Why do Japanese golf courses have two greens on every hole?
During Monday’s Japan Skins, the high-powered foursome of Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy, Hideki Matsuyama and Jason Day were presented with a challenge at the fourth hole: Play to the left green or the right green — dealer’s choice. Woods took aim at the right green but misfired, hitting a pull that ended up directly between the right and left greens.
“That was such a bad shot,” he said, exasperated but trying to stay light-hearted on the broadcast. “I tried to hit a cut and pull-hooked it!”
Up near the green, he adjusted his plan, chipping instead to the left green, where he rolled in a putt for par.
It’s not rare for a course to feature a hole with an alternate green. No. 8 at Pine Valley, No. 13 at Streamsong Black and No. 4 at Cabot Cliffs are three high-profile examples. But many courses in Japan, including this week’s Zozo Championship host course, Accordia Golf Narashino Country Club, have two such greens on every single hole.
The two-green system originated from a desire to keep greens playable across different seasons. Because Japan has hot, humid summers and cold winters, they could use a different grass type on each green to allow for options based on the weather. Tyler Pringle of American Golf notes that summer greens would typically feature bermuda or zoysia, while the winter greens would favor bent grass.
Advancements in turf management mean that two greens with two different grass types has become less necessary at many courses. Still, many in Japan and some others in South Korea maintain two greens on every single hole. There are benefits to having double the greens, of course. Twice as many putting surfaces means half as much wear and tear. It means no need to reduce greens fees for aeration periods. It also frees up one green per hole for required renovation or maintenance, and it provides some variety for course regulars.
All 18 holes at Accordia Golf Narashino Country Club have two greens, a common practice in Japan. pic.twitter.com/j1BJxDGF0y
— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) October 23, 2019
There are also drawbacks, of course — twice as many greens means twice as much maintenance, which means increased budgets and transfers indirectly to more expensive golf. Still, the dual green phenomenon is something different. This week, Zozo Championship competitors will see action on both the left and right greens at No. 4, though not at the same time like in the skins game. Collin Morikawa, for one, was amused by the dual greens. “I don’t know a place that has two greens unless you’re playing soccer golf,” he said. You can see more examples of the double-greens below.
Temporary golf course to open inside Busch Stadium next month
Busch Stadium has hosted baseball, soccer and football games, and it looks like golf is next.
ST. LOUIS (KMOX) – How would you like to play a round of golf inside Busch Stadium? Well, that will be possible next month.
Stadiumlinks is transforming baseball heaven into a 9-hole golf experience Nov. 1-3. You’ll take your shots from tee boxes placed all around the stadium concourse and aim for holes on the baseball field.
This October, @Rangers Globe Life Park in #ArlingtonTX will once again be transformed into @StadiumlinksHQ a one-of-a-kind, nine-hole golf experience. Tee times are offered across two event days, on Friday, October 4 and Saturday, October 5: https://t.co/8dlSdX0nvi pic.twitter.com/IJaKH1mIra
— City of Arlington (@CityOfArlington) August 24, 2019
Each shot is somewhere between 60-150 yards and scoring is based on where your ball lands. You can play in groups of two, four, six, or eight and will need to book a tee time in advance. Make sure you join the waiting list, here, so you can set up a tee time.
Each player within your group will be provided with 18 complimentary golf balls to use on the Stadiumlinks course.
Here’s an example of what the course looked like in other stadiums, such as Citi Field in New York, Minute Maid Park in Houston and the LA Memorial Coliseum.
Five things the best golf instructors see in your swing that you don’t
Walk the range at a tour event and you’ll see a squadron of instructors capturing video, with the teacher and player huddling to figure out which magic adjustment might make the difference between first place and 50th on a given week. It’s certainly interesting to eavesdrop on what they’re discussing—in fact, it’s why we’ve been showing swing sequences in Golf Digest since the 1950s. But hearing about Dustin Johnson’s key to hitting his 4-iron incrementally better is only going to help you so much.
What does a top teacher see when he or she looks at your swing? And what kind of things are you missing when you have your buddy shoot you from down the line during your next practice session? We asked three top teachers—Jason Guss, Jason Sedan and Tom Rezendes—for the fundamental things they look at in an initial swing lesson, and how changing your focus to those things instead of the “prettiness” of your move will make you get better way faster.
“Can we all be honest with each other and accept that virtually nobody has the genetic gifts to roll out of bed and swing like Adam Scott or Anne van Dam?” says Rezendes, who runs the NorCal Golf Academy in Walnut Creek, Calif. “The important part to remember is that you don’t HAVE to do that to play well. A trained set of eyes sees what adjustments you need to make for you to swing your best, not necessarily look like a swing model.”
1. What your face angle is during your backswing
Where the face is pointing during the whole swing might be most under-paid-attention-to fundamental in golf. “Almost every good player has either closed the face or is about to when they come out of the transition at the top,” says Jason Guss, who runs the Jason Guss Golf Academy at Hawk Hollow, in Bath, Mich. “Players who struggle don’t have it square ever, or they’re even opening it at the start of the downswing—which causes a whole other chain of events. If you’re looking at your own swing or any other, is that face angle looking down at the ground when the club is halfway down to the ground on the downswing? I like to help players get keyed in on the face instead of the wrist movements that produce it because those wrist movements are so small.
2. How your technique matches your intention
What you’re trying to can (and should!) have a huge impact on what your swing looks like. “Students send me video of swings all the time and my first question is always the same—what are you trying to do here?” says Jason Sedan, who runs Fore Door Golf at Lake Winnipesaukee Golf Club in New Hampshire. “Most amateurs record a swing on the range, and it’s just a random swing that came after a random practice swing. But every shot should have a goal, a shape and a speed at which you’re trying to swing, and rehearsals that are about that exact thing.
“The next part is that the speed you swing changes a lot of the relationships within the swing. A video of a player making a smooth swing with a pitching wedge can tell a way different story than one where he or she is smashing a driver. You want to look at the full context, not just for one move you want to tear down.”
3. The underlying cause of your main swing problem
Putting an ankle brace on for a broken finger isn’t going to be very effective. Which means you need to look for the main source of your issues. “The phrase ‘over the top’ is one a ton of amateur players read and hear about, and a lot of them accurately see it about their own swings,” says Sedan. “But the way they go about fixing it doesn’t address the fundamental reason it’s happening. You probably see it as a swing path issue, but the swing path issue is a symptom, not the problem.
“If an over-the-top swinger just tries to flatten the club in transition and swing more ‘from the inside,’ all you’re doing is creating a swing that produces weak blocks to the right. Does that ‘fix’ the over-the-top? I guess so, but it just moved the problem into a different box. If you don’t address the open clubface that produces most over-the-top moves, you’re not addressing the problem.”
4. The movement of your swing in 3D, not 2D
A golf swing moves in three dimensions, which is hard to see on video. “You’ve heard of ‘angle of attack,’ but what does it really mean? And it’s so hard to see without a TrackMan or a trained eye,” says Guss. “But angle of attack gives a lot of clues about your bad shots. A player could be hitting these low hooks with the driver because he or she isn’t getting the weight transferred to the lead side. Ball position and swing direction work together. If you want to hit a higher shot or tend toward a fade, you adjust that ball position forward, which moves the swing direction left and the angle of attack upward.”
5. How your body segments work together to produce speed
“Most players (and a lot of teachers, to be honest) are focused on the basics—grip, posture, alignment—because those are the easiest to see,” says Rezendes. “There’s a place for that stuff, of course, and a place for launch monitor data like clubhead speed and distance, but I’m watching for a swing’s kinetics—how you produce force. What is making you do what you’re doing in your swing, and how is it impacting your shots?
“For example, how centered your thorax is over your pelvis has huge ramifications for how much energy you can deliver into the ball. And if your hip joints are working correctly in conjunction with your pelvis, that’s a major differentiator between good players and players with less skill. Good players turn ‘into’ the trail hip joint instead of rotating the whole pelvis in the backswing. That might seem like a subtle difference, but it’s why Cameron Champ hits it the way he does instead of the way you do. He’s producing more energy, not finding a set of swing positions.”
Five things Brooks Koepka can realistically improve for 2020
How can Brooks Koepka improve? On the surface, this is a demanding, heedless ask. The man became the first player to be a repeat PGA Championship and the U.S. Open winner in a career, and became just the fourth player to finish top four or better at every major in a calendar year. It is like telling John Mulaney to be funnier or the Rock to hit the gym before beach season.
And yet, there is room for Koepka to grow. Heck, he didn’t even win Player of the Year honors. (Too soon? Too soon.) So we analyzed Koepka’s performance from last year, and the ones before it, to identify five things Koepka can refine for 2020.
To preface, there are trade-offs to consider. Someone who blasts the ball distances that give roll-back proponents nightmares is not likely to be accurate off the tee, and telling Koepka to hit more fairways will syphon the power that serves as such an advantage. These suggestions also have to be pragmatic; you can’t expect one who consistently ranks outside the top 100 in a certain area to suddenly become an elite performer in that skill. Besides, even at the height of their powers, Tiger, Nicklaus and Hogan all had flaws in their games. (Dodging lightning) OK, not flaws, but they weren’t the best at everything. That’s golf.
Keeping those parameters in mind, here is how Koepka’s trajectory can continue to rise next season.
Koepka’s par-3 performance cost him the green jacket. He was three over on Augusta National’s par 3s, seven shots worse than Tiger Woods on said holes. For those that spent April in a coma, Koepka finished the tournament one stroke back of Tiger.
The Masters wasn’t an aberration. Koepka lost the Honda Classic by one to Keith Mitchell. Koepka was four over on the par 3s to Mitchell’s four-under mark. Essentially, he was three to four swings away from a two-major, five-win campaign. For a guy who desperately seeks chips to place on those broad shoulders, this would be a start.
On the year, Koepka finished 52nd in par-3 scoring, and 44th the season prior. The disparity in his par-3 scoring against high finishes on par 4s (first in ’19, 15th in ’18) and par 5s (10th in ’19, third in ’18) can be correlated to his driving prowess. Where the equation becomes curious is against a smorgasbord of strong iron numbers: 11th in greens in regulation, fifth in fairway proximity, first in shots from 175-to-200 yards, 10th in approaches under 200 yards, and 11th in sg/approach.
Thing is, he racks up his share of red on par 3s, in the top 20 in this category heading into the final two weeks of the year and ultimately finishing 29th. But when he misses, he misses big. Continuing his momentum will be dependent on Koepka keeping the bogeys at bay on par 3s.
Long Range Putting
Koepka owned one of the better strokes on tour in his fledgling years, ranking in the top 20 in strokes gained/putting from 2015 to 2017 (with a career-best standing of fifth in 2017). But his figures with the flat stick have dropped over the past two seasons, coming in 48th last season and 69th in 2018.
There are two culprits for this plummet, the first output—or lack thereof—from deep. Koepka ranked 108th in conversion from 15 to 20 feet, 114th in 20 to 25 feet and 72nd in putts over 25 feet. When his putting was at its peak in 2017, Koepka ranked 33rd, fifth and first, respectively, from those distances. Bringing those ranks to the middle of pack would make Koepka more formidable around the hole.
Also helping …
Aside from 2017, this is an arena where Koepka has consistently struggled. His ranks since joining the tour in three-jacks:
Part of this can be explained by a high birdie-putt conversion rank (17th in 2019, 10th the season before), an aggressive mindset conferring longer-than-desired comebackers. Pulling the reins back on that opportunistic approach could lead to fewer bogeys … but also to fewer birds, so that blanket answer does not suffice. Most likely, to improve in this area, Koepka would need to shore up those areas where meat is left on the bone: three (95th), five (94th) and seven (116th) feet.
0 Yards and In
Stated above, it’s unfair, unrealistic to ask a player to be great in every category. What’s interesting is that Koepka has risen to such heights without a semblance of a short game.
He’s ranked 83rd or worse in every season but one on tour in sg/around-the-green, and has been particularly brutal inside 10 yards (98th in 2019, 97th in 2018, 132nd in 2017). Between this and the aforementioned putting troubles, it’s mind-boggling that Koepka ranked 11th in bogey avoidance.
However, it is not as if Koepka lacks touch. (Save for when his girlfriend comes in for a kiss.) He was 12th in scrambling in 2018 and ranked a serviceable 42nd last year (aided by a 58.43 sand save percentage, 22nd on tour). Additionally, some of these woes could be attributed to Koepka’s wrist injury and restricted practice schedule the past two years. Now given time and health, don’t be surprised if Koepka’s able to tighten these screws up.
Just kidding, wanted to make sure you are still paying attention.
Koepka is a machine with his irons from the fairways. In the rough, not so much. His production from last year:
Approaches from 125-150 yards: 139th
Approaches from 150-175 yards: 169th
Approaches from > 200 yards: 116th
Approaches from 200-225 yards: 153rd
He’s not a total disaster, ranking fifth in shots from 50 to 125 yards, but the disconnect from the short to thick stuff is clear.
Without making excuses for Koepka, this is another facet that likely parallels with his wrist ailment. Conversely, he ranked 102nd in driving accuracy. Though the strokes gained metrics have shown getting the ball closer to the hole is more paramount than keeping it straight, it does put the onus on getting it done with the second shot, fairway or rough be damned.
And should Koepka improve this skill set, or any mentioned above, well … that sound you just heard were the sighs from Koepka’s competition.
Unlucky golfer’s ball was so deeply embedded even the rules official couldn’t believe it
It might be the most annoying thing in golf. It’s in the top five, at the very least. You hit a shot that, by all accounts, wasn’t that bad, only to find it embedded deep in the ground.
That happened to one unlucky golfer this week, and even the official giving the ruling couldn’t believe what he was seeing.
It came during the first round of the Molly Murphy Crowley Collegiate Invitational in Portland, Oregon. A golfer from University of California—Davis’ women’s golf team hit an approach shot that embedded itself so deeply in an area near the bunker that it was almost underground entirely.
The rules official, after pointing out where the ball was, took a picture because of how rare a sight it was.
Christine getting help for an embedded ball, one that even Steve the rules official says is so rare he wants to get a pic of it! pic.twitter.com/mhWUmi0NZJ
— UC Davis W Golf (@UCDavisWGolf) September 30, 2019
Lots of golf fans were asking what the ruling would be in this situation, and while I’m no rules expert, under rule 25-2, it would appear that because this ball did not embed in a “closely-mown area through the green…fairway height or less,” it’s good old fashioned play it as it lies.
Presumably, she would’ve had to take an unplayable, though. Either that or opt for a shovel.
25-2. Embedded Ball Rule
If a player’s ball is embedded in any closely-mown area through the green, it may be lifted, cleaned and dropped, without penalty, as near as possible to the spot where it lay but not nearer the hole. The ball when dropped must first strike a part of the course through the green.
In Season 7:15a – 7:00p
Monday 7:15a – 4:00p
Tuesday 11:00a – 7:00p
Wed.-Sun. 7:15a – 7:00p