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Readers Letters - September/October 2011

Yarwood to the rescue

I am writing from Sydney, Australia to convey my thanks to the team at Gi and to Jonathan Yarwood in particular for his comprehensive and brilliant article on the modern approach to chipping in the May issue of Gi. During a love affair with golf spanning more than 50 years, I have always struggled with chipping and have tried everything – lessons, different grips and different clubs. I even went out and bought a specialist ‘chipper’ club a month or so ago, but even that succumbed to my yipping tendencies after a few successful outings.

It is early days yet, but I am delighted to say that my chipping technique has improved out of sight since adopting the modern approach advocated by Jonathan. In particular, the drills for releasing the club with the right hand have made an enormous difference to my confidence.

I completely concur with many of your previous correspondents that Gi is the best golf magazine in the world. I cannot always find it in Australia but it is a terrific read and gives me many hours of pleasure, unlike other golf magazines which I seem to be able to get through in next to no time because there is very little content that captures my interest.

Chris Gotham, Sydney, Australia

No substitute for learning

Further to the article by Tom Cox, and the reply from William Douglas, questioning the necessity for golf lessons, I agree that if someone has the ability to hit the ball 300 yards, while controlling 100 yards of fade to attack a pin, and is comfortable doing so, Bubba Watson-style, then coaches shouldn’t try to change their natural swing.

However, for high handicap, ordinary golfers like me, who have little consistency and can hit a drive 250 yards straight as easily as they can hit a massive slice into the trees, with no real idea why, lessons can be invaluable. Having thought that my swing wasn’t too bad, but not hitting the shots that I wanted to (i.e. straighter and with a bit more distance) I went to see a PGA professional. He put my swing on video and we studied it alongside video of a number of top golfers. He explained the fundamentals behind why they hit it further and with more consistency than I do.

Once you understand the fundamentals that make up a good golf shot, such as the swing plane and the use of the ‘core’ muscles (rather than the hands and arms) to generate speed and power, you can develop your own unique, consistent swing, based around these sound fundamentals. This is surely what all professional golfers have done, including Bubba Watson, Fred Couples and Lee Trevino.

The aesthetics of these individual swings may be very different, but they each understand the fundamentals behind why they hit consistent shots.

Over the last year, my pro has changed my full swing, shown me the fundamentals of playing chip shots, bunker shots, pitch shots and putting and as a result my scores have plummeted from the high 90’s to the low 80’s. I now understand how to hit a golf ball properly and when I hit a bad shot I know why. This has all added to my enjoyment of the game.

If you are happy with your golf game then there is no need to have lessons but if you want to improve and understand why you hit the shots you do, then I for one would definitely recommend paying a visit to your local pro.

James Finn, Islington

Editor’s note: Look out in the next issue for a fascinating in-depth interview with Jim Hardy, author of the book The Plane Truth for Golfers. For all students of the game it’s a compelling read on how to identify your individual style of swing and improve/maintain it.

The long and short of it

Is golf a traditional game played under a set of Rules dating to the days of The Great Triumvirate – Braid, Vardon and Taylor? Some will say “yes” but in light of recent events and developments I am not so sure.

To support my claim I submit all the high-falluting gizmos introduced in recent years, without a murmur from the R&A and the USGA.

Satellites high in the sky guiding players with GPS-based range finders, lasers that can zap a target from 400 yards – the day is not long off when the Monthly Medal can be played on a computer, if snow and frost confine competitors to the clubhouse!

Worst of all, in my opinion, the seemingly relentless march of the broomhandle or belly-putters. At the recent US PGA Championship it was easier to count the players who used the old-fashioned short stick; a growing army wield the longer version.

Once regarded as a cure for the unspeakables, the long putter today is increasingly an implement of choice. Why? Because they make holing shorter putts easier.

On the one hand you might argue that the long putter has extended the playing careers of many golfers who would otherwise disappear once they reached fifty. But is that a good enough reason to bastardise this great game? They are monstrosities, to say the least, and should be outlawed. PGA Tour rookie Keegan Bradley has become the first player to win a major championship using a long (in his case belly-) putter. He was quoted as saying that he can putt OK using a short, regular length putter, but he finds it easier to use the belly putter, “especially under pressure”. How those words must grate with the authorities who have allowed the long putter to become an accepted part of our game.

Peter Hughes, via email

Not so fast to judge...

I have very contradictory thoughts about Keegan Bradley winning the USPGA with a long putter.

As a piece of equipment they really are extremely ugly. So is the grip and stroke they require. And I greatly sympathise with the view that the way they are anchored against the body is not in the spirit of playing the game of golf.

But then again, putting is ‘a game within a game’, and I think it was Hogan himself who questioned the disproportionate importance of putting in golf given that it bears no resemblance to the rest of play. With this in mind, should it be a case that anything goes when it comes to coaxing that ball into the hole?

Anyway, at what point does a putter stop being in the spirit of the game? When a jumbo grip is fitted? With a pronounced alignment aid on it? When it has a white head or grooves on it?

I suppose we need to take a pragmatic approach to this issue. Forget slow play, poor etiquette and temporary greens – a three putt is the most excruciating event in golf. So anything that might help us avoid those at whatever stage of our golfing life perhaps should be welcomed with open arms.

S Letts, Coulsdon, Surrey

Short on yardage, long on benefits

It was uplifting to read in issue 104 Dan Davies’ report on Royal North Devon’s success with the development of their short course (‘Short-cut to success’, page 84).

In terms of increasing participation in golf, short courses might be the answer for the modern ‘instant gratification/short attention span’ generation. They would also help those of us who are too busy for 18 holes because we’re working our several short-term contract, part-time jobs courtesy of this government’s supposed recovery plan for the economy. (I guess in respect of this style of working, me and the Lib Dems are going through this together after all!)

As your article shows, the natural effect of Royal North Devon’s increasing take-up by the young is a healthy number of those featuring in the amateur game.

Which then leads us to whether they might remain an amateur or move all too swiftly to professionalism. Well, if I were a youngster my outlook would certainly be influenced by pictures of the champions in each discipline. You could look happy and relaxed in your chinos and polo shirt picking up trophies on the pro tour (pages 172 - 177, issue 104). Or (as on pages 88 and 93) you could win amateur events and be forced to put on a suit and tie and pose like those old photos of your greatgrandfather.

Come on amateur golf – get with it!

Bill Weller, St Albans, Herts


Reproduced with kind permission of Golf International Magazine


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