“It was a gift, something you can't teach. His hands looked like they were born to have a golf club in them." – Curtis Strange, who won back-to-back U.S. Opens in 1988 & ’89.
In my never-ending search for a better golf game, I often go to my library for instruction, inspiration and wisdom. I have dozens of books and magazine interviews either by or about the world’s all-time great players – i.e., Jack Nicklaus (18 Majors), Bobby Jones (“Professional” Majors Won: 7. “Amateur” Majors Won: 6), Tiger Woods ( 15 Majors), Walter Hagen (11 Majors), Harry Vardon (7 Majors), Ben Hogan (9 Majors), Sam Snead (7 Majors), Arnold Palmer (7 Majors), Tom Watson (8 Majors) and Gary Player (9 Majors).
Undoubtedly, one of the Best Golfers Of All-Time is Sam Snead (1912 – 2002). Not only did he have an incredibly successful and long career*, he is known for having a marvelous swing. As six-time Major winner Lee Trevino said, “Maybe the best way to teach the mechanics of the golf swing to a youngster today would be to have him or her watch videos of Sam Snead’s swing.”
*Sam Snead played on the PGA Tour for nearly four decades. He won seven Majors (Masters, 1949, ’52 & ’54; British Open, 1946, and PGA Championship, 1942, ’49 & ’51). He and Tiger Woods are tied for the Most Career PGA Tour Victories with 82 each. He won the Vardon Trophy in 1938, 1949, 1950, 1955. In 1950, he had an incredible 11 PGA Tour wins. Snead was 52 years, 10 months old when he won the 1965 Greater Greensboro Open, making him the oldest player to win on the PGA Tour.
So I head into the Fall season and begin my preparation for our club’s member-member, I thought I would go to Mr. Snead for some coaching and counseling – a lot of coaching and counseling:
- A pause at the top of the backswing will check the desire to kill the ball. – From his book, Sam Snead’s How To Play Golf (Garden City Publishing, 1946).
- Any time my backswing is off, I know it needs slowing down. “Draw the bead easy, boy,” I tell myself, “Or there won’t be turkey dinner tonight. If the shoulders don’t rush, may arms usually take the hint.”
- Don’t analyze your own swing. The chances are you can’t do it properly. Have a pro do the job.
- Don’t just play your way around the course. Think your way around the course.
- Don’t try to overhaul your basic personality in order to play better golf. It won’t work.
- Golf is a game of mistakes.
- Forget your opponents; always play against par.
- Golf vs. Baseball: In golf, when we hit a foul ball, we’ve got to go out and play it.
- Good golfing temperament falls between taking it with a grin or shrug and throwing a fit.
- If a lot of people gripped a knife and fork the way they do a golf club, they’d starve to death.
- If you’re smart, you learn something from every round you play.
- I’m only scared of three things in life – lightning, a side-hill putt and Ben Hogan.
- It’s a grind trying to beat 60-year-old kids out there. – On his decision to retire from the Senior Tour at age 77.
- No matter what happens, never give up on a hole…. In tossing in your cards after a bad beginning you also undermine your whole game, because to quit between and green is more habit-forming than drinking a highball before breakfast.
- Nobody asked how you looked, just what you shot.
- On Match Play … No matter what happens, never give up on a hole. . . . In tossing in your cards after a bad beginning you also undermine your whole game, because to quit between tee and green is more habit-forming than drinking a highball before breakfast.
- Once you're ready to go, I always teach a person to use what I call a forward press. It's just a little movement that tells your body that the swing is underway. In my case, I kick my right knees lightly to the left, and at the same time I slide my hands ever so slightly to the left. Then, without pausing, I push the clubhead away from the ball. I feel that I'm pushing away with my left hand in control. My right hand is just along for the ride. My only effort is to keep the club moving straight away from the ball, low and slow, for the first two crucial feet.
- Practice puts brains in your muscles.
- Sometimes amateurs should deliberately play short of bunkers or hazards. Even Ben Hogan, Walter Hagen and I did that!
- The hands are the key to transmitting power from the body to the club. The club shaft is held more in the fingers than the palms of your hands. In the palm, it is impossible to get any zip in the shot.
- The two mistakes I see most often from amateurs are lifting up and hitting the equator of the ball, sending it into the next county, or taking a divot of sand large enough to bury a cat.
- Thinking instead of acting is the number one golf disease.
- When I swing, my mind is blank, and my body is as loose as a goose.
- Without a good instructor, golf looks easy to the beginner, and he thinks he can learn the game unaided. He fails to realize that to err is human, and that it is natural to do incorrectly the movements that are required to swing the club successfully.
- You can’t go into a shop and buy a good game of golf. (I’m not so sure about this one. I just bought a new Titleist driver that should give me an extra 15 yards!)
Down The Fairway,