When we are talking about grace and staying true to the game it doesn’t get any better than Tom Watson.
Thomas Sturges Watson was born in September 4, 1949 and is still one of the most iconic golfers of our time. With 71 professional victories and 8 major titles he was one of the few players who challenged Jack Nicklaus in his prime years.
Their head-to-head battles made golf history and held everybody in awe.
One of the most dramatic and famous shots was the chip in by Watson at the U.S. Open in 1982 at the 17th hole of Pebble Beach. (His trousers alone are worth the watch ;-) )
This shot and the the following birdie led to his victory over Nicklaus and his only U.S. Open title.
Watson learned the essentials of the game from his father Ray who taught him the golf grip and basic shaping of the ball. He later learned from greats like Byron Nelson.
Early on Watson had difficulties to close out tournaments although he had the lead. He said of his game:
I learned how to win by losing and not liking it. – Tom Watson
I guess, we should take this as our first lesson ;-)
With dedication, mentorship and hard work he left his difficulties behind him and was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 1988 for his achievements.
In 2009 he had the chance to write history and win the Open Championship as the oldest major winner today (Watson was 59 at the time.). Unfortunately for him he lost in a playoff to Miguel Ángel Jiménez and later added in an interview:
I felt extreme disappointment that night but the one good thing that came of that was the response of people around the world.
I had thousands of people writing to me and the common theme was along the lines of:
I too am older and had given up playing golf or quit doing something that I felt I was too old to do. But you have given me so much hope that I’m going back to work at it and try to do it again.
Tom Watson is still competing on the Challenge Tour and has a wealth of knowledge about the game which he’s glad to share.
His Eternal Golf Swing Secret
Watson is known as a superb scrambler so much so that his up and downs were called “Watson pars” in his prime. But he also hits the ball great which he often attributes to his swing secret. Although I always preach that there are no secrets in golf this is worth your time.
Every golfer is looking for distance and accuracy where the second is usually the one that’s less sexy but more important for most.
If you find yourself in big trouble because you hit it left and right try Watsons swing secret for a change.
Keeping your spine angle is not the only factor but most definitely one of the more important ones for accurate ball striking.
Watsons illustration is a great one to keep in the back of your mind if you struggle with winding and unwinding your upper body properly.
A good drill to practice this is to stick an alignment rod into the ground in front of the ground but parallel to your club. (You can also pull a pool noodle over it if you fear hitting it too hard.) Your goal is to swing under it.
If you change the tilt of your upper body you most definitely also change your swing plane which makes you crash into the alignment stick.
This drill is also a great one if you struggle with coming over the top. [clearboth]
The Key Elements Of Good Chipping
In the following video Tom Watson explains his setup for good chipping.
If you struggle with your chip shots, try it Tom Watson style:
- Keep your weight forward (more on your left leg if you are a right handed golfer)
- Open your stance slightly to your intended target line (a maximum of about 20 degrees).
- Close your shoulders so that you are square to target again without moving your feet.
- Don’t break your wrists when you are swinging through the ball.
Club Selection For The Bump And Run
Club selection is one of those things where you can mess up your shot even if you execute your technique perfectly. If you pick the wrong tool for the job at hand you just make your life harder than it needs to be.
Listen to this tip from Watson hitting the bump and run (a low running chip shot) properly.
Next time you are in a similar situation try to control the ball by keeping it low instead of pitching it high in the air and crossing your fingers for a good result.
Want More Wisdom From Tom Watson?
You might want to check out his teaching DVDs. The set is called “Lessons of a Lifetime”. It has very high production value and is a great watch. It includes Watsons views on the short game as well as on ball striking.
Here’s a quick excerpt:
You can get the current version on Amazon with free shipping and handling.
You can get the current version on amazon with free shipping and handling.
I hope you got something out of this article and I see you in the next part of Golf Swing Secrets of The Greats. :-)
What did you learn from Tom Watson?
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