April 27, 2008

Golf Guru

Things every golfer should know

__Q: I notice that when pro golfers approach the green they always take off their gloves for chipping and putting. Is this a rule? Or proper etiquette? I wear mine when I putt -- am I angering the golf gods by doing so?

--Scott Clark / Huntsville, Ala.__

A: It's not a rule, nor proper etiquette. Tour pros imagine that the glove acts as a barrier between the millions of nerve endings in their fingers and hands and the putter, and thus reduces their feel and their ability to drain tricky putts. Jack Nicklaus kept his glove on when he putted, but golf is just as much a mind game as a physical one, and sometimes that thin membrane on your hand can feel like a boxing glove, causing you to hit the putt with all the subtlety of a George Foreman uppercut. I had a word with the golf gods, and they said they don't mind at all if you want to putt with your glove on. But man, there are plenty of things that do anger them. They started with all the obvious sins: cheating, slow play, not replacing divots or fixing ball marks. Once their tirade was underway, there was no stopping them. Riding a cart when you could walk. Loud people. Anyone older than 20 wearing a baseball cap backward. Hitting a wild tee shot, then immediately playing a provisional ball before the rest of your group has teed off. But you know what they hate most of all? When golfers lose their temper and stop enjoying the beautiful game. That really makes them mad.

__Q: I sway quite a bit when teeing off. Any help on making me stay behind the ball?

*--Dennis J. Hart / Utica, N.Y. *__

A: There used to be an idea that golfers should make a big lateral move away from the target on the backswing, then shift toward the target on the downswing. Another idea is that you should keep most of your weight on the front foot throughout the swing -- the supposedly revolutionary Stack & Tilt method popularized by Golf Digest in 2007. Whatever you do, avoid too much lateral motion, especially onto your back foot on the backswing. Swaying off the ball is often a poor substitute for turning your body. So think "turn," not "sway," as you take the club back. The golf swing is three-dimensional, not two-dimensional.

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