Q: I'm in a high school marching band and travel a lot. I practice my putting on carpet, which is slower than greens. How can I overcome this problem?
Jake White / Jasper, Tenn.
A: One favorite hotel-room technique is to place two straight edges on the floor, parallel to each other and separated by the length of your putterhead plus a millimeter or two--a couple of room-service trays will do, or Gideon Bibles or copies of Golf Digest. Then place a ball between them and stroke putts without touching the edges. The Golf Guru first heard of this stroke-grooving method from Englishman Denis Durnian: the first man to shoot 28 for nine holes in a major, at the 1983 British Open. The only other man to shoot 28 for nine holes is also a fantastic putter. What? You don't know who he is? Must I tell you everything? OK: Brad Faxon, 1995 PGA Championship. Don't worry so much about speed and distance control when practicing on carpet. Your priority is developing a consistent, mechanical, left-brain stroke. The right brain, which handles all that creative/sensory stuff--feel, touch, visualizing the line, estimating the speed--will come naturally if you only let it. Try exercising your right brain. Listen to Miles Davis, for instance, or Mozart's Clarinet Concerto (second movement). They always make everything better.
Q: Suppose I hit a ball on the right side of a tree in such a way that I am unable to hit it right-handed. I choose to flip the club over and hit it left-handed. However, by doing this, I am now standing on a cartpath. Can I get relief from the cartpath? And if I do get relief, can I now hit the ball right-handed?
Jack McLean / Toronto
A: The answers, surprisingly, are yes and yes. According to Rule 24-2b, if an abnormal (i.e., left-handed) stroke is necessary in the circumstances, you can take relief from the cartpath--an immovable obstruction--for a left-handed stroke. Then, having taken the free drop (within one club-length of the nearest point of relief, no nearer the hole), you may indeed swing away right-handed for your next stroke. Sometimes, the rule book can be your friend.
Send questions (with name and hometown) to firstname.lastname@example.org.