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Posting Scores During Inactive Seasons

Inactive Golf SeasonIf you live and play golf in a “seasonal” area of the country, chances are your 2016 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.)

Frost Delays

Frost Delay on the Golf CourseIn many parts of the country, the summer temperatures have cooled down and are now providing some great fall days to play golf.  In addition to falling leaves that we discussed last week, the cooler temperatures often times lead to the two words golfers don’t like to hear – frost delay.  What causes a frost delay and why do golfers get so upset with it? 

According to the GCSAA (Golf Course Superintendent’s Association of America), “Frost is basically frozen dew that has crystallized on the grass, making it hard and brittle.  A grass blade is actually 90 percent water, therefore it also freezes.  Because of the short mowing height (sometimes as low as 1/8 inch) and fragile nature of the turf, putting greens are most affected by frost.  Walking on frost-covered greens causes the plant to break and cell walls to rupture, thereby losing its ability to function normally.  When the membrane is broken, much like an egg, it cannot be put back together.”

As the temperatures drop in the fall, frost delays become common in many parts of the country.  Frost forms when the grass absorbs sunlight and heat during the day, then loses that heat when the sun sets at night, causing the grass temperature to be lower than the actual outside air temperature.  This temperature difference causes moisture to condense on the grass at night.  When the temperature of the grass is below 32 degrees Fahrenheit, the moisture crystalizes and becomes frost.  Many golfers think an air temperature above 32 degrees will prevent frost from forming, but frost may occur even when the air temperature is in the mid to upper 30s. 

When frost occurs on the golf course, the Golf Professional staff is in close conversation with the golf course superintendent and both parties will agree to delay the start of rounds for the day until the frost melts.  While this is usually not the best news a group of golfers want to hear, it is in the best interest of the golf course.  Frost itself doesn’t kill the grass like it does with flowers and plants, however walking on a frost covered surface will cause long-lasting damage.  Footsteps will cause the frozen grass to break, then turn brown and die.  You will see the footprints in the grass long after the frost has melted (sometimes even three or four days later).  This makes the damaged turf more likely to have disease and weeds in the future, plus it’s very expensive to repair.

From a golf operations standpoint, frost delays usually bring the course to a stand-still until the frost melts.  You may be upset about having your starting time delayed, but the golf facility staff is doing what is best for your enjoyment on the course.  You may notice from the clubhouse that the course appears to be frost-free, but remember there are many acres of grass in shady areas that also need to melt.  The upside is, you can take advantage of some food and/or beverages in the clubhouse along with engaging conversation from your golf group, until the frost has melted.

Why do Some Golf Ranges have Artifical Mats?

Artifical Turf on the Golf RangeHave you visited a golf course for the first time - expecting a great experience – only to see be asked to hit from artificial mats at the practice range?  You may feel like hitting from mats isn’t as nice as hitting from turf, but here are the reasons why you are asked to hit from mats and how you can practice effectively.

We all want to hit from the grass at a practice facility since golf is obviously played on grass.  However, all the wear and tear on a practice facility by golfers causes the turf to get worn and stressed.  Just like your lawn, the grass needs time to recover and grow back.  Often times at a practice facility, you will see only specific sections of the range open and may be asked to hit golf balls within the roped areas.  This is done to help spread the use over the entire practice area as well as to allow the turf recover and allow continued use of the grass.

You can pay attention to where you hit when practicing to do your part in helping with the recovery rate of the turf.  Do you hit from the same spot with each golf swing or move around from spot-to-spot?  If you take a divot, there is a preferred way to practice on the golf range.  For years golfers would hit from spots that wore the entire grass away in the concentrated area.  Then golfers were taught to spread the divot around in a scattered pattern, which created a series of divots with very little grass between them.

The proper way to practice when taking a divot is to place your ball at the back of the previous divot.  This creates a line for the divot and uses about 50 percent less turf than the scattered pattern divot.  This narrow line allows the grass to recover and re-grow much quicker using this method. (See photo)

Some practice facilities, however, aren’t large enough to support the continued use on the turf from sunrise to sunset, day after day.  This is likely when you will be asked to hit from artificial mats.  Many golfers feel this doesn’t allow you to take a divot and doesn’t feel authentic.  Again, you can use this practice method to “listen” for a good golf shot, rather than looking for a divot.Divot Patterns courtesy of USGA

When hitting from artificial mats, listen to the sound your club makes in your swing at impact.  Hopefully it’s a quiet “sweep” of the mat rather than a loud “thud” of the club hitting the mat.  If you are making constant “thuds” when hitting, your swing is too steep, causing you to literally HIT the mat vs. hitting the ball.  This is the main reason most golfers don’t like hitting from mats – they don’t fully understand how to sweep the ball off the mat – and try to hit at it.

Next time you visit the practice facility, pay attention to your practice wear pattern and sweep the ball off the mats if you are asked to hit from artificial turf.

(Picture Credit:  USGA.org)

 

What to Watch at the Ryder Cup

2016 Ryder Cup - What to Watch

The Ryder Cup, the biennial men’s golf competition between teams from Europe and United States, is named after English businessman Samuel Ryder.  Founded in 1927, the event takes place in alternating venues between the United States and Europe.  This year the event will be held at Hazeltine National Golf Club in Chaska, Minnesota from Sept. 30 to Oct. 2, 2016.

Both teams consist of 12 players each, which have qualified or have been selected by their captains – Davis Love III (Team USA Captain) and Darren Clarke (Team Europe Captain).  For years the competition included players from the United States, Great Britain and Ireland, but a change in the team format in 1979 included continental European golfers.  The American team dominated the event for many years, but since 1979 the European team won ten times while the US Team won seven times.  The European team currently holds the Ryder Cup – after winning the past three consecutive events in 2010, 2012 and 2014.    

The matches take place over three days and include a series of different formats as follows:

Day 1 (Friday, Sept. 30):

•  There are 4 foursome (alternate shot) matches in the morning and 4 four-ball (better ball) matches in the afternoon.   Each match is worth one point and if the match ends in a tie, each team earns half a point. 

•  A total of eight players from each team participate in the morning and afternoon sessions. (Four players from each team “sit out” for the session – with the line-up determined by the Captain and Assistant Captains.)

Day 2 (Saturday, Oct. 1):

•  4 foursome (alternate shot) matches in the morning and 4 four-ball (better ball) matches in the afternoon.  Each match is worth one point and if the match ends in a tie, each team earns half a point.

•  A total of eight players from each team participate in the morning and afternoon sessions. (Four players from each team “sit out” for the session – with the line-up determined by the Captain and Assistant Captains.)

Day 3 (Sunday, Oct. 2):

•  The final day consists of 12 singles matches, where all 12 players from each team participate.  Each match is worth one point and if the match ends in a tie, each team earns half a point.

There are a total of 28 points available over three days in the Ryder Cup.  A team total of 14½ points is required for the Team USA to win the Ryder Cup and 14 points are required for the European Team to retain the Ryder Cup. 

The Captains pair players together based on complimentary strength of game (for example: one player consistent from the tee and one player with a sharp short game) or pair players together who have a history of playing well together from past match play events.  Some Captains will pair a rookie team member with a seasoned veteran to help calm the nerves. The line-ups are announced right before the matches so that creates additional suspense and discussion.

Golf Channel and NBC are providing nearly 27 hours of live event coverage from Minnesota as follows: (Note:  times listed are Eastern Daylight Time)

Friday, Sept. 30 – Day One           8:30 a.m. – 7:00 p.m. EDT (GOLF)
Saturday, Oct. 1 – Day Two          8:30 a.m. – 9:00 a.m. EDT (GOLF)
                                                      9:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m. EDT (NBC)

Sunday, Oct. 2 – Final Round     12:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m. EDT (NBC)

 

How to Break 80

Breaking 80The past two weeks we’ve talked about how a sharp short game can help you break 100 and practicing your 100-yard shot and in can help you break 90.  So if you score regularly in 80s, what can you do with your golf game to help you break 80? 

Chances are you are chasing that single-digit handicap goal and would like to break 80 on a regular basis.  You have practiced and perfected your short game and hit greens in regulation (all tips to break 100 and 90).  Now it’s time to dial in all your clubs – including your driver – so you are consistent and give yourself scoring chances.

The first thing to do is to know how far you hit and carry distance for each club.  You can easily accomplish this through a club fitting or lesson from a PGA or LPGA Professional who can help you determine how far the ball goes with each club.  Many club fitters and golf professional use Trackman, a launch monitor device that measures trajectory and distance.  If that’s not available, use a GPS or laser range finder to determine your distances.  If you find two clubs go the same distance, ask your club fitter or Professional to test the loft to make sure they aren’t the same – this can sometimes happen when the clubs are made – so make sure each club is a different loft.  As we discussed last week, generally the loft difference between your irons should be 4° which will give you 10 yards of difference between clubs. 

Also have your driver checked to make sure it’s best suited for your swing.  Many people use higher lofts on drivers (10° to 12°) to maximize the loft and roll to get additional distance.  While most people taking golf lessons always want more distance, it’s better to be accurate from the tee to keep your ball in play and avoid trouble.  That allows you to have a swing for your approach shot rather than trying to get yourself back into play from an adjacent fairway or rough.

Knowing your iron distances and controlling your driver will help you play smarter and manage the course better, which equals lower scores, hopefully in the 70s.

How to Break 90

How to Break the 90 Golf Barrier

Are you stuck in the 90s?  Meaning you consistently break 100 but can’t seem to get into the 80’s.  Last week we talked about focusing on practicing the short game – so chances are you are good at chipping, pitching and putting but can’t seem to crack the 90 barrier. 

Just as in committing to practice your short game, the same holds true for trying to score in the 80s on a regular basis.  You need to commit time to practicing – which may include a series of lessons with a PGA or LPGA Professional who will assist you in accomplishing your goals. 

An easy way to determine what part of your game needs work is to simply keep track of the number of greens you hit in regulation.  Chances are you hit less than half the greens in regulation, which causes you to take an extra shot around the green – thus turning your par into bogey or your bogey into a double bogey.  

The best way to overcome missing greens is to figure out your 100-yard club and practice enough to really be consistent with that club.  The general rule of thumb is each club should have four degrees of loft difference which equates to 10 yards.  So if your 7-iron is your 100-yard club, you should hit your 8-iron 90 yards and a 9-iron 80 yards, etc.  (The loft of the 7 iron should be about 34°, the 8 iron 37° and the 9 iron 41° so each four degrees of loft equals 10 yards).  Also get a feel for your distance with a pitching wedge, sand wedge and lob wedge (depending on how many wedges you carry).  Then as you get closer to the green, determine which clubs travel 30 to 50-yards if you use a half-swing. 

Feeling comfortable with your mid to short irons will help you reach greens in regulation and cut down on multiple approach shots from missing the green.  Many golfers miss the green because they don’t take enough club, so by practicing from 100-yards and in, you will know which club to use to hit more greens and be on your way to posting some scores in the 80s.   

 

What is your Milestone Golf Goal?

Have you Broken 100Many golfers have a stretch goal of breaking a specific score for golf – maybe that’s breaking 100, 90 or 80.  Over the next three weeks, we’ll explore hints to help you break your milestone score goal. 

As we have discussed in the past, the best way to lower your score is to sharpen and own your short game.  Take time to carve out practice time to focus on your short game.  Perhaps that’s taking your wedge or putter and really practicing – not just hitting a few balls and hitting some lag putts – but spending 30 to 60-minutes practicing your short game.  Get a bucket of balls and practice the fundamentals of a good chip or pitch shot.  Doing this repetitive motion will help you develop a smooth, consistent chip or pitch shot.  This easily transitions to the golf course as you will have increased confidence when faced with this shot.

The same holds true with your putter.  If you struggle to break 100 on a regular basis, chances are you have more than 36 putts per round (meaning that nasty three-putt enters your game more than you’d like.)  Since the majority of your shots are around the green, take time to really practice and work on that part of your game.  Many of us have played with a golfer who doesn’t hit a long ball from the tee, but they still make par or bogey because they have a sharp short game and don’t take extra shots on or around the green.

Keep track of your putts on your scorecard when you play.  Assuming you will two-putt every hole, only write down the one-putts and three-putts.  Try to have fewer than 36 putts per round.

Make sure you are reviewing the basics of a good putting stroke when practicing.  Your eyes should be right over the ball and your stroke should be a smooth back and through motion, creating a consistent stroke.  My favorite putting drill is to practice making 10 putts from one putter length away (usually your putter is 33” to 36” inches long) so this is an easy three foot distance putt to practice.  If you miss a putt, you have to start over until you can make seven, eight, nine or ten putts in a row.  Once you do that you move to two putter lengths (or roughly six feet away) and try to make another seven, eight, nine or ten putts in a row from that distance.  If you miss a putt, go back to the three foot putt until you hole consecutive putts from that range, before moving back to the six foot range.  You will be amazed at how much confidence you have in making a three-foot putt after practicing this drill.

If your goal is to two-putt every green, you now have the confidence to stroke your first putt within a three foot circle of the hole, knowing you can make that three foot putt.  Of course, the goal with chipping or pitching is to hit that ball within that same three foot circle, to set yourself up for some one-putt greens. 

Practicing your short game with solid chips and putts will have you on your way to breaking 100.