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Wednesday, 19 August 2015

The Secret

What is it about secrets?  Like most people, golfers love to know the secret; the secret to hitting the ball farther, or the secret to hitting it straight, or to making more putts.  And they seem to also love to share the secret.  Therefore, none of these "secrets" remain secret for long.  After fifty years of searching, I think I've finally learned the secret. And, since I'm a golfer, I feel compelled to share it.  The secret is; there is no secret. There may be information not generally known or understood, but there are no secrets.  The vault of secret information, as far as golf is concerned, is empty.

I worked in the penitentiary service and, as part of my work, was sometimes privy to secret information.  What I came to learn was something well known among most convicts, namely that the only way three people can keep a secret is if two of them are dead. So, in life, and in golf, you can pretty much forget about there being any secrets that aren't going to be revealed sooner or later.

Just look at all the books, videos, and articles offering to tell you the secret to better golf.  We buy the books and the videos, read the articles, and, occasionally, actually think we've found the secret.  The problem seems to be that, for me at least, the secret that worked like a charm last week doesn't seem to work this week.  Perhaps the problem with secrets is, once they are learned, their charm sooner or later wears off.

Instead of looking for secrets, I think we have to rely on cold, hard reality.  Golf is a game where just about anything can happen; and often does.  But, there are some irrefutable facts when it comes to golf.  For instance, a putt that never gets to the hole can't go in.  Bobby Jones wasn't particularly enamoured with the whole "never up, never in" mentality, preferring that people hit their putts so they are dying at the hole.  He liked to say that a putt that gets past the hole isn't in either, but this is not necessarily true, because I've seen putts roll back and fall in the back door because of the slope.

When we use the term "secret," in relation to the game of golf, we aren't really talking about a secret at all, we really tend to mean the solution, or the answer, rather than the secret.  We hope to discover the answer to the mysteries and problems of playing this deceptively simple, and endlessly complicated game.  And there are many secrets, answers, or solutions, that might work for Joe Blow, but don't seem to work for me, or Mary Jane.  That's why teachers encourage golfers to learn the fundamentals of the golf swing, rather than relying on moving from one secret to another.  However, all one has to do is watch the different swings of all the great players over the years to realize that there are many ways to get it done.

The best information I've ever read on golf, and the real secret to golf, if there is a secret, is, for me at least, contained in the second chapter of Bobby Jones' book, Golf is my Game. The chapter is entitled Striking the Ball.  This information, though not really a secret, is the one thing Bobby Jones maintained every golfer needs to know, understand, and remember every time they hit a golf shot if they want to have a high probability of success. And he believed that knowing this information could make all of us a better player, literally overnight.  I have covered that information in a previous blog.  It is all about impact.  That's where the proverbial rubber hits the road.

Thanks to that information from Bobby Jones, I now know that if I can figure out a way to strike the ball with a square club face, with the club travelling down the target line towards the target, a straight shot must result.  This will always be the result, provided of course there is no wind to move the ball off line, and provided the ball is not out of round, and provided there is no mud on the ball.  That's about as certain as golf gets.

In golf, there are no secrets.  There are only facts.  And, the only thing I know for sure is that a putt that never gets to the hole never goes in. And, actually, I'm not sure I really know that for certain.  I think, at the end of the day, all you can do is keep on hitting it.  It's got to go in the hole eventually, provided you are hitting it at the hole with a square club face, and there isn't any mud on the ball, and the green isn't breaking too much...