That's the theme of this article -- your strengths as a golfer and your weaknesses (and how to fix 'em), your fears and frustrations (and how to ease 'em), and your quirks and queries (and, yes, we'll address those, too). How do we know so much about you? You told us
The one thing that never fails to impress us about you, our readers, is how passionate you are about your game and how unhesitant you are to open up about it when we ask what we can do to help you become the player you want to be. (Honestly, we struggle with a slice, too but we'll be damned if we'll admit it!) The reason it's so worthwhile for us to reach out to you as we did in a recent phone survey is because we know you'll tell us exactly what you want. Now it's time for us to do our part. We've answered as many of your questions as possible on the following pages. You have only yourselves to thank.
What confuses you most about golf equipment?
25%-Confused? Not me!
What makes hybrids work
In a word, gravity, says Tom Olsavsky, senior director of product creation at TaylorMade. "The simple physics behind the hybrid's success is its low, deep center of gravity (CG)," says Olsavsky, who helped develop TaylorMade's first Rescue club back in 1999. "Because the club's CG is below that of the ball's, the collision of the club and ball at impact produces a higher launch angle and spin rate. A deep CG also directs the clubhead to the ball at a higher effective loft angle, which again increases launch angle and spin rate. One other element helps the club get the ball up quickly: a flexible shaft bending forward just prior to impact."
What shot scares you most?
23%-50-yard bunker shot
22%-Approach over water
19%-Driving through a narrow chute
9%-Short but important putt
5%-First tee shot
How to stick a mid-range bunker shot: It's the game's toughest shot, says Top 100 Teacher David Glenz. Here's how to make it easy
One reason this shot leaves most golfers shaking in their spikes is that they rarely practice it. But with just a little practice, all you have to do is either pick the ball clean like a pitch shot or turn up the heat on your regular bunker-blast technique.
Pick it when...
• The sand is firm or very fluffy
• Your ball is sitting up
• The bunker is very shallow
• Use your pitching wedge, and play the ball just inside your left thigh. Don't dig in with your feet. Your goal is to contact the ball first and the sand second. Forward-press your hands to facilitate this.
• Keep your lower body quiet. Add just a tad of wrist hinge on your backswing, but make sure your left wrist is flat at impact.
• You can easily produce the required distance with a knee-high backswing and follow-through.
Blast it when...
• The sand isn't too firm or too fluffy
• At least a quarter of your ball is buried
• The lip facing you is above your waist
How to blast it
• Use your sand wedge. Take your normal bunker setup with the ball played off your left heel, but don't dig in your feet.
• If your full sand-wedge distance from the fairway is 80 yards, expect to generate about 60 yards from the above setup. Therefore, make a slightly less than full swing. Enter the sand about two inches behind the ball and swing to a full finish.
• Trace a flatter swing path by adding more upper body turn back and through the ball. If you come down steep, you'll take too much sand and leave the ball short of your target. What part of your game needs the most help?
30%-Iron play/approach shots
15%-Chipping and pitching
How to hit more greens
The secret? "First, hit more fairways," says Top 100 Teacher Dr. Gary Wiren. Gee, thanks, Doc. Any other ideas? "Know when to go for it and when to play safe." Here's Wiren's guide to green-light specials.
The Shot From the fairway, 200-plus yards out?
Heck Yeah! "Ask yourself, 'What's the worst that can happen if I mis-hit it?' If there's no danger worse than greenside bunkers, and you have enough club, take a shot."
Hell No! "Don't be shy about taking the bailout area if there's water near the green, and the green is narrow. You still might make par or birdie."
The Shot From the rough?
Heck Yeah! "With today's equipment, especially hybrid clubs, it's often easier to hit it from light, wispy rough, with a good lie, than from a tight fairway lie."
Hell No! Wiren's rough rule of thumb: "If you can't see the bottom half of the ball, don't try anything bold -- just punch out. If you can see most of the ball, go for it."
The Shot From under branches?
Heck Yeah! "It's all about the trajectory. can you keep it under the trees? If you've got a shot, grab a 3-or 4-iron, play the ball in the back of your stance and rip away."
Hell No! "Don't get so focused on trajectory that you ignore the bunker, water and alligators near the green. If there's trouble in your way, it's a sucker pin."
Do you enjoy a couple of beers on the course?
58%-Serve it up
42%-Not for me
Liquid asset: How beer--beer!--can make you a better golfer
Forget that if-your-foursome-does-it-you-should-too rule. Let the mellow yellow flow. "Beer has calories that will give you energy and send glucose to your brain which can actually make you sharper," says Kelly Griesel, a dietician at Southeastern Regional Medical Center in North Carolina. "Of course, more than a couple brews will have the reverse effect, and be sure to drink water to stay hydrated." While you're at it, hit up the cart girl for some candy bars and cigars. "Snickers bars are considered a moderate glycemic index food and will gradually give you the energy you need to make it the rest of the way unlike, say, bananas, which will give you quick bursts of energy and then drop off," Griesel says. "The nicotine in tobacco is a stimulant and can wake up your brain and senses for some added concentration.
"All these things can have positive effects but only in moderation." No need to reread this: We did indeed recommend chocolate, beer and nicotine over fruit.
How much do you usually spend on a round of golf?
72%-Less than $50
4%-$100 or more
Cheap Shots: Less than $50 you say? Sounds good to us! Here are the country's 10 best bargains
1. Wild Horse Golf Club
6,805 yards, par 72;
Greens fee: $36.75 and up; 308-537-77000, playwildhorse.com
This treeless, windswept layout has been described as the public version of the nearby icon, Sand Hills.
2. Rustic Canyon Golf Course
6,935 yards, par 72;
Greens fee: $35 and up; 805-530-0221, rusticcanyongolfcourse.com
Less than an hour's drive from downtown L.A., the heaving fairways lead to firm, fast greens, all protected by imaginative bunkering.
3. Old Works Golf Course
7,705 yards, par 72;
Greens fee: $39 and up; 406-563-5989, oldworks.org
Thirty miles west of Butte, Jack Nicklaus capped a Superfund site and built a solid test atop it. The bunkers are filled with black slag from an old smelting plant.
4. Lakewood Shores Resort (Gailes Course)
6,954 yards, par 72;
Greens fee: $45 and up; 989-739-2075, lakewoodshores.com
It's all about the gales at the Gailes: the premium is on controlling your trajectory in the gusts off Lake Huron.
5. The Links at Hiawatha Landing
7,150 yards, par 72;
Greens fee: $38.75 and up; 607-687-6952, hiawathalinks.com
Three hours north of New York City, this layout has way too many trees to be confused with a links, but the golden fescue that frames the fairways is as attractive as anything across the pond.
6. Gold Mountain Golf Complex (Olympic Course)
7,140 yards, par 72;
Greens fee: $38 and up; 360-415-5432, goldmt.com
West of Seattle, across Puget Sound, the Olympic Course is routed through avenues of tall firs and played host to the 2006 USGA Amateur Public Links.
7. Willinger's Golf Club
6,809 yards, par 72;
Greens fee: $39 and up; 952-652-2500, willingersgc.com
It's just 30 miles from downtown Minneapolis, but it sports a wild, way-out-there ambience. The layout really comes alive on the topsy-turvy back nine, which is tucked amid trees.
8. Pinon Hills Golf Course
7,249 yards, par 72;
Greens fee: $36.50 and up; 505-326-6066, fmtn.org/pinonhills
Sandstone outcroppings and deep canyons serve as handsome hazards, but it's the wildly undulating greens that'll savage your scorecard.
9. The Links of North Dakota
7,092 yards, par 72;
Greens fee: $40 and up; 701-568-2600, linksnd.com
A near-authentic links overlooking Lake Sakakawea, this track boasts 82 bunkers and a northern location that will let you play until 10 p.m. in the height of summer.
10. Gray Plantation Golf Club
Lake Charles, La.
7,238 yards, par 72;
Greens fee: $46 and up; 337-562-1663, graywoodlic.com
Wayward hitters are in trouble for two reasons:water hazards lurk on 12 holes, and many of those hazards are teeming with alligators.
Have you ever lied to your wife or boss to play a round of golf when you really should be doing something else?
Liar's poker: Fibbing to your missus or manager about your whereabouts ("I'm at the, um, emergency room!") when you're really teeing it up is never a bright idea. Here's how to save face when you get caught. And you will get caught...
Caught by your wife
"To make it up to your wife, you have to be sorry for as long as it takes for her to trust you again," says Dennie Hughes, USA Weekend's relationship expert and author of Dateworthy. "You can't expect her to get over it quickly, and you have to be apologetic. Assure her it wasn't a slight against her" (you just had to try your new hybrid) "and ask her what you can do to regain her trust." (Buying something with a comma in the price tag is usually a good place to start.)
Caught by your boss
"You owe your wife honesty, loyalty and respect, but you only really owe your boss respect," Hughes says. "So apologize even try groveling and then cover with a little white lie. If you took a sick day to play golf, tell him you weren't feeling well in the morning and by the afternoon you were starting to perk up. Offer to stay late and take on some additional projects to make it up to him. If you're going to lie to your boss make sure you always make your tee time in the afternoon so this excuse works."
How much are you willing to spend on a new driver?
7%-$500 or more
6%-$100 or less
You don't have to drop top dollar for a top driver. We asked Kerry Kabase, sales director at Edwin Watts, to recommend five boom sticks for less than $200. Here are his picks...
Callaway Big Bertha 454
The forerunner to Callaway's current top seller, the 460cc X.
Cobra King Cobra SZ
Not always easy to find, but worth the effort . Search online or check eBay.
Reduced from $299 in January with introduction of SasQuatch Sumo and Sumo2
TaylorMade R5 Series
So popular it's still being manufactured.
TaylorMade 580 XD
An oldie but still-long-hitting goodie.
Do you get more nervous over the first tee shot of the day or a pressure putt late in the round?
53%-First tee shot
15%-Don't get nervous
How to stripe your opening tee shot: Ask yourself these questions to find the fix for you
1. Is it first-tee jitters?
"It's common to feel nerves on the first tee, which can make you guide your shot, instead of making an aggressive swing," says Top 100 Teacher Rick Grayson.
You kill it on the range, but you feel like the whole world is watching when you stand on the first tee.
Take pre-round range bets with you pals --wager, say, a beer, that you can hit a distant green, or nail the ball picker-upper. "That gets you used to playing with pressure so the first tee shot is a piece of cake."
2. Am I trying to make a perfect swing?
"The fairway looks extra small on the first tee before you're into the round," Grayson says. "You may try to make a perfect swing, which causes tension.
Check your recent scorecards. "If you struggle on the first couple holes, you're making the shots harder than they are."
Be like Jack. "Nicklaus liked to pick a target three inches in front of his ball -- a blade of grass, a leaf -- and aim at that. Don't even bother looking down the fairway once you've aimed.
3. Am I pulling the wrong club?
"I see it all the time," Grayson says. "Guys hit driver with trouble left and right, when a nice little 5-wood would be perfect."
If your instinct is to go with a safer club, but you pull driver to keep up with your buddies, you're giving in to peer pressure.
Obey your inner caddie, not your inner Daly. "Hit the club that gives you the best chance of finding the fairway. Better 220 from the fairway than 180 from the trees."
How to lose fewer balls, and find more
"Don't swing so hard!" says Charles Lindsay, who unearthed hundreds of mis-hit balls for his 2005 book, Lost Balls. Here's some more advice from the baron of ball finding.
How to find your ball
Pick a couple of points to line up where the ball went in. It's all about your orientation. Focus on a tree toward which the ball headed and DO NOT look away in disgust. Line up where it goes in. Then pick a spot and beeline to that point. As long as you can find the ball, you're in play.
How to find other balls (like ProV1s!)
"Go where the gorillas hit it," Lindsay says. "When a big hitter has a bad drive, itusuallyy goes bad 250 yards from the tee, way left or way right. That's where you'll find the best players' balls, ProV1s and such -- much farther in the woods than you think you'll ever find them." For most people, he says, there's a comfort zone, a fixed distance they'll travel, which "for 98percentt of people is 30 feet into the junk." Travel deeper, and you might find yourself in what Lindsay calls "an adult Easter egg hunt."
How to make a teaching pro worth your while
A good instructor is like a second wife, minus the nagging to take out the trash. He'll expect some commitment from you and a willingness to make your relationship work. "In one season you should meet with your teacher at least three to five times for a one-hour lesson," says Top 100 Teacher Paul Marchand. "Less than three sessions is not ideal because it doesn't give you time to nail what you're working on. You should also spend at least a couple of hours a week on the range by yourself to work on repetition training so that your body can make the adjustments subconsciously."
5 signs your pro must go
Admittedly, lessons can be time-consuming, expensive and frustrating especially if you've found a dud of an instructor. Here are Top 100 Teacher Charlie King's five signs that it's time to seek new help.
1. Your instructor shows up late or unprepared. Your time and money are worth more than that.
2. He hits more balls than you do. "It's common to see teachers who can't wait to finish up the lesson," King says. "The focus should be on you."
3. He sells you a quick fix. "If you're a slicer, the quick fix would be to have you close the clubface at address and then take your swing," King says. "It doesn't fix the cause of the slice. A good pro will help you understand why you're slicing, explain how the clubface acts during a slice, and then give you drills to instill clubface awareness."
4. He overwhelms you with a litany of faults. "If he identifies eight or more swing faults in one lesson, that's an ego thing: 'Look how good I am I can pick out 10 things!'" King says. "The ideal teacher sees eight but picks a manageable one or two."
5. He focuses only on the full swing. "Most golfers want full swing instruction, but a good teacher will make sure the full swing/short game balance is at least 70-30," King says. "If your instructor never mentions the short game, definitely find someone else."
Which of the following hurts your scores most?
32%-Wasting shots on and around the green
17%-Hitting your drives OB
17%-Taking unnecessary risks and finding hazards
12%-Trouble getting out of bunkers
How to shore up your short shots
"To build putting confidence, practice with something at stake to get used to the pressure," says Top 100 Teacher Rick Grayson. "My favorite drill is to make yourself sink nine straight putts three from three, six and nine feet. You can't quit until you've drained nine in a row, which makes that eighth and ninth putt high-pressure."
"Place a tee almost all the way into the ground and practice clipping it. If you can hit a tee, a ball will look like a beach ball and you'll be fearless even on tight lies."
"Tentative swings kill you on 50- to 75-yard pitches you must accelerate through the shot. Practice short pitches where you take a divot. That assures you're hitting down on the ball, eliminating thin shots."
Survey also says...
What is the most you've ever lost?
78%-Less than $50
Can gambling lower your scores?
Yes, betting pays, says Matt Lefkowitz, a pro poker player from Las Vegas and an 11-handicapper who once won $50,000 on a single round of golf. "I can hardly focus on my round if I don't have money riding on it," he says. "The only times I've truly improved my game and practiced and cared was in the face of a big match. Admittedly, high stakes could ice golfers who are not used to the pressure, but I don't think that's the case for most -- when money's riding on a game, it makes you want to win more than ever."
Have you ever knowingly broken a rule during a match and not confessed?
If you want to cheat, go be a CFO or run for public office
The Rules of Golf are capitalized for good reason: they are the heart and soul of the game. Don't mess with them. "Golf only exists because of the Rules," says Randy Cohen, "The Ethicist" columnist for the The New York Times Magazine. "So if you're going to cheat, why don't you just compress the ball into a cannon and shoot it off the next tee box?" Randy has a point -- and he's given us a great idea for how to make those pesky Canada geese think it over before the defecate on your greens.
Survey also says...
And for Irons?
If the club fits...
Haven't ben fit yet? Here's why you need to do it -- stat!
Is custom-fitting really necessary?
If you read this magazine even semi-regularly, you know this answer--yes, it really works! Finding the proper lie angle, loft and shaft flex for your swing will trim strokes off your game. "We can take a player and with each club-fitting use technology to make his game as good as it can be," says John Spelman, director of golf at Richland Country Club in Nashville, Tenn., and a former Ping Club Fitter of the Year. "We can also enhance ball flight, and that's really what we're trying to do. We're taking a player and based on his spin rate, we can recommend a golf ball for him and then custom-fit a driver to enhance that ball-flight characteristic." Custom-fit golf balls! What's next? Custom-fit tees?
Is custom-fitting a magic bullet?
"No," Spelman says, "it's just another tool to try to improve ball flight. But I don't give a lesson without commenting on my students' clubs. Really, it's to the point where you can't custom-fit without teaching and you can't teach without custom-fitting."