Golf Rules: When In Doubt Play Two Balls

balls-on-greenIt is nearly impossible for a golfer to know the details and exact procedures for every rule in the massive golf rule book.  The only people who do know them all likely work for the USGA, the R&A, or the PGA Tour!

Often times during a round we encounter a situation in which we are unsure how to proceed.  One player may think a drop with no penalty is appropriate but another in the same group disagrees, saying the drop would only be possible under a penalty situation.  Local rules can come into play too, times when the course has a custom rule setup for their specific reasons.

A good idea is to keep a copy of the Rules of Golf in one’s golf bag, or a digital version of it in one’s mobile phone or tablet.  But even then the player might not be able to find the exact situation or ruling in a reasonable amount of time.

Two Balls

When in doubt as to how to proceed in a situation like this, it is best to play two balls.  Play the original ball through and finish the hole with it.  Also play a second dropped ball in the manner one thinks is appropriate.  Record both scores on the scorecard.

At the end of the round the player will then have the time to research the ruling by checking the rules of golf, or by communicating with the pro at the local course or perhaps the associations board members.

In the event that the same score is recorded with both balls the discussion and research is a moot point, but it may still be good to find out the correct ruling in the event that the same situations arises in the future.

In short, when it doubt, play two balls and settle the questions later after the round.  Don’t hold up play!

Golf Playing Partners

Golf is so much more than a score written on a score card.  It is more than a number.  Fresh air, green grass, the challenge sunshine… all great parts of the game.  One of the most important aspects in the enjoyment of golf is the camaraderie and competition one has with his/her playing partners.  Playing with the right partners can make a huge difference in one’s enjoyment level.

Wrong Partners

How many times have we had not-so-enjoyable rounds when stuck with the person who plays way too slow?  How about the player who has bad golf etiquette or manners?  How about the ever-irritating player who is talking on his cell phone when he should be hitting his shot?  How about the guy who thinks his double bogey putt is the last putt on the 72nd hole to win the U.S. Open, and he takes 25 minutes reading it from every imaginable angle while the group behind is calling the course marshal?   Then there’s the one guy in the group who is a 30 handicap when the rest are single digits.  That’s tough for both sides.

Right Partners

Choosing the right partners who share the same interests, have the same general playing ability level, and have the same pace of play can make a good round great.  Great camaraderie and enjoyable playing partners help make the round even more enjoyable.

Great playing partners can last for years, decades even.

It’s not all about scores.  Enjoy the walk with like-minded and like-skilled friends.

Tip: Practice Real Lies

deeproughThe practice routines of most amateur golfers will result in almost no benefit and no improvement of their scores or shots.  Those routines typically consist of loosening up, then hitting a full bucket of drivers.  While hitting big long drives is a fun part of the game, driving is a fraction of the round.  Think about it.  A typical par-72 course has at most 14 driving holes.  A player who shoots bogey golf will hit a driver one sixth of the total shots!

Now that you’re ready to put the driver away and practice some other beneficial shots, what are some good ideas or plans for the range?  First let’s think about what happens on the course.  The only guaranteed good lie (the way the ball sits on the ground) is on the tee.  From that point on there is no guarantee the ball will be sitting perfectly, even if it is in the fairway.  There may be divots in the fairway, or uneven areas which put the ball above or below our feet.

Next time you practice on the range, trie a bunch of different lies and situations to prepare for those unpredictable situations on the course.  Throw some balls down in the deeper grass outside of the closely mown grass of the driving range. Practice hitting shots buried deep in grass.  Practice hitting shots where the ball sits above and below your feet.

When practicing get creative with all the possible situations you may find on the course so when those unpredictable bad lies happen, you’ll have confidence you can succeed and pull off the right shot.

Watch Bad Shots Closely

Rory McIlory retrieves a tee shot from a tree

Rory McIlory retrieves a tee shot from a tree

Nobody, not even the best golfers in the world, plays a perfect round of golf.  We will all hit bad shots eventually.  Accept that fact and keep an eye on the shot!  Why?  It may just save you a stroke or two.

Often when players hit bad shots they dejectedly look down at the ground or up at the sky.  It is hard to watch that awful banana ball, snap hook, worm-burner, or whatever the shot is.  But you should.  Why?  So you know where it went!

After looking away from the bad shot we often are not able to track the ball again, and see where it finishes.  At that point it becomes a guessing game as to the ball’s location.  The mistake of hitting the bad shot could be compounded with a penalty stroke for not finding the ball.

Okay so now you’re going to watch that awful shot, as painful as it may be.  To make it easier to find watch intelligently.  Keep an eye on objects near where the ball lands like a bush, a rock, a tree.  When you get to the location you can then start at that point, say a tree, then begin your search.

When searching don’t wander around in random angles and circles.  Take a calculated, deliberate, logical search approach.  Most experienced caddies will search in a grid system, assuring that all the square yardage of an area are covered.

Conclusion

Minimize the damage on those inevitable errant shots.  Track the ball closely and search for it wisely.  You’ll save balls and subsequently strokes.

 

Tuesday Tip: Long Green-Side Bunker Shot

We’ve heard the long green-side bunker shot called the hardest shot in golf many times, but it doesn’t have to be that hard.  Bunker shots of roughly 40 yards can be much less difficult when the proper club and technique is chosen.

Sand Trap

Don’t

When faced with a long bunker shot to the green of 30 or 40 yards the first mistake most golfers make is to pick their regular sand wedge as the club of choice.  Knowing there is more distance, they swing harder with the sand wedge.  More often than not this attempt will come up woefully short and the extra hard swing will put even more spin on the ball, preventing it from releasing and perhaps even spinning the ball farther from the target.

Do

Instead, pick less lofted club like a pitching wedge or gap wedge.  Open the club up slightly.  This adds some bounce to the sole of the club.  The added bounce helps prevent the club from digging into the sand.  With that slightly open face take a normal full sand swing as if using a sand wedge closer to the green.  The reduced loft of the club will carry the ball longer.  The shot should have a good amount of spin, stopping the ball well after it lands.

Conclusion

Don’t make the hardest shot in golf harder by picking the wrong club!

How Foot Spray Can Be A Stroke Saver

footsprayLet’s face it.  We don’t hit the perfect center of the club face often enough.  Most amateurs would have an easier time finding Jimmy Hoffa than finding the sweet spot.  In order to fix those missed shots, it is important for us to first understand where the misses are occurring.  How do we do that?

Foot Spray

Grab some foot spray or something similar from your bathroom cupboard or local store.  Baby powder might work as well.  Head down to the practice range with your clubs and your foot spray.

When hitting balls, first spray the club face or coat with the baby powder.  Look at the club face after the first shot and note where the spray or powder shows the impact of the ball.  By knowing where the face impact is we can make quick and easy adjustments.

If the majority of impacts are on the toe, the most simple solution is to move closer to the ball in your setup.  Conversely, shots close to the hozel (where the shaft meets the club) may be fixed by moving a small bit farther away.

Shots which are on the very bottom of the club face are “thin” shots, indicating the golfer may be “lifting up” during the swing.  Stay down.

Shots which are very high or at the top of the club face may indicate that the golfer is coming down too steep toward the ball.  Flatten out the path to the ball and try to sweep it off the ground more rather than hitting so much down on the ball.

Conclusion

Obviously there can be many other reasons for off-center shots, mostly technique related.  The foot spray solution is a quick and easy fix and could help the golfer learn more deeply what the true causes of mis-hit shots are.

Tuesday Tip: Look at Hole on Short Putts

Jordan SpiethThe Masters finished this past weekend and the golf world is abuzz about the fantastic performance by 21-year-old Jordan Spieth.  His four rounds combined in many ways to produce all sorts of scoring and birdie records.  One of the reasons for Spieth’s great performance and subsequent securing of the coveted green jacket was his amazing putting.  Spieth was dropping putts from all sorts of difficult places, making it look quite easy, though most know that putting at Augusta National in the Masters is anything but.

Look at Hole

Did you happen to notice that on shorter putts Spieth is actually looking at the hole when he strikes the ball?  Yes isn’t that oddly interesting.   When he is in a range close enough to see the hole and his golf ball at the same time, Spieth looks at the hole at impact.  He first reads the putt, looks down at the ball, the hole, the ball, then when he looks at the hole again he strikes the putt.

This is a very interesting way of putting, and could provide an outlet for those of you (like me) who struggle with short putts of perhaps eight feet and under.  Looking at the hole during the stroke could give the player a better idea of the amount of strength needed for that particular distance.  It could be a way of helping the player keep the putter on the proper target line.

Flip Side

On the flip side there are some potential drawbacks to this concept.  If the player is not able to keep his/her body still there’s a high probability that the contact between the ball and putter will not only be off-center, it could be quite far off-line.

Conclusion

If you struggle with your short putts, try looking at the hole when you’re sure your setup is correct.  It might be a game changer!

Tuesday Tip: Handling Tiered Greens

Screen Shot 2014-09-24 at 9.40.02 AMThis week keep a close eye on the short games of the contestants in the Masters Tournament.  See if they use the same concepts in today’s Tuesday tip, handling tiered greens.

The greens at Augusta National are very fast and difficult.  It is very important to position the ball in the proper location to have a chance at par or birdie.  Balls which finish above the hole introduce a high possibility of 3-putting, and chips which miss the green will be very tricky.  Today we are covering those chips and pitches.

Many of the greens at Augusta are severely sloped, and may have tiers in them.  Tiers equate to different levels.  It can be difficult to chip to a green with multiple levels because the flight of the ball and the tier location can make a big difference in whether the shot gets close or runs far away from the hole.

Most amateurs will attempt to hit high, lob-type shots to tiered greens.  This is the completely wrong way of approaching these shots.  The best shots are ones which bump into the tier or slopes, and run, but the situation will dictate the type of shot.

In the case of a back pin on top of a tier, it is best to hit a low running shot which climbs the tier.  The tier will slow it down and the ball will hopefully stop near the hole.  Attempting a high shot in this scenario will most often result in the ball hitting the slope and coming back.  If the ball carries past the slope it will bounce too hard and go long.

In the case where the pin is in the back on the bottom tier, a running shot which nearly stops is best.  The ball will come close to stopping at the crest of the tier, then creep over, picking up speed to the pin.  Once again a high shot is not a good idea here either.  If the shot lands on the slope it will bounce too far and go over the green.  If it lands too short, it may not run to the tier before stopping, leaving a very difficult putt.

Watch the Masters this week and see how the players handle these situations, then try to implement the same strategies in your practice and subsequent golf rounds!

Avoid a “What the Heck” Moment

Certainly Phil Mickelson has access to the best golf clubs and best club technicians in the world, right? The video below might raise a few eyebrows given that statement.

During round one of the Valero Texas Open Mickelson was presented with a bunker shot of about 150 yards on the 12th hole. After changing club choices, Phil took a lash at the ball with his 8-iron. The club head snapped off just above the hosel and nearly went as far as his golf ball did. The ball went 40 yards.

If you listen close enough to the audio you can hear Mickelson say “what the heck?!”

Check your gear before you go out this weekend for a round of golf. You might find a club which is loose and be able to avoid a “what the heck” moment.

Tuesday Tip: Trust Big Muscles Under Pressure

Great release here. Can you tell who this is?

Whether in our club championship, a tournament, a match, or simply a game against the regular weekend buddies, pressure can be a big part of golf.  How we deal with that pressure and how our minds and bodies react to that pressure can make the difference between winning and losing.

Accept

First, we must accept that we feel pressure.  It is okay to be nervous.  In fact, it is a good thing. That’s our body and mind telling us they are in a heightened state.  It tells us we really value the moment.

Small Muscles

When we are under pressure our big muscles don’t move well and the smaller muscles can take over.  The smaller muscles move quicker and move in many more directions, which can be a recipe for disaster. We might twitch or produce jerky movements in the full swing or in putting.  We become more dependent on hands and arms in the swing, rather than the big muscles and the body.

Big Muscles

When we are under pressure it is best to concentrate on the big muscles and how they are moving.  Make sure the swing is initiated by big movements, not small muscles or single areas like the nands.  The transitions in the swing should be done via big muscles and big movements, no one small part like the hands or arms.

Take some practice swings with a full shoulder turn and concentrate on the body rotation, not its individual parts.

Commit to the shot and make sure the small muscles are under control and the big muscles are doing the work.  The swings will be more consistent, more powerful, and more dependable.