Posted by & filed under Playing Tips.

The article below was written by Hannah Holden of National Club Golfer.

We often hear the phrase ‘never up, never in’ but is the most effective strategy always to hit your putts past the hole?

We all want to know how to be a better putter, so what is the most effective way to reduce the amount of putts you have out on the golf course? We took a look at the Shot Scope data to find out.


What does good putting look like?

A big part of learning how to putt better is knowing what good putting actually looks like. A scratch golfer single putts 31% of the time, and two putts 61% of the time. They are gaining shots on the field by having very few three-putts. For the majority of golfers, working on your distance control and reducing three-putts would help their putting more than having a few more single putts.

Although we would love to hole every putt we look at, sometimes picking the right miss, or leaving the ball in the right place for the next shot is a better strategy than getting every putt past the hole. This will leave you shorter putts for your second and helps take out those dreaded three putts.

Here is a good drill to try. Go 30-40ft from the hole and drop five balls down. Hit each ball, making sure every ball finishes past the hole. Once you have done this repeat the exercise again but just try to hit each putt as near to the hole as possible. Which set of golf balls finish closer to the hole and give you the best chance of two putting?

So what is the optimal distance we should be hitting each putt past the hole, or is there even one? There are a few variables to keep in mind here.


Average putt length holed

If we dive into the Shot Scope stats, the average length of a putt holed for a 15-handicap golfer is 4 feet. That means, as a mid-handicapper, if you leave the ball more than 4 feet from the hole, you are more likely to miss than hole the putt.

Suddenly ramming your putt 6 feet past to give your first putt ‘a look’ doesn’t seem like such a good idea, does it? It also shows you how crucial it is to practice your short putts so you can try to increase the length of your average putt holed.


How to putt better: Work on capture speed

Getting the ball to finish past the hole requires the ball to be travelling at a set speed as it passes the hole.

Dave Pelz famously told golfers the optimal distance to hit the ball past the hole was 17 inches which is just under 1.5 feet.

The reason for this is a golf ball needs 0.066 seconds to fall the 0.84 inches to the bottom of the cup. If a putt is rolling slowly over the edge of the hole it will be over the cup long enough to drop. Add some more speed, and the ball will lip out or roll straight over the hole instead.

By hitting the ball 1.5 feet past the hole, your startline needs to be twice as accurate to hole the putt. Now you wouldn’t optionally play with a hole half the size, so why are you making it smaller by rolling the ball with too much speed?

If you are hitting your putt five feet past the hole, the effective hole size is 0.5 inches. That is less than a third of the diameter of a golf ball and makes it almost impossible to hole a putt.

If you want to improve your putting, you need to need to be getting the ball to be rolling as slowly as possible when it hits the hole. This in effect, makes the hole as big as possible, making the ball more likely to drop in. It also means you should have an easy tap-in and not have to worry about the putt coming back.

Posted by & filed under Debates.

The article below was written by Steve Carroll of National Club Golfer.

We’ve all had it. We get onto a green, we’re addressing for a shot, or we’ve lifted and replaced, and the ball starts moving.

It’s easy to get into a panic, and it’s easy for your playing partners to get the wrong idea. But when a ball or ball-marker accidentally moves on the putting green, there are two specific sections of Rule 13.1d that can come into play.

You’ll need to know both, so let’s get stuck in…


Golf rules when a ball accidentally moves on the green

When you’ve accidentally caused the ball to move on the putting green

Think Dustin Johnson at the US Open back in 2016 and you’ll get the clearest example of this in action. DJ actually got penalised that day but a local rule was soon issued that then found its way into the Rules of Golf revamp in 2019.

Rule 13.1d (1) now says there is no penalty if you, your opponent in match play, or another player in stroke play accidentally moves your ball or ball-marker on the green.

You simply replace the ball on its original spot – estimate if you don’t know where that is – or place a ball-marker to mark that original spot.

There is an exception that a ball must be played as it lies when a ball begins to move during a backswing, or stroke, and the stroke is made.  


If the ball has been moved by natural forces

We’re talking about wind, water, gravity or anything else that’s natural which intervenes and shifts your golf ball.

When this happens, where you will play from next depends on whether you’d already lifted and replaced the ball on the green. If you had, you must replace it on the spot from which it moved. If you don’t know where that spot was, you take your best guess.

There isn’t an option to play it from where it lies. If you do so, or if you forget to put the ball back and make a stroke, you will have played from a wrong place and will incur the general penalty (two shots or loss of hole in match play) for a breach of Rule 13.1d (2).

If the ball had not been lifted and replaced then it’s very easy. Just play it from its new spot.


You can read all of Steve’s Rules of Golf explained columns here.

Posted by & filed under Debates.

The article below was written by Steve Carroll of National Club Golfer.

I’m totally lost on a golf course without yardage markers. Most of the time I’ve forgotten to charge up my GPS, I’ve left a laser at home, and at least I’ve got a guide on how far it is to the pin. How did we survive before technology?

But sometimes these yardage markers, or those big poles that show the way when you’ve got a tee shot or an approach that’s a bit blind, can get in the way.

So what do you do then? Can you shift them? Do you have to put up with it? What about if they’re not interfering with your swing or stance but are on the line of your shot?

I’ve had a couple of emails asking about what relief options are available in these circumstances, so let’s get stuck in…


Relief from movable obstructions and immovable obstructions

A lot of the time, if you’ve got a marker post causing you trouble it will simply be a movable obstruction.

You’ll find it in a socket or a sleeve in the ground, or you can just take it out without damaging the obstruction or the course.

Rule 15.2a (1) says you can remove movable obstructions anywhere either on or off the course and you “may do so in any way”.

If your ball moves while you’re shifting such an obstruction, you won’t get a penalty and you just replace the ball on its original spot.

Sometimes, though, clubs can deem their marker posts to be immovable obstructions. Now we’re dealing with abnormal course conditions – covered in Rule 16.1.

You can’t move them – the clue is in the name – but you can still get free relief if your ball touches them, or they physically interfere with your “area of intended stance or intended swing”.

If your ball is on the green, you can also have relief if an abnormal course condition on or off the putting surface intervenes on the line of play.

But “if the abnormal course condition is close enough to distract the player but does not meet any of these requirements, there is no interference under this rule”.

So if your club committee defines marker posts as immovable obstructions, and one is right in your line but interference doesn’t exist, then suck it up because you can neither shift it out of the way nor take a free drop.

I not a big fan of marker posts as immovable obstructions, because it just causes an unnecessary issue on the occasions where one does end up in the way, but clubs do it for all sorts of reasons and ultimately it’s up to them.

As always, make sure you look at the Local Rules to work out how your club is handling marker posts before you start picking them up and possibly risking a penalty.

Posted by & filed under Debates.

The article below was written by Steve Carroll of National Club Golfer.

I was thinking about opening my wallet – the moths needed releasing – while perusing the ‘visitor’ rules at a prospective golf club.

I’ve got a weird fascination with some of these pages. They simultaneously manage to make me chuckle and choke at the same time.

At this establishment, there was a request to use the clubhouse rather than the car park in which to change into your gear and the exhortation caught me a little off guard.

I’d honesty thought this wasn’t a thing anymore, particularly since the clubhouse temporarily became out of bounds during the Covid pandemic.

I resolved to delve deeper and found there were others of the same mind – and they expressed it more forcefully too.

Now that I’ve spent some time – probably far too much – looking over this issue and reading what golfers think, several defences emerged to justify the act.

Let’s look at some and put them in their place. I change my shoes in the car park all the time. Tell me: what’s the problem?


Why shouldn’t we change our shoes in the car park?

We want you to come into the clubhouse

Is this part of your cunning plan to get me to buy a post-round drink? It’s not a difficult puzzle to solve, though, is it? If I fancy a drink after a round, it’s because I fancy a drink after that round.

I’m not such a slave to alcohol that the mere sight of a beer pump has a Pied Piper effect on me and compels me to order a pint of mild.

Atmosphere’s an under-rated factor too. Is the clubhouse lively or is it so dead an undertaker’s got a permanent office on the premises?

Either way, a compulsion to remove one set of shoes for another within those walls isn’t going to make me any more likely to hang around.


It’s more comfortable in the golf locker room

Have you been in some visitors’ areas recently? They’d give me nightmares if I was claustrophobic.

Think about some of the away dressing rooms you’ve seen at football grounds. Pretty dingy, right? Now compress that into the size of a shoe box – barely big enough to hold the pair you’re looking to store – and you’ll get the drift.

If that’s what you call a comfortable welcome, you can forget it.

I’ve been in a tiny visitors’ locker room where the club stored all the crap for which they couldn’t otherwise find space.

Old paintings, delivery pallets, they were piled high. Yet, I’m the one being chastised for poor etiquette for saying: ‘I don’t really fancy that, I’ll just slip my Eccos on out here, thanks very much’.

You’re at risk of losing your property too. I don’t necessarily mean from thieves – though some might see a golf locker room as an easy target.

I’m so absent minded, I’ve left pairs of shoes at clubs as I’ve changed in the locker room, gone upstairs for a pint, and then headed to the car without remembering to dive back in and retrieve them.

When you change your shoes right by your boot, nothing’s getting left behind.


You’ll leave a mess in the car park

I’m not sure how this trumps people leaving the same mess in a locker room, but here’s a thought: just use the air gun first as you’re leaving the course?

Is it just shoes that make a mess? Don’t trolleys carry more muck around? Should we ‘change’ them in the clubhouse too?

Look, I’ve no more desire to half fill my motor with left-over grass clippings than leave them littering the car park. Tidy up after yourself as you come off the course and there’s no problem.


We’ve got to protect standards

That old chestnut. The car park is for parking, they say. It’s not conduct becoming of our establishment. Get over yourselves, I say.

It’s a car park, not Harrods. And if your course is any guide, you appear much more tolerant of unraked bunkers and unrepaired pitch marks. Priorities, people. Priorities.

What do you think of this golf club etiquette? Does it matter where you slip on your golf shoes, or should Steve be locked in a golf locker room never to be let out? Let him know by leaving a comment on X.

Posted by & filed under Debates.

The article below was written by Steve Carroll of National Club Golfer.

It might still be hitting a ball around a course but match play and stroke play can feel like completely different games.

This was brought home when I made my international refereeing debut in August, as part of the team that officiated a match between England and Switzerland Under-16 girls at Pannal.

I’ve carried my rule book around plenty of stroke play tournaments now, but this was my first match play event and the foursomes game I followed in the morning, and singles in the afternoon, asked very different questions.

Did you know, for example, that players can agree how to decide a rules issue in match play – even if it turns out to be wrong? And if a referee isn’t assigned to a specific match, they’ve got no authority to get involved barring a couple of exceptions?

If a referee is assigned to a game, though, that official has to step in on any issue that comes to their attention in time.

As I was shadowing these players at Pannal, hoping they kept to alternate shots and kept out of any rules trouble (I need not have worried – the standard of play was incredible), I started thinking about some of the specific differences between match play and stroke play.

Some of those match play golf rules – when you concede a hole being the one that springs most prominently to mind – are obvious. But there are other subtle changes it may pay to be aware of the next time you go into head-to-head match combat in your club knockout.


Key golf match play rules


There is no penalty in match play for playing from outside the teeing area

This is a costly error in stroke play – it’s the general penalty (two strokes) and you’ve got to correct the mistake. You’ll even get disqualified if you’ve not done that before “making a stroke to begin another hole”.

That’s not the case in match play. It is still a breach of Rule 6.1b (1) and your opponent can cancel the stroke and make you play again.

But if they don’t do that promptly – so “before either player makes another stroke” – then the stroke counts, the ball is in play, and you move on.


The honour is absolutely a thing in match play

All we hear about these days is ‘ready golf’ and speeding up the game. But in match play you and your opponent must play in a particular order. You can toss a coin to see who goes first and then whoever’s won the hole, or had the honour at the previous teeing area if it was tied, keeps it and goes first.

After a hole is started, the ball that is farthest from the hole is played first. Just as with the teeing area, a shot that is played out of turn can be cancelled by your opponent.

You can play out of turn by agreement to save time, but you’ve given up the right to cancel the subsequent stroke.


Make sure you both know what the match score is — and where you get your handicap strokes

You are both expected to know what the score in the match is. If you get this wrong, and you’ve both mistakenly agreed to it, you need to fix it quickly.

Rule 3.2d (3) says you can correct a match score before either of you takes a shot at the start of another hole or, if you’re on the last, before the result of the match is final.

If you don’t do this, did you know that “wrong match score becomes the actual match score”?

Let’s spell out what this means in the rules. If you’ve messed up the score on the 6th, and only realise on the 10th, it’s now irrelevant. You’re stuck with the current score you’ve agreed.

There is an exception to this and it’s when a player requests a “ruling in time” and it’s discovered the opponent “gave the wrong number of strokes taken or failed to tell the player about a penalty”. Only then is the match score corrected.

It’s a similar situation when applying handicap strokes during a match. Rule 3.2c (2) says players are responsible for knowing the holes where they “give or get handicap strokes”.

“If the players fail to apply or mistakenly apply handicap strokes on a hole, the agreed result of the hole stands, unless the players correct that mistake in time”.


Don’t touch your opponent’s ball

When a ball is lifted or moved by another player in stroke play, they are defined as an outside influence. There is no penalty.

It’s very different in match play and it’s outlined in Rule 9.5. If it’s known or virtually certain that an opponent has lifted a player’s ball at rest, deliberately touched the ball, “or their actions caused it to move”, they get a one-shot penalty.

There are a couple of exceptions to this: It’s fine if your opponent is lifting the ball when conceding a stroke, hole, or match.

It’s also OK if you ask them to lift it. They won’t get a penalty, either, if the movement is caused accidentally.


You can choose to ignore a penalty

Do this in stroke play and you’ll probably get kicked out of the club. But in match play, where you don’t have to protect the rest of the field, if you know or believe that your opponent has breached a Rule that comes with a penalty, Rule 3.2d (4) reveals “the player may choose whether or not to act on the breach”.

It’s very unlikely you are going to let your opponent off scot-free if you see them breaching a rule in the cauldron of battle, isn’t it? But the rules do allow you to do it.

What you can’t do, though, is both agree not to apply the Rules or a penalty you know applies. If that sounds a bit contradictory, there is a clarification in the Official Guide to the Rules of Golf that gives out some crucial information.

An example of when there is not an agreement is outlined in the following: A player sees their opponent lift a ball without marking it first. The clarification says that they tell the opponent it’s a breach but they are not going to act on it.

“It was the player’s sole decision not to act on the breach and, consequently, there has not been an agreement.”

Where it changes, in the same example, is where the breach is revealed and then the player and opponent conclude they “don’t want to apply penalties in situations where is no clear advantage from the breach of the rule”.

Now, because there has been an agreement where both players have agreed not to apply the rules, both are in trouble. They would be disqualified.

Posted by & filed under Golf Courses.

The Midlands might not be the first area that springs to mind when one thinks of top-class golf courses, but it’s a hotbed in terms of variety and quality.

Naturally, there are no links courses given the county’s landlocked status, but the myriad of characteristics across golf courses in the Midlands is seriously impressive.

This is our whistlestop tour of the best golf courses in the Midlands.


1. The Belfry

best golf courses in the Midlands

Where else to start than The Belfry? This is one impressive complex—with the 18-hole Brabazon and PGA National courses backed up by first-class practice facilities, an expansive clubhouse and a hotel.

The main attraction is, of course, The Brabazon. This host of four Ryder Cups is always in magnificent condition—fully deserving of its status as one of the best golf courses in the Midlands.

Two holes clearly stand out—the 10th and 18th. The 10th owes much of its fame to Seve Ballesteros, who was the first to drive the green on television.

The 18th is also dominated by water, and, as on the 10th, picking the correct angle is key to success—just ask the several Americans who have come to grief here. It can be conquered, though, as Christy O’Connor Jr proved with a legendary 2-iron, which is commemorated by a plaque on the spot the ball was struck from in 1989.


2. Little Aston

Walking in the footsteps of O’Connor et al. is a huge attraction, but the Brabazon isn’t actually the finest golf course in the Birmingham area (in our opinion)—Little Aston is.

Located a few miles north of the city centre, this course is laid out in mature parkland on the grounds of Little Aston Hall.

It was designed by Harry Vardon in 1908 and is defined by tree-lined fairways leading to its large greens. The 10th and 12th are two standout holes, while the 18th is a fine finish. 


3. Hollinwell

Notts, or Hollinwell as it’s known, is laid out in the heart of Robin Hood country and is one of the finest inland courses in Britain. 

Outside of Surrey and Berkshire, only Woodhall Spa and Alwoodley spring to mind as notably better than this north Nottingham track.

Hollinwell—which takes its name from the holy well next to the 8th fairway—was laid out by Willie Park in 1887 and later modified by JH Taylor.

The sandy subsoil makes this course drain remarkably efficiently, and the most spectacular holes are probably those which sweep around wooded hillsides—although others may prefer the more open holes lined by heather and bracken.


4. Sherwood Forest

Sherwood Forest is another GB&I Top 100-ranked course in Nottinghamshire, and its name gives a good clue as to its nature.

It’s laid out on heathland, which, over the years, has been populated by birch, oak and pine trees and forms part of Clipstone Woods. Harry Colt set the course down before James Braid later extended it.

You can expect springy turf and a run of par 4s on the back nine from the 11th, which test even the expert golfer.


5. Lindrick

This course has the novel scenario of lying across three counties. The stream behind the 4th green is the point where Derbyshire, Yorkshire and Nottinghamshire all meet. Legend has it that this dell was once an arena for prize-fighting.

It often gets classified as Yorkshire, but the clubhouse sits in Nottinghamshire, making this one of the best golf courses in the Midlands—technically.

Lindrick was the host for one of the few Ryder Cups won by Great Britain & Ireland, when in 1957, Dai Rees’ team claimed the first win for GB&I since 1933 (and the last before the team became Europe).

This hybrid of heathland, woodland and parkland golf is notable for finishing with a par 3.


6. Beau Desert

Moving into Staffordshire, Beau Desert is a gorgeous Midlands golf course that takes its name from the ‘Beautiful Wilderness’ which once existed on this land—once part of the Marquess’ Beaudesert Estate—before Herbert Fowler laid out this gem.

Fowler was a masterful heathland designer, and the rolling fairways here are lined by fir and spruce trees, with heather and gorse in Cannock Forest demanding accuracy off the tee. These narrow, tree-lined fairways offer a feeling of isolation and tranquility.


7. Blackwell

Blackwell is comfortably the stand-out golf course in Worcestershire. In fact, this Bromsgrove course is one of Britain’s elite parklands.

Harry Colt’s design uses its small acreage cleverly here with an array of fine holes showcasing real architectural merit—underestimate it at your peril.


8. Sutton Coldfield

This fast-running course on the northern outskirts of Birmingham city centre was designed among heather and woodland by Alister MacKenzie.

It boasts a variety of holes on sandy, undulating turf and true greens.


9. Enville

Enville is home to two fine courses. The Highgate is a hybrid course whose heathland holes have been there since the 1930s and are top-class, with the woodland phases added later.

The Lodge might be the No.2 course at the club, but it’s terrific, too. This shorter course—with only two par 5s—is also a mix of open heathland and woodland sections.


10. Edgbaston

This Harry Colt course in Edgbaston, Birmingham consists of over 6,000 yards, but with a par of 69 and typical nous from the designer, it has just the right amount of test.


11. Forest of Arden

This course was built in 1970 in a huge estate at Packington Park between Birmingham and Coventry.

It has to be said—Donald Steel did a fine job of working with the mature trees and natural water features which already existed here.


12. The Warwickshire

Opened in 1994, The Warwickshire has 36 holes of championship golf close to Kenilworth and Leamington Spa.

The Kings and Earls courses are situated in the middle of 465 acres of picturesque countryside.


13. Copt Heath

Amateur golf legend Peter McEvoy learnt the game at Copt Heath, which was first laid out by Harry Vardon and then enhanced by Harry Colt, who created over 100 bunkers with his traditional upswept face.

The sandy subsoil gives rise to excellent turf all year round, but the short 13th—protected by bunkers and water—is perhaps the highlight.


14. Whittington Heath

Last but not least—Whittington Heath, in Staffordshire, is one of the oldest golf clubs in England, having originated in 1886 as a nine-hole course.

Its newer course, designed by Jonathan Gaunt following the construction of the HS2 railway line, is one of the best in the Midlands.