Wednesday, 31 August 2016

Practising What I Preach

Occasionally, I find myself on the golf course actually practising what I preach.  Today was one of those days.  My blogsite is called Top Hand Golf.  It's called that because I have discovered in my studies of the teaching of many of golf's greatest players, and in my own game, that the top hand and arm rule the golf swing.  Or they should.

Today, playing with a very sore back and neck, I hit every shot focussing simply on taking the club back with my left hand and arm--I'm right-handed--and making sure that the back of my left hand went straight down the target line for two feet past the ball.  Despite medicre putting, I struck it well enough that I had a five footer to shoot another even par round today.  Of course I missed the putt.  But that's show business. I finished the round comfortably, having not hurt my back or neck on a single swing all day.

I also had the feeling all day that I was making only a three-quarter swing, and yet I was actually hitting the ball farther than usual.  Now I didn't invent the notion of a golf swing dominated by the top hand and arm.  It was a fundamental belief of Bobby Jones, Sam Snead, Byron Nelson, Moe Norman....

Byron Nelson ended his career using only one swing thought.  Using it he set the one record, other than Bobby Jones' Grand Slam, that will never be broken; namely 11 wins in a row and 18 in a season.  It was the greatest prolonged stretch of golf ever played. What was Byron's swing thought?  The back of his left hand going down the line to his target.  

Bobby Jones taught that, for a right-handed player, the golf swing was a back-handed strike with the left hand.  Moe Norman's swing was left hand and arm driven.  The fact is, the majority of golf's best ballstrikers have controlled the swing and the strike with their left hand and arm.  It's simple and it works.

The crazy thing is that it is a very simple move to swing the club and strike the ball with your top hand.  Once you try it, you find the rest of your body moving quite freely to support the action.  The only question I have is why do I ever think about doing anything else?  Oh well; no one ever accused me of being smart.

Moe Norman

I received an e-mail from a new outfit purporting to teach Moe Norman's swing.  Moe was a ballstriking legend.  He was quite possibly an autistic savant, although never officially diagnosed as such.  He hit the ball dead-straight and shot his last 59 at 63 years of age.

The great thing about Moe was that he appeared to break just about every rule in the book when it came to the golf swing.  He used a ten-fingered grip, rather than the preferred Vardon or interlocking grips.  He set up with legs wide apart and ramrod stiff.  He had a short, quick action.  Essentially, if you saw him on the tee, particularly the way he dressed and stood to the ball, you'd think he was a weekend duffer.  But when he struck the ball it made a different sound.  Major champions would stop and watch him hit balls.

The thing is, Moe never recommended anyone copy his swing.  It was his ability to hit ball after ball right on the button, and to keep his clubface square and moving straight down the target line longer than anyone that made him arguably the greatest ballstriker we've ever seen.  His Canadian golfing feats are legendary.  Sadly, the PGA tour wasn't ready for Moe.  He dressed funny.  He talked funny.  He played fast and had little time for the staid slowpokes he met on the big tour.

I love the story about Moe actually laying on the ground pretending to nap while his partners went about their business.  One of the last straws was him putting out between a playing partner's legs as he was picking his ball out of the hole.  They essentially ran him off the tour.  They couldn't understand him.  And Moe just couldn't understand what all the fuss was about.  To him the game was simple.  He reduced hitting a golf ball to an act as simple as hammering a nail.   

A friend of mine got the chance to play with Moe in Belleville, Ontario--I think it was the Corby's tournament.  It was a shotgun start.  They were starting on a par three, had teed off, and Moe was nowhere to be seen.  Suddenly he appeared on the horizon, being driven to the tee at a high rate of knots by the club pro.  Moe jumped out of the cart and demanded, in his squeaky voice, to know the yardage.  After being told he stepped up the tee, threw a ball on the turf, took one look at the pin and hit the ball.  He holed it.  Moe happily chirped that this was something like his 34th hole in one.

It would be great to hit the ball like Moe.  In fact, it would be awesome to hit it like Moe.  The problem is, as I see it, even if you could duplicate his swing action, there is no guarantee you'd hit it anywhere near as well as Moe did.  Moe's action was uniquely developed for Moe.  On the other hand, we can dream.  I reckon I'll read about what this latest outfit has to say.  After all, whether you have ever heard of him or not, Moe was the man.

Tuesday, 30 August 2016

Get the Emphasis on the Right Syllable

Bobby Jones wrote about the golf swing despite the fact that his teacher, Stewart Maiden, never, in Bobby's recollection, ever discussed the golf swing.  Maiden was a no-nonsense Scot who believed that golf was about striking the ball, not swinging the club.  This was never lost on Bobby, even if he was persuaded to discuss the mechanics of the golf swing.

I am always amazed at Bobby's gift for getting to the crux of the matter, weeding out all the unnecessary minutae that many teachers find difficult to resist discussing when dealing with the golf swing.  In his book, Golf is my Game, Bobby began his chapter on the downswing with a very profound statement about the swing.  He wrote:

    "The swinging of the golf club back from the ball is undertaken for the sole purpose of getting the player to a proper position for striking.  So the one influence most likely to assure the satisfactory progression of the swing is the clearly visualized contact between club and ball still at the forefront of the player's mind.  Just as the backswing should not begin until this picture is adequately established, so the movement should continue until there results an awareness that the player has become capable of striking in the intended manner.
     I stress this point, and intend to continue to do so, because I know that the unrelenting effort to play golf in this way can do more for a player than anything else he can possibly do.  When every move of the swing is dominated by the determination to strike the ball in a definite fashion, the complicated sequence of movements must acquire purpose and unity attainable in no other way."

It always comes back to the strike--to impact.  There is room for much individuality in swinging the golf club.  When one considers all the great players and how different each of them swing the club, it is readily apparent that the issue with any player trying to succeed at this game is finding the easiest and most consistent and effective way for them to strike the ball in the required manner.  There are no points given for style.

That's perhaps why we see people with graceful, stylish swings who can't hold a candle to other players who swing like a caveman killing his lunch.  The only thing that really counts is the ability to strike the ball as it must be struck to produce the desired shot.  

Every golfer must ask himself whether his focus is on striking the ball, or swinging the club.  If he is thinking about swinging the club, he is approaching the game ass-backwards.  If he swings the club with the sole intention of striking the ball as it must be struck, chances are his swing will look after itself.  Scotiabank advertises that their customers are richer than they think.  Golfers, when they focus on the strike, are often more capable than they think.

The key is knowing what the clubface must be doing as it strikes the ball.  If you don't know what the clubface must do to produce a straight shot, a fade, a draw, a high shot, or low shot; your chances of producing that shot are seriously diminished.  

I was playing with a gal the other day who was really struggling.  She believed that there was something seriously wrong with her swing.  I suggested that she forget about her swing and just focus on hitting the back of the ball with the clubface moving down the target line.  She immediately started playing better, hitting some real beauties.  By thinking about striking the ball, instead of swinging the club, she got the emphasis on the right syllable.  She was in business.  

By the way, even as I write this, I am reminded of the fact that I'm just as guilty as the next guy of thinking about my swing plane, or my backswing, instead of how I want to strike the ball, as the next guy.  That's why it's so important to look to the guys like Bobby Jones and Jack Nicklaus--golfers who really figured it out--for the answers to this game.  It's a case of do as I say--or rather as Bobby Jones said--not as I do.

Most of us are quite capable of hitting a ball with a stick.  It's just when we worry about what our right knee or left arm is doing, instead of hitting the ball, that we get ourselves in trouble.  That Bobby Jones wasn't just a great player.  He was a heckuva teacher.  

Monday, 29 August 2016


Watching the men play at that brute of a course this week, I was reminded of the importance of being able to hit the ball high and stop it quickly for top echelon players.  Length matters, but height is really important, especially on most championship courses in the States.

I was reading Jack Nicklaus' book, Golf My Way, and he felt that the ability to hit the ball high was his biggest advantage.  Someone had remarked that his advantage was being able to hit a six iron over a tree that most other players would need a nine iron to clear.  Jack remarked that his real advantage was being able to hit a one iron over a tree that most players needed a six iron to get over.  

At Bethpage Black, with all those front pins tucked over bunkers and fescue, and greens that ran away from you, you were in for a long day without a high, fast-stopping ball.  Jack would have loved it, with his long, straight driving and his long iron game.  

I'm starting to work on getting more height back in my game.  As for hitting a high one iron, I'll stick to a 22 degree six wood!  I couldn't hit a high one iron to save my life!

Sunday, 28 August 2016

Cough Syrup

I've made a recent change with my swing, getting it more upright again like it was when I was a flat-belly.  The result has been a higher ball flight and the ability to hit the fade much easier.  I shot a nice even par round the other day using the more upright swing after having struggled for the past couple of weeks.  But today I found myself over-doing things. I seemed to get it in my head that if getting it more upright helped this much, then I'll get it really upright.  Eventually I started taking the club back way outside and was lifting it straight up, without properly turning my shoulders.  The result was, of course, a weak cut.

I got carried away, like a kid with a new toy, and started to try to hit everything high and left-to-right, even when the circumstances didn't call for it.  On one par three I tried to hit a high seven iron into the wind and finished twenty yards short and right of the green.  Annoyed, I then threw down another ball and hit a low draw, which was what the shot called for, and nearly holed it, ending up less than a foot from the hole.  The high fade is nice, but not into a headwind, or to a left pin.

I've also been working on my high, soft pitches, opening up my wedge and cutting across it.  I was doing really well with them and suddenly today I went crazy and wanted to hit a flop shot every time I missed the green.  I tried one on the last hole, leaving the ball woefully short of the pin.  I said to Levi, in disgust, "Why don't I just hit a regular shot?"  I threw down another ball, took one look, and knocked it in the hole with a normal pitch shot.  Levi just laughed.

Levi found himself doing the same thing.  He is working lately on hitting draws with his irons and twice today tried to draw the ball to a right pin guarded by a bunker.  Needless to say, he crashed and burned.  He was also like a kid with a new toy, wanting to draw everything; even when the shot called for his old fade.

We had fun today, but scored poorly because we were both getting just a little carried away.  It reminded me of what Bobby Jones had to say about making changes, or using swing thoughts, when we play.  He said, "One or two teaspoons of cough syrup will help you.  But the whole bottle might just kill you."  We all seem to have the tendency to eventually over-do a change until it goes from being a good thing to a problem.  Then the search begins again.

I know I've done a good thing lately by consciously swinging on a more upright plane.  I have had several people remark to me about how flat my swing had gotten.  And you do need input sometimes if you're not seeing your swing on video.  But now I need to remember not to go crazy.  It's good for me to get my swing back on a better plane.  I had really struggled getting the ball high, or hitting fades, and blamed it more on my back than the fact that I had somehow slipped into a making a very flat swing. It's great to hit the ball high and left-to-right again with ease.  But it's just as good to have that low draw when you need it as well.  I need to take one or two aspirins, not the whole damned bottle!  The same goes for Levi.  The draw is nice.  But it's sure nice to have the little fade as well.  

It's also nice to learn those little finesse shots around the green.  But the good, old bump and run often beats the Philly Mick flop shot.  Save the finesse shots for the times when a simple shot won't do.  

Saturday, 27 August 2016

Open and Shut Approaches

I had Steve tell me he was confused by the article I wrote on "Choosing Your Method."  In it I wrote about Jack Nicklaus referring to the two principle methods of swinging the club.

In the "open-to-closed" method that Jack employed and was used by Vardon, Snead, Nelson, Jones, and most other great players, the club is taken away in one piece and the clubface gradually opens going back and closes on the downswing.  Jack felt that this was the easiest method to learn, the easiest on you physically, and the method that would allow you to play well the longest.  

The other method is what Jack called the "closed-to-open" method where the clubface is held closed, or facing the ball on the way back and held open on the way through.  It was employed by Lee Trevino and Arnold Palmer in his early days.  Bobby Jones called it the "shut-faced" method that was best employed by Leo Diegel in his day.  The "closed-to-open" method, according to Jack, required greater strength.  

I have tried both methods and have found that I have difficulty hitting a fade with the "shut-faced" method.  I also tend to hit the ball lower and predominantly with a draw with the closed-to-open method.  I am either no longer strong enough, or quick enough with my legs to hit my favoured fade with the shut-faced swing.

Jack preferred his method, but admitted that he sometimes used the shut-faced method, presumably when he was playing a hook or a draw.  Both methods have been, and still are, used successfully.  But Jack believes that history has favoured his method.  A good modern example of the open-to-closed method might be Henrik Stenson.  A top echelon shut-faced player would be Zach Johnson.

In the end, as Jack was sure to point out, the only thing that mattered was getting impact right.  He just felt his way was easier for most people to employ.  I hope that makes it a little more clear.  I guess what would work better is a video.  Sometimes words just don't effectively get the point across.  However, I have included the drawing on the subject from Jack's book, Golf My Way.

Friday, 26 August 2016

Bogeys Won't Hurt You

Spiros and I got out early today.  We golf almost exclusively in the afternoons, so it was a different experience with the dew and the freshly cut greens.  Normally my body doesn't react well to early morning play, but for some reason my back and neck felt pretty good.

It was a shotgun start, so we started on nine.  Nine, ten and eleven is Picton's Amen Corner.  Many groups pay anyone in their group who can get through it in even par.  It's definitely the hardest stretch on the course, and is probably easier if you have eight holes under your belt before you face it.

I started on nine with a pushed tee shot that rattled around in the trees and made an opening bogey.  Spiros made par.  We both ended up one over through Amen Corner and at least had the luxury of knowing we'd faced the real meat of the course without having done too much damage.

In the end, I was even par for the day and Spiros had the chance to break 80 for the first time in years. But for a duffed chip on the second last hole, Spiros might have been in the seventies.  The inevitable "ifs" were discussed.  If only he hadn't three putted from twenty feet on two, if only he hadn't hit three crummy chips, if...  Of course, the reality is ifs are a waste of time.  As the saying goes, "If your aunt had had nuts she'd have been your uncle."  

Ifs work both ways.  If I hadn't chipped in for birdie on three and holed a thirty footer for birdie on eight, I wouldn't have shot even par.  In fact, I had to hole a six footer for par on the last hole.  Raymond Floyd called the six foot putt the most important shot in golf.  You need to make a lot of them to score well.  Those are the good ifs.  I think it's better to remember the good bounces rather than the ones that got away.  We both played well for us.  It could have been better and it could have been worse.  But the important thing was that a couple of old, worn-out soccer players were out there still walking the course and enjoying the game.

I've found that the secret to scoring is not necessarily doing anything spectacular: you just have to keep it in play and avoid the big numbers.  In fact, as we headed out today I told Spiros I just wanted to make nothing worse than bogey, since I have been making too many big numbers lately.  I succeeded and made a decent score as a result.  Spiros only made one double bogey, which is an improvement for him.  Bogeys won't really hurt you; it's those dreaded others that really ruin a good round.

Thursday, 25 August 2016

Choosing a Method

While the only thing that really counts in this game is impact, there are obviously many ways to get there.  Goodness knows I've tried just about every method of swinging the club.  And at one time or another, I've played reasonably well with all of them.  But eventually we all really need to choose a method of swinging the club that works and feels the best and then stick with it.

I was raised watching the great Jack Nicklaus.  Naturally, I tended to imitate him.  My swing was long and upright, and my miss was always a pull, or a slice, but never a hook.  And, as Lee Trevino said, "You can talk to a slice, but a hook won't listen."  Any method that doesn't eliminate the hook is a dangerous one.  I seem to be coming full circle, after years of experimenting, and am going back to Jack's style of swinging.  

Jack wrote about different methods in his book, Golf My Way, and explained why he preferred his method.  After explaining that any method had to have as it's goal achieving the perfect impact position, Jack wrote:

    "My own means of achieving this goal (perfect impact) are, of course, distinctive.  I have a very personal method of swinging the club.  For example, although my method is designed to achieve the same objective as Arnold Palmer's and Gary Players' and Lee Trevino's--to name three of my favourite adversaries--it is different from each of theirs, both in over-all form and in particular components.  It is very different, too, even from the methods of the two golfers who, as idols in different ways, most influenced my development as a player, Bob Jones and Ben Hogan."

Jack described two basic ways that the game is played: the open-to-closed method and the closed-to-open method.  Lee Trevino was one of the few greats of the game who employed the closed-to-open method, as did Arnold Palmer early in his career.  A modern example is Zach Johnson.  In terms of the greats of the game, Jack noted that history favours the open-to-closed method.  Harry Vardon, Sam Snead, Bobby Jones, Ben Hogan later in his career, and Byron Nelson were all open-to-closed players.  Jack wrote:

    "What I will say, however, is this.  There is a relatively easy and a relatively difficult way to achieve the common objective at golf--which let me remind you yet again, is not a particular pattern of swing but proper impact of club on ball.  I believe that my style is closer to the relatively easy way than it is to the relatively difficult way.  I think that my style is easier to learn initially and to play with fruitfully as the years advance.  In that sense I'd certainly be happy for my game to serve as a model--but only as a rough model, mind you, not as a working blueprint."

Once again, the key is impact.  If whatever method you choose allows you to have the clubface square to the target line through the impact area, it is a good method.  But, as for me, I'm with Jack.  It was how I learned the game and it is easier on my body than many of the other methods I've tried.

I highly recommend that you seek out a copy of Golf My Way.  Even Brandel Chamblee believes it is one of the best instructional books on golf ever written.  And Brandel may be opinionated, but he knows his stuff.  It was the book Vijay Singh used to build his game.  

Wednesday, 24 August 2016

Jack Nicklaus on Perfection

Jack Nicklaus, like all great players, had to learn that golf is not a game of perfect.  He wrote in Golf My Way:

    "As an amateur there were times that I believed that if only I didn't have to clean up my room, or get an education, or earn a living, I would be able to hone my game to a point of absolute perfection and then hold it there permanently.  I grew up in the era of Hogan.  Everything I saw of him and read of him and heard of him indicated that he had achieved utter mechanical perfection in the striking of a golf ball.  Perfect repitition.  Flawless automation.  This was my dream.  All I needed to achieve it was sufficient time to work at my game.
    I was kidding myself.  When I turned professional, suddenly I had all the time and the opportunity I needed.  And I discovered, fast, that my dream was just that: a dream.  No matter how much work I did, one week I would have it and the next I couldn't hit my hat...
    The point I want to make emphatically as possible right at the start of this book is that you cannot automate the golf swing.  No 'method' of swinging the club has ever been invented that will enable a golfer to achieve machine-like shot-making perfection over an extended period, and in my opinion none ever will be-- certainly not by Jack Nicklaus."

Ben Hogan, Byron Nelson, and Moe Norman came about as close as you can get to ball-striking perfection.  And they all employed different methods, or at least had very different actions except when it came to impact.  So, I guess us average Joes, who don't have the talent, the drive, or the time to beat balls like Ben Hogan, should just accept the vaguaries of the game, realizing that some days we will play well and other days we won't be able to piddle a drop. That's golf.  

Besides, perfection would likely be boring.  Fairways and greens, fairways and greens.  I like the odd trouble shot myself.  And no matter how well you strike it, you still have to make the putts.  Don't even get me started about putting!

So, by all means practise, if you enjoy hitting balls.  But realize that it really all comes down to how well you can manage your game, the game you have on that day.  And how well you putt.

Monday, 22 August 2016

Don't Worry Be Happy

I've been playing like a bum lately.  Of course it's all relative.  I'm wanting to at least break 80, and am happy when I beat Old Man Par.  Lately, I'm struggling to break 80.  I can come up with excuses, like many of us do--bad back, bad luck, bad putting--as though putting is a different thing altogether and can be used as an excuse.  The simple fact is my game's in the toilet.

However, excuses are helpful for a fragile ego.  That being the case, there seems to be a direct correlation between my game going to hell and me being put on medical marijuana in pill form.  Since going on the maryjane, I'm sleeping through most of the night, pain-free.  I'm using less Dilaudid for pain, and I'm eating bags of Fritos at a high rate of knots.  I'm groggy, especially in the mornings, and I have this sudden urge to listen to Bob Marley.  As for my golf--forget about it!

My doctor had advised me that the hydromorphone was not a performance enhancer.  Well, trust me, marijuana won't help you beat Old Man Par either.  On the other hand, you find you don't spend much time worrying about it.  You don't worry, you just be happy.  

Saturday, 20 August 2016

How Impact Should Feel

Jack Nicklaus made no bones about the fact that impact was all that really counts in the game of golf.  You could break every so-called rule in the book on your setup and your backswing and, provided you arrived at impact correctly, you would still hit a good shot.  Obviously, a sound and simple swing makes arriving at impact correctly easier.  But there is plenty of room for individuality in the swing.

Speaking of impact, I like what Jack has to say about it in his book Golf My Way.  He writes:

"IMPACT.  By now the 'lever is unhinging' as my wrists and right arm start to straighten.  The clubhead, fully 'released,' is whipping toward the ball at maximum speed.
     My preplanning for this critical moment will have centered on four factors:  1.  Keeping my head where it's been all along--behind the ball.
2.  Swinging the clubhead through the ball toward the target--not to the ball.
3.  Keeping the left arm straight and travelling directly toward the target.
4.  Avoiding any independent turning or twisting of the club with my hands and wrists.
     And at impact itself?  Well, I am still accelerating, still hitting.  I am 'down' on the shot.  I am trying to deliver the clubhead solidly and accurately to the ball..."

I find this description of impact, and Jack's four factors, very enlightening.  I can see in my mind's eye Jack, in his prime, delivering the clubhead at impact.  It was a thing of beauty.  That poor ball knew it had been well and truly thumped when the Golden Bear hit it.  

Friday, 19 August 2016


I have spent much of my time writing about, and quoting sections from, the books of Bobby Jones.  Way before my time, Bobby Jones was arguably the greatest player the game has ever seen.  That he was adopted by the town of St Andrews, who referred to him as " our Bobby" should be reason enough to accept his brilliance.  The Scots, and particularly the Scots from St Andrews, know their golf and their golfers.

But another golfer who may not have enjoyed the same beloved relationship with the townsfolk of St Andrews, but won an Open there, was Jack Nicklaus.  I idolized Jack as a kid.  My greatest golfing memories are of his win at St Andrews in 1970, and his Masters win in '86.  He and Bobby will probably always rank as my top two golfing heroes.  

And yet Bobby Jones and Jack Nicklaus couldn't have played the game much differently.  Bobby played quickly.  Jack was deliberate.  Bobby had a flat swing and preferred to play a draw.  Jack had a very upright swing and preferred to play a fade.  

I grew up trying to swing like Jack.  In fact, I rue the day I tried to change my swing to try to make it fit the modern rotational swing.  But that's another story.  The point is that Jack Nicklaus possessed a golfing mind equal to that of Bobby Jones.  Both of those players were great champions as much, or more, because of their golfing minds as their swings.

In terms of golfing method, Jack Nicklaus in his book Golf My Way speaks to the inevitable debate about how to best swing the golf club.  He writes:

    "I realize only too well how hard it is to resist gimmicks.  Friends of mine who should know better will often remark to me at a tournament about the apparent variation in swing styles among tour players.  Superficially it may seem to be the case.  On the practice tee they'll watch Lee Trevino on one side of me and Doug Sanders on the other, and later will invite my comment on our 'different' methods.  Frequently their eye will have caught different mannerisms or quirks rather than basics, such as the player's grip or setup to the ball. 
     Swing techniques of my fellow tour players really isn't a subject that turns me on; when I get away from the course I like to forget golf.  Thus I've developed an answer for my friends that usually allows us to change the subject fairly quickly.  'We may all get to impact a little differently,' I'll say, 'but at impact we're all the same--and impact is the bit that matters.  If you watch a little more closely, I think you'll see this for yourself.'
     This is not a conversational copout on my part.  It is actually the crunch factor in any debate about method... The heart of the matter is that whatever style or shape or method of swinging a fellow adopts, if he can play golf at all, during impact he'll look pretty much like Lee Trevino, or Doug Sanders, or me, or any other good golfer you'd like to name.  Whatever his legs, hips, hands, arms, shoulders, and head--and above all, his club--may be doing at other points in his swing, they'll be much the same as ours just before, at, and just after impact.
     It is this controlled, specific impact position that any method worth adopting must be designed to achieve.  Keep that in mind as you read this or any other golf book, or listen to anyone talking golf technique.  Good methods are not designed to produce precise angles of the wrists, or photogenic top-of-the-backswing postures, or perfect follow-throughs.  These and other like factors may be important, but only as a route to a broader goal.  That goal is a particular relationship of the golfer to his club, and through that of his club to the ball, at impact."

Bobby Jones believed the same thing.  His focus was always impact--how he wanted to strike the ball.  He described his focus on impact as being "intense," when he was competing.  We've got great models to copy when it comes to swinging the golf club.  But don't forget what two of the greatest players of all time taught.  It's all about impact.  How you get there doesn't matter, as long as you get there.

Thursday, 18 August 2016

Swing Easy and Accept the Extra Distance

What's the biggest problem for many golfers?  They try to hit the ball too far.  Because they once hit a seven iron 160 yards, now they pick a seven every time they're 160 yards from the pin.  I have a buddy who is woefully short virtually every time with his approaches.  He hits some nice shots, but they inevitably end up short of the pin, if not the green itself.  And yet, he never blames it on the fact that he isn't using enough club.  It's always something else.

When questioned about it, he says, "You know I hit my seven iron 150 yards."  Unfortunately, I don't know that.  In fact, I generally out-drive him by thirty yards and yet he often hits one club less than I do on the par threes.  It never occurs to him that he should use one or two more clubs and swing within himself.  

Sam Snead's 80 percent rule would turn so many people's games around.  Swing at 80 percent and find the center of the clubface and you will actually find yourself hitting the ball farther, as well as straighter.  If mid to high handicappers would decide never to hit a club full out, they would immediately see an improvement in their game.  Raymond Floyd called it "playing comfortable."  He could hit a seven iron 180 yards, but he generally hit one between 140 and 160 yards.  Why bust a seven iron when you can hit a smooth five or six iron?  The reality is it's often ego getting in the way of common sense.  For most handicap players, they would immediately improve if they did nothing other than just take one more club on every full shot and swing it smoothly.

Ask yourself when the last time you hit an approach shot over the green.  For most amateurs it won't be easy to remember unless they managed to skull a shot.  Why not follow Raymond Floyd's advice and learn to "play comfortable."  Hit the club that you know you can easily get there, not the one you can get there, but only if you happen to flush it.  

Sam Snead was convinced that he actually hit the ball farther by swinging at 80 percent.  As my old father used to love to say, "Swing easy and accept the extra distance."  For most of us that's true.  If we'd only swing easier, we'd soon see our shots improve.  Watch the pros.  How many of them do you see swinging out of their shoes?  Don't let your ego get in the way of a good game.  As Harvey Penick once said, "The woods are full of long drivers."  So, don't forget to swing easy and accept the extra distance.

Tuesday, 16 August 2016

Natural Golf

It seems to me that the desire of every golfer should be to play the game naturally.  Clearly, if you watch the average golfer teeing off on the first tee, there is a lot of unnatural, or atleast uncomfortable stuff going on.  Many players look anything but natural as they prepare to strike a golf ball.

There is a teaching system called Natural Golf that purported to teach Moe Norman's golf swing.  This, despite the fact that I've heard Moe say that no one should try to copy his swing.  Moe freely admitted that to watch him address the ball he looked like he couldn't break 100, but when he struck the ball it was pure magic.

As one who has tried to grip and swing the club like Moe with mixed results, I can now say that in the end Natural Golf simply managed to lead golfers down the path of trying to adhere to a number of prescribed positions--like most other methods--and missed the point, which was how Moe struck the ball--what his clubhead was doing through the impact zone.  And Moe told us what his club was doing through impact.  He didn't keep it secret.  

Bobby Jones, as he often did, said it best when he wrote:

    "Even if a person may not have begun to play golf at an early age, I believe he may gain much by emphasizing naturalness in his learning processes.  I think he has the right to convince himself that an effective golf swing can be made without rigid adherence to a lrescribed routine and that there is room for differences in physical structure and calabilities... What the average golfer needs more than finespun theories is something that will give him a clearer conception of what he should try to do with the clubhead...When we speak of a sound method or good form, we mean nothing more than that the possessor of either has simplified his swing to the point where errors are less likely to creep in and he is able consistently to bring his club against the ball in the correct hitting position.  We think, talk, and write so much about the details of the stroke that we sometimes lose sight if the thing that is all-important--hitting the ball.  It is conceivable that a person could perform all sorts of contortions and yet bring the club into the correct relation to the ball at impact, in which case a good shot must result."

Lately, I have been going through contortions of my own because of my ailing back and neck.  I find myself incapable of swinging as I once did.  The fact is, however, so long as I remember to think about the strike, I can still find a way to hit a few solid shots.  I want to try from now on to play natural golf as defined by Bobby Jones, rather than try to use the Natural Golf method based on Moe Norman's swing.  Natural golf the Jones way is to try to find the most simple and effective way for you--the individual--to strike the ball as it must be struck, right in the back of the ball with the clubhead moving down the target line.

If you are just beginning, or struggling physically as I am, this may mean some experimenting.  I know I'm going to spend more time whacking that old tire.  Going and whacking the devil out of an old tire--or an impact bag if you prefer--really helps in this regard.  It gives instant feedback about impact and builds muscle. When you do it you find yourself miraculously freed from thinking about the swing.  Hopefully, from there you can take that freedom to the course or the range.

The last time I broke 70, which is a couple of months ago now, I had been working the Tire Drill.  All day, as I stood over the ball, I just thought, "I'm going to whack this ball just like I've been whacking that tire."  It worked a treat.  I obviously need to spend more time whacking the tire and less time thinking about my backswing.  

Monday, 15 August 2016

An English Rose is Gold

I must say that I hoped Henrik Stenson would win the olympic golf.  But I'm pleased to see Justin Rose win a gold medal for Great Britain.  He has long been one of my favourite players.  It hasn't been an easy road for JR, but he's golden now.

I have to admit, as someone who has only recorded the golf, and has yet to watch it, I can only go by all the reports I received from other golfers.  Without exception, everyone I spoke to said the golf was "boring" and the announcing was bad.  The golf was probably "boring" to golfers or fans who spend all of their time watching the PGA tour.  Many of the players in the hunt, especially early on in the proceedings, were not household names, and the absence of many of the game's premier players definitely hurt.  

But from all accounts it was a great finish with two world-class players taking silver and gold.  Kuchar rounding out the medals with his last round charge gives the US something to hang their hat on, I suppose.  

That JR could pull it off is great for British golf.  He is a class act who has shown incredible grit in his career, going from a can't miss kid after his Open performance at 17 to an eighteen year old who couldn't make a cut on the European tour.  Rose perservered and now, with the addition of an Olympic gold medal, is destined for the Hall of Fame.  He deserves it.

As for Rory McIlroy, he apparently still doesn't care, and prefers to watch the diving anyway.  He can really be a twit sometimes.  Well, Rory's got his attitude, but JR's got the gold medal.  And don't think the golfing gods aren't paying attention.  I'm a great believer in those golfing gods.

Wednesday, 10 August 2016

If You Just Don't Quit

My body is really breaking down.  Back and neck issues have really impacted my game.  I used to be able to bomb it, and hit high fades.  Now I'm lucky to hit it 240 yards off the tee and I can't fly a seven iron more than140 yards.  My shot shape is more often a low draw, rather than a high fade.  But, as big Bob likes to say, "It is what it is."

I played the other day with Steve, using the Hogan persimmon woods.  I hit the fairway woods okay, but I couldn't hit the driver to save my life.  After one particularly ugly drive I looked at Steve in disgust and said, "I used to be able to bomb it with this club.  Now look at me."

Steve said, "Just be grateful that there was a time when you could bomb it.  Some people never experience that."

He had a good point.  Sure it was fun to be able to hammer the ball, but life moves on and you have to accept that things change and you need to adapt. The fact is, in this game, as long as you can swing a club, you can figure out a way to play and enjoy the game.  I'm just trying to find a way to swing the club that doesn't hurt.  Most days I'm okay until I hit a fat shot.  Fat shots are killers for my back and neck.

Today I struggled mightily.  I was in pain before I even started and was experiencing back spasms.  No matter how I tried to swing the club, it was uncomfortable.  Finally, on the last hole, utterly discouraged and fed up, I left my tee shot short of the par three green.  But something came over me as I stood over the ball and I said to the boys, "I'm just going to knock this in."

 Don't you know I did just that?  That ball went in the hole like it had eyes, breaking about three feet as it curled down the hill and hit the flagstick dead center.  That's probably the golfing gods throwing me a crumb--reminding me that If I just don't quit, good things can happen--even if I can't break an egg with the driver.

Tuesday, 9 August 2016

Forget the Swing

I don't know why it is, but golf tends to really mess with your mind.  This is especially true if you end up studying the game and reading all the various theories about the golf swing.  I don't really know when it happened, but somewhere along the line most golfers became obsessed with the swing instead of the strike.

Golf is really quite scientific.  The ball reacts according to the laws of physics.  It moves up, or down, left, or right, based on the angle and direction of the strike.  If the club is square to the target and is moving down the target line at impact, the only possible result is a straight shot.  All the other shot shapes can be explained the same way.  

And yet we have all this strange teaching to try to correct faults with club path and club angle by focussing on our swing instead of the strike.  If someone is slicing the ball they get offered advice like strenthening their grip, changing their alignment, changing the path of their backswing, dropping their right elbow to their side on the downswing, etc.  All these things might help, but the thing the slicer needs to understand is what they want the clubface to do.  Once they understand that a slice is caused by the clubface being open at impact with the club path going to the left, they can make the adjustments necessary to have the clubface square at impact.

When we know what we want the club to do, we can soon figure out how best to do it.  We need to move away from the swing and just focus on the strike.  This is perhaps where the problem comes in for teachers.  The fact is you wouldn't have to give many lessons if you taught students how the ball needed to be struck and then suggested they find the best way to do it for themselves.  For teachers to stay busy golfers have to continue to believe the answer lies in perfecting the golf swing.

It never ceases to amaze me how many people I've met who have played for years, had lessons, and don't even know how to aim the clubface.  It's incredible.  If you can't aim your clubface at the target, what are your chances of hitting it?  (For those who don't know it, you aim your clubface by having the bottom groove on your club square to the target.  That's why many newer clubs have the bottom groove painted white.)  Why are golfers not taught this vital fact?  They get taught how to grip the club, how to position their body, how to swing the club, but not how to aim the club.  It makes no sense.

I'm starting to learn to do it--to just see the strike I want to make and strike it, without thinking about my swing.  But after years of being swing-focussed, it's hard not to entertain those swing thoughts.  I still think that picturing a nail in the back center of the ball and trying to drive that nail straight down the target line is the best way to play the game.  But I will surely find my mind wandering to thoughts about my shoulder turn, or whatever.  That's the price you pay for reading too many golf instructional books and articles.  Forget the swing.  Just hit it like Moe.

Monday, 8 August 2016

Play Comfortable

In golf, as in life I suppose, the key to happiness, which is true success, is to know yourself and be yourself.  You have to know your game and play your game to succeed.  In many respects we are what we think.  If we don't think we can make a shot, or a putt, we almost certainly won't.  If we think we can make a shot, we're more than halfway there.

I have seen more people, myself included, hit terrible shots, only to say, "I knew I was going to miss that one."  Why do we do it?  I guess there are many reasons, but the important thing is to try never to hit a shot you don't think you are ready or able to hit.  It may mean laying up, taking more club than your playing partners, shooting away from the pin, playing with nothing more than a six iron--whatever it takes to play comfortable; to play your game.

I remember a friend of mine talking about playing with a guy who hit nothing but slices.  He'd aim way left and Bubba-curve it back at his target.  After every shot he'd say, "Not pretty, but effective."  For him, the slice was his shot.  He didn't try to fix it.  He just learned to play with it.

That's a good plan for all of us: get to know what we're capable of and play the shot we're pretty certain we can play.  It may not be daring, or bold.  It may be a bit boring, until we suddenly see our scores improve.  Play the shot you know you can play and, as Raymond Floyd says, "Play comfortable."  Comfortable is good.

Hit It Like Moe

There are many who saw Moe Norman who think he might have been the greatest ballstriker ever.  Moe, in his own inimitable style, certainly declared himself to be the best striker of the ball.  He made no bones about the fact that he knew the secret to great ballstriking and it wasn't anything taught by the majority of golf instructors.

Moe had a very peculiar swing.  He stood with his legs wide apart.  He employed a ten finger grip.  He extended his arms way out to the ball.  His swing was short and crisp and the ball almost always came straight out of the center of the clubface.  When asked whether we should copy his swing, Moe, without hesitation, said, "No."

I've always been fascinated with Moe and his near perfect ballstriking.  I even tried copying his swing.  I had some good results, but felt very uncomfortable trying to stand to the ball and swing like Moe.  No mystery there, since I'm built nothing like Moe.  I've watched lots of footage of Moe's swing and listened to his interviews and I have reached the conclusion that Moe was right.  We shouldn't swing like him.  We just need to strike the ball the way he did.

So, how did Moe strike the ball?  He struck it right in the back of the ball, with the club moving straight down the target line. If he took a divot at all, it was a "bacon strip," not a "pork chop."  He didn't try to strike the ball with a descending blow in an effort to add spin, he struck the ball using the natural loft of the club to do the job.  He didn't worry about hitting it far.  He was only concerned with hitting it straight.  He wasn't a short hitter.  He could move it out there if he wanted, but his concern was pure, accurate striking, not distance.  He could hit drive after drive without moving his tee, he struck it so purely.

Moe believed that he kept his club square to the target line longer than any other player in the history of the game.  He felt the face was still square 22 inches after impact.  In fact he practised swinging with a coin or a tee set well in front of the ball and tried to feel that his club remained square to the target as it passed over the coin.  This led to a strong lateral move and a strong pulling action with his left arm. 

It's interesting to note that Byron Nelson used the same lateral action and always pictured the back of his left hand going straight down the target line through impact.  He apparently kept his clubface square to the target line for 12 inches.  Compare that with six inches for Sam Snead and five inches for Ben Hogan.  Byron Nelson hit the ball so well that some people thought he was monotonous to watch.  But, as Byron said, "It may be monotonous, but I sure eat regular."

The secret to Moe's success was the purity of the strike, the squareness of his clubface to the target line, and the ability to keep that clubface square and moving down the target line well after impact.  It had nothing to do with his stance, set up, grip, backswing...  It was the strike.  We want to hit it like Moe, not necessarily swing like him.

So, perhaps, without changing anything in your grip, set up, or swing, just try imagining that perfect strike.  Picture a nail in the back center of the ball.  Now picture driving that nail straight down the target line.  Or, try Moe's drill and try to have your club still square to your target line several inches past the ball, using a coin or a tee.

Don't try to swing like Moe.  Just learn to strike it like he did.

Sunday, 7 August 2016

Shag Boy

Today I had my grandson shagging balls for me.  It reminded me of the days when I had my father hit balls to me, catching them with a ball glove.  It's great practice for me and a bit of exercise for the boy.

Fortunately he didn't sustain any injuries, even if one hit the brim of his hat.  So far his interest is more in driving a golf cart or shagging balls than actually playing golf.  But hope springs eternal that he'll catch the golfing bug.

Saturday, 6 August 2016

Hogan Clubs

Just for fun, I decided to play with my Hogan Apex blades, old Hogan persimmom woods--driver, three and four woods, and my Bullseye putter.  With the Hogan irons I also used a Cobra Phil Rodgers 56degree wedge that my father had used for years.  The bounce is just about worn off, so it suits me fine.

I played Salt Creek Golf Links near Warkworth, Ontario.  It's a short course--less than five thousand yards.  But it has some very tricky holes, small, domed greens, and fairways lined with evergreen trees.  It's a par 65.  Using my antiquated gear I shot 67, which included me hitting an eight iron out of bounds on a short par three.  Not too bad for an old, fat guy.

Interestingly, I played Salt Creek a few days ago with my modern clubs and shot 72.  The point of all this is that you don't need the modern equipment to play reasonably good golf.  You just need to keep the ball in play and chip and putt reasonably well.  In fact, I may just stick with these old Hogan clubs.  I was no hell with the driver, but the rest of them performed about as well as any of the new stuff I've used.

By the way, I bought all the clubs second hand, except my father's old sand wedge.  I also bought the retro golf bag at a second time around place.  Total cost for the whole set and bag was just under fifty dollars American.  Just goes to show you that golf needn't be that expensive.  It's always second hand clubs for me now.  Actually, I may use these antiques for the rest of my days.  Hogan made great clubs and you really can't beat a Bullseye putter.

Good Riddance

Nike is getting out of the golf equipment business.  It isn't making them enough profit.  Well, as far as I'm concerned, good riddance to them.

Nike rightly recognized that signing Tiger Woods and getting into the golf biz was a good move.  Even handing Tiger forty million for the first five years was, for them, a bargain after Tiger proved his mettle as a pro and dominated the golf world.

Then they threw ten million at Michelle Wie before she'd won anything bigger than a junior tournament.  It might have made them money.  It might have been a bust.  But it convinced me to continue avoiding Nike products like the plague.  Who do you think pays for those huge endorsement deals?  The consumer does.

Nike throwing money around like water just forced the other golf manufacturers to do the same.  Who's paying for it?  We are.  The competition has now become such that every club manufacturer has to keep coming up with a new model club, often reinventing the wheel in the process, and we, the consumers, have lapped it up.  But eventually even golfers perhaps start to get the message.  All those new clubs haven't changed their game a lick, despite all the testimonials by golfers shilling for their sponsors.

As far as Nike and Adidas--and anyone else for that matter--looking to extricate themselves from the golf business goes--good riddance.  They haven't grown the game, they've made it worse in my estimation.  

Grand old courses are being made obsolete because these "entrepreneurs" have made equipment that the top players can use to hit the ball way farther and straighter than the good old days when men were men and the sheep were nervous.  Courses start to get judged by their length instead of their shot value.  And the average golfer just remains average but pays more.  

I may sound like some sort of Trumpian character talking about making golf great again, but golf was better in the old days before golfers only want to play if they can use a motorized cart and listen to the radio.  Golf might be in trouble.  But it isn't in trouble because Nike, or Adidas, or many golf operators have decided it isn't profitable enough.  Golf is in trouble because golf wasn't ever intended to be about profit.

Thursday, 4 August 2016

Smoothness and Rhythm

The one thing we can say about all good players, regardless of how they actually swing the golf club, is that they possess excellent timing and rhythm.  Some of golf's greats have swung the club so smoothly, and with such a relaxed, fluid grace that we can't help but admire and wish we could imitate their action.  Granted, others, like Arnold Palmer or Lee Trevino, seem to have swung the club harder and more violently, and might tend to be viewed as hitters more than swingers.  Regardless, all good players must have great timing and rhythm to consistently strike the ball well.

When writing about timing and rhythm in his book Golf is my Game, Bobby Jones provides us with some excellent information that I think is worth remembering. Once again, in Bobby's inimitable way, he stresses what is vital to the golf swing and what is not.  He wrote:

    "Apart from the intention to deliver the blow in a proper way, there is nothing more important to the golf swing than that it should have the qualities of smoothness and rhythm, and I can conceive of no reason why it should not possess both these qualities so long as it is not interfered with by the conscious effort to pass by rote through a series of prescribed positions."

When you consider this opening paragragh in Bobby's chapter called Timing and Rhythm, we see two very important points being made.  The first, and most important, point is that the swing must be made with the intention to deliver the blow in a proper way.  It always comes back to the strike.  Our swing must be made with the definite intent to strike the ball in the correct way to produce the shot we are trying to hit.  Without this intention we are in trouble, because the prettiest, smoothest swing in the world is of no value if it doesn't deliver the club to the ball in the correct way.

The second important point Bobby makes is that thinking about mechanics, or trying to swing by rote, or by the numbers, is the surest way to interfere with our natural timing and rhythm.  It is actually quite amazing what we, as humans, are capable of doing with a bit of practice, provided we are focussed on the right thing.  The surest way to hit a crummy shot is to think about whether or not you are keeping your left arm straight, or whether you are bracing your right knee, or whatever, when you should be thinking about striking the golf ball.  Sounds obvious, but it obviously isn't when you consider what is going through the average player's mind when he's swinging the club.  Often the strike is the last thing on the golfer's mind--particularly if they've just had a lesson or read the latest tip in Golf Digest before they teed it up.

I hate to keep repeating myself, but Bobby Jones was not only one of the greatest players to have ever played this game, he was also, for my money, the greatest teacher of the game--even if he never considered himself one.  If you get the chance, read Bobby's books.  They contain pure golfing gold.

Hair Ball

Playing in South Carolina, I was introduced to the "breakfast ball."  Lots of players agree to a breakfast ball--a Mulligan--on the first tee shot.  It isn't golf, but it has a certain southern charm.  

Yesterday I played with Spiros and Ken at the Bay of Quinte in Belleville.  Spiros drop-kicked his first tee shot into a ditch about sixty yards in front of the tee box.  I told Spiros he was welcome to take a breakfast ball, which he readily accepted.

Ken said, "It shouldn't be called a breakfast ball.  It should be a hair ball."  He then did his best imitation of a cat retching up a hair ball.  I'm not sure Spiros appreciated the connotation, but he took his hair ball and made bogey.

When we were marking the scores at the second tee box, Spiros said, "I made five."

I replied, "Five, with a hair ball."  

Spiros just grimaced.  No more breakfast balls for us.  From now on it's a hair ball.

It Ain't the Fiddle

There has been a concerted effort on the part of golf equipment manufacturers to convince us that, in order to improve, we need to continually upgrade our equipment.  Every year--sometimes perhaps even more often--the big name club makers come up with a new "improved" model guaranteed to have you hitting it longer and straighter.  It has worked, thanks to the touring pros being willing to shill for them and change their equipment for the right price.  

However, despite all the advertising and the money-back guarantees being offered, most golfers still struggle to break 100, or 90.  At least they struggle to do so playing by the rules.  The reason for this is really quite simple.  It ain't the fiddle, it's the fiddler.  Hand me a stradivarius and I can make it sound like a wounded parrot.  Hand a real fiddler a cheap fiddle and they will make it sound good enough that you won't run for the door.  It's the same with golf clubs.

A couple of years ago I had the idea that I might need a new three wood.  So I went to the big golf store and asked the guy at the hitting bays if I could conduct a Pepsi challenge.  I came equipped with four or five of my old three woods--some of them quite ancient--and said I wanted to test them against the new models.  I told him I would purchase yet another three wood if he could provide me with one that made a significant difference.  

Suffice it to say that, after hitting my antiques and the assorted new-and-improved models he brought me, the machine could not provide enough difference for the sales person to even try to sell me a new club.  I hit them all pretty much the same.  In part that is because I'm probably about as good a fiddler as I'm ever going to be, and in part it's because, in my hands at least, the improved equipment doesn't make that much difference.

For the top players, the new improved stuff makes a difference.  In fact it makes such a difference that we keep having to make golf courses longer and longer.  But for the weekend player, he might better stick with his old fiddle.  Unless he has money burning a hole in his pocket, or he just loves the look of the new tools, he might better save his money and spend more time working on his short game.  That's the only way he's going to start shooting lower scores.  Those new PXG's won't do it for him.

Tuesday, 2 August 2016

Could It Be the Golfing Gods?

I don't know how much talk there has been about golf's top male golfers electing to skip the Rio games.  I haven't heard that much.  But I'm certainly not impressed.  

All the effort to get golf back in the Olympics, and the brightest stars say, "No thanks."  It stinks.  I've certainly lost some respect for these guys, regardless of what excuse they might have used for not going.  

On the heels of this we see another first-time Major champion crowned, and  Rory and DJ missing the cut at the PGA championship, I find myself wondering.  Could the golfing gods be involved?  I'm a great believer in the golfing gods, and I can't help but think they weren't too pleased with the stars who failed to support golf's return to the Olympics.  If you want to grow the game, what better way to do it than make it an Olympic sport?  Have the top players not go, and you have to wonder how long golf will remain an Olympic sport.

Perhaps the golfing gods have decided that those top players are going to have a tough end to their season.  As far as I'm concerned, it would serve them right.  I hope Henrik, Rickie, Bubba, and all the guys that saw the importance of competing in Rio have a great time, give us a great show, and have a great end to the season.  As far as I'm concerned, it would serve them right as well.  Can you imagine Arnie or Jack missing the Olympics?  

Monday, 1 August 2016

You Don't Hit the Ball With Your Backswing

Golf is a simple game that has been made extremely complicated.  Golf involves hitting a ball with a stick towards a target.  It's as simple as that.  Now, while the ball has improved significantly from the days when we used featheries, and the sticks we use are better, the game remains the same.  We are still hitting a ball with a stick towards a target.

So to be the best golfer we can be, we need to be able to pick the right target and then figure out how to hit the ball in such a way that it flies, or rolls, most consistently towards the target. One of the mistakes I think we make when trying to learn the game, particularly as adults, is that we choose as our models world-class players.  If we don't happen to be blessed with tremendous timing, dexterity, strength, and flexibility, our efforts to mimic the swings of these world-class players inevitably falls way short.

In order to hit the ball straight at our target only two things are necessary--actually I guess there are three.  At impact the clubface must be aimed at the target.  The clubface must also be moving towards the target, or along the target line, and we must strike the back of the ball.  That's it.  What happens before or after impact is of little real consequence as long as those three conditions exist.  

Regardless of the differences in the swings of all the best players, they all look pretty much the same at the moment of truth when they are striking the ball.  And yet even at impact the great players might still look slightly different.  What looks the same, however, is what the clubface is doing.  For a straight shot it is moving down the target line, it is aimed at the target, and it is striking the back of the ball.

Now this may sound simple--perhaps even too simple--but it is the truth.  Not every top player holds the club the same way.  Not every top player keeps their left, or lead, arm straight.  In fact, not every top player does anything exactly the same as every other top player except strike the ball.  Because the results, good or bad, are all down to the strike.  

That's why Bobby Jones said that during competition he focussed intensely on the strike.  He trusted his swing to take care of itself.  Bobby, like all golfers, occasionally found himself thinking about his swing.  But he had a very special teacher in Stewart Maiden to occasionally remind him of the simple truth about the game.  He told him things like, "You don't hit the ball with your backswing, laddie."

After being distracted by swing thoughts, I eventually get back to just trying to hammer an imaginary nail right into the back of the ball at the equator, straight down my target line.  When I do my ball-striking instantly improves.  My shots are much straighter.  The ball flight is more piercing.  And I have far fewer fat or thin shots.  This works just as well for chipping and putting.  It's a thought that I've seen work like a charm for others as well.  You just hammer the nail.

Why don't I hammer the nail all the time?  Because It's probably too simple, and because I'm obviously not the sharpest knife in the proverbial drawer.  I eventually get distracted and start thinking about my shoulder turn, or whether I'm bracing my right knee, or whether I'm taking a big enough backswing...  It's not very smart.  But then, no one ever accused me of being smart.