The main object in the game of golf is to get the ball into the hole in the fewest possible number of strokes. I do not, therefore, purpose entering into any account of the history of the game, but will simply, in a practical way, confine myself to an endeavor to assist the player who has passed the rudimentary stage by describing in detail, as concisely as possible, not only the several ways of making the various strokes, but also the more common causes of failure.
It was my misfortune - or was it my good luck? - to take up golf without the assistance of professional coaching or the aid of any good player, and that, too, at a somewhat advanced age, regarded from a golfing standpoint. Appreciating after a few attempts my comparative helplessness, I first provided myself with all the available literature on the subject, and after digesting, as well as the circumstances would permit, the manifold instructions laid down by several eminent writers, I then endeavored to discover by as constant practice as permitted which particular method best suited me and promised the best results.
Of course this involved a world of experimenting before any fairly well-defined style was finally evolved, but all this experimental practice was not by any means thrown away. It brought me into actual touch with a variety of ways of making the different strokes and producing the desired results, and, best of all, gave me a fairly clear insight into the true relation of cause and effect - valuable information in times of stress. If I happened to top, sclaff, slice, or pull, or do any of the things which I had better left undone, it did not take me long to locate the actual trouble and to apply a remedy.
It is therefore a question in my mind whether I am not better off as a result of all the enforced groping at fundamentals, and having been forced to work out my own salvation, than if I had started under more favorable conditions, and had the benefit of the ordinary professional instruction procurable. Which leads me to remark, en passant, that as a general rule the average professional, while he may be a good player, lacks the faculty of imparting proper information to beginners. He can again and again give one a practical illustration of how a certain stroke should be made, having, as a rule, learned the game imitatively when young, and making the shot intuitively without troubling himself to analyze the why and wherefore, but when it comes to dissecting the stroke and explaining the producing causes - well, that's another matter, and usually unsatisfactory to one of an investigating turn of mind.
Nevertheless, for the general run of beginners a professional coach is necessary for the cultivation of a proper style at the start if any degree of proficiency is sought. If left to himself the tyro is very apt to sacrifice future possibilities of acquiring the art of making a stroke properly- and which can only be attained by constant practice of what at first seems the hardest and most unnatural way - in favor of what appears the easiest. He wants to "get there."
He does, after a fashion. He arrives quickly at a certain stage of mediocrity, but improvement beyond such a point is extremely difficult, if not impossible. And before any substantial or permanent improvement can be effected, he will require to unlearn a good deal, and start afresh on correct principles.
On the other hand, the player who models his game on the lines of first-class players will find improvement comparatively slow, but having developed a correct method and sticking to it, improvement is bound to follow, and he will have acquired a style which can be fairly depended upon to decrease his handicap. All good players work practically on the same basic principles. There are of course certain individual mannerisms and peculiarities, but underneath all these the bed-rock of the stroke is substantially the same. It matters little whether one plays off the right leg, the left leg, or stands square; the stroke is fundamentally the same, with some slight modifications, more or less effective.
Let us now proceed to consider the drive, and endeavor to illuminate its most salient features. The position or stance taken for making the stroke has more or less influence on the flight of the ball. These pothe Stancesitions are usually known as playing off the right leg, standing square, or off the left leg. Dealing with the former, which is that most usually adopted - probably for the reason that the player can see better the proper direction, and feels less liable to send the ball flying off at a tangent - the right foot is placed more or less in advance of the left, parallel with the line of play, and according to the extent to which the right foot is advanced so is the weight of the body transferred.
Fig. 1 Playing Off The Left Leg
Fig. 2 Playing Off The Right Leg
Fig. 3 Standing Square Stance And Grip
In standing square both feet are on the same line, and the weight rests equally on each. Off the left leg means that the right foot is withdrawn, being more or less back of the left, and the weight of the body rests more or less on the latter.
I rather favor driving off the left leg, as it appears easier to get the arms and body around in the upward swing without the hitch which one seems to encounter about three-quarters of the way up when the right foot is in front. Apart from this, however, there is very little difference in actual results of length of drive. The ease and rapidity with which the weight of the body and arms is transferred from the left leg to the right and back again, joined to wrist action - concerning which reference will later be made - are largely, if not wholly, responsible for long driving. If one man can accomplish this more easily and naturally by a certain stance, then by all means let him stick to it. It matters little whether he now and then slices or pulls with more or less frequency; these faults are not the outgrowth of any of the styles referred to, but proceed from other causes which will be dealt with in due course.