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Saturday, 13 June 2015

Bobby Jones on Golf: Consistency

Every golfer wishes he or she could play consistently well. And yet, the most consistent thing about golf is its inconsistency. There are any number of teachers out there making a living, or a quick buck, by promising a swing, or a secret that, once learned, will take five to ten strokes off our game, or make us hit it thirty yards further, and make us play consistently well. Yet, even if we've tried their books, videos, gadgets, or even gone to them for lessons, all of us continue to struggle at one time or another; and often we find ourselves struggling more often than not. 

Bobby Jones, in his book Bobby Jones on Golf, offered some interesting insight into the problems encountered by anyone trying to play consistently well. It seems the pros are just like us when it comes to consistency. 

The following is an excerpt from Bobby Jones on Golf:

"Everyone who has played golf, however well or badly, has found how impossible it is to hold his best form, or anything like it, for any length of time. A chart of a player's golfing fortunes over an extended period would exhibit a series of peaks and depressions, with the peaks very sharp, the downward curves precipitate, and the up slopes long and arduous. There is always a long struggle, painfully won, from the bottom of each valley to the top of the hill, and then, after a brief travel along the crest, the touch or feel that was so hard to find vanishes in an instant and back we go to the bottom.

There are two real reasons why absolute consistency is so rare in golf, and an appreciation of them will show something of what the golfer's problem is and will give him a chance to tackle it with his eyes open. The only two things that will ever enable him to smooth out the curve of his game chart are, first, a thorough understanding of the fundamentals of the swing, and, second, an intimate and unprejudiced acquaintance with his own faults and tendencies to fault.

A golfer must play by feel, and I know that I am not the only person who has found that no feel, or conception, or idea, will work perfectly for very long. In other words, there is no one movement, or sequence of movements amenable to control, that being controlled, will continue indefinitely to produce satisfactory results. It is not possible to think through the entire swing when playing each shot. Sometimes by remembering to start the downstroke by shifting and turning the hips, highly satisfactory  results may be obtained. While this continues, we are enjoying one of the peaks of our chart. But soon, either because we begin to exaggerate this one thing, or forget entirely about something else, the whole thing goes wrong and we have to begin over again. Again, we set out to find another thought that will set things right. This is the time when we need our understanding of the swing, for without this we shall be groping in absolute darkness.

The other reason why it is so hard to hold form arises from the insidious nature of some of the faults that can creep into a golf swing without the player himself becoming aware of them. It has never been possible for me to think of more than two or three details of the swing and still hit the ball correctly. If more than that number have to be handled, I simply must play badly until by patient work and practice I can reduce the parts that have to be controlled. The two or three are not always the same; sometimes a man's swing will be functioning so well that he need worry about nothing; then, of course, on those rare occasions, the game is a simple thing.

But because we have not the capacity to think of everything while attention is directed elsewhere, a hundred little things can go wrong. Every year I played golf, I discovered more and more ways to miss shots, obscure and yet important mistakes I had never dreamed of making."

So, if you have been struggling with being consistently inconsistent, remember that everyone struggles with this game from time to time. Furthermore, when you see the advertisements for a secret, or a swing that will make you a consistent player; that, once learned, will work all the time; don't eat that, Arthur! Nothing works all the time. The only thing consistent about golf is its inconsistency. That's what makes it so damned fascinating. You can never totally figure it out.

The best we can hope to do is learn the fundamentals of the swing, come to understand our own swing and our tendencies to err, and, if we're lucky, find a good instructor, or unprejudiced and knowledgeable mentor, who can be another set of eyes when we are groping in the darkness.