SI Vault
Tommy Armour
April 13, 1959
In the first two parts of this series, taken from "A Round of Golf with Tommy Armour" (published this week by Simon and Schuster, $3.50), Tommy persuaded Bill, a mediocre golfer, that the real reason he was so bad was because he wouldn't think on a golf course. Armour suggested that they make up a foursome with two other players, Ed and Jim, in the course of which Bill would play his shots but Armour would think for him. Bill agreed, and at the point where this installment begins he has played four holes, trying to take Tommy's advice on two of them, and being on his own on the other two. Now the foursome is playing the long, 540-yard, par-5 fifth hole. Bill had a nice 210-yard drive, but lunged on his second and moved the ball only a little more than 100 yards diagonally across the fairway. He played his third safely, without straining for distance, and the ball came to rest about 40 yards short of the green.
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April 13, 1959

'my Brains—and Your Muscles!'

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The rest was an anticlimax. He made two good putts. The first one he rolled to about two feet away from the hole. It wasn't on the high side, but I didn't regard that as a mistake because the green sloped quite abruptly around the hole. The smart thing to do was to lag up safely so if a long and lucky putt wasn't holed, the next putt would be one of those short uphill putts that make the hole look nine feet wide.

I wish I could describe what he did in handling the putt so well. The job was almost wholly a matter of touch, and how can you describe touch?

Touch is something that has the finger tips doing the talking. I suppose that someday somebody could write a learned treatise on the ulnar and digital nerves that might help explain the feeling of a good putt, but after you'd get through reading it you would forget to hit the ball.

I've tried a million ways—more or less—to get the correct sensation of touch over to pupils of mine. In those efforts I have used similes that I thought were keyed to the personality of the golf pupil so there'd be a vivid mental picture painted, but the sensation of the correct touch in golf completely baffles analysis and description. About all I know for sure is that sensitive touch is in your finger tips and if you press hard the sensitivity will be deadened.

When you learn the feel of a fine golf shot—and it is a combination, I suppose, of sensations originating in various areas of your system—you know what should be done to play good golf but you won't know the words to tell exactly how to recapture the feeling.

What had happened to Bill on the green at the sixth hole was that he was so relaxed after getting to the green in two fine shots that his nerves and muscles were loose and delicately responsive. Hence the two fine putts.

He didn't realize it then but he had added another story to my library of sixth-hole tales. He was the colorless common golfer who had played the hole absolutely perfectly.

When we left the green I thought of a couple of highly proficient professionals who probably would have won a couple of national championships if they had played this hole as well as it had just been played by a high-handicap golfer unknown to glory.

[The seventh hole was a short par 3,130 yards and almost all of it across the water of a lake. Bill wanted to play it as conservatively as possible, even to using an old ball that looked as if it had been played 36 holes with an ax. Tommy bullied him from tee to cup, including an invaluable putting lesson, and Bill wound up with a very professional par 3.]

The eighth hole was a long par 4, a dogleg from left to right. Bill, who was driving very well by now, got off another good one, but the rest of the route was long and dangerous. There was a yawning bunker about 100 yards out from the green on the left, and it was a strong temptation to Bill, after his fine drive, to try to carry it.

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