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.

Growing the game

During the PGA Merchandise Show in Orlando last week, Mark King, the CEO of TaylorMade introduced their idea for speeding up play. The 14-inch cup more than triples the target on the green from the current 4.25 inch cup, and speeds up play on the green. This idea is not a new one. Jack Nicholas talks about increasing the size of the cup in the green to an 8 inch diameter for amateurs and high-handicappers. Both men talk about the increased pace of play and more enjoyment for new and less skilled players.

The slow pace of play seems to be the biggest complaint on the course. So, how does that problem get solved? TaylorMade is hosting a blog site called, collecting ideas to make golf more attractive to new players as well as current players. Ideas range from adding leagues for young players and new adult players to creating Big Break-style competitions to attract more interest. Of course, some say that the game is perfect in its current form and folks should learn to play without any additional changes.

Barney Adams, the father of Tee it Forward promotes shortening the game to make it more enjoyable and faster. The point of golf is to be outside and have fun. When it’s work for a player to get to the green, the fun starts to seep away. Adams wonders why amateurs feel the only way to play a course is from the back tees. That rule doesn’t appear in the rulebook. Players should play from tees that allow them to be on the green in regulation without any herculean efforts. The game isn’t any easier, just more enjoyable and oftentimes faster.

This topic is a perennial within the golf community. Over time, perhaps a combination of the Tee it Forward philosophy and some changes in the rules or setup for new players will help reduce the number of players that quit because it’s just not fun anymore.

What do you think would speed up play?

End of the official golf season here in Colorado

Here on the Front Range in Colorado, we’ve had our first snow. For many here, that marks the end of golf season. That’s very fortunate for those of us here in the Rocky Mountain West that don’t mind golfing when the weather is a bit cooler. In fact, M and I played a small executive course here in Denver on Sunday afternoon. The sun was shining and the temps were in the 70’s.


The golf league finished on September 29. I took 3rd with a 43. The winner shot a 40 on the par 31 course. She’s won in the past – in fact I tied with her last year for first. I had a rocky summer, with my swing being a a bit challenged. I think it’s mostly straightened out after taking a series of lessons with a coach. I’m still struggling with my driver. If I’m still struggling next Spring, I may take the driver in and have it cut down a bit.

As the weather cools, we need to pay attention to equipment. I like to clean my clubs and clean out my bag. Here on the Front Range, the mice move into garages during the winter. I have a bad habit of leaving Gorp in my bag. Since Gorp is made up of peanuts, raisins, cashews, and chocolate pieces, mice love it. I’ve had one bag ruined after mice chewed it up trying to get into it for food and shelter. So, clean up your equipment and clean out the food in your bag. You’ll not want to eat it next year anyway!

What do you do to get ready for winter golf? Let us know in the comments.


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.

Four tips on buying golf clubs – the path to the perfect set

For golfers, the equipment can be a blessing or a curse. For the new player, the choices seem endless. Golf clubs are one of the first choice players need to make and the selection is confusing. There are three basic choices here – get clubs made specifically for you, buy clubs from a store, or borrow clubs from a friend or relative. This decision is going to depend on how much money you want to spend and how committed you are to learning and playing the game.


  1. If you are committed to learning and playing for at least two years, it might be worth it to go to a pro club fitter and get a set of clubs custom built for you. This usually costs more than buying off the rack, and you know that the clubs work with your swing. If you’re not sure you want to go this route, talk with a club fitter and find out how much it might actually cost. It may not be as much as you think. Google “golf club fitters” in your area for a list of folks that do this, or ask at your local golf shop or pro shop.
  2. If you’re not sure this game is for you, but you really want to try and start strong, you may decide to go to a local golf shop, work with the knowledgeable staff, and try out a few sets of clubs. You can work a budget with the shop, and get a set of clubs that you like. In some cases, the shop will let you borrow clubs for round. Costs for a set of clubs start at about $150.
  3. For those with a smaller budget, consider used clubs. Many players trade their clubs in regularly for the latest in equipment. For those of us just starting out, a good used set of clubs might be the perfect choice to learn the game. It also gives the opportunity to determine what type of clubs you might like – steel shafts or graphite, hybrids or classic irons, or different types of grips. Try to pick up a set for under $100.
  4. When I learned to play about 10 years ago, I borrowed by nephew’s clubs for a season. He wasn’t using them any longer, and I figured I could at least learn the fundamentals. If you’re going to borrow, try to avoid clubs that are more than 10 years old. The newer technologies are more forgiving for the newer player. The upside: it didn’t cost anything. The downside: these clubs really didn’t help my game. This was the best choice for me because I didn’t know if I was going to enjoy playing.

Most players I know have owned several sets of clubs over the years, and have landed on a set that works for them.  I played one season with my nephew’s clubs, and then my husband bought me a set for Christmas that I played with for a season. For my third season, I bought a set of clubs from the local golf shop which I played with for about three years. Then I took those clubs to a club fitter and replaced the shafts and the grips. It made a world of difference in my game!

My husband played with the same set for 20 years. He finally broke down and bought a nice set of irons. There is no one path to the perfect golf clubs. Just get out and play!

Where did you get the clubs that you play with today? Let us know in the comments!


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.