Kitty litter. Sandbox. Bunker. Trap. Hazard. Sand traps have many names but the results are usually the same for most amateur golfers. Traps are usually score killers. Sometimes amateurs hit their shots too short, leaving them in the bunker. Sometimes they hit them way too far, flying over the green and perhaps ending up in a trap on the opposite side.
So why do some shots come up short and some go too long? How does a golfer control distance out of the sand?
The answer usually lies (no pun intended) in how much sand is taken out of the trap with the swing. On those shots which fly over the green, one might notice that this shot is a product of hitting it too thin, and not taking much, if any sand. The shots which are too short and often end up in the same bunker are usually results of hitting too much sand. The sand slows down or stops the club so much that there’s not enough velocity to get the ball out of the bunker or even airborne.
More sand = shorter shot
Less sand = longer shot
Next time you are practicing your sand shots, try to concentrate on the amount of sand taken and notice how far the shot goes. With the same basic swing, try hitting directly behind the ball and you’ll likely notice the shot goes far. Next, hit 5-6 inches behind the ball and you should note that the shot goes very short.
Next time you are in a sand trap and short-sided, with the pin very close and not much green to work with, take a lot of sand out with the ball by aiming several inches behind it. The ball will come out short and soft, and roll out with little spin.
Next time you are in a sand trap and the pin is on the other side of the green or far away, take less sand. The ball will fly farther and stop quicker, as the ball will have more spin.
Start from this position and push the ball toward the target to eliminate deceleration
One big problem golfers can have on the green is decelerating. Decelerating means that the club is slowing down at impact.
Deceleration can cause all sorts of problems. First, the putt will likely travel off line, and probably to the left for right-handed golfers. The deceleration causes the putter face to close and the putter to go from outside the line to inside.
Another bad problem with deceleration is distance control. If the putter head is slowing down at impact, it is nearly impossible to putt with any distance accuracy. Most often putts will end up short due to deceleration.
There’s a very simple and effective drill to cure putting deceleration. A hockey style sweep of the ball is the answer. Pick a putt at a certain distance to practice, for instance if you decelerate on 3-foot putts. Place a few balls down to putt. Instead of taking the putter back, then through, start the stroke with the putter touching the ball. Push or sweep the ball toward the hole. It is impossible to decelerate when starting at zero!
After practicing pushing or putting hockey style, try to carry over the feel of accelerating through the hitting area to your regular putts.
In golf we’ve been told to “play it as it lies,” but in actuality there are times when the rules allow us to improve the situation. One example is with regards to the “embedded ball.” An embedded ball is one which ends up in its own pitch mark, like the photo above. This can happen in wet conditions or when the ground or dirt is very soft.
Relief “Through the Green”
In the embedded ball situation the golfer is entitled to free relief, through the green. What does “free relief through the green” mean? Let us break it down.
First, “free relief” means we are entitled to remove the ball from its pitch mark and take a free drop without penalty. Any time a golfer takes a drop, with or without penalty, the golfer can clean the ball.
“Through the green” describes the area in which an embedded ball can be dropped from. Through the green essentially means anywhere except in a bunker or hazard. So obviously the ball in the attached photo qualifies for a free drop.
Knowing this rule can be a big help, even when not on the fairway or in the grassy rough. Perhaps one’s drive has gone way off line and into a native area which is only covered by dirt and rocks. If the ball embeds there as well, the golfer can take a drop without penalty as long as the area is not deemed a “hazard.” A hazard would be a sand trap, water feature, or any area marked with red or yellow markers and/or lines.
Knowing the rules can save a golfer strokes and make the game more enjoyable. Golfer’s should study up on the rules and in case one runs into a situation in which the ruling or procedure is unknown, carry a small copy of the Rules of Golf in one’s golf bag for reference.
Line up the ball and putter lines, then perform the stroke along those lines…
One of the biggest keys to making putts is getting the ball to roll true and straight. If the golfer is not able to get the ball rolling true, and on the proper line, the best read and analysis in the world is worthless.
A great way to make sure your putts are rolling true is to mark the golf ball with a straight line. Many of the world’s top professional golfers, like Tiger Woods, do this. Most golf shops or stores have a ball marking device which can help you mark a straight line on the ball. The line can be on just a side of the ball, or all the way around.
The line on the ball helps in two ways. First, the line helps the golfer align himself, the putter, and the stroke on the target line. The line on the ball should be the same line of the putt, not necessarily the line to the hole. If it is a straight putt, the line should point straight at the hole. If the putt breaks one foot to the left, the line should be aimed one foot right of the hole.
Second, the line on the ball will show if the ball is rolling straight and true. Putts which come through the impact area off the proper line will result in a wobble in the line on the ball as it is rolling. Putts which are stroked on the proper line will result in a straight and clean line appearing in the roll of the ball.
Such a simple tip can help reduce strokes drastically and all it takes is a black marker!
Ever hit a putt which broke one direction but the slope of the green read to break in the other direction? Ever hit a putt which you thought should be fast but was much slower, even though it was downhill? Ever hit a putt which should have been slow, but for some unknown reason is was considerably faster?
If you’ve run into the above scenarios, or similar, you may need to learn a bit about “grain.” Some grass types on greens have a “grain” to them. Grain occurs when the blads of grass lay down in a certain direction. The ball rolls faster “with the grain,” meaning rolling in the direction the blades are laying down. The ball rolls slower “against the grain,” or “into the grain.”
Grain can affect the break of putts as well. If you read a putt to break from left-to-right, but the grain is laying right-to-left, the putt may roll straight. This can be quite puzzling to see.
Conversely, if the grain and the break were in the same direction, the putt will break more than the read would indicate.
How does one see the grain to read it? The color of the grain will be lighter or darker depending on which direction the grain is laying. “Down grain” views will be shiny and brighter as the sun is reflecting off the tops of the grass blades. “Up grain” views will be darker as the sun is not reflecting as much in the tips of the blades.
A putt may have several different grains to it, depending on the drainage of the green and the angle of the sun. Looking at a 50 foot putt one may see several light and dark areas, indicating different grain directions.
Now that you know a little more about grain you can hopefully make a few more putts. If a putt puzzles you as to why it broke or didn’t break, or perhaps is off on the speed, look back and try to find light and dark areas. More than likely, the miscalculation was due to the direction of the grain.
An eagle in golf is generally considered a good thing. Many higher handicap amateur golfers hope to make an eagle once in their lifetimes and if they do, it is a memorable occasion.
In the video below a golfer experiences a bad eagle. As he approaches the green he notices an eagle who is there, messing around with his golf ball. After batting the ball around a bit, the eagle grabs the ball and flys away.
The rules of golf provide a ruling for this scenario. The eagle is an “outside agency.” The player does not have to chase the eagle down and play the ball where it lies, in the eagle’s nest!
18-1. By Outside Agency
If a ball at rest is moved by an outside agency, there is no penalty and the ball must be replaced.
Note: It is a question of fact whether a ball has been moved by an outside agency. In order to apply this Rule, it must be known or virtually certain that an outside agency has moved the ball. In the absence of such knowledge or certainty, the player must play the ball as it lies or, if the ball is not found, proceed under Rule 27-1.
The complexities of the golf swing are far beyond brain surgery or rocket science. There are so many working parts in the golf swing and so many different opinions and ways of approaching swing mechanics and techniques. Opinions and golf swing tips differ widely across the the golf spectrum.
Today’s tip isn’t about those things. Today’s discussion is one which applies to every golfer, no matter what swing techniques or mechanics they use. Having a solid base and traction in the swing is extremely important and it is a subject which is not debatable or differing. Traction is important no matter what.
BrushPro 2-in-1 Shoe Cleaner
One of our oldest and most useful products is the Frogger BrushPro. The BrushPro has been the industry standard in club cleaning brushes, helping golfers optimize their club performance and get the best feel and spin possible.
The BrushPro head can be removed and replaced with the 2-in-1 shoe cleaning tool, available for only $6.95. The 2-in-1 tool has two different brushes. The first brush/rake gets out the big debris and the second smaller one finishes off the job on the smaller debris.
With cleaner spikes and shoes the golfer has a better connection to the ground and more stability. More stability means better accuracy, longer distance, and better form.
Frogger’s resident PGA professional Kris Moe shows us some basics which help with chipping on an uphill slope in this golf instructional video below. Some key points to focus on during an uphill chip:
Align spine perpendicular to the slope
Shoulders should be parallel to the slope
Swing with the slope and do not chop down into the slope at a steep angle
Swing from outside in as if hitting a draw
Consider that the slope adds loft to the shot
Great on Full Shots Too
The principles behind chipping on an uphill slope also apply to a full shot on an uphill slope. The shot will come off higher and more lofted, so it may require taking 1-2 extra clubs in distance. For instance, if you normally hit an 8-iron from that yardage, a 7-iron may be necessary due to the slope.
Frogger resident pro Kris Moe has some great videos on YouTube, both part of the Frogger Golf offerings and his own golf schools/instruction.
In the video below Kris shows us how we can use gravity to our advantage to help with the golf swing.
First, gravity can help us “drop” the club and hands down properly through the impact zone. This motion is crucial and helps us generate club-head speed, power, and thus distance.
Second, by using a weight we get the feel for our natural instinct to clear the body and hips. If a weight is coming down toward us we are naturally inclined to “get out of the way.” Getting the hips to release and getting the body out of the way for the swing is important. Doing so can help us release the club on the proper line. Improper lines produce slices and hooks. Getting the hips and body out of the way also helps us generate even more speed and thus more distance.
The gravity drill is simple and very effective. It can be done with or without a weight and can help get the proper feel for the downswing, even moments before you hit your first tee shot.
We can learn some great techniques from links golf. Golf in Scotland is played on the ground for the most part, especially with regards to the short game. The ground is so hard and smooth that putting from even 50 yards from the green is not unusual. Unlike golf on the typically soft courses in the USA, links golf seldom involves high lofted wedges. 60 degree lob wedges may only be used in very limited situations like getting out of pot bunkers.
Amateur golfers almost always grab the lob wedge when around the greens chipping or pitching. The extra loft can be more of a detriment than an advantage though. More loft means less control of distance and less margin for error. Amateurs need a bigger error margin! We are not Phil Mickelson and trying to be is like punching a ticket to bogey-land.
Whenever possible we should choose a lower lofted club around the greens. Sure there will be times where a high lofted club is the only option, like having to carry a bunker and stop the ball on a short-sided pin. But in most other situations it is a better choice to pick a lower lofted club and try to get the ball rolling as soon as possible. It is not uncommon to use mid-irons or even long irons with a putting stroke to get the ball airborne for a very short distance and then rolling after that.
Rule of Thirds
A great rule to use when deciding what club to hit and what distance to carry the ball is the rule of thirds. The best chips will be airborne for 1/3 of the distance, and roll the other 2/3 of the way. The intention is for the ball to be rolling like a putt when it gets to the hole.
We always want to hit the hero shot, but typically hero shots do not work out very well. The safest and most accurate way to get the ball closer to the hole in the short game is to loft down and get the ball rolling as soon as possible.