Add an inch, take a mile
Q: I'm 6'5" and have always played with standard length clubs. My friends convinced me that I should get custom fitted, and when I did the pro said I needed clubs that are an inch longer than standard. Will one lousy inch really make any difference?
Allan H., Ottoville, Ohio
A: Here's the reason why that one lousy inch will make a big difference: Your setup has a major effect on your swing, and when it changes, your swing does too. That one additional inch of length, combined with the two degrees of more upright lie angle that your pro likely prescribed, will force you to stand a little taller when you address the ball.
This makes it easier to maintain your posture from start to finish and helps you swing the club on an ideal inside-out path. If your clubs are too short, you have to bend over and shift your weight toward your toes at address to compensate.
With clubs that fit your body, you'll have an ideal setup. So, go ahead: Add an inch and take a mile.
BRUCE HAMILTON, Spanish Hills Golf Club, Camarillo, Calif. Be a copycat for success
Q: I'm 15, 5' 8" and slender. I have a 15 handicap and my game is starting to come together. Which Tour pro should I try to imitate to improve?
Mike V., Stroudsburg, Pa.
A: Without seeing your swing, this is a tough one. In the coming years, you could grow six inches, muscle up and develop a swing that looks nothing like what you have today. With that in mind, I recommend modeling yourself after the best short-game players. A great short game is the ultimate weapon. Look at Tiger.
When he has one of his bad driving days, his short game bails him out. Short-hitting Brad Faxon won the Buick Championship because of his short game. Get comfortable hitting half-swing wedge shots, high pitches, low running chips and bunker shots from bad lies. When you can do all those things well, other people are going to start imitating you!
J.D. TURNER, Turner Golf Schools, Savannah, Ga. The Comeback Trail
Q: I used to be a 12-handicapper, but I started a family about five years ago and haven't touched a club since. I want to start playing again. What's the bestway for me to rebuild my game after such a long layoff?
Steven G., Charlotte, N.C.
A: After a layoff of more than two weeks, you should begin close to the hole and hit lots of chips and pitches. To say that your sense of touch will be rusty is like saying Fat Albert could stand to lose a few pounds.
Repeated chipping and pitching will help remind you how to hit the ball solid, get it airborne and put some rhythm and feel into your swing. Once you are confident hitting 20-to-50 yard shots, take fuller swings with your short irons, then progress to your longer clubs.
When it comes to the long ball, start off with your 3-wood. Only after you get good results with your 3-wood off a tee should you even consider hitting your driver. At least 25 percent of your practice time should be spent putting one ball around the green.
Why not three or four? Because you need to practice reading the greens, and players who hit three balls in a row to the same hole are just altering the line of their next putt based on what the last one did. Out on the course you won't have that luxury. Good luck and welcome back!
BRYAN GATHRIGHT Oak Hills Country Club San Antonio, Texas "Instructors don't live and die by tips."
Q: I am getting ready to take my first private lesson. Is it customary to tip the instructor after it's over? If so, how much?
Kristofer H., Piscataway, N.J.
A: Golf instructors are not like waiters and bartenders. We don'ft live and die by tips, and, frankly, we don'ft expect to get a gratuity. That said, it' not unheard of, nor is it considered an insult, for a student to give his or her teacher a tip. Generally, the tip is not a percentage of the price, but rather a flat amount, like $15 or $20.
I wouldn't recommend tipping your pro after the first lesson. Do that, and you'll set a precedent that you will give him a little something extra after every lesson, and that shouldn't be the point. If you think the teacher is great and you start taking lessons on a regular schedule, slip him a little bonus after about three or four visits.
He'll get the idea that you think he's doing a good job and your gratuity will be an appreciated surprise. An extra tip around the holidays isn't a bad idea either.
MIKE PERPICH, River Pines Golf Club Alpharetta, Ga.