Sunday, 12 February 2017

Bobby Jones on the Irons in Down the Fairway

Bobby Jones spoke in the conclusion to his book Down the Fairway about his love of playing the irons. Not that he always played them well, but that seemingly every time he won a big tournament he could look back on one particular long iron shot that effectively sealed the deal for him. 

In concluding the chapter, Bobby wrote:

    "Yes--I love the irons, even if sloppy play on the second hole at Skokie was costly in the national open of 1922, and looseness at Worcester ruined me in1925. I've studied the irons a lot, and listened to many a lecture. The last one I listened to was the shortest, and it seems to have done the trick--for the time being, at any rate.
     Genius or no genius--remembering the delicate compliment of Mr. Harold Hilton--I got away fairly well in Britain with an iron play that was never really satisfactory except at Sunningdale, which was a matter so exceptional that now I feel I must have been hypnotized. At Sunningdale, with its profusion of iron shots, I had the feel of the clubs to the extent that it made it seem utterly out of the question to be off line.
     But I wasn't satisfied with the somewhat compromised style in which I was hitting the irons, and when I got home to Atlanta after the big journey of 1926 I went out and had a little talk with Stewart Maiden, who to me will always be the first Doctor of Golf. I suppose I did a little confessing.
     Stewart said: 'Let's see you hit a few.'
     I hit a few. Stewart seemed to be watching my right side. He is a man of few words.
     'Square yourself around a bit,' said he.
     I had been playing a long time with a slightly open stance, my right foot and shoulder nearer the line of the shot than the left side.
     'Move that right foot and shoulder back a bit,' said Stewart.
     I did so, taking what is called a square stance.
     'What do I do now?' I asked Stewart.
     'Knock the hell out of it!' said he, concisely.
     I did. The ball went like a ruled line.
     That is Stewart Maiden's method of teaching or coaching. In this imperfect and complicated world I have encountered nothing else as simple and direct. Stewart saw that my swing was bringing the club on the ball from outside the line of play. He didn't bother with explanations or theories--he never does. He settled on one single thing by way of adjustment. It worked. That is a prime feature of his adjustments."

How fortunate Bobby was to have a teacher like Maiden. He was a man of few words who did not believe in confusing his students with long-winded explanations or theories. He simply put them in a position to hit the ball and then told them to go ahead and knock the hell out of it. We could use a few more teachers like him these days.

Bobby goes into more detail about how he plays the irons which I will cover in my next article.