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Opinion & Analysis

A guide to calling in penalties



I have a confession to make. Well, not really a confession, that would mean I did something wrong. And how could anyone consider what I did the wrong thing?

What do you ask?

It was me. I called in the rules violation on Sun Young Yoo at the CME Group Titleholders event. For those that did not see her egregious flouting of the rules, Yoo came to the 14th hole within one stroke of the lead on Friday.  She drove her ball into the overgrowth and tried to hit out, but ended up hitting the ball deeper into the bushes. She then decided to take a one-stroke penalty for an unplayable lie and drop. So far so good. But here is where she should have pulled her rule book out.

When she set up to take a drop, she didn’t property extend her arm 90 degrees before dropping the ball! Can you believe it! I mean really. Not knowing how to drop the ball, how is she even playing on Tour? Even weekend hackers know you have to extend your arm 90 degrees. I was just sitting there in my mom’s basement where I live, eating a bag of Cool Ranch Doritos when I saw what she did. But I didn’t really know what to do? Who do I call? Is there someone I can call?

Then I remembered an incident that involved Camilo Villegas in 2011, when he moved the divot from his shot while the ball was rolling back to his feet.  How did they do it? I quickly looked up the golf course pro shop and called. A nice kid answered and I explained what I had just seen. He didn’t seem too impressed. I told him nothing less was at stake than the reputation of the tournament!

He put me on hold.

No mind, I had a cell phone too. My mom pays for it. I call the LPGA Tour offices hoping to get someone who understood what was happening. No such luck, they put me on hold too. Then I realized I had the internet! Twitter! So I tweeted the LPGA they needed to review the tape and assess another stroke penalty. After waiting by the phone, I direct messaged the LPGA my phone number in case they wanted to talk to me, I finally saw online Ms. Yoo had been assessed another stroke penalty.

Now I’m sure Ms. Yoo is a fine lady and a fine golfer. After the round she said about the incident, “My arm wasn’t high enough. All I want to say is I did not try to cheat. I wasn’t even thinking about it. I just picked up my ball and dropped it instinctively.”

It must have had some affect on her, because she went from three behind after the round to shooting 74 and 75, finishing in 24th place. Well, hopefully she will learn from me calling in the rules violation. Maybe it will help her in the future. Maybe she will see a competitor violate a rule and be able to penalize her in the future.

I’ve seen and heard all the comments from players and fans saying people who call in penalties should get a life, but isn’t that what makes golf great? We can play the same courses, use the same clubs and play by the same rules. And if those rules aren’t followed, we can cost players strokes! What better way to feel part of the television coverage than to look for penalties?

Sure there are people that get paid for a living to monitor tournaments. They must not have enough, because fans calling in penalties are becoming more prevalent.

Padraig Harrington was disqualified from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship on the European Tour in 2011 for his ball moving after he replaced it on the green. Poor Padraig went from an opening round 65 and in contention to sitting on his couch. Now that one was tough to see. I had to watch the replay over ten times before I noticed it. The fan that called in that one is a pro, he or she should be on Tour.

Instead of stopping penalties being called in, I think more sports should allow fans to be involved in referring the games. Heck, the police should use it too. See an old lady jay walking … call it in. See a mom speeding in her car …  you got it, call it in.

Just a couple of days ago I tried calling the NFL offices after the refs blew a holding penalty in the Monday night game between the Panthers and Eagles. They didn’t even have anyone answering the phone! I tried tweeting Roger Goodell and he didn’t even respond. So thank goodness for the PGA, European and LPGA Tours. And thank you for letting fans feel a part of the game.

Sure I look like the petty loser who had my lunch money stolen as a kid, but so what. I changed the outcome of a golf tournament. How many of you can say that?

Click here for more discussion in the “Tour Talk” forum. 

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Seth is an avid golfer playing year round in Florida.



  1. Rolf

    Dec 3, 2012 at 9:19 am

    Oh, this is good. It’s going to be like an airport here, with all the things flying over peoples’ heads.

  2. Harley

    Dec 2, 2012 at 12:38 pm

    No offense dude, but that is pretty terrible. I don’t mind fans calling out infractions that are blatant rules infractions but does the fact that her hand was four inches lower than it should have been have any bearing on the outcome of a golf tournament?

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Opinion & Analysis

Clampett: Is confusion the leading cause of golfers quitting the game?



It seems that lately I’ve had a run of golfers attending my two-day Signature School with similar stories.

“Bobby, I have too many swing thoughts! I don’t know what I should think about when I swing.” Nearly without exception, these golfers tell me that their increased frustration had led to a deterioration of their game. It’s really a shame, because many of these frustrated golfers were at one time low, single-digit handicap players that had fallen to bogey-level golf.

In these schools, I have the time to start peeling back the onion with each student, and I’m hearing the same story over and over. My first question is always, “How did you find out about us?” Usually, it’s through referral or the result of an internet search for instruction help. My second questions is, “What do you hope to accomplish in our two days together?” They almost always respond, “Bobby, my head is spinning with too many swing thoughts. I don’t know what to do. Your approach to impact makes the most sense I’ve seen. That’s why I’m here.”

Statistics indicate that 4 million golfers quit the game in the United States every year. And if you polled each of these 4 million golfers, you’d find confusion to be the common denominator in their decision to quit.

I googled “golf instruction” and received more than 33 million results. Then I went to “YouTube” and typed in “Golf Tip.” There were 932,000 results. Scores of golfers get emails everyday suggesting a new thought or idea to improve their game. They watch television and pick up some more advice. They subscribe to golf magazines suggesting all kinds of ideas. Then they go to the range or course and put as much of it into action as their memories and bodies will allow… only to find it just doesn’t work! They’re farther away from playing good golf than they were when they began seeking out these swing fixes.

Many of my students are avid golfers who come to my schools on the brink of quitting the game all together. One student’s story was so sad. He confessed that no one at his club wanted to play with him anymore because his game had declined so sharply. He was considering selling his membership. In tears, he shared with us that all of his friends were members of his club.

Why is there all this confusion around the golf swing? There are two simple reasons.

The first involves the idea that “style-based” teaching is still the most common approach to improving a golfer’s game, and in my opinion, this doesn’t work very well for most golfers. Style-based instruction centers around a certain look. These teachers ask golfers to set up to the ball this way, get in these backswing positions, make this move on the downswing, look like this at the finish… and so on. Meanwhile, the Dustin Johnsons, Jim Furyks, and Bubba Watsons of the golfing world don’t possess golf swings that look anything like the “style” being suggested. When swing tips are given for “style” reasons, they’re arbitrary, a visual preference, and can’t be measured.

The second reason golfers are more confused today than they’ve ever been is the climate of today’s golf instruction world. We live in a new age, the digital age, and golfers are being bombarded by countless forms of media suggesting how to improve their games. These tips have a very wide range of theories and suggestions, most of which are conflicting.

Set up with your weight on the left foot. No, on the right foot. No, in the middle.

Have a short, compact swing. No, get a big shoulder turn for more distance. No, just swing around your body.

Finish high. No, finish low and left.

You get the picture. Without the ability to discern fact from fiction when it comes to all of this information, golfers go to the driving range in search of that secret pill that’s going to make it all work. The truth is that a secret pill that’s “style-based” just doesn’t exist. The best golf teachers know that the “style” of swing really doesn’t matter. The only thing that matters in playing good golf is creating good impact. That’s what Dustin Johnson, Jim Furyk and Bubba Watson all have in common, and that’s why they are all great golfers and great ball-strikers.

Good instructors understand what it is that these great players do to create that good impact, and they have the ability to offer clear remedies that might be built on only one or two simple thoughts. When a golfer is limited to thinking about only one or two key things, their mind is free and so is their swing. It’s not paralysis by analysis that ruins golfers, but rather paralysis by having too many needless and ineffective swing thoughts that ruins golfers.

Good instruction and good swing tips help golfers understand the impact their swing needs to create to be a good ball-striker. When a golfer’s impact isn’t good, a good instructor will help the student understand the specific element of their impact that wasn’t good and provide the appropriate remedy to fix it. Using today’s modern technology helps reveal precisely what was good or bad about a swing’s impact. After the remedy is given, technology will specifically be able to measure and show improvement in the various elements of impact. Game improvement can now be measured and verified by viewing the specific areas where impact is improved. When students see this measured improvement, hope is restored, confidence grows, scores drop and fewer golfers quit the game!

Be aware that it’s fine to read these articles and view these swing tips for their entertainment and educational value, but golfers should only apply the tips when they know they will help them improve a specific element of their impact. Then and only then will their game improve. One thing is for certain in golf, better impact equals better golf. That is where the “hope” of a good golf game is to be found.

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Opinion & Analysis

The difference between “ugly” and “unorthodox” golf swings



I’d like you pretend for a moment that you were asked to name the five ugliest golf swings by players who had won a major championship. Who would you select, and what criteria would you use to make that judgment? You might say you’re not sure, but you would have no difficulty identifying an ugly swing if you were to see one, right? The question is, what factors would move you toward that decision?

I struggled with this exact question when it was posed to me and others who were members of Golf Magazine’s “Top 100” panel at the time. In making my decision, I was concerned that I did not confuse UNORTHODOX with UGLY. The fact is that some of the greatest golfers throughout history have been considered to have had unorthodox swings.

  • The word “unorthodox” is defined as that which is contrary to what is usual, traditional or generally accepted.
  • The word “ugly” is defined as that which is unpleasant or repulsive in appearance.

In comparing the two definitions, they are clearly quite different. The word “unorthodox” suggests something that is different from the norm, while the word “ugly” relates to the appearance of an object regardless of its status. The problem with labeling any golf swing as unorthodox is that the definition of that condition varies with time. What was once considered to be unorthodox may later be considered perfectly acceptable, and we’ve seen this happen over and over again in golf instruction.

Case No. 1

It was considered unorthodox when Harry Vardon moved his thumbs toward the top of the shaft and placed the little finger of his right hand over his left forefinger knuckle. The standard grip in his era featured both thumbs to the sides of the shaft. The club was held more in the palms of both hands and with all ten fingers, rather than more diagonally through the palm as in Vardon’s Grip. As Vardon began to win, however, his competitors copied his grip. What once was considered unorthodox became orthodox.

Case No. 2

Hogan and Nicklaus were paired together in the final round of the 1957 U.S. Open at Cherry Hills. The dichotomy between their backswings couldn’t have been more evident. This was due to the way in which they utilized their right elbows in the backswing. Nicklaus allowed his right elbow to work up and away, pointing more outward at the top. Hogan’s right elbow was closer to his body and pointed more downward.

At the time, Hogan’s backswing was considered orthodox while Nicklaus’ swing was considered unorthodox. As Hogan faded from the winner’s circle and Nicklaus began to emerge, what was once thought to be unorthodox later came to be considered orthodox.

There are some swings that most observers would agree are both unorthodox and ugly. For example, most observers would say that Jim Furyk’s swing is not pretty — they might even go so far as to categorize it as ugly. This is despite the face that Furyk has had an outstanding career and has a U.S. Open victory to his credit. What is it that observers find so offense in his swing? The answer is the differential in planes between the backswing and the downswing, or what might be referred to as a “loop” in his swing.

In Furyk’s case, the club is taken well outside what might be considered the traditional backswing plane. Then it is looped well to the inside and back into position on the downswing. This is is a perfectly acceptable way to play golf, which is evidenced by the size of his bank account and the number of trophies on his mantle. As you might surmise, because of his golf swing, Furyk has not been asked to write any full-swing instruction books.

The problem is that, in the eyes of the observer, the combination of the two distinctly different planes gives a disjoined appearance to the swing. Does it follow then that the variance in the backswing and downswing is the primary factor in determining if a swing qualifies as being ugly? The problem with reaching that conclusion is that it doesn’t hold up to comparison with other players who employ a similar pattern… beginning with Freddy Couples. He begins his swing by lifting his arms well outside the traditional plane line. With a delayed turn of his torso, he then brings the club back into a more traditional plane at the top.

In the case of both Couples and Furyk, their backswings operate well outside the traditional plane line with both players “looping” the club back into position prior to impact. And yet Couples’ swing is universally admired, while Furyk’s swing is in some quarters ridiculed. This begs the question of why Couples’ “looping” swing motion is considered more acceptable than Furyk’s. The answer to that question is two-fold.

  1. Furyk’s loop is created ostensibly by a change in plane with the arms and the hands, giving the swing a frenetic appearance.
  2. Couples’ loop is created with a graceful turn of his body with the arms following in perfect harmony.

And so, when taking the swings of Couples and other “loopers” into consideration, it would seem that the dramatic change in plane between the backswing and the downswing in and of itself does not warrant the classification of ugly.

Author Footnote: A point worth considering as part of this discussion is that there have been other accomplished players throughout the history of the game whose backswings have operated on the same principles as Couples. This would include perennial Champion’s Tour winners Kenny Perry, and earlier Jay Haas, whose swings were generally admired despite their unorthodox approach to the backswing.

What does this all mean? First, while a loop in the golf swing may be unorthodox, is not necessary considered ugly provided that the club is routed into plane with the turn of the body rather than just the arms and the hands. Second, as stated earlier, the definition of unorthodox can and does change depending on the era. And third, an unorthodox swing is not necessarily ugly. The two classifications are very different.

As you evaluate golf swings, remember this adage; an unorthodox swing is not necessarily ugly, but an ugly swing is always unorthodox.

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TG2: Should Tiger Woods play in The Masters without a driver?



Tiger Woods’ No. 1 concern heading into the Masters is the driver, according to Notah Begay. Equipment expert Brian Knudson and Editor Andrew Tursky argue whether Tiger should even use a driver during the Masters. Also, they discuss Rory’s new prototype putter and how it was made, and they talk about a new shaft company called “LA Golf Shafts.”

Listen to the full podcast on SoundCloud below, or click here to listen on iTunes!

For more info on the topics, check out the links below.

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19th Hole