1. YOU WANT TO PLAY A TOP PRIVATE TRACK BUT DON'T KNOW ANY MEMBERS THERE
With a down economy, gaining access to premier private courses is more feasible than ever. Here are four ways to get behind the gates.
No. 1: Take a lesson with the club's pro; an on-course playing lesson or even a full 18 holes might be the result.
No. 2: Buy a spot in a Monday charity outing. Tough-to-access courses like Winged Foot and Medinah host plenty of them.
No. 3: Join a web-based "network" that allows access to private tracks. Boxgroove (boxgroove.com) has a network of 746 private clubs; Tour GCX (tourgcx.com) is affiliated with several Top 100 Courses. Fees vary.
No. 4: Call or e-mail a club's general manager and simply ask to tee it up. Request to play during a quieter time to up your chances. If you're traveling, some clubs respond favorably to requests from hotel concierges.
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2. YOU'RE A TRIGGER-SHY HEAD CASE OVER THE BALL
Rediscover the kid in you. "When you were young you didn't think about how to shoot a foul shot or throw a baseball -- you looked at the target and pulled the trigger," says Top 100 Teacher Keith Lyford. "Try my 'Two-Second Rule,' which requires you to swing within two seconds of your last look at the target. This prevents you from staring at the ball for too long and keeps the image of the target fresh in your mind."
3. YOUR BACK HURTS
Squat down and hug your knees to your chest, or simply bend over and touch your toes, says PGA Tour physical therapist Jeff Hendra. Both exercises loosen your lower-back muscles and can also help relieve pain mid-round. If you're a walker, Hendra recommends that you make sure your bag straps are correctly adjusted so you maintain even pressure on your shoulders.
4. YOU KNOW YOU CAN CARRY 14 CLUBS -- BUT WHICH 14?
Proper set makeup is largely a distance-gapping question, so spend time at the range determining how far you hit each of your clubs. You may find you have a 15- or 20-yard hole that a hybrid, driving iron or fairway wood can fill. "More critical, though," says Mark Timms, founder of custom clubmaker Cool Clubs, "is dialing in your scoring clubs, because those are the clubs that will most help you get the ball close to the hole. So don't be afraid to replace a long club (adios, 3-iron!) with a 58- or 60-degree wedge, even if you already have three (or four) wedges in your bag.
5. YOU CATCH YOUR IRONS THIN
"This results either from swinging on a plane that's too flat, or from lifting up through impact," says Top 100 Teacher Brady Riggs. "Either way, you need to deliver the club to the ball on a steeper descending path. Move your feet closer together at address and make sure your left shoulder is pointing down toward the ball in your down-swing. As you swing down, rather than using your arms and shoulders to power the club, let the club's weight fall down into the ground. The club should feel heavy through impact and make a nice 'thump' as it passes through the ball."
6. YOU HAVE THE SHANKS!
Shanks happen because your hands moved closer than normal to the ball at impact, says Top 100 Teacher Chris Como. "To fix them, imagine that you're going to stick the butt of the club into your left thigh as you swing through impact," he says. "This simple move ensures that your hands square the clubface and move slightly away from the ball, not at it."
7. YOU MISS TOO MANY FAIRWAYS
Ditch the driver, suggests a fellow named Tom Watson, who won eight majors, including five Open Championships. "You'll hit your 3-wood straighter and possibly just as far." Playing from the fairway, not the forest, is an instant stroke-saver.
8. YOU WANT THE RIGHT BALL FOR YOUR GAME
Ball manufacturers shout about how far their balls fly, but you'd be wiser to concentrate on how different models perform on shots into and on the greens. Mike Gibson, Titleist's golf ball fitting manager, recommends you start by using a ball maker's online selection tool to pare your choices to two models. From there, take a sleeve [or box] of the two recommended balls for an on-course evaluation. Work from the green back to the tee -- hit putts and short-game shots while focusing on distance control, feel and accuracy. Next, hit full-swing shots with irons, hybrids, fairway woods and, finally, your driver. It takes time [and a small investment] to find the ideal fit, but in the end, it's worth the effort.
9. YOU HAVE ONLY FIVE MINUTES TO GET LOOSE
If there's only time for a few quick swings on the range, hit your 8-iron, says golf-analytics expert Mark Broadie, the mind behind the PGA Tour's Strokes-Gained Putting stat. "The 8-iron best bridges the gap between short irons and your longer clubs, even your driver."
10. YOU NEED A BREAK FROM YOUR REGULAR FOURSOME
"Exiting that kind of relationship can get pretty messy," says Jason Zacher, a political strategist and co-author of Political Golf, a book devoted to the nuances of on-course relationships. He suggests a more diplomatic approach. "Instead of breaking up, recruit more members. Turn your foursome of potential partners into an eightsome. You bring fresh blood into the mix without causing bad feelings."
11. YOUR TEMPO MAKES CHARLES BARKLEY LOOK LIKE ERNIE ELS
"For better tempo, soften your grip pressure," says Top 100 Teacher and Golf Channel guy Michael Breed. "Imagine you're in your car holding a lidless cup of coffee. To accelerate to 60 mph without spilling the coffee, you'd hold the cup gently and accelerate gradually. This is the combination you want in your swing."
12. YOU'RE NOT MAXING OUT YOUR DISTANCE
Exhale through impact. "Most amateurs unknowingly hold their breath during the downswing," says E.A. Tischler, director of instruction at the Inverness Club in Toledo, Ohio. "Think of a weight lifter exhaling when bench-pressing, or a tennis player grunting. Exhaling relaxes your muscles, freeing you to hit it with everything you've got."
13. DOUBLE BOGEYS STIR YOUR INNER-HULK
Get mad. Then get over it, says Dr. Joe Parent, author of Zen Golf. "It's okay to get upset," Parent says. "But Tiger says he only lets himself stay mad for 10 paces from the spot of the last shot." So let your fury build as you count your footfalls. By 10, you should quite literally have moved on.
14. YOU LOVE PLAYING GOLF BUT NOT PAYING FOR GOLF
For short-term or last-minute savings, visit third-party discount tee-time providers such as golfnow.com, ezlinks.com and golfhub.com. GroupOn also offers tee-time deals. Check out individual course websites for daily specials. Call resorts for packages, which often bundle golf, lodging and other amenities -- dining, spa services and instruction. And consider off-season dates. You can save up to 75 percent by playing Sun Belt destinations like Florida and Arizona in July versus March.
15. YOU'RE PLAYING WITH A RAGING HANGOVER
Hair of the dog will only make matters worse as the day progresses, says Dr. John Brick, author of The Doctor's Hangover Handbook. You're dehydrated, so guzzle water and maybe an electrolyte-rich sports drink. Ibuprofen can help too.
16. YOUR HANDS BLISTER EASILY
If you can't grip it, it's tough to rip it. "During play, apply a dab of Vaseline to blisters and cover them with athletic tape," says Matt Doles, a trainer for the golf team at Texas A&M. Post-round, wash them with soap and warm water. "But don't remove skin-flaps -- they're natural Band-Aids. Apply antibiotic cream and cover them with Band-Aids during the day, but let the blisters air out at night." To avoid blisters in the first place? Weakening your grip pressure can help. And worn-down grips are often the cause.
17. ALLERGIES RUIN YOUR ROUNDS
"To calm the symptoms, splash some cold water on your face and hair," says Dr. Beth Corn, an allergy specialist at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. "If you have an extra shirt handy, change into it, because shirts can carry pollen."
18. YOU FORGOT TO USE SUNSCREEN, AND NOW YOU'RE HURTING
To reduce peeling from sunburn, the Skin Cancer Foundation recommends starting with a cool shower or bath, then slathering on a moisturizing cream, ideally one with vitamin C and vitamin E. As for the sting, aspirin or ibuprofen can help, but frequent applications of aloe vera are still the best way to treat sunburn, according to Cory Couture, an athletic trainer at Florida State University. Hydrocortisone cream will also help with the inflammation.