When Harry Vardon published The Complete Golfer, he said that in bis opinion the master stroke of the game was: ". . . the ball struck by any club to which a big pull or slice is intentionally applied for the accomplishment of a specific purpose which could not be achieved in any other way."

What he says about it is interesting enough to quote fully. At page 86 of The Complete Golfer he says: "What, then, is the master stroke? I say that it is the ball struck by any club to which a big pull or slice is intentionally applied for the accomplishment of a specific purpose which could not be achieved in any other way; and nothing more exemplifies the curious waywardness of this game of ours than the fact that the stroke which is the confounding and torture of the beginner who does it constantly, he knows not why, but always to his detriment, should later on at times be the most coveted shot of all and should then be the most difficult of accomplishment. I call it the master shot, because to acomplish it with any certainty and perfection is so difficult, even to the experienced golfer, because it calls for the most absolute command over the club and every nerve and sinew of the body, and the courageous heart of the true sportsman whom no difficulty may daunt, and because, when properly done, it is a splendid thing to see, and for a certainty results in material gain to the man who played it."

It would be hard indeed to find a more outspoken or enthusiastic declaration in favor of the pull and the slice as the master strokes in golf.

J. H. Taylor is not at all enthusiastic about these strokes. He says at page 88 of Taylor on Golf: "Still it is not advisable, neither do I look upon it as being golf in the truest sense of the word, for the knack of pulling or slicing to be cultivated, as I am afraid it is by a great many players. No compromise should be made with a fault."

As I write this my mind runs back to a glorious summer afternoon at Mid Surrey, Taylor's famous home course. Coming to one of the greens Taylor got off the line a bit and for his approach found his way to the green blocked by a great tree. I had taken a friend down to see the match, but I forget who Taylor's opponent was.

"Watch him cut round the tree," I said. "He can just about swerve to the edge of the green and then his cut will carry him in near the pin." I knew what Taylor could do with his mashie. He did it.

Top of Swing in Iron Play

Top of Swing in Iron Play.

Note carefully the upright swing, which is of great importance in nearly all iron play.

Finish of a Mashie Approach

Finish of a Mashie Approach.

Observe the upright finish which makes for good direction in iron play generally.


He played a beautiful cut shot that swept past the tree, curled a little in its flight, dropped on the edge of the very large green, then took its side roll and ran in nearly to the hole. It was a perfect approach, yet without the slice - for cut (except back-cut) in golf is merely slice by another name and with a different club, and what one wants to do with a mashie to-day he may want to do with a brassy to-morrow - it would have been impossible.

It is however interesting to have the different views of such famous players. It is indeed true that if one plays golf as one should play it one will not often require to slice or pull, for such strokes are generally in the nature of atonement, or attempted atonement, for some previous error; but then who, among us, does play golf as one should play it. Therefore it seems that we must continue to recognize the existence of the pull and the slice but we must also try to relegate them to their proper places in the game.

In 1909 I said that if I had to name a stroke in golf as the master stroke, other than the simple put, I should name the "wind cheater," or the class of strokes that now come in under the misnomer of "push." I am, and have been for years, of opinion that the most valuable spin in golf is backspin. For one most important reason I put strokes of this class ahead of the pull and the slice. They are infinitely more reliable. The spin does not affect their direction. It merely affects the trajectory, and on that it has a very beneficial effect.

In Harry Vardon's latest book How to Play Golf he comes round entirely to my point of view and declares outright and without any qualification that in his opinion the push stroke is the master stroke in golf. He also explains how it is played, or rather, perhaps I should say, how he thinks it is played. I put it this way, for I think that his explanation of the stroke is one of the most marvelous mistakes that has ever been associated with the name of a famous player.

Vardon says that the stroke is played by coming down on the ball with the face of the club overhanging it and then, just at the moment of impact, twisting the club vigorously round the ball so as to produce the necessary amount of backspin.

The proper method of playing this beautiful and useful stroke provided one of the most remarkable controversies in the history of English golf. Some of the explanations that were given were simply amazing, while some were also extremely amusing.

The fact that Vardon now considers this stroke the master stroke in golf warrants our giving it the closest analysis and attention. Whatever one thinks of Vardon's explanation one can have nothing but admiration for his execution of this beautiful stroke.

He will place a ball on the turf and show you the spot in front of the ball where he will cut the turf after he has sent the ball on its way, and he will do this with mathematical accuracy, but he does this by nature and not by his published theory of the stroke, which is not practical golf, which is in fact impossible of accomplishment by any one -even a Vardon.