Today’s Round

I skipped one. A few weeks ago I played like I took up the game the week beforehand, so there was nothing to offer you from that disaster.

Today’s round is a different story. The lesson is that with no increase in skill, you can shoot lower scores if you learn how to play the game.

I call this the Floyd Rule, stated by Raymond Floyd in his valuable book, The Elements of Scoring.

“If I were given your physical game, and we had a match, I would beat you 99 times out 100 times because I know how to play the game better than you do.”

Knowing how to play the game breaks down into three general areas:

1. Being in a situation where you really do not know what to do.

2. Being in a situation where you make the wrong decision.

3. Being in a situation where you forget to do something you know you should do.

If it’s number 1, remember it, then try to re-create that situation on the practice ground so the next time you know what to do and can do it successfully. Basically, it’s not letting the course hand you a problem you don’t have a solution for.

Number 2 is a matter of getting more experience. You played a shot you thought would work, but clearer thinking would have told you either that a different one would have worked out better, or the shot you played should have been avoided.

Number 3 is also a matter of experience, but in this case about establishing good habits so you never overlook a factor that is totally under your control.

Yesterday I shot a 44—two pars and a double bogey.

Mistake #1: On the 7th hole, putting across a radically sloping green, that I knew sloped radically, I failed to play enough break on my approach putt on a putt I have had before. The ball passed about six inches in front of the hole and on its way downhill to the left about seven feet. Missed that one coming back. I had the pace, but not the line. One stroke lost, number 3 error.

Mistake #2: On the next hole I had a slam dunk chip to a pin 15 feet away, uphill, to a green that again slopes dramatically from front to back. I got too delicate and left the ball too short. Down in two putts instead of one. One stroke lost, number 3 error.

Mistake #3: On the 9th, lying about 60 yards from the green on a gentle downslope on the left edge of the fairway, I decided to chip and run with a 9-iron rather than flying on with a sand wedge. Safer shot, and all that. I hit the c&r to the left and it bounced its way into the rough, not reaching the green. Should have pitched on. That was my third shot on a long par 4, and it took me three to get down from there. One stroke lost, number 2 error.

Those were three strokes lost not because of bad shot-making, so much, but because of bad thinking.

There was one other, but I can’t really say it cost me a stroke. I putted from off the green from about 40 feet, but was so concerned about the turf the ball had to cover before the ball got to the green, I forgot to line up the shot. It finished hole-high, eight feet to the right. Eight feet!

There’s no guarantee I would have gotten down in two from there so I won’t count it, but still …

There are no “if onlys” in golf. I shot what I shot, and that score represents how I played in every respect. But just by having a better mind I could have shot three, maybe four, strokes lower.

You’re a better golfer right now than you think you are. If you just think.

Why I Won’t Be Rooting for Justin Rose Today

… or Brooks Koepka.

Earlier this year, the Saudi Arabian government sponsored a golf tournament on the heels of the vicious murder of journalist and American resident Jamal Khashoggi.

When confronted with the Saudi crime, Justin Rose said, “I’m not qualified to speak on any other subjects, to be honest with you, on great detail or authority. I know people obviously have their opinions. It’s never straightforward.”

Actually, Justin, the brutal murder of a journalist is straightforward, especially to anyone who has a shred of human decency in their bones.

Koepka said, “People are always going to have different views on politics wherever you go. Hopefully, you can spread some goodwill through golf when you’re there.”

Or, to re-state having insert the facts, “People are always going to have different views on murdering, dismembering, and dissolving in a vat of acid the body of a journalist who writes articles critical of the Saudi regime wherever you go.”

Differing views on crimes against humanity. It’s all relative. If Koepka plays golf in Saudi Arabia he will spread goodwill and turn a toxic regime into hugs and bunnies.

Listen, guys, this is not politics. This is not about tax cuts or immigration bills or anything like that.

This is about cold-blood, pre-meditated murder that was sanctioned by Mohammed bin Salmann, the head of the Saudi state.

And you two guys didn’t get it, or at least couldn’t see around your seven-figure appearance fee.

Go, Gary Woodland.

2019 U. S. Open Preview

Winner: Gary Woodland by three shots over Brooks Koepka.

The 119th United States Open will be played from June 13-16 at the Pebble Beach Golf Links in Pebble Beach, California. Defending champion Brooks Koepka will try to make it three in a row, last done, and only done, by Willie Anderson in 1903, ’04, and ’05.

Many people say that Pebble Beach is the quintessential U.S. Open venue. I am partial to Oakmont, but PB isn’t a bad choice.

It first hosted a national tournament in 1929 when the USGA held the U.S. Amateur there. East Coast opinion was that the USGA had lost touch with reality as the best courses were, naturally, in the metropolitan (New York) area.

Bobby Jones was the co-medalist in the seeding rounds, but lost in the opening round of the championship to Johnny Goodman, who would later become the last amateur to win the U.S. Open, in 1933. Goodman also won the U.S. amateur, in 1937.

Forty-three years later, the first U.S. Open was held there, the first of now six, the debut won by Jack Nicklaus on the wings of a 1-iron that hit the pin the 17th hole the final day for a kick-in birdie.

See the USGA’s hole-by-hole flyover of the course.

Part of my life in golf involves Pebble Beach. During WWII, my mother was in the Navy, stationed in Hawaii. One of her close friends there had a brother who became a physician in the Bay Area later on, a very successful one, and who had an apartment on the Monterey Peninsula a sand wedge away from the 18th green at PB. Maybe I should have said a VERY successful doctor.

It was in one of the white buildings behind the green in this picture, copied from the flyover video at 11:38.

In 1962, my family went to visit my mother’s friend and family, who were living in San Jose. While we were there, we took a trip to that apartment for a few days. I went out on the course and walked the front nine all the way to the eighth fairway. Believe me, you just don’t know how beautiful that little peninsula in the photograph below is until you have been there.

There are no significant upgrades to the course for this tournament. The last time, the USGA used mowing to shift the location of some of the fairways, most notably the 9th and 10 holes, two seaside par 4s. Wouldn’t you guess, they put the fairways closer to the ocean. But as some people say, you have the entire North American continent on the left, so there is no reason for you to go right.

(Click to enlarge)

It is said that Pebble Beach consists of eight memorable holes and ten holes that are, well, not so memorable. The ocean holes are indeed spectacular, especially the stretch from 6 to 8 (above).

Number 6 launches you uphill into what the weather is doing that day, with a splendid ocean view. No pictures or the television show you how big this hole really is. Number 7 is the shortest hole in major championship golf at 109 yards, but it can play anywhere from a flip wedge to a 5-iron, depending on the wind.

Number 8 rises uphill with a tee shot blind to the landing area, and then perhaps the finest second shot in all of golf—over a cove to a tiny green well below the surface you’re standing on.

Watch them putt on 16, a green that slopes noticeably from right to left. Players finding themselves with a long uphill putt seldom reach the pin. They just can’t bring themselves to hit the bill hard enough.

The course is quite short by modern standards at 7,072 yards. That means shorter, straighter hitters, such as Jordan Spieth, who is playing much better now, are in the hunt if the USGA finds a way to neutralize the uber-long game while not being stupid about it.

Traditionally, the U.S. Open has been a survival contest that favors the straight hitter who can keep his mind together for four rounds of golf on a course that punishes every mistake. That’s not what the tournament has been for a while, but it was the reason why the U.S. Open was once my favorite tournament. It can be again, with inspired leadership.

Who is going to win? Phil could. He plays well on this course. He had better play well, because this might be his last serious chance to add a first to his six seconds. One thing for sure, he won’t be wearing these pants.

But if I knew who was going to win, I would keep it a secret and head down to Vegas to put down a TON of money on a sure thing.

Since I don’t know, I’ll retreat to Ben Hogan’s advice to Nick Faldo on how to win the U.S. Open: “You shoot the lowest score.”* That’s who’s going to win.

The final round of the Open is on Father’s Day. If golf is part of his life, what better way to spend the day than watching the Open with him? I always did.

* Vasquez, Jody. Afternoons With Mr. Hogan.

Golf and Skin Cancer

The word is out. Skin cancer is bad for you, and too much sunshine causes it. (Did anyone really not know this?)

Read this article about it, now appearing Golf Digest. Really! Read it!

I’m a redhead, and I keep covered up from head to toe on the course. I wear a hat with a 5″ brim, a sun-protective jacket (both pictured below) from Solumbra, long pants, and gloves on both hands most of the time.

The photo below was taken at the Thunderbird Golf Course at Mt. Carmel Junction in southern Utah in 2011, on the way back from having hiked across the Grand Canyon from the North Rim to Phantom Ranch and back out to the South Rim.

The glove I wear aren’t golf gloves, they are running gloves I get at a sporting goods store. Off the tee and off the fairway, I do not wear them. While walking from tee to fairway, one hand is in my pocket and the other hand pulls the cart behind me so it is in the shade of my body.

Once I have hit into the the green, both gloves go on. All short shots and all putting is done with them on.

I ain’t kidding, folks, and the article ain’t kidding, either. Stay covered up. I have spent a lot of time in the Southwest. You know what the Navajo wear outside? Enough to cover their arms and legs and face.

If you wear light, loose-fitting clothing made of cotton that covers your arms and legs, you will actually stay cooler in hot weather, so don’t let the heat prevent you from keeping out of the sun.

Sunscreen? O.K., but you have to remember to apply it every few hours, and apply it correctly. I don’t recommend relying on it.

Stay covered is the best option.

4 Cornerstones of the Game

There’s a golf blog I recommend you give a look to, called 3Jack Golf Blog. It concentrates on professional tournament golf, but occasionally has instructional relevance for us. Find it at

One post that struck me presented Richie’s analysis of the telling skills for professional golfers. He called them the 4 Cornerstones of the Professional Game.

They are,

1. Driving Effectiveness
2. Red Zone Play (175-225 yards)
3. Short Game shots from 10-20 yards
4. Putting from 3-15 feet

Players that rank average or better in all four these areas do well on the Tour. Recreational golfers who do well in these area will do well overall, too.

Driving Effectiveness is a combination of length and accuracy. For us, accuracy would be more important than length, but don’t discount distance. My par rate is clearly related to being the fairway. I don’t think about distance, because the ones I hit straight are my longest drives.

I would reduce the yardage of Red Zone Play to 125-175 yards for recreational golfers. This is about hitting greens from distances we can realistically have a chance. I once wrote about the yardage gap for recreational golfers, the distance from 175-200 yards that we don’t have a realistic chance of hitting the green with any consistency. Take a look at that post.

By the way, I have this rule of thumb for hitting greens. It is just my guess, with no data to back it up at all, but it makes sense to me. Add a zero to the number of the club you are using. That is the percentage of greens you should hit with that club.

The standard for a 9-iron then is to hit 90% of greens, and with a 5-iron 50% is a reasonable expectation. Thinking along these lines can help you plan you approach to the green, as in what are my chances of missing, and if I miss, where is the best place to do that?

Numbers 3 and 4 are obviously just as important for us, without modification, as they are for the pros. The short game metric is measured in yards from the green, not from the hole. Putting? How many putts from 3-15 feet do you sink? Just two more per round would help, don’t you think?

I know these cornerstones sound obvious, because when you take them out, there isn’t that much of the game left. Long-range pitching, bunker play, and approach putting is about it.

But you might want consider concentrating on these four areas in your practice sessions and see how it works out. I’m focusing on #3, because those are great places from which to steal a par, and there’s no reason I can’t get good with those shots. Or you, for that matter.

Last Week’s Round

Last week I posted my thoughts on a rather disappointing round. I played that badly because I had drifted away from the things that I know work. So I have spent the week going back to my principles and being very strict about them.

This is my report.

For the umpteenth time, the two most important swing principles for any golfer, in my opinion, are rhythm and tempo, and the hands leading the clubhead through impact.

Rhythm I have down pretty well. The hands leading I have down pretty well. It’s tempo that will always be a problem, and poor tempo was the source of my bad shots last week.

I have said this in several ways. Swing only so fast that you hit the ball on the center of the clubface consistently. Don’t swing so fast that you outswing your technique.

A few months ago I posted a reference to an instructional article by Daniel Berger about slowing down your swing to find the center of the clubface. It would pay you to read that post before you go on.

The big problem with tempo is that we get to swinging too fast. This is a mental problem, not a physical one. We have to find a way to keep our mind from asking more from our body than it can deliver.

I hit two outstanding shots that round, only two, so I thought about them and asked myself how I had done that. Let me describe them to you and see if you can figure out what they had in common.

The first one was with a 6-iron from 152 yards. The tee shot had finished on a bare patch of dirt, an old divot, but not a deep one. Getting the club on the ball presented no problem, but the bare lie meant I had to contact the ball just right or I would end up with an 80-yard dribbler.

I didn’t care how far away the green was now, all I wanted was clean contact and I would take what distance that gave me. In fact, I expected to come up twenty yards short.

I slowed down my swing, but not to the point of being delicately careful. I got great contact, and beautiful ball flight, the best I can do. The ball ended up on the green twelve feet from the pin. Missed the birdie putt, though (darn).

The second shot was from a fairway bunker. I’m pretty good at these shots. You have to keep the lower body quiet and swing so you just nip the ball off the surface of the sand. To do that, you have to slow down your swing somewhat.

All I wanted was to get the ball out and maybe 100 yards down the fairway. Again, I made perfect contact and the ball sailed out perfectly, about 100 yards down the fairway.

What did those two shots have in common? I interpret them this way. In neither case was I trying to hit the ball 6,000 yards. I was not trying to hit an heroic shot or a perfect shot. All I wanted to do was get the ball in the air and have it go straight for a reasonable distance. That’s a pretty low bar, but believe me, that’s all you need to achieve to play good golf.

By dialing back my expectations, I dialed back my swing and as a result advanced my shot-making. That sentence needs to make sense to you, because every brilliant shot you have ever hit had that frame of mind attached to it.

You don’t have to hit brilliant shots to shoot a good score. All you need to hit are decent shots. Your task is to find a way to internalize that truth, trust it, and use it, the shots you get will be truly brilliant.

How Take a Practice Swing

The practice swing is a rehearsal swing. It should be the swing you want to copy when you hit the ball. I’ll show you how to make sure your practice swing is exactly that.

When you swing the golf club it is often true that your mind is not fully engaged. Your body starts moving and leaves your mind behind. It should actually be the other way around. Your mind should move first, and then the body follows.

The way to make that switch is to swing the club twice without a break between the two swings. You make one swing all the way to the finish and with a continuous motion swing club back from there make a second swing to the finish. One motion, two swings. 1,2.

The purpose of the second swing is to let your mind catch up. You will find the mental feeling you have during that second swing to be very different from the one you had in the first swing. You will as a result feel a swing that is not only much different than the first one, but will be the one you want to hit the ball with.

When you have done this step up to the ball, take a quick look down the fairway or at the green. Return your eyes to the ball and without hesitation swing the club away. Because your mind is moving ahead of the body, the body will have no choice but to perform the way the mind remembers from that second part of your practice swing.

Doesn’t this take extra time, though? Everyone says in order to speed up play you should only take one practice swing. Well, you are. It’s just that your one practice swing has two parts. This two-part swing hardly takes any longer than a normal one-part swing. So you’re not really taking any extra time by doing this.

A pro once told me that this extra time, if there is any, will be more than made up for by you hitting better shots which means hitting fewer shots, and that, friends, saves time.

The key point here is that a two-part practice swing lets you find your best swing. It is certainly possible for that to happen with a traditional practice swing, but few people are capable of doing that. Give yourself a chance to get it right by taking one two-part practice swing.

Today’s Round

I don’t seem to be posting many rounds. I’m not skipping any, it’s just that I can only play every other week (and only nine holes) and sometimes I miss even then. So here is today’s story.

I shot a 44 at the OGA course in Woodburn, Oregon. Highs, lows, nothing in between.

The first hole I bogied because my drive landed right behind a little tree and I had to chip out to the fairway. That happens. PW on, two putts.

Number two, drive, 6-iron to twelve feet, two putts, par. I feel good.

Number three, a par three, hooked an iron into wet sand, staring at a pond directly on the other side of the green,. It took me two cautious shots to get out, barely, and a chip and a putt for a DB. It’s going to get worse before it gets better.

Fourth, par 5, hooked my tee shot into the water hazard. Third went right onto some heavy rough. I had a downhill lie and forgot you have to aim left. Hacked out, pitched on, two putts, DB.

Fifth, another par 5, drive and an advancement shot down the fairway. Looking real good. Hooked my 9-iron off the course and lost the ball. Another 9 and two putts, DB.

Sixth (now it gets better): 7-iron on a par 3 and sank the chip using a putter.

Seventh, pillaged my second shot on par 4, pitched on, two putts.

Eighth, par 3, 9-iron short, chipped in. I’ll tell you about the chip later.

Nine, par 5, drove into a fairway bunker, 6-iron out, sliced (my first slice in about five years) into the water, pitch, two putts, DB.

So. Take away four bad swings and I’m looking at a 40. That’s the good news. The bad news is four bad swings. Gotta work on those hooks (not worried about the slice).

About the chip-in on #8. This is a shot I have been working on, and bought a club just to hit it, a 60° wedge with only 4° of bounce. When you’re short-sided off the green, you play the ball well forward in your stance. That adds even more loft to the club, and the ball pops up and rolls out politely.

But I had fun. The score doesn’t bother me. I play, see what needs fixing, try to fix it, and go out again to see how I did. That’s what golf means to me.

A Few Shot Savers

Here are some easy ways to save a shot here and there which do not require you be any better than you are now. Each one can save you one stroke per round. They are taken from the upcoming edition of Bob’s Living Golf Book.

Play from the right set of tees.

Off the tee, use the longest club with which you can reliably hit the fairway. If that’s your driver, go for it. If it’s not our driver, don’t just assume it is your 3-wood.

Every shot at the hole (iron, pitch, chip, putt) must pass the hole. If the iron into the green requires a longer club than you can reliably hit straight, lay up. It is easier to chip on from the unobstructed fairway than from problematic ground on the sides of the green.

From 10-20 yards off the green, getting the ball on the green in one shot is a higher priority than getting the ball close to the pin.

For any putt of under roughly 20 feet (you have to determine the exact distance) look at the hole when you putt.

For putts beyond 20 feet, use the Triangulated Approach Putting technique.

Realize that some holes are too hard for you. Play them for an easy bogey instead of a hard par.

When you’re in trouble, think first about hitting the ball back into the fairway and playing on from there.

Put more importance on having fun with your companions and enjoying the day than you do shooting a low score.

Carry these playing tips with you, use them, and see how many strokes they save you. There are nine of them. What if each one did save you one stroke per round?

Little Differences That Make a Big Difference in How Well You Play