Archived Newsletters - Lessons From Golf :
LESSONS FROM GOLF
With the golf season drawing to a close in most parts of the
country, this is a good time to reflect upon your progress and
successes. What is your attitude about your golf game now? What
have you learned about yourself and your game this summer?
Following are some stories that we can learn from.
An American golfer, outfitted in fashionable clothes, showed up
at the first tee at St. Andrews with his huge, heavy leather bag,
complete with new high-tech clubs.
He hit his ball off the first tee well down the fairway. When he
reached his ball, he picked up some grass and threw it into the
air to check the wind. “What do you think?” he asked his
The caddie likewise picked up a few blades of grass and tossed
them in the air. “I think the wind’s come up gov’nor,” said the
caddie. “You’d best take out your sweater.”
The Scots have a particular loathing for slow play, as Tommy
Armour, a native Scotsman, was reminded one year when he was
playing in the British Open. He asked his caddie for the
line of his blind approach shot to the green.
“See that mast off in the distance?” said his caddie. “Just aim
for it, and you’ll be on the green.” Armour hit what he thought
was fine shot, but when he reached the green his ball was well
off to the side of the putting surface.
“I thought you said I should hit it at the mast,” said
“Aye, I did, but you took so long to play that the ship had
sailed,” said the caddie.
Playing in Dallas one day with an assistant professional, Ben
Hogan was repeatedly asked what club he was using. Finally,
Hogan, facing an approach shot from 150 yards out, gave the
ultimate playing lesson. He emptied all the balls from his
bag and hit the green with every club in his bag, except his
In the 1925 U.S. Open at Worcester CC in Massachusetts, Bobby
Jones called a penalty upon himself, stating that his ball had
moved when he addressed it. Nobody but Jones had seen the
ball move, and the ensuing one-stroke penalty put him into a
playoff with Willie Macfarlane, who beat him the next day.
Later, when Jones was praised for his sportsmanship, he
“There’s only one way to play the game,” he said. “You
might as well praise a man for not robbing a bank as to praise
him for playing by the rules.”
An American golfer playing in Scotland slices his drive off the
first tee into the gorse where it is unplayable. His caddie hands
him another ball which he drives straight down the middle of the
fairway. The golfer turns to his caddie and says that in the U.S.
the second ball is called a mulligan. He asks the caddie what
they call it in Scotland.
The caddie retorts, “Laddie, we call that a THREE.”
Bob Toski described golf champions in this way: “Some people try
to argue that golf isn’t really a sport, because there is no
physical risk. But they’re wrong. Physically golf is a
nonviolent, no contact sport, but all the violence is inside you.
Look at Bob Jones. He’d lost tremendous amounts of weight in the
course of a championship. At the end of a round his necktie would
be so knotted with sweat that he’s have to cut it away.
Bryon Nelson couldn’t keep food down prior to a round. That’s
what makes a player like Nicklaus, who thrives on pressure, so
remarkable. The champions in this game are the players who
can control the violence inside themselves.”
If Palmer had been good with the galleries, he was exceptionally
patient with the press, which is in some ways even more
impressive when you consider how many times he’s been asked the
same and often dumb questions.
In the 1961 Los Angeles Open, he came into the pressroom and was
asked how he managed to make a 13 on one hole. “It was easy,” he
said. “I missed a twenty-footer for a 12.”
For almost all of his adult life, both as a champion and as a
teacher who could command unprecedented fees, Tommy Armour was
used to the respect and adulation of others, and he was able to
keep it in perspective.
“It’s nice to be a good golfer and win championships, but hell
being the finest golfer in the world never cured anyone of
polio,” he observed.
John Cook came to the PGA Tour in 1980 on the heels of an amateur
career that saw him win the 1978 U.S. Amateur and twice be named
as an All-American at Ohio State. He won the Bing Crosby
National Pro-Am in 1981 and came to the final hole of the 1983
Tournament Players Championship with an excellent chance to win
the tournament and the ten-year exemption that goes with
it. He might have won, if it hadn’t been for a nice old
lady who was only trying to help.
As he approached the 18th tee, the lady caught his attention and
offered him some advice; “Now young man, whatever you do, don’t
hit it into the water.”
Cook hooked his tee shot into the lake. He made
double-bogey 6. Hal Sutton won the tournament.
Ted Williams and Sam Snead were having a heated debate about
which was more difficult, hitting a baseball or a golf ball.
Williams argued that hitting a round ball traveling 100 miles an
hour with a round bat was the toughest task in sports.
“Maybe so,” said Sam. “but we’ve got to play OUR foul balls.”
Moe Norman, the Canadian Pro noted for his pinpoint accuracy was
about to tee off on the first hole of a practice round for a
Canadian tournament. A few days earlier Moe had lost a tournament
because of his usual quick-putting style that sometimes led to
him missing short putts in crucial situations.
A sports writer asked what he was going to do about his putting.
In typical fashion, Moe didn’t answer the question right away.
Instead, he pulled a club out of his bag, hit the ball, then
turned to the reporters and announced, “I’m not putting today.”
The ball went in for a hole-in-one.
Walter Hagen was playing in a tournament when one of his approach
shots landed in a paper bag that had blown into a bunker. He
called for a ruling and was told he wasn’t allowed to take a free
drop and, therefore, would have to either play the ball or take
an unplayable lie and a one-stroke penalty.
Hagen had other ideas. As the gallery and the official looked on,
Hagen calmly lit a cigarette, took a few drags, and then dropped
it onto the bag, setting it aflame. Moments later, he hit the
ball onto the green and made the putt for a routine par.
Walter Hagen had a well-deserved reputation as a happy-go-lucky
raconteur, but tragedy visited his life one day when he was in
St. Paul for a tournament. As he drove along a downtown street a
young boy ran into the road. Hagen’s car hit him, killing the boy
instantly. Hagen was taken to jail, where a group of players
found him sobbing inconsolably in a cell.
“I couldn’t help it, fellas,” he cried. “It all happened too
fast. I hardly saw the boy.”
The players posted bail, and Hagen shot the next two rounds in
the 60s. Following each round he retreated to the privacy of the
locker room, where he broke down in tears. A fellow player,
Herman Barron, sat with his friend and asked him how he was able
to play so well under such painful conditions.
Herman, said Hagen, when you’ve got a job to do, you do it. It’s
the only thing that’s helped me forget the tragedy.”
There were two Zen monks going home from the Monastery and they
came to a river. A woman was standing by the river and she was
crying. The one Monk said to her, “My dear lady, why are you
She said, “My dress is long, the river is swollen, and I am to be
married. I can’t go across the river without getting my dress
wet. What can I do?”
“My dear lady,” he said, “jump on my back and I will carry you
So they went across the river, and he put her down on the other
side and bowed to her. He and his brother Monk continued on their
way back to the Monastery.
About a mile before the Monastery he noticed that the other Monk
has said nothing. He turned to him and said, “My dear brother
Monk, what is wrong? What is troubling you?”
The second monk said, “You know we Monks are allowed to have
nothing to do with women.”
The first monk replied, “My dear brother, I put that woman down
on the banks of the river five miles back. It has been you who
has been carrying her all the way back to the Monastery.”
Ben Hogan had just finished his round at the Masters when a young
amateur approached him.
“Mr. Hogan,” he said, “I was wondering why you didn’t try to
reach the (par 5) green on 13. You hit a good drive, and you
could have easily reached the green.”
Hogan looked at him for a moment and then answered tersely, “I
didn’t need a 3.”
- Ben Crenshaw only uses balls numbered four or less because
he never wants to score higher than four on a hole.
- Nancy Lopez never uses a tee somebody else has
- When he plays a par 3, Tom Weiskopf will search for a
- Phil Rogers warms up with even-numbered clubs on
even-numbered days and odd-numbered clubs on odd-numbered
days. The only exception is on the first day of a
tournament when he’ll hit only odd-numbered clubs.
- If Bruce Listzke begins a round wearing a sweater and is
playing well, he’ll keep that sweater on for the remainder of
the round, no matter how hot and uncomfortable it becomes.
- Jack Nicklaus always plays with three tees and three
pennies in his pocket. He occasionally carries the Ohio
state flower, a buckeye, along for good luck.
- Sam Snead would never chew gum on the course or sit down
during a round.
- J.C. Snead will never use a number 3 ball. It might
lead to 3 putting.
- Austrailian David Graham always carries two English coins
he was given by a friend.
- Gene Littler was playing in Las Vegas one year and the
singer Frankie Laine followed him, mostly because he had a big
bet on Littler. In the first two rounds Laine wore a pair of
bright red pants and Littler played very well. In the third
round Laine wore a brown pair of pants and Littler player
poorly. The next day Littler made sure that Laine was back
wearing the red pants. He won the tournament and Laine cashed
- Tiger Woods wears a red shirt on Sundays because his mother
told him it was his power color.
"Golf is deceptively simple and endlessly
complicated; it satisfies the soul and frustrates the intellect.
It is at the same time rewarding and maddening -- and it is
without a doubt the greatest game mankind has ever invented."
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