These simple tournament stroke saving tips will help the junior golfer from losing easy strokes due to unnecessary penalties or not taking advantage of some basic golf rules.
Know Your Yardages
Juniors should not have to guess which club to use. They should always know the carry distances of each club in their bag - and for advanced juniors also how far a 3/4 and 1/2 shot will carry - especially wedges. Use the above printable yardage card to note carry distances during a practice or lesson session, preferably based on Trackman data or similar type of distance measuring equipment.
Some tips for recording club yardages:
- If you are measuring distances using range balls you will need to adjust distances since range balls typically do not carry as far as regular or premium golf balls. Trackman has a setting can be switched on to adjust for limited flight balls.
- During course practice or even tournaments, note the actual carry distances of clubs and adjust the card accordingly.
- Print the card and laminate it. Then use permanent marker for the distances. To "erase" permanent marker you can simply color over it with "dry erase" marker and rub it off with a paper cloth or towel.
The penalty for a lost ball is harsh : stroke + distance (you go back to where you hit to drop). The new golf rules (2019) allow course or tournament committees to adopt a rule whereby players do not have to return to the tee or place of last shot when a ball is lost or out of bounds, but rather, players may drop on the edge of the fairway where the ball was lost or went out of bounds. Juniors should make sure to check if this rule is in effect for tournaments as it will generally not be adopted for elite or high level tournaments.
Mentally, golfers will try to avoid double penalties at all costs which often leaves players and caddies hunting for a ball deeper and deeper into brush, bush and thicket – where they logistically could never play out of.
It is advisable to pay attention to the area you are searching in. You may not want to find a ball in an area where it is completely unplayable. This is where we have seen lots of juniors get into trouble and many a caddy become unhinged. They find a ball where they have almost no chance of playing it out but with 'stroke and distance' hanging over their heads they try to chop it out anyway. A decision along these lines is where even top junior golfers can end up with a really "big number" on one hole, possibly ruining their whole round.
The trouble is that once a player hits the first shot in this type of terrain (bushes, thickets etc.), they lose the option of going back to the tee or fairway – wherever the wayward shot was hit from – and therefore are limited to trying to continue to hack out of very bad lies - and even the "unplayable" relief option cannot get the player out of trouble – or going back the last “unplayable” lie.
The majority of the time it is best to take the risk out and "let 1 shot be 1 shot" (or if stroke + distance, then 2 strokes be 2 strokes).
Pace of Play
Most tournaments you have an allotted time to finish your round. The time will be stated on the first tee box and finishing times for each hole are often printed on the score cards. Generally if you finish around within 17 minutes of the people in front of you there is no penalty and/or within 12 minutes of your scheduled finish time. Marshals will often be out on the course to tell you if you are on time but not always. It is up to the Caddies and Players to be on top of this!
If the group in front of you has been slow, what often happens is that they will be given a “red card” (pending penalty for the group unless they make up time) with a few holes to go. In this event they will pick up their pace (yes, sometimes running..!) to try get back on time and regain their “green card” by the end of the round – and thus avoid a penalty on their group. You need to be aware of their pace and keep up with them. If you see them running make sure your group knows that everyone needs to play ready golf and pick up the pace!
In Junior Golf everyone in your group gets penalized if your group is slow. An advisable thing, if one of the players in your group is particularly slow, is to play “ready golf” and make sure all parties in the group know if you are behind pace.
If you are close to getting a red card for being over time, the last few holes are imperative – make sure everyone is playing “ready golf”. When you get on to the last green and the players are putting out – the general courtesy is that everyone takes off their hats and shakes hands – but time is measured when the pin goes back into the hole / the flag is replaced. Make sure you put that pin in immediately and move off the green to shake hands – so the following group can play up.
Bunker Stroke Saving
If there is a rake close to the lip of the bunker- move it! The ball can hit it and bounce back in. Shots from fairway bunkers often just clear clear the lip and can easily hit a rake. We've learned that the hard way !
Whenever you enter a bunker don’t kick up sand, don’t make unnecessary deep imprints in the sand (e.g. jump in), and DO enter from the back of the bunker. Bunker shots occasionally stay in the bunker, so if you enter from the front of the bunker and hit the lip the ball can roll back into one of your footprints. We learned that the hard way too !
Under the new (2019) rules, golfers can remove sticks, stones and loose impediments out of a bunker with no penalty (except if ball moves while you move the impediment which would be a 1 shot penalty). You cannot touch the sand directly in front of or behind the ball or to test the condition of the sand. You cannot take practice swings that touch the sand or touch the sand on your backswing. These circumstances will result in a 2 stroke penalty, however, you are allowed to lean on a club in the sand to rest or keep balance.
Caddy Positioning and Alignment
A caddy cannot stand behind the player to help with alignment. As soon as the player takes his stance the caddy must not stand directly behind him. This is a new rule that will have a big effect on junior golf tournaments that allow for caddies and will definitely speed up pace of play. Aligning the junior golfer up for shots by a parent caddy is endemic in junior golf. The player is also no longer able to set something down, like a club, to help with alignment. The penalty for violating this rule is 2 strokes.
You cannot deliberately rub the surface of the green with your finger or roll a ball to test the surface. This will result in a 2 stroke penalty. It used to be that you or your caddie could not touch the line of the put (e.g. with the flagstick), but that is now acceptable as long as the player does not create a pathway to the hole or improve the line.
If you move your ball marker (e.g. at the request of a playing partner to get out of their line) and do not replace it to the original position, you will incur a 2 shot penalty. A good tip to avoid this is to get a marker with nothing (or different color) on the other side. If you have to move the marker put it upside down to remind you to put it back in the correct place. Some markers even have a reminder on the back to replace it.
Removing natural obstacles (stones, sand, leaves etc) and fixing pitch marks on the green is fine. Repairing damage caused by a person or outside influence, eg. spikes marks, animal tracks and embedded objects is acceptable too. But if you improve the putting line by taking actions that exceed what is reasonable to restore the putting green surface to its original condition you incur a 2 stroke penalty.
There is no longer a penalty for leaving the flagstick in while putting.
In addition to the items mentioned above, the 2019 rules revisions have many more changes that junior golfers can use to their advantage, provided they know the rules! These include:
- No penalty for inadvertently moving your ball (either on the green or while searching for it in the rough or hazard)
- No penalty if the ball accidentally hits the player or their equipment
- No penalty for a double hit
- Drops are no longer from shoulder height but rather from knee height
- Allowed to change balls anytime relief is taken
- Damaged clubs can now be used during play
Share your favorite stroke savings tips in the comments section below!