The ins and outs of equitable stroke control

Pole Creek Golf Course Hole #7
Pole Creek Golf Course Hole #7

It’s Spring in the Rocky Mountain West and golf leagues have officially started. At the kickoff meeting for our golf league, the big question for the pros that run the league and course was all about equitable stroke control or ESC. I don’t remember ever hearing about this in my years of holding a handicap and it’s how our league scores for the Colorado Golf Association handicap.

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Here’s how it works.

In league play, we count all our stokes.  Let’s just say that occasionally, some of us have to take an extra number of strokes on a hole. Maybe we got caught in a sand trap and took a few to get out, or lost a ball in the weeds. Not that it happens to anyone that often, right?

When we go to the computer to post our round, it’s important to check the handicap sheet next to the computer. Based on your handicap, there are a maximum number of strokes taken on a hole. The sheet looks like this:

Nine-hole course handicap

Maximum number on any hole

4 or less

Double Bogey

5 through 9

7

10 through 14

8

15 through 19

9

20 or more

10

 

If my handicap is 30, I can post no more than 10 on any hole for calculating my handicap. If my handicap is 4, any hole where I counted more than 3 over par changes to a double bogey.  This scoring is just for calculating handicap. Players should input their adjusted score in the computer.

Our league manager set up different games for us to play. For example, he may only count the 3 best holes on your card for prizes that week. For these competitions, the actual stroke count determines the winner. Thanks for Greg for figuring all this out for us, because we get lost on some of these competitions!

For each week we play in league, there are two different scores being used – one for handicap and one for the league competition. For handicap, we input our scores into the computer based on the ESC guidelines. For the league competition, the league manager uses our score cards with the actual stroke count to calculate the winners.

In reality, it’s not often players need to adjust their scores for handicap. Many of the players in our league have double-digit handicaps in any case, so unless something goes very wrong, there is little need for adjustments. Our home course is an Executive nine, so there is only one par 5 and two par 4 holes. It’s rare someone with a nine-hole handicap of 15 would shoot a 10 on a par 3, 100 yard hole. But if it happens, the Golf Gods have a way of compensating us for that error.

Are you aware if your league used equitable stroke control? Let us know!

Swing drills to help off the tee

I’ve been spending some time with a golf instructor over the past few weeks. I suddenly had a problem hitting my driver, and my iron shots were becoming much more erratic. I firmly believe that if you want to have fun while you play, sometimes it’s necessary to get professional help. And I really needed professional help!

I’m a decent player. My official handicap is 30 as calculated by the Colorado Women’s Golf Association. I’d like do get it down to the mid-20’s if possible but I wasn’t getting anywhere. In fact, my scores were creeping up instead of down. So, off to the driving range.

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The issues with my swing are myriad, but the basics include being too tense and basically not letting my swing take it’s course. I have a bad habit of slowing down before I get to the ball, then standing up just about the same time I try to hit it. There’s plenty more, but let’s just start there.

The drills I’ve been doing to help correct this are very simple.

  • Without the club I stand as if I’m addressing the ball and gently rotate my shoulders, letting my arms swing in a natural arch.  This helps to develop muscle memory when I finally do have a club in my hand.
  • Grabbing a club, I grip it lightly and trying to swing from my shoulders in a natural arc. I don’t go all the way back or complete the follow-through. I’m trying to develop the muscle memory of relaxing through the swing and not stopping the club. I have a bad tendency to tense up and my arms become rigid. Rigidity in a swing is not good.
  • Grabbing a club about half way down with one hand, swing my arms back and forth imitating a swing. This allows me to see how my wrist, arm and shoulder is working together to produce power. I also have a tendency to use my hands to hit the ball, with my arms and shoulders just coming along for the ride. That’s part of the reason my shots are much more erratic.
  • With my driver I make a half swing, practicing taking the club all the way through without hesitating. I mostly hit the ball in the right direction.

My bad habits have become deeply entrenched. The movements I’m trying to learn are much harder to implement than I would have thought. My instructor has a great deal of patience as she helps me through this torture. But I’m hoping that once I get this mastered, the game will be much more enjoyable, and my scores will begin to come down.

Have you ever used an instructor? How did that go? Talk about it in the comments below.


Finding a golf instructor

Golf can be a hard game to master. It sounds pretty easy – put a ball on the ground and hit it with the big end of a club. How hard could it be? The ball isn’t even moving!

Those of us who have played for a long time understand the logic and the frustration. Our advice is to find a golf instructor that can help. The golf swing is much more complicated than it looks, though not that difficult to master. A good golf instructor can help.

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There are many places to find someone. One of the best ways to find someone is to ask other golfers. Other players can give you an idea of how the instructor teaches. Are they experienced and patient with a new player, or not? A good instructor asks about the golfer’s goals for the game. If your goal is to win the statewide amateur tournament or make your college team, your instructor might focus on different drills and techniques than if you’re only trying to enjoy weekend play with your friends.

Every golf course has golf professionals on staff. If they don’t have a teaching pro available, they should be able to recommend someone. Local golf shops often know of several teachers in the area. If you prefer a golf school, the Internet is a great place to start the search. The Professional Golfers Association (PGA) has a list of certified instructors on its website.

In many cases, the decision is between group classes and private lessons. If you’re looking for some general direction or just starting out, a series of group lessons may give you the information that you need to get out and play your first round. Once you’ve decided to continue with the game, private lessons help by focusing on your specific abilities.

Once a teacher is found, be clear on what you hope to accomplish in the time together. Explain what the specific problem is so that the instructor can help solve that problem. When the lesson ends, you should have some drills or explanation of how to avoid or solve the problem.

The more you understand the game and learn to play it well, the more enjoyable the game becomes. Even the pros hire instructors to help them with their game. Why wouldn’t those of us who are playing for the enjoyment of it hire someone to help? Don’t continue to be frustrated – fix that problem and have a lot more fun on the course.

So you want to play golf?

There are plenty of people who’ll say that to play golf, you need fancy golf clubs, expensive golf balls, and lots of money to pay for greens fees. It’s not true that you need a fat bank account to play the game. If you want to play, keep these tips in mind.

 

  • You don’t need expensive equipment. You can find good used equipment at most golf stores. There are those golfers that like to have the latest and greatest equipment and turn in equipment for trade. Most of us do not need the newest driver or irons on the market. If you’re new to the game, ask your friends and family whether they know anyone that has an extra set of clubs. Borrow a set for a while in order to learn the swing and the shots. If you need new, many golf shops have starter sets with a bag for under $200. As you get better, invest in better equipment that is tailored to you and your game.

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  • Golf balls and the rest of the accessories are not costly. New golf balls can be bought at the local discount store for as little as 50¢. Used and recycled golf balls can be bought for less. Tees come in large packs of 100 or more, and can be bought for about $3. Ball markers can be coins or other small, round objects. It’s nice to have a glove if the day is hot, though I know folks who hate wearing them.

 

  • Golf courses can be inexpensive. Nearly every city has a public course and these courses usually cost less per hour than a movie with popcorn. Walk the course instead of taking the cart. When first learning, find the nearest par 3 or executive course and play there. Odds are they have group lessons as well. I’ve played the same executive course nearly every Saturday for the past four years and enjoy it every time. Once your skills improve, find the public, regulation course and try it out.

 

It’s not necessary to have irons with the latest technology, or golf balls that cost $2 each. Tees and gloves can be found at the nearest discount store, and check the closet for a hat. Find a friend or loved one that wants to spend a few hours outside in the sunshine and fresh air and play some golf.

Help the short game: putting drills

At the Waste Management Phoenix Open today, Phil Mickelson had a heart-breaker putt on the 9th at TPC Scottsdale. Granted, it was a 25 foot putt – a low percentage shot for most of us. Mickelson was having a great game, and this putt looked like it was going to drop – until it lipped out after traveling around the entire hole.

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That missed putt cost Mickelson a 59 for the opening day of tournament play. On the other hand, a 60 is a great round, and Phil is not complaining. According to Golf.com, “Well, 60 is awesome, and I’m ecstatic to shoot 60,” he said. “But there’s a big difference between 60 and 59. There’s not a big difference between 60 and 61, there really isn’t. But there’s a big barrier between 59, a Berlin Wall barrier.”

Those darn putts. We practice and practice – right? Here are a few drills that might help to reach that elusive 60 (or to break 100).

  • The Clock drill: Place balls at 3 feet, 6 feet, and 12 feet from the cup in four lines around the cup. Start hitting the balls into the cup. When you miss, start over. The goal is to get all twelve balls to drop without missing one.
  • The Single Hand drill: Place several balls on the green at 3 feet. Using only your dominant hand, hit the first ball into the hole. Concentrate on keeping the putter face square. For the second ball, use only your non-dominant hand to hit the ball into the hole. Then use both hands to hit the next ball into the hole. Do this at various distances to practice keeping the putter face square.
  • The Distance drill: Place tees around the hole at 3 feet. Move at least 20 feet from the hole and practice getting the shots within the 3 foot “ring” around the hole. Consistently getting this close to the hole should reduce those dreaded 3-putts.

For more putting drills, check out Golflink.com What’s your favorite putting drill? Let us know in the comments below.

 

CWGA Experience at CommonGround in Aurora

The CWGA held it’s annual Experience at CommonGround today. This is an event which includes golf skills instruction by professional instructors in driving, chipping and pitching, and putting. This year they added a new section for rules and etiquette.

I wanted to attend, but I didn’t get signed up in time. The event regularly sells out, though I should have taken the advice of a friend and just showed up and paid. But, I played a round this morning in my league, and we didn’t finish soon enough.

I really enjoyed talking with the CWGA staff and some of the participants. Folks really get a lot out of the instruction here. I did participate last  year, and I still use some of the techniques I learned, mostly for chipping. I’ll make sure I get signed up on time next year!

For those Colorado golfers, check out www.cogolf.org for more information on the remaining Experiences, one in Grand Junction and one in Colorado Springs. The CWGA also sponsors 9 Hole Social Golf Outings and various courses up and down the Front Range during the summer.

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Golf drills: Alignment

Here on the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains, we’ve had a lot of snow on the ground for several weeks. This means no golf until the snow melts and the course superintendents decide it’s tolerable to walk on the greens. Typically, we’re able to play year-round as long as snow is not an issue.

To compensate for the lack of course time, the Golfing Gal Pals and I like to use the local indoor practice facilities and do a few drills. In the next few posts I’ll detail drills that can be done to help improve your game while waiting for the weather to improve and the courses to re-open.

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Alignment

Gather 3 clubs. Lay one club on the ground parallel to the target line. Line up the shot, then lay another club from toe to toe. To check proper ball alignment, lay a club with the handle under the ball and the foot of the club between your feet. Is the ball forward or back in your stance?

Hold a club across your shoulders and check alignment toward the target. Move the club to your hips and check the alignment. In a square stance the shoulders, hips and thighs should be parallel to the target.

Alignment is critical to avoiding the slice. Your shoulders must be properly aligned in order to maintain the swing path. During practice, good players keep a club on the ground parallel to their target line to help with correct alignment. To help diagnose common problems, remember:

  • An inside to square swing path generally results in a straight shot
  • An inside to outside swing path encourages a hook or a shot with a closed club face that curves toward the non-dominate hand
  • An outside to inside swing path produces a slice, or a shot with an open club face that curves toward the dominate hand

Do you have any advice on how to practice correct alignment? Let us know in the comments!

Thanks to GolfHelp.com for the great golf tips and drills.