Eliminating Back Pain from Your Golf Game.

Rotating your body 180 degrees while generating enough force to accelerate a golf club can place a lot of stress on your back. Initially this stress may be experienced as an unusually high level of tiredness, also known as fatigue, at the conclusion of a round or range session. If left alone this fatigue progresses to muscle aches, tissue tears and changes in the alignment of the spine. The key is to be both strong and flexible enough in the muscles to properly align the spine making the rotation movement of the golf swing effortless.

The easiest area of misalignment to identify is the neck. Many golfers underestimate the importance of keeping the head centered between the shoulders. Every inch that the head moves forward of the midline increases the weight that upper back ligaments and neck muscles support by 100 percent[1]. For example, if your head weighs 10 pounds and it moves one inch forward of the midline your upper back ligaments and neck muscles must now support 20 pounds. A head that is two inches forward forces the back ligaments and neck muscles to support 30 pounds, and so on. Unfortunately this forward head posture is reinforced in our daily activities of working at a computer or desk and driving. This misalignment leads to headaches and pain between the shoulder blades.

How can you determine proper head alignment on your own? With one hand place the shaft of a driver on your spine directly between your shoulder blades with the grip on the back of your head. You can steady the club by holding it at the clubface end below your low back. Now take your address stance while continuing to hold the club shaft on your spine between the shoulder blades and on the back of the head. Place your flat, free hand on the back of your neck. Your hand should simultaneously contact the club shaft and your neck in this position. If it only contacts your neck, your head is too far forward of the mid-line.

Correcting this misalignment involves two steps. First draw your chin straight back in toward your throat. Do not allow your chin to simultaneously move up or down, only straight back. Second, as you draw your chin straight back, elongate your neck as if someone were pulling it straight out in line with the spine. Do not worry if you are unable to hold this position or are not able to contact the shaft of the club and the back of your neck at the same time when you first begin this exercise. Pull the head back and elongate the spine as far as you can and hold the position for as long as you can maintain perfect form. With perfect practice your front neck muscles (deep cervical flexors) will become stronger and your back neck muscles (cervical extensors) will stretch back to their normal length.

Low back pain occurs when there is too much or too little spine curve in the area between the ribs and the hips. This condition occurs when some muscles surrounding the low back, ribs and hips become too tight and shift the bones. This also causes the opposing, balancing muscles to become loose and weak. Both conditions reduce low back rotation in the back swing and the follow through causing a short swing and an over all reduction in drive power. A golfer who attempts to improve their rotation without addressing their abnormal lumbar curve can over stretch the mid-back and/or shoulder muscles and stabilizers causing damage to those bones and tissues (i.e. bone spurs or rotator cuff tears).

How can you determine proper low back alignment on your own? With one hand place the grip of a driver directly between your shoulder blades with the shaft bisecting your hips. The shaft will actually lie flat in contact with the sacrum, which sits between the hip bones. You can steady the club by holding it on the shaft toward the clubface end below your low back. Now take your address stance while continuing to hold the club grip between the shoulder blades and bisecting the hips on the sacrum.

Place your flat, free hand on the middle of your low back. The flat hand should be positioned between the ribs and hips directly opposite the belly button. Your hand should simultaneously contact the club shaft and your low back spine in this position. If it only contacts your low back spine, you have too much low back curve. If you cannot fit your flat hand between your low back spine and the club or if the club shaft rests flat on your spine from ribs to hips, you have too little low back curve.

Correcting too much low back curve simply means stretching the tight muscles and tightening the stretched muscles. The tight muscles most commonly associated with too much low back curve are the erector spinae and the psoas. Rounding your mid to low back like an angry cat, either standing or on hands and knees, while drawing your belly button in stretches the erector spinae. This muscle begins at the sacrum and hips and ends on the lower portion of the sixth and seventh ribs[2] and extends the spine.

Lying face up flat on your back and bringing one knee into the chest while pressing the low back and straight, other leg into the floor stretches the psoas. It is critical that the low back and straight leg remain in contact with the floor. The stretch occurs in the front hip area of the straight leg when the hips tilt as the opposite knee is pulled in toward the chest and the low back is pressed flat into the floor. The psoas begins at the low back (lumbar) spine and ends at the thigh bone (femur)[3].

The stretched muscles most commonly associated with too much low back curve are the hamstrings and abdominals. Lying face down over a Swiss Ball (a large latex ball inflated to 55 to 65 cm) with your hands on the floor, draw the belly button in toward the low back and raise the legs to parallel with the floor. This will strengthen the hamstrings. Turn face up so your whole spine is on the on the Swiss Ball and perform crunches to strengthen the abdominals.

Correcting too little low back curve simply means reversing the previous muscular information. In this situation the tight muscles most commonly associated with too little low back curve are the hamstrings and the abdominals. Assume your address position with the club grip on your mid back and the shaft between your hips. Make a space for your hand by tipping your hips forward (toward the ground) and arching your low back. Draw your belly button in toward your spine for support. Be certain that the club shaft remains in contact with the spine between the shoulder blades, the sacrum between the hips, and your hand. You will feel a stretch at the top of the back of your leg just below the hips and sacrum. The hamstrings begin at the base of the hips on the back side of the leg and ends just below (Semimembranosus and Semitendinosus) the knee and just above (Biceps Femoris) the knee.

Lying face down with the hands under the shoulders and straightening the arms while keeping the hips on the ground stretches the abdominals. It is critical that the hips remain on the floor and the shoulders remain as far away from the ears as possible when the arms extend. The rectus abdominis begins at the front of the hips and ends at the fifth, sixth and seventh ribs and the xiphoid process of the sternum[4].

The stretched muscles most commonly associated with too much low back curve are the hip flexors (psoas and quadriceps) and trunk extensors (erector sp inae). Sitting down and standing up strengthen the hip flexors. Assume your address position with the club grip on your mid back and the shaft between your hips. Make a space for your hand by tipping your hips forward (toward the ground) and arching your low back. Draw your belly button in toward your spine for support. Be certain that the club shaft remains in contact with the spine between the shoulder blades, the sacrum between the hips, and your hand. Now bend your knees and hips more as if you were going to sit down on a chair. Only lower down as far as you can keeping contact with the stick, your knees tracking to but not beyond your second toe, and your feet flat on the floor. Then stand all the way up keeping the same perfect form.

Lying face down on the floor with your fingertips at your ears and lifting the torso as high as possible off the floor strengthens the low back extensors (erector spinae).

Always remember that you are a unique individual with specific needs. Be sure to consult your physician prior to starting any new activities. The health and fitness industry is not regulated by any federal or state government agency. Only seek exercise advice from certified and degreed practitioners.

A Trip to the Senior British Open.

My trip started from Reno, Nevada after trying to qualify for the U.S. Senior Open at Hidden Valley Golf Course. There had been two spots available for 42 players. I came in fourth, which was the same as last. Disappointed but not despondent, I was looking forward to my exemption into the British Open (I had earned an exemption from the Senior Tour money list). The last time I had an opportunity to play in Britain was in the late sixties when I played the regular tour.

I should have expected a bizarre trip when my flight was delayed going to Seattle. The only way I could play in the Senior British Open was to make my connection with British Airways there at 10:30 p.m. If I missed it I would miss my deadline for registration. U.S. Air to Seattle had engine problems; no other flights were available. I found one that went to Portland, then flew from Portland to Seattle, and arrived 30 minutes prior to flight time.

Naturally the British Airways flight was in another terminal. After some frantic hustle I jumped on the plane as the doors were closing. One problem, my baggage and clubs didn’t make it.

Great! What do I play with? British Air says, “No problem, they’ll be on the flight tomorrow and will be shuttled up, hopefully to arrive before the tournament starts.” This is not starting out well!

A 747 business-class window seat will be welcome. But my ticket is incorrectly made out; the travel agency has the seating correct on the agenda record but not on the ticket. So I get back row, middle seat, in the smoking section, and that’s that. “Sorry you have paid for business class but there are no seats available; you will be upgraded on the return.”

I don’t know if any of you have had the pleasure of sitting for ten hours in an economy section, middle row seat between a 260-pound Trans-Euro racing mechanic (chain-smoking Camel unfiltered) and a 16 year-old, son of a rock drummer for “Licorice and the Earshots,” (also chain-smoking–Benson and Hedges filtered). I can tell you it was very similar to being gassed.

If I could have gotten off the plane, I would have. Drinking was a thought, but I restrained myself and only downed a sleeping pill, in hopes of waking up thinking this was a bad dream. I guess the pill didn’t work for a couple reasons: the lack of oxygen in the air and Alorinsk, the mechanic, who downed as many Jack Daniels as needed to pass out about 3 hours into the trip, and snored in bursts so hard it shook the seats. His body was so big I couldn’t rest my elbows on the seat rests. Lippy, the rock drummer’s son, would not shut up. He told me his whole life history; everything from his new nose ring to how he birdied the eighteen hole at St. Andrews by hitting a three wood into the hole from 160 yards. He asked for my autograph and asked if I wanted to attend his concert and check out some babes. I felt so lucky; a great pair to draw a seat between.

London — my time 8 a.m. I’ve had no sleep but am anxious to register and practice (I don’t have my clubs but I could at least get to see the course) and get some sleep.

Now about the rental car… The travel agency again made a mistake with my reservation and I was booked for a Land Rover stick shift. No problem, I just wanted to get on with it. This car, jeep, whatever is like the ones you see on safari and it rode the same way.

On a three-hour drive on the wrong side of the road, shifting with my left hand and trying to negotiate a roundabout I was within a few miles of the hotel and course when it happened. I was in the inside lane of the roundabout, completely stopped, when I heard a crunch on my left side but didn’t see anything. It was about 10 p.m. I peered out of the other side to see what had happened and saw the remains of a mini-minor MG (a car the size of a large bumper car) flattened on the side of the road. The car was chartreuse with polka dots and the driver was a mini-skirted, high-heeled, well-endowed, teenybopper with spiked hair. She was as high as one can get, grabbing her neck and lying on the side of the road. I asked if she was hurt and she starts yelling at me with every swearword I know, and the crowd starts in and sides with her. I have a feeling this is not going to be very good.

One hour later, Constable Stanley Preston arrives, a 25 year-old weight lifter, clothing starch-pressed into military iron folds. He has a semi-penciled mustache; I can feel I’m up against it. Stanley immediately attends to Pricilla (“Call her Prissy,” she tells Stanley)– I may as well throw in the towel. 30 minutes later Stanley comes over and states that he is giving me a citation…and I haven’t even talked to him yet. I start to explain and Stanley says, “License, passport, insurance, rental documents, international license.” I have everything except the international license.

Stanley reads me my rights, explains that we must all go into Constable’s Headquarters, and that I am being cited. Prissy is now well and her hero has been, and will be, rewarded.

2:00 a.m. Papers are filed. I have the right to a lawyer but nothing can be done until tomorrow morning at 10 a.m. Until then I must be in custody. I plead my case with the British Open registration, invitee of the Royal and Ancient, etc. Stanley does not hear me. Desperation sets in. I’m not going to sit in custody and miss the tournament because I was hit by a drug-crazed-teenybopper in a go-cart.

3:00 a.m. Prissy is leaving; Stanley is escorting her home. I approach Stanley and inform him that I am going to report him to the consulate for improper procedures: no witnesses, no checking for alcohol, drugs, or open containers, and giving me no food. This was a real bad idea. Stanley is pissed, but I don’t care. I demand to see another constable and get my first break, as in comes Captain Bush, authoritative, 60ish, very proper, very British. He listens to my story, starts a chat with “stud-ly” Stanley and I can see it isn’t polite–the captain is a golfer!!!

At 5 a.m. the captain arranges a cash bail. Prissy says her car is worth 800 pounds and she has no insurance. Captain Bush takes $1500 in Travelers checks from me, proceeds with paperwork and says, “Believe me, this is the very best way out.” I believe him and I’m on my way at 6 a.m.

I arrive at the clubhouse at 8:00 a.m., unshaven and having been up for thirty hours. I register, explain my dilemma to the Royal and Ancient committee, borrow a set of clubs (mine are to arrive tomorrow, the tournament day!) and hit the course.

At 2:00 that afternoon I finally check into the hotel, crash, wake-up the next morning at 9 a.m. and am scheduled to tee off at 12:30.

By 10:30 my clubs have not arrived. I feel like a zombie (jet lag, bad) but I’m going to play no matter what.

At 12:00 my clubs arrive, half an hour before my tee time. The weather is beautiful.

Within that half an hour a storm comes in. The first hole is 208 yards, par 3. A one iron comes up short, and I hit it perfectly. I shoot 73, bogeying the last two holes, and had one of the lowest rounds in the afternoon. All of the leaders played in the morning. I was ecstatic with the round. Things are turning around.

On Friday I have a 9 a.m. tee-time and am looking forward to good weather, as it was on Thursday morning. Wrong! There’s another storm front right behind the first one and it is more violent.

This time I hit a driver on the 208-yard first hole. My two fellow competitors, Hugh Boyle, a Ryder Cup-per from Britain and Hans Hohnke from Sweden, cannot reach the green with their drivers.

By the 4th hole the storm intensifies and destroys my umbrella. Rain is covering the greens but there is no cancellation (“The show must go on”). I am drenched and cannot hang on to the club and shoot 40 on the first nine.

On the 10th hole the club slips out of my hands-O.B. The next shot I top. The following shot buries in a pot bunker. I hit it but cannot get it out. I hit the next shot backwards, but too far, into a dense thicket-unplayable. Now I’m really in trouble because I can’t drop anywhere–2 club-lengths gives me no relief. Dropping further back, keeping that point on my line to the hole, puts me in the trolley rails. I can only drop the ball and play it from where I started, back in the bunker. This particular pot bunker is so deep that one cannot do anything but hit sideways or backwards. I drop the ball in the bunker and it buries. I try to play sideways but it doesn’t come out. I try again and move the ball to the rough near the fairway. A perfect 5 iron flies over the green into a thicket. I chop out, chip up and two-putt. (Trivia what did I score?)

I would have quit at this point but I was at the furthest point from the clubhouse, so I decided to play on. 88 shots later I arrived at the Royal Lytham and St. Annes, circa 1896, clubhouse. The storm was gone.

A bottle of spirits, a quick flight home, and this nightmare was behind me. I arrived at Boundary Oak two days later, to the question, “What happened, why did you withdraw?”

Dumbfounded I said, “What?”

“You made the cut by three shots.”

The storm had caused many scores in the 100’s; last place was 2000 pounds or 4,000 dollars.

Ball Position.

Ball position. This is something that I think is very overlooked or just taken for granted. I feel it is extremely important to know where the ball is relative to the bottom of the swing, that spot may differ from player to player, because of the amount of foward lateral movement each player has. ( You need to find the best position for you.) On all full shots that are uninhibited or not in some type of awkward lie the ball position should be slightly ahead of center to about 3 inches ahead of center according to the length of the club.

The ball position should be ahead in the stance so when you redirect the swing the club will start foward and decend on its foward approach to the ball. This will produce forward and downward pressure on the ball, making the ball start down your target line.

Here’s how to determine where the ball is relative to your feet. Place two clubs on the gound forming a small letter t. The one that is parrallel to your target is your foot line, place your toes along this club. The one that is perpendicular should be placed to indicate the center of your stance. Now start with the ball slightly ahead of this point for your iron shots and work foward up to about three inches for your driver. Remember on all full shots the ball should be between your front heel and the club that is at the center of your feet.

Try it I’m sure you will like it.

Chip Shots With Bad Lies

Here is a suggestion for hitting those chips that seem to be in a bad lie. Let’s say the ball is sitting down in a slight depression close to the green. Remember if the ball fits in the hole the club will too. Take an 8 or 9 iron and set the club down on its toe. Get the shaft as vertical as you can,you will be standing close to the ball and very up right. By doing this you will reduce the drag of the club.You want to strike the ball with the toe of the club. Now go ahead and use your putting stroke. The loft of the club will pop the ball out low and then it will run like a putt. This is a safe shot. Remember when you have a bad lie play the safest shot you can to give yourself a chance to make the next shot.

This shot works well when the ball is up against the fringe or from hard pan.The putter may not be the club for this shot because of the design, you can’t always get the putter on the ball cleanly.

Options are a wonderful thing when your playing golf. The more options you have for any given shot the more chances you have to save par.

How Should I Practice?


Part I :

You should practice wisely, just like the expression “working smart”. After you’ve warmed up you should approach your practice session in the same manner you would a round of golf. You want to hit practice shots the same way you would hit shots on the course. You need to train yourself on the range to do what you expect on the golf course. Use the same routine to hit shots on the range that you would when playing. You’re trying to achieve a conditioned response on the range so you don’t have to think about it on the course. Some people may refer to this as muscle memory, I call it conditioned response.

Practice the way you want to play, if you’re serious about playing well. Use your time well and you will enjoy the game much more. Determine what kind of preshot routine fits you best and do it while practicing. Work on your mechanics and technique on the range so you don’t have to think about it on the course.

The range is for work and course is for play. Develop a program for success on the range and let the program run on the course. Don’t interfere with it. It’s called “getting out of your own way” while you play. You’re not out there to play golf mechanics you’re playing golf. Practice with intent. Go out with a goal and try to accomplish it. Don’t just beat balls. If that’s what you’re doing you might just as well find a gym and pump some iron. Work smart and use your time wisely. Who knows you just might start to like practicing and your golf game will definitely improve.

Part II :

Now that we are practicing wisely lets make sure we focus. When you are working on swing mechanics or tempo or technique or awareness remember to work on one thing per one swing. Don’t try and do to much with one swing. Lets say you’ve chosen three areas to work on during a particular session. Hit five shots working on number one only then five working on number two only then five working on number three only. Then go back to one and so on. This is called circular learning and it will be much more productive and you will pay closer attention to what you’re doing. Sometimes practicing can get boring and you will get distracted, this will help you keep your focus.

Start changing your targets and switching clubs After you’ve accomplished your goals for that secession and you’re satisfied with the motion, start changing your targets and switching clubs. Practice hitting shots to targets that bother you on the golf course. Like a back left pin position or a far right position. If you can hit the shot on the range you can hit it on the course. Also get used to switching clubs when you practice. Hit a driver then hit a 7 iron, hit a driver then a three wood ect., just like on the course. This will help you maintain tempo from club to club. Don’t just practice with one club. Very seldom do you hit thirty or forty 5 irons in a row on the course. The time to practice is when you are striking the ball well because that is what you are trying to condition. When you are hitting it poorly is the time to seek professional advice.

You want to make your practice sessions as enjoyable as possible, so do what you can to make it fun. After all, you are working very hard to play a GAME better, so enjoy.

My Brother in Georgia

I have an older brother, Vernon, who lives in Columbus, Georgia. He, like most of the rest of the family, is an avid golfer. I envy Vern because he is able to play golf year round. He knows this is a hot button for me, and will call during the winter months and tell me what he shot that day, what the weather conditions were and what the course was like. He doesn’t do this to be cruel, I’m sure, but nonetheless it makes me sad that he has this opportunity and I am denied. I have visited him in the late spring and with the high temperatures and humidity I almost had heat stroke. To be fair, this was less than a year after I moved from Alaska and I considered seventy-five degrees to be tropical! I want to visit again now that I have been living in the lower 48 for over three years – I think I could give a better showing this time…
I have a fantasy I play out in my mind as to what I would do if I ever hit the MEGA BUCKS lottery for the “big one.” Part of that fantasy is to buy a block of houses on a golf course for my wife and me, and all of our golf buddies. Each and every day we would have the same tee times and play to our hearts’ content. The houses would have a two car garage and a separate half-garage for the golf cart. In this community you would be able to drive your golf cart everywhere including the town square where food and entertainment is offered. Along with the houses I would purchase for them, there would be a large lump of money. This money would mean they could retire and not have to worry about where their next Jaguar was coming from. We, of course, would take golf holidays from time to time and play all of the fabled courses through out the world. As a group we would also attend the finest golf instruction schools available and improve our game to the point where we were all scratch golfers!

To do all of this properly I would need to win a lottery that left me with $90 million after taxes. I always say, if you are going to dream, dream BIG!

I have not shared this with my brothers until now but there is no harm in sharing as I have not won the “big one.” Not yet anyhow.

So Vern, when you read this you will know what plans I have for you and a select group of our friends. I also want you to know that your cart will have the wet bar and mine will have air conditioning. I only ask that you always keep a caffeine free diet Pepsi on ice for me.

Keep swinging.

RESOURCES

I have recently retired and can now indulge in the one passion I have had all of my life, golf. I was an Army brat and each Army post had a golf course and a bowling alley. To earn money, I set pins and caddied.

Automatic pin setters came into use long before the courses had carts for the golfers so my interest stayed with the links. One thing the Army courses lacked was a professional teaching staff so my swing, stance and other fundamentals were developed by watching the golfers. Soon, I spent all of the money I earned on rental clubs, balls, gloves, tees and course fees. I did not own the proper shoes until I was an adult.

I have been playing golf for over 45 years and although it is my passion I chose to live 26 of those years in Alaska where golf was limited by the short season and the hard to get tee times.

I am also a stage actor and have performed in over 100 stage productions. I have made television commercials, voice over work on the radio, and print advertising.

The Legend

Once upon a time there was a golfer who made a commercial hitting three separate balls (with the same club) at a three story factory building. The first ball broke the center window on the first floor, the second ball broke the center window on the second floor and the third ball broke the center window on the third floor. The voice over announcer says “These guys are good!”
There is no disputing the fact that Tiger is as good as the commercial shows but let’s talk about GREAT for a moment. Try to imagine yourself as a caddy and you have been assigned to shag balls for a Pro who prefers to hit his practice shots out at an unused portion of the course rather than the driving range. Now imagine the first day you are shagging and he tells you to go out 150 fifty yards as he wants to practice with his 8 iron. You go the distance and he fires the first shot. As it is heading for your head you grab the shag bag and run off to the side. After the ball lands you retrieve it and find the next shot is also coming at that space between your eyes! You repeat the shag dance you performed with the first ball, and so it goes with the third and forth etc. The pro finally tells you to leave the shag bag where it is and to move off to the side. No matter which club the Pro was using he would put over 90% of the balls into the shag bag.

Who was this pro who made life easy on the caddy by hitting the balls into the shag bag? He was Ben Hogan. Mr. Hogan (I don’t feel comfortable calling such a great man by his first name without his permission) was truly a legend in his own time. He was a four-time PGA Player of the Year and had 63 tournament wins. This was a man who almost lost his life in a head-on collision with a bus. The accident did, however, impair his eyesight and depth perception with regard to short putts. This problem with his eyesight cost him many tournaments but he never complained – in fact he never mentioned he had a problem, he just kept trying to unsuccessfully overcome the problem.

Mr. Hogan ran a successful business making Professional golf clubs for other players on the tour and even today many years after his death you can still buy custom made clubs from the Hogan Company or you can buy off the rack sets for the serious golfer. There are several professionals on tour using Hogan brand clubs. Look for the logo the next time you are watching a major. If someone comes up with a Ryder Cup dream team it is certain Ben Hogan would be on the team or its captain.

I have not done book reviews in the past but I must put in a word for Afternoons with Mr. Hogan: A Boy, A Golf Legend, and the Lessons of a Lifetime by Jody Vasquez. Jody was the young caddie who had the honor of working for Mr. Hogan back in his youth. Prior to reading this book I was aware of the famous Ben Hogan but I did not have the perspective on this man that I do now. This was a man young boys should have as a role model. I urge you to read this book – it is a quick read which is good, because it is so hard to put down.

Phil and Sergio have both had one-on-one made-for-television competitions against Tiger Woods but I would travel to see the game in person if it were possible to match up Ben Hogan at his prime against Tiger, Phil and Sergio. Ben would make more in that one game than he made during his entire career as a Professional.

Keep swinging.

RESOURCES

I have recently retired and can now indulge in the one passion I have had all of my life, golf. I was an Army brat and each Army post had a golf course and a bowling alley. To earn money, I set pins and caddied.

Automatic pin setters came into use long before the courses had carts for the golfers so my interest stayed with the links. One thing the Army courses lacked was a professional teaching staff so my swing, stance and other fundamentals were developed by watching the golfers. Soon, I spent all of the money I earned on rental clubs, balls, gloves, tees and course fees. I did not own the proper shoes until I was an adult.

I have been playing golf for over 45 years and although it is my passion I chose to live 26 of those years in Alaska where golf was limited by the short season and the hard to get tee times.

I am also a stage actor and have performed in over 100 stage productions. I have made television commercials, voice over work on the radio, and print advertising.

My Scorecard – Good or Bad.

I look forward to each and every round of golf I play but I cringe at the end of every round when I look at the scorecard. I realize I could have done so much better than what I posted as a score. I also know my posted score would be much worse if I had not allowed myself the “Mulligan” for each nine holes, or if I had not invoked the “Winter Rules” habit of moving my ball to a better lie.
My rational mind tells me I am not a professional golfer, therefore these little “accommodations” are not earth-shattering in the greater scheme of life.

Let’s talk for a few minutes about these two score helpers. When I play a Mulligan it is always off of the tee box; I use the “Winter Rules” everywhere else, except for the greens, of course.

A Mulligan: the derivation of the word “Mulligan” has never been factually attributed, but it is simply a second shot (without penalty). Normally I allow myself one Mulligan for each nine holes. When I would play with my friends in Alaska we would also allow ourselves an additional Mulligan off of the first tee. This first shot invariably headed for the woods and everyone knows the second shot is always straight and true (not). If the second shot were also wayward we would suck it up and play the second shot even if it meant a lost ball penalty. We would take a drop near the point of entry into the hazard and assess ourselves a lost ball penalty stroke. When the Mulligan did fly straight and true we never took the allowable five minutes to look for the first ball – it was assumed the lost ball was the cost of the Mulligan.

When I travel to my hometown to play in the tournament my brother David puts on each year, the tournament officials allow you to buy 5 Mulligans for 5 dollars. This money goes into the kitty to help buy Christmas presents for needy kids in the area, a cause worth supporting.

Perhaps if I were to keep track of all of the Mulligans I used through out the golf season and put the equivalent amount of money into the red kettle, I would either feel better about their use or I would find myself using fewer Mulligans because of the end cost. I will have to sleep on this one.

Now, the “Winter Rules” function was established by a posting at the golf course in Alaska that allowed players to relocate their fairway shots to a tuft of grass because of all of the dead grass hardpan that was a result of the winter kill. My friends and I adopted this rule with glee and were doubly blessed when we noticed there was was no expiration date on the rule! This meant we could relocate our ball if it landed in someone’s divot, a rut caused by erosion, or just buried in grass that had not been mowed for a couple of days. I have tried to stop using “Winter Rules” since I no longer live in Alaska, but old habits die hard!

I said earlier in this article I would sleep on a decision and I have just had an epiphany. I think I am going to have some signs made up and distribute them to the local golf courses. The signs will ask the golfers to be on the honor system and donate one dollar to the First Tee organization for every Mulligan they take on the course. Who knows, there could be a ground swell of money coming to the First Tee. For those of you who don’t know about the First Tee, it is an organization devoted to introducing the game of golf to children who would not normally have access to golf…a worthy endeavor.

Keep swinging.

RESOURCES

I have recently retired and can now indulge in the one passion I have had all of my life, golf. I was an Army brat and each Army post had a golf course and a bowling alley. To earn money, I set pins and caddied.

Automatic pin setters came into use long before the courses had carts for the golfers so my interest stayed with the links. One thing the Army courses lacked was a professional teaching staff so my swing, stance and other fundamentals were developed by watching the golfers. Soon, I spent all of the money I earned on rental clubs, balls, gloves, tees and course fees. I did not own the proper shoes until I was an adult.

I have been playing golf for over 45 years and although it is my passion I chose to live 26 of those years in Alaska where golf was limited by the short season and the hard to get tee times.

I am also a stage actor and have performed in over 100 stage productions. I have made television commercials, voice over work on the radio, and print advertising.

Golf With A Smile – I May Be In Trouble

I did it. I caused this problem and now I am faced with the consequences. I knew that I was possibly opening Pandora’s Box but I had to do it. What was this grievous error I made? What had I done which has caused me to pause and wonder the ramifications of my actions? Mind you, these actions were not impulsive, they were well thought out and performed with love and yet I shudder at what I have possibly wrought.

What have I done that is now viewed with fear and trepidation? I gave my wife 3 one-hour private golf lessons with a local lady pro as a Christmas present. You ladies are saying, “What’s the problem?” There is no gray area here for you ladies. You ladies think of this as an act of love (which it was, dear) and you see this as further proof of my desire to make the game of golf more enjoyable for my wife (which it was, dear). There are, however, two sides to every coin; go ahead and check your coin purse – I assure you this is the case.

The male readers of this article are cringing and muttering bad things under their breath and whereas I don’t feel these epithets are deserved I can understand from where they come. Men have long intimidated women by reminding them how weak and frail they are compared to the male of the species. Rarely have we conferred the rank of excellence on the female outside of the kitchen or bedroom and never would it be applied to a co-ed sport. Once upon a time I too would have muttered these same things about a man who had violated these sacred teachings, but guys, I have news for you, those were the old days. This is the new world order where Annika Sorenstam can play in the golf skins game along with the men and make a good showing for herself. If women have the ability to compete with men and are not an embarrassment to themselves or their sex then I say “Go Girl!”

I know I am feeling angst over this decision but I just have to put those feelings aside and say “So what if she starts beating me at my own game!” If it was meant to be it was meant to be. However, as soon as she beats me I will pull out the PGA rule book and polish up my vocabulary and knowledge of the rules. I know I will have to abide by these same rules but I am only trying to level the playing field. Speaking of level fields, if she beats me too badly I will just have to take up Polo – I know her fear of horses will keep me safe for years to come.

Keep swinging.

RESOURCES

I have recently retired and can now indulge in the one passion I have had all of my life, golf. I was an Army brat and each Army post had a golf course and a bowling alley. To earn money, I set pins and caddied.

Automatic pin setters came into use long before the courses had carts for the golfers so my interest stayed with the links. One thing the Army courses lacked was a professional teaching staff so my swing, stance and other fundamentals were developed by watching the golfers. Soon, I spent all of the money I earned on rental clubs, balls, gloves, tees and course fees. I did not own the proper shoes until I was an adult.

I have been playing golf for over 45 years and although it is my passion I chose to live 26 of those years in Alaska where golf was limited by the short season and the hard to get tee times.

I am also a stage actor and have performed in over 100 stage productions. I have made television commercials, voice over work on the radio, and print advertising.

5 Simple Ways To Improve Your Golf On The Course.

When you go out to golf you’re hoping for a good round. I know I do. How often does your outcome match what you hoped for? Do you usually shoot the scores you had envisioned before you teed off? If not, do you ever evaluate where and how you could have saved strokes and avoided those blow up holes?

I’ve got 6 easy tips for you to implement immediately that will shave 4-6 or even more strokes off your score the next time you play. Give them a try and see what happens. Here they are:

  1. First off you’ve got to put the proper fuel in your body before you leave home. Most golfers don’t give it a second thought. They either don’t eat at all before they leave home or they eat something that is not going to give them the long-term energy they’re hoping for. So, whether it’s lunch or breakfast before you leave, you need to consume a complex carbohydrate and a good protein source. This combination will warrant the best use of your energy for the long haul.
    An example for breakfast would be a bowl of oatmeal and a couple of eggs with a piece of fruit or a juice. For lunch you could have a turkey sandwich on whole wheat with a piece of fruit. Lot’s of lettuce on the sandwich and try to avoid mayonnaise or butter.
  2. The second tip is to properly warm up your body before you even hit your first ball. I see so many golfers show up 5 minutes before tee time, hack a few balls and head to the first tee. Those golfers are headed for a double bogey right off the bat – but hey they’re just getting “warmed up” right?
    A better approach is to give yourself at least 30 minutes before your tee time. First do some dynamic (movement oriented) stretches to prepare your body to perform. Things like arm circles, partial squats, toe touches, etc. Then take some half swings with a 7 iron. Now after that you’re ready to hit some wedges. You’ll find with this approach your hits on the range will be much better, which will build your confidence.
  3. Drink lots of water even before you leave your house. Try to consume up to a gallon of Water before you get to the course. This will help you absorb and digest your pre-game meal and hydrate your muscles for optimal performance. Don’t take this lightly. Dehydration causes energy loss, lack of focus and concentration and fatigue later in the round. And remember, that’s before you even come to the course. Once you get their you should be drinking water every hole.
  4. Don’t wait ’til you get tight to stretch on the course. You should be constantly moving your body and stretching your joints while you play. I see and hear too many golfers complaining of tight lower backs or shoulders during the round. What amazes me is that with all that complaining they do nothing about it. Why? Think of your body as a machine. If the machine starts to break down – fix it. I mean stretch those areas while you’re playing. You’ll see a big difference in your swing mechanics late in the round.
  5. Snack while you play. No I don’t mean the full meal at the turn with a beer I mean bringing fruit and nutrition bars to eat every 4-6 holes. When you supply your body with the proper nutrients your energy levels stay balanced and you will avoid those mental lapses late in the round. How many times have you had a good score only to blow up late in the round? I’ll bet more than a couple of times. I know I have. Treat your body like a Ferrari not a Ford Pinto.