Niagara Gazette — Over my 28 seasons with you, I’d like to think that I’ve provided you with many good tips on how to play the great game of golf just a little bit better. I also know that many of you take my tips to the driving range with the full intention of incorporating them into your swing.
The problem occurs when you either interpret the tip incorrectly or you simply cannot bring yourself to come out of your swing comfort zone and try something new.
Today, I have a tip for you that I consider the best single tip that I have ever shared. I like to call it “Being Steve Stricker," because the sensation I get when I integrate this tip into my swing is that I look and feel like Stricker, a smooth striker of the golf ball.
I have shared this sermon with you in prior columns over the years, but I’m more committed than ever that it can change your game for the better forever if you’ll just integrate it into your swing.
Let’s start with two obvious premises. Firstly, all golfers desire to hit their golf ball greater distances, and secondly, golf is a game of opposites. Incorporate these two notions into one principle and you have my tip of the year: If you want to hit your ball further, you must swing easy, and here’s why.
Even a speeding car starts out at low speeds and builds to a crescendo. If a car could start at 100 mph, it would surely shake, rattle, roll, and disintegrate. Your golf swing is like that car. If it starts smoothly, in control, it will build up clubhead speed in an organized way.
Within the rhythm of a effortless motion, the swing’s transition at the top can be observed. Nothing is more important to a great swing than its transition from backswing to downswing. Ninety percent of all players I observe have little or no pause at the top of their backswing. Their power transfer is virtually null and void.
The backswing is merely a means to torque your body into a power position. The transition, or pause, between these actions is what sets up swing speed progression. If the transition is rushed, all parts of the swing, the hands, the wrist action, balance and swing plane, are distorted.
On the other hand, if the transition takes place effortlessly with pause, the swing is sequential, allowing each aspect of the body to respond at a precise moment. The key is to trust that you can do more with less.
It’s working for me. I’m playing the best golf in my life, and I know that you can too. Look past common sense and experience a golfing truth: Golf is not a violent game.
Sometimes, it’s bad to be good, especially when it involves giving advice on the golf course. Let’s see if you know the rules about advice.
Question #1: Mary’s ball was lying in the rough and very close to a bush. Mary was deliberating what she should do when her opponent Rita innocently mentioned that Mary should consider declaring her ball as unplayable and stated that Mary had “no shot at all.” Do the rules allow Rita to be nice to Mary?
Question #2: On tour, there are morning and afternoon tee times. Joe played in the morning while Bo plays in the afternoon. Upon completion of Joe’s round, Bo approaches Joe and asks him what clubs Joe hit into all the par-three holes. Joe tells him. Is either man or both men penalized for such a discussion?
Ready? Here are the answers to the two above rules questions.
Answer #1: In this case, Rita was giving Mary counsel, which is contrary to Rule 8-1. Rita’s suggestion could have influenced Mary’s decision and so it constitutes advice. In match play, Rita loses the hole. In stroke play, she is assessed a two-stroke penalty.
Keep in mind the information on rules, distance or matters of public information is NOT advice. If Mary had asked Rita if she was allowed to take an unplayable, Rita could have legally answered the question, since the rules pertaining to an unplayable ball are public knowledge. Rita’s mistake was offering an alternative to Mary, which constituted advice. Get it?
Answer #2: Neither professional is penalized. Rule 8-1 applies only to players who are both playing a round at the same time. Since Bo had not yet started his round and Joe had completed his, there is no penalty.
These advice rulings remind me of another legal method of getting information from an opponent during the play of a round. I call it “bag hawking." It seldom occurs, but there are occasions when you are playing in very windy conditions with someone who hits their clubs relatively the same distances as you do.
On a par-three hole, if they hit first, you would benefit from knowing what club they chose. While you cannot ask them, you are allowed to “bag hawk” without penalty. In other words, it is perfectly legal to look into your opponents bag to see what club he hit, as long as you do not touch his bag or any of his equipment. As an example, you could not lift his towel off the bag to establish which club is missing.
It may seem dishonorable but, after all, its really no different than observing an opponent’s putt break when you are on the same line. Every little advantage helps.
Finally, some good news!
A recent study has found that the average golfer walks about 900 miles each season. And yet, another study found that golfers drink, on average, 22 gallons of alcohol each season.
The conclusion? On average, golfers get about 41 miles to the gallon.
Until next week, keep it in the fairway.Ken Ruggiero is a local golf instructor and has been writing this column for the past 28 years. He can be reached at email@example.com or 298-0967.