Johnny be Good!

Alas, the week has passed me by, with focus on work and little inspiration for a blog.

But what I do wish to share is a fantastic bit of insight from an old golf book I was reading recently. Published in 1952 and written by Johnny Farrell who won the US Open in 1928 following a 36-Hole Play-off with Bobby Jones, The Weekend Golfer outlines the fundamentals of the swing but also contains a wonderful chapter near to the back of the book entitled ‘Temperament and Playing Golf’, where Farrell describes the best tactics for man versus man competition:

On Bobby Jones:

‘It wasn’t until Jones learned that match play is against par and not an opponent that he began to show the ability that stamped him as the games all-time best shotmaker. In tennis and football you play the man – in golf you play the ball against the course and your object is to get the ball into the cup in as few strokes as you can, regardless of what anybody else is doing’.

On Walter Hagen:

We were due to tee up for an important match and Walter arrived late.

‘I was shaving,’ he explained easily.

‘Shaving?’ I asked. ‘You must have had a month-old beard to get rid of’.

Hagen shook his head and smiled. ‘No’ he said. ‘You see, when I have a match to play I begin to relax as soon as I wake up. Everything I do is slow and easy. That goes for stroking the razor, getting dressed and eating my breakfast. I’m practically in slow motion. By the time I’m ready to tee off, I’m so used to taking my time that it’s impossible to hurry my swing’.

On ‘Characters’:

They talk to you when you are driving, they move their shadow as you putt, and they always require a recount of your strokes after each hole. All I can say about these opponents is to remember that their personalities are actually tougher on them-since they have to live with themselves-than on you.

On Slow Play:

Then, of course, there is the man who takes six hundred practice swings around the course for every hundred times he hits the ball. When putting, he also counts the blades of grass between his ball and the cup, and then recounts them. Finally, after lining up the putt from each of the one hundred and eighty angles, he is ready to go. I have heard of various ways to combat these folk, most of them rather drastic, but the one I like the best is what a Women’s State Champion did a few years ago.

It was the final match, and this lady’s opponent held the world record for dawdling on the green. Fortunately she had been warned and on the first green they lay two, with the ‘grass counter’ putting first. As she began her agonizing ritual the other lady walked off the green, whispered something to her caddy, and he dug into her bag and handed over a big knitting sack. With a pair of needles in her hands and plenty of wool, she quietly sat down, well out of the way, and began putting together a pair of socks.

That did it. From then on both women took a reasonable time on the greens.

On Gamesmanship:

Beware too, of the psychological shyster!

He can really be dangerous if you are not wise to what he is up to. He is the fellow who may be three down to you at the turn, seemingly thoroughly licked, who, about the eleventh hole, will begin to admire your game. He may comment pleasantly on how nicely your left arm remains firm all through your swing, or how well you stay behind the ball, or he may admire the easy rhythm with which you stroke your long putts. If you are not careful, pretty soon, perhaps unconsciously, you may begin to exaggerate the very things he has admired, and, victim to his cunning, you may find yourself all even at about the fifteenth. By that time you are no longer swinging smoothly and with your earlier confidence gone, you begin to press. But his confidence is restored, and he is burning up the course. At the eighteenth you shake his hand limply and walk off the green muttering in your beard at having ‘thrown the match away’.

A final word:

Play the game of golf as it suits your nature.

Timing is not a matter of speed – it is co-ordination – and you cannot co-ordinate unless you are moving your body as it is used to being moved. Be yourself and all times.

All quotes from:

Farrell, Johnny (1952) The Week-End Golfer. Published by Herbert Jenkins Ltd (London)

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