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Saturday, 22 November 2014

You've Got to Pull It

Often, on the the course, you will hear a player groan and exclaim, "I pulled it!" If he or she is playing right handed, the end result is that the ball went left of target and inevitably it went farther than usual. There is actually a secret being revealed when we pull it. According to Bobby Jones, who was definitely the greatest player of his time and perhaps all time, it's really no great secret, it's just science, the simple laws of motion. If you want to hit the ball straighter and farther you must pull it, just like the power hitters in baseball.

There is a young boy, named Tommy Morrissey, who has received some coverage lately because he only has one arm and he can whack the you-know-what out of the ball despite his apparent handicap. He is a perfect example of the fact that you should pull it to really get the mustard on it. He plays with his left hand and he uses right handed clubs. Why? Because it works better that way. He is pulling the clubhead through the ball and down the target line. He is hitting through the ball towards the target rather than hitting at the ball. At three years of age he's already hitting the ball one hundred yards with one arm.

The great Canadian golfer, Moe Norman, who was reputed by many to be the best ball striker around, was left handed and played with right handed clubs. If you listen to his interviews, or watch his clinics, he definitely felt he was pulling the club down the target line with his left hand and arm.

Byron Nelson, who won eighteen times in 1945, including eleven in a row, apparently had one swing thought through the greatest sustained stretch of golf ever. He simply focussed on the back of his left hand going through impact towards his target.  He pulled the club through impact with his top hand, letting the back of his top hand flow towards his target. And he did it with every club, from the putter to the driver.

Slammin' Sam Snead spoke of slowly taking the club straight back with his left hand and beginning his downswing by pulling with his left hand and arm. Among other things, he felt this prevented him from coming over the top or casting the club from the top which is the major swing flaw of amateur players and the biggest reason why players slice the ball.

I had one formal golf lesson. I was eleven years old and living in England at the time. The young pro simply asked me to hit balls with just my left hand. I thought he was nuts. After all, I was playing right handed clubs and I'm very much right handed. So, I thought, where was the sense in all this? Unfortunately, the pro never bothered to explain just what a valuable lesson he was imparting to me. So, I promptly forgot this lesson for about forty years.

It was only after I developed tendonitis in my right elbow and could hardly grip the club with my right hand that I actually learned the value of that lesson. I was forced to play for nearly an entire year with my left hand and arm dominating the swing. My injured right arm simply went along for the ride. That summer I played as well as I had for years and won the Senior club championship and the "A" flight championship essentially playing one handed. I just pulled it.

Next time you hit balls, I suggest you give it a try. Grip the club firmly with the last three fingers of your top hand; left hand for a right handed player and right hand for a left handed player, and just try hitting a few shots one-handed. Once you've learned to make consistent contact, place your other hand on the club, but keep the sensation of letting the top hand lead and pull the club through impact towards your target. It worked for me. But more importantly, it worked for Sam Snead, Byron Nelson, Bobby Jones...