1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 Out 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 In Tot
PAR 4 4 3 5 4 3 4 4 5 36 4 4 3 5 4 3 5 4 4 36 72
C. Burdette
Scorer: Attest: Date:

Ask the Golf Doctor

Books and Reviews
Meet the Author
Invite Roberta to Speak
Getting Published
My Schedule
Press Kit
Essays and Stories
Sex, Lies, and Videotape Tour
Ask the Golf Doctor
Great Links
Email me
Join Mailing List

Question Topics

Taking lessons

Pre-shot routine

From the range to the course

Giving up control to get control

The rules of golf

When things go wrong

Taking your stance

Long-distance putts

Agony Aunt on golf and personality disorders

Taking lessons

Question: I think I need to take a lesson. How do I find the right teacher?

Answer: First, congratulations on the decision to take lessons. Golf is hard enough without trying to teach it to yourself or take tips from your well-meaning, but likely misguided, significant other. You can find a pro through word of mouth, or by calling the PGA for a recommendation. Then, take an honest look at your goals and communicate them to the pro you choose. To get the most out of your lessons, you'll need to be patient and suspend your negative judgments. The grip change or swing adjustment your pro prescribes will feel awkward at first. Improvements will come with time and practice. Make sure you give your pro feedback about what's working and what isn't. JL

Top of Page

Pre-shot routine

Questions: What's all this about a pre-shot routine?

Answer: The PSR is exactly what it sounds like-a set routine that gets your mind and body prepared for the shot you are about to hit. Start with a trigger informing your brain that you are beginning-tugging on a sleeve, lifting your club, whatever suits you. Next, pick a spot 18 inches away and line yourself up. Then, visualize the shot you intend to hit-the trajectory, where it will land, how it will end up. Take a deep breath, and replace everything in your mind with a simple swing thought. Try something not too technical, along the lines of "Let it go" or "It's all yours". Then let your body take over the motions it has practiced. And watch the great results! JL

Question: I'm a nervous wreck on the first tee. Help!

Answer: See above! Nervousness on the tee can be result of all kinds of unhelpful thoughts, like "everyone's watching me", "I know I'm going to yank it into the road", "I hope I don't lose", and so on. The pre-shot routine crowds tension-producing thoughts out of your mind and brings it back to the task of allowing your body to do what it knows how to do. Take a deep breath, pick out the spot you want your drive to land, and picture the shot in great detail. No need to hit the best shot of your career here, just get it in play! JL

Top of Page

From the range to the course

Question: How is it that I hit it so well on the range, and then mess up on the course?

Answer: Here's an answer from golf psychologist Dr. Joseph Parent: The rhythm you develop on the range happens while you're hitting shot after shot with the same club from the same spot, often to the same target. On the course it's completely different, almost never hitting the same club twice in a row from the same spot. It takes time to switch from the practice-range rhythm to the playing rhythm.

Near the end of your warm-up, play a few pretend golf holes. Picture a fairway using flags on the range to mark the boundaries. After hitting a tee shot, picture a green a certain distance away and use an iron for an approach. You can include a pretend par-5 and hit driver, three-wood, wedge. You can include a pretend par three, and tee the ball up and hit a five iron. Hitting a few shots this way before you go to the first tee makes you feel like you've already been playing a few holes. You're already in the rhythm of the golf course.

(By the way, I coach a professional golfer for whom I suggested this technique. He has reduced his scores on the first six holes of a round by nearly two strokes per round over last year. That's a huge difference.)

Top of Page

Giving up control to get control

Question: I've heard the expression "you have to give up control, to get control." That doesn't make sense to me. What does it mean?

Answer: Have you ever hit a shot when it felt like "you" weren’t running the swing, when it felt almost effortless, with no thoughts about how to swing the club or trying to make it come out a particular way? Most golfers have, if only rarely, had that experience. The results usually range from "great" to "spectacular." That’s a pretty clear picture of how effective it is to give up control. It feels like we’re giving up control because we tend to identify with our thinking mind. However, we haven’t actually lost control. We’ve just transferred it.

The intuitive mind is what gets control. It’s the expert at running the body, and exerts beautiful control over the tiniest muscle movements if it is not interfered with by the thinking mind. Most of us have seen a waiter or waitress in a restaurant carrying a tray full of bowls of soup. They are looking where they are going, not at the tray of soup. Imagine such a scene, in which their boss comes over and says, "Watch what you’re doing. Watch those bowls of soup and be extra careful. Make sure you don’t spill the soup." There would be soup all over the place. We all know what it feels like when we’re overly careful, watching what we’re doing, trying to avoid making a mistake. It usually invites just what we’re trying to avoid.

Tim is an assistant pro who really connected with the metaphor of the waiter and the soup. The day after our session, I got a call about how his round had gone. He said he shot 43 on the front nine, then realized that the whole time he’d been "watching the soup." He decided to give up that kind of control, and shot 33 on the back nine.

From Dr. Joseph Parent’s "ZEN GOLF: Mastering the Mental Game" coming from Doubleday, April 2002.

Top of Page

The rules of golf

Question: If I hit my ball astray and can't find it after 5 minutes, what do I do? I've seen players drop a ball somewhere in the vicinity of the lost ball and count an extra stroke.

Answer: Says Barb Hanson of Corporate Golf Services, there is only one correct option when your ball is lost, go back and replay the shot and add a penalty stroke to your score ("stroke and distance"). See "The Rules of Golf", Rule 27-1. What if the group behind you is impatiently waiting to hit and you don't want to take the time to go back? Planning ahead is the key here. If there is ANY chance that your ball might be lost, announce to your group that you are playing a provisional ball and hit again. That way, if your ball is lost, you don't have to go back; you already have a ball in play. You may continue to hit your provisional ball until it goes past the area where you think your first ball may be.

Question: How do I determine the "line of flight" when my ball goes into a hazard?

Answer: Many golfers try to use the flight of their ball as it enters a hazard to determine where to drop the ball outside of the hazard, says Barb Hanson of Corporate Golf Services. They may even spot the point at which the ball plopped into the water and take relief equidistant to that point.

There is ONLY ONE point important in determining your relief: the point at which your ball LAST crossed the hazard line (yellow or red) as it entered the hazard. That is the point from which you may take 2 club-lengths; that is the point from which you draw the straight line to the flagstick. And that is the point from which you determine an equidistant point on the opposite margin of the hazard.

Question: Help! When I get out on the course, I can never remember my options when I face a hazard.

Answer: Memorize a little saying that will help you recall the options for direct and lateral hazards, says Barb Hanson of Corporate Golf Services. (Thanks go to my good friend and colleague, Barry Wallin, for this saying. Barry runs a summer golf school for young people in Rosemount, MN. He’s a great teacher & player as well as a real student of the game.)

When your ball is in a yellow-staked area, you are in a direct hazard: water that is directly between you and the hole. When your ball is in a red-staked area, you're in a lateral hazard: water that is generally off to the side of the hole being played.

Here is the saying: "Water between, options are three; water beside, options are five."

Let's list the first 3 options: 1) Play the ball as it lies (no penalty); 2) replay the shot (1-stroke penalty); 3) drop your ball on a line extending from the flagstick to the margin of the hazard where your ball last crossed and back as far as you wish to go (1-stroke penalty). For the lateral hazard, options 4 & 5 are these: 4) Drop your ball within 2 club-lengths of the margin of the hazard where your ball last crossed (1-stroke penalty); or 5) drop your ball within 2 club-lengths of the opposite margin of the hazard equidistant from the hole (1-stroke penalty). (You may want to go back to Issue 2-4 and review this one!) An additional option you may find at some courses is a specified drop area (1-stroke penalty).

By listing these options for yourself, you will be able to confidently make a choice that is within the rules of golf.

Question: What are"winter rules" and when can I play them? 

Answer: It's certainly winter here in Minnesota, says Barb Hanson of Corporate Golf Services, but what does that have to do with the rules of golf? "winter rules" are often invoked in the early part of a golf season when the course is not yet in good playable condition.  I personally don't like to play "winter rules" ­ sometimes referred to as "lift, clean and cheat" - because it seems to me that if you get in the habit of moving your ball to a preferred lie, it's mentally very difficult to play a ball out of poor lie when winter rules are not in effect.  The rules of golf say that we should play the course as we find it.  I think "winter rules" are far too arbitrary in many cases.  

The governing bodies of golf have made some very significant rule changes in the latest "Rules of Golf" publication (2004-2005) and one of the changes has to do with"winter rules" or "preferred lies."  The old rule (in Appendix 1-A4b) said, "Adverse conditions, including the poor condition of the course or the existence of mud, are sometimes so general, particularly during the winter months, that the Committee may decide to grant relief by temporary Local Rule either to protect the course or to promote fair and pleasant play."    It goes on to say (in 1-B3b), "The USGA does not endorse "preferred lies" and "winter rules" and recommends that the Rules of Golf be observed uniformly."

What is the change that's been made?  There has been clarification as to procedure in the case of preferred lies.  The rules now state that a player must mark the position of the ball before lifting and cleaning the ball.  Then the player must place the ball on a spot within a specified area (as set forth by the Committee) not nearer the hole.  "If a player fails to mark the position of the ball before lifting it or moves the ball in any other manner, such as rolling it with a club, he incurs a penalty of one stroke."   By adhering to this prescribed method, the process should be more consistent and fairer for all players.

Top of Page

When things go wrong

Question: "When things start to go wrong, everything seems to go wrong. What can I do?"

Sports psychologist Mark Edinburgh suggests the following:

In most sports there are moments when your performance starts to go in the wrong direction, or as they say, the wheels start to come off. A pitcher in baseball walks two players in a row, a golfer hits a sand shot and ends up about 2 inches from where she started, a basketball player misses two layups in a row. At this point, you can begin to wonder what you're doing, how to stop the madness. You might feel frustrated, scared, or even angry.

At this point, an athlete should have what I call a recovery routine. You need a set of mental steps that you have developed and practiced so that you can go through the steps and rebuild/regain focus, concentration, and confidence to pitch the next pitch, hit the next golf shot, or shoot the next basket. A recovery routine is like having a spare tire for your car. When a tire goes flat, you simply take out the spare, put it on the car, and move ahead rather than sadly watch all the wheels come off.

A mental routine is a set of steps you go through to get the negative experience out of your head and then get a useful positive image and set of feelings in your head and body that help you athletically. There are three key steps in a recovery routine:
1. Freeze or stop the thoughts about what just happened (this can be done by mentally "freezing" the thoughts, imagining yourself putting them into a file away from the playing field, or even walking the "bad" situation away from the game and locking it up in a safe place until the game is over).
2. Bringing youself to a relaxed place (briefly) - this can be done by vividly imagining a place you have been relaxed in your life
3. Bring your game back mentally - This means you have a few thoughts that allow you to imagine and feel an excellent pitch/golf swing/basketball shot or whatever you need so that your mind and body are now focused on what you should be doing, rather than the negative experience you should forget..

Being able to use these steps requires an athlete to think them out in advance and practice them. For example, if you are a golfer on the driving range, occasionally practice imagining that you just hit a ball into the water, then use your recovery routine to get yourself back into the groove before you take the next swing. If you are a basketball player, imagine you just missed two shots in a row, then use your routine to imagine the next shot going in and practice a shot. Over time, your recovery routine will be a great way to handle disappointments, mistakes, or even bad luck. But it takes effort to develop the three steps and then practice them. I think one of the hardest mental aspects of any sport is the ability to recover quickly when a tire on "the car" starts to go flat, having a recovery routine that works and you trust is a great way to keep a spare tire in the trunk.

Question: What can I do when things start going bad during a round? It seems to become a downward spiral. Is there a way to turn things around? 

Answer: Says Barb Hanson of Corporate Golf Services: I'll be the first to admit that some days no matter how hard I try, it just doesn't get any better.  In that case, it's best to chalk it up to bad biorhythms and just look forward to a better day.   

However, here are some things that may help you as you plug away:

  • Stick with your normal routine
  • Check that your tempo hasn't become faster or slower than usual
  • Trust your swing; don't try to make changes out on the course
  • Look ahead ­ not behind; there's absolutely nothing you can do about the last shot or hole
  • Look at a bad break or a poor lie as an opportunity for a creative shot
  • Recall the great shots you've made with the club that you're about to use; remember how it felt
  • Put the round in perspective ­ how important is it to your life?
  • Intentionally replace frustration with thankfulness for the privilege of playing a game that you love

    Top of Page

    When things go wrong

Question: What's the correct stance for a women's golf swing?

Answer: Creating a good golf swing is no different than building any business, relationship or home, says Debbie Steinbach (aka Venus), CEO of Venus Golf. You must start with a solid foundation to be successful.

Up until my book, Venus On The Fairway, the so-called fundamental golf stance for men and women was considered to be shoulder width with a driver. I personally felt this was odd for years because I had noticed throughout my career on the LPGA Tour that the best female players in the world set up with a stance wider than their shoulders. This wider stance made sense to me, not just because the players seemed to be having great success, but because the women actually looked to be more comfortable and better balanced with their wider, hip-width stances.

Women are built with wider hips than men, so we are much more flexible in the hip area. Our hips turn easily and naturally on the back swing. What we need is more stability to control our bigger hip turn and create better resistance.

A wider-than-shoulder-width stance also allows for a more dramatic weight shift back and away from the ball. A narrow stance will easily throw a woman off balance, as it does not allow stability for sufficient weight shift. Oftentimes, a narrow stance promotes a reverse weight shift, which is a very common swing trait with women.

Men can get away with a narrower stance because they do not turn their hips as much or as freely on the back swing. They have a higher center of gravity and one-third more muscle mass in their upper bodies. Men are usually built with shoulders that are wider than their hips.

Women also have a lower center of gravity, so we naturally use more of our lower bodies to generate the power in our swings.

To merely take a wider stance at address may seem like a very simple, easy golf tip. Yet, I have personally seen women turn many a golf swing totally around by making this one shift at address position. Remember: no more shoulder width stance for women. The new, improved "Venus" stance is hip-width. That is my stance on this issue, and I am sticking to it!

# # #
NOTE: Venus Golf was founded by CEO Debbie Steinbach (aka Venus), author of the popular book, Venus on the Fairway, former LPGA touring pro and a Golf for Women Magazine "Top 50" instructor. Steinbach competed for 12 years on the Tour and now devotes her time to instruction and motivational speaking plus other activities associated with her company.

Top of Page

Long-distance putts

Question: I have trouble judging a long-distance putt. Can you help?

Answer:Set-up, as always, is important, says teaching pro Jennifer Yockey.  Get yourself positioned with good posture and make sure the grip is in the palms of your hands with your hands facing each other. Set your sternum slightly behind the ball in order to get a better feel for the line and to allow the putter to swing on plane.  

Make a habit of pacing off your putts during practice.  The more familiar you are with how far 30, 40 and 50 feet actually are, the more likely you are to have success.  

To build your confidence in longer putts, try this drill the next time you practice:
The Ladder Game
Start with 15 balls at the distance you want to work on away from the fringe.  The goal is to "build a ladder" with those balls from the fringe back to you.  Putt the first ball to the fringe, the next just short of the first, etc.  As you become more proficient, the balls should end up closer and closer together.  When you "miss," begin again.  Play the game three times trying to make a tighter pattern each time.

By building the ladder you are not only working on a specific distance to the fringe but you're also learning how to "die" putts into the hole or in this case closer to the ball you hit previously.  

Jennifer Yockey is currently teaching at Sunriver Resort in Sunriver, OR and Rancho La Quinta Country Club in La Quinta, California.   

Top of Page

Agony Aunt on golf and personality disorders

JUST FOR FUN, New Zealand's golf humor author Kay Wall addresses an unusual mental/golf issue:

It's not without good reason that experts assert that golf is 90% mental and 10% physical. Which makes the problem of One Of Our Members Suffers From Multiple Personality Disorder-Which Personality's Handicap Does She Play Off? a very curly one. Fortunately for confused golf committees everywhere, I have the answer.

Question: Dear Ms Kallas-Way

One of our members had a really tough childhood, which I won't go into here, which has left her suffering from Multiple Personality Disorder. She currently has nine different personalities, eight of whom are very keen golfers and one that hates The Game.

She only started playing one year ago because Sybil (the dominant personality) decided it would be a good idea to get some fresh air and exercise. Sybil proved to be a natural and got her handicap down to 20 in just 12 months.

During that time another of the personalities, Cyril (handicap 15), started to achieve dominance. This proved really tricky because often she'd start as Sybil and at the tenth, Cyril would take over. Which meant a switch to the men's tees, half way through the round!

As if that isn't confusing enough, they'll get nearly to the end of the round and then Cecily, the golf-hater, appears and smashes all her clubs and scares off the rest of the four!

This is when Cecilia (handicap 24) takes over and steals the abandoned clubs, selecting 14 to play the last holes with and taking the rest to pawn at Cash Converters.

Sybil's taking a new medication which controls the violence, but we still have trouble sorting out which personality's handicap she must use. Five committees have quit because they can't solve the problem and I fear we may be forced to murder Sybil. (We can't force her out of the club because she threatened to take us to court, suing for discrimination. We have few members and can't afford to defend a suit.)

We're at our wits' end. Please help.

Answer: Dear OOOMSFMPDWPHDSPO Your problem is becoming more common as more golfers see re-runs on TV of the film, 'Sybil'. Presently, there's much furore over whether or not MPD is an actual psychiatric disorder, or a load of hooey.

I've recently submitted a paper to the New Zealand Institute of Psychos asserting the latter, because I have been able to cure every single MPD golfer I've come across.

This is what you must do. Welcome the MPD with open arms and tell them how delighted you are that they've chosen to join your club. Sit them down and tell them you want to get to know each and every one of them. Make sure you have pen and paper and note down the name of each personality. When you send them the subscription invoice, include an invoice for each personality, and add on another ten, as golf always induces sides of people never seen before.

The bill will be such that I guarantee all personalities will then play as one.

All Design, Graphics, Infrastructure, and Content is copyright 2004© Roberta Isleib. All rights reserved.

Top of Page
Home Books and ReviewsThe AuthorEssays, Stories, and Interviews Getting Published My Schedule
Press KitInvite Roberta to Speak Sex, Lies, and Videotape Tour
Ask the Golf Doctor
Research Email MeGreat LinksJoin Mailing ListBuy the Books