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Saturday, November 1, 2014

How Bobby Jones Hit Longer Drives

Bobby Jones distinguished himself, not only as perhaps the greatest amateur to ever play the game, but also as one of golf's most famous teachers. Who hasn't seen some of his How I Play Golf or How to Break 90 films, made in the early 1930s by Warner Brothers? (Many of you may not know that Jones gave up his amateur status when making the films. Otherwise he wouldn't have gotten paid!)

Bobby Jones at finish of swing Jones wrote a tremendous amount of golf instruction for newspapers as well -- author Charles Price estimated that those articles were equal to five average-length novels -- and many of them have been collected and reprinted in book form.

I found this particular driving tip in a book by noted Jones biographer Sidney L. Matthew simply called Bobby Jones Golf Tips. (My copy includes the subtitle Secrets of the Master and was published by Kensington Books, in case you're interested.) This tip comes from pages 48-49, from an article called An Easy Solution to Extra Yards, and I'll just quote a couple of key paragraphs:
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 into 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.

… It is not a good idea to strive for the ultimate length off every tee, but it is a fine thing to be able to produce a few extra yards when they are needed. But this additional can never be had by stretching and slugging. On the contrary, it is obtained more easily by increasing the turn and use of the hips and shoulders.
When Jones wanted a little more distance off the tee -- and he was considered a fairly long driver in his time -- he focused on addressing the ball in a way that let him stay relaxed and flexible. He stood fairly tall with his feet a comfortable distance apart and the ball close enough that he didn't have to reach for it.

The idea was to make it as easy to turn back and through as possible. This allowed him to turn his hips and shoulders freely, thus making it easy to swing the club quickly without trying to "slug" the ball.

That's pretty clear, don't you think? It's a technique that's available to any golfer at any skill level, and you can practice it for free in your backyard (just stick a tee in the ground in place of a ball). I like that kind of tip!

The photo came from the Atlanta History Center website.

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