Thursday, 30 June 2016

Golf's Fat Cats Are Also Scaredy-Cats

What are we to make of the fact that some of the world's top golfers are electing to drop out of the Olympics?  One thing for certain is they are not a particularly patriotic bunch.  They also have rather short memories.

In days gone by, young, able-bodied golfers went to war for their countries.  Now, they won't play golf because they're afraid they might get a mosquito bite.  The times are certainly changing.  Today's golfers obviously care very little about paying their country back for the support they no doubt received growing up to become top golfers.  Virtually every top player was able to become a top player and travel the world to compete thanks to their country's golfing organizations.  

Now that they are fat-cats, with stuffed wallets, they seem to only care about three things: their own well being, their family, and the almighty dollar--not necessarily in that order.  It's really quite sad.  All the work done and money spent to get golf back in the olympics and now the best players won't go because they're scared--or can't be bothered.  I guess they're not just fat cats; they're a bunch of scaredy-cats.  Or is it just about money?  Usually it all comes down to the almighty dollar in the end.

Tuesday, 28 June 2016

Second Place Doesn't Suck

If you read Bobby Jones' books, one of the things you notice is his respect for his opponents and the fact that some of his most memorable matches were matches he actually lost.  He was not a "second place sucks" kind of player.  Golf is more about the journey than it is about winning.  Winning is nice.  But as Jack Nicklaus pointed out, golf is the only game where you can win twenty percent of the time and be the best player in the game.  So, if you're a sore loser, golf isn't the game for you.

On that note, John David and I played a very enjoyable and memorable match yesterday.  We played Brian and Gordan in a two ball, or alternate shot, match.  Our opponents played superb golf the front nine and we found ourselves five down and fearing a very quick ending to the day.  However, we agreed that we would forget our opponents and just play Old Man Par for the rest of the match.

Sure enough, after the seventeenth hole we were all square.  We halved 18 with a par.  We then played 18 twice before Gordon sunk a twenty foot downhill, breaking putt for birdie and won the match.  

It was an exciting match, filled with ups and downs and an improbable comeback before Gordon finally put an end to our run.  Golf is that kind of a game.  It ain't over 'til it's over, and even when you lose it's fun if it's played in the right spirit.  The only sad thing is that John David and I don't get to team up again until next year.  He's a great partner and a wonderful gentleman.

We just hope Brian and Gordon can go all the way now that they've dispatched us.

Sunday, 26 June 2016

Will Jason Day Hang Them Up at 40?

Golfers have always been athletes.  At least the top golfers have been.  Sam Snead was a good example of a tremendous athlete who chose golf.  Jack Nicklaus was a fine athlete.  If anyone thinks golf at the highest level is not an athletic pursuit, today's golfers, with the hours most of them spend in the gym and on the range, will quickly dispell that notion.

Sure there are still some top players who have expanded waistlines and avoid the gym like the plague, but, especially since Tiger came on the scene, most top golfers work very hard at staying fit.  The modern swing and the modern power game demands a high level of fitness as well.  

I note that Jason Day is speaking about the possibility of retiring at the age of 40.  I think this should come as no surprise to anyone.  As hard as he works, as much stress as he puts on his body with his swing, he will be fortunate to still be competing and at the top of his game at forty.  In fact, I'd be very surprised if he was.

Harvey Penick said that he preferred watching the swings of the guys on the Champions tour--the swings that had stood the test of time.  He suggested that many of the modern players, with their modern swings, wouldn't be around to play on the Champions tour.  There is a price to pay for golfers who adopt the modern swing that relies so much on rotation and core strength.  They will wear out much faster than the guys who still swing the club, like Vijay Singh, Colin Montgomerie, Phil Mickelson and Angel Cabrera to name just a few of my favourite swingers.

So, will Jason Day be done at forty?  You can almost bet on it.  Unless he changes his swing.  I should say that both my old mother and I are big fans of Jason Day.  He's a tremendous player and a fine person.  I am not trying to be critical in any way of his swing either.  Obviously his swing is one of the best swings in the game.  It might be the very best swing in the game.  But it is a young man's swing.

Saturday, 25 June 2016

Your Swing and How to Find It

When I watch good players in our area, like Larry Powell and Doug Green, what strikes me is the consistency with which they swing the club.  Their tempo never seems to change.  I really enjoy playing with them because good tempo and rhythm can rub off on you.  That's why the pros always loved to be paired with Sam Snead, or Ernie Els, or Freddie Couples.  It's the absence of effort, or hit, that's so impressive when those guys swing the club.  They let the club do the work.

Lots of golfers have a smooth, effortless practice swing.  But, when they stand over the ball, everything often changes.  We were playing behind a guy with a great practice swing the other day.  They were holding us up a bit, so I had time to point it out to Spiros.  Sure enough, this guy kept making this silky practice swing and then, when it was time to take care of business, he lurched at the ball like he was trying to kill a snake.

Most of us would love to play with our practice swing.  However, unless you are aiming at a piece of grass, or a bit of clover, when you make your practice swing, according to Harvey Penick, it doesn't amount to a hill of beans.  The golf swing is strictly for the purpose of striking the ball solidly.  Looking pretty is okay.  But it's always the strike that counts.

I have finally discovered that my swing--the swing I don't have to think about, or make compensations with--is the one I make when I close my eyes, or when I'm clipping dandelions.  I have become more and more successful these days at sticking with that swing.  And it's producing some good results.

One of Harvey Penick's best drills was the "clip the tee" drill.  He'd have his students keep practicing clipping the top of a tee in the ground.  Then he'd have them make that swing with a golf ball, focussing on clipping the tee from under the ball.  The result was a square clubface at impact.  He didn't know why it worked.  But it did.

If you want to find your swing, try taking some swings with your eyes closed.  You'll find your natural tempo.  You'll swing in balance and within yourself--otherwise you'll probably end up flat on your arse.  Once you've done that, start clipping the tee.  Once you can consistently clip the tee, make your swing with a ball in front of you, focussing only on clipping the tee, or as Harry Vardon said, "Chopping the legs out from under it."  If you do that, you'll be using your swing and I think you'll be surprised at the results.  It may not necessarily be as pretty a swing as Freddie's.  But it will be yours.  And you'll know how to find it.

Friday, 24 June 2016

It Ain't Over 'Til It's Over

Yogi Berra said, "The game ain't over 'til it's over."  That was certainly true yesterday when Ken Eccles and I played a match.

It was match play with handicaps and I was giving Ken twelve strokes.  It was a match to remember--or perhaps forget.  It was one of those matches where it was hard to tell who wanted to lose the most.  It wasn't pretty.

Ken had the honours on the first tee and proceeded to hit the ball off the toe and right into the bay.  Not to be outdone, I missed a two footer for par while Ken scrambled for six.  He had a stroke, so it was a half.  

On the next hole I won with a bogey.  It was quickly turning into one of those matches where both guys are off their games and we were definitely pleased that there were no cameras rolling.  

Using his strokes and my poor play to his advantage, Ken eventually ended up dormie with three to play.  He admitted later that the way I was playing and with his strokes he was sure the match was in the bag.  I must admit I had pretty much conceded defeat and just longed for an end to the misery.  But Ken just kept me hanging on.  I won suxteen and seventeen and we came to the par three eighteenth with Ken one up and receiving a stroke. 

Ken duffed his tee shot and eventually made five to my three.  Suddenly we were in extra holes.  I made par to Ken's six after his second shot from behind a tree disappeared--presumably out of bounds, though neither of us saw it.  I had somehow managed to win four straight holes, all with pars. In fact, as I look back I realize that, as bad as I was playing, I had somehow actually parred the last eight holes.  

It was one of the craziest matches I've played.  But then I remember losing a match in extra holes after being three up with four to play.  It happens.  Sometimes a big lead is hard to keep because you start protecting the lead instead of playing the golf that got you into the lead in the first place.  

I guess Ken and I both learned something from our match.  I learned that sometimes just making pars is good enough, and that you should never give up.  Ken learned that when you get your man down, you should put him out of his misery.  Don't give him any hope.  We both also learned that it ain't over 'til it's over.

Thursday, 23 June 2016

Will the USGA Learn Something?

It seems that the USGA might have received the message.  In fact, they are still receiving it.  They have invited feedback on the US Open ruling fiasco and are no doubt getting plenty of it. 

This just might have been good for golf.  It was certainly bad for this particular US Open, but it might result in over-conscientious, anal-retentive rules officials starting to think twice before they intervene in minor rules situations that are better left to the players to deal with.  When championships are possibly won or lost based on "the balance of probability" we are in trouble.  Fortunately DJ was able to stand up to the pressure placed upon him.  Had he actually failed to win another Major because of this fiasco, who knows what the fallout might have been.

What I hope this leads to is a determination to just let the boys play.  Stop the call-ins by armchair rules officials.  Stop the replays concerning silly, ultimately meaningless, questions such as did that ball move, or did it oscillate?  Let the players play golf and protect the field themselves; calling in rules officials when there is an important or particularly difficult ruling.  The rules should be there to ensure fairness; not to produce the kind of drama and nonsense we witnessed last Sunday.

The players deserve it, and so do the fans.

Tuesday, 21 June 2016

Still Waters Run Deep

There's a saying that still waters run deep.  This can certainly be applied to Dustin Johnson.  Obviously one of the most talented players of his generation, and perhaps the most athletic player in the game, DJ has endured more than his fair share of disappointment in Major Championships.  He must have wondered whether he would ever break through.

And, once again, when in the hunt for another Major, DJ had the misfortune, not only of having his ball move through no obvious fault of his own, but to be told the incident would be reviewed after the official had already determined that there would be no penalty and his playing partner, charged with protecting the field, had agreed.  DJ could not have been blamed for wondering whether this was going to be yet another "here we go again" close call in a Major.  

If he was shaken, he certainly didn't show it.  Still waters run deep.  And when the going gets tough, the tough get going.  Perhaps now, after Sunday at Oakmont, we will have to question the whole big three idea.  We may just have to include the rangy guy from Myrtle Beach as a favourite in future Majors.  Now that he's broken through and passed Rory in the world rankings, DJ is perhaps going to get some respect.

Anyone might have been shaken by being told they might be penalized.  But DJ wasn't shaken, he was stirred.  

Sunday, 19 June 2016

DJ Gets It Done Despite the USGA's Nonsense

Finally, the incredibly talented and so far snake-bitten Dustin Johnson finally won his first Major.  This he accomplished despite the interference of rules officials who left him guessing for the final six holes as to whether he needed one or two strokes to win.

Imagine, with everything DJ has been through to date trying to get himself one of the big ones, to be told you might be assessed a penalty because you may, or may not, have caused your ball to move a fraction of an inch while addressing a putt.  Only, it seems, in the game of golf can you be informed that you "might" be penalized and have to finish your round with this hanging over you.  Only in golf can a fan phone in and alter the outcome of a championship because they observed a breach of the rules.

Nevertheless, DJ, seemingly undaunted, played his way to the clubhouse as his pursuers fell away.  His magnificent birdie on the last hole left no doubt that he was the champion.  Nevertheless, the uncertainty created by the USGA by reserving their decision on the penalty might have negatively affected a number of the competitors--not just DJ.  These guys were informed of the situation and had to finish their rounds as well not knowing where they actually stood.  It was a fiasco.

Life isn't always fair.  Golf isn't either.  But the rules of golf are sometimes awfully difficult to comprehend.  To think that DJ actually might have lost the Open because his ball moved a fraction of an inch, even though he had not soled his putter.  It is just ludicrous.  The punishment would certainly not have fit the crime.  And yet the same rules once permitted Tiger to enlist the aid of several fans to move a damned boulder out of his way because it was considered a loose impediment.  It just makes no sense.  

In the end DJ finally broke through.  But we, as fans, and the players were subjected to some real foolishness thanks to some obviously incompetent rules officials.  A wonderful triumph by DJ was somewhat tarnished by an outside agency, namely the USGA.  What a shame.

Friday, 17 June 2016

First Wave Finished

Despite missing a few putts that could just as easily have gone in for the same money, and hitting some relatively straight-forward shots in rather loose fashion, my man, Jordan Spieth, made a very impressive up and down from the bunker on nine to stay in touch.

You don't win it on the first day.  But you can definitely lose it.  Rory McIlroy, despite all his pre-tournament positivity, might just have put himself too far back with his seven over par performance, or lack thereof.  Rory really wanted to prove something to himself and the rest of us this week, showing he could handle the tough conditions and the kind of adversity you are bound to face at Oakmont.  So far it doesn't look good.  Rory has never shown himself to be a mudder, or a grinder.  He's the kind of guy who, when he's hot, he's hot; and when he's bad, he's awful.  

After the first wave, it would seem to be anyone's tournament.  While Landry was very impressive with his record-breaking opening round of 66 at Oakmont, the rest of the leaders are bunched around par.  Par just might be a good score at venerable Oakmont.  But the soft conditions just might play into the hands of guys like Day, DJ, and Bubba who can hit it long and high.  

In the meantime, my man Spieth will probably find a way to be there or thereabout come Sunday evening.  

Wednesday, 15 June 2016

Is Day the Obvious Favourite at Oakmont?

It appears that watching the proceedings at Oakmont just might end up being akin to watching a train wreck.  With it's lightning-quick greens, deep rough, and punitive bunkering, Oakmont is going to very quickly separate the men from the boys.

I'm not really a fan of going out of your way to ensure the boys have a bad day.  I like the Open approach that allows the weather to decide how hard the course plays, rather than growing the rough to ridiculous length and speeding the greens up to the very edge.  But it might be compelling viewing, even if it might not exactly be golf as it was meant to be played.

What Oakmont should do is establish who is the best golfer.  It will obviously favour a guy who can hit it straight, hit it long, and hit it high--and a guy who can chip and putt.  That has to be good news for Jason Day fans.  He's the obvious favourite.  If he's on, he's the best in the business--the complete package.

But then there is this kid, Jordan Spieth, who for no obvious reason--other than perhaps his putting--somehow manages to contend at every Major.  He's been in the thick of it every time he's teed it up for the last five, and there's no reason, with his recent win, not to expect more of the same.  Don't be surprised if Spieth pulls it off.  There's just something about this young man.  It's early days, but I believe he will become one of the greatest players we have ever seen.  The way he strikes the ball makes you wonder how he could be as good as he is.  But then golf is about much more than hitting it great.  Golf is about finding a way to make the best score, even if you aren't hitting it great.  Golf is played in that five inches or so between your ears.  And Spieth, for my money, has the highest golfing IQ we've seen in a long, long time.

Tuesday, 14 June 2016

You Need Some Luck

Gary Player is reputed to have been the man who coined the phrase, "The harder I practise the luckier I get."  Sam Snead also said words to the effect that you get out of this game only what you put into it.  This is true.  But it doesn't tell the whole story.  The game of golf also involves luck.  The best player doesn't always win.

In fact, Jack Nicklaus said that golf is the only game where you can win twenty percent of the time and be the best player in the world.  If you want to win all the time, better to take up tennis, or some other sport that doesn't involve luck the way golf does.

Sam Snead should have won more than one US Open.  He was unlucky.  Tom Watson should have won at least one PGA championship.  But it just wasn't in the cards.  Golfers need to be able to accept the fact that no one ever promised that golf would be fair.  All you can do as a golfer is try your hardest and accept that sometimes the putts will drop and sometimes they won't.  That's golf.

I was watching our new Canadian phenom, Brooke Henderson, as she became the first Canadian woman to win a Major since 1968.  As she putted it in on the eleventh hole from off the green, some ninety feet away, Annika Sorenstam was heard to say that no matter how good you are, you need some luck to win a Major. Brooke was not only good, she was lucky.  She made a hole in one.  She made that improbable putt.  But she also put it all out there and came away with the championship.  And we, particularly Canadians, celebrate her success.

I had some recent success at a much lower level this past week.  As I looked back on it, I remembered good shots.  I remember driving it straighter than my opponents.  But I also remembered a tee shot that just stopped short of a hazard thanks to the wind and resulted in a birdie instead of a bogey.  I remembered at least three key putts that barely fell in the hole instead of lipping out, including the winning putt.  I was lucky.  I could have just as easily lost had I not had some good breaks.

So, while hard work will likely be rewarded in this game, never forget that you need a bit of luck--a few good bounces--if you're going to win.  And maybe that's one of the reasons why golf is the greatest game there is. You cannot control the outcome.  A perfect drive might end up in a divot.  A terrible shot might bounce off a tree and end up in the hole.  You have to be a bit fatalistic.  You have to realize that to some extent the outcome rests in the lap of the golfing gods.  

I'm okay with that.  I think the golfing gods are a benevolent bunch.  They will eventually reward the right attitude.

Sunday, 12 June 2016

Give Luck a Chance.

I played in the Quinte Cup today.  It is apparently the oldest inter-club competition in North America.  I wrote an article called "Why Worry," which expressed some concern that I was playing poorly and had to play in the number one spot for our club.

This year things went well and I won all my matches, including winning on the last hole against Brian, a fine player from Napanee, to clinch the Cup for our club.  This year, I'm a hero.  Next year, I might be a dog.  That's golf.

What helped me today was Bobby Jones' advice to play Old Man Par--not your opponent.  Old Man Par is still usually good enough in my circles.  In any case, it was edifying not to have screwed up.  This was as much good luck as it was good management.  But all you can do in this game is, as Harvey Penick once said to Davis Love about his putting, "Give luck a chance."  If you just keep hitting it, and don't give up, sometimes good things can happen.

Saturday, 11 June 2016

The Repeating Golf Swing

Whether I like it or not, I am prone to thinking about my swing.  Golfers, myself included, often dream of finding the perfect, repeating golf swing.  They read instruction manuals, haunt the range, take lessons, and never find it.  I say they never find it, because there is no swing, including Iron Byron, that hits the ball perfectly every time.  That's just the way it is.  And yet, the search continues.

My favourite golf writer, Bobby Jones, had something to say on the subject that I think is very important to realize. He also offered some great advice on how, instead, we should approach every round of golf. Bobby wrote:

    "We hear a lot these days about the repetitive or repeating golf swing.  It seems to be a new term in the golfing jargon.  Obviously, like the semi-automatic shotgun, it is a fine idea.  If a golfer could only set himself in the same position each time and, by pulling a mental trigger, release the identical swing, he would be a happy fellow.  Even though the swing might be bad, at least he would know where to look for the ball.
     The struggle for good form in golf has purpose, because a sound, simplified swing can perform with greater regularity.  But one of the external beauties of the game is that it will never be susceptible to such rigid control.  The feel of the club is altered from day to day by changes in the weather, and the player's senses respond differently because of the myriad influences within his own make-up.  It is important to test out this feel every day, either before the round or as early as possible in the play...even an average golfer can help himself a lot by hitting a few balls before starting a round, not really practising in the sense of trying to learn anything, but merely in order to find out how his clubs and his swing feel on the particular day.  In any case, he will do better on the course if he will try to play in the way that feels most comfortable instead of trying to remake his swing as he goes along.
     Lacking the opportunity for this bit of practice, or even with it, I should always recommend that the start of any round be taken quietly.  No matter what the length of the first hole may be, the first drive and the first few long shots should be struck well within the player's limit of power.  He can always step up his rate of hitting as he gets the feel of his clubs.  Some of the best tournament rounds I have ever played have started in just this way, with the first few drives kept down the fairway and the second shots played for the centre or main body of the green.  A long putt has gone down, or a second shot wandered up close.  Then, with a stroke in hand and confidence assured, the rest can come quite easily."

Jack Nicklaus was one who followed this advice.  Playing easily and comfortably as he started, and able to step it up once he'd found the groove.  Mr. Jones' final piece of advice is also worth remembering.  He wrote:

     "If I should be limited to one bit of advice to offer to a golfer before the start of a round, it would be, "Take your time".  And it would mean to take your time and avoid hurry in anything; to walk to the first tee and from shot to shot at a leisurely pace; to pause before each stroke long enough to make a considered appraisal before deciding upon the shot to play; and, above all, to take a little more time if things should begin to go wrong."

Every round is a new adventure.  Even the greatest players in the world don't know how they will play from round to round.  Bobby Jones said that he was certain of the fact that he would play his best no more than six times a year, and in his best rounds he would hit no more than six shots exactly as he wanted, other than putts.  If that was true--and there's no reason to believe it wasn't--we should realize that we are never going to have the perfect, repeatable swing, and we should be prepared in advance to have to do some scrambling every time we play.  That's golf.

Tuesday, 7 June 2016

Why Worry?

Billy Casper once said, "Golfers are the greatest worriers in the world of sport."  It's true.  I tend to be a chronic worrier, and golf affords you lots of time to worry.  You spend only a fraction of your time on the golf course actually hitting the ball.  The rest of the time can be spent worrying if you aren't careful.

The great Australian player, Peter Thomson, said, "Worry is poison."  And how true.  What problem was ever made better by worrying about it?  

Some people think they don't worry when they play.  But Bobby Jones said, "Some people think they are concentrating when they're merely worrying."  Golfers tend to worry.  They worry about their swing.  They worry about the bunkers.  They worry about the water and the out of bounds.  They worry about how they look.  It's a wonder we love the game so much when it worries us as much as it does.

Yesterday Scott told me I'm playing in the number one spot for the club in the Quinte Cup this coming Sunday.  I've been playing poorly the last week and my immediate reaction was to begin to worry.  But then I read the following quote from Harry Vardon: "To play well you must feel tranquil and at peace.  I have never been troubled by nerves in golf because I felt I had nothing to lose and everything to gain."

I've played in several Quinte Cups.  I've played well in some.  In others I've played poorly.  But thinking back on it, worrying about it only ever made things worse.  So I'm going to go out on Sunday and, no matter what happens, just keep hitting it.  That was another piece of advice from Harry Vardon. 

On the other hand, I sure hope I don't screw up.

Clean Balls

Harry Vardon, who was the best player of his day, often offered sage advice.  He once said, "Always use a clean ball."  

It may sound like nothing, but it is actually helpful.  You would never see a pro play a ball with dirt on it. I am often too lazy to worry about cleaning my ball before my tee shot if there isn't any obvious mud on it.  But I think I'm going to start following that advice.  There's nothing like looking down at a perfectly clean golf ball.  

There's a story about Harvey Penick having a guy come to him for a lesson just before he was to play in a big match.  The guy's swing was awful.  There were lots of things Harvey might suggest to help him; such as changing his grip and aligning himself better.  But Harvey couldn't think of anything that would improve his swing in time for his big match.  Instead he told him to make certain he always uses a clean ball.  He knew that advice wouldn't hurt him and it was something positive to think about.

If you are going to offer advice to anyone, using a clean ball is one that definitely won't hurt.  It's amazing how often I've seen people putt with a ball that had sand or mud on it.  The second it takes to clean that ball could save a stroke.  It beats plumb-bobbing, or taking three practice strokes.

Saturday, 4 June 2016

Finding What Works

I think it was Ken Venturi who said, "Golf is about finding what works; losing it, and then finding it again."  Right now I've lost it.

A week ago, the game was almost easy.  Right now, I don't know whether I'm punched or bored.  It's terrible.  The problem with most golfers is that we find a swing key that works and we eventually begin to exaggerate that at the expense of something else.  Instead of taking one teaspoon of cough syrup, we drink the whole bottle and we end up in big trouble.  

I managed to recover slightly today by focussing on the strike--visualizing a nail in the back of the ball and striking it down the target line. But, like any other key, it eventually needs to be replaced with something else as the charm wears off, or you start over-doing it and start hitting at, instead of through, the ball.

The last couple of holes I also tried to swing easier, just patty-caking it, like I seem to do whenever I play really well.  It worked pretty well. But, unless you make the putts, Old Man Par will still have your number.  I guess that's both the frustration and the allure of this game.  Once you think you've got it--it's suddenly gone, and the search begins again.  That's golf.  

One thing for certain is that it never gets boring.  Who wants to just hit it dead solid perfect every time anyway?  I wouldn't mind having a round like that every so often, but a great part of the game is how you recover from your misses.  There is nothing quite like getting it up and down from jail to save your par.  This game simply cannot seem to be mastered.  It's like a puzzle with no solution.

Actually, perhaps the key to mastering the game is to become resolute.  To learn to, as Harry Vardon told a young Bobby Jones, keep on hitting it, no matter what happens.  At the end of the day, that's all we can really do.  

Wednesday, 1 June 2016

The Secret to Lower Scores

Bobby Jones said, "The secret of low scores is the ability to turn three shots into two."  That's why the best players have good short games.  They don't call the wedges and the putter scoring clubs for nothing.  There is nothing like getting the ball up and down from a tricky spot to save par when a bogey or worse was definitely in the cards.  It lifts your spirits and demoralizes your opponent.

There are plenty of good ball strikers out there.  There are lots of big hitters.  But the guys who make the money are the ones who can chip and putt.  While this sounds obvious, it is also quite clear that it is not something generally understood by the average golfer.  If it was, you surely wouldn't see golfers constantly buying the latest driver on the market, guaranteed to give you more yards.  A good drive sets you up to score, and it's great for the ego, but inevitably you will only score if you can chip and putt.  

If this secret was really understood, you also wouldn't see golfers on the range banging away with drivers and long irons and then heading to the first tee with only a few minutes at best spent chipping and putting.  If this was generally appreciated, golf lessons would also not be devoted almost entirely to the full swing, when the scoring shots are usually with the wedge and the putter.  But most golfers take lessons to learn how to hit it farther, or straighter, not how to get out of bunkers or to chip and putt.  Learning the game from around the green first is definitely the best approach.  Teach someone to chip well and he'll soon learn to hit solid full shots.  Harvey Penick said the full swing was really only a longer chip shot.

I played with Spiros yesterday.  He's usually a high eighties, low nineties, shooter.  He drives it relatively short and crooked.  His fairway wood and long iron game is inconsistent at best.  But he often chips and putts like a demon.  As a result,  he generally gets much more out of his game than you would expect watching him hit the ball.  On the back nine his chipping and putting kicked in and he made five pars.  On every one of those pars but one he made par by chipping it stone dead.  It's lucky I beat him two and one because he almost holed it from well off the green on eighteen on a hole where he gets a stroke.  Come to think of it, he did that the last time we played as well.

If anyone wants to get the best from their game and shoot their lowest scores, they'll only do it by sprucing up their short game.  That's the secret to lower scores, regardless of what the ads might say about new clubs, working out to some golf trainer's latest video, or some new swing training method.

Of course I'm hardly one to talk.  I seldom practise at all.  I'd much rather play.  But, then again, I figure I've pretty much reached my level of incompetence.  I must admit, however, that I could use a good bit of work on my short game.  Some days I throw away shots around the green like a drunken sailor.