I doubt that my latest investment in golf, £2.50 for Golf From Two Sides by Roger and Joyce Wethered (1922), will do much for my game, but it is a stylish read and illustrated by a few good pics that enable us to put faces, and swings, to these famous names.
This image alone of Roger and his redoubtable younger sis more than repays my outlay. Willowy Joyce is said to have been 5’ 10” in her sensible stockings. I know she is treading respectfully behind the male of the Wethered species but even so … what manner of beanpole can Roger have been?
And here she is, pictured after giving the ball a jolly good clout. What an inspiring vision to take to the tee! Small wonder Bobby Jones doubted if there had ever been a better golfer, man or woman. ”Why, she could hit a ball 240 yards on the fly while standing barefoot on a cake of ice,” said wee Willie Wilson, the Scottish professional at Pinehurst.
There is more. I am particularly grateful to Roger for shedding light on one of the many commonplace golfing phrases that had long been a mystery to me.
Not ‘target golf’: my quest for golf of the non-target variety continues. (Do we feel the need to talk about ‘target darts’?)
Nor do I have in mind that baffling phrase, “a great ball-striker,” which I assume to mean a player who is good at striking the ball; as distinct, perhaps, from all those who somehow make it to the top of the game without acquiring this skill.
No, the corner into which Roger Wethered shines a little light is that occupied by the ‘shot-maker.’ How often do we hear of a course singled out as being particularly suited to this kind of golfer? Who is he or she, I often wonder. Aren’t we golfers all shot-makers, after our fashion, to a greater or lesser degree? I do understand that the idea of golf is to make as few shots as possible, but even so, all courses require shots to be made.
It is in a chapter entitled ‘Wooden-Club Shots Through The Green’ that Wethered dwells at some length on the subject of shot-making, with special reference to the spoon – “a club of infinite resource.”
“As a matter of actual fact,” he tells us, “there is no instrument in the playing of the game which responds so readily to what is recognised in golf as the artistic temperament.”
After a loving description of his own treasured spoon, with its bent shaft and battered sole, acquired (with permission) from the dusty corner of a house where Roger was a weekend guest, he explains that as well as being “a willing servant in adverse places” (whence its reputation as ‘the duffer’s comfort’), the spoon is also “a brilliant companion to the lover of fancy shots.”
As regards the second purpose, “… the difficulty in spoon play lies not so much in the ability to play the shot itself as in the knack of recognising the shot when you are confronted with it. This is where the artist excels. He will discover a number of spoon shots but will also detect a great many that do not exist.”
So far, so mysterious. One spoon shot that does exist is the ‘cut up to the hole’ where the green is designed to be approached from the left.
Thus, playing for the left hand corner of the green …..
“… the swing will be easy and a shade more upright than before but during the downward movement allow the body to turn gradually to the left. Play right through the ball and finish low so that the club head points half way to the sky at an angle of 45 degrees to the left of the hole.”
Got that? Now, with the right hand in chief control and the face of the club square to the line and not turned over at impact or afterwards … “the ball should start even more to the left than the line which had been determined; half way in its flight it begins the curve towards the green rising all the while until it finally pitches on the edge of the green and trickles easily up the hole side – let us hope, dead.”