Ron Romanik 
Play it as it lies!
Tuesday, April 24, 2012
By Ron Romanik

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


Ron Romanik is principal of the PR consultancy Romanik Communications. His full bio is here.





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Ryan Gingrow, Whitford CC teaching pro 
March Madness, in basketball and golf
Saturday, March 17, 2012
By Ron Romanik

68 teams are set to tip off what is arguably the greatest 3 weeks in sport

The Owls and 67 other teams are set to tip off what is arguably the greatest three  weeks 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.


The 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 come. 


So, 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. 


For 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.


At 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. 


I 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.


If 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 clearly how 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, 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.


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Ryan Gingrow, Whitford CC teaching professional 
How to improve your pratice time
Thursday, February 2, 2012
By Ron Romanik

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 actual tournament.


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 expectations.  No way!  


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.

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Ryan Gingrow is the teaching pro at Whitford CC 
A few ’Top’ lists of my own
Wednesday, October 19, 2011
By Ron Romanik

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 soar.

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:

1.  Luke Donald:  13 top-ten finishes in 18 events and leads in scoring average and money. 

2.  Yani 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

4.  Webb Simpson:  2 wins and T-2 with 10 top-ten finishes.   2nd in money and 2nd in scoring average.    Not as good of a showing in the Majors as Day.

5.  Nick 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 hole. 

2.  Pine 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.

3.  Merion 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.

Honorable Mention.  French 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


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Ryan Gingrow, Whitford CC teaching pro 
A few new rules for golf
Monday, September 19, 2011
By Ron Romanik

As 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?

Fall 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.

Tour 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.

Have 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.

What 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. 

If 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. 

Let’s 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 definitely improve. 

Oh 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.

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Ryan Gingrow, Whitford CC teaching pro 
Argh! The horrors of slow play
Thursday, August 25, 2011
By Ron Romanik

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 minutes.


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 pace.


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 time?


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 that move.


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 course.


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 course.


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.

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Ryan Gingrow, teaching pro Whitford CC 
What you can learn from the British Open
Wednesday, July 27, 2011
By Ron Romanik

The third Major of the year has come and gone

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 to Guinness 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. 


Recovery shots


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 times. 


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 worked. 


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 playing partners).


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!

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