One complaint I hear from golfers all the time is that “golf just takes too long” and honestly, for most people, they’re right! Golf does take a long time; not only does a round take at least 2 hours (for 9 holes, even longer for 18), but in order to be good at golf and have the satisfaction of playing at a high level, even more time is required at the driving range and putting green honing your skills.
Now I won’t lie and say there’s an easy way out, but that last thing I want is to force you to read a long time-consuming article when I could give you the synopsis of a subject in 6 or less minutes. That’s my idea with “6 Minutes with Sully”, no BS, just a little chat with me, Sully, about something interesting in the golfing world.
What Are Winter Rules?
Spring is coming to the golfing world and I couldn’t be more excited to start a new year on the links! But if your home is anything like mine you might still be worried about some more nasty weather before the season really gets under way.
Thanks to my days of competitive golf I’m very accustomed to playing in less than stellar weather. From forty degrees and rain to howling wind I’ve seen it all out on the course and to be honest, the climate usually doesn’t do anything drastic for my golf game…
Until you bomb your drive down the middle and you end up in a snow pile… then the weather is a problem.
Luckily for us though, there are some common courtesy rules that we can put in place to make sure these early spring rounds go a little smoother for all of us, called winter rules.
The name “winter rules” is actually somewhat of a misnomer in that is is usually just confused with the rule of preferred lies; something that grants you relief if your ball is obstructed by something that shouldn’t be there. Things like standing water in the fairway, snow, and other things similar allow the player a chance to move their ball granted their drop is:
- no closer to the hole
- the new lie is in the same condition the old lie should have been in (can’t move your ball from rough to fairway or out of the way of trees)
Now, this might sound great but the most interesting thing about “winter rules” is they aren’t actually “rules” at all. Officially, winter rules are not recognized by the USGA which means that in order for you to be able to use winter rules to your advantage, technically, you either have to ask the course whether winter rules are in effect or discuss it with your playing partners before the round.
This might sound like a pain but it’s actually the best part about winter rules. Since there’s no official definition, you’re free to add and subtract rules as you and your group see fit as long as all the players in your group agree to them.
When I play casually with my dad we like to add a rule about plugged lies in the rough. We just can’t see how it’s fair that you should have to play a ball that you can barely see even if it does happen to wind up in the rough. Besides the plugged lie rule, I’ve also heard of people giving permission to move a ball around in sand traps that have water inside of it. That sort of freedom, in my opinion, is what makes winter rules great. It’s totally up to you to decide how you want to give relief during your round. But let’s be honest, if it’s me we’re talking about (and I know some of you are in the same boat), we’ll take all the extra help we can get during these first couple rounds.
Why Do Our Shots Curve?
We’ve all hit a draw or a slice before in our lives, right? But if I had to guess, you were probably more worried about the result of your shot than taking a second to think about why your ball did what it did during its flight. However, this question of why is exactly the little piece of golfing science that I want to cover today.
So why do my shots curve in the air? Well the simple answer is, spin.
Unfortunately, that’s sort of where the simplicity of it stops…
What comes after this is a whole slew of physics that explain when, why, and how much the ball curves but, for the sake of this brief article, I’ll do my best to condense it. Basically, the curvature of your shot is due to a physical principle that’s also used in commercial airplanes and baseball called, the Magnus Effect.
Let’s start with an example, the slice. As we mention in our article How to Cure Your Slice, fading the ball is a result of a misalignment between your swing path and the club head. This misalignment actually causes the root of our problem by producing side spin on the ball.
This is where the physics comes in. Using exactly the same fundamental principle as a pitcher in baseball does with a curve ball, the spin your club imparts on your ball actually creates a small
discrepancy in air pressure next to the ball. As you might be able to see by looking at the picture to the right, due to the spin on a curve ball, the air pressure below the ball in lower than the pressure above the ball. This in turn causes the ball to dip and gives baseball pitchers their famous curve ball.
For our slice (assuming you’re right handed), as the ball spins clockwise off the club face a pocket of low pressure is established to the right of the ball which leads to a left to right ball trajectory.
Not all slices are created equal however. As you might have guessed, the amount of side spin that your swing imparts on the ball will also effect how far the ball will curve. The more side spin you put on your shot, the greater the change in pressure, the faster and (ultimately further) your ball with curve to the side. Simple as that!
So the next time you’re out on the links and you slash a ball off into the trees you can thank Gustav Magnus and his Magnus Effect for ultimately show us why nobody we know can keep our tee shots in the short grass. Thanks for joining us in class today and we’ll see you all next time!
What is an A-Wedge?
The technology of golf clubs is always changing and much of the more recent changes have been focused on wedge technology. Due to a demand for higher precision around the green, golf club makers have started to produce clubs with 50-52 degrees of loft along with the older 48 and 56 degrees of loft on a pitching wedge and a sand wedge. These new golf clubs are normally called gap wedges, or, as I recently learned, A-wedges.
What does the “A” stand for?
If you’re like me, you may have never even heard about an A-wedge until just now. Personally, I had no idea of the existence of this club until I gave a lesson to a young man about a week ago who happened to be carrying one. Eventually, after the lesson was done I got a chance to ask him what the “A” on his wedge stood for and, to my surprise, he actually gave me two answers, an “attack wedge” or an “approach wedge”. Apparently, I’m going to have to choose for myself what I prefer to call it…
Personally, I think I prefer attack wedge because that really is the purpose I have for my gap wedge (which is the same degree marking as his A-wedge). For me, when I’m about 110 yards away from the green I’m thinking of trying to stick my next shot close; I want to attack the pin.
What do you think? Have you ever heard of an A-wedge before or do you have a preference for what the “A” stands for? Either way, I’m always happy to learn something new about the golfing world!