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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.