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Thursday, 17 November 2016

Tinkeritis

Bobby Jones' father, Mr Robert Tyre Jones Sr., and I seem to have been afflicted with the same golfing disease. We were, and in my case still are, afflicted with tinkeritis. We tinker with our swing when we are supposed to be playing golf. My old father had the same disease. I think it's quite common in golfing circles.

Bobby wrote about his father in his book Golf is my Game. I think it's worth sharing as it may--but probably won't--help other similarly afflicted. Tinkeritis is a serious disease that, if left untreated, can simply ruin your game. Bobby wrote:

    "One of the greatest gifts golf gave me was the enjoyment of many years of playing association with my father. We started to play the game about the same time, and from the time I was thirteen or fourteen we had the same golfing companions. On one occasion he and I met in the finals of the club championship. In later years we played together two or three times a week.
     For many years the offices of our law firm were arranged so that there was an inside connecting door between Dad's office and mine. I used to stop by for him in the mornings so that we arrived at the office together.
     Almost invariably immediately after we reached the office, Dad would appear through this inside door, carefully close the door from my office to the hall, select a club from several I had in the corner, and confront me across the top of my desk, 'Here's something I discovered the other day. See what you think of it,' he would say.
     Whereupon he would demonstrate, and I would comment--as briefly as possible, I admit--in order that we both might get some work done.
     But Dad was a dedicated golfer. He always seemed to think he was on the verge of discovering the secret of the game. It cost him untold agony, but he loved it. The secret he had shown me in the morning never worked in the afternoon, but he always discovered a new one on the seventeenth hole and went home happy and with something to show me the next morning.
     There might have been other things wrong with these secrets, but the fact is that they were never given a chance. The golf course in the midst of a round is no place to experiment or try anything new. The only place for that is the practice tee, and Dad never went to the practice tee before a round.
     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 eternal 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 of 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...
     If I should be limited to one piece 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 to avoid hurry in everything; 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 on the shot to play; and, above all, to take a little more time if things should begin to go wrong."

Tinkeritis is particularly prevalent among players like myself who don't tend to go to the practice tee. I figure I've only got so many more swings left in me; and besides, if I haven't figured it out by now, chances are I won't find it by hitting a bucket of balls. Like Bobby's father, I tend not to give things a chance. If I hit a couple of stinkers I immediately try another swing. I do this knowing full well that it's the strike that is the only thing that counts in the end.

I played today with the same swing all day. I hit some stinkers and a couple of beauties, but in the end your score invariably comes down to how well you chip and putt. Today my putting stunk and so did my score. But then part of the problem may have been my switching back and forth between looking at the hole and looking at the ball. I think I'll stick with looking at the hole if I can because it helps with distance control and stops me watching the putter head go back, which is a cardinal sin.

As Bobby advises, we need to restrict our tinkering to the range. Once we're on the course the only thing we need to think about is finding our rhythm and getting the ball in the hole in as few swings as possible. In golf it's all about how many, not how.