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Wednesday, 2 September 2015

Bobby Jones on Timing

Golf is a game of timing.  Some people would argue that it is also a game of rhythm, or tempo, but you see accomplished players who swing so differently, that it might well be argued that timing--the timing of the strike--is the most important component to the golf swing.  Bobby Jones in his book Bobby Jones on Golf, as always, provides great insight into the subject.  He wrote:

"It is unfortunate that the most important feature of the golf stroke is so difficult to explain or to understand.  We all talk about good timing, and faulty timing, and the importance of timing, and yet no one has been able to fix upon a means of saying what timing is.  The duffer is told that he spoils his shot because his stroke is not properly timed, but no one can tell him how he can time it properly.

One common error causing bad timing can be pointed out with sufficient exactness to give the enterprising average golfer something to work on.  I mean the error of beginning to hit too early in the downward stroke.  I have said that it is a common error.  It is an error common to all golfers, a chronic lapse in the case of the expert, but an unfailing habit in the case of the dub.  I believe that it will be found that of the players that turn in scores of ninety and over, ninety-nine out of every hundred hit too soon on ninety-nine out of every hundred strokes. Many who play even better golf and have really acceptable form fail to play better than they do for this very reason.

Hitting too soon is a fault of timing in itself.  It causes the player to reach the ball with a large part of the power of the stroke already spent.  Instead of being able to apply it all behind the ball, he has expended a vast amount upon the air where it could do no good.  Apparently, everyone fears he will not be able to strike out in time when, as a matter of fact, there has not been one single player come under my observation who has been habitually guilty of late hitting.  Sometimes he will fail to close the face of the club by the time the club reaches the ball, but this is always due to something entirely apart from tardy delivery.

The primary cause of early hitting is to be found in the right hand and wrist.  If the left hand has a firm grip upon the club, so long as it remains in control there can be no premature hitting.  The left side is striking backhanded, and it will prefer to pull from the left shoulder, with the left elbow straight, rather than to deliver a blow involving an uncocking of the wrists.

But the right hand throughout the stroke is in the more powerful position.  Its part in the stroke is on what in what in tennis would be called the forehand.  It is moving forward in the direction easiest for it to follow.  Because the player is intent upon effort, and upon hitting hard, the right hand tends to get into the fight long before it has any right to enter.  The right hand must be restrained if it is not to hit before its time arrives."

Once again, when it comes to timing, Bobby Jones clearly reveals the importance of striking the ball, and controlling the swing with the left--or top--hand.  This is why I call my blog Top Hand Golf.  That right hand, while extremely useful when it comes into play at the right time, can, and for most golfers almost always does, ruin more shots than probably anything else.  Bobby in the next chapter, entitled Delaying the Hit, talks in further detail about timing the strike.  This I will share in my next installment.

I know I am always going to Bobby Jones for the answer.  I might be accused of being like a broken record in this respect.  But, until someone comes along who both played and understood the game on par with him, I will have to stick with the best.