Sunday, 5 November 2017

Bobby Jones on Match and Medal Play

Bobby Jones figured he was better at medal, or stroke, play than he was at match play. But he learned, over time, to be a master at both forms of competition. There is definitely a difference between the two, and I tend to find that Bobby's experience was similar to my own. Medal play was, and still is, harder on my nerves.

Consider what Bobby Jones wrote on the subject in his book, Golf is my Game:

    "I was very acutely aware that my mental attitude and nervous attunement towards the two forms of competition were quite different. I was nervous before a match, but it was more an eager sort of nervousness or impatience to go out and see who could hit harder and make the most birdies. Before a medal round my nerves would be even more tightly wound, but the eagerness gave way to apprehension and caution. I always had that hollow feeling in the pit of my stomach, and my concern was to get the agony over, rather than to have the conflict started. I never had any sensation of fear before a match, but more of it than anything else before a medal round."

Funny, as I read this, I realize that I have generally been the same way. In match play, my nervousness is more like it was playing other sports. It is more anxiousness about just wanting to get out there and see if I can beat the other guy. But in medal play, I am always more nervous. I know that hollow, sick feeling in the stomach that Bobby wrote about.

But the interesting thing for Bobby was that he became better at match play by learning to view it differently. He wrote:

    "I suppose I never became as good at match play as at medal, but I did make progress in the former department by the ultimate achievement of the realization that, after all, a round of golf in either form was still a complete structure to be built up hole by hole, that restraint and patience paid off in either form, and that consistent pressure would subdue an opponent just as effectively as an opening salvo of birdies.
     It was not precisely playing the card or against 'Old Man Par' hole by hole. It amounted more nearly to setting out in complete detachment from surrounding circumstances to produce a fine round of golf. An opponent might do some damage at one stage or another, but he was not likely to surpass the entire production."

For me there are some terrific things to learn from Bobby's words. First, even the great players are anxious and nervous, even fearful, before a round of golf. So, I guess it's not a sign of weakness if it happens to me. Secondly, in any form of golf, we have to be patient, and we have to be detached from the surrounding crcumstances, such as how our opponent might be playing, or a bad break we might have suffered, or how we might be hitting the ball on the first few holes. We have to learn to view every round of golf as "a complete structure to be built up hole by hole." I love that analogy. We need to set out every time we play to try to build a fine round of golf. And that round is played one shot and one hole at a time. 

Rome wasn't built in a day. And a round if golf is not completed until the last putt drops, or us conceded. A hot start can end badly, and a poor start can end well. My best round of 65 started with a shaky par on the first and a clumsy bogey on the second hole. You just have to be patient, and sometimes good things can and will happen.