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Sunday, 11 January 2015

Bobby Jones on Golf: Memorable Advice

As I find myself stranded and snowbound in Canada, watching the pros play in warmer climes, I am dreaming of the time when I will be able to get back on the links. I am also looking forward to another fresh start, where I will hopefully improve in my ability to play this great game of golf despite the fact that I'm not as young, or as strong, as I once was. 

If I'm going to get better, I realize it will only be the result of my getting wiser, not fitter, or stronger. My old back and other assorted injuries are likely to ensure that I won't be hitting any more three hundred yard drives. Besides, while strength and fitness are certainly great attributes for a golfer, but a great golfing mind will keep me playing my best for years to come. Also, golf is one of those games that often proves the saying true, that old age and treachery can beat youth and skill every time. Okay, perhaps not every time, but old age and a bit of treachery in golf can definitely beat youth and skill some of the time, which is good news for old farts like me.

In my estimation, Bobby Jones possessed the finest, most astute golfing mind, and we are very fortunate that he chose to share his wisdom with us. Bobby learned the game as a young boy and continued to learn the finer points of the game by observing and listening to other great players and teachers who shared their insight with him. I think that one of the remarkable things about golf, and golfers, is the willingness of players to share with others the secrets of the game; even sharing advice and information with players they are trying to beat. In what other game would a competitor take the time to help a fellow competitor struggling with his game? Perhaps it happens, but it is so common in golf, it is actually the norm, not the exception. It's one of the things I love about the game. In golf, the vast majority of the great players competed hard and wanted to win, but they helped each other. They didn't want to win at any cost, they wanted to see their fellow competitors play well.

In his book, Bobby Jones on Golf, Bobby devotes a brief chapter to two important pieces of advice on how to play the game that he received from two of golf's legendary players, Harry Vardon and J.H. Taylor. I think they are worth sharing again for those who haven't read Bobby Jones' books.

"Two of the greatest golfers of earlier times were the English professionals Harry Vardon and J.H. Taylor who," Jones writes, "between them won eleven British Open Championships. Among the many wise things both observed about the game, two especially impressed me. 'No matter what happens,' Vardon once said, 'keep on hitting the ball.' In effect, this is what I remembered and tried to do when playing a tournament round. Vardon was a man of immense gifts, not the least of which was his practicality."

When speaking of J.H. Taylor, Bobby said, "J.H. Taylor made the statement that all the great golfers he had known had possessed a quality he chose to call 'courageous timidity.' That happy phrase expresses exactly the qualities a golfer, expert or not, must have in order to get the most from whatever mechanical ability he may have. He must have courage to keep trying in the face of ill luck or disappointment, and timidity to appreciate and appraise the dangers of each stroke, and to curb the desire to take chances beyond reasonable hope of success. There can be no doubt that such a combination in itself embraces and makes possible all the other qualities--determination, concentration, nerve--we acclaim as parts of the ideal golfing temperament for the championship contender as well as for the average golfer."

As for myself, being somewhere quite short of a champion golfer, and somewhat more expert than an average player, I hope, when next able to get out there and challenge Old Man Par, that I can be courageously timid in my approach and, regardless of what befalls me, keep hitting that damned ball.