Creativity: Imagination in Golf
By joe jones on 2/5/13
As long as oobers like Joseph Jones submit well written guest columns, we're going to keep publishing them.

Creativity is the ability to come up with solutions that are beyond the norm. In other words the ability to use your imagination to come up with a solution that is outside the box.

In golf we have all seen or have experienced fantastic shots that literally blow our minds. From week to week on the PGA Tour, players show their skills by bring forth comments like "Oh my God", "Did you see that", "That's impossible" or my favorite from fellow competitors "He did what?"

In fact many of those shots are practiced . Players often try ridiculous shots while they practice just in case the situation comes up during tournament play. I have done it myself and daresay many of you have as well.

  • Mickelson's over the head backwards wedge.

  • Tiger's 180* chip in on the 16th at the Masters.

  • Bubba's 40 yard wedge on 10 at the Masters.

  • Nicklaus 1 iron hitting the flag on the 17th at Pebble Beach U.S Open.

  • Watson's chip in at the same 17th hole at the U.S Open
While all of these shots are remarkable they probably were all practiced.

I am talking about the shots that require the ability to venture into what every ordinary golfer knows is impossible. Having the creativity to come up with something that no one else has ever thought of before and then actually executing the thing you have thought of.

Golf has always had it's great escape artists. The following are some shots that I feel came out of the blue and qualify for special consideration.

Miguel Angel Jimenez banking a ball off the wall at the road hole at St. Andrews onto the green to save par.
Seve's shot from under a tree while on his knees at the British Open.

Sergio Garcia's shot from the base of a tree at the 1999 PGA.

Lee Trevino skipping a ball across the pond at the 16th at Masters.

Corey Pavin turning a 7 iron upside down, hitting left handed from between a rock and a tree root.

My personal favorite, which I witnessed was a shot that Trevino played at the Western Open when it was played at Butler National.

Lee attempted to reach a par five in two. His ball barely trickled into the trap leaving him with no back swing. With 4 inches between his ball and the wall of the trap he was faced with what I thought were 2 options. Hit sideways in either direction. He had no more that 15 feet to the pin and with a normal blast would have had a hard time staying close to the pin.

He took his normal stance, opened up his wedge facing the sky, took the club straight up and smashed his club straight down behind the ball. The ball popped out and stopped 6 inches from the pin. 250 spectators fell dead silent and then erupted with a roar. As he backed out of the trap Lee commented "Oh! I have all the shots, I just don't know when I am going to hit them". The crowd roared with laughter. That's Lee.

Topping that is hard to do but the following story may do it.

In a money game at Cedartown one day, a guy named Dallas Weaver found his ball behind a tree. A lot of money was riding. We thought he was dead. Their were train tracks running by the course, and just then a freight train came through. Weaver turned sideways, took a low iron and banked the ball off the side of a freight car and almost onto the green.

That defines creativity and imagination.

If you have any additional examples they are welcome. I think I could write a book about this subject alone.

This was written by Joseph Jones, a reader/follower/fellow oober and the opinions are 100% his and do not reflect those of oobgolf in anyway. Enjoy! I'm sure he's ready for your feedback.

Have an idea for a guest column? Send it here!

Image via Flickr, Sean MacEntee

[ comments ]
bducharm says:
Just a bit of a correction - it was a 40 yard HOOK wedge for Bubba!

Gotta love pulling off those "impossible" shots. One of the best I heard was when Feherty and Sam Torrance were playing against Seve and Olazabal in a practice game. Seve had NOTHING out of the bunker, took a 4 iron, smashed it into the face of the bunker and almost holed it. He stood up and looked at the other guys who were dumbfounded and said "What?" like he knew he was going to do it all along...
bkuehn1952 says:
Some good stories, Joe. When someone I am playing with does something unusual AND spectacular, I always joke that it doesn't count unless one calls the shot first.

My nephew and I always have a little golf competition when we cross paths. We were playing an executive course in the Scottsdale area (Shadow Mountain) several years ago. As I prepared to hit my 2nd shot from a bunker I mentioned to my nephew that I had never holed a bunker shot until a couple weeks previously, when I did it for the first time. I then splashed the ball out and into the hole. I wish I had had a camera to snap a photo of my nephew's face when it rolled in.

Admittedly, that shot does not rise to the standards of "out of the box imagination" but the timing was pretty good. ;)
onedollarwed says:
Wow, that's a pretty high bar for creativity! Those kind of performances might better be called improbable-audacious-improvisational-execution!
Just for fun I looked up "creative" and "create" in my OED and there are several distinct senses to the word: 1) create in the divine sense, to bring into being or cause to exist. 2) create from nothing, like a pot from clay. 3) Originality, like a person who defines an acting role, plays it for the first time, or makes something new, never seen before.
I like the second one the most for golf: makes from nothing. In this sense we all create our game and our shots; what we risk, what we invest, what we take away. And when it clicks, it's practically divine!
Strictly speaking a duffer may make a dozen unique (and yes that means that improbable ricochet off of the tee marker and then the beer can!) shots during a typical round, though we don't usually call that creative because it doesn't suit the goal of the game.
onedollarwed says:
The shots you describe are like actors defining a role - because of the public-ness of the act - and because others can then use those shots or that attitude in their own game. When we step into our golfers' shoes we are "all one golfer" in a sense, and can often hope to have a round free from trouble or obstacles. This can lead to a contrived or cliched approach. A given lie may suggest a particular shot shape or trajectory, yet are we open to going with that impulse, making something from nothing, or at least what we are given. Or, are we punching from within a paper bag of cliche and unimaginative play? Many creative ideas make the scorecard bleed.
My most creative golf took place at a then un-populated Alameda CA airfield/town. A friend and I played through the streets and over buildings taking high hops and caroms off the concrete and hangars. Our holes consisted of picking out a tree or house in the far distance and playing to hit that.
joe jones says:
onedollarweed. What you describe is almost like a game of horse played with golf clubs on a massive scale. great idea.
legitimatebeef says:
I feel I have all the creativity and imagination I need. I can "see" shots with the best of them. Good execution is a different story.
GBogey says:
Good stories Joe. I have occasionally practiced various types of punch shots to get through/around/under trees, and actually have become pretty good at them through lots of experience at one heavily treed course I play. I find in these instances the necessity of experience is the practice I can have.
mjaber says:
Is it just me, or do most of the "creative" shots appear only when the golfer has, basically, screwed up? You're not supposed to be there. Don't get me wrong, I loved Bubba's hook, love Phil's flop shots, in awe of Tiger's furious lashes out of just about anywhere, but isn't the point to NOT have to do that? Don't we strive for "boring" golf?
onedollarwed says:
Hah! $1 Wednesday that is... see:

I'm pretty much a golf outsider. The closest relative who played was my Mother's cousin. And never played until 13 at a pitch and putt in England. Rugby and Football injuries brought me more into the game. So I don't follow/watch the game hardly at all.
It seems to me that many courses are created like a "trail of breadcrumbs." An obvious, almost requisite approach to the hole. I don't think that the golfers of yore would have liked that. Sometimes the most fun you can have are playing those quirky "undesigned" types of courses... you know, the ones with the chicken barns, graveyards, boulders, in the middle. Nowadays many course feature these in the design intentionally. But I'm talking unintentional power lines, swamps, and lack of real-estate forcing odd turns/OB etc. that bring out the opportunity for creativity. Look:
onedollarwed says:
The above course also features 18,13, and 11 hole rates?!?!
jasonfish11 says:
I've got 2 (well 1 shot).
The first isn't really a shot we just had to play creativly. My friend and I would play 1-5 at the cc he belonged to right before they took the pins out. So no one was on the course and we would tee up at the tips of #1 and play to the #5 cup. Person in, in the fewest strokes wins. Of course we didn't play off any greens (free releif) so we didn't mess them up.

The 2nd was the only hole in 1 I've ever seen. Actually a horrible shot. Playing w/ my dad and his friend. 180ish yard par 3. His friend hits a pull worm burner that never got more than 6" off the ground. Until it hit the curb on the cart path which bounced it onto the green the ball rolled across the green and into the hole.
jasonfish11 says:
Oh and how do you leave off Bill Hass's out of the water for $10,000,000 shot? Given the situation that is probably the most amazing shot I've ever seen.
onedollarwed says:
@fish... love the format!

I am reminded of a scene from Rick Reilly's "Shanks For Nothing," when on the day before the big tournament, a dry-witted Scottish caddie teaches him "everything he knows." This includes such creative shots as the Musselborough Skitter, which is a half-topped 7-iron that runs along the ground li' a shor'-legged weasel, putting from 50 yards off the green, and shots called the: Lance Armstrong, Calista Flockhart, Kate Winslet, Joan Rivers, Lorena Bobbit, Michael Moore, Rush Limbaugh, Steven Tyler, Nelson Rockefeller; to love playing the ball low all in the pouring rain. Of course he would have to play in Scotland in the rain and needed a reorientation in thinking and shotmaking!
I think we all learn unique shots and modes of play from where and when we play. Here in New England, you're playing through forests, wind, and even on frozen courses. In CA I had to learn to play in severe heat, elevation changes, clay mud, and to read the drying of the course throughout the day.
joe jones says:
jasonfish11. Bill Hass's shot was one of the shots I had on my list along with many others. It certainly wasn't my intention to denigrate a wonderful shot. When I asked for other suggestions from Oober's I was sure that shot would be one of them. Keep them coming.
joe jones says:
When I played at St. Andrews I found a Beckley Ralston chipper (niblick) upside down in a barrel of old clubs. The blade was about 4 inches long, it had about 32* of loft, a hickory shaft and a square leather grip.I removed my 3 iron and put the club in my bag, My caddie for three day's had a ball teaching me how to bump and run with that "Darlin" club as he called it. It opened my eyes to how inventive one could be on the golf course. My daughter still has the club ( I Hope). I have learned to hit the same kind of shots with a 7 iron but they just don't feel the same.
onedollarwed says:
I made a pretty good course at my parents' house when I was a kids. With 14 acres to work with I used some field and some forest. We used plastic balls with custom duct tape/ electrical tape applications to improve distance/ straightness. The course was named Tangleweeds and very popular among friends. Holes were anywhere from 30-150 yds. A few holes went around/off the house, while other went over/through breaks in trees/ under the canopy.
Actually there weren't any holes, but stakes or small trees. Within one clublength was "in," but if you hit the stake from outside of that, the stroke wasn't counted. But here's the point. You could only use one club, and all I had was my grandfathers' old leather-gripped rusty clubs. The same club was used for teeing off, chopping out of the tall field grass, keeping it low under trees, and chipping to the stake ("putting"). Very freeing to just carry one club and use it in innumerable ways. Invaluable experience!
FatGuyGolf says:
Once during a money match with a buddy, I had a par-4 tee shot trickle just off the rough and barely into the woods. On the drive to my ball I can see I'm dead, about 2 feet directly behind a big tree. It's a pivotal hole in the match, and my buddy (who's in Postition A) starts giggling.

I get to my ball and realize the tree blocking me out splits into 2 main trunks about 18 inches off the ground. There's maybe a 6-inch "V" in the trunk, directly on a line to the pin. Of course, I hit a 6 iron through the 6-inch "V" and up onto the fringe. My buddy's jaw dropped open. I then managed to 2-putt for a par to halve the hole. My buddy never recovered, and I went on to win the match.
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