ATTENTION, READERS in the 28 EUROPEAN VAT COUNTRIES: Because of the new VAT law, you probably can't order books direct from my site now. But that's okay -- just go to my Smashwords author page.
You can order PDFs (as well as all the other ebook formats) from there.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Harry Vardon on Playing the Pulled Shot

I chose today's quote for a bit of fun. Harry Vardon is a legend, of course, and his book The Complete Golfer -- a combination of instruction, memoir and opinion from 1905 -- is available in several digital versions for free at Project Gutenberg.

Harry Vardon

So many of us struggle to play a draw -- what Vardon called "the pulled shot." Here's his basic instruction on how to do it, from Chapter VIII of his book. After you read this quote, be sure to study the photo beneath it; there's a diagram complete with measurements showing exactly where Vardon placed his feet to play this shot with driver and brassie (a 2-wood). You can use this stroke with modern 3-woods as well. Just bear in mind that modern shafts are a bit longer than the ones Vardon used, so you may need to stand an inch or two farther from the ball.
Now there is the pulled ball to consider; for there are times when the making of such a shot is eminently desirable. Resort to a slice may be unsatisfactory, or it may be entirely impossible, and one important factor in this question is that the pulled ball is always much longer than the other, in fact it has always so much length in it that many players in driving in the ordinary way from the tee, and desiring only to go straight down the course, systematically play for a pull and make allowances for it in their direction. Now examine Plate XVII [the photo below] and the accompanying diagram illustrating the stance for the pull, and see how very materially it differs from those which were adopted for the ordinary drive and that in which a slice was asked for. We have moved right round to the front of the ball. The right heel is on the B line and the toe 4 inches away from it, while the left toe is no less than 21½ inches from this line, and therefore so much in front of the ball. At the same time the line of the stance shows that the player is turned slightly away from the direction in which he proposes to play, the left toe being now only 26½ inches away from the A line, while the right toe is 32 inches distant from it. The obvious result of this stance is that the handle of the club is in front of the ball, and this circumstance must be accentuated by the hands being held even slightly more forward than for an ordinary drive. Now they are held forward in front of the head of the club. In the grip there is another point of difference. It is necessary that in the making of this stroke the right hand should do more work than the left, and therefore the club should be held rather more loosely by the left hand than by its partner. The latter will duly take advantage of this slackness, and will get in just the little extra work that is wanted of it. In the upward swing carry the club head just along the line which it would take for an ordinary drive. The result of all this arrangement, and particularly of the slackness of the left hand and comparative tightness of the right, is that there is a tendency in the downward swing for the face of the club to turn over to some extent, that is, for the top edge of it to be overlapping the bottom edge. This is exactly what is wanted, for, in fact, it is quite necessary that at the moment of impact the right hand should be beginning to turn over in this manner, and if the stroke is to be a success the golfer must see that it does so, but the movement must be made quite smoothly and naturally, for anything in the nature of a jab, such as is common when too desperate efforts are made to turn over an unwilling club, would certainly prove fatal. It follows from what has been happening all the way through, that at the finish of the stroke the right hand, which has matters pretty well its own way, has assumed final ascendancy and is well above the left.
Check out the diagram in the photo below. The ball is played much farther back in the stance than modern instructors would recommend, but Vardon -- an average-sized man between 5'9" and 5'10" tall -- was considered a long hitter in his day.

Harry Vardon playing a pulled shot

So why am I quoting such an unorthodox approach to drawing the ball? Because even the pros use unorthodox methods when creating a "go-to shot" that they can produce consistently under pressure. Vardon's approach just might be what you're looking for.


  1. Hi Mike ...I.m experimenting with this up for a draw. Due to injuries, bad shoukders, back changed to a Vardon like swing ... great progress.

    1. I think that’s one of the great values of golf history — we find alternate ways to do things that may help us deal with our swing problems. Let me know how it goes!

  2. Hi ... tried this but I feel I.m .doing a Leadbetter drill feels so weird

    1. This is something you’ll have to decide for yourself, Harry. Is it weird in a bad way, or does it just feel different from what you’ve been doing? Ideally you’d like your swing to feel natural but positive changes can feel weird at first.

      In making that decision, I’d consider (1) does the change give me good results, (2) how easy it is to repeat the change and — very important — (3) does the change cause physical discomfort or even hurt. That last one is VERY important because we don’t want our golf swing to make us miserable.

      Not everything one player does is good for another player, even if their swings are similar. This is a decision you’ll need to make on your own, and you should trust the decision you make. In the end, nobody knows your body as well as you do.