The golf community of
Philadelphia is probably one of the top five active and interactive golf
communities in the world. I’m excited to increase my participation here in
cooperation with my good friend Joe Logan. Not that it needs my help, but I
hope to add to the community’s health and well-being with frequent blog posts
about recent events, storied lore, and contentious debates.
The number of quality golf
courses in southeastern Pennsylvania is impressive, with a variety of
attractive options in any budget range. I was lucky enough to sample many of
them during my stint as Editor-in-Chief of Pennsylvania
Golfer. I try to see the best features in the courses I play, but I have a
particular fond spot in my heart for the Golden Age of Design—the 1920s
and 1930s. And if I had to pick one golf course designer that embodies the
finest realization of the game, I’d have to pick William Flynn.
Then there’s the community of
golfers itself. The GAP Team Matches, for instance, have no equal that I know
of, run by the Golf Association of Philadelphia. On three Sundays each April
and May, nearly 4,000 golfers are engaged in spirited interclub matches. And
there are also a plethora of public leagues, tours, and charity events.
In this Imperfect Lies Blog, I look forward to writing about a wide range
of topics, intending to be a mix of informative, thought-provoking, and
slightly irreverent discussions. I consider the greatest moment in sports
history—in any sport—was when Jack Nicklaus conceded the putt of
Tony Jacklin to end the Ryder Cup of 1969. I will revisit that moment in
history later this year in a blog post.
You can look forward to other
future column topics that will include "The $1,000 Skin on a $10 Stake,"
"Tips on How to Play Private Clubs for Free," "My Short-Lived, Semi-Official
Course Record," and a "Somewhere, Out There, Is a Golf Course" moment on the
northern shores of Ireland.
Just as a counter-position, I
consider the lowest moment in all of golf history the moment when Boo Weekley
decided to ride his driver like a horse. That was bad enough. Showing the world
that he was wearing white socks added insult to injury. I will not be
revisiting that moment in history ever again—here or anywhere else.
So, please feel free to tell
us your golf stories, heartfelt opinions, or pet peeves... I’m at firstname.lastname@example.org.
68 teams are set to tip off what is arguably the greatest 3 weeks in
Owls and 67 other teams are set to tip off what is arguably the greatest
threeweeks in sport.No player thinks that his team can’t
win.The coaches?Well, they, too, have the same
belief.Coaches will work every
minute they have leading up to every game.No tape will go unwatched and no coach’s hair will go unpulled.
final team to cut the nets down on April 2 will have had an unparalleled
combination of great guard play, inside scoring and toughness and tremendous
coaching.This has been a
consistent theme for many March Maddnesses and will continue for years to
how can you replicate the winning team when it comes time for you to start your
golf season in the next few weeks?Let me ask you this important question first:What would you think if you saw one of
the 68 teams take the court without a coach?Wouldn’t look right, would it?Golf is no different and battling it out
on the links without a coach in your corner would look just as odd
if you ask me.
many years now golf instructors – me included
-- have been focusing too much on making the swing look as pretty as a Ray
Allen jumper.Pretty is good if you
are like Luke Donald, and can lead two Tours in money during the same calendar
year.But for those of you who
can’t, you need a coach to map out a detailed practice schedule and to teach
you how to practice.
a recent Philly PGA Section teaching seminar, Dave Phillips, PGA (Titleist TPI
Instructor), most known for appearing on the Golf Channel’s Fitness Academy,
stressed the importance of challenging students with results-oriented
practice.He suggested coaching
golfers through scoring games with short wedges and putters, dropping balls
within 100 yards and playing each ball out, and making students hit draws and
fades; low and high shots; knockdowns and lobs.
would never expect a player to improve by just hitting ball after ball on the
range.Random practice needs to be
a part of your practice routine each and every time out.Random practice means hitting a 9-iron
high and soft.Put the 9 away and
grab a rescue and hit a draw.Pick
up your gap wedge and play a low knock down type shot.Finally, grab your driver and hit a soft
fade.If you feel your game isn’t
to a level where you can hit a draw or a soft fade, then hit one to a right
flag on the range and hit one to a flag to the left.Be creative when you practice and try to
see the shots on the range that you hit most on the course.
you haven’t met with your coach yet for the upcoming season, get together
now.Your coach will help you with
what you need to know.For me, I
will learn to be more specific this year with what I want.I will detail clearlyhow I want
my students to practice when I am not there.For example, for a student looking to
improve his or her short game, I will prescribe a certain number of putts from
five, 10 and 15 feet.I will ask
students to hole out from several different bunker lies and keep score.I will make sure they are using each of
their wedges by playing par 3 games, with all shots starting from less than 100
yards.Each one of my students
during 2012 is a member of my team-- a team
that will work toward lower scores and more enjoyable rounds of golf.
results and results--no matter
how ugly a team wins in the NCAA tournament, a win is a win. And no matter how
ugly your swing is, the only thing that matters is the number you record on
your scorecard.If you are
coachable and practice like you are part of a team, you just might be cutting
the nets down at the conclusion of your club championship this year.Well, maybe not the nets, but at least
unscrewing the flag from the top of the stick!
Ryan Gingrow is PGA teaching professional at Whitford
CC. His full bio is here.
If you have been watching The Golf Channel, maybe you have caught the
excitement from the start of a new PGA Tour season
If you have been watching
Golf Channel, maybe you are caught up in the excitement of the start of a new
PGA Tour season.Besides the first
full week in April with that tournament that unofficially gets everyone excited
about golf, watching golf from Maui, Oahu, San Diego and Scottsdale, while I’m
sitting in semi-cold Philly in January gets me excited for a new season.
Watching these early-season
tournaments does two things for me.First, it gives me a chance to see how the players have taken care of their
golf games over the off-season (some would argue that golf has no off-season).
There is the winner of the
first event of the year, Steve Stricker.After having played through most of November, Stricker retires back to
Wisconsin for his off-season of practice.During his post-round interviews, Stricker said he was excited to just
play holes.Obviously the chance to
play holes in Wisconsin during December does not happen.He works on hitting balls indoors and
some rehabilitation for his neck and back, plus some putting and chipping, I am
sure.Sticker also stopped in
Arizona on the way to Maui and played several rounds of golf to gear up for the
Being able to hit a 6 iron
on the range perfectly is much easier than trying to pull off the shot during a
competitive or even fun round of golf.You can only hit so many balls during the off-season, or hit from heated
bays or hit balls into a net.This
may keep the golf muscles loose, but it will do little for your confidence out
on the course.
A practice range does not
need to be perfect?How many
perfect lies do you get on the golf course?Fine, I agree, make one part of the
range tee flat and even to warm up before you head to the first tee, but let’s
try to challenge golfers with the second tee or second half of the range
tee.Build some contour.Have some side hill, down/up hill,
moguls, various levels of rough and other imperfect lies on the range tee.I get bored hitting from a flat tee -- not
bored because I am such a good ball striker, but bored because I want to
practice the shots I get on the course.
Stricker said that he wants
to hit shots that he will hit under tournament pressure.He would probably agree that the best
way to get ready for an event is to actually play.Play so you get comfortable hitting all
sorts of shots.
Secondly, watching these early
tournaments, I can see whose games are better designed for certain
courses.There might not be a
greater difference between two courses back-to-back on the schedule than what
you have in Hawaii.The Plantation
Course at Kapalua is wide open.Hit
is hard and far.Waialae, home of the Sony Open, is an old Donald Ross course with tight, palm tree-lined
fairways with small greens.Hit it
straight!Even short is ok on this
course sits Oceanside just east of Diamond Head.
How does this translate to
your own games?Before you play a
round of golf, understand how the course fits your game.If you like to hit it long and far,
maybe you will struggle on a tight, but short course.If you are a short, but an accurate
player, understand that you might pull more long irons, hybrids or fairway
woods from your bag during your round.
There is a course out there
for everyone.Once you realize
which courses suit your game better than others, you can adjust your expectations
for each round.This is the same principle
that explains why Annika picked Colonial in Texas, a short, tight course, to
try her hand at the PGA Tour. Would
she have gone out to play a course similar to Aronimink and had the same
Watch golf with a purpose
early in the year. This is a great
time to see how the pros managed their games early on in the season.You can learn much from their preparations
as you wait for March and April in Philadelphia.
Ryan Gingrow is PGA teaching professional at Whitford
CC. His full bio is here.
It seems like every month, the
top golf magazines give us their lists of "Tops:" The "Top 5" this, the "Top 10" that,
whether it’s golf instructors, public courses, swing tips or putters.
Okay, it’s my turn.Here are my "Tops."
Top 3 Tips:
Putting: Not holing a
lot of makeable putts?No worries.Grab a tennis ball.Get rid of your cell phone for 30
minutes.Head to a putting green.Begin by putting from two feet, then go
to five, then to 10, then to 15.Attempt to hole-out putts from each distance before moving on to the
next.Looking down at the
tennis ball for 30 minutes will do wonders to your confidence.By the time you put down a golf ball,
the ball will look so small and the hole will look so big, your confidence will
Controlling ball flight:Grab a few irons and head out on the
course when the fairways are less crowded.Find some shade under a group of trees and drop a few golf balls.Make sure you have chosen a collection
of trees that have branches high enough off the ground so that you can make at
least a ¾ swing.Hit balls
in the direction of the green and work on controlling your ball flight.To prevent hitting the ball straight up
into the trees, focus on leaning the shaft ahead of the ball at impact,
ensuring the clubhead is working down through the
ball.The forward lean of the shaft
should be continuous and the clubhead should not
release.You should see the ball
flight stay low and escape under the last tree and out toward greener grass.
Play it backward: We
all have our favorite clubs and our least favorite.Take the five or six clubs out of your
bag that you hit the most.Leave
the rest in and head for the first tee.Play several holes and learn to shape shots, hitting half- and
three-quarter shots.If you want to
really challenge yourself, play the hole backwards.Choose the shortest club in your bag and
tee off with this club.You will
experience shots that you never have before and when you go out for your next
competitive round, the course should play a whole lot easier!
Top 5 Tour Players of 2011:
Donald:13 top-ten finishes in
18 events and leads in scoring average and money.
Tseng:6 wins, including 2
majors.Leading the money list by
nearly twice as much as number two.Leading scoring average by almost a full stroke.
3. Jason Day:T-2 with 10
top-ten finishes.Also finished T-2
at the Masters and 2nd at the U.S. Open
Simpson:2 wins and T-2 with 10
in money and 2nd in scoring average.Not as good of a showing in
the Majors as Day.
Watney:2 wins, including the AT&T at Arnomink,
and T-2 with 10 top-ten finishes.3rd in money and 4th in scoring average.
Top 3 Golf Holes I have played since moving to the Philadelphia
area (with an honorable mention)
1.Whitford Country Club,
No. 4:A true 3-shot par
5 with a very challenging, sloping green from back to front, guarded by bunkers
and a creek short and left of the green from the tee.The practice range on the left side does
not frame the hole well, but regardless, you know it is there.With deep rough and willow trees on the
right, a tee shot in the fairway is a must.Long second shot up a hill leaves a
wedge to a short iron in hand from a sloping fairway.Positioning the ball properly on the
green is challenging and necessary.The first time I saw PGA Head Pro Mike Ladden
putt this green, he left his 15-foot downhill putt about 8 feet short.The speed confuses many on this
Valley, No. 13:From the tee
box, this par 4 hole screams, "Hey you, you can hit your tee shot anywhere,
swing away!"For your second shot,
a bailout area (which looks massive and makes the green appear closer than you
think) to the right of the green complex is one option.The other option is to play to the
green, well-guarded in the front right by a waste area and in the back as
well.The green slopes to the left
and a great second shot does not mean a par is a guarantee.
GC, East Course, No. 17:I am
not a huge fan of long par 3’s, but this hole gives the player absolutely no
bailout area.At well over 200
yards, a long iron or hybrid is the play.Native grass and deep, greenside bunkers surround the multi-tiered
green.Getting your ball onto
the green from the tee only means 1/3 of your work is over.A two-putt par is most players’ wish,
but walking away with a 4 can happen fast.
Creek GC, No. 15:Every course
should have a reachable par 4.Stand on this tee and the only thing in front of you is a steep,
elevated green with bunkers short, and a small fairway to the right of the
green.There is nothing more
rewarding to me than having the option to pull off one great, risky shot and to
be rewarded.I guess it doesn’t
hurt that I hit a hybrid onto this green and 2-putted for my birdie.The green slopes toward the front and
from right to left.A two-putt is
not automatic if you hit the green.Measuring in the mid to upper 200 yard range, the hole provides a great
opportunity to snatch a birdie before heading to the final three holes.
Ryan Gingrow is PGA teaching
professional at Whitford CC. His
full bio is here.
the PGA Tour and its Improving FedEx Cup Playoff format is coming to a
conclusion, I have had a few more chances to be irritated by the Rules of
Golf.Just wait a few waggles here!
Which Rules of Golf am I talking
about?The Rules of Golf that the
am’s play by or the Rules that the Tour pro’s get to play by?
is here no matter if we are ready for it or not.The month-long rainy reason, which used
to be known as August, is gone and cooler temps are here.Soon, red, orange, yellow and brown
leaves will collect in the now lush rough.What is significant about this?Finding your golf ball will now be more difficult than finding someone
in the Philly metro area who isn’t a Phil’s fan this fall.
Pros get everything.Courtesy cars
from high-end dealers are a norm. Free food all week in fancy clubhouses
could never get old.Complimentary this,
complimentary that.Each week they
receive an all-inclusive package of goodies just for paying an entry fee.And their benefits do not stop after
they tee up their ball on Thursday.
you ever been to a Tour event and have seen a player walk or ride a cart back
to the tee because he couldn’t find his ball just of the fairway in the
rough?I will answer that for you,
NO!Have you ever seen a player hit
a ball on top of a clubhouse and get a free drop?I will answer that for you, YES!Ever see an errant drive hit a spectator
and the ball caroms back into the fairway?Reaching far back into my Spanish classes at PSU, Si!The list of questions could go on for a
few more Ōgraphs.
got my attention even more was what I saw Thursday during the first round of
the BMW Championship.Webb Simpson,
ranked at the top of the FedEx Cup standings, is in the middle of the fairway
on his 9th hole of the day.SHANK!Not a problem.He even admitted that he hits one of
those now and again due to swing path.The ball found its way to a bleacher adjacent to the green and Simpson
received a free drop.Really?You shank a ball not even close to the
green and you get a free drop?He manages
to get up-and-down for a par four.
I shank a ball on the 9th hole at my home course, I am either in a
pond or some long, gnarly fescue on the side of a hill.Can I pay to get bleachers set up around
the course to stop my ball in case I hit a shank?While some may argue that his ball may
have come to rest in long rough if it did not settle in beside some spectators,
there needs to be a penalty for this type of shot.One stroke and drop at your nearest
point of relief.That works for
me.Webb probably wouldn’t
argue.Have you seen him
interviewed?Seems like one of the
nicest guys on Tour.
go back to the ball lost in the rough.The rough is not normally this thick around Philly this time of
year.Now we are left searching for
balls like it is May around many courses.If you and your partners agree
that the ball is lost in the rough, in a specified area, take a stroke, drop at
where you think your ball is lost and continue play.None of this "go back to the tee"
stuff.If we had spectators and
galleries lining fairways, the ball would be found and the round would go
on.Pace of play would
yeah, forgot one thing.Those balls
that Tour players hit into the rough and the bleachers.Of course they are free too.Those balls that you hit into the
rough and can’t find?Not free!Maybe not having to re-tee would soften
the blow of losing another $4!
Ryan Gingrow is PGA teaching professional at Whitford
CC. His full bio is here.
I am suddenly inspired to address an alarming trend that most golfers
would agree is currently hurting our great game.No, I am not talking about the great
advances in equipment, especially the controversy surrounding the long
putter.I am talking about s-l-o-w play.
My moment of inspiration came while I was caddying for a member from
Whitford CC in a State Amateur event last week.Exact moment?The 8th fairway at the
Country Club of York.Exact time to
inspire?Roughly 12 excruciating
Under golf’s pace of play policy, the group in front of us was making
okay time for their match, as rules officials watched from a distance.What I witnessed on the green in
front of us, however, was mind-blowing at times and a textbook case of the kind
of dawdling that needs to be banished from the game.
Practice is for the range and the short game area, not for the course in
the middle of a competitive round, while others in the group are trying to keep
Specifically, I watched a player 3-putt the 8th green.Okay, three-putting on a fast green does
not make for slow play.Heck, if
the player 5-putted, who cares, so long as they do it in a reasonable amount of
What set me off was the selfish slowness of it all.Each putt was meticulously examined,
reviewed, reconsidered, like the U.S. Open was on the line.
Meanwhile, back down the fairway, my player and I waited and waited and w-a-i-t-e-d,
along with the opponent in the match.Up ahead on the green, Miss Stall (thinking four-corners in basketball
here) was taking three and four full rehearsal putts. Even the tap-in 2 footer
(the third putt that wasn’t conceded), required the full pre-shot routine.
Much of this time-wasting foolishness was a result of the pressure from
Miss Stall’s caddy, I’m sure, who also happened to be her dad, coach and no
doubt future business manager.At
one point, he actually straddled the line of one of his daughter’s putts,
crouching like Carlos Ruiz, staring into her face as she lined up the
putt.Maybe she had something in
her eye and asked her dad to take a look.Who knows?I can’t explain
Her routine was just as slow off the green.Several times I watched as this young
player took several practice swings for a short pitch shot, holding her finish
position, seeming to watch the ball trickle to the hole in her mind.If all this didn’t take hours, it felt
like it.I’m pretty sure my
good-luck beard was a little grayer in spots when we finally got off the
So, here is my advice, especially to young players:Golf is not a game to take lightly if
you want future success.However,
remember that you are learning to play the game.Just because you don’t see a play clock
or shot clock behind each green, as a quarterback or point guard would in their
respective sports, doesn’t mean you can let the world wait on you.
The majority of your mental and physical preparation should take place
on the practice tee, before the round.After repeating the process of your pre-shot routine and your swing so many
times on the range, your body and mind will ultimately follow on the golf
Juniors, from the moment you tee off and you feel the first-tee jitters
– and you will feel jitters -- trust your swing.During the actual round, just react.
And a note to parents, too. If you want to caddie for your son or
daughter, caddie.But coaching is
for the range.
The third major of the year
has come and gone.Sun,
clouds, rain and wind.Sun, clouds,
rain and wind.Without a
well-deserved victory by well-liked player, those elements would have been the
story of yet another Open Championship.
There is one more chance for an American player to help buck the trend that has
dominated golf for much of the last two years.Phil,
Dustin and Rickie were all close
waiting to forge ahead, but just like wishing for four days of perfect weather
in the south of England, it never happened.
There is much more, however,
to take out of watching the Open
Championship for the normal golf fan, the mid-to-high handicapper.The style of golf necessary to succeed
on links courses can actually benefit your games here in the States.A claret jug is not at stake for you,
but maybe lower scores can be just as rewarding and cause you to celebrate with
a few pints of "black stuff," as Darren
Clarke referred toGuinness on
Sunday.So pay attention, Mr. or
Mrs. Handicap because this is for you.
There is no doubt that the
wind is the harshest element of links golf.But the number one thing you hear pros
say when they play in the wind is to make sure to swing easy.
Can you take this swing
thought with you anywhere,to any
course you play?Absolutely. Swinging
harder can cause two major problems.One, poor balance; two, imparting too much spin on the golf ball.
Set up a fan at home or
practice one day when the winds are up.Learn to keep your balance until the finish of your swing, and until your
ball has landed.
How many times at Royal St. Georges did you see a player
attempt hit his ball high into a green?Not many.Playing under firm
conditions, the goal was to keep their ball below the wind, often playing three-quarter
swings and running their balls up to the front of the greens.
Have you ever played your
shots to the fronts of greens instead of chasing pins?Why not take a club that will get you to
the front of the green, avoiding bunkers, heavy rough and the trees surrounding
many green complexes?Take an extra
club and flight the ball lower and keep it under the tops of the trees.There is nothing that says golf has to
be played in the air.
Recovering from trouble is
the norm, if your game is a little off when playing across the pond.The best players in the world take their
lumps and attempt to recover as quickly as possible.Shots are played out sideways and
backwards from deep bunkers.Shots
from the heavy gorse are played with sand wedges.Putters are used from 30 yards out to
curve a ball on the ground around a bunker.Has it ever taken you three shots to get
out of a bunker?If you are not a
skilled bunker player, and you are faced with a wall of sand or sod between you
and the green, hit it out backwards to the fairway.After all, a bunker is a hazard. Sometimes
it’s better to swallow your pride and take a stroke to play your shot to a safe
area, rather than pulling off a shot which you can only hit one out of ten
Mickelson’s new attitude
Phil Mickelson tied for second at Royal St.
Georges, his best finish in any Open
thus far.He went into the week
with a whole new attitude.He
convinced himself that this was his first chance to play links golf and took
what the course gave him.It almost
As for you, do not try to
out-smart a course.Play the shot
which lies in front of you.If you
can’t hit a draw, don’t hit it.If
your fairway woods roll more than fly, pull an iron.Learning to hit shots that you can
actually hit will also help make this game more enjoyable for you (and for your
Yes we are blessed with more
sun and fewer windy days during the summer months in Pennsylvania, but focus on
playing your game as if you were an ocean away.Play the ground game.Leave the air for the guys who don’t
work a nine to five!