Some Things Never Change

The game of golf has changed drastically over the last 100 years -- from course maintenance to space-age balls and clubs to golf-ball tracking devices to player conditioning. However, just because the average Driving Distance on the PGA Tour this year is over 296 yards  and the courses are routinely over 7,500 yards doesn’t mean we can’t learn from many of the Old, Old School golfers, men who played when trains and boats were the main modes of long-distance transportation, not private jets.

Yes, the modern swing differs in some ways from the hickory-era swing, but the game is essentially the same today as it was decades ago. Sound advice, thoughts and observations that worked 100 years ago are still viable today.

An Unusually Elegant Description Of The Stance: “Let your arms be free from the body, and bent at an easy natural angle – not tucked in to the sides in the fashion of a trussed fowl, nor stuck out square like the forelegs of a Dachshund, nor, again, stiff and straight in front of you like the arms of a man meditating a dive into water.” – English golfer and writer Horace Hutchinson (1859 – 1932), who won the British Amateur in 1886 and 1889), from his book, Elementary Instruction: Driving (1890).

“Do not hurry. Hurrying affects the nerves and hurried strokes are generally failures … To prevent an unnecessary expenditure of nerve force, treat your adversary as a nonentity and cultivate callousness of mental fiber.  Do not be disconcerted if he gets longer distances and do not try to overtake him. Quietly play your own game, for there is always the probability of his making enough mistakes to bring him back to you.” – From the book, Hints To Golfers by O.K. Niblick (1902).

“Always use the club that takes the least out of you. Play with a long iron instead of forcing your shot with a short iron. Never say, ‘Oh, I think I can reach it with such and such a club.’  There ought never to be any question of your reaching it, so use the next more powerful club in order that you will have a little in hand.” -- Harry Vardon (1870 to 1937), who won seven Majors (The Open Championship in 1896, ‘98, ‘99, ‘03, ‘11 & ‘14 and the U.S. Open in 1900). Not only did he win The Open a record-setting six times, he finished ninth or better 19 times in 21 years from 1894 to 1914.

“My personal opinion is that more men are good putters from practice than because they have any pronounced superiority, to begin with, over other men.” – American Francis Ouimet (1893 to 1967).

(The photo was taken on the 13th green at The Country Club in Brookline during the three-way playoff between Francis Ouimet, Harry Vardon and Ted Ray during the 1913 United States Open, which Ouimet won.)

“If you want to help yourself and the game, don’t play slowly. Your concentration wanders.” – Gene Sarazen (1902 – 1999), who had the career Grand Slam (Masters, 1935; U.S. Open, 1922 & 1932; The Open Championship 1932, and The PGA Championship 1922, 1923 & 1933).

“To begin with, golf is not a game of strength but of accuracy, and accuracy comes from muscular relaxation, muscular freedom. Tension is fatal to good golf, and lied at the root of every error.” – Alex J. Morrison (1896 – 1986), from his book, A New Way To Better Golf (Simon and Schuster, 1932). Two of his students were Henry Picard, who won the Masters in 1938 and the PGA in 1939, and Babe Ruth.

“I get as much fun as the next man from whaling the ball as hard as I can and catching it squarely on the button. But from sad experience, I learned not to try this in a round that meant anything.” -- Bobby Jones (1902 to 1971), who won The Grand Slam 1930.

And last, but not least, “Keep on hitting it straight until the wee ball goes in the hole.” -- Scottish professional golfer James Braid (1870 to 1950). He won the British Open Championship five times (1901, 05, 06, 08 10) and was a renowned golf architect.

Play Away!
Allan Stark

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