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.