Six weeks into the new year, the new set of golf rules have their first adjustment on caddies standing behind their players.
Six weeks into the new year, the new set of golf rules have their first adjustment on caddies standing behind their players.
Golf’s two governing bodies released a clarification on the rule aimed at caddies no longer being able to help players line up a shot. The rule now says a player can avoid the penalty if he backs away from his stance and starts over anywhere on the golf course, and not just the putting green.
It also says caddies will not be in violation if they are standing behind their player without being aware the players are stepping into their stances.
The clarification was in response to a two-shot penalty on Denny McCarthy at the Phoenix Open that later was rescinded so the rule could be studied.
I’ve had a successful PGA Tour career, including a pair of wins, by keeping things as simple as possible. Yet, in the numerous pro-ams I play, I notice everyday golfers tend to make things more complicated than they need to be, and their games suffer. One area to simplify is off the tee. For amateurs, it’s the most critical part of the game to avoid big numbers. Keeping it uncomplicated will result in better consistency, which allows you to pay more attention on your approach shots and short game. Here’s your first tip: Swing with the thought of putting the clubface on the back of the ball. This will help keep your body from lunging ahead of it, which causes those toey slices no matter what club you’re using.
GET READY FOR TAKEOFF
If we’ve learned anything over the past decade, it’s high launch with low spin is key to maxing driver distance. Most everyday players, however, have a negative angle of attack, with some hitting downward several degrees. That causes a low, spinny tee shot—not great for producing distance. Here’s a simple fix: Adjust your tee height. The people I play with in pro-ams tee the ball too low. You can’t possibly hit up on the ball if it’s only an inch off the ground. Tee it so two-thirds of the ball is higher than the crown of the driver (above), and adjust the ball’s position so it’s in line with the big toe on your front foot. Now drop your right shoulder slightly at address. You can see (below) how this helps get it in the proper position at impact. These simple adjustments at address will automatically improve your tee shots, and they’re so easy to make.
GROOVE THE RIGHT PATH
Swinging on an in-to-out path in relation to the target line is something most amateurs really struggle to do in the downswing, but it’s vital to making solid contact. I’m a big fan of the Orange Whip training aid to help with this. With its weighted end and flexible shaft, the Orange Whip keeps the arms and body moving in the proper sequence for that desired in-to-out path. For me, it’s not about where the club is at any given moment. It’s about feeling the proper motion. Another key is getting your chest behind the ball during the backswing. If your chest hovers over the ball, you’ll likely pitch forward on the backswing, eliminating any chance of being in the proper sequence on the way down. To help, set your lead shoulder so it’s pointing a little right (closed) of your target line at address. It gives you a head start for an in-to-out downswing.
GO SLOW TO FIND SOLID
The biggest problem I see amateurs have off the tee is, they don’t make solid contact very often. In trying to squeeze as many yards as they can out of their tee shots, they lose control of the swing. Their hands and legs are moving all over the place, and there are too many motions going on to find the center of the face. You need to back it down. A great drill is to swing a 7-iron at 30 percent of your max speed, and keep doing that until you’re hitting solid shots most of the time. Then increase to 50 percent, 70 percent and eventually full speed. This builds the feeling of controlling your swing. If you can’t find the center of the face at less than half speed, you have no chance full throttle. You can do this drill with any club, and I think you’ll be surprised to find how far you hit it without swinging out of your shoes. Better tee shots are as simple as that.
The divots on a conventional golf ball are affectionately named ‘dimples’. As a matter of fact, regulations state that there must be 336 dimples on a professional golf ball. That’s significantly more than your average teenager.
What is your favorite golf ball to play with?
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Rickie Fowler is a trend setter, but Fowler’s use of a Puma stand bag to house his clubs last week at the Farmers Insurance Open isn’t the reason Jon Rahm, Jimmy Walker and other TaylorMade and Titleist players are allowing their caddies to lighten the load at this week’s Waste Management Phoenix Open.
Rahm and Walker will be using stand bags from their respective companies as part of a product launch for the bags. Titleist is introducing its Players 4 Plus bag and as part of its introduction made bags for each player, putting their names and sponsors logos on the carry bags and allowing players the option to use them. Similarly, TaylorMade rolled out its FlexTech and FlexTech Lifestyle stand bags with Rahm, Beau Hossler and Chez Reavie expected to lighten their caddies’ load by employing the bag in Scottsdale. The FlexTech and FlexTech Lifestyle bags utilize a design where each main side pocket is built into the center of the bag to create a single piece construction that allows for more storage without adding weight.
As for why the Waste Management Phoenix Open, it’s likely not a coincidence. The event has a decidedly relaxed vibe, making it easier to get players to agree to do something outside the norm. Additionally, the heavier staff bags that tour caddies routinely lug often are stocked with plenty of rain gear. Scottsdale is perhaps the most likely tour venue on the schedule to avoid wet weather, making the use of the smaller bags more viable as the likelihood of inclement weather is minimal.
Regardless, the caddies who get to carry the lighter bags will rejoice, but don’t expect the bags to stay in play for longer than this week. Sponsors like to see their logos on television—and they like to see them in big, bold letters.
When we discuss getting better at golf, our minds usually race to the big stuff—joining a club, working more with a pro, switching out your irons and woods with clubs that match your specs. Of course, all of these can be factors in shaving strokes off your score (and while we’re at it, so will one one medium-sized investment of joining Golf Digest Schools, which provides video instruction in a curriculum format from some of the leading instructors in the game). But it’s important to note there are incremental improvements you can make to your game without spending much money, or time. Here are nine to consider right now.
You might think your eyes won’t go bad for decades to come, but according to the Census Bureau and the National Center for Health Statistics, one out of every 10 people 18 or older in the United States reported some decline in vision in 2016—even people who wear glasses. You might joke that you play better when the ball and the fairway are a blur, but the reality is that routine eye checkups will help your game. You need clear vision for aiming, improved coordination between your hands and club, and perhaps most importantly—eye teaming. This term refers to how well your eyes work together (often one has clearer vision than the other) and it’s a big part of having good depth perception.—Ron Kaspriske
You take 30-plus whacks with the damn thing every round. It might as well be fit to you. And it might be the least fit club in your bag. A study of 100 golfers by clubfitting experts Club Champion for Golf Digest revealed that two-thirds of golfers do not fit into the standard length of 35 inches. And 28 percent of golfers either need more than 35 inches or less than 34 inches meaning there are some pretty bad fits out there. Which is not exactly what you want when you’re trying to roll the rock into a hole only 4.25 inches in diameter—even if you can now leave the pin in.—E. Michael Johnson
Whether it’s a putt, a chip, a bunker shot or a drive, your goal should be to complete the swing in a great finish position. Why? It means your swing was probably properly synced, had good rhythm, and the speed was in the right place—through impact. If you focus on getting into a nice finish position, you’ll be amazed how much better your ball-striking will become.—R.K.
Want to develop the all-around game and mental toughness needed to play consistently good golf? Try the Worse Ball drill. Scott Gregory, a rookie on the European Tour, credits it with helping him become a complete player. “There’s no better way to get good at playing golf ugly,” he says. The concept is simple: Starting on the tee, hit two balls from every position, playing only your worse ball, until you’ve holed out. The key is maintaining your pre-shot routine and concentrating on every shot. Let’s say, for example, you’re playing a par 4, and you hit two drives, one in the fairway and one in the rough. Play your next two shots from the rough. If one ball lands on the green and the other in a bunker, play your next two shots from the bunker. If you can make par playing your worse ball, you’ve accomplished something. The lasting benefit, however, is conditioning yourself to handle adversity and improving your ability to play trouble shots. —Alan Pittman
Most amateurs struggle to swing the club in the correct sequence. This happens for a number of reasons, but all of them can be corrected if you pretend you’re a sidearm pitcher. Grab a tennis ball and throw it sidearm forcefully against a wall. Note how, without thinking, you automatically load into the leg farther from the wall, and your arm rears back for the throw. Then you feel a noticeable lower-body weight shift toward the wall while your arm still hasn’t quite completed the windup. Finally, when all your weight has shifted into your front leg, you rotate your chest toward the wall and then let your arm hurl the ball powerfully forward. This type of sequencing is very similar to what happens to your body, arms and club when you swing. So the more you practice throwing sidearm, the more you’re training the synchronization needed to drive the ball like you always wanted.—R.K.
Forget the fact that it’s just better for you. There’s just no denying that you’re more in tune with the game when you walk. You have time to calm down after the bad shot (or even great shot); you have an opportunity to actually look at where the pin is as you’re walking to your ball and decide what side of the green you want to play to. You have time to sum up the risk and reward of that shot over a water hazard. None of that happens if you’re at your golf ball in a blink in a cart with music blaring to further distract you from the task at hand. Plus, how can you soak in the beauty of the surroundings?—E.M.J.
Your poor hamstrings. Two things are working against them in terms of good function—our mostly seated lifestyles and anterior-muscle (front side of the body) dominance. And when the hamstrings become chronically short and tight, it can wreak havoc on your golf swing and lead to injuries that will keep you off the course. A great way to start every day is by stretching your hamstrings, says Golf Digest fitness advisor Ralph Simpson. Here are two easy ways to do it: 1) Lie on your back in an open doorway and extend one leg up the door’s frame while the other lies flat on the ground, toes up. Hold for a few seconds and then switch leg positions. 2) Balancing on one leg, lean your torso forward and extend the opposite leg behind you until your chest is roughly parallel to the ground. Return to a standing position and repeat for a number of reps before switching legs. You can hold onto something for better balance.—R.K.
It’s easy to say the best way to improve is to practice more, but what’s not always easy is getting yourself to a golf course, or even a range. A workaround long advocated by leading instructor Hank Haney requires only a fraction of the space, and whatever club you have lying around the house. By simply taking a 100 practice swings a day, Haney says you can increase strength and flexibility and gain awareness of where the club is in various positions. “You start building a repeatable motion—which is great, even if the motion isn’t perfect just yet,” Haney says. —Sam Weinman
It’s fun to swing with reckless abandon at the range, no water or OB to ruin your rip at the ball. Unfortunately, it’s also a detriment to your game, forming bad habits and improper muscle memory. The next time you’re working through a bucket, come with a plan. Pick a target in the distance. Not only are you replicating on-course demands, it gives your session purpose and prevents aimless hacking. And randomize your club selection for every ball. Rather than barreling through 15 consecutive drivers, favor a sequence of driver, 7-iron, fairway wood, wedge. You’ll still hit a bunch of balls for one particular club, just not in a row—which is how golf is played.— Joel Beall
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Augusta National Golf Club, which is one of the most famous courses in the world, closed for three years at the height of World War II. Golf was replaced by cattle and turkey on its grounds to help support the war effort.
The grass was literally greener!
The countdown is on for THE MASTERS — Who do you think will win the green jacket?
Tiger Woods begins his 2019 season this week at Torrey Pines, and he will carry some new TaylorMade irons and woods in his bag when he steps to the tee.
Woods posted a photo of his new bag to Twitter on Tuesday, along with the message, “Always fun to put new toys in the bag. Excited and ready to get 2019 started. #TeamTaylorMade #FIO19.”
— Tiger Woods (@TigerWoods) January 22, 2019
Always fun to put new toys in the bag. Excited and ready to get 2019 started. #TeamTaylorMade #FIO19 pic.twitter.com/M6CXU4CZSg
— Tiger Woods (@TigerWoods) January 22, 2019
This year Woods is swapping out his old TaylorMade TW Phase1 irons for a new prototype set called TaylorMade P7-TW irons. GOLF’s Jonathan Wall reported that Woods was carrying the new irons this weekend at an exhibition event at Bluejack National, a new course outside Houston that Woods designed
His putter is obscured in the photo, but Woods is expected to stick with his faithful Scotty Cameron Newport 2 putter, which he used during 13 of his major championship victories.
No word yet on the wedges and ball the 14-time major champion will put in play this year. Last season, he used TaylorMade Milled Grind wedges in 56° and 60° with True Temper Dynamic Gold Tour Issue S400 shafts, and Bridgestone Tour B XS golf balls. He had that gear in his bag during his 80th PGA Tour victory at the Tour Championship in September.
Tiger chose to make his 2019 Tour debut at the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines, a tournament he has won seven times. (Woods also captured the 2008 U.S. Open at Torrey.) It’s Woods’s first chance to back up his successful comeback campaign in 2018.
IF YOU WANT TO GET A few extra yards and take a few strokes off your golf game, you’re probably tempted to splurge on a fancy new driver or revolutionary new golf ball. But the fact is, you can get even better results from proper preparation. Armed with nothing but a pro warm-up routine and a little know-how, you could add a dozen yards to your drive and take several strokes off your score card. Here’s how.
1. Warm up.
I wish two draft beers and half a cigar was a warm-up, but it is not. Full-body movements that include trunk flexing, extending and rotating are a great start. Other dynamic warm-up moves should target hip rotation in all directions. Lastly, making sure that your shoulders are prepared for all parts of your back swing and follow through will ensure a good first shot from the tee box.
Being only 10 percent dehydrated can lead to a loss of up to 5 percent of your ability to produce power. That means that if you’re used to hitting your 9-iron 130 yards, now you’ve lost 7 yards. You like hitting that 5-iron 180? Not anymore: If you’re dehydrated, you’re now only hitting it 170. Any good golfer knows how important being on your distances can be when trying to beat the course. It’s pretty hard to know how far you will hit your clubs if you are not properly hydrated.
3. Get fueled up.
If you think hydration is important for athletic output, then you’d better understand how vital proper pre-golf nutrition is to your success, too. Golf is a marathon with bouts of some pretty explosive movements. And, it all happens over the course of a lot of walking and strategizing. If you don’t have a good base of calories and blood sugar to start with, it’s like trying to drive from Virginia to Maine on a half tank of gas.
4. Keep fueling.
It’s so easy to get lost in the competition of the game of golf. The excitement of good shots. The frustration of duffs and slices. It’s all any of us can do to keep our heads together. Now, try limiting your brain’s energy source during a round and the mental game gets a lot harder. Something as simple as some trail mix, an energy drink or a peanut butter and jelly sandwich will keep your mind sharp and your muscles purring.
5. Be strong.
This isn’t necessarily something you can do before each round of golf, but it should be in the forefront of your mind if getting better at golf is the goal. Any strength-building activity you enjoy and can do consistently will work. The important thing is knowing that strength is built in the off-season, sped up in the preseason and hopefully maintained in some manner during the season.
6. Be flexible.
You’re not going to see a lot of true flexibility gains from a few stretches before a round of golf. What you will feel is a much more prepared nervous system and improved joint mobility, which will translate to your golf game as more pure and efficient mobility. This is key for anyone trying to beat a course, break a distance mark or just get through a round without nagging aches and pains.
7. Seek coaching.
Lots of folks are good athletes or have played sports their entire lives, but things seem to change when they pick up a golf club; their athletic experience just doesn’t transfer. As a lifelong baseball athlete, I can speak to this frustration firsthand. There are few things more aggravating than having difficulty hitting that little white ball on the ground.
But put me, or any other experienced athlete, back into their familiar setting like holding a baseball bat, tennis racket or a basketball, and things feel right again. Once you get a pro to look at you swing a club and help you refine some of your technique, your game – and outlook – will improve.
8. Know good pain from bad pain.
Knowing the difference between “good” pain that’s part of progress and “bad” pain that leads to injury starts in off-season golf-strengthening programs and continues through life. Those of us who know what “good” pain is also spend less time sitting out practices or rounds of golf because we know how useful movement is for healing and furthering our own athletic progress.
This term might not be familiar to even serious golfers, but to a strength coach or a physical therapist, this is one of the most important pieces of the golf strength, injury prevention and performance puzzle. This is the term we use to describe how training programs change depending on a golfer’s current fitness level and the time of the year we’re working.
For example, how important is it for a golfer who lives in the mid-Atlantic or northeast to be the most explosive and most ready to play golf in December? Not very. So, seek golf-specific programming for all of the different phases of the year, as well as competition and play. In this way, you can get the most out of each phase and maximize your physical abilities during the golf season.
10. Rest and recover.
This shouldn’t be the first time any good golfer has heard that taking proper care of your body after some time at the range or after a round of golf is a good idea. This might, however, be the first time that you realize that it could be the single most important – and easiest – thing you can do to ensure a pain-free and rewarding golf season.
The chances of making two holes-in-one in a round of golf are one in 67 million.
How many hole-in-one’s have you had??? Tell us when & where!