Water Hazards

Every golfer’s worst nightmare lies in a place where the grass ends and the water starts. Nobody likes the sound of a fresh Pro-V splashing in the pond, but it happens to the best of us.

When Playing Your Shot

You have three options:
  • You can play your ball as it lies without any penalty. This is the most difficult shot since the ball is either submerged very deeply under water, or it can just be very messy. The only time that playing the shot is best is if the ball is lying in the grassy area surrounding the water within the hazard. Remember, you may not ground the club prior to your shot, like in a bunker, not can you make contact with the hazard while taking your practice swing.
  • Next, you may drop the ball behind the hazard directly behind where it entered the hazard. You must keep the point of entry directly between the hole and where you drop the ball. Taking a drop will result in a one stroke penalty. But at least you can stay dry. This option is most popular since most balls shot into a water hazard cannot be found or retrieved.
  • Your third option is to go back to the spot where you played the offending shot, known as a stroke-and-distance penalty. You must add a stroke to your score, and forfeit the distance gained as well.

Lateral Hazards

Lateral hazards are a bit different and have two other options with them:
  • You may drop the ball within two club lengths of the point where the ball last crossed the boundary of the hazard.
  • You may also drop the ball at the point opposite side of the hazard also within two club lengths.
Either option will still result in you having to take a one stroke penatly. But remember, these two options are extra ones based on your situation. You may still exercise any of the three above if desired.

The Chip Shot and the Lie of the Ball

Being able to judge how the golf ball will behave when playing a chip shot is just as important as the shot itself. Spin, trajectory, and roll factor into effectively getting the ball to land close to the hole or preferably in the hole.

The lie of the ball has a significant impact on its flight through the air. A bare lie or one where there is little or no grass beneath the ball or where the grass is tightly mown, produces a lower than normal ball flight.

The ball will come out of a longer grass lie with a relatively high flight but with a lot less backspin because grass gets between the club face and the ball. Let’s look at a few situations.Give the Gift of Golf

Upslope Impact: Using a less lofted club on an upslope results in a shorter, softer swing making it easier to control the distance of the ball. Position the ball forward in your stance. The ball will shoot forward on a fairly low trajectory with little backspin making it easier to judge how far the ball with run.

Downslope Impact: On a downslope lie, the ball generally comes out on a low trajectory, making it difficult to control. Select a club with as much loft as possible to compensate. Generally, a sand wedge does the job. It provides some additional control while creating enough elevation on the ball to ensure a soft landing. Position the ball back in your stance.

The Drill: Before chipping, visualize the shot taking into account what the ball will do; identify an exact landing spot, preferably on the green to get an even bounce; and select the club that best fits the lie.

Improving Your Lie – Part One

One of golf’s basic rules is to play the ball as it lies. Let’s look at what that means…

Are there situations where you are allowed to adjust the area around your ball? Yes, on the teeing ground it is permissible to step down the grass around your ball or even remove grass from the area within infringing on the basic rule….play the ball as it lies.

Give the Gift of Golf
Throughout the course, however, you are not allowed to improve your lie. Many a player unknowingly break the basic rule. Let’s take Joe, who just landed his ball in a bush. He plunges his way through the area in order to take his stance. As he makes his way to his ball, he breaks down several bushes and branches. Is this a breach of the rule? Yes, the breaking of the bushes and branches may have improved his lie. What if Joe decides to step on a few branches to make way for his swing? This would be considered an effort to improve Joe’s lie and would be a breach of the rule.
Let’s look at Jill who just landed her ball to the right of the fairway in the 2-feet high fescue. In order to take her swing, Jill stomps down the fescue around the ball. Is this permissible? No, that’s a breach of the rule and considered improving the lie of her ball.
What happens when your ball lands behind a tree? Since you cannot improve your lie, it’s time to get creative in order to take your shot. It’s not always the skill of the shot but also the ingeniously of crafting the shot. The rules of golf permit a player to ease him or herself into position to play a given shot or better known as “fairly taking your stance”. Tiger Woods has continued to amaze us with his innate ability to make remarkable shots from extremely challenging lies.

Improving Your Lie – Part Two

How does the rule “play the ball as it lies” affect your ability to check a ball to ensure it’s yours? Let’s look at a few scenarios…

When playing golf, it’s key to verify before hitting a ball that it is indeed your ball. If it’s not your ball, you could incur penalty strokes. When your ball lands in the fairway, you can generally easily identify your ball by its logo and markings. In other situations, your ball may be more difficult to identify due to thick rough, fescue, or the like. The rules of golf do allow you to “touch” or “bend” the grasses around your ball to identify it. However, this must be done without improving your lie. In the event your ball is “buried” in the rough, you are permitted to lift ball to identify that it is yours. To do this without penalty, first mark the location of your ball with a tee, lift the ball, identify it, and then place the ball in the original location (identified by the “tee” marking). Before lifting your ball, tell your playing partners what you are going to do so that they can oversee your actions and eliminate any question about the possibility of improving your lie.

What’s the penalty if you don’t comply? Improving your lie by lifting the ball incurs a one-stroke penalty. If you are in a matchplay, it results in loss of the hole. So beware when you have the urge to move or lift that ball to verify it’s yours!

Lost Balls

So you hit your ball and you’re not sure where it went? Now what do you do?
If you think your ball may be lost, you should hit a provisional ball. Announce to your fellow players that you are going to hit a provisional ball. You then have 5 minutes to locate your original ball. While searching, be careful not to bump the ball to cause it to move, as this will cost you a penalty stroke. If your partner or caddie should cause your ball to move while assisting you in the search, again, that will cost you a penalty stoke. So search gingerly!
On the contrary, if your opponent should bump or move your ball accidently while helping you search for your ball, there is no penalty stroke. However, you do need to place the ball back to its original landing position.
If you are unable to find your ball within the 5-minute limitation, declare your ball lost to your fellow players and play your provisional ball. You will incur a stroke penalty as well as distance (in the event you lost some yardage when you hit your provisional ball). So take care when playing the provisional ball so that you get the most out of it should you need it!
By the way, if you hit your original ball in a water hazard, that does not qualify for a provisional ball. There are specific rules that apply for play from water hazards. So hit ‘em straight and avoid the lost ball quandary!

Pace of Play

Many a player becomes frustrated when they are not able to play the game of golf without delay. Maintaining an efficient pace of play certainly helps to make your round more enjoyable. To play 18 holes on most golf courses, the average allocated time to play is generally 4 hours and 15 minutes. Let’s look at a few pointers to keep you and your group moving…
  • Before walking to your ball, anticipate your lie and situation, bring an extra club to ensure you are prepared.
  • While others are hitting, plan your shot and be ready to hit when it’s your turn.
  • Record your score on the next tee, not on the green that you just finished playing.
  • Always keep an eye on your ball and your partner’s ball.
  • Identify a landscape marker to help you remember where yours or your partner’s ball landed.
  • If you think your ball may be lost, hit a provisional ball; avoid looking for your ball, identifying it lost, and having to go back to hit another ball.
  • A good way to judge your pace of play, is to stay in pace with the group ahead of you. If they are not in sight and the group behind you is waiting, it’s time to pick up your group’s pace.
  •  If the group behind you is a smaller group, and your group is lagging, allow the group behind to play through. It’s then your job to keep pace with that group.
  • Be aware of delays on the green. If your shot is within “making” distance, ask your fellow players if you can putt out. This will eliminate unnecessary delays to remark your ball. If you do putt out, be sure not to stand in any other players putting line.
  • When playing a casual round of golf, if your strokes exceed double the par value for that hole, pick up your ball to keep the group moving.
Following these simple guidelines, will help you and everyone else enjoy the round of golf!

Hitting Out of a Divot

Inevitably, there are unrepaired divots on the course and you may have the misfortune of landing your ball directly in the midst of one….. on the dirt. Hitting directly from dirt requires a few adjustments to get effective results.

Tips for hitting out of a divot…

  • Your stance should be centered with your weight slightly left.
  • Keep your lower body stable and avoid shifting your weight during the swing.
  • Position the ball toward the back of your stance; this will help you hit the ball with a descending stroke.
  • Position your hands slightly ahead of the ball.
  • Aim slightly left of your target; this helps you create more of a V shaped swing.
  • When taking your stroke, come down on the ball at a steeper angle so that you avoid hitting the grass at behind the divot.
  • Keep your clubface square to the ball’s path of flight.
  • Remember to hit the ball first…..not the ground. Hit the ball in the downward portion of your swing….not the upward motion.
Following these simple tips and your next divot shot should be trouble-free. And remember; repair your divots to help your fellow players avoid the challenges of a divot shot.

Stop Trying to Swing the Club too Parallel

Every week we see the greatest golfers in the world all swinging the club shaft in the general vicinity of parallel to the ground at the top of the backswing.  Some go slightly past parallel and some slightly short of parallel.  In general it is fair to say that most professional golfers swing the club shaft back to a point that is very close to parallel.  Another generalization is that most club professionals can walk down their driving range and watch many of their amateur students swinging the club shaft to a point at or past parallel to the ground at the top of the backswing.

Let us as golfers make it a goal to stop trying to swing the club shaft to parallel if we are not flexible enough to do so.  As a general rule, (if you are flexible enough) you should max out your upper body turn at around 80 degrees of rotation. Visit www.k-vest.com to find an instructor that can measure this. The arms and hinge should stop a nearly indiscernible split second after the upper body turn is complete.  If you cannot turn far enough to get the club shaft to parallel, do not try to get it there by adding unnecessary wrist hinge or arm bend.  Work towards setting your lead wrist (left for right-handed golfers) early in the backswing.  If you can have it fully hinged by the time your lead arm gets to parallel with the ground in the backswing, your chances of over swinging the backswing with your arms and hands will decrease!

The result will be a more repeatable swing that is not so dependent on perfect timing.  The percentage of solid shots will increase and the range of mis-directed shots will decrease.

Written by Scott Seifferlein, PGA Golf Guru at Grand Rapids Golf Lesson

Setting Your Golf Alignment

As you read this golf tip, please keep in mind that it may not apply to your unique needs.  Always consult with your local PGA professional before attempting to apply any golf tip you have read from a newspaper, magazine, book, internet, etc.

Most right-handed golfers aim too far to the right (left handed golfers too far left). This causes the club-head to move outside the correct plane and then across the ball in the downswing to compensate for the poor alignment.  The result is a loss of club-head speed.

To check your alignment, place a shaft along your toes or the back of your heels.  Stand ten feet behind the ball and look to see where the shaft is lined up.  It should be aligned to the left (right for left-handed players) of and parallel to your target.  The shoulders should also follow this line when set-up to the ball.

Written by Scott Seifferlein, PGA Guru at Grand Rapids Golf Lesson

Fairway Bunker Shot Technique

Mary Hafeman PGA and LPGA Professional at the Mary Hafeman Golf Experience located within the Grand Club’s Cypress Club in Palm Coast, Florida shares her Fairway Bunker Shot Techniques….


I always find the most challenging bunker shot to hit is the fairway bunker shot. The objective is to hit the ball a greater distance than a green side bunker.   A fundamental difference between the two shots is that from a greenside bunker you try to hit the sand first where in a fairway bunker you want to contact the ball first.

Be sure to select a club that has enough loft to clear the lip of the fairway bunker. Architect’s design some of the fairway bunkers with a high lip, which inhibits the player to hit the ball high enough to carry the necessary distance.  If you have had the experience of a “fairway pot bunker” you know what I am talking about.  Remember you need to get out of the bunker first before you think about the distance needed. I’ll list below some of the adjustments you need to make to produce a successful fairway bunker shot.
  1. Most importantly check the lie of the ball first. A good lie that is sitting “up” allows for a normal swing with few adjustments. A medium lie allows for more of a descending blow and a poor lie which is sitting “down” requires a player to just pitch out into the fairway.
  2. Set your feet in the bunker while addressing the ball. You have an opportunity to notice how deep the sand is as you set your feet, you also need your feet set for a good base to ensure a consistent swing.
  3. Choke or grip down on the club about an inch about the same distance as you have dug your feet into the sand.
  4. Position the ball in the middle of your stance.
  5. Move your hands ahead of the ball slightly as you cannot ground the club in a hazard without a penalty stroke.
  6. Target hitting the ball just above the sand on a good lie. If you have a poor lie take a more lofted club and hit a traditional green side bunker shot back out to the fairway.
  7. Look not at a spot behind the ball like a green side bunker but rather on the front side of the ball or just slightly ahead of the ball to help assure you hit the ball first and not the sand. It will feel like you “picked the ball” out of the sand.
Fairway bunker shots although may be tricky, the shot becomes easier with confidence and practice. Remember look at your lie in the bunker and how deep the bunker face is before you select your club. Getting out of the bunker should be your first thought and if  you can get the correct distance you are way ahead of the ball game.
If you would like to learn more about how to play better golf, contact Mary Hafeman PGA and LPGA Professional at www.maryhafemangolf.com or purchase a gift card for a lesson package here, You will enjoy your experience, learn and improve, I guarantee it!