The pull is looked upon by golfers in an entirely different light from that in which they regard its humble relative the slice. There is hardly the player traveling the links to-day who does not feel rather pleased with himself when he gets - generally more by accident than design -that long low ball that scoots out toward the rough on the right of the course, mayhap even over it, and then, toward the end of its carry, swings in toward the middle of the course and on landing runs like a frightened rabbit down the course toward the hole.
This may be a somewhat pleasanter picture than that which comes into the mind of the ordinary golfer when the pull is mentioned, but it is not, as any golfer knows, any exaggeration of the real stroke, nor of the pleasure in playing it, particularly when it has been done of knowledge and skill and not by chance.
The pull is most certainly a valuable and beautiful stroke. Every player who wants to rise to the highest class should understand it and try to get it. A man may go a long time without really requiring to play a pull. At any time it may be the one stroke that will save the hole-or the match-for him. It is well worth knowing-and having.
Most golfers know the stance and address for the pull and many of them have a hazy idea about a particular grip, while a method of cocking up the toe of the club and turning it inward is alleged to produce the pull, but beyond this very few, unless they are lucky enough to have it naturally, can go.
For the benefit of those who do not know, I may say that the stance for the pull is almost the reverse of that for the slice. One addresses the ball very far back, so far back indeed that it is only three or four inches in front of the right heel. The left foot instead of pointing towards the hole now points towards the line of flight at almost a right angle, within, say, five or six inches of that angle. It is now advanced, and is nearer the line of flight than the right foot, which is eight or nine inches further from the line of flight than is the left foot and pointing away from the hole more than in the slice. The right hand is more behind the shaft of the club and the left hand has naturally moved round a little with it, otherwise the grip is the same as in the ordinary stroke. This stance naturally brings the hands a little in front of the ball.
The swing back in the pull is much natter than that of the slice. Immediately the club leaves the ball it begins to curve in and away from the line to the hole. This is the correct method of starting the stroke, although Vardon says that the club should be taken back as in the ordinary drive. Now I have told you the most important part of it. You have got your grip and stance correct and you have started your swing correctly. If you carry on now you can scarcely avoid' playing the stroke properly.
You have started your swing back with the instant inward curve. That is going to make your swing natter than usual, and your stance and address will make you, in the downward swing, played with all observance of the essentials of the proper drive, pass your club out and across the line of flight and slightly upwards during the all-important period of adhesion.
When I first explained this stroke in London it caused a furious controversy. It was claimed that my explanation was wrong and that the real cause of the pull was the turn-over of the wrists at the moment of impact. Any attempt to do anything of this kind would simply lead to foundering the ball. It is not, nor ever was, practical golf. You will observe that as, in speaking of the slice, I said nothing of the turn under of the right wrist in the follow-through, so here I have no instructions to give about turning over the right wrist. It will do it of its own accord in the follow-through if you play the stroke correctly.
It is curious that it has never been asserted of the slice that this turn-under of the right wrist is done at the moment of impact; yet of the pull it is most obstinately asserted, in some quarters even now, that the turn-over of the right wrist takes place during impact. The fact is, however, that it follows the impact with such rapidity that the eye cannot distinguish the movement.
In England the controversy reached such a stage that some people got quite angry about it. I offered to give a public demonstration of the matter if the doubters would make the necessary arrangements and bear the expense, but this they would not do, so I settled it another way.
About this time I was writing Modem Golf, and I was using George Duncan to illustrate the strokes. He was then a comparatively unknown quantity; but in my opinion full of the highest promise, which he has since all but fulfilled.
Duncan is probably only inferior to Vardon as a stroke player, and I have a great respect for his knowledge of the theory and practise of the game. On nearly every point he and I were of one mind. When it came to illustrating the pull, however, Duncan told me plainly that he did not agree with my explanation of it; that he was, in fact, in the enemy's camp.
I said, "Very well, George, I must show the stroke myself, but I would sooner have you. Now I shall tell you how you can prove that I am right without troubling me in the matter."
Then I gave Duncan instructions how to conduct a test that would give him an infallible answer. Any one who has any doubt about the manner in which the pull is produced can try it for himself.
I told him to make a mark on the grass with a spot of whitewash that would go through to the earth, or to make a small white line on the line to the hole, to place the ball on this, and then on the far side of the line and starting opposite the front of the ball to put up a row of matches or invisible wires at right angles to the line. This done, he was to address the ball and play a straight drive down the line to the hole.