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How to Really Get Better at Golf

A participant tees off during the 2016 EWGA Cup

For every golf lesson you take, you and your instructor should ask each other what you want the outcome of the lesson to be.  Unsurprisingly, you'll find that the response is usually one of these three answers:

  1. Hit the ball further
  2. Hit the ball straighter, or;
  3. Lower your score

But when is the last time that you really looked at your game and determined how to accomplish any of the above?

Laird Small, PGA Professional and Director of the Pebble Beach Golf Academy shares a few tips on how golfers can improve their scores by reviewing seven key areas of their game.

  1. Start with the Little Victories:  Many of us have a target score in mind that we’d like to shoot.  Is it breaking 100?  Breaking 90?  Shooting a specific score in relationship to par?  Shooting one’s age?  Rather than putting all the focus on a score, try for a simpler goal.  Maybe it’s getting out of the bunker in one shot or hitting a drive around a corner on a dogleg hole.  These “little victories” will help you want to get better and practice.
     
  2. Take Inventory of Your Game:  If you keep track of your stats, like putts or fairways hit or greens in regulation, it provides a pretty accurate report to help you learn where you are wasting shots.  Most golfers know they waste shots in their short game.  Practice bunker shots, chipping and pitching so when you miss hitting a green, you have confidence to chip or pitch within one-putt range.  Likewise, if you notice more than 36 putts in an 18 hole round, it’s time to practice putting so you can avoid multiple three-putt greens.
     
  3. Short Game Practice:  More than half of all shots occur within 50-yards of the green.  The quickest way to see scores improve is to spend time practicing your short game shots of chipping, pitching and hitting from the bunker.  Some great drills include:
    • Target Drill – Place a bucket or umbrella (upside down) on the green and practice pitching balls into the target from various distances.  This helps you develop your swing length to the landing area and helps with distance control.|
       
    • Tee Drill – Place four tees in a square on the putting green about six to eight feet from the edge of the green and hit chip shots to the square box.  Again, this helps with distance control by using different clubs for the chip shot to see the carry vs. roll distance.
       
  4. Full Swing Practice:  Many golfers make the mistake of going to the practice range and hitting the driver, shot after shot.  If you think that you are likely using this club for 14 or fewer tee shots, it makes sense to practice your time at the range with the clubs you hit on a regular basis.  Practice with fairway woods, hybrids or mid and short irons.  Some full swing drills are:
    • Alignment Drill – Use an alignment stick or golf club to check your set-up including feet, hips and shoulders.  Use two sticks or clubs – one for your feet and the other for your club path.  This helps you visualize the path for the clubhead.
       
    • Random Club Practice – Rather than hitting the same club ball after ball, practice “playing” your course from the range…hit a driver, then a hybrid or mid iron, then a wedge – hitting your clubs in the order you might use for the first hole on your course.  Do this for nine or 18 holes, including your pre-shot routine, rather than hitting ball after ball with the same club.
       
  5. Stretching:  Stretching your body and muscles will help your golf swing and prevent soreness after golf.  Some people have physical limitations that prevent them from making a full turn or full swing, but loosening up before playing will help your body.  Starting at your head and working to your feet stretch prior to playing with these exercises:
    • Neck circles – rotate your head clockwise five times and then rotate counter-clockwise five times.
       
    • Arm circles – rotate your arms in forward circles ten times then rotate in backward circles ten times.
       
    • Shoulder stretch – cross your right arm across your chest and use your left arm to stretch the right shoulder for 10 seconds.  Then cross your left arm across your chest and use your right arm to stretch for 10 seconds.
       
    • Toe touching – bending at the waist, lean over and touch your toes or stretch your back by reaching for the ground while counting to 10.
       
  6. Fuel Your Body:  Be sure to eat and drink properly before, during and after your round.  Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated.  Eat healthful snacks like fruit, nuts, granola bars, etc. to help you stay focused and maintain good blood levels during your round.
     
  7. Survey Your Equipment:  We have discussed in the past being fit for equipment and having the proper set composition in your bag.  Most golfers have replaced harder to hit long irons for hybrids and carry more than one wedge.  Check your grips on your clubs as well – most people replace at the beginning of the season, but forget to replace midway through the season.  Make sure you keep your clubs clean so the groves can perform the way they are intended to and find a favorite golf ball.  Don’t be afraid to pay a bit more for a golf ball with a higher spin rate as it will be a little softer, spin more and will stop a bit faster on the greens. 

So what are you waiting for? Go and incorporate a few of these drills and stretches into your practice and let us know how you improve and lower your score!

Staying Safe During Summer Storms

Lightning is a major risk on the golf course.

Summer weather conditions are often perfect for quick thunderstorms to develop.  The National Lightning Safety Institute offers the following information:

"Lightning is arbitrary, random and unpredictable.  Five percent of annual United States lightning deaths and injuries happen on golf courses.  Everyone associated with the game should participate in lightning safety."

The United States Golf Association (USGA) makes available warning posters and stickers to inform players about lightning safety tips.  As a golfer, you should know that the USGA Rules of Golf (Rule 6-8) allow players to discontinue play if they believe there is a danger from lightning. No other sport has any regulations related to lightning.

A good rule for everyone is:  "If you can see it (lightning), flee it; if you can hear it (thunder), clear it."  I have also heard people say, “If you hear thunder, you will soon see lightning.”  There was a friend of an EWGA staff member who was struck and killed by lightning a few years ago – on a sunny day on the golf course – so it isn’t anything to mess with.  There is no round of golf so important to risk your life.

Some guidelines from the Golf Course Superintendents Association (GCSA) include:

  • Seek shelter at the first sign of a thunderstorm.  If the course's warning system sounds, head for cover.
  • If possible, get off the golf course or go to a designated lightning shelter (Note:  open-sided buildings do not provide protection from lightning even if they have a lightning rod).
  • Do not stand under a lone tree.  This is where most people are injured or killed.
  • Stay away from water.
  • Stay away from your golf clubs.
  • If your shoes have metal spikes, take them off.
  • Move away from your golf cart.

If you find yourself stranded in the open, go to a low place such as a ravine or valley. (Note:  If you feel a tingling sensation and the hair on your arms stands up, squat in a baseball catcher's position, balancing on the balls of your feet, feet together, arms in front of your knees.  If in a group, members of the group should keep at least 15 feet apart).

Follow the above advice to avoid the storms and play your way through a safe, fun and golf-filled summer.

 

Fun Formats for Summer Holiday Golf

Playing golf with friends and family is a great way to spend a long summer holiday weekend

Most golfers are lucky to take advantage of a few long weekends or a few days off that around summe holidays, including Memorial Day, Independence Day and Labor Day.  Many facilities during the summer offer activities with patriotic themes such as a Red, White and Blue tournament or a Flag tournament. 

Red, White and Blue Tournament:  Courses in the past have used three traditional colors to differentiate the teeing grounds – red tees for the forward area, white tees for the middle area and blue tees for the back teeing ground.  (If a course doesn’t use these tee colors, you can refer to the event as Forward, Middle and Back Tournament.)  

Here’s the format if you play in a Red, White and Blue Tournament.

  • All players start from the middle tees
  • If you par a hole, you start the next hole from the middle tees
  • If you bogey a hole, you start the next hole from the forward tees
  • If you birdie a hole, you start the next hole from the back tees

Typically this event is handicapped so golfers are using net scores to determine which teeing ground to begin play on each hole.  Tournament organizers could also determine which tees to use based on handicaps or average scores – having single digit handicappers use the back tees, bogey golfers using the middle tees and double bogey golfers using the forward tees.  

Flag Tournament:  Another popular golf format associated with patriotic summer holidays is a Flag Tournament.  In this event, each person has an allotted number of strokes, then plays golf until his/her strokes run out.  Then you stick a flag in the ground where your final shot is played.  (For Fourth of July events, each player is given a small US Flag with their name on it.)  Typically the fairways and greens on holes 15 through 18 are decorated with small US Flags and adds some fun to a Fourth of July golf course event.

Usually the allotted number of strokes is determined by adding your course handicap to the course par.    So if your handicap is 13 and the par is 72, you would put a flag in the ground where you played your 85 shot from that day.  The golfer who has his/her flag the farthest is the winner.  This format is also called “Last Person Standing” or “Tombstone.”  (You can use this same format called “The Tombstone Open” for a Halloween theme.)

Use these suggested formats to spice up your weekly game with friends or family. Regardless, use this time to recharge the batteries and connect with the people you care about while playing a round of golf.

 

Golf (and Push) Cart Etiquette

Golf carts have their own nuance when it comes to etiquette

Golf carts are a primary source of revenue for golf courses, so in most instances when you play in a tournament you will be riding in a golf cart.  It’s important that you are aware of golf cart rules and etiquette.  When you check-in with the golf course staff, they will let you know the basic rules and safely of cart operation.  They are designed for golfer safety as well as to protect the golf course turf (teeing ground, fairway and greens). 

If you are a new golfer, you may feel more comfortable having a more experienced golfer drive the cart.  The first and MOST IMPORTANT thing to check before driving a cart is to make sure your golf bag is fastened securely to the cart.  You don’t want it to fall off – and risk being embarrassed. 

When taking a golf cart, the golf staff will let you know if it is “Cart Path Only” (no carts allowed on the course at any time - mainly due to wet fairway conditions).  If the conditions require “Cart Path Only,” take several clubs (plus an extra ball in case yours is lost or not playable) to save time from walking back and forth across the fairway and slowing down play.  If the course specifies “90 Degrees” (drive your cart along the cart path to the spot of your ball and then make a 90 degree turn onto the course and drive to your ball). 

You want to operate a cart with safety in mind.  Limit the use to two passengers - don’t try to fit three people in the seat or let someone stand on the back by the golf clubs.  Resist the urge to hang legs and feet outside the cart – some golfers have suffered broken ankles and legs from hanging legs and feet outside the cart.  Operate the cart safely by observing signs directing you to stay on the cart paths or away from protected nature areas. 

The general rule is to keep 30 yards away from greens, approaches and collars.  Many courses will have ropes or signs showing when carts are required to return to paths.  Additionally, most courses will ask you to stay on the cart path on par 3 holes.  You want to use caution when going up or down hills and avoid sharp turns where the tires could damage the turf.  Avoid water puddles, water hazards and of course bunkers.  Making sharp turns, coming to an abrupt stop or driving too fast can also damage the turf.  Cart use could change during the day, depending on weather conditions and may be restricted following a heavy rain.

Many newer carts offer USB outlets to charge a rangefinder or phone.  Resist the urge to look at your phone while driving a golf cart – the same “rules of the road” apply to operating a golf cart.

It’s good cart etiquette to park the cart at the rear of the green or wherever allows you the shortest exit when done putting.  Avoid the urge to park with two wheels off the cart path – many people leave two wheels on the path and pull off partially into the grass.  A good analogy is – would you park your car in a driveway with two wheels in the driveway and two wheels in your yard?  Then don’t do that on the golf course – if another cart approaches (maintenance, ranger or beverage cart) they can pull around your cart.

If using a push cart, the same rules apply, but of course, don’t walk with your cart across the green.  (Some courses with sand greens will allow push carts to be taken across the green, but generally you should not do this, unless told by golf course staff that it’s allowed.)  Some facilities also ask that push carts not get used on the turf between a bunker and green – on the collar and approaches.  You also want to leave a push cart at the rear of the green as a courtesy to the group behind you as well as to allow for a quick exit.  

Following these established guidelines for golf cart and push cart use will add to your enjoyment on the golf course.

Tips for Success in Team Competition

Playing as a team is totally different experience than playing as an individual.

Most of us are familiar with watching team golf in the Ryder Cup, the Solheim Cup or the Presidents Cup. Not only can it be fun to watch in person or via a broadcast, it’s a fun format to play as well. Most events held are the normal stroke play, yet playing as part of a team is common in the EWGA Cup as well as at many golf clubs nationwide.

While you are still trying to score the lowest number, the main difference between stroke play and match play is instead of playing the entire field, you are playing against the two people in your group. You could have one player who plays safe and the other player then can hit a risk/reward type of shot. You can adjust your strategy based on how your opponents are playing.

If you are playing in a two person team event, hopefully your playing partner is someone you enjoy playing golf with and as a team, you compliment each another – meaning one person could excel when hitting from the tee while the other partner may be a good putter or have a great short game.

If you are playing in an alternate shot event, it requires a bit more strategy. Take a look at the golf course or scorecard to see how the par 3’s and par 5’s line up with your strength. Does one teammate have a stronger iron game to benefit being the person to hit from the par 3’s? Does the teammate who hits a longer tee ball benefit from hitting on the par 5’s to take advantage of the distance? Think about this when putting if the alternate shot format means the person who sinks a putt will not tee off on the next hole.

Another important factor in a team event is momentum. When you and your partner win a hole, it creates a bit of momentum to help win the next hole. Once you win multiple holes, your shots will seem easier and you will settle in to playing relaxed golf. Take advantage of the momentum and keep it going in a positive manner.

Additional tips for team competition include relaxing and staying positive. If you are lucky to win a few holes early, it’s easier to relax and not feel the pressure of being behind. By keeping a positive attitude, you can focus on one hole at a time – remember, if you are trailing in the match, that it’s not over until you run out of holes. If you lose a hole, remain positive and realize every new hole is a new opportunity to win a hole.

Many people compete in team play by being more aggressive and making sure all their putting attempts get to or past the hole. Especially if one partner is playing safe, it allows the other partner to go for it and be bold with all putt attempts – since most times a short putt has little chance of going in!

Regarding conceded putts, remember you should enter your match expecting to hole out all your putts. Don’t expect your opponent to concede any putts to you. However, if an opponent concedes a putt, gracefully pick up your ball. You and your partner will need to discuss when you will concede putts or if you will expect your opponents to hole all putts. It’s a delicate balancing act, because you may be willing to concede putts only to get few or little conceded putts from your opponents.

Finally, expect that your opponents will hit great shots and make long putts. This will help you control your nerves – as you are less likely to get uptight when your opponents play well. If you fall behind in the match, remember there are many holes left and you and your partner are bound to hit good shots, make some putts and get good breaks.

Remember it’s a team event and your partner is there to help calm you down, encourage you and celebrate your great shots. Have fun and enjoy the opportunity to play together as a team.  

 

Tips to Avoid Common Golf Injuries

Shoulder injuries are common among golfers.

We’ve all read articles about our favorite PGA or LPGA Tour professionals being side-lined with golf injuries. To non-golfers, they don’t understand how a non-contact sport like golf can produce short-term or even long-term injuries. However, if you’ve been on the pain-reliever, ice bag, hot pack or even surgical side of a golf injury, you know it’s not fun. To avoid golf injuries, you need to warm-up properly before practicing and playing with stretches and conditioning programs specifically designed for golf.

EWGA member and fellow LPGA Professional Karen Palacios-Jansen has created a perfect blend of fitness exercises designed to help your golf game, called Cardiogolf. Designed to trim your score and shape your swing, Cardiogolf is a way for golfers to improve their swing mechanics and fitness levels at the same time. You can work on these exercises in your home, at the gym or outside before you play. Checkout Karen’s website for more information.

In her years of teaching and playing, Karen has seen many common golf injuries that could have been prevented. Karen recently shared in Golf Fitness Magazine ways to avoid some of the most common golf injuries and how to avoid them.

  1. Back pain - While many Americans (75 to 85 percent) experience some type of back pain in their lifetime, it’s no surprise that back pain is the most common injury among golfers. When you think of the twisting, swinging, rotating, etc. that goes into the golf swing multiple times over a four or five hour round, it’s easy to see how golfers can have back pain that leads to serious injury. Much has been written lately about Tiger Woods and Freddy Couples regarding their back injuries. One of the top ways a golfer injures his/her back is taking the golf bag out of the trunk of the car – long before even getting to the first tee. Work with your physician or fitness expert to learn exercises that are designed to stretch and strengthen your back.
  2. Shoulder/Rotator Cuff - The four muscles located in your shoulders are often irritated when the muscles swell and pinch the space between the arm and shoulder bones (rotator cuff impingement). Worse than impingement, some people experience an actual tear of the tendons and muscles in the shoulder area, that are not only painful, but often times require surgical repair. Again, look for exercises designed to strengthen shoulder and back muscles.
  3. Golf/Tennis Elbow – Tendinitis in the elbow is known as Golf Elbow (irritation and inflammation of the inner elbow tendon) or Tennis Elbow (irritation and inflammation of the outer elbow tendon). Ironically, most golfers suffer from Tennis Elbow with the pain on the outer tendon of the elbow due to overuse of the tendons involved. This is usually treated with rest to allow the elbow to heal and ice to help in the inflammation. Look for exercises that will help strengthen the muscles and tendons as well as practicing proper swing basics that will help prevent the strain on your elbows.
  4. Wrist Tendonitis or Carpel Tunnel – The wrists are also susceptible to golf injuries due to the speed of the golf swing, the quick change of direction at the top of the backswing and connecting with the ball at impact. Some wrist injuries have resulted from taking swings from poor turf (rocks or tree roots) and force or sudden stopping when hitting rocks or roots. Include strength exercises for your wrists in your fitness warm-up and stretches.

In addition to these common injuries, also use common sense when playing. Use sunscreen, wear a hat with a visor to shade your face and eyes from the sun. Drink plenty of water and watch for signs of dehydration, heat exhaustion or heatstroke. Remember to keep feet inside the golf cart (if you ride in a cart). Some golfers have broken ankles from having their feet outside a moving golf cart.

Most golf injuries can be avoided by practicing good swing mechanics and warming up properly. Take time to warm up for golf, make some easy swings rather than over swinging. Off season and in-season fitness programs will help you stretch and strengthen problem areas so you can be in the best condition to enjoy golf.

Your Guide to Women's Golf Day

Women's Golf Day is Tuesday June 6th, 2017

More than 500 golf facilities are hosting Women’s Golf Day events and activities nationwide. Women’s Golf Day is a four hour experience between 4 and 8 p.m. in every timezone where women and girls can experience golf for the first time or where current players can play and welcome women who are interested in golf.   

There are two formats for events:

  1. At a golf course...
    • Two hours of Golf – lessons or playing 9-holes – this will include two hours of lessons – one hour on the practice range and one hour with short game (chipping and putting)  OR
    • Two hours of Socializing/Networking – this format includes two hours of socializing, networking and distribution of golf information about instruction, league play plus other ways to get involved in golf.
       
  2. At a retail store...
    • This option includes up to four hours of basic instruction and socializing using retail store simulators and putting greens.  Instruction should include basics like grip, stance and swing and could include contests for driving and putting.

Women’s Golf Day is a collaborative effort by a dedicated team including allied golf association representatives, golf management companies, retailers and support from organizations working together to engage, empower and support women and girls through golf. The events are open to women and men of all ages, skill or interest levels.

Visit WomensGolfDay to find a participating location near you.  Join the global golf movement and post your photos to your favorite social media channel using the #WomensGolfDay hashtag.