The Art of Golf is learning to do nothing
Golf with Mehlhorn
The play of the game

Mehlhorn had a great message for all golfers and that was in the management or you might say the style of play. Although he was the longest hitter he said to me one time "In my entire playing career, except with my three wood, I don't believe I hit more than fifty shots full to the hole." He then said " I hit mostly long chip shots, 1/4 shots, or 1/2 shots." Bill learned early in his career from his idol Harry Vardon that the effort used to hit the ball should be like the effort you use to cut a tree down with an ax. You can't use all your effort to swing that ax because you wouldn't last. The natural effort that we should use is about 2/3 of our effort. Thats our naturalness and you can play without making a mistake. If you go more than that you can make mistakes. That is the basic style of play. I'll give you another quote of Bill"s He said "if you hit a bad shot instead of trying to get it all back with the next shot, take a !/2 shot penalty and just get the ball safely in play. After all you hit a poor shot take your penalty. That will keep the sixes off your card".

I'm going to tell a few stories about Mr. Mehlhorn and some stories that include some golf history which I lived through. We had an 80th birthday party for Mr. Mehlhorn at Fountainbleau golf course in Miami where Bill taught people to know the game. That was in 1978. Harry Cooper came over from Doral where he taught. Harry and Bill were sitting at a table discussing the old days when Bill rapped is knuckles on the hard table top a couple of times and said yah! the greens were as hard and as fast as this table, Harry agreed and said" there was a lot of four putting in those days". Bill then went on,and they use to roll those greens with a ten ton roller and they got as hard as this table. They sometimes would soak the front approaches so that you had to hit a low shot and try to bounce through that slush or find a bank of a hill to bounce off to get it on the green. If you hit the green the second bounce would be over, you couldn't hold those greens, no way, unless the Good Lord would send some rain. They talk about scoring, lets see these guys today score under those conditions. It was a great day for all of us evesdropping on living history.

I'll relate a story of myself when I was a boy. I was born in 1936. So in the 40's I was still quite young but I did play golf after a fashion. My dad was the professional at Manakiki, a Donald Ross course,near 'Cleveland and we lived in the middle of the course. What luck for me. Across the sixth fairway from our house was an old equipment barn and in the hickory woods near the barn they parked their ten ton roller. It had three giant rollers, one in the front and two trailing on each side. They were probably five feet tall and four or five feet wide. They would fill them with water when they used them, but stored them empty. Well, I would climb up the 4x6 steel plated tongue and struggle to get on top and play king of the mountain If you banged them with a rock, they made a great drum.

They would use that roller every spring after the last frost to level the ground. They rolled the entire golf course.

We had a green suprintendent at a course a few miles away, Pine Ridge. His name was Mike Sopko. He was a great guy and played like a pro. I remember, still in the fifties, when they held a tournament there Mike would roll those greens hard as a rock and soak the front approaches. Everyone screamed, but Mike was just giving a little flavor of early tournament golf.

I'll get to the substance of this article soon, but first some more related stories.

At the birthday party Bill and Harry swapped stories and talked about the rough. Bill said, if you hit it in the rough you'd just tee up another, because chances are you"d never find it. Most of the time it was above your knees or higher. The caddies in those days where indispensable as they would always be ahead watching for errent shots.

When I was a boy I would play on the sickle mower. I'd sit on the big steel seat with the working levers and just imagine as kids do. They used that mower to cut the rough about twice a summer.
The mower had to big steel wheels and a seven foot long sickle bar with two sharp serated blades that moved rapidly in opposite directions. It was a dangerous machine but it cut down everything in sight.

It would be towed with a tractor and the operator would sit on the big steel seat and lift the that heavy bar for transport and for obsticles. After they mowed, they towed a big ten foot hay rake. The operator, sitting in his big steel seat, would lift the rake when it was full and deposit the grass in giant long rows to be picked up by the hay wagon.

That all ended abruptly in the forties. I wound up playing on old rusting equipment. Because of World War II golf balls became really scarce. I remember my dad packing up boxes of old beat up golf balls and sending them off to Acushnet to be reprocessed. What he got back where Acusnet Grade A for $1.00, Grade B for .90 and Grade C for .75. Those Grade C balls flew like a wounded duck but people where glad to have them.

The days of knee high rough was gone, in the States at least. It had had its hay day so to speak. The roughs where of necessity mowed the same as fairways with reel type mowers just set a little higher.

Enough stories, but as you can see the old timers had to have control of that golf ball. In chapter ten of Mehlhorn's book he explains the physics and physiology behind the style of play he used and suggests that you use, in the play of the game.You will have the act of discovery,an upliftment as it were,as you adopt this style of play. You will have the identical thoughts maybe even the intution Mehlhorn had. You will have his feels, his pictures painted in a new dimention in your mind. You will be reanimating the shots of those bye gone days. The traditional beliefs of shot making we accept as unshakable assumptions can only be over turned by personally expeiencing a superior methodology.

The following exercise is a gift of Mr. Mehlhorn to everyone and it could be the first step toward setting aside those hither to assumptions. We all are looking for the the truth in things, the finding of which is so uplifting. If we can just verify for ourselves what others say, It goes a long way in promoting that belief system.

Take six golf balls, your nine iron, your six iron, your three iron and your three wood, In the evening or at a time when there is little play, walk out on the fairway, drop the six balls and play them with your nine iron. Use a swing that is half your effort. Pace the distance the ball carried and the ball rolled. Write it down if your like me. Now pick the balls and play your six iron using the same half effort swing you used with the nine iron. Again pace the distance the ball carried in flight and also the distance it rolled. Now replicate that process with the three iron and the three wood. You will be amazed at the length and control of the flight. You are now armed with at least an impression of how to play shots to the pin that land on the front of the green and run to the pin. You can land them to take one or two bounces before the green and still be quite accurate. You are now playing percentages shots. Just remember when you play you'll be the only one out there doing that. That is so delicious.

Chick Harbert a fine player and one of my heros,a Ryder Cup player that could hit it a mile, stated " if you can hit a six iron one hundred and twenty yards with half your effot, can you hit it two forty with all your effort? Your just not giving up that much for control.

Should you wish to duplicate this exercise that Mr. Mehlhorn discribes, I suggest you do that with the aid of the grass whip swing. Its like two birds with one stone, so to speak. The instructions for the use of the grass whip swing are on this web site.

I mentioned Chatpter ten of Bills book earlier, if you would like to know that data without purchasing a book please call me and I will go over all the relivant details with you. My goal is to spread the mountain of information that this incredible man had to share and I love to talk about golf. Give me a call please.
© 2008 Robert Shave contact Webmaster at cad@classactdesign.biz