Ask the Pro

 Most recent
 Archive Index

Main Menu

Golf Instruction

Golf Pro Shop


Free Gifts




Site Search

Site Map

Ask the Pro FAQ
Golf Questions and Answers -- Frequently Asked Questions

These are the most frequently asked questions I receive. Before submitting your own question please check through this page, the main "Ask the Pro" page of the most recently posted questions and answers, and the Ask the Pro Archive Index, which contains all the questions and answers (organized by topic) that have been included on the site since the beginning of "Ask the Pro" in 2000. Not only might you discover that your question has already been answered; you may find it informative and entertaining to read what other golfers are asking and my responses to them.

Frequently Asked Questions

  1.  How do I become a golf professional?  (working at a golf course or playing tour golf for a living)
  2.  What golf clubs should I get?  (irons, woods, shaft, brand, style, fitting, etc.)
  3.  How can I stop slicing the ball?  (curing a slice)
  4.  How can I stop hooking the ball?  (fixing a hook)
  5.  How do I stop hitting the ball fat?  (hitting the ground behind the ball)
  6.  How do I stop shanking?  (hitting the ball on the hosel or neck)
  7.  How do I get backspin?  (stopping the ball on the green, making the ball bite)
  8.  How far should each club go?  (club distances)
  9.  What is the ruling?  (golf rules questions and situations)
  10.  How-to for tournament formats  (golf games, competitions, betting games, etc.)
  11.  What is eagle/birdie/par/bogey, etc?  (golf scores and their names)
  12.  What do the letters on scoreboards mean?  (scoreboard abbreviations)

How To Become a Golf Professional

Question:  How do I become a golf professional? (working at a golf course, teaching golf or playing tour golf)

Answer:  To become a club professional or teaching professional it will cost some money, take some time and require you to apply yourself, just like any other career path. There is a tremendous amount to learn. Contact the PGA of America in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida or

To become a PGA Tour player you'll need to qualify in a series of local - regional - national tournaments, called "Q School" (unless you can somehow manage to make it into the top 125 players on the money list or get sponsor exemptions). Contact the PGA Tour office at (904) 285-3700 for the latest entry information. You can also start with many smaller tours and events.

^ FAQ List | Top of Page ^

Which Clubs or Components Should You Get - Which clubs or components are right for you

Question:  What golf clubs should I get? (irons, woods, shaft, brand, style, fitting, etc.)

Answer:  There is a very short answer to this question: If you're going to take the game at all seriously and spend good money on golf clubs it is important that

  1. You are properly fitted in person by a reputable golf professional or clubmaker with fitting expertise
  2. You like the look and feel of your equipment

Here's a longer discussion. I get a huge number of people asking such things as, "Should I get the new Brand X 'Slasher' or the new Brand Z 'Pounder'?", "Which clubs do you recommend?" or "What shaft or swing weight should I get?" The questioner may even add a seemingly helpful indication of their height, handicap, club speed on some day and some machine, or that they have a tendency to hit the ball high or low or left or right, etc.

Without working with you in person my answer to any questions of this type is the same. The brand name doesn't matter and you do not need to spend a tremendous amount of money. Ask around to find a skilled fitting professional near you. If you can't find one, try There are many factors that go into fitting a set of clubs to each person uniquely (shaft flex, club length, swing weight, lie angle, grip size, and the list goes on). This must all be done in person, as there is a huge amount of trial and error necessary and personal preferences vary widely between individuals. It is unwise to buy clubs "off the shelf" or to buy used clubs, unless you are going to have them adjusted to fit you -- and that is assuming that the appropriate adjustments can be made.

After having said all this there's nothing that can substitute for confidence born of an affinity for your clubs. Golf clubs are personal items (especially the putter, wedges and driver). Make sure you find some clubs you like. I don't have any opinions on what the "best" clubs are or what clubs you should get, nor do I rate or recommend clubs -- there are too many good ones. Also, unfortunately I cannot tell you what your club specifications should be based on things like your height or how far you hit your seven iron, etc. Again, fitting for specs must be done in person, and once you are fitted appropriately it's all personal preference.

^ FAQ List | Top of Page ^

Slicing Help

Question:  How can I stop slicing the ball? Curing the slice.

Answer:  First of all, I could guarantee you a cure in just a few minutes if working with you in person. If you're near the San Francisco bay area of Northern California, or if you'll be traveling this way, contact me for a private Golf School or a private lesson.

If working with me in person is not possible, this guy guarantees his system will fix your slice in just minutes.

Slicing the ball is a very common problem. Here's an extremely general, but nonetheless valuable, tip that applies to learning any part of the game:

If you have a recurring problem that you are trying to correct exaggerate in the opposite direction to get results more quickly. A simple example: You have a slice. You keep trying to hit it straight; it keeps slicing. Advice: Stop trying to hit it straight; that is making it slice. Instead try making it hook viciously (that is the opposite). Note: Do not try to accomplish this by closing the club face at address. The position of the face at address is not what is influencing the ball's flight; it is the position of the face and the path of the club through impact. In your attempt to make it hook it is likely that you will not actually hook it (but even if you do it's good news, because at least you will be getting some different feedback). You will learn something from exaggerating like this.

More detail: (right-handed player)

A slice is the result of the clubface looking to the right of the path the club is traveling on at the moment of impact. This imparts clockwise tilt to the ball's spin making it curve to the right. Typically the club is traveling to the left increasing the angle of oblique or glancing contact even more. Q: What is the opposite here? A: A hook, which is the result of the club face looking to the left of the path the club is traveling on at the moment of impact. Therefore, exaggerating in the opposite direction in this case would be trying to swing more out to the right while making the club face look more to the left at the moment of impact. If you actually do accomplish this the result will be a hook. But it's also possible that your attempt will never quite succeed and you'll just start hitting it straight. grin

Finally, what you need is some "feel" for squaring the club - try this:

Hit a 5 or 6 iron real, real softly (no more than 30 yards at first). Make sure you square the face and the ball goes straight (or even a bit left would be OK initially). Then move up to about 100 yards or so with the same iron. Keep making sure the clubface squares up. The problem is that you are probably trying to hit the ball too hard and have ABSOLUTELY 0 FEEL for what the clubface is doing. Eventually you can move up to your driver and do the same thing (start with about 50 yards, etc.). Every now and then come back to the impact position in extreme slow motion and actually slow down and stop right behind the ball, seeing and feeling the position of the clubface there. Make sure you know the feeling of bringing it back square. These soft and slow motion drills will help your nervous system learn the feel of squaring the club and eventually it will translate into your golf swing.

Remember, you can always see me in person for a private Golf School or a private lesson -- that will eliminate your slice without question. Or try this guaranteed cure for your slice.

If that isn't enough I have written an entire article on curing the slice.

^ FAQ List | Top of Page ^

Hooking Help

Question:  How can I stop hooking the ball? (fixing a hook)

Answer:  First of all, understand that the problem is that the clubface is contacting the ball in an extremely closed position relative to the path on which the club is traveling. The most common cause of this is that the body's rotation slows down (braces for impact?) while the hands flip the toe over. The club contacts the ball with the toe of the club coming through before the heel and hook spin is imparted on the ball (in the most severe cases the club is radically delofted as well, creating a low duck hook). The basic remedy is for the body to continue its rotation through impact and beyond, keeping the arms and hands more passive (the torso and the arms turn more or less together). This way the toe of the club will not progress to such a closed position at impact. It also helps, many times, to make sure that the club has swung into an upright enough position at the top of the backswing (above the shoulder, not behind or level with it), as a flat plane can many times be associated with the hook.

Without seeing you I really can't say exactly what you are doing. But I could guarantee you a cure in just a few minutes, working with you in person. If you're near the San Francisco bay area of Northern California, or if you'll be traveling this way, contact me for a private Golf School or a private lesson. If you can't see me in person or correct the problem based on the information above I have covered the swing, including hooking, in detail in my golf instruction books. You can also see a reputable PGA professional near you. If you don't know of any try

^ FAQ List | Top of Page ^

Hitting it Fat - Hitting the ground before the ball

Question:  How do I stop hitting the ball fat? (hitting the ground behind the ball)

Answer:  Well, there are basically two ways to hit it fat:

  1. Your spine angle or frame (body position) lowers toward the ground
  2. Your arms apply pressure independently of your torso (i.e., hacking with the arms more than allowing your arms to swing in response to your body turning)

Experiment based on the information above and you'll probably be able to determine what's going on. The most common thing I've seen is that people try to hit the ball too hard and therefore the arms and the club reach the bottom of the swing too soon, before the body has moved onto the forward foot and begun turning out of the way. I have also covered the swing, including hitting it fat, in detail in my golf instruction books.

^ FAQ List | Top of Page ^

Shanking Fix - How to stop hitting the ball on the neck or hosel of the club

Question:  How do I stop shanking? (hitting the ball on the hosel, or neck, of the club) - also see my answer on curing a slice above, as these two problems are often related.

Answer:  A shank is usually associated with the path of the club rather than the angle of the blade, though an open blade through impact will increase the chances of it happening. The most common reason for a shank is an outside-in swing path caused by excessive arm and hand pressure on the club (also called hacking, as opposed to swinging -- trying to hit it too hard? -- you wouldn't be the first). The body weight moving forward toward the toes (unstable balance) is another common contributing factor. Anyway, these things cause the club to approach the ball from outside the target line, or on a path that is too far away from the body, exposing the hosel to the ball and ... ouch, shank.

Wanna fix it pronto or hurt yourself trying? grin Here's a quick cure, but you have to be a bit careful (wear protective lenses, like when you're chopping wood). Actually it's not that big a deal, but I have to be sure to include a disclaimer. You'll see why in a minute. Warning/Disclaimer: If you have reservations about the safety of this or if you think you might hurt yourself don't do it. That said, I have never seen, nor have I ever heard of, any injury resulting from this drill.

Set a 2 X 4 on the ground on its narrow edge, running parallel to the target line and just on the far side of the target line from you. Place the ball near enough to the board so that when you address it with the center of the club there is about ½" (1" if you're really apprehensive) clearance between the toe of the club and the board. That is plenty of room to swing and still miss the board easily, IF your swing is actually going down the target line through impact.

Shank drill with board or box in place Get used to hitting balls like this. This will train you (quickly) to swing down the target line, or more inside out than you are currently, and should fix the problem. (B.F. Skinner, of operant conditioning fame, is grinning.) You may find yourself striking the board. If so, you will probably find that your club strikes the board BEFORE, or BEHIND, the ball (you'll be able to see where the club has hit the board by examining the board afterward). If this sounds too dangerous to you try a cardboard box with a very straight edge instead (like the boxes individual golf clubs come in for instance, they're about the right size).

Once you know the feeling of the correct path the shanks should go bye-bye. Also see my answer on curing a slice above, as these two problems are often related.

^ FAQ List | Top of Page ^

Getting Backspin - Making the ball bite or check

Question:  How do I get backspin? (stopping the ball on the green, making the ball bite)

Answer:  The effect of backspin on a golf shot is a function of

  1. The quality of contact (ball before ground -- see this tip)
  2. The consistency (softness or hardness) of the ball and/or its cover
  3. The condition of the green being approached

Actually, all shots that achieve and maintain a reasonably airborne state off the club's face have some backspin. Whether the amount of backspin is sufficient to cause the ball to hold the green or stay near where it lands is another question. If you make good contact with the ball, use a ball with a reasonably soft cover and are approaching a green in relatively good condition (i.e., not extraordinarily dry or hard) you should have no problem getting the ball to hold or even back up, depending on your club head speed. To get the ball to really pull back a significant distance (this is almost always undesirable) you need extremes (i.e., more clubhead speed along with good quality contact, a very soft-covered ball, very soft greens or all of these).

Other influencing factors are

  • The length of the grass you are playing from (e.g., shots played from the fairway or shorter grass will typically spin much more than shots hit from longer grass, as contact can be made more cleanly)
  • Wind direction (e.g., downwind shots do not hold as well as shots hit into the wind)

Good swing mechanics and a correct concept of what's happening in the swing are important for making the kind of clean contact you need to create adequate backspin. I cover the mechanics of the swing and swing concept in detail in my golf instruction books.

^ FAQ List | Top of Page ^

Club Distance or Yardage - How far each club goes, etc.

Question:  How far should each club go? (clubs and distances or yardages)

Answer:  Well, that depends on so many factors it's impossible to answer directly. How far should which club go for whom, and in precisely what conditions? There is so much variation between people, equipment and conditions that each situation is unique.

By way of offering some idea for purposes of comparison (assuming level ground and calm conditions at sea level): for most men the difference between irons will be 10-12 yards and for most women 5-7 yards (this also assumes a fairly consistent swing and a well-struck shot). Also, in my more than 25 years of teaching golf the shortest well-struck 7 iron I've seen by a female adult was around 80 yards and the longest by an adult male was around 225 yards. My ballpark guess is that the average 7 iron for an adult male golfer is somewhere in the vicinity of 150 yards, for an average PGA Tour player around 160-170 (though the distances for professionals are increasing pretty quickly these days), for an average adult female around 100 yards, and for an average LPGA player 140-160. Without addressing specific cases this is about as much as I can offer. See this previously posted answer, also.

^ FAQ List | Top of Page ^

Rules of Golf and Golf Decisions or procedures questions

Question:  What is the ruling? (golf rules questions and rules situations)

Answer:  I get a huge number of rules questions ending with, "What is the correct ruling or procedure in that case?" or something similar. We should all know the answers to the straight forward questions, and for that I recommend that each golfer have his own personal Rules of Golf.

The really unusual situations, however, I would have to look up just like anyone else, as even my huge brain can't contain the vast amount of information in the Rule Book and the "Decisions" Book. grin Golfers with these questions would love to have their own personal Decisions on the Rules of Golf Book so that they could look things up instantly, on their own, rather than waiting for me to get back to them. If you're into golf both of these books are something you should have, and they will provide lots of satisfaction and entertainment. Or for even more enjoyment try this book by Arnold Palmer, Playing by the Rules: All the Rules of the Game, Complete with Memorable Rulings From Golf's Rich History

^ FAQ List | Top of Page ^

How-to for tournament formats, golf games, competitions, betting games, etc.

Question:  How-to for tournament formats, golf games, competitions, betting games, etc.

Answer:  For all questions and requests for details of this type, see these great books about tournament or competition formats, golf games, betting games, and so on. They will give you a lot of detailed information in all these areas. So not only will your question on this occasion be answered, but you'll have the information at your fingertips in the future. Not being a tournament administrator or much of a gamesman myself, I don't keep up with all the possible variations on tournament formats, golf games, types of competitions, betting games and so on.

^ FAQ List | Top of Page ^

Golf scores and their names: eagle, birdie, par, bogey, etc.

Question:  What is eagle/birdie/par/bogey, etc? (golf scores and their names)


Scores and Their Names
 Hole Score Called
4 under parTriple Eagle or Condor (Don't hold your breath)
3 under par Double Eagle or Albatross ("Ace" if on a par 4) 
2 under parEagle ("Ace" if on a par 3)
1 under parBirdie
1 over parBogey
2 over parDouble Bogey
3 over parTriple Bogey
4 over parQuadruple Bogey
5 over parQuintuple Bogey
+ more?Beyond that it's just called "UGLY!" grin
Note: A score of 8 is sometimes called a "Snowman" -- a snowman looks like an 8

People interested in this last question about the names of scores would also probably enjoy and benefit greatly from reading my free online golf primer for beginners.

^ FAQ List | Top of Page ^

Scoreboard abbreviations - letters "MDF", "DNS", "RTD", "WD", "a", "T", and more

Question:  What do the letters on scoreboards stand for?

Answer:  There are various scoreboard abbreviations, which may vary from one sanctioning body or tournament to another:

  • a = Amateur
  • DNS = Did Not Start (entered event, did not begin play, e.g., injury, illness, etc.)
  • MDF = Made cut, Did not Finish
  • RTD or RETD = Retired (began a round, pulled out before finishing)
  • T = Tied at that position
  • WD = Withdrawn (before commencing play of a round)
  • # = playing the previous round (when two rounds are being played at the same time, usually due to a weather delay)
  • * (i.e., asterisk) = began the round on the back nine instead of the front nine
In cases where more than one golf course is played in a tournament an abbreviation/initials of the particular course a player is on may appear next to their name. There are probably other (maybe many other) abbreviations on the scoreboards of different organizations. Thanks for visiting and best of luck with your game. MB

^ FAQ List | Top of Page ^

If you have checked through all the above FAQ's, and the current batch of the most recently posted questions, and the archive and still not found an answer feel free to ask a question yourself. I look forward to hearing from you and hope I can help.

No copying, reprinting or reproduction
of any material on this website without
written consent from the site's author