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!

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?

August 15 at the Solheim Cup

The weather has been great here this week! No rain, or even the threat of rain. It’s been hot and sunny. Hope all the flatlanders that have joined us here in Parker have used their sunscreen! I saw some pretty red faces yesterday morning at the course.


The ladies set off on their practice rounds about 9:30 yesterday. The galleries followed like a brightly colored waterfall. I hung out on the ropes between the 3rd and 4th holes, getting autographs and taking some photos of the players. Michelle Wie and Brittney Lang were wearing red, white, and blue leggings. Not a bad look, but definitely one that looked odd from far away.

Hole #3 at the Colorado Golf Club has an interesting approach – like most of the holes on this course. The green is guarded by an arroyo across the front and around to the right. The green slopes into the arroyo, so if the ball doesn’t get to the middle of the green, it definitely will roll back into the weeds. Each lady took a couple of shots to get this one right!

The crowds were respectful. The players were generous with signing anything put in front of them. Since it’s not likely you’ll get much of a chance to get anything signed in the next few days, folks were really trying to get all the players signatures on the tee flags, visors, and hats.

I left around 11:30 and returned for the opening ceremonies in the evening. We got there an hour before the ceremony was set to start and the venue looked full already. What a great crowd! Patti Sheehan was dancing around and signing at the back of the seating area. It was quite a party through the event, with raucous cheers when the players were introduced. Meg Mallon and Liselotte Neumann gave great speeches that revved up the crowds.

We slipped out before the other thousands and managed to get back to the parking lot before the throngs arrived. We even talked about going to Germany for the next Solheim Cup. We’ll have to see about that.

I have tickets for tomorrow. Watching the teams today, Europe is up so far. Yikes! Go USA!

Practice day at the Solheim Cup

The practice rounds started at the Solheim Cup in Parker, Colorado. We headed down to the course this afternoon hoping to catch some of the players practicing on the course. The crowds seemed light when we got there about 1:30 p.m. We started at the driving range where Brittney Lincicome, Angela Stamford, and Gerina Piller were hitting balls. We didn’t see any of the European team at the driving range or chipping green.

Driving Range, Colorado Golf Club
Driving Range, Solheim Cup, August 14


We walked down along hole #15 and #16. The course looks like it’s in excellent shape. As we walked over to putting green, a couple of the European players were practicing their putting.  Working our way around to the 1st tee, we headed up into the deserted grandstand to look at the course from above. Looking over the #9 hole, we noticed a player heading up the fairway and decided to go check it out.

Hole 15 Green
Hole 15 green, Colorado Golf Club, Parker, CO

Standing by the green, we watched as Morgan Pressel worked her way up the fairway. She stopped about 120 yards out and hit a couple shots to the green. The first one landed about 5 feet from the hole. Her other shots hit the green, but the second and third weren’t nearly as close. She came up to the green and hit a few chip shots, then a few pitches. The caddy through out a couple of marks and Morgan hit a few puts. While putting she hit a long put across the green that directly hit the mark. The small crowd applauded and Morgan said, “Ahh, you guys can do that!” You could hear the laughter.

Morgan Pressel
Morgan Pressel, hole #9. Colorado Golf Club, Solheim Cup

As she finished, she thanked the gallery that had followed her and headed in to the clubhouse. It’s fun watching her play.

I’ll be heading back to the course tomorrow. Hopefully I’ll see a few more players and get some autographs. I’d also like to see the opening ceremonies. Until tomorrow!






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.


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, “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 What’s your favorite putting drill? Let us know in the comments below.


Having a very bad day

Just finished watching the U.S. Open on the tube. Jim Furyk played pretty well, Tiger not so much. It was wonderful to see Graeme McDowell play so well and finish in contention. Beau Hossler, the young amateur, also finished strong. And in fact, I had a great day on our little golf course this morning!

It was painful to watch Tiger blow some of those shots. That chip on the 18th that hit the edge and veered off was reminiscent of several shots I’ve had recently. It was interesting to watch Tiger’s face – he looked incredulous at some of these shots, as if he just couldn’t believe it.

We’ve all had bad days playing golf. There are days when it seems that you just completely forgot how to play. The trick is to try to play every shot like it’s the first of the day. Not always an easy task, but it can work.


Watching these big tournaments makes me feel that I’m too hard on myself when I play. If Tiger can blow a perfectly straightforward chip shot, then why do I get upset when the ball doesn’t always nestle up to the pin on my shots?

How do you change your mindset when you’re not playing your best game? Let us know in the comments below.



Tseng wins Honda LPGA Thailand

Yani Tseng pulled off a come-from-behind win in the LPGA Thailand February 19. She started her final round with a remarkable eagle on number 1, and then went on to birdie the third, sixth and seventh holes on the front nine. Miyazato was one shot up at the start of the final round and was competitive with Tseng throughout the final match, but came up one short by the end of the round.

South Korea’s Jiyai Shin was also in the race, but ended the round two back from Tseng.


Tseng had an amazing shot on the 18th when her 104-yard approach shot stopped within a foot of the pin. She took the win after her tap-in for birdie and a one shot lead over Miyazato.

In 2011, Tseng won this event for the first of seven 2011 LPGA victories. The LPGA season is shaping up to be an exciting this year. The next event on the schedule is HSBC Women’s Championship in Singapore. Being played at the Tanah Merah Country Club this year, Karrie Webb won this one last year. Tseng and Miyazato will be there, as well as some of our favorite U.S.players such as Morgan Pressel, Cristie Kerr, and Paula Creamer.

I would love to go overseas and attend these tournaments in person. The caliber of play is so high and the venues seem very interesting. Maybe next year!