Occasionally, newer and seasoned golfers alike get nervous over the ball when faced with a tough lie, forced carry or tight pin. But if your knees are knocking over every short shot, this tip is for you and better chips are on the way.
Next time you miss a green, let the thumb and index finger of your trail hand go along for the ride.
We’ve all heard “quiet hands” when it comes to chipping. What that really means is the muscles in your arms should be more active than the muscles in your hands. The easiest way to feel this separation is to take the thumb and index finger of your trail hand off the club when practicing chips. Using the muscles in those fingers are great for writing or throwing, but are very often the culprits to miserable chip shots. By removing these fingers from the grip you’ll take the flip move out of your swing, create a wider – more forgiving – impact area, and get up and down more often.
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With so many brands of golf ball overloading the marketplace, it’s difficult if not confusing to figure out which one best fits your golf game.
Here’s a sensible game plan to help you logically conduct and conquer The Great Golf Ball Search.
First, ask yourself what you are looking for:
A – Distance
B – Accuracy
C – Short Game: touch, feel, and spin
If you answer all three, the search is over, as far as I’m concerned … the Pro V1 family. Look no further. For me, Titleist’s premier line is the best all-around ball, regardless of skill level, to deliver all of the above traits. Market research and testing proves that. Period, end of discussion.
To me, anyway. For you, the discussion may be different. There are a lot of good golf balls out there. Either way, here’s my advice on finding the perfect ball.
If your answer is A – Distance, be careful, because by boxing yourself into the “distance matters most” request (granted, every manufacturer has a ball to fulfill this request), you are severely tying one hand behind your back when it comes to the touchy-feely scoring shots.
B – Many balls today with a bevy of dimple designs and patterns do a wonderful job of helping the average golfer hold their line in windy conditions, and in fact almost self-correct to a degree, minimizing those off-line shots when you make the occasional poor swing.
C – Some manufacturers advertise their “softer feel” ball for the lower-swing-speed player, and also tell you these balls feel better around and on the putting surface. When you see this type of ad on your TV, change the channel or leave the room. It’s nonsense.
Let me tell you a personal story that happened in winter 2018-19 in Naples, Florida, where I live and teach. I have been a Titleist Leadership Advisory Board Member for many years.
I’m prejudiced with reason. As a competitive professional player many moons ago, and before that a fairly successful college player, I had access to any golf ball I wanted to play. It had always been an incredibly easy choice to make through the years: Whatever was the Titleist premium ball of the time period was the ball of choice. In my experience, they always out-performed the other balls hands-down.
Anyway, in October 2018 I turned 60. Ouch — it hurts to type and look at that number. I wondered if it was time for the Old Pro to find a ball (in the Titleist line of course) that would help me find a few extra yards while not hurting me on the scoring shots (my bread and butter), on and around the green. In the past, I had gone on similar journeys and always found yardage, but hated the greenside touch and feel results. About that time, Titleist suddenly launched the AVX, and it was and still is receiving rave reviews.
I grabbed a dozen Pro Vs and a dozen AVXs. For three consecutive evenings, after I finished teaching, I went out and played holes on the golf course, hitting several drives, second shots, pitches, chips, sand shots, and putts with several of each ball. I then played several rounds with the AVX on my home course. I’m sure you know on your home track where you generally drive the ball, as I do, and how your regular ball reacts when you hit any particular club into a green, how it feels off the putter face, and so on.
With the driver, both balls were similar. The AVX was a bit longer in the air (about half a club) with my irons, and compared to any previous distance-type ball it had much better feel on short shots. Still, the Pro V won out across the board. Just more consistent, better feel, better all-around performance.
You may very well find a different result.
What you must do when contemplating a ball change is conduct side-by-side on-course testing, hitting many golf shots with every club in your bag over several days (conditions change, as do you). Then and only then will you be able to make a sound decision.
Take a hard look at the Darrell Survey results the last 100 years. Titleist is played by a landslide percentage of tournament professionals around the globe. A small percentage of world-class players are paid big bucks to play a particular ball, but the vast majority are not. Given the choice, those golfers still choose Titleist.
Whatever brand and model you choose, don’t base it on some ad, or your buddies’ prompting; do it based on your own mini-testing. Play the ball that performs best tee through green for you. It’s the only piece of equipment that is involved in every shot you hit.
Missing another tradition unlike any other: The Masters’ honorary starters
According to the weather report, the temperature in Augusta at 7:45 on Thursday morning is supposed to be 70 degrees, rising to a high of 85 by mid-afternoon.
If the world was a normal place right now, thousands of people would be preparing to pack around the first tee at Augusta National Golf Club to get a close look at Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player as they walk onto the tee to take part in one of sport’s sweetest rituals.
Fred Ridley, Augusta National’s chairman, would introduce the two—Nicklaus, a six-time Masters champion; and Player, a three-time winner. Each would have warmed up, wanting to be sure they were loose enough to get their only shot of the 2020 Masters as far down the fairway as possible.
None of that will happen Thursday. Augusta National will be empty the way virtually every sporting venue—hallowed or not—is empty.
This would have been Nicklaus’s 11th year as an honorary starter and Player’s ninth. It has been the two of them alone on the tee since 2017. In 2016, Arnold Palmer was there but didn’t hit a shot. Nicklaus said later that at the Champions Dinner the previous night, he had tried to talk Palmer into taking a swing.
“I said to him, ‘Arnold, if you putt the ball off the tee, everyone will love it,’ ” Nicklaus said, adding, “He said he has some balance problems.”
Palmer had been an honorary starter since 2007—going at it solo for three years before Nicklaus and then Player were invited to join him. He sat on the tee that day in 2016, wearing his green jacket and, with a little help from Nicklaus, stood to acknowledge the cheers when then-club chairman Billy Payne introduced him.
When Nicklaus was introduced, he looked at his longtime rival and friend and had to wipe tears from his eyes. “I don’t know whether I’ve got tears or I’m just old,” he said.
Clearly, the tears had nothing to do with his age. Five months later, on the eve of Ryder Cup week, Palmer passed away soon after turning 87.
The tradition of honorary starters at Augusta dates to 1963, when Jock Hutchison and Fred McLeod were asked to hit opening tee shots to start the tournament. Neither was a Masters champion, but Hutchison had won the first Senior PGA Championship, in 1937, and a year later McLeod won the second. Both those tournaments were played at Augusta National.
The two men shared the first tee until Hutchison, then 89, stepped aside in 1974. McLeod continued on alone through the 1976 tournament, taking his final swing at 93. A month later, he passed away.
Although the ceremonial tee shots are referred to as “an annual tradition,” there have been years when no one hit a shot before the actual start of the tournament.
After McLeod’s death, there were no ceremonial starters for the next four years. In 1981, Gene Sarazen and Byron Nelson were asked to become honorary starters. Nelson was a two-time Masters champion, and Sarazen’s one Masters victory, in 1935, featured “the shot heard round the world,” his 235-yard 4-wood on the 15th hole that found the hole for a double eagle.
In 1984, Sam Snead joined Sarazen and Nelson, and the three of them made the opening tee shot an important part of every Masters.
Sarazen often provided highlight moments, not only with his ability to get the ball down the first fairway well into his 90s, but with his willingness to add to the chairman’s recitation of each player’s resume. When then-chairman Jack Stephens introduced Sarazen in 1994 as “a Masters, U.S. Open and British Open champion,” Sarazen said, “You forgot the PGA—I won the PGA three times.” The number of people on earth who could get away with publicly correcting an Augusta National chairman can usually be counted on one hand with fingers to spare. Stephens cracked up.
Sarazen was 97 the last time he teed it up, in 1999, and he died a month later. Nelson continued through 2001, leaving Snead as the sole swinger in 2002. Like McLeod and Sarazen, Snead died a month after his last ceremonial swing. One can’t help but wonder if each man pushed himself to make it to Augusta in April one last time.
After Snead’s death, there was another four-year gap with no starter until Palmer took over in 2007. There has been one fill-in starter: In 1983, Nelson couldn’t attend the tournament because his wife was ill, and he asked Ken Venturi to stand in for him.
Player is 84 and Nicklaus is 80. The hope is that both men will be part of the opening ceremony for many years to come. But because the Masters is the Masters, there are those who wonder who might be next in the line of succession.
Tom Watson, a two-time champion, turned 70 last September. There were some who thought the club might ask him to join Nicklaus and Player this year, but Watson recently said he didn’t think he was “worthy” of joining Nicklaus and Player. Chances are good the club will, at some point, disagree with him.
The other prime candidates in Watson’s generation to someday be starters are two-time champion Ben Crenshaw, who is now 68, and three-time champion Nick Faldo, who is 62.
Even though there have been years in the past without a starter, it seems unlikely the club will let that happen again. It is a tradition unique to the Masters and one that everyone clearly enjoys.
One thing that is almost certain: Sometime from 2040-‘45, longtime BFFs Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson will be asked to be the starters. They will hit their tee shots and then—as all the honorary starters do—they will come into the media center to reminisce.
There is no doubt they will both talk about how the media exaggerated their differences dating to the long-ago 1990s. “Nothing to it,” they will say. “We always got along.” (For the record, Mickelson has already said this to me.)
My fondest wish is that I somehow live to witness that if only to tell those too young to remember that nothing could be farther from the truth For now, though, with everyone in golf keenly aware of the silence coming from Augusta National this week, all we can do is look forward to the honorary starters, and the Masters, on Nov. 12.
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