Getting Over the Mud Ball Ruling and Other Controversies in Golf

Before I get too far into the whole mud ball ruling and Patrick Reed’s advantage in his recent PGA Tour victory at Torrey Pines by 5 strokes, I have to admit that golf fans can get into a frenzy over all things golf related. This is especially a sensitive issue when it comes to the rules of golf. We see golf fans up in arms of things that span the full spectrum of play from the new rules regarding the flagstick to the highly-debated controversy of Mudgate, the muddy ball ruling that has sparked so much chatter and fodder on discussion boards like Reddit and social media like Twitter. At the end of the day, we spend a great deal of time discussing and debating these occasional hiccups in the professional ranks and end up pointing fingers rather than developing real-time solutions and accepting human error as part of the game.

Am I a Patrick Reed fan? I think some would do well to read hist story before passing judgment on a journeyman golfer who finally broke the ranks to win in the professional ranks. His journey to where he is now says a lot of who he really is and might help some folks see the man beyond the hoopla of the headlines.

Controversy or Convictions

Will I win many fans based on this post? No, this post is bound to split the entire span of golf fandom right down the middle. We are so likened to baseball and its vanguard of the legacy and integrity of baseball that even we at times can’t see that the times are a-changing right before our eyes. Golf today is nowhere near what it once was to so many diehards, but most of the changes have led to increased diversity and all sorts of innovations to spread the gospel of the game of golf to new fans and players alike.

We’ve got basically two distinct but overlapping sets of golf fans. There are those who just watch and follow golf, and then there are those who play golf and try their best to keep up with the latest PGA Tour and LPGA Tour buzz. A few are dedicated followers of the senior ranks in the Champions Tour, but for the most part people keep their eyes out for PGA Tour major tournaments and some serious competition within the LPGA ranks like the Koda sisters, Lexi Thompson, Danielle Kang, and Lydia Ko. Brooke Henderson, Anna Nordqvist and Charley Hull are popular LPGA players with a fan following that includes some rowdy boys shouting out their undying love every now and then at an otherwise quiet par 4 hole. That’s not the entire realm of golf fandom but it puts some major groupings in order for starters.

Here’s the scoop on all of this. They’re pros. We’re not. They’re human. Yes, they are. They make mistakes just like us and they tend to err in judgment just like the rest of us who seek relief or declare a ball unplayable when we know good and well that we’re just not that good.

Questionable Play Beyond the Mud Ball Ruling

There have been plenty of questionable antics on the PGA and LPGA tournament circuits that we’ve witnessed televised right before our eyes. Golf fans keep an eye out for some of the slightest rules infractions as well as some of the most egregious ones. It’s part of the phenomena of watching golf live and seeing things go down during real-time viewing.

Lefty in the 2018 U.S. Open

Albeit one of my favorite guys to watch, Lefty took things to an extreme in 2018 U.S. Open. He putted a ball while it was rolling. He took the 2 stroke penalty and moved on. Most golf fans did not. Such an act was unfathomable and it was just too much for too many fans.

Really?

I dare most weekend golfers to go back over their weekends on the links and recall the most outrageous act by that guy in your foursome- you know the one who pushes the envelope at every opportunity and says to hell with the rules. Whether he claimed that his twelve feet left to putt should be a gimme or he used 2 mulligans before you reached the 6th hole, that guy gets a pass with his constant rule-breaking antics and Phil Mickelson needs to be demonized?

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Lexi’s LPGA Loss Due to Fan Calling In a Penalty

Fan input took to an all-time new high when a fan dialed in to share that Lexi Thompson should have been docked four strokes. The fan stated that since Lexi moved the ball she should have been assessed a two stroke penalty and then a second two stroke penalty for signing an incorrect scorecard. Four strokes? That cost Lexi the win despite her heroic efforts in a major tournament playoff round.

Vice Golf Appereal

Imagine playing with that guy. Well, you probably have played with him before. Or, you have played with someone with a similar disposition of knowing what’s best. You know the guy who keeps the scorecard and asks after every hole: “How many you get on that one?” and he still counts every stroke and step you took from the tee to the green. Some people take the fun out of just enjoying a sunny afternoon on the course. It’s different if you got some money on the game, but this is an otherwise futile fun-stripped outing at best with this guy.

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LPGA Q-School Rules Violation

I don’t know who is really to blame for this. It seems like part of the point of Q-School is to get more familiar and prepared for entry into the professional ranks. The primary folks in any Q-School whether PGA or LPGA are people coming up from the amateur ranks. Either way, the controversy in 2019 LPGA Q-School involved two players, a par 3, an 8 iron, and a two stroke penalty. The real funky part of this ruling was that it simply involved asking another or his or her caddie for information during play. She asked what club the other player was using, and the other player’s caddie obliged by divulging the information.

Whoa! How many times in similar situations have you heard another player ask a fellow member of his or her foursome: “What club did you use on that shot?” I mean I would imagine that unless you have been playing with some tight-lipped golfers, plenty of us have gone so far as to break that one on every dogleg and tucked away green on the course. And, like these ladies involved in the ruling, we didn’t realize it was a rule either.

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Where do we go from here? Patrick Reed will continue to be demonized as a PGA tour menace for all kinds of reasons that people feel comfortable tossing his way. Lefty will always get a side eye glare as he plays until his retirement. Fans will no longer have input on rulings, though. That might remain a good thing that comes out of all of this controversy.

I find that the best answer to all of this comes in the form of a controversial video of one of my favorite golf guys Bubba Watson. He has a recovery shot and a fan belts out advice from the other side of the ropes on what Bubba should do, but Bubba takes to addressing the ball and striking it pure to make a sensational recovery. He looks around for the guy afterwards but no sign of him. What is most delightful is Bubba stating that there’s a reason that the fan is on that side of the ropes and he’s not before taking his swing.

They’re pros. and we’re not.

Leave it at that.

More Lessons Learned Playing Golf During the Pandemic

According to data from the National Golf Foundation, only 26 percent of all golfers shoot below 90 consistently on regulation 18-hole courses; 45 percent of all golfers average more than 100 strokes per round. A player who shoots 85 is doing better than nearly three out of four of his golfing peers–a good score. (Golfweek)

That being said. . .

New Year’s Day at Pala Mesa Resort

I got to sneak away up the freeway to one of my favorite golf getaway spots in SoCal- Pala Mesa Resort. I used to eyeball this resort from the freeway on trips between Riverside and San Diego, dreaming of the day that I would get a chance to play there and see what this picturesque course was like. I have been here a few times in the last 2 years. I usually get to go there and play at least twice a year.

It is a beautiful course and resort that is nestled within a residential area and includes some holes that chiseled out of the rocky hillsides and sloping landscape of the area. The hole designs have you navigating doglegs with skillfully-placed sand traps and multi-tiered greens with some unforgiving slopes even on their fringe. If nothing else, I love the challenge of the layout.

Playing Lessons Learned at Pala Mesa Resort

I definitely found myself scrambling for bogey and double bogey at times, wondering what went wrong with that last shot as I tried to make up lost ground and time with some off shots. I was thinking that my better work had been around the green, but even your short game gets tested when the fast green let your simple chip turn into a rolling runaway down a slope of the fringe. Despite eating away at all sorts of parts of my ego, the course offered some real playing lessons for me as I endured the challenge and had me some fun giving it a go again.

Scorecard courtesy of Garmin Golf App

Pace of Play

I was teamed up with a group of 3 other golfers and we decided to play from the blue tees. I had just come off walking 2 rounds of playing from the white tees (I ain’t killing myself; it’s a leisure sport), so I was game for extending the course a bit. Our foursome made for a fairly good match with everyone having their own ups and downs here and there, but we kept a good pace. When there’s a holiday crowd and there are holes just backed up like crazy, you keep the pace moving steady. Learn to know when to either pick up the pace or just pick up your ball. You don’t have to putt out every hole if there’s no wager or if others a willing to give you credit for it. Pace of play makes a big difference in your experience. The longer you’re waiting on the foursome ahead of you to get off the green or even out of the fairway, the more thoughts get in your head and the more loss of focus you tend to experience. (At least that’s how it works for me) Give up on some of the kneeling and squatting to gather a read on the potential pathway of your putt and pick it up if it is within four to six feet if the pace is pressing on you and the sun is on its steady descent to where you might not finish your round before sunset.

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Play Ready Golf

I am a respecter of golf etiquette and the gentleman’s rules, but I am also considerate of the group behind me pressing to get their round in, too. Nobody has to get the honors of teeing off first unless it’s a big deal birdie or eagle on the prior hole. Get off the green, get to the next tee box, and if you are ready, tee it up and let it fly. It’s really that simple.

If your playing buddy can’t find his ball and you are ready, take your shot while he and another player give it a decent search. If he is still looking and lagging, suggest that he drop a ball and get on with it. We’ve got golf to play and not all day to get it in. Play ready golf and that promotes a steady pace of play.

Play Your Own Game

As golfers, we tend to live in the competitive zone. Egos are bruised at both the tee box and the putting green. We have to learn that are true competition is not any member of our foursome or any player on the charity tournament slate. That’s gotten into our heads and we need to crush that thinking altogether. What we are really competing against is the course itself. We are up against the intricacies of the course designers and their intricate layout of signature holes and challenges along with the course management’s pin placement for the day.

Hole by hole, we have to play our own game not get caught up in the yank out the driver for this baby and let it rip mentality when a 3 or 5 wood for less yardage and more accuracy might be the elixir for those wayward shots in the first place. Drop the idea of competing against your friends and family unless you have a list of folks like mine who talk enough trash and needle you just enough to get you to go there every so often. But once you have gone there be sure to get back to where you play the course strategically and selectively as you seek to conquer each hole stroke by stroke.

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Recognize What’s Working (And What’s Not Working)

As golfers, we could simply run down a full list of items to check here and we wouldn’t be far off from most of us statistically. Why? Because the common factors in golf remain the same if you think about it. If we play an 18-hole par 72 course, everybody has to face 18 tee shots and 18 putting surfaces with a whole lot of green grass to cover in between and we might want to appreciate the “little things” like a par or better as Lydia Ko said in a prior interview. But we don’t tend to prepare for that with our time on the driving range like Nick Foy suggests. You hear a lot of driver action on the driving range with soaring shots launched skyward like missiles, but the range has targets from within 100 yards to way back at 300+ yards as well as plenty of things in between both. Just like those targets we need to spread the range of our practice on the range or a decent walkable 18-hole par 3. Why not walk amid the morning dew, armed only with a handful of irons and a sleeve of Callaway Super Softs? I mean when the scorecard says that the yardage on the longest hole is just over 140 yards that’s better practice for you at $15 to walk than standing on a turf mat and swinging away at a bucket of 100 or so gnarly range balls.

Your play will reveal what’s working. Simply adjust when necessary and where necessary. I was getting some good drives in at around 185-190 yards on average, but I was missing the fairway plenty of times. Switching to my 3 wood on a few narrow holes gave me a more accurate drive with a little less distance, but it set me up for a decent approach shot and some work around the green. My chipping with the gap and pitching wedge was not getting enough roll to run across that thick grass guarding the green from about 50 yards out, so I modified my swing with an 8 or 9 iron to get things going again. It might have cost me some strokes along the way, but it paid me dividends in providing for less frustration as I kept battling the course. Your play will let you know what’s working and what’s not working, so remain open minded and observant as you play hole by hole.

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Embrace Change and Enjoy the Game

Like I said, I was paired with 3 other golfers at the first tee. They were not the 3 golfers that I was supposed to play with according to the starter, but they were the three that he was going to put me with once he realized this other group of folks were a no-show. So be it! I still get to play within my tee time and these guys got bumped up to start a little earlier than their expected tee time. There’s a lot to be said by just showing and being ready.

Take whatever you got from your time on the driving range or the putting practice surface and apply it where you can and how you can. This isn’t the time to go experimenting with your game. My late cousin and I used to play religiously when we lived together. He was a recovery shot machine. I mean out of all sorts of nasty situations, he could needle a punch shot with a fairway wood off of a bed of pine needles or lob a wedge shot over a willow tree’s canopy of drooping branches and leaves for a soft roll onto the green. That guy would experiment to the point where you could get high blood pressure just watching him work his way out of trouble. That worked for him, but that’s not what most of us need to do. Most of us need to tackle the course with our best game and have some fun while doing it. That’s the way I see it.

Thank you to all golf writers and bloggers featured, mentioned and linked here. You add to the life of other blogs with your content. However, this post contains 2 of my favorite golf bloggers to quote/ link: Brian Penn and the Grateful Golfer with a post on putting what you see that I linked where Brian is mentioned by the Grateful Golfer, What small blogosphere we live in.

Back into the Swing Again & Then. . .

“The best laid plans of mice and men often go astray.” And seems like a promise more than an axiom

 

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I got back into the swing of things by participating in the Escondido Chamber of Commerce’s annual golf tournament at Woods Valley. It was a sunny day in Valley Center just east of Escondido, California, as I checked in and made a hasty attempt at stretching for the delayed tee times. I used to love the shotgun starts, but we got new rules and regulations for the new normal. I was ready to get going and get out there to get swinging.

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Undoubtedly, I had a great time being teamed up with some extraordinary folks within North County. I truly enjoyed the special ball launcher advantage early on where my foursome easily birdied. I mean what else could be expected with that canon at work and playing best ball?

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I loved the time spent with my friends from the Chamber office and made plans to get together “once this COVID thing died down.” Altogether, I got some good advice from one of fellow players, opened up my stance and laid out some promising drives that sailed down the fairway. That was a far cry from that initial set of drives that all drifted and faded like crows diving from the sky.

Jersey Mike’s and IPAs at the Turn for Lunch

Hello! I mean it was all cool that I did not win the raffle prizes… ANY of them at all! I just could not believe that one dude in my foursome won 3 raffle prizes. I mean for real? Needless to say, we didn’t win the tourney either. But we did manage to square away a solid scorecard and come in 5 under on a fairly challenging course.

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What I did learn was that my putter stroke was still smooth and i dropped a few crucial ones when we were in a pickle. I did not have to use my Mulligans so i shared the wealth with my foursome. I also felt pretty good about my approach shots with the hybrids. The long irons above 6 are almost obsolete. Plus, it requires a lot of adjustment for guys like me to angle that shaft and clubhead after whacking balls with drivers and hybrids. The accuracy is still under construction with the long irons 6 and above. Heck, they hardly offer full club sets with 3 irons anymore and the ones with 4 irons are gradually being replaced with mini hybrid clubs.

Play your best and make it work. Keep swinging and have fun.

I wanted to get a bicoastal competitive vibe going with my guys back East Golf Rookies 704. That might have to wait given the conditions these days. California has gone COVID crazy!

Now that this COVID thing is NOT going away any time soon, I am not sure on the new regulations and restrictions. I have to see what my holiday week off looks like. I f I can get one or two rounds in, I am golden. Otherwise, I am down to hold on for another lockdown period. I waitied this long.

But that one day got me jonesing for more for sure.