THE WIS­DOM OF JACK

Golf Digest (South Africa) - - Contents 11/18 -

No golfer's words carry more heft than Nick­laus'. Here are 28 of his most en­dur­ing lessons.

Twenty ma­jors if you count his two US Am­a­teurs, in stone the win­ner for all time. Cham­pi­ons great and small have sought his coun­sel in club­houses and ter­races across the world. Nick­laus started writ­ing for Golf Di­gest in the early 1970s.What fol­lows are some of his most en­dur­ing words that have ap­peared in our mag­a­zine across four decades. ● learn, ● ● prac­tice

and trust one ba­sic swing. Most golfers, and es­pe­cially those who be­gin the game as adults, pick it up and then con­tinue to play by trial and er­ror, rather than by for­mally learn­ing one ba­sic method. ● ● ● i’ve al­ways be­lieved the club should dom­i­nate you in­stead of you dom­i­nat­ing the club. ● ● ● to me, win­ning by one is the same as win­ning by 10. ● ● ●

aim and align­ment are by far the most im­por­tant el­e­ments of the act of mov­ing a golf ball from A to B. Rub the magic lamp, get the ge­nie to give you any golf swing of your choice from his­tory, and, if you don’t di­rect it cor­rectly from the be­gin­ning, it still won’t re­duce your present score by even one measly stroke. ● ● ● Even the gut­si­est play­ers learn they can’t try the hero shot all the time. ● ● ● you first have to see the trou­ble, then think pos­i­tively about play­ing away from it. Some play­ers might say they just “let it hap­pen.”Well, you don’t ever just let it hap­pen. ● ● ● i hold the club fairly loosely, but just be­fore start­ing back, I press my hands to­gether on the grip once or twice. I call this a “sta­tion­ary press.” ● ● ● the harder I want to hit a shot, the slower I try to be­gin the swing. ● ● ● the fuller your back­swing the longer it takes to ex­e­cute, which can help your tempo. Longer swingers, I’ve no­ticed, usu­ally en­joy longer-last­ing ca­reers. ● ● ●

i be­lieve the Ry­der Cup is an ex­hi­bi­tion by some of the best golfers in the world, great en­ter­tain­ment and an ex­er­cise in sports­man­ship, ca­ma­raderie and good­will.The in­di­vid­ual per­for­mances, good or bad, don’t de­ter­mine who the best play­ers in the world are. Nor does the side that hap­pens to win de­ter­mine on what side of the At­lantic the best golf is played.Too many peo­ple be­lieve oth­er­wise, and that helps make the matches too con­tentious among the teams and their fans. ● one ● ● of my

life­long check­points is to keep the shaft be­tween my arms through­out the swing. ● prac­tice ● ● hit­ting

as fully as you can with­out let­ting ei­ther heel lift at any point in the swing.This will teach you the proper way to shift weight by rolling your an­kles, but most of all it will teach you the feel­ing of stay­ing “cen­tred.” ● i be­lieve ● ●

it’s im­pos­si­ble for me to hit too soon with the club­head.When I need a through-swing thought, it’s most of­ten, Re­lease! Use the club­head! ● ● ●

al­though I have great af­fec­tion for the Masters, as far as pure golf I’d rather play in the Bri­tish Open than any other event. ● ● ●

pa­tience was al­ways my strength. When a player says a course doesn’t suit him, he’s half beaten right there. ● ● ●

on most cour­ses there are only five or six shots where you re­ally need to pay at­ten­tion and play con­ser­va­tive. ● ● ●

when i putt I hold my breath just be­fore ini­ti­at­ing the stroke to keep my head and body still. ● ● ●

i vi­su­alise the put­ter shaft as be­ing ex­tremely lim­ber, al­most as flex­i­ble as a length of rope, which means the only way I can get the club­head to swing truly is to stroke putts very softly. ● ● ●

i know I have to make the putt.There is no al­ter­na­tive. It has to go in.That was my fo­cus. ● ● ●

i al­ways like to have a cou­ple of short 4s on my cour­ses.They cre­ate va­ri­ety and make the golfer think. ● ● ●

with so much money in the pro game, con­ser­va­tive medi­ocrity sort of pre­vails.The goal is to make a good liv­ing more than it is to win.Yes, there’s a lot of depth in the pro game. If you took a large group of to­day’s play­ers and put them against the group from my prime, to­day’s group

would prob­a­bly beat their brains out. But I think our four or five top guys, as a group, would have beaten the brains out of the play­ers of to­day. ● ● ● it’s not that I wouldn’t get ner­vous, but I could al­ways think straight un­der pres­sure. I know some peo­ple tend to go blank ● ● ● on a sec­ond-shot course, you use the tee shot to truly cre­ate your sec­ond.This type of de­sign hap­pens to be my favourite. ● ● ●

if you start with the club grounded, the nat­u­ral ten­dency is for it to re­turn to that spot at im­pact. In other words, you’re pre-set­ting a fat shot. ● ● ●

i shot my age for the first time at 64 in Hawaii. ● ● ● i never hit a shot even in prac­tice, with­out hav­ing a very sharp, in-fo­cus pic­ture of it in my head. It’s like a colour movie. ● ● ● the key to play­ing well is to first un­der­stand who you are as a per­son, and then man­age that. ● ● ● i’m find­ing now, more than ever, that the game of a life­time can give you the time of your life with­out ever strik­ing a shot.

IT’S NOT THAT I WOULDN’T GET NER­VOUS, BUT I COULD AL­WAYS THINK STRAIGHT UN­DER PRES­SURE.

NICK­LAUS AND DOUG SAN­DERS AT THE 1970 OPEN AT THE OLD COURSE AT ST AN­DREWS.

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