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Golf course rangers talk about rangering

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They call him a ranger, a players’ host or a course ambassador, but usually, the marshal is just an older guy who spends a couple of days a week riding around in a cart trying not to do any harm so that he can play golf for free later in the week.

When they’re first engaged (hired seems like too strong a word for a job that generally offers no wage) new marshals are told their job is to facilitate the normal pace of play at a course while assisting golfers as needed.

There are days when the pace of play can be glacial, and that’s when the course ambassador needs to have all of his diplomatic abilities available. Rodney, a marshal at a high-end daily-fee course in the Coachella Valley, says the crew there is well-trained in social skills.

“We want our guests to have a pleasant experience,” he said, and I wanted to ask him why then was the pin placement on hole No. 3 located on the side-hill of the green, approachable from only one direction. “Golfers pay good money and we’re not going to antagonize anyone. Our job is to help them enjoy their day at the course.”

Sometimes that means helping a foursome look for golf balls hit into the trees, rough or bushes.

“My trick,” said Michael, who didn’t want to be identified so we’re saying the marshals at Pokenhope Park, “is to look about 20 or 30 yards behind where everyone else is looking. You’d be surprised how often people think they hit the ball farther than they really do. If I find it, I tell him it must have hit a tree and bounced back.”

It’s the backups that cause the most angst for both players and marshals.

[quote_box_center]“During the season, when we’re crowded and there are more ‘infrequent players’ on the course, it can be slower than we like,” said Rodney, a master of understatement.[/quote_box_center]

At a public course in LA County, Ranger Dave – that’s how he introduced himself – said weekend mornings are always a test for the marshals.

[quote_box_center]“The worst is men’s club tournament days. Even when they tee off at dawn, we’ll have five-hour rounds because they all have to plumb-bob their two-footers for double.”[/quote_box_center]

“The marshals need to manage the flow,” said Murray, a Canadian playing in the crowded spring sunshine of Palm Desert. “There’s no reason a round of golf should ever take more than four hours.” He said that right before suggesting that I abandon the two-minute search for my errant Callaway, “and just drop one over there, somewhere.”

“At one course I used to work at, the marshals had to enforce a ‘keep your shirt tucked in’ rule,” Paul, a retired fire captain, told me in La Quinta. “Then a few years ago they noticed that nobody under 30 was playing the course anymore so they relaxed that rule.”

That makes you realize how far we’ve come since the day when golfers routinely wore their ties tucked into their dress shirts.

“I had to require a gentleman to play barefoot on the front nine one time,” Gary told me when I rode the circuit backwards with him at a course in the Inland Empire. “If you can believe it, he was wearing baseball spikes! He said he’d forgotten his golf shoes. He borrowed somebody’s tennis shoes for the back nine, but when I saw him on No. 15, he was barefoot again because he said he liked the feel.”

When I played one high-end course a few years ago, a marshal warned our group on the first tee where the restrooms were located that if a patron were seen urinating in public on the course he’d be asked to leave with no refund. For the next four holes my bladder strained with every swing. I never did see a marshal, but I felt like there was one watching me from behind every tree.

I called the course a few days ago to ask if this rule was still in effect. The assistant pro said that was never the official policy as far as he knew, and that it must have just been something the “first-tee host” added on his own. Now they tell me.

Most of the time, marshals work two or three days a week and then can play for free the other days, though sometimes not on Saturday or Sunday morning primetime.

[quote_box_center]“When we’re not working,” Gary said, “we’re still making sure that no one is tearing the course up — driving too close to the greens in their carts, for instance.”[/quote_box_center]

“I’m always fixing people’s ball marks on the greens,” Bob told me at an LA County public course. “I’ll rake a trap if I see someone didn’t and pour sand in divots in the fairway. You have to care about the course if you’re going to be a good marshal.”

None of the marshals and none of the players I talked with had a real horror story about the “ranger from hell.”

Murray, the Canadian, said that’s probably because “marshals really don’t have any authority.”

Don’t suggest that to Stan, a white-haired players’ assistant at a public course run by a national golf course management company.

[quote_box_center]“You don’t want somebody on a power trip throwing golfers off the course,” he said. “But I’ve heard of foursomes being told to skip a hole to relieve a backlog. Then, after they finish 18 and the course isn’t so crowded anymore, they can go back and play the hole they skipped.”[/quote_box_center]

The best marshals, according to Michael, are the ones who see where a problem has developed and then try to help out.

[quote_box_center]“I’ll fore-caddy for them a bit, help them find their shots for a hole or two until they catch up.”[/quote_box_center]

Just the marshal being around for a few holes usually speeds players up, he said.

[quote_box_center]“Or I’ll suggest to cart riders that they each go to their balls to prepare to hit rather than watching each other go through their pre-shot routines until they’ve caught back up.”[/quote_box_center]

Personally, I think I usually play a little worse when I know a marshal is monitoring our group. It’s as good an excuse as any for some of the shots I hit.

And if sometime your group catches the watchful eye of a course ambassador, don’t give him a hard time. Ask him which way the greens break, or tell him a joke. He’ll probably tell you a funnier one in return. You never know; that might be you someday when you’re 68 years old and your only cares in the world are getting out of the house for a few hours and playing golf for free.

Do you have any marshal stories, good or bad? Tell us about them in the comments section below.

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Tom Hill is a 9.7 handicap, author and former radio reporter. Hill is the author of the recently released fiction novel, A Perfect Lie – The Hole Truth, a humorous golf saga of one player’s unexpected attempt to shoot a score he never before thought possible. Kirkus Reviews raved about A Perfect Lie, (It) “has the immediacy of a memoir…it’s no gimme but Hill nails it square.” (kirkusreviews.com). A Perfect Lie is available as an ebook or paperback through 7-ironpress.com and the first three chapters are available online to sample. Hill is a dedicated golfer who has played more than 2,000 rounds in the past 30 years and had a one-time personal best handicap of 5.5. As a freelance radio reporter, Hill covered more than 60 PGA and LPGA tournaments working for CBS Radio, ABC Radio, AP Audio, The Mutual Broadcasting System and individual radio stations around the country. “Few knew my name and no one saw my face,” he says, “but millions heard my voice.” Hill is the father of three sons and lives with his wife, Arava Talve, in southern California where he chases after a little white ball as often as he can.

26 Comments

26 Comments

  1. me

    Apr 9, 2015 at 9:12 am

    I feel like a lot of times the rangers are just unable to identify where the real problems are on a course. I’ve had a few times we were politely told to move it along on a course, when we were actually playing at a good pace. Was playing a nice semi-private course one day and we were a 4some playing in front of a 3some of members. They were up our a$$es the first 5 holes, and we were keeping a good pace. I wanted to let them play through but the course has a “no play through” policy (I guess their view is letting groups play through will just create more backlog behind you, which is true to a certain extent actually). So the ranger approached us as we were approaching the 9th tee box and told us to speed it up. At this point we were at 1:45 in. When I reminded him of that, he just looked dumbfounded. And he just said, “oh….ok….I guess you’re doing alright. I’ll let the members behind you know.” So apparently the members complained and he made a false accusation to us without the facts.

    While I agree that no one ever wants to play a 5+ hour round of golf, the main reason we are out there is to relax and have a good time. So if it takes 4:45 to play a round, then so be it. If you are that strained for time, only play 9. And let the rest of us enjoy our round.

  2. jonno

    Apr 8, 2015 at 10:16 pm

    (i’m not american and don’t live in america – where i live golf participation is up by 8% for men and 6% for women)

    last trip i had to the US i played several high-end public golf courses and the over-bearing marshals were awful, pace of play is more important than having a good day out it seems.
    The carts which were incredibly slow (health and safety) wouldn’t allow you within 100yards of the green – or made sure you stuck to the cart paths.
    So you’ve got an oxymoron right there, you want faster play – give people slow carts and make them walk 100 yards to their ball. Most of my rounds were played with my father who’s 70 years old and has had multiple operations on his knees / ankles, plays off 9 and still drives the ball 250-260yards – it however took a LONG time for him to play rounds of golf having to walk 100 yards to his ball after driving his cart which was only marginally faster than I was walking beside him.

    It is hilariously ridiculous if i’m honest.
    Then you get these clocks everywhere and marshals pestering you all day, mixed with health and safety slow carts and silly cart parking rules – THIS IS WHY GOLF IN THE US IS DECLINING.

    The difference between a 4 hour round and a 4 and a half hour round is NOT the problem. Kids these days can’t spend 4 hours doing anything an extra half an hour is not the thing that stops them playing golf.

  3. JOE

    Apr 8, 2015 at 8:58 pm

    How do courses determine pace of play? If they use four single-digit handicaps playing, a four hour or less pace of play is very doable. If you have four twenty plus handicaps playing, there is no way they will meet the four hour round for eighteen holes. In my opinion, there are more twenty plus golfers playing than single digit handicappers so the place of play should reflect the longer time to finish eighteen holes…

  4. Geoffrey Holland

    Apr 8, 2015 at 6:30 pm

    I was a marshal for 5 seasons at one public course. Lots of fun.

    Some keys to being a good marshal that I learned the hard way.

    Always talk to the entire group at once, or make sure to talk to each member individually. Telling one guy that the group is slow never works.

    Never hang around and piss a group off by following them. Talk to them, let them know the situation, be friendly, and then get out of there. Check back on them from a distance, or even forecaddie for a hole or so as suggested. No one likes being watched by the marshal.

    The looking for balls 20 yards behind where the group is looking is gold. I just told them that it got caught up in the rough so it didn’t go as far as usual. Lol, as if.

    Getting the men’s club and ladies club on your side is huge. Being a public course, they were at risk of losing their times if they were slow, so I had a great relationship with the men and they worked really hard to keep things going. The ladies made their own problems. They’d tee off at 5 minute intervals because they’re all such short hitters, so at the first par 3 there would be 5 groups backed up. Once the starter understood that no, he didn’t have 3 extra tee time after the ladies, things worked out alright.

    I found that wearing a stopwatch on a lanyard was useful. People knew I was serious anyways. Knowing the times it should be taking a group to get around was useful as well.

    I’ve always felt that early tee times should be reserved for fast players. Getting a slow group out early would be death for the entire round, unless some groups no-showed.

    Worst story? One day I worked the afternoon shift, and the front 9 was packed. Waits everywhere. I scooted over to 18, then 17, then 16…nothing. Found a group on 15 green, everything backed up behind them. They were 4 hours in. I told them to hurry up and “miss them quick” and get finished. They weren’t happy. Tough luck. 4:40 with an open course was brutal.

    One ladies day it was stormy and nasty out. No one teed off, then finally there was a break so a bunch of them went out. Naturally it started up again, thunder, lightning, the whole works. I drove out to check on them, and they were all huddled under the only tree within 40 yards. “LADIES! Hiding under a tree is not what you do during LIGHTNING!!.” Fortunately none of them got hit.

  5. JD

    Apr 8, 2015 at 11:00 am

    I start, ranger, pick the range, pull carts up, put ’em up. ALL that good stuff. LOL The best thing to understand, Clint, help me out. A man must know his limitations.. Play the tees that accommodate your skills. Most golfers do this and then there’s the ones who watch way too much TV. TV has ruined golf.. 98% that plumb bob have no idea what the heck they’re doing.. Seen it on TV no doubt. Yes, a good pre shot routine is valuable.. But, Do it and get it done.. There’s no green jacket waiting on you.. Maybe a straight jacket for the groups behind you.. I’ve noticed that cart path only is faster than 90* rule. The golfers will take a club or 2 and hit the ball, then the 90* rule, They’ll look at the distance , then put a club in hand, then a bird may fart and they change clubs, then the wind stops and then change clubs again.. WHY??? oh, WHY?????. Rangers have a job,, move pace along.. Some get it, some don’t. I’ve been cussed, I’ve been ridiculed and I’ve been appreciated. Its all good and sometimes its not worth it.. The players have the best opportunity to help golf and make it enjoyable for all..

    • TR1PTIK

      Apr 8, 2015 at 12:15 pm

      I know what you mean about people watching too much golf on TV and pre-shot routines. My pre-shot routine is pretty simple. For most shots, I grip the club from behind the ball, find my target, approach the ball and get into posture, then swing. I might take one more look at my target or fidget a little bit with my setup to make sure I’m comfortable, but two things I NEVER do are waggle or take practice swings. They waste time and do little good for most amateurs. My putting routine is the exact same.

      • JD

        Apr 8, 2015 at 12:36 pm

        I’ve actually seen someone line up their ball on the tee as if they’re fixing to putt.. WHAT????

      • me

        Apr 9, 2015 at 9:01 am

        Certainly agree on the practice swings….Personally, I stand behind the ball and take one, approach the ball, make sure my feet are square, and hit away. My routine doesn’t take long. What kills me is seeing the guys that will take 3, 4, or even more practice swings, then shank it in the woods. No one should ever take more than 1 practice swing.

  6. Roosterredneck

    Apr 8, 2015 at 9:08 am

    It’s not easy when people who know better but won’t follow the pace of play rule. I Ranger at a state park course and I have very few problems with few exceptions. I have had a few who think they own the course and just ignore some of the rules like stay on the path while at the green and drive up to the green rather than park 15 feet away on the path . Then there are those who come to drink beer first and play golf second. When their round is over they sit on the cart and drink rather than turn the carts in and finish their beer at the lounging area . Most always players will and do follow the course rules and I thank them . I have a problem with those who come late and stay till dark thirty and believe this is ok. We have to go out and ask them to come in when they know you can’t hit what you can’t see.. All said I still enjoy golf and Rangering .

  7. Jay

    Apr 8, 2015 at 5:47 am

    When I retired a few years ago I joined a golf course that has memberships and is also open to the public (non-members). The course offers a special price for green fee and cart on Mondays. When I first became a member I did not know that Mondays was nick-named by the members as, Circus Day. I tried to play a few times on Monday’s and soon learned that acupuncture would be fun compared to going through that. Just about everything posted here takes place on the Mondays. Most of the golfers are just wanting to have fun. But there are so many people that it’s impossible to play very fast. If this is what I had to go through all the time to play golf, I know that I’d have to take up another hobby. Oh, one more thing. Texting and talking on Cell phones is very popular on the golf course.

  8. Kelly

    Apr 8, 2015 at 3:49 am

    Once a year some buddies would come to my house and we would drive about 30-40 mins to a 36 hole facility to play 36. We would make an early tee time in order to finish at a decent time. The starter sent us to the back and we took off without anyone in front. We’re flying through the round when on our 12th or 13th hole the Marshall comes up to me talking about our pace of play and how we need to speed up. At first I thought he was joking but then realized he was serious. I just said that I thought we were moving pretty good and he disagreed. We finished our first 18 in about 3 hours and were back at the clubhouse we see the Marshall and he tells me that he sees we speeded up. I said not really and that we played in about 3 hours and he said nah, you didn’t. To this day I don’t know if he was clueless or had a problem with me.

  9. Ken

    Apr 7, 2015 at 11:59 pm

    While not an actual, certified, bona fide ranger, I did volunteer as a starter at my local course. It was a 3 month gig, but the free golf didn’t offset my desire to play when I wanted … so I joined. It was an education. Twenty handicappers playing the tips, more beer than clubs, 1st tee shanks. I loved the guys who would ask about the pond at the end of the dogleg on the opening par 5. “Hey, how far is it to the water … can I reach it?” “Eventually, sir…it’s 280-ish.” “Yeah, I should use my three wood.” They generally fell short by 120 yards.

  10. Macca

    Apr 7, 2015 at 5:44 pm

    I have a marshaled myself just a few times, but here is my take on what I have seen and what I have done.
    For the most part, I have seen very few marshals who do much of anything other than ride around in a cart and look completely bored. The BEST marshals I have seen and what I learned from them the few times I marshaled at my local course:
    – First and foremost, be courteous and an ambassador for the course. You have no idea, generally, who I am and if this is my first time to this course or even my first time in your city, so make sure I feel WELCOMED.
    – HELP ME. If you are watching us drive off the tee box, watch the shots and point out if one of us went offline, where it ended up. Offer to get out and take a quick look if you see us looking for the ball (help the speed of play)
    – Ask us how it’s going. Hows the pace of play in front of us or are we being pushed from behind? Lot’s of times guys don’t want to just simply rat out someone, but if you ask like you are willing to help, we will tell you.
    – When I was a Marshal and I ran into a slower paced group, I would approach them and watch them tee off and then ask how their day was going as we went down the fairway and then if they were falling behind, I might ask, “Hey, guys can you help me out. I have a full tee sheet today and it’s already backing up a little. You guys are doing pretty good, but if we could make up a little time on this hole, I can get the other groups to move as well. This would really help the flow.” Then if they did agree and they helped out, I would come back and THANK THEM for doing so.

    At the end of the day it’s amazing how easy it is to get people to help you if you help them and you are considerate. Everyone wants to have a good round for the money spent, but spending money does not give them the right to make the experience crappy for everyone else.

    I play a high end course and I rarely see the marshals out and if they are much less doing anything other than riding around. What’s the point of having a marshal?

  11. other paul

    Apr 7, 2015 at 12:22 pm

    marshalls usually seem like pretty nice guys go me. I just stopped going to the courses that take 6 hours to play.

  12. Brian

    Apr 7, 2015 at 12:16 pm

    why do people keep “shanking” the votes on stories like this and the Rory/Nike commercial? How cynical you must be… Hope I’m not in your foursome ever.

  13. Double Mocha Man

    Apr 7, 2015 at 12:08 pm

    In 2000 I treated an old friend to a round of golf at Pebble Beach. Lodging, caddies, spa, drinks, food… the whole thing. My friend is one of the slowest golfers in the world… so I don’t play with him often. I’m one of the fastest golfers in the world but the default is the speed of the slowest player. On the 9th hole the assistant pro drove a golf cart out to speed us up. My friend just grumbled. On the 10th hole (easily a mile from the clubhouse) the head pro came out to get us to catch up. My friend snarled at the pro, “Hey, I’m paying for this round, I can play at any speed I want.”

    • Gubment Cheez

      Apr 7, 2015 at 1:50 pm

      How fast does it take you to play 18…on average??

      • JD

        Apr 8, 2015 at 12:38 pm

        IF the course is straightforward. a 4some could play it in 4 hours.. A harder course with hazards, fast, undulated greens, could go to 4 1/2. My opinion,, NO ROUND SHOULD LAST 5 HOURS. PERIOD…

    • RG

      Apr 8, 2015 at 12:04 am

      Guys like that are the problem with pace of play. Yeah you paid for it, and so did everyone else that’s behind you. Everyone on the course can only play at the pace of the slowest player/group. Selfish and inconsiderate attitudes cause 5+ hr. rounds.
      As a single a can play a round of golf in 1 hr 45 min. hitting every shot, putting every putt. (Okay I don’t pull every flag)
      If a round takes more than 3 1/2 hrs. to play it is because there is a selfish hack somewhere in front of you.
      If your buddy had done that at my course I would have told him it was time to leave, refunded his money, and on his way out reminded him to never return. Guys like that should be band.

      • Geoffrey Holland

        Apr 8, 2015 at 6:33 pm

        The joke was that the OP paid for the whole thing. Buddy Slowplay didn’t pay a cent.

  14. TR1PTIK

    Apr 7, 2015 at 11:59 am

    My biggest frustration with some of the marshals in my area is when they tell my group to speed up even though we’ve had to wait on the group in front for the past 2 or 3 holes.

    Best experience with a marshal was at a local muni. I was playing by myself and walking, but was steadily gaining on a foursome in carts. Before it even became an issue, the marshal requested the group ahead wait at the next tee box and let me play through. I never held them up and their slower pace never messed with my game. Win-Win. Wish more marshals would pay attention like that.

    • JD

      Apr 8, 2015 at 12:40 pm

      Thats good, It shouldve been up to the group you were following though.. Thats disrespectful on their part.

      • Geoffrey Holland

        Apr 8, 2015 at 6:14 pm

        No, that’s a good marshal doing his job to make sure that there was no problem.

  15. Nate

    Apr 7, 2015 at 11:58 am

    I decided to play a mid-morning round with my buddy at a local Arnold Palmer course. We had a 9:15am tee time and were going off as a twosome. The course had a number of golfers out on the course but they were by no means busy for a Saturday. The starter warned us ahead of time that the 9:08am tee time directly ahead of us was a fivesome, which were only allowed with special permission. He warned us ahead of time that pace of play would be slower than normal. The starter encouraged us to get to the tee box early because it was open so that we could avoid any pace of play issues. We rolled up to the first tee at about 9:05 and the fivesome was not in sight, so we prepared to tee off. While we were on the back teebox with clubs in hand, the fivesome arrived. They told us that they had the 9:08 tee time and that they had places to go after the round, so they couldn’t wait and let us to tee off. We tried to reason with them but they were persistent. We were shocked at their unreasonableness but let them tee off because we did not want to offend them. They proceeded to stretch, take numerous practice swings, and all hit two off of the first tee (they played from the tips and most of their shots did not clear the women’s tees. They should have been playing from the white or red tees). They did not clear the fairway until almost 9:30am. The 9:23am and 9:30am tee times were already at the teebox with us waiting for the fivesome to clear the fairway. The marshal showed up because he saw the backup and then asked us why we hadn’t teed off yet. We explained to him about the fivesome and his only response was “Well, you were notified by the starter that pace of play would be slow today and they did indeed have the 9:08am tee time. You should have hurried and got to the first tee sooner than you did.” We were incredibly mad at the marshal for not sticking up for us. It took us about 45 mins to play the first two holes. We caught them on the 3rd tee and were again rebuffed and told that they didn’t want us to play through, so we skipped them. The fivesome then complained to the marshal that we passed them. The marshal then caught us on number 5 and told us that we should respect other golfers on the course. We were annoyed, but apologized. We finished 18 in about 4:15 minutes and didn’t run into anyone else on the course. We grabbed lunch after our round and ran into one of the groups that had a tee time right behind us. They too got stuck behind the fivesome and quit after 9 holes because they couldn’t take it any longer. They invited us to join them at the bar for a post round beer, where we proceeded to rip the marshal and the course for not protecting pace of play. I haven’t played at that course since that day and have no desire to go back.

  16. PK

    Apr 7, 2015 at 11:34 am

    A few years back at Trump National in LA, I got a sudden case of the “shanks” just as the Marshall was passing our group by. I was playing decently, but it just came upon me all of a sudden for a hole and the Marshall drove up to my buddies and suggested that I play a scramble. They never laughed so hard. When they told me what he said, I was so pissed, it ruined me for the rest of the day, and I still get grief about it now and again. It’s funny now that I think about it.

  17. Brian

    Apr 7, 2015 at 10:33 am

    My brother and I decided to go out and get a quick 18 in on a Wednesday afternoon. We got a cart, and with the front 9 completely empty, we finished our first 9 in about an hour and a half. When we got to the 11th tee box, we were surprised to see a 5some of guys in their 60s still on the tee box. We figured we would be able to play through them pretty quickly, but after watching them drive off the tee box for the next 2 holes, we decided to just skip the par 3 13th. As we were teeing off on the 14th hole, they started yelling at us from the 13th green. We assured them we would be out of their way before they even got to the tee box. As we got to our drives in the 14th fairway, a marshal shows up and starts talking to us. He was very understanding of our frustrations, and said that they have had problems with that group of older guys before. As he was talking to us, a ball came flying through the back of his cart, and hit the front windshield. His face got red, he told us to have a good round, and drove straight back to the tee. We could still hear him yelling at the group behind us as we were leaving the green.

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Opinion & Analysis

The Wedge Guy: A few thoughts on off-season improvement

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Having lived my entire life in South Texas, one of the things I had to learn very quickly when I went into the golf business nearly 40 years ago was that this was a much more “seasonal” activity than I had ever thought about. Though we are blessed to be able to play golf year-round down here, we do have periods (like the past two weeks), where cold/windy/wet weather keeps all but the most devoted off the courses. Still, I certainly understand that there are many of you who have had to “hang ‘em up” for the next few months and get your golf fix with maybe one or two trips over the winter, or just by watching golf on TV and reading about it.

Over those 4o years I’ve talked with lots of golfers about what they do to “get their fix” during the long months when the weather just does not allow you to get out at all to work on your game. It seems I’ve heard everything from “I just try to forget about it” to “I’ll take a couple of trips to southern climates” to “it hurts every day”.

I’m going to try to offer you a bit more than that today, with some tips anyone can use to actually improve your game during the long off season. So here goes:

Improve your putting stroke. All you need is a strip of commercial grade carpet about 8 feet long if you don’t want to purchase one of the specialized putting mats (get it in a green color if you can, but any neutral earth tone will do). Find a place in your home where you can set this 12-20” wide strip of carpet down on the floor and leave it for regularly scheduled sessions. The goal with this off-season exercise is to improve your mechanics to a point where you have so much trust in your stroke that when you get to the course in the Spring (or on one of your trips) that you can focus entirely on making the putt.

One of my very closest friends was/is maybe the best putter I ever saw in the recreational ranks . . . because he dedicated time nearly every day to honing his putting stroke to a razor edge. He would spend a half hour each night watching the evening news with his putting mat in front of the TV and stroke 6-8 footers . . . one after the other . . . probably several hundred every day. He had so much confidence in his set-up and mechanics that the only thing he thought about on the greens was the line and hitting the putt the right speed.

While you might not work on it every day as he did, you can build an extremely reliable putting stroke over this off season that will pay off very well for you in 2023.

Rebuild your chipping/pitching technique. Making significant changes in our techniques during the golf season is the hardest thing we golfers try to do. What happens is that you learn something new, but on the golf course you are really wanting to get results, so you end up trapped between old and new, and quickly lose confidence in the new. I’ve heard it said that any new physical activity become a habit after 21 consecutive days of doing it. Well, the guy who wrote that probably was not a golfer, because this is a lifelong learning experience.

If chipping and pitching the ball are not your strengths, make this off-season the time to do something about it. In my opinion and years of observation of recreational golfers, poor chipping and pitching are the result of poor technique. There are dozens of good books and videos out there (not to mention dozens of my own posts here) showing you how to develop a proper technique, and physical strength is not an obstacle around the greens. ANYONE can learn to chip and pitch with sound fundamentals, and those can be better learned away from the course than on it.

All you have to do is commit to making the change, get one of the great books by Stan Utley, Tom Watson or others, purchase some of the soft “almost golf balls” that won’t break anything and work on it through the off season.

Keep yourself “golf ready”. As I have transitioned now to life after 70, I have realized that keeping my flexibility was the key to feeling great every morning, and to being able to maintain my golf skills. A number of years ago, I began a simple 4- to 5-minute stretching routine I do every day before I even get out of bed, and it has made a world of difference in everything I do and the way I feel.

Especially for those of you 40-50 years and older, I guarantee you that if you will commit to a daily stretching routine, not only will your golf dramatically improve, but it will change the way you feel every day.

So, there are three ideas for you to consider for using the off season to improve your golf game for 2023. Regardless of your age, there is no reason not to set a goal of making next year your best golf year ever.

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Opinion & Analysis

2022 Alfred Dunhill Championship: Betting Tips & Selections

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As the DP World Tour ends its stint in South Africa, the stars come out to play.

Whilst the Nedbank was officially part of the 2022 season, the invitational was the start of a four -event run that now concludes at the picturesque Leopard Creek, summed up by the course website:

“Golfing hazards take on a new dimension at Leopard Creek, for much of the water is home to the magnificent creatures for which the river is named – crocodiles. Extensive use has been made of water features and sightings of crocodile, hippo, antelope, buffalo and elephant are commonplace, on the course or in the Kruger Park bordering the course.”

Not only is this time for Tony Johnstone to show his exacting knowledge of the local wildlife, but golf fans can witness some of the true legends of South African and European Tour golf.

Whilst single-figure favourite Christiaan Bezuidenhout represents the best of the current generation of players, viewers will also see the likes of former Masters winners as well as the future of African golf.

In Bez we have a worthy favourite that is hard to crab given his current and course form. The 28-year-old won here in 2020 on the way to an impressive back-to-back fortnight that included the South African Open (at another Gary Player design), whilst both his victory at Valderrama and play-off defeat against Lucas Herbert in Dubai can be linked into Adri Arnaus, runner-up and third in those events and, incidentally, sixth here behind this week’s favourite.

Latest form sees the short-game wizard leave some acceptable, if disappointing, PGA results behind, with a fifth at his favoured Gary Player Country Club being followed a fortnight later with a very laidback third place finish at the Joburg Open.

At both home events, Bez started slowly and was never nearer than at the line, and trusting that the cobwebs have been blown away, he has to be in the plan, even if as a saver.

There’s a decent argument to say multiple event champion Charl Schwartzel and still-classy Louis Oosthuizen should challenge for favouritism (Oosty has now shortened up) but I’m simply not convinced their hunger is as strong as it once was, and of the three, I’d much rather be with the player with more to come.

If we are getting Bez beat, then it makes sense to row along with history, at least for a pair of back-up wagers.

There is a host of South African players attempting to continue the run of seven home winners from the last nine, but this course tends to lend itself to experience and Hennie Du Plessis looks the type to ‘do a JB Hansen’ and finally crawl over the line, as the Dane did in Joburg in 2020.

The 26-year-old has been banging his head against the winning line for a few years now, with many of his multiple top-five finishes having genuine potential to bring home the trophy instead of glancing at it.

6th at both runnings of the South African Open in Covid 2020, to Branden Grace and then Bez, he recorded a host of top-20 finishes at Challenge Tour level (including three top fives) before qualifying for the DP World Tour off the back of an 18th place at the Grand Final.

2021 ended well, with his three home visits, including 7th in Joburg and third in his home Open, suggesting a good year, and for more evidence he ended his first full DP season with five top-10s.

Unlike his more obvious compatriots, Schwartzel and Oosthuizen, Du Plessis was a surprise call-up to the LIV Golf series, but he hardly let himself down in his brief spell, running-up to the 2011 Masters champion at LIV London.

After his season-ending top-10 behind Jon Rahm in Spain (third at halfway), Du Plessis followed a steady 33rd at Houghton with an improved and closing top-10 at Blair Atholl last week when his game was in acceptable shape in preparation for this week’s test.

Whilst length is somewhat negated around Leopard Creek’s twisting fairways, huge hitter Adrian Meronk finished joint runner-up here two years ago (look at him go now!) and Du Plessis should be able to club down on many of the tee-shots and take advantage of his tee-to-green play – a factor for which he ranked in ninth place through the DP season.

With players catching the eye much earlier than in previous generations, it’s hard to believe that Wilco Nienaber is just 22 years of age.

It’s a tough thing to say that this former amateur star should have won the 2020 Joburg Open, as it was surely only inexperience that cost him the trophy against a determined JB Hansen. Whilst hugely talented, the former world amateur ranked 28 has become frustrating, winning just once and that at the lower level co-sanctioned event, the Dimension Data, in the Western Cape, although an event the likes of Nick Price, Retief Goosen, Darren Clarke and Oosthuizen, amongst others, have won.

Still, back to what he can do today and going forward.

Another huge hitter off the tee, Nienaber has been 18th and ninth in tee-to-green over the last two tournaments, finishing in 24th and 15th but in far better position through the events (10th at halfway in Joburg and 5th into Payday last weekend). Whilst last week’s test was right up his long-driving alley, that should have been a perfect warm-up for an event at which he’s improved to finish 24th and 12th in 2019 and 2020.

Adrian Otaegui has always been a tee-to-green machine, and whilst he already had three trophies in the cabinet, his six-stroke victory at Valderrama was a revelation.

It’s not as if the Spaniard was in poor form, having arrived in Sotogrande off the back off just one missed-cut in 11 starts, including a third place in Scotland and 13th at Wentworth and Le Golf National, interesting comparisons to this week’s venue. However, when recording figures of first in approaches, second for tee-to-green and second in putting, Otaegui not only took his form to a new level, but showed his strength against adversity.

The Spaniard became the first ex-LIV plater to win a ‘proper’ event, overcoming a bizarre attitude from the organising tour, who ignored much of his outstanding play and refused to cover any of the highlights on their social media pages.

I can certainly forgive a moderate effort the following week in Mallorca, but the 30-year-old has performed well of late, finishing 18th at the Nedbank (in seventh place going into Sunday), 16th at the DP World Tour Championship (11th at halfway) and dropping away from 8th overnight to 23rd at Joburg.

Take away the home contingent and Spaniards almost dominate recent runnings of the Alfred Dunhill, with Alvaro Quiros, Pablo Martin (x2) and Pablo Larrazabal winning here since 2006. Otaegui can make a good run at making it the nap hand.

I’m waiting for the right moment to back Joost Luiten, showing some tremendous play but only in spurts, whilst the likes of Tom McKibbin and Alejandro Del Rey are players I’ll have in the list of ‘follows’ through 2023. For the final selection, let’s go big!

Christiaan Maas is a young South African player that has been on the ‘watch’ list for a couple of years. His brilliant amateur career saw him rank a best of 19th and awarded him the Brabazon Trophy, the prestigious national amateur stroke-play event, as well as some of his homelands most valued events.

However, it is hard to understand how he rates 50 points shorter than his amateur rival, Casey Jarvis, who has recently shown he can compete with the legends of the game, leading George Coetzee at the South African PGA Championship before succumbing into second, and following that up with a top-10 at Joburg.

Following a stellar junior career, the 19-year-old won four of the best home amateur events in 2020, beating the best that South African golf could throw at him – including Mass – as he won the African Amateur Stroke Play in back-to-back years.

Maas took revenge on the development tour – the Big Easy – but Jarvis was back on the winner’s rostrum in July this year, and recent form suggests it might be better sticking with him this week.

A 63 in the second round in Joburg was matched only by multiple winner Daniel Van Tonder, and was one shot ahead of Bezuidenhout, so the game is there for all to see.

Jarvis missed the cut on the number when making his debut here in 2020, but the following week improved throughout the week to finish 25th behind Bez at the Gary Player Country Club. That is promising enough without much of what has gone on since, and it might pay to be on at big prices in better fields, before both he and Maas start mopping up the lesser home events.

Recommended Bets:

  • Christiaan Bezhuidenhout WIN
  • Adrian Otaegui WIN
  • Wilco Nieneber WIN/Top-10
  • Hennie Du Plessis WIN/Top-10
  • Casey Jarvis WIN/Top-10/Top-20
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Club Junkie

Club Junkie Review: Samsung’s Galaxy Watch5 Pro Golf Edition

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Technology has been playing a larger part in golf for years and you can now integrate it like never before. I don’t need to tell you, but Samsung is a world leader in electronics and has been making smart watches for years. The Watch5 Pro Golf Edition is the latest Samsung wearable running Google’s Wear OS operating system and it is more than just a golf watch.

The Watch5 Golf Edition is a full function smartwatch that you can wear every day and use for everything from golf to checking your text messages. For more details on the Golf Edition made sure to check out the Club Junkie podcast below, or on any podcast platform. Just search GolfWRX Radio.

Samsung’s Watch5 Pro Golf Edition has a pretty large 45mm case that is made from titanium for reduced weight without sacrificing any durability. The titanium case is finished in a matte black and has two pushers on the right side to help with navigating the pretty extensive menu options. The case measures about 52mm from lug to lug and stands about 14mm tall, so the fit on smaller wrists could be an issue. I did notice that when wearing a few layers on colder days the extra height did have me adjusting my sleeves to ensure I could swing freely.

The sapphire crystal display is 1.4 inches in diameter, so it should be very scratch resistant, and is protected by a raised titanium bezel. The Super AMOLED display has a 450 x 450 resolution with 321ppi density for clear, crisp graphics. Inside the watch is a dual-core 1.18Ghz Cortex-A55 CPU, 16GB + 1.5GB RAM, and a Mali-G68 GPU to ensure your apps run quickly and efficiently.

I do like that the Watch5 Pro Golf Edition’s white and black rubber strap has a quick release system so you can change it out to match or contrast an outfit. The Golf Edition strap is very supple and conforms to your wrist well, holding it in place during multiple swings.

Out on the course the Watch5 Pro golf Edition is comfortable on the wrist and light enough, ~46g, where it isn’t very noticeable. I don’t usually wear a watch on the course, and it only took a few holes to get used to having it on my left wrist. Wearing a glove on the same hand as the watch doesn’t really change much, depending on the glove. If you have a model that goes a little higher on the wrist you could feel the watch and leather bunch a little bit. Some of my Kirkland Signature gloves would run into the watch case while I didn’t have an issue with my Titleist or Callaway models.

The screen is great in direct sunlight and is just as easy to read in overcast or twilight rounds. The images of holes and text for distances is crisp and has a bright contrast agains the black background. The Watch5 Pro Golf Edition comes with a lifetime membership to Smart Caddie for your use on the course. Smart Caddie was developed by Golfbuddy, who has been making rangefinders and GPS units for years. I didn’t sign up for the Smart Caddie app as I did not buy the watch and have logins for multiple GPS and tracking apps. Smart Caddie looks to be extremely extensive, offering a ton of options beyond just GPS and it is one that works seamlessly with the Galaxy watches.

I ended up using The Grint as it was an app I have used in the past and was already signed up for. Getting to the app to start a round was very simple, needing one swipe up and one tap to start The Grint app. The screen is very smooth and records each swipe and tap with zero issues. I never felt like I was tapping or swiping without the Watch5 Pro acknowledging those movements and navigating the menu as I desired. The GPS worked flawlessly and the distances were accurate and consistent. With The Grint’s app you did have to keep the phone in your pocket or in the cart close enough for the Bluetooth connection. For most that is’t a big deal and the only time I noticed it was when I used my electric cart and drove it well in front of me down the fairway.

Overall the Samsung Watch5 Pro Golf Edition is a great option for golfers who want one device for everyday wear and use on the course. The Watch5 Pro Golf Edition still has all the fitness and health options as well as being able to  connect to your email, text messages, and social media apps. With the Watch5 Pro Golf Edition you won’t have to worry about buying a device just for golf or forgetting to bring your GPS to the course.

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