I have shortly referred to the merits of this particular stymie shot. I have I think dwelt sufficiently on its remarkably quick rise which is so often "of the very essence of the contract," as the lawyers say. There is another point that in a stymie is often equally important and that is in checking the run of the ball, after it has pitched.
I have shown how in this stroke more force goes into elevation and less into propulsion than in the ordinary stymie stroke. That in itself tends to give the ball a deader drop with less run than the ordinary stroke has; but in addition to this we must remember that in this stroke the blow is struck by a club that gets in under the ball as far as is practicable and hits it just as low down as it is possible to hit a golf ball in practical golf. It is the nearest thing to a scientific jump shot at billiards that can be put onto a putting green. The consequence is that the ball takes more true back-spin than in any other stymie stroke that is played, and it is therefore possible to jump some stymies and yet to control the run of the ball in a manner that would be impractical were one to use the stroke of which Braid himself says that:-" . . . it is just an ordinary chip up."
The stroke has another quality to recommend it. I have found that its direction for strokes of a much greater length than we have so far been considering is remarkable. So remarkable is it that I was forced to look into it to see why it should possess this quality in so marked a degree. I came to the conclusion that it is because of the straight swing back and the straight follow-through. This, as we all know, is what everybody lays down as the great rule in putting. As we also know it is what nearly every one neglects. From the nature of this stroke it is almost impossible to avoid carrying out the rule both with regard to the swing back and the follow-through.
This stroke may also be used as a chip shot. If one has a bad bit of green to dodge one can rely on going as straight through the air as on the green when once one has got command of the stroke, and as the cut is pure back-cut it has no tendency to curl the ball away from the hole when it lands.
The same stroke may of course be used in a stymie with "cut," if from the nature of the shot it looks as if an extra quick rise is wanted and can be obtained. I may say, however, that I have never yet seen the stymie, either as regards proximity of the obstruction to one's ball or the cramping of the line of flight by nearness of the obstructing ball to the hole, that could not be negotiated by the straight shot with what back-spin came to it from playing the stroke naturally.
It will sometimes happen that one is a long way from the hole and is stymied by a ball that is, comparatively speaking, near the hole - is, in fact, so placed that if one succeeded in pitching over it one could not possibly control the run of the ball sufficiently to give one a chance to make the hole. In these cases if one can cut or pull one may use these strokes. If the ground shows any sign of giving assistance it is much better to try to use it to get enough roll towards the hole to enable one to make a plain put instead of putting any work on one's ball. If none of these courses is open to one, there is another that I have used with success, yet which cannot be recommended so long as one has any other chance. The last resort is to play my stymie shot with a good high pitch right up near the obstructing ball and to jump it on the bound, continuing on to the hole. That the shot is practical you will soon find by the number of times you hit the other ball when once you start practising. After a while you will overcome this attraction and then you will find that you get quite as much success as you have any right to expect with a shot of this kind.
We have now to deal with the ordinary chip shot. This as you know starts at the edge of the green. It seems obvious that you ought to slide into it almost without knowing it. Your last approach put was only a foot shorter than this shot you are trying now. What is the difference? You will stand up much straighter, which is natural as your club is a little longer. Your stance is more open. Your right foot is nearly at a right angle to the line to the hole, and your left foot points more towards the hole; in fact, your feet are nearly, but not quite, at a right angle. Your knees are almost stiff; that is to say, they are barely flexed, and both your feet are, and during the stroke, remain, in full contact with the earth.
The ball is taken opposite the right heel. The weight is fairly equally divided with an inclination to have slightly more on the right foot than on the left. As in the put the feet are kept close together. The swing back comes mainly from the forearms. One must guard against imagining the wrists into this stroke. Strive above everything else to hit the ball so that the front edge of the club is at a right angle to the line of run to the hole and finish your stroke with it in that position. It will seem as though this makes one play a constrained finish. It will cause one, in the finish, to point one's left elbow at the hole. If these two items are kept in mind one's direction will never be very bad.
One could fill reams of paper instructing one's readers in the various kinds of mashie strokes, cut shots and run up strokes and how to swerve and run and so forth. These are all very useful and much that is quite fascinating may no doubt be written about them, and in its right place I hope to have something to say about the general principles of the flight of the ball and how it is influenced by spin and other factors. I am satisfied in the meantime to leave this subject, for I am convinced, more now than I was in 1909, of the importance of back-spin in golf, even as top-spin reigns in tennis. I have already in some small way referred to it and it will recur again and again in such a manner that I hope my readers, without being wearied by what really is a somewhat abstruse matter, will get all the practical and interesting portion of the subject that has a direct bearing on their game, as well as directions as to the best way to produce back-spin.
One of the greatest secrets of success, with the mashie particularly, although this applies to all iron clubs, is to keep the swing as upright as possible; that is, to have the head of the club as nearly in the plane of the ball's flight for as great a time as possible while the stroke is being played and in the follow-through.
There is one thing I must impress on my readers and that is that it is not necessarily a sign that one is master of the mashie because one carves bigger divots than any other member of the club. In the old days the divot was of more importance than the stroke! Hit your ball as cleanly as you can whenever the lie will allow you to do so. What you do to the turf should always be merely an incident of the stroke. I condemned this practise in Modern Golf, pointing out that agriculture does not rightly form any part of the great game of golf and should not be unnecessarily obtruded therein. The greatest masters of the mashie are much more merciful to the turf now than they were formerly. Of course there will be shots when you must dig your ball out. Then it is no question of half measures; but, generally speaking, don't hit the earth unless you need to do so. Vardon has altered his method a good deal in this respect of recent years.