Sunday, 29 October 2017

Playing With the Lead

We saw DJ lose a big lead this week. No doubt it was painful for him. But going into the final round with a big lead is no picnic. It sometimes can make you feel like you've got everything to lose and nothing to gain. It's a head trip. Or, for most of us, it certainly can be.

DJ's loss was no reflection upon his abilities as a golfer. Let's face it, he's a great player who will no doubt win again, and win often. He's a tremendous talent. This week it just got away on him. It happens to the best of them.

Consider Bobby Jones. In his first Major victory, he went into the last round at Inwood, Long Island with a three shot lead over Bobby Cruikshank. In his book, Down the Fairway, he wrote about it:

    "It was then that I learned what a devilish thing it is to be setting the pace. At the luncheon intermission I figured that another 73 would win for me, or even a 74, and probably a 75. And I made the fatal mistake of playing for a certain figure that was not Old Man Par. What I should have done, of course, was to set my sights on par and shoot for that as best I could and shut out of my mind Bobby Cruikshank and Jock Hutchinson and the rest of them. I admit I was thinking about Bobby Cruikshank, who was starting behind me. I heard that he was the only one with a real chance to catch me.
     I started badly and was out in 39, two strokes over par. But I had never been over 35 coming in, and I wasn't much worried. When I holed a six-yard putt for a burdie 3 on the tenth, and after a oar on the next three holes got a birdie 4 on the long fourteenth, I felt I was safe. I had a bit of luch getting a par 3 on the tricky fifteenth, and then, on three holes of 4-4-4 on which I had not used more than twelve strokes in any previous round, I finished feebly with 5-5-6, chucking away four strokes to par, and coming as near as possible to chucking away my chance for the championship.
     The strain of setting the pace simply got me, I suppose. You have to figure on that, as any other hazard... I must have looked pretty bad when I walked off the green because when O.B. came up to shake hands with me I could see him blink before he said:
     'Bob, I think you're champion. Cruikshank will never catch you.'
     Then I said what was in my heart and had been there longer than I like to admit:
     'Well, I didn't finish like a champion. I finished like a yellow dog.'"

As it turned out, Cruikshank did catch Bobby and they had to play off for the championship. He had surrendered his three shot lead after all with that terrible finish. But Bobby went out and beat Cruikshank in the playoff to win his first Major, capping the win off with a decisive two iron to the final hole.

Bobby Jones understood the strain of leading a golf tournament. He considered it to be a hazard. That's why it is so common to see the leader on the final day fail to win. It should be nice to have the lead starting the final round. But it's a burden. As I said earlier, you can feel like you have everything to lose, rather than to win. It happens. And I'm certain DJ will be back. Sure, he's got some more scar tissue. But that won't stop him.

Saturday, 28 October 2017

Who is the Greatest of All Time?

People have always been unable to resist the urge to compare their golfing heroes with the heroes of old. Today it is common to hear Tiger Woods referrred to as the G.O.A.T. The greatest golfer of all time. And one can certainly make the case that he was.

I started playing in the Nicklaus era and was often inclined to argue in his favour considering his incredible record, especially in the Majors. My father took up the game when Ben Hogan was in his prime. He told me about watching Hogan negotiate his way around Augusta National in the Masters tournament and how amazing his shots were  A good friend of mine thinks Arnie was the best he's ever seen.

One day, we may see Jordan Spieth, or Justin Thomas throwing their hat in the ring as one of the greatest of all time. But, if that happens, it won't be Jordan, or Justin, arguing their case. Their fans will be doing it.

Another golfer who deserves to be part of the discussion when it comes to the greatest of all time is my golfing hero, Bobby Jones. Bobby wrote about this tendency for fans to view the players of their era as the greatest in his book, Golf is my Game. He wrote:

    "The one question put to me most often is: Were the golfers of my day as good as those of the present time?
     There can be no question more impossible to answer. Yet if golfers insist upon speculation on this topic, there is no reason why they should not have the privilege. And since it seems to command so much interest, perhaps I may join in the discussion. 
     In 1927, when I won the British Open at St. Andrews, one of the old-time professionals, described as 'the grand old man of Scottish golf', was quoted in the newspaper as follows:
         'I knew and played with Tom Morris, and he was every bit as good as Jones. Young Tom had to        
     play with a gutty ball, and you could not make a mistake and get away with it. St. Andrews then 
     had whins up to your head and the fairways were half the width that they are now. This rubber-   
     cored ball we have now only requires a tap and it runs a mile.'

     So you see, the controversy is not new. Young Tom had died some thirty years before I was born. Yet there is, of course, much substance in the above quotation; that is, if one must pursue the controversy..."

When Bobby wrote this, Ben Hogan was the guy hailed as the new great champion of his day. And comparisons were being made between Jones and Hogan. Hogan said to Jones, when there was some controversy about this in the media and Bobby had assured him that he had not tried to project himself into this controversy, "I have always felt and said that a man who can be a champion in one era could be a champion in any other era because he has what it takes to reach the top."

About that comment from Ben Hogan, Bobby went on to write:

    "That was good enough for me, so we left it there. I think we must agree that all a man can do is beat the people who are around at the same time he is. He cannot win from those who came before any more than he can from those who may come afterwards. It is grossly unfair to anyone who takes pride in the record he is able to compile that he must see it compared to those of other players who have been competing against entirely different people under wholly different conditions."

That sounds pretty good to me. But just don't forget Byron Nelson if you want to talk about the greatest players of all time. I bet eleven wins in a row and eighteen in a season won't ever be accomplished again. But then, someone will argue, "that was in 1945." And so it goes.

Friday, 27 October 2017

A Hurtin' Wind

Steve's game was really good up until about a week ago. Now, according to Ken, it's turned into a country and western song.

The song goes:

   "Honey, you've got me playin' into a hurtin' wind; and all my shots are pullin'."

Suddenly, Steve just can't piddle a drop. Nothing is working. From the driver to the putter, he just can't seem to figure anything out. He's tried to go back to basics; checking his grip, his ball position, his alignment... Nothing seems to help. 

Golf can be that way. It's a game of peaks and valleys. And right now, Steve is really suffering. Yesterday, he was looking to me for an answer. And that might be akin to the blind leading the blind. So, I offered him the only really sound advice I could think of. It came from Harry Vardon, and it was the best advice Bobby Jones ever heard. What was it? Vardon said: "No matter what happens, keep on hitting it." Sometimes, that's all you can do. 

Golf is a game played one shot at a time, like the drunks. If you don't give up; and you just keep on hitting it; things will eventually come out in the wash. But, right now, Steve's a hurtin' unit.

Thursday, 26 October 2017

Bobby Jones on the Sole Purpose of the Golf Swing

For Bobby Jones, it really was all about the strike. Consider what he wrote in his book Golf is my Game on the subject of striking the ball: 

    "Golf is played by striking the ball with the head of the club. The objective of the player is not to swing the club in a specified manner, nor to execute a series of complicated movements in a prescribed sequence, nor to look pretty while he is doing it, but primarily and essentially to strike the ball with head of the club so that the ball will perform according to his wishes."

What a great quote. If golfers, including myself, could only keep this simple truth in mind we would save ourselves so much grief. Golf is about striking the ball, not swinging the club. Bobby went on to write:

    "No one can play golf until he knows the many ways in which a golf ball can be expected to respond when it is struck in different ways. If you think that all this should be obvious, please believe me when I assure you that I have seen many really good players attempt shots they should have known were impossible."

The simple fact is that many, if not most, golfers don't understand the basics in terms of striking the golf ball. I have encountered many golfers who have played the game for years, and even taken lessons, who did not even know how to aim the clubface, let alone what the clubface needed to be doing through impact to produce a straight shot, a fade, or a draw. They might have learned how to grip the club, and the basics about setting up to the ball and swinging the club. But they didn't know the rules about striking the ball. That includes some really good players. That's why Bobby could talk about having seen good players attempt impossible shots. Though good players, who by trial and error had learned how to hit a golf ball and make it behave, they didn't understand the "science" of the strike. 

Though he never actually heard his teacher, Stewart Maiden, ever actually talk about the golf swing, Bobby Jones did agree to engage in discussions about the swing and attempt to describe as best he could what he considered to be his manner of swinging the club. In his book Golf is my Game, Bobby devoted a chapter to the downswing. But even then, he reminded us of what was really important when describing the golf swing. To begin the chapter, he wrote:

    "The swinging of the golf club back from the ball is undertaken for the sole purpose of getting the player to a proper position for striking. So the one influence most likely to assure the satisfactory progression of the swing is the clearly visualized contact between club and ball still at the forefront of the player's mind. Just as the backswing should not begin until this picture is adequately established, so the movement should continue until there results an awareness that the player has become capable of striking in the intended manner.
     I stress this point, and intend to continue to do so, because I know that the unrelenting effort to play golf in this way can do more for a player than anything else he can possibly do. When every move of the swing is dominated by the determination to strike the ball in a definite fashion, the complicated sequence of movements must acquire purpose and unity attainable in no other way."

Consider, if you will, what Bobby Jones is saying here. The sole purpose of the golf swing is to strike the golf ball. That might seem obvious if you aren't a golfer. But, let's face it, when you listen to golf instruction, or ask golfers what they are thinking about before, during, and even after they swing the golf club, the strike is often the last thing you hear about.

Golfers are taught to concentrate on things like keeping their left arm straight, making a good shoulder turn, or shifting their weight to the right foot on the backswing and back to the left foot on the downswing. They are taught to maintain their spine angle, or keep the flex in their knees, or keep their left heel on the ground, or to lift their left heel on the backswing. And while all of these things and more might be correct, and possibly helpful, the most helpful thing is the one thing so obvious, and yet all too often overlooked. And what is that? To strike the damned ball--and to strike it in the proper way in order to produce the ball flight you are looking for.

If you don't know how a golf ball must be struck in order to produce the various shots, I highly recommend that you get a copy of Bobby's book Golf is my Game, and review the second chapter. Bobby said that the information in that chapter "will describe the most useful learning you will ever acquire as a golfer."  He believed that reading that chapter could transform your game and give you knowledge "that will help you in the playing of every golf shot you make for the rest of your life."  Bobby said: "This knowledge can make you a better golfer overnight."

If you haven't got a copy if Golf is my Game, I have covered that information in great detail in my featured post on my blogsite, entitled "The Wisdom of Bobby Jones: Striking the Ball." I invite you to check it out.

Spiros Goes Old School

Spiros and I had a fun day yesterday. He took up golf later in life in his late forties. He was a soccer player and only turned to golf when his legs told him his soccer playing days were over. He has his own swing, which is a pronounced over-the-top move where he aims at least forty five degrees right of his target, makes a big turn, and hits it. When he sets up, he looks like he has his back to the target. It's really quite disconcerting to see, especially if you happen to be standing a little to the front and right of him. You're quite sure he's trying to hit it right at you. But he hits it surprisingly well, considering.  

Spiros had never played with the old equipment that I cut my teeth on. He had never hit forged blades, or woods that were actually made out of wood. So I decided to give him a set of Wilson Staff irons and woods that I had in my collection. They probably date from around the early seventies. The irons, I picked up at a thrift shop, but the woods were ones that both my father and I had used. They were top of the line clubs in their day.

Spiro looked at those irons and thought he'd never be able to hit them. But yesterday he gave them a try after hitting a couple of shots with them the day before. He loved them. He was hitting solid, straight shots with a two iron that looked like a damned butter knife. He was chipping and pitching like a demon with the old pitching wedge. And when he hit one out of the sweet spot, he'd let out a moan, and his face would light up. He said they felt like butter when he hit them well. And he hit a lot of them really well.

Those thin, small-headed blades were giving him such great feedback. If he hit it on the sweet spot, he knew right away because he felt nothing. If he got it out on the toe, or clanked one near the heel, he knew it right away as well. He started showing me the mark on the clubface where he had struck the ball and admitted that he was swinging more easily in order to make sure he hit it on the sweet spot, something he had not really worried about doing with his clubs. It was obvious that he was getting feedback he'd never had using his "game improvement" irons.

Now Spiros has no intention of playing the old blades full time. At least he doesn't right now. But it was obvious that he had really enjoyed the challenge of hitting them and he loved the feel of hitting one out of the center of the clubface. He has also hopefully realized from this exercise just how important it is to find the sweet spot. Hopefully, when and if he goes back to his old, newer clubs, he will take as much care to make sure he hits it out of the center of the bat. There's nothing that feels better than that--especially if you're hitting forged blades.

Wednesday, 25 October 2017

A Little Less Ambition

Bobby Jones had to have been an old soul. He seems to me, when reading his books, to have been wise beyond his years. He wrote Down the Fairway at the ripe old age of twenty five. Now it is true that by then he had already been competing at the highest level for eleven years and had plenty of battle scars, but his wisdom and insight is amazing for such a young man; speaking as an old fart who still seems to be learning about this game.

One of the things I love to do, when I'm not playing golf, is to grab one of Bobby's books and just flip it open to any page and see what pearl of wisdom I can find. I'm rarely disappointed. In this case, I turned to Bobby's opening comments in Down the Fairway, in his chapter entitled "Miscellaneous Shots--and Trouble." If I wanted to, I couldn't imagine a better way to sum up the problems and issues facing the average golfer when he finds himself in trouble on the golf course. Consider what Bobby wrote:

    "As a general proposition I fancy it might be laid down that the main object of a trouble shot in golf is to get out of trouble. This conclusion is not so obvious as at first it may appear, especially in the case of the average golfer, or worse. In that case, the object, or it might be better called the perilous ambition, is not only to get out of trouble but also to achieve a shot the equivalent of that which might have been made had the element of trouble not been injected.
     He wants to get there, anyhow.
     Now this ambition is in a way laudable, and at times it is grimly necessary to execute a shot which will minimize the punishment for getting in trouble. But it should always be borne in mind that, if a brilliant recovery be needed, it is far more feasible to make this brilliant effort after getting the ball back into a thoroughly playable position.
     Now, I can speak with considerable feeling, if not with authority, on this point. The greatest improvement in my game in the last five years has been a growing disposition for calculating a difficult situation, and an increasing distaste for the taking of reckless chances. In the old days, furious with myself for the missed shot that had incurred the trouble, I was quite ready without further consideration to go up to the ball and put my back into a shot designed without delay to take up the slack. Now, I figure the chances a bit--sometimes."

Is it just me, or is this not, in a nutshell, one of the biggest problems faced by average golfers, or worse? They simply don't use their heads; and they lack sufficient self-control and patience when faced with trouble. They too often, as my old father liked to say, let one bad shot beget another.

Yesterday Levi, Justin and I were enjoying a really good round--for us. On number eight, I was either even par, or one under, and Justin was about the same. Levi was struggling a bit to keep up, but he was only a few shots back. Levi, as has been happening too often on eight this year for him, pulled his tee shot through the tree guarding the left off the tee, and narrowly missed going in the pond.

Finding himself safe, but in pretty thick rough, Levi hauled out a hybrid and took an almighty swipe at the ball. He almost missed it altogether and duffed it straight left into the hazard. He was disgusted. He had narrowly escaped going in the pond off the tee; but then, by being overly ambitious, ended up there anyway. We talked about it afterwards and he admitted that, from that thick lie, he wasn't getting anywhere near the green anyway. He agreed that he should have just taken his medecine and hit a "Sammy." 

I had read a book by Sam Snead where he recommended the eight iron as the ideal club to use to extricate yourself from the rough. And we've tried it this year with great success. That's why we call it a "Sammy." The eight iron seems to give you enough loft to get out of thick rough and still gives you some good distance. An eight iron, in this case, would have easily got Levi within 120 yards of the green on this par five, had he elected to use it. Instead, he made double or worse.

Levi's is just the first example that came to mind to highlight what Bobby Jones was talking about. I've got many similar stories where I was the one trying for too much when I found myself jn trouble. We see this same scenario played out every time we play; and too often in our own game. A little less ambition, when getting out of trouble, is probably one of the best recommendations that could ever be made to help the average player. And it's something that was key in helping Bobby Jones get to the next level and finally begin winning the big ones. 

Monday, 23 October 2017

Bobby Jones and Humility

When Bobby Jones and O.B. Keeler co-authored the wonderful book, Down the Fairway, Bobby had no idea that he was to go on to even grander things in the game of golf and do the unthinkable, winning the Grand Slam. But, even by then, Bobby had become a believer in fate; the notion that, somehow, the results of golf tournaments at least were in the cards before the first ball was even struck.

Bobby wrote about what he called "The Biggest Year," as I mentioned, not realizing that he was fated to have an even bigger one before it was time for him to step back from competing in national championships. The year was 1926. Bobby wrote:

    "Golf is a very queer game. I started the year 1926 with one glorious licking and closed it with another. And it was the biggest golf year I'll ever have (or so Bobby thought at the time). Walter Hagen gave me the first drubbing, and of all the workmanlike washings-up I have experienced, this was far and away the most complete. He was national professional champion; I was national amateur champion; we liked to play against each other; and a match was arranged for the late winter season in Florida; a 72-hole affair, the first half at the Whitfield Estates Country Club at Sarasota, where I was spending the winter, and the second half a week later at Walter's course at Pasadena. Walter was simply too good for me... Walter played the most invincible match golf in those two days I have ever seen, let alone confronted. And I may add that I can get along very comfortably if I never confront any more like it."

Bobby Jones, as anyone who knows me--or has spent any time perusing my scribblings-- can attest, is my golfing hero. To me, he was the ultimate golfer in terms of playing, understanding, and communicating to others how to play the game and get the most out if it. And I think the way Bobby chose to begin the chapter about what was, at least up until then, his greatest season speaks volumes about the man and his understanding of the game. It wasn't all about him. 

Sometimes you hear it suggested that great champions must be selfish, or self-absorbed, to a certain degree in order to become great champions. Bobby Jones proves that, at least in his case, this couldn't be further from the truth. Consider again how he began the chapter about his biggest year. He began it by reminding us that he had been well and truly beaten by Walter Hagen, crediting Hagen with having played the "most invincible match golf" he had ever seen. Instead of starting the chapter by talking about his own terrific play, Bobby admitted that he was given the drumming of a lifetime by Walter Hagen. That is humility. 

I was intending to delve further into this notion of fate and golf, as presented by Bobby Jones, but it's late and I think it's worth just considering how humble Bobby Jones was. Humility is a wonderful thing.


Thursday, 19 October 2017

Down and Through

All you have to do is watch a professional golf tournament to know that there are many effective ways to swing a golf club. I keep saying it because it's true. You may see it more when watching the Champions Tour players, but even on the main tour when you watch Sergio, Jon Rahm, DJ, and Spieth--to name but four--swing the club, it is painfully obvious that there are more than just one way to get the job done properly. 

Bobby Jones asserted that most players of his day probably never even considered their swing, or if indeed there was a "golf swing" at all, until after they had become very good at the game. They thought of the game of golf as hitting a golf ball, not swinging a golf club. And, quite frankly, I think most of us would be much better off if we looked at the game the same way. After all, the golf ball couldn't give a hoot about what your swing looked like. The ball only cares about how it's struck.

That being said, there is one thing about the golf swing that was once considered very important but seems to be often over-looked in modern teaching. My favourite teacher, though he never called himself a teacher, Bobby Jones, wrote about it in his book Down the Fairway. He wrote:

    "Whenever I could get the feel that I was pulling the club down and through the stroke with the left arm--indeed, as if I were hitting the shot with the left hand--it seemed impossible to get much off line. Curious thing. The older school of professionals always insisted the golf stroke was a left-hand strike, you know."

The only lesson I ever had, as a boy in England, amounted to the pro having me hit shots with just my left hand. He never bothered to explain why this was important, and I quickly forgot it. Later, when I got tendonitis in my right elbow and could barely hold the club with my right hand, I was forced to play this way, essentially hitting shots using my left hand and arm. I played some of my best golf that way. It's a lesson I keep having to remind myself of.

The old teachers knew that, for right-handed golfers, the golf swing was a left-handed strike. It may not be the the secret to the golf swing. But it is one of the secrets to the golf swing. If you haven't tried it, why not try hitting shots with just your left hand. And try to feel you are pulling the club "down and through" with your left hand and arm. It worked for Bobby Jones, Sam Snead, Byron Nelson, Moe Norman, Jack Nicklaus...

Friday, 13 October 2017

Don't Get Mad

Steve is still working, so he met me today after work to play the back nine before dark. It's that time of year when the days are getting shorter and the leaves are starting to fall; rather depressing if you are a golfer and not planning on heading south for the winter.

I had played the front nine by myself, playing three balls on most holes, and doing some experimenting. All I had seemed to gain from my experimenting was a very sore back. But, after taking some morphine on seven, I was finally starting to loosen up a bit on ten. 

Ten is our hardest hole, playing 415 yards to a green fronted by a pond. Unless you hit a solid tee shot, ten becomes a lay-up hole where you try to wedge it up and down for your par. And today, after a short drive, I had to do just that, laying up to 100 yards and wedging it to six feet, I made what Steve and I call a "Peter Cole par." Peter is a short-knocker who still manages to make par after par using his short game. I made a nice par on eleven, which is another tough par four when it's into the wind. Then I made birdie on the short, par four twelfth. Things were going pretty well.

But I was still doing some experimenting with ball position, thinking that I had allowed the ball to start inching too far back in my stance. I'd moved it up and was really hitting it well. But, as Harvey Penick said, you should take one or two aspirins, not the whole damned bottle. After two solid shots, I had a perfect wedge yardage to a back pin on thirteen. But, as I stood over the shot, I thought, "I've done well moving the ball up in my stance, why not move it up a bit more?" The result was a skulled shot over the back of the green and a bogey. 

On fourteen I was still fiddling with my ball position and drop-kicked my tee shot about 80 yards. Instead of getting mad, I said to Steve, "Let's see if I can't make a three from here." That's become my way of dealing with stupid shots. Instead of getting angry, I just try to see if I can minimize the damage. 

So, I proceeded to follow that lousy tee shot with a fat wedge shot that nestled into a lousy lie thirty yards short of the green. The ball was sitting in a muddy hole on the edge of the rough. Rather than get annoyed, I tried, despite the lie, to hole the next shot. Instead, I knocked it 35 feet past the damned hole. Double bogey was now looming large. But I still just said, to myself this time, "let's try and hole this putt and get out of Dodge." 

I stood over that putt, tried to focus with all my might on the front of the cup, and damned if I didn't roll it right in. Steve, meanwhile, had hit his tee shot short and left of the green, fluffed his pitch to about ten feet, and missed his putt for par after he saw my 35 footer go in. We had both made bogey. That's golf. I left the green feeling like I'd got away with something, and Steve was left to wonder how on earth we'd halved the hole. 

But this attitude I've managed to develop has really helped. Instead of getting mad when I hit a stupid shot, I just try to see if I can manage to get away with it by hitting a good shot, or at least not hitting another stupid shot. It doesn't always work out, but it makes me better company. It also saves me having to climb trees to fetch clubs I've thrown. And it sometimes infuriates my opponent when I get a half or a win on a hole I probably should have lost. That's my new approach to golf. Don't get mad, get even. Besides, I'm really not really good enough to get mad.

Wednesday, 11 October 2017

What Should You Think About?

It seems to me that golfers, of which I claim to be one, can think of a great many things during the second and a half or so that it takes to swing the club and hit a golf shot. I was reading Bobby Jones' book, Down the Fairway, and came across an interesting point Bobby makes about the golf swing and what we should be thinking about as we hit a golf shot. 

Bobby had been analysing for us what he thought were the important components of his golf swing. He wrote:

    "It seems fearfully complicated, this trying to take a swing to pieces and see what makes it tick. I'd hate to try to learn to play golf synthetically. These attempts at analysis are quite puzzling enough. But it has been deeply interesting to me, in my feeble efforts at analysis, to encounter so many times, and in so many ways, the factor of body-turn in all shots.
     One bit of earnest admonition. Stewart Maiden maintains that he cannot think of any of these details, or of any other details, during the execution of a shot--that is if the shot is to come off. He adds that he does not believe anybody else can think of these or other details and perform a successful shot. I find this to be the case with my own play. I have to do all my thinking as I prepare to play. Once the swing is under way, the only thing I can think of is hitting the ball. To attempt to think of anything else is the most certain method of courting absolute ruin."

Now Jack Nicklaus wrote that he could have as many as five swing thoughts and still play well. But we are not Jack Nicklaus. For most of us, if we must think about our swing, we should think about it before, not during, the actual playing of a golf shot. That's Bobby's advice. And I know it's good advice for me. If I start thinking about my left arm, or my right knee, or my turn, during a shot, I can count on having trouble.

Sunday, 8 October 2017

The Root of All Evil

People like to talk about money being the root of all evil. The actual quote is slightly different. The actual Biblical quote indicates that it is not money that is the root of all evil; it is the love of money that is the root of so much of the evil we see in the world. 

Golf has changed dramatically in the past thirty or so years. The equipment has changed. The courses have changed. And much of it has been the direct result of the love of money. Equipment manufacturers want to sell equipment. That's why the equipment has to keep changing.

Golf course builders don't just want golf courses; they want to sell real estate. The result is virtually unwalkable designs that warrant the use of motorized golf carts to get the golfers around the course and increase the profitability for the owners at the same time. Follow the money if you want to understand why golf is so different from what it was in 1970, and why it may be in trouble. 

Gary Player bemoaned the fact that modern players, with modern equipment, have so beat up on the Old Course that it is becoming obsolete as a major venue. I don't necessarily agree with him. But, if it's true, it's all down to that love of money that seems to govern the game these days. 

A philosopher once said we should not ask why things were so much better in the old days. He felt that it was not an intelligent question. But I, for one, miss the days of persimmon woods and balata balls. I miss walking the golf course. I don't like motorized carts, and yet I'm so crippled I actually have to use one. I couldn't walk eighteen holes right now, and may never be able to again. I miss the old days. For me, they were better. But very little remains the same. Things change. But not the love of money; that's the thing that is still the root cause of so much of the trouble we see today.

Want to know why things are the way they are in golf today? Look no farther than the money--the love of money. That's your problem. And how do you fix it? That's the 64 million dollar question. As for the Old Course; that jewel of St Andrews and the golf world; that grand old lady will be just fine. She might get beaten up when the wind lays down. But just add some wind and rain and she'll hold her own.

Thursday, 5 October 2017

Short Game Can Cover a Multitude of Sins

Short game. As Harvey Penick said, those are the magic words. A good short game can cover a multitude of sins. The biggest difference between pros and amateurs is their short game. And yet, when you think about it, it shouldn't be. It doesn't take great physical ability to chip, pitch, and putt.

The other day I shot 71 and I think I hit four greens in regulation. Today, I shot even par on the first nine, hitting two greens. The back nine was another story today as I pretty much mailed it in. But the fact is I'm only going to get worse as a ballstriker as my back deteriorates. But I can still post a respectable score if I manage to chip and putt well. 

Most amateurs--except the guys who are really wild off the tee--can manage to get within fifty yards of pretty much every green in regulation--and usually closer. It's from there that they really start throwing away strokes. So why, I wonder, is almost all golf advertising focussed on the long game. Equipment companies push new drivers that will hit it farther, and irons that will give you more distance. Where's all the ads for wedges and putters? Okay, there are some. But equipment manufacturers and golf teachers focus most on distance and the long game.

Now, I guess it's another chicken or the egg scenario. Do manufacturers and teachers tend to focus on the long game because they think it's most helpful to golfers; or do they focus on it because it's what the average golfer wants to hear? All I know is, most shots are taken within 100 yards of the green. And, if it's score you are interested in, that is where you should be most focussed. And yet, where do we see most players practising? On the range with long irons and drivers in their hands. 

Harvey Penick believed that the average player could take five strokes off his game if he practised his short game for just a week. He was probably right. But most of us won't do it. We'd rather work on getting another twenty yards off the tee. That's just the way golfers are.

Wednesday, 4 October 2017

Golf is Just a Game

lI must admit that it's pretty hard to focus on golf with all the madness going on in this sad old world. What with devastating hurricanes, the largest mass shooting in history in Vegas, North Korea and the Donald posturing and talking nuclear war, terrorist attacks in Britain and Europe, etc.; golf just doesn't seem as important as jt was. It's just a game; a brief distraction from the craziness.

You really have to wonder whether we aren't all headed to hell in a hand basket. But then, this has always been a crazy, mixed-up world. As my old grandmother would have said, "There's nothing as queer as folk." People can be pretty damned crazy. And yet, in the midst of the madness, the goodness and selflessness of some people shines through. When the going gets tough, the tough really do get going.

So, I may not be focussing on golf as much as usual. And that's probably okay. Golf will always be there to take us away from our worries for a few hours. It's the greatest game there is for your mental health. As Harvey Penick said, it's cured more crazy folk than psychiatrists. 

What I don't get is why the Donald golfs so much and yet remains such a thoroughly despicable man. But, I hear he cheats at golf, just like everything else. That would explain it. You can learn a lot about a person by golfing with them.

Sunday, 1 October 2017

Mr Seventeen

I've been having some good matches lately with Steve and Chris. Playing their best ball, we've come down to the seventeenth with it being anyone's match to win.

But Chris has figured out the seventeenth, while I've had my struggles. The last three times out, Chris has won the seventeenth with a birdie and two pars. Once, it was birdie to win two and one. The second was par to win and go one up. And this afternoon it was a par to square the match. 

Steve and Chris have had my number winning two of the last three and halving the other one. And every time it's been Chris on that damned seventeenth hole. We're going to start calling him Mr. Seventeen.

It's really nice to see the progress the guys have made in their games. Not that long ago I was giving them strokes. Now it's straight up, and they're winning. The other day both of them shot 39 on the back nine. Chris has been as low as 83 and Steve has been as low as 77. 

I did manage to beat Old Man Par the other day with a 71, so I may not be done quite yet. It's just that damned seventeenth hole and Chris; Mr. Seventeen.