News From Terre Haute, Indiana

October 24, 2010

RUB OF THE GREEN: Golf instruction a strenuous art

Bob Arnett
Special to the Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — Few who have ever tried their hands at playing the game of golf would describe the sport as “easy”. In fact, just the opposite would be the case.

Wouldn’t it be much better if the poor golfer knew “the secret” of the game? Then, he or she could go out and smack the little, dimpled ball straight down the middle of the fairway, knock approach shots close to the pin and send those putts straight to the bottom of the cup.

Only one thing is wrong. We don’t know the doggone “secret.” The great Ben Hogan was paid a ton of money by golf publications to expose “the secret.” Ben came out with his expose’ that included terms such as suppination and pronation. If Ben did have the secret he surely would have counted on it to defeat an unheralded and unknown Jack Fleck in a playoff for the U.S. Open. Fleck won handily.

Hogan was no fool. As long as golf magazines were willing to pass out the cash, he was willing to come up with another secret. Perhaps his best was, “I dug it out of the dirt.” And indeed he did. He was willing to practice hour after hour on a daily schedule until he was striking shots to his satisfaction. Ben was definitely a perfectionist. He came back to win a number of tournaments after he had been told by his doctors that he would never walk again after enduring catastrophic injuries to both legs. But “the secret”, this writer believes is still out there.

Back in the 1940s I learned of a secret called “The square to square method.” Another one came along later named “The X factor.” Following that came a succession of methods that countless golfers hoped would transform them into the outstanding players they hoped to become. Some were: The Inside Out Method, The Natural Approach, Self Hypnosis, Swing the Handle, A Left Hander’s Game for Right Handed Players, and Hit It With Your Right Hand. Anyone who pays strict attention to all of golf’s secrets can be assured of one thing, a disease known as “paralysis by analysis.”

Passing along golf instruction is really a slippery slope or perhaps akin to climbing a hill of sand, for every step forward, you slide back two.

Back in 1954, an Indiana State Teachers College golfer went out to qualify for the upcoming season. In mid-March he scored a 67 at the Phoenix Country Club. He went home and wrote the first chapter of what would be his contribution to golf’s literature.

The following day he returned to the same course, used the same woods, irons and putter, and scored a round of 82. Fifteen shots higher than the score he made the previous day. He went home and threw his previous rendition into the wastebasket. He now offers a tip or two, if asked. He forsakes any mention of “a method” or a “secret.”

Is there really a secret to outstanding golf? Possibly! I have a theory that it is hidden away somewhere in the lost continent of Atlantis. Until someone can figure a way to find it, I guess we’ll just have to call it “Lost.”

• If you are genuinely interested in golf’s secrets and methods, I heartily recommend “The Secret of Golf,” edited and annotated by George Peper who for 25 years was editor-in-chief of “Golf Magazine.”

• A trio of Terre Haute seniors have continued to play well in state and regional competition. Dave Brown fired a smooth 76 at the ultra difficult Victoria National Golf Club at Newburgh (IN) which allowed him entry into the U.S. Senior Amateur played at Lake Nona in Florida.

Since many of professional golf’s hierarchy live in that area Dave got to meet several, one of whom was Annika Sorenstam, formerly rated as the No. 1 player on the LPGA Tour.

Tom Jones has qualified for two USGA Mid Amateur tourneys. He qualified for one at Heartland Crossing and again at Otter Creek. He then advanced to tournaments hosted by the National Cash Register Course in Dayton (Ohio) as well as Bellerive Country Club in St. Louis (Mo.). Jones is a seven-time Terre Haute City Champion.

Ted Kaperak has eight Terre Haute city titles as well as four senior city wins. In addition he has finished first, second and third in the Indiana Club Champions Tournament played at Fox Prairie Golf Club each year.

Kaperak also remembers playing in a Society of Seniors event in Arizona when the temperature hit 112 degrees.

• Participating in senior events is not necessarily an unusual occurrence. Bill Doan Sr. is a former Terre Haute City Senior Champion as well as an Indiana Senior Amateur titleholder. Along the way he qualified for a pair of U S. Senior Amateur events. One was held at Dearborn Country Club in Dearborn (Mich.) and the other at Interlaken Country club in Minneapolis, Minn.

• Tip of the week — Although golfers will get many tips in regard to alterations in their respective golfing techniques most will be discarded. The intelligent golfer will adopt what works and discards the rest. The player who is playing well will make a mistake if he or she tries to improve on perfection. Remember: If it works don’t fix it.

Until next season, keep your head down and your shoestrings tied. We’ll be back.

Bob Arnett can be reached by e-mail at