Where goeth the waggle?

The waggle is an overlooked, if not entirely forgotten, part of the swing. Few teachers explain to a beginner its purpose or how to develop a waggle that sets the stage for a smooth, powerful swing. The series of small movements you make with the club at address isn’t just for show.

The purpose of the waggle is to establish rhythm and ease the tension in your hands and wrists. The ideal waggle is highly personalized–it doesn’t matter if you move the club from side to side or up and down. However, the waggle should be slow, in order to impart a nice, rhythmic cadence. You should be able to feel the weight of the clubhead at the end of the shaft, so you and the club can act as one when beginning the takeaway.


Protecting your clubs

The trunk of your car always has been a terrible place to store your clubs. In the days of wound balls and persimmon woods, the accumulation of heat and moisture would cause the balls to deteriorate quickly and the woods to warp. When graphite shafts first came on the scene, heat would cause the resins in the shaft to break down, ruining the shaft or at least changing its flexing characteristics.

Balls today don’t deteriorate so easily, metal woods are impervious to heat and graphite is more resilient. But consider this: Most new cars have a trunk-release button on the driver side of the car, and all a crook has to do is bust out the window, pop open the trunk and take off with the clubs. Keep your sticks in one of three places: Your house, garage or the bag room at the course.


Green may be pretty, but brown is beautiful

Some golfers go berserk at the slightest hint of brown on their course. They want wall-to-wall green, as though the course were the Gardens of Babylon. It’s a very narrow perception of beauty, if you ask me.

My favorite course is Shinnecock Hills. It has a rough, gnarly look around the edges, the native fescue changing color with the seasons. It’s wild, natural and gorgeous. Why can’t the course be left to the whims of nature?


A calm, collected view on lip-outs

Nothing quite sends a golfer’s emotions to the edge like a vicious lip-out on a putt he needed badly to make. Lip-outs are cruel and insulting, as though the ball has come to life and said, “I’ve thought about it and decided you aren’t good enough to deserve it.”

The meanest was Craig Stadler’s on the 18th hole of his 1985 Ryder Cup four-ball match with partner Curtis Strange. It cost the U.S. a point, and the cup eventually went to Europe.

There are three kinds of lip-outs. There’s the “baby” lip-out, which catches just enough of the hole to swerve away. There’s the “horseshoe,” which comes right back at you. Then there’s the lip-out that defies physics. Two times I’ve seen lip-outs where the ball spun more than 360 degrees and stayed out. Both times, the ball conspired with inertia and some unseen hand to reappear on the edge of the hole. I still can’t explain them. But I’m glad I wasn’t the victim.


Struggling on the par 3s? Learn to ride the wind

When it comes to distance, the ramifications of playing upwind and downwind are fairly obvious. But crosswinds are another matter. It’s important to understand how they come into play, especially on par 3s where distance control is essential.

Check the illustration at right. If the pin is back and to the left, and the wind is blowing from the right, I know I’ll get a few more yards if I tee my ball on the right-hand side of the teeing ground. That’s because the ball is moving away from the source of the wind. The ball won’t carry a great deal farther, but it will come down on a harder, flatter trajectory and roll more after landing. This is especially the case if you play a draw, but it also holds true if you hit a straight shot.

Now check the illustration again. If the flagstick were up front and to the right, I’d peg the ball on the left-hand side of the teeing ground. I’d probably use the same club, but because the ball is heading slightly into the wind, I know it won’t carry quite as far and will sit softly upon landing.


Cold out? Check your neck

If you live above the Mason-Dixon line, you know that March is really more a winter month than a spring one. So here’s one more tip on keeping warm. Although physiologists say that most of your body heat is emitted from your head, for me the neck is what’s important. If my neck is cold and stiff, my whole body follows suit. I can’t swing the club worth a darn. The key is a simple neck gator (or dickey), a small garment with a turtleneck collar and flap that drapes down your chest. It’s the unsung hero of my winter golf attire, and I suggest you give one a try.

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