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Friday, 6 January 2017

If You Work at It, It's Golf

Bob Hope coined the phrase, "if you work at it, it's golf." Rather than playing golf, many golfers who are serious about the game and want to improve spend their time working on their game, or their swing, rather than playing the game. Bobby Jones pointed out to these sort of players that they should really ask themselves whether they are getting the most from the game they already possess. In many cases the honest answer would be a definite, "no."

The thing that sets the good players apart from the crowd is not just their mechanical skills. While attaining a level of mechanical competence is important, Bobby Jones pointed out that the ability to use good judgement on the course is even more important than the ability to hit good golf shots. This was the reason why some players with less mechanical skill often beat players who are better mechanically than they are. It is also the reason why some players might score well on their home course, but, when faced with an unfamiliar course, often their scores, that might be in the low seventies or better, balloon to the low eighties or worse. To this kind of player, he wrote:

    "This does not mean necessarily that the strange course requires a type of play of which the man is incapable; no, without a doubt, in time, and in not a very long time, he could play the new course as well as his own. But he has not the faculty which the first-class player possesses of quickly sizing up the requirements of the shot and of choosing the club and the method of playing it. That is what I mean by resourcefulness and judgement. Skill alone may be enough to play a course so well known that decisions are made automatically, but to conquer an unfamiliar layout, considerable work must be done by what lies between the ears.
     Fortunarely, sound judgement in golf can be acquired in much easier fashion than can mechanical skill; experience over various courses and under varied conditions will teach a lot to any man; if he can play the shots, the rest can be learned by proper thought and application."

As for the average player, Bobby continued by writing:

    "The average golfer may ask what this has to do with him. Apparently little, but the point is that by training himself to visualize and plan each shot before he makes it, and by giving careful thought to his method of attack, he can improve his game more certainly than by spending hours on a practice tee. Some men, for one reason or another, can never learn to swing a golf club correctly; but everyone can improve in the matter of selecting the shot to be played.
     The importance of good judgement is made no less because the average player has fewer shots at his command than the skillful professional. The problem is nevertheless the same--how best for the particular individual to play the particular shot. Good judgement must take into account the personal equation as well as the slope and condition of the ground and the location of bunkers and other hazards."

So, before you head to the range to beat more balls, perhaps it's worth asking yourself that question. Are you getting the most from the skill you already possess, or is your poor judgement what is really hurting your game? As Bobby Jones said, "It's easier to learn to use sound judgement than to swing a club like Harry Vardon."