The Rules of Golf are overly complex, but I have to learn them. On Thursday, we took a quiz to test our knowledge of a few of the definitions we’re supposed to learn, and I did not do well. But this was just a trial run. Next week’s quiz is for real, and I have a lot of work to do. I’m going to make flash cards with the definitions on them so I can start practicing. Here’s a sample of what I’m talking about:
Abnormal Ground Conditions = any casual water, ground under repair or hole, cast or runway on the course made by a burrowing animal, a reptile or a bird.
Through the Green = the whole area of the course except the teeing ground and putting green of the hole being played and all the hazards on the course.
Casual Water = any temporary accumulation of water on the course that is not in a water hazard and is visible before or after the player takes his stance.
In Mechanics of the Short Game, we continued our discussion of putting. Solid contact is only half the battle in putting. The perfect stroke won’t help you if you have the wrong target or speed. Green reading comes with experience, but PGA Instructor Jay Friedman recommends playing more break. Most amateurs miss putts on the low side, so if you play more break or over-read the putt, you have a chance to make more of them as the ball slows down around the hole. Hank Haney confirms this in a video clip we watched. We also watched a clip of Tiger Woods’ pre-round practice putting routine. See how many putts he misses. Pretty impressive.
It’s also really important to develop a putting routine and to practice putting with a purpose. The more often you practice something, the more it becomes routine, and routine relieves tension. That’s why when you practice with a purpose like the gate drill Tiger’s doing above, lag putts to within three feet past the hole, or even just 3-6 footers, you’re ingraining elements you should be able to take with you to the course tension free. Because you’ve seen it and done it in practice, you’re going to experience less tension when you’re doing it under the gun.
I had three goals entering my lesson with PGA Instructor Tim Eberlein this morning: choose a putter, develop a putting routine, and walk away with a drill or two to improve my putting fundamentals. This has always been a real weakness of my game, partly because I don’t really enjoy practicing putting. But I’m at a point in my golfing evolution that the strokes between me and scratch are coming on and around the green.
Last week, Tim helped me determine that one of the reasons I was missing putts to the left is because I’m putting with a heel-shafted, toe-down putter. This means that much of the weight of the putter head is in the toe, which causes the face to close through impact. Makes sense. That’s why I’m missing on the low side. I’ve already switched to a heel-toe weighted, offset putter. I like the look and feel of it because I used to putt with something similar, but when I played on Monday, I didn’t feel like I was getting any hit on the ball. Turns out the new putter I have is more than 50g lighter than what I’m used to putting with. That may not sound like a lot, but it is.
I had a mind-blowing putting lesson. First, we added two strips of lead tape to the bottom of the putter I bought last week to make it weigh almost as much as the Odyssey putter I bought earlier this week. Then Tim changed my grip so that the V formed between my thumb and forefinger on my left hand is pointing to my left should while the V formed on my right hand is pointing to my right shoulder. This naturally causes my right elbow to rest naturally at my side.
Finally, we went to work on my new putting routine. I’m going to start taking my practice swings from behind the ball with both eyes looking at the hole. Next, I’m going to take my grip and step into the putt with my right foot first, carefully lining up the putter head at a 90-degree angle to my intermediate target before aligning the rest of my body. Then it’s one last look at the hole and go. For practice, I will be putting with a meter stick just off the toe of my putter so I can make sure it’s lined up at 90 degrees. I’m also going to be doing some right-hand only putting drills and have to do both drills from 6′ all the way around the hole to get my eyes trained to read different breaks. Time to go to work!
On the schedule Monday: Short Game Skills Development at the Golf Academy followed by a tournament round at Moon Valley Country Club in Phoenix. We’re playing a Net Stableford format. Points are accumulated as follows:
15pts Net Double Eagle
8pts Net Eagle
3pts Net Birdie
1pt Net Par
0pts Net Bogey
-1pt Net Double Bogey or higher