We are all on it – golf’s equivalent to the quest for the Holy Grail. Yes, I am talking about finding that one secret to golf that will forever change your game for the better. I am not asking for a miracle cure, but finding the secretshould deliver both a reasonable degree of consistency and a two- to three-stroke handicap reduction.
Here’s the problem with my Secret Search, seemingly anyone who has ever won a golf tournament or has taught golf or has written about golf has identified the secret or secrets.
The 10-finger (baseball grip) was by far the most popular golf grip until Harry Vardon consistently started winning using the overlapping grip, which is now called the Vardon grip. Vardon (1870 to 1937), who won The Open six times between 1896 and 1914 and one U.S. Open in 1900, said, “The secret of this grip lies in keeping the ball of the right hand ‘cemented’ to the hollow of the left thumb, throughout the swing. So will both hands work beautifully together.
Bobby Jones (1902 to 1971), winner of 13 major championships, is famous for saying, “The secret of golf is to turn three shots into two.” As far as I am concerned that is an all-too obvious platitude, certainly not a tip, move or an adjustment that will actually improve my swing or yours. However, he did come down the abstraction ladder when he said, “But for controlled, accurate and consistent hitting, the left arm simply must be straight when the clubhead meets the ball.” (You can find this secret in the book Secrets of the Master: The Best of Bobby Jones.)
And, of course, after winning nine Majors from 1946 to 1953, Ben Hogan famously revealed his swing secret (actually it was three secrets) in an August 1955 Life magazine article. Until his discovery, Hogan had been fighting what he called “the fatal hook.” Below is only a small excerpt from his article:
One night while laying (sic) awake in bed, I began thinking about a technique for hitting a golf ball that was so old, it was almost new.
In had been recommended by the Scottish pros who came to this country to teach golf long ago. Called, pronation, it flourished for a while and was then discarded as antiquated and unsound. … The hand roll gradually to the right until the back of the left hand is facing almost straight up at the top of the backswing and the back of the right hand almost straight down …
He then added two adjustments to the secret:
The first was the grip. I moved my left had one-eighth to one-fourth inch to the left so that the thumb was almost directly on top of the shat. The second adjustment, which is the real meat of the “secret,” was nothing more than a twist or a cocking of the left wrist …
In Joe Posnanski’ book, The Secret of Golf: The Story of Tom Watson and Jack Nicklaus, he wrote: “There are many people who give grip advice; Watson has written several chapters on the subject. The point is to think about the simple things. The secret, Watson says, is to consider and reconsider the basic details, again and again, even as your mind pushes you to more complicated thoughts.”
According to Watson, “The grip may not be the most exciting fundamental to many of you – but it’s the most important.” His four basic grip musts are: “1) Pick up a golf club with your left hand. Remember that it is the non-dominant arm (the left for right-handers) that powers the swing. 2) Turn the club in your left hand so that your left thumb goes down the right center of the shaft and not directly over the center. 3) Overlap the left with the right hand so that the V between the thumb and index finger on your right hand is pointed at your right shoulder. 4) Grip the club with your fingers, not your palms.”
In my pursuit of finding a secret that would work for me, I went to Amazon. When I typed in the words “golf” and “secrets” in the Advanced Search box, 287 results popped up and over 65% of those books had either the word “Secret” or “Secrets” in the title or subtitle. Here is a sampling:
More Golf Secrets by H.A. Murray
The Secret of Golf: A Century of Groundbreaking, Innovative, and Occasionally Outlandish Ways to Master the World's Most Vexing Game by George Pepper
Golf: The Secret to Breaking 90: Basic Tips and Tricks to Lower Your Score and Improve Your Game! by John Collins
Secrets of the Short Game by Phil Mickelson, Guy Yocom, T.R. Reinman
Golf's 8 Second Secret: What Separates Golf's Greatest Champions by Mike Bender & Michael Mercier
A Course Called Scotland: Searching the Home of Golf for the Secret to Its Game by Tom Coyne
Well, I certainly don’t have the time or patience to buy all of those books and then take all of those secrets to the range in order to find that one secret that will work for me. Instead, I am giving up my search for Golf’s Holy Grail and I am going with Ben Hogan’s real -- and best -- secret : “As you walk down the fairway of life you must smell the roses, for you only get to play one round.” Now that’s a secret I can actually remember!
Allan (Handicap Index now 9.4, now an 11 on home course)