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by Donald Crawley
Contributing Golf Writer and Director of Instruction for The Boulders Club
Voted as a TOP 100 Teacher in Golf Magazine, and Director of Instruction at the Boulders Golf Academy, Carefree, AZ.
Boulders, AZ (Sports Network) --
Creating shots is a skill and talent that
separates the men from the boys. Shotmaking means you can control the ball.
Hit it high, low, bend it right, curve it left, land it softly, crush it hard
boring through the wind.
Can you hit those shots? Probably not when you intend to!
This shotmaking article is part in tribute to the late great Seve Ballesteros.
He was a golfing legend, winner of five majors, and a pioneer behind the
growth of the European Tour and the absolute star and inspiration behind
the popularity of the Ryder Cup. Seve was an incredible shotmaker. His golf
swing was always susceptible to wild tee shots, but he was the ultimate
recovery shot man and perhaps possessed one of the greatest short games ever.
I know firsthand that Seve grew up hitting pebbles off a beach in a northern
Spanish coastline town. He was a caddy from a humble background. He competed
against other caddies putting with cans in the ground. He learned to hit shots
before and after school days. He could make that old rusty 3-iron hit every
shot in the bag.
|Seve Ballesteros celebrates with the Claret Jug after winning the 1988 British Open.|
I never experienced it, but I heard from a very good source - a fellow Ryder
Cup captain - that Seve used to perform an instruction/demonstration clinic,
entirely with a 3-iron. He started in the bunker, laid the face wide open and
splashed a beautiful soft sand shot beside the pin. He stepped out of the
bunker and demonstrated a high lob shot over the sand trap, with a 3-iron! You
go try that and see how brilliant he was.
He turned the 3-iron into a chipping, then pitching club, manipulating the
loft and bounce of the club to hit every imaginable delicate short shot around
the green. Then he hit low cut shots, aka fades, followed by high sweeping
draws, low boring shots, high booming bombs, building to his crescendo of a
crisp 250-yard drive. All with a 3-iron! I retired my 3-iron five years ago,
replacing it with a hybrid, as have most mortals.
My favorite Seve story is a personal one. I was 17 years old and went to watch
the 1976 British Open. It was played at Birkdale and Johnny Miller was the
victor. Close on his heels was a 19-year Spaniard, with a Gumby-style flexible
swashbuckling swing. As others have quoted, Seve often "hit it all over the
map." But I saw him hit an incredible short shot that was so creative, unique
and nothing short of brilliance that became an inspiration for me to
articulate my short game.
Here is the scenario: Birkdale 18th is a par-five with two pot bunkers
guarding the left side of the green. The pin is cut close to those traps. Seve
whacks his second shot a mile, finishing pin high in two but to the left of
the green. The lie is tight and sandy, typical for a British links course.
Most would hit a high pitch safely over the bunkers, knock it in the middle of
the green and hope to make a lengthy putt for birdie, but a sure par.
Seve was in the hunt and on the leaderboard, round 3 I think. He patrolled the
situation, pacing around the ball, the bunkers, surveying the pin. He took a
lower lofted club, maybe his famed 3-iron, and bounced the ball along the
ground. A bump and run shot. Between the bunkers. Oh perhaps I should state
that the gap between them was only about 18 inches wide.
Well, Seve banked the ball off one slope against the other slope, curving the
ball path like an S shape, hit with perfect face and spin, and rolled the ball
to its destination. That finishing spot would have been in a sandy grave for
everyone else, but not Seve's. He knocked it to two feet of the pin, tapped in
for birdie and fished within one or two shots of the lead.
What a shot, what an imagination, what creation, touch and feel. It is a vivid
memory that has stayed clear in my mind for 35 years.
Another quick Seve story that again I witnessed: Ryder Cup, 1985. The
Belfry, in England has just opened. It was and is the home of the British PGA
offices. Hole 10, a short par-4, 340 yards, dog leg right. The hole is
designed for a golfer to hit a 200-yard tee shot down the fairway to the
corner of the dogleg. Water is down the right, turning into a pond in front of
the green. Massive trees on the right also that wrap around the green.
|Seve Ballesteros had nine career PGA victories, as well as 50 wins on the European Tour. |
I watched Seve smash a high fade onto the green. Remember this was 1985.
Drivers were persimmon head and the ball kind of squashy with soft covers. The
average driving length on Tour was closer to 260 yards than 300. Think about
it. High fade, over 300 yards onto a tiny green, surrounded by trouble, and in
the Ryder Cup! That showed not only Seve's talent as a shotmaker, but as a
brave bold competitor.
Learning to hit shots, make shots of a varying trajectory and spin is the key
to learning to control your golf ball. When I teach juniors, I copy the same
principles behind Seve's clinic. I start with a 7-iron and keep it simple. By
changing the loft and ball position, you can at least learn to high and low.
Go ball back face de-lofted (not closed) to hit the low one, ball forward face
slightly open to hit the high one. Face closed, grip stronger, swing flatter
and around your body to hit the draw. Face open, ball forward swing a little
straighter and clear the hips early to hit the fade. If you would spend a few
minutes fiddling with some basic fundamental impact factors, you can learn to
hit shots. You can improve your ball striking and ball control.
Take a lesson from Seve and become a better shotmaker. Create shots, practice
them, hone your touch and feel, and control.
Donald Crawley, Director of Instruction at the Boulders Golf Academy at
the Boulders Resort & Golden Door Spa in Carefree, Ariz. Crawley, a veteran of
29 years of teaching experience, is the newest contributor to The Sports
Network with regular features that range from tips on improving your game to
etiquette at the course. He has established 40 golf school sites in the United
States since 1980, previously as vice president and director of instruction at
John Jacobs' Golf Schools, consultant to the Greenbrier Resort in West
Virginia, and presently at the Boulders Golf Resort in Arizona.
Crawley is recognized among the "Top 100 Teachers in America" by Golf Magazine
and one of the "Best Teachers in Arizona" by Golf Digest. As both a Class A
U.S. PGA member and a British PGA member, Crawley has been recognized for his
outstanding teaching abilities. In 2002, he won the Southwest Section PGA's
Teacher of the Year Award. He also received the Horton Smith Award for
education in 2000. In addition to teaching over 60,000 students, Crawley has
co-authored video instruction tapes with John Jacobs and BBC/ABC golf
telecaster Peter Alliss.