Watching last year’s Insperity Greats of Golf this year, I was struck with how accurate these remarkable players still are. I was most impressed with Nicklaus, Player, Trevino, and Sorenstam. All made solid and consistent clubhead contact at impact, leading to tee shots that were in play and relatively long. Player, at 83, was particularly impressive. He has kept his body strong and supple, a great example of the importance of conditioning as we age. Trevino too has a swing not much different than the one that earned him six majors and 29 PGA victories. I was also impressed with Annika and her deadly approach shots. Her swing still seems effortless after years away from competitive golf. She has obviously kept herself in shape as she ages.
I noticed too their address positions, so important in this game that requires golfers to return to that position at impact while maintaining consistency and balance. All four of those legends have positions that remind me of the late Mo Norman, arguably the greatest ball striker ever. Though not as pronounced as Mo, all of them had left arms that, for the most part, formed a straight line with the shaft, giving them extra room to swing freely through the ball. To a player, their heads remained steady through impact, as did Mo’s. And their hands and arms stayed in front of them throughout the swing, helping each to keep the ball in play.
That ability to send the ball off to a target that we intended and planned for is key to satisfying and successful golf. Mo was famous for this on the range and in tournament play. I believe the emphasis these days is too much on distance and not enough on accuracy. As Mo often stated, sufficient distance would come with accuracy. And accuracy comes from solid, consistent contact. The key word there is “sufficient”. How much distance do you need to drive the ball to the 150 marker? That marker is what I like to use as a barometer, because if it’s in the fairway, I have a pretty good chance of being on or around the green on my next shot. And that translates to lower scores and more fun playing.
Putting and chipping were exceptional as well by these greats. Player always seemed to get the speed just right, which I think is key to good putting. In doing so, you minimize the three putts, too many of which are demoralizing. Even Jack, who was never known as a great chipper showed how to get up and down with a deft chip-and-run touch. But the best chipper was Annika who had about the same pace with this shot as with her longer approach irons. For most of the round, she out-played the other three with her all-around game. You can find all these greats on YouTube and study their swings in detail. I recommend it.
Courses and ranges are opening up in Washington this week, where I live, and I’m itching to do more than swing an invisible club in my living room, breaking countless invisible lamps! And I’m happy to see all the precautions put into place to insure safety and protection from this aggressive, and potentially deadly, coronavirus. I especially like the one about only twosomes for now, unless a foursome is entirely from the same family. It makes sense: A twosome makes social distancing much easier, and simplifies on-course conversations and contact. I think we need to open up our country slowly and smartly, if only to protect more vulnerable citizens. I understand there are no easy answers to this dilemma, but my perspective is that you can always eventually repair the economy, but you can’t bring a dead human being back to life.
All that being said, I plan to follow my government’s regulations, buy a push cart, and have fun playing my favorite game again this week. And thank goodness, as a recent cancer and heart failure survivor at 74, I’m well enough to do so.
I hope you’re able to play as well. Let me know your experiences, and take good care.