On a short par 3 over water, the tee box was placed with an overhanging tree on the line to the pin. I moved the left tee marker a few feet so that the tee shot could be hit without obstruction. This was done before everyone teed off — in fact, my opponent played first and I hit second. What is the correct penalty? This has sparked a huge debate in my men’s league. —JASON WRIGHT, VIA E-MAIL
Jason, the fact that you ask what the penalty is — rather than if there’s a penalty — suggests you know you’ve done wrong … and you have. (Admitting that you have a problem, however, is the first step toward recovery of your honor.)
Tee markers are fixed — yes, even poorly positioned ones. Under Rule 8.1a, if you move one to gain a potential advantage by improving the conditions affecting the stroke, you must take the general penalty, which is two strokes in stroke play or loss of hole in match play. (Other players could likewise be subject to penalty if they knowingly took advantage of your maneuver.)
Most golfers see where they want their ball to end and aim straight for it. Pretty straightforward. Others incorporate an intermediary target — a spot two feet in front of the ball in line with their distant target — and focus on both before they swing.
Which is better? Neither.
GOLF Top 100 Teacher Eric Alpenfels and Dr. Bob Christina, Emeritus Professor of Kinesiology at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, conducted a recent study where they took 29 golfers of varying skill levels and instructed them to hit six shots each aiming three different ways:
- Looking only at a distant target.
- Looking only at an intermediary target.
- Then the traditional method of looking at both the distant and intermediary target.
They measured the results, and some rather interesting results amongst the golfers when they forgot about their distant target, and looked only at the intermediary target.
That’s right. Alpenfels and Christina found that, on average, golfers actually hit the ball straighter and just as far when they don’t look at where they want to hit it, and only focus on a spot about two feet in front of their ball. Their overall accuracy increased, as did their Smash Factor — a metric that can be used to measure the overall quality of strike.
Why? Because when a golfer looks at where they want to hit their ball, they don’t just see the green. They see the water, the bunkers, the trees — all the places they don’t want to hit their ball. That subconscious fear forces your mind into making last-minute overcompensations, the study found, which hurts golfers’ distance and accuracy. So, the next time you’re struggling to hit a fairway, pick a spot just in front of your ball and focus only on that. It could give your swing the freedom it needs.