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Ask the Pro Archive - 2000
Golf Questions and Answers on a variety of topics

Here are all the golf questions and answers that appeared on the "Ask the Pro" page in 2000, from most recent to least recent, top to bottom. Links in the left menu column give a "keyword" indication of the topic and will take you directly to that entry on this page. Also see the Ask the Pro Archive Index for longer descriptions in categorized and somewhat alphabetized form.

Golf Questions and Answers (2000)
(most recent to least recent, top to bottom)

Miscellaneous > Professional golf-related > How to become a golf professional

December 16, 2000


This question, "How do I become a golf professional," became the first FAQ -- here.


See How to become a golf professional.

Long Game > Woods > Getting more distance on drives

December 15, 2000


How do I get even more yards on my drive? I'm 12 years old and on an average I shoot a 43 on 9 holes. I can drive about 210 and I just want to know how I can get up to 220 or even 230?

Beny Davey
Troy, NC


Sounds like you're doing pretty well, Beny! More distance? Nothing that a little time passing won't cure in your case. Of course, the components of distance are the same for everybody: Good swing mechanics, correct swing concept, fitness (strength and flexibility), equipment (making sure that your clubs match your physique and clubhead speed) and a couple other little things called athletic ability and feel (time and experience).

Keep up the good work, distance will come to you. The hardest part might be patience. smile

My Long Drive Schools are also specifically about getting more distance with your driver and throughout your bag. If you cannot come to work with me in person I recommend that you get my book, Hitting It Longer: Getting More Distance in Your Golf Game, with the Driver and Throughout Your Bag

I hope this answers your question and helps, Beny. Thanks for visiting and best of luck with your game.. MB

Equipment > What is a W3 or W4 wedge?

December 14, 2000


What is W3 wedge and W4 wedge?

Ger Chang
Wassau, WI


Hi Ger, and thanks for your question. As far as I know those wedges were only made by Tommy Armour and represent even more lofted wedges than a regular pitching wedge and a sand wedge - probably somewhere around 56-58 degrees for the W3 (guessing) and likely around 60 degrees for the W4. I never did look at them too closely.

Thanks for visiting MB

Long Game > Irons > Why am I hitting my irons fat?

December 13, 2000


I play off a 10 handicap but can never hit the middle of my irons. I always hit slightly behind the ball and have tried all your possible solutions, none of which work. I use King Cobra II irons which seem extremely heavy in comparison to my Dad's Cougar Silver Cats, which I can middle 9/10 times. Please help me, I am starting Men's A Grade competition in a few weeks and don't want to make a fool of myself!!!! :(

David Hudson
Geraldton, Australia


Hi David, and thanks for your question. Since I'm not witnessing your swing the best I can do is to say that there are really only a couple ways you can hit it fat:
  1. If your spine angle/posture moves down to a lower position through impact than it was earlier (address, backswing, etc.)
  2. If your arms and hands apply excessive pressure (hacking or hitting) to the club independently of the turn of your torso in the downswing, forcing the club down to the bottom of its arc too soon.
Beyond that I'd pretty much have to see you, but the items above are the bottom line in terms of hitting it fat. Another suggestion that will likely help your feel improve is to get this great book on the mental game -- based on the sound of things ("don't want to make a fool of myself") your mindset is agggravating the problem.

I hope this helps, David. Thanks again for your question and for visiting MB

Rules, Etiquette and Procedures > What are "Preferred Lies?"

December 12, 2000


Please, could you define "Preferred Lies," and where on the course do they apply?

Allan Bond
Preston, Lancashire, England


Thanks for your question, Allan. Actually "Preferred Lies" is still wallowing in the 'Local Rules' section of one of the Appendices of the Rules of Golf. It hasn't achieved RULE status, and indeed "The ball shall be played as it lies..." (RULE 13) is such an underlying and basic part of the game that it likely never will.

Let's face it, sometimes during bad weather the ball plugs in the ground or gets a bunch of mud on it on every shot, or the course conditions degrade considerably. In an ideal world you can play the ball as it lies, but in the real world it sometimes becomes necessary to alter the rules slightly to make things more equitable and ... well, fun. And as long as everybody is playing by the same rules...? They have reverted to this local rule on the PGA Tour during SOME tournament(s) every year as long as I can remember. Sometimes it just gets ugly.

If you're curious as to whether the rule exists at any course you are playing just ask before you play -- they may even have a sign posted near the first tee. Here's what the Rule Book says.

-- quote from rule book --

b. "Preferred Lies" and "Winter Rules"

Adverse conditions, including the poor condition of the course or the existence of mud, are sometimes so general, particularly during winter months, that the Committee may decide to grant relief by temporary Local Rule either to protect the course or to promote fair and pleasant play. Such Local Rule shall be withdrawn as soon as the conditions warrant.
-- end quote --

Thanks again for your question and for visiting, Allan. MB

Long Game > Woods > Swinging from non-dominant hand side decreasing distance?

December 11, 2000


I am left-handed but I golf right-handed. Consequently my drives and irons play a lot shorter than other players. My one wood goes about 200-225 at best. I'm not the most muscular or strongest guy on the course and the fact that I'm a lefty golfing right probably doesn't help matters. Is there anything I can do (drill, practice, types of exercise to develop strength) to increase my distance.

Chris Sopal
Prince Albert, Saskatchewan, Canada


Hi Chris, and thanks for your question. There are a lot of things you can do to increase your distance, but it would take me a book to explain them all to you. Let me give you this to get you started:

First of all, Hogan was left-handed, Johnny Miller is left-handed, Mickelson is right-handed. Those guys play opposite from their dominant handedness and didn't or don't have a problem with distance. It is a matter of technique and athleticism. Obviously you will want to continue to work on your technique and refine your mechanics and concepts (another book). But I'd like to suggest a general strengthening and flexibility program. I deduce from your comments that you are not involved in a regular program of strength training or stretching. Both of these things will work wonders, and you need a solid foundation in both of them before you can do any more specific kinds of training. I would try this first and see if it doesn't make a difference. If you're very young (not full grown) definitely find a knowledgeable trainer to evaluate and instruct you. You can do damage if you get too intense at too young an age. You can expect it to take probably 6-8 weeks minimum to really see any benefits from it in your golf, but you might get lucky and see results sooner.

I'm sure you have access to some kind of fitness facilities and fitness instruction or training. There are lots of gyms and trainers around, hopefully you'll find one with some credentials and some solid knowledge and experience.

Many people find exercising to be distasteful. If you are one of these people the only thing I can offer you is to say that golf is an athletic endeavor, and if you want to excel at it then one of the components is a fit body, no question. If you don't mind exercising then you're home free, 'cause there are many benefits to being in shape besides improving your distance. smile

Give this a try, Chris. My Long Drive Schools are also specifically about getting more distance. I hope this answers your question. Thanks for visiting MB

Long Game > Irons > Problem pushing shots with the irons

December 10, 2000


I am having a problem pushing the ball with my irons. I'm making good contact with the ball, leaving a 3-5 inch divot, my finish is good, but the ball keep's going right. It is not a slice. My alignment seems to be good, my hips seem to be getting out of the way also. I know you cannot see my swing but your help would be appreciated. Frustrated Golfer.

Robert Hafford
Elizabeth City, NC


Hi Robert, and thanks for your question. Well, yes, without seeing you it sounds like one of two things to me (if all else is okay as you suggest). Either
  1. you are swinging on an inside-out path (I'm assuming you're right-handed from what you've said)
  2. or your clubs are too flat (the lie angles are sitting "toe-down" -- which makes the ball go right)
See if your divots are either (a) going a little right or (b) deep in the toe. Of course, the easiest way to verify which of these things is the case is to check with a good pro in your area. If you don't know any check

I hope this helps at least a bit. Thanks for visiting MB

Long Game > Irons > Misfit clubs causing inconsistency?

December 9, 2000


I am 16 years old and have been playing golf for 3 years. I play to a 15 handicap, but I am very inconsistent. One day I will shoot 82 and the next day I will shoot 92. I realize that I am young and inconsistency is to be expected, but I have come to wonder if my clubs might be part of the problem. I own a set of Taylor Made LCG irons, and I bought them off the shelf with no alterations in shaft flex, length, or hosel of the clubs. Now, I am 6' 3" and I have been told by many different people that it looks as if I am "hunching" over the ball. In other words, they think that I don't have long enough clubs, and so I counter that by hunching over the ball. I know this can lead to an inconsistent spine angle throughout the swing and probably is a cause of my consistency problem, but what I want to know is, how much of a difference would a new set of shafts of the proper length and hosels a couple of degrees more upright affect my swing and my consistency. Thanks.

Andrew Packman
Centralia, IL


Hi Andrew, and thanks for your question. The truth is that if you have enough feel and experience you can make just about anything work, but it should help to get your lie angles adjusted correctly. It probably will improve your posture and make everything function more efficiently throughout your mechanics. Certainly this is not the answer to consistency by itself, but I believe you will find that it improves things. Check with a good clubmaker or professional in your area for help with adjusting the lie angles and determining whether or not the lengths need to be altered.

I hope this answers your question, Andrew. Thanks for visiting MB

Long Game > Woods > Alignment on tee shots

December 8, 2000


When aligning for a tee shot, where should my feet, hips and shoulders point?

Mike McVey
Tulsa, OK


Thanks for your question, Mike. It depends on what type (shape) of shot your trying to hit, but if you're just talking about laboratory conditions and hitting a fairly straight shot then your feet, knees, hips & shoulders would be what they call "parallel left" (if you're right-handed) of your target line -- as if the target line were one rail of a railroad track and your feet were standing on the other rail.

Hope this answers your question. Thanks for visiting MB

Long Game > Irons > Blocking it - divot left, ball goes right

December 7, 2000


I'm a 5 handicap player, and a freshman golfer at Ottawa University. For the past month, all I can hit is a block shot to the right. My divot is left, but the ball is right. I've tried everything. It's killing me! What are some drills or advice on this problem? Thank you.

Justin McCloud
Eads, CO


Thanks for your question, Justin. I'm not sure I can help you that much without actually seeing you in person. But, I can make a couple suggestions and let's see if anything comes to you in practice.

Okay, we know your club is going left (divot direction) and we know your shots are going right. There could be lots of underlying causes. Again, without seeing you it's tough to comment meaningfully. But the bottom line is that the club needs to swing more down the line rather than to the left and the face needs to square up or release rather than to be open at impact.

Do a little experimenting with the path of the club. Try the opposite of what your current problem is (a bit of an inside-out path with the club face pointing left at impact is the opposite of what you say is going on now) a few times just to get a different feel. Remember to keep your tempo smooth; you may be trying to hit the ball too hard with your arms and inhibiting the release of the club head. You might learn something from doing this experimenting. You might also try a basic shank drill as another experiment (see the shank FAQ).

Beyond that all I can tell you is if the problem persists see a good professional in your area. If you don't know one try

Thanks again for your question and for visiting, Justin. MB

Long Game > Woods > Club face alignment at address

December 6, 2000


I'm playing off a strong 8 handicap. My problem lies in my address. At address, especially my driver, I tend to aim it very right of target. Thank goodness, most of the time it will end at my intended area. I've tried addressing it square to he clubface but each time my ball will slice very badly. Please help.

Ng Paul


Hi Paul, and thanks for your question. It's not really that important that your clubface is square at address; just that it's square at impact. There are, and have been, many very highly skilled players and even well-known pros who do strange things with the club at address or prior to the downswing. The bottom line is that none of that matters if you have good feel for squaring the face through impact, and it sounds like you do. Sure, I guess it would be nice if we were all robots with perfect mechanics from address to finish, but we're not. Each of us is unique and golf swings are like fingerprints. Keep up the good work and don't worry about trying to do every little thing right, especially when you're already doing many of the most important things right.

Thanks again for your question and for visiting, Paul. MB

Equipment > Will graphite shafts shatter in the cold?

December 4, 2000


I was told that graphite shafts can shatter in cold conditions. I have a set of graphite clubs that I was planning to use in 35 - 40 degree F conditions. Do I have anything to worry about (other than my game itself!)? Or should I pull out my metal clubs?

Michael Burke
Swampscott, MA


Thanks for your question, Michael. Wow, maybe if you have some real old, poor quality graphite it's possible - I guess. But I have never heard of this, nor have the clubmaker's here in my area (it gets pretty cold here sometimes, occasionally down into the 20's). James Hsien from Horizon Custom Golf pointed out that graphite is used in satellites and we know it's cold up there!

I hope this answers your question. Thanks for visiting MB

Long Game > General > Can't make a weight shift or transfer

December 3, 2000


I've tried everything, including a lesson, but can't seem to finish my swing with weight on my left foot. I end up with my weight primarily on my right foot - falling back - even on my better hits. What to do? Please help!

Charlie Schorpp
Sunset Beach, NC


Hi Charlie, thanks for your question. You know, this is a common problem and one you can do a lot of drills and exercises for. But the bottom line is you are "hitting at" the ball with your arms and hands instead of allowing your arms and the club to "swing through" the ball as a result of your torso turning. The most direct answer is to develop enough awareness, through conscious attention, to do the latter and not the former.

If you've ever played any other sports that involve a weight transfer (tennis, baseball, bowling, others) the feeling should be easily identifiable. The problem is usually that people aren't aware of what they're feeling during the swing. In your case it sounds like there's either so much anxiety about the result of the shot, or so much effort to make the ball go far, that you aren't feeling what you're doing. Can you make a noticeable weight transfer with a practice swing? Probably. If so, I rest my case. It's just a matter of being able to focus your attention on what you're feeling during the swing through the ball rather than anticipating the result or outcome. And YOU are the one who is in charge of what you pay attention to, no? For starters, next time you practice try missing the ball intentionally but making sure you make a weight transfer for a few swings.

I hope this gives you some insight and at least something to think about. Thanks for visiting MB

Long Game > General > Hitting shots fat

December 1, 2000


I constantly hit way behind the ball with my irons. I've read your iron tip page but was wondering if you had any more tips for me. I'm a righty. Thanks a bunch.

Erik Williams
San Francisco, CA


Hi Eric, thanks for your question. There is a very common problem among golfers called "hacking." Not to be facetious, but the bottom line is that you are applying too much force with your arms and/or hands too early in the downswing (trying to hit it hard?). The result is that the club reaches the bottom of the swing too soon, or behind the ball, causing the ground-before-ball contact. If you would let your weight shift naturally over onto your front foot and allow your arms and the club to swing down more passively (swinging instead of hacking) the club wouldn't reach the bottom of its arc until your weight was well onto your front foot and it would more often contact the ball BEFORE the ground. It's very common for people to make a nice practice swing, and then do what you have described when they swing at the ball. In the practice swing there is no outcome to worry about and the player can easily pay attention to what they're feeling. But when swinging at the ball the outcome is so paramount in most people's minds that all sense of feel is completely gone and replaced with anxiety about the result, trying to steer the club, trying to hit it hard, and so on.

Actually, that is one of the biggest differences between a highly skilled player and an average player: the ability to feel what is happening during the swing.

I hope this answers your questions, Eric. Thanks for visiting MB

Long Game > Irons > Which club for which distance, and inconsistent swing height

November 22, 2000


What is the estimated distance that determines which clubs I need to use for a shot (i.e., on the fairway 90 yds. to the cup)? Would I use a 5 or 7 iron or perhaps a PW/SW? Also, my wife just started with me but she's only 5 ft.2 in. tall, and she seems to either swing to high or when she does get up under the ball, she seems to dig more holes than a gopher. How can she overcome such a dilema? Thanks.

Brian Martin
Alameda, CA


Hi Brian, thanks for your questions. To answer your question a large percentage of men will probably be able to hit a well-struck pitching wedge or sand wedge 90 yards under normal conditions. Also, see my response to another visitor in the "Ask the Pro" archive here and my FAQ on how far clubs should go for more.

Your wife's problem is a very common one for beginners. It sounds like she is moving her spine angle during the swing (up and down motion of the spine and head rather than rotation). Of course without observing her that's just an educated guess and there may be much more to the problem. You guys are close enough that you could bring yourselves out for a lesson sometime. Let me know.

Thanks for visiting MB

Long Game > General > To emphasize the right hand or the left hand in the swing

November 20, 2000


I just started playing 6 years ago and play to a 12 handicap. I am left handed in everything but golf, so my left hand is phisically stronger than my right hand as measured on a hand dynamometer. Should I emphasize my right side in the swing, in which case subjugate the left in the grip (by using a 10 finger grip instead of the vardon), setup and swing to equalize the two or, should the emphasis be on the stronger left hand, developing a left side dominating action? I am 52, atheletic, very flexible and can recruit the large muscles of my trunk and back easily.

Cape Cod, MA


Thanks for your question, Pierre. That's a tough one to answer simply. The bottom line is whatever you can develop the most feel for the clubface with is probably the way to go. Based on what you said about being able to use your trunk and back very easily my ideal solution for you would be to make your swing all about power with the torso and feel with the hands (both hands being equal and fairly neutral) rather than having one hand dominate the swing. Passive hands and torso rotation has always seemed to me to be the most reliable swing method and the majority of highly skilled modern players use one variation or another on this theme. But it has also been described subjectively by some great players throughout history as one side or the other being dominant (whether or not they were actually doing that nobody will ever know, but that is what it felt like to them).

I don't suppose this helps you much, but without seeing you in person that's about the best I can do. I hope this at least gives you some food for thought. Thanks again for your question and for visiting MB

Long Game > Woods > What loft angle goes farther?

November 19, 2000


All other variables aside (such as wind), which driver should hit the ball farthest, a 8.5 degree driver or a 10.5 degree driver? Thanks!

Buffalo, NY


If the clubs were otherwise identical (which I think is what you're getting at, i.e., same shaft flex, weight, length, etc.) then the determining factor would be clubhead speed.

Laboratory Example: If "Iron Byron" were hitting the shots the 8.5 would probably go farther at faster clubhead speeds and the 10.5 would go farther at slower clubhead speeds (I don't know exactly where the dividing line would be). But it would also depend on whether you were talking about carry only or total distance.

In the real world it's very difficult, if not impossible, to get a black and white answer to this question, as there are so many factors that would go into it (the player's swing, the landing surface, other environmental conditions... on and on). You were probably looking for something more definitive, sorry.

Thanks for your question and for visiting MB

Long Game > General > Grip size and its effect

November 16, 2000


Can you go over some details about proper grip size? I have some problems with pulling my irons. Will improper grips contribute to this problem? I currently have standard size grips but relatively large hands. Thanks.

Gary Friedman
Portland, OR


Thanks for your question, Gary. To speak in generalities the fingers of the top hand should be able to comfortably curl around the grip and reach the thumb pad but the nails shouldn't be able to dig in too much. Getting a grip to fit a hand correctly is a combination of feel, personal preference and clubfitting basics. Everybody's hands are a little different. If you have large hands it does sound like your grips may be a bit too small, but I wouldn't look to that as the reason you're pulling the ball. A player with feel could get decent performance even out of a club that was improperly fitted to them. It would be a good idea to have a good clubmaker or golf professional in your area take a look and recommend a grip size for you. But I would also take a lesson or two to get some input on your pulling problem. You might also read my response to Mr. Trev Harmon of Syracuse, NY in the "Ask the Pro" archive here.

I hope this answers your question and gives you some food for thought. Thanks for visiting MB

Long Game > Irons > Graphite-shafted irons going shorter distance

November 14, 2000


I just recently bought a set of Callaway knock-offs with graphite shafts. Not knowing what to expect my woods were very straight considering I normally hit "a power fade." My irons though are different story. Short and not very straight at all. Only once did I hit a seven iron 150 yards. I am 51 years young and play to about an 18 handicap. Any suggestions that I might try to get more consistent and accurate with my irons, short of expensive lessons. Thanks for your help.

Jim Koller
Gilbert, AZ


Thanks for your question, Jim. Sounds like maybe you have the wrong shafts in those irons. It is also possible that they are significantly lighter (swing weight and overall weight) than your previous irons and you have not yet adapted to them. I had a similar problem once and I remedied it by increasing the weight of the clubs. Maybe that will work for you. I'd check with a good professional or club fitter in your area and have your clubs looked at. It might be a good idea to bring both your new and old sets of irons along to demonstrate the difference to the professional that does the analysis.

I hope this helps a bit, Jim. Thanks again for your question and for visiting MB

Long Game > Woods > Hitting a power fade and slowing down

November 10, 2000


I read an answer about what to do with a problem hook which is to hit and power fade. How does one do that? Also I like to swing hard off of the tee. How could I develop a slower tempo? Thanks.

Dick Gernat
Sewickley, PA


Thanks for your question, Dick. There is a simple general answer to both your questions. Of course to refine these things takes time, experience and feel (practice).

To hit a fade of any kind (right-handed example) the club head must be travelling to the left of where the clubface is looking when the ball leaves. Aligning your body to the left of your target to some degree, therefore, is a good place to start.

To develop a slower tempo is easy if you can remember to focus on one thing when you practice it: keep your hands very relaxed (almost, but not quite, to the point where the club can move in your hands during the swing). If your hands are relaxed it is impossible to swing too quickly.

Actually being able to do either of these things is contingent upon feel. I hope this answers your question and gives you some food for thought. Thanks for visiting MB

Rules, Etiquette and Procedures > What are the "stroke holes" on the scorecard?

November 9, 2000


Since I am not a good golfer and just play for fun I have never established a handicap. I am curious though, how the "per hole" handicap numbers printed on score cards are used. I'm more concerned with improving my own game than I am with how I play against others so this may not really matter. I was just wondering. Thanks.

Dave Kline
Omaha, NE


Good question, Dave. The holes are ranked by difficulty (usually based on the scores turned in or by the rating body that assesses the course). You'll notice that for 18 hole courses all the odd numbers are on the front nine and the even numbers are on the back nine (or vice versa) usually. Besides ranking a hole by difficulty the numbers are used to determine which holes a player will receive strokes on in match play situations.

Simplified example: You and I are playing a match. Let's say your handicap is 1 and mine is 0. The 5th hole is ranked #1 in difficulty on the scorecard. That is where you will receive your 1 stroke.

Thanks for your question and for visiting MB

Long Game > General > Hitting the ground before the ball

November 8, 2000


At almost every tee shot, I never seem to make good contact with the ball, likewise on the fairways. I take practice swings before the shot and feel confident about my swing, but when I go up to the ball I always seem to hit the ground a couple of inches before I hit the ball. Is there a reason why I'm doing this? Can you give me advice or a drill?

Toronto, Ontario, Canada


Hi Darryl, thanks for your question. There is a very common problem among golfers called "hacking." Not to be facetious, but the bottom line is that you are applying too much force with your arms and/or hands too early in the downswing (trying to hit it hard?). The result is that the club reaches the bottom of the swing too soon, or behind the ball, causing the ground-before-ball contact. If you would let your weight shift naturally over onto your front foot and allow your arms and the club to swing down more passively (swinging instead of hacking) the club wouldn't reach the bottom of its arc until your weight was well onto your front foot and would more often hit the ball before the ground.

It's very common for people to make a nice practice swing and then do what you've described when they swing at the ball. In the practice swing there is no outcome to worry about and the player can easily pay attention to what they're feeling. But when swinging at the ball the outcome is so paramount in most people's minds that all sense of feel is completely gone and replaced with anxiety about the result (i.e., trying to steer the club, trying to hit it hard, and so on).

Actually that is one of the biggest differences between a highly skilled player and an average player: the ability to feel what is happening during the swing.

I hope this helps you to understand what you're doing and gives you some food for thought. Thanks for visiting MB

Miscellaneous > Golf course-related > Hole yardage recommendations

November 7, 2000


I have to design a golf course for my golf class and I need to know what are the criteria for Par 3's, 4's and 5's. I have never played golf so I have no idea where to start. This is for the mid-term so it is really important. I have been searching the Internet but nothing is quite what I need so I hope I am not wasting your time.

Chae Pair
Stephenville, TX


Thanks for your question, Chae. I've got an answer that may help you. I hope it's not too late for your assignment. The USGA recommends that par 3's be up to 250 yards for men and 210 yards for women, par 4's from 251 - 470 yards for men and 211 - 400 for women, par 5's from 471 - 575 yards for men and 401 - 575 for women, par 6's (very rare) over 576 yards

I hope this helps you with your assignment. Thanks again for your question and for visiting MB

Note: You may notice that in some cases there are holes that fall outside (usually longer than) these recommendations. It is sometimes done on downhill or downwind holes, or on holes that have playing characteristics that make the hole seem shorter. I remember for years the 10th hole at Augusta National Golf Club, where the Masters is held, was 485 yards, par 4 and the 13th hole was 465 yards, par 5 -- because of the downhill fairway number 10 plays shorter than number 13. Again, these are recommendations, not rules of golf. And with the distances being achieved by players lately these recommendations may be revised at some point.

Equipment > Matching club speed to shaft flex

November 5, 2000


I am curious about the relation between a golfer's swing speed to the choice of shaft flex that he/she must use. I'm male and swing my driver around 95 mph on average, so how would that translate to choosing the correct shaft flex for me? A local pro shop said it's ok to use regular steel shaft, but would recommend a firm graphite shaft.

Melbourne, Victoria, Australia


Thanks for your question, Rianto. Measurements of swing speed can vary dramatically depending on what device you're using to measure it. Also, the material a shaft is made out of can influence the recommendations (i.e, some types graphite are high in torque and therefore play softer than they measure on a frequency analyzer).

I'm sorry I can't get much more specific than that for you, as I'm not the one measuring or seeing your swing and I don't know which type of graphite you're referring to. If your swing is actually 95 mph with a driver then a regular shaft would be fine. I recommend getting an opinion from someone there in your area in person (always get fitted in person by a reputable professional with club fitting expertise). Also, once you have decided on a flex consider getting your clubs "frequency matched" so they perform more consistently throughout your bag.

Thanks for your question and for visiting MB

Long Game > General > "Strong" top of swing

November 2, 2000


I always here that Tiger Woods has a very strong "top of the swing" or that at the top of his swing he is very sturdy. What are they talking about? And how can I be that strong at the top of my swing?

Tuscola, IL


Good question, Austin. They are referring to his position, balance and preparedness for the downswing at the top of his backswing. The components are:
  • Weight coiled back into right hip joint ready to fire in the opposite direction
  • Shoulders fully turned
  • Arms still connected with torso
  • Club has set in the hands on the correct plane and is well supported
Basically he is doing everything right -- well-balanced and very athletic. These expressions you're hearing may also be referring to the fact that his hand set is solid as opposed to loose or flippy. All this is why he has a "strong top of the swing." You know, if you can get from address to the top of the backswing correctly the downswing will almost happen by itself.

To answer the last part of your question regarding how you can be that strong: maintain a high level of strength/flexibility and work on your backswing technique with a qualified professional in your area (or come out to Northern California for a visit and take one of my golf schools or see me for some lessons). Once you understand the components in detail it will be a matter of developing them into habits.

Thanks for your question and for visiting MB

Long Game > General > Cold weather and less distance

October 30, 2000


Will the cold winter season here in England affect the distance I hit the golf ball? I use Titleist Professionals and was wondering whether it would be advantageous to change to say an HP Tour or some other similar ball.

Christian Dean
Leicestershire, UK


Hi Christian, thanks for your question. Yes, the cold weather will influence your distance, maybe significantly. One reason is that in colder temperatures your muscles are also colder and do not contract as quickly, nor do they go through as full a range of motion. The compression of the ball should only matter down below 45 or 50 degrees Farenheit (7-10 C). Any solid center ball with a relatively soft cover should perform well in any conditions, but you might experiment with a 90 compression ball to see if it feels better.

Thanks for your question and for visiting MB

Long Game > Irons > Fairway bunker shots

October 25, 2000


What is the best way to play a long distance shot from a bunker? I find myself always taking too much sand and end up playing a full blooded shot only 20 meters. Standing further from the ball seems to help but can often ends up in hitting the ball thin.

Gary Worms
Rheinland-Pfalz, Germany


Thanks for your question, Gary. I assume your talking about a fairway bunker shot where you need distance. The priority here is to make contact with the ball before the sand. (And in that case thin is better than fat!) There are a couple things you can do to improve your chances of contacting the ball first:
  1. choke down on the club about 1-2 inches (3-5 cm)
  2. move the ball back in your stance about the width of one or two balls, depending on the situation
  3. take more club and keep your posture and lower body very steady (don't attempt to make much of a weight shift - it's mostly a shoulder and arm swing)
All of these things should help, but the bottom line is you need to spend some time developing confidence in your ability to make good contact with the ball in the bunker. There's no substitute for getting in the bunker and having at it. smile

I hope this answers your question. Thanks for visiting MB

Long Game > Woods > Hitting a rising shot

October 24, 2000


I just started playing golf this year, so I've been paying attention to how some of the more experienced weekend warriors play. I've noticed that some guys have the ability on a tee shot to send the ball out very low and make it continue to curve upward as far out as 200-225 yards until it starts to fall downward. Due to the balls continuous rise so far out it tends to help them a lot on long straight fairways. Is there anyway that you can explain how this is done? Because they can't ... or they're just not telling.

Mark Groves
Chicago, IL


Hi Mark, thanks for your question. That shot shape is just the result of good compression and backspin. Any shot that has sufficient backspin will rise to some degree. With the longer clubs it's more noticeable, as they take off on a lower trajectory. As your swing improves and your contact becomes more square and solid this will happen to you at times also. This really isn't the ideal shot shape for a tee shot in most cases, though. It indicates perhaps too much backspin (maybe even a bit of a descending blow through impact). If the ball rises and lands softly it won't roll very far -- maybe that's what you want, maybe not -- depends on the situation.

In any case, it's not like you're going to be able to do it at will so I wouldn't recommend working on it. You can get a similar end result just by hitting a fade.

Hope this answers your question. Thanks for visiting MB

Long Game > Irons > Divot depth question from a junior player

October 20, 2000


I do not know if I should have deep divots or shallow divots. Because I usally hit shallow divots is it good or bad for my age? I am only 10.

Jackson Webb
Melbourne, Victoria, Australia


Thanks for your question, Jackson. Any divot at all is pretty good news for 10 years old, but shallow is just fine. It's also important to make sure you're contacting the ball first instead of the ground, but you will refine that with time and experience.

Keep up the good work. Thanks again for your question and for visiting MB

Long Game > Woods > Use of lead tape to correct ball flight

October 19, 2000


I was thinking about trying lead tape to help with my ball flight. However, I have gotten different answers on where to apply the tape. To help with a push, fade or slice do you place the tape at the toe or heel? Some say the toe, others say the heel! The instructions on the tape itself says the toe. Which is it and why would there be different opinions on where to place the tape. Also do you believe using lead tape can actually be beneficial to a ball flight. Thanks for your help.

Rick Moncrief
Murfreesboro, TN


Hi Rick, and thanks for your question. Adding lead tape to your clubs will not have a big impact unless it is a big amount of lead tape. If every swing was the same in order to attempt to reduce a fade the weight would be added nearer the heel. To attempt to reduce a draw add weight toward the toe, add tape on top to try to lower the trajectory and on the bottom to try to hit it higher (of course the shaft stiffness, torque, etc. will also factor in greatly). Note added in 2006: Of course, nowdays it's pretty easy to see if there's any effect on ball flight from adding the tape with a performance analyzer of some kind.

There might be differing opinions because of differing amounts of understanding. The bottom line is that developing your technique and feel will have far more impact than adding weight to your club. Don't expect too much from lead tape. I would recommend focusing your time on lessons and practice unless there is a BIG problem with your clubs' swing weight and you have been told as much by a reputable professional or clubmaker in your area.

I hope this helps you. Thanks for your question and for visiting MB

Long Game > Irons > Creating backspin

October 18, 2000


I am a low handicapper and I want to know how to put backspin on the ball.

Evan Talty
Ennis, Clare, Ireland


A popular question, to be sure, Evan. Lots of people have asked this same question. See my FAQ on backspin.

Thanks for your question and for visiting MB

Equipment > Seeking advice on buying clubs

October 16, 2000


I am 54 years old, 6' 1" tall, 195 pounds, just getting started in golf and would like some hints on buying a set of clubs.

Cedar Rapids, IA


Thanks for your question, Roger. My simplest advice would be to check with a good clubfitter or professional in your area. They know what to do to fit you properly for a set of clubs, and without seeing you in action your height and weight really don't mean much alone.

As a beginner your clubs aren't the most important thing to worry about. Learning the feel of the right technique is a lot more important (I hope you are taking lessons from a reputable professional in your area that you feel good about working with and can understand).

One other consideration is that until your skill level increases a bit (say a handicap less than 20) you don't really even need a "full" set of clubs (i.e., you wouldn't be able to tell the difference between a 5 or 6 iron anyway). You could save a bit of money and make deciding which club to use in any given situation easier by just getting a half set of clubs (3,5,7,9, and SW for the irons, a 3 wood and a putter). Once your swing is at the point where it repeats pretty consistently and you feel your skill level warrants it you can go ahead and get fit for a full set.

I hope this helps get you started in the right direction. Thanks for your question and for visiting MB

Miscellaneous > Other > Going from the range to the course

October 10, 2000


I'm very young, 12 to be exact. I do well when I'm taking a lesson, but I can't do as well on the golf course. I try to focus, but it doesn't help. Please help.

Mark Antonio
Snow Village, NE


Hi, Mark. Everything will work out fine, you'll just have to be a little bit patient (which I know is kind of hard the younger you are).

There are some pretty straight forward reasons why people have difficulty transferring their success on the range and during lessons onto the course:
  • When you're at the range you get to hit many shots in succession, which creates a very quick (short term memory) feedback loop and makes your "feel" better. When you're on the golf course there is so much waiting between shots that, unless your swing is totally engrained (habit), it is impossible to duplicate the range experience. Again, time and patience is the answer - eventually your swing will be more grooved and your game will be more automatic.

  • Also, during lessons you are getting input and assistance (feedback and corrections) with your swing which you don't get out on the course.
Keep learning and improving and all will be well. Sorry I don't have a "magic pill" for you, but at least everybody has to go through this on their golf journey, so you're not alone. smile

I hope this eases your mind a bit. Thanks for your question and for visiting MB

Long Game > General > Amount of knee flex in the stance

October 8, 2000


My question is about stance. I feel unsure about how much to bend my knees. I feel comfortable with my stance, but it seems like I have more knee bend than many pro's I've seen on TV. So I worry about it and am never really sure of it. Is there an "ideal" position, and how can I "feel it" to know I'm setting up well (since I obviously can't really see it). Thanks!

Walnut Creek, CA


Hi John, good question. Ah, but you CAN see yourself, which is exactly what I'd like you to do:

Use a mirror to check your posture from a side view (as if you were looking from down the target line). As a general rule, for most people, unless you have VERY long (like me) or short legs here's the ideal model
  1. If your spine is bent forward at the correct angle your arms should be able to hang (with gravity) to a position about the width of a fist away from your legs

  2. Try to get your knees directly above the middle of your feet, maybe as far forward as the balls of your feet, but no farther
There are shades of gray in this, as everybody's physique is a little different, but this fits most people.

I hope this helps. Since you're local feel free to come by sometime when I'm at the course if this isn't clear and I'll demonstrate. Thanks for your question and for visiting MB

Rules, Etiquette and Procedures > Lost Ball or what?

October 5, 2000


Could you please help with a question on an incident that happened this weekend:

Two of our players hit their tee shots in the same general direction on a par four. Player X was riding and player Y was walking in the foursome. Before the player Y could get to the ball location player X hit what he thought was his ball. Player Y thinking his ball was lost dropped and hit a provisional (as weekend play/time does not permit to go back to orginal spot to rehit lost ball) that was short of the green so he hit that provisional again putting up on the green. When all players were preparing to putt player Y discovered player X had hit his ball as he had suspected. He wanted to go back to the spot where his second shot would have been but the foursome disputed that since he had hit the provisional twice and that for all intents and purposes the provisional was the ball in play and the original was declared not in play. Is this true or what is the proper ruling? Appreciate your help. Thanks.

Rene Duron
El Paso, TX


Hi, Rene. First of all, once you alter the rules (i.e., once you don't go back and hit another ball or play a provisional ball from the original spot) everything is out the window, formally. But I totally understand that there's not time for all that in the real world of informal play.

The only thing I can say after that is that "equity" should reign, meaning that whatever is fair or right should prevail. It sounds like you had a difference of opinion as to what was right in this situation. But the person who originally hit the wrong ball is at fault. If you're playing match play (by the hole) they lose the hole no matter what happened after that -- it doesn't matter WHAT you did, they lose the hole -- period. In stroke play (total strokes) that player must correct his mistake (go back and play the correct ball, WITH a two stroke penalty) or be disqualified. In your informal situation, perhaps a fistfight smile JUST KIDDING! Let me have a little fun...

Regarding your ball in play, of course the right thing to do was to go back and replay the ball from where it originally lay, but again time constraints in the real world make that unlikely.

Here's the rule at the USGA -

I hope this helps. Thanks for your question and for visiting MB

Miscellaneous > Professional golf-related > What do I need to get into Q-School?

September 29, 2000


What do I need to do to get into "Q" school? I play on average 4 under par per 18 holes. I'm 24 now and want to start a career in golf before I'm too old. Do you have info?

Robert J. Klein
Akron, OH


Sounds like you're playing great, Robert. Try this URL.

Let 'er rip and best of luck! Thanks for visiting MB

Long Game > General > Clear hips or use hands?

September 15, 2000


Is it really crucial to start the downswing by clearing the lower body, i.e hips, as I get more consistency with my shots by pulling the club from the top with my hands? I have been playing the game for about 10 years (handicap 13) and have tried both swings.

Subang Jaya, Selangor, Malaysia


Thanks for your question, Zulkifli. I guess it's not that crucial if you aren't doing it and your handicap is as low as 13. Perhaps you are doing it and don't know it -- without seeing you I couldn't say. But the main point is that you are much more used to the "arms" method and comfortable with it. So, of course, it will work better for you right now. A more connected, body oriented swing, where the arms are more neutral or passive, is mechanically a more reliable and consistent system to use, but the price you'd have to pay is the period of time it would take to adapt to, and perfect, a new system.

Since you've been playing for 10 years already and seem to be comfortable with the level you've attained perhaps it would be best to "not fix it if it isn't broken," so to speak (meaning, keep playing the way you are if you're happy with your results).

I hope this answers your question. Thanks for visiting MB

Long Game > General > What speed to swing

September 10, 2000


I just got a job at a driving range so I'm trying to figure out how to make my endless practice that I will have access to as efficient as possible. My problem is when I take my pitching wedge (47 degree) I can tap it 90 yds, I can 3/4 swing it 115 yds, an easy full swing goes 125, a full swing with a little punch goes 145, and with a real blast I can get it 155 yards. So what do I practice? What swing do I use, and should the same swing yield even yardage increments for the rest of my irons?

Riverside, California


Well, that's quite a range for a wedge, Elijah. Former tour player Mac O'Grady had various speeds that he used to create different distances with different clubs. But from my point of view, unless you have years to practice and refine a technique like this, I would try to find perhaps two speeds:
  • standard - somewhere between 70-80% of your maximum capability, which you can groove and "find" over and over again

  • turbo - all out (without losing your balance and blurring your vision smile), for only the most desperate of circumstances (deep rough, over tall trees, etc.). Anything more than that is probably asking too much.
The bottom line here is whatever club you're using be able to control the distance that it goes and repeat it. And yes, your clubs should provide you with relatively even yardage increments (somewhere between 10-12 yards between clubs for most men).

I hope this helps - best of luck. Thanks for your question and for visiting MB

Long Game > Irons > Club distances, how far they should go

September 4, 2000


What's the average yardage for all the clubs (irons, wedges and woods)? I'm just starting and I don't know if my distance is OK.

Ricardo Chavez
Monterrey, Nuevo Leon, Mexico


Hola Ricardo, thanks for your question. Since you didn't say anything about your age, or size, or level of fitness I'm going to give you some very general ideas about distances with different clubs for an average male (5' 10"/177 cm and 150 lbs/68 kg). You can adjust to fit yourself from there. Keep in mind these are generalizations. Many other factors contribute as well.

I would say most average men would be able to hit a standard 9 iron about 100-130 yards (91-119 meters), a 5 iron somewhere between 150-175 yards (137-160 meters), and a 3 wood somewhere between 195-225 yards (178-205 meters). There should probably be approximately 10 yards difference between irons. These are rough estimates based on what I have seen over the last 20 years or so. You could be hitting them farther, of course, if you are bigger, stronger, very fit or athletic, have ideal equipment, and so on.

I hope this gives you what you were looking for. Thanks for your question and for visiting MB

Long Game > Irons > Should I hit the ground?

August 28, 2000


When I am on the practice tee, I notice that I tend to "hit the mat" fairly hard every time (when swinging a 7 iron). That is to say, I'm not picking off the ball cleanly when I'm on the practice tee.

Do you see that as a problem which I should be concerned about? It doesn't seem to inhibit the accuracy of my shot, but I'm wondering if it is effecting my distance, and whether or not it will be carried forward to when I'm playing on the course. Thanks.

Jerome Tarantola
Pleasant Hill, CA


Thanks for your question, Jerome. Actually hitting the ground firmly with your 7 iron is a good thing. Iron shots are supposed to be struck with a divot after the ball. Check out my iron game tip.

Having said that, if you are thumping the mat behind the ball, that is a problem (and one it is sometimes difficult to discern from the range mats for inexperienced players). Try hitting some iron shots from the grass after reading the tip mentioned above. As long as you're contacting the ground first and your divots aren't "craters" you're doing fine.

Hope this helps. Thanks for your question and for visiting MB

Long Game > Irons > Iron shots too high

August 27, 2000


I have recently resumed playing after a 28-year hiatus. Actually, I'm hitting the ball suprisingly well. However, while I am hitting irons crisply, and straight (for the most part), they go sky high. I think this is called hitting them "thin." How can I get flatter shots, with more distance? Thank you.

John Brejot
Houston, TX


Thanks for your question, John. 28 years! Welcome back - good for you.

It sounds like you're hitting the ball solidly. Hitting it "thin" is when you contact the ball down low on the face, below the sweet spot (it has that clunky sound and that hard vibration in your hands ... the ultimate in hitting it thin is topping the ball). The reason for your problem could be a couple things:
  1. If you are using clubs that are more recent than from 28 years ago most of the more modern club heads have a lower center of gravity. Also, many modern shafts are designed with a lower kick point. Both of these things contribute to the ball going higher (and perhaps a bit farther also).

  2. It's also possible that your hands are not ahead of the ball at impact. (You can get away with this if you are noting only your good results from good lies or off a tee.) For instance, are you able to strike the ball solidly from a tighter lie, say, a lie where there isn't a lot of air underneath the ball (e.g., tightly mown fairway, dirt or hardpan, fairway bunker, etc.)?
Check out my iron game tip. If you find that you do actually have your hands ahead of the ball at impact and that you are striking the ball solidly, with your divots after the ball, then you might want to consider getting a different style of club and/or shaft (i.e., a clubhead with a higher center of gravity and/or a shaft with less flex and a higher kick point). A good clubmaker will be able to help you with this.

Hope this helps. Thanks for your question and for visiting MB

Miscellaneous > Other > Lowest to highest handicap

August 25, 2000


I've only starting golfing last year but have kept all my cards so that I can see how well I'm doing. My question is, what is the lowest to the highest rating for a handicap? I know all golfers differ. Does the rating start at 0 being the lowest and proceed to 100 the highest? (Which would mean that the lower your handicap the better you are??)

Susan MacKenzie
Richmond, British Columbia, Canada


Hi Susan, thanks for your question. To get the full scoop on handicaps check out my handicap page. You've got the most important part right, though - absolutely the lower the better, which answers the last part of your question.

Actually, there are numbers with a plus sign (+) in front of them for players that are so highly skilled that they average under par (or the course rating). So the answer to the second part is no, the range is not from 0 to 100. A more likely range is somewhere between +5 or +6, on the low end of handicaps, on up to:

"The maximum USGA Handicap Index is 36.4 for men and 40.4 for women."

Hope this clears it up for you a bit. I know a lot of people probably wonder about handicaps. So thanks again for your question and for visiting MB

Long Game > General > Dropping shoulder at address

August 24, 2000


I have a tendancy to drop my right shoulder when setting up to the ball, can you give me any good drills that can help me square up my body?

Seattle, WA


Hi, Matt. Thanks for your question. Sure, I've got a couple suggestions that might help:

First of all (I'm assuming you're right-handed) keep in mind that since your right hand is lower on the club than your left, your right shoulder actually should be lower than your left - at least a bit. (See if you can find some face-on views of various tour players at address, books, magazines, whatever - you will see this)

Having said that, I recommend checking out your set up in a mirror (or on videotape if you must - a mirror is better, and more immediate, feedback for this). Look for an excessive tilt to the right in your spine angle. You should be relatively straight up and down from the face-on view (a very small tilt to the right is OK). Check to see if your nose is in line with your belt buckle, the middle of your feet, etc. You should be able to see in the mirror whether or not anything is severly out of whack.

If you still have a problem after working with the mirror I can only recommend getting a lesson from a reputable pro in your area.

Thanks for your question and for visiting MB

Miscellaneous > Professional golf-related > What it takes to become a professional

August 22, 2000


I am considering becoming a professional golf player but don't know how to go about it. I'm 15 years of age and am O.K. at the moment. If I work on my game can I make it?

Keith Parker
Somerset, Somerset, England


Thanks for your tough question, Keith. I hope my advice is helpful to you.

Competition is extreme in professional golf. When you combine egos and the amount of prize money available nowadays everybody who is anybody is scratching and clawing to get to the top. Your desire must be fierce.

If that is in place then do your best to get into college golf. Perhaps even consider coming to the U.S. to play college golf (many have), as the level of competition and depth of field are acknowledged as the highest available. College competition is great preparation these days for success in professional golf.

Finally, my general advice for developing your skills would be to refine all areas of your game to be as mechanically simple as possible. The less complications there are with your mechanics the more consistent you are likely to be. And you are more likely to reach your highest possible level of skill because you will be able to focus more of your attention where it should be when you trust your mechanics.

If your desire is fierce, the rest will likely follow. Champions tend to do whatever is necessary to succeed. I hope this helps. Please continue to seek advice from experienced professionals.

Thanks for your question and for visiting MB

Short Game > Should I get a lob wedge?

August 19, 2000


I'm not sure whether you have played in Australia before, MB, but at all public courses the greens are fairly inconsistent. They are either fast or slow or nothing at all, and when I am close to the green I don't know whether to pull out a sand or pitching wedge. So, basically my question to you is would it be worth buying a lob wedge to help my game, and what are their advantages and disadvantages?

P.S. I'm only 15, so does that make a difference?

Melbourne, Victoria, Australia


Hi Johathon, thanks for your question (and my answer would be the same even if you were 115 smile):

I have NOT played at all in Australia (never been there, but I'm looking forward to visiting in the future - I've always wanted to). A lob wedge is a great club to have in your bag - comes in real handy for all the soft shots around the green. Having said that, however, a chip and run is a much more reliable and commonly used shot. See my short game tip.

So, yep, get yourself a lob wedge and learn how to hit both high soft shots and low spinning and/or running shots with it. Then master the chip and run shot with a pitching wedge or nine iron and a 6 or 7 iron. That will start you on your way to having a masterful short game.

Thanks for your question and for visiting MB

Long Game > Woods > Slicing problem

August 16, 2000


I have a severe slice off the tee and can't seem to eliminate the problem. I get good contact with the ball which will start off down the left side of the fairway and end up way to the right sometimes very far right. Help!!!!

Patrick Fox
San Antonio, TX


Well Patrick, it appears that the slicers abound this month (or is that every month? smile) I received many questions that were almost identical to this one - close enough so that the answers are all the same. Mr. Chad Crawford of Lockhaven, PA, Alan from Vineland, NJ ... the list goes on.

Slicers, read my response to Mr. Brett Davis of Camebridge, Ohio further down the page. He had a very similar question. See also my FAQ on slicing. It looks like I'm going to have to finish that article on curing the slice, pronto ... and I will post it soon -- promise.

Thanks for your question and for visiting MB

Long Game > General > Junior mysteriously can't swing from one day to the next

August 14, 2000


I am 14 years old and up to about 7 or 8 days ago I was shooting low 80's and high 70's, but just the next day after that I couldn't hit a ball! I usually overswing and now I can't even get to parallel. The whole swing feels weird and different. Please help.

Laredo, TX


Wow Andrew, did you injure yourself or something? It sounds like you need a witch doctor. smile

Actually I wouldn't worry about it, sounds like a temporary "brain cramp" or something. My first recommendation would be to remain calm, then just go to the range for some smooth short irons (don't press). All will return to normal soon.

You might also consider getting a lesson from a reputable pro in your area. Since I'm not seeing you in person it is difficult to make a worthy analysis.

Best of luck. Thanks for your question and for visiting MB

Long Game > General > Chicken wing

August 9, 2000


With my woods I am pulling my left arm in towards my body and my swing is outside in. It seems as though I am bending my left arm on my downswing, chicken wing. What can I do to break the habit?

Don Ingalls
Naperville, IL


Good question, Don - a common problem for sure. It sounds like you are "hacking," to be sarcastic. smile What I mean by that is you are applying force to the golf club very early in the downswing with your arms and probably your hands too (perhaps trying to hit it hard?). When your arms push faster than your body turns something's got to give: your left elbow in this case. With your body still "in the way" the club has to go outside-in and your left arm can't continue to swing, so it folds, elbow out, into the "chicken wing" position.

The quickest solution I can suggest without working with you in person is to make sure that your body is leading the downswing and your arms are following your body (swinging). Try this sequence slowly and smoothly to see if you can get the right feeling:
  1. Downswing starts by shifting weight from right foot to left
  2. Arms are more or less "falling" at the beginning of the downswing
  3. Left side of body is clearing out of the way as you turn through impact
  4. Arms are swinging what feels like a little out to the right as you pass the ball (feels inside-out compared to what you're used to)
If you do this both of your arms will be free to swing, you will get better extension on your follow-through and your left arm will not fold until much later in the finish, probably or ideally folding with the elbow oriented more down toward the body rather than out.

Give this a try and let me know how it works. Thanks for your question and visiting MB

Mental Game > Lose focus on course

August 4, 2000


I have the game to score low (around even) but I can't seem to concentrate much while on the course. My instructor says "I can go under par" but on the course I just can't get in a groove and concentrate much at all. Any suggestions?

Lenexa, KS


Well Andy, you didn't mention your age, but I assume you are fairly young. Fear not, time and experience will help with learning how to concentrate. Also see my tips on the mental game. Best of luck -- stick with it.

Thanks for your question and for visiting MB

Equipment > To get new clubs or used clubs

July 25, 2000


I've played quite a bit and now it is time to get my own clubs. I am hoping that alone will improve my consistency significantly. I have been shopping and was wondering about your take on new vs. used, brand name vs. custom, perimeter weighted, etc. I would say I am still relatively a beginner but have some knowledge and instruction behind me. I have been looking at used clubs, perimeter weighted like Callaway or Cobra Gravity Backs. Also, if I go with used clubs, how important is the club length, swing weight, lie, etc.? Thanks a lot.

Mark Noble
Houston, TX


Realistically, don't expect the clubs to make that much difference in your consistency, Mark. It is much more a function of your mechanics and feel (equipment only helps if you're making the RIGHT swing and getting a bad result, it won't help if you're making the wrong swing and getting a bad result).

With that said, my recommendation would be to go with new equipment unless cost was the overriding factor. It would be a rare occurence indeed to find used clubs that fit you well in all areas. The big factors are club length, lie angle, shaft flex, swing weight and grip size. Beyond that clubs are kind of personal preference, and most name brand clubs are of pretty good quality these days - even many "knock-offs" are fine (especially if they are custom fit and made by somebody who knows what they are doing). It's more important that you LIKE the look and feel of your clubs than that they have some "secret feature" that will all-of-a-sudden take 7 strokes off your score (though marketing people might not like that point of view). smile

Hope this helps. Thanks for your question and for visiting MB

Miscellaneous > Other > Club length for taller player & how to "club" another player

July 22, 2000


I am 6' 2" and I feel the clubs I have at the moment are too small, as I have to bend my knees and back more than needed. When I go to a golf shop all the clubs I try are the same, how can I get clubs to fit me? Also, I am a junior caddie and how do I get club selection right for a person who I have never met and know nothing about?

Prestwick, Ayrshire Scotland


There should be a good club fitter and/or golf professional in your area that can help with getting clubs that are right for you (though, in most cases, even tall people don't really need clubs that are much longer because their arms are also longer). The lie angles might be the problem (the clubs may be too flat for you).

I am 6' 5" and my clubs are only 3/4" longer than modern standard, which isn't much considering my height (and the fact that a lot of my height is in my legs). Again, a good clubfitter or golf professional in your area should be able to fit you properly.

On the matter of selecting the proper club for somebody you have never seen before, my first recommendation would be to stick to suggesting distances rather than clubs (meters or yards to carry and/or run the ball, and the trajectory you're looking for rather than which club they should use).

Secondly, you should watch them hit some warm-up shots before the round - that will give you a much better idea of their capabilities.

Finally, time and experience will serve you well. Be patient and observant and you will be great at it before you know it.

Best of luck. Thanks for your question and for visiting MB

Long Game > General > Trying to draw the ball and having trouble

July 17, 2000


I am trying to learn to draw the ball but I can't do it to well. I'm not sure if I'm setting up correctly (left foot forward, aim right, close the face a bit) - they go straight or fade off to the right...? Thanks.

Newton, NH


Well, Don you've got the right idea, generally. Now you just need to make sure that you don't open the face through impact. In order to impart the necessary counterclockwise spin to the ball the clubface must remain square to the target line (not open) as you swing out to the right a bit. It takes a while to get the feel of it.

Best of luck. Thanks for your question and for visiting MB

Long Game > Irons > Backspin again

July 7, 2000


I tend to roll over the green. How can I get backspin on the ball?

Dwayne Meeks
Heber, UT


Greens a bit firm in Utah are they, Dwayne? smile Just teasing - good question. A lot of people wonder about this. The truth is that all full shots that get airborne have backspin on them - it's just a question of how much backspin. First the long answer:

  1. One factor is the type of golf ball you use.

    All other factors being equal, the softer the cover of the ball the more you can make it spin. This is usually a good thing for highly skilled players, as the shape of the shot and behavior of the ball can be manipulated more easily. However, for players with less skill this is perhaps a liability, as curving shots (i.e., a slice) will likely go even further off line, softer balls are generally fragile (easily ruined by one bad shot), expensive (and since they don't last very long this adds up quickly), and don't go quite as far. A good happy medium is a two-piece ball with a fairly soft cover. Most manufacturers make a variety of balls like this. Check in the pro shop here.
  2. Another factor would be the firmness of the green. Obviously the harder and less receptive the green the more difficult it is to stop the ball quickly when it lands.
  3. The main factor is the quality of contact made with the ball. If you contact the ball reasonably well (ball before the ground ... divot after the ball) and the ball gets airborne and lands on the green I don't care what kind of ball you're using; it's gonna have to be a really firm green to keep that kind of shot from holding (like U.S. Open greens on Sunday).

    Many higher handicap players that have trouble stopping the ball on the green hit the ball "fat" or scrape the ground before striking the ball. This greatly decreases the spin making the shot less likely to hold well. See my tip for more.
So, now the short answer: Strike the ball solidly and land it on the green. If it doesn't hold perhaps your greens are a bit firm (better learn how to run the ball like in Scotland or Texas ... or start squawking at your maintenance crew smile).

See also my FAQ on backspin. Hope this helps. Thanks for your question and for visiting MB

Mental Game > Trouble hitting tee shots on tight holes

July 2, 2000


I am fairly consistent with a driver off of the tee. Most of the time I will hit a high fade. On open holes, about 90% of the time I can put it in the middle of the fairway, but when the holes have trouble or are tight I usually hit it to the trouble area. I would like to know if you have any tips to keep my mental game in check even on the tighter or more troubesome holes? Thanks.

Georgetown, KY


I know what you mean, Matt - exactly. A two part answer is in order:

  1. First of all you would be smart to develop a "bread and butter" shot for exactly this situation (e.g., Tiger Woods plays that knock down 2-iron or 3-wood on holes that are tight or where the fairway runs out). Having a shot like this in your bag takes the pressure off having to hit a "perfect" shot. Now the only mental part is being smart enough to know when to use it. smile
  2. If it does boil down to the perfect shot all I can suggest is to focus as much of your attention as possible on what you DO want to happen, rather than considering what you do NOT want to happen (see this tip).

    To me, it's easier to have a shot for the situation.
Hope this helps. Thanks for your question and for visiting MB

Long Game > General > How to find and maintain tempo

June 30, 2000


What is the best practice to maintain a consistent tempo? I'm told over and over that my tempo is my biggest problem. Thanks.

TJ Tan
Las Vegas, NV


Great question, TJ. Lots of golfers could learn from this: Tempo is a feeling you will learn and is different for each individual. It has to do with your physique and personality. The most important thing you can do to "find" your rhythm is to make sure your hands are relaxed enough on the club to sense the weight of the clubhead throughout the swing (not so loose as to allow the club to move in your hands, but definitely do not squeeze on the club tightly). If you can't feel the clubhead you won't find your rhythm.

Hope this gets you started in the right direction. Thanks for your question and for visiting MB

Long Game > Irons > Pulling the short irons

June 27, 2000


I fade the 3 iron, but hit the 4-7 pretty good. My problem is the 8-Gap Wedge. I pull them LEFT and since I am so used to playing for the fade I usually miss the green. Should I consider making the lie flatter on these clubs to encourage a fade? I also notice that I hit these clubs higher, so I think they are too upright.

Jim Baughman
Williston, SC


Well Jim, you can have the lie angles checked and adjusted if necessary, but that will probably not be the answer. Without seeing you hit those irons I can't be certain, but it sounds like your hands might be more invloved (or working more actively) with your short irons (not uncommon, they're shorter clubs and more easily manipulated). I addition to checking your alignment you might try working on hitting those irons lower (getting your hands farther ahead of the ball at impact), especially if you also have a tendency to hit the ball fat sometimes. See also the FAQ about shanking to help with an over the top path.

Thanks for your question and for visiting MB

Short Game > Why do golfers take off their glove before they putt?

June 20, 2000


Why do golfers take off their glove before they putt?

Puyallup, WA


Most golfers that wear gloves take them off before putting, and also before chipping, because getting your hands directly on the club with these shorter, more sensitive shots helps with your touch. A notable exception would be the (arguably) greatest player of all-time, Jack Nicklaus.

Thanks for your question and for visiting MB

Miscellaneous > Other > Lie angles & problem mid-long irons

June 13, 2000


I play with black dot Pings. I am 6 ft. tall. When hitting my irons I often feel like the toe is digging in - like I want to be more upright than the clubs are built. How do I determine if my equipment is correct for me?

Also, I have a lot of confidence with my irons down to a 7. I can hit the ball with a small draw and solid. But when I pick up a 6 or below the wheels come off. I hit it fat, pull it, hit it on the toe, or I will hit it real low. It's very frustrating. Do you know of any tips I can work on? Additionally do you know any good teachers in Northwest Houston who are reasonably priced?

Marshall Pickett
Cypress, TX


Thanks for your question, Marshall. Sounds like you could benefit from going to a good club fitter and having them test you on a "lie board," or striking surface of some kind. They will put some tape on the sole of your club and have you swing contacting that surface. It will show the orientation of the blade through impact. From there they can adjust the lie angle if it is found to be incorrect for you. It is common for the toe to be deep through impact and quite possible that your lie angles are too flat.

Regarding part 2 (which is quite a typical problem): As the club gets longer it gets harder, plain and simple. What you CAN get away with when hitting the shorter irons you CAN'T get away with as easily on the longer clubs. Most people have this problem because they "press" or try to hit the longer clubs harder (which is an understandable instinct to have, but a bad one - it gets in the way of solid contact and having "feel" for the swing). From your description it sounds like this is exactly what the problem is. The worse you hit it, the more you press, the more things can and do go wrong. Try hitting the longer clubs more smoothly and rhythmically for a while. Don't worry about hitting them far until you can more consistently hit them solidly. If you do swing "smooth and easy" with the longer clubs I think you'll be surprised how far they'll go when you hit them in the center of the face.

I hope this gets you started in the right direction. Thanks again for your question and for visiting MB

I don't know anybody in Texas, but try here:

Miscellaneous > Other > How is a Skin Game played?

May 31, 2000


Could you please explain how a "skins" game is played?

Pete Plazony
Merrillville, IN


Thanks for your question, Pete. This one is a bit different, as most people ask about game improvement stuff.

A "skins" game is simple to explain: no matter how many players you have in a skin game nobody wins any skins unless they, alone, have the lowest score on a hole.

Example: A foursome is playing a skin game. Player A makes a bogey on the first hole and the other 3 players in the foursome make a double bogey. Player A just won a skin. On the second hole two of them make par and the two others make birdie. Nobody wins, or earns, a skin on this hole because nobody had the best score to themself.

Typically, skins are either worth a fixed amount (e.g., $1 per skin - so in the example above player A would have won a dollar on the first hole) or all players put in a fixed amount from the start (e.g., $20) and then the total "purse" ($80 if we use the foursome example above) is divided by the total number of skins won, or "out" at the end of play (to continue the foursome example, if no more skins are won on the remaining holes player A just won the only skin, worth all 80 of the dollars, and made himself a $60 profit! smile

Hope this is clear - have fun playing skins!

Long Game > General > Hooking problem

May 8, 2000


I play off a 6 handicap. I play once per week. My biggest problem is inconsistency off the tee. Because I play so infrequently, I tend to want to hit the tee ball as far as I can. Usually twice per round I'll pull hook the teeball O. B. Any tips on hitting hard without the hook?

Terrell Brown
Ponte Vedra Beach, FL


Ouch, Terrell. (Too close to home - I have almost the same problem, with the slight variation that I tend to push it for fear of hooking it.

Solution number one (for you and me both!) is to play more frequently and have enough feel to hit good tee shots more consistently. But, time being in finite supply for mortals like us, a more practical solution is perhaps two-fold:
  1. Develop a "bread and butter" shot (an intentional hard fade would be good) that you can feel comfortable being aggresive with. Many of the longer hitters (Tiger, Duval, Love, Couples, Norman to name just a few good ones) hit the ball mainly from left to right with their drivers. It's an easier shot to control with the big club.
  2. Know when to hold 'em and when to fold 'em. What I mean by this is that it's a good idea to pick and choose the holes where you use your driver. Don't just automatically reach for it any time the par on a hole is not 3. Leave it in the bag on holes where the penalty for missing is severe, the margin for error is small and the reward for hitting driver is negligible. Of course it is fun to hit it long, but there are definitely times and places for discretion rather than valor (or unnecessary recklessness).
Hope this gets you started on a system of strategically played and surgically placed tee shots ... and saves you 4 shots a round. smile Thanks for your question and for visiting MB

Long Game > General > Pulling shots

May 7, 2000


I am making good contact with just about every shot, but the shots are being pulled dead left, even my tee shots. What can I do to eliminate this?

Trev Harmon
East Syracuse, NY


Good question, Trev. Many good athletes have the same problem. You're coordinated enough to find the ball and strike it solidly, but either have a problem with alignment, the path of the club, or too much pressure with the arms early in the downswing.

The first thing you want to make sure of (if you haven't already) is that your alignment is good - not just your feet either, pay particular attention to the alignment of your shoulders. Videotape yourself or take a lesson if you have trouble determining this for yourself.

If all seems in order with your alignment you then need to start working on relaxing your arms and letting them follow the turn of your body more downard after the downswing begins rather than hitting or pushing with the arms at the beginning of the downswing, which tends to force them outward early, causing the club's path to be across to the left, or outside-in, through impact.

Best of luck to you. Since you're striking the ball so solidly it sounds like you're well on your way to success. Thanks for your question and for visiting MB

Long Game > General > Use of weighted club

May 5, 2000


What's your take on weighted clubs, doughnuts, etc?

Troy San Jose
Fremont, CA


Thanks for your question, Troy. It depends on what your purpose is. My experience with using weighted clubs or weight devices (like the weight "doughnuts" you mention) is that if you're talking about using them to loosen-up, increase your range of motion, exercise, or stretch the muscles that you use in the golf swing they are pretty effective. They will also help a beginner, who invariably has a grip that's too tight, learn to feel the club head a bit more.

On the other hand, I have noticed that they decrease my sensitivity for the club head immediately after using them, making the club feel too light and messing with my timing significantly.

That's my take, anyway. Thanks for your question and for visiting MB

Long Game > General > Hitting it to the right

May 1, 2000


I'm new to this game (4 months) and living in a golf course community - I'm 55. I took 4 lessons with the pro but still can't get any answers to help me with hitting right! When using my driver, I usually connect with the ball (this has been a big step) but I ALWAYS end up with my ball going right. ALWAYS, ALWAYS. Any tips? (Remember I have very limited experience so try and keep it simple, and as I know you are aware, I already have sooooooooooo many things to think about when I step up to my ball!) Thanks for any help you can give me.

New Port Richey, FL


Good question, Anita, lots of people want an answer to this one. Yes, I know you are overloaded with things to think about (an inevitable stage of the process early on). Without actually working with you in person I will do my best to give you a meaningful answer AND keep it simple. I'm assuming that you are right-handed. It is very common to hit the ball to the right. You're not alone. smile The most straight forward, simple thing I can convey to you is that in order for the ball to go in any particular direction the face of the club must be "looking" that way at the moment of impact (no two ways about it). The reason why your ball goes to the right is because THAT is the orientation of your clubface at impact. The simplified solution to this problem: If you don't want your ball to go to the right, don't have the face of the club looking that way at impact.

OK, how do you stop that? The problem is that you can't feel what is happening at the stage of development you're in right now because
  1. your hands are probably way too tight (don't squeeze so hard)
  2. you haven't been playing long enough to have any feel yet
  3. it's possible (I'm projecting here) that you don't have enough other similar athletic or physical experiences to draw from to make feeling the clubface easy ... the list could go on
So here's a connection you need to make (physically and mentally, visualized and felt) between the clubface and your nervous system: If your hands are in the right position on the grip your right hand is facing the same way as the clubface - your right hand IS the clubface! As an experiment, try making your right hand face to the LEFT at the moment of impact. The feedback you get from your shot will not lie to you. If you actually do this the ball will go to the left. That will be your first different feeling to compare your usual swing to. Continue to experiment and once you have had results that go both right AND left finding straight will be a whole lot easier.

Hope this helps a bit. Keep working on it, it will come. Thanks for your question and for visiting MB

Miscellaneous > Professional golf-related > Becoming a teaching professional

April 28, 2000


I am a clubmaker from central Arizona. I get great pleasure from helping my fellow golfers play a better game of golf (just the look on their faces when they hit that shot well - I mean the one they've been having trouble with for years). To know I had something to do with it is a great feeling. I'm sure you know what I mean. My question to you is, How does one know if they are good enough to teach the game to others and how does one become a professional teacher? I would love to teach at a local golf course here. I am a 6 handicap. Thanks. (I've been to Walnut Creek. Very nice there)

Dennis Andrews
Clarkdale, AZ


Thanks for your question, Dennis. It definitely sounds like your mind and heart are in the right place to be a good teacher, and playing to a 6 handicap you certainly have developed some good skills. With some education on "how to teach people," some knowledge on the mechanics of the game and some experience I'm sure you'd be a great teacher.

The truth is that anybody can call themselves a professional teacher. If you get paid for giving instruction you are a professional by definition. But to be a truly good golf instructor takes a bit more time and experience than that. I personally know people that have no credentials, nor any credibility, and teach many golf lessons simply because the golfing public doesn't know any better. (Lacking experience, how would a new golf student know the difference between a good lesson and a bad lesson? -- especially considering the fact that even a horrible golf instructor would likely have more knowledge and experience than the beginning student)

My first recommendation would be to look into becoming a member of the PGA of America . It takes time to complete the process, but that time will pass one way or another. You could either be where you are now at the end of that time (around 3 years) or you could have some meaningful credentials and experience. Since you're already a clubmaker you probably know some golf professionals in your area that you could work for. Once you've enrolled in the PGA program and are working for a golf professional you're on your way, and you can be teaching and getting experience while you're working toward your membership.

Best of luck to you. Keep me posted on your progress. Thanks again for your question and for visiting MB

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