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Monday, 28 December 2015

Bobby Jones on Getting That Certain Feel

I was reading Bobby Jones on Golf again and learned that, while Bobby Jones obviously played the game on a much higher level than most of us have ever dreamt of playing, in some respects his experiences were similar to yours and mine.  He didn't go out every day and play his best.  In fact, he had just a few rounds in his career where things felt easy.  The rest of the time he scratched out the best score he could on the day, just like everyone else.

In Bobby Jones on Golf, Bobby talked about "getting that certain feel"; figuring out how hard to swing to play his best on that particular day.  I think it contains some excellent advice for good players and average mugs alike.  Bobby wrote:

"To determine just how hard to hit a golf ball in order to get the best results is often a perplexing problem.  Everyone knows the dangers of pressing and the troubles one can encounter when trying to hit too hard.  But the shoe can rub the other way, too, and the fellow who tries to swing too easily is often just as close to disaster.  Somewhere between the two extremes is the happy middle ground the golfer must tread.
  I cannot recall that I ever accomplished any really good scores or won any matches by trying to knock the cover off the ball.  Good driving has been a part of all the really fine rounds I ever played.  It is true that, except for those occasions when a putter goes phenomenally hot, a man must be driving well to score well.  But all that is needed is ordinarily good length and a good deal of accuracy, the latter feature being by far the more important of the two.
  I got as much fun as the next man from whaling a ball as hard as I could and catching it squarely on the button.  But from sad experience I learned not to try this in a round that meant anything.
  But there is the other extreme that is just as bad.  Whenever one becomes too careful and begins to steer his shots, he can get into just as much trouble, and his trouble may be found a lot farther from the green than if he had taken a good, healthy swing.  Easing up almost always leaves the left side in the way--there is not enough pull to get it around where it ought to be--and when the swing finds itself blocked, there is no way for it to go through cleanly and smoothly.
  Of all the times that I have struggled around the golf course, there are a few easy rounds that stand out in my memory.  These are the ones I should like to play over again, and it would not take long, for there are not that many.  One at Sunningdale, England, one at East Lake in Atlanta, two at Augusta, Georgia (both in one day), one at Interlachen in Minneapolis, and that's about all.  Other scores were as good, but no other rounds were as satisfying.
  Strangely, perhaps, one thing stands out about all those rounds; I had precisely the same feel on each occasion; I was conscious of swinging the club easily and yet without interruption; my left side was moving through without hindrance, yet I was making no special effort to get it out of the way; in fact, I had to make no special effort to do anything.
  Sunningdale came first.  I did not recognize the symptoms, because I had never had them before.  Then, the next year, we had an open tournament at East Lake.  In warming up before the second round, I suddenly realized that I had the same feel I had at Sunningdale--and it worked again.  It is not unnatural that I tried to get it every time I went out on the course, but only a few times did it come.
  I think it is helpful to begin a round, or better still, to begin warming up for a round, swinging the club as easily as possible, gradually working up speed until you play yourself into a tempo that feels about right.  After you have found the right rhythm for the driver, try to carry the same beat down through the other clubs.  In other words, vary the selection of clubs for the fairway shots so they can be swung as nearly as possible in the same rhythm.  If you are able to swing the driver easily and get good solid contact and good direction, it is more likely that on that particular day you will have better luck with your irons if you will take the stronger club and swing it easily also.  If you find that in driving it is necessary to swing hard in order to move the left side out of the way, the chances are that the irons will be better if the more lofted clubs are chosen and swung more nearly with full force.
  No matter how 'average' one's game may be, there are always vast possibilities in this matter of finding the proper beat for a given day.  It is really a sort of tuning-up process everyone can go through with profit.  And always the start should be made on the low side, swinging easily at first, gradually increasing the speed until the thing begins to click.  And remember, it is not length that is wanted so much as accuracy and consistency."

So there you have it; from the master himself we learn that we can't always swing the same way every day.  We can't always find that ideal, easy swing that makes the playing of the game seem effortless.  We are not robots.  Therefore, if you sometimes wonder why those easy rounds have been so elusive; and why you can't replicate your best golf every time you tee it up; wonder no more.  It's the same for everyone; including the greatest that have ever played the game.  It's called golf.

And, the next time you see the advertisement offering to teach you how to hit it great every time, don't eat that, Arthur.  Golf is a constant search for that perfect tempo and rhythm that makes the game seem almost easy.  When you find it, you will always remember it.  It's just too bad you can't bottle it and call it up every day.  Every day on the golf course is a new search, and a new adventure.