So when I tell a pupil to keep his eye on the ball I at once go on to the work of building up a golf swing that makes looking at the ball a necessity. Of course every pupil "looks up" badly at first to have the pleasure of seeing where the ball has gone, but this is a primitive stage and soon over.
In the next stage, when I am impressing him more and more with swinging correctly, I find that he often becomes so engrossed in the golf swing as to be unable to remember to keep his eye on the ball. But in such a case I believe the cure must come by making the "head down" a natural outcome of the swing.
If I simply insist upon "head down," I run a risk of getting my pupil all stiffened up, "frozen on the ball" as we call it, and consequently only able to make hacking, chopping movements.
Now in this matter of seeing the ball, I would ask you to consider a golfer at the other end of the scale.
How does a very good golfer see the ball? In my opinion, through his very highly developed sense of feel, he sees the ball (in some proportion) through his hands.
Sees through his hands? Perhaps the idea is not so fanciful as it might seem. I began to think about it first after I had read an article by Sir Herbert Barker some years ago.
This is what he said: "We take our hands too much for granted. Their possibilities and powers are seldom discovered or developed.
Most people pass through life with these two implements untrained, unexplored, unknown. . . ." Then he goes on: "When we take for granted the localization of our senses in certain organs we go too fast. Localized they are, but not completely so."
Then at a later date my interest was reawakened by the declaration of Dr. Fougools, the French savant, that in the skins of our hands are potential eyes. He says that they are nerve eyes atrophied for the simple reason that we have developed two ocular instruments so much superior to them.
Now to my mind the value of that idea to the golfer lies largely in an idea which it promotes, that perhaps the greatest value of "keeping your eye on the ball" is the assistance which it gives in building up sight through feel.
For whatever may be the eventual verdict of science upon the tentatively advanced hypothesis of the two famous men quoted above, I can assure you that some sort of sight through feel is certainly possible.
I have developed it myself, as have many other first-class golfers. I can see the face of the club and the angle it is at the top of my swing (when it is "out of sight" behind the back of my head), and long before I lift my head, I can see the ball fly away with the exact curve which I know my shot has given it.
But let us leave these metaphysical regions and come back to the ordinary golfer.
Why is it that so often he can make perfect swings when the ball is not there, yet he becomes semi-petrified and makes the most ridiculous shots as soon as there is a ball, even a ball carefully perched on a perfectly prepared tee, for him to hit?
And what would happen if you could put down an invisible ball for him? Is it knowing that the ball is there that upsets his swing or is it the sight of it?