Opening Golf Courses

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We are all looking forward to heading back to the fairways and spending some much needed time on the golf course, enjoying some level of freedom that many of us have lost over the last few weeks, but exactly how will affect golf?

From the notes that I have seen from both government and national federations, golf will be affected in a minimal, yet somehow significant way. All players will not be allowed to touch the flagstick, they must either employ a “ball retrieval” system which works without the need to touch anything other than your own putter, but will there be the supply for the demand that golf courses would have, I very much doubt it, so here is the first major significant change to golf; there will not actually be a hole, federations are recommending that the hole be “covered” in someway to avoid the need to touch either the hole or the flag. “Holing out” will not be possible, so what would constitute finishing the hole? Touching the hole cover, but what if it was clear that the ball was travelling too fast to ever go in the hole?

One of the “suggestions” I personally believe should be introduced into golf itself is leaving bunkers unraked, only smoothed by the player. So, this means that each player would have to smooth over their divot marks and foot prints. This would make the game more difficult, as a bunker would return to being what it was originally designed as a hazard or penalty area. It has long been known that missing a green in a bunker rather than the rough is considered to be an advantage, but having a bunker that is not manicured would result in more difficulty. From which stems another problem, if you are taking part in a tournament, how is it fair that the first group finds bunkers in perfect condition and the following groups will not? This is not a fair playing field for all involved.

Finally, one of the aspects that we all love about golf, the social side of it will be lost, for the foreseeable future anyway. Social distancing rules, including not touching other players equipment will mean that golfers must remain some 2 metres apart. “Ready play” is also being recommended and although I am all for speeding the game up, I have a feeling that “ready play” will create an air of danger. But above all the social distancing measures will mean that players will not be able to shake hands, pick up playing partners clubs or share a buggy.

Personally, I am just as desperate as many of you as we have been in lockdown for 6 long weeks, I believe that we should be looking at staying away from golf courses until the pandemic is controllable, a vaccine or treatment has been produced. The world has been changed and we must be patient and accepting of this fact. Life will not return to how it was, and as much as I want and need the golf industry to reopen I think we should wait a while longer.

Ladies, Which Balls Should You Play With?

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This comes after a female client of mine asked me to recommend a golf ball, this came after our previous lesson where I had mentioned that all golfers should play the same make and model of ball all of the time. Having spent the week looking around local shops she was none the wiser and wanted to know what the major differences between balls are, starting with the difference between balls designed for men and those designed for ladies.

Ladies balls are generally a softer ball, with a construction that is designed to aid the lady in compressing the golf ball better, therefore increasing the distance they can achieve. However, this may not be suitable for all female golfers, as some will be strong enough to “over compress” the golf ball resulting in a loss of distance rather than an increase.

So, with this said, should ladies be using a ball specifically designed for ladies? NO absolutely not, just as men shouldn´t discount the need to use a lady’s ball if the circumstances call for it. Is there really a difference? To be honest no, I believe it to be a marketing ploy to get ladies to buy specific balls (just as men). Instead the question should be which ball (in general) should I be using.

For this you need to consider your swing speed, the lower your swing speed the lower compression of golf ball you should be using. So, ladies if you have a relatively high swing speed, let’s say above 60pmh you should look to try balls from across the market, regardless of whether they be female or male directed. I believe that you should all be using a ball that performs the best for you, based upon your swing speed and personal preference.

Ladies, I do not want to sound rude, but I want you to take the following viewpoint onboard before making a decision as to which balls you should be playing with: most lady golfers will struggle to reach the green in regulation, meaning they rely on their short game to maintain their handicap and score. With this in mind, if using a lady’s ball, that you don´t like the feel of, would benefit your driving distance by a few metres, would you not be better off using a ball that you feel comfortable with? In my opinion, just as I tell male golfers, the golf ball you use should be the one that feels the best so that you can be confident on and around the greens. The likelihood that you will gain massive distance increases is low, so go and try what is out there and make the best choice for you and your game.

Improvement Cycle

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Golf is a game where improvement comes in troughs and plateaus and this is one of the reasons is can be so frustrating. When we start out we have the belief that we will improve gradually, dropping a couple of shots at a time, a steady decrease that we can maintain with the help of practice sessions and lessons, but the harsh reality is that this is simply not the case. It also depends heavily on the scores that you are achieving.

So for those that are shooting 100+, you will stay around that mark for a while and suddenly you will achieve improved consistency, or you will your ability will improve meaning that you lose less golf balls and you will see your scores drop from 103/104 to 95.

Those that shoot between 90 and 99, will not slowly drop shot by shot into the high 80s and then gradually to the mid-80s, no, instead you will drop around 5 shots and begin to shoot 86-91, you will be happy of course but you will wonder why you can´t seem to break the 85 barrier, even though you can reach the same distance from the tee as your mates that are shooting 81-85 regularly. Then there are those that are shooting low to mid-80s, dreaming of breaking the magic mark of 80 and reach the single figure status. Your improvement would appear to be more the shot by shot method, but again it won´t. All of a sudden, your approach to the game, from a mental perspective will shift and you will have more belief in your abilities to play the game, resulting in a drop to the mid to high 70s and that single figure handicap.

And it is now that the game does become a shot by shot improvement sport. A golfer with a handicap of 15 and a golfer with a handicap of 22 have little technical difference regarding ability, their thought processes are very similar, but there is a consistency difference.

But the difference between a golfer that regularly shoots 75 and one that regularly shoots level par or better is a far greater chasm. Not only on the technical level, but also the mental level. From afar they can both strike the ball cleanly, they can both get up and down regularly and both are consistent scorers. So how come one plays 5 or so shots better than the other? I think the difference, which I wish I had figured out a lot sooner, is attitude to the game. As a scratch golfer your attitude is different, you know you have the ability to recover from a bad hole or a poor start, whereas the 5 handicapper will sow seeds of doubt after a poor start. In truth I think that this is the difference between a good scratch golfer and a professional as well.

Don´t expect a smooth ride to improvement in golf, sometimes you have to get worse before you can get better.

High Handicappers

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A common flaw for high handicapped golfers is the dreaded slice, that is seemingly impossible to avoid. But what a lot of golfers do not understand is that the swing is not always at fault for the shot shape that you hit. It has long been thought that by swinging “flatter” or by swinging out towards 1 o´clock that the slice will disappear, yet golfers who have tried to do one or the other, or even both still slice the ball.

There is an issue that people seem to overlook, and in my experience, it is the only thing that needs altering. The issue is simple to fix, but is often the sole cause of “coming over the top” or “casting” the golf club as you begin the downswing. The issue, one that leads me back to the need to have great fundamentals is alignment. I am amazed at how so few golfers, understand alignment correctly and even more that can´t align correctly when on a golf course.

Aiming to the right of the target for a right-handed golfer is the beginning of a slice. The closed body position creates the need for the body to swing the club outside the body and across the ball to target line as they swing down into impact. If we take the logic of alignment or aim, we have to agree that the ball will generally end up heading in the direction that we are aimed. So, if the club swings from outside to inside and our body is aiming to the right, then the ball will start left and move towards the right, A SLICE.

Now, if you naturally swing the club on a path that is outside the target line working across to the inside then you will likely have a ball flight that starts left of the target line and curves towards it. If the clubface is not square, the outcome will be different. A closed club face will lead to a pull, while an open clubface will lead to a slice. (assuming you are aligned square to the target). So, if you are aligned square to the target, with a square clubface at impact your shot will start on the target line and drift slightly right, so the correction you need to make is with your alignment. Aim slightly left of the target and your ball, with your natural shape will drift back onto the “direct” target line.

Alignment has to be the start of all diagnosis, otherwise you will misdiagnose the problem and probably cause more issues within the golf swing.

Golfing Terminology That You Need To Know Before You Start Playing

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Par, birdie, eagle, albatross, condor, bogey, double bogey and triple bogey

Par refers to the number of strokes you should look to complete a hole in. Typical there are 3 “par scores”; Par 3, Par 4, Par 5. This means that on a Par 4 you should look to take 4 shots to complete the hole. A bogey is one more than a par, a double bogey is 2 more and so on. A birdie is one under the par, an eagle two under the par, an albatross 3 under the par and a condor is also known as a hole in one on a par 5.

Handicap

  1. A handicap is awarded to a player to indicate their ability. A player’s handicap will be added to the par of the course to give a score that the player should achieve for 18 holes. So, if your handicap is 24 and the par for the golf course is 70 you should score 94 shots. Your handicap will also be used to calculate the number of shots you get with the slope index (difficulty rating of the course) the lower your handicap the better player you are.
  2. Handicaps are also given to each hole, with the handicap 1 being considered the hardest hole on the golf course and the handicap 18 being the easiest. We use these hole handicaps to determine where on the course golfers receive their additional shots. So as a 22 handicapper you would receive 1 shot for each hole plus an additional shot for the holes handicapped as 1, 2, 3 and 4. The handicap index for a hole can also be known as the stroke index.

Provisional Ball

A provisional ball is a ball played in case you do not find your original ball, because you believe it to be lost or out of bounds. (Remember if you believe you are in a penalty area, lake or stream you are not allowed to play a provisional ball). You play a provisional ball to speed up play. If you do not find your original ball then you count all the shots played with the original ball, the provisional ball and a one stroke penalty.

Nearest point of relief

The nearest point of relief means exactly that. If you find your ball on a cart path for example you are entitled to free relief at the nearest point to where the ball lay. This doesn´t always mean the best place to drop.

FORE!!

The word FORE is a warning to golfers on neighbouring holes that they could be in danger from a shot that went astray. Please make sure that if you hit your ball in the direction of another hole that you shout FORE, it is becoming less common to hear this, and I don’t think it is just because golfers are getting better.

Golfing Myths

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1 – A high handicap golfer means a bad golfer

A high handicap doesn´t always mean a “bad” golfer. Golfers handicaps can be high for a number of reasons, and the most common is because they simply cannot get any lower due to physical restrictions such as age and strength. But that by no means makes them a bad golfer. In fact if truth be told I would rather play a pro-am with a mature golfer that possesses a higher handicap because they are more than likely very consistent and the benefit they would gain by being able to choose the best ball could make all the difference. Remember a good golfer is the golfer that can play to their handicap on a regular basis, even when they have a bad day at the office.

2 – Long courses are harder for shorter hitters.

Long courses are generally considered to be championship courses and as such are more often tight and demanding, not just on the distance front. But this could and often does play into the hands of the shorter hitter, that is generally very accurate from the tee, and although the need to hit longer clubs the fact they are rarely in trouble and undoubtedly possess a good short game, long courses can be a blessing in disguise. It is also worth remembering the sound advice that every course is in fact the same length. The distance between ones ears!

3 – Lessons will make you better.

Now a statement like this from a working golf coach may seem a little odd, especially considering it is how I make my money, but truthfully lessons alone will not make you a better golfer, in fact lessons could actually hinder your abilities. But taking lessons will no t guarantee anything, lessons must firstly be directed specifically to you but more importantly than that, the lesson must always finish with a drill being given so that you can go away and practice what you have learnt without the fear of doing something wrong.

4 – A new driver will give you more distance

This is simply a marketing ploy that companies have been using for years to try and sell their clubs over the rivals. A new driver will be packed with technology but to be honest you may not notice any difference between a brand-new top of the range driver and the one stuck in your shed from 15 years ago. I still use a 4-wood that I have had since 2000 (yes 20 years!) as I have yet ton find a 3 or 4 wood that I hit better. Technology may not suit each individual so just beware before you update your driver, it may not give you the desired results.

Get Back Into The Groove

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After the announcement that many countries will begin to ease lockdown rules, golfers are seeing a light at the end of what has been a long dark tunnel, and dreaming of a return to the golf course for some much-needed golfing medicine. To avoid a disaster, you should be looking at keeping your short game in tune, it is the area of the game that we lose the fastest, but more importantly it is also the area of the game where we require the most feel and a good touch.

We all know that the “average golfer” will be looking to get back out to the driving range as quickly as possible to loosen up and get the swing tuned and ready to fire. It is this mistake that will result in a performance far below what you are looking for on your first trip out. It has amazed me the number of videos I have seen uploaded to various social media apps that show golfers practising by hitting into a net with a 6 or 7 iron, commenting on how great their swing feels. Brilliant I am so happy that people have been able to “maintain” their golf swing, but please show me some clips of golfers honing the most vitals skills. Putting and chipping.

Putting is one of the easiest, if not the easiest areas of the game to practice at home, all you need is a putter, a coin and some balls. Throw the coin down on the floor and try to roll as many balls over the coin as you can. It is a great drill because it focusses your mind on the smallest target, meaning that when you get back to the course and see the hole, it will appear larger, having the smaller focus point will also help with your alignment on the course, as you will become accustomed to aiming small.

Chipping is another great backyard exercise, and again you do not need anything specific to practice it. If you want to work on your distance control grab yourself a bucket or old plastic plant pot and chip/pitch balls into it. If you need to work on your trajectory control (chip and runs) grab the garden bench and chip three balls underneath the bench then three balls between the seat and the bench back and finally three balls over the bench.


Trust me you will regret it if you do not keep your short game up to scratch with what are cost free exercises, no need to purchase any nets of simulators, use your imagination and use what you already have available to you.

Extra Distance Or Sharper Short Game

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A few weeks ago, I cam across a poll of amateur golfers with the following two options to the following question; if you could choose an improvement in your golf game which would you choose?

  1. Extra distance
  2. Sharper short game

What surprised me was the responses that the seemingly simple questioned recorded. As a golf professional I have a pretty solid all-round game, but when I was a junior golfer, I had massive problems with distance and not only from the tee. I would generally record a driver distance of about 230-yards and a 7-iron distance of 135 yards (both carry distances), these yardages barely changed even when I was playing off a 3 handicap, but what I did possess was a wicked short game, which more than made up for it. It is for this reason that I found the responses so interesting.

The poll was easily won by “extra distance” with people mentioning that if they could hit the driver further, and their irons further they would not need to have a high-level short game, as the distance they would have left to greens would be greatly reduced. Resulting in a driver and a short iron into greens, rather than a driver and a long iron or fairway wood. The logic to me seemed a little odd. If you watch the professionals on the top tours, the longest drivers are necessarily, if rarely the winners of the tournaments. It is the guys that can score that win big pay cheques and prestigious tournaments, none truer than The Masters as possibly one of the most demanding courses for a fine short game in golf.

I hold my hands up, long hitters have won The Masters, they have turned the course into little more than a driver and a short iron, but it is their skills on and around the greens that make them winners.

I will never forget possible the longest amateur golfer I have ever seen, he could hit the ball the proverbial country mile, but his short game was atrocious, which was why he never made it to the satellite tours of the UK and had to get a job in the local supermarket and give up the game at the professional level.

Compare this to perhaps one of most endearing memories of my original home course and a gentleman that was 86 years old. The gentleman had a handicap of 18 and would regularly play to that handicap. He could only make 150-yards from the tee and would hit a couple of fairway woods from his drive to the green and two putt at worst.

A 300-yard drive is only worth hitting if you can put the ball in the hole with your putter.

Concentrate

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Concentrating on anything requires giving your all to whatever the task at hand is, whether it be writing an article or hitting a golf shot. One of the problems we face on the golf course is the amount of time that we are taking to complete a round. If I asked you to concentrate 100% on any task for a period of 4 hours you would struggle, there would be a few moments during that time that your mind wandered and became busy thinking about something else, and this is where golfers make the mistake when it comes to concentrating.

Golfers must be able to switch on and off. Enjoy what is happening around them, take in the sounds, smells, sights and conversation between the group. Instead we try to focus fully on the game and lose concentration to easily, flipping from one thing to another with no structure or direction. It is always interesting for me to hear the different subject topics being talked about on the golf course, many of these conversations are broken and contain little structure.

To be able to perform to our best ability throughout the 18 holes, we must learn to switch on and off. Completely forget about golf and shift our focus away from the golf and onto something else, but equally we must be able to switch back that focus and dedicate 100% of ourselves to each individual shot.

Teaching ourselves to do this takes a lot of time and awareness, and it is the awareness of how we behave on the golf course that we need to enhance. There will be one golfer, probably one of the most talented in the club that has seemingly failed to meet their potential, that turns up late, possibly hungover and walks off the 18th green as the champion, doing it week in week out. Making people question what is the problem.

The problem most certainly not their concentration or ability, they have plenty of ability and they are able to focus themselves on the task at hand, instead the problem comes when they have to dedicate time, hours rather than seconds, on improvement, they become distracted bored and although they are exceptional players, they will never quite make the grade, but you can learn from them. You need to be able to switch on and off like they do, when it is necessary, relax when you can and enjoy the environment or the company you find yourself in.

Trying to remain 100% focussed for 4 hours is not helping you play better golf; in fact, it is probably making it harder. Relax and enjoy yourself, and only focus when you need to.

Career In Golf?

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Many youngsters that are good players with low handicaps may be considering entering the world of golf as their desired career choice, which is a pretty good idea if you want to enjoy your job, which was once your hobby, but having a career in golf can be far more than just a professional golfer. The opportunities are endless and each has their own requirements, with some needing degrees to be able to access them. We are going to talk about the careers that may not be so obvious within the golf sector.

Director of golf or operation manager

The Director of Golf is often the highest position at a golf club and will normally require both a good playing standard and a university degree. Being a director of golf, can also require you to be a professional coach to help with the academy or act as support for the professional during busy periods. A director’s job is varied, and could include the following: day to day running of the golf course, marketing, staff rotas, maintenance schedules, problem solving and team management. It is a role that is highly fulfilling but also demanding.

Green Keeper

Many of the best green keepers are good golfers, it gives them an advantage to understand how golfers want to find the golf course. It can also help when it comes to making small alterations in the design of the course that doesn´t require the specialities of a course architect. Green keepers will need to have a good knowledge of grass types, soil types and chemicals to treat certain diseases. The hours can be long and much of the time the work carried out is thankless, with the exception of perhaps the course director and some grateful members.

Caddy Master

The caddy master is often considered to be the face of the golf course and as such requires formality and a good understanding of the game to ensure the best service can be provided to the client. Often the first port of call for complaints and problems faced by customers a caddy master must have a strong character and be able to think on their feet and problem solve. Qualifications are rarely required, but a good understanding of the game is a benefit.

Marshals

Marshals are the heartbeat of a golf course, and also possibly the most hated member of staff, especially by those that are considered slow or lack a certain level of decorum on the golf course. A marshal’s job is primarily to keep the pace of play moving and be an encyclopaedia of knowledge regarding the golf course. Golfers themselves generally make the best marshals and a level of patience is essential to deal with all the problems that crop up on a daily basis.

There are many more careers that the industry has to offer and they all can be highly rewarding, plus you get the benefit of working in an industry that you love and the chance to play for free!!