerising sight.

September – October

September to October is the most popular trekking period of the year because these months are the warmest in Nepal. Thus is also the period where the view are a their most clear. Unlike other periods, the night temperature are not super cold and trekking in the day is very pleasant. The only down side of this period though is the crowds on the trails. Trekking at other times is far more peaceful – although colder!

Off-peak season

November – January

November through to January is by far the coldest period in Nepal and you’ll need to be fairly hardy to trek in freezing conditions. Although cold, the weather is fairly stable with rain being less frequent than one might imagine. This is by far the least busy period of the year to trek in and you’ll have many of the trails to yourself!

June – August

June through to August is by far the wettest period of the year with the monsoon rains pelting the mountainous regions. Yeah horses and trails are fairly empty and you’ll need to be okay with trekking in wet conditions. If you can only trek during this period, h=the best option is to trek with rain-shadow areas such as the Annapurna’s where the monsoon rains do not hit as hard.

Nepal is a fantastic region to trek and whatever the season you choose, you’ll be completely mesmerised by the giant snow-capped peaks and beautiful lowland lakes. The people are friendly, the food is hearty and you’ll love every step you take.

See my mates full EBC trekking guide here.

Top Three Places to Visit in Bhutan

bhutanBhutan is one of the most fascinating places in the world! It’s one of the only carbon sinkholes on earth, the government base their economic scale on happiness and 60% of the country must be forested at all times.

Thanks to strict controls, tourists do not overwhelm the country and the peaceful and timeless feel of Bhutan is still strong. Trails are empty, tourist spots are vibrant and the locals are always on hand to help. In short, if you have not thought about visiting Bhutan, then you should!

To help you get the most out of your trip to Bhutan, we have listed our top three destinations to visit!

Taktsang Monastery

Without doubt the most photographed location in Bhutan and possible the most photographed monastery in the world, Taktsang monastery sits high up the face of cliff looking like it almost defies gravity! Known as the ‘Tigers Nest’, the monastery is closely linked with Guru Padmasambhava who is believed to have introduced Buddhism to Bhutanese culture. You’ll need to be fit to visit the monastery though as it’s a 2,000 feet climb to reach the building! The views from the top and the interior architecture certainly make the climb worth it though!

Phobjika and Gangtey Valley

Both Phobjika and Gangtey Valley are incredibly beautiful and should be on anyone itinerary list, particularly for wildlife lovers! The Gangtey Valley is home to one of Bhutan’s most graceful and endangered birds – the Black-necked Crane. The cranes migrate to the valley each year from their northern home in Tibet to winter in Bhutan. If you’re keen on seeing the shy and rare birds, then your best bet is to visit between November and early March. If you come in November then you’ll also be able to attend the marvellous Black-necked Crane festival!

The Buddha Dordenma

Located within the ancient ruins of Kuensel Phodrang, home to the 13th Dresi Druk – Sherab Wangchuk, the Buddha Dordenma is one of the newest installations in Bhutan and was only completed in 2015. Costing over a 100 million dollars, the enormous Buddha statue stands at 169 feet (51.5 meters) and is entirely gilded in gold! Inside the Buddha statue stands over 25,000 smaller Buddha statues which are all solid bronze and gilded in gold! Visitors to the statue will be overwhelmed with its size and also get fantastic views of the surrounding valleys.

A quick look at the Golf Ball Industry

golf-balls-beginnersThere are many many different golf ball manufacturers out there. Some have been around for decades. Others have done a quick in and out spell where perhaps they thought the industry was easier than what it really is. Let’s name the fixed players quickly.

Titleist. Owned by Acushnet and undoubtedly the number one player in the golf ball market.

Srixon. They’ve only actually been around for about 20 years, but they have become hugely popular amongst beginners, novices and professionals. A side range of options that cater to any level and their number one ball across the board is the AD333. We actually came across this review which ranks it as one of the 5 best golf balls for beginners.

Taylormade, Callaway, Top Flite, Nike. They make up the balance of popular golf manufacturers.

I remember back in the day there used to be Tour Edition and a clear memory was Nick Price who used it. He also won the Million Dollar challenge using that golf ball. Amazing how a certain brand sticks in your head and you know exactly which player uses it. Ie. what brand does Tiger Woods play with??

Then there was Rextar. Nick Falso used to use it. Fanny Suneson and him were playing around the world using Mizuno clubs whilst he was number one in the world. Just goes to show it’s the player that counts! Not the equipment or golf ball.

What about Slazenger? Steve Ballesteros used Slazenger and my goodness me were those golf balls soft! Honestly felt like chewing gum that you were hitting! The grooves on the club face used to chew the golf ball up properly!

I used to use Strata back in the day and those were also very soft. A favorite thing of mine when I was 13 was to tee up a wedge and smash it as hard as I possibly could from 60 yards away in order to try spin it as much as possible. Especially after it had rained a lot. We’d be more worried about pacing off the yards of spin from our pitch marks rather than caring about our actual scores! Aaah the beauty of being a young golfer.

One other big brand that seemed to fall by the wayside was Maxfli. They tried making a comeback but was short lived. Pity!

Anyway my suggestion is sticking to the primary players and you can’t go wrong. Read that best golf balls for beginners review (http://www.golfassessor.com/best-golf-balls-for-beginners/) and find out all the benefits and you’ll thank me later!

Is Island Peak for you or should you look for another trekking peak in Nepal?

island-peak-mera-peakSo I have just got back from three incredible weeks trekking in Nepal. We spent two weeks winding our way up the Goyko Valley and crossing Cho La Pass into the Khumbu region. The experience was quite simply amazing!

Highlights were:

  • The flight from Kathmandu to Hillary-Tenzing airport – which is nothing short of exhilarating!
  • Trekking up Goyko Ri, a 5357m hill just above the village of Goyko. The views of the glacial lakes in this area are extraordinary as are the views of Cho Oyu, the 6th highest mountain in the world!
  • The Ngozumpa Glacier, the largest glacier in the Himalaya’s was amazing, crossing it was scary but lots of fun
  • Climbijng over the Cho La Pass (5420m) was a big day and pretty tough, but the views from the top are awesome
  • Visiting Everest Base Camp during the height of the climbing season was simply awesome, but spending a night in the camp with an expedition team was extra special!!!
  • Finally climbing to the top of Kala Patthar (5643m) – views of Mount Everest Pumori from the top of Kala Patthar are breathtaking

But these highlights don’t even scratch the surface of the main attraction, which was climbing Island Peak.

I did a lot of research for the Island Peak before we departed but nothing could prepare me for what awaited when we reached the crampon point. The mountain has changed enormously since I last saw it. The glacier has opened up in two places, revealing bottomless crevasses that require ladders to cross – never a fun thing to do with crampons on!!!

Also the headwall has broken up significantly, with sharp, hard pieces of broken ice forming the entire face from the glacier to the summit. It’s a really tough climb. Without the help of our awesome team from Kandoo Adventures, I don’t think any of us would have made it to the summit!

The experience, although amazing, left me concerned that many people try take on Island Peak thinking it is a trek. It definitely isn’t. If you don’t have basic climbing skills – i.e. you have never worn crampons or used a fixed rope to ascend an ice wall – then I would recommend you start with a trek like Mera Peak (6,476m), which is much more a trek (a bloody challenging one), and a great way to introduce yourself to high altitude Himalaya climbing.

As I mentioned we use Kandoo Adventures who employ the most wonderful and highly experienced team (Everest summiteers). They offer both Island Peak climbs and Mera Peak treks.

You can also find very useful information on each of these Himalaya peaks here and here!

Climb on!

The minefield that is golf equipment

golf-equipment-shoppingSo I have recently started playing golf! When I saying playing, I mean more hacking around the driving range and golf course. But I don’t care, I’m totally hooked on the sport. The feeling of striking a golf ball out the screws just once a day, beats all the duff and shank shots.

I’m actually not that bad. According to my mate, he thinks I’m a solid 18 handicapped. Essentially that means that if I were to play an 18 hole round of golf (still haven’t done this!), then I would score on average a bogey every hole.

I recently played nine holes with him and managed to get two pars, which was awesome. Okay, I blew out 4 times, but that’s not the point. I’m making good progress and have a solid goal to break 90 the first time I play 18 holes. I have a game booked on a big 18 hole course next month so lots of work to do between now and then.

The main thing I need to do is invest in some golf equipment. Yes, i’m still using rental clubs.

So yesterday I went to the pro shop to get fitted for some irons and drivers. Let’s just say it’s a minefield out there (thankfully I found this golf gear review website which is proving very helpful).

Apparently I can expect to spend nearly £2k on kitting myself out. I need to get a decent driver, I think I’m going to go with the Taylormade M1 Driver – this review makes me think it’s for me! I am also going to get some Wilson irons that were custom-fitted for me yesterday and I struck absolutely pure on the range.

In terms of a putter I have an old relic that my dad used to use and I have been having some success with it so I’m going to keep using it for now.

Bar a few accessories – like a bag and some balls – I’m basically there. Can’t wait to get out on the course again. Too bad it’s raining today!

Laters!!!

Various trekking routes in Nepal

trekking-paths-nepal

The Himalayas in Nepal are a great place to trek. With the world’s tallest mountains surrounding you, varying climatic zones and incredible vistas, it’s easy to see why the country is so popular for trekkers. Within Nepal there are two ‘hot-spots’ for trekkers – the Everest Region and the Annapurna region. Both offer incredible treks that have their own unique qualities. This article will briefly discuss these route and what they have to offer.

Everest Region

Everest Base Camp trek

30,000 hikers a year trek this route and you can see why. The trail follows the famous Khumbu valley all the way towards Base Camp where you can see the Khumbu Icefall. The trek is a beautiful one and you will see rivers, Sherpa villages and Buddhist monasteries as you hike along it. Remember to climb up Kala Patthar to get the incredible views of Mount Everest!

Gokyo Lakes trek

This is the perfect option for intrepid travellers looking to get off the beaten path and see something amazing. Although slightly longer than the classic Base Camp trek, this route comes strongly recommended by us! The three azure holy lakes look stunning set against the backdrop of Himalaya and the views from the top of the Cho La pass are stunning. Like the classic trek, remember to check out the view from Kala Patthar!

Annapurna region

Annapurna Circuit trek

This is consistently ranked as one of the best treks in the world. It’s long, it’s difficult and it’s incredible! You wend your way along a lovely river in sub-tropical conditions before ascending up and over the Thorung La pass which offers one of the best views in the Himalaya! You then descend down into the Mustang region where the climate changes from forest to arid dry lands. From there you make your way back around to your start point.

Poon Hill trek

Probably the best option in the Himalaya for anyone new to trekking. It is a fairly short trek and you ascend up to the top of Poon Hill where you are rewarded with an amazing vista of the surrounding landscape – amazing.

Annapurna Sanctuary trek

This a great option to combine the Poon Hill trek with the beauty of the sanctuary. After marvelling at the views on offer from the summit of Poon Hill, you then descend down into a very deep valley where you wander your away along the valley floor with the huge Himalaya mountains towering over you on each side.

Routes to Machu Picchu – Options and Recommendations

inca-trail-routesWhen we think of Machu Picchu we think of the Inca Trail, however, there are other routes available.

So why take these routes? Well, for one thing, if you have ever trekked the Inca Trail you’ll know that, like many popular tourist destinations, the crowds are extensive! Not only this, but to trek the Inca Trail you must be accompanied by an accredited tour operator and be in possession of a permit (both cost money). You will also need to book months in advance as there are only a limited amount of permits available each day.

That being said, the Inca trail is an incredible experience and the original pilgrimage path used hundreds of years ago! Let’s quickly discuss the Inca Trail options before we move onto some alternative trails.

The ‘Classic’ Inca Trail is a 4 day journey covering 45km. As the original pilgrimage path this is the most popular and iconic route. For hikers that don’t fancy trekking 4 days there is the ‘short’ route which is only two days long and far shorter (13km). For the more energetic hikers there is the ‘Salkantay’ (combo) route which combines both treks to create an amazing trail that intertwines the Classic trail with some mountainous paths.

Read more about the Inca Trail here.

For the more off the beat trekkers, don’t panic, there are alternative routes!

The ‘Lares’ trail is one of the less trekked paths to Machu Picchu. Its 4 days over 33km. This particular trek is a great way to meet the locals and get to grips with the local culture.

Another trail is the ‘Jungle’ trail which offers an amazing downhill cycle track! If you’re seeking more thrills then look for the zipwire and rafting experience! The cycle track is 60km, however, the hiking trail is only 15km and nice an easy.

The Huchuy Qosko trail is another fairly easy going trek that is 20km long and last 3 days. This trail has beautiful scenery and allows you see the Huchuy Qosko ruins which are great!

For the more experienced hikers there are a few other options. Firstly is the 9 day trek ‘Choquequirao’ which is 69km long. By far the longest trek up to Machu Picchi, the Choquequirao trail takes you through an abundance of scenery and also to the Choquequirao ruins.

Another trail is the ‘Salkantay’ route that is 55km long over 5 days. This one of the least trekked routes and is, therefore, fairly people free. This trek also get you up and close with the Nevada Salkantay!

Probably the toughest trek to Machu Picchu is the ‘Vilcabamba’ trail. This is 55km long over 5 days and provides incredible scenery! If you’re up to it then do it!

I recommend checking out this detailed Machu Picchu guide.

There are literally 100s of trekking companies in Cusco. If you are looking for a reliable and ethical operator I recommend getting in touch with these guys.

Flight information for Mount Kilimanjaro trekkers

flying-to-kilimanjaroClimbing Mount Kilimanjaro is a big financial commitment. After your tour price, the biggest expense is your flight to Kilimanjaro.

Situated in Northern Tanzania, the Kilimanjaro National Park has two airports in its near vicinity – the first is Kilimanjaro International Airport, which is due south-west of the mountain and by far the most convenient and well-served airport. The second is Arusha airport which is situated not far from Arusha town, south-west of Kilimanjaro. Unfortunately the airport is limited to domestic flights only.

This means that if you are travelling from outside of Tanzania, the best airport to fly into is Kilimanjaro International Airport (IATA code: JRO).

Unfortunately, there are not a lot of direct flights to this airport and absolutely none from the United Kingdom or United States.

For those who like convenience, the best way to get to Kilimanjaro from Europe is to fly KLM via Amsterdam, direct to Kilimanjaro Airport. This flight flies every day and departs around 10am, arriving in Tanzania around 9pm.

The route is popular so booking early is key if you want to ensure a good price.

Alternatively, there are two other international flights to fly direct to Kilimanjaro International Airport. They are Turkish Airlines via Istanbul, which works great for Europeans and trekkers travelling from the Middle East, and Qatar Airways via Doha in Qatar. The Turkish airlines flight does not run daily and it’s flight schedule has the plane arriving at 2am in Kilimanjaro, which often necessitates an extra hotel night, hence negating any cost reductions on the ticket price.

Two popular connecting flights are those that go through Nairobi in Kenya and Addis Ababa in Ethiopia. Both Kenya Airways and Ethiopia Airways run these routes from many of the main airport hubs around the world. British Airways from London, UK also operates a route via Nairobi. Once at these connecting airports it is relatively easy to catch a short flight to Kilimanjaro airport using Precision Air or another domestic airline.

Be warned though that delays and lost / delayed baggage on these flights via Kenya and Ethiopia are quite common. As a precaution we recommend wearing your hiking boots on the plane and carrying any important gear in your carry-on luggage.

Finally, if you are planning to visit Zanzibar for a beach break after your climb we recommend you book an open jaw ticket that takes you back via Dar Es Salaam.

For more information on flights – see flying to Kilimanjaro.

To make a Kilimanjaro booking check out Kandoo Adventures.

Clothes to pack for Everest Base Camp and the Annapurna Circuit

annapurna-circuit-packing-listHere is a breakdown of the clothing you will require when trekking unto Everest Base Camp or on the Annapurna Circuit. Much of it will be on hand in Kathmandu, Namche Bazaar, Pokhara or Lukla, but what appear to be genuine labels are going to be nothing of the sort and equipment that is cheaper will frequently not stand up to the degree of cold you will be experiencing.

Layering is key because the weather is changeable, even more so when your altitude is: Lukla stands at 9,383 feet while Kala Patthar is 18,373 feet up. You should also bear the season in mind. You have three layers to consider. For detailed information on these layers check out http://www.trekkinginnepal.org/everest-base-camp-packing-list/ or http://www.trekkinginnepal.org/annapurna-circuit-packing-list/

The base/first/next-to-skin layer is crucial at higher altitudes but likely to go unused lower down. Airflow is lessened when this layer is tight against the skin. The material should be high-wicking to allow moisture to disperse.

The second, insulation layer should be made of fleece. You might not need this for your legs. For your torso, the Polartec 200 Fleece Jacket is warm, lightweight and breathable. 100s are too light and 300s, too heavy.

The third, outer core layer should be a warm and waterproof jacket/trouser pair sure to be indispensable at higher altitudes. One upmarket option is North Face’s Nuptse Jacket and a more downmarket one is the North Face Resolve Jacket. The Nuptse will last so long that its cost could be sustained. Trousers need to be warm and fleece-insulated ski pants as purveyed by Trepass, O’Neills and Helly Hansen.

As well as this layer trinity, you will want trekking shorts to wear of an evening. It might rain, especially during the monsoon season between June and September, so you will wish to possess lightweight rain gear or, at a bare minimum, a poncho. Do not take jeans because they take forever to dry and are decidedly uncomfortable while trekking. Avoid cotton at all costs since it takes in moisture.

Then there is your headwear. A hat to shield your head and neck from the sun cannot be lived without – something light that fits nicely in your daypack. A headband, known to some as a beanie, will be of great use when it turns cold late in the afternoon or at the start of the evening, and more so as Base Camp draws closer. North Face and Berghaus are quality suppliers. Sunglasses that reduce light by at least 80 percent are also indispensable, and Julbo makes them.

Gloves are a necessity. Your outer gloves need to be very, very warm, not to mention durable and waterproof, for example Dakine’s Gore-Tex gloves. Your inner gloves should be quick dry and lightweight, like Pearl Izumi Thermal Lite Gloves. Weather permitting, you will not need the outer gloves.

It is your feet that will be taking you to Base Camp and back. If your boots fit improperly, sore feet, blisters and lost nails are sure to follow. To test the fit, place your foot in the boot with the laces loose and slide it to the front, whereupon you should be capable of inserting one finger. Full leather boots will probably be too heavy. Don trainers in-camp. You will need four or five pairs of trekking socks, as manufactured by Coolmax. Another two pair of thermal socks will see action on colder days close to Base Camp. Smartwool’s thermal socks are one example.

For further information check out http://www.nepalmountaineering.org/