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Accessorize like the Pros

Colorful golf tees surround a white golf ball

In addition to having clubs you like in your bag, there are additional accessories to keep in your bag to make your round comfortable. You may not need all the items during every round, but it’s good to have these items in your bag, should you need them. Take an inventory of what’s in your bag and add the missing items below, before you head out to the golf course.

  • Golf Clubs - maximum of 14 clubs, including a putter
  • Golf Balls – carry the number of golf balls that’s similar to your handicap (a single digit handicap golfer need not carry two dozen golf balls in his/her bag)
  • Tees and Ball Markers – you probably only need two or three of each in your pocket – not half a dozen of each. They weigh down your pocket as well as your golf bag
  • Permanent Marker (Sharpie®) – to put an identifying mark on your golf ball
  • Divot Repair Tool – to repair ball marks on the green. Be kind and repair your mark plus one other one.
  • Golf Glove/rain gloves – keep a spare glove in the event yours tears or if you play in hot weather. Rain gloves are often times used in hot, humid weather in addition to rainy weather
  • Rain jacket/golf umbrella – if it’s not raining or threatening to rain, leave in the car so you don’t weigh down your bag
  • Towel – wet on one end to keep your clubs and golf ball clean
  • Rangefinder or GPS device – golfers of all abilities will benefit from knowing the distance to the hole or where trouble may be on a hole. Some prefer GPS with a map of the hole, while others like the exact number a rangefinder provides. Pace of Play improves if you use one so you don’t walk around looking for yardage markers and distances.
  • Hat or Visor – to protect eyes, ears and face from sun and glare
  • Sunscreen – apply half an hour before going out in the sun and re-apply if you perspire
  • Bug spray – Try not to spray it on yourself while on the golf course as it kills the grass – stand on the cart path or apply in the locker room (if using spray vs. lotion)
  • Band-Aids®, pain reliever (aspirin, ibuprofen, acetaminophen, etc.) – no one wants to pay $3 at the clubhouse for two aspirin. Keep your own in your bag.
  • Healthful snacks (almonds, nuts, raisins, fruit, veggies, Granola bars, energy bars, protein bars, etc.) – much better for you than the hot dog and candy bar at the turn.
  • Water bottle – to fill with water from a drinking fountain or water cooler. Stay hydrated!
  • Business cards – you never know who you will meet on the golf course – come prepared with business cards for networking
  • Cash – comes in handy for use on the beverage cart or if you are playing a friendly wager with your partner and/or opponents or the outside staff who cleans your clubs after the round. Remember some facilities don’t have an ATM on site and may not cash checks.
  • USGA Rules of Golf book – for reference should a Rules question need an answer during the round

Include your name and phone number on your clubs, umbrella and ball retriever. Without a doubt, you will leave a club (or two) on the course during your golf career. Stickers for your clubs can be purchased at most golf shops, golf stores and online or you may also use address labels or make your own. Having your contact information on it helps you reunite with the lost items not deposited in the golf shop “Lost and Found” box. Add these items to your golf bag to make your round more enjoyable.

Start Your Season the Right Way

Start the 2017 Season the Right WayWhether you make New Year’s resolutions or not, you likely have goals when it comes to your golf game. You may want to practice a specific part of your game (short game or putting), take additional lessons or maybe shoot a specific score or achieve a certain handicap. As part of starting a new golf season properly, make a list of some goals you’d like to achieve this year.

Before you play your first round of golf, make at least one trip to the practice tee. PGA Professional Chris Foley offers the following hints to include during your first session:

Stretching
Start your session by doing some general stretching of your shoulders, back, hips and legs. It is important to get your golf muscles loose anytime you go to the course or practice facility, but especially the first time back or if you haven’t been very active. A good way to loosen up is to take a couple of short irons, holding them together and swinging them back and forth slowly. Also hold a club behind your neck on your shoulders and do a few twists at the waist to help loosen your back.

Putting
The short game is the hardest area of the game to get your feel back. Good putting is critical to scoring well and spending some time on the putting green important. Begin by finding a putt with very little break on the putting green. Place several balls at a distance of about three feet and work on hitting solid putts into the back of the hole. Try to make 10 to 15 in a row before ending your putting practice.

Next, get a feel for distance. Pick out the two holes farthest away from each other on the putting green. Take several balls and putt the balls back and forth, trying to get all of the balls to stop within a foot of the hole.

Chipping
The motion made chipping the golf ball is a miniature version of the full swing. Hitting crisp, solid chip shots will translate into solid hit shots with the full swing. Remember, the correct technique is to set-up with a narrow stance, weight on the front foot and the ball position off the instep of the back foot. Grip down on the handle of the club and make a short, brisk accelerated stroke. To make the ball go up in the air, let the leading edge of the club work down to the ground.

Full Swing
Start your practice of the full swing with your shortest club (lob wedge, sand wedge or pitching wedge) and make short, easy swings. As you start to get a feel for finding the center of the clubface, start to make full swings. Progress your way through your clubs by hitting a series of shots with every other club in your bag. Move from sand wedge to nine iron to seven iron, etc. Finally, hit a hybrid, a fairway wood and then the driver.

Going through this type of practice session will give you a good idea of where the golf ball is going and give you a feel for hitting the ball solidly. Confidence plays such a big role in how we play, so starting the season off properly will make lowering those scores much easier.

Golf Resolutions for the New Year

As we just flipped the calendar, many people start the New Year with a list of New Year’s Resolutions.  Common resolutions include the typical things like exercising more, eating smarter, losing weight, etc. but how many of you have Golf Resolutions?  Who doesn’t want to play more?  But have you taken time to sit down and plan some golf resolutions?  Do you want to practice a specific part of your game (short game or putting), take additional lessons or maybe shoot a specific score or achieve a certain handicap?

Golf, unlike most sports, involves a new start and reset at the beginning of every year.  The professional Tours reset with the official money earnings starting over and the golf manufacturers launch new equipment, new golf balls, new apparel, etc. all designed to help golfers improve and play their best.  

Last year at an LPGA event, LPGA Founder Shirley Spork challenged everyone to play 9-holes of golf once a week.  If you live in a part of the country that allows year-round golf, that’s a great challenge to accept since playing more golf will generally lead to playing better golf.

While many golfers like to say they will play more golf, a better golf resolution for a new year should focus on game improvement.  Start with a realistic goal of practicing the part of your game that causes you the most trouble.  Do you struggle getting off the tee?  Perhaps you shy away from using fairway woods?   Do you have confidence hitting bunker shots both from the fairway and around the green?  Do you routinely have more than 36 putts during an 18-hole round?  Make a plan to practice on your trouble area for 30 minutes once a week for a few weeks.  Many golfers prefer to play vs. practicing – when in fact, the best way to lower your score is to actually practice.  Establish a one-hour time frame to practice your short game – spend half an hour chipping, pitching and practicing shots from the bunker, then practice putting for half an hour.  You will gain confidence in your short game as well as save a few strokes each round.

Other common golf resolutions include working on your game by taking additional golf instruction from your local PGA/LPGA Professional.  You may have specific things you want to work on with your Professional (not hitting a slice, gaining more distance, hitting hybrids better, getting out of the bunker on the first shot, etc.) so be sure to explain your goals and have them incorporated in your lesson plan from your Professional.  By seeking additional golf instruction, practicing and playing, you will be on your way to lower scores and meeting your New Year's golf resolutions.

 

Posting Scores During Inactive Seasons

Inactive Golf SeasonIf you live and play golf in a “seasonal” area of the country, chances are your 2017 golf activity may soon be coming to a close.  Many golf associations in the northern and Midwest parts of the country are now or will soon be observing an inactive season for handicap purposes.  The USGA defines the inactive season as “the period during which scores made in an area are not accepted for handicap purposes determined by the authorized golf association having jurisdiction in a given area.” 

This means your local state or regional golf association likely has the jurisdiction in your area and they are responsible for declaring the duration of any inactive season.  A golf club located within the area covered by an authorized golf association must observe any inactive season established by the golf association (a club or facility may not “opt-out” of this requirement.)

Since course ratings are based on the difficulty of a course played under normal mid-season playing conditions, the change in off-season conditions could affect the ease or difficulty of play, based on those conditions (turf grass is harder, perhaps grass is dormant, no leaves on trees, green speeds are slower, the course is not irrigated regularly, etc.)  This is why based on the variety of off-season conditions, that a golf association will declare an inactive season.

Most northern and Midwest golf associations declare their inactive season anytime from mid-October or November in the fall through mid-March or April in the spring.  If you get a nice day to play in the fall during your facilities inactive season, you may not post your score for handicap purposes.  Check the USGA Handicap Active/Inactive Season Schedule to see if your state participates in an active or inactive season.

Some parts of the country do not observe an inactive season and therefore are active year-round (most sun-belt states and the southern parts of the country.)  The USGA Handicap System Manual states, “Scores made at a golf course in an area observing an active season must be posted for handicap purposes, even if the golf club from which the player receives a handicap index is observing an inactive season.”  This means if a player is a member of a facility in Minnesota and she plays golf in Arizona in February, any scores played in Arizona are acceptable and must be posted at the player’s Minnesota facility.  If the player is a member of a golf facility in Arizona, scores must be posted to the player’s Arizona club. If not a member of an Arizona facility, upon return from the trip to Arizona, the player must post these away scores prior to the next handicap index revision. 

Reminder, if you are in a part of the country where there is an inactive season and you play during that inactive season, take advantage of a nice fall day to play since you won’t be posting your scores for handicap purposes.  If you travel to a year-round posting area, you must post any scores played as away scores when you return home (unless you are a member of a second facility that has a year-round season, you would post your scores at that facility.)

Match Play Strategies

Playing in Match Play - especially on a team - requires a different strategy

Most golfers are used to playing stroke play – where you play your own ball and count your strokes.  An alternative format is Match Play – where you are playing head-to-head with another golfer, rather than playing stroke play against an entire field.  While both formats require the same skills, Match Play offers a unique type of strategy since the Rules are slightly different from stroke play.

The most common differences are the ability to concede putts thereby allowing your opponent to not have to hole out every putt.  Other unique Rules in stoke play have a one or two stroke penalty whereas Match Play the penalty is loss of hole (since the format of play that is scored in a hole-by-hole competition.)

The following are some strategies you may elect to use when playing Match Play against an opponent or you and a partner may use if playing a team Match Play event:

Be first on the tee – the obvious reason of playing first from the tee means you have the honor for having won the previous hole.  Secondly, by playing first, you set the tone for the hole and have a slight advantage – if you hit a booming tee shot, your opponent will feel the pressure to “keep up.”

Get off to a fast start – set the tone for the match by trying to play well right away at the first hole.  If you are successful and win multiple holes early in the match, you may close out your opponent early and not have to play all 18 holes. 

Play your game by maintaining your usual pace of play.  If you like to play quickly, don’t let a slower player bother you and get you out of your comfort zone.  If the opposite is true and you are playing with someone much faster than you like to play, go with your normal routine so you don’t feel rushed (but still be cognizant of keeping pace.)

Play smart and play to your strengths.  During an important match is not the time to try to carry the 40-yard water hazard from 200 yards away.  Know your shot strengths and always think ahead – play the shot to layup short of the hazard, hit the next shot on the green and think two-putts for par or bogey.  If your opponent hits in the water, you now have an advantage by playing smart and knowing the strengths of your game. 

Watch your opponent.  If she changes her pre-shot routine, chances are she is feeling some pressure.  Since match play involves mental toughness, watch for any changes that allow you to have an advantage.

Utilize your partner.  If you are playing in a team event with a partner, take advantage of each other.  If one of you has a bad hole, pick up the ball and move to the next hole.  You may help each other read putts and talk about your strategy.  It may help you feel calmer by having a partner to talk with rather than having very little conversation with an opponent.   

Be cautious conceding putts – one nice element of the match play format is the ability to concede putts.  As a player, go into your match planning to hole every putt.  With that mindset, you will be pleased when your opponent offers a conceded putt.  Be careful when giving your opponent a conceded putt.  If you continually give putts (especially early in the round), the opponent may expect that you will continue to concede putts.  A great strategy is to give a few putts early in the round, then make the opponent hole all putts as the round continues.  A missed putt could make a difference in the outcome of the match so keep that in mind when conceding putts.

By knowing some simple match play strategies and trying them during your next match, you may be able to win your match. 

 

The "Leaf Rule" Myth

If you live in a part of the country where the seasons change, no doubt you’ve heard that fall golf is the best time to play.  The demand on the courses ease up since many golfers don’t play after Labor Day, so it’s easier to get a tee time and pace of play is usually faster.  You may wear a light pull-over and have an opportunity to walk the course.  With the temperatures and leaves falling, it does pose a problem with playing fall golf, since a golf ball can easily get lost in a pile of leaves on the course. 

Many golfers in the fall invoke “The Leaf Rule” even though there is no such approved rule in the Rules of Golf.  In the interest of pace of play, some courses will institute a local rule in the fall allowing the natural accumulation of leaves to be treated as ground under repair.  If you or your partners are positive your ball is lost under the leaves, you may find the nearest point of relief from the spot where the ball last crossed the outermost limit of the leaves and take a drop, without penalty, within one club-length of that point, no closer to the hole (Rule 25-1, Decision 33-8/31).

If you are playing a course that hasn’t allowed such a local rule, those pesky leaves are loose impediments and may be removed without penalty.  Be extremely careful when looking for your ball so that it doesn’t move while you are searching in the leaves.  Under this rule, you can't move your ball when removing leaves or it's a one-stroke penalty and the ball must be replaced.  If you find your ball in leaves piled for removal, you can drop it, without penalty, within one club-length of the nearest point of relief, no closer to the hole (Rule 25-1b).

In a bunker, remove as many leaves as needed to see part of the ball.  Do not touch the leaves with your club while making a backswing or you will incur a two-shot penalty in stroke play (Rule 13-4c) or lose the hole in Match Play.

Golf purists feel the “Leaf Rule” is a cop-out to allow golfers to “cheat” with a free drop for hitting a not-so-good shot (that landed in the leaf pile.)  They feel the local rule should only be in effect on holes with piles of leaves – stating that most golfers don’t request the “leaf rule” when their ball is in the fairway or on the green.

Take advantage of the fall weather and get out and play!

Fall Golf: The Best Season of the Year

The word “Fall” often times brings to mind football games, bonfires, caramel apples and falling leaves.  Most golfers also know that the fall is the best time to play golf.  Hopefully you are taking advantage of the fall weather and getting a chance to play some golf.  Other than falling leaves and an occasional frost delay, the fall is a great time to enjoy the beauty of the course.  Here are some hints to help you enjoy golf this fall, even when the temperatures start to drop.

•  Dress in layers – Now more than ever, golf clothing is made for comfort, performance and appearance.  Some are designed to wick moisture away while helping to keep you warm.  Layers are good for cool mornings and allow you to “remove layers” as the temperatures rise during the day.  Make sure the layers still allow you to swing comfortably – no one wants to feel like the “Michelin Man” trying to swing a golf club.

•  Wear a winter cap, headband or ear muffs – Remember while playing in the cooler temperatures, the fashion police don’t care what you look like.  You will be bundled up in layers so it’s important to keep your head warm as well.   

•  Wear winter golf gloves – Many golf glove manufacturers make gloves designed for golf in cool climates and they are sold in pairs – like rain gloves but a bit thicker.  (They are also great for light-weight gloves for driving your car in the winter!)  If you don’t like playing with winter golf gloves, you can at least wear them between shots.  Another alternative is cart mitts that allow you to wear your regular golf glove and simply remove the cart mitts before hitting.

•  Use hand warmers – Many camping and sporting goods stores carry the dry-chemical hand warmers.  These are great to have in your pockets to keep your hands warm between shots.  Also change golf balls every few holes, using a ball from your pocket that’s warm – it won’t feel so hard coming off the face of your club. 

•  Walk if possible – As we all know walking on the golf course is great exercise plus the walking helps you stay warm.  Remember just as riding a cart can be “cooler” in summer months when the temps start to drop, that same “breeze” feels like instant air conditioning.  If you do ride a cart, bring a stadium blanket as a seat cover that can double as a warming layer if needed and use the windshield, if provided, to keep the wind off your face.  Some people have gone so far as to use a cart cover for cool weather and use portable propane tanks made specifically for golf carts (they fit right in the cup holders) as heaters.

•  Take one more club – the golf ball tends to travel a shorter distance in cold weather, so take one more club than you would during warmer months. 

•  Swing easy – This goes along with taking one more club (above).  Since you are using one more club, swing easy and make good contact with the ball.  If you swing hard and hit a “stinger” you will feel it in the club shaft and in your hands.  No one wants a “stinger” with cold hands.

•  Plan your winter get-away – as the temperatures start to drop, it’s a great time to plan your winter get-away to a warm climate destination.  Visit EWGA Golf Course Network to visit a facility that welcomes EWGA members (usually at a discount)!