Golf’s Greatest Myths, says Vousden

Thought for the Day
Before you criticise someone, you should walk a mile in their shoes. That way, when you criticise them, you’re a mile away and you have their shoes.

Golf’s Greatest Myths
Golf is full of truisms, clichés and hoary old quotes that are recycled endlessly. Many of them are as useless as they are ubiquitous. Here’s a selection.

Drive for show, putt for dough
For the primates who nestle in the topmost branches of golf – that is, Tour pros – striking the ball is not a problem and the tournaments in which they compete are decided in and around the greens. Whoever has a hot putting week will walk away with the cash. But for the rest of us, who are all equally inept putters, getting the ball onto the fairway, more than 100 yards from the tee, is the essential skill. If you’re not on the short grass, it becomes an ageing game. And if we’re honest, there’s no shot more satisfying than a long, straight drive.

The standard bunker splash shot is the easiest in golf
Hah! This is the most ludicrous myth of all as the shot requires a completely different technique, which can be summarised as: ‘Take sand, don’t quit.’ But when you’re just off the putting surface, tortured by memories of thinned and skulled attempted escapes that either shot through the green or buried themselves in the face of the bunker, committing to a full swing takes plenty of guts. Because it is the only part of the game where you do not try and hit the ball, the bunker shot requires a completely different approach, along with the kind of physical technique and mental fortitude denied to most. And if your ball is in a footprint, embedded in its own pitchmark or a poorly raked bit of sand the standard splash shot is impossible anyway. And remember your limitations – the greatest golfer of all, Bobby Jones, once said: ‘Too much ambition is a dangerous thing to have in a bunker.’

Trees are 90% air, so it’s easy to hit through them
The first part may be true but the second most definitely is not. Chicken wire, or a fine mesh nylon net, would be far more than 90% air but you’re not hitting a golf ball through either of them. Same goes for trees, even in winter when they have no leaves. You can miss a 50-yard wide fairway (at which you’re aiming) 50% of the time, yet hit a five-inch wide branch (which you’re trying to avoid) 100% of the time.

You can buy improvement in the pro shop
Unless you’re playing with a set of hickory-shafted clubs that were fashionable when Bobby Jones was sweeping all before him, no you can’t. Rory McIlroy would find a way to score if he used a table tennis bat fastened to the end of a broom handle. We, on the other hand could have every aspect of every club moulded to our individual physique and swing and it wouldn’t make any difference because the fault is the tool that’s using them, not the tools he’s using. And don’t be fooled by the startling improvement you notice with a new driver or putter – it will last for three rounds, max, before you revert to type. You can buy improvement, however, by having some lessons.

Golf fans are knowledgeable, respectful and know the game
Try telling that to the American idiots who scream ‘Get in the hole!’ (as the ball leaves the clubface on a par five), ‘Mashed potato!’ or any other inane gibberish. Sad to say that, like baseball caps, Hawaiian shirts and Bermuda shorts, these inanities, which used to be confined to the good ‘ol rednecks back in the US of A, are spreading worldwide. Okay, the vast majority of fans don’t behave like this and it’s not exclusive to America but the idiot minority is worse in the States and growing every year.

A well-struck shot is not affected by the wind
I live near Carnoustie, and am fortunate enough to play either of its three courses quite regularly. The wind has been known to blow in this corner of Angus – in fact, the last time it didn’t, Nick Faldo was still being nice to journalists. So, one of two possibilities exists – either a well-struck shot is affected by the wind; or I have never hit a well-struck shot. Logic dictates the latter applies, whereas my ego insists on the former.

Accuracy is more important than distance
Okay, I know I said that for us amateurs driving is more important than putting, and I stand by that, but what this omits to mention is the fragility of the golfer’s ego. We are all, without exception, obsessed by how far we hit the ball and there is not a golfer alive who would not sacrifice his wife or partner, children and all worldly goods, for the chance to regularly hit drives of 270-yards plus. And if you can do that, as Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods and many others have subsequently discovered, it’s a damn sight easier to hit the green with a wedge from the rough, than a 5-iron from the fairway. Be honest, even if the rest of your game was complete rubbish, you wouldn’t mind as long as you could hit the ball into the next time zone.

When putting, speed is more important than line
The rationale here is that, if your judgement of pace is good, your first putt will leave you a relatively stress-free second – you will rarely be five or six feet wide of the mark, in contrast to those with poor judgement, who can bang the ball way past the hole or leave it woefully short. What this particular homily fails to appreciate, however, is that if you don’t hit the ball on the correct line, it will never go in. And at least the over-hit efforts have a chance of hitting the flagstick, or hole, and falling, and if they don’t, you can see how the ball behaves after it passes the cup and have a good idea of what’s needed to hole the one coming back. As with the long game, if you don’t aim properly, how can you expect to hit the target?

You can learn more about a man in 18 holes than in a lifetime over a desk
No you can’t. It’s one of those homilies that golfers like to trot out because we all like to think that anyone who plays the game cannot, in the depths of his soul, be evil. Balderdash. I have played with smiling charmers (many of them journalists, I have to confess), with whom it’s a good idea, after shaking hands, to check that you’ve still got a wristwatch and five fingers. Yet you could spend several hours on the course with them, having a thoroughly pleasant game, and walk off the 18th thinking what a damned decent chap or chapess they are. We all act a part at some point or other, and there are those who are just damned good at it.

You should keep your head down
You should not. Keep it still, certainly but that’s a different thing altogether. What people really mean with this advice is: ‘Don’t look up to see where your ball is going until after you have hit it.’ This applies to all shots, whether you’re using a wood, iron, utility club or putter. And remember, moving your head doesn’t necessarily mean up or down, it can also move laterally if you sway off the ball. Things haven’t changed much in the 100 years since Harry Vardon said: ‘Most of the bad golf that is played is attributable to either a wrong method of holding the club or moving the head.’

Quote of the Week
Golf was never meant to be an exact science. Einstein was lousy at it
Bob Toski

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