Dear Friends,

As the summer comes to a close, some of the best weather for golf is upon us in virtually all parts of the nation. Dr. Putt hopes that you will enjoy your golf in more comfortable temperatures in the weeks to come. But in the weeks to come, colder weather will be upon us and the golfing season will be ending in many parts of the nation. That suggests some of the topics covered in this newsletter.

1) Putting tip for the fall--beware of thinning grass!

2) Time to take stock!

3) Ryder Cup Thoughts

1) Putting tip for the fall--beware of thinning grass!

As the summer grass begins to thin out, grain will begin to have more effect on the ball. This is especially true on Bermuda grass that has runners and leaves growing from the runners. The ball will also roll farther as fewer blades of grass slow it down. So allow more distance. Of course you should have this covered if you are religious in establishing a "reference putt" before each round. That is covered in Newsletter Number 11, so take a look!

The increased break effect is most profound at the end of the putt when momentum is lost and there are fewer blades to cushion the ball from those runners. They then act as rails to steer the ball.

You have two options here. Account for increased break by allowing more break, especially at the end. Or you can ram the ball into the hole so that it still has momentum when it gets there. Dr. Putt vividly remembers Gary Player advocating the latter to a younger player on a green at Augusta.

Dr. Putt would advise the former for we mere mortals, as we score best when we avoid the three-putt, so he leans to number one unless ramming it requires aiming outside the cup.

2) Time to Take Stock!

TAs the summer golf season starts to draw to a close, it is a good time to begin to take stock of how you have progressed this year. So Dr. Putt encourages you to take a realistic look at your game right now.

* How often are you hitting fairways?

* How often do you hit greens when you have the ball within 150 yards?

* Are you getting your chips close so that you can get down in two half the time?

* Is your number of putts consistently at or below the 30 mark?

* Are there shots that you dread?

If you have not been doing so, keep some records of your play in the last months you get out before the big chill sets in. Then sit down in front of the fire and think about where you are and where you can improve, and to consider what your expectations should be.

One might make the following calculations. Suppose you hit 50% of the fairways. Assuming that you cannot hit the green very often from the rough, then you must get up and down from off the green just to make a bogey. If you can get up and down 50% of the time, then on average a missed fairway will cost you 4.5 strokes for the half of the time you get up and down in 2 and another 4.5 for those where it takes you 3 to get up and down. (Dr. Putt would note that using fractions is ok when we are talking about averages!) So that is 9 strokes lost to par for missed fairways.

For the 9 fairways you hit suppose you hit the green 50% of the time. On those 4.5 greens, suppose you average 2 putts each (we might assume that you balance 3 putt greens with 1 putt greens for birdies). So that is 4.5 pars in the round for holes where you hit fairways. For the other 4.5 greens you miss, apply the same calculations for getting up and down, a 50% rate. So that means that you will par those holes half of the time, and lose 2.25 strokes to par if you do no worse than chipping up and then 2 putting on the other 2.25 holes. So in all this addes another 2.25 strokes lost to par.

So using the assumptions laid out, we can expect about 11.25 strokes lost to par on an average round where we had 50% rates of success in hitting fairways and in hitting greens from fairways hit. That is 9 strokes for holes where you missed the fariway and 2.25 on holes where you it the fairway.

Let us turn to the number of putts in this imaginary average round. The total number of putts for this round is 13.5 for 9 holes where the fairway is missed (1 on the 4.5 holes where you did get up and down and 9 for the 4.5 holes where you did not get up and down in 2).

For the 9 holes where you hit the fairway, you would have 9 putts for the 4.5 holes where you hit the green and averaged 2 putts on each of those holes. And on the other 4.5 holes where you missed the green you would have 2.25 putts where you were successful in getting up and down in 2 strokes, and 4.5 putts where you requried a chip and 2 putts to hole out. That is a total of 15.75 (9 plus 2.25 plus 4.5).

That is a total of 13.5 putts on holes where you missed the fairway and 15.75 putts on holes where you hit the fairway for a grand total of 29.25 putts. That you have fewer putts for holes on fairways missed that holes with fairways hit may seem counterintuitive at first glance, but remember that a chip shot is likely to leave the ball closer to the hole than a shot from the fairway.

The bottom line is that golf is a hard game. Having a 50% success rate in hitting fairways and greens and in getting up and down along with less than 30 putts results in scores in the low 80s. No wonder so few recreational players break 80.

If you have not made the progress you want and if you have made an honest effort to practice and improve this year, remember that golf is a very demanding game and have realistic expectations. Get help from a professional. Perhaps consider some major changes if you are not making reasonable progress--and you should be measuring that progress. But above all else, remember to enjoy the journey and those shots that you felt good about on any given day!

3) Ryder Cup Thoughts

Much ink will be spilled speculating about the significance of and explanation for the US loss in Europe. Dr. Putt will not add to that endless buzz except to say two things. One, the galleries were a credit to the game of golf. We will do well to match their courtesy next time around. Two, losing was good for the long term competition, though sad for the US players and fans.

Naturally, What Dr. Putt would like to observe pertains to putting! In the course of the competition, these players, the finest in the world, all made some long putts and missed some relatively short ones. That is part of the game. They understand that and maintain their same routines, doing their best and accepting the outcomes. We would do well to emulate that. Build a routine that is fundamentally sound and stick to it, knowing that some will miss and some will fall. A miss is not a crisis unless we make it one. Do not dwell on the negatives. Accept them and move on.

Best regards,
Dr. Putt