Category Archives: brilliant ideas

Decision Scramble

This is a variation on the traditional scramble. Partners in the scramble have a decision to make on every shot and they have to live with their decision.

Here are the rules:

1. Each team can play two balls, one by each player.

2. After the first ball is played, but before the second ball is played, the team must decide if it wants to play the first ball.

3. If the team decides to play the first ball, that ball is in play for the team, and the second ball is not hit.

4. If the team decides not to play the first ball it becomes out of play, and the second ball then gets hit.

5. Since the first ball is no longer in play, the team MUST use the second ball for its next shot.

It’s best if partners have similar handicaps. If partners have significantly different handicaps, the player with the higher handicap should hit the first ball.

The right way to align your ball on the green

Most professional golfers that I see on television have drawn a line on the ball which they use to align the ball on the green. The golf balls I use already have an arrow printed on it for this purpose. I haven’t checked, but I would suppose lots of other modern balls do, too.

The act of aligning the ball can be a problem, though. The usual procedure is to squat down, try to eye-ball the starting line of the putt, and align the mark on the ball to it.

I see everybody looking at something at or near the hole, which can be a long way off. That, to my mind, seriously calls into question the accuracy of the alignment.

There must be a better way.

It’s a problem and only I can fix it.

You might have heard of spot putting. You pick a spot a few inches in front of the ball on the starting line and roll your putt over that spot. The idea is if you make that three-inch putt, you’ll make the eight-foot putt.

So-o-o, why not take it easy for yourself and set your ball down so it points to that spot three inches in front of the ball instead of something any number of feet away? Three inches is close enough that you can get it exactly right.

(I Photoshopped the yellow dot to make the visual clearer.)

If you trust the spot you have found, you have to trust aligning your ball this way.

Not only do you get a better alignment, you can do this in a matter of seconds. People in your group won’t have to watch you go tweak…tweak…tweak…, for bleeding ever.

You’re welcome!

Bryson’s Compass

I think I know why Bryson DeChambeau carries a compass. There is a long par 4 on the course I played yesterday that hides the fairway because of terrain. You think you are aiming down the middle and your straight-ahead drive ends up in the right rough, which keeps happening to me. I can’t bring myself to aim left enough.

I thought, if I had an azimuth from the tee box to the unseen center of the fairway, that would solve my problem. Then I could take a compass to the course and find a spot in the distance on that bearing to aim at.

How to do it? Go to this web site.

The site borrows Google Maps. Put the name of your golf course in the Search box and when it comes up, zoom in and click on Satellite.

Click on Start a Course and click on the tee box in question. Drag the mouse to the center of the fairway. A red line will appear, and a table to the left of the satellite image will show you the azimuth in degrees. In this case I got 221 degrees.

(Click images to enlarge)

So far, so good, but that is a true bearing. If you’re going to use a compass, you must correct for your local magnetic declination to get the magnetic bearing that you will read on your compass. Find that by going here.

Pay attention now, because here comes the the tricky part.

If the declination is EAST, subtract it from the bearing you got on first the web page to get the magnetic bearing of the line to the center of the fairway.

If the declination is WEST, add it to the bearing you got on the first web page to get the magnetic bearing of the line to the center of the fairway.

The declination of the location in my example is 15 degrees east, so subtracting that from 221 gives me a bearing of 206 degrees to aim the tee shot.

So I’ll stand on the tee, take out the compass, align the dial to North, and see where 206 degrees points to.

Brilliant, no?

This all sounds like a lot of work, but you only have to do it once for that tee box. Plus, it’s kind of fun to explain to the people in your foursome just what the heck you’re doing.

By the way, if you go to this work, you for sure better find the fairway with your tee shot instead of the right rough. Again.

Lawn Maintenance and Your 7-Iron

[Note: I have subsequently discovered that a fairway wood works much better for this operation.]

My lawn has very few dandelions in it because I jump on the blossoms when I see them and pick them off so they don’t go puff-ball on me. Every day I make a tour.

Yesterday, I was in my backyard driving range and the idea stuck me that as long as I had my 7-iron in hand, I could take care of the weeds and get a little chipping practice in at the same time.

I worked just great. Until I got too close to one of the borders.

Last fall I put down a sheet of 9-mil black plastic to cover a spot I want to put new plants in, so nothing would grow in the meantime. I saw a bulge in it and didn’t think that that might be a rock underneath. Which it was.

I got rid of the dandelion blossom right beside it, but I put a serious nick in the clubhead on the followthrough. Fortunately, a little filing smoothed down the rough edges, and the golf ball doesn’t seem to mind, so why should I.

So seriously. Get rid of those weeds with your golf club. Beats bending down all the time. Just make sure your entire arc is clear.

Google Maps and Golf

A few days ago, I got to playing with Google Maps to see how far away different objects in the Fairgrounds field, where I hit golf balls, it being only one block from my house, are from each other. The Internet is such a wonderful thing.

I found a feature that I didn’t know about before which measures straight-line distances. Pull up your map of, let’s say the second hole that requires you to carry the tee shot over a ditch or lay up. How far do you have to carry the tee shot in order to carry the ditch?

GM will tell you, and if I am not the last man on Earth to have found this feature, you’re in for a treat.

With the image of the hole, nice and big, in front of you, right-click on the tee box. A box will pop up with all sorts of features. Left-click on “Measure Distance”.

Right-click on the spot you want to measure the distance to. Another box will pop up. Left-click on “Distance to here”. A graduated line will appear, giving you the distance between the two spots.

This image shows you why I don’t try to hit over the ditch. 633 feet (211 yards) is more than I want to try for. Not to mention, it’s uphill. I can do it, if I really nail it, but how often you really nail it? Besides, this a par 5 and I almost always get par by laying up to the ditch. But now I know.

If you want to get deep into your strategy, you might find holes that you can play better by playing to a specific spot off the tee and finding out what club you would hit to get there.

I’ll let you figure out how to use this tool in places other than off the tee.

The whole point is to perhaps learn how to get your way around the courses you play by hitting manageable shots that play to your strengths.

Do You Play From the Right Set of Tees? – part 3

The Play It Forward movement began in spring 2011. The idea was to encourage golfers to play from tees suited to the length they hit the ball, which would make the game more fun, and speed up play. All fine by me.

I have always thought someone read my blog post on the subject, which came out about two months earlier, and stole my idea. But because I am an idea guy, and not a self-promoter, c’est la vie.

You might want to read that post, and this one too, before you continue here.

My idea in the original post was to divide total course length by 25. That is the length of drive suited for that set of tees. I got that figure by finding the average length of courses on the PGA Tour and dividing by the average length of drive on the Tour.

However, it occurred to me that dividing total course length by 25 isn’t quite right. That takes into account par 3s, on which you don’t use a driver, and par 5s, on which you do, but having three shots to get to the green puts less of a premium on driving distance.

That leaves par 4s. Judy Rankin once said, “If you can’t hit a 7-iron into some par 4s, you’re playing the wrong tees.” I turned that advice into this test: if there are more than two par 4s per side 400 yards or over, those tees are too long for me. That worked for a good number of years.

But my mind never gives up on these things (drives my wife crazy) and a few days ago I came up with this more accurate way of determining which tees to play from.

Add the length of your average drive to the carry distance of your 7-iron. Let’s call that your cut-off distance. For example, my drives go 235 yards, and my 7-iron goes ~140 yards. My cut-off distance is 375 yards.

Now look at the scorecard for the particular set of tees you want to play. There should be between four and six par-4 holes at your cut-off distance or shorter. If there are fewer than four, those tees are too long for you. More than six, and those tees are too short.

I took out the scorecard for the course I play most often with the tees I play from and arrayed the length of the par-4 holes from shortest to longest: 325, 335, 366, 372, 375, 380, 395, 400, 423, 431. You can see that 375 gives me five par 4s that are short enough. I’m playing the right tees on that course.

If I had divided overall course length, 6,402 yards, by 25, I would have come up with a driving distance of 256 yards which makes it look like those tees are way too long for me. But they’re really not.

On this course from the blue tees, one tee box back, the par 4s look like this: 358, 371, 390, 407, 420, 421, 423, 438, 439. Those are definitely too long. I would get only two 7-irons all day if I played from there. I actually did that once, just too see. I survived, and said, never again.

Now once you have figured it out, play from the right tees! Really! You’re out there to have FUN and pars and occasional birdies are more FUN than bogies or doubles. At least I think so.

Fixing the Fed Ex Cup – II

A few years ago I wrote about how to fix the FedEx Cup. The way points are rigged and adjusted during the four-tournament competition is too confusing for anyone to follow, and players can sit out a tournament and still be in it. The last thing we need to generate interest at the end of a long season is four more four-round stroke play tournaments. You might want to read my brilliant plan before you read this brillianter one.

Here goes. You start off with a 144-man field, composed of the top 144 golfers in FedEx points acquired during the year. The golfers are seeded, high to low. The first tournament is a set of matches according to standing. #1 plays #144, #2 plays #143, etc. The 72 pairs of golfers would play four rounds of stroke play, but only against each other. Four days of man-to-man competition against the same man. The winners of these 72 micro-tournaments move on to…

…the second tournament, a collection of 36 two-man mini-tournaments in the same format–two golfers playing four rounds against each other, stroke play, the pairings seeded by season-long FedEx points earned. No adjusting of the points. The 36 winners move on to…

…the third and final tournament. FedEx Cup points are thrown out, and the 36 remaining golfers play four rounds against the field straight up, winner gets the Cup.

What do you think?

The idea here is that to win the Cup, you have to win all along the way. FedEx points give you an advantage in the first two tournaments, but you still have to WIN to advance.

Could a long shot win? Could the #144 golfer win it all? Yes, but let’s go back to the Tiger Woods era to see clearly what would be required. #144 would have to play Tiger man-to-man four straight rounds and beat him. Then he would move on and play, say, Phil Mickelson four straight rounds and beat him. Then he would have to play against 35 very good golfers and beat them.

Maybe #144 could do one of those, but all three? Those are long odds. L-o-o-o-ong odds.

The FedEx Cup has become a snooze. Actually, that’s what it has been since its inception.

My plan solves three problems. First, four tournaments are too many. It becomes three. Second, fans would understand the format. I say again, does anybody understand how the points are adjusted, or why, and why someone can lose the Tour Championship, or even sit out a tournament, and still win the FedEx Cup, and is that right?

And finally, it would be DIFFERENT. You want to generate interest? Do something DIFFERENT. The four-round stroke play format is really kind of boring. This new format isn’t.

Tim Finchem made a game effort to keep professional golf relevant after the PGA Championship and before the Ryder/Presidents Cup by creating the FedEx Cup. But the current format ain’t doin’ the job. This one might.

(But then what do I know? I’m just a recreational golfer.)

Triangulated Approach Putting (TAP)

Often I will try something out for a few weeks and if it seems to be a good thing I will write a post about it. This one is different. I discovered it in 2015. I didn’t want to let you know about it until I was sure it was sound.

It is.

The method, which I call Triangulated Approach Putting (TAP), will revolutionize your approach putting.

The commonest reason you three-putt is that you leave your first putt too far from the hole. You get the distance wrong. TAP lets you leave that first putt right beside the hole. It is almost scary how good you will get.

TAP is based on this axiom: For any length of putt, if the length of the putting stroke is the sole distance generator, there is one, and only one, length of stroke that will send the ball that distance.

TAP shows you how to find the length of that stroke. I’ll explain the theory first and then get into the fine points.

In the diagram below, you see a line from the ball to the hole. That is the baseline of a triangle. The spot marked apex is where you stand to find the length of stroke. An imaginary line on the ground from the ball to the apex is the eyeline. The line from the apex to the hole, not being a factor, and is not labeled. Distances are exaggerated for clarity.

lateral bend stretch

The apex is located at a standard spot, half the length of the baseline and offset three paces to the left (to the right for left-handed golfers). These distances are adjustable.

Stand at the apex and set up your stance to face the baseline directly. Turn your head to look at the ball. The eyeline is an imaginary line on the ground that comes straight from the ball to you as you look at it. Swing your putter back and forth while looking at the ball. Make a stroke such that the clubhead intersects the eyeline . That length of stroke will send the ball the exact distance from where it now lies, to the hole.

That’s the theory. Here’s the practice.

(1) The length of the swing must be the sole distance generator. You cannot add any “hit” with your hands. That would be introducing another variable, which we do not want to do.

(2) You must hit the ball on the same spot of the putter’s face every time. The sweet spot is best. Erratic contact in this regard plays havoc with how much energy is imparted to the ball, and thus how far it goes.

(3) The speed of your putting stroke must be constant. Otherwise, you will unknowingly impart more or less energy to the ball, again affecting the distance it travels.

(4) The location of the apex is not fixed.
(a) If greens are slower or you are putting uphill, the apex must be more than halfway to the hole–point (A).

(b) If greens are faster or you are putting downhill, the apex must be less than halfway to the hole–point (B).

(c) Your putter can make a difference. If you are consistently leaving putts too long or too short, stand more or less than three paces from the baseline–closer to make putts go farther, or at more remove to make them travel shorter.

(5) An essential point is remembering the length of the stroke. After all, you have to walk over to the ball to hit the putt, and in that time you might forget. While at the apex, make several strokes that intersect the eyeline and pay attention to how that stroke feels to your body. There might be a slight stretching somewhere in your back, or your arms might brush against you in a certain way. When you get to the ball, recreate that sensation.

(6) Hit the ball with trust. TAP works if you let it.

Regarding the adjustments in (4), the more you practice TAP, the more accurate your adjustments will become.

Use TAP when distance is more important than line. How far from the hole that switch gets made is up to you, but ten feet is not too close.

I have tried this method on different practice greens, on different courses, and after I have adjusted to the conditions it always works.

You could take out all my posts from 2009 to date and nothing would be missing because you can read all of it somewhere else. I have just been adding emphasis or perhaps clarity.

But TAP is new. There is nothing remotely like it to be seen anywhere else. If you want to save strokes on the green starting almost overnight, here’s how. No kidding.

Golf Research

If you start poking around on the Internet, you can find fascinating articles about golf that are not written by golf experts like me, or teaching pros who do the best they can.

I mean articles published in academic journals investigating golf to find out what is really true and what is just inherited wisdom. You might have some fun with this list of articles. I do.

These papers are written in a standard format. I suggest you read the abstract, introduction, discussion, conclusion, and that you browse the references to find articles that might interest you on this subject. The section on methodology is of no concern unless you want to evaluate the study or reproduce it, and the analysis can be quite technical.

Is Tiger Woods Loss Averse?

Work and Power Analysis of the Golf Swing

The lumbar spine and low back pain in golf: a literature review of swing biomechanics and injury prevention

Assessing Golf Performance Using Golfmetrics

Equitable Handicapping in Golf

Training in Timing Improves Accuracy in Golf

(These articles were accessed in August 2017.)

Start poking round yourself. Go here and enter keywords that interest you. You will be amazed at what you find.

Your Golf Scoring Potential

Sometime in August I will be releasing my next golf opus, Bob’s Living Golf Book. It will be posted as a .pdf with links to illustrative videos. Until that happens, I’m going to post a few excerpts from it in this space to generate your enthusiasm. Here’s one about finding out how good you are/could be.

Play a round where you can hit a mulligan whenever you make a seriously bad shot. Pick up your first shot and play your mulligan. By doing this, you get rid of your bad shots and play a round with only the average or better ones. The score you get is an indication of your scoring potential.

You might be surprised at how low a score is within your reach. A round like this makes clear what improvements are needed to shoot a score like that for real.

If a particular mulligan isn’t much better than your first shot, you need to work on that particular shot. If your mulligans are generally much better, you need to learn to hit your second shot first. That is a matter of gaining confidence in what you do.

Note: When I say “seriously bad”, I mean it. The more honest you are with your mulligans the more information this experiment will give you.