Lightening Bag and Handicap
From Our Sports Correspondent
While the Open Championship is taking place on the extended course at Hoylake, let us turn from giants and giant courses to our own humbler and more human problems.
A six months' strike of caddies would do more than anything else to reduce the handicap of golfers who aim at breaking the 100 and are still pleased with themselves when they accomplish this feat. If these men (and women) had to carry their own bags for a period they would try to see what clubs they could do without, not how many more they could inflict on their caddy—and the result would be to take anything up to ten strokes off their average round.
It looks nice to carry—or, rather, have carried—a heavy bag bulging with a bright matched set of irons numbering one to infinity, but it is a mug's game for caddy and for self.
The theory of the matched set is that if you can play one iron club correctly, you can play them all correctly because they all feel the same though they perform different work according to their loft. But can you play one iron club correctly and always correctly? That's the test. If you cannot, then you had much better make a cross between nature and art, pick up the club that looks as though it would do if you hit it so hard, remember all your professional has taught you about the left hand and keeping head down, and do your best to move the ball from point A to point B, as instinct, touch and eye tell you how.
The Old Clubs
The matched set demands the highest skill, the highest art; the little set of old clubs that have come together somehow, the feel of each one of which you know and love, demands practice, experience and an affectionate eye. A matched set will never become part of yourself, like an old violin or a favourite fountain pen worn down with use. How can it? It was made for someone else, Bobby Jones or Henry Cotton or someone. But your few clubs that have grown up with you are you, extensions of your muscles and fingers— and though you may change one occasionally—since everything must die—you will do so only after long meditation.
How many clubs, then, should you carry? There is no rule. But I would advise only six : driver or brassie, spoon, mid-iron (no. 2 or 3), mashie (no. 5). niblick (no. 8) and putter.
The Wooden Clubs
Let's take them one by one. Why have three wooden clubs? Unless you drive with the brassie, when will it really pay you to use it? If you are the kind of player who is glad to get round in a hundred, the extra few yards a brassie will give you will certainly not make up for the greater inaccuracy of a longer and straighter-faced club; nine times out of ten you will do better with your spoon. But this is my point : if you carry a brassie you will be tempted to use it to get that extra distance. The result : a top or a slice. Moral: Leave the brassie behind.
A number one iron is the hardest club to play in the bag. Have nothing to do with it.
You might carry a number two and a number three, but why? Get to know one mid-iron well and hit harder or more softly according to what your eye suggests. The more you use this maid of all work the better you'll use it.
The mashie will always do the work of numbers four and six. And as the shot becomes shorter and more delicate the need for knowing the club and adjusting it to eye and touch become all the greater.
Even if you are not a good golfer you have got more brains than your clubs. Why then try to let your clubs think for you when they are only meant to think for golfing robots?
All this is very strange advice, but remember that the sale of golf clubs is a very big industry and many people are in one way or another interested in seeing it prosper. That accounts for a lot.
The Right Rev. Sir Day'd Hunter-Blair Bart., 0.S B., Abbot a Dunfermline has
accepted a vice-presidency the Royal Stuart Society, in the place of Stewart of Appin, deceased.