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.