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Golf and Patience: Part 2


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This is the 2nd and final part of the Golf and Patience story Percy Boomer started in the previous entry.

I did not want to split it any further, so that you could get the benefit of continuity and fluidity in the story, as Percy offers several good golf tips in the rest of the story, especially in regards to the golf swing.

So, without further ado, let's continue with his conversation with the lady player he was talking with before...."

"Your husband links cause and effect. He sees all good golfers play in a certain way; so he plays that way too. You do not care to consider causes, and the effect you want is to get someone to say, 'Good shot!' as your ball creeps off the tee. But you cannot earn the 'Good shot!' unless you concentrate on the cause, on a good swing."

"Now," I continued, "let me see you make a few swings first without a ball and then with one."

"Oh," she replied, "I can always swing well when there is no ball."

"Why?" I asked.

"That is what I want to know. Why should a stupid little ball perched up there ruin my swing?"

I chuckled. "Because you try to hit it!" I said.

"But surely I must try to hit it."

"Surely you must not! What you must try to do is to swing your club. Which at the moment means you must concentrate on pivoting not on hitting the ball."

"Don't you try to hit the ball?" she asked.

"No. I try to swing my club head correctly (that is, from my legs), so that it swings past the ball, taking the ball in its passage."

"Then you said I was all wrong in what I did with my hands and arms. What should I do with them?"

"Just keep them out as wide as you can. You will feel you are stretching down when you near the ball, and that is good. What you must never feel is that you are lifting the club head, either on the way back or through. If you lift, you will scoop not swing."

"But how can I get my club head up over my shoulder if I do not lift it there with my arms?"

"Study and practice the pivot and you will see. Actually of course, the arms do lift the club, but it should not be an independent arm movement; it should be reactive - simply transmitting the power from the pivot.

"You say you cannot keep your left arm straight, and that is another certain sign that your idea of power is up and down with the arms, whereas ours is around and along from the pivot."

She picked up a club and took a few swings, much shorter than before, the body much more stretched and with more leg work.

"Is that more the idea?" she asked.

"Much more."

"But I am not hitting the ball any better!"

"Not yet, but you will, because you are now beginning to swing correctly."

"But I feel I can never connect with the ball from away back there."

"Oh yes, you will, very shortly too, and with much more consistency than with your old scoop."

"But even if I do, I feel I have no power at all that way. I cannot use my wrists."

"You mean you cannot use your hands and arms. That is exactly what we have been aiming at! Actually using the wrists in golf is a most delicate business, possible only to the very good player. When you think you are using your wrists, you are simply pulling the club down with your arms as fast as it will come"

"Well if I don't pull it down, how am I going to get it to go swiftly through the ball?"

"Curiously enough you get maximum club head speed at the ball by exactly the opposite of your 'pulling down' plan. You get it by delaying the club head so that it lags behind the rest of the swing and then rushes forward. To get this effect you must let your wrists be a free link-any attempt to use them in your stage of experience will simply kill the speed of the club head."

"And that 'delay the club head?' Is that what you mean when you say "swing slowly"?"

"Yes. Curiously, again, the sweeping swing which gives you maximum club head speed does not feel fast."

"Well, I will try! But it all sounds so illogical, and I do like to know what I am doing and why."

"I am delighted to hear that, because it means you will make progress. But do not try too hard to understand with your mind. So you will begin to connect with the ball, and then new sensations, or feelings, will develop, and these will give you a new and much clearer conception of what is going on."

"So! And how do I set about it now?"

"Well, just stand in front of your ball, not curved over it but slightly bent down and out towards it. Then without moving sideways, turn first back and then forward from the pivot. Now look at the ball, but do not stare at it or bend to get a closer view! Peep at it, a sly look at the ball is better than a stare. Don't hold your club too tight, for, if you do, your wrists will become wooden and wooden wrists are useless. And try to hold your club with no more tension at the top of the swing than you use at the address. You must hold the club firmly, neither tightly nor loosely, but firmly."

"But that reminds me. Will my grip do?"

"For what you need now, yes. You must realize that what you do now is done grosso modo, is done in a general sense and is not necessarily exact in detail. As time goes on and you become more familiar with the working of the swing as a whole, we may modify the different sections."

"You mean that some day we will study the grip or the stance in detail?"

"Exactly. But not too soon. It is hopeless for a beginner to concentrate on some single point and work at it and struggle to get it right when what he should be doing is to get some sort of movement going, based upon the correct principles of swing - which are a good pivot and a wide - sweeping movement, with good central balance and power from the feet and legs."

"All the working members of the golf swing are related and linked up, and it is the perfect co-ordination of movements that makes the good player. Experience has shown me that where most people go wrong when they take up golf is in imagining that the power must be produced by the hands and arms. Yet the fact that they put nails in their shoes should tell them where the power comes from!"

My pupil took a few more swings and swept one or two balls away quite nicely.

"I admit that they begin to go a bit better and to feel better. But it is sheer luck if they go straight!"

"Why luck?"

"Because when I swing as you tell me, I have no idea of where the hole is or where I am aiming the ball. I feel too far from the ball to be able to guide it down the middle."

"Good, because that is not the way to get it down the middle anyway. Listen: when you have learned to sweep the ball away more or less truly four or five or six times in succession, you will begin to feel a sense of direction. You will begin to feel that when you operate in a certain manner, your ball will go in a certain direction. The ball will keep this direction as long as you keep the feel of the swing, but if you pull the swing out of shape or try to constrict it by trying to guide the ball, all certainty of direction is lost."

"Then I must definitely not try to drive the ball down the middle?"

"You definitely must not. You have tried to do that for years and have gradually become worse and worse. That is why you came to me for advice."

"Well you have given me plenty," she said somewhat ruefully.

"Yes," I replied. "It does sound very complicated all in a mass like that. It seems absurd to make such hard work of a game. But much of your trouble is in getting rid of false ideas and bad habits. Once you get on the right lines and begin to progress, like your husband, you will get a lot of fun out of working out each new problem as it arises. For each new sensation brings a new idea which must be fitted into your golfing system as a whole. That is the whole trick of progressing at golf: to add what you learn to what you already know."

When we parted she was doubtful if she ever could progress! But I am happy to say that she is now a very decent golfer, and an intelligent and analytic one.

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