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I think it’s worth posting this 2nd part of Tom Doak’s feature on shotmaking from the standpoint of a course architect. If holes are not created with the intention of rewarding skillful manipulation of the ball’s flight then golfers are left with no reason to hit anything other than “stock” shots. In this section Doak walks us through some notable holes and shares his thoughts on why they stimulate imagination in highly skilled players. I just hope I have the chance to someday play these great holes!

The following is an excerpt from The Anatomy of a Golf Course which merits a full read, especially if you’re still stuck in snow!

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Many links feature greens laid across the ground in a spot where they are flat or fall slightly away from the line of the shot, and on firm ground this shot is no easier to judge with a short iron approach than a wooden club, which is why the links have maintained their challenge in the face of modern improvements in equipment. Garden City Golf Club is one of few American courses featuring the fall-away green prominently.

A variation of the same principle is the green sharply tilted from side to side, exemplified by the short par-4 10th hole at Riviera, or the longer 5th hole at Merion. In both cases the slope of the green is so severe from right to left that an approach hooked into the green will almost certainly release and roll off the green on the left. The only approach is a fade finishing below the hole. But at Riviera the bulk of the fairway is to the right of the axis of the green and the green almost within reach from the tee, luring the golfer away from the best approach line. At Merion the fairway tilts sharply from right to left; the stance makes it difficult to play a fade except from the low side of the fairway, which is closely guarded by a narrow brook.

Another such hole is the dogleg 4th at Myopia near Boston, the site of four U.S. Opens at the turn of the century. In the old days, its 392 yards required a long approach for the best players, played in the same manner that the club member must approach the hole today: a low draw to the right-hand entrance of the green, judged to lose speed at just the right moment, then to turn sharply left down the slope of the green. But the same tilt of the green has given the hole a fine defense against today’s long hitter: It is so sharp that he must beware his standard high approach spinning back down off the front left of the green. He must try to place his tee shot near the corner of the dogleg and fade his second shot up against the slope of the green if it is to stop predictably.

The ingenious designer may occasionally create a long hole where judgement of approach is more important than length of tee shot. My own 3rd hole at High Pointe is the best I have so designed to date. The small green is perched on a knob well above a valley of fairway, with almost-level ground mowed at fairway height to the left of the putting surface, but with a fairly steep fall both in front of and behind the green. For the short hitter, the incline at the front of the green is little problem; his long iron or fairway wood approach will readily climb it, but since he is unlikely to consistently hit such a small target from so far away, he typically plays a fade at the left-hand edge of the green to give himself the easiest chip if the shot does not come off. The player who has hit a long drive does not have it much easier. If his short-iron approach is short it will likely not bounce up onto the green, and the crowned green is quite small to hit and hold without going over and down the hill in back. the hole gives the greatest champion a chance to show his full arsenal of shots, but for most players it is a question of a four or a five and the short hitter often has as much chance of saving his par as the stronger man.

Other times a hole will reward shotmaking skill not by giving the player the option between two different kinds of shots, but by forcing him to choose between trying to make a specific shot or laying up. On such a hole, an advantage should be gained by the golfer executing the requisite shot, but ideally the golfer who admits his weakness should be rewarded for his discretion. A good example is the 2nd hole at The Dunes Golf & Beach Club in Myrtle Beach. Trees on the left off the tee and a quick dogleg allow a tee shot of only 220 yards, unless the golfer can produce a controlled draw off the tee, a tough assignment so early in the round. The player who brings off the shot is rewarded with a short-iron approach, but the hole is of a length that the golfer safely laying up to the corner can get home with a long second; the golfer who hooks into the trees surely cannot.

The tee shots at both the 10th and 13th holes at Augusta National employ the hilly contours of the site to give a distinct advantage to a hooked tee shot. At the 10th, a properly hooked ball catches a severe slope in the fairway and runs well down the hill tot he left, while a straight tee shot stays on the higher ground, leaving a much longer approach from a tougher angle. At the 13th, both the azaleas and Rae’s Creek encroach upon the ideal driving line along the left. Only a hooked tee ball can fly around the corner of the dogleg and find a relatively flat lie for the second shot. In both instances, the shot values of Augusta are more exacting than that of the 2nd hole at The Dunes, as befits a championship course. Both holes are of such a length that the player who does not produce a hook from the tee will have to strain to get home with his 2nd shot.

Finally, there are occasionally good holes where only one type of approach shot will get the ball within reasonable distance of a birdie putt. In fairness, I believe such holes should be used sparingly, for two reasons. This first reason is philosophical: It is the point of golf architecture not to dictate tot he golfer how a hole should be played, but to create a situation where the player’s ingenuity can be exercised. There is much more to admire when the idea for the shot is the player’s rather than the architect’s. For this reason, an architect hates to have to explain his holes to frustrated players unable to figure out the best method of attack. Sometimes even I cannot figure out the best way to attack one of my holes until I have played it several times. That’s when I know I have hit upon something really interesting.

The second reason is more practical. If playing conditions are severe, then there may be times when the one shot the holes was designed around will not work, and the hole is impossible to play. A hole with a long forced carry over water to a shallow green is a common design failure. What is the player to do when a gale is blowing from behind, or his drive has unluckily found a lie in a divot scrape? The same holds true for a forced carry from the tee when a gale is blowing into the player’s face, or for a sharply canted green designed to receive a run-up shot after ten straight days of rain (although in the latter case it is difficult to imagine a green so severe that the ball could not be pitched near the hole under soggy conditions).

The type of holes where a “tricky” approach is most often acceptable are the between-length holes: a very long par-3, a driveable par-4, a long par-4, or a short par-5. The strong player would otherwise have an almost insurmountable advantage over the short hitter. In such a situation, it is arguable that the stronger player should have to show unusual skill as well as strength if he is to take the hole easily.

One of the finest examples of such a hole is the short par-5 9th at Westward Ho! in southwestern England. It still plays as it was described in 1910:

The ninth green lies in a hollow on top of a small plateau at the range of two very full shots from the tee, and the superlative virtue of the hole consists in a little unobtrusive pot-bunker in the face of the hill. We can hardly hope to drive far enough to carry the bunker in our second, and if we could it would scarcely be possible to stay on the green. Therefore, we must drive well out to the right, and hope to reach the green with a subtle hook. The ground breaks in toward the hole from the right, and so a perfectly played shot, with just sufficient hook , will keep turning and turning towards the hole, till it totters with its last gasp down the last slope and lies close to the hole. Often, of course, it will be out of the question to get home in two, but the hole will still be interesting, and our approach shot anything but a simple one.

-Barnard Darwin, The Golf Courses of the British Isles, 1910.

The same type of shot can be designed into a long par-3 hole. The 4th at Riviera is just such a hole, although the bunker guarding the green is a hundred times as large. Even the famous Redan, in spite of the big green that allows scope for alternate methods of play, rewards the same type of approach shot.

Most every British links features at least one long hole with a very tricky approach, although we often find that the same hole called a short par-5 at the turn of the century is now considered a long par-4. (Ironically, the fact that these holes are now somewhat easier to reach in two makes them more controversial, simply because the par has changed on the scorecard.) The Road hole at St. Andrews is the most well-known example of such a hole, but tow others that come to mind are the 14th at Royal Dornoch, known as “Foxy”, and the 13th at Preswick, the “Sea Headrig” hole. The two holes have only one bunker between them, but in each case the green is set at an odd angle tot he fairway and requires a special degree of shotmaking to land the ball short of the green and get it to bounce up and stay on. The 14th at Royal Dornoch is a high plateau green too shallow to hit and hold with a long iron, while the 13th at Prestwick angles off to the right behind a low hummock of fairway which either stops an approach shot dead or sends it skittering over the green. By the same token, both greens make for supremely interesting short play, rewarding every yard the short hitter can muster with his first two shots. In both cases, too, it is noteworthy that the golfer who goes for the green with his second, and falls short to the right, leaves himself a much tougher pitch than the golfer who admitted he could not make it and played to the left for the best angle into the green for his third shot.

The 12th on the Old Course at St. Andrews also requires an unusual approach. It is a short two-shotter that features a shallow shelf of green only twelve paces deep, with lower levels both in front and behind. There is no room to land and stop the ball on the higher level; even the best shots bounce once before spinning back to the hole, and the first bounce would likely take the ball to the lower level in back of the green. the standard plan of attack is to drive as close to the green as one can, flirting with a handful of unseen fairway bunkers in the process. If this is safely accomplished, the ideal approach shot is a short running ball clambering up the tier in the green and coming to a stop.

Shotmaking can also be called into play in the short game. The same contours that create an interesting approach will also cause havoc for recovery shots, especially where they are mowed as fairway so the golfer does not necessarily have to pitch back to the green on the fly. The most original example is the famous “Dell Hole” at Lahinch in Ireland, a blind par-3 hole to a shallow green wedged between massive sandhills. The hole is often vilified as nothing more than a matter of luck, since there is only a marker stone on the hill in front of the green to indicate the location of the hole, and often both short and long shots sometimes bounce off the sandhills and come down onto the green. But the same hills provide scope for fascinating “carom-shot” recoveries for the smart player who has missed the green, as I discovered one day while observing play.

Holes like these are rare or nonexistent on modern courses, but the game would be much more interesting and fun if there were more. As Robert Hunter concluded in The Links,

“Great golfers would find the game stupid if no occasion arose to use the most difficult shots in their repertoire.”

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Opening photo by David Scaletti

Lest we forget, golf has long been a shotmaker’s game. The era of perfect putting surfaces, solid core distance balls, and 46 inch shafts / 460cc clubheads is still in its infancy. The greater annals of golfing history are filled with men and women who distinguished themselves through the quality of their striking, breadth of imagination, and mental fortitude to physically create what once existed only in the mind’s eye. The ability to work the ball – left, right, high, low, off sidehills and downslopes, tight lies and hardpan, different grass types and in varying weather conditions – was of paramount importance to championship caliber golf. Classic courses of the persimmon age demanded it. Shotmaking Corner will serve, I hope, to preserve a few bits and pieces of the once great body of knowledge of the great shotmakers should the next generation express a desire to direct the game back towards a more traditional form.

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Shotmaking: The Lost Art by Tom Doak

Normally I use this feature to collect the various specialty shots perfected by the master shotmakers of the game. As it turns out the most poignant shotmaking insight I’ve recently come across is not from an elite shotmaker, but from an accomplished modern architect. I started reading Tom Doak’s The Anatomy of a Golf Course with the goal of improving my course management. I was not expecting to find such an eloquent summation of the shotmaker’s status in the modern game of golf. The interesting thing is that this book was written in 1992. Even then, Doak predicted the general obsolescence of the great shotmakers before the dawn of the ProV era.

There are a couple distinct parts to this shot feature. The first covers the history and nature of shotmakers in the game with discussion of turf and environmental factors. The second part (that I’ll present later) gets into the details of some great holes that offer shotmaking options to expert level players. Enjoy!

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An alternative concept of architecture is to reward the player not just for hitting long and straight, or for correctly planning his attack, but for his ability to control he flight of the ball through swing technique. This was an important component of golf in the early days, because golf links in Britain were not designed for the playing of specific shots. The holes were cut in “sporting” locations by the players, and it was up to them to get the ball close to the hole with whatever sort of stroke served the purpose. The inventive player who could play the widest variety of tricky approaches was the champion of the early days.

The science of golf may have come a long way in the last 100 years, but in many respects, these “improvements” have taken away from the art of shotmaking. Golf courses have become relatively standardized in their demands and hazards, and the science of golf course maintenance has advanced to the point that the golfer seldom encounters a bad lie in the fairway or bunker, or a bad bounce on his approach. Clubs and balls have been scientifically designed to help correct the average golfer’s hooks and slices, making it more difficult for the skilled golfer to deliberately play these same shots. the modern champion has perfected his swing full-throttle on the practice range, knows the yardages and the true distance value of each of his clubs, and repeats the same swing with machine like precision with every club in the bag.

The few real shotmakers found in golf today, such as Trevino, Ballasteros, and Chi Chi Rodriguez, are probably the last of a dying breed, because there isn’t much need for shotmaking on modern courses.

While all other factors are working to eliminate the art of shotmaking from the game, I believe it should be the highest aspiration of the golf architect to design holes giving the greatest scope for the shotmaker’s skills. His credo should be as John Low professed in 1903:

Every fresh hole we play should teach us some new possibility of using our strokes and suggest to us a further step in the progress of our golfing knowledge. -John Low, Concerning Golf, 1903

Modern golf architecture has fallen woefully short of Low’s ideal. But there are golf holes still in existence that reward the shotmaker’s special talents, and I would like to concentrate on these for the remainder of this chapter.

I must emphasize that while holes can be designed to reward shotmaking skill, playing conditions-the wind and the firmness of the ground-can accomplish the same thing. In regions where the wind does blow, its intensity adds an urgency to nearly every shot, for it affects either the distance value of the shot or its flight pattern, and it forces the golfer to allow for this effect. The expert player, on the other hand, devises a way to use the wind to his advantage: He may hit a high ball downwind, work the ball with the wind to gain extra distance, or work the ball into a side wind so it will stop quickly.

One paradoxical effect of the wind on British links is that it can make short shots more difficult than longer ones. The standard play on the Postage Stamp 8th hole at Royal Troon would be a high nine-iron shot, but when the wind is howling, its effect on the high flying shot is impossible to judge. the gofer is compelled to produce a low, punched three-quarter shot on such a hole, a difficult prospect when the green is small and well-guarded.

Another shot called for on the links is the approach that bounces short of the green and rolls forward to the hole, a necessity if the ground is hard and there is not much forward tilt of the green to help stop the ball. When soggy conditions prevail, the
the standard aerial approach stops so quickly that a good player is never tempted to play a trickier shot to get close to the hole. When the ground is firm, the golfer much be able to control not only how far his shot is going to fly, but what it is going to do once it lands. That’s the shotmaker’s realm.

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to be continued…

Unable to play (or write much) due to limited daylight and nearly unlimited work, I have found myself reflecting again on why we choose to play the style that we do. Our desires and motivations are not always obvious, but a few different schools of thought have been crystallizing in my mind re: traditional golf.

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Gear from an Earlier Time:
This mindset is best characterized by the various hickory groups sustaining momentum in the US and worldwide. Golfers who embrace this paradigm seem motivated by a desire to recreate a style enjoyed by an earlier generation. I know we have a fair amount of seniors and super-seniors in our ranks but unfortunately I doubt there are more than a handful who actually played golf when hickory was “state of the art”. The appeal here, I think, is in exploring not only a new style but also a specific time in history. Even the most modern kids today love attending a Great Gatsby themed party – those pre-war years have a lovely hopefulness in them that aligns nicely with a modern golfer trying to break out of the commercial monotony of modern golf and its branding. Exploring the hickory game is like opening an old novel and immersing one’s imagination in the courses, attitudes, and attire of the hickory player from long ago. It is essentially a time capsule from an era that is familiar to us but in which most of us never actually participated.

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Gear from Your Time: The process of re-normalization sometimes brings us back to the gear that we played in our earlier days. This might cover gear from the 60′s, 70′s, 80′s, or 90′s. How often have we seen a posting about some vintage model of club and found ourselves thinking: “I used to game those clubs in college!” or “The best player at the course I grew up on had those same woods!”. The first set of clubs with which we began exploring this great game usually has a special place in our hearts, however hideous the design may appear to the outside observer. It’s a different type of nostalgia than “gear from an earlier time” because we are connecting with a tangible (if distant) time in our own lives. Most of us can find persimmon gear that is still “of our time” – Cleveland Classics and Wood Brothers Texans seem to always be at the forefront.

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Modern Traditional Gear: Not an oxymoron – This is the mindset that gets most overlooked by the collector but is perhaps most important as it relates to the state of the game. The modern traditionalist cares more about the basic nature of the equipment than the nostalgia factor. If a modern clubmaker can produce a forged blade or a small-headed wood in a manner consistent with the traditions of the game then the modern traditionalist will embrace the gear, regardless of marketing. Titleist, Mizuno, and Miura spring to mind as current manufacturers that provide a nice, clean blade. These are clubs that are designed to enable workability and improve our best shots rather than hide our flaws or overpower the course. Tad Moore and Louisville Golf (amongst others) offer lovely modern persimmons in steel or hickory shafts that represent the natural progressions of traditional designs of the persimmon age. These manufacturers are often at a disadvantage because the price point for modern traditional equipment must be higher than the older equipment we find on Ebay, yet the collectability factor remains relatively low.

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As for myself – I have spent the last few years exploring the world of “gear from an earlier time”. Classic gear was all new to me and I love the nostalgia and imagination rush of playing old gear on an old course. However, as time goes on, I suspect that I will move more into modern traditional gear. I think it’s important to acknowledge that new gear in the traditional form (steel/hickory shafts, forged blades, small headed woods) is still abundant today. I would like to support any manufacturer that embraces classic designs in their newest offerings. The past has its place and there is much to learn from those who came before – but I think it’s more important to sustain the ideals of the game into the future and that requires more than the classic gear of the 20th century.

The latest listing from Green Jacket Auctions offers up a rare look into the life and times of one of golf’s great masters: Old Tom Morris. This collection originates from the so-called “Stable Find”, the history of which is described below (courtesy of the auctioneers).

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In the mid-1990’s, one of the most important discoveries in golf memorabilia history was made: Old Tom Morris’ personal golf photographs.

Eric Auchterlonie – of the famed St. Andrews golfing family – passed away in his home in Pitscottie, Fife, just outside of St. Andrews. On the property grounds, inside an old horse stable and hidden behind two large hessian coal stacks, was one of the most historically significant golf collections in the world. Word of this so-called “Stable Find” quickly spread throughout collecting circles.

The collection – consisting of more than 40 original photographs from the 1800’s – was personally owned by the legendary Old Tom Morris, and then passed down in the Auchterlonie family for almost 90 years.

Upon Old Tom’s death in 1908, the photos were given by the Morris family to his former apprentice (and 1893 Open Champ) Willie Auchterlonie. According to the Auchterlonie family, the photos were then housed at the Auchterlonie’s Golf Shop on Albany Place in St. Andrews for more than three decades. They were then relocated to the company’s Union Street location for safekeeping during the air raids of World War II. The collection was then passed down through the Auchterlonie family until its fateful re-discovery in the now-famous “Stable Find” by two prominent golf collectors in the mid-1990’s. Those collectors purchased the entirety of the Tom Morris collection from the Auchterlonie family, and split into two – half entering a legendary American collection and the other half remaining in the UK. Upon the untimely death of the American collector, the collection was reunited and has been sitting in a UK safe deposit box ever since.

When discovered, a majority of these photographs were in their original pre-1900’s frames. Most of the frames were recently removed to help protect the photographs from the deteriorating wood and brittle 100+ year old glass.

During Old Tom’s life, these photographs likely decorated the walls of Old Tom Morris’ golf shop next to St. Andrews’ famed 18th green, or even hung in the Morris family home above the shop. Several photos were also discovered in black funeral frames – likely last seeing the light of day when all of St. Andrews mourned the loss of Old Tom in 1908. According to Auchterlonie family lore, many of the photos were put on display in 1911 to “help decorate” the St. Andrews Town Hall during a Ball for local citizens. The Auchterlonie family also allowed some of the photos to be displayed at the Old Tom Morris Golf Shop next to St. Andrews’ 18th green during the 1970 Open Championship.

We are pleased to offer the entirety of the Old Tom Morris Collection as it was discovered in the “Stable Find.” Only 4 relatively insignificant pieces are not included from that historic “Stable Find,” two damaged while in storage and two sold privately. Incredibly, the entire remaining “Stable Find” is offered in individual lots in this auction without reserve. No attempt at restoration has been made to any of the offered photographs.

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I put together a nice gallery for easy viewing. Click on the images to bring them up in a new window and then click them again to enlarge them to their full extent. There’s something lovely about that era before people were asked to smile for photographs. In my mind I picture them all as Daniel Day Lewis’ character from Gangs of New York. I would not want to walk into one of those clubs uninvited! My favorite:

What do you think?

Enjoy.

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Golfers love talking about Hogan’s secret and I can’t claim to be immune – especially in golf’s silly season. Perhaps it’s because we want to believe that our very best golf is just around the corner provided we can identify that one magic thought or move. Hogan published a description of his secret in the August 1955 issue of Life Magazine but internet detectives tend to think he didn’t reveal all. A quick Google search suggests the real secret could be in the right knee, some magic angle, or a special equipment setup.

Identifying the visual specifics of Hogan’s secret becomes more challenging when factoring in his horrific auto accident which took place in February 1949. His post-accident swing was undeniably different from his early days on tour; how are we to differentiate the intentional changes of the secret vs. the necessitated changes due to the accident? To answer this question we have to look at the timing of the events in questions. Popular opinion, based primarily on the widely known Life Magazine article, dates Hogan’s discovery of the secret to 1946. This date is supported by a Herbert Warren Wind 1955 Sports Illustrated article. Both claim that Hogan was suffering through a period of frustrating and ineffective golf in which his standard right-to-left shot had evolved into a full blown duck hook. Here are the passages in question dating the discovery of the secret to 1946:

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1955 Life Magazine Article:

“A hook is hard to judge. Maybe one week you will be able to judge it adequately, but then the next week you aim a little farther over to the right to compensate. Sometimes a hook gets so exaggerated that you don’t know where to aim, or have room to aim it. I was in that predicament in 1946, although it was more of a crisis than a predicament. I was having trouble getting the ball in the air. I had a low, ducking, agonizing hook, the kind you hang your coat on…

I practiced six or eight hours and couldn’t wait to come back the next day. It worked even better then and for a week after that. But I had to put it to a test. Sometimes things tried in practice fall apart when tension is put on. I went to Chicago for the Tam O’Shanter and it worked under all the stresses. I won the tournament. It was like learning to play golf all over again.”

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1955 Sports Illustrated Article

Ever since Ben Hogan announced two springs ago that his majestic successes as a tournament golfer were yoked hand in hand with a discovery he had made in 1946 and mastered in 1948, one of America’s favorite outdoor and indoor pastimes has been trying to guess “Hogan’s Secret.” Most professionals and technique-wise amateurs knew the general area in which to look: Hogan’s Secret clearly had something to do with the adjustments Ben had made which had transformed him—on those occasions when he failed to meet the ball just right—from the anguished captive of a hook (in which the ball moves in an often disastrous right-to-left parabola) into the proud and happy owner of a cultivated, controllable fade (in which the ball moves in a gentle left-to-right parabola and usually expires only a few yards off the desired line). The guesses included just about all of the age-old, stand-by remedies of the Ancient and Honorable Society for the Prevention of the Hook. Some were obviously “warm” but there was no knowing exactly how warm, for Hogan had no intention of making his personal formula known to his rivals as long as he remained a full-fledged competitive golfer.

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But is a 1946 discovery of the secret consistent with the record of Hogan’s play? Hogan complained about playing poorly before finding the secret, yet he had 11 individual wins in 1946. In 1947 he slumped, winning only 5 times individually. Additionally, there are several sources that date the discovery of Hogan’s secret to the 1947. This date seems much more reasonable considering that even the Life Magazine excerpt above describes Hogan winning the Tam O’Shanter shortly after refining “the secret”. Hogan won the Tam O’Shanter in late 1947, not 1946. Here are the sources supporting a 1947 discovery of the secret:

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1949 Time Article:

“I’ve learned how.”  In a quarter-century of the game, Ben Hogan had probably hit more golf balls than any man alive. Then one day in 1947 while he was walking out to a practice tee in Fort Worth, a brand new idea occurred to him.  He hit a few shots in what was for Ben a slight change of style.  He had lost the hook (which golfers say always rolls till it reaches trouble) and found a fade (a slight drift to the right) which he could control with great accuracy.

Then, Ben Hogan began to ease up on his solitary practice lessons.  Said he: “I’ve learned how to play golf.”  His recent book, Power Golf (A.S. Barnes, $3) tells most of the golf tactics he knows – but not the one he discovered that day in Fort Worth.   Of that one he says: “I won’t even tell my wife.”

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LA Times Article, June 1948 (credit to Drewspin for this one)

Never satisfied (“I need more daylight”) with his game, Hogan changed his style at the start of the ’48 campaign.  The new look, or style, is designed to reduce tension and fatigue, says the 138-pound belter.

“I have adopted a swing which causes the ball to ‘fade’ slightly to the right as compared to the bothersome hook that used to haunt me,” said Hogan.  “I find it less exhausting.  I first used it in winning the world championship tourney sponsored by George May in Chicago last September, and I’m satisfied I made a wise move.”

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Dr. Cary Middlecoff’s Book, “The Golf Swing“:

The statement [that he had discovered 'the secret'] was especially startling in one respect, as it put Hogan so squarely on the spot. He clearly must have known that he would consistently have to produce some outstanding golf or suffer considerable embarrassment. He surely knew that all serious golfers are prone to come up with what they think ‘the secret’ but which usually turns out to be a snare and a delusion. I know that I have had many of them, some of which I briefly thought were so valuable that I would keep them strictly to myself until I had won all the tournaments and money I wanted. But none ever impressed me sufficiently or worked for a long enough trial period to tempt me to announce that ‘now I’ve got it.’ Hogan’s did…

Hogan…hit upon the method approximately between the seasons of 1947 and 1948. … I played with Hogan many times that year, [1948] and while he won the U.S. Open and several other tournaments, he did not seem to me to be hitting the ball with anything like the authority that characterized his play in later years. … According to my memory, it was in 1950, after the accident, that he began showing the kind of precision golf that set him apart.

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Confused? Here is a little figure I put together to sum up the sequence of events according to the various sources.

So, it seems much more likely that the secret was discovered in the summer of 1947. This has some important implications because many who accept the 1946 date consider the swings recorded in the book Power Golf to be pre-accident but post-secret. Since those swings were actually captured in early 1947 that appears not to be the case. This makes sense when one examines the details of those Power Golf swings. Jeff Martin does a great job of comparing the Power Golf swings to post-accident post-secret swings from the early 50′s. The differences are noticeable.

Martin characterizes the secret to be (paraphrasing): an opening of the clubface at the top of the backswing (as described in the Life Magazine article) followed by an early bowing of the left hand/wrist on the downswing. Comparing the swings above, it does indeed appear that in the post-secret swings, the left wrist is more bowed and working “closed-to-open” through impact, rather than “open-to-closed” as shown in the Power Golf swings.

Post-impact looked a little different as well (credit again to Jeff):

But the above comparison still doesn’t tell us which of the swing changes are due to the secret and which are do to the accident. For that, we need evidence from that brief period post-secret and pre-accident i.e. the 1948 season. Does such a video exist? Of course it does! The internet has everything! But I believe this is the only swing video post-secret/pre-accident:

We can see in this video that even before the accident, the clubface appears more open at the top and the left wrist more bowed into impact. We have therefore verified that this swing change was secret-related and not accident-related.

So what have we learned?

A) The Power Golf swings were pre-secret despite being published two years after the alleged date of Hogan’s secret per the famous Life Magazine article.

B) Some changes in hand/wrist conditions at the top of the swing and approaching impact are observable immediately after the more reliable date of Hogan’s secret. They show up in the only available 1948 swing and in all the swings post-accident.

C) In terms of overall swing length, the post-accident swings may be slightly more restricted but they still go past parallel with the driver. See below, with pre-accident on the left and post-accident on the right:

Mystery solved? Nah… where’s the fun in that?

Just some off-season happenings in the world of traditional golf… FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

The ninth annual World Hickory Open Championship completed play not too long ago.  Montrose Medal Course (1562!) hosted the competition and by all accounts the weather showed up to challenge the participants in proper “Open Championship” style.  Despite the harsh conditions, initial reports indicate that good times were had by all.   See if you can spy the PGT insider in this Sky Sports footage:

I love reminiscing about the past but the purpose of this site is to promote playing traditional golf TODAY.  What better way than some hickory golf on a classic links?

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Next up:  Traditional golf champions Louisville Golf reached deep into their vault to bring out something pretty special – the spec sheet on Tiger Woods’ personal persimmon driver!  Apparently Tiger used this model to sharpen his ballstriking around 2004.  That’s the strategy I’m employing now! Very interesting to see how open Tiger wanted the face shaved.  200 – 205 g weight with a phenolic insert rounded out this beauty.

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And last but not least- some more good stuff from Tim’s collection.  Nothing like the Hogans for pure beauty – true golf porn.

 

 

 

Winter Bag

Well, I’ve gotten a few requests for pictures of the winter gear.  And who am I to say no…  everyone loves a good “What’s In the Bag”, right?!

Now that tournament season is over I wanted to get back to basics.  Simple, elegant, no-nonsense gear and no more of it than necessary.  The goal is to be minimalist  but I still like to have at least 11 clubs so I feel like I can hit all the shots I need.  My modern bag is an old Ping 5-pocket (the model before the Hoofer) with the double straps.  I love that bag and it’s great on my back but ever since taking an interest in classic gear I have felt like I should be carrying a leather bag.  This year for my birthday, my wife came through like she always does and hooked me up with a beautiful bag from Eliott Bag Co.  Here it is in all its glory – empty and then loaded up with goodies.

 

Now there was a rumor going around a while back that the makers of Eliott bags were actually the same characters that operated McKennon Bag Company – a shady joint that ended up taking a multitude of orders and never delivering to their customers.  I can assure you that Eliott has no association with McKennon.  In fact, Scott at Elliot offered new bags AT COST to anyone who got taken by McKennon.  It may be a fair criticism to say that this particular model looks much like the MacKenzie Walker.  But then again the MacKenzie bags themselves are essentially remakes of vintage carry bags of old.  On top of that, Eliott has some cool, unique features like the custom interior patters and reinforced carbon fiber “spines” that provide structural rigidity sufficient to (God forbid) put your bag on a motorized cart.  The quality is really first class and the leather is unbelievably supple.  Scott also made some strap changes free of charge and created a lovely barrel headcover custom sized for a persimmon driver.  Here are some shots of the interior and the pouch.


On a side note: I ended of contacting the original owner of this bag (I knew he was an avid golfer and golf bag connoisseur who had owned several MacKenzies and other assorted leather bags).   He had purchased it new to stay in the locker at a club of his but after canceling his club membership he had no need for the extra bag.  I contacted him to ask what I needed to know about owning a leather bag.  He responded as follows:

“The cow doesn’t come in out of the rain…I’ve owned some cows in my time, and they’re literally not smart enough to…so water won’t hurt it unless it gets soaked and dried fast (NEVER dry it or your good leather things over heat).  I like Lexol for golf bags and luggage;  it’s easy to use and readily available.  BUT, if you want the best leather treatment, you want Connolly Brothers’ Hide Care…and apply it sparingly, as it’s really rich.  Any Jaguar dealer should have it, and I bet you can get it on eBay.  Last tub I bought cost about $25, but it’s probably gone up (don’t worry, it lasts a LONG time).”

Nice fellow – nearly shot his age at Bandon that same week!  Oh, wait, I thought we were doing a What’s In the Bag?  Back to the matter of interest.

As I mentioned before, I was going for a minimalist theme with this bag.  My cleanest, most elegant (and oldest) blades are the Mac M85T’s I’ve written about before.  I just love the look at address, the weight, the wingback design – everything. But they are challenging to hit which makes them perfect for winter.  The sharp edges take some beaver pelts if you come in too steep  (something I try to keep in check) and these clubs provide me good feedback in that regard.  Well struck shots are SO solid and I don’t lose much distance (relative to modern) with these sticks.  It doesn’t hurt that the burgundy paint fill matches the accents on the leather!

I decided to keep a 50′s theme going through the woods which lets me put into play my MacGregor M43.  I think I’ve shown this one before on here – it has been my #2 driver for a long time behind the Penna Eye-O-Matic.  It was refinished at some point and the shaft is post-market (unmarked) but it suits my tempo well and the feel off the fibre insert is remarkable.   Picture perfect grain makes for a lovely setup too.  Whipping came loose recently and I’ll need to fix that before I go out again.

One other wood found its way into the winter bag – it is some type of Eye-O-Matic 4-wood from the 50′s.  The refinish job on this one washed out the sole stamping so I can’t see the exact model number but the shaft is a little more flexible than my other clubs which I don’t mind on a fairway wood.  I can only hit this one about 200-205 but the consistency is what makes it valuable.   I rarely miss a fairway when I use this on a short par 4.

One wedge is all that’s necessary to operate around the greens.  I want to learn to hit more low, running chips (I normally hit high pitches, even with a clear path to the pin)  so I’ve left the high lofted wedges out completely and gone with a Hogan “fifty-three” which (I believe) dates to the early 80′s.  It’s got one of those big, round head shapes that shovels sand and plows through tricky lies.  Sorry about the crappy picture here but I already cracked open a bottle of wine to write this article and don’t feel like pulling the camera back out to take a better one!  You get the idea.

And last but not least, no winter bag would be complete without a flatstick.  I found this little guy in the bargain bin at the local golf shop.  It’s called a Rawlings “Little Joe” and it’s a super small flanged job with a bit of loft.  From heel to toe this thing barely spans a single golf ball.  I have never been worried about missing the golf ball completely with a putter but on longer putts with the Little Joe you really have to concentrate to hit the sweet spot!  On fast greens this putter is money but on slower turf I prefer something a little bigger and heavier.

So there you have it!  Throw in a glove and few golf balls, real wood tees (no plastic brushes!) and you’ve got a full kit… ready and waiting to grab and go!  I think the winter is the perfect time to change things up, throw in some new (old) clubs and see if you can get the ball moving airborne and forward.   And if things don’t go quite as planned?  Blame the weather, change the bag up, and try again tomorrow!

PGT member Tim aka Teevons was nice enough to share a little project of his – a rework of (perhaps) the rarest article in the world of persimmon golf clubs.  For those who don’t know, the WW Special is the 1909 Honus Wagner of classic clubs.  The WW Specials date to 1954 and were available only by custom order.  Designed by Toney Penna, the WWs had medium-deep faces and a variety of inserts – generally the black/white/black Eye-O-Matic or a solid color fiber secured with either 4 or 6 screws.  Colored with a distinctive white finish, the paintfill was usually red or black but you could order the WWs any way you wanted – the only constant was the white finish.  These are so rare nowadays that many seasoned collectors have only seen 1 or 2 sets in their lifetimes.

Tim did a fine job refinishing these clubs with black lettering and red numbers.  Enjoy!

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As a funky coincidence, I happened to see a set of WW’s come up on Ebay recently for the first time in my 3 years of interest in vintage clubs.  Curious as to how much one of these rare sets is worth?  This set sold for $50,000 IN THE FIRST DAY LISTED.  Looks like Tim has some gold on his hands.

These are the ones that sold on Ebay:

 

The search for the perfect persimmon driver is challenging but  rewarding.   When asked for advice regarding what to look for, I usually  recommend trying out as many different models as possible and making sure to hold on to “the one” when you eventually find it.   Because each persimmon driver is unique, you may never be able to replace a lost or broken club even if you can find the exact same model.

The first persimmon driver that I fell in love with was a MacGregor Toney Penna SEOM from 1957.  The look, feel, and performance were all perfectly suited to my game.  Since then I’ve added a few more to the rotation but it always comes back to the Penna.  A couple months ago I found what appeared to be the same model in great shape for a very good price so I decided to invest in a backup.   However, when the new club arrived, I found that it just wasn’t the same.  At first glance it appears to be the same.  But the details are off – here’s a list of what appears to be different:

  • Subtle differences in head size and geometry
  • Old: “Toney Penna” decal on crown; New: “Toney Penna” stamped
  • Different screw sizes in the insert
  • Different shaft bands “Pro-Pel Action by MacGregor” and “MacGregor Pro-Pel Action by True Temper”
  • Different weight (old is much heavier)

Here are some images of what I mean:

So… perhaps somebody knows something I don’t?  The fact that the shaft bands are different must mean they are from different years?   Maybe one is a knock off? Just goes to show – treat your gamers with respect because no two are the same and a lost or broken club is unlikely to be replaced easily, even with an “exact” copy.

 

 

Pet Clubs

Great find here courtesy of PGT friend Bradley Hughes.  I like these articles that embed little details about that classic clubs and swings of the persimmon age: Johnny Miller played a wedge w/ F2 swingweight, O’Grady favored a power-fade w/ a 7 degree Taylor Made driver, Haas played a 693 w/ heavy lead tape, Trevino a pyratone R-90 wedge, etc.

With a few exceptions, I can’t really imagine a modern player loving any club the way it’s described here.  Tiger sure loved that silver Scotty but even he kicked it out of the bag for the right price.  It must be hard to develop a connection when your contract makes you rotate clubs every other season.  Anyways – without further ado:

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THE LOVED ONES

The pet club is an endangered species on the PGA Tour.  But some pros still hang on to tried and trusted mates.

Transcribed from Tour 89 Special Advertising Supplement

January 1989

PGT Note: There was a creepy picture of Paul Azinger tucking 2 golf clubs into a bed but I took it out.  Just too awkward… Here’s a picture of just the clubs; PT1W?

by: T.R. Reinman

In this age of customized and computerized, densitized and sensitized golf equipment, pet clubs are handing on with the tenacity of the once-endangered alligator.

Unlike the ‘gator, however, this pet is a friend, a long-cherished one that offers little in the way of sophistication or state-of-the-art design but brings the golfer welcomed, idiosyncratic comfort.  It’s the kind of can’t-play-without-it stick leaned on from Pine Valley to Pine Knot Muni – or even the PGA Tour.

Yes, some pros still carry pet clubs.  Ben Crenshaw’s pet putter has been with him through triump – and tribulation.  Johnny Miller acknowledges that it’s a bit silly to carry a pet club – but don’t try and separate him from his favorite wedge.  Paul Azinger searched long and hard for a driver he could treasure.  And the only way Canadian pro Dave Barr found the first of his three pet clubs was to drown another that was becoming a problem.

That was in 1970 when Barr was playing for Oral Roberts University.  “Playing” is perhaps the wrong word, for Barr was finding himself making too many three putts.  Like six in one particularly memorable round at Southern Hills.

A sympathetic teammate told Barr the only way he could change that was to change putters.

“I really didn’t want to do that,” Barr recalls.  “I loved that BullsEye.”

The teammate said the only way Barr was going to change that was to throw the BullsEye into a lake by the 18th fairway.

Barr hesitated.  He looked at his BullsEye.  He looked at his teammate.  He looked at his scorecard.  He looked at the lake.  As the ripples began to spread, he began his quest for a new putter.  The one he found was a MacGregor custom blade, with CB5 stamped on it.  It the only one Barr has used since.

That was also about the time Oklahoma State coach Labron Harris Sr. ended Barr’s search for a driver.

Harris took Barr into his workshop where they found a MacGregor Jack Nicklaus model W271.  It had no grip and had cracks in the neck and heel.  Barr like the feel of it, however, as well as the price.  For $12.50, it was his.  Barr has tried others, but really, it’s the only one he has used since.

Barr’s own coach, Myron Peace, gave Barr a sand wedge the following year.  It was a Console model, like the one Deane Beman was using to win four tournaments in five years.  Right, it’s the only one Barr has used since.  Well, almost.

“I can’t seem to find another that I can get out of soft sand or long stuff with any sort of finesse,” says Barr.  “But I can’t use it out of the fairway, either.”

Well worn by the sands of time, the wedge doesn’t work off a tight lie.  So Barr carries a third one for fairway approaches and drops a 4-wood or a 1-iron, depending on the course.

Miller does likewise.  His sand wedge arrived in a 1972 trade with Jerry heard for a MacGregor driver.  The Dynapower wedge was 13 years old even then.  Under Miller, it’s gone through 15 grips, four shafts and a weight-loss program.  Thanks to Miller’s tinkering and general wear, its swingweight has gone from F-2 to D-7.  It’s face is virtually flat now, and it wears a strip of lead on its back.  Even Miller shakes his head when he thinks about what he’s put it through.

But it’s always in the bag along with a pitching wedge and a second sand wedge because, as Miller says, “I hit probably the best shot I ever hit in my life with it.”

Crosby Pro-Am, 1972, final round, par-four 16th hole at Pebble Beach.   Miller shanks his approach under a tree and can only chip to a bunker, 40 yards out.  Miller’s blast flies to the green, takes two hops, pops in the cup, then out.

“Didn’t get the par,” says Miller, who lost in a playoff that day to Jack Nicklaus, “but I’ll never forget the look on Jack’s face.”

Crenshaw defends Miller’s and other pros’ intimacies with their wedges.  Like putters, he says, good wedges are tough to replace.

“I feel like I can replace an iron,” says Crenshaw, “but it’s not that easy with a sand wedge or putter.  It takes  a long time to build enough confidence in a sand wedge or putter for tournament play.”

Crenshaw’s confidence in his paddle-gripped 8802 putter (which goes by the pet name “Little Ben”) goes virtually all the wya back to 1967 when his father picked it out of a barrel at Austin [Texas] Municipal.  It broke the next year, but Crenshaw put in a BullsEye shaft and used it well until it snapped at the 1987 Ryder Cut when he wasn’t using it so well.

Included in Crenshaw’s “200 to 300″ spare clubs are 10 copies of the 8802.  he says he can play with two or three of them, but he spent frustrating months trying to find the right balance in a new shaft for his pet.  Crenshaw smiled and sighed after he won the Doral-Ryder Open last year and said, “I know what it’s going to do now.  It feels good again.”

This all suggests that sometimes pet clubs are made, not born; found, not sprung full grown and ready-to-us from a machine shop.

There are exceptions, of course, and – of course – one is in Mac O’Grady’s bag.  It’s a 7-degree Taylor Made driver.  “It’s a reflection of modern technology,” says O’Grady.  “The golf ball may represent the flight of imagination, but the driver reflects the baser instincts of man, the animalistic passions to dominate.  With my passion, which is a power fade, I am totally addicted to my driver.  It’s bombs away, bombs away, bombs away.”

O’Grady is not alone in his adoration of the driver.  Almost universally the pros, when pressed to pick a pet club, name, in order, the driver,  sand wedge, and then putter.

“Probably,” says Fuzzy Zoeller, “because the driver is the hardest club to find that look sand feels good.  Maybe that’s why, when they find one, they like it the best.”  Notice Zoeller says “They,” because his pets include his putter and his 8-iron, which he often uses around the green.  “My first set of clubs had one I really liked,” Zoeller explains.

Jay Haas prizes his MacGregor Tommy Armour 693 driver, which, he says, “sets up the rest of my game.”  Haas’ uncle, Bob Goalby, once owned it and tried to trade it to Chi Chi Rodriquez.  But Rodriguez couldn’t use it, and eventually it was handed down to Haas.

For a time, Haas represented Taylor Made, but found his game changed with metal woods.  He could fade the ball but couldn’t draw it.  So in 1987 he went back to MacGregors.  Using the 693, he almost immediately won at Houston.

“Most people would get top dollar for this club,” Haas says (top dollar being about $750 in today’s market), “but they wouldn’t get from me unless they stole it.”

The drive to find a club is nearly as strong as the attachment once it’s found.

Azinger, for instance, searched forever for a driver that didn’t produce “knuckeballs” that rolled who-knew-how-far fair or foul.  He finally found one, an old, 11 1/2 – degree MacGregor.  “And I was sweatin’ it until I did,” he says.

Azinger also lists a putter as a pet, because it’s been a loyal partner through some rough times on the greens.  In three years, Azinger has risen from 134th in the putting ranks to a position near the top.  His putter, Azinger says, “embodies the idea that you drive for show and putt for dough.”

The dark side of having a pet club is that along with the sense of security can come ill-considered dependence.  Lee Trevino’s infatuation with his brown-shafted Wilson R-90 pitching wedge cost him “many strokes and probably a few tournaments because I got to using it where I shouldn’t have.  The worst thing you can have in your bag,” Trevino contends, “is a pet club.”

World Series champion Mike Reid is of similar philosophy.  “When I was 5 years old,” he says, “my father told me in no uncertain terms never to avoid hitting the right club for the shot.  If you have a pet club, that also means you have a club you don’t like.  You have to treat clubs like children; you can’t favor one or the others will get mad.”

Test show that as clubs wear with age, shot control diminishes.  One way around that hazard, Trevino suggests, is to replace the heads but retain the original shafts.  Craig Stadler’s Spaldings, for example, include new heads on the shafts he used in 1982 when he won The Masters and the Tour money title.  The Walrus, therefore, has not so much a pet club as pet shafts.

Then, too, Hale Irwin had a favorite driver for years, but when he sent it out for a new insert, he says, “It came back nothing like it was.  I can never get that club back.”

The understanding of that sense of loss by manufacturers has led to the boom in customizing and computerizing of pet clubs.

“Now they can weight ‘em, study ‘em, test ‘em, x-ray ‘em,” says Irwin.  “You don’t see the odd club out of sequence the way you used to.”

Last spring, just before the Independent Insurance Agent Open in Houston, Texas, Davis Love III felt his Pings were a little off and sent them to the maker to be checked.  Love used his back-up set in the pro-am on Wednesday, got his “A” set back that night and played the tournament with them.  “It was nothing,” says Love.  “I knew the clubs would come back perfect.”

Sandy Lyle, winner at Phoenix, Greensboro, and The Masters last year, used to get several sets of clubs from Dunlop, play them all, then pick his favorite clubs to form his “A” set.  Now, like Love and any number of others, Lyle can set his specifications on paper, leaving the factory to grind a set out in the time it takes Lanny Wadkins to pick a club and finish his backswing.

And that’s what puts the pet club on the endangered list.  But as hard as it is to imagine the TPC at Sawgrass without ‘gators patrolling it’s ponds, it’s almost impossible to think of pet clubs vanishing from the tour.

 

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