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Dealing with divots

By: Shawn Kelly, Journal Golf Columnist
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A divot is the piece of sod that is displaced when the club strikes the ground and leaves a scraped depression in the soil below. I have had some interesting questions arise lately about the divot. Do you replace it or not, do you fill the void with sand, or do you even care? Since the day I started playing golf I was told to replace my divots by getting as much of the turf that I could and fill in the hole. I looked at it as being part of a good shot and it was my responsibility to care for the course. I felt that it was simply basic etiquette. Sometimes the divot broke apart and it was tough to replace any turf, especially with Bermudagrass! You did the best you could to clean up the area and that was sufficient. Well, times have changed. Today some courses don’t want you to replace divots because the mowers will lift it back out on mow day. They would rather have you use a sand and seed mixture to fill in the hole. This will allow the grass to grow back faster. Most courses these days have sand and seed bottles on the carts to help accomplish this task. I personally feel this is the best way to fill in divots. If you’re walking, remember to do your part to replace your divots or use another player’s sand and seed bottle. Now, the debatable issue in the game is should that sand-filled area be deemed “ground under repair?” Would you rather dig the ball out of a bare hole in the fairway or one filled with sand? It is difficult to strike a ball solidly when it is sitting atop a shallow patch of sand. I feel the USGA should change the rule and define a sand-filled divot as ground under repair, allowing a free drop if you land in one. It only seems reasonable and fair that by hitting a good shot into the fairway, you should be entitled to a reasonable lie. Until they change the rule you’ll have to play the ball as it lies, so here’s a tip to help you achieve solid contact. I make only one adjustment in my setup and that is to move the ball approximately one inch further back in my stance. This allows me to strike the ball more solidly and control the shot. I don’t have to change my swing, just the setup. Try this next time you’re in a sand-filled divot and see if your contact improves.