Saturday, September 14, 2013

The Iron: A Golfer's Favorite Club

When I mention that useful iron-headed club that goes by the simple name of iron, I am conscious that I bring forward a subject that is dear to the hearts of many golfers who have not yet come to play with certainty with all their instruments. For the iron is often the golfer's favourite club, and it has won this place of affection in his mind because it has been found in the course of long experience that it plays him fewer tricks than any of the others—that it is more dependable. 

This may be to some extent because with the average golfer such fine work is seldom required from the simple iron as is wanted from other clubs from time to time. The distance to be covered is always well within the capabilities of the club, or it would not be employed, and the average golfer of whom we speak, who has still a handicap of several strokes, is usually tolerably well satisfied if with it he places the ball anywhere on the green, from which point he will be enabled to hole out in the additional regulation two strokes. And the green is often enough a large place, so the iron is fortunate in its task. 

But it goes without saying that by those who have the skill for it, and sufficiently realise the possibilities of all their tools, some of the finest work in golf may be done with the iron. When it is called for the player is within easy reach of the hole. The really long work has been accomplished, and the prime consideration now is that of accuracy. Therefore the man who feels himself able to play for the pin and not merely for the green, is he who is in the confidence of his iron and knows that there are great things to be done with it.

The fault I have to find with the iron play of most golfers is that it comes at the wrong time. I find them lunging out with all their power at full shots with their irons when they might be far better employed in effecting one of those pretty low shots made with the cleek at the half swing. It is not in the nature of things that the full iron should be as true as the half cleek, where there is such a reserve of strength, and the body, being less in a state of strain, the mind can be more concentrated on straightness and the accurate determination of length. I suspect that this full shot is so often played and the preference for the iron is established, not merely because it nearly always does its work tolerably satisfactorily, but because in the simple matter of looks there is something inviting about the iron. It has a fair amount of loft, and it is deeper in the face than the cleek, and at a casual inspection of its points it seems an easy club to play with.

On the other hand, being a little nearer to the hole, the average player deserts his iron for the mashie (editor: 7 or 9 iron today) much sooner than I care to do. Your 10-handicap man never gives a second thought as to the tool he shall use when he has arrived within a hundred yards of the hole. Is he not then approaching in deadly earnest, and has he not grown up in golf with a definite understanding that there is one thing, and one only, with which to give the true artistic finish to the play through the green? Therefore out of his bag comes the mashie, which, if it could speak, would surely protest that it is a delicate club with some fine breeding in it, and that it was never meant to do this slogging with long swings that comes properly in the departments of its iron friends. I seldom use a mashie until I am within eighty yards of the hole. Up to that point I keep my iron in action. Much better, I say, is a flick with the iron than a thump with the mashie.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Playing a Thoughtful Game of Golf

You must be thoughtful if you want to get on in golf. Most players when they make an exceptionally good stroke gaze delightedly at the result, and then begin to talk about it to their opponent and the caddie. They rarely give a thought as to exactly how they did it, though it must be obvious that for that good result to have been obtained the stroke must have been played in a particularly correct and able manner.

Unless by pure accident, no good ever comes of a bad stroke. When you have made a really wonderfully good shot—for you—bring yourself up sharply to find out exactly how you did it. Notice your stance, your grip, and try to remember the exact character of the swing that you made and precisely how you followed through. Then you will be able to do the same thing next time with great confidence.

Usually when a player makes a really bad stroke you see him trying the swing over again—without the ball—wondering what went wrong. It would pay him much better to do the good strokes over again in the same way every time he makes them, so as to impress the method of execution firmly upon his mind.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Another Way to Play a Stymie

There is one other way of attacking a stymie, and that is by the application of the run-through method, when the ball in front of you is on the edge of the hole and your own is very close to it—only just outside the six inches limit that makes the stymie. If the balls are much more than a foot apart, the "follow-through method" of playing stymies is almost certain to fail. This system is nothing more than the follow-through shot at billiards, and the principles upon which the strokes in the two games are made are much the same. Hit your own ball very high up,—that is to say, put all the top and run on it that you can, and strike the other ball fairly in the centre and fairly hard. The object is to knock the stymie right away over the hole, and to follow through with your own and drop in.

If you don't hit hard enough you will only succeed in holing your opponent's ball and earning his sarcastic thanks. And if you don't get top enough on your own ball you will not follow through, however hard you bang up against the other. This is a very useful stroke to practise, for the particular kind of stymie to which it applies occurs very frequently, and is one of the most exasperating of all.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Playing a Stymie

Upon the very difficult and annoying question of stymies there are few hints that I can offer which will not suggest themselves to the player of a very little experience.

The fact which must be driven home is that some stymies are negotiable and others are not—not by any player or by any method. When the ball that stymies you dead is lying on the lip of the hole and half covering it, and your own is some distance away, the case is, to all intents and purposes, hopeless, but if you have only got this one stroke left for the half, you feel that an effort of some kind must be made, however hopeless it may be. The one chance—and even that is not always given—is to pass the other ball so very closely that yours will touch the rim of the hole and then, perhaps, if it is travelling slowly enough, be influenced sufficiently to tumble in. Luck must necessarily have a lot to do with the success of a stroke of this kind, and the one consolation is that, if it fails, or if you knock the other ball in—which is quite likely—things will be no worse than they appeared before you took the stroke.

If, in the case of a dead and hopeless stymie of this kind, you had two strokes for the half and one for the hole, I should strongly advise you to give up all thoughts of holing out, and make quite certain of being dead the first time and getting the half. Many golfers are so carried away by their desire to snatch the hole from a desperate position of this sort, that they throw all prudence to the winds, attempt the impossible, and probably lose the hole at the finish instead of halving it. They may leave themselves another stymie, they may knock the other ball in, or they may be anything but dead after their first stroke,—indeed, it is when defying their fate in this manner that everything is likely to happen for the worst.

The common method of playing a stymie is by pitching your ball over that of your opponent, but this is not always possible. All depends on how near the other ball is to the hole, and how far the balls are apart. If the ball that stymies you is on the lip and your own is three yards away, it is obvious that you cannot pitch over it. From such a distance your own ball could not be made to clear the other one and drop again in time to fall into the tin. But, when an examination of the situation makes it clear that there is really space enough to pitch over and get into the hole, take the most lofted club in your bag—either a highly lofted mashie or even a niblick—and when making the little pitch shot that is demanded, apply cut to the ball in the way I have already directed, and aim to the left-hand side of the tin. The stroke should be very short and quick, the blade of the club not passing through a space of more than nine inches or a foot. The cut will make the ball lift quickly, and, with the spin upon it, it is evident that the left-hand side of the hole is the proper one to play to.

Everything depends upon the measurements of the situation as to whether you ought to pitch right into the hole or to pitch short and run in, but in any case you should pitch close up, and in a general way four or five inches would be a fair distance to ask the ball to run. When your own ball is many yards away from the hole, and the one that makes the stymie is also far from it as well as far from yours, a pitch shot seems very often to be either inadequate or impossible. Usually it will be better to aim at going very near to the stymie with the object of getting up dead, making quite certain at the same time that you do not bungle the whole thing by hitting the other ball, or else to play to the left with much cut, so that with a little luck you may circle into the hole.

Evidently the latter would be a somewhat hazardous stroke to make.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Putting on a Slope

One of the putting problems which strike most fear into the heart of the golfer is when his line from the ball to the hole runs straight down a steep slope, and there is some considerable distance for the ball to travel along a fast green.

The difficulty in such a case is to preserve any control over the ball after it has left the club, and to make it stop anywhere near the hole if the green is really so fast and steep as almost to impart motion of itself. In a case of this sort I think it generally pays best to hit the ball very nearly upon the toe of the putter, at the same time making a short quick twitch or draw of the club across the ball towards the feet. Little forward motion will be imparted in this manner, but there will be a tendency to half lift the ball from the green at the beginning of its journey, and it will continue its way to the hole with a lot of drag upon it.

It is obvious that this stroke, to be played properly, will need much practice in the first place and judgment afterwards, and I can do little more than state the principle upon which it should be made. But oftentimes, when the slope of the green is really considerable, and one experiences a sense of great risk and danger in using the putter at all, I strongly advise the use of the iron or mashie; indeed, I think most golfers chain themselves down too much to the idea that the putter, being the proper thing to putt with, no other club should be used on the green. There is no law to enforce the use of the putter, but even when the idea sometimes occurs to a player that it would be best to use his mashie on the green in particular circumstances, he usually rejects it as improper.

On a steep incline it pays very well to use a mashie, for length in these circumstances can often be judged very accurately, and, the ball having been given its little pitch to begin with, does not then begin to roll along nearly so quickly as if the putter had been acting upon it. There are times, even when the hole is only a yard away, when it might pay best to ask for the mashie instead of the instrument which the caddie will offer.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

What To Do in a Bunker

There is nothing like the bunkers on a golf links for separating the philosophic from the un-philosophic among a golfing crowd, and when a representative of each section is in a bunker at the same time it is heavy odds on the philosopher winning the hole. There are two respects in which he differs from his opponent at this crisis in his golfing affairs. He does not become flurried, excited, and despondent, and give the hole up for lost with a feeling of disgust that he had committed the most unpardonable sin. He remembers that there are still various strokes to be played before the hole is reached, and that it is quite possible that in the meantime his friend may somewhere lose one and enable him to get on level terms again.

When two players with plus handicaps are engaged in a match, a bunkered ball will generally mean a lost hole, but others who have not climbed to this pinnacle of excellence are far too pessimistic if they assume that this rule operates in their case also. The second matter in which the philosophic golfer rises superior to his less favouredbrother when there is a bunker stroke to be played, is that he fully realises that the bunker was placed there for the particular purpose of catching certain defective shots, and that the definite idea of its constructors was that the man who played such a shot should lose a stroke as penalty for doing so—every time. It is legitimate for us occasionally to put it to ourselves that those constructors did not know the long limits of our resource nor the craftiness we are able to display when in a very tight corner, and that therefore, if we find a favourable opportunity, we may cheat the bunker out of the stroke that it threatens to take from us. But this does not happen often. When the golfer has brought himself to realise that, having played into a bunker, he has lost a stroke or the best part of one, and accepts the position without any further ado, he has gone a long way in the cultivation of the most desirable properties of mind and temperament with which any player of the game can be endowed. This man, recognising that his stroke is lost, when he goes up to his ball and studies the many difficulties of its situation, plays for the mere purpose of getting out again, and probably putting himself on the other side in that one stroke which was lost. It does not matter to him if he only gets two yards beyond the bunker—just far enough to enable him to take his stance and swing properly for the next shot. Distance is positively no object whatever, and in this way he insures himself against further loss, and goes the right way to make up for his misfortune.

Friday, May 15, 2009

The Master Stroke in Golf

Which is the master stroke in golf? That is an engaging question. Is it the perfect drive, with every limb, muscle, and organ of the body working in splendid harmony with the result of despatching the ball well beyond two hundred yards in a straight line from the tee? No, it is not that, for there are some thousands of players who can drive what is to all intents and purposes a perfect ball without any unusual effort. Is it the brassy shot which is equal to a splendid drive, and which, delivering the ball in safety over the last hazard, places it nicely upon the green, absolving the golfer from the necessity of playing any other approach? No, though that is a most creditable achievement. Is it the approach over a threatening bunker on to a difficult green where the ball can hardly be persuaded to remain, yet so deftly has the cut been applied, and so finely has the strength been judged, that it stops dead against the hole, and for a certainty a stroke is saved? This is a most satisfying shot which has in its time won innumerable holes, but it is not the master stroke of golf. Then, is it the putt from the corner of the green across many miniature hills and dales with a winding course over which the ball must travel, often far away from the direct line, but which carries it at last delightfully to the opening into which it sinks just as its strength is ebbing away? We all know the thrilling ecstasy that comes from such a stroke as this, but it has always been helped by a little good luck, and I would not call it the master stroke. There are inferior players who are good putters.

Which, then, is the master stroke? I say that it is the ball struck by any club to which a big pull or slice is intentionally applied for the accomplishment of a specific purpose which could not be achieved in any other way, and nothing more exemplifies the curious waywardness of this game of ours than the fact that the stroke which is the confounding and torture of the beginner who does it constantly, he knows not how, but always to his detriment, should later on at times be the most coveted shot of all, and should then be the most difficult of accomplishment. I call it the master shot because, to accomplish it with any certainty and perfection, it is so difficult even to the experienced golfer, because it calls for the most absolute command over the club and every nerve and sinew of the body, and the courageous heart of the true sportsman whom no difficulty may daunt, and because, when properly done, it is a splendid thing to see, and for a certainty results in material gain to the man who played it.