What’s Your Handicap?

How do you figure out your golf handicap?

Wizard Of Id HandicapWhat’s your handicap? If the king asks, don’t answer!

In the early 20th century, the United States Golf Association (USGA) introduced a handicap system aimed at allowing players of all skill levels to compete against one another. In other words, and theoretically, the handicap system allows a player who has trouble breaking 90 to compete against Tiger Woods. This is done by granting the weaker player “strokes.” On tough holes, the less skilled player is allowed to take a stroke (or more) off of his score.

The USGA handicapping system was fitted in the 1980s with a new gadget: the “slope rating.” The slope rating aimed to level the playing field (pun intended) by accounting for the relative difficulty of different courses. Thus, handicapping involves three numbers: your score, the course rating, and the slope rating.

Cold-Weather Balls

Change out your regular balls when the weather gets chilly.

You may beat around a bunch of Pro V1x’s all summer, but come fall and winter, the chill in the air gets a little more pronounced. Cold-weather golf is a different beast: more clothes restrict turn and speed, colder temperatures affect the physics of golf balls (flight, compression, etc.). Greens are either softer or harder (depending on the area in which you live).

In particularly cold weather, you may want to sacrifice your pride and play a lady’s ball. The Precept Lady is a fine choice, and long the favorite of decent amateur players.


You’ve only got one grip per club. Take care of it!

GripsTake care of your grips. They’re your only link to the club.

  • Change your grips out about once every year or two.
  • To keep your grips feeling tacky, spray them down every few rounds with Windex or similar cleaner, wipe dry.
  • During a round, wipe your grips prior to playing a shot.
  • Keep an eye on your grips for wear patterns that indicate problems in your swing.
  • Pay careful attention to the thickness of your grips – thinner grips promote more hand action, thicker ones less.

We recommends grips from Winn Grips or Golf Pride. Professionals can install grips for about $5/grip, grip cost included.

Woods Wins in Japan’s Dunlop Phoenix

Tiger Woods entered the last round of the Dunlop Phoenix ten strokes ahead. To say he was going to win was a foregone conclusion is an understatement of Woods-ian proportions.

TigerHe hasn’t won since February. He’s slumping, he’s hurting, he’s got a DVD, and he’s… got a ball and chain. Tiger Woods folks, the former World Number One, has won a tournament! Granted, it was against a no-name field in Japan, but he won by eight.

Woods shot a final-round 67 (3-under) to win the Dunlop Phoenix by eight, his first win since the Accenture Match Play Championship in February and his first ever win in Japan. Woods, finishing at 16-under 264, beat second-place finisher Ryoken Kawagishi, who bravely fired a final-round 65. K.J. Choi also fired a 65 to finish at 6-under 274. Woods’ last stroke-play victory was in October 2003.

Annika Again in the ADT

Annika Sorenstam bogeyed the first hole of sudden death but hung on to beat Cristie Kerr for her eighth/tenth win of the year.

AnnikaHo hum. Annika Sorenstam wins another tournament. It’s become old news, as we said two days ago when she built a one-shot lead after the second round of play. After Cristie Kerr forced a playoff with a 4-under 68, Annika bogeyed the first hole of sudden death to beat Kerr’s double bogey from a splashed-down approach.

Sorenstam made it interesting, yanking her own 7-iron approach into the spectators, but two-putted from eight feet for the win. “It wasn’t as pretty as the previous holes,” Sorenstam said. “A win is a win. By the end of the day, the trophy is in my hand. I’m happy.”

The victory marks Sorenstam’s 56th career win and into fifth all time. She’s now also the first three-time winner of the LPGA’s season-ending championship.

Putter Forward

Put the ball forward in your stance to hit the ball with a smoother roll.

Your putter is designed to get the ball rolling smoothly. You diminish its ability to do so if you play the ball back in your stance. To roll with topspin, putts should be struck – like your driver – with a slightly ascending trajectory. Put the ball just forward of center in your stance to ensure that this is happening.

There are times to play the ball back, too: when your ball is against the fringe or a cut of rough, for example. Hitting down on the ball introduces backspin, which causes putts to skid and slide offline and with less control.

A Real Hell Hole

Weequahic Park Golf Course, contender for worst golf course in the US.

For years, golf publications have inundated us with lists of the best courses that can be found in America as well as the rest of the world. These numeric lists are always accompanied by a few choice quotes and some carefully manufactured PR photos, usually taken at the break of dawn, to accentuate the landscape.

Rarely do we find out which courses are the worst of the worst. A possible contender for the title may be Weequahic Park Golf Course. This public muni located in Newark, New Jersey was listed as the #4 hell hole by Maxim. Not because of the ripped up tee boxes or the unkept greens but because of the three bodies found there over a six–month period between then end of 2002 and April 2003.

Nanotech Golf Balls

We’re not talking about microscopic golf balls, but golf balls based on nanotechnology.

NanodynamicsSo many golf inventions come from Buffalo, New York. There’s the, uhhh… and the, uhmmm… well, never mind. NanoDynamics, Inc. of – you guessed it – Buffalo, New York have reportedly come up with a golf ball that can correct its own flight path. It’s no miracle cure, but the ball supposedly corrects slight drifts and wobbles by better channeling the energy received from the clubhead.

Says CEO Keith Blakely, “It also behaves much more controllably on a putting surface, which is how we hope to get interest on the pro circuit. It has a reduced tendency to break. It doesn’t pop or jump or roll.” NanoDynamics has apparently not only conquered the slice, but gravity as well.

The ball is expected to sell for $7 to $8 apiece in the spring of 2005, though the ball has yet to be submitted for USGA approval. NanoDynamics has set up a site at ndmxgolf.com to show off their balls.

Shoulder Alignment

An open stance is one thing. An open pair of shoulders is another.

It’s true that tour pros often align their feet left of the target. An open stance makes it easier to clear the hips, generating tremendous lower-body drive and power. Many amateurs take an open stance as well, but they typically do so not to obtain power, but to try to make the ball go left. Most amateurs slice.

Pros don’t slice with an open stance because their shoulders remain square. Oftentimes an amateur feels “closed” with square shoulders (particularly if their stance is open). Shoulders can also open up when you take that “one last look” down the fairway in your preshot routine.

Check your shoulder alignment in the mirror. For righties, you shouldn’t see your right shoulder at all – it should be behind (and slightly lower than) your left shoulder.