$2 Golf Phrases
By birdieXris on 4/11/12
I normally don't tee up my golf ball on par-3s. But, after reading Chris "birdieXris" Embardino's latest column, I've decided to rethink my decision. If my scoring average on par-3s goes down, I'll know who to thank. Enjoy!

If you don't know why you're doing something, then why bother doing it?

Everyone is taught to do this or that. It's just what you do. Everybody uses them, I like to call them 2.00 phrases. Stuff people say when they want to seem like they know what they're talking about. We all know most of these phrases: Waggle the club. Hit the ball first. Tee up on the right/left side. Open the face. The list of do's and don'ts is as long as the rulebook itself.

In my travels, I've noticed that more often than not the beginner golfers don't know WHY they're doing what they're doing. Let's see if we can cover a few of the more common phrases. Some may be obvious to you and some not so obvious.
  • Teeing the ball. One thing to remember. If you have the option to use a tee, then use it! In golf, turf causes problems. It swallows up portions of the ball, it has grass and leaves and moisture to get in between your ball and your club face. All those things can rob you of distance, direction, and spin. The tee is like a free donut with your coffee. You get to place the ball at the exact spot, at an exact height for you to hit exactly what you want to hit. If I'm hitting my first shot, i'm hitting off a tee, even if I'm hitting my 58 degree wedge. I'll tee it closer to the ground, but you can bet there's 1/16 of an inch between that ball and the ground. It lets me get nothing but ball and hit a pure shot right where I want to.

  • Teeing up on a certain side of the tee box. This is done to maximize your visual and available landing area. Think about a door and looking into the next room. If you are looking through the doorway and step to the right, you'll see more of the left side of the room. If you step to the left, you see more of the right. If you're a slicer, generally you'll want to be on the right side of the tee box. For a hook, generally on the left.

  • Hitting the ball first. We've all heard it. “hit the ball first for the best shot”. What does it mean? Well it's a variation on teeing the ball. Obviously getting anything in between your club and the ball is bad news. To minimize this, get the ball first. HOW we do it is totally different for each situation. Ideally in the fairway, you have your normal swing and the swing should “bottom out” in front of the ball. By no means should you be “chopping down” on the ball and taking a deep divot unless the situation calls for it – i.e. in the deep rough or a tough pitch where you need a lot of spin. This is a good thing for beginners and high handicappers to remember because when you're on the range and you're hitting long irons, you shouldn't see dirt in your divots. Grass roots yes, but unless you're on hardpan, your divots should be shallow even when you're hitting the ball first. Even with wedges you shouldn't be taking more than 1/4 to 1/2 inch of dirt. Also, hitting the ball first is the best way to maximize spin.

  • Shuffling your feet into the sand. The common misunderstanding came to me when I was playing with a stranger a few weeks ago. He got down, shuffled his feet into the sand and promptly sculled his shot over the green followed by “Wow, I had no idea it was that hard underneath the top sand!”. I was puzzled after I had watched him dig about a foot into the sand, but it dawned on me that most players only know half the story. There are 2 reasons for shuffling your feet down in the sand: to get a better more solid stance on an unstable surface, and to see what's going on under your ball. The rules of golf state that you can't test the surface of the hazard or ground your club. Shuffling your feet into the sand doesn't apply to this rule. When you get in the trap and shuffle, take note of how the sand feels through your shoes, the sound it makes, and the color. As most golf course sand gets wet, it gets darker. If you twist back and forth once and you're 2 inches into the sand, then it's obviously light and fluffy and 2 inches deep. Remember, take your stance, then settle in.

  • Opening the club face. The sole of the club has an angle called the bounce. The angle of the face as related to 0 degrees is a flat sole. If a club has 7 degrees of bounce, then the sole of the club angles 7 degrees from that 0 base. Basically it equates to if you lay the sole of your 60 degree wedge flat on the ground at address, your face angle will be 53 degrees effectively. This 7 degrees (or whatever your club has) is what keeps the wedge from digging into the sand with a sharp edge. It's a wing, like a skimmer. When you open the face, you INCREASE that bounce. Hold your wedge at eye level and look, now turn the face open and watch the rear of the sole dip. That's increasing or “activating” the bounce. The more bounce, the more the club will want to move away from the ground after contact. Now that you're officially schooled, know this – there IS such a thing as too much bounce. For the beginner, think of the face of a clock. 1:00 or 1:30 is about as open as you'll want to have your face.

  • Waggle the club. This is a relaxation method. Waggle waggle. Release the tension and feel how your wrists are releasing. I also like to view the path of the club head. On a good swing, that club will pass right through that area and right into the back of the ball. It helps me visualize. Some people are wagglers, some aren't. It's personal preference.
Realize that there are reasons that golfers do what they do. Wether minute motions or time consuming actions, everything is made to give you information and help you hit the best shot you're capable of hitting. Use them to your full advantage and hopefully you'll take some of the guesswork out of what's going on with a shot and lower your scores.

This was written by Chris Embardino , a reader/follower/fellow oober and the opinions are 100% his and do not necessarily reflect those of oobgolf in anyway. Enjoy! I'm sure he's ready for your feedback.

Flickr, Michael Bentley

[ comments ]
bkuehn1952 says:
Sound advice for all of us, thanks. I intend to do better about digging in my feet in bunkers.
SteveMM says:
Good explanation of sand technique. I'm horrible in the sand, and frankly I'm just now starting to learn how to properly hit the ball from a bunker. I do dig my feet in, but I never considered what information that "digging in" could give me. Thanks!
jpjeffery says:
I also like the tip about digging in to the sand for information (as well as a foothold) but with a caveat: Not all bunkers have uniform sand depth. I dug my feet in quite happily, taken a shot and found a hard surface under the thin layer of sand. Bad luck, I suppose, and impossible to have any idea about in advance (not mention that no bunker should ever be in that condition).

I guess my point, such as it is, is if this situation does happen, don't get TOO pissed off just because your feet mis-informed you. It's not their fault! :)
Matt F says:
Jack Nicklaus always advocated using a tee whenever you can. I believe he said the game was hard enough as it is so take advantage of using a tee.
birdieXris says:
@jpjeffery - All bunkers not being equal is the pure reason for digging in. You have to get used to it and feel it out. Generally you have to listen, look, and feel. It takes maybe 5 or 6 rounds to figure it out when you're really paying attention each time. Pay attention to how the sand piles around your feet, what color it is, and the texture of the granules when they do pile. also, pay attention to how much resistance there is to your wiggling. Once you get the hang of it you'll know exactly what's under your ball.
lazorbeam says:
The main reason that I dig my feet into the sand before a bunker shot is not to test the sand or to get a strong footing but to lower the level at which my swing bottoms out. The other reasons to me are helpful but secondary. I dig down with my feet as much as I feel necessary to make sure my club at the bottom of my swing takes enough sand to send the ball as far or high as I need it to go. If I have a short shot that I need to get into the air quickly I will dig a little deeper. I don't change my swing for a normal bunker shot, I just change the depth I dig to and how hard I swing. Again a normal bunker shot. Different story for a plugged or burried lie in the sand.
Scott Shields says:
I'm sure there is another $2 phrase for ... "Keep your head down" ... and people obviously taking this too far, and burrying their chin into their chest.
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