March 2, 2024

Great golfers have great imagination

Long time "on the course" golf commentator, Bob Rosburg, was famous for reporting that "so and so" golfer had "no chance" after Rosburg had analyzed and viewed his lie and circumstance. Then the player hits this miraculous shot out of trouble to get on the green and close to the hole, to which Rosburg would utter that, "I didn't think that was possible". What was most ironic was that Bob Rosburg was a PGA Champion and one of the best scramblers and out of trouble players the game as seen. Most likely if he had to hit the shot that he was describing, he would have had the imagination to pull that shot off.

The most imaginative golf shot that I ever witnessed was on the 15th hole at Santa Maria Country Club during the final round of the 1967 California State Open. I was still an amateur after just graduating from college. My friend, Bill Feil, and I had made the cut and finished our round and we went out to see the leaders finish their round. The fifteenth hole was devilishly difficult, demanding a straight tee shot with OB on the left and trees and sandy area on the right. Ted Makalena, was a touring pro that had won the Hawaii Open the year before and was in contention for the lead. He pushed his tee shot to the right in a clump of trees that blocked his path to the green. His lie was on soft sand about 130 yards from the green. Bill and I had a good look at his predicament and saw no clear shot and disaster everywhere. The pin was located on the right side of the green, right over a deep culvert, which was instant bogie or double bogie. Over the green was heavy rough and not where you would want your ball to end up. Ted sized up his shot and saw a small window between the trees about twenty yards ahead of him and about four feet high and six feet wide. Going through that opening was pointed straight out of bounds, so any shot he had to hit had to slice dramatically and carry the culvert in front of the narrow green. Normally from 130 yards a touring pro would hit a wedge or possible a 9 iron, but the opening was not far off the ground. So, Ted used a five iron to hit only 130 yards. Ted took out his five iron and Bill and I didn't know what he was doing. He executed a near perfect shot that picked the ball cleanly off the sand, when through the small opening and sliced 20 yards landed on the greens and bit and stopped about 10 feet from the hole. Unbelievable. Bill and I looked at each other and I said, "we're not ready to turn pro".

Jack Nicklaus has stated, "I never hit a shot, not even in practice, without having a very sharp, in-focus picture of it in my head". If you can't see it, how are you going to achieve it? "Imagine great things, and they will become real". Imagination to golf is what gets you to the next level. Your imagination should push you to try new things and expand boundaries. You don't know you can do something if you don't try.

Paul Runyan, one of my top three short game specialists of all time, made this statement at a PGA teaching seminar that I attended many years ago. The subject was a routine 60 foot shot to a level green. Most would have a standard technique and shot to handle this situation. Paul then stated that he probably had over one hundred different shots to choose from for this particular shot. That's imagination!

Golf pros don't have just one shot for a 150-yard target. They can hit high, low, medium height shots. Small, medium, large hooks or slices, using varying length swings and speeds with different clubs. Doing all the permutations, the combinations could be in the thousands. Your swing shouldn't be one set swing for all occasions. Use your imagination and expand your shot repertoire, your golf game and scores will improve.


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