Science and Imagination
I was in Richmond, VA this past weekend, and had the opportunity Tuesday to have lunch and reconnect with my good friend of many years, Robert Wrenn. Some of you will remember Robert for his successful career on the PGA Tour in the 1980s. He won the Buick Open with a then-record score and had a number of good years around the #40-50 spot on the money list. But once Robert married his lovely wife Kathy, and then when they had their first child, the nomadic life of a tour professional lost a bit of its luster.
I remember him telling me back then that it became increasingly hard to pack up and head to the airport on Sundays and Mondays. He worked for ESPN for a while then settled down into a second career in financial management in Richmond, and is “living happily ever after”. I have always admired Robert for chasing his dream of playing professionally, then realizing when the dream changed to being the best dad and husband he could be – and he’s great at both.
Anyway, Robert and I were visiting about the new SCOR clubs I had sent, and the conversation migrated to the importance of the short game, and his work with a number of the local college players and mini-tour players. His take on this was fresh and clear, so I thought I would share it with you all.
Robert’s view is that the modern young players are all very well versed in the science and mechanics of the swing, and all of them hit the ball tremendously well. When he was playing, he said, only a few of the guys hit the ball as well as the average young player does now. But the difference was in their short games. He specifically mentioned his friend Corey Pavin, who was (and still is) the scrappiest player out there. He wasn’t blessed with great physical attributes, and was never going to be long. But he made up for it with a short range skill set that was unmatched.
As Robert explained it to me, these guys had imagination around the greens. When they got inside scoring range, it was no longer about mechanics or the science of the full swing. It was all about seeing a shot clearly in their mind, and knowing how to execute it. He sees that lacking in too many of the young players today. They have all spent so much time on launch monitors and video, on the range beating balls, they have the full swing skills down to a science. But they don’t spend enough time just experimenting with their wedges around the greens to see all the crazy things they can make a golf ball do just by trial and error.
We see that today in only a few of the players. Michelson comes to mind, and Tiger was (and probably still is) a magician around the greens. But few others come to mind and draw out that kind of description.
If you go to the range at any PGA or mini-tour event, you’ll see cookie-cutter swings and you wonder how any of them ever miss a fairway or green. But how many are over at the short game area practicing flop shots with an 8-iron? Or seeing how many different shots they can hit with a gap wedge?
The answer is not many. Something to think about, huh?
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[ comments ]
Torleif Sorenson says:
The difference is even more stark at the range at virtually any muni. This, despite a decade of access to everything from Harvey Penick's Little Red Video (and his famous book) to the Short Game Bible and Putting Bible by former NASA engineer Dave Pelz, who even teaches 'impossible' shots like a one-armed 'backward' swing in his short-game book. Terry, you and Robert are more correct than either of you will ever fully know.
And when money permits, I *do* hope to replace my ca. 1990 Hogan Edge short irons and wedges with your clubs; the basic design and technology will be undoubtedly a huge leap forward for me.
Ever since I started reading this column a few years ago, I've been spending most of my time working with the scoring clubs. Half of my practice time is devoted around the greens from 30 yards and in, icluding bunkers and putting. The other half is spent on the other parts of the game. I don't have a great imagination but I am getting better at developing feel.
I have great imagination around the greens, can visualize the shot, practice it until I feel comfortable that is the right plane-tempo-power-angle of attack-etc., and then chunk it, scull it, heel it, toe it, or hit an amazing shot. Very frustrating, and I do most of my practice on the range nowadays practicing the short shots. It literally pisses me off to spend so much time honing the skills only to have results that are never consistent. I LOVE THIS GAME!
One word. Seve!
The cookie cutter swings of the top players makes it even clearer to me that golf is made up of, at least, three sub-games: full power game, short game, and putting. I am really amazed at how many top shelf golfers with great power games (and cookie cutter swings) cannot putt well or have much of an "imaginative" (I like the term) short game.
PS sv677, I was thinking Seve also.
Bryan K says:
Oh, I have a TON of imagination around the greens. It's the ability to execute all that I want that is lacking. Predicting how a ball is going to roll once it lands is an art. Manipulating the spin on the ball to make it react how you want it to react with the slope in mind once the ball lands transcends the abilities of mere mortals like me.
I played with a young man who was on a local golf team this weekend. I wanted so badly to help him and give him a few pointers because his entire game was absolutely atrocious. ESPECIALLY around the greens. Its like he had one club and one shot for use everywhere within 100 yards.
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