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.