If some journalist writing a book for a great golfer had made him say that Mother Nature had allotted to each golfer a special kind of waggle, and that herein lay the greatest display of individuality in any portion of this great game, I am afraid that I should not have been courageous enough to contradict him. I have no evidence to offer in rebuttal; and the fearful and wonderful and protracted efforts of some of the poor souls, whose main idea seems to be to put off the evil moment, would certainly be taken by many as strong corroborative testimony. To put it brutally but graphically, the waggle is with far too many players and would-be players a compound of moral cowardice and ignorance.
I know this sounds unkind. One does not love the dentist or the surgeon while the forceps or the knife is doing its work-but afterwards, when the pang is over one can properly appreciate his efforts. Now, how is this defective waggling to be remedied.
It cannot be denied that the waggle is an important part of the golf stroke. Everybody does it, some more and some less, mostly more-especially when they are in front of us.
Now, if I were not dealing strictly with the science and practise of golf I might write a book on the "psychology" of the waggle, for unquestionably the waggle has a "psychology" of its own; yet I have heard of a man who went hunting the mystery of golf and never even saw the waggle, the most mysterious thing in golf. The waggle of most golfers has much in it whose reason and use are as recondite as the functions of the vermiform appendix, yet with this virgin field at their feet, or their agile pens, the golf scribes have passed heedlessly on.
To be perfectly serious, it is curious that this portion of the stroke has never received any real attention except in the solitary case in which I illustrated George Duncan's waggle by diagrammatic photographs. Duncan's waggle is, however, the quickest in professional golf and, so far as my experience goes, in golf. There is nothing superfluous in it. He comes up to his ball as it lies on the fair green. As he approaches it he "sizes up" his shot. He settles easily and naturally to the ball, swings his club head up so that his forearms and the club are in one line pointing away to the hole, his upper arms hanging easily and naturally, and then allows the club head to sink quickly to rest behind the ball. Then he picks the club up so that the head rises up about fifteen inches and goes forward, in a gradual curve during the last six inches of its rise, until it momentarily stops about six inches forward of the ball; from here it sweeps backward and downward, nearly all the time in line with the hole, until after moving about three feet it comes to a stop for a fraction of a second at about a foot from the turf. From here it moves quickly, but smoothly, back to the ball, hesitates half an inch behind it and three inches from the turf, then sinks rapidly to the ground immediately behind the ball.
Although this takes a few words to describe it is over in a flash, yet it is performed without the semblance of a jerk. No more is necessary for a waggle. Duncan has shown us that. To attempt to use less would probably be a mistake.
Now here again is an instance where we must be broad-minded, or human, enough to allow our player some little latitude. To insist on so short a waggle as this would ruin the stroke of many players, but I am prepared to use Duncan's extremely short and rapid waggle as a lesson to those who waste their own time, and that of countless players, in an effort to hypnotize the ball by weird and useless wavings of the club, about three quarters of which, instead of being any assistance, are a positive detriment and calculated to put one off making any kind of a decent shot.
The use of a waggle is to enable one to "loosen up" to the ball and to make the same motion, as nearly as one can in such a gentle way, as will be made in returning to the ball in the stroke. Thus it will be seen that all motions which take the club off the line to the hole and that line produced through the ball should, so far as possible, be avoided. If this be remembered and acted on, it will increase the capacity of our links wonderfully, for it will cut out an immense number of useless geometrical figures that are indulged in by those who stand in fear and trembling, making signs to the fetich of the waggle in the hope of propitiating the divinity who presides over the mystery of golf, instead of cutting the mischievous little interloper off short, to the benefit of their game and the increased enjoyment of their fellow creatures.
In rifle shooting the first time you see the center is the time to let off. In golf, the first time you feel easy and right after settling down to your ball is the time to smite it. Procrastination in this connection is the thief of accuracy-and of your fellow-members' golf.
It would not matter so much if it were only your own time; but think of the string of unfortunate persons you are holding up behind you, merely for the purpose of confirming or increasing a bad habit. You will then probably decide to curtail your waggle by at least fifty per cent., which is about the average amount that could be cut off the waggle, not only without detriment but with positive benefit.