Welcome to the sixth edition of Chip Shots–a column which attempts to bring together the once separate worlds of golf and grammar. Changing the world one column at a time.

Marking Your Ball

This is another basic rule, but it’s worth covering. We’ll cover the more complicated stuff once we get through all the basics.

This week’s rule: When you mark your ball, place a coin or ball marker behind the ball–not in front, and not to the side. Behind the ball.

If you’re playing with your buddies in a weekend game, feel free to fudge on this…as long as they don’t care, of course. But if you’re in a tournament or any type of money game then make sure you place that ball exactly where you picked it up. Exactly.

And one important note: If you have to move the marker because it is in the line of a competitor’s putt, be sure to move it a clubhead–not a clublength–and pick out a spot to line the clubhead up with–something like a distant tree or the corner of a bunker.

Don’t just arbitrarily throw the coin down without lining the putter head up with something. You could end up moving yourself closer to the hole when you replace the ball. That’s a two shot penalty. And if you forget to replace the ball after moving it a clubhead length, that’s a two shot penalty, too.

How ’bout that? Exciting stuff, huh? Absolutely.  But I’ll bet you think coordinating conjunctions are even more exciting. As Will Ferrell would say, this will blow your mind.

Starting a Sentence with a Coordinating Conjunction

I’m not sure if sixth grade grammar teachers still teach this rule today. But back when I was a kid, my teacher drilled this rule into us like it was as certain as the alphabet. Not true.

You can start a sentence with a coordinating conjunction. Go ahead and do it. Coordinating conjunctions are those short little transitional words: but, so, and, yet, etc. They join independent clauses, and commas usually precede them.

For instance: I hit my drive down the left side of the fairway, but a gust of wind blew the ball into the trees.

The independent clauses are the two phrases on both sides of the but. They are independent because they could stand alone as sentences.

Now another, perfectly normal, way to phrase the above sentence would be: I hit my drive down the left side of the fairway. But a gust of wind blew the ball into the trees.

This isn’t something you want to get carried away with. And it’s not necessarily something you want incorporate into formal writing, or business writing, such as a cover letter. But there’s nothing wrong with starting a sentence with but. I just did.

Go pick up any book at Barnes and Noble…any book, both fiction and non-fiction. You’ll see dozens of sentences that start with but or and.

I’m not really sure why this ever became a rule. But that’s usually how grammar works; it’s a system of sacred cows with no meaning or purpose, yet it stays the same because of tradition.

Your sixth grade English teacher may think it’s heresy, but throw caution to the wind and do it. I even verified my facts with the Grammar Girl, and I’m absolutely right.

Now go change the world one but at a time.

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