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Ask the Pro Archive - 2009
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 2009, 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 (2009)
(most recent to least recent, top to bottom)

Long Game > General > Practice swing looks good, disaster with the ball

The Full Swing
Beyond the Basics
The Short Game
Hitting it Longer


December 30, 2009

My pratice swings are great ... all my mates tell me everything looks smooth and in control ... bloody perfect. Then I take my shot, bloody disaster. I love this game can you please help?

Gary Thompson
Sussex Inlet, New South Wales, Australia


Hi Gary,

Of course there are way too many variables and potential problems for me to even guess at what you are doing in your specific technique -- and that's not even considering that you could be doing something different every time. But for some general information in the area of translating your practice swing into execution on the course see my article "The Practice Swing Phenomenon."

It would also be very advisable for you to get some certainty about your technique. There's nothing like knowing what you are doing to get over the feeling of helplessness you are describing.

Technique is covered in detail in my books "The Full Swing", "The Short Game", "Beyond the Basics" and "Hitting it Longer".

You will also probably need to work with a reputable professional in person for analysis and correction. Thanks for visiting and best of luck with your game. MB

Long Game > General > Effect of humidity on distance


December 10, 2009

Will foggy or high humidity whether affect the distance, when you hit it with the driver?

Tony Blanco
Los Angeles, CA


Hi Tony,

Yes, certainly the temperature and humidity both affect distance to some degree, with all clubs. But whether or not there is any effect that is noticeable to you will be a function of your skill level. In my experience hot and humid = the ball goes farther; cold and humid = it goes shorter. I'm sure a physicist could give you a better explanation and perhaps a formula for calculating it, but trial and error (your own experience) is a pretty reliable way of developing a feel for it. Thanks for visiting MB

Rules, Etiquette and Procedures > Wearing earplugs or headphones when playing


November 21, 2009

Is there any rule against golfers wearing ear plugs to block distracting noise while playing golf? If not, then why don't pros who are bothered by camera clicks and crowd noise use them?

Jim Bruce
Gibsonville, NC


Hi Jim,

There's no rule against it. I remember that a PGA Tour pro named Richard Zokol used to wear headphones* while playing. There may be some players who wear earplugs, but I am not aware of any who do. It's pretty weird to swing or execute strokes with earplugs in (try it and see). Plus, you'd constantly have to take them in and out to interact with your caddy and fellow competitor's, etc. It's probably just to much of a hassle in addition to being perceptually weird.

Thanks for visiting MB

* Note: As of 2012 there appears to be a change limiting the use of headphones (Decision 14/3-17), but I still haven't heard anything about earplugs.

Miscellaneous > Other > Lowest 18-hole score ever


November 7, 2009

Who has shot the lowest score ever over 18 holes?

Chris Richards
Palma, Spain


Homero Blancas, 55, on a short par 70 course in the early 1960's, as far as I know. Thanks for visiting MB

Long Game > General > Using a double-overlap grip

The Full Swing
Beyond the Basics
The Short Game
Hitting it Longer


October 30, 2009

What are the advantages [or] disadvantages of the double overlap grip on a regular golf swing? I hear it's a very good grip for senior players.

Bob Philyaw
Midlothian, VA


Hi Bob,

I can't think of any advantages, unless you have some kind of an injury or unusual hand issue where either the index or middle finger of the top hand or the pinky or ring finger of the bottom hand are a problem -- in which case some kind of adjustment might be necessary (including the possibility of a double overlap). The disadvantages would be decreased surface area of the fingers in actual contact with the grip (and the associated diminished support and sensitivity).

Also see this similar, and possibly relevant, grip-related question and answer from earlier this year.

And just below on this page (dated September 19, 2009) is another possibly-related and helpful question and answer on the grip.

Technique is covered in detail in my books "The Full Swing", "The Short Game", "Beyond the Basics" and "Hitting it Longer".

Thanks for visiting and best of luck with your game. MB

Rules, Etiquette and Procedures > Installing putter grips on other clubs


October 15, 2009

Would it be okay to put putter ... grips on all my clubs? They just feel right for me and my game. ...Thank you.

Garry Leonard
Tallahassee, FL


Hi Garry,

If the grips you're referring to have a flat side then no. Quote from the rules

(i) For clubs other than putters the grip must be circular in cross-section, except that a continuous, straight, slightly raised rib may be incorporated along the full length of the grip, and a slightly indented spiral is permitted on a wrapped grip or a replica of one.

(ii) A putter grip may have a non-circular cross-section, provided the cross-section has no concavity, is symmetrical and remains generally similar throughout the length of the grip.

Also see this rules FAQ. Thanks for visiting MB

Equipment > Grip types to help with finger problem


September 19, 2009

I lost part of my ring finger on my left hand, and the club slips often causing a mishit. What kind of grips would help prevent this?

Danny Curran
Nashville, TN


Hi Danny,

You might experiment with larger and smaller diameter grips, grips that have relatively tackier surface consistency, and grips that are lower density or more spongy. There is a wide variety of grips to choose from, so find a golf club repair or custom club facility near you to check them out in person.

There also may be some things you can do physically in your hand and/or finger positions that would help, but I'd have to work with you in person to comment further on that. If you ever visit the San Francisco bay area of Northern California contact me for a golf school or an individual lesson. Or find a reputable teaching professional locally to work with on this if it is not possible to come to work with me in person.

Technique for the entire game is covered in detail in my books.

Thanks for visiting MB

Rules, Etiquette and Procedures > Right-hander carrying left-handed club


September 5, 2009

I'm a righty, is it within the rules to carry a left-handed club in my bag?

Roc Chiappetta
Norwalk, CT


Sure, Roc, as long as you don't exceed 14 total clubs. Thanks for visiting MB

Long Game > General > Is it easier to hit it straight with short clubs?

The Full Swing
Beyond the Basics
The Short Game
Hitting it Longer


August 30, 2009

On an approach shot, is it easier to keep your ball straight if the yardage is shorter to the green, and do you increase your chances of your ball going not straight, or turning at the end, the longer the distance you have to hit it?

Traci Suazo
Wheaton, IL


Hi Traci,

Yes, it is generally easier to play shorter shots with lofted irons pretty much straight, whereas the longer clubs are very difficult to hit on a perfectly straight line. It is a fair generalization to say that the longer the club the more difficult it is to hit on a straight line, so highly skilled players usually play a favorite shape (a fade or draw) with their longer clubs rather than trying to hit it straight.

Technique is covered in detail in my books "The Full Swing" and "Beyond the Basics" and "Hitting it Longer".

Thanks for visiting and best of luck with your game. MB

Miscellaneous > Golf course-related > How long it takes the greens to recover from aeration


August 11, 2009

How long does it usually take for a golf course to fully recover from aerating its greens?

Michael Caldarella
Odenton, MD


Hi Michael,

That will vary widely with the type of aeration and greens. But I've seen everything from no time at all (some greens can be "puttable" immediately after aeration when it is done by the high-pressure water machines) to about 3 weeks (when substantial holes get punched and top-dressing gets dragged in). No matter how long it takes to recover, though, aeration is necessary and the long term benefit outweighs the short term disruption.

Thanks for visiting MB

Rules, Etiquette and Procedures > Hitting into the group ahead, how close to let your ball get


July 19, 2009

How many yards should your ball remain from the group in front of you? It seems to me many people hit closer than 50 yards which to me is distracting and potentially dangerous should a ball stray. I believe I read a very long time ago that 50 yards was etiquette, but others have said to me 20 yards. Is there any set etiquette rule for this?

Lorraine Clemente
Manchester, MA


Hi Lorraine,

I've never heard of any specific number of yards as a guideline, myself -- and it is pretty subjective, so there will be different opinions. I guess as long as you don't literally hit into anybody, then how close you let your ball get to the group in front of you is just a matter of courtesy. But erring on the side of caution seems like a good practice, to me -- especially given that the extra waiting time would be minimal.

It's the same thing in traffic on the road, really: you have impatient, fast, rude drivers and you have patient, slow, courteous drivers. Any time you have to deal with people and their judgement... smile

Thanks for visiting MB

Rules, Etiquette and Procedures > Using a "pitchfork" / divot tool, a tee, or just the putter


July 7, 2009

Is it better to repair your ball mark using only your putter or a pitchfork (divot tool) and patting it down with your putter after repairing with a pitchfork?

Tim Hebert
Okmulgee, OK


Hi Tim,

It's usually far better to use a divot tool (also sometimes called a "pitchfork") or even a tee rather than just your putter alone. The repair can be done so much more effectively. Thanks for visiting MB

Long Game > General > Hooding or closing problem

The Full Swing
Beyond the Basics
The Short Game
Hitting it Longer


June 26, 2009

I'm a lefty and I cannot hit the ball without hooding my club if I want it to go straight, why is that?

Gabriel Bedard
North Bay, Ontario, Canada


Hi Gabriel,

"Why" you cannot hit it straight unless (you feel like) you hood it (at address?, at impact?, both?) I couldn't say without watching you. It could even be something that you feel you are doing and really are not.

But just to be clear, "hooding" the club is leaning it forward toward the target, decreasing its natural loft angle. This is independent of the club face's directional orientation. Whereas, "closing" the club face is actually turning the club face away from square (to the right for a left-hander). A closed club face is usually also hooded, or de-lofted, to some degree (unless your hands hands are out of position). But a hooded club face is not necessarily closed.

If what you describe is indeed what is happening then there are complications in your technique -- possibly many. Technique is covered in detail in my books "The Full Swing" and "Hitting it Longer".

Thanks for visiting and best of luck with your game. MB

Rules, Etiquette and Procedures > Starting on both nines, starting on hole 1 and 10


June 16, 2009

I read at the U.S. Open on Friday Tiger Woods would start on the tenth hole... I thought everybody started on the first hole.

Jack Juras
Ashtabula, OH


Hi Jack,

When the field of players is large (like the first two days, before the cut) they start on both nines and cross-over -- it takes less time than if everybody had to start on hole 1 (you can see that the back nine would be empty for a couple hours or so). Some golf courses do this on busy days with their regular play too. I've heard it called a "double shift" or "double wave", or "split tee" starting. It may be called other things too.

Thanks for visiting MB

Rules, Etiquette and Procedures > Leaning on putter, dents in greens


May 19, 2009

Why do professional golfers almost without exception lean on their putters when picking the ball out the hole? Many even lean on the toe. This must leave indentations near the hole.

George Keates
Invergordon, Ross-shire, UK


Hi George,

Perhaps habit, laziness, body language picked up subconsciously from watching other players, who knows... Probably just more for secure balance than anything else. Hopefully most of them lean very lightly -- and nobody seems to be complaining about it so it must not create a problem. I have never noticed indentations from other players' putters. But then again, my vision might not be all that great. smile

Thanks for visiting MB

Rules, Etiquette and Procedures > How many practice swings can you take?


May 6, 2009

How many prctice swings are you allowed to take before your shot?

Luke Foreman
Westport, CT


Hi Luke,

There is no rule about that, but if you take too much time in competitions you may end up on a timer and eventually penalized, and in casual play if you take too many practice swings consistently your playing companions will probably either let you know or they will stop playing with you. smile My own gut feeling about it is that for most typical shots if you're taking more than two practice swings you're pushing it. But that is just an opinion, and as long as you don't hold up the pace of play it really doesn't matter.

Thanks for visiting MB

Long Game > General > Problem hitting shots from the fairway

The Full Swing
Beyond the Basics
The Short Game
Hitting it Longer


April 28, 2009

My drives, chipping and putting are really good at the moment but I can't seem to hit a decent fairway shot - which is adding up. What am I doing wrong?

Dorothy Burge
Niederwil, St. Gallen, Switzerland


Hi Dorothy,

For starters see my tip for iron shots for general help with your irons and see my article on fairway woods for general help with your fairway woods or hybrids.

Next, technique is covered in detail in my books "The Full Swing" and "Beyond the Basics" and "Hitting it Longer."

Thanks for visiting and best of luck with your game. MB

Equipment > Driver face loss of performance or "pop" from use


April 9, 2009

I just bought a new driver and a buddy uses it every time we go golfing. Will this end up taking some "pop" out of my driver in the long run?

Wade Janes
Oshkosh, WI


Hi Wade,

In the "really long run" it would, unless we're talking about very high club head speeds. In that case it might be in the shorter run. Unless the shaft breaks or the face cracks, it would probably not lose its performance characteristics for a long while, though -- years probably. You might want a new driver by that time anyway (chuckle), and if he has been using your current driver with you the whole time you may want to invoice him for a portion of the club's replacement cost (heh heh heh smile just kidding... )

I have seen faces crack and become less convex with intense use. So a club would certainly lose some of its spring-like effect, or "pop" as you call it, in that case. Each club is a little different. So you could probably get the best answer from the specific manufacturer. They would most likely have spec's on approximately how many impacts and at what speeds failure occurs on the average -- and this info is probably related to the club's warranty.

Thanks for visiting MB

Miscellaneous > Golf course-related > Do all courses have the same par?


March 15, 2009

[Someone] told me every golf course no matter which state or country, all have the same par. Is this true?

Wendy Ferguson
Willis, Texas


Hi Wendy,

No, typically "full-length" courses (sometimes also ambiguously referred to as "regulation" or "championship" courses) are par 70, 71 or 72. But very occasionally there is even some variation from that. Most courses also have holes that are par 3, 4 or 5, but I have seen holes that are par 6 or 7 also (just not very many). Also see this previous Q and A on par and yardages.

Thanks for visiting MB

Miscellaneous > Other > Club grip or grip change for arthritis pain


March 1, 2009

... my left hand fingers ... have become so effected by arthritis pain that I am having difficulty holding club throughout swing, especially a full swing ... I wondered if there was a grip alteration (baseball, reverse overlap) that you've heard of which might allow me to extend my playing years?

Ron Chabot
Urbana, IL


Hi Ron,

Getting a much larger diameter ("Arthritic") grip installed on your clubs might help, if you haven't done so already. I would also try experimenting with different grips, particularly the so-called 10 finger, or full-fingered, grip -- also see this earlier Q and A on the ten finger grip.

Thanks for visiting MB

Long Game > General > Swinging without the hips turning

Book on the golf swing
Book on hitting a golf ball longer
Private Golf Schools at


February 24, 2009

I have had my right hip replaced and my left is also due for replacement. I cannot twist my hips because of the pain. Is there some way to hit the ball halfway decent using only my arms and shoulders? When I play I get no distance and I top the ball often.

Jim Caruthers
Lafayette, LA


Hi Jim,

You will not be able to get as much distance using just your arms and hands as you would with a weight transfer and pelvic girdle rotation. But if you make sure you stay in your posture and leave your arms swinging as long as possible (so that the club will reach the grass when it swings), rather than raising your posture or tightening your arms, you will at least make better contact, which will give you better distance. Also, I would recommend not trying to get distance as much as staying in your rhythm and making good contact.

The movements of the swing are covered thoroughly in my books The Full Swing and Hitting it Longer: Getting More Distance in Your Golf Game, with the Driver and Throughout Your Bag.

Also, each person's specific technique issues vary widely, so of course I'd have to work with someone in person to give meaningful analysis and correction. If you ever visit the San Francisco bay area of Northern California you can work on your game with me in person - see Private Custom Golf Schools.

Thanks for visiting MB

Miscellaneous > Terminology - Words and Phrases > The term "flight" for tournament divisions


February 12, 2009

Why are groups of golfers called flights?

Ainslie Miller
Marbella, Andalusia, Spain


Hi Ainslie,

Tournaments with golfers of different skill levels have divisions, based on those different skill levels, called "flights." I don't know where the term or its application to golf tournament divisions originated. If anybody knows the origin of this use of the word flight please let us know.

Thanks for visiting MB

Rules, Etiquette and Procedures > What can be used as a ball marker


January 17, 2009

How big of a ball marker can you use? Can you use anything to mark your ball?

Vincent Agamata
Santa Clarita, CA



Unless they've changed the rules, you can mark your ball with just about anything. But other people you are playing with can have you move the marker off of their putting line (one or more clubhead-lengths) if it is in the way. And, to be practical and reasonable when playing with other people, something flat and unobtrusive is obviously best.

Thanks for visiting MB

Equipment > Graphite shaft that feels and performs like steel shaft


January 5, 2009

Can you recommend a graphite shaft that most resembles steel in feel and performance?

Joseph Olchowy
Woodbury, NJ


Hi Joseph,

They're totally different animals and I'm not familiar with specifics for all shafts (check each manufacturer's specifications for details), but generally the heavier the weight (over 100 grams) and the lower the torque the more it might get closer to the feel of a steel shaft. You'll probably have to do some experimenting. Visit a custom club fitting operation where you can try different shafts.

Thanks for visiting and best of luck with your game. MB

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