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Monday, December 24, 2018

Bobby Jones on Developing a Style

There will be no Limerick Summary this week or next because... well, everybody's on holiday, that's why. So let's finish out 2018 with some general thoughts on the game.

Today I've gone back to Bobby Jones and the collection of newpaper columns called Bobby Jones on Golf. I've got an excerpt from a clumn he called Developing a Style.
When we speak of a sound swing or a good form, we mean nothing more than that the possessor of either has simplified his swing to the point where errors are less likely to creep in, and that he is able consistently to bring his club against the ball in the correct hitting position. We talk, think, and write so much about the details of the stroke that we sometimes lose sight of the one thing that is all-important -- hitting the ball. It is conceivable that a person could perform all sorts of contortions and yet bring the club into correct relation to the ball at impact, in which case a good shot must result. The only reason for discussing method and form at all is to find a way to make it easier for the player to achieve this correct relationship. In a crude way, he might do it only occasionally; in a finished, sound, controlled way, he will be able to do it consistently and with assurance.

Ultraslow motion pictures made by the Professional Golfers Association show one point of comparison of the methods of Harry Vardon and myself that demonstrates how one motion or position depends upon another, and how after all, it is only the contact between club and ball that matters. The pictures show that at the instant of impact, Vardon's hands are perceptibly behind the ball, and that he has whipped the club head forward to make contact, whereas at the corresponding instant in my swing, the hands are slightly in front of the ball and the club head is being pulled through. Years of play and experience had told each of us that we must handle the club in this way in order to bring the clubface into the correct position; and while we may be thinking of some other part of the stroke, subconsciously, through our sense of touch, we bring the club head around in the way we have learned produces a good shot. The reason for this difference is found in the slightly different positions of our hands on the club, my left hand being slightly more on top of the shaft than Vardon’s. If either should meet the ball in the same way as the other, a bad shot must inevitably result.

This is the sense every golfer must develop. The beginner ought to keep always before him the determination to put the club against the ball in the correct position. It is not easy when form is lacking, but it is the surest way to cause form to be more easily acquired. The expert player corrects subconsciously; some instantaneous telegraphic system tells him, just as he begins to hit, that something is wrong; and at the last instant a muscle that may not always function perfectly will do so in a sufficient number of cases for it to be well worth its keep.
While Jones championed the importance of sound technique, he was also very vocal about learning how YOU swing the club and sticking with it. He was aware that his own method was somewhat unique, as he points out in this excerpt when he compares himself to an older contemporary of his, the great Harry Vardon.

Ultimately, what matters is impact -- what happens when the clubface contacts the ball. And in this piece Jones emphasizes the necessity of learning how you can best make proper contact with the ball. Jones says that his hands lead the clubhead into the impact zone while Vardon's hands are actually behind the clubhead at that point... but that regardless of which method you think is correct, both methods are perfectly serviceable. The important thing is that the ball does what you intend it to do -- or, as Jones puts it in his column, "If either should meet the ball in the same way as the other, a bad shot must inevitably result."

According to Jones, "When we speak of a sound swing or a good form, we mean nothing more than that the possessor of either has simplified his swing to the point where errors are less likely to creep in, and that he is able consistently to bring his club against the ball in the correct hitting position." He says that we concern ourselves with method and form for only one reason: to make it easier to get into that correct hitting position. Unlike so many golfers -- whether they be struggling weekend golfers or perfectionist pros -- he believes the ultimate measure of a good swing is that it gives you the desired results and does so consistently. No other measure really has any meaning.

Many of you will enter 2019 with the goal of creating the perfect swing. I suggest that you define "perfection" in terms of results and not just mechanics or looks. If you want to lower your scores, that's the mindset you need.

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