Ever wonder what Ben Hogan, Jimmy Demaret, Jackie Burke Jr and other great players of the past were thinking while playing golf? What would be it be like to in their heads as they prepared to hit a shot, and how would it differ from the way many players approach the game today? Eben Dennis had the chance when he was younger to spend some time those legends, and learned from them how they approached the game.
They were using their feel and imagination not thinking about their backswing or swing plane. They were artists with the club being their paint brush. They played golf and not golf swing. They understood the tools they were using like a carpenter understands his. They developed routines that would allow them to repeat how they prepared to play the shot at hand. They prepared for the golf course as if it were a chess match. As Hogan once said a golfer playing golf without feel would be like a deaf man trying to play the piano by ear. They knew the equipment was built for ease of use and respected its value.
Most from that era also learned to play during the wooden shaft era and if they swung too hard they would break the clubs so they stayed with that feeling when steel shafts came along and allowed players to slash at the ball without penalty of a broken club. They also understood as many of the best players do today that the golf ball just gets in the way of going forward toward the target instead of hitting at it like most players do. The best understood that you can control the club effectively only from your fingers and that everything supports what they do.
In short they were doing little thinking and mostly creating.
How often have you played golf with a state of mind like this? How often have you thought of yourself as an artist, with the golf club and ball as your paint brush, and the golf course as your canvas.
Eben also shared a story with me about the time he had a chance to play 9 holes with the Champions Golf club founder Jimmy Demaret. Mr. Demaret hadn’t competed in about 10 years and hadn’t swung a club in months, yet played nine holes with Eben and shot 31, making it look effortless and easy. Afer the fifth time of Eben asking him how he could make it look so easy after not swinging a club for so long, Mr. Demaret looked at him and said “I just look where I want to go, then feel the shot and go there.”