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This is the last of four lessons on how to play a golf course, adapted from the full-length book "A Round of Golf with Tommy Armour," which has just been published by Simon and Schuster ($3.50). Bill, a mediocre golfer who had become so discouraged by his game that he was about to quit forever, was persuaded by Armour to try one final round as his partner in a friendly foursome. Tommy told Bill that the real reason he was so bad was because he didn't use his brains on a golf course. Bill agreed to try a round in which he used his muscles, but Tommy did the thinking for him. After some early heartbreaks and some triumphs, Bill was playing better than ever before. On the eighth, a long par 4, Bill faded his second shot into the rough short of the green. He pulled a nine-iron out of his bag. Tommy was afraid he might try to scoop the ball up in an attempt to clear the bunker guarding the green.
Despite my fears, Bill played this one as it should be played. He took an open stance, with the ball off the right foot and his weight accented on his left foot. When you do this and keep the left arm straight as you're swinging, the wrists hinge pretty much automatically.
Something else that Bill did right was hitting down at the ball so the loft of the club face could smack the ball up. He also made the club go through the shot and toward the flag. The ordinary hacker digs into the ground behind the ball and stops hitting. There is hope but no purpose to that sort of a shot.
Bill's shot was quite an achievement. If he'd missed it the error would have been caused by one of those mysterious frailties of man for which there is no accounting. But the procedure in this case was as perfect as one could expect. The ball went about 25 feet past the hole. A shot like that going boldly past the hole is intelligently played. It has been given a chance. Let me repeat something I've said and written many times for the benefit of 98% of golfers: Don't worry about applying "stop" to approach shots but think about hitting them up to or past the hole.
Usually golfers forget that the high trajectory of shots made with the short clubs will cut down distance. On shots made with eight-or nine-irons or wedges you'd better shoot for the flag rather than for the hole.
He lined up his putt, figured the slope wisely and made a flowing stroke without his head or body moving. The ball stopped only a couple of inches away and on the proper side of the hole. He tapped that short one in and glowed with satisfaction as he stood up with the ball in his hand.
"I'll make no complaints about picking up that 5; the champions don't do it much better," he boasted.
"Comparatively, you played the hole better than many experts," I told him. "That hole, with the wind against you, is a par 5 for your kind of golf. Now do you know how you got it or was it just a case of heaven helping you five times in succession?"
Bill vehemently declared, "Certainly I know how I got that par. I played five perfectly hit shots."
I put my hand on his shoulder. "Take it easy, champ. And let me tell you you've confirmed what I suspected. You've still got a lot to learn, so in your moment of glory don't lose sight of the main objectives."