Masters Preview 2019

Ladies and gentlemen, this is the best golf week of the year. We have the most iconic, beautiful course in the world, full of tradition and pageantry and the worst sandwiches known to man (ever have a Pimento Cheese sandwich? Terrible). The Masters abounds with awesome stories (like this one) and incredible performances (like this one and this one). Let’s take a gander at what to expect this week!

The Course

Augusta National Golf Club, Augusta, GA

Par 72, 7,435 Yards

Scoring Average: +0.9/Round

Projected Cut: +2

Key Holes: #2, #11, #15, #17

Projected Winning Score (Totally Dependent on Weather): -10

This place needs no introduction. In its 83rd rendition, the tournament has overgone some changes through the years, but remains the pristine venue it always has been. Augusta’s skin is perfect. You ain’t going to find pock marks or blemishes on this course, and high-def TV has really enhanced the viewing experience for all of us.

At Augusta, the player that plays the best that week wins. At some events you get the super-streaky red-hot putter, or the bomber that can simply overpower a track, but it isn’t so at Augusta. The undulations on the greens (and the entire track for that matter) will make certain 5-footers more like 20-footers, and if a player misses they could have a 10-footer coming back. It’s simply the best golf tournament in the world.

The Field

The Masters, for all its glory, has the weakest field of all the majors. 87 golfers will peg it this week, with the top 50 and ties moving on and anyone within 10 shots of the lead making the cut. There are 10-15 geriatric former winners and a few amateurs we can pretty much cross off the list, so around 75% of the “good” players are going to make the cut. That is a much higher number than your typical tour event, which means you’ll want to take some chances if you’re playing DFS Golf.

Key Stats (In No Particular Order)

Driving Distance

Strokes Gained: Approach

Strokes Gained: Off-the-Tee

Par 5 Scoring

Bogey Avoidance

Masters Experience

That last one may be the most important. There have been a few first-timers that have finished well (see Spieth, Jordan and Finau, Tony), but in general you’ll want to look at golfers that have played here before. There’s just so much to the course, greens and the pressure The Masters brings that taking shots on first-timers is probably unwise (now watch one win).

The fairways are wide and the rough isn’t very penalizing, which is why bombers have had a lot of success. Players do need to miss on the right side of holes to hit greens, however, and many approaches are going to be better if they’re fired to 20+ feet from the hole rather than right at it (another experience plus). This place is going to test every facet of everyone’s game, so targeting great all-around players is a must (duh).

Prediction

While the field overall may be weak, we have the best of the best teeing it up. Realistically I see 25 – 30 golfers who have a chance to win, and 10 with a REALLY good chance to win. First, I’ll be fading Jordan Spieth this week. He has an unbelievable record at Augusta, but he’s been awful this year. Every time he puts himself into contention there’s a triple bogey lurking around the corner, and Augusta is one of the easiest courses in the world to make a big number. I just can’t do it.

I’ll be heavy on all the big names at the top, including DJ, JT, Rory, Rose, Tiger, Rickie, and Rahm (among others), but if I had to pick one guy to win it would be Tommy Fleetwood. Everything sets up well for him here, and he’s been known to perform on the biggest stages. A breakthrough win is coming at some point, so why not now? Here’s another stat: there are six golfers in the field that have gained at least 13 strokes tee-to-green in their last two events. Fleetwood is one of them. The best part? The last FOUR Masters winners have met that criteria. Let’s go Tommy!

DFS

Losing Million $ DK Lineup (Balanced)

Tommy Fleetwood

Tony Finau

Hideki Matsuyama

Francesco Molinari

Henrik Stenson

Rafa Cabrera-Bello

Losing Million $ DK Lineup (Studs-and-Duds)

Justin Thomas

Brooks Koepka

Jason Day

Emiliano Grillo

Thorbjorn Oleson (Thunder Bear)

Gary Woodland

Have a great Masters week everyone! Hopefully this snow melts quickly and we’re outside again shortly. If you haven’t submitted a pick for our Masters Contest yet be sure to do so by tonight. Good luck and happy golfing!

Course Update April 3rd

Well, there’s an unfortunately familiar sight…snow on the ground. Luckily, it’s about the heaviest, wettest snow possible, and it will be gone quickly. It does mean the course will be soggy for the next day or two, but with the warm temps coming up this weekend we should be playing (at least 1-13) again shortly.

If you’re a regular at Hart, you know it takes awhile for 14-16 to clear off. Right now there are still drifts on 15 and a large chunk of ice on 16, making it impossible for carts to go down the path. We’re as ready as you are to get all 18 open and get rolling on the season, so stay tuned to your email and Facebook for updates. Remember, we have The Spring Shamble coming up on Saturday, April 13th (weather permitting), so be sure to sign up soon.

Let’s go Mother Nature, we’re ready for outdoor golf!

 

What’s in a Ball?

(Or that which we call a ball by any other name would fly as sweet)

When you wander into golf shop you’ll undoubtedly find a vast array of (increasingly colorful) golf balls. If you’ve ever wondered why a certain dozen costs $20 while another costs $50, or if a certain ball could help your game, this post is for you. Read on!

Construction

Golf balls have layers, and the more they have, the more expensive they generally are. Here’s a quick rundown:

One-Piece: Your typical limited-distance driving-range ball. They are inexpensive but don’t fly as far as a normal ball due to extremely low compression (more on that later).

Two-Piece: These are lower-priced golf balls good for beginners or those that don’t like hitting a dozen $5 golf balls into the water. They have a little firmer feel (for the most part) and will maximize distance for slower swing speeds. Two-piecers also help keep the ball straight.

Three-Piece: The rubber core is surrounded by enhanced liquid rubber to help impart more spin. This helps control the ball around the green.

Four-Piece: This is a combo that adds distance while keeping feel and spin. These are more expensive but will be the best all-around ball for mid to low-handicappers.

Dimples

If you haven’t noticed, golf balls have dimples (anywhere from 250-500 depending on the ball). Dimples help the ball fly. Dimples vary in shape, size and number depending on the ball’s characteristics. If you have some dimple-less golf balls in your bag, don’t use them. They won’t go far.

Compression

Here’s a good analogy: imagine wrapping a rubber band around your wrist once (low compression). Now imagine that you stretched the same band out and wrapped it around three times (high compression). This is the same way golf ball compression works.

Compression ranges from 40-100, and low-compression balls are softer and will help slower swing speeds and higher-handicappers achieve more distance. High-compression balls are harder and help faster swing speeds achieve distance while gaining better control. If a fast swinger hits a low-compression ball it will compress too much and won’t perform as well, and vice versa.

For example, a ProV1 has a lower compression than a ProV1X (as is the case with any “X” golf balls). The ProV1 vs ProV1X is an article in itself, as they’ve undergone significant changes in spin and other factors through the years. You can read more about the differences here.

Spin

There are three spin characteristics of golf balls:

Low-Spin: These are designed to decrease side spin and are good for golfers who are looking to increase distance and keep the ball straight.

Mid-Spin: These are a mixture of low and high-spin balls and are probably the best for the majority of golfers. They’ll give some spin around the green while still aiming to stay straight and maximize distance.

High-Spin: These spin the most in the air and will give the most feel and control around the green. These are good for those who carry the ball a long way but are looking for a better short game.

Does any of it Matter?

Only in the sense that it matters to you. If you’re just starting out, you’re going to lose a lot of golf balls. Stick to a (relatively) inexpensive two-piece ball that will help your distance and keep you in the fairway. For better players and those who’ve been playing awhile, I’d recommend finding a ball that stops somewhat quickly on the green, even if you sacrifice a couple yards off the tee. It’s more important that you put chips and pitches close than gain 3 yards.

The bottom line is you want to figure out what you’re willing to spend and play rounds with a few different golf balls. More expensive doesn’t necessarily mean better for your game, and you might be surprised by the results. Happy golfing!

THE PLAYERS Championship Preview

Over/Unders:

Times “The 5th Major” is said during the national broadcast – 562 (75% said as they go to commercial breaks)

Times “The Strongest Field in Golf” is said during the national broadcast – 2,987,654

The Course:

TPC Sawgrass, Ponte Vedra Beach, FL

Par 72 (4 Par 5s!!!), 7,189 Yards

Architect: Pete Dye

Scoring Average: +.01/Round

Projected Cut: +1

The big news is this tournament is now in March. While the course may play slightly easier due to the move, the wind tends to blow a different direction than it does in May, meaning course history may play a bit less of a factor than normal. The grass will be also be overseeded to prevent patchy conditions before the Bermuda grows in. Overall, TPC Sawgrass is an awesome test of golf, and all different types of PLAYERS (get it) have fared well here. There’s a ton of water on the finishing holes and everyone finishing late on Sunday will be tasked with hitting the iconic island green on #17.

The greens are also notoriously fast here, often reading 13+ on the Stimpmeter. They will be slightly slower this year due to the overseeding but are still grading out around 12.5 (anything over 12 is FAST). The wind is also going to blow in the teens all four days, so we’ll see plenty of splooshes on #17. Bottom line, it’s going to be a good watch.

The Field:

This tournament is pretentiously called THE PLAYERS, so THE PLAYERS should PLAY, right? I’ll say it one last time here, but this is the best field men’s professional golf gets all year. The other majors have a bunch of geriatric former winners and prepubescent amateurs you can cross off the list before the event begins, but the golfer with the worst odds at THE PLAYERS is Michael Kim, and he won the John Deere last year. So yeah, every great player is playing and the bottom tier actually has a shot (not really but more so than usual).

Prediction:

Like any strong-field event, there are probably 15-20 guys in real contention, and the rest will need a fantastic ballstriking/putting week to win. I’m going to roll with Justin Rose this week, mainly because I picked him in the PGA Tour Preview and I just drew him out of a hat. Really though he checks all the boxes you want here: awesome driver, ballstriker, scrambler (though that could be somewhat negated with the fast greens) and putter. What you want here is someone with an all-around game where if something fails he can make it up in other areas.

Losing DraftKings/FanDuel Lineup:

Justin Rose

Sergio Garcia

Xander Schauffele

Gary Woodland

Emiliano Grillo

Luke List

Good luck and happy golfing!

Greetings faithful reader! As the rules regarding hazards (PENALTY AREAS) have changed in 2019, so will Hart Ranch GC. Below is a short questionnaire on how you feel about the current course setup and if any changes should be made. Obviously we have some ideas, but our valued patrons’ input never hurts. We will update you on course changes as we get closer to the season, but a big thanks for giving your observation(s)! You never know, there might be something in it for you (hint hint)…

Stroke and Distance Local Rule

http://www.usga.org/content/usga/home-page/rules-hub/rules-modernization-copy/major-changes/golfs-new-rules-stroke-and-distance.html

The New Rules and Taking Relief

By now you’re aware that you can leave the flagstick in while you putt (and you should!), but there are a lot of other new rules the USGA has adopted to simplify and speed up the game. This week we’re going to look at one of the most important (and often confusing) aspects of golf: taking relief and how it has changed in 2019. Read on!

RELIEF AREA

This video will explain the new Relief Area better than I can, so here goes:

Just remember, whenever you drop the ball must come to rest in that relief area, otherwise you re-dropIf you drop twice and the ball rolls out, then you may place it.

OUT OF BOUNDS

OK, let’s get this one out of the way quickly. THE OUT OF BOUNDS RULE HAS NOT CHANGED. If you blow one out onto Spring Creek Road on hole 2, you must take the stroke-and-distance penalty and drop or re-tee from the previous spot (you do have an expanded Relief Area now, see above).

There is now an option for committees (and courses) to adopt a LOCAL RULE that allows players to drop after hitting the ball OB. You will not see this option in any big tournaments on any tours, but it may come into play during casual rounds at certain courses. Regardless, it’s good to know the rule, because it can give you a huge advantage if it’s adopted at the course/event you’re playing. Here’s another video:

PENALTY AREAS

OK, here’s the meat and potatoes. First of all, there are no more water hazards (well, there are, but they’re not called that). Courses and committees can now decide to make anywhere a PENALTY AREA, which are played very much like water hazards used to be. Think of the left side of hole 14. We weren’t able to make this a “hazard” in previous years because that area didn’t hold water. Now, we can (not that we will!). PENALTY AREAS will still be marked by yellow or red stakes or lines (or the area itself can act as a marker). You may now also ground your club in a PENALTY AREA. Here’s a video:

We don’t have to deal with “hazards” and “lateral hazards” anymore, so you’re probably going to see almost every penalty area marked red (to offer the two-club length rule). The “equidistant” rule no longer exists except as a local rule (you probably rarely used it anyway).

ABNORMAL GROUND CONDITIONS

Similar rules apply here, with the new RELIEF AREA in effect. Here you go again:

UNPLAYABLE LIE

Another similar rule, but a good refresher:

One last one: you may now replace your ball with a ball of your choosing anytime you’re taking relief. Now you can get rid of that unlucky ball you topped into the hazard and reload a winner. Hopefully this gives you a good idea of how to take relief in 2019. The rules have really been simplified, and  in my humble opinion the USGA has done a fantastic job. We’re always available if you have any questions, and happy golfing!

 

Always Leave the Flag In

New Rule: Under Rule 13.2a(2):                  

There is no longer a penalty if a ball played from the putting green hits a flagstick left in the hole.

Players are not required to putt with the flagstick in the hole; rather, they continue to have the choice to have it removed (which includes having someone attend the flagstick and remove it after the ball is played).

Reasons for Change:

Allowing a player to putt with the flagstick in the hole without fear of penalty should generally help speed up play.

When the players did not have caddies, the previous Rule could result in considerable delay.

On balance it is expected that there is no advantage in being able to putt with the unattended flagstick in the hole:

  • In some cases, the ball may strike the flagstick and bounce out of the hole when it might otherwise have been holed, and
  • In other cases, the ball may hit the flagstick and finish in the hole when it might otherwise have missed. 

Au contraire, rules guardians. It appears that leaving the flagstick in does have a decided advantage, judging by various professional golf performances over the past weekend. Today I’m going to take a stand and advocate for leaving the flag in on every shot. Here is my reasoning, please tell me if I’m wrong.

The ball has a better chance of going in the hole.

Dave Pelz is the master of short game analytics, and he wrote this article way back in 2007 (talking about chips and putts from the fringe). Basically, the flag gives a golfer a higher margin of error (effectively making the hole larger, thanks USGA!). Unless it’s extremely windy and the flag is waving all over or bending severely in one direction, leaving the flag in gives you a better chance at making your putt or chip. Think of it this way: when the flag is leaning away from you slightly, the hole is larger. When it’s leaning towards you, the ball hits and goes immediately downward into the hole. Win-win.

You have a better chance of aiming correctly.

This is especially true on long putts. Your eyes tend to respond better to a 3-dimensional perspective and you’ll have a tendency to aim your putts better. You also won’t need to take the flags out on the putting green when practicing, and as we all know, putting is largely about confidence and commitment. If you think you putt better with the flag in, you probably will.

You (should) play faster.

Ever played behind the group that puts the flag in the furthest possible spot from the cup and takes 5 minutes to amble over and put it back? Me too. If everyone agreed that leaving the flag in gave them an advantage we’d never have this issue again. Hit it on and putt it folks.

A caveat:

Always leaving the flag in will give you an advantage at almost every course you play. Sometimes you’ll run into a place with different flagsticks (this is what Dechambeau is talking about with the infamous coefficient of restitution quote). If the flags where you play are significantly larger than usual you’ll want to pull the flag.

Speaking of Dechambeau, c’mon man! Yes, he played to an impressive 7-shot victory this weekend in Dubai, and he’s currently ranked #5 in the OGWR (I honestly wouldn’t be surprised to see him at #1 at the end of the year). However he took a minute and 45 seconds over a putt on the 15th (there is supposed to be a penalty after one minute), then proceeded to take over a minute to hit his birdie putt on the 18th when he had already won the tournament. We all wish casual golfers would realize they’re not playing for hundreds of thousands of dollars during their regular Saturday game, but this isn’t the case. Players will generally follow the example the best players set. I get that Dechambeau is a different golfer than we’ve ever seen, and he’s playing for far more than we ever will, but still. You’re making golf boring dude.

Thanks for reading that little rant. Happy golfing!

Make 2019 Your Best Golf Year Ever

Chances are you approach the bigger decisions in life with some dutiful strategic planning. Managing your finances, changing jobs, picking the right partner, buying a home. All these things require due diligence. If golf is your main hobby, why not treat it the same way? I’m not saying it’s in the same stratosphere relative to ultimate life satisfaction, but if you’re going to spend a lot of time playing golf you might as well plan to get better.

For the purposes of this post, I’m not going to state the obvious. Yes, you should take lessons regularly and get clubs that fit you. If you’re playing with clubs that are 10+ years old, you’re missing out on the millions of dollars of R&D that the industry has pumped into club technology and you’re at a disadvantage. Take lessons and get fit, please.

Let’s look at some less evident ways to be the best golfer you can be in 2019.

Picture What You Want
Picture yourself in November. What did you accomplish this year? It can be anything. Maybe you finally beat a friend for the first time or broke 90. Maybe you won the Club Championship or the State Two-Man (shameless plug). Maybe you lowered your handicap by 5 points. Maybe you didn’t throw a club all year. Whatever it is, picture who you want to be as a golfer at the end of the season. You can’t get to your destination if you don’t know where you’re going.

Practice Smart
We’re all guilty of it. We get to the range, pull 7-iron and hammer away until we find a groove. Unfortunately, this only makes you better at hitting 30 7-irons in a row and has no semblance to real golf. Quality over quantity is key. You need to practice like you play, which means hitting different clubs to different targets each swing. It also means strengthening your weaknesses and trying to hit shots you’re uncomfortable with. Golf is a game that will inevitably present you with a shot you’re not used to at the worst possible moment. Be ready.

Walk
Exercise. Save money. Take in the surroundings. Get lost in your thoughts. You don’t need to walk every time you play, but try it a few times and see how much it benefits your game. You’ll be surprised.

Play Somewhere You’ve Never Played
The beauty of golf is how much it changes depending on where you play. West river golf is different than East river. South Dakota golf is different than Florida golf. U.S. golf is different than U.K. golf. Playing different courses expands your game. If you’ve never putted on Bermuda or Poa annua, you’re in for a shock. Try somewhere new.

Swing in the Winter
Hank Haney often prescribes taking a lot of practice swings (100 per day is the recommended dose), and I can’t say I disagree. 100 swings sounds like a lot, but it will only take around 10 minutes. This is the quickest way to groove a feel for whatever you’re working on. Here’s the trick: each swing needs to be independent of the previous swing, meaning you need to set up like you’re hitting a ball each time (no swinging back and forth repeatedly). Pick a target on the ground that acts like a ball and step into it the same way each time. You’ll groove a consistent swing, even if it’s not perfect. This leads to…

Take 5 Minutes to Get Better Every Day
A good deal of golfers are searching for an instantaneous breakthrough, some tip that changes their game for the better forever. If you’ve been playing for any amount of time, you know this doesn’t work. You don’t have to workout for two hours or play 36 holes on the sim everyday (though that would qualify). Take 5 minutes and stretch to get flexible. Do some pushups. Do the Haney drill above. Hit some putts on your carpet. Get a calendar and mark each day you’ve done something (ANYTHING) to improve. 5 minutes doesn’t sound like a lot, but you’re building a habit (check out Atomic Habits by James Clear). Worthwhile goals always take time, but you’ll be amazed at how quickly little changes add up.

Let’s resolve to make 2019 our best golf year ever. We’re looking forward to a great season and helping you improve each and every day. Happy golfing!