Golf Talk With Greg Holman – #89

Remember to use the rules of golf to your advantage. I’m not talking about a friendly round of golf with your friends or a 4-man scramble at the local club. When you become accomplished enough at golf to play in individual tournaments like the club championship or the state amateur it’s important to know the rules of golf to protect yourself and to wage psychological warfare. You may be playing your best friend in the club championship, but you still want to beat them. Let’s start with the basics.

A lost ball. There have been several changes to the rule in the last five years and it has had a slight effect on the lost ball procedure. It’s still one of the most severe penalties in golf… stroke and distance. So if you hit a shot that you think might be lost, hit a provisional ball. If you don’t locate the first ball, play the alternate ball. That’s two for hitting a second shot plus a one stroke penalty… stroke and distance.

These thing happen. Keep plugging to try to make a par with the second ball, which will actually be a double bogey. Don’t compound the problem by letting it ruin your day and make a big number.

I once played a match with a lower handicapper and it was close going into the 14th hole when we couldn’t find his tee shot in the rough. He tried to talk me into just taking one stroke and dropping the ball where he thought he lost it. I told him you need to go back to the tee and you’ll be hitting three. We didn’t become good friends, but I won the match.

Another basic scenario involves playing from the first tee. Nowhere in the rules of golf does it say you may take a mulligan on your first tee shot of the day, yet in a match my opponent tried to negotiate that. We hadn’t had time to warm up. We had both just come from work, but I did not agree to that. I just said, let’s play the rules of golf. He topped his first tee shot. I took the hole and I had him psychologically.

Remember in stroke play there is no such thing as a gimme, but you can concede a putt in match play. I like Jack Nicklaus’ strategy on that. He said he always liked to see his opponent putt out short putts on the first couple of holes because he might be nervous. Then he’ll give short putts in the middle part of the round. After he’s used to that he would make him putt those short ones coming down the stretch, especially if the match was close.

Last, you can get a psychological advantage just by the way you carry yourself. I had a high school teammate who had a temper. As skill goes, he was every bit as good as I was. We had the same handicap, about a 4. He was a great wedge player and an excellent putter, but I always seemed to play better and get some breaks whenever we went head to head. A typical hole would be where he would out drive me 20 yards and hit his wedge to ten feet. I would hit a 9 iron to 20 feet and make the putt causing him to miss his putt that was half my distance.

We were playing a match one time that had a lot riding on it. Our average was exactly the same down to the decimal point and the coach decided we should have an 18 hole playoff to determine who would go to the district tournament as the 4th man.

To make a long story short, we were tied coming into the 18th hole, a long par 5. I hit my drive down the middle and he hooked his into the edge of a hazard. For some reason he decided to hit a driver out of the swampy turf. Of course that didn’t go well and neither did his net attempt. I had him and earned the trip to post-season. He knew I would take any chances so I guess he figured he needed to in order to beat me.

Just a few examples of using the rules to your advantage and how keeping a cool head can put you on top.

Hit ’em straight!

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