Bob Goalby (1929-2002)

Bob Goalby, one of the major stars on Tour in the 1960s, died Thursday. He won eleven tournaments, including the 1968 Masters at which Roberto De Vicenzo, who tied Goalby at 277, signed an incorrect scorecard giving him a 278. The rules of golf required the mistake to stand and Goalby was declared the champion.

Read this article at Golf Digest.

And in The New York Times.

Goalby set a PGA record of eight straight birdies at the St. Petersburg Open in 1961 that stood until Mark Calcavecchia recorded nine straight in 2009.

Straight Beats Distance in Recreational Golf

Terry Kohler, who writes for GolfWRX, wrote recently about how good touring pros are, or rather are not, when they have to play their tee ball out of the rough.

It seems, when we watch them play on television, that it doesn’t matter where the ball ends up. They still get on the green and make their par and even some birdies.

One thing you always want to remember is that the players we see on TV are the ones who are playing really well that week. So of course they will tend to play well out of the rough.

But they aren’t as good from the rough as you think they are. The fairway matters.

This chart, suggested by Kohler’s column shows how far the ball is left from the pin, on average, from the fairway, and from the rough, for a given distance.

Notice, as Kohler points out in his article, that guys get it closer from 150-175 yards from the fairway than they do from 75-100 yards from the rough.

What does that tell you about your game, when you are not as strong as they are, not as athletic as they are, and not as talented as they are? Hmmm?

If you said the recreational game depends on getting your tee ball in the fairway, you win the prize.

Now I don’t mean to pull back so much that you handicap yourself, but that on some holes you can let it out with your driver and on other holes you need to leave it in the bag.

Or, if you can drive 260 and miss a few fairways that is much better than hitting 230 and not missing any. But then…

Colin Montgomery said on a Playing Lessons With the Pros show (when he was standing in the fairway), “People say I was a good iron player. … The only reason I was a good iron player was because I’m hitting them from this, and not from that. No one’s a good iron player from there. Nobody. The only good iron players are the ones who hit it from here.”

If hitting the fairway off the tee is not your honest expectation, it’s time to re-think your tee game.

Hitting straight in your approach game is even more important, but that’s another post.

The Excuse for Saudi Complicity

I ranted a here and here about players wanting to play in Saudi Arabia, exchanging their sense of human decency for money.

At least Tiger Woods’s humanity can’t be bought.

Now the Super League, headed by Greg Norman, who should know better, but doesn’t, is attracting even more players who say they are athletes not politicians.

As if being an athlete also means you don’t know right from wrong.

Bryson DeChambeau and Shane Lowry are singled out in this article and podcast, but there are many more.

Disgraceful isn’t even the word. Golfers who playing the Super League and the upcoming Saudi International are part of the plan to whitewash a government that is an international pariah for crimes against humanity–the murder of Jamal Khasgoggi and the brutal war in Yemen.

That’s not politics. That is basic human decency, which these golfers are saying they will sell to the highest bidder to help Mohammed bin Salman and his government can whitewash his crimes.

Disgusting. Disgraceful. Unforgivable. Unconscionable. I can’t think of the right word to describe what certain professional golfers are doing.

A pox on them all.

It saddens me that this post has such limited each. I can only hope the the worldwide golfing press picks up the issue and goes down hard on the players who let themselves be used like this.

The Easiest Way to Draw or Fade

There are so many ways to hit a draw or a fade. I want to give you probably the easiest way to hit either shot. They both involve your right thumb (left thumb if you play left-handed).

In his book Five Lessons, Ben Hogan said:

“School yourself when you’re taking your grip so that the thumb and the adjoining part of the hand across the V–the part that is in the upper extension of the forefinger–press up against each other tightly, as inseparable as Siamese twins. Keep them pressed together as you fix your grip, and maintain this airtight pressure between them when you fold the right hand over the left thumb.”

He said the reason is that it lets the right hand be strong where it should be strong (which is not in the thumb and forefinger, in his opinion).

This pressing of the right thumb against the side of the hand has another effect which no doubt pleased Hogan but that he didn’t mention. It is an anti-hook move.

The pressure between the two freezes up the right wrist somewhat so it cannot unhinge freely through the hitting area and close the clubface. It actually delays the closing of the clubface to produce a fade, the shot Five Lessons was all about creating.

And it’s true. The next time you go to the range, press your right thumb against your hand and see what happens.

Now if you want to hit the opposite way, a draw, loosen the connection between the thumb and the hand. Place your thumb on the shaft so there is a gap between the thumb and the side of the hand. The wider the gap, the looser your wrists.

Try that and see what happens.

You will have to adjust your aim to account for the curving of the ball, but that’s all. Your swing stays the same. Just a little movement of the thumb one way or the other is all it takes.

Notes From a Personal Best

Eleven years ago I shot my personal best round of 75. These are the notes I made when I got home, which were no doubt relevant to having shot that score.

1. Don’t hit a shot until you’re ready. That means you are at ease with what you are about to do. If you have any misgivings, or doubt, or something just doesn’t feel right, step away. Clear your head, and step up to the ball again.

2. Play within yourself, especially off the tee. Play easy and believe in what you’re about to do.

3. Read putts by looking uphill. If you’re putting uphill, read the green from behind the ball. If you’re putting downhill, read from behind the hole. The slope of the hill and the break are always seen more clearly when you look uphill.

4. Find the shots that are working and use them to death. Let the shots that aren’t working take the day off.

5. When in doubt about which iron to choose, take the longer one, grip down a half inch, and fire away.

How to Sink a Certain Kind of Putt

Most of the things I discover about putting come from hours spent on the practice green. Every so often something goes click. This one, however, comes from my back room, where I knock the ball around for a few minutes every night.

It’s about sinking the putts that you just have to sink–short, no break. Just straight in the hole. Yet, those can be the hardest ones, for some reason.

This is what I noticed. I had been imagining a tiny line between the ball and the hole, and hitting the putt so the ball rolls along that line. That’s a lot of pressure

But what popped into my head that night was a band, as wide as the putter, going to the hole.

Not only that, but I saw that if you line up the toe of the putter with the corresponding edge of the hole, so that if the putter could magically slide across the green to the hole, the absolute toe would graze that edge of the hole, which would square up the putterface to roll ball into my rubber “hole” dead center.

In the photo, the thin red line lines up of the toe of the putter with the outside edge of the hole, and the transparent red band is what the putterface stays square to–a much easier image to believe in that a tiny line going from the ball to the hole.

So forget about the hole, forget about the ball, just make your stroke to have the putter face stay square to the band and the ball goes in. Easy!

As for lining up the toe of the putter with the outside edge of the hole, it might seem like this would not be exact. But if you try this out, and the putterface is not square to the hole, you will see clearly that the toe is not “pointing” to the edge.

I think this works because you are squaring up the entire surface of the putterface rather than a small point on the surface. And to tell the truth, I’m not even sure you can square up a point to something.

I tried out this method on a putting green and found it to be reliable up to about 15 feet.

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