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The Complete Golfer

Vintage golfing advice from Harry Vardon, British Open Champion, published in 1905.

Updated: 2018-03-05T16:56:53.334-08:00


The Iron: A Golfer's Favorite Club


When I mention that useful iron-headed club that goes by the simple name of iron, I am conscious that I bring forward a subject that is dear to the hearts of many golfers who have not yet come to play with certainty with all their instruments. For the iron is often the golfer's favourite club, and it has won this place of affection in his mind because it has been found in the course of long experience that it plays him fewer tricks than any of the others—that it is more dependable. This may be to some extent because with the average golfer such fine work is seldom required from the simple iron as is wanted from other clubs from time to time. The distance to be covered is always well within the capabilities of the club, or it would not be employed, and the average golfer of whom we speak, who has still a handicap of several strokes, is usually tolerably well satisfied if with it he places the ball anywhere on the green, from which point he will be enabled to hole out in the additional regulation two strokes. And the green is often enough a large place, so the iron is fortunate in its task. But it goes without saying that by those who have the skill for it, and sufficiently realise the possibilities of all their tools, some of the finest work in golf may be done with the iron. When it is called for the player is within easy reach of the hole. The really long work has been accomplished, and the prime consideration now is that of accuracy. Therefore the man who feels himself able to play for the pin and not merely for the green, is he who is in the confidence of his iron and knows that there are great things to be done with it.The fault I have to find with the iron play of most golfers is that it comes at the wrong time. I find them lunging out with all their power at full shots with their irons when they might be far better employed in effecting one of those pretty low shots made with the cleek at the half swing. It is not in the nature of things that the full iron should be as true as the half cleek, where there is such a reserve of strength, and the body, being less in a state of strain, the mind can be more concentrated on straightness and the accurate determination of length. I suspect that this full shot is so often played and the preference for the iron is established, not merely because it nearly always does its work tolerably satisfactorily, but because in the simple matter of looks there is something inviting about the iron. It has a fair amount of loft, and it is deeper in the face than the cleek, and at a casual inspection of its points it seems an easy club to play with.On the other hand, being a little nearer to the hole, the average player deserts his iron for the mashie (editor: 7 or 9 iron today) much sooner than I care to do. Your 10-handicap man never gives a second thought as to the tool he shall use when he has arrived within a hundred yards of the hole. Is he not then approaching in deadly earnest, and has he not grown up in golf with a definite understanding that there is one thing, and one only, with which to give the true artistic finish to the play through the green? Therefore out of his bag comes the mashie, which, if it could speak, would surely protest that it is a delicate club with some fine breeding in it, and that it was never meant to do this slogging with long swings that comes properly in the departments of its iron friends. I seldom use a mashie until I am within eighty yards of the hole. Up to that point I keep my iron in action. Much better, I say, is a flick with the iron than a thump with the mashie.[...]

Playing a Thoughtful Game of Golf


You must be thoughtful if you want to get on in golf. Most players when they make an exceptionally good stroke gaze delightedly at the result, and then begin to talk about it to their opponent and the caddie. They rarely give a thought as to exactly how they did it, though it must be obvious that for that good result to have been obtained the stroke must have been played in a particularly correct and able manner.

Unless by pure accident, no good ever comes of a bad stroke. When you have made a really wonderfully good shot—for you—bring yourself up sharply to find out exactly how you did it. Notice your stance, your grip, and try to remember the exact character of the swing that you made and precisely how you followed through. Then you will be able to do the same thing next time with great confidence.

Usually when a player makes a really bad stroke you see him trying the swing over again—without the ball—wondering what went wrong. It would pay him much better to do the good strokes over again in the same way every time he makes them, so as to impress the method of execution firmly upon his mind.

Another Way to Play a Stymie


There is one other way of attacking a stymie, and that is by the application of the run-through method, when the ball in front of you is on the edge of the hole and your own is very close to it—only just outside the six inches limit that makes the stymie. If the balls are much more than a foot apart, the "follow-through method" of playing stymies is almost certain to fail. This system is nothing more than the follow-through shot at billiards, and the principles upon which the strokes in the two games are made are much the same. Hit your own ball very high up,—that is to say, put all the top and run on it that you can, and strike the other ball fairly in the centre and fairly hard. The object is to knock the stymie right away over the hole, and to follow through with your own and drop in.

If you don't hit hard enough you will only succeed in holing your opponent's ball and earning his sarcastic thanks. And if you don't get top enough on your own ball you will not follow through, however hard you bang up against the other. This is a very useful stroke to practise, for the particular kind of stymie to which it applies occurs very frequently, and is one of the most exasperating of all.

Playing a Stymie


Upon the very difficult and annoying question of stymies there are few hints that I can offer which will not suggest themselves to the player of a very little experience.The fact which must be driven home is that some stymies are negotiable and others are not—not by any player or by any method. When the ball that stymies you dead is lying on the lip of the hole and half covering it, and your own is some distance away, the case is, to all intents and purposes, hopeless, but if you have only got this one stroke left for the half, you feel that an effort of some kind must be made, however hopeless it may be. The one chance—and even that is not always given—is to pass the other ball so very closely that yours will touch the rim of the hole and then, perhaps, if it is travelling slowly enough, be influenced sufficiently to tumble in. Luck must necessarily have a lot to do with the success of a stroke of this kind, and the one consolation is that, if it fails, or if you knock the other ball in—which is quite likely—things will be no worse than they appeared before you took the stroke.If, in the case of a dead and hopeless stymie of this kind, you had two strokes for the half and one for the hole, I should strongly advise you to give up all thoughts of holing out, and make quite certain of being dead the first time and getting the half. Many golfers are so carried away by their desire to snatch the hole from a desperate position of this sort, that they throw all prudence to the winds, attempt the impossible, and probably lose the hole at the finish instead of halving it. They may leave themselves another stymie, they may knock the other ball in, or they may be anything but dead after their first stroke,—indeed, it is when defying their fate in this manner that everything is likely to happen for the worst. The common method of playing a stymie is by pitching your ball over that of your opponent, but this is not always possible. All depends on how near the other ball is to the hole, and how far the balls are apart. If the ball that stymies you is on the lip and your own is three yards away, it is obvious that you cannot pitch over it. From such a distance your own ball could not be made to clear the other one and drop again in time to fall into the tin. But, when an examination of the situation makes it clear that there is really space enough to pitch over and get into the hole, take the most lofted club in your bag—either a highly lofted mashie or even a niblick—and when making the little pitch shot that is demanded, apply cut to the ball in the way I have already directed, and aim to the left-hand side of the tin. The stroke should be very short and quick, the blade of the club not passing through a space of more than nine inches or a foot. The cut will make the ball lift quickly, and, with the spin upon it, it is evident that the left-hand side of the hole is the proper one to play to.Everything depends upon the measurements of the situation as to whether you ought to pitch right into the hole or to pitch short and run in, but in any case you should pitch close up, and in a general way four or five inches would be a fair distance to ask the ball to run. When your own ball is many yards away from the hole, and the one that makes the stymie is also far from it as well as far from yours, a pitch shot seems very often to be either inadequate or impossible. Usually it will be better to aim at going very near to the stymie with the object of getting up dead, making quite certain at the same time that you do not bungle the whole thing by hitting the other ball, or else to play to the left with much cut, so that with a little luck you may circle into the hole.Evidently the latter would be a somewhat hazardous stroke to make.[...]

Putting on a Slope


(image) One of the putting problems which strike most fear into the heart of the golfer is when his line from the ball to the hole runs straight down a steep slope, and there is some considerable distance for the ball to travel along a fast green.

The difficulty in such a case is to preserve any control over the ball after it has left the club, and to make it stop anywhere near the hole if the green is really so fast and steep as almost to impart motion of itself. In a case of this sort I think it generally pays best to hit the ball very nearly upon the toe of the putter, at the same time making a short quick twitch or draw of the club across the ball towards the feet. Little forward motion will be imparted in this manner, but there will be a tendency to half lift the ball from the green at the beginning of its journey, and it will continue its way to the hole with a lot of drag upon it.

It is obvious that this stroke, to be played properly, will need much practice in the first place and judgment afterwards, and I can do little more than state the principle upon which it should be made. But oftentimes, when the slope of the green is really considerable, and one experiences a sense of great risk and danger in using the putter at all, I strongly advise the use of the iron or mashie; indeed, I think most golfers chain themselves down too much to the idea that the putter, being the proper thing to putt with, no other club should be used on the green. There is no law to enforce the use of the putter, but even when the idea sometimes occurs to a player that it would be best to use his mashie on the green in particular circumstances, he usually rejects it as improper.

On a steep incline it pays very well to use a mashie, for length in these circumstances can often be judged very accurately, and, the ball having been given its little pitch to begin with, does not then begin to roll along nearly so quickly as if the putter had been acting upon it. There are times, even when the hole is only a yard away, when it might pay best to ask for the mashie instead of the instrument which the caddie will offer.

What To Do in a Bunker


There is nothing like the bunkers on a golf links for separating the philosophic from the un-philosophic among a golfing crowd, and when a representative of each section is in a bunker at the same time it is heavy odds on the philosopher winning the hole. There are two respects in which he differs from his opponent at this crisis in his golfing affairs. He does not become flurried, excited, and despondent, and give the hole up for lost with a feeling of disgust that he had committed the most unpardonable sin. He remembers that there are still various strokes to be played before the hole is reached, and that it is quite possible that in the meantime his friend may somewhere lose one and enable him to get on level terms again.

When two players with plus handicaps are engaged in a match, a bunkered ball will generally mean a lost hole, but others who have not climbed to this pinnacle of excellence are far too pessimistic if they assume that this rule operates in their case also. The second matter in which the philosophic golfer rises superior to his less favouredbrother when there is a bunker stroke to be played, is that he fully realises that the bunker was placed there for the particular purpose of catching certain defective shots, and that the definite idea of its constructors was that the man who played such a shot should lose a stroke as penalty for doing so—every time. It is legitimate for us occasionally to put it to ourselves that those constructors did not know the long limits of our resource nor the craftiness we are able to display when in a very tight corner, and that therefore, if we find a favourable opportunity, we may cheat the bunker out of the stroke that it threatens to take from us. But this does not happen often. When the golfer has brought himself to realise that, having played into a bunker, he has lost a stroke or the best part of one, and accepts the position without any further ado, he has gone a long way in the cultivation of the most desirable properties of mind and temperament with which any player of the game can be endowed. This man, recognising that his stroke is lost, when he goes up to his ball and studies the many difficulties of its situation, plays for the mere purpose of getting out again, and probably putting himself on the other side in that one stroke which was lost. It does not matter to him if he only gets two yards beyond the bunker—just far enough to enable him to take his stance and swing properly for the next shot. Distance is positively no object whatever, and in this way he insures himself against further loss, and goes the right way to make up for his misfortune.

The Master Stroke in Golf


Which is the master stroke in golf? That is an engaging question. Is it the perfect drive, with every limb, muscle, and organ of the body working in splendid harmony with the result of despatching the ball well beyond two hundred yards in a straight line from the tee? No, it is not that, for there are some thousands of players who can drive what is to all intents and purposes a perfect ball without any unusual effort. Is it the brassy shot which is equal to a splendid drive, and which, delivering the ball in safety over the last hazard, places it nicely upon the green, absolving the golfer from the necessity of playing any other approach? No, though that is a most creditable achievement. Is it the approach over a threatening bunker on to a difficult green where the ball can hardly be persuaded to remain, yet so deftly has the cut been applied, and so finely has the strength been judged, that it stops dead against the hole, and for a certainty a stroke is saved? This is a most satisfying shot which has in its time won innumerable holes, but it is not the master stroke of golf. Then, is it the putt from the corner of the green across many miniature hills and dales with a winding course over which the ball must travel, often far away from the direct line, but which carries it at last delightfully to the opening into which it sinks just as its strength is ebbing away? We all know the thrilling ecstasy that comes from such a stroke as this, but it has always been helped by a little good luck, and I would not call it the master stroke. There are inferior players who are good putters.

Which, then, is the master stroke? I say that it is the ball struck by any club to which a big pull or slice is intentionally applied for the accomplishment of a specific purpose which could not be achieved in any other way, and nothing more exemplifies the curious waywardness of this game of ours than the fact that the stroke which is the confounding and torture of the beginner who does it constantly, he knows not how, but always to his detriment, should later on at times be the most coveted shot of all, and should then be the most difficult of accomplishment. I call it the master shot because, to accomplish it with any certainty and perfection, it is so difficult even to the experienced golfer, because it calls for the most absolute command over the club and every nerve and sinew of the body, and the courageous heart of the true sportsman whom no difficulty may daunt, and because, when properly done, it is a splendid thing to see, and for a certainty results in material gain to the man who played it.

Summary of Tips on Driving


Two chapters of detailed instruction are too much for a player to carry in his mind when he goes out on to the links to practice drives, and for his benefit I will here make the briefest possible summary of what I have already stated. Let him attend, then, to the following chief points:—

Stance.—The player should stand just so far away from the ball, that when the face of the driver is laid against it in position for striking, the other end of the shaft exactly reaches to the left knee when the latter is slightly bent. The right foot may be anything up to seven inches in front of the left, but certainly never behind it. The left toe should be a trifle in advance of the ball. The toes should be turned outwards. Make a low tee.

Grip.—As described. Remember that the palm of the right hand presses hard on the left thumb at all times except when nearing and at the top of the swing. The grip of the thumb and the first two fingers of each hand is constantly firm.

Upward Swing.—The club head must be taken back in a straight line for a few inches, and then brought round gradually—not too straight up (causing slicing) nor too far round in the old-fashioned style. The speed of the swing increases gradually. The elbows are kept fairly well in, the left wrist turning inwards and finishing the upward swing well underneath the shaft. The body must not be allowed to sway. It should pivot easily from the waist. The head must be kept quite still. The weight is gradually thrown entirely on to the right leg, the left knee bends inwards, the left heel rises, and the toe pivots. There must be no jerk at the turn of the swing.

Downward Swing.—There should be a gradual increase of pace, but no jerk anywhere. The arms must be kept well down when the club is descending, the elbows almost grazing the body. The right wrist should not be allowed to get on to the top of the club. The head is still motionless. The left hip is allowed to move forward very slightly while the club is coming down. The weight of the body is gradually transferred from the right leg to the left, the right toe pivoting after the impact, and the left leg stiffening. The right shoulder must be prevented from dropping too much. After the impact the arms should be allowed to follow the ball and the body to go forward, the latter movement being timed very carefully. The head may now be raised. Finish with the arms well up—the right arm above the left.

Slicing.—This may be caused by standing too near to the ball, by pulling in the arms, or by falling on the ball.

Pulling.—Usually caused by the head of the club being turned partly over when the ball is struck, or by relaxing the grip with the right hand.

I can only agree with those who have followed me so patiently through these two chapters, that to drive a golf ball well is a thing not to be learned in a week or a month.



Pulling is not such a common fault, although one which is sometimes very annoying. Generally speaking, a pulled ball is a much better one than one which has been sliced, and there are some young players who are rather inclined to purr with satisfaction when they have pulled, for, though the ball is hopelessly off the line, they have committed an error which is commoner with those whose hair has grown grey on the links than with the beginner whose handicap is reckoned by eighteen or twenty strokes.

But after all pulling is not an amusement, and even when it is an accomplishment and not an accident, it should be most carefully regulated. It is the right hand which is usually the offender in this case. The wrist is wrong at the moment of impact, and generally at the finish of the stroke as well,—that is, it is on the top of the club, indicating that the right hand has done most of the work. In a case of this sort the top edge of the face of the club is usually overlapping the bottom edge, so that the face is pointing slightly downwards at the moment of impact; and when this position is brought about with extreme suddenness the ball is frequently foundered. If it escapes this fate, then it is pulled.

A second cause of pulling is a sudden relaxation of the grip of the right hand at the time of hitting the ball. When this happens, the left hand, being uncontrolled, turns over the club head in the same manner as in the first case, and the result is the same.



Having thus indicated at such great length the many points which go to the making of a good drive, a long one and a straight one, yet abounding with ease and grace, allow me to show how some of the commonest faults are caused by departures from the rules for driving. Take the sliced ball, as being the trouble from which the player most frequently suffers, and which upon occasion will exasperate him beyond measure. When a golfer is slicing badly almost every time, it is frequently difficult for him to discover immediately the exact source of the trouble, for there are two or three ways in which it comes about. The player may be standing too near to the ball; he may be pulling in his arms too suddenly as he is swinging on to it, thus drawing the club towards his left foot; or he may be falling on to the ball at the moment of impact. When the stance is taken too near to the ball there is a great inducement to the arms to take a course too far outwards (in the direction of the A line) in the upward swing. The position is cramped, and the player does not seem able to get the club round at all comfortably. When the club head is brought on to the ball after a swing of this kind, the face is drawn right across it, and a slice is inevitable. In diagnosing the malady, in cases where the too close stance is suspected, it is a good thing to apply the test of distance given at the beginning of the previous chapter, and see whether, when the club head is resting in position against the teed ball, the other end of the shaft just reaches to the left knee when it is in position, and has only just so much bend in it as it has when the ball is being addressed. The second method of committing the slicing sin is self-explanatory. As for the third, a player falls on the ball, or sways over in the direction of the tee (very slightly, but it is the trifles that matter most) when his weight has not been properly balanced to start with, and when in the course of the swing it has been moved suddenly from one leg to the other instead of quite gradually. But sometimes falling on the ball is caused purely and simply by swaying the body, against which the player has already been warned. When the slicing is bad, the methods of the golfer should be tested for each of these irregularities, and he should remember that an inch difference in any position or movement as he stands upon the tee is a great distance, and that two inches is a vast space, which the mind trained to calculate in small fractions can hardly conceive.

A Smooth Downward Swing


The club should gradually gain in speed from the moment of the turn until it is in contact with the ball, so that at the moment of impact its head is travelling at its fastest pace. After the impact, the club head should be allowed to follow the ball straight in the line of the flag as far as the arms will let it go, and then, having done everything that is possible, it swings itself out at the other side of the shoulders. The entire movement must be perfectly smooth and rhythmical; in the downward swing, while the club is gaining speed, there must not be the semblance of a jerk anywhere such as would cause a jump, or a double swing, or what might be called a cricket stroke.

That, in a few lines, is the whole story of the downward swing; but it needs some little elaboration of detail. In the first place, avoid the tendency—which is to some extent natural—to let the arms go out or away from the body as soon as the downward movement begins. When they are permitted to do so the club head escapes from its proper line, and a fault is committed which cannot be remedied before the ball is struck. Knowing by instinct that you are outside the proper course, you make a great effort at correction, the face of the club is drawn across the ball, and there is one more slice.

The arms should be kept fairly well in during the latter half of the downward swing, both elbows almost grazing the body. If they are properly attended to when the club is going up, there is much more likelihood of their coming down all right.

Tight Wrists


Now pay attention to the wrists. They should be held fairly tightly. If the club is held tightly the wrists will be tight, and vice versâ. When the wrists are tight there is little play in them, and more is demanded of the arms. I don't believe in the long ball coming from the wrists. In defiance of principles which are accepted in many quarters, I will go so far as to say that, except in putting, there is no pure wrist shot in golf. Some players attempt to play their short approaches with their wrists as they have been told to do. These men are likely to remain at long handicaps for a long time. Similarly there is a kind of superstition that the elect among drivers get in some peculiar kind of "snap"—a momentary forward pushing movement—with their wrists at the time of impact, and that it is this wrist work at the critical period which gives the grand length to their drives, those extra twenty or thirty yards which make the stroke look so splendid, so uncommon, and which make the next shot so much easier. Generally speaking, the wrists when held firmly will take very good care of themselves; but there is a tendency, particularly when the two-V grip is used, to allow the right hand to take charge of affairs at the time the ball is struck, and the result is that the right wrist, as the swing is completed, gradually gets on to the top of the shaft instead of remaining in its proper place. The consequence is a pulled ball,—in fact, this is just the way in which I play for a pull. When the fault is committed to a still greater extent, the head of the club is suddenly turned over, and then the ball is foundered, as we say,—that is, it is struck downwards, and struggles, crippled and done for, a few yards along the ground in front of the tee. I find that ladies are particularly addicted to this very bad habit. Once again I have to say that if the club is taken up properly there is the greater certainty of its coming down properly, and then if you keep both hands evenly to their work there is a great probability of a good follow-through being properly effected.

Addressing the Ball


In addressing the ball, take care to do so with the centre of the face of the club, that is, at the desired point of contact. Some awkward eccentricities may frequently be observed on the tee. A player may be seen addressing his ball from the toe of the driver, and I have even noticed the address being made with the head of the club quite inside the ball, while in other cases it is the heel of the club which is applied to the object to be struck. The worthy golfers who are responsible for these freaks of style no doubt imagine that they are doing a wise and proper thing, and in the most effectual manner counteracting some other irregularity of their method of play which may not be discoverable, and which is in any case incurable. Yet nothing is more certain than that another irregularity must be introduced into the drive in order to correct the one made in the address. To the point at which the club is addressed it will naturally return in the course of the swing, and if it is to be guided to any other than the original place, there must be a constant effort all through the swing to effect this change in direction, and most likely somewhere or other there will be sufficient jerk to spoil the drive. In the case where the ball is addressed with the toe of the club, the player must find it necessary almost to fall on the ball in coming down, and it is quite impossible for him to get his full distance in such circumstances.

A waggle of the head of the club as a preliminary before commencing the swing is sometimes necessary after the stance and grip have been taken, but every young golfer should be warned against excess in this habit. With the stance and grip arranged, the line of the shot in view, and a full knowledge of what is required from the stroke, there is really very little more that needs thinking about before the swing is taken. One short preliminary waggle will tend to make the player feel comfortable and confident, but some golfers may be observed trying the patience of all about them by an interminable process of waggling, the most likely result of which is a duffed shot, since, when at last the stroke is made, the player is in a state of semi-catalepsy, and has no clear idea of what he is going to do or how he is going to do it.

In addressing the ball, and during the upward and downward swings until it has been safely despatched, the sight should be kept riveted, not on the top of the ball, as is customary, but upon the ground immediately to the right of it. To the point where the gaze is fixed the head of the club will automatically be guided. That is why you are told to keep your eye on the ball. But you do not want to hit the top of the ball. So look to the side, where you do want to hit it.

Tightness of Grip


We must now consider the degree of tightness of the grip by either hand, for this is an important matter. Some teachers of golf and various books of instruction inform us that we should grasp the club firmly with the left hand and only lightly with the right, leaving the former to do the bulk of the work and the other merely to guide the operations. It is astonishing with what persistency this error has been repeated, for error I truly believe it is. Ask any really first-class player with what comparative tightness he holds the club in his right and left hands, and I am confident that in nearly every case he will declare that he holds it nearly if not quite as tightly with the right hand as with the left. Personally I grip quite as firmly with the right hand as with the other one. When the other way is adopted, the left hand being tight and the right hand simply watching it, as it were, there is an irresistible tendency for the latter to tighten up suddenly at some part of the upward or downward swing, and, as surely as there is a ball on the tee, when it does so there will be mischief. Depend upon it the instinct of activity will prevent the right hand from going through with the swing in that indefinite state of looseness. Perhaps a yard from the ball in the upward swing, or a yard from it when coming down, there will be a convulsive grip of the right hand which, with an immediate acknowledgment of guilt, will relax again. Such a happening is usually fatal; it certainly deserves to be. Slicing, pulling, sclaffing, and the foundering of the innocent globe—all these tragedies may at times be traced to this determination of the right hand not to be ignored but to have its part to play in the making of the drive. Therefore in all respects my right hand is a joint partner with the left

Driving Stance


It will be noticed, in the first place, that I have my toes turned well outwards. The pivoting which is necessary, and which will be described in due course, is done naturally and without any effort when the toes are pointed in this manner. While it is a mistake to place the feet too near each other, there is a common tendency to place them too far apart. When this is done, ease and perfection of the swing are destroyed and power is wasted, whilst the whole movement is devoid of grace. It will be seen that my left foot is a little, but not much, in advance of the ball. My heel, indeed, is almost level with it, being but an inch from the B line at the end of which the ball is teed. The toe, however, is 9½ inches away from it, all measurements in this case and others being taken from the exact centre of the point of the toe. The point of the right toe is 19 inches distant from the B line, and while this toe is 27½ inches from the A line the other is 34 inches from it, so that the right foot is 6½ inches in advance of the left.

After giving these measurements, there is really little more to explain about the stance, particularly as I shall show shortly how variations from it almost certainly bring about imperfect drives. Theoretically, the reason for the position is, I think, fairly obvious. The right foot is in advance of the left, so that at the most critical period of the stroke there shall be nothing to impede the follow-through, but everything to encourage it, and so that at the finish the body itself can be thrown forward in the last effort to continue the application of power. It would not be in a position to do so if the left foot were in front to bar the way. The position of the ball as between the right foot and the left is such that the club will strike it just at the time when it is capable of doing so to the utmost advantage, being then, and for the very minute portion of a second during which ball and club may be supposed to remain in contact, moving in as nearly as possible a straight line and at its maximum speed.

Distance From the Ball in Driving Stance


(image) First, then, as to distance from the ball. The player should stand so far away from it that when he is in position and the club face is resting against the teed ball, just as when ready to strike it, the end of the shaft shall reach exactly up to his left knee when the latter is ever so slightly bent. In this position he should be able, when he has properly gripped the club, to reach the ball comfortably and without any stretching, the arms indeed being not quite straight out but having a slight bend at the elbows, so that when the club is waggled in the preliminary address to the ball, plenty of play can be felt in them.

I must now invite the player who is following me in these remarks to give his attention simultaneously to the photograph of myself, as I have taken my stance upon the tee for an ordinary drive , with the object of getting the longest ball possible under conditions in all respects normal; and to the small diagram in the corner of the picture giving all the measurements necessary to a complete understanding of the position. I may point out again that my height is 5 feet 9¼ inches, and that the length of my driver from the heel to the end of the shaft is 42 inches. My stature being medium, the majority of players who desire to follow my suggestions will be able to do so without any altering of the measurements given in these diagrams; and, indeed, until any variation in height one way or the other becomes considerable, there is no necessity to vary them.

Remember that in this and all subsequent illustrations the line marked A points to the direction in which it is desired that the ball should travel, and that the B line over which the player stands is at right angles to it.

Tee the Ball Low


Tee the ball low, rejecting the very prevalent but erroneous idea that you are more certain of getting it away cleanly and well when it is poised high off the ground. The stroke that sweeps the ball well away from the low tee is the most natural and perfect, and it follows that the ball, properly driven from this low tee, is the best of all. Moreover, one is not so liable to get too much underneath the ball and make a feeble shot into the sky, which is one of the most exasperating forms of ineffectual effort in the whole range of golf.

Another convincing argument in favour of the low tee is that it preserves a greater measure of similarity between the first shot and the second, helping to make the latter, with the brassy, almost a repetition of the first, and therefore simple and comparatively easy. If you make a high tee, when you come to play your second stroke with your brassy, you will be inclined to find fault with even the most perfect brassy lies—when the ball is so well held up by the blades of grass that the best possible shot with this far-sending club should be the result.

If you are favoured with an ordinary brassy lie, you imagine the ball to be in a hole, exclaim that you are badly cupped, and call out vexatiously for an iron. This is the regular result of playing from a high tee, whereas, when the low one is systematically adopted, the difference between the play with the driver and with the brassy from a good lie is inconsiderable, the brassy is used more frequently, and the results are regularly better. As I have already suggested, one of the principles of my long game is to make the play with the brassy as nearly similar to that with the driver as possible, and a low tee is the first step in that direction.

Choosing a Putter


In the matter of putters, of which there is an infinite variety and a new one invented almost every month, I believe in a man playing with just that kind that he has most confidence in and which he fancies suits him best. Whether it is a plain gun-metal instrument, a crooked-necked affair, a putting cleek, an ordinary aluminium, a wooden putter, or the latest American invention, it is all the same; and if it suits the man who uses it, then it is the best putter in the world for him, and the one with which he will hole out most frequently. In no other sense is there such a thing as a best putter.

The only semblance of a suggestion that I will presume to offer in this connection is, that for very long putts there is something to be said in favour of the wooden and aluminium putters, which seem to require less exertion than others, and to enable the player to regulate the strength of the stroke more exactly. For the shorter ones, I like the putting cleek best.

But even these are matters of fancy, and what a great deal even the vaguest, most unreasoning belief in a putter has to do with the success with which it is manipulated I have as good a reason as anyone to understand, since I owe my first Championship largely to the help of a putter which I had never used before, and which was really not a putter at all, but, as I have explained elsewhere, simply a little cleek which I picked up accidentally in a professional's shop on the eve of the struggle, and in which I had a new shaft fixed to my own liking. On that occasion I putted with this instrument as the winner of a championship ought to putt, but I have never been able to do any good with it since, and in these days it is resting idly in my shop, useless but quite un-purchasable for any money.

I do believe that it is a good thing to be the possessor of two putters, with both of which you have at one time or another done well, and in which you have unlimited confidence. Don't carry them both in the bag at the same time, but keep one safe in the locker, and when the day comes, as it surely will, when you are off your putting, take it out on to the links for the next round and see what you can do with it. Your weakness on the green may no more have been the fault of the other putter than the tourist was the cause of the clergyman missing the little one at Glasgow, but very much will be gained if you can persuade yourself that it was.

No One Stance in Putting


For the proper playing of the other strokes in golf, I have told my readers to the best of my ability how they should stand and where they should put their feet. But except for the playing of particular strokes, which come within the category of those called "fancy," I have no similar instruction to offer in the matter of putting. There is no rule, and there is no best way.

Sometimes you see a player bend down and hold the putter right out in front of him with both wrists behind the shaft. This is an eccentricity, but if the player in question believes that he can putt better in this way than in any other, he is quite justified in adopting it, and I would be the last to tell him that he is wrong. The fact is that there is more individuality in putting than in any other department of golf, and it is absolutely imperative that this individuality should be allowed to have its way. I believe seriously that every man has had a particular kind of putting method awarded to him by Nature, and when he putts exactly in this way he will do well, and when he departs from his natural system he will miss the long ones and the short ones too. First of all, he has to find out this particular method which Nature has assigned for his use. There ought not to be much difficulty about this, for it will come unconsciously to his aid when he is not thinking of anybody's advice or of anything that he has ever read in any book on golf. That day the hole will seem as big as the mouth of a coal mine, and putting the easiest thing in the world. When he stands to his ball and makes his little swing, he feels as easy and comfortable and confident as any man can ever do. Yet it is probable that, so far as he knows, he is not doing anything special. It may happen that the very next day, when he thinks he is standing and holding his club and hitting the ball in exactly the same way, he nevertheless feels distinctly uncomfortable and full of nervous hesitation as he makes his stroke, and then the long putts are all either too short, or too long, or wide, and the little ones are missed.

Advice for Your First Driver


The question of the whip or suppleness of the shaft must generally be decided by individual style and preference; but I advise the beginner against purchasing a whippy driver to start with, whatever he may do later on. He should rather err on the side of stiffness. When a man is well on his drive, has a good style, and is getting a long ball from the tee every time, it is doubtless true that he obtains better results from a shaft with a little life in it than from a stiff one. But the advantage is not by any means so great as might be imagined, and many fine players drive their best balls with stiff clubs. It must always be remembered that when the stroke is not made perfectly there is a much greater tendency to slice with a supple shaft than with a stiff one, and the disadvantages of the former are especially pronounced on a windy day. It is all a matter of preference and predilection, and when these are absent the best thing to do is to strike the happy medium and select a shaft that is fairly supple but which still leaves you in the most perfect command of the head of the club, and not as if the latter were connected with your hands by nothing more than a slender rush.

The Upward Swing


(image) In the upward swing the right shoulder should be raised gradually. It is unnecessary for me to submit any instruction on this point, since the movement is natural and inevitable, and there is no tendency towards excess; but the arms and wrists need attention. From the moment when the club is first taken back the left wrist should begin to turn inwards (that is to say, the movement is in the same direction as that taken by the hands of a clock), and so turn away the face of the club from the ball. When this is properly done, the toe of the club will point to the sky when it is level with the shoulder and will be dead over the middle of the shaft. This turning or twisting process continues all the way until at the top of the swing the toe of the club is pointing straight downwards to the ground. A reference to the above photo will show that this has been done, and that as the result the left wrist finishes the upward swing underneath the shaft, which is just where it ought to be. When the wrist has not been at work in the manner indicated, the toe of the club at the top of the drive will be pointing upwards. In order to satisfy himself properly about the state of affairs thus far in the making of the drive, the golfer should test himself at the top of the swing by holding the club firmly in the position which it has reached, and then dropping the right hand from the grip. He will thus be enabled to look right round, and if he then finds that the maker's name on the head of the club is horizontal, he will know that he has been doing the right thing with his wrists, while if it is vertical the wrist action has been altogether wrong.

My Own Set of Clubs


(image) My own clubs seem to most golfers who examine them to be on the short side, and this is a convenient opportunity for giving a few details concerning my favourites, which may prove of interest to the readers of these notes. I should prefix the statement with the observation that I am 5 feet 9¼ inches in height, and that normally I weigh 11½ stones. Young players who might be inclined to adapt their clubs to my measurements should bear these factors in mind, though I seem to be of something like average height and build. Here, then, are the statistics of my bag:—

Driver 42" 12¾ oz.
Brassy 42 " 12½ oz.
Driving mashie 38 " 14½ oz.
Driving cleek 37 " 13½ oz.
Light cleek 37 " 13½ oz.
Iron 35½ " 15¼ oz.
Mashie 36½ " 5¼ oz.
Niblick 37 " 19 oz.
Putter (putting cleek) 33½ " 15 oz.

Each measurement was made from the heel to the end of the shaft.

I have two explanations to make concerning this list of dimensions. I have included the driving mashie, of which I have said nothing in this chapter. It is an alternative club, and it is better that it should be discussed exclusively in its proper place, which is when cleek shots are being considered. Again, on making a critical examination of these measurements, the golfer of a little experience will promptly ask why my mashie is an inch and a quarter longer than my iron. It is longer because one has sometimes to play high lofting shots over trees and the like, and in such cases the loft of the mashie is necessary and a considerable amount of power as well—hence the extra stick.

Reserve Drivers


I am a strong believer in having reserve drivers and brassies, even if one is only a very moderate golfer. Everybody knows what it is to suffer torture during the period when one is said to be "off his drive," and I think there is no remedy for this disease like a change of clubs. There may be nothing whatever the matter with the club you have been playing with, and which at one time gave you so much delight, but which now seems so utterly incapable of despatching a single good ball despite all the drastic alterations which you make in your methods. Of course it is not at all the fault of the club, but I think that nearly everybody gets more or less tired of playing with the same implement, and at length looks upon it with familiar contempt.

The best thing to do in such circumstances is to give it a rest, and it will soon be discovered that absence makes the heart grow fonder in this matter as in so many others. But the reserve clubs which are taken out while the first string are resting should be in themselves good and almost as exactly suitable to the player's style as the others. It is a mistake to take up a club which has been regarded as a failure, and in which one has no confidence. Therefore, I suggest that so soon as the golfer has really found his style and is tolerably certain about it, and the exact kind of club that he likes best, he should fit himself up with both a spare driver and a spare brassy, and give them each a turn as occasion demands.

It is hardly necessary to add that whenever an important game is being played, considerable wisdom will be exercised if the reserves are taken out in the bag along with the clubs with which it is intended to play, for though breakages are not matters of everyday occurrence, they do happen sometimes, and nothing would be more exasperating in such a contingency than the knowledge that for the rest of the game you would be obliged to play your tee shots with your brassy or your brassy shots with your cleek.

Choosing a Driver


Take the driver to begin with, and the preliminary word of advice that I have to offer concerning the choice of this club is at variance with the custom of the present moment, though I am confident that before long the golfing world will again come round to my view of the matter—not my view only, but that of many of the leading amateur and professional players. One of the problems which agitate the mind of the golf-club maker deals with the best and most effectual method of attaching the head of the club to the shaft. For a very long period this was done by what we call scaring or splicing, the neck of the club having a long bevel which was spliced with the shaft and bound round for several inches with black twine. Latterly, however, a new kind of club has become the fashion with all but the oldest and most experienced players, and it is called the socket driver. The continuation of the neck of this club is shorter than in the case of the spliced driver, and instead of there being any splicing at all, a hole is bored vertically into the end of the neck and the shaft fitted exactly into it, glued up, and finally bound round for less than an inch. This club certainly looks neater than the old-fashioned sort, and the man who is governed only by appearances might very easily imagine that it is really more of one piece than the other, that the union of the shaft with the head has less effect upon the play of the club, and that therefore it is better. But experience proves that this is not the case. What we want at this all-important part of the driver is spring and life. Anything in the nature of a deadness at this junction of the head with the shaft, which would, as it were, cut off the one from the other, is fatal to a good driver. I contend that the socket brings about this deadness in a far greater degree than does the splice. The scared or old-fashioned drivers have far more spring in them than the new ones, and it is my experience that I can constantly get a truer and a better ball with them. When the wood of the shaft and the wood of the neck are delicately tapered to suit each other, filed thin and carefully adjusted, wood to wood for several inches, and then glued and tightened up to each other with twine for several inches, there is no sharp join whatever but only such a gradual one as never makes itself felt in practice. Moreover, these clubs are more serviceable, and will stand much more wear and tear than those which are made with sockets. Sometimes they give trouble when the glue loosens, but the socketed club is much easier to break. On club links generally in these days you will probably see more socketed drivers and brassies (for these remarks apply to all wooden clubs) than those that are spliced; but this is simply the result of a craze or fashion with which neat appearance has something to do; and if you desire to convince yourself that I am right, take note of the styles of the drivers used by the best players at the next first-class amateur or professional tournament that you witness. The men who are playing on these occasions are ripe with experience, and so long as they get the best results they do not care what their clubs look like.

A First Set of Clubs


A beginner may at the outset limit himself to the purchase of six new clubs. He must have a driver, a brassy, a cleek, an iron, a mashie, and a putter. At an early opportunity he may add a niblick to this small set, but there is no need to invest in it at the outset, and as this club is one which is least likely to require change, it is best that it should not be bought until the player has some ideas of his own as to what is wanted. By way of indicating what will be needful to make this set complete for the purposes of good golf, when the player has obtained a fairly complete experience, I may mention the instruments that I take out when playing an important match. I have two drivers, one brassy, a baffy or spoon, two cleeks (one shorter than the other), an iron, sometimes one mashie, sometimes two (one for running up and the other for pitch shots), a niblick, and sometimes two putters (one for long running-up putts and the other for holing out). This selection may be varied slightly according to the course on which the match is to be played and the state of the weather, but in general principles the constitution of the bag remains the same, and a player who is equipped with such a set ought to be able to play any hole in any way, and if he cannot do so it is his own skill that is lacking and not an extra club. We may now consider in order a few of the points of these clubs. I shall have occasion, when dealing with the method of play with each of them, to call attention to many points of detail which can only be properly explained when indicating particular objects which it is desired to achieve with them, so for the present I shall confine myself chiefly to general features.