(Picked up on the links at St. Andrews)
Since first by Heaven's august decree The Royal Ancient game was planned I always was allowed to be The Master Hand.
To me did textbooks all allot The part of propulsative strength; The raking drive, the brassie shot -I gave them length.
The Right Hand was - poor thing - designed To guide the club, and that was all; Mine was the power that lay behind The far-hit ball.
Now comes there one upon the scene Whose heresy fair turns me pale, The Arius of the golfing green -A wretch named Vaile.
He says our Vardons, Braids and Whites Don't golf's dynamics understand; Their view of me's all wrong; the Right's The master hand.
If fate would let me but devise Some torture for this villain bold Who thus would revolutionize Golf's credos old.
Oh, then to ball of rubber core I'd change him for a tidy spell And drop him in "The Swilcan" or "The Burn" or "Hell."
I'd lose him in the rock-strewn sand Whence few topped spheres ejected come Of Musselburgh's notorious Pand-Emonium.
What I had to put up with in prose was not nearly so amusing and it was not at all clever. The new idea had stricken the golf writers stupid. They wished to know how I could possibly know, for I hadn't found it out in Fleet Street.
When some degree of calm had been restored, The Evening Standard published an interview with George Duncan in which the famous young Scotchman not only said in the most unqualified manner that I was right, but gave the golf public something else to think over.
I have already indicated that Duncan is of an inquiring turn of mind. When the controversy started he went out and drove many balls, some with both hands, some with his right alone, and some with his left alone. He found that driving with the right hand only he could get nearly as far as with both hands and that his direction was practically as good. He found that his attempt to drive with the left hand unaided was practically a failure both as regards length and direction. I pity the person who is foolish enough to try to argue this dour young Scot into the idea that his left hand is more useful to him in the drive than his right.
There is one question on which I always upset the left-handed theorists. They argue that the left is the predominant influence and so on, after the manner of the golf books. I then ask them, if this is so, why left-handed players always, or practically always, throw away this inestimable advantage of having their most important hand placed by our good old friend Mother Nature in the most important position, turn themselves round and get special clubs made for them, and moreover use them mutatis mutandis in just the same manner as we poor right-handed players do. They never have a satisfactory answer for this. When in addition to this I ask them how it is that neither professionals nor books ever advocate the practise of left-handers learning the game with the right-handed clubs, they begin to display signs of restiveness; and I know that it is advisable to change the subject to the beneficial effects of irrigation- which generally goes better about this time.
I say, without any qualification whatever, that all this stuff about the left being the predominant partner in the golf stroke is false teaching of the most pernicious nature. The right hand and arm are undoubtedly the predominating force, but just as certainly as this is the fact, so is it absolutely essential to good golf that once one has realized this eminently sensible and natural arrangement one shall immediately forget it, for this is where it is right to leave it to Mother Nature. This is one thing in golf in which one may trust her absolutely and never regret it. It should no more be on one's mind that the right is master than is the problem as to which foot one is using at a particular moment. The matter is so perfectly adjusted and regulated by nature if the mechanical details of the swing are attended to that any conscious attempt to think of the relative power of either hand, arm or wrist is a work of supererogation, and in golf there is no room for anything like this.
The mischievous thing about the fetich of the left is, that as Taylor says, it is unnatural. One has to think always to do anything that is unnatural.
It is not the interference of the right arm that is to blame for thousands of ruined strokes that go down to its discredit. It is a case of giving a dog a bad name. The left really is in a vast majority of cases the guilty party without its guilt ever being suspected. It has heard the old, old story of the vice of the right, and it is always on the look-out for a chance to slip in in front of it and frustrate its evil designs on the ball. I need not detail the woful results in slices and loss of distance that ensue.
A chain is no stronger than its weakest link. Speed is of the essence of the golf stroke. It stands to reason that if the right has to wait on the left we are going to lose speed and after what George Duncan has shown us we can have little doubt about which arm furnishes the greater power.
If we have established the fact that the right is the dominant partner in the swing it seems that it strengthens my remarks about the new overlapping grip which gives the right hand a fuller grip of the club than the left. When I know a thing, or am fairly sure about it, I have no hesitation in stating my opinion. If I know it, or think I know it, I sometimes state it rather positively. If I am only fairly sure I put it forward tentatively, as I am doing in this matter of the new grip, but there are two points about it which I think are worthy of consideration.
In the present grip, at the moment of impact the left hand is farther from the ball than the right. At the same time the right hand, which is necessarily the nearer to the ball, has a less full grip than the left as the little finger is placed upon the forefinger of the left hand. It is always the shaft horse that bears the load. Which is the shaft horse as between the left hand and the right; and since when, pray, has it been good harnessing to put the saddle on the leader?
As bearing on this question of the right-handed grip being made fuller than in the ordinary overlap I may tell an interesting anecdote. Some years ago a golfer who was good enough to remove Mr. John Ball from the Amateur Championship lost his left thumb at the second joint. After his misfortune he found, much to his surprise, that he was driving a much longer ball than he was getting before.
The golf scribes were much exercised over this, but nobody suggested any explanation. The one that readily suggests itself is that his accident put his right hand into a more natural place on the shaft than it had had before and closer to his left hand. If this golfer were to use the overlapping grip suggested by me he would probably have an ideal golf grip for he would have a full right hand hold, be close up against the left without any interference by the thumb, and by overlapping with his left fore-finger on the right little finger he would bring the wrists well together. I am afraid that the grip, obtained in this way, will never be popular; but, without sacrificing any portion of one's anatomy, the new grip is well worth an intelligent and exhaustive trial, especially by those who favor the short swing, for, as I think I have pointed out, if one grips like this and holds the club firmly throughout the swing, it is practically impossible to overswing.
ROBERT A. GARDNER Finish of Drive.
The main trouble in connection with golf writing is that nearly all the great professionals have thousands of books in circulation telling unfortunate golfers how to become great by a route that they themselves never traveled. Needless to say the handicap to the ordinary golfer is immense. If I merely sat down and wrote the truth I could excuse any one who used the weight of sixteen open championships and many others against me. It is quite another thing when I show how clearly the winners of these championships contradict each other, and even themselves, and I then put the simple obvious truth before the inquirer and say, "Now shed the light of your reason on it, my lad." It really is very simple when you have it explained by some one who knows, who is not merely groping for words, more words, mere words. Verbiage, verbosity, verbigeration, truly your composite name in English is golf book!
I have received letters of thanks and acknowledgments of all kinds from all parts of the world from people whom I have released from the thraldom of the fetich of the left. Here is what an American professional at San Antonio, Texas, has to say: "It has taken me years of persistent effort to bury the many prejudices against the proper use of the right arm, but they must go, and I am glad to see you have voiced sentiments strong enough to make men stop and think over the situation. Let us hope they will act."
In which pious hope I naturally join; and with that I am content now to leave the final judgment - so far as it affects you - with you.