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.


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


10 through 14


15 through 19


20 or more



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!

Denver Golf Expo

Denver Golf Expo 2014 - Entrance
Denver Golf Expo Entrance

It’s time again for The Denver Golf Expo today and tomorrow at the Denver Mart. A friend and I arranged to meet and carpool to the event, arriving a few minutes before the doors opened. We registered for the drawings and signed up for our free copies of Golf Digest, then headed into the venue.

The first stop was the CWGA booth. The Colorado Women’s Golf Association is working to add value to the membership through additional discounts at courses in the Denver area. We signed up for their drawing and continued into the main Expo space.

Since the event had just opened, we headed over to the PGA booths where pros were giving free 10 minute lessons. Signing up at the Golf Tec booth for an evaluation in about an hour, we walked over to visit with one of the golf courses we’d like to play this year. Wandering through the vendor area, we stopped at several booths and chatted with the representatives, signed up for drawings and collected swag.


Heading back over to the PGA booths, we both had our 10-minute lessons. The pro, Reggie Sanchez, used video to film the swing and detail the flaws. It makes a difference knowing exactly what the problem is and how to make a correction. Maybe I’ll practice hitting my driver with Reggie’s advice in mind.

I’ve always liked this event. The vendors are very nice and I like chatting with the golf course representatives. Although today I didn’t stay for any sessions, the ones in the past were very informative. There is also lots of equipment for sale and lots of interesting specialty items. Just as the crowds started building, we headed home to pull out the discount golf coupons from our collection.

Do you attend golf shows? 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.


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.


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.

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 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.


The evening at the driving range

The weather here in the Rocky Mountain West has greatly improved over the past few weeks. Today, it was in the upper 70’s and after an atrocious day at work, I decided it was time to hit a few balls.

I have a love-hate relationship with practice. I don’t really like to do  it, but I know it’s good for me. Kind of like vegetables and exercise. But, I tried to go with a good attitude and the need to hit something very hard.


I got my clubs, 7-iron, 5-iron, and driver and headed to the range. Filling the holder, I did a few stretches and watched the guys around me try to hit the stuffing out of the ball.  There’s usually a lot more men at the range than women.

I tried to focus on form. Easy swing, follow through, hold the ending. It felt really good to watch those balls fly across the range. In the meantime, there were several lessons going on and I like overhearing the correction and encouragement. It was all over in about 30 minutes.

As I was launching balls, the sun was going down behind the Front Range, and I reflected on how lucky we are to live here. We already have our tee time at a local course for Saturday morning.

Do you like to practice? Do you go to the driving range with a plan, or just intent? I’d like to hear.


Golf drills: pre-shot routines

Pre-shot routines can be very important. Getting into a  habit helps to build confidence that you can hit the ball consistently every time. This past year, I had a lesson with a great teacher who helped me develop a pre-shot routine that amazed me in it’s effectiveness.

At the range, practice your pre-shot routine. Oftentimes on the course we get distracted and forget.

An example of a pre-shot routine:

  • Approach the ball from behind, looking at the flight line of the ball. Find a target a few feet away – it’s easier than aiming 200 yards down the fairway.
  • Take a practice swing. Step up to the ball and take your stance. Think about your “swing keys” – those thoughts that help you begin your swing. I count slowly 1-2-3 and at 4 I’m at the finish of my swing. Some use a phrase like “up and through” or “low and slow”. Complete your swing with a good, balanced finish.

Your routine may be different – whatever it is, be consistent.

Once you get your pre-shot routine developed and it becomes second nature, you’ll find your swing is more consistent and your scores should start heading down. Any other ideas on pre-shot routines?

Thanks to for the tips!