Category Archives: golf books

Six Fundamentals

The Six Fundamentals of the Recreational Golf Swing pages (SF Left and SF Right) are now public pages. The password protection has been removed.

Be watching for my next opus, Bob’s Little Golf Book, to be published on this site in June.

Ben Hogan’s Three Right Hands

There’s a guy I play golf with occasionally who is in his 50s and new to the game. He’s small, but strong. His swing is, wind up the upper body and swing through as hard as you can with your shoulders and arms. When he connects, it’s really impressive. The other ninety percent of the time, it’s not.

He told me once that he read Ben Hogan’s book (Five Lessons) and mentioned the part where Hogan said he wished he had three right hands. Having read that book so much I almost have it memorized, I agreed that Hogan did say that.

I think my friend interpreted that as a green light to hit the ball as hard as he could with his right hand. That sure looks like what he’s trying to do.

What I didn’t say, because I don’t give unsolicited advice on the golf course, is my friend needed to read the whole sentence rather than just that part.
 Hogan at that point (p. 101) was talking about the left wrist. I won’t give you the entire quote, but he said,

“…the left hand will not check or interrupt the speed with which your clubhead is traveling. There’s no danger either that the right hand will overpower the left and twist the club over. It can’t. As far as applying power goes, I wish I had three right hands!”

That’s it. You can hit as hard as you want to with your right hand IF THE LEFT WRIST IS IN THE PROPER POSITION (illustration below).


Hogan was not saying to hit the ball as if you had three right hands, period. There is a catch, and the catch is the shape of the left wrist.

The right hand turning over the left was my problem exactly for many years. I solved it by changing my grip and by giving my hands less responsibility through impact.

What I have is a flat left wrist at impact. Having that wrist bend outward like Hogan showed is beyond my ability. If you can get your left wrist flat (Hogan) and facing the target (Trevino) at impact, you’re way ahead of the game.

But back to the book. Hitting hard only makes sense if you are sure you can keep the clubface aligned while you’re doing it. Hogan showed you in Five Lessons how he did it.

A shorter way of saying it is, square first, hard second.

Golf technique

There is no getting around the need to have good technique to play our difficult sport well. Given the great variety of shots we need to play, the more technique the better. Ben Hogan even said once that there isn’t enough daylight to practice all the shots you need to.

This space has, over the years, devoted a large part of its offerings to technical suggestions. In the background, though, lurks the notion that we keep hearing from the playing professionals that you can’t think of technique when you’re on the course playing. Technique is for the range. When it’s time to play, think about getting the ball in the hole.

Golf is art. Every golf shot you hit is a work of art that your technique allows you to express. What you are going to do is more important than how you are going to do it. Hopefully, the “how” was taken care of during practice.

Learning how to put aside thoughts of technique is a mental skill. You need to be able to keep your mind moving forward and concentrating on each succeeding present moment that is part of the process of planning and hitting the shot. If you can do that, there is no opportunity for the doubt-generating thoughts of technique to arise.

Two exercises, which are explained on pages 15-18 of my latest book, The Golfing Self, show you how to attain that state of mind. I don’t think I’m saying too much when I say that training your mind is just as important, and takes just as much devotion, as learning shot technique.

I know from my experience, and you probably do from yours, that during your best rounds, assessing the situation, picking your shot, and hitting it are so easy that it seems like you’re hardly thinking about it. Everything just flows.

If you train your mind properly, that can be the way you always play golf.


Golf Rules in Plain English

Yesterday morning I was trying to find a subject for today’s post and coming up empty. Normally I write these about a week ahead of time, but by December 9, I had nothing for December 10. So I decided to take a trip to the library and browse the golf section to see if I could get inspired. Bingo.

As I was browsing through our golf collection, I saw a small book titled, The Rules of Golf in Plain English. That sounds good to me. This is a new book, written by Jeffrey S. Kuhn, an attorney and volunteer USGA rules official, and Bryan A. Garner, also an attorney and one who gives seminars to lawyers on how to write in, you guessed it, plain English.

Now this is something I have always imagined myself, doing, but I’m not that good of a technical writer, and the project really needs someone who has an expert’s grasp of the rules. Not me, either.

This book is so great. First of all, they changed the passive “the player” to the active “you.” It’s not “the player” who can and can’t do these things, it’s “you!” And they let that be said.

Let’s take a complicated rule, playing the wrong ball. Here’s how the USGA says it:

15-3b. The competitor must correct his mistake by playing the correct ball or by proceeding under the Rules. If he fails to correct his mistake before making a stroke on the next teeing ground or, in the case of the last hole of the round, fails to declare his intention to correct his mistake before leaving the putting green, he is disqualified.

Here’s how Kuhn and Garner say it:
15-3(c) You must correct the mistake by playing your ball. If you don’t correct your mistake before you make a stroke from the next tee–or, in the case of the last hole of the round, don’t declare your intention to correct your mistake before leaving the putting green–you’re disqualified.

Subtle differences, yes, but the second one is more direct and makes it simpler to understand exactly what YOU have to do.

At the start of every rule, the defined terms it refers to are explicitly listed instead of being highlighted in the text. Rule headings are re-worded. Rules themselves are broken up and reorganized so you don’t have to wade through what you don’t need to read to find what you do.

The general penalty for violation of a rule is two strokes, or loss of a hole, but there is an appendix which lists the one-stroke penalties. That is very convenient.

Keep in mind that this is not an official rule book. It has no legal status on the golf course. You should have an official copy of the rules in your bag and refer to it when there are questions. You should also carry a copy of The Rules of Golf in Plain English with you to be sure you understand what the rules actually want you to do.


Better Recreational Golf for Christmas

Thanksgiving is over, football is mostly over (the college kind) and Christmas shopping is just beginning.

What a nifty idea it would be to make your first Christmas gift a copy of Better Recreational Golf.

Thousands of golfers have seen the benefits of what is in his book. Written for golfers who are busy with family, career, and competing interests, BRG shows gives you instructions on the fundamentals, along with exercises you can do at home and at the range, to allow you to play a creditable game of golf nonetheless.

Better Recreational Golf was written by a recreational golfer, for recreational golfers. I’m not a Tour player — I play golf in the same arena you do. I see simple things my playing partners could do to instantly transform their game for the better.

Yes, I said instantly, and I mean it. Things you can learn to do in fifteen minutes and anyone can do them:

– Be at peace with the shot you’re about to hit (p. 10-11). Anxiety causes mishits.
– Swing at the right tempo for you (p. 13-15). Most golfers swing too fast.
– Use proper grip pressure (p. 24). Most golfers hold the club too tightly.
– Aim at the target (p. 29). Most golfers are lined up significantly to the right.
– Ball position (p. 30). Playing the ball too far forward guarantees a mishit.

You don’t have to transform your swing to save strokes. Pay attention to a few fundamentals and the swing you have will work out just fine.

Putting and the short game are included, as well. The Four Basic Shots of the Short Game is an approach to a short game package you won’t read anywhere else and covers ninety percent of your short shots. Putting is harder than it looks, but is really quite simple if you follow the guidelines in BRG.

For $14.95, the same as one sleeve of Pro V1s, or less than it costs to play nine holes of golf, you can have a guide to firming up your game by the opening of the golf season in 2013.

Your golfing buddies are going to think, “Man! How did he get so good all of a sudden?” You, too ladies: “I used to beat her all the time, now I can’t keep up!”

Go to The Recreational Golfer’s website and order right now. Shipping is free, and I personally sign and dedicate each copy.

This isn’t a book you’ll flip through once and put on the shelf for good. You’ll refer to it over and over again, and find something new each time.

Go ahead. What do you have to lose but a bunch of strokes off your score?

Click on this link:, and you’re on your way to better golf.

A Round of Golf With Tommy Armour

One of the first books on course management, and certainly the most famous, is A Round of Golf With Tommy Armour, published in 1959. Armour was a champion golfer from the 1920s and 30s, who became a well-known instructor and the author of several instruction books that were definitive in their day and are still valid in many respects.

Armour takes a mythical player, Bill, who is about to give up the game because nothing he tries seems to work out. Armour agrees to play nine holes with him and his two playing companions during which time Armour will give Bill careful counseling on what shot to hit and how to hit it.

He won’t offer advice on golfing technique, just on how to play the game.

The points below are the ones Armour emphasized (page references to the 1959 edition of his book).

1. Tee up from the correct side of the tee box. (15) This means to tee up on the side of trouble and hit away from it.

2. Do not play shots with high risk and little reward. (25) Do I have to explain?

3. Miss putts on the high side of the hole. (32) See Is the High Side of the Hole Really the Pro Side?

4. Use the right club chipping into a slope. (44) Generally that is a lesser-lofted club than you would normally use.

5. Play two easy shots instead of one difficult one to cover long distances. (74) See The Mathematics of Club Selection.

6. Play your mulligan first. (78) Be prepared to hit the ball right the first time, not on your do-over.

7. Have a plan, for every shot, that leads to the hole. (82) Don’t play hit-and-hope golf. Know what you want this shot and the next one to do.

8. Don’t hit the shot until you feel right about it. (95) If you don’t back off and re-set yourself, or choose another shot.

9. Think of where you want the ball to go, not where you don’t want it to go. (102) When you say to yourself, “I hope I don’t hit it into the water,” it goes into the water because that is the last order your mind gave.

10. Hit short putts firmly into the center of the hole. (104) We miss very short putts because we get too delicate with them. Hit them with authority and they’ll go in.


The Short Game’s Four Basic Shots

As varied as the short game can be, you can simplify it by learning just four shots that will cover over 80 percent of the short shots you have to hit. The foundation of anybody’s short game is a set of stock shots that can be relied on to cover the short game situations that you come across most often.

Starting at greenside, and working away from the hole in several yardage zones, what I call the Four Basic Shots of the short game can make your short game start producing pars where you used to be getting bogeys and doubles.

The first shot is the greenside chip, played from greenside to about six feet at most off the edge of the green. The distances I suggest for these shots are rough guidelines that depend on how the course you play on is set up. The second shot is played from greenside to about twenty-five yards. It is designed to get the ball over turf, land on the green, and run to the hole. I call it the Air Chip.

Next is a shot played from twenty to fifty yards, that dreaded distance everybody says is so difficult to play from. The shot I call the Hard Chip makes shots from this zone a cinch. Finally, there is the Standard Pitch, to be played from fifty yards and out.

These shots are really all you need to have to play the short game from a good lie. They are all fully explained in my book, Better Recreational Golf. Descriptions tell you how to set up, how to hit the shot, when to use the shot, and how to practice it at home and at the range.

Golf season is in full swing and I hope you’re getting out to play as often as you want to. Knowing these four shots puts the certainty into your game that when faced with any standard short game situation from the fairway, you’ll know what to do to keep your score down were you want it to be.