THE PLAYERS Championship Preview


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).


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

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!


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.


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:


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).


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


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.

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!

A Tournament Golf Spiel and the 2019 Event Calendar

Here’s the thing: If you’re a golfer and don’t play tournament golf, you’re missing out. There’s no better way to improve and test your game than competing. Tournament golf gives you something to practice and prepare for. It puts you under pressure. It challenges your mental state and makes you strategize in ways casual golf does not (especially after the inevitable first hole triple bogey).

Often those who are reluctant to compete play one event and are hooked for life. Let’s resolve to make 2019 the year you play at least one golf tournament. Test yourself and your game. See what it feels like to have to make a downhill 4-footer to win your flight. Endure the pressure when your teammate hits it OB and you have to put one in play. Experience what it’s like to pull off a miracle shot in front of a crowd. Most of all, have fun with it. These events aren’t The Masters, but they will teach you something about yourself, and the more tournaments you play the easier they get.

Now that you’ve read that little spiel, our 2019 Event Calendar is officially here!  We’ve added a couple new Hart Ranch tournaments and have a BIG SDGA event coming at the beginning of June (yes, if you’re reading this and you’re a man, you should play. See above). Here are a few of the highlights for the upcoming golf season.

*March 16th or 23rd – Spring Shamble (2 Person Shamble, 18 Holes)

*April 20th or 27th – Sand Green Open (New, Individual Stroke Play, Old Club Division, 18 Holes)

*May 25th – Hart Ranch Open (New, Individual Stroke Play, 18 Holes)

*May 28th – Men’s League Starts

*May 30th – Ladies’ League Starts

^June 8th – 9th – SDGA Two-Man Championship (2 Man Four-Ball and Chapman, 36 Holes)

*June 22nd – Hart Ranch Best Ball (2 Person Best Ball, 18 Holes)

*July 20th-21st – Spring Creek Classic (2 Person Best Ball, Chapman, Alternate Shot, Scramble, 36 Holes)

*August 4th – Hart Ranch Couples (2 Person, Chapman, 18 Holes)

*August 17th – 18th – Hart Ranch Club Championship (Individual Stroke Play, 36 Holes)

*September 14th– Retribution of the Ranch – (4 Person Scramble, 18 Holes)

*October 12th – 13th – Gary Gross Memorial 3-Stick (Individual Stroke Play, 3 Clubs Only, 18 or 36 Holes)

*October 26th – Heaven & Hell (2 Person Scramble, 18 Holes)

*Hart Ranch Tournament

^State Tournament

There you have it ladies and gentlemen. There are plenty of opportunities to play some competitive golf this year. Registration for these tournaments and leagues will open soon, so keep an eye on your email/Facebook. We’re looking forward to another awesome tournament season, and hope you play as many Hart Ranch events as you’re able. Happy golfing!

PGA Tour Season Preview

Welcome back to my seldom-read, always incorrect preview of the PGA Tour Season! It’s an honor to welcome our third reader to the annual post. Last year, I correctly predicted that I’d be incorrect on all fronts, so I’ll take credit for that. I predicted Rahm at the Masters (somewhat close, 4th), Thomas Pieters at the U.S. Open (didn’t even play), Rickie Fowler at The Open (T28) and Tony Finau at the PGA Championship (T42). I also thought the Ryder Cup would be extremely close (Europe won in a blowout), that Stephan Jaeger would be the next big name and that Jordan Spieth would be ranked #1 in the world at the end of the year (currently #17).

Still reading? I’m not sure why, but since you are I might as well give you a little preview of what’s to come this year. There are some big changes coming to golf and the PGA Tour in 2019. Here’s a snippet:

The Schedule

The PGA Tour smartly decided not to compete with the behemoth that is the NFL on Sundays, so the Tour Championship will now be played in August. We will therefore have the PLAYERS, The Masters and the PGA Championship all in the spring.  The Open will be the final major of the year and be played in July. While I like the schedule overall (we have 5 straight months packed with huge tournaments) it’s going to bring some interesting weather into play for the PGA Championship. Northern courses (this year’s PGA is at Bethpage Black in New York) are going to have wicked winds, fogs, squalls, blizzards, hurricanes and monsoons to contend with. Who knows, it could be fun (until we have a Thursday finish).

The Rules

We will continue updating you on rule changes in this blog, and we’ll see how they impact the Tour as we go along. There have already been some laughs about dropping from knee height, for example. I don’t see much of an impact on actual play with the exception of Dechambeau being annoying about making his caddie put the pin back in on a 3-footer. Here’s a tip for this year: if the pin is already out, don’t request your playing partner to put it back because you think you have an advantage. Don’t be that golfer please. None of us need that. Please don’t do it. Seriously. Even if it’s downhill. Not joking. OK, mayyybbbeee if you’re above the hole on 17. Actually, that’s pretty good strategy. If you’re the last person to putt you can request to put the pin back in on a down-hiller on 17. Other than that, it’s not allowed. Got it?

New Playoff Format

If we’re being honest, the FedEx Cup Playoffs weren’t that exciting in past years. Everybody had 1,000+ points and it took a graphing calculator and a thorough understanding of theoretical physics to discern who had a shot to win. There were two leaderboards, one for the actual tournament and one for FedEx Cup points, and all anyone cared about was Tiger winning at East Lake (remember when Justin Rose triumphantly won the FedEx Cup? Me either).

The Tour has simplified things to some degree by eliminating points completely from the Tour Championship. There will only be one leaderboard (what a concept!). The twist is that the points leader will start at 10-under par, while the last place players will start at even (see handy picture below). Personally, I love it. It still gives the leader a huge advantage while if someone from the bottom tier goes nuts they actually have a shot to win (wasn’t so before).


Onto what all three of you have been waiting for…predictions! You can win a hefty sum if you’re gutsy enough to parlay the four major winners in Vegas, and if you’re really audacious you’ll try these four! (hint: it’s not a smart bet).


March 14-17 – TPC Sawgrass, Ponte Vedra Beach, FL

Defending Champ: Webb Simpson

2019 Winner: Justin Rose

The Masters

April 11-14 – Augusta National, Augusta, GA

Defending Champ: Patrick Reed

2019 Winner: Jason Day

PGA Championship

May 16-19 – Bethpage State Park Black Course, Bethpage, NY

Defending Champ: Brooks Koepka

2019 Winner: Rory McIlroy

U.S. Open

June 13-16 – Pebble Beach Golf Links, Pebble Beach, CA

Defending Champ: Brooks Koepka

2019 Winner: Xander Schauffele

The Open Championship

July 18-21 – Royal Portrush Golf Club, Portrush, Northern Ireland

Defending Champ: Francesco Molinari

2019 Winner: Tommy Fleetwood

FedEx Cup

August 22-25 – East Lake Golf Club – Atlanta, GA

Defending Champ: Justin Rose

2019 Winner: Xander Schauffele

Think I’m going to win $2 million?!?! Me either. The bottom line is golf has more talent now than ever, and there are 30+ players capable of winning any given week. With Tiger back and young golfers with more and more ability (130mph Cam Champ? Sheesh) professional golf is in a great spot. Thank you, loyal reader, and enjoy the Tour season. It’ll be nothing if not interesting. Happy golfing!

Hart Ranch GC Year in Review

First of all we’d like to thank everyone who played Hart Ranch this year! We had another fantastic season because of you, and we’re looking forward to an outstanding 2019. Be sure to check out the photo gallery below, and here are a few of the highlights from 2018:

New Carts and GPS

We started out the year by getting brand-new carts and an improved GPS System…we hope you enjoyed them as much as we did.

Masters Contest – April 8th

Only four lucky souls picked Patrick Reed to win a free 18-hole Green Fee…well played Tim Roth, Guy Chabot, Kathy Barrett and Patti Koupal. Patti won the drawing for a custom-fitted Rogue Driver, we hope it suited you well Patti!

Hart Ranch Spring Shamble – April 22nd

Click for Results

Spring Creek Runneth!

Spring Creek ran the whole summer, which makes Hart Ranch even better than it already is.

Young Life – May 18th

We had great weather until the very end!

SDGA Two-Woman – June 9th – 10th

Stay tuned…another big state event is hitting Hart Ranch next year!

Click for Results

Hart Ranch Best Ball – June 23rd

Click for Results

First Tee of South Dakota at Hart Ranch – July 10th – 12th

This was our first time hosting this camp and we had a great time!

The Spring Creek Classic – July 21st – 22nd

Click for Results

Junior Golf – June 13th – July 26th

Check out the photos below!

Hart Ranch Couples – August 5th

Click for Results

Friday Night Derby – June 8th – August 10th

A big thanks to all who participated…be sure to play next year!

Hart Ranch Men’s League – May 29th – August 14th

Laughs were had, tears were shed and the cream of the crop rose to the top. See you next year gentlemen.

Hart Ranch Club Championship – August 25th – 26th

Congrats to 2018 Club Champs Joe Strain & Emmy Sundby!

Click for Results

Retribution of the Ranch – Sept. 15th

Click for Results

LA Open – Sept. 29th

You know who you are 😉

Gary Gross Memorial 3-Sticker – Oct. 12th -14th

The weather unfortunately hampered us this year…

Click for Results

Heaven & Hell – Oct. 27th

Click for Results

TrackMan Sim Opening – Nov. 1st

Be sure to check it out if you haven’t already! Also, a new Sim League is starting January 7th…so sign up if you haven’t already!


Thank you all for an awesome year. Remember, there are some big changes coming to golf in 2019, including an updated Rules of Golf and a new Handicapping System. We’re looking forward to it! Have a safe and happy New Year and we’ll see y’all in 2019!

What to Take from Your Next TrackMan Session

For new TrackMan users, all the numbers can be daunting. With 30+ parameters being measured on each shot, there’s a lot of information to digest. This week we’re going to look at a few things you should focus on if you’re practicing on the TrackMan Sim.

  1. Path and Face-to-Path

This is the first thing you should look at. You want to avoid extremes here, meaning 6 degrees or more in either direction is going to cause issues. Assuming center contact, a shot struck with a 0.0 Path and a 0.0 Face-to-Path will go dead straight. A few degrees isn’t a big issue, and can actually be preferable depending on your desired shot shape. What you don’t want is a huge gap between Path and Face-to-Path, for example a -7 Path and a +7 Face-to-Path (14 degree difference, will cause a slice for a righty). The bigger the gap between the two, the more the ball will curve.

  1. Attack Angle

We’re often told to HIT DOWN on the ball, which in a sense is true. Any shot hit off the ground should have a negative Attack Angle (drivers off a tee should generally be positive to gain distance). The problem comes when we hit TOO FAR down, which causes the ball to deflect off the face rather than compressing. We have Tour averages for every club posted in the Sim Room, and you’ll notice that their Attack Angles with irons are not very far down (-3.4 for a 7-iron, for example).  Chances are you’re actually swinging down on the ball too much with your irons.

  1. Spin Rate

Spin is an underrated aspect of distance, especially in the wind. With irons, your Spin Rate should generally be around the same as the club you’re hitting (~6,000 for a 6-iron for example). Your ideal driver Spin Rate depends on your Club Speed (we’ll get to that). Generally, the lower the Spin Rate the further the ball will fly, but only to a point. At 80-90mph, ideal spin is about 3,200-3,600, at 100mph+ 2,500-2,900rpm. If you’re 110-120, your ideal Spin Rate is 1,800-2,400. Low spin with slower Club Speed is going to cause the ball to dive out of the air, just as high spin with fast Club Speed is going to cause the ball to balloon and fall quickly from the sky. If you’re seeing a big discrepancy between spin and Club Speed, you might need to take a look at the driver/shaft combo you’re using.

  1. Smash Factor

This relates to how well you’re striking the ball. Smash factor is Ball Speed divided by Club Speed (150mph Ball Speed with a 100mph Club Speed would equal 1.5, which is the max allowed with driver due to USGA regulations). You can equate Smash Factor with energy transfer, meaning the higher the number, generally the more centered your contact. With irons, the Smash Factor will go down (1.35 is Tour average with a 7-iron).

  1. Club/Ball Speed

This is the one we’re all obsessed with, but it’s last on this list for a reason. Yes, Club Speed is great, and the more you have, the further your potential distance. The average amateur Club Speed is 93.4, while the average Tour player is at 113, so yes, Club Speed does correlate to Handicap.

Handicap vs Club Speed

Consider, however, that the average amateur scratch golfer is only at ~105mph. The takeaway here is that the higher your Club Speed, the more potential you have to shoot lower scores, but it’s not the be-all-end-all. Club Speed won’t do you much good if you hit gigantic slices or hooks all over the course and won’t matter much if you don’t have relatively good numbers on the first four categories above.

If you’re interested in diving deeper into your golf game and really improving, give us a call at (605) 341-5703 and schedule a lesson on the simulator. We’re here to help all winter long. Happy golfing!