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TEE TIME: Difficult conditions test golfers’ ability to improvise

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Tee Time

By Dennis George

I was like a kid in a candy store.

It was Christmas in July last weekend as I spent countless hours watching The Open Championship, listening to the announcers from the United Kingdom describe the action on Sirius XM (and realizing how we Americans butcher the English language), and staying up to watch Golf Channel’s “Live from the Open” to get the insight into my favorite major.

My favorite day?

Not Saturday when Branden Grace posted the lowest score ever shot in a major (62) or watching player after player post under-par rounds.

Not even Sunday when there was drama from the time Jordan Spieth bogeyed the first hole and it was game-on.

Instead, I was in seventh heaven watching Friday’s play.

The blustery conditions that forced the golfers to wear heavy clothes.

The heavy rains that drenched the golfers.

The howling winds that turned umbrellas inside out.

That was pure links golf on display.

It made me go searching for memorabilia from my trips to England and Scotland and recall the feeling of playing in those conditions.

It was May 1995 when we flew out of Louisville and landed in Glasgow.

We were excited, and thought we were prepared.

We had packed our Gore-Tex rain pants and jackets and hats, our rain gloves, extra shoes and balls and towels, along with sweaters and ski caps.

As the group walked outside to the bus, it was spitting snow.

“We came all the way over here for this,” I remember thinking.

But we embraced it.

There was hail during our round at Royal Dornoch, a day so cold that my friend was afraid his elderly father would freeze and become a statue at the top of his backswing.

We plodded along in the torrential rain at North Berwick and Turnberry and wore several layers of clothing to escape the elements at Muirfield.

And loved it.

Links golf across the pond is learning to use a putter or a low iron, not a wedge, to hit your ball close to the hole from 40 yards away from the green.

It’s looking up from a pot bunker and not being able to see the flag due the depth of the hazard, then not being able to advance your shot to the hole and have to hit it backwards or sideways.

It’s learning to control your ball by hitting it low. (Do you remember years ago when the British used a smaller ball because it was better in the wind?)

Many of you will never play in the cold and rain that we saw this weekend, but there will be times the wind is blowing hard.

How do you handle that?

I asked Maywood professional Russ Johnson for some advice.

“Many of you saw the 146th Open Championship. You saw the best players in the world display their skills playing in the heavy winds of the British Isles.  While they hit the ball incredibly solid, they also display some thoughtfulness that you can incorporate into your own game.”

“If the wind is blowing against you or across from one direction or the other:

1.  Take more club than you normally use.

2.  Make a smaller than normal backswing.

3.  Make a smaller than normal follow-through.

This combination will create a ball flight that launches lower, and spins less than a normal iron shot, both things that are important to playing in strong winds.”

“When practicing this on the range at Maywood (where there’s usually a good bit of wind), take your 5-iron and chip it to the red flag first. See if you can control the distance the ball flies through the air, and pay attention to how far it rolls after it lands.

Try to keep the swing feeling as much like a long putting stroke as possible while using a narrow stance and slightly forward hand position.”

“Next, using the same club, change targets so you are now flying the ball to the white flag, then the green flag, then the yellow, and beyond. At this point you will be flying your 5-iron about 120 yards and it should look like a bullet flying low through the air. Pay close attention to how far the ball rolls after it lands, ultimately, this is the total length of the golf shot. Gradually add some length to the swing and watch how the ball eventually ends up at its normal trajectory. As the height of the ball flight increases, you will also see the effects of the wind increase.

You can use this approach with any club in the bag. Experiment with it in practice, and you will find tremendous use for it during windy rounds.”

For help with this or any part of your game, please contact Johnson at Maywood at (502) 348-6600.

Spieth’s wayward tee shot on the 13th hole reminded me of a shot Dr. Ben Smith of Springfield hit during our round at North Berwick.

When the good doctor and his caddy finally found the ball, Ben asked his caddy for a yardage.

“I’ve caddied here for a long time,” the gentleman told him. “I know my yardages for just about anywhere. Not here though. I’ve never seen a ball hit here. I don’t have any idea how far it is to the green.”

 

The Kentucky Standard will be publishing preview stories the various high school fall sports teams over the next few weeks.

And if there is one thing that is apparent, all of the local schools are struggling to find enough girls for their girls’ teams.

That’s especially disappointing to Nelson County Coach Kevin Burkhead.

The Cardinals just missed qualifying for the state tournament last season, losing out in a playoff for the final spot.

With his top players returning, he thinks he has a contender once again — if he can find another player or two to fill out his team.

“No experience is necessary,” he said. “I will work with any athlete who is playing another sport.”

 

Dennis George is a golf writer and wannabe golfer. You can reach him at dmg11854@gmail.com.