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Tuesday, 10 January 2017

Bobby Jones on Common Sense and Short Shots

In golf, as in life, common sense isn't always that common. This is especially the case when it comes to the short game.  For the average golfer within 75 yards of the green is where they really start to waste shots. And from pitching distance and in is where they can, with a little common sense, start to shave some strokes from their handicap.

Consider what Bobby Jones had to say on the subject in his book Bobby Jones on Golf:

    "Once I was playing with a man who was scoring in the high nineties; yet, to give a sample of his play, on each of two holes, five hundred yards in length, his second shot stopped within forty yards of the green. When anyone who has played golf for any time at all scores above ninety, the reason can be found in his work around the greens. Of course, older men, who cannot get the needed distance, and the wild fellows, who knock the ball entirely off the course from every tee, are exceptions. Most of the others who play regularly manage somehow to get the ball within short pitching distance of the green in two shots. It is only then that they really begin to throw away strokes.
     An important part of short play is judgement; selecting the right club and the right shot. Many unnecessary losses are incurred because the player attempts shots that are too exacting--pitching too close to bunkers, and trying to chip cleanly from sand. Not content with a fair average result, too often he will try something that he has not one chance in one hundred of bringing off.
     The short shots ought logically to be the easiest to play; in fact they are, if the player can only keep relaxed. The mechanics are simpler, and the effort considerably less; but the closer one gets to the green, or to the hole, the more difficult it becomes to keep on swinging the club. Those who have no trouble lashing out at a full drive with a fine free swing tighten up in every muscle when confronting a pitch of twenty yards.
     In playing a pitch, chip, or shot from a bunker near the green, there is one significant difference to be noted between the method of the expert player and that of the duffer; in one case, the swing is amply long, smooth, and unhurried; in the other, it is short and jerky, because the club has not been swung back far enough.
     It is a mistake to attempt a steep pitch with backspin when there is ample room for a normal shot. The more spectacular shot may be more exhilerating when it comes off, but the average result will not be so good. Every added requirement of timing, control, and precision will tell in the long run against consistently good performance.
     It is demonstrably more difficult to control a shot with a club of extreme loft than with one of moderate pitch. Therefore, the clubs of extreme loft should be left in the bag until the need for them becomes well defined. Nevertheless, whenever it becomes necessary to pitch over a bunker or other hazard, the lofted club must come into play. It is always safer to play a normal shot with a club of adequate loft than to get fancy with a club with a straighter face. But the player who always pitches up to the hole might as well have a hazard in front of him all the time; he does not know how to take advantage of his better position.
     There were two circumstances that would induce me to haul a nine-iron (this was written before the advent of 60 degree wedges) out of the bag for use from a lie in the fairway. One was the necessity for pitching over a bunker or other obstruction, when I could not stop the shot with any other club played in a normal manner; the other was a heavy lie from which I knew the ball would take a lot of roll, no matter what I did to it.
     Of course, the lie is always a circumstance of importance when one is deciding how much roll to expect. The proper order of procedure is to visualize the shot, determine where the pitch should drop and how much roll it should have; then to select the club and attempt the shot that should produce this result. Always favour a strightforward shot, and go to a more lofted club only when the necessity for stopping the ball makes this necessary."

Those sixty and sixty-four degree wedges have really enabled expert players to become deadly from 75 yards and in. In the hands of the average player they often result in some dramatic misses. So, as Bobby advises, around the green always take the least lofted club possible and give yourself the best possible margin for error. Once again, the short game is not about how; it's how many. And the easiest shot is the best shot to play if it's the score you're concerned about.