Wednesday, 10 December 2014

The Wisdom of Bobby Jones: Golf is my Game

I have been writing, perhaps some critics might say, ad nauseum, about Bobby Jones; his brilliance as a player and as a teacher. While doing so, I have found myself reading for the umpteenth time his concise and eloquent words. This was a man perfectly suited to being the greatest player and teacher the game has ever known. He was the best because of his mind.

Just consider for a moment: if golf is about understanding mechanics, Bobby was perfectly suited to talk about mechanics because he studied mechanical engineering at Georgia Tech. If golf is art; Bobby had a degree in English literature from Harvard. If golf is about logic and reasoning; Bobby was a lawyer. Bobby possessed the perfect, well-rounded mind to understand the game of golf in all its complexity.

In his book, Golf is my Game, Bobby is looking back on his golfing life. He has found himself crippled by a disease that afflicted him at the age of forty six. His playing days are long over, but his mind is as sharp as ever and he has spent his time thinking about the game he so loved. He has also had the opportunity to closely observe the brightest and very best players who have followed him in the game, all of whom made their way to his Masters tournament every April. 

He had already written an instructional book entitled Bobby Jones on Golf, and had made numerous instructional films. But in Golf is my Game, we are reaping the benefit of Bobby having taken the time to reflect on everything he had said and done related to golf and the wheat has been separated from the chaff; not that there was really any chaff, but what we are left with are the essentials. In Golf is my Game, Bobby takes eighty six pages to essentially tell us everything we absolutely need to know about the game to improve and gain enjoyment.

Of course, in golf, as in life, we should never stop learning. And I am certain Bobby would have been far too humble to suggest that, in those eighty six pages, he was providing us with the finest treatise on golf likely ever to be written. I am sure he would never have suggested he was giving us the "last word" on golf, because he understood better than anyone how difficult it is to teach golf and how inexhaustible the subject of playing golf is. Nevertheless, for my money, these eighty six pages contain the very best teaching there is to be found on playing golf. 

In previous blogs I have tried to capture an entire chapter from the book Golf is my Game. I suspect this was a mistake, because there is so much valuable information in each chapter that warrants close examination and time to ponder. In this case, when talking about Bobby's wonderful introduction, I propose to break it down into bite-sized pieces for any readers and myself to savour.

In his typically modest and humble fashion, when explaining his reason for writing Golf is my Game, Bobby wrote: "I have written this book because I thought I could help golfers of all classes to play better and get more enjoyment from their play. I have never tried to teach golf, having always been on the receiving end of any such exchange, but I have spent many years trying to learn something about the game. At times I had thought that I had learned pretty well, but I always found more to learn."

"Teaching anything," Bobby goes on to write, "requires a great deal more than knowledge of the subject. It is one thing to possess knowledge or the ability to perform-- quite another to be able to impart that knowledge or skill. I am sure that I do not even know all the qualities needed by a teacher, although I have read several treatises on the subject. It is enough for me to know that I have no right to pretend to be one."

"On the other hand," Bobby continues,"in golf at least, I can claim to be a fairly successful learner, and I more than half suspect that any golfer may rightfully attribute more of whatever skill he may possess to his own ability to learn than to the ability of someone else to teach. At any rate, I have written my book as a learner, rather than a teacher. I am not ambitious to teach teachers to teach, but if I can help learners to learn, I shall consider my reward sufficient."

What a great man and a great mind. I hope in sharing his words, I will do justice to the man and give you some of the pleasure it has given me to read them. If you can secure a copy of the book, I highly recommend you do so. More wisdom from Bobby Jones to follow.