A Game of Misses
20 Jan 2007

By Rex Vanderpool amateurgolf.com Staff Writer

I was re-reading Hogan’s Five Fundamentals the other day and came upon a passage that really made me think.

Hogan writes: “Not even the best golfer can hit the ball this well on every shot, for golf, in essence, is a game of misses. Every seasoned, sensible golfer knows this, and accordingly, he tries to build a swing that is so basically sound that his “misses” are, in truth, not bad golf shots at all - fairly well struck, accurate enough, eminently serviceable.”

For those of you who aren’t already familiar with this book I urge you to turn off your computer immediately, go to your local golf store, purchase, and read this book right now!

Actually, first go to all of our sponsor’s websites; Buy a Bridgestone driver, subscribe to T&L golf, and change all your shafts to UST. Then, turn off the computer, go to the store, and buy “Ben Hogan’s Five Lessons”. This book is the bible of the golf swing and should be treated as such. Each passage and diagram is worthy of the study that the actual Bible receives.

My suggestion to you is this: Instead of buying a $10 bucket of range balls this weekend, go buy a $10 paperback of Ben Hogan’s book and make sure you are going about the game the right way.

My own personal testimonial to this book is that a couple months ago after re-reading the book I found a few tips that led me to shoot the round of my life, which included my first ever hole-in-one. I am not saying the book deserves all the credit, especially for the ace, but the images I had in mind’s eye during that round were immensely helpful and straight out of the book’s illustrations.

Every decent golfer out there is capable of hitting a perfect shot. We can make a long putt, get up and down from the sand, or stuffing a wedge inside the leather just like a PGA tour pro. The difference isn’t skill, it is consistency. Pros do those things all the time, while we amateurs do it sometimes.

A better perspective to consider consistency from is “how bad are my bad shots?” A bad shot for a tour player is missing the fairway or missing the green on the short side. For most amateurs, it is an O.B. ball, chunk, top, or blade.

I know I am good for at least one major block to the right off the tee every time I strap on my spikes. That is why I write about golf instead of playing it for a living. There has been more than one occasion where I have had more penalty shots than I was over par for the round. Pros do not do this.

Like most amateurs, I often ask myself, sometimes aloud in between the tears, “How do I eliminate those three or four bad shots that are the difference between an okay round and a good round?” We do this by building a simple, compact, repeatable swing.

Everyone knows the expression, “Practice Makes Perfect” But not everyone knows that in golf only “Perfect Practice Makes Perfect”. It blows my mind every time I go to a range and see the line of weekend hackers making horrible swing after weird jerky swing and get the same, poor, result. Something fundamental has to change.

Hogan writes: “No one can play good golf unless he has a correct, powerful, repeating swing. A man or woman of average coordination can build such a swing if he or she goes about it sensibly. It really boils down to learning and practicing a few fundamentals until performing them becomes almost as instinctive as walking.”

I can’t speak for all of you but I am definitely a man, I verified this with my wife. Though I wondered why she was snickering. I believe I am of at least average coordination. Therefore all I need to do is master the fundamentals.

When I played in college I was doing something golf related every single day. These days with a job and a family I am lucky if I have a club in my hands more than once a week. My long, aggressive, timing-critical swing just isn’t going to cut it anymore. To that end I have been on a quest to simplify my swing.

On those rare days where I do get out to the course I am more attentive to my misses than my good shots. I know that understanding the fundamental flaws that lead to those errors and what those errors have in common are the key to making good use of my practice time. Because success in golf is all about how good your bad shots are, and mine are getting better…

If you have any comments, questions, or suggestions I’d love to hear from you. I can be reached at rex@amateurgolf.com.

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