Four Golf Rules Involving The Golf Ball

Golf rules expert and author of “999 Questions on the Rules of Golf” Barry Rhodes answers four questions relating to the golf ball and the rules of golf below.


I have a golf question about the Rules. My golf partner on the tee box was just about to make contact with the ball when it fell back off the tee. He was able to still hit the ball into the fairway, but not very far. Does he get to hit again or play it where it lies?


In the circumstances that you describe there is no penalty and the ball must be played from where it came to rest. Rule 11-3 states;

“If a ball, when not in play, falls off a tee or is knocked off a tee by the player in addressing it, it may be re-teed, without penalty. However, if a stroke is made at the ball in these circumstances, whether the ball is moving or not, the stroke counts, but there is no penalty.”


Andy, If a tree is dead and has fallen over – not embedded in the ground – what part of the tree can be removed and is it a breach of the Rules if when trying to remove an offending branch it breaks from the dead tree?


There are three Decisions that provide the answer to your question;

Decision 23-7:
Q. Is a fallen tree a loose impediment?
A. If it is still attached to the stump, no; if it is not attached to the stump, yes.

Decision 23-1/3:
Q. May spectators, caddies, fellow-competitors, etc., assist a player in removing a large loose impediment?
A. Yes.

Decision 23-1/4:
Q. If part of a large branch which has fallen from a tree (and thus is a loose impediment) interferes with a player’s swing, may the player break off the interfering part rather than move the whole branch?
A. Yes.

However, remember that you may not remove any part of the tree from a hazard if your ball lies in the same hazard.


Andy, one of your Q&As says that a player is penalised if he “taps down scuff marks in the vicinity of the hole, but not on his line of putt”. If they were not on his line of putt, then how could it assist the player in his subsequent play of the hole.


Few of us can guarantee that we will always hit our putts along the line that we intend and we might also overshoot the hole by a significant margin; perhaps on the putt back as well! Also, the wind or gravity may move a ball to a different position. Therefore, to avoid incurring a penalty, or an argument, it is strongly recommended that players should not repair any spike marks on the putting green until they have finished play of the hole.


Hi Andy, I have one for you. Red stakes are surrounded by water because of heavy rainfall. The water level of the lake has risen past the markings. My ball lands outside the red stakes but under one foot of water which is now part of the lake. Do I get a free drop?


Yes, in the circumstances that you describe you are entitled to take relief from the casual water without penalty, Rule 25-1b. But not under Rule 26-1, Relief from Water Hazard. Decision 25/2 is relevant;
Q. If a pond (water hazard) has overflowed, is the overflow casual water?
A. Yes. Any overflow of water from a water hazard which is outside the margin of the hazard is casual water. – Miscellaneous content on the Rules of Golf. Barry Rhodes is the author of the book ‘999 Questions on the Rules of Golf’

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Disclaimer: Whilst every attempt has been made to ensure the accuracy and reliability of this information on the Rules of Golf I am human and have been known to be wrong! Neither I, nor anyone connected with, shall be held responsible for any losses caused by reliance upon the accuracy or reliability of such information. Readers should refer to the full text of the rules and decisions as published in the official publications of the R&A and the USGA, The Rules of Golf 2008-2011 and Decisions on the Rules of Golf 2008-2009.

Primacy and Recency – Your Keys to Efficient Practice

There is a theory in learning called “Primacy” and “Recency”. I use this theory often when making schedules or planning lessons for my students. To me, it’s one of the best techniques for getting the most out of your practice. In simple terms, primacy and recency mean first and last. Primacy for first and recency for last. Basically, the concept is… we easily remember the first time and last time we do something. But it’s difficult to remember say the 11th or 23rd time we attempt something — unless it was a memorable result of some kind.

Here is an example…

Most adults, even though it happened years ago, remember their first kiss. And most can even give vivid details about the entire experience. From where it took place… to what they were wearing… to how they felt. It’s really quite remarkable. Now if we take that a step further, most adults remember their last kiss. For some it could have been this morning while kissing their spouse goodbye. For others, it could have been during their last relationship. For others still, it could have been 3am Saturday night at the club. We won’t go there. But you get the drift. The clearest memories are always the first and last time you do something.

For golf, I can clearly remember the first time I ever broke 70. I remember who I played with; where I played; the drive and approach I hit on 18; the sense of relief after, as I had blown numerous chances leading up to that 69. But I also remember the last time just as clearly. Sadly however, it was way too long ago. But it was a special day with a good friend. My guess is, you too, can remember certain scoring barriers and breakthroughs in your own golfing life if using the primacy and recency model.

Now, this may seem like a neat trick, but how does it help you get better at golf?

First, lets start with a practice flaw I see in a lot of golfers — from amateur to professional. I call this flaw ‘busyness’ — and I see it all the time. I’m of the school that… we all know most of the answers… to most of the stuff in life… if we could just somehow quiet our mind. But it’s hard to get quiet in the modern world with all the distractions. And when we practice golf, it’s the same thing — distractions. And with those distractions, our minds get busy. And with busy minds, we cannot focus clearly on something that may or may not help us improve. Instead, our minds scatter all over the place… and by the time we leave the practice area, we are on to a completely different theory then when we started. Sound familiar? If it does, I’ll make this promise, as it relates to golf — you will never reach your potential! But there is a way out of this confusing maze of cluttered practice — and it’s called primacy and recency.

How? Okay, let’s think about it. If we know it’s easy to remember the first and last time we do something, then logic dictates that — we should make the first and last times closer together. Instead of one-hour range sessions, where the 45-50 minutes in the middle of that hour become gray and cluttered, how about 10-15 minute focused range sessions instead? Say for example, you are going to the range to work on your swing. You just watched Andy explain his 4 New Magic Moves. You’ve watched the DVD. You’ve read the book. Your mind is all set on what you’re trying to accomplish. And… you’re really excited to start and planned a 3-hour practice session. How am I doing so far? Sound like you? It certainly used to be me.

Now lets extend that scenario above out through your practice time. Instead of having a really good strategy on how you’ll attack the day — you just start hitting balls. For example, you remember the wrist cock Andy explained — so you try it.

Here’s the sample thought process as you practice…

“It feels good. Better than my old swing. This is easy. What’s next? Let’s try the shoulder move. Okay, feels good, but am I doing it right? Wait, that one wasn’t very good — maybe I forgot to cock my wrists properly. How was I supposed to do that again? Didn’t GOLF Magazine say something last month about cocking my wrists. Yeah, that’s right, I saw David Leadbetter do something on that. It was some kind of drill with an umbrella. Hey John, do you remember that drill Leadbetter had in GOLF Magazine last month with the umbrella?”

So there you are. An hour into practice and lost again. But you were so excited and thought you really, for once, had the answer. Yet, you didn’t really improve. In fact, you’re more confused than ever. And to make matters worse, you can’t even remember how you used to swing, which at this point you would take happily.

Now, let me take you through that same scenario properly, using the theory of primacy and recency.

You should watch the DVD all the way through for an overview. But then, you should should watch the new first magic move again (the wrist cock) to truly understand. Now, instead of having a ton of information about four moves — you have a better understanding of the first move. You should start the DVD with the first magic move and end the DVD back at that first magic move. Then there is a much better chance you’ll know it…and more importantly, retain the information.

Next, make a few notes about the first magic move. You don’t have to write the Magna Carta — just a few key points that will help you remember. Writing it down does two things. First, it reinforces the information deeper into your brain, as this is another way to learn. And second, it gives you a simple cheat sheet, should you become distracted on the driving range. Next, get to the range and warm up. Then, start your drill for the new first magic move. Do the drill with great thought and care. Really try and feel the changes. Do this for only 15 minutes. Once 15 minutes is up, go over to the putting green and hit putts for 15 minutes. Work on whatever it is you’re working on there — but again, just one thing. Get your mind fully off your swing and onto your putting 100%.

Then, after 15 minutes on the putting green, go back to the range and continue with the new first magic move for another 15 minutes. Again, take great care while you practice. Then, after 15 minutes, go work on one area of your short game for 15 minutes. Again, focus only on the area you’re practicing — not your golf swing. Then, after 15 minutes, go back to the range and work on the new first magic move again. Continue this process for as long as you have to practice. Don’t — I repeat DON’T — move up to the second magic move yet. Just keep repeating this process for a few practice sessions.

In a golf swing, one thing builds upon another. And if you go to step two before truly mastering step one — you’ll struggle. You’re better off hanging out too long at step one then leaving too early for step two. Remember, just because your mind comprehends the information, doesn’t mean your body does. That will always take more time. You want the first step to become part of you before moving on to step two. Once you’ve mastered step one, then use the same philosophy for step two.

So lets think about the differences above. In my example, you had short bursts of practice on one single part of your game. And because the beginning and end of each these sessions were close together (15 minutes) — there is a super chance of you retaining all that you learned and felt. And more importantly, because the sessions were shorter, there’s less chance of distraction with other non-productive thoughts. So, although you may not hit as many balls this way — the quality will go way up. And with that, your improvement will be ten-fold.

Remember, by keeping the first and the last time you do something closer to one another — your chances of retention improve greatly. So short bursts of focused practice is the key.

Good luck!

PGA Tour 2010 Kicks Off In Familiar Fashion

It may be a new year, but so far 2010 looks exactly the same as 2009.
Australia’s Geoff Ogilvy fired a stellar final-round -6, 67 to hold off a hard-charging Rory Sabbatini and successfully defend the SBS Championship in Hawaii, Sunday.

Although it was not in the same dominating fashion as last season when Ogilvy cruised to a six-shot win over Anthony Kim on the Kapalua course, the victory makes him the seventh player in the history of the event to successfully defend as champion, and the first since fellow Aussie Stuart Appleby made the tournament his own from 2004-6.

“I like the golf course, I think it’s fair to say,” Ogilvy joked following the win.

Despite a near-flawless final 18 holes it wasn’t all smooth sailing for 2006 U.S Open champion. Starting the day six shots behind, Sabbatini went on a tear during the final round, rattling off ten birdies including five in a row on the back nine to briefly take the lead from Ogilvy.

But the fiery South African failed to birdie the par 5, 18th hole and had to settle for posting a total of -21.

“I said to my caddie, ‘We need to birdie the last two holes to have a chance,’ ” Sabbatini said. “The situation was you had to keep moving forward to put pressure on him. I had my opportunity, and unfortunately, it didn’t pan out.”

Ogilvy, who teed off over an hour behind Sabbatini, had holes to play with, and he re-gained the lead with back-to-back birdies on the 14th and 15th holes. Three pars from there secured him the victory.

“If you beat Sabbo’s score, you’re going to win the tournament,” Ogilvy said. “It’s hard to make birdies when you have to make birdies. I’ve had that situation with a couple of holes to play, but never with nine holes to play. I’m pretty proud of the fact I did it.”

The win jumped Ogilvy ahead of Rory McIlroy and back into the world’s top 10 ranking in 9th place. Just like at the beginning of 2009, Ogilvy is excited at his prospects for the season, but he is wary of over-practicing and over-playing, which he said led to a fast start and a slow finish last season.

“When it’s good, it’s really good,” Ogilvy said with regards to his current form. “I like how I play when I play good, so I’m not concerned about how good I can be when I’m actually playing well, because I think I can hang with most guys. I haven’t shown that I could do well when my game is a little off. I think that’s the sign of a really great player.”

With Tiger Woods taking an indefinite hiatus from the game many of the world’s top players see 2010 as a year to do some damage on the world scene, and Ogilvy is no different. He sees improved consistency as a way to achieve some of his goals.

“I think I need to get to that sort of point,” Ogilvy said. “I think I can. I think I can be a player who can win any golf tournament I play. I’ve just got to work to get through the bad days and bad patches.”

Ogilvy is taking next week off from the PGA Tour and heading to Abu Dhabi for the European Tour event in two weeks. All but eight of the players in the SBS Championship field will island-hop to the Sony Open next week, the first full-field event on the PGA Tour for 2010.

Smash Through Your Comfort Zone in 2010

When I discuss playing in pressure-packed situations with my professional students, I’ll always try and remind them that… all great things are accomplished outside their comfort zones. Or, I might say to them — rarely does anything exceptional happen if you’re afraid to get a little uncomfortable. And then, we actually prepare for that uncomfort — and what to do when it happens.

If you think about it, this phenomonam is true in all areas of life. Whether it’s having the nerve to walk over to that beautiful woman and ask her name. Or to walk into the manager’s office and say — hey, I think I deserve a raise. As we all know, it’s never easy spending time on uncomfortable island. But if you think about it — that seems to be where they keep all the really good stuff.

Now, how does this relate to your golf game? Well, I want to help you smash through your comfort zone in 2010 and start scoring up to your capability. Basically, I want to see you get in an uncomfortable situation on the golf course…and handle it!

Let’s just say your average score is 80 for 18 holes. How many times have you had a wonderful front-nine score of 35 or so, only to follow it up with a back-nine score of 45? Or for that matter, scored 45 on the front — but came back with a great 35 on the back? My guess would be often. And really, it all comes down to comfort zone. In both of these examples, you weren’t quite comfortable. Not comfortable shooting another 35 for a 70. And not comfortable shooting another 45 for a 90. But…because you’re comfortable with 80…that’s where you’ll end up.

Now, what do you do about it?

First, let me share an example of how I smashed through a comfort zone and finally had a good score on a tough golf course. When I first started working at Cheval Golf and Country Club, just outside of Tampa in 1995, I was a pretty good player. I don’t want to exaggerate, as we all seem to get a little better as we get older. I suppose our skewed memories give all of us an over-inflated idea of just how good we “once were.” But I was a mini-tour player in Florida and capable of shooting in the 60’s on any day on any course. I was long and had a very good short game. I wasn’t the straightest guy in the world, nor was I a wonderful short putter — but I could play. I decided to work in the bag room at Cheval for playing privileges. It was a very nice private course, with great greens… and a reputation for being impossibly hard. I figured this would be a great test every day, as I tried to bring my game to the next level. The first few weeks, I had some good rounds — but nothing spectacular. But I also had some horrendous rounds. I actually shot in the 80’s a couple times and my guess is — if you were to average my scores for those first few weeks — it would have been in the mid 70’s. Hardly the scores of someone looking to make a step to the next level. But this course was hard. And for me, it was a different kind of hard. It had OB and water on every single hole. To put it simply, it was crazy tight. So, I was hitting a couple balls a day out of bounds and Lord knows where else. I was making birdies — but also very high numbers. Part of me realized what was going on. It was the course and my inability to play it — not my game. I could still go to other courses and shoot great scores — but not at Cheval. Still, I also thought, as a pro, I should be able to play any course and to that end — my scores were awful. Either way, I was losing a lot of confidence. And for the first time started thinking about where I didn’t want my ball to go, as opposed to where I wanted it to go. I was playing scared.

But then a very serendipitous thing happened. The head professional at the time, who would later become a great friend, was a pretty cocky guy. And also a pretty good player. He wasn’t too thrilled about me taking some of his thunder, in spite of my high scores. Some of the members were talking about me as a player… and it was time for him to show me once and for all that he was the best. So he challenged me. He said that I could play a two-ball scramble against his one ball. And that he would still win. I gladly took that challenge and off we went. It was amazing. Just having that second ball as an option freed me up so much. Granted, I used it some, especially on the greens — but I felt completely different on the first attempt. I shot something in the mid-60’s and easily beat the head pro. For the first time since I started working there, I left the course that day feeling good about my game. The next day, the head pro challenged me to a red tee game. We both would play the red tees and see how low we could shoot. Again, I said okay. We had a blast and I shot something like 61 or 62. But… more importantly, I started to see the course differently. There were good scores out there — even if it took me playing the red tees and a scramble to see them. However, the next day, I played the tips, shot 65 and broke the course record. Then, the day after that I shot 66. It was almost like an out of body experience. All of a sudden, I couldn’t wait to play and see how low I could shoot at Cheval. Of course, reality set in eventually, and I came back to earth. But that four day stretch of golf was all it took for me to break through my comfort zone at an extremely tough course. And it all started with a scramble and the red tees. You see, sometimes before you can actually do something — you have to know you can do something…if that makes sense. And you have to see yourself doing it. And for me, I was able to dissect those scramble and red tee rounds and say — I’m capable of doing that here. After all, the red tees are just up — but it still is the same course. And with the scramble — it was still me hitting the shots. Plus, those two days changed me back to looking where I wanted the ball to go, as opposed to where I didn’t want it to go. By the way, at the end of the day, that is the real secret.

I’ll talk more about this in future posts — but for now, I would like you to take this away in trying to smash through your comfort zone. Play a scramble and from the forward tees… and shoot the score you’ve been trying to shoot. See yourself doing it and then feel what it feels like. I can’t tell you how valuable this is to the psyche. Lets say for example, you want to break 80 – but you just can’t seem to pull it off. And you normally play the blue tees. For the next few rounds, I want you to play the whites or silver tees. I want to see you shoot in the 70’s a few times. Then, go back to the blues with those great memories and play. If after 3 rounds, you still haven’t broken 80, go back to the forward tees for a few rounds. Keep this up until you break 80. Then, whenever you go 3 rounds without breaking your scoring goal — move up a tee and break it. Or play a scramble if you’re alone. Great golf is built of mini successes — so set yourself up to have a bunch of them.

Like I said, I’ll talk more about this subject in the future — but try this for now. My guess is that you will finally smash through that comfort zone that’s been holding you back.

A Decade Of Memories In The Majors.

The 00’s have officially passed us by and with it goes one of the most memorable decades in major championship golf history. The dominance of Tiger Woods was a hallmark of the past ten years and while the great man did produce some of the most impressive golf in major history there were other players on the major stage that who shone brightly as well. That being said, here are my top ten major memories from the last ten years.

1. Tiger Woods – 2000 U.S Open at Pebble Beach– It was by far the most dominating performance in the history of professional golf- there is not even a second place. Only one player in history had ever reached double-digits under-par in the U.S Open before (Gil Morgan ten years earlier at Pebble Beach), and Woods not only reached that number- he stayed there. When he eventually finished his domination for the field he had finished at -12 for the tournament and won by and astonishing 15 shots, relegating runners-up Ernie Els and Miguel Angel Jimenez to merely a trivia question in golf history. Such ruthless dominance may never be seen again.

2. Y.E Yang – 2009 U.S PGA Championship at Hazeltine National– While the decade was defined by the dominance of one man with a part-Asian heritage, the last major of the decade would see the first Asian, a South Korean, ever take down that same champion in dramatic fashion. It may take years to really see the impact of Y.E Yang’s victory at Hazeltine, but when we look back at the landscape of golf over the next ten years, this victory may be the one that changed everything.

3. Phil Mickelson – 2004 Masters– It took a while. Actually, it seemed like it took half a lifetime. Phil Mickelson’s first major win was followed by a collective sigh of relief from the golfing world and finally made a major champion out of “Lefty“. For Mickelson, it was akin to getting not just a monkey, not even a gorilla, but King Kong off his back.

4. Tiger Woods – 2001 Masters– It had never been done before and it may never be done again. It was not achieved by Hogan, or Snead, or Nelson. Not by Palmer or, Watson, or Player. Not even by Nicklaus. By winning the 2001 Masters Woods became the first man to hold all four major championships at once and stamped his place among the greats of all time.

5. Geoff Ogilvy – 2006 U.S Open at Winged Foot GC– Despite Ogilvy chipping-in on the 71st hole, the 2006 U.S Open will always be remembered for “the massacre” that followed. First, Padraig Harrington topped his approach into the 72nd hole, dropping himself from contention.  Then Colin Montgomery made double-bogey from the middle of the fairway and Jim Furyk missed from five-feet, both on the 72nd hole. Finally, Phil Mickelson puts the icing on the cyanide-cake by hitting the wildest drive ever hit on the final hole of the U.S Open, ultimately taking double bogey. Ogilvy, it turned out, was the last man standing.

6. Padraig Harrington – 2008 Open Championship at Royal Birkdale-  The next two majors make my list not because of the winner, but because who almost won. Ten years since he last made a serious run at a major Greg Norman almost became the oldest part-time golfer to ever win a major.  Ultimately he was trumped by the spectacular eagle Harrington made on 71st hole, one of the greatest clutch shots of the decade and the only reason I have placed this tournament ahead of the next one.

7. Stewart Cink – 2009 Open Championship at Turnberry– Like the previous entry, this Open Championship may have been the story of the decade if it had turned out a little different. Sexagenarian Tom Watson captured our hearts for four straight days at Turnberry, but eventually he ran out of steam, or mojo, or pars- which ever way you want to look at it, and succumbed to Stewart Cink in a playoff. With 99.9% of golf fans pulling against him Cink went ahead and accepted the Claret Jug, and his gracious response to the victory and to Watson himself should not be understated- a more deserving major champion may not exist.

8. Shaun Micheel -  2003 PGA Championship at Oak Hill CC– Micheel’s win was the second consecutive come-from-nowhere victory in the majors following Ben Curtis at the 2003 Open Championship. Micheel’s win trumps Curtis and makes the list because of the dramatic way in which he won. Clinging to a one-shot lead and with the entire golfing world watching Micheel drew a 7-iron and hit the ball so close to the hole a beginner could have made the putt for birdie and not sweated it. It was simply jaw-dropping.

9. Tiger Woods – 2000 PGA Championship at Valhalla GC– There were some great duels down the stretch over the past decade but none can match the one where a journeyman pro took on the greatest player of recent times- and almost won. Over the stretch of six hours that Sunday Bob May gave Tiger Woods all he could handle. That Woods came out on top was not a surprise- that May never once blinked was.

10.  Padaig Harrington – 2007 Open Championship at Carnoustie GL– It was supposed to be Sergio Garcia’s Open Championship. He led after all three rounds and looked to have the tournament locked up before he was caught by Steve Stricker, then by Andres Romero, and finally by Harrington. All four players tried valiantly to lose the tournament and at one stage it looked like nobody wanted to take the Claret Jug home with them. Despite two trips to the burn on the 18th hole Harrington prevailed in a playoff and somewhere the ghost of Jean Van de Velde smiled just a little bit.

What Golf Needs in 2010…

I’ve refrained from writing about Tiger Woods over the last month for a couple reasons. First, I’m genuinely disappointed with the whole mess and don’t feel ready to share my thoughts until I can see it less emotionally. And second, I don’t think anyone really knows the true story…and won’t until either Tiger or Elin decide to speak out on the subject. And, I don’t want to join in on the speculation round table, as I feel there has been enough of that going on…without my help. Plus, no matter how disappointed I am, Tiger has earned my respect with his spectacular play; his countless hours of charitable work; and his ability to take the sport I love to unprecedented heights.

So…although I certainly have an opinion on Tiger’s extracarricular activities — I will not judge.

Now, that said, golf is going to hit a little speed bump this year without Tiger Woods. Even if Tiger plays in 2010, he still wont be the Tiger we’ve known…if that makes sense. And between the economy and new TV contracts, this probably wasn’t the greatest time for us to find out that Tiger is human after all. That said, golf, long term, is of course is bigger than any one person. But for the sake of the short term, here are four things I think golf could use in 2010.

1. Phil Mickelson to have a monster year. The stars have never been better aligned for Mickelson to take his place among the all-time greats. He’s rediscovered his putting stroke after finding Dave Stockton. He’s missing full shots better than ever after finally getting comfortable with his Butch Harmon designed golf swing. And, he has a new found perspective after his wife and mother both faced down health scares. Golf needs Phil to win 5+ times in 2010… preferably with a couple of majors. And one of those majors should come at the home of golf, St. Andrews, in the British Open — so Mickelson can become a global champion and not just an American one. He’s made some international strides the last couple years in China, but all things being equal, he’s pretty much thought of as an American golfer. That’s not necessarily a bad thing — but Tiger Woods belongs to the world. And right now, golf could use a global figure who won’t drop the ball. And at this point in time, Phil is that choice. I’ve been lucky enough to attend some major events where Tiger and Phil both competed, and I’ll wager that, at least in America, fans love Phil more. They may respect Tiger more (or at least used to) but they love Phil. Maybe it’s his style of play. Or maybe, it’s that, from day one, we’ve always known he was a fallible human being. Or maybe, we love the the fact that in the middle of a practice round, he’ll buy the crowd hamburgers from the snack bar. Or maybe, we love that he smiles. Or maybe, we love that he’s the tour’s most generous tipper. Or maybe, it’s a combination of all of the above. But I know one thing for certain — if Phil can play some truly spectacular golf in 2010 — he’ll add a whole lot of respect to that love.

2. The kids — Rory McIlroy, Anthony Kim, Ryo Ishikawa and Danny Lee — to come alive in big events and preferably battle one another for a title. Golf needs a couple new superstars and more importantly… rivalries. I can think of nothing better than a couple of these kids in a back nine battle for a Green Jacket in April. Can you imagine Rory fearlessly matching Anthony birdie for birdie at The Masters? It would certainly be fun to watch. It would give us something to talk about besides Tiger Woods. Okay, you’re right, we’ll always talk about Tiger Woods. But a teenage/twenty-something shootout at Augusta would infuse some much needed excitement into the sport.

3. For a rivalry to develop on The LPGA Tour that makes people actually want to watch. Annika Sorenstam became Annika Sorenstam after Karrie Webb made her work harder and smarter than any woman professional to date. Wouldn’t it be nice if Michelle Wie could battle Lorena Ochoa or Paula Creamer for a few majors this year? I say Michelle because, even with her controversies of the last few years, no one moves galleries on Tour like her. I’ve spent a lot of time on the LPGA Tour and trust me, it’s easy to find Michelle on the golf course — just find the people. Despite her controversies, I like Michelle. I think she was the victim of a few things outside of her control the last few years. I think she will mature into a well-liked, if not beloved, golf figure over the next ten years. I don’t think she’ll dominate until she becomes a better putter — but I think, thanks to her, we’ll see women’s golf played at a level never seen before. Simply, the LPGA Tour needs Michelle. And right now, golf needs Michelle.

4. For the major tours to give back…more. Face it, this is a tough time financially for a lot of people…and I think golf has a wonderful opportunity to lead the sporting world in giving something back to fans and communities. First, I’d like to see the tours voluntarely cut their purses 20%. The current purses reflect an economic boom time and when Tiger was…well Tiger. This would go a long way with the sponsors as well as those fans who are also hurting. If companies could sponsor an event for $4.8M this year for what was $6M last year — this would prove that major tours are in this for long term partnerships and not short term gains. Basically the anti Carolyn Biven model. It would also help with the networks who are losing more and more ad revenue to the web. If they could televise an event for 20% less than last year, it would also do wonders for that partnership. Next, I would like to see ticket prices cut for the average fan and for the tour’s to expand on free tickets to kids. I would like to think, even if a family is hurting economically, that a father could take his kids to a PGA Tour event for a reasonable amount of money. Again, this would go a long way to proving to fans that golf cares and wants to continue to grow the game.

I think if these four things happen, then this time next year, we’ll be looking back on 2010 as a very successful golf year. Tiger or no Tiger.

What do you think, please leave a comment below?

Year-End Awards Highlight Stars On All Tours.

The Hollywood Foreign Press announced their nominations for the Golden Globe Awards this week and the Academy of Arts and Sciences will be doing the same in a month or so. And while December is a hot month for movies, it is a decidedly slow one for golf. That being said it’s a great opportunity to run through the players who shone brightest in 2009 and who were consequently recognized by the major tours for their efforts. We begin, as we always seem to do when it’s awards time, Tiger Woods.

PGA Tour Player of the Year – Tiger Woods – For the 10th time in 13 years Tiger Woods has claimed the mantle of the best player on the PGA Tour, and even in light of his off-course media attention of late, few would be brave enough to suggest he didn’t earn it once again in 2009. Despite not winning a major this year (the one thing Tiger measures his success by), Tiger went ahead and dominated all comers in 2009, winning the Fed-Ex Cup, the money title and recording the lowest scoring average on tour for the 9th time in his career. His money total of $10. 5M was $4M ahead of second place finisher Steve Stricker and his six wins was more than double any other player on tour.

Yes, he did struggle in the majors by his standards, recording 6th place finishes at the Masters and U.S Open, a missed cut at the Open Championship and finishing 2nd behind the improbable Y.E Yang at the U.S PGA. Despite all this 2009 was a year where things must be kept in perspective. Woods returned from major knee surgery at the beginning of the year, an injury that has taken Ernie Els the better part of three or four years to recover from, and stepped straight back into the role of the game’s most dominate player. With an indefinite hiatus ahead for Woods, 2010 is going to begin the same way 2009 did – amidst uncertainty. But if nothing else, Tiger is still Tiger and 2010 is sure to prove to be a defining year in the great man’s career.

European Tour Player of the Year – Lee Westwood – Ten years ago Lee Westwood was on top of the European golfing mountain. He was the Order of Merit winner, a Ryder Cup star and had climbed to No. 3 in the world rankings. By 2002 Westwood was languishing outside the top 250 in the world. He was frustrated and discouraged with his golf game. In his own words he was lost. This year Westwood showed just what hard work, patience and a strength of will can do. Trailing 20-year old Irish supernova Rory McIlroy into the last tournament of the season at the Dubai World Championship, Westwood went ahead and played the tournament of his life, shooting an absolutely flawless eight-under, 64 in the final round to claim a six-shot win in the event and leap-frog McIlroy to win the inaugural Race to Dubai. For a player who as been close in multiple majors the past two seasons, the win reaffirmed many pundit’s beliefs that Westwood is a player on the cusp of greatness.

LPGA Tour Player of the Year – Lorena Ochoa – She may not have done it in the same dominating fashion as in recent years, and she may have found a new challenger to her crown as the best female player I the game, but Lorena Ochoa is still had the LPGA Tour player by which all others are measured. Although she finished 4th on the final money list, $400,000 behind rising star Jiyai Shin of South Korea, Ochoa’s three wins and Vare Trophy for lowest scoring average were enough to give her the nod for the fourth consecutive year in the POTY points-based system . It took a final hole birdie from Ochoa at the Tour Championship to hold off tour freshman Shin in what may have been the best and most under-appreciated finish in a non-major event in golf in 2009.

LET Player of the Year – Catriona Matthew – While many women are still on maternity leave less than three months after giving birth, Scot Catriona Matthew was back at work and on her way to winning her first major championship, the Ricoh Women‘s British Open. Punctuated by a five-under, 67 in the second round, the 15-year veteran was the only player to finish under par at Royal Lytham and St. Annes. She finished the tournament at three-under, three shots clear of runner-up Karrie Webb. Matthews is the first Scottish player to win the LET POTY and just the fourth Brit in the 30-year history of the award.

PGA Tour Rookie of the Year – Marc Leishman – The Aussie became the first player since Charles Howell III in 2001 to win ROTY honors without winning a tournament. “Leish” finished 20th on the final Fed-Ex Cup points list and 47th on the final Money List, rubbing shoulders with the game‘s best throughout the playoffs.

European Tour Rookie of the Year – Chris Wood – After bursting onto the scene and contending late on Sunday at the 2008 Open Championship, Wood went ahead and did the exact same thing in 2009 at Turnbury. He eventually finished T3 and also made the exclusive field for the Dubai World Championship at the end of the year.

LPGA Tour Rookie of the Year – Jiyai Shin – Few rookies have dominated golf in recent years like Shin did in ‘09. After winning 10 of 19 events on the 2007 Korean Tour and the 2008 Women‘s British Open, Shin transplanted herself to the LPGA Tour in 2009 and continued her rise to greatness, winning three times, more than any other player on tour and leading the tour in money earned.

LET Rookie of the Year – Anna Nordqvist – After a stellar amateur career in both Europe and the on the American collegiate circuit Nordqvist made a massive impression on the world of golf in 2009, winning the LPGA Championship, a major, in just her fifth start on tour. She would cap off the year by winning the Tour Championship and representing Europe in the Solheim Cup. It was a resume that would have put Nordqvist in contention for the POTY award most other seasons, but behind Ochoa’s consistency and Shin’s year-long hot streak, she had to settle for third-best on the LPGA Tour. The LET ROTY award was her consolation for a strong first-year campaign.

Great Gift Ideas For The Golfers

Happy holidays my fellow golf aficionados! Seeing as how Christmas is poking it’s head around the corner I thought I might do something a little different and provide you last-minute shoppers out there with a a few ideas for the golfer on their list. The main rule I would recommend if you are buying for a golfer, especially a golf nut, is to NEVER, EVER buy anything performance-based that can be confused with “golf art”. In general, a tartan golf towel or funky ball marker with a “I love to Golf” emblazed across will be used about as much as those clubs designed specifically for chipping.

But have no fear, buying for the serious golfer is not a tough task and I have scoured the internet for the coolest gifts of all shapes and sizes. Here are a few of the best-

*    A dozen Titleist Pro-V 1s– Let’s face it, every golfer loses balls (some more than others) and an extra dozen balls will always be of use. The fact that these are still regarded as the best balls in the game means that a player of any level will appreciate them, and with the price of a dozen of these babies coming down more and more, they have become a bargain gift.

R.R.P- $39.99 at

*    Bushnell Pro 1600 Rangefinder with slope – With rangefinders becoming legal to use in many tournaments, as well as a staple amongst professionals the world over this is a great gift for any serious golfer. One of the advantages about playing with a rangefinder is you don’t need to go tramping all over the fairway to get a yardage; just point and shoot, pull a club and you’re away. But the absolute best thing about this model in particular is the slope aspect. It gives you an exact yardage with regards to how far the shot is uphill or downhill. Ben Hogan might roll over in his grave but the fact remains- all the guess work is gone when you have one of these in your bag.

R.R.P- $381 at

*     J Lindeberg Slater Belt– Golf is becoming more and more of a way to make a fashion statement and one of the most fashionable accessories out there is the J Lindeberg belt. Whether on the runway or on the links, J Lindeberg has been making the most fashionable, youthful and fresh clothing out there ever since Jesper Parnevik first donned his gear almost a decade ago. Even if Jesper’s style is not the one you’re after this belt has become one of the most iconic fashion statements in the game and will add a little flair to anyone’s wardrobe.

R.R.P- $110 at

*    Under Armour Zone Impact Polo shirt– One of the most popular buzz words in golf is ’performance’, not just in equipment, but in clothing as well. Five years ago Under Armour was a company based around performance under- shirts and work out gear. Today they are one of the fastest growing companies in sports, branching out into shoes, clothing, winter wear and yes, even golf. To top things off they make one of the best shirts, with fantastic materials designed to make you cooler in the heat and warmer in the cold. To top it off they are worn by several of the games top young players, from Hunter Mahan to Michael Sim.

R.R.P- $34.99 at

*    A series of lessons with your local pro– Now, I know a lot of people that take lessons from various pros and I an honestly say that there is no better way to improve your game than getting together with your local pro for a couple of lessons. The key is to take several lessons over a period of time. One lesson will provide you with some quick fixes, but when you take a series of lessons a good pro will map out a game plan for going from point A (your current action) to point B (where you want to be). Also, add a twist- instead of just going to the range and working on your swing, why don’t you book a couple of short game lessons where you learn the proper way to chip, play bunker shots and putt. I guarantee you’re long game will thank you.

Check out- or to find a pro in your area.

Happy Holidays!

School’s Out

They call it the toughest week in all of golf, which is actually an understatement – It actually runs about a week and a half end to end.

After two preliminary stages, six final stage rounds and a total of 252 holes, 25 players earned their PGA Tour playing rights for 2010 on Monday at Bear’s Best golf course in Orlando, Fl.  As always there are some big losers and big winners before the final putt had dropped.

The big winner turned out to be former Boise St. University standout and current Nationwide Tour player Troy Merritt. Merritt, who has never played a PGA Tour event in his professional career, made a double bogey on his final hole of the tournament to finish at -22, good for a one shot victory over PGA Tour vet Jeff Maggert and the $50,000 first place check.

But even more important than the check is the opportunity Merritt and his fellow graduates have earned through the seemingly endless grind that is the Qualifying School.

“The trophy is to get to play with the big boys next year,” Merritt insisted after the win.

Among the 25 graduates were several young guns and a number of seasoned veterans, of whom the most well known was Maggert. A three-time winner on tour, Maggert has twice came close to winning the U.S Open in his career.  Maggert has amassed over $16 million in his career, despite only making $651, 348 last season. But thanks to his 2nd place finish at final stage he will be able to add to that total in 2010 as a full member.

While Maggert was probably the most well known player to earn (back) his tour card at final stage, the player that came in with the most amount of hype surrounding him also did not disappoint.

In only three tournaments at the tail end of the 2009 season former Oklahoma St. All-American Rickie Fowler made over $500,000 and went within a playoff win from entering a select group of players to have earned their PGA Tour cards without entering Q School. As it turned out, Fowler had an up and down week, flirting with a 59 and the tournament lead during the third round, then falling behind the qualifying number late in the fifth round before closing with a two under par 70 to finish T15 and earn his rookie card on the PGA Tour.

Several other promising young stars graduated to the Big Show on Monday.  Recent college grads Billy Horschel and Cameron Tringale both earned their cards while mini tour standouts Chris Wilson and Martin Flores also made the cut comfortably.

Well-known tour stalwarts Chris Riley, Joe Ogilvy, Jay Williamson, J.P Hayes, Omar Uresti earned back their playing privilages for 2010 while former major winners David Duval, Shaun Macheel and Todd Hamilton all missed out.

Sticking to the dramatic script there were a couple of charges made during the final round, the lowest of which came from Aussie David Lutterus who fired a clutch 64 to climb all the way to -15 and into a T8 to earn back the PGA Tour card that he held in 2008. While Lutterus’ effort was outstanding, the biggest move in the final round came from PGA and Nationwide Tour vet Shane Bertsch. Bertsch shot a final round 65 to shoot from 50th to 15th at -11.

“It’s not a real comfortable week,” Bertsch said following his final round. “But I just kept plugging.”

On the flip side there were some tragic mishaps that are more than typical of a final round at Q School. The most notable of these came from James Hahn, a player who less than a year ago was considering quitting the game. He came into the final round T50th, but five birdies and no blemishes later and Hahn was in position to grab one of the final PGA Tour cards. After a solid drive an indifferent second shot into the 18th hole from 165 yards left Hahn with a two-putt from 60 feet to move to the promised land. For the first time all day Hahn flinched, leaving his first putt ten feet short. He missed the par save and with it went his PGA Tour dream. To rub salt into the very recent wound he missed the comeback, finishing with a double bogey to eventually miss his card by two shots. For a player who was selling shoes last year between tournaments, a full Nationwide Tour card was his consolation. He was remarkably composed coming off the 18th hole.

“I’m not going to beat myself over the head about it,” Hahn said. “That’s golf.”

One player seen to be emotionally standing by the giant scoreboard at the end of day’s play was Brian Stuard. A year ago Stuard was hovering around the PGA Tour number on the final day of Q School before a couple of late bogeys meant he would miss his card by one shot. After a solid year on the Nationwide Tour, Stuard was again achingly close to earning a trip to the PGA Tour at the Nationwide Tour championship. When he missed an eight-foot putt on the 72 hole there he wound up in 26th place on the final money list, again missing his card by one shot. In 12 months of golf one shot had separated Stuard from playing on the PGA Tour-twice.

Halfway through the final round at Bear Lakes it looked like Stuard was going to be the man on the outside yet again. But this time Stuard took destiny in his own hands. Standing one shot out from the number he stumped his second shot into the 17th hole and the ensuing tap-in birdie moved him to the Tour cut line. Ten minutes later Stuard stood in the middle of the 18th fairway with all the pressure in the world on him yet again.  All he did from there was rifle a 6 iron to four-feet, brush the birdie putt in and grab is card with both hands.

“I’ve been close a couple times, so it was nice to finally finish strong.” Stuard said following the final round.

Rarely have understatements sounded so sweet.

Furyk Claims Chevron World Challenge

Both players in contention for victory at the Chevron World Challenge at Sherwood Country Club wore red during the final round. And while that look was made famous by Tiger Woods, the tournament host was nowhere in sight when it came to presenting a red-and-black clad Jim Furyk with the winner’s trophy Sunday.

It took a final hole birdie for Furyk to clinch his first victory on tour in almost two years over an in-form Lee Westwood. Furyk, who closed with a five-under par 67 to finish at 13-under for the tournament, spoke after the victory about what it meant to him to notch up his 14th PGA Tour win in style.

“It’s bothered me,” Furyk said of his win-less stretch. “I’d be lying if I said otherwise. That’s your goal every year to go out and win, and I haven’t been able to do it. Hopefully, this will be a stepping stone.”

While Furyk hasn’t won as many times as one might expect for a player who has been at the top of the world game for over a decade, the 2003 U.S Open champion has proven himself as one of, if not the most consistent player in the game. The Chevron only cemented that reputation.

After taking his first lead of the tournament with a birdie on the 10th Furyk played aggressively down the stretch. But Sherwood rarely fails to provide plenty of drama down the stretch.

After two-putting for birdie the par 5 16th to get to -12 Furyk promptly dumped his tee shot on the par 3 17th into a plugged lie in the front bunker. After splashing out to 35 feet Furyk dropped the bomb for par to keep his momentum going and maintain a one shot cushion over Westwood who birdied 17 right behind Furyk.

Any questions about Furyk’s closing ability after a six week break were answered again a hole later as he threw a nine-iron to five feet and calmly drained the birdie to take the lead outright. Westwood, the winner of the 2008/09 Race to Dubai and the current world No. 4, could not answer on the 18th, instead making bogey to fall into a tie for 2nd with Irishman Graham McDowell at -11.

McDowell was as  last-minute addition to the field after the host pulled out due to a car accident earlier in the week. At the time McDowell was sitting close to the top 50 in the world and the cut line for an early Masters invitation. His tie for 2nd pushed him to 38th, all but guaranteeing him a ticket to Augusta.

“Timing is everything,” McDowell said. “To get the call-up was good, although I wish it had been different circumstances. Sometimes this game gives you something back when you least expect it.”

Although not present at Sherwood, Woods was never far from the minds of the players in the field, especially those like Furyk, who have formed a strong bond with the world No. 1 through Ryder and Presidents’ Cups.

Furyk said he had send Woods a text last week to check on his condition after the accident. He anticipated a reply following the win, going on to say he would “reply and wish him the best.”

“Tough times,” Furyk said with regards to the Woods‘ drama. “So they need the support of their friends right now, and I know that people are thinking about them.”

Furyk’s is not scheduled to return to the tour until the Northern Trust Open in Los Angeles in February. Wood’s return remains uncertain.

What do Stewart Cink, Lucas Glover & Zach Johnson have in common?

Quick Question for you.

What do Stewart Cink, Lucas Glover & Zach Johnson have
in common?

The answer is Dr Morris Pickens.

He was responsible for getting their mind games in shape prior to winning a Major Championship!

Infact he has provided sports psychology consulting for many PGA, LPGA, Nationwide, and Champions Tour players over the years.

Thus I am sure you will agree there is MUCH to be learnt from someone who has taught 3 major champions.

It was therefore a honour recently to hear Dr Morris Pickens speak during an interview for Golf Inside Circle.

The following golden nugget of advice really got me thinking about how I personally spend my time at the driving range and how it isn’t helping my scoring.

Like me you may only get a couple of hours in the week to practice – if that!

If we are not careful, we can end up down the range hitting shots with our driver and picking other clubs at random to hit.

Dr Morris Pickens points out that this approach simply won’t help my scoring.

He draws my attention to this one important fact.

“If you look at how the game is played this doesn’t constitute enough of the actual scoring on the golf course.

Basically when you look at it, most players only hit about 20% of all their shots, whether they are a 30 handicap or whether they are a tour player, with a 9 iron to a 3 wood off the ground.

80% off your shots hit are going to be either hit off the tee, so that would be your driver or 3 wood, with your wedges or with your putter.

So you have to understand those 5 clubs are different from the other 9 clubs

Those are you scoring clubs, namely your driver, your wedges
and putter.

So the other 9 clubs are kind of “advance the ball without hurting
yourself” clubs.

So if you consider you have 2 nights a week to practice, your time
is better spent working one hour on your driver and wedges.

And the other hour spent on your chipping and putting.

This way you are more likely to get better in the scoring areas.

Take for a second the concept of “scorecard golf”:

Nobody ever plays “scorecard golf” but if you look at your game like this it will help explain the principle of working in the scoring areas even further.


There are 36 putts in a round, so that’s 36 shots.

Then there are 14 tee balls, so that makes a total of 50 shots.

Then there are 4 par 5s where you can’t reach in 2 or either you go for them in 2 and you miss the green. So let’s just say you have 4 wedges into par 5s in one form or fashion.

That’s 54 shots

Then you miss 6 greens and have to chip, so that’s 6 more shots.

So that’s 60 shots in total.

And you still haven’t hit any irons out of the fairway yet!

So what you have to realise is that they you have already hit 60 shots out of however many you are going to take, say 70, 80 or 90 shots and you still haven’t hit any irons yet.

So when you start to understand this, you can really make progress in terms of how you approach practice and where you need to spend time and how you can improve your scoring.”

Tell me this.

Do you ever have the tendency to get on the range and think to yourself a thought like this.

“I just can’t hit that 3 iron (or say another mid to long iron), I need to throw in some practice there.”

I do and Dr Morris Pickens agrees saying:

“This is a natural inclination because you have more irons in your bag and you might feel you should be better at these.

But in actual reality you will never get the return on that investment!

Imagine spending hours and hours trying to improve your accuracy with
a 5 or 7 iron from say 50 feet on average to 30 to 25 feet.

You will do much better spending your time on your putting making
sure you can 2 putt the 50 footer and occasionally make that 30 or
25 footer.

That’s going to give you a much better return, instead of trying to
improve your 5 iron because quite simply you don’t hit it enough
to make that big a difference.”

That’s stellar advice and really something to take on board.

If you would like to hear more from this interview please head over to this page where you can receive a free CD copy and album.

Additonally I highly recommend Dr Morris Pickens’ new book:

“Learn To Win”

You can grab a copy here.

Good luck and play well.

Do you know these 2 Rules of Golf?

Here are a couple of recent golf rule questions I received in the past week. Thankfully golf rules expert and author of “999 Questions on the Rules of Golf” Barry Rhodes was on hand to give an accurate answer to each one.


Hi Andy,

Thank you for all your informative support, it has helped immensely in my game. I have a question, if I start of the ball with a ball marked no 1, do I have to play the whole game with the same ball or can I change the balls during the various tee offs.

My point is that at hole no 1 the distance is 124 m and I use a ball marked no 1 because I read that it is used for short distances (0 and 1 marked soft). The next tee off is 331m and I want to use say a ball marked 2 or 3 because the trajectory is much greater and the ball will go further.

Please could you advice and guide me accordingly.

Thanks and Kind Regards



“There is nothing in the Rules to stop players changing the type of ball that they are playing with between holes or even during the play of a hole if their original ball is lost, or may be substituted within the Rules. The commonly held belief that this is not so is due to the fact that the Pro Tour events impose a Condition of Competition, known as the ‘one ball Rule’ (in the Rules book, it is in Appendix 1, Part C, c), which restricts the player to use the same brand and model of golf ball throughout the stipulated round.




Hi Andy

On the 5th hole, I was told by my playing partner that I infringed a rule. This is what happened.

I put my approach into the bunker to the right of the green. I promptly picked up a rake and put it down near where my ball lay, played my shot and then raked the bunker. My playing partner told me that I had incurred a one shot penalty for testing the playing surface.

What is the ruling?

With Best Regards




I am pleased to tell you that your playing partner was wrong. You can point him to Decision 13-4/0.5 which includes these words;

“Examples of actions that would not constitute testing the condition of the hazard include the following:

……placing an object, such as clubs or a rake, in the hazard”

Incidentally, had he been right because your action was intended to test the condition of the bunker it would have been two strokes penalty, not a one stroke penalty!


Barry – Miscellaneous content on the Rules of Golf.

Visit here for more Rules of Golf questions.

Disclaimer: Whilst every attempt has been made to ensure the accuracy and reliability of this information on the Rules of Golf I am human and have been known to be wrong! Neither I, nor anyone connected with, shall be held responsible for any losses caused by reliance upon the accuracy or reliability of such information. Readers should refer to the full text of the rules and decisions as published in the official publications of the R&A and the USGA, The Rules of Golf 2008-2011 and Decisions on the Rules of Golf 2008-2009.

Be Realistic When Overcoming Weaknesses, Don’t Kid Yourself…

One of my students, Angela Won, is playing the Futures Tour Qualifying School this coming week in Lakeland, Florida. Angela is a talented girl, with a great golf swing and owner of, perhaps, the best putting stroke on Earth. But unfortunately, she has an issue — an issue that has scared her to death and has kept her from reaching her true potential. Angela’s issue is chipping. Angela has basically had the yips with chipping for the last 5 years. During practice, she’s fine…but when she plays for something that matters, and has a chip shot, watch out — because it could go anywhere. I’ve seen her skull simple chips from the fringe over the green. I’ve seen her double-hit chips from the rough. I’ve seen her chunk chips so badly that the divot went further than the ball. It’s really quite something to see. I mean here is this girl who plays golf so naturally and so effortlessly that she is one of my favorite players to watch. But give her a simple chip shot and she turns into a 30 handicap. I’m not talking tough chips over bunkers or out of heavy rough — I’m talking little simple chips that most 15 handicappers would get up and down easily. Like I said, it really is something to see.

I met Angela a couple years ago after she graduated from UC-Irvine. She was a very good junior player and had a great college career. But…in her own words, it should have been much better. When we met, I asked why? She said it was all chipping. I was surprised, as Angela wasn’t very long, and usually, shorter hitters rely on their wedges to compete at such a high level. But her equalizer had always been keeping the ball in play and literally making everything on the greens. Still, that will only take you so far and she had reached that point. She could no longer compete by wasting strokes around the green. I watched her chip for a while, and right away, we worked on some fundamental flaws — and she quickly got much better. All of a sudden she started holing out simple chips from everywhere. She started routinely winning short game contests against my other students. She was gaining confidence by the day and it looked like her problem was solved. It couldn’t have been this easy I thought. There is no way simple set-up fundamentals and easy drills could solve years of chipping problems in just a few days. But that’s what happened. Or so I thought.

Not long after we met and worked on those fundamentals, I watched Angela play in a golf tournament. She hit the ball fine and putted like her usual self — but low and behold — sure enough — her chipping was exactly how she described. She made 3 or 4 double bogeys from the fringe area by hitting some of the worst chips you’ll ever see. It was a completely different girl than what I had saw the previous couple weeks of practice. I think she shot something like 76 — but if Stevie Wonder had been chipping for her — it would have easily been 70-72. And if Tiger Woods was chipping for her — it could have easily been something in the 60’s.

She was right…she was an awful chipper. Or was she?

After the round, the first thing I told her was to putt everything from off the green the next day. I didn’t care how much fringe she had to go through — I wanted her to putt it. Then I told her we would talk over our strategy after the event. The next day she putted everything and played better — but still not nearly as well as she should have played…if she could somehow chip in tournaments like she did in practice.

The first thing Angela had to understand is why she was a bad chipper in tournaments. And to me, it was a comfort zone thing. If Angela had chipped in tournaments like she had in practice, she would have probably been the best college player in America. And quite frankly, she wasn’t prepared for that. And when golfers are not prepared for success, they will always find a way to sabotage themselves. And to me, Angela was doing just that — sabotaging herself.

The next thing Angela had to understand was that under extreme pressure, golfer’s always revert back to what feels natural. Angela was a great-great chipper as a teenager. But once she started taking lessons and doing things “the right way”, she lost all of that feel and became very mechanical. Her chipping method as a kid used lots of legs and feet. But her chipping method after lots of golf instruction used lots of hands and arms. She was basically confused. And when she got under pressure — she had the mechanical thoughts of hands and arms — fighting her natural inclination of feet and legs, which resulted in lots of ugly chips. I told her great players march to their own drum and if she was a great chipper before, she could be a great chipper again. And that I didn’t care if she chipped on one foot if it worked. To me, changing something that works just because it doesn’t fit the norm, is like trying to square up Lee Trevino’s stance. Seriously, if a golf pro would have gotten a hold of Trevino and said “wow, you hit it great aiming 50 yards left, but I think you should square up your stance” — we never would have witnessed the genius that was Lee Trevino.

So, our strategy was two-fold. One, Angela needed to give herself permission to play well. And two, she had to be secure enough in herself to do things her own way. Sure, we would work on her chipping — but until she made those two mental decisions — none of our work would matter.

Sadly, over the next year, Angela experienced a serious wrist injury and was unable to compete. So she has never been able to put her new-found chipping philosophy to the test. But she is healthy now and looking forward to starting her professional career. And her first step is next week in Lakeland.

Now, here is where my title “don’t kid yourself” comes in to play. Angela and I have talked extensively about her chipping fears in the past and how to overcome that fear. But until you put that talk into action, you never really know. Angela thought she had mastered that fear many times before in the past, only to have it reappear the first time she missed a green. So, I told her it would be irresponsible for us to just assume it’s gone forever. And that we had to prepare for that situation in case it comes up. I’m a very positive coach – but I am also a realist. I don’t subscribe to the theory of thinking everything is going to be okay, when deep down you know it may not be. We can fool a lot of people, but we can’t fool ourselves. Think about it — if you have duck-hooked every single shot for nine holes and now face a tough drive with water all down the left side — does it make more sense to just believe you can hit it straight or to have a plan or strategy in case that situation comes up? I’m all about expecting the best but preparing for the worst. Because if you’re prepared for the worst, it’s not nearly as scary.

I posed this question to Angela yesterday.

If I asked you to walk down a 100-yard, dimly lit hallway and then told you on the other end was $10,000 — would you walk down? She said yes. I then asked, would you still walk down if I said that along the way super-scary things would happen, like men in masks jumping out at you? She got a little apprehensive and said probably not. I asked, what if you knew they wouldn’t kill you and when it was over you’d be okay? After she thought about it more — she said definitely not — even if she was going to be okay. I then asked her would she go if I told her exactly when all the scary things would happen? She said maybe. I then asked would she go if I told her not just when things would happen — but what would happen? She said probably. I then asked would she go if I told her when it would happen — what would happen — and then what she could do as it happened to not be scared? She said yes, she would go for sure.

I told her this story was just like her golf. And that dimly lit, super-scary hallway was her chipping. But now instead of walking down that scary hallway with no information, she now knows when and where all the bad stuff will happen. And she now also knows how to deal with it. This seemed to make her feel better.

So, what will Angela do if she gets nervous chipping this week? Well, I showed her a simple chip with a 6-hybrid she carried in her bag. It mirrors her putting stroke, which she loves, and is super easy to repeat. She can hit it from anywhere that there isn’t a lot of rough to carry. And I’ve had her practice the heck out of it over the last few weeks. She’s gotten to the point where she is ridiculously good with this club and has tons of confidence. But the best part of this club is — she can’t chunk or skull it. Her misses are 7-8 feet away from the hole. And as good as she putts, that’s still almost a guaranteed par. But more importantly, she has a security blanket to fall back on if she needs it. And I believe that security blanket will be enough to let her have a good week. I told her — instead of practicing like you’re not going to be nervous — let’s practice just in case you are. And let’s work on a shot you can play even in your hands are shaking. That’s not saying you’ll need it — maybe you won’t — but it’s a nice thing to have in your back pocket just in case. Basically, let’s not kid ourselves.

A funny thing happens to a golfer when they have one thing that consistently bothers them in their game. It doesn’t take long before that one things starts to infect other areas of their game. For example, a person who putts poorly will put so much pressure on their iron game that eventually it will let them down as well. Or in Angela’s case, she has put so much pressure on her putting because of her chipping – that I worry it will eventually let her down if something doesn’t change. I don’t ever want her to feel like she needs to make everything to stay competitive. I just want her to just stroke it — because when she does — it’s magic. But unless her chipping gets better and takes that pressure off her putting — who knows what could happen.

I’m not sure how Angela will do this week, but I’m certainly pulling for her. It’s tough to tell how someone will do when they haven’t played in a tournament in over a year — but I have faith in one thing — Angela’s chipping will not kill her this week. She’s given herself permission to succeed; she’s gone back to what feels natural; and she has a “go to shot” just in case she gets nervous around the greens. And most importantly, she’s not kidding herself.

You Cannot Declare Your Ball Lost

Here is an interesting question that I recently received on my blog site:


“Hi Barry,

I’m confused over you saying that you cannot declare your ball lost. If it is reasonable to assume that it is not in a hazard or out of bounds, I was under the assumption that you could declare it lost without looking for it? And I actually thought Phil Mickelson did this once in a tournament?

So I play ball A and it’s so far in some junk that I know unplayable lie relief would get me no-where. So without looking for ball A, I declare that I’m hitting a provisional for my lost ball. I like my position of ball B and declare on the tee that ball A is lost. Are you saying I breached a rule, and if so — could you point me to something more than the definition of Lost Ball? Because I looked there, and didn’t come to the same conclusion.


“First, let me say that this is a common area of confusion amongst golfers. But please believe me that nothing a player says will render their ball lost. Decision 27/6 from the Rules of Golf helps to clarify this statement;

Q. A player searched for his ball for two minutes, declared it lost and started back to play another ball at the spot from which the original ball was played. Before he put another ball into play, his original ball was found within the five-minute period allowed for search. What is the ruling?

A. A player cannot render a ball lost by a declaration — see Definition of “Lost Ball.” The original ball remained in play — see Definition of “Ball in Play.”

You were right to look at the definition of ‘Lost Ball’ because this lists the only circumstances that a ball can be lost;

A ball is deemed “lost” if:

a. It is not found or identified as his by the player within five minutes after the player’s side or his or their caddies have begun to search for it; or

b. The player has made a stroke at a provisional ball from the place where the original ball is likely to be or from a point nearer the hole than that place (see Rule 27-2b); or

c. The player has put another ball into play under penalty of stroke and distance (see Rule 27-1a); or

d. The player has put another ball into play because it is known or virtually certain that the ball, which has not been found, has been moved by an outside agency (see Rule 18-1), is in an obstruction (see Rule 24-3), is in an abnormal ground condition (see Rule 25-1c) or is in a water hazard (see Rule 26-1); or

e. The player has made a stroke at a substituted ball. Time spent in playing a wrong ball is not counted in the five-minute period allowed for search.

Of course, the correct thing to do if you definitely do not want to search for your original ball is to put another ball into play as quickly as possible, without declaring it as a provisional ball. As soon as you have done this, under penalty of stroke and distance, it does not matter if the original ball is found, as it is no longer in play.

I hope that this has clarified the lost ball situation for you.


Barry Rhodes – Miscellaneous content on the Rules of Golf.

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Disclaimer: Whilst every attempt has been made to ensure the accuracy and reliability of this information on the Rules of Golf I am human and have been known to be wrong! Neither I, nor anyone connected with, shall be held responsible for any losses caused by reliance upon the accuracy or reliability of such information. Readers should refer to the full text of the rules and decisions as published in the official publications of the R&A and the USGA, The Rules of Golf 2008-2011 and Decisions on the Rules of Golf 2008-2009.

Hitting the Ball Sideways? Check Your Alignment

After a couple of recent horrendous ball striking adventures, I returned to my hometown over the weekend to attend a friend’s wedding. It couldn’t have come at a better time for my golf game, because this enabled me to fit in a much needed lesson with an old instructor of mine who has known my game for 12 years. With numerous tournaments coming up in the next month or so, I wanted to make sure I didn’t have to worry about hitting the ball on the club face.

After hitting numerous balls in front of him, he couldn’t understand what I was talking about, because he didnt see anything that would promote wayward shots in my swing. This was despite the fact that all of my divots were pointed well left of my target. Then, he grabbed my 7 iron and told me to aim at a lone flag stick about 160 or so yards (143 meters) out into the range. I hit three shots. One started about 15 paces right of the flag and faded further right, the next was pulled about 20 paces left of the flag, and the third was a flat out shank. Ouch. Hadn’t hit one in years. But, when you’re head is all messed up, and you have no idea where the ball is going, you forget to make an actual golf swing.

After the last shot, he had seen enough, and he informed me that I was aimed “At least 15-20 yards right of your target.” I had apparently hit the first shot right where I was aimed. Then I compensated for that by coming way over the top of the next one in an attempt to pull it on to the green, and he didn’t want to talk about the third one.

This ocassionally happens to me, so I wasn’t totally surprised. It is just very difficult for me to catch, because to my eyes, it looked like I was aligned perfectly with my target. My shoulders tend to get a little closed at times, but apparently my feet, and worst of all, club face were aimed nowhere near the stick.

The best way to catch yourself is to set up to the ball and your target, and have a friend, or your closest neighbor lay a long iron at your feet. Take a step back and examine the results, you might be surprised. And if this doesn’t work, do the same thing with your shoulders, this is usually where I find my faults.

It is basically impossible to make an on plane golf swing when your alignment is incorrect. Poor alignment leads to you eventually adjusting to this fault at some point in your golf swing. In my case, I was coming over the top of the ball like I was casting a fishing line, to compensate for aiming way right.

The majority of people I encounter with poor alignment are aiming well left of their target to compensate for a slice. This only makes their slice worse. Doing this is ALLOWING for the slice to happen, because you have to open the club face on the way down and cut across the ball to get it heading  back toward your target. Squaring up to your target will likely feel extremely awkward at first, and you will likely hit the ball worse than you did before. But, as they always say, you have to get worse before you can get better.

-Patrick Keegan