NCG's Golf Glossary: What is a whiff?

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This has happened to every single one of you reading this. It has. Don’t fib.

There’s little difference between cheaters and liars and we all know golfers are not cheats.

It may have struck you down in your last round, maybe a heavy night on the sauce was to blame.

More likely, though, you experienced this when you were first falling in love with the game and as your fledgling swing began to gain its true power.

Word of the week: Whiff

It sounds smelly and, in golfing terms at least, it really is. I used to suffer this at times of extreme nervousness – usually on the first tee, just so I could make sure everyone was watching.

They were soon all laughing as well. But just remember, unless they are really not your friends, they are laughing with you and not at you.

It’s like being stuck behind a learner driver on a single carriageway road. Yes, it might be a bit frustrating and, yes, it’ll add a few minutes on to your round but we’ve all been there.

Dictionary definition: A smell that is only smelt briefly or faintly – an unpleasant smell

What this actually means: Some of you will know it better as an air shot. You set your stance, have a few waggles, complete your swing and then completely miss the ball.

It’s usually followed by a momentary loss of balance – after all you were really putting your shoulders into it – and a red face as anyone nearby struggles to suppress a giggle.

It’s not always a disaster to your scorecard. I played with a guy at the weekend who had three whiffs with a wood and still walked away with the top prize. Remember, people, it’s only one shot.

Even the very best whiff sometimes. Just check out this little beauty from Rory McIlroy at the Players’ Championship last year.

 

It’s even possible to whiff a putt. Yes, a putt.

But the most famous example was not a whiff at all. Kevin Na made contact with nothing but fresh air on the 15th tee in Nevada, in October 2011.

Many were confused as to why he didn’t add a stroke to his score but Na argued that he pulled out of the swing during the downstroke and decided not to strike the ball.

Kevin Na

And there is a decision in the rules of golf that allows for just that eventuality.

It says: “The player is considered to have checked his downswing voluntarily by altering the path of his downswing and missing the ball even though the swing carried the clubhead beyond the ball.”

Origins: The word is thought to have first been uttered in the last 16th Century but the meaning used in golf is much more modern and almost certainly comes from America. Whiff is baseball slang to refer to a swing and a miss.

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