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Thursday, December 21, 2017

Jack Nicklaus on Playing Blind Shots

John Daly has talked about learning how to play from "comic strips" with Jack Nicklaus in them. I actually have a book with some of them! It's called Jack Nicklaus' Playing Lessons and today's quote comes from one of those "comics."

Jack Nicklaus at 1986 Masters

This particular quote comes from a section called How to Target Your Shots. I chose his advice on how to play blind shots, simply because too many players are left on their own to figure out the best technique. I'm not including the picture because it doesn't really show what Jack's talking about. It's just a small silhouette of Jack looking at the top of a tree over a hill, with a dotted line from his tiny head to the tree.
I dislike blind shots intensely, but I don't let them interrupt my game plan. There are two problems any time you can't see where you are going: how far to hit and where to hit. The only way to solve them is to have a quick look. Generally I already know the yardage I have to cover because I will have paced it out and noted it in practice. If for some reason I haven't been able to do that, I determine it by first estimating the distance from the target to the point where it comes fully into view, then adding the distance from that point back to the ball. To establish the line, I select a tree or other tall object directly behind my target area, and keep careful track of it walking back to the ball. If no skyline marker is available, I identify an aiming point on the crest of the hill. [p65]
How Jack aims is pretty intuitive -- pick something tall behind your target and aim at that. But his method for figuring distance may seem odd.

Most of us try to guess the distance from our ball to the invisible target in one lump total. Jack, however, broke it into two smaller distances -- the part he could see from the ball and the part to the target that he couldn't see -- and then he added them together.

It sounds a bit unusual, but it's not all that different from the way we figure out how hard to strike a putt with several elevation changes. We break it into small sections that are simpler to understand. Then we start with the one closest to the hole, figure out how hard that part needs to be struck; next we step back and figure how hard to strike the next section so it's traveling at the correct speed when it reaches the section closer to the hole.

By breaking the shot into two parts, I suspect it helped Jack make a better club choice so he didn't over- or underestimate the difficulty of the shot. For the rest of us, it might help us avoid trying a shot we shouldn't. After all, sometimes the best way to play a blind shot is to break it into two shorter shots you can see clearly!

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