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Sunday, February 21, 2016

A Distance Tip from Bobby Jones

If you've been watching the Northern Trust Open, you've been watching some long hitters launch the ball a long way. You've also seen and heard quite a bit of analysis about how the bombers do it.

Ironically, Bobby Jones -- who was pretty long in his day -- had an interesting take on how to hit it long. Even back when he played -- and yes, they did have steel shafts back then, they just weren't approved for tournament play by the R&A until 1928 so some of the pros like Jones didn't play them anywhere -- even then there were some ideas about how to hit it long that we still hear today.

Ideas that Jones disagreed with, btw, and made no secret of it.

Here's a couple of paragraphs from a newspaper column Jones wrote back in the early 1930s. It was entitled An Easy Solution to Extra Yards:
There are two main tendencies which the average player exhibits when he wants to hit hard. First, he is impelled to widen his stance, and second, to place himself further from the ball where he has the feeling that he can really "swing on it." In most cases, too, he will plant his feet firmly in the turf in order to complete what he considers "setting himself" for the stroke. And then he slugs at the ball and wonders why he doesn't achieve the enormous shot he had intended.
 
If one will take the trouble to observe, he will notice certain things which are characteristic of all true swingers of a golf club. First, that the posture of the body at address is fairly erect and that the location of the ball is near enough so that there is no need to stretch out for it; second, that the feet are not separated so widely that the movement of the hips is restricted and that they are not rooted to the ground. The whole picture will be one of apparent ease and comfort, entirely free from strain of any kind. And this is the beginning of a swing which will get distance and control.
I know some people will say that Jones is only correct when you talk about hickory shafts. They'll say that modern players need more power and you need a wide stance, restricted hip turn, and an 'athletic address position' with the ball farther away from you so you can swing your arms more freely and load the shaft more effectively.

But I keep thinking about how Bubba looks when he smacks it around Riviera. His stance isn't particularly wide. His hips turn a lot and his lead heel comes WAY off the ground at the top of his backswing. And Bubba isn't built like a bodybuilder; he's wiry and has a big swing, not tight with a short swing.

So maybe we should stay more relaxed and move more naturally if we want to get more distance. It doesn't matter whether you look at Bobby or Bubba, it seems to work just as well now as it did then.

The quote is from pages 48-49 of Bobby Jones Golf Tips: Secrets of the Master by Sidney Matthew.

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