The hoariest old tradition that ever fastened on to golf was the power of the left. It was more than a tradition. It was a fetich. Authors and journalists worshiped at its shrine. Golfers and would-be golfers yielded it the most absolute obedience, at least in word and thought, although so many of these performed so exceedingly well with their clubs that there is grave doubt if they put their religion into practical use, even as it is today with many other religions.
I have already referred in passing to this most persistently fostered and very injurious idea. It is not indeed remarkable that this very great mistake has been handed down and kept going through the years. Practically every great golfer has succumbed to the fairy tale. Now, in this matter I want to tell you quite plainly that there are no half measures with me. This is a straight clean-cut issue. When I have said what I have to say on this matter you are for me or against me on a matter that is another of golf's fundamentals, that is of importance equal to, if not greater than, the question of the distribution of weight at the top of the swing. I shall present to you a mass of authority in favor of this superstition. I shall tell you what I think about the subject and, so far as you personally are concerned, I must leave the verdict in your hands although truth to tell I have small doubt as to what it will be.
We must in the first place see what the great golfers have to say about it.
At page 61 of The Complete Golfer Harry Var-don says: "The grip with the first finger and thumb of my right hand is exceedingly firm, and the pressure of the little finger on the knuckle of the left hand is very decided. In the same way it is the thumb and first finger of the left hand that have most of the gripping work to do. Again, the palm of the right hand presses hard against the thumb of the left. In the upward swing this pressure is gradually decreased, until when the club reaches the turning point there is no longer any such pressure; indeed, at this point the palm and the thumb are barely in contact."
Let me say before I forget it that I earnestly advise every one to forget the tight and loose finger "dope." This is golf we are dealing with, not music, and the shaft of a golf club does not respond to this treatment as do the strings of a violin or a banjo. There is quite enough to think of during the golf swing without trying to hand out piece work to special fingers. If I wanted to make you think that I know much more than I do about golf I should start analyzing the finger hold and apportioning the special duty to each joint. Such stuff is mere futility. At the top of the swing grip as fast as sin sticks to normal man and never let up, never think of anything else but hitting the ball until it is sailing away.
I know one professional whose great pride it is that he lets his forefinger wave about while he is playing his stroke. He has his reasons for it. I forget them, but probably he uses it to point out where the ball ought to go-but does not.
If Vardon really did these funny stunts, what he has done with them would have to command one's respectful attention; but when one knows that this great player will not say this foolishness to one, has one to swallow it because an enterprising publisher hired a wordy journalist to make a book of a certain size to take its place in a certain series. I think not; nay, so far as I am concerned, I know that I shall not, as they say in America, "stand for it." The comfort and convenience of the great body of golfers are of much greater importance than a question of publisher's royalties, and I am convinced that Vardon himself would wish to stop this out-of-date doctrine from affecting the game prejudicially.
Vardon continues: "The release is a natural one, and will, or should, come naturally to the player for the purpose of allowing the head of the club to swing well and freely back. But the grip of the thumb and first finger of the right hand, as well as that of the little finger upon the knuckle of the first finger of the left hand, is still as firm as at the beginning."
From this you will observe that you are still gripping firmly at each side of your hand, that is to say with the little finger and the forefinger and easing up or playing about with the second and third fingers. Try it, brother golfer, put your mind into it during your stroke, then try to get it and use it subconsciously, or do the right thing - and forget it.
Vardon does not anywhere expressly say, so far as I know, that the left hand and arm are the dominant factors in the golf stroke, but right throughout his work he infers that they are.
At page 126 of The Complete Golfer he says, speaking of the approach shot with the mashie: "This is one of the few shots in golf in which the right hand is called upon to do most of the work, and that it may be encouraged to do so the hold with the left hand should be slightly relaxed;" and at page 147, in treating of putting, he says: "But in this part of the game it is quite clear that the right hand has more work to do than the left."
The curious thing is that, notwithstanding these statements, there is not in The Complete Golfer, nor so far as I know in any other well-known work on golf, a specific description of any stroke wherein the work is done mainly by the left hand and arm.
There cannot be any doubt, although he does not say so in so many words, that Vardon wishes to convey the idea that the influence of the left hand and arm is predominant in the majority of golf strokes.
We must now turn to James Braid for light on this subject. At page 55 of How to Play Golf we find: "A word about the varying pressure of the grip with each hand. In the address the left hand should just be squeezing the handle of the club, but not so tightly as if one were afraid of losing it. The right hand should hold the club a little more loosely. The left hand should hold firmly all the way through. The right will open a little at the top of the swing to allow the club to move easily, but it should automatically tighten itself in the downward swing"-which by the way, I may say, that Vardon very wisely warns one against,