artbycassiday

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Bad Golf Made Easy and/or Funner



I've golfed for many years and have here compiled my list of secrets for enjoying bad golf and now want to share them with other duffers everywhere.

1) How to bogey from 95 yards out in the middle of the fairway.
This is not as hard as it sounds. 95 yards away from the green after a drive on a par four hole, or after a second shot on a par 5 hole is a good place to be for an amateur golfer. So you can assume, you just hit your best drive all day, or perhaps ever. For most amateur golfers, men and women, that distance is a pitching wedge, or maybe a 9 iron for the older or younger golfers. So the key here is to make a bad second or third shot leaving yourself short-sided with a difficult chip or pitch over a bunker, for example. From a prime position, you can, in one shot, put yourself in a difficult position and make it virtually impossible to get a third shot close to the pin. A lob wedge has about 97 ways to go wrong. A mishit lob wedge can travel anywhere from about 18 inches to 50 yards, and if the pin is 20 feet away, neither of those distances is optimal. So remember, a bad second shot is the key on a par 4, and a bad third shot on a par 5. I should add, though, that even if you hit a good second or third shot, you can still three putt and salvage your bogey.
2) How to swing harder for less distance.
Golf is a game of physics. Parabolic trajectories. High spin and low spin golf balls. Curving ball flights due to low pressure on the side of a spinning ball caused by the angle and motion of the clubhead at the point of impact. Lift and drag due to ball spin and wind direction. Clubhead speed and the vertical angle of departure of the ball determined by the skill of the golfer and the club face loft. A ball with a draw spin will tend to bound forward and leftward upon landing. My friend Bob hits a ball like this, sneaky long with lots of roll. A ball with fade or slice spin will tend to bound rightward upon landing but not forward much. The composition of the golf ball cover also makes a difference. A hard cover ball tends to spin less than a softer cover ball.
Probably the best way for the amateur golfer to hit shorter drives is to swing harder. This tends to result in an even more pronounced outside to inside swing path imparting sidespin to the ball. The more sidespin, the greater the slice, and the shorter the drive, often because the ball disappears into the trees, or the water, someone’s backyard, or the parking lot.
For lefties, the reverse is true.
3) Perfecting the skulled 9 iron shot.
This is a specialty shot that takes years to perfect. If you hit it correctly, on the right line and the right distance, this ugly shot can be beautiful. Normally, a 9 iron has a high trajectory and lands with some “bite,” meaning backspin that stops the ball rather quickly. A “skulled” 9 iron is one in which the club hits the ball on the upswing hitting the equator of the ball sending it on a low trajectory with no backspin and it hits well short of the green and rolls toward the pin. The secret to this shot is to mishit the shot so badly that it ends up about where you intended a well struck shot to land. If there is a pond in front of the green, do not try this shot. If there are greenside bunkers in your intended line of flight, do not attempt this shot. And be advised if you hit this shot too hard, you will fly over the green and into whatever hazard lies on the far side of the green. If you accomplish this shot, you should always inform your partners that you intended to do that. I like to say that I’ve been working on this shot for years. It is particularly gratifying if you win money as a result of this particular shot as your golfing partners will be incredulous, disgusted, and rattled as they hit their next shot.
4) How to play a push slice from the wrong fairway.
The push slice is a double-whammy of a bad shot, because it starts to the right and goes even farther to the right, but occasionally it will be so badly hit that you actually have a shot to the green. When I do this I will say something like, “I hit that so bad that it’s okay.” If you are lucky, a push slice will often have a high trajectory and go over the tops of a tree lined fairway into an adjacent fairway. One hint for the next shot is don’t do it again. You may have a small opening between tree trunks if you like living dangerously (see #13). Otherwise, attempt a lofted iron to go over the trees more or less in the actual direction of the hole.
5) How to Hit a Bad Drive after a Birdie on the Previous Hole
We call this phenomenon the PBFU, the post birdie f***-up. It is a well-recognized phenomenon and common occurrence everywhere golfers golf. A birdie is a significant accomplishment, usually pure luck, but often with a small element of skill involved. A birdie is one under the assigned par for that hole. A par four hole is usually 350 to 400 yards, sometimes a bit shorter and sometimes a bit longer. Pro golf tournaments feature Par 4 holes over 500 yards in length which is just ridiculous, but almost all pro golfers hit the ball so far that it makes you sick. Anyway, a birdie 2 on a par 3, or a 3 on a par 4, or a 4 on a par 5, are pretty good scores. So what happens is you are somewhat pumped up as you approach the next tee shot and often hit a bad drive. In that short walk from the green to the next tee box you are thinking you are an excellent golfer and you can do it on the next hole, too. The PBFU is a reminder from God that you are not a pro. And that pride goeth before the slice out of bounds.
6) How to hit a ball from the bottom of a lake.
I’m just kidding. You can’t do that. On the other hand, I have seen and have attempted, a) shots from the shallow water around the edges of a pond when the ball is not totally submerged and b) off the frozen surface of a golf course pond. Regarding the former, hit the ball as you would a sand shot: open the club face, hit about an inch behind the ball, and hope the ball flies somewhere. The next step is to wipe the mud off your face, shirt, and pants. Some golfers will remove their shoes for this shot. I saw a pro once on tv take off his pants as well to attempt this shot.
The ice shot requires more finesse because of physics: net force equals mass times acceleration, and if you fall, your mass times acceleration will most likely be enough force to crash through the ice. There are several keys to pulling this shot off. First, make sure the ice is thick enough to support your weight. There is no fool proof way to do this other than walking out there and determining if you have fallen through. In fact, the fact that you are attempting this shot suggests you might be the type of person and golfer for whom the phrase “fool proof” was invented. Second, do not attempt this in deep water where you might break through, become submerged, and drown. Nothing ruins a round of golf like drowning or seeing a partner go under. If the water is only waist deep, though, and the ice might just be thick enough, carefully walk toward the ball listening for cracking sounds. You will likely hear them but ignore that because you are already past the point of no return. But if you proceed cautiously, and successfully get to the ball, exhale slowly to remove the weight of the air in your lungs, take an even stance with the weight evenly distributed on each foot, swing at about half your normal swing speed. You should spread your feet a bit wider to better distribute the weight. If you do all this, you have a better than average chance to hit the ball, not fall down, and not crash through the ice. I’ve done it; I’ve seen my golfing partners Jerry and Bob do it as well. This shot most often presents itself after a prolonged cold spell during winter months with an interval of just enough warmth to melt the snow on the course itself, but not the ice on the pond. If one of your golfing partners does crash through the ice, you need to ask yourself is that person a good golfing partner. If so, attempt a rescue. You should carry an extra pair of socks, and pants if you have the requisite pockets in your golf bag, though, just in case, and perhaps a length of rope. Also, if two of your group's shots end up on the ice, have the heavier person go first. If they safely execute the shot, then the ice must be strong enough.
7) Four-putting made easy.
You may think this is difficult in estimating how bad a player has to be to do this. And it is true. It is rare. Most average putters can two putt regularly from, say, 15 feet or so. But a fast green with a down-slope or a stiff breeze can make a four putt quite possible. Keep in mind that even pro golfers miss the occasional four footer. Maybe once in twenty. The key is to miss your first putt as badly as you can. I remember standing over a two foot putt at Dodge Park Golf Course in Council Bluffs, Iowa, a few years ago. It was a slick downhill putt with a small break from right to left. I took a short back stroke on my putter and missed my intended line by just a fraction of an inch and the ball picked up pace as it accelerated downhill past the hole and nearly off the green. Faced now with an 18 footer uphill, I left my second putt about six feet short and missed that. A short tap in fourth putt for a triple bogey was the result. A two footer for par became a four putt nightmare in a few short seconds. You walk off the green shaken, dismayed, rattled, and stunned.
8) How to recover from five bad shots in a row.
Most golfers will either by design or by accident hit a relatively okay shot every two or three attempts. The shots aren’t particularly good, but they have some redeeming aspect like they were in the general direction of the intended line, or it didn’t quite go far enough to dribble into the pond or the hazard, or at least they brought the green into the reachable zone for their next shot. Most golfers on an average public course tally their rounds by how many bad shots they make. Good golfers tally their rounds by how many good shots they make. For example, I shot a 71 the other day with only a couple of bad shots, 50 or so so-so shots, and 15 or so pretty good shots, and maybe three or four really good shots. The two bad shots resulted in bogeys. But five bad shots in a row tells me the person should probably give up golf altogether and take up billiards or bowling. The best way to recover from five bad shots on a golf course is to have a couple of shots at the bar in the clubhouse.
9) Proper club throwing etiquette. And don’t forget your clubs.
Always throw your club in the direction you are walking. This speeds up play and is appreciated by other golfers on the course. Also, when you lay a club down by the green and finish your putting, place that wedge on the line you will walk back to your clubs. This is especially good advice for older golfers who tend to forget things like how many strokes they actually took on a hole.
10) What to do when the divot travels farther than your ball.
This is embarrassing, but it does happen. Deliberately walk forward to the large chunk of dirt you unearthed and place it back in the oddly shaped gouge you just made on the nicely mown turf. Step on it to press the roots firmly back into the soil. Use the same club you previously used, because, let’s face it, you aren’t that much closer to the green. Hit it better this time.
11) Sand Bunkers
A sand shot can go wrong in many ways. Take too much sand, and the ball may not clear the lip of the bunker and could roll right back at your feet and into the large hole in the sand you just created or into one of your footprints. Take too little sand and the ball may rocket out of the bunker like a well hit 3 iron and end up 75 yards farther away from the green than you were to begin with. With this in mind, the secret is to take a deep breath, remain calm, and take a whack at it and then another whack at it if necessary. The goal is to hit an inch or two behind the ball with a slightly opened club face so that the sand propels the ball not the club. A rule of thumb is to imagine you are hitting the ball about three times farther than the actual yardage without actually hitting it three times farther. If you are successful, pat yourself on the back for a shot well executed. If you are unsuccessful and the ball rolls back into that large divot you just created, you're f*****. Try again, and maybe again, but after four shots and the ball is still in the bunker, pick it up and throw it out, but not nearer the hole. Assess yourself a penalty stroke for an unplayable lie, because you obviously cannot play it, take your eight or nine or ten on that hole and order a beer from the cart girl next time she rolls around. So for a short bunker shot, hit the sand, not the ball. A long sand shot from a fairway bunker, however, may require you to pick the ball off the surface of the sand without hitting the sand at all – good luck with that. It helps if the sand has not been prepped by maintenance staff for a period of time, so public courses tend to be best for this shot. Odds are the average to below average golfer will either completely whiff that stroke or will top the ball which may or may not get out of the bunker, or will hit the sand behind the ball and will not go very far either. In either case, take another whack at it as detailed above. You can practice that shot on a sidewalk or parking lot where you try to hit the ball, not the sidewalk. A tip on practicing that shot on a sidewalk is to not use your new $1,000 Taylor Made Aeroburner irons for that practice. A note of caution on public courses: many are built on former landfill areas so be aware that too large an explosion shot from a bunker may expose bedrock or buried concrete chunks which can be a rude awakening as the shock wave and nerve impulse speed up your forearms much like banging your funny bone on a hard piece of furniture.
12) Replacing a ball in play.
A pro tour player is required to play the same brand and type of ball during a tournament, that is the brand and type of ball they have selected. Other players may choose a different brand and type, but they too must play the entire round with that brand and type of ball. A player may play a new ball every hole, but it has to be the same brand and type they began with. This is not a problem in that pros are given dozens of balls by golf ball companies for every tournament. Nikes, and Titleists, and Srixons, Callaways, Taylor Mades, and Bridgestones are often the balls of choice. Players may also replace a damaged ball under certain circumstances, like a cracked or severely scuffed cover, but must notify their playing partners, carefully mark the location of the ball, and replace the ball with one of the same brand and type.
Amateurs golfers, on the other hand, often have a pocket of their golf bags filled with several dozen “found balls” of different brands, colors, and different types, and readily switch at will and whim. I have used harder cover balls when playing into the wind and softer cover balls with the wind to attempt to gain an edge over my partners. I can’t swear it ever made a difference, but it seemed worth a try. These balls, however, are often subjected to extreme cold or heat in that the golf bag in the trunk of golfer’s car and are subjected to the daily temperatures of heat and cold which can affect the balls’ performance. On cold days, I will try to remember to bring a few balls into the house the night before to get that edge of a warmer ball traveling a bit farther than a cold one. My playing partners are also known to have adopted this strategy. However, we all do observe the prohibition of carrying a surreptitious portable ball warmer in the bag. I will carry an extra ball in my pants pocket to gain some of my body heat looking for that extra yard or two during the later part of a cold day’s round. I’ve also been known to fill the kitchen sink with hot water an hour or two before a cold weather round and put in half a dozen balls for use. It is permissible under the rules of golf to do this, wrap them in a towel, and place them in your golf bag. I do not believe this constitutes cheating. It would be cheating, however, to use a heated towel.
One other important note is that when you replace a ball after a bad shot, blame the ball. “There’s something wrong with that ball.”
13) Trees.
"The Myth of 90% Air" - for any tree branch diameter, you also need to add 99% of the diameter of the golf ball on both sides of the branch, for if that 1% of the golf ball hits a branch it will be deflected proportionally. So a 1" diameter branch is for all practical purposes nearly 3" in diameter and multiplying that branch times the number of branches, you are actually facing a virtually impenetrable solid object, like, say, a brick wall. And I might add, carrying a chainsaw is prohibited. So the official best practices advice on this is “Do not hit the ball into the trees.”
14) Things to say to lighten the mood: "At least it was straight." "If the green was over there, that would have been a good shot." "Maybe it'll hit a turtle and bounce out." "That drive was short but crooked." "That shot looked really good until you hit it." "You made that 8 look easy."
15) A quick way to improve your putting stats.
A quick and easy way to improve your putting stats is to take fewer putts. Ha. You probably already knew that. However, one method my golfing partners often use is to give each other short putts, especially if we are in a match play format. We play for quarter skins. Say you are up by half a dozen skins and you are playing for a handful of additional skins and your opponent has a three footer to tie you. If you just say, "pick it up," or "that's good" they will appreciate the gesture and perhaps return the favor on a succeeding hole. Or sometimes you can suggest, "Good, good?" meaning I'll give you your five foot breaking putt on a slick down hill green if you give me my six footer. Depending on the circumstances, they might just agree and you all pick up and count one putt without having actually made a putt that could very well have been two more putts. Theoretically, if you do that every hole no matter how long the putt, your putting stats will show drastic improvement. In practice, every so often someone will deny the proposal saying something like our golfing friend Andrew from Scotland used to say, "Let's play some golf!" When translated into English, this means roughly, "Laddies you are big American wusses. That's a six footer. There's no way I'm giving you that putt."


16)Creative Ball Marking on the Putting Surface

Another technique pioneered by a fellow I have played with can help to shave off the occasional putting stroke. A golfer is required to mark with exactitude a ball’s position on a putting green for a variety of reasons. The ball may be in the intended line of a golfer whose ball is farther from the hole. A golfer may wish to clean the ball. A valid reason is not necessarily needed. A golfer may mark a ball on a putting surface whenever he/she wishes.

Golfer’s will carefully mark the position of the ball by placing an object directly behind the ball as close as possible without moving the ball. Usually the mark is a coin or flat object designed for said purpose. Golfers have been known to use a tee stuck in the green if not in the line of another golfer. Technically, I believe you could mark a ball with a tennis shoe or a suitcase if you so chose, but few golfers do so. I marked a ball once with a dime when playing with friends with their children tagging along. Their young boy was quite excited as he picked up my dime thinking he had found money randomly scattered on the putting surface. I estimated its previous location and putted out. I let the kid keep the dime.

A golfer may be required to move a mark, however, if it is in another golfer’s line or is a distraction. A tennis shoe or suitcase may well meet this distraction condition. To move a marker, a golfer should carefully move the marker using a sightline guide like a tree, or other immovable object, move the marker one or two putter head lengths sideways from its original position, that is, more or less perpendicular to the intended line of the other golfer's putt. The golfer would then be required to replace the marker in the same spot using the sightline guide. By choosing a different tree trunk or rock when replacing the ball, a golfer can replace the marker nearer the hole if done so surreptitiously and pretending great care. You can gain perhaps 6 to 9 inches using this technique.

Another incremental technique is to place a marker in front of the ball, pick the ball up to pretend to clean it, and then place it in front of the ball thus gaining an inch or two. This may not be much but if used in tandem with the above technique, a six foot putt can become a five foot putt. That may not seem much, but an average golfer might miss 65 out of 100 six foot putts, but only 60 out of 100 five foot putts. Over time, those few inches can make a difference. I would point however, that a golfer might also practice so that their shots land a few inches closer and be in conformance with the rules.

The above techniques may require you to position yourself between the ball and other golfers so as to obstruct their view of your ball-advancing mark techniques. However, one fellow we know will time his movements to coincide with that short time when you are looking at your own ball so that when you look up you might suspect something is different but did not witness the infraction.

Tales are told of one golfer who turned an 18 foot putt into a 14” tap-in using the above techniques. This golfer is also have known to have a golf-ball sized hole in his right front pocket so as to be able to secretly drop a ball into a location where he was searching for an errant ball and then exclaim, “found it!” I think the number of golfers who include him in their groups has diminished over the years.


17) How to look good shooting 105.
This is hard to do, but always remain calm as though you were on your way to shooting a 75. Act like you are having a good time. Move to the ball quickly, and think about that one good shot you made seven weeks ago. Do not take seven practice swings, as that clearly is not working. Enjoy the outdoor air and the sound of golf course maintenance workers mowing the fairways. Tell yourself a bad day on the golf course is still better than a good day at the office. Count the number of hawks you see. Look at the sky.

18) If you are an older golfer like me with the requisite number of aches and pains that go with said aging, you may find walking 18 holes does wear one out. I have found, though, that if I follow the five mile hike on a golf course pulling or pushing my golf bag (with that pocket of six dozen extra golf balls) by a handful of Advil, a hot bath, a massage, two shots of bourbon, a nap, several hours with a vibrating heat pad, acupuncture, a chiropractic adjustment, and three good night’s sleep, I’m ready for the next outing.


ps. This is a work of instructional prose. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental. Except for Bob and Jerry.

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