Sunday, 1 January 2017

Four Final Thoughts by John Jacobs: Part One

I must admit that I don't spend much time reading golf instruction books or videos--at least not anymore. But when I do, I soon realize that something tends to be missing from much of the information. Most golf instruction seems to focus on swinging the club rather than striking the ball.

Somehow most golf teachers seem to have evolved from being golf instructors into swing instructors. Whether this is because instructors find much more to expound upon when discussing the golf swing than they would if just focussing on the strike, or because students tend to be more interested in working on their swing than the strike; who knows? But it's definitely been a problem in golf instruction.

I've written about Bobby Jones' insistence that the most simple way to learn to play the game was to focus on the strike. I've written about Jack Nicklaus' contention that the strike, or impact, was all that really counts. Yesterday I wrote about Julius Boros' view that where the rubber really hits the road--the moment of truth--is how the club meets the ball. 

John Jacobs, a highly respected teacher of the game, when summing up in his book Play Better Golf With John Jacobs gave us Four Final Thoughts that every golfer needs to keep in mind. He wrote:

    "The more I teach, play and watch golf, the more convinced I become that the decisive factor in good shotmaking is preparation: shot assessment, club selection, grip, aim, stance, posture. If you can mstervthese departments, you have every chance of playing golf to the best of your full capabilities, whatever thise may be. These are the spade-work areas; the foundations upon which your game must be built if you have the ambition and the opportunity to reach your full potential as a golfer. Of that I am totally convinced, and am sure I would be supported in this view by the majority of the world's top players."

No one would likely agree more than Jack Nicklaus, the game's greatest Major champion. No one took more pains to ensure that he was ready to hit a golf shot. He maintained that he was so meticulous about setting up and preparing to hit a shot that he simply couldn't take the club back until he was ready. Jack believed that most shots were made or missed before the club was swung. Preparation was that important to him.

When talking about his teacher, Stewart Maiden, Bobby Jones recalled that he had no recollection of him ever talking about the golf swing. On the occasions when Bobby sought his help, Bobby said that Stewart would put him in the right position to hit the ball and then would tell him to just go ahead and hit it. Golf, being a target game, requires that you aim correctly. It also requires that you have a clearly defined target. But notice that all the things mentioned by Jacobs have nothing to do with swinging the club.

But John Jacobs goes on to remind us about four things we all tend to overlook or forget. I think they are really worth considering as we embark on a new year of, hopefully better, golf. He wrote:

    "First of all, I would like to ask you always to remember with what you hit a golf ball. It is not your shoulder pivot, your straight left arm, your bent right arm, your knees, your hips, nor even your hands. It is the head of the golf club. In the last analysis, what golf is all about is applying the head of the club to the ball as fast and flush as possible.
     Now, this might sound rather elementary, but I feel it is increasingly overlooked these days, especially by beginners. We live in an age of applied science, to which golf has become subject oerhaps more than any other sport. It is such a difficult game to play very well, and so many millions of oeople now want to do so, that 'method' has become almost a religion. Even though I teach individuals, rather than 'a method', I wouldn't argue with that. It is fun, if you are keen on something, to immerse yourself in the theory of it; and, so long as you are discerning and selective, it is possible to pick up something of value. But do not ever let theoretical 'method' blind you to the basic objective of the game, which is to propel the ball forward with the club, not with a part or the whole of your anatomy. In short, whatever simple or complicated manoeuvres the search for better shots leads you into, don't ever forget to include among them swinging the clubhead into the ball."

I'll feature the second of Mr. Jacobs' final thoughts in my next article.