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Is there sci­en­tific ev­i­dence that putts ac­tu­ally break to­ward water?

I’ve of­ten heard that putts will break to­ward any body of water near the green. Is there any sci­en­tific ev­i­dence to sup­port this? BRENT LEDFORD, BOISE, IDAHO


Putts of­ten do break to­ward the water, but it’s not the H 0 they’re ² re­act­ing to. As short-game guru Stan Ut­ley ex­plains, “Putts break be­cause of grav­ity.” If there’s a moun­tain to your right and a lake to your left, the land will typ­i­cally slope from right to left—and that’s the way a putt will tend to break. The era of the golf course you’re play­ing has a lot to do with this gen­eral rule. Older cour­ses were pri­mar­ily built along ex­ist­ing ter­rain, mak­ing it eas­ier to spot these breaks. Mod­ern architects can move more dirt, trick­ing play­ers with coun­ter­in­tu­itive to­pog­ra­phy. Your best move: Look for the drainage area on each green Putts will tend to break in that di­rec­tion un­less there’s some ob­vi­ous con­tour in­ter­rupt­ing the path.

My ball landed right next to a dug-up sprin­kler head, which was be­ing re­paired. Be­cause there was a large hole, the main­te­nance crew couldn’t mow the grass around the hole, so my ball was in four-inch rough. Could I have taken a free drop? Jami­son Ri­ley, Chico, Calif.

Bad luck. The hole, even if it’s un­marked, counts as ground un­der re­pair. But be­cause your ball was not in or touch­ing the hole— it sounds as if the area around the hole was not marked as ground un­der re­pair— you have to play this one as it lies. You

would get free re­lief if the hole af­fected your nor­mal stance or swing.

Why doesn’t the Ry­der Cup use a shot­gun start for sin­gles? This would put ev­ery­one in play ver­sus hav­ing the last matches ren­dered mean­ing­less if the win­ner has al­ready been de­cided. phil hill, philadel­phia

This is lively think­ing, but it wouldn’t re­ally solve the lame-duck matches is­sue. Once the de­cid­ing match con­cluded—pos­si­bly on a re­mote part of the course—the other matches would still need to be played out. It would spell the end of strate­gic match-or­der­ing and tac­tics such as “front-load­ing.” No more glad­i­a­tor-like en­trances on the first tee, Bruce Buffer-like in­tro­duc­tions, and pres­sure-in­duced duck-hooks. For now, we favour the sta­tus quo.

I just turned 24, and I rou­tinely drive the ball 260 to 300-plus yards. I’ve had no for­mal lessons. Should I lis­ten to all the old guys at the range telling me to take my tal­ent se­ri­ously? Or is this nor­mal? mike nieve, san Le­an­dro, Calif.

Uh, no, Mike, this is not nor­mal. Most of us couldn’t hit a 300-yard drive if we were tee­ing one up on a tar­mac. If your ti­tanic tee shots are be­ing ver­i­fied by the driv­ing-range el­ders, you might want to first check that their pre­scrip­tions are up to date. But if you are con­fi­dent in your skills as a bom­bardier, then might we of­fer you a sug­ges­tion? Go play golf! Sounds like you’ve got a fu­ture in this game, kid. Don’t waste it.

I love the stan­dard metal ball mark­ers that clip to one’s hat. One of my friends in­sists it is un­pro­fes­sional to use any­thing but the plas­tic mark­ers with the spike in the bot­tom. The other day, my ball was out­side of his line by at least two feet. He walked up, threw my favourite marker aside with a curse, and re­placed it with his plas­tic marker. Who’s in the wrong here? John kamin, En­cino, Calif.

Your friend is so very wrong. Those hat-clip ball mark­ers are a lit­tle goofy, and it’s true that pros don’t use them much, but they’re cer­tainly con­ve­nient. And they’re al­lowed un­der the Rules of Golf, which call for us­ing “a ball marker, a small coin or other sim­i­lar ob­ject” when pick­ing up a ball on the green. As for his re­place­ment of your marker, that’s rude—and might in­cur him a penalty stroke. Only you or an au­tho­rised per­son (e.g., a caddy) can mark your ball, ac­cord­ing to the rules. There’s a one-stroke penalty for mov­ing an­other player’s ball or mark in match play. In stroke play, there is no penalty.

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