PGA Tour Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Question's

  1. How do I become a golf professional?  (teaching or playing)

  2. What golf clubs should I get?  (irons, woods, shaft, etc.)

  3. How can I stop slicing the ball? (curing a slice)

  4. How can I stop hooking the ball?

  5. How do I stop hitting the ball fat?  (hitting the ground behind the ball)

  6. How do I stop shanking?  (hitting the ball on the hosel or neck)

  7. How do I get backspin?  (stopping the ball on the green)

  8. How far should each club go? (club distances)

  9. What is the ruling? (golf rules questions)

Question:  How do I become a golf professional?

Answer:   To become a tour player you'll need to qualify in a series of local - regional - national tournaments, called "Q School" (unless you can somehow manage to make it into the top 125 players on the money list or get sponsor exemptions). Contact the PGA Tour office at (904) 285-3700 for the latest entry information. You can also start with many smaller tours and events. See also this website for serious aspiring golfers!

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Question:  What golf clubs should I get? (irons, woods, shaft, etc.)

Answer:  There is a very short answer to this question: If you're going to take the game at all seriously and spend good money on golf clubs it is important that

  1. You are properly fitted in person by a reputable golf professional or clubmaker with fitting expertise

  2. You like the look and feel of your equipment

Here's a longer discussion. I get a huge number of people asking such things as, "Should I get the new Brand X 'Slasher' or the new Brand Z 'Pounder'?", "Which clubs do you recommend?" or "What shaft or swing weight should I get?" The brand name doesn't matter and you do not need to spend a tremendous amount of money. Ask around to find a skilled fitting professional near you. If you can't find one, try PGAPros.com. There are many factors that go into fitting a set of clubs to each person uniquely (shaft flex, club length, swing weight, lie angle, grip size, and the list goes on). This must all be done in person, as there is a huge amount of trial and error necessary and personal preferences vary widely between individuals. It is unwise to buy clubs "off the shelf" or to buy used clubs, unless you are going to have them adjusted to fit you -- and that is assuming that the appropriate adjustments can be made. After having said all this there's nothing that can substitute for confidence born of an affinity for your clubs. Golf clubs are personal items (especially the putter, wedges and driver). Make sure you find some clubs you like. I don't have any opinions on what the "best" clubs are or what clubs you should get, nor do I rate or recommend clubs -- there are too many good ones. Also, unfortunately I cannot tell you what your club specifications should be based on things like your height or how far you hit a seven iron, etc. Again, fitting for specs must be done in person, and once you are fitted appropriately it's all personal preference.

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Question:  How can I stop slicing the ball? Curing the slice.

Answer: Slicing the ball is a very common problem. Here's an extremely general, but nonetheless valuable, tip that applies to learning any part of the game:

If you have a recurring problem that you are trying to correct exaggerate in the opposite direction to get results more quickly. A simple example: You have a slice. You keep trying to hit it straight; it keeps slicing. Advice: Stop trying to hit it straight; that is making it slice. Instead try making it hook viciously (that is the opposite). Note: Do not try to accomplish this by closing the club face at address. The position of the face at address is not what is influencing the ball's flight; it is the position of the face and the path of the club through impact. In your attempt to make it hook it is likely that you will not actually hook it (but even if you do it's good news, because at least you will be getting some different feedback). You will learn something from exaggerating like this.

More detail: (right-handed player)

A slice is the result of the clubface looking to the right of the path the club is travelling on at the moment of impact. This imparts clockwise spin to the ball making it curve to the right. Typically the club is also traveling to the left increasing the angle of oblique or glancing contact even more. Q: What is the opposite here? A: A hook, which is the result of the club face looking to the left of the path the club is traveling on at the moment of impact. Therefore, exaggerating in the opposite direction in this case would be trying to swing more out to the right while making the club face look more to the left at the moment of impact. If you actually do accomplish this the result will be a hook. But it's also possible that your attempt will never quite succeed and you'll just start hitting it straight. grin

Finally, what you need is some "feel" for squaring the club - try this:

Hit a 5 or 6 iron real, real softly (no more than 30 yards at first). Make sure you square the face and the ball goes straight (or even a bit left would be OK initially). Then move up to about 100 yards or so with the same iron. Keep making sure the clubface squares up. The problem is that you are probably trying to hit the ball too hard and have ABSOLUTELY 0 FEEL for what the clubface is doing. Eventually you can move up to your driver and do the same thing (start with about 50 yards, etc.). Every now and then come back to the impact position in extreme slow motion and actually slow down and stop right behind the ball, seeing and feeling the position of the clubface there. Make sure you know the feeling of bringing it back square. These soft and slow motion drills will help your nervous system learn the feel of squaring the club and eventually it will translate into your golf swing.

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Question:  How can I stop hooking the ball?

Answer:  First of all, understand that the problem is that the clubface is contacting the ball in an extremely closed position relative to the path on which the club is travelling. The most common cause of this is that the body's rotation slows down (braces for impact?) while the hands flip the toe over. The club contacts the ball with the toe of the club coming through before the heel and hook spin is imparted on the ball (in the most severe cases the club is radically delofted as well, creating a low duck hook). The basic remedy is for the body to continue its rotation through impact and beyond, keeping the arms and hands more passive (the torso and the arms turn more or less together). This way the toe of the club will not progress to such a closed position at impact. It also helps, many times, to make sure that the club has swung into an upright enough position at the top of the backswing (above the shoulder, not behind or level with it), as a flat plane can many times be associated with the hook.

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Question:  How do I stop hitting the ball fat? (hitting the ground behind the ball)

Answer:  Well, there are basically two ways to hit it fat:

  1. Your spine angle/posture changes (lowers toward the ground)

  2. Your arms apply pressure independently of your torso (i.e., hacking with the arms more than allowing your arms to swing in response to your body turning)

    It is also possible to hit it fat by dipping the knees, but I don't recall ever actually having seen this happen, so let's ignore it.

Experiment based on the information above and you'll probably be able to determine what's going on. The most common thing I've seen is that people try to hit the ball too hard and therefore the arms and the club reach the bottom of the swing too soon, before the body has turned out of the way and moved onto the forward foot.

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Question:  How do I stop shanking? (hitting the ball on the hosel, or neck, of the club) See also my answer on Curing a slice above, as these two problems are often related.

Answer:  A shank is usually associated with the path of the club rather than the angle of the blade, though an open blade through impact will increase the chances of it happening. The most common reason for a shank is an outside-in swing path caused by excessive arm and hand pressure on the club (also called hacking, as opposed to swinging -- trying to hit it too hard? -- you wouldn't be the first). The body weight moving forward toward the toes (unstable balance) is another common contributing factor. Anyway, these things cause the club to approach the ball from outside the target line, or on a path that is too far away from the body, exposing the hosel to the ball and ... ouch, shank.

Wanna fix it pronto or hurt yourself trying? grin Here's a quick cure, but you have to be a bit careful (wear protective lenses, like when you're chopping wood). Actually it's not that big a deal, but I have to be sure to include a disclaimer. You'll see why in a minute. Warning/Disclaimer: If you have reservations about the safety of this or if you think you might hurt yourself don't do it. That said, I have never seen, nor have I ever heard of, any injury resulting from this drill.

Set a 2 X 4 on the ground on its narrow edge, running parallel to the target line and just on the far side of the target line from you. Place the ball near enough to the board so that when you address it with the center of the club there is about 1/2" (1" if you're really apprehensive) clearance between the toe of the club and the board. That is plenty of room to swing and still miss the board easily, IF your swing is actually going down the target line through impact.

Shank drill with board or box in place Get used to hitting balls like this. This will train you (quickly) to swing down the target line, or more inside out than you are currently, and should fix the problem. (B.F. Skinner, of operant conditioning fame, is grinning.) You may find yourself striking the board. If so, you will probably find that your club strikes the board BEFORE, or BEHIND, the ball (you'll be able to see where the club has hit the board by examining the board afterward). If this sounds too dangerous to you try a cardboard box with a very straight edge instead (like the boxes individual golf clubs come in for instance, they're about the right size).

Once you know the feeling of the correct path the shanks should go bye-bye. See also my answer on Curing a slice above, as these two problems are often related.

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Question:  How do I get backspin?

Answer:  The effect of backspin on a golf shot is a function of

  1. The quality of contact (ball before ground )

  2. The consistency (softness or hardness) of the ball and/or its cover

  3. The condition of the green being approached

Actually, all shots that achieve and maintain a reasonably airborne state off the club's face have some backspin. Whether the amount of backspin is sufficient to cause the ball to hold the green or stay near where it lands is another question. If you make good contact with the ball, use a ball with a reasonably soft cover and are approaching a green in relatively good condition (i.e., not extraordinarily dry or hard) you should have no problem getting the ball to hold or even back up, depending on your club head speed. To get the ball to really pull back a significant distance (this is almost always undesirable) you need extremes (i.e., more clubhead speed along with good quality contact, a very soft-covered ball, very soft greens or all of these).

Other influencing factors are

  • The length of the grass you are playing from (e.g., shots played from the fairway or shorter grass will typically spin much more than shots hit from longer grass, as contact can be made more cleanly)

  • Wind direction (e.g., downwind shots do not hold as well as shots hit into the wind)

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Question:  How far should each club go? (club distances)

Answer:  Well, that depends on so many factors it's impossible to answer directly. How far should which club go for whom, and in precisely what conditions? There is so much variation between people, equipment and conditions that each situation is unique.

By way of offering some idea for purposes of comparison (assuming level ground and calm conditions at sea level): for most men the difference between irons will be 10-12 yards and for most women 5-7 yards (this also assumes a fairly consistent swing and a well-struck shot). Also, in my more than 20 years of teaching golf the shortest well-struck 7 iron I've seen by a female adult was around 80 yards and the longest by an adult male was around 225 yards. My ballpark guess is that the average 7 iron for an adult male golfer is somewhere in the vicinity of 150 yards, for an average PGA Tour player around 160-170 (though the distances for professionals are increasing pretty quickly these days), for an average adult female around 100 yards, and for an average LPGA player 140-160. Without addressing specific cases this is about as much as I can offer.

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Question:  What is the ruling? (golf rules questions)

Answer:  I get a huge number of rules questions ending with, "What is the correct ruling or procedure in that case?" or something similar. We should all know the answers to the straight forward questions, and for that I recommend that each golfer have his own personal Rules of Golf to refer to. The really unusual situations, however, I would have to look up just like anyone else, as even my huge brain couldn't contain the vast amount of information contained in the "Decisions" Book. grin Golfers with these questions would love to have their own personal Decisions on the Rules of Golf Book so that they could look things up instantly, on their own, rather than waiting for me to get back to them. If you're into golf both of these books are something you should have, and they will provide lots of satisfaction and entertainment. Or for even more enjoyment try this great book by Arnold Palmer, Playing by the Rules: All the Rules of the Game, Complete with Memorable Rulings From Golf's Rich History


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