My Favorite Bobby Jones Golf Tips

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Well, the 2009 Fedex Cup is almost over and the golf season is winding down. Where did the time go? I feel like it was just yesterday we were watching The Masters and talking about the legendary Bobby Jones, as we do every year when the azaleas are in bloom.

Well, this year, we get to remember him twice because this year the Fedex Cup ends its season at East Lake, the oldest course in Atlanta, where Bobby Jones started his golfing career at the age of 6, and ended it at the ripe old age of 28.

Mike Southern at ruthlessgolf.com thought it would be fun to have a bit of a blog-a-thon about Bobby Jones during the Tour Championship. Cool idea, don’t you think? Check out all these great posts from fellow bloggers!

Art Murphy from LifeandGolf gives us …We Play the Ball Where It Lies, a collection of miscellaneous quips and quotes about golf and golfers from Bobby Jones.

Mike Southern at Ruthless Golf wonders Could Bobby Jones Have ‘Cut It’ Against Today’s Pros?, and shows us what science and Jones’s own notes have to say about the debate.

Vince Spence from The One-Eye Golfer writes about An Affair to Remember – Bobby Jones and St. Andrews, as he looks at the affection of the champion golfer for the Old Course at St. Andrews, Scotland which started in 1921.

Greg D’Andrea at From the Rough talks about Golf’s Proper Place. “Bobby Jones played competitive golf only three months of the year, always keeping in perspective the game’s original intent – ‘a means of obtaining recreation and enjoyment.'”

Charles Boyer from Me and Old Man Par has chosen Bobby Jones’ Competitors: Many of Them Were Good, One Was Great. “It is often thought that Bobby Jones showed up and crushed his competition on the way to another victory,” Charles says. “The truth is that he had many worthy competitors and one, Walter Hagen, stood above all the others as Jones’ most worthy competitor.”

Michael Green at Aussie Golfer tells about Searching for Bobby Jones, where a search for Bobby Jones in Australia finds remarkable similarities to modern day golf.

Jon Blackburn from The Common Golfer looks at Bobby Jones: Golf’s Original Common Golfer. It’s a celebration of Bobby Jones’ life, and what made him unique amongst his golfing peers.

Apryl DeLancey at Women Like Sports features in her weekly Wild World of Wednesday post about how good friends Alexa Sterling and Bobby Jones continued to play golf during WWI in order to raise money for a good cause.

And Ryan Ballengee from Waggle Room sends us a vlog from East Lake about how Jones’ spirit influences the club and community today.

At first, I was wondering what to write about, but it didn’t take me long to remember how much I enjoyed watching his series on TV (filmed in 1931) “How I play golf”. I have watched all 12 episodes and am still in awe of his fluid swing and uncanny ability to make golf look easy.

Now, many of his swing techniques would not be considered “proper” these days (e.g. turning his lower body too much, lifting his left foot so high, coming inside quickly on his backswing, and his unorthodox re-gripping of the last 2 fingers of his left hand on his transition from backswing to downswing), but there were some gems in his TV shows that I still remember today and try to apply to my own game. Here are just a few…

1. Forget your right hand – only think of the left. If you try and use your right hand to “help” the ball, you’ll probably hook it. Yup…happens every time! I remember Camilo Villegas saying something similar in this month’s Golf Magazine. “Keep your left wrist flat when you strike the ball.” CV says that’s his all time favorite swing tip. It’s mine too.

2. Tuck your right elbow close to the body on the downswing. This is one I have to really think about when I practice. I’m not sure why, but I have a chicken wing problem that needs constant attention. And when that wing tries to fly, Shankerella rears her ugly head.

3. Get your left hip out of the way. Although I don’t like to lift my left heel on the takeaway like Bobby did (I lose all control if I do that), I do think about smacking my heel down in my shoe to help me start my downswing with my lower body. It’s really more of a weight shift trigger for me, but it started by watching Bobby Jones’ left foot on his downswing. If I don’t do this, I tend to use my arms too much, blocking my hips and getting a big fat slice.

Two other traits of Bobby Jones’ swing I’d love to copy are his tensionless body and his balance. Those two goals are still a “work in progress” for me – especially the tension. By the 18th hole my left forearm is often in pain because, in my effort to keep it straight, I end up creating enormous tension. Bobby Jones’ left arm had a curve to it. He didn’t lock it stiff like so many of us are told to do when we first start playing. It is very hard to have a straight arm without tension. Actually it’s very hard to play golf without tension, period!

And then there is the mental tips/quips…
Bobby Jones was quoted as saying, “Some people think they are concentrating when they’re merely worrying.” Boy, did he have that right! How many of us think we are focused, but really, we just have too many swing thoughts in our heads. How many of us walk up to a ball in fear? Bury my ball in the sand and my concentration will turn to worry in very short order.

He also said, “Sometimes the game of golf is just too difficult to endure with a golf club in your hands.” Haha…isn’t that the truth? Yup, even the great Robert Tyre Jones Jr. understood that as easy as he made golf look, it just isn’t. Nope…as my golfguy always says, “Life is easy – Golf is hard”. Something tells me even for the greatest golf legend of all time would probably agree with that.

Golfgal

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25 comments

  1. Terrific choices of tips ! It may be difficult to see the modern swing in Bobby Jones’ swing with the equipment he used – but you picked some great fundamentals !

    East Lake Golf Club has been the permanent home of The Tour Championship since 2004. Before that, it was held here in ’98, ’00, and ’02 – alternating with the Champions Golf Club in Houston, TX.

  2. Francis Ouimet, a fairly good player himself commented many times on Bobby Jones. He even stated once that he played the best round of his life against Bobby, lost and felt “no shame” as he knows he could have and would have beaten anyone else who had ever played the game.

  3. I always find myself amazed at Bobby Jones. The man played so little, yet so well… I can’t shake the idea that he just knew something that the rest of us miss.

    And “How I Play Golf” is my favorite instructional material ever made. It seemed to sum up his approach; he not only taught, he entertained. I think modern golf instructors could still learn a lot from him.

  4. Great article Gayle! It sounds like you have a great eye for how a golf swing should look. I’m a fairly decent golfer…but anytime someone asks me to look at their swing, I’m lost lol.

    It’s definitely interesting to see how certain aspects of the golf swing that were taught back in Jones’ day, are now frowned upon. When you consider how successful people like Bobby Jones, Harvey Penick, et al were with things like lifting their left heels in the backswing, it makes you wonder why we shouldn’t continue in that manner.

  5. Thanks guys!

    One of the things Bobby did a lot was turn his hips around in his backswing (a big no no today). Or is it? I just read Tom Watson’s article in Golf Mag this month where he talks about “playing young” and how it’s okay to turn your hips on your backswing (and necessary when you’re getting old and inflexible – like me!).

    As for liftig the heel – if it’s good enough for Bobby and Jack, that’s good enough for me.
    🙂

  6. Harvey Penick said, “If the heel wants to come off the ground, let it.” He used it as a timing device – the right elbow came down to the right hip at the same time the left heel hit he ground, triggering the hip turn.

  7. Keep in mind that the “looseness” of Jones’ swing was in large part due to the quite flexible hickory shafts of his time…something that would be akin roughly to a “ladies” flex today.

    The art of Jones swing, as it is in Jim Furyk’s or Tiger Woods or any other great player is that they 1) have the left “backhanding” through impact — it is pointed perpendicularly to the selected target line and 2) their fastest part of the swing is through the impact zone and 3) they can all repeat it time after time after time.

    Add in a strong mind and an iron will to win, and you have a champion. Stir in a heaping helping of grace and sportsmanship and you have a player that all, including one Jack Nicklaus, can aspire to be.

    If I am 5% of the player that Jones was, then I will consider myself good.

  8. I love watching Bobby on the Golf Channel – such a fluid swing. I’ve tried remembering all these tips…but the one I struggle with the most is that “chicken wing” right elbow..and I’m glad to see I’m not alone.

    Thanks for a wonderful post.

  9. Great tips from the master himself. There is no golfer that will ever take his place.

  10. I had no idea you enjoyed golf. See I’m learning more and more. great informative post. Unfortunately, I had a bad experience learning golf at 18, and have not played since.

  11. Ah…but GutsyWriter…you learnd how to fo From Freeways to Flip-Flops – so… You can do anything you put your mind to 🙂

  12. bobby jones had one hell of a natural swing and swung the club the same way he did when he was 14 his whole life. what a gift and turned it into something with practice. I do agree that a ladies flex in your shaft will yield more of a looseness to your swing like jones had.. doesnt mean you will swing like him though

  13. Oh, to swing like BJ! That would be too much to ask. But a little magic from the master would be a wonderful thing.
    Thanks so much for your comment.

    cheers
    Golfgal

  14. Top website, I hadn’t noticed http://www.golfgal-blog.com earlier during my searches!
    Keep up the excellent work!

  15. Nice post! Point 2, about keeping your elbows tucked in was really helpful for me.

    I used to have a very bad slice and didn’t know what the problem was.

    Sure enough, I tried tucking my elbows in during the shot and had amazing results!

    Thanks for helping my game.

  16. Hey “Golf Techniques”! Thanks for your comment. Bobby helped a lot of us 😉 When I feel things going downhill, I often think, “What would Bobby Jones do?”

    Cheers
    Gayle

  17. Tom Watson was a great advocate of ignoring the left hans. His visualisation was to have the back of the left hand pointing to the target at the point of impact

  18. Hi Iain! Thanks for your comment. I am a huge Tom Watson fan and am seriously thinking about buying his DVD.

    What I’d really like to have besides his swing is his temperment. What a role model he is!

    Cheers
    Gayle

  19. Golfgal,

    WWBJD, indeed.

    Actually, it’s a relief to know that some great golfers had the tendency (habit?) of lifting their heel on the back swing. It reminds me of how baseball players take an extra step before they swing as a timing mechanism.

    Good post. Thanks for the info.

  20. I notice that some earlier champion golfers’ swings are somehow considered ‘flawed’ today. Don’t know why, I mean ultimately what matters is what worked for them. Look at Moe Norman, as far as I know he had no formal golf training, and he innovated the one-plane golf swing.

    -Alex Carson-
    GetGolfTips.com

  21. Hey thanks Alex. Yes, you are right. I remember someone once saying of Ben Hogan – “Don’t try this at home” because of what he did to cure his hook.

    To each his own – one size doesn’t fit all. If it works, why fix it? Lots of reasons to play within your own abilities/game.

    Thanks!
    Gayle

  22. Amazing articles, you’re so great, i’ll do the same

    How To Golf

  23. Hi – I am definitely glad to find this. Good job!

  24. Gosh am I behind judging from the dates of this blog. However, if you are still accepting comments…I study Bob Jones’s golf swing and pattern mine after it as closely as I can. Much of his swing is based on tempo, probably to help keep those flexible sticks of his under control. I do remember one tip from him that makes an enormous impact on a golf swing. That tip is to swing the head of the golf club not just the club. He said to imagine a ball on the end of a string and then swing the ball while keeping the string stretched out. This creates a wonderful tempo. Slow and smooth and in control. Remember to swing easy and let the club do what it is designed to do. This is even more true now with these new ultra light drivers. Tempo and balance are important fundamentals. Thanks for the article on Mr Jones. I am signing up myself and my sister for your future posts. Minnesota Golfer

  25. It’s never too late to post a comment “Minnesota Golfer” 🙂

    When the weather starts to cooperate again, I’m going to try that tip. Often I think too much about my hands and not the end of the club. I’ll think about the club head next time I’m at the range and see how it goes.

    Thanks so much!

    Cheers
    Gayle

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