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Sunday, 10 July 2016

Patty-Cake It

Patty-Caking is my term for swinging comfortably.  When you watch the good players play the game the one thing you notice is how effortlessly they swing the club.  As Carl the Grumbler likes to say, they don't try to add force to the equation when they play.  They let the golf club do the work.

Most shots are ruined, as Bobby Jones said, by trying to add something extra to the hit, especially with the driver.  Bobby's advice, when starting a round, was to start easily, swinging well within yourself until you find the right groove.  Take the club you know you can get there, not the one you feel you need to muscle, or hit perfectly, to get home.  

Yesterday, when my back started hurting, I started just patty-caking the ball.  The results were quite startling.  I hit the ball higher, farther, and straighter by just gearing back to protect my aching body.  Suddenly I was letting the club do the work and it seemed effortless.

Even Jack Nicklaus once wrote about a particular shot he hit that sailed over the green because he had swung the club easily, thinking he had too much club.  Jack grew up hitting the ball hard and his father had apparently encouraged him to hit it easier.  He wondered, thinking back about that shot, whether he might have actually been even better had he not hit the ball so hard.

Sam Snead was certain that he hit the ball farther swinging at 85 percent.  He felt he found the sweet spot more often and, swinging more slowly, gave him time to correct himself if he wasn't in the slot.  I've seen it myself on a monitor.  My swing speed increases when I swing easier.

We're not all the same.  Some of us need to swing harder in order to get the left side out of the way.  Some of us overdo it and swing so easy that we get sloppy, or pull our punch.  But the best way to play this game, as Raymond Floyd said, is to "play comfortably."  If we're afraid we don't have a
quite enough club to get where we're trying to go, take more club, or pick another target.  You don't win any points for getting near the flag with a nine iron instead of an easy seven or eight.  Raymond Floyd said he could hit a seven iron 180 yards, but he preferred to hit his seven 150. 

In the end, the best advice I ever received was from my old father.  He said, "Swing easy and accept the extra distance."  You would think it would be easy to swing easy.  But it isn't--especially when you've got the driver in your hand.  But if you can resist that urge to add force to the equation it's amazing how your shots improve.  And the great thing is it feels so easy--so comfortable.  I wish I could just patty-cake it all the time; not just when my back is hurting, or when I remember.