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.

Posted by & filed under Playing Tips.

First things first, everyone can obtain a golf handicap. This applies to casual golfers as well as members of clubs, and it doesn’t need to be as complicated as you might imagine.

Put simply—it is a measure of your golfing ability, so if you are playing with someone better or worse than you, then the handicap system is in place to ensure you can enjoy a fair game.

The World Handicap System (WHS) was launched in 2020 and provides an official handicap to golfers anywhere in the world. It was brought in to unify six existing systems into a single system so that golfers can compete on an equal basis.

Let’s take a look at how you to work out your golf handicap.


How to work out your golf handicap

how to work out your golf handicap

There are several terms to get your head around, but the good news is that they’re already calculated, so you won’t have to do anything with them. These are:

Bogey Rating

This is the measure of playing difficulty from a set of tees when played by a Bogey Golfer (a player with a Course Handicap of approximately 20 for a male and 24 for a female). 


Course Rating

This is the measure of how many strokes a Scratch Golfer (0.0 Handicap Index) should take on any given course and is calculated to the nearest 0.1.

Knowing the Course Rating and Bogey Rating allows the WHS to assess the relationship between the two.


Slope Rating

This is calculated using the Bogey Rating and Course Rating and assesses the relative playing difficulty of a course for Bogey Golfers compared to Scratch Golfers.

The higher the Slope Rating, the greater the difference expected between the scores of those scratch and bogey golfers—but it doesn’t necessarily mean that one course is more difficult than another. The best thing to remember here is the higher the Slope Rating, the more strokes a Bogey Golfer will need to play it.


How to work out your golf handicap: the calculation

how to work out your golf handicap

Your Handicap Index is measured by using your eight best scores from your 20 most recent rounds. 

It takes the Course Rating, Slope Rating and your Adjusted Gross Score* to work out a handicap differential for each round you’ve played.

This is done through the following calculation and is, thankfully, all done automatically for you…

(113 / Slope Rating) x (Adjusted Gross Score* – Course Rating – Playing Conditions Calculation**)

Why 113? Put simply, Slope Rating ranges from 55-155, with the average being 113.

When you play a course with a Slope Rating higher than 113, your Course Handicap will be higher than your Handicap Index. When you play a course with a Slope Rating lower than 113, your Course Handicap will be lower than your Handicap Index.

From here, your Handicap Index is determined by selecting your best 8 from 20 differentials and dividing the total by 8. This, then, should give you an accurate handicap. This won’t be your average score but how likely you are to play a course of average difficulty.

* The Adjusted Gross Score is the total of your 18 holes, but there is an adjustment made for holes that you either didn’t finish or ‘no returned’ on, as well as high-score holes, which are adjusted to the par of the hole PLUS two shots.

For example, if you took 10 on a par 4, that will be adjusted to a six.

** Playing Conditions Calculation takes place automatically to determine if scores recorded at a course were significantly higher or lower than expected. An adjustment between –1 and +3 will be applied to reflect the playing conditions on the day.


Your Course Handicap

how to work out your golf handicap

Your Course Handicap allows you to play any course fairly according to the difficulty and the tees you’re playing off. 

You need your Handicap Index and the Slope Rating you’re about to play. So, check the board at the course where you’re playing (normally near the 1st tee) to get your Course Handicap based on your Handicap Index. 

This equation used is: Course handicap = Handicap Index x (Slope Rating / 113)


Golf handicaps: the takeaways

Fear not—you don’t need to have a good, or indeed any, understanding of these terms.

Everything can be done through an app, such as England Golf, where you can enter your scores, and it’ll work everything out for you.

When you get into the habit of doing this, things will become clearer, and your eight best scores will be highlighted so you can see when a good or bad score will drop off.

All you need to do is ensure that:

  • your score is submitted in an authorised format, such as Strokeplay, Stableford and Par/Bogey
  • you have played a minimum of nine holes
  • you have played with one other person
  • the course has a current Course Rating and Slope Rating done during an active season

Also, you must pre-register your intent to submit a score. You can do this by simply telling your playing partner(s) that you want to put a card in.

Another huge benefit of the WHS is that you can submit cards in general play rather than having to wait for a competition. You can submit any round, anywhere.

Remember: The maximum Handicap Index is 54.0 for all players.

Posted by & filed under Debates.

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

It’ll be in everyone’s top five moans at their golf club – and it’s probably number one for many.

Players and critics got excited about the bunkers at Royal Liverpool during The Open in July, and the R&A then changed the way they were raked, but complaints are by no means restricted to the highest levels of the game.

We mope at our clubs about the lack of raking, the raking itself, whether there’s enough sand in there, and whether there’s too much sand in there.

But bunkers are supposed to be a hazard. Aren’t we meant to try and avoid them at all costs, rather than complaining because we haven’t got a perfect lie when we find one?

Steve Carroll and Tom Irwin weigh in…


Should golf bunkers always be fair?


‘If bunkers don’t provide jeopardy, or tragedy, what’s the point of them?’

In the professional game, bunkers have become an afterthought, says Steve Carroll. You’ll often hear players going ‘get in the bunker’ because they know they’ll get an ultra-consistent lie. They’re so great out of bunkers that they know they can get a lot of spin.

I thought some of the furore at The Open was a bit misplaced. Let’s take Rory McIlroy. His second shot on 18 [in round one] buried in the face of the bunker.

But no one forced him to take the second shot on. There was a risk and reward in that. He thought he hit a good shot, but he had a little bit of bad luck. It ran into the bunker and into the face.

That’s what can happen if you try and hit a wood from wherever it was on a 609-yard par 5. I thought the risk and reward there was fair. If you messed it up and got it in the bunker, there was going to be chance you weren’t going to be able to get it out in one go.

I was slightly disappointed the change was made, and it does make think, ‘what are bunkers for if they’re not going to produce that kind of tragedy, that kind of calamity? If all the time when we go into a bunker, whether it be fairway or green, we expect the ball to roll back into the middle so we can just chop it out with a load of spin’.

If there’s not going to be an element of jeopardy, because we’re fixing them in such a way that the ball will always roll back a lot of the time, then what is the point?


‘Sanitising golf courses in the pursuit of fairness is a fool’s errand’

The sanitisation of golf courses and this idea of trying to make them consistent in all areas – in the pursuit of fairness – is an absolute fool’s errand, isn’t it? says Tom Irwin.

Bunkers should effectively be a half a shot penalty, shouldn’t they? You should have the opportunity to get up and down. There should be an element of jeopardy – you may well get a bad lie, or you may well get up a face, or have some sort of funny stance, because that’s the risk you take.

We’ve talked on the podcast before about whether we should return to not raking bunkers, because unless you get a plug there’s almost no chance for a bad lie in bunkers in premium venues.

Again, that’s just something thar removes them as being a hazard. It’s a very strange to do. We don’t want to see pros suffer, so we’re going to soften the bunkers off. It’s a very odd decision.

Posted by & filed under Golf Equipment.

With various golf putting aids on the market, there’s no reason why you can’t work more on your putting game—the best way to get your handicap down.

For whatever reason, putting doesn’t get practised nearly enough as it should, but that should all be changing with an increasing number of quality golf putting aids entering the market.

In this article, we’ll look at a selection of our favourites.


The best golf putting aids


1. PuttOUT Premium Pressure Putt Trainer

golf putting aids

RRP: £29.99

This is a clever piece of kit as it replicates what is needed to hole a putt. There is a micro-target within the ramp that can be pressed down, and the ball will only stick in the target when you’ve hit a putt with the perfect speed.

Most of your time will likely be spent with the ball rolling back to you—for holed putts, the ball will return to you at the same distance it would have gone past the hole. Hopefully, less of your time will be spent watching your ball ‘lip out’, when a putt rolls over the side of the ramp. This happens when a putt is hit with either a bad line or a poor pace.

There are also several options to vary your practice with three dots on the base set up for target precision.


2. Perfect Practice Putting Mat

golf putting aids

RRP: £129.99

You might already be familiar with this product as it’s endorsed by none other than Dustin Johnson.

This is a high-quality offering with alignment guides, and it will return your ball to you should you hole the putt. It will work on any surface, and the alignment guides will help you to understand what’s happening with your start lines and—given that most putters come with alignment lines—you’ll get plenty of feedback on your stroke.

There are two holes so you can narrow your focus, so when you head out onto the course, the hole will look a lot bigger. The mat comes in different sizes and configurations; simply roll it out, and it’s ready for use straight away. 


3. PuttOUT Mirror Trainer With Gates

golf putting aids

RRP: £49.99

There are various mirror training aids on the market to help with your stroke and eye-line, but this is a great catch-all product. The mirror and alignment guides help get your body and stroke in the right positions, and the 50mm putting gate allows for a face angle tolerance of 0.5˚ either way when placed one foot away, to encourage a correct start line.

Its spiked base allows for stable use anywhere. The magnetic barriers help build a consistent stroke path and are adjustable so you can build your stroke.


4. Breaking Ball Putting Mat

golf putting aids

RRP: £99.99

Most golf putting aids don’t give you much chance to understand your tendencies on breaking putts. However, this one from Me And My Golf duo Piers Ward and Andy Proudman involves three breaking balls and a putting mat.

The balls (green, red and blue) are weighted differently to reflect varying levels of break, and it’s easy to grasp how they work. If the screw is on the right, the ball will break that way. And you can choose from three different lengths of mat, from 7.5ft to 14ft, so wherever your weaknesses on the greens might lie, you can practice it. The balls aren’t clicky, and it will teach you plenty about your start lines and pace, too.


5. PuttOUT Devil Balls

golf putting aids

RRP: £24.99

As the name suggests, this putting aid will play havoc with mishit putts. This exaggerates the face angle of your putter at impact, so you soon appreciate whether you’re coming into a putt too open or too closed. Up to 90% of a putt’s start direction is dictated by the face angle delivered, so it’s crucial that you get this right.

It features a flat-edged impact zone, and there are three difficulty levels for you to get the ball to roll properly. This is particularly good for putts from six feet and in. Putts with the Devil Ball are twice as hard as a normal ball, so if there’s a kink in your stroke, it will find it out. Brilliant, immediate feedback on your putting.


6. Anywhere Golf Hole

RRP: £30.00

Things don’t have to be overly complicated to practice your putting. This silicone putting aid has a slight incline, meaning you’ll need to hit a putt with perfect speed to see the ball finish up in the hole.

So, you can just throw it down and hit putts to different parts of the green (or your carpet). 


7. Ghost Hole

RRP: £15.00

This is a firm favourite with many putting coaches and is a simple and great way to understand your greens at your home club. It’s a lightweight circular disc, the same size as a golf hole, with eight entry zones, like a clock face, giving you a great view of where the ball is going and what gives you your best chance of holing a putt.