BUY DISTANCE YOU CAN AFFORD WITH A LIGHT SWORD
Forget about five-hundred-dollar drivers. You can buy some extra distance at a price every golfer can afford by practicing with a plastic light sword available at your local toy store. Start by pushing the telescopic "blade" of the light sword into its fully retracted position. Now swing the handle as if it were a golf club.
Assuming your "Jedi mind trick" powers are fully activated, the tip of the light sword should not shoot out of the handle until after your hands have moved downward, well past hip level. If the tip extends and points downward when your hands are still at hip level, you're "casting" (essentially, uncocking your wrists too early) and probably rotating your hips prematurely as well. The sword won't lie: Without proper lag—with the blade pointing slightly upward as your hands approach your thigh—you can't achieve maximum distance. "The longer the lag," Sorrell notes, "the less club needed to reach the flag."
PUT YOUR SLICE TO SLEEP WITH A BROOM SWEEP
You can sweep away a slice with a broom and two cans of spray paint. Paint the bristles on one side of the broom red and the bristles on the other side white. Pretending that the broom is a golf club, assume your address position with the red bristles facing toward an imaginary golf ball. Ask a friend to stand in front of you, face to face. Swing the broom back so that your friend sees red both halfway through your backswing and at the top.
Then initiate the downswing. After you pass through the impact zone, your forearms should cross so that your friend sees white when the handle is horizontal. "Let the forearms cross and show the ball who's the boss," Sorrell says. If your friend sees red after impact, you're slicing.
Then pick up a real club, imagine that the clubface is the red side of the broom, and swing. You should contact the ball on the correct inside-to-outside path with the clubface rotating from open to square.
MAKE THE RULES OF THE GAME WORK FOR YOU.
BY JOHN PAUL NEWPORT
You hook your ball into trouble and no foxhole promises to the Almighty can bring it back. That's just the way golf is. But in many cases you can save yourself a stroke or two on the rest of the hole if you keep your head about you and are well-versed in the rules about taking a drop.
"The rules are there to help you as well as penalize you," said Jack Lumpkin, director of instruction at the Sea Island Golf Learning Center (and Davis Love III's teacher). "So it behooves you to examine all your options and use good judgment. Take the drop that gives you the best shot, which isn't necessarily the drop closest to the hole." Lumpkin pinpointed specific situations in which amateurs unfamiliar with the nuances of the drop often fail to use the rules to their maximum advantage.
One of the most misunderstood rules, Lumpkin said, involves where to drop when your ball enters a hazard. It doesn't matter where the original shot was hit from or what direction it was traveling in, only the exact spot where it crossed. Keeping that point between you and the hole, you may drop as far back as you want—say, back to the middle of the fairway. There are two additional options applicable to lateral hazards (those marked with red stakes) but not to regular hazards (marked with yellow stakes). The first is to drop within two club lengths of the crossing point, no nearer the hole, and the second is to drop within two clubs lengths of a point on the opposite margin of the hazard, equidistant from the hole. Yet another option with any hazard is simply to replay the shot.
"Say you're in the fairway thirty yards from the green and you skull your pitch shot deep into the sand beneath the lip of a greenside bunker," said Lumpkin. "If you play your ball as it lies, you'll probably have to come out sideways with no guarantee you'll like the lie that results." Instead, consider declaring the ball unplayable. You have several options (see "Rule 28" below), but since any drop would also have to be in the bunker, it's often better to replay the shot—something many golfers don't consider.
The best drop strategy of all, Lumpkin added, is not having to drop in the first place. For that, he suggests a lesson.
Sea Island Golf Learning Center, Sea Island, Georgia
Individual lesson: $215 per hour
RULE 28: BALL UNPLAYABLE
The player may declare his ball unplayable at any place on the course except when the ball is in a water hazard. The player is the sole judge as to whether his ball is unplayable.
If the player deems his ball to be unplayable, he shall, under penalty of one stroke:
a. Play a ball as nearly as possible at the spot from which the original ball was last played; or
b. Drop a ball within two club lengths of the spot where the ball lay, but not nearer the hole; or
c. Drop a ball behind the point where the ball lay, keeping that point directly between the hole and the spot on which the ball is dropped, with no limit to how far behind that point the ball may be dropped.
If the unplayable ball is in a bunker, the player may proceed under clause a, b or c. If he elects to proceed under clause b or c, a ball must be dropped in the bunker.
The ball may be cleaned when lifted under this rule.
SIDEHILL DROPS: THIRD TIME'S A CHARM
Here's a trick that you see the pros do. When dropping in sidehill situations, it can work to your advantage to drop onto a spot that will send the ball bounding out of the allowable drop zone. After two such "unsuccessful" drops, you are then "required" to place the ball exactly on the spot it hit when you last dropped it—where you can place the ball lightly in a way that is likely to leave it sitting pretty.